Thursday, June 7, 2018

Surviving Summer

Every SAHM gets simultaneously excited and fearful for the end of the school year.  It's that time of year where you're just so dang tired of packing yet another school lunch and just about done with spending an hour in the car picking everyone up (which is short because we carpool), and are dreaming of lazy summer days.  I'm not sure what it is, but I cannot WAIT for summer to begin around the beginning of May.  But then reality sets in and I am scared out of my mind about how to deal with summer break and four kids, ages 7, 5, 3 and 1.  Do I sign them up for a buttload of camps and classes, and try to fill my schedule up with pseudo school like commitments?  Or do I enjoy being a pseudo homeschool mom and just assume full responsibility for most of the summer with my kids?  It's really hard to balance but this year, I decided above all, my main goal was for us to enjoy summer together. 

But in order to sort of thrive instead of just survive, I had to come up with some ground rules for our routines at home, otherwise I'd go insane and my kids would never cease to bug me about what is next and if they could do this or that.  Rules and routine definitely help with managing expectations, and it's something I've learned early on with four kids and my own sanity, that I must have.

So we set about figuring out a few camps and classes here and there for my three older kids.  And then it was all about what to do while home.  So I came up with a list of "Must Dos" for the kiddos.  In the past, we've had contracts that they must sign and commit to doing certain things before being granted screen time, but really my goal was to just eliminate screen time entirely or limit it to online learning or a super short show (Mini Force is not only in Mandarin on Netflix but is only 10 minutes each episode!). 

MUST DOs: Learning was the first thing I wanted them all to do consistently, no matter how our day went.  So I decided on an hour of learning (online for Bubba through the Waterford Upstart program, Mandarin Matrix for Jordan, and whatever Dagny felt like which is usually a combination of workbooks and online stuff too).  The morning routine remained the same, but instead of requiring everyone to have had their beds made and clothes on before breakfast, I let the kids eat at breakfast with their blankets and pajamas.  And bed making seems to have fallen out the window for the time being, but I kind would rather their rooms be picked up and neat, than their beds made, so that's been my main objective lately.  And, it's a nice little way of being more lax during the summer.  Other things that were important to me to have on a daily basis were outside play (weather permitting) and reading.  And then, on top of all that, I also want them to help out around the house, but we don't like calling them "chores" because quite frankly, it sounds like a chore!  Instead, it's helping others or a contribution, or a family responsibility.  I don't get paid to take care of my family, but I don't consider it a chore either.  It's an opportunity, and it's so important for my kids to understand that.  This small paradigm shift has been pretty key in our kids helping out around the house. 

Side note and digression: Sometimes, to be honest, they just don't want to help.  Around Valentine's we had some "sweetheart" candies in a small vase, and everytime someone did something "sweet" or deserving of being called a "sweetheart," they would also get a sweetheart candy.  My kids did so much "helping" that month.  There was love everywhere.  But even now, now that the sweethearts no longer sit there as physical incentives to help out, if I ask, "can someone help Mom," I get crickets... and then I ask, "who wants to be a sweetheart?" and someone will inevitably volunteer to do the task I'm asking for.  I think it's a mindset of understanding that when they do this item, they are helping out, and being a "sweetheart" versus being asked to do something and not feeling like anyone is grateful for their help, that it's just expected.  Hey, I feel the same way when my kids commend me for a great dinner..  I don't, however, feel so great when they're complaining about how much they hate the dinner I spent so much time putting together.  I think we forget it works both ways, with kids, they want to be noticed and complimented for their hard work contributing too! 

And the last thing we added to our Must Dos was "quiet time," which I had heard so much about from friends, but never before attempted.  But with the1 year old still napping once a day, I wanted a given time just for me.  So I set my kids up for success by explaining to them the way quiet time would work for us: they must be "quiet" in their room or a sibling's room, but they cannot go anywhere to bring anything in after quiet time has begun.  That means any books or toys they wanted in there, have to go in with them in the beginning.  No fighting or screen time opportunities are lost (normally they can have screen time while I work out, or they can earn it through development on the areas they need most improvement on, and this is different for each kid, depending on the challenges each is faced with).  Same goes for screaming, and the only exception to being able to come get mom is if you need your butt wiped. Yes, my kids still need help with their butts. 

