Why Animals are Better at Teaching Sex Ed

Before you think I’m an unconscionable pervert, this post is not about bestiality.  It’s about how kids growing up in the Midwest learn about sex far before we take sex ed in school.  When I was a kid, I thought my family were the only freaks who learned the facts of life from, well, wildlife, but my husband recently put that fear to rest by informing me that he learned about sex from… tortoises.  Yup.  Tortoises.  Just about the least sexy animal in the world, next to hippos.  And giraffes.  Giraffes are very unsexy.

My darling husband, visiting the zoo with his dad as a young child, had no idea that he was about to be traumatized forever.  As the hubby and his dad wandered toward the tortoise pen, they heard a strange, unidentifiable sound: “Wwwwwoooooowwwww…  Wwwwooooooowwwww….  Wwwwwoooooooowwwww…”  They followed the sound, curious as to what it could be, and saw a crowd gathered.  Pushing their way to the front, they saw two tortoises, one perched awkwardly on top of the other, the top tortoise weirdly making the “Wwwwooooowwww…” sound over and over.  My husband and his dad looked at each other, and my kindergarten aged hubby imitated the tortoises: “Wwwwwoooowwww…”  His dad made the same sound back at him: “Wwwwwoooooowwww…”  And this became their private joke any time they both saw something awesome.  “Wwwwwoooooowwww…”  This explains… a lot…

Not quite as bad as tortoises– but definitely disturbing– was learning about sex from livestock.  Growing up, my family owned lots of horses and cows.  I still feel bad for my brothers because I can see how this would cause some insecurity in the male department.  Being the oldest, I was a little more educated than A1 and A2.  So when they saw our horses mounting each other for the first time, I had to answer some uncomfortable questions.  Being the excellent older sister that I was, I took full advantage of the opportunity to do as much psychological damage as I could to my little brothers.  It was hilarious.  There’s nothing like telling a three-foot-tall person that he is going to remain exactly the same size, grow a member the size of a horse’s when he hits puberty, and then have to reproduce in exactly the same position as a horse.  The facial expression is beyond priceless. (Almost as priceless is watching a miniature pony try desperately to mount a palomino that’s about fifteen hands high.)

Parents, take a lesson– unless you want to try ineffectually for years to undo lots of mental trauma and eventually end up paying for a decade of therapy, just have “the talk” with your kids. It’s uncomfortable, we all hate it, and no one can look each other in the eye for a couple of weeks. But it’s preferable to catching your two sons measuring their wieners every day and then asking you how long before they grow horse dicks. No one wants to have that conversation.

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How a Camel Tried to Eat my Face and Other Reminiscences

When I was three years old, a camel tried to eat my face.  My mom had taken me to the Houston Zoo, and back then they only put glass or tall fences around the obviously dangerous predators– alligators, lions, gorillas, etc.  Camels, apparently, were viewed as docile and tame enough to allow toddlers access (despite their propensity for spitting).  I don’t know if what I experienced is typical of camels or if this particular camel just happened to be an asshole– either way, it traumatized the hell outta me.

My mother stood back with A1 (my first brother) in his blue stroller, and I climbed up on the log pen that prevented the camels from wandering around like free-range douche bags.  Evidently, I found the camel that was creative enough to come up with a way to assault the general public despite his captivity.  As I leaned over the top of the fence, holding on to the top log, a large and rather smelly camel lumbered over to me– and promptly wrapped its entire mouth around my tiny head.  I remember seeing the camel walk towards me, then suddenly being enveloped in very wet darkness.  The next thing I knew, someone’s arms were around me, rescuing me from the camel’s oral embrace.  I was so shocked I didn’t know whether to cry or pass out or poop.  So I just stood there, camel saliva dripping from my face and hair, and stared in dazed astonishment at my mother– who was looking back at me with the same open-mouthed, wide-eyed expression– and then at the stranger who had had the presence of mind to rescue me.  (My mother was remarkably terrible in an emergency; her panic mode kicked into overdrive pretty fast, and then she was useless.  I learned how to handle 911 situations by the time I was ten.  As a result, I am now excellent to have around in a crisis.)

When I got older, and began retelling the story to my friends– because I thought it sounded pretty awesome that I had narrowly escaped being devoured by a large and massively stinky mammal– my mom told the story from her perspective.  She watched in horror, panic making her immobile, as the camel slurped my face into its mouth.  Fortunately, some other mom (who apparently was actually functional in emergency situations) sprinted over and yanked me away.  Hearing that, I was very glad that the camel hadn’t bitten down, or I might have been accidentally beheaded.  Or be-faced.  De-faced?  What’s the word for having your face ripped off?

I eventually developed a fear of the Houston Zoo because bad things tended to happen to me there.  As well as almost being eaten alive by an animal that isn’t supposed to be all that dangerous, I was also sneezed on by an elephant.  I’m pretty sure I’m the reason they started putting double-fences and very deep ditches around even the “safe” animals.  I was riding around in my stroller, probably looking adorable, and my mom wheeled me up to the wire fence that separated the elephants from the spectators.  One elephant turned its trunk straight at me and sneezed with such force that it required a sink bath in the public restroom and a full change of clothes.  In addition, when I went to the zoo with my grandpa as a small child, some weird, older couple grabbed me by both arms and tried to run off with me.  I screamed my head off to alert my grandpa because my parents had instilled in me a specific terror of kidnappers (as most parents did to their children in ’80s).  My grandpa yanked me away from them and, as I recall, said a lot of words to them that would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap had I repeated them.  So between the camel assault, the elephant attack, and the kidnapping attempt, I really disliked the zoo.  (Aside from the hot dogs.  The hot dogs were awesome.)

In fact, my spastic parents helped make me scared of just about everything and everyone.  If they weren’t telling me about kidnappers (which I’m sure was just their misguided way of trying to keep me from running off in public), they were talking about burglars.  There were a couple of times when houses in our neighborhood were robbed– despite living in a really nice area– and I heard a few too many burglar stories.  I was afflicted with insomnia and almost nightly nightmares as a child, so I was awake pretty often in the middle of the night.  I would lie there in bed, listening for the intruder I was positive would eventually come, and the moment I heard the slightest creak or groan of the house settling, I would run wake my dad and tell him to get his gun.  So he would dutifully, and groggily, grab his pistol from the bedside table (because in Texas, in the 80s, lots of dads slept with pistols next to the bed) and walk through the house checking for criminals.  Then he would reassure me, tuck me back in bed, and order me not to wake him up again unless the house was on fire.  But he didn’t understand– my bedroom was the first room in the hallway off the living room!  When the burglars came, they would come to my room first, and they’d probably kidnap me for good measure!  Then they’d send my parents a ransom note, and I would be forced to sleep in a basement with no TV and eat nothing but disgusting vegetables until I was rescued.  (I had a weird idea both of burglars and kidnappers.)

My fear of kidnappers was so severe that I would throw a hysterical fit any time my mom tried to leave me in the car while she filled the gas tank.  And when I went out in public with my dad, he couldn’t use the restroom until he got home because I would insist on going in with him to make sure I was safe.  Once he took me to the circus, and on the way back we had to stop for gas.  He needed to use the facilities and told me to wait right outside the door.  Which I did.  For about ten seconds.  The moment a strange man walked toward the restroom, I burst into the men’s room, screaming my head off, and startled my dad so badly that he peed all up the wall and all down his pants.

I wish I had some profound lesson from all of this (other than “Don’t tell your kids about burglars or kidnappers” and “Don’t get close to elephants”).  But really, what I got out of all of this crap is this 1) There is a fine line between teaching your kids to be cautious and scaring the ever-living-fuckity-fuck out of them and 2) Camels are dicks.  For real.  They are just about the biggest assholes in the animal kingdom.  Followed closely by elephants.

Awesome Convos I’ve Had with my Kids and Things I Never Thought I’d Say or Do Until I Became a Mom

This is a collection of hilarious interactions with my kids and things I’ve said and done as a mother that would’ve seemed very strange– or unthinkable– to me before the birth of my first child.


 

Convo with my daughters, R and G, when they were ages six and three years, respectively:

R: (pointing to a picture of me as a baby) Mom, I look just like you!

Me: Yes, you do, baby.  You look just like Mommy.

G: Do I look like you, Mom?

Me: No, you look more like your dad (referring to my ex).

G: (without missing a beat, loudly and furiously) HEY, I’M NOT BALD!!!!

Me: laughing hysterically


 

My son, age three years, sits down to pee on the toilet at my grandparents’ house where, for some reason, the bathroom is carpeted:

Me: Make sure you point it in the potty.

J: Point what?

Me: Your tallywhacker.

J: What’s a tacky-whacker??

Me: Your penis. Weiner.

J: My penis is named tacky-whacker???!!!


 

The following illustrates more than anything else how very much I love my son:

J was going through a phase where bugs and snakes were the most fascinating things in the world. And I could handle the terrarium with the benign grass snakes in it and the mason jars full of snails (that bred and laid 5,000 eggs and had to be released at our local park before they took over the house) and the caterpillars that we raised to butterflies. But then came the nightmare creature.

My ex and I were up in the Texas Hill Country, which is home to all sorts of horrible bugs and snakes. One morning we found a 6-inch long centipede on the porch, so the ex trapped it in two Styrofoam cups, and we took it home to J. I could hear it skittering around in the cups the whole ride home and was terrified that it would break free and eat us. We put it in yet another plastic terrarium and gave it to J, and he lost his mind over it and named it Slasher. I literally had nightmares about it escaping its cage and munching us all to death with its appalling mandibles. I researched it and found out that it was a common and very aggressive red-headed centipede.  So aggressive, in fact, that it would stand up on its very back legs to snatch bugs from us when we opened the lid to feed it, so we resorted to feeding it with tongs.  Its diet consisted of enormous, green katydids that we caught in the garden.  It occasionally molted and eventually grew to be nearly a foot long– no exaggeration.  It lived for a year in that terrarium, consistently horrifying all of us, except for J, and giving me nightmares on a semi-regular basis.  I’m reasonably certain it was actually spawned by the devil in the deepest bowels of hell.


 

My middle child has always been very independent and insisted on doing everything on her own, frustrating the hell out of herself from time to time.  Potty-training and switching to big-girl underpants was no exception.  I was once interrupted while putting away laundry by the sound of a tiny voice grunting and whining in the hallway.  I peeked around the doorway to see R rolling around on the floor, red-faced and struggling with all her might to pull on a pair of her new undies.  At first I was confused as to why she seemed unable to get them up past her thighs, and she was so furiously pissed off that she was starting to scream in rage.  When I sat down next to her and put my hand on her to get her to quit squirming for a second, I saw that she had actually stuffed one leg is the waistband and was trying to get the leg-hole up around her waist (basically she’d put them on sideways).  When I got her calmed down, I showed her how to find the waistband by looking for the tag.  I will never forget her cute, little self, rolling around on the floor and squealing like a piggy as she tried desperately to get that leg-hole up over her butt.


The following are actual statements I have made (some more than once) since becoming a mother:

  • Don’t ride the cat.
  • Stop licking your armpit.
  • Don’t feed the cat popcorn.
  • Stop farting on your sister.
  • Don’t strip in public.
  • Please stop headbutting me in the tailbone.
  • Please don’t burp like a trucker at family gatherings (this to my seven-year old daughter).
  • Stop throwing bananas.
  • Please stop lifting my shirt in public to look at my tattoos.
  • Quit banging your head on the shopping cart handle.  We’re getting looks.
  • Get your fingers out of your sister’s nose.
  • Please don’t take off your diaper and throw it across the room after you pee in it.
  • Tossing your plate upside down on the floor is not the proper way to tell me you’re done eating.
  • Popsicles are not dinner food.
  • No, you may not go out in public wearing a purple unibrow that you drew on your face with my eye shadow.
  • Please do not ever again sneak into bed with me at 5:00 a.m. to cut my hair.
  • If you ever again fart in yoga class and then blame it on me, I will stop letting you go with me.
  • It’s not okay to call out your great-grandma on her farts in public.  She’s old, and she can’t help it.  She probably doesn’t realize she did it.
  • It is not necessary to name your poop.
  • Farting on command is not a talent– it’s a health hazard.
  • The cat’s tail is not a handle.  Do not use it to carry her around the house.
  • Diapers are not fuel– please don’t take yours off and toss it in the fireplace to make the fire bigger.
  • No, the lemons on the lemon tree in your great-grandparents’ backyard are not yellow because you peed on the tree when you were swimming and didn’t want to dry off to go use the bathroom.  You can’t believe everything your great-grandpa tells you.
  • Yes, girls do have ovaries, but boys do not have “underies.”  Please do not believe– or repeat– anything your uncles tell you.

 

I was once riding in the car with my son, my grandmother, and my aunt.  J was about two years old and was singing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” to himself as he looked out the window.  After a few verses he sang, “Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O!  And on that farm he had a dick-dick, E-I-E-I-O!  With a dick-dick here and dick-dick there!  Here a dick!  There a dick!  Everywhere a dick-dick!  Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O!”  I glanced at great-grandmother, whose eyes were round with shock, and at my aunt, who was shaking with barely contained laughter, and sighed and closed my eyes.  “Well,” I shrugged, “at least he knows Old MacDonald is a dude.”

 

 

I Suspect my Brothers Might be a Little Bit Immortal

I’m pretty sure that my brothers, if not immortal, at least posses some sort of super power that makes them immune to serious injury and death.  I came to this conclusion after looking back over our childhood and marveling at all the things we did to each other that, reasonably,  should have resulted in hospitalization at the very least.  But the worst thing that ever happened was stitches.  Lots and lots of stitches.

One of the worst whoopins (that’s Texas vernacular for ‘spanking,’ which is something most parents did to their kids when I was growing up) I ever received was the result of me putting my brother’s head through the windshield of our mom’s minivan.  Before you conclude that I was a monstrous demon-child, it’s not as bad as it sounds.  I had two brothers, one three years younger than I and the other six years younger.  For the purpose of this post, we’ll call the older one A-1 and the younger A-2 (as both of their names start with A).  Mom often made the mistake of leaving A-1 and me in the car while she ran inside with A-2 to grab milk or whatever  (preferring the inevitable hysterics we would cause to be kept in the parking lot and knowing that A-2 was unlikely to survive whatever we might do to him).  A-1 was in the front seat– this was before airbags, when no kid over age three rode in a carseat– and was sitting on his knees, leaning forward over the dashboard.   Being the excellent big sister that I was, I reared back and, using all the force my tiny body could muster,  punched A-1 straight in the ass.  I was small, but he was smaller, so his whole body flew forward.  Straight into the windshield.  I watched in horror, and time seemed to slow painfully,  as A-1’s head made contact with the safety glass.  A huge spiderweb of cracks appeared in the glass, radiating from the point of contact across the entire passenger side half of the windshield.  My short life flashed before my eyes, and I will  never ever ever as long as I live forget the look on my mother’s face when she walked up to the minivan.  I have, however, blocked out the actual corporal punishment, which is probably very fortunate.   In fact, I received so very many whoopins that they all just run together like one, big mega-whoopin.  A-1, by the way, came out of the incident completely unscathed and found great amusement in my resulting consequences.

Then there was the time I busted A-2’s head open,  and he had to get what turned out to be one of many sets of stitches.  I used to trip my brothers when we were kids because I was nine, and it was funny.  One day I got tired of wearing glasses, which I didn’t really need anyway (plus I hated the frames because my mom made me get red ones, and I wanted pink), so I decided A-2 would break them for me.  I carefully placed them on my bedroom floor, a little out of the way so A-2 wouldn’t see them, and called my youngest brother into my room.  I told him I wanted to time him and see how many times he could run in a circle around the room in a minute.   So he took off and, of course, stepped on my glasses.  I told him it was no big deal and to keep running, which he did– by then I had a better idea.  In addition to breaking my glasses for me– and I had A-2 do this because he was too young to get in trouble, so I wasn’t an ass all the time– I could derive some entertainment by tripping him.  Usually, when I tripped my brothers, the worst that would happen is that it would piss them off, but they would start laughing when they saw me laughing.   I never intended for A-2 to get hurt, but I was also incapable of forethought at that age.  So A-2 kept running, and I stuck my foot out, and down he went.  Face first into the rocking chair.  He didn’t cry, just turned and looked at me very surprised.  Then I saw the line of blood forming on his forehead.   When the thin line turned into a full-on faucet,  I got concerned and ran to get my mom.  I tried telling her that A-2 had tripped on his own, but he was old enough to speak for himself, so the jig was up almost immediately.   My punishment was that I had to ride in the back seat, holding A-2’s head in my lap as I pressed a bloody rag to his forehead, while our mom drove to the emergency clinic. Plus a whoopin’.

Before you decide that I am just a very terrible human being, bent on fratricide, I wasn’t the only one causing peril to life and limb.  There was also the time that A-1 sliced A-2’s chin open with a machete.  They were eight and five at the time, and before you ask why an eight-year old was playing with a machete, let me explain– because Texas.  If you grew up in Texas before 1995, you most likely knew how to wield a machete, a hunting knife, and a .22 well before puberty.  So my brothers were traipsing through the woods at our grandparents’ ranch, and A-1– being the protective older brother– was clomping through the brush in front of A-2, ineffectually knocking vines and plants out of their path.  A-2, being the most non-observant child I ever met in my life, was staring up at birds and got a little too close to A-1’s wildly-swinging machete arm.  So the machete ended up embedded about half an inch into his chin, resulting in yet more stitches and a funny-looking chin bandage that I made fun off every day for two weeks.   A-2 did not get a whoopin’ because our dad said it was an “accident.”  Pfft.  Technicality.

But A-1 definitely was not an angel, as much as he tried to put out that vibe.  I will never forget the day he knocked down A-2 in the backyard,  sat on his chest, and stuffed dog poo in his mouth.  And when our dad got home and was told what had happened, he made A-1 go pick up a piece of dog poo and put it in his own mouth.  And then my mom yelled at both A-1 and my dad because she said everyone was going to get worms.  I didn’t know what that meant, but it didn’t sound awesome.

There was also the time when A-1 and I were going through a fistfight phase, and our mom had to break up half a dozen fights a day.  And she would make us hug afterward, which we hated.   On one particularly bad day she took us to Walmart, and by the time she pulled into the parking lot, we were whacking the crap out of each other in the back seat.  Our poor mom, out of patience at this point, left us to have it out in the car while she took A-2 into Walmart with her.  She did her shopping and came back out to find both A-1 and me in tears.  We didn’t touch each other for a week.  

I have a thousand other stories like this.  I can’t believe CPS never showed up at our house.   Our childhood sounds a little savage to me now, considering that my kids rarely even call each other butthead, and I’d die before I’d “whoop” any of them.  Simpler times, people.  Simpler times. 

Farts Are Part of Life

At least for me they are.  I learned this as a young child growing up with two brothers.  I learned it more when I inadvertently ripped one in front of a guy friend in high school and subsequently almost died of humiliation.  And I learned it even more when I had children.  Especially when I got a smartphone, and some twelve-year old invented– and grew rich off of– the very first fart app. 

My three children begged and pleaded with me to anoint my technologically advanced device with a free, downloadable fart app.  They insisted it would help make their lives complete, and indeed, it did provide endless entertainment when we were stuck in traffic or waiting for my husband to finish a level on Borderlands so they could watch Netflix.  I did not realize at the time that fart apps, by their very nature,  are just as humiliating and spontaneous as real farts.  Allow me to elaborate.

Around the time I bought said smartphone and downloaded said fart app, I had also just become a trainer at the restaurant where I worked.   I was embarking on the first growth of my career, and I was really excited to be teaching someone else how to be a paid servant rather than simply being one myself.  My first dinner shift with my first trainee was going really well.  We were busy enough to make money but not so busy that it would scare the new guy shitless, and most of my customers were friendly and in a good mood.  The kitchen was popping, the temperamental chef had yet to hit his mid-shift, bipolar freak out, and no one was complaining yet.  Ideal training environment.

The one thing that irked me was the fact that my shoes were unreasonably squeaky.  I could have understood it if the floor were wet (but it was carpet) or my shoes were new (but they weren’t).  I could not, for the life of me, find the cause behind the embarrassingly loud, squeaky sounds my shoes were making.  On carpet.   So I shrugged it off, dismissed it the four or five times my trainee wondered aloud about it, and continued my natural flow of greeting, order-taking, order-ringing, and food delivery.

At one point in the evening, after an hour of squeaky shoes, I realized that my tables were noticing when I passed by and giving me strange glances.  I decided that something had to be done.  I squeaked into the kitchen, trainee on my heels, and whipped my shoes off.  There was no apparent cause for the squeaking, which only occurred when I was walking, naturally. 

As I slid my feet back into my shoes, I suddenly had a horrible and almost unthinkable realization.  It wasn’t my shoes.  It could only be one thing.  I discreetly pulled my phone from my pocket and glanced down at the screen to find that the fart app had activated itself.  Due to the fact that it was set off by motion  (like gently shaking the phone), my walking had basically become a continuous fart concert.  My tables hadn’t been disturbed by my squeaky shoes– they thought I’d been vociferously crop-dusting them all evening.

I didn’t realize my trainee was standing over my shoulder until he pointed at the little, bent-over stick figure on my phone screen with the fart cloud spouting from its ass.  “What’s that?” he asked, understandably confused and slightly disturbed.

“That, my friend,” I replied,  “is the story of my life.  It’s all just one, big fart.”  And with that, I turned my phone off, pocketed it, and continued the rest of the shift with no further explanation or startling fart sounds.  The most important lesson my trainee learned that night is that, sometimes, ya just gotta roll with it.  Even when “it” is an hour of obnoxiously loud, public farts.