Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Son, the Art Prodigy

First of all, I thought about apologizing for neglecting this blog for so very long, but whatever.  I think we can all accept the fact that I'm a lazy slacking procrastinator so let's move on and get to this latest installment of the psycho.

My baby, my Terzo, my adorable little boy with the long, curly, surfer dude hair and drama queen tendencies has turned out to be an art prodigy.  Given his father's artistic talents, this is hardly surprising.  And like all true artists, Terzo pushes boundaries with his work, defying conventions and shattering all preconceived notions about the subject matter of childhood art.  Terzo's astounding gift first appeared when, at the tender age of four, he proudly handed me this drawing:
Clearly, this is the work of an astounding mind.  Let's dissect the symbolism here, shall we?  The two headed dragon (obviously a dragon and not a dinosaur, because the tail has a point at the end) represents Life.  Life is big and vomiting hot lava on the tiny, agonized people below. You could also interpret this as Life greedily sucking the blood, or will to continue living, from the tiny sad people with wings on their heads.  Or pigtails.  Whatever.  The point is, during the period of his life when Terzo created this piece, he had a lot of turbulence.  The stress of attending preschool, not always getting chocolate chip waffles for breakfast, and finally being forced to dress himself clearly made Terzo think about the human condition.

A year or so later, Terzo produced another work in honor of Mother's Day.  Traditionally, children choose subjects such as hearts, smiley faces, or flowers for Mother's Day art.  Not content to confine himself to such stereotypes, Terzo instead chose to take his love for me in another direction entirely.
Yes, his name is hidden for his own protection.  The last thing I need is some crazed art fan kidnapping my prodigy before I get him on the Today Show.  Anyway, this piece is titled Mother's Day Vampire with Unibrow.  Obviously, a nod to Frida Kahlo.  Being five years old is difficult.  Making the transition to kindergarten where the crowds of adoring little girls only got bigger (not to mention the pressure of having the teacher wrapped firmly around his little finger) caused a level of stress that Terzo could only express through his art.  Mother's Day Vampire with Unibrow, like the earlier dragon work, speaks to us about the draining drudgery of day to day life.  Or maybe it means, "Mom, when you forget to buy chocolate chip waffles you are draining me of the will to live." 

Terzo turned six this past year and, as his recent art demonstrates, has clearly matured.  His work explores new themes and invokes visceral reactions from his audience (i.e. his siblings and parents).  The sensitive nature of his latest pieces turned him inward with reflection.  His new-found maturity is shy, causing him to hide his work until he feels his audience is emotionally ready to absorb his latest message.  In other words, he folds his drawings up really, really small and tapes them into little envelopes and hides them from his mother.  Because true art must be revealed to the world, it is my sacred duty to wait until he's asleep, sneak into his room, scan his drawings into the computer, and share them with all of you.  Be warned, this type of high art is only for the truly cultured to appreciate.
This nearly monochromatic human study is titled Hermaphrodite with Weapons.  Or maybe it's a portrait of Ke$ha, I'm not really sure.  Doesn't she call herself "hot and dangerous" in one of her songs?  Um, not that I listen to Ke$ha...  Anyway.  Hermaphrodite with Weapons addresses issues of body image.  This person is portrayed as being very happy to be naked, armed with a gun and a big sword, perky boobs, and testicles sticking out of his/her hips.  He/She isn't only happy, but proclaims to the world, "I'm hot!"  Terzo's work tells us to love ourselves no matter how oddly proportioned our privates may be.  So what if your arms look like flippers and one of your eyes is half the size of the other?  Put a smile on your face and brandish your guns proudly!

Finally, I submit this last work for your artistic consideration, simply titled Nude Kid.   Although Terzo also hid this work in a tiny, homemade envelope, I feel it is important for the world to be exposed to this kind of raw genius.
Now, there appears to be several things happening.  At first glance, it looks like a naked kid with an albino penis is peeing on the floor.  His neck might be growing out of his torso, but his nipples are giving off rays like the sun so he's very happy.  The splash of color here really draws the eye, although the small evil face under the bed (birthday cake?  sink?  what the heck is that?) to the left is rather unsettling.  This work clearly means something unpleasant is always lurking nearby, ready to squash our joyful outpourings. 

I am taking offers from serious collectors wanting to purchase an original Terzo.  His best work must remain with us as part of his portfolio for applying to art school, but because it's only a matter of time before the school psychologist misunderstands my precious prodigy, any future sales of his artwork will be placed into a therapy fund. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Laxative Incident

During Terzo's late infant/early toddler months, he suffered from severe constipation.  He was still breastfed, but his diet seriously lacked variety.  He ate bread, cheese, and those dried apple snacks from the baby food aisle.  That's it.  No real fruit, no meat, no vegetables, not even a sip of juice here and there.  It's no wonder the kid could only move his bowels once a week and those events were marked by crying, vomiting, and wonderment.  Wonderment, because the resulting diaper changes had my husband and me standing around questioning the laws of physics.  Seriously, I'd add a drawing here just to illustrate how unbelievably brick-like Terzo's poops were but no one would believe it.

