A Bright Eye-dea

With the help (and I use that term loosely) of the kids, I got my Christmas decorations put away yesterday. Well, except for the tree, which is just standing in the corner of the living room, looking all naked and patchy and pitiful and shedding faux needles all over the damn place. I'm waiting for Curtis to do his itty-bitty job of stashing it somewhere until next season. But, much like the rest of the (10,226) itty-bitty jobs I've been waiting for Curtis to do around this piece, it remains on the honey-do list. Anyway, it'll be gone before New Year's Eve, because I have this weird thing about going into a new year with last year's decorations still up. I wouldn't exactly call it a superstition; it just gives me an icky feeling. Like turning to a fresh sheet of paper in a notebook, only to find someone has already written stuff all over it. I like FRESH beginnings, y'all. Not having to deal with last year's crap. Ideally, not only would I have my Christmas decor gone by New Year's, but also my house scrubbed (like spring-cleaning spotless) and immaculate.

Maybe if I were single and childless, which I am like so not.

... Which is probably also why I have zero plans for New Year's Eve. *sigh*

Does it seem like no one is reading blogs this time of year? I guess we're all too busy counting down the days until school starts again enjoying the holidays. I kinda feel like I'm talking to myself. Or addressing an empty room. I would be off the Internet enjoying the holidays, too, except for reasons I won't go into it's been a little bit (okay, a lot) of a craptastic week. Suffice it to say, when Colin woke up this morning with pinkeye in not one but both eyes (yay!), it didn't help matters.

However ...

Have you ever talked to, like, your grandma or something and just marveled at the stuff she knows? All the folk remedies, the tips and tricks, the handy knowledge that old ladies seem to amass throughout a lifetime of raising babies and taking care of households - if you've ever had the privilege of talking to a granny-type about that sort of thing, it's actually kind of mind-boggling. (My grandma grew up in the backwoods of Arkansas and I swear she'd probably be able to clean a floor with a chicken carcass and cure measles with a pair of pantyhose and a lemon slice and fix a broken window using only sawdust, lard, and a sprinkling of celery salt.)*

*I'm going somewhere with this, I promise.


Anyway, I always wanted to feel like a knowledgeable old granny, full of awesome tips that make people raise their eyebrows in surprise like, "Does that really work?!" Old ladies were at a disadvantage because they had to rely on years of life experience and word-of-mouth to learn these things. We, however, can get our "old lady" on much earlier in life thanks to the wealth of knowledge that is the Internet.

Which is how I learned one of my most favorite granny-esque tips EVER: breast milk cures pinkeye.

Oh yes it does. Really and truly.

Weird, right?

For the most part, I'm really (really, reeeeally) over nursing. I mean, Coby just turned two a couple of months ago. Considering all the struggles I've gone through (not least of all the fact that my boobs sadly resemble Stretch Armstrong), I didn't think I'd still be doing it at this point. Problem is, he still wants to nurse at rest time, a habit he flatly refuses to give up no matter what I try. (If anybody has any granny-tips on weaning, fire away!) Anyway, most of the time this kind of irritates me - but when someone wakes up with pinkeye, I'm all, "YESSSS! I have breast milk!"

I stumbled upon this cure by accident while looking up info about pinkeye, and was seriously skeptical at first. I mean, I'm by no means one of those all-natural holistic moms - I'm all about some antibiotics. But when one of my kids gets pinkeye, the others inevitably follow suit, and sometimes even Curtis and I fall prey to it, and then we have a gooey, crusty, oozy, itchy epidemic. That's a lotta prescription eye drops and doctor visits, y'all. So I figured - I've got a pretty much endless supply of milk, and it's all-natural, right? What's the harm? And I tried it.

