A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Oprah, the light within, and lowered expectations.

Today I think I’ve cracked the code about what in particular takes the wind out of my motherhood sails faster than anything else: it is the shit my kids ruin.

Oh sure, we all have stories about special things our kids have destroyed or damaged or just made utterly nasty beyond public consumption standards. Some of us have more stories than others. I suspect there is a direct correlation between number of spawn and number of ruined things.

In fact there is an entire blog (and book) dedicated to this phenomenon. A damn good one too: www.shitmykidsruined.com. I’ve been perusing it for about an hour to make myself feel a little better about what I experienced today. And it helped tremendously. It did. (Bless you commisserating parents with cameras and no shame.)

We had an incident this morning that is really inconsequential in the scope of things, but to me, perfectly symbolizes the bigger picture of how difficult parenting can be. I hope you can relate.

But first, some background info.

I love Oprah.

I would totally jump on a couch for her.

And not just because I was on her show once. Which I was…March 2009: Peter Walsh’s Clean Up Your Messy House Tour, Atlanta edition. Mine was one of the featured messy houses. Not my proudest moment, but hey, at least I get to say “I was on Oprah…and not as a serial pedophile or transgendered bi-species recovering drug addict/sphincter transplant patient.”

Oprah has been a part of my daily life ever since I became a Stay at Home Mom in 2002. She was my friend. We laughed together and cried together. We drank wine together. Four o’clock was something I looked forward to every day.

My kids knew this and understood it.

In 2003 I was having trouble remembering to take my daily vitamins. My then four year old son, Nature Boy, said (in front of company) “They should make Oprah-shaped vitamins…then you’d remember to take them every day.” True story.

So last week was hard for me. Saying goodbye to her and all.

Then two days ago I overheard my four year old son Bucket Head playing with our collection of vintage Fisher Price Little People in his room. He was holding “Susan” from the late 1970s Sesame Street set and saying “I love Oprah. Oprah is my favorite.” It totally made me smile.

You have to admit, with those glam eyelashes, this retro Little People figure looks a lot more like Oprah than Susan. My kid has a point there.

Okay, that’s most of the back story you need to know. Well that, and the fact that I am in the process of “rehabilitating” Cesar Millan-style a very special and traumatized dog who recently bit an armed trespasser who assaulted him in our yard.

So yesterday morning, I was in the garage, searching for the source of “the stank.” A corner of our garage that was piled high with future Goodwill donations had started to emit a foul odor. We were worried maybe a chipmunk had crawled in and died. Jealous?

A few boxes in, my 11 year old comes running up to me, “MOM! Come quick! It’s something REALLY BAD!”

“What? I’m looking for a dead chipmunk out here. Can it wait?” (I’m thinking maybe he busted one of the little ones secretly binge drinking a whole case of CapriSun.)

“No. You NEED to see this. NOW.”

Oh crap. I swear I’d get so much more done if it weren’t for the CONSTANT stream of interruptions.

So I begrudgingly dropped what I was doing and headed into the house to see what was more important than a dead rodent body decomposing in my Goodwill pile.

I was directed to the lamps in the foyer:

“What guys? What is it? I’m kinda in the middle of something.”

“Look closer, Mom.”

“So… Oprah was lost and you found her? Okay, good job guys. Thanks for finding her, Nature Boy. I’m sorry I called you the ‘World’s Worst Finder.’ You rock.”

“No Mom. Look closer.”

I peered into the lampshade, gasped, and then pulled the lampshade off.




I was flabbergasted. Then heartbroken. Then pissed. And then terrified. All in a matter of seconds.

“Oprah melted,” said Bucket Head. His bottom lip was quivering. He was clearly heartbroken and terrified too.

