So thanks to an insanely packed and hot Open House night on Thursday, Sydney now has a stuffy nose and my husband has a full blown cold. Welcome back to school indeed. I was just commenting the other day how pleasant it’s been to have a sickness free household all summer and how it was all about to end. Guess it was a self-fulfilling prophesy or else just pretty good odds that an elementary school would be a perfect breeding ground for germs. Since the baby is co-sleeping in our room I know that being sandwhiched between the two of them, this cold is coming for me soon. I feel like sick mom walking.

sick mom

Moms Should Be Immune To Germs

You’d think that the sheer volume of bodily fluids moms come into contact with on a daily basis would make moms immune to all manner of illnesses, but alas that’s not the case. I swear I couldn’t tell if it was me or Sydney that reeked of baby vomit yesterday. It was probably both of us. Since I’m breastfeeding that means that when this cold does hit, my options for medicine  are pretty limited. Guess I’ll be drinking lots of OJ and tea and suffering through. It’s what moms do; we put our misery aside, get up (even when our body screams at us to lie down) and take care of the family. Life doesn’t stop just cause mom gets sick.

Mom Juggler

Moms – The Circus Act

Moms are born multi-taskers, juggling the needs of all our family members at once. I’m not saying we get everything done with equal proficiency, but if we didn’t at least try it seems the world would fall apart (at least mine would). Right now I just got off the phone with my husband who’s volunteering today despite feeling yucky, I’m talking to my neighbor on Facebook, watching my kids out in the backyard, writing this post and rocking a fussy baby in her chair with my foot. Sometimes I truly don’t know what I’d do if I had the ability to focus on one task at a time.

sick mom 2

Who Is Mom’s Understudy?

So I have an important question – who takes care of mom when she’s sick? So far I’ve found that in my household the answer is no one. My husband (if I ask/complain enough) will help lighten the load by taking care of the older kids and maybe the cooking. Right now I’m still in survival mode with a newborn. I don’t know if that’s good or not. It just means that I’m used to feeling tired and a bit underwater. It’s amazing how you ALMOST get used to it. The other day my husband had off from work so he got the kids ready for school so I could catch a little more sleep. I actually noticed one layer of fog seemed to have lifted from my brain, BUT with a sick baby who needs her nose sucked out every few hours the feeling didn’t last very long.

The Comfort of MOM

There are days I knew it was going to be harder with three kids, but I think that it’s harder not having my mother around to help me anymore. I have pulled myself from the couch during a nasty stomach bug to take care of two kids, so I know I can deal with three kids and a head cold. I’m just missing the comfort of mom. A shoulder to lean on, someone to baby me and make a fuss as if I’m still the child. There is a physical comfort of a mother that I know all too well when it comes to my own sick kiddos. My husband tries to do the same things, but sometimes they just want mom. I too miss that physical comfort. If your mom is still alive you are indeed blessed.

If you can ask for help from anyone while your sick, do it. Send up an SOS, a bat signal or whatever it takes because even as I say to myself there is no time for me to be sick, the  reality is that it’s going to happen whether I’m ready or not. So I’ll say cheers with my OJ, and send up another prayer that I don’t get this cold, not because I’m so worried about me, but because I worry about who will take care of Will, Sydney, Hannah and Jayden if I’m down for the count. Nobody knows better than a mom how horrible it feels to watch your kids when they feel sick. It’s even worse to watch them feeling miserable from your own tissue filled corner of the couch.

I wish you all a germ free week. Feel free to share you secrets to staying sickness free during the school year.

Lead collage

 

I had this fantasy that I was going to home school my children. It sounded like fun at the time, but then the reality of being out numbered by two feisty little divas quickly changed my mind. But, I did want to teach them some basics like letters and numbers. So I started on a journey to teach my kids their ABC’s and 123’s. I am not a certified teacher so I have no idea how to formally teach, but I do know how to have fun and that my kids really like learning. I introduced our ABC’s and 123’s in some pretty fun ways and with repetition. You don’t need flash cards or need to spend hours teaching your child. Just incorporate teachable moments  into some every day activities and make it fun! I started introducing letters and numbers when my girls were around 18 months. By the time they were 26 months they had mastered ABC’s and could count to 20.

