Sunday, May 30, 2010


Michael and I were watching the season finale of Parenthood a few nights ago - great update of the classic '80s comedy - and it really made me wonder: as a parent, will I forever be blamed for my child's mistakes?

In case you haven't been watching, here's the specific situation I'm referring to: teenaged cousins, (high-achieving) Haddie and (apathetic) Amber are fighting over a boy. This particular boy was Haddie's boyfriend. He was pressuring her to have sex. Haddie felt that she wasn't ready, so after talking it over with the more relationship-wordly Amber, she decided to break up with him. A week later? Amber sleeps with Haddie's ex. Burn!

There's more to it than that. Like that Amber and this boy actually like each other, and that Amber didn't mean for things to go down this way. But that doesn't matter because Haddie is pissed. And Haddie's parents, when they find out about it, are pissed on her behalf.

But who do Haddie's parents take it out on? Amber's mom!

It doesn't help that Amber's mom was/will-always-be-known-as the screwup of her family, sort of like Amber. She's used to being the one who's messed up. So when her brother and sister-in-law start giving her the cold shoulder? She acts like she deserves it.

But does she really? Amber's mom didn't encourage her to "steal" her cousin's boyfriend. Amber's mom found out about it the same time Haddie's parents did. After the fact. And she was just as horrified at her daughter's behavior. So how is it suddenly her fault?

Yes, we are responsible for teaching our children manners and morals. And for a while, we should cop it when they make mistakes. But when they're teenagers? And they are screwing up left and right? And it is over personal relationships, which they have only just begun to navigate? Is that really our fault?

Of course, they all made up by the end of the finale. An Amber's-run-away scare made everyone realize that family was what was really important. Haddie and Amber laughed and hugged. The parents' anger dissolved like a cube of sugar in the rain. All was well.

Maybe the situation was intensified because it involved family. But if Scarlett or Sosie ever "steals" someone else's boyfriend? I am so not taking the blame for that.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Jane Yolen Could Be My Bestest Friend

I used to work at a bookstore. The childrens' section was closest to the registers, and I primarily worked as a cashier. Mostly because I did not constantly bitch and moan about having to stand there all day. Like everyone else did. But I digress.

Every day, I would see customers go over to the childrens' section and talk to each other loudly about what storybooks you "had" to get. And you know what they were always talking about? Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. These customers (read: loud Southern ladies) would go on and on about how sweet this book is, how darling, how perfect it was.

At this point in my life I did not have children. So I mostly ignored them. But then? I became pregnant with the little bean that would become Scarlett. I started thinking about things like what storybooks I would read to her. So one day, I trotted over to the childrens' section, picked up this book, and looked to see what all the fuss was about.

And people? This is the creepiest book I have ever read. Seriously. It gave me the skeeves even worse than when I read Running With Scissors (which is surprisingly filthy for a bestseller that was made into a film.)

I don't often share my opinion of this book, because when I have, I have found it does not make me popular. When I told my best friend I thought it was creepy? She actually pouted. She pushed out her lip and said, "Awww, but it's so sweet." Okay. Never mind.

When a childrens' librarian recommended it to me and I said, "Actually I read it and I thought it was really creepy," she gave me this look like I was the one who was creepy. No, y'all. The book is creepy.

For a long time I thought I was alone on this. And then? I read this, in Take Joy: A Writer's Guide to Loving the Craft by awesome childrens' book author Jane Yolen: "You may adore Love You Forever, but I hear it as a story about an overbearing and smothering mother who infantilizes her son and can only tell him she loves him when he is fast asleep. I also contend that she drugs his cocoa. And that when the man's baby daughter wakes up sixteen years later and finds him fondling her in her room, she will be calling 911 and going into therapy." Bazinga!

Me and Jane, if we were ever to meet? We would be friends.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Awesome Pledge: Epic Fail

Remember the Awesome Pledge? Yeah, it didn't work out.

I thought it was going well until this morning... duhn-duhn-DUHNNNN. I wake Scarlett up so we could get ready to go to Miss Babysitter's, and she had peed in her bed. Nooooooo. And after I removed the strategically-placed towel from under her sheet because I was convinced she had the Nighttime Bladder of Steel!

Sigh. No time to get worked up over it. Pop the sheets in the washer, blah blah blah, leave for the day.

