Hollow Tree Ventures parenting humor
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If I Had Known

While I was writing my post yesterday, I looked at those pictures of Jake and Zoe in the snow that I had taken as we walked home from school, and so many thoughts went through my head.  I thought about how innocent and worry-free they seemed, and about the wonderment that children find in the smallest things.  But mostly, as I reflected on the pictures of my kids shuffling languidly in the remaining slushy piles of snow, I thought about how long it takes to physically get anywhere  when you have kids.

This led me to realize how very many things, some small and some life-changing, that I didn't really take into consideration when I was deciding to have children.  In my defense, I couldn't have considered some aspects of parenthood because I just plain didn't know what I was getting into, but also (let's face it) I wasn't really thinking clearly at the time due to the relentless, deafening tick-tock of my biological clock ringing in my ears constantly.  In any case, here are a few things that have occurred to me in hindsight, which I just didn't fully absorb prior to taking the plunge; if you're a parent, maybe you can relate.  And if you're thinking of becoming a parent... well, just ignore 90% of this post.

1.  You will never be on time for anything again.  Ever.

I know I just touched on this, but it bears repeating: kids make getting from point A to point B take roughly 3,000 times longer than it took before you had kids.  Why?  Because kids are never, ever, ever, ever  in a hurry (that is, unless there will be sugar, a toy department, and/or Santa Claus at the destination).  Take the pics from yesterday for example; they're so typical.  All the snow had melted from the roads and sidewalks, so naturally both the kids insisted on avoiding the boring old sidewalk, and opted instead to walk through the snow-covered grass - s.l.o.w.l.y. - with extra loitering occurring around the edges of driveways, where melting piles of snow that had been shoveled into heaps particularly grabbed their interest.  When I told them to stay off of peoples' lawns, they splashed through every sidewalk puddle they could find, stopping to inspect lost pennies and pick up sticks (which were then used to stab the snow).

I asked them why they wouldn't just walk on the dry sidewalk, and they both replied emphatically, "This is so much more fun!"  Yes, to a kid, sloshing through two inches of slush because you want to test out the invincibility of your boots is considered the adventure of a lifetime.  Get used to it, and try not to promise to be anywhere at any certain time for the next 18 years or so.

2.  Your brain is no longer your own.

There once was a time when I had phone numbers memorized.  I knew things like who wrote Moby Dick and how to mix an Apple Martini.  I could converse relatively intelligently about several topics, including grown-up things like architecture and biological neuroscience.  I almost always wore matching socks.

Then I had children, and my brain was flooded with a new variety of information - and lots of it - all at once, and it hasn't stopped yet.  Like a woman on a slowly sinking ship, for years I've been tossing out bucketfuls of any knowledge that isn't absolutely necessary for survival in order to make room for the new stuff pouring in.  Out went two semesters of organic chemistry, replaced with organic baby food recipes.  The spot that used to allow me to converse passably in German is now occupied by the names of Pokemon characters.  While I once could recite Thanatopsis  by William Cullen Bryant, now I have Goodnight Moon memorized cover to cover (case in point: I just had to Google that poem because I couldn't remember the name of it or who wrote it).  Sometimes I miss having my brain to myself, but I will say that knowing eleventy crafts to make with Popsicle sticks has come in handy on more than one occasion.

3.  There is no such thing as "your stuff" anymore.

Before you have kids, you get to decide where things belong in your house, and once you put them there, they stay there.  Not only that, but everything you own is pretty much used for its intended purpose.  Not so, once you have kids.  Instead of a neat, organized home filled with stylish belongings that each have a clearly defined purpose, you can expect the following.
  • Sometimes your car keys will be right where you left them.  Sometimes they will inexplicably turn up in the cat's water dish.  You must try not to think about that when you find yourself out of the house and nothing on this earth will keep your baby from screaming like she's being forced to watch Jersey Shore except being allowed to chew on your keyring.
  • The thing that used to be your purse suddenly becomes little more than a fashionable garbage receptacle for Kid Trash.  When you reach into your purse for a pen, all you'll find instead will be a cheap toy from the dentist's office, a broken crayon, used bandaids that your kid claims have sentimental value, and an empty juice pouch that has leaked all over your checkbook.  Also, your pack of gum will be missing.
  • When you vacuum between the cushions of your couch, you will find at least three of the following items, which (if memory serves) people without children rarely encounter: a sticker that's no longer sticky because the back is covered with fuzz, a Lego guy, several thousand unsweetened o-shaped cereal bits, an overdue library book, a half-eaten cereal bar, fragments of a popped balloon, a collection of dried boogers, a permanent marker without the cap on it, Barbie's head, the gum (now chewed) that used to be in your purse, the wrapper from some fruit snacks, and/or a lone dirty sock.
  • You might have, once upon a time, curled up on the couch with your significant other for movie night, but there's no time for that sort of nonsense after you have kids.  Your DVD player won't even get used anymore, unless what's being inserted is either produced by Disney or is a food item, such as American cheese.  A then it really  doesn't get used anymore.

4.  You will have to learn to accept help that isn't helpful.

Maddie "helps" her dad stuff envelopes.
Part of this point is that, starting from a very young age, kids will offer to help you do pretty much everything.  Which is sweet, but let's face facts - most of the time it isn't actually helpful.  When you're washing dishes, spoons will get eaten by the disposal.  When you're folding laundry, T-shirts will be wadded unceremoniously into balls.  When you're baking, entire bottles of vanilla extract will end up in the cookies.  But you have to let them help anyway.  That's just the way it is.  What it lacks in efficiency, it more than makes up for in cuteness.

