Of first communions and nacho skirts

May 16, 2017 | 49 comments

This weekend was my fourth child’s first Communion. It was beautiful to see her receive this sacrament. And if you would like to hear only pleasant things about first Communion day, stop reading now.

If you would like to hear what actually happened, I shall tell you below.

Nothing could go wrong on a day that produced a picture as lovely as this, right?

Nothing could go wrong on a day that produced a picture as lovely as this, right?

My daghter needed to be there early, we decided to go to the church in two groups: My husband would take her and some of the big kids, and I would follow behind with the little ones. “I’ll be right behind you!” I said in my innocent unawareness of how the next half hour of my life was about to go.

After the first group left I went to get dressed. Sadly, this was not a simple prospect. Over the past few months, the process of working on my new book left me so maxed out that every single one of my brain cells was devoted to writing or keeping my household running. The part of my hypothalamus responsible for thoughts like YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN’T EAT PORTIONS OF FOOD THAT ARE THE SIZE OF YOUR ENTIRE HEAD had been sent into hibernation.

And so none of my clothes fit. I tried on one outfit after another, all of them looking like Barbie clothes compared to my newly expanded frame. Luckily, I had a backup: My nacho skirt.

A friend of mine once devoured a plate of nachos that was meant to be shared among 4 – 6 people according to the menu. The resulting discomfort led her to change into her most stretchy, shapeless pants once she returned home, which were henceforth dubbed her “nacho pants.”

In my closet, I had a nacho skirt.

It was one of those online orders that was sized completely inappropriately. When it arrived last year, I laughed as the loose fabric billowed around me — I could barely even keep it on my waist. The company’s byzantine returns process made me lose my will to live every time I thought about trying to get a refund, so I decided to keep it around, perhaps for the kids to fashion into a tent.

When I spotted the folds and folds of fabric drooping from the hanger on first Communion morning, I realized I had my nacho skirt.

I went to try it on, still with plenty of time before we needed to leave. First I put on my titanium Spanx, which I only use because they don’t make whalebone corsets anymore (why?!). When I grabbed the skirt, my main hope was that it wouldn’t be too loose anymore.

When I actually pulled it on, it was tight.

It is impossible to describe the violent mix of thoughts and emotions that swirled through my mind when I realized that my nacho skirt was now too small.

After taking a moment for bitter, bitter reflection on my decision to spend the past few months of my life living as if I were a medalist on the professional eating contest circuit, I was able to get it zipped — barely. Sure, I’d walk into the church looking like Lil’ Kim was my personal shopper, but at least I had something to wear.

I sat down to put on my shoes, and the moment I landed on the chair I heard the horrible sound of fabric tearing apart.

RIP nacho skirt

RIP nacho skirt

Further inspection revealed that my gelatinous you-know-what had ripped apart the zipper in my nacho skirt. And I had five minutes before I needed to leave for first Communion.

The top of the zipper was still in place, yet I couldn’t unzip it because of the tearing. I was stuck. I tried pulling it over my head, and ended up flailing and writhing around the bathroom like a bug stuck in a Venus Flytrap. Finally I resorted to a Jaws of Life maneuver and grabbed a pair of industrial scissors to cut my way out of the fabric.

After throwing the horrible skirt into the trash can with extra force to teach it a lesson, I returned to the wasteland of my closet. If I found it depressing that I was actually considering wearing a pair of my husband’s suit pants, my life reached its nadir when I realized they still wouldn’t fit because they’d be too short.

I eventually stuffed myself into a pair of slacks, which I had to leave unbuttoned at the top, and went to leave. I saw that my four-year-old had changed himself into a Ninja Turtle outfit. For reasons that I can only ascribe to latent self hatred, I decided to pick this battle. Both of us emerged from his bedroom seven minutes later, bedraggled, breathless, and sweaty, but by Jove he had a collared shirt on.

We arrived at the church late, of course. Our parish has a policy that they don’t seat latecomers during the Bible readings so that fools like me don’t distract people from the Scriptures, so I got to stand out in the hallway until the homily. This gave me ample time to reflect on the fact that I was late to my own daughter’s first Communion, and to reflect on my utter failure as a Catholic, a mother, and a human being.

He did manage to keep his Ninja Turtle jacket on

He did manage to keep his Ninja Turtle jacket on, rendering my wardrobe victory moot

When we were finally able to enter, I got to do the walk of shame all the way up to the front pew, which was where the first Communion families were seated. Our church is enormous, with endless rows of pews and about a thousand people attending each weekend Mass, and I felt like I was in one of those dreams where you’re running down a never-ending hallway as I waddled toward the front of the sanctuary in my unbuttoned pants with everyone’s eyes on me.

