There's a Whore at the Door!

My kids are always crazy when they wake up. It's like somebody secretly gives them an intravenous drip of extra silliness in their sleep. They leap out of bed, run around like wild men, and pretend to be weird characters acting out equally weird scenarios.

In the pre-dawn hours of this morning, we were lying in bed when we heard Colin and Cameron come out of their room and into ours. They bounced around like a couple of pinballs for a minute, then started chasing Josie, our chocolate Lab.

All of a sudden, Colin bellows, "THERE'S A WHOOOORE AT THE DOOR!" in this salty-old-sea-captain type voice.

My eyes widened. I looked at Curtis. We tightened our lips in a (futile) effort to keep from smiling.

"Um, what?" I asked.

"A whore at the door!" Colin repeated cheerfully, bounding after Josie.

"And uh ... what's a whore?"

He's in this phase of making up "a new language," as he calls it. Last night he told me that we no longer live in Iowa, but in a place called Leefan. (I dunno. Your guess is as good as mine.) We've already been through the excruciating process of trying to explain the meaning of "whore," but apparently we didn't offer up a satisfactory definition - because when I asked him what it was, he pointed at Josie.

"A whore is a type of dog," he explained.

"I think that's bitch," Curtis whispered to me.

Potato, potahto.

Because Nothing Says "Sexy" Like Dead Cats

Last night Curtis and I were cuddled up on the couch, watching "Hoarders." This particular episode featured Vula, an elderly lady who had hoarded so much junk - including over 30 sickly cats - that the cleanup team had to wear hazmat suits just to clear the stuff out. Everything was covered in poop and hair and Lord only knows what else; the place made my house on its worst day look as sterile as an operating room. (Check out a 30-second episode preview here if you can stomach it!)

I sat there, watching in horror as the workers peeled the crusty and decaying bodies of dead cats and kittens from the layers of rubble. I'm not an easily grossed-out person. I mean, dirty diapers have been part of my daily repertoire for five straight years now. But this was making my stomach churn.

And in the midst of all this, just as I'm sitting here slack-jawed in disbelief at all this filth, Curtis pulls me into his lap and starts making out with me.

Um ... okay. But I mean ... really?

I wouldn't exactly call this a complaint. I mean, I'm thankful that my husband finds me attractive enough that even an especially repulsive episode of "Hoarders" doesn't dampen his desire to jump my bones. And I do love his attention. But I don't understand. At all.

I'm not saying it takes flowers and candles and champagne and chocolate covered strawberries and music and a life-sized cutout of Johnny Depp to get me in the mood for some lovin', y'all. I'm not that difficult to seduce. But I do need to be in the mood. And call me frigid, but watching people remove dead cats and poop from someone's house doesn't exactly put me in a sexy frame of mind. Neither do some of the other scenarios during which Curtis has pounced upon me by surprise ... like when I'm walking around in sweatpants and a grungy T-shirt, with leg hair so long it's starting to resemble dreadlocks. It baffles me. Doesn't he want to at least wait until I'm, you know, clean or something?

This isn't uncommon, and I'm pretty sure it isn't limited to just my husband. I think all dudes are, in some capacity, horndogs waiting for the right opportunity to strike. But what I want to know is exactly how the "right opportunity" can occur in the middle of ... anything. Even total, blatant, disgusting un-sexiness. And dead cats.


Better than the Presidency

Like any mom, I'm proud of everything my kids do. Except for when they, like, mistake someone's gender or pee on my pillow (okay, I never actually proved that one of my kids was the guilty party, but the indicators are pretty good).

But I'm downright ecstatic right now. Because I've just noticed that my one-year-old, Coby, is showing signs of something amazing. Something rare. Something that most moms I know - me included - dream of.

I think I have ... a neat freak.

It started the other day, when I was sitting in the toy-strewn living room, thinking, "Ugh. I hate it when the house looks like such crap." I turned my eyes to Coby, who had been playing amidst the chaotic jumble of unnecessary junk toys. When to my surprise and delight, he started picking them up and putting them away.

Now don't get too excited, I said to myself. This could be a fluke. I've pretty much come to accept the fact that, having three boys, my next eighteen years or so are going to be filled with dirt and clutter and disgusting odors and petrified and/or moldy food in strange places. Dare I imagine the fanciful, wonderful possibility that one of my boys will actually help keep things clean? I didn't want to get my hopes up. But he put more things in the toybox ... and then more. He was doing the very same activity that, with my older two, I have to beg, plead, and threaten to get them to do (reluctantly and whining the whole time). VOLUNTARILY.

When it happened again the next day, I allowed myself to rejoice a little bit. And the more I thought about it, the more pieces began to fall into place. He's always liked to throw things away - picking up every little scrap off the floor and making a beeline to the garbage - although I've always thought it was because he just wanted to play in the trash can.

I was still guarded in my assessment of my budding neat freak, though, until this morning when I was folding laundry. Coby reached a tiny hand into the basket, pulled one of his t-shirts out, and laid it onto the freshly folded stack. Obviously he didn't fold it (I would have keeled over with sheer joy then, y'all) but I'm sure he would have, if he didn't lack the fine motor skills. And then he pulled out a sock ... took it over to the bookcase ... and dusted. I kid you not. He wiped the sock deliberately back and forth over several of the shelves and as much of the top as he could reach.

