Married With Children

by Kathy Tirrell

Married with children and intimacy. Something seems wrong with that sentence. What could it be? Oh yeah, right. What intimacy?

As soon as Baby Bobby comes home from the hospital, it's a whole new ball game. (Okay, my son's name isn't Bobby, but you get the picture.) Now we have a husband and wife...and a baby. Two's company, three's a crowd. Somebody will get all of his needs met and somebody will not. Little Baby Bobby must get fed, diapered, rocked and burped. Daddy will have to do some waiting if he wants attention. So will Mommy for that matter. Or maybe not?

Sure there are ways to sneak in some lovemaking while Baby Bobby is sleeping. But sometimes an infant's sleep schedule just doesn't coincide with his parents'. Spontaneity pretty much goes out the window once you have a child. Sometimes, just as things are heating up, a piercing cry rings out, followed by urgent wailing, and thank you very much, there goes the mood. On the plus side, babies are an excellent method of birth control.

Even when kids are older, couple time is still a problem. Maybe even more so since you can no longer scoop Bobby or Susie up and stick them into their crib for a while. Oh no. Now they're mobile and move from room to room at their leisure, maybe even stopping at your bedroom door, perhaps pausing and listening in. Or just plain walking in. If you think you're safe because you happen to have a lock on that door, doesn't matter, they'll bang on it. "Mommy, I can't find my doll/truck/crayons/hat/favorite book." If it's late at night, "Mommy, I had a bad dream." Or worse: "Mommy, I just threw up all over my sheets." Oh, isn't that a nice prelude to lovemaking?

And you can't take a chance of coitus interruptus with teenagers around. Nope. Think they took off on a Saturday night to attend that rock concert? (Ah, a couple of hours of private time for Mom and Dad.) Think again. Just as you've thrown off your clothes and strewn them all over the house and have settled down naked on the living room carpet, one of them comes rushing back into the house ten minutes later blurting, "I forgot my cell phone!" (Okay, that has never actually happened to us, but it could.)

And if you think things will finally change once the kids are old enough to move out and the two of you are Empty Nesters, you might be in for a surprise. These days with young adults finding it tough to land a job and pay the rent in that cold, cruel world out there means a couple of things might happen. One, they'll never move out! Or two, they WILL move out for maybe a few months, then come running back when they can't make ends meet, lose a job, or realize just how easy they had it at home.

One thing is clear, couples with children of any age need to be patient, sneaky, adaptable and adoptive of a Minuteman mentality--be ready in a moment's notice--if they want to sustain a healthy sex life. It can be done!

For further musings on the crazy things that happen in life, visit Kathy at
 It Bloggles The Mind


How it started...

I had a craving for a cream-filled coffeecake cupcake. My husband just stared. The shock was understandable. I’m a vegetarian, priding myself on organic cooking and a healthy lifestyle. Cream-filled coffeecakes were not in my diet. Neither were cheeseburgers, but the urge to chow down on a big, fat, juicy hunk of meat was undeniable. Slather it with ketchup, mustard, pickles, cheese, and I could have inhaled it in two bites. I spared him from the details of my dietary desires. Instead, I suggested a trip to the drugstore. It was time for test.

The box said to pee on the stick in the morning for the most accurate results and I instantly wondered if that made you more pregnant in the morning. What kind of mother would I be, asking idiotic questions like that? The kit came with two tests, so I decided to take one right away. Morning was 12 hours longer than I wanted to wait, but the next two minutes seemed like an eternity. In that vast white space between being a couple and becoming parents, questions flooded my mind. Can we afford a baby? How much will insurance pay? When will I finish school? Where will we put a child in our little townhouse? Do babies like to travel? Do kids? Will my hair fall out? Will it grow back? Can you shave your legs at 9 months pregnant? Will I want to? Why do they call it morning sickness if it lasts all day? Will I ever be able to eat again? Can a baby grow if I’m not eating? Am I already malnourishing a child? How much will it weight? How much will it hurt? Oh my god, will I need stitches? Will I make it out alive?

Panic. Pure terror gripped me and I walked out of the bathroom to sit on the bed. We sat for the next few minutes in near silence, pondering the changes to our lives. Dan broke the quiet.

“A baby! This could be good news,” his color matched mine, but his grin was unmistakable. I smiled at him and began my slow walk to back to the bathroom.

