Clothing Optional


I'm considering opening a nudist colony. Because, seriously, half the people in my house are completely naked at any given time.

No, Curtis and I aren't walking around in the buff (you're welcome, neighbors). It's our kids. And as cute as children's tiny bare butts can be, they get a little tiring when they're perpetually on display.

I thought maybe when Colin turned 4 a few weeks ago, he would miraculously understand the necessity of clothing - but no such luck. His near-constant state of undress is interrupted only by trips out of the house (damn grocery stores and their no shirt/no shoes/no service policy). If he's at home, you can bet he's ... um ... flapping in the wind, whether he's sleeping or eating or playing. If someone rings the bell, I have to shoo Colin away so he doesn't flash whoever's at the door (such as the Chinese food delivery guy who once got an unfortunate eyeful. Oops).

And Cameron. He's just realized he can take off his diaper, and is putting this newfound skill to good use. Yesterday, in the time it took me to get the dog some water, Cameron had stripped down and run onto our back porch ... and was waving at our neighbors, who were having a barbecue. With company. Awesome.

I've recently tried to implement a "please, for the love of God, at least wear underwear" policy. Colin has at least ten pairs of various undies, and if he's not wearing one, he gets a toy taken away until he puts on a pair. The problem is, I'm having a lot of trouble being consistent on this one - because I'm so used to seeing him naked that half the time I don't even notice he isn't wearing anything. I swear I see his "brown eye" just about as often as I see his blue ones ... so it, like every other uncovered inch of his body, has become part of my daily scenery.

As I do with all mystifying parenting dilemmas (and oh my, aren't there hundreds?) I have researched this exhaustively on the Internet. Apparently it's not that uncommon and children grow out of it - though some still continue to strip down after, say, coming home from Kindergarten for the day.

I hope and pray it doesn't last beyond that ... because as much as I want my sons to grow up and become something that makes them happy, "male stripper" doesn't quite make a mother's heart swell with pride.

Harrumph.

I woke up on this beautifully sunny Saturday to an upset stomach. Fabulous. Thank goodness Curtis doesn't have to be at work until this evening - otherwise I'd have had to do all my parenting from behind the bathroom door. (And we all know how effective that would be.) But still, it sucks - it's a gorgeous day, my husband is off for most of it, and I'm ... sick and stuck in the house. Bah humbug.

To add insult to injury, I just had to drag myself over to this computer and check my Facebook account. And pretty much everybody's status said something fun: "Headed to the pool before the barbecue!" "Going to the zoo and then clubbing tonight!" "Dinner at so-and-so's!"

If I changed my status, this would be it: "Rita is slumped slack-jawed and frizzy-haired on the couch, watching between trips to the restroom as the kids destroy the house. Anybody got some Pepto?"

What a Chore


I had children for the love, laughter, and sheer joy they bring into my life.

Oh, who am I kidding? I had children because someday, they will be big enough to wash dishes, fold laundry, scoop the cat box, and other such menial tasks, thereby reducing my own workload. Bwahahaha.

I'm joking, of course, but I'm not gonna lie - you know that's a perk of parenthood. They say chores were invented in order to teach responsibility, which is true. (I know adults who were brought up never having chores, and it totally shows.) But personally, I think their primary purpose is for parents to pawn off the chores they dislike onto their kids, who don't have a choice but to do them. I can't tell you how many times, as a petulant adolescent, I snarked at my mom: "The only reason you had me is so you'd have somebody to wash the dishes!"

So now that Colin's four, I'm pretty sure it's time to start giving him some easy little household duties. The problem is, at this age, even the simplest of chores is ... well, a chore. For me.

I've read parenting articles regarding age-appropriate duties, and they all sound great in theory: letting them help you prepare dinner, set the table, water the plants, pick up their toys, etc. Fantastic. But when it comes to actually doing these things, it seems to backfire and create more work. Let's consider the following scenarios, which have honest-to-God happened in my house:

Colin waters the plants: I partially filled the little watering can and asked him to water the plants for me. He dribbled a little on one plant, then disappeared to his room - where I found him "making a volcano" with the water (lava) and a cone-shaped piece of aluminum foil. His carpet was soggy.

Colin helps prepare dinner: He spends more time spilling things, eating the ingredients, and pushing his brother off the chair that he uses to reach counter-level.

Colin puts his toys away: This he will do ... in about forty minutes. After playing with each thing all the way to his room and being threatened umpteen million times or until Mommy's voice is nearly gone.

So you see? Giving him chores, though I know they're necessary, almost always makes for more work on my part. I know, I know ... I should be one of those cool, laid-back moms who understands that a learning experience sometimes equals a mess. But rather than watching the heartwarming process of a child learning a new task, I'm sitting there cringing at yet another mess I have to clean up after.

One thing I do like is to give him a baby wipe and let him "dust" with it. I tell him to run it over the window sills, the desktop, the TV screen, and whatever else he can reach. He enjoys doing it, and it's something that I don't have to stand over him and referee ...

... until he tries feeding pieces of the wipe to his baby brother.

The Marshmallow Mystery

Yesterday we let Colin pick out his own cereal. (Since he's short, he went straight for the generic brand on the lower shelves - sweet!) Anyway, he chose this:

It's the cheap version of chocolate Lucky Charms, called "Chocolate Marshmallow Mateys." And right away, I was confused. You see, with actual Lucky Charms, everything fits together: the name of the cereal, its leprechaun mascot "Lucky," and the shapes of the marshmallows - pots of gold and lucky stars and four-leaf-clovers and all this. But there is no such logical order to the chaotic sugary mess that is Chocolate Marshmallow Mateys. The word "matey" brings to mind pirates ... you know, as in, "Arrr, matey!" Yet the only mascot on the bag to speak of is a small kangaroo named "Cool Blue" - not very pirate-y. This in itself is perplexing, but then I got to examining the shapes of the marshmallows ... and realized that, whatever they are, they seem to have very little to do with either pirates or kangaroos.

Here's where I need your help, so let's play a game, shall we? Try to identify each of the marshmallow shapes. (Note: these are not misshapen marshmallow anomalies - I actually dug through the bag to find the most perfect specimens of each shape. And sorry they're blurry, I'm just a sucky photographer.)

