How Young Is Too Young for the Orthodontist?

Graduating from high school in the late 90s meant that I came of age during the era of grunge and Friends. It also meant that, come senior portrait time, I was sporting The Rachel. This was not because it was flattering to my face shape, but because every hair dresser on the planet gave it to you whether you asked for it or not. It also meant that I was “too cool” to wear makeup. As if these two factors alone didn’t guarantee an unfortunate senior portrait, the fact that I had braces sealed the deal. Yes, I visited the orthodontist at the age of 17. In the 90s, visiting the orthodontist into your teenage years was pretty typical. This is a fate my children may never know. After my 7-year-old daughter’s most recent visit to the orthodontist, I’m not sure this is a good thing.

90s Senior Portrait
This is a picture taken of my senior yearbook page. Because my mom didn’t have a copy of this picture in her home. Enough said.

Six months ago, when our family dentist told us that he was going to refer my then 6-year-old daughter to an orthodontist, I thought that maybe there was a nitrous tank leaking in his office. After asking around the schoolyard, I discovered that this is now common practice. Apparently, orthodontists can create a picture perfect smile that will last your child a lifetime, even when your kid is still rocking baby teeth. Well, they at least want to can start the process. I had my doubts, but since I cannot say no to anyone, I made an appointment with the orthodontist. You know, because who knows what that nitrous sniffing dentist would think of me otherwise.

Our first trip to the orthodontist was tons of fun – if your idea of fun involves laying on a dental chair with a frantic child writhing on top of you. My daughter, who has typically done well at the dentist, was terrified of the orthodontist. I’d like to think she was shown a copy of our bill and was protesting in outrage, but I kind of just think she enjoys inflicting physical and emotional pain upon her mother. My daughter would only agree to open her mouth for the orthodontist if she was on my lap. Have you ever sat in a dentist’s chair and hugged a child at the same time? The strain on your neck makes tipping your head back at a salon sink feel like a hot stone massage.

This practice continued for every visit. And those were just consults to look inside her mouth and get her “comfortable in the office.” At her latest appointment, she had to get impressions. She reacted as if we told her we’d be pulling all of her teeth and she’d be eating porridge and gruel the rest of her days. She sobbed hysterically as the hygienist, orthodontist, and I all tried to reassure her that nothing would hurt. I laid there on the chair sweating, getting neck cramps, and wondering whether I’d plucked my chin hairs recently as the orthodontist’s light shined down on my exasperated face. I put my mom through some business when I was younger, but I guarantee she didn’t have to go through this when I got braces.

So why was I doing this? Does it really make a difference physically to get braces at age 7 instead of 12? Are fourth graders not allowed to have wonky teeth anymore? I get not wanting to have braces in high school (believe me, I do), but why isn’t middle school good enough? Aren’t our awkward years the ones when we learn to develop our character? I’d like to think that if I’d had straight teeth in high school that I’d have the personality of a wet blanket. Who needs to make jokes when you have a dazzling smile to win people over? Moreover, are these early trips to the orthodontist simultaneously causing my child emotional turmoil while also depriving her of her character building awkward years?

We were told my daughter needs an expander and braces now, and again in five years. This first go round will make the final one more efficient. In my meeting with the orthodontist, I should have been focusing on words like, “prevent having to pull teeth” or “super easy process at 12.” Instead I was perseverating on the “key” I was supposed to use to stretch the expander on the roof of my daughter’s mouth each week. The mouth of my stubborn child who I imagined holing up in her room to wire her jaw shut in protest. Don’t believe me? You should have seen the jaw strength on this one at her last appointment. She even wrote me an unsolicited apology note that was discreetly left on my bed later that night.

kid apology note
Maybe if your kid can’t spell orthodontist (or picture), they’re too young for braces. PS: I never got that pecher.

This last trip to the orthodontist has made me question today’s new orthodontic practices. Are 7-year-old’s ready to maintain a mouthful of expensive orthodontics? If my kid freaks out over impressions, what is she going to do when she experiences mouth soreness after a tightening, or, worse yet, the sharp pain of a broken bracket? When I experienced these discomforts, I was old enough to appreciate the “no pain, no gain” mantra. I was willing to do whatever it took to attain the end product – a straight smile. My kid is going into second grade. In a world where  jack-o-lantern smiles are celebrated, she has zero interest in having straight teeth. Basically, there is no incentive for little ones to appreciate or care for their orthodontics. So why bother?

I made an appointment for my daughter to start this process – you didn’t expect me to say no in person, did you? But I am having second thoughts. Surely someone so young and terrified can wait just a few years? Perhaps we can all agree that she’s still got a few cute years left in the yearbook and her 7th grade class picture should be the most awkward. Never fear though, we’ll make sure her senior portrait is memorable for one thing and one thing only – a bad haircut.

