A Hot Mess

My husband Curtis likes things spicy in the bedroom.

... And in the kitchen. And the living room. And the bathroom. And every-flippin'-where else in this house.

Let me explain.

The other day, someone he works with brought him a huge bag of extra-hot habanero peppers. Curtis is renowned at work for his love of all things tongue-blistering hot ever since he won a hot pepper-eating contest there. So people are constantly bringing him hot sauces and salsas and different varieties of peppers to see if he can stand the heat.

Anyway, last night I made this Mexican chicken and rice concoction for dinner, and Curtis was all, "This would be perfect with some of my habaneros!" So he sliced up two or three of them. But rather than eat them raw, he decided to toss them into the skillet for a couple minutes - seeds and all.

As I was standing there dishing up the kids' dinner, I heard the baby start coughing on his little play mat in the living room. I mean really coughing.

"What's wrong with Corbin?" I asked, alarmed.

"I'll get him," Curtis said. When he brought Corbin into the kitchen, he was red-faced and spluttering.

"What the ...?" I muttered, soothing him.

And then Curtis started to sneeze.

And then my throat started feeling really itchy, and I started coughing too. And the more I coughed, the more I couldn't stop coughing.

And then Colin and Cameron and Coby ran into the kitchen from their bedrooms in the back of the house, also coughing. "My throat!" Colin cried in a raspy voice between hacks.

"It's the peppers!" I exclaimed. My eyes were watering and my nose was running in a stream. Snot was pooling above my lip and I ran to pass out tissues. "Oh my gawd, open the windows! Turn on the exhaust fan!"

Sneeze, sneeze, snort, sniffle, cough cough cough. It was horrible. Everyone was afflicted; even the dogs were sneezing. And I was petrified that somebody was going to throw up from all the coughing.

"It's like you pepper-sprayed the entire household!" I gasped accusingly.

"Make it stooooop!" whined the kids, running in circles.

There wasn't a single room in our house with decent air. Everywhere we went, the horrible pepper-fumes assaulted our lungs and eyes and noses.

Poor Curtis looked so helpless and pitiful, rinsing out his skillet of peppers with his eyes watering, stopping to sneeze every so often. It wasn't like he'd meant to pepper-spray his wife and children.

The irritating air hung around in the house for a good half-hour despite our best efforts to ventilate the place. The kids refused to eat. Finally, it was time for me to teach my Zumba class at the gym and Curtis took the boys to the playground to get them out of the house. And when we got home, the air was normal again.

Adding spice to your life is not such a bad thing. Unless you do it literally with some hot-ass peppers.

He's lucky I love him.

Whatcha So Frumpy For?

Disco pants! Real sea monkeys! Super excited Sumo wrestler!

Sadly, that is not a description of my typical Saturday nights (although wouldn't that be epic?!). Those are actual search terms by which people have found my blog. Yeah - apparently you type those phrases (or "big pubes" or "be kind like Jesus" or "constipated gorilla") into a search engine and bam, you find yourself here at The Frump. Amazing.

As you know if you've read this post or this one, I'm rather a fan of going through search terms. I don't do it for informational purposes, like to optimize my keyword density or whatever the hell people actually use that information for. Nope, I just read them and LOL.*

*I would LMAO except that's literally impossible.

Anyway, one of the most popular terms that gets people to my blog is "why do moms dress so frumpy?" or a slight variation of that question.

If your kids need this shirt, you've probably come to the right place.

It seems that people just don't get why motherhood sometimes sucks the fashion sense right out of you. So for those of you brought here by curiosity about the unfortunate frumpitude of we motherly types, allow me to enlighten you.

Why are moms frumpy? Why, indeed?

Maybe it's because from the time our children are born, they incessantly divert money directly from our personal wardrobe funds. Especially when they get older and it's time for school clothes and they're outgrowing stuff and ripping new jeans and wearing holes in new shoes faster than we can say "are you effing kidding me?!"

Or perhaps it's because there's some unwritten law which states that every time we put on a nice shirt or a decent pair of slacks, someone spits or snots or wipes crumbs or sticky fingers all over us and we end up looking like a hot mess despite our efforts to put on nice clothing.

Maybe it's due to the fact that it is much, much easier to chase after a toddler in Nikes (or in my case, Walmart sneakers) than in Louboutins (or in my case, Payless heels).

