Turtle-y Awesome

Over the weekend, my third son - Coby - turned five. He's the one I was pregnant with when I started this blog, so if you've been reading me for a while you're probably like, "No way. He's five?!" Because I know that's how I feel. My little baby is a Kindergartner now, but it seems like just yesterday that I was writing this blog post about his birth (which, coincidentally, is the first time I ever addressed the "pooping during childbirth" issue on the Internet. Did I or didn't I? You'll have to read to find out. You know you're curious).

I was trying to make a slide show for the blog, with all these sweet pictures of him, but y'all? My tech-savvy must be broken this morning, because I was seriously struggling. So I finally just said screw it and decided that I would link you to my favorite Coby-centric post, because even though I wrote it two years ago, it's still true - even more so today, as he grows and matures. And if, years down the road, he reads this and wonders why I didn't love him enough to cobble together a mediocre little birthday slideshow, well ... none of his brothers have had one for the past year or two either. So, you know, everyone is even.

Coby (and practically every other little boy his age) is currently obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He is also obsessed with a YouTube channel called Nerdy Nummies, where a charming young lady named Rosanna Pansino (whom I suspect Coby has a bit of a crush on) whips up all kinds of fun treats based on video games and book characters and stuff. And it's where - unfortunately for me - he found this tutorial for Ninja Turtle cake pops.

He turned those huge, soulful brown eyes upon me with longing and was like, "Mommy, can I please take some of those to school to share with my class for my birthday?"

And I was all ...


Because you guys. How could I not be? Just look at this face!


So despite the fact that I had never before made cake pops, I promised to make twenty of them for his class.*

*And then I freaked out inside because OMG WHAT HAD I DONE????

Let me give you a couple of important things I learned about making cake pops, in case you, too, have a child with pleading and hypnotic eyes who sweetly begs you to make cake pops.

- I didn't use cream cheese to hold the cake balls together, like she does in the tutorial - I used frosting. (I only like cream cheese in savory applications, like crab rangoon or something.) The frosting worked just fine and was delicious.

- The fondant (for the turtles' bandannas) sounds scary but it was surprisingly, refreshingly simple to make ... and MUCH cheaper than buying it. You literally just melt mini-marshmallows with a teeny bit (I'm talking a couple of dribbles) of water and then knead it with some powdered sugar. I used this recipe ... and even though I only made a half-batch, I had leftovers. Make sure you grease every surface it touches liberally with shortening. And when you color it, use gel or paste coloring because the liquid kind changes the texture and makes it all sticky. Trust me on this one.

- I used Wilton Candy Melts in green for the coating, which apparently she uses in the tutorial. I bought one bag, and had just enough for the twenty pops.


Although where hers were nice and runny and perfect for dipping, mine were kind of the consistency of toothpaste when I melted them. So make sure you heat them slowly or they'll get stiff. You can thin it out with a bit of shortening if necessary, which it totally was for me. Keep a little bit of extra on hand because I had a couple of cake pops that cracked, and I just smoothed some extra coating over the cracks with my finger.

- I guess you could make your own eyeballs out of frosting or something, but I bought these:


Because making your own eyeballs, I'm guessing, would be ridiculously tedious. And ain't nobody got time for that ... especially when you're already making cake pops. The pre-made ones were easy and stuck to the fondant bandannas just fine, no extra adhesive needed.

- I went out and purchased special food-writing markers for the mouths. I thought they'd be perfect. But guess what? They didn't work. I guess the coating on the cake balls was too waxy or something. So I went with my emergency plan B and used a little softened butter, some powdered sugar, a couple drips of water and some black gel food coloring to make a black frosting, which I then (painstakingly, cursing under my breath the whole time) dabbed onto the cake pops in the shape of a mouth with the end of a skewer. Blah.

- Buy a cardboard cake pop stand. Seriously. They are only like two bucks but they give you a place to put them while the coating firms up. Once it's hardened, you can lay them on a tray or something without damaging them - but when they're wet, you need a place to put them. Unless you just want to stand there holding them until they harden, which I did not.

