All posts tagged parenting

The Teenagers’ Guide to Pitching Plans to Your Parents

Published December 7, 2016 by April Fox

I love technology.

I mean most of the time, except when it eats my articles and I’m going OMIGOD I’M ON A DEADLINE YOU PIECE OF MECHANICAL GARBAGE HOW COULD YOU EAT MY WORK I HAVE BILLS TO PAY but yeah, most of the time it’s cool, especially when it comes to texting.

I get that I’m old and I’m supposed to hate these newfangled phones that have everyone preoccupied 23.5 hours a day, but if there’s something that can keep me from having to have actual talking conversations with people, I’m all about it. It also streamlines communication, even with people I enjoy talking to, such as my kids.

Texting would be the ideal method for things like making plans while I’m at work and the kids are at school, or for asking quick questions… if it was used to actually share information, which is something my kid seems to have problems with.

Before I go any further, let me say that I have awesome kids. The best, really. Baby girl is in high school now, and she goes where she’s supposed to when she’s supposed to, does reasonably well in school (freshman year sucks), and as far as I know, hasn’t done any of the things I did at that age, that should have gotten me arrested or killed. But. This texting thing. Oy.

Now I am not complaining about how much she talks, because I love our conversations and I love that she shares her life with me, but this is what she sounds like when she comes home from school (with names changed to protect the innocent):

“Oh my god mom. Petunia is so stupid. We were in class and she said that Jim Bob liked Louise but everyone knows he likes Francine and Louise is gay so it doesn’t even matter, but Petunia just likes to start drama with everyone, and so then she was talking and Mr. B was like, “Baby girl, sit down and do your work,” and I was like, “fool, I wasn’t even talking,” I mean I didn’t really say that, but why is he telling me to be quiet and not even saying anything to Petunia? So then I went to English and Mrs. K was like, “Did you do your homework,” and I was like, “Yessssss,” which is stupid because I read that book in like fourth grade and oh my god, it’s so dumb, like why do I have to read it again? And then at lunch Braden took my apple and gave it to Stephanie, and she gave it back, but it was right before we had to go back to class so I didn’t even get to eat it, so now I’m starving. Do we have any pudding? When did you buy Cheetos? What are we having for dinner? I’m going to make some chocolate milk. When are we getting a Christmas tree?”

My point is, she is not afraid of sharing details.

So today she texts me from school, and it’s a very typical exchange, and it always starts like this:

“Can I go to this place with this person?”

Usually I know the place and the person, and it would probably be fine to iron out the details later, but there are two things about that:

One, I am not always available to drive her places and pick her up, and once in a while we actually do things as a family, and I like to make sure our plans don’t conflict.

And two, I know she’s not me but she’s a kid, and as soon as you say yes without knowing the details, you’re in for a world of trouble. For example, had I asked my mom when I was a teenager, “Can I go to the Motley Crue concert next month?” and she said yes without any further information, I would have been halfway to LA in a van with 15 dudes with tattoos and fake leather pants bought out of the back of Metal Edge magazine, on a pay phone going, “But Mommmmmm you said I could go!” So yeah. I need details.

So here’s how it goes:

Can I go to the mall with Louise?

When, and how are you getting there?

Tuesday. Her mom can maybe take us.

Tuesday what time? How would you get home?

Around 4. Could you pick me up?

Maybe. Would you ride the bus home with Louise after school, or what?

No. You need to drive me to Louise’s house.

What time?


You get out of school at three.

Oh. Three-thirty.

Would I need to pick you up from the mall or from Louise’s house?

I don’t know. 

Can you find out? Louise’s house is 10 minutes away. The mall is 45. 

OK. So can I go?

I don’t even know where or when to pick you up.

Oh. Seven. 


I don’t know. Could you get me at Petunia’s?

See what I mean? Here’s how the conversation should start:

Can you please take me to Louise’s house around 330 on Tuesday so we can go to the mall, and then pick me up at her house at 7?

That’s an effective pitch. It gives me all the pertinent information up front, and it gives me a lot less time to think about the fact that she hasn’t cleaned her room in six months, and the last time she went to the mall with Louise she got mad because Louise hid in the photo booth with Braden for half an hour while baby girl was stuck in Spencer’s looking at plastic vomit by herself, until she ran into Francine and they went to eat at the food court, where they stayed until she texted me to be picked up… and you can imagine how that went.



New Book, “Chicken Soup for the Fuck You,” is here. 

Published August 19, 2016 by April Fox

My new book, Chicken Soup for the Fuck You: Inspirations, Observations, and Character Assassinations is now available in print and Kindle format via Amazon

Here’s a little about the book: 

“Chicken Soup for the Fuck You” is spit straight from the hyperactive brain of a lifelong oddball who has, to put it simply, seen some shit. In the process of finding her voice after a decade and a half of quiet, April Fox puts a wry spin on politics, religion, and the weird and wonderful aspects of everyday life, including parenting a herd of eclectic children. In between, there are periods of darkness, and those are reflected here too.

