Monday Moanin'

So ... today is Monday. I'd know that even without a calendar.

I know it's Monday because while I was in the shower, my toddler got out of bed and decided it'd be a fabulous time to get into my economy-sized tub of coconut oil.

I know it's Monday because my cable is out for reasons unknown, and so our breakfast "background noise" was missing. Which meant my kids talked more. Which meant they bickered more. Because heaven forbid they talk for ten minutes without arguing. And bickering always turns into pushing and shoving, and when they're pushing and shoving they aren't eating and getting dressed, and when they're not eating and getting dressed, we run late.

I know it's Monday because my hair, much like my kids, refused to cooperate.

I know it's Monday because when I took my dogs outside, I stepped in poop. And saw a spider the size of Africa. And on my way back into the house, my flip-flop broke.

I know it's Monday because as I was typing this blog post, a fly literally smacked into the side of my face and I freaked out hard enough to fall out of my chair. OMG. I know a spider who needs a snack.

I know it's Monday because, like ... wasn't it just Friday?

My weekend was nice, though. My brother visited from Missouri, which is always a good time now that he doesn't give me wedgies or fart in my face any more (not that he doesn't try, but I'm faster now that we're adults). He does those things to my kids, which is amusing. Especially since I'm no longer the target. Plus, I realized yesterday that there is only ONE MORE SUNDAY standing between me and The Walking Dead!!! Is anybody else totally stoked? I can barely contain my excitement. Show 'em, Kermit.



Even though it's Monday now, and so far it's been full of those Monday-ish annoyances, the week ahead isn't looking so bad. I've got a couple of new giveaways in the works (and don't forget, you can still leave a comment here for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card!). The weather is supposed to be decent, so I can send my kids to school in just a t-shirt and jeans without having to go through the "do they need jackets or don't they" dilemma every morning. And every week is a new chance for something amazing to happen.

... Or, you know, something like getting hit in the face with a fly and falling out of your chair.

Be nice to me, Monday!

TGIF! Oh, Wait.


Before I had kids, before I was a writer, I worked outside of the home (and okay, sometimes while I was a writer because writers don't make all that much money, y'all). So I know there is no better feeling than the glorious, amazing thrill of leaving the office for the last time that week, knowing that you have an entire weekend to do whatever the hell you want.

Since I'm a work-at-home mom now, though (see here for a sweet illustration of what that's like), that has changed - and although there are a whole lot of awesome perks, one sad casualty is that Fridays have now lost a little bit of their sparkle. They blend into other days and, really, aren't that much different. But like a person who has lost an arm and still feels that phantom limb sometimes, the old me still gets excited when Friday rolls around.

This is frustrating, so I wrote a poem.

Ahem.

There's laundry to do ... but it's Friday!
There are dishes to clean, but ... it's Friday!
There's just so much stuff on my gotta-do list,
Plus anything extra that I might have missed,
But the thought of these chores just makes me feel pissed -
Because darn it, come on now, it's Friday.

I wish I could clock in and out
And when five o'clock rolls around, shout,
"I'm done for the week! No more work! Time for play!"
But for do-it-all moms, Friday's still just a day
It's no wonder my hair is going so gray
'Cause the magic is gone out of Friday.

I'm still waiting for someone to open up that exclusive club for thirtysomethings.

Make it happen, people.

Happy Friday - whether you've got anything going on this weekend or not!


Dating: Parents vs. Non-Parents


"Date your spouse!" the experts always say. "Just because you're married with a family doesn't mean the spark has to die down. Flirt with each other! Keep the romance alive!"

That's great advice. Really, it is. It sounds fantastic ... in theory. Kind of like before you have kids and you swear you're never going to feed them processed food or let them play with your phone to keep them quiet for ten minutes. But when you try to put it into practice? Well, sometimes it just isn't practical. I mean, I'm pretty sure that when I'm brushing my teeth while wearing food-encrusted pajamas and telling my husband how I accidentally got poop under my fingernail while changing a diaper and oh by the way did we pay the sewer bill last month?, I'm the last person he wants to flirt with.

I'm not saying it isn't important to try to keep a connection as a couple - it is. And relationships take work. But so do kids, and all the obligations that come with them. And when you're trying to juggle all of that, it's not usually the children who are shoved to the back burner. Even when you try to keep the spark burning, it's a whole different ballgame when you're married with kids. Going on a date, for example, only remotely resembles the dates you used to go on. Let's break it down.

GETTING READY

Non-parents: Stroll leisurely around the mall because you'd like to pick up a new outfit for tonight. Oh, and maybe a new eyeliner or something at the department store. Throw in a manicure if you've got time. Arrive home, soak in a tub, deep-condition and exfoliate and moisturize, shave every shave-able body part while blasting your favorite music. It's like a spa up in here. Spend ample time perfecting your makeup, hair, and outfit. Put on cute underwear. Be excited because tonight is going to be awesome.

Parents: Rummage through your closet to find something flattering that you don't wear every day. Get pissed off. Settle for something. Wish you could stroll leisurely around the mall buying a new outfit. Realize the kids have used your eyeliner as a crayon; make a mad dash to Target. Arrive home, look at the clock, freak out because the trip to Target seriously ate into your time budget. Shower quickly, swiping over your legs with a razor, hitting up your pits and bikini line if you have a couple extra seconds. Ignore kids pounding on door. Decide whether to blow-dry your hair or just put it up wet. Slap on some makeup. Squeeze into some sort of fat-reducing underwear. Hope you don't sweat through your blouse with all this dashing around. Be excited because as soon as you're able to leave the house, tonight is going to be awesome.

LEAVING THE HOUSE

Non-parents: Grab purse, cell phone, keys. One last quick mirror check. Open door. Exit.

