No Mo' Naked

Last week, I had an anniversary of sorts.

It wasn't the anniversary of the day I got married, or became a homeowner, or had children.

It was the anniversary of when I finally reached a professional goal: to be published on The Huffington Post, with an article I had first published here on my blog (with little fanfare), called "Why I Want My Sons to See Me Naked."

It was the anniversary of a week when, every single day, perfect strangers sought out my email address to tell me that I was a terrible mother, that someone should call child protective services and take my kids away. The week when people in countless comment sections lambasted me as a pervert, a monster, a child molester, someone whose children were unsafe and unloved. The week when they said I was "turning my sons gay" and that I was "the reason society is crumbling." The week when an article was written about me by a "conservative news source" touting me as "the worst mother of 2014." The week when these opinions spread like wildfire, share after share after share, until I felt like the cowering target of some kind of horrible Internet witch hunt.

It probably wasn't that bad. After all, there were a lot of supportive comments mixed in. But when it's you people are talking about, and your family, the hate sticks out like a sore thumb. Those comments carry more weight somehow, even though you know they shouldn't.

As more and more people actually read the article instead of commenting based on the headline alone, they realized that - despite the inflammatory title - I wasn't being perverted or deranged. I was making a point about body image. And slowly, the tide shifted and the comments were overwhelmingly positive. And now, when the article is shared (because it still pops up somewhere every month or so - it actually went viral in India a few months ago), there's not nearly the amount of vitriol directed at me that there used to be. Thank goodness.

The title was my fault. I had been trying for months - months - to get HuffPost to publish something of mine, to no avail. I even offered them "Ten Boy-Mom Musts" just after it went crazy on my site. Piece after piece I submitted, with nothing from them but radio silence. It was frustrating. So one day, I decided to submit the piece I had originally (and boringly) entitled "The Naked Truth." Only I thought, Maybe if I change the title to something more provocative, they'll take notice. So I emailed them the newly-renamed "Why I Want My Sons to See Me Naked."

I had an acceptance response in less than an hour.

I was ecstatic, until the piece ran. And then I just felt like someone opened up the sky and took a Godzilla-sized dump on me. It was, like, this overwhelming deluge of WTF-ness that just kept unfolding.

HuffPost Live asked me to come on their show and explain my stance (watch it here; I still cringe). I was asked to call in to a radio show out of Detroit (I said I'd only do it if they weren't going to bash my parenting, and they never called me back). I was contacted by the producer of The Doctors TV show - but when I explained myself, that I wasn't some sort of crazy mother who forces my naked body upon my children (ick), they deemed it not controversial enough. It was all so surreal.

I wrote this post in an effort to further explain myself - my attempt at gasping for air in the midst of this giant shitstorm I had inadvertently created.

The madness eventually died down, of course. And I know it's cliche, but I did emerge on the other side of it with a much much thicker skin. It's funny what a trial by fire will do to a person.

Throughout the whole thing, I received one question more often than any other: so when are you going to stop letting your kids see you naked? I never had a specific answer, other than, "Whenever they start to feel uncomfortable with it, I guess." Or, you know, until they remember to freaking knock.

So last week - the one year anniversary of the post - I was getting ready to take a shower when my oldest son walked into my bathroom. He just turned ten in June. At that point I was still fully clothed, laying out my towel and my deodorant and stuff. He was blathering on about something computer-related, and I was doling out my usual "mm-hmmms" as I began to remove my shirt.

He yelped like I'd pinched him and ran out of the room.

"Colin?" I called after him, frowning. "What's wrong, buddy?"

"You're naked!" he shouted from the distance. "Ew!"

I couldn't help but laugh. To everybody who has ever asked me when it's going to stop ... there's your answer. The moment they think it's gross.

My boys are normal after all. Take that, haters.

Something Squirrely

There's something squirrel-y going on around here ... literally. But it doesn't involve cuteness. Or nuts.

( ... That's what she said. Heh heh.)


We have a creek running through our yard. And even though it's technically on our property, it's owned by the city, so people treat it like a public park. They're drawn to it. I have considered, more than once, constructing a huge "GET OFF MY LAWN" sign. (I'm gonna make such a fabulous old lady.) It kind of irks me when people hang out there, especially when they leave trash, but whatever. Aside from a few minor annoyances (and one seriously strange incident that freaks me out to this day), I love it. It's a beautiful, tranquil place, and the kids have spent many summertime hours splashing happily in its shallow waters and playing on its banks.

The other morning I was taking our two dogs out to pee and decided to walk down by the creek. Josie, our lab, kept her nose to the ground, sniffing intently. I didn't think anything of it - the area is full of deer, squirrels, raccoons, possums, birds, all kinds of good wildlife for a dog to smell. But then she stopped short at one of the trees. And when I looked, I saw something weird lying there.

A black squirrel ... wrapped in paper.

Was it sleeping? I nudged it with my toe. It felt soft, not stiff. I reached down and gingerly peeled back part of the paper to look at its body (when I did, the paper - which was damp with dew - ripped a little bit, like you see in the picture below).

I took the dogs inside (much to Josie's dismay) and returned with my rubber gloves on. Because I take care of my yard, y'all, and the last thing I want is a stinking squirrel corpse rotting away right where I mow.

I examined it a little more closely. I'm not easily grossed out, and my curiosity was getting the best of me. The poor squirrel had been fully wrapped up in the paper - like, deliberately. The paper was clean and intact (except for where I'd ripped it), not like a random piece of trash it had gotten tangled up in. The squirrel itself was still pliable, which meant it hadn't been dead for long, and the bugs hadn't even started in on it. I picked it up and looked at the underside. There was no bloating, no swelling, no visible trauma whatsoever. It looked like a perfectly healthy, normal squirrel.

Until I looked at its face and realized ...

... both of its eyes were completely gone.

That's when the creepy factor increased from "ew" to "NOPE" and I squealed like a sissy and threw it across the creek and into the woods.

So to recap: freshly dead black squirrel, wrapped in clean paper, laid beside a tree in my yard, looking normal except for the fact that it was EYELESS.

Pardon my language here, folks, but I think the only appropriate thing to say about this is what the actual fuck?

I have literally zero plausible explanations as to why this scenario occurred. Did the squirrel pluck out its own eyeballs, wrap itself up and lay down at the base of the tree in protest of forest politics? Is there some weird squirrel-sacrificing cult practicing their dark magic in my back yard? Either way: it's more than a bit unnerving.

Any ideas, you guys? Because I'm at a loss.

Just to end this post on a brighter note, I've made a memorial photo. It may not be of THE squirrel, but it's one of the many who hang out on our deck, so who knows? It could be him. In happier days, when he, like, still had eyes and wasn't dead and stuff.

Yeah, that's better.

You So Six-y

Six years ago this very moment (edited: this very moment yesterday, because I am a slacker who apparently cannot publish a timely blog post), I was watching The Golden Girls in a backless gown, hooked up to monitors signaling my contraction strength. Little did I know that the "little" guy I was about to deliver would end up being my biggest baby: nine-plus pounds of heftiness that charged boldly through my nether-regions like a linebacker.

I also blogged about it - because at that time, my blog was relatively new and I had never written a post while not pregnant.

This burly baby was Coby, who is turning six now OMG where does the time go?

He looks soooo much like I did at his age. Like, exactly. And if you tell him that, he will smile in an embarrassed manner - because apparently at this age it's cooler to look like Dad.

See? Change the hair color a bit, give him a sweet mullet like my first-grade self, and we're practically twins. It kind of trips me out to see what I'd have looked like as a boy, so I'm kind of anxious for him to grow so I can see what I'd have looked like as a man.


Coby has a sweet and easygoing disposition, a genuinely big heart, and is always the first one jumping up to lend a helping hand. While he's still holding fast to his mysterious country-boy roots, he has discovered a deep love for physical fitness - you can find him lifting my ten-pound hand weights (a pretty impressive feat when you consider he only weighs less than fifty pounds himself) and doing push-ups and burpees. And he has always been inclined to eat healthy - this is the kid that goes to the pizza buffet and loads up his plate with veggies. (This is something he most definitely did not inherit from his mother. I buy butter in bulk if that tells you anything.) The amount of strength in that little body is absolutely amazing, but what's more amazing is his total dedication to improving it. He's about to start karate lessons, and he loves skateboarding. Always on the go, this boy.

He's our "easy" one. While he has his moments, we can always count on him to be generally more even-tempered and agreeable than his brothers. His teachers gush about what a joy he is to have in class. He's had a few cringe-worthy incidents - like this one - but so far he hasn't cost us thousands of dollars in emergency room bills (like some of our kids ... coughCorbincough) or elicited calls from the school. So I'm actually pretty grateful for his disposition.

I've made a slideshow for his birthday. I mean, I didn't make slideshows for ... let's see ... any of the three other birthdays we've celebrated this year, but hey. Better one than none, right? I'll be more on the ball next year.

... Yeah, next year.

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Grownup Gross-Out

If there's one goal I have in this life, it's to raise my boys to be good men. Good boyfriends, good husbands, good fathers, good workers, good people in general. I want them to be compassionate and philanthropic, sensitive and strong, and to put the damn seat down after they pee.

I know I'm not alone in this. In fact, I'm pretty sure I can speak for all parents when I say that nobody looks at their sweet children and thinks, "Man, I hope they turn out to be huge selfish jerks that no one can stand."

So parents. PARENTS. Let me pose a question: where are we going wrong when the people we're raising can't even handle the most basic of common courtesies?

I work at a gym. And gyms can be dirty places full of bodily fluids, but our staff works really hard to keep the place clean and they do an extremely good job. However, they might not have to work so diligently at it if there weren't the need for signs like this, which is actually hanging over the water fountain:

I only teach classes there, which means I do not have to do any cleaning other than the two-second tidying up of my class space once in a while, thank the Lawd. But the poor souls who are forced to clean up after the general gym-going public, day in and day out, actually have to deal with stuff like this. And more. There have been people who pee in the trash can in the tanning room. Let that sink in: THEY PISS. IN A TRASH CAN. And not even a big full-sized trash can with a lid - it's more like one of those little wastebaskets you'd have beside your desk. Who does that?! The bathrooms are literally like two doors down!

And speaking of the bathrooms - you don't even want to know the horror stories I've heard about what people do in there. Women and men both. Let's just say that next time you see someone who cleans a public place, you should consider giving them a very big tip or at least an appreciative pat on the back. Because damn.

I just would really like to know who the hell is doing all this. What kind of actual adult thinks it's okay to urinate or defecate or wipe whatever is coming out of their bodies on walls or floors or in drinking fountains? Would their mothers be horrified? Because years down the road, if I ever heard that one of my grown sons was that disgusting, I would slap him upside his head so hard he'd have trouble remembering his name. I'M NOT RAISING A NASTY INCONSIDERATE D-BAG AND I'D LIKE TO KNOW WHO IS.

This is why I spend approximately 85% of my time lecturing my kids about why they should not wipe boogers on walls and the importance of hitting the water when they pee. Kids are gross. KIDS are gross. But adults? Adults should know better than to be gross. And if you are a gross adult then your parents have failed you and somebody should be ashamed of themselves.

As an employee of the gym, I think I should make some new signs.

... That's better.


My ten-year-old son is not what you'd call easygoing.

Sometimes, depending on what mood you catch him in, he's more tolerant of things. But when he's grumpy to begin with? Watch out. It's like living with an old man whose pudding is too lumpy. The complaints start rolling in. My socks are itchy. This tag in my shirt is scratchy. The air conditioner is too cold. My nose is stuffy. Yesterday, he griped because one of his brothers held eye contact with him for .0275 seconds too long.

Don't get me wrong - he's not a sourpuss all the time. But it happens enough for us to be accustomed to it. And because we're so used to hearing him kvetch about random (mostly minor, often ridiculous) issues, we tend to tune it out sometimes.

So when he came home complaining that his brand-new backpack smelled like pee, it didn't even register at first.

"Smell it!" he insisted. "Right here!" Jab, jab, jab with a finger at the offending spot.

To appease him, I sniffed. It had a burnt-rubberish smell. "That's just the smell of the foam rubber padding inside," I said. "They put it in there to make it more comfortable against your back."

"IT'S PEE," he huffed stubbornly. I rolled my eyes and hung his backpack on its hook. End of conversation.

The next morning before school, I caught him trying to persuade his first-grade brother to trade backpacks - even though Coby's is camouflage, not at all Colin's style.

"Colin. Use your own backpack."

"But it smells like pee!" he argued.

I gave him "the look." He took his own backpack to school.

That afternoon, when he walked through the door, he started immediately harping on the pee smell. His backpack was gross, he couldn't stand the smell of pee, he just wanted to throw it away and use his backpack from last year. And I lost it.

"Colin!" I snapped, irritable. "We just paid good money for that nice new backpack. You are going to use it and you are going to like it. That smell is not pee. It's just the foam rubber padding. It will go away. Now stop complaining about it!"

"Well my teacher thought it smelled," said Colin. "And so did my guidance counselor."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. This child! "You ... went to the guidance counselor because your backpack smells like urine?"

He shrugged. "I wanted another opinion."

Good. Lawd.

At that point, I just couldn't even. I held up my hand to let him know that the argument was over, and walked down the hallway.

As I neared the end of the hall, I noticed that my second-grader, Cameron, had thrown his backpack on the floor. His is the same brand and style as Colin's - just a different color. And I noticed that our cat, Vanessa, had just been standing on it.

Oh no. No no no no no.

I snatched up the backpack, squinting, and sure enough - there was a small wet spot. Right on the foam padding.

I sniffed. Burnt rubber.

The same smell that was on Colin's backpack.

... Oops.

And then it all came together. Nessa isn't spayed, and she's currently in heat. And when she's in heat, she tends to pee in weird places - never on the carpet, thank goodness, but in my potted plant or the dustpan or someplace crazy like that. Or, you know, on a backpack.

Being wrong when you've insisted you're right is bad enough. Being wrong when it's your kid who's right is even worse. But, I had to eat crow. So I apologized to Colin - who, because he's a good kid, didn't even gloat - then cleaned up the backpacks.

Next on my to-do list: call the vet to get Nessa's "girl problems" taken care of once and for all.

Damn cat.

Thirty. Freaking. Five.

Over the weekend, I turned thirty-five years old.


I can no longer say I'm in my early thirties (not that I ever really did, but at least I had the option to). I'm firmly in the middle, and a mere five years away from being forty. Sigh.

I woke up the day before my birthday with a fever of 103.5, so I stayed in bed all day while the boys did their own thing and left the house a disaster, as boys tend to do. But I felt well enough by evening time to go to my brother and sister-in-law's house for an amazing birthday feast of home-cooked Thai food. Because nothing motivates me more than a good meal, y'all. I could have been on my deathbed and I still would have managed to stuff my face.

And my mom bought me an ice cream cake!

I don't normally get birthday presents (I'm 35, not 13) but for some reason this year I was totally spoiled. I got a new griddle that cooks like eight hundred pancakes at once, and some super-cushiony mats for my kitchen floor. Methinks my family is angling for a Labor Day breakfast at my place.

And then my husband gave me this artfully wrapped parcel. Whatever could it be?

Yes, that is seriously how Curtis "wraps." A Walmart sack and paper towels.

But it didn't matter how it looked, because inside there was ...

... incentive to walk off the Thai food and ice cream cake! Awwww yeeeeahhh.

On my actual birthday I still had a fever, but it was lower, so I popped a handful of ibuprofen and put my big-girl panties on because I had stuff to do, damn it. Curtis and I went to our friend Bobby's farm for some good old-fashioned manual labor. We hauled brush and cleared out a fenceline, and then put up the actual fence.

Believe it or not, I couldn't have enjoyed myself much more; I actually love hard work in the outdoors. (You can take the girl out of rural Missouri, but you can't take the rural Missouri out of the girl.) There's just something about sweat and sun and fresh air and effort and results - ironically enough, it's cleansing, a feeling I can't get anywhere else. I tried to take a selfie to show how dirty my clothes were, but I pretty much just managed to highlight how much my excessive crotch sweat made me look like I had pissed myself.

All in all, I had the best birthday I've had in years - despite being kind of sick, and waking up with a zit the size of Mt. Everest on my cheek. Because my body was like, "You may be inching closer to forty, but your face is gonna look fourteen! ... Oh, except for those wrinkles. Welcome to thirty-five."


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