Hollow Tree Ventures parenting humor
Follow the Hollow Tree on Facebook!Follow the tweets!Let's pin together!Look! Square pictures!Google Plus us!HTV's on the YouTube, too!Subscribe via RSS feed!Get yourself some Bloglovin'!I'll send htv to your email inbox!

Happy New Year

It's already the last day of 2011.   I mean, it's already the last day of 2011‽‽‽‽‽

I forget to make any resolutions, so think of all the time I'm going to save in 2012 by not trying to achieve anything!  I can use that extra time for failing to meet different goals, ones I didn't set for myself in advance because of some arbitrary calendar date.  Besides, everyone always makes the same resolutions anyhow.

So instead of lying to myself about how THIS TIME I'd really use that gym membership to get in shape (pinkie promise), instead I'm going to focus my energy on sending off 2011 with a bang.  In case you don't know how to "Party Like It's 1999"* when you're trapped in the house by your Parenting Responsibilities, I've outlined my plans below.  If you, too, are staying home this year - whether it's because you don't feel like being hauled off by Child Protective Services for neglect, because you have a distaste for being in public when 83% of the population will be in an endless drunken "I love you, man" loop, or because you're just an antisocial hermit - please feel free to play along at home.

Having Fun on New Year's Eve (Housebound Edition)

1. Start corralling the children at 8pm.  Set all visible clocks to midnight and pretend to ring in the new year.  Encourage them to sip a champagne flute of NyQuil while congratulating them for staying up so late.  Drag them to bed, kicking and screaming if you have to, by 8:30.  Kiss them sweetly goodnight.

2. Pour yourself a NyQuil, or other beverage of your choosing.  Flip on the TV and play the following drinking game:
  • One drink for every Joan Rivers sighting (you'll need it)
  • Two drinks for each Dick Clark appearance (Throughout the evening you might want to check in repeatedly at this website, which is dedicated to keeping track of whether or not Dick Clark is still alive.  Because apparently sometimes it's hard to tell.)
  • One drink each time someone mentions Prince's song 1999  (*my comment above doesn't count); two drinks if they say something about how 1999 used to sound like it was "sooooo far in the future"
  • If someone in the room can name the obscure musical group performing at what appears to be The Low Budget New Year's Eve Open Mic Night Show, one drink for anyone who was unaware that what they were supposed to be doing was actually considered singing; 84 penalty drinks are imposed on anyone who enjoys a performance by any singer under the age of 16

3. At this point, one of the children will get out of bed to say goodnight again, and maybe see if they can have a drink of water.  One adult administers the the Anti-Bed-Wetting speech and takes the child back to bed, applying duct tape if needed.  Another adult is responsible for using that time to prepare a fresh pitcher of NyQuil.

4. Return to game.  After about 15 minutes, one adult leaves to use the bathroom; meanwhile, Robyn the other adult realizes that it's already 10:30, immediately gets drowsy and falls asleep.

5. Wake up the next morning, finally able to say:

I can hardly wait to get started.  Thanks to everyone who has joined me for this whole blog experiment so far; hopefully you've had a few laughs, and hopefully I can keep them coming in 2012!

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing!

A Moment of Silence

Last night, the unthinkable happened.  Jake came running to me, his face full of misery, clearly only just barely able to hold back the sobs.  He handed me the tablet he just got for Christmas and crumpled onto the couch next to me.

"What happened?" I asked.  There was something that looked like a small, black electronic scar on the screen, and the rest was just gray stripes.

This question was all it took to launch Jake into Full Sob Mode.  He tried to tell me what happened, but it sounded like Ralphie in A Christmas Story telling his mom that an icicle fell off the garage and hit him in the eye - I could barely make out a word of it, and what I could understand didn't seem to make any sense.  Finally he was able to explain that he'd rolled over on it in his bed and heard a crack.  Uh oh.

"I'm so sorry, buddy.  The screen is broken."

Jake was beside himself with grief - he L-O-V-E-D that thing.  And what makes it even more heartbreaking is that he is SO careful with his things.  He keeps all the inserts that come in the packaging.  He keeps all his DS games organized so they never get lost.  He makes sure never to leave his electronics where they might get damaged.  Except this once.

It's a difficult lesson to learn at the age of nine.

I told him those things.  I told him that accidents happen, even sometimes to kids who are normally as responsible with their belongings as adults.  "You can see why I can't let you walk in the street instead of the sidewalk," I offer up, unsure how to console him.  "99.99% of the time nothing bad happens, but it only takes once."  At this point I don't think I was helping anymore.

I left to go Google "miracles" in hopes of finding some magical  touch-screen cure.  When I went back to check on him, he was reading.  "I'm trying to take my mind off it," he said, his eyes still red and swollen.  Zoe, who'd been concerned and by his side this whole time, was reading quietly in his room too, as a show of support.

It was getting late, so I told Zoe to go brush her teeth.  I left the room again, and when I returned I saw Zoe going back into Jake's room.  I peeked around the corner, just in time to see Zoe pat Jake gently on the back as he sprawled prone on his bed, utterly dejected.  Then, in a very grown up little girl voice she said, "I'm so sorry for your loss."

For all the times they fight, for all the get-out-of-my-rooms I hear yelled, for all the she-started-its and stop-touching-me hollered over and over, it just goes to show that (especially in a time of crisis), your sibling can still be your best friend.  These times remind me how grateful I am that they have each other.

