Friday, December 21, 2007

It's a...

GIRL!


The gift that keeps on giving…in a good way

By Karrie McAllister

It’s that time of year; I’ve got presents on the brain. And I’m reminded of the importance of choosing the right gift every time my four-year-old son pushes the button on the animated singing snowman he received last year. (Worse yet, I was the one who bought it for him!)
Trust me, hearing a fat, wiggling snowman sing “Play that Funky Music White Boy” multiple times a day is a stark, yet funky, reminder that you should think before you give.
It’s the same old challenge this year, trying to come up with just the right present for just the right person. And in my book, the perfect gift should have the following characteristics:
It should be meaningful. You should be thinking about the person you are giving it to, and find something special just for them. For example, if my son was not into disco dancing, the snowman would not have suited him. But unfortunately, it does.
It should be quality. There is nothing worse than opening a gift and having it break coming out of the packaging, so make sure the gift is sturdy enough to withstand the giftee. Unfortunately, our wiggling snowman has proven it’s strength through THREE sets of batteries.
And speaking of batteries… A perfect gift either does not require them or comes complete with the expensive little buggers. There’s not a parent out there who cringes at the thought of the enormous costs of AA’s, C’s and the dreaded D’s.
The perfect gift should be fun and enjoyable. Personally speaking, as pretty as fancy jewelry is, it’s not on my Christmas list. It’s really not the perfect gift for me (although it usually doesn’t require batteries) because I don’t get much enjoyment out of putting earrings in that I have to be in constant danger of losing and that I won’t be able to see unless I’m looking in the mirror. The disco snowman, in this case, would sadly be a better choice!
And finally, the perfect gift should tell that person how much you love and care about them. Isn’t that really what a gift is all about? In this season of giving (and over-giving, and tipping and over-tipping) we tend to lose sight of the real purpose of giving gifts. It should be a “want to” and not a “have to.” And as much as I didn’t want to, I bought my son that horrendous electronic doo-dad because I wanted to show him how much I really love him.
But this Christmas I think I’ve done a pretty good job giving everyone on my list something really special. It even came early so I’d have a lot of time to get it wrapped up for the holiday season.
In fact, she came three weeks early, in early December, clocking in at a whopping six pounds and thirteen ounces—my biggest baby yet. And not that I’m going to stick a bow on her head, but I’m pretty sure my family is very happy with the gift they are receiving in the newest McAllister member.
Not only that, but she rightfully meets all of my criteria for the perfect Christmas present. She’s special and meaningful. She’s healthy. She requires no batteries. (Diapers, yes, but thankfully no batteries!) She’s going to be a lot of fun once she gets her days and nights straight, and I’m sure she’ll provide us with a ton of enjoyable stories through the years. Last but not least, she’s bringing even more love to our family, and I’m so happy to have her here. She is a gift that will keep on giving, and can satisfy even the pickiest of Christmas lists. Better yet, she doesn’t have a button that makes her sing “Play that Funky Music White boy” and a carrot nose.
Yep, the perfect Christmas present.

C is for Cookie, and it’s good enough for…THEM!

By Karrie McAllister

At any given Christmas function, you will find me and my mouth full of sweet teeth lingering with a large cup of coffee right next to the dessert table. Easter has it’s chocolate, Thanksgiving has it’s pies, and that’s all well and good. But those holidays have nothing on Christmas and all of the joyous cookies that come along with it.
Yes, from cutouts to those little nutty ones you have to stick your thumb in to make a well for the jelly, I love them all. Even the peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kiss so delicately pushed into the center, which I really don’t like, I’ll eat anyway. Why? Because it’s Christmas and I love sugar and getting fat doesn’t count before January 2nd.
However, with cookie in hand, there is one line that will stop me in my tracks and lock up my throat like I’ve eaten a McNugget shaped like a chicken head:
“My kids made those cookies!”
I’m all for kids in the kitchen. My kids have multiple aprons and cookbooks designed for little people with no concept of measurement. They can scoop and dump and are slowly mastering the art of stirring without flinging ingredients around the room. They can even make us scrambled eggs all by herself.
The operative word there is us. They make things for us, so if there’s an eggshell or a stray booger, we really don’t mind that much. They are our children. I’ve dealt with enough of their bodily functions to make mucus low on my priority list; being of our own flesh and blood, their flesh and blood isn’t all that gross.
But so help me, if I found another kid’s booger in a cookie, I’d, er, toss my cookies. If you’re thinking “there’s no way a kid would drop a booger in a bowl of cookie batter,” you obviously have no children. Boogers are an essential part of being a child, and realizing that your body can make little green blobs that you can remove and examine is very, very cool when you’re little.
I know this because I have raised two toddlers.
So I am quite positive that cooking of any sort with children must involve nose waste. If it’s not dropping right out of their noses, it is definitely embedded in their nails, ready to cling on to a chocolate chip at first chance.
But I do love to bake with my kids. They are entirely too cute in their miniature aprons with their miniature spoons to let them sit idly by, twiddling their booger-laden thumbs.
And although we are thorough hand washers, we are kind and generous during the holiday season and choose to share love, and not boogers, with our Christmas guests. For that reason, I have devised a simple plan to mark the cookies made by the loving hands of a preschooler.
I let them decorate their own cookies.
As I mentioned before, there is no concept of measurement. There is also no concept of how much is too much when it comes to things like sprinkles and frosting and those little decorative beads that look like bee-bees. While they are going to town drowning the cut-out trees and snowmen with enough sugar decor to send us all straight to the dentist, I am delicately practicing my confectionary creativity. Beautiful cookies, all guaranteed to be booger-free.
At this point you’re probably wondering what we do with all of those carefully globulated treats. Fret not, because that’s the next part of my cunning plan. We wrap them up, put them in a cute little tin, tie on a ribbon and adhere a tag that says:
“To Grandma and Grandpa. From your loving Grandchildren”
The grandparents are thrilled to have a homemade and tasty gift, and seeing as my kids are in their biological line, they are family boogers and nothing bad comes from a spare snot or two.
Voila! Crisis averted, and everyone at the cookie table is happy.
I just hope there are some left over, so I can gorge myself before January 2nd rolls around.

The vicious circle of life and my belly button

By Karrie McAllister

At this point in my life, I am most obviously pregnant.
With mere days to go, I strictly waddle and tend to groan every time I need to bend down anywhere near the floor. While grocery shopping, I lean on the cart like it is my life support, as if that cart is the only thing letting me stand upright and keep mobile while I toss in the food for the week that I will most likely be too tired to cook at home.
My clothes have all become snug in places they should not. Maternity fashion designers must not be realistic human women, or else the stretchy elastic band would start at the waist and continue down past the hips because those things tend to expand just as much as a belly during these glorious months. The cute wide-cut shirts made to fit over bellies don’t fit over so well anymore, so if I’m not yanking down the shirts, I’m pulling up the pants so that somehow, someway, the belly button that has recently become horribly convex won’t show more than it has to.
It’s a vicious circle, really.
And it’s something that any mother can relate to.
There has always been a special maternal bond among women. A woman may be just another woman, but find a mother and you’ll find someone you can talk to. A kindred spirit in the land of children, where sleep is minimal, hugs are worth more than money, and there are fruit snacks stuck between the seats in your car.
But no matter the age of your children, there is one short phase of a mother’s life that we all remember so well: the pregnancy. And seeing another pregnant woman must trigger some mental chemicals, because just the sight of one gives other mothers the will and the right to do two things: touch the big belly and tell their own harrowing stories of pregnancy.
Trust me. These things happen to me on a daily basis.
I’m not one for people patting my belly, especially with that whole convex belly button thing I’ve got going on. But I accept it because I know there will be a time in my life when I will be tempted to touch other bubble bellies too.
The thing that tickles me, though, is how women just love to tell their own tales of woe from when they were growing that little miracle inside.
“My feet were so big, I could only wear slippers.”
“I had Bell’s palsy and half of my face was paralyzed.”
“We had no air conditioning and I sweat for four months solid.”
And the list continues…
The greatest part about listening to women complain about pregnancies of long ago is asking them how many children they had, because most likely, for as miserable as they were, they had multiple children and went through the aches and pains more than once, even though they knew just what they were in for.
And I’m no different. For as much as I whine about the fact that it takes me a recordable amount of time to put my socks on and I can’t eat a meal without spilling something on my shirt, I know that sometime down the road I will see another woman with the tell-tale maternity muumuu and waddle walk, and if I don’t stop her and ask to pat her belly, I’ll at least tell her how bad it was trying to cover up that belly button of mine.
And I’ll walk away and think to myself, “gee, it really wasn’t so bad. I could probably do it again.”
It’s that viscous circle, but one we as mothers have every right to get wrapped up in. For as much as we complain, we actually enjoy going round and round and reliving what is truly a magnificent time in our lives.
That, and touching other people’s baby bellies.

