Dear new dads: What you need to know about zombie wives and octopuses

My younger brother and his wife are just about to deliver their second child. As the bossy, overbearing, experienced, perceptive, insightful and wise older sister, I believe it is my duty, (because of my exhaustive list of qualifications), to relay some very pertinent information to him in regards to upcoming changes in his parenthood.

Now that I have had a few (ahem…seven) babies of my own, (all of whom are still living on this earth and none of whom have disowned me as their mother up to this point), I feel compelled to share a small slice of reality-pie that is soon to be delivered doorside and served ala mode.

To you, dear brother, and all future fathers of TWO,  here is a  very simple guide to keep you from screwing this up:

Beware the humming.
If at any point, you arrive home from work and your dear wife is outside on the porch softly humming “What a friend I have in Jesus,” you’re in for it. Hymn-humming is a code that she’s temporarily lost her mind and can only sit on the porch in a rocking chair and stare absently into space. Don’t interrupt her.

Just go quietly into the trashed living room, hold the wailing baby and quietly scrub the poop and sharpie off the sofa. Do this with a weeping infant in one arm, while consoling a hysterical, naked toddler who is stomping on your feet, clutching your legs and hitting you repeatedly in the butt with her fists. The 15 minutes you spend doing that sums up your wife’s entire day. It’s really no wonder she’s lost her senses.

“But it’s only two kids,” you might say. Yeah, but it may as well be ten, so shut up and grab the mop. There’s pee on the floor.

Give extra compassion.
Take time to give your wife extra love. Give lots of hugs. Hold her closely and stroke her hair.

Make no comment about the fact that her head is an oil slick, that your fingers got tangled in all the snarls and that an endangered species of small birds is now nesting there. Your wife only gets a shower once every eight days, so it’s best to make all of your observations silently. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll make no comment that her chest smells like sour milk and that her leg hair is now as long as yours.

Instead of mentioning your observations aloud, tell your bedraggled wife that motherhood looks good on her and that she’s as attractive and as beautiful as ever.  In other words, you need to LIE. 

Do NOT ask when she’s going to start working-out again.
Let’s not place unrealistic and fantastical expectations on a woman who has just created an entire human BEING a mere fortnight after she delivers, m’kay? For the love of elastic waistbands, that’s just not wise.

This may come as a shock, but she isn’t going to begin Zumba class next week. The best you can expect from her are random bouts of loud crying jags. If she musters up enough energy to dance around the house to “Thriller,” see it for what it is; a warning that your sleep-deprived-zombie-wife (who is still getting a small bit of exercise) needs a day off.

Make dinner for yourself.
While you’re at it, make some for her too. Your postpartum wife has eaten goldfish crackers and string cheese for each meal. Between the toddler tantrums, diaper changes, nursing, and the up-all-night feedings, there is just no energy left to put together any type of meal plan that would actually make sense to humans.

*HINT* Clean up the kitchen after you’re done. Make it tidy, but not so clean that she feels worthless or guilty that she couldn’t accomplish such a simple task in her day. There’s a very fine line between being helpful and acting superior because you managed to get 20 entire minutes to yourself to clean something. A good man would leave a few crumbs on the counter to show his wife how much she is really needed. If you aren’t brave enough to approach this line delicately, then forget the whole thing and order Thai food.

Hold the dang baby.
If your wife asks you to hold the baby, then it’s your job to HOLD THE BABY. Don’t turn around and set him back down. Otherwise your wife (and your baby) will both know you’re an imbecile, because you can’t follow very basic instructions. This will result in your baby updating his Twitter feed with frequent requests for more intelligent parentage. Please avoid this trap, for yourself and men everywhere. I promise you won’t have to hold him forever- just long enough for the mother of your child to do something she’s longing to do- like eat with 2 hands, without hearing a screaming infant.

Learn to eat like your wife does.
You love your wife. If you wish to endear yourself to her and create a moment of camaraderie and bonding, try eating dinner one handed. This would best be done by securing the use of a small, livid octopus and suctioning it to your left nipple. Be sure to wrangle that slippery (and seething) mollusk using  only your left arm while trying to politely eat cold lasagna. Now hold your plate and stand up to do this. There. You’ve nailed it.

Dear God in heaven. If you ignore all my other hints and only heed one piece of advice, this would be it.

If the mother of your children is (finally!) sleeping, DO NOT wake her up in order to ask stupid questions or make stupid statements. There are acceptable reasons to wake a sleeping mom, but let’s be honest and admit that you have never come across one yet. I realize this can get tricky, so I’ve included some sample scenarios to help you out.

Acceptable reason to wake up a mother: A tornado is coming and you have to get down to the cellar.
Unacceptable: Asking if she remembers the login password to your fantasy sports league.

Acceptable: There’s a (large) fire in the kitchen.
Unacceptable: Asking “Do I own a raincoat?”

Acceptable: The bathroom is flooding and you need to locate the water shut-off.
Unacceptable: Asking why the television remote is covered in Desitin.

Acceptable: There’s an unstoppable natural gas leak coming from the furnace.
Unacceptable: The toddler has a gas leak.

Good heavens, just let the woman sleep. Figure some stuff out on your own. That’s what Google and Siri were created for. It’s okay to muddle through and do your best. Sure, she will yell at you later for doing it all incorrectly, but don’t you get it? When she yells, she’ll be RESTED. It’s the safer option for you. Trust me.

There are other hints I could offer, but it would put you at an unfair advantage and it’s best for your male counterparts if you flounder a little like the rest of them.

My final word of advice is this:

Enjoy this time with your young family. Kids grow quickly and soon these tough months will be part of your past. Keep some memories tucked away for laughing at later. The baby will stay asleep someday. Your wife will feel normal again soon. Be as helpful as you know how to be. You won’t do everything perfectly, but you also won’t screw up too badly either.

Unless you forget to place that order for an octopus.

*This post has been featured on Scary Mommy
*This post has been featured on For Every Mom 

“Wanna Get Away?”: A Date Night Story

In a family of nine, date nights are few and far between. But last night we were fortunate enough to escape the laundry piles, childish mayhem and screaming toddlers. We managed our escape by begging the grandparents to babysit. We emphatically promised perfectly behaved children that they could throw countless pieces of sliced cheese and ice cream bars at- which seems to be what these particular grandparents love to do.