WMDW: The Straws That Broke Mama’s Back

If your house is anything like mine, you can walk into any room and find a used juice box straw, or, worse yet, the wrapper of one. I have always found this mildly annoying, but after two full months of this, I am ready to blow a gasket every time I see one. I recently may or may not have threatened to take juice boxes away for two weeks if I saw any evidence of juice box consumption on the couch. Well, it seems I underestimated my dear daughters because they doubled down on Mama’s threats. They are now collecting the straws. Yes, they are collecting used juice box straws. Well played, girls.

They aren’t just collecting these straws whole. No, they are taking their straws and cutting them into filthy germ-filled pieces beads and storing them in an old lunch box. Their goal is to fill the lunch box and then turn these straws into necklaces. To think, I once thought their desire to collect Dixie cups was their rock bottom.

collected straws
That’s what a lunch box full of cut up straws looks like.

Maybe I should be focusing on their desire to reuse plastic. Perhaps I should hope that this leads to successful careers as modern artists focusing on repurposing common household items. Instead, I am living in constant fear that this lunchbox is going to spill or that I’ll one day be forced to wear a necklace covered in the residue of kid backwash.

straw collector
Why can’t she have this much pride in…literally anything?

Either way, Mama’s going to drink some wine and consider which is worse – the wrath of my children if I throw this crap out, or the pain of cleaning these out from every crevice in my home for the next few months.  

WMDW: Half Marathon Training Edition

Mama’s drinking wine tonight because, how else does a frazzled mom train for a half marathon? Seriously, if you know of a better way, then by all means, share it with me, ’cause I’m apparently running one in three days.

I was seriously into running a half marathon about three months ago. Winter me imagined May me to be a picture of health and athleticism. Winter me is an idiot.

Don’t get me wrong, I was pretty good there for a while. I was following the half marathon training program I printed off the internet and stuck to my fridge like I was… hmmm, I’d love to drop a long distance runner name here, but I literally can’t think of one. Prefontaine? He ran marathons, right? The fact that I’m unsure shows you how little business I have running this race.

Anyway, I was weekend long running like a champ until my children’s spring sports’ schedule started. Between baseball, soccer, and dance my husband and I haven’t been able to watch a 30-minute show together in the last month let alone fit in two hours for a long run. Did you know that the New York Yankees have fewer games and practices than my 6- and 4-year-olds? Fact.

So, my goal of 9 1/2 minute miles quickly changed to “just running the whole thing,” which then deteriorated to, “If I have to walk, I have to walk,” and has now reached “as long as I don’t need a medic, I’ll be happy” status.

That’s the point where you just say to yourself, “I could get a training run in right now, but I think I’ll just drink this glass of wine before baseball practice instead.”

Basically, if they give out a medal for the runner who has logged the least amount of miles AND drunk the most ounces liters of wine in the weeks leading up to a race, I’m pretty sure I have it in the bag.


Mama Makes You Feel Better: “Collection” Edition

cup collection
A view under the book shelf.

Mama makes you feel better because your kids have normal hobbies. Some kids collect things. Perhaps yours collect shells. Or stamps. Or Pokemon cards. Maybe you complain because sometimes your lives seem to revolve around that collection. Wow, that must be rough for ya’ll. Your kid showing an interest in something that can teach them about their world, their history, or ignite their imagination.

You know what my kids collect?

Used cups. That’s right. The little cups they use to swish and spit when brushing their teeth cannot be thrown away in this house. They are stored securely in their rooms. And by securely, I mean, they’re everywhere.

A glimpse under any bed, dresser, or book shelf reveals a collection worthy of awe and reverie. Used paper cup collectors from around the globe would marvel at what my children have meticulously collected.

What is the purpose of this collection? Well, who doesn’t find themselves in need of a cup now and again? Need a place to put the change you have stolen from your parents’ pockets? Grab a cup. Did a beaded necklace break and you’d like to store the parts so your mother can throw them away when you’re not looking fix it? Well, there’s a cup right behind the door jam perfect for that.

Whenever we attempt to dispose of a cup, my husband and I are met with angry protests. We have learned that our children are not above rummaging through the garbage.

When we last ran out of cups, my judicious daughters ran to their rooms to fill dust-covered cups with water. And we let them. Because it filled them with pleasure to make use of their beloved collections. Mostly, we were too lazy to go downstairs to fetch clean cups from the kitchen.

This Thanksgiving, be thankful that your children have not caught the cup bug. And by bug, I mean cholera. No one should be drinking out of these things…

cup collection
Every nook and cranny is filled in the little one’s room.


Mama Makes You Feel Better… Tooth Fairy Edition

lost a tooth
You’d think a gal with so much ink would be a bit tougher.

Because your child is not the only one on the block completely terrified of losing her teeth. I didn’t lose a tooth until I was well into 2nd grade and all of my friends already resembled jack-o-lanterns. Needless to say, I could not wait until my chompers started falling out. This means I was completely unprepared for the terror my own child felt at the prospect of losing her first tooth.


When it comes to the first, I get it. If I woke up one day with a loose toe and it just fell off a few months later, I suppose it would alarm me. By the third toe – especially after I had clearly seen that new toes kept growing back – I think I’d be all “Oh, another toe just fell off. Sweet, I needed some more cash.” Not my kid.

Last night, right after bath time, the third tooth fell out. What was the reaction? She burst into tears so hysterical that she literally gave herself a bloody nose. She gave herself a bloody nose, people! And since her mom is just the tops, I took a picture of the poor kid in full on bloody hysterics.

The good news? She’s currently got five wiggly teeth.



Mama Makes You Feel Better…

mac n cheese
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t steal some bites.

Because tonight’s dinner is mac and cheese. Literally. I didn’t realize we were out of milk until it was too late. The one element of nutrition in this meal, gone. Mama’s dignity, gone. The mac and cheese, gone. Apparently my kids dig carbs, butter, and cheese. I wonder where they got that from…

Mama Makes You Feel Better: The NSFW Edition

NSFW or family of an older generation

Most of us know that NSFW means “Not Safe For Work.” We know to interpret that to mean that the material following includes some mature content that you wouldn’t want on your computer screen when your boss passes by. We also know it means that what follows has the potential to be lewd, offensive, or crass. You know who might not know that? People who retired long before the Internet came along and reduced office productivity by 87%. People like the lovely folks I call mom, aunt, or uncle. People who should probably just stop reading now.

Seriously, I’d say we should invent a new acronym, NSFFOAOG: Not Safe For Family Of An Older Generation, but I’m pretty sure they would see that and just assume anyone using it was another illiterate victim of the Whole Language movement of the 80s. Alas. The bottom line is, you have to spell it out for them phonics style. If you were born before the Truman administration, STOP READING THIS NOW! Seriously Aunt Cathy, just stop.

You see, today’s Mama Makes You Feel Better came to me with a little message that said, “I hope this doesn’t offend you.” Offend me it did not. I LOVED it! If my thighs looked this cute, I’d have done it myself long ago. I’m pretty sure that every single mom and dad with a kid under 8 at home (please tell me this stops when they’re 8) can relate to this picture.

no potty privacy Today, Mama is making you feel better because you, my friend, are NOT the only one who has company every time you need to use the facilities. Every. Single. Time. You are not the only ones whose children take your entrance into the bathroom as a sign that you want a hug or to hear a lengthy recap of the latest episode of Sofia the First. You are not alone. Literally.

Thanks to Kiera B. for the photo!


Daddy’s Drinking Wine…

daddy's drinking wine
Photo courtesy of Janine and Rob R.

Because Daddy’s drink wine, too. There’s been some talk about sexism on here recently, and it occurred to us that dads need to be represented more frequently on this page. Good dads put their fair share of work into child rearing, which means they’re enjoying some of the good stuff along with us. And by good stuff, I mean booze.

Our inaugural featured daddy is home only twice a week for dinner. On this night, he and his wife planned to have a really nice steak dinner… their girls had other plans. They both abandoned their dinners, climbed on top of Daddy and polished off everything on his plate.  Thankfully, there was one thing they couldn’t get a hold of – Daddy’s wine.

How Doing Nothing Did Everything for Our Summer

This morning I woke up in a panic. On summer days, I allow my children to be my alarm clock. Today, I woke up with a start, realizing that the amount of sunshine gleaming through my bedroom window was far too powerful for 7a.m. I turned, expecting to see my husband missing, in my sleepy haze wondering if he’d gotten up with the kids and was letting me sleep in. But there he was, tucked under the covers, snoring gently. A glance at the clock informed me that it was 8:45, and that was when the panic truly set in.

I don’t have a newborn if that’s what you’re thinking. The days of waking up, terrified that something was wrong because your infant was actually sleeping are long gone. No, I was sitting in bed, full of anxiety, because I was afraid that my daughters, aged three and six, would miss our scheduled summer activities. The ones scheduled by me.

I have the summers off and am beyond grateful for the opportunity to spend time with my children, a luxury I know other parents long for. I do not send them to camp because, in the springtime – when camps begin filling up – I am swamped at work, missing them dearly, and fantasizing about our long, glorious summer days together. Come August, when I have broken up roughly 89 sibling squabbles and waded in the suspiciously warm local kiddie pool a dozen times, I am regretting that decision just a little bit.

By week one of summer vacation, I felt that the only solution to my children’s wild behavior and my boredom was a strict adherence to a schedule of my own creation. If my children were entertained for every minute of the day, not only would we be making memories for them to reminisce about for years to come, but their lack of boredom would mean there would be no reason for them to lash out at me or each other. That sounds pretty Type A of me. I assure you, I am what most people would consider a Type J. Which is why this didn’t quite work out.

Each day would revolve around one or two “events,” like a visit to a museum, a local water park, or an art room. All meals and snacks would be systematically scheduled around said event, and would be mini-events in their own rites. Downtime? Also scheduled. The iPad and television would be used at certain times of the day (like when Mama was making meals or trying to take deep breaths in a corner somewhere). My children would have a routine and we would be a happier family because of it…is what I thought.

Painting pottery - just one of our scheduled summer events.
Painting pottery – just one of our scheduled summer events.

Instead, this schedule created a morning of mayhem. Every morning began with a hurried breakfast, angst over what to wear (my three-year-old never wants what I have picked out and my 6-year-old is constantly asking to wear seasonally inappropriate attire, like a long-sleeved velvet dress on a 90-degree day). Then there came the point in the morning where I start shouting, “We are not leaving this house until your hair is brushed!” while one of the girls attempts to slyly stick the hairbrush under a couch cushion.

On average, it takes us an hour and a half to get ourselves ready for the day’s “event.” This means that lunchtime is often delayed, causing everyone’s blood sugar to drop to level “cantankerous.” By 3 p.m. everyone is angry with each other and I begin counting down the seconds (hours) until it is socially acceptable to start drinking wine and for my husband to arrive home from work.

On this particular morning, a dollar showing of Minions was on our agenda. Showtime was at 10 a.m. which meant we had about 40 minutes to get out of the house in order to get there in time. I had a choice: have an even more harried morning than typical so that the rest of our day could go as planned, or just throw the schedule out the window and let the morning play itself out. I reluctantly chose the latter, preparing myself for countless cries of “She’s copying me” and laments about boredom. What I got surprised me.

Going with the flow, when my older daughter asked if she could make everyone breakfast, I obliged. She was soon happily filling up bowls with yogurt and granola, something I never would have allowed her to do if I was worried about getting to one of our events on time. She happily talked herself through the process as if she were hosting a cooking program and beamed with pride as we all gobbled it up. The girls then asked if they could put on some make-up and I obliged, with the condition that they had to ask before they put on each new product – I’ve learned my lesson. They even put on their own tunes.

Just flipping her 45.
Just flipping her 45.

When the inevitable squabble occurred (One unstructured morning helped our overall morale – it didn’t make us the Von Trapps), it was resolved in less than 5 minutes. Why? Because no one’s patience had been tested. I’d spent my morning sipping earl grey tea – finishing both cups while they were still warm. My children were still in their pajamas, their hair in messy pony tails leftover from the day before. With no one agitated after a chaotic morning, I could react calmly and rationally, choosing to listen to my daughters rather than immediately scolding them. They, in turn, were able to listen to each other and come to an agreement. And okay, fine, for purposes of full disclosure, it also helped that the iPad they were fighting over died while we were reaching a resolution.

The afternoon led us outside where the girls snipped kale from our garden and I picked some zucchini to bake with. When I realized we were out of chocolate chips, we slipped on our shoes and took a stroll down the street to get some from the local convenient store. With the oven on, everyone was getting hot, and when the girls asked if we could head to the pool, I was relaxed enough to actually want to go myself. Two hours later, we came home, put some clothes on over our chlorine-soaked bodies, and when my husband arrived home, went over to my in-laws house for a lovely birthday dinner for my mother-in-law.

What's summer without freshly picked veggies?
What’s summer without freshly picked veggies?

When we put the kids to bed that night, everyone was worn out. The kids fell asleep within minutes of putting their heads on their pillows and I was right behind them. Laying in bed, I wondered why everyone was so tuckered out after doing nothing. That’s when I realized that doing nothing was our event of the day. Doing nothing meant putting on pink eye shadow and eating chocolate chips out of the bag. It meant diving for sinking toys in a pool while your mom chatted with friends. Doing nothing was playing a harmonica at the dinner table and eating home-baked blueberry pie. As I dozed off, I realized that, sometimes, the “event” is letting our day reveal itself to us.

Make no mistake, this does not mean that there will be no more events planned for this summer, but that we need to schedule in some time to breathe. Let’s be honest, if we let the day reveal itself to us five days a week, I’m fairly sure our next “event” would be a trip to the pharmacy to pick up a king-sized bottle of Xanax for Mama.