Category Archives: Motherhood

No, YOU Pick It UP!!!

Yesterday, I discovered a parenting hack that worked so well I thought I would share it. You may have already done this yourself, but I had never thought of it, so I’m sure there is someone else out there who could find this to be useful.

We have a big, finished room in our basement where our two younger kids keep many of their toys. This room is often anxiety-inducing, as my littles have the typical childhood habit of leaving all their toys on the floor. Fortunately, the mess is hidden in the basement most of the time. The difficulty comes when I decide it is finally time for them to clean it up.

If I send them downstairs with the command to put away their toys, one or more of the following ALWAYS happens:

  • After some time passes, they come upstairs and tell me everything is put away. What has actually happened is they have put away a handful of things and the rest of the toys have miraculously become invisible to only the two of them. After giving them a few more chances, one of us eventually comes downstairs and has to tell them specifically what items do not belong on the floor.
  • They go downstairs to clean, forget immediately they are supposed to be cleaning, and begin to play with their toys instead. The room is now messier than before.
  • After 3 minutes, one of them comes upstairs to claim that the other one “isn’t cleaning ANYTHING!” after which, the other one yells, “I am TOO cleaning!” Truthfully, neither one of them is cleaning.
  • Shouts of “That’s not mine!” and “I didn’t get that out!” echo from the basement. No one picks up anything because nothing belongs to anyone.

 

Yesterday was a snow day with lots of sleet, so we were stuck inside. Again, I told them to go pick up their toys, and more than one of the above scenarios began to play out. I was preoccupied with an organizing task of my own and I didn’t want to stop to go supervise their cleaning.

Suddenly, inspiration hit and I had an idea. I gave these instructions:

“James, you pick ONE thing that Harper has to put away. Then, Harper, you get to pick one thing James has to put away. It can be ANY toy that isn’t where it belongs and you can’t argue. Just put it away.”

And it worked. In less time than normal, all the toys were off the floor and no one was fighting.

 

This was successful for a few reasons:

  1. They got to boss each other around and take turn being in charge, which they LOVE.
  2. It narrowed the task down to just one item at-a-time.
  3. They took turns, so there was no argument about who was doing more.
  4. It took away the idea of “yours” and “mine” so they didn’t waste time arguing about whose fault it was that the item was on the floor in the first place.

Before, I would have stood in the room and done the exact same thing: “Harper, put away that princess doll. James, put away this nerf gun.” This simple adaptation kept their cleaning task the same, but allowed me to step out of the equation. It also broke down the steps of having to 1) identify the misplaced object and 2) put it wear it belongs. Instead, they only had to do half of the process at once, so they never got overwhelmed.

It may not work for everyone, but I will definitely be using this method in the future. I may even look for ways to use it to accomplish other difficult parenting tasks.

Do you have a useful tip for cleaning with your kids? If so, share it in the comments!

Another Year Older

In her own quiet way, 11yo became 12yo over the weekend with a small party with family and friends. I remember when she was little, we threw elaborate parties with themes and scavenger hunts and gift bags. Maybe we’ll do that again one day, but for now she is happy with a few balloons and her favorite birthday menu: pizza and corn-on-the-cob.

It’s also amazing how much smaller gifts get as your kids get older. No longer is she opening giant plastic monstrosities with beeps and blinking lights. Now, all of her gifts fit nicely into a few gift bags and consist mainly of clothes and books.

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It’s a nice change.

On the other hand, I have two other children under the age of seven, so I doubt my days of giant plastic gifts are quite over.

Curing My Beach Envy

I see you.

I see you posting photos of your manicured toenails in the sand with the surf in the background, your sleeping toddler curled up on her towel, your family wearing matching shirts while sitting on an abandoned lifeguard chair. I look at your pictures and I can smell the sea air and taste the crab cakes. Envy wells up inside me as I imagine planting my lounge chair at the shoreline and letting the water wash over my un-manicured toes. I lament that we have neither the time nor the extra money this summer for a beach vacation.

Then, one of my children tattles on another while running down the hall and I remember: I am no longer a beach person.

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I’ve been on quite a few beach vacations, and I love the idea of going to the beach, but since becoming a mom I find a day at the beach to be exhausting. Maybe the rest of you have mastered the art of family beaching, but as a mother with small children I do very little actual relaxing on the beach because I’m too busy keeping our offspring from washing away with the tide. If they’re not in the water, they’re covered from head to toe like a donut that has been glazed with sunscreen and sweat then rolled in sand sprinkles. Heaven forbid they rub their eyes. Also, reapplying sunscreen over sand without causing brush burns is about is difficult as it sounds.

