A Different Kind of First Halloween.

I’m not really a holiday person.

It’s not that I have anything against holidays; I understand why people love them, but they just aren’t my thing.

Halloween in particular; I might be able to get into the idea of Thanksgiving or the Christmas spirit for a little bit, but Halloween… not so much.

And so every year I thank God for Target and pre-made Halloween costumes.  I usually avoid even thinking about Halloween costumes until the week before. This year it went something like this:

What do you want to be? We’ve got a puppy costume in the attic. Boom. You’re a puppy. Adorable. What do you want to be? Grim Reaper. Fine. Here’s a big black thing for half off 3 sizes too big. Wear that and a glow light so you don’t get hit by a car. What do you want to be? Oh, you’re a baby. Excellent, you’re going to be adorable no matter what.  There’s a dinosaur costume in the attic next to the puppy one. Perfect.

So far, Halloween was going swimmingly. Except for one thing.

Hudson decided he wanted to be Peashooter from Plants vs. Zombies.

Hudson who won’t even wear a hat, a shirt with buttons, or a color other than blue really, wanted to be Peashooter for Halloween. And this time, Target failed me.

Hudson who actually WENT as the color blue last year because we couldn’t get him in a costume and he dresses in head to toe blue anyway. I had given up on the idea of Hudson ever dressing up for Halloween and this year he wanted to dress up in a costume, with a giant mask.

And that’s how I found myself at the store buying a pack of balloons, green spray paint, a green tee shirt, a small pile of felt, and craft foam on the day before Halloween.

Halloween supplies

Hudson sat and watched me construct every piece of that costume.  He made sure nobody touched the paper mache as it was drying and checked on the pieces we left to dry in the backyard. He made sure we didn’t lose or misplace a single component of that costume, and he made absolutely 100% sure that the leaf on the back of his Peashooter head was exactly at the right angle.

Halloween Peashooter costume

My son, who won’t wear a hat, a helmet, or a hood for more than a minute, put on a giant paper mache Peashooter head. He loved it (he tried it on several times during the construction). After it was finished, he wore his costume in the yard (carefully reaching up to make sure his leaf was still attached to the back), wore it for pictures in the park and, of course, put it on for Halloween night.

Halloween Peashooter Costume DIY Homemade

After visiting 3 houses, he declared he was done trick or treating (not being a big fan of candy to begin with).

“Well, that was Halloween,” he said as he stripped off the costume inside. “Now it’s time for Thanksgiving.”

 

 

For the Moms Who Don’t Love Everything

I’ve noticed a weird trend and I’m not sure if it’s a recent thing or not…

But somewhere there seems to be this idea that we are supposed to look back on every memory of parenthood and miss them… we’re supposed to love the tough moments and the hard days because that’s what good mothers do. Even if, on the rare occasion we’re not loving this particular moment right now, we’ll look back and treasure these precious moments of motherhood. We’ll miss these moments… even the tough ones.

And maybe you will.

But it’s okay if you don’t.

You don’t have to love the 5AM wake up call now, and you don’t have to love it later either.

You don’t have to love pregnancy.

You don’t have to love breastfeeding.

You don’t have to love the Target tantrum or the days you felt like you were stuck in an endless loop between the dishwasher and the washing machine.

You might look back on some days of life with kids and shudder.

You can love your kids without adoring every single habit and quality.

You can love motherhood without relishing every single minute.

But maybe you do, maybe you cry on the first day of kindergarten and miss the midnight breastfeeding snuggles and that’s okay too.  How sentimental you are about these moments, or which moments you do or don’t enjoy about motherhood does not determine how “good” of a mother you are.

There are many aspects to the “mommy wars” but I think that the most upsetting part isn’t parenting styles it’s the HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE IT competition.

I loved being pregnant and I have encouraged moms to find the joy in it… but I understand why it’s not for everyone. If pregnancy isn’t your favorite season of parenting you’re not doomed from the start. I had a miserable time breastfeeding my second and a wonderful time breastfeeding my third but I don’t love them differently as a result. Sometimes raising children can just be difficult. Not “difficult but…” Just difficult.

We accept that we don’t have to love every single part of our lives… why do we set the expectation on ourselves and others to love every single part of parenting?

So, for the moms who don’t love everything I say this:

For better or worse our crappy days are just that. They’re crappy days. You don’t have to love them, you just have to get through them.  And if you’re making it through and doing your best (whatever your best is under the circumstances)… I think that’s good mom enough.

 

Moms who don't love everything about parenting

 

 

The Longest Summer Ever Begins.