I was totally amazed when their pinkeye started to clear up within just a couple of doses - even faster than the prescription antibiotic drops! All I do is squeeze some into a clean cup (I use the little plastic measuring cups that come on top of kids' medicine bottles), saturate the end of a cotton swab, then drip one or two drops right into each eye, using a clean swab for each kid. Do this three times a day, and voila! No more pinkeye! It's easy, free, and it works. As a bonus, they don't scream and flail around like an electrocuted octopus, because it doesn't burn. Aw, yeah. I even drop some in the eyes of whoever doesn't have pinkeye as a preventive measure - and oddly enough, it seems to keep it from spreading.

So that's what you'll find me doing today: sitting huched over a little tiny medicine cup, then chasing my kids around with milk-soaked Q-Tips. Fun times. But the best part? Someday they'll be thoroughly grossed out by the fact that I ever did this ... which just makes it even better.

Dreadful Christmas and a Stainy New Year

So ....... Christmas.

I vaguely remember writing about it last year: that temporary insanity that takes over a parent's brain during the holiday season. You know, when your kid wants something so bad, and you get these grandiose visions in your head of being the most awesome parent evah! and of their sparkly little eyes and joyful little faces and squeals of glee when they open the present. You get these visions, and they take over, throwing your common sense right out the window. Like, it doesn't even register that said present is going to stain/cause squabbles/trigger explosions. Nooooo. All you can imagine is your child's excitement, and that's enough to blind you to what happens after that.

Like when they actually get the gift, and use it, and the consequences make you want to "accidentally" pitch the thing into the trash, no matter how much you paid for it or how brand-new it is.

Let me just show you what my - er, "Santa's" - moment of insanity consisted of this year:


Yeah. The Dr. Dreadful Zombie Lab. Complete with ten bazillion different kinds of sugary powders to mix into disgusting-looking edible concoctions that turn pink and blue and green and gummy and jellylike and sticky and oh my Lord ... my carpet ......

Sorry, where was I?

Oh yes. Hang on, let me wipe my tears away.

Colin started asking for this thing months ago. The first time he saw the commercial on TV, he flipped the eff out and pretty much never stopped. Every time it would come on, he would dance around shrieking, "Mommy! Mommy! The Dr. Dreadful Zombie Lab! Look! You can eat the brains! It barfs! You can eat the skin! Mommy! Mommy! Look!" (or some equally grating variation). 

So when I started looking for his Christmas present, I didn't really entertain any other options. Because this is what he really, really wanted. And y'all know, whatever our little darlings have their precious hearts set on, that's what we strive to get. Right? So that's why, on Christmas morning, Colin found a Dr. Dreadful beside his stocking. And, just as I had fantasized about, he melted into sheer joy.

And it was awesome.

And then? We opened the box.

So was Colin's reaction worth it? Let's see:

- My sink looks like a jellyfish exploded in it
- My carpet is stained pink in no fewer than four places
- Everywhere I walk in the kitchen, my bare feet come in contact with some kind of stickiness and/or powder
- I found a quivering pink heap of jellyish substance on my bathroom floor
- There's a macabre-looking one-eyed zombie head in my dish drainer
- Curtis and I have been forced to drink/eat/slurp up a number of mixtures that, while they may taste sweet and fruity, have a stomach-churning texture that only children would fail to notice
- Colin asks to drag the thing out and make stuff no fewer than 1,267 times a day

But ... he loves it. And his face lights up into the biggest grin, missing two front teeth and all, every time he spoons into the bubbling brains, or makes the zombie barf into a cup, or gobbles up a gummy bug that he's made himself. And despite the fact that I've used up like four rolls of paper towels and a whole bottle of solution for my Swiffer in the past couple of days, his happiness makes me happy.

I'd say I'll be glad when the powders are gone and I can be like, "Well, sorry! Can't mix any more concoctions - don't have any more powders!" ... but do you know else my holiday insanity made me do?

Buy a refill pack.


Yeah.

It's going to be a looooooong few months.


Oh, (s)Nap!


What were you doing at six o'clock this morning?

