Rise and Whine!

When you have a baby (or two or three), there are whole volumes devoted to what you can expect out of them. And they all warn you that a newborn isn't good for the ol' sleep patterns. But those books are so deceiving! They make you think that once your baby starts sleeping through the night, your blissfully uninterrupted pre-parenthood sleep returns. What they fail to mention is that once you become a mother, a sound night's sleep - and the indulgence of waking up on your own time, in a nice leisurely manner - are a thing of the past. Even if your kid is five, like my oldest.

It's bad enough that ever since my kids were born, I wake up at the slightest sound. I swear, if my neighbor farted it could rouse me from sleep. If anything remotely resembles a child's whine/whimper/about-to-throw-up noise, I'm up and out of the bed faster than you can say "psych!"*

*Yes, I'm aware that no one has actually said "psych" since probably the early nineties.

Gone are the days when I was gently stirred from slumber by the warm glow of morning sunlight on my face. Now I'm lucky if my kids don't wake before the sun. But it isn't just the kids any more: since he's started his day shift, my husband's alarm - which sounds like a damn banjo - wakes me at 5:15 every morning ... and then continues to wake me over and over as he presses snooze for an hour. It goes something like this: banjo riff, snooze. Banjo riff, snooze. Banjo riff, snooze. Banjo riff, snooze. Banjo riff, snooze.  Ad infinitum.

When he finally gets out of bed, I always cling to the hope that I can go back to sleep. And I usually do. But the opening of the garage door as Curtis goes to work almost always wakes Colin up, and inevitably - though he is five now and perfectly capable of entertaining himself for an hour or so - he comes in to talk to me. Here is an actual, real-life sample of the random ways that Colin alone has woken me (after the stupid banjo alarm does, of course) just this week:

"Mommy. ... Mommy. Guess what. I used to say neb-ee-lizer, but now I say nebulizer."

"Mommy. ... Mommy. I had a dream? About the headless horseman? But I didn't get scared because it was just a costume? That somebody knitted? And when I woke up? I was like, 'What? Was it just a costume?'"

"Mommy. ... Mommy. Are you awake? Good, because I'd like a bowl of cereal, please."

It goes on, and on. And if it isn't Colin, it's Coby. And if it isn't Colin or Coby, it's Cameron. And, on the off-chance that it actually isn't one of my kids who wakes me, it's the dog.

But you know something else the books don't tell you, possibly the cruelest thing of all? Once you become accustomed to being woken at the crack of dawn every day, you've got this weird internal alarm that wakes you even if you don't have your kids. It's like it's too quiet, and then you wake up feeling weird. It's why, on the (exceedingly) rare occasion that the boys spend the night with a family member, I never feel free to tie one on and then sleep it off the next morning. Because I can't, and I'll pay for it dearly with a hangover AND a lack of sleep.

Anyway, all this explains why it's eight o'clock in the morning and I've been up for nearly three hours already. This particular morning it was the banjo, but it could have been anything. One-sided conversations about nebulizers or headless horsemen, mysterious messes to clean up ... or just a silence loud enough to open my eyes.  

Arse in the Hole

You know those days when you're just on? You start to do something, and miraculously everything goes right? Those are the types of days when athletes win their competitions, or that artists paint their masterpieces. And when I started out push-mowing my yard yesterday, I was having that type of day.

How can you have an "on" day with a mower, you ask? Well, it's simple. I have a huge yard with a lot of crap to mow around. Trees, flower beds, a mailbox, a fire hydrant, a rose bush, a lilac bush (which was once one of three, but I blindly mowed over the other two when they were small. Oops). Anyway, there are some days when it seems I get the lawnmower caught up on everything it passes. I've snagged the side of the house, nicked the edge of the concrete, you name it. But yesterday? I was mowing, man. It was smooooooth sailing. My trusty John Deere (her name is Dolores) was moving through the grass like a hot knife through buttah.

And that was a good thing, because yesterday I had spectators. Two municipal employees were parked right by my house doing something with the city-owned property that borders ours, and they kept looking at me. I was silently thankful that I wasn't fumbling with the mower as I sometimes do, because I have this thing about people watching me mow. It's like someone watching me on the toilet: uncomfortable. I feel like they're scrutinizing my technique, mocking my obsessive need to mow in straight lines even if it means backtracking.* I think my biggest issue, though, is the thought that people will see me bump the curb or mow over a lilac and think my gender has something to do with it. Like if my husband were mowing, he'd never do such a thing. There seems to be this widely-held misconception that mowing is a "guy thing." I'd hardly call myself a raging feminist, but it really gets under my skin when people (coughcoughCurtiscoughcough) make smart remarks about "women drivers" or other related things. Know what I mean?

