Feed Me!

I never claimed to have mad computer skillz, y'all. All those seem to have gone to my geeky older brother who's an I.T. guy (and who, speaking of geeky, just requested from the barber that his hair be cut into a mullet. On purpose). So all this blog stuff has been trial-and-error for me, right from the start. Usually, though, even when something is difficult I can muddle through it and figure it out eventually.

But one of the biggest issues I've grappled with has been my blog feed. Now, before blogging, I thought "a feed" was when I attacked an all-you-can-eat buffet with my game face on. Apparently, though, a blog feed is necessary if you want people to be able to subscribe. So like a good little blogger, I went to Feedburner and made myself one.

Except ... I had zero subscribers. ZEE. RO. Even when I was getting new followers, my feed subscriptions stayed at a big fat nothing. So I concluded that there must be something wrong with it. And I changed it. And I changed it again.

Finally, after the latest tweak, I had the brilliant idea of subscribing to it myself. That way, if it came to my inbox, I'd know that the feed was working. And lo and behold - I started getting The Frump, right in my email! And then, what do you know: I suddenly had five whole subscribers. My Feedburner feed was working! Yay! *jazz hands*

But here's where the situation gets sticky. Apparently, I can't leave well enough alone, and I still thought that maybe something wasn't kosher with my feed. I mean, five subscribers? Really? So the other day, when I read a post over at Our Mommyhood about setting up Feedburner, I got all excited about the advice. "This must be the problem!" I thought, as I eagerly inserted my Feedburner address into the "Post Feed Redirect URL" box in my Blogger settings (while completely ignoring - and then stupidly erasing - whatever address was already there. D'oh!).

I know. This is boring stuff, right? You guys are probably dropping like flies out there. But bear with me.

After that, I wrote a post. And got, like, one or two comments. And then the next day I wrote another post. And got, like, one or two comments. And so on. I started to feel like I must be really lame, and it caused me to eat a dangerous amount of pie. From, you know, anxiety. Like why-does-no-one-like-me-all-of-a-sudden-and-is-my-stuff-really-that-lame anxiety.

Then last night, on my Facebook page, the incredibly awesome Johi mentioned that my blog updates weren't showing up in her blogroll. That's when I put two and two together, and figured out it must have something to do with my "feed tweaking." And I was all, "OMG! This means I'm not lame after all! Lalalalalaaaaa!!"

But then I was all, "Damn. This sucks." Because ... I don't know how to fix it. So there are possibly legions of people out there who have no idea I'm blogging, and they're wondering why the silence. They probably think I'm just busy being awesome, but really, nothing could be further from the truth.

So anyway. Does anyone have any ideas for me? I need some technical help. And possibly some psychological help, but that can come later.

... If anyone sees this post, that is. *sniff, sniff*

Procrastinators Unite ... Tomorrow

Right this minute, the baby is eating his big brother's soggy leftover cereal ... with his fingers. Last night's dinner dishes are still piled in the sink, because the dishwasher needs to be unloaded and there's no friggin' way I'm doing the dishes by hand (what?? That's why I have a dishwasher!). There are bits of papery onion skin scattered across the kitchen floor; I guess that's what I get for storing the onions within the reach of little fingers. And thanks to the dog, there are also three chewed-up tampons - clean ones, thank the Lord - that need to be picked up. Not to mention the bucketfuls of crumbs that seem to have materialized out of nowhere. I need to vacuum, but - oh! - I can't. Because, also thanks to the dog, my vacuum cord has been chewed. Completely. Through.

(And I love that vacuum, y'all. I even wrote a poem to it once.)

There's a load of laundry that needs to be put in the washer. But there's a load already in the washer that needs to be put in the dryer. But there's a load already in the dryer that needs to be put in the laundry basket. But there's a load already in the basket that needs to be folded and put away.

I've also got a work deadline: a whole website worth of copy to revamp, with keyword optimization. It's a thought-provoking process, but it's really hard to think when there's a toddler trying to pick my nose and a three-year-old asking me repeatedly, "What is this mess?" (he's referring to the shredded tampons, which opens up a whole new can of worms). I need an office ... but that would probably be a mess, too.

