Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

Off my plate: birthday cupcakes

October 14, 2012

Birthdays are fun. Well, if you’re getting presents. Or eating cake. Or playing games. But planning them, cleaning for them, making everything can be a pain. And the mommy blog world & pinterest doesn’t always help, with their perfect photos and drapes that match the party decorations. Really, who has time for that? Things 1&2’s birthdays come at the end of summer and beginning of the school year. Their birthdays fall during the busiest time of the year for us, with the start of fall soccer season, school, and a very busy season at work for The Cat and me.

Last year we had a great combined birthday in between the dates to accommodate The Cat’s navy deployment schedule. I did a lot of extra work to make matching everything, but with the wind (and my forgetting to take pictures), not many people noticed. But we still all had a fantastic time. So I decided to take inspiration — but not guilt — from Pinterest this year. I was going to tone down the party planning to relieve some of the pressure.

Thing 1 was heading into second grade just after her 7th birthday. For the first time we let her invite friends over to our house for her party. I hate housekeeping, so getting ready for that is always a pain. I let her pick from a few themes I thought we could support easily. She choose an art party. No problem. This was my favorite offering. Projects to make and take instead of games and favors. Little to no decoration was needed besides brightly colored Dollar Tree tablecloths covering art surfaces. And, since our weather in August is fairly nice, we’d do much of it outdoors.

The only thing left to decide on was the cake. Some years I’m rather lazy and we just buy a cake from the store. After all, you can’t really do cake ahead of time, and there are just so many things that could go wrong — and usually do for me. But in addition to paring down my party expectations, I was also trying to pare down party expenses. So I decided to make cupcakes. But that part of me that strives to be Supermom couldn’t let it go at that, they had to be decorated nicely. Yes, I could let go of table centerpieces and personalized goody bags, but plain cupcakes just went to far. I went shopping for cute liners, cake mix and a can of frosting (yes, I really was slacking on this one, eh?), and found Cake Mate Writing Icing in classic colors. Perfect for an idea brewing in my head. So, I baked and frosted a batch and — after a quick photo session with the birthday girl — turned them over to Thing 1, who very nicely included her brother. They decorated them together. I think the result was pretty cool, especially with the photo mounted on a clear acrylic cupcake topper and the silicone footed baking cups. And it took no yelling from me for the kids to behave while I slaved away for their party. That puts them in competition for best cupcakes ever.

art cupcakes

The bar had been set. When Thing 2’s fifth birthday rolled around a month later, I had to include him in party preparations. He really wanted a video game party with his three local cousins. And his sister, I had to remind him. That was a bummer, because we only had 4 controllers, but he agreed to let her partake in the festivities. There were plenty of incredible video game cupcake ideas online, but I had to remember that I’d have a pre-K boy helping me. While browsing Pinterest, I came across this one I had previously pinned as a Halloween idea. Monsters, video games…close enough, right? Thing 2 thought so. So, again, I baked (in a great selection of new foil lined wrappers from Wilton and Reynolds) and frosted and he sugared and drew and placed eyes. The results, cute as a…monster.

monster cupcakesBoth parties were a lot of fun. And the cupcakes were universally praised as cute and very nummy. And I felt so much less stress that I remembered to take some photos. Looks like we could be entering into the era of a new tradition. Lazy mom parties. This is one I think I can keep up with.

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The idea of living in Hawaii

June 6, 2008

We’ll be leaving Hawaii in a few months. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, with two small children it will be great to be closer to family, especially when The Cat has to go out to sea on the submarine. On the other hand, I’m going to miss living in Hawaii. At least I’ll miss the weather and the IDEA of living in Hawaii, which, unfortunately, my reality hasn’t matched.

The idea of living in Hawaii, at least for me, means doing and seeing every type of touristy thing, from shopping to dining to activities that require sunblock. It also means going beyond the simply touristy and doing the local thing. Those word of mouth things that aren’t listed in Frommer or Lonely Planet guides. Making friends and having experiences that make Hawaii feel like home. That idea would have been ideal. But, instead, we had two kids in the three years that we’ve lived here.

I moved here, far from friends and family, halfway through a pregnancy, making finding a regular job hard. (Thank goodness for Kaplan getting me out of the house occasionally!). Oh, and The Cat has been gone – a  lot – making it difficult to keep even a non-regular job. Sure, I could’ve overcome those things and been more adventurous, but I have more excuses. (Many of them center around traffic and parking. Who knew I was such a car wuss?) The truth is, when I get back to the mainland, people will say, “Oh, Hawaii! Did you do ______?” And most of the time I’ll have to say no. I hate that left out, not-in-the-know, wussy feeling.

Still, we do now have two kids who can (forever and always) say they were born in Hawaii. That, plus the fact that Things 1 and 2 are the most wonderful kids you’ll ever meet, I guess evens things out. Regardless, it’s hard to accept the fact that I didn’t get to do everything I wanted here. But, maybe I shouldn’t give up yet. I have a few months left, and I’m not leaving without a fight.

Trading guilts

March 18, 2008

It’s after 10 a.m., and I’m still in my pajamas. Thing 1 is too. Thing 2 isn’t, but that’s because he had a diaper blowout on his pajamas. I need a shower. The dishwasher is waiting to be emptied. And my office/craft room is a disaster area. And all I’d really like to do is go back to bed and get some sleep.

I was up until after 2 a.m. last night. These things happen when The Cat in the Hat isn’t here to drag me to bed. Actually, I usually drag him to bed, because he’s fallen asleep on the couch waiting for me. He looks so uncomfortable sleeping there, I give up on what I’m doing and head to bed with him in tow. But when he’s gone, the need-to-get-things-done guilt calls stronger than the must-rest-to-take-care-of-babies guilt. So, I was up late last night, but I didn’t get much done. Instead, I was researching cloth diapering.

Yes, you heard that right. I’m thinking about incorporating some cloth diapers into our routine. Why? Oh, because the piles of laundry (clean and dirty) distributed throughout my house like large gopher holes simply aren’t enough for me. I’d like to add piles that are wet and poopy.

Actually, that’s not it. It will probably be a consequence, but it’s not the force driving me to try this. Instead, it’s so I can trade big lifetime guilt and worry for small day-to-day guilt and worry.

Last night I was up worrying about landfills, poo in the groundwater, covering my kids’ bodies with chemicals, slight bottom rashes that never fully go away, and the legacy I’m leaving for my kids. Physically and psychologically. When my kids are grown, I never want to hear them say, “My parents were alright, but so backwards. They filled a landfill with my dirty diapers.” Okay, so I’ll never actually hear this, but I don’t even want to worry about hearing this. So, I’m trading in worries. I’m trading in one long lasting parenting guilt that will keep me up many nights over the next few years for a guilt that will keep me up late a few nights here and there to get the laundry done. I don’t care if it gets folded and put away. And, in the event that I take TCITH to bed because he looks uncomfortable, and the laundry doesn’t get done, I won’t sweat it. I’ll slap a disposable diaper on whoever can’t be bothered to go on the potty yet. And I’ll try not to feel too guilty about it. Why? Because I’m a middle of the road mom who doesn’t feel compelled to pick a lane and stick with it forever, consequences and inconveniences be damned. And because I think I’ll be a better mom with some sleep. And clothes. And a shower.

I’m going to go work on those last two now.

We interrupt this party with another nanny cam scene

March 14, 2008

Another CNN nanny cam story.

And this time, I’m in agreement with just about everything they said. This woman should be charged with abuse. I still think this doesn’t happen often and it’s a shame the media loves to breed fear in working parents (and everyone else for that matter) by exploiting the worst case scenarios. Still, it can happen and it’s a good reminder to be diligent in trying to keep it from happening to your kids.

My poor sick baby

March 5, 2008

Koen had the flu for two hours today. Yes, he had the two-hour flu. But I’m not off the hook yet, because it could be like the last time Ripley had the flu. She threw up once a day for 7 days. I can’t handle seven days of vomit from all of us. It would make me more than weak. (Yeah, I know. That was weak.)

It was really hard to watch him be sick. He woke up (early) from his nap vomiting. I cleaned him and his bed up and put him in a sling. He, my non-cuddly, active baby, just melted into my chest, with his head falling at odd angles if I didn’t support it. He was really pale. And the vomit and poo kept coming, and when they couldn’t any more he was dry heaving. It was so sad. He looked so weak and little.

When Ripley woke up, I ran us all to the store, worried that we would all come down sick and I’d have nothing in the house for us, just in case we felt like eating. Halfway through the commissary he picks his head up off my chest and is perfectly fine. He stayed that way the rest of the night. I guess that’s good. But I still need to get to bed and get some rest to be prepared for what could lie ahead.

I need a time out

July 8, 2007
Today was not a good day. I was crabby. I was yelling at my daughter. I didn’t even have to yell at the dog, because when she heard me start on Thing 1, she hid in her crate. I was bored. And tired of picking up the same mess day after day. I was not being nice. I needed a time out. So, I gave myself one.That’s right. I put myself in time out. I put Dora on the TV, set my daughter in front of it, and took a (much-needed) shower. I didn’t put myself on a timer. I just stayed away until I thought I could behave. After all, that’s what I do with Ripley for her time outs.I hear a lot of moms talking about fighting to keep their toddler in time out. Or taking away shoelaces while they’re in time out, so they have nothing to play with. That’s not how we do it, especially for a one year old. Instead of it being a timed punishment, it’s more of a redirection tool. The idea is simply to get her to stop the bad behavior. As a bonus, it  sets up the idea of discipline/punishment for when she is older. It also gets me in the habit of being consistent and following through with threats and discipline. But for T1 for now, it’s just a reset button.