Mostly baby with a 50% chance of a girl…or a boy

By Karrie McAllister

“Do you know what you’re having?”
If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me that question, I could afford to pay for a whole gamut of tests to positively confirm the gender of my child.
Instead, I give a smart aleck answer. “Hopefully a human baby.”
And then I explain that although I had plenty of chances to find out, my husband really wanted to be surprised this time around and wait until the “hopefully human baby” makes its debut as a boy or a girl.
Believe me, I wanted to know before hand so that I would only have to unpack and wash half of the baby clothes and so that we could only argue about one name instead of two. I also didn’t want to have to purchase any uni-sex baby clothes, those yellow and green jobs that make strangers nervous to ask anything using pronouns.
But I digress.
The fact that we do not know the sex of the baby also brings about a fantastic list of old wives tales that people just swear by. Evidently, no matter how kooky the old wives tale, they are usually correct 50% of the time. Go figure.
So in this, my last week of pregnancy, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite tales with you all:
Pull down the skin under your left eye and look at your eyeball. If you see a vein that looks like a V or branches, you will be having a girl. I did this, and all I saw was living proof that I’m tired and haven’t had a restful night’s sleep in weeks.
If your legs resemble tree trunks, it's a boy. If they are trim and fit, it's a girl. And just who is going to tell me that my legs look like tree trunks? Guaranteed someone who will walk away with a plenty of veins in their black eye.
If you can’t tell from the back that a woman is pregnant, it’s a boy. If a woman gets wide all over, it’s a girl. Again, I ask, who (besides someone looking to get slugged) is going to tell me, “wow, your girth is really something. Must be a girl.”
If you crave the heels of bread, you will have a boy; if you like the middle, it’s a girl.. What if you crave the whole loaf? Toasted with lots of butter? Because that’s what I’m craving these days.
If you ask a mother to show you her hands and if she shows them palms up, it's a girl; palms down, a boy. But what about if she shows you them while holding a cup of coffee? Or a piece of toast? (I actually would show you my hands palms up, if you’re keeping track…)
If a woman is carrying the baby high, it’s a girl; low, it’s a boy. But what if that woman is having her third child and everything is so stretched out that it would be physically impossible for anything to be high?
Ask a mother to pick up a key. If you've picked it up by the thinner end, you're having a girl. Picking it up by the bottom, rounder part means a boy is on the way. Or more realistically, if you pick up the key and run out to the car yelling, “hurry up! We’re going to be late!” chances are you’ve got other kids and are just lucky you remembered to take your keys before locking yourself out of the house.
Girls will steal their mother’s beauty, boys will make a woman feel more beautiful. Well, depends on whether your eyes are bloodshot, your legs look like tree trunks and you require a “wide load” sign to walk down the sidewalk.
If a mother is moody and short-tempered, it’s a girl; if she’s happy and cheerful, it’s a boy. I’ll leave this one up to you, readers!
Place your bets and results will be posted shortly.

A new holiday series! Survivor: Husbands for the Holidays

By Karrie McAllister

As usual, the turkey’s not even cooled and sliced and already people are decking their halls and hauling out the holly. The radio stations are taken hostage by the 14 holiday songs that are played over and over, sung by different artists and in different genres, but it’s still the same old 14 songs. The stores are completely insane, and television programming is booked solid with Christmas specials and holiday themed concerts.
It’s all well and good, because I, like most people, eat it all up as much as I do the Christmas cookies. My halls will be decked before my husband wakes up from his Tryptophan nap.
However, this year I’d like to pitch a new holiday series to the CBS Network for our television entertainment pleasure, so if there are any CBS executives out there reading this, remember it was MY IDEA and that I should be the one raking in the zillions of dollars for this new show. I can virtually guarantee that every female between the 20 and 120 will be watching, and I’ll even give Mark Burnett a cut. I swear.
We’ve all had our fair share of Survivor shows, when we see scantily clad people building rafts and getting even more tan. It’s entertaining, sure, but there’s nothing real about it. That is why, for next year’s holiday season, I’d like to pitch my realistic Survivor show:
SURVIVOR: HUSBANDS FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Husbands and fathers will be blindfolded and taken to a large shopping mall the morning after Thanksgiving, with their kids in tow. There they will have to complete the following tasks:
1. Finding a parking spot without getting hit by a stray shopping cart
2. Successfully completing at least half of the holiday shopping without losing their temper when the kids need to go to the bathroom five times and then still demand something more to drink
3. Not forgetting the wrapping paper, tape, and ribbon
Those who survive that first day will then return to their homes and compete in the next phase of the competition, where each one will have to bake at least four different types of cookies and work really hard decorating them. From there they must keep their cool while the rest of the family devours them instantly, not even noting the placement of the cinnamon holly berries or the silver snowflake glitter.
The next stage of Survivor: Husbands for the Holidays will be in the wrapping department, where the men are required to wrap all of the presents, instead of just his wife’s which he usually just sticks in a bag on Christmas morning. Extra points awarded for festive ribbon and remembering to mark which present goes to whom.
For a surprise immunity challenge, a neighbor will show up at the door bearing a gift. To win immunity, the husband must have a stash of extra “just-in-case” gifts to return the favor. Note: re-gifted gifts do not count and are subject to immediate dismissal.
If any husbands still remain in the competition, the final task is to take the children to have their photos taken with Santa Claus. The fathers must have sufficient distraction materials for the hour-long-plus wait, and they must not have forgotten the lists the children made. To finish, they must successfully get their children onto Santa’s lap and make enough goofy faces so that the children are actually smiling (and not screaming in fear) for their photo.
The winner of Survivor: Husbands for the Holidays will receive first dibs at Christmas leftovers and the next year off.
[And not to be gender biased, I’m thinking next year the wives could compete in a show of their own, where tasks would involve getting the tree to stand up perfectly straight and an outdoor lighting display.]
So, c’mon CBS, what do you think? Do we have a winner here or what?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Food Therapy

I just have to tell the world, or at least anyone willing to listen:


I just made the world's most delicious Brussels Sprouts!!!!!


I actually had to STOP myself from eating them so that there would be some left for Thanksgiving dinner.


Sometimes the little things in life, right?


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Nesting Instinct: Fact, fiction, or just a bunch of crazy cleaning?

By Karrie McAllister

Yesterday morning I woke up early. I then proceeded to do the laundry, clean the kitchen, rearrange my daughter’s room, and vacuum under all of the beds. I also cleaned my desk (an immeasurable task in itself) and cleaned the fishbowl.
And then I sat down to lunch.
Now that I’ve officially reached the point in my pregnancy when I am wearing exclusively slip on shoes, it appears I’ve also conveniently reached the point when I am painfully contorting my oversized body to put Mrs. Cleaver’s house to shame.
Officially, it’s called “nesting.” Unofficially, I call it “going meshuga.”
The “nesting instinct” is the term used to describe women in the latter months of pregnancy when they have the uncontrollable urge to clean and organize like the Queen of England was coming over for tea. It is defined as a sudden burst of energy that comes out of nowhere and causes women who are normally exhausted from carrying around a few extra dozen pounds to turn into Mrs. Clean. Maybe it’s just rumor, but women have been known to scrub their entire house, top to bottom, with a toothbrush. Others take on full-blown nursery renovations and complete them in record speed.
It’s not only humans that go through this mad dash of preparation just before birth. Birds obviously have their own nesting rituals, mainly building nests, before laying their eggs. And some studies have shown that all primates have these same urges in the last months of pregnancy, which I believe only further justifies the fact that I myself have been “going ape” of late.
They say it’s all done to get ready for the big day, to ensure that you and your other family members are well taken care of after the birth of the new child, when instinctively the mother knows that her time will be completely consumed. They also say the nesting instinct is caused by hormonal fluctuations and surging emotions. (Any woman will tell you this can NOT be true, that we as a gender never, ever have emotional swings, and that we are perfectly stable all the time and if anyone wants to challenge this, well, step into the ring, buddy!)
But going through this instinct for the third time myself, I’m pretty sure the nesting is just a good case of motherly intuition. Call it physical, call it emotional, call it whatever you want. It boils down to a mother’s sixth sense; the same one that knows when a child needs to wear a coat and hat and when the kids is eating his beans or is just hiding them in his napkin. Same thing. We just know best.
We mothers know that once the new baby comes, life will change. We know that laundry will pile higher than Mount Everest and that there will be many nights of eating cereal for dinner. We know that closets that are overstuffed to the point of being harmful will somehow drop the bottom of the priority list, only ahead of our own personal fashion and beauty sense.
And so it is with excited heart that we plan and organize and get ready for baby. Bursts of energy like this are not to be ignored—in fact, I don’t think it’s physically possible for us to overlook the urge to scrub our bathtubs. It’s healthy, it makes us happy, and frankly, our bathtubs can probably use it, too.
Unfortunately, the nesting instinct is mainly a maternal one and doesn’t extend to the paternal part of the family, who usually is equally exhausted near the time of the baby’s birth. His tiredness doesn’t come from the sleepless nights and constant neediness of the baby, but rather from the mile-long honey-do list that the mother wrote out for him inbetween loads of laundry and scrubbing the bathtub.

Holiday shopping builds big muscles these days

By Karrie McAllister

This afternoon I will partake in my November ritual. I will don my shoes and jacket and head out to the garage. I will find my leather work gloves and put them on and push the wheelbarrow out the side door.
From there I will go past the woodpile. I will go past the plants that need to be cut back. I will go down to the end my driveway and park my wheelbarrow in front of the mailbox.
It is time to check the mail.
Stuffed inside the little rounded metal box there will without doubt be more paper than I can safely haul back to my house without the aid of my trusty wheelbarrow. There will be a few bills from early holiday shopping and bills revealing the first cold snap of the year, but there will certainly be at least five-thousand six-hundred catalogs jammed in there.
I think the mailman must have super-human muscles from lugging these things around—I know I’m getting a good set of my own just bringing them into my home.
I’m also thinking that my name and address must appear on some master list entitled “People Who Have Actually Purchased Something from a Mail-Order Catalog,” because I receive, on average, two catalogs a day during the month of November.
They come in all sorts and sizes, each different and each displaying their own special products that they assume will take care of everyone on my Christmas shopping list.
For the carnivores, I have received a few “all-meat” catalogs. Page after page of raw beef and obscure things like elk sausage and my personal favorite, the tur-duc-hen, which for those who have not received this meat catalog yet is a hen stuffed inside a duck which is then stuffed inside a turkey. Mmmm mmm… but I’m thinking there must be a better name for it.
For all of those sports enthusiasts I know, I’ve got heaps of varieties of catalogs covering every sport known to mankind. Tennis, running, hunting, fishing, you name it, I’ve got a place for you to find it. If only everyone I knew was in need of sub-zero thermal underwear or a new snorkel, my holiday shopping would be a breeze.
But because I have children and I’m on another master list entitled “Suckers Who Actually Bought from an Extremely Over-Priced Toy Catalog,” we get these things by the dozens. Hundreds, even. And at least three-quarters of them are identical versions of another catalog; the only difference being a different front cover, showing a different kid, wearing a different colored construction hat and playing with a different set of blocks.
Yet somehow, my own kids go gaga over ever single catalog that comes in the mail.
They tear through them, pointing out the same exact toys that they went gaga about the day before in a different catalog, ooohing and ahhhing over how cool it would be to have a rock tumbler or an electronic drum set.
They then cut out the pictures of the, and I quote, “coolest presents in the whole wide galaxy.” Next they glue them on a piece of paper, making a visual wish-list that conveniently has the price and ordering information clipped away, not that I’d use it, but at least I would be able to have a good argument as to why they can’t have a twelve-foot teepee. (Because it costs over three-hundred dollars!)
When they are finished and their Christmas lists have grown to gargantuan proportions, I don my shoes and coat and work gloves again and load up all of the now skeletal toy catalogs back into the wheelbarrow. From there I haul them back out to the end of my driveway and leave them there in the recycling bin in hopes that they will be recycled into something better and more useful than one of the thousands of holiday catalogs I’ll get next year…maybe something like protective packaging for the tur-duc-hen…

Club MAW!

I wanted to post a little something about ClubMAW, a newer site of which I am a part. It's a very nice community with lovely women, designed to be a meeting place for other lovely Mothers And Wives around the world.
The site is set up into "parts of the house" divided for different discussions. For example, you can post about feeding your family in Your Kitchen. Get it?
I am the MAWderator for, you guessed it, Your Back Yard, where we discuss outdoor activities and recreation, etc. Nearly anything goes.

This site, www.ClubMAW.com, is just getting started. Please drop by and take a look around, and come and visit me "out back!"

Club MAW!

I wanted to post a little something about ClubMAW, a newer site of which I am a part. It's a very nice community with lovely women, designed to be a meeting place for other lovely Mothers And Wives around the world.
The site is set up into "parts of the house" divided for different discussions. For example, you can post about feeding your family in Your Kitchen. Get it?
I am the MAWderator for, you guessed it, Your Back Yard, where we discuss outdoor activities and recreation, etc. Nearly anything goes.

This site, www.ClubMAW.com, is just getting started. Please drop by and take a look around, and come and visit me "out back!"

Monday, November 5, 2007

Five little pumpkins, two bored kids, and one tired (and orange) mom

By Karrie McAllister

Five little pumpkins, sitting on a gate.
The first one said, “I know my fate!”
The second one said, “My top comes off with cuts.”
The third one said, “And they scoop out my guts.”
The fourth one said, “They poke my eyes and nose.”
The fifth one said, “And on the front porch I goes.”
Then OOOOh went the wind, and out went the light,
And the five little pumpkins just sat there, smiled, and rotted until the middle of November, and one until late November, but you really couldn’t tell it was a pumpkin anymore.

I love pumpkins. They are an essential part of my favorite season, which lasts from about the second week in October until the freezing rains start knocking down the corn stalks.

I love all sorts and sizes of pumpkins. I love the little tiny ones that you set all over your house for decoration to the great big deformed ones we rush to see at the county fair, and everything in between.

As a kid, we carved pumpkins every year. And this was before they had those fancy and safe pumpkin carving knives, so each and every October we all risked our fingers by using the biggest and sharpest knives we had, just like everyone else. I figure the guy who invented those fancy safety carving knives only had two fingers left on each hand but still loved his pumpkins.
But for all of the risk taking, it was always fun. We slung pumpkin goo around like we wouldn’t have to wash the sticky orange glue from off the walls and ourselves. And for a time in my ‘tween years, I even remember smearing the stuff on my face because I heard it made for radiant skin.

Then we sat for what seemed like hours, picking every last piece of guts off every last pumpkin seed, and we’d roast them and load them with salt and eat them all in one sitting.

It was good, not-so-clean, Halloween tradition, and I thank my parents for each and every memory.

But now, with my own kids, I find myself turning into a mean pumpkin persecutor. As much as I loved carving pumpkins, I utterly and completely dread the time spent doing it with my kids. It is an undertaking of massive proportions—and one I honestly don’t see myself having the patience for.

First the buying of the pumpkins, then the washing of the pumpkins. And because my children are still small enough not to poke out their eyes (or the eyes of their siblings) with even the safest of pumpkin carving tools, my husband and I end up doing all of the work.

And as if that wasn’t enough, after two scoops of pumpkin guts, someone will predictably declare that he or she is done with the pumpkin and, completely covered in the those two scoops, will want to go play with something else. Then, my husband (who is really not so particular about the cleaning of the seeds) leaves me and me alone to gather the seeds for roasting.

“And who will EAT the seeds?” said the Little Red Hen, who incidentally has a fantastic recipe for sweet and spicy seeds that she just can’t live without.

When it is all said and done, I am pumpkin weary and stained orange up to my elbows. But still, I haul their faces with the token triangle eyes and toothy smiles out to the front porch, sprinkle their insides with cinnamon, and light the tea lights.

We all go out and oooh and ahhh over the glory of the jack-o-lantern until someone asks for candy and we all go back in, leaving our new pumpkin friends to sit and gather mold and decompose until they are shrunken heads and have stained our front steps with their rot, just like they’re supposed to do.

Hey, you just can’t beat tradition.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween treats!

I usually save this blog for writing only, but when you've got kids like this, pictures are worth a thousand words. Or a thousand "awwws!" Are they cute or what?



Introducing Annie Oakley and the Red Ninja:



Monday, October 22, 2007

The Constitution of The Laundry Room

By Karrie McAllister

I, The Mom of this, The Laundry Room, in order to form a more perfect home, establish peace, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the remainder of my family members, promote the general cleanliness, and secure the wearability of clothing for myself and my family, do ordain and establish this Constitution for The Laundry Room.
Article 1: The Branches of PowerAll Power herein granted shall be vested in a sole ruler, which shall consist of The Mom, because she is the only one who will accomplish anything in The Laundry Room.
Article 2: The StateThe State of The Laundry Room shall be under the control of The Mom at all times, and should never be blamed on The Mom. The Mom typically has other things to do besides just the tasks of The Laundry Room, and anyone whining about the speed at which items move through The Laundry Room shall be punished by hand-washing gym socks without the assistance of rubber gloves.
Amendment 1: Freedom of reachThe remaining members of this household are free to place their dirty clothes into a number of hampers that The Mom has strategically placed around the house in convenient locations. From the hampers, The Mom will removed the soiled clothing and return it in a much cleaner state to the owners of said clothing.However, The Mom will not be held responsible for dirty clothing that is left on bathroom or bedroom floors, in piles near the hampers, or in the garage.
Amendment 2: The right to bare armsIf family members do not cooperate by gathering their dirty clothes into the hampers, they have the right to bare arms, legs, and other such body parts because they were too lazy to pick the socks up and take the two steps to put them in the hamper.
Amendment 3: Search and seizure
The rights of the Family do not exist behind the door of The Laundry Room. The Mom may search all pockets for loose change and seize it as her own. The Mom also has the right to save the accumulated funds and spend them on herself in any way she pleases. Finders shall be keepers, and losers shall be weepers.
Amendment 4: Confrontation of witnesses
Upon the instance of a member of The Family leaving a tube of lip balm or an ink pen in the pocket of His or Her clothing, The Mom will not assume responsibility for the destruction of the other clothing in the same load. Instead, The Mom has the right to confront and berate the member who committed this heinous crime, unless of course it was herself, in which case it was just an honest mistake.
Amendment 5: Cruel and unusual punishmentIf, for some reason, a member of The Family thinks that He or She is doing you a favor by taking off sweaty exercise clothing and placing them directly into the washing machine and leaving them there, sealed and unwashed, to fester in their own filth, this hereby is considered Cruel and Unusual Punishment and the perpetrator shall be rightfully punished.
Amendment 6: The powers of The Mom
The Mom has the final power of decision when faced with articles of dirty clothing that have not been previously returned to their right-side-out state. Any t-shirts or pants arriving in The Laundry Room in an inside-out fashion may or may not be returned correctly. This decision is left to The Mom and likely depends on her mood at that time. Dirty, sweaty, grass-clipping-filled socks that have been taken to The Laundry Room will not, under any circumstances, be returned in their correct state. The Mom does not wish to reach her hand in any more than you, and will not be expected to endure such awful conditions.

Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of The Mom in the Year two thousand and seven. She has hereunto subscribed her name…in fabric softener.