Can Dos: Then, we came up with a list of "Can Dos" which essentially is a general outline for our bucket list this summer.  They encompass everything my kids might want to do and everything Mom's willing to take them to do on my own.  Our other list of things we can do are listed out generally as playdates (with friends at their homes or our homes), art projects (includes cooking projects because anal me wanted the same number of bullet points for both lists.. hehe), science projects, library trips, running errands, an adventures (trip to the mall playground, obstacle warrior gym, zoo, splash pad, museum, etc. and can and most often will include our friends, because that's just more fun for everyone).

Just being able to detail the stuff our helps the kids out as they wonder what we are up to each day.  So far, the key part of this whole equation has been my kids playing so wonderfully together, coming up with new games, using their imagination, looking forward to whatever is next, and having fun together.  There's still some fighting, lots of "I hate yous" and "he/she hit me!" complaints, but all in all, we are loving the lazy summer days.  I have gotten so much done around the house with my kids at home!  I am actively involved with them during meals, we usually read together, and try to get in some alone time with each kid (I'm not yet consistent about this but working towards it) and I have my own list of DIY projects I'm hoping to accomplish this summer, with or without my kids' help interference. 

The "Must Dos" give us just enough structure for the day, while the "Can Dos" keep us attentive for the rest of the time. The best part is hearing my sweet kids play together, and at the end of the night, have all three tell me separately, how much they love summer.

When I was a kid, my summers were so lonely and boring.  I never understood why other American kids seemed so excited for summer.  School seemed so much more fun!  Back home, I had super workbooks, but I hated them, thought they were too easy, and never got in trouble if I did it, or if I didn't, so I didn't and would often fib that I had.  Nobody ever checked.  I wasn't accountable to anyone.  I spent most of my days watching Disney movies on VHS (no cable or DVR or Netflix like the lucky kids these days!) hoping my mom would sign me up for summer school, and being bored, and then some more bored again.  I had a few classes here and there, but they never supplemented the boredom I felt at home.  If we did anything fun, it was mostly on the weekends, because both my parents worked when I was younger, and once my mom decided to stay at home, she eventually would be doing real estate and I'd be in PSAT classes by that time... so summer didn't feel any different than the other seasons, just more confined and limiting.  Now with my kids, I get why summer is fun.  Summer is a blast!  I am having so much fun with my kids, and I am treasuring these moments when most of summer is spent with me and the moms and their kids that I choose (Ha!).  I finally get it.  I think it took my oldest going to first grade for me to realize how great the lazy SAHM days were with my entire crew.  I remember rolling my eyes at the more seasoned moms telling me I would miss this busy time with all my little kids.  I get it now though.  They weren't talking about the crazy trying to juggle all four kids at the same time with blowouts, tantrums, and needy mom moments, they were talking about golden rainbow unicorns of everyone happy, loving mom, and hanging out with mom.  I get those for about 10 minutes each day when we're all sitting on the couch reading and my youngest even tries to get in on my lap for about 2 minutes before he's done.  Sure it's only been a few weeks, but so far, summer is kicking non summer's butt.  And it's pretty darn amazing.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Putting the Past Behind You....

I'll admit, I'm sentimental and a hoarder.  Put best, I'm a certified sentimental hoarder and my organizational skills have simply elevated me to the level of certified sentimental hoarder.


I love my stuff.

I love my old stuff.

I love the memories it triggers.  I've been journaling since I was about 12.  I love reading about thoughts I had when I was younger.  And I love the smells and sounds of my childhood.  Coupled with touching an item, it's almost as if I'm magically transformed back to that time, a fly on the wall observing my youth.  Everything seems happy, joyful, and full of great potential.

I was on the drill team in middle school, and I have two pendants to show for it, and a bell we put on our Keds shoes when we marched in the Christmas parade.

I'm also a storyteller.  So a lot of times, holding onto these items is like my way of keeping the props I can use to tell my kids these elaborate stories about Mommy's life growing up.

So when I finished Marie Kondo's book, The Magical Art of Tidying Up, it hit me hard.