Parents: Make sure the kids are fed and the kitchen isn't a wreck. Leave emergency numbers and special instructions for the sitter. Tell the kids goodbye. Wonder why the hell they're acting like you're about to permanently abandon them. Give hugs and kisses and try not to get food or snot all over your decent outfit. Pry clingy children from legs. Slip out the door. Realize you forgot your phone. Come back in and repeat clingy-children debacle.

THE DATE

Non-parents: Go to a high-end restaurant or an upscale bar. Order without looking at prices. Enjoy laughs and animated conversation about movies and current events. Check your phone periodically to see if anyone has "liked" your check-in on Facebook. Discuss where to go next; the night is young and the options are endless!

Parents: Go to a chain restaurant because you have a coupon (or go to a high-end restaurant, but order the chicken because it's cheap). Feel frivolous because you order an apple-tini with your meal. Rejoice in the fact that you don't actually have to cut up anybody's food, or tell anyone to get out from under the table. Check your phone periodically to make sure the sitter hasn't called. Promise you won't talk about the kids. End up talking about the kids. Keep checking the time because you're paying the sitter by the hour, and anyway, you're getting tired because eleven o'clock is way past your bedtime and the kids woke you up at six this morning.

AFTER THE DATE

Non-parents: Return home; decide whether to end the date or take it further. If it ends there, go inside, remove makeup, put on comfy clothes, let out the fart you've been holding in. Go to bed. Sleep peacefully. Wake up whenever. If it goes further ... light candles, pour wine, put on soft music, and reveal that cute underwear and those nicely shaved legs. Bow chicka wow wow!

Parents: Return home. Fork over cash to sitter, trying not to cringe about how much money you've spent on this date in total. Look at children sleeping and marvel that you missed them, even though you were excited to be away. Remove makeup, peel yourself out of fat-reducing underwear, put on comfy clothes. Yawn. Decide whether or not to devote a few minutes to "spousal intimacy" or just go right to sleep. Drool all over pillow until child wakes you up in the middle of the night for a drink/to tell you about a nightmare/to tell you there's pee in the bed. Wake up at the crack of dawn to make breakfast for hungry children because, duh, who else is going to do it?


So you see? Bringing romance into your relationship is important, but becomes slightly tricky so when kids - and everything attached to having them - are thrown into the mix.

I think until they're older, I'll just be thankful for Netflix and popcorn, and the fact that my husband doesn't care so much if my legs are stubbly or my outfit is old.

Just as long as there's no poop under my fingernails.

Laun-dreams

You guys. Something absolutely amazing happened to me over the weekend.

Something I fantasize about on a daily basis, and dream about at night.

Something that has never happened before.

I caught up on my laundry.

I. Caught up. On my laundry.

*stands on a mountaintop with arms outstretched* I CAUGHT UP ON MY LAUNDRY!!!!

Just let the enormity of that sink in for a minute: every single piece, washed, dried, folded, and put away. Washer and dryer and hamper and basket ... empty.

It's a practically mythical phenomenon around these parts, since there's a grand total of six wardrobes in my house to keep clean. I have yet to figure out how my kids go through so many clothes, since they're naked every time I turn around - but as most of my fellow moms can attest, kids have an unparalleled knack for filling up a hamper.*

*And by "filling up a hamper" I mean "throwing the clothes down wherever the hell they happen to take them off.

Washing isn't the problem. I could wash clothes all day. We generate so much laundry around here that I have to do at least one load daily, sometimes two.*

*Especially if I try to take a day off and accidentally leave a load in the washer and it starts to smell funky so I have to wash it twice. Oops.

And drying it? Simple. Transfer clothes from washer to dryer. Easy-peasy. I don't mind at all.

But there's no magic laundry fairy who takes your clean clothing from dryer to drawer. And when it stops being easy, I start being disinterested in doing it. So once the laundry is actually dry, it sometimes sits there wrinkling in the dryer. And then I'm like, "I'll just throw this next load in on top of it and dry the whole thing together." And then that sits, until finally my dryer is too full to accommodate anything else and then I'm left with this ...



... a.k.a. the unfortunate reality that a ton of laundry-folding is in my future. Blah.

And then once it's folded, it has to be put away. Most of my kids are old enough to put their own stuff in their own drawers, but their handiwork tends to look like this ...

 This is their pajama drawer, where I don't care if anything is folded or not.

So when it matters whether their stuff is wrinkled, I put it away myself, which is why their shirt drawer looks like this:


This is a very smart method of putting clothes away (thank you Pinterest!). Number one, you don't have to sift through stacks of shirts to find the one you want. And because your kids don't either, it stays organized a lot longer than normal.

Man, I love Internet wisdom.

Anyway, yesterday I did ALL the laundry and put it ALL away and stood back and just stared in awe at the beautifully empty laundry room. I swear there was a Hallelujah chorus.

And then? I went upstairs and found an entire outfit crumpled behind my kids' bathroom door.

And on my way to throw it downstairs, my husband was like, "Oh, you're on your way to the laundry room? Take this dish rag because it's starting to smell musty."

And then my oldest son was like, "Ewww, who threw their dirty socks in the toy box?"

It was like the universe said, "Caught up on laundry, eh? We'll just see about that."

At least I don't have to, like, beat it on a rock and hang it on a clothesline. It could be worse.


Stuff Prospective Parents Should Probably Know

We know "what to expect when we're expecting" ... but then what about afterward? Is parenting harder because we don't know what it's actually like? Before parenthood, we can only speculate about what raising a child will entail - and usually, the idea and the actual experience are vastly different. Like how I once swore I'd only give my kids a perfect, healthy diet, yet now I find myself looking up things like "do pickles count as a vegetable?"

Parenthood is full of the unexpected.


