Hollow Tree Ventures parenting humor
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I made a splash at the store. On my pants.

As I expected, I didn't reach any of the self-imposed goals I imposed upon myself this week, which means the post I intended to post today isn't finished yet.

And believe me, it's always in your best interests to wait until I've had time to edit what I write (please see horrible un-edited sentence, above).

So instead, I'm going to tell you a quick story and then get right back to building Legos with the kids and then sneaking into the pantry to eat peanut butter Oreos working really hard.

Last night, Gerry and I needed some groceries - but good  groceries, not the stale, picked-over junk they have near here, where the dairy aisle smells vaguely of hard-boiled eggs and there isn't a single package of ground beef that's completely enclosed in plastic.

So we drove thirty minutes to what we call the Gucci Grocery, a place on the good side of town (actually, in a different state) where at least they occasionally rotate the bowls of macaroni salad in the deli.

After a lengthy stint in the car with an opinionated baby (I hate these straps. I want a snack. The sun's in my eyes. I like that song. This song is too loud. I can't hear the song. I hate these straps. Get these straps oooffffffffff meeeeee! NOWWWWW! I want the window down. Not that far down. What? I don't want to get out of the car!) we arrived at the Gucci Grocery. We selected a cart, and began our futile attempts to get her into the cart seat. Of course she immediately grew fourteen extra limbs, half of which were made of limp spaghetti noodles while the other half were in various stages of petrifaction.

In spite of all the extra effort I'd put into humiliating myself in front of strangers by coaxing my Bootsy Bunsen Burner (the kid has a lot of nicknames) into the cart using my most saccharin cutesy voice, we gave up and made our way into the store with the baby riding on Gerry's hip.

That's when, right there in the Cart Corral, the ice cold can of Mountain Dew that Gerry had brought for his own refreshment fell into the cart.
Did you know that the slight force exerted on a can of soda by a short drop into a grocery cart will cause it to burst open? No? Were you aware that it can create a forceful, highly localized spray before you even have time to react? It's true. And I'm here to tell you that, if you're the one pushing the cart, you will receive the full contents of the 12 ounce can - directly in the crotchular area.
I stood there in sticky, dripping disbelief. There was no way we were going straight home without groceries after coming all that way, and besides, Gerry was in no condition to drive; for some reason my eye darts were doing nothing to stop his laughter-induced convulsions. Plus I might've strangled him a little when he caught his breath and choked out his sympathetic reaction, "NOW what am I gonna drink?"*

So I spent the next hour walking around the Gucci Grocery with Mountain Dew soaking the front of my threadbare khakis, getting You Peed Your Pants side-eyes from all the ladies who wore full makeup, pencil skirts, and jewelry to shop for their organic granola.

I apologize that there's no photo, but really, you should thank me. It was obscene.

Please, someone out there tell me this has happened to you... Have you ever been stuck in public with pee pants, real or accidentally simulated? Wardrobe malfunction? Unknowingly sat in a bowl of pudding? I feel a need for some commiseration here, please!

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*For the record, I didn't really  strangle him.  He's too tall.  Plus I was laughing too hard to get a good grip.

Linkety Linked with Finding the Funny on My Life and Kids and Kelley's Break Room!

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Bedroom Time

Fair warning: If you usually come here for funny - well, first of all, bless you - and second of all, this ain't it.  I tried to write something with humor today, but this came out instead.

Have you ever wondered how your brain decides which memories to save from your childhood?

When we become adults, certain images from our early years drift to the top of our consciousness, while others are sifted into the depths like so much sediment, a forgotten foundation.

Sometimes it's obvious why we remember certain things, or why another memory might pass into obscurity.

But a lot of times one memory isn't necessarily more significant than another, and I'll never figure out how our minds decide which of these random trinkets to string together to form the picture we frame of our childhood.  Especially considering that it's a picture we look back on for the rest of our lives, often during times when we need the most strength.

I was lucky growing up; I only had one bedroom, in one house, in which we lived from the time I was three until long after I'd left for college.  I had a lot of years in that house, a lot of years to collect memories between the familiar walls of my room.

I remember the godawful green gingham wallpaper of my youth that made me dizzy with weird hallucinations.  These were the years when I had a thousand stuffed animals, each with its own name and back story.  I played with the dollhouse my mom built, the stairs distressed with a nail file to look like the family had been shuffling up and down those steps for generations.  I busied myself with my imagination until the aroma of dinner drew me into the kitchen to ask how much longer until it was time to eat.
Twenty more minutes.  Everything was always twenty minutes away back then - an eternity.
In this room I slept with the windows open, listening to the crickets chirp and the rustling leaves crescendo with each warm, gusty breeze.

A monster lived under my bed, and when I woke each morning I'd marvel at how, once again, my mom had managed to slip into my room and turn off the light without waking me.  Magic, no doubt.  As I got a little older, I no longer slept with the light on; that monster must've moved on to some other little girl's room.

That's when I graduated to the white canopy bed, which I think at the time I felt I was already a little too old for.  I got the purple color scheme I so desperately desired, made girlish by the tiny heart-shaped flowers in the wallpaper.  This was the room in which I taped my favorite songs off the radio and had sleep-overs with my friends.  My dad gave me a small black and white TV that sat on my dresser.  I talked on the phone until ridiculous hours of the night.

I wanted nothing more than to grow up back then.  In the winter, when it was too cold to leave the window open, I fell asleep listening to the hushed voices of my parents talking in the living room, their conversation reduced to a murmur punctuated by the occasional hiss of an "s" or a creak of the floor.

In my teen years, my mom let me pick out Real Grown Up furniture and paint the walls in a more "sophisticated" peach.  I pulled photos out of her albums without regard to history and taped them to my mirrored closet doors.  I studied hard, but the only time I opened my window was to exhale smoke from the cigarettes I'd gotten whoknowswhere, which I extinguished in a stale-smelling can I'd hidden on my desk.

For many of those years, my imagination created a world based on lies I told myself, one that seemed far more real than the one populated by fairies I'd imagined years ago.  The monsters came back, but they didn't live under the bed.   Instead, the space under my bed housed a box filled with letters I would never send, and loose blades that could dull the lies to a whisper when they became too overwhelming.

This time the monsters didn't wander off on their own.  I had to chase them for years, catch them, tame them, unlearn all their lies.

The parts I preserved, the syllables I picked from the words of monsters and determined were truth, were largely from those early childhood days.

I'm linked up today with Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop, responding to the prompt, "What do you remember most about your childhood bedroom?"   The more I wrote, the more I realized my answer wasn't just one thing - as a matter of fact, what I remember most wasn't even really there.  It was a feeling, an intangible safety net.  It was my mom's magic.  It was a cocoon spun from the wind outside my window.  It was love.  It was the knowledge that good things would happen if I could just hang on for twenty more minutes, even though sometimes that feels like forever.

Mama’s Losin’ It

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As The Dollhouse Turns - Boy Trouble

Episode 3 - Boy Trouble

As the scene opens, Buzz comes home from work and finds his oldest daughter, Charmeuse, is entertaining a visitor in the living room.

"I like you because you don't judge me
when I tear my shirt open and smash things at recess.
I just hate getting picked last for kickball.  It make me so angry!"

"This is my friend, Jimmy," Charmeuse tells her father, blushing and giggling.  "He's in my class at school.  We're... studying."

"Mmm hmm," replies Buzz, who is trying to burn holes directly through Jimmy's head with his eyes.  He leaves the room, but hopes their brief exchange has expressed his complete willingness to rip Jimmy's arms out of their sockets should it for some reason become necessary.

Later that night, Buzz asks Sunny why she would allow that boy in their house.

"Oh Buzz, don't be ridiculous.  He's the youngest of the Hulk boys.  He's harmless."

"He doesn't look  harmless.  Isn't he a little... developed  for a fifth grader?"

Sunny can't contain her irritation and rolls her eyes,
but plays it off like she was looking over at the window,
which is oddly low and makes useful furniture arrangement impossible.

"You know kids today, with their Wheaties and free weights and anabolic steroids," Sunny says dismissively.  She has a growing concern that this conversation will drag on until one of the kids gets out of bed to complain about monsters in their nonexistent closet before she has time to pour herself a glass of wine.  "Things are different now from when we were their age," she calls over her shoulder, as she scurries to polish off the bottle she'd opened at lunch.

"Well, I don't like it.  Not one bit," Buzz says to no one in particular.


The next day, Jimmy stops by again - but this time, Buzz is there to answer the bell.

"Come in, m'boy," Buzz says warmly, ushering Jimmy's ample frame through the door using four sticks of butter, a bottle of canola oil, and a crowbar.  He closes the door quietly in hopes Charmeuse hadn't seen her new beau ride up to the house on his Schwinn.

"Thanks, Mr. Indenial.  Golly, I'm glad to see you aren't mad at me.  The last time I was here," he continues with a chuckle, "somehow I got the feeling you wanted to rip my arms off.  Hahaha."

"Riiiight," Buzz replies.  "Look, Jimmy - I'd like it very much if you never spoke to my daughter ever again.  You're both so young - you'll have plenty of time for this sort of thing later.  Much, much  later.  Or never."

Buzz climbs up on a chair and gives Jimmy a fatherly pat on the shoulder.

"On the plus side, your breath is
surprisingly minty fresh."

Jimmy tries to put up a fight, but he's respectful of his elders.  Besides, as a fifth grade boy he was dangerously close to getting cooties anyhow.  With a final shrug, he lets Buzz guide him toward the door.
Cut to a close up on Charmeuse, who has been hovering over them on the invisible staircase landing.  As Jimmy leaves, tears well up in her eyes.

"You never loved me!  You've ruined my life FOREVER," she screams at her father before stomping to her room, slamming the door, and throwing herself dramatically onto the bed.

"This is the end of the world and my life is over
and blahblahblah," Charmeuse sobs, being totally rational.

Several days pass, and Buzz foolishly thinks that his fatherly concerns and preferences have had any impact whatsoever on the situation.

However, as he drives by the ice cream parlor one afternoon, he sees Jimmy buying his daughter a cone.

"One scoop with sprinkles for the lady, and for me,
I'll have ALL THE THINGS!!!!!"

Instead of erupting in a volcano of parental hellfire, however, Buzz decides to play it cool.  He doesn't trouble Sunny with his discovery, nor does he lecture Charmeuse.  Instead, he invites Jimmy to go for a drive so they can chat - man to man.

Once they're a considerable distance into the rural countryside, Buzz pulls over in a wooded area to get a few things from the back of the minivan.  "Jimmy, you're a strapping young lad.  Would you help me with this sack of shovels?"

Jimmy obediently hauls the sack out of the car, as rolls of duct tape and a few Tasers spill over the top.  "It sure is nice to get out and stretch my legs, Mr. Indenial.  I think I might be a little big for your car."

"Not to worry, Jimmy," Buzz reassures him.  "It might be cramped now, but it'll be much roomier on the way home."



Everything goes exactly according to Buzz's plan, and Jimmy stops coming around to see Charmeuse.  Buzz congratulates himself on some top-notch fathering one morning over a bowl of cereal, but nearly chokes when he takes a closer look at his carton of milk.

Buzz tries not to panic, but a thousand questions rush through his mind.  Did anyone know about the little drive he'd taken with Jimmy?  Had Charmeuse seen the milk carton yet?  Was he sure he'd shredded all those receipts from the Discount Chloroform Outlet?  Why was his wife suddenly buying him so many boxes of Wheaties?

"In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have marked the grave..."

Buzz knows he has to talk to his daughter, but he must address the subject very cautiously.  He calls her downstairs.

"Honey," Buzz begins, "You've probably don't know this, but Jimmy, um... ran away from home."

Charmeuse nods.  "Yeah, I heard at school."

"Oh.  So I'm guessing you also know that they'll probably never find his body."


"Um, I said he'll probably never come home.  Anyway, I was just afraid you'd be upset, and also wanted to know if you felt like I've been acting suspicious lately, or if you remember hearing me come home late a few nights ago, hose a bunch of things off in the driveway, and then burn my clothes in a barrel."

"Oh Daddy, I'm fine.  That day when Jimmy took me out for ice cream, I realized I could never be with someone who wears clothing that's all tattered like that.  So tacky!  Jimmy and I broke up weeks ago."

"I'm going to need some of your mother's wine."

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We're "Fair"ly Ready For School (okay, no more puns - I promise)

Ahh, the county fair.

Is there anything that signals the end of summer more definitively than the smell of fried cotton-candy-wrapped corn dogs, or the sound of a carnie taunting that you don't really  love your children unless you win them a crunchy stuffed Garfield plush, all punctuated by the hacking cough of a stranger two inches from your face and the constant threat of being crushed to death by a ferris wheel that's broken loose from its moorings?
I think not.

I realize many of your children have already gone back to school, but that's probably exactly what has sent me into an End Of Summer Panic resulting in an attempt to cram every single activity I've been putting off for two months into the span of a few days.

Thus, a trip to the county fair!  Ta-da!

This is a real thing - try wrapping your mind around that.

I love this booth, which offers "Kool Tattooz," as well as the ala cart menu items pictured here.

I love it because it raises so many questions.  Who, pray tell, is Dr. FART?  Why is PooP $2.00, while Kitty Crap is $5.00?  Why was Fart Candy so hastily squeezed onto the menu in a different color marker?  What exactly belongs to the Body Part, Droopy Eye, and Slinky, as I'm assuming that the Tattooz Artizt knows that "apostrophe s" IS POSSESSIVE???  Does this serve as a list of the tattooz you can get?  Because if so, please sign me up for a PooP!

In addition to being just a barrel of fun, it also occurred to me that the fair has a practical purpose, beyond teaching the children that the Poultry Barn has, bar none, the foulest stench of any place on the planet Earth.
And for the record, technically "foulest stench" doesn't count as another pun because I didn't spell it "fowlest."
Anyway, believe it or not a trip to the fair actually helped us prepare ourselves for the school year.
What do you mean you don't believe it???  I was afraid of that, so I made a chart to see if I could sway you.

See what I'm saying?  I'm not telling the kids, though.  Knowing them, they'll use this chart to try to convince me to go to the fair again next year.

I know I'm not fooling anyone - by next August I'll be dragging the kids to the fair so I can get my fix of batter-dipped funnel cake pork fritters.  Mmmmm.
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As The Dollhouse Turns - The Visit

Episode 2: The Visit

Today's installment of As The Dollhouse Turns  opens with Sunny lost in thought. She finds herself on the back porch, but can't remember what exactly she came outside to do.

"I've been sweeping for 20 minutes,
but it doesn't seem like that's what
I originally came out here for..."

"Oh, yes," remembers Sunny, feeling foolish. "I was going to use the broom to jam the kids' door closed.  Silly me. Well, at least the porch is clean."

Sunny turns to go back in the house and finish locking her children in the single bedroom that everyone in her four-story mansion shares, when she hears the doorbell. A chill runs down her spine, but she quickly shakes it off.

"I wonder why on Earth I would get such a dreadful feeling of impending doom all of a sudden for no apparent reason," Sunny muses as she reaches for the doorknob.

::cue dramatic music::

Sunny is grateful she remembered her Poise pad this morning - otherwise, this surprise could've led to unfortunate consequences.

"Darling," Sunny calls over her shoulder, her teeth clenched. She hopes her plastic smile remains painted on her face. "YOUR MOTHER IS HERE."

Sunny's husband, Buzz, comes floating downstairs in a bouncing motion that indicates the presence of an invisible staircase.

"Hello, Mother," says Buzz as they exchange an awkward hug.

"I love what you've done with your
mushroom cloud of hair. I'm sorry I can't hug you back,
but my arms won't stay up like that
due to an old football injury."

"By the way," Buzz says to Sunny, "I forgot to tell you my mother was coming for a visit.  I also forgot to tell you I'm leaving town. On business. Right now."

With that, Buzz is gone.

Mother is the first to break the silence that fills Buzz's wake. "I've been reading your blog, Sunny," she says brightly. "I came here to help out with the house and children - because you seem so overwhelmed."

"Oh, how kind of you," Sunny replies, being sure to choose her words carefully. "Well, come in, have a seat.  I'm so glad to see you felt comfortable bringing your cats. All of them."

"I know you said you were allergic,
but I assumed you were just kidding."

Sensing an opportunity to escape from their room, the rambunctious children burst in with excited cries of, "Grandma, Grandma!" and, "We're so happy to see you," and, "We like you MUCH better than Mommy," and, "What did you bring us?"

"See, dear? It's really quite easy.
I don't know why you seem to be so stressed."

Before Sunny can respond, Mother begins passing out candy and half-naked Bratz dolls to the children.  Sunny has to excuse herself from the room as Mother empties some Pixie Stix into the baby's formula.

After counting to 100 and collecting her composure, Sunny finds Mother on the back porch.  "I'm just straightening up out here, since you obviously don't have time to clean, dear."

"My, my, when was the last time this porch
was swept?  Never mind dear, I'll take care of it."

Sunny closes her eyes, this time counting to 200, and bangs her face against the door frame until she slips into blissful unconsciousness.

Later, Sunny comes to and finds Mother again - this time in the office.

"I was just tidying your desk, dear," says Mother.  "It was strewn with scraps of paper - lists of blog post ideas, I believe. I read a few of them - they were quite funny, though perhaps a bit irreverent for my taste. It's too bad they were ruined when I spilled your cold coffee on the keyboard."

Sunny begins to bleed from the eyes a bit with the strain of not bludgeoning her mother-in-law.

"Oh, I can see you're tense, dear. Why don't I take the kids out so you can have some time to yourself? Maybe you could take a shower," she suggests with a helpful nod.

Sunny loves the idea of some alone time to catch up on her blog reading. If only she'd actually be alone.

"I wonder if I'd lose any followers by tweeting
about a feline killing spree," Sunny asks the cats.

This goes on for what seems like an eternity. One evening, while Mother is getting the girls riled up with a spooky bedtime story that's sure to keep Sunny awake all night tending to their nightmares, Sunny sneaks off to quickly check her email.

This is the last straw. Sunny stalks off to get Mother out of the house, once and for all.

With story time over, Mother is in the nursery. "She was more comfortable on her tummy, with a full bottle and all these soft pillows. No wonder you have so much trouble getting her to sleep in her crib, dear."

"She's probably cold, too, so I wrapped her loosely in
several thick blankets. And I left some rubber bands and
small buttons in the crib in case she wakes up and gets bored."

Sunny lunges toward Mother in a murderous rage.

Haha, just kidding. Mother is alive... but walking with an unexplained pronounced limp. Her clothing is rumpled and peppered with unidentified bristle marks.

"Thanks for the hospitality, dear. I'll show myself out."

Sunny breathes deeply, enjoying the silence, reveling in the fact that her house is once again her own. 

Then she hears a lamp break upstairs, followed by giggling.

And Sunny remembers the one, very important perk of having her mother-in-law around.

"What have I done?"

Realizing that she just chased away free, 24-hour babysitting and beat it half to death with a broom, Sunny deals with the situation the best way she knows how.


Also, you can see previous episodes of As The Dollhouse Turns here!  But don't get too excited - so far there are only two episodes, and you just read one of them. (Pssst - that's no longer true, so pop some popcorn and GO READ!)

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One ringy dingy - Swimming Telephone

Have you ever played the game Telephone?  Stupid question - if you had a childhood, chances are you've played this game, in which a story is passed from person to person in a line to see how it changes and becomes increasingly ridiculous, which goes on and on until Snack Time or someone falls asleep on their carpet square, whichever comes first.

Well, the clever Marian of Just keep Swimming has come up with an Innerwebz version in which bloggers tag each other to tell the story of one fictional mother's extremely horrendous (but frighteningly relatable) day.

just keep swimming

In case you need to catch up, Marian her ownself started the story, followed by the illustrious Nicole of Ninja Mom fame, who passed the baton to the always clever Kristina at There's No Time For Pants, who has tagged me.  In a nutshell, our heroine was awoken by her children at an ungodly hour, exposed her lower cheeks to a neighbor while rescuing one kid from certain death, and was disappointed that her children weren't experimenting with gateway drugs.  I'll lead you in with the latest installment, Seriously?,  from Kristina; my addition to the series begins at You must be kidding.


Once I had corralled the escapee back into the house, and adjusted my massive wedgie, I was suddenly struck by how quiet it was. A churning started deep in my gut, as this kind of extreme silence usually meant that something somewhere was on fire. Even though I had no evidence to support my hypothesis, I made a beeline for my oldest child's room. As I made my way down the hall, my mommy-powers were validated. The girl's door was closed, but I could still smell the overwhelming scent of permanent markers.

The desperate and slightly insane part of me began chanting to herself, "Please be sniffing sharpies. Please be sniffing sharpies."

But, alas, as I flung open the bedroom door, I was faced with irrefutable evidence that my young children had not taken up huffing as a hobby. My middle child was covered with black permanent marker. The girl paused mid-stroke, and squeaked out, "Oh, hi, Mommy! Look, brother's a tiger!"

A second glance at the child revealed that he did appear to be covered in stripes that were vaguely tiger-like. Unfortunately, a third glance (more like a double take, really) showed something even more interesting. Emblazoned on my son's forearm was a word. And not a very nice one. Some, like Ralphie from "A Christmas Story," would even call it the Queen Mother of Dirty Words. And, I'm not talking about fudge, either.

I knew that the boy didn't write it on himself. He couldn't even spell his own name, much less master the elusive "ck" letter combination. As I opened my mouth to begin screaming obscenities (I wonder where she gets it?) the doorbell rang. A quick peek out the window revealed my mother-in-law. Awesome. Maybe she could entertain the children with stories of how the Democrats want to take all our Bibles and guns, while I did the laundry. And she could also get a good look at her grandson's sweet, sweet new ink.

You must be kidding.

I decided to let my walking obscenity billboard answer the door, hoping his grandma wouldn't ask too many questions about why I'd hastily thrown a long sleeved shirt on him in the middle of August.  Maybe she'd believe I just liked the way it looked paired with the swim trunks he was wearing as pajama bottoms.
I watched as he and his sister marched toward the front door.  When my son passed by, a pungent odor reminiscent of industrial solvent still wafting off his skin, I noticed the tag on his collar - his shirt was inside-out.  Great.  I knew my mother-in-law would want to fix it, thus revealing his new vocabulary word.  But before I could decide on a course of action, my daughter crossed my field of vision.
She trotted by, eager to greet her grandma, her beautiful curls bouncing and dancing on the sides of her head with each step.
But the bouncing and dancing was only happening on the sides, because the center  section of hair on the back of her head was... gone.  Just... gone.
It took a moment for my brain to process the horror.  Was I seeing pig tails?  A trick of light?  Had the marker fumes affected my brain?  But it was undeniable.
I shrieked something that was supposed to be, "What have you done?" but probably sounded more like a pterodactyl swallowing a wheelbarrow full of bagpipes.  She cheerfully offered some explanation that involved scissors and playing Beauty Shop with brother, but I couldn't hear the details because my head was busy exploding.
Laundry would have to wait - school was starting in less than 24 hours, and I couldn't exactly show up in the drop-off lane with Profane Tiger-Boy and a daughter sporting a reverse mohawk.  I started to herd them toward the car, hoping for a last-minute pixie haircut and wondering where I could get my son professionally sandblasted, when the doorbell rang again.  Oh yeah, I forgot we had company.
Okay, that's probably enough damage to the poor woman's day for one post.  What else could possibly go wrong?  That's up to the super-funny JD at Honest Mom, who I'm tagging to continue the story.  Stay tuned - I can't wait to see what happens next!

Please click the banner to vote, and then confess - have your kids ever given each other impromptu beauty treatments?  Were they worse than the time Zoe spent two hours putting Barbie make-up on me because (as she said) I wasn't quite pretty yet?
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Two Cars, Pirates, and a Random Doll Head

I know I should be grateful for my cars.  And I am.

Normally I ignore them, mostly because I never go anywhere.  But today's Monday Listicles prompt by the marvelous Stasha of The Good Life challenged me to not only think about my cars, but to think ten GOOD things about them,  which I have to say was really a stretch for me.

One of our cars is the old reliable(ish) standby - rugged, no frills, all-wheel-drive, our "good luck finding a cup holder but I'll get you through a blizzard" car.

The other is the kind of car that sounds fancy, but isn't fancy, so you get all of the razzing about having a yuppie car with none of the GPS, DVD players, or built-in popcorn machines. However, we got it through an auction for way less than it's worth, so even though it's not as luxurious as it seems, it's still way out of our league. Which brings us to the first of ten...

Fun Facts About My Cars You Didn't Already Know

1.  When our neighbor found out we got it for a bargain, he was relieved and admitted he'd previously assumed we were drug dealers. I'm glad we got that cleared up, because otherwise he'd no doubt be the first one turning up on our doorstep at 3AM looking for a "fix."

2.  The missing chunk of fender paint provides me with a daily reminder that you can't turn too sharply as you back out of our driveway in the winter, lest you scrape along the edge of the massive glacier left by a sadistic plow operator.

3.  There's a doll head in the arm rest console that Gerry once used to dress up the gear shift in such a way as to scare the crap out of me.  It continues to scare me every time I have to look in the console for a pen or an ATM envelope.

Welcome to the freaky nightmare
inside my arm rest.

4.  The paint color of one car is called Blue Onyx Pearl, which makes it sound like a pirate ship owned by Maybelline.

5.  The paint color of the other one is Wintergreen Mint, which sounds like the flavor of an antacid gum.

6.  I'll always have fond memories of the day I picked up the kids from daycare, only to find the transmission had decided to operate exclusively in reverse.

7.  Nothing brings a family of seven together like trying to cram themselves into a sedan.

8.  I'll know right away if there's an electrical short in the car, because I'm assuming the "service engine soon" light will finally go off.

9.  If I ever clean either of those cars out, I'll have enough stale Cheerios to support the nutritional needs of a large herd of buffalo, plus about 834 umbrellas, and all the toys that've gotten lost on various car trips, causing massive high-speed freak-outs in the backseat while I groped blindly in an attempt to locate said toys while I was driving, praying that I would never find out what mushy/wet/sticky things I was accidentally touching in the process.

10.  I happen to know for a fact that, if I'm in heavy labor with contractions 3 minutes apart and the hospital is normally over an hour away, Gerry can make our car go fast enough to get us there within 30 minutes.

It may not sound like it from the way I talk about them, but I do love those cars.  Their faults and quirks and imperfections are what make them unique - it's what make them mine.  I wouldn't have those cars any other way... sort of like the people who ride inside them.

You see what I did there?  Making it all sweet and schmaltzy at the end????
I know...  Please click the banner to vote for me anyway.
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With @BritelyApp, this blog writes itself

Well, maybe not the whole blog, but this post, anyway.

That's because my buddy Nicole at Ninja Mom had a contest for Best Brite (those fun little multi-purpose slide shows) to promote Britely and their $1000/week contest, and mine won!

No, not the $1000, something even better - an interview with Nicole on her blog!  Awwwww yeah.

Here's the Brite that rocked her socks...

Now get on over to Ninja Mom's place to read my interview and see some other awesome Brites!  It's the only way you'll find out my stance on hummus and which celebrity I find most lickable (no, I did not misspell "likable" - Nicole's interviews are a little unusual).

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Invitation From A Naked Girl In A Dress

If you know me, then you're already aware that I'm not generally fit for social interaction.

If you happen to be new here, suffice it to say that I really should not, under any circumstances, go out in public.

That's why the introwebz is perfect for me; no one wants me to come over to their real house because I never know what to talk about and I end up making inappropriate snarky comments, and also I don't get to shower as often as I'd like.  But none of that matters on the webz, so occasionally someone will invite me over to their blog, where my odor is inconsequential and they can safely delete me if I start to get rambly or stupid.

I'm really extra special deluxe excited today, because I've been invited by Kelly Sajonia to guest post on her blog, Naked Girl in a Dress.  This is serious, guys.  Kelly actually teaches classes about blogging, and she's a community leader at Studio30Plus, the writers' community I told you about back when (due to a computer malfunction, no doubt) they featured me for a day.

I was going to squee when Kelly emailed me, but my excitement got stuck in a big lump of nervous in my throat.

At Naked Girl in a Dress, Kelly is all about being insightful and inspiring, so I'm going to try my best not to use words like "craptastic" or write really terrible imagery like the pile of garbage in that last sentence about nervous lumps.  But then on the other hand, Kelly is really supportive and cool, so she'd probably encourage me to craptastic it up, i.e. be myself.

That's why I decided to share my tips on preserving a happy marriage without doing any real work.  You see, a marriage is like a car (just go with it).  If you start out with a good one, take care of it and keep up the maintenance, you're not going to have to rebuild the transmission or buff the chassis or whatever else you do to cars when they're broken and neglected and up on blocks in your front yard with tangled weeds growing through the rusty holes in the floorboards.

You don't want rusty holes in the undercarriage of your relationship, do you?  Then please, check out my guest post, and I promise not to wax poetic about cars anymore.

If you're visiting here from Kelly's blog or elsewhere in the interworld, welcome!  Please feel free to prop your feet up on the coffee table and check out some of HTV's popular posts.  (Seriously, please click.  As horridly unprofessional as the page looks, it took me about five hours to hack Blogger and get it to work, assuming that it does actually work; you'd really make my day if you just peeked at it so I didn't feel quite so much like I should've used those five hours for something useful, like crocheting a macrame purse.)

And, if you happen to like what you read, I'd love it if you clicked the Top Mommy Blog banner below to vote.  Or, if you hate what you read, you're welcome to bang your forehead against the banner in frustration; as long as you have a touch screen, it's all the same to me.  And if you haven't read it yet, don't forget to check out my guest post at Kelly's place, where I discuss how to fine-tune a marriage and probably horrify her regular readers.

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Back To School: there are pros AND cons???

I was talking to my mom yesterday, and she mentioned offhand that August is halfway over, as if it were common knowledge!

I, for one, was shocked, and had to consult a calendar to verify that it wasn't time to send my mother to a Loony Home for her own safety.  Luckily for her, it turned out she was right - but I can still barely believe it.

After reflecting on the summer and considering all the new adventures that await in the upcoming school year, I realized I have mixed emotions about the changes that'll be happening around here.  And what does a blogger do when she has mixed emotions?  Talk to a friend?  Engage in deep soul searching?  Ignore it entirely?

Well, you were close with that last one, but the correct answer is: create an infographic.  Actually, I don't know if a table I made in Microsoft Word counts as an infographic, but you can Google it if you want.  I'm too worn out from all the infographicing I did this morning.

So I guess what I've learned is that, like with most things, there are good and  bad aspects of the kids returning to school.  I also learned that making an infographic is an excellent way to spend a long time on a blog post that looks like you didn't put any time into it at all.  Of course, once school starts, I won't be getting up in the middle of my infographicing 15 times to break up fights or mop up spilled grape Kool Aid, so there's that - in a few weeks I'll be blogging much more efficiently.  But ABOUT WHAT???

There are no cons associated with clicking the banner to vote!
Then tell me - how do YOU feel about school starting?
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Mama’s Losin’ ItI'm linked up today with Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop, responding to the prompt, "List 8 things you’re looking forward to OR list 8 things you’re dreading about sending the kids back to school."  I did both, but hopefully she'll forgive me, considering I didn't write a 200 word essay about each one like I usually do.

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I'm Not As Screwed Up As You Think

The longer I do this parenting thing and attempt not to louse it up, the more I realize what a difficult job it really is.

In a lot of ways, parents are pretty much doomed to fail, or to at least think they have.  That's because every decision you make is forever held up for comparison next to the polished, shining ideal of the decision you didn't  make.  Unable to go back and test the results of choosing another path, you're left to compete with a potentially perfect reality that never happened.  It's like measuring yourself against what you assume  is going on in the professionally decorated home of the PTA mother wearing the Pinterest-inspired apron; you can't help but wonder if it's better over there, even though for all you know she's burning a frozen pizza in the oven and her kids are all chronic nose pickers.

Here's a perfect example of how everything parents do is potentially wrong.  I was in therapy a while back, and of course they want to know all about your childhood because presumably it's a rich source of chewy, delicious angst into which they can sink their psychoanalytical teeth to find the thick, nougatty center of your depression.  Not wanting to waste valuable therapy time evaluating something that I knew wasn't a problem, I explained in no uncertain terms that my mom and I are really close, that she was loving and supportive and all-around amazing.

My counselor's response?  "That must be a lot to live up to."
Way to screw me up by being too awesome, Mom.  Thanks a lot.
That's why I like this week's Monday Listicles prompt from Stasha - 10 Things My Parents Did Right.  After years of wondering and stressing and second guessing, I can only hope that one day my kids will be able to reassure me that there are at least 10 things I did that didn't completely ruin them.  This one's for you, Marma and Dad.


1. They let me do goofy stuff.
Sometimes I'd clear out the floor of the coat closet and sleep in there.  I'd set up elaborate Barbie worlds under the dining room table and leave them set up - for months.  I had a goodnight routine that rivaled a recitation of War and Peace  backwards from memory in both length and technical precision, which my poor, weary mother adhered to every night without complaint.  If I didn't get these things out of my system while I was young, who knows what kind of crazed lunatic I'd be as an adult.

2. They gave my brother a computer back when the only other computer belonged to NASA.
To this day I have no idea where he'd even heard  of computers at that point, but they took a chance and splurged even though that old Commodore 64 probably cost twice as much as a new Buick.  Turns out he's still all computery and softwarish, which seems to be serving him pretty well.  They're supportive like that; I'm sure my folks would've done the same for me, too, if I'd had any interests.

3. They kept TV to a minimum.
I'm giving myself a pass on this one and assuming TV was just less popular in general back in the day, plus cable hadn't been invented yet (or at least that's what they told me).  Also, in the 80's nobody worried about kids getting kidnapped or developing melanoma, so I was outside all the time.  If I let my kids go outside all the time in this neighborhood, I probably wouldn't have any kids.  Still, I feel like I'm doing better at Momming on those days when my kids run and play and use their imaginations and build a blanket fort and read a book.  I did that all the time when I was a kid.

4. We played lots of games.
Games are fun.  Also, about half the self esteem I have today comes from kicking ass at Uno when I was eight.

5. They set limits.
My brother got to have a room in the basement, but when I asked my mom if I could have the master bedroom, she was quite clear that was never going to happen.

6. We took outdoorsy vacations.
This one was all my dad's doing - we were always camping, which made me love the outdoors, probably because I only remember the having fun part and not the peeing in the woods part, so extra kudos to them for managing that.

7. They had rules, but they were also flexible.
I once got in some serious trouble for saying the word "crap" really loud at a pet store, but when I said a much stronger version of the word after pouring boiling water on my hand, my mom was kind enough to let it slide.

8. Mom gave good advice (even when I wouldn't listen).
For example, my mom warned me that once I started shaving my legs I'd be sorry, because you can never go back.  Sadly, so true.

9. But she kept her mouth shut when she probably really, REALLY wanted to give advice.
I once dated a guy who spray painted "I love you" on the street in front of my house.  I can't remember for sure, but I wouldn't be terribly surprised if he'd misspelled it, too.  I recently told my mom that I'd go i-n-s-a-n-e if someone did that to one of my daughters, but then she pointed out that if she had protested, my teenagery self would've probably just dated him even longer.  That's a smart lady, with a lot of self control.

10. She was overprotective.
Not only did I never break a bone as a youngster, but I also grew up thinking, "Come on, everything isn't THAT dangerous," resulting in me being a rather under protective parent, which I like, because being overprotective seems like a lot more work, not to mention kind of stressful.

I think what would really make my parents feel like they succeeded in raising me properly is if you clicked on the TMB banner below to vote - there's no measure of great parenting quite like having a kid with a popular blog!
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My Coffee Betrayed Me

I awoke at 4:30 AM to the sensation of a baby-sized finger being deftly inserted under my eyelid.
Oh, good.  Maddie's up. 
That's cool, three hours of sleep should be plenty.
"Oh, sorry - did I wake you?"

Somehow she knows when I've been up really, really late, and those are the mornings she decides to set her circadian alarm clock to go off roughly two hours before the sun drags itself reluctantly over the horizon.  I'm not sure how she detects my extra exhaustion, but I suspect it's achieved using the same Baby Radar that alerts her when one of her parents so much as thinks  about sexy time, and which causes her to suddenly need all the things.
She clearly wants to keep us as drowsy and disoriented as possible.  Advantage: Baby.
Stumbling around in search of a flatish diaper-changing surface, I greeted the day with all the enthusiasm usually reserved for root canals and accidental electrocution.  Always one to look on the bright side (shut up - in my head, that's how I am), I focused on the fact that I would soon be enjoying a rich, delicious cup of coffee, fortified with the RDA of caffeine my foggy brain cells so desperately craved.

That's when I realized something.
Sometimes the best part of waking up IS Folgers in your cup.
This seemed sort of profound at first.  I felt an odd kinship with the marketing department at Folgers - These people really GET me,  I marveled.  Quickly, however, the extraordinarily pathetic nature of that thought brought me back to reality.

I shook it off, reasoning that it was just the exhaustion turning me into an insane person (hopefully only temporarily).  Plus I realized, with great relief, we don't even drink Folgers.  Lately I've been making some fancy gourmet coffee, thanks to the fact that we accidentally purchased whole bean coffee once, but only recently purchased a coffee grinder.
Checkmate, Folgers,  I thought, even though it didn't make any sense.
That's when I decided my brain was hopeless and I was going to let coffee do all my talking for me from now on.

But not this coffee.  Frankly, this coffee tasted kind of terrible.  I was glad the bag was almost empty - back to my trusty old non-fancy coffee soon!  As the pot brewed, I checked the front of the bag to see what the brand was and what kind of French Roast Vienna Breakfast Blend Java Supreme flavor it claimed to be so we could avoid buying it again.  But...

Oh.  My.  God.

So help me, I'll get you for this, Columbia.*

Please click the button below to vote, while I eat Maxwell House directly from the plastic jug with a soup spoon to make up for my caffeine deficiency.
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*I mean, "Colombia." That's another strike against you for (as I see it) spelling the name of your country wrong, and 50 points for my smarty pants readers for being super smart. 

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Cat Poop and Other Reasons To Sell Your Cat

Here's our stupid cat - what's not to like?
First off, I feel a need to preface this post with a reminder that I love animals.   I've had pets all my life, except for those college years when I focused all my affection on beer and cute associate professors who didn't know I was alive.  Remember as you read this post, I was a zookeeper, and spent most of my zoo time with the animals that let you get all up close and cozy, not just the flashy high-profile bears and lions and other ones you can't play with unless you enjoy getting maimed and/or eaten.

I believe I've also mentioned that I've handled a lot of animal poop in my day, and didn't mind at all.  Well, I didn't complain, anyway.  At the time.

My point is, I heart animals as much as the next guy.

We have a cat, assuming the ASPCA doesn't come and get him after reading this post.  More accurately, Chauncey is Gerry's  cat, which is something I point out more frequently and vocally the more Chauncey gets on my nerves.

Don't get me wrong, he's an awesome cat - very affectionate and soft and meowy, which is preferable, in my opinion, to the majority of cats, who really don't care if you live or die or have a really wicked hangover or get run over by a mail truck, as long as someone feeds them.  I've had a lot of those cats, so I know we're lucky to have Chauncey.

Unfortunately, he's not very baby friendly.

It's not that he's aggressive toward Maddie - he pretty much steers clear of her ever since she was a few weeks old and my postpartum hormones and I freaked right the hell out on him when he was discovered sleeping in her crib.

I just mean that, with the addition of the baby to the family, he's sort of become... a nuisance.
This is the part where you remind yourself that I heart animals and am not, in general, a terrible person.
With all these children dangling off me all day, Chauncey's affectionate nature starts to seem more needy than loving.

The chatty meows I used to love now sound suspiciously like yowling that's specifically intended to wake up the baby.

He's one more mouth demanding to be fed the moment I roll bleary-eyed out of bed.

His soft fur now just reminds me that I need to vacuum the couch again, so Maddie doesn't get a mouthful of hair when she climbs up there and presses her face into the back of the couch while she looks out the window and waves enthusiastically at the neighbors across the street, while they smoke in their garage and awkwardly wave back.

"Just wait.  I'll make you sorry for this post."
When you add that to the fact that he's "sensitive," which is the feline translation for "gets stressed easily" and "barfs under even the slightest stress," plus the fact that he likes to barf in the least convenient, hardest possible places to clean (carpeted stairs, window sills, anyplace where you're sure not to see it before you step in it), you can understand why lately the cat has become more of a liability than an asset around the house.

This background should give you some insight into my state of mind a few mornings ago.  I had just sleepily stumbled down the stairs and I needed to visit the bathroom, so I mentally prepared myself for the acrobatics required for peeing while holding a squirming baby.  As I rounded the corner and passed Zoe's room, I glanced in - and did a classic double-take.

Zoe's room is pretty messy, but even in the clutter of dismembered Monster High dolls and the Squinkie explosion, it was obvious.

A giant pile of cat poop.

In the middle of her bed.

On her brand new sheets.

I do not actually endorse selling your cat, as the title of this post would imply, and I certainly don't recommend drop-kicking them, which is what I actually threaten to do at our house when none of you are listening, especially on that particular day.  But I.  was.  furious.

After Gerry cleaned up the mess and talked my down from my murderous cat-hating rage, he figured out the cause of Chauncey's unusual behavior.

He pooped on her bed because the litter box is upstairs.  So what?  would be the normal response to this bit of information.  However, it's significant because it turns out that Chauncey is afraid of the stupid baby gate at the bottom of the stairs.

So until we can devise a plan for moving the litter box to a new location (Cleveland?), I have to choose between my preference for the toddling baby to stay off the stairs, and my preference to not have the main floor of my house blanketed in cat excrement.

Does anyone want a cat?

Hahaha, I'm kidding, of course.
No I'm not, I only said I was kidding because Gerry will probably read this.
So send me a message in code - click the banner below once for, "No thank you, I don't need a cat at this time," and twice for, "Yes please, mail your cat to me right away."
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As The Dollhouse Turns

Episode 1: The Morning Routine

Our scene opens on a typical family in their typical, suburban, one bedroom zero bath four-story mansion.

"Untrue - we DO have a bathroom.  But the shower
is actually a grandfather clock and we pee in the sink,
so I can see how you'd make that mistake."

The lady of the house, Sunny Indenial, gets a jump-start on planning her day thanks to the fact that the children rolled out of bed at 5 AM and poured themselves several bowls of Kellogg's Krack-Koated Kandy Bomb cereal, then promptly started zinging around the house like it was a pinball machine.

Though awake, the world is dead to Sunny until she finishes her first four pots of coffee.

"So far, so good," says Sunny, refusing to turn around.

"Let's see..."  Sunny makes a to-do list for the morning.  "Laundry, dishes, write thank you notes for last year's Christmas gifts, plan elaborate birthday party for a five-year-old at which point she'll decide she hates [insert party theme here] and only likes [insert something I've never even heard of here], patch favorite yoga pants - if hole's too large, create cut-off yoga shorts, dust ceiling fan blades..."

But of course the first priority requires heading straight for the computer.

"Children, please occupy yourselves quietly while Mommy checks her Twitter feed, Facebook updates, email, blog stats, and sends some hate mail to Groupon, whose discount offers for skydiving lessons and exotic vacations are clearly intended for someone with a more exciting life than mine and are sucking the life force from my soul," Sunny chirps happily to her obedient brood.

As usual, the children leave her in peace to attend to her business.

About one tenth of the way into her task list, suddenly - oh no wait, I meant constantly  - her adorable cherubs request snacks in the form of Pizza Bites and aerosol cheese and Oreo cookies.  After determining that there's no food in the house other than boxed wine and her secret hoard of chocolate, Sunny is thrilled to gather everyone together for a trip to the grocery.

She takes four seconds alone in the bathroom to freshen up her ponytail before the baby toddles in, mysteriously naked and covered in an unidentified purple substance.

The baby cleaned, shoes located, and whining tuned to a dull roar, Sunny is able to silence the other 10,000 demands for her attention that bombard her from every conceivable angle every single moment of the day and drive, fully focused and alert, to the grocery store.

She manages to keep her social media impulses in check until she gets home, but then it's back to multitasking as she puts the food away while updating her Facebook status on her iPhone.

"Who says I can't do it all?"

Then it's time for a quick walk; fresh air is so good for the children.  Wait, where are  those children? 

That gives Sunny a good idea for a blog post - better make a note of it while inspiration strikes!

"Oh, there you are, you little scamps," Sunny says when she arrives home with the empty stroller.

"Yes, Mommy," says little Charmeuse.  "We just finished watching Sex and the City  and deleted all your shows from the DVR."

"We also ate that birthday cake you were working on," young Chenille chimes in.

"BOOBIES," announces baby Chiffon.

"Excellent, darlings," coos Sunny proudly.  "Now please entertain yourselves for a bit while I scour Pinterest for cute DIY straight jacket patterns."

One click on the Top Mommy Blogs banner will give Sunny the strength she needs to carry through until her next dose of medication.
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More episodes of As The Dollhouse Turns can be seen here - tune in!

I'm linked up today with Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop, responding to the prompt, "Your morning routine."
Mama’s Losin’ It

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