Slacky Christmas and an Anticlimactic New Year

My favorite part about the holiday season is the spirit of giving.

... Okay, it's the family togetherness.

... Okay, it's the decorations.

... Okay, okay, I admit it! It's the yummy treats! The cookies! The dips! The candy! The trays of delectable goodies that my awesome neighbors bring over (from three different houses this year)! Remember my holiday diet? And the competition that my brother and my husband and I were having to see who could lose the most weight? Well - I won (duh!), losing ten pounds between Thanksgiving and the week before Christmas.

But the other day I weighed.

AND I GAINED BACK THE ENTIRE FREAKING TEN POUNDS.

IN LIKE ONE WEEK.

And that made me depressed so naturally I remedied it with some ice cream. And some pizza. And some spray whipped cream straight from the can. And my couch and my pajamas.

*sigh*

Anyway, despite the disheartening numbers on the scale (which I will start working on come January, like 99% of everyone else), I had a great Christmas. My brother was here, and I haven't gotten to celebrate Christmas with him in a few years, so that was awesome. Almost as awesome as his face in this picture.

Mr. "Nobody-Wants-a-Mug" didn't seem overly thrilled about receiving a sweet pair of men's Pajama Jeans, either.

As always, it was fun to see the kids so excited. We don't buy our kids a lot of stuff, so they're always super-thrilled about every little thing they get on Christmas.

Thrift store copy of Captain Underpants: 99 cents. The way Cameron is eyeing it: priceless.

My holiday took a turn for the better - or for the worse, depending on how you look at it - when Colin got Sim City 4 for his computer.


He was so stoked. Clearly. But when he started playing, it was a little too involved and complex for him and he got kind of bored. You have to, like, provide your city with transportation and electricity and water and manage your government and problem-solve and I think he just wanted to build stuff. So I thought, what the heck? I'll give it a try. And I installed it on my laptop.

Y'all? I pretty much spent like three days straight in a Sim City 4-induced blur. Things crumbled around me as I played. My kids ate Doritos for breakfast. My clean laundry mildewed in the washer. Nobody wore pants. And things like this happened:


Yes. That is a mattress propped up against my couch. And yes. That blurry streak is Cameron somersaulting down it. This, of course, was taken right before they got the brilliant idea to slide down said mattress in an empty laundry basket.

Yes. I let good and responsible parenting/housekeeping/personal hygiene slide because I was gaming. So sue me. The kids had a good time. But you know it's bad when your husband - who normally seems impervious to clutter and housework in general - starts casting pointed glances at you as he loads the dishwasher and wipes down the counters.*

*On second thought, perhaps I should completely zone out more often.

Anyway, now it's the last day of the year, which kind of floors me because I like just got used to writing "2013." Tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999, which was the year I was nineteen. Which means I'm going to put on a cute outfit with a push-up bra and drink a lot and dance a lot and experiment with various drugs and stay out until I see the sun.

Hahahaha! I can barely type that with a straight face. Everybody knows I'm going to party like I'm thirty-three. Which means I'm going to eat a bunch of snacks "since my diet starts tomorrow" and fall asleep on the couch trying to stay up until midnight to watch the televised coverage of the ball dropping in Times Square.

Bringing it in with a bang, y'all.


Ugly Mug

I'm the kind of shopper you'll find scrambling through the store on Christmas Eve, frantically combing the picked-over merchandise for the perfect last-minute gift (and typically settling on something totally lame and cheesy, like a pair of socks. And then wrapping them like this).

This year, on Christmas Eve-eve, I found myself with only one more present to buy: something for my mom. At the beginning of the holiday season, I had grandiose visions of buying her this pair of pricey mini-chandeliers she wants. Then I realized that would be expensive and, hey, I've got tons of kids to buy for. So I thought I'd just give her one chandelier. But then the month wore on, and I still hadn't bought it. Then I ended up missing a week of work due to being sick and, therefore, missing a week's paycheck. That left me kicking myself two days before Christmas, wishing I'd put a little more effort into it.

My brother Steve, who my sister swears is Mom's favorite, came up here to spend Christmas with us. And he brought her a Keurig - you know, one of those fancy-schmancy one-cup coffee makers? Yeah. I resigned myself to the fact that, financially, I wouldn't be able to top that ... and the award for the best gift would have to go to my brother this year.

So I thought that maybe since she had the Keurig now, I'd get her a special mug to drink her coffee out of. I had visions of finding her the perfect cup - maybe something in her favorite colors with a nice design. I pictured her smiling as she filled it with coffee from her Keurig, thinking fondly of her children every time she raised it to her lips.

But standing behind me in the aisle at Walmart, my brother popped that bubble. "A mug?" he scoffed loudly.

"What's wrong with a mug?"

I had asked for a simple answer, but ended up getting a tirade. "Seriously? A mug? Nobody wants a mug!" Steve railed, waving his hands. "I've gotten mugs as gifts before. They're so generic. Like ties. Trust me ... NOBODY wants a mug."

It was this surprisingly impassioned anti-mug rant that led me to buy something else for Mom's Christmas present. It is also the reason why, as soon as we got home, I let Steve open his Christmas present early.

"Oh my God ... it's a mug, isn't it?"




He asserted that since it was shaped like a toilet, it was okay.

... For a mug.


Vom-a-Rama


First it was our neighbors. Then it was our other neighbors. Then it was my mom.

Do you have any Pepto? I'm, she texted. (Mom has yet to master the whole texting phenomenon.) But I didn't need the rest of the text to understand: she was sick with a stomach virus. And she was just at my house for, like, the whole weekend. Between her and the rest of the neighborhood, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it would only be a matter of time before the yucky germ infested someone else. Someone close to home. But I chose to be optimistic. "We're all healthy!" I said out loud (and overly enthusiastically) to no one in particular, as though simply sending the words out into the atmosphere would make it true.