With assurances of drooly kisses from a fat-cheeked baby, we suckered the old folks into an eight hour babysitting stint. Poor grey haired saps.

Offering waves, well wishes and silent prayers that they wouldn’t change their minds, my husband and I strolled confidently to the small car and headed downtown. It’s a rare thing to drive in a car like normal people do, instead of our oversized fifteen passenger van.

Our first stop was a ghetto my city likes to refer to as China Town.

“Can you see it from the window?” My husband asked.

Even looking down through the dirty window of a moving car, China Town was unmistakably recognizable. The buildings were covered in yellow Chinese graffiti, it smelled of noodles and Jackie Chan was in the alley whipping an entire masked gang with a trash can lid and a pair of chopsticks.

“Yeah,” I said. “I can see it.”

We met up with good friends and after rock-paper-scissors, entered into the most sweltering hot Chinese restaurant on the face of God’s green earth.

“Ohhhhh, uggh,” Our friend declared upon seeing the interior, “Well, the thing is, I hear the dirtier the restaurant, the better the food is.”

We took her word for it, which in hindsight may have been a mistake.  Although Dim Sum is currently one of our favorite styles of eating asian cuisine, I can now assure you, dear reader, that if the lighting is Dim, then there’s likely Sum-thing they are trying to hide.

The frantic waitress seated us at a clean table accompanied by metal chairs with ripped vinyl seats. She ran up and down the aisles, handing out laminated menus, then snatching them back to hand to new patrons. The Dim Sum was ordered from poorly shot photos and we took turns guessing which item had once been a jellyfish and which one just smelled like it.

Here is where I will say that we are no stranger to Dim Sum. The trick is to find a good Dim Sum restaurant. If you don’t, you might end up wondering if it was actually legal to serve what you just ate- which is what I wondered after I opened my semi-cracked fortune cookie and the message said “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Date night had just begun.

After dinner we walked to the local ball park to take in a game. I haven’t been to a baseball game in close to ten years and since our city has one of the nicest stadiums in the country, I hit a game on occasion just to see what my tax dollars have paid for against my will.

My husband and I have entirely different motives. He goes to baseball games to watch a sporting event. I go to baseball games to watch people and to garnish fantastic writing material.

Our tickets were scanned, our bags searched, we were wand-ed at the metal detectors by glowing mini-light sabers and overzealous stadium guards. Finally, we were ushered to our seats.

The anthem played, the bats cracked.

A gal with fluorescent green hair, fishnet stockings and several facial piercings stood hugging a rail-thin guy decked out in black and white plaid. An adult sibling group sat directly in front of us and tried to feign interest in being there. A creepy old man sat behind us with two (very young) blonde beauties and tried desperately to schmooze them with his money and flowery words. As luck would have it, a screaming toddler sat directly to my left and gave her parents a run for their money while they tried to chomp on cheeseburgers the size (and cost) of Rhode Island.  Loud, boisterous drunks sat several rows back and blessed us with their eternal opinions on how much the umpire stunk.

My husband looked at me and grinned and who could blame him? This was our section; our little “family” of fellow comrades who would ride out with us the next three hours of emotional turmoil. They would be with us through the highs and lows; through the good calls and the bad plays; through the overpriced beer vendors and the seventh inning stretch.

Pitchers pitched, bats swung, runners ran. The home-town heroes hit home-runs far up into the grandstands. Money rained down from the sky as intoxicated fans on the level above us celebrated by gleefully tossing paper money out of their wallets onto the crowds below.

We ordered nachos with dripping-white cheese from a vendor in a yellow shirt; which took so long to arrive that they likely came straight from Mexico. We ate deep fried Churros that came with so much sugar they were served with a shot of insulin.

We sat chewing on red licorice and “boo-ed” as an embarrassed fan was forcibly removed from the stadium for interfering with a ball in play. This would have been the perfect time to place a SOUTHWEST AIRLINES commercial with the tagline “Wanna Get Away?” on the big screen and how they missed that golden comedic opportunity, I will never know.

Night fell.

We sang “Take me out to the ball game.” We did the wave. We danced and we cheered. The guy in front of us received angry text messages from a girlfriend he’d abandoned to attend the game. My husband, who insisted he wasn’t cold (and refused to bring a jacket), finally caved and draped a fuzzy blue blanket around his arms and tried not to give me the satisfaction.

To our shock and amazement, our team eeked out a victory and the crowds dispersed into the darkness. A Hippie bongo player sat on the sidewalk straddling his drum and beat out melodic rhythms while people maneuvered out of the stadium.

Like cattle, the crowd walked along as venders hocked leftover licorice ropes, bottles of overpriced hose water and JUMBO HOT DOGS which, after a long day in a germ infested water bath, had shriveled down to the size of cocktail weenies.

We marched to the car in the crisp night air, holding hands and moving swiftly along crowded roads. I had silly romantic visions of being swept away by my handsome man to a quiet street and having his love passionately declared under the starlight. Instead, he and I followed a crowd of inebriated college students and watched as an enraged man repeatedly beat a metal sign post with his fists.

The 4-passenger car carried us safely home.

The house was dark. The house was quiet. We dismissed the overwrought (and brave!) battle-worn grandparents. God bless them. We watched gratefully as they staggered toward the door. With torn clothing and hair askew, they left quickly without looking back.

I poured a glass of wine and prepared to sit in silence, which was the perfect time for the baby to offer a blood-curdling scream that curled our toenails and pierced deep into the dead of night.  Lights clicked on and curious, once-sleeping children began making their way to the hallway to see what the fuss was about. The baby responded to her impromptu party by throwing up 3 blocks of cheese, a blue duplo, 12 ice-cream bars and a rubber duck.

And those, my friends, are all the moments that make date night…truly magical.


*This post has been featured on For Every Mom

If you ever see a chicken riding a bus, she used to live here.

