Ignorance is Bliss

About two weeks ago we put away the step stool which was in front of the boys’ bathroom sink.

It seemed a logical decision. While the stepstool’s original purpose was to help The Squid and The DragonMonkey wash their hands, they were only using it for evil.

We figured it was easier for us to lift them up a couple times a day to wash their hands than to constantly supervise their every movement whenever they disappeared around the corner. 

We thought it was a good plan.

Yeah… uh, no. 

It wasn’t. 

For the past week, several times a day, The Squid has been running up to me and boasting about the fact he has clean hands.

“Hey, Ma!  I clean hands!  I  clean hands!” 

And you know what? He was right.  He did have clean hands…. which should have clued me in that something was wrong.   The Squid is, without equal, the filthiest child I’ve ever met. 

Here is a picture of him I took at 9:05 in the morning a few days ago.  This picture was taken less than 10 minutes after I took him out of the shower:

“Squid!  What have you been doing, eating dirt?!”
“No, Ma.  I no eat dirt.  I lick dirt.  Lick the nummy dirt.”

In retrospect, I should have known.

I should has known there was a creepy reason for his hands to be clean, and I should have asked him why he felt it was necessary to keep mentioning it to me. 

Alas, I didn’t figure it out until today.

Today.

Today, when I rounded the corner…. and then stopped dead as I saw The Squid leaning over into the toilet, scrubbing his hands industriously.

And that’s when I realized it.

He wasn’t forgetting a verb in his sentence.  He hadn’t been saying “I have clean hands” all those times.

He meant exactly what it sounded like – he had just finished “cleaning” his hands.

Only the last I checked, scrubbing your hands in toilet water several times a day…

in the same toilet your older brother uses…

the same older brother who consistently refuses to flush after he pees….

Well….

Well, that’s the exact opposite of clean.

“I clean hands!  Ma, look!  I clean hands!”

When I think of all the times I touched his hand this past week, or shared a bag of popcorn with him, or all the other million ways I touched those hands….

Ignorance was bliss.

It was an unsanitary, peaceful bliss.

Why I Need a New Grocery Store

What the lady behind me in line at the grocery store said: “Wow, that is a lot of boys!” 

What I thoughtWow.  I never thought about it, but it does kind of look like all four of them are mine.  I mean, the other two boys I’m babysitting are 2 and 4 years old, just like mine, but they’re so much taller that it makes them seem like they’re older. 

Geez, what if I wasn’t just babysitting?  What if they were all mine?  Could I even handle four kids?  I doubt it.  Having two is exhausting enough.  How would I handle four?   I mean, we’ve got the bedroom space for them, but it’d be awful.  And poor Squid would become a middle child, and he seems like the kind of kid who would really rebel in his teen years if he was a middle child. 

Oh, crap, if they were all mine I’d probably have to get a minivan, wouldn’t I?  And I’d have to sell my new Scion, and I really like that car. 

Oh, crap.  She said something, didn’t she?  She looks like she’s waiting for a response.

What did she say?

Oh, yeah.  She said, “That’s a lot of boys!” 

I should say something back. 

What do I say in response?  If I say “Yeah!” then it makes it sound like they’re all mine, and what if I bump into her for some reason a couple months down the road, and she thinks I have four kids, and prides herself on remembering, and then I have to correct her in front of everyone, and it embarrasses her…

I wonder if she’s just commenting on the amount of boys… or does she really think they’re all mine?  Do I look like the kind of person who has four kids?  Great.  Now I feel old.  Who the heck even has four kids in a row like this?  I mean, aside from the Duggars.  How many do they have now?  It’s in the twenties or somethings, I think. Those people are crazy.

Geez.  Life with four kids.  That would be crazy.  It would have to be on purpose, wouldn’t it?  I mean, you can’t have four “mistakes” in a row, can you?  Sure, I didn’t get pregnant on purpose with my two, but that’s still kind of understandable.  Two mistakes is sort of reasonable, although it’s still a little embarrassing.  Four mistakes?  Heck, once you even hit three “oops” pregnancies, let alone four, that’s not mistakes, that’s just being irresponsible.  

Shoot.  She’s still looking at me, and I haven’t answered.  What do I say?  This is getting awkward.  Just say something, Becky!

What I replied:  Oh, they’re not all mine.  Four kids?  I’m not that irresponsible!

What my cashier said, in a very cold voice
:   I have four children.

And now you all know why I’ll be driving to the next town over to do my grocery shopping from now on.

A New Low

Xerox the cat is fat and healthy.