It could possibly be because we are trying to oversee the feeding, dressing, readying and shuttling off to school of multiple dawdling, generally unhelpful children in the morning and barely even have time to put on a bra.

We may also attribute our frumpiness to the fact that we're a little out of the loop when it comes to the latest fashions, seeing as our TVs are always tuned to children's programming and the only magazines we have time to read consist of articles like, "Seven Smart Solutions for Solving Sibling Squabbles."

Maybe we're too exhausted to care if we look sexy and attractive all the time. Because after getting three hours of sleep due to a sick child (or a poor sleeper, or a kid in our beds kicking and elbowing us all night long) and then taking care of everyone's every need all day long and adhering to a schedule while chauffeuring people around like a taxi service and planning/executing/cleaning up from dinner and making sure the house doesn't look like a tornado went through it and that the laundry pile isn't becoming a hazard, the only thing we can think about at the end of the day is OMG MY BED. 

And finally, when your post-baby belly looks like someone strapped bread dough to your midsection, and your metabolism has slowed to a crawl and those leftover chicken nuggets you scarfed down didn't burn off like they were supposed to, some of the trends just don't look all that cute.

So there you have it. Just a few of the reasons why we moms may not always resemble the smokin' hotties we were before being blessed with our bouncing bundles of joy. Yes - it's important not to let ourselves go, but when we do, at least we have a legit reason. I hope that answers your question.

But for those of you who came here by searching "I like to look at my own crotch" ... you're on your own.

You Can Prevent Pantslessness!

This beauty is my grandma, Elsie Mae Collier.

She was the type of lady I've always fallen short of being: refined, classy, fashionable, perpetually pulled-together. She was from an era where your outfit wasn't complete without stockings and heels. She always wore lipstick. Her nails were always filed into perfect ovals. In fact, she was a onetime beauty queen. But even more than that, she had grit. She got a college degree and had a career in a time when most women hoped only to marry a wealthy man. She carried on after tragically losing both of her sons within six months of each other. She loved my grandfather for sixty-five years.

One of my last memories of her life is of my grandpa, shuffling as fast as he could down the hallway of the nursing home, trying to catch her. "I don't know where Elsie is," he told my mom and I worriedly, "but here are her pants."

We laughed at the time, because the laughter helps you to deal with the sad reality that this really happened. This once-vibrant, capable, sharp-witted woman - who once would never have left the house without lipstick and jewelry - was now wandering the halls of a nursing home with no pants on.

Her dignity was just one of the many things that Alzheimer's Disease stole from her. And I watched it all unfold, a heartbreaking end to a beautiful life.

It started when Grandma suddenly forgot how to use her washing machine - the same one she'd been using for years. She called my mom at work, frantic. From there, it got progressively worse: once, she tried to reheat a bucket of fast-food chicken on the stovetop, setting the kitchen on fire. My mom, her only surviving child, was always on the edge, fraught with worry, checking on her parents incessantly. Finally there was no escaping the fact that they just couldn't live on their own any longer.

Once in a nursing home, Grandma's sad decline seemed to speed up. She forgot who we were most of the time. She sometimes treated my grandpa - the man she'd been married to for six and a half decades - like she didn't know him at all. She had horrible nightmares and hallucinations, and was scared all the time. Every face became a stranger. And gradually, as her brain gave up its memories one by one, it also forgot its most basic instincts: to tell her body to breathe, her heart to beat.

Alzheimer's took more than her dignity. It took her personality, her sense of safety. It took her life.

I can't help but think that she was once a woman just like you and me. A mother, a lover, busy living and working. And then it all eroded away into a horrifying oblivion.

I saw how my mother struggled to care for her mother, how she worried and fretted and still had to helplessly stand by because there was no good treatment option. And now, my mother is getting older. So far she's still the same Mom I've always known, but Alzheimer's is hereditary. Will she get it? Will I?

My cousin Samantha is raising money for the Alzheimer's Association in honor of her grandmother, Mary Ancell, whose life was also cruelly ended by this horrible disease - and in honor of her mother, Judy, who cared tirelessly for Mary until her own tragic and unexpected death this past January. This is obviously a cause that's near and dear to my heart, for so many reasons. Sam's goal is to raise $300 by October 7th; at the time of this post, she's at $65.

