Archive for the ‘The Rest’ Category

5 Tips To Survive Summer With Little Kids

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Blog disclosure: This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of The Breastfeeding Shop via SoFluential Media. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Guys, summer is here!

You can read that in a super happy, excited voice: Horray! It’s summer! No school! Beach days! Ice cream for dinner!

Or you can read that in a slightly panicked voice: Summer is HERE. You are out of time to find camps or activities and I hope you like making 17 separate meals a day.

I have a million children. Technically, the actual number is four, but let me tell you reality means absolutely nothing when all of them are hungry/bored/tired/mad/have a tiny hangnail/thirsty/fighting at the same time. Four kids at four different ages means four different sets of needs and ability levels and nap (or no nap) schedules. Did I mention I also really hate having to feed everyone all the time? I really hate that part.

After 9 summers as the parent of at least one baby I’ve learned a lot about how to survive – and enjoy – summer, even with a million kids, even when I’m solo-parenting, even when I’m running on empty by lunchtime and still have a long way to go before bed. Here are my top 5 best tips to survive summer with little kids.

  1. Add more children. OK, this seems counterintuitive, but hear me out. Some of our easiest playdates are with my friend Sarah, who also has four children. Her kids + my kids = so many kids there’s always someone to play with or talk to or rope into your particular imaginary world. My babies love having big kids to play with who aren’t the regular big kids they see every day, and then when my big kids see the babies getting attention from other kids they remember that they love their babies too and then everyone just seems more fun.
  2. Find your happy place. Our happy place is The Lake. The Lake is a local beach club we pay a membership for each year. It has lots of big trees for shade, picnic tables, grills, a big grassy field for running around, a beach for digging and swimming, a dock for fishing, swings and a playset for climbing and it’s awesome. The Lake requires some supervision, but not nearly as much as you might think (see tip 3). If you don’t have a lake, think of somewhere your whole family enjoys – somewhere kid-friendly, where you might run into other kids for your’s to play with, where you can SIT DOWN and relax. It might take a few tries, but one you have a happy place it can be your go-to all summer long when you can’t stand to stare at the inside of your house any longer but don’t have the energy to do something new. Go every morning. Go every afternoon. Don’t worry you go to the same place too much, your kids don’t mind.
  3. Floaties. Listen, kids are going to try to drown themselves. It’s just what they do. If you have a tiny baby who can’t walk or crawl yet, your summer will be fine. If you’ve reached the mobile stage, going anywhere near water is beyond stressful. We have the floaty rule: if you are near the water, you wear a floaty. The baby wears one 100% of the time at the lake. The toddler wears one 85% of the time at the lake. The big kids – who are 9 and 7 – had to pass a swim test last year and this year before I let them give up the floaties. If we go to a pool, anyone who can’t touch the bottom wears a floaty. Our friends enforce floaty rules with their kids, my parents enfore floaty rules at their house, it’s just non-negotiable. We have found that the Speedo brand Splash Jammers are ideal – they have shoulder straps as well as arm floats, they’re approved by the Coast Guard as life jackets, and even my 1-year-old can’t get it off on his own. Target sells them. WEAR YOUR FLOATIES.
  4. Lower your standards. For real, set that bar at a level you can achieve by noon every day. Did your children eat something? Does the baby have a clean diaper? Did you remember to eat something too? Is your house clean enough that you could escape in case of a fire? Then you’re fine. Tomorrow you can put away some laundry or do the dishes. Next week you can plan a fun outing to the zoo or the splash pad. But right now, you’re doing fine. It’s fine. You’re a good parent.
  5. Have fun. This tip is sort of like “treasure every moment because you only get 18 summers with your kid before they’re old enough to leave home” but that is bad advice no one needs. The days are long but the years are short is the same thing, but again, the days are SO long it’s not helpful to remind anyone it won’t last forever. But we can try to have fun, even when we have small humans to take care of. Put on a bathing suit and get in the water with them. Have ice cream for lunch or dinner (or lunch and dinner). Roll your windows down in the car. Play music really loud and have a dance party. My kids get such a kick out of me being Fun Mom, they act surprised and delighted every time. It’s like when Fun Dad chases them around pretending to be a dinosaur or Fun Grandma lets them pick out candy at the grocery store. You can be fun too! You’re the boss, even if you bend the rules a little bit for a special treat. It won’t ruin your children forever, I promise.

Military friends! One way to make your life easier when you have a baby is getting a NO COST breast pump from The Breastfeeding Shop. If you have Tricare, all you need is a prescription from your doctor and The Breastfeeding Shop will ship a pump right to your house. If you or someone you know is pregnant or has a new baby, be sure to tell them about this program, because having a pump is a lifesaver when you’re nursing. My baby will be 2 in August and I still need my pump occasionally (yup, still nursing, nope, no plans to stop). Check out The Breastfeeding Shop’s Tricare page for more information.

Fun Mom

Monday, May 7th, 2018

I am sticking with my theory that if we stay really super busy all the time that this underway will pass quickly.

I REALLY hope it’s working for the kids because all it’s doing for me is making me exhausted. I live with a constant vague sense of dread that I’m forgetting something or that we’re late for something or that I’m supposed to be somewhere else.

My iPhone seems to agree with me, because every 2 minutes the little alert pops up that says “blah blah number of minutes to get home” and offers me directions back to my house. Usually, it’s offering me directions to ballet or swim or cheer or karate or whatever else we’re supposed to be doing. I find that very helpful, if somewhat creepy since I never specifically told my phone I was going those places. It just learned them. But constantly telling me I should be headed back to the house is freaking me out. WHAT AM I LATE FOR, IPHONE?

Yesterday we were 15 minutes late to Caroline’s mandatory extra ballet recital because Lincoln lost his shoes at our morning playdate. The good news is we did eventually find them, but every single time we need to get from point A to point B something like that happens.

It’s really hard to be Fun Mom when you also have to be Find Your Shoes Mom and No You Can’t Have Freeze Pops For Breakfast Mom and Stop Talking And Go To Bed Mom. I want to have ice cream for dinner too. I don’t want to spend the afternoon putting away laundry and changing sheets and doing dishes. Fun Mom doesn’t have to do that stuff. But there isn’t anyone else, so right now I’m Fun Mom and Regular Mom, which means I go to bed at 9:30 and haven’t seen a grown-up TV show in three weeks.

But we have been having a lot of fun.

p.s. It was about 73 degrees at the first beach and 65 the second time. I am raising hardy New England children.

 

Boring Things I Recommend

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

This is some old school blogging today, without a meaningful lesson or beautiful photographs or some sort of inspirational truth. It’s just a list of boring things. Over the past couple of years, I have purchased or been given several items that have made me wonder why I lived so long without them. Every single time I use them, I am amazed at how much better/easier/happier my day becomes. There are many times where you buy something new, think “This is AMAZING!” and then quickly fall out of love. These are not those things. These are things I am still in love with at least six months later, so I am going to recommend some of them to you today. It’s a very eclectic list.

