Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The ghost of Christmas (toys) past...

No matter how hard we tried, we couldn't remember.

We remembered one, but we knew there were so many more and yet, we couldn't remember a single one.

The only reason we remembered the one we did is because we consistently trip over it as it is never upright anymore - laying haphazardly in the middle of the girls' room.

Dumb plastic makeup table.

But the other presents, the hundreds and hundreds of dollars we spent, have faded into distant memory and into the depths of the toy closet to never be played with.

Which brought us to our conversation the other night as we were Christmas shopping yet again for more toys we knew would find their fate at the bottom of the toy closet. 

This year, money is an issue.  Ok, who are we kidding?  Money is ALWAYS an issue, but this year we actually have to pay attention and stick to a budget.  This new reality doesn't bother me in the least, mostly - but it does bother my husband.  He would love to have the bottom of the tree filled with toys and treasures for our whole family.  He would enjoy bringing boxes and boxes filled with things over to his family's regular get together.  But this year, it will be handmade presents and baked goods.  This year, if you are an adult you probably won't be getting a present.  Darn recession...darn job instability.

So we were talking about it as all good couples do and then we tried to remember all the things we bought for our children last year. 

It was a pretty good indicator that things and stuff don't make Christmas.  Things and stuff are fun, but they aren't memories.  Our oldest are only four - we still have time to set a precedent in our family that Christmas is about giving and celebrating that Jesus was born, not about getting and having so much that we never even touch the things we do have.

So, this year - our kids are getting one big thing.  This year, their one big thing will be something that highlights who they are - not just what toy they think is really cool.

Luke loves to draw - this year he is getting art supplies that will encourage his passion for drawing.

Emma wants to be a doctor and loves everything pediatrician - this year she is getting a real stethoscope (purple too!) and a book all about our bodies and how they work.

Lily loves being a mommy and being the boss - this year she is getting a baby doll so she can take care of and boss that baby around to her heart's content.

And baby Will, well, he is getting a truck.  A really big truck.  But he's one - I don't know what he wants to be when he grows up...yet.

So, in as much as I would love to spoil my children with endless amounts of stuff that won't ever get played with beyond Christmas, we are resisting this year and focusing on the real meaning of Christmas.

And, I think that's a blessing. 

This Christmas is your budget tighter than before?  Are you being creative in the gifts you get for your loved ones?  Or are you able to indulge this year?  I would love to hear!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dear fellow shoppers

Dear miscellaneous people at the grocery store,

I have a slight issue with all of you - ok, most of you. 

Let's get something straight - I am not 16 (but thank you for suggesting that I am) and yes all four of my kids belong to me and my husband.  Yeppers, a traditional family.  You look at me and gawk as if you have never seen a family with such copious amounts of children, yet I know that you undeniably have.

Also, I would much rather you reply to my children saying hi at least 23 gazillion million quadrillion times to you than have you inform me that I "have a cart load."  Yes, I know it's shocking, but I am quite aware of the 150 pounds of children that I have just pushed across an entire parking lot (through snow, mind you) to buy 6 things.  Yes, six things.  If you would like for my children to look at me with their cherub faces and say, "Wow he/she was very nice," then please respond.  However, if you only tell me the obvious that we are all very much aware of and neglect to be kind to my children, they will indeed look at me with their little cherub faces and say, "Wow Mama, that person was not very nice...they were rude."

My kids call it as they see do I suppose - the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Additionally, I agree with you on this point:  Loud, obnoxious children screaming for things are just that:  Loud and obnoxious.  However, children who are happy and laughing in a controlled environment (such as the entirely too large grocery CAR that I am pushing with all 4 of my kids in it) are happy and laughing.  If you are miserable and can't handle people being positive about life - I am sorry.  I hope you find happiness, however we will not allow your bad attitude to effect ours. So your dirty looks will not make my children be less happy because at this point they still assume that ALL people are as happy as they are.

One last thing...when you see me struggling to push my HUGE LOAD as you put it through the parking lot - I would much appreciate it if instead of staring at me and just watching me struggle, you jump in and help me.

And to the one woman who did just that today with a smile - my kids are still talking about how kind you are.  Thank you.

(You know, that lady with "Quite the cart full")

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My date with another man...

I went on a very romantic date last night - with another man.

As soon as my date saw me he told me I was beautiful.  Then he hugged me and told me I smelled pretty.

When we were on our way to the restaurant, and I asked my date what music he would like to listen to, he replied, "What would you like to listen to?"

My date was quite the gentleman.

My date was with a 4 year son Luke.

Last Christmas my husband took Emma on their first date.  They both dressed up and he took her out on the town.  Needless to say, she is super excited about their upcoming one in a few weeks, and Lily will be going on her first date this year as well.  But Luke and I have never done anything just the two of us that was really special.  And I thought it was about time.

