Dick-ing Around

Colin asks me weird questions ALL. THE. TIME. And a good 60% of those questions are, well, slightly (okay, more-than-slightly) uncomfortable ... such as, "Mommy, did your vagina stretch when you had me?" and "Mommy, what's a whore?"

I try to be as honest as possible with him, but wow. Sometimes there just are no age-appropriate explanations. What should I have said, for example, when he recently asked me this little gem:

"Mommy, what's a dick?"

Instantly I was wracked with guilt. Like a kid who's been caught with a hand firmly planted in the cookie jar. I just knew that I was the culprit ... that my beloved four-year-old's tender ears would never have heard the word "dick" if I hadn't kind of, um, asked his father to stop being one the other day.

"Where did you hear that?" I asked him lightly. I was fully prepared for him to say, "From you, Mommy!" Silently I thanked the Lord that this conversation was being had with me and not with, say, his uber-religious wouldn't-say-a-swear-word Nana.

But he surprised me.

"I heard Olivia say it," he said.

I breathed a little sigh of relief, but then my WTF-meter kicked into high gear. Because Olivia, in case you don't know, is this animated pig:

And though her personality is supposed to be a little feisty, I had a reeeeeally hard time believing that she was slinging "dick" around. It had to be something else.

But still, there was the question at hand. And he wanted answers.

"That isn't a very nice word," I tried, knowing full well that such a paltry explanation wouldn't get me off the hook.

"Okay, but what does it mean?"

I looked around helplessly, as if the answer would materialize out of thin air. What could I say? I didn't want him using the word, thinking it had some alternate definition. So finally, I just said, "Well, son, it's a ... it's a not-so-nice word for, uh ... for penis."

Colin absorbed this for a minute. "Oh," he said. "I thought it had something to do with reading books."

Huh?? Even more puzzled, I watched him skip off to play, satisfied with my definition.

Fast-forward to yesterday afternoon: we're watching Olivia together after the boys' nap. In this episode, Olivia's dad is reading to her at bedtime, and she says something like, "Abick. It's a word I made up that means 'read me another book.'"

"See?" said Colin triumphantly. "Abick. It doesn't mean penis, Mommy."

I need to get my hearing checked. Like, seriously.

Stubble Trouble

In honor of Halloween, or maybe just because it's Wednesday, I've decided to post something scary.

This? Is my leg hair right now.

(In case you ever questioned my super-blinding-whiteness, here's your proof.)

Sorry to make you run from the room screaming - nice ass, by the way - but let me explain. No, I'm not growing it out in anticipation of getting it waxed. No, I'm not growing it out just to see if I can braid it for giggles. The reason my legs rival Sasquatch right now is because the last, like, SIX times I've attempted to shave them, I get interrupted before I get the chance.

I'm an all-or-nothing kind of girl when it comes to my legs. No shaving just the bottom part; it's either ankle to hip smoothness or porcupine prickles. But it's hard to find enough uninterrupted time to properly de-fuzz. Curtis's work schedule conflicts with every decent opportunity I seem to have. And then there are situations like last night, when Curtis had put Colin and Cameron to bed and fallen asleep in their room. Coby was all but comatose in his bouncy seat, so I figured I had the perfect chance to shave. I put the baby's seat on the bathroom floor and got into the shower - and what do you know? Picking him up, carrying him into the bathroom, jostling him as I turned on the light and put him down, and turning on the roaring rush of shower didn't wake him ... but as soon as I put razor to leg, waaaaaaaaahhhhh! And I yelled for Curtis, but of course he sleeps like an earplug-wearing dead guy. So there you go. The leg hair remains.

I'm seriously thinking about tossing out my deodorant, letting my pits grow wild, and wearing dreadlocks and Birkenstocks and patchwork dresses and telling everybody that my rampant leg hair is just part of my new "earth-mother" look.

At least I give Colin something to aspire to - and hey, it's good birth control.

Behind Closed Doors

(I usually like to put a picture with my blog posts which corresponds to the subject matter but couldn't find one that was perfect for this particular post so instead please enjoy this lovely photo of a broom. For your, you know, viewing pleasure and stuff.)

The boys are being quiet right now, which is why I'm here. But they've closed themselves into their room, which could indicate one of two things: that Colin is trying to confine Cameron into one spot so he'll stick around, or that they're conspiring to do something naughty behind that closed door. I'm voting on the latter, which is why I'm almost afraid to go look.

It's a catch-22, really (which is defined as "a difficult situation from which there is no escape because it involves mutually conflicting or dependent conditions" ... I know this because I totally just had to look that up to make sure it was right even though it's a phrase I use all the time). They are in their room, which means they're safe and contained. And it means I get some quiet time. However, they could be in there absolutely trashing the joint, which makes the whole scenario a lot less appealing.

Because that means I'd have to either clean it up myself (5 minutes) or hover around barking orders like an overlord until the boys finish the job (30+ minutes). Trying to get a 21-month-old to pick up toys is like trying to keep gloves on an octopus. Cameron picks up one toy, takes his sweet time moseying over to the toybox, puts it in, and then promptly takes something else out because it catches his eye. And then Colin gets mad because "Mom-myyyy, Cameron's not helpiiiiiing!" and either boycotts picking it all up himself or pokes/smacks/pushes his brother, and we have to deal with that. Which is why I'd rather just do it myself, but then it doesn't teach them anything about responsibility and whatnot (I've been down that road before). Which is why I find myself in yet another conundrum: easy on me, or lesson for them?

So what we have here is a difficult situation. They're still in there. I could a.) go peek at them, realize to my relief that they're playing quietly, and come back to my blog (though I risk interrupting them, in which case they'll start to bother me instead of playing); b.) go peek at them, see that every item they own is strewn across their floor, and become irritated; or c.) ignore them for a little while longer because ignorance is bliss. Why does parenthood present me with such challenges?

Okay ... I'm going to check on them right now. In real time. Live.


... Aaaaaand I'm back. They were playing quietly; unfortunately, they had dumped the contents of their drawers onto the floor because they were playing "clothes store."

Ironic, really, since Colin wasn't wearing pants.

Oh well. Guess it could have been worse. And at least I got a blog post out of it.
And you got to see a sweet picture of a broom. Lucky!

Open Wide! ... Or Not.

So this past weekend, a man instructed me to "open your sexy mouth and let me do the rest."

