Hollow Tree Ventures parenting humor
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How To Waste Time and Influence People

Let me begin by saying that, while it does pay the bills, my husband's job is not terribly intellectually stimulating.  So, although Gerry is an excellent employee (she subtly reminds his boss, in case he happens to read this), there are times when he needs to engage in a little... extracurricular activity, to keep himself awake and prevent boredom-induced insanity from inciting him to jam something pointy in his eye.

I've shown you before how he uses his phone to document oddities and entertain himself (and me) while he's traveling for work.  Usually he sends me pictures of random weirdness he encounters (heaven knows there's plenty of material out there).  In fact, just the other day he sent me this photo:

Gah, that sounds positively disgusting,  I thought.  What lost souls are forced to eat this stuff?   So I texted him back.

I'm sure the poor children at that school will be horrified - and then later, pleasantly surprised that they're actually having soggy grilled cheese and limp french fries instead - and then probably upset that there's no Yoo Hoo.

He also sent me this lovely, high-quality video.

He is a nerd, yes?  Well, I'm pretty sure his identity is safe, considering the back lighting and graininess factor.  It's SO high-quality that, although I've been his wife for a number of years, I didn't realize that was him until he told me (I wasn't even drinking, as far as I recall).  There's probably some way to fix it, but I'm not proud to report that it took me four hours just to learn how to remove the part of the video where the cameraman grunts, "Uh, yeah, okay" during the Magical Transition from small to giant pencil.  FOUR HOURS.  Four hours of my life spent removing 0.23 seconds of video.  Yes, I am a computer genius, thanks for asking.  Please, don't all rush at once to beg me for help with your technology-related questions, I'm all booked up for the rest of the day with plans to beat my computer repeatedly with a ball pean hammer.

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I'm going to spend my weekend digging a bunker so I have someplace to hide from my kids during Spring Break next week - I sure hope our wi-fi reaches the back yard...
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How I Spell Success: "Eh, Close Enough"

We parents are pretty hard on ourselves.

We beat ourselves up for letting our kids watch TV, and for stopping at McDonald's when we're too tired to cook, and for moving the clocks forward to trick them into thinking it's bedtime.  (Or is that just me?)

We worry that we don't help them enough with their homework, or that we help them too  much and end up doing all the work for them.  We fret that they should be involved in more extracurricular activities, and the next day we're convinced that they're overextended.

Well, today I'm giving myself a break.  Today I'm going to celebrate my own version of parenting success; I may miss the mark of perfection by a long shot, but the house is still standing and the kids haven't run away yet, so for right now it's close enough.

✓ I let Maddie make a mess when she's eating.

This one is surprisingly difficult for me, considering how little I care about messes in general.  But those are clutter  messes - this is a food  mess.  Food messes are sticky and get into crevices and negate all my bathing efforts.  Food messes sneak into the seams of the high chair seat and hide so they can later emerge as strawberry stains on her pants.  Food messes attract bugs and lead to errant hand prints on the walls and crusty patches of dried banana on my sleeves.

But the doctor says letting her dig in will eventually lead to her eating more, even though she still mostly just smears stuff around and drops globs of it onto the floor.  So what if she still gets all her calories from string cheese and yogurt melts and isn't familiar with the concept of vegetables?  I'm at least sitting her down in the general vicinity of other foods, so the Food Pyramid is just going to have to cram it for a while longer.

✓ I'm letting the kids use my Special Craft Supplies.

For ages, the kids have had their own stash of art stuff - crayons, fancy scissors, glue sticks out the wazoo.  But they're b-o-r-e-d with them, and although Experts agree that children who do crafts are 98% more likely to get into Harvard (I'll have to fact-check that later, but it sounds right), I don't regularly encourage them to whip up an origami summer home or knit their own legwarmers.

Meanwhile, I have so many scrapbooking supplies that I could easily create a life-sized diorama depicting The Fresh Beat Band facing off against the cast of Yo Gabba Gabba in a cage match to the death.  I'm not saying I would,  I'm just saying I have enough supplies for it.

I've been hoarding collecting said supplies for a number of years, and I've finally admitted to myself that I don't have enough time to work on a scrapbook; in fact, if I did nothing but  scrapbook from this very second until the day I died, you still wouldn't be able to locate my body under the heap of unused craft stuff.  So I'm letting the kids use my PRECIOUS, SEMI-SACRED paper crafting products in hopes of inspiring them to Be Creative and then get into an Ivy League school (on a scholarship) so they can support me in my old age.  So what you're saying is that you're proud of yourself for being slightly less selfish than you were before?  you ask.  Yes, that's what I'm saying.  You're welcome, kids.

✓ I'm allowing myself to indulge in inappropriate laughter.

I get so sick of the pressure to make every last second of the day a Teaching Moment.  Should I lecture Zoe about being a sass-mouth when she says, "How can I watch my attitude - it's clear?"  Should I call her out for lying when she's OBVIOUSLY faking a limp to get attention?  Should I discuss how you should Always Be Nice when Jake enters a fake contact for Justin Bieber on his phone, placing the Bieb on Poo Poo Lane Pee Pee Road with the Note "you're ugly"?

The answer to all of those questions is Probably.  But sometimes it strikes me as too dang funny, and I have to laugh.  So instead of feeling like I've missed an opportunity to prevent my children from growing up to be mannerless heathens, I choose to believe that they'll benefit from learning that humor is okay, too.  Plus, practicing your fake limp could come in handy some day.  You never know.

✓Alert the media - Madeline slept in her crib.

It's true that Maddie is 11 months old.  It's also true that she has had her own room and crib available for her use since the day we brought her home from the hospital.  But for reasons that are both pretty transparent (look at how flippin' cute she is) as well as a tad deeper (ohmygod this is probably our last baby so fortheloveofallthat'sholy don't miss a second of it), we have completely ruined her sleeping habits by holding her... pretty much all the time.  As a result, she'll probably be sleeping in our bed until we're in our eighties.

I know it's important for her to learn to sleep on her own, and I might like to have a decent, full night of rest someday myself (gasp).  So today I put her in her crib for her nap.  I refreshed my beverage.  I typed with both  hands.  It was the most glorious 10 minutes I've experienced in recent memory.  Of course she won't sleep longer than that unless I'm holding her, but it was progress.  A tiny step in the right direction.