And the test said I was pregnant. Twice. Yes, I took it again. By the second positive, new questions reached out of the corners of my mind. Will we have a boy or a girl? A boy? What color eyes will he have? Will I be able to make him laugh? What will his personality be like? Will he be healthy? Happy? Squeezable? Will he sleep? Will I? Will he have siblings? Will I be a good mom? When will I hear his heartbeat? Will these questions ever end?

After 4 years and a million more questions, I’m fairly certain I found the answer to at least one of them. I'll let you decide which.

~Read more from Sara over at The Hero Complex where she tries to save the world, one. blog. post. at. a. time.


Cottage Cheese and Melba Toast

In the frozen food section of the grocery store, staring at all the choices of perfectly portioned Health Chow Frozen Dinners, I reached a level of achievement that women around the world have striven for since low fat cottage cheese and Melba Toast were invented.

A woman next to me stared into the freezer case with as confused and desperate a look as mine. Dieters do this sort of thing. We spend time selecting just the right food as if it is crucial to the survival of humanity. Like me, she had tried each of the eighty-seven available dinner choices, only to find that three were her favorites, two others weren't awful and only one, besides those, didn't induce vomiting. Circulating six different frozen dinners through a week's worth of meal times left me wanting something different. Food would be nice, but hey--I have been on a diet since birth. I know about sacrifice. Just about the time I reached for the fat free, no carb, zero sodium BBQ mystery meat meal, she touched my arm.

"Don't do it" she said, with a voice frail from hunger. Her hand fell away from my arm, likely due to lack of carbohydrates for energy.

"But I have to. I have to eat."

"But you're so thin. Why would you do this to yourself on purpose?"

I laughed. "Oh, you're just being nice. These jeans? They are a size ten. I want to wear an eight."


I was confused. "Why? Because an eight is smaller than a ten, so I want to wear an eight."


I was becoming concerned that I might need to call for emergency assistance. Clearly her lack of nutrition was affecting her thought processes. The electrical impulses in her brain were misfiring. Someone get this woman some protein! Stat!

She leaned against her buggy for support as I rested my back against the frozen food case and she explained.

"Honey, when you started this diet, what size did you want to end up?"

I thought for a moment and said, "A twelve. I had been . . . a fourteen." With a shudder and knowing looks, we both nodded and did the sign of the cross although neither of us professed to be Catholic. I don't know why fourteen is such a scary number, but for most everyone I know, fourteen is the cutoff. The day you realize you are, in fact, a fourteen, and not just a twelve having a bad day, is the day a new diet begins.

She continued, "But what size are those jeans?"

" . . . a ten."

And then it hit me. I got it. Her brain was just fine. She was wise, this malnourished goddess of the frozen food section. When would it stop? When I achieved single digit numbers on my Made in Indonesia jeans tag? Where would it end? Would it end?

In my experience, no woman is ever completely happy with her body. Although I understood her logic perfectly, I looked at my reflection in the glass case and immediately spotted my bulging hips. I raised an arm and checked for the wobble that has plagued me since the birth of my first child when I was nineteen. It was still there. I turned to show her my horribly disfiguring flaws, but she was gone. I crossed myself again in case she vaporized from starvation.

Just then, my husband, who happens to be 4 1/2 years my junior, rounded the corner. He walked up with a grin and playfully smacked me on my backside. "Hey there, my cute college girl."

I love it when he calls me that.

"Are you done yet?"

I sighed. "No. I can't decide."

He looked at the case of frozen delights with a frown. "It's no wonder. Does that stuff actually qualify as food?"

I shrugged.

"Let's go get pizza and some beer and watch a movie."

I agreed, abandoning my buggy in the aisle for some other desperately weak dieter to use for balance.

Stepping out into the sunlight, I felt renewed. I was happy. I was as thin as I'd hoped to become when I started this last diet. I had a gorgeous man walking beside me, flirting, making me laugh, enjoying the day. But when we drove up to the pizza place, I was afraid. It had been so long since I tasted real food, I didn't know what to expect.

"What if I like it?"

He looked confused. "Aren't you supposed to like pizza?"

"Yes, but what if I really like it? What if I gain the weight back?"

He shook his head at me and smiled. "Sweetie, one meal isn't going to kill you. And if you like it 'too much' and gain the weight back, that doesn't matter to me. You know that."

I knew that.

So for one day, one glorious day, I held my head high. I was able to walk into a grease-laden pizza parlor full of judgmental teenagers without wondering if those pubescent girls with low-rise jeans and bellybutton jewelry were whispering about the fat lady getting a pizza. For one day I felt normal. We went home, had our beer and pizza and watched a movie. I lifted my glass toward the heavens in salute to the wise Frozen Food Aisle Angel. But then setting my glass back on the end table, the not-so-perky flesh of my arm caught my eye. I said a naughty word. I put my plate of pizza on the coffee table. Then I asked "Sweetie, is there still some cottage cheese in the fridge?"