- Everything can be made in advance. I made the fondant two days before and stored it in plastic wrap in the fridge. I made the cake balls the day before, and kept those in the freezer (keeping them cold makes them MUCH easier to work with). All I had to do on Cake Pop Day was assemble them - not that it isn't a lot of work, mind you, but at least I didn't have to bake the cake and everything all at once.

I ended up making a huge mess and slightly lumpy cake pops.


But they tasted great, and most importantly, the kids LOVED them. Seriously, they freaked when I brought them into the classroom. And Coby was beaming with pride, which made up for all the work.

And the fact that my fingers, four days later, are STILL stained various colors from tinting the fondant. Which brings us to my last tip ... buy some damn latex gloves.


Happy cake-pop-making!

When the Internet Hates You


My sons sometimes slip and call me Daddy ... or "dude." My mom has called me by my siblings' names more often than I can count. I may even have been called a bitch once or twice in my lifetime (for no good reason, I assure you - I'm always perfectly sweet, right? Ahem).

But do you know what I've never been called?

A pedophile. A pervert. Deranged. Mentally ill. Disgusting. Sick.

I had never been called any of those things ...

... Until a few days ago.

See, a little while back, I wrote a post here on the blog called "The Naked Truth." You guys liked it. I got one snarky anonymous comment, but for the most part, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Then it was republished on The Huffington Post, with a different title: "Why I Want My Sons to See Me Naked." Then it was mentioned on Redbook Magazine's website ... and Women's Day Magazine's ... and The Blaze ... and HuffPost Canada ... and about a bazillion other websites.

And y'all? All hell has certifiably broken loose.

I have gotten a ton of supportive comments. But I can hardly read and appreciate those, because they're peppered with nasty landmines: This woman is sick. Someone should call child protective services. She's ruining her children. These boys are going to be perverts.

Besides the vitriolic comments, I've gotten bombarded with hate mail. Hate tweets. Hate-Facebook-messages. On one message board was a link to my post with the headline, "Aging, insecure mom tries to find solace in children's acceptance of her body" - followed, of course, by a bunch of people spewing about what a nutjob I am. One woman said she'd never let her kids play at my house ... because, clearly, I flaunt my nakedness every time we have company.

*eye roll*

All I wanted to do was convey how important it is to me that my boys know what a real female body looks like, and not cultivate an "ideal" based on the images they'll inevitably see later of the impossibly thin, airbrushed, and implanted. (If you haven't seen the original post, read it, and you'll see where I'm coming from.)

But here's where the problem lies in our society: many people simply cannot separate female nudity from sexuality. And so when I say I want my boys to see my body, those people apparently picture me strutting stripper-like in front of them in some crotchless undies and a pair of pasties, like, "Come here, boys! Mommy has something to show you!" And it just makes me laugh. Because ... seriously?

There is nothing - I repeat, NOTHING - lascivious or sexual about my sons seeing me unclothed (and honestly, I question the hangups of anyone who thinks otherwise). This is not me spreading out naked on a bed and inviting them to come take a good long gander at my lady-bits. It's not me holding a conversation with them as I trim my pubes with one foot on the bathroom sink. It's me in the shower, and them poking their heads in to say, "Mommy, can we have a snack?" It's me flopping out a boob while we're watching TV and nursing whichever of them I've nursed throughout the years. It's me changing into my pajamas while they sit on my bed and chat with me about their day. It's the boys bursting in to tattle on their brothers while I'm on the toilet. It's random, fleeting, incidental moments where they might happen to catch a glimpse of - gasp! - their mother's naked butt or a little bit of nipple. It's life.

Do I try to teach them about modesty and privacy? Sure. It's my job as their mother. But news flash: kids don't always grasp a concept right away. Sometimes it takes years. My kids are little. They don't care who sees them when they change clothes at this point, and they only remember to poop with the bathroom door closed, like, ten percent of the time.

Here's the deal: I'm not going to give them the impression that my body parts - or theirs - are dirty things that they should be ashamed of. If they have questions about why my body looks different than theirs, I'm going to answer them openly and honestly.

If we keep the female anatomy shrouded in mystery, we indirectly teach our boys that women's bodies are only to be seen for sexual reasons, or to "be sexy." When we don't allow them to see those bodies in a more natural, NON-sexual context, we're perpetuating the objectification of women. We're reinforcing the archaic stereotype that breasts, for example, are solely sexual - and not practical anatomy used to feed babies. I want to let my boys know that a naked woman is NOT always just an "object of desire." That like theirs, our bodies are made to be strong, and functional, and that all body types have their merits.

Why can't people understand that when you're talking about your kids seeing you naked, there's absolutely nothing sexual about it? How hard is that to fathom, seriously? I mean, come on.

It amuses (and amazes) me that people are talking about what a bad example I'm setting for my children while they cyber-bully me. "Yes honey, mommy will be with you in a minute, I'm just telling this perfect stranger that she's a piece of shit parent and that her children are going to grow up to be rapists."

While I can't say I didn't expect some negative comments - after all, I did put myself out there for the world to scrutinize - I am surprised at how far it has gone. And how mean people can be from behind the safety of the computer screen. And how I kinda wish I had just stuck to blogging about poop and writing funny poems. Because, as much as I'd like to say it doesn't, I have to admit ... it stings a little.

But.

Haters gonna hate. And my kids are gonna keep seeing me naked.

... At least until they learn to knock.

I'm No Phone-y

If we're gonna be friends, there's something you've got to understand.

I probably won't call you. Like, ever. And I need you to be okay with that, and not be all like ...


Please don't take it personally. For real.

I'll text you until my thumbs are sore and callused (or maybe huge and muscular?). I'll email you every day. I'll comment on your Instagrams and post on your Facebook wall. I'll hand-write you a letter ... send you a message via carrier pigeon ... hire a skywriter to puff out a message in the clouds (okay, not really, because I can't even afford to shop at higher-end department stores). My point is: I'll communicate with you in many ways. The phone just won't be one of them.

As a typical preteen/teenage girl, I logged hours of my life making prank calls yapping away to my friends (although I did it on a corded, see-through phone in my bedroom because hello! ... the nineties were just that awesome). I even did odd jobs to fund the steep $10 monthly fee for my very own phone line - with three way calling.

OMG the memories. This exact phone is actually for sale on Etsy!

But then came the magic of alternate means of communication. And though the phone and I made some good memories together, I had to move on. It's nothing against the phone OR the person on the other end of it. It's just that the introverted part of me vastly prefers other means.

Let me explain.

It's intrusive. I wouldn't just show up at your house unannounced. I wouldn't walk up to a circle of people talking and butt into their conversation. I feel the same way about ringing you up out of the blue; a call is a disruption. You have no idea whether the person you're calling has the time or the desire to talk, so it's kind of a gamble. With a phone call, you're basically forcing the person to talk to you whether they want to or not, like, "I don't care if you're putting your kids to bed/trying to dye your hair/catching up on 'Teen Mom.' I want to talk and I want to talk now." And if they don't answer, you've got a pretty good idea of whether they legitimately missed your call or if they're ignoring it. With a text, at least you can convincingly pretend you didn't hear it (because half the time, you really don't). It saves a little bit of that "were you avoiding me?" awkwardness.

It's hard to control. When you're the caller, you have a little bit of control over how long the conversation is. But when you're the call-ee, etiquette dictates that you wait for the person who called to determine when the conversation is over. Which means that even if you're not really in the mood for a long chat, you risk having to have one. And if you must cut the conversation short, you feel like a jerk for interrupting it.

It's pretty much unnecessary. If you wanna find out how - or what - just about anyone is doing these days, it's just a click away. I can know what my high school classmate had for dinner last night just by opening up my Instagram app. I can scroll through someone's news feed and learn about their new promotion and what political issues are bothering them and how their Monday sucked because they spilled Starbucks all over their front seat. Or I can text. Or I can email. There are only, like, two people that I know who don't have some sort of electronic communication these days ... and I'm probably not talking to them.

