Do you smell pee?

Last Thursday was the last day of school before summer vacation. Emotions were high, as were expectations of a completely epic summer. And then Friday rolled around. The kids had their first day home alone. All day. Just the three of them, plus a kindergartener – er, now first grader – friend of my youngest son. By 8:36am, I had received multiple phone calls. The last was from my 13-year-old daughter who was in charge of watching the three younger ones. The call started with, “Mom. I can’t take this anymore!” said in the spirit of a mother who has been up all night with a newborn while her preschooler fills her shoes with vomit. Of course, that’s not the situation she was in. She had, however, dealt with a swearing match among the boys and a biting incident. What she didn’t tell me – or, hopefully, she didn’t know – was that something gross was happening in the bathroom. Something very, very disgusting.

By Friday evening, I could smell it. But what exactly “it” was, was open for debate. We all knew it smelled strongly of pee. As a mother of three kids under the age of 13, I can tell you with certainty, I know what pee smells like. Besides the fact that, you know, we all do it. Side note: I’m a little concerned for you if you don’t know what pee smells like. You may need to go see a doctor. Unless you’re just really well hydrated. In that case, good for you! I digress.

The smell was even stronger Saturday. We washed the floor. We scrubbed the toilet. We scrubbed around the toilet. The smell went away a little – or was at least masked by the chemical concoction now layered on our bathroom floor. By Sunday, the smell was much worse. We washed it all again. By Monday, I reached out to my Mom Land Facebook group. There were a lot of theories and practical suggestions including the idea to wash the shower curtain. I mean, they’re boys who are not exactly masters of their domain, if you know what I mean. So, last night, I took a deep breath and tried to hold it as I unhooked the shower curtain. Once I grabbed hold of the curtain, it became very evident that was where the smell was originating from. But, I wasn’t exactly right. Something caught my eye – and my breath. I looked down and saw it: a stagnant pool of urine in the bath tub. Someone had used it as a spare latrine – and had the courteous thought to plug the toilet so we could all enjoy the nauseating stench for days on end. I drained the tub. Thank you, Lord, I did NOT have to touch it. I added many a chemical – just shy of creating the toxic cloud they warned us about as kids. I washed the shower curtain. The smell is beginning to dissipate.

But this experience has left me with a lot of disgusting questions:

  1. How did I not notice it was coming from the tub?
  2. How did I not check the tub?
  3. Are my children just not showering???

To say I am grossed out by this experience would be an understatement. And yet, it always seems to be the horrid tales of bodily fluids that get my creative juices flowing and make me want to write. What does that say about me? Maybe don’t answer that.


Absolutely Disgusted

The title may be misleading, as a mother of three, I typically write about children’s bodily fluids. This time, I am disgusted for another reason entirely. I watched a video of a local teen being savagely beaten by a group of girls that once claimed to be her friends. My stomach turned watching this clip of video, video that was shared by the alleged assaulters on social media.

The TV station interviewed the parents of the girl, a 17-year-old, who went to a party after her “friends” invited her there. Unbeknownst to her, they were not inviting her to have a good time. They invited her so they could beat her, mercilessly. The video is hard to watch. I cannot even imagine being that poor child’s parents and having to watch that. I want to drive to my teenage daughter’s school right now, scoop her up and tell her… well, I don’t know what I would tell her. And that’s the point of this post.

One of my best friends told me about this story this morning. I was appalled. She told me I should really discuss it with my 13-year-old and even have her watch it. At first, I couldn’t understand why that would be a good idea. What could I tell her to be cautious of? What if a friend invites her to a party and they really only want her there so they can beat her? How would that help – to make her scared of her friends’ true intentions? But, my friend went on to explain that the video not only shows this group of girls beating this teenager, it shows other teens sitting by and watching. One of them even video tapes the whole assault. And they do nothing to stop it. Nothing.

THIS is something I can talk to my daughter about. We always tell our kids not to bully other people and to speak up if they’re being bullied. But what about when they witness someone bullying – or in this case – beating another child? Because that’s what this group of teens are – children! Any one of those kids could have at any moment said – wait, stop. Heck, if they were scared what the other kids would say, they could have secretly texted their mom or dad with what was going on. They obviously had their phones! So this, this will be what I talk to my daughter about tonight: being the voice of reason.