A pocketful of…mom

By Karrie McAllister

I play this little game every morning. It’s kind of a race against fate. The object? I must wake up early, feed the dogs, get the paper, make coffee, drink coffee, eat breakfast, pack a lunch, and assemble two book bags before the sound of grouchy morning feet come stomping down the stairs demanding chocolate milk and cartoons.
The prize? Serenity.
Needless to say, I rarely win. But that doesn’t stop me from setting the alarm clock early every school day. Someone asked me why I don’t just put on some sweats and throw the kids into the car, and while my answer that day was “because I don’t like sweat pants,” now that I think about it, it’s really about the preparation for the day. I want to make sure that I have everything as ready as possible for my kids before sending them off to school, even if it means a little less sleep for myself.
And while I really enjoy my morning coffee, it’s packing those bags that gets me out of bed in the morning.
For my preschooler, I make sure he’s got his book bag. If it’s his snack day, I check to make sure we’ve got the right amount of napkins, cups, and goodies. I take the strings, cars, and make-shift guns out of the pockets of his coat, and line things up by the door.
For my kindergartner, I double-check her homework folder. I make sure I haven’t forgotten a surprise piece of candy in her lunch. I write out sweet little notes that I’m not sure she can read, and tuck them in her backpack and her lunch box. I know that she counts on me to remember these things to get her through her day. Once everything is set, I place her things by the door, too.
But for all of the packing and prepping they have come to expect, there’s one more thing I slip into their pockets before we walk out the door.
Myself.
A friend told me the other day that even though her son is older, she still goes through his day in his back pocket, even though he doesn’t know she’s there. “It’s 11:00,” she said, “he’s taking a chemistry test.”
I didn’t realize it until she put it into those terms, but I do the same thing. Since my son has started preschool and my daughter has started kindergarten, I feel like I’m right there with them.
At 10:30, I grab a snack because I know that’s what my son is doing.
At 11:30, my stomach growls a little because I know that’s when my daughter eats lunch. And then at noon I wonder if that boy is still chasing her around the playground, and which one of her friends is coming to her rescue that day. At 1:00 on Tuesdays I know she’s headed up to music class, and that she’s probably happy because it’s one of her favorite things.
Yes, my clock checking is a little neurotic, but I just can’t help myself. I suppose it’s because I miss them terribly.
Being a stay-at-home-mom, I’ve spent the last five years pouring everything I could into my children. I have driven them back and forth to the library and the park more times than I could count. We’ve gone through boxes and boxes of crayons, markers, paints, and glue. We’ve read stories, played games and built forts, and now it feels so strange to just stop doing those things, step back, and let my children go.
So instead of totally letting go, I pack myself in their back pocket, just like my friend does with her son.
I don’t know how long it will last, or if they’ll ever realize that lump they sit on all day is really their mother. But for the time being, I’ll keep doing what I do-- getting up early to make my coffee, and to pack lunches, book bags, and back pockets.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Spicy Bush

Some kids can name every type of truck. Some kids know each and every Polly Pocket doll name.
My kids are learning their nature, which my husband says makes them look like big nerds, but I think makes them look pretty cool.
A few months ago, we were taking a walk at a local state forest preserve and met up with a friend who frequently walks there for exercise. We decided to do one loop together, and because we usually point out plants and animal signs along the way, my kids (then 3 and 5), did their normal thing.
"Hey, mom, pointy leaves equals red oak!" "Ooh, jack in the pulpit!" "Did you hear that blue jay?" And so on.
Needless to say, she was very impressed that a three-year-old knew more than she did.
But our favorite (and the most impressive plant in their eyes) is the spicebush. Found in rich, damp soils all over the eastern US, it has these spectacularly scented leaves. It's a lemony scent, and you can use the leaves, berries and twigs to make a tea. (Just make sure it's from an unsprayed spot and use lots of honey to sweeten it!)
We're not big wild tea drinkers, but every time we walk this loop each kid is allowed to grab one leaf to carry and squish up in their fingers. They sniff it every few steps until by the end of the trail it's just a green gooey pulp and their little hands smell like lemon for hours.

I always wonder if that friend is still walking that loop for exercise, and if she ever grabs a spicebush leaf when she walks by. I know we can't pass on up without getting our lemony fix.

Visit this site for more information on the spicebush:
http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/forestry/trees/spicebush/tabid/5419/Default.aspx

The Spicy Bush

Some kids can name every type of truck. Some kids know each and every Polly Pocket doll name.
My kids are learning their nature, which my husband says makes them look like big nerds, but I think makes them look pretty cool.
A few months ago, we were taking a walk at a local state forest preserve and met up with a friend who frequently walks there for exercise. We decided to do one loop together, and because we usually point out plants and animal signs along the way, my kids (then 3 and 5), did their normal thing.
"Hey, mom, pointy leaves equals red oak!" "Ooh, jack in the pulpit!" "Did you hear that blue jay?" And so on.
Needless to say, she was very impressed that a three-year-old knew more than she did.
But our favorite (and the most impressive plant in their eyes) is the spicebush. Found in rich, damp soils all over the eastern US, it has these spectacularly scented leaves. It's a lemony scent, and you can use the leaves, berries and twigs to make a tea. (Just make sure it's from an unsprayed spot and use lots of honey to sweeten it!)
We're not big wild tea drinkers, but every time we walk this loop each kid is allowed to grab one leaf to carry and squish up in their fingers. They sniff it every few steps until by the end of the trail it's just a green gooey pulp and their little hands smell like lemon for hours.

I always wonder if that friend is still walking that loop for exercise, and if she ever grabs a spicebush leaf when she walks by. I know we can't pass on up without getting our lemony fix.

Visit this site for more information on the spicebush:
http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/forestry/trees/spicebush/tabid/5419/Default.aspx

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

And we have to think, did God make toilets?

It’s really my own fault. I’m always pressuring my kids to think.
“Before you talk, THINK.” “Use your brain and THINK.” Or the all-time classic, “Sit here and THINK about what you’ve done!”
But all the yelling aside, there’s not much actual thinking done by kids these days. Serious thinking. Critical thinking. Even creative thinking. Sure, they decide what they want to eat, and decide creatively about what they will draw, but they don’t think about the consequences of eating only cheese for a day or what will happen when they use an entire bottle of glue on one piece of paper.
This is the thinking I’m talking about. The “if this, than that” type of logical noggin-work.
So, wearing my dorky mom hat, we like to have intellectual discussions around the dinner table. Over such delicacies as bologna sandwiches and canned corn, I have explained earth history, social conflicts, and yes, even such wonderful things as why poop is brown.
All to get their little brains turning and moving, as I wait for that million-dollar response.
“But what about ____?”
And so, over ice cream or cookies, I might have to explain why it is that jellyfish don’t have backbones, cowboys and Indians, and yes, even such wonderful things as why sometimes poop is green.
Which leads me to my next thought: sometimes I think I have encouraged too much thinking.
My son started preschool this year, which will instantly tell you that a) he is three-years old, and b) he is in the stage of his life where bathroom-talk has pretty much taken over his psyche. If he’s not IN the bathroom, he’s talking about some aspect of it, and no doubt using countless bathroom adjectives to describe even the sweetest of things.
My son’s preschool is held at a church, meaning that they teach the children Bible verses and other basic principles of the religion. In our own home, we encourage our children’s love of God and faith in God, but we also hope that they will put some of those thinking skills to use and discover their faith somewhat on their own.
Now take the situation at school and mesh it with my son’s potty-mouth, and well, I’d have paid honest money to be a fly on the wall last week at circle time in his class.
“God created the heavens and the earth” said the teacher.
And up shot my son’s hand.
“Did God make cement trucks?” he asked, looking around the room for inspiration for his questions.
“Well, God made man, and man made cement trucks,” answered the teacher.
“Did God make blocks? Books?” he continued, not satisfied with her answer.
And after a short list of other questions, he saved the best for last. “Did God make toilets???”
I’m not sure how the teacher answered, or even if she could answer without giggling. I only know the story as it was told to me, and at first I admit I was a little embarrassed. Why, of all times, would my son choose that holy moment to ask such a goofy question? And why, of all things, would he choose to ask about a toilet?!?
Then I got to practicing what I preach, and did a little thinking myself. I resolved that in his own little heart and his own little mind, he asked the questions he needed to know the answers to, to help him better understand his idea of God.
And if he has to ask his teacher about God and toilets to find his faith, I’m all for it.
I’m just glad he didn’t ask me. I think I would have laughed canned corn across the dinner table.

Another case of the dreaded Abby Syndrome

I like to call it the Abby Syndrome.
As a teenager, when I started to realize what was going on in this world, we had a basset hound and a black Labrador retriever. Upon coming home, the Lab, “Cinder,” would run right up to you, stopping whatever she was doing, and welcome you with excitement, kisses, and hugs.
“Abby,” the basset, would instead scurry around the house, looking for something, anything, to find and present to you. A bone, a toy, an old sock. Anything that really didn’t matter to the person would eventually show up and be dropped at your feet.
That was Abby. Her frantic panic when someone arrived was what helped coin the phrase the “Abby Syndrome.”
Truth was, as a teenager, I saw this very disease attack my parents, but mostly my father. Whenever we’d have guests over, my mother would prepare what needed to be done to welcome the guests into the house. She would clean the parts of the house they would see and usually whip up some delicious food that they would eat.
And that was the end of preparations for her, so that she could be giving them exactly what they needed, like Cinder the Labrador.
My father, on the other hand, was a tragic sufferer of the Abby Syndrome. If we’d have dinner guests over, instead of helping where help was needed, he’d run around like the little basset and organize his tool bench, sweep the garage, and clean his gun collection. All things that the guests really would never see.
Now, in my own married life, I look back at what I learned from my dogs and my parents and it is a real eye-opener.
I used to think it was a male vs. female sort of thing, that men were the typical victims of the Abby Syndrome. I thought this because I have heard stories of my father-in-law straightening up his woodshop and have seen my own husband rake brush piles in the hidden corners of our yard before a dinner party.
But now I know the Abby Syndrome extends beyond gender lines. And it must be genetic.
Sadly enough, I’ve got it, too.
It became all too apparent to me that I take after my father (and my dog) when it came to hosting a meeting of a local service organization at my house. Being part like my mother, I dusted the living room, where they would all sit. I wiped down the windows in the dining room, where the food would be. I took care of the toys that would be in plain sight in the house and through the windows.
But then the genetic defect kicked in, and I started doing crazy things, things my father might have done. I scrubbed my stove and cleaned the bedrooms and dusted on top of my refrigerator and other such absurdities that no one will ever look for, nor notice.
Outside, I swept the front porch and trimmed the bushes, even though my guests will all arrive in the cover of darkness.
And so I ask my tired, worn out self, why? Why would I let myself get sucked in to the bad habits? Why must I scamper around like that floppy-eared drooler of my youth? (The dog, of course, not my dad…)
The only answer I can come up with is that I must indeed be wired like this. I must have a third-degree case of the Abby Syndrome, and I just need to grab the mop and accept it.
Besides, it’s not all that bad. The top of my fridge and my stove really needed to be cleaned.
Maybe I’ll have to have another big gathering in a few months when they get dirty again.

