Friday, August 25, 2017

Road Trip to Maine

Tomorrow morning we will be driving more than 10 hours to Bar Harbor, Maine. I am thrilled. I've never been to Maine before. I've heard the area is beautiful.

I am looking forward to

  •  Hiking
  • Whale-watching
  • Going to see lighthouses
  • Going on some tours
  • Wondering around the town
  • Exploring Acadia
  • Biking

I am not looking forward to...

  • Being stuck in the car for more than 10 hours
  • Kids whining
  • Kids fighting
  • Kids not listening
  • One of the children refusing to hike (bike, walk, etc)
  • Being stressed out

We hope to leave tomorrow by 7 am...
Are we packed? No.
Do we have snacks ready? No.
Have we planned any activities in Maine? No.
Can this turn into a disaster of a trip? Yes.
Will we still have fun? YES

Will we ever learn to get ready and prepare in advance? 
We have learned that poor planning leads to disaster (like our camping trip, when we forgot 1) the tarp and 2) bag with all the clothing....). But life always gets in the way - our last 2 weeks have been packed with guests, activities, back-to-school shopping, new shed, grandparents buying a house.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Midnight Thoughts on Having 3 Kids

Our kids are, as of now, 8 (almost 9), 7, and 3.5. We've had the time to adjust to being a family of 5. Well, sort of. It is hard to adjust to anything when the kids are concerned - they change, their habits change, their likes and dislikes change. As soon as we adjust to one thing, it is time for a change.

I think I wrote this already - I am glad I was completely oblivious to how hard parenting can be and how much work is involved. Oh, I definitely feel that my life is very rich and full of joy - but also, you know, exhausting.

It is amazing how much quieter an individual child is, compared when all 3 of them are together. I love having breakfast with our 3-year old - we chat, we discuss things - and I never have to ask her to keep her voice down. Not surprising really - she doesn't have to compete with the 2 older siblings. When I take my son for a "date" - he talks non-stop, but he doesn't whine. He just has so much information to share! My older daughter - we like going to a cafe to a bakery together, to have treats and bring more treats for everyone at home. She is the one who really keeps her thoughts to herself. I never really know what's going on in her head - but when she does talk, she is incredibly thoughtful and is really analyses the world around her.

The most difficult thing is the competition: "Mommy, listen to me!" "No, I was here first!" "Mommy, mommy, look here!" - all three of them all at once. This has been more of a challenge than bickering and fighting among the kids (that happens, too). I have not found a good solution, yet, so dinners with everyone sitting at the table tend to be loud (and stressful).

While I am on the subject of dinners - we are struggling to enforce the rule of "stay at the table until you've been excused." The whole "may I be excused, please?"  seemed ridiculous to me, until now.  Because now: kids are running off and coming back to the table, not finishing their food, then coming back to finish it an hour later. We definitely need to work on good manners...

Our life (talking about adults here) is incredibly stressful. We have demanding full-time jobs. And then, when we get home and are ready to collapse and just want to rest, we need to have the wisdom and patience (ahem, right...) to deal with sometimes whiny, often impatient, and always demanding three little people. And dinners, and baths, and bedtimes, and homework, and lunches, and innumerable other things. Did the addition of the 3rd child create more stress and more work? Absolutely. More driving, too (more childcare pickup, more dr appointments, more activities). And we haven't gotten to the point in our lives when kids have multiple sports/music/other hobbies (for now, the older two are doing a max of 2 activities a week, music and sport, and the younger one is just doing a weekly gymnastics class). We also haven't been scheduling any regular playdates for anyone (they happen, but rarely).

We try to have things as simple as possible... A simple life, a minimalist schedule, a minimum  of housework we can get away with. Clean laundry sits in the basket for days before we get around to folding and putting stuff away. We outsource house cleaning. We make simple food that can be stretched for more than one meal and rarely bake.

If we only had 1 child - would there be more travel? Maybe. Would there be more trips to museums, more activities, more weekend trips to cafe? Possibly. I feel like all that can be done with 3 kids, too, once the youngest just gets a tiny bit older. The older 2 are usually very good in public - they behave at restaurants, museums, concerts, etc. The youngest definitely throws a wrench in there - somehow, the balance shifts and everything gets more wild. I do hope that it's just a phase she is going to grow out of and not a permanent personality trait :)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Of Spiders and Sparrows and Tears

Last weekend, my older daughter and I were helping out at our synagogue, organizing and shelving books for the new kid-corner in their library. H. went full out helping - she was working so hard! And she was so happy to be helping along with all the grown-ups. And then, there was a spider incident: a big spider was hiding in a corner, behind an old bookshelf. There was a lot of shuffling about, and calls for a vacuum cleaner (get it quick!). In the midst of all the noise, H. very quietly knelt down by the spider, scooped it up (bare hands and all), and took the poor creature outside. There were lots of "oohs" and "aahs" and "I can't believe she it touching it". H was loving it :) She was the hero of the day.

For the second year in a row, a sparrow has made a nest inside one of our hanging plants on the front porch. Last year, we have discovered the nest with tiny chicks while watering the plants (my mother got a bit of a shock) - and then enjoyed watching them grow and, eventually, take wing. This year, we found the brand-new nest, then saw the 4 blueish eggs, and a couple of weeks later - 4 tiny, mostly naked chicks. Last week, there were only 3 chicks in the nest (not so tiny any more and mostly fluffy). A couple of days ago, we checked again - and one the chicks seemed to be not doing too well. Now I am afraid to look.... The kids want to see the nest first thing in the morning, before we leave for the day, and I have this feeling of dread that the remaining babies will be dead in their nest. I'll need to ask my husband to check in the evening, discreetly. I am afraid the mother abandoned them (haven't seen her recently) - maybe we've been making too much noise outside and checking on the birds too often...

Speaking of sad stuff... my son has really been struggling at summer camp this year. He is somewhat on the emotional/sensitive side to begin with, but usually he gets along with most kids and makes friends easily. This year - "everyone hates me, they don't want to be my friends, the kids are mean..." To be fair - he has made a few new friends, and he got to see a couple of his friends from last year, but none of them stick around for more than 2 weeks. We've had our kids in the same summer camp for the whole summer. It seemed like a logical choice - why move them around all the time, let them be at a place they know and feel comfortable, plus it is an easy drop-off/pick up for me. Now I am thinking - next summer, we'll try to do it differently. Brake it up a bit and let them try different things. The worst part is - he breaks down into tears... it really worries me that he'll be perceived as "easy target" by other kids, that the word of his crying fits will spread and will become his reputation ("here comes the crybaby..."), and that he'll be targeted by bullies. I am not helping by being annoyed with his weeping and whining (I have reasons to be annoyed that are perfectly human and understandable, but I need to figure out a more helpful attitude for both of us).

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Love Letter to the Library

Dear Library,

I love you. Thank you for letting me borrow books, and then return them! Most books I read these days are one-time books. I live through the stories once and don't feel the need to go back. Some books are awful and I am happy to forget all about them as soon as I drop them off (or they magically disappear from my Kindle). Many books are fun, but not particularly special, so I can enjoy them once and move on to other books. Some books are spectacularly amazing - I think about them fondly, but still have no desire to experience them again. And then there are a few books that I keep coming back to, in my thoughts, over and over. These are the books that I crave to re-read. These are the books I may, at some point, purchase. Because there is limited space in my house - and I already have too many books (most of which I don't look at) - I love you, library, for letting me read hundreds of books without becoming buried in book piles.

I love books... but books need to be read. They go sad and stale when sitting on the shelves for years, without being touched. So thank you, library, for this chance to read so much without the guilt of untouched books on my shelves.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Gentlemens and Ladybugs!

What our younger daughter can do (at three-and-a-half):

* Announce with pomp and circumstance: "Gentlemens and Ladybugs!"
* Ride a bike with training wheels... at least half a mile without complaining.
* Scream very loudly, pinch, and kick her siblings
* Drive bumper cars
* Dislike "scary" movies with bad guys (aka "Dennis the Menace")
* Take "Tom and Jerry" way too seriously (including thumb-in-mouth and worried facial expression)
* Fold things
* Recognize letters "C" and "O" reliably.
* Confuse "A" and "B"
* Show tremendous interest in identifying first letters in everyone's name
* Show tremendous interest in identifying printed letters (especially C and O).
* Identify numbers 1 and 2 (possibly others, we haven't gotten that far).
* Count really well to 10 and with some hilarious mistakes beyond 20.
* Sing
* Improvise words to songs
* Pretend-read books to herself
* Color and hold the marker the proper way.
* Scribble, very excitedly, and look for letters in the scribbles.
* Give excellent hugs and kisses
* Be gentle with the cat when others are watching
* Bite the cat, pull on her fur and tail when no one is watching
* Eat most things with enthusiasm and gravitas.
* Make everyone laugh.
* Blow bubbles
* Swing on the swings - all by herself!
* Jump into the pool
* Swim a little
* Do crazy underwater flips.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Thinking About Fall

So it is August. Time to purchase  all the back-to-school crap. Time to figure out who will be doing what this fall.

