Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Unwelcome Judgment from a Stranger

I had an upsetting experience in public today.

After dropping Gwen off at school, Caroline and Emmett and I headed straight over to Volunteer's of America for their monthly 50% off sale. I had the stroller (carts were all taken-- as anticipated) completely loaded up with shorts, skirts, shirts, swimsuits, summer pjs, shoes and so forth to the brimming point where I had to ask Caroline to walk beside me bc she was getting assaulted by hangers. Of course, she was very happy to be out of her seat (less complaining), but I was constantly moving her out of the way of one cart or another. Have you guys been to a thrift store on one of their big sale days? It is a madhouse. Amidst all this craziness, Emmett grew weary of being awake and started crying. I corralled our massive ensemble to an open area (hard to find, mind you), took him out to nurse him, then put him back in and reclined his seat so he could go to sleep. Naturally, he was not interested in sleeping in his stroller. He cried. I hurried, trying to keep my stress level from creeping up and coming out in an outburst at Caroline, who was bored but trying her hardest to be obedient.
(not my cart, but indicative of the shopping trends at VOA's 50%off day!)

In the midst of looking for items on our needs list, keeping Caroline close by me, maneuvering our bulging stroller down narrow aisles crowded with equally bulging carts of other shoppers, listening to Emmett's cries knowing he just needed to sleep and 'push-pulling' the stroller constantly in an attempt to soothe him to sleep....

a complete stranger stood in front of me so I couldn't get past and said, "Your baby needs something". Assuming she was well-meaning, I said, "oh, I know. He needs to sleep". She then got her lecturers face on and proceeded to tell me that maybe I shouldn't be there then. I felt like someone had slapped me across the face. Not because her words hurt that much, but it was just that shocking. I gathered my wits and explained that it was 50% off day and this was the time to come so we just had to do our best. Not a good enough answer for her. She said I should have left him with a babysitter. I was flabbergasted. I thanked her for her concern and asked her to let me be his mother and then proceeded away from her before I said something I'd regret. I could see her muttering to herself and shaking her head as she went the other direction.

I was astounded. Insulted. Angry. Hurt. Not because I thought she was right, but because I felt so unjustly judged. I'm trying to let it go. To give her the benefit of the doubt.

She didn't know I've been preparing for THIS sale for a month, going through the kids' clothes/shoes boxes to inventory exactly what we needed for them this summer.

She didn't know that I was sacrificing things I wanted to do to be there. (Missed the first day of my new exercise group, play group, even preschool will have to be during afternoon quiet time because there was no way I could afford to miss the sale)

She didn't know I had dropped off a child at school at 9 and busted over there to get the shopping done as quickly as I could before nap time.

She didn't know I couldn't come back after school because then the swimsuits and shoes would be picked over and I might not get what we needed for the girls. Plus I'd have the stress of 3 kids shopping instead of 2.

She didn't know that I was hurrying my best, that I had been needing to go to the bathroom for over an hour and had NOT stopped to do that because it would prolong our stay there. I was trying to put my kids first and just get out of there as fast as we could.

She didn't know that Emmett does not take a bottle and therefore cannot be left with a sitter. He has to be with me.

She didn't know that I had JUST finished nursing him.

She didn't know his stroller was reclined so he could sleep.

She didn't know that he often cries loudest just before he dozes off in the stroller.

She didn't know that we were almost finished, that our very next stop was actually the checkout line.

She didn't know I AM a good mother, that my kids come first in my life. That we were there FOR the children so that they could have what they needed. That I am attentive and loving to them. That it was just a perfect storm rather than an ongoing relationship of neglect and crying babies.

And yet, if she didn't know, why in the world was she judging me and VERBALLY BERATING me like she knew what was best for me and my family?

Clearly, I still have a lot of things to work through. Amazing that such a small incident could upset me so thoroughly. I wish I could talk to her again, explain it to her. Help her see that she was wrong. But I'm not going to get that closure. I just need to forgive. You'd think it wouldn't be so challenging to forgive such a small injustice, but I'm really struggling with this.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Veggies and Gardening Preschool

I love to garden. Love it. I'm going to blame (thank) my dad for that. He is a passionate gardener and I have vivid memories of summer mornings spent out in the garden pulling up rocks (10 cents per 5 gallon bucket. Ugh. We hated that injustice. :) But I learned to love having my hands dirty and cultivating something til fruition. All kinds of wonderful lessons there. 

We have a modest family garden and our kids enjoy helping us with that. Of course, at their ages they are not yet doing the 'hard' work of the garden, but we are hoping to start them loving gardening and self-sufficiency early. I was really excited to do this week of science-y seeds, veggies, and gardening with Caroline!

I LOVE this free printable! It is perfect for this time of year when Caroline is pretty strong on recognition of letters but needs practice on the sounds they produce. This is a beginning sounds veggie clip sheet with upper case letters on one side and lower case letters on the other. You could alternatively cut out each card to make clip cards, but we opted for easy here. Those candies are "carrots":) free printable from Pinay Homeschooler
I happened to have these wonky shaped pipe cleaners that were PERFECT little carrots! Caroline rolled the die and harvested that many carrots. Then she did it again and replanted. We harvested and planted repeatedly bc she really loved this activity! idea for pipe cleaner carrots from Sorting Sprinkles.

Books we read:
Creepy Carrots (which the girls really thought was hilarious. They quote it now and bust up laughing every time. Kid humor is hilarious. I thought it was cute but didn't realize it was THAT funny!)

For our Veggie/Gardening book club: 

After The Carrot Seed we sang "This is they way we plant the seed" (...so early in the morning) with all kinds of carrot-appropriate verses that we made up on the fly!
-plant the seed
-water the seed
-sun shines down
-pull the weeds
-patiently wait
-harvest the carrots
-wash the carrots
-peel the carrots
-eat the carrots!

After reading Carrot Soup we did wheelbarrow races which the kids thoroughly enjoyed!

After Tops and Bottoms we shared our favorite vegetable and named whether it was a top, bottom, or middle. 

I was originally going to do some carrot art with mud paint with 2 equally awesome options:

I still think both those ideas are great and would like to do them in the future. 
But when I got RSVPs back for over 16 kids, I decided I didn't want to do a messy art project at our kitchen table. So instead we planted seeds in wet paper towels that the kids could take home and watch grow in a window. 

 look at those 'octopus' roots!
It is so fun to have Caroline checking on the progress of her seed every day, multiple times a day!

Our snack was, naturally, raw veggies with ranch. We sampled carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, sweet peppers, snap peas, garden-grown baby spinach, and even an avocado. The kids loved tasting a garden! :)

and unrelated to preschool or book club, but relating to gardens... here is a pic of our seeds coming up! the girls helped plant all of this before we put up the bunny fence.
 Sweet Candy onions
Amethyst beans (they are deep purple!)
our dwarf lemon tree is happy to be outside after a bleak winter!

Do you garden with your kids?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Chore Chart Reveal

Work is good for everyone--- children included!

I have been pondering chores for about a year now. (Does that say something about how mundane my thoughts can be? ha ha!) We had a chore chart that just doesn't work for us (and hasn't for about 3 years). The girls definitely have chores and expectations, but there is so much more I'd like to teach them. Summer is upon us and I'd like to make sure they glean the blessings for working, not just playing. Also, Gwen will begin piano lessons in the fall, I want to have my kids earn some money through both assigned chores and volunteering for tasks, and I'd like to get both girls contributing in the kitchen more consistently. Right now it is kind of a "who wants to earn a penny" kind of a thing. Which implies that work is optional. Since I don't believe that is the case, I have been looking for a chore chart update.
You've likely seen these popular cookie sheet chore charts on Pinterest. Here's a great tutorial on how to make one if that floats your boat.
What I LOVE:
  • super, super CUTE
  • visual component for non-readers
  • "to do" and "done" idea is tangible and fun for the littlest chore-doers in the family
  • it is modular, so easily customizeable for each child AND each season AND even each day if there is something specific you want to assign a child. 
  • I love the "extra" chores sticking to the top of the cookie sheet, so not required for that day, but still there if someone wants to earn a little something extra. Would also work to store the seasonal pieces there. 
What I'd like to change:
  • not enough room for all the chores that need doin (does that make me sound like a task master?).  4 morning chores, 4 afternoon/dinner chores, 4 evening chores at the minimum. Then what about extras like helping in the garden, making dessert or preparing lessons for family night, etc? There just isn't room. 
  • I fear that those cute little magnets would attract toddlers (and even preschoolers!) and would disappear under couches and beds or would be confiscated for use in the doll house, etc etc and we'd forever be replacing them or tracking them down--- and never knowing if something got done or not. 
  • I would have to do a DAILY accounting of chore completion. Let me be clear: I check that chores are completed daily already. But with this system, I'd also have to financially compensate daily and reset the chore chart every night so it is ready for the next day. 

