Sunday, April 26, 2009

Visiting Schools

I remember the episode of Full House when "Jesse" and "Rebecca" applied for a prestigious preschool for their twin sons, who were only about two at the time. There were long applications to be filled out and an interview process and whole thing was just... over the top, to say the least. I remember watching it the first time, not even being a parent yet, and rolling my eyes. How ridiculous, I thought.

My time has come.

Living in the suburbs in Wisconsin, there are not many- if any that I know of- prestigious preschools to be found. Still, there are choices to be made about my daughters' school career. And even though Hope is only three, and won't attend an official preschool until the fall of 2010, the time has already come to start weighing our options. So although shopping for a preschool and multipage applications for toddlers still seem ridiculous to me, it seems it's one of the many necessary evils of parenting I have discovered along this journey of motherhood.


We visited our local public school, which offers free, public pre-K for four year olds (two and a half hours, five days a week), a private Christian school, and a charter Montessori school in a neighboring city.

No school is yet a clear winner. Each one has it's positive aspects, and one or two negatives. The Montessori school was completely different and unconventional, but I immensely enjoyed the teacher we talked with; so I need to discover more about the Montessori system overall. The public school has excellent facilities and opportunities, but my concern is that Hope will receive enough individual attention and be challeneged enough with the larger class sizes and "one-size-fits-all" approach to curriculum in public schools. And I have a great appreciation for Christian schools, and believe they can be right for some families, but aren't sure that it's right for ours.

And even in the midst of all this decision making, I sit back and look at the big picture and think, picking a preschool should not be this hard! It's almost silly. Not many of our parents worried about where to send their children to school. There were only one, maybe two, options and everyone just kind of marched to the same drum. I can't even imagine having this conversation of picking a preschool for my daughter with my grandparents! Oh how they would scoff at the idea of something so "trivial" being made so complicated.

In the end, we will pick the school and system that seems best for us and our family. And we won't scorn another family for making a different decision. Different schools, different systems and styles work for different families and children, and that's okay. Rick Warren said, "Tolerance means I treat you with respect even when we totally disagree on a particular issue. You're a child of God. You're worthy of dignity. We may disagree, but we're going to tolerate each other, and even more than that, we can be friends."

And I will be encouraged by what I've read from other mommy bloggers. This is not a life or death decision! If we pick a school and don't like it, we always have the option of trying something else.

Thank God. Because I don't want to get too obsessed, like Jesse and Rebecca...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Moms Don't Have Time to Get Sick

I got a cold from my daughter on Sunday night. I thought, "No big deal, she just had a runny nose and cough. It only lasted two or three days. I'll just suck it up and pull through."


So far I've had a runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, an extremely sore throat, sinus congestion, and drainage from my nose and throat causing, finally, a cough. How did Hope make it look so easy?

On Monday I tried to rest and take it easy. We turned on cartoons for the whole morning and just sat around. I took a generic Claritin which, sadly, did absolutely nothing. However, I still had my chin up, I was sure Tuesday would be better!

I woke up Tuesday morning with a killer headache from stuffed sinuses and a piercingly sore throat, cancelled an appointment I had that morning but still pulled myself and kiddos out of the house for a meeting I had organized with some other mommies. At this point I'm now on Benadryl, so as I hung out with my friends and tried to keep my kids in check, I felt like my head was stuffed with cotton and I could fall down into a deep sleep at any moment.

By Tuesday afternoon, I grew tired of attempting to rest and recover. I realized- as I always do after more than one day of being sick- mommies don't have time to be sick!

And on another note- sorry to you working moms, this is just an aside, you honestly do have my utmost respect- this is espcially true for stay-at-home moms. Here's the deal, if you are a full-time working mom and have child care set up for your children, you just send your kids off to their normal care and go home and rest. Easy peasy! This doesn't work if you're a stay-at-home mom, you get sick and... you're still at work. It never leaves or gives you a break. The same tasks and routines that were there yesterday are still there today. Everyone still needs your help, and the ones who are shorter than waist high don't seem to care that much about your sore throat and runny nose.

