Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bedtime and bathtime.

I love bedtime and bathtime for my kids.  For many reasons.  In fact, I'm usually a little sad when I can't be there for bedtime for my kids.  It's like our little family time.  We start bedtime at 7 pm (which is early for a lot of families, but perfect for mine).  After gathering the necessary water bottles, stuffed animals, and books, we all head upstairs (including my husband, assuming he isn't gone for a meeting) and put all 3 of the kids in the bathtub together.  There is probably only about 4 inches of water in the tub, and we don't even always use soap or shampoo.  Really, it's more about calming down and having a little transition time before they have to get in bed.  We tell stories, play guessing games where I'll say a line from one of their books and they have to guess the book, and everyone gets to just sit for a few minutes. 

One by one, we get them out of the tub and dressed in pajamas. Then it's time to brush hair and teeth; I brush their hair while they brush their teeth. It's time then for family prayer, after which they each get to choose a book to read as we sit on the bottom bunk bed.  We sing "I Am a Child of God", give hugs and kisses, and Dad leaves while mom helps them say their personal prayers, reads a chapter from a book (Charlotte's Web right now), and then sings a song, before leaving them.  I love it.

Granted, there are times when all 3 kids are screaming before, during and after the bath, and you just want to shut the door and run away.  But those aren't the norm.  The norm is that I get to sit in the relatively quiet with my kids, and just enjoy their company.  I know that they will only be little for a short while longer, and I'm trying to soak it all in.  This is one of those times when I can do that.  Far too soon, they'll have to just shower and get dressed and ready by themselves.  They won't want to sit on Mom's lap and read a story before bedtime.  But for now, I get to enjoy these little ones every single night.  And I do.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Getting out of the house

It's not an easy thing to take 3 kids out of the house.  For one thing, it takes forever to get a diaper bag packed with diapers, wipes, snacks, tissues, water bottles, hats, etc.  It would be so much easier in some ways to just stay home and never worry about going anywhere.  I had to make a conscious decision to take my kids to a weekly activity, whether it's the library, the park, or wherever.  Inertia will otherwise take over my family and I'll look back and say "Wow, there were some really cool things we could have done and experienced as a family." 

I have a list hanging up on my fridge of free activities and ones that cost money.  When I think of something or see something online or in the paper, I add it to the list.  Not all of the activities work out.  Just last week we drove to what I thought was a free museum (that's what I get for growing up near the Smithsonians) and found out it was going to cost $7 to take my kids.  It wasn't worth it to me, so we drove to the closest park instead.  Sometimes it's exhausting to me as well as to the kids to go do things, but then my 4 year old will say something like "That was the best thing ever!" and I know it was worth it.

It was difficult at first for me to start going on activities without my husband and just with my kids.  For one thing, it's awful helpful to have another set of hands.  But also, I like spending time with him and having him do fun things with us.  It's just not reasonable, though, to wait to do all activities when Dad is home from work in the evenings or on the weekends.  I think I'm adjusting to that and just learning to take lots of pictures and make sure the kids tell Dad about their day and what they've done.

It's getting easier to take the kids out and about, and I'm sure a lot of that is because they're getting older.  If you're nursing or have a baby that takes a bottle, it's even more coordinating that takes place.  But, what a great experience it's been for me to get out of the house and experience so much.  Until I started looking, I had no idea how many free and fun activities there are in the area.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Don't be vindictive.

vin·dic·tive [vin-dik-tiv]–adjective: disposed or inclined to revenge; vengeful
As teenagers, my siblings & I would frequently hear my mom say "Don't be vindictive".  This was usually when one of our friends did something to make us angry or hurt our feelings.  She would tell us not to waste our energy trying to get even or react to them, but to move on.  I had no idea this advice would apply to me as a mother as well.

