I’m just a wife, mother, and high school teacher trying to hold it all together with a pair of Spanx & a tub of ice cream.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Parenting DIY - Someone Is Going to End Up Going Blind

There are very few projects I love more than a good knockoff, DIY. I mean, I love finding life hacks and tricks that make life easier. Oh, and the total elation at recreating an expensive, store-bought item for half the price. Pinterest simply feeds my life hack obsession. However, there is a side of me that shares the underpinnings of the Steel Magnolias/Truvy philosophy: "I don't trust anyone who does her own hair. I don't think it's natural." Basically, there are just some things you have to pay full price for and leave to the professionals. There is no life hack for quality hair cuts, your health, and a string of pearls. Always wear real pearls. And now I have one more item to add to the list - parenting. I should really stop trying to DIY parent and leave this job to the professionals. My child is like a Pinterest fail waiting to happen.

So lately my kid has been sneaking and eating food. Mostly, I've caught her hiding and eating crackers in her room. Just the other day she came running through the living room with a chocolate pudding and I told her to haul her butt to the fridge and put it back. When she didn't return for a few minutes and it was totally silent, I knew she was up to something.

Me: Charley Thomas you best not be eating that pudding. 

Charley: (Utensils hit the floor, I hear the fridge door slam. Sounds of panic. She comes running into the room with chocolate all over her mouth and hands raised to show surrender). I'm sorry. Just punish me, momma. (Sobbing). I'm so sorry. I couldn't help it. It is just so yummy. Spank me. Give me timeout. I'm sorry. I ate the pudding. I did it. I had to. It was yummy....

And this is clearly where we should call A&E and host an intervention. Obviously THAT had to be her rock bottom. But while I tried to scour the Internet to research and find a way to approach this issue so that she isn't left breathing into a paper bag and twitching every time she sees a Snakpak, she had a few more incidents.

I went to eat dinner with some friends and Gary was left in charge. He allowed her to have ONE FiberOne Brownie and then he went off to work on his MMA radio show leaving the little angel alone in the living room. Three FiberOne Brownies later, my kid is a full fledge fiber addict and living in the bathroom. 

At that point we sat her down and had some real talk about what she was doing. Recalling a story some friends told me about having their children eat soap when they lied, I was inspired. So I made THE THREAT. If she was going to hide and sneak snacks, she was going to get a little Dial for dessert every time. Her eyes bugged and she expressed sincerely how disgusting that would be. Feeling really good about this approach, I felt, for once, I was a step ahead in the parenting game. And cue the face-plant. 

Last night Gary and I welcomed three extra kiddos into our home while their parents headed out for a date. Charley LOVED having other kids over, but kept tripping over her deeply engrained only-child tendencies (sometimes literally). Periodically through the night we had to remind her to 'go play' and 'wait on the others' which just made her finale all the more obnoxious. Gary ran out to grab some milk (we were clearly NOT prepared to bring little ones into our home) and he bought some gum for the two older girls. He gave Charley the two packs and told her to share. Later when our friends arrived to gather their herd, we reminded Charley to make sure Haddy had her gum. It was no where to be found. Of course, Gary and I both immediately turned to our kid. When asked where the gum was, she grinned, shrugged and looked shamefully away. Did you eat Haddy's gum? No answer. She was sent to her room to be dealt with after our friends left.

Gary lectured her and silenced all of her excuses and pleas, while I went to get the soap. I opted for a homemade variety (ummmm, not because I am fanatical about chemicals and such...I mean, I am, it wasn't main motivation. That was just the ONLY bar soap we had on hand). So with the drama one can expect from a kid who sobs uncontrollably when the puppies struggle to save Christmas in Santa Paws, we finally got the soap in her mouth. There was crying and pleading and gagging and spitting. Lord, the overly dramatic gagging. We eventually got a full minute of soap time and sent her off to brush her teeth and go to bed. As I was tucking her in she whimpered, "I just keep tasting soap. I thought you were just kidding about the soap, momma." As pitiful as she sounded, I just patted her head and told her "Momma, is never playing around."

