Tuesday, November 25, 2014

12 ways to practice empathy with kids

I'd like to be a Mum who can do it all - I used to think I could, back before I had kids.  That'd I'd be the Mum who would not rely on tv but instead creative educational lessons would fill the hours in the day.  The Mum who made sure her kids were eating only food that was good for them and never made of processed cheese and corn syrup.  The Mum who always looked put together and made time for her own mind, body, and spirit.  The Mum who carved out time for elaborate date nights.  The Mum who has a clean, organized house and even made time to properly clean the coffee maker and wiped out the microwave more than once a month.

I'm consistently none of those Mums and much to my very stubborn heart, it took a long time for me to figure out that it's okay to be a little bit of each of those Mums occasionally (when stars align just so and if all the kids had gotten enough sleep that night and no one is sick, sad, or over-sugar'ed for the day).  But I came to understand that it's more realistic and important to be one Mum; the one that I cared enough about being that I'd make the time every.single.day relentlessly to talk, walk, and model the kind of person I want my kids to grow up to become.


And after some siphoning of my 'wish I could be' and 'who I really am' pieces of myself; I found that the thing I care about most as a Mum is that my children will have the first instincts of empathy and kindness in every situation.  This is what I believe will ensure fullness, gratitude, and happiness in their lives long after I am no longer.  

I want to give them the tools to be able to look across the way and see themselves in any person that they come to meet in their life.  To care about their neighbors; of which every person is in some way.  To empathize before they pass judgement; to know that they have not walked in another person's shoes; haven't seen, heard, or felt all things that another person may have experienced...and to know that although they may disagree; there is still an opportunity to choose and act with kindness and compassion.  That the universe and karma have a way of working things out and to trust that somehow the good will find a way to float up.

Yes, I want them to be smart and talented and well-read and financially successful and well traveled and to care about good food and exercise and care about being organized and clean.  But most of all I want them to be kind.  And not just to the people who are nice to them; but nice to everyone.  Because our is a family that always first chooses kindness and empathy.

So today, I'd like to share 12 ways that we practice Empathy in our home:



1. Tell them stories about when you were little:  Not much captivates our kids more then a story about something that happened to us when we were little kids.  Hearing about how their parents and all the people they know (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc) were once little kids is delightfully amazing to them.  We tell our kids about all the best memories and traditions from our childhood, but also about times that we made bad choices and the consequences that came with it.  We tell them about choices that we made that hurt someone else and times that we were hurt by someone/thing (physically or emotionally) and the lessons we learned.  Almost after every story we tell them, our kids respond with, "Tell us again."

2. Listen to music and talk about how it sounds and makes them feel:   Music is a great way to build empathy in kids because it supplies a way into experience feelings without being an actual situation that is in front of them or directly impacting them. If a song is on the radio in the car, sometimes I'll ask the kids if they think the song is happy or sad.  When we watch a movie and there is a spooky or exciting part coming up, I'll tell the kids to listen to the music to get an idea of what is going to happen next.

3. Give them opportunities to be selfless:  It feels good to be kind; this is no secret.  We supply plenty of moments for our kids to be kind, just for the sake of being nice to someone.  Many times the burden to us as parents means simply that whatever we are doing will take longer (and require more clean up) but it's worth it.  I let the kids pack lunch for their Dad, bake and deliver cookies to our local fire department or neighbors, create and mail notes and pictures to friends and family through snail mail.  Each member of the family is expected to help whenever needed (cleaning up, opening & holding doors, carrying in groceries, feed pets, etc) because we all need to do our part to contribute to the happiness of our family.

4. Make generosity, kindness, and patience celebrated qualities:  we dole out a boat load of positive reinforcement when it comes to the kids acting generous, kind, and patient.  The reverse, though, is the same - the kids know that we do not condone (nor feel proud) when/if our kids choose greediness, rudeness/bullying, or impatience in their actions.  These are near federal offenses in our house.

