10 Days of Advent: Day Three

I’m having a hard time believing that we only have 8 more days until Christmas!! My kids’ last day of school was today, which means we have 17 days of vacation ahead of us. When both kids are home all day, the mess can accumulate very quickly. There are more meals eaten at home and there are toys being pulled out all day long, not to mention friends coming over to play and extra family members visiting. It’s a good time for kids to pick up some extra chores!

Bring the message of Advent home this holiday season. Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas as a family.

It can get really frustrating to feel like I’m picking up after my kiddos all day every day. During this break, I’ll be implementing a mini schedule to help everyone stay on top of the mess. It’s wonderful when the kids pitch in and do their chores, but it’s heavenly when they do a job without being asked. Does it still count if they get reminded to make the effort to do this first thing in the morning? Heck, yes!

Do a chore without being asked

I’m a mom of two young children so I’m used to delegating. I am totally comfortable telling them what to do and giving them tasks to complete. I do it all day, every day. So it’s such a nice treat for one of them to do something like pick up their room or clean up their dishes without being told. They’re young so it doesn’t happen very often, but part of my job as their mother is making sure they grow up into people who do things for other people just because. It’s one thing to offer (which is nice) but it’s even better to just get the job done so that someone else doesn’t have to do it. It’s an act of kindness and generosity that rarely goes unnoticed.

You can find the first day of advent ideas here and day two here. I hope you’re enjoying my suggestions for celebrating Advent as a family!

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#MomFail

Last week we went to the pumpkin patch. Not our regular pumpkin patch, but a big time, fancy-schmancy place that took 45 minutes to get to from our house. Forty. Five. Minutes.

We started strong. The drive was a little long but we had excitement on our side so there wasn’t too much complaining. When we arrived, it was busier than I expected. Then the nice lady taking our money handed us our tickets and told us the next hayride was at 1:00… two hours later! The web site stated that hayrides run every half hour, but she explained that they had a few class field trips that had reserved hayrides for their group. Umm, that would have been nice to know. I probably could have called ahead, but given that this was the tail end of two weeks of fall break from school, I was not bringing my A game to this adventure. So here we were with two hours until we could go on a hayride and drumroll please… NO LUNCH.

That’s right ladies and gentleman, I am a seasoned mother of two young children who did not pack a lunch for this occasion. #momfail I have been in countless situations where after having eaten only an hour previously, my children have acted as if they were on the brink of starvation so if you’re thinking “who is this amateur?” I don’t blame you.

As luck would have it, the farm/pumpkin patch had a snack bar. A cash-only snack bar. Guess what else Mother of the Year didn’t have with her?? You got it. No cash. I drove to the outer banks of God-knows-where with two small children, no food and $0.76 in change. #momfail

You guys, desperate times call for desperate measures. We played for a while.  We looked at all the interesting farm-y sorts of things. Then we got our hands stamped for re-entry and we drove back to the very edge of civilization and we ate at Burger King. Now, we’re not the type of family that never eats fast food, but for some reason BK always seems like one of the low men on the drive-thru totem pole. But I’m telling you, we might as well have been at the best restaurant in town. My kids were ecstatic about the paper crowns they received with their kids meals. Everyone’s energy and spirits soared… at Burger King.  It’s dumb I know, but I felt extra guilty and really wanted to accidentally forget the crowns and toys so there wouldn’t be any evidence to remind me of my shortcomings. Alas, my kids held onto those cheap trinkets like the Holy Grail.

After lunch we returned to the farm and went on the 15 minute hayride where we bounced along as we learned all about dairy cows. We picked out our little pumpkins and hightailed it out of there. I felt an odd mix of both satisfaction and guilt at our crazy visit to the pumpkin patch/dairy farm. I was proud for having stuck it out and happy that my kids seemed to have enjoyed themselves, but I couldn’t shake my irritation at having planned this outing so poorly.

Later that day, after relaying the story to my husband, I started wondering why I was struggling with so much momguilt over having a couple bumps in the road. Why do we, as parents and as mothers in particular, hold ourselves to such high standards and at what point do our expectations become unreasonable?