At Terzo's one year checkup, his pediatrician prescribed a laxative powder that I'd mix into water (or juice, if I could get him to drink that) and would help him move his bowels like a normal human being.  She cautioned me that the dosage may need adjusting once the laxative started to take full effect.  When we got home, I dutifully followed the doctor's instructions and started giving Terzo the laxative once a day.

Two days later, my husband took off for a business trip.  Dinner time rolled around, and I had so little desire to cook that I did the unthinkable.  I took three children out to dinner alone.  Prima had just turned seven, Secondo was two and a half, and, like I said, Terzo was one.  I chose a restaurant close to home, someplace with decent food and a kid-friendly attitude disguised by grown-up decor.  The few other weeknight diners were spread throughout the dining room.  We ate a quiet meal and, as the waitress took our dessert order I began to smugly congratulate myself on my outstanding parenting skills.  My mind wandered into a favorite fantasy, where other diners approached our table and complemented me on the fine manners and exceptional beauty of my children.  "Why dear, we didn't even realize there were children in the restaurant!" they'd gush.

Then, I looked and Terzo and my heart sank.

Red face.  Eyes squeezed shut.  Tense little body.  Grunting.  Oh, the dreaded poop face!  It was too late to do anything other than wait for him to finish and hope he didn't throw up.  Then, I remembered the laxatives.  Would they be working already?  I scooted over to take a quick peek down the back of Terzo's little jeans as he sat in the restaurant's high chair, and the sight which assaulted my eyes is something I will never forget as long as I live.

A stain, spreading nearly all the way up the back of his shirt.  As if that wasn't bad enough, poo began to ooze over the top of his diaper, right into his pants.  Horrified, I decided my only option was to throw the kids into the minivan, race home, and hose Terzo down in the yard. was winter.  Never mind.

I'd have to use the restaurant bathroom.  I grabbed the diaper bag and did a quick inventory.

Not good.  One pink sock, one diaper, three ancient Cheerios, two baby wipes, a tongue depressor, and Terzo's Yankees jacket.  The curse of the third child strikes again.  Who really bothers to leave the house prepared after that third baby comes along?

As I sat trying to figure out what to do with Prima and Secondo while I attempted to clean Terzo up, the waitress returned with dessert.  I had no choice but to rely on the ice cream to keep the two older kids at the table while I was in the bathroom, which (luckily) was very close to our seats.  I gingerly picked Terzo up, holding him at arms' length, and carried him into the bathroom.

That's when the real fun began.  Keeping my ears peeled for unusual noises from the dining room, I stripped Terzo to his birthday suit and attempted to clean him up with only two baby wipes.  Not happening.  I grabbed fistfuls of coarse paper towels from the bathroom's dispenser, wet them in the sink, and tried to clean Terzo as he checked out the exciting world of Restaurant Bathroom.  Because, no way was I going to make that kid lay down on a public restroom floor.  If you've never had to clean liquid feces off an extremely mobile toddler while preventing him from playing in a public toilet, you haven't truly lived.

Listening hard for sounds from the dining room,  I anxiously waited to hear an outraged voice exclaim, "Why are these poor young children here alone?!?!  Call the police and DCF immediately!!"  Or, the sounds of little feet running around the restaurant, shattering china, thrown cutlery, and the insane giggles of children on a destructive rampage.

But all was quiet.  Too quiet.  What if my kids weren't even in the restaurant any more?  What if they were, at that very moment, being lured into a shabby van filled with shadowy, creepy people?

Working frantically now, I wiped as much poo out of Terzo's pants as I could and put them back on his little body.  His shirt was beyond help, so I tossed it into the garbage with a huge pile of soiled paper towels and a diaper that was, quite possibly, the smelliest diaper in human history.  I zipped Terzo into his jacket and hoped it wasn't obvious he had no shirt on underneath it.  I sat back, surveyed my apparently clean child, and then thought, "Oh, crap."  Literally.

In my desperation to change Terzo while psychically monitoring my other children, I hadn't even noticed how unclean the bathroom had become.  We'd managed to smear poo on the floor, on the potty, and on the wall.  Oh, and on my jeans.  Thank goodness for well-stocked paper towel dispensers.  A few quick wipes, and the evidence of our diaper disaster had disappeared.  Well, other than the horrifying odor.

After thoroughly scrubbing both our hands, I held my breath and carried Terzo out of the restroom.  I didn't even want to know what Prima and Secondo had done to entertain themselves during that little poop party.  When I saw them still sitting quietly, eating ice cream and not surrounded by cops, social workers, reporters, and outraged restaurant patrons (not to mention creepy van owners), I felt indescribable relief.