I was sitting on the toilet trying to pee. I say "trying" because urination can be difficult when there's a pug nesting in your pulled-down pajama pants, a whimpering two-year-old clawing at your lap, and a six-year-old poking at his shrieking three-year-old brother with the handle of a plunger.

I just. Wanted. To PEE.


I swear I'm going to start sleeping in my kids' beds, because they must hold the secret to a fabulous night's sleep from which you awaken refreshed and revitalized. ($100 mattresses from Sam's Club ... who knew!) I can't figure out what else it could be. Seriously, every morning they bounce out of their room with so much energy you'd think they'd spent all night getting an IV-drip of caffeine. Whereas I toss and turn all night, wake up repeatedly when Curtis's alarm goes off a million freaking times starting at like 4-something. Then when it's finally time for me to (reluctantly) peel myself from between the sheets, I hobble to the bathroom (do anyone else's ankles feel stiff and sore when they wake up in the morning, or am I just old?), and only then do my eyes start to open ... but only because I get a jolt of fright from seeing my hair in the mirror. Yikes.

I'd love to know exactly what it is that makes my boys energetic enough to sword fight and pretend to be race cars and monsters and policemen and superheroes as soon as their little feet touch the floor. I guess it's because when they sleep, they sleep ... unlike me. They don't lay awake with their brains running a mile a minute, worrying about work and balancing bills with paydays. They don't sleep with one ear trained to hear the slightest cough/whine/barfing sound from the other room. They don't get up a bazillion times a night to pee (thanks, fetus) ... and even if they do, they aren't distracted by a blinking green light on their cell phone and stop to check their email - and then Facebook - at like 2 am.

I'm pretty sure I haven't gotten a solid night's sleep in the last seven years. And that's starting to take a toll on my ravishing beauty, y'all.

Most days, I have the opportunity to take a nap. Theoretically, I mean. Colin's at school, and I have the two little ones on the same nap schedule so that I've got about two hours of (sweet, valuable) "kid-free" time. So yes - technically, I could use that time to catch some ZzZzZs.

But.

Here's the thing about grown-up naps - or grown-up naps in my world, anyway - they kind of suck.

First of all, I feel guilty for even taking a nap in the first place. Because there's soooo much I really should be doing instead, while I've got a chance to do it without "help" from the boys. Laundry. Dishes. Writing. Cleaning the toilet. On the rare occasion that I get past that guilt, my nap almost always turns disappointing. Like ... my phone rings. Or people text me. And if I turn my phone off, or silence it, I inevitably miss an important call - like the school nurse's office saying, "Your kid is sick, come pick him up," or some other minor emergency. Or I'll lay there thinking for so long that by the time I actually start to nod off, one of the kids is awake - and there goes my chance.

Barring all that, on the once-or-twice-every-six-months that I do actually get an actual, sleep-filled nap, I always wake feeling like crap. I don't know if naps have the same effect on anyone else, but I can almost guarantee that I will awaken in two states: grumpy and hungry. And before I've fully come to, I've snapped someone's head off and inhaled half the contents of my fridge. Plus I always feel ... behind. Like I'm scrambling to catch up with the stuff I should have been doing instead of napping.

People tell me that when my kids get older, it'll be easier to sleep. My sisters, whose children are grown and almost-grown, can nap with the best of 'em. So that means I'll start to get some decent sleep in, oh, about .....

... twelve years. Damn.

Wonder what nearly twenty straight years of shoddy sleep will do to a person?

I guess I'll find out ...

Coupon Moron


So y'all know by now that I'm cheap ... uh, frugal. I've shared my favorite money-saving tips many times before (remember this post? Or this one? Or this one? How about this?).

You want a clear illustration of just how che - um, frugal - I am? Check this out: I recently acquired two bras. I say "acquired" because I didn't buy them ... oh no. They were hand-me-downs from my sister.

...Who got them at Walgreens.

... Like ten years ago.

I know.

Anyway, you'd think a penny-pincher such as myself would do anything, absolutely anything, to save a buck - right? But. There's one thing I just can't do.