Walking away I felt like THIS may actually have impacted her. The follow-through on the soap seemed just horrific enough to possibly make her think about this whole food-sneaking habit. Of course, she could always just get more elaborate in her schemes: cutting the pages out of a Bible to hide her flask of Kool-Aid, wall safes full of SnakPak's hidden behind her Crayola masterpieces...actually, we better start patting her down before she leaves the house. 

As I sat on the couch this morning feeling that all is well with the world. My house is clean. My little family is peacefully snoozing away in the other room. I have clearly figured out the perfect deterrent to my daughter's food issues. I mean, who needs to consult a professional - I obviously have ALL the answers. Parent Magazine should call me any minute. I went to finish up some laundry when my foot kicked something from under the couch.


That package of gum we accused my daughter of eating? That pack of gum we made her eat soap for? That gum that was the catalyst for solving my child's food-sneaking problem and thereby, confirming that I am Super mom?

There it was. Still completely in its wrapper. Untouched. Not inhaled by my kid.

She was telling the truth. She, in fact, didn't eat all the gum. She only chewed two pieces of her own gum. She ate soap for nothing. I practically started sharing Ralphie's daydream about my kid going blind from a childhood soap-eating encounter.

So, I give up. Despite my dreams of DIY-ing and hacking my way through life, I need to keep my shortcuts limited to Ikea furniture and semi-homemade desserts.  I need to leave motherhood to the professionals...well, I shouldat least start a second job to afford to get my kid in real, professional counseling.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Permission to Twerk, Please.

At five, my kid knows what many adults don't - the meaning of the word, "twerk." Depending on who you are this either makes me a shitty mom, a liberal mom (to some of you those last two are synonymous) or a totally normal mom. Unintentionally, my daughter came across the viral video of the girl who twerked and then caught fire through a revine on my Vine account. She has since discussed the twerking incident at school with her teachers and at home has asked if she was allowed to twerk. By most people's standards I should be ashamed of my poor parenting skills, not publicizing them on the Internet. But if those are your standards, please take a second to come down from your high horse that prances through your glass house and bite me.  This parenting gig is hard as hell, so please cut me some slack. The fact that my daughter knows about twerking doesn't mean I have failed at life - I've still got her teen years left; I'm just warming up, folks. Rather I'll dig a little deeper into this particular incident. She, in fact, reported to her teachers her disgust, that the young dancer didn't stop, drop and roll when she caught fire. Furthermore, after talking about twerking with her dad and me she is pretty aware of its inappropriateness for a girl her age. We have talked to her about not twerking in public. So, it is completely normal for Charley to hear music at our house and ask her dad or me permission to twerk. Her version of the dance move is no more than putting her hands on her knees and shaking her butt - it's  like a really bad, drunk-middle-age-white-woman-at-a-wedding-doing-the-Cha-Cha-Slide kind of move. It's hardly promiscuous. I've seen those Gabba Gabba creatures do more suggestive moves.

When most parents may see total failure, I see a lot of success. First of all, Charley recognizes her father and I as authorities (it's about gosh darn time) as she asks us for permission. It's in the open - there is no secret twerking going on up in this house (unless...Gary?) Second, she is able to recognize the difference between public and private activities - Thank you, Jesus! and may this lesson last through her Twitter years. Finally, for the love of fire safety, my five-year-old knew a stop, drop and roll moment!
As a mom and a middle school teacher, I make it my job to stay relevant. I seek out knowledge of the latest apps, songs, fads and styles. Please note: I am not doing this research as a means to be a hip teen myself. Lord knows, I wasn't cool or stylish when I was a teen, so there isn't a chance in hell, the adult version of myself can be cool when it involves pants labeled "skinny" and dance moves that involve violently shaking my oversized, loose-skinned body against gravity. I simply want to understand the people I encounter everyday- including my own kid. I do not want to be that uninformed, naive mom who is honestly shocked when she finds out exactly which body parts her daughter has been Snapchatting since she was 9. You can put your head in the sand, but good luck keeping your kid's head down in that hole with you. Being a teacher several years before being a parent, I knew that I would have a lot of nasty demons to fight bringing a daughter into this world, and I could not fight them with blind folds and ear muffs. 