I reconsidered my desires after seeing this succinct but personalized job chart at Family Ever After

What I love:
  • weekly accounting instead of daily
  • still has images for visual component, rather than just words
  • images ON the paper, so no lost chore pieces
  • personalized to each child
What I'd like to change:
  • just isn't as cute. Very utilitarian and efficient, but I miss the 'design' element.
  • laminate and use dry erase rather than print out new sheet every week
  • I don't want to specify the monetary compensation for each check mark--- right now only a penny, but that could change to a nickel or a dime if we decide to do so.
  • I would miss the flexibility of having "extra" chores I can throw in intentionally (like for a seasonal garden or canning project) or that the kids could request if they are itching to earn extra cash. 
So. After much pondering, quite a bit of experimentation in Microsoft Word, Exell, and Powerpoint, and a little bit of instructional tutelage from my savvy husband, I came up with the perfect chore chart for our family.

What I love:
  • it is cute, but functional
  • no little pieces, but still retains the design tiles
  • grouping of chores so that we pay less money (boy I'm starting to sound like a miser, eh?) 
  • bottom row of "extra" chores. I can circle them if I am assigning that chore, but the kids could also volunteer to do a chore and earn the extra for it. Extras have all kinds of fun things like 'prepare a dessert,' 'water the plants,' and 'fold washrags'. 
  • print out 1 per year per child, laminate, and dry erase
  • weekly accounting rather than daily (accounting, payment, and proper distribution of income into saving/spending/tithing done at Family Home Evening)
  • everything is saved in Powerpoint, so I can easily duplicate charts and adjust for each child as his/her abilities progress
  • I prepared tiles for 'big' chores like mowing the lawn, babysitting, cleaning toilets, etc that won't be used for years to come but can be added to future chore charts. 
 Caroline's preschool-age chores
Gwen's gradeschooler chores (aren't Susan Fitch's illustrations so cute? That sweet piano...:)
 I have them trading off dinner chores so I'll be able to focus on my helper in the kitchen.
There's a behavior component and a lovely row of extra chores!

Here's how it all came together:
I downloaded these free printable tiles from Susan Fitch Designs-- I love her cute illustrative style!-- and she has a bunch more chores than those pictured above. But there were many tasks I wanted on my chart that she didn't have.
So I used free clipart I found online and simple Microsoft Word to build similarly shaped tiles of my own to accompany Susan's work.
Susan's tiles were ready to insert in the spreadsheet, but my homemade ones had to be 'grouped' so that when I moved the rectangle the picture and the text came with it. Kind of a pain in the rumpus if you know what I mean. But the work was worth it. Now ALL the chore tiles that I might EVER need to use are on the first page of my powerpoint. Our current chore charts are page 2 and 3. Easily edited for next year's needs, but still cute! I am so pleased with how things turned out!

Just for funzies, I made a copy of our pages but deleted the names, so if you would like a copy for your child, you can download the PDF, print out page 1 or 2 (1 for preschool age, 2 for gradeschooler), add your child's name and wualah! Sorry it isn't personalized to you... but if you want to select your own chores, feel free to follow the process I described above!

Hope you enjoy and that your little ones learn the value of working towards rewards!

I Learn from My Kids

This little boy is a happy boy. Content. Giggles to himself when he sees something mundane. Grins at a glimpse of someone he loves. Chuckles when he gets to hold a sippy cup and *attempts* to get water out of it. Sure he has his moments of discontentment and grumpiness (ie. when he is hungry or tired), but for the most part, he is happy to just go along with whatever we are doing. Happy to just experience whatever life throws at him. 

I admire that. 

I learn a lot from my kids. And not just patience or endurance. They truly are amazing little people. Motherhood is so very humbling. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

8 Months Bawlin

When a sweet boy turns 8 months and his mama wants to document his cuteness for posterity...and the perfect natural backdrop presents itself for a flattering photo shoot...naturally, one can expect the little boy to feel less than excited about his moment of stardom. 
tears, tears, tears, and more tears ensue
but wait... what is that?
that looks like something I might want to touch...
nope, false alarm. Back to bawlin.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Inniswood Metro Garden--- Splendid in Spring!

  Last year we visited Inniswood Metro Garden in mid-May, just after the bulbs were gone and the tree buds were changing to tender young leaves. It was lovely, but I saw the skeleton stems of tulips that had already spent their blooms and blossom carpets wilting on the ground, and I longed to see the gardens in all their spring splendor. Catching the tulips and trees in peak bloom has been on my bucket list since then!
 We met up with some med-school friends for lunch and frolicking through the gardens. Emmett slurped down his 2nd 'pouch' puree like a pro, then army crawled right over to 6-month-old J to swat at his head. :) Linz and I chatted while our children ran all over the place, just thrilled to be outside. I don't know that very much lunch was consumed, though Caroline did eat at least a bowl full of grape tomatoes that Linz brought!
  aren't those trees gorgeous? That tiny dot up there is Caroline, eager to get going. 
 some kind of Trillium, don't remember the exact variety. 
 We were watching a frog when this snake left the reeds and slithered out into the water!
 The girls were fascinated by the snake and quite concerned for the safety of the frog. The snake did not seem to be aware of his amphibious neighbor, however, so no graphic trauma ensued. 
 So many varieties of tulips. Aren't these pale yellow ones so cheerful?
  Emmett was in pretty good spirits, especially after we stopped for a couple of milk breaks. 
 He likes to peek back up and flirt with me while I push the stroller.
The kids loved this cute little gazebo house. It reminds me of a birdhouse. 
  The stone retaining walls were perfect balance beams. 
 Caroline was REALLY excited about the "rainbow flowers!!!" and wanted to get her photo taken with them. 
   Gwen practices ballet moves every time I try to take her picture now. If I don't want ballet poses, I have to take sneaky pics. 
  This was one of 2 highlights for the kids: a water activity with locks and wheels. Very cool! Everyone got wet, there were several bouts of tears and splashing, and more than one apology needed, but it was a blast and the kids played here for almost an hour. 
  Gorgeous tulips here too. 
  and a sweet little mini 'house'
 clearly, I am not a selfie proficienada (yeah, I just made up that word), but I adore Linzi and am so glad we got together to strengthen our beautiful friendship in such a beautiful place. And I love this picture because it is of US, even if it isn't super flattering. What matters to me is the relationship and the memories and I love this gal!
 Gwen hopping over a little stone bridge. 
 cool little stream-waterfall thing
and an imperfect pic of my three wonderful children (hey, even though I only got 1 of Caroline's lovely eyes, at least no one is blurry! I'll take that miracle!) Emmett is even smiling despite the fact that he was refusing to nap and was a grumpy pants by the time we took this photo on our way home. But more on Emmett and photography in another post. 

When I am outdoors among all of God's creations, I am calm. It helps to put things in perspective, reminds me to keep cultivating the sweet tender 'plants' in my family, and encourages me to take every opportunity to appreciate the moments blooming RIGHT NOW. Each season quickly fades into another, each blossom is so fragile. And I'm grateful for my blossoms. I am blessed. 

*contended sigh*
Isn't spring wonderful?