... And it wasn't my husband.

It was the hibachi chef at a Japanese restaurant.


As you know (or maybe not if you aren't a regular reader of my blog, and if you aren't you should be because it's like totally awesome or maybe just slightly cool. Whatever) my sister was here for the weekend. And in honor of her upcoming birthday - and the fact that I had the opportunity to leave the house without my children (adults! conversations!) - I took her to experience hibachi. If you don't know what that is, click here for an explanation 'cause I am totally too lazy to type it all out. And this baby on my chest doesn't help.

Anyway, the chef had these little pieces of cooked egg that he was flipping into people's mouths with his spatula, which is why he ended up uttering the aforementioned creepy line. But yuck.

(PS - I did not open my sexy mouth.)

Otherwise, it was a great weekend. I so enjoyed having my sister here. I mean, I can't shovel an entire batch of puppy chow into my face while discussing how funny it would be if farts came out in little floating shapes with just anyone.

... Obviously we have reached the absolute pinnacle of maturity.

Hope your weekend was as classy as mine!

"Stuff I Like" Sunday: YOU!

Yes, that's right. I'm talking to you. If you're reading this right now, consider this your own personal post ... because you're one of the people that has unexpectedly come into my life and helped to make it that much more awesome.

Less than a year ago, I started this blog as a way to express my feelings about motherhood, about myself, and about my struggle to keep "Mommy" from overwhelming "Rita." I figured my family would probably read it, and a few of my real-life friends, just to be polite. But then something amazing happened: a stranger stumbled across my page. And then another ... and another. And those strangers became friends, people who have come back again, who have shared in some of the most emotional and profound events of my life - like my Grandma's death and Coby's birth - and who have given me their thoughts and advice and encouragement when I've needed them the most. I never imagined that there were so many kindred spirits out there, but you guys have surprised me. You've come from all corners of the world, and it blows me away that you care enough to keep reading ... and to invite your friends to read, too.

I appreciate each and every one of you, and often wonder who you are, how you found me, and what we have in common. Like the people visiting from Kaiserslautern, Germany or Wichita Falls, Texas - I've lived in both of those places. (If this is you, holla!) Or the people reading in Davenport, Bettendorf, Moline, Rock Island, or anywhere close - seriously, talk to me! We could meet in real life and be, like, super cool friends and stuff! And the people in all the different countries and continents: it's such a small world when we can all relate to the rollercoaster that is motherhood - or at least enjoy stories about it.

From now on, I'm going to try ("try" being the operative word) to respond to all of your comments. I often bite off more than I can chew, and responding individually every day seems like kind of a lofty goal, but I SO want to show you guys how much I love and look forward to each and every word you write to me. So don't hate me if I miss a few, but do check back in.

Finally, I want to thank the peeps who have bestowed upon my blog the highest honors: the awards you'll find in my right-hand sidebar under the heading "They Really Like Me!" Take a minute to scroll through them and visit the sites of the wonderful, witty women who deemed me worthy - you won't be disappointed. In this spirit of giving and sharing the bloggy love, I've created my very own award: the Freakin' Sweet Blog Award. Marvel at my mad Photoshop skillz. ;)

(Actually it's GIMP which is like a free version of Photoshop 'cause I'm too cheap to buy Photoshop, but whatever.)

I'm awarding this to five bloggers, and the only rule is that you must pass it on to a blogger you love - whether it's one person or one hundred. My picks for the first round of the Freakin' Sweet award:

JenJen at Jen's Voices
Alicia at It Ain't Easy Bein' Cheesy
The Lady of the House at Checking the Electrical Box
Julie at Foursons
Kate at Practical Pablum

And that, my friends, is just a mere sampling of the awesomeness that makes up my regular reads. I may bust out this unbelievably amazing award for more deserving recipients sometime in the future, but for now, nosh on those.

I know that "Stuff I Like" Sunday is generally about, well, stuff - but this time it's about you. I just wanted to tell each and every one of you that you make me happy. Your thoughts, visits, and advice enrich my life in immeasurable ways. Leave me a comment, even if all you say is "hi" ... it means more to me than you'll ever know.

In the Company of ... Company

I'm having company this weekend.

I once read an article about how to be a good hostess to overnight guests. And I still remember the accompanying pictures: a cozy, inviting, perfectly appointed guest room with crisp linens and a little vase of flowers on the nightstand. The article talked about how you should always put a stack of clean towels in said guest room. And how you should put together a little basket with things your guest might want - a bottle of water, a light snack, a crossword puzzle, yada yada yada. And I was determined, reading that article at the ripe old age of eighteen or so, that I would always give my guests that sort of VIP treatment.

Fast-forward a few years and a few kids. You wanna know what it's like to be a guest at my house? Let me give you a little taste.

-First of all, there is no guest room. We've got too many kids to have extra rooms - which is why my computer is in the corner of the friggin' dining room instead of in its own private office.

-Secondly, even if there were a guest room, there would be no flowers on the nightstand. Why? Because there would be no nightstand. I don't even have a nightstand of my own ... or a headboard for that matter. There is no furniture to speak of in our bedroom except for our headboard-less bed and a crappy particleboard bookshelf that we bought on clearance at Target. So there will be no other room getting good furniture until I myself receive good furniture.


-You've got a choice of where to sleep: the couch, the kids' bunk bed, or the air mattress. The couch is comfy, but you'll likely be accosted by the dog and two cats. They're used to sleeping there. ... Don't look at me like that! I used a lint roller and Febreze!

-Your bedding? That would be the decorative striped pillows from my sons' beds and the "bed-in-a-bag" Elmo comforter that Colin had when he was two.

-Your towels? We've got green, pink, black, or burgundy - take your pick. Some are from like 1998 when I went off to party central college so they're a little, um, worn. Don't worry about those yellowish spots on the green towel. That's what happens when you get zit cream on fabric.

-I'll make you a lovely breakfast in the morning. Probably cinnamon rolls out of a can.

It's pathetic, really, how far my lofty goal of VIP guest treatment has fallen. But these days, my ideal of successful hosting is keeping pants on my kids in the presence of company. Which is why I'm sooooo glad that the "company" I'm expecting is my sister, Amy (shown below, being forced by yours truly to do the YMCA. You can't tell, but it was at gunpoint).