Life was lacking chaos, noise, excitement and poop, so we did what any normal, self-respecting American family of 9 would do; we went out and bought 14 chickens. They started as small, fluffy chicks in the garage and over the last year we have grown them into quite a brood of feisty, squawking hens. They reside in our backyard and sleep in a coop that was more skillfully designed than my first car.

The kids dearly love the chickens and consider them to be “pets.” I do not consider them to be pets, because in my mind, pets are creatures that are kept around for the sheer enjoyment of cleaning up feces off the lawn and vacuuming fur off the carpet. These chickens are only around because they do two things very well: they create an abundance of food by laying fresh eggs each day, and they bother neighborhood dogs we don’t like. It’s a win-win.

Not only has this small flock provided food for us, they have also served to provide a more than adequate amount of entertainment. This has saved us at least five whole dollars at the local REDBOX. In lieu of renting what could be a riveting movie with an exceptional plot, we stand and stare out the kitchen window and vote on which chicken will be the first hen to go sailing down the slide after being carried up the play structure by a preschooler.

Particularly amusing, is the way our seven-year-old daughter has adopted a certain chicken named “Squirt.” Squirt is her friend. Squirt, she says, loves her. But Squirt, I believe, would quickly pack a suitcase and hop on the nearest Greyhound to Cincinnati if given the chance.

“What are you doing with that chicken?” I have hollered out my kitchen window more than once at my dear, petite daughter.

“Squirt wants a ride in the wagon,” she yells. Of course she does. What feathered fowl wouldn’t want to be hauled at light-speed around the yard in a red plastic apparatus on wheels.

Day after day, I’ve watched this gold-headed Ameraucana endure humiliating circumstances while other hens look on, snickering and pointing.

Poor Squirt.

My daughter heads toward her and she doesn’t even run away anymore; she just stands there in disgust, giving the stink-eye and glaring with a loathsome expression that clearly says “What’s the use.”

One day I looked out the window in time to see the hen and her “keeper” walking around the yard together. Unsurprisingly, Squirt wore a makeshift leash around her midsection and my daughter was happily walking her across the yard like one would walk a small puppy. The other hens gossiped, sneered and drank tea while poor Squirt performed like a trained monkey in what could be known as the worst chicken circus ever.

Like people, chickens have individual personalities. Some are quiet and gentle, others are loud and some are downright mean. We have one obnoxious hen who’s always screeching loudly about one injustice or another. She likely honed her protesting skills after watching CNN reports of various Occupiers and has taken to painting picket signs that read “I am the 99%” in really poor handwriting (or chicken scratches- if you will). At this point, I am 99% sure that she will be the first one to end up as soup, should the need arise.

Several times a day I say to one of my teens, “Go tell that chicken to SHUT UP.”  So far, she’s refused to give up her crusade against the misdeed of being forced to use one of the empty nesting boxes and is still demonstrating daily against the unfairness of someone else sitting on her egg, or using her spot on the perch. As a result, we’ve investigated several DIY chicken nugget videos that look absolutely golden and delicious.

No matter how irritated I’ve gotten, the children are delighted with the chickens, purely because of the unpredictability they bring.

One day, after leaving the sliding glass door open, one of the walking poultry bags sauntered right into the house. The kids screamed with delight and accidentally chased the Brown Leghorn into the kitchen where she flew wildly around looking for an exit. Her dirty feathers and muddy feet thrashed about in my previously sterilized kitchen while she searched for a safe place to land.

The children, (totally thrilled with a live chicken flapping and cawing in the house), ran in circles after her until she flew up on the counter and found what she thought was the safest place to be.

It just so happens that she decided to land on top of a large, open waffle iron.

Not being from the south, I’m not accustomed to eating chicken and waffles together, much to the relief of Mrs. Fluffington, (I’m sure), who is now back safely with her bridge club, telling tales and spinning yarns inside their luxury coop.

Truth be told, we don’t have plans to eat any of the chickens, especially the beloved carnival performer, Squirt. But if any of them decide to land on top of the BBQ grill, all bets are off.

Especially if that chicken is holding a protest sign.





Gardens aren’t for pansies.

Each year I look forward to spring so I can try my hand at screwing up another garden. Experts say that gardening can relieve stress and help us feel more productive. All it does for me is keep the children outside longer so they aren’t creating more clutter.

If awards were handed out for effort, I might earn a trophy. Or perhaps I could win for being the pathetic sap who keeps on trying. Despite my valiant efforts in horticulture, nothing ever seems to take root… except my disappointment.

I’m not new to gardening attempts. I’ve been steadily failing at this for years. If Post-Apocalyptic Gardening ever becomes my family’s sole chance of survival, we will all be knee deep in troubled waters.

I’ve been accused of various things in my life, but having a “green thumb” isn’t one of them. Nah. I have lethal Thumbs of Death.

Just so nobody can accuse me of being a quitter, every winter I pour over gardening websites and Youtube videos trying to unlock the secrets to victorious vegetable growing, all to no avail. Nothing can hold me back and I still try my Death Thumbs at gardening, again and again. This form of persistence is either very noble, or incredibly stupid based on the consistent end results of my craptastic “we-will-starve-to-death-in-the-apocalypse” garden.

This year we’ve gone a bit further and the kids have gotten involved too. “I’m going to water the plants,” they yell and off they trek to dump a gallon of muddy water on a single pepper shoot while neglecting eight other plants entirely.

None of my efforts have been successful and the kids are losing patience.

“Why can’t we eat this now?” the kids will ask as soon as they see a cherry tomato the size of a pea. “Why is this taking soooo long? Where are all the strawberries you said would grow?” These perfectly valid questions are followed by exasperated whining. “Why did we even start this garden if it doesn’t actually make any FOOD?” 

Why indeed.

By all means, I should have all of this plant-growing-stuff figured out by now. One by one, I’ve procured crucial gardening essentials: hoses, watering cans, gloves, raised beds, rakes, shovels, compost, mulch, horse manure, horseradish, horseshoes, and a charley horse. I have acquired everything except actual talent, which is apparently one more thing I can’t grow.