In short, “Chicken Soup for the Fuck You” is a feel-good book for people who hate feel-good books.

April’s work has been described as “Intoxicating… Awesome, inspiring, and resonating all the way.”
“…a huge dose of reality.”

“Enigmatic and thought-provoking, but still touching.”


Chicken Soup for the Fuck You is a collection of essays (some previously published here) in line with Jon Stewart’s Naked Pictures of Famous People, interspersed with brief one-liners and a few lines of verse. It runs the gamut from Barbie’s role model status to evangelist Pat Robertson’s readiness to come out of the closet to why kids with autism don’t make the best survey subjects sometimes. One early reader said he was laughing on one page, raging on the next, and on the verge of tears with the one after that; another, before reading, hoped the book came with “a piece of the author’s brain.” Chicken Soup for the Fuck You is exactly that: a slice of my brain, stuffed inside a paperback cover and served straight to you, ready to be enjoyed. 

Quit Complicating Your Kids’ Questions About Gender and Sexuality

Published April 6, 2016 by April Fox

Every time legislation is passed that has anything to do with civil rights, things like being allowed to marry or use the bathroom in peace or whatever, people start using children as proxies for their fear and lack of understanding. It spreads like a rash across social media, this epidemic of made-up conversations kids are having with the adults in their lives and the resulting deep and moving concern about what to tell the children. “What am I supposed to say when little Khloweei asks about the gay couple in the produce section? How am I supposed to explain transsexuals in the bathroom? My child is too young to be talking about sex!”

Spoiler alert, in case you don’t want to read this whole super-long thing: You don’t have to talk about sex. It isn’t about sex, even. Not at all. I know, it’s shocking, what with the gays and the trannies humping each other all over the bus stop and the amusement parks and shit like that. I know they look like normal people doing normal things with their normal lives, but underneath, totally humping, willy-nilly everywhere.

But really, I’m sorry if you’re confused about how to address your kids’ questions. I’m not belittling that, at all. My kids have asked some things that have made me wish for a time machine so that I could go back and hide in the bathroom five minutes before they decided to ask. Kids ask some intense questions, and some very serious questions, and those should without a doubt be answered. But. (You know me, there’s always a but.)

Here’s what’s really important to remember: children don’t think like adults.

To a small child, everything is new and different. They don’t have decades of experience and context to which they can relate their everyday lives and observations, like we do. Their points of reference are self-centered. I don’t mean that in the negative way it’s often used, but literally: their experience centers around themselves.

And so when you’re standing at a crosswalk beside two men holding hands, you’re taking in everything: They’re adults. They’re smiling at each other, leaning into each other, laughing quietly. One has a take-out box from that fancy candle-lit restaurant up the street; clearly, they’re on a date, and if they only got one box for leftovers, they must be going home together. One man has a bottle of wine tucked into his elbow. They’re going home to drink wine. It’s going to be romantic. They’ll probably end up having sex. That’s what’s running through your head when your child says, “Mommy, why are those boys holding hands?”

You know what’s going through your kid’s head, most likely? Why do those boys have to hold hands to cross the street? They’re grown-ups. Grown-ups can go by themselves. That’s weird. So how do you answer that question? Try something like, “Sometimes people hold hands when they like each other. I guess they must like each other.” Chances are, your kid is going to give you a really insightful response, probably something along the lines of, “Oh. Look, there’s a squashed caterpillar on the sidewalk. Can I touch it?”

When your child asks why Auntie has a girlfriend, he’s probably not wondering why she prefers women to men. It’s probably just the same question kids ask roughly eleven million times a day: Why? Why are my socks blue? Why is that spaghetti? Why is that lady’s butt so big? Why can’t I touch that squashed caterpillar? Why does Auntie have a girlfriend?

And just like above, it’s a pretty simple answer: “They must like each other.”

If your child is old enough that he’s beginning to understand what kind of relationships are more common than others and to notice when things look a little different than what he’s used to, and his question really is about why Auntie likes girls and not boys, that’s an easy answer too: “Some girls like other girls.” If they ask for more, you can give that information without making everything about sex. I’m pretty sure when your kid asked you why you and Daddy got married, for example, you didn’t say, “Well, Snugglemuffin, we just wanted to make sure your daddy would be able to stick his pecker in me every night for the rest of his life.” You probably talked about love and happiness and friendship — and those are the same things you talk about when you’re talking about Auntie and her girlfriend. Easy peasy, man. You don’t even have to learn anything new.

Of course, the big thing now is transgender. Everybody’s freaking out about the transgenders in the bathrooms and Oh…my… Gawwwwwwd what if my precious little snowflake Mhaddisynne Claire goes in the bathroom and sees a person who looks like a man in a dress? WHAT DO I TELL HER?”

Well first off, tell her potty time is privacy time, which is what you should have been telling her since she was old enough to start having a decent grasp of receptive language.

