Category Archives: me and my thoughts

So Clean.

The first week of the kids being back in school consisted of me running errands, meeting people for lunch, and just generally skipping and floating through life because, hello, freedom.

Now with the second week here, I’ve settled into a routine of volunteering at the school, working out, actually preparing food ahead of time for my family to eat, and starting on all of the things that have accumulated over the last few months that I haven’t been able to tackle.

One of those was deep cleaning the bathrooms, and I decided that today was the day. The boys had kept up all summer with their weekly cleanings, so it’s not like they’ve gone uncleaned for months, but I knew it was time for me to do it.

Let me just sum it up like this:

1. I didn’t know how bad a housekeeper I really am until today.

2. Toilets have so, so many tiny gross places on them, and I’d really never cleaned one that well, apparently. What prompted this crazy cleaning is my super-sensitive sense of smell, so, you know, gag.

3. I’d like to issue a blanket apology to anyone who has used the bathroom at our house the last, oh, say four years aka the whole time we’ve lived here. Because I guess our bathrooms really haven’t been that clean this whole time.

In the boys’ bathroom I realized that the shower curtain was due for a washing (extremely close proximity to the toilet), and in keeping with my previous low standards, as I rehung it, I asked the boys to please just do their best not to pee on the shower curtain. My comment was met with mostly-blank stares and some nods, like they didn’t have a clue what I was asking them to do. So we’ll see how that goes in the future.

Even though it was gross, I was surprised at how much today wasn’t horrible, even though I cleaned all day long…turns out being uninterrupted, with loud, favorite music playing, makes even the worst jobs tolerable.

Bennett, age 9 1/2

I’m very careful about what I write these days. (also, you might be thinking, “Nicole, you never write anything these days.” Fair enough.)  I have to be; the boys are getting older, and I would never write about something that would be embarrassing to them. So I’m wording this carefully, but as this blog is our scrapbook and this has become a huge part of Bennett’s life, I decided to record this.

this picture cracks me up...it was him, posing like a senior picture (he's seen them on the walls of his grandparents' houses)!

this picture cracks me up…it was his idea, posing like a senior picture (he’s seen them on the walls of his grandparents’ houses)!

By the end of last school year, I know I mentioned on the blog that Bennett had started getting in just a little bit of trouble at school.  Totally, totally minor…really, it was just him making some bad choices in the presence of certain friends. And it was right at the end of the year, so we discussed it some early in the summer.  Like how he might need to make some new friends, or really be aware of the choices he makes when around others, or else he may find himself in trouble.

Over the summer he also developed a bit of a negative attitude toward school.  This is a first for any of my kids, really, and it was unexpected. However, it boiled down to this: he just wants to be a baseball player.

So really, in his mind, he doesn’t need to be that educated. Like, he even came up with this gem this summer, completely on his own: “I want to go to a college that has a great baseball team and is just like, ok at academics. So it’s not too hard, and I can mostly focus on playing ball.”

Ohmygosh. Stop it. You’re nine.

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love that grin.

We talked a few different times over the summer about school. How important it is. How to choose (and behave around) friends. Of course, I tried to figure out what was causing this issue, and nothing bad happened to the best of my knowledge. What I do know is that Bennett is bright, a good student, much more confident in his math skills than reading (though he reads above grade level, he isn’t very sure of himself), and a middle child.

Yep, I think him being a middle is playing into this, too. He’s only 2 years behind Luke, so most teachers know him or have taught him by the time B gets them. And Luke is the kind of kid who volunteers for a lot of stuff, and he’s easygoing, and everyone in the school knew him, etc. Luke’s far from perfect, but you get the point…Bennett is second, and he’s a totally different kind of kid.

Then there’s Jack Henry, whose reading level is crazy-high for his age (which slays me, because as a toddler, I thought he was going to have some delays), and couple that with Bennett’s lack of confidence in his reading and comprehension skills, and you’ve got B feeling that middle-child pinch.