Here are 10 fun ways to introduce letters to your toddler:

EAT YOUR ALPHABET

abc

Cookies-  use your favorite sugar cookie recipe. We simply roll out a tube of store bought sugar cookie dough and press out letter shapes. You can go simple and stick to one letter per week, or go all out and help spell words with your cookies. Either way your kiddo will love the end result and it will be a fun experience.

Pick up premade bread dough or pizza dough to create letter shapes

Pick up premade bread dough or pizza dough to create letter shapes

Pretzels- use store bought pizza or bread dough to make pretzels. Start by pulling off a small piece and rolling into a snake (kids love this part) and help kids form a letter. Key is to roll in extra flour to make dough easier to work with.

Alphabet soup- can’t get any easier than that. Pop a can top and pour, or make from scratch. Whatever works for you!

Sandwiches – use letter cutters to cut shapes out of bread and let your kid slather on the PB&J.

Pancakes – use a squeeze bottle to mix and squirt pancake batter onto hot griddle. Cook and enjoy!

 

SENSORY ABC’s

Cut out letters from play dough

Cut out letters from play dough

Play dough- cut letters out of play dough for an interactive experience.

Shaving cream- spray shaving cream (or whipped cream, yogurt, pudding) onto a tray and show your kids how to make letters using their finger tips. If you worry about the mess your little one will make, squirt shaving cream into a plastic baggie and let the air out. They can trace a letter on the bag and the shape will remain.

Letter hunt- print out letters (or write on index cards) and hide for you kid to find in your yard or around your house. Take the hunt to the streets and point out letters you see while driving through your neighborhood, or while you are at the store.

 

CREATE YOUR ABC’s

Use letter stamps to help kids identify letters

Use letter stamps to help kids identify letters

Stamp it out- use colorful letter stamps to create an alphabet gallery.

Cut letters from magazines and glue to page for a letter collage

Cut letters from magazines and glue to page for a letter collage

Letter collage- help kids find letters in old magazines to cut out and paste on paper.

Print out dot paint ABC's and let kids paint

Print out dot paint ABC’s and let kids paint

Dot paints or bingo dauberson do-a-dot sheets. I printed these out from http://www.dltk-teach.com/alphabuddies/daubers/

Whatever you do to help your toddlers learn make sure it is fun! Never put any pressure to perform or learn quicker than they are ready. Kids all learn at their own pace. We really enjoyed all of these activities! You can use any of the same methods above to teach numbers.

What are some of your favorite fun toddler activities?

 

The Picture of Sleep Deprivation

As I write this post, I thank God you can’t see what I look like. Picture yoga pants, tank top, hair in a sloppy ponytail, dark circles, and an unwashed face. I consider the fact that I got my contacts in this morning without perforating my cornea a win. Last night Sydney decided that she wanted to wake up every hour on the hour to eat. I have no idea what made her go from waking up twice a night to this new nightmarish schedule, but I pray it doesn’t continue. Yes, I put my kids on the bus looking like I was run over by one.

The Never Ending To-Do List

I sit here writing this, thinking about all the other things I should be doing now that Sydney is napping. I realize it’s been at least seven weeks since I’ve even written out a To-Do List for myself. I sit here dreaming of a nap I know I can’t take. Even if I could make my body cooperate, which it almost never does, the thoughts in my head start racing, telling me I should hurry up and unload the dishwasher, finish my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, write this post, figure out what in the hell I’m going to make for dinner, take a shower, put on real clothes, sweep the dinning room, write a note allowing my daughter to get my son off the bus on her own, and on and on. For a SAHM it can be difficult not to feel like the days bleed into one another without stop, but add a newborn and sleep deprivation to the mix and I barely recognize that whole weeks are flying by. I feel like I’m not getting a lot done. I feel sloppy and lazy and oh so very TIRED.

