Those who want to paint polka-dots have to find a good spot

Here’s how I went from “I’m an awesome mom” to “I’m failing as a mom” to “I might be ok at this mom thing” in about an hour.

You know, because being a mom always brings out the most stable emotions.

We’re working on finishing our basement.  After dear husband has spent hours upon hours working on it, I was happy to be able to participate by painting.  Knowing how involved my mini-ions wanted to be (especially after keeping them mostly away from priming the walls) I was prepared.  I had them each pick out their own paintbrush.  I dressed them in old clothes.  I know how helpful they wanted to be (just like me!) so I wanted them to feel like they were helping in a meaningful way.

There are two keys to doing projects with children.  The first is to have low expectations.  They may participate for a minute or three hours, but either needs to be ok for a good experience.  The second key is being prepared so you aren’t snapping at them to stop touching while you are getting them prepared.

While they were occupied, I headed to the basement to get prepared.  Because this is a huge project, financially and time intensive, I’ve tried to save money where I can.  In this case, it was the roller brush I used to prime with, I did a thorough job of rinsing to use it again for painting.  As I’m getting set up to paint the ceiling, I accidentally dump paint all over my shoe.  Like a huge glob of paint.  Sigh.  Then, as I start to paint the ceiling, I evidently didn’t didn’t get all the water out of the roller brush from cleaning it, so my first pass on the ceiling dumps watery paint all over my face and hair.  This is a really bad start for me.

However, the mini-ions came down, and I was prepared.  I gave Mini-ion #1 an old yogurt container with some paint in it, his brush, and gave him the corners to paint.  He started working very intently, humming as he painted.  I gave Mini-ion #2 an old yogurt container with some paint in it, her brush and showed her how to paint around the outlets and she got to work.

I can always tell when Mini-ion #1 is proud of what he’s doing.  His voice gets lower, he speaks from a place of authority and has no problem telling everyone what to do.  His proud voice was in full effect.

Mini-ion #2 skipped around to each outlet, painting around it.  She finished quickly and I had her start cutting in on the floor (the floor isn’t finished yet, so if she made a few drips, the world wouldn’t end).

I felt pretty deep satisfaction.  Like I was killing it as a mom.  Here my mini-ions were contributing to the family, with real things to do, that were helpful, even if I had to do a quick pass to clean up drips.  I’d pass through, remind them to keep it even, to keep to their task.  Mini-ion #2 would start to lose focus and paint other things, but I’d remind her what she was working on.

We all worked merrily for a while.  In my head I’m thinking, “hey, even if they don’t do the job I would have done, they are doing their best and learning as they go.  And this is pretty good for a six and four year old!”

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The Jackson Polluck-esque masterpiece, after some finessing from me.

I take a break from the ceiling to check in and saw that Mini-ion #2 was channeling Jackson Polluck on the walls and floor.  As I’m grabbing her brush to try to even out the paint, she knocks her yogurt container of paint.  I yell to pick it up, but she stares at me blankly, so I push past her to pick it up.  I sternly tell her that she can’t paint this way.  The situation heats up.  She wants to do it her way (Jackson Polluck method), I want her to do it my way.  She starts running away crying.

Worst mom ever.

As she’s running away, I call to her telling her I appreciated what work she did, it was good work and very helpful, but the damage was apparently done.

As I sit on the bottom of the steps, deflated, dear husband comes down.  With the most disgusted look his face, he asks me if I’ve re-used the roller brush from priming, in which case I retort, “yes!  I worked hard to clean it up!” without mentioning how it poured paint all over my face and hair.

I go back to my painting of the ceiling (after showing her Mini-ion #2’s masterpiece) and start to say to him, “hey, even if its not the best job……” when dear husband interrupts me with a lecture about how I can’t leave big globs of paint on the floor.  You know, the big glob of paint that poured all over my shoes.

I instantly understand how Mini-ion #2 felt.  I was just trying to do my best, and despite that, I get criticism.  I end up finishing my sentence with, “……words can hurt.”  And know that I need to make it right with Mini-ion #2.

She ends up coming back down and lets me hug her while I tell her I’m sorry.  From very recent experience, I say, “its hard when you are trying really hard to help and someone comes in and tells you that you aren’t doing a very good job.  It doesn’t make you feel very good.  I’m sorry that I made you feel that way.  You did a very good job painting around the outlets.  I really appreciate the help you gave.  I really appreciate you.  Will you forgive me?”

I can’t get it all right, but at least I can fix it when I screw up.  She did forgive me.  We hugged it out and she left as, “painting isn’t that much fun.”  I was relieved to be able to paint by myself.

And, completely unprovoked, dear husband did come down and say that I was doing a good job.  We’re all trying the best we can, right?

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You can only see the stars on a finite

Science Museum of Virginia knows about fun!

In Spring of 2016 we had a chance to take it in as part of slow travel trip to Myrtle Beach.  We stopped in for a couple of hours and really enjoyed it.

To start, for anyone visiting, it is right next to a very beautiful, engaging children’s museum.  That children’s museum is not part of the ASTC Passport Program.  And when you go there, thinking it is, the employee I encountered will make you feel really dumb and not be helpful at all to say, hey, there’s a museum right next door, maybe that’s what you are looking for?

With that said, walking in to the Science Museum of Virginia, located at 2500 West Broad Street in Richmond, VA, it almost looks a little stodgy.  It is in a historic building, an old train station built in the years 1917-1918. I had some trepidation bringing my five and three year old in.  My fears were quickly relieved when we visited the first exhibit, LightPlace.  It was beautiful.  Natural light poured in.  Engaging materials spread throughout a largish space.  Activities for moving, thinking and relating to other children.  It was a great start.

We visited the Art Lab, which had materials available for free creating, and also a project for children that wanted to engage that way.  The mini-ions were able to engage with the art materials at whatever level they wanted to.  I definitely had some new art treasures stuffed in my bag as we  left.

20160506_123020Next we went to what I think was a traveling exhibit;  a tinker space to build.  We spent the majority of our time there, constructing vehicles, robots, all kinds of things.  I couldn’t get the mini-ions out of there!

The part I liked the most was the movie in the dome.  It was included as part of our admission, and I’m so glad it was because I usually don’t spring for those kinds of things.  The movie we saw was called We Are Stars and it was phenomenal.  Soooo good.  We may go back to that museum just so we can see it again.  If I could buy it, I would, but I can’t find it available anywhere to watch at home.  If you know of how I can get it, please, PLEASE tell me.

We didn’t have a chance to try any of the food options, but if we do make another stop there, we’ll definitely try it out.

There was construction happening, likely a new exhibit opening up, which looked really exciting.

I would say the Science Museum of Virginia was fantastic for the younger ages (particularly in LightPlace which is primarily for the under six set) and older.  We saw a school group there in the age range of 9-11 so it leads me to believe even older would enjoy it.  You could easily spend four to six hours there.

 

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How do you find a missing train? Follow the tracks.

This past weekend I did a lot of re-reading some of my earlier posts in preparation for a post about being tired on one of my other projects, Bleepingmotherhood.com.  I realized it is getting close to a year since my last post, and with some ideas for some new posts in mind, I thought I would give a bit of an update.

Mini-ion #1 is approaching seven years old.  Isn’t that so old?  There’s something about that age that makes me feel like it will be the start of a huge separation.  Meanwhile I’m trying to hold on tighter.

Mini-ion #2 is four and a half.  When I look at her, I still think of her as a two year old.  An overachieving two year old, but still no where close to four, let alone the next number that’s quickly approaching.  And to think when I started this blog, she was just over one years old, and many times I was typing with her on my lap.

I’m about to start my last session of the Montessori-inspired playgroup I started in 2013.  An amazing experience and have connected with the women that really are my community.  Plus, the mini-ions had a lot of fun.  While on one hand I’ll appreciate the reduction in responsibilities, I’ll miss the enjoyment of being around these children and their caregivers.

photo courtesy of Larry Beach

photo courtesy of Larry Beach

With Dear Husband and the help of my church community, we did build a nature based playground in the back of the church.  It is open to our whole community.  It features an outdoor play kitchen, what was once a woodland angel garden (but now more of a digging pit), a rock area with construction vehicles, a bean tent, a recycled tire climber and a small garden area.  The fence posts are engraved in memory and in celebration of people near and far.  It is a joyful place for the children to learn and play.

My family is on the homeschooling path.  Rather, I find us a bit more of un-schoolers than homeschoolers.  I’m following their lead on what they want to learn and am frequently impressed by what they pick up.  A big part of their learning involves hands on interactions.  This leads us to take advantage of trips to visit as many science museums as we can along the path.  We’re taking big advantage of the ASTC passport program as a member benefit of our local science museum, Liberty Science Center.  As my mini-ions grow, I expect I’ll be writing more about our adventures visiting them, with reviews/thoughts about our experiences there.  Stay tuned – we’ve visited a few that I’d like to talk about and we already have more planned.

