raising kids

Did I used to be a better parent?

I recently told my husband that I feel like I used to be a much better parent than I am now.

I think back to when my kids were little, and I remember smiles, snuggling, making home made play dough, blowing bubbles outside, making cookies, reading stories, and having all day jammie days.  It seems like time moved so slowly back then, and that I was able to sit back and just soak it all in. Today, time moves so fast.  And as I spend much of that time in the drivers seat chauffeuring my kids to numerous events, practices, and games, I don’t know if I get that feeling of connection and soaking in the moment as often as it seems I did when they were small.

I think it’s maybe that I felt like a more successful parent when they were younger.  When they were little, it was not hard to make them happy, I had all the tools. These days, I can longer longer fix a grumpy kid by going for a drive until they fall asleep, so that they then wake up happy. Image

It seems like now I am the guard dog at times, and they are trying to break in.  And honestly, that is their job as they get older, to push and see where they can get to, in order to learn limits.  To walk that tight rope of independence, as I try and keep the net operational below.

My kids are great, I am very proud of them.  They are loving and wonderful, smart and caring.  But, I have a teenager, a pre teen, and a tween.  All those labels come with their own set of instructions and needs.

It isn’t necessarily easy with the ages that my kids are now.  I can’t really send them to time out for two minutes, or take away a Rescue Hero if there’s an issue.  I’m up against so much more than a tired toddler. The amount of why questions today are almost more than when they were little and asking their ‘why is the sky blue’ questions. Although now, it’s ‘Why can’t I?’ And, ‘Why not?’ I can’t always come up with clever crap that will pacify them anymore, it has to be real answers that make sense with my explanations.  And then, at times when I have nothing left, I resort back to ‘Because I said so.’

Image 1 When they were little, there was no checking out of real time and losing hours on the internet, it wasn’t available as it is today.  Now, I have to decide which apps are appropriate for my kids, how much time is acceptable to zone out on their devices, and hope (and check up) that they are following the rules. Social media apps and I don’t see eye to eye when it comes to my kids. I see many as invitations to problems. So, I say no to most.  And then comes the backlash of being the ‘only one‘ without (enter in the social media app of the week here) in the whole school.

Clothing is another issue.  I just can’t go for some of the things that young girls wear for my kids. It’s not enough that everyone is wearing them.

When I put my foot down and will not bend on some of these issues, the looks that are supported by what seems as disgust, (with no other word coming to mind to describe what I see in their eyes), can be hurtful.  Issues my kids face and bring up make me question myself with every cell in my body at times, but in the end, I’d be cheating myself if I went against my beliefs, and that would feel much worse than dealing with a disappointed child. Because once I cheat myself, it would be very easy to cheat again, and my kids would know me to be a cheater on my own morals and beliefs, in addition to being wishy washy and willing to change my mind.

This shit is hard. And it’s going to keep going. Continue reading

4 Reasons I don’t like the kids’ Spring Break

Overall, Spring Break is awesome.  Of the three 2 week breaks my kids get in their school year, the Spring Break is probably the most needed.  In October, they get a 2 week break, and it’s great, I feel a sense of ‘Oh ya, this is what summer felt like.’  The 2 week break at Christmas time is always nice, festive, and busy.  Then, there’s the 2 week Spring Break.  It’s needed.

The kids can feel the summer just around the corner, they’ve been working hard, and this 2 week break is well deserved!

Awesome weather, day trips, overnight trips, sleep overs with friends, and movies were had over this Spring Break.