But you'll also get offers of help from others, and this help you rarely want to accept.  Consider this: before I had children, I waltzed around wearing anything I wanted, eating anything I wanted, and pretty much doing whatever I wanted, and no stranger ever once felt the need to stop me in my tracks and lecture me about how I should dress myself in layers or else I'd get a cold, or about how the snack I was enjoying was probably going to cause some kind of a life-threatening allergy.

However, part of parenthood involves dealing with "helpful" advice doled out by various members of the public who size up whatever information they can glean from glancing briefly at your children, and invariably determine that you're doing something wrong.  For example, let's say you're running late (because you will be) and as a result you have to leave the house with your children wearing a wild assortment of clothing including pajama bottoms, 57 barrettes, a Batman cape, and an undersized tutu.  You can be sure that at some point while you're out, a well-meaning elderly lady will let you know about the clothes drive they're having at her church, which is her way of telling you how disgraceful it is to let your kids run around looking like dirty little starved orphans.  Conversely, if you somehow manage to leave the house with children who are bathed, combed, and appropriately dressed, someone out there will conclude you're probably one of the overbearing moms from Toddlers & Tiaras who forces her 6-year-old to wear lipstick and get spray tans, and they'll consider it their civic duty to grab you by the elbow and lecture you about the importance of letting kids be kids.  Your sole responsibility in these scenarios is to nod politely and refrain from punching these people in the throat.

5.  You are suddenly expected to be The Expert.

This was the scariest one for me.  Before my kids came along I'd never considered the fact that, as a mom, there'd be no denying it - I'd be a Grown Up.  As such, I was supposed to take home a fragile little baby and was suddenly expected to do Grown Up things, like formulate an Emergency Fire Escape Plan for the house, learn infant CPR, remember which end the diaper goes on, and know how to handle situations that I could never in a million years have even dreamed of in my pre-children days.  Your kids will, completely out of the blue, ask you, "Mommy, what if you were in the store and we were in the car and a bad guy starts banging on the window and he starts to get in the car and drive away with us?" - and you had better know the answer without any hesitation  even though you'd never even thought about it until that very second, or else somebody's going to be having nightmares about carjacking for a month.  You have to know how to react when your child loudly proclaims, "Mommy, LOOK, that man is a robot," when a person with a metal prosthetic leg gets in line behind you at the ice cream parlor.  You have to be able to say things like, "Stop hitting your brother in the privates," while in public and  with a straight face, which isn't as easy as it sounds.  It's up to you to decide if your baby will be emotionally scarred for life if you try to feed her pineapple, even though she's just regarded it with a fear and suspicion usually reserved for space aliens.  You have to be a teacher, an ER doctor, a chef, a rabid security dog, a psychologist, a circus clown, and a security blanket, and who knows what you'll need to be after  lunch.  No wonder I wear mismatched socks half the time.

Don't get me wrong - I would never take it back. I've never once regretted having my kids for any reason, even when they're scribbling on the wall in red crayon or throwing up in the backseat of my car. On the contrary, I'm glad   I didn't know this stuff about parenting, because if I had, I'm pretty sure I'd have determined I couldn't handle it and gone out for margaritas instead.  It's daunting, if you think about it.  Good thing I didn'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!

Another Lesson

I shared with you in a post a couple months ago how unhelpful I am in the realm of homework, and generally in tutelage altogether.  The point was brought to my attention once again as the kids and I walked home from school last week.  You know me, I can't pass up the opportunity to conduct a grammar lesson, even when my instruction doesn't exactly take hold.

So we were walking, and the kids were competing for my attention with tales of What Happened at School Today.  Well, technically Jake was just telling me a story while Zoe competed for my attention, but let's not get caught up in semantics.

It's a wonder I can ever hear anything either of them say, since they typically mumble quietly while facing in the opposite direction of my eardrums because 98% of their attention is actually focused on kicking snow.  But here's how the conversation went.
ZOE:  Today me and Peyton were running on the playground at recess...
ME (unable to resist correcting her grammar):  Peyton and I  were running at recess. 
 ZOE:  No, me and Peyton.
She sounded like she was pretty sure she was right about this one.  I was about to lecture her on proper use of me  and I,  but then she continued with her logic.
ZOE:  I know it was me and Peyton - you weren't even there!
I didn't have a chance to explain that I wasn't claiming to have personally been the one running with Peyton on the playground, because Zoe barely took a breath before barreling ahead with her story.  This incident will, no doubt, simply be filed away in Zoe's mental vault of Evidence That Adults Are Morons; so far its contents include the following facts:

  1. Gran always falls for knock-knock jokes and can never figure out riddles like, "What happened when the mirror laughed?"  (In case you're wondering, he cracked up.)  I might argue that Gran is just letting Zoe have the pleasure of delivering a punchline, but Zoe has informed me that, no, Gran is just very gullible.
  2. Gerry insisted on ordering Fish Guts the last time we played Restaurant, despite the fact that Zoe informed him several times that she doesn't serve fish.  When Gerry said he didn't want fish, just the guts, Zoe had to ask (with waning patience), "If I don't have any fish, where am I going to get the guts?"  Duh, Gerry.  She then immediately fulfilled his order for "a sushi."
  3. And now, apparently, Mommy is having delusions about who did what at recess.
But she's used to being the one who knows the most about whatever's going on, so it didn't faze her.  She went on to tell me, with incongruous glee, about how she slipped on the ice on the playground and hit her head, and the ice cracked, even though it was "this thick" (here, she held her hands about two feet apart to indicate that the sheet of ice she'd shattered with her head was of truly glacial proportions).

Jake chimed in to tell me that a friend of his had accidentally pushed him at recess, so he'd also slipped on the ice but didn't hurt his head (or crack any major ice bergs in half).  Not to be outdone, Zoe quickly added that she had twisted her ankle when she fell, and (suddenly walking with a very pronounced limp) it still really, really hurt.

