Like rings of a tree tell its age, the appearance of a spill on laminate or carpet give clues to its lifespan.
Still moist? Less than a half-day old.
Tacky? Somewhat less than a day.
Dark in appearance and dry to the touch? Up to two days old.
A dark ring and light-colored in the center? Approaching fossilization.
Mike Rowe is negotiating a spot with me to appear on Dirty Jobs. The topic? Spillology.
My knowledge-journey began when our youngest poured a glass of grape juice and proceeded downstairs to the family room. There was more purple-stained carpet between the kitchen and his destination than beige. Now that he’s 12, he can juggle a drink with his feet, a bag of Cheetos in the one hand and his laptop in the other; visitors gawk in awe when they step into our foyer and witness the aftermath.
His 16-year-old sibling is a hunter and trapper and, in the art of carpet-staining, is not to be outdone. After checking numerous traps over 20 miles of creek bed, he heads back to town wearing boot soles like the underside of his truck — covered with a half-inch of mud; to his credit, he occasionally — when I am watching — takes them off before entering the house, maybe.
Nonetheless, the efficient lad chooses to put them on in his room the next morning, donning them from his room to the kitchen to the living room and out the front door again. I’ve never actually seen this happen; like the young hunter himself, I’ve acquired the ability to track based on the hardened mud-prints of this male mammal’s camouflaged boots.
I once asked the trapper to clean the mud off of his boots prior to wearing them in the house; he used a towel from the downstairs’ bathroom to erase the top layer of the encrusted mess. The white hand towel is now a tie-dyed light and dark brown perma-design after six, bleach-filled washings; I live under the illusion that it is not lingering raccoon poop.
Just this morning, the same woman who bought new white bathroom towels, left her coffee on top of the laundry hamper. At lunch, evidence of coffee spillage — most certainly less than a half-day old — pooled on the open-air slats, dripping on a new and formerly lily-white towel. She claims I am the culprit; furthermore, she is wrong — her children did not get this behavior from anyone strange.
My bride hasn’t asked for new carpet since we brought our families together in 2011. But it only makes sense that she’s given up on that wish. After all, why would she want to replace the evidence daftly displaying our family’s talent, up to and including how long that partially eaten slice of pizza has resided under the sofa?
For my sanity if nothing else, I have decided to embrace this mild imperfection of family life. After all, our situation exposes all I have to be grateful for in my life: a Labradoodle who has a nose for three-day-old pizza and my newly acquired tracking skills.
— Doug Clough
Doug Clough writes a column for the Ida County Courier in Ida Grove, Iowa, called “From our backyard…” His work has appeared in Farm News, The Iowan and Boating World, and he served as a travel scout for Midwest Living. “I am a father of a salad bowl family (aka ‘blended’), a customer service manager, the possession of my Labradoodle and — in a former life — an English teacher. Someone has to enjoy that mix; it may as well be me,” he says.
I’m in an abusive relationship. No, I’m not abusing my husband, at least not physically.
The relationship I’m talking about is a love affair — a forbidden affair, but one I can’t terminate no matter how much I try.
The object of my affections? Fro Yo.
For those of you not familiar with this fine establishment, it serves various flavors of frozen yogurt along with a toppings bar of every thing from gummy bears to crushed-up candy bars.
You serve yourself as much frozen yogurt as you want, and then load it up with as many toppings as you want as well.
It’s basically diabetes in a cup.
How is Fro Yo abusive, you ask? He seems so sophisticated with his trendy concept and welcoming rewards card. Don’t be fooled. That’s how he gets you.
You see, Fro Yo is abusive because he knows I need him. He knows I can’t live without him. Who can, really? Well, I supposed lactose-intolerant people could totally live without him. Whatever.
He’s so smooth and cool and he knows it. Not only is he aloof and confident, he’s also literally smooth and cool. He’s cold, actually. He’s kind of a bad boy, and I like it.
I know what you’re thinking. Is it just mind games? How is he physically abusive to you?
Um, it’s called a brain freeze. Ever had one? Pure. Pain.
