Someone Ate My Kid’s Waffle

Parents know all too well that the world is full of threats and dangers to our most precious little gifts. Dingos, wells, white vans with no windows… all dangerous. We know this. But sometimes… usually just when you think you’re getting the hang of this parenting thing, you find yourself in a situation that you realize, after it’s too late, that you aren’t prepared for. Panic sets in. You’ve found a new danger zone.

That’s what happened when someone took a bite of my son’s waffle at a restaurant. Nope, you didn’t read that wrong. Someone (I like to think it was a ghost because I don’t think ghosts have spit or diseases) put their mouth on food that wasn’t even on their table.

Before that moment, my greatest fear while dining out alone with my potty-trained kids was that one of them would have to “go potty”, the server would think we left, and throw our food away before we had a chance to eat it. But I now know that’s not the worst thing that can happen.

I was so proud to get my kids potty trained. It’s a milestone lauded by smart people who write books and stuff as evidence of a child’s advancement toward becoming a successful member of society and I taught my kids how to do that. I think the logic is infant, potty-trained child, Harvard attendant, cardio thoracic surgeon, successful at life. However, no one talks about the cons.

For example: once my kids are officially potty training, it’s super inconvenient for me. There’s no safety net. If they have an “accident”, that means dirty poop pants. That means that I get to put clean clothes on them and wash the dirty pee or poop clothes. Sometimes this could happen more than 4 times a day. It’s expensive and time consuming. And frustrating.

Also, my kids learned that if they said the magic words, “I need to go potty”, I would drop EVERYTHING and take them to the nearest restroom. They were in complete control. The moment we walked into a store or restaurant, guess what they said… I once asked my daughter, “do you really need to go potty or do you just want to check out the restroom?” She replied, “I just want to check out the restroom.” At least she was honest.

Then, this one day… it was a Saturday. My hubs was on call so he was spending his morning at the hospital. I decided to take the kiddos to get breakfast at a fancy sit-down restaurant. We ordered. Kids were coloring. The world was at peace. Then it happened. “Mommy, I gotta go potty.” Ok. I got this. I found our server and told him that we were going to the restroom. We’re safe.

After what felt like 5 years, my son did his bid-naz and we made our way back to our table where our food was already waiting. We sat down and my son said, “Mommy, who bit my waffle?” Um… what? I looked over. There it was. As clear as day. A bite mark. I surveyed the room. What fuq’n weirdo took a bite of my son’s waffle? Everyone’s a suspect. What do I do? Call the FBI? No. I’m too conflict adverse.

I packed up my children, declared I would NOT pay for that waffle, and we left. Because WHAT THA FUQ.

So, to all my friends out there about to be parents for the first time or about to embark on potty training for the first time, beware of venturing out to restaurants without backup. Not saying don’t do it. Just saying keep your guard up. And maybe ask the server to keep your food safe in the kitchen until you return?

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How to Cleanse Like a Pro

My panic face. Keep this in mind. You’ll need it for the visual.

It’s Just a Cleanse

Y’all, I just tried my first cleanse. Being a middle-aged woman (O.M.G. I can’t believe I just put that out into the universe… I feel sick… sick from old age & honesty), I can no longer simultaneously eat like a sumo wrestler AND have the waist of a Kardashian. As a matter of fact, it’s doubtful that I could eat like a breatharian and have the waist of a Kardashian. But, that’s ok. Looking like a ghetto barbie who won the lottery isn’t my thing. I do, however, want to be healthy.

When I’m not taking care of myself, my whole being feels “off”. I’ve been in peak physical shape before. Like, waaaay before. So, when I’ve had one too many cheat days my body yells at me like a drunk momma in Walmart. After listening to the yelling for a while, I finally decided that my body needed a reset.

I heard a lot about detoxes and cleanses and from what I could tell with the extensive googling I did, there didn’t seem to be much difference between the two. You just drink the drinks or swallow the pills and your body expels the bad like that kid in my high school that stabbed the principal with a fork. I couldn’t find much explanation on HOW the bad stuff gets eliminated but I figured I’d prolly have to pee a lot. It couldn’t be too bad… seems pretty popular. Popular things are never bad.

As luck would have it, my medically knowledgeable hubs heard me talk about my desire to clean out my body so he bought us both a 14-day supply of cleanse tablets, the men’s version for himself, the women’s version for me. I started right away. On a Sunday evening. AKA, the night before my daughter’s first overnight field trip. It was a big night for both of us. She was experiencing a rite of passage. And so was I.

What Had Happened Was…

I made sure to take the gender appropriate tablets cuz I really don’t wanna grow a penis at this age. Full disclosure, I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t immediately have to pee. But I reminded myself to be patient… Rome wasn’t built in a day or whatever. So I got ready for bed, set my alarm for 5:30 am, and drifted off to sleep eager to wake up ten pounds lighter, svelt, and flat bellied. Bella had to be at school with all of her stuff by 7:40 am the next morning so I wanted to make sure I was giving myself time to drive the kids to school and help her carry her stuff in. Little did I know, I would not need the aforementioned alarm. (foreshadowing!!!)

Around 5 am I woke up with a mean case of the bubble guts. In my semi-lucid state, I figured the best course of action would be to ignore it and try to go back to sleep. I’m a southern woman- it’s what we do. If we wake up to a problem, we go back to sleep until it goes away. Just kidding… or am I? Anyway, I hate mornings. I mean I HAAAAAAYYYYYTE them. If I were to rank them among the things I hate the most it would go Hitler, my 4th grade teacher, mornings. So if I can get 15 more minutes of sleep, this classy lady is gonna power through the bubble guts.

I fell asleep for a minute and then abruptly woke up to sharp abdominal pains. Like the kind you get after eating questionable meat nachos at a gas station. I was afraid to move. What was the cause of this pain? Was my bladder THAT full? Once the pain subsided enough I shuffled to the bathroom. I mean, I did need to pee so that must be it. And pee I did. But not out of THAT hole. What was happening??? After what felt like 5 years I composed myself enough to get dressed and get the kids up. I was, at this point, about 10 minutes off schedule. No problem. I could make that time up with a little dry shampoo for myself and motivation for the kids. Like a drill sergeant I was shouting motivational phrases at my darling children like, “HURRY! You don’t need matching socks! Just grab 2 from the top of your hamper!” And it worked! At 6:50 am we were all downstairs with the kids eating a delicious homemade breakfast of frozen waffles.

Down But Not Out

And then… proving lightening sometimes DOES strike twice… it hit me again. There was nothing I could do except sit on the porcelain throne of horror and pee what should have been solid out of the other hole… again. You know when your kid brings you their toothpaste tube saying there’s no more but you know the trick of rolling the tube to get the last out and it just keeps coming out and then you can’t get it to stop? Yep. At 7:02 I started to panic. My baby girl was going to miss the field trip she’d looked forward to for 3 months because I couldn’t stop shatting. How do I sign my kids into the school office? In the “reason” block do I put “cleanse gone wrong”? How do I tell Bella that she got left behind because I couldn’t stop the toxins from flowing out of my body like liquid hot magma? I could’t let that happen.

I dug deep, y’all. I couldn’t let shat defeat me or disappoint my baby girl. I started channeling my drill sergeant again. From behind the bathroom door I yelled, “Bella! Roman! Get your stuff together! Put your shoes on! Do you have your snacks? Get in the car! I’ll be right there!” I said a prayer, made a few promises to Jesus that I fully expect to keep, and took care of business in every way. Somehow I managed to get my kids to school in time. Bella had 10 minutes to spare. And I worked from home that day because I couldn’t risk being the girl who lost bowel control at the office.

Moral of the Story:

A cleanse means that you will poo until your innards liquify and fall out of your body. Also, I’m still a contender for Mom of the Year and have a great story for the awards video montage, although it’s kinda gross. So, I guess you could say my chances are pretty good. I’m excited about it.

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Take A Step

Surprise!

When I became a mom I was surprised by quite a few things. For instance, I was surprised that I could still function enough to walk down the aisles of Target on just 30 minutes of sleep. Of course, I didn’t remember why I was there or how I got there, but I was there, nonetheless. Another surprise: how much poop could come out of a tiny, adorable baby body. You know the chocolate fountain at Golden Corral? Yeah… it’s like that. But with poo. Exploding poo. However, nothing surprised me as much as waking up from a years’ long parenting-induced fog, realizing that my whole identity had to be rediscovered and redefined.

My Name Is…

I didn’t lose myself over night. Like the proverbial frog in hot water, my sense of identity died a slow, sneaky death. I used to know exactly who I was and what I wanted out of life. I mean… I was ERICA! Short in stature, tall in sarcasm, with the misplaced attack instincts of a chihuahua. I was the same Erica who did exactly what was expected of me until my first abnormally large tramp stamp tattoo at the age of 21. The same Erica who moved to Italy by myself for the summer after I graduated from college because the idea of going back to my hometown made me feel like I was suffocating. The same Erica wanted nothing more out of life than to make everyone laugh.

Who Am I?

Yet, there I was, holding my new baby boy, my three-year-old little girlie by my side, a supportive husband, and I had no idea who I was anymore. My confidence was gone. I felt like an empty shell. Nothing that I used to enjoy made me happy anymore. One day I stopped singing in the car at the top of my lungs. One day I stopped watching Napoleon Dynamite on loop. Don’t get me wrong: I adored being a mom and still do. But in my mind, I was not good enough at it. Good moms spend every waking moment with their babies. I had to leave my babies every day. I had to pay my bills. I had obligations. I had to go to work. The career I used to be so proud of now made me cringe like the creepy guy in high school who followed me around trying to smell my hair. The career I worked so hard to build was now making me deeply and painfully resentful and I didn’t know how to fix it.

A switch flipped. The demands of my new family construct AND trying to excel in my career were suddenly overwhelming. I was no longer the person who I used to know so assuredly that I was. I couldn’t manage the simplest tasks without crushing exhaustion. I just wanted to close myself in a room with my babies and lock out the world.

Who was I? A mom? A wife? I was a person without a first name. I was no longer Erica. I was Roman’s mom. I was Bella’s mom. I was Rick’s wife. Erica was invisible. If I happened to have five minutes to myself, what would I do? Scrap book? NO! Cry in my closet. That’s what. I had no hobbies. Outside of my daily routine I was lost. How long had I been like this? I felt like I’d been in a time-warping fog and now the fog was lifting and I had to reorient myself to my surroundings like an alien abductee dropped in a crop circle naked and afraid.

Now What?

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was at a crossroads. I could have stayed in my fog, accepted it as my new life, and moved on without my sparkle. I could have wanted to change but done nothing about it and become bitter and mad. Or I could have done what I DID. I took a step. Then another. Over the next seven years I just took steps. From the outside looking in I’m sure I looked like I was grasping at straws. I wasn’t. I was on a quest.

I opened an Etsy shop making jewelry. Had I ever had any jewelry training? NO! Was I terrible at it? YES! But it taught me elementary business ownership skills. It taught me how to market online. It taught me social media networking. It occupied my curiosity for a year or two until I decided one day on a whim to start my first blog.

I knew nothing about blogging. But I knew I had a message and I knew I wanted to give other women a quick escape of funny and happiness. I wanted to give other parents a place to mentally go to for 10 minutes while they’re hiding in the bathroom and laugh and relate and not feel so alone. And I started to learn to write. And writing led to my passion.

After two years of writing and posting and joining groups of other writers I discovered what I should have been doing all along. Comedy. One day I realized that nothing was standing between the dream I’d always had in the back of my mind and my reality. I always idolized comedians. But people didn’t do that in real life! People graduate from high school then go to college then become accountants or engineers or whatever pays the bills. Not COMEDY. But… if my idols could do it, maybe I can, too.

Erica. Erica Benefield.

So, at the age of 36 I started a new career. Me. Erica. Wife, mom, comedian. It’s not easy. I work my day job, take my kids to practice, have dinner with my family, put my kids to bed, kiss my husband and go to my shows. There are a lot of nights when my anxiety sets in and I try to talk myself out of performing because the safe thing to do would be to stay at home with my family and be normal. But when I get out on the stage, I remember why I do it. When I hear my kids tell their friends that their mom is a comedian, I tear up. My kids have no idea what I do for my day job but they know what comedy is! I get to help other grown ups forget the demands of their life for a few minutes a night and it’s the best job in the world.

If you’re still reading this painfully long, rambling post, here’s what I want you to take away: Life has a way of throwing off your plans. It’s ok. It doesn’t mean you’re failing. It could be your greatest success. You don’t have to give up your dreams because you’re a parent. Being a mom or a dad doesn’t mean YOUR life is over. If you feel stuck, do SOMETHING, anything to get “unstuck”. Take a different path home. Go to a new restaurant. Make a bucket list of things you’ve always wanted to explore and cross each one off the list. Kids need to see their parents happy and healthy with their own joys. Just take a step. It’ll lead to another step. And don’t use your family as an excuse. Take them on the journey with you. It’ll make the ride so much more fun.

What’s your step gonna be?

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Mom’s Life Lessons

my beautiful mom and me
my beautiful mom and me
It’s a fact, I have the BEST mom.

I was lucky to have had a childhood filled with love.  All families are crazy.  That’s what makes them family.  But I can honestly say that throughout my entire childhood my mom put her family above everything else, crazy and all.

When I became a mom I had never really been around a baby before, at least not enough to know what it would be like to raise one.  I should have been terrified.  But I wasn’t.  I felt prepared.  I felt like a pro.  And that is ONLY because I had the best teacher in the world.

Without realizing it, I’d just graduated from Vicki’s Mom School.  Looking back, here’s what I learned:

LAUGH (cuz she’s going to)

Always laugh.  Laugh at yourself, laugh with your kids, watch funny movies, find the fun and funny in the tough situations.  Growing up, if I was acting a fool and tripped, first she made sure I was ok then she laughed (ok, there may have been a time or two that the order was switched).  And I laughed.  We were too busy laughing to be embarrassed.

JUST TRY (then try again)

I wasn’t the best at anything growing up.  I wasn’t a star athlete or the most popular.  I failed at some things that I really wanted to excel at.  There were times I studied so much I barely slept and still didn’t do well on a test.  But, no matter what, my mom always told me that as long as I did MY best I succeeded.  Work harder to do better next time.  When I didn’t make the cheerleading squad in the 7th grade, she took me to gymnastics and cheer camp.  And I realize now that she lived that philosophy as a mom.  She always did her best and every decision she made and action she took as a mom was out of love for us.

ALWAYS LOOK YOUR BEST (and WASH YOUR HAIR!)

I used to get so AGGRAVATED when she would tell me to go fix my hair or iron my clothes or put on makeup.  But it only takes one bad picture to see what she meant.  It was her way of saying “always have on clean underwear”.

BE YOURSELF (just don’t get tattoos)

I can’t tell you how often I was sent to the office in high school for my choice of clothing.  I wasn’t showin’ my hoo-ha or anything (I don’t think).  But I pushed the limits.  And she let me.  My mom let me express myself.  Piercings, she didn’t bat an eye.  Crazy hair colors, she didn’t care.  Buuuuut I learned that she isn’t a fan of my many tats.  Limit.  Found.  She still loves me, though.

DON’T MAKE DUMB CHOICES

But if I did (and I have), she’d still love me.

MOM’S GOT YOUR BACK

She didn’t expect us to be treated better than anyone else but she sure as HELL wasn’t going to allow us to be treated worse.  If injustice was afoot, Vicki was on it.  A few teachers will probably never forget her.  Beverly Goldberg would have been her BFF, for sure.

She was a single mom.  She worked fulltime.  She had 2 kids who were involved in sports and activities.  My mom was there for us 100% of the time.  We weren’t raised by baby sitters or grandparents or the chain-smoking neighbor with rollers in her hair.  I don’t know how she did it.  But I am so, so grateful.

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