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I Guess I Bought The Wrong Flavor

Today was day sixteen of summer vacation.

It was the first really rainy day since the kids have been out of school, and after two weeks of sun and outdoor swim practices and a few late nights and a nine-hour-long 4th of July party the other day, we were all in need of a lazy, indoor day out of the sun.

So I was grateful for the rain.

On an unrelated topic, I  stopped buying a lot of processed foods a couple years ago.

At first I pretty much cut out everything. No cereal. No crackers. No chips. No Goldfish.

I started making stuff from scratch. Like real macaroni and cheese. Not the fake, neon mac and cheese from a box.

It was delicious.

But my kids acted as if I had presented them with a bowl full of flesh eating bacteria. Or poop. Or both.

So the kids were having Kraft withdrawals.

In addition, all adults in this house were not completely on board with the no-processed-food-at-all decision.

Plus, to be honest, I’m not organized and efficient enough to do 100% whole foods and stuff from scratch yet.

But it is still a goal of mine. One day I’m gonna get there.

So anyway, I do buy some processed stuff now. But not near as much as I used to.

A couple weeks ago, in a moment of desperation, I bought a big ass package of Kraft mac and cheese at Costco. There are like eighteen boxes of that garbage in that big pack.

When I got home, the kids saw it and exclaimed, “YES!!! THE GOOD MAC AND CHEESE!!!”

They seriously call that shit the good mac and cheese.

On another note, having all the kids home all day during the summer, not being able to afford a babysitter, and having quite a bit of work to do from home, I have had to get creative with how I make time to get anything done.

I normally get up fairly early, usually by 5:45 on school days, but for the last sixteen days, I’ve been getting up between 3:45 and 4:30 every morning. That gives me at least two hours every day before the first kid wakes up and before I have to get ready to go to swim practice.

Now that I’m used to getting up that early, I actually really enjoy it. It’s quiet, and I can enjoy a cup (or three) of coffee without being harassed, and I can watch the sun rise right out of my office window.

But I am definitely tired.

Today with the rain and nothing on the calendar in the afternoon for anyone (minor miracle), I decided I’d give myself the gift of a nap.

I had swim practice this morning until 9:15. By the time I got home it was close to 10:00.

I was soaked and cold from coaching in the rain, so I changed back into dry and comfy pajamas.

I did some laundry, cleaned up the kitchen, and did a couple other things around the house.

I had decided on taking a nap right after lunch. That way the kids would be fed and I’d at least eliminate nap interruptions because someone was starving to death.

I didn’t want to deal with a huge lunch production either, so I baked some brownies, made two boxes of everyone’s favorite, fake, chemically loaded mac and cheese, nuked some hot dogs, and pulled some watermelon out of the fridge.

Even if nobody actually ate it, the inclusion of an actual fruit made me feel okay with what I’d given them to eat, and nobody would complain about brownies, hot dogs, and mac and cheese.

They’d all be happy, eat a bunch of junk and hopefully a little bit of watermelon, and not need anything to eat for at least a couple hours.

When their mostly processed lunch was ready, I called everyone into the kitchen.

Number 6 saw what I’d made and immediately responded with, “I HATE THAT MAC AND CHEESE.”

What. The Fuck.

Somewhere in the last sixteen days, Number 6 had decided the good mac and cheese is now the bad mac and cheese.

In addition, he also now hates hot dogs which were on his list of Top 10 Favorite Foods up until about 47 minutes ago.

I told him that was what I’d made for lunch and he didn’t have to eat any of it, but I wasn’t making anything else until dinner time.

He ate a few bites of mac and cheese. Then he asked for a brownie.

I was so tired and I was so close to my nap.

In an effort to ensure at least a solid hour of sleep, I gave him a ridiculously huge piece of brownie. I knew it was more than he’d be able to eat.

He didn’t finish the brownie because he was full. Mission accomplished.

I told everyone they’d need to occupy themselves for the next hour and a half and not to bother me because I was going to take a nap.

