Try This ... and This ... and This!

Man, I miss being a teenager - all that disposable income! Aside from gas for my car, I had few necessary expenses ... which meant that every penny from summer jobs, babysitting gigs, and birthdays could be spent on the one thing I cherished most back then: me, me, meeee! I wore acrylic nails, and didn't have to wait until they had practically grown off my fingers to save up the money for a fill. I could eat at restaurants with my friends. If I spotted a shirt I liked at the mall, I snatched it up without feeling guilty.

But by far my most reckless teenage spending habit was beauty products. Like a whore junkie girl obsessed, I went from brand to brand, trend to trend. Lotions and conditioners, scrubs and masks, creams and colors. I had countless half-used containers of various potions that had been tossed to the back of the pile in favor of the next enticing thing.

At this point in my life, I'm lucky if 90% of my makeup isn't outdated - I don't remember the last time I did one of those "drawer sweeps" like you're supposed to and cleared out all the broken/drying/expired stuff. I actually have nail polish that is so old and gooey that it takes a jar opener to pry open. (But here's a tightwad tip: if your nail polish is a little sludgy, add a couple drops of polish remover to the bottle and shake to thin it a little. Works like a charm!)

The bottom line is, now that I have big-girl bills and a family to buy for, my days of beauty splurges are over. No more product-hopping. But I couldn't just give up my habit that easily ... so I found myself a pretty suitable substitute: free samples!

It's silly, but getting stuff for free gives me a thrill. I feel like a little kid when I reach into my mailbox and pull out a sample. Plus I get to try out a variety of things (and if I like them, which I often do, most samples conveniently come with a decent coupon). As far as beauty products go, I've gotten samples of just about every type of goodie, from hair care to skin care to perfumes to body wash to cosmetics - some so sizeable that they've lasted a few weeks, some from expensive brands.

But the fun doesn't stop there, kids. I've sampled cereal and granola bars and trail mix and fruit snacks, dog treats (don't worry, I gave the dog a bite), instant meals, sugar substitutes. Vitamin and fiber and diet supplements. Wildflower seeds. Scented candles. Cleaning supplies. Diapers. Caulk. And the list goes on ... I've even gotten samples of -yes - condoms and Astroglide. (The condom is still in my drawer, hence Baby #3.) Anyway, I *heart* sampling. I get to try out a bunch of stuff, I don't have a lot of half-empty packages lying around, I love getting things in the mail, and it's FREE. What's not to love?

My favorite sites are StartSampling (you need an account for this one, but it doesn't cost anything), Thunderfap, and Wal-Mart's sample and trial page. Or just Google "free samples" and you'll find a whole bunch of them. You may have to weed through a few, because some of them want you to fill out surveys and sign up for magazines and all this crap - but there are definitely some diamonds in the rough. And though all samples are thrilling in their own small way, once in a while there'll be one you're absolutely stoked about ... like the big honkin' sample of Murad Age Diffusing Serum I got (it seriously lasted me almost a month!), retail value $70 an ounce!

So if you're a product-hopper too, give it a try. It's fun. And after all, we've got to find pleasure in the sample - I mean, simple - things!

Funky Fresh

I love me some clean laundry scent, y'all.

Ever since I've started doing my own laundry, I've been on an endless pursuit of the freshest-smelling clothes possible. I want my clothes to be the kind people want to bury their face in and inhale - like in the Gain commercials. At any given time, you can find an arsenal of detergents, bleaches, and fabric softeners in my laundry room due to my mad quest for the best scent. It borders on ridiculous, really.

So you can imagine my surprise when yesterday, Curtis came upstairs carrying a basket of laundry that he had (wonder of wonders!) done himself - and I could smell the freshness as he came up the stairs. What?!

He put the basket down beside me (I guess nobody has ever explained that "doing" laundry means washing, drying, and folding) and the clothes were just emanating scent like never before. Curiously I picked up one of my kitchen towels that was sitting on top of the pile, and the fresh scent was so strong when I sniffed it that my throat actually locked up.

"How many dryer sheets did you use?" I asked suspiciously, after I'd finished choking.

"Just one!" he insisted, but I knew better. I've been doing laundry, mounds of laundry, MOUNTAINS of laundry, for years - and I have yet to achieve that result with ten fabric softener sheets, let alone a single.

There's no arguing with him, though ... and I folded the entire basket and didn't find more than one used sheet ... so I tried to let it go, the mystery of the super-overly-fresh laundry destined to remain just that - a mystery.



This morning, though, it was still bothering me. Every time I walked past my overwhelmingly-scented kitchen towel, I could smell it. Not a bad air freshener for the kitchen, but how on earth had Curtis gotten it to smell so potent? Then it hit me. It wasn't a bad air freshener because it smelled ... just like my air freshener. And immediately, I knew what had happened.

To explain, let me first provide you with a visual, in case you've never been to my crib:


These are the stairs leading down to the laundry room. In lieu of a hamper, we usually just toss our dirties lazy-style over the railing, where they land (pretty much) at the laundry room door. On the ledge, as you can see, I keep a variety of houseplants and an essential oil air freshener: clean linen scent. Can you see where this is going?

Yep! You guessed it! The other day, while throwing some clothes onto the ever-growing pile below, Curtis accidentally knocked over the open bottle of scented oil. What I knew is that it trickled down the bannister. What I didn't know was that he used my kitchen towel to sop it up - and then consequently threw it in the wash with the rest of the stuff, scenting the entire load.

Mystery solved!

