About Ali Cummins

Posts by Ali Cummins:

Two Tickets to the Train

I had two tickets to the train at the Indianapolis Zoo.

The year prior, I took Riley to the zoo as our last outing with just the two of us. Maddie tagged along, but she was still in utero and had been for the previous eight months. It was unseasonably warm that day, and given my size, I felt a bit like I was sitting in a sauna I couldn’t escape from. We were excited, though. Riley, who was still working on pronunciation, exclaimed, “Zoo!” clearly and excitedly the whole way there. The trip up was uneventful and happy. Unfortunately, I had not checked the City of Indianapolis events calendar, and they were celebrating who knows what in the park next to the zoo, which was fine, except there was no parking to be found. I spent the next forty minutes driving the side streets trying to decide whether or not the neighborhood would be safe enough to park in. With my self-defense skills somewhat limited given my range of motion at the time, I finally decided on a parking garage at a nearby medical facility. By nearby, I mean a mile and a half from the zoo. Good thing I was a prepared momma and brought my walking shoes and the stroller! After being rerouted by a couple fences blocking our direct route, we finally made it to the zoo.

Riley, my lovely water baby, headed straight to the splash pad in the center of the zoo. After a break for lunch and another round at the splash pad, we ventured out to see some animals. And we did. One animal. A tiger. Riley lost interest. “Choo choo train! Choo choo train!” I must explain; with Riley’s limited speech at this age, she referred to everything that she wanted as “choo choo train.” Inventive but rather difficult to decipher what exactly she wanted. This time, she was, in fact, referring to a train. I bought our tickets, and we waited in line. For forty minutes. Forty minutes of line waiting with a two-and-a-half-year-old.

Finally, our turn! We boarded, and I sat next to my excited toddler who couldn’t believe Thomas had made it to the Train at the ZooIndianapolis Zoo. Ten minutes into our journey, just outside of the grasslands, the train came to a slow, strained stop. Another ten minutes and our conductor announced that the train had indeed broken down and we would need to follow him back to the station. We were stuck on the other side of the zoo from the station. We had now been at the zoo for five hours. Riley was tired. Riley did not want to walk. So I carried my little engineer, and her little sidekick in my belly, all the way back to the other side of the zoo, where I was handed two tickets to ride the train again, for my trouble. After another mile and a half back to the car, I had three quarter-sized blisters, two “free” tickets to the train, and one sleeping toddler. A successful, memorable last day for just the two of us.

Fast-forward one year.

The beginning of 2015 has been anything but restful, which really isn’t a word a working mom uses to describe her world anyway. I have taken a large amount of sick time off of work this year due to Maddie adjusting to daycare germs. For those of you with a daycare baby, you know these sick days are never restful. They are either spent with a cranky, cranky baby or with a slightly sick baby who has a teething fever 1/8 degree above 100 and you feel too guilty to just sit around so you either work or madly clean the house while entertaining your happy child. It isn’t really a day off work either way. Lesley has also been feeling the working mom strain with an extraordinary amount of work to be done that often spills into the nighttime hours. We needed a skip day, and I just happened to have those two tickets to the train at the zoo.

It turned out perfectly. The weather was a warm 63 degrees. The sun came out at the right times, and the clouds came out at the right times. Riley and Story brought with them paper and crayons and drew each animal after they were done with the exhibit. Riley excitedly held her caricature of the polar bear up to the glass for the polar bear to see when she had finished, and Story went through each of her portraits in detail with a very sweet docent at the orangutan exhibit. Again, a successful day.

Riley StatueStory Statue

The ride home, however, was a bit more eventful. Just out of the rush-hour traffic, Riley announced that she had to go to the bathroom. Immediately. In luck we pulled into a nearby gas station. Crisis averted. There were a couple of teachable moments when it came to the sharing of crayons as they put finishing touches on their artwork. There was also one incredibly smooth example of sharing done right (go, girls!). Then we hit traffic — at the exact moment that Riley and Story discovered how utterly hilarious “butt-nana” sounded. You would think we had twelve-year-old boys in the backseat as they doubled over laughing each time one of them said their new word. For twenty minutes. The hilarity continued as they decided it would be equally funny to take off their shoes and smell each other’s feet.

Story: “Riley, my feet smell like cherries.”
Riley, smelling her own feet: “Yuck.”
Story: “You smell my feet.”
Riley, smelling Story’s feet: “Mmmm … I smell chips!”
The traffic finally broke as did Lesley when the girls began talking about poop. After she declared that the use of the word poop would no longer be used in conversation, the girls turned to the word toot. Lesley, despite herself, exclaimed, “A toot is almost a poop,” then shook her head. “I can’t believe I just said that.” We all roared with laughter.

Yes, this year has been a lot of work, but with our skip day, the mom balance has been restored.

Lessons Learned:

Always be prepared for every scenario; you may be doing more walking than you expect. Enjoy the imagination of your children (while silently praying the whole daycare will not soon be saying “butt-nana” because of your child). Always make time for your family when you, or they, need it.

The Old, the New, and the Digital Native

Easter was busy as usual this year. As a child, I eagerly awaited the hunt for my hidden Easter basket in the morning to see what sugary delights the Easter Bunny had left me. It was a fun, understated, and simple holiday. Not for my girls. Their Easter tradition starts the Friday before Easter with an Easter egg hunt at daycare. My Easter tradition starts the Thursday before Easter with a mad dash to the grocery store before work to buy candy for the thirty-two plastic Easter eggs I need to stuff for the hunt. I know it’s coming every year. Daycare knows it’s coming every year. Still, they do not post the sign till the week of, and I forget that I am not prepared until the day before.

Easter BasketAfter the Friday sugar buzz, we move into Saturday for the start of our family Easter traditions. We attend an Easter egg hunt put on by a local church. They do a fantastic job, but it is much, much more than an Easter egg hunt. The first year we went, they had a bouncy house and school-carnival-type games for the kids. The next year, they had the bouncy house, the games, and pony rides. This year, they had the bouncy house, the games, the pony rides, a rock climbing wall, a fire truck, and an ambulance that provided the kids with a real-life experience of having an EKG done! Not to mention, their egg hunts happen on the half hour with thousands of eggs. Three egg hunts total for Saturday alone. By 5 p.m. Saturday, we are all pretty exhausted.

Easter morning is the simple tradition of my childhood. We wake up, find the Easter basket, and have a lazy, sugar-buzzed morning. Sunday morning, Riley woke up at 6:30 a.m., turned her head to me, and whispered, “Where is the Easter bunny?” Those sweet memories are what make the traditions worth it.

This year, I noticed a new phenomenon inspired by another phenomenon Riley discovered the summer of last year. Riley, who is typically of the go-go-go mindset, does not usually slow down for small details. This year, she took the time to sit down with her Easter basket and open each individual egg, announce what was in it, and put the contents and the egg aside in their own respective piles. What was she doing? It didn’t take me long to realize that she was acting out what she has been watching nightly for the last eleven months: surprise egg videos on YouTube — a craze that has mesmerized kids, one that I just cannot understand.

These videos show only the hands of a person opening “surprise” (Easter) eggs containing a toy inside. The voice narrates what he or she is doing and tells what the toy is. Riley is fascinated. She is not a child who will sit down and watch TV. She will watch five minutes and then move on to the next activity. But she will sit down and watch these videos for hours! I was shocked to find out that these videos have millions of views. The lead of this group of video creators seems to be a lady who calls herself Disney Collector. She remains anonymous but is reported to be making millions on these videos. In my opinion, she deserves every penny, and I wonder if she stumbled onto this phenomenon or knew exactly what she was doing. I look forward to research that will explain children’s draw to this type of video. Is it the instant gratification, the small surprises?

Surprise egg videos

About a month or so ago I was watching the girls for the night while Lesley went to a reading from a beloved author who was in town. The moment Lesley walked out of the door Riley and Story began bickering like sisters. Poor Maddie was just along for the ride. After about 45 minutes of timing turns with one of the babies toys that would not interest either of them on a normal day, I decided to break out the videos. We have an Amazon Fire TV and are able to watch the videos on the TV through the iPad. Lesley, who is much more savvy than I am, has convinced Story that these videos are only available on  iPads and not the tablet she has at home..I knew that Story would be thrilled. The moment I put the first egg video on the screen Story shouted, ” I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!”. Both girls sat cross-legged on the floor screaming in delight each time an egg was opened. Unfortunately for me the reprieve was short lived and I returned to refereeing turns as Riley wanted to watch egg videos and Story wanted to watch Play Doh egg videos.

Shamefully (maybe), I let Riley watch her videos before bedtime while I get my necessary cleaning done. Of course, I have had my share of mom guilt. (I also secretly wait for the research that tells me she’s learning something.) I imagine this brand of mom guilt is much like the guilt moms felt when video games first came out. This new digital forum is entertaining my kid, but is it good for her, is it taking away from something I should be doing, or is this just the world she’s growing up in? I’ve contemplated, struggled with, and come to terms with my mom guilt now. Riley enjoys it, and I get my cleaning done. It works for us. Who am I to stand in the way of my digital native?

Lessons Learned: Stick with your family traditions no matter how hectic they are. Embrace things that are new. Let go of guilt and get your cleaning done.

 

Born to Swim

We had our first glimpses of spring this past week. Sixty degree weather and SUN! Each year, I am amazed by the transformation of the mood of the town, the workplace, and my home. No longer are we confined to the house; we can venture outside, and in my house, we venture outside from sun up to sun down. Riley’s warm-weather agenda includes two things: park and pool. The slightest mention of either of the two P words is a binding promise, locking you in to the activity for at least the next twenty-four hours. She will not forget. Mention to her at lunchtime that you will be going to the park tomorrow, and without fail, she will wake up, sit up, turn her head to you, and exclaim, “Park!” Last year, knowing that our time at the pool would be limited with the new baby, I bought her a Nemo swimming pool with all of the bells and whistles. At 8:00 a.m. the next morning, I awoke to a wide-eyed “Pool!” By 8:30, I had blown the whole thing up, and she was in her bathing suit happily splashing. (more…)

Mom Brain

Having children is a strange and mysterious thing. The sheer number of parenting resources in print and on the Internet points to the fact that there is a lot that goes into it. It’s a wonder then why nature prepares us for our most intellectually challenging journey by removing half of our brains, leaving the remaining half, the Mom Brain, to fend for itself.

I can remember a time (long-term memory, check!) when I could remember everything that I needed from the grocery store. I could recite in detail every agenda item that was discussed in work meetings for a whole year. Take notes? For what reason?




Then I got pregnant. It was as if my new baby was being built directly from my brain cells. Her cells were Smiley Face Post Itmultiplying almost as rapidly as mine were depleting. I can tell you without doing any scientific research, brain cells do not regenerate. If Babies R Us were smart, they would allow a section for sticky notes and planners on their registry.

I am on round two of Mom Brain now. Being mindful of this change, I utilize all of my learned memory techniques to keep up with the rest of the world that is still firing on all cylinders. Write things down, make lists, plan, and review the plan often! Unfortunately, all of the adjustments in the world cannot keep Mom Brain from popping up.

Each morning, I buckle both girls into their car seats, baby first, then Riley. I close Riley’s door and walk all the way around the car to turn off the garage light. Completing the whole routine one morning, I pull out of the drive and notice the light is still on! I had done the routine. I remember walking around the car and standing on the top step. What had I done there? Had I just stood there for the appropriate amount of time then returned to the car? Even more concerning: what other moments of my life do I know nothing about?

Another morning, I again was carrying out my get-ready-for-work routine. I went to reach for the Sharpie in my junk drawer to mark off the previous day’s date on the calender (yet another way I remember what day it is!) and, instead, found the night’s vegetables safely tucked away. Now how did those end up in there? From what I can gather, I must have retrieved the clip to seal the bag and then promptly returned the clip, with vegetable bag attached, to the drawer.

Veggie in Drawer

Or, the time I sent my aunt a thank-you card, or two, for the wrong gift. Or, the countless times I’ve forgotten mid-sentence what it was I was talking about . Mom Brain is a fact of life. Cognitive function will just never be the same again. But, doesn’t that just make what we accomplish as moms more amazing?




Lessons learned: Always double-check that you are dressed before leaving the house, count children before any location change, and appreciate the moments of comedy in your life.

What is your best Mom Brain story? We’d love to hear it!

Thank Goodness for Online Shopping

There are certain places that mothers avoid. When you are outnumbered, a trip to the grocery store can be as scary and uninviting as a trip to the dentist. If there wasn’t chocolate in there, I probably wouldn’t go at all. I know that I will be squeezing down the aisles, pushing a plastic car attached to my cart while my three-year-old drags her feet on the ground out of one side and dangles her head out of the other. I’ll pay no attention to my list as I reach for canned fruit, feeding the baby with one hand and trying not to hit other shoppers with my daughter’s protruding head. We’ll eventually make it to the checkout, where I will have to hand Riley each item for her to put on the conveyor belt. The cashier hates me, the other shoppers hate me, and I am exhausted.

It’s unpleasant.

These unpleasantries, though, are nothing compared those suffered in Jo-Ann Fabrics. This crafty, feel-good store creates a reaction in Riley that I am sure should be studied. It doesn’t matter what her mood is, if she’s eaten, if she’s had a nap. It is all irrelevant. Nothing can be done to counter the store’s infected air.

A New Year’s resolution to decorate at least two rooms in my house this year prompted me to begin looking at curtains. New curtains meant fabric. Fabric meant Jo-Ann’s. Luckily for me, my mom is the master sewer and needed to come to ensure that I chose fabrics that would work and order the correct amounts. A knowledge base I wish I could absorb. Alas, my attention is typically divided between trying to make decisions and trying to control the thing that takes over Riley. This trip was no different.

The minute we walked through the door, Riley was off and running, leaving bolts of fabric in her wake. I found her only by her malicious laughter, rearranging button displays in a neighboring aisle. After a couple of failed attempts, I finally coerced her into compliance by allowing her to push the cart, waddling over her to ensure she didn’t damage any merchandise with her steering. Somehow, we had managed to select the fabric and proceed to the cutting table when the affliction hit again. Her hearing was clearly affected this time as she didn’t respond to any of my pleas for her to listen. She began rearranging again, continuing to grab buttons as I pulled her from the display.Then she went limp. She was dead weight as I tossed my credit card to my mom and retreated to the car. My emotions cycled between anger, embarrassment, and failure. I passed a small boy and his mother as they entered the store and couldn’t help but smile as I watched this well-mannered toddler begin to wail as he passed the store’s threshold.
Lessons learned: always enlist backup in situations that could turn ugly; never admit failure — you may be embarrassed, but your kid is learning valuable social lessons; order fabric online; and stock up on chocolate.

Shopping with kids