If you’ve ever taken a psychology class, you’ve read about mob mentality. According to a publication by South University, “When people are part of a group, they often experience deindividuation, or a loss of self-awareness…. they are less likely to follow normal restraints and inhibitions… which can lead to the provocation of behaviors that a person would not typically engage in if alone.” And that’s when violence enters the picture.

What’s that saying we use with our kids? “If your friends were all jumping off a bridge, would you do it, too?” Well, after watching this video, yeah, they just might. Or, if they didn’t jump – maybe they’d push the kid in front of them.

Talk to your kids. Tell them. This is not okay! Think for yourself. Know when something is just stupid. If they can’t do that, ask them how they’d excuse or explain the behavior in which they are about to take part to you or their grandma. Because speaking up could truly be a life-saving act.

The Golden Rule: Refugee Version

My children and I were listening to NPR last night, as we often do on our drive home. (You should try this. They get really quiet.) There were several stories about what is happening in Paris and the status of Syrian refugees across the world. I wanted to know what my kids thought of this. So, I carefully explained the situation.

As I told my kids about the plight of these people and what other people and nations feared, my 4th grade son piped up with:

“Wait, this is like that movie, ‘Little Boy.'”

For those of you not familiar with the film, it is about a little boy in World War II waiting/praying/wishing for his father to come home from the war. During that time, he meets a man of Japanese origin who is being mistreated by the community.

“So, this is like when the people were all mean to that guy because he was from Japan and everyone treated him like jerks.” he said.


We talked about what it would be like to be judged solely on your country of origin. Or state of origin. We talked about how it would make him feel if someone turned him away in his time of need because there are bad people in Alaska. Yes, there are criminals here too. And sure there are people who want to do great harm. There are evil people everywhere. But, there are also good people. People with kind hearts who want to help others, no matter what. And there are in-between people. People that just want to live their daily lives and not be scared to do so.

God calls us to:

Love our neighbors as ourselves. Mark 12:31

Feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Matthew 25: 35-40

Show love to foreigners. Deuteronomy 10:19


Now, I’m not going to get all high and mighty on you. This blog is typically about weird stuff my kids say, which usually relates to butts and poop.

I just think we need to see this situation through the eyes of our children whose first instinct is to love. To act out of love and to help others. Of course, what that looks like depends on who you ask. My 13-year-old daughter is also worried about refugees. She asked if we could adopt a refugee child. And then followed that up with, “But they’ll have to sleep on the couch because I’m not sharing my room.”

The Political Debate – Bedtime Style

My office was getting rid of some old items and let the employees pick through the pile. I found an old style telephone (big white handset and buttons intended to look like a rotary dial) and a boombox. My 13-year-old daughter has a boombox. She uses it all of the time. All of the time. Say, on a Saturday, when I am in the kitchen washing dishes and listening to public radio shows like This American Life or Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me or Prairie Home Companion, and she walks in with her boombox, like straight out of a ’80s movie, blasting  the music “the young people listen to these days” and completely overtaking whatever peaceful thing I was listening to on the radio.

The thing about the boombox is, it’s hers. She can listen to just about whatever she wants to on it. And her brothers eye that with secret envy. So, when I saw that boombox at work, I took it home and handed it over to my boys. Now they would have their own freedom to listen to what they want. At first, it was all the Top 40 stuff. Then, it was Oldies. But a few days later, I realized he was listening to something completely different, when he came out to the living room, very alarmed and walked up to me saying, “Mom, I don’t think I like President Obama anymore.” Which is interesting, because my 4th grader has always loved President Obama. (We’re not a very political household, he came to this affinity for the President on his own.) I was shocked to hear him say otherwise, so I asked him why. “Do you know that he’s been having secret meetings with other countries to get treaties passed? And the American public doesn’t know anything about it!”

“Where did you hear this?” I inquire.

“The news guy on the radio said it.”

As a journalist, I knew I needed to set things straight. “What station are you listening to?”