Amy is one of the handful of people who I know genuinely won't care that they're going to have to fetch their own drinks and that my "table linens" are really paper towels. And best of all, she's down with the clerty, which makes things a whole hell of a lot easier on me.

It's going to be a good weekend. :)

Making the Cut

If you know me in person, or have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I have unruly hair. I'm like Carrot Top ... well, except the red hair. And the curls. And the weirdly out-of-place muscles.
(Seriously, WTF is up with Carrot Top? It looks like his head is stuck onto the wrong body. Google him, you'll see what I mean.)

Anyway, I feel the need to apologize to my poor sons, because it appears as though I've passed the "unruly" gene on to them. Both Colin and Cameron (the jury's still out on what kind of hair Coby's going to have) were cursed born with their own unique brands of follicular challenge. Colin's hair is straight as a stick, not a wave anywhere. Here's a perfect example, taken when he was about eight months old:

And Cameron? Well, he could totally sport a Jheri curl, if that ever came back in style.
... For white dudes.

The thing that sucks about having boys is that they have to get their hair cut a lot. Unless they're like teenagers or something and sporting that hideous shaggy 70s-throwback (which, coincidentally, just doesn't work on approximately 85% of the teen boys who wear it). Never having been a man myself (though Lord knows I've fantasized about the convenience of having a penis), I wasn't really aware of this fact until I had my sons - but if you want to keep a short style looking neat and tidy, it takes at least a monthly trim.

And monthly trims = cha-ching! My husband gets his done at this sports-themed place with flat-screen TVs and all the stylists are women and not only do you get your hurr did but then you get a neck massage afterward. It's like the Hooters of haircutting. Needless to say, Curtis likes it (because they do a good job, he claims. Much like he claims to like the real Hooters for their buffalo chicken sandwich *coughcough*) and he always wants to take the boys there. But it's ten friggin' dollars a cut, plus tip, for the little ones. Ridunkulous. By the time Curtis and both the kids got their cuts, it would end up costing like $45. And $45 or so per month for a whole year equals ... well, you do the math.

(... No seriously, you do the math because I suck at numbers.)

Anyway, because I'm a tightwad, I like to cut (no pun intended) costs where I can. Curtis won't let me touch his hair, but by golly, I'm the mom and I can tell my kids what to eat and when to go to bed and that I'm cutting their hair myself. Okay, so now that Colin's older Curtis takes him to the barber too (in reality I'm pretty sure he just thinks the chicks dig the "doting dad" persona) - but I've still got Cameron to force into submission.

Except his curls pose a problem: it's really hard to cut curly hair.
Especially when your skill with scissors is on par with, say, a first-grader.

So I consented for him to get his very first "big boy" trim at Daddy's barber. I figured if they could get me started, I could maintain the look for a while with a few regular trims at home. Right?
... Right?

Anyway, his first cut looked adorable. But then almost instantly, it seemed, he started looking a little shaggy again. So I got out the trusty scissors, plunked Cameron down in front of "Wow Wow Wubbzy" (he adores that show, for reasons unknown to me), and dampened his hair with a spray bottle. And then I started snipping, and the curls dropped off his head in soggy-ish clumps. This wasn't so bad ... until he began crying and brushing my hands away.

"Cameron, stop," I said sternly. "Mommy is almost finished. Just hold still for a minute longer ..."

And then I saw the tiny bead of blood on the top of his ear.
That's right folks, nominate me for "Mother of the Year": I snipped my kid's ear while I was attempting to cut his hair. It wasn't a serious injury, it was one of those "this hurts me more than it does you" type of things, but still.

He has an appointment at the Hooters of Haircuts. Cha-ching.

What's the Holdup?

I used to write a new blog every day. But now? Well, it's a little more difficult. For example: right now I'm typing this one-handed, due to the squirming infant on my lap who screams when I put him down like I've doused him in battery acid. Which means that by the time I peck through this post, removing typos as I go, it will probably take me three friggin' hours. Except that three hours will be punctuated with "urgent" demands, diaper changes, and minor catastrophes such as Cameron attempting to eat cat vomit like he did early this morning, so really it'll probably take like five hours.

And in that time I'll probably have to pee, which is normally a quick and insignificant event - except when two little kids follow me and raid the bathroom cabinets and try to climb into my pajama pants while they're around my ankles and trip while they're getting out of my pants which causes them to cry.

And I'm sure after that I'll get them occupied with some toys or books (and by "toys" and "books" I mean TV) but as soon as I do the baby will start in again, acting like I didn't just feed him like half an hour ago and he's staaaaaaarving and OMG I must feed him nooooooow!!! So I'll feed him but he'll only eat like an ounce before he goes to sleep and I'll put him down in his bouncy seat, where he'll immediately wake up and fuss and I'll put his pacifier in and it'll fall out. I put it in, it falls out. I put it in, it falls out. And so on.

And in the meantime there will be these hideous shrieks from the living room and I'll be all, "Get your butt off of your brother's face, he's trying to watch TV!" and then I'll try to get back to typing this post. But Cameron will get tired of TV and come in here and climb all over me in my computer chair and I'll be trying to type while being wallowed half to death and bouncing the baby in his seat with my foot.

And then I'll notice that the cat is on the kitchen table with his nasty litter-box feet and he's eating Colin's leftover scrambled eggs, which he will promptly throw up because he can't tolerate human food but he's dumb enough to try and eat it anyway. So I'll stop typing - AGAIN - and shoo him off the table and then out of the room completely for good measure.

And then just you watch: while I'm doing that, one of my kids will come over to the computer where I've got this blog on the screen, and they'll hit "Publish Post" before it's even fi

"Stuff I Like" Sunday: Tightwaddery

I'm cheap.

Wait - let me rephrase that, lest I get "tramp" and "harlot" comments hurled my way. (Does anybody even say tramp or harlot any more or have those been replaced with slut and ho? I totally need to brush up on my insult-slinging. You know, in case of emergencies.)

Anyway ... I'm not cheap. Let's call it FRUGAL. As in, "Hi, my name is Rita, and I wash and re-use baggies." I don't take it to any weird extremes - 'cause Lord knows it's not like I'm lighting our home with candles and stockpiling the mounds of cash we save on electricity - but I do like to pinch pennies where I can. (See my previous post on coupon codes for a couple of my favorite ways to save.)

When Curtis and I got married, my slightly-tighter-than-me-(and-I'm-talking-about-money-although-who-am-I-kidding-she's-got-buns-of-steel)-sister Amy gave us a fabulous gift: this book.