Housewifery

In my last blog, my friend Jennifer commented that her grandmother raised nine kids and was still able to keep a clean house, cook three ginormous meals a day, and do other grandmotherly things like mending stuff. It made me think of my own Grandma; she only raised two kids, but from as far back as I can remember, she's been at it like a workhorse from pre-dawn until dusk. Cleaning, sewing, gardening, canning, and cooking - massive, hearty meals, even at breakfast, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. And though she may be shiny with sweat or covered by garden gloves and a sun hat, she is always dressed from the time she gets out of bed. My grandpa has been gone for almost three years now, so her daily demands have lessened considerably - but Grandma still moves around the house and yard with purpose, just as she has for nearly her entire life.

Jenn's comment got me thinking. I see these women, my predecessors, as almost superhuman in their freakish capacity to get stuff done. I feel triumphant if I catch up on the laundry (for like two hours, until the hamper miraculously refills itself). My grandma hung hers out on the line and still had it caught up every day. I have a dishwasher, but there are times when the dishes still pile up in my sink. Grandma's never had a dishwasher, but it's rare to find more than a dirty glass and a fork in her sink. I think all of our "convenient" technology has kinda made us lazy, but there's another reason - and I just put my finger on it last night - why I can't seem to get it all together like Grandma.

I'm not as proud of it as she is.

Think about it. A housewife was once something that most little girls wanted to be - and what they were encouraged to be. They weren't looked down on for that choice. As the women of that school of thought ran their Hoover attachments over the curtains and cooled pies on the window sill, they didn't feel like they were wasting their lives, that there was some other, higher calling they should be pursuing. They didn't need to aspire to more, because they already felt that they were in a perfectly honorable profession. So they took more pride in it. They got more done. They didn't slouch around in their sweats, avoiding the mounting laundry pile like the plague, too overwhelmed to know where to start. Why do we start neglecting things? Because we aren't proud of them anymore.

When people ask me what I do, I say, "I'm a writer." Yes, that's true - I do write and I do make a pittance an income with it. But I spend far more time mothering my kids and taking care of my home than I do writing, so really, my primary job is housewife. (Yes, that's an archaic term, but I like it better than "stay-at-home-mom," so that's what I use.) I do not readily admit this, hiding instead behind the title of my part-time job.

It's just because people so harshly misjudge women that choose to stay home. They're seen as bonbon-eating, soap opera-watching, mooching-off-their-husbands leeches. And that's part of the reason I get less done, I think - because in this day and age, it's hard to be proud of yourself for doing something that many people think is "beneath you" or easy/lazy. Besides that (or perhaps because of that?) it's pretty thankless. There's very little recognition or praise: no boss patting you on the back for a job well done, no promotions or commissions or award ceremonies for your hard work. Whatever the reason, when you don't feel good about what you do, you tend to half-ass it, no matter what profession you're in. Apathy is the enemy of productivity.

The more I think about it, the more it pisses me off. Why should I - or any other housewife, or whatever you want to call it - be ashamed? I can honestly say that I was born for this, that it's what I always wanted to do. Some people want to be doctors. Some people want to be scientists, teachers, or athletes. They show interest in their profession from childhood. I wanted to be a wife and a mom; when I played, I wore high heels and pretended to cook and clean and cuddle babies and kiss my imaginary husband when he returned from work. I threw my heart into the dream that someday, this wonderful play world would be my reality. Then I was made to feel bad about it by the well-meaning "encouragement" of teachers and authority figures to go out and get an advanced degree ... pursue some lofty ambition ... anything but turn in my brain for an apron. Heaven forbid I "waste" one ounce of potential.

After high school I went to Stephens, a women's college where feminism was highly praised, and felt isolated by the girls around me. They couldn't wait to hold elevated positions and public offices and own companies ... and I couldn't wait to marry my boyfriend (who is now my husband) and play house. I was sure there was something wrong with me, that my lack of career focus was a critical flaw. I didn't stop to think that I indeed had a focus - it was just much more personal than professional.

Being honest here, you know what would make me feel the happiest, the best, the most accomplished? A moment where a pulled-together (dressed and made up!) Rita serves a delicious and nourishing dinner in her sparkling-clean dining room, to a smiling and contented family. Nothing makes me feel better than to transform my home into a warm, inviting haven for the people I love. And that's a full-time job, and it's hard, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. I may not be changing the world, but I'm enriching the lives of the most important people in my world, and that in turn makes my life more satisfying. I'm not missing out on a thing. That's the point.

Anyway, starting right now, I'm going to remember that my status is something to be proud of ... that the massive responsibility of keeping up a home and a family, when done properly, is hard work. That "I stay at home" isn't a statement that needs to be hastily followed up with, "but I'll probably be getting a job within the next couple of years." There is no apology necessary for striving to be the best wife, the best mother, that I can be - or for wanting my family's surroundings to be cozy and secure and wonderful. And once I realize that, I think it'll be a whole hell of a lot easier to give it my all.

Triple Threat?

In just a few short days, I'll officially be at the halfway point in my pregnancy. That means that in just a few short months - less than five, to be exact - I'll officially be a mother of three. Wow.

To be honest, I'm a little freaked out. Completely excited, of course, but apprehensive too. I keep thinking about Cameron's birth, and what an adjustment it was to go from one child to two. That's one of the things that nobody told me beforehand. Sure, I knew what to expect in the delivery room and what would happen to my postpartum body (yuck!), but when it came to the mechanics of suddenly handling double the children, I was pretty much clueless. And I didn't even have much of a problem to speak of - Colin didn't show any signs of jealousy or anything. I can't even imagine what I would have done if he had, say, starting peeing his pants or wanting to be fed from a bottle or something. No, Colin was a real trouper - it was me that had the difficulty.

