Tangled: Our Silly Putty Hair Solution

Silly Putty Hair, Silly Putty ClothesAs the gold medal slipped over my head and the opening notes of our national anthem filled the stadium, the crowd’s screams slowly dissolved into screams of despair. I reluctantly emerged from my delicious dream as my brain registered real life screams coming from our daughter Ava’s bedroom.

Now awake, my mental calculations began. Emergency or bad dream? Did our daughter’s screams qualify as a one- or two-parent alarm?

I rolled over to jab my husband awake.

“Is she being abducted?” I said.

“Doubtful. Fire?” Mike said.

Ava’s screams reached a crescendo.

“I don’t smell anything. You go. You have longer legs,” I said.

“There better be a wild animal in there,” Mike said as he jumped out of bed. “You owe me.”

Wishing I could reenter my Olympic dream, but too agitated to sleep, I glanced at the clock. 12:50 a.m.

I yelled to Mike to tell me what was happening.

“She’s bleeding from her head!” is what I heard.

Oh, god, not again, I thought as I sprang out of bed and clamored for my glasses, lost among the detritus on my nightstand.

As I ran to her side, I chided myself for ignoring her initial screams.

“How bad is she hurt? Where did she fall?” I said between pants.

“She has silly putty in her hair.”

Not registering Mike’s response, I peered at my daughter’s head.

Apparently she’d fallen asleep playing with silly putty and woken up with the puke pink-colored goo matted to hunks of her thick brown curls. I’d never seen anything like it.

Although I assured Ava we wouldn’t have to cut off her hair, the matting was so severe I feared she’d soon be sporting a one-sided mullet.  Not a great look for a fashion-conscious fourth grader. And not a haircut this mom was willing to live through.

I turned to my trusted friend Google for advice.

Apparently, since time immemorial, silly putty and kids’ hair have attracted each other like fingers and electric sockets. Fortunately, parents around the globe have tried countless remedies ranging from peanut butter to WD40 and documented their success with each on the internet.

We decided on olive oil for our triage in the beauty ER and massaged half a bottle into Ava’s matted web of curls. I couldn’t help giggling as Mike combed out the now liquefied goo with the studied precision of a brain surgeon.

Ava, however, did not appreciate my punch drunk humor and berated me for being insensitive, which launched another fit of giggles, especially as I realized we now had to get all that olive oil out of her hair.

As the clock struck 1:45 a.m., Mike and I finished our task, hugged Ava and settled down enough to sleep, grateful for our parenting success. My only regret?  Not photographing Ava’s head before and after. And she refused to put more silly putty in her hair for the sake of this blog. That’s the thanks I get.

This mom had the presence of mind to photograph her daughter's silly putty debacle! Bless her!

Unlike me, this mom had the presence of mind to photograph her daughter’s silly putty debacle!  Photo courtesy of http://www.sarcasta-mom.blogspot.com.

What Do You Remember From Your Childhood Vacations?

After spending a lovely, expensive week on Florida’s Gulf Coast, I was surprised to hear my children talk about the vacation memories they’ll cherish.

For a glorious week, we slept in, swam in the pool, played in the ocean waves, fought like the Kardashians, built sandcastles, read great books and spent time with family and friends. We even visited Winter the famous, tailess dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, something we’ve been wanting to do ever since watching the movie Dolphin Tale.

Will my kids remember Winter?

Will my kids remember Winter?

What did my kids say they enjoyed most?

Ava (9 yo):  Playing with my cousins and having a TV in my room.

Rhys (4 yo):  Having a TV in my room and playing with my cousins.

Basically, they would have been happy at home. After a trip to Costco for televisions. Good to know.

TVs are more memorable than this? "Yes, Mom!"

TVs are more memorable than this? “Yes, Mom!”

My strongest memories of family vacations as a kid involve swimming pools and free sweet rolls at a little pancake restaurant called Wolfie’s. No matter where we went, as long as we had a pool (and free mini cinnamon buns to wash down my pancakes) I was happy.

A good friend recalls traveling as a child with her parents to European cities many of us would consider dream destinations. Her most vivid memory?

Frosted Flakes.

She clearly remembers the sugary cereal she wasn’t allowed to eat at home. Apparently, hotels around the world are familiar with Tony the Tiger’s innumerable charms.