The bill paid, I quietly informed the waitress that someone should change the garbage in the bathroom.  I really hope they also doused the entire room in undiluted bleach.  I took everyone home, gave Terzo a bath, took a shower, and washed our clothes twelve times in hot water.  I vowed never to leave the house without a well-stocked diaper bag again, never to take three children out to eat alone again (and yeah, those vows were broken pretty quickly), and to immediately cut back on that laxative dosage.

Five years later, I'm happy to report that Terzo's diet has somewhat improved.  He'll eat a few kinds of fruit, anyway, and hasn't had a need for laxatives for years.  His bowels are quite regular in that he moves them almost daily.  He also manages to clog the toilet almost daily.  Yes, he still defies the laws of physics.  How is it that the smallest person in our family, the person who ingests the least amount of food, produces unflushable poo?  Sometimes, my husband and I just stand and stare at the toilet in wonderment.  Should we call the Guinness World Record people?  A doctor?  An exorcist?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Magic Trick

During her toddler and preschool years, Prima attended a wonderful daycare center.  She loved her friends, she loved her teachers, and she loved the special activities the center had to offer.

One special event in particular earned Prima's adoration above anything else.  Once a year, the daycare arranged a special magic show put on by a performer called The Amazing Andy.

The Amazing Andy stood before his pint-sized audience dressed in snazzy stripes and suspenders with a top hat over his long hair.  He conducted his magic show in a high, squeaky voice and didn't get discouraged when his tricks went terribly wrong.  The children howled when his magic wands fell apart or his magic rings refused to come unstuck.  They gleefully shouted his special magic words along with him:  "Pink Panther Pickles With Ketchup On Top!!"  

By the way, I spent a good part of the day today trying to remember The Amazing Andy's exact magic words.  I made the mistake of asking my husband if he could remember them and he said, "Yeah, it's 'Abracadabra I'm a Pedophile."  So you see, my husband is clearly to blame for all of the insanity in our family.

Being chosen as The Amazing Andy's assistant was the highlight of many a child's daycare experience, and Prima was no different.  When The Amazing Andy chose her out of a crowd of eager preschoolers to assist with a magic trick, her face glowed with something akin to religious fervor.  Her eyes sparkled and her little body trembled with such joy I honestly thought she might collapse in some kind of fit.  

I think it was the best moment of her life.

That night, Prima emerged from the playroom and announced to my husband and me, "I am going to do a magic trick just like The Amazing Andy.  I memorized his magic words."  

She brandished a magic wand and a rubber ducky with such confidence.  How could her trick fail?  Prima carefully hid the duck under a plastic bin.  "I'm going to make this rubber duckie...DISAPPEAR!"  She took a deep breath, waved her wand in dramatic circles over the bin, and spoke the magic words.  "Pink panther pickles with ketchup on top!"

Without hesitation, Prima lifted the bin to revel in the success of her magical abilities.  Incomprehensibly, the duckie still sat there.  Mocking her with its cheerful grin.

Never one to immediately accept defeat, Prima tried again.  And again.  The duckie refused to disappear, and Prima's faith in The Amazing Andy's magic words began to falter.

So, we did what any decent parents would do.  We helped our poor, sad, nonmagical child achieve her goal.  My husband said, "Maybe it would work better if you closed your eyes while you said the magic words."

"Yes," I added, "and say the words really slowly.  Three times."

Because she trusted her parents without question, Prima immediately put our advice to the test.  Once again, she hid the duckie.  Once again, she took a deep breath and began to wave her magic wand.  She spoke the magic words slowly and clearly, "Pink panther pickles with ketchup on top.  Pink panther pickles with ketchup on top.  Pink panther pickles with ketchup on top."  

Slowly, hopefully, she reached down to look under the bin.


Oh, the joy and rapture!!  The thrill, the elation the exultation!  Prima did real, actual magic!

Who knows where that rubber duckie ended up.  An alternate universe?  A strange bathtub on the other side of the world?  Mars?  Or, maybe someplace a bit closer to home.

Prima tried many times to recreate her one magical moment, but it seemed her supply of magic had run out.  For years, she honestly believed she'd made that rubber ducky disappear and we didn't have the heart to tell her otherwise.  Sometimes what's funny when you have a preschooler isn't so funny when you have an older child who still tells people about the time she accomplished real magic while you stand awkwardly by, smiling, and knowing someday that poor kid is going to be seriously pissed off at you.

Yes, we eventually told her the truth.  She yelled at us.  She might still be a little bitter.  OK,  a lot bitter.  But she also spent a few years thinking she'd done the impossible.  She believed she could make magic.

And you know what?  I believe she still can make magic.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How My Dad Tried to Kill Me. Repeatedly.