When T1’s misbehaving and needs a time out, we have a spot within sight but out of the way (and what 1 year old wants to be left out!) where she sits in time out. I go on with my “life”, so she can see that her bad behavior only effects her. She has to stay there simply until she can stop the offending behavior. For example, “Sit in time out until you can decide to listen,” or “…be nice to mommy” if she was hitting me. When she gets up, I ask “Are you going to…” and state what positive behavior I want (listen/be nice/pick up her toys/etc.). If she does what she’s supposed to, time out is over. If not, she has to go back and sit.

We started this around 15 months. After one week, all I had to say was, “Do you need to go to time out?” She would either act as she should, or nod and walk herself over to her time out spot. (Yes, I got really lucky. She is a good kid. At least for now.)

The nice thing about this, is you don’t have to become the bad guy with the timer. For example, if your 3 year old has to sit for 3 minutes, but gets up and is playing nicely after one, do you force them to go back, in their minds punishing them for behaving well? Or do you say, “Sit for 3 minutes or until you can behave.” After all, how many 3 year olds have a great concept of time? This way they are in control not only of their behavior, but of their punishment.

I even use this in public. Perhaps you’ve seen my child sitting against the outside wall at Starbucks until she can decide to hold my hand and cross the parking lot nicely? Or sitting on the sand (outside the water) at the beach until she can play without splashing me in the face?

As they age, we’ll change things according to her development level. Not behaving in time out? Go to your room. Or lose privileges. My mom’s foster kids have to sit in timed time out with an educational toy or book, but they are 7 and older. We’re hoping starting early will make discipline easier, but the key is following through and being consistent.

Consistency isn’t always easy. I was sitting on the couch the other day, thinking about telling T1 to pick up some books she left on the floor. Then I reconsidered. If I told her to pick them up, I’d have to follow through, making sure she picked them up. I was feeling fat and tired (being pregnant does that to you)  and really didn’t want to get up and make her pick them up. I really didn’t want to punish her with a time out either, because she was currently playing with cars and letting me rest. So I kept my mouth shut and left the books on the floor a little while longer. Sure, maybe I lost points on consistency of picking up your toys when you’re done playing with them. But I didn’t have to get into a battle of wills to protect the consistency of the importance of listening to your mom. Score 1 for parenting, 0 for housekeeping.

So, today, I needed to be consistent. Grumpy behavior and yelling at others is not tolerated in our house. Throwing myself down for a nap sounded like a really good idea, but was out of the question. So, I used the only tool open to me: time out. And it worked. I’m not going to lie and say we had our best afternoon ever, but we did okay. I even got out our baby pool and sat in it with T1. I just needed to hit my reset button. And now my daughter knows that when I threaten to put on Dora and go take a shower, I mean it.

Lions, tigers and rocks, oh my!

July 3, 2007
Thing 1 and I went to the zoo today. It was hot. It was crowded. It was a zoo.Taking your kids to the zoo always comes with expectations. Expectations you’ll see the animals. Expectations your kid will be interested in seeing the animals. But let’s face it; the animals are smarter than us. When it’s nearly 90 degrees out, they are hiding in the shade, while we idiot humans are lugging our diaper bags and pushing our strollers (which our kids aren’t riding in) in the hot sun. And our kids may not be in the shade, but they’re at least smart enough to not care if they strain their necks looking through the fence to see an animal who’s hiding in the shade.Today, I tried to be smarter, too. It’s not always easy, especially when you don’t want your child to miss out on the full zoo experience. But I tried. I sat on benches while Thing 1 looked at leaves and rocks instead of turtles and orangutans. I tried to point out animals that were easy to see and possibly would interest her, even if it was just the birds on the path in front of us, but I tried to not force her to look. I tried to take it easy and just let my daughter enjoy the zoo her way. Until we got to the tigers.

The tigers were out near the front of their pen, pacing. It’s a rare sight at our zoo. We were right across from them at the playground. Every adult, of course, rushed over to stand in the sun and watch.

“Thing 1,” I asked enthusiastically (Actually, I said her name. She doesn’t answer to Thing 1. Yet.), “do you want to see the tigers?” “No,” she replied, without even looking over at them, “Bridge.” She wanted me to help her walk across the wobbly bridge.

I hesitated. They were right there! Would she end up being excited if I took her over to see them? I looked at the growing crowd, full of parents arms out pointing to the tigers. Was she missing out on a rare childhood experience? If I forced her to go over, would she tell her grandma about seeing the tigers and talk about it for days or weeks to come?

I looked at the empty bridge, my daughter on its brink. She had been eyeing it since our arrival. This was the first time it was relatively still, without at least two kids jumping up and down on it.

I looked at T1. She held out her hand for mine. “Bridge?”

“Yea!” came her cry from the other side. She always cheers her own accomplishments. Inside, I cheered a little for myself too. Then I sat alone on a shaded bench with my back to the tigers and looked at some rocks in the grass. What a zoo!