I lay down on the bed and was asleep almost before my head hit the pillow.

It was magnificent.

For about 40 minutes.

That’s when Number 6 came barreling into my room.

“MOM!!! I’M STARVING!!!”

I repeated what I had said before. I wasn’t making anything else to eat until dinner time.

“WELL ALL YOU GAVE ME FOR LUNCH WAS MAC AND CHEESE THAT TASTES LIKE VAGINAS!” he yelled.

Having just been awoken from a peaceful sleep, I was a little slow on the uptake.

All I managed to do was sigh heavily and roll over.

“FINE! I’ll go make something for myself!” he yelled.

And he stormed away.

So we have reached that glorious stage of vacation where meal times have turned to snack time, snack times have turned to mealtimes, hot dogs are inedible and mac and cheese tastes like vaginas.

Only 54 days until the first day of school.

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One Great Catch Can Be A Game Changer

You know how a kid can totally suck at baseball and make like ten errors in one game and start to feel completely hopeless and dejected, but then out of nowhere he can make an amazing catch that no one ever thought was possible? And even with all those errors in one game, that one awesome catch has him riding a high and feeling like there is hope for him as a baseball player after all?

This past Friday I was that sucky baseball player, but in the mom department. I made a thousand errors. I couldn’t do anything right. I was feeling like a complete failure.

And then this afternoon, I finally made a really good play.

And I am still riding that high.

There is something I’ve been trying SO HARD for my kids to “get”.

But they have not been getting it.

I know I’m not the only parent whose kids are constantly bugging the shit out of each other.

It’s one of my biggest pet peeves. The kids just needling each other until someone eventually explodes.

Then they are either screaming at each other or beating the crap out of each other, and it pretty much always ends in tears.

It drives me insane.

And I have been working very, VERY hard to teach the kids how to resolve this issue without my help.

Because when I intervene, they don’t learn how to solve these problems themselves, and I put myself in the position to always be the referee.

It’s infuriating and exhausting. And it’s monotonous and boring.

This happens very often when the kids are in the kitchen.

We have a counter/bar area where the kids eat most of their meals.

And inevitably the kids are looking at each other or touching each other or chewing the wrong way or doing any other number of things that annoy the living crap out of each other. This turns into them yelling at each other and then them  pleading for me to make the other person stop.

So I’ve really been working to teach them that you can’t make anyone else do anything.

You can politely ask them to stop doing whatever it is, but you can’t make anyone other than yourself start or stop doing anything.

The kids very often get so frustrated with each other that after they ask whoever is bugging the crap out of them to stop in as civil a way as possible. When they refuse, the next move is to yell at them, and then when they reach the boiling point, they will progress to a push/shove/smack/whatever.

That’s the thing that pushes me over the edge.

Their response is typically, “BUT HE’S JUST SO ANNOYING!!!”

I assure them I feel the same way very often each day, but if I hit someone every time they annoyed me, I’d be throwing punches all day long. Plus, when you’re a grown up and do that stuff you go to jail.

So we’ve been working on solutions to this problem.

As I explained earlier, the kids usually eat in close proximity to each other at the counter in the kitchen.

The dining room is right around the corner from the kitchen. And there is a nice table in there at which to eat.

We have talked about alternatives to the arguing/bickering/fighting.

We have talked about how even though it’s frustrating and annoying, it’s your job to either accept the situation and ignore the behavior or remove yourself from the situation when you’ve politely said something but the other person refuses to stop and/or change.

This afternoon at lunch, the bickering began.

I felt myself getting extremely agitated.

I took a deep breath, clenched my teeth, and prepared to ask the kids what they thought would be a good solution to the problem, and before I even opened my mouth, Number 6 stood up, pushed in his seat, picked up his plate, silently left the kitchen and sat down at the dining room table.

YAAAAASSSSSSSSSS!

HE GOT IT!!!

And I didn’t have to say a word.

I couldn’t believe it.

I didn’t feel like I had just made an amazing catch. I felt like I had won the whole damn World Series!!!