If it does come up, if your little one sees someone with masculine-appearing features in traditionally feminine clothing and says (at the top of her lungs, at that piercing pitch children only hit when they’re saying something that makes you want to crawl into the toilet and die) “Why is that man wearing a dress?” what the heck do you say?

I’ll tell you. If that happens, then you go, like, “That’s a lady.”

And then if your kid is like, “That looks like a man,” then you go, “People look all different ways. She’s just trying to use the restroom, like you are. Go wash your hands. Go. Use soap. Not that much soap.” (Because that’s how bathroom conversations always end, I don’t care if there’s a band of Civil War reenacting drag queens in there, you’re going to say the soap thing. And also, you really don’t know, do you? Unless you’re the weirdo peeking up her skirt, you don’t know that that lady isn’t a biological woman with stronger features than most.)

I’m not saying not to have conversations about gender and sexuality with your kids. These are issues they’re going to face, if not personally, then as witnesses as their family and friends deal with them. But it’s ridiculous to think these conversations have to center around what people do in their private bedrooms or wardrobes. If you wouldn’t talk about the sex lives or genitalia of straight, cisgendered people, then it’s not appropriate conversation-period. As your child gets older, your conversations can become more comprehensive, but when your child is small, your answers about sexuality and gender should be as simple and gentle as conversations about love and death and anything else that you have a responsibility to explain. Don’t complicate it. Teach love, compassion, respect and inclusion, and your simple answers will grow into understanding soon enough.

Barbie: Taking Our Daughters to the Dark Side, One Pink Stiletto Step at a Time

Published February 19, 2014 by April Fox

When I was a kid, playing with Barbie was a given. Little girls played Barbie, little boys played G.I. Joe, and once you all hit about twelve, your moms quit allowing you to play with both of them together because dammit, Barbie’s not a hooker.

But maybe she is.

I’ve heard a surprising number of mothers say they won’t let their daughters play with Barbie because she’s a bad influence and promotes an unrealistic ideal of beauty to young girls. Okay, first of all, your average girl of Barbie-playing age thinks the height of beauty is bright turquoise eyeshadow, a sparkly tank top that looks like it came off the rack at Discount Drag, your grandmother’s old Easter bonnet and a pair of Dora the Explorer slippers. I’m pretty sure Barbie’s color-coordinated outfits are an improvement.

She has long, blonde hair, blue eyes, and a figure that looks like she got her chest stuck in an industrial vacuum for about four years. Yeah, the boobs are a bit much. I admit, after six kids I look at Barbie lying there all perky after, what, fifty-some years? and when my kid isn’t looking, I slam those pointy little plastic suckers in the kitchen drawer a few times, just for spite. But really? Come on. Kids are surrounded by women of all shapes, sizes, colors… do you really think your daughter is going to grow up with a complex because she doesn’t resemble a hunk of plastic? Nobody raises a fuss because they think their kids are going to grow up depressed because they don’t have giant, misshapen heads like Dora. I have four boys and not one of them has ever screamed from the bathroom, aghast because they’re not eunuchs like all those plastic action figures they play with.

The fact is, some women do have lovely figures and long, shiny hair. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people or less worthy of your respect than anyone else. It’s unacceptable to look down on someone because they’re not conventionally attractive, or they’re overweight, or learning delayed. People do it, but it’s not considered something you do in polite company. So why is it okay to belittle the worth of this poor plastic lady? Yes, I’m anthropomorphizing the doll, because-to use a phrase common in the age group that likes to play with her-you started it. When you say your child can’t play with Barbie because she promotes an unrealistic ideal of beauty, you’re telling her that that is what’s considered attractive, and she might as well give it up.

Beauty vs. the Brain

One of the big arguments I hear is “I want to raise my daughter to know that beauty doesn’t matter, and brains do,” or some minor variation thereof. The thing is, I have two girls that happen to have copious amounts of both qualities, and I’m quite sure mine aren’t the only ones. Now, what are you going to say? Are you going to pretend my girls are the only ones with good looks and smarts? Or are you going to–wait for it–tell me that all parents feel that way about their kids? Maybe even get a little defensive and tell me your kids are bright and beautiful too?

Of course they are. They all are. So rather than telling your daughter she has to be one or the other, why not reinforce that not only will she be both, she already is? I don’t mean you should streak her hair and stick her in miniskirts when she’s five. I’m not saying teach her that she has to look like all the little tarts on the teen soap operas. I’m saying let her cultivate her own beauty along with her brains, and appreciate them both. And in doing that, you have to learn to appreciate your own. If you complain constantly about your post-kid belly or your frizzy hair and then turn on Barbie and accuse her of being a fake plastic tramp, you’re the one teaching your child that there’s a narrow definition of beauty-not the doll. Rather than pointing out how unrealistic Barbie’s perfect shiny hair is, point out how pretty it is when the sunlight catches your daughter’s curls on the playground. Quit slamming Barbie’s poor exaggerated breasts in the drawer and take a minute to think about what yours have seen you through.