One year I was able to raise a billion and a half tomatoes. They never turned red. Another year powdery mildew rotted out all my zucchini and squash plants. Abusive squirrels and fat gluttonous insects chomped and burped as they devoured the tender leaves of my kale and lettuce starts. My seedlings fast became fodder for ravenous crows and demon-possessed chipmunks. I sighed and muttered “Maybe next year.” 

And here we are again.

Day after day, I have watered and tended my little sprouts while all of nature has perched on nearby tree branches, sniggering and sneering at my fruitless efforts. Furry woodland creatures have laughed and hurled out taunting animal swears. Snails have been throwing keggers and fraternity hazings on my raised beds.

In exasperation and anger, I plucked several snails off my dead leaves and squashed them under my feet. “Noooooo” the kids cried, “Mom just killed TURBO! She squashed TURBO! ” This was followed by shrieks, wails and catastrophic sobbing from my preschool crowd.

Look, Skippy, your slimy “friend” is the reason we won’t have food if zombies come.

The gardening efforts for this season are already forecasted as a total FAIL. At this point, all I can do is hope my children learn something from watching my repeated efforts. Perhaps they can learn perseverance. Perhaps they can learn patience. Or maybe all they’ll learn is that the definition of “insanity” means doing something over and over and expecting a different result.

You’re welcome to join us for dinner, but don’t expect lovely home-grown vegetables to grace the table around here.

All we can grow is clutter.

Storm clouds are female.

Nothing is fair when you’re seven and everyone else has things better than you. At least, that’s what our resident 7 year old [Spunky] would claim is true. I don’t know at what point her life became so unbearable, but somewhere along the line, life yanked her pig-tails, kicked her shins and swiped her cookies.

It isn’t uncommon to witness her sporadic crying. Her eyes will be red and swollen and her face will get scrunched up like a withering fig. Strong emotions have siezed her petite body and are now present at every part of our lives. One moment she may be happily playing with Legos or Barbies and at the very next interaction with a sibling, she comes nearly unglued.

“Nobody (hiccup) is giving me any love todaaay,” she sobs. In a torrent of misery, tears slide down her cheeks in a mix of dirt and dejection.

Life is filled with all sorts of injustice when you’re seven.
Being seven is just…the worst.

Most often, strong emotions come flooding into Spunky’s tiny frame when accompanied by what she considers to be Bad News. In Spunky’s world, “Bad News” would include things like bedtime, mustard, a lost puzzle piece, or Huevos Rancheros.

Without warning, we can be subjected to the doleful sounds of crying and high-pitched sniveling. “Nobody will play with me,” her sad voice says frequently. Or at other times, “Somebody put mustard on my sandwich ON PURPOSE. Everyone KNOWS I hate mustard.” This is followed by quivering lip-whimpers as her hot tears trickle down to her folded arms.

I may not claim to know much about parenting, but I do know this: after a girl turns five, her body is hijacked by an emotional rollercoaster that she will keep riding for the rest of her life. Forever. The End.

In contrast to the extreme emotional “lows” that come with the travesty of being served a dinner of fried tortillas topped with meat and eggs, there’s a large amount of happy squealing that erupts from Spunky’s emotional volcano. The bountiful happy moments are filled with her giggling laughter; a melodious sound that flits across the room with fairies and silver bells.

The next moment is filled with weeping because it’s time to brush her hair.

Being a woman myself, I should be somewhat used to weathering the storms of emotional onslaught, but as far as I know, I have yet to cry over the wrong brand of peanut butter, or whether or not I can find my shoes. This week anyway.

Apparently having a large personality crammed into such a tiny body causes some leaks, and some of that feisty personality oozes out. Seven-year-old angst appears at very random moments.

Nearly every night we get to see some of that spirited persona as Spunky treks down to the living room long after bedtime and loudly announces that she’s most certainly not tired.

“Ooooh, You’re watching House Hunters? Why would you watch that without me?” She asks.

“We watch tv every night without you,” I say to her, “and it’s a tradition we believe in keeping. Back to bed.” 

Her eyes flit over to the bowl of “Chex Mix” Mr.Diaz and I are snacking on. Of course we wouldn’t dream of offering any to her because

1) after 8pm, I turn into the meanest mother alive and

2) Couch Eating in the dark of night without children is another tradition we believe in keeping.

“Don’t worry mom, I’m not hungry, so I won’t ask you for any,” she says while staring longingly at the bowl. This is followed by a demure and innocent smile.

“Ok good, because you can’t have any,” responds Mr. Diaz. “Back up to bed.” 

With a sigh of disappointment and a crestfallen face, poor Spunky slumps over and plods back up the stairs to her room and her unwanted mattress. Thump, thump, thump, her small feet slowly and loudly hit the stairs.

I can’t blame her for her reaction. When you’re seven, bedtime is the most undeserved penalty of all, especially when you’re denied a delicious and highly processed pretzel mix at 10pm.

Despite the blustering gales that blow the emotional pendulum from side to side, having Spunky around makes my life zesty. In fact, she’s my favorite. Without a fiery seven year old around, life would be rather boring.

Then the pitiful sounds of soft singing drift down the stairs, “I never get ANYTHING…” and her father and I exchange looks. It’s time to take cover.

A storm is brewing.


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Crap Fairy Tales

Spring cleaning is downright frightening around here despite the superpowers of my alter ego, Crap Fairy. Frankly, I’d rather avoid it, but no matter how I slice it, the deep cleaning must be done.

During cleaning season, Crap Fairy sets aside the regular Modus Operandi of sneaking around secretly in the dead of night to commit grim acts of junk-removal and instead, starts viciously attacking crap in broad daylight. This is a dangerous move, I will admit, and I make sure Crap Fairy works hard not to get caught. Because getting caught mid-crap-theft by a preschooler leads to nothing but a fresh form of Perdition that I’d rather not discuss.

Realizing it couldn’t be put off any longer, last week Crap Fairy donned her wings and summoned up her partner in grime. Mr. Diaz acquired some rubber gloves along with multiple garbage bags and we headed out to conquer the large piles of crud that had built up in hidden places of the house over the winter.

You never can tell what has been hiding in the black hole under large pieces of furniture. It could be nothing. Or it could be noxious gas from a half-eaten jelly donut stuffed into a sweat sock that, once unearthed, lets off a smell that could dropkick a llama. We went in prepared for either. With gloves, goggles, brooms and makeshift hazmat suits, we took our stance and readied for battle.

And so it began.

The crusade against crap.

Protectively, Mr. Diaz gripped the broom and pushed me behind him. He slowly got down on hands and knees to peer into the deadly black chasm known as “beneath the couch.” Methodically he swept several piles into the middle of the floor, where we stood back to gawk at them.

“Death on a wheel,” He cried, “What is all this crap?” He had to take off his gas mask to ask this, or he would have sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Whaan-wan-wha-whan-wahnnn-whan.

We had dislodged several dissected Lego people -brutally dismembered by the pudgy hands of a toddler- a broken stapler, a semi-dried apple that bore a remarkable resemblance to a shrunken head and 3 sippy cups ROLLING ON THEIR OWN from chemical gases caused by bacteria-laden fermented juice.

There were multiple discolored plastic balls, an entire petrified waffle that had to be carefully excavated and examined by a team of archaeologists, 4 mismatched batteries, chewed-up popsicle sticks, a manila envelope filled with toilet paper and lettuce, along with half a pound of dirt.

We unearthed a bottle of dried Tabasco sauce, an unopened box of camouflaged bandaids, OJ’s black leather glove and enough hair to weave a Bieber-inspired toupee for Bruce Willis. Not that Bruce would ever want a second-hand wig weaved from crud infested hair. But if he does, I could hook him up.

Several Sunday school name tags stuck to the back of the loveseat silently proclaiming ownership of a stash of stolen goods. There was a busted Wii remote, the crusted guts of a cantaloupe rotting in a dixie cup, 2 paper dollars of Monopoly money, a few half eaten UNO cards, disfigured paper clips, a red poker chip, 4 dice, a roulette wheel and a small black book containing betting records and code names of an illegal toddler gambling ring.

I will be the first to admit that I’ve always thought my children were bright. But clearly it’s less than brilliant to slap your own Sunday school name tag across the black notepad being used to record unlawful betting as an infant bookie.

The entire morning went like this as we delved deep into the belly buttons of the house, sleuthing for prime Crap Fairy plunder and excavating stacks of dusty rubbish.

Crud. Crust. Carburetors. Crepes.

Trash bags were filled and the furniture repositioned. Young children stood locked-out on the back porch foaming and frothing at the mouth, wailing about their hoard of treasures being discovered and discarded. We smiled and waved and kept shoveling.

By the afternoon we moved on to the garage where we ransacked our own space from floor to ceiling the way gang members dismantle a loaded hot-rod. All our junk was hauled out and piled disorderly into the driveway, like a giant Red-nex-ican Garage Fail.

Neighbors pointed and sneered. Dog-walkers snickered. The mailman hid his eyes.

“Look Marty, the Diazes are having a garage sale for all of their trash!” Bertha said loudly to her Chinese crested rat dog as she walked to the mailbox.

Right. If a garage sale was hosted by vandals in hazmat suits.

We worked tirelessly through the day. The junk was sorted and hauled to Crap Fairy Land. Everything was wiped clean and reorganized. The house and garage were once again breathable and fresh. I snapped off my rubber gloves and goggles and looked around at our hard work. Mr. Diaz breathed a sigh of relief, which also happened to be his first deep breath since removing his gas mask.

And that brings us to the end of this story.

This Crap Fairy Tale has a particularly good ending, monetarily speaking, because I opened an Etsy account to sell Bieber-inspired wigs laboriously crocheted from davenport hairballs.

And business is good.


This post is also located at: Mom Resource Blog Party

Goldfish are fun, but you don’t want to pet them.

While I was growing up, my folks didn’t allow typical pets at their house. I might be slightly emotionally scarred from the lack of animal exposure that my life needed back in the fourth grade.

The main reason my parents put the kibosh on pets was that my brother, Uncle Fun, had severe allergies. We weren’t left with many options when it came to finding an animal that he could be around without an injection of epinephrine. Around animals, his asthma would kick in to high gear and send him huffing into a ventilator for several hours, so as a general rule, pets were out. Uncle Fun couldn’t breathe around dust, grass, pollen, mushrooms, Pakistani leather, girls, lawnmowers, oriental carpets or anything that walked. I don’t know much, but I do know this;

All the good pets can walk.

After begging and pleading to share my room with any form of domesticated creature, my mom reluctantly agreed to let me have a goldfish. The excitement was tangible. I scraped up my dollars and coins and mom loaded me into our old, square, 1984 Honda Civic and off we went down to the local pet store.

A glass bowl was purchased along with some blue gravel, a green fish net and some food that looked like flakes of dried scabs. I chose a fat, silver goldfish, gave him (her?) a name and off we went toward home. My very first pet! How I loved that useless silver fish. For about three days I watched that goldfish swim around its glass bowl. I “oohed” and “ahhed” every time it did anything that indicated a modicum of intelligence. “See how smart Sparkles is?” I asked Uncle Fun, “Sparkles knows how to eat fish-food scabs! Isn’t that smart? And watch how he sucks up that blue rock and spits it out because he realizes it’s not  food. Isn’t that brilliant?” Uncle Fun stood in my room, nodded with a look of feigned amusement and puffed his inhaler.

For five months I cared for that anchovy until one morning I woke up to him doing the backstroke atop the bowl. My spirit was crushed and I padded off to school after going through a ceremonial flushing to send Sparkles off to the Great Fish Tank in the sky. My fishbowl was empty and so was my heart. The rain fell, the birds stopped chirping and oven baked fish-sticks lost their appeal.

I learned a very important lesson as a kid. Goldish are fun, but you don’t want to pet them. Being the caregiver of a mini aquarium just wasn’t in the cards for me, and after blowing through several replacement fish, I gave them up all together.

Petless I remained, until one year on a partly cloudy afternoon, I found a small brown lizard at the park with my friends. Refusing to part with it, I hid it in a shoebox and snuck it into the back of my parent’s car. There’s nothing more thrilling to a kid than a secret lizard pet. I hid him in his box deep in the bowels of my parent’s crowded basement. Everything went well until the very next morning when I discovered him missing. The little brown lizard was nowhere to be found. Despite my accusations, neither my mom or dad would fess up to finding it and releasing it into the wild.

Which means that a 23 year old lizard is still living rent-free inside my parent’s hoarded basement. I would bet money on a 400 pound Gila monster chillaxin’ inside their air-ducts, eating pizza and watching old VHS tapes loaded with M*A*S*H episodes. Without a doubt, that reptile is guarding piles of broken junk and picking his yellow lizard teeth with the bones of dead rodents.

By now, I would have made Uncle Fun go down to our folk’s basement to flush-out the elusive monster…

But he can’t.

Because he’s also highly allergic to piles of useless crap.

All this to say that when my little kids asked me recently for pet fish and lizards, my answer was a strong NO. My track record isn’t great and I don’t need anything else around here that poops. I won’t be buying fish unless they come battered and golden. And the idea of a free-loading lizard loose in my home makes me want to punch a gopher and breathe into a bag.

The kids have assured me that they’d never put a leash on a goldfish or let a giant lizard live rent free in the garage, and I’d like to believe them.

But if they don’t stop whining for pets, I’m sending them down to play “Monster Quest” in grandpa’s basement.








I survived the roller rink, but the flamingos still scare me.

My petite 7 year old [Spunky] came to me whining because she never gets to go rollerskating with her older siblings at the roller rink. She made it clear that she is always left out. “Why can’t I go skating?” she complained. “I looooove rollerskating, it’s my favorite and I never get to go.” This was followed by pleading and grumbling about her entire life’s circumstances and the unjust nature of my parenting.

Because nothing is fair when you’re seven. *whine*whine*whine* Everybody else has things better. *whine*whine*whine* Being seven is just… the worst. 

Then and there, I made up my mind. At the next opportunity, I would take her down to the local rink for their after school skating session. I’m not often presented with opportunities to break my neck, so I figured now was the perfect time to get back on skates and take my eager kiddo to do some skating herself.

Eighteen long years had gone by since I’d skated and just like riding a bicycle, I imagined it would all come back to me. I have great childhood memories of racing around my old neighborhood on wheels and by the time I was a teenager I was quite good at it. How hard could it be for her anyway, I wondered. I loved it as a kid and I just knew my little gal would too.

Spunky squealed with glee at the news that she would finally get to do something she (apparently) loved so much. A week chugged by and off we went. We handed our dollars over to a man who was dressed in 1990’s camouflaged MC Hammer Pants, a dark zip-up hoodie and four large gold chains. He stamped our hands with black ink and gave us tickets for skates.

I escorted Spunky to the skate rental counter and they handed us run-down, smelly, overused-contraptions with wheels. 20 minutes later, after cinching, tugging and pulling, (then one last trip to the restroom) we finally had them laced on. We carefully maneuvered to the large wooden floor where highly-capable preschoolers whizzed by at warp speed, wicked grins plastered across their soft faces.

You never can tell how a young child will react after having synthetic wheels strapped to their feet. Spunky hung on to my arm and flopped towards the floor like a dying fish as her wheels made brief contact with the deck then leaped sideways. No matter how she moved, the wheels wouldn’t stay in contact with the rink and her feet went flying up into the air.

“I can’t do it,” she whined, “This is way too hard for meeeee.” Several other sentences came out of her mouth, but I couldn’t hear her over the noise of small wheeled-children and a blaring Taylor Swift song. There I stood holding her up while her legs flopped and rolled as she dangled perilously from my aching arms.  Against the thrashing, I tried not to fall over and break my neck.

The room was dark and lighted orbs gleamed out a revolving strobe of colors. Music pulsed from the speakers and vibrated through our legs. A man that could be Ray Romano’s identical twin was completely decked out from head-to-toe in safety gear. The man’s wife, also shielded in protective coverings, skated beside him. They rolled along the rink, methodically twisting their legs and skates into peculiar formations closely resembling the mating dance of flamingos. Flamingos wearing helmets.

I began having flashbacks of Uncle Fun and I as kids. Ever a proponent for safety, our mom purchased every piece of protective equipment available on the open market and forced us to wear all of it every time we came into contact with wheels.

But there Spunky was, flailing and floundering without any protective gear on, as her legs did twists and turns and she proceeded across the floor.

She was rolling, just not on her skates.

“You can do it,” I encouraged her. Normally my little girl adapts rapidly to every new encounter; learning new skills comes naturally and easily for her. Just not this one. And as her frustration mounted, I was forced to say “You may NOT quit. You MUST keep trying.” 

Because I figured a little adversity never hurt anyone.

Especially when the adversity is something you pay $30 for.

And so it was that little Spunky faced the adversity of the eight rubber wheels she was forced (by me) to wear. Eventually I caved and forked out a few more dollars to rent a cleverly designed walker-on-wheels made from PVC pipe that children pushed in front of them in order to retain their balance. She clung to it gratefully and we made our way around and around the rink.

Parents twisted and spun, pretentiously displaying their fine skating abilities to their offspring. Rink referees demonstrated spins and twirls in the middle of the floor beneath the rotating gleam of a large disco ball. Delighted grandparents on the sidelines photographed the blurry movements of their grand-kids from carpeted bench seats. Huge black speakers strategically placed in the far corners of the rink blared out “EVERYTHING IS AWESOME…”

Which was a downright lie.

Despite my pointers, I watched Spunky attempt to “skate” as she placed each wheel-bound foot up over the top of the other in an odd jog. She did this while her tiny frame twisted and flopped and her knees scraped against the floor. Her only saving grace was the makeshift plastic “walker” that she clung to desperately in an attempt to avoid being creamed by nimble toddlers wearing flame covered T- shirts that read “Hell on wheels.”

“I can’t do this,” she wailed, “I HATE rollerskating. Why did you ever make me come here in the first place?”

Why indeed.

The long minutes ticked by while we worked hard at learning basic (and important!) skating techniques such as:
-The act of skating only occurs when you’re on wheels, not your face.
-Standing in front of video-snapping grandparents is not the best time to loudly complain that your skates smell like old nacho cheese.

Little by little, Spunky chugged along with her “walker” and eventually began gliding instead of running. Her confidence elevated, her whining faded. Elsa stood on a cold mountain top and belted out “Let it Go, Let it Gooooooooo…” 

So she did.

The contraption that had been clutched so fondly was shoved aside and little Spunky spent the remaining minutes propelling herself around the wooden floors unassisted.

The session ended with some races, the chicken dance, and of course the Hokey Pokey- where numerous wobbly children gathered into a circle and tried not to topple like dominoes as they “shook it all about.” The referees cleared the floor, the lights came up and we all stepped out of our skates uttering groans of relief.

“I’m sorry you didn’t like rollerskating,” I said in the car on the way home.

“I did so, ” Spunky exclaimed “I loved every minute of it.” 

And there you have it.

Despite the ripped leggings, the bruised hip, two scratched-up knees, and a bleeding lip, she survived. If nothing else, we can take satisfaction in knowing that we overcame a challenging situation, spent time together, and ultimately left our mark on the world.

Because we photo-bombed at least 12 grand-kids’ photos.

Plus a video.


You won’t find a mermaid in this lagoon.

Life with many children is filled with wonderful moments. It is also filled with difficult ones. The problem is, you never know which moment you will get.

Quick as a wink, my day can fall completely to pieces. I can be swimming along peacefully, backstroking through a thick fog of tranquility, and the very next instant all hell can break loose. I’m not sure why that happens so swiftly, but I do know this: it catches me off guard every single time.

Take yesterday for example.

Mr. Diaz loaded up our giant van and hauled our oldest children down to the car wash. He didn’t do this because he’s a super awesome dad who wants to spend a few extra moments with our dear offspring. Nor did he do this because our children like sitting in an enclosed space while giant soapy brushes slap and lick the sides of a vehicle that’s roughly the size of a barge.


He took them to the car wash because he needed bodies to hold towels over the windows in the back of the van where there are leaks. I can’t blame him for this. What did we have children for anyway if not to do mundane, Red-nex-ican tasks like that one?

Meanwhile, I was back in my kitchen loading the dishwasher and the other five children were occupied and quiet.  Every parent knows “Occupied and Quiet” is a summons for disaster. Sure enough, Squidgy baby began to cry, flailing and wailing while flopping in the jump-a-roo.

Suddenly, a scream pierced the stillness and I immediately knew it was my 2 year old, Chatterbox Toddler. I scurried down the hallway to the playroom and he ran up to my legs and clutched them as tightly as a modish purse snatcher holds onto a Kate Spade.

“Owwww,” he sobbed through his big tears, “Head owwwwwy,” 

Chatterbox Toddler was wet. He had a blossoming red welt where he had conked his noggin. He held onto me and screeched his dysphoria -a cacophony now mixed with the sounds of a wailing baby back in the living room.

I noticed my wood floors were wet too, as if a preschooler spilled a gallon of water and attempted to mop it up by using the least absorbent material on the planet, which in this case was an old baby quilt. Instead of the spill being soaked up, it spread the liquid from one side of the floor clear to the other.

A slight movement from the back of the room caught my eye.

Our resident preschooler, Humdinger, stood there stark naked and frozen in place; one leg lifted up in the air and ready to go into a pair of underwear. He had been quickly trying to change into dry clothes. It didn’t take long to figure out what had happened. Humdinger had masterfully created his very own ‘Slip-n-Slide’. From his pee. And his brother had involuntarily taken the first ride.

I can’t really say what coursed through my mind in the next few moments.

I bear vague memories of solemn, sincere prayers to Jesus Christ and perhaps the thoughts of mild profanity. Three kids were vociferously bawling; the very angry baby back in the living room, the naked preschooler holding one leg up through a pair of faded Batman underpants (who then did a perfect swan dive into a naked flop-tantrum across the cold floor). And, of course, the still-screaming toddler who had just been the first contestant on his brother’s low budget version of “Wipe Out.”

The real tragedy for the toddler was not the loss of dignity after a brief glide in his brother’s tinkle. No. What really upset him was the tragic loss of a beloved banana he had mashed into the floor with his legs as he fell.

Moving quickly, I abandoned the semi-creamed banana, left it bobbing in Urine Lagoon and hauled the toddler up to the bath for a quick rinse.

As is normal in my house, a tranquil afternoon had unraveled in a matter of moments.

A protesting Humdinger was forced against his will to get fully dressed in clean, dry clothing. The baby was forced against her will to wait out her bounteous troubles inside a jumpy manufactured to look like an absurd rain-forest. The toddler was forced against his will to abandon his favorite fruit. And I was rudely forced against my will to get down on tired hands and knees and mop the entire floor before other children ran into the room exclaiming “Hey! A free banana! That looks delicious!”  

45 minutes later, the baby was wiped, changed and dozing peacefully. The preschooler was occupied with a giant floor puzzle that still magically retained all the pieces, and the toddler had been awarded the consolation prize of a few crackers to snack on. With the crisis handled, the chaos of the afternoon slowly faded back down into a lull.

Mr. Diaz returned shortly with several children, wet towels, and a sparkling clean van that had been washed on the inside as well as the outside.

A kid, who heard the van pull up, sprinted into the house from the backyard where he’d been playing. He kicked off his muddy boots, threw down his dirty coat and peed right there on the floor.

It shouldn’t be surprising.

Around here, windows aren’t the only things that leak.

The day we brought a circus to Ikea

Every two years we load up the van, hit the road and trek an hour away to our closest Ikea store. We do this for two reasons:

Number one, we can only afford to shop there every other year because it’s easy to drop $800 in one shot. Two, it’s not exactly a quick trip to get there, especially with loading and unloading a family of nine. Three, (I lied, there are actually three reasons) every other year “Crap Fairy” runs out of crap to haul out to the dumpster in the dead of night, so we head down to buy more cheap junk. This keeps Crap Fairy in business, and in this economy, I believe I deserve credit from Obama for creating jobs.

