tonight, the dishes sat

Our evening routine usually goes something like this:

After dinner, I start cleaning up the kitchen (dishes, counters, etc.).  Hubby usually entertains S and C while I do that. They often end up going downstairs to the basement or somewhere other than the kitchen so I can work.

Then, when I’m done I either join in the play or pick up the house. (By the time the kids are in bed, we are so pooped that it’s nice to have the house tidy beforehand so we can just relax.) Hubby is usually still with the kids, sometimes outside. Then it’s usually time for C to go down – I warm up a sippy of milk for him and go fetch him to take up to his room. Hubby then usually spends some time with S (bath or play) until it’s her bedtime.

Today, S said to me “mama can you and I play until you have to put C to bed?” My first answer was “no, you should go play with daddy, mama has to clean up.” But I quickly took that back.  I said, “sure!” and she was shocked.

So we played. We did magna tiles. We played with a little horse/vet lego set she had just finished building. We colored. All the way until I had to put C to bed.

And you know what? We still had to clean up after.  We still had to do the dishes. But it wasn’t the end of the world. In fact, I felt like I had a more fulfilled evening. I actually spent the end of the day with my kids instead of picking up from the end of our long day.

So yes, S (and C) – I vow to do that more often.  Play.  And let the dishes/kitchen/house sit and wait for me. It’s time well spent.

toy find – the aquadoodle mat!

Okay so my kids have been LOVING this thing so I wanted to share.

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It comes with a pen (or two, depending on which package you get) – and they draw with WATER. But the mats have different colored sections, and hidden letters…so it’s more fun! It’s big enough (as you can see) that both my 2 and 5 1/2 year old can play together, and best of all NO MESS. What they draw dries in a few minutes, so there is always room for another picture. Now that my daughter is reading/writing a little, she enjoys working on her letters. C is just thrilled that we gave him a “pen” that makes marks on something.

It looks like there are a few versions available now, but mine was the classic one (only came with one pen, so beware!). Extra pens are available.

Hope your kids enjoy this gem as much as mine do!

my kids will never be toys ‘r us kids

I’m sitting here attempting to use the rest of our Toys ‘R Us gift cards and I’m feeling a little sad.  I can’t help but feel that my kids are going to miss out on something.

It’s not like we go to the toy store all the time – it’s actually a rare treat.  But it’s always nice to know it’s there.  A giant, entire store FILLED with toys. I mean where do you even start? In this day of instant gratification and being able to get anything in 2 days (sometimes sooner!) courtesy of Amazon Prime, the toy store was a place where I feel like kids could still peruse, touch, and decide.

I still remember the jingle when the commercial would come on.  And not that I want my kid to be a “toys ‘r us kid” or anything – but I’m wondering now where I’ll take them for that occasional visit.  A toy section in Target is a possibility. But there was just something about buying toys in a place that didn’t also sell home goods and clothing.

I guess this is a sign of the times though – as I think about all the other retailers that have either gone out of business or are in the midst of bankruptcy filings – our kids’ world is going to be a little different. They will do more digitally and virtually. And perhaps the physical stores they go into will me more experiential – movie theaters, trampoline parks, etc.

I will spend the rest of my gift cards but with a little sadness in my heart – the last purchase I will ever make at a Toys ‘R Us store.

When boredom strikes

Let them be bored. I’ve heard that so often lately…in this age of electronics and just plain old busyness. So I decided to try it one morning.

S woke up and as usual said “mama what are we going to do today?” It was Saturday, so usually we would have an outing of some kind planned in the morning, and then we’d spend the afternoon around the house, outside, etc. But this time I said “we’re actually going to have a family weekend. We’re going to spend all day today and tomorrow here at home and play inside and out!”

That didn’t go over well. C just turned two so he was oblivious. But S whined and complained. “I’m so bored. There’s nothing to do.” I encouraged her to go to her playroom and pick out a game. Or that we could bring the easel up from the basement and she could paint. Or we could do a puzzle. Or we could read. She stomped off to her room about an hour into the morning.

Then I found a piece of paper slid out under her door.

And she was. She made a few ‘books’ that day. She used her imagination and when given a big chunk of unstructured time, she came up with fun illustrations and words that she asked us to staple together for her later that day.

Having spent time in her kindergarten class, I know how structured her days are. We are a common core state; so much has changed from when I was in kindergarten. Kids move from one activity to another quickly. There is a not a lot of time for free play or socializing apart from the 15 min morning recess and 20 min lunch one. Their days are filled with worksheets, reading books, math puzzles and the like. This reinforced for me the need for more “boredom days” where there is time and space to let the mind wander.

So we’ll be doing more of these days. S may not like it – but especially with summer coming, I think we’ll have plenty of opportunities and she’ll learn to love them.

are we done? or do we want another?

This is what my husband sprung on me in the midst of a TV show. I don’t even remember what we were watching.  The kids were both in bed so we were having our nightly “date” to catch up on a show when the house was quiet.

I have to admit, I’ve thought about it. C just turned 2, and S is 5 1/2.  It seems like the last few years just flew by. But every time I thought about it, I just couldn’t see starting all over. Both hubby and I are in our 40s, and admittedly the sleepless nights were much harder with #2 than #1.

But, every time I asked myself this question, I also though how nice it would be to have a little one again. That baby that makes those sweet cooing sounds – sounds I would never hear from my kids again as they grew older.  My oldest is even too big to carry (but I still do at times). But, I didn’t think my husband was asking himself the same question, so I was shocked when he verbalized it to me. I thought for sure we were done. A family of 4 and a dog.

So that made me really think.  Are we? Or do we want a third?

It’s still on my mind. We sort of ended that conversation agreeing that we didn’t think we could handle it. That it would be too hard for S and C with us already being pretty tired. If we were 10 years younger…we would.

But then I woke up this morning and thought about it again (obviously). How do we know…I mean really know, when our family is complete?

the balancing act…is there really one?

I’ve had so many people ask me recently…how do you do it all? Like most people, I have multiple roles in my life. Mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, employee. But recently, with my daughter starting kindergarten, it seems a bit more concentrated on mom and work.

I’ve tried to remain active in the school…taking time off work to help out the teacher, zipping over to help for the 20 min lunch period (those lunch periods are crazy!), volunteering for the classroom holiday parties.  Then there are playdates. Then homework. Then lunches.  All the same stuff that all families go through with their kids in school.

The truth is, I have help. I have a nanny who helps out at home a TON, and let’s face it, she does more for our family than just watch my kids and get my daughter off the bus on days that I’m working outside the home (I work from home a couple of days a week). I also have a pretty involved husband. And the other secret? I feel like I’m always dropping the ball on something. Like when I’m at work, I’m not caught up at home…and when I’m at home, I feel like I missed the mark on something at work.

So I feel like I’m not really balancing at all…more just juggling. And, at times, I feel like I’m just catching the ball that’s closest to hitting the ground.

I guess that’s a bit of what motherhood can feel like, maybe?

Date night

Hubby and I do a pretty good job with our date nights.  We try to go every other week when possible, and it’s something we both look forward to.

This past Friday we went to Flemings, one of our favorites.  A little nicer than we sometimes do, as we were celebrating our 11 year anniversary. It was nice. And, we’ve gotten to the point that although we discussed the kids (when should we start C in preschool? Do we want S to continue learning over this summer between kindergarten and first grade?), we also discussed many other things.

We’ve gotten pretty good at making the time “us time” on date night but it wasn’t always like that. When S was little and we first had our scheduled date nights, we’d spend the evening talking about her. Then gradually as we got used to the concept of heading out without her and using it as time to actually reconnect, we made a conscious effort to use the time to really talk to each other. So much of our day to day adult interactions are coordinating parenting tactics (can you take S up for bath? C didn’t eat well at dinner, let’s see if he will finish his milk before bedtime) that this time really helps.

So this date night, we talked about work, about our parents, about the recent vacation we had just taken, what we’d want to do for our next family vacation, and a bunch of other stuff. And it was nice!

What are your date nights like?