I know this doesn’t mean everything has clicked permanently, but my six-year-old son is learning how to regulate his emotion and how to keep his cool, and I didn’t have to intervene at all.

He did it all by himself. And he didn’t learn it by being punished, by having something held over his head, by having a carrot dangled in front of him, by being threatened, or by being singled out.

He learned it because we’ve been practicing, we’ve been talking, and I’ve been consistent.

That is a major life skill, and he’s getting it at six years old.

Yes.

YES. YES. YES.

I ran into the dining room and high fived him.

I yelled “GOOD JOB NUMBER 6!!!” and gave him a hug.

He squeezed me back, looked straight up at me, and he said,

Mommy? I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.

It wasn’t just a great play today in the parenting department.

To me, it was more like a grand slam.

 

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Your job as a stay at home mom is NOT to cater to your damn kids.

Yesterday I wrote this post about one of the things I’ve done that has really helped my children to be more responsible.

And I received this comment:

I so struggle with this. With only 2 kids and a very part time baking business out of my home, I waffle between getting my kids to do more and feeling like it’s all my responsibility since I don’t have a job. If I get them to do it, what’s the point of me being home? That’s what I struggle with! Any helpful advice here?

Okay.

Um.

WHOAH!!!

First of all, in addition to being a stay-at-home mom, you are also a business owner.

You are, in your own words, very part time. But don’t discredit yourself.

Next, let’s get past this apparent stay-at-home mom guilt you appear to have going on.

I know in this day and age, the single income family is becoming more and more a thing of the past.

But one thing we all know is that it’s not healthy or helpful to compare yourself to your neighbor. To feel the need to keep up with the Joneses.

If you can’t afford a certain lifestyle, then you have to live within your means.

Screw what your friends/neighbors/relatives think.

Just as it’s not good to feel the need to keep up with the Joneses, it’s no good to keep down with the Joneses either!

You don’t have to compare how hard you work or how busy your day is or how many jobs you have to your friend/relative/neighbor with less money!

If you are able to live on one income and one parent wants to and is able to stay home full time, well, GOOD FOR HER (OR HIM)!

If you have a little bit of down time during your day, GOOD FOR YOU!

If you have time to take a shower and exercise and take care of yourself and not run around like a fucking maniac every waking hour of your day, well, YES!!! DO IT!

If people have a problem with that?

Fuck ’em.

You don’t have to wear yourself down, burn yourself out, and do every single thing for every single person in the family 24/7/365 just because you are at home and your best friend or your sister isn’t able to do the same thing!

Now back to your struggle.

Ummm….. there is nothing to struggle with.

A stay at home mom’s job is not to cater to her children’s every want and need.

There is no shortage of jobs to be done in a home.

And there are things that your kids really can’t be responsible for.

They’re not going to do the driving and the scheduling. That’s almost a full-time job right there.

Your children aren’t going to go grocery shopping. They aren’t going to make dentist and doctor’s appointments and make sure all the kids get to them.

They aren’t going to be able to stay at home with a sick kid so no one has to call in sick to work.

They aren’t going to be planning meals and cooking dinner and figuring out a budget and going to conferences and volunteering at school and doing the Christmas shopping and buying the birthday presents.

The point of you being home is to facilitate a smooth running home and to take care of the stuff that the person working outside the home may not have time for.

The stay at home mom’s (or dad’s) job is not to make her kids’ lives easy and without conflict, struggle, hard work, sacrifice or a little elbow grease.

It is to make their lives better!

Not their lives in the immediate moment, but their lives in the long run.

This is the job of any parent, not just the mom.

It is to help them build a solid foundation so that when they are on their own, they don’t crash and burn and so that they aren’t total assholes.

Your job as a parent, wherever you work — and staying at home is definitely WORK — is to teach your children to develop self-discipline and problem solving skills, to be kind and responsible, to cooperate, and to communicate effectively and respectfully.

And you do not do all that by doing every damn thing for your kids!!!

