F-Bombin' Baby

Kids are embarrassing. Whether they're explaining to the lady at the ice cream shop that they like the colored kind because it turns their poop green, or pointing at a dude in a tie and saying "THAT GUY LOOKS LIKE SPONGEBOB!" in an outside voice, parenting brings a plethora of cringe-worthy moments.

The aforementioned lovely incidents are only a couple of the ways my kids have made me want to bury my head in the sand. But most of them have come from my oldest. And now that he's nine, he's getting a better sense of what's socially appropriate and what's not (thank you sweet baby Jesus). So for a while, I haven't experienced much to be embarrassed about, at least not because of them.

Until yesterday.

Let me give you a little background. My kids love to watch YouTube videos of other people playing Minecraft. (I have no idea why, but that's beside the point.) Anyway, even my two-year-old has gotten into watching. So for that very reason, I have a link to kid-friendly Minecraft videos on my computer's "favorites" bar. It's a collection of videos that I have watched and approved, and Corbin knows how to click on it by himself.

However, because of the nature of YouTube, sometimes a couple of rogue clicks can lead to videos that are NOT Mom-approved. And my most freewheeling clicker is, of course, my toddler. Which is why one night, while he and my husband were watching Minecraft videos together, I walked in just in time to hear the video's narrator say, "WHAT THE FUCK?!" followed by a huge explosion.

My eyes practically bugged out of my head, and Curtis scrambled to close out of the video or mute it or something, but it was too late.

"What the fuck?!" chirped Corbin in his happiest little voice.

Curtis and I looked at each other, frozen. Should we scold him? Our eyes silently communicated (mine were saying OMG I thought you clicked on the kid-friendly link!). Both of us were clearly on the fence. It needed to be addressed, but then again, calling attention to it might make matters worse. Finally I just said, "That's not a nice thing to say," and we quickly changed the subject. This was weeks ago, and since the expression hadn't resurfaced in daily conversations, we figured he had forgotten it.

Anyway. Yesterday we took the kids out to lunch at Pizza Ranch. It's a very family-oriented, squeaky-clean buffet restaurant. I always get the impression that the fresh-faced teenagers working there came straight to work from some church youth group (and considering it's a Christian-based business, that wouldn't surprise me). It's kinda like Chick-fil-A but with, like, pizza.

The place was busy. We were seated amid a sea of other families. I put Corbin at the end of the table, where he was chowing down on his lunch like a good boy, smiling at people. And then, above the din of diners, he crowed - in a voice loud enough to be considered a yell, lifting over all the other voices in the room -


Did I mention he speaks very plainly?

Yeah. I'm usually proud of that fact. Not so much at that moment, though.

My older children looked at me in utter shock, then started snickering so hard I thought they'd choke. (My husband was filling his plate at the buffet, so he missed out on the whole debacle ... lucky him.) My eyes were the size of saucers, I'm sure. I tried not to look at the other tables, but I swear I heard the sound of jaws dropping and a few judgmental murmurs. There they were with their well-behaved kids, and here I was, sitting beside a two-year-old who obviously thinks nothing of bellowing not just a curse word, but THE curse word. Like a toddler with Tourette's. I may as well have handed him a cigarette and a beer and then twerked my way around the table to complete the display of my less-than-stellar parenting skills.

I spent the rest of the meal trying to use my Mom Eyes to convey to my other kids that their behavior had to be nothing less than perfect to make up for their baby brother's social snafu. That they were supposed to sit there and eat in the way angels would eat. You know, if angels ate.

Thankfully, from that point on, everything went smoothly. Corbin returned to his usual charming, profanity-free ways. No one around us seemed permanently scandalized, so I'm hoping that Child Protective Services isn't about to come knocking on my door.

... But I'm putting a bra on, just in case.

Tree-asco 2014

*Don't forget to check the "Giveaways and Reviews" page! I've got a new giveaway going on and it's perfect for the new year. :)

I'm the kind of person who will arrange the shit out of a Christmas tree, like I'm composing a still life, trying to artfully balance the spaces between ornaments and achieve the perfect ratio of lights and tinsel. I'm a Christmas tree perfectionist. I like everything just so, and all twinkly and beautiful.

But, like ... I have kids. And cats.

That's why this year, my dream Christmas tree looks more like a freaking nightmare.

I was delusional enough to think that this year, maybe, finally, I'd get to have a nice tree. But here's why I can't.

#1: THE TODDLER. Okay, so everybody knows that toddlers and Christmas trees pair about as well as hemorrhoids and a G-string: put the two together and it's just painful. (You're welcome for the mental image, by the way.) But I was hopeful this year. My two-year-old likes to pattern his behavior after his older brothers - who, at ages nine, six, and five, are old enough to stay out of the tree. So I figured since the toddler didn't see his brothers getting into the tree, he'd leave it alone.