Maybe he's thinking of what to clean next ...

Is it because he's like me, and I very much prefer things clean? Is it because he's a Virgo? I don't know. But whatever the reason, I can't help but imagine the awesomeness of a kid who keeps his room clean, his desk at school organized, his clothes neat - and then grows up to be a man who likes to keep an orderly environment and actually helps his mate rather than adding to the mess?*

*This is a thinly veiled reference to my husband. Curtis, I'm looking at you.  

If my sons turn out to be rocket scientists or ivy-league professors or computer geniuses or philanthropic gazillionaires or the President, I'll certainly be pleased. But oh ... to raise a neat and tidy boy who becomes a neat and tidy man ... I'd really be able to die happy.

Karaoke? Okey-dokey.

So ... I was just thinking about karaoke. (I don't know either, just go with it for the blog's sake.)

It's Friday. And for those of you (read: not me) who still have social lives, sometimes that entails karaoke. I know mine used to, back in like 2001 when I used to go out. I totally enjoy karaoke. Particularly the drunken variety - that's always the best.

Do you think I'm the one up there crooning my inebriated little heart out, though? Oh, no. No no no no nooooo. I'm the one in the audience, being amused by the people who are crooning their inebriated little hearts out. I'd never sing in front of strangers - I don't care how many martinis I've downed in quick succession. Even if I'm at the point of looking, teary-eyed, at my friend and saying, "Ohmigawd. I love you. I, like, totally love you. Seriously. For real! I do!"*

*I may or may not have done this in real life.
I have only participated in karaoke one time in my entire life. That was at my brother's wedding reception, and I only did it because a.) I was up there with my mom and my sisters, so you couldn't even hear me over their loud mouths beautiful singing, and b.) I had been sipping from the "adult" punch bowl. Here's the picture; note my fingers interlaced awkwardly over my chest, as if I could hide behind them:

 Is that Celine Dion in the purple shirt? No ... it's Rita.

The thing is, I really can sing. I'm actually pretty good - or so I think. But the "so I think" part is exactly why you'll never, ever see me (again) on a karaoke stage: because most people who can't sing don't know they can't sing. And nobody tells them!

Look at the American Idol auditions. Those poor judges. It's amazing how many people bust in there, totally confident, ready to give a life-changing performance - and nail it, at least in their own opinions. Meanwhile, everyone watching is squirming uncomfortably in the chairs, trying not to smile, eyes flitting back and forth but never resting on the singer. Why? Because it's one of those deals where someone believes they're really really good ... when, in reality, they're not.

The same goes for karaoke. Generally you wouldn't sing karaoke unless you were somewhat confident in your singing abilities, right? And you can tell, watching someone sing, when they think they're totally bringing down the house with their amazing vocals (does the name William Hung ring a bell?). Some of these people truly, genuinely imagine that they're talented singers, y'all. And who's going to tell them any different? You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would tell you, honestly, "That sucked" - especially if they know that you yourself think you're the shiz.

So yeah, I would say that I'm a decent singer. I've been told I am, on the rare occasion that I sing in front of anyone. But how much stock can I place in that? Who's gonna tell me if my singing makes them nauseous? That's why I won't do karaoke - because karaoke is for people who don't give a shit whether people think they're good or not. And though I sorely wish I were that way, I'm so not. I want people to think I'm the best and most capable person. Ever. At everything.
When you think about it, the same principle applies to lots of stuff. Anything you create, really, from a painting to a souffle. If you invite someone's opinion, 99% of the time you're going to get a compliment even if, in reality, your creation sucks. Hell, even your kids. Especially your kids, really. It's not like ANYONE, when you're waving Junior's dopey picture in front of them, is going to be like, "Wow, sorry, but that is one ugly kid!"

But you know what? I guess I wouldn't want to hear the truth - about my singing or my cooking or my kids' level of cuteness - if the truth is something other than what I (happily and naively) perceive it to be. I'd rather just confidently cook my ass off, belting out a jammin' tune as I go, and serve it to what I think are the sweetest, most adorable little boys in the world.  

Have a great weekend ... whether it involves karaoke or not!



I'm writing this post in the middle of the night. It's 2:38 am, and I'm sitting here in the pitch-black, frizzy hair illuminated only by the glow of the computer screen, hunched forward because I'm like totally blind without my contacts in. I wish I could say it was silent in here, but I can seriously hear Curtis snoring from all the way in the back of the house - dude sounds like a rusty chainsaw - which is part of the reason I'm awake right now.

But only part of the reason.

The other part is that, well, I think I have a serious disease.

It all started two days ago, when Colin came home from school. I was going through all the papers in his backpack, looking over each sheet. Awww, he's doing so much better about not writing in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. ... Hmmm, we need to pick up the stuff we ordered from his fundraiser. ... Yay, he gets to have a Halloween party on the 29th. ... Ohhh, he's been - exposed to pertussis?!

