The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Tag: humour (page 2 of 3)

And so it begins…

You would think that with three kids I would have experienced it long before today, but no. Today was my first time. My first time stressing over getting my kid into the right school. Preschool to be exact. 

Wait. Let me back up. 

You see, I wasn’t stressed about getting him into the right preschool because I want him to go to the right elementary school, which will lead to the most competitive high school, which will put him on the path to the right college. No. Nothing like that. 

For me, it was all about proximity and cost and convenience. Oh, and if it is a good school that builds a solid academic foundation, all the better, but honestly, not my priority. Oooh, can I say? Does that revoke my membership in the Good Mommy Club? As if. 

I have never waited in line before to enroll my kids in school. I picked Nature Boy’s Montessori school out of the phone book. It was close. They had openings. I took one. Klepto was next, so she just went where her big brother went. Not rocket science. And now it is Bucket Head’s turn, but in this economy, I am looking for something a lot less expensive than private Montessori school, and also, I’m just not ready to put little Bucket Head, my baby, my last baby, in a 5 morning a week program. I can’t do it. Not yet. 

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So I want a two or three morning a week preschool that is extremely close to home. Oh, and it would be nice if that school doesn’t have a track record for children choking to death on hotdogs or being sexually abused by the staff.

Now, how to pick a preschool… hmmm. There are a handful of preschools near my house. I’ve heard good things about all of them. I need a sign. 

Wish granted! Last week as I was driving to the liquor store, of all places, I passed a local church with a sign that said their preschool registration was February ___ at 8 AM. I remembered hearing some of the über moms at my subdivision pool talking about how they had to literally sleep out over night to get a spot for their kid at this particular preschool… its reputation is that good. I never considered this school before because frankly, I have no desire to work that hard. But, feeling kinda lucky that I had randomly driven past the registration sign, I decided to call the school and find out what the registration process was like. If you know me, you know that I don’t usually call ahead and find stuff like this out. I usually just wing it. So the fact that I made this call was huge… another sign. The stars were aligning. Fate was driving the bus and I was strapped in and enjoying the ride. 

The school politely informed me that there were only two spots available for the 2 year old Mon./Wed./Fri. class, but that there were about 30 spots for the Tues./Thurs. one. They then told me that they no longer allow overnight camping out for getting a spot in the program. Instead, they have a lottery. All I had to do was be there at 8 AM, not one minute later, and they would let whoever was in line at that time pull a number from a basket. The numbers would determine the order for when we could approach the registration table and apply for a spot in their program. Wow – how civilized! 

But, uh-oh. First of all, I’m never on time. Secondly, I never win lotteries or prizes of any kind. I learned to accept this fact long ago and comfort myself in the idea that perhaps God already feels that I am plenty blessed in my life and that it wouldn’t be fair to others to also win random drawings and lotteries. Whatever. It’s less painful than believing I’m just an unlucky bastard. 

So the cards were already stacked against me, in my opinion. However, still feeling the power of “the sign,” and the need to think positively, I decided to go. What did I have to lose?

Naturally I was running late. Being anywhere at 8 AM is a big stretch for me. But I hustled the best I could, cut some corners in the personal hygiene department, got Bucket Head dressed, grabbed a sippy cup of milk and a cereal bar for him to eat while we were in line, and set off to be a part of the preschool lottery.  

Now, have I mentioned that I live in the ‘burbs of Atlanta and that most of the stay-at-home-moms here are crazier than shit house rats? These bitches play to win at everything they do, and preschool registration is no exception. 

My first hurdle would be to make it there on time, and miracle of all miracles, we did. I found a rock star parking spot with no problems, found the correct entrance to this enormous church/preschool right away, and walked in the door holding Bucket Head in one arm, my giant purse slung over my other shoulder, and in my two hands: the sippy cup of milk, a 12″ stuffed Big Bird toy, and my keys. We walked into the multipurpose room where the registration lottery would take place and immediately every eye in the place turned and focused right on us as if so judge and say, “We’ve been here for hours! Who do you think you are walking in just under the wire?” It was 7:59 AM. There were about 40 parents in line. You could tell immediately where the front of the line was because there were about 8 chairs lined up and the women sitting in them were the most smug and obnoxious passel of professional pissy-faces I had ever seen. At that moment I was SO glad I had called ahead and learned that it didn’t matter how early I got there as long as I wasn’t there later than 8 AM! Ha! So there, early birds! Take that worm and suck it! 

A couple of minutes later, the administrators were ready to begin the lottery. The head of the school got out her microphone, I kid you not, and said: “If you are here with another adult… a spouse or a friend, you may only draw one number for your team.”

Oh. My. God. People cheat at this! I never even thought of that! These people are sick, sick fucks. What a shitty thing to do… bring a partner, pull two numbers, and then use the lower number to go up and register so you improve your chances of getting a spot in the program. Holy shit. This is the major leagues. I hope President Obama doesn’t ask any of them to be in his cabinet. Hear me now kiddies…. cheaters never win. 

The Head Cheese started down the line with the basket. A majority of the people ahead of me were actively peering into the basket and looking at the folded slips of paper as they drew their numbers. MORE CHEATING! Jesus! When it got to me, I just closed my eyes and reached in and grabbed the first thing that grazed my fingers. I was going to let fate be in charge. It was fate that drove me past that registration sign on my way to buy booze, it is fate that is going to determine if I get my child into this program. There is no cheating fate.

8:05 AM. A harried mother comes running into the room. “I’m sorry Ma’am. We’ve already conducted the lottery. You are too late. You are welcome to stay and be the last one to register, if there are any spaces left (which there definitely won’t be), but you can’t draw a number.” GULP! Oh, praise Jesus that that wasn’t me. Yowza. 

With that little spectacle out of the way, it was time to see what number I drew. Deep breath. I slowly unfolded my slip of paper, feeling like Charlie carefully peeling the wrapper off his Wonka Bar. Would I find the last Golden Ticket?! I took another deep breath and looked at my number. 

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Holy Shit! That is my lucky number! And, it is low enough that I might actually get a spot in the highly coveted MWF 2 year old class!!! Oh, wouldn’t that be wonderful if Bucket Head could go to preschool three mornings a week instead of just two? It would be perfect! Three mornings a week for him to learn and grow and play with kids, and three mornings a week of freedom for me! Oh, it’s too good! Wait, don’t get ahead of yourself girl. Just be grateful you’ll probably get into the school at all. 

“One and Two – please come to the registration table.” The process was quick. The first two women enrolled their kids within minutes and then they called my number.  I gathered up my child, his sippy cup, the remains of his cereal bar, his Big Bird, my purse, and my Golden Ticket, and approached the table. 

“How old is your child?” the registrar asked. 

“He’ll be two next month.” I replied.

“There is one spot left in the MWF class. Would you like it?”

Oh. 

My. 

God. 

I got it. I got the spot. The one of two spots that people have slept out on the sidewalk in previous years to get. And I got it. 

“YES!” I blurted, feeling like she had just asked me if I would like to continue breathing… as in, der. 

That was it. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. I filled out the enrollment form, wrote my registration check, and left… walking on air and totally in shock that I, the most unlucky, most unprepared, least punctual person I know would walk in and out of that room in fifteen minutes holding a Golden Ticket for next Fall. All is right with the world today.

Hopefully it is a good school. Oh who cares?! I’m in! It’s close. It’s way cheaper than Montessori school. And I have one more item on my To-Do List done. And all because I drove to the liquor store and saw a sign. Shoot… like I need any more motivation to shop there.  

Until we meet again!

-Iris

© 2009 The Bearded Iris

The Booger Heard ‘Round the World

Two bloggers. Two different hemispheres. One vision (largely impaired by too much clutter, dirt, and booze). Exposed for all the world to see as Housekeepers of Ill-Repute, Proprietresses of Dubious Maternal Instinct, and Woefully Neglectful Wives.

Here they are, flashing their dirty bits in the first of three simultaneous postings. Click here to read the sister-post.

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It all started with a booger.

A single booger, which I found stuck to a semi-freshly painted wall in one of my kids’ bedrooms.

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What? Can’t see it? Oh sorry… let me help you with that:

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It was the proverbial straw that broke this camel’s back. That wall is painted with Behr Premium Plus paint in Shortgrass Prairie, 760D-5. It is my favorite paint color in the whole house. My husband and I lovingly painted that room as a peace offering to our oldest child for having to switch bedrooms when our third and final baby was a few weeks shy of  becoming a “fire in the hole!”

I noticed that booger the other day and bitched about it via email to a fellow mother/blogger friend I had recently met through the wonders of the Internet. “Not Drowning Mother” or “NDM” was very empathetic. “Kids are disgusting,” she agreed. Even Australian kids, it turns out. She said “I’ll see your booger and raise you a whole Wall of Mysteries, showcasing a full range of human excretia.” And thus, a plan for a tell-all “simulpost” was hatched.

However, there was so much material that we decided it wasn’t fair to only focus on the kiddies and their nastiness. We would have to out ourselves as well. And in addition, why stop at only housecleaning (or lack thereof)… we also found loads of common foibles in the areas of child rearing and husband tending. But for simplicity, we decided to break it into three separate simultaneous, intercontinental, photo-filled posts.

So here is my portion of part one. A photo-essay on the squalor in which I live. Some of it is kid-induced. Most of it is my own damn fault. All of it is bad enough that I actually did apply to be a home on “Oprah’s Clean Up Your Messy House Tour,” and they actually ARE considering me as a potential guest for the show. No lie. But I don’t want to jinx it, so let’s just leave it at that for now.

Oh, one more thing. You may be wondering why on Earth we would choose to air our dirty laundry like this, and why now? It’s simple, really. A new year begins tomorrow. A new year filled with the promise for change. I am always abuzz with excitement at this time of year! Excited for the potential for living a better life and creating a better life for my family. But I am also a real fan of using one’s talents and treasures to help others. Thus, if I can help even one overwhelmed woman to feel better about her life by comparing herself to the trainwreck that is my home… well, so be it. You are welcome, overwhelmed woman! You are clearly not alone. But you better get on the stick, lady… because I am seriously going to get my shit in order this year. I fucking mean it this time. And once I do, you WILL be alone. So join me, won’t you? Let’s turn over a new leaf (or scrape an old booger off the wall) together.

And now, more proof that your home is cleaner than mine:

"Mirror, mirror, on the wall, my kids fingerpaint with toothpaste on you to have a ball!"

"Mirror, mirror, on the wall, my kids fingerpaint with toothpaste to have a ball!"

...but why stop at mirrors? Every surface in my home is a canvas for dirty, sticky fingers.

...but why stop at mirrors? Every surface in my home is a canvas for dirty, sticky fingers.

Every surface is an equal-opportunity canvas. Yeah, that's a permanent marker. Good times.

Every surface is an equal-opportunity canvas. Yeah, that's a permanent marker. Good times.

never a dull moment, or surface...

never a dull moment, or surface...

Alright, let me explain. I was worried that NDM was going to show me up with her Wall of Mysteries, so I went on a fact finding mission to locate anything of equal nastiness. It didn’t take long. Here you see a permanent party favor from Klepto’s not-so-recent bout with the stomach bug. Yes, friends, that is the “popcorn” ceiling in the master bathroom, and the stains you see are the remains of her regurgitated cheeseburger. Beat *that*, NDM!
But they don't only create messes... sometimes they help me clean too. See? No rinsing required.

But they don't only create messes... sometimes they help me clean too. See? No rinsing required.

Typical kitchen counter any given day... notice clothes, crafting supplies, dirty dishes, an iPod, food...

Typical kitchen counter any given day... notice clothes, crafting supplies, dirty dishes, an iPod, food...

... the aftermath of letting Bucket Head help me unload the dishwasher. This should really be filed under "Good Parenting" and not "Kids are disgusting."

... the aftermath of letting Bucket Head help me unload the dishwasher. This should really be filed under "Good Parenting" and not "Kids are disgusting."

drowning in a sea of dog hair and dust bunnies.

... poor Ernie: drowning in a sea of dog hair and dust bunnies.

... my "craft corner" in the basement... only it is too messy to work in, so I have taken over every other surface in the house. You can see where my kids get it...

... my "craft corner" in the basement... only it is too messy to work in, so I have taken over every other horizontal surface in the house. You can see where my kids get it... bad Mommy. Bad, bad Mommy.

I've taken over the dining room table as well...

... underneath this mountain is our dining room table. Who has time to put things away with all this writing and crafting and present wrapping and booger scraping to do?!

Wow. That’s impressive, even for me. Who else do you know with a six year old plaster casting of her breasts and pregnant belly just sitting on the dining room table? I’d love to take credit for the gorgeous Mermaid-Nymph painting on that belly, but I commissioned an incredibly talented artist/sistah/friend to do it. I have BIG plans to turn that sucker into a night-light for Klepto’s room. Yeah, plans that have been in my head for 6 years. Sigh. Which reminds me…

"Iris, telephone! It's Oprah. She is repulsed by your messiness and thinks the rest of America will be too."

"Iris, telephone! It's Oprah."

“Take a message, dammit. I’m writing.”
Yeah. Right. Happy New Year, ya’ll! And happy cleaning!

©2008 The Bearded Iris

Micro-Mangering

We have a Nativity Scene on our entryway table. It is a beautiful Fontanini set that my husband bought for me as a gift early in our marriage. Over the years my mother and mother-in-law have added to the set with additional key players like wise men and animals. The whole family treasures it. 

The only problem is that nobody agrees on how to set it up each year. Every time I walk past it, the pieces have been moved. For a long time I thought this was the work of toddlers gone wild. But now I know differently. 

My husband is a control freak. 

He has a very specific idea of where each figure should go, the angle at which they should be facing, and the proximity of each figure to the others. He’s obsessed. We call it “micro-mangering.” The man knows his Nativity and likes it just so. 

It kinda pisses me off. I mean really, what a waste of energy. If you want to micro-manage something, how about the laundry? Or if only he had the same high expectations for the kitchen and would painstakingly care for and rearrange the pots and pans so carefully. Maybe if we had pots and pans with Baby Jesus painted on the side… 

So naturally, I find myself rearranging the Nativity pieces in crazy ways just to bait the poor guy. It is so easy and creates so much fun. It’s probably a tad sacrilegious… but I just blame it on the baby. Shhhh. Don’t tell him OK.  Besides, I figure any God who would create ME in his image clearly has a great sense of humor and won’t mind a little sheep-on-camel action in the name of a good joke.

 

"Um, excuse me, but your sheep is buggering my camel, dude."

"Um, excuse me, but your sheep is buggering my camel, dude."

 

"Don't just stand there Joseph! Help me for Chrissakes! This barn cat is trying to steal the breath of the new born King! Help!"

"OH! Oh my goodness! Somebody... HELP! Don't just stand there Joseph! Help me for Chrissakes! This barn cat is trying to steal the breath of the new born King!"

 

"Do you smell what I smell?"

The forgotten verse to the beloved classic carol: "Do you smell what I smell?"

©2008 The Bearded Iris

Grab and Go

Ya’ll, I’m busier than a one-legged woman in an ass-kickin’ contest today, what with all the holiday Room Mom requirements, and Thanksgiving cleanup, and the fact that if I don’t grocery shop my family will surely starve to death. 

But it is Tuesday. And you know that when I’m not busy trying to keep my children alive, I like to share practical tips you can use in your own homes to make your lives all that much better than mine.  It’s a little thing I call “Just the Tip Tuesday.” Catchy, don’t you think?

So here’s my tip:

Don’t you just hate when you are trying to leave a place and your kids dig in their heels and say “Hell no – we won’t go!” And meanwhile, your hands are totally full with a diaper bag and a poopy diaper that you need to toss and your cell phone and your purse and a Tupperware container full of the leftovers that your Mother-in-Law insists you take with you? Well, desperate times call for desperate measures. Next time you get some attitude from a stubborn child and don’t feel like investing any more of your precious energy verbally enticing them to get in the damn car already, transfer all your stuff to one arm. Then, without warning, silently walk up behind them, grab the back of their overalls, pick ’em up, and just start walking. Like so:

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Now before you call Social Services, I’ll have you know that no toddlers were harmed in this process. First of all, his diaper was probably totally saturated with urine, making it a very fluffy cushion for his goody basket. Secondly, he was so surprised by the maneuver that he said “WHEEEE!” I know, I know, not exactly the negative consequence needed to teach a life lesson. But sometimes a mama’s gotta do what a mama’s gotta do. The point is, this move shuts ’em up and gets ’em out. Then, when you get home, you can sit them down for a little “Come to Jesus” talk and let them know that if you ever, I mean EVER, have to physically extricate them from a social situation again, it will be the last party they ever attend. To which they will certainly smile and giggle and say something like “Mommy. More. Kiss.” and totally miss the point and melt your heart all in one fell swoop. 

But still. It’s a good move to try when your last nerve is on the verge of being severed in public. Now this is important… there are several key ingredients to being able to pull this off:

1.) Always dress your toddler in overalls when you are going somewhere that you suspect might be difficult for them to leave peacefully. A t-shirt just won’t cut it. You’ll rip the shirt and/or choke the child. Not OK. Also, these are little humans, not cats, so don’t just grab ’em by the nape of the neck or someone really will take your children away, and that is never good.  

2.) Have an escape route mapped out. This move works best when you remember where you parked the mini-van and can get there without having to stand in line at a Chuck-E-Cheese security checkpoint apologizing to the other parents. 

3.) Make sure you are in decent physical condition before you attempt this move. Arm strength is important here, but the actual lifting should always be done with your legs. Trust me, nothing says “the party is over” like a toddler with a concussion and a frazzled Mom flat on her pimped-out-pooper with a back spasm from hell. Or so I hear. 

So yeah. Parenting. It’s not for pussies. Give this tip a shot the next time you need an emergency escape plan, and remember, you heard it here first. Giddee-up! 

©2008 The Bearded Iris

Bring Out Your Dead!

Just because I’m married to an Italian-American does not mean I know how to properly dispose of a body. 

But clearly I must seem like someone who can “take care of business” when there is “a situation” because I was the first person my next-door neighbor called the other day when her big ol’ dog suddenly up and died.  

And since I just don’t get out much and am always looking for anything to distract me from actually completing a chore (pick a chore, any chore), I jumped at the chance to add “grave digger” to my ever-so-limited list of accomplishments.  

It was a pretty typical day here in Suburban Hell, and I was just achin’ for something interesting to take my mind off the latest “behavioral challenges” my little 5 year old, Klepto, had inflicted on her classmates the day before at school. So as soon as I got Bucket Head down for a nap, I threw on my overalls and work boots, slipped a bottle opener in one pocket and a cordless baby monitor in the other, grabbed a six pack of Newcastle Brown Ale and a giant shovel, and walked next door.

My neighbor had already chosen a shady spot in the corner of her yard and was starting to hack away at the hard-packed red Georgia clay when I arrived. She was taking the dog’s untimely death pretty hard and I didn’t have the heart to point out that she was digging awfully close to my property line, so I just joined in and dug with her in silence. Not an easy task… one of my super powers is making people laugh in awkward situations. But it’s pretty hard to get someone to pull your finger when they’re holding a shovel in one hand and a beer in the other.  

We spent a solid hour digging and drinking. I couldn’t help but recall that scene from The Shawshank Redemption where the cons are tarring the prison roof. Andy (Tim Robbins) bravely offers to do some tax accounting for the head guard and says: “I’ll [do it]… nearly free of charge… I’d only ask three beers apiece for my co-workers, if that seems fair. I think a man working outdoors feels more like a man if he can have a bottle of suds. That’s only my opinion.”

Amen, brother. There really is something magical about drinking a beer at 1:00 in the afternoon, on a school day no less, while digging a shallow grave in the fresh air. I’m not really sure why my parents always tried to dissuade me from being a ditch digger; that afternoon it sure felt like a nice change of pace from wiping shitty little asses and pre-treating stains. For a minute there, I did feel like more than a just a suburban hostage, waiting for the kids to get off the bus so I could get to the next item on my unyielding To-Do list that day. I felt like I was helping somebody… making a difference… comforting a friend. I was loving my neighbor – which is something I don’t choose to do all that often. And you know what? It felt really good. I think Jesus was onto something there.  

Having never buried a body before, I could only rely on my extensive pop-culture knowledge base for support. I knew we needed to go pretty deep (“Six Feet Under”) and I remembered from watching Goodfellas at least 92 times that we needed some lime.

“Limes?” my neighbor asked. “For our beer?” 

“No honey. Lime, not limes. It’s some kind of chemical we put in the hole with the body. It helps it, um, decompose, or not stink so bad, or something. I’m not really sure. I just know they use it in the movies. But I don’t have any, and clearly you don’t either.” I said.  

So we didn’t use any lime. In retrospect, big mistake.  

We got the hole about 4 feet round and 2 feet deep before we just couldn’t get the shovels in any deeper. We live in Georgia. There has been a record breaking drought here lately and the ground is like cement. But 2 feet deep is just not good enough when you’re trying to bury an 70 pound Basset Hound whose been dead for 8 hours and is already stiff as a board. Another mistake. 

My neighbor didn’t want to put the dog in the ground before the kids came home. She wanted them to be able to say goodbye. So we covered him with an inverted plastic baby pool from my backyard to keep the critters away and she steeled herself to break the news to the kids. She thanked me for my help and for the beer and said she was going to do the rest after the kids went to bed. I could hear Bucket Head over the baby monitor starting to stir and I needed to get home anyway to tend to my own messes and critters. 

Fast forward a few days. Oh, you can just feel it coming, can’t you? You know this isn’t gonna end well. 

A few days later, my husband took the two big kids on an overnight camp out with the Cub Scouts (see Cornhole).  I didn’t want to sleep on the ground in an icy-cold tent with 19 month old Bucket Head, so he and I just went for the day and came home to sleep. I put Bucket Head to bed, and since I couldn’t leave the baby home alone to walk my dog, I decided I’d just let him run buck wild. It was late, it was dark, all my neighbors were probably asleep, and he usually comes back after about 30 minutes, nice and tired and ready for bed. What choice did I have? The dog needed to poop. So, I let him out. I’ve done it a million times before without incident. No big whoop. And since I had about 30 minutes of freedom ahead of me, I drew a nice hot bath, poured a big glass of wine, and hopped in the tub. Mistakes # 3 and 4.  

A few minutes later, from deep within the relaxing waters of my lavender scented bath, I heard howling coming from the back yard: like the soundtrack from Werewolves Gone Wild. Oh FUCK! Then I heard what could only be frantic digging. DOUBLE FUCK.  

DAMN DOG! I hopped out of the tub, wrapped my wet naked body in my husband’s robe, ran down the stairs, into the kitchen and onto the deck to see what the hell my devil dog was doing back there. My bath was getting cold, I was pissed, and when I burst onto the deck and slammed the door, it locked behind me, like a bad sitcom. And there I was, in a thin, wet cotton robe, locked out of my house at 11:00 on a Saturday night, catchin’ a chill on my deck, and watching my canine companion attempt to exhume the neighbor’s big old dead hound dog. Not my idea of a fun Saturday night. 

My dog is a Black Lab, well mostly Lab. We got him at the pound, so God only knows. But I tell you what, that boy can dig. By the time I had run my shoe-less wet ass over to the new pet cemetery, my dog had already made quite a dent in that fresh grave. I didn’t have his leash, so I had to just grab him by the collar and forcibly drag his dirty ass home like a pissed off mama who just caught her naughty child desecrating a monument (uh, just guessing). Luckily, our garage has a keyless remote and it was working that day. Praise Jesus! Can you imagine? For all my bitching and moaning, at least we know that my life is never lacking adventure.  

I went over early the next morning to erase our tracks and make sure there wasn’t a big old Basset paw sticking out of the ground, just waiting to freak out the kiddies. Fortunately, I got my dog out of there just in the nick of time. But damn. With everything else I have to remember and take responsibility for, now I have to make sure my dog isn’t unearthing a partially decayed corpse and bringing home a big ol’ femur bone in his mouth. Great. Why on earth they didn’t just cremate that big fucker is beyond me. I guess maybe it is time to bite the bullet and get one of those invisible fences.  And remind me to stock up on some lime for the next time I find myself having to play the role of neighborhood grave digger. That’s lime, not limes. 

“And that’s how it came to pass that on the second-to-last day of the job, the convict crew that tarred the plate factory roof in the spring of forty-nine wound up sitting in a row at ten o’clock in the morning drinking icy cold, Bohemia-style beer, courtesy of the hardest screw that ever walked a turn at Shawshank State Prison. The colossal prick even managed to sound magnanimous. We sat and drank with the sun on our shoulders, and felt like free men. We could’a been tarring the roof of one of our own houses. We were the Lords of all Creation.”
             -Red (Morgan Freeman), The Shawshank Redemption.

Cornhole

(Please note: the following blog post was originally published in 2008, when I was clearly still on the sauce. Proceed with caution.) 

I love that my 9-year-old son is a Cub Scout… I do. He has a blast and it is always very wholesome, good clean fun, which I suspect is good for growing children. Soap carving, anyone?

But I have two problems with the whole Cub Scout camp-out thing.

1.) They have a very strict rule that no alcoholic beverages are allowed at camp.

2.) The other moms and dads are very nice. I mean VERY nice. Like the nicest people I have ever met.

In other words—I do not fit in there at all.

And being in the balmy, great outdoors around very nice, responsible parents and 30 loud little boys running amok with sharp sticks and pocket knives really makes me want to soothe myself with a cocktail or two.

But I muscled through the pain and managed to really enjoy myself, and there were a few high points that I’d like to share with you.

First, let’s talk about Cornhole.

Cornhole is a bean-bag tossing game that originated in Ohio. The board looks like this:

Seriously. I’m not making this up.

Apparently, people who play this game are very passionate about it. The dimensions of the board are strictly regulated, as are the bean-bags, the distance between the player and the board, the scoring, etc. However, I had never heard of this “game” until Cub Scout Family Camp when one of the dads asked me “if I wanted to play Cornhole” with him and I almost crapped my pants.

“Excuse me?” I stuttered.