Marshmallow #1: Curtis says it's a dolphin. I say it's more ... flounder-ish. You decide.

Marshmallow #2: I'm pretty sure this is a shoe. But what does that have to do with anything?

Marshmallow #3: A heart? A pink-and-yellow diamond? A homosexual Superman symbol?

Marshmallow #4:
A cupcake, perhaps. Or a ... haystack ... with pink ... uh, no. I honestly have no idea.

Marshmallow #5: I'm sorry. Maybe it's that my mind is never far from the gutter. But this one looks a bit like a (pitifully small, oddly shaped) ... well, use your imagination. (Hint: part of the male anatomy.) For those of you with no pervy inclinations, perhaps we could just consider it a weird mushroom.

Marshmallow #6:
Definitely a new breed of blue chili pepper with a yellow top. Yes. That's got to be it. Or wait - maybe it's a sock.

I guess when you buy generic, you can't expect a coherent theme. But anybody who can somehow tie all this together gets major points for being the most creative person I know - because if there were ever a good example of the word "random" this would totally be it.

At least the cereal is tasty.

A "Cheeky" Little Poem

A little poetry, because pregnancy makes my face round.

.... Okay, fat.

Ode to My Missing Cheekbones

Cheekbones, cheekbones, where'd you go?
You used to be right there below
My eyes, all sculpted and defined -
But now you're very hard to find.

You've been obscured by rounded cheeks:
Objects of my worst critiques.
You've gone from "Angelina Jolie"
To "Campbell's Soup Kid," it seems to me.

I never thought you'd let me down,
But a little weight gain and you skip town.
Now I look like a gumball with hair
My face is as round as my belly down there!

But I don't hate you, little traitors;
In fact, I hope to see you later.
Once I've lost these extra pounds
Perhaps you'll want to stick around.

As soon as baby comes, it's on -
Less fat, fewer carbs, and the sugar's gone.
So you'll reclaim your rightful place
Right here on my waiting face!


UNTIL THEY COME HOME AGAIN ...

MY CHEEKBONES

MISSING SINCE JUNE 2009

Sparts

I'm on an endless quest to keep my house (relatively) tidy ... which, as you know, is pretty much an epic FAIL since I have two rambunctious children. (And a husband whose definition of "tidy" is keeping his dirty clothes in a pile on the floor beside the bed, rather than strewn all over the place.)

Tripping me up every.single.day are these little roadblocks to cleanliness, otherwise known as "sparts" (a combination of "spare parts" ... because, if you've read my diatribe on "clerty," you know that I love making up word hybrids). Otherwise known as "what the hell is this and why are you playing with it?" I'm talking about this kind of thing:

Or this ...
... or this.

My kids have a ridiculous mountain of toys. Whole, intact toys with all their working parts. So why they want to play with these weird little ... pieces is beyond me. All I know is that I find them all over the place, and if I can't immediately identify where they came from, they go in the trash the minute my kids aren't looking. One less thing to step on/trip over/find stuck to the carpet somehow.

Sometimes Colin will be throwing something away and he'll catch a glimpse of one of these parts that I've put into the trash can. (I usually stuff them way in the back, or stash them under something else, to avoid this - but it doesn't always work.) And then he fishes it out in disbelief, and is all, "How did this get in the trash?" like he's highly offended. As if I had thrown away an entire, working toy ... or the Wii or something equally valuable.

He'd be seriously pissed if he knew how many "sparts" I toss out on an almost-daily basis.

Oh, Sheet!

Sliding between my freshly washed sheets last night, I was reeeeally optimistic for a good night's sleep. I don't know why, but I always sleep better on clean sheets.

Sadly, my night of peaceful slumber would never come to pass. I know ... surprise, surprise.

Colin woke up two times, calling for Daddy - but since Daddy sleeps like a rock, or pretends to, guess who responded? ... Right. Mommy. Cameron, who sleeps in our bed, started to get unusually restless around 4 o'clock. And not to be outdone by his older brothers, Coby (the Fetal One) decided to lay on my bladder, giving me no choice but to get up twice more to pee.

4:40 A.M. - I am awoken yet again by Cameron laying across my pillow, pinning down my hair. I slid him back down into his normal position, wedged between Curtis and me. It was then that I noticed that Cam's lower half had a ... dampness to it. What the ... ? I obviously couldn't see in the dark, so I cautiously put my hand to my nose and sniffed. I thought something smelled a little suspect, but my nose is always stuffy at night; I can't smell properly for at least twenty minutes after I get up in the morning (I think it's a useful evolutionary tool designed to make morning breath less offensive). So I did a little more investigating (fumbling blindly for damp spots in the dark), which prompted me to get up and turn the bathroom light on so I could see better.

And oh. My. Lord.

Diarrhea.

The runniest diarrhea I have ever seen + an already saturated nighttime diaper = a huge mess.

ON MY CLEAN SHEETS.

Not only that, but he had been all over the place - including my pillow and in my hair. (Why, oh WHY do things that belong in a toilet miraculously find their way into my hair?)

No matter how hard I tried to keep him sleepy, after a cleanup that massive, he was wide awake. It didn't help that the alarm went off at 5, and Curtis had to get up and bang around in the bathroom and the closet getting ready for work.

"Shhh, lay down," I whispered to Cameron, hoping against hope that he would drift back to sleep.

"No way," he said, a lovely phrase he's been wearing out lately.

What a crappy start to the morning ... in the most literal sense!

Pucker Up, Daddy!

When life hands you lemons ...


... don't give them to Rita and expect her to make a cake with them. Seriously.

I thought I'd be all Betty Crocker today and utilize my mad kitchen skillz to whip up something fabulous for Curtis's Father's Day gift. A cake would be perfect, I thought. That way the kids can decorate it, since that activity was such a big hit on Colin's birthday. Yes. Am genius.

Due to the lack of a store-bought cake mix - and the presence of a couple of aging fresh lemons in my fridge - I decided to try my hand at making a lemon cake from scratch. Now, as I've said before, I am generally one hell of a cook (well, other than those cookies, but let's forget those for a second). So I was sure that a luscious lemony confection was in store for us this evening.