Hanging out with friends is a personal learning experience

According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “A friend is one before whom I may think aloud.” To this, I respond with, “A friend is one who will not leave the room or slap me when I start to think aloud. Instead, she will smile and nod and accept me for who I am.”
As much as we love hanging around with people who share similar thoughts and interests, I love to find diversity in my own circle of friends. Not only do they comfort me when I am thinking aloud, but each and every one brings a little something to my life that makes me a better person. From all of their traits and quirks and stuff that makes them tick, I only hope I can grab a little of what they teach me to put to use in my own life.
So in tribute to a few of the many great ladies I know, I’d like to share some of my favorite things about my favorite people…
“Deana” is my friend that is just a little too nice. If I called her up and told her that I really needed another finger, she’d promptly chop off her pinky and drop it off on her way home from work. She is the one who is always reminding me that there is a reward in giving, and that helping friends is one of the greatest prizes of all.
“Janey” is my friend that has the biggest ears and the biggest heart. Actually, her ears are pretty cute, and they are always there at a moment’s notice. If I had a problem I just needed to talk about, day or night, I could call her and she would give me nothing but the silence I need to let it all out. From her I’ve learned that sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all, and that a hug is worth more than a thousand words.
“Meryl” is my friend who always appears ultra-organized and under control. Her home is always clean. Her diaper bag is always supplied, and I’d bet my bottom dollar that her car doesn’t look nearly as much like a pig sty as mine does. She takes the time to get things done and even takes time for herself. I am constantly amazed by this one, and I have A LOT to learn from her!
“Kallie” is never afraid to be who she is. She calls herself the “square peg in the round hole” like it’s not a bad thing, it’s just what she is. Kallie and I meet on such an odd level that most of our conversations range from world religious to breastfeeding. She teaches me to think proudly, and not be afraid of who I am.
“Evelyn” is my friend who’s always game. She’s spontaneous, fun, ready for anything, and never afraid to embrace her inner child. She’s the one who will dress up on Halloween and host Christmas in July complete with gingerbread houses. From her I’ve learned that it’s OK to call today to make plans for today, and that no one really cares how your house looks as long as the coffee is fresh and fun abounds.
“Maura” is my short friend who is never afraid to stand tall, and who puts her children’s well-being first. She’s always telling me how she’s making a stink at school, but that she doesn’t care that she’s called the principal on the second day of school. I keep her motto close: “You’re the only one who is going stand up for your kids,” and even though I tower over her physically, I definitely look up to her!
There are more friends I wish I had the space to mention, but the important thing to know is that I keep a piece of each of them with me all the time. I only hope that my friends learn something from me, too.
My wish is that if you are reading this column, you’ll stop and take a minute to think about the special people in your life. And then take another minute to let them know how much they mean to you.
I just did.

Monday, October 1, 2007

"P Brain?" Nope. "O Brain."

At a recent outdoor weekend event for women, I learned that the opossum, our country's only naturally occurring marsupial, has the lowest brain to body size ratio of any animal. That means that it's brain is extremely tiny for it's body, and that it only knows how to eat, sleep, and make more opossums.

It has also apparently been too dumb to catch on to evolutionary traits, has a mouth full of different teeth even though it doesn't use them all.

So why am I posting this wonderful info here? Three reasons. For one, you can use these facts to entertain your children next time you see an opossum. Secondly, this new found trivia also confirms the fact that my dog is indeed not the dumbest animal on earth. Thirdly, to help coin the phrase "O-brain" as in "Opossum Brain." It will sound much better than "pea brain" in public when I'm yelling at my son, who incidentally is also off the hook for "world's dumbest animal" although I'd bet it'd be a close race given his behavior in the grocery store last week.

"P Brain?" Nope. "O Brain."

At a recent outdoor weekend event for women, I learned that the opossum, our country's only naturally occurring marsupial, has the lowest brain to body size ratio of any animal. That means that it's brain is extremely tiny for it's body, and that it only knows how to eat, sleep, and make more opossums.

It has also apparently been too dumb to catch on to evolutionary traits, has a mouth full of different teeth even though it doesn't use them all.

So why am I posting this wonderful info here? Three reasons. For one, you can use these facts to entertain your children next time you see an opossum. Secondly, this new found trivia also confirms the fact that my dog is indeed not the dumbest animal on earth. Thirdly, to help coin the phrase "O-brain" as in "Opossum Brain." It will sound much better than "pea brain" in public when I'm yelling at my son, who incidentally is also off the hook for "world's dumbest animal" although I'd bet it'd be a close race given his behavior in the grocery store last week.

Monday, September 24, 2007


A break from the kids!
Hiking in Tucson, Arizona, sans kids. A nice getaway for my husband and I, and as much as we enjoy our kids, we don't like dragging them past the second mile on the trail.
Because of the summer heat, we left as soon as the coffee shop opened. It was a wonderful reminder of how spectacular the outdoors are in the morning, something that is exceptionally hard to do with our kids.

They are more of the "late night campfire" type, not the "let's eat breakfast on the trail" type. Maybe someday I'll wake them up extra early just to let them experience it. Of course, that would mean I would have to get up, too.
BRAIN FOOD: The sagauro catci, like the one I'm standing in front of, starts growing "arms" when it is about 15 feet tall and about 75 years old. Kind of makes my 30-year-old body feel young!

A break from the kids!
Hiking in Tucson, Arizona, sans kids. A nice getaway for my husband and I, and as much as we enjoy our kids, we don't like dragging them past the second mile on the trail.
Because of the summer heat, we left as soon as the coffee shop opened. It was a wonderful reminder of how spectacular the outdoors are in the morning, something that is exceptionally hard to do with our kids.

They are more of the "late night campfire" type, not the "let's eat breakfast on the trail" type. Maybe someday I'll wake them up extra early just to let them experience it. Of course, that would mean I would have to get up, too.
BRAIN FOOD: The sagauro catci, like the one I'm standing in front of, starts growing "arms" when it is about 15 feet tall and about 75 years old. Kind of makes my 30-year-old body feel young!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Welcoming the end of summer with open, itchy arms

By Karrie McAllister

My son was attacked this week. His tiny body, weighing in at a mighty 32 pounds was no match for what he was up against.
It took just a few short minutes of his innocence, and he’s got battle scars all over his forehead, arms, and legs. I have to apply medication constantly.
Anti-itch, medication, that is. Mosquitoes. He’s got a bite the size of Rhode Island that looks like a second brain growing above his right eye, and an unknowing person might swear that he’s got the chicken pox.
Meanwhile, despite the fact that I am equipped with a super-sensitive poison ivy radar and can spot the three-leaved foe faster than you can say “Calamine Lotion,” I somehow ended up with a cute late-summer rash on my legs.
Keeping all of these things in mind, it is no surprise that my family and I have taken to chanting and cheering, “WE WANT FALL!”
We love fall around here. It is, by far, our favorite season. We love it all: the leaf raking, the football games, the apple cider, pumpkins, and yes, even hunting season. The crisp mornings and chilly evenings that make us all declare it is undoubtedly “soup weather.”
But for all of the positives that come with autumn, there are extra benefits to the end of summer.
That’s right, all of the things that we crave during the spring somehow grate on our very last nerves come September. In April, when we’re dreaming of wearing shorts and t-shirts, in September we’re anxious to break out the long pants and sweaters. While we were once counting the days to sprinklers and swimming, now I’m counting the days until the Slip and Slide scar on my lawn heals. In spring, I long for the smell of bug repellent and sunscreen, and now I’d like to be able to walk outside without smelling like a tropical breeze or a coconut. And while I used to dream about thick woodland foliage in my backyard, now I just want the poison ivy to die off for the year so I don’t have to tip-toe around my own house.
It’s not only that, but by mid-September, I’ve officially had my fill of summer food. I love a good grill-out as much as the next person, but a girl can only eat so many hamburgers and hotdogs. Not to mention that if I eat one more version of potato salad, I think I may start to sprout actual potatoes from my ears.
I’m tired, too, of summer footwear. The convenience of flip-flops wears off when I realize, for the millionth time, that my toe nails need a little TLC. I’m ready for shoes and socks, boots and slippers. If no one sees my toes for a few months, I’ll be all the happier.
So it is with great pleasure that I welcome fall to our quaint Northeast Ohio home. The change of season makes this part of the world an ever sweeter place to live. My family has really enjoyed our summer, but we’re ready to pack it away.
We’re ready for that first hard frost that sends our little skeeter friends away for the winter, giving our bitten up legs a chance to heal. We’re ready to trade in our corn skewers for hot chocolate mugs. We’re ready for the day lilies to wilt away and the mums to provide us with their magnificent color.
Bring it on. Bring it all on. We are ready and waiting to enjoy every day of colored leaves and cool temperatures. We need to, because soon enough, the mums will die off and we’ll be trading our leaf rakes for those snow shovels we’ve been waiting to dust off.