At which point he tossed me a bag of dried corn, pointed to the game board on the ground, and taught me how to play. And you know what? It was really, really fun! But I was DYING, y’all. Because I couldn’t control myself and made a snide crack about how I had never heard the term “Cornhole” outside of the prison movies I so enjoy watching and HE TOTALLY DIDN’T GET IT. He cocked his head to the side and made a “Huh?” face and I quickly realized that I should probably not attempt to joke around with Cub Scout Dads about anything remotely related to S-E-X, prison style or otherwise. These dads are very nice. And very straight. And to some of them, Cornhole is no laughing matter.

But thank God for my husband. As soon as I finished my Cornholing session with Mr. Ohio, I ran as fast as my stumps could carry me to tell my man about the game and we giggled until our faces hurt. We don’t do that very often—my husband is actually one of those Nice Cub Scout Dads—but luckily for me, I must have rubbed off on him a bit (wink wink) because he does appreciate a good dirty joke from time to time. Not often enough, I say, but we’re working on it. I’ll keep rubbing.

So one more really funny thing to share, if you don’t mind.

The Scoutmaster organized an “Iron Chef” competition between the campers. The kids were divided up into three teams, given access to a pantry of processed foods, and taught various outdoor camp cooking methods, one of which is the Dutch Oven. Honestly, I should force my son to stay in Scouts just for the material.

After the cooking demonstration, the three teams were each assigned a secret ingredient to incorporate into their dishes. My team’s secret ingredient was popcorn. Now, I was just lurking on the edge of the group, having to follow my 19-month-old son, Bucket Head, around and make sure he didn’t wander off and get eaten by a bear, so I wasn’t really helping the kids choose the menu. But watching these other nice nice moms and dads strategize was fascinating.

The main rule of this contest was that the kids had to do all the cooking—the parents could only supervise and control the cooking fuel. But when I learned that my group was stumped about how to use the popcorn in their dish, I just had to butt-in. They had just settled on a simple trail mix of popcorn and nuts when I sidled up to one of the more assertive moms and asked her if we had access to marshmallows and butter. I then planted the seed in her head that if we made popcorn balls out of the popcorn, it would be a real crowd pleaser and something that the kids would have fun making. Wouldn’t you know it? That nice mom hopped on my idea faster than an Ohioan on a stiff ear of corn.

Now, I’m not used to being listened to by anyone other than my team of well-compensated, highly skilled psychiatrists, so suddenly being thrust into the mix of an Iron Chef competition with a team of eager scouts and parents reporting to me was quite the power trip. Suddenly, Bucket Head was fending for himself and I was melting butter and marshmallows in a Dutch Oven, fixin’ to lead my team to victory. You know that phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen”? Well, imagine the extra chaos of an outdoor camp style kitchen with propane fueled burners and a very enthusiastic team of very competitive nice nice parents and their 6-year-old sons. It was mayhem. But the popcorn balls were my idea and I was not going to let my team down, dammit!

Well we oiled up the hands of these seven little kids, and I gotta tell you, I don’t think their hands were all that clean. But rules are rules and we had an Iron Chef style ticking clock to beat, so we greased ’em up and let them dig into the pot and grab handfulls of gooey popcorn and mold them into balls. It was messy. It was sticky. It was germy. But it was really cool.

Thank GOD it worked.  Just look at my glistening balls. Aren’t they gorgeous?

Fast forward to the judging. My husband, who has a talent for garnishing, helped the boys plate up the other dishes and deliver them to the judges with those germy popcorn balls decorating each plate like something you’d see in a real restaurant—and I’m talkin’ about a classy joint like Cracker Barrel.

You should have heard the “ooohs” and “ahhhhs” from the judges and other campers. The popcorn balls were a HUGE hit. In fact, the lead judge exclaimed that he hadn’t eaten an old-fashioned popcorn ball since he was a child and the nostalgia of it really touched his heart. Yep, those germy sweet and salty balls o’ mine won our team first place! The nice nice scout leaders even recognized me by name in the award ceremony; it may be one of my proudest moments. (Note to self: never underestimate the power of balls, and also, I really need to get out more.)

© 2008 The Bearded Iris

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