Thursday, May 29, 2008

Even Magic Moms Make Mistakes

Made a mistake, it's too late, how much havoc did I make?

I am officially out of the running for the Mommy of the Year Award. I goofed, big time, and I had to fess up to my four-year-old at bedtime last night. I (we?) left Blanket at Grandma's house.

Blanket, by the way, is my son's lovey - a hand knitted (or maybe crocheted) blanket that we received as a baby gift before he was born. Since he was about a year old, he's held Blanket at bedtime, and Blanket has accompanied us on trips. The boy and his blanket come as a pair - usually....

I know - you are staring at your computer screen in disbelief. Let me tell you, when I was halfway home and realized that Blanket had probably not made it into the kids' travel bag, for a split second I thought about turning around. I can't believe I'm even telling you that I goofed so badly! However, even Magic Moms goof on occasion - the magic comes with the clever solutions that we often (but not always) come up with.

Let me give you a little more background on Blanket. You already know what he looks like (yes, Blanket is a he). You already know that J goes to sleep clutching Blanket - naps included. But you don't know that the rule around here is that "Blanket stays in bed." I guess I'm a germ freak, but the thought of my kid hauling a blanket everywhere just didn't sit well with me. I have seen kids in the store with their fave lovey along for the ride, picking up shopping cart germs, grocery store dirt, and parking lot grime. That's just not okay. The only exception to the rule is if we will be leaving home overnight - then the blankets accompany us. They get packed into the kids' travel bag along with a few toys, a pack of wipes, and other necessities for road trips in the mommy-van. If the kids want them during the ride, the bag sits right between their seats, and they can just grab a blanket and snuggle. This often leads to a nap, which leads to happy kids upon arriving at the destination.

Well, I was packing yesterday morning for the trip home from SC. When J woke up, he came down the hall to say good morning and have some breakfast. As he does at home, he left Blanket in bed. So, the kids had breakfast, got dressed, and watched the Disney Channel while I got everything packed and loaded. Jonah slept in a separate room from me, so as I was packing up everything in my room, I forgot to do a double-check in the room where he'd slept. I also did not double-check my packing list from when I originally packed for the trip. Yes - I use a packing list, and I take it with me to use when I pack for the trip home. I also write down "blankets and toys" every time so I don't forget to take them along. How terrible would it be to get to your destination and not have the blankets?!? Even worse than getting home without them, I think.

As I mentioned, we were about halfway home when I discovered Blanket was not along for the ride. J asked where Blanket was, and in that moment I realized what had happened. Using my best quick thinking skills, I told him that I couldn't reach it (which was true...), but just to relax and watch the movie (thank goodness for in-car DVDs, but that's anther post). He seemed satisfied with that, as he'd already made a lot of requests for things I couldn't reach. I knew he wouldn't be so satisfied when the whole story came out.

When bedtime rolled around, he helped me tuck Miss M into her bed. Her blanket had just "taken a bath" and was in the dryer, so we were sitting around waiting for the familiar "ding" to tell us it was dry. As I explained this to J, he asked me where Blanket was. Uh-oh - the moment I'd been dreading. I asked him if he'd put blanket into the toy bag before we left Grandma's and he figured it out too fast - Blanket was still in bed at Grandma's. I know what you are thinking - how mean to turn it around like that and make him feel like it was his fault. Well, we are trying to teach him to be responsible for his possessions, but I also apologized that I did not remind him to find blanket before we left. And, having called my mom earlier in the day to ask her to put Blanket in the mail, I was able to assure him that Blanket was on his way back home, thanks to Grandma and the mailman. After explaining that Blanket was in a big envelope or a box, and that he would return on Friday, J promptly told me he wanted Blanket to be in a box. There were some tears, but not nearly the amount I had anticipated.

By the way, there's only one Blanket. After searching the house for a couple of possible substitutes, and having J veto every one, he had to go to sleep alone.... He didn't want to sing a song or say prayers, as is our usual routine, so I said his prayers for him, thanking God for Grandma and the mailman, and asking to help Blanket get home safely. I'm not sure if that's an ok thing to pray for, but I imagine that if it's coming from the heart of (or on behalf of) a child, God doesn't mind.

The big issue with the candidates? The holes weren't big enough. They were all knitted or crocheted, but none of them had "holes" as big as Blanket. And J reminded me of this when I put him down for his nap this afternoon. I am so proud of him for really taking this in stride (he's growing up!), but Friday at 2pm can't come fast enough. I bet we will be on the front porch then, waiting for the mailman and Blanket to arrive.


Blanket was home by 11:30am today (Friday), and arrived on the front porch in a BOX. J could not have been more pleased :)

I wiped off my elbows, so I'm good now.

I met my youngest reader over the weekend! During my trip to SC, I was able to visit with my good friend H, her husband P, and their new little bundle, Miss A. P was generous enough to allow us big girls a lunch date, and then we picked Miss A up for a little shopping trip. I got to practice my tried-and-true "bounce-pat-shh" method of baby-calming (which still works!) and then my sweet little friend drooled all down my arm as we strolled around Babies R Us. Then, after the ride back to her crib (during which she fell asleep), H and I both realized that we forgot to take any pictures! Can you believe two scrapbookers forgot to take a single picture?!? I guess we were so excited to see each other and share everything that's new - Miss A's new nursery, pics of my kids who are SO big now, and just general catching up - that the actual being there was just too important to stop for a single "cheese" moment!
Thanks, H, for sharing your day with me, and for the yummy Yo! Burrito lunch. P, thanks for letting me steal your wife for a couple of hours for an adults-only lunch, and both your girls for the shopping excursion. And Miss A, thanks for all the smiles and chatter and even the drool. You are definitely a keeper!
PS - Check out H's account of our day - she beat me to the blog!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Take it easy.... Take it easy.... Don't let the sound of your own wheels....

Today, my status on Facebook says, "RL is taking the kids over the river and through the woods...." That's right, we're at Grandma's house! The drive to my mom's house takes about three hours if you drive it non-stop, but it usually takes at least one stop with the kids. There are stretches of interstate and four-lane highway, but about half of the drive is on two-lane roads. Being from the "big city," a lot of the driving I do on a daily basis is on four-lane highways and interstate, going around 65 miles per hour. Either that or 35 miles per hour - but not a lot of variation otherwise. I think that these speeds have somehow become a part of me. If I don't pay attention to the speedometer, my surroundings seem to dictate my speed - and it's either around 35 or around 65 (or maybe just a few miles per hour higher....).

When we were about 20 minutes from my mom's house, on the last bit of "country roads," I found myself going 65 miles per hour where the speed limit was only 55. Normally, I'd probably slow down to about 60 - and later find that my speed had crept up to 65 again. But today - on this beautiful, sunny afternoon under the bluest SC skies that you can't find anywhere else (nope, not even in NC...) - I felt the need to slow down and go only 55 mph.

Maybe it was because for the first time in a long time, we hadn't left late. I didn't feel pushed to get here as fast as I could to make the most of our short visit (since this time we are staying FIVE days - yay!). Maybe it was because the kids hadn't started getting fussy - and I had even turned off the movies and turned down the music so they could enjoy this part of the trip along with me. Maybe the One who's really in the driver's seat was telling me something simple - something that I should adopt on a grander scale.

I was amazed by what I noticed when all of the distractions were gone. We looked at the cows, the pecan groves, the fields growing whatever grows best around here (I think it's soybeans). I noticed the beautiful green of the grass and trees. I also noticed how much quieter the "road noise" is when you go slower. I am sure I noticed it because I felt compelled to slow down - and even found myself crusing along below the speed limit at one point. That never happens.... Except for today - when the sky was blue, the grass was green, and I took a moment to slow down and enjoy it all.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Searching for Summer Fun

Oh, me, oh, my - how the year did fly! Preschool is almost over - Miss M's last day was today, and J's last day is Friday. The school year ends with a picnic lunch - and then we are on the road to Grandma's! Mister J has been quite a handful for Miss Caroline this week, but it seems that's the norm for the entire class. I think the kids realize it's the end of the year (classroom decorations are coming down, lots of art is coming home) and they are a little off-kilter.

As I ponder the summer months ahead, I'm trying to think of projects I can complete and fun things I can do with the kids. I am imagining a clean house (ha!), healthy homemade lunches (already making a good start on this), and lots of fun activities and projects. I wonder what happens when art and lunch collide....

Mmmm.... tasty......

Wishing you a great summer - tasty treats, outdoor fun, and art projects that are easy to mail to Grandma, Grandpa, and all the aunts and uncles!

UPDATE: Shortly after I finished this post, J came down from his not-so-quiet time to tell me he was hungry. I asked him what he wanted for dinner - hotdogs! I did not make the octopi (octopuses?), but I did make hotdog flowers with ketchup centers (mustard for mine). I took a picture so you can see how it turned out, but won't get that posted tonight. Exhausted....

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bye-bye crib...

We zoomed past yet another milestone this weekend.
On Friday afternoon, we moved a twin bed into J's room, and moved his toddler bed into M's room. He loves the big bed with its bright new bedding - but wondered why his walls were not yet painted the "dark yellow" he had requested. (One step at a time, son - we have the whole summer ahead of us!)
M spent just one more night in the crib, and has been in the toddler bed for naps and at night since Saturday. She hasn't even tested us that much with sneaking out of bed - knock wood.
I guess this weekend I'll be sending the crib up to the attic until/in case we need it again.

UPDATE 5/21/08, 2:30PM: I put M down for her nap this afternoon, then J and I went outside to watch a cement mixer delivering to the house across the street. Afterwards, we watered our newly-transplanted daylilies (thanks Grandma and Grandpa R!). We kicked the soccer ball around a few times - J can't resist this when we go outside, and he's getting pretty good! Finally, inside and quietly upstairs to put J down for a nap/quiet time. We tiptoed into his room and found Miss M asleep on the floor in front of his book case. Apparently, she got out of bed and went looking for him when she was supposed to be napping! My two are quite a pair - they love each other so much, and I couldn't be more blessed!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Growing up waaayyy too fast

Seems my kids have a lot of things to say lately, and I'm finding many of them funny enough to post. We were on our way to a friend's house this morning when my son piped up with this:

"Mom, I'm getting old."
"Really? How do you know?"
"Because I have a headache."

If anyone out there has had a headache, I hate to tell you, but in the eyes of my four-year-old, you are nearly dust.

I do think he's growing up too fast, though. He has recently been telling people that his sister is "one-and-a-half." Fairly accurate, but I didn't know that almost-four-and-a-half-year-olds cared about it that much.

My daughter has several new words and phrases lately. She's picked up "cool" from her brother, loves to look at one of her picture books (on the "Good Morning, Baby" page) and shout, "Moh-nin' Bay-bee!" and often says to me "Aw-wight" when she's in the mood to actually agree with me (a rare occurrence this week).

I always heard from more experienced moms that I would be sad when my kids began sitting up/walking/talking - that I would miss what used to be. It's a little bittersweet, but watching them grow into themselves - does that make sense? - become their own little person fills me with such joy that I can't put it into words. I'll take them "getting old" just to marvel at who they will become.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Not Exactly Pointless....

On the way to preschool this morning, we saw a fire truck as we passed through an intersection. My son observed (and by that I mean saw it and told me about it) that the fire truck turned and followed us as we continued down the road.
"I think it's going back to the fire station," I said, referring to the station that's about a mile ahead of where we were at the time.
"Good point, Mom," said my 4-year old.
What a great feeling it is to have your intelligence confirmed by a preschooler....

Monday, May 12, 2008

All the love...

*you may need a tissue - grab it now*

I think it's a safe guess that most of you out there know that I recently lost my grandfather and my great uncle. And that I have been trying to help my 4-year-old wrap his brain around death and heaven. Two events in the last week have really touched my heart, and reminded me just how complex these ideas are for children to understand.

As I pulled out of the preschool pick-up line one day last week, my son asked me if he could listen to "his" music. As I reached to switch from the radio to the CD, the last words we heard from the radio were, "... all the love is gone." My son caught this part of the song and asked me, "Mom, all the love is gone???" His voice was a mix of shock, sadness, and misunderstanding. How could all of the love be gone? I quickly reassured him that it was just a song, and that of course there was still love. After all, he still had the love of his parents, his sister, his grandparents, and lots of other people. I reminded him that he still loved all of the same people, too, so all the love was not gone, after all. I thought all was well until I heard him say quietly, "I think all of Great Grandpa Jim and Uncle Henry's love is gone...." My heart ached, and my brain scrambled for a way to help my dear little boy understand. "Sweetie, even though they are in heaven, we can still think about them and remember the time we had with them. We can still love them even though they are in heaven." I know my son continued to ponder these ideas long after the conversation was over, and I hoped for a way to be able to help him just a little bit more the next time such questions should arise.

