Dealing With Early Risers

For the past few weeks, I’ve been getting up at 5am.

No, I’m not crazy.

(well, I might be a little bit crazy, but it has little to do with my wake up time).

In the 90-minutes I have before the kids alarm goes off, I read my devotionals, prep breakfast, make lunches, watch the sun come up, and enjoy a cup (or two) of HOT coffee. 90 minutes is long enough that towards the end, I find myself wondering what to do, because the things I’d normally do (empty the dishwasher, vacuum, etc.) would make a bunch of noise.

I LOVE IT.

I love feeling like I have NOTHING to do.

Until my kids realized I was getting up early.

And I let them come snuggle if it was after 6am.

Yes, I love the extra snuggle time. Yes, I love not having to rush around or bark orders at them to get ready for school on time. Yes, I love having a moment to breathe to be able to actually braid their hair.

But what I don’t like is the fact that they are disasters (for the most part) when they would normally be more even keeled. Middle even said to me yesterday “Mommy! I saw the sun come up!!”. Ummmm… you’re 3. That’s not a good thing. At least, not for Mommy!

The Bigs share a room, so when one kid gets up, she wakes the other up. Big actually came out of her room at 6:03 this morning fully dressed! It robs her sister of the sleep her body needs, which is most evident around 1:30pm, which blows, because she doesn’t get a nap until 2:30pm!

And did I forget to mention that we are going to be working on transitioning Little into the same room this summer? I’m reevaluating my statement regarding my sanity.

How would you deal with a situation like this? I don’t want them to think I don’t love spending time with them and those warm sleepy snuggles, but something’s gotta give.

What say you? Comment below!

We’re Homeschooling.

After many tries at making this post into some beautifully written piece, that would spiderweb out to the masses because it is just *so* well put, that it might help make others struggling with the same decision see which direction they should go, that they could dicern for themselves and their families the path chosen for them.

It just ain’t happenin’.

Sorry folks.

But I can do a list! (Truth be told, I can ALWAYS do a list)

Top #10 Reasons We’ve Decided to Homeschool

1. I am a teacher, I’m just not credentialed. I got my degree in Liberal Studies with an Early Childhood Education Option when Big was 22 months old. I never became credentialed because I never needed to be.

2. When I think of how impressionable my children are, I ask myself, “who do I want impressing upon them?”. The answer is simple: ME.

3. Big will have a teacher:student ratio of 1:1, not 1:32. Homeschooled children learn the same amount (or more) than non-homechooled children in less time because of this.

4. I’m not really sure why, at 5 years old, society-at-large decides we are no longer capable of teaching our own children, even though birth-5 years is an incredibly important range for building foundations.

5. No one is more invested in my child’s success in learning than I am.

6. We will be able to live by our own body rhythms. No more barking at Big to eat her breakfast, get dressed, stop asking questions because “we’re late”.

7. We can teach those pesky life skills, like how to do laundry, plan a menu, and common sense with money.

8.  We sent our kids to a play-based preschool because we see a huge value in learning through play, which Big only gets in the form of 2 recesses a day.

9. Our kids can learn at their own pace, and in a style that they enjoy. I have a feeling my house will be FILLED with arts and crafts.

10. When we look to retire in 6ish years, we are free to move wherever the Lord takes us. Big is a fiercely loyal child, and I’ve always figured the move would be hard on her. This way, she will be able to take her school with her!

So, there you have it. Our big, life-changing news. Wasn’t that exciting?

How to Beat the Icky Sickies

I’ve got three kids.

One in Elementary School, one in a co-op preschool (meaning I get the full exposure too), and one who still likes to crawl and put everything in her mouth.

We get the Icky Sickies. Often.

In such close quarters, it can be a maddening process of trying to keep the house semi-disinfected and the Icky Sickie quarantined.

I’ve come up with a plan of attack on whatever Icky Sickie you may find yourself up against:

Step 1:

Get the necessary medications or homeopathic remedies to eradicate those nasty buggers (the germs, not the kids).