When I reached the pew I saw that there was limited room, since it’s hard to hold seats at a Mass like this. We pushed and jostled and eventually got everyone crammed into the pew like a clown car. And, in the end, I was able to work my way across the group to sit next to my daughter, who looked happy and beautiful as she waited for her big moment.

She received her first Communion with me standing right behind her. When we returned to the pew, me still decompressing from this epic day, I was struck by the profundity of the gift of the Eucharist. I had been running so far in the red zone that I was barely even capable of engaging in other parts of the service — and yet, even in my ridiculous state I could understand the primal simplicity of eating the Body of Christ.

I pulled my daughter close as she said a prayer, and was filled with gratitude on her behalf. When she has her own bursting-out-of-the-nacho-skirt kind of day that leaves her unable to think or analyze or say any kind of profound prayers, she’ll always be able to encounter God in the Eucharist.


  1. Gretchen Welsh

    I have had more of those days then I care to admit. Thank you for the laugh and reminding us that we are all a mess… God Bless you and your beautiful family

    • Frank C

      Wow – what a story at least safe to say you won’t ever forget it! Congrats to daughter & family.

  2. Kathleen

    After receiving the Precious Blood for the first time, upon returning to our seats, my daughter turned to me and loudly whispered “I like beer better”!!!

    • Marie

      Hilarious! A story to always remember and share with many in the years to come.

    • pam


  3. Jennifer

    Tears…. hilarious and beautiful….

  4. Susan Whorton

    I can so relate to every word of this. I love you and this story so much! As Catholic moms we are united in the struggle, dear sister. Thank you for your humor and honesty!

    • DorisAnn

      Yes great comeback.I have 6 in 7 years so I’ve been there. Lost shoes messy shirts and skirts and all.Thanks for the story

  5. Rebecca

    Than you for sharing! Wonderful, light-hearted sacramental moments. Love!!

  6. Kay

    love this story!! HAHA! Typical Sunday in our house. Thanks for sharing.

    • Marijanna

      Ours too!!! How do we even make it???

  7. Theresa Haggerty

    Thanks so much for this hilarious and real story! I am going to share it with our First Holy Communion parents!

  8. Rakhi

    Oh, Jen… I hear ya, sister! The closet, the ninja turtles aren’t for church battle, and the utter profundity of being able to consume our living God. Life has been a bit of a beast lately, and I feel utterly disconnected and bedraggled many days, but happening upon a first communion at our Zelie retreat, something in me released. I actually took our kids solo (I mean sure – there’s only 2 older ones, but still) to our own first communion Mass because Gia wanted to see her friend’s sister receive. These babies got to take in Jesus for the first (of hopefully many more) time. The Eucharist brought me to The Church and He keeps me grounded through that completely selfless gift of Himself over and over.

    Glad it all turned out well. ❤

  9. Kate Scott

    Sounds as if it was “not-cho” day! …

  10. Ingrid

    I laughed so hard I had tears running down my face; especially because I just went through “the summer clothes don’t fit” routine as I was preparing for a vacation! Your writing is brilliant!

  11. Barbara

    I wanted to laugh and cry. I have been there, many times. God bless you and your beautiful family. Thank you for sharing. You are awesome!!

  12. SL Hansen

    Ohhhhh, let me tell you about the baptism where my parents made fun of the sacrament of baptism AND the priest, another baptism where the godparents refused to state the vows, yet another baptism where (a) the church secretary forgot to tell the priest that he’d have our baby to baptize in addition to the previously scheduled child and (b) my husband’s parents huffily boycotted the rite, the first penance when my daughter refused to leave the confessional (much better than having everybody look at her after all the sins she’d just confessed), the daughter who wanted a custom first communion dress – which I painstakingly made – and then insisted on wearing a sweater over it all day, and the confirmation sponsor who showed up to Mass under the influence of the narcotics she had become addicted to (initially prescribed for pain relief).

    I’ve got #CatholicMomFail down pat.

    • Dorothy Hayes

      Wonderful. Merciful Jesus, how much we need you. 😆😇

  13. Jen

    I was sitting right behind you in mass and I didn’t even notice a thing. You all looked great! I even thought to myself – I wonder how they look so together with such a big group!

