August 2, 2013

Babysitting – XP

Original here.

Back in my day, I was a pretty in-demand babysitter.  Friday nights were all about getting the kids to bed and relaxing with my friends Corey, Topanga, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.  Getting paid to have the remote to myself – holla!

As the years went on, I would babysit for my professor’s kids, kids with special needs, a family with 5 children (omg), a kid who was obsessed with twirling my hair around his sticky little fingers, and 2 different sets of preemie twins.  I have many happy memories from my time with each of those children (even Mr. Sticky Fingers).

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Babysitters Club has nothin’ on me! [credit]

Then I started a 9 to 5, got married, welcomed my own children, and put my babysitting days behind me.  Well, mostly.

I’ve recently had the pleasure of babysitting for some wonderful friends of mine and it occurred to me how much I’ve missed it.  Strange thing to say considering I’ve got a houseful of kids 24/7, huh?  But there is something very different about babysitting vs. parenting.  When I am babysitting, the children are my one and only priority.  There are no phone calls to make, emails to answer, or laundry to fold.  The only thing I have to do for those hours is keep the children alive and happy (okay, and fed, dressed, changed…).

That ‘happy’ piece is a big one.  There is something so much more playful about being a babysitter than being a mom.  You see, while I do have to make sure that the children eat their dinner and get to bed on time, I don’t have to parent them while doing it.  So when I encounter grumbling about brushing teeth and heading upstairs, there is no need to pull out my, “I expect you to listen and not talk back when it’s time for bed” lecture.  Instead, I grab a piece of paper, fold it into a hat, and off we go on an imaginary safari!  Shhhh!! Tiptoe and quiet voices, we mustn’t wake the animals! Anyone spot any giraffes??

Narrowly avoiding the tragic outcome that would have been waking a lion curled up close by, we arrive in our beds with smiles and happy memories to turn into sweet dreams.

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My safari partner. Credit J&S

I found that stepping back into my old babysitting shoes was refreshing, and a good reminder that sometimes all it takes is a little fun.  We wear so many different hats as mothers and I’ll admit that my ‘playful’ one hasn’t gotten much wear lately.  So this weekend I think I’ll set a date to do a little more babysitting – this time with my own kiddos.

 

August 1, 2013

Mommy Got a New Job – XP

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As if being a working mom isn’t hard enough, I recently decided to go ahead and complicate my life by job searching.  It was time for me to take the next step in my career – something I had been putting off for a bit while I had babies at home.  Advancing your career as a mom of young children is just not easy.  You see, I had a decently sweet gig where I was.  Plenty of flexibility and as good of a home-life balance as one could find anywhere in corporate America – and, as you all know, those perks are gold with 3 kiddos at home.  It was hard for me to wrap my head around giving that up, even in exchange for more money and a higher title.  But, perhaps I could find both?

So I got myself into the interview circuit (sidenote: OMG, when did interviewing become a marathon sport?? 6 interviews for 1 position?  I’m not looking to be CEO!).  As I was asked questions about my experience, interests, and commitment, my mind was swirling with questions like, “Would they be okay with a quick exit after getting a call from the school nurse?” and “How would my co-workers feel about my phone calls with my kids a couple times a week?” or, “What is their orthodontia coverage?”  It’s a big no-no to discuss kids during a job interview, but how would I get at these important questions without tipping my hand? I hadn’t interviewed since my pre-kid days and the stakes were so different now – higher, really.

Ultimately I accepted a position with a new company – one that was small-ish, had a friendly/casual feel, and plenty of other motherhood-age women walking around.  It was certainly a good sign when I walked by the ‘lactation room’ on my way to the conference room.  And, it didn’t hurt that they gave me the highest offer!

Now my thoughts turn to things like getting to know my co-workers – gah! I wish I was better at remembering names!  And impressing the pants off my supervisor so when that call from the school nurse does come in, I’ll have have some ‘good grace’ points in reserve.  Oh, and let’s not forget the fun that is outing myself to 100 new people!

 

July 31, 2013

Big Brother – XP

Original here.

My 2 girls have received many blessings in their short lives, but 1 stands out among all else.

They have THE BEST big brother ever. Seriously, ever.  Sure, they bicker, fight, and they drive him crazy, but never for a second do they doubt how much he adores them.  But you don’t have to take my word for it, see for yourself…

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Thrilled to have a new baby sister ❤
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Credit: Tania Sones Photography

Fall 2011 390

Fall 2010 107

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Credit: AKD Photo
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Too cool to hold hands with little sis at school? Not this kid!