5. Play the "Maybe" Game:  When we see someone act a certain way that the kids might not understand for a situation, we play the 'Maybe' Game with them to come up with reasons why the person is behaving like they are.  We make every effort to not supply an easy answer that places blame on someone by making assumptions like a 'bad kid' or 'bad guy.' Instead for example, when we see another kid screaming in the grocery store we start the conversation by naming reasons of Maybe.  Like maybe they're hungry, maybe they wanted something but their mom can't buy it, maybe they are tired, maybe they're having a 'hard day,' maybe they can't talk and can only cry to tell their family they need help....Talking about how many different reasons is a reminder that feelings lead to actions and only actions are visible to everyone, but rarely ever are the reason for the feelings.

6. Practice(and practice some more) celebrating someone else's joy:  This is difficult to do with little kids because kids prefer to be the one who is experiencing special treatment - like birthdays, presents, and happy surprises.  We do this by reminding our kids that seeing our friends and family happy makes us feel good too and we talk about it frequently in big and small moments.  We model shared joy when the kids experience happiness as well as when we hear of good news for our friends and family.  We talk how good things for others can also mean good things for us; someone else's birthday means playing with our friends at a party (even if we aren't getting presents, we still get to have fun!)  And how sharing our happiness (when we get it) is nice - like sharing snacks and new toys.

7. Use the "How can I fix it?" apology:  Besides just saying sorry when we hurt someone (physically or emotionally) we also practice following it by asking How Can We Fix It?  We have talked about ways to help the person feel better after being hurt; things like a hug, high five, sharing a toy, or giving the person some space for awhile.  The kids have also made up secret handshakes, telling each other a joke, or making a picture/sorry note for the person.  Often times that person who was hurt wants to answer that "nothing" can fix it - so this is two fold as it helps the person who is hurt find a way to forgive too even if they don't feel like it at first.

8. Practice sharing someone's sadness:  using the 'How can I fix it' apology helps us practice sharing sadness that we helped create.  It gives kids a chance to see their own contribution to someone's pain but work towards helping the person feel better.  We also model how it's important to share someone's sadness in which we didn't contribute.  How it's important to be there to listen and help for people who have had bad things happen to them.  How lending a hand or listening ear can help make someone who is sad feel a little bit better. We talk about how it feels good when someone helps us when we are sad or hurt. How seeing someone suffer in pain or sadness also somehow makes us feel sad and how that's normal and maybe why that is (because we recognize ourselves in them or their situation).

As parents, it's our natural instinct to guard our own children from feeling sadness, embarrassment, or pain.  But in reality, shielding them from these feelings does them no good.  They will feel this at some point in their life and it will be out of our control.  In our family, we go one step farther then that to help build empathy by also permitting them to see, feel, and talk about other people's sadness.  It helps give them a sense that they are only a piece of a great big world and there are people everywhere experience varying levels of grief, but to also see examples everywhere of these people getting back up and moving on despite it.

9.  Teach them to pay attention to others around them:  This is our first reminder of good behavior when we are in public.  When the kids are acting up in a public place (restaurants, church, public transportation) we whisper to them to look around to see how everyone else is behaving.  It's a helpful reminder that although they are small, they are still part of a bigger picture.  We remind them that everyone else is also trying to enjoy their day and that there is a time and place for playing and being loud and a time and place for being respectful of other people's time, personal space, and quiet.

This also applies to paying attention to others around them while they are playing.  It's easy to get wrapped up in the moment of fun and lose focus of how other people feel.  We practice again and again what we should do if someone begins acting sad or upset while we play with them.  We stress consent when it comes to playing with others and if someone says "No" or "Stop," we stop what we are doing and ask if everything is okay.  The same applies if someone begins to cry or get upset.  We stop what we're doing and check in with them.  Even though we may be having fun, it should never be at the expense of someone else.