Yes. There it was, tucked between the school newsletter and his homework assignment: a letter that proclaimed, in a very urgent-looking headline, "YOUR CHILD HAS BEEN EXPOSED TO PERTUSSIS (WHOOPING COUGH)."

We got a general letter about it, along with a pertussis fact sheet, a few weeks ago. It seems they've had outbreaks of it in several of the schools around here, so they were letting everybody know. But this is the first indication that it's ever been present at his school.

Anyway, being the over-concerned mother that I am, I immediately rifled through my stack of junk important papers and found the fact sheet. Pertussis starts out exactly like the common cold, it said - and because of that fact, it isn't often diagnosed until the second stage, when the coughing fits get so severe that they produce a "whooping" sound when the person's trying to take in air. It's also highly contagious.

Still, all seemed well around here ... until the wee hours of yesterday morning, when Colin came to crawl in bed with us at about 4:30. Coughing.

It wasn't anything big, just a few little coughs here and there. In the morning, when he woke up, he complained that his throat was a little bit sore, but after he ate breakfast he said it was better, and he wasn't coughing any more. Didn't have a stuffy nose. Didn't have a fever. Was normal Colin. (Well, okay, he was Colin ... "normal" is subjective.)

But last night, I was sitting on the couch after the kids had gone to bed, watching the Teen Mom finale special and mad wishing for a pint of Ben & Jerry's, when I started to feel a persistent tickle in my throat. It had gone away by morning, but when evening rolled around I felt pretty bad - my throat was sore, my nose was getting runny, and I just had that "I'm coming down with something" malaise. You know, like in the "Peanuts" comics when they're sick and they have that little squiggle over their heads?

Which brings us to now. Here I sit, researching the crap out of pertussis symptoms. I was Googling it from the comfort of my bed until my iPhone died, so now I'm at the computer (and FYI? I'm not wearing pants). All I'm finding out is pretty much a rephrasing of what's on the stupid fact sheet that I've read so many times I've nearly got it memorized. (Oh yeah - and that the antibiotic they use to treat it just so happens to be the one I'm deathly allergic to.) How am I supposed to know if this is indeed a common cold or the start of some wicked disease?

I'm relatively paranoid; I seriously think my every twinge, ache, or bruise is a sure sign of cancer. It's a good thing I wasn't born in the pioneer days, or I'd have farted and had the whole wagon train thinking I was dying of dysentery. So you would think that someone like me would have my doctor's phone number on standby. But I don't - because I don't even have a doctor. I haven't been to a doctor - except an OB/GYN, for pregnancies - in years. And I'd hate to search for a decent physician, make sure they accept our insurance, call around trying to arrange for child care or have Curtis leave work so he can watch the kids, and schlep myself to the doctor's office only to have them say, "Uh ... ma'am? It's just a cold. Go home and get some chicken soup or something."

But still. I mean ... pertussis, y'all. And now? Curtis has it too.

The kids are still fine - no more symptoms out of Colin - but they've also been vaccinated for it much more recently than either Curtis or I have.

If anybody wants to donate a laptop, I'll write a final post from my deathbed.

(In)Convenience Foods

So this morning, anticipating a hectic day, I decided there'd be no easier supper than some Crock-Pot beef stew. I figured I'd just throw it together, let it cook all day, and then bam - I wouldn't have to lift a finger until I dished it into bowls, ready to eat, this evening.

After I dropped Colin off at school, I dragged Diana (that's my Crock-Pot's name, Diana*) out from her resting place, crammed amid a bunch of junk nestled into the cabinet.

*I'm just kidding, but now that you think about it, isn't Diana a great name for a Crock-Pot?

As soon as he heard the noise of me cooking something, Cameron came running. And though I clearly do not recall saying, "Hey Cameron, please come help" ... here he was, pushing a chair up to the counter to stand on.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm not a fun mom. I'd rather do things in the kitchen myself and get them done - as quickly and neatly as possible - than have help from my boys. I do not find it adorable and stand by smiling lovingly while kids are covered with flour from head to toe and slopping ingredients into a bowl, like on TV commercials. I don't like to pick eggshells out of whatever I'm making, and I don't like gritty/sticky/slimy messes all over my counters/floors/walls. But because sometimes I let "mom guilt" get the best of me, and I think if I were a good mom, I'd let them help more often ... I consented to let my two-year-old offer his, um, "assistance" this morning.

I showed him how to peel a carrot; he tossed the peelings up in the air like confetti. I diced potatoes; he rummaged through the cabinets, and we had an exchange that went something like this ...

Cameron: "Let's put this in, Mommy!"
Me: "No buddy, that's cinnamon."
Cameron: "Let's put this in!"
Me: "No Cammie, that's vinegar."
Cameron: "Let's put this in!"
Me: "No Cammie, that's baking soda."
Cameron: "Let's put this in!"
Me: "Dude. NO. That's vanilla."

... And so forth. For like five minutes. Then he was all, "Look, a castle!" as he stacked things up ...

Yeah, I buy generic. You got a problem with it?

... and then knocked half the contents of the cabinet onto the floor.