So I thought about things I wish I had understood about having kids before I had kids. Things that might have brought me a little insight, a bit of clarity, made the journey a little easier. Things such as ...

You're not as knowledgeable about kids as you think you are. Before I was a parent, I smugly considered myself an expert on kids (I know ... if I could time-travel, I'd slap me). I have more nieces and nephews than I can count on both hands. I started babysitting by the time I was ten. In college, I took child development and child psychology classes. I volunteered at the campus child care center, and after that, worked as a preschool teacher. Kids? Oh, yeah. I knew all about kids.

Only, I didn't.

Books can tell you a lot. Babysitting can teach you how to change a diaper or mediate an argument over whose crayons are whose. But the experience of having your own child, whom you love with every fiber of your being, is completely different. You are acutely aware that every parenting decision you make can directly affect them for the rest of their lives. You are bombarded with advice from every angle - some decent, some ridiculous - and it's your job to determine which is which. Throw in the worry, the pride, the frustration, the all-encompassing love, and the different personalities and circumstances of each individual child, and it's like you're playing  a ranked chess match while someone throws basketballs at your head. No matter how much you think you know, you have no freaking clue. Parenthood is largely trial-and-error; go in with flexibility and an open mind. You're going to make mistakes, so allow yourself to feel okay about that, because everybody does it. And anyway, as you'll find out ...

They aren't as fragile as the Internet makes them out to be. When my oldest was born, I hunched protectively over him at the slightest gust of wind. Hauled him to the pediatrician if he coughed. Eased him ever so gently into his crib and his car seat and his bath tub. Followed him around obsessively as he took his first steps so he wouldn't bump into the coffee table.

By the time my fourth son came around, I brought him home from the hospital, plopped him into a beanbag on the living room floor, and let his brothers pummel him for about ten minutes while I laid on the couch staring tiredly at the ceiling. Okay, maybe not pummel, but they got all up in his face and poked at him a lot. And it was okay. He still loves them, and he's not missing any eyes, so there's that.


Horror stories abound on the Internet. Take them with a grain of salt (and stop Googling everything because that is the fastest route to a freakout). Relax and let your kids be kids and use your intuition. If you listen to your gut, it will tell you a lot more about what they need than any book or website.

You will miss your pre-parental life ... and you will feel guilty about it. It will happen when you're elbow-deep in baby poop and knee-deep in toys and your childless friend calls up like, "Oh yeah, I just left the salon and now I'm heading to dinner and then we'll probably hit the club after that. Give me a call tomorrow. Oh but not too early because I'm planning to sleep in." You'll look at your poopy, cluttered surroundings with the Dora theme song playing in the background, and you'll want to cry because you wish you were somewhere - anywhere! - else. And then, like a knife twisting in your heart, you'll feel like crap because oh my gosh what kind of terrible parent am I?! 

News flash: it's okay to miss those things. It's normal to miss those things. You can love your kids and want to be away from them at the same time. And trust me, no matter how much you love the little darlings, you'll fantasize about doing things by yourself again. Because ...

Kids can be dictators and jerks. You'd never work for a boss who woke you up in the middle of the night with ridiculous requests, or demanded that you shape your personal life around his schedule. If he asked you to wipe his ass or threw his lunch all over the room and expected you to clean it up, that'd be a deal-breaker. Yet that's basically what you do as a parent. Thank goodness you adore your kids, because they can be like tiny little tyrants. You will find yourself, for example, frantically searching for things - no, the red cup! - nooooo, the red cup with the picture of Mickey Mouse! - Nooooo, not milk, juiiiiice! - while your own breakfast scorches in the skillet. Oh, and also?

You will go without things you never currently go without. I'm not saying you should neglect yourself for your kids' sake. In fact, it's more important than ever to take care of yourself, because a happy mom is a happy household. BUT. If you're used to weekly manis and pedis, or getting your hair trimmed religiously every six weeks, or regular massages, or buying a bunch of new clothes every season ... you might want to realize that kids are freaking expensive. And unless you are rolling in expendable income, your "me" budget will dwindle to virtually nothing because of stuff like bills from the pediatrician, school lunches, clothes and shoes and backpacks that will keep wearing out, and the "whatever-toy-is-currently-being-shown-on-TV-a-million-times-a-day" that they just have to have.

Case in point: the photo you see here. These are my actual shoes. That is a hole big enough to stick my finger through. The hole appeared four months ago, yet I still wear the shoes three times a week when I teach Zumba. If you're wondering why I haven't just gotten new shoes, re-read the previous paragraph. And then read this: kids. Are. Not. Cheap.

Follow me on Instagram @FightingFrumpy to see more breathtaking photography such as this.

Nobody cares as much about your kids as you do and it will piss you off. I distinctly remember my first experience with this phenomenon: my first son was about six months old and had just learned to wave. We'd go to the grocery store, and he'd wave at everyone he saw. Sometimes, people waved back - but other times, they'd just look at him and walk on. And I wanted to be like, "He's waving at you, you big jerk!" I mean, how could you be waved at by an adorable baby and not even bother to wave back? Ugh.

There are entire websites devoted to ridiculing parents who talk about their kids too much. The sad but harsh truth is, no one will ever think your child is as cute or as smart or as witty or as amazing as you do. The only exception: their other parent, and their grandparents, and maybe their aunts and uncles if you're lucky. Find one of these people to brag to when Junior chooses peas over pudding or uses the toilet for the first time - because even though you'll want to shout it from the rooftops, other people don't care, and it will make you feel disappointed inside.

