Kindness Project Status

Our Kindness Jar Project is off to a better start than I anticipated. I was worried that we would get behind after four days and I would give up on the endeavor completely, but it’s actually proven to be a fun daily task (for the most part). The first day was a little rough, as Olive had difficulty getting excited about the project when she discovered that the activities on the papers were not actually FOR her (which is part of the reason why this is important). I also had to remind myself mentally on more than one occasion that my kids are four and two and they’re not going to understand the concepts of why this is important yet and that’s ok. But I’m still glad we’re trying to make this a part of our holiday tradition because I’m hoping that when they’re a little older the concept of giving and being kind as a learned trait will become more second nature and they will be just as excited to do some of these activities that they were this year.

These are the activities we’ve completed so far as they appear on the slip of paper. Some of them are small acts like helping each other out or spending extra time together and being present together or small activities that help them learn about the idea of kindness and giving back to others. Others are more charitable acts like helping neighbors, friends, or giving back to an organization. I’ve included links and pictures for some of the activities as well.

There are many men, women, and families that do not have a home in San Diego. That means that they often don’t have things we use every day like fresh drinking water, soap, snacks, and clean clothes. Help mommy make “blessing bags” to keep in the car so that when we see people asking for help while we are out we have a way to help, no matter where we are!

I went to the Dollar Tree for most of the items for the blessing bags and Target for some extra toiletries and snacks. We filled six bags with items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, hand sanitizer, tissues, cleansing wipes, tylenol, protein bars, trail mix, etc. The idea of people being homeless and without basic supplies were still a little over their head but they had fun putting the bags together.

There are many children around the world who are less fortunate than we are. This means they may not always get a lot of presents under their Christmas tree this year. Help give another little girl and boy a very merry Christmas by helping mommy and daddy put together care packages with little toys and goodies for two special little kids. Just imagine the smile you will be putting on their faces!

We had originally been planning to participate in Operation Christmas Child as we had last year, but when we pulled this slip of paper and I went online I realized we missed the drop off deadline already (oops), so we decided to donate to Toys for Tots instead. We were already on base running errands so we stopped by the NEX, let each of them pick out one toy (and spend an extra fifteen minutes checking out all the toys of course) and then after checking out, each of them dropped their toy into the donation box. I was actually really surprised at how well both girls did with this activity. They were siked to pick out a toy for someone else and Olive understood from the outset that she would not be taking any toys home with her and she didn’t seem phased by this in the least.

You have so many toys! There are a lot of children who are less fortunate than we are and one of the best ways we can give back and spread kindness is to donate some of our play things to others to help share our joy! Help mommy go through the toys in your play room and bedroom and pick out the toys you no longer play with and that you think would make another little boy and girl happy. Just think about how happy they will be to have some of these toys as their very own!

This one went much better than anticipated. Olive was very excited to help out other kids and picked out a lot of toys to donate. What surprised me was the fact that she absolutely refused to part with the small cheap toys she had gotten from Happy Meals, as party favors, or in blind bags but was quick to pick out some of the more expensive toys that we had given her at her last birthday (which I had to veto). But we gave away some great toys that didn’t get played with much any more and I felt like the mom from Toy Story and secretly wondered if all of my kids’ toys are living a secret life and are petrified of me shoving them in a box.

Mommy works very hard every day. Let’s bring a smile to her face and be extra kind by helping her pickup your bedroom, playroom, and the toys in the living room to help her out today.

This was one of the more difficult tasks that Olive really didn’t want to participate in. She didn’t want to pick up her play room and what should’ve been a twenty minute task, turned into a 45 minute task with a lot of yelling and crying and tears from both parties (yea, I’m clearly not bitter AT ALL).

One of the best ways to show kindness is by spending time together. Let’s have a family game night together! Pick two games we can play together!

We ended up just playing one game: Kerplunk! This ended up being a very fun way to spend time together. We’ve had the game for awhile, but don’t play it very often because it’s one of those activities that takes a lot of setup and the kids finish the game in thirty seconds because they refuse to take turns pulling the sticks out and just want to see the balls fall.

Grandma and Grandpa live very far away and we don’t get to see them very often. Let’s make their holiday brighter today by making them a homemade gift and sending it to them in the mail!

This is the ONE task that we are behind in…it’s a work in progress!

There are a lot of animals that need homes but unfortunately we can’t adopt any of them. Instead, help mommy and daddy pick out a wild animal to adopt online!

