Mom in Doghouse for Baby-sitting Error


Wouldn’t you think after 10 years of raising daughters I would have seriously disappointed them?

I thought I had worked hard at that. I’m not bragging because I’m far from Mother of the Year, but I have caused many embarrassing events that surprisingly are a perk of parenting.

Long story short…my children no longer trust me.

There’s a touch of backstory needed. One of my daughters loves babies. Everywhere we go, there’s an infant oohing and awing back at her, and nearby dogs cock their heads while perturbed by her piercing, high-range baby voice.

We’ve called her the Baby Whisperer since she was 3. Years ago at the San Diego airport, our family was once again arguing where to stand at baggage claim — and in 2.63 seconds, our little one was gone.

We couldn’t even exit the airport before one of them is abducted? Great vacation!

Barking at my extended family to drop luggage and split up, I yelled, “Look for baby strollers! If there’s a baby in this terminal, she’s found it.” After the longest two minutes of our lives, we found her talking to her new best friend, a baby girl…in a stroller. Mother does know best.

So, recently when my 9- and 10-year-old daughters were asked to “baby-sit” a friend’s toddler during the older sister’s birthday party, you can imagine the hysterics . I insisted on being at the party in case there was cake, and also to assist my girls with not losing a child. I was a pro at this anyway.

For a month, baby-sitting was all my daughters could talk about. They counted down days on the calendar and spun stories of what might happen on that glorious day. They were positive they were already experts in baby-sitting.

On the big day, I woke up and checked my phone calendar to make sure we got there early enough. The clock dragged on and one o’clock took forever to arrive. But at 11 a.m., the mom of the birthday girl, texted me.

“Are you still coming to the party?”

I should have called her the day before to let her know we were still on.

I texted back we would arrive at one, then set my phone down to keep my girls entertained. At 12:30 I am pulling things together to leave and saw I had another text.

“The party was from 10 until noon,” she said.

After my soul melted into the cracks of the kitchen flooring, I begged my friend for forgiveness. Not only had I disappointed a friend, but also my girls were going to be livid!

I don’t know if anyone can imagine how many ways I varied the speech in my head. It was necessary to let my girls down easy, but there’s no scenario that could fix it. I had to rip off the Band-Aid and fess up.

I went to my older daughter first who hopefully would take the news well. She didn’t.

Tears the size of beach balls welled up, the lip started trembling and a far-fetched story about never being able to baby-sit again in the neighborhood was all she could repeat. I have no idea where this creative drama comes from — probably her engineer father.

Next I slowly approached my youngest, the Baby Whisperer.

I expected an ugly reaction, and true to form she morphed into the teenager I had been and slammed a door in my face.

If they were this angry because the friend had canceled, I wouldn’t have put up with it. But this was my fault. I can’t even blame it on my electronics because this is not the first time I’ve had appointments end up on the wrong day or time.

My only hope was if I could get another baby-sitting gig from my friend that day. I called her and asked if they would like a date night that night. The girls and I would love to watch her children for free hopefully to set things right with all disappointed parties.

Who knew after entertaining 15 excitable kindergartners with loads of sugar and a bouncy house, the parents were relieved to have a break.

My children forgave me as soon as the toddler ran into their arms. The Baby Whisperer was now a professional since she was paid in party favors, unlimited time in the bouncy house and cake.

Even I forgave myself after the cake.

(Previously published in The Kansas City Star on July 22, 2016)


Organized Clutter Society is in Session

“Hello, my name is Stacey and I love cleaning my house!”

(The overcrowded room snorts and sputters, while tucking handfuls of receipts back into their wallets.)

When entering my junk pile I call home, anyone can see I don’t have a gift for the spotless. If it were just I, it would be a bit cleaner; but the people I chose to inhabit my house – husband and kids – don’t appreciate the need for order and I have a deep seeded aversion to picking up after people.

However, from the dining room table’s junk and the charitable contribution piles, to the continual remodeling job of the house, it’s clear the clutter is highly organized. I have an order to the chaos…so hands off the piles!

I must emphasize it is clean though. Not that I’m doing the cleaning, but the people who sanitize my surfaces are saints; and if push came to shove, I might choose the cleaners over some family members if forced to make that decision.

There is a fine line between organized clutter and hoarding. If you can still see the outline of all of your furniture, and your stacks and piles are neatly aligned, you too could be an organized clutter creature.

At the other hand, there are folks who thrive on cleanliness and order. Typically hypercleaners breed clutterful people – it must be from all the bleach fumes.

When growing up, I fondly remember my mother having a faint scent of bleach, Comet Cleanser and latex gloves. I actually love the smell of a freshly bleached home, but I must confess I don’t have a bottle of the wicked cleaner in my house.

My mother baby-sat my children the first three years of their lives while I was at work. During this time I never once cleaned my stovetop. In fact, sometimes I would intentionally leave it a mess to give her something to do while the girls napped. I’m nice that way. My gas range was black and chrome, so every bit of salt, crumbs and toddler fingerprints were magnified to the nth degree; but she could make it shine like the top of the Chrysler building.

The issue is while some children grow up in a spic and span environment, they tend to prefer a sterile home as an adult. Unfortunately, many aren’t capable or willing to put the same type of elbow grease into it as their hyperclean parent. This is a common scenario for many Organized Clutter Society members.

The time it comes to a frightening frenzy is when family or dinner guests are scheduled to arrive. Family members of the OCS member, sit quietly in the corner rocking and waiting for their next order to be barked at them.

As soon as I get done scrubbing the calcium stains off the water dispenser, I need one of you to shake the area rugs away from any sitting area in the backyard! Who’s it gonna be, troops?

I’ve been told more than once I am like a drill sergeant before Thanksgiving dinner. When I look like I am about to explode, the house abruptly gets quiet. They have learned the hard way that yelling or crying will occur within seconds, and it’s mostly me.

I’ve known other Organized Clutter Society members who are older than me, and have said the only way to heal from party angst is to get so old that you don’t care or convince your group to go out-to-eat on big holidays.

No cooking, no cleaning, no after mess … priceless!

I think my OCS treatment may be working. And in a few years, I see in my future a fancy restaurant with a standing reservation for the Hatton party of plenty.

(previously published in The Kansas City Star on July 7, 2016)



The Etiquette of Tardiness

As far as I’m concerned, there are two types of people in this world: folks who show up on time and everybody else dreaming to be like them. I jest — a little. Tardiness makes me sweat.

Growing up I thought there was only one acceptable way to behave. If anyone in my family was to be late, they had better be incarcerated, dead or pregnant. Being late is not acceptable and improper for anyone in my limited world.

So to make life challenging, I married into a family that doesn’t agree with this rule of etiquette. They believe it more appropriate to not be early in many situations, and for them, showing up to a party fashionably late is preferable. I’m pretty sure both families will go to their graves standing behind their belief; and since Miss Manners won’t take my calls to break the tie, I’m questioning which is correct.

My husband rarely is bothered by anyone showing up late. How blissful it must be for him. I don’t get it. Maybe I shouldn’t argue that being late is disrespectful and wasteful of other people’s time, but it’s ingrained in my brain.

When children entered our picture, we had an excellent excuse for arriving late to everything. Diaper explosion, spit up on my silk blouse, baby locked in the bathroom by toddler — typical new parent reasons. But I figured when our daughters grew older, they would choose to follow my rules.

I know: When do children ever follow the rules?

Now I’m raising two girls who think it’s fine to walk into church after the welcoming words and a song or two. It’s also not a big a deal for them to arrive at school right as the drop-off lane teacher is closing the doors to the building. It’s stressing me out, people! I’m losing sleep and hair from their tardiness.

But once school starts in the fall, I’m will treat my eye bags, thinning hair, and an impending stomach ulcer to the spa.

Even before I had a family of my own, I had issues with people being late. One time my boss had sent an email to the staff stressing we attend a mandatory seminar. He was a fun and playful boss, but he strongly emphasized how important it was to be there for the entire class. Of course I was there early, with copious amounts of coffee in hand. He, however, didn’t appear until the first session break. Waltzing in so casually, I had to give him trouble.

“Running a bit late are we, Mr. Late-ey Pants?”

We had a snarky relationship, so I expected a return comeback that was snort-worthy. Instead he stared at me with his mouth gaping, unable to speak.

“Oh, my gosh! I said, ‘Late pants!’ Not lady pants!” After my 50 shades of red faded, and I had backpedaled enough, I needed a nap.

So now I’m learning to take things in stride. If I’m going to be late, I just take a deep breath and remind myself there’s no reason to speed. Getting a ticket would only slow me down more.

I’ve also learned that male bosses don’t appreciate being told they dress girly. This morsel of wisdom could save your job in the future.

Don’t worry. You can thank me later!

Previously printed in The Kansas City Star on June 25, 2016.



Bubble Wrapping Your Kids is Ill-advised

It’s been years since I watched the made-for-TV movie, “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.” So many that when I recently watched it, I discovered my only memory had been confused with a Seinfeld episode. The mention of Moors or Moops is not in the 1976 television movie, starring a young and pale John Travolta. Apparently, my mental hard drive may need rebooting.

Even though I detested the film, it made me wonder how many parents now lock up their children in a proverbial bubble. As a new mother, I sanitized everything. The fear of sickness was overwhelming at times. I wanted to Bubble Wrap my children, but our pediatrician opposed the idea.

Growing up in the ’70s, no one heard of hand sanitizer. It was called a bar of soap and some elbow grease. There was no such thing as disinfectant wipes — no need. All required for the quick clean up was the mildewed dishcloth, laced with a touch of salmonella, which had been hanging over the kitchen faucet for a week.

Of course, after two children, the five-second rule became the norm and the phrase, “a little dirt won’t hurt” spewed out of my mouth, finally turning me into a ’70s mother. I haven’t worried too much about diseases the last few years. My daughters wash their hands after visiting the public restroom; they no longer lick grocery carts, and don’t marinate in the baby pool.

However, there have been a few mornings my husband has gasped at the breakfast table while reading the paper. Since I can’t stand not knowing what he’s reading, I insist he share the gasp-worthy story. First it was Ebola, then the Zika outbreak. And just when you think your children are safe, CRE makes the papers and a DIY plastic bubble design is drawn on the back of grocery lists.

Just a refresher course for those of you who may have awaken from a coma, or don’t own a computer or television: Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever disease with a high-fatality rate.

Zika is the new Ebola, except this tragic virus especially affects babies in utero, causing them to be born with extremely small heads. Folks say this Brazilian germ is mosquito transmitted, so I hope no one wants to increase their family size during the upcoming Olympics. My suggestion to the Olympic officials: remove all the green M&Ms from your country and close all pubs or bars at 9 p.m.

My current health obsession is the antibiotic resistant CRE bacteria. I’m fairly sure it stands for CREepy or CRuditÉs. If you have a strong immune system or don’t hang out in hospitals, you should be fine, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, “Infections with these germs can be deadly.” This one takes me back to junior high history books when I first learned of the bubonic plague. Ew, I doth say!

Don’t tell anyone, but I heard from a reputable farmer these three strains of human blight are causing odd green lights to hover over a hill in Montana. Researchers are also looking for a link to crop circles brought over by sprightly monkeys from India.

Actually, this scene might be from a sci-fi movie I saw in college. I really should reboot my mental hard drive

previously published in The Kansas City Star on June 11, 2016



Fish Tales from a Princess Perspective

IMG_1036Hi, my name is Stacey and I’m vocationally challenged.

Every 10 years I suck all the marrow from one career and move on, which makes for a roller-coaster ride of a resume. Like Mr. Sinatra crooning, I’ve been an actor, a singer, a dancer, bookkeeper and pediatric nurse. A blogger, an author and newspaper columnist. Administrative assistant was the worst. That’s life — at least mine.

The only interesting job I haven’t done yet is fishing pro. I’d love to relax on a pond or lake all day, slathered in bug spray and sunscreen; however, anyone who has fished with me will say I have a scaly green thumb.

On last year’s fishing trip, my husband and I watched our daughters snag an overflowing line of rainbow trout, using miniature hot pink Barbie poles and worms. My adult-sized, dirt brown pole produced zero fish. So I used the girls’ pole, thinking it was the lucky charm, but my numbers didn’t increase.

“Oh, Barbie. You did me wrong!” Leaving the fully stocked fish hatchery that day empty-handed gave me more drive to learn the secret.

So when planning a recent fishing trip, I remained hopeful but realistic. The only way to catch a fish was if I cast out whopper fish tales, the type of story where after repeating it to everyone within earshot, your fish morphs into a 250-pounder. This type of lie is quite acceptable in fisherman circles.

Our pond was well-stocked with a menagerie of gilled Midwest prospects: catfish, bass, blue gill, marlin and mahi-mahi — at least that’s how I remember it. I set my hopes high and was all about the bass, no tuna. In fact, when one of the guides took me out on the pond with an aerated cooler full of minnows, I had never felt so professional, and out of my comfort zone.

It was a 50-degree morning and I was wrapped up tighter than a cryogenically sealed pack of tilapia. Fighting my windbreaker, jacket and two layers of clothing, while balancing the boat with my legs, was the beginning of my trials. I looked like a deranged toddler wrangling the slippery minnows beneath my feet in a cooler. Every time I opened the cooler, my center of gravity shifted and so did the boat. How in the Sea World do you keep your pole on board while wrestling minnows and posed in the disaster drill position?

Soon visions of princesses danced in my head. According to any 1950s advice columnist, a damsel in distress should find a big, brave man to hook her bait. I would have spent days trying to talk a single minnow into jumping onto my hook.

Embarrassed that I needed help, I reconsidered using hook sushi. Worms I could handle! I’d overcome that fear a few years back and now prayed any fish would get a hankering for my segmented annelid.

I was setting a good example for my girls in the next boat.

IMG_1034No daughter of mine needed to fear bait.

After several attempts, I hooked a fish I was certain would need a hydraulic wench and rig to lift out of the water. I wasn’t far from my estimation because that bass was enormous. Fifty pounds or more!! Did I say 50? I meant 100!

This slick and feisty reward was all mine and I’m sure the folks in the next county over could hear my excitement. At last a real fish that I caught was coming into the boat.


Holy, Carp! There’s no way I’m touching that thing.

Batting my eyes, I begged my guide, “Could you help me get him off the hook? I don’t want to hurt him.” There was another fish tale.

That day with my family, I learned sometimes you must lower your standards. Summoning your inner princess and asking for help isn’t the end of the world. Plus, you can always change the story later.

(previously published in The Kansas City Star on May 28, 2016)