Thursday, August 18, 2016

Submit your complaints here.

On Monday, I took the kids on our final summer adventure before school started. Here's the short version.

Train Parking: $3
Train ride to the city: $18
Metro ride in the city: $5
Historic Streetcar ride: $5
Peet's Coffee: $4.30
World Famous Cable Car ride: $14
Three toy cable cars and two postcards from the Cable Car Museum: $27
Two pressed pennies: $1.02
Steps taken carting around three children on a train adventure: 9,668

Arriving home and having your kid complain, "BUT WE DIDN'T GET ANY PLAY TIME THIS MORNING."


Monday, August 15, 2016

Our Family Motto

I really, really, really wanted our family motto to be "Don't be a Dick." It really just encompasses everything I want from my children and it applies in just about every possible annoying situation that you might encounter in life.

  • Running around the grocery store while mom is trying to buy things to feed you with? Don't be a dick.
  • Left your dirty underwear on the floor? Don't be a dick.
  • Fighting with your brother while mom is cooking dinner? Don't. Be. A. Dick.

It's perfect. Pretty much all the time.

Except, I really didn't want my children walking around saying the word dick all the time because you know they are going to whip that out in front of grandma or during church. (C'mon guys. Cursing in church? Don't be a dick.)

So we ended up with a slightly more positive, family-friendly motto, which is "Make someone else's job easier." It's growing on me.

It's not as versatile as my first motto, but I suppose it conveys a slightly better message. Instead of teaching my kids what not to do, it encourages them to do something, mainly show kindness to another human being. And boy, is this world in short supply of kindness, or what?

A few months ago we were on a parenting reform binge. (You know, when one of your children does something that makes you wonder where you went wrong with them and you vow get those unruly monsters turned around like little Von Trapps who respond to whistle commands?) Well, we were particularly focused on "make someone else's job easier" and something beautiful happened. My three year old son stopped in the grocery store to pick up some items that had fallen off a display and put them back where they belonged. He looked at me excitedly and said "We're making someone else's job easier!" I was so proud. At three, they don't often do the right thing without a little encouragement. It was beautiful to see him do something, even if it was small, to make the world a better place.

This week I finally got around to framing it and putting it up on the wall in our kitchen. I made two versions, but hubby and I both agreed we liked the original best. Our kitchen is yellow and there was a perfect spot to put it below the kitchen clock.

Like our motto? Download the Lemon version or the Wreath version free!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Balancing Act

You may have noticed that I have been rather absent around here lately. Last spring I was offered a small contract job working for my "before kids" employer and any free time I had to write was immediately swallowed up by the 6-8 hours of squeezing in phone calls and emails between diapers and school pick up. When summer came the prospect of trying to squeeze those things in with all three kids at home seemed impossible so I gave my notice and prepared for the whirlwind of summer.

Summer. It's hard to believe that next week I will return to the hustle and bustle of getting out the door with everyone dressed and fed by 7:45 am. Everyone around me seems more than ready to embrace the "freedom" of children in school and quiet mornings when they can hear their own thoughts. With Buttercup at home full time that won't be my reality and perhaps that is part of the hesitation I feel about the start of school. I'm not looking forward to rushing around town in time for two different drop offs and pick ups, packing lunches, homework, sports, PTA meetings, parties and strict schedules. I have enjoyed the relatively unscheduled chaos that happens on summer days in our household. My boys, at four and almost six are excellent big brothers; I feel like the eyes in the back of my head have gotten a break as Buttercup has been under the watchful eye of her brothers. They make sure she doesn't get into the choking-hazard Legos or go up the stairs of the bunk beds. They help her wash her hands and face after breakfast and clear her place. They provide endless entertainment with all their shenanigans and I think we will both miss them next week. This been my BEST summer yet, filled with a perfect blend of museums, adventures, parks and biking balanced with staying in our jammies all morning, reading books and entertaining ourselves.

After such a fun filled summer with all the kids, I've found myself wondering what I'm going to do with one kid for the next 10 months. Hopefully a deep cleaning on my house. Maybe a new exercise routine to shed all the summer beer and ice cream pounds I've put on. Perhaps some more gainful employment? I've been thinking about going back to work a lot lately and I have mixed feelings about it. Doing all the cooking, cleaning and child rearing I do now AND working seems like it might be too much and yet the financial freedom of additional income is so appealing. Using my brain for something other than mentally doubling my pancake recipe seems dreamy. But I'm not ready to give up my summers. I really enjoyed the contract job I did last year but I also remember struggling with the juggling. I've mastered the art of summer but I've yet to find the perfect balance of work and family. I suppose that's a balancing act that's going to take a lot more practice.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cleaning Confessions from a Mom of Three

Buttercup is turning one next week and we are having a little party for her this weekend. We only invited people we pretty much consider family so there's not a whole lot of pressure on me to throw the most Pinterest perfect party. However after the great sickness of November through January I've gotten pretty behind on my housekeeping. And considering I have three kids, my standards are pretty low to begin with. How low, you ask? Let me explain...

I vacuum the couch. We have a dog so with the whole shedding thing the couch has to vacuumed pretty regularly. I know you're thinking, Everyone vacuums the couch. What's so special about that? I don't have time to use that tiny two inch hose attachment to vacuum my whole couch. No no. When I say I vacuum my couch, I mean I lift that whole vacuum on to the cushions and GO. TO. TOWN. Voila! The whole couch is vacuumed in under three minutes.

I vacuum everything. Since I have the mini Dyson ball, it lifts up to the couch easily, but it won't suck up whole Cheerios. Before I acquired the best vacuum ever (the dog) I crushed the cheerios with my toes so I could vacuum them up.

I make the kids help. They don't do a fantastic job, but they make most of this mess and one person cannot clean up after five people efficiently. This week they used baby wipes to wipe down all the kitchen cabinets. They can also unload the dishwasher, clean mirrors and windows, put away their clean laundry, dust with a swiffer, wipe tables, vacuum and  mop. Not bad for 3 and 5, right? But don't come in my house with your white glove. It's not perfect.

I let the dog help too. There's rarely anything but crumbs under my kitchen table because the whole point of having a dog is so someone else can climb under there and clean up. Seriously, we all have to pull our own weight around here.

I vacuum around my kid's crap. Often, there's only enough time to pick up their crap OR vacuum before they make such a big mess wherever they are occupying themselves that my efforts are futile. So I do a cursory pick up but I vacuum around the tubs of legos and the easel or even better I push them out of the way with the vacuum.

I don't mop. Like ever. By the time I vacuum, I'm out of time to mop. Plus, it is one of the most futile jobs ever. I mopped the living room and dining room yesterday and by last night I could see little paw prints everywhere. This morning, the three year old crushed a piece of chalk all over the already not so freshly mopped floor. In addition to that, we still haven't gotten around to refinishing our hardwood floors so even when I do mop, you literally cannot tell the difference.

Super Scrubber 5000
I have special tools. My husband built me this Super Scrubber 5000 out of a drill and a scrub brush. It works wonders on sinks and tubs. Miracles, actually.

It's not that I don't want a clean house. I do. Desperately. But my house is not a museum. Frankly, my kids and I are just too busy living here to keep it immaculate. And my sanity is far more important than a spotless home. I try, but I've got to be realistic, right?

What's your cleaning confession? Do you have a secret to getting the house guest ready?

Monday, January 25, 2016

10 Things I Learned From Air-Drying My Undies

To make a long story short, my dryer is broken. It's a simple fix and my husband ordered the part from a local appliance store almost two weeks ago; they said it would come in Friday, but Friday came and went and then they swore it would be in the following Friday. On Thursday, the day before the part was supposed to arrive we ran out of underwear. I swear every single one of us was wearing the last pair and there was not another clean pair to be found anywhere.

At first, I thought I'd go to the laundromat and do ALL the wash in one fell swoop, but I realized the three hours I had available while the boys were in school would not be enough time to get it all done, plus it would be right in the middle of the baby's nap. So I decided to wash a load at home and attempt to hang dry it and if I wasn't successful I'd just take the load to the laundromat and dry it after the hubby got home.

10 Things I learned from Air-Drying My Undies

1. People are hilarious when you send them pictures of your undies hanging up on the line.
Me: Say a little prayer that my undies don't come flying off my makeshift clothesline and into my neighbor's yard.
Husband: Ha! I hope you're wearing your bonnet as you string those up.
Sister -in-law: And viola, now your family has clean underwear. And they call the husband "The Provider."
2. Hanging your wash is a great way to stay in shape! Hahahahaha. When bad things happen around here, this is one of our favorite jokes. You had to to walk the baby all night long because she wouldn't sleep if you put her down? On the bright side, it's a great way to stay in shape! But seriously folks, this is the first time in a while I've hit my 10,000 steps.
3. My washer is huge. When I attempted to line dry everything in the load it amazed me how much fits it my washer. No wonder it takes me a week to fold two loads of laundry.

My sweet in-a-pinch clothesline. I used the ladder to help
with the sag and for extra hanging space. This was ONE load of laundry!
4. Pajamas can be worn twice. Pants can be worn even more times. I've applied the smell test to determine if my jeans are clean since I started doing my own laundry at the tender age of 14, but I've been a little more generous with my kids. Not anymore. You will wear your pants until they look or smell dirty. There is no need for me to do so much unnecessary laundry.
5. We have waaaaaaay more clothing than we actually need. I might have to go all KonMari on everyone's wardrobes this summer.
6. I should really pay more attention to my husband when he tries to teach me one of those fancy boy scout knots. Technically, it's not that I don't pay attention. I just don't retain information anymore unless I use it frequently. And sometimes I still forget things even when it's important, like my kids's names. (I have on more than one occasion called the baby by the dog's name.) The bottom line is, those knots would have been really useful for putting up my clothesline.
7. It didn't take nearly as long as I expected for everything to dry and it didn't feel as stiff.... except for the towels. They took forever and they turned out stiff and scratchy. But most of it was fabulous enough that I plan on putting up a clothesline for summer use. My house gets ridiculously hot in the summer when I use the dryer so it's totally worth it to spend a little extra time harnessing the sun's power.
8. By hanging shirts on the line using hangers I could kill two birds with one stone. Those items could go straight from the line to the closet which made putting stuff away much easier.
9. It smells amazing. Clothes hung on the line really do smell fantastic!
10. My husband was right. He has been trying to get me to iron our sheets for years because they get all wrinkled and folded at the top edge. Clearly he's stark raving mad. I don't even iron his work clothes and hell will freeze over before I have time to iron the sheets. BUT, he did mention recently that the wrinkle problem might improve if we line dried them and HE WAS RIGHT. (Did you hear that honey?) The sheets came out way better on the line and when possible, I will air-dry them from now on.

And now, I'm off to put the fresh sheets on my bed. Happy Monday!


Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Morning Grind

It is hard to get my kids out of the house for school each morning. It's even harder to do it without yelling. And the morning yelling is probably one of the things I hate myself most for. The last thing I want to do before I send my children out into the world for the day is yell at them. Who wants to start their day by getting torn a new one by their mother who (supposedly) loves them the most?

I like to tell myself that my mornings are particularly hard since 
a) I have three young children, all 5 and under 
b) my husband is already gone for the day so I'm solo and 
c) we have to leave the house by 7:30am most days which feels early.

Now, I'm sure many of you have it harder than me. This is not a contest. I'm not looking for your sympathy about my situation or the sob story about yours. We all have our challenges trying to get out the door in a timely manner and if you are anything like me your biggest obstacle is the same: children.

My three year old is quick and efficient at getting ready for school, but is easily derailed by his brother. The baby is beautiful and virtually helpless at 11 months old so the burden of getting her ready falls squarely on me. My five year old is both easily distracted and slow as molasses. He is particularly frustrating because he is fully capable of dressing himself but he won't, at least not in in a reasonable amount of time. My mother says the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and I think she's probably laughing maniacally in secret at my unfortunate karma. She also says she was guilty of yelling at me while trying to get me out the door and I turned out to be a relatively punctual and decent human being, so I think there's hope for all of us. But for my own sanity and the sake of my children I have spent the better part of this year trying to find a better way to motivate, to be on time, and to stop yelling. Here's what I've learned:

Set a timer. For Mr. Molasses I've started setting a timer, especially for breakfast. If he's not finished when the timer is up (and believe me he gets plenty of time) he leaves the table and continues with his routine. When he's finished washing up/brushing teeth and getting dressed he can go back to finish his breakfast, if there's time. Often the threat of a timer is enough, but it gets sticky when he runs out of time. Our usual punishment would be a timeout, but that use up more of our precious time! 

Let them sleep in their school clothes. The (power) struggle is real with my five year old. This was my mother's ingenious suggestion to eliminate the power struggle around getting dressed. It's a win win. Either he hates sleeping in his clothes and it motivates him to get dressed without losing focus or he loves it and it's one less thing to do in the morning. So far, I haven't had to make good on this threat, but I imagine I will before school is out. I'll keep you posted on how that works out.

Get up earlier. What I really mean by that is get up before the kids. I know you don't want to hear that. Believe me. I know. My kids get up at 6:37am every morning. My alarm goes off around 5:30am and lately I desperately ignore it until 6:00am. But an uninterrupted shower and coffee alone with my thoughts is worth it. Plus, if I am dressed and fed I can help them get ready if needed or at least monitor their progress.

Get the kids up early. Letting the kids sleep in until the last possible minute is not doing anyone any favors. They are even slower when they are groggy and more inclined to throw a fit if they are rushed. Until recently, my kids were pretty early risers so I had more of a problem getting them to stay in bed until a reasonable hour. They have a light on a timer that turns on when they are allowed to get up and now it acts as an alarm clock on school days. It's actually pretty nice that they get up on time, on their own. It's one less thing I have to worry about.

Do it the night before. Prep the coffee. Turn on the timer if it motivates you to roll out of bed before 6am. Pack lunches. Check backpacks. Pick out clothes. Find jackets. If it can be done the night before, do it. The less you have to manage during the morning rush, the less you have to yell about.

Threaten to unleash mean mommy. Sometimes threatening to yell is more effective than actually yelling. It's bizarre. It sounds like this, "If I have to ask you to get dressed again, I'm going to use my mean mommy voice. Do you want to hear my mean mommy voice?" I know. I sound like a crazy person. But I'm a pretty successful crazy person.

You'll win some, you'll lose some. Occasionally, I put my best foot forward all morning long and then as we are about to walk out the door, triumphantly on time, someone informs me that they have to poop. It happens. Pour yourself a to go cup of coffee while you wait. You will need it.

Do you have any secrets to surviving the morning grind? I'd love to hear about them!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

2016: The Year of No f**ks

Love this cross stitch from the incredible Cotton Floozy
2015 was an incredible year. We welcomed Buttercup into our family and it has been nothing but a pleasure to see her capture the hearts of her big brothers. This morning she was fussy on our journey to school and her brothers sang to her and played peek-a-boo with her and it filled my heart with joy. 

However, 2015 was not ALL rainbows and sunshine. There were quite a few times when I thought I might lock myself in my room or crack a beer before noon. Honestly, it might have been better if I had done those things as opposed to becoming a raging lunatic screaming "WHY IS IT SO HARD TO PUT PANTS ON? DO YOU WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL NAKED?" It is moments like these that inspired me to make a resolution for 2016 that I might actually keep: Give fewer f**ks. 

Frankly, with three kids 5 and under, I have better things to worry about than whether or not my three year old's shirt was backwards when he went to school. 
Was he dressed appropriately for the weather? Yes. 
Were his clothes clean? Yup.
Did he dress himself from head to toe while I was free to pack lunches and feed the baby? Yes. 
Did I inform him that it was backwards and give him an opportunity to turn it around? Yep. He declined.

Now there was a time in which I would have insisted that he turn it around the proper way, even if it meant a battle. It's my job as a parent to ensure my kids go out into the world prepared for what life may bring them. I never wanted to send my kids to school with a dirty face or a backward shirt because the world is tough enough for a three year old; let's not give anyone a reason to give them a harder time.

But if I'm really honest with myself, I think the thing that bothered me most is how the backward shirt reflected on me, as a mother. What kind of mother sends their kid to school with their shirt on backwards? It's so simple. It takes one extra minute to turn that shirt around. Why doesn't that mother care? I do care. But the bottom line is, he doesn't. And taking into consideration all the other successes of the morning, I don't give a damn. 

It's time I stopped giving f**ks about a backwards shirt on a happy, warm, clean, well-fed, on-time-for-school little boy. 

It's time I stopped laying awake at night replaying the failures of the day instead of the successes.

This year, I won't have time for news about your neighbors deteriorating marriage or the kid who can't behave himself in class because of his parent's divorce. Can't we talk about how we are going to help? And if we can't help, lets move on.

I will change pharmacies or stop giving f**ks that the Walgreens walking distance from my house has the worst customer service on the planet. Instead, I will use my f**ks to write a thank you card to the amazing people at my pediatrician's office who have taken such good care of us this winter. 

This year I will be a great mom and I will not give any f**cks if that's not any better than last year. 

Cheers to fewer f**ks in 2016!