We adopted a LION!!! In all honesty, part of me wanted to take the kids to an animal shelter and pick a real animal to give a forever home to but our house is at capacity with an enormous dog and two cats. The plan is to learn more about the “lion” we adopted by learning about lions once the pamphlet and poster come in the mail.

Let’s be kind to a friend today. We haven’t seen our friend Chris in awhile. Let’s write him a nice letter and send it to him in the mail so he can get a nice surprise.

This also turned out to be a process because while Olive was super excited to pick out a page from her coloring book for her friend from preschool and color it and decorate it with stickers she absolutely did not want to write him a letter and did not want me to  write one either. No amount of me explaining how bizarre it will be to JUST receive a partially colored paw patrol page in the mail with no motivation for sending it would persuade her that including a letter was a good idea. I finally wrote one any ways and told her what it said and took her stony silence as compliance.

Let’s learn about kindness today! Have an extra special story time with a “Kindness” theme with Mommy and Daddy today!

I’m fully aware that these acts of kindness are a big concept for my kids regardless of how simple I’m trying to keep them. I thought having a day where we learn about kindness through story time might help to begin cementing some of these ideas in an age appropriate way. Here are the books I chose to include:

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Pay it forward today! Let’s go through the Starbucks drive thru for coffee and goodies with Mommy and we will get the tab for the people behind us too!

Yesterday, I waited for it to get dark outside, loaded the kids in the car with blankets and frosted sugar cookies and we went through the Starbucks drive thru so I could get coffee and the kids could get chocolate milk with whipped cream and we hit up the local neighborhoods in our are that are famous for their holiday light display. I made sure to pay for the people behind us and explained to the kids about the concept of “paying it forward” and that hopefully the people behind us would do the same. The kids had a great time “Ohhhing and Ahhing” the twinkly lights and loading up on sweets in their comfy clothes and listening to holiday music on the radio. Definitely a fun Sunday activity!

Above All Else, Be Kind

Tomorrow is December 1st. Yikes.

The last few holidays have been especially fun because of my children and each year I try to add a new holiday tradition to make that year special. Some traditions we keep up every year, like baking my granny’s famous sugar cookies (recipe at the end of the post), taking holiday pictures of the kids that become photo cards, and picking a charity or organization to contribute to. Others end up getting scrapped because I suck at hosting ugly sweater parties and I never have enough AA batteries to keep the Christmas train turned on for the entire month of December.

This is the first year that I’ve felt the kids were old enough that I really want to introduce them to the “giving back” part of the season. I don’t want the holidays to be just about what we put under the tree, baking cookies, and opening and exchanging presents. We are not a religious family so we don’t put “Christ” in “Christmas,” we don’t do Santa or Elf on the Shelf. I want the holidays to be about the time we spend together, but also about how we spend that time.  I may fail at all other parts of being a parent, but the one thing I want to do right is to instill in my children the importance of kindness. Kindness not only to each other, but to our friends, our neighbors and strangers we meet every day as well as the ones we may never meet.

It’s in that vein that I’m starting a new holiday tradition. I’m creating a Kindness Jar that will have 23 separate acts of kindness written on slips of paper inside of it. Starting on December 1st and ending on December 23rd, I will let the kids take turns picking one piece of paper each day and we will do whatever act is listed together. Some of the activities are much more involved and hands on (like creating care packages to donate or for our friends or neighbors) and others are more simple (like making Daddy a welcome home sign with sidewalk chalk before he comes home from work). The idea is that the kids will learn different ways they can choose kindness, spread joy, and pay it forward. Hopefully it will become something we practice and learn together and eventually become ingrained into their thinking as adults.

I was originally going to list all of the acts in this post in case anyone wanted ideas, but many of them are surprises for our friends and family so I don’t want to ruin the surprise! I’ve included some links below to some of the websites that I used for inspiration and ideas in case any one is interested. I would also like to give a shout out to Amber Leventry at her Family Rhetoric page for inspiring the Kindness Jar idea.  I will be recording our experience with the Kindness Jar project right here on the blog so I will include the acts and photos in my subsequent posts as they unfold. Stay tuned!