And yet, I want more. I want more of the brain freeze. I want more of the headache. I want more, more, more!
It’s not all whipped cream and crushed candy bars, though. There’s a dark side to Fro Yo. He requires constant attention or he pouts and has a meltdown.
He also makes me feel bad about myself. Sure, there’s the ecstasy of the time we spend together, but when it’s over, I drive home with my head hung in shame, kicking myself for being so gullible and giving in to his seductive ways.
As if I don’t feel bad enough about my overindulgence, there are the stains he leaves on my shirt, and the indigestion he leaves in my chest that remind me of our dirty deed.
I try to hide our relationship with my husband, but I think he knows. He can smell Fro Yo when I walk in the door, and I know he can see remnants of our night together in the corner of my mouth.
My husband looks away. He doesn’t want to know.
However, despite all of the turmoil Fro Yo brings to my life, every time he calls my name, I come running. Well, not so much running because I’m physically not capable of running.
This is yet another example of the permanent effects Fro Yo has on me. He has such a hold that he affects my joints and my (in)ability to engage in cardiovascular activities.
Why can’t I stop? Maybe Robert Palmer is right, and I’m addicted to love. I probably am. Or maybe, just maybe, I’m addicted to lactose.
Either way, I don’t care. If loving him is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a hot date with a cool guy….
— Lisa Newlin
Lisa Newlin is a humor blogger who plays an unconvincing lawyer in real life. She shouldn’t be allowed around sharp objects, anything breakable or anything with carbohydrates. She prefers dogs over most people, and food over most everything. Her blog, http://lisanewlin.com, will make you feel better about your own life. It will also remind you that vodka is the answer to everything, except if the question is “What should I throw on this fire?” Then the answer is definitely NOT vodka. She’s also one of the co-authors of the bestselling new humor anthology, You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.
I saw you in the grocery store just yesterday. Yoga pants stained with something white, a not-so- perky ponytail riding a bit sideways on your head, and quite possibly wearing the same shirt you wore the previous day.
Our paths converged somewhere between the cold cuts and the feminine-hygiene aisle. Not so different from each other, really. A time-warp was all that separated us; two mothers from the same universe, living in different times.
Three little ones escorted you on your journey, each lending a hand by grabbing random objects from the lower shelves and tossing them into the cart, slapping each other when you weren’t looking, and begging for stuff you refused to give them. In a failed attempt to separate them you placed one in the cart, which immediately created a King of the Cart feud.
Major sticking-out of their tongues ensued, along with a few more slaps (from the King of the Cart) and a few sneaky kicks. The whining came back full force, along with some tears for good measure. The King was removed from the cart and made to walk amongst the peasants (formerly known as his brother and sister) again.
Noses were runny, crankiness was high, and undoubtedly everyone was hungry.
It was, after all, the witching hour for grocery shopping. Four forty-five on a Monday evening.
Oh, you brave soul.
I was shopping alone, picking up a few things for a meal to be cooked using an actual recipe. In my cart? A nice bottle of wine, some flowers for a friend, and some dinner ingredients your little helpers would most certainly spit out onto their plates.
Your cart was piled high. It held the very essentials of life for the under-5-year-old crowd: graham crackers, GoGurt, fruit rollups, milk, fish sticks, Lunchables, Cheerios, juice boxes, applesauce and cookies. No wine, no bouquets of flowers; not an artisan cheese or gourmet cupcake in sight.
And at that moment when our eyes met and we nodded each other’s existence?
I wanted to take you by the shoulders and tell you that it would be OK. To yell over the hysterics and whining of your little helpers so you could hear my message loud and clear.
To tell you that these days of whine and snotty noses won’t last. Really, I promise they won’t.
One day you will shop alone, without helpers. You will buy real food again; possibly even some flowers for the table, and nobody will beg you for candy or gum. You will make a meal and eat it in one sitting, without cutting anyone’s food or making a second meal for the picky one. You may even have pleasant dinner conversation with your spouse.
I saw you glance at my cart and look back at me a second time. I think you even smiled a bit bigger.