When she does well on a test, praise her. When she puts on a new dress, tell her she looks pretty. When she scores a goal in her soccer game, be the loudest voice on the sidelines. Celebrate all of her gifts, not just the ones that aren’t obvious at first glance. Allow her to decide who she is-don’t limit her with your own insecurity.

About that Bad Influence Thing

Okay, so Barbie is a bad influence because she’s hot. Let’s look at the reality of this, shall we? First, she’s plastic. Seriously. Not plastic as in manufactured pop star, but actual plastic, injection molded chemical compounds or whatever the heck she’s made out of. It’s not like she’s whispering in your kid’s ear at night, telling her to pray to the goddess Britney Spears and eat nothing but honeydew melon.

As far as her lifestyle, she lives in a nice house (several, if you’ve kept up with the upgrades over the years) and drives a cute little convertible. She takes her sweet fluffy pets with her on vacation in her RV. Yeah, she went through that kind of tacky “Barbie and the Rockers” phase back in the 80’s, but come on, she’s not even fully jointed; it’s not like she could gyrate or anything. And to top all that off, she was with the same guy for her entire life, and if you’ve ever taken Ken’s pants off, you know there wasn’t any hanky-panky going on.

It’s not like she just sat around eating plastic bon-bons, either. Barbie may be a hottie, but she’s no slacker. She’s been a veterinarian, a teacher, a pediatrician and a businesswoman, among other things. If anything, Barbie is the ultimate feminist symbol: she’s gorgeous, wealthy, takes care of herself, has more degrees than South Florida on an August afternoon, and hangs out with a guy who’s been emasculated. Have you seen those stilettos she wears? Man-killers if I ever saw any, am I right? This isn’t some soft little bimbo teaching our girls to pucker up and have dinner on the table when the man walks through the door; this is a renaissance woman, evolving with the times and showing generations of little girls that they can be anything they imagine they can.

*I first wrote this for Yahoo! several years ago. I feel compelled to point that out, so they don’t come along and try to sue me for reprinting my own work or something.

Minnie Mouse: Spokesmodel for Anorexia (or, How to State the Ridiculous)

Published October 12, 2012 by April Fox

Oh Minnie, how could you?

So apparently, there’s some fancy store somewhere called Barneys. And apparently they’ve just recruited beloved childhood icon Minnie Mouse into their army of evil, promoting poor body-image among little girls while enticing people into the store for half-off sales and cheesy Christmas music played over a tinny loudspeaker.

The story is that Barneys has created a stylized rendition of Minnie, painted tall and slender, wearing a designer dress. She’ll be gracing the windows of the store this holiday season. Now someone on–a site with good intentions, allowing people to create petitions in an attempt to create social change–has started a petition to try and get Barneys and their cohort, Disney World, to do… something. The petition simply asks them to “Leave Minnie Mouse alone,” and then goes into a long, well-meaning tirade about young girls and body image. The statistics quoted in the petition are troubling, for sure. I have a little girl who is perfectly made, and the thought of her ever feeling like she’s too fat/short/tall/thin than she should be sickens me. She is beautiful, and all little girls should know that they are too.

But. There’s always a but. Minnie Mouse is not the culprit here. Remember when I went off on a rant about all the people calling Barbie a bad influence? Same idea here, people. Minnie Mouse is a CARTOON. She is not real. She is not even a person playing a character; she is a DRAWING. Minnie Mouse is an artistic creation. She can be stretched, squished, widened, even erased. Before Barneys decided they hated children and plotted to use the poor mouse as an implement of slow, psychic torture on them, Minnie Mouse wasn’t exactly proportionate. Her head was as big as the entire rest of her body. Her feet were huge and misshapen. And has anyone noticed that she had four-fingered, human-like hands, and that she walked upright, and that she could TALK? This chick was not a normal rodent from the get-go.

So what this well-intentioned lady on seems to be alleging is that young girls see themselves in a talking, deformed, human/mouse hybrid, and that if this human/mouse hybrid grows tall and thin, they will be so disillusioned that they will stop eating in order to look like her. There had to be some malevolent intent there, right?

Sometimes the only appropriate response is, “Ummmmm… okay…”

How about this: how about recognizing that your kid is way too smart to think she’s a talking mouse? How about talking to her about how beautiful she is, just the way she is, rather than hoping that she’ll identify with the cultural symbols you find appropriate and that they won’t be changed in some way that leaves you feeling helpless in the face of a store advertising campaign? How about doing some research on graphic design and art, and instead of moaning about poor Minnie Mouse’s unfortunate transformation, teach your kid about different ways to manipulate images?

There are a lot of dangers facing our kids today. A new rendition of Minnie Mouse in a storefront is hardly one of them.

