Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Parent on the iPhone Rant

Okay, dearest readers, I've been holding back on this little rant for a while. This blog post,  entitled "Dear Mom on the iPhone," came out back in November of 2012 and has led to a huge response - both positive and negative - in the blogging community.

I don't mean to single out this one post or this one blogger's opinion, as there are articles everywhere regarding the detriments of choosing our electronics over our kids. Like this one in the Washington Post that discusses the psychological ramification of too much screen time in parenting.  Or this doozie of a blog, that calls it outright child abuse.

So can I give you this humble blogger's opinion?

Seriously. I get that some parents are too plugged in. I get that, being attached to some sort of screen 24 hours a day is too much, especially for parents of young children.

But I also think that raising children who expect our 100% undivided attention 100% of the time is crazy irresponsible.

First, it sets them up for unrealistic expectations of personal relationships. Do you know how miserable my marriage would be if I expected my husband to be completely focused on me and my needs all. the. time.? What about friends? Teachers? Bosses? My job as a parent is to raise God-loving, compassionate, independent, socially-aware, functioning members of society. NOT co-dependent, emotionally needy, high-maintenance adults.

Second, it limits their imagination. Some of my best childhood memories were created after my grandmother (who cared for me, my brother, and my cousins in the summer time) would say these words: "Get out of my sight and hearing!" It was a silly but certain reminder that it was not her job to entertain us. So we played outside. And built tree houses. And rode our bikes. And we were spies. And super heroes. And ninja turtles. (I was the only girl in a yard full of boys - can you tell?)

For my own wee ones, they have "free play" every morning after breakfast. Depending on our day (and how well their free play is going), this can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. That's right: Three. Hours. Basically, from breakfast until lunch. And they love it. And I love it. I love hearing them mimic events in their life: movies we have watched, books we have read. I love hearing them play "mommy and baby" and listening to my words come out of their little mouths as they replay bedtime or bath time or even time out. Even more, I love hearing the stories they pull out of thin air and pure imagination.

And do you know what I'm doing in the meantime? I'm carving out "mommy" time. I have my devotions. I sip my coffee and enjoy breakfast. I check facebook. I blog. I catch up on texts. I catch up on housework.

Which leads me to...

Third, it teaches them that it's wrong to take care of themselves. As these tiny people grow into those God-loving, compassionate, independent, socially-aware, functioning members of society that I mentioned earlier... they need to know that it's okay to take time for themselves. Whether it's creating a Healthy Me for a Healthy We in their marriage, or setting healthy boundaries in their friendships, or simply realizing that an emotionally sick person cannot change an emotionally sick world - I have to teach them that taking care of themselves is an important priority. And I can start teaching them by setting the example: "This is mommy time. Go play." 

I am their mommy. Their first line of defense. Their best friend (for now, at least). I am their playmate and their chef. Their chauffeur and their counselor. Their teacher and their advocate.

We carve out time in each day where they have my full and undivided attention. We have story time. And early morning snuggle time. And evening talk time. And lots of little moments in between.

But we also have time apart. Time for them to develop into individuals - and not just attachments of their parents.

They have their time. I have my time. And everyone - EVERYONE - in our house is better for it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Operation Sanity Part 2B: More Drops of Sanity (Out of Sight, Out of Mind)

If you missed parts one and two of this little series, be sure to click on the links below to check them out.

Without further ado, here is another little tidbit of sanity we have added to our home in the past couple months:

5. Out of sight, out of mind. This point requires a post all unto itself because it has completely changed the look and feel of our house.

I super duper love little organized and labeled containers. Sweet Hubby makes fun of my housekeeping because, while the room itself may be covered in clutter and dust bunnies and unfolded clothes, the closets are immaculately organized. Matching baskets, labeled plastic shoeboxes ($.99 at WalMart and my absolute favorite size/style storage box. I seriously might own 50.) So in my perfect playroom and child's bedroom, there is a shoebox for Barbies. One for Legos. One for doll clothes. One for small figurines. One for cars. One for tea sets. One (or five) for doll house accessories. And they would all be neatly labeled - preferably with pictures of the items contained. Ahhh...

But my kiddos are less inclined to utilizing storage containers, and more inclined to dumping out every. single. box. to find the one toy that doesn't match any of the labels. And even more inclined to just throwing the toys back into any random box they see fit and completely ignoring the labels that were so painstakingly photographed, laminated, and decoupaged to the box.

I'm not bitter. Really.

So after multiple attempts at what felt like brainwashing (you will love the $.99 shoe boxes... you will admire and respect the labels...) I gave up. Toys now go in a central location that looks like a dump but that can be hidden by a door or lid. See more about that process in part one.

And once my storage-container-loving heart grasped the amazing awesomeness of the "out of sight, out of mind" concept, great things began to happen.


- I hate doing dishes at night. Seriously, when dinner is over, the table cleared, baths given, bedtime stories read, water delivered, covers tucked, and kiddos asleep... this mama is DONE for the night. So every morning, I wake up to a sink full of dirty, crusty, day-old dishes. Ugh. The quick fix? HIDE the dishes in soapy water. Out of sight, out of mind. Mountains of soap suds are actually pleasant to look at, and the dishes are so much easier to wash the next morning.

-   Ok, Friends fans, remember Monica's closet? I totally have one of those. It's for items that don't have a home or whose home is in our attic. Like the big glass Santa Clause plate that somehow missed the departure date of all the other Christmas paraphernalia. Or those last few items of winter clothes that were in the bottom of the dirty clothes basket when all the other winter clothes were neatly stored in tidy, labeled boxes and put in the attic. Or decorative items we don't actually need and I will eventually take to Goodwill. Or the random cables and cords that we haven't used in two years but that I'm sure, upon throwing them out, we would discover are indispensable to the use of some valuable appliance or electronic. All of these items (and many more) were constantly floating around my home, in random boxes or under random cabinets. Now they are in a central, unorganized, chaotic location... that is completely unseen behind the solid wood door. Once every couple months, Sweet Hubby pulls out the items that belongs in our attic and puts them in their appointed boxes, thereby clearing space for any other random pieces of junk household items that need temporary storage. In the meantime: Out of sight, out of mind. Perfection.

-  When having people over for dinner, dishes that were dirtied in the cooking process go in a plastic bin on top of the fridge to be washed after the shindig is over. She cooked this huge dinner and has no dirty dishes in her sink? How does she do that? Out of sight, out of mind. That's how, friends. (Note: Just don't forget you put them up there, only to remember a week later when you're wondering what that smell is and you can't find your frying pan. Ya know, not that I've ever done that.)

I have a plethora of other examples, but I think I have exposed my home's hidden places enough for one post.

What about you? Do you have any "out of sight, out of mind" places in your home? Do you love them or hate them? Tips? Comments? Random bits of trivia? Let me know!

Catch Up:

Operation Sanity: Girl Stuff (part 1)

Operation Sanity Part 2A: Little Drops

Monday, June 10, 2013

Space to Breathe

Yesterday, our pastor finished up his four-week series "Anchored" with a message on the Sabbath. It's the first time he has ever preached on that subject at our church, and I was so encouraged/convicted throughout the whole service.

He said a true Sabbath looks like this:
1. It can be any day of the week.
2. It needs to be one full day each week.
3. It can't include anything that has to do with your job or daily work.

Number 3 got me. Because, really? As a SAHM, it's incredibly difficult to have a true Sabbath, based on that criteria. 

If I don't wash the dishes today, then I will have two loads to wash tomorrow.

And if I don't cook dinner, my children won't eat.

And then there's the kajillion and one other things that I do as part of my "job" every day. There's feeding, bathing, clothing, educating, and rearing tiny people. There's also wiping, scrubbing, tidying, and de-cluttering the space in which those tiny people live.

So many of the things we SAHM's do as our daily "job" cannot be put on hold. A true Sabbath for us would be a kid-free day in a spotless house and budget for eating out. Yeah... not gonna happen.

So now I'm on a quest. A journey to create space for a Sabbath day in my life.

I'm thinking Fridays, because (during the summer, at least) that's the day Sweet Hubby is home.

It's also the day after Thursday, which is my big laundry day. (Theoretically, all of our clothes are washed, folded, and put away by the time I go to bed on Thursday nights.)

In preparation for my Friday Sabbath, maybe Thursday will also include cooking a couple good "leftover" dishes. Maybe chicken salad? Pasta salad? Anything that can be dipped out onto paper plates and count as a "healthy" meal for the kiddos?

I don't really know how this is going to look, but I am completely, utterly, willfully determined to create a Sabbath in my life.

What about you? As a SAHM (or as a working mom) how do you give yourself a Sabbath?

Monday, June 3, 2013

10 Random Thoughts On Our First Day of Summer Vacation

1. We started the homeschooling trial today. I won't go into all the details, but I will say this: When I walked into the kitchen to find Chloe standing on a chair, singing her math facts at the top of her lungs, I thought, "Yep. This is definitely her style of learning."

2. My Sweet Hubby (who teaches summer school) starts getting home at 1pm every day, and has Fridays completely off. I cannot tell you how ECSTATIC this makes me! Today, we're hitting up the grocery store, farmer's market, and the zoo. I love love love him because he pushes me to get out of the house and be deliberate about making memories. BUT, he also loves doing things on his own with the girls if I am too tired/hormonal/hot/grumpy/pregnant to join them. He is the calming presence in our home AND the adventurer. I couldn't ask for a better combination!

3. Today starts the 10-week countdown to meeting our sweet baby girl! Penelope June is due in mid-August, and every week between now and then is packed to the max! Here's to slowing down a little bit and savoring these last few weeks of pregnancy....

4. Lest you think I'm all butterflies and sugar lumps about this summer, allow me to tell you this: My ankles are totally swollen by 10am everyday. It's a mild summer, by comparison (only a high of 78 today... in June!... in Memphis!... unheard of!), but I am HOT all. the. time. And when I get too hot? I vomit. And when I vomit? I'm sick the rest of the day. And sometimes into the next day. So... yeah... I plan on doing what I can to savor the next 10 weeks, but I will also be SUPER DUPER MAJORLY STOKED to be DONE with this pregnancy.

5. By choice, we are down to one car for a season. Hoping and praying for a minivan by the end of summer!

6. My washing machine broke the night before we left for the beach. But have I ever told you how much I love the coin laundry? Well, I do. Like, seriously love it. I can knock out 4-5 loads of laundry in about an hour. And while they're washing? I sit. And listen to the hum of the machines. And read a book. Or listen to music. Or sip a green tea frap. Or do whatever I want. Without guilt. And without kids.... It's totally like a mid-week mini vacay. So until we get the washer fixed (which should be in the next couple weeks), I'll be scheduling weekly mommy vacations laundry runs.

7. This will be my last summer in my 20's. Turning 30 in 2014...

8. I'm thinking of getting my nose pierced. It's one of those things I've always wanted because, ya know, my nose is just so bare without a tiny jewel on it. And, what the hey, I'm almost 30.

9. I haven't shaved my legs in 2 weeks. And I was at the beach all of the second week. I'm pretty sure the jelly fish left me alone because they were scared of getting stung.

10. I'm pretty sure my mom just gasped in horror at the last two points. And I love her for it. I hope I'm just like her. Except, you know, with a nose ring and hairy legs.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Operation Sanity Part 2A: Little Drops

One of my favorite things in the world is to watch colors swirl in water. When we dye Easter eggs, we use clear mugs, mainly because I love to watch that single drop of food coloring twist and flow and spread itself so far that the entire liquid changes in appearance.

My morning routine goes like this: coffee, then creamer. Never the other way around. Because there is something so soothing and visually melodic about watching the cream disappear beneath the surface of the black and reemerge in its milky tan spiral as I stir.

I love it... it soothes my heart.

Let's call that endearingly quirky instead of super weird, mmkay?  

I bring this up because our family has recently added a few drops of sanity into the otherwise chaotic waters of life, and the resulting color change has been magnificent. These are small changes. Insignificant. When I tell you about them, you will say, "That's it?" And I will say, "Ah... but watch it swirl."

So without further buildup (because, seriously, these are minor, minor changes), here are our little drops of sanity:

1. I threw away my kids socks. Matching  up socks is the bane of my existence. Seriously. I hate it. Hence, socks rarely got matched. I cannot tell you how many mornings went in the red zone (interpreted: everybody screaming in a panic because we're so late the school day might actually be finished by the time we get there) because I was digging through a basket of socks trying to find that one pink sock with the green stripes that I knew had been sitting on top of the pile the night before but now had disappeared into the heart of the mountain, never to be seen or heard from again. So one day a few months ago, I blindly threw them all in the trash in a fit of sock rage I methodically gathered them up and disposed of them without uttering one single curse word. Then I went to Target and invested in three packs of the exact. same. socks. My girls are close enough in age that they can share socks, and I have matched nary a pair since that day. Socks go in a central location, and when mommy says "Get your socks on," the girls know to grab one for each foot and proceed to don said respective feet. The end. No more matching. No more digging through baskets. No more cursing under my breath at that @#$(&% missing pink sock airing out my sock frustration in a perfectly healthy, Christian way.

2. The girls tidy their rooms every morning. Who woulda thunk that adding yet another item to the laundry list that is the morning routine would be in any way peaceful? But, oh my word, I love it. We started by spending some time in each room, pruning and organizing. This was not as drastic as it sounds. I put each girl's toys in one big container/box/basket in their respective rooms (more on this in Part 1). We also created space for their "treasures" (tiny scraps of paper, flower petals, stones, and dried play-doh that appear to the naked eye as trash but are, in fact, priceless childhood possessions that, if ever missing, will cause massive weeping and wailing and gnashing of the teeth of tiny little females). Maple has a small desk with a drawer. Chloe (who has significantly more tiny treasures) has a shelf above her bed and her two bedside table drawers. We also put a laundry hamper in each room for - you guessed it - laundry. So every morning, the girls take two minutes (usually while mommy is watching cream swirl and doing likewise productive things) to put everything back in its place. And since we do it every morning, it has never taken more than two minutes. Ahhhh....

3. The girls make their own beds. And I don't fix them. Not even Maple's bed. Which is made up by Maple. Who is three. As much as it goes against my control-freak nature, I have never, not once, corrected or "remade" the beds after they are finished. And you know what I see on their faces when they're finished? Pure and unadulterated pride. They are so proud of their clean rooms and made up beds! If there is a morning that I take for granted that it's been done, Maple pulls on my elbow (which inevitably spills that first sip of coffee) and says: "Hey mommy, wanna come see my woom?" Sparkly eyes are so much better than perfect sheets. And semi-spread beds are so much better than wadded up blankets in the floor.

4. We speed clean. My kiddos are notorious slowpokes. Whether it's getting dressed or eating or cleaning up, neither one has a hurry bone in her little body. So our cleanup time was often peppered with "if this toy is still here the next time I come in here" or "I'm not going to say it again" or "how many times do I have to step on a lego before you realize your mother needs both her feet and maybe you should pick them up!?"  Until flylady saved the day.
I have tried flylady methodology in the past, and I just can't seem to wrap my ADHD cleaning brain around the concept. But one thing that stuck is the timed cleanup. If a task seems too overwhelming to even start, I tell myself, "I'll work for 15 minutes (or 30 or 45 or whatever), and when that time is up, I'm done, regardless of the condition of the task." Most of the time I finish the task before my timer goes off. Sometimes I am so engrossed in the task I don't even hear the timer and end up finishing it anyways. Occasionally I leave the task when the timer goes off and do another timed cleaning the next day. It works for me. I love it.
So I tried it with my kids. I started timing their cleanup. And it worked! What I love about this is that there is no nagging or begging or threatening. They just spring into gear!
Note:  I don't say "If you're not done by the time I count to 3..." Instead, it sounds more like, "Hey kiddos! I bet we can get this cleaned up in 30 seconds! Ready... set... GO!" And I count to 30.  Also: I don't use a timer. Something about the sound of my voice counting helps the girls stay on task, and I can speed up or slow down the counting as needed if a task is taking less or more time than the allotted 30 seconds. I also have a really big mouth, so I can yell my counting from whatever room I happen to be in. 

I have more little drops of sanity, but this post is already a kajillion miles long. Kudos to those of you who stuck through it. I shall attempt to come back soon and finish up! Love y'all bunches!

The Quote That Started It All...

I myself have twelve hats, each one representing a different personality. Why be just yourself? - Margaret Atwood