My Oatmeal Brain

"Today is my birthday, but my parents forgot."

“Today is my birthday, but my parents forgot.”

My broken arm is making me a bad mommy. Really it is. Let’s review a few of the things that I fumbled in one week after I had my arm shortened. (That’s not a joke; I’ll explain later.)

It would seem my brain has turned to mush. First, I forgot to bring my daughter to the eye doctor. Second, I forgot to give her important weekly meds. Third—and here’s where things got really pathetic—I forgot my son’s 10th birthday. An egregious slip up.

And as if that lapse weren’t bad enough, fourth: the tooth fairy didn’t show up for my daughter (the one with the bad medical care).

Technically I can blame that last oversight on an implausible mythical creature. In any case, the net sum of epic fails that week will not earn me any parenting awards.

The birthday fail

What saved me from getting fired on the spot over the birthday snafu was that the entire family forgot–including the birthday boy. To be fair, it was a busy week and we were at an all-day swim meet on the monumental day. It was 10 days since my arm surgery and I’d only recently weaned off Vicodin.

At about 8 p.m. I noticed the date on my phone, and it clicked.  Doh!  We decided to wrap up his presents (I had bought presents, at least) and set them on the table for the next day. He’d be none the wiser!

And we nearly set his head on fire during the day late birthday celebration.

And we nearly set his head on fire during the day late birthday celebration.

When my son saw the presents, he was instantly suspicious and checked the date on a nearby I-pad. He was on to me. His first words that morning were (accusatory): “I was ten yesterday!”

“Right. About that…”

The anniversary fail

"How could I possibly remember my wedding anniversary with all these water bottles hanging off me?"

“How could I possibly remember my wedding anniversary while carrying a 55 pound pack and all these water bottles hanging off me?”

As we were belatedly celebrating the birthday and telling the now-kind-of-funny story to my parents over cake, my husband turned to me and said, “And by the way, Happy Anniversary!” I had forgotten that, too.

Our 17th anniversary had slipped by in the night, 12 days previous. To be fair, I was sneaking in a pre-surgery backpacking trip with the boys at the time. (A trip during which I forgot to bring toilet paper.)

I’d like to point out that my husband and I routinely both forget our wedding anniversary.  I have been known to completely forget my own birthday. And we once moved Christmas altogether to accommodate the ski schedule. (The kids still don’t know about that one, so hush up, y’all.)

Another birthday snafu

So that birthday-doctor-medicine-tooth-fairy week was a memorably bad week. But wait, it gets worse.  Some ten days later, my other son had his 13th birthday.  First year as a teenager. A milestone occasion. I told my husband the birthday was on Monday. We celebrated on Monday.  Presents and cake on Monday. On Tuesday, we went for his 13-year checkup with the pediatrician.

“So, your birthday was Saturday, huh?” said the nurse.

“No, it was yesterday,” my son corrected.

“Isn’t your birthday on the 27th?” asked the nurse, who was staring at his chart. (Damn chart.)

“Of course, the 27th …yesterday,” insisted my son.

“Then your birthday was on Saturday,” said the nurse. (Damn nurse.)

Mooooom!!!,” moaned my son, accusingly.

Oatmeal brain strikes again.

My 13 year old had a birthday hike. He just didn't know it was his birthday.

My 13 year old celebrated his birthday with a hike. He just didn’t know it was his birthday.

Excuses, excuses

So here’s my big excuse, which I promised I’d explain.  I had been suffering from something called ulnar abutment  syndrome. Basically I was born with an ulna a titch too long. The bone had been banging into my carpal bones for more than 20 years, giving me chronic pain.  Here’s the radical fix: an ulnar osteotomy.

It's possible I was abducted by aliens and they implanted this device, which makes it hard to remember things.

It’s possible I was abducted by aliens and they implanted this device, which makes it hard to remember things.

In other words, an orthopedic hand surgeon saws through the bone, removes a small hunk, then puts it together again with a big metal plate and a handful of screws. And possibly some super glue.

I’ll be in a cast for 12 weeks, which makes it hard to type, unscrew jars, and apparently hard to be a good mom.  Supposedly using my non-dominant hand should be cementing new brain pathways, but I’m pretty convinced the cast is squeezing my gray matter and making me forgetful.

Typing trouble

Fortunately my kids have stepped up with the jars (and the compost and the dishes). For the typing dilemma, I’ve tried using my computer’s speech recognition software, but it’s a little like playing “telephone” with Steve Jobs.  I end up with sentences that sound like this:

“I have something cold ulmer of weapons syndrome. The sturgeon so us through the bomb she’s a little bit of the boat launch.” You can see the problem.

So I slowly pecked out this blog—it took nearly a year—bringing you this confessional of a bad mommy. Not my first such blog, by the way. See “Bad Mommy Moments,” in which I admit to cracking an egg on my daughter’s head, among other dubious parenting moments.

Probably not the last word on the subject, either.



  1. Your kids will eventually be grateful for all these slips. As they progress through The Wonder Years, they’ll happily use all those “But remember when you…..” opportunities.

    • Helen Olsson says:

      I know you’re right about that. These moments will soon become our family lore, as it was for my five brothers and sisters and me. what fun would be perfect?

  2. You had TP when we needed it! And… Your kids are 3 of the luckiest, loved kiddos ever. Thanks for the laughs.

  3. Helen Olsson says:

    You bet I packed TP on that trip with you, primarily because I’d forgotten it on the backpacking trip a few weeks before.
    Glad I came through for you during the backwoods “poo incident,” as your son called it.

  4. Mary Anne Cannon Furfaro says:

    My mom forgot my 14th birthday, and I (for the most part) turned out okay 🙂

    I am a Mad Dog Mom newbie — love the blog!! Your candor is so refreshing!!!

    • Helen Olsson says:

      Mary Anne,
      So glad you are following!! I hope you’ll subscribe because I don’t blog with huge regularity because a) I have a broken arm and B) I have three demanding kids and C) because I only blog when I have something to say. Subscribe and you only will get an email when I blog.

  5. Thanks for the laugh and good luck with the healing. Luckily, it’s all temporary and yes, makes for good laughs down the road. 😉

  6. Oh my goodness. I was laughing so hard at the voice to text sentences. I have that same problem when trying to use that feature on my phone. It’s a riot what it will come out with. As for the missed birthdays, anniversaries and other important pieces, they will all survive. You will all move on and life will continue with more laughs, mistakes, and celebrations! It will make for great stories to the grandkids one day. 🙂 Especially when your own kids make the same mistakes…lol.

    • Helen Olsson says:

      My parents once left me in the church parking lot. I was running at a full sprint down the road behind the station wagon and my brothers and sisters were waving at me from the window and laughing their heads off. Very traumatic.

  7. Helen, you never fail to disappoint. You are hilarious!

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