When he told me,  my husband and I must have had a collective eye-roll, because we knew immediately he’d been listening to talk radio. We explained to him that talk radio is NOT the news. It is not fact. It is opinion – a once-truth spun in a way that suits the purposes of whoever is using it. We explained that some people like President Obama and will use the facts in a way to make him look great and some people dislike the President and will use the facts to make him look bad. That, of course, led us into a conversation about why some people would like him and some people wouldn’t – which led into the topic of political parties – which led to him asking me what political affiliation I have. “Undeclared,” was my answer – mainly because I want him to make these decisions on his own. Not with my leading him one way or another – or the radio doing it for me – just him and the facts.

Why is it that these questions always come right at bedtime? It’s like all day you are peppered with, “Why is the sky blue?” “How come those dogs sniff eachother’s butts?” And “Do we have to have salmon again tonight?” But, the moment bedtime is announced, it switches to, “Where is God?” “What’s a democrat?” and “How did the baby get in her belly in the first place?” It’s not that I don’t want to answer the questions and inform my kids, but geez, give a mom a chance here!
At least he only found news talk radio. Imagine the bedtime conversation we’d be having if he had stumbled onto Loveline with Mike & Dr. Drew show.

Birthdays: It Takes a Village

My son turned 10 earlier this week. That’s the big time, people. Double digits. We wanted to make this birthday special, not that their other birthdays suck or anything, but still! This is 10. So, we went a little bigger than normal. If there’s one thing I know about parenting, it’s that many hands lighten the load. I’ve written before about how it really takes a village to raise a child. This is especially true when it comes to birthdays. Because, my friends, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m not the Pinterest mom. I don’t do themed birthdays. I don’t make fun prize packs and organize games that enrich their minds while stimulating their interest in underwater basket weaving. I invite kids over. I feed them. They play. Everyone has a good time. There are presents and cake. Sometimes they argue amongst themselves. Sometimes a kid skins a knee. And, for the most part, it’s fun.

But, my kids do value the Pinterest-worthy birthdays. I mean, I would, too, if someone threw one for me! Their grandmother on their dad’s side passed away several years ago. She was the crafting queen. She could turn an old sock into a Broadway puppet. These days, their stepmom fills that role. She made some awesome cupcakes for my 10-year-old to take to class on his birthday. She has the patience and creative spirit to do it. I, on the other hand, yeah… well, here’s what it looked like when I made rum cake in a fancy castle pan. Pinterest fail.


But, I am not alone. I mean, come on, there’s an entire Pinterest Fail website filled with other moms like me. In fact, one of my best friend’s daughter’s birthday is the day before my son’s. She struggled with the same problem I had. Her daughter had high expectations of what she wanted for a birthday banner. My friend, yeah, well, we’re a lot alike. So, she reached out to another friend who does do crafty things – and does them well. And, tada, she got exactly what her daughter wanted.

The thing is, in a world of Pinterest and constant status updates on social media bragging about how great you are and how perfect your kids are and how you managed to bake a cake while in spin class and learning French while volunteering at the homeless shelter for cats and helping your daughter’s girl scout troop all at the same time, there are real moms out there feeling a little less than perfect. I know, I know, people really only like to post the good stuff and everyone struggles with their own things that they don’t care to post about. All I want to say is, own it. I’m owning the fact that I am not a crafter or a Pinterest mom, nor will I ever be. And, I’m owning that I am not afraid to reach out to others who are crafty to make fun things for or with my kids. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses (ahem, feel free to scroll back up to refresh yourself with my cake monstrosity) and that’s okay. Because, it truly does take a village to raise a child – or at least provide awesome birthday decorations for them.


Two Hours of Free Time?

With the long Labor Day weekend approaching, some businesses are closing early. Some folks are even getting a half-day off work. One of my best friends (who often times serves as my unofficial editor of this site) is one of those lucky folks. Her work gets out at 1pm. Her daughter’s school isn’t out until after 3pm. Enter two hours of free time. What exactly to do with those two precious hours – hours spent without one’s children or spouse – came up for discussion in her office. And the unanimous decision that was arrived to did not surprise me: shopping.