10. Give them opportunities to stand up for something:  We make opportunities to give the kids a chance to act courageously on behalf of someone (or something) else - in hopes that someday they will choose courage to stand up for someone/something weaker.  This takes form in many different ways; choosing between killing a bug in the house or 'rescuing' it and putting it outside instead.  Helping to decide punishment for a sibling who made a bad choice.  Choosing to throw a broken toy away vs. fixing it/re-using it for something new...  And then we talk about how their choice made them feel.  It's important to not always feed them the answer that we'd like them to have, but rather present them with a situation in which the consequences of their actions will effect their own feelings.  It's not a bad thing to let them feel guilty or worried about a bad choice on the small things - so they'll remember when it comes later in life with the big things.

11. Help them recognize their own gut feelings:  Greyson calls this 'spidey sense;' that funny feeling everyone has in their guts about moments in which something feels uncomfortable.  This feeling usually happens when faced with a situation in which the line between 'right' and 'wrong' feel very clear.  Many times it is a situation that requires action and a little bit of bravery.  Maybe the action is to go against peer pressure, or say 'no' when someone is asking you to say 'yes,' maybe it's simply to slow down for a second and check your bearings.  We want our kids to be aware of that internal spidey sense and listen to it's warning;  To feed the good wolf.

12. Give them tools to move on:  We know however, that always trying to share other people's feelings can be exhausting and draining.  All people need to be able to move on from feelings that can bring us down and make us feel worried.  Choose a tool that you can practice with the kids that can help them release some of those feelings when they can't seem to get past them.  In our house, that means 'praying about it' and we take a minute to send out a little prayer for the person or situation we are worried about and put it in the hands of the universe.  If your family isn't comfortable with that, you can also do other things - exercise through running or yoga, writing it out in a journal, perform a symbolic gesture (lighting a candle, a secret hand gesture, etc).  Any practice that will help remind your kids that it's important to also let the feeling go and move on.



I wish for a world in which everyone's first instinct is to react with empathy and kindness in all situations.  What would the school systems look like if we cared that our own kids AND the kids in the neighboring town had the best education?  What would the streets look like if we all realized it would take just a short period of hard times for us to also be without a home? What would the media look like if we celebrated empathy and kindness instead of celebrities, injustice and controversy?

In a moment like today, it feels very easy to pass quick judgment and choose a side.  But maybe instead, we can pause for a moment and see ourselves in all those involved.  The people who may have overreacted because they were scared.  The people who overreacted because they are tired of feeling unheard.  The people who got swept up in crowd mentality.  The people who are suffering from a broken heart.  The people who feel relieved and yet also afraid of what happens next.  The people who have to wake up this morning and rebuild.  The people who wake up this morning to see only the bad portrayed in the media and none of the good they were involved in.

Empathy is being able to see yourself in any person.  Believing that you'd never make a certain choice, but also knowing deep down that until you are in that exact moment you don't know for sure what you may or may not do.  That passing judgement is helping no one.  NO.ONE.

And maybe the only thing that will help a situation that is scary and tragic from every single angle is that in your own little, tiny corner of this Earth, you'll make the choice to choose kindness and empathy today.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lately

We've made it!  Today marks the last day of the Rotten Eight!


We've been doing well over here and the days are going by unusually fast - maybe it's the earlier darkness of winter, but I swear by the time I turn around, it's already 4p and I'm left looking at my planner making choices between whether I'll fi.na.lly. write a blogpost this week or get a shower for the first time in three days/feed my children/or fold the clothes that have been in the dryer for two days.  Sorry - blogposts have not been winning recently - but I'm hoping the close of the Rotten Eight will bring a new bounce to my giddy-up.

I was even sort of feeling newly-energized yesterday and washed all the bedsheets (a feat in itself) and took all three kids grocery shopping by myself (heroic!)  Alas, Violet was determined to finish out the Rotten Eight with a bang by partying all night, so I'm running on two cups of coffee and a dream today.  She thinks she's hilarious.


