Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Cure to Pride

There is no better way to recognize the reality that you are awfully prideful than by motherhood.

I am convinced that every single politician out there should be forced to experience motherhood 24/7 for at least three months before assuming any position in public office. You want to see humble leadership? That would do it. Yes sirree. No hiding little areas about yourself that would be best undetected. Not with little ones around to proclaim your failures and shine the light on your pride.

I can't even remember the insane amount of times my kids have revealed my flaws. It's uncanny, really. I am not Catholic, but if I were, I would just send one of my kids to confess my sins to the priest because they sure do know them inside and out. Actually, there would probably be a long line of preschoolers and young elementary kids lined up to speak with the man of the cloth about the sins of their mothers. They know us pretty well, after all.

One such instance of being humbled by my kids has, sadly enough, involved behavior at church recently. A friend told me just today how much fun it is to watch my girls as they sit in the pew each week. Note to self: start sitting in the very back.

At our church, the kids have a childrens' bulletin each week where they are supposed to answer basic questions such as who preached, what the title of the message was, and they can draw a picture about something that was said. Pretty straightforward and is supposed to encourage them to listen. Sounds good, right?

Well, two weeks ago, as I was listening to the preached Word of God and kind of having a moment to tell you the truth, I got a little jab in the ribs. I looked over to see the angry expression on my middle child's face. She looked pretty ticked. 

Pointing at her big sister's bulletin, I saw "MY SISTER IS A BIG GRUMP" written in bold letters in the very area she was supposed to be explaining the main idea of the sermon.

She was pleased as a peach with her cleverness at upsetting her sister without saying a word.

I quietly took the paper from her hands, placed it beside me on the pew, delivered an incognito dirty look to the offending child, and resumed listening to the preacher.

A couple days later, I received an email from one of the good folks at church who work with the children. "We sure got a kick out of your daughter's sermon notes this week!" I was aghast. I had specifically instructed her to NOT turn in that bulletin! She must have swiped it when I wasn't looking.

But really, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't so bad. I mean, there are FAR worse things she could have written, and we've been at the same church long enough now that it is not news to anybody that sometimes our family isn't the model church going little clan.

The next week, the girls and I were sitting there again, dressed appropriately (you'd think this was a given but obviously you don't know my youngest child) and looking, well, Christian-ly, for lack of a better term.

I began to hear a little snickering going on beside me. Quiet, trying-to-be-composed kind of snickering. The kind I've done myself many times during church moments when I was supposed to be respectful and quiet. The little girl next to me began shaking a little as she held in her giggles. I looked over to see
what was so funny, and right there plain as day was written the word "SHIT". Not once, but twice on her children's bulletin!!

She looked at me with a little sheepish, guilty-as-sin kind of smile and immediately started erasing it.

Not wanting to publicly embarrass the guilty child, I have chosen this picture of her dressed as an angel.

For the love of all things. This is even worse than a couple weeks ago when another of my children learned to write "butt" and I found it everywhere throughout the house for days! Why do bad words have to be so dadgum easy to spell, anyway?!

I was not about to let THIS bulletin makes its way to the table where they are to be turned in each week. I put it in my purse, carefully folding it so the erased but still legible profanity could not be seen. There was no way this little gem was escaping. I could just imagine the email I would receive for that one...what kind of mother lets her children write things like that at church of all places?! 

Another friend told me today that her young son watches Veggie Tales on her ipad during the service. He just puts in his ear buds, settles in, and enjoys a 30-minute cartoon. Everybody wins.

I am thinking this is not an altogether bad idea. But I might have to make sure they aren't watching
 Princess Leia when she's wearing the gold bikini for Jaba. That would be just my luck. 

Humility. Who knew it was synonymous with motherhood. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Trouble With Literacy

In a former life, I was a school teacher.

I fostered all kinds of educational growth in my students (I hope) and was just so thrilled when I saw the light of understanding in their eyes. It was so satisfying. So fulfilling. So wonderful to play even a small role in their personhood.

So lest I be accused of encouraging ignorance, please keep in mind my past profession and my calling to educate the young people of our world.

But dadgum it, literacy has really become a thorn in my side as a mother. 

Before any of my children could read, things were just so much EASIER. I could spell out things I didn't want their little ears to hear in my conversation and they didn't bat an eye. I could skip long paragraphs of stories at bedtime and as long as I made up something that sounded good in its place, all was well. 
When I was hit with statements such as, "Mommy!? There's Chuck E. Cheese's! We HAVE to go there right now!" I could reply with something like, "Oh, baby, I'm not sure if they're open right now." 
(You know, in THEORY, I could do this. Not that I ever kinda sorta lied about ice cream stores or toy shops being closed when the sign on the door clearly said OPEN. Ahem.)

But you see, when you are the only one around who can read, there's just a freedom there which I have found gets lost in the abyss as your children grow and learn.

Take, for instance, the little incident involving my pre-k child last week. In keeping with my tradition, I began working with her in August to learn how to read. Since all my girls are six when they begin kindergarten, I have tried my best to have them reading or at least well on their way by the time school rolled around. I am a teacher, after all. It would be kind of embarrassing to have the oldest kid in kindergarten who doesn't know any numbers, colors, shapes, or letters for no reason other than her mother was too lazy to work with her in our spare time. Sometimes humiliation is a great motivator, you know?

Anyway, we are about 20 lessons in now and she is doing just beautifully. We are using the book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It really is easy. Ten minutes or so a day and she's already reading simple words and is super proud of herself.

Too proud, actually. This is what got us into trouble last week. 

