Five Kids

Five Kids

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Never Too Old

When I was a girl, there was one thing I wanted with all my heart. Mostly because my best friend had one, but that's beside the point.

The thing I wanted was an American Girl Doll. Molly or Samantha, to be precise.


Samantha had prettier clothes.



But Molly had cooler accessories. 


Both of them had great hair and I would dream of the day when I'd have my very own doll to practice all my inventive hairstyles on without my best friend whining that she wanted her doll back. I never had to choose between them, though, because I never got one. Apparently, they're expensive or something.

Well, now I'm a grown up and my doll obsession is behind me. Or so I thought. My daughters are just the right age and, wouldn't you know it, there's an American Girl store within driving distance of our home. I've secretly been wanting to go ever since we moved here. And now, the time has come. A few weekends ago, I took Bright along with me to experience the American Girl Place for the first time together.

It was like a dream.

We arrived ten minutes before they opened and rushed upstairs to the hair salon as soon as they unlocked the doors. We were second in line. And no, we did not come away with fantastic new hair-dos. Bright's American Girl doll, Caroline, did. She sat in an itty bitty salon chair while a doll stylist tamed her tangled doll curls and put them in a fancy up-do. Caroline also got her ears pierced while we were there.



After our visit to the stylist, we stopped into the cafe for brunch. The cafe was, seriously, the cutest place I've ever seen in my entire life. Decorated in white, black and hot pink, it was like sitting inside an incredibly chic cupcake. Bright and I shared brunch while asking each other questions from a little conversation starter box on the table. Caroline got her own little seat, along with a teacup and saucer so she wouldn't get bored while the humans ate their food.








After brunch, we wandered through every inch of the three-story American Girl Place store. We studied the historical girl doll displays, oohed and ahhed at the girl of the year displays and exclaimed over cute outfit after cute outfit. Apparently, my obsession with doll stuff has not dwindled over time. 

But that's okay. My daughter and I had a truly fantastic day. We spent the next day giving her new doll (the one she'd saved up her own money to buy) a salon day complete with a spa pedicure and a temporary perm in her hair.




 (This is Caroline and Amy - Bright's dolls, and Kit - Plucky's doll)



Being a girl is so much fun!





Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Power of the Snow Day

I grew up in sunny California. In all my years of school, we had exactly ONE weather related cancellation. And it wasn't for snow. (The only time it snowed, it lasted about ten minutes and we all piled out of our classrooms to watch the flakes until they turned back into rain.) No, the weather related cancellation was for too much rain. The parking lot and some of the classrooms of our outdoor school flooded, so the teachers met us outside in the poring rain as we arrived at school and sent us straight home. I'd had a big history test that day and was elated by the unexpected extra day I had to study. And take a nap. And read a book while eating my mother's homemade cookies.

It never happened again, but my one day of weather-related freedom will forever live in the annals of most awesome days ever.

My kids, unlike me, are growing up in an area of the country that gets lots of snow. And lots of cold winter days, rife with school cancellations and delays. To them, snow days are a regular thing. Part of the wonder of winter. Something to be counted on. And though we've lived here for twelve years, I still can't get it through my brain that every snow day is not the last one ever. For this reason, snow days totally throw me off my game.

The thoughts that run through my head every time we get that early morning auto-call that informs us of a delay or cancellation go something like this:

"It's a snow day! We can sleep in!"

"It's a snow day! Let's skip the morning workout and make cookies instead!"

"It's a snow day! Let's do nothing but watch movies and play video games (for the kids) or read (for me) all day long. Because relaxing is what you're supposed to do on a snow day and we will never have another opportunity to spend the entire day in our pajamas again."


I tell myself these lies every single time. And every time, I fall for them. When snow days happen several times per week, over the course of several weeks, it becomes a big problem. (Who knew?) So the past month has totally thrown me off my game. My body craves it's routine of an early morning workout and healthy food, while my head insists on skipping the workout and eating warm cookies all day instead. Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance! I can't miss out!

Of course my kids crave routine as well, even though they think they'd rather play video games all day. But there's another thing they crave almost as much--playing in the snow! (Gasp). Being a California girl, I hate being cold. Plus I'm a bit of a homebody anyway. So when it snows, I don't consider going outside to be a viable option. But my kids seem to think it's fun to get all dressed up until you can't move your limbs and then head outside and stay there until they're frozen solid. I really don't get it. They think hot cocoa afterward somehow makes the hours of freezing outside okay.

So my plea to the universe today... please make the snow days stop.