All these adults with children – when given the freedom of two unexpected hours of free time – arrived at the same conclusion – they’d all rather shop child-free. No kids hanging on carts. No children demanding you buy them the Sugar-Os with Spiderman on the front of the box. No kindergartener waiting until you’re standing in the ice cream aisle with a pizza in-hand for them to tell you they “have to poop RIGHT NOW.” (Not that any of those incidents have ever happened to this mommy. Oh no, never.) Instead – these parents would get two hours – no strings (or kids) attached – to wander the aisles at their own speed. To smell all the deodorants. To browse books, and not ones that have bright, colorful drawings of bears riding bicycles on the front covers. To look at – and even (gasp!) try on clothing without a child laying on the floor of the dressing room, trying to army-crawl under your stall into the next one – staring up at you and loudly stage-whispering, “Mommy, why are you so fat?” These are the moments parents look forward to.

These are the moments I get (and take for granted) every other week. When my kids are with me – I am pushing the cart with kids hanging like slabs of meat off either side, making driving in a straight line an unaccomplishable feat. I am the one holding a pizza box inside the women’s restroom while my 5-year-old takes his sweet time in the loo. I am the one breaking the hearts of my three kids and making them roll their eyes simultaneously when I tell them to read the ingredients of the sugar cereal box to me and explaining why we won’t be buying it. And then, I’m not. When my kids go to their Dad’s house, I’m the lady wandering the aisles at her own speed – staring at the sale items and pushing my cart with ease in a straight line. I’m also the woman who turns suddenly when she hears a kid scream, “Mom!” in the store and the one that smiles at the little baby in the line in front of me at the register. It’s a weird kind of dichotomy. From non-stop cacophony to silence. Just like that.

But, don’t go thinking this post has gone all dark and dreary on you. I can say I love love love my time with my kids. I can also say child-free time is necessary to your sanity!!! Two hours of not being responsible for another human? Two hours of not wiping someone else’s butt or nose while you try to grocery shop? Yeah. Yeah, I get that. I totally understand why this was the task of choice by all these office workers. So – my parental friends – enjoy! Take those two hours. Just for you. Stop. Enjoy the flowers. (No, really – you can look at the floral department at the store without fear of your kids wanting to tear blooms off a $75 bouquet.) Try that new bra on. Buy a book – and not one that consists solely of rhyming couplets. Enjoy those two hours. And then, enjoy picking up your kids from school. Because children of parents who take time to find mentally balance are all the better for it. And so are you.

The Unsung Hero in your Kitchen

Every day, she serves you. She always keeps things just where you left them. She makes sure that wonderful pot roast you made last night (do people still make pot roast?) stays fresh to provide dinner for another day. She puts up with your kids constantly pulling on her, grubby hands and all. She takes the abuse of having to be “on” 24/7. Until, one day she doesn’t. And that, my friends, that is the day you realize how much you’ve taken her for granted. Your refrigerator, that is.

All those countless times I’ve opened my fridge doors and stood there, pondering what I would make for dinner (yes, exactly the thing our parents scolded us for when we were kids), I honestly never thought, “Hey, I wonder how much longer this fridge will last.” Because you just expect it will work. It’ll keep doing its job. But, like the book says, “Everyone poops.” Fridges, too. And yes, yes, I do think it counts as pooping when you come home to find a soupy mess in your freezer and water from the ice machine gushed out on the ground, pooling up under your floor and destroying the planks in the process.

You never realize how good you have it, until you’re elbow deep in your freezer at 10:30 at night, sorting the salvageable (veggie burgers) from the unsalvageable (room temperature fish) when all you really wanted was to indulge yourself in a bowl of freaking ice cream that is now a container of thick liquid. Or, when you are deciding exactly what makes the cut of the sacred space in your cooler – eggs, yes, pickles, no. No, you never take the time to think, “Wow, having a working fridge is just swell.” But, you should.

You know why you should take a moment to be thankful for your refrigerator? Your hard-working, unappreciated, unsung hero of your kitchen? Because they are ridiculously expensive to replace! And, it’s a real pain in the butt to do so. I now know way more than I ever should about options – stainless steel or white, french doors or a side by side, freezer on top or bottom. And I know about the reality that your old, defunct fridge has to go somewhere. Putting it out to pasture is not free. Either is the cost of a new water pipe, because apparently the new one shall never use the old one. It may actually be a commandment.

So, my friends, when you go to make dinner tonight or when you open the doors of your fridge to gather the stuff to make lunches in the morning, take a second to appreciate that old gal. Tell her thanks. And keep an eye on the sales, because you never know when her day is coming.


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