You have to understand my aversion to vomit. It's not just that it grosses me out - on top of that, it gives me, like, a panic attack. At the first sign of a gag, or even an "I-think-I'm-gonna-barf" face, my heart starts racing and I literally feel fear. You can imagine how I feel when a stomach virus sweeps through the house. But as a mom, I have no choice; these things must be dealt with, and dads are great at dramatically pretending they can't handle it.

My mom wanted sweet tea, so I made a pitcher and dropped it off at her house, trying to talk without breathing too deeply as she told me about how she'd thrown up all night long. When I got back into the car, where I'd made the kids wait, Colin was like, "My stomach hurts."

"You're fine!" I chirped. "Just fine!" Lord please just let it be that he's hungry or he has to poop or something.

We got home. I was making dinner. Colin was laying on the couch watching TV. And then:

"Mommy!" he whimpered. "I accidentally threw up on the couch."

Dude.

Most moms are kind and patient and sympathetic when their kids are puking, right? My own mom used to rub my back as I heaved into the toilet. But I'm not like that. Call me a terrible parent, call me callous and insensitive, but I can't deal - especially when I know that the puker in question is well old enough to make it to the toilet.

Sure enough, "I accidentally threw up on the couch" was an understatement. He may as well have said, "The lasagna I had for lunch only half-digested and is now splattered on the seat, back, arm, between the cushions, dripping off my chin and forearms, all over the comforter I dragged off the bed, and oh yeah, on these two pillows."

"Colin!" I shrieked. "You know that when you throw up you have to get to the toilet!"

"I tried," the poor guy said weakly. "I'm sorry, Mommy."

But "sorry" doesn't clean up the couch and wash the comforter. I put Colin in the shower and set about cleaning and disinfecting. (And yes, later I told him I felt bad that he's sick and rubbed his back. But NOT while he was barfing.)

So now it's official. The stomach virus is in the house. It's only a matter of time. I'm preparing for it the way someone might prepare for a major snowstorm or, you know, an apocalypse. Laundering all the bedding and towels, stocking up on medicine and clear fluids, gathering up my antibacterial cleaning products, spraying everything with disinfectant, washing my hands until my knuckles are raw.

And as if on cue, I just glanced at Coby, who was standing very still in the kitchen. When I asked if he was feeling okay he said, "Yeah. Well, sort of okay. My stomach is kind of hurtable."

Break out the sanitizer. I think we're in for it.

POST-SCRIPT: I'm writing this two days later because I couldn't get out of bed to post the original. Just as I thought, Coby was the next to come down with the ick. And as I lay there awake in bed that night, listening for the first sign of a cough or gurgle from the other rooms, I started to shiver. Then I started to feel nauseated. I willed it away, but no matter how hard I wished, by morning it had hit me like a truck. Let me tell you: nothing is more SUPER AWESOME than changing diarrhea diapers and watching other people vomit while you're trying to hold it all back yourself.

Not only that, but while I was sick, the kids got better. So they took full advantage of my convalescence and ran amok, as largely unsupervised little boys tend to do. Which is why every single room in my house pretty much looks like this, or worse:

Note the vacuum sitting there ... as if somebody's gonna use it. Haha.

Yesterday I mustered all the strength I could gather, peeled myself out of bed, and disinfected every knob, handle, remote, and toilet in the house. Cameron and Curtis still haven't gotten the virus - plus my brother is coming this weekend - so I'm trying to get a handle on it before anyone else falls victim. My hands are as dry as freaking sandpaper, but at least my toilets are sanitized.

Today I'm dressed. I look normal. I'm not throwing up. But I still feel like I have either a.) morning sickness or b.) a massive hangover. Neither of which are fun when you've got a massive housecleaning to undertake and four children to threaten care for.

At least maybe I lost a few pounds ...


20 Gifts You Won't Find Under the Tree



I'm not gonna lie: if somebody were to slip, say, a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer or a zombie-themed, well, anything under my tree, I'd be a pretty merry Mommy. But sometimes the best things you can get aren't actually things. There are plenty of little gifts that life sometimes gives us ... things you could never wrap up in a box, but that are AWESOME just the same. (You've gotta find joy in the simple things, right?) Here, in no particular order, are a few that I appreciate.

1. Those times when you ask your kids what they want to eat and they're just like, "Cereal!"
2. When your kid actually lets you wipe his nose/clip his nails/wash his hair without putting up a fight
3. Skinny days
4. When someone takes a photo of you at exactly the right angle and you look great. Bonus points if they tag you in it on Facebook.
5. Snagging a great parking spot. Especially if it's cold. Extra-especially if it's busy.
6. Finding money. Any amount. Anywhere. The bottom of your purse, the back of your drawer, an old coat pocket ...
7. Seeing a photo of a celebrity who didn't magically lose their baby weight within half an hour of giving birth.
8. Hearing, "Let's just order a pizza."
9. When someone else buys your lunch. Especially if you didn't know beforehand that they were buying, and you didn't even try to be frugal when you ordered.
10. When your kid takes an extra-long nap.
11. When someone cancels plans you wish you didn't have to begin with.
12. Doing something exactly right on the first try. Bonus points if it's something from Pinterest.
13. When it's not your kid throwing the tantrum at the grocery store/restaurant/church.
14. When there actually is something good on TV.
15. Going to the grocery store by yourself.
16. The feeling of taking off your shoes/bra/other constrictive garments at the end of the day.
17. Running into someone you know when you actually do look decent (not like this past Saturday when I went to the eye doctor fresh from the shower with zero makeup on and my hair pulled back into a bun and happened to run into my kids' pediatrician who happens to be sort of cute)
18. Going to the bathroom alone. Bonus points if no one knocks and/or shoves things underneath the door.
19. Hitting all the green lights.
20. When you say "no" and it isn't followed by "But whyyyyy?" or "Pleeeeeeease?" or an incessant repetition of the question or some sort of tantrum.

... Oh wait. #20 doesn't really happen.