"Yep. And the Melba Toast is in the cabinet."


Ready... Set... BABY!

If it hadn't been for my husband's toothache, I would have crossed my legs and never let my third daughter burst into the world like a bullet. The nurse's tender words, "get your butt over HERE, woman!" and "why did you wait until the last minute to get here, don't you know you're having a baby?" are now carefully recorded in Wynter's baby book, lovingly cherished along with a coffee cup and dried belly button.

Wynter arrived during a lull in the one of the worst snowstorms in Portland, Oregon's long history. Christmas morning lay bright and shiny outside as my husband dragged me from our apartment and into the car, locking himself out and yelling at 5am to reach over and fiddle with the lock. In pain and enormous with the miracle of birth imminent, I was busy trying to not have our baby's first sight that of snowy floor mats while finding a Dora barrette to clip the cord in case I had to deliver the baby myself - he was on his own. Laying the seat down, I counted to ten as the contractions came hard and fast and I promised myself I would never...ever...have sex again. Reaching the emergency room moments later, I leapt out with the grace of a drunken reindeer and staggered bowlegged to the door.

"I'm having a baby!" I yelled to the five people sitting in the cavernous room. The security guards barely looked up, I had interrupted their conversation of whose holiday bonus was less. The admitting nurse had dozed off, drooling against the gray partition, her face partially covered by a festive Santa hat.

Festive, my butt.

"I’m having a baby RIGHT NOW, get me UPSTAIRS!" this time I squatted to give more emphasis to the urgency of the situation. Either the prospect of a healthy lawsuit or the fact that he'd have to clean up placenta pierced the foggy brain of one of the security guards. With lightening speed that would have impressed, well, no one, he swaggered over to me with a wobbly wheelchair and motioned with his coffee cup to jump in. Passing me his cup, he started on the long trek to the Maternity Ward, only getting lost in his own workplace twice.

"The elevators are closed down for the night, think you could walk up to the fourth floor?" he said.

"You're kidding, right? I know you're kidding because otherwise I would have to kill you and bury the body in my backyard and I'm RUNNING OUT OF SPACE!" I answered. I've seen fear in a man's eyes before, usually when I'm buying tampons in bulk and a shotgun. I knew he'd find a way to get me upstairs.

Magically, keys appeared out of a back pocket and opened the elevator and we were swept aloft to the Maternity Ward where I was taken over by a nurse who joked, "We heard you pushing in the elevator." She was hilarious. Really. Reaching my room, I kicked away the wheelchair footplates set up to trip patients in casts and hiked up my nightie while pushing off my boots with my feet. Rolling onto the bed, the nurse laughed as I asked for meds, whatever they had, and lots of it. She thought I was kidding.

My husband burst through the door minutes later, complaining of the toothache that had woken us up twenty minutes before, dodging the boot I threw at him in commiseration.

"You haven't had her, yet? You know, my mom had nine children and never complained once during labor. Why are you so grouchy? It's Christmas!" Vowing to bury his body next to the security guard, I grabbed the sides of the bed and started to howl.

"Where are the drugs? GET ME THE DRUGS!" I pleaded. My guts were being ripped out of my eye sockets and the nurse giggled that they'd never make it in time so I'd better hold onto something. Grabbing my husband by the leg, I punctured his jeans with dagger-like fingers and smiled grimly when I saw tears spring up, so far it had been the only bright spot in my morning.

Finally looking under the sheet, the nurse in her clean pink scrubs had the nerve to look surprised when Wynter's head started its initial push into the world. Coming to stand next to my head to check the monitors she said, "Hey now, you can't push yet. Your doctor isn't here, can you hold it?" Backing away slowly when she saw my hands reaching for her leg, she hurried to the business part of my labor.

"Ok, here she comes. You need to move to your left, your LEFT! Why are you on your side? Get your butt over HERE, woman!" Curling as well as a highly pregnant woman can, I had scooted myself nearly off the bed trying to escape the contractions. Muttering under her breath, I could hear the nurse wondering why some people waited until the last minute to come to the hospital, ruining her breakfast and interrupting the poker game at the nurses' station. Vowing to find more room in the backyard, I moved to the end of the bed and started to yell. Not out of pain but because I couldn't reach anything blunt and heavy to heave at her.