Mom's Night Out

Mom’s Night Out

The other day I watched Mom’s Night Out. It was a great movie and I felt especially connected to the main character – a SAHM of three kids and an aspiring mommy blogger. I won’t divulge too much because it was a great movie, but I will mention two parts I especially identify with (SPOILER ALERT – SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT). She calls herself the Bruce Banner of SAHMs. One minute calm and then inexplicably turning into the Hulk the next. I can relate. I often have “moments” as she calls them, where the stress bubbles over and I lose it. I try to control the Hulk, but sleep deprivation definitely makes it harder.

Yesterday I had to try hard to keep myself from freaking out over my son spilling his apple juice all over the floor. Seems so silly to me now, but sleep deprivation while parenting feels a lot like living on autopilot. I get the basics covered like remembering to get my kids off the bus, monitoring homework time, cooking dinner, getting through the bedtime routine, all the while feeding and changing the baby. Anything else, any extra work just pushes my brain past the scope of it’s lowered capacity and out comes the Hulk. The second part of the movie I really LOVE is when her husband tells her that her job is… and she fills in his pause with the word “hard.” What he says though is “important.” “Your job is important.”

The Hulk

It’s A Thankless Job I’m Thankful For

There are people who think parenting is not really work. After all I don’t collect a paycheck. Hell, I’d settle for a “thank you” most days over whining about what I made for dinner or settling the great “it’s my turn to watch my show on TV” debate. Well moms and dads I don’t need to tell you that this parenting gig is supremely hard sometimes. New parenthood is like boot camp. Your thoughts and decisions become dictated by someone else. I don’t eat, sleep or shower when I want too. I pray for small chunks of time when the baby is napping and the older kids are at school and then I attempt to cram a day’s worth of activities into them.

Would You Rather Eat or Sleep?

It’s crazy when you think about it. It’s torturous to have to decide which of your basic living functions you can have at a given moment. Food vs. sleep. Use the bathroom vs. get a drink of water. Yet we do it. We change our baby’s diaper while we hold our own bladder. We feed our baby while our stomach growls. If you’re like me you bathe your baby, yet have to wait for perfect conditions to arise just so you can take a 15 minute shower that almost feels like a spa, that is until one of your kids barges in telling you that the baby needs to eat so you’d better hurry up. I look around my house at things I should be doing and start to feel like a failure. I feel like being a SAHM means my house should be spotless, my kids impeccably behaved, and I should be a crafting, volunteering, Martha Stewart wannabe. But that’s just not realistic. So I have to remind myself that my job is important. It’s a good reminder to all of us. The important things in life just don’t end up on a To-Do list.

It’s A Marathon Not A Sprint

I’m finishing this post days after I started it. This morning I managed to get my kids washed, dressed and out the door in time for church, while I had to run back upstairs to change my baby vomit and coffee stained shirt. I made sure the kids looked presentable and almost forgot to run a brush through my hair. I need to make a conscious effort to remember myself and that’s what you need to do as well new mamas. Whether this is your first baby or your fourth, if you find yourself back at the starting line 10 minutes after you started this parenting race or 10 years, it makes no difference. It takes some crazy endurance because parenthood is a marathon not a sprint. So I needed this reminder and I hope you find it helpful too - RELAX, BREATHE, REMEMBER THAT WHAT YOU DO IS IMPORTANT, AND REMEMBER TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. THE TO-DO LIST CAN WAIT.

My Netflix subscription has just been validated with the addition of all 7 seasons of the show Californication. While the show is not for kids, my point will be. The story is set around a self-loathing writer named Hank Moody played by David Duchovny. Hank is an alcoholic, sometimes drug addict, sex addict who is trying to repair his relationship with his daughter and her mother. I’m not going to review the show (though I highly recommend it), but it had me thinking. This character has so many issues, but the one thing that he holds above all is his relationship with his daughter.