Practicing our fake limps kept us occupied until we got home, where we immediately started homework.  I always have them do homework right after school, because otherwise I'll forget and they'll end up having to do it later while they're in the bathtub.

I went through their backpacks, and in Jake's I found some promising evidence that maybe he's coming around to my way of thinking regarding those Fred videos.

I was soon disabused of that notion, however, as Jake explained that instead of being the scathing editorial review that I'd hoped it was, it was actually a tribute to Fred's perceived hilarity.  Excellent.  (And speaking of Fred, I heard he's getting his own show on Nickelodeon.  Swell.  That gurgling sound you heard was the nation's collective television standards swirling down the drain.)

In Zoe's backpack I found evidence that she still refuses to spell her name correctly.  I have chosen to use Passive-Aggressive Parenting Technique #492 in this situation, also known as Ignoring the Situation Completely.  I'm assuming that one day she'll decide to spell her name right, and if not, I don't think it really matters.  As a parent, you have to choose your battles carefully, and I'd rather focus my energy on other things, like encouraging her to eat dinner in fewer than seven hours and convincing her to throw away the sad-looking half-deflated balloon left over from her birthday party.  Besides, knowing Zoe, pretty soon she'll probably change her name to Princess Cutie Ballerina Pink anyway, which she'll spell "Boobies" in honor of her latest favorite word, and I'll be looking back with fondness on her misspellings of Zoe.

We started on Zoe's homework, which began with a worksheet about telling time and the question, "Mommy, is there such thing as 27:30?"  I used my typical Unhelpful Homework Assistance Techniques, which in this case involved pointing at the numbers on the clock and encouraging her to try again.  Thank goodness my kids are smart, so eventually, despite my blunderous attempts to prevent her from ever learning how to tell time, she figured it out on her own.  The next page was fractions.  Then on to... algebra‽  Yeah, I guess these days algebra is a first-grade sort of thing; how else are they going to understand quadratic equations and organic chemistry by second grade?  I'm not sure what exactly I told her, but in the end she got it and was (rightfully so, I think) pretty stinking proud of herself.  Me too, but I'll confess I'm a little scared to open her backpack today.  God alone knows what I'll find in there, and I'm not all that confident I'll be able to help her with it, considering I don't even remember where I was at recess today.

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!


(Editor's note:  Before we get started, I'd like to thank you for hanging in there with me while I vented yesterday about my issues with photo editing and my new arch nemesis, Goofle.  I'm happy to report that I am indeed now a computer genius of dizzying intellect, by which I mean that I have absolutely no idea how I got my "solution" to work, nor am I positive I can get it to work on a regular basis in the future.  To test things out, I added to yesterday's post that visual aid I mentioned that describes my various talents, since I couldn't do it earlier; I don't think the breakdown depicted in the chart will surprise you.  So hopefully my storage, if not editing, issues may be resolved - unless you open this post and there are no images there, in which case I guess it's back to the drawing board.)

I think we can all agree that Maddie is typically a very happy baby.  And if you don't know her personally, go ahead and trust me on this one.

"It's true, I'm extremely well-adjusted and carefree."

However, at a still-very-clingy nine months old, she reserves the right to fly into hysterics at any given moment if she
  1. doesn't get her way,
  2. gets even the slightest sneaking suspicion that someone other than Gerry or myself might try to hold her, or
  3. remembers some time in the past when she didn't get her way or someone tried to hold her
For this purpose, Maddie often keeps one pathetic little tear perched on the edge of her lower lid, loaded and ready to go in the event she needs to get some Emergency Sympathy.

Actually, of course I really have no idea why that tear is always there - I think sometimes it's just because the sun is a little too bright, or because Gerry made her laugh so hard she snorted.  But if you ask me, it's more fun to imagine what she might be thinking about if she were  on the verge of a Mini Breakdown...

"What?  Did you just call me chubby?"
"I had a nightmare that you found some way
to keep socks on my feet for more than 2 seconds."
"Mommy, don't look now but there's a little old lady
about eight blocks away who's probably gonna want to touch my face."
"You do  realize that you've made me miss
Ice Road Truckers, right?"

"Remember that time Mommy tried to have a minute
to herself to take a shower?  She should be ashamed."

"How many times have I told you not to
photograph me in this terrible light?"

"Joanie and Chachi's wedding was just so... magical."
"Dear Lord, are we going outside again?"

"Tell me the truth - is that cat sneaking up behind me?"

"I have to eat solid foods, you say?  Oh, I disagree."

Who knows, I'm probably WAY off.  But it's possible  that's what she's thinking.  I mean, who doesn't tear up when they miss Ice Road Truckers?

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!

Technical Difficulties

Well, I had a blog post all planned out - it was going to be knock yourself out hilarious kind of funny, and absolutely full of pictures of Maddie.

Then Goofle happened.  You know, the popular online-search-engine-turned-World-Dominating-Megalord?  Okay, obviously that's not the real name, but YOU know who I mean - I feel compelled to use a pseudonym for them here, as I'm quite sure they scour the internet looking for Anti-Goofle Rebels, who are no doubt treated quite harshly.  The last thing I need is to hear a pounding on the door mere moments after publishing a post (here on my Blogger blog - owned by Goofle), only to find some Goofle Thugs ready to break my thumbs over my defamation of stupid Goofle.  "Did you say that Goofle was an evil, slobbering, cash-sucking monster that's masquerading as a harmless search engine but has probably already bought up everything on the planet, including McDonald's, your mom, and the rights to all the Beatles' lyrics?"  they'll demand to know, shining an interrogation light in my eyes in the back of an unmarked van.  "Why, no, I'd never say that,"  I'll tell them.  Undeterred, they'll yell, "Did you or did you not mercilessly make fun of Goofle+, saying it was a Facebook knockoff that isn't even good enough to polish Classmates.com's shoes, which is saying a lot since only six people have ever even logged on to Classmates.com, and that everyone generally hates Goofle+ and can't for the life of themselves figure out why Goofle is trying to get into social networking in the first place?"  "Yes,"  I'll reply, even though I never did say that, based on the fact that it's true and I wish I had  said it.