But making a cake from scratch, at least this particular recipe, is a time-consuming process that I was completely unprepared for. I think that's partially because I kept hitting roadblocks. Like the lemon zest: since Colin threw my zester into the garbage disposal a few weeks ago, I'm without the proper means of obtaining the fine shreds of lemon peel. So today I improvised, peeling the zest off in big strips and then chopping it with a knife. I had noooo idea that lemon peel is so damn tough - and that it would take me FORTY MINUTES to chop it, and that it would leave me with this lovely memento:

Yep, a blister the size of California. (And to add insult to injury, the damn zest pieces were still big enough to be a crunchy, annoying presence in the cake batter. Ewww ...).

I was also out of baking soda, so I had to stop and Google for fifteen minutes trying to find an acceptible substitute (hint: extra baking powder. But not too much).

All that taken care of, I had a taste of the batter before pouring it into the pans, and much to my relief it was tasty. Sure, I had five dirty bowls, a mixer, a spatula, two cake pans, and a bunch of used-up lemon halves to clean up ... not to mention that I myself was covered with "batter splatter" ... but if the cake itself turned out as yummy as I suspected it would, it was well worth the trouble.

But then there was the frosting.

I was out of powdered sugar.

You must have powdered sugar for frosting.

So I consulted my trusty oracle, Google, for the umpteenth time - and learned that, supposedly, making powdered sugar at home was as easy as running 1 cup of sugar and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch through your food processor.

Um, no. Not my food processor.

I processed the crap out of that sugar, until I was breathing in clouds of sweet dust and my hair was powdery white in the front. But did it come out with the superfine texture that confectioner's sugar is supposed to have? No. It did not. I had to make do, though, because the cake needed frosting.

So the frosting (my trusty, normally no-fail recipe) ended up gritty, and with a texture that made it look more like cottage cheese than anything else. It was such a weird texture that it wouldn't even stick to the sides of the cake, so I only frosted the top.

Then I let the kids (and Curtis) decorate it.
(And yes, Colin is in the buff. Anyone who knows him knows that this is his usual state, no matter how many times a day I dress him.)

It turned out so beautifully (LOL) that I just had to take a keepsake photo:

I wasn't sure whether to laugh or gag ... but for better or worse, there it was. The finished product. It was time for the ultimate test - how would it taste?

Let's put it this way: it was ... edible. Not disgusting, but a little on the sour side, and not nearly the scrumptious masterpiece I had envisioned. The texture of the cake was good, but the frosting ... well, I'm sure the pictures speak for themselves. And if they don't, this one will: the remnants of Curtis's cake. Curtis, who will eat anything.

"Let's just pitch it," I suggested.

"But it's my Father's Day cake," Curtis protested. "We can't throw it away."

"Are you going to eat it?" I asked.

After a brief, apologetic silence, in the trash it went. All my hard work.

At least I still have the blister to remember it by.

"Are You Wearing a Bra?"

When I was 17 or so - long after I had lost my virginity, gotten my period, started planning for college, and reached other major teenage milestones - my older brother Steve and I were horsing around and he slapped me on the back. Immediately, he withdrew his hand as if something had bitten him, and scowled.

"Are you wearing a bra?" he asked, staring at me incredulously.

Uh, yeah, for like five years now.

It was then I realized that my big brother - thirteen years my senior - would always see me as a little girl. The look on his face that day was priceless. I wonder if, now that I'm approaching 30, he still sees me as the same tag-along kid that always begged to chew his (used) gum and was easily coerced into mooning his friends?

I know how he feels. My oldest niece, T.J., got married this evening. She's 21, but I still see her as the sweet, pixie-ish child who said "lellow" instead of "yellow" and called Pop-Tarts "top parts." It's the same with my nephew Benjamin, who got married at the end of March (at the ripe old age of 18). In my eyes, they're still just babies ... even though T.J. is a whopping two years older than I was when I got married. I need to start seeing them for the adults that they've become, but first I've got to come to terms with the fact that they're not in Pampers any more.

If it's this bad with my nieces and nephews, how's it going to be with my own kids? Will I be one of those mothers who can't let go? You know the type: the mom who brings a sack lunch to her son at college (or worse, to his office) and scares off potential wives. Good Lord, I hope not - but at this rate, when I'm having trouble grasping the fact that my "little" nieces and nephews are now married adults, I can't imagine that I won't have some difficulty accepting my sons' independence at some point.

At least I'll have plenty of practice before that day comes. Between Curtis's family and mine, we have 21 nieces and nephews ... so maybe by the time a few more of them get married, I'll be a little more at ease with the prospect of my sons' life transitions.

Are you like this with your kids (or the kids in your extended family)?

I'm Not Fat, I'm Just Fluffy

So ... my obstetrician tells me I'm fat.

Okay, maybe not in such harsh terms, but she might as well have. When she came into the room yesterday, she sat down and pored over my latest statistics. Blood pressure: fine. Urine sample: fine. Gestational diabetes test: negative. Weight ....

It was here that she looked at me pointedly over her glasses. "Everything looks fine, except you've gained too much weight since your last visit." Her eyes traveled over every lump and curve of my body, seemingly in slow-motion; everything's always in slow motion when you're being mercilessly scrutinized.

"I - I don't know why, really," I began in my own (weak) defense. "I work out on my Wii Fit for a half-hour minimum, at least six days a week. And I push-mow my yard a couple of times a week too." At this she actually looked skeptical, like she may not have believed me. She didn't say anything, so I went blathering on.

"I push mow!" I repeated. "And it's not just a small yard - we have an acre and a half! So I really am in good shape, underneath all the ..."

I trailed off as I realized that the doctor was just patiently waiting for me to finish.

"That's wonderful - you should keep that up," she said. "But what about your eating habits?"

At this I began to fidget. Should I tell her about my recent baking craze? My late-night ice cream cravings? My tendency to eat three big cans of mandarin oranges in one sitting? My ability to out-eat my husband? My borderline-obsessive love for sweet tea?

"Well, I try to moderate," I straight-up lied. "I mean, I'm not gonna say I don't ... indulge in the occasional ..."

I knew that she knew I was lying at this point, so I just gave it up and shrugged guiltily.

"Just try to watch your diet pretty closely from here on out," she said.

"Okay," I promised.

... And then went home for breakfast: bacon, eggs, and a honey bun.