Dammit. {deep sigh}

I know exactly when that little antique plastic toy was placed on that pointy light bulb. I didn’t actually see it happen, or surely I would have said, “Oh no, that’s a bad idea. She could catch on fire, honey. Never ever ever put something on a lightbulb.” But it happened as we were heading out the door yesterday for our morning walk (for the good of the pack!). And I was probably SO FUCKING PREOCCUPIED with not letting our very pushy Alpha-Male dog Ike walk out of the door ahead of us that I didn’t notice Bucket Head gingerly place the toy on the lightbulb next to the front door on his way out. The point of the fancy light bulb fit perfectly into Oprah’s bottom hole. (And that is a sentence I never thought I’d ever write. Please forgive me Oprah!).

And then he forgot about her.

And those pretty little decorative lamps are attached to a timer so they’ll turn on and off twice a day.

It took extra effort to buy that timer and the special electrical attachment that enables me to plug two lamps into the one timer. Extra effort and care. We have to reset that timer with every daylight savings change. But it’s worth it, because we never come home to a dark house or wake up to a dark house. It’s one of those small touches that make a house a home. Or so I once thought.

But apparently those pointy little 40 watt bulbs get hot enough to melt the plastic bodies of vintage Little People. Poor Oprah! I can’t even imagine how painful that white hot speculum must have felt…twice. And yet, just like on her show, she maintained that perfect makeup and hair, even while she was slowly dying inside, like that time she had to interview the white supremacists or the “surprisingly monosyllabic Elizabeth Taylor.”

I know this is the small stuff that I’m not supposed to sweat. It’s just stuff. Stuff isn’t as important as people or relationships. (It’s not, right?)

But I’m sweatin’ it, people.

Forgive me for my pettiness.

I am grateful that it didn’t start a fire.

I am grateful (and surprised) that I didn’t yell at Bucket Head and make him feel worse.

But I’ve been lovingly building that vintage Fisher Price Little People collection and enjoying it with my kids since my oldest was in utero. We love Little People. Or as Bucket Head says “We yuv Yiddle People.” And I’m fucking sick and tired of my kids ruining my shit.

It’s not irreplaceable. There are a dozen or so Susans on Ebay right now ranging from $2.00 to $15.00.

Totally not the point. I think what tans my hide more than anything is the fact that it occurred while I was actually being a good pack leader (for once). You see? Even at my best, danger and destruction lurk around every corner. And I’m like an untrained mall cop air-dropped into Bin Laden’s compound.

Enough is enough. Camel’s back, meet the last straw.

I’m one tough camel (toe) though. I’m not going to let this break me.

In fact, friends, in true Oprah-super-fan fashion, my little melted Oprah has provided me with a new “a-ha! moment.” And it is this:


Wait. That sounds really bad. Maybe it’s this:

For every thing, there is a season. And this is clearly not the season for me to be surrounded by beauty, or peace, or basic cleanliness.

No. That can’t be right.

I know:

Kids are filthy little beasts who are programmed to destroy. Suck it up, bitch.

Fine. “That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.”

I need to narrow my focus, hunker down, and switch into survival mode. If I can just keep my house from burning to the ground, and muddle through this last little beastly child and the swath of destruction that follows his every move, it will be good enough. Perhaps the key to survival is lowering my expectations.

My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be.  No one else cares.  Why should you?  ~Erma Bombeck

I will survive,


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.


  1. Cate

    Oh gosh. I’m so sorry about Oprah! I must say that my daughter destroying my stuff (and my pets destroying my stuff) is my biggest pet peeve. It’s the thing that makes me sit on the couch and cry because really? REALLY?

    The worst was when I was pregnant with my first child and my husband and I went to the grocery store. By the time we came back, our kitten had knocked over and broken a porcelain ring box that my husband had bartered for for me on our honeymoon in France. I sobbed! Thankfully my daughter hasn’t broken anything of that magnitude yet, but I know it’s coming.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh yes, it’s coming. But anticipating it will lessen the blow, hopefully. Don’t even get me started on the shit my pets ruin (and then shit)! {sigh!!!} Thanks for the comment! Sorry about your porcelain ring box! That would have broken my heart too.

