Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why Do We Have to Shop for Winter Clothes in August?


It was 77 degrees out, and I was scouring the internet for snowsuits for my kids. Obtaining inclement-weather apparel for my children was not what I wanted to be thinking about at the end of September, but retailers have dictated that I must. For, if I wait until November again, like I did the first winter I had a child, I'll be screwed.

I'm not the first to say this and it's unlikely that I'll be the last, but please, retailers of America -- align your selling schedules to coincide with the calendar and weather patterns the rest of us live by. I'm sick of looking for bathing suits in February and snowsuits in August. I have empathy for anyone who hasn't purchased their kids Halloween costumes yet, as it's slim-pickings out there, more than a month before the big day. Before I had kids, I found this "season ahead of reality" practice slightly annoying. With kids, it's beyond frustrating. I hate trying to predict shoe and garment sizes months in advance. I hate the panicky feeling, knowing that if their matching Christmas jammies aren't purchased by mid-September, they'll be wearing Valentine's Day or St. Patrick's Day jammies to bed on Christmas Eve. I wish my kids' growth schedules perfectly aligned with whatever bizarro-world retail calendar stores live by, but they don't.

One beef down, one more to go -- Things that shouldn't be gender-specific, but are.

Last year, watching my little guy in his affordable, Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man snowsuit, tumbling and barely able to walk because of his bulk, I vowed to invest in better winter gear the next time around. So, I started pricing things out. Yes, the better snowsuits are close to twice the price of what I'd been paying, but, if I got gender-neutral ones, my daughter could use it, then my son the following year. Snow boots and suits aren't something kids will wear out and are ideal candidates for hand-me-downs.

I explained my theory to my husband, who agreed (although, he probably would have agreed to just about anything, so I'd shut up about snow gear while we were out on our boat on a warm summer's afternoon...). The more I got to looking though, the harder I realized it would be to find gender-neutral snow clothes. I finally found one that, though slightly boyish, would work. I showed it to my husband, telling him it was the only one I'd found that was neither pink nor blue. "They're on to you," he said. "They know you're trying to cheap out and use the same snowsuit twice, so they intentionally make them in only pink or blue."

He's right, of course. As the mother of both a girl and a boy, I've found this to be true so much along the way. Things that have no business being gender-specific are nearly impossible to find in gender-neutral color-palettes. Bikes. For toddlers, there are Princess bikes and Lightning McQueen bikes. Luckily, my daughter likes Cars, so that worked. But, I couldn't help but wonder -- why couldn't there be a plain, yellow bike? Aside from the push to pigeon-hole kids into liking only "girlie" or "boy" things, this is ridiculously (and needlessly) expensive for us parents. A while back, a study came out saying that parents who had two girls were the happiest parents. I've figured out why, they know they're going to get their money's worth out of all those Princess bikes and pink, flowered snowsuits that they have to buy. As a parent who has both a girl and a boy, I beg of you -- please start making things that my kids can share.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Going Back to School


I started school again this week. Preschool to be exact. Yes, so it's technically my three year old daughter who started school, but since she's attending a co-op preschool, in many ways, I'm starting preschool too. Can I just say -- I am so not ready for this!! How is it that my baby is already such a big girl that she's going to preschool? I can't handle it.

The separation anxiety has been particularly difficult. On me. Not her. She's fine. Yesterday was the first time we did the "drop-off," and seeing how well she handled it and how excited she was to go play and be at school made me simultaneously so proud and so sad. The proud mama part of me just wanted to pat myself on the back for raising a secure and confident little girl who was excited about learning and school because I'd been telling her how fun and "big kid" it is to go to school. The needy mama part of me had a hard time with her acceptance and happiness and wanted to cry and say, "Don't you understand? This is terrible. We won't be together all day every day anymore. Mama doesn't get to be there with you and for you every second of every day. This is awful -- and you should probably cry and cling to my legs." Luckily, proud mama won out and I conducted myself rather admirably (if I do say so myself).