I am not letting go of my past.  She advises someone with my sort of "background" so to speak, to touch the item, be thankful for the good memories it brought you, and say your farewell.

Farewell is so harsh.  Can't we just say see you later?

But then reality hits.  Do you want to be surrounded with STUFF of the past, or live in the present, creating new memories?

I'm taking pictures, I'm blogging, I'm doing everything I can to preserve the moments I live.  Even when I tell my husband about the day's happenings, I wonder if I should write it down before I forget.  It's not uncommon for older moms to say, they remember being a mother, but they don't remember the details.  They remember it was hard, but they don't remember why particularly.  I don't want to be that mom.  I'm sorry!  I don't!  I want to remember.  I want to hold on!  I want to preserve those keepsakes.

I was anti Marie Kondo a few days after reading her book, trying to digest it all and make sense of how this would apply to my own life.  I resented her.  I hated that everyone loved her ideas and philosophy so much.  It's just a cult, I told myself.  A phase, I told myself.  It's not me, I told myself.

And then I decided to give it a try.  What was the worst that could happen (besides losing all my precious memories, you ask?!)

I started with jewelry.  In the past, I've gone through deciding what to get rid of.  This time, I took her approach and advice and started with what I wanted to keep.  I picked up every single piece of my jewelry, including items from pre 2000s (yikes, hoarder I told you!) and touched it.  Thought of the good times it brought me, laughed, chuckled, sat in silence reminiscing of the good ol' days.  I was so young.  So thin!  So naive.  The whole world ahead of me.  No kids.  No husband.  No job.  No clue.

And then you know what I did?  I put it in a "discard" pile.  I couldn't believe it.  What was I doing?  I was not a Marie Kondo fangirl!  I was probably the antithesis of a minimalist.  But there I was... not really in my body, an out of body experience where I was sort of like a zombie, doing what I knew would bring me joy (eventually).

A few hours later, a huge pile of jewelry later, and a nice display of what I wanted to keep and what I actually use, I stepped back to take a peek.

Well son of a gun.



That Marie was right.

Shoot.

I had a sudden paradigm shift.  I suddenly couldn't wait to tackle the entire house.

What the heck have I gotten myself into?!

Does this mean I have to stop hoarding?

Jewelry done.  Paper work next. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Sometimes I Hate My Job

As a SAHM, I deal with a lot of redundant repetitious reiterations of whining, screaming, illogical demands, and clean up.  This morning, as I was wiping up spilled milk and soggy puffed up Cheerios for what felt like the millionth time while fighting off the 16 month old who wanted to eat what I was cleaning up, all I could think was, man, I really loathe my job right now.  There is nothing positive for me in this moment, no silver linings of how blessed I am, no - instead, there's only frustrated muffled curse words that I can not and should not say.  It's moments like these that bring me to my lowest and most awful state of minds.  It's moments like these that make me wonder how anyone else does it.  It's moments like these that remind me being at home with kids isn't all it's cracked out to be.  Sure I get to sneak in naps here and there, at the risk of my kids dying without my supervision for those few minutes, sure I get to use Netflix or on demand TV to sneak in some peace and quiet or a shower every so few days.  Sure I can eat whatever I want, buy whatever I want, and go wherever I want, as long as I also remember to take care of the little beings in my tend, which means the added time and effort that comes with doing anything or going anywhere with kids.  Sure... it's all great in theory, but in execution, it sometimes ends up being constant conflict resolution and disaster control.  In work, we used to talk about "putting out fires" in a figurative work sense.  At home with the kids, I'm constantly putting out fires.  You might as well put me in a firefighter suit, because that's all I do some days.  But it's not a quiet lethal fire, it's a loud, greater than yelling at a ball game type of screaming with intense volumes and octaves you didn't know existed, coupled with crying, runny noses, littles hand that remove and never put back, and poop.  So much poop.  And pee.  So much pee.  And spills.  And oops.  And I forgot.  And I didn't know.  And I'm sorry.  And I didn't mean to.

And in these moments, nothing really feels better except griping about it.  Complaining about it.  Writing about it.  Remembering that it's not all giggles and kisses and hugs and roses.  That sometimes it does suck.  A lot.

