It’s 4:15 on a Thursday, and I’m sitting on the couch with a sleeping baby sprawled across my lap, small mountains of crumpled up Kleenex around me from blowing my nose way too many times, and a mess of baby toys on the floor in front of me – one of the many reasons I’ll never be mom of the year. It’s early release Thursday, so Eric is home already. Instead of doing something educational or crafty or athletic, like Perfect Mom would, I have a play station controller in my hand. He’s finished his homework, and when asked what he’s like to do, he insists he wants to watch me play Final Fantasy. I should say no, but hey, let’s be real – if your kid begs you to play your video game, and it’s something appropriate for them to watch, you check if he’s sure than you pop that sucker in with a silent “finally! I haven’t gotten to play in weeks!”
Andrew stirs as I get to a boss, so I offer him some milk and he gladly sucks away while I try to finish just one more battle before turning it off. Suddenly, warmth. Wet, seeping warmth all over my lap…and though I may pee a little when I sneeze, I’m not prone to relieving myself without feeling it, so I know something has gone amiss with Andrew’s diaper.
I pause, much to Eric’s dismay, and rush us upstairs to Andrew’s room. As I do, the phone rings, and like a sport I answer it while I hobble, soaking wet from stomach to thigh with a concerned looking baby on my hip.
When we get upstairs, I manage to lay him down one handed and hold a conversation – I’m talented like that. Off comes his clothes and the offending diaper, one snap unsnapped, and while I’m at it I get my own wet jeans and underwear off.
At that precise moment, Danny’s bus pulls up in front of the house and starts honking – a new driver, I later discover, who didn’t see lights on and assumed no one was home.
And that, my friends, is how I ended up in my driveway this afternoon, commando, bags under my eyes and nose rubbed red, wearing unbuttoned jeans that look like I’ve peed myself, with a naked baby wrapped hastily in an Angry Birds blanket.
I expect child services at the door any moment.
It’s no secret that having a baby in the house takes a lot of time, energy, and focus. Whether you stay at home or work outside of it, it is easy to lose yourself. I know I do sometimes! Especially with 3, it’s sometimes hard to meet all of their needs, never mind my own!
Now that we are back to school and routine, I decided it was time to make a commitment. Because I don’t like to spend money on myself, I made myself do it, and I bought 2 things.
These 2 things are a pledge, a promise to spend some time for myself each day…or at least most days.
First, I will exercise. This can come in many forms. I want to try Pilates, something to help tone a little. I want to get back to my free weights; I was starting to work up in reps and weight and somehow fell out of it, probably in one of the stretches of sleepless nights. And I’ve been toying with the idea of trying running, or at least jogging, using the c25k program to work up my stamina. Some days, any combination of this will happen; some days, the best I do will be going walking with a friend for an hour, give or take. But I feel much better on days I get moving, and I also think it sets a good example for my kids.
Second, I will write. I have always wanted to be an author. I like to write, but haven’t in – an embarrassing number of years. In today’s world of publishing, it’s within my grasp to put something out there, if only as a Kindle release if I can’t do it with a traditional publisher. I have a story rattling around in my head, and I want to get it out. I’m building the world now, and soon I want to start making it happen.
I know it won’t always work, but with the commitment of money invested, and a little accountability by putting it in the blog, I figure I’ll get somewhere – if only a few minutes a day.
What do you do for yourself? If the answer doesn’t come easily, it may be time for a pledge of your own.
Eric doesn’t like buying lunch at school. Maybe he’s a weird kid, I don’t know, but unless it’s something super awesome – like breakfast for lunch day where they have french toast sticks, or his ultimate favorite cheese pizza – he’d rather take a lunch. While I don’t mind the selection at our school’s cafeteria, I don’t mind that at all! It has, however, left me to get a little…creative with lunches. I don’t mind sandwiches, and do them a lot (using either a dinosaur or star shaped sandwich cutter), I like to give him a bit of variety, too!