Here's what we've been up to lately...

All this month we've been daily adding to our Thankful Tree.  It's been funny and enlightening to see what the kids want to add and also what they think Violet would add if she could talk.  I keep using language like, "We have so many things to be thankful for," and "How lucky we are!"  It's time to gear up for holiday consumption overload - so we've also been talking about how commercials and magazines try to get us to buy things that we don't need.  Grey has been randomly announcing during commercials on tv, "They want us to buy that truck, but we already have a car so we don't need it."  The fight of consumerism is on!  haha



We've been adjusting to basketball season , as this was the first official week of practice.  That means B goes to work all day, stops in to give us all a hug&kiss in the late afternoon and then runs to practice to get back in time to give everyone a good night kiss.  We all know that time is limited, so it seems like it forces us to really give quality in the moments we get it - isn't time funny like that?

Basketball season basically looks a lot like this at our house:



(Can I also add that I love basketball season because I can see so fiercely the passion that B has for basketball and his players in his face and the way he talks.  Seriously, obsessed with Coach Studer).

#tbt to circa 2001 when Brandon scored his first 1000 points as a sophomore in high school
I started teaching Catechism two weeks ago and I'm really loving it.  It's like a nice step back into a (sort-of) classroom and working with not my own kids.  I'm teaching fifth grade and it's been refreshing to spend time with kids that can ask questions and comprehend bigger ideas- but are still little enough to want to play and do crafts.  I'm really happy to have that hour and a half on Sunday morning to myself being a teacher - it's a nice change of pace from all the rest of my normal with my own three kids hanging off my limbs asking for new sippy cups of water.

entertainment with scotch tape.  Pig Noses.

Also, our little Gemmi bear is still in full-throttle and I have to repeat myself twenty times a day to tell her to, "Please find a nicer way to talk Gemma Rose."  She is very into yell-talking and telling us all what to do with the bratty voice of a tweenager.  She also lamented to me yesterday, "I don't like people."  ...nice.  Every single night when we pray and say thank you for the things we have in our life, Gemma consistently says thank you for both "the playground," and "the ocean."


Grey is a huge helper and very, very patient with both of his sisters.  Honestly, 80% of the time I feel so insanely blessed that this kind, generous,sweet boy is my son and the big brother to our girls.  He reads to them and shares and helps them when they need it, and suggests games they can play together.  Honestly, he is precious and makes me so proud.

And then there is the other part of the day that is filled with insane boy mania:  running. jumping, slamming into things, pretending everything is a weapon, wrestling, tackling, attempting to fly off of things, fake fart noises, talking about butts/poop/throw up, burping, messes everywhere.  Just so much roughness.  I think that's something I'll never quite understand about boys; such jagged, rough edges but such a soft inner core.  The dichotomy of it blows my freaking mind.


Violet continues to be an absolute angel (save last night) and astonishes us and everyone with what a good baby she is.  Thank goodness she wasn't our first - we'd have very skewed views of what normal babies act like.  She is such a pleasant little thing when she's awake, but spends most of her days blissfully sleeping.  No amount of Studer Zoo Crew general loudness can disturb her slumber.  It's the stuff of miracles.

When I wake her up to feed her (for real, she sleeps right through feeding schedules), she lets her eyes get adjusted and the moment she recognizes my face, she gets the sweetest, biggest toothless smile on her face.  My cup runneth over every.single.time.


We've been trying out lots of new recipes over the past few weeks for some reason (thank you pinterest) and Grey has been hesitant to try anything that looks remotely different than lunchmeat sandwiches or pizza.  So I tried blindfolding him at dinner to try new foods.  It works for a solid two bites and then he takes it off and decides he doesn't like it again.  While Gemmi digs right in and eats anything you put in front of her including a bite from everyone else's plates. She's our resident seagull.