I made the following points, as lightheartedly as possible, but in a way that I hope got my point across:

1. If you want to be a pro baseball player, you first need to be a high school baseball player, then a college baseball player (I know that kids get drafted without playing college ball, and so does B, but he knows it’s rare), and then the draft/minors/MLB.

2. If you have to, view 4th grade as a step towards achieving your first big goal: high school baseball player. (This makes me roll my eyes, but I was grasping at straws to engage this child.)

3. My main point: no coach, at any point in this timeline, wants a dumb athlete. They want you to be able to critically think through plays. Plus, there’s the whole staying-eligible-to-play-based-on-your-grades thing.

Before school started, I got a chance to meet B’s teacher, who is new to our elementary school (ie hasn’t taught Luke) but isn’t a new teacher (and she has twin 7th grade boys!). I mentioned to her that Bennett’s attitude toward school had soured just a bit, and that he really wanted to be an athlete. Her immediate comment was, “Well, he will need to be able to read his contract, right?” I think this is going to be a good match. :)

School started 3 days ago, and Bennett has come home every day smiling and saying that things have been going well. So we’re off to a good start.

Only 175 days+/- to go.

Serious Question

I’ve come to the realization that are 2 kinds of people in this world: those who love the Robert Munsch book Love You Forever and those who hate it.

Friends, I must know which side you’re on. But you can be anonymous about it and just answer here:

Thanks for answering this super-important question. ;)

In case you’re wondering what made me think of this, it was this episode of Friends:

Life Skills 101

“So, Mom, did you know that there was like a TOTAL CASCADING WATERFALL OF MILK off the counter this morning? Right here. My sock got some on it, but I still wore it all day.”

This was a conversation I had with Bennett this evening while he was working on making dinner for himself and his brothers. It came up because as he was making grilled pj&j, he dropped glob of jelly on his sock, and I told him to just take it off since it was almost time to shower anyway.

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And actually, I did not know about the milk waterfall. I was upstairs getting ready for the day, and B and Luke were eating breakfast together (Matt and Jack Henry were already on their way to baseball).

They’d done a pretty good job of cleaning it up, but you know, didn’t do it in a way that would truly pass Mom-inspection. So, I pulled out my newest trick: telling him I was going to teach him a Life Skill, instead of correcting what wasn’t done right.

—–

“Life Skill” has become a frequently-used phrase around here this summer. A couple of months ago, I realized that there are SO MANY THINGS – all the things – that a kid needs to know and know how to do. It’s not like you can just put them in a book and have them read it. It’s things that pop up in day-to-day life that make you think, “hey, a kid needs to know this.” Maybe I should make a list.

Like being able to take a few bucks into a Quik Trip and buy a bag of ice (don’t worry, I sent 2 of them in together). Or how to do a load of laundry start to finish, or use the dishwasher. Or how to go up to a concession stand with your water bottle and politely ask for a refill, and say thank you when they give it back to you. Or how to order in a restaurant, giving the waitress your attention.

Or, figuring out how to put the dishes away that you can’t reach.

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—–

So this evening, instead of correcting the cleanup that was done in the morning, I said, “Hey, buddy, I’ve got a Life Skill to teach you. Remember that little ant problem we’ve had in the kitchen? Well, ants like leftover food that’s on the floor. And if you don’t wipe up a spill like milk with a wet paper towel, they’ll find it.”

Easy peasy. Doesn’t sound judgmental. Problem solved.

WHY IN THE WORLD DID I NOT THINK OF THIS APPROACH BEFORE NOW?

—–

My favorite Life Skill teaching happened this morning though. Bennett, Luke and I were in the van on the way to Jack Henry’s last baseball game of the summer season. I had a bracelet I couldn’t put on myself, so I reached my arm behind me and told B what to do, then said, “You know, this a good skill for you to have when you’re older. Your girlfriend or wife might sometime need help with this.”

Bennett’s immediate response: “Well, the bracelet is on, but this is one skill I’m not going to need. Because I’m going to be single, and be a baseball player, and live with my dog.”

This has literally been his mantra all summer long. About not getting married, having his buddy Connor as a roommate since they’ll both be professional baseball players, and having a dog. (I’m all: “Life Skill: someone needs to take care of your dog while you’re on the road all the time with the MLB, cowboy. Maybe a wife would be a good idea. Also? I want grandchildren.”)

—–

So, help me out. What are some other things my boys need to know how to do on their own?

What 12 in ’12 Taught Us

2 years ago, in 2012, I pre-planned one date a month for Matt and me…it ended up being 11 dates in 2012 due to kid sickness, but oh well. All of the details and the dates were chronicled on the blog, and you can read about them here (also, in perfect me form, I did not blog the last date of the year, which was a fun overnight for New Year’s Eve, but whatever).

We LOVED it. It seemed weird to start 2013 without a plan in place for date nights. However, we realized that it refocused our attention to something we already knew, but had kind of shelved: we need to make time for each other.

Frankly, I didn’t think we were doing poorly at making time for dates pre-12 in ’12…and probably, compared to most American marriages, we weren’t. But that isn’t the standard we should be measuring ourselves by, really, is it?

Yes, it costs money. Just the babysitting, let alone the actual date, is expensive. I get it. But there are other things that get sacrificed to make this happen, and it’s worth it. And, a couple of times a year, we swap babysitting nights with my brother and his wife, which makes everyone happy: it’s free, there’s time with cousins, everyone wins. Also, we have some fantastic babysitters, and I love that the boys get excited to hear they’re coming over. It’s good for them, too.

We don’t get out monthly anymore, but we do get a sitter and go out for dinner, or meet friends out, when we can. Trying new restaurants is one of our favorites, so we do that whenever possible…which is slightly overwhelming in a city filled with amazing food where we already have so many favorite places to eat!

Several weeks ago, Matt took a half day on a Monday and let me sleep in while he got the boys ready and off to school (this is like winning the lottery to me). I slept late, he came with me to volunteer in Jack Henry’s classroom like I did every Monday (surprised JH, who loved it!), and we went out to brunch.

{Speaking of that: always a good idea to check if the place you’re wanting to have brunch is open on the day you’re going. Because for the record, Half and Half, the place I’d been dreaming of having breakfast since our cancelled Valentine’s breakfast date, is closed on Mondays. However, the cancelled V-Day date was to be on a Monday morning, too, so I would’ve been disappointed 2 months ago, too.

BUT: that place being closed led to an amazing breakfast at another place down the street from Half and Half that I’d never been, City Coffeehouse and Creperie. I ate so much that it was my only meal of the day…by late evening, I was hungry and had a small snack, but it was that good. And that worth the calories.}

I digress. I could talk about good food all the livelong day, and this was a place we ate weeks ago.

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We are in the thick of summer craziness right now…kid baseball nearly every night, and I’m not exaggerating. Getting a night at home is extremely rare, and when it happens, there’s SO much to do, and so many hours of sleep to catch up on, that a date night is not top priority. This isn’t a pity party; we signed up for this and for the most part, I love it. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t craving a quiet dinner with wine, at a table, with a server who isn’t in a t-shirt, since dinner recently is either some kind of sandwich I’ve made and brought with us or a pretzel with cheese at the ball diamonds.

So, we WILL celebrate Matt’s 39th birthday (which was yesterday) one of these days. It may be mid-July, but that’s okay, because then it can be my birthday celebration, too. :) And in the off-season, we’ll need some sitters. Regularly.

On Kids and Media.

Clearly, time is not standing still for me, keeping my boys young and innocent and not wanting to own technology. Those days are long gone.

For quite a while now, I’ve wanted to come up with a contract to use with the boys that spells out exactly what our rules for usage are. There have already been guidelines in place; now, I’m going to have them sign a contract. Using the internet, iPad and iPod are a privilege, and they’re going to have to follow our rules or not use them at all.

I fully realize that people are all over the place on kids and media, and that I fall under the extremely protective category…this will be too much for some of you. However, I know too much, from real-life situations of people I am close to, to let this be an area in which we’re lax. I haven’t yet, but will also be adding NetNanny or similar to our computer.

I attended a presentation by Jim Burns from HomeWord earlier this spring called “Creating a Media Safe Home” that was really informative. Sidenote: if Jim Burns is speaking near you, go listen to him. He’s a very engaging speaker, full of knowledge about parenting and marriage, and very enjoyable to listen to.

More than anything, though, it got me thinking about all the things that need to be addressed in terms of media usage, mostly regarding purity and honesty, and also giving Luke (the other 2 aren’t old enough for this yet) an understanding of the legal ramifications of his actions online. And yes, kids as young as Luke (11) are old enough to know this, because they’re old enough to be charged with a crime. A contract isn’t enough; kids need to know why these rules are to be followed, and unfortunately, that often means educating them on some of the darker truths about the internet. Some parts of parenting just totally suck.

I used a phone contract in the packet of information from the presentation (a colleague of Mr. Burns’, Doug Fields, came up with the contract, I believe) to guide me as I wrote, and then Matt and I just discussed a few other key points that we included. Here it is in list form, and here’s a PDF of what the boys are signing: Media Usage Contract

1. Mom/Dad can check the iPad/iPod at any time, read texts, and view anything you’ve searched, because they will always have all passwords. This is not a violation of your rights.
2. You may not use the iPad in your room…it may only be used in shared family spaces (kitchen, living room, office).
3. You are allowed to use your iPod in your room for listening to music only.
4. You are not allowed to join any social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Kik, etc). We don’t care how many of your friends are allowed to.
5. Do not take inappropriate pictures or videos, or send them to anyone. Ever. If Mom/Dad wouldn’t approve, it’s not a picture/video you should take. Even if your brother dares you to do it.
6. Likewise, do not look at anything that you wouldn’t look at if Mom/Dad were sitting next to you.
7. Don’t just Google something you are curious about. Ask Mom/Dad. That’s what we’re here for.
8. We will discuss all songs and apps before downloading.
9. You are not allowed to play any games that allow for online interaction/chatting (ie Clash of Clans, etc). This is non-negotiable.
10. No YouTube videos without permission first.
11. Time limits given by Mom/Dad are to be obeyed…when the timer goes off, time’s up.

So, there it is! Thoughts?

Back on the Wagon

I’ve been sick for the past 8 days. Not stuck-in-bed sick, but feeling way worse than I have in years. It started with a sore throat unlike anything I can remember, and a bad cough got added on by the third day (plus, eventually, some cold symptoms and an eye infection. Hot.). I ended up at Urgent Care on Saturday for a steroid shot (seriously MIRACULOUS in taking care of my throat) and an antibiotic for whatever was causing days of sickness and a low-grade fever. It’s been a very slow recovery, mostly due to lack of sleep (I’m talking 4 hours-ish a night for several days, as I was coughing my head off all night long).

However, last night, I slept minus my weather app waking me like 7 times to give me a thunderstorm warning (yeah, thanks, I was aware due to the thunder and lightning). I woke up feeling more human than I have in days. I still need to sleep – A LOT – to catch up, but I’m getting there.

Through this whole week, the thing that has been killing me is that I can’t work out. Which is hilarious to me when I think about where I was 18 months ago…literally, the thought of working out never would have even crossed my mind while I was healthy, never mind sicker than a dog. Now, I’m not crazy, and I know it was just a week, but it has so become a part of my day and feeling good that I MISSED it. And I just have this fear of breaking a good habit and finding it hard to get back into the routine.

Plus, of course, I gained a couple of pounds while not working out and just eating what sounded good.

So today, I’m back at it, albeit slowly and with a not-intense workout (postscript: Um, that was hard. Even just a short workout). To get to the goal weight I’ve wanted to reach for a long time but never pushed hard enough to get there plus the LBs I recently added, I’ve got 10 pounds to lose. And I’m making it public so that you all can hold me accountable. My Fitness Pal friends? Ask me how it’s going if you aren’t seeing that weight loss counter move downward, ok?

Here we go…