As I tucked Zoe in, she said sincerely, "I wish we could get Jake a new tablet."

"Well, it's pretty expensive, like a computer."

"Then we should get him something even better.  And cheaper!"

I told her he already has something better that doesn't cost anything at all - a sister.

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing!

Holiday Reflections

Well, another Christmas has come and gone, and though my whining and complaining in the days (weeks?) leading up to The Big Event may have made December 25th sound like a tsunami rushing toward shore ready to crash onto my last nerve, crushing it and washing my sanity away into the abyss, as it turns out I may have been exaggerating slightly.  In reality, Christmas was more like a sudden riptide, dragging us all into the excitement and peril of the open sea before releasing its grasp so that we could drift back to shore and collapse in grateful but exhausted heaps on the sand, the Ocean of Christmas Cheer having left memories behind on the Beach of Family Togetherness for us to reflect upon as we recover, like so many bits of sparkly sea glass and small, smelly critters in shells.

If that isn't a beautiful metaphor, I don't know what is.  You're welcome.

I wanted to share some of our Christmas memories, but I only have about elevendy thousand photos to choose from, and I don't know if that'll adequately cover it.  I know that sounds like a lot of pictures, but in my family that only amounts to about nine usable images.  That's because half of them turn out to be too blurry/dark/unrecognizable to use, except I can't bring myself to delete them because they are  pictures of the children after all (or they might be, if only I could tell what they were supposed to be pictures of), and what kind of mother would I be if I deleted photos of my own offspring?  The remaining half are only of about two different Priceless Holiday Moments, but each event has 732 pictures taken of it Rapid Fire Style, so that it appears as though we either intended to create a stop motion film with the images or that we had a strobe light going during the festivities.

Blurry? Check. Angle such that any adult in photo will complain about how they look? Check. Variety Quotient between pictures at zero percent? Check. Oddly framed with at least one person's image cut in half? Check. My job as photographer is done.

What's even better is that any remaining photos aren't taken of some different  scene, but instead are pictures of other people recording the same  scene.

However, you won't be surprised to hear that there are a couple adorable shots of adorable kids.  I mean, we had to do something  to entertain ourselves while other people were opening presents.

After the dust had settled and everyone had been accounted for under the piles of torn wrapping paper and discarded packaging, several Holiday Truths were revealed which I will attempt to share in the following poorly organized list:

1.  I mentioned in a prior post that Jake had indicated a very specific and non-negotiable desire for Santa to bring him an iPad, despite my efforts to usher him gently toward reality without spoiling any Childhood Holiday Magic, since I was pretty sure he wasn't getting an iPad unless Santa had won the lottery without me knowing.  I'm not sure if he still believes in Santa, who did NOT come through with the iPad, but he does believe in Gran, who stepped up with a similar Non-iPad Brand Tablet.

Holiday Truths Learned:
* Jake is skeptical of Santa now, as evidenced by the fact that he suggested to Zoe that they set up a camera next year to see if they can catch him in the act.  
* Zoe DEFINITELY still believes, as her immediate response to that suggestion was a shocked and whispered, "Jake, he can hear you! He's listening. All. The. Time."
* You do not need Santa if you have a Gran who can't bear the thought of one of her grandkids being even slightly disappointed on Christmas. (Or any other time.)
* My favorite thing about Jake recieving this gift was helping him get something to work at one point while he was out of the room.   Zoe was sitting there and heard me say, "I need the stylus," because the touch screen wasn't responding to me just touching it.   Zoe sweetly offered, "I'll get it," then hopped up and hollered, "JAKE! MOMMY NEEDS A STYLIST!" Yes. Yes I do.

2. Christmas does not need to be expensive or fancy.  This was proven to me in several ways, most notably with the reminder that babies do not care one iota about Christmas.

We were feeling way too lazy Grinchy overextended to decorate, but we felt the tree should be up for Maddie's All-Important First Christmas.  In truth, the tree would still be in a box in the basement if Marma hadn't offered to assemble it for us, but thankfully she did, and we had the tree all spiffy three days before Christmas in plenty of time.  However, so far oblivious to the effort exerted primarily on her behalf, Maddie hasn't seemed to notice it.

Also, babies care exactly the same amount about the wrapping as the gift.  Maybe more.

Please note the lack of change in her facial expression as the Unwrapping Event unfolds in front of her.  Also please note that these are NOT the same pictures as the ones shown above - I told  you all my pictures look the same!  Also please note that the gift she is recieving there is indeed a baby remote control, which I couldn't resist even though I made fun of them mercilessly in a previous post.  I'm fickle like that.

3. The Holiday Spirit can show itself in unexpected ways.  For instance, if a boy (let's call him Jake) threw a bean bag at someone else's face (let's call her Zoe) on Christmas Day, and this Zoe person ran to tattle on him (SURPRISE) thus calling Aunt Audrey and Uncle Greg into referee duty, the following conversation might occur.
ZOE: He threw a bean bag at my face!
AUDREY (to Jake): Is that true?
JAKE: Yes.
GREG (trying to give Jake a Christmas Get Out of Jail Free card): But did you do it on purpose?
JAKE: Yes.
That, folks, is a little Holiday Honesty, brought on (according to Jake) by Gerry telling him that no matter what you've done, it's always  worse to lie about it.  The fact that Zoe keeps reminding Jake that Santa basically stalks them 24/7 (and he doesn't approve of lying) probably didn't hurt.  Jake may not belive 100%, but there's no sense in taking chances.