Here are some of our (minus picky-eater Greyson) recent favorites:
Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta
Baked Tacos
Crumb-topped Chicken Supreme Casserole

For my parents' wedding anniversary - my sisters and I pitched in to get new professional pictures of our family taken by the wonderful Carissa McClellan.  We spent a very (very!) chilly afternoon outside snapping beautiful photos.  Is it too much to order wallpaper in these photos? J.Crew - feel free to reach out to us for modeling in your next catalog....hahah, but seriously...why does natural light, pinterest-suggested color pops, and really awesome photographers with really good cameras make peeps look so fresh?








And then after our group picture - THIS HAPPENED!!


Kevin waited until all the rest of us had left and when the photographer asked if they had any other couple poses they wanted to do, he said, "I have an idea" and.got.down.on.his.knee.and.proposed.

gah.

And now my baby sister IS GETTING MARRIED!!!!  I can't even properly post about this right now because I'm still processing and gushing over this.  Expect a full update when I am no longer hyperventilating.

I was in the parking lot, actually sitting in the truck nursing Violet when Tash came to tell me.  She was fake handing treats for the kids to me (really actually trying to stick her new engagement ring in front of my eyes) and like a total airhead I kept swatting her hand out of my face.  I think at one point, I was even like, "Tash, move your hand."  lololololololol.  finally she blatantly stuck her hand directly into my eyeball and I screamed, "Whaaaaaaaaaat?!!" all the while, Violet is happily drinking along.  hahahahha.  #momprobs

And then I repeated over and over the rest of the evening, "My baby sister is getting married!"


Thanks for hanging around - I'm hoping to get back into the swing of normal here now that the Rotten Eight is over!  Feel free to toast a glass of wine with me tonight over this fact!

(This post brought to you in large part by Violet's nap and SpyKids on the iPad.)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Moms! They're just like celebrities!

Moms may live out of the spotlight (like waaaaaay out of the spotlight), but they have a lot of experience living the glamorous perks of celebridom in so many ways.  In fact, some would say, they're just like celebrities!


Moms usually manage multiple projects at a time.
Just like celebrities who act, direct, and run their own clothing lines simultaneously - Moms are also balancing several ventures at once.  Moms are raising kids, taking care of households, holding down full-time or part-time jobs, writing blogs, participating in school board meetings, leading PTOs, fundraising for the peewee football teams, scheduling car pools, researching healthy toddler lunch options, and orchestrating elaborate Elf on the Shelf scenes....nightly...without an assistant.



People are always following them around. 
Sure, by people, I mean a gaggle of tiny humans, but they are like tiny shadows stepping on Mom's heels all day. They're following Moms up the steps, through the supermarket aisles, and even opening shower curtains unannounced!  Moms are constantly surrounded by an entourage - sometimes the company is welcomed; a great way to make an entrance; no chance people aren't noticing us!  But occasionally, Moms would love a little privacy...I mean can a girl get a closed bathroom door around here or what?


They receive unsolicited perks, just for being Moms!
Free cheese slice at the deli counter, hello!  Moms occasionally see undeserved benefits just for being Moms in the presence of their children. Grocery carts returned in the parking lots, doors held while Moms struggle with car seats and hand holding, line skipping in the bathroom for small kids who can't hold it, and lots of extra napkins and clean, non-dropped silverware at restaurants (like an excessive amount).  The best perks of all come in the form of compliments, "You have a beautiful family,"  "Your kids are so polite,"  "Hang in there, Momma, you're doing a great job."



They receive unwarranted criticism from people who don't know them.
Moms regularly get the unwelcome and generally unnecessary negative attention too, usually described as "advice" from strangers.  "You know, my kids acted like that too until I _______________ (gave them more attention/less attention, removed/added something to their diet, put them in school/took them out of school, etc)."  "I never let my kids (eat that, talk like that, play with that, do that...)."

...Mom's are all like, 'Mind your own business please- you don't know me and my struggles.'  And strangers be all like, 'if you didn't want the attention, maybe you shouldn't have had the kids.'  And Moms be like, "that makes no sense."


Personal hairstylists and make-up artists
There is no shortage of people who are eager to help Moms look their best, these people even live in-house for 24 hour service.  Their methods and visions are generally a little unorthodox, and they're always happy to experiment with non-traditional tools (read:  markers, paint, and temporary tattoos).  But their ambition and persistence are unparalleled in the fashion industry.


They regularly receive rare and priceless gifts.  
These gifts are displayed in prominent areas of the Mom's homes; including refrigerator doors, kitchen sink windowsills, and featured picture frames.  These gifts come in the form of fingerpaintings, odd collections found in pants pockets, short-stemmed flowers of the garden poaching variety, front row seats to impromptu dance shows, surprise smiles on the face of an infant, and other regalia delivered with warm smiles and a "look what I got for you Mum! Don't you love it?"




They experience a time in their life in which their bed is like a revolving door.
There is just no telling who Moms will wake up to in the morning - sometimes they aren't even aware of when that person got into their bed.  It's not uncommon for a Mom to wake up to multiple people in her bed, all of whom are invading her personal space and were never formally invited in the first place.  All the while, Moms are feeling both ashamed and loving all the attention.  Ashamed because they know they should really try harder to commit to children that sleep in their own beds.  Yet simultaneously comforted in the fact that this stage of them wanting to be so near their Mom is terrifyingly short-lived and it's actually kind of wonderful.


There is some inside person that is always making their personal business everyone's business.
Moms are not unfamiliar with the moments in which they are in a crowded room filled with people they may or may not know, when someone in their entourage announces, "Mumma said..." followed by something she mentioned quietly to her spouse behind a close door in a moment of shame.  It generally includes gossip and/or a curse word.


Their late night parties can get out of control.
And by late, we mean late enough that sometimes Moms consider just putting on some coffee and calling it a morning.  Moms are up long into the night fighting off closet monsters, occupying infants who confuse night and day, rubbing backs, cleaning up messes(of the urine or vomit nature), donating life sustaining nutrients(of the breastmilk nature), and making mental checklists of both real (upcoming holiday plans) and unreal (unlikely threats to children's well-being) varieties.



They seem to always be in the company of the most beautiful people.
A Mom will be the first to tell you, that no one is more beautiful than the people they keep company with.  Perfect skin, long eyelashes, great smiles, and hair that looks good even with bedhead...granted though, Moms can be a little biased.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Mom Next Door Series: Stacey R


I am so happy to bring today's Mom Next Door Interview to you from my dear friend Stacey.  Stacey and I met through work where she eventually became my boss (because she's amazing) and was one of the people that helped me transition smoothly and confidently into full time sahmhood.  I was so nervous to tell Stacey that I was leaving work and whether or not she meant to - her words of support, encouragement, and understanding about taking a break from the world of grown ups and move to the land of chaos and children (hah) helped me so much.  (thanks for that Stacey).  

I have always admired Stacey as she is resilient, honest, and a dedicated friend, colleague, and above all Mom to her three kids.  Please take a few minutes to read today about Stacey and be inspired as I always am by her graceful march through all of life's beautiful and unfair moments.

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Who are you? I am a 45 year old, full-time working Mom who lives in Murrieta, CA with three amazing kids and one slightly crazy cat. My oldest daughter is 14 going on 18, my son is 13, and my youngest daughter is 11. Some of the details in the previous sentences may explain why I have no blog, website or anything other than Facebook!


What do you do for work? I work as a Director of Client Program Management for Scantron. I am fortunate to work from my home as a remote employee and travel just often enough to enjoy a night or two in a quiet hotel room. I consider myself very blessed to honestly say I love what I do and the people with whom I work.

How do you unwind ore re-charge?  Being a San Diego native, the beach is definitely my happy place. The sound, smell and sight of the ocean relaxes and rejuvenates me. Spa treatments are good too!



