September 22, 2014

7 Ways to Curb the Gimmes

I admit it: When Zip was little, I was an indulgent momma. Almost every trip to the store resulted in some little purchase for my baby. It wasn't necessarily anything he asked for and rarely was it something he actually needed, but as a new mom I found a lot of joy in bringing home a little something new for my boy, be it a cute outfit, a little rattle, or a new board book.

But somewhere along the way, when he was three or so, I realized my habit had the potential to become a problem. Partly because I now had two little ones and buying treats for two was (obviously) twice as expensive. But also because Zip was now old enough to understand what I was doing and he was starting to expect things. We needed to change course, fast.

Over the past few years we have implemented a number of different strategies that, taken together, have helped to keep the gimmes in check. Our intention is to teach the boys to be thoughtful about what they ask for and to value what they have. And of course we're hoping to avoid the very unpleasant toy aisle meltdowns.

September 17, 2014

5 Ways Parenthood Is A Lot Like Yoga

Saturday morning I went to yoga. I always have high hopes for the laziness of a Saturday morning with my kids, but - as sometimes happens - this morning had failed to meet my expectations. The lack of structure, so glorious in theory, had somehow turned to chaos and conflict. It had been a rough, rough morning.

The teacher asked us to choose an intention for the class. What is it we needed right now? Was there a part of our body that needed care and attention? Our emotional self? Something on our minds? Was it our soul that needed nourishing? 

I wasn't sure what I needed. Just grace. The grace to forgive myself for my parenting imperfections. The grace to let go of a disappointing morning and begin again. I practiced with my eyes closed and took deep breaths. Lots of really, really deep breaths.

Somewhere along the way it occurred to me: Motherhood is a lot like yoga.

Sometimes we find our limits tested. We are just trying to hold it together and keep our balance.

Photo by Lisa Picard

Sometimes we feel better when we open our hearts and make room - for forgiveness, for imperfection, for love and grace, for a laugh, for a beautiful moment - for whatever the universe is sending our way. This openness invigorates and strengthens us.

Photo by Matthew Ragan
Sometimes we just need to put our heads down, close our eyes, take a deep breath and let go. We need a moment to stop exerting and stretching ourselves and to just be.

Photo by Anne Wu, modified by Musing Momma 

Sometimes we need to remember the importance of the basics, those things that ground us and that we keep coming back to time and again. In our home, that is a bedtime story, a meal together, a hug and an I love you. We can't underestimate just how valuable these are, the thread that weaves through our days.

Photo by Texas A&M University - Commerce Marketing Communications Photography

And sometimes we amaze ourselves. We accomplish things we never thought we could. We see the beautiful, amazing in our parenting: The way we love our children so deeply, accept them so unconditionally, nurture them so passionately. The way we brave the un-braveable and do the un-doable.

Photo by Dave Rosenblum

Parenthood, like yoga, is not any one of these things. It is all of these things. We move between them gracefully, sometimes, and awkwardly, sometimes. We all have our strengths. We all have our limits. As yoga teaches us (in my non-yogi words), we find peace when we stop comparing ourselves to others or worrying about what we "should" do and instead focus on accepting and loving ourselves, imperfections and all. There is something sacred and worthwhile in all of us.

All photos in this post are via Creative Commons. Some rights reserved; please click on caption link for more information.

September 12, 2014

Reclaiming My Home from Nerf Guns & Ninja Turtles

When I became a mother, I vowed not to let toy guns into our home. My husband agreed. We saw no need. We believed - still believe - that because guns are used to injure and kill they are not something to "pretend" with. We committed ourselves to ensuring the tv shows the boys watched were educational and prosocial and, sure, sometimes good ol' entertainment, but anything violent would wait until they were much older.

But like so many things we swear we'll never do as parents, there is a slippery slope. Like how I swore my kids would always wear clean clothes and not run naked in public - only to be the mom with a preschooler running around the driveway in his underwear, covered in mud. And just as we swore "no guns," somehow our playroom became home to army figures and Ninja Turtles (weapons included) and, yes, even a couple of Nerf guns. Just as we vowed "no violent tv," our boys were watching robot aliens cut down by nunchucks and swords. 


September 8, 2014

Stop Kids' Arguing While Still Allowing Them A Voice

I’m pretty sure that my 7-year-old snuck off at some point in the night and took classes at Harvard Law. How else can I explain his ability to argue any point ad naseum, putting the most seasoned attorney to shame? It’s admirable, really. Zip is persistent and amazingly convincing. But, as his mom, I also find it really, really frustrating, particularly when the arguing results in a heated negotiation about something I've asked him to do or not to do. I am also certain I'm not the first parent to experience this. I was a pretty argumentative kid myself, so I can count my own parents in the "been there" club. Maybe you are a member too?


The Dilemma

On one hand I want to support Zippy’s assertiveness, and I want him to know that what he has to say matters. I know that he is at the age where feeling knowledgeable is important and, as a very goal-directed kid, getting to do what he wants to do is important to him.

On the other hand, there are times that the answer is “because I said so” (even though I swore that would never be the case). As a parent, I’m juggling so many different things that sometimes I just need him to go with the flow so I can keep all of the balls in the air. I also want him to respect my role as the parent in our relationship. The more that I engage with him in debate, the less weight my words seem to hold and the more everything seems to become debatable. And, beyond our relationship as parent and child, I want my boys to learn that there is a time and place to disagree or stand one’s ground – both with adults and with peers. It is an important skill to have when it comes to building healthy relationships or being a strong leader.

So where is the middle ground? How do I give Zip the space to share his point of view, without getting drawn into a heated debate over whether he is allowed to catch snapping turtles with his bare hands or whether he brushed his teeth before getting in bed? (Definite NO on the snapping turtles and, sweetie, your toothbrush is still bone dry.)


Bonbon Break

September 1, 2014

Life, In Pictures {Vacation in Vermont}

A friend asked me this morning how our vacation was. "Great!" I responded. It was reflex. "Oh wait, no. Let me answer that again."

We wrapped up the summer by spending almost two full weeks in Vermont. The truth is that the first few days were busy ones running between houses (which is what happens to grown children of divorced parents), followed by a couple of very stressful days during which I was ready to pack up and head home early (which is what happens when it is rainy and the kids are bouncing.off.the.walls and you are parenting solo), but it all ended with three amazing days. Phew.

The key to those amazing days? Sunshine, getting outdoors, and spending time with my stepsister's family, which meant my boys had other kids to play with. It was the first time we met my stepsister's new husband's kids (did you follow that?) and the four kids had a blast together...outside...which meant I was able to relax and enjoy visiting with everyone.

The kid-crew spent a whole afternoon building a "house" in the woods. When they showed it to us, there was even a "Private Property" sign propped in front of it. Waaaaaaaaaaait. Um, where did you get that sign from? The neighbors? Uh oh.... "Mom, don't you know when we say we are building a house we are literally building a house?!" Apparently.

What else did we do on vacation, besides "borrow" the neighbor's property?  Let's see...