Posted in Mommyhood

Nonstop Talker

I can’t get My Girl to stop talking. Or is it that she can’t get me to start listening?

What’s the old adage? We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.

Four Ears for More Listening

This is an adage My Girl knows very well. Not because she follows it but because I say it to her often. Very often.

In fact, I encourage her to wear her headbands with animal ears (kitty ears, Mickey Mouse ears, wolf ears, unicorn ears and horns – we have an unlimited supply of these headbands) to school so that she’ll have four ears and one mouth. If she listens four times as much as she talks, she should have a fighting chance of not going to the principal’s office.

But only just.

I’ve said it many times. Actually, many, many times. My Girl is a terrible listener. Really atrocious. She doesn’t mean anything malicious by it. She’s not trying to be disrespectful. But nevertheless, it’s our biggest struggle.

Couple that with her ability to outtalk the best Senate filibuster… Well, we have a real problem on our hands.

Obsessive Talker

My Girl has a slightly obsessive mind. I’d like to blame The Husband, who, I’ve said on more than one occasion, should be medicated for his OCD leanings. I’d like to blame him, but his tendency to wash a dinner plate while I’m simultaneously eating off of it may not be the cause of My Girl to find one subject so fascinating that she talks, in torturous detail, for days on end, about it.

My Girl just can’t help herself. She’s a nonstop talker.

I’m probably much more to blame. After all, I’m the one who has referenced Hamilton in four of my last five blogs; I’m the one who has completely memorized 80 percent of the songs; and I’m the one currently reading my fourth nonfiction novel about Alexander Hamilton and/or the Marquis de Lafayette.

So yeah, maybe some of her obsessive qualities have a maternal blame.

Nonstop HIV Talker (yes, you read that right)

Take for example her obsession about AIDS. To be fair, maybe she’s more obsessed about HIV, but one thing leads to another.

When My Girl was six, we took her to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. I would like to say this is the first time she saw a possibly inappropriate exhibit for her age. But I’d be lying. On this particular visit, My Girl was introduced to the story of Ryan White.

In all seriousness, Ryan White is an amazing hero to introduce your child to. Just maybe not your 6YO. If you don’t know the story, he contracted HIV as a child from a blood transfusion. At the time, not much was known about the disease and as fear breeds prejudice, he was banned from going to school. That, of course, was after his life was made a living hell by the school staff, parents and students.

But Ryan stood up for his rights and the rights of all infected by HIV. Sadly, he passed away in 1990.

Fast forward 30ish years, and find My Girl exploring this exhibit and learning all she can about Ryan White.

Fast forward another two weeks, and find this momma at her wits’ end because her 6YO won’t stop talking about HIV.

I’d like to say her nonstop talking about HIV was a welcome relief from her previous nonstop talking about The Plague (thank you, live-action Beauty and the Beast where Belle’s mom dies from such illness), but she was six at the time and asking me about how people get HIV. So no, it was not a relief. Surprisingly though, My Girl doesn’t have much interest in COVID-19. Small miracles, I suppose.

I’m so proud of her curious mind. Truly. But if she asks me again if that lady in the Kroger’s checkout line has HIV because she coughed one more time, I’m going to asphyxiate myself with one of those plastic grocery bags.

Monkey Talker

I also think My Girl has too many things running through that mind of hers – not just Hamilton quotes and facts about HIV, but anything and everything. She has a monkey mind. It swings from vine to vine, picking up and dropping thoughts, only stopping long enough to itch or spit.

That’s why half the time, when My Girl is trying to tell something to The Husband or me, we have no bloody idea what she’s trying to say.

We’ve let her speak words – I can’t say it is more than that – on more than one occasion, where she has talked for five minutes straight, and The Husband and I look at each other with complete bewilderment. “Do you have any idea what she just said?”

Nope. She just talked for the entire length of American Pie (“A long long time ago, I can still remember…”) without completing a single sentence.

My Girl: “Momma?”

Me: “Yes?”
My Girl: “I don’t remember… Actually, I didn’t have anything to say. I just wanted to talk.”

At least she’s honest.

It’s not unusual to see My Girl in animal ear headbands. It’s not a fashion statement. It’s an act of desperation to get her to listen more than she talks.

Nonstop Talker Consequences

Of course, all this nonstop talking is detrimental to her development – and not just because I may try to reach into her mouth one day and cut off her tongue. Hey, it worked well for Ilyn Payne. (Game of Thrones, Mom)

The Quiet Game

Obviously, My Girl loses anytime we try to play the quiet game or jinx. Jane discovered jinx and thinks it’s hilarious to make My Girl wait to talk until she says her name three times. Of course, I’ve tried playing the quiet game with her. Make listening a game, they say. Her competitive spirit will take over, they say. It will be fun, they say.

Bullshit, I say.

My Girl straight up refuses. She once said: “I can’t stop talking in real life. Why would I want to in a game?”

Again, she’s honest and she has self-awareness.

Piano Prodigy

Besides her defeat at jinx and the quiet game, I’m convinced My Girl could be a piano prodigy if she could play more than four measures of music without stopping to talk. But she must pause multiple times during Minuet in G to tell me what her fingers are thinking, or a million other vines of thinking that her monkey mind has picked up.

Ok, maybe piano prodigy is a strong sentiment. But who knows? Maybe the talents of Lang Lang are hidden beneath her raging voice box.

Pounce Listener

Even when I think she’s finally listening – in those rare occasions when she looks solemnly at me with those big brown eyes – even then, she’s just fooling me. She’s a pounce listener. On those occasions when she doesn’t interrupt, she waits until the moment I stop speaking and pounces on whatever was in her mind.

99.78 percent of the time, it has nothing to do with what I was saying. In fact, she is unable to even repeat the words that flowed from my mouth just milliseconds ago.

So you can imagine my disbelief when she begged me to sit in her room and read the other night (current reading list is The First Conspiracy about a plot to assassinate George Washington). She begged. She promised. She swore to heaven and high water that she wouldn’t utter a word. She just wanted to be blessed with the presence of my company while I enjoyed my book.

Me: “Ok. I’ll sit in here and read if you actually let me read.”

My Girl: “Of course.” (I could hear the stressed italics of her voice.)

10 seconds later.

My Girl (to herself): “You promised Momma you wouldn’t bother her. So don’t say it now. Just hope you remember what you were going to say when she’s done reading.”

Me: “It’s fine. What did you want to say?”
My Girl: “No, no. I promised not to bother you.”

Me: “Really. It’s fine.”

My Girl: “I forgot.”

I went back to reading.

My Girl: “I remember… if you hear me talking, I’m just talking to myself and you don’t need to worry about it.”

I was, obviously, done reading for the night.

Nonstop Reasons

But why? Why is she like Alexander Hamilton and noooon stop when it comes to talking?

I could blame her creative mind, her only child-ness, her need for attention, her curiosity, her intelligent mind.

Yes.

I think all of those things.

But maybe it’s because – or partly because – I don’t listen enough. And if I’m going down that spiral staircase to hell, maybe she doesn’t listen to me because she sees me not listening to her.

Whoa. That’s a lot of baggage to unpack right now. I’m going to firmly close that box and save it for later because it has the potential to unhinge my world.

Nonstop Listener

This isn’t the first time it’s crossed my mind that My Girl’s talking/listening problems stem from my inattention. I did a whole weekend experiment, which I called my All In Weekend (you can read about it here). But it takes more than one weekend to fix the largest behavioral problem I have with my 9YO.

I found this great article about coping mechanisms with a non stop talker. And this quote really stuck out at me:

“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them, all of it has been big stuff.”

Wow.

And ouch.

I’m a pretty tough judge on myself, but I won’t say I don’t listen at all. I’m not a monster. But I am a working mom. And I am a multi-tasker. And I am impatient.

So all those things add up to me not taking the 20 minutes to listen to My Girl retell the picture book she read during library in excruciating detail.

Maybe that’s the problem. Or part of the problem.

I’m all about self improvement. I’m also all about accountability. So because my ears are going to start bleeding soon if I don’t get My Girl’s verbosity under control, I’m writing down the things I’m going to work on. And let’s see how it goes.

  1. Make eye contact and focus. While I do make time to talk with My Girl (morning snuggle time, while in the car, dinner, etc.), I lack when it comes to making eye contact with her and focusing on what she’s telling me. Let’s go for quality, not quantity.
  2. Use better phrases when I’ve reached my listening limit (which I’m working on extending). Instead of she’s “driving me crazy”, I’m going to use “I need a minute,” or “No talking for a minute or two”. Since we know that setting a timer isn’t the best solution in our household (see how it did not improve our mornings here), maybe I can say something like “No talking while this song is playing.” That might work because there is always music playing in our household.
  3. Let her go. Sometimes she just needs to hear her own voice. Sometimes? Who am I kidding? All of the time. But sometimes, I can just let her go. “You are free to talk, but I just can’t respond right now.”
Posted in Mommyhood

Belonging Through Adoption

My Girl turned nine years old on Tuesday.

Like most nostalgic mommas, I tell the story of My Girl’s birth to her every year. Unlike most of the mommas I know, though, mine involves a phone call that changed our lives, a frantic trip across the country and the birth of a beautiful brown-eyed baby with about 36 hours’ notice.

My Girl never tires of hearing about her birth story, and I certainly never tire of telling it. And every time, even nine years later, I still marvel at the miracle that was not only her birth but how she is the perfectly fitting piece of our family.

Miracles

I’ve always trusted God to take care of me. And I’ve seen His works in all aspects of my life. While I believe in miracles, it wasn’t something I expected to see firsthand.

Upon graduating college, though, I started to realize that “miracle” didn’t have to translate into turning water into wine, though as a self-professed wine-aholic, that is definitely a miracle I’d love to witness.

But as I was getting ready to leave the comfort of college and head out into the unknown of the “real world”, I found myself more and more desperate for guidance. Would I ever find a job? What was the right job? Should I go to grad school? So many questions. So many unknowns.

Finally, in desperation, I spent an evening praying to God. Take over, I asked Him. I no longer trusted my own judgement and decision making. I knew what job I wanted, but lacked faith that I could actually get it. So I gave up and gave God control.

The next morning, I received the job offer I had dared to hope for – as the city beat reporter for a newspaper about 75 miles from the university. And it was the perfect fit for me. I have never regretted taking it. Small miracle? Yes. But a miracle nonetheless.

Brown-Eyed Belonging

So having experienced God’s intervention years before, I wasn’t surprised to experience another miracle: the birth of My Girl.

More specifically, not so much the birth (which we missed because My Girl was, even at age T-minus two days, very impatient and unable to follow directions) but the perfect match.

Physically, you might not expect me to say that My Girl belongs in our family in every single way.

Actually, seeing her with her cousins consistently causes me to smile at God’s sense of humor.

My beautiful nieces and nephews make a beautiful picture of blond-haired, blue-eyed perfection. Seeing them together is like the Scandanavian version of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Look at those blonde and blue-eyed beauties! And My Girl fits perfectly in the middle. Brown hair be damned.

And then there’s My Girl. Brown hair. Brown eyes. Brown skin (as she says it – she’s got some Native American in her that tans her up upon hearing that it will be a sunny day).

But the aesthetics don’t bother her. There’s no doubt in any of our minds that My Girl belongs in this family. She has too much of all of us in her to question it.

The Sister

The Sister has some very special talents: She can burp better than any teenage boy I know. She can wiggle her ears (think Samantha in Bewitched but with magical ears rather than a nose). And she possesses freakish dexterity with her toes.

Yes, The Sister can pick up crayons with her toes. She can pinch you with them. She would be fully functional without her hands.

The only explanation I have for My Girl to have the same ability with the digits on her feet is that God knew she was to be the niece of The Sister.

My Mom

My Girl takes after my mom in ways that make me a little jealous. While I can hold my own on the piano, My Mom is gifted with an ear for music. On more than one occasion, I have played her song on the radio, and she will write out the music for me.

That is not a talent I possess. But My Girl, on the other hand, has a real ear for music. I first noticed it a few years ago when she would hear a song on the radio that played as background music in a movie. Often times, I didn’t even recognize it myself. Like the time we were listening to Electric Light Orchestra. “That’s the song Baby Groot dances to,” she told me. She saw Guardians of the Galaxy exactly one time, probably a year before.

At that point, I was convinced she was My Mom’s grandchild.

The Brother added a blondie to his brood through adoption. She also fits in perfectly.

Penny

My beautiful sister-in-law, Penny (because she looks like Penny from The Big Bang Theory and because, like that character, could be a little scary if made mad) also has her genetics in My Girl. Unfortunately.

There are so many things My Girl could do to take after Penny – cooking, caring for many, many unruly children at once, being a leading force in the family. But no. My Girl picked up Penny’s long-ago habit of sucking her thumb.

I remember when My Girl was six months old and Penny would coo over how cute it was to see that tiny thumb in that little mouth. Then she would grin mischievously at me and wish me good luck.

Because only Penny knows how to get a true thumb-sucker to stop.

Oh wait. You can’t. Short of chopping off that thumb. And don’t think I haven’t considered it. After all, My Girl can use her toes instead.

 The Husband

The Husband’s particularness (see how nicely I’m wording it) has been an ongoing joke and struggle for me. So imagine my shock/dismay/horror when at a very young age, we realized My Girl had inherited aspects of it.

Not the helpful aspects like The Husband can’t sleep at night unless the kitchen counter is cleaned off and organized. One look at My Girl’s desk and toy room will tell you that’s not so. But annoying aspects of it like she knew when I discreetly started recycling the thousand valentines she had on a magnetic board in her room.

Seriously, Valentine’s, birthday cards, colored pictures – so many of them, piled on top of each other with magnets. I thought if I tossed just a few every once and awhile, she’d never notice and I could start to control the hoarding mass. (See how My Girl hoards here.) But no. That part of The Husband’s OCD she has – she knows exactly where everything should go and she can pick up on a missing piece of trash as soon as she walks into a room.

She also inherited The Husband’s “need for speed”. I’m so excited for her to turn 16 and start driving. (Hopefully you can read the sarcasm). And because she’s clearly her father’s child, she also inherited his love for history and weird fascination for WWII and Nazis. Again, I’m so proud.

The Sister keeps having babies. Blonde ones. At least the baby of the family has brown eyes, like My Girl.

Me

And then there’s the traits God gave her from me. I don’t even know where to start – partly because it’s a compilation of small things – how she “dances with her shoulders in the car” and quotes movies/TV shows incessantly – but partly because I’m too close to the situation to see it clearly. I don’t think I have enough self-awareness to realize some of her less than appealing habits may be from me.

A friend of mine calls My Girl “The Great Nurture Vs. Nature Experiment.” Not that I condone titling your child after a science project, but he’s not wrong.

It’s one of the big fascinations of my life to see what My Girl has come by naturally – her amazing art ability is from her birth mother – and what she has picked up from us.

But I still hold strongly to my knowledge that God knew My Girl belonged to our family before she was even born. My Girl was born to be adopted.

My Girl loves that she’s adopted. She loves her story. She loves her birth mother and birth sisters. She loves the idea that we had to work so hard for her.

And I thank God for that. It’s easy for a child to get caught up into the “why didn’t my birth mother want me” and much harder to see it as an act of selfless love. But My Girl has the sunny disposition, the love for being special and center of attention to see adoption as a beautiful thing.

Because that’s exactly how I see it. God knew that My Girl belonged in our family and I knew my life wouldn’t be complete without her.

Posted in Mommyhood

Little Slumber Party of Horrors

“I’m hosting a Descendants-themed slumber party for five girls, ages 4 to 10.”

That’s my declaration.

If I know my readers at all, you’re thinking: “How the holy Maleficient are you going to manage that?”

Um… By willing it to be so.

The Slumber Party Plan

I thought if I told enough people my declaration, it was just magically happen. But to be safe, I explained: “The girls are going to watch Descendants movies in our great room and just fall asleep.”  (In case you aren’t in the know about Descendants, see here.)

So I told everyone: co-workers, parents of the slumber party attendees, my mom (who just smiled knowingly), the girl at the craft store who rang up our party supplies, random strangers I saw driving down the street.

If I say it enough and get enough people to believe it, it must be so. Right?

In hindsight, this was my actual plan:

Invite 4 girls to our house (two of whom have never had a slumber party, one of whom is age 4 and last time she stayed at our house, we swore never again), hype them up with sugar of all forms, fill their hair and heads with fumes that should have a separate excise tax, turn on the movie, turn off the lights, and hope for the best.

Spoiler alert: It didn’t quite go as planned.

The Slumber Party Mistakes

In hindsight, I definitely didn’t have the best ideas, but I don’t see how I could have done it differently. I followed My Girl’s wishes (slumber party, snacks, movies); I looked up Descendants-themed activities and treats; I planned a fun surprise.

All were a mistake.

The Craft

All accomplished birthday parties include a craft, right? So I planned for the girls to decorate Evie’s magic mirror, from the movie. I purchased handheld compact mirrors and crafty decorations. Lots of crafty decorations – sequins, gemstones, jewels, puffy paints and glitter.

Lots of glitter.

That was my mistake, as Monica quickly pointed out.

The party was a week ago, but the memory – and glitter – of the night remains.

Surprise Hair Coloring

Next, I surprised the girls with hair coloring. In Descendants, the main characters have fun hair colors – green, pink, blue and purple. So, grateful for My Girl’s birthday’s proximity to Halloween, I stopped by the seasonal costume store and bought six cans of hairspray coloring.

Two things I didn’t think through: the fumes from the hair spray was enough to damage the girls’ brain cells so they may never achieve a passing grade in calculus; and brushing the hair of five girls after sleeping in said hair spray all night is torturous for all involved, possibly more so for me.

The girls were thrilled with their newly-colored hair. Twelve hours later, and I’ll be kicking myself for this activity.

The Poisonous Snack

Last, I planned a “healthy snack” of poison apples – again, Descendants themed. This involved apple slices and all kinds of fun toppings: chocolate, caramel, marshmallow fluff, sprinkles, chocolate chips, and vanilla yogurt.

Ok, so maybe not a healthy snack. But I had hoped that the apple slices and yogurt would negate the sugar content of rest of the toppings. It didn’t. And no one touched the yogurt. Pinterest may have aptly named this snack “poison apples” not because it works with my Descendants-theme but because the sugar involved transformed the girls into mythical creatures of destruction.

On the bright side, while serving the food to the girls, My Girl took on the persona of a Marie Antoinette and told her friends to ignore me, as I was just the “servant.” I believe the word “wench” was used at some point.

Slumber Party Assistance

With all my mistakes, it’s not like I was without help. LeslieAnn and Monica assisted in my madness for a while. And, of course, The Husband was there. Note: I said he was “there” not that he was particularly helpful.

He was given two jobs. One. Pick up LeslieAnn’s daughter. But LeslieAnn let him off the hook and brought her to us. Two. Get the pizzas.

While, in theory, this was helpful, I really should have taken that job upon myself. Because in “get the pizzas”, The Husband escaped what I can only term as “Scream Tag.” This is the game where the girls ran around the house, playing tag and screaming.

I’m not positive that screaming was an explicit rule of play, but to my bleeding ears, it certainly seemed like it.

Surprisingly, The Husband ended up with a much harder job: avoid pajama time.

Before starting the first movie, I tasked the girls with changing into their pjs. I heard The Husband scamper to the kitchen, yelling:

“There’s a naked girl in every room!”

He wasn’t exaggerating. I started in the great room – yup, one stripping down there; moved into the living room – and another in the middle of undressing there; worked my way up the stairs – surprisingly, there was a naked child on the steps, too; finally ending up with a closed door to the bathroom and My Girl’s room. At least two of them had some modesty.

Perhaps I should have clarified as to where the changing into pajamas was to take place.

The Slumber Party Main Event

The main event was the viewing of Descendants 2 and 3. I told My Girl she could only watch two movies, so to drive my OCD husband nuts, she started in the middle of the series.

Between the two movies, in place of cake, we had an ice cream sundae bar. Mind you, this was about 9:30 p.m. and minutes before I told the girls: “Ok… Time to start settling down and getting ready for bedtime.”

Rookie mistake.

You’d think this was my first child. Or my first slumber party.

Wait… It was.

I realized the idiocy of my plan when LeslieAnn’s girl so sweetly thanked me saying:

“My mom would never let me do this! Not just rarely let me do this. But NEVER let me do this!”

Well, shit.

This is where My Girl said: “Raise a glass to freedom!” Thank you, Hamilton.

It’s not like I didn’t know what I was doing. At one point, Monica and I played around with ways to get the girls to actually go to sleep.

My favorite solution was crushing up melatonin capsules and offering it as a sundae topping. Unicorn sprinkles, I would call it. To be clear, I did not do it.

So yeah, bedtime went about as well as you can imagine.

The Slumbering of the Slumber Party

The second movie ended around midnight and I tucked the girls into “bed” – i.e. the couch and air mattress in our great room. After nine minutes of chatting (a deal I made with Jane the day before), I told the girls enough was enough. Time for bed.

The girls actually quieted down pretty quickly. I planned to sleep on the couch in the nearby living room. The Husband, naturally, had gone to bed hours before.

The quiet lasted 15 minutes, during which that time I was congratulating myself of such a successful and easy party.

Another rookie mistake.

Fifteen minutes. Then Little LuLu started to get restless. Then there was a lot of “shhhhhhhh”. When I finally went in to check on them, Cindy Lou started to miss her momma. Her sweet momma is B. Swift, so I don’t blame her there.

But five minutes later, she was in a full-out panic. I tried everything I could think of: I rocked her in my arms, I sympathized, I tried to distract her, I tried to bribe her (my MO), I tried being stern. I figured she would cry herself out. I figured I could outlast her.

I figured wrong.

After about 20 minutes, I called B. Swift hoping she could talk to Cindy Lou and calm her down. But B. Swift said she would come get her. Poor girl. And I mean both of them.

As soon as Cindy Lou heard her momma was coming to rescue her, she became very sleepy. And feel asleep on my lap. I contemplated calling B. Swift back and telling her to stay home, but knowing my luck, Cindy Lou would wake up in two hours and then be in hysterics. And I would forever be the auntie who lied to her and traumatized her for any future slumber parties.

So poor Cindy Lou and poor B. Swift (who had to make the hour and a half round trip) exited the party around 1:30 a.m.

But that’s wasn’t the end for me. Little LuLu also had problems settling down. Since she lives next door, I was a little more willing to let her go home. But obstinate little cutie that she is, she didn’t want to go home. She just didn’t want to go to sleep.

At that point, I was using any weapon at my disposal.

“I’ve already sent one child home,” I told her. “I’ll send you home, too.”

In the back of my mind, I hoped I had built up enough street cred as a cool and fun mom, what with my sundae bar and hair coloring, that the girls didn’t think I was too mean with those words.

I needn’t worry. Those words barely affected Little LuLu. She complained of a tummy ache at that point, so I gave her some children’s Tylenol.

That, to my good fortune, apparently did affect her. She went right to sleep after that. It wasn’t until I was back on the couch, enjoying the silence, that I realized: I may have drugged Little LuLu to sleep… Oh well.

By the way, that was Monica’s reaction when I told her – a very non-judgement shrug.

But once again, that was not the end of my night. Around 2:30 a.m., Jane jolted me awake in a fret.

“I can’t find Little LuLu,” she said.

Cue my heart rate and cold sweat, because, of course, if I was going to lose a child at this slumber party, it made perfect sense to me that it would be Little LuLu. So I rushed into the great room. And Little LuLu was sleeping exactly where I had tucked her in.

“She’s right there!” I pointed out to Jane.

“Oh,” is all she had to say. “I didn’t see her.”

I wonder now if Jane was sleep talking/walking.

After that, I did get a somewhat restful four hours. Somewhat as I was sleeping on the couch. And four hours because all the girls, sans My Girl, were up around 6:30 a.m.

In summary, you can say the slumber party was a success: My Girl said it was “the best birthday party ever!”; 80 percent of the girls who fell asleep at my house also woke up at my house; and one person got a full night’s rest. That person was The Husband who hid upstairs, but sometimes you’ve got to take any wins you can get.