Posted in Lessons Learned, Mommyhood

Mom Mistakes and Consequences

Mom Mistakes… usually means I have a mess to clean up

I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the common mom (commom as I will call them) mistakes.

Ha! Famous last words, right?

Maybe the first mom mistake I’m guilty of is overconfidence. After a long weekend of travel with a 5YO and an even longer weekend of paying for my commom mistakes, I realized it’s time to ‘fess up.

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

There’s the common mom mistake of lying to your child. Since My Girl is adopted, The Husband and I established an all-honesty policy very early on. You can’t keep something like that a secret, even from a toddler and Honesty is the Best Policy. So when it comes to hard questions about babies growing in mommies’ bellies, we are all truthfulness.

In fact, I despise talking about Santa Claus with My Girl around Christmas time because I feel like I’m being dishonest. No judgements – I still do it. I don’t want My Girl to be that preschooler who has the entire classroom in tears because she’s explaining to the kids about the commercialism and materialism behind the lie that is Santa Claus. Because she would do it.

(I don’t pretend the Easter Bunny is real at all though. I’ll admit I have a slightly irrational fear of the Easter Bunny. He’s a giant, mutant rodent that sneaks into my house in the middle of the night. A bunny that lays eggs. A bunny that’s human-size. I don’t care if he’s leaving behind candy, I don’t want him anywhere near me.)

But after being honest about some real and tough issues, I let the white lies slip at times. My biggest one is Mommy Magic. The idea started when I shocked and amazed My Girl by turning on a touch-activated light.

Since then, I have used it to my advantage. “My Girl,” I say, “My Mommy Magic will go away if you don’t share some of that cookie with me… I’m feeling weak!”

Of course, Mommy Magic is mainly used to cure any major (in My Girl’s mind, anyways) injuries. I thought I had recently cemented her belief in my magic when we were riding in the backseat of the car. The Husband had locked her window so she couldn’t play with it. She asked me to put it down for her. I loudly claimed that I could use my Mommy Magic to roll the window down. Catching his cue, The Husband unlocked it for me so I could continue to trick her. Then he locked it again when she tried to roll the window back up. This went on for awhile. It’s a team effort to lie to My Girl.

My Girl in car
The car is the scene of the crime for many of my common mom mistakes. And still, we look so happy.

I was pretty proud of our craftiness, but then this weekend, as I was trying to use my Mommy Magic to cure a stubbed toe, My Girl said:

“You know, Momma, I’m just teasing when I say your Mommy Magic makes it all better.”

What?! When did she get to be so smart?

The unraveling of my white lie could have been much worse. It was actually without consequence for me. But it’s not always been so…

The Forbidden Fruit

I’ve been a firm believer in the common mom mistake of forbidding something. Once you put that black mark over it, it’s nothing if not enticing for the child. Exhibit A: Adam and Eve. ‘Nuf said, right?

Exhibit B: Underage Drinking. I saw it so often in college – the kids whose parents never, like never ever, let their children have a sip of alcohol. Those are the kids who would be on the table dancing ala Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You.

Not me. My parents were very open about drinking. We could have a sip now and then. As we reached older into teenager-hood, we could have a glass of wine or bottle of beer under their supervision. So when I attended my first college party and had a sip of the frat boy beer (though it was more closely related to dirty water from the Ganges than beer), my thought was: “No, not happening. I’ll just go home and get much better tasting stuff from my parents.”

So with that in mind, I made commom mistake #1. I forbid My Girl to have gum.

Forbid is kind of a strong word. There was no edict written in stone with a punishment akin to torture if gum was consumed. I just told her she was too little for gum at age five.

The other thing (as mentioned previously here) she is too young to call me Mom. I only answer to Momma and Mommy. So we have a running joke that when The Husband and I drop My Girl off for college, I will hand her a piece of gum as we leave and she may say: “Thank you, Mom.” (A first time for both.)

At least I thought it was a joke. Maybe My Girl thought it was a forbiddance of gum. So just like the alcohol-deprived college freshmen dancing to Pour Some Sugar on Me on the table at the frat party, My Girl went a little crazy when she had the freedom to try gum for the first time. (At least, The Husband and I hope it was gum… We are telling ourselves it was gum.)

We just know what the daycare teacher told us. My Girl picked up something extremely sticky and black from the ground, then stuck it in her mouth. When she took it out — I’m assuming because it tasted nasty! — she then stuck the “gum” in the most obvious place.

Her hair.

But she didn’t just get a wad of gum in her hair. She must have rubbed it on both of her hands like hair gel and run it through every strand on her head. Forgive me for envisioning the memorable There’s Something About Mary scene right now.

I will say this for The Husband – he was able to clean all of it without taking scissors to her hair. I would have started chopping from the beginning. I’m very happy I was still at work while this mess was being tended to.

Also, I don’t think I need to explain why My Girl is too little for gum.

Underestimation and Unbelief

But it was soon to be my turn to clean up a My Girl mess due to common mom mistake. I actually made two such mistakes this weekend. First, getting ready for the three and a half hour car ride to see The Sister – with a child who gets car sick on a regular basis – The Husband asked me if I needed to take the puke bucket.

“No,” I said. “Not necessary, because Grandma has one when we get to her house.”

She only lives 20 minutes away. No worries. Commom Mistake #1. Then 18 minutes later, My Girl told me she was sick.

Here’s come Commom Mistake #2. I didn’t believe her.

Instead of suffering from motion illness, I thought she was more likely suffering from the boy (or in this case, girl) who cried wolf syndrome.

She told me she was going to vomit, I told her she would be fine. She was right. I was not.

I was paying for an iced tea in the McDonald’s drive thru. As the cashier gave me my change, we both heard the telltale gagging sound. The cashier’s eyes widened and she quickly said, “Have a good day…” before slamming shut the drive-thru window.

I guess I was on my own… with a mess to clean up.

My Girl with new shirt
Another consequence of my common mom mistake. Yet again, I was unprepared for My Girl’s car sickness on our way to the zoo. Doesn’t her new shirt look nice? The old one found a new home in the trash.

Thank goodness for my freshmen residence assistant work experience, since this involved some hand to mess contact.

You know that place in the car seat where the seat belt comes up? Where there’s a small hole that collects broken crayons and missing Shopkins? That area that’s impossible to reach unless you squeeze your hand down there? Yep. The Shopkins in that little hole are not going back into My Girl’s toy chest – let’s just say that.

I’ll let you use your imagination as to how I got the puke out of there. It was unpleasant.

So my punishment is a car that smells strongly of the vinegar water I used to clean the seat. I just keep telling myself that it smells like Easter eggs. Fun, color-dyed Easter eggs. That’s a much better image.

Let’s just hope I’ve learned a lesson from my commom mistakes or I’ll have to get a stronger car freshner.

Posted in Lessons Learned

The Morning Struggle

My Girl will only wake up for well-behaved baby hyenas and Thomas Jefferson

Back to school.

Finally. After longest weekend in history (approximately March 16 to present day) and after numerous nightmares featuring the Alice Cooper soundtrack (School’s out FOREVER), My Girl is back in session.

I probably shouldn’t say that too loudly. I don’t want to scare it away. In my mind, in-session school is like a skittish, wide-eyed fawn. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t make any sudden movements. It may scare and be gone as quickly as it came.

But for now, school is not out FOREVER. With in-session school comes my next big worry.


Puh-lease. That shit don’t scare me.

Mornings. That’s what keeps me up at night.

Getting My Girl moving in the mornings has never been an easy feat. Now, thanks to quarantine, she has discovered the joy of sleeping in.

I wasn’t complaining just last week. When The Husband and I are both *attempting* to work from home, My Girl’s habit of sleeping in until 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. or one two, glorious occasions, 10:30 a.m. is a chance for us to get some much-needed work done without the constant chatter of a lonely, 8YO who won’t stop until I answer her burning question:

What consonant do you wish was a vowel?

I don’t have an answer for that.

But now that it’s back to some semblance of normal, My Girl cannot get away with the habits of a partied-out fraternity brother.

The morning struggle

So back we go to the struggle that is every morning. (Every Morning – do you hear the melody of Sugar Ray playing in your head, too? No? Just me who’s a Mark McGrath fan?)

It’s not like I haven’t tried. I’m one for self-improvement. I’m also one for trial and error. I’m like the Thomas Edison of morning routines. I haven’t quite hit 1000 different methods, but here are a few that I’ve experimented with:

  1. To Do List – I made a list of things My Girl has to complete before we head out to school – make her bed, get dressed, eat breakfast, fix her hair, brush her teeth, feed Totty (her pet tortoise) and give Mr. Darcy (our dog) his medicine. I even did the millennial parenting style: “Would you rather get dressed first or eat breakfast first?” See how that trick works? She thinks she gets a choice, but really she’s doing what I want. Millennial parenting equals manipulation. I’m not judging or complaining, but I am saying that Jedi mind crap doesn’t work on My Girl. The conversation is more like:

Me: “Would you rather get dressed first or eat breakfast first?”

My Girl: “Wouldn’t it be funny if Mrs. Irwin came to school with purple hair?

Me: “Yes, very funny. Which first? Get dressed or eat breakfast?”

My Girl: “I wonder what Mrs. Irwin’s favorite color is. I think it’s teal. She had a lot of teal things on her desk.”

Me: “My Girl!”

My Girl: (innocently and completely unaware that I’m dangling on the edge of a Mount Vesuvius eruption) “Yes, Momma?”

Me: (deep breath) “Are you getting dressed first or eating breakfast first?”

My Girl: (long, contemplative silence) “Snuggles!”

(This was a verbatim conversation. Also, My Girl very much misses her second grade teacher.)

2. Setting a Timer – Obviously, giving My Girl choices is not the answer. So I tried setting a timer. I would wake My Girl up and tell her she has 10 minutes before she has to start getting dressed. After that timer went off (with her still lounging in bed), I would set the next one. She had 10 minutes to get dressed and come downstairs for breakfast. After the timer went off (and My Girl was not yet downstairs), I would yell PG13 curses (such as “bloody” and “flipping”) until she came to the kitchen. Then the timer would start again to finish breakfast. What did this accomplish? Well, My Girl learned the “f-word” (she thinks it’s “flipping.”) Also, it succeeded in making me even more stressed out because I don’t like the pressure of a countdown. Other than that, it had zero effect on My Girl.

3. Bribery – If you’ve read more than one of my blog posts, you know that bribery is my parenting style of choice. I’m not above buying My Girl’s good behavior. So to get her moving in the mornings, I’ve been known to offer strawberry milk or hot chocolate for breakfast; I’ve let her pick out her own clothes (frilly Easter dress with cowboys boots, most likely, if you know anything about My Girl’s style); I even attempted a sticker chart for mornings we get out of the house on time without making that vein in my temple pop out and say good morning to the first grade teacher manning drop-off at the school parking lot.

This is a typical morning with My Girl. There are days when I literally drag her out of bed. She thinks it’s hilarious.

Validated by Pinterest

Since I haven’t quite tried 1000 different methods for a good morning, I did what any mom in 2020 would do to prepare for these school mornings… I trolled Pinterest. Also if you’ve read more than one of my blog posts, you know I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest. I love finding parenting ideas, but hate my results.

In this case, though, I found nothing but self-validation. Mark your calendars, folks, and head for the nuclear fallout shelters, because, surely, the world is coming to an end. According to Pinterest, I’m already doing (or at least) tried all the right things: checklist (for example), timer, and “positive reinforcement” (which we all know means bribe your child like your life depends on it, and since I’m probably going to have a stroke one of these mornings due to pure frustration, my life probably does depend on it.)

So, let me take a second here to pat myself on the back for doing all the Pinterest-approved activities. And then give me another second to crash my head through a plate glass window, because these techniques do not work for My Girl.

The Thomas Jefferson Morning Method

I think our biggest problem is there is no rhyme or reason as to why we have good mornings and why we have bad ones. It’s like my hair. I was blessed/cursed with curly hair. Again, there’s no rhyme or reason as to whether it’s a good hair day or a bad one. I wash my hair with the same shampoo/conditioner, use the same gel (the cheapest money can buy because why bother?), hit it with the diffuser for a few minutes and hope for the best. Some days I look like Felicity before she went pixie and pissed off the world. Other days, (according to My Girl) I look like Thomas Jefferson.

In my defense, Hamilton has confused her as to what our founding fathers truly look like. When she compared me to the third president of the United States, she meant I had Daveed Diggs’ dreadlocks. Wait… I don’t know that’s really “in my defense.”

Apparently, this is what I look like on bad hair days. That decisive frown looks like me too.
That’s my bad morning face.

Even when she’s on time, she’s late

And just to keep me on my toes, it’s not just the issue of moving quickly. Many times in the mornings when she is up and moving, My Girl likes to throw a random wrench in the mix.

Like, she’ll try to drink her daily Zyrtec dose like a shot of whisky. But similar to a cowboy in a saloon who’s had too many shots, she misses her mouth completely. So much for an early start… Now we need to change her outfit. And she needs to wipe up the counter, stool and floor (because, yes, it shot all over). But then My Girl sprays all those surfaces down with Spic and Span and never wiped it up. Sweet Judas. Are you surprised I’m a Howler?

Other times, she gets ready like a ninja. Literally. My Girl will prop pillows up in bed to look like a sleeping form and sneak around the house getting her list of morning activities done.

She hides in the shadows as I pack her lunch. She tiptoes over the squeaky step (the past-curfew step that I had hoped would give her away in her teenage years, but alas!). Then she’ll pop out from behind the open fridge door as I put away the milk carton and scare the limited early morning patience right out of me.

I’m happy she’s getting ready so quickly. Truly, I am. But I hate being scared. I don’t know what happened to me. I used to sit through Halloween marathons. But now I hate being startled. Maybe it’s my old age.

(I’m going to pause here and wait for The Husband to disagree. You’re not old! You’re as young and beautiful as the day we fell in love! That was age 17. Maybe I don’t want to be that young.)

So her stealthy moves in the a.m… not much better.

I know. I’m just impossible to please.

Sometimes the mornings work… if only I knew why!

It’s not all bad and me threatening to blow up the house with my short, morning fuse. I’ve stumbled (and stumbled is the appropriate word here) on a few things that have worked, albeit sparingly and randomly.

  1. Using My Girl’s imagination against her. One morning (per Monica’s suggestion, I believe), I dared My Girl to get ready “like a cheetah”, since anyone without an animal-obsessed 8YO knows how crazy fast cheetahs are. My Girl responded: “Cheetahs aren’t actually the fastest animal in the world. Falcons are. And falcons don’t go to school.” Recently, though, My Girl got ready the quickest in history – pretending to be a “well-behaved baby hyena.” I don’t ask. I just count my blessings.
  2. Hamilton. At this point in our lives, Hamilton is the answer to everything. It’s taken me six weeks of studying and practicing, but I successfully woke up My Girl and got her out of bed by rapping the full first verse of “My Shot”. I probably shouldn’t brag, but dang, I amaze and astonish. At least My Girl was amazed and astonished. And awake.
  3. And when in doubt, Dance Party. Monica and I discovered the mysterious power of dance parties many moons ago (see here). I don’t know if the magic comes from refocusing My Girl or bringing down my blood pressure, but either way, I’ll take it.
Just to keep me on my toes, My Girl has mornings where she gets up, dressed, and ready on time. #smallmiracles

Back into the morning grove

So here comes the first week of getting ready for school. To My Girl’s credit, the fit didn’t hit the shan until day 4. I was using The Thomas Jefferson Method – wake My Girl up on what I deemed “on time” and pray for the best.

On day 4, the morning went something like this:

Me: “You are running way behind. You’ve got to feed Totty, brush your teeth and give Mr. Darcy medicine. We have to leave to pick up Jane in 10 minutes.”

My Girl: (disappears for 8 minutes then jumps out and scares me, which we’ve already established I hate more than being compared to an 18th century slave owner)

Me: “Are you ready?”

My Girl: “Yep!”

Me: “Great. So you fed Totty and brushed your teeth?”

My Girl: “Oh… no. Not yet.”

Me: (internal screaming)

So while she’s brushing her teeth, I grab her shoes and hand her socks. I expect her to run down the stairs after me, since we are late. She brings up the rear like a reluctant foot soldier, finally – wearing mismatch socks.

Me: “Are you telling me on a morning when I’m already about to lose it and you are running late, you decided to go back and pick out different socks?!” (At this point, I’m like Hades in Disney’s Hercules when Panic slurps on a Hercules-branded slushie. My dreadlocks — apparently – are about to spontaneously combust and destroy us all.)

My Girl: “The left sock made my foot feel weird.”

There you have it folks… Time of death on my no yelling resolve for the new school year: 7:39 a.m. Cause: My Girl’s left sock made her foot feel weird.

Posted in Lessons Learned

Traveling with kids… usually ends in perfect strangers knowing the color of my underwear

As yet another one of our trips was recently cancelled (thank you “the Corona” as My Girl would say), I can’t help but reminisce on what it was like traveling with My Girl. Ah. The good ol’ days. So here’s a little throwback for you – a fun “traveling with kids mommy blog” about that time we flew to Colorado with a four-year-old My Girl.

The best laid plans of parents and militants

I know when you have children — especially small children, or especially My Girl — there’s really no point in making plans. By making plans, you’re just making a plan to have you child disrupt everything.

But like an eternal optimist (like when I put toys on the bottom stair, hoping My Girl will carry them up to her room and put them away), I had a plan for traveling with kids.

The plan was to get up at 2:30 in the morning, move My Girl from her bed to the car, without waking her, of course, and drive to the airport in peaceful silence. It was a good plan – like when the Japanese has the good plan to attack Pearl Harbor to keep the US out of WWII. It sounded like a good idea to everyone involved, until the Japanese realized all they accomplished was the waking of a sleeping giant and the total explosion and ruin of their society.

As My Girl sang a new made-up song in the car at 2:35 a.m. (Everyone is my friend! Your purse is my friend. The moon is my friend. La la la la la la.), I realized my mistake was very similar to that of the Japanese. Awakening of sleeping giant. Total ruin.

Yes, 2:30 in the morning, and My Girl was awake. Wide awake. Wider awake than any of the three adults in the car, even the one driving. That’s a scary thought.

Playing catch in the car

But the car ride could be worse. Actually, most car rides with My Girl are much worse. She is an easy child in so many ways, but we do experience the wonders of car sickness. So traveling in the car with her is always an adventure. You never know when her good friend Pukes-Galore will visit.

We’ve tried everything to keep her little tummy happy. Driving slower or driving faster or avoiding hilly and curvy roads – no avail. Taking a healthy dosage of children’s Dramamine – no help. Wearing motion sickness bracelets – no positive effect. We finally resorting to playing catch – traveling with an empty King Quencher cup and lid I picked up at the local Family Express with a sob story about My Girl’s motion sickness issues.

Luckily, King Quencher was not needed this time.

Scaring off strangers

Probably the biggest challenge when traveling with My Girl is stranger danger. As much as we talk about it, My Girl has no clue as to the concept.

A few weekends ago while at The Husband’s race in Illinois, My Girl kept inching closer and closer to a woman sitting behind us. I kept moving her back toward me. Eventually, the woman told me it was fine if My Girl was all up in her business.

I said, “You say that now, but in 10 minutes, she will be snuggled up on your lap.”

And ten minutes later…

My Girl is snuggled on this poor lady’s lap and playing with her gobbler neck. True story, unfortunately.

Along with stranger danger, My Girl struggles with the concept of personal space.

So before going to a busy, crowded place like an airport, I try to remind My Girl about the importance of staying with Mommy and being aware of strangers.

Usually the conversation goes something like this:

Me – “The airport is a very busy place with lots of people. You have to hold Mommy’s hand the whole time.”

My Girl – “What if I listen like a big girl? Can I walk by myself like a big girl?”

Me – “I don’t want anyone else to take you home. You’re very cute. There are probably lots of people who would like to take home a cute, little girl like you.”

My Girl – “I am very cute. And smart too.”

Another lost concept on her: modesty.

But my stranger danger lectures are starting to resonate. As we were walking through a Denver mall for this vacation, My Girl said:

“I don’t need to hold your hand, because I know what to do. If someone wants to take me home with them, I’ll say: I already live with someone!”

Not exactly the screaming of stranger danger that I had in mind, but I’ll take it.

My fatal flaw of flying

Of course, I had planned to entertain My Girl for the entire three-hour plane ride. Before our first real flight with My Girl (I say “real flight” because we flew with her when she was one week old, but that was a whole different experience), I read all the traveling with kids blogs. A friend of mine has a great one that suggested giving pre-apology goodie bags to fellow passengers on the plane, including ear plugs. Cute idea.

When we flew the first time, I was a Greek warrior, suffering from hubris. I thought it was all unnecessary. Wrong. I also read that I should prepare a new toy for every 20 minutes of flight. Again, I thought it was unnecessary and crazy expensive. Wrong again. On both counts.

You really can’t put a price on sanity.

I blame My Girl for this fatal flaw of mine. She gave me false confidence after the flight when she was a newborn. I had expected that flight to be the painful one. I actually had my parents fly to Salt Lake City just so they could fly home with us. But My little angel of a Girl slept the whole way.

Eighteen months later, I realized her deceit when we flew to Florida for vacation. Advice I ignored before that flight: goodie bags with ear plugs, a new toy for every 20 minutes, snacks snacks snacks, and the ultimate bad mommy solution – drugs. After the flight to Florida, I was entertaining the idea of all of the above, all at the same time.

Don’t let that sweet face fool you. This was a happier time during our Florida trip. The plane rides to and fro were another story.

I thought that to Florida flight was bad. Again, I was so wrong. On the way home from Florida, I realized how wrong I was. That flight showed me what bad really was. I’ve blocked out many of the terrible details for my own survival, but it did include both her and my tears and a little boy a few rows ahead of us offering a screaming My Girl his new Disney stuffed animal in hopes of calming her down. It didn’t work.

So with that flight painfully fresh in my memory, I planned lots of games, toys and snacks for this week’s flight. And what does My Girl do almost the whole time? Sleep.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a complaint. But she slept on my lap and I was unable to move for almost three hours.

It could have been much worse. I was prepared for much worse.

In fact, according to our assigned seats, My Girl was supposed to sit across the aisle next to her Grandpop. That would have left me with two full seats between us. Oh the peace and quiet! I could have insisted that the airline’s assigned seats were law instead of basic guidelines. Oh the temptation! But I was a good mom. Stupid, responsible mom.

Only a husband could spend an airport delay like this. Why can’t My Girl take after The Husband in this way instead of being borderline OCD? #lifeisntfair

Delays, screen time and pink and white striped underwear

And then comes the inevitable plane delay. On the way home, we had the joy of a two-hour delay. I’m pretty understanding of weather delays. No one can help the weather. I’m even forgiving of “technical difficulties”. Nobody wants the plane to break because it’s missing its left phalange (Mom, you got that Friends reference, right?), so I’d much rather we fix it on the ground.

But when the announcement consistently says our two-hour delay is caused by flight attendants who are MIA, my patience goes pretty quickly. Nobody is nice when we are delayed because someone partied too hard the night before.

Not only was our flight delayed, but we almost missed our connecting flight. If I got stuck in Dallas with a restless and slightly homesick four-year-old, American Airlines was going to find out what a real junkyard momma can do.

But, My Girl, I think knowing my limited patience, was an angel.

First let me ask the older generation a very important question: what the hell did you do before tablets and downloaded movies?

I try not to let Uncle Screen Time do much babysitting, but when we’re stuck at an airport, the mode is no longer “Good Momma” but “Survival Momma,” “For the Love Of All That is Holy Please Stay Calm Momma,” and “Please Don’t Cry and Embarrass Me In Front of All These People Momma.” And those modes say yes whenever My Girl asks to watch a movie or play games on my tablet.

The only problem we encountered during our long delay – My Girl’s cute little voice carries far in the bathroom. We didn’t have time to use the restroom at the airport since we literally had to run from our first delayed flight to our next connecting flight. So My Girl had to use the potty onboard as people finished filing to their seats.

I wanted to use the restroom at the back of the plane, but My Girl insisted she couldn’t wait. So in we went to the one in the front. Together. She used the potty. No problem except she was very concerned about what happened when we flushed.

Then I went as well. Outside of the restroom, all the business class passengers heard this in a cute but loud little girl voice:

“Momma! I love your undies! Pink and white stripes!”

The trip to Colorado was completely worth it, even though everyone in Denver International Airport knows the color of my underwear.