Well anyway. You get my point. Sometimes there are moments when life tosses you a little break - and it's just like a present. Minus the wrapping paper that you feel guilty for not recycling.

Snot: a Problem

'Tis the season!

No, I'm not talking about the holidays. Although 'tis that season too. No, what I'm talking about is far less enjoyable.

Snot, y'all.


All my kids, it seems, have almost-perpetually snotty noses this time of year. It's disgusting. We go through tissues like someone is eating them.*

*Okay, so Cameron may actually be eating them ... but you know what I mean. 

But despite the mass consumption of Kleenex, I feel like I still deal with an inordinately large amount of mucus around this piece. When the kids were all little, I had to worry about them wiping their noses on me. I had snot smears on every single garment I ever attempted to wear within five minutes of putting it on.

Now, though, I'm in an extra-special position. Because having an eight-year-old, a five-year-old, a four-year-old, and an eighteen-month-old, I have all kinds of different booger disposal methods to deal with: it's not just wiping noses on Mommy's pants and/or shoulders any more.

Take, for example, my eight-year-old. He's obviously old enough to know better than to wipe his snot on me; he's evidently not old enough, however, to remember to use a tissue every single time. Because he has this habit of running his snotty nose along the length of his sleeve, as though he couldn't possibly take the time out of tinkering with his computer or playing with his LEGOs or tormenting his brothers to actually go and get a Kleenex and use that. His sleeves are always streaked with vague dry smears of white. Blecch.

Then there's my five-year-old, who is apparently just as busy as his older brother - because instead of fetching a tissue, he just uses the handy built-in utensil I like to call HIS TONGUE. Blecch. Got a pesky blob of green goo streaming from your nose? No biggie - just a couple of licks and it's gone. This, however, creates a different problem: a horribly chapped, red, scaly area that not only encompasses his upper lip but the skin under his nose. So he walks around looking like he's sporting one hell of a Kool-Aid mustache unless I slather it with heavy-duty moisturizer three or four times a day. During which he screams "My liiiiiiips!" like someone is trying to murder him and I yell, "Then use a Kleenex and stop licking them!" Over. And over. And over. It's like ... it never actually sinks in.

When this isn't happening, you can find him at any given time with a finger wedged firmly in his nostril. Who knows: maybe he's trying to plug it so it won't run. Or maybe he's trying to touch his brain.

Either way, I just hope he outgrows all this before he tries to, you know, get a girlfriend.

And my four-year-old. He doesn't eat his boogers, thank goodness, but that's only because he seems horrified by snot in general. When his nose starts to run, he starts to scream - and doesn't stop until I've had a heart attack and rushed over to see if he's bleeding. "My nooooooose!" he bellows, in a tone that would usually be reserved for someone trying to snatch it off his face.

He is perfectly capable of reaching the tissues. He is perfectly capable of wiping his own nose (and he's learning to blow, unlike the time he shoved a popcorn kernel up there). I'm not sure what the deal is, but a runny nose renders him temporarily helpless. And more than slightly annoying.

Most of the time, I don't wish the years away. I try to take the advice of all the wise mothers who came before me, who tell me, "It goes so fast. They'll be grown up before you know it." BUT. When it comes to everyone controlling their own bodily functions - properly - I'm pretty sure I'm willing to hit the fast-forward button on that one.


PS - Don't forget to enter the giveaway for an awesome pair of Jax In-Ear Headphones from SOL REPUBLIC! Winner will be announced tomorrow and your odds are GREAT at this point! Just click on the "Giveaways & Reviews" tab at the top of the page!

Holi-diet


I'm dieting, which is probably the stupidest thing a person can attempt at this time of year. Ugh.

Normally I have a strict no-diet policy. I try to make decent food choices as often as I can (which is how I lost over 100 pounds), but when it comes right down to it - I'm a foodie, y'all. Cooking and serving and eating makes my heart happy.

Unfortunately, it also makes my thighs huge and my ass wobbly and my stomach floppy and my chin double. (Yet has zero effect on my boobs, which is a ridiculous level of unfair.) I do teach Zumba three times a week, but when you love buffets and baking, it takes more than three hours of Zumba to keep those extra pounds at bay. So I find them creeping up. And my clothes start to fit snugly. And ain't nobody got time for that.

Anyway, I'm dieting now because my brother Steve and Curtis (the husband) and I entered into a friendly competition to see who can lose the most weight between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And by "friendly" I mean "I'm gonna win at all costs, suckas." Did I mention I can be overly a little competitive? I'm at an automatic disadvantage to start out with because men lose weight faster (the jerks). Yesterday, for example, Curtis went to the grocery store - and came back with three fresh pizzas from their deli.

"What the -!" I exclaimed. "What about our diet?"

"I've lost ten pounds," he shrugged, mumbling through a gooey mouthful of pizza.

WTF.

Meanwhile I'm feeling guilty about the 230-calorie yogurt I had for breakfast (but seriously, have you tried Chobani Flips? This is totally not a sponsored post - I wish! - but I ADORE those things. The Key Lime Crumble and Almond Coco Loco are out of this world). And he's scarfing down pizza like Weight Watchers is paying him to eat it.

It's a horrible time of year to diet because everywhere I go, there are cookies hitting me in the face. Not literally (although that would be kind of awesome), but you know what I mean. I open up a magazine: hot tips for holiday decorating, look great at your company party, CHRISTMAS COOKIIIIEEEEES. I see a sign advertising a holiday festival: fun and games for the kids, free photos with Santa, CHRISTMAS COOKIIIIEEEEEES. My boys bring home a list of holiday traditions they came up with for an assignment at school: trimming the tree, reading Christmas books, CHRISTMAS COOKIIIIIEEEEES.

And there's the aisles at every store. Overflowing with treats. My Facebook feed, where everybody is posting recipes for various holiday hors d'oeuvres involving cream cheese and/or bacon and/or crescent rolls and/or those little bitty fattening sausages. I don't even dare go near Pinterest.

