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Welcome to Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid

Therapy and sanity for ordinary parents of special kids.

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There’s A New Mental Health Concern — Bieber Fever.

NYC signing September 1,2009 Nintendo Store - NYC

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Just when you think you know all the mental health categories (“I’ll take mental health issues for $50, Alex”), a new one crops up. The latest seems to be affecting young impressionable teenage girls around the country. It’s called Bieber Fever, and it’s causing young girls to unleash their virtual anger on any female who goes near Justin Bieber. See the article below. It’s another sad example of how times have changed. In her day, Patty was probably  afflicted by David Cassidy Fever, but we don’t recall her ever exhibiting such alarming behavior. No she channeled her love in a much more appropriate way. “Mom, can you tell Patty to get all those cut out pictures of David Cassidy out of our closet? Those candles she has in there are really creeping me out.”

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Laugh Your Way to Sanity


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Some girls are blessed with stunning beauty. Some. with incredible intelligence. Others, with the talent for art.

Then, there’s us — Patty and Gina

We look our best on the radio, have been told by hundreds of people we are not that bright, and possess no talent for anything musical or artistic (though Patty likes to brag that she can play the spoons).

We were, however, blessed with one gift — the ability to find humor in anything. We realized this a few weeks ago when Gina had a scare with a routine mammogram and had to be called back to the hospital for additional tests. The mammogram technician, boob killer, or whatever you call her, kept calling Gina back into the room for additional pictures. (Gina learned the world of topless modeling is not all fun and games.) Worried, Gina called Patty to share the news. To her credit (which may or may not have anything to do with Patty’s desire to leave the house), Patty met Gina at the hospital and waited with her in the waiting room among all the other robe-clad woman. Sensing Gina’s nervousness, Patty did her best to calm her little sister down.

“Gene, you know this is not going to be cancer, right?”

“How do you know that?” Gina asked.

“Because, I see you dying more suddenly from stress. I can totally see you having a heart attack or stroking out.”

Gina laughed, “Ah, thanks, Sis. I think you’re right.”

Fortunately, Patty was. The mammogram turned out to be a calcium deposit, which is the only deposit Gina has made in quite some time.

A few days later, Gina had an opportunity to return the favor to Patty, who was very stressed out over her financial situation.

“I’m telling you Gene, if I don’t get a job, we may lose our insurance.”

“That’s awful, Pat. Do you have any job leads?”

“Well, I just applied to be a greeter at a funeral home.”

“I think you’re a shoe in. I’m sure dead people will find you very interesting.”

Our point, and we do have one, is that humor is a very powerful coping mechanism. It also has some healing benefits, which are highlighted in the link below from Beyond Blue. Check it out.

Tell us what makes you laugh.

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Aqua Net and Global Warming

Aqua Net

Image by allaboutgeorge via Flickr

Travelers at Miami Airport got quite a scare recently when a can of hairspray exploded. Who knew hairspray could be so dangerous? We were both so free and careless with it in the 1980s when we sprayed a half-can of Aqua Net in our hair before we went out. I hate to think of how many people we could have harmed in smoke-filled, crowded nightclubs. Not to mention the fact that we’ve probably played a big role in causing global warming. Don’t worry; our reduced lung capacity is punishment enough.

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What are you registering on the Stress-O-Meter?

Anyone who has a special child knows that stress is just a part of our everyday lives. And if you don’t believe that, here are some signs to prove it.

You Know You’re Stressed When…

  • You want to buy an old fashioned hairdryer so you can sit under it to drown out the sounds of your family.
  • You ask your friend the artist to make a chandelier for you out of your family’s empty prescription bottles.
  • You and your husband fight over who goes to pick up milk.
  • The only gift you ask for for Christmas is a neck massager.
  • You chew through a carton of Fireball candies, nearly burning out your esophagus.
  • You call your friends begging them to host Tupperware parties.
  • Your child leaves you notes not to forget their birthdays.
  • You think about committing a crime to get some alone time in jail.
  • Your ADHD child tells  you that you have to stop forgetting things.

What are some signs that you are stressed?

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Breaking News! Playboy Mansion Smells

The Playboy Mansion - West

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Finally some relief for those of us who worry about our imperfect housecleaning. We are not alone. It appears that the Playboy mansion (which probably has its share of topless french maids running around) smells of urine. I guess that’s what you get when you put too many bunnies in a house. We wonder what other kind of bunnies, “The Hef” is hiding in his house. We don’t know…maybe some dust bunnies.

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Putting on a Happy Face at Wal-Mart

It’s an American tradition. Now right up there with baseball, apple pie, and reality TV shows featuring stupid people behaving badly. It’s Walmart, the retailing giant. The place where hundreds of thousands of people flock to “Save Money and Live Better.” And though I’ve been known to shop there (it’s my husband’s favorite place), I’m just not buying any of it. For me, shopping at Walmart is not making me live better. It’s adding to my stress level, which as the crazed mother of two special needs children, I need about as much as I need a Ronco Food Dehydrater.

Just the other day, I decided  to stop there to pick up a replacement curtain rod. My husband, who knows the store better than our home, was happy to hear about my decision.

“Can I come, Gene?  Can I? Huh? Huh?

“No offense, Mike, but I want to make this a quick trip, and if you had your way we’d end up vacationing there. I’m just buying one thing and one thing only — a curtain rod.”

“OK, but I gotta warn you. They’re turning it into a Super Walmart. You know a Walmart on steroids. We can buy everything we need there, milk, bread, lettuce, etc.”

If he said they would be selling wine, I might have been impressed, but the thought of dealing with a double-size Walmart sent my blood pressure surging.

“Love ya, Mike. Gotta run! Bye!” I yelled racing out the door before he could catch up with me.

On the way out, I passed my neighbor, and stopped to say hello.

“Hey Gene, where ya goin’?”

“Oh, hey Juli. I’m just headed to Walmart.”

“You’re goin’ to Wal-Mart now?  Without me?”

“Do you want to come?” I politely asked, knowing that my plan for a quick trip had gone to Hell in a handbasket.

“Gene, why are you going now. It’s too light out. You’re supposed to go late at night. That way no one sees you buying cute clothes.”

“Well Juli, as much as I’d love to hit Wal-Mart After Dark with you; I have a curtain rod to buy, and I need it now.”

When I arrived inside, I was handed a smiling sticker from a woman who frowned at me. See I knew I wasn’t the only one who hated Walmart, I thought to myself.

I bypassed her and barreled around the corner, heading down the narrow aisles, which reminded me of my bowling days.

I had just reached Health and Beauty when I sideswiped a mother and her seventeen young children in a cart with a big red seating section. The cart was clearly too big for the store and I wasn’t even sure it was registered with the store.

“Sorry,” I said, knowing clearly that she was the one at fault, but not wanting to spend time filling out in-store traffic reports or give her time to be discovered by a personal injury attorney who was probably setting up shop next door in pet care.

My head started to pound and I continued on my way, barely slowing down to pick up a lifesize bottle of Excedrin for just $6.99. With the sign for Domestics up ahead, I raced on until I flew by a display advertising Pillow Pets for $14.99. I abruptly stopped the cart, causing a three-cart pile up behind me, and raced over to drop one into my cart.  (I had never seen them cheaper than $19.99) At Domestics, I picked up a curtain road, along with a new soap dish, three hand towels, and a new trash barrel for my bathroom.

A half hour later, I set out to the registers, where I raced to the shortest line, all the while getting dirty looks from the people around me. When it was my turn, the cashier turned to me and said, “Ma’am I can’t take you. This is the 25 item or less line and your cart is full.”

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Dyslexia The Reason behind DaVinci and Picasso’s Success?

mona lisa

Image by Lindy Drew Photography via Flickr

If you have a child with dyslexia, you might just have a future artistic genius on your hands. Which is probably  why the Shut Up Sisters, who don’t have dyslexia, don’t have any artistic talent to speak of. (Don’t worry, we have plenty of other issues, which have not yet been diagnosed.) Check out this interesting article on DaVinci and Picasso, who were thought to have dyslexia. Then, go to your next cocktail party and work that into the conversation, “Yes, my little Johnny, along with Leonardo DaVinci and Pablo Picasso has dyslexia.”

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Halloween is Coming. Pass the Paxil!

When I was a kid, I loved Halloween.  Now that I’m an adult, I despise it. That’s because Halloween has become a major source of stress in my house. And as a working mother with two careers, two special needs children, two dogs, and two flights of stairs to vacuum, the last thing I need is more stress in my life.

I know, I know. I should like a holiday that brings such obvious joys to my two daughters and their dentist. (“Woohoo! The Gallagher kids have three cavities each. Let’s expand our office.”)

Here are just a few of the reasons I find Halloween hazardous to my health:

Tacky decorations. They say you don’t truly know someone until you live with them. This is certainly true in my case. Sure, I knew my husband of 19 years was a wonderful person who loved me. What I didn’t know is that he also had a burning love for tacky Halloween decorations. Each year, he and our girls go shopping for decorations together and fill my house with Halloween horrors. This year was no exception. One evening, I came home to find our nice family portrait replaced with a photo of some scary red-eyed vampire (it was no Edward Cullen) and my nice Southern Living candle centerpiece was replaced with a Not Living skull candelabra.

Outside, he filled the mulch beds with black cats and gravestones that quite honestly did not match our house).

He also had cobwebs placed in the corners of our family room, but for some reason (probably my lack of dusting skills), that didn’t bother me.

Costumes. I’ve said it before – Halloween is not for kids. It’s for trampy women looking for attention. Each year, I am amazed at the skimpiness of the costumes on the shelves – even the ones for children.

“How about this one, Mom?”

“That’s a very pretty cat costume Em if you were Jenna Jameson.”

What’s even worse is that my daughter is always trying to get me to dress up.

“Mom, please dress up with me!”

“Oh, Emmy, Mom’s not much into costumes.”

“But last year on your trip, you were a Heinken bottle and Aunt Patty was a daiquiri. I saw the pictures.”

Weight Gain Spiral. Halloween is the start of a very dangerous period for me – the season of weight gain. In starts off small with “Fun Size” Snickers. (Does anyone know how many Weight Watchers Points are in 35,000 of them) and goes right into the Christmas season.

This year, I’m planning to counter the weight gain with a return stint to Weight Watchers. But first I must lose 10 pounds.

Now that’s a scary thought.

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Shut Up Sisters say BRA-vo! to uplifting new invention for women.

Just when we thought the Snuggie was the greatest invention ever, we receive this “uplifting” news about a new bra that’s hit the market — the emergency/gas mask bra. With our busy travel schedules, we were both looking for a safety bra that offers comfort, support, and compactness. Now we can have it all in one smart design that will have us flying the friendly skies with comfort and confidence. Check it out in this video. Best of all, we’ll each be able to save a lucky male passenger. Our mother was ecstatic when we shared the news. “Now, I don’t have to worry about you girls in the subways and on planes. Not to mention, you’ll both have better bustlines.”

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Dalton artist with Asperger’s starts own business (From The …

Here’s an inspiring story from across the pond. Over the years, many of us have been told that our children would never be able to reach certain milestones, such as walking, talking, or even living to adulthood.  I was reminded of this, this past spring, when a dear friend’s special daughter graduated from high school.  At her graduation party, the child’s father got up and talked about everything his family had been through, and how his daughter, who had a heart condition and learning disabilities wasn’t supposed to live through her first few months. Today, that wonderful child is living away at college and loving every minute of it. This story is a reminder to us all to never stop believing in our children. Please pass this story on to any of your friends or family members who may be feeling beaten down by the people who want to remind us what our children won’t be able to accomplish.

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Do you remember…

To those who see us wait in long lines at the Pharmacy, frantically hurry to get our kid to a therapist appointment on time, or struggle with getting our kids on the school bus, our lives as parents of special children may not look all that inviting. But what most people don’t realize is the blessings our special children bring us that make our lives more fulfilling. We were reminded of this today when we found this beautiful article written by a mother of a special child. Please take a moment to read this link —  Do you remember… by — and pass it along to others.

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Botox Could Ease Drooling Troubles

Reference: Botox Could Ease Drooling Troubles by

Forget wrinkles. Botox could bring temporary relief for those who struggle with drooling, a new study suggests.

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Today, I was searching through the Internet and came across this article about how Botox could make life easier for those with certain types of disabilities. Personally, I have never thought of Botox in a positive way.  Maybe it’s my mother, who warned me about it when I was a kid. “Never eat from a can, you’ll get botulism.”

One of my dear friends (she’s the same age as me, but  looks considerably more youthful- b^%&h!) has been trying to sell me on the benefits of Botox for some time. “Come on, Gene, let’s get treatments together.  It will change our lives.”

I’m just not buying.

I’m  the first to admit that I could use some treatments (i.e., those of the shock nature) but this one, which promises to remove my laugh lines, crow’s feet, and permanent scowl,  just isn’t  high on my list of priorities.

I like my laugh lines just fine. I’ve spent 44 years being a goofball and my laugh lines are proof.  And I’m not sure I like the idea of not being able to scowl when I want to. I’m a mother; scowling is a big part of what I do everyday.

Besides, these are very trying economic times and I can’t be throwing money away on superficial things like Botox; I have more important things to focus on — like saving for my retirement or that cellulite chamber I’ve had my eye on.

But though Botox might not be for me, I’m happy to hear that it may possibly be put to  good use and help those with disabilities. In fact, just reading about it brought tears to my crow’s feet.

How do you feel about Botox?

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Reports from a Resident Alien – Ten Things Everyone Should Know …

Check out this great blog post about autism written by a successful adult with autism. It helps demystify some of the beliefs about autism. One belief  is that they don’t need love. While Gina’s daughter Katie is not as cuddly as some kids, she is extremely loving and compassionate.

Check out and post your comments. Oh yeah and share it with people in your life who don’t seem to understand autism.

Autism is found in adults at the same rate as kids. So where are the new cases coming from? They’re new diagnosis on the milder end, due to the definition of Asperger’s as a kind of autism without speech delay (it used to be that you couldn ‘t be ….. and the school was about to let me go into public school because I exceeded all of my goals in my IEP! I won’t explain the details (because there are too many), but since then, I’ve spent the last 8 years attempting to piece …

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It’s No Surprise. They Really Aren’t that Bright

For those of you just joining us, we thank you for becoming a member of our imperfect community. For those of you who know us, you know we’re not that bright. And while we may not be that bright, we are two of the luckiest not-so-bright people we know.

In celebration of our book being released, we were honored at two separate parties.
It was the culmination of family and friends gathered together to celebrate imperfection. Even our beloved Facebook “idol” Jackie flew up from the Sunshine State to attend the parties. We were stunned. We had to quickly check Facebook to see if the person standing in the driveway matched the profile picture.

“Whoa! Like that’s kinda sketchy.” remarked Patty’s daughter Jules.

And in all fairness to us, we really had no way of knowing that Jackie would be taking us by surprise but apparently everyone else did—including our mother.

“Ok, weren’t you guys just a little suspicious when we all became friends on Facebook?”

“Yeah, even your mother joined ‘Spacebook’.”

But Gina and Patty proved again the following day just how “not bright” they are. Patty was told her husband was taking her out to lunch, so she did what any good wife would do after coming home really late from the party the night before–she immediately placed a called to her sister while her husband went to get coffee.

“Michael wants to go out to lunch an hour away!! Does that make any sense? There are plenty of restaurants around here! Why lunch? Why can’t I sleep in and we go out to dinner instead?”

Gina was just as angry.

“Tell me about it. All of a sudden Mike has to go to a work party! How am I supposed to pack for my trip when I have to go to a work party? And you should see all the food he’s bringing. And Katie’s skirt is too short.”

So you can only imagine when Patty and Gina each walked in to their friend Rebecca’s house only to find their parents and another group of their beautifully imperfect friends on hand to surprise them.

“Aww, Pat, you know what this means?”

“Yes, it means we can’t trust anyone and that we really aren’t that bright.”

And while we know we aren’t that bright, we sure are lucky. To our beloved family and friends, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you for making this imperfect journey so memorable. You all have a special place in our heart and we will always treasure you. May God bless you.

Gina & Patty

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Primping for Radio

Today Patty will be live on the air with Krys Boyd on KERA Radio in North Texas from 1-2:00 PM.  Krys’ show is called “Think.”We find this rather ironic as anyone who knows Patty, knows that she’s not all that bright.  To prove that she’s not that bright, she’s been shopping for an outfit to wear for this radio interview. This is a live call-in show so please if you’re going to call, make sure your questions aren’t too difficult for Patty to answer.  You may want to stick with the basics such as “What is your favorite color?” or “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”  Do not confuse her with such complex questions like, “What is the fastest land animal?”  If you could, please avail yourself so if the questions become too difficult, Patty can phone a friend.

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Lights, Camera, Imperfection!

Well, today we are on our way to our first television appearance to kick off our new book. We’re headed to West Hartford, CT, to visit the good folks at NBC 10. We had the privilege of visiting the station two years ago when we launched our self-published book. We remember it well. From the moment we walked in the door people were smiling at us and waving. We, were, of course, flattered and highly impressed.

“Wow Pat! Is it me or are they really excited to have us?”

“Oh, it’s definitely not just you. I noticed it too. In fact, I  think the weatherman just whistled at me.”

Yes, we were pretty convinced that we were the star attractions until Patty’s teen daughter, Jules, who accompanied us on the trip, had to burst our  respective bubbles.

“Like of course, they’re happy.  Duh! It’s Ice Cream Friday”  she said, pointing to a rolling ice cream cart.

Nonetheless, Jules’ newsflash did not deter us. “Well, that just makes this even sweeter.”

Happily, the interview went well, as we gathered when they presented us both with parting gifts. Patty was elated.  “A peppermint stick for me. That’s my favorite!  Thank you!”

But that was years ago. A lot has happened since then.  We’ve traveled around the country speaking with parents, caregivers, children,  and adults living with a wide range of disabilities. We’ve listened to their courageous and sometimes heartbreaking stories, and heard their voices when we were writing our new book.

As you would expect, we’re excited and a bit nervous. Excited because our television experience isn’t that extensive (save for our work on the Walmart security cameras). Nervous because we want to make sure that our message for the book rings loud and clear to parents who feel scared and alone. Yes, somewhere along our imperfect journeys, we realized this book isn’t just about us. It’s about all the amazing parents, grandparents,  caregivers, children, and teachers we’ve met along the way.

This one’s for you!

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Sisters Behaving Badly – Start the Presses!

Our new book, (Did we mention we wrote a book?), Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid, A Survival Guide for Ordinary Parents of Special Children, is about to release in two days. The good folks at Three Rivers Press are in full publicity mode, but we know that if we want this book to be super successful, we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves (well, we’ve been in somewhat of a heatwave, so we really don’t have sleeves) and do our part to drum up publicity of our own.  And that’s not so easy to do these days, especially when you have a positive message. Think about it…the national magazines, blogs, and television shows are filled with stories of people behaving badly. With those media hogs, Lindsey Lohan, Tiger Woods, and Kate and John Gosselin, it’s hard to get a  feel-good story about everyday imperfection a headline or two.

But don’t worry about us. If we’ve learned anything from raising our special kids, it’s how to be resilient. So if we can’t beat them, we will join them.

As a professional marketer, Gina has devised a plan to get our book some media attention so caregivers of special children can have hope they are not alone. Of course, when she presented the plan to Patty, the older, more conservative sister, Patty expressed some doubts. So rather than get into a sisterly squabble, we will share with you the publicity plan and let you weigh in if you think we’ve gone to far.

1) Balloon Sister.  Mirroring that media star Balloon Boy, Gina devised this brilliant plan. The difference will be that Patty will actually be launched with the balloon (not hide in her garage). This idea seemed to play well with Patty’s strengths (she’s full of hot air and loves to run away from home).

2) Crashgate 2. Anyone who knows Patty knows that she loves a good party. As a result, it seemed logical that she would enjoy a party at the White House. And now with invitations not required, she can just show up. Gina’s plan calls for Patty to show up unannounced wearing a Shut Up sandwich board.  And because she recently passed the “Bar” exam, Patty can fix her own drinks. “Pat, the Secret Service will hardly know you’re there.”

3) Bump-Its at the Beach. The other day, we watched the cast from Jersey Shore ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. We’re fascinated by the attention this group has been given. Why them and not us?  We’re 100% Italian, go to the gym,  and can often be seen at beaches (though we do prefer wetsuits to bikinis). We realized that we were lacking two key things — poofy hair like Snooki and an interesting name, such as the Situation. As a result, we are now wearing Bump-Its in our hair and answering to the names, “The Stress,” and “The Calamity.” Overall, our looks are going over quite well. “Pat, you look like That Girl!”

4) Prank phone calls to Mel Gibson.  With any luck, we can annoy him into calling us back, and making threats against us. Our recorders are all set to go.

5) Shark Week. For Discovery Channel fans, this is the week, we’ve all been waiting for — Shark Week. It just so happens that there have been Great White Sharks spotted on Cape Cod. In fact, one of the beaches in Chatham, MA has actually been closed due to the sightings.  Gina has asked Patty to capitalize on this opportunity. “Gene, I’m not sure about this. When you said you wanted to chum around, I thought we were just going to hang out in the water, not make me swim out in the middle of the ocean wearing a chum necklace.”

So let us know what you think?  Are we going too far or better yet, do you have any other ideas?

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Go Directly to Jail. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200. And Do Not Roll Your Eyes!

The other day, a wonderful mother on the imperfect Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid Facebook fan page (!/pages/Shut-Up-About-Your-Perfect-Kid/340015517888?ref=ts) posted a link about how the town of Elmhurst, Illinois, is seeking to make eye rolling illegal. [For those unfamiliar with this gesture, go ask a teenager to clean their room or request to hang with her (or him) and their friends at the mall.]

According to The Consumerist, this unusual request “stems from a recent city council meeting where an Elmhurst resident was ejected from the room after rolling her eyes in reaction to something that was said by a council member.” As a result, “Members of the Elmhurst city council have asked the City Attorney to look into the creation of a new ‘disturbance and disorderly conduct'”charge.

While we are both strong proponents of a kinder, gentler society (despite what our “Shut Up” book title may imply), we have several concerns. First, we are worried that this legislation might take flight and land here in Massachusetts. Gina is particularly concerned since one of her family members would serve significant time for this infraction — her husband. This is one of his favorite gestures, especially when he’s mowing the lawn with his iPod on and Gina needs to communicate some vital piece of information to him. For example:

“Mike, can you follow me to the gas station? I think I’m running out of gas.”

He rolls his eyes so often that Gina is concerned about the medical implications. “Didn’t your mother ever tell you that your eyes will get stuck that way? Don’t come crying to me when your cross-eyed.”

He also rolls just as often with his daughters, who rely on him for protection. “Daddy help! There’s a sugar ant in my room. I’m scared. Can you go get it?”

There’s little doubt that if this eye rolling legislation were to come to Massachusetts, Mike would probably be locked up for life, which concerns Gina on a whole other level.

“That’s not fair! How come you get to get locked up in prison while I have to stay here with the kids?”

Patty shares Gina’s disdain for the proposed law as well. For different reasons.

“Gene, this is ridiculous. We’re becoming entirely too politically correct. Next thing you know, we won’t be allowed to give the Loser signal or stick our tongues out at people. What’s this world coming to?”

And it’s also made her very cautious about electing government officials.

“Yes, Governor Patrick. Thank you for sharing your view on illegal immigration. But what I really want to know is: What’s your stance on eye rolling?”

Tell us what you think of the legislation.

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Ready or Not, Here I Go

by Imperfect Patty

Summer vacation is in full swing. Many parents (i.e., those on medication) enjoy this valuable opportunity to spend quality time with their children, get assistance around the house, and sleep in.  Sadly, though, these benefits come at a very high cost; the cost of losing something that is essential to our very survival – our privacy. Yup for eight grueling weeks, we have to conduct our daily activities knowing our children are among us (sound bite: “They’re baaaaaaack!”).

Now, at the table where we used to quietly sip coffee and peruse the morning paper, we have to block out the snap, crackle, pop of our children gnawing on cereal.  At the desks where we used to quietly crank out our work and freely complain about our children on Facebook, we have them lurking over our shoulders, censoring our posts. “Don’t write that! You’re so embarrassing.”

Fortunately, we have uncovered a few proven, cost-effective, and simple ways to take back the privacy we so deserve. And because we’ve become so attached to all of the folks in our imperfect community, we’ve decided to share them with you and proudly present… (drumroll please)

The Ten Best Places to Hide (from your Children)

1)    The walk-in closet. A walk-in closet is not just ideal for pretending your house is clean for company (by throwing everything in it). It’s also a great way to hide from your children. We especially like the ones with shelves that allow you to store essential items – pens, paper, trail mix, a box of wine, etc. If you don’t have a walk-in closet, consider moving to a house that has one or marrying someone who can build you one. If your current spouse has that capability, renew your vows with him.

2)    A walk-in freezer. Sure it’s great to have extra storage for slabs of meat, but you may be surprised to learn that a walk-in freezer is actually a nice respite for parents. Just be sure to make sure you don’t lock yourself in (Brady Bunch fans know how scary that can be).

3)   The Shrubs. Those overgrown shrubs you’ve been concerned about trimming are an actual asset to your home. In fact, some shrubs (like a healthy rhodendrum, for example), can comfortably accommodate up to two full-size parents.

4)    A tree house. Who says tree houses are just for Keebler elves? Consider taking over your children’s tree house and asking other neighbors to join you for your own hide-from-the-kids club?

5)    Pools. If you have a pool, consider taking scuba diving lessons and spending quality time underwater. Be sure to buy an extra large oxygen tank.

6)    The kitchen table. Most kitchen tables provide ample room for you to hide. Avoid purchasing glass tables at all costs. You’ll have a lot more to worry about than just fingermarks.

7)    Your neighbor’s house. It is critical that you select a neighbor who is safe. By safe we mean, he or she:  1) doesn’t have children or plan to have any in the future; 2) will not pass judgment on you or what you may bring over with you; and 3) has no problem openly lying to helpless children (or husbands).

8)    Your car. Today’s automobiles are constructed with space efficiency in mind, which should provide you with plenty of room to conceal yourself. If your car is in the garage, make sure it is not on. This is particularly important if you own a Toyota.

9)    The oven. And you thought that double oven was for cooking. Surprise. It’s for you!

10)  Fireplace. Santa didn’t choose the fireplace just for convenience. No, he wanted to avoid seeing children. A fireplace is an ideal place to hide, provided of course, that the fire is not lit.

We also advise to avoid wearing heavy perfumes for the summer. While that Jean Nate or Old Spice may make you feel fresh; it actually emits a strong detection signal to your children.

These are just a few tips that have been successful for us.  Remember though, every house is unique and offers its own little charm (or hiding place).  For example, that Lazy Susan can actually fit a Susan. And that hideaway bed isn’t just for sleepovers.

Just be sure to enjoy your time away.  Remember that parenthood is a life sentence and that every  parent deserves a (prison) break for good behavior.

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If you can’t stand the heat…

Get your kids to make friends with some kid with a pool.

Blog by Gina (the smarter Shut Up sister)

The mercury is rising. And it’s not just from the normal stuff in my household like receiving bad news calls from the school or frequent eye rolls from my teenager. This time, it’s due to a more traditional reason – we’re having a full-fledged New England heatwave. And there’s just something about a house with six skylights, no air conditioning, and two fighting special needs children that makes me cranky. I have no energy to cook, clean, or balance my checkbook, though my husband has assured me that this is  all quite normal.

“Gene, you don’t do any of that in optimal weather conditions.”

The most difficult part of managing the heat is dealing with that burning question my children pose to me year after year, day after day, nanosecond after nanosecond:

“Mooooooooooooooooom, can we pllllllllllllllllllease get a pool?”

Given the economic conditions and rising costs of pharmaceuticals and co-pays (our family’s biggest expenses), the prospect of my family getting a pool is weak at best. In fact, I’m pretty sure my kids  (“Mom! Help! We’re out of popsicles!!!! What do I do?”) have a better chance of winning Survivor than getting a pool.  I actually feel guilty telling them that because…well… I always had a pool as a kid and I loved every second of it.  I’m pretty sure I spent my first 12 years underwater.  (“Mom, I didn’t hear you calling me to do chores. I was in the pool.”)

In extreme weather conditions like this, even I sometimes find myself asking for one. “Mike, can we get a pool? Please, please, I promise I’ll clean our room.” But than my husband reminds me of one important fact – we’re not smart enough to own a pool. You see, chemistry was never one of our better subjects, which is why we didn’t do so well with one of those small inflatable soft pools we tried several years ago.

“Gene, do you think the water is supposed to be black?”

“I’m not sure, Mike, but I’m pretty sure a pool this size isn’t supposed to have a 9-foot deep end.”

Sure, we’ve tried to make it up to our kids by taking them to the beach or joining community pools. We’ve even encouraged them to proactively find their own solutions. “OK kids, I’ve mapped out all of the houses of kids with pools. Go friend them.”

But anyone who has a pool knows that it’s just not the same.  There’s nothing about doing a cannonball  (or in my case, hiding in a bathing suit) in your own back yard.

But if my children’s  disabilities have taught them anything, it’s how to be resilient. I was particularly proud of my 11-year-old daughter with non-verbal learning disability today when I picked her up after the first day of camp. With her difficulty understanding the nuances of communication, I have often worried that she didn’t fully understand our stance on getting a pool. But today, I realized she gets the message, loud and clear.

“Mom, I met this new girl at camp.  She has a pool and a hot tub with a cabana. Yeah, yeah, don’t worry. I’m working on hooking up with her.”

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Sleep Kid Sleep!

When we were young, we hated that popular childhood ritual known as the sleepover. That’s because we both have  always shared a mutual love of sleeping.

“Pat, I really like to sleep. I’m good at it.”

“I’m the same way, Gene. I think it’s why I might be OK with death.”

But anyone who ever been involved in a sleepover knows that they really have nothing to do with sleeping.

Even our younger children have learned this.

“Mommy, can Samantha come over for an awakeover?”

For a long time, we thought it was impossible to despise sleepovers any more than we did in childhood. But then we became mothers and learned to take our hatred to a whole new level of intensity.

Don’t get us wrong;  we’re not  opposed to all kinds of sleepovers. In certain situations, (such as those involving us sleeping away from our homes), sleepovers are not just warranted; they’re ideal. (“Girls Night Away? We’re in!”)

We’re also staunch supporters and advocates of  sleepovers that involve our children staying at other people’s houses.

“Quick Mike, let’s peel out of here before they change their minds.”

But there’s one type of sleepover we’ll always despise –  those that involve other children staying at our home.  That’s because our love of sleep is in direct contrast to the primary objective of sleepover attendees – to scream all night long and drive sleep-deprived parents to the brink of insanity.

As Christians and loving mothers, we’ve tried to work through our hatred, often posing a difficult question:

WWJD? What would June Cleaver Do?

Well, we can ascertain one thing. June would never, ever refuse to grant a special child a sleepover. When other kids want to play with a special child, you have no choice, but to cave. Yup, sometimes, you just have to  swallow your pride (and your Paxil) and take one for the imperfect team.

But that doesn’t stop us from working our hardest to ensure we (err, we mean the children) get a fitful night of sleep.

“OK kids, who wants a Sominex Smoothie?”

“Mrs. Gallagher why do you have those whale sounds playing in  Emmy’s room?”

As much as we’ve tried, none of these and other clever  strategies (tranquilizer guns, Benadryl brownies, bedtime reading of our mortgage deed) seem to work. Invariably, the kids end up staying up all night, leaving us to pick up the pieces of our life, the  morning after.

“OK kids, thanks for coming. Great to have you. Here’s your breakfast.  Just be sure to eat your pancakes before they melt the paper bag.”

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Gisele, Gisele, Gisele

I’ll admit it, I’ve always been a huge fan of New England Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady. It might be his wholesome good looks, his work in bringing three Lombardi trophies to my hometown, or because he shares the namesake of my favorite sitcom family. (“Here’s a story of a man named Brady.”)

As a loyal fan, I’ve always tried to stand behind “Tom Terrific” and his on-the-field decisions, even when my husband (also a fan) is unable to do so. “Come on, get up Brady, you Sally! You’re playing like Marcia Brady.”

I’ve also tried to support him in his personal decisions, including his marriage to supermodel Gisele Bundchen. For awhile there, I grew to like her (well as much as any crazed, imperfect stalker can when some skinny &^%# steals the man of her dreams). She really didn’t seem that bad. She’s family-oriented. Highly successful.  And really seems to make him happy. Plus, she’s managed to do something a lot of celebrity female stars haven’t done – wear underwear in public while exiting a limousine.

But since she became pregnant with Brady’s child, Gisele has really started to get on my nerves. She makes me feel like a complete failure with the births of my two daughters.

Take the announcement of her pregnancy. It seemed like she was so thin that she wasn’t forced to announce her pregnancy until her 8th month, where I was forced to announce within 8 hours.

“I can’t hide it any longer, Mom and Dad. I’m pregnant.”

“Oh, that’s why your stomach is so bloated. I thought you ate too much turkey and stuffing.”

Gisele was seen wearing skinny jeans and didn’t even have to buy maternity clothes throughout her pregnancy. This is particularly annoying since my maternity clothes have been a part of my regular wardrobe since my baby was conceived (she’s now 11).

She boasted about how little weight she gained, which diminished one of my personal accomplishments – staying ¼ pound shy of the 200 lb. barrier.

“I did it Mike! I did it!”

“Ahhh! That’s great Gene. I’m really proud of you, but can you do me a favor and not jump up on me?”

She’s also talked about her insistence with natural child birth, and even gave birth at home in her tub. I, on the other hand, had an epidural after carefully weighing the benefits of medication with my doctor. “Please Doc, I’ll give you anything, even the kid. Just give me the drugs!”

And if all this wasn’t enough to upset me, today I opened the Boston Herald, only to see Gisele boasting that her beautiful son is now potty trained at just 6 months. Potty training at 6 months? It makes those of us who trained their children a little later (mine were both 10) feel like failures. In fact, I’m still working on training their 46-year-old father. “See Mike. This is how you close the lid.”

So Gisele, we’re happy that you have a perfect child, perfect body, and perfect life. But if you ever want to try parenting on the imperfect side, give me a call. We’ll start by burning those skinny jeans. You won’t be need those anymore.

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No more (white) lies

The signs are all there. As much as we hate to admit it, our kids are growing up. Now, instead of rolling Play Doh, they’re rolling their eyes.  Instead  of dressing Barbie, they’re dressing like Barbie. (“Katie, that skirt is way too short. It’s a school call waiting to happen.”) Instead of playing Operation, they’re asking for one (“Hey Mom, my nose is so big. Can I get it fixed?”).

While most mothers of special needs kids would be thrilled to see maturity in their kids, Gina is struggling with it. For her, it’s a painful reminder that her two daughters, ages 15 and 11, are growing apart from her and that she can no longer do the things she used to love to do with them.

Things like watching a favorite TV show (“OK, who wants to watch Arthur with Mom?”) or giving them special attention to comfort them.

“Katie, what’s that on your face? Come here and let Mommy kiss it.”

“Mom, it’s a zit. Get away from me. You’re a freak.”

One of the hardest things for Gina to accept is that she can no longer fabricate “white lies” to protect them.

“Emmy, great news! I just got the notice. Your school wants you to attend summer camp.”

“Camp? That’s not a camp. It’s summer school!  Duh! I’m not stupid.”

Her older sister is even more  savvy about uncovering Gina’s lies, which is particularly troubling since she often outs Gina.

“Mommy, remember our cat Felix? What happened to him?”

“Oh Emmy, he was just so active. We sent him to a farm where he could get the exercise he needs.”

“Emmy, don’t believe her. There’s no such thing as ‘the farm.’ Felix bit the big one.”

What’s even more disturbing is that they’ve started to develop probing skills and now ask me questions about my life. But I guess I probably should show my maturity and tell them the truth.

“Hey Mom, have you ever been drunk?”

“Yes. Drunk on love for the two of you.”

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Money Matters (Unless You’re My Kid)

Money Matters (unless you’re my kid)

Over the years, it’s amazed me how much my two daughters with disabilities have matured. (“Mommy, I shaved my arms. Want to see?”) They’re able to stay home alone, do their own homework, cook, and even clean (when forced at gunpoint). There is, however, one area that they haven’t matured as quickly as I would like – financial literacy. In fact, their lack of knowledge about the value of money would probably make Suze Orman’s hair stand up on end (if it wasn’t that way already).

My soon-to-be 15-year old, for example, is a graduate of the Madoff school of money (as she’s made off with more of my money than I can count.)

“Katie, do me a favor. Take this $5 and buy me a newspaper.”

“OK, but only if I can keep the change.”

Her little sister, Emily, age 11, isn’t much better. She has trouble understanding the downside of having a self-employed mother.

“Mom, can I have $10 to go to Claire’s?”

“Sorry Em, Mom doesn’t have any money. I haven’t received a check in 3 weeks, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 9 seconds.”

“But, Mom, just go to the ATM. It will give you money.”

Fortunately, I’ve found a solution to help my older daughter understand the value of money. She, of course, has other plans.

“Katie when you turn 15, Mommy is going to take you to the Sudbury Farms supermarket to get you a job.”

“Oh, no! I’m not milking anything.”

And though she struggles with understanding the value of money, her younger sister, Emily, understands the joy and rewards of philanthropy.

“Mommy, how about we take the neighborhood out for lunch?”

“My friend Lucy was feeling sad, so I told her we’d buy her an American Girl doll.”

In both their defenses, they are sometimes sympathetic when I express concern over their spending and the drain it puts on our family.

“Mom, you’re right. I do ask for too much. I’m going to start helping this family save money. From now on, when we go to McDonald’s I don’t want you to SuperSize my order.”

I’m sure, they’ll surprise me someday and master the skills they need. If not, I’ll just have to pray they do.”

“Katie Honey, that $20 I just passed you was for the church basket that just went by.”

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Welcome to our imperfect virtual home

So you’re imperfect, huh? You must be if you came to this site. It doesn’t matter whether you came looking for this site or stumbled up on it (proof that you’re an imperfect typist). The important thing is that you’re here. And not alone.

We’re your hosts, Patty and Gina, and we’re sisters. In some circles, we’re known as Lucy and Ethel or Mary Kate and Ashley (though we actually smile). Personally, we prefer Laverne and Shirley, since we both share a love of breweries and bowling.  (Gina also loves to wear a big G on her sweaters.)

We want you to feel like this is your imperfect home. A place where you can come to talk about the imperfect journey known as parenting. It doesn’t matter whether your child has a disability or not or whether you’re a parent at all.  The ride of life is filled with unexpected twists and turns and highs and lows. We’d be honored to have you share your ride with us – and all who come along with us.

We also encourage you to visit our Facebook fan page, simply by typing Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid. )Make sure you click on the new white book, not the orange one, which is no longer in print. )There, you’ll connect with parents from all walks of life who openly admit that life isn’t always perfect. They’ll answer questions for you, share stories, but mostly, let you know you’re in good company.

And here, we’ll blog about our joys and challenges in not just parenting, but in life. We’ll talk about our kids, make you laugh (mostly at us), and of course,  remind you that you’re not alone, even when you think you are.

We promise you’ll never be bored. Cause as we always like to say.  Life on the “Imperfect Side” is so much more interesting.

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Hitting off the New Year

From the time my kids were little, I have tried to instill The Golden Rule.

“Jules, treat others as you wish to be treated.”

“Ok, Mommy but if I hit Jennifer and she hits me back it won’t hurt as much cuz I’m bigger.”

And while I have tried my best to follow The Golden Rule, I fear that somehow the word has gotten out and I have been targeted.

A few months ago, my car was rear-ended by a young man while exiting the off ramp.

“Whoa, like I’m sorry man. My bad.” said the man.

“It’s okay.” I said. “I’ve done the same thing before. That’s why they call them accidents.”

“Like thanks for being so chill.” said the man.

“You’re welcome. Have a nice day.”

I do think, however, that I may have gotten carried away with all this niceness. I am afraid that word has gotten out that I am a pushover when it comes to accidents and being nice.

Just before New Year’s I was involved in yet another car accident. Only this time the driver (an elderly gentleman) smashed up the front bumper of my car.

“Oh dear,” said the man.

“It’s okay,” I said. “Gee, you’re all dressed up. Were you on your way to church?” I asked.

“No, I’m not. I’m afraid this hasn’t been a very good day.” he said as he shook his head.

“Well at least the sun is shining. And that, Sir, is a very nice tie.” I remarked.

As I recounted the details of the accident to my husband, he just shook his head.

“I don’t believe it.” he said. “Another accident. How can you be so nice to all these people who keep hitting you?”

“They’re just people.” I said. “It’s not like they’re doing it on purpose.” I rationalized.

“How come you’re not that nice to me when I forget to use a coaster or throw out something that should be recycled or when I forget to pick up the kids or let the dog out, when I leave the lights on or when I leave the garage door open on a cold day or when I lose the checkbook or when I snore at night?”

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Back to the Imperfect Business at Hand

We only have ourselves to blame. We could make up excuses about why we haven’t updated our blog in weeks. We could say our dogs ate our computers or that we’ve been too busy responding to fan mail. But telling lies has never really been our style. We have always been painfully honest with our readers. Honest enough to admit that our dogs are too small to reach our computers and our mail consists primarily of bills and junk mail, as our parents (who run our mail department) are always quick to point out. Of course, that never stops us from asking.

“Mom, did we get any mail today?”

“Oh, just the usual, a Bed and Bath flyer and an invitation to join the Fruit of the Month club.”

The truth is, despite our best intentions, life, can sometimes get in the way. Sometimes we have plans to sit down at our keyboards, but then some pressing matter calls us away (like a Macy’s One-Day Sale).

But we’re about to begin a fresh new year. A year in which we resolve to re-design our website and update our blog more frequently, maybe even several times a week. (Of course, our past resolutions – to lose 20 pounds and be more organized – haven’t worked out so well.

There we go being too honest again. You know we really should resolve to lie a little.

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Bend, Stretch and Scream

Bend, Stretch and Scream

When I made the decision to join a gym several years ago, I did so with the idea that I would get some great cardiovascular exercise, get to mingle with the Spandex crowd and become more interesting at cocktail parties.

Joining a gym wasn’t really all that difficult for me. I had been the recipient of exercise paraphernalia from my husband over the years. I never used any of it but neither did I ever ask for any of it. My husband is a firm believer in, “It’s the thought that counts.”

Once I joined, it didn’t take long for me to feel very comfortable with the staff and my fellow gym members.

“Hey Trudy, thanks for being so understanding yesterday when I accidentally ran over your foot during spin class.”

As manager of the northern MA satellite office (a.k.a. my kitchen) of Shut Up Industries, I liked the idea that I would have daily contact with the outside world. In addition, it gave me something to talk about at the dinner table.

“Hey Mikey, did you know I can bench press two pounds?”

Yes, my gym had become a health and social haven for me. That is, until my family started invading my turf.

When my eldest child Jules turned sixteen, she began seeking employment.

“Like, Mom, like how cool would it be if I like got a job at the gym?”

At first I felt like my secret life at the gym had been exposed. I will admit that it was a little unnerving seeing my daughter behind the desk at the gym, but other than the usual, “Like, Patty, what’s for dinner?’ question from Jules, she really didn’t bother me. There are, however, limits to my patience.

Yesterday during my daughter’s shift, I received a disturbing text message from Jules.

“Like Mom sme strnge gy is @ the dsk.”

“Some strange guy is at the desk?” I texted back careful to include the proper punctuation.

“Yah like he’s bugging me.”

“Is it your father” I asked.

“YES!” she wrote.

“Well that’s nice that he’s visiting you.” I texted.

“No, it’s worse. He wants to join the gym!!!”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!” I texted wishing that my phone would enable me to text in boldface.

It’s one thing to have your teenage daughter work at your gym, but your husband? Oh no, that’s world’s colliding. It’s a close encounter of the worst kind. This means I must spring into action. I must take matters into my own hands. It calls for drastic measures. Before my husband joins my gym, I will encourage him to first use all of the exercise paraphernalia he’s bought for me over the years. It is after all, the thought that counts.

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I can honestly say after 13.5 years, nothing my daughter, Katie, with Asperger’s does surprises me anymore. She definitely has a different view of the world, and some habits that are typical of children on the autistic spectrum. Like flapping her hands.

Last Monday, when I went to the bus stop to retrieve her younger sister, I had to smile when I came home and found a note from Katie about her flapping. It said:

“Dear Mom,
Went outside to flap.

Naturally, I asked her about it.

“Kate, what’s the deal with the note? You didn’t have to do that.”

“Well Mom, you’re always telling me how important it is for you to know what I’m doing and where I am.”

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"Slicing" the family budget.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know quite well that my daughter Katie is unique. A fact that’s most obvious when it comes to her eating habits. Katie has just never really enjoyed the foods most children her age do.

“Mom, there’s something disgusting on my plate! Hurry up and come get it!”

“Katie Honey, that’s a potato chip.”

There is, however, one popular food she loves more than any other — pizza. In fact, along with bread, pasta, and cereal, it’s one of the few things she eats. And because she’s on the thin side (something she clearly did not get from me), I’m more than willing to order her one when she asks for it. It’s worked out well for us and for our local pizza place, which has enjoyed a long financial partnership with our family. A partnership that’s earned us our own account manager to handle our needs.

But with today’s challenging economy, that’s all changed. My husband and I have been forced to make some difficult household budget cuts. And as CFO of our family, he decided on the most difficult one.

“Gina, I’m going to have to trim our pizza budget to $1,000 per year.”

Panicked over what this meant, I tried to reason with him. “Can’t we take the money from somewhere else like heating?”

“Gene, we’re cutting out pizza! We spend way too much money on deliveries.”

Instinctively, I turned to my friend and neighbor during one of our weekly husband bash, err, I mean coffee gatherings.

“Do you believe him Juli? He wants to cut our pizza budget. What am I supposed to feed Katie? Man cannot live on Honeycombs alone.”

“Get her frozen pizza. She eats them whenever she’s over our house. She loves them.”

“Excuse me?” I think you have Katie mistaken with some other picky-eating neighborhood kid. My daughter would never eat a frozen pizza.”

“Gene, I’m telling you, she loves Digiorno’s.”

When Katie got home from school, I couldn’t wait to confront her.

“What’s this I hear about you eating frozen pizza? I feel like I don’t even know you,” I cried, fighting back tears and trying not to think about how much more money I would have had in my 401(k).

“I’m sorry Mom. I like delivered pizza better and you kept ordering it when I asked for it.”

I had to admire her honesty, but I also had to stick to our financial plan. “Well, it’s settled then, from now on, I’m buying you frozen pizza.”

And that’s the plan I’ve stuck to, until recently when I received a stellar report card from her school. Ecstatic over her hard work, I decided to reward her with an unexpected treat.

Instinctively, I speed-dialed our local pizza place.

When our account person drove up to our home with the pizza, I received a shocking surprise.

“Oh, Joe, it’s you. I didn’t recognize your car. What happened to the BMW?”

“Oh I had to trade it in Mrs. Gallagher. For some reason, I’m just not making the money I used to.”

“Sorry to hear that Joe. What will you do?”

“Well, I have a little money put away. I’m thinking of investing in the stock market. My broker tells me that Digiorno’s stock has been soaring.”

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