What to expect when you meet an expectant mother

By Karrie McAllister

I know. I do the same thing. I see a woman that I know is expecting, and I ask the same thing: “How are you feeling?”
It is a gut reaction, like asking someone, “how are you?” even though they’ll tell you the same answer no matter how they really are.
“Fine.” “Good.” Something like that.
But now, as my own abdomen grows to unrealistic proportions, I am finally having to deal with the question, “how are you feeling?” on a daily basis.
My family asks me. My husband asks me. Neighbors ask me. Friends ask me. Strangers ask me.
And I tell them the same thing. “Oh, pretty good.”
And it’s a big, fat lie.
Like most other pregnant women, although they’ll never tell you otherwise, I’ve really felt better in my life. Wanna know how I’m really feeling?
I feel big. My clothes are in constant limbo. In my early pregnancy, maternity clothes were far too large to wear, and I promise that I spent entire days thinking “I look like I’m wearing a tablecloth...with a dust ruffle” But with passing time and probably more tomato soup and pineapple than I should have, I’m starting to feel more and more like I’m big enough to wear an actual tablecloth.
Just pull one out of the hutch and drape it on—soon enough, it might be the only thing that fits.
I feel bulbous. For ages, the figure of a pregnant woman, all round and soft, has been regarded as an image of beauty. And I’m all for the roundness in my middle. I love it. But it’s the roundness in other places that is starting to get to me.
I used to have ankles. I swear they were located directly above my feet, right where these puffed-up stumps are now residing.
I also used to be able to smile without feeling all of the roundness around my face scrunch up and squeeze around my eyes. In fact, I’m pretty sure my cheeks have officially doubled in size. I’m just not quite sure how to measure that exactly.
I feel tired. I think it’s mostly because I have to haul this big, bulbous body around on a daily basis. And the one part of my body that hasn’t bloated is my brain, so it still thinks that I can go about my regular life, running errands and kids here, there, and everywhere. Somehow, my brain doesn’t seem to be listening to my back at all, which I can tell you is pretty much screaming, “will you please stop going so fast and just tell the legs to walk over to the couch? Can’t you hear the feet? They need to be propped up before they are completely swallowed by the ankles!”
But even with all of the whining that my mouth is still capable of doing, it still can not and will not answer anything but “pretty good” when someone asks me how I’m feeling.
So the next time I find myself face to face with a beautiful, pregnant woman, I’m going to do my very best to not ask her the age old question, so she won’t have to smile and fib. Instead I’ve come up with a few alternatives:
“So what stage of clothes are you in? I’ve got a nice holiday tablecloth.”
“How long has it been since you’ve had ankles?” (Or, “how long has it been since you’ve SEEN your ankles?”)
“By what percentage do you think your cheeks have increased?”
Or maybe I’ll just lean in to her ear and speak directly to her brain, “you may not realize this, but you should really go put your feet up a little. They need it.”

The dinner bell rings…round one!

By Karrie McAllister

I don’t always give my husband credit for his supreme parenting skills.
In fact, most of the time I’m rolling my eyes and mumbling things under my breath when he oversteps the boundaries I’ve worked so hard to set. Being the person who is in charge of the children for the majority of the day, I tend to make the majority of the rules and do the majority of the disciplining.
And when he comes trotting home from work and tells the children they are allowed to do something they I normally don’t let them do, it not only makes me feel small, but it makes me feel like the wicked stepmother.
But he has recently stumbled upon the most glorious parenting tactic that I have ever seen. And judging by the success we’ve been having, I dare say it was quite a stroke of genius.
Like most families, our meal times come with our fair share of struggle. We’ve got picky eaters. One won’t eat vegetables, one won’t eat meat. One would rather sit there and talk about absolutely nothing than eat, one would rather fling his food around the table and burp than actually put anything in his mouth. One won’t stop whining, one won’t stop moving.
And I swear, if it wasn’t for my deep love for food, I’d consider skipping mealtimes all together for the stress it causes me. Not only do I have to get out of my seat countless times to fetch napkins and ketchup, but I spend the rest of my time in between bites convincing and pleading with my children to eat their food.
But no more! Thanks the mastermind that is my husband, I can actually sit and chew hot food and watch my kids become members of The Clean Plate Club.
His brilliant idea? After dinner he hosts a full-out wrestling match in the family room, where my children pummel each other and flail their limbs while rolling around.
Let me explain…
During dinner, he frequently asks to see the kids’ muscles, and we all note how very tiny they are. But then he tells them that meat makes your muscles big and vegetables make your brain smarter so that you can out-smart your sibling once you get in the ring.
And so, what was once an hour of forcing foods down their throats, now we simply have a muscle exhibition and see who is looking especially weak that night.
When it comes to siblings, there’s not a single one who would want to be pinned down by the brother or sister.
So they eat.
And they talk trash.
“You’re going DOWN! Down to the GROUND!”
“Oh yeah? Well, I ate two helpings of meat! Look how big my muscles are?”
“You’re still going DOWN to the GROUND!”
And so on and so forth. The delivery is much better when it’s said by a three-year-old.
Once dinner is over and everyone has finished, the match begins. As I clear the table and do the dishes, my husband, an excellent referee, makes them shake hands and they go at it.
I hear grunts and screams and occasional cries coming from the other room, but it’s worth it because I have no left-overs to pack away and plates so clean they could almost skip the dishwasher.
No, it’s not the classiest parenting trick, but tired parents everywhere know that when the going gets tough, the tough get creative and fool their kids into doing what’s right. And while some may consider wresting a poor reward for eating a balanced dinner, I am sticking with my ingenious husband on this one. And I’m jealous that I didn’t think of it first.
I’m also eating all of my vegetables in case I get thrown into the ring.

My first and second first days of kindergarten


***This article can be found at www.momwriterslitmag.com/SmallTownSoup.htm beginning September 24, 2007! Please visit!!! ***

Wet wipes for my back to school tattoo

By Karrie McAllister

This week I will send my oldest child to kindergarten.
We have been preparing for weeks for this next step in her academic career, when I take the baby bird I have been raising and grooming and teaching and drop her out of the nest and into the care of someone I have never met, and then trust that person to love my child half as much as I do.
But back to the preparing.
It seems that being a first-time school-mom should come with some sort of handbook. I have been living my life for the past few weeks trying blindly to prepare my daughter for her first year in school. I just want to make very certain that my kid has a great beginning experience in school, and very, very certain that if she doesn’t, it wasn’t because I messed up or forgot anything.
So we prepare. First task: the infamous school supply list.
I’ve been carrying this list around in my wallet all summer so that I wouldn’t lose it. Folded and crinkled like an old receipt, I studied it long and hard before we went to the store. It seemed easy enough—markers, crayons, paper towels. The basics, right?
But panic set in when standing in the aisle, I read “wet wipes.” Looking in front of me, I noticed something I never had before: there are actually many, many types of wet wipes. Antibacterial ones, bathroom ones, kitchen ones, face ones, and even the kind I have used in the thousands of diaper changes over the years.
I was kind of blocking the aisle when another family walked up, looking for wet wipes.
“What kind do they mean?!?!” I attacked, frantically.
But of course, they had a different list from a different school district and were of zero help. Encouraging, yes, but not helpful.
Suddenly, another mom I recognized from preschool walked by. Abandoning my own children in the store, I ran to say hello (although as usual I had to call her “Mrs. Smith” because remembering parent’s first names is beyond my ability) and grill her on the wet wipe conundrum.
She was polite, but said that it really didn’t matter what type I sent in, and went on her way most likely thinking that I was a lunatic first-time mom.
And while she was right, I was left thinking that my poor daughter might have to wipe her face with bleach if I didn’t send the right wipes to school. Tragedy, and it would be – the dreaded words – ALL MY FAULT.
So instead of guessing, I bought three types of wipes. And I realize that this makes me an official “crazy first-time school-mom” and I should just have “newbie” tattooed across my forehead, but at this point, I am what I am. And I’ll do what I have to do.
What lies ahead? I will wake up on that fateful day, make sure she is dressed in her chosen outfit, feed her a nutritious breakfast, double-check that her bag is sufficiently packed and she has her giant bag of various wipes, and then hopefully drop her off in a timely fashion.
And then I’m guessing I will cry like a baby for the next few hours until I make sure she’s home safe and sound and that she had a wonderful day. At that point, I’ll ask her for a wet wipe so that I can scrub that tattoo off my forehead.
(Stay tuned next week to see if I survive!)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Mothers: the true masters of illusion