In the meantime, the baby and the dog were getting into the lazy Susan and stringing out the onions and potatoes (side note: why the eff are those things called "lazy Susans" anyway?):

After the addition of the dish towel, a puppet, and a random carrot, my floor looked like this:

This, of course, was before they (Coby and Josie) decided to throw the onions down the stairs and play "fetch."

And while I was retrieving the onions/the baby and fishing onion peel out of the baby's mouth?

Shake, shake, shake went the salt shaker, as Cameron was helpfully salting the beef stew.

... Out of which I had to pick onion peel, an un-chopped carrot, and a spoon.

I finally finished everything up and put the lid on and set the Crock-Pot to cook on low for ten hours. If all goes well, dinner will be ready by six. Although it might taste like a salt lick.

I'd better have the Chinese takeout menu on standby, just in case. 

Like to "Like" You, Baby

Facebook: love it or hate it, it revolutionized social networking. And, much like the ability to "Poke" someone, the addition of the "Like" button made it even easier to connect with people without having to actually talk to them. Awesome.

But I have a bit of a problem with the "Like" option: it's generic. The word like is multifaceted, y'all. It can mean so many different things. Like is not a black and white issue ... there's a lot of gray area, and a lot of different types of "Like." For example ...

The "I Agree" Like: This one is tricky because it carries a high risk of misinterpretation. For example: someone posts a status of, "Bathing suit shopping makes me miserable." You hate bathing suit shopping too. You could click "Like," as in, "Yes, I totally agree, I hate it myself!" ... but it could be misconstrued as, "I'm glad you're miserable, you fat cow." If someone's feeling particularly sensitive and misunderstands your "Like," you may find your Friends List coming up short.

The "I Can't Think of a Reply" Like: When you want someone to know you're reading, but your capacity for a witty/insightful/appropriate response has temporarily flown the coop.

The "Like Isn't Even Enough"  Like: When you totally superlike something - like times infinity - but you're forced to just click the regular lame thumbs-up like because superlike isn't an option, damn it.

The "I'm Paying Attention, But I'm Sure As Hell Not Reposting This" Like: We've all got friends on our lists who post things such as, "Everyone on my friends list is there for a reason, but 92% of you won't pay attention. If you're my friend, copy and paste this as your status" or some such gobbledygook. You don't want to blatantly ignore it, in case the person in question is actually (and, um, pathetically) basing his or her worth on how many friends repost. But you don't want to repost it yourself, so you "Like" it instead.

There are more types of "Like," but these are the only ones I could come up with off the top of my head. (If you've got any, feel free to share in the comments.) So you see? Facebook totally needs to get with the program and develop a drop-down "Like" menu with a few different options. Perhaps "Agree," "Sympathize," and "Superlike" for starters? ARE YOU LISTENING, FACEBOOK?
Anyway, if you like me - in whatever way that you like me - then you can "Like" me right here. :)


Every Friday is Colin's show-and-tell day at school. And every Friday, he consistently picks something weird. While the other kids bring in their Pillow Pets and favorite stuffed animals, his choices are always things that don't make any sense to me. It seems like I always veto about eight or nine reeeeeally random things (Band-Aids, pieces of broken toys, spoons) before we finally settle on something that's usually questionable, at best. Like his little Matchbox racecar that he insisted I draw lights on and write "POLICE" all over. Or a booklet about skeletons that he made himself, using folded-over typing paper and pieces he cut out from magazines, sloppily glued into place. 
This morning we were thisclose to leaving the house when I remembered. "Oh, Colin! It's Friday! You've got show-and-tell. Go grab whatever you're going to take, so we can get out of here."

He came back, surprisingly quickly, with this ...

... the fake poop that was perched atop my birthday cake this year.

"You can't take that," I said.

Colin looked deflated. "But it's cool."

"You can't take it," I repeated.


Such a simple question. Why, indeed?

"Because it's ... it's inappropriate for show-and-tell," I said impatiently. "Now hurry and find something else."

"But Mommy, why is it inappropriate?"

Ugh. I didn't want to get all explainy just as we were trying to walk out the door. Especially since, come to think of it, I couldn't even really muster up a good explanation. Why is fake poop inappropriate for show-and-tell? I guess for the same vague reason that Colin was told by a teacher that he could say booty or heinie or something, but not butt, at school (WTF?).

I suppose it's hard for me, the Oprah of Oversharing, to understand why things like that are considered inappropriate when I'm perfectly okay with them. I mean, I blog about feminine odor and pooping during childbirth, for pete's sake.

So finally - even though anyone who's ever read my blog knows I totally don't subscribe to this theory - I just said, "The poop is inappropriate for school because pooping is a private thing that we don't need to share the results of."

"... But it's fake," said Colin.

In the end I just played the "I'm-your-mother-now-do-as-I-say-or-else" card and forced him to pick something different. He chose a five-foot-long rubber snake that he got at the zoo. I coiled it into his backpack - it weighs at least two pounds - and watched as he hauled the stupid heavy thing onto his bony, birdlike little shoulders.

The fake poop would've been so much easier.

Sometimes Frumpy is, You Know, Practical

Colin started Kindergarten on August 6th - and for the first few weeks, each school morning saw me fully dressed, in something decent, hair done and makeup on.

Isn't it funny how quickly things change?