So just like Clair Huxstable (on the episode when both her and Cliff got the flu at the same time), I have decided that I'm done being sick. Tonight my husband took the girls to church and left me at home all alone. I have two blissful hours of peace and quiet. And then? I'm done being sick. Sorry, body, but you have to suck it up now. Get back to work! Virus, we can meet again in say... seventeen years?

(For evidence that I truly do feel for sick moms and believe that we should use common sense and take care of ourselves, see How to Take Care of Your Kids When You Are Sick.

Monday, April 20, 2009


My parents just left this morning after a four day visit. I'm always a little sad when they pull out for the five hour drive back to Minnesota. I enjoy my time with them so much, it makes me miss them more when they are leaving than I do when we're apart.

Granted, my mom is one of my best friends. We talk on the phone almost every day, even if it's just for ten minutes, to check in on each other and keep up to date on the other's life.

I love seeing my parents playing with my girls. They have an obvious affection for each other, even though they're only together ever two or three months. I makes me excited for the day- far, far away- when I'll have grandchildren of my own.

Both of my children's "sets" of grandparents live out of state. Our home is in Wisconsin, my parents live in Minnesota, and my husband's parents abide in Ohio. It makes staying in touch more difficult, and doesn't allow for the wonderful grandparent benefit of free child care; but we make it work and manage to stay close emotionally despite the miles.

Here are a few ideas that work well for our family:

Regular phone calls. As stated, I call my mom regularly. I also make sure I get to talk to my dad every week or so. I also call my husband's parents about once a week. Since our parents aren't around to see our children's everyday lives, I make it a point to catch them up on new skills the girls are developing or funny things they said. They really enjoy hearing updates.

In addition, as soon as Hope could hold the phone without eating it, I began holding the phone to her ear to hear her grandparents' voices. Of course, she didn't talk back to them till much later, but I still feel it's beneficial for her to grow familiar with their voices at a young age, and they feel like they're connecting to her. Now that Hope is three, she can carry on two or three minutes conversations over the phone with her grandparents all by herself. And Violet is just starting the listening phase of phone conversations.

E-mails and Social Networking. Personally, I am much better at keeping in touch through writing than with phone calls. Subsequently, I attempt to e-mail our parents or contact them on Facebook once or twice a week. Facebook is also a great place to update them with photos or short video clips of the girls.

I even let Hope e-mail her grandparents occasionally. She pretends to type as she says out loud what she's "typing". And as she finishes each sentence, I re-type under her line what she said out loud. Her grandparents enjoy reading her messages, repetitive and pointless though they are, and she loves it when they write her back.

Web cams. Two or three Christmases ago, we bought both sets of grandparents and ourselves basic webcams. We hooked these up to our computers and now have the option to chat over the computer. This is fun for the girls because they can see their grandparents' faces as well as hear their voices. You can communicate with built in programs on your computer, use Yahoo, or even try the newer and extremely popular Skye.

Good, old-fashioned face-to-face visits. The drive from our house to my parent's is about five hours, to my husband's parents- nine. Not convenient, to be sure, but not an impossible distance to cross. It's obviously much easier for two adults to pack up and take a short road trip than it is for a family of four with small children, and so our parents commendably make a great effort to head to Wisconsin at least four times a year. We make the trek to their houses about twice a year each. Altogether that's a minimum of six face-to-face visits each year!

We even have, twice, gone on a group vacation- our family and all four grandparents. It's been a wonderful experience! Granted, this won't work for some families, but it may be an option for yours.

Sadly, grandparents are gone now, my husband's at work, and all the kiddie responsibilities fall to mommy. And on that note- I have to go! Violet is- loudly- calling!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Joy of Purging

Yesterday I performed what, sadly, has become a ritual for me since having children: the organizing and purging of toys.

How is it that you have a baby, and within a few months their toys seem to multiply faster than rabbits? And not just in their sweet little nursery, this accumulation cascades into every room in your home! I find toys under the bed in my room, we keep toy boxes in the living room- since that is where the girls usually play, and downstairs in the family room there is yet another shelf containing baskets with- gag- more toys!

I should also mention that I already go to the trouble of not keeping all my children's toys out at once. You may have read that kids are more apt to play with their toys when there is less available to them. Mandi of Family Bliss says, "Given too many choices, kids actually play less with their toys. " Rotating toys keeps them interesting to your children, increases their creativity, and keeps your home neater.

Every three to four months, it seems I grow weary of stepping on plastic pieces as I make way through what is secretly intended by my children to be a mommy obstacle course. I gather a garbage bag, a storage tub with toys that have already been put away on the last round of organizing, and a box in which to put toys we can donate.

All toys from a fast food kids' meal go in the trash. Toys that the kids still enjoy, but seem to have grown tired of go in storage for a few months, till the next round. And toys they've outgrown, or never liked to begin with, go to Once Upon a Child or the Goodwill. (And since I'm addressing this issue, let me give a shout out to Once Upon a Child. If you have one near you, it's a great place to take your children's clothes, toys, and equipment that are still in good shape. They'll go through what you bring them, take what they feel they can sell, and give you a portion of what they'll make from it. Granted, it's not what you could make selling it yourself, but you do save yourself the hassle and time of selling it yourself.)

The whole process took me a little over an hour. We ended up with a box of toys to get rid of, half a garbage bag full of junk to toss, and fresh toys out which the girls haven't seen since Christmas. They feel like Mom went on a shopping spree for them, and all I did was some creative switcheroo!

I've heard of many families who do something like this by organizing their toys into several groups- making sure to include a variety of types of toys in each group, putting these groups into storage bins, and switching bins every one to two weeks. This is a great option, but for me, too much work.

And let me tell you- there is a sense of satisfaction and joy that comes from a good purging of accumulated "stuff". Henri Frederic Amiel said, "Conquering any difficulty always gives one a secret joy, for it means pushing back a boundary-line and adding to one's liberty."

Let freedom ring!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

My First Blog


Here I am, blogging for the first time. I've been writing in some form or fashion since second grade, and most recently have been trying my hand at publishing "hubs" at HubPages. As I have gotten back in the practice of writing regularly, this creative release- for me-has stirred the need to write more. But since I don't always have time to put the amount of effort I feel is needed into a full-fledged Hub, or article, I need a more casual, laid-back outlet for my writing. I hope this blog will meet my writing outlet needs while simultaneously being a helping hand or a kind smile to another mom out there reading my work.

And why don't I have time to put more time into my writing more regularly? To put it in only two words: Hope and Violet.

Hope and Violet would be my daughters, ages three and one. They are currently in bed, as is my husband, who works quite early in the morning at a second part-time job. And this peaceful time of the day, which not incidentally is my favoritel time of the day in this house, is about the only peace this house sees all day. It's the only time of the day that I get to sit still without constant pulling, interruptions, referreeing, or waiting on someone.

Let me begin my first blog by saying that I love being a mom. It is definitely the hardest thing I've ever done, yet it's also the most amazing. There are moments, I'll admit it, every day, that I wonder what I've done with my life and miss being a "productive member of society". As many times as I groan during the day, bemoaning the current state of my life, I try to intentionally acknowledge that I wouldn't trade these girls for anything I had before them. When I get tired and frustrated, I do my best to remind myself that in just a few years, I'll be missing these moments when they were so small.

I'm not going to make light of motherhood by saying, "It comes so naturally!" Most of it doens't. I find it to be a constant learning process, and I am learning and doing my best, one day at a time.

I am a fan of all moms. I think women who have chosen to pour their life into the nurturing of another human being are amazing, no matter in what details they go about said nurturing. I believe all mothers deserve respect and honor and support. My desire is that we would draw together and support one another in this journey of motherhood.

So join me on the journey! We're all muddling through this together, we might as well join hands. As we battle through each day, caught in the mire of the monotony of daily life and making the most minute decisions that could each potentially have an eternal impact- we need support. Let's mother together!