So what is there not to like about the kids’ Spring Break?  Let’s just say it all goes down the weekend before school resumes:

4.  The return of making school lunches. School lunches are my nemesis.  My son is in the 9th grade, and has never, ever, bought a school lunch.  I’ve tried to coax him into trying the school lunch ‘look, they have pizza!  You like pizza!’  No go.  Both girls tried the school lunch once.  Not that I necessarily want them eating the school lunch, I just always thought buying school lunch would be a nice break from having to make lunches at home.  Now, the job of getting a break from making lunches at home goes to pizza dinner the night before, resulting in pizza in the kids lunches the next day.  Oh, but don’t be fooled, that’s only for 2 out of the 3 kids because one of them doesn’t like pizza.  All three kids like different things.  I try to get my act together and make lunches the night before so I have a sense of accomplishment in the morning, but that certainly doesn’t always happen, and the morning turns into throwing things into a lunch box and convincing myself and them that it qualifies as lunch.

3.  The return of waking up early. The Spring Break held many wonderful memories.  One being multiple days of a quiet, resting house past the 8:30 AM mark.  This first morning back wake up is not going to be pretty.  I hope I have enough Pop Tarts to make the morning a success.

2.  Homework over Spring Break. My kids are not the ones from fairy tales that come home and get their home work done so that it’s out of the way, and they can enjoy their break, work free.  Nope.  The Friday before we return to school, after having two weeks to work on homework, what we have is me trying to wrangle wild horses to sit down and complete their homework.  Sayings such as ‘You should have gotten this done within the first two days of break.’, or ‘If you would have done a little bit every couple of days you wouldn’t have all of this to do right now.’ or ‘This will not be happening again, you waiting until the last minute.’ (even though it totally will) were what was coming out of my mouth.  Out of the kids mouth were ‘This is so unfair!’  or ‘I can’t do it!’, or ‘I want to wait until Sunday!’ (no way).

1.  Complaints about returning to school. The whining, complaining, and even crying about returning to school is overwhelming.  To set the record straight, my kids have excellent teachers and go to great schools.  It’s not the schools, and it’s not the teachers.  My kids just like being at home.  About Friday, when homework had to finally be tackled, is when the complaints about returning to school started.  And by Sunday night, they were in full force.  The crying from one child lasted for a long time, and in the end I heard voiced between sobs, ‘But I am going to miss you mom.  I’m going to be away from you for 6 hours.’  It caught me off guard, and that is a memory I will hold in my heart for a long time.  Truth is, I’ll miss them for those 6+ hours too. Here’s to the final push to summer time!

Lice is evil.

I got a new clothes dryer a couple of weeks ago.  This was because my washer that was only 2 years old broke in the middle of a cycle, resulting in water EVERYWHERE.  It ended up taking over 10 days from contacting the manufacturer until someone finally came out to fix it.  Which is why we bought a new washer the day after mine broke.  (I can not be without a washer with a family of 5, most playing sports daily…)  And that is why we also decided to buy a new dryer, ours was much older than our washer, and now we shouldn’t have to worry about it for a while (hopefully).

And I digress…

As I looked at my new dryer, I saw this:

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And the thing that came to mind when I saw a SANITIZE setting was:  that setting is for lice.

Lice SUCKS.  I mean SUUUUCKS!

2014 brought the first and second rounds of lice into my life.

My youngest’s head itched one day.  Not something that overly alerted me, thought maybe the new shampoo was the culprit.  A couple days later, really itchy.  As I looked at the back of her neck, little red marks.  I was pretty sure that wasn’t normal.  And I began to get panicky.  I started talking myself out of the lice possibility.  ‘Maybe I’ll get her some Head and Shoulders.’  I googled dandruff, and then…..lice.  The red marks were eerily similar to what came up on google images for lice.

And then all hell broke loose.

I called two of my closest friends, both who had dealt with this crap before.  One, spent a nice chunk of change to go to a special salon where they manually picked all lice and the junk that comes with it out of her kids hair.  Very safe, no chemicals.  My other friend also spent a nice chunk of change and had used the chemicals, as well as tea tree oil, and an ultrasonic comb that zapped the lice when you combed through hair (like a mini bug zapper).

I left Walgreens with an arsenal of supplies aimed to kill these suckers.  I started with the shampoo.  The good old, been around forever, super toxic I’m sure, but going to kill these bad boys shampoo.  I was not ready for what came next.