All this is combined with my (unfortunate) instinctive urge to practically live in the kitchen this time of year. As soon as the cold weather hits, I'm in there cooking up hearty soups - you want a good recipe, click here or here - and baking bread and whipping up comfort foods and did somebody say dessert? CHRISTMAS COOKIES MAYBE?!?

So yeah. I've been struggling a little bit lately. I'll be glad to get a few of these pounds off, and if I win the competition I'll certainly enjoy the bragging rights, but man. Of all the times to try and do it. Why can't I just hibernate?

Speaking of winning - I've got an awesome giveaway going on right now! Somebody's gonna win a pair of spectacular Jax In-Ear Headphones from SOL REPUBLIC! Click on the "Giveaways & Reviews" tab to check it out.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll go back to trying not to think about Christmas cookies.

... Damn it.


Crappy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy this photo of pumpkin pie. I don't even like pumpkin pie. Which reminds me - have you linked up to my "Fifty Things" post with your own yet? Hmmmm?

If you're an American, you've probably been salivating over the thought of Thanksgiving dinner for, like, weeks now. You may even dream about it. You're probably going over and over the menu in your head and washing up your best huge T-shirt and yoga pants and willing the time to just hurry up so you can pig out already!*

*Or that may just be me.

Anyway, I'm thankful for a lot of stuff, this and every year. The usual: my family, my home, my health, and everything that everybody who has that stuff is thankful for. But also for other things: days when I don't feel bloated, good traffic flow in the school drop-off lane, frozen hot chocolates from Dairy Queen. Oh, and farts that don't stink when you accidentally let them rip in a crowd. Don't pretend that doesn't happen to you ... or that you aren't secretly relieved when it does.

I've been blessed to have experienced a bunch of really good Thanksgivings in my lifetime. But today I want to tell you a funny story of the one Thanksgiving that was less-than-stellar.

One of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving, when I lived at home, was waking up to the smell of turkey. My mom would get up at the crack of dawn (in the same way I do now, carrying on the tradition of stumbling bleary-eyed into the kitchen and hoping for enough coherency to properly start the bird) and put the turkey in the oven, and by the time I got out of bed, the house would smell like deliciousness. I'd make my way into the living room and turn on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and just inhale the turkey aroma like a fiend. Bliss.

But the morning of my tenth Thanksgiving, I opened my eyes and immediately noticed that something was wrong. I didn't smell turkey. The house was quiet.

I went into my mom's room. There she was, still in bed. My mom literally NEVER slept in, so this came as a total shock.

Then I noticed the trash can beside her bed. The tepid glass of water on the nightstand. The rumpled Kleenexes. She was sick.

"Mom?" I whispered. "What's wrong?"

"Arggghrbrrbbbrr," she mumbled, and heaved miserably into the wastebasket.

It was just Mom and I living in our small apartment.  My parents had just gotten divorced, and my siblings were all old enough to have moved out of the house. But our extended family was close, and we were expecting tons of people over for Thanksgiving dinner. I felt vaguely responsible for saving the day, but couldn't fry an egg, let alone cook a turkey - so I did what any kid would do. I called Grandma.

"Don't worry!" Grandma said confidently. "Aunt Eve and I will be right over to take care of things!"

In what seemed like a really long time, probably because they drove fifteen miles per hour, my Grandma and my great-aunt Eva showed up. They were both - well, old. They shuffled around the kitchen, banging pots and pans, trying to locate things, in an old-lady hurry to get the turkey put into the oven. By the time they got it in, it was like ten o'clock. Much later than it normally would have been put in the oven. But at least it was in.

People started to filter into the house at about eleven. My poor mother was sequestered in the back room as the family gathered for the Thanksgiving feast. Side dishes started to fill the counter. Within a couple of hours, everything was starting to get unappealingly cold as we waited on the turkey to finish roasting.

Only there was one problem. "Grandma, why don't I smell turkey?" I asked.

A muttered consensus rippled throughout the room. Yes, shouldn't we be smelling it by now? What's the deal?

When roasting a turkey, you have to get several things right: the right pan. The right seasonings. And? You have to turn the oven on.  A small detail, yet arguably the most important, that the old ladies had overlooked.

Yep, we had a raw turkey in a cold oven.

Thank goodness KFC was open on Thanksgiving. We ended up with a couple of buckets of fried chicken and some Thanksgiving side dishes that had been sitting out, like, all day. My mom ended up having to go to the emergency room. And the turkey? I think it got thrown away. We didn't all want to end up with food poisoning.

Here's to having a great Thanksgiving for all those who are celebrating! Don't forget to turn your oven on!

PS - Hungry for another heaping helping of turkey-day goodness? Check out this Thanksgiving throwback ... a poem I wrote about the things I'm thankful for. If you're a parent, you will relate!

Parade of Fools

Mommy-guilt is a funny thing. It can kick into overdrive at a moment's notice - while browsing Pinterest for crafts that you know you should be doing but don't, while observing other parents who seem to have endless oceans of patience to tap into, during trips to the doctor's office where you realize you failed to schedule your kid's last well-child appointment (oops).

My latest source of guilt was our town's annual holiday parade. I didn't want to go. I mean - it was supposed to be less than twenty degrees outside. Less than twenty degrees, people. But then that little voice kicked in: this is a tradition. The kids would love it. Going to the parade every year is something they'll always remember. If you were a good mom, you'd suck it up and go.

And because I'm nothing if not well-meaning, we went. Colin, being the only intelligent one in the family, opted to stay home with my mom - along with the baby, who we forced to stay home because, well, he's a baby. Babies never come in handy at parades.

I learned my lesson at the parade a few years ago: if you want to go, you'd better be prepared. So I was. I put the kids in snowsuits. SNOWSUITS!  I brought a blanket! I made hot cocoa - real cocoa, not even from a mix! Triumphantly, we packed all this crap in the car and headed downtown. I figured as much planning ahead as I'd done, and with only two kids instead of four, this was going to be a cinch.