So that's me today - relaxing my already pretty lackadaisical standards and cutting myself some parenting slack.  When the kids come home from school I might let them watch an iCarly marathon on Nickelodeon in preparation for spring break next week, during which time I plan to leave Maddie in her pajamas 24/7 and serve waffles for dinner.  And I'll keep reminding myself that TV isn't completely  evil and nutrition is overrated, and just having a good time can be as important as learning a Life Lesson.  I'll celebrate the minor victories, because sometimes the hardest lesson in parenting is learning to live with imperfection.

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Bad Cantaloupe and the Exponential Insanity Factor

Maybe it's the sleep deprivation, caused by a baby who's suddenly convinced she's been missing out on something Unimaginably Fun between the hours of 3:00 and 5:00 AM, but as soon as I woke up this morning, my brain started thinking things about stuff.

I didn't say they were eloquent things or important stuff, just that the gears have been working overtime today (or insert some other metaphor here that isn't dumb and makes sense).

If this isn't  caused by exhaustion, then you might actually be witnessing my slow, bona fide spiral into madness, or at least my spiral into stupidity, and it will all be conveniently documented for you here in the pages of this blog - in chronological order, even!  There could be a government grant in it for you, if you're into studying that kind of garbage.  After all, what mother hasn't found herself at one point or another trying to discern the difference between bleary-eyed sleeplessness and a certified trip to Crazy Town?  I give you permission to use HTV in your research, as long as any financial proceeds go to my cat, Chester (though first I'll need to get a cat named Chester).  I can see it now, the Craziness Research Scientists sitting around in their crisp, white lab coats, eating Twizzlers* and shaking their heads sadly over a copy of your article in Geeky Brain Studies Monthly (no, you're not the only one with a subscription), all agreeing that this post  was the turning point in my transformation from Regular Crazyish Person to Absolute Raging Lunatic.

*I  don't know why they'd be eating Twizzlers in the lab.  Why don't you ask them?

Anyway, back to my brain thinking things about stuff.  Bravo,  you're thinking, with more than just a hint of sarcasm in your voice.  That's pretty much what it's supposed to do.  So, um, all systems "go," right?

You be the judge, I say.  The oddity started when the first thing that popped into my head was, "I should do laundry."  If you know me in real life or have read more than two of my posts, you probably know that this is an abnormal thought for me to have at any time, but especially as soon as I wake up.

Online Graphing
That eye socket one is directed at Maddie - that's how she tells me it's time to get up.
Aren't babies adorable?

I wondered if maybe I'd been snorting caffeine through a straw, but I don't think that was the case because I had been sleeping at the time, and also because I'm not sure that's even possible.  As I tried to figure out what form pure caffeine comes in (What does  it look like after they squeeze it out of decaf coffee - powder?  liquid?  vegetable?  mineral?), I realized I was already putting a load of laundry in the washer.   Freaky.

Then it was time to be a Responsible Adult and go supervise the kids outside the school.  They lock the kids out until 8:30, so they need a grown-up, or at least someone taller than a 5th grader, to loiter out there with them and make sure they don't wander off or dismantle the school brick by brick before class starts.  (Right now the Lab Coats are alarmed.  They let her near the children?   they ask, worriedly nibbling their Twizzlers.)

My debilitated brain noted that the first few children to arrive stumbled up the walkway toward me in a decidedly zombie-like fashion.  They stood around, staring at the ground and shifting their weight from foot to foot, until enough kids arrived that some kind of Child Density Chaos Threshold was crossed.  Once enough kids were there, all the zombies transformed instantaneously into hyenas that had clearly eaten large quantities of iron-fortified sugar-coated crack for breakfast.  Weren't you too tired to do anything besides grunt and shuffle your feet ten seconds ago?   I wanted to ask the Zombie Kids.  But they couldn't hear me, they were too busy screaming and pushing and lurching around like life-sized, frenetic Rock-em-Sock-em Robots.  So I made a mental note that this might be another good topic for some more of your Government Grant-funded research.  I'll get you started.

Online Graphing
You can see that "5 Childs" is the Child Density Factor above which all hell breaks loose.
Scientifically speaking, of course.

Eventually someone unlocked the doors and I left, having performed my duties insofar as most of the kids were still around there somewhere.  I always marvel at how quickly the kids transform from a bunch of crack-addled adrenaline junkies into neat, even boy/girl rows of slightly quieter crack-addled adrenaline junkies as soon as their teacher appears.  On my walk home, I discussed with Madeline the possibility of making a costume that looks like my kids' teachers, which I could wear when I want them to actually pay attention to me instead of ignoring me until the fifteenth time I tell them that We're Really Leaving And Why Don't You Have Your Shoes On Yet.  Maddie seemed to think the costume idea would come off as creepy, but I'm not so sure.

When we got home, I started cutting up a cantaloupe in hopes Maddie would eat something other than Yogurt Melts (for once).  When I sliced it in half, I found that the insides were all watery and too mushy to even hold the shape dictated by my melon baller.  Never mind that I don't own a melon baller and, in fact, I was using an ice cream scoop instead - the point is that the cantaloupe was way overripe.

This reminded me of the conversation Gerry told me he had with some dude at the grocery store.  Gerry was trying to pick out a cantaloupe, and out of the blue some guy walked up and informed him, "You can tell it's a good one if the spot where the stem was smells like melon."  Okay, Weirdly Helpful Weirdo, nobody asked you, but thanks.  Somehow Gerry, who's usually quite good at fending off strangers, ended up listening to this guy talk about how he works in the field of Security, and how not enough bad guys in the world are getting The Business and that goes especially for child molesters.

This is where Gerry would have advised me to throw a melon at the guy's face and run, but instead he must've nodded or "Mmmhmmm"-ed or something, because the guy apparently decided Gerry was his new BFF.  He handed Gerry his business card and suggested they get together for coffee and maybe "go out and find us some."  Um, find us some what?  Bad guys to whom they could give The Business?  Child molesters?  Really?  Huh?   Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how curious you are), Gerry didn't ask him to clarify.

