How to Train Your Dinosaur

 

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For the past two years, Story has woken up as a different animal every day. Each morning, I must drape part of myself over her covered form to pretend I am sitting on an egg. She twitches just slightly, but this is just her preparing to hatch. Apparently hatching from an egg is a rather drawn-out process. After some more twitching and wriggling, a hand or foot appears, and as the mama, I have to wait patiently as my little one struggles to release herself from the clutches of the eggshell.

Finally, she emerges, and I ooh and ahh over my most precious offspring. (Story whispers what creature she is for the day.) Hugs, kisses, and general celebration ensue for a respectable period of time, and then I must growl and snap at the zookeeper in order to escape the zoo with my baby.

Side note: For those of you wondering, yes, Story and I have had the conversation about which types of babies hatch from eggs and which do not. However, after having gone through what I’m guessing is every single type of hatchling, Story got bored and threw “magic mammals” into the mix—those capable of hatching from an egg.

This backstory is important for you to understand how seriously Story considers these transformations. She is whatever creature she has chosen for the day for a good period of time, whether at home, school, the grocery store, church, wherever. She once was placed in timeout because she refused to follow the teacher’s instruction to sit on her pockets. You see, snails don’t have pockets.

One day Story scratched at the back door. She had been playing outside as a troodon, I believe, this time. She let me know in troodon-speak that she was ready to come back inside because she had gone pee outside. Was she just playing, or had she really done her business outdoors for all the neighbors to see? I was afraid to ask. I didn’t have to; her smile told me the answer.

She gathered plastic food and “supplies” and headed back outdoors to explore the jungle. I watched her dart from bush to tree all over the yard, stopping occasionally to scavenge while keeping a sharp eye out for predators and making horrendous noises. From the window, I marveled at both her imagination and energy level. After a while, she scratched at the back door again. I opened the door for her and she proudly exclaimed, “I pooped outside!”

No, she didn’t. I stood my ground in disbelief. “No, you didn’t.”

“Oh yes I did! Troodons potty outside.” And I knew she did.7958703620_6e9a4b3a08_m

I quickly looked around. Had anyone witnessed this? Would Child Protective Services be knocking at my door? I ushered Story inside.

Story and I had a long discussion about the rules of the house for all creatures, whether in Story form or not. I still haven’t been able to bring myself to poop-scoop my daughter’s mess from the backyard. Something within me is abhorrently against it. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Lessons learned: When your daughter is an animal, DO NOT let her in the backyard without close, attached-at-the-hip supervision; be okay with calling your toilet the litterbox; and always expect the unexpected, no matter how disgusting.

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.

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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!

Snow Days Can Be the Best Days

If you read my “Nurturing Your Space” article, you know that I had a bit of an episode of temporary insanity that resulted in the removal of the carpet in my dining room. I was down to the subflooring without any immediate plan to re-floor the room. Ali and I decided to take advantage of this transition period and allow the Fey to let their inner artists go wild on the subflooring.

The date was set, the supplies were purchased, the girls were ecstatic, and then came the forecast. So much snow! Ali likely wouldn’t be able to make it. Ali and I worried about our well-being if the Fey were unable to Picasso the floor as they had so highly anticipated. Instead of taking that risk, we decided to have a sleepover. What resulted was the best snow day ever!

The girls were still giggling in Story’s room when I finally gave up and went to bed. I have no idea how much longer they lasted; I was just so grateful it was giggles instead of grumbles. Of course, at some point in the middle of the night, the girls got into bed with their respective mamas, but really, that was an unexpectedly great first sleepover night.




The next day held lots of memories for us all. We started the day off right with sugar: pancakes. We moved outside to play. Maddie had her first up-close-and-personal experience with snow. She seemed unimpressed. Riley and Story made the extra-slippery slide into a luge event, which ended in a snow bank. Snow angels, snowball fights, and snow tag were all favored games. Ali and I were more interested inbuilding a snowman. Riley and Story were interested in eating our snowman. Of course, I couldn’t allow this, so it became a game of the Fey sneaking up and stealing a bite of the poor snowman and my pushing them down into the snow.

Wet, cold, and happily exhausted, we headed indoors, but not before we stopped to collect snow for snow ice cream! My grandma made snow ice cream with the first snow fall every year, and I thought it was high time I introduced it to the Fey. See the recipe in Fey Food.

Finally, it was the moment they’d been waiting for: painting party! Story and Riley each got her own set of paints and brushes; Maddie got her own set of paint markers for little hands. All washable, of course. Don’t you just love the word washable? There was only one rule: You can only get paint on the floor. That lasted all of two seconds, and then we had to add another rule: You can only get paint on the floor and yourselves. Suddenly, the floor didn’t look so inviting.

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I started to intervene, but Ali gave me that “let it go, Lesley” look. And I did. More paint ended up on their bodies than the floor—even the baby face-planted in the paint—but these faces made it all okay.

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Lessons learned: Choose your words carefully; all instructions will be taken literally if they so suit the Fey; the best-laid plans of mamas and Fey often go astray; and the best days are often those unplanned.

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

Mom Friends

“Mom, the baby likes it when I spit on her!” I could do little but inwardly sigh. We were on our first outing as “mom friends”; I didn’t know Ali very well, and I was just sure that after this trip I wouldn’t get the opportunity to get to know her better. After all, my child was spitting on her child. Granted, Story’s version of spitting was blowing raspberries, and Riley did, in fact, seem to like it. But still.

Cruising up highway 37, I kept a close watch on the speedometer. If I went over the speed limit, would Ali think I was endangering her child? I looked in the rearview mirror to check on Story’s behavior, praying she wasn’t she still spitting on the baby. But she wasn’t there! My heart stopped for the agonizing full second and a half it took to remember that I had moved her car seat from the middle to the side to make room for Riley’s car seat. Just as I had started to normalize, I heard a click and a roar. An alarm flashed on my dashboard. Story had opened her door. With visions of children being sucked from the backseat as though out of a plane, I pulled over to a too-quick stop on the shoulder. “Story!” I yelled. I’m not sure what else came out of my mouth, but I didn’t dare face Ali’s eyes, which I just knew had to be full of judgment. What she must have thought of me!

The girls were hungry. I won good-mom points this time: I had packed a snack. Of course, Ali had too. All was quiet for a minute or two, and then Riley made a little sound. She was gesturing for Story’s Goldfish. Story was quick to interpret: “Riley said she doesn’t want any of my Goldfish, and I can have them all.” Riley disagreed. Story refused to share. I spoke harshly. There was much grumbling. And then we were finally there: The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

 

Trepidation overwhelmed me; this was a bad idea. And I was right to worry. Story ran away from me several times, refused to leave the Dinosphere, had a meltdown like I’d never witnessed, would not share toys (or space), and had no patience for the things Riley wanted to look at. What was worse was my attitude. I was so worried about what Ali would think, I acted like a different person, and the result was failure. I failed to experience the wonders with my daughter and share her joy; I failed to get to know Ali in any real way, and I failed to show Riley how much fun I can really be.Mom Friends

As we were leaving, Ali, seemingly oblivious to my utter shame, announced, “Well, that wasn’t so bad. We only had a few meltdowns!” I looked at her in disbelief, but she had a genuine smile. That’s when I knew that this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Lessons learned: Always bring more than one baggie of Goldfish. Always engage the child locks. Always anticipate a meltdown. And always, always stay true to yourself and your child.

Now, let’s hear from you! What are some of your mom friend stories?