Monthly Archives: April 2011

Grouchy In The Morning

I’ll admit, I’m not a morning person.

Never have been.  Never will be.  It’s actually been confirmed by a doctor.  I have something called hypersomnia (a freakishly deep sleep)…and have had it most of my life.  I sleep through anything: ringing telephones, doorbells, alarms, thunderstorms, you name it.  Thankfully, my mothering instincts kick in when one of my children is in desperate need (ie., vomiting or screaming from a nightmare).

My idea of a perfect morning?  A warm bed, soft pillow, and hours of nothing but sleep in front of me.

I’ve always wanted to be a morning person:  I’d get up before anyone else, luxuriate over coffee and the paper, take a brisk walk, then write in peace for an hour or two.

Not gonna happen.

That Christmas morning smile hides the longing I felt for my pillow. My performance that morning was Oscar-worthy.

I’ve trained myself how to set my alarm at a screechingly high volume — out of bedside reach — so I’m forced to get up.

Waking up is a “process” for me.  I go through several stages of grief as I say goodbye to sleep every morning:

1. Denial: It can’t REALLY be 7am already.  I just fell asleep.

2. Anger: Why is it so hard for me to shake sleep off?  Why is it so easy for others? It’s not fair.

3. Bargaining: I’ll just snooze for ten more minutes.  After that, I’ll get up.

4. Depression: I. Hate. Mornings.

5. Acceptance: If I don’t get up now, not only will my kids starve, they might  get eaten by the dog who’s also starving.  Even if the kids are clever enough to outrun him, they need someone to get them to school.  If not, I’ll be arrested for child neglect and thrown into jail, where I’ll be required to rise earlier than 7am anyway.  Fine.  I’ll drag my butt out of bed and make some coffee.

As you can see, I’m dealing with my own demons every morning.  Throw a grouchy child into the mix (which I experience on an almost daily basis these days with my 8-year-old) and I’m near the breaking point.

Enter a wonderful bit of advice I just read this morning.  The Chicago Tribune Sunday section ran an article by Heidi Stevens called “Dealing With A Child Who Is Mad At The Morning.” 

Not my child...or my photo...but this picture says it all.

Like the Tribune’s Stevens, I seek humor in tough situations — it’s my coping mechanism.  The advice about using a kitchen cabinet or refrigerator door to “talk back” is simple, brilliant, and most of all, funny.  I think the technique might work with anyone who’s in a grouchy morning mood.

We might not be able to alter who we (or others) are at the core, but if we’re aware of our shortcomings (or those of others) and add a bit of humor when it’s appropriate, we just might get through tough times a bit less ruffled.


Fedorans Unite

I’m heading home from a weeklong spring break trip in Mexico with wonderful new friends.  The excitement leading up to the trip was shadowed by a subtle anxiety:  would our three kids get along with their two, especially considering the age differences?  Our boys are 13 and 7; our girl is 11.  Their girl is 10 and their boy 6.  To many adults, they might sound close “enough”, but to a child, that equates to grades 7, 5, 4, 2 and 1.

O.M.G.!!!  Those are, like, totally different worlds!  Different lunch times, different teachers, different friends – and that’s just counting the kids in elementary school.  Don’t even get us started on the apples and oranges between middle school and gradeschool!

There were moments throughout the trip when I wondered how we’d ever pull it off.

Our 2nd grader bossed their 1st grader around.  Their 1st grader pointed out our 2nd grader’s lack of expertise in checkers.  Our 7th grader continuously sprayed AXE Body Spray in and around the rental house, nauseating many of us with his nightclub-ready scent.

The girls, thank God, have held the longest friendship.  Their easy manner was apparent from the start, either reading by the pool, getting their hair braided, or complaining about annoying brothers.

The girls played nicely enough, the little guys wrestled their way through little-boy struggles, and the teenager spent most of his time without a peer at all.  However, the five kids often orbited in their own worlds, frequently seeking individual check-ins with a parent or, more often, playing on a personal gaming device.

That is, until our teenager introduced the Fedora into the mix.

Yes.  The Fedora.

One evening, our teenager met up with three boys from two other families from our hometown; three of the boys haggled a local merchant for strikingly cheap fedoras for a shockingly low price.  Instead of walking around downtown Isla Mujeres as the cuatro amigos in sombreros, the boys looked like pubescent pimps.  God they loved it.

The Fedora Boys, in front of a drive-through liquor store.

When my teen showed off his fedora to all of us, the reaction was unanimous:

“You look ridiculous!”

Our response, of course, only ignited his passion for that fedora.  He wore it everywhere, even while driving down dusty roads along the Caribbean sea in a golf cart, wearing a bathing suit and flip flops.

The more the girls teased him, the more he defended the fedora.  “You know you want one,” he’d say, smiling his shiny smile.  “You’re just jealous.”

The girls would giggle and roll their eyes, especially when he’d say, “Not everyone can look as Fedoran as I do.”


“Yup. Fedoran.  It takes a certain something, you know, special.”  He’d flip-flop away, tapping the band on his $133.00 Fedora ($11.11 in U.S. currency).  “It’s pretty Fedoran.”

We razzed him over the Fedoran thing.  He never once wavered from the term.  The more we laughed, the more he’d use it:

“This guacamole’s pretty Fedoran.”

“Do NOT get sand in my eyes.  Wouldn’t be Fedoran.”

“This vacation’s totally Fedoran.”

Pretty soon, all started using the term.  One of the girls coined the phrase Fedorable, as in “he looks Fedorable.”

On the last day of vacation, the little guys declared they’d each like a Fedora.  I wondered how the teen would respond.  After all, little dudes have the nasty potential to wreak havoc on an older boy’s totally Fedoran setup.  However, two subsequent Fedora purchases created an entire posse of cool dudes (imagined or otherwise).

The last night of vacation was spent eating delicious take-out tacos, packing and – unexpectedly – videotaping an impromptu Fedoran dance party including all five kids (the girls happily acted as backup dancers):

The party was occasionally interrupted by the youngest boy’s repeated requests to either a) remind him what the hat was called or b) have his parents promise to buy him a can of AXE Body Spray upon his family’s return to Evanston.

The power of a fedora.

Spring Break — Survival Tips For Parents

Memorize this list of responses, and you’re sure to enjoy your trip that much more:

When The Kids Ask (WTKA): “Does this cactus hurt when you touch it?”

Response: “Yes.”

WTKA: “How about THIS cactus?”

Response: “Yes.”

WTKA: “Can I have a piece of chocolate with my breakfast?”

Response: “Yes.”

WTKA: “When I unwrap this chocolate, it hurts.  I think I got a splinter. Do you have any tweezers?”

Response: [Fight the urge to say, “How many times have I told you not to touch the cactus?”]  “Yes.”

WTKA: “Can I try driving the golf cart?”

Response [even if you’re terrified that your child is only thirteen and has never even practiced on a real car before and he tends to use his right foot for the gas and his left foot for the brake — that is, when he even attempts to apply the brake –]:  “Yes.”

WTKA: “Will you put sunscreen on me? I don’t like it when it makes my hands all greasy.”

Response [especially when the kid is a teenager who refuses to talk to you for twelve hours after you foolishly said “no” to the golf cart question]:  “Yes, I’d be happy to.”