So as I scooped cantaloupe (because the kids will still eat it - my style of parenting ensures that they have very low Quality Standards), I thought the following things:
  1. I no longer feel comfortable going to the grocery store by myself.
  2. People, even the well-meaning ones, are certifiably crazy.  Probably even crazier than me.
  3. I don't know if I should find that to be comforting or horrifying.
  4. That crazy dude didn't know anything  about picking a good cantaloupe.
So, is there a moral to this story?  you ask, scrolling down furtively to see how much longer I'm going to ramble.  And the answer is no, not really.  Sorry about that.  I guess I determined that I might be feeling a little crazy today, but true insanity is all relative.  Thanks for teaching me that lesson, Weird Anti-Molestation Melon Guy.  Thanks a lot.  Also, you owe us a cantaloupe.

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To Whom It May Concern

I've started several posts today, only to abandon each one halfway through.  None of them are coming out quite right.  I think it might be because I have a few things nagging at the Concentration Lobe of my brain, preventing me from accessing my Wit Cortex.  So I've decided I need to purge my annoyances, which I'm hoping will allow me to refocus on bringing you more of whatever the heck you've come to expect from this blog.  So, please pardon me while I indulge in a little rant.

Dear Hospital Billing Department,
Thank you very much for fixing my heart two years ago.  That was awesome of you, even though your ER doctor came within two centimeters of (oops) accidentally sending me home to die and, once admitted, you nearly starved me to death because I couldn't eat before any of the procedures that you kept scheduling for me and then postponing.

I also really appreciate you agreeing to take a chunk of my paycheck every few weeks in payment, since we all agreed I couldn't afford to pay you a lump sum for all the Heart Jabbing you performed on my behalf.  I guess you finally noticed that I'm not getting  a paycheck anymore, and that your percentage of my new biweekly $0 income has dwindled down to approximately $0.

What I don't understand is why you think, since I couldn't afford to pay you a lump sum before, that I magically have a bunch of cash lying around now that I have 100% less income.  Also, judging by the amount of red ink you used on the bill, you seem to think that I've been ignoring your requests for payment, even though I can count on exactly zero fingers the number of bills you've sent before this one.  Thanks, though, for treating me like a debt-dodging miscreant here with our very first debt-related communication.  It was Extra Special of you to ensure it arrived on my birthday, too - nice touch.  I look forward to working with the collection agency you're already threatening me with.

I Can't Believe I Used To Work For You *Expletive Deleted* Holes

Dear Filthy Neighbor,
A) Keep your ankle-biting, leg-humping dogs off my property.  That goes for their poop, too.  I don't appreciate them attacking my visitors; and for the record, hollering lazily from the porch, "Eh, he won't hurtcha" is not an acceptable substitute for taking responsibility for your pets.

B) Are you moving, or what?  Make up your mind, because I'm tired of looking at the crappy particle board entertainment center on the trailer in your driveway.  Either take it in the house, or haul it to your new place (I'm assuming the city dump has already refused to take it).  I'm starting to get nervous that you're in the process of slowly relocating your living room to the front yard.

C) I'm sorry to hear you lost one of your eleventy thousand tiny dogs.  Might I suggest mowing your grass?  I'm sure he's in there somewhere.  No?  Okay, well I'll keep an eye out to see if he turns up in the squirrel trap you keep on your roof for some reason  - I have a super-good view of it from the baby's nursery.

D) Hey, I used to like George Michael, too.  I'll admit it.  But playing your George Michael/Sarah McLachlan/Bette Midler/ABBA mix tape at top volume with your windows wide open is.  not.  cool.  Besides, it's 30 degrees outside with 30 mph winds.  I can only assume your house must be permeated with a fairly intense stench if you're willing to have all your windows open in this weather.

Listening To Madonna's "Vogue" On Repeat All Morning Against My Will

Dear Diaper Companies,
I don't know what you think we use your products for, but FYI, we use them to contain our babies' bodily functions.  That's pretty much their sole purpose, as far as I know.  Yet your diapers consistently fail at reaching this one, simple goal.  My baby outshoots the confines of your diapers on a near-daily basis, requiring several total wardrobe changes and a lot of disgusting laundry.  And unless every parent on the planet is conspiring to tell the same lie, I don't think my baby is the only one.

I'm no Absorbent Materials Engineer - that's supposed to be your area of expertise.  So I'm just going to say one thing - fix it.   Or I'm gonna find you, and it isn't going to be pretty.

You Don't Want To Know What I've Been Saving Up For You

Deeeeeep breath, and exhaaaaaaaaale.

Thanks for indulging me - I feel a little better.
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It's Like Stealing Cake From A 10-Year-Old Baby

It happened.  My tiny baby, who just moments ago was a 2 pound 10 ounce preemie in an incubator, had the nerve to turn ten years old yesterday.

Here's a cast the nurses took of his hand when he was
already over a month old.  Is teeny, no?

Jake at 2 weeks old.  No, that's not an Amazonian giant he's holding hands with,
it's just me. Thank God I was too young and stupid to know how scared I should be.

Fast forward 10 years, and he's a healthy, happy, normal, toilet-joke-loving 10-year-old boy.  Amazing.  Thanks, Medical Science.  Seriously.

He had a Star Wars birthday party, which my mom shopped for, decorated for, cooked for, and hosted at her house.  I just showed up with the kids and - voilá  - there was a whole party already there!  (I know, how awesome is that?  And no, you can't have her.  She's my  mom, and she can't be handling all your kids' birthday parties, because her time is very valuable, by which I mean that would seriously cut into the time she currently dedicates to doing stuff for me.)

Don't get the wrong impression about my lack of Party-Set-Up Enthusiasm; I love my son like crazy and I want him to live it up on his birthday, but I was in no mood to throw a party because:

  A) eh, too much work, and
  2) clean the house - what?  And also (mainly) because
  III) Maddie is currently suffering from the cold I just gave her because I can't help smooching all over her face even when I'm sick, which is causing her to hork snot all over everything ("everything" = me) while escalating to DEFCON Level 1 Cling Factor, which doesn't really jive with setting up Star Wars decorations.  Or does it?

