Parenting Fail #324

I know what I’m supposed to do. A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for a local parenting magazine reminding other people to do it. I didn’t take my own advice, and I won’t even pretend that I’m sorry.

All the experts advise getting kids on their school schedule a week or two before school actually starts – goodbye, late nights; hello, early mornings. Yeah. I didn’t do it. I did cut out the late nights. Everyone’s in bed nice and early. Because that’s a hardship for me. I did that part. It’s the waking up early I didn’t do. I have a good reason. Meet my reason:

I know. He looks like a baby Nosferatu. He was eating bing cherries.

I know. Squish looks like a baby Nosferatu. He was eating Bing cherries, not feasting on the flesh of villagers. I swear.

Rousing the Padawan early involves waking his little roommate, as well, something I’m not quite willing to do. Because the kid doesn’t sleep. Naps are for pansies, bedtime is for losers. If he deigns to sleep, I am loathe to wake him because once his tootsies hit the floor, he is all up in my bizness awake for the next fifteen hours, about four of which are pleasant. Apparently not wanting sleep and not needing it are two different things.

Logic would tell you that taking a kid out and letting him burn off all his energy would help said child to sleep like a dream. Logic would be a big, fat liar wrong. I took the Padawan and his buddy on an overnighter to another city recently, knowing that if Squish can fight sleep for two hours all alone in his room, sharing a hotel room with four other people would make bedtime extra fun. But I had a plan.

That plan started with swimming. I chose a hotel with a pool so we could do a little splishy-splash. If I let Squish go for a nice, long swim, I reasoned, he’d be more amenable to catching some Z’s. Right? You know how it ends.

We swam until 9pm, then we went upstairs. He was tired. Very tired. But tired is only a kissing cousin to sleepy, so the next part of my plan involved a little television. Give me fifteen minutes in front of the TV, and I’m snoring like an asthmatic bulldog. Like mother, like spawn, right? After two-and-a-half hours of House Hunters, Squish finally fell asleep

Sleep may be too strong a word, really. He’s a bit of a flopper. He never hit a deep sleep, alternating between  bludgeoning me about the head, and dragging his claws toenails up my shin.

I never studied physics in college, but I did not expect that a body with such little mass could displace so much space. He put down roots in prime mattress real estate – dead center – and I couldn’t budge him for love nor money. At about 2am, desperate for some sleep, I scooped him up and slid him eight inches west and tried to tie him in place tuck him in. My efforts backfired, and I suddenly had a Squish clinging to my head like a baby octopus. It would have been easier to sleep in the floor. With a tiger.

At 7am, the kid was awake. Perhaps you are thinking that eight hours is all Squish’s body requires to function at top capacity. Does this look like top capacity to you?

Yeah, I'm all set.

“Yeah, I’m all set.”


We had two melt-downs and a Come-to-Jesus meeting before we even left the hotel. Tired = wired. Isn’t that fun? But I’m not one to give up. Because of my plan and all.

My plan told me that a long day spent running around out of doors would lead to a quiet car ride and pleasant night. You see where this is going, right? We enjoyed six hours at a zoo, two of which were spent playing hard on the enormous playground. Then we popped in the car for the three-hour ride home. I waited for him to fall asleep. And waited. And waited. Yeah. He was awake the whole time, refusing to punch his ticket for the dreamland express until after 9pm, three hours after we got home, and two hours after I began to seriously consider selling him to the circus. I love plans.

So I hope the experts will excuse me for enjoying a few minutes of solitude. If they judge me, I hope they do so quietly. Squish is still asleep.

Lost in Translation: Preschooler Edition

I am the master of languages. Need an interpreter for your family? I’m your gal. Spouse speaking Greek? I am at your service. Confused about what your meteorologist is trying to tell you? Allow me. Unsure what those pesky labels mean? I can clear things up. Today, I’m here to help you better understand your preschooler.

At the table:

“I’m full.” – I have a more pressing engagement. Like sticking Legos up my nose.

“I don’t like this.” – It’s not a hot dog or peanut butter sandwich.

“I’m ready for dessert! I ate all my dinner.” I gave it to the dog when you weren’t looking. Ready for some cake?

Getting Dressed:

“This shirt is too small for me. You need to give it to a baby.” It doesn’t have Spiderman on it. It has Bob the Builder, and I will look like a dweeb.

“This shirt fits me just right!” Even though it’s three sizes too small and is compressing my rib cage so hard you can see my heart beat from across the room. It has Spiderman on it. Spiderman!