Maybe you realized that I was you, not so very long ago.
You moved on to finish your shopping before one of the children ate one of the others.
I hope there was a bit more spring in your step.
But I suddenly found myself wistful for Cheerios, a snotty nose to wipe, a helper to ride in my cart, maybe even a fish stick.
Because I was you, not so very long ago.
— Sherri Kuhn
Sherri Kuhn is a freelance writer, copy editor, blogger, grammar junkie and social media addict. She loves playing with words, editing and writing articles about everything from nail polish to parenting topics. On her blog Old Tweener she writes from the heart — with an occasional side of sarcasm and humor. With a son in college and a daughter in high school, she always has something to write about. Her writing has been featured at Huffington Post, SheKnows, AllParenting, Moonfrye, Mamalode and BlogHer. She was chosen as a cast member for the 2012 Listen to Your Mother show in San Francisco. Sherri lives in Northern California with her family and crazy yellow lab.
My 4-year-old son has this weird little obsession — with my boobs.
No, I’m not like that New Yorker magazine mom. The only thing my boobs do these days is hang, and I mean hang, around. But for Julius, it’s one of his many infatuations, right up there with gummy bears and Pokemon cards.
All my boys are full of mommy love, which I unabashedly encourage and soak up, but Julius shows his love a bit more ‘tangibly’ than the others.
Every night after the bedtime books and tickle-back is completed, there’s another ritual of events that must transpire before I can leave his room.
“Kiss, mommy,” he demands, pursing his little, chunk lips for me to kiss.
“Hug, mommy,” is the next request, and he wraps his little arms around me, squeezing tight. I love it, but I know what’s coming. He’s been doing it for well over a year now, and I brace myself.
Somewhere in the middle of his innocent little hug, there’s a boob grab. He does it quick, knowing exactly what he’s doing. When I gently reprimand, he looks at me with those big brown eyes and says, “I can’t help it mommy. I just love your boobies!”
What to do. What to do.
I’ve tried to distract him from his infatuation. At two and three, it was still cute and could be waved away as toddler silliness; but once Julius crept over the four-year mark and his hugs began to have a groping feel to them, I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to get him to stop.
So far, these are the techniques I’ve employed.
Threatening – I say, almost daily. “Julius, if you try to touch my boobs, I’m not going to snuggle in bed with you anymore.” The little rat always promises. Do not trust a rat.
Negotiation – “If you can go a week without trying to touch my boobs, I’ll take you to the toy store.” Apparently, Julius does not need more toys, or chocolate or extra Wii time. He’s got plenty, thank you.
Transference – Every time Julius goes for the boobs, I place his hands around my waist. He kind of likes it and will squeeze happily for a bit, saying, “Oh, it’s squishy, like your boobies.” Thanks kid.
Reason – We had the discussion about private parts. How he has his and I have mine. Julius’s response? “You can touch mine, if I can touch yours.” Sheesh. I’m in trouble with this one.
Although, his fascination to touch my boobs is annoying and will soon border on really inappropriate, right now, it still makes me smile. I know he’s almost five, but as my youngest, he still seems like such a baby; and even though my 7- and 10-year-old are very loving, I can see the day in the not-too-far future, where I am no longer the center of their affections. There will be girlfriends, then wives, (poo poo) and I feel the pain of that already, years into the future. I can only hope that they’ll still want to give their mom a squeeze, although a hug will do just fine.
Just last night, Julius, the teenager in a 5-year-old body, gloated, “Mommy, I know how to touch boobs. You go in for a kiss, and then you get ‘em!” He smiled mischievously, like a boy who knows a big secret. And I guess he does.
— Alisa Schindler
Alisa Schindler is freelance writer who chronicles the sweet and bittersweet of life in the suburbs on her highly entertaining blog www.icescreammama.com. Her essays have been featured on Mamapedia.com and Bonbonbreak.com as well as in the book, Life Well Blogged. She is a member of “Yeah Write,” an online community for writers, where she has won the Jury Prize multiple times in the group’s weekly essay writing contest. She has just completed her first novel that she feels comfortable showing to someone other than her mother.
Lately, I’ve started to pay more attention to my kin at the grocery store — those of us who wander in single-shopping mode, often perplexed by things like the overwhelming choices in the orange juice section. Pulp? Some Pulp? No Pulp with Calcium? Good Lord.
We don’t often make eye contact, we solo shoppers. We’re on a mission. In my case, it’s get it done and get out fast. But a recent mailing of $1 off coupons from Giant Eagle had me all over the damn store. I normally buy store brands, but w/ a buck off, I bought Kellogg’s Mini Wheats in Cinnamon Roll flavor. Seriously. But I’m digressing. (Hey, I saved nine bucks.)
There is a certain camaraderie between the singles when confronted w/ couples who are not only arguing about some unresolved issue and taking it out on innocent produce, but also blocking any passage in their self-absorbed oblivion. I’ve caught many an eye-roll and exasperated sigh from fellow singletons when trying to negotiate around these folks. I’m fairly certain I recently had a silent communion w/ a guy as we said in our thought bubbles, “Thank God I don’t have to deal w/ that cra* anymore!”
We do peek in each other’s carts. I’ve learned to bite my tongue when about to comment on another single person’s items. Early on in fresh post-divorce mode, I talked to anyone and didn’t have much of a filter. I’d point out my 20 cans of Fancy Feast and case of wine and laugh while gazing at their head of lettuce, light bulb and cheese singles. It usually didn’t go over well.
I continue to chat w/ people in the wine department, advising them on a good red or nice Chenin Blanc. Most people like to talk about wine and some look petrified they’ll make a wrong choice, elevating a wine purchase to that of a new vehicle. So perhaps I offer them some comfort. I certainly enjoy myself.
Maybe we should have a secret handshake or club? Single People’s Grocery List Outpost #35. Come and share your grocery list and pet peeves. I’ll pour you a glass of wine.
— Nancy LaFever
Nancy LaFever pens a blog, “Single People’s Grocery Lists.” Why? Because she “discovered the crap we buy is actually pretty funny when you look at your list.”
“You do know you’re talking to yourself, right?”
“I’m talking to the guy in front of me!” I counter, justifying my sanity. “He’s poking along at 50 in a 50km zone,” I annoyingly state, with one hand on the wheel and the other tapping the horn. “Come on, grandpa, let’s move it!”
“Good job, grandpa,” says the wife, as she reminds me that I have reproduced children. “That’s telling him. But if you really want him to hear you, you should turn off the radio, roll down the window, drive up alongside, stick your head out and mention to the — and here I use your definition — circus-performing Bozo that you would like him to break the law by speeding so that you can get home to watch the news. Otherwise, you’re just talking to yourself, old man!”
As much as I’d like to disagree with her, she’s absolutely right. I do a lot of talking to the unhearing forces that determine traffic. Cars and the clowns who are suppose to be driving them. I talk to all makes of cars and trucks, imports and domestic, black or white, luxury or compact. If they happen to be on either side of me, in front of me or behind me, I strike up a one-sided conversation. I guide them along in the tone of an annoyed parent of a 4-year-old. I use words of direction like, “Come on, let’s get moving!” or “Get off your brake and try the gas pedal!” or “Turn! Turn! Don’t wait for the light to turn red before you go!” And with every direction, I interject “Ya, clown!” Male or female, black or white, tall or short, everyone I submit my heated direction to is a circus adventurer of humor.
It’s an annoyed tone, not a mad one. Mad people do things. We who are annoyed just go home and bore the family with yet another tirade, one that somehow keeps them from committing me to a home for the socially insane. People seem to accept others being annoyed, or upset with inanimate objects. I don’t like the toaster reminding me it’s electric when I use my jam knife to free the toast. If people or objects cause problems, we’re going to let them know about it. There are more people than just me out there raising their fists to the sky and screaming at the heavens, “Thank you very much!’ when their cars break down at the side of the road or the jam knife becomes welded to the inside of the toaster.
If you ever talked lovingly to a car or toaster about how good they are and you’re so proud of them for what they’re doing, then it’s off to the home with you. If your car’s running great, I say treat it like an upset spouse and keep your mouth shut. If traffic is moving along and all the clowns are right with the universe, whistle. Don’t say encouraging things to the clowns beside you, whatever you do. Cause that’s when authorities start visiting the family and doctor’s appointments happen. Seems we can’t be happy in traffic.
Old guys didn’t get old by driving along distracted. We figured out long ago what all the traffic around us was doing and how we could do it better.
You should try it. Take my one-week challenge and talk to the cars around you. If you’re worried people might think you’re nuts, stuff a black piece of Play-Doh in your ear and let them think it’s part of your iPhone thingy. (It’s what I do). Tell that car in front of you when to turn. The one behind you to get off your bumper. Warn the clown in front there’s a pedestrian in the crosswalk. You’ll be a better driver. You’ll be annoyed, but you’ll be a better driver.
And you’d better get used to being annoyed because it’s a free gift that comes with age. Driving is just one way it manifests itself. How? Well let’s start with, everything hurts! Doing shoulder checks while sitting in some crappy 25-year-old Buick for more than five minutes produces squeaking and leaking from both parties.
It’s annoying. About as annoying as Richmond giving out more tickets for clowns illegally parking in the handicapped space than any other city in the lower mainland! “When did the handicap symbol become the very expensive parking near the door symbol?”
“Are you talking to me?” the wife questions as she sticks her head from the kitchen.
“No, I’m talking to the TV! I can’t believe the story on the news about all the parking tickets. Clowns parking illegally!”
“You do know you’re talking to yourself, right?”
— Bob Niles
Bob Niles, who answers to Robert, Bobby, Dad, Grandpa, Unit No.2 (his Dad could never remember all the children’s names) honey and super hero, is new to writing but not to storytelling. “I like to make people laugh and to think, with a secret desire make them dance and send me untraceable $100 bills in the mail,” says the happily married, retired father and grandpa from Richmond in British Columbia, Canada. He blogs at superiordribble.blogspot.com.
A few minutes ago, my neighbor caught me sitting on the porch with bags of frozen yeast rolls shoved under each arm pit.
Yep, that’s right.
One minute, I’m living life.
And the next minute, I might as well be rolling around in the clothes dryer.
Oh yeah. I’ve got ‘em, alright — hot flashes.
And they bring out the worst in me.
Because my body so frequently catches fire, I strip out of my clothes faster than the speed of lightning. I stop, drop and roll on cold linoleum. I have no shame. And I mean it.
Before perimenopause ruined my life, I was the queen of flannel jammies. All winter, my furnace was full throttle. I wore old lady sweaters inside air-conditioned restaurants.
But now? Well you can see your breath inside my house. And since I so frequently disrobe, you can also see my naked, barn door-sized hind-end, whether you want to or not.
Even with friends around, I’m known to say with a sweaty face, “Hold that thought.”
Then I excuse my flaming self and head for the kitchen, where I drop ice cubes down the front of my shirt. If that doesn’t do the trick, I step outside and blast myself in the face with the garden hose before I reappear in front of my guests, dripping and hateful.
“But what does a hot flash feel like?” My son recently asked.
“It feels like 183 blow dryers are aimed at my chest and face,” I snapped. “It feels like being rolled up like a burrito in an electric blanket, then dropped in the middle of an active volcano. It feels like being shoved inside a giant broiler while wearing a parka and itchy wool pants.”
He squirmed in his chair.
“What?” I asked. “You can’t handle the truth?”
“That mean look is on your face again,” he said nervously. “Sometimes you scare me.”
“I feel like a walking torch,” I snapped. “If you were me, you’d be honked off about it, too.”
“I’m not unscathed, you know,” My son said in a shaky voice. “Every time I visit you, I suffer frostbite.”