The answer is no, it doesn't.  The human race has yet to discover a way to carry a snot-encrusted baby on your hip while blowing up Star Warsy balloons and climbing a ladder to hang up a sign depicting Yoda saying, "Have a happy birthday, you will."  Not even if the puffy-eyed, slumpy, slime-faced, fat-roll-covered baby matches the decor because she vaguely resembles a mini Jabba the Hut.  (No offense - I mean a really cute  Jabba the Hut.)

"I'll get you for that, Han Solo... er, I mean, Mommy."

Anyway, I can't believe Jake is already ten, especially considering that, as he ages, I somehow manage to remain so young and fabulous.  Umm, okay, not really.  It's hard to claim to be young and fabulous when you haven't shaved your legs in three weeks and you turn into a raging narcoleptic after 8 PM.

Plus, I'm finally at the age when I can't even remember my own age anymore, which isn't a good sign.  Last week I told my mom, "I can't believe I'm going to be 35 this year," to which she replied, "Me neither - probably because you're going to be 36."  Crud.  Technically she was  there so I suppose she would know, but I did the math anyway.  You know, just to be sure.  She was right.  Crud.

And you would think,  even if I can't remember my age, that I'd never forget what day my birthday's on, considering it's the day after Jake's and I'd certainly never forget his  birthday, especially since he provides me with constant reminders through his daily requests for an iPad and a 3DS and possibly his own monogrammed Space Shuttle.  But I do  forget, which is making me question my sanity, or at least question the viability of my short- (and long-) term memory.

However, no matter how bad it gets, there are at least two birthday benefits to being old and forgetful and having your birthday fall the day after your kid's:
  1. I am always pleasantly surprised by birthday greetings, not only because it means someone I know wishes me well, but also because the fact that it's my birthday is processed by my brain as brand new information  every time I hear it.  Oh yeah, it's my birthday,  I think.  How lovely.  I should do something special.   And then I go back to wiping baby snot off my shirt, and forget all about it.
  2. I don't particularly care about birthday cakes, and I don't really like making them, especially for myself, though I recognize that it's an Important Tradition.  Plus, without a cake I wouldn't have any candles to blow out and I'd miss my annual opportunity to wish for five minutes to myself without a small person hanging off of my body world peace.  But with back-to-back birthdays, I never have to worry about forgetting to make one for myself - I just repurpose Jake's leftovers.
Jake getting ready to make a wish!

My cake - it's going to look really spiffy tonight
with 36 candles jutting out of it at every angle.

After I slap some fresh icing around the edges, I don't think anyone will even notice the difference.

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New Moon (alternate title: There's a Bad Moon Rising)

Today's March Photo Challenge prompt is Moon. It's rainy and overcast here today, so even though the baby was up at oh-dark-thirty and I had my camera at the ready, not one single moon was visible in the sky and willing to pose for a photograph. However, not one to worry, I immediately remembered a terrible, barely recognizable photo I took of the moon five years ago, so I ferreted it out of my computer to dust off and share with you.

Why would you remember - and keep - such a horrid example of amateur photography for so long?   you ask. Hang on, I'm getting there.

I don't know if you've noticed, but I tend to digress when I'm writing. A lot. Like right now, for instance. I'll get started on one topic, but as my train of thought goes barreling along, sometimes I get distracted by something shiny outside the window that sets me off on a tangent. It happens when I'm talking, too, which results in lots of sentences that never get finished. I hear it's quite annoying.

Well, today I realized I do the same thing with my computer use - I started off editing the Moon picture, then stopped to read some tweets, more editing, then, "Have I checked my email today?" followed by more editing. Yes, I'm aware that I might need to start medicating if I hope to revive the useless lump that was once my attention span. But anyway, my point is that one of the places I went as my synapses continued to misfire all over the Innerwebs was Write on Edge, a writer's workshop.

Their writing prompt today is to take inspiration from the warning Dante envisioned on the gates of hell, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."

Although the memory that's brain-stapled to my Moon photo is a pleasant one (unlike the concept of hopelessness, or the mental image of a brain staple), this writing prompt actually perfectly fit the story behind the picture.

I was tipsy, as I so often was in those days, back when I was still unhappy and unaware of the secret I held.

We were standing on the back porch, talking in voices too loud for the hour, when I noticed her peeking girlishly from the edge of the sky. Flashing her brightest full-figured smile, she wasn't shy about her demands for attention. Yet she couldn't be called too brazen; in fact, her flirtations might even have been accidental as she wove between the treetops and the clouds, demurely baring only a pearled shoulder here or the ivory curve of her cheek there, scarcely seeming to notice us.

Maybe on some level I recognized myself in her behavior, so I stumbled drunkenly sauntered down a gentle slope, deep into the relative darkness of the yard, to ask her if she knew what we were up to.

As soon as he arrived by my side I realized I'd wanted him to follow me, though I was still too blind to know why. We didn't speak, we just stood together, two friends watching the moon alternately hide her face and wink at us knowingly.

After a few minutes I tilted my head to take a picture, which was just enough movement to throw me off balance. To this day I can't say for sure if I did it on purpose, or if it was just a natural response to the screwdrivers I'd consumed. In any case, when I leaned into him to steady myself, he didn't pull away.

He didn't pull away.

He leaned toward me, and I was suddenly very aware of every cotton fiber in his sleeve that was touching my arm, every molecule of air that was normally between us but that now, very tangibly, was not.

Shut up, I told my pulse, a bit surprised by its reaction. This means nothing.

But something cracked, like the brittle sheen of ice over moving water, and the first lucid wave of truth washed up briefly - the quickest glimpse at how I really felt, the reflection of a face that believed in something better, believed it was worth the risk. Worth the pain. If only...

But I wasn't ready just yet to look those things in the eye. My fleeting insight receded back into the cool, shadowy corners of the grassy lawn, blurred, became a dream. I righted myself, pocketed the camera.

Shut up, I told my pulse again, and we turned to face the silhouettes waiting for us at the top of the hill.

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I Didn't Learn Anything From Giving Birth

Okay, that's not exactly  true.  I learned that it hurts, and that you can burst all the capillaries in your face from pushing, which makes you look sort of like you lost a paintball war to a tiny red paintball team, and I learned stuff about placentas that I'm still too horrified by to discuss here (you're welcome, Dad).

But delivering babies did  make me realize how little I know about delivering babies, since every single time I did it I ended up being surprised, despite my research (e.g., Googling "I'm gonna do WHAT, and it's happening WHERE?") and prior experience.  And, I'm sorry to say, I don't mean "surprised" in a good way; after all, it's hard to be pleasantly  surprised when you're in the middle of an activity equivalent to expelling a bowling ball from your tear duct.

Unfortunately, my ineptitude isn't limited just to bringing kids into this world; it holds true in regard to Parenting In General, as well.  No matter how long I've been doing it, just when I start to feel like I know what I'm doing, Life comes along to prove that I don't actually know much of anything at all.

But since actually delivering the babies is what got me into this whole parenting mess (well, not exactly, but for the sake of simplicity we'll say it is), my track record with birthing remains my go-to reminder of how I should never get too full of myself, thinking I have some kind of clue about being a mom.  Because I don't.

That's the idea behind my guest post today at Sippy Cup Chronicles, "Always Expect To Expect the Unexpected When You're Expecting" (catchy title, no?).  I'm over there sharing my birth stories (minus placenta talk) to illustrate how it doesn't really matter what you read or who you talk to or how much experience you have under your belt (gah, no pun intended - don't be gross) - Parenthood is all about being slapped upside the head by things you never saw coming.  Please take a minute to click on the link to read all about it, and feel free to share any stories about how you were blindsided by childbirth or parenting - or about how you've been totally prepared every step of the way (liar).

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Dr. Spock: Childcare Guru or Deranged Maniac? - Episode 3

Baby on the cover says, "Dr. Spock
advises against washing your child's hair
Well, if you've joined this series for Episode 1 (So, Idiot, You Think You're Going To Be Ready For the Baby?)  and Episode 2 (Putting Your Baby Out To Pasture and Other Typical Daily Activities), then you know that we've been delving into the book Baby and Child Care by Dr. Spock, because it's been a classic reference tool for parents everywhere since 1946 and also because I found a copy of it in my linen closet and couldn't stop laughing at Dr. Spock's apparent attempts to eradicate the human race with his advice.

Now that you've purchased a flimsy car bed and picked out a nice spot on the lawn where the baby can sunbathe all day (and if that sounds crazy, you'll need to read Parts 1 and 2 to learn what you've been doing wrong so far), you're no doubt ready to find out what to do if your child gets sick.  AND HE WILL.  So strap in for...

EPISODE 3: Your Child Has the Plague

According to the Good Doctor and his chapter on Illnesses, we are living in a swirling hotbed of Diphtheria particles and Rheumatic Fever globules.  If your child should happen to get Mumps or one of the various Poxes, you're probably going to need to administer an enema or a suppository, maybe both.  They're pretty standard, even for the sniffles.

What?  You don't know what kind of enema to get at the store?  Don't despair - you can make your own with water, "mild toilet soap" (um, whatever that is), and an eye dropper.  What a fun craft project!  Dr. Spock goes into great detail in this section, but I'll spare you the play-by-play since (if your kid catches wind that you're planning any of this) he's most likely going to run away and join the circus before you can get anywhere near him - problem solved!  Suffice it to say, if you do  have to administer a homemade enema, you're going to want to throw everything away afterward - the eye dropper, your hands, the room you did it in - I mean Every.  Thing.  Including your child, possibly.  After all, you're never going to be able to look him in the eye again anyway.

Mostly, though, your kids won't get exotic-sounding deadly diseases, and there's a small chance they won't even need an enema.  Usually they'll just get something boring called A Cold.  A Cold, Dr. Spock warns, is caused by a microgerm so small that it can't be seen through a microscope.  Of course back in 1957, when this edition of the book was released, the most powerful microscope available to the Medical Community was Mr. Peanut's monocle (Planters' original motto: Bringing you peanut butter and germ enlargement since 1916!), which wasn't actually very powerful at all by today's standards.  These days we can ogle viruses and germs any time we please by peering through practically any old piece of Modern Technology we happen to have lying around.

Microscopic view of common germs
What do I do if my child is oozing substances from every orifice and has the hacking cough of a 3-pack-a-day smoker?  What's making him sick?   you might ask.  If West Side Story taught us anything (which it hasn't), it's that most children back in the 1950s were  3-pack-a-day smokers, riding around on their Hot Wheels all day with a pack of smokes rolled up in the sleeves of their Garanimals T-shirts, which caused a lot of extra coughing and made diagnosis of A Cold back then much more difficult.  So thank your lucky stars you don't have that  problem, especially since you can't get nicotine patches with SpongeBob printed on them.  (Or can you?  I bet you probably can.)

In Today's Modern World, you can usually assume a hacking cough means your kid has Pneumonia or Measles or A Cold or something (you can check his sleeves for cigarettes if you want to be extra cautious).  Recovery from a cold, Dr. Spock asserts (get ready to take notes), is all about temperature.  Unfortunately, you're going to spend a lot of time running around, adjusting your thermostat; on one page he says "children of all ages should be outdoors several hours a day in winter and sleep in cold rooms" - basically, you should keep them half-frozen at all times.  But five pages later he says to keep them warm and out of drafty areas because "uneven coolness seems to make the cold worse" - from the sound of things, having "a warm perspiration below and a cool perspiration above" on the body is pretty much the kiss of death.  Plus it sounds gross.  So, the secret to good health seems to be keeping your entire body slathered in an even coating  of coldness.  Or warmness.  Whatever.

Anyway, if you rule out "cool breeze" as the culprit causing your child's general ooziness, it could just be that your child is willful and/or stressed out.  That's right, Dr. Spock tells us that certain children are "much more susceptible to colds when they are tense or unhappy" (pg 459).  Did you ever feel like your kid was sick just because he was nervous about a test at school, or because he was getting jealous of your time at work and knew it was going to be extra-difficult for you to telecommute with wails of, "MOMMMMMMMMMY, I NEED THE NOSE SUCKER AND ALSO I JUST ATE THE WHOLE BOTTLE OF FLINTSTONE VITAMINS" in the background of all your business calls?  It turns out you were right!  So instead of keeping him home, you might be able to cure your child simply by saying, "Cheer up, already, you little whiner."  If that doesn't work, threaten him with a Toilet Soap Enema - that ought to get him to snap out of it.

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(spoiler alert - it is).
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March Photo Challenge 20: Before/After

This has been the first day in recent memory when I've had blogger's block.  I mean, the kind of writing blockage that can't be unclogged by my usual means of looking at my old idea lists, or reading other blogs, or just sitting down and forcing myself to write.

Which is yet another reason to love the March Photo Challenge!  Except I couldn't think of an idea to fulfill the prompt, "Before/After," either.  Such was the depth of my writer's block, that it extended into brain function that barely even requires the use of words.

Which is yet another reason to love husbands!  Because mine came home and said lots of things, including:
  • I'm running out of monkeys.
  • I'm teaching her about pockets.
  • He fell down go boom.  (in robot voice)
But most helpfully, he suggested I do a collage showing Maddie's ultrasound alongside a photo of her now.  If that isn't Before and After-ish, I don't know what is.

And judging by how my brain is(n't) working today, maybe I don't  know what Before and After-ish is.  Which is why it was a better idea to space out and make a collage, rather than try to write a blog post.  A nice, easy, wordless collage.  Well, I used a few words, but they were the short, 4-letter kind I use when I'm cranky and trying to make a dumb collage that's supposed to be easy but the computer isn't cooperating.

You can see I eventually wrestled the computer into submission.  Now I'm going to go spend the rest of the evening drooling in the corner.  Hopefully I'll wake up tomorrow with a few words in my head.

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Spelunking for Fingernails


noun: the hobby or practice of exploring caves

I include the definition of spelunking here, not because I assume you don't know what it means, but because I assume your high school didn't have a Spelunking Club, which met monthly and got you out of homeroom but never actually set foot in a cave, which is how I learned the word.  If you weren't exposed to the wonderful world of pretending to be interested in exploring caves (cave motto:  We're the nostrils of the Earth!) in order to avoid homeroom, I can't imagine where else you might have heard the word "spelunking," especially when most people just call it "caving."  But "spelunking," as a word, is clinically proven to be 74% funnier than "caving," which is why I chose it for the title.  Plus, I like to think of the new Google search traffic it will bring from all those spelunkers sitting at home wearing their hard hats with lights on top, trying to buy some canned bat repellent or find photos of stalagmites, who'll end up here.  Won't they  be confused when they accidentally read a bunch of junk about baby fingernails instead!

Which brings me to the point of this post - baby fingernails.  There are three main facts about baby fingernails that every parent knows.
  1. Baby fingernails are the sharpest material known to man.  They're used in the lumber industry for felling Giant Sequoias.  Jewelers use them to cut diamonds.  Certain Ancient Ninjas used them as weapons until baby fingernails were banned for giving them an unfair advantage, and they had to resort to using throwing stars.  True story (not really).
  2. Baby fingernails grow at a rate of 16 acres per second.  Science has long been trying to harness this amazing growth potential for the benefit of agriculture, but babies are not known for allowing their hands to be studied.  This fact leads to the next one, which is...
  3. Baby fingernails are nearly impossible to cut, because babies' fingers are so busy being inserted into noses and electrical outlets or picking up things off the ground that could potentially be delicious.  Babies have no patience for the clippers, and the clippers (while not as sharp as fingernails) are pretty sharp in their own right, and not to be used on a moving target.
So what's a parent to do?  You can't just ignore the problem, or you'll end up with a baby crawling around with fierce little Weed Eaters for hands, tearing up your carpet and turning your furniture into topiary sculptures, not to mention scratching themselves and shredding up all their stuffed toys.  No, the solution is to sneak up on them while they're sleeping.  But what if your baby is spoiled particular a light sleeper, and you can't turn on the light for fear of waking them up and spending another two hours getting them back to sleep?  Well, that's when this happens.

This is a photo of my husband wearing a spelunking headlamp so he can stealthily clip our daughter's fingernails in the dark.  It made me laugh so hard I almost rolled off the couch, and I probably would have if I hadn't been holding the baby at the time (I try not to fall on the floor while I'm holding her, as a general rule - yes, I'm ready for my Mother of the Year nomination).  So I'm sharing this pic for March Photo Challenge 19 prompt: Funny.  Because it was.  At least from where I was sitting.

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March Photo Challenge 17: Green

In honor of St. Patrick's Day (and in mourning for her team's loss on Friday), Maddie wore her green Notre Dame dress yesterday.  It was given to her months ago by her grandparents, but she hasn't been able to wear it all winter since I can't have her running around bare-legged in the snow without little old ladies pouring in from miles around, tsking and waggling their fingers and telling me I'll let her catch her death of cold.  When I pulled the dress out of the drawer I thought I'd shrunk it in the laundry somehow, but then Gerry helpfully reminded me about how we've been feeding the baby and encouraging her to grow, and suggested that maybe Maddie is just bigger, rather than the dress mysteriously shrinking all by itself inside her dresser over the winter.  "That's dumb," I said, though he might be right.

You can tell in this photo that Maddie's still thinking about the last 2.8 seconds of Friday's tournament game (she just won't let it go).  She might be reminiscing about how hard her mother laughed to hear Charles Barkley (one of the top 10 best people on Earth to quote, as long as you do it in his voice) comment about the lane violation call, "My head is going to explode."  She might be ready to admit that technically - technically - the call was correct.  But nevertheless, somewhere deep down, she's probably still thinking about how those referees can kiss her right on her shamrock-embroidered Notre Dame fanny.

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March Photo Challenge 16: Sunglasses


"What are YOU looking at?" she sneered, with all the contempt a baby who doesn't understand the concept of contempt could possibly muster.  "Waiting for me to smile, eh?  Well, you're the one who tried to put these things on my face - I didn't ask you to, and I sure never indicated I'd enjoy it.  It'll be a cold day in hell before I smile for your stupid camera.  Plus, that first sentence you wrote was kind of clunky, and the ones after that aren't shaping up so well, either."  Her insults were hurled like sharp little daggers - daggers made of mean words.  "That metaphor was atrocious," she continued.  "I'm blowing spit bubbles in your general direction."

Obviously Maddie didn't really say any of this.  Babies can say a lot with their facial expressions, though, and I'm pretty sure this is close to what she would've said if she had the words.  She truly does hate those bitty Foster Grants.

This post brought to you by today's possible overdose on cold medicine.
Please click below to vote, while I excuse myself to detox.
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March Photo Challenge 15: Car


Okay, technically a truck, but it's a vehicle, so I think it counts.

Maybe you can't tell from the photo, but the driver of this truck completely overshot his driveway.  The hood is crumpled.  One rear tire is flat, but it's still in better shape than the front tire, which is totally missing.  The bed of the truck, on the other hand, is full of tires.  I believe this is referred to as "irony."

I found this lovely vignette on a walk through my neighborhood, though it's been there, unmoved, for quite some time.  I don't know the driver personally, but while looking at his vehicle several thoughts occurred to me.
  1. I need to move to a nicer neighborhood.
  2. I'm willing to bet he failed driver's ed (the parking portion, at least).
  3. Judging by how long it's taking him to fix it, he might not be as good a mechanic as he thought he was.
  4. Either that, or replacement parts for a 1987 GMC ElCrapo are really hard to get.
  5. This is one of the only situations when you'd be sorry your property didn't have a sink hole on it.

That's twice this week I've made you look at junky trucks - I sincerely apologize for that.
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Battery Operated Toys Can Go Suck an Egg

It's pretty much unavoidable: if you have kids, you have a house full of battery-operated toys.  You have so many of them you'll probably need to get a second job, since your household now consumes batteries at the rate of eight metric tons per day.  And batteries ain't cheap - this is mobile, wireless electricity, people.  I dare you to not be impressed with the technology behind batteries.  They're certainly not at fault here.

But do you want to know something else that's unavoidable?  I'll tell you.  The sounds that emanate from those battery-operated toys will start off sounding lively and cheerful, but soon the same chirping songs and cutesy baby animal noises that once seemed so playful and entertaining will start to jangle against every nerve in your body.  Every time your kid plays with that toy, your ears will feel like they're being flossed with barbed wire.  You'll note a spike in blood pressure; your eye will begin to twitch.

Then one day it happens.  The musical voice urging your child to "COUNT  with me" for the eleventy thousandth time will finally bore a hole through your scull and activate a section of your brain that had previously lain dormant, an area that controls the desire to smash inanimate objects with a crowbar and bury them in a shallow grave next to Dora.

At least that's my experience.

And that's when they're working properly.

When Jake was a baby, he had a ride-on fire truck toy with (of course) multiple sound effects.  He rarely rode on it, but he did use it as a mobile step-ladder so he could more easily access the kitchen countertops.  One day when I was being particularly inattentive, he managed to procure a can of Diet Coke and pour it onto his fire truck.  I'm no engineer, but my guess is that Diet Coke isn't good for electronics, because later the stupid thing scared me half to death by suddenly screaming "LET'S PUT THE FIRE OUT!" repeatedly all by itself in the middle of the night.

That experience should have taught me something.  I should have remembered that night, and known that I didn't need to be nervous a few nights ago when I was awoken by a sudden, shrill screech coming from Zoe's room.  It sounded like the smoke alarm might be going off in her dollhouse, but that seemed unlikely.  I stumbled out of bed to track down the source of the incessant squeal, hoping to get it to SHUT UP before I Hulked out and went all crowbar-y on something.  Meanwhile, part of my subconscious remained alert as I skulked through the dark house, on the off chance there was a psychopath hiding behind one of the doors, waiting to pounce.
I would like to interrupt myself here to admit something - I have an imaginary theater audience that follows me around sometimes.  Whenever I do something that seems even remotely like I could be having an "I'm Going To Go Investigate That Noise In the Woods While Wearing This Flimsy White Nightie and Carrying a Candle" horror movie moment, my audience appears like a guardian angel on my shoulder, screaming, "No, don't go in there,  you idiot!" or, "He's right behind you - turn around, turn around!"  I try to ignore them, but they just seem so eager to help.  Plus it would be really annoying to meet an untimely demise while an imaginary audience was there shaking their heads, saying, "We tried to tell you, dummy."
Anyway, it seemed far fetched that a murderer would try to lure me into my daughter's closet with such an irritating sound, but anything's possible at 2 AM, especially to a person who's still a teensy bit afraid that her TV could spontaneously turn on at any moment and the girl from The Ring could crawl out.  So my horror movie audience, while cautiously optimistic, was on orange alert.

Luckily, there wasn't a serial killer in Zoe's room wielding a handheld tornado alarm, and I didn't have to look too far before I found the problem.

A stupid MLB organizer that we got last year at a garage sale had evidently almost  reached the end of its battery life, and had activated its last defense mechanism before shutting down and erasing all of the (nonexistent) contact information stored within.  Thankfully, although the battery access door was guarded by fifty screws, each one roughly the size of a small splinter, I was able to bypass it by just smashing the device hard enough to make it shut up.  No crowbar required.

I am sorry to report, however, that Fairy Barbie and the Cabbage Patch Kid were permanently deafened and will probably never recover from the traumatic epileptic seizures caused by their close proximity to the shrieking toy.  Which is too bad, really - they were the only toys we had left that didn't require batteries.

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Dr. Spock: Childcare Guru or Deranged Maniac? - Episode 2

Thank you for joining us here again, as we delve into the age-old question, "Was Dr. Spock a groundbreaking pediatric genius, or a dangerous sociopath who derived secret pleasure from endangering infants?"  As before, in this series we'll be using Dr. Spock's bestselling book, Baby and Child Care, to research his recommendations on such subjects as "The Bowel Movements" and "What a School Is For."  These are actual sections in his book, and are extremely helpful, especially if, for example, you don't know what a school is.

In Episode 1: Getting Ready for Baby, we took an in-depth look at what baby gear you'll need (I would just stick with using a plastic grocery sack as a baby sling), the changes you might consider making in your approach to housework (get rid of all your stuff), and how to deal with Postpartum Depression (buy a hat).  Now we're ready to move on to...