Banished from the Plastic Princess Kingdom

Published May 22, 2012 by April Fox

Off with her head. (This is not one of baby girl’s new dolls.)

Baby girl got a set of Disney Princess dolls from her father’s girlfriend. I don’t have anything in particular against the Princesses, although I vastly prefer Grimm’s Cinderella tale to the sappy sweet animated cartoon versions, simply because I prefer the dark and slightly macabre to the fluff and fabricated happy endings. The argument that the Disney Princesses teach little girls to be dependent on men and only care about beauty and riches is just dumb-if your daughter is learning her values exclusively from a movie and a hunk of plastic with Velcro clothes and tiny shoes (see also: the Barbie Is Ruining Our Daughters’ Self-Esteem movement) you have serious parenting issues and should probably get you, your kid and the innocent scapegoat dolls into therapy, quick. So yeah, my kid likes to dress up in sparkly clothes and imagine life in a palace. Whoop-te-doo, she’s a kid. Imagination is a good thing. Still, I knew as soon as she started pulling them out of the box by their synthetic hair, I was in trouble. I don’t hold any ill will toward the Princesses, but that doesn’t mean I’m into the whole Demure and Helpless role-playing thing, either. I’ve already been banned from playing Barbies (apparently Ken is not, as my Barbie expressed, a simpering wanker) and My Little Pony (well, they should all talk like Cartman. Shouldn’t they?). I could guess what was coming. I tried, though. I really did.

She started by asking me which one was my favorite. Good, this was easy: “Belle, because she likes books and is a good friend, and fell in love with someone because he had a good heart, not just because he was handsome and had a big castle.”

“Mine too,” says baby girl. I knew that. Belle has been her favorite since she was five and declared Snow White “kind of stupid, but pretty.” Even in kindergarten, baby girl knew better than to take an apple from an ugly old hag and eat it, and why didn’t those little guys do their own laundry?

She let me pick whichever doll I wanted to be, except Belle. She snatched Belle up before she finished telling me to choose, the sneaky little vermin. I chose Princess Tiana, since Snow White is stupid, Rapunzel’s hair is too hard to keep up with, Cinderella’s shoes are dumb and Jasmine’s boobs kept falling out of her top, and the last thing I need is a sexual harassment suit filed against me by Disney. Back in the box, hussy. I’m not even trying to keep your top up.

It started out okay; I asked, in the prerequisite princess falsetto, what we should do today, since we had the day off and didn’t have to do all the usual princess stuff.

“I don’t know,” replied Belle. (Perhaps, like Snow White, Belle is also stupid.)

“We could go to the animal shelter and play with the poor homeless dogs,” suggested Princess Tiana.

Baby girl hit me with her trademark skeptical look.

“Because they need friends. Because, you know, they’re homeless and sad.” Dammit, Princess Tiana is as bad at this cheerfully optimistic stuff as I am. One last try, and then I’m giving up. “We can keep them company till they get adopted and live happily ever after,” I add. That perks up baby girl, and Belle bounces on her wee yellow shoes while she talks.

“We could do that,” says Belle, “Or we could go find the princes.”

Oh boy. Tiana’s about to get exiled.

“Why would we do that?” Tiana asks, “When we have the day off and can do whatever we want?”

“Because,” says Belle. “They’re princes and we’re in love with them.”

“Well,” says Tiana, “That’s fantastic, but we should hang out together today. We don’t need those princes.”

“Yes we DO!” insists Belle, who is starting to sound less and less like a princess and more and more like a pissed off ten-year-old.

“Nuh-uh,” says Tiana, and everyone knows that “Nuh-uh” is about as close to a royal decree as you can get.

Belle bounces on her toes again and makes a noise that sounds oddly like a little girl about to chuck a princess doll out the window. “Yes. WE DO need the princes.”

“Why?” asks Tiana, “Is the toilet clogged or something? Do we need them to fix it? Cause princesses don’t have to do that.” (Hey, I’m allowed to fantasize here too, right?)

“MOM!” demands Belle, sounding eerily like my own angry child.


“This is why you’re not allowed to play. Princesses don’t have TOILETS.”

There’s a long pause while we both ponder that, and then we break out in a bad case of the giggles. She does have a point. I’m assuming that the princesses, like all the related plastic dolls that my friends and I examined as kids, have no need for toilets. (Related: or a need for princes, for that matter, but that’s neither here nor there and certainly not something you discuss with your ten-year-old.)

After that the Princesses just sat around on the couch for a while, their static knees held stiffly out in front of them and their molded hands placed at their sides, painted eyes staring blankly into space. It was kind of creepy, and I was glad when baby girl stuck them back in their box and toted them off to her room, where they will no doubt engage in appropriate princess conversation about Justin Beiber’s cuteness and what the royal drudge crew should make for dinner.

I, of course, will not be invited.