Okay, that's a little selfish because my kids love them. I'll try again:

Please help me remember that when the next snow day comes, it will not be the last one. I can still exercise, refuse to make cookies even when my kids strongly suggest it, and turn off the screens to play board games instead. And I will let my kids play outside when they ask, even though I know the mess they'll bring in when they're done will take several days to clean up completely.

Maybe I will even go outside. For, like, ten minutes or something. The rest of the time, I'm happy to watch from inside.

But please don't ask me to wake up early. Sleeping in on a snow day is mandatory.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Christmas Gift

I'm not a great poet. I like poems that rhyme and I get annoyed when I have to dig around for a hidden meaning. So the poem I'm about to share with you will not win any awards. But I like it because it reminds me, as Christmas draws near, to turn my gift-giving inclinations toward Christ. That's why we give gifts at Christmastime anyway, right? To help us remember the gift of a baby two thousand years ago. And to point out the gift His life was to us.

I wrote this poem a few years ago to start a Christmas Eve tradition with our kids. The idea was to sit around the tree, after the food and festivities were done, and think of a gift we could give to our Savior. The gift could be giving up a favorite vice, developing a particular virtue, or doing something more service oriented. In the end, it should be something we could focus on for the coming year that would make us better people and bring us closer to Christ.

It's been a great tradition. Over the years, I've grown and learned a lot as a result of my Christmas gifts.



A Christmas Gift

It's Christmas time again.
A time of giving and cheer.
You've bought gifts for friends and family,
but what for your Savior this year?

A gift for One so special
can't be found in any store.
To give of yourself to others
for Him means so much more.

So tonight as you remember
and think of the Babe so small,
ponder gifts you can give others
that cost no money at all.

Write them down on paper, 
and seal them up so tight.
Then put them under your tree
upon this Christmas Eve night.

Now your job is to remember
and give of yourself all year
as your Christmas gift to the Savior
brings to others hope and good cheer.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Runaway Babies - Five Things I Said I'd Never Do



When I was a teenager, I never questioned whether I wanted to be a mother someday. Of course I did. But there were a lot of things about being a mom that no one ever told me. 

For one thing, I didn't know that my children would bless me in ways that are difficult to articulate. I didn’t know it would be like taking my heart out and watching it walk around. I didn’t realize that I would come to know myself through knowing them. I didn’t anticipate learning the greatest lessons of my life from someone who could barely talk. No one told me my children would make me a better person or that my life would be more complete through them.

Additionally, no one warned me that my two year old might try to run away from me in the library and that I would chase him unsuccessfully for twenty minutes while pushing his little brother in the stroller until eventually hiding behind a column and grabbing him as he ran past.

No one told me that my heart would swell watching a broken-hearted child cry like his best friend died when he lost a beloved toy and that I would secretly sneak to the store at night to buy a new one. 

Or that sometimes I would be so tired, I'd be willing to give my child absolutely anything (think candy for breakfast, five thousand hours of screen time, or a pony) for five more minutes of sleep.

When I was seventeen, I would watch young moms with their kids and vow to never be "that kind of a mom." But I didn't understand all that had driven "that" mom to behave the way she was. And I didn't know that ten years later, I would be "that" mom. Or that I would be okay with it.

Here are the top five things I said I'd never do and how I learned the error of my ways:



5. My kids will not eat sweets before dinner. And definitely no candy for breakfast. Duh.

Well, since a bowl of Fruit Loops has basically the same amount of sugar as a chocolate chip cookie, I deserve numerous smacks on the forehead. We don't keep sugary cereal in the house at all times, but it definitely happens more often than I'd like to admit. And the amount of syrup my kids squeeze onto their waffles when I'm not looking has to be enough to send a person into sugar shock.

I hate mornings and I'll do just about anything to make them go smoother. If that includes Fruit Loops or syrupy waffles, then so be it.

Lesson learned. Don't make promises you can't keep.

Teenaged Teresa, deal with it.


 
4. I will never, ever, put my kid on a leash.

Numerous amusement park trips as a youth taught me to hate the kid leash. Watching parents dragging their kids around on leashes struck me as degrading and just plain weird. How could those parents walk around treating their kids like dogs and be okay with it? I would never, ever do that to my own kids.

Well, as you read earlier in this post, my first child was a runner. That's why I call him Energy. He began walking at ten months old and has been running ever since. He loved to squirm away from me in the grocery store, at the mall, at church... basically any public place. He also loved to escape when we were walking from the car to our house. If I didn't keep a firm grip on his arm while unlocking our front door, I'd be involved in a high-speed chase around our complex... with his baby brother, Mellow (thankfully, aptly named), in tow.

Needless to say, I've come to appreciate the need for a kid leash.



3. I would never forget to pick my kid up from something

As a young mom, I heard lots of stories from veteran mothers about the importance of cutting out unnecessary activities from your kids' lives in an effort to curb the chaos. These mothers told tales of running from one place to another, always a few minutes late and eating McDonalds in the car. Often, the mother would arrive home, exhausted, only to remember that she'd neglected to pick one child up from an activity. (This was, of course, before the days of cell phones. You know, when we all had to walk to school up hill both ways in the snow.) The poor child had been sitting alone outside for hours waiting for mom to show up. 

These days, no adult in charge would let a child sit alone outside of their facility for hours without calling a parent, so I haven't lived this exact scenario. But, I have come to understand how it could happen. Even with just three kids involved in after school activities last year, things got real messy, real fast. "Where's my leotard?" and "I forgot to practice!", mixed with crying baby and three-year-old pleadings for attention left me feeling more than  a little frazzle-brained on countless occasions. Add someone firing off homework questions, the phone ringing, and ground beef sizzling on the stove in a hasty effort to avoid stopping at McDonals and the situation is perfectly set for a child to be forgotten.

It could totally happen.



2. I won't let my kids dress like slobs

I grew up wearing hand-me-down clothes, which was great when they came from my super-cool cousin, but not so great when they were from the Goodwill clearance rack. I remember feeling very embarrassed, even as a young child, when my clothes were ugly or mismatched. (I'll admit here that I'm probably remembering this far worse than it was - my mom is amazing and wouldn't have let me run around in rags). But I vowed that my kids would always match. 

Fast forward to the stubborn little girl who has put on a striped pink tutu with an orange polka dotted shirt, but who has obediently dressed herself just as you asked her to.

Or the pre-teen boy who flatly refuses to wear anything but ratty t-shirts and athletic pants, but who does his chores without complaint, gets good grades, and is a great big brother.

I've realized there are worse things than having kids who dress like ragamuffins. Far worse. Fighting over clothes is so not worth it.


1. I will not let my kids watch cartoons that belong in a drug-induced hallucination

I watched an episode of The Wiggles with my young sister-in-law shortly after I got married. 

Seriously? I'd thought. Someone thought this was a good idea?

I found out much later that, yes, apparently, someone did think The Wiggles were a good idea: Kids. 

When we happened upon an episode of The Wiggles one day well into my child-rearing years, my kids' eyes lit up and their bodies twitched with the urge to get up and dance. I knew I'd soon be changing my tune. Yo Gabba Gabba followed, much to my chagrin. Though my kids loved these shows, I believed it had taken an adult with a very demented brain to come up with them. 

I, however, will always be indebted to the "demented adult" who came up with the episode of Yo Gabba Gabba that features the song, "There's A Party in my Tummy." This clip has successfully convinced several of my picky little eaters to clean off their plates with a smile on their face.




Severely demented or wickedly clever? 

I must apologize for my hasty judgements and bow to the brilliant minds that think this stuff up.  





So yes, I am now "that" mom. The one who is far from perfect, but is doing the best she can. The one who loves her kids even when they use her brand new, dry-clean-only shirt as a napkin.   


Being a mother is, without question, the hardest job there is. But if I learned one thing as a teenager, it is that anything worth doing is hard. The hardest experiences of my youth made me a stronger person and made me who I am today. The same can be said of having children. They will push you and teach you--about yourself, and about others.

Kids love unconditionally and we, as their parents, do well when we can follow their examples and curb our tendencies to judge. Teenaged Teresa was wrong about a lot of things. And that's okay. Though I've been surprised by many aspects of motherhood, I wouldn't have it any other way. 

I am surrounded, each day, by a bunch of little people for whom I am simply, 'Hero'.






Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Box For Halloween

I have a confession to make: I'm not a big fan of Halloween. (Pause for boos and hisses.) Sure, I like the free chocolate, carving pumpkins, and making eating caramel apples.

My gripe is mainly over costumes.

When I was younger and only had to worry about coming up with one terribly clever costume, I was sometimes able to manage it, usually by stopping at Goodwill and picking up some vintage atrocity from the 60's. I have collected several of these over the years and now rotate through them, always spending Halloween clothed in one of several polyester outfits from the box under my stairs. I never could get comfortable with the idea of spending money on a cheap costume that would only be relevant for one night.

The problem, of course, got worse as we tacked on the kids. I can sew, but I despise it (plus I'm incredibly slow), so sewing my kids Halloween costumes has always been out of the question.

But it's okay because shortly after school starts, the glossy magazines begin arriving in the mail. They offer to turn your toddler into something amazing (for $60 or more plus shipping). Costumes parade prominently around stores before summer is even spent. As a result, my kids believe in love at first sight. How could they not when they've experienced it, year after year, as I attempted to whiz by the Halloween costumes without them noticing?

When kids get their hearts set on something, it's hard to say 'no,' isn't it?

The trouble is, their love is fleeting and the next time you walk through the store, you'll find that the object of their desire has changed. But if you don't buy it when they see it then their size will sell out. Then you'll really be stuck. You don't want to be the mom stuck on Ebay, frantically bidding on the very last costume in your child's size. Trust me.

A few years ago, quite by accident, we hit on a way to avoid the issue entirely. Remember when your child was one, and he enjoyed playing with the boxes his toys came in more than he wanted the toys? Never underestimate the power of a large cardboard box, even when your child is no longer a baby.

When my son Energy told me he wanted to be a hermit crab for Halloween, my first response was a resounding 'no.' He had it all planned out, and it sounded incredibly complicated. His plan involved paper mache, balloons, and chicken wire. I hate Home Depot. The thought of traipsing through the store with four young kids in search of chicken wire so my son could make a mess in the yard attempting to make a wearable hermit crab shell was not appealing. So I stalled him, turning to the internet for guidance. There had to be somebody, somewhere, selling a hermit crab costume, or at least a video on how to make one, right? Right? You can find anything on the internet.

Apparently, not.

I told him he would just have to think of something else. But he pressed the issue and, eventually, I came to see that being a hermit crab was really important to him. I promised I would help, but we had to go with my plan, which did not involve paper mache or chicken wire. Or balloons.

I like to keep things simple. I'm no good with a sewing machine, but I'm awesome with a can of spray paint. So my plan revolved around a cardboard box and some spray paint. Before long, we had a passable hermit crab. My son was ecstatic. And he was convinced I was the best mom EVER, which was an unexpected bonus.





Energy's costumes in subsequent years have all revolved around cardboard boxes. I suspect they will for many more years to come.







At his school Halloween party, dressed as a calculator, Energy got angry because everyone kept pushing his buttons. :) They were really cool buttons: we attached them to the box with springs so they popped out after you pushed them. His classmates couldn't resist.








This one's a mailbox, before we put the US Mail signs on it. Energy's plan was to crouch down on people's front doorsteps so all they would see when they opened the door was the mailbox. Then he would pop up and scare them.




















Here's the completed look, along with his entourage of an angel, a vampire, the grim reaper, a ninja, and someone who loves them all.











And here's a little gem I found in the archives. This is Energy, as Larry the Cucumber from Veggie Tales, in his very first box costume. This was before we really understood what we'd hit upon--we were just super poor. We made it out of a Costco cheerios box and leftover craft paint.





This year's cardboard box creation: A Rubix cube.










Also, Mellow has decided to follow in his brother's footsteps and will don the cardboard box for the first time this Halloween. Here he is in his Minecraft Steve head.












After so many box costume successes, we have come to believe that they are the best. In no particular order, here are the reasons box costumes make Halloween great:


  • People think you're creative, when in reality you're just lazy and cheap
  • Your kids will change their minds about what they want to be a week before Halloween. Just count on it. With a box costume, you can wait until the week before to make it and you don't have to worry about it selling out at the store.
  • Making a costume out of a cardboard box is cheap, cheap, cheap!
  • The looks we get from Target employees when we ask if they have any large, clean boxes we can have for Halloween costumes are priceless.
  • Almost anything can be made out of a box if you use your imagination
  • Kids can wear whatever they want underneath their boxes. No more freezing cold kids because the costume makers skimp on cloth and don't leave room under their costumes for extra layers.
  • If you like attracting attention (which Energy does) wearing a giant, spray-painted box is a great way to do it.
  • You can throw it away after Halloween without feeling like you're wasting your money


Since I obviously love boxes so much, one of these years our whole family should go as coordinating boxes. We could be the cereal aisle at the grocery store, or we could go as gallons of ice cream. We could be Minecraft blocks or a family of Legos. We could even dress up as bricks and go as our house. The possibilities are endless!