When Your Personality Is a Liability to Your Kids…


It was Monday, April 14, 2014. The first official day of Spring Break, and I did what any ambitious, sanity-valuing mama would have done. I made peace with reality (aka, if-we-tarry-in-this-place-we-will-be-homicidal-by-2:00), stuck one eyeball through a slat in the blinds and saw sunshine. “We’re going to the beach!” I chirped.

I welcomed a smile into my soul and grabbed the beach bag from the closet, shaking last year’s sunscreen to assess our supply. I confirmed that our baby powder – in its cloudy Ziploc – was still in place and haphazardly grabbed snacks and juice boxes and beach towels and made haste for our departure.

// Time Out: Baby powder is the supreme sand removal agent at the end of a beach day. Carry on with your lives, people. //

The girls’ lukewarm response could not diminish my internal horn-tootin’. Their shortsightedness could not see the harrowing pitfalls of staying at home. My seasoned sensibilities knew the danger. “This is brilliant!” I self-congratulated.

Not wanting to lose momentum, I enlisted Chris’ help clothing the people, loading and gassing the Jeep.

“You want me to put the top up?”

“What kind of question is that? Absolutely not. We want the top down for the beach…” I replied with one eyebrow raised in indignation. I pursed my lips and shook my head at the thought as I entered the closet for a cover-up.

In record time for a morning-averse family, we were in reverse down the driveway. We stopped for an absurd length of time to capture this special moment (and seventeen other very similar special moments just before this one)…

family Jeep pic

Cookie, you are the real MVP of parenting, I gushed as I released the clutch and sped away.

As we crested the overpass just outside our neighborhood, Campbell belted over the gale, “Mama, I’m cold.” As the roofline of our house grew faint in the distance, I cranked the heater and assured her it was all part of the fun.

I repeatedly punched the radio button, insistent on dialing up some vintage country for the occasion. “Mom, do we have to listen to this?” Carson groused.

Unfazed I was.

If I lead with positivity, they will eventually succumb to the merriment of the day, I rallied with a mental fist bump.

About the time we passed the bank, I noticed a down comforter of complete cloud cover. I dared not state the unfortunate and obvious but felt certain the sun was working its magic on the coast. Regardless of how it treats us inland folks, it’s obligated to play nice at the beach….especially during Spring Break.

As we headed east, I nailed the accelerator to the floor as the wind buffeted us for our hour and a half drive. Campbell, with no protection from the battering, regularly registered her displeasure.

“We’ll be there soon, and you can ride in the front on the way home, ” I leveraged.

Once I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw her flapping behind us from the roll bar. She appeared to have a tight grasp, so I kept driving. Press on, sister. Perseverance is a virtue.

When we arrived I cruised the strip in search of a public access with parking, rejecting a dozen or so for one deficiency or another. Too crowded. No available parking. Sketchy surroundings. I finally chose one.

No restroom.4231347208_c0f2e98461_o

No shower.

No restaurants or stores in sight.

Obviously, I was winning the day.

A dense meringue concealed the sun, but there was still the sand and the surf. There was still fun to be had.

And what fun we had!

For seven and a half minutes.

“We’re bored. We want to go home.”

I had no hearing for such nonsense. “We just got here. Go make some friends; build a sand castle and moat. Jump the waves with your sister. Collect cool shells in one of our buckets.” I was full of ideas.

“Mom, this is ridiculous. The sun’s not even shining, and we’re cold.”

“We’re not leaving,” I resolutely announced as I tilted my chin skyward, leaning my head against the chair. Eyes closed behind my shades, basking in the dingy cloudiness. You can still get a tan on an overcast day, you know.

I was committed to the mission. Fun was no longer a consideration; it was all about completion.

An hour and a half later, the heavy grey rolled in, and fat raindrops peppered the sand. “Grab everything quickly and run to the Jeep; if we hurry we can probably get ahead of the rain,” I yelled.

Have I failed to mention that I had NO IDEA how to put the top up on the Jeep? My plan was to outrun the afternoon storm. We layered any source of dry warmth, rolled the windows up, blared the heat, and tore westward. Racing the rain. We were golden.

For seven and a half miles.

Traffic stopped. We were gridlocked in the center lane. People to our right stared. People to our left stared. I smiled at them as though we were not stranded inside a mobile aquarium. The girls……..they did not smile at them. Carson looked over at a disturbed passerby and mouthed, “Adopt me.”

Ride or die, ladies.


No pain, no gain.

Life is like a box of chocolates.

All about that Jeep life.

You’re never fully dressed without a smile.

I mean, how many clichés could we live in one day?

I didn’t pull off to find shelter. I didn’t stop at a gas station to find someone to pull the top up. I didn’t take us to a mall or a movie until the rain passed. I gave no moment’s thought to formulating Plan B. That’s not what I do. I get a thing in my head and all else becomes background noise.

Hyper-focus gone crooked.

I did allow the girls to persuade me to stop at my parents’ – about halfway through our disastrous return – for dry clothes and Papa’s Jeep expertise.

Once we were home, a dry though sour Campbell commented on my Instagram post of the picture above:

Werst trip ever.”

Carson was probably in her room trying to call DHEC or the Department of Social Security (as she frequently threatens) for my dogged inflexibility.

I have a problem.

And the worst part………I have replicated myself.

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 10.35.03 AM

Reproduce responsibly, people.

silly girl edit

[Images: Brittni Gee Photography, Vanessa Myers, and Ame Rainey]

Four Reasons I Won’t Be Mom of the Millennium


The fact that our youngest will turn ten in a matter of days is a display of God’s grace equal to Daniel surviving his slumber party with a lion pride. Same. In fact, just last night she crept into the kitchen, clutching her hand with parallel streamlets watering her cheeks, “Mama, I was doing something I wasn’t suppose to, and now I’m bleeding.” Turns out, that whole curiosity thing just may talk you into opening your padre’s pocket knife and slicing up two of your digits.

That’s only the latest installment of Campbell’s mishaps. Girlfriend is no stranger to bodily harm, and I haven’t always been the best at protecting her……from herself……or me, for that matter. I’m not expecting any Mother’s Day surprise awards ceremonies this weekend because I have a well-stocked library of mama missteps that will pretty much keep me out of the running for a thousand years.

I won’t be mom of the millennium…

1)…because my Woman-Baby was locked in the driver’s seat of a running car. After walking with a friend and her son, sixteen month-old Campbell and I returned to our car to find the back left tire flat. Chris was out of town, so we called a dude friend who installed the donut tire and gave me strict instructions to drive to the nearest tire shop. Sweet Thang and I ran in and explained our dilemma; tire specialist friend accompanied us out to inspect the situation. I cranked the car, blasted the a/c, parked Campbell in her seat, closed the door, and proceeded to formulate the plan with said tire friend. Without my notice, that precious dumpling of sweetness climbed into the front, stood in the driver’s seat and began to turn knobs; the windshield wipers slapped, and then I heard the click that immediately captured my attention. She had found the automatic locks and cackled at her electronic prowess. Locked-in baby swiftly railroaded flat tire plans, and I stood like a overzealous imbecile trying to coax my child to unlock the door. I defaulted to the American-yelling-at-a-person-who-doesn’t-understand-English-but-surely-volume-assists-comprehension card. Thankfully tire friend was also skilled in baby rescue. Never mind the fact that I had to phone Carson’s preschool director to explain why I would be late gathering my other child. I’m not sure she felt confident about releasing older nugget to my care.

2) …because I never gave thoughtful consideration to all that young ones can shove up their noses. Campbell was two. She and I were heading out for a few errands before my favorite time of day – carline with a toddler (I feel you, young mama).  We stopped at the convenience store just outside our neighborhood (I will not tell you that I left her buckled, locked the car doors, ran in to grab a Diet Pepsi – I could see her at all times – and was out in less than two minutes; I am currently shaming myself for you. Feel better about it). As I backed out, Campbell began to cry the hurt cry, punctuated by mounting panic. I pulled back into the parking space and got out to survey the situation. A Honey Smack up the nose. Yup. Tiny enough not to be a choking hazard but just the right size to shove up your nostril. Our pediatrician’s office was closed for lunch, but the on-call nurse instructed me to be there when they re-opened if it had not dislodged by then. Living on the other side of town, we began to drive in that direction. I was frantically making arrangements for Carson to be scooped up by a friend when…………”At-choooooooooooooo!” I’ve never been so grateful to almost lose an eye to a Honey Smacks bullet.

3)…because I was party to Super Gluing my baby girl’s forehead shut. You actually read that correctly. My Women-Children and I were browsing the racks at Old Navy when Campbell tripped and caught the sharp edge of some shelving mid-way her forehead. The blood. The screaming. I dissolved into a mama puddle beside her three year-old little self. Thankfully, the Old Navy employees told me she probably needed stitches, so I didn’t have to determine a course of action out of my very own brain. It was almost 4:45, so we barely made it before our pediatrician’s office closed. We saw another doctor in the practice who confirmed that stitches would be in order; however, they did not stitch up injuries in the office. I would have to take her to the ER. And they aren’t known for the compassionate stitching of tiny people, he continued. It was after 5:00 by then. He contemplated a solution and then threw it out there. “In Vietnam,” he began, “it was not uncommon to use Super Glue to seal cuts out in the jungle.” I turned my head, lowered my chin, squinted my eye, and slowly processed his words. “……So if you want to run to Tommy’s Quick Mart just around the corner, buy some Super Glue, come back, I’ll clean the cut really well and glue it.” I laughed in disbelief as I hauled my two children to the car and headed to Tommy’s.

“Excuse me, do you carry Super Glue?”

Super nice Indian man said, “Let me look.” He searched behind the counter. “We have Crazy Glue.”

“Is that the same as Super Glue?”

“Well, what do you need it for?”

Giggling at the absurdity of my life, “You really don’t want to know.” He returned a questioning look. “My daughter’s doctor is going to glue her head shut.” He then returned bug-eyed terror. It’s all good though; it healed beautifully and she barely has a scar. The more you know.

And don’t think our Carson has made it her thirteen years unscathed.

4)…because I prayed the wrong prayer. Back in the day when my gals wore bows, a nauseous quantity of pink, smocking, whales and turtles and apples and frogs galore, I regularly prayed, “Lord, please make my girls wise and spiritually mature far beyond their years.” How noble of me. I failed to really think that prayer through. Have you ever had that experience?  Where you rethink a prayer after you begin to see God answer it, and you’re like “Whooooooaaaaaaaa…this isn’t exactly what I had in mind….”  Had I really thought about it, I would have known that spiritual maturity and wisdom do not come from the likes of the Tooth Fairy.  A pink, sparkly figment of their imagination doesn’t swoop in, flying in loops, leaving a flight trail of fairy dust and endow them with spiritual maturity and wisdom while they dream of Reese’s eggs and more TV time. Wisdom and spiritual maturity beyond our years has an uncomfortable price tag.  They are by-products of hardship. And to be super real, sometimes as parents we decide we want to protect our children from God. He is building my babies into fierce women but it’s painful and scary to watch. After thirteen years of parenting, I realize life will beat them up enough on its own; there’s no need to rush God’s purposes.

So, young mamas who still have a fighting chance, throw that babe on your hip while you chat strategy for your flat with tire friend, be vigilant protectors of your children’s nasal passages, stick a tube of Super Glue in the diaper bag (I totally should’ve glued Campbell’s fingers last night – dang it!), and pray an abundance of joy over your little people. Mamas, I love you; be celebrated this week [pounds heart with sideways fist and points at you]!

For more Mother’s day fare, read about one of my very worst days as a mom (and you thought the ones above were disastrous… :), the night my saint mom loved me through my own bad choices, and why banana pudding holds a special place in my heart.

 [title image: Haylee Sherwood]

Top 10 Ways for Packing on 20 Pounds

Weight loss is trendiest in January – when resources swell.  Gyms offer membership specials; weight loss merchandise abounds, and information outlets broadcast tips and strategies for success without end. But where’s the forum for those of us with success in the other direction?

I know lots of people gain weight due to genetics, wacky thyroids, or other health issues out of their control, but some of us work hard for it the good ole’ fashioned way. We eat.

Well, for the two of you out there trying to swim against the current, allow me to share some tips from twenty plus years of yo-yo weight gain and loss. While I am in no way an expert (and have zero real deal health knowledge), I can share what has worked well for me. And may I first commend your inactivity; you are making a great start by sitting on your rump in front of the computer reading this blog.

1) Search out sodium.  Bring on the soy sauce and bacon and pretzels and peanuts and fries and salt, salt, salt.  So effective for creating that puffy face and those swollen hands we all covet. Retain water until you slosh when you walk, friend!


2) Keep cookie dough in your freezer at all times.  Break and bake – for emergencies!  Like every day during fourth grade homework when you want to stick a fork in your eyeball.


3) Sleep. A lot. Like way more than recommended because growing bodies need their rest.


4) Two words for you…Little. Debbie. You know a Swiss Cake Roll always got your back. And I’d lay down my life for a Christmas tree cake.

Besties for the Resties!

5) Stress and crappy life circumstances. We’ll not laud the benefits of hardship, but let’s give credit where credit is due. Emotional eating will get you there.


6) Drink your calories.  This is the land of sweet tea and Coke (though I’m a Diet Pepsi girl myself; what can of worms have I opened up now??)  We love a fru-fru coffee full of cream and flavor; venti salted caramel mocha with whip for the win.  Then maybe top off the day with a nightly beverage of the fermented sort – good for the heart AND packs a caloric punch.


7) Eat out at least once a day.  This tip increases girth while decreasing bank.  Double play action.


8) Submit yourself to lots of Instagram posts of decadent food.  This will actually stimulate your appetite for foods high in fat content and way overpriced. A side benefit here is the folks who post their monstrous desserts don’t generally post selfies…with good reason.


9) Download the Krispy Kreme app that alerts you when fresh doughnuts are available…HOT NOW! Let’s observe a reverential moment of silence…


10) Cheese. Need I say more?


Cautionary Encouragement: This is serious business here; proceed with solemnity.  In my preparation for this post, I found that “[r]esearch conducted by Vanderbilt University Medical Center revealed that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes burns between 10 and 40 calories” (livestrong.com). Don’t throw away all of your hard work with belly laughter while you’re working towards your goals. You’ve got this! You’re the real MVP!

Okay, mates, any other tips for success you can add to the mix?

In the gym just working on my fitness… (Part One)

I love the gym! Not for the noble reasons that you might expect though. People at the gym are a hoot! I love studying who comes to the gym, why they come, what they do while they’re there, how often they come, what they wear, what speed and incline they run on, what time of day they come, etc… Fascinating stuff, people. If I ever write a book, it very well may be about gym folk.

During one of my favorite visits, I was putting on make-up (I love getting dressed at the gym) in a part of the locker room where some cuties were getting ready for their water aerobics class. There were five or six ladies who were sixty-five or older, and this was the convo I overheard…

Mae: Lucille, I already walked a mile on the treadmill.
Lucille: That is great, Mae!
Mae: But the scales still say the same thing.
Betty: They will change, girl. Keep working.
Alma: You might be like me and never lose weight, but they make size 20 caskets, you know.
Lucille: Don’t you say that. Don’t you say that! I’ve lost 31 pounds.
Mae: I’ll tell y’all why Lucille lost weight. I just heard that sex will make you lose weight. I did. I heard that.
Alma: Well, no wonder I’m fat.
Mae: Yeah, me too…

I am not making one bit of that up! How funny is that? More on gym folks soon…

Heavy Mettle

I am staring in the face of a hair appointment tomorrow – and I may have to bring the girls with me (YIKES!) Made me remember that I never posted my Mother’s Day article for SHE.

I knew better. I KNEW BETTER. But I did it anyway.

Chris was out of town, and I was feeling ambitious. I committed the unthinkable. I committed myself to an afternoon of appointments and errands with my six and three year-old daughters. I knew better. I realize that to some of you that’s no biggie, but to me it was a ghastly adventure.

I ran over people at Carson’s school to snatch her up and dash to a hair appointment across town at 2:30. Thanks to my turn on two wheels into carline, we were actually a few minutes early for our first appointment. Both girls sat angelically to have their locks shorn, and that, my friends, was the high point of the afternoon. After a potty visit and some quick check writing, we barreled to another section of town for a 3:00 visit with our dentist – where Carson and I were having our teeth cleaned and checked.

In my own utopia I had imagined that Carson would go into her own exam room, and we would be cleaned and examined simultaneously. Of course, Campbell would perch still and silent and watch with grave interest as I was the patient. Okay, so that didn’t happen. Carson was called before I was, so she finished just as I was getting started. She joined her sister in the room with me, and to say that there were way too many Cawthon girls in one exam room would be a gross understatement. I lay back, stretched my mouth open as wide as I could, my dental hygienist (if you are reading, I plead for your forgiveness! I learned my lesson, I promise!) began inserting her instruments into my mouth, and the melee began. I started to sweat and pray for a speedy cleaning. Campbell began beating on the foot of the dental chair, causing my head at the opposite end to bounce a little. Carson began to totally unpack my purse while wearing the requisite attitude that accompanies my obnoxiously large sunglasses. Then they began to fight, push, and argue over my personal belongings. My dear hygienist tried to ignore the fray, and I tried my hardest to teleport to another continent. No such luck, so I halted the cleaning, sat up, and informed both of my precious ones that certain punishment awaited them in their very near future. They were at least tolerable for the remainder of the visit.

So I slunk out of the office wearing mortification like a weighty backpack and loaded my offspring. Acknowledging that I was at least partly to blame for attempting such an asinine afternoon, I refused to sink even lower in my own estimation by picking up fast food for dinner. We proceeded to the grocery store. Okay, I’m not completely an idiot; I issued the standard lecture in the car before we disembarked. I reminded them of their looming consequences – which proved to be a tactical error – and off we went. Somewhere half way through our shopping, they threw all caution to the wind and embraced the certainty of their punishment. We were a sight! Without an ounce of brain power or dignity left, I grabbed only the bare essentials for our dinner and breakfast. All else would have to wait. I pulled into a checkout line and exhaled, knowing the end was near. If I can just get home I’ll be okay, I thought. At about which time, Campbell, who is seated in the spacious part of the cart, leans over and puts her hand on the cart in front of us and bellows quite loudly, “MOVE IT, LADY!” Oh no she didn’t.

Oh yes she did.

The lady turns around and replies, “I would if I could.”

“CAMPBELL CAWTHON, YOU APOLOGIZE TO HER RIGHT THIS MINUTE!” I declared with my head shaking in fury and shame; it threatened to make a few complete revolutions as my ire intensified.

“Oh, she’s fine. I have grandchildren their ages, and you just need to enjoy this time while they’re young.” Sometimes, easier said than done, sweet friend (if you are reading, I plead for your forgiveness! You are an angel, and I so appreciated your gracious response and your sense of humor!).

Somehow I made it through the next couple of hours and finally settled them into bed. Spent in every way, I flopped onto the couch and sat numb in the silence. What was that? I finally asked myself.

That, in all honesty, is how some days go for me as a mother.

At the end of some days, I feel like I did a pretty good job. At the end of others, I think I was just adequate, and then at the end of a few, I cry.

It’s hard.

When we trade in that high-dollar purse for a big, bulky though highly functional diaper bag, we need room to carry a lot more than diapers and wipes and bottles and pacies. We need room to shoulder the universal guilt of being a mom. We feel guilty if we work and are away from our children most of the day. We feel guilty if we stay at home and find it difficult, tedious, and sometimes even unfulfilling. We might also need to haul our exhaustion, our caffeine addiction, the extra weight we’ve gained from running ragged, our tears (happy and not-so-much), our embarrassment, our impossible expectations for ourselves, and sadly sometimes even our own judgment of each other. What a load!

But that’s not all. We also need room for all of the awkwardly spelled love notes and the brightly colored pictures. We need a separate compartment for the tears we dry, the boo-boos we kiss, and the snapshots we cherish of them sleeping, smiling, or performing when they don’t know we’re watching. We need to tuck their wet dog smell in a side pocket to help us remember spring afternoons spent running in the sun; we want to capture their tight squeezes around the neck in a zippered pouch, and there needs to be a special canister in the side that can be filled with their laughter.

I absolutely love being a mommy, and I wouldn’t trade a solitary second of my time spent with my girls. But it also often feels like a Herculean task. I find balance between the difficult and delightful in the reality that motherhood is meant to change me as much as it is meant to change my children. I find beauty in that.