No one is perfect. We know this, and yet the digital world at our fingertips often gives us reason to believe the opposite. We see carefully crafted photos on Facebook, perfectly tidy and staged homes on Pinterest, and an endless parade of pretty images on Instagram. We know the reality behind all these images is not perfection, and yet we still raise the bar and set our sights on higher standards for our own lives. While it can be wonderfully motivating, should we really be beating ourselves up because our pantry isn’t immaculate or because we didn’t turn our child’s school lunch into a beautiful woodland scene made from food?

The truth is that the mom who creates those wonderfully creative lunches has flaws too. Maybe her house isn’t particularly well-kept or she’s chronically late. Maybe she’s incredibly disorganized and forgetful. None of those things makes her less valuable as a mother, just as her lovely school lunch creations don’t give her a one-up on a mom who can’t include “makes woodland creatures out of cheese” on her resume.

yogapants

Some moms are organized. Some are creative. Some are great cooks. Some are talented with a sewing machine. Not one of them is perfect at all things all the time. We are masters at portraying ourselves in the best light possible and social media makes it easier than ever before. We share the picture of our family’s happy, smiling faces at the beach, but we don’t post photos of the argument that took place just minutes later. I’m not suggesting we start sharing all the disasters with the world, but let’s also remember to take what we see online at face value. A perfectly staged living room is just that. It’s meant to be inspirational, not to make us feel crappy because our own living room looks lived in.

What if we let ourselves off the hook for our #momfails at least some of the time? Were my kids more affected by the fast food lunch we ate or the moment when I snapped at them out of frustration with myself? I know the answer. You know the answer. So let’s agree to give ourselves and each other a break once in a while. I’ll look the other way when your kid shares that they pulled their t-shirt from the dirty hamper because the laundry wasn’t done and you can ignore the fact that my kid has a disposable snack bag in their lunchbox today. Chances are they’ll both turn out just fine.

{Linking to Just A Girl & Her Blog, Think & Make Thursday}

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An Un-Pinteresting Backyard Carnival

I love Pinterest. I really do. It’s a beyond-amazing resource for just about anything. Bored with your go-to chicken recipe? Pinterest to the rescue. Looking for a less toxic way to clean the bathroom? A thousand pins on natural cleaning solutions are a click away. Planning a birthday party? Pick a theme, any theme, and then instantly get a hundred ideas.

But I’m not the first to point out that just past the Pinspiration lies the Pinsanity, that little voice that makes you feel that if what you created doesn’t look like something you’d see on the cover of a magazine, then it’s not good enough.

We all know that’s not REALLY true. If planning unbelievable birthday parties is something that truly brings you joy, then go for it, but there’s no reason to put so much pressure on ourselves to live up to what may be an unobtainable standard if it’s not even something we enjoy doing. I like to bake, but I need a legit recipe in hand. I have zero interest (or skill I might add) in creating my own recipes when there are ten zillion just waiting to be used.

Backyard Carnival

Yesterday we had our very own carnival in the backyard and it wasn’t a birthday party or a special occasion, but simply something fun for our family to do together. My 7 year old daughter concocted the idea and while I grocery shopped, my husband and son helped with the set up.

The four of us had a blast playing all the games that my sweet girl had created! She made all the signs herself and even made tickets. We had a penny toss, a knock-over-the-water-bottle game, a bean bag toss (made from socks filled with blocks) and for each game, we earned a raffle ticket for successfully getting a penny in the dish, etc.  After hot dogs and brats on the grill, we pulled the winning raffle tickets and each of the kids “won” a bubble wand.

simple penny toss

our very simple-looking penny toss which was the hardest game of all!

I’ve seen absolutely adorable carnival-themed birthday parties on Pinterest and kudos to those who’ve created and hosted them. There’s a time and a place for parent-driven occasions, but this was different in such a special way because it was completely inspired by my daughter. Sure, I could have jumped online and found some cute printable tickets for her, but that would have taken away some of the enjoyment my little girl felt as she handed out the tickets she had made on her own.

I can’t describe how proud my baby girl was at the end of the evening after seeing her vision come to fruition. She must have asked four times if this was “the best carnival we’d ever been to?”

I want to be clear that I’m not bagging on big time birthday parties. As I’ve already said, I love Pinterest and I love perusing all the awesomely inspirational blogs out there. But, I also loved seeing the joy on my kiddo’s face as she watched us all participate in games that she made out of cardboard boxes and random stuff from around the house. It was a great reminder that my kids’ creations can be far more beautiful than my own.

 

{Linking to: Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Inspiration Gallery, The 36th Avenue}

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From Night Owl to Early Riser

.wake up early

When I was a sophomore in college, I spent a week as a nanny/mother’s helper for a large group of friends having an annual summer get-together. One evening after all the kids were in bed, my co-nanny and I discovered all the moms in the kitchen making s’mores in the microwave. (I totally get this now that I’m a mom.) I remember saying I was worried about having kids of my own because I’m not a morning person and kids seem to have the obnoxious habit of rising early. The universal response was that after a while your internal clock changes until you naturally become a morning person.

LIES. LIES. LIES.

At the time it made sense, but now after six years of having a human alarm clock in my house, I can confirm that this is not the case for all of us.

In the beginning, you have a newborn that wakes at all manner of unusual times and you really have no options. Maternal instinct kicks in and you drag yourself out of bed because you have no choice. Then they get a little older, and if you have a generous husband who will take the occasional morning shift (or a rockstar like mine who does it frequently), you’re not forced to greet the sun every day. Then they start going to bed at a normal hour and suddenly the evening hours are wide open. For a night owl like me, this is the root of the problem.

It doesn’t matter how tired I am or how I can barely keep my eyes open while I’m reading Fancy Nancy for the hundredth time. As soon as the last door closes with my sleeping babies safely tucked in their beds, my second wind kicks in. My body says, “I’m tired.” But my brain says, “I’m free! I’m free! The world is my oyster! I can do whatever I want!” I should listen to my body and go to bed, but somehow watching three episodes of The Good Wife sounds like a better option at the time.

Apparently, some people don’t require a lot of sleep to be productive and pleasant during the day. I’m not one of those people. I need about 7-8 hours of sleep in order to function like a person. I also have an early riser in my house so staying up until midnight doesn’t work in my favor unless my husband is getting up with the kids the next day. So how do I get a little time to myself AND enough sleep?

The plain and simple truth is that my day starts off better when I can greet the morning on my own. This means going to bed earlier is a necessity. It doesn’t come naturally to me, and I go through dips when I’m not sticking to it. Over this past school year, I made a conscious effort to prioritize waking early. Being a morning person still doesn’t sit well, but at this stage in life it really works better for my family.

3 Tricks for waking up early

1. Don’t hit the snooze button.

I’m better at this some days than others, but it really is helpful. The more you prolong it, the more waking up feels like a chore instead of a choice. And really that extra seven minutes isn’t that beneficial.

2. Splash cool water on your face.

It’s so simple, but this really does help me break out of the groggy state and wake up.

3. Eat or drink something you enjoy.

I never used to drink coffee but I started last fall when I embarked on the process of waking early. Now I enjoy that first cup of coffee so much that it actually motivates me to get out of bed. Truthfully, coffee is just a vehicle for that delicious goodness called coffee creamer (and yes it’s full of sugar and crap- don’t judge me.)

Lately I’ve been succumbing to the lazy mornings of summer (if you call getting up at 7am lazy) and not setting an alarm at all. Some days it feels nice, but a lot of times I end up feeling a tad resentful when my human alarm clocks start going off. And you know they don’t come with a snooze button! I need to get back in the early morning habit. What better way to hold myself accountable than to tell other people?! Give it a try yourself. You might just start to enjoy it.

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There Is No Two And A Half

At one time, those of us who are now parents were just innocent bystanders judging observing other people parenting their own children. We watched as they played with, dined with and yes, even disciplined their kids. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all had opinions about those parents and the job they were doing for better or worse.

Long before I had my own babies, I would see moms and dads do things and think “I will never do that with my kids” or better yet “my kids will never do that.” It’s not about being judgmental or self-righteous. I truly believed that I could do things differently.

Then I had kids.

The minute that my daughter was born, my perspective was forever altered. Instead of standing by as an impartial observer, I was the one making the decisions and dealing with the consequences. It’s a heck of a lot easier to stand firm in a hypothetical situation than it is when a two year old is sitting on the floor of the grocery store, wailing at your feet.

No parent is immune to the unpredictable tantrum of a toddler and regardless of how the situation is addressed, there are always repercussions. Stick to your guns and not only do you have to deal with an unhappy child, but the reactions of onlookers as well. Do you haul the offending child out of the store and leave your cart (and the half hour’s worth of groceries) behind? Or do you stay in line and suffer the glares and comments of other customers and pray the clerk will make it snappy? On the other hand, you can opt to give in “just this once” and face the possibility of how this will impact future shopping trips down the road. Spoiler alert: it’s not good.

Parenting is an amazing undertaking but it’s not always pretty.

Take a recent trip to our neighborhood pool for example. My daughter can now swim well enough to play in the pool independently under the watchful eye of an adult. Apparently with this new swimming ability, she’s also developed “pool ear.” Pool ear is a mysterious force that compels my child to spontaneously dive under the water any time that I give any sort of instruction, thereby rendering her unable to hear what I’ve said. It seems that this affliction is most dominant when it’s time to leave the pool.

I’ve seen many other families help their children out of the pool when they’re reluctant to leave. Typically there’s an advanced warning, which we use as well, some sort of “five more minutes” announcement. Then maybe one follow-up warning if their children are also victims of “pool ear” and may have missed the initial warning. Finally it’s time to get out. We like to think that our children will be the ones who hear an instruction and instantly obey without hesitation. If your kids do this every time, then well done. But sometimes the fun is too alluring and obedience falters. In this case, the parent must become The Enforcer and help their child to obey. Too often it goes a little something like this…

Mom (aka The Enforcer): I know you’re having fun, but it’s time to go.

Kid: (I know I should do what you say but I can’t hear you under the water so I guess I’ll keep playing.)

Mom: It’s time to leave. I will give you to the count of 3 to get out of the pool.

Kid: (I love swimming. Swimming is so much fun.)

Mom: 1…2… I mean it. It’s time to leave the pool. 2 and a half… I’m serious. We are leaving. 1…2… Get out of the pool now.

Kid: (This could go on forever so I’ll just keep swimming until she gets mad.)

This goes on and on until the offending child finally decides they’ve pushed it far enough or The Enforcer has offered up some sort of alternative consequences (e.g. if you don’t get out now, we’re not coming back for a week.)

Of all the ways I envisioned raising obedient kids, this is one area I actually stuck true to my pre-parenting opinions, mostly because I find the scene above to be utterly annoying as an observer AND as a mom. So here’s how it goes in our family…

THERE IS NO TWO AND A HALF.

Me: Time to leave.

Pinakalicious (aka my daughter): (spontaneous compulsion to dive under water and ignore me).

Me (when she comes up): Get out of the pool now. 1…2…3. (Reaching into the pool and pulling Pinkalicious out of the water).

Usually I don’t get to three. But she’s a child and so sometimes I do. If she isn’t climbing out by three, I’m helping her out of the water myself. If I have to get in the pool to do so, then that’s what happens. I don’t like it and neither does she, but I’m not about to stand on the side of the pool and count to three six times until my daughter in all of her six year old stubbornness has decided to do what I say.

I’d like to say that I’m a parenting guru with perfectly well-behaved children, but I’m not. I struggle in so many ways all the time. But if there’s one thing that I want to make sure my kids know, it’s that I will never stop trying to be the best parent I can be, even if that means I have to jump into the pool to teach them about what it means to follow through when I set boundaries.

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