Anyway, the reason I'm so peeved at Goofle right now is that apparently they bought my beloved photo editing website, and they're shutting it down in April so that everyone will (they hope) start using Goofle+ for their photo editing needs (yes, Goofle does photo editing now, too, for some reason).  As a result, the site I like keeps crashing.  So, like a sucker, I thought, What the heck, I'll try Goofle+ out since I'm probably gonna have to anyway.   But their  site is all messed up and won't let me edit my photos either, and to boot I found out that the place where Goofle crams the photos I post on this blog is almost full (WHAT‽), so if I want to use too many more pictures on my blog (which - duh - of course I do) Goofle suggests I pay them an annual fee to "upgrade" my storage capacity.  Um, nice try, but not likely, Goofle.

To avoid all this jive, all I need to do is learn how to be some sort of computer guru really quick (in my spare time) which should be no problem since I have absolutely zero natural talent for computing; I can't even type without looking at the keyboard.  I would provide you with a pie chart here showing the percentage breakdown of my various talents, BUT I CAN'T (f.y.i., Computing comes in at 0.00000002%).

So wish me luck.  I hope to be some sort of Super Genius Computer Master by tomorrow and be back to blogging with Actual Full-Color Photos.  Or I'll just take a nap, depending on my mood.  Just promise me that if you see an unmarked van sitting outside my house, you'll call somebody for help.  But not the cops - Goofle probably owns them, too.

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!

Truer words were never spoken

It wasn't snowing or raining or Armageddon the other day, so I walked over to pick the kids up from school instead of driving.  I do this as much as I can (even when it's kind of f-f-f-f-freeeezing), partly to get some fresh air, partly so Maddie doesn't have to scream her head off about being confined to the car seat while we wait outside the school, and partly so I don't have to deal with the honking, double-parking (don't get me started), cars-idling-in-clouds-of-exhaust-fumes masses of parents who are  driving.  Not that I haven't idled right there along with them before - I'm just saying I avoid it whenever possible.  Plus, I like to chat with the kids on the way home.  Here's part of the conversation we had that day.

JAKE: I kind of hoped you'd forget we had a half day today so I could walk home by myself.

ME: What?  They wouldn't let you walk alone.

JAKE: Yes they would.  I'm in the fourth grade, Mom.

ME: Well, what about Zoe?

ZOE: I could walk, too!

ME (to Zoe): But your teacher wouldn't let you go if she didn't see me waiting there to pick you up.

ZOE: I could sneak off...

ME: That wouldn't be very nice - your teacher would be so worried that she'd lost you!

ZOE (in her teacher voice): Oh my, I lost five kids in one day.  That must be some kind of a record!

ME: Maybe, but probably not a record you'd be very proud of.

ZOE: I guess that depends on which five kids.

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!

Advertising and Mail and Products, oh my!

(Editor's note:  I will freely admit that some of this stuff is outdated, old news. That's because I started this post in mid-November and then abandoned it for reasons I can't remember, but I'm assuming it had something to do with an emergency baby bath or a call from school saying Zoe had another faux illness and wanted to come home.  But, like finding leftovers in the back of the fridge, when I noticed this forgotten post in my drafts folder today I decided I'd better either finally serve it up or toss it out.  So I threw in some new semi-fresh ingredients, mixed it up, and now here it is - your luke-warm, recycled, not-quite-entirely-past-the-expiration-date blog post for the day. Bon appetit.)

Lately I've come across some things that made me think in greater quantities than I wanted to and about topics I didn't really feel like ruminating upon.  Of course in all fairness, I could say that about anything - concentrating is not my strong suit these days.  The first thing was something Gerry pulled up on the computer and showed to me.

This is a real ad in Milwaukee.  I don't know about you, but I think it might  be a little over the top.  I can tell you this for sure: it didn't make me feel even a teeny bit bad about cosleeping with Maddie.  Or my older two, when they were babies.  It probably didn't have much of an effect on the vast majority of cultures worldwide, whose co-sleeping rates are higher and SIDS rates are lower than ours.  Or on the study done at the University of Notre Dame showing that, as long as the parents aren't drunk, strung out out crack, weigh 4,000 pounds, or curl up to sleep in a bean bag chair on the dirt floor of their shack in the wilderness with no heat other than the warmth emanating from the lit end of their burning cigarette, co-sleeping is actually safer.  The ad did have one effect however, which was to make me like Milwaukee a little less, after a lifetime of Milwaukee enjoying my relative ambivalence.

Okay, sorry for the rant.  Luckily for you I feel a little less personally affronted by the next item, so I'll try not to go off on a tangent.  It just made me wonder, "Don't we have pigs in America?"  And that was not something I would have predicted I'd have to wonder.

For one thing, I have to assume that local pigs, not having required first-class airfare and luxury hotel accommodations on their way to my sandwich, would cost somewhat less than $7.29/pound.  Also, I don't care much for the fact that it doesn't specify from where it's imported, partly because some imported ham is described as being "made from the finest hand carved raw materials," which, again, is just a tad too vague a description for a food item, in my opinion.

Then there's this one, from the Camera Roll of Random Pictures on Gerry's cell phone, which I think speaks for itself.  It's just so wrong on so many levels.

I wish I could say I saw this next one in person, but I found in on the innerwebs.  Still, it's out there, somewhere.  Or it was, anyway.