  2. laura

    as a fellow LP lover (the toys, I am not a swinger of any sort, small or tall) i feel that, Sista friend. i feel it. there are not words……….

    • The Bearded Iris

      Thank you, Sista friend. I know you can relate! Keep your eye out for a new Oprah for us while you are tag shopping!

  3. emfine

    So… what was the dead animal smell in the pile of goodwill clothes?

    • The Bearded Iris

      Hi Em! Oh snap – I forgot to wrap that detail up, didn’t I?! I did eventually make my way back to the garage to finish rooting for the funk. No luck, though. I never found anything out of the ordinary, so perhaps the stench was from some of the old camel toe coozies in the Goodwill pile. Either that, or Ike found the little dead critter before I got back outside and he gobbled it down as a midmorning snack. Perhaps I’ll know by tomorrow during our daily walk. You know I’ll report back if there is anything newsworthy (or not)! xoxo

  4. Megan at declutterdaily

    That looks like the neatest table ever. There is no pile of mail, no keys, no sunglasses, no apple core, no legos, no dust.

    I am inclined to think one of 2 things.

    a. you did a sweep for the picture and just cropped out the pile to the near right/left
    b. you’re secretly a neat freak

    Which is it, sis.?

    • The Bearded Iris

      Totally choice a… clean sweep onto the dining room table/family dumping ground. No apple core though. Ike would have eaten that within seconds.

  5. Trish Prentice

    From one mother to another…Don’t ever, ever buy that nice, expensive set of pots and pans right before your children learn to cook. Who knows exactly what that black stuff is that is melted and/or burned to both the outside and inside of each pot, skillet and stock pot. BTW, the same applies to cars and driving too. Cheers!!!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oooh, that is GREAT advice. Thanks Trish!

  6. Alison@Mama Wants This

    Oh dear, poor Oprah!

    I admit, I did snigger a bit when you wrote “The point of the fancy light bulb fit perfectly into Oprah’s bottom hole.”

    I’m glad it didn’t set your house on fire.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Meeee toooo! Thanks Alison.

  7. Anne @ Domesblissity

    OMG Iris! Hallelujah! And here I was thinking I was the only person in the whole world with kids who destroyed not only their stuff but mine as well! Thanks so much for sharing that story because now I don’t feel my kids are the only ones that do this. Don’t get me started on how much stuff they’ve drawn on, especially after the number 1 rule in our house is ‘DON’T DRAW ON ANYTHING BUT PAPER’. Had to take 4 yo boy to my daughter’s school library on Friday to return her library book he’d drawn all over. When is he going to get it? I can’t even remember all the stuff they’ve destroyed of mine. I’m in ‘survival mode’ too. It’s the only way I cope.

    Oh, and regarding strange smells in the house, you might get a laugh out of this. (http://domesblissity.blogspot.com/2011/05/no-more-easter-egg-craft-in-this-house.html)

    Hang in there and remember, you are soooooooo not alone!

    Anne x

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh thank you Anne! So glad I’m not alone. I could do a whole separate post on the things my kids have drawn on that they should not have…including the time Mini-Me used permanent markers to draw arm pit hair and facial hair on her self so she’d look like her mama. Good times. Good, good times.

  8. Jen Has A Pen

    My frustration with trying to comment on this post is growing rapidly, and it is totally my fault. I attempting typing out two responses from my “smart” phone last night from the comfort of my bed. The first? Lost when I lost signal. The second? Lost when my giant thumb clicked the wrong button. Then, I wrote a response about 16 minutes ago. Lost when my husband hopped on my computer for “just a sec”. JESUS!!!!

    Anyway, fourth time’s a charm I’m pretty sure.

    I loved so many things about this post. For one, I loved that you included me in your tweet and was touched that you remembered my love/sick obsession for Oprah. AND, better than that, little people are/were/always will be my most favorite toy of all time. I call them “boys and girls”. Do you read “Lighten Up!” (http://lightenupweber.blogspot.com/)? She’s hilarious – but my first draw to her blog was the little person in her blog header.