My son is super-enthusiastic about everything. Do you want to do soccer this fall? Sure! Swimming? Yes, he loves swimming. Pottery? Art? Theater? Robotics? I know that pretty much anything I mention, he'll be thrilled to try it. Which means, I have to limit the options and make him choose. Swimming or Soccer? Gymnastics or Basketball? My personal goal, for the time being, 2 activities per kids per season. One of those activities should be music (violin for my son, piano for my older daughter). The other activity should be something active (sports... dance... ). There will be occasional art clubs, chess clubs, or game clubs on top of that.

The youngest child, who is 3.5, has already asked me (numerous times) if I've signed her up for gymnastics.

Not yet. But I will.
 I am not ready to start her with any music lessons yet (she says she wants to do violin!), so I think she'll just do gymnastics for the time being.

Lucky for me, when my older daughter heard that her little sister wants to do gymnastics, she was quick to jump on that wagon. I am so glad I can have 2 kids doing the same thing (I found gymnastics classes that have different age groups at the same day/time). Just to be sure, I asked her if she would rather do swimming, but she chose gymnastics and said she would do swimming in the winter. I also asked her if she wanted to do soccer - she thought for a moment and then answered, in a very grown-up way "No, not this year."

I might have to think about other sports that she might enjoy that take advantage of the warm outdoor weather in September/October. Still,

There are a number of things I still want to do this summer:
* Take big kids to Franklin Institute (science museum) - there is an optical illusion exhibit there that looks really neat.
* Go on a family bike ride
* Go to one more outdoor concert (this is the last week!)
* Go to one more "dining under the stars" but just get desserts this time.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Of Swimming, Biking, and Catching Things

We spent a week in Ocean City, NJ with my husband's family (his parents and sister with husband and 2 kids). I worked 3 days from a library and then spent evenings with the kids going for bike rides or going to the beach. I had a mini-vacation for the remainder of the week. I love having this kind of flexibility.

We went to the beach every single day. I have to spell this out here - I am not a big fan of beach vacations. I am not a big fan of the beach. Before kids, I was never lying on the beach with a book (I tried... it just never worked for me). I would go into the water, suck in a ridiculous amount of ocean, then go for a walk, then leave. With kids - it's been constant vigilance. This was the first time I felt I could sit back and just watch the 2 older kids play in the water and sand (and they did play in the shallow water and sand for extended periods of time). The youngest, who is 3.5 still required constant parental vigilance (and hand-holding).

Digging for sand crabs was awesome. Unexpectedly awesome. I never thought I would enjoy it this much. Watching kids catch sand crabs was cute, sure, but there was this strange, grim satisfaction ("gotch ya!") when I would put my fingers into the sand and feel around for something hard, then drag it out and the thing would be trying to escape (futile!) by burrowing into my hand. It was so relaxing (not for the poor creature, sure) and addictive!

Then we stumbled across a tide pool with a ton of hermit crabs. I didn't like catching them as much, but it sure was entertaining watching them marching on the bottom of the sea, or fighting with each other inside a bucket full of sand and water that the kids used as a temporary holding cell for them.

Oh, and the tiny clams, moving around in my hand - mini massage! Felt so good.

We have released all the critters we caught.

Every day, there was something new at the beach...  the kids couldn't get enough. It has gotten easier, compared to the previous years... big kids can rinse off all by themselves in the shower. They can even rinse off their little sister (if she lets them). There are no diapers involved. They are bigger and stronger, so there is less wining.

Oh, oh, before I forget - this was the first year the big kids went on the "big" rides - the roller coaster. My daughter loved it. My son said it was terrifying.

Over and out.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

My Parents are Coming!

My parents are buying a house that's a 15 minute drive from where we live. It has been a long journey and it's not over yet. They plan to put their house on the market in a few days. They are stressed out, scared, and perhaps a little excited. They will be here at the end of August for settlement. The house they are getting will need some work: they are going to add a walk-in shower and install the washer/dryer on the main level. The walls need paint and the floors - refinishing. So they will need to hire a contractor to do the work. They also need to figure out the moving stuff - the costs, the companies, loading/unloading the grand piano.

This is going to be an adjustment for everyone. Adjustment of expectations and relationships. It's been a long time since I've lived near my mother. I predict some friction and hurt feelings on all sides.