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This next series totally gets me. No posing – he didn’t even know I was watching – just him doing what he does, day in and day out.

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The baby fell and needed a hand getting up.
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Have no fear, big brother is here!
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Am I the only one teary right now??

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Ptown 2011 216
The adoring? Yeah, I’d say its mutual.

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kisses goodnight
reading
Story time

 

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BFFs
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3 kids is no sweat when you’ve got one like this!

“Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero.  ~Marc Brown”

One of my top 10 favorite memories of all time comes from when my son was 3 years old.  His sister’s birth shook up his world in ways unimaginable to most (landed him in foster care, first and foremost) but his love for her was immediate, deep, and raw.  We struggled a lot with many things in those early days, but no matter what, our evening would end the same.  Every night after we brushed teeth, he’d walk over to the baby monitor from which we could hear his sister’s rhythmic breaths.  He’d press it up to his mouth and whisper, “Goodnight sweet baby.  Have good dreams and I’ll see you in the morning. I love you.”

He never did figure out that the monitor didn’t go both ways.  And that is just fine by me.

 

 

 

July 11, 2013

Sassafras – XP

Original here.

Oh my.  Where do I even start with these daughters of mine?

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They are living zest.  Spunk and zeal with a dress and a bow (the twirlier the better thank you very much).  Every moment is lived to the max.

They will absolutely let you know what they think, feel, like, want, need, and dislike any moment of the day.  Sometimes, they “forget” to use their manners.

In a word, these children are SASSY.  (said with jazz hands)

They wear me out with their tantrums and demands, floppy arms and spaghetti legs, picky palate and wild independence.  But then they throw their arms around my neck, eyes squeezed shut, and plant a gentle kiss on my cheek and I’m back.  Fuller than I ever imagined I could be.  These girls are my match, my karma (I may know a thing or two about sass myself…), and my pride.  They are the daughters I never dared to dream of.

I remember when my older daughter was 18 months old.  I joked with her daycare teachers that I was not cut out for a girl.  It was 8am and I was already exhausted from the 5 different battles we had forged over everything from outfit selection to brushing teeth to walking into the building.  Please tell me, I said to them, how do I raise a daughter who is strong, determined, independent, comfortable with her feelings and voices her opinions, but who also listens and always does what I ask her to?!

They laughed, and with understanding eyes they gave me the answer I knew I would get: you don’t.

Of course they were right.  Everything that’s driving me crazy right now is everything I want to raise them to be.

It is such a fine line, isn’t it?  Opinionated and strong-willed so often teeter-totters on the brink of rude and stubborn.  I want them to be well mannered, but I certainly don’t want them to be meek.  So that is the challenge I face in raising these girls so full of sass.  To keep the spark and fire. To stand up for themselves.  But to do it without throwing elbows.  And to be nice…most of the time.

I’m still not entirely sure I’m up to the challenge, but I’m honored to try.  I remind them daily to use their please’s and thank you’s and re-frame their sass into something a bit less ::ahem:: abrasive.  But mostly?  I hope they keep at it.

I hope they keep striving and voicing and running against the wind.  One day those “NO!”‘s, “I don’t want to!”‘s and “I’m doing it myself!”‘s will serve them well.

 

 

June 28, 2013

A Little Story to Make You Feel Better About Yourself…

Original here.

One of the things I love so very much about CTWM is the way we get real.  Parenting is messy, stressful, and quite lacking in glamour and we like to dish about it all.  So, lest you think I’ve got my shit together 24/7, let me tell you a little story about a birthday gift…

It’s Sunday and we have a birthday party to go to in the afternoon.  We haven’t picked up a gift for the cutie birthday boy yet because, well, that’s just the kind of people we are.  No worries, we’ll grab it on the way.

So, we get the kids loaded in the van.  We had spent the morning hiking and running through the sprinkler and my little ones are looking like they could use a nap.  Not 5 minutes out of the driveway and they are knocked out.  Sweet! We had about an hour before the party started…kids could nap in the car, one of us could run in to Toys R Us to grab a gift – perfect!  It’s almost as if we planned it or something.

So the wife runs into the store and comes out with a remote control car the size of our 2 year old.  Cool gift. Not gonna fit in the gift bag I had grabbed before we left the house.

No problem, she says, the dollar store up the road has over-sized gift bags that will be perfect.  So, we drive over there (kids still sleeping, thank goodness) and this time *I* run into the store.  Clearly, she can’t be trusted.

You already know where this is going don’t you?

No gift bags.  We’re gonna be late to the party.  Glaring at wife.

Out of options, we press on to the party place – with an unwrapped gift.  When we arrive, one kid is still asleep so I send my wife inside with the other two.  While my daughter catches a few extra snoozes, I dig around in the van to figure out *something* to do with the gift.

Located tape and tissue paper.  Not bad, I can do something with this! So, I’m standing there in the parking lot of the play place, tape hanging out of my mouth, sweat beading up on my forehead (do you remember how hot it was on Sunday??), jigsawing random pieces of tissue paper onto a box the size of my college dorm room.  All while smiling and waving to the good and prepared families walking by me into the party with the most beautifully packaged gifts you’ve ever seen.

This is so my life.

But anyway.  I’m making good progress, the box is almost covered, and I’m down to my last sheet of tissue paper.  At that moment, a gust of wind rips the sheet out of my hand, straight across the parking lot.  OF COURSE.  I stand there paralyzed for a moment glancing between my sleeping daughter and the last.sheet.of.paper sitting right over there.  I race after it while preparing a speech in my head, “But officer, I didn’t really leave her.”

Okay, paper obtained, back to the car, no interception by law enforcement, and the gift is finally “wrapped”.

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At least I’ve got that sweet card made by my son to distract from the wrapping job.

I’m now drenched in sweat.  I try to wake up my daughter but she’s in that super deep sleep and even when I stand her up, her legs buckle underneath her.  Okey dokey. Deep breaths.  So now I’m walking into the building juggling a 3 year old, massive box, and my purse.  The tissue paper rips – naturally – and by the time I make it into the building and hand the gift over to the party mom, we are all looking a hot mess.

I offer a little, “I swear, the gift is better than it looks,” then escape to find my wife to do a little more glaring at her.

In the end the kids had a blast, we celebrated a fun little boy, and he loved his gift.  It was *almost* all worth it.

This is so my life.

 

June 27, 2013

Summer Break Planning for Kids – XP

Original here.

The countdown is officially on…2 more days until school’s out for the summer!  Children everywhere are filled with joy and mothers everywhere are filled with dread.

Okay, maybe it’s not quite that bad.  I’m certainly looking forward to a break from evening homework battles and mornings rushing off to school.  But for my crew, and I suspect for many others, the key to a successful summer involves a bit of planning.

What’s that quote about idle hands?

The devil's work? Oh, no, just angel's here!
The devil’s work? Oh, no, just a bunch of angel’s here!

My brain works a lot like that of a preschool teacher (except with 1/3 of the patience) and key to success in my house definitely revolves around keeping them busy and having a plan.

Step 1: Having a plan.

Who doesn’t like a good felt board?  Okay, I know our craft queen Carly could have whipped up something a bit…let’s say…fancier? But I’m gonna go ahead pat myself on the back for slapping some peel and stick felt sheets onto a piece of cardboard, okay? And hey, colorful, right?!

For those not in the know (ie: me, 3 days ago) felt sticks to felt so all you have to do is cover a surface in felt to make your board and then your “activity squares” (sharpied pieces of felt) will stick right to it and are easily interchangeable.  I made a big stack of these activity options including things such as: ride bikes, nature hike, baking, play games, free play, science project, swimming, ect.  So, kids and adult sit down in the morning, create the plan, and everyone is in on the schedule of events for those long summer days.  I also like that this helps the kids stay on a loose schedule so returning to school in the fall doesn’t come as quite such a big shock.

Mom tested, kid approved!
Mom tested, kid approved!

We’ve also got a white board up on the fridge with a weekly lunch/snack menu. Just like the ones they send home from school, except no “Mystery Sauce Mondays”.

Step 2: Keeping them busy.

I’m not the only one who’s kids can cycle through 6 well-planned activities in a hour, right? Right??  Thankfully I’ve had some time to scour the interwebz and dream up funky ideas that should hold them over for, oh, a week or two (just long enough to do a little more digging!).

First, to Amazon where I grabbed some project and crafty ideas:

– A live butterfly garden and a children’s book discussing the stages from caterpillar to butterfly.  The kids are going to LOVE checking on the progress of their butterflies every day and bonus points for learning a little something too.

– My kids have always loved reading books, but their interest has been blossoming even further this year and now they want to create books.   Enter create-your-own pop up book kits and those old school journals in which half the page is blank for illustration, and the other half lined for writing.  Perfect for the one or two (or bazillion) rainy days we are bound to have.

– Another blossoming interest is in robot creation.  My son made a robot for a class project this year and the girls were all about it.  I’m sure they’d love the opportunity to break out their engineering skills once again.  There are kits available for purchase, or you can just do like we did and re-purpose milk jugs, shoe boxes, and other random scraps from around the house.

Then it was on to Pinterest where I found tons of great outdoor ideas like sidewalk chalk paint, water balloon target practice, and rock pets (I could make a mean rock pet back in my day)!  Here’s a linky to my board for all the fun, and I will definitely be adding to it as the summer wears on!  Also, no reason not to put our winter ideas back into rotation.

Of course we can’t forget about all the other fantastic (often free!) summer offerings like library story hour, picnics, splash pads, playgrounds, and museums.

Alright, I think we’ve got it covered!  With all this planning and preparation we just might manage to avoid the dreaded, “Mooooommmy, I’m BOOOORED!”

At least the first day.

How are the summer vacation preparations going on at your house? Got any great ideas to add to the list??

June 13, 2013

Bribery for 21st Century Parenting – XP

 

Original here.

Say-No-To-Bribery

[Credit]

When I was still in the planning-to-parent stages (rather than the holy-shit-I’m-actually-parenting stage), I was convinced I would never bribe my children.  That would be totally below me.

I’ll wait for you to finish laughing before I continue.

I know.  I KNOW.

Then, I started actually parenting and realized bribery was a necessary parenting evil like wine and physical restraint.  (kidding, kidding)

I felt guilty for a long time wondering how I had fallen into this common trap – feeling as though I was doomed to a future of entitled children.  But you know what?  Sometimes things just have to get done and bribery works.  What’s a mom to do??

Well, that’s where a little re-frame I like to call ‘bribery for the 21st century’ comes in!  A little less bribery and a little more motivation. I’ll show you what I mean…

Scenario: Mom needs to make a business call on the way to soccer practice with a car full of kids (on her Bluetooth, of course).

Old school bribery: “If you are quiet so I can make a call, I will buy you ice cream after the game.”

New school bribery: “I’m willing to buy ice cream for any children who are considerate while I make a call.”

They don’t even know what hit ’em!

Let’s continue…

Scenario: Gotta take the kids to the dentist.  Dun Dun Dunnnn.

Old school bribery: “If you are good at the dentist, I’ll bring you to the park.”

New school bribery: “Your behavior at the dentist will show me if you’re up for a trip to the playground.”

You see what just happened? Jedi mind tricks for moms.

Scenario:  The car is a big old mess.  (I have no idea what that’s like. Story of my life.)

Old school bribery: “I’ll give you $3 if you help clean the car.”

New school bribery: “I’m going to clean the car.  Helpers get to keep any money they find!”

Bam. Car is clean before you know it and you didn’t bribe…merely, provided a little incentive.

Scenario:  Parents are dying to sleep in, you know, past dawn.

Old school bribery: “If you stay in your room and play quietly in the morning, I’ll bring you to Chuck-E-Cheese.”

New school bribery: “When I sleep in bed with no distractions until 7:30am, I have lots of energy to take kids to Chuck-E-Cheese!”

Are you with me on this??

Suddenly all is right with the world.  No bribes from me, and yet, my kids are motivated to comply.  That is some magical shit right there.

 

 

June 12, 2013

It Makes Me Sad – XP

Original here.

My girls love the camera.

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They cheese it up then immediately demand to see the picture.  I oblige and they smile at the image of themselves and declare, “That’s a good one!”  I’m not sure exactly what the qualifications are for “a good one” but so far they all fit the bill.  Their favorite books are the ones I make for them on Shutterfly with their own images in our special family memories.

It makes me sad to think that one day, they may cringe at themselves in a photo –  deem it to be a bad picture.  Or worse, avoid the camera entirely…like their mom.

My girls love their bodies. 

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They do not think of their bodies as round or flat or big or little but instead as tools that can climb up to the highest slide, or run fast across the field.  They are curious and content when they look in the mirror.  In fact, my youngest insists on being naked at all times because “my body is comfy”.  It’s so refreshing to me that those are the words she chooses to tell me that she thinks clothes are restricting.  At 2, her body is comfortable to her. Love that.

It makes me sad to think that one day it may not be.  One day the mirror may be used for critiques and body parts shamed rather than celebrated for the powerful tools that they are.

My girls love to shop.

They get excited about the possibilities that lay a midst racks of new clothes.  They never give a passing thought to clothing size or flattering styles.  On our last shopping trip, I let them get the matching outfits they had been eyeing and my oldest daughter was so excited she squealed, “Sissy, these are going to look great on us!”

It makes me sad to think that one day clothes shopping may be a dreaded activity.  That the dressing room may be a place of tears and frustration rather than excitement.

My girls love to put on their bathing suits

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They are total water babies and jump up and down when I announce it is time for water play or swimming at Papa’s pool.  In the words of my 2 year old, “I like my bathin’ soup!”

It makes me sad to think that one day they may avoid a pool party, lacking the confidence they have now in their “bathing soup”s.

When I observe them now in all the ways that they are comfortable and confident in their bodies, I can’t help but feel pangs of sadness for the day (not far enough in the future) when they question, or cringe, or critique, or worse.   How many times do I need to tell them they are beautiful and perfect for it to fill them up to the very brim and never once doubt it?

Of course, telling them they are beautiful is not the answer (and, perhaps, may be part of the problem) – it is a wide-sweeping societal change that we need.

We know this.  We are working towards this.

But it makes me sad that we might not get there in time for my beautiful girls.

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June 11, 2013

End the Mommy Wars!!

I’m so proud of being a part of this project, I just had to share!

http://ctworkingmoms.com/2013/06/11/end-the-mommy-wars-special-photo-edition/

F the ridiculous mommy wars!

June 4, 2013

To 4 Or Not To 4 – XP

original here.
family of 6
Party of 6?

Our social worker stopped by for a quarterly home visit yesterday and mentioned that our foster licence will be up for renewal in a few short months.  As he started handing over the stacks of paperwork that would need to be completed for renewal, he stopped himself and asked, “Wait, do you want to renew?”

That answer was an easy ‘yes’, but the real question it gets at isn’t quite so easy…Do we want a 4th child?  That is a question we’ve been wrestling with since we welcomed our youngest 2 1/2 years ago.

I’m so jealous of my friends who describe the feeling of knowing their family is complete.  They have their first, or second, or third and just *feel* done.  I’ve never had that feeling.  In fact, I have powerful moments in which I distinctly feel like I have a child I haven’t met yet (a son, while we’re being honest).  As the magical mama would describe it, I feel the pull of a spirit baby present in my life.

And, yet, despite the feeling that there may be someone missing, my family is so beautifully full.  I have to disagree with the recent Today survey…3 is a wonderful number of kids to have.  Active, bustling, never a dull moment, and always someone to spend time with, a family of 5 is all the wonderfulness of a larger family while still being manageable (except, of course, for the f*$%ing laundry!!).

With my kids at the ages of 7, 3, and 2, we are really hitting a sweet spot of enjoying each other’s company and taking advantage of the fun of childhood without it being too much work.  So, a big question is whether a 4th would add to the fun, or throw off the balance entirely.  My wife was out of town this weekend and I brought the kids solo to Lake Compounce.  I’m happy to report that we had a fantastic time and everything went smoothly!  Throughout the day my mind drifted to the question, “Could I do this with 1 more?”

Of course, there is so much more to consider in adding another child, especially when it tips the scales officially into the “large family” category.  Finances, space, scheduling, non-tangible resources (individual attention, love, patience), and support from extended family and friends.  That last one is a biggie.  Large families don’t seem to be the norm these days and though I don’t believe family size should be determined by outsiders’ thoughts or opinions, the size of our family inevitably has an impact on those around us.  There are the minor ways like a more crowded dinner table for the holidays – and bigger ways, like appointing a guardian who would be comfortable managing 4 children in the unlikely event something were to happen to my wife and I.

Three children was an easy decision for us, our goal, really, from the beginning.  Now this question about a 4th is anything but.

Anyone else struggle with the decision of adding a 3rd, 4th, or more? What were the biggest factors on your pro/con list?  How much weight do you give to support from family and friends?

On the other hand, have any of you decided not to have any more children despite lacking that feeling of “done” in your heart?

A part of me wonders if it simply is not in my nature to feel done…perhaps I’ll always feel the pull of the many beautiful children in the world who need safe and loving homes?

ps – It would be remiss of me not to mention that May is Foster Care Awareness Month.

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