Only ... he doesn't. And he can't stop at just rearranging ornaments ... oh, no. He pulls off (and unravels) tinsel. He throws toys into the branches (see the little orange dump truck in the photo above? It didn't drive there by itself). The other day I heard whomp! whomp! whomp! and walked in to find him literally beating the thing with a plastic baseball bat. He pulls the hangers off the tops of the ornaments and, inexplicably, throws them into the kitchen sink. The child is hazardous to the poor tree. Not to mention my mental health.

#2: THE CATS. We have two cats: Nick and Nessa. Last Christmas, when we had Nessa and our old cat Ava, they stayed out of the tree for the most part (Ava was old and didn't climb, so neither did Nessa).

But Ava died a few months ago, and we adopted Nick (who, despite his name, is no saint). And, well, this pretty much sums up Nick's involvement with the tree:

See how it's, like, narrow where he's sitting? That's because he's at the top of the tree. He scales it like it's his own personal Mt. Everest. And while Nessa doesn't climb through it like Nick does, she like to get underneath it, and then they fight in the branches. The tree starts hissing and spitting and rocking back and forth as though it's possessed. It would actually be amusing if it weren't my damn Christmas tree.

#3: MY GERIATRIC TREE. I love our tree, but it has definitely seen better days. Curtis and I bought it in November of 1999, so this is its fifteenth year. To put its age in perspective, we got it when Justin Timberlake looked like this:

... Yeah.

As Christmas trees go, this one is ancient. It's like the Methuselah of Christmas trees. And like anything old, it's falling apart. The branches no longer snap firmly into place. They're getting saggy and loose. It constantly sheds its little polyester needles (or whatever the hell fake tree needles are made of) all over my carpet. It simply can't stand up to the beatings of a toddler or the cat infestation like it used to. It's been unpacked and repacked, fluffed up and compressed again, shipped overseas, and washed and blow-dried in case of rodents and other creepy things.

The poor thing is just on its last legs. Er, branches.

I'm about to say screw it and just take the damn thing down. Every time I pass by it, I cringe at the drooping lights, the bare spots, the ornaments strewn all haphazardly. I'm tired of telling the toddler to get out of the tree (because, to add insult to injury, he doesn't understand the whole Santa concept yet so a "Santa's watching" threat is futile). I'm tired of seeing it wobble precariously back and forth as the cats have a field day within its depths.

But I guess that if all that weren't happening, I wouldn't have any pictures like this:

(He was saying, "Nick! Hold my hand!" Ugh, the cuteness.)

So I guess I'll leave it up, but that still doesn't stop me from fantasizing about a perfectly decorated, un-bothered tree.

There's always next year.

(Gingerbread) House of Horrors

Saturday morning, for reasons unknown, I woke up thinking about gingerbread.

And then I thought, "A gingerbread house would be pretty cool."

And then Pinterest Me and Practical Me started their internal struggle. "You've never made one!" shouted the practical side. "You don't even have a kit! You'd have to make everything from scratch! You don't even have a printer - you can't even print out a template for the pieces! You'd have to freehand draw them! This is nuts!"

But like a psycho girlfriend, Pinterest Me came whirling in with a fervent insistence. "Gingerbread is easy to make! You have the ingredients! And the kids would love it! Look at this mental image of their happy faces! You love to make them happy! Happy holiday memories! HAPPY HOLIDAY MEMORIES FOREVER!!!!" 

*crazy eyes and lots of panting*

So that's how I ended up spending, like, half the day on a project that my kids were mostly interested in picking apart. Still, they did enjoy decorating it. So if you have a "Pinterest You" and she's trying to encourage this ... fun holiday tradition, here's how you get it done in twelve easy steps.

Okay, I'm lying. It's not all that easy. Not even if the Food Network says so.

Step one: find a good recipe.

So there you have it: how to make a gingerbread house. Your experience may vary.

Actually, let's hope it does.

Do You Wanna Build a Snowman(-like Ornament)?

I'm not one of those crafty, creative moms. I don't use my Pinterest boards to share pictures of things I've done ... I use them to pin projects that look awesome, but that I will never actually attempt. (Or if I do attempt, will fail so miserably as to glue my fingers together or lacquer my eyelids shut.)

And I pin pictures like this ... because PIGLETS IN BOOTS!!!!!

Photo via WeHeartIt

I don't do the whole Elf on the Shelf thing, either. It's because a.) I would inevitably forget to move the elf, and b.) I've got enough to deal with - like Turds on the Floor (thanks, dog) - without having to figure out creative ways for the elf to make mischief (and then cleaning it up afterward). Because, like ... if I wanted snow angels on the counter made out of flour I'm sure all I'd have to do is leave the canister within easy reach of my two-year-old. No creepy elf necessary!

But I suppose I'm not totally devoid of motherly craftiness and holiday spirit, because I agreed to help the Kindergartners at my sons' school with a cute little snowman ornament craft. It's actually REALLY adorable, and fairly easy.