We need your help. Please.

If you click on this link, it'll take to you Samantha's official fundraising page. On the right side of the page, you'll see a "Donate" button. If everyone who reads my blog donates just one dollar, we would far surpass our goal. If you've got a dollar (or five or ten or fifty!) to spare, please consider tossing it in this virtual hat I'm passing around. Do it for the millions suffering from the ravaging effects of Alzheimer's Disease - and for the caregivers who love them. Every cent will help the Alzheimer's Association in funding research and support, so that maybe - someday - no one will ever have to watch their parent or grandparent suffer through this horrible disease. Or, heaven forbid, go through it themselves.

Also, my sister Michelle has partnered with Sam to offer a special deal on Tupperware at this link. If you buy some Tupperware, 40% of the proceeds go toward Sam's cause. Woohooo! Tupperware and altruism - what a rad combo.

Again: here's the link to Sam's Alzheimer's Association Fundraising Page. If you've got a minute and a dollar, you can help us out.

It'll give you a dose of good karma. But also? This could possibly save me from someday wandering the halls with no pants on, y'all.

Do it. Please!

Homewrecking Heathens

I used to write special blog posts in honor of my kids' birthdays, but now that I'm officially The Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe (minus, like, the shoe part) I've been slipping up: I mean, who can keep up with all these kids? Coby turned three this past Friday, and there was no special post to be found. But in all fairness, it was because we spent the weekend out of state at our parents' houses. Which was kind of a fiasco at times, and thank goodness they love us or they'd probably forbid us from ever coming over again. "Hi Mom, can we crash at your place this weekend? ... Oh, you'll be busy dusting under your couch?"

Catastrophic event #1 took place at my mother-in-law's. The day dawned beautifully, and after breakfast, we all went outside to sit on her back deck while the kids played in the yard. The boys, of course, were immediately drawn to a shiny blue gazing ball that was snazzying-up the landscape. Kind of like this one:

The dudes were all, "Wow, Nana, what's this?" and Nana was all, "Oh, that's my very special decoration. It means a lot to me because it was a gift from one of my dearest friends, and now she's passed away, so I remember her whenever I look at it."

And within about five minutes? Nana's very special decoration was very accidentally lying in shards on the grass. It couldn't have been, like, a plastic lawn gnome she picked up at the Dollar Tree, oh noooo ... it had to be the precious gift from a dearly departed friend. Ugh.

Fast-forward a few hours, and we were spending the night at my mom's. At bedtime, I realized I had left the Pull-Ups at my mother-in-law's. Both Cameron and Coby wear them at night; Cameron as a precaution because he wets the bed like once a month, and Coby because even though he can stay dry during the day, he has yet to master staying dry every night. But they're both pretty good at staying pee-free; most mornings their Pull-Ups are dry, so I figured this one night would be fine, as long as they both peed right before they went to bed.

Lesson #4,599: never assume.

They both peed like effing racehorses. Like I'd given them each a jug of water to guzzle before tucking them in. Cameron was on my mom's air mattress; Coby was on my mom's bed. So there were two sets of soiled sheets to wash, two sets of pajamas, two times the stress.

The next night we were at my mom's again: this time with Pull-Ups. We all settled into the freshly washed sheets and went to sleep, secure in the knowledge that no one would pee on the nice clean bedding. But in the morning, when we woke up?

There was blood all. Over. The. Sheets.

Our lovely Lab, Josie, had conveniently gone into heat while sleeping at the foot of my mother's bed.


Did I mention my mom's bedroom looks pretty much like this?

Her bedding is white. It's pristine. And now, it's bloodstained. I scrubbed it the best I could with stain remover (bare hands on dog blood OMG), so I hope it miraculously came out and became pure and white and lovely again. I'm kind of afraid to call and be like, "Sooooo, how's that pretty white bedspread?"

I've gotta say, though, both of the moms were surprisingly un-ruffled by the disastrous messes brought about by our company. Thank goodness, because no matter how old you get, I'm truly convinced that you never outgrow the fear of your mom getting all pissed off when you mess up her stuff.

On the drive home, I tried to console myself with some Corn Nuts.

I had absolutely zero intention of sharing. But when you eat Corn Nuts, the entire tri-state area knows because they smell so ... I don't know, corny? So I purposely waited until all the kids were asleep before opening the bag.

