Summertime. I mean, really.

First day of summer break. Awesome and awful all at once. I woke up Monday to a child screaming, “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mama!” I jumped out of bed worried about what the screaming was, only to find that the boys were watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Augustus Gloop’s chunky butt was screaming for his mommy from the tube. I crawled back into bed for a minute.

Once I gained my bearings I climbed into my running shoes and poured a cup of coffee to chug before my summertime baby-sitter arrived. I hired someone (actually a teenager I used to babysit when I was a teenager) to sit with the kids in the morning Monday through Friday so I can continue on with my runs while the boys are on break. She pulled into the drive way and I took off.

I got a great run in, although I’m still not in what I consider “shape”, I was able to run two, under 9 minute miles so I was good with that. I relieved the sitter and hopped in the shower. Afterwards I worked on garage organization while the kids played in the yard, searching for worms so we could go fishing. We were starved by 11:30 and the boys have established an obsession with Subway so we loaded into the car, had sandwiches (veggie for me – have I mentioned that I’ve lost 6 pounds since the beginning of May?) and then stopped at a convenience store to pick up bait (you can buy bait, beer, chips, dip and lottery tickets all at the same venue in Ohio).

We pulled into the park and unloaded our fishing gear. Josh’s dad bought the boys fishing poles and all that goes with it so I fumbled for a few minutes trying to figure out how to pull the line through the rod, hook the bobber and attach the hook. I managed though and within little time the boys were looking at me like I was the definition of badass ūüôā

We fished for about an hour, maybe a little more, and I was impressed with how quickly the boys caught on. Theo could cast like a master fisherman and Parker caught three fish! I was also a little surprised with how unafraid Theo was. He’s usually very squeamish about all things but when it comes to animals something is just different. He caught one fish, grabbed it and began to release the hook when Ruby tripped over his line causing the hook to dig into his finger. He freaked out for a minute but it wasn’t that bad so he shook it off like a champ. In the meantime, every fish Parker caught waged a war between he and I. I’ve declared this summer as the season of learning and I’m digging my heels in when it comes to making sure the boys do the things they can do, on their own. I read an Ann Landers quote recently that basically sums up my personal parenting philosophy and I’ve taken it to heart.

“It is not what you do¬†for¬†your children, but what you have taught them to¬†do for themselves¬†that will make them successful human beings.‚ÄĚ

Anyway, I told the boys from the get go that I would help them bait their hook and cast a couple of times but that was it. If they wanted to fish, they had to fish. Parker was totally creeped out by the wriggling fish every time he reeled one in so we spent about four minutes per fish (the first two at least) arguing about whether he should pull the hook from the fish’s mouth or whether I should. And then the third fish happened. I watched him literally, mistakenly, cast his rod into the first dip of water and within two seconds a fish had caught. Excitedly, he reeled it in only to find that the fish had swallowed the hook. As soon as I saw it several choice words flew through my brain.

Park worked on getting that hook out for about three minutes before I finally said, “Okay, we’ve got to get this fish back into the water or it’s going to die.” I threw the fish back in still attached to the hook. Parker flipped. He was going to de-hook this fish and save its life. He told me to reel it in again because he was going to get the hook out. He asked that I gently step on the fish so he could get a better grip and then he proceeded to try every angle while tearing up and bickering back and forth with me for twenty. minutes. Twenty minutes. It was so pitiful and though I was annoyed with his squeamishness, I felt so bad for the little guy by the end of it. Eventually I told him it was a lost cause. The fish was dead. We had to cut the line and just throw him back. All three kids broke down crying and we all hugged in the 85 degree weather by the pond in the park.

We called it a day and discussed whether we’d ever go fishing again. Theo said absolutely not because he “can’t handle when things die. Except for germs.” Parker said yes because he had had a blast until the third fish fiasco but next time he’ll bring gloves to better handle the fish. We headed off to the library to return some books and check out new.

When we got home I realized that I had left the garage door open. Now, our garage is not for our car. It’s at a really terrible angle in our driveway and I’m actually not even sure that our van would fit even if we could make the required turn. If I had my way, I’d tear the damn thing down. On top of our inability to use the garage for what a garage should be used for, we need a new door. The one we have is ragged, ugly and off the tracks.