Inspiration for Kindness Jars: 

70 Easy Acts of Kindness

100 Acts of Kindness for Kids

Symbolic Animal Adoption

Supporting the Deployed

Beach Cleanups

Kindness Themed Story Time

Granny’s Sugar Cookies:

Ingredients:
1 c. softened butter
3.5 c. sifted flour
1.5 c. sugar
2 tsp. cream of tarter
3 eggs
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt.
Directions: cream butter and vanilla, sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Sift together dry ingredients and gradually add. Use ungreased cookie sheets in preheated 375 degree oven for 6-8 minutes
On a side note, you’ll want to chill the dough in the fridge before rolling out. The dough tends to be sticky on the out set that’s normal. Just knead a little flour gradually as you work it until you get it to the point where you can roll it without sticking. Roll out semi-thin so when they cook the edges will brown slightly (that’s how granny did it). It took me a LONG time to get it even semi right so if it turns out like biscuits the first time don’t be frustrated (cause mine did) Also the dough freezes well if you want to thaw out and make for easter too (that’s why we always had bunny cookies in April :))

Please Stop Flipping Holiday Toys

The holidays are fast approaching which to some of us simply means breaking our low carb diet and an extra side of gravy, but for many of us it also means the start of the holiday retail season.

If you’re like me, the idea of spending three times the actual price on something just because it’s December makes you so angry you just refuse to do it. There’s a reason we don’t fly home to visit my parents or in-laws during the holidays. I know you can’t put a price tag on quality time….oh wait. Yes, you can. If it’s the most wonderful time of the year, it’s exactly $3290.65.

And the “Tickle Me Elmo” of the Christmas season that is impossible to find unless I’m willing to blow our entire holiday budget on it? Nope. No thanks. There are more important things than a furry talking creepy toy that my kids will play with for exactly two days, but will continue to haunt my nightmares until Easter.

I consider myself lucky that my children are two and four which means they still find pretty much everything under the Christmas tree to be magical. I know that my four year old will love the new Lego set I stashed away in the garage for her because she’s finally old enough to graduate from Duplos and build with “big kid” Legos. I’m fully confident that my two year old will be equally enthralled with her first Play-doh set hidden in my closet and will probably still sneak pieces in her mouth when I’m not looking. I’m also thankful that neither of them are old enough to read this.

My kids don’t even realize they can tell me what they want for Christmas yet and although they watch a lot of YouTube toy unveilings, they are fairly oblivious to what the “hot toys” are this year. However, I know this won’t last forever and I dread the day when I can no longer begin stock piling their favorite play things weeks and months in advance to avoid the holiday melee altogether. I’m dreading the day when my kids edit their holiday wish list three weeks before Christmas to include whatever the “Hatchimal” craze is that season and I have to explain to them why they won’t be getting that coveted toy under their Christmas tree this year.

As we all know these are the $50 toys on the cover of the Toys R Us and Target holiday catalog that go out of stock at every big box store in October. However, there will be several people in my Facebook mom groups who will have six of them and are selling them for $175 a piece.

If you’re one of the parents selling “rare” Fur-Hatch-Tickle-Finger-mals out of the back of your soccer van, you are part of the problem and I’m talking to you.

This may not seem like a big deal because you aren’t the only one doing it. You can probably justify yourself by simple economics of supply and demand. The stores can’t seem to keep enough in stock, so you are providing a service to other parents who didn’t make it in time to buy it at the store and are willing to pay extra money for all that hard work you did calling every Walmart in the tri-county area and buying all their stock before the rest of us finished our first cup of coffee.

The hole in this theory is that if people weren’t systematically buying out all the available stock and turning around and selling them at a 400% markup, there might actually be some of these toys available for the rest of us at the actual retail price intended for that toy.

And what about the children whose families cannot afford to pay four times the price of a toy just because it’s December? What once was already an expensive toy has suddenly become an impossible wish list item for many kids because someone figured out they could make an extra $700 if they bought twenty Fingerling Monkeys and sold them for $50 a piece. Have we all become so greedy that we have to finance the extra money we spend on our families during the holidays by profiting off the wish lists of children?

I get that money is tight around the holidays, but if you have all that time and effort to put into going store to store, buying up toys and selling them on Facebook and eBay, then you have time to pick up some holiday shifts at Target or Kohls. If you really need to keep the consumerism alive, buy up some of those hot holiday toys and donate them to a toy drive so kids whose families can’t afford to indulge their kids’ wish lists this year can benefit from your retail skills.

It may not pay for your holiday, but it might just make someone else’s.

8 Parenting Mistakes That Still Make Me Cringe (and Laugh)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming a mother, it’s that no matter how hard we try, there are some mistakes we will make as imperfect parents. The most we can hope for is that we will learn from them, they will be minor, and they will be humorous. You may even get to write about them one day and impart your newfound wisdom onto other parents in the form of unsolicited advice. Here are some of my favorite mistakes that I’ve made in my early days that I can now look back on as a more seasoned parent and find the humor, if not the life lessons in the process.