 

The first official day of our Longest Summer Ever fell on the longest day of the year.

I mentioned in my last post about how we would not be returning to school in the fall and we’re spending the next 6 months or so exploring our interests and getting out to see some cool stuff.

Without the anchor of the school day, things turn into a free-for-all pretty quickly.  And while I normally don’t mind what I call “summer chaos”, I’m very aware that I won’t be packing up that chaos and shipping it off to school in September.

For one thing, electronics are a real problem in our house.  For everyone, not just for the kids. I originally didn’t want to set any strict limits on “screen time”; I don’t really mind the kids being on the computer so long as there’s a bit of balance.

After thinking about how to deal with our electronics issue, I decided that we’d build a loose schedule to follow on the weekdays (and a separate one for weekends).  Having internet “black out” times works better for us than earning time on the computer or even having a set amount of time they’re allowed on the computer.  In the past, those structures caused the kids to be preoccupied with whether or not they’d get to be on the computer and for how long.  This way, they know they’ll get their time and have multiple opportunities to play video games so there’s no need to bargain/discuss/think about it/talk about it. It’s not about punishment or reward; it’s just a thing we do sometimes and not others.

The focus is on creating a few new habits to last us into the fall when Jeff goes back to school but the kids do not.

Since the kids wake up at various times, we decided we’d start our day at 9am. Before that, if the kids would like to be on electronics or play outside in their pjs or lay around in bed a little, that’s fine.

So our “structure” looks a little bit like this:
9:00 begins our unplugged time with breakfast/getting dressed/chores
10-4 is unplugged free time. This is when we’re likely to take a trip out anyway.
4-6 is computer/tv time
6:00 is  dinner
Followed by 1 hour of reading for the entire family
A little more free time if we have time for it and the bedtime routine begins at 8:30.
9:30 lights out.

How’d we do on day 1?

Well, the unplugged time went better than I expected.  Usually, once the electronics are ripped from their white-knuckled-grip the kids do pretty well. The house is exponentially louder… and messier, but the kids do pretty well.

Today we took Marlowe out to see Finding Dory for his first ever movie experience and despite spilling his popcorn and getting folded up in the seat a few times, it was a success.

First movie finding dory

We did ditch the hour of free time (and our bedtimes) to head out with a telescope to a nearby field to see the strawberry moon.

We didn’t get a chance to see the moon until the ride home because the trees were too high, but it didn’t really matter.  We saw Mars and Jupiter, watched bats feast above our heads, chased some fireflies and lay around in the grass looking up at the stars.

Star gazing kids A multifaceted Mama

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We used the Sky Guide app to help us identify a few planets and stars. Marlowe kept yelling “Mars is coming! Mars is coming!”

Sometimes, you gotta bend the schedule even on day one.

longest summer ever a multifaceted mama

I’m trying to keep my expectations in check, but it was a nice start to our Longest Summer Ever.

Our Next Adventure: Homeschooling

Our Next Adventure: Homeschooling

It just doesn’t feel right without a new big thing we’re introducing into our life. Usually it’s babies, but each year I feel like we make a major shift in our lives and this year is no different.

These last few days of school also mark our last days of public school (for at least a year).
This hasn’t been a quick decision by any means; the possibility of homeschool is something we’ve bounced around for years to varying degrees of sincerity. But things have a way of falling together in their own time and this year it became increasingly clear that now is the right time for our family.

I have talked to people about our decision and I thought I’d start with a few answers to a few FAQs about this new adventure.

1. What made you decide to homeschool?
There are about 100 factors as to why we’re making this change that I’m just not going to go into on this post.  But I do want to say this:  Our children have gone to wonderful public schools and worked with fantastic teachers.  I have gotten to know the administration at their current school and they are hard working, wonderful, educated people with their hearts in the right place.  My husband teaches in public schools, and I continue to believe in the value of public schools.  I won’t get into what our decision to homeschool is right now, but I will say what it isn’t: a religious/political/educational statement or criticism on the public school environment, parents who send their children to public schools, or on children who thrive in public schools.

2. Are you going to homeschool forever?
We’re going to take things one year at a time.  If Max or Hudson decides that they want to go back to school, I am certainly not going to stand in their way.  I will also do my best (as we have done on other important personal matters) to try not to steer them in one direction or another when it comes to that issue. For now, we’re focused on 2nd grade and 5th grade.  We’ll get to next year, next year.

3. Are you going to homeschool all of them?
I don’t know.  Right now, the two older boys are my focus as they are actually school aged.  We’ll see what’s best for Marlowe when we get there.  That being said, I would like to send Marlowe to preschool to get a little time with kids his age and allow a little more time for me to focus on the big boys.

