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…)
Posts by Ali Cummins:
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 multiplying 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.
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!
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.
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.
Being a Virgo, I have a tendency to be a tad stubborn. It’s hard for me to redirect an ambition once I’ve set my mind to it. Even after having experienced what it was to raise a strong-willed girl for two years, I still was determined to have another. I’d always wanted two little girls, and, really, Riley was my fault. I chose her name with a purpose, and she turned out to be exactly that way. All I needed to do was be selective in my name choice and stay away from rowdy, high-spirited names. I could pick one that was soft and sweet, and this little girl would be an easy-going charming angel. Madison would do the trick. (more…)
When I found out that I was having a girl, I had a very clear image in my mind of who she would be and was sure that choosing the right name for her was essential to making that happen. She would be a leader—someone who knew who she was, who would make the world what she wanted it to be, and who would not compromise on what she believed in. She’d be spunky. I drove straight to Walmart after my doctor’s appointment and picked up a book that promised me 100,000 names. The right one had to be in it. I spent two nights with a bowl of popcorn highlighting, circling, and making lists. I gave other names a chance, but there was always one name that embodied everything that I was looking for. Riley.
Now, I must admit, when I was envisioning this perfect little bundle of girl power, I did not think about the steps that it might take to mold these characteristics or how those traits she would need to have would manifest in a baby, or a toddler, or a small child. But when my tiny eight-month-old first sat in the middle of the room smiling at me while screaming with such force and pitch that I was sure the neighbors would call social services, I knew. While ideal in an adult, those innate strong-willed traits that she possesses would be the makings of a humbling parenting adventure.
Presently, she is three. The terrible twos (which lasted eighteen months, not a year) have come and gone. Life twisted and turned the way that it always does, and we now call a mid-sized Indiana town home. I began a new job, which required Riley to begin daycare for the first time. She had been lucky enough to stay home with family previously. Besides the natural fear of leaving her with teachers I didn’t know very well, I also worried about how she would get along with the other kids. After all, her first interaction with another kid included her running full speed toward him, screeching, and then standing next to him and awkwardly laying her head on his shoulder. Neither the little boy nor his mother knew what to say, and the experience left me slightly concerned. My worries were soothed when one day she took the hand of another little girl and they walked into the daycare together. Her name was Story. I knew her mother only as another daycare mother and a coworker of mine. Again, life twisted and turned the way that it does. Now, Story and Riley fight and laugh like sisters and that coworker of mine is my best friend and confidant. And also the woman who wrote the book that named Riley.