Your tolerance for grossness will increase because it absolutely has to. So you're a little squeamish? Don't worry - because having children is the best remedy. Being squeamish isn't an option, and parenthood is like a crash course in getting used to disgusting things. Luckily it starts out with smaller, easier-to-manage messes: the occasional newborn diaper blowout, a little spit-up here and there, some drool. By the time you get a few months of practice with the rookie-level grossness, your child gets older and ups the ante with man-sized dumps, and vomit (which, until they learn to sprint to the toilet, means that you get to clean it off of beds, out of couch cushions, your hair, or wherever), and six-inch smears of snot on the thigh of your pants. They'll play in their poop.

... Told you.

They'll urinate in weird places (such as inside a water gun, which they will then stash in the corner of their closet for a month until the pee turns rancid and you make a most unpleasant discovery when you tip it over onto your foot). They'll bring you boogers the size of Brazil (or just wipe them on the wall). When they get older, they will come crying to you with blood-dripping injuries - but by that time, you'll be such a seasoned pro that the first thing out of your mouth will be, "Don't bleed on the carpet!"

By nature, parenthood is surprising - and this is just the tip of the iceberg of things you'll discover when it happens to you. But I figure the more we can take the mystery out of it, the better equipped new parents will be to handle the challenges their kids throw at them.

... Until you spill a water gun full of rancid pee on your foot. Nothing can really prepare you for that.

Trust me.

Dear Boys: a Lesson in "Fart-iquette"

Dear Boys,

As a parent, it's my job to teach you the fundamentals of manners and self-control, so that you don't embarrass the piss out of me in public grow up to be fine, upstanding, respectful young men.

We've already talked about the ins and outs of groping your boy parts, so I think it's time to move on to another topic that you seem to need a bit of help with: flatulence. Or, as you like to refer to it (as loudly and as often as possible) - farts. This also goes for burps, and any other gaseous emission that you can muster up.

So here, Boys, are a few kindly reminders. Please refer to these often, as my words on the subject sometimes seem to go in one ear and out the ... undies.

- Believe it or not, it's possible to fart quietly. Make use of those butt muscles you've toned through countless hours of fending off your brother's attempted wedgies. A little clenching can go a long way in muffling even the most heinous anal acoustics.

- From the very first diaper-bound rumblings, I've said, "Excuse you!" in order to teach you the correct thing to say afterward. And yet, to this day, you still seem to think it's a gleeful announcement of, "I farted!" Just say "excuse me." Seriously. You're still calling attention to the fact that you farted, I'm not mortified by your lack of manners, we all win. Sort of.

- Just because you need to fart doesn't mean you should. There are times when you should just hold it in; I know you're capable. If you're in a confined space where the air won't immediately carry it away, do us all a favor and refrain. Forcing others to inhale your poop-scented air when they can't escape elevates you from merely rude to total jerk.

- Everybody loves a light breeze in their face - just not the kind that comes from your anus. Likewise, no one welcomes a blast from the ass while you're sitting on their lap. If you've got to fart, fine, but keep it in your own space.


(PS - you're not very sneaky, because when you run over "for a hug" with that devilish grin on your face, I know exactly what you're planning to do.)

- I don't care if it is your sibling: your response to someone else's gas-passing should ideally be silence, not "Your voice has changed, but your breath still smells the same!"

- Farting is not part of the Olympics. People are not winning millions of dollars in cash and prizes for farting (at least I hope they aren't). Do you know why? Because it's not a competition.  So when your brother farts, that doesn't mean you have to follow up with your own. Especially if you have to force it, which brings us to my last (and possibly most crucial) reminder ...

- One of these days, you're going to try too hard and crap your pants. And even I will laugh. And you'll never, ever, ever live it down. Just saying.

So in summary, Boys, bodily functions are normal and healthy, but there's a time and a place for the proper expulsion of your various gases - and a proper protocol to follow afterward. I just hope you learn this by the time you start to date.

... And then remember it when you're married.


Love,
Mommy


Turtle-y Awesome

Over the weekend, my third son - Coby - turned five. He's the one I was pregnant with when I started this blog, so if you've been reading me for a while you're probably like, "No way. He's five?!" Because I know that's how I feel. My little baby is a Kindergartner now, but it seems like just yesterday that I was writing this blog post about his birth (which, coincidentally, is the first time I ever addressed the "pooping during childbirth" issue on the Internet. Did I or didn't I? You'll have to read to find out. You know you're curious).

I was trying to make a slide show for the blog, with all these sweet pictures of him, but y'all? My tech-savvy must be broken this morning, because I was seriously struggling. So I finally just said screw it and decided that I would link you to my favorite Coby-centric post, because even though I wrote it two years ago, it's still true - even more so today, as he grows and matures. And if, years down the road, he reads this and wonders why I didn't love him enough to cobble together a mediocre little birthday slideshow, well ... none of his brothers have had one for the past year or two either. So, you know, everyone is even.

Coby (and practically every other little boy his age) is currently obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He is also obsessed with a YouTube channel called Nerdy Nummies, where a charming young lady named Rosanna Pansino (whom I suspect Coby has a bit of a crush on) whips up all kinds of fun treats based on video games and book characters and stuff. And it's where - unfortunately for me - he found this tutorial for Ninja Turtle cake pops.

He turned those huge, soulful brown eyes upon me with longing and was like, "Mommy, can I please take some of those to school to share with my class for my birthday?"

And I was all ...


Because you guys. How could I not be? Just look at this face!


So despite the fact that I had never before made cake pops, I promised to make twenty of them for his class.*

*And then I freaked out inside because OMG WHAT HAD I DONE????

Let me give you a couple of important things I learned about making cake pops, in case you, too, have a child with pleading and hypnotic eyes who sweetly begs you to make cake pops.

- I didn't use cream cheese to hold the cake balls together, like she does in the tutorial - I used frosting. (I only like cream cheese in savory applications, like crab rangoon or something.) The frosting worked just fine and was delicious.

- The fondant (for the turtles' bandannas) sounds scary but it was surprisingly, refreshingly simple to make ... and MUCH cheaper than buying it. You literally just melt mini-marshmallows with a teeny bit (I'm talking a couple of dribbles) of water and then knead it with some powdered sugar. I used this recipe ... and even though I only made a half-batch, I had leftovers. Make sure you grease every surface it touches liberally with shortening. And when you color it, use gel or paste coloring because the liquid kind changes the texture and makes it all sticky. Trust me on this one.

- I used Wilton Candy Melts in green for the coating, which apparently she uses in the tutorial. I bought one bag, and had just enough for the twenty pops.


Although where hers were nice and runny and perfect for dipping, mine were kind of the consistency of toothpaste when I melted them. So make sure you heat them slowly or they'll get stiff. You can thin it out with a bit of shortening if necessary, which it totally was for me. Keep a little bit of extra on hand because I had a couple of cake pops that cracked, and I just smoothed some extra coating over the cracks with my finger.

- I guess you could make your own eyeballs out of frosting or something, but I bought these:


Because making your own eyeballs, I'm guessing, would be ridiculously tedious. And ain't nobody got time for that ... especially when you're already making cake pops. The pre-made ones were easy and stuck to the fondant bandannas just fine, no extra adhesive needed.

- I went out and purchased special food-writing markers for the mouths. I thought they'd be perfect. But guess what? They didn't work. I guess the coating on the cake balls was too waxy or something. So I went with my emergency plan B and used a little softened butter, some powdered sugar, a couple drips of water and some black gel food coloring to make a black frosting, which I then (painstakingly, cursing under my breath the whole time) dabbed onto the cake pops in the shape of a mouth with the end of a skewer. Blah.

- Buy a cardboard cake pop stand. Seriously. They are only like two bucks but they give you a place to put them while the coating firms up. Once it's hardened, you can lay them on a tray or something without damaging them - but when they're wet, you need a place to put them. Unless you just want to stand there holding them until they harden, which I did not.

- Everything can be made in advance. I made the fondant two days before and stored it in plastic wrap in the fridge. I made the cake balls the day before, and kept those in the freezer (keeping them cold makes them MUCH easier to work with). All I had to do on Cake Pop Day was assemble them - not that it isn't a lot of work, mind you, but at least I didn't have to bake the cake and everything all at once.

I ended up making a huge mess and slightly lumpy cake pops.


But they tasted great, and most importantly, the kids LOVED them. Seriously, they freaked when I brought them into the classroom. And Coby was beaming with pride, which made up for all the work.

And the fact that my fingers, four days later, are STILL stained various colors from tinting the fondant. Which brings us to my last tip ... buy some damn latex gloves.


Happy cake-pop-making!

When the Internet Hates You


My sons sometimes slip and call me Daddy ... or "dude." My mom has called me by my siblings' names more often than I can count. I may even have been called a bitch once or twice in my lifetime (for no good reason, I assure you - I'm always perfectly sweet, right? Ahem).

But do you know what I've never been called?

A pedophile. A pervert. Deranged. Mentally ill. Disgusting. Sick.

I had never been called any of those things ...

... Until a few days ago.

See, a little while back, I wrote a post here on the blog called "The Naked Truth." You guys liked it. I got one snarky anonymous comment, but for the most part, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Then it was republished on The Huffington Post, with a different title: "Why I Want My Sons to See Me Naked." Then it was mentioned on Redbook Magazine's website ... and Women's Day Magazine's ... and The Blaze ... and HuffPost Canada ... and about a bazillion other websites.

And y'all? All hell has certifiably broken loose.

I have gotten a ton of supportive comments. But I can hardly read and appreciate those, because they're peppered with nasty landmines: This woman is sick. Someone should call child protective services. She's ruining her children. These boys are going to be perverts.

Besides the vitriolic comments, I've gotten bombarded with hate mail. Hate tweets. Hate-Facebook-messages. On one message board was a link to my post with the headline, "Aging, insecure mom tries to find solace in children's acceptance of her body" - followed, of course, by a bunch of people spewing about what a nutjob I am. One woman said she'd never let her kids play at my house ... because, clearly, I flaunt my nakedness every time we have company.

*eye roll*

All I wanted to do was convey how important it is to me that my boys know what a real female body looks like, and not cultivate an "ideal" based on the images they'll inevitably see later of the impossibly thin, airbrushed, and implanted. (If you haven't seen the original post, read it, and you'll see where I'm coming from.)

But here's where the problem lies in our society: many people simply cannot separate female nudity from sexuality. And so when I say I want my boys to see my body, those people apparently picture me strutting stripper-like in front of them in some crotchless undies and a pair of pasties, like, "Come here, boys! Mommy has something to show you!" And it just makes me laugh. Because ... seriously?

There is nothing - I repeat, NOTHING - lascivious or sexual about my sons seeing me unclothed (and honestly, I question the hangups of anyone who thinks otherwise). This is not me spreading out naked on a bed and inviting them to come take a good long gander at my lady-bits. It's not me holding a conversation with them as I trim my pubes with one foot on the bathroom sink. It's me in the shower, and them poking their heads in to say, "Mommy, can we have a snack?" It's me flopping out a boob while we're watching TV and nursing whichever of them I've nursed throughout the years. It's me changing into my pajamas while they sit on my bed and chat with me about their day. It's the boys bursting in to tattle on their brothers while I'm on the toilet. It's random, fleeting, incidental moments where they might happen to catch a glimpse of - gasp! - their mother's naked butt or a little bit of nipple. It's life.

Do I try to teach them about modesty and privacy? Sure. It's my job as their mother. But news flash: kids don't always grasp a concept right away. Sometimes it takes years. My kids are little. They don't care who sees them when they change clothes at this point, and they only remember to poop with the bathroom door closed, like, ten percent of the time.

Here's the deal: I'm not going to give them the impression that my body parts - or theirs - are dirty things that they should be ashamed of. If they have questions about why my body looks different than theirs, I'm going to answer them openly and honestly.

If we keep the female anatomy shrouded in mystery, we indirectly teach our boys that women's bodies are only to be seen for sexual reasons, or to "be sexy." When we don't allow them to see those bodies in a more natural, NON-sexual context, we're perpetuating the objectification of women. We're reinforcing the archaic stereotype that breasts, for example, are solely sexual - and not practical anatomy used to feed babies. I want to let my boys know that a naked woman is NOT always just an "object of desire." That like theirs, our bodies are made to be strong, and functional, and that all body types have their merits.

Why can't people understand that when you're talking about your kids seeing you naked, there's absolutely nothing sexual about it? How hard is that to fathom, seriously? I mean, come on.

It amuses (and amazes) me that people are talking about what a bad example I'm setting for my children while they cyber-bully me. "Yes honey, mommy will be with you in a minute, I'm just telling this perfect stranger that she's a piece of shit parent and that her children are going to grow up to be rapists."

While I can't say I didn't expect some negative comments - after all, I did put myself out there for the world to scrutinize - I am surprised at how far it has gone. And how mean people can be from behind the safety of the computer screen. And how I kinda wish I had just stuck to blogging about poop and writing funny poems. Because, as much as I'd like to say it doesn't, I have to admit ... it stings a little.

But.

Haters gonna hate. And my kids are gonna keep seeing me naked.

... At least until they learn to knock.

I'm No Phone-y

If we're gonna be friends, there's something you've got to understand.

I probably won't call you. Like, ever. And I need you to be okay with that, and not be all like ...


Please don't take it personally. For real.

I'll text you until my thumbs are sore and callused (or maybe huge and muscular?). I'll email you every day. I'll comment on your Instagrams and post on your Facebook wall. I'll hand-write you a letter ... send you a message via carrier pigeon ... hire a skywriter to puff out a message in the clouds (okay, not really, because I can't even afford to shop at higher-end department stores). My point is: I'll communicate with you in many ways. The phone just won't be one of them.

As a typical preteen/teenage girl, I logged hours of my life making prank calls yapping away to my friends (although I did it on a corded, see-through phone in my bedroom because hello! ... the nineties were just that awesome). I even did odd jobs to fund the steep $10 monthly fee for my very own phone line - with three way calling.

OMG the memories. This exact phone is actually for sale on Etsy!

But then came the magic of alternate means of communication. And though the phone and I made some good memories together, I had to move on. It's nothing against the phone OR the person on the other end of it. It's just that the introverted part of me vastly prefers other means.

Let me explain.

It's intrusive. I wouldn't just show up at your house unannounced. I wouldn't walk up to a circle of people talking and butt into their conversation. I feel the same way about ringing you up out of the blue; a call is a disruption. You have no idea whether the person you're calling has the time or the desire to talk, so it's kind of a gamble. With a phone call, you're basically forcing the person to talk to you whether they want to or not, like, "I don't care if you're putting your kids to bed/trying to dye your hair/catching up on 'Teen Mom.' I want to talk and I want to talk now." And if they don't answer, you've got a pretty good idea of whether they legitimately missed your call or if they're ignoring it. With a text, at least you can convincingly pretend you didn't hear it (because half the time, you really don't). It saves a little bit of that "were you avoiding me?" awkwardness.

It's hard to control. When you're the caller, you have a little bit of control over how long the conversation is. But when you're the call-ee, etiquette dictates that you wait for the person who called to determine when the conversation is over. Which means that even if you're not really in the mood for a long chat, you risk having to have one. And if you must cut the conversation short, you feel like a jerk for interrupting it.

It's pretty much unnecessary. If you wanna find out how - or what - just about anyone is doing these days, it's just a click away. I can know what my high school classmate had for dinner last night just by opening up my Instagram app. I can scroll through someone's news feed and learn about their new promotion and what political issues are bothering them and how their Monday sucked because they spilled Starbucks all over their front seat. Or I can text. Or I can email. There are only, like, two people that I know who don't have some sort of electronic communication these days ... and I'm probably not talking to them.

It's awkward. Being witty and being quick-witted are two different things. I can give you a funny answer to something, absolutely, but it takes me a minute - or ten - to come up with it (this is why I'm a writer and not an improv comedian). It's the same with opinions: I like to form one, carefully weighing the pros and cons, before I speak. But on the phone, you're expected to deliver an instant answer, an instant comeback, keep the verbal ping-pong going with no awkward-and-potentially-misunderstood pauses. Which is difficult for someone who likes to think things through before responding. With other means of communication, there's a lot less risk of accidentally sounding like a dumb-dumb ... or worse, an asshole.

I have kids. You call because you want to talk to someone, right? You want to hear their voice, have a nice uninterrupted chat? Well you're barking up the wrong tree if you're calling someone with kids. Because the conversation will be peppered with things like, "Leave your brother alone!" and "I said no!" and punctuated with apologies for the interruptions. Kids have a knack for interpreting a parent being on the phone as a perfect time to a.) ask questions or b.) try to take advantage of the distraction. Either way, it's not pretty - whether you're the harried mom trying to listen politely while simultaneously keeping her household in check, or the person on the other end whose every third sentence is being cut off.

So unless you want our important conversation to be abruptly ended by, "Sorry, gotta go, someone's bleeding," I suggest you contact me in another way.

Because for that reason - and so many more - the phone and I are better off as old, distant friends.


The Sneaky Snackers


There are certain milestones that every parent knows to look forward to: like the first time your baby rolls over, or takes those first few wobbly steps, or loses a tooth. And then there are the "surprise" milestones - the less-obvious ones that you kinda forgot to look forward to, but when they happen, they're awesome. Like when they learn to shower by themselves or tie their own shoes or take a dump without yelling, "Need help wi-piiiiiing!"

But for every milestone, every little bit of maturity that lightens your parental load, there's an anti-milestone: something they figure out how to do that you really wish they hadn't. (Like the time I tried to spell T-E-S-T-I-C-L-E-S, not realizing that my son could spell it, too.)

Anyway, in the world of anti-milestones, my two-year-old has recently reached an annoying double-whammy: he is able to open the refrigerator by himself and can open most any packaged food. And he practices these new-found skills as often as he possibly can.

Because two-year-olds are also learning to be sneaky, he's in there every time my back is turned. I go the bathroom; he's cramming cheese slices into his mouth as quickly as he can unwrap them. I run downstairs to switch the laundry from washer to dryer; he's ripping into a tube of yogurt like a ravenous lion at the throat of an antelope.

But it isn't limited to just trips to the fridge when Mommy isn't looking. If I open it myself, there he is, peeking in to see what he can get his grubby little fingers on. I swear he could be at the opposite end of the house, and he'll magically teleport to weasel his way in as I'm trying to close the refrigerator door. It only intensifies when the rest of my boys come home from school. Because what do they do? Head straight for the fridge. And we know if the fridge is open, the toddler is all up in it whether he's legitimately hungry or not.

It gets worse, though. When all the kids are home, and they spot their little brother with some ill-gotten goods, they're like, "We want (fill-in-the-blank) too!" So there goes four times the yogurt or mandarin oranges or string cheese or grapes or whatever.

The pinnacle of the snack insanity comes as I'm trying to cook dinner. I'm in and out of the fridge a bazillion times; therefore, so is the toddler. And consequently, his brothers. And since I'm trying to do something and don't have time to play Snack Monitor to four stealthy little boys, they end up noshing right before the meal ... which inevitably leads to, "But we're not hungry!" when it's actually time to eat.

Grrrrrr.

As I write this blog post, my littlest sneak is lugging an economy-sized jar of peanut butter from the cabinet and rummaging in the drawer for a spoon. Clearly his territory is expanding to non-refrigerated goods. "Ope-it, pease!" he implores me with his most charming smile. Did I mention he just had breakfast?


At least none of them have figured out where I keep my stash of emergency chocolate.

... Yet.


My (Vanity) Fair Ladies


I've never treated myself to a decent, good-quality bra. Like, ever. I guess I've never been overly proud of "the girls" and figured they didn't deserve the extravagance. I've posted about this before: how my best bras have literally been hand-me-downs from my sister (and I'm talking during adulthood, when she took pity on my sad, raggedy boulder-holders and tossed me a couple of her old ones).

Not long ago, I was standing in my kitchen with one finger down the front of my shirt, trying (unsuccessfully) to buffer my poor boob against this - the exposed underwire of my crappy, grubby old bra:

It had literally rubbed a raw spot, y'all. I had a boob scab. And did I mention it was the second time it had happened? The underwire had poked through on the other side first, where I had done a shoddy job of sewing it back in. I was debating whether to try it again when, lo and behold, the doorbell rang. And, in a dazzling demonstration of irony, it was a package containing a bra.

A nice bra.

A quality bra.

A Vanity Fair® bra.

Even I, an admitted lingerie novice, know that Vanity Fair® has been around for a looooong time. For the past century, they've been supplying women with supportive, comfortable, pretty underthings. Fashions may have changed since Vanity Fair®'s inception in 1919 (uh, thank goodness), but their mission has remained the same: to seamlessly combine style and comfort so that women can look and feel confident in their clothing. Sleek fabrics, clean lines, and a selection of both trendy and traditional colors mean that whatever look you're rocking, there's a Vanity Fair® bra that's just right.

I have to admit that my heart sank a little when I realized that my new Vanity Fair® bra - a Beautifully Smooth Next to Nude Underwire - had no padding. I've been a die-hard padded bra wearer since ... well, forever. Not being exceptionally blessed when it comes to cleavage, it has been my lifelong inclination to try and create some. My first thought was, "Oh my gosh. This is going to be a disaster. I have to write about a bra that my boobs look terrible in."

But then? I dutifully put on the bra just to try it out. And my world changed. It's comfy - like, I-don't-even-need-to-take-this-bra-off-the-second-I-step-in-my-house comfy. I could sleep in it. (!!) And it's lightweight. And it's supportive: even without padding, my girls are where they're supposed to be. And the straps don't slide down ... and they don't dig into my shoulders ... and it looks invisible under my clothes ... and it's just all-around awesome. Ahhhhhhh.



So now, I'm not only a huge fan of Vanity Fair® bras, but I'm a huge fan of the company in general - because they are longtime advocates of empowering women (woot!). The more I learn about them, the more I love them. Their new "Women Who Do" campaign celebrates all of us: women who are running families and homes and businesses and organizations and countries. The campaign reminds us how much we, as women, have in common - and should, like Vanity Fair® bras, be uplifting and supportive. Vanity Fair® also partners with Dress for Success, an organization that provides professional attire and career development tools to economically disadvantaged women - because under every great business outfit should be great lingerie.


What's more, Vanity Fair® kicked off its LiftTOUR this past July: a nationwide bus tour with a focus on fit and philanthropy. It's going to conduct bra fittings at seventy major retail locations across the country - and for every single fitting, Vanity Fair® is donating a brand-new bra to the local Dress for Success Affiliate. It's uplifting on, like, so many levels.

Vanity Fair®'s commitment to women is definitely inspiring. Who inspires you? Let me know in the comments for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card!




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Cough-Cough-Hack to School


There are certain things that I can always count on happening. The sun will rise and set, the moon will wax and wane, and my kids will bring home every germ within a twenty-mile radius during the first few weeks of school. It's all inevitable.

Despite the required twenty gallons of hand sanitizer on the school supply list, they're always sniffling and coughing within the first ten days. I'm thinking of swapping out their shorts and t-shirts with hazmat suits because I am seriously weary of them being the recipients of everyone's "sharing." They have a knack for it. It's like they're all, "Hey, kid with the runny nose! You can use my shirt as a tissue!"

After a blissfully illness-free summer, the last weeks of August are filled with fevers and snot and hacking coughs and scratchy throats. One of the kids catches it, and then I spend the next few days trying to contain the ick before it spreads throughout the house. But it never, ever works because - just as you can't stop death or taxes - you apparently can't stave off a household cold epidemic with all the Clorox wipes and screeches of cover your mouth! in the world.

And then ... then ... it ends up falling squarely into my lap. Or more precisely, my head and chest, in the form of a cold so heinous I don't even feel like doing laundry.*

*Oh wait. I never feel like doing laundry.

Anyway, it's like pouring salt in a wound. After I've spent a week nursing all my kids back to health, I get this monster cold. I always get it much worse than any of them, like it's a conglomeration of all the germs they've each contributed so generously (via helping themselves to whatever I'm drinking and using me as a human Kleenex and explaining things thisclose to my face, spraying me with a fine mist). They bounce back within a day or two; I'm sick for a week or more. And yet, while they get to lay around while they're sick (and complain endlessly about it, no less), I'm still on Mom duty because the kids don't take care of themselves. Those assholes.

I have one of those apps on my phone where it shows you your old tweets and Facebook posts and stuff, so you can see what you were doing at this time one or two or five years ago. Allow me to share a couple of screenshots.




See? I don't know what I was doing two years ago, but I guarantee I was probably just too sick to use the internet.

Because this happens every. Single. Year.

Maybe I should try to turn this into something positive. I mean, when life gives you lemons, you add sugar (and vodka), right? My voice is nice and husky right now as a result of all the coughing. Maybe it's a good time to moonlight as a phone sex operator, make myself a little extra cash on the side. (Oh, you wanna know what I'm wearing, baby? Okay ... I'm wearing rayon-blend stretchy pajama pants and an old ratty student council t-shirt from high school. Mmmmm, yeeeeahhh ...)

... Or maybe not.


Why I Want My Sons to See Me Naked


I may live with a houseful of boys, but they're still relatively young - so there are no nudie mags stashed between mattresses, no stealthily-accessed porn sites that someone forgot to erase out of the Internet history, nothing like that. As much as I'd love to think my kids won't be curious, I'm well aware that won't be the case: those things are looming and will probably start happening much sooner than I'd like. (I mean, if I had my druthers, they wouldn't even think about sex until they're like twenty-five. Clearly, though, nature doesn't care about my opinion because the topic has already been brought up).

But before all that happens - before they're exposed to boobs that are as round and firm as cantaloupes and pictures of taut, airbrushed, dimple-less butts, I'm exposing them to a different kind of female body.

Mine.

Ours is not a modest household. I don't lounge around in the buff like my boys do (and I spend more time saying, "Put on some pants!" than anything else). But I've never refrained from changing clothes in front of them, or leaving the door open when I shower, or nursing babies without a cover. Because I want them to see what a real female body looks like. Because if I don't - and their first images of a naked woman are the impossibly perfect physiques in those magazines or those movies - what kind of expectations will they have? And what woman could ever live up to them?

It's no secret to anybody who's read my blog that I'm dismayed, big-time, by my post-baby body. But for the sake of my boys - and my future daughters-in-law - I lie through my teeth. When they ask about my stretch marks, I tell them proudly how growing a baby is hard work, and they're like badges I've earned (gaming references always hit home with dudes, no matter what you're explaining). As much as I'd like to cringe and shrink away when they touch my squishy belly, I let them squeeze my flab between their fingers. Do I hate it? Yes. I want to say, "Leave my fat alone!" and run for the nearest oversized t-shirt (or, like, the nearest liposuction clinic).

But I don't. Because for right now, for these few formative years, my flab is their one and only perception of the female body. And I want them to know that it's beautiful, even in its imperfection.

I tell them how strong my body is, and they see me work out. They see me make healthy food choices, but still indulge in my love of baked goods. And though - like most women - I might beat myself up over my jeans getting too tight or groan in frustration at the numbers on the scale, I'm never anything but proud of my body in front of my boys. Even when I feel the complete opposite inside. Instilling a positive body image is not an issue reserved for people with daughters - and for boys, it's not only making them confident about their own bodies, but letting them know that real is beautiful when it comes to the opposite sex.

I don't want to do them, or any women they might happen to see naked in the future, the disservice of telling them that saggy boobs are bad or that a little bit of flab is something to be ashamed of. I want them to know that this is the norm: not the nipped-tucked-and-digitally-enhanced images they're going to be bombarded with. Sure, they'll gawk at those bouncy boobies and flat stomachs and perky butts ... but I have hope that, deep down inside, they'll know that isn't the standard to which they should hold women's bodies. Like, ever.

There will come a time when I cover up when they're around. I'm sure at some point I'll hear, "Ugh, Mom, put some clothes on!" or that they'll learn to knock before barging into the bathroom (which sounds heavenly - I'm not gonna lie). But until then, I'll let them run their fingers along my stretch marks, and grin and bear it when they squeal with delighted laughter at the way my butt jiggles when I walk across the room to grab a towel. Because while they're young, I want to plant the seed - so that when they're older, and their wives say, "I wish my thighs were smaller," my sons can say, "They're perfect just the way they are."

And mean it.

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