It's awkward. Being witty and being quick-witted are two different things. I can give you a funny answer to something, absolutely, but it takes me a minute - or ten - to come up with it (this is why I'm a writer and not an improv comedian). It's the same with opinions: I like to form one, carefully weighing the pros and cons, before I speak. But on the phone, you're expected to deliver an instant answer, an instant comeback, keep the verbal ping-pong going with no awkward-and-potentially-misunderstood pauses. Which is difficult for someone who likes to think things through before responding. With other means of communication, there's a lot less risk of accidentally sounding like a dumb-dumb ... or worse, an asshole.

I have kids. You call because you want to talk to someone, right? You want to hear their voice, have a nice uninterrupted chat? Well you're barking up the wrong tree if you're calling someone with kids. Because the conversation will be peppered with things like, "Leave your brother alone!" and "I said no!" and punctuated with apologies for the interruptions. Kids have a knack for interpreting a parent being on the phone as a perfect time to a.) ask questions or b.) try to take advantage of the distraction. Either way, it's not pretty - whether you're the harried mom trying to listen politely while simultaneously keeping her household in check, or the person on the other end whose every third sentence is being cut off.

So unless you want our important conversation to be abruptly ended by, "Sorry, gotta go, someone's bleeding," I suggest you contact me in another way.

Because for that reason - and so many more - the phone and I are better off as old, distant friends.


The Sneaky Snackers


There are certain milestones that every parent knows to look forward to: like the first time your baby rolls over, or takes those first few wobbly steps, or loses a tooth. And then there are the "surprise" milestones - the less-obvious ones that you kinda forgot to look forward to, but when they happen, they're awesome. Like when they learn to shower by themselves or tie their own shoes or take a dump without yelling, "Need help wi-piiiiiing!"

But for every milestone, every little bit of maturity that lightens your parental load, there's an anti-milestone: something they figure out how to do that you really wish they hadn't. (Like the time I tried to spell T-E-S-T-I-C-L-E-S, not realizing that my son could spell it, too.)

Anyway, in the world of anti-milestones, my two-year-old has recently reached an annoying double-whammy: he is able to open the refrigerator by himself and can open most any packaged food. And he practices these new-found skills as often as he possibly can.

Because two-year-olds are also learning to be sneaky, he's in there every time my back is turned. I go the bathroom; he's cramming cheese slices into his mouth as quickly as he can unwrap them. I run downstairs to switch the laundry from washer to dryer; he's ripping into a tube of yogurt like a ravenous lion at the throat of an antelope.

But it isn't limited to just trips to the fridge when Mommy isn't looking. If I open it myself, there he is, peeking in to see what he can get his grubby little fingers on. I swear he could be at the opposite end of the house, and he'll magically teleport to weasel his way in as I'm trying to close the refrigerator door. It only intensifies when the rest of my boys come home from school. Because what do they do? Head straight for the fridge. And we know if the fridge is open, the toddler is all up in it whether he's legitimately hungry or not.

It gets worse, though. When all the kids are home, and they spot their little brother with some ill-gotten goods, they're like, "We want (fill-in-the-blank) too!" So there goes four times the yogurt or mandarin oranges or string cheese or grapes or whatever.

The pinnacle of the snack insanity comes as I'm trying to cook dinner. I'm in and out of the fridge a bazillion times; therefore, so is the toddler. And consequently, his brothers. And since I'm trying to do something and don't have time to play Snack Monitor to four stealthy little boys, they end up noshing right before the meal ... which inevitably leads to, "But we're not hungry!" when it's actually time to eat.

Grrrrrr.

As I write this blog post, my littlest sneak is lugging an economy-sized jar of peanut butter from the cabinet and rummaging in the drawer for a spoon. Clearly his territory is expanding to non-refrigerated goods. "Ope-it, pease!" he implores me with his most charming smile. Did I mention he just had breakfast?


At least none of them have figured out where I keep my stash of emergency chocolate.

... Yet.


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