I could tell you all the details but throughout the night my heart was exploding with pride and love for my little boy who was so loving, and polite and gentlemanly.  He opened doors for me, waited for me to sit first, used his manners correctly in all situations, and was so excited to hold my hand the whole night.

Sometimes as a mommy I get lost in the muck and mire of discipline, correction, and training.  Sometimes I feel the only word out of my mouth is "no" all day long.  Sometimes I feel like I haven't been able to truly connect with any one of my children all day long.  But then I have moments like the one I had last night, and I am reminded that I have the best profession in the whole world.

All I can say is this...whoever he marries, she is going to be one lucky lady!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Thankful Thanksgiving

Our Christmas tree is NOT up...yet.

This may be the longest we have waited in years...yes, last year it was up right after Halloween and the year before that, it was up the first week in October.

We watch Christmas movies all year long and so when the season finally starts catching up to our excitement about Christmas, we can't hold off from decorating.

And yes, my kids who completely understand that the whole reason we even get presents on Christmas is because it's Jesus' birthday and Santa just gives us all of Jesus' presents because Jesus is so cool (ya, culture and faith totally mixed up into one giant conglomeration...don't judge me)  Anyway - they are already calling Santa (who happens to be my older brother who lives in didn't know we were related, did you?) telling him what they want for Christmas.

Let me take this brief moment to make this ABUNDANTLY clear - I will not be buying, or allowing my children to accept any doll that pees, poops, or cries.  I have enough of that in my house as it is...let's continue, shall we?

Usually we go from the excitement of the sugar intoxication from Halloween right to the excitement of Christmas, and Thanksgiving just falls into there somewhere - we eat turkey and call it good and get on to the real holiday.  But this year, I decided it would be different.

This year, I wanted our children - well, and Dave and I too, to really be thankful for all the things we have to be thankful for.

It seems as though so many people are just ungrateful now.  Maybe it's my generation that feels we are entitled to everything we want and we are angry when we don't get it.  Maybe it's the false belief that if you love God enough He will give you everything you want and when He doesn't we think something is wrong with God.  Maybe it's because we are constantly bombarded with reminders of all the things we DON'T have that we MUST have or we just aren't up to cultural standards...I don't know, but regardless of what the reason may be, it seems as a culture we have lost our grateful hearts.

Currently there is a commercial for a car company where there is a young boy who is talking about his parents and how "nerdy" they are because they drive an old van - and how you too can be cool if only you buy this new 37k SUV.  I cringe every time I see that - for a couple reasons:

1.  Little boy, you will be thankful your parents drive that old nerdy van when you want to do something that costs money and your parents actually have money to do it instead of paying 500 dollars a month for a car payment (sorry, that's my Dave Ramsey follower coming out)

2.  Little boy, you should be grateful that your parents have a vehicle.  Be grateful for what you have.

We noticed that our kids were starting to be that way about certain things, not big things, but regardless - it needed to be addressed and stopped immediately.

They want things to be fair, they want the coolest toys, they want stuff now, they are learning the gross art of discontentment and they are only four.  So now I've explained to them that there are people out there who don't have anything.  I've explained to them that there are people out there who have everything and aren't thankful for what they do have.  I've explained to them that Daddy works hard for what we have and we need to be appreciative and grateful that we have clothes on our bodies and a roof over our head and toys to be played with and food in our tummies.  And our kids, by in large are getting it...with reminders...frequently.

So, this year as a November activity for us to focus on Thanksgiving and all that we have to be grateful for - I decided to do a Thankful tree.

I drew a large tree trunk (because I'm such a wonderful artist, ha ha ha) and then I cut out what seemed to be about 100 leaves out of construction paper we had lying around.  Each day, Dave and I and the three oldest kids are writing what we are thankful for that day.

It's interesting to see their answers.  I'm thankful that primarily their responses have been people, and their needs being met, and only just a few "things" have made their way up to the tree.

I know in the economy right now, it is so easy to focus on what we don't have.  It's easier to see the glass half empty sometimes than it is to search out those things for which we should be so grateful for. 

But I challenge you - take a deep breath.  Slow down this season.  Focus on those things in your life that you can be grateful for.  I am confident you will have more than you even know.

Enjoy Thanksgiving this year - make it a thankful Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mommy gets motivated...

My husband has been out of town for four days.

No, four days doesn't sound like a lot - but, it is.

I would suck being a hunter's widow, that's for sure.

So, Dave wrote on the calendar "Dave's Gone" through the days he would be on his trip, and jokingly (but not really) I put "AKA Melissa Goes Insane."

Yes, I had high hopes for this week of single parenting as you can tell.

But, I'm here to report:  We are ALL still alive.  Not only are we all still alive, but the kids were actually really good...for the most part.

I implemented at the beginning of the week the marble motivator.  He or she who earns the most marbles at the end of the week, gets to pick a fun family activity of their choice for everyone to do.

That my friends, has worked awesome.  Marbles = Currency for a 4 year old.  I give it two weeks of being fantastically effective...but I will take what I can get.

But on Wednesday we had a miracle day...maybe not miracle, but one in which I went "WOW! I am the one who sets the tone of our family..."

Tuesday was insane.  Daddy had left and the kids were crazy, I lost my  phone (which happens to me pretty frequently so that didn't even really ruffle my feathers) and my house went from being really clean to a tornado scene just a few short hours later.  The kids were fighting, I was yelling, and EVERYONE was grumpy.

But then they went to sleep easily.  And the baby slept all night long.  And I got to throw away a bunch of crap that I have been putting off because I would rather sit on the couch with Dave at night then be productive.  Wednesday morning came, and Mommy was re-energized (which doesn't happen all too often!)

So, that morning I gathered my kids together and told them I wanted to make them a promise.  I promised, regardless of their behavior, that I would not yell that day.  I promised that I would use my nice Mommy voice all day to the best of my ability because I wanted to have a good day and I really didn't like yelling.  I promised my change in behavior to them without them needing to promise anything back.  See, that morning I walked by the wall in our playroom that has had this gigantic five foot quote up for almost two years by Dr. Seuss, "You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself in any direction you choose."  And I realized, that regardless of their behavior, my behavior needed to emulate Jesus, maturity, and love.  And for months now, I have been excusing my behavior as the effect of their choices.  But Wednesday morning, I realized after reading that quote, that I needed to be the instigator of the behavior not the responder.

When I made my promise to the kids, Luke and Emma lit up.  They were so excited that they were going to have a day without a grumpy mommy.  So excited in fact, that they proceeded to promise to me, "Mommy, I promise to not be bad today."  "Mommy, I promise to listen the first, or maybe the second time...but I won't make you say anything eleventeen times." 

But in that moment, I knew that regardless of their end of the bargain, I would keep mine.

And I did.


At six o'clock, the baby had pulled the plug to the computer so many times that the computer had to restore itself (which sounded like a much bigger problem than it actually was) and I raised my voice...slightly.  And my kids, who had been angels all day, looked at me with sad eyes and said, "You broke your promise."

I immediately dropped to my knees so I could look at them eye to eye and asked for forgiveness.  And they were so excited to give it.  I didn't excuse my behavior, I didn't blame them, I just took total responsibility and the kids were really responsive.

Then it was bed time.  And the kids went down easily.  And the baby slept all night.  And I woke up Lily screaming.  And I reacted.  And our day was not wonderful like Wednesday...I was not intentional.  I was not on the offensive, I was playing defense ALL.DAY.LONG.

So, lesson learned this week...Behavior motivators like marbles are awesome.  But what's even more effective is a fulfilled promise of good behavior from Mommy.

And Dave comes home tonight...thank God. 

This single parenting thing is for the birds...well, and the way stronger moms than me.

Monday, November 8, 2010

In defense of MY own rebuttal to my previous post

So, I don't take back ANYTHING I said in my previous post.

I think it's important to stay at home and take care of your children.  I think it's hard work, and should NEVER be considered as a lesser choice than continuing to work while you raise children.

With that said, please let me make something abundantly clear:

I think there is a grand difference between those who continue to work after they have children so they can pay their rent and put gas in their cars and those who work so they can continue having lots and lots of money and the best things.

Big my opinion.

The lady I spoke of in my previous post was of the latter mindset and it irks me when she makes comments how due to new positions, she has an extra hour at home now in the evenings and her children are "lucky" for that extra hour they, 3.75 hours instead of 2.75 hours...yes, they should be grateful.

Ok, enough about her.

However, I fear I stepped on toes of those who are like my mom was.

My mom had to work, and I had to be in daycare.  I NEVER once thought my mom loved me less because I had to go to La Petite every day.  Nope...not once.  It was my mom and me against the world, and my mom was doing what she had to do so that I could eat, have a roof over my head and not once know or even question our economic standing well into high school.

I remember my mom when I was four, not my day care.  I have some memories of day care, but they are foggy to say the least.

She did what she had to do, and I don't fault her for that.

So, yes - I know there are moms out there who ache to be at home with their kids all day and yet have to work so they can support their families.  I know there are moms out there who would love to stay at home but because of extenuating circumstances, they just can't.

I totally get it.

But those who can't bare to think of staying at home with their children because it would steal away their identity, or because they would lose purpose, or because quite frankly they must afford the payment for their 75,000 vehicle...I don't understand.  I don't get it.  I can't even pretend to agree with that decision.