I have been blessed with 3 awesome boys. They are funny, entertaining, and I feel lost without them around. I think about them constantly. There are times I come home and they can’t wait to tell me what’s on their mind and there are days they won’t say hello for hours. They each take turns playing the role of my wing man.They are all alike, but yet could not be any more different.

The one thing they don’t give me is that look a daughter will give. That look I see on this TV show from a young girl who loves her father so much despite all his indiscretions. I have a feeling that in real life, the relationship flips when the kids get older, but by then, you miss some key bonding years. When they want something, they ask their mother. I am always the second person they want to talk to about their day. My niece travels to Pittsburgh with my brother to see the Steelers play every year. I take my boys to a Yankees game and they keep asking me why mom didn’t come!

I love my boys more than anything, but once in a while, it would be nice to be looked at through the eyes of a daughter.

So…Is this all in my head or is there some truth to the different relationships we have with our children?

3 fun ways edit

Let me start this post with a confession: once the kids go back to school I kind of go on auto pilot with the whole educational crafting at home thing. I feel like I did my due diligence and picked just the right school for them with teachers who are way more patient…er um, qualified than I am. My kids really truly love going to school. They also love to match colors, sort things and use scissors (which are kept under lock and key). Even after 3 hours of learning at school they like to come home to play with puzzles, string beads and make (ugh) more art projects.

Now that they are learning to write their names and draw shapes, it’s time for my kids to hone those fine motor skills. Those are the skills that help them write, use scissors, buttons and zippers, etc. So, I took their love of colors and matching and made these fun activities for them using some (FREE) paint swatches from the hard ware store.

MATERIALS:

All the materials you need to make the 3 activities below.

All the materials you need to make the 3 activities below.

2 matching sets of swatches. I selected each color of the rainbow.

Liquid glue

Scissors

Clothe’s pins

Contact paper (optional)

 

COLOR MATCHING

A rainbow of colors ready for matching.

A rainbow of colors ready for matching.

My mom actually helped me make these. She did it really quick while watching TV with the kids. What? I had my hands full potty training twins and, she had a couple of extra free hands so I put her to work.

Cut thin strips from each color on the color swatch- as wide as your clothes pin. Next, glue the strip onto clothes pin. Once everything dries kids can match the color on the pin to the color on the swatch. Like this:

Kids can clip matching colors onto the swatch.

Kids can clip matching colors onto the swatch.

 

SCISSOR SKILLS

Help kids cut on white line separating the colors.

Help kids cut on white line separating the colors.

This one really requires little or no effort on your part. Just supervision with the scissors. It’s all fun and games until someone’s bangs go missing. Help your kids hold the swatch and cut on the white line between colors.- great practice for developing scissor skills.

 

SPELLING & HANDWRITING

Laminating swatches ensures several uses.

Laminating swatches ensures several uses.

I laminated my swatch strips for durability and so we can use a washable dry erase marker on them. Confession #2: I do not own a laminate machine. I used clear contact paper. Yes, you can use clear contact paper in place of laminate for many projects. We pull out a laminated swatch and I write the letters on each square and help the girls spell the names of the colors, then help them trace the letters.

Laminating with contact paper is easy to do.

Simply cut contact paper to size of item you are covering.

Simply cut contact paper to size of item you are covering.

Cut a second piece to cover your items with and smooth with hand.

Cut a second piece to cover your items with and smooth with hand.

The key to using contact paper as laminate is to move slowly, and smooth out any air bubbles as you go. This faux-laminate is durable enough to withstand the pull of Velcro for any projects with removable pieces.

Wondering what else you can make with color swatches from the hardware store? Check out a few of my favorite finds:

Friday I found myself staring at the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine on the shelf as I was being herded like cattle through the narrow aisle at ShopRite with Sydney strapped to my chest in her carrier blissfully snoozing away. I absolutely loved reading Cosmo in my 20s. Fast forward to my 30s and I haven’t so much as glanced at a copy in a good – oh seven years. That’s how old Hannah just turned, coincidence? Probably not.