The other day my children made one of the biggest messes they've ever made of my kitchen.  This picture doesn't really do it justice, as it was taken after they had cleaned up some. The floor was covered with water, milk, carrots, hot cocoa, half a bottle of ranch dressing, every apron, and half the kid cups and bowls.  My 2 year old was sitting on the counting, dumping out a packet of dry honey ham glaze all over everything and laughing.  I was not laughing. 

This is one of those moments as a parent when I'm sure I could have just laughed about the whole thing.  Or, I could have taught them a calm lesson about listen to our conscience and what we know if right or wrong.  Or, I could have politely explained to them why they shouldn't dump food all over the floor.  I didn't do any of those things.  I just lost it.  Granted, my losing it is not quite as scary as it could be, but I was furious.  Apparently when they had made a giant mess several months ago, I didn't quite get the point across. My 4 year old said "Sorry we made such a mess mom.  We were having fun."  My 2 year old doesn't know the concept of remorse, so he was still laughing.

I was angry enough, that I just wanted them to be punished somehow and feel guilty for what they had done.  I wanted to be vindictive.  I remembered something my wise sister had told me before - that the point is not to make your children feel guilty, because they won't; the point is to make them understand that there are consequences for their actions.  I'm good at feeling guilty, though.  It's something I inherited.  And I think that because of that I wanted my children to feel guilty about what they had done.  It actually took me at least an hour before I felt like I was over it and not angry at my children for their actions. 

I understand that they're just little kids and they're not trying to be mean.  They also don't quite understand the concept of "wasting" food by dumping it out or of not wanting to clean up a mess. But, wow, it's hard not to feel vindictive even of little kids sometimes.  It's one of those things you're never told before you have children.  As parents, we still have to move on and get over the things our children do, just as we did with our teenage friends.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A spoonful of sugar

Being Mary Poppins is exhausting.  It's hard work to make things fun and exciting for my kids.  It would be so much easier in many ways to just not try to make them clean up after themselves, or behave, or go to sleep, or be nice to each other, etc. etc.  But it's oh so true that if I add some fun into these things, my kids enjoy it and do it.  I don't really enjoy cleaning up clutter, so of course my kids don't enjoy cleaning it up.  But if we march the toy animals into their box while singing a song or race the cars back into the box, the cleaning goes much faster and none of us are whining or frustrated.  Of course, I'd still love to be able to snap my fingers and have them march themselves into the boxes.  I just have to tell myself, sometimes over and over again, that if I "train up my child" now when they are young, they will learn and be able to do it by themselves someday.  Right?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

When I'm a mom, you can still be a mom.

Several times a week I hear the phrase (from my 4 yr old) - "Mom, when I'm a mom, you can still be a mom".  It's then followed up with a phrase like one of the following:
"You can cook with me."
"I get to choose what we have for lunch every single day".
"I can drive the car and you can sit up front with me."
"You can come and stay with me. For 15 minutes."

I find it somewhat flattering.  I'm assuming that what she is saying is that she wants to be a mom and that I don't have to change who I am (a mom) even when she's bigger.  I'll enjoy these days of her wanting me to be her mom and hopefully remember them when she's a teenager and my being her mom is not necessarily something she's enjoying.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Rowdy stuffed animals

The stuffed animals are getting kind of rowdy tonight.  I had to go in and tell my 4 yr old at 9 pm that it was 5 minutes until lights out. (She's been in bed since before 8 pm).  She said the animals were laughing and bouncing all over the place.  Apparently they're the ones being loud tonight and not her, so I had to tell them it was bedtime as well.

I love having an imaginative child.  I love that each of her stuffed animals has a name, and we all know them - Ariel, Punch, Jello, Tutu, Goofy, Donald, etc.  I love hearing her carry on full conversations with them, with each of them speaking in a different voice.  And I love that her little brother can be sound asleep in the bunk bed below her while this is going on (with his one stuffed animal - a dog named "Puppy").  Here's hoping she never stifles that creative side and finds a great outlet for it as she gets older!