You are cordially invited to join me on a trip down memory lane.  Yes, we're visiting the days of my childhood, when a Happy Meal on a TV tray in front of a new episode of The A Team represented the pinnacle of bliss.  When a trip to the drugstore for candy cigarettes and a Phil Collins record, followed by a stop at the bookstore for the latest Sweet Valley High book, imparted each day with the kind of silver lining that we spend our entire adulthood trying to recapture.  That's where we're headed today, only we aren't going to explore those bright moments of childish pleasure.  We're visiting the darker side of childhood.  This is the stuff Stephen King novels are made of, so be warned.

I didn't immediately realize my dad was trying to kill me.  As an adult looking back, however, it's clear he was trying to get rid of me in some way that would make him look totally innocent.  As the years progressed, his methods became more reckless, more open, and it's a true miracle that I am still around to tell you about it.

The first attempt on my life came when I was 12.  We'd moved to a rural area and my dad purchased his first tools of murder:  a rope, a sled, and an ATV.

Looks like fun, right?  What could be better than sitting on a flimsy piece of plastic, being pulled at high speed across a snowy field littered with rocks, no helmet on your fragile head, until a sharp turn sends you flying off across the snow, tumbling helplessly across the hard ground over and over until you finally come to a rest and lie staring up at the sky and gingerly testing your limbs to see if any are broken?  Amazingly, I suffered not a single concussion, contusion, or fracture.  Opinions vary on the issue of brain damage.

When death by extreme sledding failed to end my life, my dad upped his game.  He bought a boat.  He docked the boat on Lake Michigan, probably because a huge lake would be a good place to make a body disappear.  His murder plot this time took on a subtle twist, requiring an iron will and large amounts of patience.  Oh, and a bucket.
That's right, death by seasickness.  You have to admire the beauty of this plan.  If I hacked up a vital organ and puked myself to death, that certainly wouldn't be his fault!  No one could claim he had control over my defective inner ears.  My extreme sea sickness as we trolled along all day, fishing incessantly, must have given him hope that he'd finally do me in.  His gleeful jokes about chum gave him away every time!  I should have known a more sinister purpose lie behind those fishing trips.  Why would anyone buy a large boat, dock it two hours from home, invest in high-tech fishing gear, and then spend weekend after weekend fishing when he didn't even eat the damn fish!   Highly suspicious.

 Not one to give up easily, my dad devised another method to put an end to my existence.  He didn't give up on the boat right away, and can you blame him?  That's quite an investment as a murder weapon.  Even though it failed him in the past, my dad turned to a variation of original murder plot.  He sure had a fascination with using large vehicles to drag me around.

Let me tell you, if someone offers to tie an inner tube to their 28 foot boat and pull you across a gigantic lake, be prepared for how extremely fast that boat can go.  It was the sled and the ATV all over again, except with insanely deep water.  When you are flying along at that kind of speed, like at a lot of knots or whatever, and the maniac driving the boat takes a sudden turn, you don't just fall off.  You hit the water, tumble around for a while, and suddenly realize you don't know which way is up.  There are no clues to show you which way to swim in order to reach life-giving oxygen, which is an indescribably horrible sensation.

Luckily, my dad overlooked the life jacket I strapped on before jumping into the inner tube.  All that overzealous blood lust probably distracted him.  Just as I thought I was about to drown, I popped back up to the surface like a cute redheaded cork, gasping and spluttering and waving my little arms around.

All that failure must have had a demoralizing effect on my dad because he gave up on trying to kill me for a while.  Maybe he thought I was growing suspicious and wanted to lull me into letting my guard down.  I shudder to think what would have happened if he'd known I still had no idea my life was in danger.

I was in high school before he acted on a sudden opportunity.  My dad collected guns.  He kept them in a cabinet in his bedroom.  Now that I think about it, the cabinet was probably unlocked.  Just sitting there, full of loaded guns in case someone (me) decided to try to play with them.  My dad said he only used the guns for target practice and for attempting to rid our pond of muskrats.

One hot summer night, my friend Angel and I returned from a movie and decided (with a lot of giggling) to go skinny dipping in the pond.  The rest of the house was asleep, so we ran and giggled down the hill to the water, stripped, and jumped in and giggled some more.  We swam and splashed and giggled and talked about boys until suddenly a voice floated out of the darkness and put an end to the giggles.  We froze.

There on the bank, just visible in the moonlight, stood my dad.

Armed.  With a really big gun.  A fast thinker, he tried to play it off.  "What in the hell are you doing?"  Like I was going to tell my dad I was skinny dipping.  After I replied that Angel and I went swimming in the mucky pond to cool off, like all normal people do in the middle of the night, my dad had to come up with a reason to have been stalking me with a gun.  "Oh, I saw something in the water and thought it was muskrats.  Good thing I came down here to check it out and didn't just shoot from the deck."