*I'm pretty sure most of this is in my head. But whatever.

Anyway, it didn't matter yesterday. My mower and I were like a champion dog and an experienced handler: weaving around obstacles like there was nothing there. I could have mowed circles around any chump with a challenge. In my head, I started to get cocky. Yeah, look at me, I inwardly chided the city workers. I can mow like nobody's bidness. Yeah. This is MY yard, suckas. I could mow it blindfolded. I congratulated myself as I bent down to hurtle a big stick out of my path without even slowing. Girls don't mow, huh? Well THIS girl does.

And that? Is when I FELL in a MOTHER-EFFING HOLE.


The same hole that's been in our yard for the three years that we've lived here. The same hole I've never fallen into before, the same hole that I have managed to sidestep every single time I've ever mowed this yard, which amounts to like 18,627 times by now. The same damn hole that I could - any other time - find with my eyes closed.

Yeah. Stepped right in it. Stumbled. Got the wheel of the mower hung up in it and had to thrust my weight against it a couple of times to get it out. Ugh. It was like my biggest mowing blunder ever, and it just had to take place when I had an audience.

Maybe I shouldn't have been so smug after all ...


Father's Day Fail?

(Curtis's and Coby's actual hands ... aww!)

Yesterday was Father's Day - and in case you're wondering, no, I didn't get a card (ungrateful little ragamuffins!). Curtis didn't, either ... but he did get pancakes for breakfast, roast and potatoes for dinner, a chance to watch his stupid fishing shows and his boring car shows on TV without protest, and a nice nap. And I told him, "Thanks for being my baby-daddy." So all in all, I'd say he had a decent day.

To tell you the truth, I might've actually bought him a card - and maybe one for my stepdad, too (sorry, Baba) - had I remembered in a timely manner that Father's Day was approaching. Yes, I saw the signs in the stores. Yes, I heard all the ads on TV imploring me to "give Dad what he wants this Father's Day" with this tool set or that barbecue grill. But they start such propaganda so early that I'm like, "Oh yes. Father's Day. Well, I've still got a little while to prepare for it." And by the time it actually rolls around, I've learned to tune out the ads and the signs until it's like, "Oh. Crap. Tomorrow is Father's Day? Really?"

Over the weekend I saw like THREE DIFFERENT GUYS on Facebook posting pictures of themselves on shiny new riding lawn mowers. My wife surprised me with this shiny new riding lawn mower for Father's Day! was the generic caption. Seriously? Riding lawn mowers are, like, a thousand bucks or more. Curtis would totally notice if our bank account was suddenly drained. And if I were to secretly save up that much money without him noticing, it would have to be in little bitty chunks. Which would take months. Years, even! Talk about planning! I can't even plan enough in advance to buy a damn card for my husband, or for the man who raised me. I'm not ungrateful, just unprepared.

I don't feel too bad, though. We "celebrate" virtually every holiday this way. Like on Valentine's Day, when Facebook and Twitter are gushing with, "My husband bought me these diamond earrings!" or "Champagne and strawberries!" or "Guess who's going to Cabo?" and I'm all, "Oh yeah? Well my husband said he thinks my butt is getting narrower. And then we went to McDonalds."

It's the thought that counts, right?


Diet Advice From an Actual Baby

People will do nearly anything to be skinny. I recently saw a clip from the Tyra Banks show where this guy was saying he actually sells tapeworms as a weight loss method.

Tapeworms, y'all.

I would resort to do-it-yourself liposuction with a dirty butter knife and a vacuum cleaner before I'd ever intentionally eat an intestinal parasite. But that's just me.

Anydesperate, have you heard about the baby food diet? Apparently it's a new fad created by this celebrity personal trainer and everybody thought Jennifer Aniston was on it and she was all, "No, I do not eat baby food." (And then went back to whatever outlandish diet/exercise regime she does use.)