See the huge difference between my mom and the ladies I just described, is that I was of utmost importance to her.  Even though she worked from 8-5, when she got home, there was no confusion as to why she was working: me.  That's why, quite possibly, I remember my mom and not my day care.  But when women have children and then simply because of their desire for stuff throw them into all day child care - are they much more than trophy children? 

I have some friends, who will probably be angry with me after this post especially, but really - is the nice stuff more important than your children being with you? 

I know we all love our children, I just wonder where they fall in priority.

And I also know, that there are some of you, because of your love for your children are working incredibly hard to provide for them because that's what you have to do - and I admire your strength, and your endurance and your mommy heart...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Yes I stay at home with my kids, and no I'm not stupid...shocking, I know.

It's been four and a half years. 

I don't know why it still bothers me soooooooo much...but it does, oh yes, it does.

When I first had my twins, quit my job and was officially a stay at home mom it seemed like all the morning shows (that I was still able to watch because my babies slept all the time...) had women on there talking about how so many women were sacrificing their own identities, no longer contributing to society in a meaningful, tangible way.  They spoke on how women were losing purpose and reasonably were no longer an asset to society because of one factor.

They no longer worked...outside the a real job.

They were moms.

Ya, that made me angry.

So, here I am and it still makes me angry.

I know that I'm a bit different than most moms these days.  When I am in groups of moms, I usually am the youngest mom with the most kids.  I finished having my kids when I was 28, most of my friends are now 29 and just starting families.

I had a promising career in public speaking (which is hilarious now, since it seems I can barely mutter an intelligible sentence) when I believe with all my heart that God told me it was time I started a family.  Had I ignored that prompting, I probably would be very successful (in terms of money) and who knows if I would have had a family by now.  Since it was so hard to conceive back when I was 24 - I can only imagine the hurdles I would have to jump now that I am closer to 30.  But I didn't ignore God - instead, I listened and met my wonderful hubby two weeks later.

So, all that to say...I chose my life.

And I chose to stay at home with my kids and be with them from the moment they open their beautiful eyes to the moment they lay their precious heads on the pillow at night.  I chose to be with them all day long so I can be there for every "first."  I chose to be with my children, to hear every whine, deal with every discipline, wipe every snotty nose, change every dirty diaper.  I chose this.

I've written about this before, but it's so see, a woman has come into my life recently who is older than me.  She has a "power career" I suppose and so does her husband.  They have a nanny.  I of course, in my constant battle to NOT be judgmental, have a few opinions on that myself but as I have matured I have realized that people choose things for different reasons and it's easier in life to just keep my mouth shut and smile (to the best of my ability.)  But you see, this woman, does not.

This woman, I am certain, feels about me the same way those talk shows spoke regarding stay at home moms.  It is quite clear that I am inferior to her, that her family is superior to mine (for she drives a far better vehicle than mine and I'm sure she lives in a far more glamorous house), that her parenting struggles are so much more complex than mine, and really - life and mothering really must be so much more...well, simple for me.

Week after week after week I have endured this woman's opinions on her life versus mine and have smiled and tried my hardest to let it roll off my back.  But the last time, I couldn't...

She was talking about the evening hours, you know, those wonderful peaceful (ha!) hours from dinner to bedtime?  She was speaking on how stressful those hours are for her - from the time she picks them up at 5 till she puts them down at 7:45.  She then looked at me, with her ever so condescending eyes, and said, "Nights are so hard for us families who work."


By the time I put my kids to bed I have been with them for thirteen hours.  For thirteen hours I have played, been used as a jungle gym, said "no" a gazillion times, disciplined what seems a gazillion times more, changed even more diapers than that, and I get to enjoy all the whining from the moment the slightest twinge of hunger touches their little tummies to the moment they let out their last protest for bed.  By bedtime, I am done.

Excuse me ma'am, I must say, nights are so hard for us families who have kids.

And for us simpletons aka stay at home moms - we have had to please the toughest critics all day, teach the most promising students on all things about life, perform for audiences with the shortest attention spans and we don't get a pay check.  When my kids go to sleep at night, I don't relax in front of a beautiful huge flat panel tv - instead, I watch tv with rabbit ears on my 27" box tv that is missing buttons.  I don't have fancy stuff, wear beautiful clothes, and have high class taste with food and wine.  But what I do have?  Knowing that my kids know me better than anyone, knowing I know my kids better than anyone.  Seeing all their growth instead of having to be told about milestones that were met while I was trying to please other people all day long. 

So, while you pursue your career and deal with your kids those not even three hours of the day - I am with my kids all the time and when they go to school and no longer need me every minute of every day...maybe I will pursue my career.  But when all is said and done, I am mommy...all the time - and that ma'am, is harder than any power position you may hold...and much more rewarding.