I have referenced this so often in the last almost-decade that it's actually getting worn out - I love it that much. You want a treasure trove of money-saving tips? This is it. It was written by Amy Dacycyzn (her last name is pronounced "decision") and is a compilation of the best stuff from her long-running newsletter, "The Tightwad Gazette." This woman is a money-saving genius and raised six kids on one income.

Some of the things she suggests are pretty hardcore (like dumpster diving), but don't let that turn you off ... even if you're not into that level of tightwaddery, there are abundant nuggets of fiscal wisdom to be found. And to top it off, it's just an amusing read - I love the way it's written.

You can buy it here ... after a while, it will totally pay for itself. Or if you're a tightwad in the purest sense, just check the book out from the library. Either way, do your budget a favor and fatten it up a bit.

Condom Conundrum

If you've been humoring me reading my blog for a while, you know that I LOVE free samples. But if you think all I get in my mailbox is little boxes of cereal and miniscule bottles of shampoo, think again: I happen to have a drawer full of *ahem* more adult samples.

"Really?" I bet you're thinking. "What could be more 'adult' than the Metamucil packet you got a few weeks ago?"

Okay, I said "adult," not "geriatric." And by adult, I mean ... *bow chicka wow wowww* ... ADULT. Like AstroGlide. And various forms of over-the-counter birth control (which we obviously haven't used much, since I've been pregnant for pretty much the last four years): several different kinds of condom and a mysterious packet that says "VAGINAL CONTRACEPTIVE FILM." It's been in there so long that it's probably expired and ineffective, but I envision a va-jay-jay full of plastic wrap and, well, it just doesn't seem so appealing.

Anyway, because it would seriously make me cry to get pregnant again right now - seeing as Coby just turned one month old yesterday - it's time to dip into The Drawer. And the first thing we happened to pull out was a sample of these:

(Photo from Funky Condom. No, I'm not making that up.)

Anyway, the sample came in a little flat cardboard package, which I threw into the kitchen trash. (After the fact, of course ... we weren't gettin' freaky on the counters or anything.) When I threw it away, I noticed that the trash was full and made a mental note to bag it up in the morning.

Fast-forward to the next morning. Colin goes to throw something away and gasps upon seeing - you guessed it - the amazingly awesome purple package in the trash can. So what does he do? Why, he digs it out, of course ... and runs around the house with it, waving it around excitedly, shouting "Envelope!"

"Put that back!" I say in a super overly-casual tone. Because, like, if I shriek about it he'll know it's from something I don't want to explain. "It's trash!"

"Mommy, it's just a box from some fabric softener," Colin says.

"Fabric softener. Yes," I reply affirmatively. "That's what it is. But it's still trash so ... please throw it away."

That trash is neatly bagged and sitting on the curb as we speak. Thank goodness the kid can't read.

Be Silly, Be Skinny!

Psst ... you wanna know the secret to being skinny? Forget about the pricey health club memberships. Don't shell out hundreds of bucks for a supervised diet program. The secret is as close as your next-of-kin (or your nearest daycare): children. If you've got little kids of your own, or access to someone else's, you're good to go.

But it's not merely chasing them around, retrieving them from toilets and cabinets and such, that "does a body good." (If that were the case, I'd be a size two.) The secret lies in ... are you ready for this? ... doing exactly what they do.

Think about it: kids never. Slow. Down. Even while mine are watching TV, they're standing up, shifting from one foot to the other, or down on the floor twisting themselves into weirdly contorted positions like it's nothing.

So now, for only three payments of $99.99, you too can be "Svelte Through Silliness!" When you order this exclusive program, you'll learn to do calorie-torching, muscle-toning exercises such as these:

- The Urinary Yogi: wrap your legs around each other like a pretzel and bob up and down while you try your hardest to distract yourself from the fact that you're about to piss your pants.

- The Antagonizer: run from out of nowhere and pounce on your brother (or the unsuspecting victim of your choice), wrapping your limbs around him like an octopus for a sweet takedown.

- The Couch Commando: bolt up and down the length of the couch a few times, then take a flying leap off the arm.

And there's more! Act now and you'll receive this instructional video, which will show you how to do toning and tightening bonus exercises such as the "Beenie Weenis" and the "I Don't Wanna Get Arrested (But You Have To!)":

(Warning: in order to achieve the desired result, exercises must be performed exactly as shown, including the grabbing/adjusting of your junk.)

But we're not done yet! Act now and you'll also recieve the companion diet guide, filled with helpful advice such as "Eat two bites of dinner and play with the rest," and "How to make a bowl of cereal last all day." You'll master the "dessert negotiation" technique, and discover how satisfying eating old, unidentifiable crumbs from the crevices of furniture can be.

So what are you waiting for? A slim, taut body is only a few jumps, squirms, and contortions away.

*Disclaimer: We are not responsible for any injuries - or funny looks - you may incur.

When Breastfeeding Feels Wrong

I'm excited to be a participant in the October Carnival of Breastfeeding, where moms weigh in on their thoughts about - you guessed it - breastfeeding! So if that's how you found me (or, well, even if it's not), welcome to my blog. This month's topic is "If I'd Known Then ..." and boy, do I have a doozy. It's the reason I couldn't continue to nurse my second son more than a few days, and finding out about it is what allows me to keep on nursing my new baby - Coby. I wrote this post about a week ago, when some research led me to make a very surprising discovery. If it helps even one person, I'll be ecstatic.
At the bottom of this post, you'll find links to the other participants' posts about what they wish they had known about breastfeeding. There are some very interesting reads - so I hope you'll click on through!
Here we are. And by "we" I mean me, my boobs, and the baby: still one relatively happy foursome (threesome if I wear a sports bra. You know, uni-boob). Coby is one month old, and - miracle of miracles - I'm still breastfeeding! I know it hasn't been long, but I'm congratulating myself on the small steps.

Not long ago, I learned something about breastfeeding that rocked my world, people. And I'm going to share that secret with you.