But this year we had an entirely different motivation. We needed mattresses.

After the recent bout of flu that hit us, it was the final push to purge the crummy mattresses we owned and replace them with new ones. This wasn’t hard to do, since the mattresses my kids have been using were hand-me-downs and over the years have encountered multiple nighttime accidents, various blood and guts and recently, several gallons of vomit.

We also needed another bunk-bed for the two youngest boys who are moving out of babyhood and into big-boy-beds.

So with all those reasons, Crap Fairy wrote a list of future crap she wanted to toss out and we headed south.

We unloaded the family and spent 20 minutes schlepping children on and off the public toilets and scrubbing everyone’s hands to death with soapy water. Then we lined everyone up at the starting gates. Arriving a bit early, we were roped into a small space among several European bedroom displays, along with 36 other people who were waiting for the store to officially open. We stood with our three shopping carts full of miniature humans, plus one stroller, while 72 eyeballs sneakily stared at us. Everyone stood quietly. Which was perfect, because our 12 year old daughter (who happened to be manning the stroller) took those quiet moments to loudly say things like “Oooh, that bedroom is soooo prettyyyyy! And clean! Oh, wow! Ohhhh! Look over there at that room, mom. It’s sooooo clean,” because apparently she’s never seen a clean, well designed room of any sort in all twelve years of her life.

She was nearly giddy- “Dad, LOOK at that bedroom! Wouldn’t you like a bedroom just like that? Imagine if you had NO KIDS! If you had NO KIDS you and mom would actually have a reaaaally nice house. Just imagine, Mom, you could relax in a beautiful bedroom and all your stuff would be super nice and organized. You and dad would be totally alone!  Nobody would ever bother you!” – which was followed by a few choking-coughs and quiet guffaws from fellow sardines packed in next to us.

Because who doesn’t love hearing the oldest daughter of seven asking her bedraggled parents to imagine life with no kids.

Finally the Angel of Mercy came and opened the small yellow chain that held back the Ikea cattle/shoppers and let us onto the store path.

Our first stop was MATTRESSES, where each child became permeated with desire to try out every single bed in sight. But I forbade them to leave their respective carts or strollers and they sat there hollering out pre-school curse words over the injustice.

Mr. Diaz wasn’t entirely convinced about the comfort of the thin Ikea bunk-bed mattresses, so he took it upon himself to remove mattresses from the display beds, throw them on the middle of the floor and force each of the older children to lay on them. Which wasn’t Red-nex-ican at all. Nah. It was entirely classy, and nobody stared at us while pointing and snickering. And if you can believe that, I have a Red-nex-ican bridge to sell you.

Eventually we strolled our loud, mobile carnival over to the Ikea cafeteria where we gave the overworked college student behind the prison buffet glass quite a shock when we announced we’d be needing 7 FREE Swedish-meatball-meals, plus two regular ones. Kids eat free on Tuesdays, which almost makes up for the $800 we spend on knick-knacks and gasoline, and we are certainly going to take advantage of those 2,450 FREE calories.

A lady with just one baby tried not to gawk as we seated our family around a jumbo cafeteria table. I caught her sneak-staring at us, and I’m fairly certain she pretended to text with her phone while actually taking photos of us. Right off I noticed she was well put-together; with make-up done nicely, a cute outfit, stylish hair cut and ONE sweet baby who was dressed immaculately. I’ve been there. Back when I only had one child to manage. Back when I only had one child to manage and the very thought of having more than one cherub was enough to make me sweat blood. I’m sure we were more than mildly amusing, and I figure all the attention is just preparing us for our future reality TV show. I would have offered to sign an autograph but I was too busy wiping small faces and trying to convince several young boys that free meatballs aren’t billiard balls and that forks aren’t pool cues.

Fifty-six minutes and half a mile later, it was on to the warehouse portion of the store where you collect all the larger items you wish to purchase. We stacked up six mattresses, a disassembled metal bunk-bed frame and various other things onto a flat dolly cart that nobody seemed able to manage. This is the exact same cart that the petite seven year old insisted she could push on her own, with zero interference. “It’s not workinggggg,” she whined loudly down the aisle, “I can’t control the wheeeeeeels. The front keeps spinning. NO, GO AWAY! DON’T HELP ME! I CAN DO IT MYSELF!” I caught the astonished looks of passerbys as we maneuvered our (now very loud) family of nine  -complete with 5 overloaded contraptions on wheels- through the remainder of the store, in and out of the check-out desk and off toward the loading zone.

Of course, as luck would have it, we strolled past a “last chance” food stand where Ikea expertly markets ice cream cones to weary parents and screaming pre-schoolers. This cruel marketing ploy meant we had to buy 8 soft serve ice-cream cones just to get out of the store. One man stopped mid-lick of his cone and stared at us as we passed through the exit doors. I’d like to think it was because we are just so sweet and good looking. But my better sense tells me that it was because one kid was flop-tantruming over the side of the cart while wailing at the top of his lungs. He did the wailing flop because Mr. Diaz, realizing the 4 year old could never finish an entire ice cream cone before entering the van, bent over and devoured half of it in one fell swoop. Apparently, said 4 year old was scarred for life and now has a reason to see a therapist as an adult.

After skillfully packing all the new purchases and 9 people into our giant party wagon, we were off toward home while youngsters drowsily slipped into sugar comas; vanilla ice-cream drool drying on their chins like slug trails.

All said and done, we made it home with 6 bed mattresses, a bunk bed, 2 pop-out circus tents, a clock, 2 “road” play mats, several rolls of craft paper, batteries, dish rags, a large candle lantern, 3 wicker baskets, colored drinking straws, fluorescent plastic silverware, a green spatula and several chocolate milk stains.

I didn’t end up signing any autographs. (Unless, of course, you include the receipt I signed for an amount that could rival the commerce of a small nation.) And since I realize I’m not likely to get a reality TV show, I’d better just stick to keeping Crap Fairy employed, which is easier now that the kids are sleeping peacefully in brand new beds.

Crap fairy is on the move.


*This post has been featured on For Every Mom