She’s a sweet, happy, OUTDOOR cat. We tried to make her an indoor cat, but we ran into a little problem.

She pees in the house.

She doesn’t mark her territory – she actually squats and leaves a puddle.  The first night she stayed inside the house, she peed on the kitchen floor. 

I moved one of our three (THREE!) kitty litter boxes upstairs and out of the basement, thinking maybe she didn’t know we had litter boxes.

The next night she slept inside she jumped up on the kitchen counter and peed on a plastic bag I had left out.

I didn’t know the pee was there, so when I moved the bag the next morning, it scattered cat pee all over the kitchen. 

And seriously, is there anything worse than cat pee?

The next day, on her way out the door, she backed up to the vacuum cleaner and sprayed it with pee to mark it.

She is now an outside cat, despite her sweet nature and the way she likes to sleep under the  covers at night.

Still, every once in awhile, despite our vigilance, she manages to sneak in – and when she does, she pees on something. 

It’s hard to dislike a cat that sweet, but I’m learning to do it…..especially after what happened.

A couple of weeks ago I took the boys swimming at the local pool.  I hadn’t planned on doing it until the next morning, but the DragonMonkey misunderstood what I meant when I told him we were doing it later.  I had told him we’d go swimming, tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep.  He ignored the “tomorrow” portion of description, and when he woke up from his nap, he came bounding down the stairs.  “FWIMMING!  We’re goin’ fwimming!” 

When I tried to convince him that I’d meant we’d go “fwimming” tomorrow, his face crumpled with legitimate devastation. Something about the way he turned away instead of whining, trying to be brave—it tugged at my heart.  Glancing up at the clock I saw that there was still forty minutes left of the afternoon session. 

To heck with it.  “DragonMonkey, if you get in your swim trunks, right now, we can go swimming.”

He disappeared back upstairs with a flash of skinny legs, while I ran around the house, shoving towels and floaties and goggles and swim diapers and various other paraphernalia in the swim bag, before trotting upstairs to wake The Squid up from his nap.  Three minutes later we were in the car and on the way to the pool.  It had to be some kind of a record.

When we got to the pool, the lady behind the counter took one look at us before glancing at the clock over her shoulder.  “You’ve only got thirty minutes until we’re closed,” she warned.

“We’ll be quick,” I said with a smile, herding the boys into the small family changing room and closing the door behind us.

As I stripped clothes off kids and dragged their swim suits on them, I couldn’t help but notice the faint smell of cat pee rising up from the bag.

Great.  Just…. Just great.  That stupid cat had peed on the bag.  She was sweet, but man, I was really beginning to dislike that cat.

And then I went to go blow up the floaties.

I was in a hurry – I had less than 30 minutes to get the kids dressed, showered, in the pool, and then exercised well enough that they wouldn’t throw a fit about having to get out so soon.

I was in a hurry. 

I learned something that day.

Did you know that after cat pee sits in a puddle for a week or two that it dries out and becomes flaky, condensed cat pee? 

I was in a hurry – and I didn’t look at the arm floatie before I put the little plastic tab in my mouth to blow it up. 

Which is why I did not notice the  dried-out puddle of cat pee around the tab before I put it into my mouth, using my teeth to open the lid.

Which is how I ended up popping an entire little puddle of condensed cat pee flakes into my mouth.

I’ve had a lot of gross stuff happen to me.

I have never had anything that gross happen to me before.

I’m here to let you know that eating condensed cat urine is about as nice as it sounds.

Also, you know how cat pee smell never seems to go away, no matter how much you wash it?

Yeah, well, cat pee taste is kind of the same way.

Xerox is a sweet cat, don’t get me wrong, but I doubt I’ll ever really like her again.

Free cat.  Does anyone want a free cat?  Very friendly.  Excellent mouser.  Fantastic with dogs and children.

Not-so-tasty pee.

Anyone?

Do I have any takers?

Really, Bean?

I have family coming into town tomorrow.

My dad is here in the states, visiting from Thailand, and I’m finally going to get a chance to meet my new stepmom.

My uncle is also coming up to visit.

After they arrive tomorrow the Bean and I are heading over to downtown Portland, to go to some uber-fancy Christmas party for his work. 

It’s all Filet Mignon, formal wear and fancy champagne flutes.

And guess who has a giant new hicky on her neck?

(PS:  I take back all the bad things I ever said about people who take pictures in bathrooms – it’s harder than you think.)

The Bean and I were…. uh….. “folding towels”, and I was like, “Yeah!  You fold that towel!  Woohoo for towels!   Folding towels is great!  Go laundry!…… wait.  WAIT.  STOP.  DID YOU JUST GIVE ME A HICKY?”

