Category Archives: Parenting

The (not always so) Sweet Life

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Took the kids to the Lego store last night for the monthly build. We haven’t gone to one in forever (who am I kidding? I’ve never been to one. My sweet husband, who took them last time, hasn’t been in months and probably only went last time because I suggested it). Surprise! The builds are not on Monday nights, they’re on Tuesday.

Tried again this evening (the mall, twice in one week. That was probably my first mistake). My kids were concerned about missing it tonight after missing it yesterday, but they also 1) didn’t get their school work done very quickly and 2) didn’t want to forego playing with friends this evening if they didn’t have to. So, after telling the kids multiple times this afternoon that the build starts at 5:00 and goes until they run out of supplies or the mall closes, we arrive about 7:45. Wrong. The Lego build, which is on the first Tuesday of the month, has very specific hours: 5:00-7:00. Kids cope with having missed it. Not too big a deal.

(Side note: Lego store rocks. Even though the kids were handling the disappointment both times REALLY well, the Lego employees seemed to realize what a loser mom my kids are stuck with. So, they gave us last month’s Lego build set when we arrived yesterday and discovered we were off by a day. Tonight, a totally different employee snuck back and secretly bagged up this month’s build set, tracked my kids down in the store separately and handed them each a bag on the down low. Bless them. They can’t make up for a life time of living with me, but they sure did try).

The kids brought their own money to the mall to buy Sweet CeCe’s frozen yogurt, since I wasn’t willing to spring for it when we were at the mall yesterday. We head there. We debate cup sizes – the “Sweet” size for a flat price or the “Sweeter” size for a price per ounce. My daughter chooses the flat rate and heads off. My son (who thinks ice cream and frozen yogurt are a food group unto themselves) chooses the per ounce cup. This is not surprising. I’m expecting him to gorge himself. It’s his money, so I leave it up to him. I help my daughter get her yogurt and she goes off to add toppings. My son tells me “not too much” as I start filling his. I am shocked. Apparently, he’s really watching his spending.

The problem is, he isn’t actually tall enough to SEE the yogurt being dispensed. So he’s jumping up and down trying to keep tabs on it. During one of his jumps, he reaches out and attempts to give himself a little boost using the tray of the yogurt machine. 10 seconds later, I am COVERED from hip to toe in some combination of Cheerful Chocolate and Vanilla Bean. The trays from the machine are on the ground. I am not cheerful. I have frozen yogurt in my sandals. I am standing in pond of frozen melted yogurt. My daughter has discovered that the toppings bar has exactly her favorite topping and is excitedly trying to tell me about it from across the way. I am dripping and trying to apologize to the sweet girl running the store. Bless her heart. I nearly beg her to let me help her clean it up. I mean, it is a disaster. And 1 hour before closing time. I’d have hated us. Instead, she is incredibly sweet. My son finishes putting the toppings on his yogurt. He is much more selective than usual. His frugal side is showing. He’s trying to keep the cost low since he knows he’s got to pay for it. Just a few things, and one single piece of cookie dough. We check out. His is actually cheaper than hers. We make a run for it before they kick us out of the mall.

We needed to go by the grocery store on our way home.I’d have skipped it, but we really did need just a couple of things. So, we make our way through Publix, me with one pants leg soaked through-and-through from top-to-bottom with chocolate yogurt and yogurt squishing in the bottom of my sandals, the kids carrying their Sweet CeCe’s so they can finish it up (and head straight to bed when we get home, it’s getting late). We’re nearly done shopping, and rounding the corner to head to a register when my son somehow manages to flip his yogurt cup, with remaining yogurt and toppings, upside down and into the middle of the aisle. Seriously, two chocolate puddles in one evening? My son looks sheepish, but torn. He doesn’t really want to write-off the yogurt and toppings. Head in hands, I send the kids together to the restroom, which is within sight, to clean themselves up and bring me back some paper towels. While they’re gone, I remember there are some wipes in my purse and manage to get it cleaned up. I go to meet the kids at the restroom, holding a chocolate puddle and a mess in my hands, where my daughter is emerging with a handful of paper towels. I explain that I got it cleaned up. She is relieved. He begins to slowly, quietly melt. He glues himself to my side and buries his face. He is quietly crying. Then, not so quietly. Then, full on sobbing. “You’re tired,” I say, “we need to get you home.”

“I’m not tired,” he says, “I’m sad.”  “I really wanted that piece of cookie dough.”

We check out, sandals still squishing, and head home.

 

Photo Credit: Flickr 

The Myth of the Stay-at-Home Mom

Stay-at-Home Mom

Did you all read the post this past week on Matt Walsh’s Blog about Stay at Home Moms? I saw it shared and re-shared and shared some more on Facebook. He said some VERY nice things about stay at home moms. He did a fantastic job of advocating for his wife while she wasn’t around.  I feel sure he racked up lots of well-deserved brownie points.

On the other hand, I just don’t really get why this is a conversation we seem to need to keep having. Maybe it’s just me, but of ALL the “STAY-AT-HOME” mom’s I can think of, not a single one of them . . . nary a one . . . fits the stereotypical model of the stay-at-home mom (SAHM). Not a single one of them drives her kids to school, drops them off, and then peacefully goes home and cleans her house and takes care of the long list of home management things that seem to fall to the mothers (regardless of where they work) of the world.

Just off the top of my head, I honestly haven’t been able to think of a SAHM who isn’t also juggling a full or part-time job, some sort of organized ministry effort, a home-based business of one variety or another, homeschooling one or more children, or some combination of all of those.  I consider myself a SAHM and at one point I was doing ALL of those things simultaneously.

So what exactly is this SAHM thing, anyway? I’m beginning to think that it just means that when all the dust has settled, this role I currently find myself in of wife and mother is the most important of all of the other roles that I play. I mean, it takes some prioritizing to decide which things get done now and which things get done later, and more often than not, I choose the things that fit in the “Wife” or “Mom” or “Home” categories first.

In the past, when I had a career outside the home (pre-kids), I felt like in the big scheme of things my marriage was more important than my job and had it been necessary, I would have made hard choices to put my marriage first. But . . .  if I’m honest with myself (and my husband would probably appreciate it if I were), I often made choices during that time of my life that were hard ones on him. I wanted to really be successful in that area of my life, and while I worked VERY hard to find some balance and be true to my priorities, it’s just not always possible to give everything 100% simultaneously, so something (or someone) ends up suffering.

Stay-at-Home MomAnd it’s not that he never suffers, or that my kids are always able to be my top priority now. It’s actually pretty important to me that my children don’t grow up thinking that the world revolves around them or that MY world revolves around them. I ask them to wait, to hold their demands, to entertain themselves while I attend to other things. There are plenty of times when I decide that something else is more important than their wants or needs at that time.

BUT . . . I make decisions differently now because of my choice to call myself a SAHM. Or, maybe it’s that I call myself a SAHM because I make decisions differently. For example, I teach a class in our homeschool group. I invest a decent amount of time and effort into it because I enjoy it, because doing things well is just important to me, and because I consider it a job and I am paid to do it. At some point last year, one of my children was sick on the day our group meets. It is possible that I could have arranged for someone else to watch my child that day so I could go and teach my class. It would have required some finagling, and any which way I sliced it, someone else’s day would have been impacted: my husband’s; my parents’, who had been in town visiting but were planning to leave that day; the person who would substitute for me in my class. In a another season of my life with a another job, I would have chosen differently. Differently. Not necessarily badly. Just, differently. That day, as I picked up the phone and made arrangements for a substitute, I remember telling my dad, “I teach so I can be with my children. If they aren’t going to be there, then I don’t think I need to be there, either.”