I nursed my oldest son, Colin, for about half of his first year, and had every intention of doing the same - plus more - with Cameron, my second son. I fell appallingly short of my goal, though, only sticking with breastfeeding for a couple of weeks (and that's a high estimation). But it wasn't a problematic latch or a case of thrush that derailed my efforts - it was something much harder to understand.
The reason I stopped nursing Cameron is something I couldn't share with anyone, because I thought I was some ... weirdo. Like there was something psychologically wrong with me. You see, every time I would start to nurse him, I would be instantly overcome with this overwhelming sense of anxiousness - a heavy feeling of dread. I hated it. I hadn't experienced it with Colin, so I wasn't sure what was going on. All I knew was that I felt horrible. It seemed that everything I read about breastfeeding said it was a loving, pleasurable experience ... a special bonding time ... yet here I was, feeling like I was watching the scariest horror movie ever each time I fed my baby. Sometimes it was so bad that I would tremble uncontrollably for a few seconds and my breath would catch in my throat.

(Photo from D-MER.org)

The worst part, though, was how I berated myself for feeling that way. My mind scolded me every time. What is wrong with you? How could you have such terrible feelings toward something that's supposed to be so natural and beautiful?

To add to the frustration, I couldn't find anything about it. When I researched it on the Internet, I saw a few random posts on message boards outlining something vaguely similar to what I was experiencing, but no one ever had any answers for those people either. I chalked it up to some weird and disturbing personal quirk, took it for a clear indication that I just wasn't meant to breastfeed, and threw in the towel.

I was relieved when I didn't feel the same thing with Coby. At least - not for a couple of weeks. But then about a week ago, I had just sat down to feed him when ... bam. It hit me. That all-too-familiar wave of anxiety, so great that my body shuddered and shook for a few seconds. And it happened again the next day ... and with more and more frequency after that.

Determined to find out what the hell was wrong with me - whether I was psychotic or what - I did some more research. And this time I found an answer: this is real! And I'm not crazy!

What I have is called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, or D-MER. Its official definition is "a newly recognized condition causing a brief surge of dysphoria, or negative emotions, that peak before the milk ejection reflex, or letdown, in a lactating woman and then dissipates quickly after the milk release." And that's why I didn't find anything about it when it happened with Cameron - because its discovery is so new that there hadn't been any research on it at that point, not quite two years ago. It is a PHYSIOLOGICAL response - meaning hormonal - NOT psychological. (Whew!)

D-MER is rapidly gaining recognition and is much more common than anyone expected. If other mothers with D-MER are like me, they've been keeping this secret under wraps. It's a shameful feeling to admit that nursing your baby makes you feel terrible - especially when everyone else is gushing about how sweet it is. But now that I know that it's an actual disorder, a real problem, and that I'm not alone, I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders. And now, though breastfeeding still isn't - and probably never will be for me - as "warm and fuzzy" as it is for most mothers, it's a whole hell of a lot more tolerable. And I can keep on doing it, knowing that it isn't some devastating problem.

If you're interested in learning more about D-MER, check out D-MER.org. If you've experienced this or know someone who has, get the word out: it's important that these mothers know what they're feeling is OKAY and LEGITIMATE. Feel free to tweet about it on Twitter, link back to this post in any way you'd like, etc. ... as long as you help me spread the news.

I love and encourage any and all comments, but I especially want to hear from you if you've been through this yourself. It's always nice to hear I'm not alone!

Now: run along and check out the other great posts from the Carnival of Breastfeeding ... and come back here any time!

Fancy Pancakes
The Milk Mama

Hobo Mama

My World Edenwild
Happy Bambino
Three Girl Pile-Up
Birth Activist
Breastfeeding Moms Unite!
Momma's Angel
The Starr Family Blog
Massachusetts Friends of Midwives
Breastfeeding Mums
Cave Mother
Breastfeeding 1-2-3
Mum Unplugged

"SAHM" Gets Snarky

I absolutely despise the phrase "stay-at-home Mom" (or SAHM, as some people say). There are other things to call the job, I suppose - my BFF Betsy prefers the term "domestic engineer" - but you could call it anything you want and the ignorant would still hold the same stupid misconception: that if you stay at home with your kids, you're just lounging around being lazy. All. Day. Long.

That's what irritates me. When people hear the phrase "stay at home," they think of vacation days. Or skipping work. Or otherwise not meeting some important grown-up obligation because they'd rather chill in bed 'til noon. So naturally, what do they think of stay-at-home moms? That we're sitting here eating bonbons and catching up on soap operas. That we don't have a thing in the world to do besides read cheesy romance novels and yell at our unruly kids, who entertain themselves all day, between chapters.

But SAHM doesn't stand for Sitting on my Ass Having Margaritas (though that would be nice, for a damn change). Being a stay-at-home mom entails doing a million and one different jobs, and doing the parts of those jobs that nobody else would want to do. Ever. It's the kind of stuff you'd pawn off on someone else in a corporate workplace: if someone puked in your cubicle, you'd call the janitor. But if you're a SAHM, you are the janitor. If someone clogs the toilet at work, you'd call maintenance. If you're a SAHM? It's your job to fish out the offending turd/clump of excess toilet paper/Matchbox car. An office has a cleaning staff. SAHMs have no cleaning staff; instead, we are solely responsible for not only the basic tasks - dusting, vacuuming, window-washing - but also dishes. Laundry. Clutter control. Organization.

And oh yeah. We're also a daycare. And you know what that means? We're responsible for providing daily enrichment. Education. Entertainment. Discipline. Scheduling. And also, cleaning up after all that: washing bodies, wiping noses, wiping butts. Keeping toys from taking over the house and sweeping crumbs and mopping up puddles and sticky messes.

Wanna know what else? We cook. Yep, it's up to us to provide three more-or-less nutritionally balanced meals per day. Plus snacks. And to go the extra mile, we usually remember what each person likes ... and keep track of what we've had in the past few days or weeks so everyone gets some variety.

We also care for the sick: administering medications, following doctors' orders, fluffing pillows, and - you guessed it - cleaning up disgusting messes. That also includes sick pets and their disgusting messes.

Because we're at home all day, no one ever cuts us any slack, least of all ourselves. Since we've been here for 24 hours we've had ample time to clean this or organize those or cook that - right? Help? Why would we need help when we're have all day long to do this stuff? And since we're "not doing anything" that means we must have time to do this for that person, and that for this person - rightthisveryminute. Because we stay-at-home moms have absolutely nothing else to do but ... stay at home.