Cosmo Cover

The Uncomplicated 20s

The cover was plastered with headlines like “Best. Sex. Ever.” and “It’s Sex O’clock! The Time He Wants You The Most.” I almost laughed out loud. These are the articles I used to read back when I thought the answers were complicated. These are the equivalent of romanticizing the wedding day and then leaving out the fact that the “ending” is really just the “prologue” to life as a grown married adult with children. Yes children – those messy, loud, and amazing little people that are the product of all these articles. So I was thinking as I’m reading them, what would the real titles be like for someone with kids. How about, “It’s Sex O’clock: How To Get In The Mood Before The Kids Kill It.” It’s a little long, I admit, but it’s an article I’d probably read.

Men Decoded

Men aren’t the complicated ones; women are. It made me laugh to see full racks of magazines trying to decode men. Sex O’clock is every second a man is breathing and not eating, sleeping or watching sports – BOOM, pretty simple, but I guess decoding men is very lucrative business that would come crashing down if we actually told women that men are actually uncomplicated. Then you have parenting magazines, that leave the sex headlines to the 20 something mags like Cosmo. There are virtually no articles that tell you about navigating sex and marriage as a mom. The word mom seems to repel the word sex, despite the reality that we in fact became moms because of it.

Wall-Carty pic
(left to right) Mr. Persten, Hannah’s Kindergarten
teacher,
Sean, Allison and their daughter Jordyn.
I met them
while interviewing them for an article for
Hudson Valley
Parent.

The Post Children Booty Call

Now that I have sufficiently covered that rant, on to the “post children booty call.” Two years ago while writing an article for Hudson Valley Parent, I interviewed a mom at my daughter’s Kindergarten Open house. Little did I know that this mom, Allison, along with her husband Sean and two kids Jordyn and Avery would become our very closest friends. It turned out our kids were the same age and we lived in the same neighborhood. We started having “play dates” at each others houses pretty often. It’s very rare that a whole family gets along so well that we literally vow never to move out of the neighborhood without the other family. That’s about as close to a marriage vow as a family can make.

So one day Sean invites us over for a “booty call” as he began calling our regular Friday night get-togethers. It has been in every combination from just moms and kids, dads and kids, both whole families, just one couple and all the kids to one glorious night we hired a baby sitter to watch all of our kids together and went to a restaurant where no parents had to request crayons, cut up anyone’s meat besides our own, and didn’t have to use the word Fudge instead of the F-bomb if we were so inclined.

From “Friends” To “Family”

This past Friday was no exception. We had our friends over for a campfire “booty call” complete with smores. While waiting for them, Hannah and Jay were really getting rowdy. I wish I had a bat signal I could send up like a flair in the sky to let them know we really needed them to come quickly. I have found great strength of sanity in numbers. Allison told me that her daughter Jordyn had asked her if she and Hannah were like sisters and she told her that they had different parents to which Jordyn replied, “Well, like cousins then?” Jordyn’s rationale was that she sees my kids more often then her own cousins. So the new status of honorary cousins was granted.

Gender Reveal
Sharing important life events – Hannah and Jay
with Avery and Jordyn at our “gender reveal booty call.”
All the kids learned we were expecting a baby girl (Sydney)
when they bit into the pink icing at the same time.

These are the relationships you aren’t likely to read about on magazine covers. The ones where you quietly adopt an entire family and agree to make them as important to you as your own flesh and blood. Yet, these are probably the most important ones If you are lucky enough to find them. They are more than mere playdates where our kids play together. I see ways in which our family is rubbing off on theirs and vice versa. We’re not just planning our next “booty call” every Friday; we’re planning our lives with each other.

So the next time you read one of these 20 something magazines trying to get you to complicate your ideas of what men want, know this – men are simple and relationships are a choice. Relationships are work that starts with one person saying “I choose you” and meaning it. Then you keep saying it over and over again even when life gets hard. Marriage is what comes after the I Do. Children are what come after sex. And Booty Calls, my friend, are what happens if you just so happen to be as lucky as we are. If you’re lucky you find great friends, parenting tag team partners, and adopted family that only require a simple “you free?” for the next visit; no fancy clothes, no clean houses and no perfect people required.

 

Man's hand pointing on street map

With summer winding down I took a look at our summer bucket list. It was fun counting up all the things we have checked off. What a busy summer it has been! It feels like we just made our list yesterday and I can’t believe how quickly this summer has passed!

One special bucket list item we still have left on our list is starting a city swap. I was inspired by those posts from Little Passports that keep popping up in my Facebook news feed. You can choose a monthly payment option which starts around $15/month to receive an explorer kit with info about another country. These kits are geared toward 5-10 year old kids. Nothing for the preschool crowd. But, even preschoolers love getting mail. So, a friend and I decided it would be fun to for our kids to swap facts about the cities we live in. It’s a more personalized way to get to know the world outside of our home town; it’s like having a pen pal but with a twist. (And no financial commitment).

Here’s how I started:

I made a list of important city traits. For example, I live in a former port city so the Hudson River and our light house is a special part of our local culture. Art, music and food are all very important in our city as well. We made a trip to our library to narrow down some information about our city. The girls and I found these great activity guides with facts and educational games about our local ecology. We also found some post cards featuring local art and additional pamphlets to share. Such a fun way for our friend to learn about our city!

Now that we had a few fun things to include in our swap, we decided to introduce ourselves to our new little pal by sending a message in a bottle.  (Keeping with our port theme).

blog-005 edit

We recycled a seltzer bottle by rinsing the inside and stripping the label from the outside. Once the bottle was dry we added our letter and fun facts about our city.

Next, we made a trip to the post office to determine the amount of postage needed to send our bottle. Did you know you can send almost anything in the mail? The woman at the post office said she once received an actual coconut! For some fun, inspiring ideas for sending your own happy mail check out this cool blog www.giverslog.com 

We brought our bottle home and added our stamps. We left it in our mail box for the postal carrier. Wonder what he thought of our silly package?

pen-pal-blog 3

Our next package will include a special surprise. Another short informational pamphlet about one of our favorite hikes, AND these little “water chestnuts.” Thousands of these little black, spiky things liter the shoreline every summer. The locals call them “cow heads.” Since my friend and her son live more inland we thought this might be fun to share. It will definitely seem unusual. These little things are iconic in our hometown.

spice jar

Again, we recycled something we already have. This time a spice jar. I rolled up the pamphlet and inserted the chestnut shells inside.

Here are our first two packages before labels and stamps.

blog-012 edit

This little project has definitely sparked some creativity and challenged our imaginations. The girls love assembling the packages the most. They also enjoy visiting the post office and seeing how everything there works.

Our next few packages will include some local art, maybe some local music and some sweet treats from our favorite chocolatier. Each item we include will of course need a creative package to carry it through the mail. The idea is to share things that make our city so special while getting to know a new friend and the city he lives in. These packages are geared toward tots so the info has to be short, simple and fun.

This is a really fun, creative way for young kids to send and receive mail; or for older kids to keep in touch with friends they met at summer camp, or far away friends and family. As a bonus it’s just fun to get something so  unexpected in the mail.

What are some fun things you have sent in the mail?

It’s been a great summer, but as I mentioned in my last post these last two weeks since the end of camp have been a challenge. The fighting and tattling is driving me insane. I’m SOOOOO looking forward to the start of school tomorrow. I can’t wait to have some down time with just me and Sydney while Jay is in full day Kindergarten and Hannah’s in second grade. I can’t believe my first baby girl just turned seven this past Saturday. My step-dad was quick to remind me that before I know it I’ll be getting my newest little peanut on the bus for school. It really does feel like it goes that fast, but I swear that I’m not only going to do a happy dance tomorrow, I’m gonna do the sickest break dance a white girl with no skills can possibly do.

