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Sunday, January 30, 2011

GPS or Busted

Asking our GPS for a destination is sort of like writing a letter to Santa. You express your heartfelt wishes and desires and hope that you’ve been good enough to get results. My GPS makes me address it as if it were the deity in charge of merge lanes and yield signs. Forget about Rest Areas. You’re better off packing an empty coffee can and a Do Not Disturb sign.

The Captain of our compact Conestoga fired up all four cylinders at the same time recently and to celebrate, we decided to take an actual trip.

Me: Oh great GPS, would you direct us to the path that leads to the beach?

GPS: No.

Me: Please? I won’t ask for anything else. Ever.

GPS: What have you done to deserve this trip? I get no respect. You even put my batteries in upside down.

Me: Sorry. But I didn’t put hair remover in the Captain’s shampoo for April Fool’s Day this time, and I didn’t mention the ferret in the dishwasher.

Captain: There’s a ferret in the dishwasher?

GPS: There WAS a ferret in the dishwasher.

Kid One: You found my ferret!

Me: The point is, I’ve been good. Please tell me how to get to the beach.

GPS: Did you pack a towel?

Me: Yes.

GPS: And clean underwear?

Me. I can buy new ones when I get there.

GPS: Read the fine print. It’s against my Code of Ethics to take you anywhere without clean underwear.

Me: Fine. (I leave the car and return shortly, having taken a precautionary pit stop.) Now will you tell me?

GPS: You left the overnight bag in the guest bath.

Me: I also flushed the house key by accident.

GPS: Did you jiggle the handle?

Me: Yes. Can’t I just buy underwear when I get there?

GPS: Oh sure, and I guess you’re going to parade around all day in that thing you call a swimsuit. Did you pack a cover up?

Captain: You’re not taking underwear?

Kids One and Two: You’re going to wear a BATHING SUIT? We’re not going.

GPS: Don’t talk to your mother that way. That’s my job.

Captain: You’re not taking underwear?

Me: I have to take that bathing suit. It’s the only one I have.

GPS: That might have been a bathing suit in 1975. Today it is a rubber band with sand in the crotch.

Me: Fine, I’ll look for a new one when we get to the beach.

Kid One: Can we take the ferret?

GPS: That ferret won’t be going anywhere, kiddo. Not after a spin through the potscrubber cycle.

Kid One: MOM!

Me: The vet says he’s going to be just fine, honey. He said he’d never seen anybody give CPR to a ferret before.

GPS: CPR? That was more like LOL. That ferret looked like a sprinkler hose.

Kid One: MOM!

Me: He’s kidding. The vet will have him all patched up in no time. Let’s just hit the road, shall we?

Captain: You’re not taking underwear? Are we staying in the same room as the kids?

GPS: And what about that ratty bathing suit? It looks like a freeway-bound retread just before it leaves the tire.

Me: You take that back!

Captain: Sorry. I just thought separate rooms would be better.

Kid One: Can we go by the vet’s office on the way out of town?

Me: No, honey, we don’t have time.

Captain: How much time does it take to get a room?

GPS: I sure wouldn’t stay in a room with a woman in a ragged bathing suit and no underwear.

Me: He just needs a little extra care.

Captain: That’s what I’m saying.

Me: Not you. The ferret.

Kid One: How much?

Captain: That’s what I want to know.

GPS: That’s it. Find your own way to the beach. I quit!

Me: Fine! I’m giving these new batteries to the iPod.

And that’s how we ended up staying home during vacation time this year. Although we did download a vacation planner and mapping application, and bought new underwear for everyone in the family online. We also got a new GPS.

One that’s guaranteed not to talk back.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Resistance, Restraint, and Remorse

I may not be smarter than a fifth grader, but I can make two growing boys toe the line. The proof may be in the pudding, or maybe the fancy shaped Coke bottles, but the secret to discipline is in the chocolate.

Also, it doesn't hurt to throw in a zombie or two.

Join me at An Army of Ermas to take part in the skirmish.

As for who let the dogs out?


And then I let 'em back in.

And out.

And in.

Repeat as necessary.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ready. Set. Roast!

Stand clear! It's Survivor: Suppertime.
Slide on over to Stage of Life and see what happens when the kitchen clock turns to TIME TO EAT in the Mullis house.
And feel free to let us know what sort of snack sets your stomach on SMILE when the weather turns sulky.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Toxic Baby Poop

I've had a request to run this column again. I can't think why. Once you've waded into biological warfare this intense, you don't usually choose to re-enter the battlefield. Somebody must have lost a bet.