As I pulled the door down, the stupid thing got stuck. With my handbag and library books in my right hand, I used my left hand to partially  re open the garage door so I could pull it closed, but as the door dropped, my left hand caught inside of one of the sections and began to smash as the door continued to lower.

Though I didn’t make any noise, all I could think was, “Holy shit, my fingers are being cut off and I’m here by myself with my three kids who will just be completely traumatized.” Parker thought it too because he screamed and said, “Mom! Are your fingers there? Are you fingers there?” I dropped everything I was holding in my right hand and slowly began lifting the door. As the door lifted, it got tighter and I grew even more scared thinking there was no way out. Luckily, after a certain point I realized that I could manually separate the sections of the garage door that my hand was stuck between and managed to escape with a minor gash and three bruised knuckles. It actually didn’t even hurt that badly but it was scary as shit. I held it together until I was in the house and then 5 minutes later, when the kids were distracted, I called Josh and broke down crying.

The rest of the night was filled with vodka and lemonade (duh), eating dinner outside and Face Timing  my aunt, sister and husband. After the kids were in bed I vegged on the couch while drowning my sorrows in Housewives and London Ladies. Day 1 is in the books.

 

Advertisements

Laundrygate.

Oh what a morning. It’s one of those where you just have to laugh because otherwise you’d go insane. Luckily I have this hysterical little boy called Theo to lighten the mood.

It all started when I told Parker to grab a uniform shirt from the dryer. Yep that’s right. A school uniform because, you know, Mayor DeBlasio thinks it’s imperative to issue a commuter warning (stay off of the roads) but not to cancel public school. Hmmmm…

Anyway, Parker went to grab a shirt from the dryer which was filled with a load of the kids’ laundry. He came back with a white undershirt covered in blue marks and said, “Mom, there are blue marks on¬†everything¬†in the dryer.” Both boys denied having put any markers in their pockets, which happens every so often, and I wasn’t really concerned with it because marker is easy to get out. I went on with my morning and continued packing lunches.

When Theo was done eating breakfast I told him to grab his black gym sweats from the dryer and start getting dressed because surely blue marker wouldn’t show on black pants. But even the pants had bright blue spots all over them. Josh unloaded the dryer and I quickly saw that¬†every single thing¬†was covered in blue. Including several of the boys’ expensive, embroidered school uniforms.

I was mad. We looked through everything but didn’t find any clues as to what or who caused the blue. Both boys vehemently denied leaving anything in their pocket but Theo fought back a smirk while telling us it wasn’t him and passing off the blame to his little sister. At this point, we figured that it had to be a blue crayon because the stains were showing up on everything and were a little waxy. Plus there were no remnants of anything so it must have melted. That just reinforced Theo’s theory. “Coloring with crayons is for babies so it¬†had¬†to have been Ruby.”

As I sat and sprayed Spray & Wash on all of the blue stains I checked the pockets of the clothes. Wouldn’t you know, there was one single pocket from one single pair of little jeans that turned up bright blue.¬†

But I wasn’t mad anymore. I mean how do you stay mad at a kid who says, “Well I think the blue makes the clothes look kind of fancy.”

 photo 7a7b1b75-260e-41db-8c66-620fd7997f76_zps9887e2c5.jpg

 

Tips and tricks for being a stay at home mom. Or dad. Or just a mom or dad. Or just a person.

Today marks my little sister’s last day in the United States Air Force. She’s starting a new chapter in her life and though it took me a while to get on board with her decision, I’m on board now. Next week she’s moving to Alaska, getting married and starting her new life preparing for her precious little guy’s arrival in May. Since she’s going to have her very first home to make for her new family, and since I’m her know it all big sister, I thought I’d share some advice to help her get started on figuring out this whole “grown up” thing.

1. Buy a washer with a timer. Seriously. It is glorious to have your laundry washed by the time you wake up. All you have to do is throw it in the dryer, sort, fold and put away. Laundry builds up quick. Especially with a newborn, so get routine and stick to it.

2. Don’t fold your pajamas or workout clothes or towels. Best advice ever! Folding all of that stuff is a time suck. It’s okay if your pj’s are wrinkled and most workout clothes are made out of materials that don’t wrinkle. I throw mine and the kids’ (Josh is a little prissy and prefers his nice and neat) straight into the designated drawers and it takes me 5 seconds versus 5 minutes. As for towels, we don’t have a linen closet in our apartment so I just keep a clothes basket on top of the dryer and throw the towels in it after they’re clean. I know it’s unconventional but when you get past the stigma, you’ll realize that it’s completely practical.

 photo IMG_7785_zpsf9a5095e.jpg

3. Make your bed. If you are completely bogged down by mommy duty and you can’t get anything else done around the house, just make your bed. Seeing a nice, neat bed (even if it’s amongst chaos) will help you feel tidier and more relaxed. I read this in a “Happiest Mommy on the Block” sort of book a few years ago and it works. Plus it feels fantastic to tuck into a crisp bed.

4. Go to bed early. Yes, it sounds lame but once you have a newborn waking you up all hours of the night (or a 6 year old starting your day at 5 am), lame will no longer be a bad thing. Lame will equal sleep and sleep is happiness. Some of my best nights have included being in bed by 9:30.

5. Drink coffee first thing every morning. It’s magic potion. Taking this a step further, buy a coffee maker with a timer. Waking up to coffee already made is as equally as wonderful as waking up to laundry already cleaned.

6. Make lists. Write down everything. Make menus, grocery lists, budgets, to do’s, husband’s to do’s, etc. I even separate my lists in to categories – ie. grocery lists are written in the order of the store aisles, which you’ll know like the back of your hand within a month.

 photo IMG_7794_zpsc5046ad5.jpg

7. Buy rubber floor mats for your car. It might seem like an unnecessary expense but I promise you the first time little jr tosses his cookies in the car, you’ll know you got your money’s worth.

8.¬†Learn to love dark furniture. This goes into the same category as the floor mats. There’s basically a law that says anything that can get dirty will get dirty so just do yourself a favor and buy a brown couch.

9. Decorate with purpose. Those toys that will eventually be thrown all over the house every single day of your life look a lot cuter placed in baskets or storage ottomans.

 photo IMG_7769_zpsd53115d9.jpg

10. Embrace the monotony. It’s true what they say. The days are long but the years are short. Really, really short.

And as a bonus, Josh’s advice to Blake: Happy Wife, Happy Life.

I love you sis and I’m very proud of you. You’re brave and a little crazy. Just like always. ūüėČ

A morning with Parker’s class.

I forgot how much I love spending time in little classrooms. Up until we moved to New York last April, I spent a lot of time in Parker’s schools. In Cape May I volunteered once a week working in the teacher’s lounge, helped run the class parties, chaperoned field trips, and attended all of the school concerts, awards assemblies, and after school family nights. In Texas I was the room mom, I planned and organized all of the holiday parties, went to the school fundraiser dinners as well as the special assemblies and events. I loved it and it always made me wish I’d finished my education degree.

But in New York City public schools, there isn’t much opportunity for parental interaction. There aren’t really any awards assemblies, concerts, holiday parties or family events. You’re not even allowed to have lunch at the school, which is something Parker used to love for me to do. Now excuse me while I step up onto my soap box for a minute. ¬†Being a presence in your child’s school is so important. Not only does it show your kid that you care about their education and what goes on in their daily life away from home, but it opens up a dialog with your child’s teacher that normally parents don’t get. I don’t understand people who have the ability to be involved but choose not to be.¬†Okay, I’m done now.¬†

Today was my first real day in Parker’s class in almost a year. The third graders finally finished up their informational writing unit and parents were invited in for a reading of the essays. Let me just say, these essays were a pain in the ass. Parker wrote his on sharks and while he just might be a little expert on the subject, writing this paper involved several hours of research, arguments and discussions about plagiarism, and an eventual turning of the back to mom and heading to dad for help. The cover page alone took an hour to design and print.