  1. Forgetting to Take Pictures.

It’s cliché to say, but time is a thief. When I look back at baby pictures of my children, I can’t help but wonder why I didn’t take more pictures of them. I’ve taken thousands over the last four years, but somehow there just doesn’t seem to be enough. I’m sure I would say that regardless of how many I had in fact taken. When my kids were all shiny and new, I remember thinking to myself that I needed to be present and in the moment for every second I held them, fed them, comforted and snuggled them because that first year goes by so quickly. But in truth, it was also mottled with sleepless nights and days without showering or any real time to myself. It’s difficult to cling to every precious moment when your child is a baby when you also just want to speed up time so they can pour themselves a bowl of cereal and wipe their own rear. That being said, I still wish I had taken more pictures and that I cherished that new baby smell just a little bit longer because now that those moments are gone, I really do miss them.

  1. Swim Diapers are NOT Absorbent.

That’s really all anyone needs to know. I remember thinking I was inventing new baby hacks when I decided to dress my nine month old in her swim diaper and swim suit on our way to the splash pad so I wouldn’t have to dress her in the heat once we got there and we could get right to the fun part of enjoying the park (and taking lots of pictures). What actually transpired was trying to figure out why my baby was sitting in a puddle of pee when we got to the park because she’d peed her swim diaper on the way and not only did I have to put her in a new diaper, but since I didn’t bring her a spare swim suit (why would I?) she had to enjoy the park clad only in a new swim diaper and flip flops. Her towel also had to double as a car seat cover on top of the one she soiled since I don’t travel with spare car seat covers either. What I now know is that swim diapers are only meant to keep poop out of the pool, but are comparable to swaddling your baby in off-brand paper towel in terms of absorbency. Luckily, it was a mistake I only made once.

  1. Never Filling out Baby Books or Growth Charts.

I believe I spent more time on Etsy, Amazon, and Zulilly shopping for my daughters’ baby book of firsts, monthly milestone stickers, and wall mounted growth charts than time I’ve spent filling any of them out combined. I keep telling myself that I can easily get a growth chart from my doctor’s office to mark up the one hanging on their wall and surely I can remember when my kids walked and their first words…at least enough to half way fill out a book for each of them…

It feels like that time in college when I had to write an essay on Moby Dick, but suffice it to say I may or may not have actually properly read the entire book so I was in fact writing the essay while speed reading the sections I missed and trying to piece together an essay that wouldn’t reflect that I hadn’t put in the proper amount of work at the beginning of the term. In my defense, it was 800 pages of about 5,000 pages of assigned reading I had that term and that first year of childhood is one year in eighteen years of their entire life, most of which is recorded on Facebook.

  1. Trying to force my kids to let me do their hair.

Neither of my kids will sit still long enough for me to do their hair in any thing more intricate than hair clips. Ponytails are out of the question, let alone French braids, layered ribbons, or unicorn rainbow glitter highlights (or whatever the basic toddlers are sporting these days). I’m lucky if the routine hair brushing I force both my kids to endure makes it to preschool drop off. After four years of begging my kids to let me style their hair, I’ve quit trying. When people make comments about their wild and crazy locks I insist it’s a reflection of their personality and that my children are basically feral. I’ve also found it helps if you put them in graphic tees that say “Messy Hair Don’t Care.” People tend to stop asking questions at that point.

  1. Forgetting picture day.

This is really only a problem because of #4. More time and effort goes into picture day than on any other school day combined including what my kids will wear and how much time, effort, and hair spackle (aka detangler) will be used at the start of the day. I usually try to schedule an appointment for my oldest to have her mane tamed the week prior to picture day to help minimize what I like to call “the towhead effect.” So when I forget picture day (which so far has only happened once), it involves turning my car upside down looking for hair clips, water bottles to wet hair with, and using my fingers like claws to somehow smooth out my daughter’s tresses all while cursing the fact that more breakfast and toothpaste ended up on her face and shirt than in her mouth. Even with all these well planned (and spontaneous) tools employed, I usually find myself wondering how the heck other parents are able to get their kids to school with all their hair in place, brushed, braided, and beribboned. I’m guessing their children spend less of their time wrapped up in blankets, rolling around on the ground, pretending to be a burrito.

