Thursday, January 30, 2014

The "To Be" List

Alzheiemer's dementia caregiver checklist

Any parent will tell you that there is a great deal of pride involved in raising kids.  Sure, there is frustration.  You'll have moments of anger, disappointment or sadness.  Some days you'll wake up to find a diaper malfunction situation that requires 4 wipes before you can even get close enough to remove the diaper. (You can't make this stuff up.  This is my life.) But tossed in the mix you'll also have happiness, glimpses of wonder, laughter, joy and moments of true pride. 

There are the big when your kid gets a scholarship to Harvard, or when your son makes the Olympic ski team.  The stuff movies are made of.  The things that makes a moms heart nearly sick with overwhelming pride. 

My kids are still growing, still learning and still finding their niche in the world.  Their "mountaintop moments" of curing cancer or successfully negotiating a peace agreement in the middle east are still ahead of them (No pressure kids.  No pressure....).  These are the days of smaller, quieter (but no less important) pride-filled moments. 
  • My 5-year old daughter encouraging me with, "That's ok Mommy, we can do hard things." when I was getting a irritated wrestling with a Polly Pocket wardrobe change.
  • My 2-year old getting his pants on all by himself.  Sometimes they are backwards.  Or maybe inside out.  But he can do it himself.
  • Our teenager putting the trash cans out at the curb on trash day.  All. By. Herself.  No nagging.
  • Hearing your toddler remind your preschooler, "Stop!  That's not safe." When he sees her doing something that might result in a black eye or broken arm. 
  • Watching your young daughter learn to (carefully, painstakingly) write her name.
  • Kids picking up clothes off the floor and throwing them in the laundry basket without anyone asking them to do it.
  • Seeing your kid pick water over juice at a birthday party.  (Yes, I'm that mom.)
  • Clutching your heart as you watch your little guy dust himself off and go right back to climbing the playground ladder that bucked him off his feet moments earlier. 
Really the pride comes from catching small glimpses of hope that your kids are developing into kind, capable humans.  Seeing proof that your mistakes aren't ruining them and some lessons are actually transmitting and translating into positive life behaviors....those are small miracles, people.  Small miracles.  It's the pride-inducing fuel that keeps mommies around the world charged up and ready for a new day. 

In the chaos of shuttling kids to and fro, making dinner, cleaning house, wiping noses, potty training, monitoring homework, doing laundry, baking cookies for the class party, and paying the bills, one can sometimes get distracted from the important stuff.  It's the ultimate mommy challenge...taking the focus off of the "to do" list and making time for the "to be" list.  What do we want our kids to be?  Or, more accurately, how do we want our kids to be?  That is the true heart of parenting. 

I want my kids to be confident enough to do it themselves, caring enough to notice when others need help, and grounded enough to know they are not the center of the universe.  Really, in a nutshell, that's about it.  Kind, capable humans. If they cure cancer too, great.  If not, just let them be kind and capable as they go about cleaning toilets or joining the circus or whatever it is God has planned for them. 

I'm type-A.  Believe me when I say the call of my "to do" list is strong.  So I watch and listen carefully for these quiet moments, these small miracles.  Because they remind me that the "to be" list is my focus in this stage of life.  They force me to step back, look at the big picture and put my actions into perspective. On those days when I feel less than perfect as a mom (Which, let's face it...come around more frequently than we might like.) I can sometimes focus in and see fragments of what I want my kids to be.  In spite of my imperfections, my short temper, my burnt dinner, or my failure to bring the perfect Pinterest Valentine crafts come to life, these small moments ARE my mountaintop moments. 

It's not easy, this parenting business.  But that's ok.  We can do hard things. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Craigslist Amy

If you haven't heard, there is a movie called Craigslist Joe.  It's a documentary about a guy that cuts himself off from family and friends for 30 days and lives entirely off of Craigslist.  He bums food, a place to sleep, odd jobs and rides across the country and back, all using Craigslist.

I'm no Craigslist Joe, but I do have a certain affinity for the website.  My earthy, tree-hugger side loves the idea of purchasing (recycling, if you will) perfectly fine furniture to fill the nooks and crannies of our home.  My bargain hunter side loves spending half of retail on kids toys.  My community-minded heart enjoys meeting local friends that want to buy my trash and adopt it as their new treasure. 

To clarify (and put my husband's eye rolling to rest), we are very blessed and can fully afford things purchased new at a real store.  However, I am the daughter of a frugal German who himself was raised by a son of the Great Depression.  My ability to pay full price for anything is crippled by genetics.  Additionally, I have small children and a dog in my home. New and beautiful things don't stand a snowball's chance in hell at our house right now. 

And so when I find used/discounted things that are useful, semi-nice, sturdy, and fill a need in our home, I call that a good day.  My most recent find came from the Home Consignment Depot in Redding.  This store is nothing fancy.  They have a large, slightly dingy, hodge-podge shaped showroom that features everything from beds to aquariums to wall art to washing machines.  The merchandise here runs the gamut...if you need a $20 coffee table for your son's first apartment, they've got you covered.  Or, if you want to spend hundreds of dollars on an immaculate, 4-piece bedroom set, you'll probably find that too.  Prices are good.  Staff is friendly.  Merchandise turns over quickly. To be clear, it's no frills.  If you have a hard time seeing past the dust or stepping over a bucket of toys to look at the dresser you want, this isn't the place for you. 

Turns out the perfect desk was waiting for us at the Home Consignment Depot.  Hubby has been wanting a desk since he occasionally works from home and hijacks my desk for a work space.  In the interest of marital harmony, the additional desk was a necessity. Here is the super cool desk that was hiding in the back corner...

It's a funky-cool, antique typewriter desk, to be exact.  It's got a tricky, flip-top, transformer feature that allows you to fold up your typewriter (if you happened to actually own a typewriter) inside the desk and out of sight. 

No, we don't have a typewriter.  But we do have an appreciation for solid wood furniture that seems to have become obsolete with the advent of computers. 

This baby is big (to hold two computer screens that are "necessary" for hubby to be productive), solid (to withstand toddlers climbing on it or dogs running into/over/under it), and affordable.  It's no Ikea, assemble-yourself piece of junk that looks like it belongs in an episode of the Jetsons.  This is a piece of real furniture.  It will probably last a lifetime. 

And after we're gone, our kids can keep this treasure in their home and tell stories about their crazy parents that bought a typewriter desk 20 years after typewriters became obsolete.

Either that or sell it on Craigslist. 


Monday, January 13, 2014

Simon Says, "Throw Rocks"

If you've ever parented a toddler, or babysat a toddler, or spent more than 10 minutes alone with a toddler, chances are you had to tell that toddler "No" at least once.  (Maybe more if it happened to be my little toddler....)  Two-year-old kids are curious.  Fearless.  Busy.  And generally lacking in common sense. 

I know the parenting books tell you to redirect.  "Present the child with an alternate activity that will distract them away from the undesirable behavior."  Sure.  Thing.

The books have never met my two year old.  He is 90% sweet, cuddly boy.  10% raging maniac.  I won't bore you with the details but it's safe to say that on most days I feel like the title "Referee" might be more appropriate than "Mommy." 

And so this weekend when he was throwing rocks in the backyard, I had a brilliant idea.  Rather than spending the rest of the afternoon saying, "NO.  We don't throw rocks!!" (and then chasing him as he ran away with a fist full of rocks, and then bandaging up his sister who would likely be the target of the rocks), I redirected.  I packed the kids up in the car and went down to the riverbed that is littered with THOUSANDS of golf-ball sized rocks, perfect for throwing. 