Hannah's first day of Kindergarten - pic 1
Hannah’s first day of Kindergarten two
years ago. She was all smiles.

Don’t Let Them See Your Tears

My heart goes out to all you mamas who are entering the new phase of parenting – sending your child off to school for the first time. Whether it’s pre-K or Kindergarten, it can be hard to watch your little baby go off on their own. It seems like just yesterday they put that sweet little newborn in your arms and you silently freaked out thinking, “Really they’re just going to let me take the baby home and (gulp) I’m on my own.” Now it’s their turn to find their courage and independence.

When Hannah got on the bus for Kindergarten two years ago she smiled at me and her little brother, gave us a little wave, and that was it. It wasn’t till we got back inside that I lost it. Jayden looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Where’s Hannah? I want my Hannah.” I was ok until that moment and then Jay and I just hugged each other and cried together for a little while. Last year, I put my son Jayden on the bus at only three-years-old for half-day pre-K and not only was he not scared, he was dancing while waiting for the bus. That was something awesome since I was sure he was going to freak out. The bus pulled off before my smile dissolved and I broke down. I’ve learned that it’s ok if they cry, but the key is not to let them see you freak out because it makes them scared.

Hannah's first day of Kindergarten - pic 2
Proof Hannah and Jay do actually love
each other. School gives them a chance
to miss each other.

Judge Mommy Is Dismissed

As I’m writing this right now, my children are fighting over a small bouncy ball even though they are surrounded by a hundred other toys, not to mention a gorgeous sunny day and a waiting swing set. I’ve learned that there is a moment in parenting we all come to where we wish our children would just resolve their own problems peacefully. That’s all I’m waiting for, just the peace that seven hours of school will bring me.

At this point in time, my newborn is the easy one. Eat, sleep, diaper change, snuggle and repeat. It’s the older kids that are requiring more than I can provide. I forgot how hard it was to dress a Barbie doll. Between the anatomical incorrectness of big boobs, tiny waist and supremely long limbs it seems freaking impossible. I also don’t have the appropriate stamina to play with Legos for an hour. School has been such a great experience for both my kids and I’m glad that despite my year-and-a-half long battle to get my husband to consent to having a third child we waited till our other kids were in school. It means I have alone time with the new baby and time to run errands, do chores, and write without having to put on my Judge hat and enforce fairness in the house.

Jay first day of pre-k
Jay doing his first day of school happy
dance waiting for the bus to take him
to pre-K last year.

I love my children dearly, but I’m going to put them on the bus tomorrow with a huge smile on my face. I know they’ll be learning, making new friends, and finding their independence apart from each other. And as for me, I’ll be doing the boring things in life like cleaning the house, taking care of the baby, taking long walks in the neighborhood, drinking in the silence of a beautiful fall day, and even finding the breathing room to miss my kids, at least till the bus comes to drop them off.

Back to school celebration

Are you feeling anxious about sending your kids off to school or will you be joining me in a back-to-school breakdance of happiness?

The countdown is on for my girls to return to school! Although we don’t have a ton of supplies to purchase, we are in a whirl-wind to get our house organized and cleaned up from summer’s fantastic chaos. I really just want to spend their first day of school focused on them (while I enjoy a clean house filled with golden silence for 3 hours).

How many of you have a puzzle mat like this? Such a pain to clean right?

Blog 011

I vacuum ours each week, but it is just due for a bigger cleaning. I polled a few other moms for advice. The results are most everyone tosses it outside to hose off, tosses in the tub or in the dishwasher. I don’t have a dishwasher. (You can pick your jaw up off the floor now). With two rambunctious threenagers dominating my household I don’t have a lot of time to spend hunched over the side of the tub. There has to be an easier way, right? I asked Google. They had nothing. I even perused Pintrest and no spark. It felt like I was in pioneer country here. Why not try the washing machine? I did and it worked so much easier!

