So Do I

Posted on April 16, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

So Do I

My book, Caution: Children Should Come With Warning Labels, is intended to be funny, because let’s face it, sometimes kids are funny little creatures. They squiggle and giggle and see the world so differently than their moms and dads that it spreads smiles, even when things aren’t going the way we’d like them to.

But, sometimes, being a parent isn’t funny. For some, it’s downright sad. Being the mom of four bright and beautiful daughters has been a bittersweet experience for me, one that I’d never exchange for anything in the whole wide world. But, it’s not always enough.

Our oldest, Samantha (Sam as she likes to be called), got married last fall. Now, that was bittersweet. We love her and her husband, Sean, and admittedly are extremely happy for her and for the opportunity to open our arms to a son in our family. But, he’s not our first son.

For Mother’s Day, the four bright and beautiful girls gave me the most thoughtful gift they’ve ever given me. Dandelions and pretty rainbows are great, but they didn’t hold an emotional candle to the bracelet they had put so much thought and consideration into. Inside the velvet box sat a delicate silver bracelet, glimmering with clear crystal gems woven along its beautiful chain. Hanging from it sat one lone charm—a prayer box through which peeked one gleaming blue gem behind the outline of an angel.

The gift was spectacular, but the words meant more. “Mom, I will need something borrowed and something blue for my wedding day. It would mean a lot to me if you would share this bracelet with me on that day.”

I cried. Yes, I did. Although I try to be strong and keep it all in, there are simply times when it cannot be done. This was one of them. We didn’t say it, but we knew what the bracelet represented—it meant more than something borrowed and something blue. It represented the brother who would be the only one of her siblings who wouldn’t be there to watch her get married.

Sam’s always felt his loss more than the others. She was the only other child we had at the time. There are photos of her holding him and kissing him—mementos of a budding relationship that never bloomed. Throughout the years, she’s shared that with me.

“Mom, I still wish I had a brother. I’ve missed that in my life.”

So do I. Oh, so do I.

“Mom, he would have been 21 today. I wish I could have celebrated that day with him.”

So do I. You don’t know how much.

“Mom, I wonder what Matthew would look like now. I bet he’d be big and tall like Dad.”

So do I.

I’ve often wondered what our little boy would look like today. He was a handsome infant, perfect in every way, with his father’s face and a head full of dark hair. I’ve followed the milestones he would have followed in his life without him. I never told anybody before, but I even went outside and watched the kindergarten bus pick up the children on what would have been his first day of school. I waved when it went by, tears spilling from my eyes, wishing I was crying because he was on that bus, not because he wasn’t.

But, I can’t wish him back, although I want to so very much. I can’t take away that awful morning when our son didn’t wake up. So, I transfer my dreams to four bright and beautiful girls, knowing my life is full, but yet empty. I don’t talk about it anymore, but one bracelet changed all of that.

“All four of us would like to wear this on our wedding day. We think it’s the perfect way to remember our brother.”

So do I.

“Mom, I’m glad you like it, but I really wish that we didn’t have a reason to give it to you.”

So do I. Oh, so do I.

Note:  In memory of her son, Matthew McKenna, all proceeds in April from Patti McKenna’s book, Caution: Children Should Come With Warning Labels, a humorous look at the realities of parenthood based on Patti’s experience raising four daughters, will go toward SIDS research. To order, visit the Bookstore at or you can order at .

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Children Should Come With Warning Labels Review

Posted on February 15, 2010. Filed under: books, children, humor, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , , |

Hi all! Excited to tell you that 4BabyandMom offered to review my book, Caution: Children Should Come With Warning Labels.  Just posted, her review made my day – here’s an excerpt:

Very rarely can I admit that I had a blast reading a book, but I can honestly say that I couldn’t put this book down. I cannot count how many times I laughed out loud and my children looked at me like I had three heads. 

In addition, I’ve offered to give away one book to her readers!  So hurry here to read the review, comment, and enter the contest! Note: Warning – you’ll want to bookmark If you don’t, you’ll be missing out on a lot of giveaways, reviews, and some pretty cool information!

To enter the contest and read the review, go to:

Patti McKenna

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Who Changed the Name of Hell?

Posted on January 14, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

Who Changed the Name of Hell?

Lyric/Poem Patti McKenna, copyright 2010

Who Changed the Name of Hell?

Patti McKenna, copyright 2010


A young boy stood

Near a makeshift grave

Under a corner street sign

Where his brother once laid.

Nobody knew who fired the shot

Nobody would tell

Who changed the name of hell

And called it the corner

Of Main Street and Elm


She was only six 

Her sister was three,

They were scared and all alone

They had no food to eat

If they knew where their mama was

They had no one to tell,

Who changed the name of hell

And called it The Projects,

Apartment 312?