I don’t have it all figured out. I do think that believing that we understand the whole of a person because we can call them a “Stay-at-Home Mom” vs. a “Working Mother” is impractical. I have seen good mothers on all sides of this because I have worked outside of the home full-time, part-time, and not at all.  It is TOUGH to be a mom under any circumstances (and being a dad is no piece of cake, either). Personally, I consider myself a SAHM because when I am doing enough things to make me want to put myself in a different category, I am unhappy and my spirit feels torn.  I am FINE, absolutely FINE with juggling a billion responsibilities – with working on business-related items from my home, with accepting the occasional short-term part-time engagement outside of my home. But for ME, I choose to be a SAHM because coming back to this basic rhythm of life where I make home, and the people within it, what my life is primarily focused on keeps me sane. Even in the midst of the craziness that comes with it all.

Kid-Friendly Family Games

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Back in March, we traveled (by Megabus . . . but THAT adventure we can discuss on another post) to Washington DC with both kids and luggage full of winter clothing.  Quick Travel Tip: it is COLD in DC in March. On the upside, it is not crowded, and if you’re up for it, there is ice skating on the National Mall. Very Cool.  Literally and figuratively. But, I digress.

So, we spent a full week eating every meal in a restaurant of some shape form or fashion.  Our children are generally well-behaved and pretty good company, but let’s get real . . . they aren’t perfect. And, after getting up early to get to places at certain times for various tours, hiking all over DC, waiting in lines, being dragged through art galleries they weren’t totally fascinated by, they were TIRED at dinner time. And hungry. And possibly, just a TAD bit crankier than usual.

It just worked out that the hotel where we stayed (the Holiday Inn at the Eisenhower Avenue Metro exit, which we would recommend as a decent mid-priced hotel, if anyone asked) offered free dinners for kids in their restaurant. And the food was nothing fancy, but it was pretty decent. So, every day, we’d time our touring so that we ate lunch out somewhere (usually at a restaurant in one of the museums) and then were back at the hotel for dinner and bed.

By the time we’d arrive at the dinner table, the kids were FAMISHED, and as I might have mentioned, TIRED. It was a recipe for a complete disaster. Seriously. And after having a FANTASTIC time (best.trip.ever!) as a family during the day touring DC, we really did NOT want to end the days with melt downs.  This game SAVED us:

Spot it!

I am absolutely serious. It was the PERFECT game to stick in my purse and pull out as we waited for our dinner to arrive. It’s small. It’s simple. It doesn’t require anyone to get particularly loud or rowdy. There are no small pieces, just the cards inside the tin. My 4 year-old could play, and while he might not be quite as quick on the draw as we adults were, he got the hang of it, and could hold his own. It was also a BREEZE to pick up off the table in about 2 seconds when they were walking up with our food. Even now that we’re home, it’s still a great game to throw in my purse if I think there’s a possibility that we’ll be hanging out somewhere waiting.  I really can’t recommend it enough.

For this same trip to DC, I also purchased this VERY simple game:

Pass the Pigs

I’ll be honest – I thought the premise was RIDICULOUS when I read it. Really, just totally ridiculous. But, it’s fun. Lots of fun. And, not just because we have an emotional attachment to Arkansas (Whoo, Pig Sooie!) We passed A LOT of time on our 3 and 4-hour layovers (again, we should really discuss the Megabus adventure separately at some point) playing this game, and really enjoyed it. It’s another one that is simple to pick up and start playing, and easy to transport in your purse, but it DOES have small pieces (the pigs!) that can be lost if you’re not careful. I wouldn’t take it to a restaurant like I would with Spot It, because my children (one of them, in particular) can get a little over zealous with the pig tossing. I’d really hate to have to retrieve a pig from another diner’s dinner. It fact, I probably wouldn’t. I’d send my husband to do it. They are HIS children, after all.

For Christmas 2011, we were trying to find some games that we could play as a family that wouldn’t bore the grown-ups in the family to death. My husband did some research and found this jewel:

Hey That's My Fish

It’s an awesome game, because it’s really fairly easy to understand and easy to play, but challenging to play well.  My children were both able to play it (my son was 3 ½ and my daughter was 5 ½ at the time), although they are still working on really developing the ability to strategize when they play it. But, that doesn’t really matter. We still play it and we have a GREAT time. Plus, while we play, we love to say repeatedly, and in ridiculous voices, “HEY, that’s my FISH!” Note: What’s available on Amazon is a smaller version of the game. We have the Deluxe version, which we purchased at a game store. Interestingly, there’s a VERY well reviewed app out there for Android based on the game. I haven’t tried it, but since I just realized there’s one for Android, I went searching for the IOS version, and I am TOTALLY going to give it a try! Since I usually REFUSE to pay for game apps unless I feel they are VERY educational, my son is going to think I am a cool mom for at least 5 minutes at some point tomorrow. Woohoo!

Last year, for his 4th birthday, my son received this:

Perplexus

He became obsessed. So did the rest of us. It’s not necessarily a competitive game, since only one person can play at a time, but it is fun to compare how far we’ve each been able to get through it, or to discuss the areas that were causing us issues. I’d also point out that there’s a Rookie version of Perplexus, but we opted to go with the Original Version for him, even though he was only 4.  He’s never made it all the way from the very beginning to the end (I’ve only done it myself once), but he enjoys the game very much and even at 4 he had the hand-eye coordination to do nearly as well as an adult. So, I’d recommend this version for a variety of ages.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I visited Mozambique to spend some time with our friends who are missionaries there. They play LOTS of board games. No cable TV, unreliable electricity, and intermittent internet makes board games a great go-to resource for entertainment), so really THEY should be writing this blog post, or at the very least, approving it. But, they have much more important things to attend to, and really, all I’ve got to do is this (and a pile of laundry so high we may all be crushed under it soon, but this is MUCH more fun), so I’ll just tell you about the game that they introduced us to, and that we subsequently bought when we got back to the states:

Ticket to Ride

This is the one game I’m going to recommend here that my kids are not yet old enough to play by themselves. There really is just too much strategy and it’s a little too complex. I’ve seen 10 and 12 year-olds who are able to play alone, but it’s just a little much for the 4-7 year-old age bracket. So, when we play, we play as teams, and the kids mostly help us execute the moves. They still have a really fun time, and I figure they’re getting a head start on being some serious competition in a few years.

Later, I’ll come back in a separate post and let you know about some more “educational” gems that my kiddos have come to love over the years.

This blog post contains affiliate links. 

It’s not you (or them). It’s me.

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Timing is everything.  I had this post written a few days ago and was really just mulling over whether it was done. Tonight, a friend and I had a conversation that touched on so many of these things. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t have it all figured out.  

20th Anniversary Trip

20th Anniversary Trip

Here’s a principal I’ve always pretty carefully observed when it comes to my marriage: don’t complain about your spouse to others.  There are no “take-backs” after you’ve told someone else that your spouse has wronged you in some way, whether it’s minor or not.  Those of us with marriages that are still kicking after a period of time manage to forgive each other those wrongs (real or imagined) and move on. But, our family and friends? Since they aren’t living in the relationship, it’s not so easy for them to forgive and forget. They tend to hold onto those wrongs for us. They do it with the best of intentions, but from the moment you air your complaint to someone else, they will forever after see your spouse in the light of that comment.  So, I try to carefully consider my words when I’m talking about my husband with others and to shine a light on him that I’m sure we both can live with for many, many years to come.  And, I hope that he chooses to do the same for me. So, here’s what I’ve noticed:  I’m not so great about doing that for my children. It’s just too easy, when I’m with another group of moms to slip into complaining about my kids.  That’s not to say that as mothers we shouldn’t be able to come together and help each other when we’re really struggling with some aspect of our children’s behavior. We most certainly should be able to support one another that way. But, and I’m just speaking for myself here, I’ve noticed that the more exasperated and exhausted I act to my friends about my children, the more exasperated and exhausted I become. I think it’s because when I complain about my children . . . when I act like I want to throw my hands up and cry “Uncle” . . . my friends support me. They are empathetic. They are sympathetic. They make me feel like we’ve all been there. Hey, maybe we’re all there NOW. No one ever tells me to “man-up” and get back in there. No one ever says “Hey, have you considered that the problem is you and not the kids?” My friends are WAY too nice to do that.  And sadly, there’s a significant portion of the time when the problem is . . . me. I’m not always patient enough. Perhaps because I don’t usually get enough sleep, which has little to do with my children and lots to do with my inability to say “NO” to other people asking me to do things or because I waste too much time on FB because I just want to “check in” with the world instead of going to bed at a an appropriate hour. My expectations are not always realistic. Yes, it would be WONDERFUL if my four, soon to be five  year-old, would execute my “go get dressed and do your morning chores” orders “quickly, cheerfully, and completely.” But, he is still quite little and it’s probably realistic on his part to have the expectation of SOME sort of help and encouragement in that process. I push us too hard. It really is not my children’s fault that I think we can fit more things into the day than we really can. That in my efforts to try to do things as efficiently as possible, that I will try and schedule 14 errands at one time just because they’re all in the same general area of town. And, it’s not their fault that I’m no longer fascinated my every rolie polie that we find because I’ve seen a billion of them in my much longer lifetime. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I look from my children’s perspective . . . and I’m not sure it’s a really flattering personification. I spend a LOT of time barking out orders. A LOT of time telling them why I can’t stop what I’m doing to spend time doing something they’ve asked me to do, and a LOT of time being frustrated when things have not gone according to plan (which is a LOT of the time). I must really look like a barking, frantic, distracted, frustrated mess them to them . . . and that is so very NOT the image that I want them to have of me when they look back at their childhoods. So, here are a couple of things I’m specifically work on:

photo by Mandy Johnson Photography

photo by Mandy Johnson Photography

  1. I’m going to carve out a little time for each of my children during the day, during which we’re going to do what THEY want to do for a few minutes instead of what I think we should be doing. This is something I read about a year or so ago when I did the free trial of the course that Amy McCready offers at Positive Parenting Soultions. I’m not affiliated with Ms. McCready in any way, and I never made it beyond the free trial, but I did find much of the information offered in the trial to be very interesting, and this tip in particular, to be very helpful. For a short period of time last year, I did this with the kids, and I think it paid off exponentially.  Life got busy and I stopped doing it. It’s time to start doing it again.
  2. I’m trying to say many more positive things about my kids to others than negative ones. And, when people say nice things about my children to me, I’m accepting those compliments or confirming them instead of deflecting them by rolling my eyes or telling them about my child’s latest failing. Somewhere over this last year (I think it was in the book Scream Free Parenting by Hal Runkel, but I haven’t had a chance to go back and check), I read or heard that what you say ABOUT your children is even more important that what you say TO them. That really resonated with me, and I’ve been working toward making sure that when I speak to others about these two precious kiddos entrusted to my care that I am talking up their good traits, rather than running down a list of the areas that need some work. It has really helped me to focus on all of the things that are wonderful about my children, and made it easier for me to deal with some of the behavioral things that we’re still working on.
  3. I’m working to be more realistic about my time. My husband will probably laugh his head off when he reads this one, but really, I am. I’m trying to build in lots of cushion so there’s not a crisis when things fall apart. And when things do fall apart, I’m just trying to roll with it instead of making everyone miserable about the fact that we’re late getting somewhere. I want my children to see us adapt and bounce back when things don’t work out as planned, not get totally stressed out and act like it’s the end of the world.

This parenting thing is TOUGH. I’m hoping I have it all figured out by the time I’m a grandparent.   There’s an affiliate link or two somewhere up in that post.