High-tech convenience is making my life harder

I’m probably somewhere in the middle of the scale of my generation when it comes to using the best/fastest/easiest inventions to make my life better/faster/easier. I refuse to put a DVR player in my minivan, but I do have a cable TV system that I can control with voice commands.  I use an online grocery delivery service, but I won’t buy Lunchables.  I use a coffee mug to drink my coffee instead of disposable cups, but I use K-cups to make that coffee.  I’m as amused and impressed as the next guy when new ideas to improve convenience are marketed to the masses, but I always have a weird twinge of guilt, like I’m cheating by taking the easy way.  I don’t know why that is.

What I do know, though, is that some of the conveniences I regularly enjoy are also finding sneaky ways to make my life harder. Continue reading

Sprout Score Book Reviews

As a book-loving parent, I spend a lot of time reading, reading, and re-reading children’s books to my family.  Since I have three kids, including twins, there is an ever-present array of books scattered throughout my house. They might have a permanent home on a bookshelf, but spend most of their days in use or scattered across the floor, waiting for the next time.  We make regular trips to the library too, so there is also a library heap that stays stacked in the living room to reduce the chances of getting lost. It may change in content and height, but the library heap is a regular part of our decor.

Though I have three kids, my focus for Sprout Score reviews will be the books my twin daughters are reading.  There are a lot more books rotating through this house for them than my school-age son, simply because his days are filled with other activities and his books take more time to read.  So this blog series will be devoted to books for toddlers and pre-schoolers.

These reviews will not only be a simple synopsis of the story. As a parent, I find it very helpful to hear what other parents, and especially other kids, think about the products/books/activities they see and do every day.  So, each review will contain a Sprout Score and a Reader Rating:

Sprout Score

  1. ★ I won’t sit still to read this book
  2. ★★ I’ll sit but I will be bored
  3. ★★★ I’ll sit and be interested
  4. ★★★★ I really like this.  I’ll point and interact.
  5. ★★★★★ I love this!  Again!  Again!

Reader Rating

  1. ★ I’m bored while I read this out loud.
  2. ★★ I’m indifferent while I read out loud, just another book.
  3. ★★★ Good book, I enjoy reading out loud.
  4. ★★★★ I have fun and feel good about reading this out loud.
  5. ★★★★★ A favorite that I love to read to my kids and will remember.

Since this series is all about sharing, I welcome and encourage you to give your rankings in the comments if you have read the book being reviewed with your kids, too.

Let’s Read!

 

 

 

6 Ways Sleep Training Twins Is Like Caring For Drunk College Roomates

If you have any kids past the age of three, you’ve lived to tell the tales of removing the crib walls and the hours upon hours spent struggling to get your child to stay put in the new big kid bed. There are tears, exhaustion, and screaming, and the toddler might get upset too.  We are living through this right now in our house, with the additional entertainment of living through it with twins.

For a while now, my daughters have been running the show.  They aren’t taking naps and they are awake longer than my first grader every night.  I don’t understand how they are physically capable of being awake for that many hours.  It is slowly starting to shift;  I lived through this once with my son and I know it gets better.  But that doesn’t make it any less maddening.

Managing this process with one child takes patience.  Adding a playmate to the same room ensures a merry-go-round of mayhem.  In between the constant trips back and forth to break up the party, instead of stewing and going crazy, I’ve started to discover the similarities to another time of life.

I think back to my early twenties when nights out didn’t start until 10 pm and the only time I saw the sunrise was because I hadn’t gone to bed yet.  Those days are so very long gone, but the memories of caring for roommates who had one too many drinks are some of the best stories that remain from that time. Strangely enough, nights caring for tipsy roommates share quite a few similarities to nights juggling slap-happy twins:

  • They keep asking for just one more drink.
  • They think it’s hilarious to take off their clothes.
  • The more frustrated you get the more they laugh at you.
  • Hysterical giggling abruptly turns into sobs of despair.
  • The longer they stay awake the greater the chances of dealing with a hazmat situation.
  • Making sure they go to sleep in their own beds eliminates any morning-after drama.

The last few nights are already seeing quicker results, but I’m not ready to believe this is over. Bright summer evenings and warm upstairs bedrooms are just around the corner, and I expect that to bring out the clowns once again.  In the meantime, I am just expecting the worst and enjoying when it’s not, and trying my best to look at the funny side of all of it instead of banging my head into the drywall.  Like all phases, this one will pass, and I can add it to the list of accomplishments I survived and can laugh about later.