It sounds like all I'm working on is some sort of award for Mad Procrastination Skillz. Is there such a thing? Because I am totally in the running. Although I do stop my grueling process of procrastination every so often for a slice of pie (that I have almost singlehandedly devoured within the last two days).

I guess I'll have some time to get things done when the kids go down for their nap. Oh wait - no I won't. Because Colin's out of school an hour and fifteen minutes early today, which cuts squarely into naptime.

I think I'll have some more pie.

Second-Rate Sharing

So by now you've probably heard the uproar about the controversial book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. It's been talked about everywhere (here are two examples, at Momversation and The New Yorker). Basically, in a nutshell, it talks about how Chinese mothers raise more disciplined children than Western mothers because they're much more strict. I mean ... there's a lot more to it, but I haven't read the book myself, so I don't exactly feel qualified to give y'all a complete review or anything.

But anyway. I digress.

I may not be able to give you a review of Amy Chua's book, but I like to think I know a little bit about Chinese mothers. True, the extent of my Chinese upbringing was eating almond chicken and egg drop soup at a little place called Hunan's. But I have read almost everything ever written by the wonderful author Amy Tan - one of my favorites (and I'm a total book whore, so that's saying a lot) - whose primary topic is Chinese mothers and their relationships to their children. I've always been fascinated by the differences in their households ... and there are lots. However, it isn't the strictness that has always stuck out to me. Nope. It's something completely different.

There's a scene in one of Amy Tan's books, The Joy Luck Club , in which there are a few Chinese families eating crabs together. And when the mother picks out the crabs for her family, she chooses the best for her kids before choosing a less-desirable crab for herself.

Um, what?

I don't know about y'all, but when I'm sharing any type of food with my kids, I get all stingy and keep the best for myself. I mean ... they don't know any better, right? At least not at this point. I didn't even think about this too much until the other day when I was on Facebook, and my friend Kate mentioned that she was eating blueberries. She said she was doling out the smaller, more sour ones to her kids and keeping the nice big fatties for herself. And I was all, "I totally do that!"

With me, it's not just confined to blueberries. No matter what I'm eating, if I'm sharing it with my kids? You can bet they're getting the second-rate stuff. That extra-cheesy piece of lasagna? It's going on my plate - they only eat the noodles anyway. That morsel of chicken with the weird little dark streak running through it? Here, baby, do you want this bite? They'd never notice it, whereas I would be kinda creeped out by eating it. So you'd better believe that if I were picking out a crab, the hierarchy would be different: the best one for me, and then maybe the next-best for them.

The way I see it, they're lucky I'm sharing anyway. Because I'm serious about my food, y'all. Maybe that's not the most motherly way to be, but I can't help it. I did give Cameron a gorgeous, perfect pickle yesterday even though I wanted to eat it myself ... baby steps, right?

What about you? Do you share your food with your kids - and when you do, do you give them the best or save it for yourself? 

I Feel Like an Apathetic Piece of Poo

I'm thinking about volunteering. Or something. Do you ever feel like you're not really doing anything? I mean, I have a few freelance writing jobs (one of which I should actually be working on right this minute instead of blogging ... oops) and of course I'm always knee deep in some sort of heinous child-or-household-related mess. I fill up the minutes, to be sure, and even feel most of the time like there aren't enough minutes in the day.

But ... minutes to do what? Wipe butts? Fold laundry? It's all so unfulfilling. I may get a fleeting sense of satisfaction when I've vacuumed up the crumbs or gotten the kids down for a nap at the same time, but it's temporary. And the effects of every. single. thing I do only seem temporary, at best. There's no lasting contribution. People will read my magazine articles and throw them away in favor of next month's issue. The laundry will be dirty just as quickly as I put it in the damn drawer. And those crumbs? They'll be back, like, by the time I return the vacuum cleaner to the closet.

Over the weekend I went to my mom's, and we looked through some of my grandfather's writings. Charles Francis Collier - "Grandpa" to me - was a remarkable man with an extraordinary life ... and that's an understatement. Born in 1898, he was a veteran of World War I.

(And yes ... he was my grandfather, my mother's father ... not my great-grandfather; he was fifty or better when my mom was born. When I told my seventh-grade English teacher that my Grandpa was born in 1898, he argued with me and told me there was absolutely no way, that it had to be my great-grandpa. Can you tell I'm still bitter?)