But by then it was too late.

Seriously, who even gives hickies anymore? We’re 31 years old, Bean.   Nobody is going to buy the whole “I burnt myself with a curling iron” excuse.

If anyone asks me about it, I plan on telling them, “Yeah, my husband – that guy over there – gave it to me during a vigorous towel-folding session”, and then refuse to elaborate.

Unless it’s my dad that’s doing the asking. 

In that case, I burnt myself with a curling iron. 

Performing for an Audience

Dear DragonMonkey,

Mornings are nice, aren’t they?

Your daddy and I think so, too.  Sometimes, mornings can be very, very nice.

Anyways, I have a little favor to ask:

The next time you wake up super early, can you make a little more noise?  I appreciate that you are trying to be quiet so you don’t wake The Squid up, but once you’re downstairs can you…. I dunno… announce your presence a little louder?

Sometimes when I, uh, hug your Dada, I get a little distracted and I don’t always notice you opening the door to my bedroom.

It has come to my attention that I also don’t notice it when you cross the room and climb up onto our extra big king-size bed.  What can I say?  Sometimes your Dada can be very distracting, indeed.

So, to help your poor old Mama out, can you please, please, pretty please make a little more noise?

It’s a little disconcerting to be in the middle of, uh, hugging, only to see something out of the corner of my eye, turn my head sideways, and see you a little over a foot away from my pillow, staring silently with wide eyes.

Actually, scratch that.  It’s not disconcerting.  It’s creepy.  It’s creepy as heck, and I’m pretty sure that image is going to be burned in my head for the rest of my life.  To be honest, I’m not sure who needs more psychological help at this point – you or me.  

It really didn’t help that you’ve taken to sleeping in your underwear – you looked like the world’s tiniest little pervert, kneeling there in your skivvies, silently watching us.  

Please, kid, for the love of all that is holy – please, just make a little more noise?

Love,

Your traumatized mother

Halloween

“Trick or treat!” said the chorus of other children.

“We no have money,” slurred the barely three-year old DragonMonkey last year, holding out his little candy sack sadly, like the world’s tiniest beggar.

When the candy hit the sack he mumbled out a thank you, trotted down the driveway to the next house, knocked on it, and repeated it.

“Hello, there!  Are you a little train conductor?”

“No money.  We no have money,” he said with a sigh, holding out his little candy bag in dejection. 

It was my fault, really.  When I’d made plans to join up with the boys’ cousins to go trick or treating, I hadn’t thought through the location of the neighborhood.

There was a train track less than half a mile away, and ever thirty minutes or so, a train went by, complete with piercing train whistle and rattling tracks.

The first time he’d heard it, the DragonMonkey almost came out of his skin. 

“TWAIN!” he shrieked at full volume.  “TWAIN!  TWAIN!  TWAINTWAINTWAIN! TWAINTWAIN!”

“Yes, it’s a train.”

“TWAIN!  WIDE TWAIN!”

“We can’t.  The train isn’t for riding.  That train is not a passenger train, it’s actually a cargo train.  Cargo trains are an efficient way of transporting goods across—“

“TWAIN!  WIDE TWAIN!  WIDE TWAIN!”

Choo-chooo! taunted the train, merrily.

“We can’t ride the train – it’s a cargo train,” I continued to try to explain, over his increasingly frantic shouts of “WIDE TWAIN!”  With our trip to Knott’s Berry Farm so recent in his memory, the DragonMonkey wasn’t taking no for an answer.  In the heat of his passion, explanations of cargo versus passenger weren’t clicking, and I could feel the entire evening slipping away with every toot of the train whistle.

Finally, I hit upon something that seemed to make sense.  “We don’t have any money, anyways.  Even if it was a passenger train, we wouldn’t be able to go.”

The DragonMonkey cut off mid-whine, and looked up at me.  “No money?”

“No money,” I lied solemnly.  “We don’t have any money to ride the train.”

Having kids has turned me into such a liar.  I used to be honest.  Before I had kids, I used to promise myself I would never lie to my kids…. but each day is so long, and lies are so easy.  We can’t ride the carousel because it’s asleep.  We’re destitute and have no money for anything – train rides, ice creams, McDonald’s, etc.  The batteries on every toy are perpetually broken, which is why it no longer plays that high-pitched annoying song.

My poor, disillusioned children.  They are being raised on a throne of lies.

But…..

It works.

The DragonMonkey mulled that over for half a moment, then seemed to accept it.  “No money.”

I squirmed guiltily, knowing I had plenty of money in my wallet, but….. “Nope.  No money.”