EPISODE 2: A Typical Day With Baby

Obviously feeding the baby should be counted among the things we do daily, or biweekly at least.  Dr. Spock couldn't agree more.  In fact, he quite nearly won't shut up about babies eating.  He dedicates a hefty portion of his book to teaching us what babies like to eat and what they should eat and how to mix formula.

If you've ever found yourself whipping up a batch of formula, you'll want to pay special attention here because Dr. Spock has a yummy recipe.  Do you have a pen?  Are you ready?  Okay, the recipe is: any kind of milk + water + any kind of sugar.  Mmmmm!  Try canned evaporated milk and brown sugar, or powdered milk and corn syrup!  Later today I'm going to make a refreshing beverage for Maddie out of Coffee Mate and Jolly Ranchers - I'll let you know how she liked it when we get back from the hospital.

But what about solid foods?  How do I know if my baby is getting the right nutrition?  I hear you clamoring to know.  Don't worry, Dr. Spock has researched this for us.  An Important Scientific Study was done to determine "what children would eat if left to their own desires" (pg 274).  I could have easily told them the answer to that: candy canes, stuff they find on the ground, birthday cake, and chicken nuggets.  But they didn't want to listen to me, so instead they took some 8-10 month old babies to live someplace where Scientists could keep an eye on them, then periodically set out a ton of food which nurses weren't allowed to feed to them until the babies "expressed their preference" by sticking their grubby hands into one dish or another.  Do you know what they found out?  They discovered that eventually, given enough time at a Boring Scientific Research Facility, babies will stick their grubby hands into almost any kind of food, which somehow or another translates into the baby choosing a healthy diet.  Thanks, Science!  I'm sure getting revolutionary Scientific Results like that was well worth traumatizing some babies, who probably weren't even given candy canes as an option.

Enough of that - what do we do with our babies all day long when we're finished feeding them, if we decide to do so?  Well for heaven's sake, get that baby some fresh air!  Dr. Spock warns that staying indoors will make your baby pasty and sluggish.  And who wants a pasty, sluggish baby?  No one, that's who.

To prevent that, just put your baby outside on the lawn for 2 or 3 hours a day - though Dr. Spock warns that an older baby might want company, so you shouldn't leave a child 6 months or older "out all by himself for more than an hour if he's awake" (pg 160).  If he's sleeping, I guess you can just leave him out by the bird feeder all afternoon, if you want.  But before you start thinking this Motherhood thing is a breeze and you can just chuck your baby out into the yard and eat bonbons for the rest of the day, think again - Dr. Spock has very specific and time-consuming instructions on how to give your baby a "sun bath," including turning him like a rotisserie chicken the whole time he's in the blazing sun in order to achieve a uniform Coppertone glow.  It's too bad they didn't have tanning beds in the 1950s, as it seems they would have been an invaluable tool for mothers to more efficiently achieve that highly sought after Perfectly Bronzed Baby look.

I'd like to help you figure out what you're supposed to do with your infant on A Typical Day once you dig him out from under the swarm of mosquitoes in the yard, but Dr. Spock just says that babies entertain themselves by looking at shadows, their hands, and pictures on the wall.  Then, "each afternoon when the baby becomes bored with his crib, put him in the play pen" (pg 167).  It sounds simple enough, but I'm starting to wonder if Dr. Spock spent very much time around actual babies.  Maddie, for instance, has never spent one nanosecond awake in her crib when she was NOT screaming her head off.  It doesn't matter how many pictures I hang nearby or how many times I tell her that she has hands - she doesn't care.  The playpen is just as much of a joke.  Maddie basically runs freely around the house like a shrunken little tyrant with a magnetic connection to electricity, except when she's climbing up my pant leg and demanding to be carried around.  I have a feeling Dr. Spock would have some words to say about my parenting methods, though, so maybe that's my bad.

Well, it's time for me to go locate my child in the yard and give her a bottle of half-n-half mixed with Skittles, so that's all for today.  Tune in to future installments of "Dr. Spock: Childcare Guru or Deranged Maniac," when we'll tackle issues such as what to do with sick babies (boil them in Castor oil), how to deal with older kids (boil them in Castor oil), and how messed up our children will be if they aren't raised in a proper environment with a father who comes home at 5 PM with a briefcase and a mother who stays home and is always brushing a little flour off the edge of her apron (very).

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A Fork, a Sign, and a Cloud walk into a bar...

I only wish I knew a joke that started off like that - I bet it'd be hilarious.  Instead, it's a March Photo Challenge thing - namely, the prompts I'm behind on.  Hooray!

12) Fork
To be honest, there's no fork in this picture, so you can stop straining your eyeballs.  This is more of a cautionary photo about not  using a fork, to let you know what you might look like if for some reason you refused to use utensils and insisted on being hand-fed.  I know the prompt is "Fork," not "This Person Needs a Fork," but I'm using Artistic License - you know, like, "If two forks clapped in the woods," or something.  Okay, I admit it, I don't really know what Artistic License means, I just love saying it because then I can take a picture of a dog wearing a cardigan on a bicycle, and if I say I'm using Artistic License, everyone has to pretend it makes sense.  I'm on to you, art community.

13)  A Sign
Let me translate this sign for you in case you're having trouble wrapping your mind around its randomness:

Baby Girl + BooB = 4eva

This is painted on the back window of a pickup truck in my local community, and the first person who can tell me what it means wins my everlasting gratitude because IT'S DRIVING ME CRAZY!  Photo credit to my mom, who (I can't stress this enough) wasn't stalking this person  but happened to see them driving around so often that she was able to get a picture so that we could all share in her bewilderment.

14)  Clouds
This is a multi-media art extravaganza created by Zoe.  Please note her bold brush strokes, her fearless combination of crayon and watercolors, her prismatic tree reaching to the heavens.  Also, it has clouds in it.

Linked up with:
Wordless{ish} Wednesday at The Paper Mama
Wordful Wednesday at parenting By dummies
Wordless Wednesday at Angry Julie Monday
Wordless Wednesday at Jenni from the Blog
 then, she {snapped} NapTime MomTog Live and Love...Out Loud

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