  1. Swearing in front of my kids.

Please note this says swearing IN front of my kids and not swearing AT my kids. I reserve that for my internal monologues. I wish I could say that I never use bad language in front of my children, but that’s just not the case. I tend to drop F-bombs when I’m stuck in traffic (especially when I’m late and also have to pee), when I collide crotch first into the corner of the kitchen table, when I can’t find my phone or my keys, when I’ve venting on the phone to one of my other mom friends, and when I’m rage cleaning before company is coming over. Basically I only curse on the days that end in “y.” This really only becomes a problem when your kids inevitably end up picking up on your vernacular and yell out in frustration at their behavioral therapist, “These F-ing shoes!” (I can neither confirm nor deny this happened in real life and that she used her f-bomb contextually correct).

  1. Buying too many toys.

I’m going to be honest, my house looks like Toys R Us vomited in here. I tend to overdo holidays and birthdays but I don’t regret it. Yes, we could be focusing more on the “spirit” of the holiday and my kids participate in toy drives and giving back when an age appropriate opportunity presents itself, but I also selfishly enjoy watching my kids open presents and play with their toys. I don’t buy them toys to buy their affection. I do it for the same reason I should have taken more pictures and for the same reason I try to stop and play with my kids and to be present with them every day. Yes, these are material things, but one day I won’t be able to make their day any more just by surprising my kids with a brand new five pack of play-doh and taking an hour out of my day to enjoy it with them. And when you’re three there is nothing like the smell of a fresh can of play-doh. I fully understand that one day they will outgrow their childlike wonder along with their childhood play things and I want to make the most of both while I can.

  1. Wanting to be done with xyz phase.

There is a season of each part of childhood that is just plain hard as a parent. Between cluster feeding, colic, four a.m. feedings, and diaper explosions parenting through those infant years is exhausting. And then of course comes the toddler years. There’s a reason why they call them the terrible two’s, threenagers, and horror-fours (ok, I made that one up). The toddler years come with their own brand of turmoil between temper tantrums, potty training, and getting them ready for kindergarten. But the truth is as many times as I’ve wanted to be done with “this” phase (this being whatever phase my kids were currently in), it would also mean that they would be one step closer to being grown up and I’m not ready for that yet either. As much as I would love to be out of the diapering phase of parenting, I’m not ready to say goodbye to little toddler feet and baby curls. As much as I loathe the fight several times a day, every single day to physically put two toddlers in car seats and physically buckle them in, I’m also not ready for the day when they ask to borrow my car yet either.

A lot of the mistakes I make as a parent make me both cringe and smile. They’re a reminder that although we all want to do the best by our children, we’re also all human and we’re not going to get everything right all the time. Let’s try not to be too hard on ourselves. Just remember the big things: correct your kids when they don’t use their F-bombs grammatically correct, make sure your lies are believable if you’re not going to fill out their baby books until they’re thirteen, and don’t put a swim diaper on them until they get in the pool.

Oh….and don’t forget to take the picture.

Dying on the Oregon Trail

Sometimes we have big plans over the weekend and sometimes our plans revolve around fixing all the appliances and vehicles that need tending and the only fun that happens is the fun we make for ourselves. I actually tend to look forward to these kinds of simple unplanned pleasures and ended up spending most of the weekend cleaning, cooking, and turning what should have been a quick stop at the grocery store for egg rolls and face wash into an hour long Target expedition that ended in LOL Surprise Dolls for the girls and a new game for Matt and I (and a lot of other mundane items that we desperately needed but I kept forgetting). Matt of course gave me the side eye when I traipsed into the house with multiple Target bags and the kids came running in chanting, “What did you get us?!”

Surprisingly, even our two year old who is just getting the hang of stringing sentences together started shrieking, “LOL BALLS!! LOL BALLS!!” Yikes, I had no idea these things had even infiltrated her semi-limited screen time, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Willow likes whatever Olive likes and Olive likes anything with a series or the words “customize” in a YouTube video.

I spent the rest of the time through dinner explaining and then reexplaining why they couldn’t have them until after dinner and reminding them that I needed to actually make dinner, and listening to a lot of screaming and whining that they didn’t want to eat what I was cooking (Orange chicken and sesame noodles) when I had in fact not even boiled water yet. After losing my temper multiple times and chasing them out of the kitchen (and secretly regretting the open concept plan of our home because there’s no door to slam behind them), I somehow managed to muster dinner and eat while ignoring the fact that they were refusing to eat what I spent ninety minutes making. It’s fine. I’m fine.