During one of her lessons, she gasped as the little wheels in her mind turned and she realized, "I know how to spell something!!" 

"What? What can you spell?" I asked her eagerly.

She wrote b-u-t on her paper and looked at me with a gleam in her eye.

"I can spell but!!"

Now, hear me out. I am not advocating what I did here. But you've got to understand something. I have another child who struggles with some dyslexic tendencies and teaching her to read has not been the simplest of tasks. She is such a hard worker and doing great, but it has not been like falling off a log, as those of you who have a child like that in your life can understand. So to have a five year old clearly understanding and catching on very quickly to how the English language works was thrilling! 

 So yes, I made a critical error. I taught her how to spell the word "butt" correctly with two t's. Frankly I was so relieved to see that maybe she would not struggle with dyslexia that I would've been willing to teach her any number of inappropriate words in that moment. "Hey, Leighanne, wanna learn how to spell a funny word for poo? S-h-i-*" (okay, too, I'm sorry and no, I didn't really do that).

 I do kinda pride myself on being able to think of things which appeal to my students to help them remember things, and my method worked like a charm. She giggled and hee hawed as I drew the backside of a stick person with a giant bubble butt and said, "See how this person has TWO butt cheeks? That's how you can remember the word "butt" has two t's!"

We laughed at the silly picture and that was that. A fine bonding moment. Educating my child and all. I was really feeling good.

The next day as I got her ready for school, she presented me with this piece of paper:

"I'm going to take this to school and show my teacher and friends! I can read!! " she proudly informed me.

"Oh, no, Leighanne. I don't think that would be a good idea. That's not the nicest word and I don't think your teacher would want you to share that with the class. That's just between you and me, okay?"

She shrugged and said, "Okay, Mommy," as she scampered off to get her backpack. Phew.

I dropped her off, enjoyed my morning, and made my way back to pick her up at 12:30. 

Her teacher met me at the door.

"Um, you may want to look at the back of Leighanne's paper when you get home. She wrote something special for us today," she said.

My heart kind of caught in my throat for a minute. I MAY have thought one of those four letter words I thankfully had not been wililng to teach her how to spell.

"I bet I can guess," I replied. "I'm so sorry. She figured it out and has been so excited." (I happened to forget to mention that I had been the one to teach her how to spell it.)

"It's okay," her teacher replied. "I just told her that's not a word we use at school."

I thanked her, slightly flustered, and rushed my little Mr. Spell out of the classroom. We had a good little talk about it, she agreed not to write "butt" anymore at school, and all was well. 

Except I keep finding things like THIS all over the house:

And I do mean everywhere. I found about 15 little post its with this word complete with illustrations yesterday. It's like an infestation you just can't get rid of no matter what. 

Me and my bright ideas. That's it. I'm never teaching anyone to read ever again. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Waking Up

Sometimes I feel like I should've been an entertainer.

I should've pursued a career on the stage, and I imagine myself delighting throngs of adoring fans with my many talents. Singing, dancing, being a mime, an acrobat, etc.

But then again, so could virtually EVERY mother out there. 

My talent show is seen daily every morning at 6:50am when I begin waking my sleeping beauties for school.

And fortunately, I take criticism from my audience pretty well and do not let it discourage me from future shows.  It doesn't bother me a bit when they groan and throw the covers over their heads or when they give me the evil eye. 

I set my own alarm for 6:30, giving myself 20 minutes to mentally prepare. I have to get into character, you see. What I really WANT to do is stand at their bedroom doors and mumble, "Get up and get ready," and then walk away. And just like that, they would cooperate and all would be well.

Unfortunately, my children in reality are not quite as cooperative as my children in fantasies. I usually begin with gentleness. I rub their backs, I kiss their cheeks, I whisper good morning into their little ears.

And then comes stage two: role play.

I grab the nearest stuffed animal and begin having a conversation with it. It doesn't matter if it's a bunny, a doll, a bear, or a tree (for daughter sleeps with a little stuffed tree she sewed...maybe she'll be an environmentalist), I talk to it as if it's real. Usually the stuffed animal in my little show does or says something naughty. The kids get a real kick out of that. With their eyes still closed, I'll see the hints of a smile if the stuffed animal does something outrageous enough. I spend a couple minutes in stage two, but if the kids are still not getting up, then it's onto the next act.

Stage three: dancing and singing.

I know! You feel annoyed already, don't you? 

I turn on my ipod and stand on their bed and dance to my heart's content, jostling and disturbing them as much as possible. Van Halen, Journey, or Taylor Swift often help me serenade the little darlings. This stage is usually fairly effective because my kids are NOT in the mood to put up with my singing. But if even that fails, I move onto the final performance.

Act four: acrobatics.

I physically drag my child out of bed. I start by swinging their legs off the edge, stopping them when they try to curl back up, and then either pull them by their arms or put my hands under their backs and lift them. This is getting seriously difficult with my 10-year-old. We don't grow petite people around here.

Have you ever tried to dress an 8-year-old who is standing up but still practically asleep? It ain't easy. I coax little arms into arm holes and shove their little feet into socks (which I'll be honest, usually are not part of the same pair). The hardest part is the pants or shorts. I tug and pull and wish we could just agree that kids could go to school in their pajamas and change later in the day when they feel like it. In fact, that sounds like a pretty great rule in general, doesn't it? (Except okay, nobody really wants to see anybody else in lingerie so we'd have to have rules about decency I suppose). 

Finally up and dressed, we move the show downstairs where I then play the part of fortune teller

It's a little like trying to guess what card someone is holding when I try to guess what they would like for breakfast. And inevitably, the less time we have to eat, the more time consuming the meal they want. Cinnamon rolls? Pancakes? Biscuits? Scrambled eggs?

For the love of all things, why can't they ever just want a bowl of cereal or a pop-tart? I rarely guess correctly and usually just tell them to figure out what they want and let me know when they decide. And of course I never let them eat cookies for breakfast. Ahem. Don't judge me. It's not a regular thing!

And then the moment comes when I wave goodbye and remind them that I love them as they get out of the car with the assistance of a cute 5th grade patrol student who always says to me, "God bless your day!"

Oh, yes, I think to myself as I pull away, God has INDEED blessed my day. And His blessings will continue every day until 3:00. 

I know the afternoon performance is coming. I roll down my window, feel the (stifling) fall breeze, and give myself a little time to recover before I become the homework cheerleader in just seven short hours. 

I wonder if I could take my little act on the road. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Truth About Show and Tell

I want to address a topic that is causing me some distress lately. 

School has started and we are all getting adjusted to a new routine, figuring out teacher expectations, and trying to never forget important things such as signing our young students' homework journals each evening. 

I have been a little resentful that my children got adorable new outfits and shoes when I am the one who feels like I am carrying most of the responsibility since they are still in lower elementary school. I mean, seriously, who's REALLY in charge of making sure homework gets done and memory work gets memorized when your kid is in second grade?

That would be YOU, Mom.

This week, I had to remember to give my oldest daughter $5 for a recorder for music class. Oh, heaven help us all...WHY do we WANT children to learn how to play plastic flutes?! Seems a little cruel to the audience, especially when the concert will be in a large activity room with painted cinder block walls and a painted concrete floor, just perfect for very loud echoes. Forty some 10-year-olds playing high pitched toys is rather hard on the old ears. I reminded myself every night for several nights to give her the money the following morning, yet I still ended up forgetting and our kind carpool buddy loaned her the five bucks. Sheesh.

Since school began August 7th, I have re-learned all the continents and oceans, memorized several catechisms and Bible verses, studied the four layers of soil, memorized some Latin vocabulary words, and made sure my kids wear the appropriate clothing for PE days and chapel days and such. 

I've remembered to pack lunches and snacks and water bottles every day so far. 

I've remembered to turn in field trip permission slips and to attend the volunteer orientation.

And yet, as is bound to happen with me, I was met dead on with something I had forgotten last week. 

Something BIG. 

It was a typical school morning of running around and making sure everyone at least kinda resembled a well-groomed child who had definitely NOT eaten brownies for breakfast because I'd baked some the night before and left them in plain sight. I gave the usual hugs and kisses and "have a great day" smile to them as they made their way out of the house. I was thinking I had made it another morning and everyone was on time and I was really doing pretty great at all this remembering stuff. I actually even considered volunteering to be room mom for my older daughter's class. I could totally handle that. I LOVE delegating and sending emails and actually am pretty good at administrative tasks. I could be the room mom all the teachers wish they had! I reminded myself to send an email to the teacher right after the kids left. I was feeling good. Competent. In control of the chaos. 


My daughter came bursting back in the door with a look of anguish on her face. 

She pretty much looked nothing like this in that moment, but if her mother had remembered show and tell, this is what she WOULD have looked like.

"MOM!!! It's Friday! I need something for show and tell!!!" 

Well, crud. There went my perfect record of remembering. And to a second grader, this was a

BIG deal. In her mind, it could definitely ruin her entire school year. You remember show and tell. You NEVER wanted to be the poor schmuck who had nothing to show OR the resourceful but unsuccessful kid who resorted to showing the class his plastic pencil sharpener he kept in his desk.

I looked around frantically for something, ANYTHING she could take to school. Her ride was waiting and we did not have time for this crisis. Her teacher had requested that the students bring something they had made or gotten on a trip or anything that had special meaning. 

My mind raced...what to grab? What would work? 

I was seriously about to raid my dish towel drawer to find one that she could say her parents got as a wedding gift 13 years ago. I could feel the sweat starting to prick my forehead. She would be the dish towel girl for the rest of the year. You don't live this stuff down easily, you know. I could just picture her trying to sell a ratty, plaid towel that had seen better days as an article of mystery and fascination. She would be the kid who everyone pitied, shaking their heads sadly because her mother clearly forgot to help her prepare for this, the most important event of the week.

And then, just as I was pondering if the Christmas tree stand in the garage would work, my daughter had a brilliant idea. 


She made this little flower craft this past summer at cousin camp with my parents. It was sitting right by the door to the garage because I haven't quite figured out what to do with it. Yea for procrastination! It saved the day! She scooped it up happily and the world continued turning, the universe back in proper order with this crisis narrowly averted.

I breathed a sigh of relief as she climbed into the waiting car and thanked my lucky stars for super grandparents who actually did crafts with my kids. I also made a mental note to put a show and tell reminder on my phone. 

Still haven't quite remembered to actually DO that when I'm holding my phone, but you know, in theory it will work.

Good luck this school year with all your remembering, mamas. This is serious business and there will be a final exam in the form of end of the year parties, field trips, projects, and general random mayhem during the month of May. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Things They Don't Tell You

When you become a mother, there are certain skills you expect you will need. 

For example, if you are a mother it's probably helpful if you know how to do things like make sure bottles are an appropriate temperature for babies, how to comb hair without major battles, and how to make sure different foods on the same plate do not touch one another. 

I expected all this as I held each of my newborns in my arms. I understood the requirements and felt up to the challenge.

Or so I thought.

Ten years into my career as a mother, I still find myself woefully lacking in one very critical skill:


 Labor classes are all well and good, but what we REALLY need is a class dedicated to teaching mothers how to reason with miniature people, how to make deals with five year olds, how to play on the emotions of their children to negotiate acceptable outcomes.

I negotiate all the time around here, but the one area I find most challenging is when trying to talk an extremely hostile child into taking medicine of any kind. I mean, really, it gets ugly enough, tense enough, that I could call in an FBI professional negotiator and within fifteen minutes they'd be throwing their hands up and walking out the door. If there were actual hostages they wouldn't stand a chance of survival.

There is no shaking this kid. She ain't gonna budge.

Just tonight I was wishing I had gone thru official negotiation training. My middle child stepped on an anthill yesterday. Throughout the day today, we watched as her ankle continued swelling. Around noon, I gently suggested she might want to consider taking one teaspoon of Benadryl. 

You can imagine how that was accepted. Gasping. Shrieking. Running to her room to hide.

Afternoon rolled around, and her ankle continued to swell. Again, I meekly mentioned how Benadryl would likely help the situation. We had neighbor children playing on our trampoline, gleefully jumping and having a blast. I reminded her that little girls with swollen ankles do not get to jump on trampolines. She just crossed her arms, reclined on our patio furniture, and silently watched the fun happening without her.

When her daddy arrived home from work, he took one look at her ankle and demanded the Benadryl be taken. Somehow daddies seem to get the attention of children easier than mothers. But even so, it was a no go. 

Throughout the years, we have tried EVERYTHING with this child. Promises of dessert, an extra book at bedtime, a surprise from the dollar store, discipline, a million dollars...she is tougher to break than a kid strung out on a cartoon marathon.

It was looking dire. I was having visions of an imminent trip to the ER for a shot of Benadryl (to the tune of $400 or so). At this rate, my daughter was going to look like she had elephantitis if she didn't take one lousy teaspoon of medicine.

And then, like a glorious angel of mercy, our neighbor walked in. Sensing the situation, this brilliant mother of four suggested we mix the medicine with a little bit of Coke.

"I don't like Coke," our daughter announced. This from the child who any other day would be fine if Coke were the only beverage she had for the rest of her life. 

"But Lauren," our neighbor said,"your medicine is cherry flavored. It will be cherry coke!" 

And that was it. That was the ticket. My child's eyes lit up and she couldn't wait to get her hands on that magic concoction. We watched in amazement as she drank it down and enjoyed the accolades of our neighbor and her children. It baffled me to be honest. I've tried mixing her medicine in Sprite, orange juice, anything I could think of in the past and it's all been rejected. 

I felt rather silly at that moment. A good negotiator would know his subject's favorite things, his weaknesses, his passions. I've had eight years with this kid, after all. I should've known cherry coke would get the results we needed. But then I remembered that the tricky part is that the likes and dislikes of children change faster than Taylor Swift's latest boyfriend. It's always a guessing game as to what will work.

The good news is that she took the medicine. She didn't cry hard enough to make herself throw it up, and we didn't even have to double team her to get her to take it. Success. My husband and I shared a look of relief, leaned back in our chairs (after removing the gummy treats stuck to the seats), and congratulated ourselves on a job well done. Another one for the books. The negotiators had won in the end.

And I could've kissed my dear neighbor's feet.

 So what are your secrets of negotiating, mothers? What's been the magic element to persuade your little darlings to cooperate?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Runner

It's amazing, really!

Lightning speed unparalleled by any grown up in history. 

For real. Somebody please tell me how she does it. Her and the rest of the miniature people around three years old.

I assume (strictly based upon the existence of leashes for children) that I cannot be the only mother who has experience with a "runner". 

A runner is a child who has a seeming supernatural ability to be in one spot one moment, and in the very next microsecond, be NOWHERE remotely close to that spot. I'm convinced that _____, author of the Harry Potter series, came up with her idea of apparating by observing a young child such as I've described. Apparating, in her books, is when the students of Hogwarts had to learn to disappear from one spot and transport themselves to someplace completely different in a split second. Who knew this wasn't strictly fictional?

Although their giftedness does seem to diminish with age, apparating children are nothing to underestimate. 

She can disappear in seconds. 

Take, for example, the first time I realized I had a runner in my brood. We had made a family trip of going to Lowe's for some tool or some such thing my husband needed. I had her standing right NEXT to me. Literally. One foot away from me. 

I looked a little closer at whatever product had caught my interest just so I could see the price. It took exactly .75 seconds. In that time, I lost my child. 

Before it was all said and done, our entire family was searching, strangers were searching, employees were combing the aisles, and the entire store was on lockdown. I was getting a little panicked at that point. 

And then, out of nowhere, an employee came walking towards us, hand in hand with our little runner. You know where she was? The absolute FIRST place I should have thought to look: the toilets on display in the bathroom remodeling section (she was in the midst of potty training torture and was of course slightly obsessed at the time). 

Yet this made no sense to me. It was just not possible that her chubby little legs had carried her THAT instantly out of the aisle we had been in and all the way across that huge warehouse of a store! 

Apparating, I tell you! 

We saw the same thing at our recent trip to Disney World. I did not let that child more than an arm's length away if she didn't have her luggage tag necklace around her neck with my phone number. My parents were with us, so that made FOUR adults plus two big sisters to watch this kid's whereabouts. And still, still she escaped us! Not once, not twice, THREE times the runner disappeared into the masses of people. We even had to lockdown the Dumbo ride to locate her. This made us VERY popular with other guests in the park.

The runner was riding with ME. After all the drama we caused, no way was I letting her on an elephant without me. She'd find a way to disappear, I have no doubt.