Nothing brings Moms together like a discussion of dirty diapers of the dynamic kind. When it comes to Toxic Baby Poop, We Are Family. No matter what gruesome tales are told, we all feel that our own baby would capture the prize in a diaper-runneth-over derby.

One friend, whose daughter is a new player on the baby poop battlefield wrung her hands (and the blouse she just washed out) as we discussed the adventures that come with having a baby. Her husband was no help on the field of battle, she said, because every time he approached the offending area, he would gag and retch, thus making a bigger mess than the original culprit. I couldn’t help but recall my first foray into deep doody.

When my oldest son was just a couple of weeks old, we ran into the constipation Wheel of Fortune. The doctor advised a little of the apple/prune juice available for babies. It came in a small, innocent bottle in the baby food section of the grocery store and sported a label bearing a smiling, chubby-cheeked chap obviously free of intestinal blockage. Our little guy found the taste quite agreeable and downed the whole bottle.

All at once the sky grew dark, the ground trembled, and people snatched their children from sandboxes in the back yard as they ran to take cover in their basements. Suddenly a volley of semi-solid ammunition erupted from the baby and coated the family like a factory-fresh box of Milk Duds.

Even Bounty wasn’t a quick enough picker upper that day. We just ran the garden hose through the living room and washed the waste outside to fertilize the garden. Nothing has grown in that patch of ground since.

That first diaper demolition derby was a long time ago. Nowadays that baby is a responsible citizen with a job and a hearty appetite.

And we know the plumber by first name.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Be My Guest

Is that bird hungry or is he going all Chuck Norris at the birdfeeder buffet? Be my guest over at Stage of Life and see how things are going outside in the snow.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Zip It

All in all, I’d rather polish my nails with a power sander than go shopping for blue jeans. You think that the old pair would take pity and hold out at least until President’s Day, but apparently old blue jeans don’t make New Year’s resolutions. (Old Jeans: I resolve to band my fibers together to uphold truth, justice, and ten pounds of pumpkin pie.)

The stroke of midnight saw the Old Year pull one last trick and jam the zipper on my trusty blues like the door of Cheesecake Heaven on Weight Watchers graduation day.

I want to be like Michelle Obama. I can tell just by looking that she can walk into a department store and pull on a pair of jeans like Batman with a new set of pointy ears; no wrinkles, gaps, or gathers, everything fits where it’s supposed to, and you can sit down without accidently blowing your nose.

The last time I tried on jeans, the seat grabbed my thighs like a ravenous Koala clutching a pair of chubby bamboo stalks and tried to chew through to freedom. I still have a nasty zipper tattoo inside my knee, and ugly memories of an unfortunate incident with a reinforced seam.

Fastening your jeans shouldn’t be like arm wrestling a wolverine. The first time I tried to put on my jeans after the holidays I think I invented a new Yoga position, Downward Moon Salutations, followed by a new jump for figure skaters, the triple klutz. These days when I pull the wretched things out of the drawer, the dogs take up strategic positions under the coffee table. I saw one using the fruit bowl as a crash helmet.

It’s not that I don’t have admirable intentions for the fate of my physical condition in the coming year. I intend to commit acts of exercise that will make a profound difference on the shape of my horizons. This is the year I will see my knees without the aid of a three-way mirror and a headband with a periscope attached.

But if all else fails I may need reflective safety tape, a video camera, and a trusted comrade who can keep a secret.

Wonder if the dog can handle that camera.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snowman's Land

In South Carolina this week the snow fell up to our shoetops. That’s counting our high-top sneakers and the weather-proof hiking boots we bought to wear wading in the puddles last spring.

Rare occurrences such as snow that doesn’t melt on impact or a decent bullpen for the Braves make the news in the South. We don’t interrupt Wheel of Fortune every time a tornado sucks up a trailer, but in a section of the country where people remember snowfalls by how many children they had at the time, that means only one thing.

Everybody stops to take part in the miracle.

The miracle of how to keep feet dry that skip out to play in the snow 72 times in one day with changes of gear in between. (Turns out kids’ tootsies need extra looking after as well as Captains and dogs.)

The miracle of the Replenishing Cup of Hot Chocolate. No matter how many sets of cold fingers come through the back door, there is always a steaming cup of hot chocolate for them to wrap around.

The miracle of the birds and the. . .other birds. At the Mullis birdfeeder buffet, the larger birds sling enough food off their plates that the smaller birds on the ground have plenty to eat. On Wednesdays chickadees eat free.