"If you push too soon, you'll damage yourself and the baby. Let's take some cleansing breaths...one...two...how did you get that oxygen tank over your head?" She was looking more concerned. "Er, I think you're ready to push now."

One mighty push later, my husband caught our slippery daughter as she exploded into the world. Whisked away for a quick rubdown by the nurse, we watched as she slowly became aware of her surroundings, blinking in the gray light of dawn outside our window.

Wynter still wakes at sunrise to drink hot chocolate from the coffee cup we snatched from the hospital security guard. Her enthusiasm for each new day reminds me to fully participate in life, becoming aware of the beauty that surrounds us...and to move to a larger backyard with each subsequent pregnancy.

[Visit Stacey at her blog where she often waxes poetic about cheese. And zombies. Lots and lots of lovely zombies.]


Twist and Shout and Flush

If you thought exercising in front of the kids when they were little was a Stephen King movie waiting to happen, you'll find that working out in front of teenagers is like hanging your handwashables out to dry across the information superhighway. If there’s not a video of your behind crouched in a downward dog position on YouTube before you’re done with the stretches, these kids think they’re not doing their job.

At least when the children were six, they would make entertaining attempts to do the exercises with me. Today they take pictures with their cell phones and compose humorous captions before texting them to distant relatives and global news sites. And they’re not afraid to broadcast interesting body fat tidbits.

When the kids were little they said things like, “Who is that lady on the video?” (That’s Richard Simmons, Sweetie.)

Where did your belly button go? (It disappeared about the time I sent out the birth announcements.)

These days they say things like, “Is that a hula hoop or a belt?” Since I’m wedged into the thing like preteens in the front row of a Taylor Swift concert, I don’t have a clever answer ready. I’m more concerned with getting the plastic wedgie out from under my lung so I can breathe. Having a playground toy jammed through my ribcage like a pierced earring is not a good look for me. I know. I saw the "After" shots on the FAIL blog.

The last time I let my band of ruffians, er teenage citizens, in the house while I was doing my bellydance workout, I checked my FaceBook page later only to find out I’d been sponsored by Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig had ignored my friend request, and an anonymous poster left ten tips to a bikini-ready body written in a sarcastic font.

Then one day a host of fleshy cherubs in workout gear appeared before me on my 48 inch plasma screen. I thought it was The Biggest Loser, Angel Edition. “We saw you on You Tube and decided you needed some help. Seek out the promised land!” That’s the day I packed up my workout gear and headed to my own turf.

These days it’s kind of hard to do squats without flushing the toilet, or perform proper lunges without knocking the shower massage into nail-driver position, but I can exercise without the benefit of back seat drivers.

Now if I could just get the Tidy Bowl man to stop heckling me from the cheap seats.

(Join me for more laughs at MindOverMullis where the carseats are empty, the nest is full, and the kids have developed fear of flying.)


Vacation is all I Ever Wanted…

Back in the long long ago, (before children) the hubs and I went on a vacation to Kauai. We LOVED it. It was so much fun to go snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, and biking all over that island. It was also a turning point for us. That was the vacation when we seriously took a look at the idea of having kids. We finally realized why we wanted to bring a new life into this world. We wanted to share these experiences with them. To take them on adventures, to show them the beauty of nature and to enjoy the playground we commonly refer to as Earth.

Seven years later, with one child who is four and another who is five, we decided to take things full circle and bring our kiddos to Oahu. I can honestly say, instead of taking them on an adventure, the munchkins BECAME the adventure. But I didn’t come back from this experience empty handed. I have a plethora of traveling adventures, tips and warnings to share with you…

1.) Tip - To keep the munchkins occupied for a 6 hour flight, we brought the following: Paper, crayons, Littlest Pet Shop Pets, iPod Touch, Smart Phone (for playing games), two laptops loaded with movies, and reading books. (It still wasn’t enough to keep the whining at bay, but it was enough to keep the other passengers from throwing their plastic wrapped dinners at us.)

2.) Warning – Littlest Pet Shop Pets can and will fall between the seat and the wall of the plane. If you attempt to leave the plane without it, chaos will ensue. Our youngest screamed and cried from the plane to our car parked in the long-term lot. (Approx. 20 minutes)

3.) TIP – Bring Purell. Lots of it. I visited EVERY PUBLIC RESTROOM ON THE ISLAND. (This really should be a warning too.) During the first couple of days on our vacation, these bathroom adventures would consist of a child doing a potty dance while I stack layer upon layer of toilet seat covers to protect her precious bottom from the germs of society. The toilet looked like a baklava with stacks of thin papery phyllo dough seat covers. By the end of vacation (50 bathroom trips later) I was letting the girls walk into the public beach restrooms barefoot and allowing them to handle things on their own. As each child emerged from her stall, I gave her hands a squirt of Purell. Trust me, bring Purell.