By Karrie McAllister

I have yet another skill to add to my motherly resume. Along with chueffeur, chef, and laundry goddess, I think it’s time to insert one more: master of illusion.
Being a highly skilled magician was never anything I dreamed of. Sure, I can steal the noses of my kids and separate my thumb in two, but those are mere child’s play compared to the grand scale of illusion I’m finally realizing that I have achieved.
My magic skills are multi-faceted. There are virtually no limits to my powers of deception, and I find that I practice my trade nearly every day.
And I’m guessing that most other moms do, too, unless they are aliens, robots, or have obsessive cleaning disorders.
But if you’re not sure if you, too are a illusionist, let me share with you some examples of my most famous tricks…
The Great Vanishing Act. This is a fantastic trick to use whenever you are expecting house guests and lately your house has been a catch-all for everything. If there are more puzzle pieces on your floor than in the box, this is the one for you. To perform this illusion, simple grab the nearest empty laundry basket (if you can find one) and rush around the house shoving everything that is on the floor into it, and then hide the basket in a room your guests will not see. If you run out of laundry baskets, you may have to revert to sticking toys and papers in drawers, under couches, or in closets.
Your family will scratch their heads and wonder, “how does she clean so quickly?”
The Amazing Cleaning Act. Another great one to pull out of your bag of tricks when guests are coming over! Remember, you are not actually cleaning the house, you are simply trying to achieve the illusion of cleanliness. A very simple example would be freshly wiped woodwork. No real person has time to actually do that! So instead, I very sneakily grab a rag and pour on some full strength Murphy’s Oil Soap, which we all know is the Very Smell of Clean. With your damp rag, wipe a few key places where people might actually look to see if there is dust. Once that is done, hide your rag in a central location so that the clean smell will serve as an air freshener.
Your friends will come in and say, “wow! Smells like you’ve been cleaning all day! I don’t know how you do it!”
The Incredible Disappearing Act. This trick is one of my all-time favorites. While I seem to spend the majority of my magical career making dirt and clutter disappear, it is with great talent and cleverness that I perform the most difficult vanishing act of all…making myself disappear. Sometimes moms just need to sneak away, to escape the closets full of disorder and the hidden rags of Murphy’s Oil Soap, not to mention the children, the spouse, the pets, and everything else. We just need some alone time. Thankfully there are many ways to execute this illusion. One can plainly say, “I’m going to clean the basement, anyone want to help?” When shockingly no one offers, sneak downstairs with a good book and a blanket. And when you’re cuddled up on a cardboard box, every so often knock something over or drop the book—the noise will make them think you’re actually doing something and they are sure not to bother you!
Other such ploys involve asking if anyone would like to go underwear shopping, run to the post office or bank, or help outside pulling weeds. There’s not a child or a husband who would jump on the chance to do any of those things, leaving you the opportunity to disappear all on your very own.
Finally, a warning: Moms, if you get to the paper and read this before anyone else in your family, quickly tear it out and hide it. A real magician never shares her tricks, right?

Research finds that one-half of mothers are faking it

By Karrie McAllister

Every once in a while, I actually get to go out alone with my friends. On average, there are four of us, and we’re usually sitting around a table eating, laughing, and discussing the wonderful times and not so wonderful times of being a mother. We each have our ups and downs, but we always end up smiling a lot more than crying during these gab sessions.
And apparently, two of us are faking our smiles. And when we willingly go back to our families at the end of the night, one and a half of us doesn’t know how we’re going to have the strength when we get home to get the kids to bed, clean the kitchen, etc.
It’s not very often that I get to watch morning news programs, because flipping the channel to anything non-animated would wreak havoc on our household. But one morning a few weeks back, the kids actually slept in long enough for me to catch a few minutes of the Today show.
According to some recent research, a survey of 1,000 moms showed that 47% believe they are the least happy person in the home, out-frowning dads and children. Even more, 33% say they are completely overwhelmed, and feel they have far too many jobs.
Of course, the “experts” on the show had a message for all of the moms out there, that they should try to relax and make sure when they make their to-do lists, that they put their own happiness first, professing the old adage, “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
They recommended things like scheduling spa visits and taking long baths. They also suggested to any husbands watching that the way to a mom’s heart is to woo her with folded baskets of laundry, empty dishwashers, and other such unrealistic things.
So being a mom myself and watching this, I naturally start thinking about these facts and figures, and how reasonable they actually are. I wonder how I would respond if I was a part of this research. And I think my conclusion is noteworthy, because according to what they said, their solution is actually part of the problem.
Confused? Here’s an example.
Mom A has had a terrible day. The kids dumped oatmeal on the living room rug and then put on her silk scarf and rolled around in it. Dad is out of town and calling to remind her to mow the lawn and pick up the trash that the dog has gotten into and decorated the garage with. Mom A hasn’t showered in two days and is still wearing her mismatched pajamas at 4 PM when the person calls to ask her if she’s happy with her job as a mother.
Mom B has actually bathed and brushed her teeth today. Her children are eating their oatmeal, and watching educational television. To make up for the horrible day she had yesterday (when the dogs got into the trash), her husband scheduled her a manicure in the afternoon. She’s just enjoying the cup of coffee he made for her when the interviewer calls to see if she’s happy with her maternal profession.
Well, duh. Obviously Mom B is going to be happy. She’s having a good day—in fact, a much better day than she did yesterday. Mom A is going to yell, scream, and probably cry a little into the phone when they ask her if she feels a little overwhelmed.
These studies are always frustrating me, trying to divide and label mothers. The truth is, we’re all pretty much the same thing. Moms. We all have bad days (oatmeal in the rug) and good days (oatmeal in the mouth) and really good days (oatmeal facial mask). We have days of feeling overwhelmed and under appreciated, but we find support from the people we love – our kids, our families, and our friends.
So my three other friends who sat around laughing all night? I don’t think any of us were faking it. I think there were just four other women at home having rotten days and who should have been calling their own buddies for a little support and waiting for a better tomorrow.…just in case they get called by another researcher.

A baby by any other name would smell as sweet?

By Karrie McAllister

I have a friend whose belly is bigger than mine, and of that I am jealous. I am jealous that her pregnancy will be over by the time the chaos of the holiday season strikes. And I am jealous that she and her husband know they are having a girl and that her name will be “Florence.” (Well, it’s NOT Florence, but I try to protect the innocent here.)
Rounding the half-way point of my own pregnancy –and I do mean “rounding” – my husband won the coin toss and we have decided not to find out the gender of our child during our routine ultrasound. He says that since we found out with our other two, and have one boy and one girl, that this one should be a surprise.
And trust me, I love surprises. I do not, however, love the thought of having to wash and separate the basement full of baby boy and baby girl clothes that we have accumulated.
And even more than laundry, I really do not love having to decide on both a boy’s name AND a girl’s name.
Choosing a name for your baby has become a nearly impossible feat these days. Parents long for a name that will meet a certain amount of personal criteria. Usually they’ll want a name that is special, unique, and somewhat different. If not, we’d have billions of John and Jane Smiths running around.
Not that there is anything wrong with Jane or John.
Parents just want their child, who is absolutely spectacular in their eyes, to have a spectacular name that will reflect their individuality in this world, and that, my friends, is the first hurdle of baby naming.
Secondly, when choosing a name, you must take your mind back to the lunchrooms of fourth grade and brainstorm all of the horrible nicknames that your child might possibly be called. Names must not be able to be shortened to, nor rhyme with, certain body parts or functions, nor should they ever rhyme with less-than-pleasant adjectives.
The name must also never be the name of an old girlfriend, boyfriend, or school bully. But this rule should go without saying.
Finally, once you do choose a name, you have to decide how to spell it. This seems simple enough, but trust me, it’s not. Google the top 1,000 baby names of 2006 and half of them are some forms of Emily and Jacob—with more spellings than I could fit in the text of this column. And as someone who grew up never being able to buy pencils with my name spelled correctly on them, I am bound and determine to not re-write the dictionary just to keep my children’s names unusual.
So keeping these conditions in mind, my husband and I have been going back and forth, and well, arguing, about the possible names for this baby that’s started playing soccer in my belly. We’ve done what we’ve been told to do. We’ve made lists and taken turns vetoing the ones we don’t like, and we come back with papers with a lot of ink.
We just can’t fully agree on a single one.
Either I know someone with a certain name or he informs me that “the teen years would be waaay too rough” and we’re back to square one and a nameless child.
I know we’ve got plenty of time to think about it, and eventually the kid will have a name other than “The Baby.” But in the meantime, I’d feel a lot better if we could just settle on a name.
Because once the baby comes, whether a girl or a boy, I’ll be too busy separating laundry to think of anything new and creative.
Florence is sounding better and better.

Another installment of Small Town Tooth

By Karrie McAllister

I love living in a small town. I love the fact that I recognize the same people around town. I love the idea that most people are related to someone I know. I love the thought that I’d better always keep my game face on, because surely if I do something wrong, my mother-in-law will find out.
I am, I admit, a transplant to this area. Having grown up in the suburbs of Cleveland, my vision of small towns in this area was anything but pleasant. Certainly they must be full of terrible gossip and nosiness, not to mention always smelling like a cow pasture.
And while it’s true that news travels as fast as the farm odor on a windy day, before living in a small town, I didn’t realize just how sweet a place it really is, how people you don’t really even know can offer a hand in an awful situation.
For example, after leaving the doctor’s office with the possibility of bad news coming my way, sobbing my way out the door I saw the local children’s librarian. Overwhelmed with emotion, I could do nothing but hug her. And she hugged back, not knowing the issue, only that a hysterical person she recognized needed some comfort.
That’s why I love a small town.
My list of stories could go on and on, but one recent one is worth noting.
My daughter, on the verge of turning six, has had a loose tooth dangling out of the bottom of her mouth for longer than I care to mention. I didn’t have the guts to pull it out because I knew she would be afraid and I would be exercising my trigger of a gag reflex. So it just hung there and hung there.
Until a few days ago.
It was a Saturday afternoon, and we left the boys at home to have a girls-only trip to the grocery store. Rounding the end of one aisle and turning up towards the candy and coffee (our favorite vices), I hear my daughter break into panic-mode.
“My tooth! My tooth fell out!” And she runs screaming towards the chocolate bars.
“What? Where? How?” I ask, but she is too frantic to answer with any clarity.
“We’ll never find it! I lost it right here and the floor is white!”
By this time, we had gathered the attention of the cashiers and nearby shoppers.
“Nobody move!” I commanded, waving my arms around. “Her tooth is somewhere on the floor in this general area!”
And being the kind-hearted small-town people that were there, I had helpers blocking off all of the aisles, telling others to “go around, the girl lost a tooth.” Someone mentioned a broom, others were looking under displays.
So, with their assistance and my daughter safely sobbing near the bin of suckers, I hit the floor. Crawling around, squinting against the glare of the lights, I thought all was lost.
Baby teeth, for those not aware, are absolutely miniscule. Especially front bottom teeth, which are the smallest by far, and finding it seemed like the needle in the haystack would be a cakewalk.
Call it a miracle, call it a sign, call it just plain lucky, but I found the tooth. It was there, in all of it’s smallness, in the middle of the aisle amidst a white backdrop. If it weren’t for the ladies keeping shoppers at bay, that little tooth would have surely gotten kicked into the great abyss, never to be seen again.
So to those ladies, I thank you for your kindness and your concern. It is people like you who make living in a small town so very sweet.
And my daughter sends her thanks, too. She got two bucks from the tooth fairy.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Laugh lines and goofy faces-- neither one is very funny