Seriously, people? Of course you'll lose weight eating nothing but baby food. It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or a Hollywood trainer) to figure that out. Number one, it's in small portions. Number two, it's mostly fruits and veggies. And number three? It's nasty. Sure, I admit to sneaking a few bites of the pear-raspberry puree once in a while, but I'm not craving it for dessert. It's just not that delicious.

Just ask Coby: my actual baby, who is actually on the baby food diet because, well, he's a baby. Here are some photos that I took during his lunchtime yesterday - proof positive that the baby food diet is not where it's at.

"Lasagna ... from a jar? Are you kidding me?"

"What are those little chunks there?"

"Seriously, Mom? You're making me eat more of this stuff?"

"You can make me eat it. But you can't make me like it."

See? If a real live baby has this opinion of baby food - and he hasn't even had the pleasure of eating, say, freshly-baked cookies or biscuits - just imagine what it would be like for someone with actual food experience.

I guess it's still better than a tapeworm ...

Me So Corny

I love me some sweet corn. And at this time of year here in the midwest, the grocery stores and farmers markets are practically overflowing with it. There's nothing better to me than biting into a crisp, juicy ear of sweet corn dripping with butter (not margarine, not oleo, not "vegetable spread," but real live BUTTER). Just shuck an ear or two, pop it into some boiling water with some salt and sugar, and boil it for six minutes. Six minutes only, y'all, and it'll come out perfectly cooked every time. 


Anyway, needless to say, we've been having a lot of corn on the cob around here lately. I'm sure everyone but me is already getting sick of it (too bad, suckas!). In fact, the other day I got proof that at least one person in this house is over it already.

I was digging in the kids' toy box looking for a lost pacifier when my fingers brushed up against something really nasty-feeling. Bumpy and cold. What the ... ?

Come to find out, it was this:

OMG! Barf-o-rama!!!

Apparently one of my little anklebiters decided that he didn't want his corn, and stealthily deposited it into the toy box, where it proceeded to morph into the delicious-looking moldfest in the photo above.

Dude, couldn't you just have fed it to the dog?


Holly Hawks

"Here," she said, thrusting a lumpy envelope into my hands. "Take your seeds."

I glanced down at her offering. It was standard letter-sized, with Holly Hawks scrawled across the front in her spindly handwriting, a script I'd recognize anywhere. Hollyhock seeds. The gift made me smile. I had forgotten that I'd even asked for these starts of the tall, leafy stalks with their vibrant crepe-paper flowers, the ones that lined the back of her house like summer sentinels. "I'll collect you some seeds," Grandma had promised. As always, she was true to her word. Even if I hadn't remembered, I should have known she would.

I meant to plant them in the spring. I had the perfect place for them: along one unadorned stretch of bare gray siding. But life got in the way, and the pebbly envelope remained stuffed in my kitchen's junk drawer, the seeds lying dormant within their paper casing. A packet of unfulfilled potential.

In the fall, during one of our regular morning phone chats, the conversation turned to flowers. It was one of the subjects on which I trusted Grandma implicitly. When it came to growing things, sewing things, preserving things, or frying a damn good chicken, you couldn't find a more knowledgeable source than my rural Arkansas-raised granny. The backwoods Martha Stewart.

"I never did get those hollyhock seeds planted," I admitted sheepishly. "Guess now I'll have to wait until next spring."

"Naw," she said in her Southern drawl. "Just plant 'em now! They'll come right up once the weather gets warm again."

I was skeptical as I loosened the dirt along the south side of my house later that afternoon, but figured I'd give it a shot. I opened up the Holly Hawks envelope and scattered its contents haphazardly throughout the cool black soil. Then I kicked some dirt back over them, thinking I'd just about guarantee the need for more seeds once these failed to detonate into real-live flowers.

The leaves fell. The snow fell. And finally, after the icy sludge of late winter had melted, the world changed from gray to green. But the expansive stretch of ground over which I'd sewn the seeds remained blank. And after every other flower in the neighborhood had burst into bloom, I still had a patch of dirt. Grandma had been mistaken (or at least overly optimistic) about planting the seeds in the fall, or I'd just done it incorrectly; either way, there were no hollyhocks to be had.

The patch was still bare the next spring when Grandma died, tragically, unexpectedly. It was sudden, and it was devastating, and it chewed up and spit out my May and my June and my sense that all was right with the world. I grieved so hard at first that there are parts of those months I don't even remember, endless days colored gray. There would be no more of her sage advice, even though I wasn't done asking the questions. And there would be no one to lovingly gather replacements for the seeds I'd failed to grow.