I have to laugh now because I was so smug when all I had was one child. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that any of you moms-of-one have it easy, because motherhood is always presenting some sort of challenge. But I think back on how much simpler it was when I only had Colin's needs to worry about. There was less laundry. There were fewer toys to pick up at the end of the day. One bath. One mouth to feed. One butt to wipe. One nasty cold or flu virus at a time. I didn't have to worry about evening out the quality time, coordinating naps and bedtimes, working around two schedules as opposed to one. Back then, it wasn't uncommon for me to feel accomplished; with a little work, I could finish a couple of my writing jobs, clean my house, catch up on the laundry, cook a good meal, meet all of Colin's needs, and still have time to read a book before bed. Not to mention get dressed and perhaps even slap on a little makeup.

But now ... "accomplished" seems like a word I used to use (much like "psych!"). From sunup to sundown - or as my girl Betsy would say, "son up to son down" - I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Now that I've got two kids, a picked-up house is a challenge. The laundry is almost always flooding the hamper. My library books lay around largely untouched until I realize they're overdue. And looking cute? Forget about it. I don't have time to do my hair when this is what happens when I turn my back.


(LOL! I don't want to post too many pics of my kids on such a public forum, but damn it, this is just too cute not to share.)

Anyway, my point is, I was totally unprepared for the HUGE adjustment of going from one to two children. I knew it would be different, but I didn't know just how many changes there would be. And now here we are, adding one more to the mix, and I can't help but worry that I'll just totally fall apart. You'll come to my house and the laundry will be piled up and blocking the door, roaches will be feeding off the filth on the kitchen floor, my kids will be coated with some sort of crust, and I'll be wearing a six-day-old outfit with body hair creeping out from beneath the cuffs of my sweatpants.

(Just kidding ... I think.)

Is it just me, though? My mother-in-law raised a gaggle of kids - two of them a mere TEN MONTHS apart in age - and is always so nonchalant about it, like it wasn't that hard. She loves to tell the story about the day the family moved (as in U-Haul, packing boxes, the whole nine) and she had everything unpacked and organized in time to fry up a chicken and bake a cake from scratch for dinner. With, like, 100 kids at her feet. Am I missing some secret trick? If I have trouble keeping up with the responsibilities of two children, how does anyone with more than that do it? How am I going to function with number three?

I've got more to say, but it'll have to wait ... I just heard a shriek of, "Cameron took off his diaper with poop in it!"

*sigh*

Lo-ser!

What Cameron thought of Mommy this morning:



And after I changed his morning dump and fed him oatmeal.
Hmmph.

It "Bugs" Me

It sure would be great if, when you find out you're pregnant, you could just pick the traits you want your child to have. Not necessarily physical - that's not as important - but to be able to say, "I want my child to have more patience than I do. I'd like him to be interested in horticulture. And no disgusting habits, please."

Wouldn't that be nice?

Unfortunately, as we all know, that isn't the case. A kid is like a big "you-get-what-you-get" grab bag. And while most of the time I feel extremely lucky that my boys got the personalities they got, there are a few exceptions. Like the fact that Colin is obsessed with anything creepy or crawly, and has been ever since I can recall. I swear, the child is a science geek in the making. He must - must - spend a substantial portion of his time each day glued to YouTube watching videos of praying mantises, centipedes, scorpions, spiders, and the like. This is a necessity. We were outside for a couple of hours yesterday and he spent the entire time playing with worms. And then today, he's all, "Mommy, we could make a worm farm in my Venus fly trap box!" (Meaning the plastic terrarium that once housed an ill-fated Venus fly trap.) He had the whole plan laid out: fill the box with mud, and then "get a whole bunch of worms in there and close the lid."

Call me girly, call me a wuss, but I'm afraid of worms. Not as in, "Oh help, they'll get me!" but as in, "Keep those dirty, slimy vermin away from me." They just gross me out. So do bugs in general. I like butterflies and I like ladybugs, and that's it. Roly-polies are borderline.

The fact that Colin is enamored with all things gross doesn't set well with me. He isn't even four and is already asking me for a worm farm. But no matter how educational, no matter how much he enjoys it, I refuse to let him fill his room up with tanks of tarantulas and creepy centipedes and bug-eyed (no pun intended) praying mantises. Because inevitably, they will escape. When he gets his own place, then fine, he can have all the nasty crawlies he wants - it can look like "Joe's Apartment" for all I care. (Remember that show, where the guy lives with all the talking roaches?) For now, watching them on YouTube is as close as he's going to get. I mean, his favorite video is called "Centipede Eviscerates Mouse." I'd rather not have to see a live version!


Nine-i-versary


This was us - Curtis and me - on April 22nd, 2000. Nine years ago. Don't I look like I'm afraid he's going to bite me or something?

It wasn't that. Those doe eyes were the product of my true, deep, hopeless love for this man. A love that, despite its fair share of trials, has persisted through two years of dating and nine more of marriage ... and gotten stronger with time.

Yeah, I know, you're probably fighting the urge to hurl - or at the very least, click the little red "X" in the corner of your screen. But it's my anniversary. There will be no frumpiness, as I attempt to remind my husband that I'm still the girl he married, sooo ... I have to have something to write about! And besides, damn it, I'm proud. I wish I could have taken an anonymous poll at my wedding, when I was a wee lass of just 19 years old: "Do you think they'll last more than six months? Check yes or no." I mean, who looks at such a young couple and can realistically envision them growing old together? Stereotypical or not, the perception of young love is that it's doomed to fizzle out just as quickly and passionately as it ignited.

But here we are. Sometimes the flame flickers low, sometimes it flares brightly, but we've kept it burning. Curtis is still the first person I run to when something goes wrong, still the first person I want to share my triumphs with. And I get butterflies in my stomach when I hear that he's home from work.*


*Plus he's seen my body go from smokin' to sagging, watched me fatly incubate and subsequently squeeze out two babies, and has been intimately acquainted with most of my bodily functions - and he still sticks around (and even wants to sleep with me!). You've got to love a man who doesn't turn tail and run when you poo on the birthing table, y'know? Sweet romance. :)


This is what we look like today, in all our "30-is-the-new-20" splendor:

We're no longer the two googly kids in the first picture. Now, not only are we Mr. and Mrs. Templeton - we're Mommy and Daddy. Each passing year weaves new and beautiful threads into the tapestry of our life together, and I love how it looks so far.