Two days ago, we attended a family get together to celebrate my grandmother's birthday and Mother's Day. It was the first time my son had been to my grandparents' house since my grandfather died. After a great meal and plenty of time spent playing with his cousins, it was time to head home. We said our goodbyes to a dozen family members and loaded into the mommy-van. A few minutes down the road, my son asked me, "Where was Great Grandpa Jim?" Deep down, I knew that this question was coming. It's the first time he's had to face the idea that death means someone is gone. That someone is missing from the space in your life that they used to occupy. That they are not coming back. My husband glanced my way with an "OK, you're up...." look. I reminded my sweet boy that Great Grandpa Jim is in heaven. He responded, "Grandma still loves him," and continued with some other hard questions, most notably, "Does everybody die?" Thankfully, I found the words to answer these questions - though I'm sure those words were given to me at just the right moment by the One who's really in the driver's seat.

I am so thankful that we are nearly always in the mommy-van when these questions come up. I don't think that I would have the presence of mind to answer these questions if I was looking into the face of my son who, at 4 years old, is having to learn about death. He knows that his Great Grandpa is gone. He misses him, and that breaks my heart.

While losing someone is sad, I have always felt the greatest sadness for those left behind, who have to deal with the empty place in their lives. My grandfather's death was the end of an earthly presence for someone who had lived a very full life. It was his victory over a disease that had caused a long, slow decline. My son's most vivid memories will be from a time when we (adults) already knew that my grandfather was dying. My heart aches for my grandmother, who had a front-row seat for 60+ years - who watched my grandfather go off to war and welcomed him home, who bore their 6 children, who worked, traveled, and celebrated with him, and who is alone now. My heart aches for my Mother and her siblings, who also remember him as a strong, hard-working man. My heart aches for my cousin, who spent several years as a teenager living with my grandparents, and who learned some great life lessons from our grandfather. As the time passes, my sorrow fades, but it's dredged up again each time my son - my sweet boy - says something that reminds me that there's a hole in his life, too. I am heartbroken for my little boy who senses this hole, and can't yet understand why God would take his Great Grandpa to heaven or how that's better than here with the people who love him.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Storm Warnings

What an eventful night we had last night. Around 9:45pm, a line of storms started moving in, and within 15 minutes the thunder was so loud that both of my kids were awake. As usual during this type of weather, they ended up in bed with me. The difference was that this time, I had the idea to show my older child the weather report and radar to explain a little more about the weather. I didn't even have to turn to the all-day weather forecast - our favorite local station was already on with news about thunderstorm warnings and tornado watches. Just a few minutes later, there was rotation in the atmosphere indicative of a possible tornado - about 5 miles from our house. The forecasters were warning us to get into the lower lever of 2-story homes, into a small room or closet with no windows. They did not have to ask me twice. Downstairs we went, and I sat the children nearby as I emptied the floor of our closet under the stairs. My husband gathered some pillows and a comforter, then helped me finish cleaning out the closet. The kids and I went inside while he listened to a bit more of the weather report.

It's quite interesting to sit in a small, un-air conditioned space with 2 preschoolers who are up in the middle of the night. My son wanted to ask LOTS of questions (really not that different from any other time) and my daughter just didn't want to sit still. My kids started playing (um, fighting over) the flashlight until we started making shadow animals. They were quite entertained - and even tried to make their own, but they just aren't quite coordinated enough.

Another interesting thing? What crossed my mind as I considered what to take into the closet just in case things got really bad. Aside from the kids, I grabbed my purse (which is where I keep my camera, insurance cards, keys, and cell phone) and the external hard drive that's my photo backup. My husband grabbed his wallet and keys. Not much else mattered at that point. I realized how little the "stuff" of life actually means, and how replaceable many things really are.

As it turns out, several homes in our town and one nearby received significant damage. We were quite lucky, both that we had no damage, and that the kids quietly went to bed 2 hours later and slept through until morning.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

For the techno-mommies out there...

Here's a FREE podcast - you can download it from iTunes or listen here. There are lots of different topics, and you can even get some older 'casts in the iTunes library (go to the iTunes store, select podcasts, then select Kids and Family). Easy enough - and you get your daily dose of comfort or worry, depending on your personality type....

Saturday, May 3, 2008

That's got to be a boy thing....

It's Saturday morning, I'm out in the backyard, pushing the children in their swings, and the following conversation takes place:

Son - Mom, can you push me faster?
Mom - Sure (and gives another push).
Son - I want to go higher Mommy, and flip out of my swing.
Mom - Oh, that would be very dangerous....
Son - OK!