We did eventually finish dinner and opened the LOL Surprise Dolls. Matt and I had to actually open them because our kids’ fine motor skills haven’t exactly mastered shrink wrapping and this ended up being a very hands on activity. The kids thoroughly enjoyed them and of course Willow immediately lost one of the doll’s shoes and cried bitterly at the end of the night when we wouldn’t let her sleep with it. At the end of the day I understand why my kids like them, with each new layer of shrink wrapping comes a new accessory or stickers or some other “neat” surprise (in the mind of a four year old). I know I’m a jaded parent because in my eyes at the end of the unveiling all my kids were left with a four inch doll in a fancy romper and diaper that they got to feed with a hipster bottle. I kept staring at the damn thing thinking….why didn’t they just put the doll, full clothed with accessories in the middle of the ball and put one layer of shrink wrapping over it. This is the toy equivalent of a meeting that could have been an email.

Once we eventually had the house to ourselves and the kids were asleep, I broke out the new Oregon Trail card game and Matt and I relived our childhood dreams of roughing it in a rickety covered wagon and dying from preventable diseases. It was actually a very fun game that we fully plan to play on the regular and I may be planning to go back to Target after this post to purchase the Oregon Trail Hunting card game so I can kill buffalo in card game form (I don’t know why but this was my favorite part of the game when I was ten and I do zero hunting in real life). There’s nothing like killing 500 lb. of buffalo in three minutes but only taking enough meat to make beef jerky (at least in computer life, in real life that’s cruel and wasteful). Is this living the American Dream? Shrink wrap and beef jerky?

 

When Life has Other Plans

I’ve been working really hard to make writing a part of my daily routine. That means finding chunks of time throughout the day in between preschool drop off and pick ups, during therapy sessions when Olive is busy with her behavioral therapist and Willow is either playing with them or napping. If I’m lucky, all these individual chunks of time equal two or three hours of writing every day. I’m trying to make this blog a weekly habit and I’m pushing myself to submit 2-3 pieces every week to different publications (starting this week).

One of the wonderful services that the Navy offers EFMP families is 40 hours a week of respite care. I started taking advantage of it during the last deployment and it has been a wonderful help for me to be able to run errands and get groceries without my kids and for Matt and I to be able to go on a monthly date night. I’ve recently realized that if I use my allocated respite hours for writing, this is the most efficient way for me to write and another great way to use my alone and child free time. I camp out at a Starbucks (the local one nestled in a Barnes & Noble has become my new favorite hangout), order a beverage, set up my laptop, and use the time to write untethered by the other responsibilties and distractions of my daily life as a stay at home mother of two.

I had my lovely child care specialist scheduled today while Olive was going to have her ABA session with her therapist so I would have five hours of straight writing bliss (I even planned to bring my book and treat myself to an hour of reading while I was there *sigh*). But of course life had other plans today. We’ve been passing around the cold bug the last month but it seems to have hit Willow especially hard. She’s had it since September 23rd. She was sick for almost a week and then seemed to be better for a few days and then seemed to get it again but with a bad cough. I really thought she was on the mend the last couple days but woke up again with what looked like the ooze from Ghostbusters seeping out of her orifices and a cough that would rival a COPD patient.

It’s a gray area when you have a lot of helpers (between therapists and child care workers) in and out of your home on a daily basis and one of your children get a cold. On one hand, she doesn’t have a fever or a rash which would be an immediate cancellation, but on the other hand I don’t believe its fair to ask people to come into my home to administer services when either of my children is visibly sick. I don’t cancel for every sniffle, but when other people are going to have to wipe kid’s snotty face and try to habitually avoid the direction of her cough, I draw the line and cancel. I first canceled respite and then called to make Willow a doctor’s appointment. Of course any doctor’s appointment during business hours (espeically with a round trip down town since that’s where the Naval hospital is) also means canceling ABA for the day so once I secured her doctor’s appointment, I had to text her therapists that were scheduled for that day as well.

And then I stood in my kitchen being pouty for twenty minutes and sipping coffee as I slowly realized my plans for child free bliss in a coffee shop, surrounded by books was out the window. Instead, I’m drinking more coffee, wiping snotty noses, writing this (and this is probably the only writing that will be accomplished today) with PJ Masks in the background and waiting for preschool pick up. The rest of the day will be spent carting kids to and from the doctor’s appointments, rage cleaning while I wish I was writing, and making this lovely meatloaf recipe (and lamenting the fact that I’m missing out on Starbucks coffee and nothing but the quiet in my head).