Trippin'

Some things in my life just don't add up. (If you read the last blog, about my unexplained spoon/fork ratio, you'll know what I'm talking about.) And here's another classic example of something that, well, just doesn't come out equal:

Curtis + one small suitcase + his friends + Vegas = vacation

Me + fetus + the kids + the dog + three duffel bags, a purse, a leash, and a container of dog food + roadtrip to Missouri = ordeal

Curtis was invited by a couple of his work friends on a five-day boys' trip out to "America's Playground" - a.k.a. Las Vegas. So rather than sit here at my house alone with the kids for nearly a week (as utterly phenomenal as that sounds), I decided I'd pack everyone up to spend a few days with my family, four hours away.

The drive itself wasn't bad, especially considering my complete and total lack of directional orientation. Seriously (sadly?) I'm not exaggerating one iota - I have NO sense of direction. I have literally gotten lost blocks from my own house ... don't ask me how. All I know is, devices like Garmins and TomToms were made for people like me. Unfortunately, they were made for people like me who have more disposable income than I do (or a newer car), which is why we don't have one. Which is why on the trip south, I ended up driving approximately 40 minutes out of my way.
Ugh.

Still, I'm considering that a positive. I only drove 40 extra minutes as opposed to, like, going the wrong way the entire time - which is NOT out of the realm of possibility. And the kids didn't seem to notice, were pleasant even - and Colin didn't barf, as he's been inclined to do recently - so as far as I'm concerned I had minimal problems getting there.

It was being there that was the problem.

Don't get me wrong ... I love visiting with my family. But I never realize how much easier it is when Curtis is with me to be the co-parent. 'Cause no matter how kid-friendly someone tries to make their house, it's still always full of things to climb on, cabinets to open, knick-knacks to finger ... the bathroom doors are usually open, which Cameron sees as an open invitation to splash in the toilet or unroll the paper ... there's always a dog that doesn't take kindly to little probing hands, or a temperamental cat to look out for ... you get the picture. It's hard to eat/talk/shower/pee/lounge/fill-in-the-blank when you're constantly having to jump up and intervene in your children's misguided explorations. Not to mention fielding frustrated tantrums because your three-year-old doesn't understand why he can't do what he does at home (not everyone likes the thought of giving him free reign over their computer to watch venus fly trap videos on YouTube). Even though there were others around to occasionally remove Cameron from the top of the stairs or explain to Colin why he can't run around with no pants on, I was still The Parent, and therefore responsible, and therefore tired all the time.

I did have one fairly relaxing day, when I left the boys with their grandmother and aunt and ran my own grandma on some errands. Then later that evening, I got to hit the Isle of Capri surf & turf buffet with three of my bestest friends. I ate an astonishing amount of crab legs, and paid dearly for it with stomach cramps the whole night through, but it was so worth it. I had a few hours to eat - and laugh - in peace, with company I adore, which is priceless.

But the rest of the time, I was worn slick. I felt blah, and spent my last day there on the verge of those annoying "no-good-reason" tears (until the evening, where I had a good time at a family get-together). And I missed Curtis, who was undoubtedly having the time of his life in sunny Vegas, while I was running around corraling the kids in rainy Missouri. In the meantime, Colin had woken up with a mysterious bumpy rash from his face to about the middle of his torso and back, and was scratching like a flea-infested dog. Cam had decided to melt down into a "let's-make-Mommy-guess-why-I'm-screaming-even-though-my-every-need-has-been-met" fit ... for, like, an hour. So going home early wasn't really a choice, but more like a mandatory order imposed upon me by the cosmos. We ended up leaving the day before I had originally planned.


The drive back was even better than the drive down, because I didn't get lost once - and I made pretty good time considering that I was caught in a torrential downpour for most of the trip. The house smelled like catbox when I got back (retch!), but it was soooo nice to be home. I could tell the boys were glad to be here, too ... because they actually settled into a peaceful routine and were well-behaved for the rest of the evening!

That all changed this morning, when they returned to their normal cantankerous selves, but oh well. At least we're in our own house, where they know the rules and boundaries ... and where I can, at least a small fraction of the time, threaten them from the comfort of my recliner. ;)

Who's All Up In My Drawers?

I have thirteen forks.

I have ... five spoons.

Does anyone else see a discrepancy here?

I have no idea why the majority of my spoons are missing. Have they gone to the mysterious nether-world inhabited by lost socks?

Granted, the presence of two small children means that things randomly disappear on a regular basis, and are usually found in crazy places: a pacifier in my shoe, a pair of Diego undies in my purse (?), a rubber ball in the freezer. And I admit, I've found stray utensils in the kids' hiding places before - last week, in fact, I found an Elmo fork in the front flowerbed. (There's a hole in the living room window screen, and apparently Cameron had taken it upon himself to throw his fork out.) But I don't think that's the reason my spoons are missing.

Personally, I think Curtis is the culprit. He takes food to work on the daily, always tucking a fork or spoon inside his lunch bag next to the Tupperware. Usually he brings it home, but there have been several incidents in the past where he has left things behind - where they mysteriously disappear. And the other day he came home with someone else's utensil. (WTFork?) He swears he is not the reason my spoon population is dwindling faster than Joaquin Phoenix's career - and sometimes even gets huffy about it when I accuse him. As if he's tired of telling me, for the umpteenth time, that he is not some sort of conniving spoon-thief.