I headed into the school with Ruby in tow because Josh wasn’t able to take the morning off to come along (or stay home with Rubes). I was a little nervous about bringing her because she has been pretty demanding lately and shows no signs of Parker’s shyness or Theo’s desire to meld with the big kids. She couldn’t care any less about what the teacher thinks (Parker’s huge on not disappointing authority) or acting like a big kid (Theo used to sit at a desk and not move if that’s what the rest of Parker’s class was doing).

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 11.50.05 AMDon’t let that picture fool you.¬†

We spent 45 minutes listening to the kids’ essays and during that time Ruby took her shoes off and refused to put them back on, licked Parker’s face and piercingly screamed three times – and not because anything was wrong, she just wanted the attention of the class I guess. Parker let her share his seat with him and gave her one of his pencils and post it notes so she could draw. He never seemed annoyed or embarrassed and when I mentioned that I may have to just take her and go, he insisted that she wasn’t a distraction and that they were almost done. Luckily the teacher had donut holes for everyone because Ruby was not planning on leaving without taking Parker with her. The donut was just enough of a distraction to get her out of the school before she started wailing.

I had to laugh because while I used to get complimented on Theo’s behavior anytime I took him into the school with me, today I got complimented on how well Parker handles his sister. Basically it was, “Your daughter’s out of control but your son is a really sweet big brother.” Ha!

Even though Rubes was a little nuts, I still had a good time. It was nice to see Parker interact with his friends (he’s the leader of the table and it was adorable seeing him instruct the 5 kids he’s responsible for) and to put a face to some of the names I’ve heard so often. It was also a relief to hear that Parker wasn’t the only one who had issues with plagiarizing. Let’s just say there were a lot of words that were unable to be pronounced during those 45 minutes.

Today reminded me how much I love the atmosphere of elementary schools. Don’t tell Josh but it even got my wheels spinning towards the possibility of going back to college. In the meantime, I’m going to continue doing as much as I can here and waiting patiently to get back to a school district where volunteering is encouraged. And next week I get to make pizzas with Kindergarteners as a chaperone for Theo’s first ever field trip. That should make for a good time ūüėČ

Boy trouble.

In this corner of the ring, we have Parker – the dominating, manipulating, always in charge, boss of the house, everything belongs to me, big brother!

And in this corner of the ring, we have Theo – the sneaky, whining, personal space violating, but he caused me to do it, nothing is ever my fault, little brother!

 photo 2678dc03-a224-46ff-830d-bd7e477252b1_zpsabf36b22.pngCute huh? Those were the good old days. 

Holy cow. My house feels like a boxing ring lately. It’s punch for punch, back and forth between Parker and Theo but Josh and I are the ones taking the blows. Generally, I feel like we kinda know what we’re doing when it comes to this parenting stuff but the constant bickering between our boys is something that’s leaving us scratching our heads. They’ve always fought but nothing compared to what the past few months have been like. It gets so bad that sometimes I think they can’t stand each other.

The problem is easy to point out. They’re completely different. I don’t know if two people born within two and a half years of each other, into the same house, with the same parents have ever been more different. Parker is more like me and Theo is more like Josh. Parker is more of an introvert who likes to keep his things and his thoughts private (for the most part) and Theo is an extrovert who wants to share everything with everyone and expects that others should do the same in return. Parker is less emotional while Theo is extremely sensitive. Their opposite personalities have always been what balances them, just like Josh and I balance each other, so our family has typically been pretty steady. But instead of creating balance, their opposite traits have been creating friction and quite frankly, it sucks!

As easy as the problem is to pin down, finding the solution is equally as hard. First and foremost, it’s difficult for Josh and I not to take sides. Obviously, since Parker is more like me, it’s easier for me to understand his perspective. I was the oldest kid and I remember what it’s like to have annoying, nagging little siblings. The same goes for Josh with Theo. He always says that Theo is such a sweet and giving (He told Parker the other night that Theo would give him the shirt off his back) little brother who only wants Parker’s attention. I think that’s a normal point of view for the youngest, which Josh is in his family.