When I finally get back to my hotel or rental house, much of the beach has come back with me in my car. Before I can bathe the kids, I have to find a discrete spot where I can strip them down and cover them in powder to get the sand off their bodies before I stick them in the shower. Then, I have to vacuum up the sand AND the powder. Inevitably, there is still sand remaining on their bodies and only half of it rinses down the shower drain. They all go to bed with sand still stuck to their scalps, but we’ve paid so much money to be here we do it all again the next day.

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Yeah, I know. Memories are being made, my kids will appreciate the trip when they’re older, blah, blah, blah. I’m not saying I’d turn down a free trip to the beach or that we’ll never go again. But, as I’m pining over beach pictures on my Facebook and Instagram feeds, it helps to remember that the cute baby in the photo probably has heat rash and sand stuck is his fat rolls. The smiling toddler is probably crying now because her Dollar-Store sand toys washed away in the surf, and neither of their parents can drink away the whining with a cool beer because they have to keep their little ones from wandering down the beach and going home with another family.

Who knows, maybe we’ll go to the beach next year. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy my glass of wine on my porch while my kids don’t drown in our grass.

Life is So Unfair!!!

“I never get what I want!”

This is a sentence I hear on a daily basis from 4yo. I assume it’s a phase, but it’s one of the most annoying and anger-inducing I’ve encountered as a parent.

Not long ago, I took 4yo to our local amusement park by himself. It was a special day – a no-sisters day! He got to the pick the rides, the food, and the games. He even talked me into a $4 game of mini-golf. As he completed the 18th hole, he shouted, “I want to play again!”

minigolf

“We’re not playing again,” I told him, reaching for his golf club so we could return it.

“But, but, but……aw, I NEVER get what I want!” he declared with crossed arms.

In my mind, I bent his golf club over my knee and hurled it at the nearest pretzel stand.

“What do you MEAN you never get what you want! I’ve spent a small fortune today so you could come here by yourself and ride, eat, and play ANYTHING you want. You’ve done nothing but what YOU want today!”

We stood there for a second, me steaming and him pouting, while I thought about what I should say next. Then, as life would have it, I said exactly what my mother would have said.

“Well, if spending the day here isn’t what YOU want, I guess we should go home,” and I started walking away.

“No! Wait! I DO want to be here!”

Thirty seconds later we were in line for the log flume and I didn’t hear about the mini-golf for the rest of the night.

Unfortunately, as he has informed me several times since, he STILL never gets what he wants.

Life is so unfair.

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Pop-Up Camping with 3 Kids: How We Make It Work

It’s been a few years since this post, and since then we’ve grown into avid pop-up campers. Our little 1996 Palomino served us well, but this year we were able to upgrade to a slightly-less-old  2002 Coleman Carmel. We weren’t looking to upgrade to another pop-up (we have our sights set on larger, loftier travel trailers) but an amazingly priced opportunity presented itself so we went for it. Since we were also able to unload our old trailer for a decent price, the whole process ended up costing very little.

Our good old 1996 Palomino

Our good old 1996 Palomino

Carmel

Our new-to-us 2002 Coleman Carmel

Most pop-up campers are designed to sleep up to 6 people, but that would be really crowded. Fortunately, we only have 5. We’ve managed to make camping work for us in our little pop-up while still affording ourselves the luxuries we like to include in our “glamping” experiences.

Sometimes it amazes me that we can all sleep on the same small place and not keep each other up all night. Maybe it’s the fresh air, but our kids usually sleep better when we’re camping than they do at home. Here’s how we do it:

The older two kids:

9yo and 4yo both sleep on the double-sized bed. I was worried they would pick at each other all night or wake each other in the early morning. To avoid conflict, we decided to have them sleep in sleeping bags on top of a comforter. This works well for two reasons: 1) they aren’t sharing bedding so there’s no fighting over blankets and 2) we can have them sleep facing opposite directions so it appears as though they each have their own end. This has worked really well and has elicited no complaints from either of them. We’ve found it’s best to put 4yo to bed first and have 9yo sneak into bed once he’s asleep.

BigBeds

The baby:

1yo is still sleeping in a crib at home, so we need to use the pack-n-play whenever we travel. The only place to put it is on the dinette bed. When 4yo was an infant, we tried putting it in the bunk end but it was far too hard to lift him in and out from that height.  1yo sleeps really well in the pack-n-play as long as we put her to bed before the other two. To keep cool breezes and light to a minimum, we attach blankets to the exposed sides. One day I may make cute curtains for the sides, but if I wait long enough she’ll be sleeping in a bed and I won’t need to.

BabyBed

If the morning is cold or rainy, it takes 30 seconds to lift the pack-n-play onto the older kids’ bed and assemble the dinette for breakfast, puzzles, or a competitive game of UNO.

Dinette

Us:

Our bed is easy. We topped it with a memory foam mattress pad because all camper mattresses were made by the Flinstones.  Then, I simply make the bed like I would anywhere else. We have no complaints.

GrownUpBed

There’s no more work getting our beds ready in the camper than there would be in a tent. Maybe even less, since we don’t have to blow them up first!

We’ve already camped twice this summer and we have another trip planned in a couple weeks. It’s become a wonderful way to make memories with our children.

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Summer is Here!

We made it to summer!

After the craziness of the last month of school, today marks the kick-off of summer vacation here. Despite the calls for rain, it’s sunny and beautiful outside.

Our plans for the summer include lots of swimming, a couple day trips, and tons of camping trips (provided Jim can get off work). I’m hoping to get in lots more blogging now that I have the time to do it. Watch for chronicles of our summer adventures!

My Third One is My “Only Child”

Every parent I know who has multiple children has said the same thing to me at one point: it is amazing how different they are.

For several years following the birth of our first child, Jim and I dealt with infertility issues. Since we now have three children, we obviously solved our problem.  In the meantime, we suffered through the barrage of unwelcomed comments all parents of only children endure. These comments are usually intrusive and unfair. More importantly, they are dead wrong.

“If you only have one, she’ll end up spoiled.”

“Only children don’t know how to share.”

“How will she learn to get along with others if she doesn’t have any siblings?”

Despite being our only offspring for over 5 years, our oldest daughter is the opposite of all of these things. She’s selfless, kind, helpful, and many other qualities parents wish their children to be.  She is patient and caring with her younger siblings and helpful to adults. She didn’t learn these traits from having siblings. She developed them long before the other two came along.

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Ironically, the third one (1yo) is everything the first one (9yo) was “supposed” to be. Heaven forbid 4yo wants to sit in my lap and snuggle. 1yo will climb over him, screaming, attempting to pry him off. If that doesn’t work, she hits him and ends up screaming in time-out. She loves chopped strawberries until she sees a sibling eating a whole one.  Then, suddenly, chopped strawberries are inadequate and only a whole one will do. If she is the first child to arrive in the nursery at church, her anger mounts as more children arrive to play with the toys or receive attention from the nursery teacher. If there is a communal bowl of snacks, she scrambles to it like a puppy who is one of several in the litter and shoves the food into her mouth as though she will starve if she does not get her fair share of goldfish crackers.

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My 9yo, who spent over half of her life not having to compete with anyone for attention or possessions, is hardly competitive at all. My 1yo, who has always been one of three, has learned very early that there will always be someone else who will take what you want if you don’t get it first. 9yo was never the stereotypical only child (even when she was one), and 1yo is about as spoiled for attention as a toddler can get – despite having two siblings.

That these two completely opposite girls are exactly who they were meant to be has been a big lesson to learn. I cannot light a fire in 9yo’s belly any more than I can extinguish the one in 1yo.  All I can do is guide them, support them and discipline them; and, of course, love them and their brother exactly as they are.

Siblinga1

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Gem

I recently found this conversation from last summer that I had written down so as not to forget it.  I read it tonight and it made me smile.

3yo: Now that it is warm I will hug bees.

Me: (half listening) yeah?

3yo: Yeah, they will not sting me if I hug them.

Me: Wait, what? You want to hug bees?

3yo: Yeah.

Me: We don’t hug bees.

3yo: Why not?

Me: because they will sting you.

3yo: Not nice bees.

Me: Yes, even nice bees.

3yo: But why?

Me: Because bees don’t want you to hug them.

3yo: Aw, but I want to hug them.

Me: Bees are afraid of people.  You can say hello to them, but you cannot touch them because they will sting you.

 

3yo thinks for a while….

 

3yo: Bees are not in our cars.

Me: No they are not.  If one flew into our car we would open the windows so they can fly out.  They don’t want to be in cars, they want to stay outside and find flowers.

 

3yo thinks some more…..

 

3yo: Bees don’t like flowers on Mars.

Me: What?

3yo: Bees don’t like flowers on Mars, only on Earth.

Me: Um, yes.  They only like Earth flowers.

3yo: A long, long time ago, bees flew into our car.  Then they turned into butterflies.

Me: They did?

3yo: Yeah.  Two weeks ago.

Me: Oh. Ok.

 

My Funny Buddy

Recently, 3yo and I were in the basement where our toy kitchen is located. He was preparing a plastic dinner for me, and the following conversation ensued:

 

3yo (handing me a bowl of plastic bread and peas): Here’s your sayfillow!

Me: sayfillow? What’s that?

3yo: It’s French.

Me: French, huh?

3yo: Yeah, French from America.

 

The other day, in the car:

3yo: I’m a dude.  I lost my dude glasses, but I’m still a dude.