 

Dresses, spiders, and laundry; little moments with big lessons

I like to think I am not reinforcing gender stereotypes with my kids.  Even so, I have to constantly remind myself not to say and do the same things I have been subjected to throughout my own lifetime of fighting pink, dresses, and heels. I learned pretty early on that this is a lot harder to do now that I have both a son and two daughters.    Even though I know that I want my kids to be who they are and do what they want, and I feel very strongly about that in my own life and family, I’m realizing it may not always be obvious to my kids.  I also recognize I have to be consistent from now until, oh, forever in how I model this, otherwise it just gets confusing.  Living with me has to be confusing enough as it is, I don’t have to make it worse.

So, even though I do rely on hubby to kill spiders, I somehow have to model that it’s not because I’m a girl, it’s because SPIDERS ARE CREEPY AND EVIL.  And hubby isn’t afraid of that awful squish sound.  Not because he’s a boy, but because our fears are different.  Spiders.  Blech.

So what can I do every day to avoid teaching the wrong lessons?  (the stereotypes, not the spider extermination process)

Well, when Bear and Goose wear dresses and anyone tells them they look beautiful, I have to remember to also tell them they are beautiful when they are wearing mismatched outfits they picked on their own and are dirty and digging in mud.  I have to tell Bean that he is handsome both when he is dressed for church as well as when he is a sweaty mess.  I have to compliment their appearances at a much lower frequency than complimenting other parts of who they are.

When Bean wants to help me cook, wash dishes, or fold laundry, I need to find the patience to let him.  Hubby does all of these things as much or more than me, and is already a great example, so I have to be ok with the six-year-old version of helping.

When my daughters imitate me and throw a purse on their shoulder and wave bye-bye, I can’t say “are you going shopping?”, I have to challenge myself to come up with something other than the easy comment.  So far I have asked if they are going to the library, to work, to the doctor, to play, to the museum, and for some reason I have to think really hard to say something other than shopping.  Why is that?  I don’t go shopping, why would I even say that?  The point is, I’m looking for more creative activities to suggest than what a girl and a purse are stereotypically assumed to be doing.

(Also, just to be snarky, anything that would normally be a “princess” something I choose to use “queen.” If you’re going to aspire to be part of a royal family, at least shoot for the leadership role.)

When it is time to split resources and have one parent outside playing with the kids and one inside being productive, I can’t always default to being the productive one, even if it soothes my overwhelming need to “catch up.” I need to be the parent playing and running around just as much as hubby needs to be the one being productive, because we are equal partners in this circus and our kids need to know that, too.

I recognize these are all small moments in the thousands that go by every day. I’m trying to focus on the little things now before they get older and the little things turn into big things that are hard and confusing. I may get it wrong more often than I get it right, but thankfully I have kids to be the first to point that out. At least that means they know what the right thing is, and they will never ask me to get rid of the spider.

 

When it straight up breaks down

Parents do countless things on a daily basis that can only be explained by “because I am a parent.” We accept a constant barrage of stress, illness, sleep deprivation, fear, guilt, and running our lives around what is best for our children. That is a short and bleak picture, and nowhere near comprehensive.  There is, of course, all of the reasons we wouldn’t change it for anything in the world because we love those little buggers with a power indescribable.  But this post isn’t about all of that.  This post is about what happens to me when that parenting self-sacrifice, that maternal instinct, straight up breaks down.

Thankfully, it doesn’t happen often, and when it does, I can usually look back and see the progression, understand the unlucky combination of events that leads to this point.  But hindsight is only helpful for understanding; I have not yet mastered the ability to realize I am in it while it is happening.  So here I sit in a coffee shop, with a husband at home who has (mostly) lovingly kicked me out of the house to recover, to gather myself, to find the sh*t that I lost. It is cold and icky midwest spring weather outside, so I won’t hit the trails. I hate shopping. I am in no place to talk to any of my friends who would love to listen.  So this is my default.  Sitting with the quiet buzz of grown-ups around me as I drink hot drinks without fear of little hands. I am calm, but it isn’t the watching a sunrise kind of calm, it’s the dumbfounded what just happened? calm when you can’t even gather the energy to shake it off and move on.

Our lives are hectic even on most good days. The last few weeks of my job have been intense.  All three of my kids have been sick  in an alternating and overlapping fashion for three to four weeks.    Hubby and I have not been sleeping enough because when kids are sick there is always overnight assistance needed, on top of late evenings and early mornings.  For the last three days, I had been home with sick kids, trying to work, and hanging on tightly to the tiny sliver of candle I have been torching at both ends for too long.  Yesterday, the candle just disappeared altogether.

You’ve been there, right?  This isn’t just me?  Absolutely no gas left in the tank but no choice but to move forward.  I got Bean to the bus on time.  I fed my daughters.  We played,  we cuddled, we did all of the things we normally do.  But I was on autopilot.  I was letting two toddlers run the show, and thankfully they had no idea.  I desperately looked forward to their nap time so I could just catch a few minutes of rest.  But then they didn’t nap. They jumped and squealed and had a grand old time, and I laid on the couch with a blanket over my head, wanting to drown out the noise but knowing that I had to keep listening for the sounds of danger.  By the time I gave in and got them up, all patience, all creativity, all selfless powers of motherhood were gone.  I was physically there but that was it.  I muddled through until hubby got home.  I ensured safety but gave no more.  I only talked when necessary.  I was a broken mess.  Once the kids were in bed I stared at the tv in silence while hubby avoided me. At some point I gave up and mercifully ended the day, passing out within seconds once I went to bed.

So right now I am out of the house and recovering because I have a very understanding partner who is living through the same events and has kept it together.  We seem to balance our breakdowns, a yin and yang of crazy if you will.   Today it is my turn, and another time it will be his.  Perfect parents with stars on their report cards aren’t the only ones who earn perks like a few hours to think in solitude.  We all need a break, and the helpers who can and do provide that break are extraordinary heroes.  Every day with kids is a new adventure.  After a few hours to myself, I’ll be better prepared to jump back in and not only tackle, but enjoy, the next round.

 

 

Aside

Managing life when your kids are sick: A working parent’s survival guide

  1. After being woken up 23 times by a sick child overnight, have a cup of coffee and try to come up with a mental list of all the productive things you need to get done over the next few days.
  2. Go off on a tangent wondering if there is some philosophical connection between your current mental state and Dory from Finding Nemo.
  3. Forget all of the productive things.  They aren’t getting done anyway.
  4. Repeat.

What I don’t want to tell you, expecting mom of twins

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Hey mom-to-be.  You’re adorable, even though you feel like a swollen hippo that solely dines on crackers and Gatorade.  Every mom feels your struggle – we know the discomfort of pregnancy.  Every mom of multiples knows you’ve got extra things on your plate you weren’t anticipating: being too big for maternity clothes; the extra ultrasounds and doctor appointments simultaneously giving comfort and causing fear; buying two (four, six) of everything and looking around in wonder at how small your home suddenly feels; realizing there are two tiny tenants on the way who are already relying on you for, well, everything.

It’s not that I’m not excited for you.  I am.  I just know the magnitude of hard work and exhaustion that is before you, and I know how little I understood what I had coming when I was in your spot.  I had a four-year-old already. I knew how to raise an infant.  But two babies at once is nothing, nothing, like one baby.  It’s not even multiplied by two, it is exponential.

Curious, well-meaning people are no doubt already asking you strange questions and telling you bizarre stories of people they know with twins.  I’m sorry to say it doesn’t stop.  There is a fascination with twins that seems to make people lose some common courtesy.  Even as two little humans sit adorably and do baby things, you will get asked questions with the kind of wonder usually reserved to the alien and supernatural.  I typically choose to smile and nod; may you have the bravery to answer exactly how you want to answer.

Pay close attention to the detail of all the baby stuff you are preparing.  Read the directions to the machines.  Enjoy the pattern of a cute outfit.  Feel the softness of the new teddy bears. Once your babies are born, your life will go by in such a blur that you most likely won’t have time to appreciate any of those things again until you are packing them up or giving them away.

Any hope of keeping germs to their own people are impossible.  They just are.  You can sterilize, name, organize, sort as much as you want, and then the healthy twin is going to put the boogy-covered finger that was just up the other’s nose in her mouth.  For the first few years of life, someone in your house will be in some state of illness from October through April.

What I do want to tell you, is that of course, it isn’t all struggle.  It is rewarding and beautiful and humbling and wonderful, too.  The best advice I can give you on how to make this any easier is to accept help.  Find the people of your village and let them do anything, anything, anything that is useful.  I had never been great with accepting help.  I had spent most of my life proving, for some reason, that I could handle it on my own.  That all changed, even before my twins were born.  I spent six weeks on complete bed rest and couldn’t even take a shower without help.  That was a hard pill to swallow, but it prepared me for the necessity on the way.  Figure out how to be ok accepting help, how to be specific about what you need, and how to let others take care of not only your children, but you as well.

What I do want to tell you, Mom-to-be, is that you can do this.  Everything in your life will be seen from a new perspective, and nothing will feel as hard as it did before.  You will have weekly opportunities to remind yourself that if you could do that, whatever that is, you can do anything.  And even though you can, bring your village along with you anyway.