Eight Things I have learned this summer:

  1. My kids couldn’t care less about the activities I pin for them on Pinterest – I aired my frustrations about summer earlier. I’ve decided that no matter what ambitions I have for my children, they would much rather lounge in the living room catching up on Bunk’d episodes. And that’s all right.
  1. When in doubt – Pizza Rolls and Otter Pops are always a good idea. My youngest has been living off of Otter Pops this summer. She asks for one at 6:30 when she rolls out of bed. She normally eats three before 10 a.m. She’s downing them and I don’t care. She’s happy. She’s healthy and it’s hot out there so, why not?
  1. It is loads harder to build a tree house than I thought. And more expensive too. It’s been more than four months since we broke ground on ours. Oh the experiences we’ve had with this project. Nothing. I repeat nothing will ever come close to topping this building project for our family. We have learned more than we ever could have imagined. It’s been a third of a year and there the tree house sits nearly complete. Just a few more walls of wooden siding, some outdoor carpet and some insulation caulk. And even though it has taken much longer than we anticipated it has been worth fighting for.
  1. Sand is meant to be tossed outside of the box – and Home Depot sells it for cheap.

    1. It’s good for my kids to be bored. A recent article eased my mom guilt by saying that when kids are bored they are forced to use their imaginations and that’s a good thing. So I can stop worrying about entertaining them all the time.
    1. Unless I want to turn into a permanent zombie, I can’t wait for bedtime to get all my stuff done. I’ve got to vacuum, clean the bathrooms and fold the laundry while my kids are running around crazy in the background. Sure it’s chaos, but I need my sleep.
    1. Walmart Grocery is once again my friend. After a couple of bad experiences this spring, I gave it another try. And it’s saved my sanity. I can order the goods online, pick them up curbside and not drag any of my four kids into the store.
    1. It will be over before I know it. Time is flying by. My days are filled with never-ending chores, activities and arguments. But the days aren’t never-ending. Before I know it I’ll be snapping first-day of school photos and wiping tears from my eyes.

Here’s to learning more this summer before it turns to fall!

 

 

No More Nursing

I have spent more than four years of my life breastfeeding my babies. That may not seem like much, but it adds up to about an eighth of my time here on Earth.

And now I’m done.

I will miss nursing.

It was a way to bond me to my child.

A way to give them what they needed.

A way to keep them close.

It allowed me snuggling time with my babies.

It gave me an excuse to sit down and open up a book.

I liked that my kids needed me, that they wanted me.

Especially my baby girl. She nursed until she was 20 months old – far longer than my boys. Granted she didn’t start eating solids until she was 16-17 months old so that may have impacted things. But she was old enough to start shouting, “Milk” (which sounded kind of like “meowk”) and tug on my shirt.

I think she would have nursed until she was five! But it was no longer working for us. She was doing it for comfort not for nourishment. And she started hurting me while eating.

So sadly I stopped.

At first it broke my heart. She would cry and scream, “meowk,” while I rocked her in my chair.

I’d hold her and she’d cry until she fell to sleep.

But that only lasted about a week. Then she realized I could help her go to sleep without milk.

Now I look forward to rocking her just as much as I did nursing her. I think she looks forward to it too. I’ll cuddle to her in my chair and sing songs to her. Many times she sings along.

We sing and rock until she’s sound asleep.

And with that I’m closing my chapter on nursing.

It is a bittersweet closure.

Never again will I be bigger than a size A cup. And never again will I get Mastitis or engorgement.

It’s strange to move on. I swear I’ve been pregnant and nursing off and on for a decade now. But life moves on.

As long as I can find other ways to cuddle and care for my little ones I’m OK with that.

Working on Working – How Can I Teach My Kids Work Ethic?

Here's part of the pile of junk my boys and I had to sort through and put away last week during a major cleaning session that ended in tears an time outs.

Here’s part of the pile of junk my boys and I had to sort through and put away last week during a major cleaning session that ended in tears an time outs.

I can’t teach my kids to work. I don’t know how. There, I admitted it.

I hear all of the time that kids are lazy these days. I hear adults say that kids have no work ethic. I hear them the blame parents.

OK then, how do I teach them to work?

I’ve tried and I have failed.

If I have them help me with a project or chore they gripe and complain the entire time. They drag their feet and mope about.