I knew the trip would either be a moment of mommy genius or earn me a spot on Geraldo....could go either way. (OK, so Geraldo doesn't even have a show anymore, but it's been so long since I've watched daytime TV, I don't even know the name of the latest, sensationalized gossip king!!)  On the one hand, the kids could revel in the freedom of a safe, controlled environment in which they could "legally" throw rocks.  On the other hand, they could completely ignore my 15 pages of instructions that I dictated to them as we drove to the river about not touching the water, not going in the water, and only throwing rocks AT the water, not at each other.....And I could end up with an eyeless daughter and my 10 minutes of fame on Geraldo's episode about "Moms Who Let Their Toddlers Throw Rocks."

Survey says...genius!  The kids loved it!  Nobody got their feet wet, I didn't have to fish anyone out of the river, no fishermen, dogs or children were hurt by flying rocks, and all of the rocks were (mostly) accurately aimed right at the river.

It felt a little Huck Finn-ish....Mom taking her kids out on a Sunday afternoon with no agenda other than to throw rocks in the river.  Who does that in 2014? 

Well, we did.  And we weren't more than 10 steps away from the river before my daughter was asking when we could do it again. 

Guess I'll have to pick another story for my Geraldo application. 


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Not Quite 1999.

Once upon a time, I got dressed up in a formal gown and went out dancing and drinking until midnight on New Years Eve. 

That was 1999 when we partied like a Prince song. 

These days our NYE celebrations tend to be quiet evenings at home.  Our kids are too small to stay up very late (or sleep in the next morning) so in the interest of self preservation, we keep things pretty mellow. 

As I was explaining NYE to my 5-year old daughter, she immediately latched on to the idea of staying up until midnight to greet the new year.  "I want to stay up late!" she exclaimed. 

Quickly followed by, "I'm not going to bed until YOU go to bed."

Well, truth be told, this mama hasn't made it to midnight on NYE for probably five years.  So, staying up as late as mommy really wasn't a huge stretch. 

I wasn't initially planning anything festive for the evening.  I had soup simmering in the crock pot for dinner.  I had a bottle of champagne chilled in the fridge.  Period.  End of story. 

Until hubby mentioned that we should, "Do something fun" for New Years Eve.   Well, spontaneous fun on NYE with three kids in the house is kind of tricky to pull off.  But I'm nothing if not creative, so I quickly announced that we would be having FANCY DINNER.  

I don't think it was exactly what my husband had in mind when he suggested something fun, but I didn't hear his protests because I was off down the  hall informing all the kids that they needed to get busy picking out their fancy outfits and washing behind their ears for FANCY DINNER. 

This FANCY DINNER idea came to life around 3pm, so my resources and ability to "fancy up" our dinner plans were a bit cramped for time.  But I've got a two year old that loves collared shirts and his new bowtie, and a five year old that loves any excuse to dress like a princess.  They jumped right on the bandwagon.  The teenager was a tougher sell, but she did comply and changed out of her PJ's into actual day-wear clothing for the occasion. 

So what does spontaneous FANCY DINNER look like?  Well, we ironed the tablecloth and pulled out the fine china.  The kids drank milk from wine glasses.  We lit candles.  There were place cards on the table, lest anyone forget where they should be sitting.  I whipped out my $7 (no kidding!) clearance-rack holiday dress that I bought over a year ago, but had never worn.  Hubby shaved and put on a collared shirt.  We dined on fine mini-quiches, homemade crab won-tons, hearty bean soup, and chips and salsa.  For dessert I tried out a fantastic (and dangerously simple) Apple Fritter recipe I found on Pinterest ages ago.   

OK, so the menu may not have been classy.  It was more like freezer leftovers with a side of convenience store snacks and a chaser of deep-fried artery cloggers.  But the kids thought it was pretty awesome because it was a dinner of finger foods and no green veggies.  If that's not a party, I don't know what is.

So, to review, it is possible to have a spectacularly fancy New Years Eve celebration even when home-bound with three kids.  Just don't be surprised if the "dancing" is "Ring Around the Rosie", the formal dress code ends after dinner, and the drinking is pretty much over by 9pm. 

Happy New Year to all!