Category Archives: parenting fails

epic failures as a parent who tries… but doesn’t always win.

Parent Fail #437: So I took my kids to Chick-fil-A…

So I took my kids to Chick-fil-A for dinner tonight. Hubby had rehearsal, and I thought since they hadn’t had it in a few days, it was a good dinner option for just the four of us. I was actually pretty pleased with how the whole experience was going; they ate well, played nicely, and had even exchanged their toys for ice cream without any meltdowns. Finally, I gave them the five minute warning before we left to come home.

Then the two minute.

Then the “One more slide down, and then get your shoes on!”

J came out first… my sweet little three and a half year old. He was still squealing, but carried his socks and shoes to our table. EK, my five year old, typical oldest child, came next, her shoes already on. It became clear I was going to have to drag D, my only semi-coherently communicating two year old, out of the play area by force.

As I was wrangling D out from the top of where I could possibly reach inside that sticky, primary-colored plastic, I saw EK next to the door to leave the restaurant, her head turned, looking for me. Assuming she was just being impatient, I almost ignored her, until I didn’t see J.

I bolted out the door of the play area, knowing D probably wasn’t going anywhere anyway. EK shouted at me that J had run outside, just as I saw his shoes and socks at our table. My heart began to pound in my chest, afraid that the Chick-fil-A local high school fundraiser dinner rush was the optimal time for my kid to get snatched, or run over. You know, worst case scenario stuff. (Spoiler: he is fine.)

As I told EK to get back to D in the play area and wait there, I ran smack into my savior – a woman holding my giggling son by the arm, saying, “I’m just worried about this child!” I snatched (see the irony?) said giggling child, and began reprimanding and crying simultaneously. Then, I managed to look at my savior, the woman who had prevented my child from being run over or snatched by a stranger… Full into the face of a woman I knew. A sweet family friend, a mom of several littles herself, who just happened to be walking into Chick-fil-A empty-handed, leaving a free hand to grab my wayward child. Bless her heart, she didn’t know when she chose her dinner location how she would cause tears of relief to run down my face. (And also a long talk about safe choices, followed by a consequence of skipping his nightly TV time.) This parent fail is just one more example of how it takes a tribe, y’all. Do the good works for your fellow mamas.

Halloween Fail

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus

My family is a Disney-loving crew. Hubby and I grew up watching the movies, visiting Disney world, collecting paraphernalia and loving every minute, so why shouldn’t we do that with our kids?

That being said, we recognized this year as the perfect year for a group costume. We could still dictate what the kids would dress up as, and pull off a silly, matching family costume. Because we’re a group of five, we decided on the Incredibles.

True story: Hubby and I were Mr. and Mrs. Incredible before we had kids (see below) because we happen to have pretty good body types for it – aka Hubby is a big, strong dude, and I have short hair and hips. (Disclaimer: our attempt to make Hubby’s hair blond simply turned it green. Oops.)

So naturally, with that being our best costume together ever, we decided to bring it back with our three kids. I started looking for the costumes (less iron-on this time) and rounding up everyone’s parts. I got really excited, and let the kids run around in their outfits several times. This week, Hubby and I finally tried on ours!

Oh crap.

We aren’t huge people. Okay, well, fine. Hubby is a heavyweight wrestler, but I ordered him the largest size so it should’ve been fine. But I’m not a huge person! And I ordered my costume based on their sizing chart! I should’ve known that superhero outfits would be… well… tight. And that a $30 costume wouldn’t be… uh… totally well-made. So naturally, Hubby and I are melted and poured into our costumes. Because I ordered them according to size charts. UGH I don’t want to go to my church’s Trunk or Treat in a costume fit for a Sig Ep party. So I get on figuring out how to be a little more comfortable and less… risqué.

It just so happens that I have a friend who had the same idea I did – family of 5 Disney lovers, young kids – obviously they’re also the Incredibles. I shot her a text – “What do I do?!” She said, “Oh, you’re also Elastigirl: Brazilian Edition?” Yikes. Looks like we are both in a pinch – literally. We each brainstormed ideas of what to put on top to just cover up – black bathing suit bottoms? Probably not that helpful. A tutu? Black granny panties? Finally I decided on a black skirt I have that would cover more than a tutu would, and be more comfortable to boot. Hubby decided to wear a pair of black shorts over his, and a red shirt underneath. Preventing a wardrobe malfunction was a little more difficult than I had anticipated.

So now, after much deliberation on what to wear, how to wear it, and all the excitement building for the last few weeks, two out of our three kids are sick. The other probably will have it soon, so she’s also in quarantine. No trunk or treat. No visiting neighbors. No collecting candy from every house on the block. No wearing our costumes, unless it’s while we sit in our house with the lights off. This Halloween still ended up being a huge fail.

This is us, on our back porch, before I put a note on the door and turned the lights out.

This post is part of my NaBloPoMo, where I publish a piece every day in November. Many of the posts will be writing exercises, sometimes straying from my usual style. 

How to Achieve the Perfect Family Photo

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus.

As you start thinking ahead to the holidays, you might be pondering ways to get the perfect family photograph. Whether you want to frame it as a gift for Grandma, or plaster it on a card to send to 500 of your closest friends, getting a perfect photo of your entire family is likely on your to-do list. If you’re like me, and you have young children, I have a few easy tips to make the process easier, and ensure a valuable, timeless product at the end of your session. You don’t want your Christmas card to look like mine did last year (see #2 – actually included on last year’s Christmas card). Here are my suggestions as you plan your endeavor to get the “perfect family photo”:

1. Hire a photographer. Like your mom, brother, or an unsuspecting stranger with an iPhone. This will ensure that the person taking the picture has the skills and equipment necessary to catch the perfect moment of a genuine group smile. (Or if you’re on a budget, invest in a selfie stick.)IMG_2199.jpg

2. Dress your brood well. First, make sure you give your kids coordinating names that will result in the same monogram for each child. Then, choose a neutral color for everyone to wear, and make sure each shirt is monogrammed in a coordinating “pop” color. It’s also important to wear hair bows, shoes, jewelry, belts, and scarves that match the monogram’s accent color. Finally, make sure you don’t eat in the outfit in which you plan to photograph. You wouldn’t want that marinara stain to ruin your Christmas card!img_0033

3. Strike a pose. Make sure each subject in the photo is being still, and smiling with just the right amount of teeth showing. Hands folded in laps and slight head tilts are recommended. Never allow movement while the pictures are being taken.DSC_0232.jpg

4. Keep your eyes open. To be certain that none of your photos include a blinking subject, make sure your family knows that blinking is not allowed. Pass the eyedrops around before you get started, so that there will be no need to blink to prevent dryness of the eye. (Note: this also prevents the eyes half-closed look, as though the subject is about to sneeze.)DSC_0269.jpg

5. Work the natural light. Morning and evening are the best times to take photos outside. Skip breakfast or dinner to ensure that the lighting is perfect. Tell those cranky, hungry children if they’d just smile, you could all go eat… and maybe have some of your own natural light.DSC_0186.jpg

6. Choose a few props. Pumpkins are always a nice choice for the fall, and beaches, snow, mountains, or lakes could be nice choices for other times of year, too! Be sure to bring things like these with you for the session.DSC_0026.jpg

7. Let your family be themselves. As long as it’s their happy, cute, lovey-dovey selves.DSC_0548.jpg

I hope that these simple tips help you get the perfect framer of your family!

20 Thoughts a Mom Might Have at 4:30am

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus

I’ve been a mom for four and a half years. It’s been about that long since I’ve had a night’s sleep that was uninterrupted. Even if my kids aren’t the ones that wake me, my brain is on overdrive, wondering if my to-do list was accomplished, hearing phantom baby cries, or already worrying about the things happening the next day. I don’t always wake up in the middle of the night with a baby, but I almost always wake up with at least a little stress. Here are a few thoughts I might have, if I wake at 4:30am…

1. Ugh. I have to be up so soon.

2. Did I ever move those clothes into the dryer?

3. I think we’re out of milk!

4. How is it possible that he snores so loudly?

5. Was that a baby I just heard?

6. I can’t forget to make the appointment for the baby’s check up.

7. When did she come upstairs? I’d take her back to her room, but she’s fast asleep. I guess one night is fine.

8. I thought the night sweats would be over by now.

9. I remembered to turn off the oven after dinner. I’m sure I did.

10. I definitely hear the baby.

11. Okay, we need milk, bananas, tomatoes, and bread. I should probably get up and write that down. But my body is sooooo heavyyyyy…

12. I wonder what happened at the end of that episode? I must’ve fallen asleep.

13. I just can’t get comfortable!

14. I’ve got to pee, too. Maybe I should just get up.

15. I guess the baby is quiet now, so I’m going to hold it.

16. Okay, count the sheep. One. Two. Three…

17. Thirty-one, thirty-two…

18. How many more minutes till my alarm goes off?

19. I guess if I’m not going to sleep, I could squeeze in a run before everyone wakes up.

20. Actually, I’m pretty sleepy now…

And then, I bet you can guess what happens. I finally doze off, somewhere in the ballpark of 6:00am, and then it just isn’t very long until there’s a toddler stomping up the stairs, or  a baby shouting “Mama!”

Revoking My Bragging Rights

Sometimes, it’s good to brag on your kids. There are times that you’ve worked so hard for something, spent time, effort, or money on making something work, and it all finally clicks. But if you’re like me, sometimes you may brag a little early. 

Recently, my youngest has been going through an awful phase (it is just a phase, right?) of sleeping for an unpredictable number of hours at night. I don’t mean, “Oh, it could be 8 or 10 or 12 hours.” It’s more like whether he will sleep through the night, or get up three times. He can sleep 12 hours in a row, several nights in a row. And then one night it’ll all go away. Like magic, he reverts back into a newborn schedule. In my opinion, even though you’re more well-rested, it’s harder to get up in the night after you’ve had that few nights of good sleep.

So now, every time someone asks “How is he sleeping?” I’m unsure how to answer. I don’t want to complain. The bags under my eyes do that all on their own. But I don’t want to jinx myself either, if the night before happened to be a good one. I’ve learned that any time I say out loud that he’s sleeping better, I’ll have the night from hell to pay for it. For instance, we had three good nights in a row, Thursday, Friday and Saturday night of last week. On Sunday night, our small group got together, and because we’d been asking them to pray for good rest in our home, they all asked how he had been doing. “Great!” we replied. “Three wonderful nights in a row of the baby sleeping all night!” Sunday night, you might have predicted, he was up four times, including once where I just fell asleep in the rocker with him on my chest for two hours.

The moral of the story seems to be something along the lines of “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.” Not that I’m counting chickens, but I suppose I won’t say he’s sleeping well until he’s in middle school and I’ve got to dump cold water on him to wake him. I guess I won’t be mentioning that our daughter hasn’t worn diapers in a week, and we haven’t had any accidents…

A Mom’s Day in the Car

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus!

Last week, my family did the unthinkable: we took a road trip. 

 Now, I don’t say that because we didn’t want to leave town, or even because we packed a lot. (In fact, Hubby and I remarked about how we felt like we packed the same amount for this trip as we had packed for our eldest’s first road trip – even though now we have three times the number of children.) I say that because the 350-ish miles to my parents’ house took us way longer than it should’ve. Hubby and I used to do it in 5 1/2 hours before we had kids. Now, it takes at least 8 and maybe more. Basically, road tripping with small kids is a long, arduous process. Here are a few reasons why:

Poop. Yes, as we are constantly telling our children, everyone poops. However, when poop happens into a diaper, there’s quite the clean up to be had. And sometimes if it takes us a little longer than usual to either realize there has been a poop, or to find a place to go to clean up said poop, the mess may have just gotten bigger. For example, on the way back to NC, my youngest (8 months old) went through three changes of pants. All I have to say is thank goodness the child seat wasn’t ruined, because there’s no way to change that in small town SC.

Food. Everyone has to eat. The problem is that everyone eats different things at different times and sometimes, they’re pickier than usual. For instance, my terrible two went completely bonkers when I suggested he drink lemonade and eat oranges. For crying out loud, HE LOVES LEMONADE AND ORANGES! But for some reason, when those were the most readily available things, he flat out refused, via a tantrum. We ended up making it the last two hours with jelly beans. That was the only reason we made it home. 

 Scheduling problems. My kids typically have an afternoon nap all at the same time, (within about half an hour of each other). My youngest also has a morning nap. But when we’re in the car all day, and no one has let out any energy, we’re just watching movies and eating jelly beans, naps are a little wonky. However, at some point each of them are going to have a meltdown (probably about how we won’t stop the car and let them out) and get tired. It’s just tough when one goes to sleep, and another has a meltdown and wakes that one up. Then finally those two are asleep, and the third one gets hungry and starts yelling. I’m telling y’all, it’s one of the circles of hell.

Movie preference. We are extremely lucky to have a car that has a DVD player and screens in it. We’ve not even had it a year, and before that we were using the iPad, harnessed between the two front seats (that had to be exactly side by side). But even with the screens, there’s a little bit of complaining about what we’re watching. Why can’t I just put on Frozen? Why can’t we watch endless episodes of Sofia the First? Well, what about Chuggington? Because MY CAR DOESN’T HAVE NETFLIX. That’s why. I brought 8 DVDS. CHOOSE ONE AND BE HAPPY.

All in all, we made it out alive and well. There might be some emotional scarring, but in a few days, I’ll be okay.

Questions You Ask As the Parent of Small Children

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus!

  When I was a kid (and even now) it seemed to me my mom knew everything. If I was sick, she knew exactly what I needed to feel better. If I had lost something, she knew where it was. Even when I was a teen, she knew the fastest way to get anywhere and the best place to buy anything. Now that I’m the mom, I’m constantly confronted with questions that I’m asking my mom, my other mom friends, or even Google. (“Thank goodness for Google!” said all the millennial parents.) Here are just a few of the questions I feel like I’m constantly wondering:

Why won’t she eat banana anymore?

How much Tylenol do you give to a one year old?

What color poop should the baby have?

What day is it?

Will my kid ever get all his teeth?

Will I ever sleep again?

Where is the other sippy cup?

When will my kid just put his own clothes on?

How do I get up this many times in a night, and not die?

When did I last shower?

What does a concussion look like in a toddler?

How do I get that stain out?

Do I really have to wash my coffee mug every day?

How can it possibly still be two hours until bedtime?

Weren’t we just at the doctor’s office?

Does the baby have any clean pajamas?

Why does my daughter outgrow her clothes so quickly?

What’s the liquid on the floor?

Why is formula so expensive?

Is potty training this hard for everyone?

Do the grocery store people know me by name?

When will my kids be able to buckle themselves into the car?

What would I be doing right now if I didn’t have all these kids?

How fast do toddlers run?

How do we go through diapers so quickly?

Where’d that come from?

How am I out of clean underwear again already?

What sound does a zebra make? (Okay, I didn’t wonder that one, but I did have to Google it for my daughter.)

If you’ve ever asked Google or your own mom any of these things, then we could be friends. Just be careful when deciding if it’s poop or chocolate.

How do you think it looks? 

 This post also appeared on My Big Jesus!

The other night, while the kids were taking their bath, I decided to give J’s and EK’s hair a little trim, mostly to make sure their bangs didn’t get into their eyes. They have endearingly shaggy cuts, and so I’d never want to jeopardize that. We had had some friends lingering after our dinner together, so after bath time, we fast-forwarded the bedtime routine, so we could get back to chatting with our friends. I was VERY surprised that EK didn’t make her way back up the stairs, as is her usual custom when we have friends over. (She likes to rejoin the party.) Their bedtime was a little late, so I attributed her absence to tiredness.

Around 11:00, when everyone had gone home and Hubby and I were getting ready for bed, I felt like I should go check once more and see if they were nestled in their beds. When Hubby and I got to the hallway where the kids’ rooms are, I saw EK’s light on underneath her door. When we got inside, we immediately saw little pieces of paper and ribbon from various bows that had all been cut into tiny pieces.

(I’ll take a moment to clarify that we don’t allow scissors without supervision. I’ll also clarify that I happened to leave those bangs-trimming scissors to dry on the bathroom counter, but up against the backsplash, and out of sight.)

Finding EK on the far side of her bed, working on a ribbon on her nightgown, I asked, “What are you doing, babe?” She looked up at me, and replied, “Just cutting stuff.” At this, I started to the see hair on the floor. I took the scissors and said, “Well you know that it’s not okay for you to use scissors without me or Daddy with you. And look at all the hair you’ve cut off!”

As she started to cry (mostly from being in trouble, I think), I looked at Hubby and said quietly, “That’s a lot of hair…” Turning back to a sniffling EK, I said, “You really cut a lot of hair. How do you think it looks?” And as the dam broke and she crumbled into a hot mess, she cried, “Great!” and succumbed to the sobbing. As tears filled my eyes, I told her the most important thing I could think to tell her: “If you think you look great, then so do I.”

You see, she’s not yet four years old. She is outwardly tough, but can be fragile in many ways. She is moldable, flexible, and absorbs every single thing she sees and hears. If I had dared tell her it didn’t look good, or that she did an awful job on her hair, well, it would’ve crushed her. It likely would’ve stuck out in her mind for a long while. Instead, the focus of the scold was on scissor safety and not the outcome of a self-done haircut. After all, it’ll grow. And it looks right cute with a headband in it. She’s still my adorable EK, and her hair just has a little extra spunk.

It ain’t pretty. 

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus! 

The grump king was just mad he slept through dinner.
 Sometimes, a house full of kids ain’t pretty. It’s messy. It’s frustrating. It’s loud. It’s full of surprises, no matter how much you plan. It’s often a battle: you vs. them, you vs. laundry, you vs. the unknown smell, you vs. screen time, or you vs. the version of you you’d like to be. 

Sometimes, like the other night for me, things get really crazy. It’s one thing after another, and there’s no one to blame, not even yourself (because sometimes, if I’m honest, it’s my fault). But sometimes, there are so many factors and so many things involved, it’s just too crazy and we can’t get through it without finding a little humor. 

On Saturday, Hubby and I had loose plans to go get (apparently amazing) burgers with some friends about 30 minutes from home. Once we started making further plans, our friends didn’t feel like going that far, but still wanted to hang. So we changed location and time, but kept the date. As my fam got ready to go, this kid didn’t want shoes, that one didn’t want a jacket, and the youngest screamed from the moment he got into his car seat. I was on edge from the crying, and from the sheer effort it takes to get all of us out the door…and because I had really wanted that burger with the obscene amount of bacon and the fried egg on top that everyone had been raving about. So when we finally got into the car, I sorta… exploded. I may or may not have told Hubby I wanted to run away by myself. I may or may not have meant it right then. But then I shut up, and we drove to dinner. 

Halfway there, I realized I had forgotten to grab baby wipes. This, with three kids under four, is a big mistake. Hubby offered to stop at the grocery store and grab some, and I declined, mumbling about how napkins or wet paper towels would do, and how stupid I felt for the obvious fail at Mom 101. 

When we got to dinner, it was time for D to eat his oatmeal, so he sat in Hubby’s lap while I fed him. We made precious little mess, and I went as far as to congratulate myself for not getting covered in it. How dare I?! Because the next thing I knew, he had puked. And puked some more. After the third one, I had changed his bib three times, his pants once, and used every napkin at the table. So then, obviously, there was one more spit up. Then he just got fussy. And fussier. And fussier. No amount of swaying or bouncing, toys or funny faces was making him happy, so Hubby and I deduced that he must’ve emptied his belly and gotten hungry. Because why else would he still be all mad? Well, two sips into his bottle, he passed out. Hard. Ooooh! Tired! That was it. Well, Mr. Man likes to sleep on his belly, so in my lap, he started to turn, until he was awkwardly belly down, splayed across my body. I managed to maneuver him to a slightly less awkward position, but it’s still a little disconcerting trying to eat a salad and a wrap with a twenty pound baby across your lap.

When he fell asleep, it was almost like that was my older kids’ cue to lose it completely. EK decided sitting was for losers and she would stand on one leg, with one butt cheek on her chair. J decided shoes were only for people who had their feet on the floor, and promptly threw his boots off the high chair he was in, and spend the rest of his evening fighting to get out of it. Both were fairly covered in their dinners (spaghetti with meat sauce and fries with ketchup, because obviously tomato is the only vegetable, and it exists only to be used in sauces). This was the point where I really regretted not letting Hubby stop for wipes. There was red everywhere, and several people at our table had been spit up on. And as I looked around at the laughing faces of our friends, a sweet Hubby who had hopefully not held my bad mood against me, a round of empty beers, and happy (or sleeping) babes, I made a decision. I could sit there brooding about how things hadn’t gone my way, or I could decide to have a nice evening, despite the crazy. All in all, the sequence of events was so bad it was funny. And I decided to laugh. I decided to wage my war on unpreparedness and loud kids later. I was surrounded by my favorite people, and I shouldn’t be sulking.  I should be having fun. And y’all, I did. I enjoyed myself with spit up on my sleeve, a baby sprawled across my lap, and kids who ate ketchup for dinner. I chose to ignore the battle instead of fighting it, and no one is even worse for the wear. 

Adulting: Expectations vs. Reality

When I was a kid, I expected to have a grand adulthood, full of traveling, a job I loved, buying what I wanted (I’m usually a reasonable spender), and surrounding myself with incredible people all the time. Sure, I’ve traveled a bit and I’m not wanting for anything, and I absolutely consider myself blessed. But the expectations I had didn’t exactly come to fruition. There are a few things about adulting that I thought would be more fun. 

 Buying a car. This sounds great, right? You’ve saved up, and you’re ready to buy a car! Give me the shiniest thing with the most swag, am I right?! Wrong. Google safety ratings and gas mileage, weigh your options for leather interior and a sunroof, check and recheck the budget, and figure out how many car seats you can fit. Next, see what two colors your “dream car” is even available in. Once you choose, spend an unbelievable amount of time on paperwork to actually make the car your own. Then just hope nothing goes wrong.

Owning a home. Sure, this was fun for the first few months. We bought our house in early June, right around our first anniversary, so a glorious summer of back porch parties commenced. We became pros at cooking for 15 if all those people brought beer. We played cod hole and board games out in the porch, smoked cigars, drank beer, and played obnoxiously loud music. Yes, we were those neighbors. However, once the shower leaked, the grass got way too long, and the oven just couldn’t find the temperature I set it on, I started wishing the handy man from our old apartment complex would visit my new home.

Going on vacation. The picture in your head that’s conjured by the word “vacation” varies from a person with no kids and a parent. When we planned vacations before the had kids, like our honeymoon, we only thought about how nice the hotel was and getting cheap airfare. Now when we choose a hotel, we have to question how thick the curtains are on windows, how many beds there are, whether or not they have portacribs, and if their continental breakfast includes pancakes. That’s in addition to whether or not there are big enough cities with Chick-fil-A’s at all the times along the way that our kids will need a moment to run around and we will need coffee. Because we SURE aren’t flying anywhere.

Eating and drinking whatever I want. When I was a kid and I had to eat my vegetables (and whatever else my mom made for dinner) I just thought it was because I had to do what they told me. Yeah, it’s healthy, whatever. I feel fine when I eat pizza and ice cream! Now that I’m in charge of my own diet, it’s a constant battle between what tastes good, what is healthy (read: what won’t settle directly on my hips) and what I can feasibly make/buy. Thankfully, I have no allergies, but there are definitely days where I only feel like making macaroni and cheese – not that my kids would complain. But my hips would, and I’d be sluggish to boot. Open the wine!

Staying up late. This one is a big one for me. Still having lots of single friends and a husband whose job is to play music late at night, I like to go out and stay up late. My kids aren’t terribly early risers, so I can usually get away with a late bedtime without too much problem. But boy, staying up late can sometimes wreck me for days. It feels like a two-day hangover without the alcohol. I’m a night owl by nature, so going to bed early is a challenge even if I’m at home. Throw in a threenager who thrives on a 10pm bedtime, and there’s almost no way I’m seeing my pillow before 11:30. No matter how much cajoling I do, she’s a night owl, too, and so my dishes or laundry wait till she finally decides she can crash.

Bills. Now I’m no idiot. I knew there were going to be bills. Rent, utilities, car payments, student loans… I knew these things were coming. It was the wildcards that I didn’t quite expect. Things like the ever-fluctuating price of gas, groceries to feed a family of 5, and HEALTH INSURANCE. Why have we got to pay so much to maybe need something? And who decided my health insurance should be twice my husband’s, even though we are both young and healthy? That doesn’t even count maternity coverage!

Being an adult is an adventure, and often packed with surprises. But loosen up and enjoy the ride! You’ll figure it out… eventually.