Out and about:

I want to walk myself. No stroller.”  – I have just enough energy to last until we are equidistant from any exit.”

“I’m ready to go home and take a nap, Mommy.”  – I just broke something.

“Sharing is fun!” – Ah, I see that you have ice cream.

At Home: 

“When is Daddy getting home?” I need to ask for something I know you won’t let me have.

“I’m your big helper!” – I just scrubbed the toilet with your toothbrush.

“I’m not doing anything.” I hope you have good insurance.


“I need a drink of water!” I need to make sure everybody’s fun stopped when my light went out.

“Can I sleep in your bed?”  – I just peed in mine.

'nuff said.

’nuff said.

Guess what?!! Today is release day for The Big Reap!  Buy The Collector series now, thank me later.

Today, I Remembered

I hit a rough patch a bit ago and kind of ran off the road..  You may have visited that particular ditch in your travels as well, the place where things that would ordinarily slide off like water from a duck’s back instead bring you to your knees, and even the chocolate doesn’t taste good anymore.  I won’t bore you with details, but at the beginning of this week, watching my plans and efforts crumble to dust, I wondered why I bother at all. It was a low point. But not today. Today, I remembered.

Today, Phyllis came to visit my camp and pooped on the floor, and I remembered how to laugh.

Phyllis the Polish hen. She never stopped talking.

Phyllis the Polish hen. I can’t look at her without smiling.

Today, my new friends met my old friends, and I remembered why I love them both.

Rex, meet campers. Campers, meet Rex. Want to go to a movie?

Rex, meet campers. Campers, meet Rex. Want to go to a movie?

Today, an elephant played me a harmonica tune, and I remembered how to sing.

I don't even care that I have to clean the harmonica.

I don’t even care that I have to clean the harmonica.

Today, an otter caught a snack, and I remembered there is wonder in the world.

I wonder how she bends like that.

I wonder how she bends like that.

Today, there was a splash pad and ice cream, and I remembered how sweet life is.

July 11 splash pad 013

July 11 splash pad 033

Today the water stopped, and I remembered I can make my own magic. Someone reminded me. Thanks for that, little buddy!

July 11 splash pad 029

Today, I remembered why I love what I do. Today was a blessing.

What Your Kid’s Camp Leader Wishes You Knew

I love kids. I have spent the last ever many years steeped in them. Not just my kids. I like your kids, too. I have led enrichment-type programs in different venues for a very long time, and it’s becoming more and more apparent that parents aren’t always clear on the expectations. Most of them want to do the right thing, they just aren’t sure what that is. If I could sit down across the table from a parent signing their kid up for their first enrichment adventure, here’s what I’d say.

1) Don’t sweat it if your kid is shy the first time around. Picture it. You walk into a place you have never seen before, and a bunch of strangers are waiting for you. And they already know your name. It’s enough to make the bravest adult want to run for cover. Now imagine you’re three feet tall and the person you love most is poking you in the back saying “You’re not shy! Why are you acting like this?”

We aren’t judging your parenting because your child is hiding behind you. I promise that your kid won’t be the only one who has a moment of doubt when they walk in the door. A good instructor will know how to break the ice, and by the second or third class, your kid may be a pro.

2) They don’t have to know all the answers before they get there. When I teach an art class, for example, I don’t care if the kids know their Dali from their Deco. I can teach them that. Leaders ask questions not because they expect that the kids know the answers, but to encourage critical thinking. If no one in the class knows the answer, a good instructor won’t let the crickets chirp for long. They’ll ask the question a different way, or even share the answer.

Your child’s academic knowledge doesn’t matter. It’s far more important that that they know how to interact with other kids. If they’re toddlers or preschoolers and it’s their first time at the rodeo, you can help guide them in that process. Which brings me to my next point.

3) If it’s a Mommy and Me type of class, your participation is mandatory. I cannot stress this point enough. The activities in these classes are ones that require your assistance. Staying glued to a cellphone or talking to the parent beside you in the back of the room is rude and sets a bad example for the kids. If mom and dad are chatting, the kids will, too. These classes are designed for grownups and the children they love to interact together. And if Little Missy is misbehaving, it’s up to you to take care of it. You know her best, after all. There’s a code of conduct at most programs, and refunds are rarely given if a participant is ousted for bad behavior. Don’t let it get to that point. Nip it in the bud.

Image credit:

Image credit:

At my toddler programs, I completely expect the kids will act like toddlers, the good, the bad, and the throwing-themselves-on-the-floor-and-shrieking. I get that. But there’s a line between just being a three-year-old and disrupting the entire class. Know where that line is. If you’re unsure, ask your leader. They can give you guidance and also help you find a quiet place to let your little critter get control of themselves again.

4) You aren’t expected to know all the answers, either. And even if you do, it’s a good idea to keep them to yourself. Unless the leader asks the adults specifically, the instructor is usually looking for an answer from the kids. You’ve had a few more trips around the sun than the kids. We’d be shocked if you didn’t know at least some of the answers. Keep a low profile unless the instructor asks. If you’re whispering the answers in your child’s ear, examine your motives. If you’re enjoying having a cool discussion with your kid, awesome. If you’re hoping they will blurt it out to the group, it’s best to sit quietly.

5) Dress your child appropriately for the activities. The most terrifying sight in the world to me is a little girl in a darling heirloom, hand-smocked dress. On finger paint day. Or a kid who shows up for camp at the nature center in flip flops. Because you know who gets to hear about those red paint stains that won’t come out or make the decision on whether to cancel the planned hike for the whole group or send a kid out on the trail in footwear they could get hurt in? The teacher.

The kids don’t get points for matching bows and slippers. I don’t care if they show up on the doorstep dressed like orphans. The important bit is that they are safe and comfortable. It’s hard to be comfortable when someone is hanging over your shoulder saying “DON’T WIPE THAT ON YOUR DRESS!” Close-toed shoes and an outfit they can get dirty in fits the bill in almost every situation.

6) Respect age guidelines. Camps and enrichment classes are designed with particular ages in mind, and to try to slip a kid into the wrong age-bracket does no one any favors. Many years ago, someone begged the director of a program I worked for to let her kindergartner into a class with his first-grader best buddy. The director reluctantly agreed. It was a disaster. The younger child couldn’t yet read, and many of the activities involved basic reading skills. The kid was miserable. Don’t throw your child in over their head. Don’t let them be bored by sending them in with the younger kids, either.

It always makes me giggle when parents call me and insist that they have a “very mature four-year-old.” Giggle and then sigh because then it’s my job to explain that we can’t put their preschooler in the kindergarten camp.

7) Don’t keep disabilities a secret. Sometimes parents are afraid to disclose disabilities for fear the program won’t accept their child, but as their teacher I’d sure like a heads up if a kid has an issue that impacts the way they function in a group. I want every child to succeed, but success is a lofty goal if I don’t have a basic understanding of what a child needs. On papier-mache day when we’re messing about with balloons, I’d like to know ahead of time if a participant is triggered by loud noises or has sensory issues and doesn’t like to touch things like paste, or if they need some assistance navigating the pitfalls of prepubescent social interaction. There’s nothing I like better than seeing a kid try out something they never thought they could do.  Help me to help your child. And for the love of muffins, please, please, please let us know up front if your kid has any life-threatening allergies.

8) You aren’t the only paying customer. I understand that parents pay a bundle for kids’ activities. I respect the monetary investment. But remember, unless it’s a private lesson, other parents paid for the experience, too. Your child can’t be the star of every show. If your kid is hogging the spotlight or is being disruptive, you owe it to the other parents to rein them in. You’d expect the same consideration, right?

9) It’s supposed to be fun! Enrichment classes are just that, a fun way to experience new things. Hanging over a kid’s shoulder at art camp and insisting they color in the lines or critiquing racing form at track camp is counter-productive. Kids need to feel safe trying new things without the expectation of perfection. So do all of us, really.

10) Keep expectations realistic. You read #8, right? The bit about it being fun? Not every kid is Pavlova or Baryshnikov. Some of them are just regular kids who like to dance. An enrichment camp isn’t for the budding professional. It’s a starter experience. If your kid tries the diving board for the first time because of swim camp, you can count it as a huge success, even if the resultant dive was my personal favorite, the belly flop. If they had a great time at track camp, does it matter that they never ran under a fifteen minute mile? I think not. Don’t expect your child to be ready to win Olympic equestrian gold at the end of the week if the closest they had been to a horse before camp was a merry-go-round. The name of the game is try. And fun. Try and have fun. It’s a good motto!

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Class Time With Professor Padawan

Dear Professor,

I am a student, and I keep my nose to the grindstone during the school year, so when it’s time for a break, I want to relax as much as possible. How do I know that I have squeezed all the fun out of Spring Break that I can?


Want My Money’s Worth

Dear Money’s Worth,

An excellent question. And also an easy one. You will know that you have properly utilized your Spring Break when at 10am on a Friday morning, you look like this:

Well done!

Well done!

***Editor’s note: I know it looks as though he has spent his Spring Break deep in study. Rest assured he did not. Having carried all his bedding downstairs the night before for a sleepover (or a stay-up-all-night-er), he was forced to use his books as a pillow.

The Best April Fool’s Trick EVER.

My daughter has an evil streak. I admit I kind of like it. A couple of years ago, she perpetrated the greatest prank in the universe. I may have put her up to it, but I’m pleading the fifth.

Anyway, it all started when I got a “tween kit” from Kotex, a nifty little pamphlet that contained coupons and suggestions on how to talk to my tween about first periods. Which was weird because my only tween was the Padawan, and I always considered it his teacher’s job to teach him about punctuation, but whatever. We got the little packet, and an idea began to take shape.

Girl-child immediately found a piece of junk mail addressed to her dad. She carefully removed the address label and affixed it to the packet with a bit of glue. Then she mixed it in with the day’s mail and waited for her prey.

Yes.. I saved it. Evidence of her evil genius.

Yes.. I saved it. Evidence of her evil genius.

When my husband came home, he flipped casually through the mail. And then he stopped, casting furtive glances to left and right. His brow crinkled, and I heard him mutter “Why do they think I want to know this?” as he began to hyperventilate. He fell for it, believing for a moment that Kimberly-Clarke in all its wisdom had singled him out to have The Talk with his daughter, and wondering desperately how to get out of it. What a glorious day!

Was it cruel? Maybe a little. Unusual? Not for this family.

Well done, Girl-child.

I Hereby Call This Meeting to Order!

Come into my secret clubhouse!  Okay, I know it’s just a sheet draped over a couple of kitchen chairs, but it’s a 700 thread count. Only the best for you! But don’t get Oreo crumbs all over the place because my mom will kill me!

You want to be in my club? It’s a book club. You know what the best part is? You don’t have to read anything. Because you already did! Is that cool or what? Consider yourself cordially invited to the From the Bowels of Obscurity Children’s Book Club.

My pal sj and I were talking the other day about some of our favorite reads as kids. That no one living seems ever to have heard of. We compared notes.

My elementary school library had a tiny budget and didn’t get in a lot of new books, so the shelves were bursting with titles that these days rank fewer than 20 ratings on Goodreads.  As a voracious reader too young to drive herself to the public library, I consumed most of them. And I liked it fine. It never occurred to me that the things I was reading were not on every kid’s book shelf. My books were my friends.

And since you’re my friend, too, I thought I could introduce you guys. Here’s where the club part comes in. sj and I are going to co-host it. I’ll do a post one week, and then she’ll do one the following week.

Here’s how you play if you want to.

Write a post about a few books you loved as a kid that are kind of obscure. How obscure is up to you. If you loved Nancy Drew and there was a title in the series you adored that no one you know has ever heard of, count it! Love a book that was written by your next door neighbor on construction paper? Tell us about it! Try to limit yourself to 1-4 books per post. We don’t want the club to fizzle out too soon, right?

Age range is flexible. From story books to teen, whatever you loved before you were old enough to vote counts.

Get personal. If straight reviews are your thing, go for it. Even better, though, is sharing what the book actually meant to you. Why did you love it? Do you remember the first time you read it or how you found it in the first place? Did you leave a Doritos smudge on the page of a favorite you borrowed from the library? I suffer from incurable nosiness, and I love those kinds of stories!

Add a trackback to the host post for the week. If you’re new to WordPress, that may sound complicated. It’s not. All you have to do is include a link to the host post somewhere in your post. Then the link to yours will appear in a neat little list of links at the bottom of the host post, and we can all find one another’s posts.

Participate at your own pace. Life got you too busy next week? Feel free to jump in any time. You’ll be able to find trackbacks to the latest post at the bottom of this one. And if you don’t want to do an entire blog post, share your obscure favorites in the comments section.

Read the posts of the other participants. You never know what treasure you’ll find!

If you’re on Goodreads, why not rate the book over there? You don’t have to review it, but if you loved it, throw it some stars! Who knows? Maybe you’ll get a buzz going and bring new life to your old favorite!

That’s all there is to it. You are free to read any book that piques your curiosity, but you don’t have to. And you can even blog about your discovery. But you don’t have to. The real name of the game here is sharing. Because sharing is nice. Except when it’s my MoonPies. Hands off.