They put things in the wrong place. They need me to tell them exactly what to do next. And it takes us THREE times as long to get stuff done.

Uggh. What do I do?

A few weeks ago I bribed my two oldest boys. I told them I’d pay them $5 if they helped me clean the garage. An hour into the project my oldest started having a meltdown.

“It’s just not worth it,” he kept crying. “It’s not worth $5.”

It wasn’t worth $5 to me either. It stressed me out. I was yelling at them the entire time as they sluggishly drug items back and forth while we sorted through and got rid of our garbage.

About halfway through I noticed a pile behind the garbage can of items they were supposed to be throwing away – a couple of broken sprinklers, a light tube, some broken wires, etc. They were saving them to use them to build a time machine.

Uggh. Counter productivity is our specialty.

Three fourths of the way through they were supposed to get rid of the bubble bottles that weren’t completely full. I turned around to find a soapy mess in the corner of the garage. Both of my youngest kids had suds all over their hands.

The best part? It was a cool day so my neighbors had their windows open. They could hear me rant and rage as I lost my temper. I was supposed to be teaching them how to work and I was failing big time.

The next day we had to tackle the mountain of junk that had piled up in the bottom of their closet and side of their bedroom. Because, as I mentioned before, they don’t ever truly put stuff away. They just toss it in a hidden spot.

We spent a couple hours sifting through their stuff. Well, I sifted, they mostly cried and whined about how long it was taking us.

By the time we finished one of them ended up in time out for the rest of his life – OK only for the night but to him it seemed like forever.

So here’s my dilemma.

Do I save us all a little heartache and clean everything myself? Do I wait until school starts and throw out half of their garbage while they aren’t even home? Then they can’t argue with what to save and what to toss, it will take me half as long and I won’t have to hear them complain.

It would be a heck of a lot easier.

But then they don’t ever have to work. Their mom takes care of everything.

I really don’t think that’s the answer. So how can I keep my cool while teaching them work ethic?

I want them to be self-sufficient. I want them to be hard workers. I want them to take care of their regular chores – make their beds, take out the trash, help change their sheets, put away their laundry, etc. – as well as help with major family chores like cleaning out the garage and planting the garden.

So I guess I’ll keep refereeing while they fight during family weeding sessions. I’ll take deep breaths while they gripe about the garbage cans being too heavy. I’ll try to ignore them when they argue about what set of sheets goes on their bed. And I’ll keep reminding them to do simple things like put their toothbrushes away when they are less than a foot from their holders.

Hopefully some of this stuff will stick. And one day, magically they will do it on their own.

And I’ll definitely make sure that next time we tackle organizing the garage, the neighbors’ windows are closed. Either that or I take a chill pill first.

Another Angel Tree for my Angel Son

It’s dead. Again.

Luca’s tree has died.

We went to the library to take back some books and noticed that his tree had absolutely no leaves.

Oh man. Not again!

I have no words. No analogies. No explanations. No blessing-in-disguise feelings. I am numb about this.

Earlier this year I was terribly sad that the tree we planted in our son’s memory on his fifth birthday was dying. This time I think I’m shocked. Numb.

What was such an amazing experience in the spring of 2015 has turned sour, twice.

The city employee in charge of the trees is going to try to plant another Eastern Redbud this fall. But it won’t be the one we picked out as a family.

The one we dug the hard, clay-filled ground for. The one we planted on Earth day in his honor.

It won’t even be the one we picked out this year on his birthday – the one that the city planted this spring to replace the first one.

No, if they plant another tree this fall it will be the third one.

Maybe the third time’s the charm. But I can’t let myself get my hopes up. Not again.

Pokemon Patience

I wish Pokemon Go would just go away! OK not really, we have had a lot of fun playing the new virtual game. But we’ve also shed a lot of tears and thrown a lot of fits about it.

I guess it’s just one more thing to help my kids and me learn patience. I’m sure that’s Nintendo’s goal, right?

Well, not really. I’m sure they have other intentions, but we’re going to learn patience along the way. Or stop playing.

Why has it been hard? Can’t we just have a blast tossing Pokeballs and capturing characters? Well we could if we didn’t have to share. But my boys are 10 and 8 years old and don’t own their own cell phones.

Gasp!

So they insist I let them walk around the neighborhood with their noses glued to my new expensive phone. One of them was ticked when I wouldn’t let him take my iPad around.

I am the meanest mother ever.

To compromise I told them I’d go with them – then I could keep tabs on both them and my phone.

Of course that meant I was killing their social life.

When they finally realized it was Pokemon playing with mom or no Pokemon playing at all, they begged me to take them.

I loaded up my 2 and 4-year-old and we hit the streets with a couple of friends.

We walked around for two hours in the heat catching Pokemon, fighting to take back gyms and stocking up at Pokestop.

The game is really fun. And really addicting. I like that it gets people out. Gamers have to walk around until they spot virtual characters on their phones. Then they try to “catch” them for their collections.

I love that players have to walk specific distances in order to hatch their collected eggs.

I love that I have seen more people out and about.

I don’t love that my boys can’t play Pokemon nicely with one another. They fought over my cell phone the entire time we were playing. After one of them caught a Pokemon they were supposed to hand the phone over to their brother, but it didn’t run smoothly.

I heard them snap at each other back and forth. They would cry when one of them caught the one that the other one wanted. They would shout demands and directions at each other.

They would snatch the phone from each other’s hands and scream in their face – all in front of their closest friends.

It was stressful. It was embarrassing.

I don’t know how many times I said, “Play nice!”

On our way home I told them both that I wouldn’t take them again until they could prove that they were kind and mature enough to handle it.

They spent the afternoon sulking while making clay Pokeballs to play with.

They may be a little young for the game – especially because they don’t have their own device to load it onto, and I don’t feel comfortable letting them wander all around the city by themselves.

But they are still dying to play.

So I’ll let them play as long as they can be patient and kind – as long as they can share.

We’ve gone twice now. The second time was a tiny bit better. Maybe next time will be better still.

Maybe we’ll learn to get along thanks to Pokemon.

I sure hope so, we’ve got a lot of Pidgey’s to catch.

Mischief Managed – Harry Potter Party Success

DSC_0251I love birthdays. I love Harry Potter. So when my 7-year-old said he wanted to have a Harry Potter birthday party I was thrilled. What could be better? The combination was going to be magical.

We had the party last week and magical it was.

I may have gone a little overboard. I don’t normally do this much for birthdays. (At one point in my party planning I had to ban myself from Pinterest. I kept pinning more and more ideas and stressing myself out that I hadn’t done enough.)

Believe me I did plenty. Enough for this busy mama anyway.

Why did I do it? I couldn’t resist transforming our house into a mini Potterworld. And seeing the kids’ reactions was priceless. It has been my favorite party we’ve had to date.

Here’s what we did.

We let the kids gather in the front yard until everyone had arrived. That way they could go through platform 9 ¾ together.

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We taped a brick-patterned paper backdrop that I bought on Amazon to the doorway and the kids had to go “through” the brick to get to Kings Cross station.

 

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There they all waited in our Hogwarts hallway before we guided them to the Great Hall. I printed off a bunch of poster/bulletin-board decorations that I found on Pinterest for the hall.

I also printed off a picture of Moaning Myrtle for the bathroom. I used red lipstick to write about the chamber of secrets opening on the bathroom mirror.

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My mother-in-law painted a few refrigerator boxes to look like brick for a Christmas party she did last year. I borrowed the “walls” for our great hall. I made floating candles (tutorial here) , house banners (free printables here ), and our very own sorting hat (out of paper mache.)

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Each guest found a spell card (download our spells card here), Marauder’s map (we used this map) and Snitch (we painted Styrofoam balls gold then stuck craft feathers in them) waiting for them at their place in the great hall.

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We sorted the partygoers into four different Hogwarts Houses houses. I downloaded a Sorting Hat app from the Google Play store that said random phrases after you pushed a “sort” button. But my oldest son really wanted to be the sorting hat. So we typed up some of the random phrases from the app and my son hid behind our refrigerator box walls and used a microphone and karaoke machine to announce the house that each child was sorted into.

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We also hooked up our video baby monitor so that he could use it to see the exact moment when the sorting hat was placed on someone’s head.

After everyone was sorted, I announced that our guests were unprepared for their stay at Hogwarts and that we were going to have to pick up a couple of things at Diagon Alley.