The miracle of how to keep the dogs from eating the snowman’s eyes. Although the snowman at our house boasts walnuts for eyes, rendering him slightly nearsighted and unable to react quickly to danger, this has not been an impossible miracle to experience. Dalmador Labmations like to lick walnuts, not eat them. This also results in an admirably smooth complexion for the snowman.

The miracle of finding the Dachshund in the snow drift before she becomes an ice statue. This miracle is documented on digital media, although the expression on the Dachshund’s face does not lend to flashing such evidence around as if it were clever baby pictures.

The miracle of an entire county buying enough bread to keep America’s Breadbasket in business. I am two peanut butter sandwiches away from financing secondary education for every person in Kansas.

And the miracle of how to make one roll of toilet paper last a week. (Even though I personally witnessed a Wal-Mart shopper hurrying toward the register with a 72 pack. I don’t know what other provisions he stocked, but I do NOT want to be snowed in at his house.)

In a few days, the snow will fade away and our lives will be filled once again with red mud and kudzu. Until then, we believe in miracles.

And even after. Because the Dachshund will never let us forget.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Drip Dry

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what happens to my towels. There are times I think the door to my bathroom leads to some sort of lavatorial Bermuda triangle where terrycloth goes to die.

Today my husband disappeared into the bathroom to take a shower. Seconds later he pried the door open a crack and stuck his head out.

“Have you washed towels lately?”

“Have you shaved your legs lately?”

“I’m not trying to be sexist. I just want to dry off.”

“Yesterday I washed everything that resembled a towel. I even threw in that funny sweater your mother gave you.”

“That’s not terry cloth.”

“Well it’s certainly not made of anything that Mother Nature has to offer.”

The door closed. I heard furtive searching sounds coming from the bathroom closet. Seconds later he peered out of the door crack with one distraught eye.

“What’s the matter?”

“All that’s left is the hooded froggie towel from when the kids were little, and the pink velour with the floral design.”

“Go for the flowers. The frog repels moisture. You can dry on that thing for half an hour and still retain enough water to qualify as a camel.”

Later that night I found six hand towels and a frayed wash cloth drying on the towel rack. I guess he didn’t want to take any chances with the rose buds. I tossed them all in the laundry.

It’s not that we don’t own other towels. If all the terry cloth in our possession were draped across the Atlantic, the ocean would dry up quicker than Bernie Madoff’s revenue streams the day the subpoena surfaced.

But our towels are given to vanishing when emergencies arise. Harry Houdini would have been envious of the sleight of hand towels we’ve experienced.

The day that the Captain of my oil pan kept screaming for something to wipe the dipstick with when he was checking my fluids, the festive holiday guest towels disappeared. The day Son One and Son Two were heard arguing over who was to blame for the massive Fruit Loop spill on the living room shag, the blue velour towels I got for Mother’s Day went missing. The day we adopted the third puppy, I took out stock in cotton futures.

There’s nothing I can do about the towels that are already gone, but there are preventive measures I can take to guard against these towel-thieving guys.

First thing Monday morning, I’m heading to Wal-Mart to snag a buggy full of pink velour towels with a floral design.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll hang the froggie on the towel rack year round and let ‘em drip dry. The living room shag will thank me for it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Oops Boop Ba Doop

We have had our Wii system for over a year and in that time I have failed spectacularly at table tennis, bowling, baseball, and golf.

Next, by simply shelling out the amount of cash normally required for extensive plastic surgery, I was able to purchase another game pack that gave me the chance to fail at jogging, bicycling, yoga, and an island treasure hunt.

I also bombed at piloting an airplane around the resort island, but that’s championship stuff and I don’t like to brag. Who would have thought airplanes were resistant to extreme heights? Or the ocean.

Judging from the number of comments on a certain FaceBook page, this display of inadequacy brought happiness and joy to my children. It's the least I can do as a mother.

Recently, in the midst of cleaning a glacier of grape jelly off the game controller, I came across a new threat. An accidental click of a button brought up the dreaded. . .hula hoop. It shimmered onscreen like a beefcake vampire and waggled enticingly in my direction.

I remember the toy fondly. As a ten year old with the incredible figure of a vertical blind, I could keep a hula hoop in action long enough to juggle a pair of peanut butter sandwiches, a strawberry milkshake, and two fun-sized Snicker bars into their desired position inside my bottomless belly.

I gazed at the onscreen figure twirling the hula hoop on her virtual hips with a motion as fluid as gravy over mashed potatoes.

How hard could it be?

“How hard could it be” are the words most likely to result in an untimely You Tube video; the kind that becomes traditional viewing at family reunions and is shown as a training video at the Ringling Brothers School for Clowns.

I was about to commit an act of physical fitness. I swore the dog to secrecy, hitched up my Betty Boop sweat pants and gave it a whirl.

Turns out gravity works.

I’m not sure what Betty Boop’s original talent was, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t involve flapping around the pudgy knees of an aerobics class dropout like a pirate flag in a hurricane. For me, bending over is a full body sport. Trying to stop was like asking a Nascar driver to turn right. I attempted an emergency exit and ended up in a position that caused the dog to blush and put the goldfish in peril. The lovely Betty popped her garters and the curl came out of her hair.

When the Captain came through the door, I was undulating like a caught catfish, clutching at Betty Boop with one hand as she slid down my legs like an eight ounce soda in a six ounce glass, and singing Proud Mary at the top of my range, which is unfortunately one that humans can hear.

That was the day Betty Boop retired to an assisted living center in Miami.

And the Captain docked his dinghy for good.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Out the Window

The Captain strolled into the living room. I’m sure he has a targeting sensor that alerts him when I’m busy and don’t want to be disturbed. He wears it on his belt in a holster. Like his multipurpose tool, his phone, and his app-heavy iPod. Batman designed his utility belt after a chance meeting with my husband.

The Captain plunged his hands into his pockets and commented.

“What’s that?”

Figures. I’ve waited twenty years for him to start a conversation and he picks this moment for inspirational dialogue.

“It’s a list. I’m making your New Year’s resolutions.”

“Um, shouldn’t I be in charge of that?”

“You never put the right things.”

“I don’t put the right things on my own list?”

“No, you put things you can’t accomplish. Then you get discouraged. I’m making it easier for you.”

“So you’re helping me out by making my New Year’s resolutions?”


“You take that whole helpmate thing to heart, don’t you?”

“I’m glad you finally noticed.”

“So what are my resolutions?”

“Well, you know how you always want to get the windows washed? I’m putting that on your list.”

“My New Year’s Resolution is to wash windows?”

“Yep. And so it won’t be overwhelming, I’ve figured out an easy way. One window every day!”

“So, all I’m going to accomplish next year is washing windows?”

Every day.”

“Right. I get to wash windows every day.”

“You don’t sound excited.”

“I can’t think why.”

“Very funny. This is a fool-proof plan. So to speak.”

“No so far.”

“Don’t you see. By breaking down the chore into small bits, it’s manageable.”

“So instead of getting them all done in one day, it will take me all year to do it.”


“So there’s no need to put anything else on my To Do list.”

“This isn’t your To Do list. It’s your resolutions. Your To Do list is on an Excel spreadsheet in the computer.”

“Why can’t I make my own resolutions?”

“Because your only resolution is to end up stranded on The Island of Morally Bankrupt Actresses with Penelope Cruz who is wearing nothing but a grass skirt and a pair of coconuts, drinking rum like it was cherry Kool-Aid and singing “Shake Your Bad Thing” while shimmying like a loose shingle in a strong wind.”

“Would you put that on the list?”

“Sure. There’s a spot on November 31st right after you finish the attic windows.”

“November doesn’t have 31 days.”

“And we don’t have an attic.”

“Got it.”

“Nothing slow about you.”

“Could we go see the movie where she plays the pirate captain?”

“That’s not until May. Let’s see how you do with your resolutions.”

“I have a resolution.”


“It involves Penelope Cruz doing windows.”

“I have a resolution, too.”

“What is it?”

“It involves driving you to the Emergency Room where they can pick safety glass out of the seat of your cargo pants with the Jaws of Life.”

“I’m not sure I like this list.”

“Don’t you see the beauty of it?”

“I think the beauty just went out the window.”

“Don’t worry. If the window is clean enough you can look through and see it waving from the other side.”

“Yeah, from over in the neighbor’s yard. Where the grass is greener.”

“Look at the bright side. At least you’re not Bill Gates.”

“Okay, I agree with that. But why?”

“Because halfway through the window, it would close by itself and there would be parts that were irrecoverable. The resulting crash would trash the supports, frighten the dogs, and result in you spending the rest of the day cleaning up the mess.

“So either way I’m doing windows.”

“Yes, but with my way you get to see the pirate movie.”

“Okay, but if Penelope blue-screens on me, I’m going in as technical support.”

I fired up the shredder and let it suck up the resolutions like a Lincoln Navigator drinking fossil fuel. He scratched his head.

“What about my resolutions?”

“That window of opportunity just slammed shut.”