As I combed through my daughters very long hair, wiping the comb with a paper towel and putting it into a plastic bag as per instructions….there were actual bugs.  It truly makes me squirm and feel like puking, as well as feel a sense of guilt and horrible parenting when I think about it.  I know the guilt and bad parenting feelings are unjustified, but it’s pretty nasty to comb bugs out of your kids hair.  I guess I thought that I’d be combing out little white eggs that are hard to see, not true, lice.  So gross.

Then came the cleaning.  Because, if there has ever been a time I could eat off of any floor, let alone any other surface in my home, it was after the lice outbreak.  Sprays on the couches, washing each and every piece of all of our family of 5’s bedding.  Bagging up the ridiculous amount of stuffed animals, pillow pets, and tooth fairy pillows that have hogged the kids beds leaving a splinter of room for them to sleep in for years.  (This, by the way was a bonus, I stuck these bags in the office, and they didn’t ask for them for months.  Every now and then ‘hey mom, what about our stuffed animals from the lice, are they ready yet?’)  The amount of laundry and scrubbing I did in that 48 hour period was in no other words, insane.

I washed everyone’s hair with tea tree oil in their shampoo daily, and continued to do ‘lice checks’ for days afterwards.

I breathed sighs of relief and exhaustion, feeling that I had overcome the evil lice.  Until, 2.5 weeks after the first outbreak, while doing a ‘lice check’, I found more.

The neighbors may or may not have heard me yelling, crying, and then weeping.

This time, I couldn’t go through with all I did the time before.  I gathered up the culprit kid’s bedding, jackets, and anything else they may have touched with their head, and washed those.  That’s all I could muster.  I washed the hair with the toxic shampoo, and I used the little comb.  I got so itchy that I was certain I had lice too, and just for safe measure, and a slight ‘screw it’, washed my hair and used the little comb too.  And everything turned out to be ok.  Lice was officially gone after that.

But of course not before having to tell anyone that had been over to our house and used a bike helmet that our family had had lice (such a fun phone call), as well as become permanently paranoid over these ridiculous, evil creatures.

So, back to the new dryer.  The amount of laundry that I had done on the first round was out of control.  I sprayed down furniture and decorative pillows.  If these evil guys ever make their way into our hair again, I now have a setting so that I can shove all the things into, and kills these buggers.  Heat kills them, as well as not having a host (hence, the bagged up stuffed animals for over 1 week).

I told my husband after our rounds, that if we got lice again, I wanted to move to a hotel for a week, then when we returned, they would all be dead.  But now, I don’t need to go to a hotel, I can shove things that can’t really easily be washed into the dryer and run it on SANITIZE.

Pop Tarts for the Win!

6:15, dreadful 6:15.  It’s the start of the ‘time to get up’ chant around my house.

The freshman does not want to get out of bed.  This is the boy who would get up at 6:00 am each morning and catch up on SportsCenter before needing to leave at 8:00 am for elementary school.  Yet, this is the year he’s chosen to finally learn the art of sleeping in.

And so the battle begins…

  • I turn the light on in his room
  • He moans, shoots me a few lovely glances and groans ‘noooooo’.
  • I leave the room.
  • I return to the room 5 minutes later for the same routine.
  • The circle finally ends with me stomping, possibly yelling, and lots of times threatening, and then he finally gets up.  Only to then rush around and be a grump until he rushes out the door.
  • And then I get to start all over with 2 more kids (a bit of a different routine, although often, there are tears.)
  • And just for the record, YES, there is an alarm clock, and it is turned off after it beeps, and the culprits lay back down and go to sleep.

So what’s a mom of 3 kids to do?  Turn to Facebook of course.

This was my question:

If anyone has a fantastic plan for waking up and getting 3 kids moving out of bed in the morning on school days that doesn’t result in serious grumpy attitudes or tears, let me know. Otherwise, I’ll just be counting down the days until summer.
Just keep swimming….