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Our first stop was Ollivanders where we picked out and painted our very own wands. For the wands, we used chopsticks that I also bought on Amazon. I used hot glue before hand to make designs on the wands. I’ve blogged about this before. You can check out a better tutorial here. This time we didn’t wrap any beads in our hot glue, just kind of clumped it on heavy in spots, thin in others.

I didn’t have any paint shirts so we cut arm and head holds into large kitchen garbage bags and used them as makeshift paint shirts for the kids.

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While waiting for our wands to dry, we stopped at the Quality Quidditch Supplies shop to select brooms. My boys and I made brooms several weeks ago out of bark, sticks, hot glue and string.

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Each guest got to choose which broom fit them best.

Then we had a show down on the quidditch field.

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My husband hung two purple hula hoops on one side and two red ones on the other to set up the field. We used a vollyball for the quaffle, a few light-weight plastic balls for bludgers and my husband as the snitch.

We found muggle quidditch instructions on this site. It was great fun. They ran so hard with their brooms between their legs trying to toss the balls through the hoops and trying to catch the snitch, all without being hit with a bludger.

After quidditch we went back to the great hall for cake, ice cream and butter beer. I used the top recipe on this site, the one labeled Harry Potter Butterbeer Recipe #5 recipe. It was absolutely delicious! My son opened his presents while we enjoyed our treats.

By this time our wands were dry. I handed them out to each guest while we waited in the hall. We were looking for the Room of Requirement. We wanted to use it to test out our wands while practicing the Patronus Charm.

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We found the room with a dementor inside! (A balloon wrapped inside a black tablecloth.)

The kids practiced shouting “Expecto Patronum” to scare the dementor away. I made a slideshow video of several different patronus images I found online. Then I set up our video projector so it would shine the image after the kids shouted their charm.

My husband sat on the top bunk in the Room of Requirement and helped the dementor “fly” away when the Patronus appeared.

After each child tested their wands and patronuses we found a secret passage to Honeydukes.

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There the children got to take a handful of Potter-style candy. I used labels from this site for the jars and this site for the candy bars.

When the guests had their fill of candy, we headed out front to wizard duel until their parents arrived.

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We used these rules for the dueling. We altered the rules a little, but they were still kind of complex for the kids. After trying a few times we decided to let them duel however they wanted and get rid of the rules. Well, nearly all of the rules. We kept the ban of unforgivable curses in place. If anyone used one of those then they forfeited.

I’m not going to lie, this party was a lot of work. But, it was also a lot of fun. I only wished it would have lasted longer. And that my house really was Hogwarts.

Mischief Managed!

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Playing Unplugged

A few weeks ago I lamented about how much I stink at summer. I’d like to make a shout out to those of you who commiserated with me.

I can’t say it’s gotten a whole lot better. I’m writing this post

at 10 p.m. the night before it goes live. I just barely got most of my kids in bed and I’m holding my youngest while she fights off sleep and I try to type.

Sigh.

But this week I discovered a local program that has gotten us out of the house and we’ve done some fun, new activities together.

The program is called Play Unplugged. From what I have gathered, companies in the community sponsor different activities. If you kids participate in a sponsored activity the can go to that company and get a coinciding badge (a dog-tag) and some brag points.

Once kids in our city receive 20-30 brag points they can head to one of the monthly city council meetings and enter a drawing to win $50.

But that’s not the only incentive. Many of the businesses offer fun activities for free. Just yesterday my boys got spend a couple of hours fencing at a local sponsor business.

They parried, they lunged and they attacked. They had so much fun they wanted to sign up for lessons. Which I am guessing is probably part of the program’s plan.

Not only are these businesses getting kids out and giving moms ideas of new wholesome activities, they are exposing new families to their services.

Next Monday we are heading to a karate place to take a free lesson. Then on Wednesday we are going to a retirement center to volunteer with the adults during their reading/craft time.

All while earning brag points and badges.

One of the activities in our city is to make some s’mores, snap a picture and show it to a local grocery store. Another is to head to gift shop and see how long you can hula hoop while there.

I don’t know how far spread this program runs. From what I can tell it’s a Utah thing with about 20 cities participating so far. If there isn’t a city near you, you can purchase badges to do at home.

I might purchase some later this year if we run out of city sponsored ones. I’m all about active, fun activities that someone planned for me.

You check out the program and see if it’s in your area at www.weplayunplugged.com

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