Coupons.

I don't mean the easy-to-use type of coupons. Like if I come across one in my mailbox or something that says, "Buy one such-and-such, get one doohickey free," I'm all, "WHOOHOO! I NEED A NEW DOOHICKEY!" and run out to the store to get my free on. I love those types of coupons: straightforward, simple, un-confusing. One coupon, one discount, one happy Rita.

But anything beyond that? I'm a couponing doofus. I think it's just because I'm seriously too lazy to do the required research and legwork. You'll never find me spending hours thumbing through newspapers (I don't even subscribe) or circulars clipping anything out. I've never been able to get the hang of organizing massive stacks of coupons by product, store, or expiration date. I do not keep an inventory, mental or otherwise, of stores who honor other stores' coupons or do price-matching or whatever. I don't keep a running tally of who's got what on sale this week. Don't ask me what "double coupons" are, because I have no friggin' clue. I don't seek coupons out; they practically have to fall into my lap for me to use them.

It amazes me, the people who love to do all that. They'll be like, "I found a coat in-store for sixty percent off and waited until Sunday between 5 and 7 pm when they dropped it another 5% and used my 30% off coupon from their mailer and doubled it with a coupon code from their website and used my store points to cover the rest and I ended up getting the coat and money back!"

And I'm jealous, because we all want a new coat with money back, but inside I'm secretly thinking, "Dang. I'd rather pay for the convenience of just going in and straight-up buying the coat."

I want to be one of those ladies who has an arsenal full of groceries that I picked up for mere pennies, or an awesome wardrobe that I scored for a fraction of retail cost, or stories of the glorious family vacation we went on using only accumulated travel points and pocket lint. But when it comes to doing what it takes to become one of those ladies, my ambitions fall short.

I guess I'll just keep on being cheap in the best way I know how. Like wearing decades-old bras.

Betta the Second Time

I forgot to tell you my after-Thanksgiving story. And yeah, I know it's a smidge late for an after-Thanksgiving story (although in my defense, I didn't specify how LONG after Thanksgiving). But I was just reminded of it because I'm sitting here freezing my (fully-clothed) tuckus off like I'm blogging from an igloo in the middle of the Arctic and not from the warmth of my 72-degree kitchen. The last time I felt this cold ... well, let me just tell you the story.

We went out of state for four days over Thanksgiving. When we got back, we walked in the house and it. Was. FRIGID. I was like, "What the eff?" because even though I always lower the thermostat a little when we're gone, I don't turn it off or anything. Yet this time, the heat clearly hadn't been on in, like ... a really long time.

(Also, on an unrelated but still crappy note? There was water all over our kitchen floor because somebody hadn't closed the freezer properly and the ice had melted and leaked out all over the place. Good times!)

So anyway, I was praying the furnace hadn't taken a poop and died while we were gone. I checked the thermostat, and lucky for us, nothing was broken: it was just that someone - who totally wasn't me because I would never do such a ridiculous thing - had turned it to cool instead of heat. So the heater never came on, of course, and it was like 47 degrees up in this freezy piece.

Our poor kitties, Thurman and Ava, had been in here for all this time with no heat. Good thing they have nice warm fur coats, and access to our beds, and each other to snuggle with. But then my thoughts turned to someone who wasn't nearly so lucky: our poor little betta fish, Bluey. He looks kinda like this:


We had another Bluey before this one, but he died. Who knew it wasn't a good idea to keep a fishbowl on top of the microwave? Anyway, I digress. I raced to Bluey's bowl and sure enough, there he was, lying on his side at the bottom of the tank, unmoving, unbreathing. I dipped a finger in, and the water was downright icy. I poked him. I scooted him around the tank a little bit. But no response; he was still. Dead as a door-nail. Poor little Bluey.

So I submerged my hand in his frigid bowl and scooped him out (I'm too hardcore to use a fish net, y'all), prepared to commit his lifeless carcass to that Big Fish Bowl in the Sky. Or, you know, the sewer.