It didn't take long for my optimism to start going downhill - about 2.5 seconds after we got out of the car, to be precise. Because y'all? It was cold. Like, finger-and-toe-numbing, nose-running, eye-watering cold. A really good mom would have sacrificed tradition for the sake of keeping her kids from getting pneumonia, my inner voice nagged. But we were there. And we were as bundled as we could be.

While we were walking from our parking place to the parade route, a gust of wind came up. And Cameron shrieked, as though someone were stabbing him, "MY APPLE!!!"

Let me explain. You know that cocoa I made? The kids wanted to drink it out of their plastic apples. They're these cheap lightweight things we bought at a fall festival about a month ago:


And now Cameron's was rolling down the road in the middle of traffic. And he was standing there bawling at the top of his lungs (did I mention Cameron has an extra-loud voice?) so that people were probably thinking we were either abusing or kidnapping him.

So Curtis did what any fool loving dad would do: he chased the stupid apple into oncoming traffic. He wasn't hit (thank goodness) and he got the apple, so that crisis was averted.

We got to the parade route and chose our spot. There were still a few minutes until the parade began, so we were just standing around freezing to death  listening to the kids whine  people-watching. And then a guy came by with blue cotton candy for sale.

"Heeeey, cotton candy!" he bellowed as he walked past. Which struck me as kind of a weird thing to say, but it obviously was effective because right away the boys were all, "Weee-eee-eee want cotton candy! Pleeeeeease?"

So Curtis did what any sucker loving dad would do: he paid like $2.50 apiece for some cotton candy.

Only, y'all? Cotton candy is a mess when you're not wearing gloves. And when you don't have a snotty nose that dissolves the sugar. Consequently, the dudes' gloves were matted with tufts of stickiness. Their faces were blue from noses to chins. And I had brought absolutely nothing to wipe them off with, so they just had to stay that way. Cameron's fell off the stick and into the mulch surrounding a sidewalk tree, and he ate it anyway - tiny pieces of bark and all. I pretended I didn't see. Coby decided he didn't want the rest of his, so he was like, "Here!" and thrust a big bunch of blue fluff into my frozen hands. Somebody dropped some of theirs and I was horrified to see a kid tracking through it, walking away with it stuck to his shoe. All I could think about was how much his mother was going to freak out when he tromped all over her carpet with cotton candy feet.

Ugh.

While Curtis went to find a trash can for the cotton candy sticks, I turned to the kids to fill their apples with hot chocolate. And nearly got crowded out by a very well-dressed couple, their friends, and their kids. The lady had one of those cute woolen peacoats and nice leather boots and a knit hat and matching scarf and curled blonde hair and a messenger bag that was probably more expensive than my minivan. (For the record: I was rocking some glamorous style in a faded, thirteen-year-old college sweatshirt, jeans, tennis shoes, a ponytail, and glasses.) But she was so concerned with doling out chocolate-covered espresso beans and amaretto-flavored almonds (yes, seriously) to her friends that she failed to watch her kids. So there was this huge swarm of kids all around me and I felt that primal, motherly pull to keep an eye out for all of them. In the confusion, I saw my four-year-old, Coby, give one of our apples a swift kick, sending it flying (again). And I yelled, "HEY! Stop that!" in my typical stern reprimanding voice.

... But as it turns out, it wasn't Coby. And Preppy Mom didn't seem too thrilled that I'd yelled at her kid. Oops. Although I wasn't too thrilled that he'd launched one of our apples, so whatever.

My hands were numb because I'd forgotten gloves. I spilled hot chocolate on myself. The kids bickered over the blanket which was too small to efficiently cover all of them. They whined because they were cold. They whined because they were bored. They whined to hear themselves whining. They whined to whittle away at the last remaining shreds of my sanity.

Finally the parade started. I was disappointed that there were no marching bands - my favorite part - because they'd withdrawn from the festivities due to the cold. We saw a couple of police motorcycles, and this:


I don't know about you, but I'm from the Midwest and we always preface every parade with some sort of farm equipment. Even in urban areas.

Then came a troupe of clowns. And suddenly Cameron yelped and hid behind my husband. I had no idea he was afraid of clowns, but apparently he's petrified. So can you guess what he did for the next fifteen minutes or so?

You got it: he hid. Didn't watch anything but the backs of Curtis's legs. And since Coby is never far from his brothers, he hung back, too. He only peeped out occasionally when some cheering or a music-blasting float came by and caught his attention.

So we decided to call it good and leave the parade early. We gathered up our apples and Thermos and blanket and trash and wearily schlepped everything back to the car a few blocks away, trudging along the pavement in whipping wind, trying to ignore our numb legs and near-frostbitten toes. The kids whined, of course. I ended up carrying Coby the last block or so.

Did I mention that this was a televised parade, and we could have watched it from the warm comfort of our living room in our PJs?

Yeah.

Tradition is for the birds. I'm not going to suggest the holiday parade to the kids again until they're old enough to haul their own crap. And drive themselves there.

Dudes are Destructive: a Poem

I wrote a poem today, for anyone who is - or has ever wondered what it was like to be - the parent of a boy. (Complete with actual photos of my actual torn-up stuff. Ugh.) But first! Have you seen yesterday's post? Click here to find out some tidbits about me (like how I embarrassed myself in a foreign country and what I did after my first makeout session) - and then, at the bottom, join the linkup with your own post! I want to learn random weird stuff about you too! It's like a sleepover where we tell secrets only with less pajamas and sleeping and over-ing.

Anyway, without further ado ... le poetry. I know: Poet Laureate material right here, y'all.


If you're thinking of adding a bundle of joy
To your family, be warned: you might get a boy.
If you like your affairs all tidy and clean
Be prepared for your life to look less-than-pristine.

Boys snicker at farts and talk about balls
(All types) as they - oops! - bust holes in your walls.