Me: "Are you guys awake?"
Boys: silence
Me, a bit louder: "Boys? You awake?"
Boys: silence
Me: "Sweet, they're all asleep."
*opening Corn Nuts*
*crunch crunch crunch*
Colin: "Mommy? What's that smell?"
Cameron: "What are you guys eating?"
Coby: "Can I taste? Can I taste?"
Me: "Nobody's eating anything. It must have been that Hardee's we just passed. Go back to sleep."
*quietly reseals bag*

(Funny story ... the reason we were craving Corn Nuts in the first place is because on the ride there, Curtis and I kept thinking we smelled them. We were all, "What is that smell? Oh my gosh, Corn Nuts! Something smells like Corn Nuts! We should have stopped to get some. Those sound soooo good." And it was only later that we realized the Corn Nuts smell - which we had been eagerly inhaling into our nostrils - was actually dog fart. YUM.)

So yeah. It was an eventful trip; you've gotta love traveling with kids. But next time we do, I'm bringing rubber sheets, industrial-strength stain remover, and a bottle of superglue.

Because you just never know.

Routine, Schmoutine

I have my morning routine down to a science. Wake up before everybody else, slap on some mascara and concealer, brush my hair, and put on a bra so I don't frighten anyone to death, get breakfast ready, locate clothes for four children - which are in various places including (but not limited to) the dryer, the laundry basket, the closet, the drawers, the floor. Locate everyone's shoes, which are supposed to be in the closet but are only actually there about 50% of the time. While the kids are squabbling at the table eating breakfast, unload the clean dishes from the dishwasher, then tend to my downstairs chores: scoop the litter box, feed and water the animal menagerie, start laundry. Then it's back upstairs to oversee dressing and help tie shoes. Then into the bathroom to comb everyone's hair, brush teeth, wipe breakfast off faces with mom spit a baby wipe, what-have-you. Make Colin's lunch, write him a cute note to tuck into his lunch box, and make sure everyone has their various papers and folders signed and homework completed and accounted for and that every last single thing is stuffed into backpacks.

And then I usher everyone out the door. Strap everyone into seats, make sure everyone is buckled. That alone can take five minutes.

I have four children. I should know better than to not allow myself much extra time for mishaps. But you know how hard it is to deviate from a schedule once you get everything usually running like clockwork.

So this morning everything was going as usual. The kids were eating their cereal, and I was sifting cat turds, when I heard a bellow from upstairs: "Corbin's pooping!"

Now in case you didn't know, Corbin is my three-month-old. Who, last I'd checked, was quite peaceful in  the living room, bouncing in his Jumperoo. So what if he was pooping? Babies poop. So I'd change him. Big whoop.

"So?" I called upstairs.

"It's getting all over the floor!" Colin yelled.

What the ... ? How?

I abandoned the litter box and rushed upstairs to find this:

This probably would have been slightly less disgusting in black and white. Sorry.


This was one of those moments that forces you to freeze in your tracks and take in the enormity of the situation (I've had those moments before). My brain felt fuzzy because for one, it was morning, and secondly, this did not compute: it wasn't part of the morning routine. Nevertheless, it had to be dealt with. So I fetched a towel (as if I didn't have enough laundry to do), gingerly lifted him out of the seat and laid him on it, and resolved the problem.

When the worst was over and I was cleaning up the last of the mess, setting me back like ten extra minutes, I realized that I heard water running full-blast in the bathroom. Scanning the room, I realized that the only child unaccounted for was Cameron, my four-year-old. And when Cameron is unaccounted for, bad things happen.

So I went into the bathroom. Soap suds were mounded in the sink, threatening to overflow; Cameron was dripping wet from his upper arms to his fingers (including the shirt which I had just put on him); and there was a sodden stuffed Elmo lying pitifully on the counter (the same Elmo that I ran through the washing machine, yet again, just yesterday. I should have thrown him in the trash when I had the chance).

"I gave Elmo a good bath," Cameron said guiltily. "He was filthy."

I was so behind schedule that I hadn't yet instructed the kids to clear their breakfast dishes off the table. Because, though they do it every single day after breakfast, I still have to remind them the majority of the time. So our weak-stomached cat Thurman, The Breakfast Bandit, took the opportunity to jump onto the table and clean out the abandoned bowls of soggy raisin bran ... and then barf. In like two places.