Naturally everyone and their mom got all outraged about it, so Wodka took the billboard down, the result being that now EVERYONE has heard of Wodka, whereas before the controversy only about four people outside of Poland had ever tried it.  Congratulations, activists!  Evidently one of those four people is Martha Stewart, as Wodka has a clip of her on their website doing vodka shots.  Martha's nothing if not classy.

Next, I will introduce you to a major component of my multi-prong plan to never lose my baby weight, which is (get ready to write this down) consuming large quantities of junk food.  One of my latest faves is this caramelly-delicious flavored popcorn.  Are you drooling yet?  I know, this stuff is evil.  Yet still (back me up, here), although I'd never try to describe this as a healthy food, I would say that popcorn is the main ingredient in this snack.  I mean, if you were asking someone to pass it to you, you might say, "Hey, could you hand me that popcorn," or, "Why don't you quit hogging all the popcorn and save some for me," or something  that included the word "popcorn," right?  Well, I thought so too, until I looked at the ingredients (I know, that was dumb) and learned that somehow, though the bag appears to be full of popcorn, popcorn is not the main ingredient.  It's not even second.  No, popcorn is preceded on the list by three different kinds of sugar.  So when referring to this food, now I'm going to have to start saying, "Hey, I suggest you get your hand out of that bag of brown sugar, corn syrup, sugar, and popcorn before I'm forced to smack you around," or something like that.  Or I would, if I hadn't already polished off the whole bag.

There's nothing more entertaining to do while you're wolfing down ham of suspicious origin and sacks of sugar disguised as popcorn than reading the mail.  I'd like to speak with the graphic designer who created this mailer.

I get it - they're saying the personal loan they're offering will help pay off debt you already have.  Or that their personal loan can help you pay for a class where you'll learn to carve large-scale sculptures.  Or whatever - I don't know, I didn't read it.  In any case, we all know that A LOAN IS  A DEBT, but thanks for reminding us of that right on the front of the advertisement in which you're trying to get us to sign up for a new debt loan.

Tired of thinking about money you owe other people?  Have no fear, just crack open the next envelope.  In it I found a bona fide check made out to me (or, made out to me in a name that's no longer legally mine, anyway) - a major cash settlement in a lawsuit I'm not involved with in any way nor do I remember ever hearing about.

You're reading that correctly; I'm officially now a one-pennyionaire.  Or I would be, if I'd cashed it, but I was afraid to due to the dire warning printed above the check: "You should consult your tax professional regarding the impact this distribution will have on your taxes."  Dang IRS, always wanting a piece of every cent I earn.  (Editor's note:  I love how lawyers and investment firms and insurance companies are always acting like everybody has a Tax Professional on staff, just sitting by the phone waiting for you to call him up and consult him about something.  "Yes, I had to consult my Tax Professional regarding the tax implications of firing one of my gardeners and using those funds to hire another private chef, since I expanded the kitchen by 4,000 square feet when we redecorated the maids' quarters."  I'm  my tax professional, buddy, and I can tell you that I don't know diddly squat about the impact of anything  on my taxes.)

And finally, I'd like to share a helpful tidbit from the cover of a parenting magazine.  I'd tell you which magazine, except I let Maddie play with it and she chewed that part off (which I believe they advise against on page 98).  Anyway, parenting magazines in general are full of great advice that you'd probably never figure out on your own, such as this.

Sorry it's so blurry - my camera battery was
running low. Plus I had the sugar jitters from that popcorn.

This was on the cover of the magazine, so teaching us how to sneeze was one of their top stories in that issue (back in 1992, or whenever this was published - I'm a little behind on my reading).  Which actually I shouldn't make fun of - this might've been a Newborn magazine, and heaven knows when you have a newborn you can use all the help you can get.  Really, I guess that's true even if you don't have a newborn.

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!

Pet Peeve - Relieved

Not long ago I went to the grocery store with Maddie.  Anyone who has ever shopped with a baby (or really, left the house with a baby for any reason) knows that from the second you leave the house, you are on borrowed time.  At any moment, your baby could
  • start crying
  • throw up
  • have a diaper explosion
  • get a small red bump on her face that's probably nothing but could be an early sign of The Plague
  • decide she needs the ONE THING IN THE HOUSE that you didn't  cram into the diaper bag
  • all of the above
I wasn't getting tons of stuff but my grocery list was a decent enough length, so I knew I had to plan my attack carefully.  Douse cart in High Octane Industrial Strength Germ Killer, then try to prevent her from touching it directly anyway.  Hit all the aisles in order - no time for back-tracking.  Avoid well-meaning old ladies that are going to want to fondle Maddie's face and thereby throw her into a Screaming Tizzy.  Constantly survey Maddie's hands for the coupons that she mysteriously keeps sneaking out of my pocket.  Refrain from murdering the lady who invariably ends up RIGHT IN FRONT OF WHAT I NEEDED TO LOOK AT in every aisle but refuses to budge or even acknowledge that I'm waiting impatiently behind her with a baby who's teetering on the edge of a breakdown (or maybe that was me).

Finally, I'd somehow managed to make it to the check-out lanes, where I couldn't help but notice that everyone within a 50-mile radius had also just finished shopping and had gotten in line just ahead of me.  I carefully chose my lane, knowing full well that once I made my choice I'd be blocked in there between the magazines and racks of gum like I was in a cattle chute.  I also knew full well that, even though it had the fewest people in it with the fewest items in their carts, somehow it would end up being the slowest lane anyway.  I was not disappointed.

After waiting 20 minutes or so in line, swaying gently the whole time in desperate hopes that Maddie wouldn't notice we'd stopped walking, I was finally next.  While the cashier scanned items belonging to the lady ahead of me, I unloaded everything from my cart onto the conveyor belt.  I was ready to go.  Hang in there, Maddie, I thought.  We're almost home free.  The cashier announced the lady's total, and I knew we were minutes from freedom.

Then guess what happened.  No really, go ahead and guess.  That's right, the lady pulled out her checkbook.  I believe steam may have actually shot out of my ears.  It's possible that I audibly groaned, based on the That's Life unsympathetic shrugs I got from the couple that had moments earlier wheeled their cart in behind me (Easy for you to say, childless couple who just got here with your selection of white wine and small, individually foil-wrapped cheeses,  I thought with more malice than was probably warranted).  But I was in for an even better treat yet, because when the cashier ran the check through the machine that prints the name of the store onto it (because apparently sometimes you want to write a check, except you don't actually want to write  anything), I heard her say, "Whoops, it looks like the machine broke."

I'm proud to say I didn't immediately freak out and grab the shopper ahead of me by the throat, shaking her to and fro until enough change fell out of her pockets to pay for her stupid single-serve frozen pizzas and Moon Pies so she could just GET OUT OF MY WAY.  Instead, I waited.  I waited while the cashier attempted to run the check through several more times.  I waited while the check-writing lady made suggestions about how to fix the machine, as if she'd grown up on a Check Printing Machine Farm and knew exactly how to handle these types of emergency situations.  I waited while the manager was paged, and then I waited while the 19-year-old manager tried to do all the same things the cashier had already done and finally declared the machine Officially Broken.  I surveyed my load of groceries on the conveyor belt and very seriously considered just abandoning them there, elbowing by-standers in the eyeballs on my way to the exit if I needed to (or just if I felt like it).

But I didn't.  When the manager asked me if I'd like to wait 10-15 minutes while the machine was rebuilt from scratch with parts they were going to need to special order from Italy (at least that's what I heard), I tried not to bore holes through her scull with my glare, and instead I gestured meaningfully toward the baby and attempted a laugh, which came out sounding more like a furious chicken being strangled.  Back into the cart went my wilting, melting, numerous grocery items.  Clumsily, I pulled the cart back out into the Checkout Holding Area, that space behind the checkout lanes where all the livestock (I mean, customers) vie for position to get what we hope  will be a decent lane.  Unwritten Rule #1: There is no eye contact in the Checkout Holding Area.  There are no friends, no alliances, there is no neighborly chit-chat in the Checkout Holding Area (except in a few clutches of morons highly social individuals who apparently haven't seen each other since "that time we ran into each other at Waffle House" - those people always have a lot of catching up to do, usually stand (that's right) DIRECTLY IN MY WAY, and never seem to have anywhere pressing to be).

At least that's usually  the case. But as I stood there, bewildered, ready to bolt and/or punch somebody in the neck, positive that any second now Maddie was going to realize that I'd forgotten her pacifier, I heard a voice, and for once this time it wasn't coming from inside my own head.

"You can get in line ahead of me," said the voice.  I believe there were also trumpets, and angels singing.

The voice was attached to a woman who was about my (undisclosed) age.  We will call her Saint Grocery Lady, as is mandatory in my house when she is spoken of.  She only had about three things in her basket, yet she was willing to let me get ahead of her in line with my overloaded cart and crumpled coupons and disheveled sweatpants and baby that was potentially about to rip into a blood-curdling scream (as far as any of us knew).  I'll bet you didn't even know sweatpants could get  disheveled, but that just goes to show how unsavory I looked - yet she was willing to overlook it.  And it meant that I would be next.  Mercifully, gloriously, wonderfully next.   I almost cried.  I thanked her about 400 times, but she just shrugged it off.  Now that's how you shrug at a stranger,  I thought in the general direction of the Wine and Cheese Couple.

And that's why I want a million dollars.  All I could think about as I gratefully loaded my groceries onto the belt, paid, and thanked Saint Grocery Lady again, was how much I wished I could say to the cashier, "I'm buying her groceries, too."  Wouldn't that be awesome?  I'd run around rewarding random acts of kindness all day long if I could afford it and if Maddie would promise not to throw up in the stroller while we were out.  So once again, thank you to Saint Grocery Lady, wherever you are - for giving me your spot in line, for rescuing a fellow human being just when she her baby was about to lose her mind, and for reminding me that sometimes,  when you least expect it, people aren't complete jerks.  Sometimes.

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!

Adult Life (according to a 7-year-old)

A few days ago I found myself, once again, in Zoe's classroom.  You might remember my math lesson from a while back; this time she couldn't quite choose between all of her Pretend Play Options, so she was a "teacher who likes to cook and also teaches cooking but first we're going to work on spelling."

She started by selecting a costume, which almost always includes leg warmers these days.  And arm warmers.  And why not?   I'd probably dress like that too, if I could pull it off.  As I recall, one of the most disappointing things about growing up was no longer feeling perfectly comfortable leaving the house decked out in every color, style, and pattern available in the entire world of fashion.  The same must be true for boys (or maybe it's just my kids); pictured below are Jake and Zoe, ages 5 and 2 1/2, and clearly Jake is taking full advantage of Kids' Right To Wear Whatever Crazy Thing They Want, including full use of the Dangle Multiple Things From Your Belt Clause.  Zoe's outfit that particular day was a bit more tame, but then again she was  carrying around a Halloween candy bucket in mid-August, and it was filled with eleventy thousand pairs of Disney Princess underwear.  Leg warmers are a more recent addition to her grab-bag of accessories, and she likes them because they decorate her otherwise unadorned calves (I should interject here that she does not call them calves.  One day she came to me, kicked her leg out in front of her and poked at her calf, demonstrating how it hangs down.  "This is my leg lobe," she announced - like an ear lobe for your leg - and frankly I think that's a much better term for it than "calf.")

Zoe, age 3, pretending to be
All Grown Up
Anyway, my point is that kids dress like crazy homeless people sometimes, and the more "grown up" they're trying to look, the wackier their outfits get, despite the fact that they see adults on a daily basis and most of us are not wearing nearly as much jewelry or nail polish as they seem to think.  I mean, Zoe likes to wear necklaces and bright, sparkly clothes any day of the week, but when she's pretending to be an adult she takes it several steps further, decking herself out like some kind of Mr. T/Elton John/Punky Brewster hybrid (but, you know, in a cute way).

So anyway, once she was dressed as her version of an adult, school was in session.  First, I learned about vowels ("They are A, E, I, O and U.  And sometimes Y.  And H should be a vowel, too, because vowels are the ones you open your mouth to say.").  Then it was on to spelling.  I could tell she was trying to stump her student, as she started with the hardest word she knows.

You can also see, upon close inspection of the clipboard hanging below the dry erase board, that in my role as The Dense Student I was collecting demerits at an alarming rate.  Nevertheless, she was soon eager for an excuse to play with her kitchen and felt food, so despite my misbehaving she said I'd earned the distinct honor of lunch with the teacher.  She made us each a delicious (fake) sandwich and then sat next to me primly, making sure to remain haughty enough that I wouldn't forget that she  was the adult here.  I thanked her for the food and decided to get the low-down on what it's like to be a grown up, which wasn't easy, because apparently part of being an adult is that you give really terse answers to questions about your personal life.

ME: Wow, being a teacher must be great.  You seem to really like kids.  Do you have any kids of your own?
ZOE (delicately nibbling a felt cookie): No.
ME: Oh, then what's your favorite part about being an adult?
ZOE (changing her tune): Well, I did  adopt a kid.
ME: Oh, I didn't know that!  What's your kid's name?
ZOE: Billy.
ME: Cool.  I bet Billy really likes living with you.
ZOE: Yeah, his favorite thing is eating dinner.  He loves how I cook.  I got him a few years ago.
ME (stifling laughter at the thought of referring to adoption as "getting a kid"): Did he not eat dinner much before he lived with you?
ZOE: How would I know?
(For a while, just to see what she'd do, I'd been taking fake cookies off the tray and putting them on my own plate.  She hadn't said anything, and at this point I had a whole plate mounded with cookies.)
ME: He probably loves cookies, huh?
ZOE (cutting her eyes toward my plate): Not that  much.
ME: Oh, he doesn't?
ZOE: Actually, he's never had cookies.  I got divorced from his dad, and every time I offer him a cookie his dad comes and picks him up.
ME: Wow, being a parent must be pretty hard.
ZOE: Naw, it's not as hard as we make it look.

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!

The Trouble With the Innerwebs

Some of you may remember a few weeks ago when Jake's touch-screen tablet broke, and he was all weepy and heartbroken.  Well, naturally Gran couldn't let him suffer like that since he's normally so responsible, so the tablet was replaced (I know, we should all have a Gran to spoil us like that).  We couldn't quite tell if he was excited about it...

He continues to love that thing like a long-lost child, and spends a good deal of time collecting and hoarding apps - probably more time than a responsible parent should allow, but we won't get into that.  It's not the apps and games I'm worried about (although I still can't quite figure out why anyone would bother to develop an app that does nothing but make belching noises every time you touch the screen) - what I'm having a bit of trouble with is YouTube.

Umm, at least they're playing quietly...?

Most of the time what they choose to watch is fine, but my main beef lies with Fred videos.  Haven't heard of them?  Then count yourself lucky and please, for the love of God, don't look them up - Fred videos have been scientifically proven to reduce the viewer's IQ at a rate of over 10 points per minute.  If you can manage to watch Fred videos for an uninterrupted hour without gouging your own eyes out, your brain will have completely turned to jelly.

For whatever reason, kids seem to find Fred to be the most hilarious thing since the invention of hilarity.  However, in reality Fred is a whiny, hyperactive 15-year-old spastic social reject, who found fame on YouTube and parlayed his inexplicable popularity into a few television appearances.  He eventually even got a movie deal, and I think Variety's review of it sums Fred up best.
Sounding like a cross between SpongeBob SquarePants and Alvin the Chipmunk, Fred shrieks, squeals and babbles incessantly, reaching levels of insufferable dorkiness that couldn't be matched by Pee-wee Herman, Napoleon Dynamite and Steve Urkel combined.
Yes, that's him in a nutshell.  But the main trouble with Fred is that, while (to adults) he's more annoying than swimming across a pool of mosquitoes, he's not violent or vulgar and he doesn't really do anything dangerous that you'd worry about your kids emulating.  I know that sounds like a good thing, but the problem with it is that leaves me without a very solid reason to ban him from the house, other than the fact that he's a vapid, insipid time waster who makes my skin crawl worse than a rampant case of psoriasis.  But then again, Angry Birds isn't exactly mentally stimulating, either.  If the kids are having a good time, and it's not necessarily a bad influence, is their entertainment enough to override my peripheral irritation with Fred's general existence?  Come to think of it, I let my poor, defenseless baby  watch Yo Gabba Gabba on occasion, despite my obvious concern regarding its content, and who knows what kind of irreparable damage that's  doing.

So what I tried to do was distract them - they love to read, so I encouraged them to look up free books they could read together on the tablet.  Great idea, eh?  Don't get me wrong, I don't ordinarily just let them wander around willy-nilly on the innerwebs - I know about parental controls and all that.  But I think we can agree that you can't block everything - I mean, one time Jake and Gran were innocently searching a Popular Online Book Retailer and, hoping to find Hardy Boys and the like with a search of "boys' adventure," found a bunch of Heaving Bodice Novels instead.  Jake's old enough to use his judgement in most cases, and I trust him (and his overactive sense of propriety) to avoid most things he shouldn't see and hear when he encounters it accidentally, considering he gets a little freaked out over stuff like his teacher saying "crap."  Besides, they were only looking through the Book Apps, and plus my understanding is that, due to the fact that royalties no longer need to be paid to deceased folks, the majority of free books are The Harmless Classics.  Right off the bat, Jake was excited to find a Sherlock Holmes book.  Satisfied, I left the room, patting myself smugly on the back.