I still continue to write and help administer the mom humor site, Bleepingmotherhood.com and we published our first book, Bleeping Motherhood’s Would You Rather, in 2016!  I’m having an amazing amount of fun there with friend Audrey.

I also am continuing to work on the amazing initiative of getting children playing outside, ForestSchoolForAll.com.  I was even part of an online show that spoke about nature based learning, you can see it here. I co-lead a Forest Explorers group and I love how much my mini-ions get out of it.  Even if Mini-ion #1 did probably break his nose during it.

I’ve missed my crumbs connections and community.  While I had been feeling a bit tapped out on content, this idea of talking about our travels excites me again, and gives me hope for more time to write and keep up.

 

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If you miss a class at beauty school you’ll need a makeup session

It’s so easy to exclaim to your children, “you look beautiful!” and truly mean it.  While I’m a big proponent of not always remarking on how my daughter or other girls look, sometimes I’m just struck by it.  The words come out before I can even stop them, so heartfelt and full of love.

Already, at almost four years old, I see it as something Mini-ion #2 is internalizing.  *Hanging head in shame* because I had hopes of raising a daughter that didn’t focus on her looks.  That didn’t walk around asking everyone if she looks beautiful.  Crap.

I started answering her, “yes, you look beautiful.  Do you know why?  It isn’t because your hair is styled one way or another or your clothes are the latest fashion.  It’s because of your smile.”

She didn’t get it.  She just thought she needed to ask if she had a beautiful smile, not if she was beautiful because of the beauty inside her that made her smile.  It’s hard for me to remember sometimes to be more detailed.

The next time the subject of beauty came up, I told her it is because of what is in her heart.  Because of the kind things she does.  I can tell she’s still thinking about this because she hasn’t asked me in a while if she’s beautiful.

Then one day I’m keeping her company in the bathroom while she’s using the toilet.  I’m standing in the doorway facing the mirror.  She asks me, “Mommy, are you beautiful?”.

Picture this.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen a shower.  I’m wearing some of my rattiest clothes, not expecting to see anyone but my family.  I haven’t seen a mascara brush in a long time.  I’m uncomfortably conscious of the baby weight I haven’t lost.  But I know this is a defining moment.  This is a moment when I need to see me the way she sees me and the way she sees herself.  This is the culmination of the things I am trying to teach her.  This is my (first) chance to model what beauty is, in the face of a messy ponytail, bare face and old t-shirt.

I look at the mirror and smile at myself.  Love myself.  And tell her, “of course!  Don’t you see the beauty radiating out of my smile and my heart?”

She gives me a big hug and kiss.  We spend a few more minutes smiling into the mirror.  And I hope one more time I’ve done the right thing in this crazy experience called parenting.

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Some people don’t like food going to waist

 

Where did you hide food as a kid?  You know, that food you didn’t want to eat, but your parents insisted you should have.

I can remember not eating my sandwiches my mom packed, and for a time, the cafeteria monitor knew my parents and threatened to tell my parents I was throwing out my sandwich, so I kept it in my lunch box.  I’d forget about it until I got home, where I needed to be rid of it immediately.  In my young head, apparently the den closet was the best place to put it.

There’s the legend in my dad’s side of the family of the table with empty legs that my dad and his siblings would stuff food down.  I guess a little smarter than throwing it in the den, especially with the proximity to the dinner table.

Turns out Mini-ion #2, at three years old, has already found a spot to discard unwanted food.  And this probably won’t put me in the “mommy winning” category for the week.

For most dinners, the Mini-ions need to eat much earlier than Dear Husband gets home from work.  I’ve put aside the picture of the beautiful family dinner on the week night and do what works best for us.  Which is usually peanut butter sandwiches on multi-grain bread.  In front of the tv. Because I’ve usually hit my limit by 5pm.

One evening, I saw Mini-ion #2 walking around with nearly a whole sandwich.  Then moments later, it was gone and she was ready for an apple.  I knew there was no possible way she could have eaten the whole sandwich so I started asking her where it was.  Finally, I got her to show me where it was.  And dug out handfuls of sandwiches.  Apple cores.  Cheese stick wrappers.  And more.  At three years old, Mini-ion #2 already had a food hiding spot, and it was in between two sections of our couch.

Yes, yes, we’ve taken steps to prevent this.  Well, prevent the food hiding, I don’t think there’s much we can do to prevent the lying.  As a plus, we can pinpoint the culprit to last summer’s ant problem!

 

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When my cat lost her male kittens I had to call missing purr sons.

It seems that having three children is all the rage right now.

Let me be completely and utterly clear.  I am fixed.  Unless divine intervention takes hold, we are not having another child.

Still, I’m curious about this three child family phenomenon.

Dear Husband and I recently had an opportunity to try it out by bringing along our 18-month old niece on a family outing to a children’s museum for a birthday party.  This was the best possible scenario – food is provided, friends are there for additional help and the birthday party itself has a guide to help.  Plus, an 18-month old child is one of my favorite stages of baby/toddler.  Just starting to talk, to play, not rushing them to the potty but diaper changes are much more infrequent, this is a good stage.

Dear Husband and I make a good team.  We were both flexible, frequently switching coverage of the children based on who had needs.  I had individual quality time with both Mini-ion #2 (Mini-ion #1 was busy fighting fires) and Niece.  Mini-ion #2 and I exchanged kisses and cuddles, Niece told me her colors and showed me her goofy side.

Then the inevitable moment comes that I imagine all three child parent dreads, the emergency.  In this case, I had Niece in one room, and Mini-ion #1 and #2 were with Dear Husband in another and Mini-ion #2 HAD to go to the bathroom, which was on a separate floor.

If you’ve read this blog, you’ll know that we’re at a critical point with Mini-ion #2 and bathrooms, so this was an emergency to get her there.  Dear Husband was able to point Mini-ion #1 in my direction while running Mini-ion #2 to the bathroom in time.  Disaster averted, but all of a sudden the realization was there that this could all go really, really wrong.

Soon after the bathroom crisis, Dear Husband came to realize that Mini-ion #1 was running a minor mob in the fire fighting room.  He and his henchmen squirreled away all the fire fighting costumes and were close to requiring the other children to kiss his ring before doling them out.  Certainly bowing was involved.

I guess that is where having three children to two parents gets you?  While no children were harmed in this three-hour experiment, one bathroom crisis was averted and one crime ring was established and dismantled.

I look forward to more opportunities to play the three child family on other adventures with Niece.  And I give a lot of credit to those parents willing to be out-numbered!

 

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I just left the worst food themed theme park ever. Goodbye, Gruel World!

Have you had your yum yucked?

If you’ve tried to convince a child of any age to diversify their food portfolio, you probably have.  Imagine this, you have been eating something, enjoyed it, offered it to your child (or had it stolen off your plate) and watched a dramatic performance of how much he or she hates the food that is in their mouth so much that it needs to disappear off the planet in the next five seconds.  In our house, we then say, “don’t yuck my yum.”

I got that phrase from a one season show, Happyish, that chronicled the life of a man in advertising and his wife who was trying to juggle a career from home.  I related to both sides, both the  utter lunacy of working in advertising as well as the give and take of trying to navigate the sometimes stormy waters of mom relationships.  In this case, the wife used the phrase and I felt an immediate kinship to both the character and the phrase.

What a simple way to convey a load of feelings.  From the sadness you may have felt at the loss of that last bite of dark chocolate that is dramatically spit all over the floor.  To the anticipated hope you had in sharing bowls of lentil curry that they dumped the remainder of in the garbage (the one time they actually clean up their plate).  Sometimes it is the feeling when you are thoroughly enjoying your food and have judging eyes watching, waiting until you relax in to it, to tell you how much it resembles the half-eaten diaper the dog threw up last night.

Don’t yuck my yum!  It solves it.  It gives off the unwavering statement that you will not be trifled with when it comes to your food.  It also gently reminds them of interpersonal skills while hopefully making them conscious of the fact that someone else may like it (ok, maybe I’m dreaming).

It worked very well, and was used very respectfully by everyone until the one day……..THE ONE DAY.  Mini-ion #2 was picking her nose and eating her boogers.  And I start in on the time-honored tradition on why you shouldn’t eat your boogers; the germs, the dust, etc.  And Mini-ion #1 says to me, “don’t yuck her yum, Mommy!”

Dammit.  Outsmarted again.

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