It was NOT the happiest place on earth for my child when she was found, let me tell you. 

I've seen mothers around town with that crazed, wild-eyed look in their eye when their child has apparated. We don't need extra cardio workouts when we have a runner we're responsible for. Our hearts reach an active heart rate countless times a day as we feverishly search again and again and again.

Hang in there, mothers of runners. And ditch the high heels. It's sneakers only for the next eight years when in public. 

And never, EVER forget to fortify your dressing room so your runner can't escape while you are indecent. It's actually fairly traumatizing to have to prance through a clothing store searching for your escape artist while not entirely appropriately dressed. 

What? Am I my sister's keeper? 

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Blame Game

It's all their fault. 

It's almost as if they are purposefully scheming ways to make us gain weight.

Yes, yes, our children are technically responsible for the 25 pounds (ahem) we put on during pregnancy. But we can't really blame them for that part, I suppose. I mean, it's not like they're actually forcing us to eat Krispy Kreme donuts and ice cream. They are confined within our wombs, for heaven's sake! There is nothing they can do to force us to guzzle down milkshakes. 

But we still blame them.

So okay, I can concede that our kids often get a bad rap when being blamed for anything over the doctor recommended weight gain during pregnancy, and most of the time it's probably not their fault.

But man, oh man, once they're out and among us in the world, that's where their innocence screeches to a halt. 

Those of you in the throes of motherhood with anyone under the age of eight will understand. You want to eat well. Really, you do.  You look longingly at the smart outfits hanging in your closet that are still a few lbs. away. You're trying to be disciplined. The problem is that your child allows you one minute of eating time for each year of their age. So, if you have a one-year-old, you are granted one full minute at mealtimes. A two-year-old give you two minutes, and so on. 

If your child is under the age of one, you are just out of luck, dearie. You may as well have an intravenous line inserted for a high calorie liquid diet 'cause you ain't gonna be sitting down for the entirety of an actual meal til the cows come home. 

You would just kind of prefer to not BE the cow.

So at first glance, you'd think it would be EASY to lose weight once your child is born. But what nobody tells you is that your kid is like a trained navy seal in finding ways to derail your mission to healthy eating. 

You will even go to extraordinary measures like THIS to get your kids to spend more time eating their dinner:

taco teddy bears made by yours truly...still didn't work in getting them to slow down

Let's say you are out for dinner. Little darling is right there with you, of course, and you have dragged half of creation to the restaurant in the empty hope that he will be occupied long enough to allow you to eat in a manner that does not suggest being raised in a barn. You know, good manners and such.

You scour the menu for the lighter side options. After all, 'lil bit is nearly a year old now, you really should be starting to loosely resemble the woman you used to be in a former life. 

Just when you think you have found a salad option that actually looks somewhat appetizing (but for's just fancy good can it be?), Junior reminds you of his presence by dumping his entire bowl of cheerios on the floor and trying to break out of his high chair prison. 

Salad option is now out the window. Why? You now have 45 seconds before a meltdown. Have you ever tried to eat a salad in under a minute? Impossible. Pretty much anything that requires a fork is out, actually. 

And so, with a sigh, you tell the 20-year-old waitress with tiny shorts and dazzling smile that
you'll have the chicken fingers and fries. It's quick. It's bite-size. It's convenient for sharing little pieces with the 25-lb. monster next to you.

My husband commented the other day that I have slowed down when it comes to eating. The girls had of course finished their meals at Newk's with the speed of light and here I was, still slowly picking over my salad, behaving as if I were on a business lunch or something. The rumblings of complaints were beginning to grow louder, and the "MOM! HURRY UP! AREN'T YOU DONE YET?" comments were reaching higher decibel levels.

Blast it all. Just when I thought I might be at the homestretch of these years when my kids force me to eat hand held food at all times! Should've stuck with the club sandwich and chips. 

So don't feel too bad, mothers. It's a conspiracy. They are out for our money, our time, and our thighs. 

And they're winning. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I am officially uncool.

I mean, SO far from being cool that I can't possibly hope for ever being back in the game. 

I thought I had a little more time! I wasn't quite ready for the seal and stamp of being someone's old lady who doesn't know cool from social disaster when it comes to, well, anything.

I mean, we all remember suspecting that our mothers actually hated us based on some of the things we were dressed in as young girls (okay, for me, it was really only when I looked back at pictures and saw ensembles my mother had agreed to allow me out of the house in that I began to wonder if she really loved me at all).

But now? Now I've joined the ranks of clueless mother who would make embarrassing fashion choices for my daughter if given free reign. 

I took my oldest child to buy some summer shoes this afternoon. This is more difficult than you would at first imagine. For starters, she is EXTREMELY picky. This has been a problem with her and footwear since she was old enough to shake her head in protest. 

Our second challenge is that, at nine years old, she is already wearing a size 8 in women's shoes. This cuts down considerably on appropriate style choices for a young girl (Also cuts into the budget...whew!).

Today's search was just one in a long series of tries and misses when it comes to shoes. We struck out at Target, we struck out at Kinnucan's, we'd already been to the Shoe Department and I kinda refuse to go to the Clark store for someone who still (secretly) uses a night light. 

And so, in a last ditch effort, we did the unthinkable.

We went to Wal-Mart. 

I know! I heard you gasp and cringe with me.

And just like every other place, all the styles she liked in the youth section were not available in her size and we were forced to browse the women's sizes. 

Success! I couldn't believe it! I found her a totally cute pair of brown, leather sandals that were really comfortable and just what she needed! At WAL-MART of all places!

As I ooed and aaahed over the cute factor of the shoes, I was given the look that all mothers know well. The look that communicates without a single word spoken that you are without a doubt THE most pitiful, completely disconnected with society weirdo ever born. 

My daughter absolutely insisted that the sandals were much too "fancy" to be worn with shorts and t-shirts and were only appropriate for church. I tried in vain to explain to her that just because they weren't flip-flops or crocs, they were still totally cute and perfectly acceptable for romping around in the yard or riding her bike. 

She would have none of it. 

And in the single most horrifying and humiliating moment so far as a mother (when it comes to discovering what my preteen daughter thinks of me), she said the following:

"I'm going to find somebody here to ask and see what they think about these shoes. We'll see if they agree with you that these shoes are okay."

Record scratch.

What?! You are going to take the fashion advice of a potential "Wal-Martian" over the input of your mother? For the love of mike! I mean, look at the sort of people who are now in line ahead of me when it comes to fashion advice!

It all became clear in that moment. My mind quickly reviewed the times just in the past couple weeks I've been informed that I am out of touch with today's styles. My four-year-old took one look at me when I picked her up from preschool and (very graciously) waited until we got into the privacy of the minivan to ask me incredulously WHAT I was wearing and tell me that NOBODY would like me. 

I also seem to remember my middle daughter saying nothing except, "Yikes" at my plan for church one morning recently. 

Have I ALWAYS been this fashion ignorant? When did this happen? Should I be expecting to see Stacy and Clinton jump out with my name on a credit card at any moment? In what other areas am I completely inept and not aware of
it yet?


God's single most effective tool for humility. Excuse me while I go ask someone like this if they can help me. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mother of the Year

I have a problem. 

Not really even a problem, per se. More like a teeny little issue. Hardly worth mentioning, actually. Certainly not bad enough that it needs real attention. I can stop anytime I want. 

The only reason I even bring it up is because I MAY have begun noticing very insignificant and probably over-thinking-it flags that I could POSSIBLY be passing on this teeny issue to my children. 

Okay, okay.

My name is Sharon and I am an inappropriate laugher.

I can't help it. Without fail, if I witness someone involved in unfortunate events such as tripping, hitting their heads, suffering MINOR, non-life threatening
injuries, or otherwise embarrassing themselves, it just starts happening. A little giggle at first, but before I know it I'm doubled over practically crying and gasping for air due to laughter.

You can imagine how helpful this is when trying to be a good parent and model compassion to my girls.

Take, for instance, the somewhat unfortunate incident I witnessed this week. My parenting skills were downright deplorable because I could not for the life of me stop laughing.

Here's how it went down:

We were on our way to the beach for a lovely week of vacation. As we all know, when traveling with females, daddies are forced to stop more often than they'd prefer for bathroom breaks. So, we pull into a reasonably clean looking gas station and proceed to take care of nature's call. As I emerge with my middle daughter from the restroom, I see my husband and our youngest child (the one I described here... standing at the register ready to pay for some sugary snack she talked him into buying for her.

My husband, seeing that he would inevitably be asked by his other daughter to buy her something as well, pulled Leighanne away from the counter and told the guy behind them to go ahead while he waited for Lauren to pick something out.

Well, this was injustice of the worst kind to our 4-year-old. A travesty, really. War crime. 

Letting someone in FRONT of her when she'd been patiently waiting in line for her candy?

Uh-uh. This wasn't gonna fly.

And so, in one swift moment faster than the naked eye could behold, our brown-eyed, curly headed little darling sent her little bony elbow flying right towards its target. And she NEVER misses.

I am more than a little reluctant to tell you her target was her poor, unsuspecting daddy. And she nailed him right where it counts. 

He's a loving daddy! Why would she do that to him?!

It was as if the place froze in time. The gas station attendant stared at them. The guy who had gone ahead of them in line was horrified (sympathy pains, most likely). Others in the store just stood with their mouths hanging open. Our other two daughters gaped a little bit at the absolute coldness of their little sister's attack. 

The only sound was my husband gasping with his hands on his knees to try to brace himself against the pain and the darkness threatening to overtake his vision.

Oh, and the sound of our little darling's sweet footsteps as she marched herself out of the store and waited on the sidewalk, arms crossed and her angry eyes still boring into everyone who crossed her path. 

Okay, okay, there was ONE more sound - the pitifully inadequate sound of me trying desperately NOT to let myself laugh out loud. 

I mean, what kind of wife am I? Who else would EVER laugh when her poor husband has just been attacked unawares and he's literally standing in front of strangers and seeing stars flash before his pain-stricken eyes? And what kind of mother would EVER, EVER respond to that kind of defiant and horrifying behavior by LAUGHING? 

Yours truly. 

I know! It's ridiculous! Mother of the year with this one, folks.

I headed straight outside (after wiping the tears from my cheeks and trying to think sad thoughts) and planted myself directly before my 4-year-old. Kneeling down, I placed both my hands on her shoulders and looked straight into her eyes.

Come on, you can do it. Keep it together. You must look stern just for a second to discipline your naughty child. Deep breath. This is important, Sharon! You don't want her to grow up to be a dangerous, violent woman who abuses her husband! I told myself.

But I couldn't do it. It just wasn't in me. I had to start over three times in my little speech about not hitting daddy in the bottom because I couldn't say it with a straight face. 

Even my older daughters were telling me to stop laughing. It was awful. 

After my third attempt, I finally communicated to my daughter that her behavior was unacceptable, and at that moment my poor husband came (somewhat gingerly) walking out of the store. He walked straight to the van, not casting so much as a glance at either of us. 


I need help. I seriously do. I could start a support group. "Inappropriate Laughers Anonymous"? "Losers Only Laugh" (hey, we could call it LOL meetings!)?

It is just not normal that my fondest memories are times when my husband has tripped on a rug and fallen face first on the floor, when my mother-in-law hit her head on the corner of the cabinets, or when my friend hurt herself during a vacation Bible school lesson she was teaching (long story, don't ask, but it was seriously funny). 

Am I the only one having trouble being a responsible parent when it comes to this kind of thing? I can't NOT laugh. It's a curse all the women in my family suffer from. My mother is legendary for her inability to remain composed when someone suffers a teeny bit of pain. I can just see my girls as adults. They'll be shunned as unfeeling, hideous monsters who laugh at the misfortune of others.

Add it to the list of things they'll need therapy for thanks to having me as their mother. And please, please don't trip or mash your fingers or stub your toe in front of me. I can't deal with it like a normal adult. Even right now a little smile is on my face just at the thought of it.  

Yes, go ahead and judge me. I know. I KNOW. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Summer in the City

The countdown to summer is upon us.

The long, lazy days filled with swimming and cookouts and vacations is nearly here. 

As you will recall, when you were a kid this was the absolute most glorious time of the year. Closing the schoolbooks and packing up all the things in your desk to take home was one of the great events of your childhood. You felt proud about the accomplishments of completing another school year and eager to begin your carefree, lovely days of summer. You were on cloud nine with blissful expectation of the next three months.

Mothers know about feelings and clouds, too. 

The only difference is, instead of being ON cloud nine, sometimes cloud nine descends UPON us, suffocating us in slight despair over what the heck we are going to do with our children for three whole months. Don't get me wrong, we are eager for a break in the crazy schedules of carpool and homework and last minute projects and sporting events, and we really DO want to spend more time with the kiddos at home, but we also know a few unshakable truths.

*The first three days will be wonderful. Everyone will sleep in, the slow pace of nowhere to be will be lovely, and the kids will be happy riding their bikes and playing outside.

*Then day 4 will hit. And with it comes all the hitting among siblings as well.

*Your backyard will become quite similar to a warzone because that's where you send your kids when you tell them to just "go work it out amongst themselves".

*Your pantry and refrigerator will be raided so often you will have to put a lock and key on it to prevent unsupervised searches for "healthy snacks".

*By day 7 you will be searching for another Vacation Bible School or day camp to send the kids to. You will become known as the VBS lady because you and your darlings make the rounds to every church in town no matter if it's Episcopalian, Methodist, Catholic, or some weird snake handling kind of place. Hey kids, they all teach you about Jesus, right?! Let's go!!

*Every few days, your children will do something so incredibly sweet and childishly wonderful that you will take pictures and find the strength to go on. Case in point: this pic of our youngest when she wanted to play "wedding". WHO can possibly resist that charm? You'll wish your babies could stay home with you every day for forever.

*Your yard will look like a mating spot for mosquitoes thanks to the hours of sprinklers, slip 'n slides, and baby pools and the standing water those activities tend to leave behind. 

*TiVo will be working overtime.

*Storeowners are afraid as well of the little summertime shoppers enjoying their freedom. By July, you'll see all sorts of signs like this one displayed in front windows.

*By day 24, you will be asking sweet Jesus what on earth you did to need the discipline reserved for the utmost of sinners.

*You will learn to be afraid, very afraid of the free kids' movie days at local theaters. Don't believe me? You've never been. Just imagine 200 screaming children throwing popcorn and crawling over one another and the trips to the restroom (which has been used exclusively by kids under the age of 10 that entire day). You'll learn that paying $50 to go to a regular showing time is money well spent.

*August will begin approaching as a beacon of light in the darkness. A source of hope in the mire of fussing, boredom, and television.

Ah, yes, the dog days of summer are nearly here. The little backpacks are rolling your way very, very soon.

Got your game face on? 

Friday, May 3, 2013

There are no secrets once you become a parent.

Do these two look like they can keep ANYTHING on the down low to you?

I've often felt I should just save my children the time and begin conversations with total strangers we come upon by telling them things such as:

*how much I weigh
*how long it takes sometimes in the bathroom
*how I sometimes use my kids as an excuse to get out of things
*that I tell them to go watch tv so I can take a nap

And these are just the short list of embarrassing things my children have blurted out without discretion.

"We're late because my mom had to use the bathroom."

"Mom!  I'm right here! You don't need to get off the phone so you can find me!" (and of course screamed loudly enough that the person on the other end of the line clearly heard every word)

Yep. Kids are terrible secret keepers. And it would be one thing if it were just embarrassing secrets about ME that they blurt out. But more times than not, they've been known to proclaim their thoughts about others loudly enough to wake the dead.

I talked to a friend just this week who is living in continual fear that her young children will blurt out a totally humiliating story they know about her. That's the kind of fear that will keep you awake at night trying to figure out ways to bribe the little blabbers into silence. 

A couple years ago we were struggling with my littlest one and her running commentary on physical attributes. "MOM!!! That man has a BIG bottom!" I grabbed one of the samples at Costco and stuffed it in her sweet little mouth as we rushed by.

Just this past Sunday we sat reverently in church (or as reverently as we ever sit between kids sprawling out on the floor under our pew, silently fussing with each other and elbowing one another during prayer, and playing musical chairs between my husband and me). 

Anyway, we happened to be seated in an area where there was a definite odor of mothballs. I don't know the source, so don't even ask. It could've been us for all I know. But regardless of where it was coming from, my middle daughter discovered she has a VERY low tolerance for that particular aroma.

And I mean really low.

What else was she supposed to do? She knew better than to make a big scene by fussing loudly and complaining about the smell. So, in an effort to be discreet and keep her secret politely, she buried her nose in my dress and would NOT take a breath without her hand covering her nose. She literally kept her mouth and nose covered the entire service. I had to pry her nose off my person several times while trying to take notes on suffering and God's plan in it.

 Secret keeping and kids is just not compatible.

Please, relax and tell me your darkest secrets. Nothing escapes these chocolate mustache lips. 

A fried of mine recently took her young daughter to a public restroom at a store. 

"Mom! It smells like tuna in here! Gross!" 

The pair of shoes in the next stall didn't move an inch.

If you are a mother and your child has figured out how to speak, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's these moments we just want to melt into the floor or say something like, "Little girl! That's not a nice thing to say. Where is your mommy? Go find her!" 

And my favorite was several years ago. NO secret keeping then, either. 

My dear friend, my YaYa Sisterhood kind of friend, had us over and served us homemade cookies. My little minions padded up to the table where they were presented with fresh cookies and juice. 

My middle darling, about five years old at the time, took one big bite. She then looked at the cookie in her hand, put it down, and looked straight at me.

Don't do it, I thought silently. I pleaded to her with my eyes. DO NOT say it!!

Indignantly and very matter of factly, she turned to me, picked up her cookie, rapped it against the table and said, "Mom! These things are hard as a rock!"

Thank heavens this was my YaYa kind of friend. She just laughed and still teases my daughter about it now and then. But oh, the humiliation it could have been.

And finally, because I love you readers so much (and because sometimes you just need to feel like someone else has been more humiliated than you by their secret blasters), I will briefly mention the ultimate secret telling. I will just say it involved lingerie which had been discovered in my closet, a child who loves to play dress up, and later a conversation with her teachers about how her mommy has this funny little dress. I can just see that little secret being told in her Sunday School class, too.

Oh. My. Heavens.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Baby Blues

The Baby Blues.

It's not what you think.

I know you may be assuming from that title that I am feeling the ache of empty arms since I no longer have babies in the house.  I am staring longingly at the snuggly bundles of goodness I see with other mommies at Target or being pushed in their little strollers throughout my neighborhood.  You might think I am pining away for another baby and begging my husband for #4.

Sister, you couldn't be further from the truth.

In this case, "the baby blues" is referring to the fact that I am about 99.9% positive that my baby, the four-year-old, is indeed going to kill me before it's all said and done.

I'm serious. If this child had been born first, she would be an only child because my husband and I would be scared to death to risk it again. For heaven's sake! Our first child was totally false advertising. She had us thinking this parenting gig was a piece of cake. What was everybody whining about? Our second child was a teeny bit more challenging in temperament, but still, we were feeling pretty confident that we were exceptionally gifted at parenting.

And then...the baby was born. And we were instantly in love. 

The good times are SO good.  She is the very picture of sweetness.  I mean, seriously, look at this kid. Adorable. She's funny and smart and imaginative and totally lovable.

But the bad times? Well, let's just examine the evidence. Perhaps some of you mothers out there can identify with my baby blues because you're just as bewildered as I am over how in the world you're going to manage to raise your own little darling.

Exhibit A:

Last week I took the kids and bought each of them a new pair of summer shoes. The oldest chose flip flops, the middle one wanted waterproof shoes, and the baby wanted these cute purple crocs with a big flower on them. She was happy as a clam and couldn't even wait til we got out of the parking lot to put them on. She was smiling from ear to ear.

And Exhibit B, a mere two days later:

That's right. That's duct tape you see there holding the crocs together. 

Someone was unhappy because she got overruled and did not get to have Chick-fil-a for dinner. Oh, the humanity of it all. It was just more than her "eet mor chikin" heart could handle. She just couldn't contain her emotions and those little crocs were in the line of fire. They paid the ultimate price.

Exhibit C:

These are the only pair of shorts the child owns that she will actually wear. And you know what? This mom has decided that battle is not worth the emotional cost to fight. The result? She wears the exact same thing to school most days. Yep. Literally holding clothes on your child to prevent them from being stripped off in the parking lot of the school will greatly deter your determination to dress your daughter in a lovely variety of cute outfits. I know, I know, some of you are saying, "Well, honey, why don't you just let her pick out what she wants to wear the night before?"

Sounds so simple, doesn't it? And it would be, except my child suffers from a rare condition I like to call "bedtime skitzophrenia". She lays out her clothes happily and smiles so angelically as I tuck her in, assuring me that she can't wait to wear them in the morning.

And then morning arrives. Somehow the hours between 8pm and 7:30am completely and 100% change all her favorite choices into the most despised items in the universe. 

For cryin' out loud. I am pretty sure I am going to get stopped by the staff at her mother's day out one of these days with concerns that my child is not being well taken care of. You see, I was so frustrated with her I told her I refuse to buy her new shoes for one month, so if she wants to wear the crocs, she'd better be okay with parading duct tape for all to see. This in addition to the fact that she lets me do her hair with bows or ponytails and then immediately rips them out before she gets to school leaves her looking a little like a pitiful orphan child. And don't forget she's wearing the same outfit to boot.

Babies of the family. What would we do without them? How boring it would be without literally chasing my child through stores and searching for her at Disney World (FOUR times!) and pleading with her to change her clothes. We're not totally sure where this child came from, but we do know this: she will be the one who takes care of us in our old age.

How's that for scary? 

Please, tell me I'm not the only mama out there wondering how on earth she will manage her
"strong-willed" baby. We must stand together!
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