With the start of school, I’ve seen a lot of people asking what others do for school lunches. Some people put together these incredibly complex, amazing looking, fancy bento lunches. Those are really neat, and quite frankly, not me. They aren’t my kid either; he is a slow eater, and if I packed something like a lot of the bento lunch blogs do, he’d only eat about 1/3 of it.
So, like many things, I take a wicked awesome idea from the Internet and…fake it. I bought a few Ziploc divided containers at Target (they now have neat Rubbermaid ones too!), and they were way less expensive than the custom bento lunch box kits out there. I also have just a few sandwich containers, and those work fine too now that Eric no longer minds his food mixing. They also fit better into his lunch box this year, since we found a more square-ish one than the rectangular one of last year. Here are a few lunches I throw together!
Eric LOVES Lunchables. But, unless you catch them on sale for a buck, they’re silly expensive. So…I make my own. I use some deli meat, cut into shapes (here, it’s salami cut like pizza slices) or torn into bite sized pieces, some cheese (that’s a marble cheese stick cut up), and some crackers (Ritz, Club, Saltines…heck, I’ve used Goldfish before). I tossed in a few M&M’s for dessert, though fair warning, they may leech their color if you just toss them in like this. Add a Capri Sun and it’s just like the ones you can get at the grocery store for $3.50!
Another favorite is turkey wraps. These are pretty quick and easy, a tortilla and some thin sliced deli turkey breast. A friend gave me the idea of spreading on a thin layer of onion & chive cream cheese, and not only does it add to the wrap nicely, but it cements it together so I don’t need to use tooth picks to keep it wrapped up until lunch time! I spread just a little extra at the edge where it rolls together to keep it shut. It pairs nicely with just about anything – fruit, yogurt, veggies, whatever I feel like tossing in that day.
Who doesn’t love breakfast for lunch? I know my kid does. I like to make waffles in the morning sometimes, but a batch always makes more than we can eat. I freeze them, and sometimes I’ll hold one out and chop it up for lunch. Instead of syrup, which would be a nasty sticky mess in a lunch box, I sprinkle on a little powdered sugar. Then, since I seem to always be making scrambled eggs in the morning, I made double and threw them in too. (I’ve done hard boiled eggs too.) Eric likes colored eggs, so I put in just a couple drops of food coloring to turn them green or red. Blue takes a LOT of food coloring, or they just turn back green, strangely enough…
Another thing Eric thinks is pretty cool is those cracker sandwiches you can buy in the packages – like the Ritz with cheese ones, that sort of thing. So again, I make my own! Cheese Whiz would work well, or we do peanut butter. (You could also do almond butter, sunflower butter, whatever kind of butter your family likes. Just make sure you’re aware of any allergies at school before sending it!) Peanut butter on graham crackers is his favorite!
What kinds of things do you do for lunch? I’m always on the look out for new ideas!
Somewhere along the line of parenthood, I became a hippie mom. I don’t know how it happened, some sort of gradual process in which all of the things parents “should” do mixed up with all of the things I “wanted” to do, and…well, suddenly I’m this breastfeeding, baby wearing, cloth diapering hippie.
The thing I’ve noticed, in my 6 years so far of parenting, is that when it comes to this sort of stuff – the “AP” stuff, the “crunchy” stuff – people tend to think you do it for some kind of deeper motivating reason. People breastfeed because they think it’s so much better than formula, it makes babies smarter and healthier. People wear babies because they feel it’s intrinsically better and more nurturing than a stroller. People cloth diaper because it’s better for the environment and baby’s skin. It’s all some kind of movement to do better, more natural, more in tune with their baby parenting.
From what I see, there is a very loud and vocal minority who do these things for some kind of deep reason. These people start petitions, do nurse-ins, write blogs, do magazine articles, and any number of things to draw attention to the things they do and the reasons they do them. A larger, quieter majority of people are like me: they do them for no reason at all other than it works for them.
Quite honestly, for me, it’s about saving money and being lazy.
Breastfeeding is free, and other than the initial learning curve when a baby is first born, it’s a whole lot easier for me too. Now, I know that’s not true for all women – heck, I was one of them the first time around! It just didn’t work for whatever reason (that’s a whole other blog post), so he was a formula baby and he’s awesome for it. But, given the choice, I’d rather save the money and the hassle of making (and then cleaning) bottles, carrying formula, and all the other stuff that goes with formula feeding.
Baby wearing is another way I slack. I could, in theory, cart a stroller around – but it would take up a lot of space in my trunk. Then, I couldn’t change diapers in my trunk, so I’d have to carry a diaper bag instead of just storing that stuff in the car. Then, I’d have to drag said diaper back into, well, everywhere and change diapers in a bathroom. Also, when I do take a stroller, it’s largely for Danny… He needs somewhere to help him focus, sometimes, and while we’re working on teaching him to walk and stay close, sometimes it’s just a whole lot easier and more enjoyable for everyone to let him ride. I’d really rather not mess with a double stroller – those things look huge and awkward to me – so I strap Andrew to my chest and we go. I don’t have to worry about pushing a stroller, keeping an eye on it when I need my hands free for other stuff, he’s just right there. (Added bonus as a speech therapy mom, it’s a whole lot easier to do shared attention and let him hear me talk about stuff when he’s up high!)
A lot of people will try to catch me on cloth diapers. “A ha!” you say. “Cloth diapering takes a lot of laundry, which kills your whole lazy theory, you crazy hippie chick!” Well, yes and no. First, let’s go back to the whole saving money aspect. I am
cheap frugal, and you can get a whole stash of diapers that will last you until 2+ for the price of a couple months of disposable diapers. Then, when you are done with them, you can re-sell them! Cha-ching! But cloth diapering also kind of lands in the lazy zone for me simply because I don’t have to leave the house. My goodness, with 2 in diapers, I felt like I was constantly running to the store to buy diapers – even when I bought to huge boxes! I can throw a bunch of cloth diapers in the washing machine and not have to think about them for an hour, then toss them in the dryer and not have to think about them for another hour. And then, ta-da, I have a whole bunch of diapers I can stick on my kid’s butt again! No trip to the store, no dragging children out of the house, just some time spent hanging out at home doing whatever…or going out to whatever place I want to go, not some place I need to go.
So that’s how I slack. I don’t do these things because I want to change the world, just because I want to change my world…into a place where I have more money and more time for the things I like to do.
Back to school, for me, is a time that I feel quite mixed about. On the one hand, I love it! I admit it, I thoroughly love back to school time, and it’s not (just) for the reasons you would think. Yes, a part of me is glad to have a bit more of a schedule and a bit more sanity around the house while the big 2 are off to school – I won’t deny that, though I hate to tout it because always, in the back of my mind, I remember a Facebook post a while back from a single mom. She splits times with her kids going off to their dad’s house, and when they are gone for stretches at a time, she misses them. Dearly. Of course she does, I would too! But she said something very poignant that I am going to brutally slaughter here: when people celebrate sending their kids off for 8 hours a day, it strikes her, because there are days she would do anything to be with her kids.
But still, I love back to school. And here’s why.
For Eric, I love back to school because I remember being his age and being so excited to go back. For me, learning was fun, and school was awesome. Eric often is the same way. He loves to go to school, see his friends, learn some new stuff, play on the playground, and do all that big kid stuff he’s gotten used to. In the morning, many mornings, he starts asking when the bus will come about an hour before it arrives, and about a half hour before it arrives he wants to go out to the yard and wait for it. I wondered if that would change after the summer, but the very first day of school he came out of his room dressed and ready to go. “When will the bus be here??” I love back to school because he does. We both love going and buying school supplies together. We both love getting his backpack on that first morning. We both love that special time in the morning where it’s just him and me (ok, and a baby on my hip these days) standing out in the yard talking and playing for those last minutes before the bus pulls up to whisk him away. Do I miss him? Yeah, sure. As nice as it is, today, to have some peace and quiet (and time to blog!), I wonder what he’s doing right now. I know he’s (most likely) happy though, and I am excited for when he comes home and I get to hear at least a little about what he did.
For Danny, back to school means routine. He loves it there too – he obviously can’t tell me that, but I can tell in the way he bounces around in the morning watching out the window saying, “Yeah! Bus!” and how, when I take him, he hops out of the car, takes my hand, and practically skips into the building. Over the summer, even with his summer session (part time), I could see a deterioration in him. He has, thankfully, maintained a lot of his communication, but his sensory needs just aren’t met here. It’s hard when I have a sensory-seeking kid and a tiny baby… I need to pick him up, swing him around, toss him into pillows, help him do flips. But, um, when I have a baby that doesn’t sleep much in his crib, how do I keep him from being squashed? And then Eric sees me doing it with Danny and wants me to do it to him, but Eric is too big and heavy (Danny practically is!) and it just… Oy. I love back to school because I know it is an environment Danny thrives in. Some people take objection to the whole “it takes a village” concept – ever heard the old “I’ve seen the village, and I don’t want it raising my kids?” – but for special needs kids, I honestly believe it does. I support at home, and I do a darn good job I like to think, but it’s not the same and will never be the same. Back to school means my little boy has an easier time coping with the world, and while I miss his goofy laugh and silly walks, that’s so important.
So off they go. I’m glad for it, but not because I want my kids gone… It’s because it’s such a fabulous thing for them. They come home tired and happy (most days), and even though I’m glad they’re at school, you’ll still catch me around 4 o’clock pacing by the window and watching down the street in anticipation for the bus to arrive so I can welcome them home. Even when the stinkers come in the door, toss their backpack at me, ask for a drink, and disappear downstairs to watch TV… Nice, kid. Makes me feel real loved.
With Eric getting bigger – I still marvel every day as he throws on his backpack and climbs onto the school bus – he’s discovered that things cost money. Tricky business, that, as he no longer gets to pipe up saying “I want that!” and have it magically become his! A lot of things he requests be added to his wish list for his birthday or Christmas, but when there’s something he just HAS to have, some toy or game, it’s becoming his responsibility. (Not always, of course; he still gets some freebies!)
Of course, to buy things, you have to have money. We are terribly mean parents, though, and we don’t just give it to him – he needs to earn it. Sometimes he earns it by identifying money for Daddy – a quick lesson in what a dime, nickel, quarter, and penny is can earn those coins for him, or he’ll help count the bills and add them up to tell Daddy how much money he has (earning a little of his own along the way). For everything else…
Instead of an allowance, Eric has a chart of “extra” chores. These do not include the things that are just expected of him: putting his clothes in the hamper when they’re dirty, cleaning up his toys, putting away his folded laundry, etc. These are the extras that help Mommy and Daddy out but are entirely his choice on whether he participates or not. Right now, they’re small things, and they earn him a dime each: helping unload the dish washer, using the dust pan after I’ve swept to clean up the mess, stuff that he can easily do and builds a foundation for later slavery…I mean, earning potential. He chooses a goal to save toward (right now, a coveted game for his Leapster Explorer), and he tucks money away in his piggy bank toward it. When we go out and he wants to buy something that he has enough money for, we tell him he can buy it, but then he’ll have that much less money toward his game – he has to choose.
So far, he’s always chosen to save his money.
Honestly, at 5, the fact that he’s not always going for the instant gratification kind of impresses me.
This is a foundation for what we both want to build it into. I need to find him a second bank for his room, and once I do, we’ll be starting to tuck money into both. Every time he gets his chart paid out, he’ll get to put some toward his goal, and some will need to go into savings. Eventually, we’ll get him a bank account too, and he can take it in to the bank. Of course, he’ll need to earn more than a dollar or so a week before that’s needed, but he’ll get there too. Dime chores like using the dust pan will turn into sweeping the kitchen, which will earn him more, and then graduating to the vacuum…
He earns money, and me? Well, I get to kick my feet up a little. I can handle that!!
So far, our system is working well, and Eric is often quite excited when he gets to help out and earn some money. If only I thought that excitement about working would last!!! I know we’re in a small window, here, before it stops being fun and starts being just, well, a chore.