Your kids need to learn how to pack their backpacks and their lunches, fold clothes, and work the washing machine and dryer. They need to learn how to unload, load and run the dishwasher. They need to learn what stuff can go in the dishwasher and what stuff needs to be washed by hand.

And yes. They need to learn to wash dishes by hand, too.

They need to learn how to make a bed, and organize their shit.

They need to learn how to clean up after themselves.

The need to learn how to clean a bathroom and plunge a toilet and use a toilet scrubber and squirt that blue crap around the underside of the toilet.

They need to learn how to not only use a vacuum cleaner, but to change the bag. Or the canister. Whatever place all the crap goes into.

They need to learn how to use a broom and a rake and a shovel.

They need to learn how to put gas in the car and also in the lawn mower.

And yes. They need to learn how to use the damn lawn mower, too.

They need to learn how to thread a needle, sew on a button, and hem their pants.

The need to learn how to use the microwave, the stove and the oven, how to handle a hot pan and a boiling pot of water, and at the very least, how to make mac and cheese, a grilled cheese sandwich, and Ramen noodles, the three major college food groups.

Your kids need to learn how to be a contributing member of a household so they can be a contributing member of society!

While you are working on that, take advantage of the things stay-at-home moms are also able to do.

If you are crafty and into that stuff, look some shit up on Pinterest and do that with your kids.

If you are into cooking, teach them how to make something a little more complicated (and nutritious) than mac and cheese.

If you are into gardening, teach them how to plant seeds and start a garden.

Do the stuff that working moms don’t have the time to do.

And don’t feel guilty about having the ability to be able to do it!

So, in my opinion, that’s what you should be doing if you are a stay-at-home mom.

You should be making some memories with your kids.

And most importantly, you should be teaching.

Teaching your kids how to do all the crap they will need to do when they venture out on their own.

Because if think you are struggling now, it will be nothing compared to the struggle you’ll have trying to kick your 35-year-old entitled man or woman-child out of the house after a lifetime of servitude and enabling.

Now step away from the computer, put the phone down and go get your kids.

You’ve got some teaching to do.

Save the enabling for when your kids have kids.

Because that’s totally one of the job requirements (and perks) of being a grandparent.

 

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Making Momming Easier — One Way To Help Teach Your Kids To Be Responsible

People very often say to me, “I don’t know how you do it with so many kids at home.”

Sometimes I don’t know how I do it either.

It’s often a shakedown cruise here at my house.

But sometimes, we are a (sort of) well-oiled machine.

And it’s for one reason: our kids have responsibilities and are encouraged to be independent.

Even the youngest ones.

Especially the youngest ones.

This is one of the biggest bullet points in the “pro” column for having a large family.

If I had to do every single thing around the house and every single thing to get the kids ready for wherever they had to go every day, I’d be totally fucked.

And angry.

This became incredibly clear around the time that kid #4 came into the picture.

If I was going to maintain any level of sanity, they were going to have to start doing some stuff for themselves.

Of all the responsibilities the kids have, the one that has proven to be the absolute most helpful so far is requiring the kids to pack their own lunches.

Because this hasn’t just saved me close to thirty minutes every morning. It has had a domino effect in other areas.

We are always on the go to swim practice and swim meets and basketball games and baseball games.

Swim meets and baseball games in particular are a serious time investment. And the kids are inevitably “starving” and “dying of thirst” after they’ve been there for about 20 minutes.

Buying stuff at concession stands at baseball games or stopping at Wendy’s on the way home from a meet is expensive when you have lots of kids.

So now when we are leaving for something that’s going to take more than a couple hours, all I have to do is tell the kids to pack a few snacks/sanwhiches/whatever for themselves before we go.

They each get their own lunch boxes and fill them up.

They now (almost) automatically fill their water bottles before they get in the car to go anywhere because they know, at $1-$2 a pop, I’m not going to buy everyone a Gatorade at the baseball game.

Not having to worry about packing up food for everyone every time we head out on a Saturday or Sunday saves me lots of money and lots of time.

