Patriotic Pyromania

I hold these truths to be self evident, that I love sleeping in the summer.

Well, I also love sleeping in the winter, spring and fall—I love sleeping—but I especially love sleeping in the summer. The windows open, a gentle breeze blowing through, the sounds of nature serving as a gentle lullaby. Minus the occasional manic cricket cackle, I consider summer sleeping quite possibly one of my favorite activities.

In fact, I actually think about these things mid-winter when I’m huddled in bed under blankets in the fetal position with the windows sealed shut and the humidifier/heater going full blast. The promise of summer sleeping—along with the promise of baseball season and fresh green beans— is what gets me through.

So imagine my displeasure every year around this time when my peaceful nights are no more, when I climb on top of the covers only to be jolted out of my meditative trance five minutes later by what is assumed to be either an apparent drive-by or carpet bombing.

I do not live in either a ghetto or a war zone, so that leaves one other option—pyromaniacs celebrating their independence from maturity and common sense by blowing crap up.

After all, what’s more American than purchasing illegal fireworks and lighting them off in the middle of the night—or even the middle of the day—the two weeks before and the two months after the Fourth of July?

I can answer that—just about anything.

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I’m not anti-fireworks.

I’m not talking about the normal explosives people go downtown to see on the actual Fourth of July. (Although I’m not too into that either. At first I go “oooh, ahhh, pretty” then near the end when the dog is terrified and I’m tired from lack of sleep due to constant booming for two weeks prior to that day, I’m pretty much over it and feel ready for a Valium salt lick.)

I’m talking about the idiots that shoot off bottle rockets, M80s and firecrackers, the result of which could result in either the burning down of my house or torching of my sanity.

Along with the aforementioned noise pollution, pieces of the blasted things—actual litter— will be found throughout my backyard and neighboring streets for at least the next week.

Perhaps I’m missing something here, but I just don’t see the appeal of spending large amounts of money on things that go “boom” from a shady man on the side of a road in a striped tent blasting “Born in the USA” from his mobile home.

They want loud noises?

Keeping blowing crap up at 2am, causing me to wake up and hit the deck with “Gangstas Paradise” stuck in my head. If they stop over about one minute after this happens, not only will I give them loud noises, but I can guarantee that my language will be colorful as well (“oooh, ahhh, pretty” will not be included.)

I’m not suggesting people have to stick to sparklers, colored smoke bombs and those creepy snake things that completely ruin the sidewalks forever. All I’m suggesting is that they abide by normal explosive etiquette and keep the pyromania and possible arson with a sonic boom soundtrack to the weekend of the holiday.

After all, this is a holiday to celebrate certain unalienable rights—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In other words, a good summer night’s sleep.

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The Anatomy of a Garage Sale

Since we’re officially into summer now, I figured it was a good time to revisit my thoughts on the garage sale. I don’t know how it is where you live, but it seems I can’t drive 100 feet without seeing a cardboard sign with an arrow pointing me towards the sale of the century each weekend.

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If you’ve never actually put on a garage sale yourself and tried to convince people they need to buy the crap you just don’t want, allow me to clue you in as to just how much fun they can be. I conducted a yard sale myself a couple years ago and feel I’ve recovered enough to talk about my experience.

The Night Before: You stay up late making tiny price tag stickers for all the junk you’re hoping people will buy. You’re naively psychotically optimistic, calculating the total value of your “inventory” at slightly over $5,000, give or take what you can get for those old curtains that came with the house you found stored in the attic.

6:30 a.m. The garage sale is scheduled to begin at 8 am, but a woman pounds on your door and tell you she “likes to get an early start.”  When you walk outside to let her “window shop,” you notice that there are five other cars in your driveway.

6:35 a.m. One of those cars is your crazy uncle—a black belt in flea markets, weekend auctions and roaming the beach with a metal detector—who is there to help manage the situation. He immediately lays claim to a yard tool he forgot he gave you last week.

9:30 a.m. You’ve sold a few things but are already annoyed with the fact that everything isn’t sold and you’re not counting your riches. A shopper offers you a dollar for your lawnmower that is brand new and not for sale.

You ask him to leave.

10 a.m. You look for your uncle and find him drinking Busch Light in a can and offering extras to shoppers for $1 a piece. He tells you he has sold three beers. At 10 a.m.

Noon: You leave the operation in the hands of your uncle/concession seller and go inside to get some lunch. A stranger knocks on your back door and asks to try on some T-shirts for sale, and another wants to know if you have “weenies to go with the beer.”

You ask them to leave.

12:30 p.m. When you return to the sale, you find your uncle slightly manic because he has sold a shovel, a set of garden tools and a hose for 50 cents each. You tell him that they weren’t for sale in the first place. He replies that he wondered why there were no price tags.

You ask him to leave. Of course, he won’t.

2 p.m. A group of college boys will stop by and start trying on some of your clothes in the driveway, conducting their own drag queen fashion show. Your mom will attempt to stuff dollar bills into their bejeweled belts (priced at 50 cents) and your uncle will offer them beer.

They are cute. You will not ask them to leave. In fact, you will give them the clothes, a few other items and several pathetic come-hither stares.

2:30 p.m. You decide things are taking entirely too long and start drastically slashing prices like an overzealous mattress salesman who does his own commercials. In fact, you just start giving stuff away and find that’s entirely more fun, especially because it pisses off your crazy neighbor lady who is trying to sell a holographic palm tree for $50.

4 p.m. You’re done. It’s hard to know what your take is for the day because at some point your uncle apparently sold the cash box. However, you find a dollar your mom dropped during the impromptu frat boy fashion show and seek out your uncle, who is digging through your “junk I’m throwing away” pile.

4:05 p.m. You buy a beer.

4:06 p.m. You vow never to do this again.

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Lisa Newlin Has Issues

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another blogger to share their issues, and I have a great lineup for these next couple of weeks. But since next Friday is July 4, it was suggested that I don’t post one of these because no one but me will be on the Internet, so I guess we’re skipping next week.

However, I will still blog next week for the three people online–come back and keep me company!–and we’ll resume the series on July 11 because this is fun and I want to. With that said, it’s time to present Lisa Newlin!

I love Lisa not just because she’s funny and childless, but also because she has an affinity for garden gnomes like I do. There’s really no place like gnome.

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Name: Lisa Newlin

Blog: Lisa Newlin—Seriously?

Where, what and why do you write?

I live in St Louis and I’m a lawyer in real life but prefer to live in the world of fantasy and making people laugh. Although I’m not a mom, I write for NickMom, which is an anomaly in itself. Please don’t tell them I’m not a mom.

I write for the comedic release. My job is intense and stressful and before I started my blog, I was working constantly. Writing pushes me to take a break and see the funnier sides of things. It also gives me an avenue to mock my husband, so that’s a plus.

I’m working on my first book and hoping to finish it by the end if the year. The blog keeps me fresh on writing and will hopefully snag me some readers so more than just my mom will buy my book.

First thing you think of when you wake up in the morning.

Did I seriously just drool that much?

What’s the one “issue” or frustration annoying you the most right now?

I have shingles on my face and eye and although it sounds glamorous, it’s really not. I do, however, have to wear an eye patch, so I guess that’s the silver lining. I’m surprised at how good I look in it. Granted, I can only see myself out of one eye, but the view is good.

Three websites you visit every day.

Facebook. Yes, I realize this is lame but I’m guilty of checking it. I don’t have an excuse other than to peruse it to make sure people aren’t posting embarrassing pictures of me.

Google. I’d like to say it’s because of my never ending search for knowledge but it’s most likely just to search for things like “how to get gum out of your hair.”

Lisanewlin.com. Duh. That woman is hilarious.

What’s an unusual talent and/or accomplishment you could never put on a resume?

I can eat half of a cookie cake (with icing) without batting an eye. Come to think of it, I’m not sure why that isn’t on my resume.

I was also a cell and molecular biology major in college and I worked for a large company conducting research on cow stomachs and how they digest varying types of food. I realize this sounds completely ludicrous but I really did do this, even if solely because I only heard the word “food” when I accepted the job.

Favorite place to be?

The beach. Despite my less-than-swimsuit ready physique, I love lounging in the sun listening to the waves crash. (I do my best to ignore the squealing children.)

My house, but only if it’s clean. We have three dogs so the house gets dirty quickly. I also spill a lot which adds to the problem. I love my clean house even more if I’m not the one who cleaned it.

At the pool, or anywhere with ice cream.

If you could rule the land for one day, what laws would you create and enforce?

No one would be allowed to drive PT Cruisers. All animal abusers would be tortured. I would be the one doing the torturing. I would take out the Kardashians and Kanye, too. It needs to be done for the betterment of humanity.

I would make it illegal for people to ask me about when I’m going to have kids and then convince me to try to have them. It’s not only offensive; it annoys the shit out of me.

What TV show would you want to appear on?

Big Brother. It’s one of my favorite vices and since I’m a lawyer, I love strategy (and some occasional deception). I wouldn’t be good at any of the physical competitions but I can complete a logic puzzle like a savant. The only problem would be the amount of time they spend in bikinis. I’m not comfortable baring my bulges on national TV. It’s taped in L.A. in the summer so a parka is not an option.

Best and worst things I could find in your refrigerator right now?

Best: Diet coke. It’s my life line and without it I would go into seizures from with withdrawal. Then again, why would I ever allow that to happen?

Worst: Kale. I have no idea what that is or why it’s in our fridge but I think my husband is to blame.

What question do you wish I had asked you and what would be your reply?

Are you a crazy dog lady? Yes, I have three rescues and would have a million more if it was socially acceptable and if my yard could sustain any more dogs pooping in it. I love dogs more than most people.

Also, can you sing “Sweet Caroline” at a karaoke bar? No. I don’t sing it. I perform it. I can rock this song like a boss.


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P.S. Scary Mommy shared my grocery shopping post and it was shared more than 150,000 times, so thank you for your support!

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The 10 Commandments of Grocery Shopping

Given the fact that the employees at my local grocery store see me more than my own family does, it’s safe to say that I have quite a bit of experience pushing a full cart around.

While I generally enjoy the experience because a) I love finding and checking things off of a list and b) food, there are a few simple things that would make it better for all those involved.

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Thou shall not leave your cart in an empty parking spot.

As I’ve said before, there are two kinds of people in this world: 1) those who return carts to the cart corral and 2) a-holes. Leaving a cart to find it’s own way home often results in the cart camping out in a parking spot someone will inevitably pull halfway into before realizing the cart is there and angrily backing out, pissing off people behind them. The carts have a home. Help them find their home.

Thou shall not walk down the center aisle of the parking lot

You do not have super-human pedestrian powers that override people in their cars trying to get past or around you. Pick a side—any side—and no one gets hurt.

Thou shall travel up and down the aisle like a civilized person

Up one side, down the other. If you’re barreling down the middle or the wrong side like a linebacker and clip my cart, I am not above throwing a shoulder. Also, try to refrain from doing a 180 halfway down a jam-packed aisle only to amble along as if you’re taking in the sights of the Louvre. It’s soup. Not the Sistine Chapel.

Thou shall obey the express line rules

The sign says 15 items or less. It does not say, “Everything you can stick in the small-ass cart you chose instead of regular cart.” That does not refer to the number of item types, but the actual item count. For example, those 75 cans of soup that took you 15 minutes to pick out does not count as a single item. You are not a special snowflake. If everybody ignored this rule, it would just be a regular line.

Thou shalt not decide against the frozen pizza you picked up in the frozen foods section and then place it on the shelf next to the shampoo

Really? Come on now, people.

Thou shall respect the invisible checkout line bubble of personal space

Regardless of how close you creep up or how many items you throw on the belt, you will be next—after me. If you continue to creep up, I will pretend to go through my coupon keeper for an extraordinary amount of time and chit chat with the cashier…unless you would like to pay for my produce. In that case, you have a deal.

Thou shall treat the cashier with respect

This means not chatting on your phone while she’s ringing up your groceries or getting ticked when she won’t accept the four expired coupons you thought she’d ignore. If you get caught trying to sneak in an expired coupon, just let it go. It’s 35-cents off of dish soap. You’ll survive.

Thou shall not stop at the exit to go over your receipt

Once given your receipt and all 300 extra pieces of paper that get pumped out of the printer with it, do not stop and read the receipt like it’s a treasure map. There is nothing on that paper that is that important that you need to throw on the brakes and cause a backup. Move it along.

Thou shall reconsider the self-checkout

Know your limits. Can you find a bar code on a product? Match the picture of bananas on the screen to the bananas in your cart? Flatten paper money to insert into a slot? If you answered “no” to any of those questions, don’t be a hero. Go through the normal checkout.

Thou shall not stalk for a parking spot

Finally, do not slowly drive behind me at 5 mph impatiently waiting for my parking spot that is often only two down from another available spot. Unless you’re going to get out and help me unload my groceries into the back, your insistence on sitting there, impatiently revving the engine on your minivan, will force me to do a full vehicle check—interior and exterior—before getting back in and leaving 5 minutes later.

Thank you for shopping with us.

Have a nice day.

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Robyn from Hollow Tree Ventures Has Issues

Today I’m excited to introduce a new weekly feature here on the blog. After all, as much as I delight in entertaining my dozens of readers with posts serenading asparagus or letters to my yoga pants, it doesn’t always have to be ALL ABOUT ME.

Well, it kind of does but that’s not the point.

The point is that I also love the bloggers I’ve met and want everyone else to think they like me as much as I like them. That’s why I’m starting a weekly feature—(Insert name here) Has Issues—where I ask interesting people the same questions each week and share their awesomeness with you.

For example, when I get Tina Fey to do it, it would say “Tina Fey Has Issues” and then I would ask her questions about her writing, embarrassing moments, food and why she issued that restraining order against me.

That way my readers can meet someone new or learn something about people they know and I have a fun post to publish in between my own ramblings about washing a yard gnome in my bird bath.

Plus, I’m nosy and like to know ALL the things.

So without further ado, here’s Robyn!

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Name: Robyn Welling Esquire, III

Blog : Hollow Tree Ventures

Where, what and why do you write?

I write humor at my house while wearing socks because my feet are cold, which I thought I’d throw in there even though you didn’t ask what I was wearing. I put the stuff I write on the Internet, either on my blog or on the website of the highest bidder (and/or the blogs of dear, dear friends). Right now I’m most often found on NickMom and CraftFail, but I also write for LifetimeMoms and In The Powder Room, and I have a woefully neglected Huffington Post blog. I write out of a continued amazement that people sometimes think I’m funny, and because I like food and indoor plumbing.

First thing you think of when you wake up in the morning.

WHAT TIME IS IT?!?!? Oh, I could sleep for another two hours? Well, now that I’ve had a panic attack, I might as well get up.

What’s the one “issue” annoying you right now?

That I’m tired. I know, that’s so boring – I’m pretty sure a good two-thirds of the Internet is dedicated to people talking about how tired they are. But seriously. I need a nap.

Three websites you visit every day.

Mine. Mine again to fix a typo. Then mine a third time to pad my page views.

What’s an unusual talent you could never put on a resume?

I’m double jointed. I actually had to quit playing the clarinet because my fingers would get stuck on a note and I wouldn’t be able to bend them! Wait, that’s the opposite of an accomplishment.

Favorite place to be?

At home. Which is a good thing because that’s the only place I ever am.

If you could rule the land for one day, what laws would you create and enforce?

It would take me ALL DAY just trying to fix the other drivers. TURN SIGNALS, PEOPLE. It’s not rocket science.

What TV show would you want to appear on?

This is the part where I have to say, “I don’t know because we don’t watch TV” and sound like one of those jerky new-age Gwyneth types who doesn’t believe in technology and only keeps an old cathode ray tube television in the living room for ironic hipster-related reasons. What it really means is that we’re too poor for cable, and local TV is too boring to watch. (Also, since I don’t watch TV I’m not 100 percent sure the cultural references I used in this paragraph make any sense.)

Best and worst things I could find in your refrigerator right now?

Hmm, the best thing would have to be all fresh fruit. My kids seem to really be into nourishment, and they ALWAYS ask for fruit from the store. That’s not a humble brag, that’s just facts right there. The worst thing in my fridge would be all the fruit that’s gone bad, because my kids are always more interested in eating fruit when I’m making the grocery list than they are later when it’s time to eat it.

What question do you wish I had asked you and what would be your reply?

Least offensive/almost slightly endearing or at least not completely annoying neurosis: I am absolutely unable to open a straw without tying the paper wrapper in a knot and pulling the ends to see if it comes untied. I’ve tried to force myself to just throw the wrapper away without doing the knot thing, but I can’t. I get this odd feeling that something terrible will happen, and even though I know that’s completely ridiculous, I figure there’s no harm in being just a teeny bit crazy.


See? She’s hilarious—and brave for being the first person I’m featuring on here. Who will it be next Friday? You’ll just have to wait and see (call me, Tina.)

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Kanye West: “Weed Digger”

It’s been awhile since I’ve serenaded you with veggie verses, so it’s my pleasure to present to you my take on Kanye West’s Golddigger,” with a gardening spin.

 Weed Digger”

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She gives me veggies, when I’m in need

Yeah she’s a gardening friend indeed

Oh she’s a weed digger, way over town

That digs on me.

Chorus:

(She gives me veggies.)

Now I ain’t sayin’ she a weed digger (when I’m in need)

But all these plants are getting bigger, bigger.

(She gives me veggies)

Now I ain’t sayin’ she a weed digger (when I’m in need)

But all these plants are getting bigger, bigger.

Get down girl go head get down (I gotta leave)

Get down girl go head get down (I gotta leave)

Get down girl go head get down (I gotta leave)

Get down girl gone head

18 plants, 18 plants

She got one of every kind, about 18 plants

I know somebody putting stakes up for all of those beans,

Her green thumb mamma helps secure it so that it never leans.

You will see her there outside on any given day

Digging up the dandelions out from the clay.

She was supposed to buy some new clothes with some of her money

But went down to the greenhouse and got seeds with that money

Now she keeping her plants safe from that meddling bunny,

So that it doesn’t eat the greens she bought with all of her money.

If you ain’t no punk, holla “We want turnips!

WE WANT TURNIPS!” Yeah.

It’s something that you need to know

‘Cause what you’ll see when you go to her home.

18 plants, 18 plants

And in her flowers you can find a happy little gnome.

Chorus:

Now I ain’t saying she’s a weed digger (she got needs)

She don’t want her yard to suck, so she pulls those weeds

Her OCD compels her every day to rake up the leaves,

There’s green beans in the back, so she rolls up her sleeves

She got that ambition, baby, look in her eyes

This week she’s picking peppers you would normally buy.

So, stick by her side

I know this girl is crazy, but the garden is nice

And she gonna keep weeding and trying

But you stay right there

‘Cause when you need some good tomatoes she is willing to share.

Get down girl go head get down

Get down girl go head get down

Get down girl go head get down

Get down girl go head

(lemme hear that back)

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Politically Correct Children’s Books & a Giveaway

It’s no secret that I love books, which is why I’m giving two away at the end of this post.

But some of the classics from when I was a kid would probably fall under the “not politically correct enough” category today, seeing as people have evolved to suck the fun out of everything.

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So while I read these books and didn’t become the Unabomber, I thought it would be fun to take a cynical eye to some classics. And because I’m all about solutions, I will also propose a more “modern” take on the books.

Green Eggs and Ham

Summary: Sam I Am tries to peer pressure a friend into eating a potentially dangerous substance. (If you ever come across green ham, it’s probably horribly expired. Do not eat it!) While he initially resists, he eventually gives in and realizes it’s not as bad as he thought. So basically parents say drugs are bad, but if your friend likes it, then it’s good enough for you.

Suggestion: In this updated classic, Sam starts a food blog in which he details the merits of eating “green” eggs in the sense that they are eco-friendly, free-range organic eggs grown on a farm where chickens have spa days and sip Perrier. He shares a variety of healthy recipes focused on locally-sourced ingredients that win him fans and friends.

Frog & Toad are Friends

Summary: While this book claims “Frog and Toad are always there for each other—just as best friends should be,” Frog is often a terrible friend to Toad. Toad is embarrassed by his swimsuit, and Frog laughs at him with all the other animals. When they fly a kite, Frog just stands there with the string while Toad runs with the kite, getting constant abuse from other teasing animals. Thanks to Frog, Toad is trapped in a vicious cycle between narcissism and self-conscious insecurity.

Suggestion: Frog and Toad are “Friends,” just as Frog and Toad are “Together” in the sequel, if you know what I mean. Toad was just trying to be “fabulous” in the swimsuit incident and Frog was annoyed that Toad left the seat up at the lily pad again. These books follow in the steps of the first character to ever come out—Bi-curious George—and readers are shown that love and families can take many forms.

Cat In the Hat

Summary: A giant mutant cat shows up at the house while the mom is out and proceeds to touch and play with everything while the kids look on in terror. They try to get this strange intruder to leave without success, and the cat proceeds to release two “Things” that tear around the house, destroying everything. The cat cleans up the house in the end, but this encourages felonious behavior.

Suggestion: Seeing a cat show up at their house wearing a gigantic hat, the kids quickly whip out their iPads and start taping what they see. When the mother returns home, she finds they’ve posted a video to YouTube of the next Internet cat sensation that quickly goes more viral than Keyboard Cat ever did.

Cinderella

Summary: Girl, evil step-relatives, menial gender-stereotypical labor, geriatric godmother, pumpkin, prince, shoe.When the females of the town attend a ball for the chance to marry one man because he is rich royalty, a fairy swoops down, switches out Cinderella’s peasant garb and gives her glass slippers that DON’T EVEN FIT. She attends the ball, wins the heart of the prince and goes back to being “plain” at midnight.

Suggestion: Instead of women being portrayed as shallow, vindictive and sometimes helpless victims waiting to be rescued, in this version Cindy moves out, goes back to school and opens a fair-trade shoe company that produces only comfortable and practical footwear called “Fairy Footwear.” At a fundraiser for her non-profit dedicated to eliminating small rodent labor, she meets a young man who respects her for her brains and not her beauty.

And they all lived happily ever after.

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GIVEAWAY TIME!

I’m giving away a copy of both “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “Moms are Nuts” to one lucky U.S. resident. All you have to do is leave a comment about books–your favorite, the worst, a “politically correct” version of a classic, etc. by Tuesday, June 17. I’ll randomly pick a winner and notify them by email. Good luck!