You don't even have to get dressed!, they say. Yeah, I may still be in my PJs at 3 pm. Why?? Because I can't leave my kids unattended while I take the time to shower - but when I try to take them all with me, it backfires. It's certainly not because I took my time to leisurely wake up and roll out of bed whenever I saw fit. No. Most days I'm up with the sun - usually after waking up every hour or two to meet some sort of middle-of-the-night demand - summoned from my comfortable bed to meet even more demands. Breakfast. Drinks. Diaper changes. All before I've even had the chance to clear the sleep from my own eyes and take a much-needed pee.

You can take a nap any time you want!, they say. Nap? What the hell is that? If I'm lucky enough to get all my kids napping at once, there's so much stuff I have to get done before they wake up (like attending to my own basic hygeine!) that I don't have time to catch any shut-eye myself.

To those who think "stay-at-home" is equal to "free ride" ... consider this. What would you do if your boss ever-so-graciously said, "Take an hour off to take a bath. Or go to the gym. Or go to lunch with your friends." And then followed it up with, "But after that, you've got to get right back to work. And, oh yes ... you'll be here all night. In fact, except for the occasional mini-break - I'm talking just a few times a month - you'll be here 24 hours a day, indefinitely. What's that ... ? Sick days? Vacation time? Sorry, but you're out of luck in that department. Oh, you're going to the restroom? I'll be coming with you, of course; privacy is against our company policy."

Motherhood is always hard ... even when you do your mothering from home.

There's so much more I could say, but I'd be up on this soapbox for days, and I've got shit to do.

I only wish it involved naps, books, or bonbons.

"Stuff I Like" Sunday: Halloween Edition!

So have you guys noticed the Halloween countdown on the lefthand sidebar of my blog? That should make it obvious: I'm all about Halloween. What other time of year is it acceptable - expected, even - to eat candy until you feel sick? In fact, I think it's gotten even better since becoming an adult. Now, since I buy the Halloween candy for the neighborhood trick-or-treaters, I can buy the stuff I like and burn through it nibble on it all month long. Not only that, but I can pilfer through my kids' candy ... you know, for safety reasons. To make sure there aren't, you know, razor blades in their taffy or something. And to take out the things that are, like, choking hazards. Or the stuff with, um, suspicious wrappers. Yeah. Safety all the way.

Every Halloween (except for this year, because I've been overrun busy with kids), it's a tradition of mine to tweak regular pictures and make them all ... Halloween-y. Like this precious photo of my sister Amy and me:

... Or this one of yours truly ...

... Or my usually-lovely mother, who I tried to witch-ify in this pic (but who ended up reminding me a little bit of Meryl Streep instead) ...

... Or Colin and I from a couple years ago (I was pregnant with Cameron in this picture).

Another Halloween tradition of mine? Reading this book cover-to-cover:

I love, love, love this book. It tells about the history of Halloween, and is full of recipes and ideas and fun things to do.

Another thing I love: Halloween parties. I mean adult Halloween parties. They're like a "you're-too-old-to-go-Trick-or-Treating-but-here's-something-fun-for-you" consolation prize. Like the parties you attended as a kid, but with alcohol (whee!). And since Halloween isn't complete without goodies, here are a few for you: some spooky themed cocktails (you'll find some more good ones here) and a thing I wrote a couple of years ago called Throw a Spook-tacular Adult Halloween Party.

I know it's a little early, but I thought I'd share all this stuff with you now in case you're planning a party (and if you are, it's still early enough to send me an invitation!). And what better time to share than on "Stuff I Like" Sunday?
Have a freaky week - and a happy Halloween!

The Cost of Cleanliness

If there's one thing I've learned from having more than one kid, it's this: when you add a child to the family, you have to rethink your comfortable little routine. Because the once-successful strategies you used when you had one less child just. Stop. Working.

I should have reminded myself of this today. But you know how you hope against hope that, just this one little time, doing something against your better judgment will actually work out in your favor? Yeah. Today was one of those times. You see, I needed a shower. And I don't just mean I felt a tad bit unfresh. I mean I neeeeeeded a shower: as in, I-showered-after-mowing-two-days-ago-and-put-on-PJs-afterward-and-haven't-been-out-of-them-since. I could smell my own pits, people. SKANK.

Anyway, I thought I'd squeeze one in while the kids were napping. Because, despite all my parenting failures, I do have one thing going for me: I have Colin and Cameron on the same nap schedule. So I put them down and prepared to hit the shower. Except it was like going to bed - something I couldn't just do. There's so much stuff I need to cram in while I have some alone time. So I put on a load of laundry, fed the baby, waxed my eyebrows (before those fuzzy caterpillars started trying to mate with my face): you know, things I like to do without "help." The last thing on my list was to scoop the cat box. But while I was doing that, I heard the pitter-patter of little feet upstairs, and Cameron calling, "Mommy! Where aaaaare yooooou?" They were both awake ... an hour earlier than usual.


There went my shower, I thought as I trudged up the stairs. But then I looked at the boys, who were just sitting in the chair together watching "Dora the Explorer." I thought about the times before Coby came, when I had managed to bathe for ten minutes while the boys occupied themselves. And if there were a time when I could possibly accomplish that, it was now - while they were engrossed in their TV show.

So I went for it. I took the baby, sleeping in his bouncy seat, into the bathroom with me. I left the door open, because I couldn't very well close myself in. And I got into the shower.

No sooner had I wet my hair than I heard something and peeped around the curtain. There was Cameron, rummaging under the sink, where I keep the extra soap - and the extra toilet paper - and the trash. I hissed at him to get out of there and flicked a little water to make my point. A minute later, I looked out again. This time, the toilet paper was laid across the lap of a peacefully sleeping Coby, and Cameron was nowhere to be seen.

I finished my shower in record time. When I stepped onto the bathmat, I yelled, "Colin?"



No response.

Dripping wet, I wrapped the towel haphazardly around me and hurried into the living room, where I saw the following ... Colin still sitting in the chair, positively glued to the TV, and this:

Cameron. With my spaghetti spoon (or whatever the hell you call that thing), and a torn-open box of soap, and a brand-new, full box of baby wipes strewn all over the living room. In a span of - I'm not joking - five minutes. Of course, I grabbed my camera phone because I thought, I've got to blog about this. And then I went to retrieving baby wipes, stuffing them back into the container.

... And realized that in the midst of the melee, I had let my towel drop, and was now standing stark naked before my living room window. In full view of my across-the-street neighbor who was outside in his driveway. I don't know if he saw me, but if he did, he'll probably need therapy.

I know I do.

Offers I Can't Refuse

Everybody knows you should take fortune cookies seriously. Because they are wise and accurate oracles, ranking right up there with Magic 8 Balls and Miss Cleo and her band of telephone psychics and those little paper fortune tellers like this:

(Photo courtesy of eHow. And the link is above in case you should feel the need to make one.)

So last night after my delicious Chinese takeout, I cracked open my cookie with reverence, awaiting a glimpse into my future. And this is what it said:


Exactly what that offer is remains to be seen. So while I'm waiting to find out, let's go through a list of things that I would definitely not refuse if offered to me:

-Chocolate. In virtually any form.

-My pre-baby body, or a similar physique, less wide than the one I'm currently sporting (non-refusal of aforementioned chocolate may be at least partially to blame for said widening).

-Someone to clean my house. No ... wait. I'll make it even easier. Someone to sweep up the bushels of crumbs and scoop the disgusting poop out of the litter box. Because if there are two things I deal with entirely too much on a daily basis, it's crumbs and poop. And sometimes, crumbs of poop.

-The removal of my beard, which is disappointingly still present. That bastard. (Or "those bastards" ... since there are multiple hairs? I should've paid more attention in English class.)

-The option to spend 20 blissfully uninterrupted minutes on the toilet with the latest issue of Marie Claire, without anyone knocking incessantly or yelling, "Mommeeeeeeee!" or pushing scraps of paper/used dryer sheets/anything flat underneath the door.

-Money to spend on something besides bills, groceries, diapers, and clothing my kids will ruin or outgrow within a handful of wearings.

-A decent haircut, since my miles of split ends are beginning to make me resemble a brunette broom. ( ...If brooms were pear-shaped.)

-A day, just one day, where I don't have to say "Get off your brother," "Get out of his face," "Leave him alone," "Stop that," or "Go put some pants on."

-Okay, then at least a day where I don't have to say that stuff so often that my throat gets raw.

-500 new followers for my blog. Hey, a girl can dream. ;)

See, divine-universe-or-whatever-power-is-in-charge-of-making-fortune-cookies-come-true? I'm not so hard to please.

Lay it on me.

(No) Time for Bed

I'm so tired. You know those days when you practically have to peel yourself out of the bed, even though you're still more than half asleep? Yeah - today's one of those days. It's rainy and cold and if you're lucky enough to still be lounging around uninterrupted in your nice warm bed, I hate you, get out of my blog.

(Just kidding, but if that's you, I am beyond jealous.)

It doesn't help that I cannot seem to get to bed on time. Why is it that there are umpteen million things that need my attention just before I hit the hay? Last night I told myself that I needed to be in bed by 10:30. And because I always listen to my own advice (except when it's something stupid like "Don't eat the chocolate"), I turned off the TV at exactly 10:30 last night and headed for the bedroom.

... But then I thought ahead. Cameron almost always wakes in the night calling for a drink. If I fill his cup now and keep it in the fridge, I reasoned, I can just grab it and give it to him. Much easier. So I filled Cameron's sippy cup. And then, since I was there, I went ahead and fixed Colin's chocolate milk because I knew he'd ask for it first thing in the morning. And then I went into my bedroom to turn in.

... But then I noticed that there were no diapers stacked on the bedside table for Coby. Which meant that I'd have to go into his room before the middle-of-the-night diaper change and get one, and wouldn't it be so much more convenient if I had a stack right by the bed? So off I trudged to Coby's closet to fetch him some diapers. And while I was there, I decided to refill the container of baby wipes. You know, so I'd be sure to have enough. And back to the bedroom I went.

... But then I realized it was kind of warm. I never sleep well when I'm too hot, and I've read that the perfect sleeping temperature is like 68 degrees or something. So I went into the hallway to adjust the thermostat so we could all sleep better. And then, finally, I got into bed. Ahhhhh.

... But then I heard a noise in the kitchen. It was one of the damn cats licking all over the dinner dishes in the sink that I had neglected to wash. I hate when the cats try to scavenge for food - they remind me of big nasty rats. So I got out of bed and chased the cat out of the dishes.

And then I remembered that tomorrow was trash day, so I peeped out the window to make sure the trash can was at the curb, and that it hadn't toppled over since we totally flaked out last week and forgot trash day and now there was two weeks' worth of trash bags crammed into the can. And then I headed for the bedroom ... again.

... But on the way, I heard one of the boys making a little noise in their bedroom. So I went in to check on them. They were still sleeping, but I noticed a pile of laundry on the floor right at the base of the steps leading from the top bunk. If Colin gets up to pee in the night, he might trip over these, I thought. So I gathered up the clothes and threw them down the stairs in the general direction of the laundry room. And then I tripped ... over the cat.

I decided that while I was still up I might as well locate my phone and plug it in so it could charge for the night. I found my phone and went to plug it in, but then thought I might as well check my Twitter ... you know, to see if anyone had said anything I just had to know about immediately.

After that I finally, finally made it into bed. By this time it was 11.

... But as soon as my eyes closed - literally - I heard Cameron crying in his room because he'd lost his pacifier. And at night, that thing is a necessity ... it's like his security blanket, and he has trouble sleeping without it. So I got up and went into the boys' room. I fumbled blindly over the dark sheets trying to find the binky, but I couldn't see a thing, so I turned the lamp on.

Colin, who sleeps with a flashlight and a camping lantern "just in case it gets too dark" (and who, oddly enough, is frightened of the word "newt"), woke up shrieking, "Turn the light off, Mommy! It's too bright!" So now two of my three boys were awake. I found the binky, turned off the light, made sure they both went back to sleep, and went back to bed.

... Where Curtis was snoring like a damn buzzsaw. I can't sleep when he's snoring. Because it's not like normal snoring: it's high-decibel noise that sounds weirdly like someone eating an apple. (I once recorded it and someday will find a way to post it on here. It's really quite a spectacle.) So I poked and shoved him until he stopped.

... Which woke up Coby, who decided he was ready to eat.

... After which he took a dump.

So much for going to bed early.

Yeah, I Googled "Witch Boobs."

When I think of Halloween, I think of witches. I don't mean of the Wiccan variety, all "skyclad" (read: nekkid) and doing drum circles in the middle of the woods and stuff. I mean witches like in The Wizard of Oz: old. Ugly. Green-skinned. Warts, pointy hats, black dresses, cackle, the whole nine.

And it only stands to reason that if they're that hideous on the outside, they must look equally creepy beneath their clothing. Have you ever pictured witch boobs? I have. And just to see if this is a popular thing to picture, I actually Googled "witch boobs" to see if I could find an image that accurately reflects the way they look in my mind. But nothing came close. All I could find were pictures of sexy witches. And in my head, witch boobs are not sexy. They look kind of like mine: long and shriveled and stretched-out like old sad tube socks, only theirs are green and have these coarse black hairs sticking out in random places and maybe even a wart or two.

So when I saw this life-sized witch at Wal-Mart tonight, I had to bust out the camera phone and take a picture. As you can see, there's something seriously wrong with her physique: namely, it is totally un-witchlike.

What's up with that? She looks like she borrowed her rack from Barbie. Pssshhh. Come to think of it, her entire body was all wrong. Like when she gets done with her job of looking all scary with her little candy tray, she ditches the dress and puts on some pasties and a G-string and pole-dances at a place with a name like "The Wild Cherry" or "The Champagne Club" or "The Cameltoe Cabaret."

(Okay, I made that last one up. But wouldn't that be a fan-freaking-tastic name for a strip joint?)

Anyway, my point: this is clearly an example of how out-of-hand our society's standards of beauty have gotten ... when even our crazy witches have bods worthy of a spread in Playboy's October issue. I pondered this as I stood before her, this specimen of Halloween culture.

And then she got hateful with her glowing eyes and was all, "Bitch, stop staring at my boobs unless you're gonna start puttin' dollars in my cleavage."

Ol' What's-His-Name

My given name is Rita (Rita Jane, if I'm in trouble). But throughout my childhood and even as an adult, I've answered to many different monikers: Amy, Michelle, Steve, Sarah, Josh, Chuck. And occasionally, Maggie.

Those aren't my multiple personalities, nor have I spent the biggest part of my life in the Witness Protection Program. Those are the names of my siblings (except for Maggie - that's the dog). I have answered to each of those names at some point because my mom could never recall which of us, exactly, she was talking to ... especially if she was flustered. You know the nursery rhyme that goes, "There was an old lady who lived in a shoe/She had so many children she didn't know what to do?" Yeah - in our case, that should be changed to "She had so many children she couldn't remember what the hell their names were."

But as much as I'd like to, I can no longer make fun of my mom for calling us by the wrong names. (Though there are still plenty of things I can make fun of her for ... bwahahaha!) Because like some crazy curse - or is it bad karma? - the same affliction has hit me since we've added another baby to the brood.

It doesn't help that Colin, Cameron and Coby are all C names - or that I'm married to another C, Curtis - or that nearly everyone in this house is a boy, except for myself and one of the cats (the jury's still out on the sex of the praying mantis). Still, I had managed to do a decent job of keeping everyone straight until we just had to go and press our luck. Upset the balance. Throw everything off-kilter. Adding another name to the mix proved to be like the block that makes the whole tower topple over.

Now every address I make is prefaced with, "Col- uh, Cam- uhhh, Co-" or some variant, and usually ends with me referring to them as something else entirely: "What's-his-name" or "ol' boy" or "the little/big/middle one" or "you know who I mean, dammit" if I'm talking about them, and the generic "Son" if I'm talking to them.
I feel bad that they're going to grow up having to answer to each other's names, but I guess it can't be helped - it's the unfortunate consequence of having multiple children. Oh well. They'll get used to it, just like I did, or my name isn't Steve. Er, Maggie. Uh ...

"Stuff I Like" Sunday: Soup

As the days get cooler and the leaves begin to change, my thoughts turn to one thing: Halloween candy caramel apples Thanksgiving dinner SOUP.

Nothing says "fall" like a steaming bowl of soup. Or stew. Or chowder or chili or any other one of its bowl-bound cousins. Pair it with some nice, warm, crusty bread and you've got a match made in heaven. So because it's fall, and because soup = awesome, I'm going to share a few of my very favorite soup recipes.

You're welcome. :)

Rachael Ray's French Spring Chicken Pot is just amazing. It's got such an interesting, distinctive flavor: dijon mustard and wine and cream ... YUM. Tastes so upscale and complex, but it's actually pretty easy to throw together. It's one that you could cook for a dinner party and people would be all, "Wow, I didn't know you were such a gourmet," and you could shrug casually like you do it all the time and be all, "Oh, it was nothing," and never have to admit that 90% of your dinners come from a box and/or the freezer.

Pumpkin Soup with Sage and Ham is, like, the epitome of autumn soups. It's thick and hearty and the sage is the perfect compliment to the pumpkin - especially with the slight sweetness of the apple and the smoky flavor of the ham. Oops, I just drooled on my keyboard. *wipe wipe*

If you like Zuppa Toscana (Tuscan Soup) from Olive Garden, here it is. Rich cream, hearty potatoes, bacon and slightly spicy Italian sausage, and kale. So simple and rustic, but sooooo fulfilling. Word to the wise: do not try, in any way, to reduce the fat content. This is a fattening soup. Just let it be, and pretend it isn't going straight to your thighs.

I love Thai food, and so I love this: Thai Chicken and Coconut Soup. I tweak this recipe a little, though - I leave out the fish sauce (because I would rather gouge out my eyes than eat fish), and rather than red chiles I use roasted red peppers (especially if I'm feeding it to my kids, because they can't handle a lot of spice).

Finally, we have Corn and Shrimp Chowder with Mashed Potatoes. I haven't tried this one yet, but the ingredients are on my grocery list this time. It's from one of my favorite cookbooks, Food & Wine Magazine's Quick from Scratch Herbs & Spices Cookbook (the Thai and Pumpkin soups are also from that book). I've tried most of the recipes in this book and haven't yet eaten one I didn't love, so I'm sure this soup is delish - and plus, doesn't it just sound like the ultimate fall comfort food?

I've been out of town for the past couple of days (collecting blog fodder the whole time, natch), but I'll be back to blogging regularly tomorrow. Just thought I'd explain in case you were wondering about my absence in the blogosphere, that's the reason. You were wondering, right?

... Hello?

Aw, go make some soup.
(And if you have a favorite, can't-miss soup recipe, feel free to share it in a comment!)


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