I also considered it to be a show of Holiday Spirit when Jake offered to download a princess coloring app on his new Non-iPad Tablet and let her play with it, despite the fact that he loves that tablet so much that he might soon decide to have it surgically grafted to his face.

Then Maddie gave me this pathetic, pleading look:

So I let her sit by her sibs while they all played with their tech toys of choice (DSi, tablet, and garish, blinky, noisy remote - which, once again, is being totally ignored).

And finally, in another example of Holiday Spirit expressing itself in the form of generosity, Zoe (who loves notepads) has insisted on giving us one of her magnetized ones, which I found on the fridge (note: sometimes Zoe drops the "y" that she added to the end of her own name, and substitutes an umlaut over the "o" - I honestly don't know where she gets this stuff):

Sigh.  I love Christmas.  I just hope I remember that next year, as another Holiday Death Spiral begins to unleash its frightening Power To Inspire Stress-Induced Snarky Blog Posts.  But I probably won't.

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing!

These are a few of my favorite things

They say it is better to give than to receive, and never is that more true than when you're excited about giving a gift to one of your kiddos.  I had many memorable Christmas moments this year, which you can be sure I'll blog about ad nauseam in the coming days, but that'll have to wait because all of my blogging time today was taken up by posting the tutorial for how to make one of Zoe's gifts on Hollow Tree Crafts, The Crafty Blog of Choice By Crafty Folks Everywhere, if I do say so myself.

Zoe made the mistake of saying she wants to be a teacher when she grows up, which had the unintended effect of sending me into a craft frenzy to create a school playset for her.  Actually what she said was, "I want to be a teacher when I grow up so I can tell kids what to do," but a tear of pride welled up in my eye nonetheless.

So I made this

to hang on her wall, so she can teach all of her dolls and stuffed animals how to read and write.  Finally.  Because those guys are a bunch of illiterate freeloaders, if you ask me.

She had exactly the reaction I hoped she would have, which was a mixture of awe and excitement with (let's be honest, here) a dash of You Are The Most Amazing Mommy On Earth.  I mean, who doesn't  want that on Christmas morning?

She was so enthusiastic, she wouldn't even wait for me to hang it on her wall before she started playing with it.

Anyway, my point wasn't really to tell you about Zoe's school playset, it was to explain why I'm not posting to this blog (yet again) today, except that with all this rambling now I am  sort of posting today, so the purpose of this quick entry is quickly being lost.  Come back soon to hear more about our Christmas Festivities, and in the meantime head over to my other blog and throw one of these playsets together for your kids - just be forewarned that it's likely to get you roped into many games of Pretend School, in which you'll be required to play the role of Troublemaker so that the teacher has an opportunity to give you multiple demerits and tell you what to do.  Now I better get back to it; I told her I was taking the hall pass to go to the bathroom, but I've been gone so long that I'm going to get sent to the Principal's office for sure.

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing!

Jesus Stopped By

As I opened the door to leave my house recently, a message fluttered to the floor.

"The World's Secret Ruler Exposed," it said.

Was this a piece of political literature distributed by a dedicated member of a candidate's campaign staff?  Was it dropped off by a well-meaning but certifiably insane conspiracy theorist?  Nope, it was from Jesus.  Apparently while I was upstairs changing a dirty diaper, Jesus (or maybe a friend of his) stopped by and left me a brochure about The End of Days (spoiler alert: the world is secretly ruled by Satan).  I knew it was the real deal because the UPS guy and teenagers selling magazine subscriptions use the front door, but this message was in the side  door, which only friends, family, and Jesus use.

I thought it was especially neighborly of Jesus to stop by now, what with preparations for his birthday surely in full swing at home (which, if I understand Christmas correctly, is the North Pole). I suppose he felt a need to strike while the iron was hot and get his sales material into people's hands while the subject of religion is fresh in their minds, what with all the lawn signs in my area urging us to "Keep Christ in Christmas."  I wish I'd heard Jesus knocking, because I'd have asked him why he doesn't submit a baby picture to the yard sign companies that looks a little less like he's bursting through someone's chest cavity รก la the movie Alien.  This sign is pretty popular around here, and I don't think it's necessarily the most flattering likeness I've ever seen.

I might also have inquired why he allows so many unsightly (okay, I'll say it - downright creepy) nativity scenes to be displayed...

...or why I never see him smiting those whose lawn decor during the holidays borders on the schizophrenic.

But of course Jesus has better things to do.  In fact, I'm willing to bet it probably was  some of his buddies and not Jesus himself who came by to visit.  I'm sure he's kept pretty busy, answering prayers from people who want to win the lottery and encouraging Brotherhood by breaking up fights between people who can't agree on whether it's more appropriate to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays."  Whichever side of that debate you're on, I hope you have a Merry Holiday.  And if you see Jesus, or Santa Clause, or whoever's responsible for my shiny new gift this year, please send him my heartfelt gratitude.

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing!

Toys to Avoid

You may or may not still have some holiday shopping left to do, even though Christmas is only about four minutes away and just thinking about it makes me break out in a cold sweat.  I'm not laying blame, here - it's tough to find time to shop, let alone think of something to buy in the first place.  Adults are notoriously difficult to find gifts for, especially now that we're a little too old to get away with wrapping an ornament made out of Popsicle sticks in some old newspaper and expecting the grown-ups in our lives to fall over backwards with excitement.  Often we either have NO idea what to get for someone, or we know what they want but don't have enough time to run out and make 50 new friends who'd be willing to contribute $20 apiece for it.