The part of me that demands I make the most of this day is also demanding I find other time to write today and to spend the time I’m not writing, snuggling these adorable, but super snotty toddlers. There’s still half a pack of unopened play-doh and two bins full of kinetic sand. So I guess my day is looking up after all.

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The Pictures You Don’t See

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I make a concerted effort to plan fun family “adventures” on our days off when my husband is home and the kids are free from the scheduled weekdays of my preschooler’s many therapies and school. It feels like I could waste so much time day to day and week to week, getting lost in tasks that barely make a dent in the housework and ever growing to-do list and letting the kids lose themselves in tablets and Netflix and never get out there and make our coveted memories. The ones that are all bright and shiny and post-worthy on social media.

We had been planning to take the kids to the local pumpkin patch the last couple weeks but plans had been derailed due to one illness and then another. We’d finally settled on Sunday to make the drive to Bates Nut Farm and planned to get there shortly after the place opened and hopefully leave around Willow’s nap time. I wasn’t naive enough to think we would have the time or the attention span to do all the attractions but surely we could get through the hay ride, face painting, and maybe the corn maze or pony rides while the kids were happy and cooperative enough to go along with a schedule. I expected once we got through three or four of the proffered family friendly activities we would need to pump the brakes, get the kids some food, make a mad dash through the patch to grab some pumpkins and then high tail it the hour car ride home. If I was lucky, we could spend the rest of the day posting cute pumpkin patch pictures on my Facebook page and recovering from our efforts.

At least that was the plan I had concocted in my head. In the attraction of making golden family memories, I sometimes forget that these outings are very often more work on my part as a parent than the amount of fun had by the entire family put together at the event itself. But that never stops me from planning them because I just can’t help myself.

The effort alone in getting a two-year-old and a four-year-old ready for the car can be daunting. Both kids need to be changed and dressed, about forty reminders to eat their breakfast (we call them “bite breaks”) while they are playing and watching their morning cartoons, teeth need to be brushed (and since they seem to like to take turns running from their toothbrush every day this is how I get all my steps in), and hair needs to be de-matted and brushed through all while our small children are screaming (Nooo! My hair! Don’t touch me! I don’t like water on me!). After about an hour of this nonsense, during which I’m filling a Costco cooler with enough snacks, diapers, and wipes to get through two hours of family fun it’s finally time to leave. Then Matt and I realize that neither of us has actually eaten anything or finished coffee. That means an extra ten minutes of throwing drinkable yogurt and granola bars in our bag and finding travel mugs to bring what’s left in the coffee pot for the car ride.

So finally after an hour and a half of this nonsense we’re on the road and I realize we haven’t packed juice boxes or blankets for the ride home making the eventual needed bribery options limited but we will have to make do with the bare minimum I suppose: Lunchables and Skittles (which are actually my bribery for adulting but I make sacrifices in the name of weekend outings). Once we arrive at the actual farm, I realize I’ve made another error in judgement. Assuming the dust and hay against bare skin would send Olive into a sensory turmoil (although she doesn’t have a lot of sensory issues, I always seem to misjudge what environmental triggers will or won’t be an issue), I dressed both girls in stretch pants and a halloween t-shirt. Unfortunately, although it was 75 degrees when we left, it was 90 degrees on the farm and we were all hot within ten minutes of getting there. Add this to the fact that the parking lot was already half full when we arrived (meaning lines would be longer and the kids would get overwhelmed more quickly from the crowds alone) and I knew we would have to readjust our expectations in terms of what we were going to be able to do at the farm.

The first family fun activity we had to check off our list was a pit stop at the porta potties. The bathroom was both badly needed and would be super frustrating but I found out after taking Olive inside the box of ill repute that she was terrified of portable toilets. She took one look down the portal of poop and started screaming as if her life depended on it, bashing into the plastic walls, and eventually managed to claw the door open (thank goodness we were both fully clothed at this point) and made a mad dash out of there with me chasing after her (and I really needed the damn bathroom at that point if I’m going to be honest). I can only imagine what my fellow pumpkin patch goers thought of this spectacle as I was in hot pursuit of a screaming toddler making a mad dash out of a literal hot box.

Thank goodness we had remembered the training potty in the car and we eventually were able to check off this first family fun activity (the only one that was free of charge by the way). Next we found the line for the ticket booth (which was a requirement for all activities, including purchasing pumpkins) and waited in an exorbitantly long line so we could buy enough tickets for the privilege to wait in all the other long lines to actually participate in any of the available activities (pony rides, hay ride, horse drawn carriage, corn maze, henna tattoos, face painting, balloons, bounce house, bounce slide). This was also the only line that both of my children were able to wait patiently for.

We decided that the best plan of attack was to start with the hay ride while the kids’ patience was most likely to hold out since it had the longest line. Unfortunately, Willow had used all of hers up in the wait to get the tickets and decided that she was done waiting for the day. My best efforts to get her to stop screaming and crying (snacks, water bottle, walking around the farm while daddy and Olive stayed in line) only seemed to silence her frustration momentarily and by the time we were headed to the front of the loading bay area I knew the likelihood of her not ruining the entire wagon’s experience with her banshee shrieking and violent flailing was at about zero percent so I abandoned the hope of actually experiencing a hay ride with my two smiling happy children (I still haven’t been on a hayride since college when there were actually zero children and copious amounts of rum).

I carried Willow kicking and screaming at extremely loud decibels to the shade of a nearby tree and waited out the tantrum, until she was tired of screaming and we were both covered in dirt and essentially looked like we belonged there. This seems like as good of a time as any to impart this kernel of wisdom: if you see a mother struggling with a screaming toddler trying to high tail it out of the immediate vicinity, don’t take this opportunity to stare, gawk, make snarky comments and asides to your friend, or otherwise pass judgement or humor on their predicament. Because I SEE you and just because my hands are full does not mean I’m not silently cussing you out, laying a curse on your next of kin, and judging you harshly and silently for being a monumental douche canoe.

Once Willow had cooled her jets and was at the level of “sniffling and sad,” I pointed out to her that there was a lemonade vendor and if she could wait patiently and quietly in line with me (that was only two people deep), I would buy her a lemonade while we waited for daddy and Olive to finish their ride. Although it took two attempts to get in line, because Willow decided yet again that lines weren’t worth her precious time (at which point the line was five people deep). I did eventually get her a lemonade which she held onto for dear life for the remainder of the visit and refused to share with any one.

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Once Matt and Olive met up with us Olive decided she was ready to have her face painted. We braved the line for about twenty minutes before Olive announced she absolutely did not want her face painted. She wanted to go on the pony rides, except the line for the pony rides was a good fifteen people deep and we knew the likelihood of Willow making it through both a line and sitting still long enough to enjoy a pony ride was minuscule so I kindly suggested to Olive that we go through the corn maze and then come back for the ponies. Luckily, she was at least minimally flexible to the idea and we headed for corn hell.

We weren’t in the maze for more than five minutes before the actual meltdown started. I don’t know if it was because she was entirely closed off by bales of hay in 95 degree weather (OK – I admit, not the most sensory friendly environment) or because she was still bent out of shape over having to forgo ponies, but Olive started getting pouty and closed off, stopped following us or responding to prompts, and then basically picked one corner of the maze to shut down. I tried to wait it out for a few minutes and I employed all the tactics we’ve learned from ABA (deep breaths, counting to ten, offering alternatives, setting a timer for a break, etc.) but nothing was making her budge and it eventually evolved into a crying hysterics that there would be no coming back from (At one point I began to wonder if she was turning into one of the actual towheaded children from Children of the Corn). At that point, it was time to throw in the towel and call in an end to our fun family outing. We made a mad dash through the pumpkin field and let each kid pick out a pumpkin (which almost became a second toddler crisis when Willow discovered much to her dismay that she couldn’t physically carry her pumpkin).

And then we all shuffled back to the car and headed back home to lick our proverbial wounds. In that moment, I broke down myself for a few minutes and cried (quietly too myself). We had driven over an hour to get there and stayed for an hour and fifteen minutes and had another hour drive home. The amount of planning and effort that goes into an outing like this between getting the kids ready and the car packed and making sure the kids behave and are safe and then getting them back home is exhausting, even when the day goes well. I’m not saying it didn’t go well but for the amount of moments we had that looked like this:

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There were five times as many moments that went like this:

 

Once I was done throwing myself a pity party, I gently reminded myself that I knew what my kids’ limitations were when it comes to lines, crowds, outings, sensory stimulation, and attention span and I decided to make this outing worth pushing their limits in 95 degree weather, no less. One day they may be able to come to the pumpkin patch and stay for three or four hours, enjoy every single activity and gorge themselves on fair food, but this was not that day. If I was going to take them places outside their comfort zone then I was also going to need to embrace the chaos that comes along with it. And even though the memories that are seared into my brain from this day will probably be unbearable heat, screaming, crying, and porta potties, I’m hoping what my kids will remember will be pumpkins, hayrides, and lemonade.