A while later I poked my head back in the room.  Zoe whirled around, wide-eyed and laughing, and declared, "We were looking at books and there were people with their arms like this [crosses her arms across her chest] but they were showing their butts, but then we just saw somebody who wasn't covered up and now I'm gonna have nightmares about boobies." Oh good.  So much for reading - I guess it's back to Fred videos.  Go ahead and chalk me up for another Mother of the Year Award.

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!

2012 Baby Toys of the Year

I know what you're thinking.  You're wondering, "Isn't it a little early to have already chosen the best baby toys for the whole year?"  Well, the answer is no - apparently we can start declaring things The Best of 2012 as early in the year as we like.  For example, in some circles they had decided who TV's Best Looking Stars were before we were even a whole week into 2012!  So a big "sorry 'boutcha" to any celebs who'd planned to really get their acts together and clean themselves up by, say, mid-July in hopes of being voted Most Aesthetically Pleasing Human on Television this year - it's too late.  Maybe the voting committees for these types of honors are nervous that the Mayans were right about Doomsday coming in December, and were afraid that they might miss out on an opportunity to superficially judge people if they didn't act quickly, to which I say, "Bravo - how very proactive of you."

Which brings me to my own Best Of list.  Baby toys are something I know a little bit about, since I'm lucky enough to stay home with Maddie these days, and we spend a lot of time playing.

I know what gets Maddie's attention and what doesn't, so I'm pleased to share my list of 2012's Best Baby Toys with all of you expecting mothers, parents of young babies, and frequent baby shower attendees, so that you don't end up wasting your money on a bunch of stuff your baby wouldn't so much as drool on.

"In a sea of playthings, what should I ignore first...?"

1. Empty Candy Wrappers

It's no secret: babies love crinkly stuff.  Sure, we have Baby Einstein-approved crinkly toys out the wazoo here, but nothing seems to keep Maddie occupied quite like the satisfyingly crisp crackle of a (thoroughly washed) empty bag of candy.  Unfortunately for my midsection, we always  have empty bags of candy around here, so we're never more than arm's reach from the tools we need for a soothed and content baby.  Granted, I wouldn't recommend leaving Baby unattended with one, based on the vicious gumming she gives them and how voraciously she tries to rip them into bits, but I believe that technically  we're not supposed to leave her unattended anyway.

2. Electronics

Have you considered getting Baby her own iPhone?  You might as well, because if you don't you'll spend a considerable amount of your time and upper body strength trying to keep her away from yours.  I don't know what her fascination with it is (although she's probably thinking the same thing about me), but she'll do about anything to get her mitts on our phones and attempt to lick the germs off.  And while we're on the subject, why stop with a phone?  Babies love all electronics - the more expensive, the better.

3. Empty Baby Wipes Containers

When searching for the ideal baby toy, don't overlook things you might otherwise consider chucking unceremoniously into the recycling bin.  One of Maddie's favorite things is an empty box of baby wipes; it doesn't have  to be made by Pampers, as ours is, but I think Maddie chose this one because not only is it not  a real toy, but we also got it for free and I think she could sense that.  This is also a good way to make use of any toys that you spent your hard-earned money on that are actually intended to be played with - just grab any small toys that, under most conditions, are totally invisible to your baby, plop them in the box, and voila!  It almost looks like your baby is playing with the real toys while she removes the intruders from her beloved wipes box and then bangs happily on the lid.  And speaking of banging on things, don't forget you'll need to provide your baby with...

4. Anything That Can Be Banged Against Another Thing

Noise, noise, noise - it's all about the noise with babies.  Crinkly noise is good, but it lacks the sheer eardrum-popping power that banging things together provides.  Any two graspable, hard objects will work - Maddie is particularly fond of these balls because, in addition to the noise they make when she cracks them together (repeatedly), they also each contain a rattle, which makes (you guessed it) more noise.

(Editor's note:  Yes, I know her outfit is terrible.  Don't judge me.  Earlier this morning we had An Incident (please note Haz-Mat Suit reference in the chart above), which necessitated the third wardrobe change of the day at 7 AM, so I grabbed the first two baby-sized things I found in the clean, unfolded laundry, figuring at least it would be two items I wouldn't have to fold and put away.  At the rate my morning was going, it was the only way any laundry was coming out of the basket today.)

5. Soda Cans

I believe I've covered this before, but it's worth mentioning again - Mads loves soda cans.  It has to be cold, though, and preferably you should be trying in vain to take a drink while she paws at it eagerly.  Sometimes she'll wait relatively patiently for you to take a sip, but as soon as the can is back within her range she'll pounce on it like a monkey on crack (or some other idiom that actually makes sense).

6. Pan Lids

This is one we only recently discovered.  Gerry was washing a pan lid, Maddie caught sight of it, and she was instantly intrigued with every aspect of it, including the screw that holds the knob on.

Then she wanted to taste the whole thing, including the knob, the edge, and the glass part.

This has been one of my own favorites, too - ideally, a baby toy should be entertaining for the parents as well, don't you think?

"Hey, whatcha guys laughin' at over there?"

Well, I hope you've found my 2012 Best Baby Toys review useful and informative.  Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go play with Madeline some more, as she has forsaken all her other toys (and non-toy playthings) and opted to entertain herself while I was blogging with a stack of clean (but now slobber-soaked) diapers.

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!