Boys burp on command, and run around bare
Through the kitchen and - uh oh! - knock over your chair.

Boys use all your Band-aids as stickers and tape
And are carelessly mindless of things that go scraaaaape.

Boys stain, rip, shred, tear up, and tatter their clothes
And their three month old shoes get holes in the toes.

Boys roughhouse and wrestle, bruise limbs, eyes, and heads;
When you get a hotel room, they jump on the beds.

Boys ransack through closets and rummage through drawers
And - whoops! - bust your compact all over the floor.

Boys aren't outright malicious - it's not like they mean
To drop your new tablet and shatter the screen.

And they can melt hearts when they're snuggling each other,
Or sharing a treat with a sucker-less brother.

And they're good for a laugh when they're clowning around,
Or strutting their stuff in a "costume" they've found.

And no matter what, through laughter or drama,
One thing is constant: boys loooove them some Mama.

All things considered, there's no bigger blessing - 
They make up for the times when they're fighting or messing.

So if your heart's set on expanding your brood
It's actually awesome to parent a dude.

You might like it so much that you try to have more ...
Just be careful ...

Because you could end up with four.


Fifty Things You Never Needed to Know

If you've been on Facebook lately, you've probably seen everybody doing the "Things About Me" posts. I honestly love seeing those things - I don't know if it's because I'm nosy or what, but I love finding out these random facts about people. It makes everyone seem so much more ... human. More accessible. More real. A while back I wrote a "100 Things About Me" post (which oddly enough is one of my most popular posts) and it was actually fun, so I thought I'd do another one. Except only fifty things this time, because, you know ... one hundred is a lot.

Since these are some of my favorite types of posts, I want to see yours - so I'm doing my first-ever linkup! Write a "Fifty Things" post (or however many "things" you wanna share) on your blog and put your link down at the bottom! Woohoooo!

1.) My first celebrity crushes were Ralph Macchio and Tom Brokaw. (Yes, the Karate Kid and the news anchor.)

2.) When I was like eleven or twelve I developed a huge crush on David Bowie's Goblin King character in Labyrinth because I could totally see his package through those skintight leggings.

3.) I have never been a smoker, but once every few years if I get reeeeeeeally drunk, I'll bum a cigarette from somebody. I don't know why because cigarettes seriously gross me out.

4.) I scored higher on my ACT test when I took it in 7th grade than I did when I took it again in high school. Oops.

5.) I prefer to shower in the morning because I absolutely can't stand sleeping on wet hair.

6.) My boobs are two different sizes. It's really hard to find bras that fit.

7.) My feet grew a whole size throughout my pregnancies, and stayed that way.

8.) I fantasize about meeting several of my favorite bloggers. I know we'd be instant BFFs. Or at least in my mind.

9.) I am really good at mimicking accents. Sometimes I'll just talk to my kids in a British accent or a Southern twang ... they're so used to it they don't even bat an eye.

10.) I feel like my musical taste is really boring. I love music, but my favorite are the standard "Top 40" type songs that you hear on the radio. Yawn.

11.) Sometimes I need to bake. No, I'm serious ... like, I need to do it. It's like an itch that I have to scratch.

12.) I believe strongly in equality for women, and often get frustrated with myself because I'm such a stereotypical "girly-girl" in so many ways.

13.) I would love to have another baby.

14.) If I had another baby, I'd pray it was a boy ... I have this huge fear that my sons would think we just kept trying until we got a girl, like they weren't adequate enough.

15.) I once spent like fourteen hours playing "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time."

16.) I don't reprimand my kids (at least not harshly) for slipping the occasional bad word into a sentence ... like the other day when Coby was frustrated because he couldn't open his "damn fruit snacks."

17.) At the time of this blog post, I've been with my husband for nearly sixteen years, since I was seventeen. We have both changed a lot over the years, matured and grown into different people than we once were, and I'm so grateful that we have weathered those changes and still actually like each other. That's not always easy to do.

18.) I desperately wanted a hamster as a kid, but never got one because my mom is afraid of them. Which is why my boys will never have one either ... my mom would never come over again!

19.) I designed my blog myself ... and have absolutely zero recollection of how. It's like I only retained the information long enough to get the job done, and then - poof.

20.) I once accidentally told a bartender in Germany that I was horny. I meant to say I was hot - as in sweaty - but got the words confused.

21.) I swallowed the first tooth I ever lost.

22.) I much prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate, and cannot stand white chocolate.

23.) I hate talking on the phone so much that I think it borders on a phobia. Text me, text me, text me, but you're gonna be hard-pressed to get a phone conversation.

24.) I inwardly cringe when someone uses the word "literally" in the wrong context. I've already taught my kids - even my four-year-old - how to use it properly.

25.) When I hear "Fade Into You" by Mazzy Star, I can't help but cry. Like, bawl ... for no particular reason. Every. Single. Time. 

26.) Every time I get a new vehicle, I can't help but wonder if I'm going to die in it. I'm petrified of being in a terrible car accident, whether I die or not.

27.) I can't stand to burn an "out-of-season" candle ... i.e., a pine-scented one in springtime. It bugs me.

28.) The one thing I find sexier than anything else, hands-down? Intelligence. Followed closely by a great sense of humor.

29.) I think of my future daughters-in-law often, and wonder what kind of little girls they are and what kind of women they're growing up to be. I hope they're happy and healthy.

30.) I'd love to wear perfume and have a "signature scent" but can't bear to spend the money on it because I feel like it's frivolous. It almost killed me to spend like twelve bucks on a bottle of scented lotion from Bath & Body Works.

31.) I know what it's like to be poor. At one time during my life I was living in an apartment that I was in the process of being evicted from because I couldn't pay my rent - with the utilities shut off, so no heat, water, or electricity. I literally could not afford toilet paper (plus, no water to flush) and had use a nearby gas station bathrooms, and at one point lived on only a box of Girl Scout cookies for almost a week. It's the closest I've ever been to homelessness. And it suuuuuuucked.

32.) Some of my favorite movies that I can watch over and over: Memoirs of a Geisha, Bad Santa, Napoleon Dynamite, The Proposal, and Sixteen Candles. These are just a few.

33.) When I discover something I love - like a new store or a great TV show - I secretly worry that it won't be successful and will close down/go off the air.

34.) There is very little I find more annoying than people who are ungrateful or constantly complaining about petty stuff. We so often don't realize how good we have it in comparison to a huge portion of the world.

35.) I love the feeling of getting home from somewhere and taking off my bra and putting on some stretchy pants. It's like, ahhhhhhh.

36.) I would love to be in a play but am paralyzed with fear at the thought of acting in front of people.

37.) I only remember like two telephone numbers. It would really suck if I ever lost my cell phone.

38.) My two front teeth are fake, and the backs of them are silver. I sometimes throw my head back to laugh or whatever and then feel really self-conscious, afraid that someone has seen.

39.) A big-time greeting card company once asked me to submit twenty humorous greeting card ideas ... and then they didn't use a single one of them. Talk about feeling deflated!

40.) I thought my first French kiss was soooo nasty that I actually barfed afterwards (not immediately, thank goodness).

41.) My first serious boyfriend was seven years older than me, a fact that I didn't dare reveal to my mother. I told her he was eighteen, which was bad enough; he was actually twenty-one.

42.) I love lemon desserts. Lemon bars, lemon cake, lemon cookies - if it's lemon, I will eat it.

43.) I'm super-close with my brother Steve. We text back and forth, almost all day, almost every day. Losing him is one of my biggest fears, ranking right up there with the loss of my husband or children.

44.) I often think in movie quotes. Like, if someone told me they were going on vacation, there would immediately be a Napoleon Dynamite voice in my head saying, "Lucky!" (I rarely say them out loud, though, because I've done that before and the person I'm talking to is like, "... Huh?")

45.) I could never, ever shoot an animal. But if someone broke into my house and threatened me or my family, I would have absolutely ZERO qualms about shooting them. In the face. Immediately. Without a second thought.

46.) I am the world's worst card-sender. Seriously. If I buy a birthday card for someone, it's rare that it actually gets to them. I never do Christmas cards. And I write thank-you notes for EVERY SINGLE EVENT - I even made Colin write them after his birthday party in June - and never get them sent. I literally have stacks of handwritten, addressed, unsent thank-you notes in my drawers. It's pathetic.

47.) If someone gave me $1000, I could happily spend it on gifts for other people. I absolutely love giving presents, I just never do it because of a lack of expendable income.

48.) My favorite actor is Tom Hanks. I adore him. If I ever met him I would be so starstruck that I'd probably just piss myself.

49.) I am totally and completely obsessed with "The Walking Dead." I have watched every episode since the very first one, multiple times ... and read every issue of the graphic novel ... and at least one of the companion books (The Rise of the Governor). Michael Rooker - the actor who played Merle - once tweeted me on Twitter and I was so freaking excited that I actually did a Tom Cruise couch jump.


50.) When I was younger I used to say that if I had a daughter, I was going to name her Calypso Dawn. Oh. Mah. Gah. Guess it's a good thing I had boys, eh?

Now it's YOUR turn!




Hair the Rita Way: a Pretty Bad Tutorial

I started today out on a mission: come hell or high water, I was gonna look cute.

I woke up early, so I figured that while time was in my corner, I could take a few extra minutes to make myself look extra-presentable. After all, I have important places to go today. Like ... the kids' school. And ... the kids school again. And ... the kids' school. Two more times.

*sigh*

Anyway, while I did have some extra time, I'd have to wake up at like three in the morning to properly tend to my ridiculous hair. Have you seen it? Well hair it is ... (hahahahaha ... you know, because, like, hair? ... ahem):

This was taken a while ago but unfortunately nobody has swapped my hair with Kate Middleton's since then.

My 'fro pretty much looks like a bad wig unless I deep-condition, blow-dry, and straighten it. And ain't nobody got time for all that. Especially not when I need to get four children up, dressed, fed, and acceptable to the general public by the time school starts. So the best option is a shower.

However.

What do you do with wet hair? I can barely manage this mess dry, and I'm not good with girly hair stuff (mom of four boys here, y'all). Remember the time I tried a new hairstyle and my husband compared me to a gorilla? Or when I confessed that I just don't know what to do with bobby pins?

So this morning I did what any desperate, horrible-with-hair person would do: I consulted my trusty oracle, Google. I found all kinds of awesome tutorials.

Unfortunately, they were awesome tutorials that you must be decent at doing hair to follow.

My idea of "easy" and the Internet's are apparently vastly different. I was hoping for something along the lines of: 1.) brush hair straight back 2.) secure it with a ponytail holder 3.) look fantastic with a cute hairstyle and wait for the compliments to roll in. But these how-tos were like, "It's so easy to look great with wet hair! All you have to do is part your hair on the side and tease it at the crown. Then do a double French braid on the sides and a fishtail in the back and secure with ten bobby pins and tie the bottom in a knot and make sure you wrap the hair around to hide the elastic and voila! Simple!"

If I tried to recreate a similar hairstyle tutorial it would go something like this:

1.) Get comb stuck in hair.

2.) Make uneven side part due to unfortunately-placed cowlick.

3.) Carefully twist hair. Accidentally twist finger into hair. Extricate finger, pulling a huge chunk of hair out of place. Say the f-word.

4.) Try to twist other side to match first side. Accidentally let go of first side, untwisting it.

5.) Try to secure both sides with bobby pins. End up with weird sticky-uppy bits of hair on top of head.

6.) Settle for ponytail.

Anyway, I finally found this tutorial and followed it as best I could. It's pretty straightforward. And I ended up with this:




Sorry for the bad quality of the pictures, but do you have any idea how hard it is to take a selfie of the back of your head?