Fast-forward to this evening. Scarlett and Sosie are watching Max & Ruby. I am in the bedroom, folding the laundry, when I hear Scarlett start yelling something. I come into the hallway and see that she is standing in front of the couch, peeing on the floor. She is frozen in mid-pee. She cannot run to the bathroom, although that is probably for the best, or there would be a trail of pee for me to clean up instead of one spot. Sigh.

Get a towel, grumble grumble. Clean up the pee, grumble grumble. Give Scarlett a bath, grumble grumble. How could the Awesome Pledge have gone wrong? I was so sure that it would work - it was all positivity and self-esteem-affirmingness! Isn't that what parents are supposed to do these days?

On another note, I have noticed a way that Sosie declares her love for me. What is it, you ask? How does a two-month-old show you she loves you? She only poops when she's home with me.

That's right! Her little gummy smiles are great, but she gives them to everybody. Her dirty diapers? She saves those for me. **swells with pride**

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cranky Pants

It is ten o'clock in the morning, and I already want a Coke.

I decided to give up Coke at nine o'clock, when I bought sushi and a bottled water for breakfast from the grocery store. Now I have had my sushi and bottled water, and while it was delicious, I still want a Coke. Sigh.

I am trying a new clear-skin diet, because I am tired of looking like a pizza-face. I am tired of getting headaches and feeling like crap. I would like to be healthy and have clear skin and awesome hair. Apparently this involves eating a lot of seafood. I was supposed to have salmon for breakfast. I don't have salmon because I don't have food at my house - and if I did, there certainly would not be salmon. There would be Coke.

There is no food at my house because I did not feel like going to the grocery store yesterday. I had a headache, I was wearing my cranky pants, and I just wanted to be left alone. Alone did not happen.

Scarlett follows me. Everywhere. Even if I am just going across the living room. If I stop and turn around too fast? I will fall right over her. I have tried to tell her that she doesn't need to follow me. Apparently, she disagrees.

Sosie needs to eat. She needs clean bottles to eat. She needs boiled water to make formula to eat. She needs me to hold her to eat. She needs me. She needs to eat. Again.

Michael comes home and wants to lay on me. I want him to get away. He stays. And he calls Scarlett over to hug me too. Sosie is already hugging me - she just ate. Why do these people love me? Can't they tell that I am wearing my cranky pants? And that I have pizza-face and unawesome hair? What is wrong with them?

I have to go to the grocery store today. I still don't want to. I'm feeling another headache coming on. And when I go home? There will be Coke. Coke I am not supposed to drink. And pizza. Pizza like my face. Sigh.

I might need a bigger pair of cranky pants.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What's A Grown-Up?

This morning, I am helping Scarlett get dressed. While she puts her pants on, she tells me, "Mommy, Daddy said his words."

"Mommy and Daddy words" are what we call swear words. The ones that Daddy says every time he is playing the Xbox, and the ones that Mommy says whenever she drops something. Which is quite often. On both counts.

I decided some time ago that when it came time for Scarlett to try to repeat these words, I would not call them "bad words."

My logic? Calling them "bad words" might make them more appealing. And, if they are "bad" then you have your toddler telling you that you said a bad word. Toddlers understand what "bad" is. Do you need your toddler getting on to you every time you drop an F-bomb? I don't. Especially not as many times as I happen to drop them.

So I said, "It's okay if Daddy said his words. Daddy is allowed to say them because he's a grown-up."

Scarlett's little eyebrow shot up. "What's a grown-up?"

Me: "Mommy and Daddy are grown-ups." And y'all? I said that with a straight face.

Scarlett: "But what is a grown-up?" Darn. She's onto us.

Me: "Grown-ups are big and strong and they do stuff like go to work and drive cars and pay bills."

Scarlett: "Can I pay bills, Mommy?"

Me: "When you're a grown-up, you can." But you'll wish you didn't have to, I don't add.

She trots off to dance to something on Lazytown. I hate Lazytown. But I digress.

Y'all? I don't feel like a grown-up. I still feel like I'm 12 years old. When you're a kid, you think grown-ups have all the answers. You think you'll hit that magic age where you will suddenly have it all together and always know the best thing to do. And then you grow up and you realize it's never going to happen. Nobody knows anything. They are just making it up as they go along.

I really hope I'm making up the right things.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Awesome Pledge

I have had to clean up pee three times in the last two days. W.T.F.

Scarlett is potty-trained. She usually does so well. She never has accidents at night. But occasionally? She will have an accident during the day. Usually on the bathroom floor right in front of the toilet, because she didn't manage to get there quite fast enough.

Usually? I am understanding. I don't get mad. I clean up the mess, I clean her up, and I tell her that she needs to go potty on the toilet next time. All calm and the like.

Last night, she peed on the floor right before bedtime. I was understanding. She seemed to not be feeling well. I let it slide.

This morning, it happened again. This is unusual. I was kind of mad. I tried not to yell too much. I cleaned it up and I cleaned her up, and we went about our day.

Tonight? She did it again. W.T. F.

I was very, very mad. I could not immediately put her in the bath because I was feeding Sosie. I had Scarlett sit on the toilet until I could come and deal with it. When I did come back to the bathroom, I did not yell. But I talked very loudly about cleaning up pee, and big girls needing to go on the toilet, and how she was not going to have anything else to drink for the remainder of the night, and how she would never be allowed to wear shoes in the house again because they were slowing her down when she had to take her bottoms off to get onto the toilet, and so on. I was very, very mad.

After we took a dual shower so I could clean her up (again!) I felt bad about being mad. But I was still mad. Why all of a sudden is she peeing on the floor? I know she is capable of making it to the toilet. There has to be some kind of reason!

Normally? I would analyze and come up with a reason, and then try to talk to her about it or fix it. But you know what? I don't have time for that. She has to stop peeing on the floor immediately.

I say to her, "Scarlett? The reason that Mommy gets so frustrated when you pee on the floor? It's because I know you can do better than that. Because you are awesome at going potty." Her eyes light up. I hold up my palm. "I want you to tell me, 'Mommy, I'm awesome and I pee on the potty!' and then give me a high-five!"

She repeats it. She high-fives. She seems excited. I hope this works. But she's still not getting a drink with her dinner.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Things I Need But Am Too Embarrassed to Buy

You know how when you go to the store and you buy certain things, you feel like people will be all judgy? Or you buy some things that are perfectly innocent on their own, but combined on the checkout conveyor belt they seem... interesting?

Like if you needed whipped cream, batteries, a disposable camera, and Vaseline?

Are you getting ready for a wild night of monkey love?


Are you getting ready for a Halloween party? (Whipped cream for the pie, batteries for your stereo so you can play spooky sounds, a disposable camera to capture all those wacky costumes, and Vaseline to keep your carved pumpkins from rotting! Yaaay!)

But some things are not innocent all on their own. Some things are so embarrassing that I wouldn't buy them no matter how badly I was suffering. Like:

1. Beano

This product would sooo help me. My husband says when he comes to bed after I am already asleep and he lifts up the covers? A rancid cloud of trapped gas hits him square in the face. (I have no idea what he is talking about.) Beano could help me get some extra sleep-cuddles. But will I buy it? No. I don't want everyone in the store thinking I'm farty. I'm not. I swear.

2. Anti Monkey Butt Powder

Hunh. So that's what people call it. Monkey Butt.

When I noticed this on the shelves while I was waiting on antibiotics for Scarlett at the Walmart pharmacy counter? I was afraid to even laugh because I didn't want anyone to notice me looking at it. I will also not be buying this one, no matter how great the website says it is. Nope.

3. Moist Wipes Emblazoned with the Brand Name of a Toilet Paper, Such as Cottonelle

No thank you. I will continue to buy value-sized boxes of baby wipes, ahem, for my newborn. They do the same job, but make people picture sweet little baby bottoms instead of the alternative.

4. Preparation H

There's a reason "the H" makes lists of most-shoplifted products. I think it has to do with the word "preparation." Imagine if there was a brand of tampons called "Preparation V." I think I would have to object. Calling it "the H" almost makes it sound cool. Genius, right?

5. Adult diapers

Okay, so I don't need these right now. And I did read an article in this month's Parents magazine in which comedian Jay Mohr asserts they are awesome. But when I do need them? I doubt I will be buying them. Unless it is 2 minutes before store closing and there is no one there but a bunch of cashiers who are too busy staring at the clock to notice what the old lady is buying. Maybe then.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ice Cream Meltdown

When I arrive at Miss Babysitter's house today? Scarlett is screaming. She is screaming, "I neeeeeeed iiiice creeeeaam!"

Miss Babysitter says to me, "She took her nap today..." YESSS! "...but I had to wake her up just now."


Scarlett is still screaming about the ice cream, which she cannot have because Mommy is here and it is time to go home. Miss Babysitter says, "You can have ice cream next time you come."

More screaming. I say, "If you stop screaming and ask nicely, Mommy will think about getting you ice cream."

It takes several minutes of "calm downs" and "stop screamings" before Scarlett actually listens. But she is still mad. She stomps out to the car. Then she refuses to get in unless she can sit in the front. I explain why she cannot do that. She glowers at me. I threaten her future ice cream privileges. She gets in the car.

I buckle her in, but I allow her to close the strap fastener herself. This is one of our daily compromises that allow her some independence. If I forget and do it myself? A fit will be thrown.

But today, Scarlett gets mad that I let her do it. "YOU want to do it!" she growls through clenched teeth, as though my letting her do it means I'm a terrible mother. Sigh.

She starts up the yelling about ice cream again. I try to be patient and calm about this. She was woken from her nap after an hour when she could have easily slept for another two. She is grumpy. Like a bear whose hibernation has been interrupted.

Finally I cannot take it. I scream, "If you don't stop screaming at me RIGHT NOW you will NEVER have ice cream again! BE QUIET or you get NOTHING!"

I don't hear a peep out of her again. Meanwhile, I have been starving since about eleven o'clock, and it is almost four. I drive to McDonald's. They are advertising new snack-sized McFlurrys. Perfect. I get her an M&Ms one.

As soon as we drive away, the thing starts to melt and puddle all over me. Even with the air conditioner on full-blast. I love the South in the summer.

We finally get home. I ask Scarlett to carry her McFlurry cup inside. She is all excited. "Does it have chocolate, Momma?" Chocolate is a super-bonus.

We get inside. I tell Scarlett I will put her ice cream in a bowl for her. I give her the part that has managed to stay frozen and stuck to the plastic spoon. I pour the melty part in the sink. Oh, crap. The M&Ms had all settled to the bottom, and now they are all in the sink.

I give Scarlett the ice cream and hope for the best. She doesn't notice that she has about 1/6th the number of M&Ms she started with. She eats her ice cream. She is happy. Meltdown over.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Food Fights

Scarlett has always been a "good" eater. As a baby, she never turned her nose up at anything. She loved fruits. She loved vegetables. She loved cereal. She loved everything.

Now? She loves snacks.

She still likes vegetables. And fruits. She calls fruit cups "candy." But making her a meal can be pretty hit-or-miss. She will happily graze on crackers, cookies, and Dora snacks, but if I ask her to sit down for some alphabet soup or raviolis, it turns into a food fight.

Last night I made soft tacos for dinner. Scarlett was not eating it.

Me: "You need to take bites, honey."

Me: "Eat your dinner, or you won't get any snacks."

Scarlett: "Snacks!"

Me: "Then eat."

**Ten minutes later, still not eating**

Me: "Show me the train, Scarlett." This is a trick Michael came up with, and it usually works. Scarlett will pick up a bite of food and pretend that the food is a train, and her mouth is the tunnel. And she will eat. That one bite. But this time, she will not do it.

**Five minutes later, STILL not eating**

Me, fed up: "Scarlett, if you don't start eating your food, I will take your milk away!"

Scarlett, glancing at her plate: "Can you take my food away?"


Nigel No-Friends

The other day, the kids and I were in the car, on our way home from Miss Babysitter's house. It was that magical time in the afternoon when all of the school buses are out delivering kids to their homes, where they will run inside and have snacks and avoid doing their homework for a little while. We came upon a school bus doing a drop-off when I pulled into the turn lane for our apartment complex, and so I paused and we watched it.

Scarlett was excited. She LOVES school buses. Loves them. She desperately wants to go to school, and ride on a school bus to get there. There are times when I must explain to her every day of the week why she cannot go yet. So when we saw the kids getting off the bus, Scarlett said, "Look, Mommy! Those are my FRIENDS! I want to say hi to my friends."

So I rolled down her window, and as we drove past all the kids walking to their apartments, Scarlett shouted at them with glee: "Hi, guys! Hiiiii! Hi, friends!"

When she does this, it is so darn cute that my heart just about bursts. I'm almost tearing up just thinking about how cute it was. My daughter does not know a stranger. She will say hello to anyone. She calls every single child she sees "my friend" regardless of how old they might be or the fact that she doesn't actually know them.

She is completely unlike me.

As a child, my Mom tells me I rarely talked at all. My sister says I would hide in the cupboard when people came over to our house. As an adult, not much has changed. I'm almost incapable of having conversations with people. Not because I'm mean or snobby. Because I just don't know what to say, and I really worry about saying something and sounding weird or stupid.

I've tried to explain to other people how neurotic I am. They don't get it. In college, I took a psychology course called Tests and Measurements. The professor had us take some diagnostic tests. For fun, and also to see how the testing and scoring worked. One of these tests measured how neurotic you are. After scoring your test, you were supposed to plot your score on a graph. The professor called out the scoring range and told us where we should plot our score accordingly.

I raised my hand. "What if your score is off the chart?" This was not a hypothetical question. My score was higher than the range he had given.

The professor seemed perplexed. "Your score can't be off the chart," he said. He assumed I must have scored my test incorrectly. So he came over and went through every single question with me, and the scores for each answer I had given. When it turned out that I did score it correctly? He seemed at a loss for what to say. He was, as they say, nonplussed.

It didn't help that my friend Amanda, who was sitting right next to me, was giggling uncontrollably.

"Well," I said finally, "Looks like I'm your new best friend!" Because he was a Psych professor. And I was obviously mental. He thought that was very funny. And Amanda? She snorted, she was laughing so hard.

So when I say that my social anxiety is crippling? I am very, very serious. And I feel so guilty that my gorgeous daughters are stuck with me. Because the thought of going to playgroups or the playground? Ack. A sleepover party with a handful of friends over? Cold sweat. A birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese with their entire school class invited, and all of their parents? Nuclear meltdown!

I was thinking about all of this after we went inside, while I was changing Sosie's diaper. What if I keep my daughters from making friends, simply because I cannot bear to be in these social situations? Will they be embarrassed of me? Will they wish they had a different mother?

I feel little arms wrap around my shoulders. Scarlett has given me a spontaneous hug. "I love you, Mommy."

Yes, she does. And I love her. So much. So I'd better get prepared for those horrible birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese. Because it's only three more years until she starts school.

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

I am 26 years old. I am still afraid of the dark.

When I was a kid living in Germany, my older sister had a slumber party, and I wanted to be included. That night, she and her friends watched one or two Nightmare on Elm Street movies. And then they turned out all the lights and went to sleep. I distinctly remember lying in my sleeping bag in the pitch dark, desperately wishing I could go sleep with my parents and being too terrified to move. I was literally paralyzed with fear.

My fear of Freddy Krueger has not lessened over time. If I see any kind of horror movie trailer, I always think of Freddy. If I start thinking of Freddy, my ability to do simple things is impeded. Like taking a shower. Or not running down the hallway after leaving the bathroom as though something scary might be chasing me.

When I had Scarlett, I decided that I didn't want her to still be scared of the dark in her twenties. I decided I would teach her not to be afraid of the dark. So from the time she was sleeping in her own room, she has slept in the dark. No nightlight. No door partially opened to let in light from the hallway. Just the dark. Until recently.

We've been having some trouble getting Scarlett to bed. She'll get in bed and say goodnight and seem okay, and then after I close the door, she'll start screaming for me. When I come back and ask her what's wrong, it's always that she wanted to tell me something. Like "sweet dreams." She'll do this many, many times before she goes to sleep.

So I started thinking, Hunh. Maybe she's afraid of the dark. Maybe you just can't teach someone not to be afraid of the dark. So I put a nightlight in her room, hoping it would help. And I didn't mention it to Michael.

Michael has always thought that you can teach kids to be scared of stuff. Like if they happen to see something scary, say during a movie, you shouldn't turn to them and go, "Are you scared? Come sit in my lap so you won't be scared." Because that teaches them the appropriate response is to be scared. He thinks you should insist that whatever it is is not scary, and in the case of movies, only pretend. I agree that it should work that way. I just don't think it actually does. I know Freddy Krueger isn't real. I know about movie makeup and fake blood and special effects. I know that when you go back and watch Nightmare on Elm Street films, they are very '80s, and campy, and not so realistic-looking compared to what moviemakers can do today. But afterward? The idea of a burn-ey guy with knives on his fingers who can be in the walls or mattresses? Scares the bejeebus out of me.

One time, when we first started dating, Michael thought it would be funny to scare me. He called me over to the computer and told me to try this maze. "You can't touch the walls of the maze, or you fail," he said. Okay. You moved through the maze by moving the mouse/cursor. It started out very easy. The walls of the maze were pretty wide, and the cursor was pretty small.

But then, on the third level? It got harder. The end of the maze became very narrow. Like the same width as the tiny cursor. I concentrated very hard. I leaned in very close to the screen, and I moved the cursor very slowly. I was totally going to beat this maze. And then? When my cursor did touch the wall? The screen changed to a giant close-up picture of Linda Blair in The Exorcist, when she's all scratched-up and bleedy and crazy-eyed, and it growled at me. And the volume on the computer was turned all. The. Way. Up.

I screamed. And then I started crying. I was crying so hard that I literally could not breathe. For a minute there, I just tried and tried and tried to suck in oxygen and nothing was happening. I thought I was going to die. In fact, it was this very incident that finally convinced me that if I did, indeed, ever come into contact with a psycho-murderer trying to attack me? I would die. I would definitely, absolutely die. It should be called fight, flight, or freeze-and-pee-your-pants. Because my defensive biological response is much closer to that third one.

In case you're wondering, Michael did feel very bad about that, and he hugged me until I stopped crying and repeatedly told me he was sorry. At that point in our relationship, you see, he didn't really know what kind of neurotic mess he had gotten himself involved with. Now, he has seen all of my crazy. Well, most of it. And he is still here. But I digress.

When Michael realized I had put the nightlight in Scarlett's room, he was kind of mad. He believes I have ruined her and she will always be scared now. He tried a few times to put her to bed without turning it on. But sometimes I would sneak back in and turn it on anyway. And other times she screamed for me and asked me to turn it on. So I guess she's kind of attached to it now.

But it hasn't cured the screaming. Sigh.

If you'd like to see this Exorcist maze yourself, click here. But be careful - you might find out that your response is much closer to that third option, too. And then you will need new pants.

Body Curious

Scarlett is very body-curious right now, as most toddlers probably are. She likes to talk about pee-pee's and boobies and point them out on other people. Much to Michael's chagrin, she's the most curious about him. Mostly because he guards his goodies like Ciara. (I'll give you a hint:" They stay in the jar.") And he's the only boy around for miles.

"If you'd just let her see it, she'll leave you alone!" I'm always saying, through fits of giggles, while he keeps his hands firmly clasped over the, ahem, "convenience" opening in his pajama pants. If Scarlett spots a gap in the fabric the thickness of a credit card, she'll announce, "I see your pee-pee!" It's all very funny, especially when Michael starts blushing.

As for me, I'm old news. She's been in the bathroom with me practically since she was born. She used to shower with me. (In fact, it's kind of disappointing that she refuses to do it now. A dual shower is sooo much easier than having to give her a bath. Sigh.) Sometimes, though, she'll catch me by surprise.

Like this morning, when she was using the potty, and I was undressing to jump into the shower. Just as I pulled back the curtain to turn on the water, I hear, "Mommy? Can I touch your boobies?" Uhhhh... no.

When I get out of the shower, Michael tells me that she was jumping around in our room and saying, "You know my pee-pee? You can call it a pat-pat." A pat-pat? Yikes.

Then, as soon as we got home today, I heard, "Mommy? Can I take my clothes off?"

Me: "What?"

Scarlett: "Can I take my clothes off and pretend to go to the beach?"

Oh, right. Her new favorite game is to strip down to her undies and be "at the beach." She once set up a piece of cardboard on the couch and laid on it, semi-upright, as though she were suntanning on a poolside lounger. She didn't learn that from me - my alabaster Irish-influenced skin does nothing but burn, blister, and peel.

Me: Sigh. "Okay."

A few minutes later, Scarlett: "Mommy? Can you take your clothes off?"
Me: "Uhhh... no."

Scarlett: "Can you take your clothes off and dip your feet in the water?"

Me: "No."

Scarlett: "Do you want to take your clothes off?"
Me: "No. I do not want to take my clothes off, and I am not going to take my clothes off."

Scarlett, with her lip pushing out sadly: "Okay, Mommy."

It suddenly occurred to me that she might be asking to play this game at Miss Babysitter's house. Jeez.

The One Who Had Two

Remember back in grade school when you learned about geneaology, and you were assigned the inevitable Family Tree Project? Mine was pretty pathetic. I could list my grandparents and great-grandparents on my mom's side, and just my grandparents on my bio-dad's side. And I was not artistic. And I had no idea how family tree charts were supposed to look. And I did not have those hovering parents who cannot bear for their child to represent them badly by turning in less-than-stellar homework and so they do projects FOR their children. (Thank God.)

So picture a mostly white posterboard with a sad, tiny chart in the middle that looked more like one of those brainstorming maps with random bubbles and lines than anything having to do with family trees. That was mine. And I clearly remember how embarrassing it was to have to present it to the class after seeing all of the other, clearly parentally-enhanced posterboards that my classmates had brought in. Especially that boy - who, by the way, readily admitted his father "helped" (read: did it for him) - whose posterboard was completely filled up with a perfect grid of circles and squares and tiny block lettering identifying the gender, name, and relationships of his entire family, including cousins, going back six generations. Jeez.

I dread the day that my daughters are assigned this particular project.

Not just because I don't know any more about the previous generations of my family than I did back in 5th grade. Or because I have a bad feeling that my Magilla Gorilla-sized need for approval will cause me to turn into one of those awful hovering parents, helicoptoring around watching my child struggle and then grabbing the pencil out of her tiny hand and saying, "Let Mommy try for a minute." **shudders**

You see, my daughters' family tree is going to have to be a little... branchy. Because my husband made a couple of branches before he made some with me. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. Millions of people are living that reality. It's just that I hate the way it sounds when I try to explain it to people. People who keep the smile on their faces but let their eyes get all judgy.

"Well, we have two daughters, and then Michael has a daughter with his ex-wife, and then he also has a son with another ex. And his son has a half-sister and now his ex-wife is having another baby this summer." With her boyfriend, not my husband. Just in case your mind went there.

So in the world of halves and wholes, my daughters are full-blooded sisters. Then they have a half-sister and half-brother. Then their half-siblings have other siblings that they are not related to at all. So in theory, because my stepdaughter's brother (when he's born) will not be related to Scarlett and Sosie, but they will probably see him a lot (because our families are friends, and with visitation drop-offs and birthday parties and whatnot) it is entirely possible that one of them could date or even marry their sister's brother. Weeeiirrrrrd. I don't even want to think about what that family tree would look like. I might have nightmares.

One day, I can't really remember how it came up, but my husband and I were talking about how he's kind of a man-slut. And we were saying how I was "special" because I broke his pattern of caveman-style procreation. Because back in the old days, it made better evolutionary sense for a male to spread his genes around, and have as many children with as many different women as he possibly could. But I digress.

So he says to me that I should get an award. Or maybe I said that. I don't remember. But then he says - and it was definitely him - that my award could be inscribed, "The One Who Had Two." Yeesh. If you're laughing, are you doing that combination groan-laugh that you make when you think something is both funny and terrible, and maybe you shouldn't be laughing at it but you are? Yeah. That's how I laughed, too.

But, honestly? It does make me feel special. My husband is the absolute best guy for me, and I couldn't be prouder of our two little branches. Maybe I'll make myself a T-shirt. The One Who Had Two. It could be a riot at family reunions.

Enabling: Enabled

This morning was the first time my girls were being left with their new babysitter. It was also only my second day back to work since the birth of my second daughter, Sosie. So it was my first morning of getting both girls ready to leave the house in the time crunch that is getting to work. To top it all, I had to be there 4 hours earlier than I normally would because we had a staff meeting.

Now, I am not organized at the best of times. But this morning was made exponentially worse by the fact that I hadn't packed the diaper bag the night before. Why not? Because before I could get to it, I got sucked in to watching LOST. And during LOST, Sosie fell asleep on my chest. And then I got sucked in to watching Parenthood. And then about halfway through our DVRed recording, my husband, Michael, tosses me the remote and tells me he's going to bed.

WTF? I say that out loud. "WTF?"

He's all, "What?"

I say, "Why did you even start Parenthood if you knew you were going to bed?" You see, Michael loves TV. I like TV, but I can take it or leave it. Especially since we have a DVR, and I can watch our shows whenever I want. Especially when I have THINGS TO DO that should not be put off until tomorrow. Because I am a Major Procrastinator. And I had argued against even sitting down to watch LOST because I had THINGS TO DO. Like packing the diaper bag. But I digress.

So he says, "I told you I have to be up early tomorrow."

I fume, "I told you that I had things to do!"

Him: "But you still sat down to watch LOST."

Me: "Because you badgered me! And the baby had to eat!"

Him: "And then you laid the recliner back and didn't get up again."

Me, defensively: "I got tired!"

Him, innocently: "Just do your stuff tomorrow."

Sigh. It is now 12:30 am. I am very tired. Tomorrow morning is not going to go well. And it is clearly his fault. Michael is frequently guilty of what I like to think of as "Procrastination Enabling." This is not his first offense.

Fast forward to this morning. I do not get up as early as I should. I try desperately to hurry my toddler, Scarlett, along as she gets dressed and eats some cereal. If you have experience with toddlers, you know how that worked out. Baby Sosie must be dressed, then fed. I need to leave the house, but Sosie hasn't finished her bottle. I cut her off and strap her into her carseat anyway, and she promptly spits up all over herself. Perfect.

It is ten minutes after we should have left. I have to shove the kids in the car and follow Mapquest directions to our new babysitter's house. I am not direction-savvy at the best of times. It is a certainty that I will make wrong turns. And I do. Three times. Even with MapQuest. And calling said babysitter to clarify MapQuest.

Even Scarlett notices something is up, after I have made my second wrong turn and turned around to go back the way we came. She asks me, "Where is Miss Babysitter?" I have coached her to call the babysitter "Miss FirstName." I think it's respectful without being schoolmarmy. Relaxed respect, if you will.

Me: "Mommy's trying her best to find her, sweetie." Notice the liberties I take with the word "best." Settin' the bar high, people!

We finally arrive at the babysitter's house at the exact time that the staff meeting should be starting. Which is exactly 30 minutes after the time at which I told Miss Babysitter to expect us. So instead of looking like the reliable, capable, good mother that I want to be, I look like a frazzled, unprepared, not-punctual mom with a spit-uppy baby. How to salvage this? My mind cranks like a P.O.S. car. I am not good "on-the-spot" at the best of times.

Miss Babysitter: "It wasn't that hard to find, was it?"

Me, blurtily: "Uh, no, I'm just a spaz." D'oh!

This is all. Michael's. Fault.

Or is it? Whhyyy do I let him talk me into procrastinating when I know how it will turn out? I'm enabling his enabling! Do they have support groups for that? Procastinators' Enablers' Enablers. Like AA, only... yeah.

5 Things I Didn't Know Before I Had Kids

1. The cat is just a cat.

I had pets for most of my childhood - a dog, some hamsters, a couple of cats - that for one reason or another, usually because we were moving, we would have to give away. This always devastated me. I luuurved cats. So as soon as I moved out on my own, I adopted one. A gorgeous cat named Matilda. I loved that cat like a fat kid loves cake. Then, I had a baby.

Suddenly I didn't have a lot of time to smother Matilda with kisses. I also had a severe cash flow shortage. I made the decision to give Matilda back to the shelter. Did I feel bad? Sure. Was I stricken with guilt? Not really. I never realized how much my cats were my babies until I had a baby baby.

2. You shouldn't actually use baby powder on babies.

That cute little white bottle of talc-based powder you got at your shower? It's a no-no! Who knew?! Pediatricians recommend that if you want to use a powder during a diaper change, you should use one that is cornstarch-based.

3. This quote from A Christmas Story sums up the motherhood experience perfectly: "My mother had not had a hot meal for herself in fifteen years."

First I make my toddler a plate. Then I make my husband a plate. Then I make mine. I finally sit down. Then, you name it. The baby starts crying. My toddler needs more juice/a napkin/to go to the bathroom. By the time I get to eat, I'm pissed off and my food needs to be nuked. Aargh.

4. There would come a time when I would actually be happy to see a poopy diaper.

YESSS! She's not constipated! It's so sad when your little precious needs to unload and just can't.

5. The real reason they have that unwritten rule that you shouldn't take your newborn out in public for the first few weeks? It's because both of you should be in diapers. And only one of you is.

Incontinence, anyone? **slowly raises hand**

What neat things did you learn when you had kids? I'd love to hear them.

7 Things You Shouldn't Say to a Pregnant Woman

If you've ever been pregnant, you know that people can say some silly things to you. I've been through it twice, and some of the things I heard are enough to make your eye twitch. Here are some of my favorites:

1, Are you sure you don’t have twins in there?

2. What do you mean you want another girl?! You already have one!

3. That lady asked me when you were due, so I told her. She kept going on and on about how ‘small’ you are, but I just don’t think she got a good look at you.

4. Wow, you’re carrying low/high. You must be having a boy/girl/multiples/etc.

5. Look, your belly jiggles when you laugh!

6. Every week, I think it isn’t possible that you could get any bigger. And every week, you do!

7. You look ready to drop any second! Are you ready?

I heard every single one of these things while I was expecting my second daughter. Verbatim. My favorite is #3, which comes from a sweet coworker of mine who didn’t seem to realize what she was saying because she kept saying it. Over. And over. “I just don’t think she got a good look at you.” Heh.

You should watch what you say to a pregnant woman, because a pregnant woman never forgets. Just like… err, wait. Never mind.