Yeah, good thing Dad or there would have been a witness!

Another failed (and awkward) murder attempt.  The idea of using a gun stuck, however, but my dad had to be patient.  A few more years passed before he struck again.  I was in college, and I can only assume the high tuition bills and my desire to be a useless, unemployable writing major pushed him over the edge.  He threw caution to the wind in one final, desperate attempt on my life.

The date, July 4th.  The time, too late to have much fun thanks to my stupid job at the stupid grocery store deli.  By the time I got home from work, the house was dark and silent.  I changed out of my completely stupid deli uniform just in time to run back outside and jump into my boyfriend Joe's car.  Joe's friend Kyle was with him, and the two of them had some seriously wicked M-80 firecrackers.  Up to that point, I'd never actually seen an M-80.  Joe and Kyle were eager to show me what the firecracker could do, so I directed them toward our neighbor's mailbox.  This particular neighbor was a real jerk, so it was OK.  We drove over to the neighbor's place where one of the boys lit an M-80 and tossed it into the mailbox.  As we drove off, we heard a loud boom and laughed our delinquent heads off.  

Because we lived on a cul-de-sac, we had to turn around.  Joe pulled back into my driveway, put his car in reverse, and then paused.

"Did you hear that?" he said.
"Yeah, Kyle did you light another firecracker?" I asked.
"No, that was a GUN!"  Kyle yelled.

Joe and I scoffed at that until we saw the horrifying sight illuminated by Joe's headlights.

My dad, overcome by murderous rage, rushed out into the front yard, clad only in his whitey tighties, was shooting at me!  In front of witnesses!  Joe flew out of the driveway and back up the street and I suddenly realized what had been going on all those years.  My own dad, while pretending to do cool stuff like sledding and fishing and ridding the world of large rodents, had been trying to kill me!

He did a decent job of covering it up the next day.  He claimed not to recognize my boyfriend's car.  He claimed to think we were common hooligans on a mailbox destroying rampage.

Oh, but I know the truth Dad.  I know.  And guess what pal?  You failed!  All those attempts to end my life, and all you accomplished was giving me a fun childhood!  So ha!  Jokes on you!

*I don't know what the statute of limitations is in Indiana for attempted murder, so in the interests of honesty I'm forced to admit that my dad didn't actually fire the gun AT the car.
**Names have been changed to protect the innocent, and also so that no one will ask Angel if my dad saw her nekkid.  Because that would probably be more awkward than him mistaking us for rodents and almost shooting us.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Poker Face

When you become a parent for the first time, there are certain supplies you know you'll need.  Crib, stroller, car seat, pacifier, Vodka.  Then, there are those supplies no one tells you to stock up on.  You have to learn as you go and hopefully not inflict too much damage on your child along the way.  I think this is why most people have more than one kid.  The second baby is a do-over, a chance to finally get it right after that first practice round.  Luckily for my almost dozens of readers, I'm here to share one essential parenting tool you won't be able to live without.  You can't register for it at Babies R Us or pick one up on eBay or Craig's List.  It takes practice and nerves of steel.

I'm talking about the poker face.  

I never had a good poker face until Prima reached the toddler years.  Until then, I'd managed with inferior strategies like making up a reason to turn my back on her so she couldn't see my face or just quickly leaving the room with my head buried in my hands.  As Prima got older, it became clear I needed to improve my game before she developed severe emotional scars.

The first incident happened when Prima was about two years old.  She walked up to me, lifted her shirt over her adorable toddler belly, and said, "Mommy, what's this?"

 Faced with my first parasite-feeding-off-my-child's-blood challenge, I panicked.

Apparently, to a small child a parent's look of shock translates to this:

Prima completely freaked out.  Removing a tick from a child's belly is hard enough when the child is calm.  Trying to perform such a delicate operation when the child is crying, thrashing around, and screaming, "Get it off me!  Get it off me!" is pretty much impossible.  No amount of reassurance or calming from me could counter the effects of that initial moment of shock and horror.  The tick eventually came off and I vowed to hide my emotions behind an impervious poker face in the future.

Unfortunately, I didn't do so well with that vow.  One morning, Prima played happily in her room while I got ready for the day in the bathroom down the hall.  I heard her little feet come tapping down the hardwood floors but, being busy with my mascara, didn't actually look down at her as she came to stand in the bathroom doorway.  She said, "Mommy, I think I need a tissue."  I turned to her and saw something like this:

Blood.  Lots of blood, smeared and splattered over my only child.  The sight of her gory face caught me off guard, and I did it again.  My poker face failed me, and the expression on my face instantly conveyed this message to Prima:

Once again, our house filled with drama.  Who would have thought a little nosebleed could inspire so much fear?  However, I'd finally learned my lesson.  My poker face would never fail me again.  No matter what emergency presented itself, I remained an immovable rock of stoicism and rationality.  Nothing could shake my poker face.

