Sunday, February 28, 2016

Rining in the New Year

I'm a little very late with this post, yes, but wanted to share this super-fun New Year's Eve video here for the sake of keeping my favorite memories all in one place. Hope your 2016 has been great so far!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Fast Food, Failure and Fun

I promised myself I'd never be a "helicopter" mom who hovers over her kids. Or a "curling" mom, aggressively sweeping the floor in front of her precious brood, smoothing all bumps and obstacles to help them glide safely and easily through life. Before I even had kids, I took a vow never to check their homework unless they asked for help. I promised myself I'd make them get jobs after they got their drivers' licenses if they wanted to drive regularly (gas costs money, and money should be earned). I swore I wouldn't be overly involved in their extracurricular activities ("Why isn't he getting more playing time, coach?") or try to boost their grades for them ("What can she do to get extra credit, teach?"). And I promised I'd let them quit the sports and activities they really didn't like—or completely bombed. I'd let them fail. A little failure is crucial to becoming resilient and successful in the long run, right? I quit volleyball after just one season and Girl Scouts after two and turned out pretty well.

The problem is, all these promises I made to myself were for my school-aged children. Until recently, I didn't even realize you could be a "helicopter" mom of a baby, toddler or pre-schooler. But you can! Even when you're consciously trying not to. Here's how it happened to me:

I get daily emails from parenting sites with subject lines like Toddler Spanking: Don’t!, Is Your Child Getting Enough Protein?, Health and Safety Concerns, and Playtime Tips for Babies. (First of all, how'd these sites get my email address? Second of all, I feel guilty for not opening all the emails, like I'm not doing my best as a parent by ignoring the expert advice. But the subject lines themselves make me feel terrible! I've spanked my kids, I prefer meatless meals . . .) I once received a "child tracking device" as a baby shower gift. (Huh?) I also received plenty of big, loud, light-up toys that claimed to be educational—Enhances hand-eye coordination! Develops language skills! Encourages a love of music!—which sold me on the idea that I had to stimulate my babies with them or they'd fall behind. The toys, the emails, everything you're "supposed" to buy, use or do to keep your little ones safe—they turned me into a "helicopter" baby-mom and I didn't even realize it!

When I finally figured out what was happening to me, I blocked the emails and began ignoring the baby industry's ads for its latest "educational" toys and even baby-proofing gadgets. (If my kid slams his fingers in a drawer, maybe he'll learn a lesson about closing drawers more slowly or removing his fingers first. With a gizmo that stops the drawer from closing completely, he'll never learn anything. Am I crazy?)

Even worse than the expert emails, toys and new "safety" contraptions is the pressure from other parents to hover. This happened today:

There's a girl in Evie's tumbling class whose mom follows her around the entire time, helping her on the balance beam and coaching her through every obstacle course, while the rest of the parents sit on the bleachers and watch—or leave the gym and go for a walk, like I sometimes do. Today, before class started, this little girl and Evie were squabbling about something, and I didn't interfere right away. I normally keep quiet to see if the kids can solve the problems themselves. But this girl's mom shot me a look that made me feel obligated to step in—to hover! (I didn't. But I felt judged. This mom was in between the two of them before I even had time to stand up. Never mind that there were two coaches right there who are paid to keep the kids in line and could have handled the dispute themselves, if they had to. I guess they didn't feel the need to jump in right away, either.) How will kids of "helicopter" moms ever learn to overcome real-life obstacles if they don't learn to solve their own problems now?

Also, someone asked me why I let Evie eat McDonald's once. More judgment.

Speaking of fast food, I took Evie and Maddox to Burgerville for dinner tonight. Since taking a stand against "helicopter" parenting, I've also realized that not every bite my kids take needs to be of kale or quinoa. And that not everything I do, say or feed them will screw them up. A little fast food, a little failure, a little fun—maybe it's what we all need.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Happy Friday!

tgif, people! jeff will be skiing at mt. bachelor this weekend, so the kids and i will be keeping busy on the backyard playground (crossing my fingers for dry weather!), at tumbling class, and maybe even at the children's museum or with a saturday-night pizza date.

i made sure we had plenty of groceries for the weekend, because there's nothing worse than being 24 weeks pregnant and realizing, at 8pm, after the kids are fed, bathed and in bed, that there's absolutely nothing for me to eat for dinner except the leftover chicken nuggets i gave the kids—and then having to wait an hour for pizza delivery because i can't leave the house because my husband's gone and the kids are sleeping soundly and there's no way i'm waking them. (yes, it's happened before!)

have a fun weekend!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Worst Part About Pregnancy Is the Mice

simply and honestly, the best part about being pregnant this time around is knowing that it's my last pregnancy. (that's the plan, anyway! and we all know how much life cares about plans.) not a single kick, twist, turn or hiccup coming from this baby-to-be is taken for granted. restless nights, constant trips to the bathroom and any discomfort is taken in stride. in the grand scheme of life, this pregnancy won't last long—it won't even last a second. (i'm counting on my positivity staying with me through four months of sleepless nights with a newborn, too, by the way.) 

i think i can do it, stay positive through it all. in this entry from a couple years ago, i promised myself i wouldn't sweat the small stuff once maddox was born, and that ended up being easy peezy! long days and exhausting nights didn't get me down in the least because i knew they'd be over in a blink. and they were. and, unlike i did when evie was a newborn, i actually looked forward to middle-of-the-night feedingswhen the house was quiet and maddox had my full attention. that's when we got to know each other, in the light of the moon.

so, short story long, taking nothing for granted is the best part about this pregnancy. the worst part is the mice. (you read that right.) until about a year ago, we had a cat to keep the mice away from our house. after the cat ran off, the mice started making themselves at home in our garage on cold nights (and, occasionally, in the recycling bin beneath our kitchen sink). we have traps everywhere. my sense of smell is out of control right nowi'm like a bloodhound, picking up scents from every direction. i can smell a dead mouse when no one else can, the second i open the door to the garage. blegh! i usually call jeff and tell him there will be a mouse (or two, or three) waiting for him when he gets home, because there's no way on earth i'm picking them up myself. yeah. that's the worst part about pregnancy.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Where Did All the Kids Go?

we know there are kids in our neighborhood—we just don't ever see them. the basketball hoops on the sidewalks and bicycles in front of the garages give them away. they've got to be somewhere. 

sometimes, as i'm driving to work, i catch glimpses of kids waiting at bus stops. but after school and on weekends? they're nowhere to be seen—at least by their neighbors. they're not playing outside with their basketballs and bicycles, that's for sure. i don't know if it's because they're inside watching tv, or playing organized basketball somewhere else, or participating in after-school activities because their working parents can't pick them up until after 5pm. i hope it's not because they're inside watching tv. and i certainly hope it's not because of any irrational fears. (did you know violent crime in the u.s. is at its lowest  level since the 1970s? probably not, if you watch the local news. i decided recently to limit my news intake to NPR's politics podcast because i couldn't take any more of those horrific stories!)

just because other kids aren't playing outside doesn't mean my kids can't. jeff and i are making a conscious effort to get them outside as much as possible, every day, rain or shine. for christmas we installed a big playset in the backyard, with two slides, swings, monkey bars, a little playhouse, and a picnic bench with a tic-tac-toe board—and we're going to get our money's worth, gosh darnit! but seriously, they love being out there. 

evie and maddox were outside with jeff until dark tonight, in the rain, and evie got so muddy she had to take her clothes off in the garage before coming inside. it made me so happy. (more importantly, look how happy it made her!) maddox's cheeks were rosy and cold and oh-so-kissable, which made me happy too. but the best part was hearing their little squeals echo through the streets as they played, perhaps getting the attention of some neighborhood kids who were planted on their butts, watching tv. 

if evie and maddox don't get the neighbors' attention with happy screams and squeals, we'll be knocking at their doors this spring to introduce ourselves and invite them outside to play. the more kids to play with, the better!

oh, and did i mention getting dirty makes getting clean so much more fun?! (and check out maddy's newest trick: bubble blowing!)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Trifecta of Fun

legos are big around here. so are cars and princesses. putting them all together is the ultimate trifecta of fun in our house. they're the first toys the kids learned (and liked) to play with together, and it's no wonder, since with all three, the possibilities are endless for both my girly girl and all-boy boy. i love watching them build towers for the princesses and garages for the cars, or taking the princesses "to the ball" in the cars, or rolling the cars into the lego towers like they're bowling, with a goal to knock every block down. last week they made a "goodnight train" out of legos, then took the princesses for a ride around the house while singing them to sleep. (those imaginations!)

we have about a bazillion toys crammed into every closet, spare drawer and storage ottoman in our 1,600-square foot house, but i think legos, cars and princesses are all we truly need. 

fourth on the list of favorite toys and games—for evie, anyway—is tent decorating. before even getting dressed for the day, this girl lugs an entire drawer of dress-up necklaces, scarves, bracelets, masks, purses and more into her room, then drags a stool in from the bathroom, and strategically adorns her tee-pee, pausing every minute or two to note the bare spots and figure out how to fill them. like she's decorating a christmas tree. she asks me to join her, and i do, but no necklace i place on the tee-pee is ever in just the right spot, so she ends up moving all of my attempts.

when the tent is finally done, we sit back and admire it, or we pretend it's elsa's castle or the house of a friend who's having a fabulous birthday party inside. i leave the "decor" alone for a few days (or weeks). as soon as it's all put away, the girl is back to decorating.

when maddox gets bored watching (there's no way he'd be allowed to help!), he finds better ways to entertain himself...

Monday, February 15, 2016

Valentine's Day Love

it was my favorite tradition as a kid: an over-the-top valentine's day breakfast, complete with strawberries and waffles, hot chocolate, whipped cream, and presents. my mom "surprised" us every year with pink and red cups, plates and streamers, and heart cutouts adorning the kitchen table. one year there was even a trail of paper hearts leading from our bedrooms to the kitchen, inviting us to follow. my mom put on this fun little party for us every february 14, weekend or weekday, rising at the crack of dawn or staying up too late to set it all up. 

i'm so happy i get to carry on the tradition. i tried a version of it for jeff and evie a few years ago, when evie was just a couple months old, but i didn't quite get the reaction from them that i got from four-year-old evie and two-year-old maddox on sunday. 

the kids were thrilled. when i asked evie if she wanted a piece of chocolate at 8am, before we'd even started making breakfast, she looked at me twice, quizzical, before popping it in her mouth. she couldn't believe her ears! even better was the hot chocolate, whipped cream and sprinkles served first thing. maddox was so excited he spilled his cup everywhere and fell off his stool.

here's a video of our morning. hope you all had as sweet a day as we did!

Hello Again

oh my gosh—it's been so long! raising two kids, working full-time, keeping up with the laundry (sort of—i just remembered there's a load of wet towels still sitting in the washing machine from last night), and figuring out what to make for dinner every night has taken priority over this little blog.

but lately i've had so many things i've wanted to get down on paper, like the hilarious and heart-melting conversations my two-year-old and four-year-old have with each other daily, or my excitement and insecurities about adding another baby to our family (i'm due in june!), or even just the way i feel on my commute to work, or how beautiful the sunrise is.

i love words. i love writing, reading, and creating this little online memory book, which i hope outlives me and serves as a look into the past for future generations of my family.

today, of course, i can't remember any of the things i wanted to get down on paper over the last few weeks, so i'll just share my favorite family photos from september, taken in our yard...