Photo courtesty of Kellogg.com

Photo courtesty of Kellogg.com

What memories stand out to you from your childhood vacations?

A highlight of this family vacation for me was unexpectedly running into an old friend on the beach …

I haven’t seen Laura since she moved away to the Chicago suburbs years ago. She has three beautiful children ranging from 11 to 6 years old who I haven’t seen since they were babies. Imagine walking on the beach in Florida and running into a long-lost friend. Serendipity!

Laura and I caught up on our non-spring break lives while our kids built sand castles together. Laura mentioned that her son, the oldest, asks her to hang out with him at night before he falls asleep. She doesn’t always want to, but because she knows he won’t be asking for much longer, she’s says yes. And she’s discovered they have their best conversations as he’s drifting off.

Her words really stuck in my head. I’ve been saying no to Ava a lot lately when she asks me to hold her as she falls asleep. We read together every night and by the time we’re done, I’m usually ready to have my own down time. Reasonable? Of course.

But last night when she asked me, I remembered Laura’s words and said yes. We cuddled and for a few minutes I experienced one of the purest joys of motherhood – cuddles and kisses from my not-so-little girl.

Soon my daughter won’t want me around as much. I already see her wanting to spend more and more time with her friends. I celebrate and support her friendships, yet I’m more aware of the precious, fleeting moments we spend together. At least some of the time.

My kids are so much a part of my life today I can’t imagine a time when they won’t want my undivided attention. But that time is quickly approaching. And I plan to enjoy every moment we have left.

So, move over, kids. Mama needs to cuddle.

From my favorite daily affirmation site:  Notes from The Universe (www.tut.com)

From my favorite daily affirmation site: Notes from The Universe (www.tut.com)

If You’re Happy & You Know It …

While I’m tramping around Florida vacationing with my family, I’m re-running this post from last year detailing our family’s Spring Break exploits. Not much has changed this year … but there’s still time. Enjoy!

… Drag Your Feet:

Does anyone else find it hard to relax on vacation? It likely won’t come as a surprise to hear that I have a hard time relaxing and easing into the rhythm of unfettered free time. I say unfettered but as any parent knows, vacationing with two pint-sized people is hardly the definition of carefree bliss. Our vacations are a lot like weekend family time at home (albeit with more sunscreen): fun family activities intermingled with standard-issue parenting/care-giving tasks. On vacation, we aim to spend more time slathering the girls with sunscreen than actually playing in the sun.

Somehow our attitudes and dispositions followed us to Florida (along with enough luggage to clothe a small nation). And for the first several days of our trip, I found it hard to relax. Not that I had expectations or anything? Moi?

While I thought I signed up for the Von Trapp family vacation (picture-perfect family cruising through Florida, singing our hearts out and casting loving glances at one another circa The Sound of Music), apparently I booked the Modern Family version (overpacked, clueless, loveable family bickering, crying and vomiting across Florida). Who do I talk to at Expedia about this?

…Have Fun, Damn It:

For the first few days of our trip, my need to control morphed from accomplishment mode to memory-making mode: “Family, it is time to make some memories! Have fun. Now.”

I was scared to let go of orchestrating our “good time,” fearing we’d sit in our condo rental for a week staring at each other (our apathy interspersed with lively bickering bouts, of course). Once I let go, I experienced my favorite Florida memory so far: watching in awe arm-in-arm with Ava as a flock of pelicans dive bombed for fish and a mom and baby dolphin danced in the ocean off Naples Pier. Pure bliss.

… Take a Nap:

This trip has shown me it’s hard for me to be a fun, engaged mom for more than ten minutes at a time without a nap. Ava brought along her massive paper doll collection (it was that or the entire American Girl doll contingent). And while Southwest Airlines is generous in its baggage allowances, it did balk at giving Samantha and Kanani (Ava’s dolls) their own seats and carryon bags.

When we’ve played with the paper dolls on this trip, for some reason I’ve been assigned the dog character. After pretending to pee on everything in sight (a YouTube-quality giggle maker with my girls), my role has been to follow Ava and Rhys’ characters around and not say anything. Ever. Not exactly the Tony-award winning role my agent usually negotiates for me.

As any dog knows, when in doubt, take a nap. And nap I have. Apparently, I’m getting the hang of this relaxing thing. I hope to find some balance between constant motion and comatose before it’s time to go home.

… Avoid Your Husband:

In addition to my expectations of familial bliss on this vacation, I also imagined romance, intimacy and connection with Mike beyond our wildest dreams. Months of missed connections at home were supposed to magically transform into lustful, heartfelt interactions on the Paradise Coast. Yet, I’m finding it hard to connect with him. I’d like to blame the kids (an easy out), but really, it’s just hard for me to connect. Period. My preferred state is fight or avoid. Apparently, the saying ringing intermittently in my head “would you rather be right or be happy?” doesn’t apply to me. Right? Happy?

Mike told me the other day that he didn’t find my pissy self much fun to be with. Harrumph. And ouch. (And please. We all know my pissy self is nothing if not fun!). After first getting defensive, I asked him to tell me what he was feeling rather than what he was thinking. He owned that he was feeling lonely. Hey, me too!!! Lonely! That’s what this feeling is! A hug, a kiss, a breakthrough. We’ve got this connection thing down! Check “connect with Mike” off my vacation to do list! Seriously, while our connections are messy and imperfect, I’m grateful we know how to come back together.

… Enjoy the Moment:

I’ve not felt like writing all week, yet I’ve had a hard time letting myself off the hook. A real writer would write while on vacation, I’ve admonished myself. Shut the fuck up, I’ve answered. And when I finally let go and decided not to blog until I got back home, I woke up this morning happy, relaxed and itching to write. Go figure! And then, go home.

What do you think? Fill in the blank: If you’re happy and you know it, __________________.

Spring Break, Family Vacations, Family Memories

Parental Redemption: The Coach Mike Version

Walking into the gym last Friday for our daughter’s weekly gymnastics lesson, I anticipated an hour of uninterrupted time with free WiFi while our four year old somersaulted herself into a state of delighted exhaustion. I did not expect to hear that voice – deep, melodic yet unequivocally shrill.

“Put your feet apart and stop talking so much,” he yelled at a pint-sized tumbler.

Coach Mike, my one-time nemesis, was substitute teaching Rhys’s class. Five years earlier the same voice provided the soundtrack to one of my earliest parenting regrets, lovingly referred to as “The One with Coach Mike.”

In early 2008, our daughter Ava was a student at the same gym. After several months of lessons with an instructor she adored, we met her new teacher, Coach Mike, he of the wiry build and gruff countenance reminiscent of my own childhood gymnastics coaches.

Ava was wary of her new coach but went along for the first few lessons under his tutelage. At week four’s lesson, she went on strike, complaining to me before class that she was scared of Coach Mike because he was mean and yelled too much.

Eager to escape into the latest issue of People magazine, I ignored her complaints and encouraged Ava to relax, assuring her she was there to have fun. No pressure.

Twenty minutes into the lesson, Coach Mike interrupted my celebrity reverie.

“Ma’am, your daughter is refusing to walk on the balance beam,” he said. “If she won’t try, she’ll have to leave. She’s setting a bad example for the other kids.”

Ava, reminding me of my earlier canned encouragement, said, “Mommy, I don’t want to do the balance beam. You said I get to have fun here and the balance beam isn’t fun. It’s scary.”

As I looked between Coach Mike’s firm stare and my daughter’s expectant gaze, visions of the $35 per class we’d prepaid danced in my head. I realized I had a choice and knew instinctively I wasn’t brave enough to choose wisely.

“Ava, you need to listen to Coach Mike. He’s the teacher, and you have to listen.”

The look on Ava’s face said it all. Surprise, despair, defeat. I had sold her up the river, and we both knew it.

The following week, after getting support from friends, I resolved to redeem myself as a parent. Ava agreed to one more class; I promised to talk with Coach Mike.

“Coach Mike,” I began. “Here’s the deal. My daughter is scared of you. Hell, I’m scared of you. I appreciate your position as the coach, and Ava knows she needs to listen to you. But I’m not going to force her to do anything here. She has my permission to take it slow and participate only as much as she’s comfortable.”

“I think you are making a mistake,” he said. “And you’re making my job harder.”

As I held his gaze, I grew two inches and replied, “I’m sure you’ll work it out.”

No balance beam for my kid!Photo via Flickr Commons

No balance beam for my kid!
Photo via Flickr Commons

I froze momentarily upon hearing that voice again after all these years, but I’ve grown as a parent and as a woman since I last tussled with Coach Mike. I would stand up for my kid to the death. Bring it on, Coach.

To my surprise, Rhys took to Coach Mike immediately, playfully poking him and correcting his pronunciation of her name.  “My name is Rhys,” she yelled, not a drop of fear in her voice.

Apparently, someone’s changed.

Linking up with the supportive writing community over at Yeah Write. Click on the badge to check out some great writers, then come back on Thursday to vote for your favorites. Enjoy!

Moms Need Play Dates Too

After a fun, relaxing overnight stay at a nearby resort with friends last weekend, I’ve come away with two overall lessons:  vacations look good on me. And more is better.

Before I left for my weekend, I had the following conversation with Ava (9) and Rhys (4):

Ava:  “Mom, why are you going away?”

Me:  “So I can be a better mom.”

Ava:  “How will going away for a night make you a better mom?”

Me:  “When I spend time with my friends, I come back feeling relaxed and grateful for you and Rhys and Daddy. I want to model for you that moms get to do all kinds of fun things, with our kids, with our husbands, with our friends. When you have kids, I hope you’ll know it’s good to get away every now and then.

Rhys (looking up from her syrup-soaked waffle long enough to mutter):  “I’m staying home with my kids.”

Ava:  “I’m not! I’m gonna have play dates! Even mamas need play dates!”

Me:  “Exactly! Mamas need play dates too!”

Have I mentioned my kid is a genius?!

I loved my time away last weekend. Loved it so much I was afraid to come home, unwilling to let that vacation feeling evaporate so soon. One night is not enough – two may have been perfect. (I may even be willing to try for three in the near future, but don’t tell my kids or husband.)

My weekend vacay almost didn’t happen. Our babysitter cancelled on Friday evening. The giddy feeling I’d carried for days tanked immediately. I was pissed. And devastated to have my weekend plans in jeopardy.

True to form, I started going into martyr mode, saying to myself:  It’s fine, I’ll go another weekend. If I stay home, I can get stuff done around the house. I’ll relax here at home. I don’t mind. I’ll get a pedicure and it will be almost the same as going away to a spa for a night with friends.

My bullshit meter was off the charts.

My bullshit meter:  off the charts.

Thankfully, my sanity kicked in within a few minutes – likely because I recently wrote about my martyrdom tendencies and wasn’t willing to confess a relapse to you all. (You saved my soon-to-be-massaged ass!)

When my husband and my parents offered to change their plans and take care of the kids so I could go away, I thanked them and didn’t look back.

I felt really taken care of the entire time I was away. One of my friends chauffeured me around all day. Other than being a decent roommate, I had no responsibilities, no drinks/meals/snacks to fetch, no toys to clean up, no fighting bouts to referee. Bliss.

After a heaven-sent massage, giggle-rich meals and a soul-satisfying sleep, my friend drove me home.  I sat in the car in front of my house staring at the door, unwilling to transition into mom and wife mode.

“Don’t send me back in there,” I said. “I’m not ready. I don’t want any responsibilities for a few more weeks hours. I want to see my family, give them hugs and come back out.”

Is that wrong?

My friend offered to drive away and go to lunch instead. Tempting. But I knew I needed to go inside, face my family and re-enter my life. As I was pulling my suitcase out of the trunk, Ava ran out the front door and threw her arms around me, welcoming me home.

When I saw my husband and daughters, my heart melted. While I can’t say I really missed them while I was gone, I was happy and excited to see them, to be welcomed into the warm, inviting bosom of my family, my life.

Reality has its perks. And there are always more play dates.

Over the River & Through the Woods (With Our Lives in Canvas Bags)

My family is the reason airlines created baggage allowances. When we fly somewhere, the airlines’ built in limitations serve our family well. When we drive, we jam as much stuff as possible into our mid-sized SUV. And then we add the living, breathing human beings. If there’s room.

Our kids aren’t babies any more so our days of lugging diapers, bottles, pack ‘n plays, bouncy seats, etc. are long over.

Now, our list of necessities is ten times longer.  We suffer from bag lady syndrome – every canvas or plastic bag in our house must be filled with things we cannot live without, even for a one or two-night visit.

Toys for Overnight Trip – 4 yo Style (yes, those are plastic Easter eggs you see)

On our Thanksgiving trip last week to visit my husband’s family, I sat with my feet propped on two bags of Barbie “accessories” the entire drive to Michigan. If my kids had their way, my husband would have driven with one of two snack coolers on his lap (to make room for yet another American Girl doll’s suitcase, of course).

We planned for an overnight visit, but we were prepared to stay until Easter. Bathing suits – check. Do we live in the Midwest? Yes. Do our relatives have an indoor swimming pool? No. But who knows when an opportunity to swim will arise? We like to be prepared.

In addition to the necessities any family needs for an overnight stay:

  • Three outfits each with matching shoes
  • Workout clothes and running shoes (in case running suddenly appeals to us while in Michigan)
  • Toiletries (including bubble bath, because our 4 yo may suddenly develop an affinity for baths)
  • Two coolers of snacks (have you ever experienced the dearth of snack food options between Illinois and Michigan? Appalling.)
  • 18 books (you might think I’m exaggerating. You’d be wrong.)
  • Light-weight jackets and winter coats, hats, scarves and mittens (to accommodate any sudden changes in temperature)

We also made room for the following:

  • Library books to return (in case we happen to pass by the library on our way out of town)
  • Clothing donations for Goodwill (the ones I’ve been meaning to drop off for the past three months – in case we also happen to pass Goodwill on our way out of town)
  • The items we need to return to Marshall’s and Target (in case we have time to return them to a Michigan-area Marshall’s or Target)
  • Two scooters (just cause)
  • Basketball (do I even have to explain this one?)
  • DVD Player with sixteen movies (precisely enough for our 150-mile trip)
  • Four baby dolls plus accoutrements
  • White string, tape, PlayDoh and art supplies (no reason necessary)
  • Two American Girl dolls with their own luggage
  • Four board games and a partridge in a pear tree (actually, a power washer)

Power Washer? Check. You bring a power washer with you on Thanksgiving too, right? Oh. Yes. We. Did.

Now that we’re home, who is going to put all this stuff away? Let me be more specific. Who is going to put all these things away in places where we might actually find them again?

Christmas is right around the corner. And we’ll be making the same drive to Michigan on Christmas Day. Perhaps we’ll leave the car packed until then. If we leave one of our kids at home, I bet we can jam all the presents in. We’ll just need more canvas bags.

Love, Dad Style

I can tell you about many of the things that make my husband an amazing parent (his sense of humor, his willingness to play, his tenderness toward his daughters), but I’d also like to share one specific way he lights up my heart as a father to our daughters.

Last year, my husband started a new tradition. Every month or two, Mike mails a love letter to our daughter, Ava (9), telling her all the things he admires about her and his feelings about being her father.

He sets a monthly reminder on his Blackberry to write about the growth he’s seen in her, the fun interactions they’ve had that month, his hopes and dreams for her. He expresses his love for her in details big and small.

I’ve been working on a love letter blog post to Ava for her 9th birthday for days. The feelings are there; the words are not. Unlike me, Mike doesn’t put off expressing his feelings until he has crafted the perfect sentiments. He jots down his thoughts, prints them out and mails them off.

To me these letters signify something vital and priceless. They say:  I see you. You are beloved. You are on my mind. Our relationship is important to me. I see you.

And who doesn’t want to feel seen and known?

Ava tells me she loves these letters and feels really happy when she gets them. I can’t think of anything better than having a father that really sees his children and takes time to express his feelings.

Mike is aware of the importance of his relationship with our daughters and of the impact he will have on their future success in intimate and professional relationships. As soon as Rhys can read, I trust he’ll write to her also.

I love and admire that he takes his role in our daughters’ lives so seriously.

Here’s to this great idea and to dads and daughters everywhere!

How do you nurture your relationships with your children and make sure they feel seen and appreciated? Please share your ideas, big and small, in the comments. 

Linking up with Bohemian Bowmans for My Husband Is Awesome Day!