... Unless you're doing it with like sixty Kindergartners.

It's pretty straightforward. You fill a clear ornament with fake snow, have the kids draw a snowman face using black and orange Sharpies, and hot-glue the earmuffs on in the form of two sparkly pom-poms and a pipe cleaner. Voila! There's a tutorial here (and a picture of an ornament NOT made by a five-year-old). I helped out last year, and the kids had fun with it, and nobody glued themselves to anything. So there's that.

This year, my son's teacher asked me if I could help again. She asked me this while I was standing in subzero temperatures with chattering teeth, so all I could do was stammer out "S-s-s-sure!" (well played, Mrs. L.). But this year it wasn't only her class doing the craft ... it was all three Kindergarten classes.

And last year, we had a little difficulty shoving the fake snowflakes through the funnel-hole, so this year she decided to use tiny little styrofoam beads from the inside of an old beanbag.

Do you know how badly tiny little styrofoam beads cling to EVERYTHING? Your hair, your hands, your clothes, your shoes, the carpet, the table, and especially to a Kindergartner's entire arm up to the armpit when they decide to sink it into the open beanbag while you're hot-gluing someone's earmuffs on?

For the most part, it went okay - it was just a lengthy process. Because if you've ever hung out with a five- or six-year-old you know that they like to talk. A lot. And they want to argue about why there are only black and orange markers available when theeeeey want their snowman to have bluuuuuue eyes. And they want to look at what their friends are doing and poke them with pipe cleaners and tattle because someone is poking them with pipe cleaners. And they want to know why they shouldn't write their name so big on the back that it wraps all the way around the front to cover the snowman's face.

It took over three hours to get all three classes' ornaments put together. That's a lot of tiny styrofoam beads, y'all. And a lot of patience (which I'm pretty much lacking to begin with). Seriously, I think I used up my patience reserve through about 2017.

But the kids had a lot of fun and were proud of the finished product, and they got to hang them on the school Christmas tree. And I missed lunch and spent at least an hour and a half in a squatting position, which probably counts as a workout, right?

Thanks and Thangs

There's a lot to be thankful for - not just at Thanksgiving, but every day. Being alive, for example: I kinda like it. And all the other things everybody says when you ask them, like family. Friends. Health. We take tons of stuff for granted, truly.

But there are other things to be thankful for. Smaller, but equally meaningful and worth appreciating.

I'm thankful, for example, that I don't naturally look like this:

I mean ... no offense if your teeth are actually like that but it's not really a good look on me.

- I'm thankful for the times when my toddler squirts mustard all over the cat and his mattress while I'm putting sheets in the laundry, and climbs the counter to put his fingers in a freshly-baked Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, and scribbles on his brother's homework (yes, this all happened this morning). Why am I thankful for that? Because it reminds me that he is my LAST BABY* and that I'm almost done with this crap.

*Unless my husband keeps postponing his vasectomy like he has for, oh, two years now.

- I'm thankful for the Internet, so I don't have to go to the library to find the answers to my burning questions about "why are my dog's nipples so big" and "best ways to remove chin hair."

- But I'm also thankful that the Internet was not around when I was a dorky little kid.

- I'm thankful that no matter what I'm wearing or how crappy my hair looks, there's always somebody at school pick-up that is wearing something worse. Like sweatpants and a crop top and slippers.

- I'm thankful that my pets can't talk about the times when they're trapped in the bathroom with me while I stand in front of the mirror naked and jiggle my various parts to see just how wobbly they've become.

- Let's extend the previous "I'm thankful" to include when I stand in front of the mirror naked and dramatically lip sync to Iggy Azalea songs. What? Don't pretend you don't do it. (And if you don't, you totally should. But only in front of your pets. Like a black wi-dow bay-beeee!)

- I'm thankful for comfy things like my couch and my pillows and those big-ass fuzzy socks with pictures of cats on them. And elastic waistbands in my Thanksgiving pants because ALL THE TURKEY.

- Speaking of deliciousness, I'm thankful for pizza. Because even the worst pizza is still pretty damn good.

- I'm thankful for my mad poetry skillz so that I can write Thanksgiving poems like this one.

Whether you're celebrating Thanksgiving or not, I hope you have a lot to be grateful for. Happy Turkey Day, y'all!

Nagging Ain't Nice

My main mission in life is to raise sons that don't grow up to be, you know, assholes.

Sure, that means showing them examples of compassion. Gratitude. Work ethic. Leadership. Humility. Patience. (Okay, so maybe I don't exactly show them an example of patience so much as I show them what not to do.)

But there are also little things that I strive to teach them - things that I hope their significant others will someday appreciate. Stuff like table manners and toilet etiquette. Stuff like putting their dirty laundry somewhere besides all over the floor, and their wrappers and snotty tissues in the trash (hell, putting their boogers in tissues, for that matter), and cleaning up their own messes and not tormenting their siblings. And those things? Take a whole lot of nagging.