At the same time, I am not purposefully parading filth and sin in front of my daughter on flashcards in between sessions with her sight words. I am staying informed so when she (and she will) encounters some of the tougher topics in her life, I can tackle them without my mouth agape and eyes wide - the raised eyebrows and tears falling from your eyes, kinda screws up your credibility. 

So here I sit fresh from viewing the newest video from the queen of twerking herself - Miley's, "Wrecking Ball," and trying to decide how I feel about it. I am in the same place that I was a few weeks ago after watching replays of Miley's VMA performance and seeing her video for, "We Can't Stop" - I'm not affected.  Just hearing the song (without the image of a skinny, naked-girl on a huge metal ball before me) - I like it. But I am 32 and have a pretty solid grip on my self-image. I'm just over here wondering how she avoided some pretty dangerous chaffing, while also impressed with her inner thigh strength. Now, I'm not going to let Charley watch it, but it's not just the nudity that prevents that - what would my 5 year old know about difficult break-ups? So why would she even need to hear this song?  

So, I think I am supposed to be disappointed in Miley and admonish her for destroying her Hannah Montana image and leading thousands of little girls into the evil land on twerking with teddy bears. But I'm not. Miley isn't my kid's mom. Miley is a celebrity and she doesn't get a vote in my house. Charley doesn't ask for Miley's permission to twerk - she has to talk that over with her daddy. If Charley were older, much older, she and I may even chat about the obvious self-expression (and millions of dollars) this former child-star is trying to make. While I am disappointed (to put it mildly) in the irreversible effects Hollywood, Disney, Mattel, and Disney have had on the image and sexualization of young girls, I am going to avoid spending all my time tongue lashing them. I would love to unite millions of women and our daughters in a campaign against these God awful, dangerous images of girls in media. Alas, demonizing Disney is not going help me win my biggest battle - the vicious battle that is curled into a ball, snoring on my lap at this very moment. 

Making media the bad guy will not ensure that my daughter grows up to be a good girl. 

Constant conversations and realistic awareness on behalf of myself, her dad, and her wider circle of influence (teachers, coaches, youth group leaders, aunts, uncles) are what is going to shape my kid. So you can be pissed off at Miley while your daughter watches her lick a mallet or you can turn the channel to watch Diana Nyad kick ass. Either way, you are in the room with your child and you are talking about what you value. 

Maybe you still think I'm a shitty mom. As the kids say these days, #sorryI'mnotsorry. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Shadrach, Meshach, and Malaprop

If I knew anything about babies prior to having a child, I knew that during the first five years of their lives their brains are little sponges, which is why these are considered the crucial formative years for our offspring.

As May approaches, we are about to enter the 5th year with our little sponge-head, and, so far, she has given us quite a demonstration on exactly how much information she can soak in. I've come to embrace the sponge analogy that is most frequently used to describe the brains of our little ones. In fact, I can take it a step further: not only are 0-5 year-olds absorbing everything around them, but like a real sponge, the information doesn't always come back out the same way it went it. So with a good hard squeeze of the sponge, the water comes out looking murkier or even mixed in with unknown particles. Sometimes when my Charley Anne gets a firm squeeze, her absorbed contents pour out that unique blend one can only get after swiping a publicly-shared microwave oven. You just never know what all has been spilled in there. 

Since March, Charley has taken an intense interest in reading her Bible. Her nightly readings may be partially responsible for her recent tantrum over not being able to physically see Jesus in her bedroom when she needed help to stop crying. It has been nice, though, to hear her discuss and ask questions about the Bible. I am impressed at how well her Bible keeps the stories perfectly age-appropriate - even for my kid who almost turned a question about Mary's baby-daddy into a complete discussion about where babies come from and/or an episode of Maury...Joseph, you are NOT the father! 