My Grandma was gone.

But early that summer, maybe a month after her passing, I noticed something: a few tenuous sprouts poking through the dirt. And soon, as if by magic, or perhaps some sort of otherworldly intervention, my hollyhocks were flourishing. Before long, I had a whole wall of slender green stalks and newly unfurled leaves. I loved to think that they'd been helped along by my Grandma, coaxed to life by her nurturing spirit. They bore no flowers - there would be none for the rest of the summer - but I was thrilled that something had grown.

My hollyhocks came up right on time this spring, their third year in the ground. But though they were taller and sturdier this season, with plentiful bright-green foliage, they still were just leaves and stalks.

Until two days ago.

We were coming home from the grocery store, and as we turned into our driveway, my eyes settled on the hollyhocks alongside the house - as they nearly always do. This time was different, though: I caught sight of something pink amid the line of emerald green. I practically hurtled out of the car to inspect them more closely, and sure enough, they were blooming! Familiar, delicate blossoms of light and dark pink and vibrant ruby.  I was ecstatic.

I would've celebrated the appearance of the flowers whenever they'd arrived, but the day they chose to bloom was especially meaningful: it was Grandma's birthday. She would have been 87.

If I ever doubted she was watching over me - and my hollyhocks - I don't any more.

Thanks for the help, Grandma.

Oh, B-O-L-L-O-C-K-S!

When you've got little kids, spelling things out can be a valuable tool. You can talk about stuff in front of them without them having any idea what you're saying. For example, when you're discussing whether it's too H-O-T for a trip to the P-L-A-Y-G-R-O-U-N-D. Or whether they've eaten enough dinner to merit some I-C-E  C-R-E-A-M. Curtis and I spell things out in front of our kids on an almost-daily basis.

So last night (which happened to be Colin's fifth birthday - aww!), Colin and I were sitting in the living room watching some TV. Curtis had been in the bathroom for a while, and when he came out, I said, "Honey? Will you please bring me a drink when you come in here?" He obliged with a glass of soda and joined us on the couch.

I raised the glass to my unsuspecting lips and was immediately inundated with a smell that wasn't coming from my Pepsi. It was an aroma that - let's face it - any woman who's ever a.) done a man's laundry or b.) been spontaneously intimate with a man is familiar with. That musky, not-so-fresh odor which indicated that Curtis had clearly not washed his hands after his restroom trip. Y'all picking up what I'm laying down?


Over the rim of my glass, I narrowed my eyes at my husband. "Um, Sweetheart?" I said. "This glass smells like -"

And then I caught myself. Colin was sitting between us, and at the rate he's been reading lately, he picks up on a lot of the simple words. If he can read The Cat in the Hat in its entirety, he would probably be able to decipher what "This glass smells like B-A-L-L-S" meant.

So I said, "This glass smells like T-E-S-T-I-C-L-E-S."

Instantly, before Curtis could even answer, Colin burst out with, "Testicles?!" and began to laugh hysterically.

Yeah. Turns out I had grossly underestimated the spelling abilities of my brand-new five-year-old, who I thought might be able to figure out how to spell "balls." I thought I was playing it safe with the whole "testicles" thing. But apparently I was dead wrong. And now I'm actually kinda sad: if he can spell testicles, he can probably spell damn near anything, and our parental "secret code" will have to be put to rest.

Ah, well. It was useful while it L-A-S-T-E-D.

Here's to You, Rue

When I was five, I was goofing around in my grandparents' back yard and ran face-first into their chain-link fence (don't ask), shattering my two front teeth. My brand-new permanent two front teeth. After impact, I staggered backwards and noticed something gritty in my mouth, at which point I spit, spraying a fine mist of powdered tooth all over the grass. Yep, those bad boys were busted nearly to the gums. So you know what I did?

I didn't collapse to the ground in a sobbing heap. I didn't even cry. I went in the house, climbed up into the scratchy recliner in front of the family room TV, called to ask Grandma for a glass of milk, and watched The Golden Girls.

Fast-forward to just a few months ago: September 2009. I was in labor with my son Coby, my biggest baby yet at 9 pounds, 2 ounces. Sitting in a sterile hospital bed, wearing a flimsy gown and a grimace - and watching The Golden Girls.

Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia have been a part of my life since I was barely old enough to form lasting memories. They've held the number one spot on my list of favorite shows since, like, the eighties. Those Girls have seen me through a lot (see above), and I've gleaned wisdom from all four of them at some point. But my favorite has always been Blanche. Sexy, self-absorbed, shallow Blanche. So when I read today that Rue McClanahan, the actress icon who played her, had died ... I was genuinely sad, y'all. Rue brought such life to the role, like no one else could have, and her face is as familiar to me as my own mother's.

Here's to you, Rue. Thank you for being a friend.

Blanche: I am abhorred.

Sophia: We know what you are, Blanche. I'm glad to finally hear you admit it.

Blanche: Sophia, I said abhorred.

Sophia: Abhorred, a slut, a tramp. It's all the same.

The Shameless Shoes

My husband Curtis is a bit of a diva, and he has a thing for expensive clothes. Problem is, we also have children - and everybody knows that if you're a parent, your personal wardrobe budget takes a nosedive so you can outfit your rugrats in stuff they'll outgrow/rip/stain (the little ingrates!). That's true for me, anyway; my closet has taken a major hit. Where you would once find upscale-quality clothes and the occasional designer label, I'm now rockin' clothes straight off the rack.

... The clearance rack.

... At Wal-Mart.


Anyway, over the weekend we were attempting to leave the house. As usual, I was lamenting about how I could possibly get myself and three children completely ready in the time it takes him to, like, comb his hair. Curtis was all, "I'm almost ready, I just have to get my shoes!" But when he went to get said shoes, he went ... into the garage?

His shoes were in the garage?

Yes. As a matter of fact, they were. They were in the trunk of our car. Still in the box. Which meant he had a.) purchased them without my knowledge, and b.) spent much MUCH more on them than I would have EVER been comfortable with. Sure, maybe I get a little snippy when he wants to buy these $120 shoes or whatever, but that's only because I'm walking around in a pair of flats that I bought from Payless for like six bucks ... last year.

Anyway, to make matters worse, his new kicks reminded me of black leather bowling shoes. Seeing the entire shoe doesn't really make them look that way, but picture just the tips sticking out beneath pant legs.

Seriously, y'all. I know they're supposed to be some sort of European-looking style or whatever, but they made me want to hit the nearest Bowl-O-Rama and knock over some pins.

So these shoes already had two strikes against them (hehe, no pun intended): their cost and their looks. And then we went to Target.

Curtis was pushing the cart, I was strolling alongside it. The store was crowded, being Memorial Day weekend, so we were passing a lot of people.

And then, right in the midst of those people, Curtis passed something else.

I froze in my tracks and swiveled my head around to stare at him in bug-eyed disbelief. I mean, my husband may not be the male Emily Post, but he's certainly got better manners than to let out an ear-splitting fart in public. I could already feel my cheeks burning as I heard a few poorly-disguised snickers from the people we'd just walked by.

"I cannot even believe you just did that," I hissed angrily. "Oh. My. GAWD."

"I didn't! It was my shoe!" Curtis protested, and to prove it, he did it again. Twice.

"YOUR SHOE IS MAKING THAT NOISE?" I asked loudly, to clarify to the surrounding people that my man is not actually some Jerry Springer-worthy neanderthal.

"Yes, it's my shoe," he said with a glint of pride in his eye and a smile spreading slowly across his face. He did it again. Fart fart.

... And again, dragging his sole more slowly this time. Frrrrrrrt.

Unfortunately, he was amused by his newfound discovery. In his eyes, it only made the shoes more awesome. We've all heard farty-sounding shoes, but these? Are the most realistically farty shoes I've ever encountered. People glanced horrified in our direction. Heads turned. Eyebrows raised. And knowing how embarrassed I was, Curtis took great pleasure in not only continuing the noises, but adding in effects to make them even more realistic: a not-so-subtle hip raise here, a straining expression there.

"Would you pick up your feet!" I huffed.

"What's that, my dear?" Grunt, fart.

I couldn't help but laugh. I was mortified, true, but I love me some toilet humor. No matter how hard I try to be a lady and resist, it always gets me. I'm powerless. Farts are just funny, man.

So I forgave him.

Johnston & Murphy leather Shuler Bicycle shoes: $125 (OMG!!)
Laughing all the way through Target: priceless. 


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