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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.

The Four Stages of a Viral Post

I think I need to stay off the Internet.

Okay, we all know that will never really happen. Kind of like when I say I need to stop eating sugar ... when in all reality I would probably stop breathing first.

But, much like sugar, the things I find on the Internet can be bad for me. Or, more accurately, the things that find me - in the form of all the crap my hundreds of Facebook friends share. (I'll say this for sugar: at least it doesn't fly into my mouth on its own. Unless I'm trying to find an excuse for that ten pounds I rapidly gained, and then yeah, it's allllll the sugar's fault.)

I'm talking about viral blog posts. Sometimes sappy, sometimes witty, usually inflammatory, but always filled with such deep insight and profundity that the entire Internet stands up and claps. You know, metaphorically. And then someone else comes up with a post about why the first post is wrong and the Internet is like, "Oooooooh, burn!" *clap clap clap*

And then you see the author of the first blog post on the Today Show and inking a six-figure book deal.

For a regular person, these back-and-forth viral posts may just be food for thought. Good advice to file away for their kids, or to make their marriage as good in real life as it appears to be on Facebook. But to a blogger, these posts have a whole new layer of meaning. They're competition, y'all. Admit it: no matter how happy you are for Blogger X whose post went so viral that even your grandma had heard about it, you can't help but feel that twinge. And so it begins.

Stage One: Jealousy
When I read a blog post that has gone viral, my inner four-year-old kicks into overdrive. Man, I think. I wish I could have a viral post. That would be so cool. And then the whiny, pouty internal monologue: why don't I have a viral post? Oh yeah. Because I don't put my words together as good as this person and this person and this person. ... And because I haven't written a post in like two weeks. ... And because I blog about stuff like boogers and poop.

Stage Two: Determination
Then I get all eager. But people like reading about boogers and poop! I could write a viral post! I TOTALLY could! So I sit down in front of my computer and I stare expectantly at the screen. I'm gonna DO this! YEAH! And then I start to realize that I kind of need a topic. And poop never goes viral.*

*Unless it's diarrhea and you're taking the word "viral" literally. Like that one time last year. Yuck.

When I try to think of a topic, I get all pressured. And my eager-beaver I'm-gonna-write-a-viral-post excitement starts to wane. It looks something like this:

Only in real life I have ears. And eyelashes. And a lower body. And much less of a tan.

Stage Three: Dumbness
When I am not immediately struck with a brilliant blog post idea, I decide to give myself some time. Maybe if I read over the latest viral post again, I'll pick up a few tidbits. Something will slap me in the face about why it went viral so I, too, can write a viral post. So I read it over and over. Wow, I think. What great points this blogger has. 

And then, inevitably, someone - or four or five or ten someones - come up with a blog post in response, with an absolutely opposite but equally eloquent and well-presented viewpoint. People on my Facebook friends list whose opinions I respect post them. And I read those. And I'm all, Wow. That's a great point too. Shit.

Case in point: the latest viral post I've been sucked into, Seth Adam's Smith's "Marriage Isn't For You." And then this brilliant rebuttal from Joel Mathis: "Au Contraire, Marriage is For You." Before that, it was Kim Hall's letter to her sons' female Facebook friends and then about a gazillion responses to that post. Each presents valid points, things I haven't thought of before, things I should have thought of before. Immediately I agree with the first viral post - and then find myself agreeing with the rebuttal. And then I feel kinda stupid. And easily swayed.

Stage Four: Meh. 
After all the mental exhaustion that comes from reading and questioning and trying (and failing) to come up with something to light the Internet aflame, I start thinking, Why do I even want a viral post? So people can come up with comebacks and I can read them and pretend they don't bother me as my tears of humiliation mix with the cupcakes I'd be shoveling into my mouth? 

Nope. I just want a book deal. I just want someone to be all, "Hey! She writes stuff that people like to read! Let's PAY her to do that!"

And maybe a visit to The Today Show. That would be cool too.

Eventually I just accept that I don't exactly possess the sharp insight and salty wisdom to gift the Internet with advice that everybody needs to see. (I blame my kids. Yeah, that sounds good. My kids.) If this very post were going to go viral, I'd have to end it with something heartfelt and insightful like ...

...... like ......

Well, damn.

The Great Wrapper Roundup

Halloween has come and gone. Thank goodness. I'd share pics of my kids' awesome and intricately detailed homemade costumes, except for one thing ...

... there were no awesome and intricately detailed homemade costumes. I didn't even remember to take a picture.

It's because they chose the crappiest of the Walmart selection. Like, the ones made of that stretchy material that rips if you look at it wrong. Colin's costume was a black ninja, but he refused to wear the hood and mask. Oh, and the red tie belt. So he pretty much walked around in a nondescript black bodysuit. For all anybody knew, he could have been a seal or a burglar. Or Catwoman.

Cameron was Sonic the Hedgehog, and his costume looked like this:

... Well, sort of. It was supposed to look like this, but it had three huge holes where the seams were: the result of him trying it on for like half an hour. (Cameron is as unintentionally destructive as a bull in a china closet, and when you combine that with cheap fabric, unfortunate things happen.) Plus, see that spiky-looking hood? Cameron's spikes were limp. Flaccid. They just kind of flopped around, resulting in "Sonic" looking perpetually disappointed.

Coby was also a ninja, but a white one. He actually wore the embellishments that went with his costume, so you could tell what he was supposed to be, but the hood got soaking wet and flopped over his face so much that he could barely see and fell a few times.

Why was his hood soaking wet, you ask? Because it rained. Not only rained, but poured - the entire time we were trick-or-treating. And between us, we had one piddly little umbrella.

When it rains while you're trick-or-treating, your candy buckets fill up with rainwater. And you know what happens when your candy buckets fill up with rainwater? Everything that isn't in a perfectly waterproof wrapper - which is practically, well, everything - starts to dissolve. So by the time we got home, the bottoms of the kids' buckets were filled with at least an inch of sticky, reddish-greenish-tinted water. And ALL the candy was disgusting. Even the pieces unaffected by the water were sticky on the wrappers from the ten bazillion dissolved suckers and jawbreakers and Smarties and stuff.

Of course we salvaged as much as we could. And because we had three very enthusiastic trick-or-treaters this year, that still ended up being quite a haul of candy. I should have done something that conscientious parents do, like trading them a toy for it or telling them that the Candy Fairy took it to the less-fortunate children of the world. But the thing is ... I rather enjoy having a large stash of candy available.*

*The calorie-counting side of me disapproves, but I usually just tell her to shut the hell up.

Sometimes I straight-up suck at parenting (like during parades or when I laugh as my son makes obscene gestures or the time my kid had a potentially life-threatening illness and I didn't even notice). But for every hundred ten terrible-mom fails, there's a flash of parenting genius - and I had one over the weekend regarding the Halloween candy (and disposal of resulting wrappers).

I don't know about your kids, but mine seem to think the floor doubles as a trash can. No matter how many times I have a shrieking fit gently remind them to throw their wrappers/paper scraps/random messes away, it doesn't seem to sink in. This year, however, I made a new rule: for every single wrapper I find on the floor, I get to confiscate five pieces of candy from their collective bucket.

I've only found four wrappers so far. AND I have twenty pieces of the choicest candy from their stash - without them complaining that I'm stealing it. Total win-win.


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