    1. Robot Vacuum – The only thing I asked for for Christmas 2016 was a robot vacuum and I still love it just as much today as I did the first time it cleaned my floor. The one I have is a Roomba 960, but as long as you read a bunch of reviews before you buy I would suggest looking for deals. I do super love the customer service and warranty that came with mine – I’ve had both the base and the actual body replaced for free and the moving parts that break/wear out can be replaced easily. Having a robot vacuum is not the same as having a housekeeper. I still do a LOT of cleaning, including both sweeping and mopping, to stay on top of four kids plus pets. The robot needs me to keep junk off the floors so it can suck up dirt and crumbs and hair and everything else. Sometimes I get lazy and don’t empty it in the morning so it doesn’t run the next night. All that being said, it’s SO NICE to let the Roomba vacuum my room or the kids’ rooms (I just carry it upstairs and press start) while I do dishes or put away laundry or finish some other chore. My house is at least 150% cleaner than it was pre-robot vacuum.
    2. Meat thermometer – OK, you probably already own a meat thermometer and right now you’re like “Um, I got a meat thermometer when I was 18 and moved into an apartment and I’ve been cooking meat thoroughly and to the correct temperature for YEARS,” Well in that case, you’re definitely smarter than I am. For years I’ve been pulling meat out of the oven, cutting it open to check, and then putting it back because I ALWAYS misjudged whether or not it was cooked. Last fall I finally got a meat thermometer because I needed it for Thanksgiving, but since then I’ve used it for everything. I made duck that wasn’t overcooked! I made a roast for Christmas that was delicious! I made chicken last night and didn’t poison my family! This is the one I bought based on reviews. It’s still going strong although when I eventually replace it I might buy a more expensive one. I am no longer terrified to cook meat when we have company over (if you’ve ever eaten at my house, I probably served you pasta salad and now you know why) and I feel like a real grown up.
    3. Kitchen scale – Originally I wanted a food scale for measuring portions. I still do that sometimes. Or I use it for exact measures when making macarons or other fancy baking. But mostly I used my kitchen scale to ship packages. In the past few years, I’ve joined various buy/sell/trade groups for a wide variety of stuff on Facebook. (I wrote a lot about buying kid clothes in this post, and now I buy even more in BST groups.) But beyond BUYING is RESELLING stuff that we’ve outgrown or outfits the kids don’t love. It’s truly pretty easy but the thing that always trips people up is having to go to the post office to pay for postage and send things. NOT ME. I can sell a dress, pay for postage, print a label and have it in my mail carrier’s hands within minutes. Even if you only mail stuff occasionally, it’s so much easier to do it all at home than at the post office. It also made setting up a Kidizen shop a piece of cake, so even if I don’t have time for a brand resale page on FB I can list stuff and sell it for about 50% more than what I would get if I dropped it off at the consignment shop. If you sign up for Kidizen with my referral link, you get $5 off (and I get a $5 credit too).  I am SURE there are people who are anti-using-a-food-scale-for-postage, but I’ve been doing it for several years now and never had a problem with my weights being wrong.
    4. Carbona Stain Devils Stain Removers – MAGIC. I just got chocolate AND blood out of one of Finn’s shirts. Caroline spills stuff on her beautiful boutique clothes all the time that leave “water marks”, which is what people on the resale boards call grease or oil. Carbona takes them right out, so the dress I bought for $20 because it was in play condition is now in great condition. I don’t have an affiliate link or a referral link or any connection to this company at all. I just buy the little bottles at the grocery store when they’re on sale. But they’ve gotten out marks that both Shout and OxiClean haven’t touched so if you have kids (or ever spill stuff on yourself), you need these.
    5. Face cleansing wipes – It doesn’t matter which kind you buy, although if you have a brand you REALLY love, please recommend them. I bought four packs of these Neutrogena ones and I keep them everywhere so I no longer have an excuse not to wash my face before bed. I am too old for bad skin care. I’m pretty much too old for medium skin care too. It’s time to ramp up to good-to-excellent skincare, but because I am both old AND tired I don’t have the energy for a complicated, multi-step routine. Face wipes mean my skin looks significantly better even on days where I don’t do anything else.
    6. Caffeine eye serum – OK, so I do have ONE face product I use all the time. Buy this serum from The Ordinary. I just dab a little under my eyes in the morning after I brush my teeth and I swear it makes my eye bags/dark circles significantly less noticeable. I actually love all their products because you can create a whole skincare system without spending much money, but this is the only thing I would swear is super effective.
    7. Tiny, individual flossers – I don’t know know why it took me so long to just buy a whole bunch of these and keep them in my car, but if you don’t already do this I highly recommend it. I keep this bag of them in my center console so if we’re running late to practice or ballet or whatever I can just do a quick floss at a stoplight. I cannot over-exaggerate how adult and put together it makes me feel to be able to deal with having something stuck in my teeth without any angst.

Well now, wasn’t that boring? Last night I was doubting this was even worth posting and then I realized I had used four of these things within the last couple hours and maybe someone else needs something small (or big) to buy that makes their life easier/better/happier. And please tell me what things have changed your life this year.

General Life Update First Quarter 2018

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

Oh hi internet. Once we made it to Homecoming I sort of forgot I had a blog. But I caught my husband checking the page to see if I had posted anything, so I think even he might appreciate a life update all in one place.

First thing everyone wants to know: Yes, it is super great to have E home. We all missed him a lot, for a bunch of reasons, and now that he’s back things are much better. He had two whole weeks completely off of work and now he’s on sort of half-work for a few more days, so I’m able to schedule doctor’s visits, parent-teacher conferences and hair appointments without having to bring 4 kids.

Speaking of hair, I made some drastic changes. I haven’t had hair this short in a decade, and I haven’t been this blonde since I was a child. It’s been a week and I am still LOVING it. (This is a HUGE photo of my face, but it’s my face so deal with it.)

Once E got his bags unpacked, he immediately tackled the to-do list I’ve been keeping. He fixed a ton of stuff, did a bunch of tech support, finished our taxes, and let the kids climb all over him as much as they want. We’ve been having a great time doing some 5- or 10-year life planning as well as some RIGHT NOW updates, like finally replacing our horrible stove and ancient mattress. Buying a new stove and mattress feels very grown up.

Finnegan has quit sleeping at night, which is fun for no one. He’s also nursing as much as a newborn, which I am not enjoying in the least. I had no intention of weaning him until he was ready on his own, but right now getting 8 hours sleep seems worth a little effort. He’s such a happy, pleasant baby during the day and so easy to put down for a nap, I do not understand why he is trying to kill me every night. This isn’t our first rodeo so I know all the things we can do to sleep train/gentle sleep train/not sleep train/cry it out/not cry it out/etc etc etc. I just need to decide if I’m at the point where I have to do something or if I can just keep hoping he grows out of it any minute.

Caroline had her first cheer competition last Saturday. Her team came in second, so she’s really proud of herself. We aren’t pointing out that there were only two teams in her division. Honestly though, she did REALLY great for her first even public cheer performance – the stage was huge, there were a lot of people and lights and the music is super loud, plus it was a long day for a bunch of small humans. Tons of waiting around for a 3-minute routine. She has two more this year – one this weekend and one in April – and I suspect she’s going to start begging to join a full year cheer team as soon as she can. I’m not sure how I feel about being a full-time competitive cheer mom, but I also don’t want to take away something she’s so in love with. She has already volunteered to quit most of her other activities if she can keep cheer.

Lincoln has an acute case of the Terrible Threes. He’s mad he’s not old enough for all the stuff the big kids do, so he takes it out on everyone in the family by being a jerk, hitting people or screaming. It’s not my favorite age. I did manage to potty train him (yay!) and he’s doing great at school (also yay!) and his speech is really improving (thank god) but he’s living in a glass case of emotion and spends SO MUCH of his time crying. It must be exhausting, but I don’t know how to help him.

Evan is such a mystery to me. He’s a really chill kid until something sets him off, and then he loses his mind. He was doing great at school until suddenly he can’t remember basic math facts. He is very helpful and responsible until he gets a screen in front of him and then it’s like he’s gone deaf and blind. He will be super kind to Finnegan and then do something to intentionally make him cry. He has started lying about small stuff to test us, so I’m trying to both assure him that I will always appreciate the truth and also sort of scare him so he knows he gets in big trouble if he’s caught lying. You guys, I don’t know what I’m doing. He’s going to be NINE next month and that’s so old. I remember being nine. There’s so much going on inside you. This isn’t like having a fourth baby that won’t sleep, this is brand new.

I’ve started planning out our summer already (it keeps me sane while I stare at the two feet of snow in my yard), and the kids are excited for various camps and activities that are on our calendar. We don’t actually need to keep quite AS busy as we did during deployment, but if the snow days have taught us anything it’s that being all together in our house is THE WORST, so between lakes, beaches, camps and trips, I’m hoping to avoid the level of togetherness that makes everyone want to strangle each other.

It’s supposed to snow again next week. I am not ok with this.

Evan and Caroline have started asking about maybe not sharing a room anymore, so we’re going to have to figure that out.

I have mini sessions coming up in a few weeks. If you’re local to Connecticut (or local-ish enough), I would love to take your picture! You can see the link here on my Facebook.

A few months ago, I started to follow the keto diet (aka bacon all day) and I really like it but at the moment my sugar cravings are winning. I need to commit again because I’m in search of a ball gown for a ball in a few weeks and nothing makes me more depressed than trying on clothes.

I think that’s everything even remotely interesting about my current life. I’ll try to get up our Homecoming photos taken by our amazing photographer (not me) soon, because who doesn’t love military homecoming photos?! There are just so many it’s going to take me a minute to cull them down.

 

 

 

Don’t Freak Out It’s Just A Baby

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

Last week I was rummaging around in my cabinet for two sippy cups to give Linc and Finn. Somehow we own 473 take and toss cups and ZERO take and toss cup lips. Why am I apparently tossing just lids? Where did they go? And why doesn’t my Target sell JUST lid replacements? I ended up with one blue lid on a red cup for Linc and an old Lansinoh baby bottle for Finnegan. I gave them each a splash of chocolate milk in with their regular milk and then enjoyed the silence while I made coffee.

But while I was standing there watching them, it occurred to me that Finnegan was drinking out of a bottle even though Finnegan never took a bottle. I think my husband force-fed him a couple while I was at a conference when he was 9 months old. And I should probably count the one night in the hospital as a newborn when he needed to go under the jaundice lights. But for the most part, he rejected any milk that didn’t come straight from the source. But here he is, standing in the kitchen, happily feeding himself as if he’s been doing it his whole life, using one of the MANY bottles I purchased over the years out of desperation (none of my children took bottles despite my efforts, half-hearted or full-hearted).

And then it occurred to me I don’t remember introducing him to cow’s milk. He probably picked up a cup that belonged to someone else one day and drank it, and the next time he saw me pouring milk he just grunted to indicate he wanted some and now he drinks milk. I don’t know if it was after he turned one. I don’t know how much he drinks daily. I don’t know if he cares if it’s whole milk or 2% or organic or FairLife or whatever. He has no obvious preferences for any of it – Finnegan would like something milk-like in some sort of drinkable container, now please.

This is such a change from what life was like as a brand new mom. I remember literally agonizing over Evan’s milk intake (or lack thereof). And I don’t even have to remember, because this blog exists and if you go back to the archives around early 2010 you can see me write post after post about how he didn’t like food, how he wouldn’t take cow’s milk, how I was afraid he would never stop breastfeeding, how he made himself gag if he ate so much as a Cheerio, and how I worried SO MUCH ALL THE TIME about whether or not I was doing things right. I tried at least four different kinds of milk out of DOZENS of different sippy cups trying to convince a one-year-old he should drink it. I wasted so much time and energy and mental space trying to figure out a baby because it was my first time ever having a baby and I had no idea what I was doing.

Now my baby is almost 9 and there is all sorts of new stuff to worry about (no really, can someone explain why Minecraft is still so popular? and tell me which YouTube channels are appropriate?). But I’ve had three more babies and with each one the baby-ages have gotten easier. Finnegan knows three signs that cover all his needs: nursies, please, and night night. He will bring me a diaper if he needs one. He could go up and down stairs a full year before I ever let my first baby even try. He likes people, he likes new things, he likes food, he likes naps, he likes being worn, he likes walking, he tags along 6 days a week to other people’s activities and never complains. The thing is, I didn’t do ANYTHING to get this baby to be so agreeable. I cannot tell you how to get the same baby. My suspicion is benign neglect plays a big part, a result of having a zillion children.

The problem is there is literally nothing you can say to a new mom to get her to stop worrying. There is no way to gain the confidence you need to be a more chill parent without seeing your kids survive their toddler years despite your mistakes. Parenting is not one size fits all for anyone. You can read libraries full of books and talk to a thousand other parents and get all the advice in the world and still not do everything right. Especially if you take ALL the advice, because often it is in direct conflict. Parenting is learned by being thrown in the deep end and that’s terrifying when you don’t know how to swim, no matter how many books about swimming you’ve read.

But after 9 years of swimming I went from dog paddle to dedicated athelete…and now I’m back to somewhere around hobbyist. Basically I have forgotten everything I worked really hard to learn about babies with my first. The only thing that still applies is they need to be fed, they need a lot of sleep, and they’re adorable so you don’t abandon them. That seems to always be true.

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