On Public Meltdowns

Whenever my husband and I take our children out to a friend’s house or, should we feel saucy, to a restaurant, events begin well. The baby will laugh and crawl around, our daughter will dash off to play, and lulled by the façade of peace we will sit down with a drink and begin a conversation.  But of course, this is really only a false front disguising the storm brewing inside my children.

Often, what’s brewing inside my children is poop. I don’t know why, but they instinctively know to hold on to any bowel movements until we are in the most rural part of our road trip or at someone else’s’ house.  I’m no novice. I now carry back up diapers, wipes and clothing in the car. This has led to the baby wearing a shirt declaring him a Princess and my daughter waddling around with a size two diaper on her three-year-old bum, but poop we can handle.

It’s the other storm that worries me. The one that begins with whimpering and a quiet hysteria that I can see rising in the baby’s eyes. We know what’s coming: the meltdown. The full-on public meltdown. Children don’t meltdown quietly. They aren’t masters of the graceful exit. Instead, they are Biblical in their wrath and grief. Clothing is torn. Teeth are gnashed. Hellfire comes spewing forth from that cute little mouth that you kiss at night. And my children always seem to meltdown when my husband and I dare to take them out in the evening.

We never learn. I don’t know if that is the sleep deprivation or the fact that we are eternal optimist. Maybe this time our kids won’t scream in Red Robin! Maybe this time my daughter won’t decide that the marching band in the parade is going to crush her and start sobbing. Maybe this time, the baby won’t grab my plate of ribs, while I look away to take a drink, and toss my whole meal on the floor. Maybe this time we can all eat hamburgers happily as a family as God intended. But inevitably, the whimpers begin, the pupils dilate, teeth start grinding, and it becomes evident that we need to leave. Of course, we never do leave on time. We always push the boundaries just a little further than we intend to. Goodbyes take a little longer than we expect and the waitress is never around with the check. (Which surprises me, because if I were a restaurant, I would want me out of there too.)

So, if you see a frazzled woman and a disgruntled man hauling a sobbing little girl in a princess dress and a pantsless, screaming baby to the car, that’s us. Say, “hi!” The meltdown has already come, what’s a little more parking lot hysterics in the grand scheme of things?

Inevitably, we will be back at it again next week. Hoping against hope that this, this will be the time we can take our kids in public successfully. Forget college. Forget being a doctor, I just want to enjoy a nice meal out without my kids crying because the French fries are to “French fryie.” But that’s parenting: The eternal hope that one day your kid can function in public without you or someone else getting arrested or breaking down into tears. Wish us luck.

kidscrazymouthThis originally appeared in the Cedar Rapids Gazette as part of my Pants-Free Parenting column.


How to Move Your Toddler to a Big Bed

Sneak peek of the big girl room. More pictures to come when I put the pictures back on the wall.



Step One: Do not ask me.

Step Two: Be afraid.

Step Three: Don’t be super pregnant, so you can handle the crazy with the appropriate amount of perspective and alcohol that the situation will require.

Over the past five months, we’ve been slowly redecorating the guest room as Ellis’ big girl room.  I planned on not making Ellis move to her new big girl bed until the room was completely ready. I wanted her to feel proud of the room and embrace it as her own, so she wouldn’t feel displaced when some mewling, wrinkled, pooping thing stole her crib.

But the day we finished painting and reassembling the furniture, she grabbed her blanky, pacifier and pillow and put them on her big girl bed. “I sleep here now!” She told us.


People always tell you that kids will let you know when they are ready to make transitions. “Just follow their cues,” is advice I frequently hear from serene moms who stand like an oasis in a screaming pool of 9-year-olds. “Kids will tell you.” This, as it turns out, is complete crap. Based on Ellis very clear signal, it seemed she was ready. So, we jumped into it, like suckers. Sure honey, we will listen to a two-year-old who has a total meltdown when forced to choose between yogurt and cereal for breakfast.

It should not surprise you that the first three weeks were hell. The first night, I was awoken at midnight, 2, 2:30, 3, 3:30, 4:30 by little icy fingers on my arm and the words, “MOMMMMMYYYYY I WAKE!!!” whispered into my ears. I wet the bed a couple times. We bought a baby gate.

The baby gate kept her in her room, but that was when she turned evil. On day three of our transition, I woke up at 4:30 to the pounding of tiny feet on the wall. When I came into the room she had knocked down several pictures and one had shattered in her bed. She was lying in bed surrounded by shards of glass. Miraculously, she was fine. But it was one of those parenting moments when you feel completely inadequate and you both want to yell at your kid and hold them close while you sob. I put her back in her crib that night, but I never went back to sleep, I was too busy feeling the mattress for bits of glass.

After that, we took down the pictures, and regrouped. We decided on a plan that required firm discipline (since she was clearly intent on self harm) and rewards. Naps would be rewarded with an episode of “Curious George” or Mickey Mouse, at bed time we’d discipline if she got out of bed (with exceptions for poop and shards of glass, of course).

This kind of worked. But not really. It was the third week and I was still getting up between 2-3 times a night. Nap times involved temper tantrums and screaming for two hours or more. I was sick of constantly fighting my child and one Sunday, I lost it. I came downstairs sobbing. When Dave asked what was wrong, I yelled that I was tired, I wanted waffles and some peace and quiet around here.

Dave went out and bought a princess bed tent. That worked like magic for two weeks, until she started disassembling her bed tent on top of herself.

Toddlers are effing psychopaths.

Finally, one night at 2am, after I was awoken by Ellis again shouting, “OH NO, I BROKED IT!” I ripped the bed tent off the bed and told her, “Shut up! Go back to sleep and stop trying to kill yourself. ” It’s not my finest hour. But she did go back to sleep. Then, I ordered a toddler alarm clock.

The toddler alarm clock turns green when it’s okay for the toddler (or as I like to call them serial killers in training), to wake up. The first nap time with the clock, Ellis stayed in bed, but I could hear her barking orders. “Turn geen, clock! Turn geen!” The clock didn’t heed her, she fell asleep. No fighting. No tantrums. No coaxing or wheedling or tears. Bed time was just as effective.

I’m probably going to build a shrine to that clock and make it my god.

It’s been over a month of adjustment and learning and crying and hoping that DHS doesn’t come to call. But she is transitioned into her big girl room. In summation, here are all the things you will probably need if you plan on moving your child to a big kid bed.

big girl bed

Empathetic Responses for Android Husbands

Me: I’m nigh on 30 and my skin is worse than it was when I was 15. WHAT IS THIS?! It’s killing me. I just hate my face.

Dave: …

Me: UGHHHHHHHH. I’m just, dying!

Dave robotically pats my shoulder: I empathize with your face problem. We should do something to fix it. Do you want to buy something?

Me: Did you download ‘Empathetic Responses for Android Husbands’?

Dave: At least I’m better than Siri.

Why Do You Love Your iPhone More Than Your Precious Child?

Recently, parents learned a new way they are failing. And no it’s not that you once gave your kid formula or use a pacifier. Parents, we’re on our phones too much.

Apparently, all the modern conveniences of our time aren’t there so we can catch a break, call a friend or even look up a recipe. No, according to the Wall Street Journal, they are there so we can spend more time constantly hovering over our children, in case they, god forbid, move on their own UNSUPERVISED and POSSIBLY BUMP INTO SOMETHING.

Citing this distracted parenting as a modern phenomena, the Wall Street Journal notes, “Is high-tech gadgetry diminishing the ability of adults to give proper supervision to very young children? Faced with an unending litany of newly proclaimed threats to their kids, harried parents might well roll their eyes at this suggestion. But many emergency-room doctors are worried: They see the growing use of hand-held electronic devices as a plausible explanation for the surprising reversal of a long slide in injury rates for young children.”

Using absolutely no studies at all, the Wall Street Journal wants you to know they are completely worried about your kids and you should be too, if only you’d stop Instagramming and be a freaking parent.

My god. Don’t these parents think of the consequences of looking away for a second? What if your kid falls and…I can barely type the words…SCRAPES HIS LEG! I know, right. Don’t you feel like a total jerk now?

We need to get back to the olden days of parenting. When parents were totally there for their kids. Did Ma Ingalls text while she was watching Mary, Laura, Carrie and Grace? No! She encouraged them to gather Buffalo poop in the wide open prairie, while she milked the cows and baked bread and churned butter. Did Pa play on his iPad? If by play on his iPad you mean he tethered baby Grace to the bed in the middle of their dirt house, so he could go feed the livestock on a cold winter’s night. God forbid the stove go out. We lose more babies that way. Amirite, Pa?

Or how about my grandma in the 50s? Do you think she looked away for a second while she lit her cigarette and screamed for my mom to go play outside and not come back for 3 hours? Probably.

And now you modern parents, with all your irresponsible “structured playtime,” “attachment parenting,” and your distracted “helicopter parenting,” you dare to look away for one second while you upload a picture of your daughter to Facebook? For shame.

I think if Americans need to do one thing its make our babies even MORE of a focus of our daily existence.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go put a mirror under my daughter’s nose to check her breathing while she naps. Then, I have to write her an apology note for taking my eyes away from her napping body for the two hours it took to write this. That’s right, two hours. Don’t call DHS.

6 Halloweeny Ways to Ruin Your Kids Forever

Last week, I featured some pretty terrible ways to subjugate your daughter to sexist stereotypes on Halloween. But I wasn’t done. Oh no. While doing research, I discovered, four very awful costumes for grown ups that I thought I’d share. And two for kids, because, why not?

I’m a huge believer in screwing your kids up early. I mean, you are going to ruin your kids anyway. If you feed them all healthy and love them, they’ll grow up to chain smoke and eat Twinkies and wonder why they never got to go to space camp. So, it’s probably better just to ruin them right off the bat. Like taking things they love and making them the stuff of huge therapy bills.

1. Sexy Elmo

This isn’t so much sexy as it is disturbing. Imagine trying to tell your three-year-old why Elmo is coming out of mommy’s head, all night long.

2. Sassy Winnie the Pooh

You’ll never be able to read about Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Pot ever again.

3. Naughty Nemo

After losing his mommy and daddy, Nemo had to grow up fast. Too fast.

4.  Underage Pimp

It’s best to teach young men how to treat a ho early. Because nothing is funnier than sex slavery. Also, I included the whole screenshot, because I wanted you to see that you can get it in a child’s small. Some how that makes it worse.

5. Weed

The costume for parents who want their kids to work at Taco Bell for the rest of their lives.

6. Brick House

Just don’t let your kids open the door.

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