My mother-in-law solemnly swears that once, when the family was away from home for a few days, someone came in and stole all of her teaspoons. Did this happen to me? Is there some sort of maniac with a burning obsession for Templeton family spoons, patiently waiting for the right times to pilfer my sleek stainless-steel utensils one by one, striking a second generation?

Okay, so that may be a tad bit overdramatic. But still. I'd like to know ... what gives? Who's been all up in my drawers?

I'm Always Like This ... Really!

This morning, bright and early, I was scheduled for a lovely prenatal visit with my OB/GYN. Which meant a long, arduous list of preparatory tasks meant to fool the doctor into thinking I'm always pulled-together, tidy, and hairless. An extensive roster of all the things I need to do on a regular basis, but don't. The things that get shoved aside in favor of stuff like ... pooping in privacy, or going to bed fifteen minutes earlier. You know, priorities.

I had to wait until after I put the kids to bed at 8:30, because everybody knows that kids + personal grooming = a big joke; they're why these things fall to the wayside to begin with. I re-did my toenail polish, transforming the chipping hot pink I put on for the last visit (a month ago!) into a sensible French pedicure. Then I trimmed and painted my fingernails - which hadn't been so much as filed since, like, January - to match.

Once that dried, I got in the shower. Exfoliated each accessible inch. Slathered a deep-conditioner on my hair. Whittled the scaly dry patches on my feet. Then began the time-consuming process of shaving from ankle to hip, my pits, and of course ... down there, which may have been better accomplished with a weed whacker or a machete. Sadly, I'm already at the point where it's difficult to see around my belly, so most of my down-south hair removal effort was hit or miss: shave, feel. Shave, feel. In trying to see, I bent into positions that require the flexibility of a contortionist ... hard to do considering I have the flexibility of a candy cane. Let's just say that if anyone were looking for a pretty sight, they'd have been hard-up to find one in my shower.

After spending 40 minutes scrubbing and de-fuzzing, then rinsing the "stragglers" out of the shower, I still had to wait until my hair dried a little bit before I went to bed; otherwise I would have woken up looking like Bret Michaels circa mid-1980s. I couldn't use the hair dryer because the kids were asleep, so I just waited for it to air-dry. By the time it dried enough not to kink all up while I slept, it was well past midnight.

This morning the ritual continued as I inserted my contacts, which I haven't worn in so long that they actually irritated my eyes. I painstakingly plucked a few stray hairs from my eyebrows. I put on full makeup - foundation, concealer, the works. I carefully chose an outfit that, for once, could not double as pajamas. I spent twenty minutes straightening my hair, layer by layer (which frizzed anyway the second I stepped outside into the rainy day). By the time I left the house to go to my appointment, I felt utterly high-maintenance - but confident that people would look at me and see not a slovenly mom, but a cute and "with-it" pregnant chick. And that my doctor would be utterly impressed by my neatly groomed leg/pubic area. Not that she'd say anything, but at least she'd be thinking it.

When she came into the room, we chatted for a few minutes (blood pressure's good, weight's decent, tests were normal). Then she came at me with the Doppler to listen to the baby. She found it right away, and I was filled with joy hearing the steady swoosh-swoosh-swoosh of my little one's heartbeat. Then she motioned for me to sit up, a gesture which I figured would be followed by, "Now take off your pants and I'll be back in just a minute." Instead, she said, "Okay, we're all done! See you in four weeks!"

I was dumbfounded. No below-the-belt exploration? "You mean you're not ... you're not going to look at my ..."

"Nope, you're off the hook this time," the doctor smiled.

Yes, when it comes right down to it, I was glad to be spared the "uckiness" of a vaginal exam. But all that prep work, the exfoliation, the shaving - it was all for nothing? Just my luck.

At least Curtis will be happy. ;)

Ee-Ee-Easter

Ugh.

Have had entirely too much Easter candy ... feel nauseated and disgusting ... that's what I get for pilfering from the kids' baskets.

Seriously, though, chocolate covered marshmallow bunnies? Peeps? Peanut butter eggs? Who can resist? There may be even a little more than I'm letting on ("A bag of Kit-Kats? No, Honey, I don't think you ever picked one up..."). Mass consumption of junk tends to blur my memories into one long sugary stupor. All I know is, I had too much ... like 5000 calories ago.

I put a roast and veggies in the Crock Pot, so at least we'll get some sort of nutritious meal today. Pot roast is such a "Sunday dinner" type of food, you know? I felt like I ought to be preparing it in a June Cleaver dress, pumps, and pearls. (In reality, I wasn't even close in my black maternity workout pants and tent-sized fuschia T-shirt, but whatever).

For the majority of the day I've been pretending to be a dolphin. Because dolphins just scream Easter, don't they? Actually, it's Colin's new thing: he's Baby Dolphin and I'm Mommy Dolphin. And we speak back and forth to each other in a series of high-pitched "Ee! Ee!" noises.

The good thing is, he can be persuaded to do almost anything (cooperatively!) if he's asked in "dolphin" - even requests like, "Pick up your room," which would normally have him dragging his feet. Now if I could only find something that works similarly well on Curtis!

Easter is a time of revelations: some joyous, such as Jesus being risen from the grave, and some not-so-joyous ... such as chocolate gives Cameron the runs. I hope your Easter brings surprises of the happier variety. :) Happy Easter everyone!

Adventures in Library Land

Oh, luxury of luxuries - I went to the library yesterday, alone! Curtis was trying to squeeze in some father/son time before work, so he dropped me off at the library while he and the boys did their manly thing. The silence melted over me as I entered the hushed sanctuary of knowledge and enlightenment (I'm being dramatic, of course, but seriously ... peace and quiet is tha shiz, y'all).

I headed for the nonfiction section, where I love to just go aisle by aisle, row by row, and leisurely pore over the titles in search of something interesting. That's exactly what I was doing when I was rudely accosted ... by a (heavy-handed) old lady's offensively overwhelming perfume! Ugh. All of a sudden the lovely library-book smell dissolved into a nose-tickling cloud of sickly floral sweetness. She was at the opposite end, still several feet away from me, but I just had to move - it was bothering me that much. I hurried to the next aisle and took a deep breath; ahh, relief. I resumed browsing.

Until - *sniff sniff* - uh-oh. I'll be damned. Less than two minutes later, and there she came, her perfume announcing her arrival long before her flowery brocade jacket rounded the corner. Once again, I left the scene, found a new spot, and got back to bidness.

Until I smelled her coming again. WTF?

This time, though, she wasn't even on my aisle - she was one aisle over, directly across from me; I could see her yellow-white hair bobbing over the horizon of books. But it was close enough to make my eyes water. And by now I could nearly taste the powerful fragrance. Ugh. So I just tucked the few books I'd chosen closer and headed to check them out. I could have picked out Lord-only-knows how many more, but not while struggling to breathe against a noxious cloud of old-ladyness.

One of the books I checked out is called 101 Ways To Make Your Child Feel Special. And one of the suggestions is to let your kids help you clean - which I do on occasion, and Colin always loves it. So I decided to let him help yesterday afternoon after the library, giving him a paper towel nearly saturated with Windex and pointing him to the nearest window. He gleefully polished the glass in the doors, the windows in the living room, and the TV screen while I did my cleaning in the kitchen. After a few minutes, it dawned on me that he was awfully quiet, which almost always signals something I'm going to frown about.

Sure enough, when I peeped into the living room, there he was - vigorously scrubbing on his baby brother (who was watching TV, oblivious) with the Windex-soaked paper towel. "I'm washing Cameron's face!" Colin beamed at me. He was so proud.

I guess Cameron's face was a little dirty ...

"When I Grow Up, I Want to Be As Hairy As You."

Colin wondered out loud today if when he grew up, he would have hair on his legs ...



... like mine.

Yeah, so, my stems might be a little thorny right now. Sue me. Number one, it's been winter for the past hundred months or so; it's not like I'm prancing around in shorts with my man-legs bared for the world to see. Number two, my husband works nights and sleeps during the day - which means a greatly reduced chance of, ahem, intimacy. Number three, shaving my legs takes time. It's hard to find an ample allotment of that when I've got two kids who suddenly, without fail, demand my full attention the minute my bare butt gets past the shower curtain. And number four, have you seen the price of blades?! It's madness! You've got two choices when it comes to shaving: cut the crap out of yourself with a cheap disposable, or fork over a small fortune for some fancy-schmancy "miracle-working" razor (such as the Vibrating Venus de Milo Ultra Silken Tropical Breeze with Lathering Moisturizer Bar and Indicator Strip, or something like that). Unless it'll do my laundry at the same time, I'm not paying that much. I have a regular old Venus razor, no bells and whistles, and it's still like twelve bucks for four blades or some such outrageousness.

So you see? It may be true that my three-year-old son aspires to have legs as hairy as mine when he becomes a man - but I have some perfectly valid excuses. If Mother Nature ever stops being a tease and actually delivers warm weather for more than a day or two at a time, I'll bump up the shaving frequency. But for now, the legs are staying fuzzy ... until I have to go to the obstetrician, where I nonchalantly pretend that I'm that hairless all the time. ;)

Name That Concoction!

My oldest son is completely and totally uninterested in food. To say he eats like a bird is an understatement; most of the time, he exists on only a few bites a day. He's always been like this, and it has worried me the entire three years and nine months that he's been on this earth. "Never force a child to eat," advises our pediatrician ... but I can't help enforcing the rule that he isn't done with dinner until he's had at least five bites. It's not going to kill him - and it sure makes me feel better when I know there's a tiny iota of nutrition running through that wiry little body.

That being said, you can imagine how ecstatic I was at dinner tonight when he scarfed down TWO bowls of food in quick succession - and then, a few minutes after the table had been cleared, asked if there was any more!

So what was this miraculous appetite-inducing food, you ask? It was the simplest of dishes - so simple that I tend to overlook it in favor of the more complex stuff I usually make ('cause mama can cook, y'all). It's ... drumroll please ... a kid-friendly combo of Kraft macaroni and cheese, tuna, and peas. *insert crashing cymbal here* It couldn't be easier. It couldn't be cheaper. It's the ultimate comfort food. It's got a little bit of everything: protein, veggies, and carbs. And my kid will eat it. What's not to love?

We're pigs, and I like leftovers, so I usually make three boxes - which almost fills up my 5-quart pot. The ratio is easy to remember: 1 box of mac & cheese (prepared according to package directions) + 1 can of tuna + peas to taste (for three boxes, I used about 3/4-bag of frozen peas, but you can put in more or less to your liking). My mom used to make this, and to my knowledge, she's a purist - sticking solely to the traditional recipe I just listed. My sister makes hers with a can of cream of mushroom soup. And I like to kick the creaminess up a notch by putting in a little cream cheese (I'd say two or three Tablespoons per box of macaroni). It's so versatile! You could make it lower in calories by using skim milk and low-fat margarine ... or spice it up with a little hot sauce ... or add a couple dollops of sour cream and a packet of dry ranch dressing mix. The possibilities are endless!

The only thing I don't like about this dish is its name. We call it what it is: macaroni-and-cheese-and-tuna-and-peas. *... YAWN* I may write all the time, but when it comes to figuring out a catchy name for it, my creative juices are ... well, not so juicy. So help a sista out: this is a dish worthy of a good title. Anybody got an idea? (And have you had this delicious concoction? What do you think of it?)



Tuesday Tidbits

I have always envied those women who always look cute no matter what the circumstance. Like the ones you see at the grocery store with their cute little fitted velour tracksuit-thingies (which usually say Juicy or something similar across the butt). Their hair is always pulled into an adorable updo with "messy" loose strands that strategically fall in all the right places. They look effortlessly sporty and casual. You know the type.

I, unfortunately, am far from that type. If I tried to wear a velour tracksuit it would look like I was trying to smuggle two holiday hams, and my butt would have room for more than a catchy one-word phrase. (Try an advertisement meant for the side of a city bus.) When I attempt the messy updo, I end up with hair sticking up where it should be laying down, and vice-versa, which makes me look more "insane asylum" than "sporty."

Seriously, what am I missing here? Why do some women look consistently polished and pulled-together, even when they're going for a casual look, when I'm lucky to manage looking decent? Determined to find out, I did some research, and gleaned some tidbits from various Internet advice gurus:

- Wear big sunglasses a la Victoria Beckham. (Yeah, maybe this is a good tip for hiding puffy eyes or lack of makeup, but how trendy would they look with an oversized Iowa Hawkeyes T-shirt and maternity jeans? I mean really.)

- Slip on a sexy bra or panties. (Here's the deal. By the time I find lingerie that doesn't give me major muffin top, it's like a size extra-extra-huge ... which doesn't make me feel all that sexy.)

- Keep your brows groomed. (This one is sooo true. Even despite the fact that I grow a beard during pregnancy - yes really, LOL - my brows are always waxed, and it does make me feel better.)

- Wear cute ballet flats instead of tennis shoes. (Again, a good tip ... if your feet are small to normal-sized. My feet are size ten, which means that flats make me look like I'm skating along on two pontoon boats.)

- Update your accessories. (This is another good one. Buying new accessories - and I'm talking Target, not jewelry store - is a relatively inexpensive way to keep up with the trends. Still, you have to have a decent outfit to go with them. My response to this is much like my response to the "big sunglasses" tip.)

- Keep your nails painted. (I do. My toenails, at least, are always painted. Does it matter that I splurged on a beauty-school pedicure in mid-December and kept the same polish on until *cough cough* March?)

In all seriousness, I need to try some of these tips. Especially now that I'm pregnant and feeling about as sexy as somebody's incontinent great-grandma.

How much do you keep up with trends? How do you keep yourself feeling cute?

All Up in Mah Grill

The weather is finally beginning to warm up a little - which signals that it's almost time to fire up the grill. I love nearly anything cooked outside, and eagerly anticipate the season when I can slap a juicy steak and some fresh asparagus on the ol' Char-Broil. In the words of the creepy Campbell's kids, "Mmm-mmm good."

But it looks like I won't be barbecuing anything for the next few weeks, unless it's bird - and I don't mean chicken. Because for the second year in a row, someone has constructed a nest inside our grill.

Here are some pics of last year's Char-Broil condo:




Don't they look cozy in there?

Curtis (the husband) tried his hardest to get me to dismantle the nest last year. He didn't want birds in the grill - and to top it off, they're starlings, which for some reason seem to rank down at the bottom of the list with, like, pigeons. But as much as I love a good barbecue, I couldn't help but sympathize with the birds. I mean, all they were trying to do was find a good home for their family. It's the goal of just about every living thing - Curtis and me included. And I have to admit, the grill is perfect: totally sheltered and impervious to wind, weather, and predators. Who was I to oust them from it? They just wanted a chance.

This year, they've done the same thing. Right now there's a tidy little nest built on the lower rack. I suspect it might be the same chicks that were hatched there last year, all grown up and ready to start their own birdie brood - or at least that's what I like to think. Anyway, poor Curtis hasn't even tried to convince me to evict the new tenants this year. He knows there's no use. And because he's a total sweetheart, he bought and installed this for me yesterday:

Every good hotel needs an all-you-can-eat buffet, right? :)

Moms vs. Dads

This morning, for the first time in a long time, Curtis got up with the kids and I got to sleep in. Although I use the term "sleep in" veeeeery loosely: it consisted of me lying there awake, wondering about the origins of strange sounds from beyond the bedroom door, while Colin helpfully prodded me with, "Mommy, it's wake-up time." Guess nobody bothered to tell him the meaning of "leave Mommy alone for a while" ... after all, it's a foreign concept.

Grumble, grumble. Oh well - at least I got to lay there and at least partially awaken before springing from the bed. Normally as soon as my eyes pop open (usually against their will) I'm bombarded with "Please get me some chocolate mi-iiilk!" ... Which doesn't sound nearly as polite as it looks when I type it out.

I got out of bed and went into the living room, where Cameron was strapped into his high chair.

Pulled up to the TV.

Eating a chocolate doughnut (which wasn't even cut into small pieces).

I laughed and told Curtis, "The baby eating doughnuts in front of cartoons ... that's the epitome of bad parenting."

"No," he said. "That's the epitome of fatherhood."

Truer words were never spoken. If a mom stations her baby in front of the TV and feeds him junk food, she's looked down upon. If she lets him run around in a diaper so wet that it practically drags the floor when he walks, or dresses him in a hideously mismatched (not to mention weather-inappropriate) outfit, she's a negligent mother. Yet when a dad does the same thing, it's an almost endearing quality. Where poor parenting choices made by mothers receive endless criticism, the same mistakes made by fathers are seen as just what dads do. And you know what? They're not even labeled "poor parenting choices" unless a mom does them. Otherwise they're seen as fun things that mom would never approve of.

As momentarily appalled as I was by my husband's handling of "breakfast," there wasn't much I could do. And honestly, the baby was happy watching Dora with his drooly chocolate mess. So I did what any respectable mother would do: I sat down and ate an equally nutritious brownie.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. :)

My "Clerty" Little Secret

Hello, my name is Rita, and I'm the product of a neat freak.

My mom washes her dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. When she was working and going to school, she hired a cleaning lady to come in once a week, to "save time" - but she always cleaned the house prior to the cleaning lady's arrival. You'd be hard pressed to find a dust bunny under her furniture or a sticky patch on her kitchen counters.

... Which is why she'd probably be appalled at my "clerty" little secret.

Let me explain the meaning of clerty. It's a term my sister Amy and I coined, and it's a combination of clean and dirty, used to describe any item that isn't exactly clean but couldn't really be classified as dirty. Like a pot you used to hard-boil eggs or cook pasta, you know? Or a plate that had, say, a sliced tomato or apple on it. It's not like there's a coating of grease or any stubborn crusty spots ... so what's wrong with running it under some hot water and calling it good? Where our mother would wash it with soap (and then probably run it through the dishwasher for good measure), Amy and I would just give it a thorough rinse, and voila: it's good to go.

Dishes aren't the only things that can be clerty. On the rare occasion that one of my kids manages to keep his shirt or jeans free of dirt and food, you'd better believe I'm folding it up and putting it back in his closet. Why add to the laundry pile? You know what they say: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And that goes for clerty items. If it ain't dirty ...

I know my mom will read this, so now the secret's out. I'm sure the next time she comes to my house, she'll be quietly paranoid that she might be eating from a clerty dish. I promise, Mom, I'll scour everything just for you. ;)

Anyone else out there who's down with the "clerty?"

TV? OK!

I admit it. My kids are some TV-watchin' fools.

When Colin was little, I intended to be one of those moms that limited TV time to, say, one show a day. But then I saw how he laughed and smiled and, most importantly, sat still during his Baby Einstein videos. It bought me valuable time to write/clean/cook/stare openmouthed into space. And to a harried mom, anything that gives you extra time to get things done is like crack: addictive.

Now don't go calling Child Protective Services on me. It's not like I've ever been one to plop my kids in front of the boob tube and make them stay glued to it all day. They're not watching Jerry Springer. And in reality, though the TV stays on for the majority of the day, my boys probably only sit and watch two shows or so. The rest of the time, they're busy figuring out new and inventive ways to make bigger, more irreversible messes.

Still, I tell myself that the "good" moms of the world would just keep their televisions off most of the time. They would self-righteously scorn my neglectful ways as they practiced phonics with their kids (in between mommy-and-me exercise and Kindermusik classes).

But the more I think about it, the more I wonder: what's so wrong with TV, anyway? My children only watch educational programming, stuff they can learn from. And they do learn a lot from it - Colin is always quoting things he's picked up from his various shows. They're quiet and occupied when they watch, which means I can get things done, which means everybody's stress level is lower - definitely a plus. And it's not like TV has replaced quality time with me: we still read, play, and pretend (in fact, I just rescued them from under a "giant pile of spaghetti sauce" - also known as a red throw blanket).

So I refuse to feel bad about it any more; the anti-TV moms can cluck disapprovingly and look down their noses all they want. I think my kids are A-OK, and I know they're sharp as tacks. The worst thing about them watching TV is the fact that I consequently walk around singing little ditties all day (bonus points to anyone who can identify this: "When I can't sleep, and fe-el lone-ly, I know just what to doooo ... think hap-py thoughts, happy thoughts ...")

And to illustrate my point that kids who watch lots of TV do indeed grow up to become decently functioning adults, I'm going to include a couple of fun Sesame Street clips that I enjoyed when I was little. Holla if you remember these!



I've Created a Monster

Somebody please tell me Colin is going through a phase. Or face the possibility that I won't be blogging from the psychiatric ward (where my only consolation would be that it's okay to look like crap all the time). Because seriously, I want my well-behaved child back. He seems to have been replaced, Changeling-style, and I'm not sure how much more I can handle.

With my third child on the way, I thought I would feel like a veteran mom by now. But I'm still going through that first-time mom "what the hell?" feeling with Colin, because I've never had an almost-four-year-old before. I'm praying this newfound bratty streak is simply something that he'll grow out of, and not an early signal of our catastrophic failure as parents.

I used to be so smug. Colin was so well-behaved that we got compliments everywhere we went. The "terrible twos" were nonexistent; he was the sweetest little angel. Sure, he had a habit of running around naked in front of company, but at least at Wal-Mart or the grocery store he was clothed and sitting quietly in the cart.

But then he turned three, developed these annoying little things called "opinions" and "preferences" ... and began to voice them, strongly. Usually in an obnoxious whiny tone.

Lately, it's like somebody took those irritating qualities and upped the intensity about 200%. He has learned how to push my buttons. Where he used to obey me without question, he now has to be told no less than three times to do ... well, almost anything. He has ZERO patience and is easily frustrated, stomping and yelling when we tell him no. He does things that he knows will grate on my nerves: blowing in my face. Shouting "ahh!" in his "outside voice" ... in the house. And when he is punished for something, it's a dramatic show, complete with, "I don't like you any more!" And now he's started doing this in public. Humiliating! I mutter menacingly to him under my breath, my face burning as people judge me for having the brattiest kid this side of the Mississippi.

I'm at my wit's end with this sassiness. It's like living with a teenage girl. I'm not doing anything differently than I ever have. We're very consistent, always following through with our threats, with clearly defined boundaries of what's acceptable behavior and what isn't. I give him a chance to explain why he feels frustrated - so it's not like I'm not listening to him and allowing him to vent. He takes a nap every day and has a regular bedtime - 8:30. I've tried every kind of discipline, from spanking to hugging him until he calms down, and nothing seems to remedy the situation.

So tell me, someone, anyone ... is this normal? Can I expect him to grow out of this crap, or did I make a wrong turn somewhere in my parental judgments and accidentally spawn one of those horribly-behaved kids that people whisper about?
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