    • Kelli

      Lol! This is what I hope that people will unwittingly think of my family when we are at mass or out in general. I would argue that those pants completely fit! Sometimes I can’t even get the zipper up. So long as the shirt is long enough…

  14. Beth Anne

    I have days like that. From the tight nacho skirt to the sweating to the mad dash to the car to the utter jaw dropping gratitude at the love He showers on me to cursing at the person at the light who won’t go fast enough to crying because didn’t I JUST receive THE LORD and thank him for a multitude of things and now look at me… and it’s just me, dear. Just me. No kids. No dog. No body. Just me. How you people keep all of those other people alive when I’m doing good to keep myself out of the way of speeding traffic is beyond me. God bless you!

  15. Erika

    Jen, I feel ya! On the eve of my daughter’s First Communion this year, I stood in my closet and cried. None of my clothes seemed to fit. My husband tried to help me and forcefully zipped me into dress after dress only to sadly tell me that the dress may technically fit, but it didn’t really fit. Then the horrible gymnastics of trying to unzip and strip out of those same dresses. Finally we settled on a stretchy sun dress more appropriate for beach wear than First Communion, but at least it was a dress and it mostly fit. What mattered most though, is that your daughter and mine received Jesus with the support of their mothers. We May no the be the thin version of ourselves that we wish to be, but we are the Catholic versions of ourselves that we need to be for our children!

  16. Dorothy

    I was not looking forward to reading this. Believe it or not, I haven’t read you since your marriage. But, Jen, clothed or not, you still have it. And the comments are delightful, precious, and so Catholic. You did well, becoming Catholic, and having six kids. Sending blessings in abundance.

  17. Charlene

    Made my day. Completely made my day. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I want to call my sisters and read this to each of them, but I know I will not get through the entire thing without one of us bursting into laugh/cry.

    Too bad your book is finished. This would be perfect!

  18. Michelle

    Oh my!! Don’t be so hard on yourself we’ve all been there…it will definitely be a day you both remember! Thanks for sharing I love your show!!

  19. Lily

    Love your story. I have my own nacho skirt that I refuse to throw away specifically for moments like these. You and your daughter look beautiful and of course the Ninja Turtle jacket will give you laughs for many years to come.

  20. Ruth

    This made me laugh and cry… not at you, but with you. This sums up about how our first son’s first communion went a couple weeks ago. No only did none of my clothes fit, I had 15 minutes to shower and get ready after making sure my five kids were all dresses and ready to go to church early and the house ready to have a late lunch for our huge extended family afterwards. God bless you! We’ve all been there in some way or other.

  21. Nancie

    My meditation today reminded me that we are all “wild” (a mess), even Adam was created from wildness and then placed in the garden of Eden. Praise God that Jesus offers us his peace (not the peace of this world), from today’s gospel

  22. Mary Anne

    OMGosh! I was so exhausted coming in from 18 holes of golf in 90 degree weather. I saw your post and had to read it. You revived me!! I laughed outloud!! You could be a stand up comic! As a grandmother now, I can really laugh that I don’t have as many of these stressful moments with the children. You definitely have a gift and I love reading your posts or listening to you on the Catholic Channel…

  23. mary

    Love it! I’m the First Communion coordinator at our parish. I get so stressed out at these big events trying to make it special (and something always goes wrong e.g. our worship aides not getting printed and having to print and fold 800 the morning of lol), when really, regardless of what I plan or not, it’s always a beautiful and holy event, no thanks to me and ENTIRELY due to Jesus! Thankfully, He never fails to show up 😉

  24. Wendy

    Listen. When you replace the nacho skirt, be sure that it has an elastic waist. #protip

  25. Carolyn S.

    Oh I’m so so so sorry about the nacho skirt! The emotional rollercoaster of curiously shrinking clothes when you have to leave RIGHT NOW has sent me to the edge before. I love your very last statement, nacho skirt/pants or not, the ability to encounter Christ in the Eucharist is just everything.
    I spent my youngest son’s baptism with my maternity leggings hanging completely off my bum –albeit underneath a dress– but postpartum me armed myself with those titanium spanx you mentioned, which I have since discovered can remove my waist’s ability to sense when my pants are falling down. I only noticed the crotch was mid-thigh once all was over and we were sitting again. It was kind of like Justin Bieber style pants all sagging and bulging underneath my knee length dress.

    • Erica

      I’m sorry! I am laughing so hard right now!

    • Rosemary

      Falling off my chair laughing. Hats off (pants off?) to all of you who do this..

  26. Erica

    Funniest thing I’ve read in a long while!! Thanks you, Jenn!!