We can get out of the house faster.

This absolutely makes my life easier.

The other way having the kids pack their own lunches has positively snowballed is that once they started doing that, they became more interested in being a part of the cooking process in general.

To varying degrees of course. They don’t all want to open up their own restaurants when they are older.

But they do like to help out in the kitchen.

And Number 4, in particular, is eager to learn how to do everything.

The more time she spends in the kitchen, the more comfortable I am letting her do things on her own.

She’s no Ina Garten yet, but for a ten-year-old, she’s pretty self sufficient.

And that couldn’t have come in more handy than it did this morning.

Yesterday out of nowhere I got slammed with a stomach bug. From hell.

Last night I literally thought I was going to die.

I woke up this morning feeling better than I did yesterday, but still quite sick. The smell of food was making me gag (and no, I’m not pregnant — closed that shop up for business four years ago).

Of course, today we had a snow day, so all the kids were home.

Number 4, knowing I was not feeling well, came into my room this morning with a smoothie in her hand.

She said to me, “MOM! I made the BEST smoothie!”

She knows how to work the Ninja and make her own smoothies. I usually make them with frozen strawberries, bananas and either orange juice or a little bit of vanilla and milk.

I asked her what she did differently.

“I used frozen strawberries, blueberry yogurt, and a little bit of honey!”

So not only is she proficient in some areas of the kitchen, she’s also curious and adventurous (I know trying blueberry yogurt in a smoothie isn’t like she’s ready to take over Andrew Zimmern’s hosting gig on Bizarre Foods, but you know what I mean).

Number 7 followed her into my room, saw the smoothie, and asked if she could have one, too.

Number 4 took her right to the kitchen and made one for her.

Then she cam back into my room a few minutes later and asked if she could make pancakes.

She slices her own apples and is pretty good with a knife (not that she needed a sharp knife to make pancakes, but the point is that she’s got some skills). She’s been cracking eggs since she was about 4, so I wasn’t worried about that. She’s fried eggs before, so she knows her way around the stove.

It told her to go for it.

I always make pancakes from scratch, so we didn’t have any mix, and she was going to have to figure it out herself.

About five minutes later I heard her yell, “Number 3! I found the recipe! Do you want to help me?”

About ten minutes after that, I dragged my butt out of bed to make sure nothing life threatening was about to happen.

Number 4 had it all under control.

Of course I had to document it. Because I wanted to share this moment.

Because another domino effect of having the kids make their lunches is that Number 4 knows her way around the kitchen, and when I’m sick, I have someone who can help me out.

All you moms know what a relief that is.

Because being sick blows.

But being sick and having to take care of your kids seriously blows.

This giving your kids responsibility stuff isn’t just for people with large families, though.

And I’m not saying that people with one or two kids don’t teach their kids to be responsible.

But I think that people with larger families might discover this sooner than smaller families out of necessity.

When you have one or two kids to take care of, sometimes (okay, pretty much all the time) it’s easier just to do it yourself.

Initially, anyway.

But eventually, this stuff catches up with you.

That saying You can’t teach an old dog new tricks is a saying for a reason.

And the longer you let your kids live without responsibility, the harder it is to establish it later on.

If you start with small things when they are two or three years old, by the time they are in middle school, they won’t even bat an eyelash.

But when you wait until they are teenagers to expect them to start being responsible for packing their own lunch?

There is a very good chance you are in for a long and drawn out battle.

Your two-year-old may not be able to pack a lunch box for herself, but she sure as hell can put a juice box in one. And she can turn the water on while you hold the water bottle under the faucet.

She can be involved in the process early on.

The initial investment of time (and patience) may be a little higher when they are younger.

But the payoff later on is huge. And it’s a gift that spreads into other areas of life you wouldn’t even initially think about.

Like when you are puking your guts out on a snow day when six kids are home.

If you want to ease your burden and help your kids to become more responsible, packing their lunches is a great place to start.

And don’t worry.

No matter how responsible they become?

They are still always gonna need you.

 

 

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