By Karrie McAllister

Pick up a magazine, turn on the television, click on your computer and sure enough, they’ll be the latest and greatest news about skin care, complete with a long list of dos and don’ts.
For me, the list has always seemed ridiculous. If you followed all of the rules and latest finidngs, it would take an hour’s worth of preparation just to go outside and check the mail, let alone get your children ready to head to the park.
“Bah,” I would say, the Ebenezer Scrooge of sunblock. And normally, the stress of trying to be a good mommy would force me to squirt down my kids a little, leaving me too tired to apply even the slightest bit on myself. I would simply take the leftovers that had accumulated between my fingers and rub it on the top of my ears.
“I don’t burn, I TAN.” Somehow, that made it all better.
And somehow, things were better. And they remained better until a couple of weeks ago when I finally cashed in a Christmas gift for a facial.
I’m not typically the person who dotes over skin care. Makeup, schmakeup. Lotions and creams are for old ladies…right?
I’m laying there in the chair and the facial lady is looking at my skin with a magnifying glass and strange lighting, she points out the group of poison ivy scars I have down the left side of my face. She points out the freckles, the spots, and the remnants of my adolescent years.
Feeling that we’ve bonded over my face, I ask my question. “I’m turning thirty this month and seeing as this is an extremely large number, when should I start using anti-aging stuff? I don’t want to wake up one morning and see that I’ve aged and say ‘whoops. I look old and it’s too late’.”
I fully expected her to tell me that I shouldn’t worry, that my skin looked great (despite the poison ivy scars), and that anti-aging creams were for old people, like those people who were at least 35.
Instead she said, “oh, you should probably start using them now.”
WHAT?!?! You’re kidding, right? I’m still 29! I’m desperately trying to hang on to what little shred of youth I have left, trying to fight off every urge to celebrate my birthday and buy a minivan, and she tells me, right to my apparently aging face, that I should start using eye cream on a daily basis.
I am devastated. I am crushed. Gone are the days of my youth, when I could rub my eyes in the morning and do Pee Wee Herman impressions with Scotch tape at night. Gone are the days of making funny faces in the mirror when my mother told me my face would stay that way because NOW I KNOW IT WILL.
My mind flashes images of my grandmother’s bathroom, with her counter full of Oil of Olay products and her Avon bath soap and instead of her standing in the bathroom, it is me. Crows feet and laugh lines, and nothing is very funny.
Once the shock had settled, I asked for directions on how to take a proactive approach to not looking like the little old lady who had a face like a shoe.
She told me to use lotion, lotion, and more lotion. Moisturizing lotion. Eye lotion. And most importantly, sunblock lotion. I left her with the energy to go home and start the lotion process that seemed it would take over my bathroom and my life.
And since that fateful day, I have been applying and reapplying. My children are now thoroughly rubbed down before they head out into the sun, and when they ask why it takes mommy so long to put on their sunblock, I tell them the honest truth.
“Sweetie, I want your skin to be healthy and radiant. And hopefully, you won’t have to feel old until you’re at least 35. Now stand still and stop making funny faces…”

Monday, July 2, 2007

Six reasons to opt for parental get-away bliss

By Karrie McAllister

Sometimes you just need to get away. Sometimes it’s good to step out of your real life and into the life of someone else, somewhere else, where besides the things you crammed into your suitcase, you have no real connection to your regular home life. No phone, no email, and for me this past weekend, no children.
I have always practiced “attachment parenting,” not so much by choice, but by instinct. Since my children were little, I couldn’t help but hold them and carry them and sleep with them and love them and basically never leave their sides.
And now, six years later, and I have finally unattached myself for more than 24 hours.
This statement, I’m sure, sounds ludicrous to some people. I know plenty of mothers – good, loving mothers – who have gone out of town and left their children for a number of days without packing a bag full of the big “G.”
Guilt.
But I was terrified that I would pack more guilt than clothes.
Of course I cried when we dropped them off at my parents, where I knew they would be well taken care of and spoiled, and probably fed cookies for breakfast and noodles for every other meal. But still, with a quivering chin and tearful eyes, we hugged goodbye.
I was the only one that cried, which made me cry even more. “Don’t they love me enough to get a little weepy?” I wondered. “What if they don’t miss me and I am in complete misery all weekend long and can’t enjoy my time away because I can’t stop wondering how much sleep they got and if my son ever changed his underwear?”
Thankfully, my get away wasn’t miserable at all. In fact, by the time we got to the airport, I was anything but. And traveling without them, for once, turned out to be quite a pleasant experience.
For anyone else in my situation feeling nervous about leaving your children for a few days, let me help ease the tension by providing you some of the lovely discoveries I made on my adventure, sans children.
1. It is much easier to pack for one than it is three, and when the children aren’t with you, you can leave the toys at home. An added bonus is that you won’t forget half of your own things like you normally do because you don’t have your children begging you to please pack all of his or her favorite clothes and every single pair of socks they own.
2. Your carry-on will be considerably lighter, if not non-existent. Instead of the back-breaking bag I usually use when traveling with kids, on my trip without them I took only my purse and a book; a book I actually read while on the airplane. It was amazing! I had forgotten that people are in fact able to read a book while on an airplane.
3. While sleeping away from your children, you are not woken up by anyone sitting on your head, tapping your face, or saying in an ever so obnoxious tone, “wake up, mommy, it’s morning.”
4. Eating out becomes an entirely new adventure. Without small chicken-tender-eating people in tow, you no longer have to choose restaurants based on how much their kid meals cost and whether or not they give you three crayons and a paper placemat when you arrive. And suddenly the options are endless! Dining at a sushi bar or upscale eatery are no longer pipe dreams…they actually come true.
5. While visiting the hotel pool without your children, you don’t actually have to go swimming. You can (I can barely say this without smiling) actually lay on a lounge chair and finish the book you started reading on the plane.
And finally, 6. Coming home to smiling faces, who despite the fact they’ve eaten 4 pounds of noodles, are still going strong. They hug you with all their might and say “I missed you mommy.”
And you tell a little fib and say, “I missed you too.”

Germophobia strikes hard during long layovers

By Karrie McAllister

Germophobe: N. A person absolutely terrified of germs; someone suffering from the disorder Germophobia. There is no known cure for Germophobia, but symptoms can be treated with travel sized bottles of hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and the general avoidance of public restrooms.
My name is Karrie, and I am a Germophobe.
I wasn’t always a Germophobe. I used to have no fear when a piece of food fell onto a picnic table at the park, or when I pushing the shopping cart at a big, busy store. It wasn’t until I had children that I began to realize the amazing amount of germs that linger in our world—good germs, bad germs, and just plain curl-your-lip disgusting germs.
I try to keep it under control, and to not scare my children, but when I see my children putting their lips right against the water fountain, my stomach turns inside out and I run screaming for the soap.
After much consideration, I am fully convinced that the heart of my germophobic problems stem from my general fear and repulsion of public restrooms. I believe it all started in my youth, when at the age of only four or five I locked myself in the bathroom at our local Big Wheel. Unable to disable the lock, my mother had no choice but to tell me to crawl out of the stall, sliding along the filthy bathroom floor. I do believe I was scarred for life.
It is for this reason that I now avoid public restrooms at all cost. I would rather my bladder swell up to the size of a basketball than to use a bathroom at a gas station. It is a well-known fact that gas station bathrooms are the dirtiest and most foul places on earth, only surpassed by the gas station bathrooms that are only accessed by a key tied onto a cement block and are located “out back.”
The second worst restrooms I have encountered appear in areas of public transportation, including (in descending order) bus stations, train stations, and airports. I don’t spend much time in bus stations, but airport bathrooms are now among my least favorite places of all time.
I fully believe that airports were not designed for the large number of travelers we see these days. With the amount of flights that are moved through airports, some passengers undoubtedly experience long layovers and delays, while others need to run the 400 meter dash to catch their next flight. For those racing travelers, the bathroom stops are fast and sloppy. They don’t have time to worry about the wad of paper they left on the floor or the water they splashed all over the counter.
But for those of us with the long layovers, we are stuck dealing with the consequences of the fast traveler. Being stranded at an airport for any length of time, there is really not much to do. You sit, you read, and when you get bored, you inevitably get something to drink. And as we all know, the more you drink, the more you go. Even someone with a bladder of steel can’t sit through a four-hour layover without visiting the bathroom at least twice.
After waiting in line with the other people who have been to the Starbucks counter more than once to feed our habits, I contemplate my coffee. Is the cup of joe that will get me through the next hour worth the unavoidable trip to the restroom, where I know that I’ll stand in line, have to hold my nose, and lean against a water laden counter?
For me, this is a tough question to answer. Sure, I’ll enjoy that cup of coffee, but there’s always a chance I’ll get locked in the stall and relive the nightmare that was Big Wheel in the early 1980s.
And for a Germophobe like me, no amount of hand sanitizer can make that nightmare go away.
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