Step 2: 

Assemble your Icky Sickie Arsenal. I like to use a small basket that I can leave on the kitchen counter, take in the car if needed, or have general portability of all my “tools”

Step 3: 

Remove and wash all plush toys from your Icky Sickie bed. Once they are clean and dry, fold them and put them in the closet until the coast is clear (usually 24 hours on meds). Leave one favorite blanket, and one lovey in the bed. Once the contagious period has passed, you can put them back on the bed

Step 4:

Limit access to all toys and textiles (firm and soft) until the Icky Sickies have been blown out of the water. I also cover communal sitting places (the couch and the beanbag chair, specifically in our house) with a sheet. If the Icky Sickie is on the sitting place, the sheet is down. We have a number of old queen and king sized sheets for just such circumstances. Once the Icky Sickie has moved on, I wash the sheet, so as to not spread the germ. I also remove the towels in the bathroom and give the kids a towel as they need them. Those get tossed directly in the wash instead of wondering if they’ve been contaminated.

Step 5: 

Liberally use hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes (paying special attention to the things Icky Sickie touches), and good ol’ soap and warm water.

Did you know the water should be at least 100* (barely above body temperature!) to be effective and you should be rubbing for at least 20 seconds? If you, or your kids aren’t doing those two very important things, you might as well lick the Icky Sickie’s face. Sadly, I’m not kidding.

If you follow these steps, you too can win the war!

What is your best trick you’ve found for dealing with sick children?? Comment below!

 

 

 

 

Raw Parenting

Raw Parenting is being real with your kids.

I’m not talking about saying sorry to them when you screw up (though it’s a great thing to do so), it’s about not sheltering them for the very real, the very rawness, the very brokenness that is our world. Before I get into it, you need a little background:

Middle is a resistant eater.

If it *might* be too spicy, she won’t try it.

If she can’t identify the “mystery green”, she won’t try it (it’s usually some kind of herb).

If it’s too hot, she won’t try it, even 10 minutes later, when it’s starting to congeal.

If it’s got anything “foreign” on it (dog hair, human hair, a brown spot, etc.), she won’t try it.

Last night, I threw away an insane amount of food. It broke my heart, mainly because the fam had eaten a pretty decent amount, even praising the food! (“this is REALLY good, Mom!”.)

I’m pretty good at only dishing up as much as my family will eat, and saving the rest for leftovers, but a pre-dressed salad doesn’t exactly translate to “leftovers” well. You know what else doesn’t translate well to leftovers?

BANANAS

Middle asked for a banana. “Not a whole one, just a half. I’ll share with Little. And I want it like a monkey” (peel still on).

After “filling her order”, she went on her merry way to the family room. Suddenly, I hear “AAAAHHHHHHRRRRRGGGGGGGG!!!! There’s HAIR on my banana!”

I usher her up to the counter, so she can eat in a more hair-free environment. But she just stares at the totally untouched slightly touched manhandled-by-a-3-year-old-but-unbitten banana and proceeds to throw a fit. I’m talking massive tears, splotchy skin, and snot trail galore.

Now, here is the Mom Dilemma. EVERYTHING you read tells you to not make a big deal about food because it encourages eating disorders and general craziness in regards to food. It eats away (pun not intended) at me every time I nag my kids to eat.

But she ASKED for the banana. I served it up exactly as ordered. She chose to take it to the hair-pit that is the family room. But still, I’m left throwing the banana away. (actually, I ended up giving it to Little. I’m pretty sure she thinks hair is extra protein).

I calmly sent Middle to her room, because I didn’t want her to see me give Little the banana she refused to eat. She went, making sure the world knew she was unhappy about it.

I’m at a loss. How do I not create issues for her in the future? How do I make her understand that she should be thankful for the fresh fruit I am able to give her, hairy or not? How do I parent her through this?

So I turned to the Google Machine.

I didn’t Google “How to get my 3-year old to eat a hairy banana” (though, now that I type that out, I am curious what the search would yield).

I googled “starving child”.

Once I found the picture that I thought would be understood the most (ie, the most like HER) I took the picture in to a screaming Middle. Before showing it to her, I talked to her. I asked her why she didn’t want the banana (“I want a plate”). I asked her how she felt when she was really really hungry. (“not good. I feel bad.”).

I told her about children that eat off the ground because they have to. I told her about children that have never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a quesadilla, or pasta with cheese. I told her about the children that feel “not good” all day, every day.

She stopped crying. She stared at me. Like I was kidding.

Then I showed her the picture.

I didn’t throw it in her face. I didn’t wag my finger at her. I just explained that this hurting is in our world and that we are extremely blessed to have food, clean water, doctors, and to “feel good” most of the time.

I’m not sure she “got it”, but I know I did my best at presenting it in a way her 3-year old brain could understand.

Sure, I want to protect my kids, but shelter? No thanks.

Coping with Tragedy

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

 

Romans 8:28

How on Earth could the murder of 26 people, 20 of which were children, be used for the good of those who love God??

God has opened my eyes and my heart to think of a few, even as the enemy tries to fill me with hate and rage.

20 Children have had their innocence stolen from them. They watched as their murderer ended the life of his victims before he reached them.

The Bible, to the best of my knowledge (and Google’s), does not say anything about the “age of accountability”; that is, the age at which a person has individual knowledge of sinful choices and of coming to the Father. We do not know with absolute certainty that children and babies get a “free pass” to Heaven. However, we do know God is loving, faithful, just, merciful, and always right (the only parental figure that can say that!).

Jesus was given on the cross as an atonement for all of our sins. To those that have not yet formed a relationship with Christ, this is true for you also! God doesn’t preface his sacrifice as “as long as you think I’m legit, you’re good to go”. He is just waiting for you to come to Him. It’s like making up the guest bed in your home in anticipation of a hopeful occupant. He’s ready when you are.

I believe His grace and mercy extends to those children of Sandy Hook Elementary. He had a warm cozy bed waiting for them.I believe being in the glorious presence of Christ took away their fear of being away from their families, their loveys, their creature comforts.  I believe they stood judgement, just as every other person on the planet will in their due time, but I believe these young souls, so full of life, energy, and happiness (if you’ve ever been around a child, you’ll agree), passed His eternal judgement and were welcomed into His house to choirs of angels.

The children who escaped the massacre are scarred for life. Their coping mechanisms are not yet in full-functioning mode, and they will never be the same. 

I am sure there will be some children that will carry these scars for the rest of their lives. I pray peace in abundance on them, that God may bring a supernatural sense of understanding on their hearts and minds. I pray that they may wear their scars with pride of having been brought through a tremendous battle. But even in worldly wars, there is a rehabilitation process, which these victims of terror must muddle through.

I also think there will be heros that emerge from the crowd. Maybe they didn’t yesterday. Maybe they won’t today or tomorrow. But I have faith that at least one of the attendees of Sandy Hook Elementary will go on to save lives. They will go on to show other children that war-scars can be strengthening in times of trial. They can build a fortitude in a person that is not replicable by any other source. They will change the world.

20 families have to spend Christmas without their babies. They will never hug them again. They will never smell them again. They will never brush their teeth, their hair, or tie their shoes for them again. They have lost a piece of their heart. 

Families all over the nation held their babies closer last night. They prayed for them and with them, maybe for the first time, last night. They kept their impatience in check last night. They counted their blessings last night. They listened to their child’s stream-of-consciousness with a changed heart last night. They dealt with the noise, mess, chaos with a little more grace.

I know I did.

 

How I Created Time: Feeding Children

I have never said “I wish there were more hours in the day” until I had 3 children. That extra mouth to feed, butt to wipe, clothes to fold, boo-boos to kiss, cheeks/feet/tummy/hands/heart to kiss took up the time I had used to spend doing daily tasks. As a consequence, it has taken me a year to find my groove.

Now, if you have seen me this past year, for the most part, I look like I’ve got it all under control, but I’m a duck.

Yup, a duck.

(serenely floating in the water, while underneath, paddling like a crazy lady, to keep from sinking)

When I think of the “big three” of time-sucks when growing children (not Facebook, but I know you went there…), I think of the following:

1) Feeding and cleaning up from feeding

2) Washing, folding, and putting away of laundry

3) Picking up various toys, art supplies and their resulting “masterpieces”, and other “little bombs” as I like to call them.

I’m tired of feeling like I’m spinning in circles. I’m tired of feeling like my day is filled with those three tasks, because they have very little to do with the kinds of people I want my girls to become (other than making healthy food choices, taking pride in their appearances, and finding a little time for self-expression and fun).

So, I set to lightening that load a little. Today, I am focusing on the FOOD. Oh, the food Middle can put away. Oh, the food Big just picks at, leaving it undesirable as leftovers. Oh, the mess Little makes by feeding herself. I can literally spend all.day prepping, cooking, feeding, and cleaning up from the activity of eating. By the time the eating part is done and I’ve got myself and 3 kids fed, and I’m close to being done cleaning up the mess, Middle (usually) is asking for a snack.

Seriously.

I’m DONE.

Then I realized something, that I should have thought of long ago. It’s so mind-numbingly obvious, but I had never put it into practice.

I cook (and clean) twice a day.

How? you ask? Let me lay it out for you:

  1. I wake up earlier than the girls. I used to let them come get me, but with the 7:45am school start time for Big, there is no way I could get up at 7 and get the kids up, dressed, fed, and out the door in time. Now, I wake up between 5:30 and 6am.
  2. I set out Big and Middle’s lunch boxes and get to filling. I usually put 1/2 a sandwich, a whole piece of fruit (but cut), a whole carrot (but cut), a string cheese, corn chips, and a pre-peeled hard-boiled egg white (They don’t like “the oak”). I also include their waters. Big takes her lunch to school, and I leave Middle’s on the counter with a freezer pack. When she asks me for a snack 20 minutes after she has finished breakfast, instead of freaking out on her, I direct her to her lunchbox (which makes her feel like a Big Girl). I remind her it’s all she gets until dinner is served so if she wants to eat her PB&J at 8:15 (which she did today), then she’ll have to eat something else in there for lunch.
  3. I then lay out their breakfasts, before they get up, and pour their drinks. Once those are laid out, I go get them. It saves me from the constant requests for *insert whatever breakfast option I currently don’t have the supplies and/or time to make*. I set an alarm for 20 minutes, and let them eat whatever they can in that time. Sometimes they eat everything and ask for seconds, and other times they barely finish 15 mini-wheats. They have a snack already made, so I don’t have to freak if they are hungry for the moment, because I know I’ve already prepped other grub for them.
  4. During quiet time, I prep and cook dinner. I try to do the dishes as I go so all we have to do is rinse the plates from dinner and we’re good to go in less than 5 minutes.

So, there you go. I prepare breakfast, snacks, and lunch for all of us (mine and Little’s are in the fridge) in the AM and cook dinner in the PM. Two clean-ups. LOTS more time, for things like… I dunno… blogging.

Circuit Training For Kids

I’ve been in a funk.

Little is getting over a fever/cold that threw off her sleep and eating last week.

Middle is every ounce of 2.5 years old and melts into full blown freak-out at every little thing.

Big is sassy and testing limits.

My dishwasher had been broken for 2.5 weeks and cost us just shy of $600 to fix (Thank God for an Emergency Fund!)

We’re having issues selling our Honda Civic, to the point that we have to entertain the idea of emptying our Emergency Fund and just donating the darn thing. (Hopefully it won’t come to that).

None of these things, in itself, is going to produce “Calm Mommy”, but when everything happens at the same time, Mama feels defeated.

I’ve been struggling with finding balance between keeping our dishes clean (by hand), our clothes washed, our house semi-clean to rid us of the icky sickies, and trying to cook healthier and take better care of our bodies by making it to the gym on a regular basis.

At some point today, as I was scurrying around trying to clean the kitchen to my liking in the few hours I had the Hubby around, since he’s working over time today and a 12.5 hour shift tomorrow.

It came out of nowhere and yet it made total sense.

You are Mom FIRST, and Maid LAST.

Duh.

I’m pretty sure the reason Middle and Big are so frustrating right now is because I’m spending so much of my day freaking out about the fact that I don’t have a clear surface in my kitchen, or my floors need to be swept.

Then I thought of the idea of Circuit Training I did with my Personal Trainer yesterday. Very little rest, keep the body moving, make the most of your time. Stay engaged.

I give you, Circuit Training For Kids:

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No, I don’t make them do pushups and jumping jacks in quick succession. (Though not everything in the CTFK Box is “good”)

I made a list of activities I could do with the kids, they could do together, and they could do alone. I’ve got things like:

Play Dominos

Build a Fort

Write a Letter

Read a Book

Dance Party

Tea Party

Play Store

Weave Pipecleaners

Color

Magnet Picture

Watch a TV show

Play a video game

Play Hide and Go Seek

Exercise

Wipe Kitchen Chairs

Empty Your “Action Box”

I take turns letting each kid pick first out of the CTFK Box. If kid #2 wants to do the first activity, awesome. They play together. If they don’t want to do the activity, they can pick a different one. If both kids seemed jazzed about both activities, if feasible, I will combine them (like coloring IN a fort). If they don’t like either activity, they have to do whatever I tell them is their other option (like go down for quiet time).

Then I set a timer for 10 minutes. When the timer is done, they can choose the keep playing what they are in the middle of, or they can clean up whatever they’ve taken out and pick a new activity. If Kid #1 chooses to move on and Kid #2 wants to keep playing, Kid #1 cleans up a little, but then Kid #2 takes responsibility for finishing the clean up before they can move to the next project.

There is so much beauty in this system.

1) With only 10 minutes of play for each activity, they aren’t getting bored, which means they aren’t bickering.

2) They get to make non-life changing choices for themselves and control their own activities.

3) *I* know what’s in the box and I’m ok with all of the activities.

4) We can add activities as we think of them.

5) It forces me to put them first instead of mopping. Once they are settled in their activities, and it’s not one that needs my involvement (like if Middle picks “read a book”), then I can do a bit of housework/ food prep/ baby care.

Now, mind you, I’ve only been doing this for half a day, but I can see it helping on a regular basis, even if only to get my priorities straight.

Behavior Modification In A Sassy Kindergartener

Big is 5.5. Generally speaking, she’s obedient, loving, kind-hearted, and great with The Littles. However, at 5.5, she’s learning new things at school and on TV (now that it’s not just Blue’s Clues and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse) that I’m not comfortable with.

My mom gracious took the two Bigs for an over-nighter at her house, leaving us with one blissfully simple 7-month old to deal with. At some point in the day, Big didn’t like that Nana and Middle were playing bubbles outside. She had been invited, but refused to put her shoes and jacket on. Rightfully so, Nana told her she couldn’t come out until she did. (Good job, Nana!). As a result, Big was less than pleased, and took to putting her new writing skills to task. She wrote Middle a letter:

“Dear Middle. I hate you. I don’t like you.”

SAY WHAT?!?!

Nana saw the letter and told her she would have to tell Mommy and Daddy, which Big wasn’t super pumped about (*shocker*). But I’m glad she did. Big had told Nana she learned this type of talk from “a movie she saw at [her friends] house a long time ago” (names have been omitted to protect the child’s mom from feeling guilty about it 😉 ).

The hubby wanted to turn the car around and immediately drive the 30 minutes (at 7pm, with a cranky baby in the backseat) to pick Big up. I was able to finagle him into waiting until the next day, allowing us to talk reasonably about a fitting punishment consequence action to take.

In our house, we try our best to talk kindly to each other. We don’t always reach the mark, but we certainly don’t tell each other that we “hate” them or anything close to it. We encourage kind words as often as possible, and I really felt like we should encourage that, instead of laying into Big for her actions, when really, she was testing the waters of what is acceptable in our family (and just how much she could get away with at Nana and Papa’s house!)

We decided, rather peacefully, to take the following course of action:

1) Big cannot watch TV for 1 week because she learned the language from TV.

2) Big must write down 10 things on index cards, each day of her TV restriction, that she loves about Middle. She must write down two extra for every time she asks to watch a show or throws a fit when she isn’t allowed to. Not only will it put loving thoughts in her head about her sister, it also gives her a chance to work on her penmanship.

So far, she has the following (spelling corrected to spare you the brainache):

1) Middle is cuddly

2) I like Middle. She gives me hugs and kisses.

3) Middle is the best.

4) Middle is nice to me.

5) Middle is happy when we get together.

6) Middle can keep up with me.

7) Middle is helping.

8) When Middle is still, I can do her hair.

9) Middle is sharing.

10) Middle is loving

I went to the $.99 Store and bought 200 index cards and 3 plastic index card holders. I’ll be decorating each box for each kid, and it’s going to be their “Things I Love About You” box. I think it’ll be neat to open it up on occasion and be reminded about all of the things we love about each other!