And adults aren't the only ones.  I always thought kids were so easy to buy for - just waltz into the toy store and pick up the first thing you see, right?  Kids love everything!  But at some point they make the change, and apparently that age is 9 1/2, because this is the first year that I'm pretty clueless about what to get for Jake.  He has officially made the transition from "I'm a Little Boy and I Want Everything in the Toy Aisle" to "I'm a Little Man and I Can't Think of a Single Thing I Want Unless It's Technology-Based and Costs at Least $600."

So I'm not going to be much help telling you what to get for the kids in your lives, but I can  offer a few suggestions of what not  to get, in hopes you can avoid an ugly scene on Christmas morning.

First on the list of what not to get is a giant, personalized soccer ball.  Assuming you don't already have one.

Issue #1 is that it's $110.00; I'm not sure how much of that cost goes into the personalization, but I'm thinking that the odds of your kid getting their enormous, 40" diameter soccer ball mixed up with another kid's are fairly low, so maybe you could skip having his name emblazoned on the side.  Issue #2 is (I'll go ahead and mention the elephant in the room, so to speak) the ridiculous size.  If you're buying this for someone else's kid, you'd better make sure that they either live on a 200-acre farm or that you don't want to be friends with the parents anymore, because if they have to store this  thing (instead of their car) in the garage and then deal with it bopping around in their average-sized suburban backyard with only 2" available for maneuvering on each side between the ball and the fence while it kills their grass, it's pretty much guaranteed that they aren't going to be speaking to you ever again.  I do, however, admire the moxie of this company, which optimistically asks for the quantity you'd like to order on their website, as if you might like to buy them in bulk.

Next on the list is this:

What's wrong with this, you might ask?  I'll tell you what.  These are Baby Nunchucks, for the "baby Ninja in training," per the sales pitch.  This, by the way, has removed any remaining doubt that you can now find anything  on Etsy (yes, they're homemade nunchucks).  I know what you're thinking, and I thought the idea of a baby with nunchucks was adorable at first too, but then I remembered the following immutable law of the universe: small things that are unnaturally dexterous are creepy.  Remember Chucky, the murderous doll from the movie Child's Play?  Need I mention Benjamin Button?  Gollum from Lord of the RingsMarionettes of any kind?  Teddy Ruxpin?  The last thing I need to do is foster a fear that Maddie will get up in the middle of the night and start training herself to karate chop me in the throat.

Next up, this:

Don't get me wrong, I think blocks are a fabulous, classic toy.  I just feel like this particular set of blocks might damage a child's self-esteem.  Either that, or somebody in their marketing department was looking to get fired.

And finally, the Punch'n'Cuddle.  Yes, that's what it's called.

As the name implies, kids are supposed to punch this toy.  A lot.  And also cuddle it.  To understand why I don't want this toy in my house, you have to understand how my energy is expended on most days.

So you can see, this toy totally undermines the only parenting I ever really do.  I can't afford to have my authority eroded any further than it already is; if I start letting them rough-house, it'll be total anarchy around here.  Besides, I think it might send the wrong message to children to encourage them to violently take out their frustrations on the same thing they're supposed to cuddle.  No one wants their kid to grow up to inspire an after school special.

Well, best of luck with your holiday shopping - I hope this post narrows down the options for you.  Don't worry, soon all the shopping and wrapping will be complete, and you can start guzzling egg nog.  Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go get started on Gerry's gift - a 50" flat screen TV, made out of elbow macaroni and construction paper.  If there's time, maybe some glitter.

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing!

Punctually Speaking

I see it as my duty as a member of the human race, and more importantly as a grammar snob, to spread the word about something I just learned.  Apparently, it's considered poor form in the written English language to end a sentence with more than one punctuation mark.  Did you know this?!?!??  This grammar rule has been out there all this time, without my knowledge or consent, and I've been unwittingly breaking it with wild abandon my whole life.  My "!" and "?" keys are completely worn down to nubs, despite the fact that they're located on polar opposite ends of the keyboard, which is extremely inconvenient for those of us who have to type with one hand due to the other entire arm being occupied by a sleeping baby.  Such, however, was my dedication to multiple-punctuation usage.

So what are we to do when we need to ask a question in stunned manner?!?!?  I checked with Grammar Girl, who doesn't know it but is just about my Online-World bestest friend ever whom I e-stalk mercilessly, and she has opened my eyes to a punctuation mark about which I was previously unaware.  And to top it off, it has the. best. name. of. all. time.  It is (drum roll, please...)

the interrobang.  Ta-daaaa!

I heart it so much.  It is both my new favorite punctuation mark and my new favorite word.  Don't you think it's great‽  Evidently it's been around since 1962, so maybe I'm the last person to hear about it - as you may recall, it took two posts to adequately cover how out of the loop I am.  Still, I have this nerdy new information now, not a moment too soon, for which I'm grateful.  The only downside is, if I'm really  aghast, how can I resist using more than one‽‽‽

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing!