Until Secondo was born.  For the first three years of his life, he suffered from a serious deficiency of the self-preservation desire.  Sometimes my poker face could withstand the onslaught of his death wish, but all too often it failed me.  Luckily, Secondo seemed impervious to the effects of parental shock, fear, and horror.  Even the time he grabbed a garter snake which then wrapped itself around his leg and bit him, didn't phase him in the least.

Even though Mommy and Daddy stood there staring with looks of complete panic on our faces, he didn't get upset.  When I screamed and my husband dramatically ripped the snake off Secondo's leg and threw it across the yard (yes yes, poor snake, but sheesh people it had it's teeth in my child's leg!), Secondo didn't bat an eyelash.  When the blood started trickling down his leg from the puncture wounds inflicted by the garter snake's needle-like teeth, Secondo only shrugged.  

Apparently, Secondo did not interpret the Shocked Mommy face in the same way Prima did.  To him, a look of panic somehow translated to:

So, in order to avoid encouraging my second child to kill himself before his fourth birthday, I once again had to practice keeping my poker face on at all times.  Or at least, until he outgrew his suicidal tendencies.

Then Terzo came along, and I totally gave up on the poker face.  Who has time for worrying about emotional scars?  Anyway, it's kind of funny when a kid freaks out and thinks he's going to die because he swallowed a Lego or landed on his head on some cement.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ugly Baby Bread

Today I'm taking a break from the normal psycho to bring you an entirely new flavor of psycho.  Is this an altruistic urge to broaden your horizons?  No, sillies!  It's a blatant attempt to win the lovely Rhoda the Sock Zombie in an awesome contest from fellow blogger Chelle and her hilariously funny Coffee & Zombie Movies blog.  How does one win a sock zombie?  By creating some ugly bread and sharing it with the world, that's how!

My biggest obstacle in this ugly bread mission would be my ability to bake wonderful, beautiful, delicious bread.  Hey, it's not bragging if it's true!  Now, if the contest involved making an ugly cake, I'd be a shoo in!  I have loads of practice with ugly cakes because I lack the patience and finesse to decorate a cake in any sort of attractive way.  Yummy, yes.  Pretty, no.

Which gave me an idea.  All this thought of ugly bread and ugly cake reminded me of one of my all-time favorite blogs:  Cake Wrecks.  If you're not familiar with it, the folks at Cake Wrecks share pictures of professionally decorated cakes gone terribly wrong.  The most disturbing cakes on the site, in my opinion, are the baby shower cakes decorated to look like newborn babies.  Here's an example from Cake Wrecks:

Is it just me, or is that completely disturbing?  Yeah, it's kind of cute, but somebody has to cut that thing up and serve it on pretty little plates!  Who wants a baby shower that involves cutting up and devouring a baby?

This makes me want to go to school to learn how to make and decorate baby cakes.  ONLY baby cakes.  Then, I'm going to start a party planning business but ONLY plan baby showers that feature my specially-made baby cakes.

When my clients show up for their baby shower, they'll be amazed at the decorations.

Yeah, that's very classy decor inspired by the hit Showtime series "Dexter," which happens to be the best TV show in the entire universe.  It's the perfect setting for carving a baby cake.

Not just any baby cake, by my very own baby cake featuring Red Velvet Lava filling.  It's like a chocolate lava cake, but with a red velvet twist.  Here, I'll let that disturbing baby cake from Cake Wrecks give a demonstration:

If you're going to have a creepy cake at your baby shower, you might as well embrace the creepiness and run with it.  This almost makes me want to get knocked up again just to have a creepy baby shower with a Red Velvet Lava Baby Cake served in a Dexter kill room.  Almost.

But hey, if you're planning a baby shower in the future and would like to consult with me, let me know!  I'd be happy to help!

All this ruminating on baby cakes, besides probably qualifying me for some kind of mental disorder, led to the inspiration for my very own ugly bread.  If someone can make an ugly baby cake, why couldn't I make some ugly baby bread?

I started off with my favorite, easiest bread recipe.  It's quick and doesn't involve any kneading or real effort.  Just warm water, yeast, flour, and salt.  The dough started out looking like it always does.

After a bit of rising, I oiled up a baking pan with olive oil and worked a bit of Frankenstein magic that dough.  I brushed it with more olive oil and covered it so the yeasties could get busy and help put some life into my ugly baby bread.

Vaguely humanoid and satisfyingly ugly, but something was missing.  I rummaged through the cabinets and found some stuff to make my ugly baby bread really pop.

Trail mix, dried cranberries, and one cinnamon Cheerio totally transformed the ugly baby bread into something spectacular!  Still ugly, but with pizazz!  Now the ugly baby bread only needed to work on his tan.  After 25 minutes in the tanning booth (a.k.a. the oven) at 400 degrees, he looked like this:

That's some ugly baby bread all right.

