Public Bathrooms: Just Another Reason My Children Will Need Therapy

In February, the girls and I took our first long road trip since the previous October (note: the definition of a long road trip is a drive that requires a bathroom stop). I already knew bathrooms were a challenge for Babykins. She’s still small enough that she’s uncomfortable sitting on a regular-sized toilet and the echos of most public bathrooms make her nervous. On this particular trip, I had already given up on getting her to pee on an actual toilet–the little travel potty in the back of the van would suffice for her. However, I still needed a real bathroom.

Since it was lunchtime, I found a McDonald’s for us to stop at. I strapped Sweet Pea into the stroller, helped Babykins out of the van, and cheerfully announced, “Okay, Mommy has to go potty before we order food!” We traipsed inside and found the bathroom.

In typical traveling-solo-with-littles fashion, my best laid plans went to pot immediately. The handicap stall, the stall big enough for the stroller to squeeze into, was out of order. Since I had already unloaded the girls out of the van, we were committed to this stop and I really needed to use the restroom. Thankfully, it was a small bathroom that only had one other stall. I parked the stroller in front of the stall door, firmly told Babykins not to move away from the stroller, and locked myself into the stall.

Sweet Pea started crying as soon as I stepped out of her sight. “It’s okay, Sweet Pea,” I crooned, “Momma’s right here!” Sweet Pea just cried harder. “Babykins, can you play patty-cake with Sweet Pea?” I called out.

“Otay!” her little voice replied, “Pat cake, pat cake. . .” Then disaster struck.

As I mentioned earlier, it was a small bathroom. When Babykins moved to the front of the stroller, she stepped directly under the hand dryer. The AUTOMATIC hand dryer. The dryer roared to life directly above Babykins’s head.

I rushed to finish my business as both girls started screaming. “Babykins, move away from the dryer!” I shouted. Then the automatic toilet flushed and both girls screamed louder. I burst out of the stall and Babykins attempted to scale my leg like a terrified cat while Sweet Pea thrashed in the stroller.

I can only imagine what horrors people outside of the bathroom thought were occuring as I tried to calm my hysterical girls down. After a few minutes, I managed to convince Babykins that I needed to wash my hands but I would dry them on my pants. I wouldn’t make the hand dryer turn on. She continued to tremble by my leg as I changed an equally perturbed Sweet Pea on the changing table. A quick text message asking a friend to use the bathroom at her house as our next potty break ensured that we would not have to endure another torturous public bathroom experience on this particular trip.

Consequently, our road trips from now on will be limited to a) trips that my husband can come with us or b) places that have friends along the way so we can use their bathrooms.

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Thunder Cake

A stormy afternoon yesterday gave us the perfect opportunity to make thunder cake. What is thunder cake? It’s the cake that a grandma and her granddaughter make as a storm rolls in in Patricia Polacco’s book Thunder Cake. The book tells a lovely story of a grandmother-granddaughter bond and what bravery actually is, a perfect read for Babykins since storms now make her nervous.

After the girls and I read Thunder Cake, I pulled out the ingredients for the cake and we set to work. The full recipe can be found at the back of the book, but I’ll share the “secret” ingredient now: Tomatoes (specifically, pureed tomatoes)!

I was skeptical about how a cake with tomatoes would taste. I like tomatoes well enough, but in a cake? Really? Oh my goodness, the cake is delicious (even despite the fact that I didn’t add and cream the ingredients one at a time. It’s hard trying new recipes when you have little helpers). My issue with homemade cake is that it’s usually dry but this cake was wonderfully moist. My husband said that the cake was birthday-cake worthy–high praise from a guy who would prefer an ice cream cake.

Admittedly, the frosting is store bought. Likewise, I had some issues getting the cake out of the pans.

The only problem is that I fear I have set a precedence for making cake every time it storms. Although maybe that isn’t such a bad idea!


Pew Wrangling with a 1 year old and 3.5 year old

Growing up, my family of 5 sat together unless my dad or brother needed to usher. I figured that’s how church worked–unless you had extended family in church, you sat with your parents. Consequently, I always imagined that all my children would sit with me in the pew on Sunday mornings.

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans. . .

I did solo wrangle Babykins and Sweet Pea for over a year. But as Sweet Pea gets older, she gets wigglier and louder. I often have to take her to the back of the church during the sermon. And while Babykins generally sits quietly in the pew, taking her to the back with Sweet Pea and me meant she started crawling on the floor and talking loudly.

I asked our church grandma if I could leave Babykins with her when I needed to take Sweet Pea to the back. After a few weeks of this method, Babykins was begging to sit with Granny the entire service.

I was hesitant–after all, children should sit with their parents–but Babykins had also started to feed off of Sweet Pea’s antics and would try to cling to me as I wrestled with her sister. Truth be told, Babykins behaves better when separated from her sister. Now she peacefully sits with Granny. When I glance back at her, she’s either observing what is happening around her or eating her snack.

As for Sweet Pea, she’s much more of a handful in church than her sister was. Most of this is because she’s so much louder than Babykins! I generally let her be as loud as she wants during most of the service (as long as she’s not screaming for screaming’s sake) and try to keep her quieter during the readings, sermon, and prayer of the church.

I’m still making it through church without a designated “busy bag”, but I do pack her a snack, a couple of crayons, a doll, and a book for Sunday mornings. Sometimes I can keep her quieter during the sermon by whispering the text of the book I’ve brought (I usually choose a book by Joni Walker or a Kloria Publishing book). Often I need to take her to the back during the last few minutes of the sermon because she gets too wiggly to contain in the pew. Sundays are exhausting now, but my hope is that if I keep on patiently teaching her how to “do” church, she’ll be as good as her sister in a couple of years.


Getting Ready to Go Outside in 20 Easy Steps

It gets cold where we live. Recently we had a 20 degree day that felt downright balmy (and yesterday’s high of 40 degrees was practically tropical!). However, I strongly believe in the benefits of fresh air on a daily basis, so I’ve been dragging the girls outside despite the frigid temps. Layers are our friends around here.

After a couple of months of bundling the girls up, I feel confident that you too can get your kids outside in just 20 “simple” steps!

  1. The preschooler sits on the potty and the toddler gets a diaper change (you don’t want to hear “I have to go pee!” at the end of this process!).
  2. I put on long underwear, the preschooler is sent to put on an extra pair of pants and socks. I put an extra pair of leggings and socks on the toddler.
  3. Find the preschooler sitting in her room. Remind her that she was supposed to be getting pants and socks on.
  4.  Answer “Why?” question.
  5. Gather snowpants, coats, mittens, hats, and scarves.
  6. Tell the preschooler that she has to put on her snowpants before putting on her boots and yes, she must wear her snow boots and not her sandals.
  7. Find the toddler who has now wandered away with one of her sister’s mittens. Wrestle her into her snowpants.
  8. Remind the preschooler that she was supposed to be putting on her snowpants and not her coat.
  9. Answer 5 “Why?” questions from the preschooler.
  10. Put on my own snowpants.
  11. Find the toddler who has wandered off with her sister’s boot and put on her scarf and hat.
  12. Tell the preschooler to put on her scarf before her mittens.
  13. Answer “Why?” question. Answer “Why?” question again.
  14. Help preschooler put on her mittens, coat, and hat.
  15. Find toddler to make sure she isn’t in grave peril.
  16. Help preschooler put on her boots. Send her into the garage so she doesn’t collapse from heat exhaustion before her sister and I are ready to go outside.
  17. Find toddler again and stuff her into her coat. Shove her mittens on her hands and boots on her feet.
  18. Try to find toddler’s hat as she howls at the injustice of having to wear snowgear. Put hat on toddler and watch her collapse from my cruelty.
  19. Finish putting on my scarf, hat, coat, gloves, and boots.
  20. Pick up toddler and join preschooler in the garage. Release the girls outside and hope we are outside longer than it took us to get ready.

For the record, I’m usually exhausted by the time I go outside. The silver lining is that first spring-like day is going to feel magical!*

*Really, this insane mission of taking littles outside in all weather is to create hardy kids. Fresh air is good for us, fresh air is good for us, fresh air is good for us. . .


Doom on Us This Flu Season

I generally try not to think too much about germs. Around here, I generally encourage some hand washing and try to prevent the girls from doing anything too disgusting like licking the toilet, but otherwise just let the whole germ thing play out naturally. What this really means is that you will see my kids eat food off of our floor and there may be a fair amount of dirt-eating occurring. Whatever happens, I try to be chill about it.

Well, until everyone starts losing their ever lovin’ minds about influenza.

Initially I try to ignore the reports. Flu? What flu? There’s no such thing as the flu? We go about our business as usual–shopping trips, playdates, doctor visits, etc. But after a few weeks of the spread of influenza it’s hard for even me to ignore the stories.

Rationally, I know that our little family is healthy and therefore unlikely to have severe complications from the flu. But I think fear wriggles into any parent’s heart whenever they hear of children dying from influenza. So I get nervous and start questioning leaving the house. Should I reschedule the well-child visit? Should I find a babysitter for the girls while I go grocery shopping? Should we just give up and stay inside until May?

Ultimately, I’ve decided to go with some slight precautions with prayer. So this past week my husband and I were trying to make a plan for his day off. “What should we do on Friday?” he asked.

I thought and then said, “Well, I need to do the monthly grocery run. We could make it a family outing and go to Chick-fil-a afterward. The girls could play in the play area since it will be cold again.”

My husband replied, “That sounds okay.”

I made a face. “Oh wait, flu. . .”

We decided to avoid the indoor play area. Instead, I just took Babykins to Aldi with me so we could have a Mother-Daughter outing while my husband had some bonding time with Sweet Pea. Babykins is mostly over the put-everything-in-mouth phase, so I figured the grocery store wouldn’t be too bad.

We got through Aldi without an incident. However, as we were driving back I heard Babykins’s little voice say, “Look, Mommy, look!” I glanced in the review mirror and saw this:

Babykins had taken off her shoes–the shoes she had worn all through Aldi–and was rubbing them on her face. What do I even do with that?!

The moral of the story: Kids are gross and we’re all going to get influenza.


Pinterest Mom I am Not

Remember that time I had the brilliant idea to have Babykins make Easter cards? It didn’t work. But now that Babykins is almost 2 years older, I thought now she would be able to make some little crafts to send to grandparents and her sponsors. So I did what every savvy mother seems to do: I headed to Pinterest.

I found a simple Christmas tree craft that I modified. Babykins would cut out 3 triangles (look, we would learn about shapes!) and then glue them together to make a tree. After that, I would have her use a Q-tip and dab paint on the trees to make ornaments (hey, we would learn about colors!). I made an example for Babykins to see:

I then drew some triangles and had Babykins start cutting them out. It took some convincing to get Babykins to cut out all the triangles but she eventually had 6 shapes that somewhat looked like they had 3 sides. I gave her a glue stick and helped her glue on her first triangle. I then left the vicinity of the dining room table to grab something. By the time I came back, Babykins had managed to paste all the triangles onto her two papers. They were all over the page and looked nothing like a tree. Sighing, I told myself that it this way it looked like Babykins did her own work.

Next I set her up with some paint. I showed her how to use the Q-tip and watched as she dabbed on a few “ornaments”. Then Sweet Pea woke up from her nap and I made a rookie parent mistake–I left my 3 year old unattended with paint while I went to take care of the baby. I returned to find Babykins painting her hand and this on her papers:

Honestly, it could have been worse, but it certainly wasn’t what I had envisioned for a gift.  I gave up. Rather than trying to get her to make a proper tree, I just gave her some paper and told her she could paint it however she wanted.

It was time for a bath after Babykins finished painting because she always insists on covering her entire arm whenever we use finger paints.

The moral of the story? Pinterest is filled with caregiver crafts, not preschooler crafts. That, or I’m very lazy about making my preschooler follow directions during art time. Either way, it usually leads to a mess.


Letters to My Family

Dear Sweet Pea,

You are 11 months old–almost not a baby anymore. Please get your act together and start sleeping longer than 2-hour stretches at night. Seriously, I’m tired. But I do love how happy you are to see me in the morning, despite the fact I was with you only 2 hours earlier–it does give my ego a boost.

Love, Mommy


Dear Babykins,

I know you’ve been a little deprived of attention lately thanks to your sister’s clingy behavior, but you have got to stop standing right under my feet in the kitchen. Also, please stop yelling during quiet time because it wears on my nerves. Mommy needs quiet during quiet time. However, I do love how you’ve been walking around saying, “I love my mommy so, so much.” It’s adorable and please never stop doing it.

Love, Mommy


Dear Husband,

Please bring home chocolate.

Love, Your Wife


Dear Cats,

You are no longer “Creature #1” in the house. Please act accordingly. Isn’t enough that you won the battle to come into our bedroom? I suppose you make up for it by being cutely fuzzy.

Love, Your Owner


Creepy Preschooler and Her Doll

Babykins loves her dolly that we bought her for her first birthday. Dolly is a simple 12-inch baby doll whose blue eyes close when you lay her down. Babykins plays “Mommy and Baby” with Dolly regularly. Yesterday, Babykins was cradling Dolly on the couch next to me. “What are you doing with Dolly?” I asked.

“Me rock her,” Babykins replied. Then she shifted Dolly upright so her head was resting on Babykins’s shoulder. Babykins continued her story, “Dolly is up now so she watch you. She always up so can watch you aaaaaalllll the time.”

Because that isn’t creepy at all.


We’re Back, Part 2: Some Updates and Thoughts

Goodness, now it’s October?! I’m guessing one of these months you’ll get tired of these, “Wow, time really flies–here’s a brief update!” posts. But here we are. Another month has come and gone.

Babykins turned 3 years old last month. She loved her birthday party, especially the lovely cake a member made for her. Sweet Pea is now 10 months old. She is pulling herself up on things, starting to cruise next to furniture, and has made it her life’s mission to eat the cats’ food every time I turn my back. Oh, and our cats also turned 4. I made cupcakes for their birthday (actually, I just wanted cupcakes but pretended they were the reason).

In other news, you might be wondering if this blog is more or less defunct. Not officially. I keep thinking that I’ll get my act together and put together some awesome posts with hilarious illustrations, but it just isn’t happening. Most of the reason is that the biggest chunk of free time I get during they day is after the girls are in bed. Sadly, I’ve never been a night owl and my brain just doesn’t have the same creativity that it would have at 6 a.m. Both girls are typically up around 6:15 a.m. There goes creative work time. I suppose I could always get up at 4 a.m., but Sweet Pea would have to start sleeping through the night. . . or at least stop waking up every 2-3 hours throughout the night. But it’s not entirely due to the girls’ poorly timed wakeups that I’m not posting–I also have a tendency to waste time on Facebook during nap/quiet time.

At any rate, this rambling post was to give you a quick update as well as prove that evening writing isn’t my strong suit.


Patience is a Virtue and We’re All Learning It

I’ve never considered myself a naturally patient person. However, I did fancy that I was decent at forcing myself to be patient once I started working with children. On particularly hard days as a daycare worker or nanny, I could always tell myself on difficult days that I only had to stay patient for number of hours before going home. There was a finish line for patience at the end of the day.

Even when I just had Babykins, I still could dig deep to find patience when I was starting to loose it. Love is a powerful motivator and I could often look at the situation and tell myself that she was just a baby–she needed me to be patient.

All this isn’t to say that I didn’t lose my patience as an employee or a mother of 1. There were times that I was impatient or things were going so horribly that even the most composed person would have lost their cool. But my patience reservoir seemed much deeper then.

But being a mother of 2 young children. . . oh, man. Patience is in short supply these days. It’s no longer enough to fake patience anymore because Babykins and Sweet Pea still need most of my attention during their waking hours and it seems like someone is always awake. There is no “end time”. Additionally, Babykins is in a “I do it!” phase, so everything takes 5 time longer than if  I was doing it myself (and yes, I know it’s good for toddlers to learn to do things and have a sense of independence. It’s hard to wait when the baby is crying and dinner is burning and for the love of all that is good and holy can we get this show on the road?!).

So in these long days, the three of us are all having a lesson in patience. Babykins is learning that she doesn’t always get what she wants, Sweet Pea is learning that her whims aren’t always immediately answered, and I’m learning to take deep breaths before speaking.

18-20 years from now, I might actually have the patience of a saint. Until then, “Lord, help me,” is a constant prayer in my life.