Dear parents of three-year-olds everywhere, this one is for you. For you snot-wiping, cartoon-watching, potty-training, question-answering, Play-Doh-molding heroes. I am in awe of you. In awe of your patience. Of your multi-tasking abilities. And of your unassuming Hulk-like arm strength.
Back in December, while in a moment of holiday euphoria and suffering from memory loss and what can only be described as delusion, P and I offered to host a toddler sleepover.
Me: For Leighton’s birthday present, we should have her come spend the night at our house. We can do a sleepover at Uncle Patrick and Aunt Libby’s! And we can invite Ella!
P: Sure. Sounds great.
He was probably watching football during this conversation and didn’t actually comprehend the magnitude of his commitment.
Last week, P and I put the agenda in place. We would pick up the girls Saturday morning and go to Kaleidoscope at Crown Center and then eat lunch at Fritz’s. We would then come back to our house where the girls (and P) would nap. After naps, we would play, watch movies, eat dinner, and then (hopefully) go to sleep.
The only activity that really concerned me was the “playing.” Since, you know, we don’t own a single toy.
Me: What are we going to play? We don’t really have anything to play with? Should we go get some Play-Doh? Orrrrr we could make Play-Doh?
P: We can go buy some Play-Doh. I don’t want to make it. We’ll be watching movies, reading books and playing with Play-Doh most of the day so I doubt they’ll be searching for a lot of stuff to do.
Me: Do tell, what books will we be reading? Charles Dickens? Kite Runner? We don’t own children’s books.
P: Right. Maybe we can have them each pack their favorite books.
With the book situation figured out and my boss’ generous loan of 50+ Play-Doh accessories, we were good to go for the Saturday afternoon playtime.
I felt really good about the weekend until 2:50 p.m. on Friday when I received this email.
Subject: FW: Drawing: Sesame Street Live at Sprint Center – Tickets up for Grabs!
Message: We don’t want to enter for these do we?
I scrolled down a bit to find the following:
“If you would like tickets to see Sesame Street Live tomorrow night at 5:30pm at Sprint Center, please email me and let me know if you’d like 2 or 4 tickets. Winners will be notified at 3:00pm sharp!”
My response: I mean, you can enter and we can decline if we want…
P: Entered. Will let you know how it turns out.
Five minutes later my email alert pinged and I learned the outcome.
P: Welp, should we go? Forwarded message: Congrats! You are a winner of 4. Swing by to pick up.
What are the odds. Last year, I swore I would never ever again go to Sesame Street Live. I had the “Can’t Stop Singing” song stuck in my head for a week and sustained emotional scarring that probably hasn’t even surfaced yet.
Fool me once, shame on Sesame Street. Fool me twice, shame on me.
This one’s on me. Sesame Street Live: Make a New Friend was added to the agenda and on Saturday morning P and I trekked out South to pick up the little ones.
Ella being the farthest away, we picked her up first. With her securely fastened in our vehicle, we made the 10-minute drive to Leighton’s house.
Ella: Um, we should probably go pick up Leighton now.
Me: Good idea. Let’s do that.
Ella: Are we going to pick up Leighton?
Me: Yes, we are on our way.
Ella: Where is Leighton?
Me: At her house.
Ella: Are we going there now?
Me: Yes. We are going to pick up Leighton at her house right now.
Ella: Where is her house?
Me: Down the street. How on earth do you explain distance and direction to a toddler?
Ella: At her house?
Me: Yes, at her house. Down the street. Where we are going right now. To pick up Leighton.
Ella: (10 seconds later) We should probably hurry, though.
We were off to a good start.
Ten minutes later, we had both girls buckled in their car seats and holding firmly to their stuffed bunnies. Stuffed bunnies must be the “thing” right now.
I thought it would be a good time for some music. In anticipation for the day, I had made a Leighton/Ella playlist with music from Frozen and Tangled, as well as other classic Disney hits.
Me: Girls, do you want to listen to Frozen or Tangled?
Leighton: I want to listen to Elsa’s song.
Ella: Yeah! Elsa’s song.
I knew Elsa was a character from Frozen, but I had no idea what song she sang.
Me: Um, there is no song titled “Elsa’s Song” on the Frozen soundtrack.
Ella: Can we please listen to Elsa’s song?
As if adding a please was going to help me find the song faster. Sweet of them, though. After first playing three incorrect songs, we finally found “Elsa’s Song” which is actually titled “Let It Go.” They knew enough of the words for me to be impressed. And by the end of the 24 hours, I did, too.
Upon finishing “Elsa’s Song,” they immediately requested “Tangled.” I’ve watched the movie enough with those two to know which song they were referencing. We went back and forth from “Tangled” to “Elsa’ Song” back to “Tangled” and then some more of “Elsa’s Song.” It’s all we played. The entire 24 hours. Why listen to something else, when those two are so great? No need for musical diversity. No need to mix it up. No need for options. Glad I made a playlist.
We pulled into the Crown Center parking garage to begin checking off our list of planned activities.
Leighton: When we get out, I want to hold Uncle Patrick.
Ella: Yeah, and I want to hold Aunt Libby.
Well, alright then. And yes, they did say they wanted to hold us. Too much adorableness to handle.
With toddlers in tow, we made our way to Kaleidoscope. It’s this amazing land of creativity where children get to explore arts and crafts with materials left over from Hallmark’s manufacturing process. Due to Hallmark’s sponsorship, entry is free, so P was on board from the start.
We made some puzzles. And drew some pictures. And decorated some glasses with melted wax so they glowed under the black light.
At one point, we found a bin of letters and helped the girls spell their names. We affixed the letters to their craft bag and gave them markers to color in the letters. I set to work helping Leighton put tape on her letters and pick out markers. I look over to my left where P is supposedly helping Ella. Ella is standing still smiling at her bag. P is intently coloring in the letters of Ella’s name. Apparently Kaleidoscope isn’t just for children.
We decided to bail on the Kaleidoscope session before everyone else so we wouldn’t have to wait in a crazy line at Fritz’s. Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant is a Crown Center favorite and serves your meal to your table via an overhead electric train.
The girls were incredibly decisive on their order; Leighton wanted a hotdog and Ella wanted a grilled cheese. They both wanted milkshakes. We ordered the food and as we waited, P posed the ever-important question.
P: Do you girls need to go to the bathroom?
P: Are you sure? Aunt Libby will take you.
Me: Thanks, babe.
Me: Ok, girls. Let’s go quickly.
With one small, pudgy hand in each of mine, the three of us made our way to the bathroom. A nice lady walking in front of us held the door open so the three of us could enter with ease and the women waiting in line let us cut and use the large stall. Two potties, three hand washings and three hand dryings later, we hustled back to the table. As we rounded the corner, I could see P at our table and the train delivering our food. Nuts! We missed the best part. However, it was soon obvious to me that the person who cared the most hadn’t missed it. P looked giddy as the train dropped off the tray and it was lowered down to our table.
Hot dogs, fries and milkshakes consumed, we headed back home for nap time.
Ella: Um, Aunt Libby, do you have Play-Doh at your house?
Libby: Yes, we do Ella. We have brand new Play-Doh just for you!
That girl loves her Play-Doh. According to Amy, she carries a ball of Play-Doh around with her all day at home. She loves to smash or as she says “smush” Play-Doh. She likes to watch Play-Doh videos on YouTube. She loves everything about Play-Doh.
And, sure enough, as soon as we got home, the girls started asking for Play-Doh. Who am I to deny those sweet angel faces?
Me: Ok. You can have ten minutes of Play-Doh time. But then you have to take a nap.
After just ten minutes, my entire glass coffee table was encrusted with Play-Doh. Salty, oily residue coated the top and I could already see bits of pink and blue sprinkled throughout the surrounding carpet.
Besides the obvious safety issues, I now understand why I don’t see a lot of glass coffee tables in homes with toddlers.
Once we pried them away from the magical Play-Doh, nap time went smoothly. For all five of us. Ella and Leighton dreamt of Play-Doh each in their own room, P and I dozed on the couch and Quinton plopped down in the middle of the room. He had been previously banished as neither of the girls are big Q fans. Poor guy. No love for the Q man this weekend.
We had told the girls if they took a good nap they would have a surprise when they woke up.
Both girls slept over two hours (we got lucky) and when they woke up, we put them on the couch to tell them their surprise. I had this grand idea of filming them when we told them we were going to Sesame Street Live. I thought they would scream and jump up and down and tell us how excited they were and how wonderful we are for taking them.
Me: Ok, girls. Do you want to know what your surprise is?
P: Because you guys took such good naps, do you want to know what you get to do now?
Leighton: Yeah. What?
P: You get to go see Elmo!
Ella: Can I see Elmo?
P: Yeah, you get to go see Elmo! And Sesame Street. And Abby.
Leighton: Abby is my favorite.
Me: So, you guys want to go see Sesame Street?
Ella: I do. Um, can we play with Play-Doh now?
Right. The Play-Doh. Well, at least they seemed mildly interested in Sesame Street.
This time around we remembered cash for parking and all children were potty trained so I didn’t have to worry about facing the changing table again. As we walked into the Sprint Center, I noticed it wasn’t nearly as crowded as the morning session we had attended last year. Maybe it wouldn’t be as overwhelming this year? We distracted the girls as we walked past the man hawking the same spinning, light-up toys from last year. And we countered Ella’s request for popcorn with a promise of some at home later in the evening. Our seats were easily found and P and I sat bookending the girls. As we waited for the show to start, the same hum of crying children filled the arena. And the same vendors paced the floor in hopes of instilling each child with a desperate need for cotton candy.
However, this year they inserted some, albeit outdated, pop culture references, including a rendition of “Moves Like Mick Jagger” titled “Moves Like Bert” and a duet by Elmo and Grover to the tune of Katy Perry’s “Hot n Cold.” You see, Grover’s friend Chamki was visiting from India, but Chamki wanted to play with Abby instead of Grover. Or so he thought. Elmo and Abby were supposed to have a play date that day, too, but she blew him off for Chamki. Elmo and Grover read way too much into it and made some poor assumptions about Chamki and Abby not wanting to be their friends anymore. When, really, Chamki was just teaching the Sesame Street gang how to dance Bollywood style to “Jai Ho” as a surprise for Grover.
Moral of the story for children: It’s ok to make new friends and still have your old friends.
Moral of the story for adults: It’s ok to make new friends and still have your old friends.
It was a lesson I needed, as P quickly became the favorite. The girls ended up both sitting on his lap by the end of the show. Don’t worry about me girls; I’ll just be sitting over here, three seats away looking like a creeper attending Sesame Street alone.
After the final Jai Ho number and the confetti canons that were surprisingly startling, we moved with the herd toward the exit. I began to think to myself, “That wasn’t as bad as last year.” That is, until the kid walking 50 feet in front of us blew chunks all over himself and the floor in front of him. Bet his parents wish they had opted out of the cotton candy.
Ella: Why is he crying?
Me: Because he ate too much cotton candy.
Ella: Oh no.
Since we were on the topic of food, addressing dinner seemed like a natural next step.
Ella: Can I have some Mac and Cheese when we get home?
P: Yep. We’re going to have Mac and Cheese and hot dogs…
Leighton: Hotdogs, again?
P: Well, yes. We weren’t planning on you having one for lunch.
The only other food we had in the house was sushi. And that didn’t seem toddler-appropriate.
As soon as we got home, P began whipping up dinner. It was 7:45 p.m. by this time and I figured it best to put the girls’ pajamas on and start to prep the basement.
In the days leading up to the slumber party, I debated for quite a while about where the girls would sleep. We have two guest rooms with queen size beds, but I was concerned they would wake up in the middle of the night, not know where they were, be all alone and freak out. We were hoping for a freak-out-free weekend. Part of the fun of a slumber party is getting to sleep in one room together. Back in my slumber party days, we would bring sleeping bags and blankets and all curl up in a basement to fall asleep watching movies. So, that’s what I decided we would do. And since our master bedroom is three floors above the basement and we don’t have a baby monitor, I opted to sleep down in the basement with girls.
By the time I finished setting up the blankets, sleeping bags and pillows, P had dinner ready. We didn’t want to interrupt Cinderella, so we brought the food to the girls. They ate standing up, in their pajamas and watching TV. Sounds like us on a normal night.
Per our promise to Ella, we popped some popcorn after dinner and let the girls pick out a movie on Netflix. They chose “Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue.”
The three of us snuggled up under the covers, P came down and said goodnight, turned off the lights and we watched the movie. Unfortunately, I fell asleep before the actual fairy rescue took place, and also before either of the two girls fell asleep. The next thing I remember is waking up in the middle of the night. The sleep timer on the TV had shut off and both girls were fast asleep on either side of me. I found my phone buried in the covers and, after momentarily blinding myself with the light from the screen, I found the time. 11:47 p.m. What? It’s not even midnight?
I shifted my weight and dozed off again, only to wake up almost every hour throughout the rest of the night.
1:10 a.m. Oh good, the girls are still asleep. Let me just turn on my side and maybe I will sleep better.
2:03 a.m. Who’s foot is that in my back? My hip hurts so much. I need to turn over. Oh, it’s Ella’s foot. She looks so sweet asleep. That’s ok, precious girl. You can kick me in the back if you want.
3:50 a.m. Why am I freezing? Where are the covers? Leighton, give those back to me! But I don’t want to wake you, sweet girl. I’ll just get up and go get another blanket.
4:33 a.m. How are they sleeping down here? We are sleeping on a concrete slab. This was a dumb idea. Maybe I can curl up on the love seat and get some rest.
5:33 a.m. My legs are asleep. I cannot stay in this love seat. Move over girls, I’m coming back on the ground. Stop looking so peaceful, too. It’s getting annoying.
7:00 a.m. Alarm goes off. Oh good, time to get up.
Neither of the girls moved as I snuck out of the basement and climbed the stairs to my bedroom to find P sprawled out diagonally in our bed. Glad someone got some shuteye. I laid down on the end of the bed.
P: What are you doing?
Me: I just need to lie on a soft surface for a minute. I’m so sore. Stupid concrete. That was a bad idea. A very bad idea.
P: Ha. It was your idea.
Me: I know. Thank you. Now get up. We have to get ready before they get up and then we have to get them ready.
We were going to meet both their parents at church and we had to be out the door by 8:15 a.m.
I don’t often, but I will never again make any passing judgment on a parent who looks disheveled. Getting ready in the morning is like a race against a ticking time bomb. I threw on a shirt I wore three days ago. Didn’t even bother to iron it. No time. Ran a straightener through my hair and slapped on some makeup. P and I tag teamed getting the girls dressed and, while I organized their accessories, he ran a comb through their hair. Salon Moss is now taking appointments.
At this point we were running ahead of schedule and we promised the girls we would get donuts on the way to church.
Ella: I want a chocolate donut.
Leighton: I want a donut with pink and purple sprinkles.
Me: Sure girls, whatever you want.
Thankfully Lamar’s Donuts had exactly what they wanted and I returned successfully to the car with a big bag of donuts. I threw some napkins on their laps, passed out their donuts and tried not to think about the sprinkles finding refuge in the crevices of my new car. Leighton ate all of the icing and sprinkles off the donut and then declared herself “done.” Ella ate her chocolate donut upside down so the chocolate icing smeared all of her chin and the collar of her coat. Were the donuts in the car a rookie mistake? Probably. Did I care? No. We survived. At this point, they could have smeared chocolate icing all over the windows and I probably wouldn’t have minded. Probably being the key word.
The tiny tots were reunited with their parents and a weight was lifted off my shoulders, both literally and figuratively. In addition to the heavy bags under my eyes, and my back in much need of a chiropractor, I also cannot lift my arms above my shoulders. Carrying a toddler around is a lot of work.
So, parent of toddlers, I commend you. You are warriors. I officially give you props. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go recover from my toddler hangover. Please pass the aspirin.