What do you feel like you are really good at as a mom?  I would say one thing I’m good at is keeping a sense of humor – you've got to be able to laugh at yourself and your kids too and enjoy the lighter moments in life.



What do you feel like you wish you were better at being a mom?  I can do a better job teaching and modelling the value of exercise as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. I’m afraid what I’ve taught my children is it’s easier and faster to drive somewhere than to walk somewhere. When I suggest we go for a walk, it might take a few minutes to persuade them to come along just for the exercise and fresh air without needing a particular destination. Regardless, one is a swimmer and one is in martial arts so it’s not too late to change!


Which chore is your least favorite?  Taking out the trash. I used to somewhat joke with my late husband that it is the man’s job to take out the trash. Now, my son fills the much-needed and appreciated job of trashman in our house.


What is the one "Mom Tip or Trick" that you can share that has made your life easier somehow?  Teaching my kiddos age-appropriate levels of independence and self-sufficiency. For example, all three of my children have been packing their own school lunch since they were in Kindergarten or 1st grade. I would make sure we had a variety of healthy and fairly easy items to pack in a lunch, and they would make their own selections. I can’t think of one time when they complained about their lunch because they made it!


What has become (at least for now) your parenting mantra or guiding principle?  Life isn't fair. Some things are beyond our control, not what we expect or want, but it’s often times in our best interest to adjust and keep going. I encourage my children to focus on what is in their control and think about how their behavior or attitude affects a situation. 

  

Who are the moms you look up to?
1. My neighbor, Amy, who is about to have her seventh child. I don’t know how she does it all.
2. My friend, Jen, who willingly chose single motherhood. I didn't sign up to be a single mom, but she did, and I admire her for that.
3. My friend, Vanessa, who has adopted two beautiful children when she and her husband struggled with fertility. From her stories, I’ve learned that strangers can inadvertently be rude or even cruel to adoptive parents, but she has a relaxed demeanor, not letting others’ comments get to her.


What are the small joys of being a Mom that you treasure most right now?  I really treasure the one-on-one time I have with each child. Sometimes these opportunities come in small increments of time, but whether it’s a few minutes or a few hours, I love having time to talk and connect with each child individually. One piece of advice I remember being given early on in motherhood was to foster an environment where your children want to talk with you because they know you will really listen. Start this when they are young and it’s more natural for them to talk about ALL kinds of things, and it will continue through the teen years when you want them to talk with you most.

Monday, November 10, 2014

the spookiest kids of all

So, first things first - I have sat down to work on this post multiple times and one of my little someones has inevitably needed me at that.precise.moment for some dire need (ie. getting them a napkin and cleaning up the blueberry muffin they smashed into the floor...) Perhaps if I could just get nursing completely hands free - that would really up my posting - but alas, I just cannot figure that one out.  

In any case, we are doing well over here - moving towards the end of the rotten first eight weeks of newborn land (only two weeks to go!) and we are getting into a somewhat groove of a party of five.  And to kick off our new family status - we got to celebrate the spookiest holiday of the year.  


In the beginning of the month, the kids brought home pumpkins after enjoying hayrides, corn mazes, and pumpkin patches with their grandparents (thank you!) So, no pumpkin patch for us this year (oops!) but we did carve out some time (heh; cheesy pun) for some jack-o-lantern fun - pumpkin guts and all. 


We prefer to minimize mess by having the kids carve pumpkins topless - HAH.  Efficient Mum or Lazy Mum...it's such a thin rope to walk.    


After a few weeks of admiring his giant pumpkin which Greyson named "Big Jack," he was eager to carve out the same face in this year's favorite Halloween book:  The Spookiest Jack-o'-Lantern Ever!.  Brandon helped him, but he got to do some real life carving himself this year and was so proud.  Big Jack was the piece de resistance to our porch Halloween decor this year!


We also held our annual kid Halloween party at our house - it was our third annual this year!  I made a little paper chain countdown for the kids at the start of the week and by Friday morning when throwing the last chain in the garbage at 7am, I spent the rest of the day attempting to explain how time works and that our party did not start until dinner.  It was a long day.  

But f.i.n.a.l.l.y. Grey, Gem, and Violet donned their costumes; a skeleton, ghost, and ladybug respectively, and our friends arrived! It was  low key year, which was perfect but we were lucky to get to jump in leaves this year as it has been our first year with both enough daylight and warmth to go outside.



We played Pin the Heart on the Skeleton, iced cupcakes, played Flashlight Freeze Dance, and ate tons of pizza and cheetos (as per usual).  This year was so fun because the kids were all at the age where they didn't even really want any parental-led activities.  So we all sat around the dining room table chatting while they ran around the house and screamed like wild things.



Little Miss Violet slept the entire party and then woke up at the end to eat and start her own party.  Brandon, Lettie, and I spent our Friday night snuggling on the couch while the two bigger kids fell asleep early from all the playing and cheeto consumption.


Keeping with tradition, we headed to my parents' house for trick-or-treat night and had so much fun.  Grey was out-of-his-mind excited to visit each house and Gem was thrilled to get her hands on copious amounts of sugar - especially gum.  Good Lord, that girl and gum.




Violet was slightly less than thrilled - HAH - and she hung back with my parents to hand out treats to other kids.  B, Uch, and I walked through the neighborhood with our two little goblins laughing about how excited they were and also at what a bizarre national tradition this is - going door to door to get goodies.  It's hilarious and amazing. 

Brandon and I dressed up in whatever we could throw together before loading up three overly excited kids into the truck to head to my parents.  So, we spent the evening dressed as a Hunter and Fortune Teller.  Again, overly efficient or lazy...it's just such a hard call.




After just enough trick-or-treating to please them but keep them (mostly) walking on their own two feet- we headed back to my parents' house to devour 98% of the candy within a 30 minute timeframe.  Hey, whatever, man - it's a holiday.



The very next evening, we stopped to visit with Mimi and unbeknownst to us - it was trick-or-treating in her neighborhood.  So, the ever creative - Mimi whipped up some facepaint from her make-up and the kids hit the streets again, this time with their cousin, to score more bags of chocolate and sugar.  It was like the best two days ever.



We also tried to sprinkle in some kindness to our holiday.  We painted Teal Pumpkins to leave at Abba's house to let the trick-or-treaters that we had non-food options for treats (spooky tattoos). And we "Reverse Trick-or-Treated" to our neighbors, meaning we dropped off treat bags of candy and a Halloween craft that we made to them.



I am sufficiently Halloween'ed out this year and I'm joyfully moving on to my second favorite holiday of the year!  Although we do have a tiny hiccup that we haven't yet smoothed out...As the kids were helping me put Halloween decorations away, Grey told me that we forgot to put Big Jack in the box for the attic.  I explained that Big Jack couldn't get packed up for next year but that we'd find a good place for him in the woods and he will be food for the deer and other animals.  Then...

Grey (sobbing):  I don't want to put Big Jack in the woods!  I love him.
Mum:  I know Buddy, but pumpkins get rotten after awhile - we can't keep him, he will fall apart.
Grey (more sobbing):  I don't think the animals will eat him!  He's too scary, Mum!  They'll be too afraid of him.
Mum:  He is pretty spooky, but I think the animals will be brave.
Grey:  (continued sobbing):  I need your phone, I want to take his picture first.  I need to say goodbye to Big Jack.  He's my friend

After Grey hugged, patted, whispered to, and used my phone as a camera - he finally came back in and announced that he was in fact not getting rid of Big Jack and he's going to tell Daddy that too.  Big Jack continues to sit on our porch slowly rotting away looking ever more creepy as days pass.

Also, my camera roll looked like this: