Erin Clotfelter

I am a Minneapolis mom to three boys under the age of 3, two recently diagnosed with autism. I blog about autism, motherhood and my life outnumbered by boys at The Slacker Mom.

Posts about Society

Rock the Cradle but Leave the Gear at Home

Posted by: Erin Clotfelter Updated: February 24, 2012 - 3:39 PM

This morning on my drive home from the gym I heard the ad for the Rock the Cradle event put on by The Current and immediately sent some emails and made plans for us to attend.  I had heard of this event back when the boys were still wee and was really excited that they were all at an age where it seemed like it might work for us.  Besides, Free+Music+Kids+The Current sounded like an awesome way to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.  

Here are the basic details:

What: Rock the Cradle
When: Sunday February 26th
Time: 11-5
Where: Children's Theatre Company and Minneapolis Institute of the Arts

Check here for full listing of performances!

Considering this is an event for kids, I have to question a few of the event guidelines.

There are the basics that you would expect; watch your kids, keep little fingers away from the art etc.  And then there are these gems:

"Refrain from carrying backpacks, large bags and umbrellas. There is limited (but free) coat and bag check available at the museum; please plan accordingly. For safety reasons the museum reserves the right to inspect all items carried into or out of the museum. Small bags and purses are welcome."

So- do you want me to ditch my diaper bag?  Because let me tell you, it's bigger than a purse.  This event is 6 hours long and for kids of all ages...I have three children ages 3 and under.  Where would you like me to keep my sippy cups and cloth diapers?  I have no intention of checking it and you can dig through it if you need to, but I think it's still pretty standard to carry a diaper bag when you have kids, last time I checked.

"Please, no "baby backpacks". Front-facing baby carriers are allowed. Strollers are also allowed, though during busy times and in certain activity areas inside the MIA and CTC, they may be restricted."

So what they are saying is I can bring my tank of a double stroller, but NOT my diaper bag (no LARGE bags!) and I can only use a baby carrier if it's front-facing?  

Here's a tip- there are very few carriers that advertise being safe for "front-facing" because it's bad for little hips and spines (among other things).  Are they trying to subliminally send a message that they do not want you to wear your baby to this event?  Because they seem to be eliminating the majority of baby wearers with this little stipulation.

As for the back carriers, do they not want hard-framed carriers (think hiking and camping)?  If that is the case, say "no framed carriers"- I get it, they are big and bulky and just waiting to take out some poor unsuspecting person who happens to be in the way when you turn around.  Soft Structured carriers and many wraps also do back carries safely without the bulk.

I could see if they were eliminating strollers (which they don't out right do, but it sounds like it's kind of frowned upon), but baby wearing is about as good as it gets for freeing up space and keeping little ones contained.  I wouldn't normally question this but they have some pretty specific rules here with absolutely no reasons to back it up.  I'm not sure I understand why they'd eliminate safe baby wearing in general. 

Complete speculation obviously, but I'm hoping this is just simply a lack of knowledge when it comes to baby gear.  Although that would be surprising considering the hipster crunchy vibe I associate with The Current.  I'm guessing that most parents listening to this station are well acquainted with the difference between an Ergo and a ring-sling and whether or not it's OK for little Pearl to "front-face" in the Moby Wrap (it's not).

I can tell you as a parent to 3 kids ages 3 and under- when we go on Sunday, someone is going to be in a carrier (probably the Boba because it's new and oh so pretty).  It's not front-facing and he'll most likely be in a back carry- he can see better that way.  I hope they don't mind.  It'll keep him contained, it will keep me sane, it will take up less space than a stroller.

So what is the verdict?  Should we assume most people aren't going to look at these rules?  Will I see a sea of strollers and diaper bags when we arrive?  Will it be a baby-wearing fest with people throwing caution to the wind with their little ones in every mannor of wrap and sling?  Will I be escorted out by the event police for practicing safe baby-wearing?

We'll see...




Hitting my Wall

Posted by: Erin Clotfelter Updated: February 10, 2012 - 12:17 PM

"Enjoy this!  And when you can't enjoy- ENDURE!"
-sage advice from a fellow Mom of Multiples

I have to be honest- it's been a lot of enduring around here lately.  We've been in a bit of a tailspin since our trip out East for Christmas where there was an obvious shift in routine and a total lack of sensory support (totally our fault) which has been bringing out some pretty intense behaviors in the boys.  Tantrums, sleep issues, etc.

We are in the storm right now.  Looking for the calm on the horizon and not really seeing it.

It got to the point that last week, my darling husband took the day off just so *I* could take the day off and get away from everything.  I must have been particularly panicked because he didn't even ask if I wanted a little R&R- he just told me I was getting a "Me Day".

I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.  Mom's Day Out was totally on!  But what was I to do?  Go out to lunch?  Hit the gym?  Get my hair done?  Go shopping?

After making my escape and driving aimlessly around Edina and SW Minneapolis for an hour I settled on drinking the largest mocha I could get my hands on and reading a book in my mini-van next to Lake Harriet just blocks from our house.  It was a dreary gray winter day and it was perfect.

It was quiet!  I was alone!  What a luxury.  I alternated between reading in complete silence, people watching and listening to FM107 while I warmed up the van.  I think I was there for 4 hours before I finally drove home.

I felt refreshed.  I felt relaxed.

Of course as soon as I walked into the house Wyatt had a full on melt-down after the episode of Super Why he was watching was finished and the Kindle was put away. The kind of melt-down that has the neighbor wandering over to make sure everyone is OK. (True story- autism is awesome.)

Back to reality.

It's tough to be a stay at home mom sometimes.  Don't get me wrong, I love it and wouldn't have it any other way at this point.  But contrary to what my Pinterest boards would like you to think, it's HARD!  The routine is tedious and it can be really isolating- especially with special needs kids. 

Logistically at this age- there is just no way I'm taking all three of them out by myself.  It would be a safety issue and frankly, I don't feel comfortable dealing with tantrums in public- it's hard enough to deal with them in private.  So we stay home and venture out when I have an extra set of hands.

All my errands are run on the weekends or in the evenings.  I'll try and sneak out with the youngest while the twins are at school in the mornings but other than that, our big outings during the week consist of packing the boys up to go to therapy.  I joke with the other parents in the waiting room that that hour is the only quiet hour I get to myself all week- it's a well understood sentiment.

I know I'm not the only parent who's feeling a little isolated, a little worn down.  Who's days, although certainly fulfilling in many ways, can be tiresome and endless.

How do you get through the tough parenting days?

Black Friday: A Retailer's Perspective

Posted by: Erin Clotfelter Updated: November 23, 2011 - 1:02 PM

For the first time in a long time, I'm actually excited for Thanksgiving.   I'm also very thankful for one thing: this will be the very first big retail holiday that I will not be donning red and khaki in 15 years!

You see, up until January when I started staying home with my boys, I worked for Target.  I worked every Black Friday during my tenure, (minus the one where I was on maternity leave).  

For the last 4 years I was in an overnight position and my team was expected to be there by 8pm on Thanksgiving night.  Because we (most likely) worked the night before Thanksgiving- I'm sure you can do the math and see that there is really not a lot of time for sleeping after work and then enjoying the holiday before it was time to head back in.

This week I've seen a petition floating around asking Gregg Steinhafel to put a stop to the midnight Black Friday opening because employees were having to go in at (gasp!) 11pm!  I can see where people feel it's infringing on people's Thanksgiving, but it's really nothing new.  Opening at 4am or 6am still meant team members were cutting their celebrations short (or sleeping through them altogether) so they could get to work right as the tryptophan was starting to work it's magic on most people.

When you work retail, you give up your holidays.  Like it or lump it, it's part of the deal.  People can talk all they want about work/life balance, but when it comes down to, once you head into the 4th quarter, everything is out the window.  

I remember the first Thanksgiving after my parents separated- I lived in Columbia, Missouri at the time and I wanted to be home with my family for what was no doubt going to be a very difficult holiday.  I was told by my store manager that I was "obviously in the wrong industry" if I thought I could get that day off.  I had been with the company for 7 years at that point.  So, My husband and I made the 20 hour round trip after we got off work that Wednesday night and we were home in time for me to work on Black Friday.

All that said, Black Friday (for the most part) is a fun day to work.  There is a lot of energy- this is the BIG DAY!  This is the day that people with retail in their blood live for.  And frankly, if I have my choice, I'd  much rather be there to see that line wrapping around the store with people in their camp chairs with hot cocoa than coming in later that day to clean up the mess.  That first 10 minutes is like MAGIC!

I just have one request for anyone who plans to be out and about on Black Friday (and this doesn't just apply to those shopping at Target):

Treat the employees with kindness and patience- they are there to help you have a great experience.  

Some things to keep in mind:  There will be a lot of extra help that day so equipment (walkies-talkies etc.) might be spread thin.  I'm not sure if other companies do this, but Target has their HQ team volunteer in the stores on Black Friday.  They might be great at what they do downtown but they are usually a little out of their element in the store- they are still there to help!  And finally, please remember, when you were contemplating that 2nd piece of pie and a nap, many retail employees were kissing their families goodnight and heading out the door to work so that when the doors opened, everything was ready for YOU.

Good luck to all you brave souls!  Shop safe!  I will be enjoying a family Thanksgiving for the first time in ages, gorging on pie and going to sleep without any plans to set foot in a store.  Now, if you want to talk Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday- That's more my speed!

Who is This Party for, Anyway?

Posted by: Erin Clotfelter Updated: November 4, 2011 - 9:59 PM

The boys are turning three next week.

This is where I earn my "Slacker" stripes. 

I am not the mom who is obsessing over birthday themes 8 months in advance.  I am not scouring the fabric shops and paper outlets looking for the perfectly coordinated colors and patterns out of which to craft the perfect party favors and decorations.

I'm not even sure the Super Why cupcakes are going to come to fruition by the time next Saturday rolls around.  That would require me to actually pick up some fondant and make a template and do lots of cutting and my head kind of hurts just thinking about it.

Let's cross our fingers I get this one thing done- you at least need Birthday Cake!


Total. Slacker.

When the twins turned 1 we went all out.  We had a Hayride followed up with dinner at my Moms and the tallest, loveliest rainbow cake display you ever laid your eyes on.  It was complete with a 6-layer cake, two 3-layer smash cakes and a smattering of cupcakes.  I spent the entire day before doing nothing but baking cakes and trimming cakes and frosting and freezing and frosting (again) cakes.

Maybe that's what happened- I used up all my birthday mo-jo on those cakes!

Now, all birthdays to follow are going to be simple affairs with nary a party hat or noisemaker to be found.  No special decorations, no fancy invitations sent weeks in advance to all family and friends.  No multi-level cake displays.

And I think I'm OK with that.  Throwing picture perfect parties for the little people is kind of exhausting.  And really- is a toddler going to remember that perfectly mis-matched color scheme or the care you took to choose the square vs the round milk bottles on your milk and cookies table?


It will probably blow up on Pinterest because it's pretty.  But other than that, throwing lavish birthdays just another way to one up each other as moms.  Frankly, I have my hands full with autism and the whole three kids 3 and under thing we've got going. 

I'll sit this one out.

I hope when the boys are older they don't throw it in my face that we "only" took them to the Children's Museum and out to lunch at Boca Chica Taco House when they turned 3 and it ruined their lives because there were no hats or sparkling candles.

Note to self: pick up party hats and sparkling candles.  And fondant.

So what do you do?  Shell-out the big bucks for a party that you just show up to and leave the mess behind?  Slave away over all the little bits and pieces creating a perfectly custom experience to Wow! your guests?  Throw a cake from Target on the table and call it a day?

Sunday Dinner at Mom's

Posted by: Erin Clotfelter Updated: October 16, 2011 - 8:52 PM

My mom has been trying to implement a Sunday Dinner tradition for months.  Actually, I guess after a certain number of months I should probably start converting that to years.  I'll start over.

My mom has been trying to implement a Sunday Dinner tradition for 6+ years.  She'd love it if it were every week, but it's usually once a month, sometimes less often.  Life gets busy and it's hard to commit to the 45 minute drive each way when I'm staring down my own house with lots of projects and cleaning to do.  Not to mention a visit to anyone's house is the opposite of relaxing for my husband and I because people don't generally "autism proof" their houses and our boys are into everything.

Today though, today was good.

We made plans throughout the week.  We arrived fairly early with plans to leave with enough time to keep our bedtime routine intact.  We kept the meal simple and broke up the cooking duties.  My mom made her famous apple bars.  I made the Squash and Apple Gratin from this weeks Taste section (I found this recipe really difficult to follow and I can't put my finger on why).  My husband grilled some garlic rubbed Tri-tip's and we added some foil packet potatoes and onions because whenever we grill those packets just seem to get made out of habit.

The boys played both inside and out while we were cooking, the game was on, the wind was blowing the leaves off the trees.  Although the boys were a bit whiny, they were still having fun.  Their favorite discovery of the day were the mountains of books sorted for The Pajama Program (of which my mom is the Minnesota chapter president).  The twins are book lovers and it was almost too much to see so many books in once place!  Stacks of All. The. Same. Book!  Toddler minds were blown.

When we were able to distract them from the books they busied themselves by trying to steal pieces of raw dough from Grandma's pie mat as she was rolling the dough for her bars (and later stealing entire handfuls of warm apple goodness).  Everyone loved the meal.  It was simple and hearty and perfect for the day.  I could have devoured the gratin (a total winner, even with the putsy recipe) while we waited for the meat to rest but I was able to keep myself in check.

After dinner the boys had their baths and got into their jim-jams and we got ready to hit the dusty trail with sippy cups full of milk and bags full of goodies to take home.  Leftovers from dinner, cuttings from some overgrown succulents, miscellaneous things moms send home with their kids.

When we climbed in the car, it felt like a really good day.  We drove home listening to The Current while the boys lulled themselves to sleep.  I didn't think about the laundry that needed to be folded or the dishes that needed to be done.  I just got to relax.

It was perfect.

When it's this good, I want to do it every week.  

Do you have a Sunday Dinner at Moms tradition?  How do you make it work with everyone's fast paced schedules?


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