4. Are you going to do Montessori/Project Based/Charlotte Mason/School-at-home style/unschooling schooling?
Probably.
I think there is value in many different teaching philosophies and I plan to steal from anything and anyone.  What is most important to me is that my children learn in the way that is best for them and that will be my guide. We may do a little bit of this or a little bit of that; what works is more important to me than following any particular philosophy.

5.Aren’t you worried about socialization?
No.

6. How do you feel about it?
There’s a big fat mix of emotions happening but mostly I find myself wavering between being incredibly excited and incredibly terrified. Mostly now though, I’m excited.

So, over the next 6 months or so we’ll be getting out and about and discovering some new things. We’ll be taking some time to explore our interests, find an everyone-is-at-home rhythm, rediscover our learning styles and develop a homeschool that works best for us.

 

Max and I came up with a working list of things we’d like to see and do in the coming months which we’re calling Operation: See Cool Stuff.    I will try to share as many of our “field trips” on the blog as I can.

For now, we’ve been counting down with anticipation to the end of the school year and the start of our next adventure.

Have you ever thought about homeschooling? Was the decision difficult?

Saying Goodbye: A Store That Offered More Than Clothes

 

h2br

10 years ago in March I was about 4 months pregnant and looking for a job.

It’s not that I minded waiting tables, but the 5 am wake up call and smell of bacon was not helping my nausea.

I figured a maternity store might be a good fit (literally and figuratively) so I called up a small maternity boutique and asked if they were hiring.

When I went into the interview I had no idea that this job would mean so much more to me than a paycheck.

On the eve 2016, I worked my very last shift at Hip to be Round. This weekend the store will close it’s doors forever.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve seen the store through 5 locations, 2 owners, 1 name change and 4 babies of my own. I’ve worked part time and full time both as an associate and a manager.  I’ve seen brands come and go and families grow.

Most of all, while standing outside of the dressing room ready to get another size or color of a pair of pants, I’ve heard stories.

Being a person who loves stories, I’ve listened to them all.  Good stories and sad ones. Women who are excited to be pregnant and women who aren’t.  I’ve caught a woman as she fainted and found a dress for a funeral (she wasn’t pregnant, just swollen). I’ve dressed two men in maternity clothes feeling intensely protective of one of them who had clearly not been dress shopping before. I’ve helped a woman in labor with a nursing bra. I’ve been the neutral party when mother and daughter shopping tension arrises. I’ve brought tissues to the dressing room when reality hits.

I’ve talked to women who are afraid of birth.

I’ve talked to women who have lost their babies.

I’ve talked to women who are infertile.

I’ve talked to women who are surrogates.

I’ve gained pearls of wisdom from a mother of 6.

I’ve given out as much wisdom as I had to offer.

I’ve seen ultrasounds, kept gender secrets, and heard name picks before family members have.

I’ve listened to so many complaints.

I’ve met doulas and midwives and yoga instructors who have all taught me something. I’ve swapped tips with other mothers about sibling rivalry and potty training.  I attended monthly La Leche League meetings for 4 years and learned something new every time.

To say I am thankful for my experience with this little store is an understatement.   I have logged so many hours and learned so much. The women I have worked with have become some of my dearest friends and the customers I have interacted with have offered me so many new perspectives. It is not hyperbole to say that when it comes to motherhood this store helped raise me.

While the day to day of working in a store may not be the most prestigious of jobs I have been unbelievably honored to be a part of what Hip to be Round was.  Hip to be Round was so much more than clothes, it was a safe place for women at such a unique and rare time and I am so lucky to have been a part of that.

 

latchon
Participating in the Big Latch On while working at Hip to be Round.

Happy Birthday to Me: Weird Juice and Tame Parties.

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I’m not the type of person who gets concerned about birthdays. I’ve always liked my birthday and getting older doesn’t really bother me.

But it’s also not lost on me that I’m having a very solidly-in-your-30’s birthday and I can’t help but compare it to early 20’s birthdays.

For example: Saturday I had a birthday party for me, an adult, which consisted of 9 kids and a newborn.  It started at 5 and everyone was cleared out by 9. The kitchen was clean and two loads of dishes were done, all the food was put away and we were in bed, face washed, pajamas on by 10:30.  Items left at our home: a baby shoe, a sippy cup and my dad’s cellphone.

I didn’t have too many wild parties in my 20’s (after all I was already a mom by 23) but we can go ahead and say that this was a departure from a typical 20’s birthday party.

As if that wasn’t enough, I’m mildly embarrassed but also bizarrely excited about my birthday present:  A juicer. The I’m-old-now hits just keep coming, because I actually RESEARCHED said juicer.

Next I’ll want a Fitbit.

Oh wait.

Mom with fitbit

But there’s a couple of things… Disclaimers? Explanations? I feel compelled to address:

  1.  I told a friend I was excited about my new present coming and she asked me if I was going to be one of those “weird juicer people”. I guess this goes back to the food being personal thing. So, uh… no. I don’t plan on going on a fast or extolling the virtues of juice or anything like that if that is what it means to be a “weird juicer”. I’m not an expert on health and I really don’t want to pretend to be. I do plan to share an occasional juice recipe (got one already) however, I still have lots of other interests and subjects to talk and write about so I hope this at least keeps me out of the “weird” category.
  2. I’m not having any more kids. I swear it’s related just hear me out.
    For the past 10 years my body has been only kinda mine (and it’s still only kind of mine because I’m breastfeeding).  But basically for 10 years I’ve been pregnant, postpartum, or planning on having another kid in the future… and as we all know pregnancy does some weird stuff to your body. So, I do feel that, tied in with the birthday, I’m reclaiming my body a little bit.  I see now why many mothers get into health and fitness after they are finished having kids… it’s nice to have your body back. That being said the closest I’ve come to “fitness” is calling the gym to cancel our long-neglected membership and eating that cake so I’m not saying I’m doing that, I’m just saying I get it.

Sunday (my actual birthday) was pretty low-key spending time with family and even *gasp* some alone time for me.  Overall, it was really a lovely you’re-old-now birthday.  I’m excited for this year. I’m hoping to continue the path I started in January of being more focused on the people and things that make me happy.  More time with family and friends, writing on this blog, and finding a new rhythm that keeps our family happy. And I think I’m off to a pretty good start.

Parenting Fail. The Highs and Lows of Stay at Home Mom-ing.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I decided to be at home with the kids more.  I knew they needed it and I needed it. In fact, the first month after I quit both jobs confirmed everything I had been thinking and feeling about staying at home.

Let’s call it the honeymoon phase.

The house was cleaner, the laundry more manageable.  I was able to make time for kids and clients. I even blogged more than I expected.  I was definitely nailing this stay at home thing.

Then February. An abrupt ending to my January honeymoon. Each day I felt like at best I was treading water, at worst I had already drowned and couldn’t admit it.  So far, March hasn’t seemed any less chaotic.  The beginning of last week perfectly illustrated the parenting highs and lows.

Sunday was beautiful. Jeff was exhausted after a long night of kids not sleeping (it usually bothers him more than me), and I was determined to exhaust them so we might get a good night sleep.  So I packed the four of them in the car, left Jeff at home to doze, and took them to a beautiful local park, Maymont.

Maymont 1

We hoofed the entire park (Langston on my back) from the Children’s Farm, through the Japanese Gardens, up the beautiful steps to the Italian gardens, past the mansion, to the visitors center and back to the Children’s Farm to say goodbye to the pig before we left. We had a great time, and the kids were happy and exhausted. Sunday was a parenting high.

Maymont 2.JPG

Monday came around. I got the kids off to school, and was getting ready for a catch up day when I went to change Langston’s diaper.  I got distracted by a messed up trash bag and in an instant, Langston flipped off the table. I picked him up to hug him before realizing blood was pouring from his mouth; a bottom tooth was out and dangling, root and all. We rushed off to a somewhat-nearby Pediatric ER (at a hospital which I knew happened to also have a dentistry practice), and I found myself standing there, unshowered and barely dressed, with a busted up baby, a shattered phone (which I had broken on Saturday) held together with scotch tape, and a two year old who was wedging himself between a side table and a waiting room chair.

infant fall lost baby tooth.JPG

WHY WAS I ALLOWED TO HAVE CHILDREN?

It just seems inhumane.

We went home, one tooth down from a set of 6; I was utterly exhausted. This was definitely a parenting low.

Tuesday rolled around and I was determined to redeem the day before. The kids were off from school, so I’d planned a great day at the zoo, a trip to Toys R Us and other fun stuff. Except nobody was excited about the zoo. One child (who will remain nameless) had been particularly sour the past couple of days, and  even stepped it up a few notches… but it wasn’t just him. In fact everyone was so uncooperative, difficult, and just plain nasty that I completely lost it. LOST. IT.  Lost it.  I yelled. Loudly. At my children. About the zoo.  They cried. I cried. It was a mess. Evidently, while trying to balance a growing list of things demanding my attention,  I had been missing some big stuff bothering one of the boys. Parenting really, really low.

We took deep breaths, had a good talk, hugged a lot, and told each other we loved each other a lot. We made pancakes. We went to the zoo. We saw baby animals. We laughed. We had fun. We were on our way back up again.

metro richmond zoo

feed giraffes metro richmond zoo

 

The house is still a mess, and I’m behind on a lot of things (like this very blog).  I’ve got my fingers crossed for a few uneventful days.  In fact, I could use an uneventful month… The reality of stay-at-home/work-at-home parenting has proven to be much bumpier than I expected. So, I’m trying to hold a tight grip on the things that matter while I ride out some of these highs and lows.

Ps. Still doing dishes in the bathroom sink.  Big update coming soon.

There’s a Hole In My Kitchen.

So, I had a post about our 10 year anniversary which I wanted to sit down and write. I still will. But here’s what got in the way.

Servpro Dehumidifier kitchenThat is a dehumidifier where my kitchen sink used to be. I’m familiar with the contraption because this is actually the 3rd time I’ve seen one taking up a small space in my house in the past 5 years.

I feel like this is an unusual number of times to need to dehumidify a home.

But, regardless, I am listening to the not-so-gentle sound of the dehumidifier in my basically useless kitchen. And as adorable as it is to hear a 2 year old try to pronounce “dehumidifier,” on day 3 the novelty is wearing off.

So here’s what happened:

I was getting my stitch fix, happy as a clam, when the handyman who we had asked to fix some stairs comes back with a panicked sort of  I-really-don’t-want-to-deliver-this-news kind of look.

Then he said, “Something, something, small leak between the cabinet and the wall, something, something, crawlspace, something, puddle on the ground, something, something, wet subflooring, something, something, you don’t want the floor of the kitchen to start to sag.”

That’s a direct quote.

Anyway, all this led to 3 days of phone calls, claims adjustors, assessment guys or whatever they’re called, and that moment where you watch a couple of very nice guys pull your cabinets out and tear into your floors and walls with a big orange thing that looks like it’s never used for something good.

Water damage, servpro, subfloor

We were supposed to go on an anniversary date night tonight but stayed in and discussed cabinetry. Like you do when you’ve been married for 10 years.

I am choosing to be grateful. Last time something in our house broke I had a 1 week old baby… so the timing could have been worse.  Also, had our handiman not noticed it, the damage could have been much more extensive. And because we have an older house, the subflooring looks like it can be dried and repaired without having to replace it.    And hey, we were thinking of replacing a few things in the kitchen eventually and now, maybe we’ll get a little help with the cost.

Besides, the kids have gotten a little entertainment from it… and there is a certain novelty to washing your dishes in the bathroom sink (or the bathtub. Right?).

dehumidifier blowing air

So… good news, right? Today is a good news day.

 

Hello 2016.

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Jumping into 2016

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. We definitely did.

While my husband and the kids get excited about Christmas, I get excited about the new year.

Not New Year’s Eve so much as the fresh start in the new year.

I even like New Year’s Resolutions.
I never understood why people were so down about New Year’s Resolutions.  True, they can be a bit cliche, and most people don’t keep them.  But if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s not the New Year or the Resolution’s fault that they don’t work out. It’s us.

Also, why is it that when we fail, we can’t start again?  You stopped going to the gym in February so forget it? Does that mean March doesn’t count? Can we ONLY go to the gym if we start in January?

Anyway, all that being said, I don’t usually set specific resolutions but general goals: Foster a sense of community, be a better friend, be as excited for other people’s successes as I would be for my own, take time to figure out what direction I want to take my career in. It doesn’t mean losing 10lbs is off the list entirely, but setting these kinds of goals have improved my life quite a bit and even if I feel like I could have done better at these things, I don’t feel like I failed.

I also often think of years in terms of themes. Last year was kind of serendipitous… As I went into the year with the goal of figuring out what my next steps were career-wise having no idea I would be making the sudden decision to leave my job in December.

So, for the first time in a long time I’ll be identifying more as a stay at home mom than a working mom. I can’t say that transition isn’t bittersweet and a little scary.

And so it seems as though 2016 is shaping up to be the year of domesticity, but also the year of entrepreneurship. Focusing on how to shape my career around my home life rather than the other way around.

And that is a New Year’s Resolution I can definitely get behind. If I accomplish nothing else but that I’ll feel pretty good.

Losing 10 pounds would also be nice.

 

Do you love or hate New Year’s Resolutions?