I just twisted the sides of my hair back (I had to put a ponytail holder in to keep one side in place while I twisted the other because I still don't understand how to twist both sides without letting go of one) and then ponytailed the twists ... then tucked the ponytail behind the twists and pulled it through. Then I took the rest of my hair that was hanging down and literally just bunched it up into a weird messy bun. And there you go: not exactly like the photos, but better than nothing.

(PS, I know this is a convoluted explanation, which is exactly why I don't do more tutorials.)

I feel kind of girly today, and I like it, so I might just go somewhere besides the kids' school.

Like ... the grocery store.

*sigh*

The Suspect Slipup


I'm never awake at four in the morning unless there's something going on. Like if somebody barfed or peed in the bed or has a fever or there's a general fiasco of several horrible things combined (remember this one?).

But yesterday in the sleepy pre-dawn hours, I was awakened by my husband's stupid alarm. And then couldn't go back to sleep as he thumped and ran water and opened doors getting ready for work. I just laid there, irritated.

As is his usual custom right before leaving, he leashed up the dogs to take them outside for their morning pee. And about a minute after he'd gone out the door, a different alarm went off - our house alarm. You know, the one that would alert us to an intruder. Needless to say, I mildly flipped out. I turned it off - it appeared to be just a battery glitch - but when Curtis came in, I asked him to check downstairs just in case. He did. All was well.

Even though it was nothing, I couldn't help but feel a little edgy. I was definitely awake now. And it didn't make matters any better when Curtis said, "I think I'm going to call the cops."

"Over the alarm?" I asked, brow furrowed.

"No," he said, glancing out the front window. "There's a guy parked in front of the neighbors' house in a car I don't recognize. He's been out there for like twenty minutes now and he's acting really weird: sitting there with the door open, getting out and back in, stepping on the brakes and then letting off. It's bizarre. Not to mention it's four-thirty in the morning. What the hell could he be doing out there?"

I peeked out the window. I couldn't see the car through the branches of my neighbors' tree - but I did see the brake lights flashing on and off, on and off, and a slice of light across the pavement from the car door being open. Weird.

"That is suspicious," I murmured. Of course, ever since the weird incident at our creek over the summer, I've been a little overly paranoid. But Curtis isn't an alarmist - so if he wanted to call the cops, I figured there was definitely a good reason. So he did.

I was impressed at how quickly the police came. The cruiser came speeding up, lights flashing, spotlighting the weird car. I stood at the window watching, but Curtis - natural-born eavesdropper that he is - took his nosy self out onto the front porch for a closer view of the action.

Within a few seconds, he poked his head back in with a look of panic on his face.

"Oh my God," he hissed. "I think it's Ron!"

I clamped my hand over my mouth. "Ron?!" 

Because Ron would be ...

... our neighbor.

So Curtis went out there. And sure enough, poor Ron was having to explain to the cop why he was sitting in front of his own house.

Come to find out, he had rented a car for a business trip (hence the unfamiliar vehicle), and was out there waiting for another person who was supposed to go along (hence the hanging around outside at 4:30 in the morning). In the process of waiting, he'd had some trouble with a sticky parking brake (hence the weird brake-light-flashing, getting-in-and-out-of-the-car behavior).

Perfectly plausible explanation. And we had freaked out and summoned the police. Ay-yay-yay.

Luckily, we have fantastic neighbors and Ron just laughed and said he was glad to know someone was looking out. And he told me later on Facebook, "This 'suspicious man' normally would not be awake at that time of the morning, much less be outside in the cold walking around dressed in black. I actually got needed assistance with the problem I was having with the rental car. Thanks neighbors."

Hey, just doing our jobs. 

... But if there was a flaming bag of dog poop on our front porch, we'd probably deserve it. Just sayin'.


Babies + Facebook = Asshole

I have a love/hate relationship with my phone. If I don't have it with me, I miss important stuff. If I do have it on me, I'm always struggling not to drop it into the toilet, or the flour canister, or the dog poop, or the laundry, or whatever I happen to be contending with. It's probably kind of a miracle that I even still have a phone.

Like pretty much anyone with a smartphone, I use the Facebook app (wherein you can "Like" Fighting off Frumpy. You know, if you're awesome). The other night I posted a photo of the boys. A bad one, as you can see below, with a caption about how hard it is to get a decent picture of them. Then I went on about my usual bidness, but I kept my phone on me to check all the delicious notifications as people "Liked" and commented on my post.* 

*Don't lie. You know you do it too.

Anyway, one of the comments was from my mother-in-law's cousin. She's so sweet, and we were just at her house a couple of weeks ago for a family reunion. On the photo, she commented, "Oh ........ love these boys so much! Sure wish we lived closer!"

As I read this comment, I was in the process of carrying Corbin to the bathtub. He was on my right hip, and I had my phone in my right hand - Facebook app open. My left hand was carrying soap and a towel, so I could hardly stop Corbin when his chubby little fingers started gliding around the phone's screen. It was only after I got him into the tub that I checked my phone again, and was horrified to note that he had not only managed to post a response, but a completely terrible one at that. See for yourselves:



Y'all? I almost died. I mean ... it would have been understandable if he'd posted something baby-esque, like FJKDLFDSJRI or whatever. You know, something that looked random. But WHAT are the ODDS of him posting "No" - capitalized, even - and making me look like a total rude-ass?

Apparently pretty good. I only wish I were that lucky when I play the lottery.

Of course, then I had a dilemma. I could have deleted the comment and hoped she hadn't seen it - but if she had, and I deleted it without explanation, it would have looked fishy. So I left it on there, then added a lame comment about how Corbin had done it. She didn't answer. She probably didn't believe me and will hate me for the rest of my life. I wouldn't blame her. It sounds like such a lame excuse. It's the "my dog ate my homework" of the Facebook world.

Babies. They're so tech-savvy these days.

... Unfortunately.




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