*sigh*

Big Primpin'

It's time for another appointment with the obstetrician tomorrow, and you know what that means: I'm gussying myself up like I'm going to the prom.

I don't know why I just let everything slide until my monthly visit to the doctor. It just seems easier, I guess, because I don't have time for all that maintenance any more. It's a shame, because I used to be one of those girls that always had my nails done, my hair fixed, my toes pedicured, my face ... facialed. (?) But that was before I had children to bathe, laundry to do, dishes to wash, and yard work to tend to (not great for a manicure); before butt/nose/sticky mess wiping were hazards to a nice outfit; when my showers weren't limited to the parts I could wash (or shave) before a crying child needs me rightthisminute and practically beats down the bathroom door. It was easier to keep up on things then, and the way I see it, I've got enough stuff to keep up on as it is without endlessly waxing plucking shaving exfoliating polishing ironing and primping. I guess my priorities have shifted.

It sucks, though, because that means a lot of work when I do get around to it. This morning I've put everything but basic necessities aside in order to file my feet, do my nails (finger and toe), and wax my brows and what isn't exactly a moustache - it's not dark - but it's still hair and no matter how light it is, it doesn't belong on my upper lip. My beard will have to be plucked. (Yes, I have a beard - I have grown one during every pregnancy, and this one is unfortunately no exception. Once I'm done having kids, laser hair removal here I come!) My legs and hoo-ha (that's the technical term) will have to become friendly with my razor once again.

Why, you ask, am I doing all this stuff to my upper half when the doctor will really only be interested in the va-jay-jay and surrounding area? Good question. And the answer is ... I'm not sure. I guess it's because I want my overall appearance to be neat and clean and groomed. Because as we all know, neat clean groomed woman probably equals neat clean groomed va-jay-jay. Sloppy, slovenly, unkempt woman probably equals ... well, you know.

And I can't have people at the doctor's office thinking that, now, can I?

Don't Hate, Appreciate!

Today is my mom's birthday. (My gift to her is to not disclose her advanced age in such a public forum ... you're welcome, Mom.)

It makes me think about all the gifts I gave her over the years, and how earnestly she showed her appreciation for them - even though some the vast majority of them sucked. Lids torn from cigar boxes, covered with paper I'd drawn on, and trimmed with lace. A polished rock glued onto an adjustable ring, where the gemstone should be. Strange bits of cloth "sewn" into weird shapes. I was so proud of all these gifts, so sure she'd love them - and why? Because she did love them ... or at least pretended to with an Oscar-worthy believability.

Before I had kids, I worried about my own ability to appreciate such gifts. Would a wilted dandelion or nondescript glittery blob really have the power to bring a genuine smile to my face? I doubted it. But I was surprised, because you know what? With kids, it truly is the thought that counts. You know that their goal was to make you happy - and that in itself is so heartwarming that, no matter what the gift, it's impossible not to love it.

Which is why I nearly cried when, after a recent excursion to Bible school, Colin ran up to me excitedly. He was holding something behind his back and grinning from ear to ear. With a proud exclamation of, "Look what I made for you, Mommy!" he produced the most beautiful necklace I've ever seen:

I swear to you, it could have been made with dried mouse turds and I would have had the same reaction - because I knew he had been thinking of me. He loved me. And he wanted to give me something special.

So thanks, Mom, for all the years of making me feel like every gift was a treasure. That's so important. As a token of my appreciation, I'm sending you a bracelet of dried macaroni, dipped in glue and sprinkled with every color of glitter I could find.

You're welcome. :)

Raisin Hell

I am SO. Sick. Of. Raisins.

They're one of Colin's latest food kicks. (You know how kids do; they'll be practically addicted to one sort of food for weeks on end, and then one day - usually after you've decided it's safe to buy whatever item it is in bulk - they decide they don't like it any more.) He wants raisins with, and sometimes instead of, every meal. While he's eating them, he pretends they're everything from bugs to currency to stuff from the inside of a volcano.

As many times as I've said, "Eat those at the kitchen table" or some similar variant of that phrase, it's amazing how few raisins actually do get eaten where they're supposed to. Because of this, I've found them in the following places:

-The silverware compartment of the dishwasher
-Scattered on the stairs
-The bathtub
-Stuck in the cat's fur
-Stuck to the living room carpet
-Stuck to the bottom of my foot
-Stuck to my butt after unknowingly sitting on one in the recliner
-Inside Cameron's poopy diaper, disturbingly whole
-Inside the heater vent
-Inside the washing machine after they've gone through with a load of laundry

I'm sure there are more, but you get the picture. I'm finding raisins in every possible nook and cranny of my house. My fingers, like my kids, are perpetually sticky from both doling them out and picking them up. Not only that, but the boys always want to share their raisins - which are inevitably covered with cat hair - with me.

Um, no thanks.

The economy-sized canister of raisins that I just had to buy is nearly empty, thank goodness. And I swear I'm not buying any more after these are gone ...



One Man's Trash is ... Another Man's Trash Too

Our neighbors had a yard sale (garage sale, rummage sale, tag sale, whatever you want to call it) today, and we threw some of our seemingly-endless junk in.

It would have been perfect for drag queens looking for huge Nine West pumps (my feet are big, y'all), people who are into collecting decade-old college textbooks, and anyone looking for a functional sandwich toaster. But alas, none of the shoppers fit any of those categories. Plus it rained, which is a huge customer deterrent. So we had a grand total of, like, four customers in five hours. Woot!

Curtis made fun of me for pricing a camera case and putting it out on the table. "Seriously, an empty case?" he said. "Who's going to want an empty -"

As if on cue, a woman came up and grabbed it. "Is this a camera case?" she asked excitedly.

"Why yes it is!" I told her, smirking triumphantly at my husband as she forked over her 50 cents. I could practically see him eating his words.

At the end of the sale, the neighbors counted out our portion of the earnings: a whopping $10. (What's terrible is that, even with such a pitiful amount, we still outsold them by a couple bucks - and it was their sale!) Oh well. We're $10 richer than we were this morning (and we were poor this morning, so you do the math) and we did have a nice visit.

Next time, though, I'm totally putting my leather pants in the sale. I think those would be a major customer draw.

