Clark Kent: The Mommy Chronicles Part 1 - Mornings

For those out not familiar with what's going on with the job situation, I'll bring you up to speed quickly. For the past eight years I had worked in the home building industry, primarily for one major builder in Houston, and then I transferred to Chicago so I could be closer to my boys. My transfer coincided with the beginning of the end for the housing market and the Chicago division, being one of the company's worst, started cutting jobs. Despite a descent career I figured I'd better leave the company by going out on top as opposed to getting caught up in the lay offs because they "overpaid" me. My best chance to sustain the level of income needed to take care of the boys lay in Houston where the housing market is still good (relatively speaking)and I found a job with one company, but it was a sketchy operation. When a larger, internationally reputable builder approached me about a position they were creating I jumped at the chance. Less than 65 days later they laid me off (they said because of budget shortfalls, but really, it was because I didn't subscribe to management's cultish belief in The Secret...ya, another blog, another time). This brings me to the present where Ashley and I started a freelance writing business.

Like any start-up, things are slow, which keeps us looking for "regular jobs." The truth of the matter is Ashley looks to be the better freelancer to client's, while I just appear to be a failed business executive. As such, Ash has scored a great, steady gig just a few minutes away from the loft. Despite it's proximity, however, she has to be their pretty early so getting the girls up, dressed, fed and out the door (on time) falls on the shoulders of ol' Clark Kent here.

Given the fact, my Army experience makes me knowledgeable in prepping C4 explosives for breaching obstacles and assaulting an objective, and that I have implemented major business initiatives resulting in strong profits as a corporate exec, then the mere concept of me getting two little girls ready for the day by myself is hilarious by itself. Therefore the concept in execution is just that much more funny...and crazy.

Don't get me wrong; it's not that I can't handle it. I'm quite apt at getting kids out the door without other people seeing them and thinking mommy must be sick or out of town. Admittedly, my experience has been with my boys so fashion hang-ups and big conversations about Hannah Montana at the breakfast table don't hold up the process like they do with little girls, but in any case kids for the most part are pretty much the same across the board in enough areas that I can still "accomplish the mission," or "meet the budget" as I would've said in my past lives.

Keys to the Morning - Routine

With this in mind, the universal concepts I use involve routine, rewards, countdowns, and distractions. The first key, routine, is kind of like what the Army refers to as Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), and serves as a consistant template for how to get something done. For the girls it's, get up, get clothes on, get breakfast, fix teeth and hair, get school essentials (glasses, bags, show and tell items - all staged the night before near the door), and then head to the van. If you were to mix in the additional routines for Ashley and me, that would be known as "battlefield synchronization," while in the business world it's the weekly coordination meeting, but that's getting off track.


For rewards, I like the marble game. Honestly, I just pulled this one out of my butt-crack having no idea it would work so well, but it does so that's how we roll. The deal is, if you do something your asked or complete a chore then you get a marble in your little bowl; conversely, should you decide you are going to secede from the Union and you pay a marble. Early on, we promised a reward once someone got to a certain number, but we've been pretty vague on how many marbles one needs to have for that prize. So far the girls haven't questioned this, not realizing this part of the system is near to that of reward points used by credit cards. Part of why this works is Allie works well with little reassurances here and there, and so, when she beams this big smile and announces, "I have fifty marbles!" then we make sure to give her an "at-a-girl" for working so hard. Avery, on the other hand, is on 10, which is good seen as how she operates mostly in over-draft protection. Not that she doesn't try, she does, but let's just say she has focus issues, and that's where the other key concepts come into play.


Based on a the set time we need to across the line of departure (LD in military lingo), I set the microwave timer to countdown so it will go off letting everyone know wherever they are that they should be at the door so we can move to the minivan. When the girls get up stairs to eat I point out the timer and remind them they have to beat the time. For Allie, this is child's play as she is ready waaaaaay before the alarm sounds, and runs around to remind the rest of us where we need to be at that moment, which is fine since she gets to feel in charge for a few minutes. For Avery, 20 - 30 minutes is too much time to digest, but she'll let you know when it goes off that she's ready, and then ask you to help her find the matching sock to the one she's been holding as she does circles around her room.

Smaller countdowns work better as in, "Avery, get your shoes on, okay, one, two, three..." When you hit five then bye bye marble (we have to have amnesty days where one miraculous act will bring her account balance back to even so she doesn't loose interest). I've got to say the microwave countdown is as much for me as anyone since I hold off on taking my ADD meds until after I drop the kids at school which means I can be found circling the bedroom with Avery looking for a stamp or something inconsequential to us hitting the road. It really helps me stay on track and to avoid Allie looking down her nose at me for my failure in getting ready on time.


It would seem contrary that distractions would be effective when one child and one unmedicated adult both have focus issues, but done right, they work quite well. For me, I just need to remind myself that I get distracted easily, and when I forget 30 seconds later I catch a glimpse of the timer and I know I don't need stamps for something I can email. For kids, conceptually, they are like those monkeys with PhD's in astrophysics that NASA uses to send into outer-space. When one of them starts arguing in sign language over the launch sequence, someone starts waving a banana around and all of a sudden that monkey has 600,000 pounds of thrust behind him before he can finish the last bite. My point is that kids are way smarter than we sometimes think, especially when they don't want to do something, so you just have to find their "banana," and start waving it around.

With Allie, distraction aren't necessary on a regular basis since she's too busy counting marbles or preparing a self-righteous diatribe in case I or Avery are tardy in getting to the van (when I get to Part 3 you'll see where they come into play for her). It's Avery who functions best with them, and they don't have to be real elaborate either. Say she's talking about her My Little Ponies when she's supposed to be brushing her teeth. All it takes is mentioning My Little Ponies like Reuben sandwiches, and she comes out of her catatonic state strapped in her car-seat with no memory of the last ten minutes.

Now these concepts have been used for years by parents. They're nothing new, but I still get a kick out of watching them work.

Next Clark Kent: The Mommy Chronicles, Part 2 - The Morning Timeline

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