Pull off the border pieces and pull apart the squares. Be sure to leave the letters and numbers inserts intact.

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Put the border pieces and  half of the squares into a large laundry bag (we use this one to carry our toys to the park). If you have a large washer and can fit all of them in at once more power to you! Mine did not.

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I have a rinse option on my machine. I ran an 11 minute cold rinse with no spin at the end.

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I let the pieces dry face down on towels in the sun. I pulled the inserts out to be sure everything dried completely.  It took less than 10 minutes each ‘load’ to dry in the sun.

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In less than 45 minutes I not only disassembled, washed, dried and reassembled the mat- but with the machine doing all the work I was free to do other things. Like, vacuum up the crud and mop the floor underneath the mat, fold the laundry and do some dishes.

I felt like a genius! I felt so brave! No one else has ever tried the washing machine (at least no photo evidence on the Internet). I started thinking, what other fun little hacks can I share with all of you? How about these:

French Fry crayon holders. Sharing is hard for my girls. Especially when I place the one big box of crayons on the table in front of them. So, I use the kid sized french fry boxes from their happy meals to divide up their crayons. Now they can each have their own box without any argument. (Ah…I almost hear my inner peace calling).

fry boxes

boxes n box

Disposable cookie sheets found at the dollar store (usually two in a pack) are great for containing messy projects. If we ever use glitter I put one of these trays underneath. They are also great for projects that require paint or glue.

2014 Paint try 006

Last, this is my fave, and maybe too early to use so tuck this idea away for the next couple of months. Don’t throw away those little kid hangers that come with a two-piece outfit. These are great for hanging your kids coat, hat, scarf and gloves all in one easy-to-find location. I use the clip to hold their hat with a scarf and gloves tucked inside. It has been such a huge time saver not having to rummage through the hat box when we get ready in the winter!

Coat hack 003

Coat hack edit

So there ya have it. Some quick little hacks to help you keep your Whatever cool!

What is your favorite parenting hack?

 

My son Luke will be turning 11 this week. I started this blog a year ago and have found it somewhat therapeutic sharing my thoughts where he has been the nucleus.
I just sent a text message to Luke that I will share with you, and then I’ll explain. The message was “Morning Luke! Remind me that I have to talk to you later ok? I love you”.

Couple of points:
• From a grammatical perspective, this message is flawed
• The fact I am texting my son to remind me to tell him something when I see him is a flawed action
• The biggest flaw? My soon to be 11 year old will not be able to read this text until his 8 year old brother makes him aware of it.

Like most people who decide to have children, our lives changed dramatically when we had Luke. It will change many times over in that timeframe, and most days, I got it all covered. There are some days, like today, that I do not. We have seen Shane outgrow Luke to an extent. It was tough to accept. Yesterday, the beginnings of that scenario reoccurring took place.
Luke and Cole have been a team all year. Cole looks up to Luke like a little brother should. Every night after dinner Shane and I shoot the basketball around in the driveway. We ask Luke and Cole, but they usually say no. Recently, Cole has been showing an interest in basketball and when he opted for dribbling in the driveway instead of playing “Slugterra” with Luke, the look of confusion on Luke’s face was then tattooed on my brain. So much so, that I am thinking about it 16 hours later.

I think I have come up with a remedy. I will take Luke’s imagination and rekindle mine. I used to love playing out scenario’s from my favorite television shows when I was kid. Whether it was the Dukes of Hazzard, Star Wars or G.I Joe, my mind was always going. That might be the best birthday present I can give him.

My advice to anyone who will listen. Life is full of flaws. Hell, I am severely flawed! Don’t get wrapped up in what you think should be happening and enjoy what is actually taking place.
I spend so much time thinking of ways to change or fix Luke when I should be devoting that time to how Luke is going to fix me.

To anyone who is reading this. Thanks for reading the last year and thanks for listening.

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