You'd never know it to see me in action, but I'm tired of nagging. Sick to death. Do you ever feel like you just say the same things on repeat, in various tones ranging from low and serious to shrill and obnoxious? My kids can learn a complicated maneuver in a video game within a matter of minutes - but when it comes to things I've been nagging - er, reminding - them about over and over, they're a little more thick-headed, because that crap still hasn't set in. After every meal, for example, they know they're supposed to clear their dishes from the table. I have reminded them after literally. Every. Meal. For years. And yet it's inevitable: I'm going to have to remind them again. At some point, that crosses the bridge into nagging.

It's not just that. I'm tired of saying, "Put your laundry in the basket," and "Close the lid," and "Leave your brother alone," and "Wipe up all that water off the floor," and "Wash your hands," and "Put some pants on," and every other thing I say, on freaking loop, a-bazillion-and-one times a week. It's like ... just do it and I won't have to remind you. And then we both win. Is that too much to ask?

I've tried framing the nags as "suggestions," and being polite, and calm, and using positive reinforcement and all that jazz. I've guilt-tripped myself into tears (and pints of ice cream) by reading blog posts about "why I stopped yelling at my kids." But there's something grating - and that's putting it mildly - about saying something over and over and overandoverandoverandoverandover and STILL not getting results.

I saw this brilliant tweet and did a slow clap:

Oh yes, Amanda. Oh YES.

The abyss is deep around here, y'all.

PS - I'm giving away a GORGEOUS necklace (just click up at the top on "Giveaways & Reviews"). ALSO, join me and a TON of amazing authors and bloggers (Jill Smokler of Scary Mommy, for starters!) tomorrow (Tuesday, November 25) at 9PM EST for a Twitter par-tay!! I'll remind (nag?) you about it on my Facebook page here beforehand. :)

The Five Stages of a Household Stomach Flu Epidemic

It only takes eight simple words to send me into a panic. Though I may appear calm on the surface - calmer than usual, even - inside, my brain is in a frantic tailspin. Because those eight words can be the harbinger of a mother's nightmare: "I feel like I'm going to throw up."

Yes, the stomach virus. It's never a good time for anyone. But if you have multiple kids, especially those under the magic getting-to-the-toilet-on-time age, it's a whole new level of hell. There's no telling when - or who - it's going to strike next. And it could be you. Which would mean the worst-case scenario: having to clean up someone else's barf while holding your own back. Because let's face facts ... it's not like we get time off for being sick.

Having a household-wide stomach virus is a truly traumatic experience. And at about one-thirty this morning, as I was scrubbing a three-foot path of undigested ham out of my carpet, I reflected upon how closely my experiences with this type of situation match the five stages of grief.

Stage one: denial. When the first child is stricken, the logical part of my brain tries very hard to override the panic. "It was probably just something he ate," I chirp lightly. "Sometimes our stomachs just disagree with us. Nothing to worry about. See? Everyone is fine." My we're-all-okay look is a little too forced, my smile just a little too wide, my optimism a little too ... well, optimistic. It's like if I say "it's nothing" with enough force, it might be true. It's nothing! Really!

Stage two: anger. Inevitably, though - usually around the kid's second trip to the toilet, or when diarrhea shows up to the party - I stop trying to deny there's a problem, and start getting pissed. I think about all the work involved. All the laundry. All the disgusting cleanup. All the nights of half-sleep, where I'm poised to spring out of bed at the first sound of anything remotely juicy. All the edginess of not knowing who'll be the next victim. All the marinating in germs for a few days while my kids fall prey to it one by one, like dominoes. All the Lysol-spraying, bleaching, washing until my hands are raw. And all for what? So I can get sick myself? IT'S NOT FREAKING FAIR, DAMN IT.

Stage three: bargaining. Since I have literally zero desire to do any of the aforementioned things (I mean, I don't even like laundry on a regular day), I start pleading to the cosmos. Please just let it be confined to this one kid. Please don't let it spread. Please let this little Clorox wipe kill every single germ. I promise I'll volunteer more. I promise I'll keep my house cleaner. I promise I'll stop dropping the f-bomb ... for the most part. I start disinfecting like crazy in a futile attempt to head off the virus. Look! I beg. I'm getting the bathroom really super clean! That should be enough to stop it, right? RIGHT? Pleeeeaaaase!

Stage four: depression. Eventually I realize that my bargaining never works. Because by this time, more than one of my kids has gotten sick, and I'm up to my elbows in soiled bedding and my hands feel like rooster feet from washing and sanitizing. I have calluses on my knees from scrubbing various surfaces. I have run out of paper towels like twice because kids have a knack for taking the two tablespoons of dinner they ate and magically turning it into gallons of vomit. I spray the Lysol with a heavy hand, even though all hope of it preventing anything has faded away. I slog through the mire of laundry and Pepto-Bismol, hair-stroking and back-rubbing, exhausted. I can practically feel my own immune system being overthrown by the very bacteria I've been relentlessly battling.