The Secret to Teen Pregnancy Prevention

Yesterday's blog got me thinking: when it comes to teaching pregnancy prevention to teenage girls, I think they've been going about it all wrong. Forget the role-playing with fake babies, the warnings of dropouts and welfare, and whatever other (obviously inefficient) methods the powers-that-be are using - I've got something that will, without a doubt, make them stop in their tracks and think twice.

Warn them about stretch marks.

When it comes to stretch marks, I serve as a cautionary tale. Due to a ruthless combination of massive pregnancy weight gain and skin with ZERO elasticity - thanks on both counts, Mom - I've been left with stripes on my abdomen that rival a zebra's. Actually it's not just my abdomen - it's from ribcage to hipbones, if you want to get specific. (Also the boobs, and behind my knees for some strange reason ... ugh!) Here is a glorious picture of my actual pre-baby stomach:

(I cannot look at this photo too long, or I'll cry.)

And then there's the "after." While this is NOT actually me - that would just be toooooo humiliating - it's safe to say it's a pretty damn good representation:


Note the difference: much more flab (it reminds me of bread dough!), and the appearance of having been clawed by a tiger. I swear, once I was watching "Jon & Kate Plus Eight" and saw a video of Kate Gosselin's stomach pre-tummy tuck. The woman had eight children, six of those all at once, and her stomach looked only marginally worse than mine. No "miracle" lotion or potion is going to remedy my poor stretched-out stomach: it's going to take nothing short of surgery (which, come hell or high water, I will undergo once I'm done having kids).

Anyway, I've found through experimentation on my teenage nieces that giving them a glimpse of just a two- or three-inch area of saggy, stretchmarked skin sends them reeling backwards in shock. It's amusing, watching their eyebrows approach the ceiling as though they've seen a ghost. I've never had to show them my entire stomach because just a tiny peep is enough to elicit an almost-universal response: "I'm never having kids."

Maybe that could be both a valuable civic service and a lucrative business idea. I could get paid an exorbitant fee to bare my belly to unsuspecting teenagers, like a circus freakshow - "You could look like this!" - and, at the same time, reduce teen pregnancy rates.

Hey, it's a thought. :)

Just Because the Plumbing's In ...

So yesterday evening Curtis and I took the boys to a nearby elementary-school playground (you could tell it was an elementary because the most shocking profanity written on the equipment was "BOOBS"). Much to my relief, it was unoccupied by anyone but us. I know it's hermity and weird, but I'm one of those "leave me alone at the playground" moms. I'm not the type to sit and chat; I just want to monitor my own kids and make sure they don't jump off of something really high and smash their little heads in, you know? Because inevitably, conversations with playground moms end up in a subtle competition about whose kid learned to talk/walk/potty train earlier/better/more efficiently. Ugh. No thanks.

Anyway, we weren't alone for long. Pretty soon a gangly teenage boy came up with a little girl about Cameron's age (which is almost 17 months - how sad is it that I had to stop and calculate that for about five minutes?) ... I assumed she was his little sister. Anyway, this little girl was running around the equipment with a ballpoint pen in her mouth. Now, I'm not one of those uber-paranoid women who freaks out over little things (like the lady who berated my parenting skills at a Chinese restaurant once for letting an almost-three-year-old Colin poke at his food with a chopstick). But ... running around a playground with a pen in her mouth? I could just see it jamming down her throat.

"Be careful with that pen, sweetie," I said kindly, within purposeful earshot of the boy, who - like most teenagers - was slouched over his cell phone texting. Luckily she dropped it, and he picked it up. Whew. Crisis averted.

Man, I was thinking. Sometimes I'd do almost anything for a break from my kids, but to send them to a playground with someone so negligent ... eep.

So you can imagine my surprise when a girl approached. Judging by her baby face, she couldn't have been much more than fourteen or fifteen, about the boy's age. (Judging by her huge exposed rack and booty-baring shorts, she had raided a stripper's closet.) I almost fell over when she held her arms out to the little girl and said, "Come with Mommy." The boy followed, and it dawned on me that he probably wasn't her older brother after all, but her father.

Wow. What kind of a future does this child - or her parents, for that matter - have?

It reminded me of a quote from my favorite show, "The Golden Girls," about teenage pregnancy: "Just because the plumbing's in doesn't mean the house is ready to occupy." So true ... and so sad.

Missed Connections

Sometimes when I'm bored (okay, avoiding the things I should be doing) I go to the "Missed Connections" section of Craigslist. For anyone who's never been there, Craigslist is like a huge online classified ad section - and the Missed Connections part is for people who, as the name implies, are looking for someone. Most of the time they're pretty sweet, like this example from our local section today:

"On June 6, I went to this Walgreens store at the corner of Kimberly and Division Street to get me vitamin water and a beautiful girl by the name of Erin was working at the check out counter. I asked her how she was doing and she told me she'd be working for a few more hours. I didn't tell her anything, but I wish I had. She has a very pretty smile, beautiful eyes, and nice dark hair. If you know her, or if you, Erin, happen to come across this and want to reply, please send a message. I was the guy dressed all in black w/a newspaper boy hat."

See? If I were Erin, I'd be like, "Awww!"

Every time I go there, I secretly hope that there's one meant for me. But in reality, if there were, it would likely say something like this:

"To the pregnant woman trying to get two fidgety little boys into the cart at Hy-Vee. I think your shirt said 'Iowa Hawkeyes' but it was kind of humid so your hair was in the way. There was some sort of stain on the right shoulder. You ran over the edge of your own flip-flop while trying to back the cart up and nearly tripped. If this is you, reply to this message - I love big beautiful women, and I have a pregnancy fetish. I'm the guy with the long white beard in the trench coat."

Good Morning, Mommy

At approximately 5:15 this morning, I heard the pitter-patter of little footsteps across our bedroom carpet.

"Can I sleep in your bed?" said Colin, in his regular volume since the child doesn't know the meaning of "whisper."

"Mm-hmm," I said quietly, without opening my eyes, hoping he'd get the point.

"Well, scoot over then," he demanded.

I don't think he understands. We have a queen-sized bed - which is laughable because no queen would consent to sleeping on such a small mattress (not even a drag queen, probably, if he's anywhere near regular man-size). You put in Curtis, who is 6'3"; myself, wide enough for three people at the moment; and Cameron, who sleeps sideways - and generally our two cats, Thurman and Ava - and it makes for cramped quarters. I inched over as far as I could, smushing poor Cameron into his sleeping father's armpit, and Colin climbed in. With a book, entitled Mommy Loves Me.

"I brought this book in case you love me," he said sweetly. I patted his head, still trying to keep the interaction to a minimum, because I knew if we talked too much he'd never go back to sleep.
He settled for a minute, but then came the next request: "I need more pillow." So I offered him the lion's share of mine, resting my head on a teeny corner. Of course, even that wasn't good enough.

"My own pillow."

Luckily I've been sleeping with a couch pillow between my knees to soothe my aching back, so I whipped it out and presented it to him. He spent about two minutes fluffing it, arranging the sheets and comforter, and just generally fidgeting.

"Do you mind if I take my underwear off?" he asked.

"No, go ahead," I whispered. This is the child who would be naked 24-7 if he were allowed, and besides, I understand the need to air out the goods once in a while. So he took it off and threw it on the floor beside the bed. All was quiet.

Then: "My peeeeniiiiis!"

I nearly jumped out of my skin. "What's wrong with it?" I hissed, heart pounding.

"It's waggling all around!"

Um, okay? What do I say to that one? "It's a penis - that's what they do," I responded finally. Miraculously, he seemed satisfied with that explanation, and was still and quiet again.

That's when my hips started to ache. And my bladder was practically screaming, "I'm full! Get your lazy ass up and pee!" But I was sandwiched between Cameron, who was still asleep, and Colin, who was soon going to be the same way (I hoped). There was no way I could possibly get out of bed without disturbing anyone. I would just have to deal with it.

Then Curtis started to snore. Not just a soft rumble, but this weird buzzing inhalation followed by a click. I cannot stand snoring, especially when I'm trying to drift off to sleep (as if I weren't already having difficulty, what with the full bladder and the sore hips). But if I made a move to poke or shake him, I ran the risk that "crack-of-dawn Colin" would take that as a let's-get-up gesture.

So I laid there, becoming increasingly annoyed. I hate the sound of snoring. And I was hot, which always seems to escalate any sort of irritation. Finally I decided to sneak my hand from beneath the covers and give Curtis a gentle shake. Sometimes that works. Unfortunately, this wasn't one of those times; he was sleeping like a rock.

In the process of trying to get him to stop snoring, I stirred Cameron, who let out a fuss, which made Colin pop up like a Jack-in-the-box. "Cameron's awake!" he announced.

Which is why I was out of bed before six this morning, fulfilling requests for omelets and chocolate milk through half-closed eyes.

Oh well, at least I finally got to pee.

I Get the Point(s)

Free stuff = happy Rita. It's a simple equation, really. So I suppose that explains why I'm a complete sucker for any brand that offers points.

I've used Pampers exclusively for four years now - ever since Colin was born. (There was only, like, a one-month gap between his potty training and Cameron's birth, when I didn't have any diapers to change ... but oh, what a blissful month it was. *sigh*) I've found that, for the most part, I like Huggies just as well - but do I buy them? No. Because I've spent years saving up the Pampers "Gifts to Grow" points. So what if the free stuff they offer is crap these days? Back when I started collecting, before I'd built up any substantial points, the prizes were good: kids' scooters and stuff, on the higher end of the spectrum. But now the biggest thing you can get is, like, an Applebee's gift card or 150 free photo prints. Yawn. Still, I'm loyal to the brand, in hopes that someday there will be something cool for which to redeem my hundreds of points.

It's the same with Fresh Step kitty litter. I'm okay with Tidy Cats. But Fresh Step, well, they offer "Paw Points." And because of my collection of said points, I got a free litter scoop. A free litter scoop, people. That's a value of ....... oh. Like $2.99. Well, whatever.

Probably the most frustrating of my points collection are the "Boxtops for Education." Yeah, I've got a ton of 'em, but they're only worth five cents apiece - which means that even if I saved up five hundred of them, my "big" contribution to a local school would equal a measly $25. What's that going to buy, a box of napkins for the lunchroom? And yet there I am, scouring the grocery aisles, forking over an extra twenty cents for the brand with the "Boxtops for Education" logo rather than the store brand, which tastes the same to me.

The sad thing is, all these points will probably end up in my drawer until well past their expiration date ... kinda like the umpteen pink Yoplait yogurt lids I saved up for breast cancer research but never sent in.

It's the thought that counts, though, right?

Fourth Birthday Reflections

Dear Colin,

I've been looking at your baby pictures this morning, and cross-referencing them with the bright and handsome little man you have become. It just doesn't seem possible that you're four years old today! You have a huge vocabulary, and a mouthful of teeth, and a wide range of interests and your own preferences and dislikes and quirks - and it's weird to think that, not so very long ago, you were that tiny and helpless baby in the photos. My sweet baby. Now you're my sweet little boy, edging ever closer to independence.

When you were born, I had big plans for your upbringing. I would breastfeed exclusively until you were old enough to eat solid foods, and then I would make sure you had adequate servings from each food group every day. I would never let you watch anything but educational television, and even then I would restrict it to one show a day. I would never let a cuss word slip out in front of you. I would never raise my voice or my hand to you, relying instead on positive reinforcement to discipline.

It's funny how those good intentions crumbled slowly away, sacrificed to the demands of realistic parenting. Don't get me wrong - I tried - but sometimes life dictates something different, ruffling your best-laid plans. And you know what? You've turned out great so far, despite my perceived shortcomings.

I don't know what nourishes that brain of yours since you eat, like, three bites of food a day - but it sure is impressive. You're obsessed with watching documentaries on YouTube: Venus fly traps, pitcher plants, scorpions, centipedes, volcanoes, praying mantises, and vocal cords (it's pretty crazy that you taught me what a "stroboscopy" is). When you play, you pretend you're a four-wheeler or some weird insect ... or British naturalist David Attenborough. I love watching your little quest to gather knowledge, though I admit - it's still weird to me that you won't sit through a Disney movie, but were enthralled by "The Missing Years of Jesus" on the National Geographic Channel yesterday. Guess I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but son, it's kind of strange when you ask me questions like, "Did Jesus have a butt to sit on?" or you want to know what they do with foreskins after circumcisions. There are so many times when I just don't know what to say.

As my first child, your every phase of growth is new to me. I'm not sure how to handle your stubborn preference for nudity, except to pray that it goes away before kindergarten rolls around. I'm at a loss sometimes when you have a meltdown and slam your door like a teenage girl, screaming, "I don't like you any more!" I can only hope that your one-time love of vegetables returns eventually, and replaces your love of colored marshmallows and mac & cheese. And please, son, your little brother is watching your toilet habits like a hawk in preparation for his own potty training - so please learn to wipe adequately.

Despite the increasing frequency with which you confuse and/or irritate me, I'm still as in love with you as I was the first time I laid eyes on you. You are a sweet boy with a heart of gold and a mind like a steel trap, and I wouldn't want you any other way ... except maybe clothed. :)

I love you Colin! Happy fourth birthday!

Rollin' With the Fatness

It has officially happened: 25 weeks and some change - just shy of the third trimester - and the pregnancy fatness has set in. I swear, it goes like this every time. I literally seem to wake up one morning with an extra chin, arms the size of thighs, and a newly voluptuous set of boobs ... on my back.

As you know (if you've heard me repeatedly whine about it), I gain excessive and ridiculous amounts of pregnancy weight - 80 and 90 pounds, respectively. This time, I have been determined to keep it off, so I've been working out regularly for at least 40 minutes at a time. Granted, it's on my Wii Fit - it's not like I'm running marathons - but still. I get all sweaty and gross so it ought to count for something, right? Anyway, I've been proud of my efforts. Even Curtis has commented that I'm not as "big" (meaning heinously, lard-assedly obese) this time around.

I knew it was coming, though. Last time I went to the OB/GYN, the nurse came in to take my blood pressure. "Oops," she chirped after laying eyes on me. "Just let me go get a different cuff."
A.K.A. the "fat girl" cuff, for ... plumper arms. She didn't outright say it, but she didn't have to: I was picking up what she was laying down.

Some girls still look good with some extra poundage. But I'm not one of those; I can't pull it off. I'm shaped somewhat like this:Only, you know, with arms and legs. And a few chins and stuff.

I've got approximately 14 weeks to go. Even at the rate of just one pound a week, that means 14 more pounds, at an absolute minimum. Only about six more of those will be contributed to the baby boy I'm incubating. So where will the rest go? I can't wait to find out. Oh joy.

Secrets in my Closet

Contrary to what it may look like in this blog, I try to keep my house tidy (try being the operative word). I can't stand clutter and messiness - it makes me feel disordered and out of control. If you're into astrology, I'll explain by saying I'm a stereotypical Virgo: enough said. Obviously I'm not always on top of things, otherwise I wouldn't complain as much as I do ... but overall, I would consider myself at least a semi neat-freak.

Which is why it's a mystery to me that most of my cabinets, drawers, and closets look something like this:

The linen closet in the hallway. Note the bizarre collection of items: Candyland on top of the random picture frames beside the toilet cleaning supplies ... yeah. Weird. (And that red thing under the roll of paper towels? That's a can of Christmas-scented Febreze air freshener.)

Our closet. Part of it, anyway, but I assure you the rest of it is just as much a mess ... you can't see the rolls of Christmas wrapping paper, or the broken lamp. Or my clothes.


Under the kitchen sink. Cleaners, fish tank necessities, bird seed, trash bags, and Wal-Mart sacks that I've been meaning to recycle ... for about a year.

The strangest thing is that when I do organize these ridiculous messes - which, believe it or not, I do on occasion - I'm really anal about it: in our closet, for example, I hang clothing according to color and sleeve length and such. Or alphabetize our DVDs. Or group cleaning supplies according to the ones I use most frequently.

Sadly, though, they never stay organized for long - and they end up looking like these pictures within, like, a month or less. You know what? Somebody should start a cleaning service that's devoted solely to de-cluttering such "hotspots." I would totally hire them.

Anybody else a "closet" clutterer?

Scavengers!

Why did I have kids when I could have just gotten ferrets? Here's a picture of the actual things I retrieved from our living room heating/air conditioning vent today:


An old cell phone, a pacifier, the tip from a cake decorating set, a plug-in bug repellant, a green racquetball, and ... a can of water chestnuts.

*shrug*

Ain't That Some S***?

I'm going to blog about a portion of my day, and I'm warning you now: it's going to sound like I made it all up. But I swear that - unfortunately - it's 100% true. I don't know how stuff like this happens to me. On one hand, I'm grateful because it's excellent blog material. On the other hand, it sucks because I actually have to live through it first.

I have been cleaning all day long. Yesterday afternoon Cameron spilled an entire glass of sweet tea all over my computer keyboard (can we say "sticky disaster?"), and while I was trying to remedy that situation - which takes a while, considering drying time and all - I wasn't on the computer much. After all, who can blog or update Facebook or Twitter without a fully functioning keyboard? (You better believe I tried though!)

Anyway, the upside to being keyboard-less is that it forced me to be pretty productive today; my inner housewife kicked some ass. I did a seemingly infinite amount of laundry, dusted, vacuumed, mopped, Windexed, and cleaned every inch of the fish tank with a toothbrush (I used Curtis's toothbrush, hehe ... nah, I'm just kidding, it's one I use expressly for fish purposes).

Toward the end of the afternoon - and the end of the cleaning - I was in serious need of a shower. But I was alone with the kids, and we all know how it goes when I try to even take a poo, let alone shower, by myself while the kids are here. So I had the ingenious idea of throwing them into the shower with me. We'd be in and out, we'd all be clean, and I wouldn't have to worry about what shenanigans they'd get up to while I was indisposed behind the curtain.

I got them both stripped down and put them in the tub. I then proceeded to brush my hair, which I do before every shower; it helps keep the post-shampoo tangles to a minimum. I'm standing there brushing when ... sniff sniff ... what is that God-awful smell? It smells like ....

... pee?

It was then that I realized that the ends of my hair were dripping wet. Horrified, I gingerly brought the saturated ends to my nose and nearly fell backwards. That smell was most definitely pee, and now I remembered why: yesterday, Cameron handily deposited my hairbrush in the toilet right after both Colin and I had used it. Niiiiiiice. At the time, I had been so busy that I'd just laid the brush on my bathroom counter to deal with later. Little did I know that I would forget to deal with it, and attempt to use it on my hair today. Ugh.

Nearly gagging from the scent of my urine-soaked hair, I got into the shower with the boys. I started lathering everybody up, and they both started crying. You know, the usual: "I can't stand uuuuup! There's water in my faaaaaace!" So I started to hurry. And when you rush through a job, bad things happen.

I finished cleaning Colin first, set him on the bathmat and dried him off, and away he ran to watch TV. Then I did the same for Cameron. I knew at that point I really had to rush because Cameron would be running around sans diaper. So I hurriedly tried to finish bathing so I could keep an adequate eye on things. (Namely, Cameron's "thing" - he has a bad habit of peeing on the floor if his diaper is off for two seconds.) While I was washing my face, I somehow - and I'm not kidding - jammed my finger up my nose and made it bleed. Way to go! That takes talent, right?

When I got out, Cameron was still doing all right, so I decided to go ahead and put my deodorant and my clothes on so that I wouldn't inadvertantly give the neighbors a show through the open windows. That's when he disappeared. When I went to look for him, literally less than one minute later, he was coming down the hall to meet me with something in his hand. It was a Glade plug-in ...

... covered in poop.

As was Cameron.

As was the living room floor.

All in the time it took me to put on pants and a shirt. And on my freshly vacuumed carpet, too.

The rest of the evening has been uneventful, knock on wood. It's bedtime for the boys in a few minutes, and I'm hoping there are no more crazy goings-on between now and then. As you can see, I think I've had all the crazy I can handle for one day.

The Cookie Curse

I'm appallingly bad at math, have ZERO directional sense, and must be repeatedly instructed on how to do certain menial tasks like operating a photocopier or making coffee. But if there's one thing I know I'm good at, it's my performance in a certain room of the house.

The kitchen, you pervs.

Yep, I love to cook and bake (hence the extra thighs), and I'm pretty damn good at it. I can whip up just about anything and have a grand old time doing it. Even if a recipe doesn't turn out the exact way I anticipated, it's rarely ever bad. So you can imagine how frustrated I am with the fact that (hides face) I seem to have lost my ability to make chocolate chip cookies.

I'm completely baffled. I used to make delicious chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate chip cookies that were light and soft and chewy. Chocolate chip cookies that garnered rave reviews. But now? My chocolate chip cookies are entirely unappealing - in fact, I threw a whole batch away last night. They're flat like pancakes, too brown on the bottom and crispy around the edges, yet the chips clump into the middle of the cookie and are underdone. WTF?

I use the same recipe I've always used. The same ingredients, the same proportions, the same brands. I can't blame it on my oven, because they come out like that in other ovens, too. I can't blame it on the altitude, because they were fine when we lived in Vegas. I have tried switching baking pans, varying cooking times, chilling the dough beforehand ... to no avail. What gives?

Maybe if I'd let Colin help more, they'd turn out better. Maybe it's some sort of bad-mommy karma. He likes to help me bake, and I know it's good to do things like that together, but I only let him when I'm not opposed to cleaning up half a cannister's worth of dumped flour or wiping a sticky mess of sugar granules off the floor. Sometimes I just want to get the cookies mixed up and in the oven in a hurry, so he just gets to watch. Like not too long ago, when our exchange went something like this:

Colin: "Can I crack the eggs?"
Me: "No, let Mommy do it."
Colin: "Can I use the mixer by myself?"
Me: "No, it's dangerous."
Colin: "Can I eat some of the dough?"
Me: "Not yet, I'm not finished mixing it."
Colin, with an exasperated sigh: "Well can I lick the damn bowl, then?"

I was so surprised that I couldn't even reprimand him ... I just turned my back and exhaled silent laughter for a minute.

Then I handed him the damn spatula and told him to lick away. :)

Love Hurts. Especially in the Groin Area.

Love makes people do stupid things sometimes. I mean look at Tom Cruise when he made an ass of himself on public television, professing his love for Katie Holmes by jumping on Oprah's couch. We've all got our fair share of stories about not-so-bright choices we've made when blinded by the dazzling light of love. Often the heart wins out over the brain in such cases, which sometimes come with pretty unfortunate consequences (especially when we realize later what a douchebag that person we were soooo in love with really was).

For one lovestruck 25-year-old Egyptian guy, "unfortunate consequence" is a total understatement. He went to an incredible length ... er, wait, maybe that isn't the best way to describe that. (We'll just say his dreams of wedded bliss were, um, cut short.) Anyway, his family refused him permission to marry a girl from a lower social class, so he was all, "I'll show you guys!" and cut off his penis with a heated knife. And then to add insult to injury - literally - doctors could not reattach it. (If you want to read the news story for yourself, you can find it here.)

If anything ever warranted a "WTF?" ... this is it.

Maybe it's cultural. In all fairness, I'm not Egyptian, so maybe I just don't get it - perhaps, to other Egyptians, it makes perfect sense. But seriously, Penisless Egyptian Dude, cutting off your own schlong? Who exactly is that going to hurt (well, besides the obvious person)? I'm sorry, but his having or not having a penis probably makes very little difference to his parents, siblings, whoever.

Even if his family is like, "Wow, well, if you're that serious, go ahead and marry her" ... what kind of marriage would it be? Sexless, for one thing. Childless, for another, unless they're able to fork over the money for some very expensive procedures. Does he think his bride-to-be is going to be thrilled with that? Is she supposed to say, "Gee, we can't have sex and we can't have kids - but it sure is nice to have someone around to play Scrabble with," (or whatever Egyptians do on boring evenings)?

I realize that the penis doesn't make the man ... but, damn, it sure is a substantial part! This guy has effectively ruined his own sexuality and his chances for normal reproduction, for the rest of his life. On purpose.

I can't help but wonder if he saved it. Did he present it to his beloved in a box, a la Justin Timberlake's SNL skit? (OMG, if you haven't seen that, watch it here because it's effin' hilarious - but beware, because it has explicit lyrics. Shoo the kiddos from the room first!) The tag probably said, "Here's a token of my erection affection."

I think I'll show Curtis I love him today by slicing off one of my boobs. I've got two of them, so I can spare one, right? Nah, my bellybutton needs something on both sides (that was a joke ... sort of). Maybe I'll just give him a card.
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