4.) Interesting Fact - To a child, the most beautiful sunset and amazingly expensive Polynesian show is NOTHING to the excitement of a roaming chicken.

5.) Warning - Little ones really do believe they can breathe underwater. Never leave his or her side. In fact, don’t even blink.

6.) Interesting fact – Yes, a four year old can live on french fries and bananas for an entire week and yes, a five year old can live on shrimp and mahi mahi for an entire week. (I wondered if the amount of mercury in her blood would set off the metal detectors at the airport. It didn’t.)

7.) Warning – Time zones are unknown to little ones. Yes, we woke at 4am almost every morning. Be prepared with an automatic coffee maker.

Here’s the really good stuff though. My five year old went snorkeling for the first time and actually saw the Hawaiian state fish, Hunuthisfishhadsuchalongname. My four year old learned how to body surf and probably swallowed half the ocean. Both learned how to make the shaka sign (hang loose) with their little hands and both giggled and laughed more times then there are stars in the sky. I can honestly say, I would trade 50 more trips to the public toilet to do it all over again.


The post in which I...

...tell everyone that I'm not a wife (yet), or a mother (yet). So why am I here? Well, what teacher (which I am) doesn't have a million stories about the unpredictability of those sometimes tiny creatures we gestate for 9 months before sending them out into the world? To speak in the vernacular of those crazy internet cats: storez. I haz 'em.

One of my earliest stories, and one of my all-time favorites, deals with a very precocious 3-year-old named Ethan. Ethan was one of those kids who you just never knew what he was going to do or say. His play was no different. During free time one morning, I noticed that he had an elaborate Lego setup going on one of the tables. And when I say elaborate, I mean huge. The chairs, the table, no surface was safe from the presence of those tiny pieces. I watched him for a while, trying to figure out what was going on in his mind because he was quite intent on the project. After a few minutes I walked over.

"Hey Ethan. What are you building here?"

"I'm building a spaceship!"

"Wow! That's fantastic. Are you going to the moon?"

"Uh uh. I'm going to the sun."

Now I should say here, that this stunned me. And that's not easy to do. But I went with it.

"Won't you be hot?"

He gives me this look. You know. The look all children have genetically programed into them for when they know the adults in their lives are just stupid. I call it the "duh" look.

"I'll wear sunglasses."

I blinked. And then I tried not to laugh. "Okay Ethan. The sun it is."

He went about happily building his ship for the rest of his free time. I learned a valuable lesson that day-- sunglasses can make anything happen. And Ethan, all of 3, remembered to think outside of that proverbial box.


Gimme a Break

I’d been out of the house, on the road with my best friend, for forty minutes. My cooking/dusting/laundering hand had finally relaxed, my explaining/moderating/guiding gear had slipped into neutral. I had just started to absorb it, the quiet, free from little voices, big demands.

Fergie’s My Humps thumped through the car’s speakers, and I didn’t have to change the station for the sake of kid ears. In fact, I was just reaching to turn it up, ready to shake my, um, rump as much as the passenger seat allowed, when my cell rang.

I hesitated, touching neither the radio’s knob, nor the phone. Caller ID said it was my husband, who’d stayed home with our two daughters.

“Do I answer it?” I looked to my best friend for wisdom.

“Are you willing to throw away all we have before us?”

“I am in ridiculous need of this day. Shopping. A meal out. I’ll let it go to voicemail.”


“I know he's calling about food. I sat mac and cheese on the counter, in plain sight," I reasoned. "How could he miss the blue box? It says Kraft.”

“They won’t starve,” she said. “He can boil water. Right?”

“I knew I should have made lunch before I left.”

I imagined my girls, my babies, hungry and weak at the kitchen table. My lips puckered, a reflex, into Mommy's Lovey Kissy Face. The long stretch mark, the one wrapping my hip, twitched.

“Be strong,” my best friend whispered.


I swallowed. “Hello?”

“Come back. We can’t live without you.”

“I can’t live with you if I don’t get some time away.”

“You don’t know what it’s like here.”

“It’s just for the day. Pull on your Daddy Pants, big fella. You can do it.”

My best friend hunkered over the steering wheel, face pinched in urgency. “Hang up! Now!”

“Love you, honey," I cooed. "Have fun!”


