Tag Archives: Parenting

The (not always so) Sweet Life

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mlhs/305645556/in/photolist-t1vLY-fDf9eU-714j4-hogF8e-pDacPS-cYWRiL-6hmNJe-qA25P2-pDaaoE-gx91ZY-pDaaHC-caQXDA-6GnoZi-5rBcuZ-7FLo5B-5bcqjp-eTF47A-8y7CYZ-2sJrv-2sJru-4ZNnBz-7LBNyx-4LrK2n-neVn6Z-8vRGbg-8ggPU9-6z25H9-8vRDCF-dfgaBL-qKBbJf-fgktPk-51ZtBt-3t8oh-8yJdJr-FbdMM-2soz6A-63Uz9B-2Tzst-cwxQeA-42GExe-ee4DQz-gdRip2-6vXE9B-4yKaq-6KAkAE-4cXx6a-cHneB3-b4ha62-b4h9u2-qzZ2it

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 

On Santa, Elves, Bunnies, Fairies, et al.

Santa Real

So here’s the thing: my kids don’t believe in Santa.

At least, not as far as I know.

My daughter (7), the cynic of the family, absolutely definitely does not believe in anything make believe whatsoever. She also never talked back to Dora the Explorer or bought into the idea that anyone on the other side of the TV screen was actually speaking directly to her or could hear or see her. Even as a teeny tiny toddler, she never once did what any of her beloved characters on TV asked her to unless I prompted her. And, while she would happily sit in front of the TV all day if I let her, proving she’s perfectly happy to hang out in fantasy-land, she just seems to separate reality from fiction very clearly in her little brain.

When she has asked me about the existence of the man with the beard in the red suit, my response was “What do you think?” She didn’t think he did. And, she and I are both okay with that.

My response to my son (5) has been the same, but he’s the dreamer. When he asks me if pirates and witches are real, he really wants to know . . . because he’s just not sure. And when I say, “Well, not in the way that you’re imagining them,” because I feel like that is the most truthful response, I’m not sure that I’ve provided him any clarity on the subject whatsoever.

There have been times in the past when we’ve discussed Santa and other holiday characters. On those occasions, he seems to have arrived at the conclusion that they are just fun make-believe in which much of the world enjoys participating. This is the philosophy I preach to his serious and cynical sister out of my extreme fear that she will spoil someone else’s fun.

But, there are other times with my son when we have had conversations about dinosaurs being extinct and I see the logic side of his brain accept that and yet moments later when the animatronic dinosaur we’ve been standing in front of moves, some other portion of his heart or head has kicked in and he has doubted what we’ve just discussed. So, as for him, and what he really thinks is real and not real in that precious head of his . . . I just don’t know.

Tooth Fairy Note

Note I found on my sink recently (the evening my daughter lost another tooth)

What I do know is what’s important to me. What’s important to me is just that I’m truthful with them. That doesn’t mean that I sit my tiny kiddos down and lecture them about truth vs. fiction. It doesn’t mean that we forego pictures with Santa, Easter Baskets, or token monetary gifts in exchange for baby teeth. It just means that when they ask, I give them honest answers. And when they don’t ask, I don’t make things up to fill the space. Although, I will say that my daughter and I do now have a wink-wink nod-nod thing going about the tooth fairy. But, it’s because she knows exactly who is delinquent in retrieving her tooth and depositing monetary gifts  under her pillow that she’s able to giggle at me when I discuss the tooth fairy’s forgetful nature and say “Oh, M-omm, cut it out.”

Santa RealI choose to approach Santa, elves, bunnies, and fairies like I approach shots, yucky medicine, anatomy, sex, death and pretty much anything else when it comes to my kiddos: I just tell them the truth. It’s just SO much easier on my simple brain. I don’t dump lots of information on them that they don’t need at this age and I do struggle sometimes with how to tell them things gently and in ways that (hopefully) will require as few future therapy sessions as possible, but when I tell my daughter, “I will always be honest with you” I mean it. To my core. I will joke and tease and say things sarcastically, but my children will know when I am truthful and when I am choosing not to be for fun. At this point, I can’t tell that this makes a bit of difference to my son. But, I can absolutely tell with my daughter. Being able to believe in that truth means something to her.

My sense is that it will mean more, not less, as she gets older and things get more complicated than fairies and bunnies.

Because (and this is the bottom line for me), when I tell my kids that something bigger than their imagination and more impossible to picture than Santa Claus exists, I want them to believe me. Because God is real. And to a kid, God looks a lot like Santa.

Laundry Organization and Child Labor

Laundry Organization

There are days when I think it would be SO much easier if I just did all the picking up and cleaning, table setting and clearing, and general chore duties around here myself. If I went that route, there would be the following advantages:

  1. It would be done.
  2. It would be done like I want it to be done.
  3. It would be done when I want it to be done.
  4. I can’t bark orders/nag incessantly at myself.

On the other hand, the following things occur to me that outweigh my desire to just get things done now, quickly, and well:

  1. My children are capable . . . often of MUCH more than I give them credit for.
  2. My children are growing up into adults who will eventually have to care for themselves.
  3. My children are here. Almost all the time. They make messes. Almost constantly. Those messes must be cleaned up. I have other things to do. Frankly, I have my own messes to clean up.

Which brings me to the matter at hand – Laundry. The never ending, monotonous cycle of sort, wash, dry, fold, put away, wear, get dirty, repeat. This was challenging enough to deal with when there were just two of us. It became exponentially more challenging during the crazy infant and toddler stages. Now days, it really shouldn’t be so bad. And yet, it is. And did I mention that I have other things to do?

At least twice during the summer, our clean laundry situation got so out of hand that my brilliant husband declared it a “Laundry Party!” We played loud music and gathered together around the mountains of laundry. He threw the kids their clothing as he got to it in the piles and told them to fold it. They did. My 5 year-old asked for guidance. We gave it. He executed with his best effort. It was AMAZING. We folded mountains of laundry in an hour or two and had it all put away. Have I mentioned that my husband is brilliant?

By the second time this happened, I realized a few things:

  1. My kids can actually fold their own clothes and put them away (the later part I already knew. They’ve been putting away some of their things, like socks, underwear, and PJs for a year or two). Now, the clothing is definitely not folded like I like it. Nothing is matched into outfits and placed neatly in a drawer. But things are folded AND put away . . . generally in the right area.
  2. I like things folded and put away. I like it more than I like things folded neatly and matched into outfits.

And so, we began a new laundry system at our house that has now been in place and operational for a few weeks.  I LOVE it!

Laundry Hamper Bag

Here are the basics:

  1. Everyone got their own hamper.  Before this, we used a community hamper in our upstairs hallway. I chose these hampers on Amazon because of their reviews. Our bedrooms are upstairs, our washer and dryer are in the basement, and two steep flights of stairs separate the two. I have a tremendous fear of someone falling down our stairs, so I’m fairly particular about what I ask the kiddos to carry up and down them. Based on the reviews, these bags can be dragged and take a beating. So far, I’m impressed. They’ve done great and the kids can manage them quite well. (I actually LOVE the way these bags are used at this blog, but that set-up just doesn’t work in our home at all.)
  2. Laundry sorterI rearranged the sorting area in the basement to make it more kid-friendly. Before, we had those rolling-type sorting carts. They worked fine, but whenever I asked the kids to help put laundry in the washer, they had to practically stand on their heads to reach the stuff on the bottom, and they weren’t always successful. Plus, I just really didn’t like the way they looked or worked myself, and they were starting to break down and need replacing anyway. So, I ordered two sets of these bins from Amazon.
  3. I set up three containers (using bins we already had) in the laundry area – one for each child, and one for everything else.
  4. I got small bags at Ikea that the kids could put their folded laundry in to carry it back upstairs.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Each child has two laundry days each week, either Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday.
  2. On their laundry day, laundry is one of their morning chores. They carry their hamper downstairs and sort their laundry.
  3. They take whatever is in the dryer and distribute to the bin for whomever it belongs to.
  4. They fold whatever is in their own bin.
  5. The move whatever is in the washer into the dryer and start the dryer.
  6. They choose either Lights or Darks, based on whichever laundry bin has the most laundry. I created magnets and put them on the washer and dryer with the instructions for operating them, but those really weren’t necessary after the first week of the new system.
    Laundry Instructions
  7. They put the detergent in (We make our own and it just goes in with the laundry itself, not into the compartment on our front loader. This was my son’s one disappointment with the new system . . . he really wanted to get to do something with the drawer) and start the washer accordingly. They use the delay function on the washer so that the laundry gets washed in the wee hours of the morning, so it can be ready and waiting for the next day.
  8. They take their clothes (and empty hamper) upstairs and put them away.

It takes all of 15-20 minutes. After the first week, they have really only had 3 or 4 days worth of clothing to fold and put away at a time, so it hasn’t felt like a terrible burden to them at all. A bonus is that they now really think about whether or not something should really go into the hamper for a wash. Before, anytime my daughter changed clothes (which could happen 2 or 3 times a day) it was just easier for her to toss stuff in the hamper rather than put things back in her drawer if they could be worn again. It’s fine now if she does that, but she bears the consequences, not me.  And I can just fold laundry that’s in the bin for me whenever I’m down in that area of the house.

And now, since the kids are using the washer and dryer on THEIR laundry days, I’m more motivated than ever to get the rest of the laundry that needs to be taken care of done on MY laundry days, which are now Wednesday (If I have time. We have busy Wednesdays with our Classical Conversations Community), Saturday and Sunday. This might mean that I do 2 or 3 loads over the weekend, which is more than I would normally do on a weekend, but the whole system has been working so well that I truly do not mind at all.

And, while we’re on the subject of child labor, I think this method for “attacking” the bathrooms with your children, from Red and Honey, is BRILLIANT! I’m definitely trying this next!

 

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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.

It’s not you (or them). It’s me.

_MG_4193a

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.