We continued on our trick-or-treating way, and I thought the matter was over… until we came to the next house, where instead of saying “Twick o tweat”, the DragonMonkey felt it was necessary to share the sad news.

“No money.  We no have money,” said my tiny little pauper, holding out his candy sack like a tiny, starving train conductor orphan.

Sigh. 

It served me right for not telling the truth.

*****

Note:  I’d forgotten all about this story.  Then,  as we left to go trick or treating yesterday, the DragonMonkey stopped in the middle of getting into his car seat, looked over at me and said without preamble,  “We don’t have money to ride the trains?  No riding trains?  We just go trick or treating?”

“Nope,” I lied easily.  “No money.  Once again, we don’t have any money for the trains.”

“No money,” he said, his voice an exact echo of the last year.  “No money to ride the trains.”

Mom Of The Year. Again.

DragonMonkey slams to a stop at the bottom of the plastic playground slide, dangling his legs over the edge and burying his feet in the sand, bracing himself with legs that have recently begun to look less like a toddler’s and more like a little boy’s.

He twists around, looking over his shoulder, and grins up at Squid expectantly.

Squid is on his belly at the top of the slide, and once he sees his older brother’s waiting grin, he wiggles forward, sending himself down headfirst.

SLAM!

The slide is slick, and the momentum catapults him into DragonMonkey’s back in a tangled slam of limbs that looks incredibly painful.  The impact knocks the air out of both them, and they each give a little grunt.

There’s a pause, while they try to catch their breath, and then they both burst out into hysterical laughter.

DragonMonkey wiggles off the slide and races around to the steps, ready to start the whole thing over.

Squid, who is capable of walking but a little too lazy to learn how, crawls quickly after him.

They climb again.

DragonMonkey slides down first, then waits.

Squid wiggles down after him.

There’s a painful collision, an explosion of laughter, and then they race to do it again.

Over in the corner of the playground,  on the new, child-safe, politically-correct, boring version of the teeter-totters, I see two moms eyeing me.  Their daughters are playing politely, quietly, bouncing up and down in a controlled, sedate fashion.  If their little girls are talking, I can’t hear it.  They look like adorable, sweet, well-behaved little robots. Up.  Down.  Up.  Down.  The moms stand protectively beside the little girls, ready to steady them if it looks like they might slip.  Up.  Down.  Up.  Down.  I’m kind of jealous.

From behind me, I hear the solid slam of body limbs and another screeching round of belly laughter.

Both moms glance my way, then away, trying to hide their looks of growing concern.  Briefly, I consider trying to distract the boys into a less-violent form of play….. but they’re having so much fun.

I turn back to watch the boys, just in time to see another round of “SmashBrother” about to go down…. only this time, DragonMonkey has changed the stakes.

Instead of presenting the solid plane of his back for The Squid to crash into, he is standing on the ground in front of the slide, cocking one knee and placing his foot on the slide. 

Squid is already laughing, excited by this change in the game, wiggling on his belly and trying to get enough momentum to send himself shooting face-first into DragonMonkey’s shin.

Oh.  Crap.  That’s not going to end well.

I lunge forward, shooting my arms between the protective slats of the slide that keep the kids from falling, just in time to grab Squid’s ankle as he starts to shoot down the slide.  I’ve caught him, but that’s about all I can do – there’s no room to maneuver with my arm between the slats.  He’s flat on his belly, arms extended in front of him, dangling headfirst down the slide.  Confused, he turns his head to look at me, face beginning to turn slightly pink as gravity makes the blood rush to his head.

“DRAGONMONKEY, MOVE YOUR LEG.”  I’m using my no-nonsense voice, because I can see the moms starting at me with horrified looks and I want to get this over with as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, the DM recognizes my “obey-now-or-suffer-the-wrath-of-mom” voice, and freezes with a deer-in-the-headlights look.  He knows he’s doing something wrong, but he’s not quite sure how to correct it, so he decides to play it safe by not doing anything at all.

“MOVE YOUR LEG.”

He twists his leg slightly, as if showing off his calf.

I realize I need to be more specific.

“Sit down on the slide!”

Squidgelet is running out of patience – he’s been dangling patiently by one leg, but his face is now beet red, and he begins to squirm and whine.

Obediently, DragonMonkey hops up on the slide and sits on it – facing me, with his legs straight out in front of him.

“No, not like that!  Turn around, so I can let go of your brother and he can smash into your back!” 

Did I really just say that out loud? 

The DragonMonkey freezes again, trying to figure out what I’m meaning.  Squidgelet is actively thrashing now, and I can feel my grip on his ankle loosening.

I eye the drop at the end of the slide, and the steepness of the slide, and decide to take my chances.  Maybe Squid will come to a stop before he goes off the edge into the sand?

“Off the slide, DM.  Hurry!  Get off the slide!”

Obediently, the DragonMonkey leaps off the side into the deep sand.  I let go of Squidgelet’s leg, and watch helplessly as he slides down the slide…gains momentum… and shoots off the edge of the slide like he’s doing one of those escape-from-a-burning-building movie dives.

I’m moving as fast as I can to intercept him, but it won’t be nearly quick enough.

He soars an impressive distance from the slide before landing face-first in the sand.  Apparently the ability to brace yourself with outstretched arms is a learned ability…probably brought on by face-first experiences such as this one.  For a brief, almost comical moment, he’s actually stuck upright in the sand, rigid body at a 45 degree angle.  He looks like a  cartoon, or a little bitty human javelin.

I burst out laughing.

I mean, I don’t just sit there and point at him, laughing.  Give me some credit.  He’s stuck headfirst in the sand, not even able to breathe.  I’m trying to get him as fast I can…..

 But at that moment I can’t help myself.  He just looks so funny.

And it’s at that moment, as I’m rushing forward, laughing at my poor kid suffocating in a pile of sand, that I happen to glance up the two moms.

It’s really hard to describe just how horrified they looked.  Proper decorum completely forgotten, they both stand there, their own kids forgotten, staring at me with dropped jaws.  I mean…wouldn’t you?  Not only did I just dangle my one year old baby by an ankle and then drop him headfirst down a slide, but now I’m laughing at his misfortune.

Finally reaching the Squid, I kneel down and scoop him up, wincing at the sight of his sand-encrusted face.  Even his nostrils are blocked by two tiny little plugs of damp sand, which I manage to mostly clear while he’s still drawing in breath for his first outraged shriek.

“Ssshhhh,” I say in my most soothing voice, trying to make up for the fact that I just laughed at him.  “Awww, poor baby…shhhhh….”  I’m using my sleeve to try to clear clumps of sand out of his eyes, ears, nose, and hair, but I can tell it’s going to be a long chore. 

With a piercing shriek of a wail, Squid finds his voice, announcing to the entire playground that he is the victim a terrible, horrible, no-good, baby-throwing, misery-mocking mom.

I cuddle him to my chest and continue to soothe him, and take solace in the only fact that makes me feel like I can show my face in this park again:

I’m moving soon.  In two months I’ll never have to see those moms again.

Professional Modeling Is Not In My Future


I’d just finished putting the DragonMonkey to bed when I happened to walk by the large mirror we have hanging in the entrance.

What I saw there stopped me in my tracks.

Huh.

Wow.

I looked good.

No, no, I’m not being vain.  You know what I’m talking about.  Some days, no matter how hard you try, or how many layers of makeup you slather on, you just look awful.    Everyone has those days – you got a great night’s sleep, you spent time on your hair, you just finished some disgustingly healthy lunch and chased it with more than enough water, you’ve got your most flattering outfit on….. and yet still look like you just finished three straight days of hard drinking and partying in a dirty section of Tijuana.

Last night I should have looked like that.  I was tired.  The kids have been sick.  I had run a brush through my wet hair twelve hours earlier and not touched it since.  It was late, and I felt beat.  I didn’t have a lick of make up on. 

Yet when I looked in the mirror, my eyes were bright, my skin was clear, and my hair was falling in glorious, luxurious waves around my shoulders.

If I sucked in my belly and twisted my hips juuuuust so, I not only looked good, I looked really good.

Sweeeeeeeet.

Unfortunately, with the kids in bed and The Bean in his night class, there was no one around to witness it.

Well, shoot.

After a few minutes  of preening in front of the mirror and admiring all the gorgeous neat things my hair had decided to do simply because there was nobody was around to witness it, I finally figured out what to do.

I needed a picture of this minor miracle.

I mean, I needed to be practical about what was happening.  By the next morning whatever magic I’d been dusted with would have faded and I will be back to looking disheveled and exhausted. 

I needed photographic evidence.

Besides, if I took a really nice photo, then I could update my Facebook profile pic.  See, it wasn’t just narcissistic.  I was being practical.  Right?  Right.

I had seen those cute photos that girls were always taking of themselves on Facebook.  All you had to do was hold your camera at arm’s length, smile, and voila!  Instant cuteness.

How hard could it be?

Famous. Last. Words.

I grabbed my cherry chapstick to add a little color to my lips, picked up my camera phone, and snapped a quick pic of myself.

It was too dark to see it.

So I turned on the kitchen light and the flash on the camera, and tried again.

In addition to making an incredibly stupid expression, I blinded myself with the flash.  Ow.

Well, that wasn’t going to work.  

Obviously I was going to have to do one of those “I’m looking pensively off in the distance at something that is causing me to appear deep in thought” type pictures if I wanted to be able to avoid permanently blinding myself with the flash.

I took another pic and looked at the result:

Wow.  Uh…… Wow.  That was so not the look I was going for.  I look like I’m about to be attacked by something evil that’s going to try to eat my face off.

See?

I mean, I look pretty calm for the fact that I’m about to be devoured by an evil worm monster, but it really wasn’t what I had in mind to show off to the world.

Obviously I needed to just look kind of forward, and let my face relax.  I wanted a candid, normal looking picture, not something that was heavily posed.

 Okay, maybe I didn’t need to look that relaxed.  I looked like a stoner.  A smile.  That’s what I needed, a nice, normal looking smile.

AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!  STUPID FACE!  That is NOT what I meant by a normal looking smile.  That is, hands down, the least normal looking smile I’ve ever seen on my face.  I look like the worm beast is now in front of me, and I’m trying to put on a brave face before I meet my death. Besides…. why were all these photos down so low?
I raised my hand and took another photo.  At the last second I tried to blow some of my hair out of my face.

Blurry.

I took another photo.

Blurry, because I changed my grip on the camera at the last second.  
I took another photo.
Blurry – the dog made a noise and I wanted to see what what he was doing.
I then went through no fewer than TEN photos in a row, and they were all blurry.  I kid you not. My ADD kicked in so bad that I couldn’t even hold still for my own photos.  Do you have any idea how embarrassing that is?  I’d get ready to take the picture, and then something would distract me and I’d end up with a shot of the side of my head.  Or a blurry swing of the face.  Or a crooked photo of the lower left hand corner of my jaw.
I even got a shot of a blurry shot of me mid-sentence.
I mean, to understand how stupid of a shot this is, you really have to understand all the facts:
  1. Nobody is making me take these pictures.  I want to take them.
  2. There is no time limit on taking these pictures. 
  3. From the time I lift my arm to take the picture between the time I actually snap the picture it’s only about 3-4 seconds.  Think about this.  I got bored and distracted in a 3-4 second time frame in the middle of a project I am voluntarily working on.
  4. There’s nobody in the house with me except for the two sleeping kids and the sleeping dog.  Who am I even talking to?  What am I saying?  What on earth was so important that I just HAD to start talking to myself right then?   

I took about thirty photos.

Crooked photos.  Blurry photos.  Photos where my glasses are crooked.  Photos of the wall.  Photos of the underside of my chin.

In at least half of the photos my eyes are closed.

The other half of the photos have my eyes open abnormally wide, in a desperate attempt to not have yet ANOTHER photo with my eyes closed.

In each subsequent photo you can see my facial expressions became increasingly annoyed.

By the end of my modeling session my photos were turning out like this:

Just in case you ever get the chance to meet me in person, I think I’ll give you fair warning:  If you ever see this expression on my face — RUN.  Just turn around and run.  That is not a smile on my face.  That is a barely controlled snarl.  This is what happens when I take my “HOLY CRAP I’M SO ANNOYED I’M GOING TO CHEW UP AN INNOCENT BABY KITTEN AND SPIT OUT BULLETS” look and then try to cover it up with a fake smile. 

Thirty photos, people.  Thirty.  I ended up with one semi-serviceable photo that I got by accident when I was testing the different camera functions.

    No, I don’t look happy.  No, I’m not smiling.  No, it’s not in color.  But it’s not blurry, both my eyes are  open, and I don’t look like I’m about to leap forward and attack the camera… or worse, run away because I look like the camera is about to leap forward and attack me.  I consider this photo to be an overwhelming success.

    So, what’s the point of this blog post?  Well, let me just say this.  I learned a lot about myself last night.

    I learned that professional modeling is not in my future.

    I learned that I apparently have a deep-seated phobia of cameras – at least, that’s what it looked like judging from my wide-eyed, frightened expression in the majority of the pictures.

    I learned that I was born without the “smile for the camera!” gene.  I imagine this gene is paired with the “ability to do makeup“, “put together nice outfits“, “likes to go clothes shopping“, and “do something other than stand around awkwardly when another woman bursts into tears” genes.  Apparently, I am missing that entire subsection of genes.  I think they have been replaced by an extra helping of the the “Must Read Books” and “Look!  A horse!  LOOOK! A HORSE!!!!” genes.