I guess I'm just not meant to understand, being a girl and all. I looked at my husband, who grinned right back at me with a "That's my boy!" look on his face.


Neighbors Just Don't Understand

It's a lovely Saturday here. Not too hot, with a gentle breeze. Partly cloudy, with a chance of rain in the evening. It was a great morning for the kids to spend plenty of time playing outside before the rain sets in around dinner time. They played hard, they got dirty, and they wore themselves out. When naptime rolled around, there was no argument from the Little Miss - she was so ready to snuggle up with her blanket for a few hours. There was considerably less argument from the Little Sir than usual, which was quite pleasant from my perspective.

With my kids safely tucked in for their naps, I crept quietly down the stairs to eat a late lunch and finish up the grocery list. I was gearing up for a kid-free shopping trip - woo hoo! About that time, one of my neighbors was gearing up for an afternoon of lawnmower blade sharpening. I kid you not. If you don't know what this sounds like, imagine chainsawing through a piece of metal - a healthy-sized chunk.

You know, I see the UPS man less often that I see my neighbor, but he remembers that I have small children. When he drops off a package, he knocks lightly on the front door - he never rings the doorbell. I really appreciate that about the UPS man. He probably put a note in his little computer/scanner thingy - "Lady with napping kids lives here - knock on door - don't ring doorbell." I mean, he may not have committed it to his personal memory, but he has a note to remind him. Awesome.

I don't expect that my neighbor will never sharpen his lawnmower blades. My husband has sharpened the blades on our mower before. I know that lawnmower blades need to be sharpened. I was just kind of cringing that my kids might wake up and miss their naps - ugh. And, I needed to vent. Thanks for "listening."

By the way - the kids didn't wake up (I waited to be sure....). I did get to shop alone, and I spent about $160 on groceries. All of that food will be gone in about 20 minutes, so I'm glad my husband likes his job.

Tools Every Mom Needs

I'm not talking about a sense of humor, a cast-iron stomach, or enough band-aids for a school full of children - although these are certainly important. Nope, today I'm talking about a literal tool box. Whether yours is red, black, or yellow; metal, plastic, or just a cardboard box, there are a few things you MUST have:

  • Tape - clear, for repairing books; packing, for repairing puzzle box bottoms. You will certainly encounter many more items that need taping - these are just the things on my "frequently repaired with tape" list. Notice I left off duct tape - it's only needed by men for on-the-fly repairs and boys of scouting age who are using it for the duct tape wallet craft.
  • Batteries - lots of them, in all different sizes. More AAAs than anything, but also AAAs, Ds, Cs, and the occasional 9 volt. NOTE: If your toys don't sing, dance, read aloud, flash, or need a remote to perform, skip this one - but I bet you think this should be at the top of the list.
  • Screwdrivers - assorted sizes. You will need them to replace all of the batteries, since every battery cover screws on. It's a great safety feature - especially since kids think batteries are a delicacy. I use a Phillips head (the "not flat" one) and a mini Phillips most often. Of course, you probably need a flat head, too - toy companies are always throwing you a curve ball - it's entertainment for their R&D departments. Note: You can get a great set of mini screwdrivers (3 flat and 3 Phillips head) from Walgreens for about 2 bucks right now. Another note: DO NOT get a cordless screwdriver. Although it's convenient, you'll just have more batteries to change.
  • Pliers - needle nose and regular. Toys need some interesting repairs.
  • Valium - For after you fix all of the toys, install all-new batteries, and listen to the singing, flashing, buzzing, dancing toys, and your child's gleeful giggles and squeals.
I'm sure there are many more things you must have. In fact, I know there are - I just want you to have at least the basics handy. My toolbox (red and black plastic, by the way) has all of these things plus: picture hanging hardware, assorted screws, fishing line, a small level, a ruler, a pencil, a pen, stick-on felt pads, stick-on cork pads, a mini wratchet-type set, allen wrenches, and more. I also keep a box in the closet under the stairs (i.e. - very easily accessible place) that's full of assorted batteries, wood glue, an extension cord, one of those measure-your-wall-and-mark-the-hanging-spot tools, and a staple gun, among other equally groovy tools.

So, what's most important? Screwdrivers, batteries, a sense of humor - and perhaps some earplugs.