Adding to my anxiety was all of the "safety training" us co-op parents had to endure. Since I'll be working in the classroom two to three times per month, I, along with the other working parents got a bit of training. Learning where the cleaning supplies are and how to walk a group of three-year-olds to the playground I could handle. I even kinda liked checking out the red apron I'd be wearing on my work days. However, when it was time to review fire drill procedures and earthquake and lockdown procedures, I nearly lost it. One of my greatest fears is being separated from my kids during a disaster like that and spending an hour discussing those, almost sent me over the edge. It took every ounce of willpower I possess not to run out of there yelling, "Screw this! We're homeschooling through college. Phone tree in case of emergency my ass! My kid will always be in my visual line of sight."

So, clearly I'm not handling all of this too well. Yes, I'm excited for both of us to make new friends through the co-op and am happy to get the opportunity to share this experience with her. But, these signs that the babies are growing up, don't usually sit too well with me.

The other person who's having a tough time with all of this preschool nonsense is my son. At two, he relies on his older sister for pretty much everything. She is his world and his source of entertainment. She's his protector and his buddy. Having her gone has been really difficult for him. The past couple of weeks have been full of comments that break my heart. Comments like, "I want a best friend too, mom," when he sees her playing with friends -- and comments like, "I want to go to preschool too." Yesterday, about an hour and a half into her two hour school session, he and I were both ready to go spring her from her education prison. As an adult, I managed to limit my actions to checking my cell phone every three minutes to see if it was time yet. As a toddler, his impulse controls are more limited and he kept running to the car, yelling "Preschool! I want to go to preschool!" I hear ya buddy, I really do.

Next week, he and I are signed up for a class at the Little Gym during her school time (thanks to one of our Facebook readers who suggested that when I mentioned he currently believes he can "fly like Buzz Lightyear."). I'm hoping that makes our time away from our big girl easier to handle and gives us some special mommy-son time. Not to mention the hope that he'll learn how to safely jump from high places...

I can't believe I have to endure this all over again next week - and most every week thereafter for the next 16 or so years. Please tell me it gets easier.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Most Frustrating Time(s) of Day

Earlier this week, I posted a question on 18 Years to Life's Facebook page. I asked our readers what their most frustrating time of day is with their kids, because I wanted to know if bedtime and dinnertime are a nightmare for everyone, or if it's just us. It turns out that my husband and I are not alone. It sounds like the latter half of the day sucks for everyone.

In the responses, I read all-too-familiar stories about kids destroying the house while their mom cooks dinner, being little monsters during dinner and transforming into demons at bedtime. I was very comforted by this. It was good to know that the exasperating second half of every day is an experience that I share with moms everywhere.

Mine are angels until I start making dinner, at which point they realize that I am occupied, and they beat on each other like WWE Superstars. I have burned so many dinners because I had to run away from the stove to find out what that thud was and why a kid is crying, or what the screaming is about.

Then there's dinner itself. My 21-month-old signals that she's done by throwing her food. My 4-year-old hates anything that is not from McDonalds or from a box, so she hates most of what I cook and either sits there and whines, refusing to eat, or leaves the table. We avoid fighting about food in our house, but we do demand that she sit with her family, because family meals are important. This means that I do not go one dinner without having to get up 5 or 6 times or without having to yell at someone to sit down or to stop throwing food. I often mutter to my husband, "I hate dinner time."

After all that fun and a bath (which thankfully is one routine that almost always goes well) comes the time of day I hate the most, the time that taxes my patience to its absolute limits every day: bedtime.

My 21-month-old used to be willing to sleep only in our bed. Thankfully around 16 months, we got her to sleep in her own bed, but her bed is still in our room (as her sister's was at the same age). My 4-year-old decided a couple months ago that she's afraid to sleep in her room, and if we try to make her go to sleep in there, it results in endless crying and wailing that we just don't have the energy for at that late hour. So she brings her pillow and blanket into our bed, I lie down next to her, and her little sister gets in her bed. We say our goodnights, we play, we read a story or two, and then we turn the lights off. All this is done while repeatedly telling both not to jump on our bed, to get off of the bed, not to hit each other, and not to spill their sippy cups on our bed. They take a good hour to settle down every night. For the first half hour, they want to play with me or with each other, then for the second half hour, they start to poop out and get tired, and I lie there and play Words With Friends with my husband on my phone or read a book on my Kindle until they are totally out. If I try to leave before they are both totally out, it results in them either waking fully and wanting to play some more or crying and wailing. In short, it's exhausting and frustrating as hell.

I got out of this torturous routine for one night last week, when I was too busy cleaning and baking for my daughter's fourth birthday party to do the hour of bedtime hell. That night, my husband took over and after the usual hour, he came out looking bedraggled, bewildered and completely spent. I looked at him and he said, "That was like trying to escape from a demon baby serpent's lair."

That truly is the most accurate description possible! Me, I had a great time that night mopping the floor, scrubbing toilets and baking cupcakes and a cake. I would take that over putting the kids to bed any time!

What does your kids' bedtime look like? How about dinner? What is your kids' absolute worst time of day?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's a Play-Doh Play-Date!

We love Play-Doh at our house. I love the creativity that it sparks in my kids. It's something I can let them play with for hours without having to worry about "screen time" limits or any other contemporary, digital concerns. I had a great time playing with it when I was a little kid (and OK, I'll admit it, I still like to play with it!). When I open up a container for my kids, smelling that familiar Play-Doh scent takes me right back to all the things I made with it when I was little.

I just bought some yesterday, since the summer weather seems to have left and now fall is coming, bringing with it 9 months of rain here in the Seattle area. All that rain means a lot of time spent indoors during fall, winter and spring, and Play-Doh is one of my go-to indoor activities to keep my 4-year-old and 21-month-old happily, creatively occupied!

My 4-year-old can thoroughly blend every color in a 4-pack of Play-Doh into one uniform new color within about 5 minutes. She has so much fun squishing it and mixing it and building wonderful things that she imagines, like bouncey houses, horses and dinosaurs! My 21-month-old has fun mashing it, naming the colors and trying (to my dismay...) to eat it. I know when she has a multicolored smile that she's been snacking on the Play-Doh again!

We are going to go through a whole lot of Play-Doh in the coming dreary months, so I'm glad Play-Doh has set up their new Play-Doh Play Dates activity website. There, you can find great themed activities to do with your kids and Play-Doh, like "Spring Picnic" and "Beach Party" (both of which will come in very handy in oh, about November, when we won't have seen the sun for several weeks). "Ice Cream Shop" will be a huge hit with my kids, as well, and the "Back To School" theme will be great to help get my 4-year-old ready for kindergarten next year and will spark a lot of conversations about school and what she can expect there.

All the play-date themes come with snack recommendations that fit the theme. The Pizza Party theme, for instance, suggests English muffin pizzas, which is one of my kids' favorite snacks. All of the snack ideas are healthy and very kid-friendly, so hopefully they'll keep my 21-month-old so busy eating actual food that she'll forget to try to eat the Play-Doh!

Today while my 21-month-old napped, my 4-year-old and I got out a Play-Doh Case of Colors and put our first Play-Doh Play-Date idea to work. We chose the "Pizza Party" theme first. Here is her awesome pizza! It's not delivery, it's de Play-Doh.


Disclosure: This post is part of a SocialMoms product evaluation, for which I’ve been selected. I’ve been compensated for my time with 8,000 My SocialMoms Rewards Points. The opinions expressed in this post are mine and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of SocialMoms or Play-Doh.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kids Are Embarrassing


Into every mom's life some embarrassment must fall. Kids just have a way of saying and doing things that make the adults who are raising them cringe, while praying the floor will swallow them before the humiliation becomes too much to bear. It is my personal belief that my kids are more shame-inducing than most.

Some kids use restraint and limit their embarrassing antics to pointing at a stranger in the store and yelling something like, "Look at that guy! He's so tall (or short, fat, hairy, etc.)" My kids call that amateur hour. Telling the cashier at Costco that the tub of Miralax helps "my poops" is just a slow news day for my daughter.

Our latest incident found me staring slack-jawed as my mud-covered toddler proceeded to strip down until she was as naked as a jaybird, in the middle of a park, while a bunch of other moms looked on. The look on the other moms' faces read, one part: amusement, two parts: complete and utter relief that it wasn't their kids who had just done that. It's a look I'm well familiar with. Here we were at our first playdate with my daughter's incoming preschool class. At three and a half, she'll be starting preschool in the fall, and to help get the kids acclimated to one another, the school has organized weekly meet-ups at local parks all summer long. They say you only get one chance to make a first impression and oh boy, did my kids make an impression...

While the other kids happily played on the designated playground equipment, my two toddlers were the only ones to locate the lone mud slick in the park and headed straight towards it. Though they haven't had fire safety preparedness, they instinctively knew the drill: stop, drop and roll -- in the mud. This would have been fine if my daughter wouldn't have then decided she didn't like being covered in mud, promptly removing every last stitch of clothing from her body and standing in her full glory in front of everyone. For my son, it became a case of monkey see, monkey do.

"Well, I guess it's time for us to be going now. It was nice meeting all of you," I mumbled as I dragged my filthy, naked charges off to the car. The other moms laughed, then turned their attention back to their clean, fully-clothed toddlers.

Of course this episode became the latest of my Facebook status updates, chronicling many such embarrassing predicaments my kids have put me in. One friend later told me that she was reading her news feed at the doctor's office when that one came through. She laughed and felt compelled to read it to the nurse. "You don't know these kids but if you did, you would die," she told the nurse. Yes, it would seem my children are beginning to gain a bit of notoriety in our social circle. Sometimes I suspect that people are only friends with me on Facebook for the schadenfreude aspect.

Then there was the time we were at the local children's museum, playing at the water table. Most toddlers politely gather around the table, delicately splashing and grabbing the bobbing balls floating around the exhibit. This is what my kids had always done in the past, until the day my daughter suddenly decided to climb in and stand proudly in the middle of the table. Seeing this, other moms registered looks of shock and disbelief, while my face showed nothing but resignation. I pulled her out, explained that we don't stand in the water table, that it's for hands-only, only to turn around and see my son had taken her place as king of the water table. Dripping wet, we again took our leave in a cloak of shame.

Lest you think that my children limit their antics to creating messes necessitating clothing changes, I'd like to reassure you, they've had more than their fair share of verbally humiliating run-ins as well. At two years old, my daughter began identifying people by the color of clothing they were wearing. "Look at the green girl, Mommy," she'd say of the woman in a green coat. This became problematic the time we were at my husband's company picnic. There was an older girl there, who my daughter quickly became infatuated with. This girl was part Caucasian, part African-American. At this point, I should mention this girl happened to be wearing a brown sweatsuit. Any time she left my daughter's sight, my two-year-old would cry, "Where's the brown girl, Mommy?! Where'd the brown girl go?!" This was the first time I cursed both the clarity and projection of her young voice. My husband had to explain to people that we weren't raising our kids to be bigots, that it was just a shame that little girl hadn't been wearing purple.

Our next stop was a trip to the library, where I picked up a racial sensitivity book, in an effort to help my daughter understand the differences between people's skin colors. It was no use, she'd often point to the Asian woman in the book and call her Mommy, while she identified herself as the Hispanic girl and her brother as the African boy. She was too young to understand, so our only hope was that primary colors would come into vogue. We did okay for a couple of months, but then we went to the pharmacy, where everyone dons white lab coats. On this particular day, there were two female pharmacists on duty, one Asian and the other Caucasian. The Asian pharmacist came to help us, then wandered back towards the shelves to retrieve our meds. My daughter, in an impatient mood, wanted that woman back, ASAP, so we could be on our way. "I want the white woman, Mommy! I want the white woman to help us!" "Yes, honey. The woman in the white coat will come back soon," I said, somewhat loudly, hoping no one would think I was perhaps the only Klan member in the Pacific Northwest.

Luckily, I've had my share of near-misses as well. I can't tell you how grateful I am that I found the "fresh meat" sticker my daughter had peeled off the hamburger meat package and placed on my behind before we left the house.

It's all good though, because I have a secret plan. You see, when kids hit middle school, an embarrassment power-shift occurs and suddenly, the parents hold all of the cards. And then, let the retribution begin. I scan garage sales for just the right multi-neon-hued fanny pack, preferably something with a bit of bedazzling as well. I dream of purchasing a wood-paneled station wagon and am saving all of my clothes, which will surely be sadly out of style by then. These dreams and schemes sustain me throughout my kids' toddler years. Then, they will truly know the pain of humiliation.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mom Stories

A few weeks ago a friend of mine from high school posted a funny anecdote on Facebook (where else!).  It reminded me of something my co-bloggettes would have written, so I asked said friend, Mrs. deVeeler, if she would be interested in writing a blurb for 18 Years to Life.  She graciously agreed and sent me her wonderful back-story of finding love, becoming a mother and living life.  I'm passing it on so I can share my dear friend with you.  I'm also including the "slice of life" anecdote that reminded me that we're all Lifers.  Introducing, Mrs. deVeeler:

Photo Courtesy of Mrs deVeeler
As a little girl I never fantasized about the big wedding dress or meeting the man of my dreams.  However, one summer during my adolescent years, my psychic grandma took me to have my first reading.  That night, I dreamed of my future husband.  In my dream he was around 16.  Tall, skin and bones, blond hair and vibrant stop-you-in-your-tracks blue eyes.  He was bagging groceries.  It wasn't an exciting dream and there was no interaction between us but the dream stayed with me none the less.

During my 3rd year of college I spotted him at a bar. He was leaning over a pool table, those baby blues shining off the 8 ball.  We were introduced through mutual friends.  I knew within weeks that this was something special.  During one of our late night conversations we began comparing jobs we had in high school.  He told me about his days as a grocery bagging boy and my dream, long hidden in my memory cabinet, came screaming back at me.  And I knew, without a doubt, this was the guy I was supposed to be with.

Although I never fantasized about my wedding, I did fantasize about motherhood and became fascinated by the process of pregnancy and birth from a very young age. In high school I did my senior paper on a few local midwives and became convinced that a natural childbirth would be one I would attempt when my parenting time came. I was fortunate enough (and fearful enough of hospitals) to make my long standing dream of a drug free birth become a reality in 2007 with the birth of Reese.  A few years later we had a home birth with our second child El.

My last four years have included much sleep deprivation, diapers & dishes (Oh my gosh, the dishes!).  The time I spend in the kitchen preparing and/or cleaning up astounds me.  I've had one night away from my kids.  I've experienced a wide array of emotions and feelings.  Unbelievable love and joy mixed with feelings of loneliness and loss of self.  My desire to have something that is my own has begun to return to me.  I'm in the early phase of starting my own, very small, private practice where I hope to support other couples, mothers and families in their journeys together. 
*   *   *   *   *
So El has figured out temper tantrums. She is 2 so I suppose it's about time but oh. my. goodness.

Here's what my morning has consisted of. Picking up the playroom and scrubbing off Spongebob and princess stickers that one or both decided to put all over the furniture, walls, etc. I tried to enlist them to help but in Reese's words, 'this is hard." No sh*t, kid. Stop putting stickers on the freaking furniture.

Then I decide its crafts time. As i get out the crafts I decide the craft cabinet needs organizing and the junk drawer might as well get cleaned out too. All of this in the simple quest to find a dry erase marker that has apparently vanished into thin air. Cabinet organized, drawer organized. El is on her fourth temper tantrum in twenty minutes.

Reese is happily playing and running around the house when she says, "HEY MOM, why is the tile wet?"

Who Me?
WTH!!! I go look and yes, BOO, our 15 year old JRT has taken a pee on the tile. Ok. El, wait a minute. I’ll get you your stamps in a second. I have to clean up pee.

Clean and sanitize.
Get El her stamps.
Reese wants me to play Barbie.

I turn my head to my coffee that's been sitting under teh brewer that's been calling to me for twenty minutes and is now cold....then I hear the familiar noise.
Harf Harf Harf
Boo is throwing up on the carpet.
Put dog outside,
clean and sanitize.

I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry and the kids are fighting in the other room and my coffee is cold.
Gotta love it! 
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 Would you like to share your Mom or Dad Story? We'd love to post it! Email us at 18years2life@gmail.com. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fourth birthday, first party

My oldest daughter turns four next week! I can't believe it. These last four years have flown by as fast as everyone said they would. Next weekend, we're having a party for her, which will be her first birthday party.

Friends of ours have had birthday parties for their kids at one, two and three. We haven't until now, because until now, our daughter was too young to remember a party, so we figured why have one? We have no family living anywhere nearby and her baby sister was yet to be born, so we celebrated her first birthday just the three of us, mommy, daddy and baby. It was sweet and very memorable for us, watching her eat her first cupcake, grabbing handfuls of frosting so that it looked like she was wearing giant frosting mitts.

For her second birthday, we invited her best friend to go to the Seattle Aquarium with us, and for her third birthday, we invited her best friend to our house. These birthdays were also very special and sweet, complete with cakes made and decorated by me. Our daughter got a ton of presents, had a great time and was made to feel very special, all without a party.

Some people seemed to think it was weird that we didn't have a party for her second or third birthdays. Personally, I don't think parents should feel pressure to have parties for babies and toddlers if they don't want to. Parties require time, energy and money, all of which are things that parents of babies and toddlers do not have much of. When I worked full time, or when my youngest daughter was still a very needy baby who wanted to be held 24/7, it would have been very difficult and stressful to try to plan and execute a party, plus we were broke from spending all our money on formula and baby clothes (not to mention all the presents!).

Now planning a party isn't too taxing or stressful, since my younger daughter is 21 months and I work part-time from home. This year, I have the time and energy to put my all into planning a great party that my daughter will really remember. It will be memorable for sure... when I asked her what she wanted the theme of her party to be, she said "Angry Birds." It will be an explosive good time!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Spontaneity after kids

I often hear people complain that there's no more spontaneity after having kids. You can't just get up and go somewhere just because you want to, or at least not without packing the diaper bag, snacks, sippy cups and planning around naptime. But I find that my life has never been more filled with spontaneity since having children.

They spontaneously do things that I never could have foreseen, that I never could have expected. Just last week, my nearly-4-year-old, T., was eating a bowl of cereal with milk at the table and while I was doing something else in the kitchen, she spontaneously decided that it would be a good idea to put her bowl of cereal, milk and all, in her toy shopping cart and push it into the living room, because she'd rather eat there. When I discovered the mess, I was laughing way too hard to be even remotely upset, because that is something only a little kid would do. I cleaned up the mess and explained gently why that isn't the best idea, and asked her not to do it again.

The other evening while I was in the shower, with the door locked to the master bedroom, so no one would come in and tear apart the bedroom or pound on the door while I showered, my husband watched the kids. My 20-month-old, M., pooped and decided to solve this problem herself by stripping naked, sprinkling poop all down the hallway. My husband is very poop-averse, and I had locked him out of all the diapers in the house, by locking the master bedroom, so he had to deal with this spontaneous poop-mess and figure out what to do about diapering M. until I got out of the shower.

Then this morning, before a playdate, I gave the kids a bowl of Cheerios (no milk this time) to munch on while they sat on the couch watching TV. They ended up on the floor, naturally, and T. began stomping on them, yelling "Mommy! I'll save you from the evil Cheerios!" M. then wholeheartedly joined her in stomping Cheerios. Once again, it was entirely too funny to even get mad, so I got out the Swiffer Sweeper, vacuumed up the Cheerio-dust and asked them to please not do that again.

As you can see from these examples, there's tons of spontaneity after having kids! It's just driven by them, instead of by you. Thankfully it's not all messy or smelly... they give lots of spontaneous hugs and kisses, too, and those are the best.
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