Speed Bump on the Spiral

A while back I posted about the Holiday Death Spiral, the span of time between Halloween and New Year's Day during which people tend to overextend themselves with parties, shopping, cooking, elevating their expectations to ridiculous levels, jumping out of buildings, etc.  I'm no exception; I currently have no fewer than six projects, complete with all the associated supplies, spread out in a thick coating throughout our downstairs.  And upstairs.  And basement.  Plus I have at least two projects that I haven't even started yet (and Christmas is in how many  days?).  This is what happens when an idea pops into your head that you can't wait to start, so you work on it feverishly - until another idea pops into your head (or you get an email from one of the kids' teachers asking for help, or you realize you haven't sent Christmas cards yet), so you drop the first thing midstream and start on the next one.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.  I'm just lucky I have a patient, understanding husband who not only doesn't complain about the piles of fabric, loose craft wire, paint brushes, and scrapbooking supplies all over the place, but he actually goes out to the garage and cuts big pieces of plywood for me when I ask him to (thus contributing to the piles), and gives me MORE crafting stuff as early Christmas gifts!  Then again, maybe he's just crazy.

Anyway, as I started up the Craft Factory again this morning, I began to wonder why I don't seem to ever make any progress.  I seldom find myself checking any of these projects off my To Do list, and meanwhile I still need to finish shopping, wrap presents (oh yeah, and get some bows and wrapping paper), follow up on that orthodontist referral Zoe got from the dentist, and figure out why my phone refuses to sync with iTunes all of a sudden.

But almost as soon as the question was posed, I knew the answer - and she was looking right at me.

And when we aren't playing, she's making adorable faces that I can't resist taking pictures of.

Or she wants to go for a walk.

It's pretty obvious that this walk wasn't my idea.

Or she needs a bath.

So it looks like the acceleration of my descent into the Holiday Death Spiral is being slowed by a cute little baby-shaped speed bump.  Which is really a horrible mental image, I know.  But I'm grateful for it, nonetheless.  So I'd like to send out a Big Holiday Thank You to all my kiddos, for keeping me sane with their cuteness.  Or, at the very least, for robbing me of and restoring my sanity in (roughly) equal measure.

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing!

To Your Health

There are loads of studies out there about the positive effects of laughter on your health. WebMD (my Primary Care Physician) agrees, so you know it must be true (although the article about it is listed under Women's Health, which I found puzzling—I guess you fellas are on your own). The story raves about the health benefits of laughter, although they do temper their enthusiasm a bit with the following quote from a Leading Humor Expert:
I certainly wouldn't want people to start laughing more just to avoid dying—because sooner or later, they'll be disappointed.
Thank you for that reality check, Dr. Downer. If that doesn't get you concerned, we've also all heard about the claim made during Dr. Michael Titze's panel discussion on humor that children laugh 400 times per day, while adults laugh only 17 times; and if you have to hear the words "government shutdown" or "Occupy Wall Street" on any given day, you might not be able to finish being annoyed quickly enough to have time for laughing at all. Clearly what science is telling us is that, although we're all going to die anyway, we need to hurry up, get cracking, and laugh more, because at some point in our lives (adolescence, I'm looking at you) we really started slacking off. Shame on us—we've really let ourselves go.

Luckily I'm here to help by sharing some of the output from my little Laugh Factories (a.k.a. kiddos) from the last few days. We have a theory around here that kids might laugh 400 times a day, and most adults 17 times, but parents laugh about eleventy million times a day because they laugh when their kids laugh, plus they get to laugh at all the stuff that the kids didn't intend to be funny.

First of all there's Maddie, and although she doesn't talk (at least not in a language that we mortals are smart enough to understand) she is constructed of some special kind of cuteness that makes you laugh every time you look at her anyway.


Then there are Jake and Zoe, who do speak in a language that we (usually) understand, and thank goodness for that. Here are a few things that've made me laugh recently; yes, much of the humor is juvenile, but that's probably why I like it. And maybe some of it is the You Had To Be There variety of humor, but I was there and it was funny to me, so you'll have to sort that out for yourselves.
  • We saw a commercial on TV for (brace yourselves) Justin Bieber's new fragrance line (just what we needed—it's not too late to update your Christmas wish lists...). My brain power was being utilized in an attempt to figure out if I was seeing things correctly and it is, in fact, a women's  fragrance, so I almost missed it when Jake astutely pointed out, "It doesn't matter.  It probably smells like cow barf anyway."
  • On Zoe's birthday, she came home from school wearing a special paper crown—so special, in fact, that it was ditched almost immediately in favor of her Fancy Party Clothes. Hours later, as I was tucking her in to bed, I asked the traditional question, "So, do you feel seven now?" She looked at me blankly and said, "No, I'm not wearing the crown."
  • Jake was waving a toy back and forth in front of Maddie to make her laugh. I heard him reassure Gerry, "Don't worry, I can't hypnotize her. You have to have a weak mind to be hypnotized."
  • The four of us were playing Diner with Zoe's felt food; Zoe was the customer, I was the owner of the diner, Jake was my inept employee, and Gerry was a disgruntled customer. I served Gerry a grilled cheese, and as he took a bite I quickly said, "That's $45, please." He ranted about how he wouldn't have ordered it if he'd know the price, and I said, "Well, you touch it you buy it—you should have seen that on the door when you came in." Ready to back me up, Zoe popped up onto her feet and stage-whispered to me, "I'll go write it on the door!"
  • Looking at the patches of melting snow, Zoe exclaimed, "Look, the snow's healing up!"
  • Jake was excited that he'd invented a new Star Wars LEGO guy ("I named him Lord Vactis - doesn't that sound eeeevil?"). After showing me, he took the guy into Zoe's room, where she was playing with a doll.
  • Jake: Look, Zoe! I created LORD VACTIS.
    Zoe (in her grown-up voice): I'm much too busy. [I hear the sounds of birthday balloons being knocked around violently.]  I'm taking my daughter to ka-ra-tay.
  • I gave Zoe some small plastic bottles to use in her kitchen that once contained Gerber juice for Maddie. Zoe came rushing out of her room, very concerned, and said, "Mommy, there are cigars in this!" I looked where she was pointing on the nutrition label; she seemed genuinely relieved to learn it said "sugars." 
  • The kids had been to see Santa, so I asked Zoe if she told him what she wanted. "No, he didn't ask," she said. "He didn't?" I asked, surprised. (Since when does Santa not ask what you want for Christmas?) "No, but that's okay," she told me. "You know how he's always watching and listening? Well, I just walked around all night saying what I wanted over and over, as loud as I could, to make sure he overhear'd me."

  • Somehow we got on the topic of childbirth (I believe it's because Jake referred to Stewie, Zoe's guinea pig, as his "brother from another mother," and I just pointed out that Jake's mother and Stewie's mother are quite different). Jake said, "Yeah, but you both pooped babies out, so you're both mothers." Not wanting to get into a Where Do Babies Come From discussion but feeling a need to correct him, I said, "That's not exaaaaactly how it works." Zoe chimed in with her Know-It-All voice and added, "Yeah Jake, they don't just poop the baby out. They go to the hospital and poop the baby out."
Well, there you go, hopefully you got a few snickers out of that list.  If so, only 398 laughs left to go today—get to work!  I highly recommend getting yourself a couple kids to assist you with that goal.  No doubt they shave years off your life from the stress, constant worrying, loss of sleep, and sudden blood pressure escalation every time milk gets spilled on the cat, but I feel certain that's all more than outweighed by the healing power of their absolute silliness.

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing!

An Open Letter to Mars Incorporated

Dear Mars Inc.,

I want you to know, first of all, that I adore all of your chocolatey products.  I mean, Twix - are you kidding me? What's not to like about a cookie slathered in caramel that's wrapped in a candy bar?

One size fits all!

However, I do have a few minor complaints about your Dove Promises. I'm a little bit tired of your TV ads trying to convince me that, although I have flaws, eating your chocolate isn't one of them. I beg to differ; you've never seen me alone in a room with a bag of your candy.

In the commercial, some razor-thin model delicately unwraps a single Dove chocolate, and I swear that even though the individual treat is only 3/4" square, it takes her roughly 127 bites to consume the whole thing. Conversely, in real life it takes me one  bite to eat 127 chocolates. If you don't think that's a flaw, then you haven't seen my blood work.

I could also do without the platitudes you print on the inside of the empty wrappers in an attempt to inspire me, or maybe just to lift my spirits enough to prevent me from spiraling into a 352-fat-gram-induced depression.

There isn't a single one that does anything other than remind me that I'm scarfing fistfuls of chocolate faster than I can read, and that nothing can stop me short of blacking out in a cocoa coma. Telling me to "Take time for yourself today" only calls attention to the fact that I already have taken time for myself, as well as a significant portion of the family budget, and devoted it to an in-depth study of the effect of Dove on my lack of will power. When you encourage me via wrapper-isms to "Seek out small pleasures," it only serves to underscore the fact that I'm already in the process of seeking out roughly 42 "small pleasures." The worst one might be "Break the mold;" if by "the mold" you mean "the top button on your pants," then mission accomplished.

All I ask is that you put more honest, realistic messages in your wrappers so that I at least don't feel condescended to while I'm inhaling your chocolatey goodness. If you're having trouble with it, here are some ideas to get you started:
  • If you've lost count, it's time to stop.
  • How about you finish chewing the last one before you pop this one in your mouth?
  • Remember, God is watching.
  • The creaking you hear is coming from the floorboards beneath you.
  • Shall I call Jerry Springer to have him fork-lift you out of the house now?
  • Pause.  Breathe.  Consider the possibility of stopping at half a bag.
  • Are you even tasting these anymore?
  • The love you feel for chocolate is unrequited.
Thanks a bunch.  Sincerely,

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing!

Invention Ideas Rife with Awesomeness

In today's modern world, parents are given a lot of tools to help them raise their children that prior generations didn't have.  Heck, when I was pregnant with Maddie there were already a whole bunch of new developments that had arisen since I was toting Zoe around, and that was only a span of six years or so.  For example, despite the incredible elegance of poking a rubber band through the button hole of your pants and looping it over the button, I can tell you the Belly Band is a lot more comfortable for keeping non-maternity pants in place as you gradually outgrow them.  And did you know that there's a spoon gizmo out there that screws onto a special baby food pouch that looks like it belongs on the Space Shuttle (R.I.P.), so when you squeeze the food pouch it squirts directly into the spoon?  Now I can feed Maddie with one hand and have the other hand free to do my taxes, just like I've always wanted!

I know, it's great - we parents today have it super-easy and barely have to lift a finger from the delivery room through high school graduation.  But I'm greedy, and I could use just a few more helpful inventions to smooth out some of the remaining complications of motherhood, because if my life were just slightly more effortless I might be able to slip in an extra nap in the afternoon.  So somebody out there get started on these - I'll be expecting my royalty checks to come rolling in any day now.

1. Better baby toys
Yes, there are approximately a milliondy jillion baby toys out there to choose from.  I should know - I step on most of them on a daily basis.  But here is my problem.

Toy Manufacturers, my baby is not stupid.  This remote control isn't fooling anyone; it doesn't look any more like a real remote than Barney looks like a real dinosaur.  All I'm asking for is a decoy remote control that looks real enough to keep her content, so she'll stop spring-boarding off my lap in an attempt to get the real one.  As you can tell, babies are very interested in plain, old, boring remote controls just the way they are; there's no need to add spinning hypnotic elements or make them in colors so bright I can find them in the dark.  This doesn't seem like it'd be that difficult to figure out, but apparently no one in your Marketing Department has come up with the idea yet.  So there you go.

2. The Nose Bib
That's right, a bib to put under a baby's nose.  When Maddie recently had a cold, Gerry and I spent roughly 82% of our time wiping her nose, and the other 18% worrying that we were going to rub off all her delicate baby skin by wiping her nose so much.  Plus, if we didn't quite get there in time, you can use your imagination to figure out where gravity took the runoff.  That's just not sanitary (though she sure didn't seem to mind).  So Gerry came up with the idea of a nose bib to catch the drips, which at the time seemed fairly brilliant.  I'm not saying babies would like wearing them, or that they would stay on for long, or that they might not become choking hazards when they slip off.  But I was on board the moment I realized you could put a mustache on it - who doesn't love a baby with a mustache?

(For those of you saying, "What an adorable picture of Madeline - I can't believe you've ruined it with your hilarious joke," just keep your shorts on.  I'll put an unedited version on the Photoz page for you to Oooh and Ahhh at. Because that's just the kind of gal I am.)

3. Scratch-n-Sniff Deodorant
I used to have a gigantic collection of stickers, and some of my favorites were scratch and sniffs.

Classic!  The hobby of sticker collecting has fallen out of favor with The Youth these days, presumably because the idea of compiling small pieces of adhesive-backed paper in a book can't really compete with the allure of shooting zombies or playing with Pooper Scooper Barbie.  However, we could still put the scratch-n-sniff technology to good use for those of us whose occupations are time-consuming and require our full attention, and therefore make it difficult for us to manage to take regular showers while on the job (moms, prison guards, storm chasers, etc) - just one quick scratch and the rejuvenating scent of Freshly Washed Mom is released anew (I would not recommend using the pickle scent for this particular application, but I'll leave the final decision up to the product developers).

4. New Photoshop Edits
Not that my children aren't naturally adorable (BECAUSE THEY ARE), but sometimes a little editing is necessary to correct my sub-par photography of their perfection.  Take this photo, for example.

Adorable, right?  Well trust me, it became a lot more adorable after I removed the electric blue beanbag chair and power strip that used to be focal points due to my inability to get a different angle combined with the messiness of our living room.  Since parents take so many pictures of their offspring, and because there are so many factors in those photos that are out of our control, I think some additional Photoshop edits are in order.  For example, in reference to Item #2 on this list, I believe all parents would appreciate a Snotty Face Fix option; like Red Eye Removal, I'd like to be able to click on a pic and instantly remove the evidence that I've been neglecting to wipe my kid's nose.  Or that I've been wiping it too much.

Also on my wish list:
  • Clothing Color Correction (easily eliminate the ridiculous, mismatched clothes I allow my kids to wear and replace with selections from the J. Crew Kids catalog)
  • Background Reduction (with a single click, remove the existing background in the photo - my cluttered kitchen, a panoramic view of my neighbors' crappy cars parked on the street, etc - and replace it with a picture lifted from Better Homes and Gardens)
  • Evil Eye Removal (erase the scornful sideways glances the kids are shooting at each other, and replace them with loving gazes filled with mutual adoration).

5. Roomba Attachments
I don't have one of these self-propelled little vacuums, but lots of parents do and I'm sure they could use some snap-on accessories.  I might be tempted to get one myself if I could get an optional Snow Plow Attachment to corral all the tiny LEGO guys and 800 tubes of flavored Chap Stick on our floor and quickly deposit them under the coffee table or the kids' beds when company's coming over.

Also, Roomba People, if you have time, I could also use a tiny Roomba I could set loose in my couch, because someone seems to be breaking in at night and crumbling up entire packages of Saltines under the cushions, and frankly I'm tired of sitting on so much food.  And speaking of food...

6. A Realistic Recipe Book
I can't tell you how tired I am of looking for new dinner ideas in an effort to keep my kids from overdosing on frozen tortellini and pizza, only to discover that every recipe I find requires at least one ingredient that I know, in my heart of hearts, I will never have in my kitchen.  These include, but are not limited to:
  • Fresh basil (Or oregano. Or parsley. Or any herbs.  I'm not running a greenhouse, people.)
  • Lemon zest
  • Shallots
  • Fresh poultry stock (I rarely find myself boiling a whole chicken.)
  • Tomato paste
  • Baking soda (This is probably horrifying to those of you who eat my baked goods, but I just leave it out. Chemistry, shemistry. All the baking soda in my house is busy absorbing odors.)
I would like to see a cookbook that only includes ingredients found in real  kitchens in homes with kids, such as:
  • 1/4 cup potato chip crumbs that someone (okay, it was usually me) left in the bottom of the bag and put back in the cabinet
  • Three small containers of assorted refrigerated side-dish leftovers, none of which is enough to serve again as a side dish on its own but is too much to just throw out
  • One banana that's browning and slightly mushy, which is still perfectly good but the kids refuse to touch it
  • A full bottle of mustard
  • Hamburger meat that's frozen into a block so solid it's almost turned into a diamond
  • Part of a block of cheese that's been removed from its original packaging and put in a baggie, so you don't have confirmation of the expiration date but it smells fine
  • Half a bagel that was forgotten in the bread basket, which isn't moldy but is  hard enough to be used as a catapult projectile
Try to make THAT delicious every night at dinner, Rachael Ray.

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing!

What? Seventeen???

It's true, Kennedy turned seventeen on Saturday!

Yes, you!  And despite the fact that I told him he could have whatever kind of tea party birthday celebration he wanted, he declined - something about being too old for that.  And a boy.  Whatever!

So the decorations were a little more subdued than they were for Zoe's party (understatement), but I tried to still spread the Birthday Vibe around the house a little.

You're never too old to be forced into wearing a party hat,
one way or another.

And we did still make him listen to the traditional horrendous, off-key rendition of the Happy Birthday Song before he blew out the candles on his carrot cake cupcakes.

He said his birthday-candle wish was for us to stop singing, which of course made us launch into the extended remix version of the song. But since it was his birthday wish, we eventually did stop singing, which just goes to show what great parents we are.

K's pretty great, too, so for his 17th birthday I'm listing, in no particular order:

17 Random Things That Are Awesome About Kennedy

1. He plays games with us at an age when most guys won't even acknowledge they HAVE parents, even though he used to make us play Dragonmaster (which is easily the worst game ever invented) until I cut it up into elevendy million pieces and burned it in a huge bonfire on the lawn (not really).

2. He's an incredible artist, and is so talented in so many different genres, media and styles that it's pretty unbelievable.  I can't do anything with watercolors that you couldn't accurately title Amorphous Blob in Brown, but he can paint and draw and sculpt and even create cool stuff on the computer. I'm very much looking forward to the fruits of his talent funding our extravagant retirement lifestyle.

3. He appreciates little gestures, like having the raisins hand-picked out of the carrot cake mix, which makes you want  to do stuff for him, unlike a lot of teenagers whose attitudes just sort of make you want to punch a kitten.

4. He is supremely sarcastic.  You know I heart that.

5. He watches dumb shows like Hoarders: Buried Alive  and Two Ton Dad  with me.  This is important because otherwise I'd have to watch these shows alone, and it's so much funnier to have Kennedy there to mutter, "This is why we can't have nice things" when a tower of filthy, hoarded garbage tips over on someone on the TV.

6. He has done a BUNCH of work this year at school and is getting amazing grades, which will not only pay off for him, but also gives his dad a platform upon which he can gloat about how right he was about K's brilliance.  I'm pretty sure that's not exactly why K put in the extra effort, but it's a nice bonus.

7. I think it's funny how he has this offhanded ego about his ability to kill stuff in video games, and is really humble about everything else.  I think I might know where he gets that.

8. He puts up with us when we're making fun of a movie (which is always), even when it makes him miss all the good parts (because we're loudly discussing how there aren't any good parts).

9. He loooves his baby sister.  It's so sweet.
I think he still likes her.

10.  He has great hair.  I realize this isn't a character trait, but still.  It's worth mentioning.

11.  He lets Jake & Zoe climb on him like a jungle gym, then shakes them off with mild irritation or tickle-tortures them just like a blood brother would.  Awesome.

12. He never complains, even though we were short on bedrooms around here for a long time and he had to sleep on a fold-out couch a few feet away from Maddie's changing table. I'm hoping this means he's just very accommodating and tolerant, and not that he has incredibly low expectations of us.

13. He has inadvertently struck the perfect balance of style that looks cool and allows him to express himself, without making Gerry want to throw himself out a window (read: no facial piercings).

14. He's honest. He tells Gerry things that I think a lot of teenagers would never tell their dad, which I think is cool.  So does G.

15. He joins in when we sing stupid songs. This might just be a defense mechanism, like humoring a crazy person who's gone off his meds until the authorities arrive, but it's still fun.  Here's me trying to block out K singing Happy Birthday earlier this year.

* For the record, I'm not 76 years old, though I should say  that I am because I look great  for 76.  No, 1976 was the year I was born and Gerry just found a way to creatively use the candles we had lying around - much in the same way that the cake is also one that we had lying around (note that there's only about 1/4 of it left and it's decorated with an "E" - Jake's bday is the day before mine).

16. Kennedy is super helpful - he vacuums without grumbling, and takes our dishes to the kitchen for us after dinner without us even asking!  He also works in the yard even though I'm pretty sure he hates it, which leads me to...

17. He graciously didn't kill his dad when Gerry waited until K had showered and gone back upstairs, then sent him a text telling him to go outside and mow the yard. I owe him a debt of gratitude that he didn't strangle anyone when he came downstairs to do what he was told, only to find his dad laughing like a madman.

So, that's certainly not everything, but it's 17 somethings!  I only wish I'd been around longer so I could take some credit for how awesome he is, but I'm glad I get to be around to know him now. Happy birthday, K!

I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing!