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Say what??? 12 stupid things people say

We’ve all heard them. We might have even said them from time to time. “It’s like comparing apples to oranges.” “It’s for the best.” “When God closes a door, He opens a window.” We pepper our daily conversations with a lengthy list of cliches and sayings that, regardless of our best intentions, may or may not actually make sense.

There are a few popular expressions that I hear almost daily that never fail to make me wince. Depending on the amount of wine I’ve had, I can usually resist the overwhelming temptation to say “Whut??” (Although not always, often sparking spontaneous verbal sparring matches with drunk party guests, longsuffering parents and self-proclaimed-but-idiot religious experts). On a recent evening rant about expressions that make me crazy, Hubs commented that he was surprised I hadn’t written a blog post about them.

So I did.

The Top 12 Stupidest Things People Say:

1. “There but by the grace of God go I.” Seriously, dude? So what you’re telling me is that God loves you and therefore is gracious in His forgiveness of your screw-ups, but that poor sot must have pissed the Big Guy off because his life sucks. Your God sounds a tad vindictive. Best haul your fortunate butt to church, pronto, and say thanks, before He decides you’re a loser and He takes his grace elsewhere.

2. “Do you want an honest answer?” No. Actually, I prefer that you continue to lie to me every time you open your mouth, as you’ve obviously been doing, since you suddenly seem compelled to offer honesty as an heretofore unexplored option.

3. “I don’t mean to be critical, but…” But BOOM, you’re going to be. Whenever someone starts a sentence with “I don’t mean to be critical/judgmental/mean/fill-in-the-blank-with-something-negative,” that’s exactly what they’re going to be. If you don’t mean to be critical, don’t be. Otherwise, just spit out your criticism or judgment without preamble. You’re not any less of a bitch just because you say you don’t mean to be one.

4. “It just happened.” Often offered up as an excuse for an affair. So let me get this straight. You were standing there feeding the homeless and a huge tornado ripped through the building, ripping your clothes off and blowing you on top of the inexplicably also-naked woman standing next to you? You’re right. It wasn’t your fault. Damn tornadoes.

5. “All things in moderation.” Well, that’s boring. Where’s the passion, the energy, the future blog post?? Moderation may be fine for some things, but moderation doesn’t make memories. “Here lies Vikki. Beloved wife and mother. She did all things in moderation. She was the most boring person on the planet.” Yeah, no. I’m thinking ”Here lies Vikki. Full Steam Ahead, Damn the Consequences. She was crazy, but damn, she was fun.”

6. “Good things come to those who wait.” Then the world is full of lazy freeloaders who are about to strike it rich, because they’ve waited for years. Good things come to those who go out and make it happen. I would never tell my child to wait for what he wants. Worst. Advice. Ever.

7. “Money is not important.” Almost always pretentiously stated by someone who has a butt-load of it. I’ve never heard a poor person say this. But if it’s not important to you, feel free to give me your banking information.

8. “God never gives you more than you can handle.” So what you’re saying is that if God determines that I’m a strong person, He just might heap all sorts of tragedy upon me simply because “I can take it”? Wow. I think I’d prefer God thought I was a total wuss, so He’d never give me anything bad and my life would be all unicorns and rainbows forever. Seriously, people. Y’all need to consider a different church, where God is a little kinder to His flock.

9. “My bad.” In the old days, we used to say “I’m sorry,” which was classier and less flippant. “My bad” is juvenile and patronizing. No one over the age of 20 should use this as an apology for a mistake. Ever.

10. “It was in the last place I looked.” Well, duh. We’re assuming that once you found said lost item, you quit looking, because, well, you found it.

11. “I could care less.” Let’s clear this one up for all time. This means you could care less. As in, “I don’t care much, but it is possible to care less than I do right now.” What most people are trying to say is “I couldn’t care less,” meaning “It’s not possible for me to care less about this.” I’m a grammar buff. You can shoot me now.

12. “That’s just the way I am.” Rarely used to excuse one’s better traits. (“I give $1,000 every year to the Food Bank because that’s just the way I am.” Never heard at a bar.) This one is usually reserved to justify behaviors we should change but have no current plans to do so, and is often offered up by people who believe that all negative behavior is an uncontrollable and incurable disease. If you’re happy and your life is working for you, rock on with your rebel self. But if no one wants to be around you because you’re, well, a total jackass, you might consider being a little less “just the way you are.”

So there you have it. I feel so much better now. If you like this list, add yours in the comment section in my blog. If I’ve offended you in any way, my bad. STOP THAT. I’m sorry. Are we still friends?

— Vikki Claflin

Oregon writer Vikki Claflin writes the popular humor blog, Laugh Lines. Two recent pieces have been published in Life Well Blogged: Parenting Gag Reels — Hilarious Writes and Wrongs: Take 26.

Death of a grandchild

“Granny!” she would shriek as she leaped with abandon into what she trustingly assumed would be my waiting embrace. Her eyes would shine with joy as she anticipated playtime, Granny-style. We would collapse on the floor, surrounded by dolls and other such girlish accoutrements.

Sometimes I got to be the Mommy and she the Daddy, and when she grew tired of parenthood, she would dump her “children” in a box, and we’d dance to the rhythm of Old McDonald, joined by her two brothers (one of whom was her twin). Sibling rivalry would fade into the background as story time began.

Could there be any greater joy?

My beloved granddaughter, Tal  (affectionately called Tali) was just four years old when she died on Aug. 26, 2007. A stunningly beautiful child, she exuded both childlike joy and astounding maturity throughout the ten months of her suffering.  Diagnosed at age three with a rare form of brain cancer, her chances of survival were slim. Nevertheless — as she endured the unspeakable horrors of chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation — we convinced ourselves that she would beat the odds.

There was simply no other way to think.

With heartwarming compassion, the oncologists devised an aggressive treatment regime involving chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation and would require Tali to be hospitalized for the better part of six months.  Since stem cell transplantation carried with it a significant risk of infection (due to the immune system being severely compromised by the treatment), only Tali’s parents were allowed in — one at a time.  If one parent wasn’t well, I became the overnight alternate.

After sanitizing everything and anything in my possession, I would peek in — only to be greeted with an excited “Granny!” — sending my heart soaring to the moon. When she displayed typical 3-year-old silliness, my heart would dance with happiness, and when she was ready for sleep my heart, would melt as she lay quietly, her huge dark eyes locked with mine as I sang to her.

From this child — not yet four — I learned about the capacity of the human psyche to experience joy — and yes, to laugh — even amid unimaginable circumstances.

Discharged home after the last cycle of treatment, she flourished, quickly gaining weight and looking healthy and robust. We dared to be cautiously optimistic, but soon after her fourth birthday came the catastrophic news of a relapse from which she would not recover.

It was unfathomable to imagine a world without this remarkable child.

Words couldn’t possibly capture the depth and breadth of our grief.

Her devastated and devoted parents cared for her at home, where I, too, stayed day and night, terrified to leave. I remember singing “You Are My Sunshine” to her…until I reached “Please don’t take my sunshine away.” I could not go on.

She died two days later.

As I tried to articulate my sorrow, I found myself trying to brush aside my grief, since t was a mere drop in the vast ocean of suffocating agony into which her parents had been plunged. Of what importance could my grief be when the parents were facing a future forever darkened by this inconceivable loss?

Yet I could not ignore the screaming voice inside of me, and I had to keep reminding myself that loss cannot be measured — that my pain, although markedly different than that of Tali’s parents — was real.

Six years have passed since Tali’s death. Time gradually softened the edges of my grief, allowing me to remember with loving tenderness precious moments we had shared — how she would give me Dora stickers for ‘good behavior,’ make up nonsense syllables or declare her love for me (arms outstretched to show me just how much). She loved “chicken muggets” and “pupcakes” but needed “mapkins” to clean her face.  She offered adult-like encouragement when I exaggerated my struggle to master a task (“Good job, Granny!” or “I know you can do it, Granny!”). And she was so proud of her very long string of ‘bravery beads ’ — one for each painful and frightening procedure she endured.

Tali’s surviving twin is now 10 years old. His parents, who never stop grieving for their little girl, must make his birthdays special for him, while simultaneously taking time to remember Tali.  And so, each year the family gets together to carry out a ritual in which we write messages to Tali, paste them onto helium balloons and release the balloons  to drift towards the sky.

Tali’s twin never lets us see what he has written.

— Adele Gould

Originally from South Africa, Adele Gould is a retired social worker who’s passionate about writing. Her blog includes several pieces that have been published in the Globe and Mail in Canada. Adele and her second husband, together 27 years, have eight children and four grandchildren between them. Besides a writer, she’s a woodcarver, avid photographer and volunteer.

Confessions of a born-again nag, or funny, you don’t look shrewish

He was sitting on the couch, peacefully watching the reruns of highlights of an instant replay from a previously shown football game.  Except for the furtive glance aimed at me, he seemed content.

I waded through the empty cans casually strewn on the floor, occasionally slipping on a loose, salted peanut . . . and then it happened.  Slowly at first, I barely noticed its presence.  But the crescendo rose and pulsed through my entire being.  It released its energy through my small, delicate mouth, and I screamed, “Damn it all!  When the hell are you gonna get off that couch and do something around the house?”

Hallelujah!  I was a born-again nag.

The tears came pouring down my cheeks.  He looked at me, and I could tell he was relieved.  He had known with his infinite wisdom that I could not go on with my unnatural silent ways.  He rose to embrace me, his legs a little wobbly.  (He had not used them in several hours.)

“I feel treasured and guilty once again,” he exclaimed. “Thank you for returning to your usual, pestering self, darling.”

How could I have forgotten?  The small print on our marriage contract stated that I was to bug him and the kids whenever I deemed it necessary.  It was my job to do so, always for their own good.

But I had strayed far from my constructive purpose of sweetly informing my family that their actions needed reevaluation.  They thought I didn’t care anymore.

Of course I cared, but I had been brainwashed by lectures, articles and books that told me to let them be. They were free to be who they were without any interference from me.

If a child did not want to do his homework, I was not to reprimand him.  It was his total responsibility.  So if he ended up in jail like a bum, I was not to say a word, but just accept him, and of course visit him every third Thursday.

If he did not care to clean his room, that was his choice.  But if it were necessary for him to wear thigh high boots in order to wade through the debris, he was to pay for them from his own allowance.

I had become so serene that once when we had gone on a trip, I had refrained from telling my husband to slow down, turn right or keep his eyes off the blonde in the tight sweater, so he thought he had left me at home and promptly drove back seven miles before he realized I was sitting quietly beside him.

My conversion inspired me to return to my old (and real) wonderful self.  I informed one son that if he did not get his hair cut, I would legally change his name to Mary Ellen Theresa, and we’d see how the guys on his football team would receive him.  I told my daughter that if the clothes she had borrowed from me were not returned, she would have to repay me for all of them at retail prices, too.

I yelled and harassed and heckled like the old days, and you never saw a happier family.  Joyfully, they shouted, “You care, you care!  Oh, thank you, Mommy.  We were so worried that you were simply too liberated and well adjusted.  We thought it didn’t matter to you what we did.”

I had been saved, and I felt clean and pure.

The final recognition of my salvation came when the children presented me with a sheet of paper and said, “We know you can do it.  You are the best.  You are sure to win, Mom.”

I knew I had been born again.  It was an entry blank for the annual PILLSBURY’S INTERNATIONAL NAG-OFF!

— Jan Marshall

Jan Marshall is a humor columnist, certified clinical hypnotherapist and motivational speaker.  Her latest book is Dancin’ Schmancin’ with the Scars: Finding the Humor No Matter What!

Frizz biz, I was born with a fright wig

In addition to her obsession with Richard Feder of Fort Lee, N.J., Saturday Night Live’s Roseanne Roseannadanna was known for her hairstyle.  The wig (I hope!) worn by Gilda Radner made her look a bit like a frizzy pharaoh.  This is what my hair looks like naturally.  Remember that ad campaign, “Got the frizzies?”  My response, “You talkin’ to me?”

My hair doesn’t work short, it doesn’t work long. I tried chemical treatment once.  It smelled awful and didn’t do much. Granted, that was a while ago. Today you can probably do it with an app. I tried pulling it back, but that gave me headaches.

I’ve started to experiment with anti-frizz products, so far to no avail.  But there are so many to choose from!  There’s Aussie Moist 3-Minute Miracle Deeeep Liquid Conditioner, John Frieda Frizz-Ease Secret Weapon Flawless Finishing Creme, L’Oreal Paris Advanced Haircare Smooth Intense Xtreme Straight Crème and Garnier Fructis Style Sleek & Shine Finish 5-in-1 Serum Spray.  Just to name a few. These names seem scary to me. This is hair, after all, not the plague. Although extreme frizz can feel like a curse.

As a teen in the ’60s I wanted Peggy Lipton’s hair, long and blonde. It just flowed, like the hair of every model in every ad I’ve seen before and since. Peggy would toss her head — ever so sexily — to keep it from falling on her elegant face. Mine never covered my face, although it might blot out the sun.

Some people and characters can do frizzy and look cool, or at least adorable.  Izzy, a character on the cartoon Phineas and Ferb, tells her buddies she has to wash her hair, then dances to the tune, “Izzy’s Got the Frizzies,” pausing to let us know, “It’s because of the humidity.” In my case, it’s because of the heredity.

On a recent cover of O Magazine — theme, “Let’s Talk About Hair!” — Oprah looks out from under a super frizz wig that was said to weigh three pounds.  She called it “my favorite cover ever!” and added, “I wish I could say it was all mine.”

“Your hair looks like Chaka Khan and Diana Ross combined,” said Oprah’s creative director.  How cool is that?  On her, funky.  On me, Halloween.  And I could probably achieve that look, wig-free,  if I let my hair grow for a year or so.

It’s probably time to make peace with my hair, although not to the point of letting it devolve to what is now its natural color.  I’m thankful that my beautiful daughter has brunette Peggy Lipton hair.  I just wish it hadn’t skipped a generation.

— Ann Green

Ann Green is a freelance writer, editor, PR consultant and tutor.

Ghosts of the future

According to paranormal experts, ghosts are often spotted as they go through the motions of their former lives: cooking, walking down the steps and peering out windows.

This distresses me. If I come back as a ghost, I’ll be forever hunched over a computer desk, my brow furrowed and my transparent fingers tapping over an invisible keyboard, desperate to make a deadline that’s centuries overdue.  On the other hand, my snapshot of eternity may be an echoing cackle from LOLcats or some long-dead celebrity antics at TMZ. Either way, I shouldn’t feel alone, because I suspect the Internet age will spark a new generation of spectral thrills. Get your pencils out, aspiring ghost hunters, for these hauntings of the future:

Selfie Ghost: Manifesting mostly in bathrooms, these ghosts remain unseen unless you look directly into the mirror. You may think you’re prepared, but you’ll still scream every time you glance up and see the faint outline of cheeks sucked in and lips puckered in a ghostly duckface. Legend has it if you turn out the lights and whisper “Boo caught me sleepin’” three times, you’ll see a body slumped over except for a single outstretched hand holding a phone.

Facebook Ghost: These restless spirits manifest only one body part: the hand. Facebook ghosts are attracted to activities such as going through photo albums, reading inspirational quotes or dressing children and pets in cute costumes. If you indulge in these pastimes, you’ll see a flock of friendly, translucent hands giving the thumbs-up sign around you. However, if you’re prone to fiery rants about politics or religion, expect to be forcefully blocked from certain areas of the house.

Texting Ghost: The most oblivious spirit, a texting ghost may not even realize he’s haunting you because he’s so caught up in staring at a small box in his palm. Texting ghosts don’t interact, they just walk through walls, furniture, road signs, and even people. They don’t pay attention to where they’re going, which is likely how they became a ghost in the first place. Sometimes they will slump in a corner near an electrical outlet in hopes of charging their phones.

Instagram Ghost: You’ll never see these apparitions in bodily form, although they’re drawn to kitchens, dining rooms, restaurants and dressing rooms. If you cook a meal you’re particularly proud of or find the perfect pair of shoes, these ghosts will show up. The haunting begins when the atmosphere around you becomes fuzzy and faded, a flurry of bright lights flash around your head, and you hear the snapping of tiny lenses.

Buffering Ghost: A form of poltergeist, the Buffering Ghost doesn’t fling chairs or drag you from your bed. Instead, this ghost keeps you from doing anything at all by pinning you down with an eternally spinning circle. You can wait out a Buffering Ghost and see if the spiritual bandwidth speeds up, but if you spend too much time at the mercy of these rotating spirits, seek out an I.T.-certified exorcist.

Spoiler Ghost: There are two types of spoiler phantoms, and it’s difficult to live with either one. The first type emits an ear-piercing wail while running through the house with ghostly fingers plugged into their ears, especially if you’ve been discussing a book, play, TV show or movie you’ve just experienced. The other ruins every new book or TV show you start by writing the ending across the bathroom mirror whenever it’s fogged up, so don’t freak out if you step out of the shower and see “Everybody dies” across your reflection.

Twitter Ghost: These ghosts are short and to the point; instead of moaning and rattling chains, they’ll leave a hashtagged “Boo” in the magnetic letters on your fridge. Twitter ghosts pile up in one corner, and then follow you from room to room. They are the only ghosts who enjoy being hunted, and love it when you follow them back. Be careful if you do, though, because that will attract more of them. Any house with a high amount of paranormal activity likely has both Twitter ghosts and Spoiler ghosts chasing each other in the attic.

— Beth Bartlett

Beth Bartlett, a freelance writer by day, a humorist by night and a caffeinated procrastinator by mid-afternoon, won second place in the 2013 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ competition (under 50,000 circulation) for her irreverent “Wisecrack Zodiac” column. She blogs at

My last treat

At a friend’s Halloween party in sixth grade, her dad and uncle jumped out of the woods with chainsaws, and my brain just screamed, “You’re gonna die! And you didn’t even get to trick-or-treat!”

A small group of us were gathered round a bonfire listening to a scary story when we heard the chainsaws revving in the woods, and I quickly jumped behind the others in order to have the best chance of escape, hoping to hit up distant neighbors for candy before the bloody end.

The whole afternoon leading up to that bizarre saw climax was uneasy for me. I got straight off the school bus at my friend’s house, my parents’ assurances that they would still take me trick-or-treating — if there was time — echoing in my mind. As we walked down her lane to her door, I wasn’t sure why I was there. After all, I was pretty certain this dark-haired girl had given me lice in the fifth grade, and she loved to tell tales that got me in some awkward spots. Yet here I was at her semi-secluded home in the boonies, her only guest at an intimate Halloween party.

It was an evening of scary thoughts. What if I never get to go trick-or-treating again? What if these backwoods wackos are really going to slice me up with heavy machinery? What if I can’t get this aluminum foil out of my hair?

Yes, I had aluminum foil in my hair. It was my own fault; I had shown up without a costume, so my friend’s mother decided to weld long sheets of aluminum to my head with hair gel and a blow dryer, covering everything but my face, and I would be…well, some kind of Star Trek alien queen monster, I guess. My extreme anxiety that the foil wouldn’t come off, that I would have to be scalped, made the color drain from my face. I was a pale, nervous creature the whole evening.

When my parents finally picked me up, admiring my metallic do, I asked desperately, “Can we still go trick-or-treating?”

“No, sweetheart. It’s too late.”

Like Sally in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, I got jipped.

But the next year things worked out the way they sometimes do when you have a big sister taking up your cause.

I was the youngest. My siblings were done with Halloween, too mature for the costumes and candy parade. But seeing the longing of a girl who was still telling herself stories in the bathroom mirror, my oldest sister, Vinca, decided to take me trick-or-treating one last time.

Costumes were quickly decided. She was going as a dame. A lover of antiques, she had the intricate shawl, fingerless gloves, silver cigarette case, glasses and large poufy dress. I was going as a gentleman. People say I look like my mom now, but we all thought I had more of Dad in my features then. We painted a moustache on my face, found a hat for my head and a neglected sports coat or something, and I borrowed one of Dad’s pipes that he only smoked at Christmas. I don’t remember how suitable my costume was, but I remember how Vinca looked; it was a grand costume.

Mom and Dad dropped us off in one of the old Dickson, Tenn., neighborhoods, and we went door to door. It wasn’t like the old days when we four kids would conspire all together to build mountains of candy on the living room floor, but it was special. We even stumbled onto the doorstep of one of Vinca’s old high school teachers who was throwing a party. Always a favorite student, Vinca joined in the revelry; she wasn’t embarrassed at all to be caught red-handed trick-or-treating. I was, however, when her teacher asked, “So, this is your little brother?” It wasn’t the first time someone had said that. We had been telling our “last hurrah” story to curious strangers as we went, and not one person saw the little girl behind the pipe, baggy coat and pencil-thin facial hair.

Vinca laughed and said, “No! This is my little sister.”

“Oh, good job! I wouldn’t have known.”

I shook his hand, but I vowed never to masquerade as a guy again.

I don’t remember our “haul” that evening. It really wasn’t about the candy. Before I knew quite what had happened, my sister was married to a Marine, and Halloween was just a night when we’d find boozy teenagers slinking down our long, spooky lane for some chills and thrills.

But I like to think Vinca recaptured a bit of her own childhood that night, even as I was struggling to hold on to mine.

— Hillary Ibarra

Hillary Ibarra is a mother of four and a writer at No Pens, Pencils, Knives or Scissors.

A booby trap

Last week I overheard the neighbor kid say that he got to touch a boob, which got me thinking. First, he made it sound like a pretty big deal so I wondered if I should send a card or buy him a balloon or something to celebrate, but decided against it.

Second, what is the big deal with boobs? Because I overshare, most of you know that I’m not exactly well-endowed and would just as soon go braless if it wasn’t for that little thing called the office and the awkwardness of “alert” nipples in cold conference rooms.

Side note: I hate, hate the word nipple. We need a new synonym for this, like “boob bull’s eye” or “bust bumps” or something.

Anyway, while I got the small bump in the middle of my nose from my grandma, I also got small bumps on my chest and not the titanic ta-tas that she has. In fact, I think my first memory of seeing actual boobs is with her.

I have this distinct memory of being on my grandma’s bathroom counter after she washed my feet in the sink. Apparently I’m a splasher because she had to change her shirt. She whipped it off, turned around and two swinging sacks large enough to alter the tides came flying around in her massive over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder.

Quickly looking down at my concave counterpart, it became clear to me that six kids and 60 years could do a lot to alter the female form.

I was both mortified and fascinated by the size of her fleshy pillows. I mean, I knew they were there before in the way I knew my grandpa had tiny bird legs and socks with the balls on the back. But to see those grand gazongas — if only as they passed in a busty blur — was quite a surprise.

After she changed her shirt, we went out to the line to hang her other shirt to dry. There — flying like a flag of fleshy freedom — were some of grandma’s bras. Big, huge white underwire numbers that could double as a hammock for a small child were clothes-pinned right next to the sheets and grandpa’s stained T-shirts on the line.

“So this is what I have to look forward to?” I wondered as I untangled myself from the now-semi-clean sheet I was “helping” to fold. “The rest of my life is going to be spent lugging around bowling balls in a bra that could house newborn squirrels? Won’t they get in the way of the fun things like baseball and teaching Get In Shape Girl on the front lawn to reluctant neighbor kids?”

Well, years later it’s become as clear as the slightly bumpy nose on my face that my cleavage is not a concern, as it doesn’t exist.

Some women might feel insecure about this, like they’re “less of a woman” because they don’t have huge honkers — or any at all. And while I admit that it would be nice to feel a bit more “gifted” in the breasticle area — if only to have something to catch the food that I drop — there are a million other things that I would rather feel insecure about.

I figure you get what you get, and what I got were more memories than mammories from Gram, one faithful bra in my dresser and a pervy neighborhood kid.

Two out of three ain’t bad.

— Abby Heugel

Abby Heugel is a professional writer and editor of trade publications for employment, but a neurotic humor writer the rest of the time for enjoyment. She runs mental marathons in yoga pants and blogs her brilliant insights. She makes you feel normal. She’s the author of Abby Has Issues and Abby Still Has Issues.

“Blow me!”

Let me just start by saying this, I love my son. Sometimes so much I want to devour him.

However, since turning 3 (less than a month ago), he is driving me nuts.  The mommy and Oscar time we previously enjoyed while shopping has turned into all-out battles.  I know I shouldn’t care what other people think, but when my child is the one laying on the ground of the parking lot screaming because he doesn’t want to ride in the regular cart — he wants to ride in the stupid plastic car cart (that I told him was broken) — I start to get a little self-conscious.

Prior to this, we would go to the grocery store and count apples. I would enjoy a coffee while he would have chocolate milk. Now I have to distract him when we pass the balloons, the doughnuts and the deli. I curse the woman who gave him a free cheese! It ends up in a ball in his pocket, and I don’t find it until it has been run through the washer a week later.

I eventually convinced him to ride in the regular cart because the car ones were taken (God working miracles), but he has got a serious attitude problem and I fear we have created a jerk. There, I said it. My 3-year-old is acting like a jerk. There have been times when he was screaming so loud that I have actually rolled up the windows because I didn’t want people to think I was hurting him. When all he wanted was for me to stop singing the “finger song.” I have actually broken down and cried out of frustration, and I think I saw him smirking.

If you don’t know what the finger song is, and you are curious, you can find it on YouTube, but I warn you, it will get stuck in your head and never leave and you will find yourself alone with your husband on a date making up alternative dirty lyrics.

This time at the grocery store Oscar wanted Cheez-Its. How or why he knew of these, I don’t know, but he can read now. Impressive? Yes, and annoying. No longer can I tell him that those are spicy mushroom crackers (he hates spicy mushrooms); he is too smart. I mean, he literally can read, really well. Every time one of his brothers got into trouble, a viable punishment was to read to Oscar. This has meant hours and hours and hours…and hours of reading time. Which resulted in him reading at age 3. We can’t take any credit, other than our son’s misbehavior.

So I gave in to avoid a screaming fest. He decided he would open it and eat them out of the box. He also has a horrible runny nose and, despite being a problem child, he is diligent about blowing his nose. We have told him to blow and he does so willingly because he hates the feeling of a runny nose. Well, luck would have it, my tissues were in my coat, which I wasn’t wearing. So we have a cheesy orange snot mess on his upper lip. After I inconspicuously dump the fruit snacks in the bread aisle (because the last thing we need is more sugar), we are ready to check out. I approach the checkout with a large 3-year-old with his hand in a box of Cheez-Its yelling “blow me” louder and louder.  If having him lay on the cement was embarrassing, this was mortifying.  What people don’t know is that all he wants is for me to put a tissue up to his nose to “blow,” but he’s looking more like a spoiled brat who has been repeating his Daddy.

The checkout guy and the bag boy are trying hard not to laugh, but, thankfully, when I ask if they have a tissue, they hand me a paper towel. It worked, at least to stop the escalating volume of “blow me!” The only thing that would have made this even more iconic was to offer him a cigarette. Just when I think I’m free to escape and hide, he discovers that the fruit snacks are missing.  At this point I just want to leave, and I have lied so many lies to just get him out of the store that I decided to add one more. I told him we have some at home. I know, we must have a crusty package laying around somewhere so it’s not a total lie, but I just want to get the hell out of this damn store and situation.

I may be a little tired, which is causing my fuse to be short. But it’s hard to sleep when this adorable 3-year-old sneaks in at 12:30 every night and buries himself like a tick in the sheets and pillows right smack in the middle of the bed. He is unable to be pried free without tweezers or fire. Sure, Don and I feel him there between us, but after saying “not it” to each other regarding taking him back to his bed, we both hope the other will give in. It never happens.

Oscar is the strongest-willed little guy I have ever known — and maybe in history. He reminds me so much of his older brother that it scares me.  Really, it scares me because it was a rough ride five years ago when Finegan was 3. Plus I was younger then and followed a proper parental code. We even sought professional help on how to deal with his tantrums. Now we are a watered-down cocktail of misheard parenting advice and weariness.

The bottom line is I love my little jerk. At least I know that when he screams “blow me,” he means it with the purest of intentions. It’s only a matter of a decade before those words change to bite me, but by that time, I will be reminded that I have been wanting to devour him since the very first time I laid eyes on him.

— Noelle Elliott

Noelle Elliott is a publicist at the University of Notre Dame, writer and proud mother of four crazy boys.  She is also the creator of The Mamalogues, Dramas from Real Mamas, a staged production of readings by women, which has sold out audiences. She is a regular contributing writer for Family and Sassy magazines.  In addition, she writes a popular blog,, where she shares her triumphs, failures and journey of survival in a life surrounded by testosterone.

Reflections of Erma