I got an awesome amount of response.  Everything from super nice ways of waking kids up (that made me feel mean for never thinking of them) like putting their clothes in the dryer before they get out of bed so they are cozy (so awesome), to putting ice cubes in their beds to get them up, saying you were calling the principal, music, earlier bedtimes…

And then I saw it.

One of my longest lifetime dear friends wrote these two words, and these two words only:  Pop Tarts.

My gosh, that may just work.  Pop Tarts are usually reserved for ‘vacation breakfast’, my son in particular loves them.

I bought Pop Tarts a few days later.  The morning time came, and I told him he could have some for breakfast before school.  His eyes lit up like I just said that school had been cancelled.  I then put the following note on his dresser:

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After the next morning where he got up and was dressed before 6:30, that evening he said ‘Pop Tarts just make the day better mom.’

Today was the first school day after Day Light Savings.  Wake up at 5:15, but the clock says it’s really 6:15.  I was a bit nervous, wasn’t sure if the note would be enough power for the ultimate Jedi Mind Trick of Day Light Savings.  It was.

And that’s how Pop Tarts won.

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The result of my husband going to the grocery store after Pop Tarts won.

Picture Perfect Self…

 About a month ago I began listening to podcasts during bike rides rather than music.  I find that the time goes by super quick because I’m focused on what’s being said.  I like comedy, so it’s only suiting that my first podcast that I’m following is a comedian that I like, John Heffron.  I’ve listened to him with Martha Quinn as his guest, Danny Bonaduce, and also podcast that talked about personal safety.  The one I listened to today was with Jairek Robbins, son on Tony Robbins the motivational speaker.  The podcast was interesting because it was: 

A)  Funny.

B)  Applicable.

It talked about setting up your days so the most important factors to you are included, therefore making your days the best possible.  (That’s my lame summary, it’s much better addressed in the podcast!)   There are definitely things that I think about often that I know I should and could do to make my life more like the ‘picture’ I imagine as the best possible.

Anyhow, I liked it, it was interesting.  I think it will be something that lingers on my mind for a bit, so I thought I’d share it.  The link is below, it’s not heavy or anything, and there’s a bit of swearing, so there’s your warning.  If you have an hour while driving, or on the treadmill, give it a listen.  Hope you like it too.

If you don’t have the podcast ap, you can click on the link below and listen to it with what you are reading this with:

http://thestateimin.com

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My littlest is sick.

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This was the result of the morning store run by my husband.

Yesterday, my littlest stayed in jammies and laid on the couch watching movies all day, just not feeling 100%.  I was hoping it was a quick thing, but then this morning at 4:15 am, she came into our room and said she didn’t feel good.  She had a sore throat and a stomach ache, and once I took it, a 102.7 fever, and that was after drinking water to take her Advil.  Poor little one.

Funny, my alarm was set for 10 minutes after she came in to my room for my twice weekly early gym date with my friend.  The handful of times that I have had to cancel my early morning gym workout over the years, I usually feel a strange sense of guilt even though reasons are valid.  When I texted my friend this morning to let her know I wouldn’t be there, there was no guilty feeling like I’m missing out on my work out, or letting her down.  Just the reality of not being able to make it because my kid is sick.

I’m so thankful, my kids haven’t been sick too much this past year.  But it’s funny, when they are, things just go into auto pilot.  I take care of my sick kid, and somehow all the other stuff gets taken care of on the sidelines.  I texted friends who were awesome and able to get some small things done that needed to be taken care of today, as well as keep me informed of the poll results from my middle child running for school President, with her best friend as Vice.  I was hoping to be there for the announcement, but again, I have a sick kid, reality is I can’t be there.  Spoiler alert:  SHE WON!!!!!  I’m so proud of them!  Very thankful for my ‘village’ that helps keep everything going smoothly!

So, my computer is moved into the house from the office for the day.  Spongebob is playing in the background.  My clothes seem to say that I’m the one sick with my warmest fleece sweats and hoodie.  But, my little one’s fever is at bay for now until the Advil wears off, and hopefully all will be clear before her birthday this Friday.

I’m very thankful to be able to stay home and go into auto pilot when it is needed the most.

The Mom Awards

A couple of years ago we had a sleepover at our house where each of my three kids had two friends spend the night for no special holiday or reason.  That’s nine kids total spending the night at my house.  My kids were thrilled, and had that look of shock when we said yes like they better run fast before we change our mind.  My friends gave a few all in fun comments like ‘wow’ or ‘you are crazy’.  And my response was ‘when I get my Mom Award one day, this is one of the things that needs to be listed.’

The Mom Awards are different than the ‘Mom of the Year Award.’  The ‘Mom of the Year Award’ is reserved for when we screw up pretty royally as a mom and state that ‘I will not be getting the Mom of the Year Award for that one!

There are so many reasons why moms should be acknowledged and awarded.  Sleeping in a broken hospital chair next to your recovering kid overnight is huge, as well as caring for your child when they get back home from a surgery, which I have done more than once.  But those things aren’t what I am talking about here, those are part of the job description…tough, emotionally draining parts of the job, that would not ever be slacked on.  The types of things I think deserve a Mom Award are the things that you don’t have to do, but you do them because it makes your kids happy.  The above and beyond the job description items.  It’s usually something that is harder on you to do than if you didn’t, but you do it anyway.

Examples:

  • Getting up before the sun way too many times to count to drive your kid to their sporting events.  (Why on Earth are games scheduled for 8:00 in the morning?  Let alone an hour + away?)
  • Sleeping outside on the deck of the treehouse in an air mattress that deflates by morning so the kids can sleep inside the treehouse and not be scared.
  • Driving for close to an hour to see if we can find the end of the rainbow because the kids said it looks like it’s not too far away.
  • A friend from my kids school has 3 kids, two that could be on the same basketball team due to their ages, but they want to be on their own teams, so there will probably be 3 teams of practices/games/snack schedules to follow rather than 2.

Basic, nothing too fancy, if not done, would have been a lot easier, but the smiles were worth it.

*If you’ve ever survived a lice outbreak in your home you get an instant Mom Award.  This one is not similar to the others above, but it is well due an award.  No explanation necessary.

I remember an Oprah episode, a long time ago, it showed this large family of grown up children that wanted to acknowledge and celebrate their mom.  The mom, surprised and on stage, said when asked what she thought about her kids doing this for her, something to the point of ‘I just wish I would have spent more time with them.  To not have been so busy with other things.’  This has always stuck with me, because here is this lady, who’s kids just love her and want to let her know what a great mom she is, and she still thinks that she should have done better.  Isn’t that just the truth?  No matter the great things we do, as moms, there is always a guilt that hangs over like a cloud of what more we could have done.  The Mom Awards are a reminder that we do great things all the time for our kids, usually things that would have been easier not to have done.

So, how do these Mom Awards look to me?  I see friends coming over and gathering around the fire pit with a glass of wine or drink of choice.  As they come in, they need to drop a piece of paper into a box (kinda like a suggestion box, but a Mom Awards box) with a reason for their Mom Award.  And as we sit around the fire and drink some wine and eat some good food, we read out loud the pieces of paper and laugh and celebrate.  Not quite the Oscars or the ESPYs, but man, it sure sounds fun!

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We are all doing the best we can.

The moments where my patience finally hits that tilt level and I begin shouting and yelling at the kids rather than taking the 10 seconds to count backwards and breathe, or any of the other ‘calm down’ tricks I’ve read about over the years, am I doing the best I can?

That’s a tricky question.

Many, many, years ago, I went to a workshop that focused on managing behaviors of children with disabilities, particularly children on the autism spectrum in school settings.  I learned two important things at that workshop.  One, peppermint helps stimulate your brain and keeps you more alert; the presenter passed out peppermint candies after our lunch break to help fight off the sleepiness that oh so often occurs after lunch!  Two, everyone is always doing the best they can at that given moment.

The presenter asked our group if we thought that our students were always doing the best they can regarding behaviors that they were known to display.  This created some grumbling, and ‘oh no way’ comments with some smiles.  Then the presenter explained that these students were doing the best they could at that given moment.  That even though you have witnessed times where your students have behaved much more positively, at that given moment, they were doing the best they could.  So, say, a student was having a meltdown, and just hit someone across the face.  Given the circumstances of their day, perhaps their night before, those details need to be taken into account, because those details lend to their present situation, and that being the best they could do.  We don’t know all the details that go into someone’s daily experience, there could be a lack of sleep, there could be trigger points that we don’t know about, there are so many things that can influence people that we are unaware of.  The point is, even if someone can do better under different circumstances, that was the very best they could do at that moment.  I hope I’m explaining her point accurately, because it’s stuck with me all this time.

The other night I came across and read a really funny, very clever blog post.  It was written from a toddler’s perspective to his/her mother.  I thought it was hysterical, probably because I related to it very well.  What surprised me as I glanced down at the comments left below her post, was that there were negative comments made by readers regarding the article.  I won’t ruin all the funny details from the post (the link is below, you’ve got to read it), but the negative comments I saw focused on the one thing I think I identified with most and laughed out loud about:

Waking up in the middle of the night to a kid’s wet bed, and placing a towel under the child rather than changing all of the sheets.

I have done this multiple times.

3:00 am waking up to crying, then cleaning up either vomit, or urine off of the floor/bed/windows/doors/walls, and cleaning the kid enough to slip them in some clean jammies then back to a bed stripped of sheets and blankets, but with laid out towels over the wet spots to lay on top of, and a throw blanket to place over them is as much as I can muster.  It’s the best I can do at that moment.  And honestly, I think it’s pretty great.  Adam Sandler in Big Daddy used newspapers, I stepped up his game and used a dry towel, and left the rest to be dealt with in the morning.

We are all doing the best we can at any given moment.  At those moments where I think I’m an utter parenting failure for x, y or z, I can count on my good friends to chime in and have a pissing contest of ‘Oh you think that’s bad?  Last week, I _____’ (fill in the blank), leaving me to feel much better after laughing, and a bit more normal (whatever that is).  We’re all in this together, doing the best we can.  I think being able to laugh at yourself while acknowledging your practices aren’t always taken out of a book on parenting is in itself, doing awesome.

If you’ve ever had a toddler, or if you may have one one day, be sure to read this from ‘The Honest Toddler’, I thought it was hysterical.  http://www.thehonesttoddler.com/2012/06/i-sorry_6.html?m=1

Block Parenting

Two out of three of my kids respond the same when it comes to reasoning or explaining about something, and discipline.  The other child marches to the beat of their own drum.

As I try over and over without success in the same ways with this one child, as I do the two others, it is often left unresolved, and there are feelings of frustration, and at times tears (usually mine).

Today I feel like I may be on to something…

I pictured one of those baby toys that my kids had when they were little, it was red and blue, and had yellow shaped blocks that you placed inside.   You could only put the correct shape in the correct hole, or else, of course, it wouldn’t fit.

 

In using a block toy as an analogy to parenting my kids, I subconsciously continue to fit lets say a triangle into a circle shaped hole.  I continue to get frustrated, and it just doesn’t work out.  In the end, I get afraid that the triangle edges may even get a little chipped along the way as I try to fit it into the circle shaped hole.  Not a good plan.

I feel like maybe some curtains have opened up and I am seeing a little clearer all of a sudden.  That I need to really be conscious of the fact that one out of three of my kids may best respond in a way that the other two do not.

I have three really awesome kids who are funny, full of life, and kind.  We all try to do our best at this job of parenting with the end result hoping to be a kid with the least amount of (theoretical) chips on their blocks.  Here’s to keeping the curtains open and trying to see what fits best.