— Sherri Coner
Award-winning journalist and humor columnist Sherri Coner is the author of six books — all fun and heartfelt with a signature sprinkle of sarcasm. Her stand-up comedy gig is another avenue of entertainment (R-rated since nobody censors that potty mouth). A recent survivor of breast cancer, Coner shares the journey on her blog. Through her posts, you will see the moment when Sherri finally found humor hidden behind a million tears. “Remember, girls, that laughter heals the soul,” she says.
He came into my life at a time when I needed him most and without a second thought I clung to him for many a night. It wasn’t like we had a relationship, the kind where you want to spend every waking moment together. It wasn’t like we would get lost in conversation, uncovering deep-seated feelings that connected us on an emotional level. We didn’t go to dinner. We didn’t catch a movie. We never went out — were never seen in public.
Truth be told, I didn’t give him much thought as I went about my day, but as night would begin to fall I felt a yearning inside me I knew only he could satisfy. As I climbed in bed, I needed him with every fiber of my being. The thing is, I don’t regret a single night with him.
For most, childhood memories of bedtime present images of favorite jammies, soft blankets, a certain bedtime story that could be told time and again before drifting off to sleep.
Bedtime was always a tough time for me as my imagination without fail would choose that specific time to kick itself into overdrive, instilling fears in me so powerful I would hide under the covers ensuring not a toe or a brown curl was unprotected from what lurked in the dark shadows of night. I would stare at the inside of my Strawberry Shortcake blanket, focus on the pattern of my warm breath…inhaling…exhaling…inhaling…exhaling. Once drenched with sweat, gasping for air and believing I would face a fate worse than what existed beyond the safety of my blanket (passing out into permanent darkness), I would peel a tiny corner of the blanket away from me, turn my head, and take in a large breath of fresh air before returning to my former state. At some point I would pass out, not from lack of oxygen or imagination but from sheer exhaustion.
It wasn’t until Louie came into my life that things changed for me.
Prior to Louie, I would choose one or two stuffed animals to join me each night, but with the innocent mind of a young girl I felt guilty each time I chose them. It was bad enough I would have to face all the night’s scariest creations; I was subjecting them to the same rather than leaving them cozied up in the basket with the rest of their friends.
Which is why when my grandmother presented me with Louie the Monkey on my 10th birthday I was relieved — no matter that I was probably well past the age when children cuddled up to a stuffed animal. He was soft and brown, and looked into my eyes with a hint of a smile on his face. He was about the size of those body pillows they sell nowadays, or maybe that’s how it seemed through a scared little girl’s eyes. With Louie, I no longer hid under the covers. Instead, I held on to him for dear life. The fears were there still, but somehow they seemed a little less daunting with Louie by my side. I breathed a little easier and found a bit of peace before drifting off to sleep each night. His presence helped me sleep better through my high school years and even some of my college years.
Some nights, after a particularly rough day, I still yearn for Louie. I miss him. Not in the physical sense, but in the sense of peace he gave me so many years ago. As grown-ups, we take so much to bed with us each night with no surefire way to let those fears, those worries, those feelings just sit on a separate plane while we relax and get the rest we so desperately need. Wouldn’t it be nice to find something that would ease our minds each night?
I still have Louie, though you’ll be relieved to know I no longer sleep with him. He is in a box in the attic which does make me a bit sad now that I think about it, but he served me well. Ironically, he was the first one I thought of when my daughter was younger and had nightmares.
He served her well, too. How was I to know at the age of 10 that my nighttime companion would one day ease my daughter’s fears as well?
— Leah Vidal
Leah Vidal, author of Red Circle Days, is a writer whose work appears weekly at www.littlemisswordy.com. Her writing covers current events, health and wellness, parenting and daily tribulations. She is most at home sharing life’s little moments — those that plant the thought-provoking seed of self discovery. Leah’s blog has been featured and syndicated on BlogHer, Freshly Pressed on WordPress and fitness and parenting sites. Leah paused a career in public relations to raise two children and has never looked back, except on the days when it would be nice to have an office to escape to or at least a desk to hide under. Her family currently lives in Puerto Rico, where she is a fitness-focused (physical, spiritual and mental health) mom of two and wife of one, who enjoys combing the beach for sea glass, avoiding the kitchen and making words come to life.