I just dropped Colin off at school in my pajamas, y'all. And flip-flops. And a (jacked-up) ponytail. And no makeup.

Okay, in my defense, it's not like my pajamas are actual PJs. It's more like a strategically assembled multi-purpose outfit. And unfortunately for my fight against the frump (Frump: 1, Rita: 0) I own several outfits of this type. Today, it's a gray Adidas t-shirt and black workout pants. Okay, so the workout pants are a holdover from my extra-fat days (I wore them 80+ pounds ago, if that tells you anything), and the legs are the size of tree trunks, and I have to wear them with the waistband rolled up like five times so they stay up. At least the t-shirt fits.*

*Even if this morning it did have a smear of oatmeal crusted across the front that I didn't notice until I was en route to the elementary.

Anyway, outfits such as these are both a blessing and curse to a busy mother who works from home. They are comfortable enough to sleep in, and all I've got to do is put on a bra before leaving the house in the morning. (Otherwise, you know, my boobs hurt from knocking against my knees all day.) They're a step up from cartoon-printed PJs, so though I may not classify as dressed when I wear them in public, at least I don't appear comically, don't-give-a-crap lazy, like people who wander through Wal-Mart in slippers and curlers and stuff.

Plus, when I'm wearing them at home and someone comes to the door, I can just clip my iPod and headphones to them and pretend I've been working out. See? GENIUS.

I'm a little worried, though. We have two vehicles: one reliable, one not-so-much. Curtis has a 25-minute drive to work, and I have a 3-minute drive to school. So guess who gets the reliable vehicle, the one that will most certainly hold out for 50 minutes a day? Yeah. Which means I'm tootling to the elementary at 30 miles per hour or less - anything over 30 and our Jeep makes this ominous knocking sound and completely loses oil pressure.

So imagine if the thing completely kicks the bucket while I'm dropping Colin off at school. That would mean I'd have to interact extensively with the public - well-wishers offering rides, tow truck people, who knows - wearing one of my "no-I-didn't-sleep-in-this-I'm-not-that-lazy-they're-just-my-workout-clothes-gosh" outfits. (Not to mention being stranded with three small hoodlums children to manage!) Ugh ... the horror.

But for the convenience of a few extra minutes in the morning to feed, clean up, dress the kids, and get everybody in the car and buckled by 7:45? It's a risk I'm willing to take.  

PS - Thanks for the Halloween picture orders, you guys! It's not too late to get your own spooky photo ... :)

Tag, You Should've Been "It"

I'm a sucker for anything with points. If by buying 800,000 packages of frozen peas I could earn a "free" pot holder or a scented candle or something, well, I'd probably be rolling through the store with a pea-filled cart. I don't know why these schemes suck me in, but they do. And because I'm just that gullible loyal to certain brands, I recently found myself with an impressive collection of like 3,655 Pampers Gifts-to-Grow points.

Through five years and three kids, I've changed hundreds, thousands of excrement-filled Pampers. I earned those points, oh yes I did. And so I figured it was high time to spend them. But on what?

I spent forever on the Pampers website narrowing down my options, and finally I whittled them down to two. This, the Cuisinart Mini-Prep, for me (or you know, whoever else decides to cook  ... *coughCurtiscough*):

... or this, the Leapfrog Junior Tag Reader, for Cameron (and, eventually, Coby):

Decisions, decisions.

I once had one of those Cuisinart Mini-Preps and loved the thing. I literally used it to death, because one night it just wouldn't start and I was banging my head against the kitchen counters shouting, "Why? Whyyyyyyyy?!" and then I hurled it across the kitchen and crumpled into a heap on the floor and sobbed until there were no tears left.

Or maybe I was more like, "Aw, man!" and then threw it away. I really don't remember.

As far as the Tag reader, Colin has one - a regular Tag reader, I mean, not a Junior one - and it's his prized possession. He seriously sleeps with it. Cameron is always wanting to use it, but he'd have to pry it out of Colin's cold, dead fingers. So I thought, how perfect! An age-appropriate little Tag reader for Cameron to use, and then pass down to Coby.

So you see? It was a tough call.

It doesn't help that I have this thing about spending money on myself. You hand me $100 for clothes, and I'll come out of the store with outfits for my kids. I can't help it. It's why I'm always rockin' Walmart couture. (Last season's. Bought on clearance.) I will literally carry an item I want around a store for an hour before finally talking myself out of buying it.

But this morning, as I was staring at the Pampers site, my eyes flitting between the Cuisinart and the Junior Tag Reader, I came up with enough rationalizations to tip the scales in favor of the food processor.

I used my old one all the time and it was so handy.
Cleanup is so easy.
I won't cry chopping onions any more.
It will save me enough prep time to check Facebook at least twice more.
My hands won't be all messy from chopping, so I can actually pick up the child clinging to my leg.

And so on.

So it was with much gleeful anticipation that I placed my order, spending aaaaallllll my hard-earned points on the cute little Cuisinart. And I had literally just clicked the final button to complete the order when I heard Cameron calling from the living room.