But then ... I thought I saw the tiniest flicker of a gill. So I held my breath and stared at him really hard, like I could will him back to life through the sheer power of my magic eyes. And ...

... nothing happened.

I made my way to the toilet with him.

I poised him over the bowl, ready to drop.

I said a few kind words, like "Sorry I killed you with my thermostatic ineptitude. Amen."

And then?

I saw his fin move. And then his gill. I saw it for sure this time!

And within a few seconds, there he was, flopping all around like ... well, a fish out of water! Our Bluey! Our poor, "dead" Bluey! It was like the warmth of my hand had revived him. (Either that or my total awesomeness; I like to attribute it to that.)

"He's alive!" I shrieked, running back into the kitchen where we keep him. Hurriedly, I used a cup to dip a little bit of the cold water from his bowl and added some warm to even out the temperature, then slid him in, where he swam around like he always does. Then I rushed to remedy the temperature in his regular bowl. Once I had it suitably warmed up, I returned him to his home and fed him a little bit. He ate. All was well. It was weird.

Even so, I wasn't too optimistic. I was sure that he would kick the bucket by the next morning, just due to the sheer stress of his ordeal. But here we are, two and a half weeks later, and he's still around, acting normal. It's like we never almost-froze him to death.

Truly a miracle. I'm thinking of renaming him Jesus.

... Or Zombie.

The Business of Being Boss

Yesterday my husband and I got into a friendly debate* over who's the boss around here: him or me.

*I use the term "debate" loosely because we both totally knew it was me.


He called from his office on speaker phone with one of his colleagues listening in, and said, "Hey, Todd wants to know who's the boss in our house?"

I didn't want to crush his manly visions of king-of-the-castle-ness, especially not in front of his friend. So in my sweetest voice, I just said, "Who do you think is the boss, Honey?" Which made him laugh. And everybody knew without it being said.

I'm no raging feminist. When we had Career Day in my Kindergarten class, I wore my Mary Lou Retton leotard and legwarmers (it was 1985, people) and carried my Cabbage Patch Kid: my career of choice was "aerobics instructor and mom." When I was in high school, I was smart, and my teachers encouraged me to do big things, apply for scholarships, accept internships ... but I met Curtis during my senior year, and only managed to hobble through two years of college before doing what I'd wanted to do in the first place: becoming his wife and making a home for our family. And during our relationship - even though I have shaped a freelance writing career and am actually the "aerobics instructor" I once dreamed of being (minus the leotard and legwarmers) - my primary role, at least in my own mind, has always been keeping this house in order, and everyone in it clean, healthy, and happy. (In fact, I wrote about it a couple of years ago in this post.)

BUT.

Despite what some might see as a rather archaic outlook on my domestic role, I do not - nor have I ever (not even for one tiny iota of a millisecond) - perceived my husband to be my "boss." I mean, I like to provide him with a nice clean home and a good relationship and a comfortable life - because I love him and I want him to be happy - but not because he expects it, or because it's something I "have" to do. If I'm exhausted (which happens a lot lately), you'd better damn well believe I'm going to sit on my arse and let the laundry and dishes pile up around me, and if I don't feel like cooking, well, he knows where we keep the ramen noodles.

I don't mind calling him the "head of our household." He deserves that title. He works very hard, is the primary breadwinner, and certainly plays a part in making major decisions for the family. But I've never heard my philosophy explained better than by a line in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where the mother says, "The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. She can turn the head any way she wants."

So true, y'all. So true.

Last night, though, while thinking about it further, I realized something: we can debate it until the cows come home, but I'm not really the boss. And neither is Curtis. We may make the financial decisions and keep this joint running smoothly, but there's no doubt who truly runs the place.

The kids.

Sure, we set the ground rules: no snacking before dinner. Bedtime at eight. Use an "inside voice." Don't forget to put the toilet seat down. And speaking of toilets, only certain things go in there. But it's borderline amazing when you think about the vast amount of restructuring and accommodating we, and every other parent, do for our rug-rats.