    Anyway, I’ve never seen Susan before. I am going on eBay TODAY and ordering her. I swear it. She’s a dead ringer for Oprah. 🙂

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh I hear you on the frustration of commenting from the “smart phone.” I don’t even try anymore… my thumbs are bigger than my big toes. Not lying. But thank you for hanging in there and leaving a comment anyway!

      But of course I would tweet you about it, my Oprah-super-fan-sister! Should have included a link to your fabulous Oprah post that led me to you on Twitter in the first place, but I was already feeling like this post was way too long.

      I will definitely check out that blog with the Little People ties. Love it! Thanks Jen!

  9. Iris Arenson-Fuller

    I had a good laugh and also sympathized but take my word for it, Name-Sharer, you ain’t seen nothing yet! Wait till your kids get to be a lot older and even young adults. I raised them to have respect for their own and other people’s property but I think somewhere in the middle of the night, someone (Maybe the Tooth Fairy or some other shadowy being) switched my well-brought-up, considerate kids and replaced them with the other critters who call me Mom. There’s one in particular. We are contemplating doing over parts of the house, but have decided to wait till the youngest offender (an adult, reportedly) has found a job and flown the coop, because we would be wasting our investment. True, our home is well-lived -in, comfortable, even welcoming and I don’t really want that to change, but it would be great not to have everything we own compromised, such as the kitchen I designed and my husband remodeled beautifully. It was his first real project and he is very proud of it. I admit I was skeptical about his doing it. (Told him you start with a jewelry box and not a whole kitchen, but it came out great.

    I am enjoying your blog! By the way, while I was enjoying reading it, the two=year old granddaughter jumped so hard that I thought the floor in the living room of our 1851 hours was going to collapse, but she is now standing next to me with a huge smile, wanting me to show her pictures on the computer.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh Iris, name sharer extraordinaire, you are so sweet to come and visit my raunchy blog! Welcome!

      So, what I hear you saying is that there is no light at the end of the tunnel? That my kids will never leave home and I will never have nice things? And then they will breed and bring their children here to take over the family legacy of destruction?

      But it’s SO worth it because of the joy they bring? That the joy outweighs the cost of stain removers and replacement cushions and increases in homeowner’s premiums? Please say yes. Please. Say. Yes. I am standing on a ledge here, woman. PULL ME BACK IN.

  10. melanie

    Wow, poor Oprah was violated. What woman wants to take a light bulb up the bum? I had to laugh while reading this because I’ve dealt with similar problems. Check this out for a laugh that will hopefully make you feel better.


    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh Lord, what if my Bucket Head was playing Appalachan emergency room? Remember that skit on SNL when the guy would come limping in and say “I fell off a ladder onto a 2 ft. long fluorescent light bulb!” Thanks for the link…I’ll check it out!

  11. Rebekah

    Which do you think is worse in the “ruining” dept? Kids or dogs? I don’t have kids, but boy have my dogs done a number on every. nice. thing. I have/had. And I don’t have a lot of nice things – mostly because of them. A couple of years ago we bought our first new bed frame – very pretty, mission-style, wood head- and footboard. Not fancy, but we liked it. So did one of our redbones who promptly gnawed off one of the corners of the footboard. Kongs and nylabones as far as the eye can see and she chews on our new bed. Little bitch.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh it’s a toss up… my dog Ike ruins his fair share of things too (and then poops them out for our viewing pleasure)! Gracie the cat is declawed, but she went through a spell a while back when she was vomiting yellow bile (for about 10 days) all over my cream colored builder-grade wall to wall carpeting. WTF? There is not enough Oxy-Clean on the planet to tackle all the little mustard colored stains in my house from that damn cat. Turns out she had swallowed a string and her intestines were bunched up… poor thing was dying. She had surgery though and survived, thank God. But still… the stains. Sorry about your bedframe. Bitch!

  12. Katybeth Jensen Ruscitti

    I’m sorry for your loss. Nice things about dogs is you can crate them. It was an accident tho..sorry I felt bad for the little kid. Mom-entary lapse.
    How about if Oprah now stands for going through tough times and surviving. Put melted Oprah in a place to remind you–this too shall pass. I think she would be pleased. Or not.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Wow – Katybeth, great minds think alike! Just this morning I created a special box to house these “treasures” of motherhood survival so I can look back and laugh someday, and/or present it as a gift to my kids when they become parents! But actually, I like your idea better about making a visible shrine to remind me everyday. Thanks! Someday Imma have to write about the time Mini-Me swallowed a magnet. It too passed, and I kept it (after disinfecting that mofo for like, ever). Planning to turn it into a piece of jewelry for her one day. Awww!

  13. Allysgrandma

    Are you kidding. I think Oprah looks fabulous! You should find some really cool lamp and use it to display the new Oprah! Not actually turn the lamp on, just keep the lampshade off and make it your newest art object! Heck I have seen worse art for sell!

    PS My youngest daughter, granddaughter and Marine SIL all were in Atlanta yesterday adopting my newest grandpuppy….A retired Greyhound. 3 year old female brindle. They totally decided they did not want a brindle and they definitely wanted a boy, but Bristol won their heart. Ally was seen by Skype laying in her new bed reading the book I bought her for her 2nd birthday, Richard Scary’s Best Word Book Ever. Katie called me on their way home to tell us about the new addition to the family. I can’t wait to meet her.

    • Debbie M

      I kind of agree. I think the new Oprah is beautiful in her painful new ball gown. She maybe partied a little too hard and thinks she is wearing a lampshade now.

      • The Bearded Iris

        Now THAT is funny! Wish I had thought of that! Her retirement party was OFF-THE-HIZZLE and she wound up wearing a lampshade, ruined her gown, and with a lit lightbulb up her bum. Those Harpo people know how to throw a PAR-TAY!

        • Debbie M

          Ha! Retirement Party Oprah! Definitely objet d’art material.

    • The Bearded Iris

      1. You are a hoot, girl. Love the objet d’art idea.
      2. Retired Greyhounds are so sweet. Can’t wait to see pics!
      3. LOVE all Richard Scary books. That little worm with the one shoe is my fave.

  14. Allysgrandma

    I should have said Bristol’s new bed, round with a nice lip edge perfect for a 2 year old to lay her head on and look at a book!

  15. Danielle@sixtasteschef

    I don’t have kids, but I had two younger siblings that wrote on and ruined all my childhood books. I was so bummed. I was such a careful child (one might say strangely careful) and kept my books in pristine order. They wrote all over Dr. Seuss with a marker!! The nerve!

    More recently, my cat trashed my couch that I got custom slipcovered. Grrrr. Like I haven’t bought 4 trees/scratching posts/cat condos for her to scratch instead!! Anyway, I feel for you! It’s difficult being the ‘Mistress of Order’ around the household.

    • The Bearded Iris

      I feel your pain, Danielle. Little siblings are tough. I have a younger brother…drove me nuts when we were kids. Even today, when he comes to visit, things get broken. And when I see my two younger children mess with my oldest’s stuff, I get really angry. Like Bruce Banner>>Incredible-Hulk angry.

      Cats. Love ’em, but damn. They RUIN shit.

  16. Didi

    Oh honey I’m so sorry… it totally sucks, I KNOW!!! I used to have a magnificent crystal collection, “hence the words, used to”… I have one single lonely pitcher vase left, and that too has a very good chip on it’s base. I just face it the other way. I can’t bear to part with it… sentimental I know, but true!


    • The Bearded Iris

      I “used to” have nice boobs. See? Another thing my kids ruined. Sorry about your crystal collection! Glad you kept the pitcher vase!

  17. Julie

    It looks kind of neat though, like art! One of our nephews spent the day picking soft plastic off of the Xbox controller joysticks and eating it. So I’m feeling your pain, but on a more-expensive-however-less-sentimental-level.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Seriously? Eating the soft plastic? WTH? Bucket Head has been licking random objects lately. Totally gross. And weird. Kids are nasty.

  18. Handflapper

    I am really, truly, feeling your pain because once I, too, had a vintage Fisher Price Little People collection, carefully and lovingly packed away to await my future grandchildren since my boys have long outgrown them. And THEN two summers ago my younger son was burning leaves in the yard and LET THE FIRE SPREAD TO THE STORAGE BUILDING. Little People melt in grass fires, too. Son was mortified so I tried not to act hysterical. But I was.

    RIP Susan/Oprah.

  19. Susan S

    Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

    You don’t have to respond to this comment…I’ll return for a more clever and thought-provoking comment some other day, but today I’m just laughing!

  20. Tracy Letzerich


    I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry over the loss of your precious Oprah and lamp. Just like I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I noticed the beautiful pink lipstick art on the back of my antique, yellow-upholstered dining room chair…hand carved in the late 1800’s. The only nice or valuable furniture I own is now even more beautiful.

    In sympathy,

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh Tracy – not the pink lipstick! I feel like getting on a plane right now with my bucket of Oxy-Clean. That is a heartbreak. I suggest you give that dining room chair to that child as a wedding gift someday.

      • Tracy

        Oh that chair will be handed down to her as-is 🙂

  21. Colleen

    I had to laugh at so many parts of this post. First, we used to call our 8 year old “Bucket Head” 9# 15oz at birth, pushed out the ol’ fashioned way with an epidural administered too late to really matter. Yeah, he earned it. I was worried about him having to explain that to a professional with a clipboard, a timer and a fee of $200 an hour though, so now we call him “dimple-face” LOL. Secondly, I had to smile at the vintage Susan—LURVE the “old school” FP little people. Kids choked on those? Hmmmm. My LP’s were all made of wood, but with the big hole and still would have fit perfectly on that bulb! I’m so thankful that noone besides Oprah was injured!!!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Thank you, Colleen! 9# 15oz?! I salute you and your battered hoo-hoo! Mini-Me was 9# 11 oz… we call her our own personal 9-11. Sick.

      Dimple-Face is an adorable name. Totally not scarring. Good job! Sadly, we just have too many pics of our Bucket Head when he went through the phase of wearing an Oxy-Clean bucket on his head to have any other suitable name for him. We tried calling him Spider-Man for a minute there, but it just didn’t stick. He can use his college savings for therapy. Poor kid can’t even hold a pencil. School probably won’t be his thang.

  22. Mary

    Well said!

  23. Jeanne B.

    Wow. Should I be glad that I “only” have cats? Five of them, with claws. They have a whole room to themselves and they’ve ruined the entire thing. The world is their scratching post. Oh, well. When it comes time to sell this house, I’ll replace the floor covers, door jambs (what’s left of them), and wooden wall panels. After I move them out, of course.

    My friend has a new motto: “So what?” Between that and “Why bother?” I think we have a good dose of apathy going. 😉

  24. Dawn@LightenUp!

    Girlfriend! I thought I was alone with my weird-ass love of the “Peoples” , I call them! My friend Jen Has a Pen directed me to you, and I’ll be following. In truth, I lve all things 70s and write about them often. Also I have a huge collection of LPs that my husband desperately wants to toss. Constantly, I have to protect my LPs and their barns and schoolhouses from his neatnik wrath. Never fear, fellow LP lver. I will win! (I can see now I’ll have to blog about this. Next week. I’LL LINK YOU UP.)

    • The Bearded Iris

      Girl, I have TWO LP barns, the garage, the Sesame Street Clubhouse, the old school house, and the pool! I am coveting the Hospital. My aunt has one that I’m hoping she’ll put in her will for me someday. And that’s just LP… don’t get me started on my love for the 70s! Can’t wait to read your blog!

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