It was a glorious snatch of time. I ate something I can never have at home, because I'm the only one who likes it, tried on clothes, and shoes, with no one to corral into a fitting room, or lose beneath the circular racks. I looked at books for thirty quiet, blissful minutes. Bought a jumbo pack of maxi pads and answered to no one.


When I got home late that evening, I was floating and soft, disconnected after my time away. I walked through the kitchen, paying only half-mind to a cookie sheet on the stove. Covered with dozens of… hard and curly… shoelaces? I shrugged, didn't care.

I shuffled past the starving dog, navigated the floor of Barbies. Found my three loves had fallen asleep in my bed, in their day clothes. Knew with that maternal intuition that not a toothbrush had been touched, not a face had been washed.

I unearthed the remote, which had become wedged between my husband's armpit and my daughter's forehead (that had to be comfortable), and killed the muted rerun of Futurama.

My heart filled full at the sight of my family, and I was glad to be home. I climbed onto the available edge of mattress, curled into a compact ball as my fingers grasped the last square-foot of quilt, barely enough to cover my cold toes. And I fell into a deep, contented sleep.


The next morning, over breakfast, my husband blushed.

"So... I thought they were shoestring potatoes. You know, fries."


"Yeah, but they were all hard and gross after I baked 'em."

"Yeah." I smiled at my daughters.

"Turns out, they were egg noodles."


You've Never Seen Barbies Quite Like This

by Kathy Tirrell

One hot summer night, my sisters and I were sitting around munching Doritos and M&M's when the subject of Barbie came up. As the mother of one daughter with a very extensive Barbie collection, I was naming off all the dolls I could remember. You know the typical ones: Ballerina Barbie, Malibu Barbie, Prom Queen Barbie, Princess Barbie, and all the other similar slim-figured girly ones. We all agreed we were sick and tired of her squeaky-clean image and decided it was time for a personality change.

So, with tongue firmly in cheek, I propose the following new line of Barbie dolls, certain to give little girls (and all of us) a whole new perspective.
Such as:

Clad in leather jacket, tight blue jeans and white tee shirt. Tattoo on each arm. This Barbie doesn't take any crap from anybody! Accessories include pool cue, table and perhaps a few chains.

(Sorry, Ken, there HAVE been others)
Clad in skimpy little skirt, halter top, fishnets, and high heels. Pull her string and she says things like, "Lookin' for a good time?"
Accessories not needed.

Okay, you've seen him, are you ready for HER?
Clad in casual, cut-off sleeves top, white sneakers and tight blue jeans(mix 'n match with Brawlin' doll).
Comes with microphone, guitar, comb and mirror. Pull her string and she sings:
"Don't tell my Ken, I'm on the road again" (variation of Achy Breaky Heart song with additional lyrics by Willie Nelson.)

Clad in navy blue pinstriped suit, white dress shirt and tie.
Accessories include glasses, briefcase, and extra-strength Excedrin.
Barbie's in charge, watch out!
(Ken doll can be purchased separately as Barbie's secretary.)
And finally, all jokes aside, there's:

Wears whatever outfit YOU want her to wear.
Says what YOU program her to say.
Comes in all colors, all races, all shapes and sizes.


My Husband, the Robot

I married a machine. By that I mean he's immune to the magic of Hollywood. Where others crumble into sniffling piles of snot tears, he is completely devoid of emotive responses. He laughs in comedies, he can do funny all day long, but crying? Forget about it.

We love movies, but have different ways of looking at them. My husband is cut and dry, black and white, and stoic (the man is German through and through). He doesn't like to talk things through, but listens well. And by "listens," I'm pretty sure he stares at me talk while going through game codes in his head.

I've learned to love and appreciate our differences, except for when we watch movies. He ruins the movie experience for me. We were dating when I discovered his emotional apathy in film. We watched The Patriot. Loved it. I cried the ugly cry at least 3 times. My husband sat there with his arm around me like a doting boyfriend should. Then we came to the part when Mel Gibson left his family to go to battle. The little daughter that hasn't uttered a word to him since their mother died began to sob and yelled, "Papa. Don't leave!" I was a goner. My heart broke. My tissues were long spent, so I used the corner of my sleeve to wipe tears and sadly, snot. I looked over at my husband and saw him shaking. A snicker escaped his lips. He turned to me and laughed.

At the time, I thought he was laughing at me. A strange metalic taste entered my mouth. My head felt hot and I saw red. I beat him stupid. When he came to and I asked him to explain his stupidity, he noted his ability to recognize when film makers try to yank an emotional response out of the audience. Cue sappy music, close up on actor's faces, moment of silence triggering in viewers that lump that inevitably leads to tears. My husband, the robot, had a point. I'm far less inclined to cry at little things when I have the cues spelled out to me.

When I sense his apathetic tenor in movies and realize they'll lead to laughter, I give him the "look," if I want to ride the directors emotional train. If he continues down the dark path, I beat him.

For example, we recently saw Avatar. We came to the part where (SPOILERS. STOP READING IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW. OR KEEP READING) Jake Sully returned after the humans destroyed the mother tree. He rode the prophetic Last Shadow creature into the crowd, commanding their respect and gave a speech meant to inspire and bring the avatar creatures together. It was quite a speech. I listened with fervor, nodding at every word. "Yes, Jake Sully. I am rallied, Jake Sully. I will follow you anywhere (read: anywhere), Jake Sully. Let's go get the bad guys! Yes! Yes!" My eyes watered and I sensed my husand's Hollywood anti-emotion radar beeping. I glanced at him through my 3D glasses. He was already too far gone. He'd entered the realm that conjures the beast. I can't tell you exactly what happened, but I found him on the floor of the stairwell with my fists clenched.*

On the drive home, I couldn't stop talking about how good the film was. "Everything about that movie was just awesome. The graphics? Beautiful. And did you think the aliens were hot? There was some undeniable attraction there. Were you turned on at all?"

He gave me the, "Uh, you're crazy" look. I'm quite familiar with it.

"Be quiet. You like my craziness. I keep your life interesting. Can you imagine how boring your existence would be without me?"

He nodded. "You are my paprika."

I ran a yellow light and felt his crazy look bore into the side of my face. Typically I drive like a grandmother. "Sorry," I exclaimed. "That movie just has me riled up."

And in a voice that would rival Ben Stein he said, "Let's go stick it the man."

*slight exaggaration. don't call the police. please


Erma Bombeck Writing Competition

A BIG congratulations to An Army of Ermas author, Amy Mullis, for her honorable mention in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! We're proud of you and your stretchy pants, woman!


It's All Fun and Games

Being a mother of boys is a wonderful thing. Because of them, I know no fear of reptiles, arachnids or rodents. I know that David’s Roasted and Salted Sunflower Seeds will actually grow when planted outside the kitchen door, even if it they do come up mutated, short and kinda creepy looking. I learned that a pile of black socks makes an amazing snake pit for Indiana Jones adventures, and I know that “Seriously -- what is that SMELL?” must always be investigated immediately. But above all else, I learned, often the hard way, to never be too surprised about anything.
When my boys were little, they loved making up their own games. Toys were nice and all, but what fun are toys if a boy is confined to playing with them according to the manufacturer’s directions? Their room had one of those red, twin over full bunk beds that were popular in the 90s. That bunk bed was their headquarters.
One game didn’t even need toys, or at least I think it didn’t. The details are still a very sketchy and well-guarded secret. When I heard them calling out KNOCK THE STATUE!!! from their room, curiosity would get the better of me and I would have to investigate. It makes a mother a little nervous when she goes to check on the kids, only to find them sitting politely, hands folded in their laps and smiling innocently up at her. I needed quieter shoes.
I never knew exactly what Knock the Statue was or how to play it. I knew it involved the bunk bed, but that’s as much information as they allowed me to have. I did get a clue one day when I heard my younger son yelling to his brother, “But I don’t want to be the statue anymore!” Quieter shoes. Definitely.
Their bunk bed was also the scene for a rather creative dinner. It was Easter, and they were both still pre-school aged. Ever the adventurer in the kitchen, I decided that we would have a nice roast duck for the holiday meal. The boys were fascinated. “Duck? We’re eating a DUCK? Do people eat ducks? Mommy, how did you catch a duck?
Seated at the dinner table, they oohed and aahed over the roasted bird laid out on my best platter surrounded by spring vegetables. After dinner, they went off to play in their room while I tidied up the kitchen. When I checked on them, I was mildly alarmed to find the bottom bunk set as a dinner table.
Their Donald Duck stuffed toy was sprawled out, surrounded by Legos, on one of my platters as the main course. They were discussing who was going to cut him up with a toy, rubber camping knife when they noticed me standing in doorway. “Hi Mommy! Wanna have some Donald? We’ll share!” They both fell back on the bed giggling, and I declined a portion of their meal, retreating to the kitchen to laugh myself silly. I still don’t know how they got past me to swipe the platter from the kitchen.
Boys are a never ending source of wild imagination blended with reckless abandon. Even though they are now in their twenties, the fun and games have never stopped. And I have developed an awfully high tolerance for the unexpected. However, I will still draw the line at eating a Disney character, even if he is stuffed.