With a face only a mother could love!  Sure, some of his "hair" fell off in the oven, but don't most babies develop bald spots from lazily lying around all day?

As the children trickled in from school, they had various comments about the ugly baby bread.  Terzo asked if he could eat the head and Secondo requested a limb or two to gnaw on.  Prima just asked, "What is that?"  I said, "It's ugly bread!"  She said, "You got that right."  I really don't understand why my kids are so warped and smart alecky.

The ugly baby bread was laid on the sacrificial altar of Afternoon Snack.  He might have been ugly on the outside, but inside he was beautifully chewy with a delicate, moist crumb.

He was awesomely delicious, as a matter of fact.  I think he knew it, too, because even after being pulled apart and devoured by human vultures he still looked happy.

All in all, the ugly bread journey taught me a valuable lesson.  Who needs beautifully decorated cakes, anyway?  So much time and effort for something that gets hacked apart and eaten after only a few brief moments of admiration, when throwing together a batch of ugly bread is so much faster, easier, and versatile.  We had ugly bread with dinner (tuna melts!) and ugly bread for breakfast, toasted with a bit of apricot preserves.  Ugly doesn't mean not yummy!

Now gimme my sock zombie!! 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Neighbor, the Cookie, and the Flaming Bag of Poo

A few days ago, Prima and I bundled up and braved the enormous piles of snow in order to carry on a well-loved tradition:  the selling of Girl Scout cookies.  Unlike most Girl Scouts today, Prima actually walks around from door to door to peddle her overpriced and overprocessed (but overyummy) wares.  Her goal was to surpass last year's sales, which were rather dismal because every stupid person on our street wasn't home on the one afternoon she attempted to sell cookies.

So, we first tackled our own side of the street with great success.  I noticed that people were very willing to buy cookies and didn't need much in the way of encouragement.  At each house, we found people home and hungry for cookies, so happy to fill out that little order form.  By the time we made our way to the house directly across from our own, Prima had already beaten last year's sales.  As we worked our way through the snow to the door of our next victim, I smugly thought of how happy this particular neighbor would be to buy a box or two of cookies.  Even though I don't know her name and haven't spoken more than a handful of words to her over the past several years, I knew without a doubt that she would have to buy some cookies out of sheer obligation.  Why?  When she wasn't home on her birthday, I accepted flowers on her behalf and hand delivered them when she got home from work.  When the snow plow knocked her mailbox off its post during each storm we've had this winter, we* fixed it for her.  We* dug a path to her mailbox so her mail could be delivered.  When my husband and Secondo saw her struggling to shovel her driveway, they went over to help her even though they were worn out from shoveling our own driveway.

That woman owed us.  Like, a lot.

Such were my thoughts as Prima knocked.  We waited.  The door opened, and the woman snapped, "I'm sorry, we're not interested" in a tone that really meant "Get the hell away from my door and how dare you bother me!"  Prima didn't even get a chance to say hello, let alone extol on the wonders of the Thin Mint or the Thank You Berry Munch!

Outwardly, I was Good Mom.  I made excuses for the woman's behavior, shrugged it off, laughed about it, and simply walked with Prima to the next house.  Inwardly, I was Evil Mom.  I mean, what kind of person is rude to a Girl Scout?

Let's analyze this for a minute.  You're having a quiet afternoon at home when you hear a knock on the door.  You aren't expecting company.  If you're like me (and you might want to start praying that you aren't), your first thought is something like, "Oh crap, how do I get rid of the religious fundamentalists without being an asshole?"  Then, you look through the door and see this:
(R.F. = religious fundamentalist)

Clearly, a Girl Scout selling cookies.

Now, let's take a look at what was going on with the neighbor.  She was not on fire.

I'm sure we would have noticed something like that.  She also did not appear to be suffering from an axe murderer attack.

Again, pretty obvious.  Being on fire or having multiple axe wounds excuses one from following conventional forms of manners, don't you think?

Just to cover all the bases, she was also not being eaten by a large carnivorous reptile.

In other words, she had no discernible reason not to devote an extra ten seconds of her time to communicating her thoughts in a way that wouldn't have been completely rude.

The more I think about that rude woman, the more annoyed I get.  I'm not completely delusional and don't expect every person in the world to order Girl Scout cookies from my kid.  But is it too much to expect an adult to be polite to a kid, especially when it seems like so many adults are moaning and groaning about the lack of manners in children today?

Now I spend way too much time gleefully thinking of ways to sabotage this lady's life.  I daydream about her coming over to borrow a cup of sugar so I can say no and quickly shut the door in her face. Maybe I'll pelt her with Girl Scout cookies as she runs, weeping, across the street.

Maybe I'll call every single religious establishment in town, pretend to be her, and ask to be put on their mailing list.  Might as well include religious establishments in the surrounding towns as well.  To be thorough, I guess I should put her on the mailing lists for some of those adult "toy" stores too.  I'm a firm believer in that whole thing about variety being the spice of life.

There's always that classic standby...

We don't have a dog, though, so I'd have to get one of the boys to...OK, never mind.  When I start to disturb myself, that means it's time to stop.

One thing I can tell you is, she's fixing her own damn mailbox from now on and if the florist drops her flowers off at our house, I'm giving them to Prima.

*"we" refers to my husband in this context and in most other contexts involving actual physical labor

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Anatomy Lessons

If you've picked up a parenting book or magazine in the past several years, you've probably read that the best way to talk to young children about their bodies is to use the proper names for things.  It makes sense, right?  You avoid instilling a sense of shame and teach your children that their bodies are natural and not something to keep secret or hidden.  If, like me, you weren't actually a parent yet or had a little non-verbal infant you probably thought, "Huh, that's a great idea.  I am totally going to teach my kid to say vagina and penis!"  

This idea appealed to me so much that I proudly used correct body part words as a daycare teacher.  Didn't phase me.  I could talk about the penis and the vagina all day long.  And don't even get me started on testicles!  Who doesn't like to say testicles?!  

Well, then darling little Prima came along.  What a pretty, angelic little thing, with her wispy blond hair and big blue eyes!  I tried so hard to stick to what the parenting books and magazines said I should do, but I'll admit it.  I failed.  I could not look at that cherubic little face and say the word vagina.   I mean, look at this face.  Could you say vagina to this face?

When that face is your own little child, looking right at it and saying vagina is way harder than those stupid magazines made it sound. In fact, I'm pretty sure whoever wrote those articles didn't even have children.

Teaching Prima about boys' anatomy turned out to be much easier.  I didn't need to worry about saying penis to her because a thoughtful little boy in her daycare class took care of that for me.  Apparently, little Conner's mom and dad could look at his face and say penis without any problems because he knew that word really well.  So well, in fact, that he taught the other little toddlers all about the penis.  

Thanks Conner's mom and dad.  My husband, in particular, loved having a beautiful little daughter who knew the word penis.  For example, when you're a Daddy enjoying lunch at a deli with your special little two year-old girl and she busts out the p word in her loudest, shrillest voice, the pride you feel is indescribable.  

Then, our boys came along.  I realized the blame I put on Conner's mom and dad might have been misplaced because it turns out saying penis to little boys is much easier than saying vagina to little girls.  Unfortunately, the male fascination with that particular appendage starts at an extremely young age.  Secondo initiated quite a few awkward bath time conversations based on his early appreciation for his own anatomy.

My attempts to explain my lack of a penis without using the word vagina only caused more confusion.  Our talks usually went like this:
Secondo:  Why don't you have a penis?
Me:  Girls don't have a penis.
Secondo:  Hahahahaha!!  You have to have a penis or you can't go pee.
Me:  I can go pee, I just don't have a penis.
Secondo:  Yes you do.  Everyone has a penis.
Me:  No, honey.  Girls don't have penises.
Secondo:  Then what do girls have?
Me:  Um.....time to get out of the tub!

Because Terzo has an older brother, I've been able to totally avoid talking to him about human anatomy.  I'm pretty sure penis was one of Terzo's first words.  Secondo also learns interesting words at school and teaches them to Terzo.  With absolutely no effort on my part, both boys learned about wieners and balls.  For a long time, the word wenis found its way into household conversations.  And last week, Secondo asked me what dick means.  I think I put the fear of God into him with that last one, so maybe Terzo won't learn it for another few days.

From time to time, one of the boys publicly brings out the p bomb too.  Most recently, we unexpectedly ran into Santa at the local book store while holiday shopping.  Secondo and Terzo started talking to Santa about what they'd like for Christmas, and when Santa asked if they'd been good little boys Terzo saw an opportunity to sabotage his brother's holiday joy.

Santa's response?  "That's what big brothers are for!  Ho ho ho!"  Gee, thanks Santa.

Being a parent is pretty hard, but there are perks.  We have to take those perks where we can, and one of my favorites is the chance to take a mistake by a child and turn it into a joke that lasts for years.  When Secondo was little he one day noticed his testicles hanging out down there by his penis.  I guess he'd been too interested in the penis before to notice it had company.  When he asked about it, I said, "Those are your testicles."  Testicles is not an easy word for a small child, and for a really long time Secondo couldn't manage it.  He used the closest word he could.  Tentacles.  A better mom probably would have gently corrected him and continued to use the word testicles until he got it right.  But what's the fun of that?  Substituting tentacles for testicles in a conversation is way too entertaining.  Besides, the mental picture is too good to resist.


He'd either be single all his life or the most popular boy EVER.