  27. Christa Krakowski

    😂😂😂THIS. MADE. MY. DAY. Thank you for being transparent! Solidarity catholic hot mess mama friend! 😁

  28. Cheryl Davis

    Thank you for sharing. We all have those moments. No nacho skirt story for me but highlights from my daughters first communion include:
    – my younger daughter fainting in the pew because I didn’t feed her beforehand (everyone was coming over for a big meal afterwards)
    – a first communicant’s shirt catching fire and 3 dad’s storming the alter to put it out right at the consecration
    – my first communicant then fainting on the alter because she doesn’t like other people’s blood or pain
    – me with her outside on the church steps trying to talk her to go back into church and making her first communion
    Through the grace of God we all made it through and all the kids received the blessed sacrament that day.

  29. Catherine

    Story of my life. Except the last time I went through the wrong-season and the wrong-venue choices, to then go through the can-I-make-this-work options and have to come up with some strange combination of I-think-the-essentials-are-covered clothes to make it to Easter services, we found out the reason literally nothing in the closet fit was a sneaky little ninja baby. With well more than a decade since that had last happened, it really put into contrast God’s plans and the silliness of my frustration over the blessing I could see but not yet understand.

  30. Ana

    Jennifer, thank you for this funny and touching story. As a mom who has a fat side and thinner side of clothes in my closet, including nacho shirts, dresses and pants I feel ya. But know that in the grand scheme of things, bringing up our children in this crazy world, in the faith is far more important…. 😉

  31. Marcie

    I am new to the N Austin area and I attended the same church this weekend (I think). I wonder if we were out in the foyer together and didn’t know it? We arrived late. We have lived here less than a week and I am a little directionally challenged, and the parking situation was a little confusing for me. As far as the foyer goes, I wasn’t sure if I would be locked out the entire time, or they would open the doors at some point? I had a baby on my hip, and my 5 year, who has autism started getting restless. She tends to become impatient and melt down, so we ended up leaving mid-gospel. I didn’t think I would be able to calm her down with the baby in tow if things went south. I’m not sure we’ll be back to that parish, because we have to have the freedom to go potty and whatnot during the service!

    If it’s any consolation, after losing all my baby weight, I managed to pack it all on again in recent months. It’s all those late-night encounters with two of my favorite men, Ben and Jerry.

  32. Karen Eylon

    Beautifully authentic, refreshing and lovely! Thank you for again uniting your sisters in Christ and motherhood through the gift of your words. It affirms the beauty of normalcy, laughter and grace as we diligently run to pass the baton of faith onto our children. You are a treasure!❤️

  33. Amaura

    Thank you for sharing this beautifully raw, hialarious, and profound day! God is so good! He also has quite a sense of humor.

  34. Mindy

    Hey, Marcie? Just a positioned thought formula. I am
    Retired teacher, and I can get lost in a parking lot with NO OTHER CARS. I learned a few years ago that the problem
    Of finding places/
    Following maps,
    gps’s, even smart phone directions ( never MIND ”
    helpful relatives (!)” is a form
    Of dyslexia, or dysgraphia. I just call it “dysmapia”
    and cut people off in conversation who (usually are trying to
    be kind) say nonsense like,
    “‘Oh, but that’s EASY to find! It’s due North!”

    And Jen, you make every lost journey of mine tolerable
    with your podcasts!

    As an adult convert to the Church 14 years ago, I say welcome to the Faith to your daughter. She will never be lost again.


  35. Lori-Lyn

    I love this so much. Beautiful.

  36. Monica

    Brilliant! I TOTALLY ad COMPLETELY EMPATHIZE with you! I prob would have had a few more expletives for the skirt on its way to the trash can, though!!

    Laughter heals our physical and emotional beings… Thank you so much for this shared moment of your life! Cheers to many more…

  37. Victoria

    Lol! This is my reoccurring nightmare, as a stuff my face with ice cream and chips and tell myself that breastfeeding burns enough calories that it’s necessary to treat myself to this…. oh the joys! But they are a blessing

  38. nancyo

    The nacho skirt looks like it was pretty cute, though! Good job keeping your eye on the real prize. – nancyo

  39. Teri

    What an epic and memorable day 🙂 Your thoughts on how your body has morphed into something larger than life, or at least what you knew of your body before the book deadline “changed” everything, reminded me so totally of a clothes “shopping” experience I had not too long ago…I feel your pain and frustration with the new fluffier version of yourself.

  40. Gail Jurczyk

    Loved this so much! Everything! Lol, my own “nacho skirt,” a black jersey number, was pressed into service a couple of weeks ago for my daughter’s college graduation– where I was to meet her boyfriend’s parents for the first time. And we all packed into a convocation center like– how did you put it so well??– haha- like in a clown car! I was lucky- the black jersey, elastic waist stretched. I pulled on a colorful silk scarf I leave lovingly in the car for Adoration. There we go: Lord, don’t leave me now!
    Thank you for the wonderful story!

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