Anyway. This is him: my Grandpa Collier.

When he was 90 (nine-ty!) years old, he wrote the following:

This is an anniversary of sorts; important to no one but me.

On this night in 1918 the 77th Field Artillery had just finished a forced march of approximately 33 hours to reach our assigned position on the battle line at St. Mihiel, France.

We had marched night and day, beginning at twilight through the first night, on through the day and through to the second night until about 3 or 4 a.m. when we camped for a few hours' rest.

I spent the rest of that night lying on a brush pile in the steady rainfall for which France is famous. At daylight, we were called to place our guns and begin the task of carrying ammunition to supply them. By nightfall we were ready to fire our first shots of the Battle of St. Mihiel.

At midnight the command to commence firing sounded, and the only proper expression I can think of to describe the sound is "all hell broke loose." Hundreds of guns, from the little to the big, and long-range cannons thundered as one and continued through the night.

Here in the quiet of our family room with no sound but the labored pound of my two-fingered typing, the sound of that experience of seventy years ago seems like a dream.

The description is impossible. I can only say, "Thank you, God" for all the years to this day, and for the love of family and friends that makes this night possible.

-Charles F. Collier

And I read that, and all of his other first-person accounts, these amazing life experiences that he so carefully and vividly documented, and I just felt ... so lame. This is a man who marched across Europe beside his horse, so as not to tire it (during a war, to boot), and it still dropped dead from exhaustion. And I? Get irritated about having to scoop out the cats' litter box, because it's, like, all the way downstairs. Later in his life, he championed for civil rights; I didn't even help out with my son's Kindergarten Valentine's Day party. He owned two businesses, despite having only a fifth-grade education; I dropped out of college.

I know my grandfather would be proud of me. He doted on me, and would love me regardless of my apathy. But the point is, I'm not especially proud of myself. I need to do something more meaningful, make more of a contribution. I'm not sure what, but I know it involves more than dropping a few bucks in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas or donating my old clothes to Goodwill. It's not going to be monetary ... it's going to be more hands-on.

Do you volunteer? If so, what do you do ... and do you love it? If not ... do you feel like you should?

RIP Flips

If you're like me, there are things you buy and only end up wearing, like, one time before you decide they make you look fat/stupid/fat and stupid. And on the flip side, if you're like me, there are things you buy and wear over. And over. And over. And over. And over. Like, everysingleday, or until your husband is all, "Um, is that a hole?" and you're like, "No it's just a tiny spot where the fabric is wearing thin now go away!!" and then secretly sob in your closet because you know that it is indeed a hole and that means the end is near.

... No? Just me then?


Anyway, if you've been around the Frump for a while, you probably know how I become insanely attached to certain items of clothing and/or footwear. The ones that have become like a second skin, and make up for all the never-worn purchases. Case in point: my beloved pants who met their holey fate last April. Let's have a moment of silence .............................*

*Picture me staring dramatically into the distance as a single tear leaves a glistening path on my cheek. That's how much I loved those pants, y'all.

Today I'm mourning the heart-wrenching loss of another wardrobe favorite, once the feature of a "'Stuff I Like' Sunday" post, where I freely sang their praises with nary a prompt from the Nike people. That's right: I've lost my flip-flops. ← Seriously, click here and read about them, because they were the most awesome flips EVAH.

They're the shoes that trekked back and forth to the bar across the beaches of Cancun on an awesome vacation. The shoes that fit my football-feet and sausage-toes when I was ten hundred months pregnant and couldn't wear anything else. The shoes that protected my bare feet from dog-poop landmines while I wore them to mow. The shoes that I wore so often that I sported a heinous flip-flop tan - but I, like, didn't even care because I loved them so much. The shoes that I wore even though it was getting cold out because hello, convenient slip-ons!

But all that's over now. Thanks to my ever-loving bitch dog Josie, my sweet sole-mates look like this:

Need I mention that this is the second pair of shoes she has chewed up in three days?

Need I mention that the first pair was a pair of adorable wedges I just bought and had only worn once?

Damn dog.

Anyway, the loss of the wedges was infuriating, but the loss of the flip-flops ... well, obviously, I'm beside myself with grief. I've been trolling the Internet for a new pair because they must be replaced, like instantly. I can't seem to find them as easily as I found the first pair - I don't know if Nike is (gasp!) phasing them out or what. But I'm determined. 

Nothing's gonna stop me from sporting another flip-flop tan this summer. Not even the dog. 


But What About the Crapper?

Colin came home from school yesterday excitedly spouting information he'd learned about George Washington. It brought back memories of all the influential people I learned about throughout my own school years. All the essays I had to write about presidents and Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony and Eli Whitney and Thomas Edison and the like.

Look, I know these people made critically important contributions to our society and the world. I don't dispute that today's slacking youngsters need to learn about - and take some cues from - these historic movers and shakers (and pull their pants up while they're at it). But thinking about it yesterday, I realized that there are contributions of EPIC proportions that we don't even acknowledge, especially not in school. Contributions which, darn it, deserve at least a nod.

Like the toilet.

I don't know about you, but I enjoy not having to soil myself. I kinda dig the fact that I'm not pooping in a hole somewhere and wiping with a leaf. I like that I don't have to squat in the dirt, hoping I don't pee on my jeans. I don't have to venture outside - in, for example, the seventeen inches of snow we just got a couple weeks ago - to do my bidness in the subzero freeze or the blistering summer heat. And it's nice that when I'm done, I can flush it all away to some magical land far from my house, instead of having to carry my little chamber pot outside and dump it into a public waterway.

I mean ... isn't that pretty awesome? Instead of all that, I can settle down onto my comfy padded toilet seat with a good book and read until my legs fall asleep.*

*In my dreams, of course. In reality, I haven't pooped outside the presence of my children in like five and a half years. 

I'm gonna take this a step further by proposing that because of our modern toilet, other great ideas have come about. Since we don't have to worry about squatting or freezing or wiping with leaves, we can sit and think on the toilet. (Well, those of us who aren't distracted by "Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?" and random items sliding under the door.) Who knows what inspiration comes to great minds while they're "occupied?" I'm willing to bet that the lady who wrote the Twilight series thought about it at least part of the time while she was taking a dump, and look at it now: a veritable empire that has, I'm sure, made her a millionare many times over.

Anyway, my point is this: I get that we need to teach our children about the Abraham Lincolns and the Mahatma Gandhis of the world. I agree. But the historic and life-changing contributions made by people like Sir John Harington and Thomas Crapper (yes. "John" and "Crapper." Seriously), who helped shape the modern toilet as we know it, totally deserve a shoutout.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go pay homage.


Did I inspire you to learn more? Or do you just have some time to kill (perhaps while you're on the toilet)? There's a pretty interesting article on the subject here. Now don't forget to flush.

V.D.: More Than Just Venereal Disease

Valentine's Day makes me kinda sick, y'all. I realize I'm lucky to have someone to spend it with and all that, but I grow a little (okay, a lot) weary of the endless bragging that goes on. You know what I mean. Those people who are all, "My wonderful husband surprised me with diamond earrings and ten pounds of imported Swiss chocolate and a getaway to Cabo. Too bad we can't take my new car that I found parked in the driveway this morning with a giant ribbon around it and a dozen roses in the front seat. Gosh, I'm married to my best friend!"

If I stayed off Facebook for a few hours days I could avoid all that, but I guess I'm a glutton for punishment.

Maybe I'm just jealous because I don't happen to be married to one of those romantic types. Curtis did write me a poem once (in 2008, which for the record was THREE FREAKING YEARS AGO), but it compared my hair to poop so ... yeah. Not sure it exactly fits into the "romance" category. We are going out to a nice dinner tonight, but only because we have a gift certificate.

Still, I know my husband loves me. How? Because he shows me. He doesn't need grand gestures or special holidays to let me know how much he values our relationship. Allow me to give you a few examples:

- If he farts while we're in the car and I'm like, "OMG, seriously, you've got to stop that or I'm going to throw up and I mean it," he holds it in until we get home.

- He reads my blog faithfully, every day, and gripes at me incessantly if I haven't updated it.

- He puts the toilet seat down (even if he doesn't replenish the T.P.).

- He doesn't say anything when I don't shave for like a month a week.

- He has seen pretty much everything come out of pretty much every orifice in my body (use your imagination) and still wants to kiss me.

I don't need him to hire a skywriter, or broadcast it on the radio, or spend half his salary on something from the jewelry store ... as long as he keeps loving me like this:

Although, Honey? Some chocolate never hurts. Just sayin'.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

P.S. - I'm totally stoked and honored to be featured on Dumb Mom's BList (V-Day Edition) over at parenting BY dummies today! Go check it out!

Book-Order Blues

Every month, Colin brings home a Scholastic book order form from school, and we pick out a few books to order. If there's one thing I would grossly overspend on, it's books - my kids have an overflowing shelf full of them. But I love to read ... and I've shared my enthusiasm for it with the boys since they were, like, in utero. So consequently they love books, too, and get (almost) as excited as I do when a new book order comes home.

Just a few minutes ago, I was browsing this month's order form, making our selections (Colin said as long as he got the 3D book about woolly mammoths he's been jonesing for, I could choose the rest). The descriptions of each story sounded so cute - things like, "Oh, no! Has Duck fallen into the soup? Hilarious friendship story!" and, "A priceless museum - does that mean it's free? Funny wordplay will have the whole family laughing!" A smile came to my face as I skimmed the page, picturing my boys grinning and laughing at the stories, colorful characters leaping off the covers of titles like Please Say Please! and Hooray for Reading Day!

And then I came across this: the "Animal Stories" Pack.

 ... And the clouds gathered.

Seriously? They may as well have called this the "Wipe That Smile Off Your Damn Face" Pack. I'm almost positive the author's name is a typo - because I'm sure they meant to credit it to Debbie Downer. I need an antidepressant just from reading the titles: Alfie All Alone; Sky the Unwanted Kitten; Max the Missing Puppy; Harry the Homeless Puppy; Sam the Stolen Puppy; and Lost in the Snow. Personally I think they need a few more in there for maximum killjoy quality. How about Reggie the Rhino Meets the Poachers and Lilly the Bulimic Llama?

5 Things I Hate About Snow Days

Yesterday was my oldest son's first-ever snow day ... and today is his second. And despite such minimal experience with weather-induced school cancellations, I have come to one pretty definitive conclusion: nothing, and I mean nothing, makes me feel like a terrible mother more than a snow day does. Here's why ...

#1: Laziness. There's just something about, oh, three-foot drifts of snow and mass-everything-closings that makes you want to stay in your pajamas. This was confirmed via Facebook, where the majority of my friends' status updates involved movies and hot chocolate. Which, of course, doesn't help - because hello, if everybody else is doing nothing, why shouldn't we? Consequently, I didn't do anything productive yesterday ... not even while the kids were napping. I didn't even shower. The house? A wreck. The laundry? Piled up (in the washer, the dryer, AND the basket). I did scoop a few turds from the cat box, but only to keep my house from smelling like it looked (i.e., like crap). Lazy, lazy, lazy ... which brings us to the #2 reason why snow days make me feel like a bad mom ...

#2: Lack of nutrition. Okay, so I may not be a paragon of dietary completeness, but I try. I serve vegetables with at least two meals a day, my kids snack on stuff like fruit and cheese and yogurt, and I rarely keep soda or Kool-Aid around. But on a snow day? It's like all that goes out the window, along with everything else. I have this ridiculous urge to bake - which is part of the reason why I made muffins for breakfast yesterday. And yes, they were carrot-apple-raisin muffins, but y'all? That's only because I had those things on hand. I guarantee you if I'd had a cake mix, some chocolate chips, or anything else junky like that ... we'd have had those things for breakfast instead. For lunch, I made my boys some overly-processed Kid Cuisines and didn't even care that they only ate the fish sticks, the mac & cheese, and the gummy worms and totally ignored the corn. And for supper, we ordered pizza. (Only we didn't have it delivered, because having a delivery driver venture out in the weather is kind of an asshole-ish thing to do.) And speaking of assholes and laziness, the two combine to make #3 ...

#3: Playing in the snow. When I was little, I loved playing in the snow. It was a wonderful part of my childhood which is why I feel totally obligated to let my boys play in the snow, even though I absolutely positively 100% despise doing it now (which is where the "asshole" part comes in, because that's what I feel like for being such a grump about it). If somebody else would get them ready beforehand? I'd be more willing. But yesterday, when my neighbor texted and asked if my boys wanted to play outside with her daughter, Curtis was still at work - so it was on me to get them all ready. And for snow like this, there's no throwing on a coat and boots and calling it good: you've got to layer. So I essentially dressed all three of my boys, three times. A layer of pajamas, a layer of heavier clothes, two pairs of socks - and then all the outerwear. But it's not like they can be stuffed into all that clothing without complaining. Ohhh no. These sleeeeeeeeeves are too short! Don't tuck my pants into my sooooooocks! There's a taaaaaag itching me! I want pants like Coliiiiiiiin's! I need to peeeeeeeee! I don't LIKE all these layerrrrrrrrs! And the biggest annoyance: Where is my (fill-in-the-blank)? Which is why it took me nearly half an hour to get everyone dressed, and brings us to #4 ...

#4: General unpreparedness. We live in Iowa. I expect rough winter weather. So naturally, my kids are equipped with hats, mittens, snow boots, and all the other appropriate gear. ... Until we really need it, that is. Because yesterday? A large proportion of those things had mysteriously disappeared. Between the three of them, I was able to find one pair of snow boots, two hats, and one pair of gloves (which I almost didn't locate until I searched the floorboard of the car). I'd be willing to bet that their remaining stuff either got dragged off somewhere to be chewed up by the dog, or are buried in the bottom of the toybox somewhere. Thank goodness for my neighbor, who just happened to have two extra pairs of mittens. So what if they were pink? So are frostbitten fingers ... and I'd rather my boys wear the former. The only thing that sucked about the mittens was that Coby snotted all over his borrowed pair, which means I have to wash them before I return them. And that, my friends, brings us to #5 ...

#5: Laundry. Laundry. Laundry. If you read #1, you know that the laundry situation in this house is already at crisis level. Now to that? Add this:

Yes, that is from yesterday. And yes, it is still piled up by the front door. And yes, it will probably remain that way for a while.

What, didn't you read the rest of the post? It's a snow day.

This, That, and Possibly Even the Other

Hey, are you looking for me?

Yeah ... I'm over here. Yeah. Right under this snowdrift. See that finger poking out and waving? Mm-hm. That's me.

Okay, so I might possibly be exaggerating, but not by much - I swear. Here's what our driveway looked like this morning (after our SUPER-AWESOME snowplow-having neighbor cleared it off for us):

And if you think that's bad, check out this picture that Curtis just texted me from his work:


Naturally, when you get near-record amounts of snowfall overnight, school is cancelled. So I decided to be a dutiful Mommy and make some muffins, from scratch, for breakfast. I used an awesome all-purpose "Create Your Own Muffin" recipe (which you can find here - I didn't want to take up this entire post with the recipe, but trust me, it's soooo worth checking out). I made mine carrot-apple-raisin ... yum.

When you're making muffins, though, you have to pay attention so you don't put in the wrong amount of baking soda or forget to put in the sugar altogether and then it's really salty and weird and when you taste it you're all, "OMGWTF?"*

*This may or may not have happened to me ... more than once. 

Anyway, when you pay attention to muffins, and not as much attention to the three little heathens boys running amok in the house, bad things happen.

Like three spots of something blue and sticky - I still can't figure out what - on the hallway carpet.

Or the baby gnawing happily ... on a dog toy.

Or Cameron drinking out of a little plastic gun he'd filled with water ... from the toilet.

Or Colin making his "broken leg" a cast ... out of baby wipes.

All these distractions did nothing to bolster the cleanliness of the house, which already looks like vandals went through it. (With high-powered fans. And crumbled-up crackers. And muddy shoes.) Then at breakfast, the dudes plowed through their muffins, leaving enough crumbs to feed a colony of birds for the winter.

But seriously, y'all? Trying to keep the house clean when three little hoodlums boys are running through it all day is like trying to shovel your driveway when it's snowing so hard you can't even see: pointless.

Muffins, anyone?


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