"Mommy! Mommy! Look!" he was shouting, his little voice giddy and excited. "Tag Reader!" And sure enough, a commercial for one was on the damn TV, and he was dancing around like he'd just seen Jesus. "Oh Mommy, will you please get me my own Tag Reader, please please?"

Seriously? I asked the cosmos.

I guess we know what Cameron will be getting for Christmas.

You're Looking Rather Halloweeny

I love Halloween. Ever since my childhood - even when I wore the same Kermit the Frog costume, like, four years in a row - it has been one of my favorite holidays. Once that calendar flips to October 1st, I'm having visions of cool weather and costumes and stealing my kids' candy my own sweet little trick-or-treaters.

And since I'm a big girl now, and don't go door to door collecting cavity-inducing loot on Halloween night, I have to do something to keep my season fun. So I do this:

I use my artistic eye and mad editing skillz to transform ordinary photos into ...


Or, you know, pretty cool pictures.

I love doing these. I use them as my profile picture on Facebook, Myspace, and all the other time-wasters social media sites I'm on every October - and there isn't a year that goes by when someone on my friends list doesn't see mine and hound beg me for a picture of their very own.

So I'm trying something a little different this year. Do you want your own spooky Halloween picture edited by yours truly? *gasp* You do? Well. There are two simple steps:

1.) Look over in the right-hand sidebar, right underneath my ugly mug picture. See the little PayPal button that says "Donate?" Click on it to fork over five bucks - I would love to do 'em all for free, but they take some serious effort. That's the only reason I decided to charge this year.

2.) Send me a picture; you'll find my email address underneath the aforementioned PayPal button. (And to ensure the best outcome possible, puh-leeeeeeease be sure to read the tips I'm about to post below!)

I'll return your picture to you, all spookified and ready to use wherever, ASAP. I'll even give you a copy in color and a copy in black and white.* Yay! Prepare for the comments from your friends and family to start rolling in!

Now for those tips:
- When it comes to pictures, the bigger the better. It's easier for me to work with high-resolution photos, so don't worry if it's a huge file ... it'll actually help.
- You can choose a pre-existing photo or take one, perhaps making a scary face, just for this occasion (like in the first example pic above ... I actually took a photo of Cameron in the cemetery just to use for Halloween).
- I suck at photo-editing bodies, so I prefer to work with head shots. A close up of just your face is ideal.
- The less crap in the background, the easier it is for me to make it look good.
- If it's even slightly blurry, it's hard to use.
- One person is preferred, but two is all right. No group pics though - sorry!

If I can't use your picture for some reason, I'll let you know why and you can send me another one.

*Now for the obligatory disclaimer ... this is just for funsies, y'all. I'm a writer, not a graphic artist - I learned what I know through trial-and-error and experimentation, not a professional photo-editing class. By sending me your picture, you're giving me permission to use creative license. If you've got a vision for the finished product, and want to share it with me, I welcome your ideas. I will do my very best with every photo I recieve - but if you don't like the finished product, it's just gotta be chalked up to creative differences. I don't even know how to refund money with PayPal, so don't hold your Halloween-picture-hatin' breath. Mmkay?

My inbox is waiting! Let's see what kind of Halloween creepiness we can stir up!


Perhaps I Should Hide ...

This is totally what I would look like today if I were, you know, doing my hair or something.


I've had a horrible day so far - and it's not even 10 a.m. yet.

I'm almost afraid to complain about it because it could be far worse, y'all. I mean, I'm not homeless or terminally ill or starving. In the grand scheme of things, I'm still totally lucky.


In the context of my little life, my usually-pretty-decent little life, this morning has been a doozy. And it all started with a banjo riff.

If you've been reading me for a while, you've heard me complain about this before. My husband uses his iPhone as his alarm clock, and the sound is a totally annoying banjo. It's not so bad if you only hear it once or twice. But this morning it went like this:

4:45 - banjo riff.
4:55 - banjo riff.
5:05 - banjo riff. Me: a light tap tap tap on Curtis's back.
5:15 - banjo riff. Me: tap tap tap TAP
5:25 - banjo riff. Me: nudge
5:35 - banjo riff. Me: NUDGE
5:45 - banjo riff. Me: "Forgawd'sakewillyoupleasejustgetUP!"

Okay. I didn't really say "please." In fact, despite my sleepy state, I was still irritated enough to bitch voice my opinion. "I understand your desire to press snooze," I hissed, so as not to wake the eight-million-children-and-dog that had somehow migrated to our bed in the night, "but that is an alarm. For the purpose of waking people up. So if you don't have to get up until 5:45, don't set it to go off until at least 5:30!"

So Curtis got up and went into the bathroom to escape my wrath get ready for work.

That's when I heard urp ... urp ... urp ...

It was the dog. Getting ready to throw up. On our bed.

Buried under sleeping kids, I mustered all the force I could to kick her gagging ass off the bed. Then I tried to quickly extricate myself from the pile without waking anyone - but I wasn't quick enough. By the time I got to her, Josie had thrown up on the bedroom floor. Twice.

Aaaaaand the kids were awake. And the baby was crying.

I called Curtis from his hideout the bathroom to help me. "Get the baby while I clean this up," I said. (Politeness is not really my strong suit in the morning.)

He picked Coby up. "Did you know there's a huge wet spot in the bed?"

I looked. And there was. About nine inches across, I'd say. Although we never really figured it out for sure, I'd say it was pee - his diaper was mostly dry, but if you have boys, you've probably experienced the misfortune of a penis pointed in the wrong direction. And then I started to notice that the whole hip-area of my pajama pants felt cold and damp ... because, you guessed it, I'd been laying in the mysterious funk.

I stumbled tiredly into the kitchen to get some paper towels for the dog-spew when I stepped on something sharp. What the ...? Come to find out, it was broken glass. One of the cats had apparently knocked over a glass that was sitting on the counter in the night, shattering it. And oh, lucky me, the broken glass had been filled with water ... which was now all over the counter.

I managed to get the messes cleaned up. Barely six o'clock, and the kids were running around like crazy men, in turns bickering and laughing maniacally. I don't know if it was the novelty of being awake in the pre-dawn dark or what, but they were acting like animals. And of course, Curtis had to get to work. He was running late. (Maybe because he'd hit snooze for a freaking hour, ya think?)

When Colin took a break from his crazy to go to the bathroom, he was all, "Ewwwww!"

I was afraid to ask. But I didn't need to ask, because he continued, "Josie chewed up a poopy diaper in here!"

Yes. Somehow the dog had gotten ahold of a poopy diaper and shredded it, turds and all, over the entire floor of the boys' bathroom.

The same dog that, I would find out a few minutes later, had also pooped and peed on the laundry room floor.

And pee, coincidentally, is what Cameron did - all over my desk chair - about twenty minutes ago.

So you see? I may not have it bad in the grand scheme of things, but today just isn't my day so far. I wish I had the option to go back to bed.

But even if I could, my sheets are in the wash.

Fashionably Challenged

I hate fashion. And I don't mean hate in the "I-don't-care-how-I-look" way ... I mean it in the way that you secretly feel sad inside when you want something you can't have. It's more like envy, I guess: I envy those who know how to look good. Because no matter how much I try to educate myself about it, y'all, I just don't ever feel fashionable, and I have trouble keeping up with what's cute and what's not.

It's not like I walk around looking like a slack-jawed skank. I don't have a closet full of "What Not to Wear"-worthy attire or anything ... it's just all boring and outdated (and, um, black). Despite the stacks of women's magazines I subscribe to - Marie Claire, Allure, Self - I wouldn't know a trend if it came up and bitch-slapped me ... which is exactly what I feel like is going to happen when I'm shopping. I browse unconfidently through the racks, choosing pieces timidly, like some squad of savage fashionistas is going to eat me alive if I pick the wrong thing.

I think it's because a lot of the fashionable women I know are so judgy. They can spot a designer knockoff or a cheap imitation from a mile away, and almost always call out such style misdeeds in the snarkiest way possible. I mean, why do you think worst-dressed lists are so popular? People love to hate on other people's style ... or lack thereof. And I don't wanna get hated on, y'all. So I just stick to the jeans-and-tee basics, and blend boringly in.

Here are some more reasons why the contents of my closet could put you to sleep:

- I'm not cutting-edge. I can't spot a trend until it's splashed onto every magazine page, until every celebrity is wearing it, until I see it on every cute-looking twentysomething in the grocery store.

 - I'm just clueless. I don't know what is "so last season." By the time I do pick up on a trend, and trust that it's stylish enough that I won't get made mad fun of, it's on its last legs. Last night, for example, I stood in the shoe department for twenty minutes agonizing over whether or not to buy a pair of black flats. Flats have been "in" for a while now. So does that mean they're almost out? I ended up not buying any ... and by the time I do, they'll be fashionably obsolete.

- I hardly ever like a trend when it first hits. I thought Uggs were ugg-ly when they were all the rage. It wasn't until I saw enough people wearing them, and looking cute despite them, that I thought ... hmm. Maybe they're not all that bad. Maybe I'd even rock a pair. (I never did, though). And now? I want to barf when I see stuff like those horrible jean-leggings (jeggings?). But again: give me a few months, and just as I start to warm to the trend, it'll be out the door.

- I can't figure out what goes with what. Just because you give somebody a bunch of rhyming words doesn't mean they can write a good poem. Likewise, I can be surrounded by trendy clothing and accessories without the slightest clue how to match them up.

- I can't figure out how to do any of it on a budget. I mean, outside of shopping at cheap places. I've got three kids and a mortgage. My entire wardrobe, save for a shirt and a pair of jeans from Guess, comes from Target, Old Navy, and Walmart. (Yes. Really. Walmart.) The last outfit I bought was from Old Navy: a sweater, a camisole (on sale for $3 and some change), a scarf, a pair of jeans, and a pair of boots (with a 50% off coupon). It cost me somewhere around $75. That's relatively cheap I suppose, considering all I bought, and yet ... that's just one outfit. There are seven days in a week. Y'all do the math. At that rate, I can only afford to look fashionable, like, two days a month.

Come to think of it, I'm not even sure it is fashionable. I mean, it's a really basic outfit. But it has a scarf ... and boots. Boots are trendy now, right? And I wore my jeans tucked into them, which is cool, yeah?


Here. Let me just show you. Here is the sweater ...

... which I wear with this cami underneath ...

... to match this scarf ...

(You can't really tell from the pic, but it honestly does match the rest of my stuff.)

... with these boots:

And, you know, some dark wash jeans.

Seriously though, it took me like an hour to pick out just this one outfit ... which may or may not be on-trend - I'd never know. Ugh. What I need is a stylist: someone to hand me some pictures, like the ones I just posted, and be all, "Okay Rita, this goes with this and this. Go buy it."

Anyone offering classes in Remedial Dressing 101? 'Cause I'm totally in.

This Post is Probably TMI. Period.

I'm going to share a secret with you, friends.

A secret so embarrassing that I kept it from even my closest friends from fifth grade until, like, college.

A secret that could possibly blow the lid off my facade of uber-coolness and expose me for the ridiculous dork that I actually am. ( ...What? You already knew that? ... Oh.)

And, just so's you have fair warning, it's a feminine-type secret. Involving girl things. Like periods. So if you weren't down with my gray hoodie post, I suggest you click on over to something a little less ... frank.

So anyway, if you're still with me, here it is .........

....... in story form. (You actually thought I'd just tell it straight out, with no wordy explanation? Please.)


Let's go all the way back to 1990 - my fifth grade year. I looked like this:

Oh yes I did. The perm. The bangs. The brows. The Spongebob Squarepants teeth. The hot pink suspenders. Yes, my friends, I was actually that cool.

Anyway, I was proudly sporting this same fashionable look when my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Haxel, announced that we were going to watch a special film: one just for the ladies. Giggling the entire time, the fifth-grade girls were segregated into a darkened room. We watched with a combination of horror and delight as the actress who'd once played Little Orphan Annie told us of the impending changes in our bodies. How we'd soon become women.

Turns out, I took the "soon" part a bit too literally. Because when one week passed after the movie, and then another, and I still hadn't started my period, I began to freak out. What's worse, one of my friends actually did start hers within just a few days after watching the film. I thought that's what was supposed to happen. I thought that watching the movie meant that I was going to get my period, like, immediately. Why else would we have gotten the free sample of maxi-pads? 

I was usually a smart kid, but when it came to feminine matters? Notsomuch. It wasn't that my mom wouldn't have filled me in if I'd asked, but I didn't. I was far too embarrassed. And she didn't exactly volunteer the information; she was probably too busy being a single mom working two jobs and taking classes (and secretly hoping that Little Orphan Annie would tell me all I'd need to know).

I wasn't sure what was wrong with me. But what I did know is that, if I told my mom, she'd probably take me to the doctor. And the only thing more embarrassing than telling my mom would be telling my pediatrician, the man who had cured my ear infections and upset stomachs since I was a toddler.

To avoid this painfully embarrassing scenario, I figured, there was only one thing I could do: lie about it. So before my mom could confront me, demanding to know why I had watched the film and still hadn't started my period like a normal ten-year-old girl (which I just knew was going to happen any day), I barricaded myself into my bedroom with my sample pack of pads and a bottle of nail polish. It was a reddish-brown shade called Rich Russet.

See where I'm going with this?

I painstakingly dabbed a bit of nail polish in the center of each pad. I had no idea what a used maxi-pad actually looked like, but I used my imagination and dribbled the polish accordingly. When I was finished, I had a small stack of "used" pads. They would provide the "proof," at least in my mind, that would keep me from being subjected to the embarrassing truth. For the final touch, I dribbled polish into the crotch of a pair of underwear.

It was those underwear that I showed to my mom, telling her I'd started my period. Only I didn't show her show her ... it was more like a little flash. That way she couldn't examine it close enough to tell it wasn't blood, only Rich Russet nail polish. She bought me a box of pads. Success!

I fully immersed myself in the role of period-having-fifth-grader. I told my friends I'd started so that they, too, would think I was normal. And every month, like clockwork, I'd periodically (hehe, no pun intended) crumple a few nail-polished pads into the bathroom trash to perpetuate my lie.

I kept it up until the summer, when I went to visit my dad. I didn't want my mom to find my stash of painted-up pads in my closet while I was gone, so I hid them in a different location - underneath my beanbag chair, of all places. And when I came back at the end of my monthlong visit ...

... they were gone.

I was mortified. WAY too embarrassed to ask my mom about it. I knew she'd found them, but she didn't say anything and neither did I. I figured that either she had found me out, or she thought I was some dirty-pad-hoarding freakazoid. Either way, the jig was up, and my faux-period period was over.

I was actually relieved. And to finally wash my hands of the lie once and for all, I told my friends that I hadn't started after all. Although to avoid looking like a total liar, I stupidly told them that I thought I'd started ... but it was hemmorhoids. They believed me, but I got mercilessly teased well into middle school. I suppose it serves me right.

Within a year or so, I realized that I wasn't abnormal after all, and that watching the film had not meant I was supposed to start my period right away. That's lucky, because I didn't actually start my REAL period until I was - get this - fifteen. And you know what? I don't remember it. At all. I guess it's because I had already gone through enough "becoming a woman" ...

... when I was in fifth grade.  



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