Halfway cross the world

In a foreign land

A young mother clung to

Her little boy’s hand.

Their tears fell on the rubble 

Where their home once stood.

Who changed the name of hell

And called it childhood?

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Caution: Children Should Come With Warning Labels

Posted on January 13, 2010. Filed under: books, children, Parenting | Tags: , , , , |

An excerpt from my book, Caution: Children Should Come With Warning Labels (published by Urban Edge Publishing)

Chapter 5


No Means Yes and Yes Means No

Green Means Stop and Red Means Go

When Heather was just old enough to ride a bike, she eventually grew bored with riding up and down the driveway.  We live in rural subdivision which doesn’t have sidewalks, so when Heather asked if she could ride her bike in the road, like her big sister, we said yes.  But, we gave her conditions.

We live in the middle of the block, so we told Heather that she could go to the end of the block and no further. My husband pointed out the stop sign. “When you get to the stop sign, that means you have to stop, turn around and come home.”

We’d stand in the driveway and watch her as she executed her instructions without a flaw.  This safety net soon was given a name.  She could ride her bike as long as she remembered to “stop and go home.”

What do you know?  It worked. We told a child to do something and she listened—not just the first time, but every time!  Before she’d head out of the driveway, we’d ask, “How far can you go?” and she’d respond, “Stop and go home.”

We were sure she understood the rules, but we didn’t know just how literally she took our words until we packed up the family and took a road trip. The front door became a revolving door as we retraced our steps in and out, carrying luggage, pillows, snacks, blankies, dolls, games, and anything else we could find to appease four children stuck in the back seat for eight hours. Then, one last trip in the house to make sure we hadn’t forgotten a child or added one since we packed, and we pulled out of the driveway.

We weren’t two miles from home when we came to a stop sign.  The whining hadn’t yet begun, and the girls were quiet, anxiously anticipating the little vacation we were taking. My husband stopped at the intersection, and Heather must have taken the opportunity to look out the window and take in her surroundings.  The next words out of her mouth broke the silence.

“Oh, no!”

“What’s the matter, Heather?”

“We’re not there yet, and now we have to stop and go home!” she wailed.

What?  It only took a second before we both knew what she meant.  Heather saw the stop sign, and we’d done such a good job manipulating her mind to think that the stop sign at the end of our block meant that she had to go home, that she now thought all stop signs mean you have to “stop and go home!”

Yes, we had manipulated her young, impressionable mind, but it was for her own safety.  Kids, however, have an uncanny knack for manipulating words and sentences for no reason other than to drive their parents past the stop sign and into the brink of insanity.

It’s called the “No Means Yes and Yes Means No Game.”  Now, any child who plays this game is not a naïve, innocent dimpled darling, but rather a scheming and cunning little shyster intent on getting their way, thinking they can outsmart their parents by reversing the meaning of two simple, but very important, words. If there was a Heisman Trophy for little manipulators, I know four girls who deserve serious consideration for the title.

The No Means Yes and Yes Means No Game is often played in the car, while the mother is driving and being driven crazy. 

“Mom, can we go to McDonald’s!”

“Mom, I want to go to the park.”

“Mom, can we have ice cream?”

“Mom, can I have a puppy?” “Mom, can I have a bird?” “Mom, can I have a kitty?” and “Mom, can I have a white rat?”

No, No, No, and NO!  Managing to answer all their questions in under two seconds, all that was left was the whining and the begging.

Until one of the little darlings got the bright idea that it was time to play the No Means Yes and Yes Means No Game.  The game is remarkably easy to play and even the youngest catches on fairly quickly. 

“Mom, can I get my ears pierced?”

Not one to mince words, I got to the answer right away, “No.”

“I can!”

“No, I said you can’t.”

“No means yes and yes means no.”

Oh, no—not this game.  The game that tests every parent’s patience as they try to figure out how to out manipulate the pros.  This is the one game that mom and dad cannot win.  We’re doomed from the start, set up by our own little offspring.

Well, the only thing they didn’t figure out was that no could mean yes all they wanted, but it wasn’t going to change my mind—it was only going to make me lose my mind. Children can play this game for hours on end without tiring, and it seems that the more frustrated and irritated mom or dad get, the more intensely they strive to push them over the brink.

But, they don’t know one little thing.  Parents have a trump card.  For every no means yes and yes means no, we have an ace in the hole which is guaranteed to get on their nerves as much as, if not more so, than their little game.

It’s called “We’ll see.”  Far better than yes or no, we’ll see can postpone an answer until your little one gets married, and then it can become somebody else’s problem. 

Moms and dads have to say no often, but there’s nothing worse than the preplanned whining and begging which strategically begins with no and doesn’t stop until that no becomes a yes.  Avoiding this situation is your best bet, and we’ll see is a parent’s secret weapon.