Autism and Oatmeal

Published February 24, 2012 by April Fox

My son, thing one, is 13 and has autism-Asperger syndrome, to be exact. Now this isn’t one of those Poor Me posts, or Look How Much I’m Doing for My Wonderful but Challenging Child, or some shit like that. He’s only called autistic because he needed some therapies, and they weren’t covered without an official diagnosis. He’s a weird, quirky, cranky, hilarious kid who happens to fit the DSM-IV criteria for Asperger’s. So do I, for that matter. So does beloved. So do probably half the people we hang out with. No biggie.

Still, the Aspie thing can make life pretty interesting around here.

The other day, baby girl decided to poll everyone about their breakfast preferences and graph the results. Unfortunately, thing one was at the table with the pad of graph paper, working on a map. He’s always working on a map. All day, every day, maps maps maps. Baby girl tells him she needs a sheet of paper.

“Why? asks thing one.

“Because I need it,” says baby girl. “I’m making a graph.”

Thing one dismisses her with a sigh. “I’m making a MAP,” he says. “You can wait.”

This, of course, is the switch that wakes up the evil preadolescent side of my charming baby girl. “MOOOOMMMMMM! He won’t give me any PAPERRRRRR!”

“I’m aware, child. I’m right here. Thing one, give your sister a piece of paper. Baby girl, don’t yell.”

“I didn’t yell.”

“I’m using the paper.”

Big mom sigh here. “You’re not using all the paper, thing one. Give your sister some paper.”

Thing one hauls his skinny body out of the chair, unfolding like one of those super-long Arby’s curly fries, and hands baby girl the pad of paper. “Here. Take it out of the back. Be very careful. Don’t touch my map. You’ll mess it up.”

Thank you,” says baby girl. 

“Mmmmmm-hmmmm,” says thing one, channeling his inner Niecy Nash.

Several minutes later, baby girl has successfully determined that she, thing two and I all prefer oatmeal to cold cereal for breakfast. And then she asks thing one.

“What kind of cereal?” asks thing one.

“Just cereal,” says baby girl.

“What? There is no such thing as just cereal.”

“Cheerios,” I tell him.

“Real Cheerios? Or the organic stuff in the squished box from the hippie store?”

“Real ones.”

“We never have real Cheerios. Well we did one time, I think. They were on sale. But we never have them, so if I pick that, I probably don’t get breakfast.”

“It’s hypothetical, thing one. But fine. Hippie Cheerios,” I tell him, being very conscious of my eyeballs and the effort it takes not to roll them.

“Plain or honey nut?”

“Honey nut.”

“Hmmmmmmm…” ponders thing one. Thing one ponders a lot. It’s pretty cute. Satisfied, he moves on to the oatmeal. “What kind of oatmeal?”

GOD,” says baby girl.

“God-flavored oatmeal? I’m not eating that,” chuckles thing one. He’s pleased with his wit, and clearly enjoying irking his sister. “What real, non-mythical flavor is this hypothetical oatmeal?” I’m not kidding-my kid really talks like this.

“Brown sugar,” baby girl manages to squeeze through clenched teeth.

“Plain brown sugar or maple and brown sugar?”

“PLAIN!” growls baby girl.

“Hmmmmm…” More pondering, and then, “I don’t believe I’ve ever had plain brown sugar oatmeal, so I can’t answer that.”

“FINE,” says baby girl. “Maple, then. Maple and brown sugar hypothetical NON-MYTHICAL-FLAVORED OATMEAL.”

“Oh,” says thing one, with his most innocent and winning smile. “Why didn’t you say so? I would prefer oatmeal.”

“God,” says baby girl.

“Tasty,” says thing one.

A few minutes later, beloved walks into the room. Baby girl repeats her cereal versus oatmeal question for him.

“Hmmmmmm…” ponders beloved. “What flavor is the oatmeal?”

Attack of the Baby Mutant Cows

Published February 20, 2012 by April Fox

I have a confession:

I am a meanie. Not a small-time, eat-your-vegetables meanie, but a big time, mafia-grade, clean-your-room meanie. I was informed of this fact today, and not for the first time.

My kids are usually pretty good about chores. They know what their jobs are, and they do them when they’re asked to, most of the time. At most, all it takes is for me to hit them with “Dude, seriously? I asked you to do this ten minutes ago,” and they’re on it. [Around here, my “dude” is what yelling is to some moms. That’s how the kids know I’m serious.] The two things they can’t seem to grasp are picking up after themselves-the basic every day stuff, like throwing away their empty juice boxes instead of leaving them scattered around the house like relics from the Hello Kitty Belly Washers era-and cleaning their rooms.

O god, the dreaded room cleaning.

The other night, baby girl fell asleep in my bed watching a movie, and I carried her to her room. At her doorway, she lifted her head and said in her precious sleepy voice, “I’ll walk from hewe. My woom is too messy.” She was right, her woom was pretty messy, but I managed to get her to her bed. Today, though, it was time. Her room needed attention desperately. If her bedroom was a celebrity, it would be Kanye West at the Grammys, okay?

I sprung the bad news on her in the kitchen:

“Hey, baby girl.”

“Oh no. What?”

“Your room needs cleaned.”



“Muuuuuuunnnh. I knew you were going to say that.”

Thing one then decides to join the conversation.

“Haha, you have to clean your room.”

“So do you, actually,” I tell him.


“Listen! What is that? You people aren’t humans, you’re like mutant baby cows. What is that noise?”

“I don’t want to clean my room,” says thing one.

“Duh,” I tell him. “Nobody does. But it needs done, and it won’t take long.”

“Muuuuuuuuunh,” says thing one.

“Moooooooo,” I say, hoping that’s Mutant Cow for just quit whining and do it already. I must have mispronounced it, because the kids just laughed at me.

“Go on,” I say, reverting back to my native English. “Get it done.”

“Why?” asks baby girl.

Seriously? She’s not two, she’s ten. Why is not a question at this age, it’s a stalling tactic and an attempt to make you grow tired of the conversation and tell her whatever, who cares, just leave me alone so I can take a bath.

Doesn’t work with me. I’m old and cranky and unfortunately for her, she’s the youngest of a huge litter and I got bored with the tricks a long time ago, back when her oldest siblings were silly enough to think they’d work. “Because it’s messy. Duh. Go.”

“Your room isn’t clean,” says thing one.

Oh, but see, they’re smart kids, but I’m experienced at this. Normally, what thing one said is true, but I knew what I’d be up against. My room is clean. Ha. Now what, kiddies?

Baby girl finally resorts to that last, desperate hope, the thing that all kids fall back on when they know they’re in the final stages of a losing battle.

“It’s not fair.”

Oh reeeally, child. “What’s not fair?”

“That I have to clean my room.”

“No, see, here’s the thing about that. It’s your room. It’s your mess. It’s your stuff all over the place in YOUR room. It’s totally fair that you should have to clean it up. What wouldn’t be fair is if I had to clean it up, or if I asked you to clean my room.”

At that point, the fight goes out of her, thing one knows when there’s no chance of escaping, and the room cleaning commences.


Five minutes later, thing one is back. “Thing two isn’t helping,” he says. [Note: thing one has asperger syndrome. He is brilliant and stubborn and while he can probably take your computer apart and reassemble it while you’re figuring out which end of the cord plugs into the wall, logical reasoning isn’t always his strong point. He is also 13. That just adds to the hilarity. Har har.]

Apparently thing two is still outside on his bike, not having been informed that it was room-cleaning time. He’s gathered up and brought inside, and they get to work. Two minutes later, thing one is back again. “There’s a bunch of clothes everywhere,” he says. “What do I do with them?”

“Put them away,” I tell him.

“Oh. Okay. Yes, that makes sense,” and off he goes with his little scientist voice and skinny wrists sticking out of his cuffs. [If you watch “The Big Bang Theory,” you have seen my child in action. He is Sheldon, down to needing His Spot to sit on.]

One minute later, he’s back. “Some of the clothing appears to be dirty.”

“Put it in the dirty clothes, then.”

“Oh.” Thing one considers this for a moment. “Would it be okay if I placed them in a pile and then carried them to the laundry all at once? That might be easier than taking each item one by one.”

“I think that’s a fabulous idea. Make a pile. Good job.”

“I know. I’m full of fabulous ideas,” he says, and of course he’s correct.

Eventually, the rooms got clean…ish. As clean, I suppose, as they’re going to. The kids have more stuff than places to store it, and they might possibly have inherited my tendency toward creative organization. Most importantly, though, they survived my incredible meanness and unfairness relatively unscathed, though the scars may linger forever.

Poor, poor baby mutant cows.

How the Naughty Poo Got In, or, Ape Gets a Dog

Published February 8, 2012 by April Fox

In a little red hut in my little white house in my little shit town, there is a little spotted dog with no legs. This is the story of that no-legged dog.

I am in possession of two people with charming smiles and big blue eyes. One of them uses me as a backrest while she watches iCarly and gets her hair rolled. The other uses me as a footwarmer while he steals the blankets and giggles at me in his sleep. Both of them have spent the past forever or so asking me if we could get a puppy. They do this, of course, while aiming those big eyes and charming smiles at my face. I’m used to telling the little one no, because I’m her mother and that’s what mothers do so that their children don’t turn into entitled little demon brats who can evacuate an entire Toys R Us with the screaming borne of being told that they can only get one Super Deluxe Hoochie Doll Complete With Tanning Bed and Antibiotics. I’m used to telling the big one no because, well, we live together now, and I don’t have to say yes.

Still. There’s this ad. And this picture. And this omigod puppy and it would teach the baby responsibility and it would only cost like, five bucks a month to feed and wouldn’t it be great to have a dog to take hiking and omigod the dog has a beard and goddammit fine I’ll call the people.