Despite all that, I managed to get everyone out the door almost on time. Until I realized my freaking car keys were missing. I never lose my keys. They're always in the same place, where the kids can't reach. Luckily, I keep a spare set. Thank goodness I could find those, because I still can't find my regular keys. Ugh.

It's been one of those days, and it's not even 9 a.m.

Can I just go back to bed?

A Giant Problem

Apparently I have quite the knack for single-handedly dashing my children's fantasies to bits. I can be such an unthinking moron sometimes, for real.

Let me explain.

Colin loves to read. And he got a new book the other day ... The Secret History of Giants by Professor Ari Berk.

It's a pretty cool book, and it reads like a truly fact-based historical book rather than a mythical story. Which is a problem for a seven-year-old who still believes that such creatures were possible.

That kind of thing is exactly what bugs me about dinosaurs. And knights. Even though such things actually existed, they're implanted into various fantastic stories, so the line between them and other such creatures - like giants and dragons and stuff - is blurred. It just feels weird to say, "Dragons aren't real, but dinosaurs were." And then there are unicorns, which look just like horses with horns and therefore more realistic than some of the prehistoric creatures that actually were real. And then there are dwarves, a.k.a. "little people," not to be confused with the magical, mythical dwarves that, like, lived with Snow White. It's enough to baffle me, let alone a kid.

So anyway, Colin was reading this book and I could tell he believed that it was factual information. So I said, "Colin ... you do know that giants aren't real, right?"

He looked at me blankly.

"They're just made-up. They're part of a group of mythical creatures like gnomes, elves, fairies ..."

Colin looked at me, wide-eyed. "You mean the Tooth Fairy isn't real?"

OMFG. Way to go, Rita. Way. To. Go.

"Well - " I stammered. "Some ... some fairies are, um, real. Hey, look at that!" and then I pointed at some random thing to take the focus off the conversation at hand. It worked, but I have the feeling that the next time he loses a tooth, he's going to be all, "But Mom, you said fairies aren't real!" And then from there, the fabric of his childish beliefs will slowly unravel. Pretty soon he's going to be questioning the validity of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. All because I wouldn't let him mistakenly believe that giants were real.

Mother of the Year right here, y'all.

I'm Kinda Socially Inappropriate

I try to be a lady. Really and truly I do. Unfortunately, my natural tendencies don't always allow me to be the polite, refined, leg-crossing, pearl-wearing paragon of femininity I fantasize about being. For one, I value my lounge-y pants too much. Secondly, I cuss ... and it literally just slips out sometimes. Like a fart. Which brings us to my number three hindrance to being ladylike: I think farts are funny.

Apparently ladies don't find farts amusing.

Ladies probably don't act the way I did at the gym last night, either.

See, I teach Zumba on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. And right before my Zumba class is a nice little circuit-training class. It's a half-hour series of toning exercises, during which we use weights and those big bouncy exercise balls and these big stretchy rubber resistance bands and stuff.

Before each exercise, our instructor explains how to do it. And that explanation is typically prefaced by the name of the exercise: Monkey Jacks. Mountain Climbers. Adductor Raise. Lateral-something-or-other. It's usually nothing to laugh about.

But last night? He said, "This next one is called the Ball Squeeze."

Y'all. He said the ball squeeze.

You have to remember that I live in a houseful of dudes (who are naked at least half of the time). I see more testicle-gripping than a urologist. So when I hear "ball squeeze," my mind automatically goes ... well, you know, south.

And I started laughing.

I tried not to. Seriously. I tried so hard. But you know how when you try not to laugh, it only makes you want to laugh harder? Yeah: that was me. Standing there with my lips clamped together, trying to stem the tide of hilarity that was bubbling dangerously up from inside, convulsing with laughter. At first it was silent. Then little snorts and snickers involuntarily escaped my nose. My eyes were welling up with tears. I couldn't help it.

So then people were looking at me. And a couple of them started laughing, too ... which made it worse. Now the tears were actually streaming down my face. I finally had to turn away and get a drink of my water in order to get myself under control.

I'm pretty sure a lady wouldn't dissolve into uncontrollable laughter over the phrase "ball squeeze."

... Which makes me pretty sure I'm not a lady.

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