The wonderful part is that, for a long time, they actually believe “we’ll see” is a “maybe.”  Well, it’s not.  If I meant maybe, I would have said it.  Instead, I say “we’ll see,” which basically means that I don’t want to tell you no right now and I’m in no mood to listen to any pleading or crying. 

We’ll see works for quite a while before they catch on.  They’re smart like that.  Suddenly, one day you pull out the “we’ll see” response and you’ll hear them grumble, “Great, that means no.”  Then, you try to save face because you like “we’ll see” and you want it to work for a long time to come, so you reply that it doesn’t mean no—yet. 

I tried that and our girls chose that moment to reveal their photogenic memory.  They recalled each and every time I said “we’ll see” from the time they wanted the shiny red shoes, not the black ones, to the time they asked for a Playstation III.  They pointed out that they didn’t get a hamster or a pony and that we didn’t take them out to eat when they asked on February 2, 1997. 

They had my number and had figured me out.  But, that didn’t stop me, and I continue to fall back on “we’ll see” at every opportune moment.  While it certainly doesn’t work like it used to, I now am the one who gets a certain amount of pleasure watching them cringe the same way they made me cringe when they twisted the words that came out of my mouth. As they say for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.

No might mean yes, but we’ll see always means no, and paybacks—they’re always priceless.

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Mother Knew Best

Posted on December 27, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Mother Knew Best…

As the door closes on this year and a new one opens, I feel a sense of melancholy, wanting to grasp onto the past and hold it closely where it can’t escape. But living in the past isn’t wise, since the past prepares us for the future. So, as I look toward the New Year, I contemplate my life and philosophies, and attempt to put them into perspective as I reflect on who I am and who I want to be.

Suddenly, I’m reminded of a poem my mom kept on the refrigerator door, which sums up every New Year’s resolution and personal development goal I might have. If I can heed this philosophy, I’ll be a better friend, mother, and neighbor. And if that isn’t the best New Year’s resolution a gal can have, I don’t know what is.


How far you go in life depends on

your being tender with the young,

compassionate with the aged,

sympathetic with the striving,

and tolerant of the weak and strong

because some time in your life

you will have been all of these.


What are your philosophies and resolutions? I’d love to hear them!

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I Saw Santa

Posted on December 21, 2009. Filed under: Christmas, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Last night I saw Santa Claus, and at the most unusual place – a gas station.

He was just  a regular guy. He wasn’t dressed as Santa, but he had snow white hair and a long white beard. He wore blue jeans, a red zip-up sweatshirt and work boots. But that didn’t sway me – he was Santa Claus.

At first, I grinned in amusement, until I realized the hair and beard were real. I wasn’t alone, everyone stared at him, exchanging smiles with this white-bearded man in the red shirt. One woman even asked if she could take his picture, and he said yes, needing no explanation why she wanted to do so.

He was holding  a gallon of milk and standing in front of me. There were two rows of customers waiting to check out and he was the main focus of their attention.

Obviously, I wasn’t the only one who thought he looked like Santa Claus, because  I head someone say, “Hi, Santa!” It didn’t matter that he wasn’t wearing a fur-trimmed suit and black boots. We all apparently wanted to believe.

He looked so real. So much so, that when a little girl walked in clutching her mother’s hand, she stopped and stared in awe. Her round eyes got so big and she gasped out loud. Jumping up and down, she said, “Look Mommy! It’s Santa Claus! It’s Santa Claus!”

Her mom simply smiled.

Amid the smiles and stares, Santa moved up to the counter and paid for his milk, stopping long enough to indulge the cashier who took out his cell phone and took a picture. He turned to leave, then turned back around, walking straight to the little girl. All eyes were on him and there was a sense of magic in the air as we all listened.

“Well, hello. I was hoping to see you. You’ve been a very good girl this year,” he said. Her face lit up like a thousand Christmas lights. She believed.

He patted her on the head and said, “Merry Christmas!” but before he could walk away, the little girl rushed forward and put her arms around his legs, hugging him for bringing her joy, for being so magical and wonderful–for being Santa.

He went out of his way to play the part, just to bring joy to a little girl. As he left, people stopped him, now feeling free to approach this white-bearded man who had the power to bring  wonder and the magic of Christmas into their day and their life. A few took his picture, a teenager asked if she could touch his beard, and giggled while she gently did so. There were waves and cheers of Bye, Santa! Merry Christmas, Santa! and one mother who offered a dazed, but heartfelt, Thank you, Santa.

It was enough to bring tears to eyes and smiles to faces. Tired strangers became smiling friends, commenting on how real he looked and how they couldn’t wait to tell their family. “Who was that guy, does anyone know?” asked one person. The little girl replied with glee, “That was Santa Claus!”