Several hours later we’re in the Wal-mart parking lot meeting these people who I really hope aren’t those black market organ harvesting guys, and they’re not, and the dog really does have a beard and two minutes later he’s up on my shoulder like a baby human and beloved and I are all googly-eyed like, “Awwww, we got a puppy. Together. Wow…” [Insert hearts and flowers and sparkly things over our heads. We’re disgusting.] And the dog is crate trained, yay! No doggie poop in the house.

An hour later there’s doggie poop in the house.

I am not the most fastidious housekeeper. Right now, I should really be washing the dishes or using that thing with the bristles and the long handle, what do you call it? The broom. But I draw the line at doggie poop in the house. Beloved knows this and agrees that the living room floor is not the best place for this goddamn mutt darling pooch to relieve himself, and he sets about remedying the situation.

“I read that you’re not supposed to scold the dog. You’re supposed to scold the poo,” he says. I’m not sure, but I suspect this earned him what he calls my Nina Simone look. “Dude,” I say, “I am not talking to the poo. I am cleaning it up. If you want to scold the poo, knock yourself out.” And thus, I set off to find the Pine-sol and paper towels.

Upon my return, this is what I see: My usually-rational and mostly-sane beloved is standing over the poo, clearly trying not retch while he gives it the scolding of its life: “Bad poo! BAD poo! Naughty poo! NO! You don’t belong here! Bad poo!” This is effective in stopping the mutt from making any further messes, because he’s too busy trying not to laugh to even think about going poo again.

So here’s this dog, right? I mentioned that he has no legs. That’s not quite right. He does have legs, they’re just about a quarter as long as they should be. According to the black market organ guys, mutt is a Jack Russell-shih tzu mix. You know how funny that looks in your head? Make it twice as odd, and you have our mutt. He has smooth fur everywhere but on his face, which is covered in tufts of white hair that make him look like the billy goat version of Albert Einstein, with a freaky little underbite. When he smiles, he looks like he’s contemplating eating your face and molesting the hell out of your soul before trading it to Satan in exchange for a bit of cheese and a liver treat. And his legs-his legs look like he got his shins shot off like Hank Hill’s dad in King of the Hill. He is, to put it simply, absolutely freaking adorable.

See? He clearly wants your soul.

So here I am with demon dog, who is actually quite sweet, despite his fangs and mental-patient hairdo [I know, I’m one to talk] and I’m not quite sure what to do with him. He’s just like, staring at me. Beloved has retreated to our bedroom-office to do whatever he does in there among the granola bar wrappers and empty bottles of aloe juice, and I have to deal with Pooper McFaceEater alone. Maybe he’s smart, I think.  Maybe I can teach him to play. So I show him the little tennis ball I got him, made especially for dogs who don’t know that dogs are supposed to be bigger than cats. “Look,” I say, “It’s a ball. You’re a dog. When I throw it, go get it, okay?”

I throw the ball. Mutt trots three little half-legged steps toward it, stops, and looks at me like, “Huh?”

“No,” I say, “You’re not supposed to look at me. You’re supposed to fetch it. Fetch the ball. Dude, you’re a dog. You chase it and pick it up with your little demon fangs and bring it back to me. That’s what dogs do. Did you miss the memo? For real, dog. Go get the ball.”

Mutt cocks his head in that cute way that dogs and babies have that keeps you from sending them to the pound, and hop-hops back over to me.

Okay, screw the fetch thing. Maybe I can train the mutt to sit. I mean, it’s sitting. Dogs do that naturally, especially in convenient places like doorways and on your head while you’re trying to sleep.

“Sit, dog,” I tell him.

Mutt looks at me like he just had a spontaneous lobotomy.

“Sit.” And I push down on his little puppy butt. Great idea, except he has no legs back there. “Dammit,” I say, “You don’t have any legs. How am I supposed to tell whether or not you’re sitting? Dogs are supposed to have legs. I don’t understand you, dog.”

Mutt wags his tail and his butt wiggles, so I know it’s not on the ground. Okay, so demon dog can’t fetch, has no legs, doesn’t know how to sit, and on top of all that, his poo is unresponsive to negative reinforcement.

I’m not seeing much use in this dog, to tell you the truth. If it doesn’t eat bad guys, rescue people in an avalanche, or count to fifty on the Late Show so that we can get rich and quit batting our eyes at the meter reader to get our light bill knocked down, what good is it?

In the morning, we discover that mutt did wonderfully in his little red hut overnight. He’s calm in the car, doesn’t snap at the kids, stood perfectly still while he was bathed, and only peed on the floor four times before lunch. In the morning, we discover exactly what mutt is good for. Remember the little girl with the big blue eyes and the charming smile? The one who hardly ever asks for anything, despite the fact that we are very rarely in a position to give her anything more than what she absolutely needs? The one who really really wanted a puppy of her very own? This is what mutt is good for. I think he’ll have to stay, naughty poo and all.

He serves his purpose.

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