Stage five: acceptance. After a couple of seemingly-endless days and nights, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. The first kid to get it is over it, and the last kid to get it is feeling better enough to start whining. But as always, the damage control has taken a toll on me, and I feel the first rumblings of an unhappy stomach. Instead of trying to deny it, though, I just use the last hours of my relative wellness to make arrangements so that things don't go all to hell while my head is in the toilet. No use fighting it any more. I may feel like crap, but at least I'll get a few hours to lay in bed. And if I'm lucky I might lose a couple of pounds in the process.

... Yay?

PS - Today is the official launch of the book I'm so proud to be featured in - Scary Mommy's Guide to Surviving the Holidays! It's only $2.99 so go download it here for a good laugh!

Candy Crushed

It's nice when your kids get older and more self-sufficient. They can wipe their own butts. Take their own baths. Tie their own shoes. Each of these is a milestone.

But something else happens when your kids get older. They get sneakier.

Which is why I didn't get to pilfer much of their Halloween candy this year. Oh, the tragedy!

Usually I confiscate it after Halloween night, putting it somewhere they can't reach. Then I dole it out here and there when they pester me too much ask nicely. All the while, I'm taking a little off the top - an Almond Joy here, a KitKat there, a Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkin or two ( ... or six). I'm in control of the candy, is my point. I can get my chocolate fix, the kids don't eat all the candy in one sitting and get cavities and stuff. It's a total win-win.*

*For me.

But this year something changed. Because I keep finding wrappers around that I know I didn't dish out - the "premium" stuff that normally I would have eaten myself. Then the other day, when I dipped my hand into the candy bucket for some chocolate, I was shocked to find only mini-bags of pretzels and a few random Smarties and some individually-wrapped LifeSavers ... you know, the last-resort stuff that no one wants to eat. This indicates to me that at some point in the recent past, my kids probably devised a plot to distract me while someone nimble climbed up to the top of the refrigerator and quickly skimmed all the really good goodies.

It was further confirmed when I was cleaning off my nine-year-old's desk and found this:

A sucker. Hidden inside the front panel of his printer. Not that a sucker is "the good stuff," exactly, but I have a feeling it's just the last of a sizable hoard that was once stashed there.

Next year I'm raiding the bucket early and amassing my own stash and hiding it separately. Or maybe I'll just go on a diet and not eat any Halloween candy.

Heh! Who am I kidding? Time to start scouting for good hiding places. I have a whole year.

How to Make Thanksgiving AWESOME

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, y'all. I can already taste the gravy. And I'm dusting off my stretchiest yoga pants in anticipation. (Let's both pretend I don't wear them on the regular, mmkay?)

As holidays go, this one is right up my sodium-and-cholesterol-loving alley. There's no annoying "Turkey on the Shelf" to re-position every damn day. No pressure to shower anyone with expensive gifts to show them how much you love them. No waiting in line at the mall for hours to get your kid's picture taken with the beloved holiday mascot, only to have him flip you off. Not that I'd know anything about that ...

Oh wait, I guess I do. Heh.

Anyway, Thanksgiving is all about the three F-words I love most: food, family, and friends. (What? You expected a different F-word? Ahhhh, you know me too well.) It's a time for stuffing your face with all the deliciousness your yoga pants can accommodate, with people whose company you can mostly tolerate enjoy. And then digesting a little bit and doing it all again.

But for some families, there will be nothing special on their Thanksgiving table. Because have you priced a turkey lately? They're expensive. And when you're searching your couch cushions and your cup holders for enough change to buy your kids a gallon of milk, or giving plasma to make ends meet, a turkey - let alone all its trimmings and side dishes - just isn't an option.

This holiday dilemma hits particularly close to home for me. My parents divorced when I was nine, and my mom went back to school and worked two part-time jobs to support us. We had a roof over our heads, but that was about it. I vividly recall the shame of accepting food bank handouts, and being one of the "free lunch" kids at school. The sting when one of my closest friends told me she wasn't allowed to spend the night any more because we never had enough to eat. The grateful excitement at finding a box of groceries anonymously left on our doorstep, immediately overtaken by a hot flush of embarrassment.

If it was a bad experience for me, though, I can only imagine what it must have been like for my mom. She worked so hard to provide, yet fell short, through no fault of her own. What must it have felt like to struggle constantly despite her best efforts? To send her child to bed hungry? To lay awake at night, trying to choose between groceries or electricity? Now that I'm a mother myself, it's a heartbreaking scenario, one I'm grateful that I only have to imagine living through with my own kids.

So this year I'm a proud part of something that can help families in need - a project that puts an amazing Thanksgiving dinner on the table for people who otherwise would have nothing. It's the Scary Mommy Thanksgiving Project, it's in its third year, and so far this season has raised almost $75,000 and helped nearly 1500 families.

The not-so-good news? There are almost 700 families still waiting for help. And we only have five days left to do something. And that's where you guys come in.

If you're able to spare a few dollars to make this Thanksgiving a precious memory for someone, you can donate here. Fifty bucks feeds an entire family, but you can give whatever amount you'd like - it'll be paired with other donations. Whether you chip in or not, we need your help in spreading the word to people who can; friends, family members, co-workers. (And if you know of a business that wants to do some good, corporate donations are welcomed!)

As if you needed more incentive, there's a little extra way you can help out this year AND give yourself (or your loved ones) a gift, too: Scary Mommy's Guide to Surviving the Holidays. It's an e-book that's both hilarious and helpful, packed with funny stories, tips, recipes, and gift ideas, written by some of your favorite Scary Mommy contributors. I'm in there with "Ten Ways to Ensure a Memorable Thanksgiving." (#9: Purposely forget the napkins. When someone asks for one, lick your thumb and say, "Oh, who needs those? Mom spit cleans anything.") The book is only $2.99 (find out more about it and the links to order here) and officially releases on November 17th, but you can pre-order right now. The best part, besides laughing off some holiday stress? All of the contributors are donating our proceeds to the Scary Mommy Thanksgiving Project - which means you can do good just by loading this bit of comedic gold onto your e-reader.

For the cost of a few holiday specialty coffees or one of those weird light-up reindeer for your front yard, you can ease the mind and soothe the heart of a fellow mom by gifting a peaceful, bountiful Thanksgiving for her family. (Re-read that in one of those "save the children commercial voices" if it helps.) Because no one should have to worry about putting their kids to bed hungry, especially on a day that's centered around eating.

... And because everyone should have a chance to test the max capacity of their stretchy pants.

The Secondhand Cookie

This is gonna make me sound like someone who pops Geritol, swills Metamucil, and walked "uphill both ways" to school every day, but I've got to say it: they don't make Halloween costumes like they used to.

Last year, we bought Cameron a Sonic the Hedgehog costume at Walmart. We took it out of the package long enough for him to wear it to the fall festival at his school. Before we even got there, it was ripped in two places. Yeah, I know: it's a clear-cut case of "you get what you pay for," but still ... it's not like I sent him out to play football in it or something. It isn't unreasonable to expect that your kid's costume will last longer than a few hours.

Especially when you have an everlasting Cookie Monster costume to prove that some costumes do in fact have a long ... long ... long life. With no end in sight!

Let me explain.

When our oldest son Colin was really little, we purchased said Cookie Monster costume for like twenty bucks (also at Walmart). He wore it for two Halloweens.

And then we handed it down to Cameron, who wore it for two Halloweens.

And then we handed it down to Coby, who wore it for two Halloweens.

And then we handed it down to Corbin, who just this Halloween wore it ... for its eighth year.

I'm telling you what, folks: that is a sturdy costume. Its ruggedness is even more impressive when I tell you that in between Halloweens, it lives in our dress-up box and is regularly worn all year-round. I'd estimate someone puts it on at least once a week. See? Here's Coby using it as dinner attire.

It has been tossed around, slept in, made gummy with candy residue, and washed a million times because it was funky from frequent use. Yet there isn't a rip, stain, hole, or bald patch to be found. In fact, despite the regular beating it takes, all I have to do every Halloween is brush the nappiness out of it a little bit.

Nick thoroughly enjoys a good photo-bombing.

Yeah, it takes a few minutes and afterward my brush is loaded with blue fuzz, but it's a small price to pay for a costume that has brought not hours, not days, but literally years of enjoyment to all four of my kids.

Did I mention it's also plushy and warm? And that because it's just a loose vest-thing with no legs, it takes forever for them to outgrow it? (Like, my fourth-grader can still put it on. Not that he'd be caught dead in it, but still.) And that it always gets TONS of comments about how flipping adorable it is? Yeah. Halloween costume perfection.

Just out of curiosity, I searched the Internet for it so I could put a link in this post in case you too need a costume that you can hand down to your great-great-great-grandchildren. Problem is, it was seriously hard to find. A couple places have it listed, but it's mysteriously "out of stock." I did locate it here for like $23 bucks. (As I recall, there was a very similarly-styled Elmo costume being sold at the same time - so if you can track down one of those, I'm sure it will be just as durable.)

I bet it's a conspiracy. I bet the manufacturer thought, "Hmmm, if we keep making these costumes so easy to hand down, we're never going to sell any." So instead, they started making costumes so flimsy that it takes mere hours to destroy them, thus ensuring that we have to fork over another bazillion bucks for Halloween costumes next year. And the year after that. And the year after that.

At least we've gotten our money's worth - and more - outta this one!

Five Situations that All Parents Fear

It's almost Halloween, so spooky things abound (like my face when I woke up this morning. The bags under my eyes could have held ten pounds of Halloween candy. Ugh!).

As parents, we're always the ones reassuring our kids that things aren't really as scary as they seem. There are no monsters in the closet. There are no zombies in the backyard. The Woosta-Wah Fart Smeller is just something your brother made up. We're the dispellers of myths, the banishers of fears, the reassurers that everything is going to be all right.

But when something makes us panic, we can't usually count on our kids to return the favor. In fact, they're the cause of the paranoia, more often than not - like when these five freakout-inducing situations occur.

"I feel like I'm gonna throw up." Nothing can bring my good mood screeching to a halt faster than a vomiting child. I start praying like a priest at an exorcism, hoping against hope that it's just a one-time thing. "It must be something you ate!" I say brightly, as though saying it out loud will make it true. It's just that when one child starts, it inevitably spreads to the rest of the household like a chain of diarrhea dominoes, including me - which means that more often than not, I'm trying not to heave while cleaning up someone else's bodily fluids. No bueno. Stomach viruses are a nightmare - no, they're worse.

A call from the school. When the caller ID shows that my kids' school is calling, you better believe I'm steeling myself to receive some sort of disheartening news. Is somebody sick? Is somebody hurt? Is someone in trouble? Did someone say "penis" in his Kindergarten classroom? In five years of having school-aged children, I've never once had a phone call from there that was like, "Hey, we just wanted to tell you that your kids are fantastic and they're our favorite students and we're wondering what your amazing parenting secrets are?"

An unsettling noise from the other room. It might be a crash. Or a splash. Or a thud. Or a gasp, or an "uh-oh." Whatever it is, it's never a good sign - especially if it's followed by dead silence. Because you just know that it's some heinous mess, or a valuable object shattered into a bazillion pieces, and that right about now your kid is staring at it wide-eyed, trying to figure out how to fix it before Mom and Dad find out.

An embarrassing question. You're going along about your day, everything is normal, and then bam! - your kid drops a bombshell, asking a question you're so not ready to answer. Whether it's an unexpected inquiry about the birds and the bees or, "Mommy, what's a whore?", you've got to work through the blind panic that rips through you and come up with a reasonable, age-appropriate answer. (Just don't attempt to illustrate your point via hand gestures, like I did. Learn from my mistakes.)

When kids say the darndest things. Along those same lines, we have the lovely tidbits that kids interject at the most inopportune (read: embarrassing) times. As we grow, we develop a social filter that keeps us from saying these things - but before that filter is in place, you never know when your child is going to say something (loudly, natch) that will leave you utterly mortified, wishing that you had a roll of duct tape handy. One of my kids told his teacher that she reminded him of a Muppet. One announced to a crowded lobby that I had pooped that morning. One questioned the gender of our waitress (re-peat-ed-ly). They have a knack for creating awkward situations that you, as a parent, must then stumble your way out of. Talk about nerve-wracking.

Our kids are scared of things that are easily remedied - just a reassuring pat on the back or some "monster repellant" (water in an old spray bottle or something) and they're good to go. But the fearful scenarios they can lead us into are far more tricky. At least they're funny in retrospect.

... Well, sometimes.

The Instrument (of Torture)

Fourth grade is an important year. It's the year that most kids turn double-digits. It's the year that they go from being the little fish in the school hallways to being in the "upper elementary" grades. And it's the year in which fourth-grade parents everywhere are subjected to a rite of passage so taxing, so torturous, that Satan himself would chuckle with approval.

Your fourth-grader brings home .....

... a recorder.

It doesn't matter if your kid is a complete instrumental novice or some sort of gifted virtuoso - recorders all sound the same. Their toot-toot-tooting is at a frequency that hammers at your eardrums like a woodpecker. And if your kid is anything like most, the "woodpecker" is ever-present, at least for the first few days.

Colin brought his home at the end of last week, brandishing it proudly in its little felt bag. He proceeded to play "Hot Cross Buns,"emitting a few squeaky, off-key notes during the rendition. And then he played it again. And then again.

Practicing, he called it. My music teacher told us we should, he said.

And, like, what can you say about it as a conscientious parent? I mean, it's something he brought home from school. Something he's supposed to learn. It isn't like we can be all, "Stop that practicing! Put that thing away and leave it alone!" Because it's like homework. High-pitched, ear-splitting, repetitively annoying homework. "Hot Cross Buns" on loop.

Of course when only one of your children has a recorder, it's automatically the coolest thing on the face of the planet and the other children want to play it. Badly. As though it's some magical flute whose notes will produce a sparkling horde of candy-farting unicorns. This resulted in huge fights about whose turn it is to play, and endless explanations about how this is Colin's special school thing and that it needs to be kept in a safe place, and the realization that they failed to listen to said explanations because they kept sneaking the damn thing out of Colin's backpack to play it. (Apparently small children don't get that you can't exactly play a screechy recorder unnoticed.) Did I mention that this happened at times when they thought their brother wasn't looking ... such as the crack of dawn?

Yeah. It's like that.

This morning, I checked like thirty times to make sure the recorder was in his backpack so that he could take the infernal thing back to school. Colin was bouncing around by the door, saying, "I'm excited about school today!"

"Well that's good!" I said brightly. "And why are you so excited?"

"Because we're learning a new song on the recorder!"


The only thing stopping me from going downright nuts is that I remember when I was a fourth-grader, and how awesome it felt to bring home my very own instrument (never mind that it was an instrument of torture. Sorry, Mom). And I wouldn't begrudge my kids that feeling.

If you need me, I'll be out buying earplugs before Colin gets home.

Foodie vs. Fitness

It's baking season, y'all. And soup weather.*

*(Just don't almost accidentally get your kids drunk when you try to make French onion soup, mmkay?.)

If you don't know what I mean by "baking season," I'm not sure we can still be friends.

The trees are changing into their gorgeous autumn outfits in preparation for their slow strip-tease into bare branches. And I'm changing into my loose sweaters and extra-chin-camouflaging scarves. (And my fat pants.) Not solely because of the cooler weather, but because the compulsion to bake and eat at this time of year tends to overtake me. So come January, I'm usually wearing something else: an extra ten pounds.

Okay, okay ... fifteen. Sheesh.

This year, in an effort to thwart the outward expansion of my thighs, I'm trying to ramp up the amount of exercise I'm doing. Because lord knows I'd rather do a little more moving than a little less eating. I mean ... baked goods and soup! (And Halloween candy. And Thanksgiving dinner.)

But I'm finding that I'm not very easily motivated. You know what motivates me? Food. Which, for obvious reasons, is kind of an issue. I feel like there's something wrong with me when I'm not inspired by those Pinterest photos of chicks with rock-hard bodies, rivulets of sweat trickling down their determined faces. Seriously, all I can do is feel sad that they won't be experiencing the cozy bliss that is a pot of chili simmering on the stovetop and an apple pie in the oven on a brisk, breezy day.*

*I suppose they won't be experiencing fat days, either, but I never think about it that way. 

I wish I could view kale chips and Paleo whatever-people-are-eating as delicious alternatives - but alas, try as I might, I'm not wired that way. The thought of giving up my foodie-ness makes me sad. 

But so does the thought of the fall-and-winter poundage that I pack on like a bear preparing for hibernation. Which is why I did fifty squats last night while waiting for my chocolate chip cookies to bake. 

That's gotta count for something, right?

The Demented Dentures

Halloween is coming up. I'm not what you'd call "crafty" or "talented at sewing" (I once tried to hem a toddler-sized cow costume and ended up making the legs capri-length) so we buy our kids' costumes. Hence the reason for our trip to the ridiculously-overpriced Halloween store late last week.

Our nine-year-old wants to be a zombie. When he told me this I was all, "Yay cheap costume!" because I envisioned some torn-up dirty old clothes (which we have in abundance around here) and some cheap face paint. But of course, he wanted the fancy putty-stuff to make scars with and the (seven dollar!) decaying teeth that you put over your own. Ugh.

When he said he wanted the teeth, I was skeptical. I mean, the kid hates tags in his clothes - I couldn't imagine how he'd feel about sporting a big hunk of plastic in his mouth for the duration of Halloween. But before I could point that out, thereby saving myself seven bucks and a whole bunch of inevitable whining, my husband was like, "Wow, buddy, those are awesome! I think they'll be perfect."

So, we bought the teeth.

Just as I'd expected, Colin had them in his mouth for all of 2.5 seconds before he deemed them too uncomfortable and abandoned them on the kitchen counter. I was just about to launch into an epic "I told you so" speech when I noticed that the teeth were gone.

I had to chuckle when I saw where they'd ended up.

They might have been too big for Colin's little mouth, but they fit oddly perfectly into Curtis's. We had a good laugh, and I figured that was that.

Only it wasn't. Because the teeth kept reappearing. Or, more accurately, they never really disappeared. Curtis was obsessed with the damn things. Just as I thought he had put them away for good, they would materialize out of his pocket. All. Weekend. LONG.

He wore them with our Kindergartner's Harry Potter glasses.

He wore them while playing video games with the kids.

He wore them while on the computer.

He wore them while on the phone. WITH HIS WORK.

He wore them at dinner.

He wore them in bed.

Yesterday, he took them to his office and wore them when he spoke at his morning meeting. (Did I mention that when he wears the teeth, his accent typically slips into a redneckish drawl?) And he had them in last night. They're in his pocket as we speak, ready for their next great adventure. I can't take him anywhere without risking total mortification. He hasn't embarrassed me this much since that time he followed me around Target making farting noises.

At least we've gotten our seven dollars' worth. And then some.


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