    I learned that I have the attention span of a gnat.  I mean, I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know it was quite that bad.

    And, finally, I learned that I’m more than a little jealous of those girls who squish their faces together and take easy, adorable self-portraits. 

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back to the things I’m good at.  I’ve got a half-finished book and an entire Internet full of horses to be looked at and drooled over. 

    I’ve Got Mom Butt

    The title says it all.

    Squidgelet is a year old.  According to all the manuals, all the chub you have left on you when your baby hits a year is YOUR fat, not baby fat.

    Well, crap.

    I mean, there are some good things about being fat.

    I never get cold any more.

    When I go see a movie, I don’t have to worry about the seat cushion being too hard – I’ve brought my own squishy seat cushion with me.

    When I’m out for a walk I don’t have to worry about anybody whistling at me like they used to.

    I float great in water.  Between that and the never getting cold, I imagine I could be a pretty serious competitor at long-distance cold water swimming.  

    I do know I’d kick some serious heiny at a game of “Who Can Survive the Longest Without Food on a Desert Island”.  Anyone want to play with me?  Winner gets to eat all the losers!  Anyone?  You there, in the back— is that a hand?  No?

    At any rate, it was time to do something about it.

    I dragged the boys with me down to my local 24 Hour Fitness and got ready to pay the $8 for childcare that it normally costs to work out.  I used to get up before work to work out, but I’ve been pushing so hard in all the other areas of my life, I just feel like I need to get a full night’s sleep.  Living with RA is kind of like living with a really grumpy bear – when it’s in “hibernating”  you’ve got to judge just how much “noise” you can make going about with your daily life.  If you make too much “noise” (stress, exhaustion, stress, over-exertion, stress), the bear comes roaring hungrily out of its cave, and heaven help any helpless little joint that gets in its way.  My “bear” has been tossing and turning restlessly lately, so I’m doing what I can to soothe it back to sleep.  That means that working out before work just isn’t in the cards at the moment.

    Unfortunately, at $8 a pop for childcare, working out more than 1 or 2 times a week isn’t in the financial cards, either.

    Imagine my surprise when I went to sign in and found out that the gym was having a special – Holy Crap.  $10 per kid, PER MONTH, and I could work out as often as I wanted?

    I could feel my thighs getting toned, just listening to it.

    Thrilled beyond belief, I reached into my purse to grab my wallet…

    Only to discover I’d left it at home.

    So I dragged both kids back to the car, loaded them up, and drove home.

    “Gym? GYM?  GYM?!” wailed the DragonMonkey, upset at the sudden change of plans.  “Play wif da twuck at da gym?  PLEASE?  GYMGYMGYM?!”

    I unloaded them out of the car, searched the house, found my wallet, loaded them back in the car, and drove back to the gym.

    “GYM?  We awr going to da gym?  GYM?  PWEASE? GYMGYMGYM?!”


     I pulled into the parking lot, unloaded both boys out of the car, and headed into the gym.

     Life used to be so much simpler back in the days when I hopping in and out of a car wasn’t a 10 minute ordeal.

    After checking them in and a fruitless attempt at soothing the Squidgelet’s tears, I managed to sneak out and into the busy gym.

    I changed and briefly stretched, then hopped onto an elliptical machine.  Sure, I was sandwiched in between a 17 year old toned goddess and a young Brad Pitt, both of whom were wearing beautiful, expensive workout outfits.  Yes, I was wearing wrinkly pajama bottoms and my husband’s old t-shirt, but who cared?   It was just a matter of time.  With the new workout special, I could afford to work out seven days a week, if I wanted to.  Why, in just a few month’s time, that would be me on the elliptical, flaunting my toned body in a too-tight lycra uniform.  Just knowing I had this freedom was giving me a spring in my step.

    I increased the resistance and incline of the machine, legs pumping in time with the bass of the music piped in over the speakers.  Boo-yah.  Less than two minutes into my 30 minute set, and I could already feel my muscles warming up.  This was going to be great.  Feel the burn, feel the burn, feel the…

    “Becky Bean, please report to Kid’s Club.  Becky Bean, please report to Kid’s Club.”

    With a start, I shut off the machine, grabbed the ratty kitchen towel that I was using as my workout towel, and opened the door to childcare room.

    The smell of vomit assaulted me immediately.

    “He, uh, he got sick…” the childcare worker trailed off, swallowing a gag as she attempted to do damage control.  The Squid was howling, purple-faced, his entire outfit, the bouncy, and carpet all dripping with throw-up.  It looked absolutely impossible for there to be that much throw-up, and yet… there it was.

    “Here, don’t worry about it.  I’ll clean it up.”  I grabbed The Squid and lifted him to me, doing my best to ignore the feeling of his puke-drenched clothes soaking into mine. 

    Ten minutes and 3,000 paper towels later, I dragged both kids out to the car again.

    “GYM?  No, I wanna pway at da gym!  No, mama!  No, no wanna go!  GYM? GYM?! GYM?! GYM!?”

    That was last Monday.  It has now been nine days of coughing, sleepless nights, and puking from the flu.  I have not been back to the gym yet. 

    Also:

    Dear Flu Bug:

    Please go away and quit picking on my two children.  They were both skinny to begin with.  They really didn’t need days of puking.  I’m starting to feel like I’m carting around little Auschwitz babies.  If you wanted to pick on someone, why not pick on me?  I wouldn’t minded having a little bit of the flu.  It might have been good for at least five pounds.

    Sincerely,

    Becky Bean

    Mmm… Apple Pie!


    We’d long since abandoned the confines of the dining room table, and we were all scattered around the living room in a post-Thanksgiving haze. The majority of the dishes had found their way into the fridge, but a few choice entrees still graced the table and the kitchen countertops – rolls and leftover biscuits, yams with a disappearing blanket of toasted marshmallows, and pies.

    Apple pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate pie, two different varieties of pecan pie….

    Even if you were so stuffed you couldn’t take another bite, there was always room for pie.

    With bellies straining against shirts and the top button of pants discreetly undone, we lingered over our food, joking occasionally, trying not to laugh too hard – with bellies that full, who knew what might happen? A food coma is a delicious illness to have, and nobody did it better than my dad’s side of the family.

    The only movement in the room, aside from the occasional heavy sigh, muffled belch, or lazy stretch, was from the younger children. Too young to have learned how to stuff themselves beyond measure, they were still wriggly and energetic. I had trapped one of my nephews between my knees, trying to contain his three year old energy long enough to help him finish his own small slice of pie. When I realized more of it was ending up on his hands and his face than it was in his mouth, I decided he’d had enough.

    “C’mon, Kyle. Let’s go wash up.” I grabbed his dirty little hand and walked him over to the sink, hoisting him up with a groan and propping him up with my knee while I tried to do some damage control. He had apple pie everywhere – crumbs down the front of his shirt, sticky cinnamon goodness smeared over his soft cheek, and even a piece of crust lodged in his hair. He looked like a magazine ad, with his big blue eyes and golden curls, and he was sticky beyond belief.

    By the time I’d finished cleaning him up there was water everywhere, and he was squirming and laughing. With a grunt I plopped him to the ground, grabbing his hand to lead him back into living room.

    As his soft hand curled up in mine I felt a little something – glancing down, I realized that a teensy crumb from the apple pie had escaped my washing. Too lazy to walk over to the trash can to throw it away, I gave a shrug and popped it in my mouth.

    Salty.

    What the heck? Since when was apple pie salty? I gave a cough, grabbed a napkin and spit the piece into it.

    Suddenly, without any warning at all, my nephew burst into frantic tears. It was a genuine cry – and within seconds he had fat tears pouring down the sides of his cheek as he blindly tore out of my grasp and ran back into the living room. He was a sturdy, happy little boy who rarely cried, so I knew something must genuinely be wrong.

    Concerned, I wadded the napkin up in my hand and chased after him.

    “Becky, what happened?” A roomful of adults all stared at me.

    “I don’t know,” I stammered, raising my voice to be heard over the grief-stricken, desolate howls. “I was just coming back from washing his hands, and he just started crying.”

    My sister hugged Kyle close in concern, making soothing noises. “Shhh, Kyle. Shhhh, What’s wrong?”

    Kyle buried his face into my sister’s arms, refusing to look at me. “Aunt Becky….” He sobbed.

    “I didn’t do anything!” I insisted.

    “Kyle…shhh… shhh…. What happened?”

    “Aunt Beck-y-y-y-y….”

    “Shhh, shhh…. What? Stop crying and tell us. What happened? Why are you crying?”

    “Aunt Becky ate my booger I was saving!” His huge blue eyes looked up at me in red-rimmed, three-year old fury. It was his booger – HIS to eat. Not mine. I was a cruel, evil, booger-stealing harpy of an aunt, and not to be trusted.

    My mind flashed back to the salty bit I now held in my napkin, and I gagged.

    And now you all know why I don’t really like apple pie all that much.