One bearded man in a red shirt brought joy into our lives. He did nothing, but he did everything, returning the lost Christmas spirit and sense of joy into our lives that only someone as magical as Santa can do. Instantly transforming people just by being there, he lightened and warmed our hearts, spreading holiday cheer and magic to those who saw him. 

I saw Santa Claus. He is real. He wears blue jeans, a red zip-up sweatshirt, and he drives a pickup truck. He buys milk from a gas station in Kankakee, Illinois. And I won’t ever forget him.

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Over Yonder

Posted on October 27, 2009. Filed under: children, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

I just got an email asking where I’m headed in life. Hmm. Profound question for an astrological spammer to ask, isn’t it? Am I going where I want to go? I may not be there, but I do know I’m present.

I’m a wife and a mother, a mother, a mother, and a mother. Four kids, I get to count four roles, right? I’m a mother in law, a sister, a daughter, a friend, an aunt. I’m a writer, an editor, a blogger. This year, I’ve been a wedding planner, a mover, a chauffeur, a driver’s ed teacher, a school policy reviewer. I’ve voluntarily tried to right wrongs. I’ve been a charity supporter, a dog and cat owner, and a  foster pet mother. I’ve been a cook, a maid, a laundress, and an ATM.

While I do all of those things, I have to admit that I’m not the best of the best, the cream of the crop.  There’s always room for improvement.  From afar, I admire those who have arrived to where they want to be, a place I call over yonder – an unknown destination where dreams come true.

Over yonder is where I’ll be when I’m not only an author, but a successful one. Over yonder is where I’ll be when I have the time to enjoy my kids – and my future grandchildren. Over yonder is where I’ll be when the balance doesn’t have to checked every time I become the ATM. I don’t know where over yonder is, but right now, it’s somewhere I’m not.

Over yonder is anywhere I’m not.

It’s standing on the edge of Frisco Bay

Holding babies in Little Rock

It’s where I’ll be with my love

and meet fate and destiny.

I don’t know where life’s gonna take me.

But I reckon when I get there,

Over yonder’s where I’ll be.

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Playing Dress Up

Posted on June 22, 2009. Filed under: Parenting | Tags: , , , , , |

When my four daughters were younger, their grandma kept a large bin full of dress-up clothes–prom dresses and bridesmaid gowns she’d purchased from garage sales over the years. With many granddaughters, the dress-up store in grandma’s basement was a crowd favorite, and the girls thoroughly enjoyed putting on fancy dresses and feather boas, with mardi gras necklaces and high heels.

Now, they’ve grown up, and they no longer play “dress up,” but do the real thing. Pretty, glittery, shiny, and flowing Homecoming, Winter Ball, and Prom dresses abound the closets which once held a toy box full of dolls and balls. It’s special, seeing them in glamorous dresses instead of blue jeans and tee shirts is spectacular. But, I’m not quite ready for the ultimate daughter dress up of all time.

Our oldest is getting married. Her wedding dress is all picked out, and she’s naturally a vision of beauty in white. Teary eyed and all, I watched her try on dress after dress, and like they say, when you put on the “right” dress, you know it right away. Then, her three sisters all tried on bridesmaid dresses, and they, too, were just beautiful in their gowns. They finished with their fitting and looked over at me. “Mom, it’s your turn. You have to have a dress, too.”

Mother of the bride. I never thought of myself as a mother of the bride. I’ve always been the bride here at our home. Well, the bride, the mom, the cook, the nurse, the laundress, the chauffeur and the maid, but never the mother of the bride. And on September 26th, I’ll have to sit and watch our four growing or grown daughters in their crowning beauty as they stand at the front of the church for what is the biggest day in our family’s life. It’s the first time that I won’t be in charge, at the head of the program…I’ll be sitting back and watching it unfold, taking a new role, the mother of the bride.

But, I need a dress – a dress appropriate for a mother. One that still has a hint of the style and class I had when my waistline was pre-children, but one that also says I’m Old Enough to Have a Daughter Who Is Old Enough to Get Married. The dress must depict the style of the wedding, but also be just enough different that it isn’t confused with the wedding party. It must be tailored and expensive, yet, understated enough that it blends in so it doesn’t compete with the bride and her three sisters. It must say that this is the final chapter in my role of raising Sam, and acknowledge that there are still three books yet to finish. The perfect dress must say that I’m proud, yet be forgiving enough to still look elegant when I’m crying. And, the only head it must turn is that of my husband.

Alfred Angelo, can you design a dress for a slightly middle-aged, proud mother, that fits the description? Because I can’t seem to find one that is special enough for the occasion.

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