Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

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.

Evan: Nine Years Old

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

Evan through the years: Birth Day (part 1 and part 2), one, two, three, four, five, six, seven (oops, that one doesn’t exist?), eight

 

Happy birthday to my firstborn, who is somehow nine years old today even though I could have sworn he was born just last week. Now he’s NINE.

For the last nine years I have made an average of 253 mistakes a day, used my angry voice, yelled, threatened, failed to follow through, was incredibly inconsistent, offer the wrong kind of praise, didn’t enforce bedtimes, let him get away with bad behavior, couldn’t figure out how to make him eat most vegetables and pretended I didn’t notice he was playing on his tablet longer than he was supposed to. And yet somehow, Evan is still a wonderful kid. He’s sensitive and deeply empathetic – he cried during both Coco and Guardians of the Gallaxy Vol 2. He can be hesitant to try new things but he isn’t ashamed to be himself. He wants nothing more than to be treated as a responsible, trustworthy child who is allowed to stay home by himself for 30 minutes at a time. He loves small kids and babies and big kids and adults and everyone in between. He still fully believes in Santa, the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny.

There is so much more I am going to do wrong when it comes to raising this child, but let’s hope heaps and heaps of love is enough to balance all those mistakes. This is my first time raising a 9-year-old, it’s pretty scary and wonderful. Happy Birthday Evan!

 

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.

Things I Am Giving Up And Things I Am Not

Monday, December 4th, 2017

So here’s the thing: I am not a quitter. I have kept up my 365 project for 3 full years now, and I plan to do it again next year. I’ve been trying to catch up on laundry since 2008 and I haven’t given up on that even though I’m pretty sure it’s hopeless. And I made it through 362 weeks (that’s almost 7 years) of iPhone photos. But I don’t think I’m going to catch up. My phone isn’t making it easy to move my photos, the program I use to resize them isn’t recognizing the folders, and the amount of work it takes to get it all together just doesn’t fit in my schedule anymore. I’ve also completely failed to take photos with my phone several days in the past few weeks because if it’s in my hand the baby tries to steal it and if it’s in my purse I’m not taking pictures. No matter how many times I SAY I’m not going to stop, I think it’s time to admit I’m done.

That doesn’t mean I’m letting the blog die. I’m going to go back to more life-documenting with my real camera. I take photos literally every day for my 365 but haven’t been sharing them here. In 2018, the plan is a weekly/bi-weekly post of those pictures, so I have all my projects (years of pregnancy, baby and kid stories, adventures and thoughts +daily life photo documentation) in one place. I’m just working on not letting myself feel like a failure over something as stupid as blog posts, so I feel like making an announcement that I am quitting officially will help.

Besides letting my iPhoneography slip, I’ve actually been holding things together pretty well. Mostly.There was a day last week where I got off the phone from discussing one of the many adult problems I am currently juggling and I briefly considering just canceling everything. Like, just not doing any of it. Not taking the babies to their doctor’s appointment, not calling the plumber, not doing the dishes, not moving the laundry to the dryer, not taking Caroline to ballet, not putting Lincoln on the bus to school, not making dinner, not taking a picture, not changing the dog’s foot bandage, not taking out the trash…nothing. LIFE IS CANCELED.

Unfortunately, that’s not how this works. None of those things go away and dealing with the consequences of not doing them is going to be more annoying than just doing them. Plus my four small humans don’t let me get away with skipping meals or bedtimes or activities they want to go to. It’s good, really. If I didn’t have all these kids I might let myself slip slowly – instead of just wearing my slippers to the bus stop, I might not leave the house at all. Instead of having a fun day baking with the kids and then eating a handful of mints, I might sit on the couch and eat a pint of ice cream every night. Instead of spending maybe probably definitely too much on presents to make this Christmas extra magical, I might let the sadness of missing E this month overwhelm me.

Speaking of E, I finally had a chance to talk to my husband over Thanksgiving. It was such a relief. Even if we don’t get him back for a lot longer, being able to update him on everything that’s been going on and let him know that we’re OK.

And we are. Ok, I mean. Operation Keep Them Busy has been a raging success. December is officially here and we have plans almost every single day. We kicked off the month with the train to the North Pole followed by a day of holiday fun in Mystic. We haven’t been to the aquarium in a couple months and Finnegan was REALLY into it. We’ll be headed back soon so he can run around squealing at the fishes.

Oh and we saw Elsa. Caroline and Linc were in heaven.

Deployment Milestones: A Brief List

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

A few of the deployment milestones we’ve reached since August:

  1. The day of.
  2. When you wake up the morning after and realize this is just the FIRST DAY.
  3. The moment you get caught up on laundry and put away your spouse’s last item of clothing.
  4. What feels like the first major crisis.
  5. The first time some service person says “Well, talk it over with your husband…” and you say “Well, actually he’s deployed so I’ll probably just decide on my own because I haven’t heard from him and I’m not exactly sure when I will and things are complicated so…”
  6. A holiday.
  7. The first REAL major crisis.
  8. When you finally get an email.
  9. The first time some service person says “Well, talk it over with your husband…” and you say “No, it’s just me”.
  10. The first trip to urgent care.
  11. That moment when you make a big financial decision you wouldn’t usually dream of making alone.
  12. First major crying breakdown.
  13. The first OMG WHAT am I even going to do major crisis.
  14. When some service person says “Well, talk it over with your husband…” and you just say “OK” because it’s easier.
  15.  Doing something you hate and usually your spouse would do but that’s not an option.
  16.  Using your power of attorney.
  17. Losing 10 lbs because being on a diet is easier alone.
  18. Completely throwing your diet out the window because being alone is horrible.
  19. When you wake up one morning and realize this is totally normal now.
  20. HALFWAY.

We’re not at that last one yet, but it’s getting closer every day.

 

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