Additionally, our Spring Break trip to Tennessee intensified Charley's already existing love for music. After seeing a few live performances, she has taken a particular interest in the twangy sounds of bluegrass and folk. This has prompted me to play a little more Sara Watkins, Nickel Creek, Old Crow Medicine Show and Punch Brothers on our daily commutes. It's not much, but it's an enormous win for me. I may have to give up Bob and Tom in the AM, but at least I am not listening to Beiber, Nicki Minaj, or those god-awful Kids Bop CDs that pretend like it is totally normal for a 7-year-old to belt out "I Set Fire to the Rain." Ummm, please tell me how 1st graders can relate to tormenting love.

And this is where it gets tricky. 

As we rode home from Tennessee, I played a few tunes for Charley. She really latched on to "Wagon Wheel," or "Rock Me" as she mostly calls it. We still listen to that song. A lot. Do you know how many times you can listen to "Wagon Wheel" in a 45 minute commute from work to home? A lot. Other than the chorus, she has a few lyrics she loves to scream from teh backseat: "I pray to God I see headlights" and "He was headed west from the Cumberland Gap to Johnson City, Tennessee." (Amazingly, it is not "I caught a trucker outta Philly/ Had a nice long toke"). I know that she really likes the latter line because it specifically references Tennessee and she loves to talk about her family trips to Tennessee.

But pray to God I see headlights? I could never really get that one? 

Initially, I assumed that due to her recent conversations about God, she was just relating to OCMS for their recognition of God. (God? I know him!!) But she actually almost went Buddy-the-Elf on me when she heard him say the line. With her surprised face, "Mom! Did you hear that? Did you hear them? Pray to God! Headlights!"

So as the official English teacher of the car I did what I am best at and sucked all the fun out of the song by interpreting. I go into an explanation of how "praying for headlights" is another way of saying "I hope a car passes by soon." To which she cluelessly nods and continues to pick her nose, not caring one bit about what I just said. 

Fast forward to Monday.
I pick Charley up from school and get the usual 'smh'-look from her teacher. "Oh no. What did she do this time?" 

With a laugh she says, "She has been talking about dying and heaven all day. She kept telling people they have Jesus in their hearts."
"Ummm-yeah. She gets pretty passionate about heaven and angels and God." 

"Yeah. She told us all about the story of Shadrach, Meshach & Abendego."

"Oh, yeah. She's all about that fiery furnace." (So that may have got me on the short list of parents who need a visit from Child Protective Services).  

Of our friends and family, Gary and I are the least likely to be voted Most Likely to Raise a Evangelical-Bible-Thumping Daughter. Even so, I want to handle the conversation with her teacher and with her very carefully.  I had absolutely no issues with what she was talking about. I think it's kinda cool. Actually, it's awesome. So on our car ride home, I probed her regarding the day's events just out of curiosity. 

She rambled on about many of her favorite stories and then requested that we listened to "Wagon Wheel" - of course. As I fumbled with the cord for the iPhone, she continued her sermon and concentrated on her favorite fire tale trio. I'm half listening as she declares that Wagon Wheel is about God's people. Say what? And with utter disgust at my offensive ignorance, she throws up her hands and exclaims, "Headlights!" 

I'm lost. But quickly assume that she is not hearing the line correctly. "No Charley. He says 'I pray to God...' not people of God." The singing begins and she could care less about my explanations. Glad I can end my day with as much teaching success as I have throughout my day. 

About two "Wagon Wheels" later it hits me. Bless her heart. 

God's people. 



Her Bible's exact words are "Israelites are God's people." All this time Charley thought ol' Ketch was praying to God he saw Israelites on his trek to North Caroline. Maybe he would have after that nice, long toke.

We have one more year to prime our kid's brain and build the foundation her future depends upon.  I resolve to be a little more careful with the scope and sequence at which I let her encounter new material. The last thing I need is for her to confuse Tom Petty's Mary Jane for the Virgin Mary doing a final waltz "once last time to kill the pain" of childbirth.