Bag Lady

Every couple of months I discover some rank odor coming from my purse. It's a Mary Poppins bag. Everything and anything goes in there and sometimes it doesn't come out. My most recent cleansing produced the most interesting assortment of contents. Some you'd expect to find: keys, wallet, cell phone. Others I'd completely forgotten about and was rather suprised to find them.
  1. Diapers. You never know.
  2. A bag of goldfish
  3. Matchbox cars
  4. My Little Ponies
  5. A thermometer
  6. A rectal thermometer (don't mix those up)
  7. Horse feed
  8. A naughty nurse uniform
  9. Alphabet flashcards (they don't go with the uniform)
  10. Sugar cubes
  11. Chic Fil A ranch dipping sauce
  12. A book
  13. A kindle (I don't own one)
  14. An expired juice box
  15. Some kind of herb in a baggy. (have no idea how that got there)
  16. Sunglasses I thought I'd lost.
  17. Army Men (not real ones. That'd be freaking awesome)
  18. A cricket
  19. Rocks
  20. A pair of mypanties (clean)
  21. Portable DVD player. (been looking for that)
  22. Your mom.


Stress Relief

It occurred to me during a yoga pose called something like Backward Pretzel Dog or Upward Facing Masochist that there had to be a way to relieve stress that didn't involve listening to the ominous sound of my joints popping like cap guns.

I got the brilliant idea to take up yoga after my mother casually commented during our weekly grocery shopping trip that I seemed a little tense.

"What do you mean?" I asked, stopping my cart so I could turn and look at her.

She jabbed a thumb over her shoulder at the aisle behind us and the people in various stages of picking themselves up after I'd mowed them down, bumper-cart style. "You just seem a little...wound up," she said.


In the checkout line, I suggested to the woman behind us, in the kindest possible terms, that if she continued to allow her child to attempt to ram her cart up my backside I would be forced to shove said child inside one of the game machines in front of the store, and she could collect him when she left. If she had the two quarters necessary to activate the claw, of course.

Maybe my mother had a point.

When I got home, I checked out stress relief techniques online, and decided that I needed to simplify and reorganize my life, beginning with my house. Now, as anyone who knows me will be all too delighted to tell you, I'm not much of a homemaker. My house has a lived-in yard-sale motif that I've grown fond of, but which reminds visitors that schizophrenia is a real and devastating illness. I have also inherited the Pack Rat Gene from my father, which prevents me from getting rid of anything, including junk mail and the boxes that 12-packs of soda come in. Don't judge me - those boxes and heaps of credit card and auto warranty offers might come in handy someday, should we decide to host a bonfire big enough to be seen from the international space station.

I discovered two things when I tried to simplify my living space: first, that simplifying is not as simple as it looks, and second, that I'm no good at interior decorating. I was loath to spend money on new furniture when that money could be so much better spent on important things like movies and new toys for my dog. My "decorating" involved pushing the couch into a different position and laying out wallpapering tools in the foolish hope that I'd ever actually feel like wallpapering. So instead of simplifying, I'd added to the general chaos. So much for stress relief method number one.

Next came meditation, which on paper sounded promising. It involved sitting quietly in one place, which appealed to my lazy nature, and it also sounded like an excellent way of putting off cleaning up the mess caused by the Great Decorating Debacle. Unfortunately, it turned out that while sitting still I was supposed to focus on my innermost thoughts. I lasted roughly thirty seconds before focusing on a chocolate craving that would not be placated by any number of mantras. Ten pounds later, I gave up on meditation.

Yoga came next, but my chiropractor politely suggested that I stop after he had to straighten my spine out of its epic Twister position for the third time.

These stress-relief practices were more effective at causing stress than reducing it, and by the next week's shopping trip I was wound tighter than a fiddle string. My knuckles turned white on the cart handle as I started playing chicken with the stockboys' moving dollies.

My mother didn't comment until we reached the checkout aisle. By this time my knuckles were no longer white, and I felt better than I had all week. As we stacked our items on the conveyor, Mom looked up at me and smiled.

"You seem calm now. Almost serene."

I paused with a package of lunchmeat in one hand and glanced back the way we'd come, but most of the carnage was hidden by a greeting card display. I smiled anyway and turned back to her.

"Maybe we should start shopping twice a week."