Because sometimes I do hate my job.  But I keep trucking on, cuz that's what you do.  And praying about it.  Cuz tomorrow will be better.  Or maybe even a few minutes later.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Productive Procrastinating...

I've been home with a sick kid for three days now (gross sick - diarrhea, fart pooping, and puke... so much puke, but all in the toilet at least.. so woo hoo!!), and with all the time, we got a pretty good head start on our Spring Cleaning.  The kids were pretty excited to help, from moving the bed mattresses to move all the piled up crap underneath to vacuuming to getting pee stains out of our mattress!  But a day after being super productive, we're now... kinda... well, we're stuck!  We have more window tracks to take care of, but I'm tired.  I'm spent.  I don't want to do it anymore!  Ugh.  How do regularly clean people do it?  I think I need to hire someone.  I'm all about organizing, but cleaning is a whole other beast for me.  Growing up, I vacuumed and did dishes, but that was pretty much the extent of my cleaning responsibilities.  In college, housekeeping took care of our bathrooms, so again, I didn't have to do much.  I traveled for work so much when I had a roommate post college, that I didn't really make a mess, or clean up.  I just kept my own room clean, wiped down my own bathroom, and my super neat freak roommate would always lecture me about clearing the sink.  Oops.  Most of the time, I just ate out... and the other half of the time, I lived with my parents, so we always had cleaning ladies come too.  So... yes, I've been spoiled and really didn't have to deal with cleaning my own space until I got married.

In the time that I should have been wiping down tracks with q-tips and microfiber cloths and moving mud (yes, it's that gross), I have reorganized two spaces, cleared and tidied up two areas, updated our silhouettes, put up photos for a gallery wall, and added photos to empty frames I received for Christmas.  Productive, yes... productive procrastination!

So tomorrow... I guess I'll see if I get around to it.  Especially since I have four kids home now.. Spring Break... oops.  Shoulda woulda coulda.

my feelings in a nutshell

Friday, March 23, 2018

Spring Cleaning.. What's That?!

I'm a bit ashamed to admit, I've never truly spring cleaned.  I actually had to google "what is spring cleaning" and do a bit of research.  After extensive reading and pouring over a bunch of different cleaning blogs and sites and advice, I came to this conclusion.  I mean, I've dabbled with cleaning the house during Spring and calling it "spring cleaning," but in terms of actually getting down to the stuff that isn't touched much, I haven't done it.  I have at most, dusted some of the higher up stuff like ceiling fans and curtain rods once.  I have determined that as part of my spring cleaning routine with littles, this is what I hope to achieve.

KITCHEN 
Spring Cleaning
-Wiping down the top of the fridge (normally, you'd move it out and clean in back also, but our freezer was having some issues, so we already did that not too long ago... so I'm going to take a hard pass on that)
-Wiping down the top of the washer/dryer stackable unit
-Wiping down in back of the stove including removing it (this should be interesting as we have not touched it since we moved in here four years ago....
-Wipe down walls and backsplash (did this with my steam cleaner yesterday on a few parts of the kitchen, it was surprisingly quick and even a little fun...)

In addition to the "Spring cleaning" part included, I'll also do the other stuff I normally do which is sweeping and mopping the floors.

Not Doing
Here are the things I'm opting out of because I just can't....
-Wiping down my cabinets (maybe when we have a nicer kitchen, I am not messing with this now)
-Wiping down the insides of all my cabinet shelves (I sorta do this as I see fit anyway)

BATHROOMS
Spring Cleaning
-Using homemade solutions (cup of baking soda, cup of salt, pour cup of vinegar down and wait 10 minutes, then pour boiling hot water over it) to clear the sinks
-Attack soap scum on shower doors (used a homemade solution of 1 cup of hot water with 1 cup of vinegar and 3 drops of essential oils)

The bathroom is the only part of our home besides the kitchen that receives weekly attention, so I don't feel the need to really "deep clean" anything in there.  I'll do my normal routine which is cleaning the toilet, wiping the floors, the counters, and the bath tub or shower.

OTHER SPACES
-Dust all curtain rods
-Wipe down all wood blinds
-Clean storm window in between areas (this is disgusting, one quick look at our 1970s storm windows would show you dead bugs, dust pile-up, and overall just gross)
-Dust all ceiling fans (we only have two thank goodness)

We already wipe down our base boards and chair rails every now and then, hint: it's a easy kid responsibility to assign.  But that sure feels like a lot. 