Even if Josh and I maintain neutral ground, we can’t seem to figure out how to solve the boys’ problems while maintaining respect for each of their unique personalities. How do I teach Parker that people¬†are more important than things without taking away his control over his own personal belongings? How do I teach Theo that his brother wanting his own space isn’t a personal attack, without driving a wedge between the two of them? More plainly, how do you encourage sharing, teamwork, camaraderie, and putting family first, without squelching two separate little growing individuals? I don’t want to take away the control Parker desires but I don’t want him to be a dictator either. I don’t want Theo to allow himself to be exploited but I also don’t want him to think he is owed something because he’s the little guy.

 photo DSCN0690_zps0db882c2.jpg

A few years ago I read Denis Leary’s book, “Why We Suck,” and took away something that helps me get through the days without calling up a psychiatrist or admitting us all to the loony bin. He said that dysfunction becomes normal when you’re confined to sharing the same four walls with people for a lifetime. Living with other people, even if they’re the people you love most in the world, is hard and I know it’s normal for brothers to fight. But at this point, if Josh and I don’t come up with something soon to help cut the tension, my solution will be a nice, thick pair of earplugs.

My kids and chores.

Growing up the oldest of three in a family with two working parents meant that I helped out a lot around the house. My first official chore started when I was 8 years old and charged with washing the dishes. In the 18 years that I lived at home, we never had a dishwasher so starting before I could even reach the sink, I was scrubbing pots and pans by hand. I remember my mom taught me to wash in a specific order: cups, plates, bowls, silverware, pots and pans; that way the water in the sink would stay clean longer. I started out standing on a stool and if I didn’t clean them well enough the first time, I’d have to wash them again. Our sink overlooked our yard so, often, as I washed dishes I also watched my friends playing outside.¬†I hated it. Loathed it. And promised myself that my kids would never do chores.

Washing the dishes wasn’t my only chore. I babysat my brother and sister frequently, did laundry, cleaned our bathroom and pretty much anything else my mom asked me to do and I didn’t get paid. There were a few times when we’d start an allowance program but it always fell through so I built up a lot of resentment towards the idea of making kids do chores. Especially because the older and older we got, the more unbalanced our family responsibilities were.

After I graduated high school, Josh and I got our first apartment together and struggled with delegating housework between the two of us. I had grown up with things done a certain way and Josh had grown up with things done by his mother. He couldn’t even be bothered to throw his socks in the hamper regardless of how many times I asked him to and I quickly began to take it personally. I stopped cleaning pretty much altogether and our apartment became awful. After two months of living together, Josh and I came the closest to breaking up that we ever have in our 13 years together. Thankfully we were able to work through it and though it took a good 4 years, we figured out each other’s place when it came to the management of our home. But during those first few years of adjusting, Josh always came back to one explanation for whatever it was that was driving me crazy – “My mom always did that for me.” After we had kids, anytime he’d say this, one thing would run through my mind. “Oh, hell no.”

I realized that Josh was the result of how I always thought I’d parent and decided that maybe there was a middle ground between our two upbringings. The year Parker started first grade he began wanting his own money so Josh and I sat down and discussed where we wanted to go with chores for our kids. It was/is tricky because I do most of the cleaning since I stay home. There wasn’t anything that we really needed help with so honestly, I just thought of the one thing I despise doing and assigned it to Parker. He was officially the dishwasher unloader. We also decided that his allowance would be $4 a week, paid on Fridays, as long as he did his chore everyday without complaining. Since we were beginning to give him his own money we realized that we needed to talk to him about managing his money so we sat down and explained spending and saving. I told him that if he decided to start saving half of his allowance every week when he was just 6 years old, by the time he was 16 he’d have around $1000 in his account. Parker is a natural¬†hoarder saver so his eyes lit up when I explained that when he’s 16, $1000 will help him buy a car or take a trip with friends and he’ll be so happy and proud that he’s been working for that money since he was a kid. We also told him that after a few years he could invest his money into stocks for things like Disney or Apple if he wanted. Having investments sounded very grown up to him and he got actually got excited about saving his money. He agreed to save half of his allowance under the terms that he isn’t allowed to touch his savings account until he’s a teenager. He already has more than $200 in his account!¬†

Over the years, Parker’s chores have increased. On top of unloading the dishwasher (he only unloads the dishes to the counter – I still put them away) he puts away all of his laundry and takes the dog out now that we live in an apartment. His allowance has increased to $6 a week, including the amount he saves, and he now has the option to take 4 media bucks (40 minutes worth of extra media time) instead of the $4 in cash. Some weeks he loses a dollar or two due to a bad attitude or forgotten chores but for the most part our little system works perfectly. I think most importantly though, are the things we ask Parker to do that aren’t on his chore list. The things he doesn’t get paid for. Even though it’s important to give him the opportunity to make a little bit of money and to show him that we appreciate the help, being a part of a family is a responsibility in itself and it’s imperative that he learns that not everything in life is rewarded. He knows better than to say anything along the lines of, “But that’s not my chore…”

Parker’s chores have also set a good example for the little ones. Both Theo and Ruby already love to help out since it seems like such a big kid thing to do and lately, Theo has been giving me suggestions for what his chores could be come this fall (he’ll be starting 1st grade and since that’s when Parker started, we’ve just decided to do the same with Theo). Though I have no idea what I’m going to task him with, I can’t complain about a little guy who’s eager to work!

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 4.38.37 PM

 

The noona addiction.

As a parent, there are certain things that drive me insane. Like kids drinking from baby bottles after the age of one. Josh likes to joke that our kids don’t get the chance to become attached to their bottles because I rip them away too soon. Parker’s bottles were all thrown in the trash the day before his first birthday, Theo’s were the week before his birthday and though I allowed Ruby to continue on a little longer than the boys, her bottles were still all thrown away two weeks after she turned one.

Like my thing¬†with bottles, I know a lot of people have issues with kids using pacifiers after a certain point but this is something that has never bothered me. Well, I guess there is a certain point where it bothers me but it’s not as early on as a lot of people. Anyway, I allowed the boys to, sort of, ween themselves from their pacifiers and aside from limiting it to a bedtime habit, Josh and I never took it away from them. Parker called his a “nuk” and ended up biting a hole in the end of it. He eventually (right before he turned 3) dropped it under his bed and never asked for it again. Theo called his a “noonga” and used it at bedtime until he was almost three as well. Unlike Parker, he never showed signs of losing it on his own so we called up the “noonga fairy” and asked her to come take it from under his pillow one night so that she could pass it on to another little kid who needed it. She left Theo a lollipop in exchange and he never asked for it again (is it weird that Theo is almost 6 and I¬†still¬†have his noonga stored away? Ha!) Ruby took the noonga to another level and calls her’s a “noona.” She also took the noona obsession to another level and refuses to give it up in any capacity at all. She’s on the cusp of turning two and completely relies on having her noona under any dire circumstance and to her, riding in the car is dire, playing in her room¬†is dire,¬†sitting on the couch is dire.

 photo IMG_7339_zps33d5b6f1.jpg

Honestly, it still doesn’t bother me. The old school fear of orthodontic problems caused by pacifiers is long gone and she actually looks kinda cute with her little smile peeking out from behind her noona. What is driving me nuts is that she speaks really, really well but half of the time you can’t understand what she’s saying because her pacifier is plugging her mouth. This week I decided to start our very slow process of loosing the noona. We have a “noona bowl” on our sofa table where Ruby knows she can always find one. I decided that I’d just try keeping all of the noonas in the bowl rather than thrown about the house, that way maybe she just wouldn’t think about it. You know, out of sight out mind sort of thing. But it wasn’t that easy. She didn’t forget. And when she asked for her noona, instead of telling her to go check the noona bowl, I said, “Oh I don’t know where it is but that’s okay you don’t need it.” Immediately, she started screaming bloody murder with tears streaming down her cheeks. Girls are so much different than boys. If she were a boy all I’d have to say is “Oh look at that shiny thing!” and she’d be off to the next thing just like that. But girls don’t distract as easily and she was adamant that her life was ending without her noona.¬†So I gave it to her and we’re back to square one.

The thing is, like I said, I don’t really care that Ruby is still so attached to her pacifier but I’m a little worried that if she’s this addicted to using one now, it can’t possibly get easier as we go on. I guess for now we’ll just let things progress as they progress and see how it goes. And in the meantime, I’ve got to start working on getting her over her fear of the potty. Maybe I can bribe her with a noona ūüėČ