We have to wake up when they wake up, and can't go to bed until they're asleep. We cook with what they'll eat in mind, and we eat when they're hungry. We have to provide them with clean laundry and a decent meal, no matter how tired we are. Our hobbies and entertainment have to wait until they don't need anything. Every aspect of our lives is structured around their naptimes, their appointments, their preferences, their schedules, their extracurricular activities. They often dictate down to the smallest detail, like when we go to the bathroom - because if you've ever left a small child unoccupied for a few minutes while you take care of bidness, you know that bad things can happen.

So the debate can rage on. You can argue with your significant other all you want about who wears the pants in the family. But when it comes right down to it, the one who wears the pants is the one who wears the diapers.

... Or, you know, the little printed undies.



PS - I'm getting ready to have a GIVEAWAY, y'all! Anybody who likes scrapbooking is gonna love this: a MyMemories Digital Scrapbooking Suite! Just in time to get all those embarrassing holiday photos together.

My Chocolate Inspires Me ... to Eat More.


Last night, on a whim, I bought a bag of (holiday edition, snowflake-shaped) dark chocolate candies. My intention is to stash them in my cabinet and pop a heaping handful one in my mouth every time a craving hits. (Although if we're being honest - I'll probably end up eating most of the bag in one sitting at some point when I'm really bored. Or stressed. Or tired. Or celebrating. I'm an equal-opportunity pigger-outer, y'all.)

They're nice-quality chocolates. Not the cheap waxy kind that I give my kids because they don't know the difference. They're very tasty. I would purchase them again.

EXCEPT.

They're wrapped in this foil that contains ... inspirational messages on the inside. And they drive. Me. CRAZY. I try not to read them, but it's like cracking open a fortune cookie and not reading your fortune: virtually impossible.

I have nothing against uplifting words or good advice or whatever. But the way these are presented makes me feel like I've landed in the middle of a douche commercial. They're so ... foofoo. Here are a few examples:

Joy to ... you.

Promise yourself a peaceful moment this holiday season.


Make "the season to be jolly" last all year long.


The best holiday decoration is a smile.


Feel the promise of a warm day.


... And so on. In my head I picture them being read by a soft and breathy female voice, while a woman in a fluffy sweater stares out a window into a snowy wonderland while taking a little-bitty bite out of her piece of chocolate (like anybody does that) and then closes her eyes to savor said little-bitty bite with a self-indulgent smile. Thinking about her girly chocolate and her fresh-as-the-snow vagina. You know?

It makes me want to shovel like three pieces into my mouth and chew with it wide open. And then burp without saying "excuse me."

I can't pinpoint exactly why these bug the ever-living crap out of me. Whatever it is, it's along the lines of the way I feel about soap operas (ridiculous), romance novels (cringe-worthy), and any chick-flick involving love stories (predictable and tedious). It's like ... borderline insulting. Like, don't talk to me "that way" just because I'm a woman; some women don't fit that stereotype. I would respond better, take these to heart more, if the same basic messages were phrased in the following straightforward ways:

Don't be a bitch.


It's okay to lock yourself in the closet for some peace and quiet as long as you're not there for over fifteen minutes.


'Tis the season to be jolly, but that doesn't mean you can be a bitch for the rest of the year.


If you smile, no one will notice that your tree looks like crap because the cat won't stay out of it.


Just find a heat lamp and pretend you're in the Caribbean.


And a commercial for this kind of candy would involve an average mom, hunched over a piece of candy trying to open the wrapper as stealthily as possible so shrieks of, "I want one!" and "Can I have a bite?" won't interrupt her mission which is to get the chocolate down her gullet as soon as possible because OMG, she can't wait until the kids go to bed, she has to have it right this minute!

Because to me? That's more realistic. More applicable.

Besides, I don't even own a fluffy sweater.


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