Just thinking about it feels overwhelming.... I'm going to attempt to break it down and do a bit each day.  With a baby and my 3 and 4 year old at home for most of the day, it's a strategic thing to figure out when to do it.  Last night, I had some free time while Andy went to play weekly ball, so after wasting too much time on social media (seriously, our kids are so screwed...) I finished the dishes and busted out my new steamer to wipe down some walls and clean the storm window in betweens in our kitchen.  Then, I got inspired by something I saw on social media (maybe our kids aren't that screwed...) and decided to clean my vents (for the first time in four years also...)  I vacuumed two of the vents, will continue tomorrow with the bedroom vents, and then will run the actual vents in the dishwasher later.  Wish me luck!


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Sounds of Motherhood


I love being a stay at home mom, and I love listening to the sounds that make my day. Here are some I have been thinking of lately... in no particular order...

The crunch of a million pieces of a few cheerios under my fuzzy purple slippers.
The cascade of crumbs dropping to the floor when I unstrap and then stand you up in the booster.
The plea at the top of your lungs wondering where I am.
The pure glee and excitement when you find me on the toilet.
The hushed chuckle of refusal when I ask for some privacy.
The patter of little feet running away to hide in the same spot,
The muffled laughter from behind your same hiding spot.
The huff that comes with a pout.
The slithering pendulum sound of snot blowing high and then low.
The squeal of joy when tickled.
The sigh of content when cuddled.
The scream of frustration when angered.
The yelling of madness when arguing.
The panting for air when running around.
The silly claps of sad attempts to do a jumping jack.
The swirl of your tiny hands grabbing my hair.
The smothering of your lips on my face.
The click of disobedience slapped in my face.
The buzz of anticipation as you wait for lunch.
The moans of meal refusal yet again.
The cheers in celebration and zeal for something yummy to eat.
The sweet chirp of thank you, please, and I love you so much.
The beep of the same question asked again, and again, louder, and louder.
The whispered shrug of not knowing and not caring.
The triumphant stomping of a happy march around home.
The eery lack of sound, the loud silence that rings of trouble.
The barely there twiddling of your toes as they peek out from under the curtain where you think you are completely invisible.
The gasp of breath when you're so upset and crying and fighting for some justice.
The twinkle of the love and adoration in your eyes as you tell me how much you really do love me again.


What have you heard lately?





Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Free Printable - He Is Risen for Easter Decor

Slap some butter on me, cuz I have been on an upcycling ROLL lately.  For me, DIY projects are similar to when I have ideas to write, once they come, they just KEEP ON COMING, and I can't really hesitate or I'll get a huge writer's block or in this case, a DIY upcycling drought.  So, I have just RUN with it.  It also doesn't hurt that I have plenty of gold and white spray paint stored nicely in my new Container Store containers that were on sale (pantry sale this month) that makes it super accessible. 

I have some old frames I never could throw away (hoarder remember?!) in the garage, and I pretty much skipped over there, knowing exactly which frame I was going to upcycle.  It was an old 5x7 cherry wood stained frame that held a photo of some golf celebrities with Tiger Woods in the middle (my husband was obsessed).  Not something we need on display at our home, so to the garage it went and stayed for the last four years.  Hoarder win! 

After sanding it, cleaning it, and covering it with about 4-5 coats of white spray paint, I decided to have some fun with painter's tape and gold spray paint.  I've seen a lot of color blocking on home decor lately, usually it's white and neutral, or a lot of mixing textures, wood grains with textile, tough jut rugs with more gentle furniture, straight lines with floral, etc., so I went ahead and decided to do a dipped corner in gold look in opposite ends... and it turned out looking pretty good! 

As for the frame insert, I just took the first free wreath download via google and using King Basil font (a favorite for the last year and a half) made this "He is Risen" printable.  It printed out in the middle of my 8x11 cardstock, but I just cut it after tracing the frame's glass over it, centering the wreath in the very middle. 

Download PDF by clicking here - for personal use only please!

Here's my project's photo timeline: