Wednesday, December 29, 2010

planning ahead

We have lots of things to do.  Some are fun, some are not.  With 4 children in tow, planning ahead is essential.  3 times in the past 2 days, planning has saved me/us tons of time.

#3 and I had to have some blood drawn.  I found the lab online and they had a link for "make an appointment".  Well, duh, I clicked to make an appointment for both of us.  This was a pediatric savvy lab, which we needed.  I wasn't sure how to note that we both weren't ped patients, but the site took care of it.  We had 2 appointments booked, back to back.  When we showed up for our appointment, the waiting room was full.  There was only 1 person working and a room full of semi-patient people.  One woman was saying to another how she drove over 2 hours to come to this lab.  Who on earth drives 2 hours somewhere without an appointment?  How could there be a room full of people without appointments?  It made me nervous to think others had appointments and we would have to wait a long time.  After the 1 worker finished with a very long appointment and started to help the next, I went up to ask what our timing would be.  Having us hang out in the waiting room was not optimal.   If we needed to come back, it might be best.  She said since we had an appointment she'd see us next.  Boom, we were out of there, complete, in 10 minutes; only 15 minutes past our second appointment time.

The next day took us to a joint family playdate at a trampoline place.  Luckily our friend made reservations because they were booked solid for 6 hours.  They wouldn't even budge for an extra part of a group.  Yikes, who would bring their kids to a kid place that was sooo new and sooo popular without making a reservation?  Talk about setting them up for disappointment.

Plan ahead, plan ahead, plan ahead.  I can't say it enough because without it, it has the potential for disaster.

Our last appointment was at a local nail salon.  They are hard enough to book with for 1 adult appointment, let alone adding 3 little girl manis into the mix.  I must say that this place is not good about honoring appointments, but I feel without one I would have no room for questioning them.  Even though I had to wait, they worked nicely on each of my girls with each of their requests.  I think I even scored a free neck massage for being so patient.

In my head, the word patient does not describe me well.  I get irritated when people are trying to use the customer service line as a personal check-out just because they returned a bottle.  Part of it is the process of the store, but the other part makes me irritated when people are taking advantage at the expense of my time and patience.  Return your bottles on your way in and then go about your business and shop and check out like a normal person, please.

Having a larger than normal brood, I feel it is my duty to minimally disrupt those around us when we have to wait.  It may mean bringing activities, snacks or coming up with ad-hoc games.  Regardless, if someone gets antsy, I have to minimize the drama to save everyone around us.  For the most part, my guys are good in public.  They are way better with their choices and pestering than at home.  I think I'll take the credit and say it is because I try to anticipate problems and plan ahead.  When it goes wrong, I'll blame it on those that don't plan accordingly....or just run for the hills and regroup.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


No, this the title "piercing" doesn't refer to my daughters' blue eyes!  It has to do with ear piercing.  If I had my way, my girls, as babies would have had their ears pierced.  Hubby didn't see things the same way.  He felt they should be old enough to choose.  Since he allowed me to be the naysayer for our son playing football, I'd let him have this one.  Until this year, that is.

#2 (daughter #1) was interested in the concept at age 6, but decided to wait until she was 7, then 8.  #3 always thought this sounded like a great idea and didn't want to wait until she was 8.  #4 has been fascinated with "earrings", the sticky pretend type since she was 2.  She never understood why they didn't stay on her ears and got stuck in her hair within 15 minutes.  I felt this was as close to a consensus as we would get among the girls and took the opportunity to move forward with the idea with hubby.

I am not stranger to piercing.  My most current piercing, 5 years ago, was a nose piercing.  I was wanting to switch it from a stud to a loop for a while.  I was also most impressed with the meticulous nature of where I had it done.  Body Manipulations pierces with needles, is very careful in their placement and more sanitary than a hospital.  This is where our journey would take us.  Their website had even been updated with a kids tab explaining the necessary documents to prove they were my kids and the process.

So, on a rainy Sunday, after a piano recital, the girls and I trekked to the city.  #4 decided she wanted to go first.  #3 would go second.  #2 was reluctant and wasn't sure if she would even have it done at all.  She was worried it would ruin her tomboy image and that the boys would laugh at her.  I reminded her that this wasn't permanent and she didn't have to have it done if she didn't want.  She could go last and changer her mind at any time.  I also decided to have a 4th piercing in my left ear and along with switching the nose piercing from a stud to a hoop, add a small stud next to it.

Friends I told of our intent weighed in with input.  One set had a daughter that wanted to have them now, dad said 10 and mom said 9.  I've seen it tied to behavior, by having it needed to be earned.  I already misused food as motivation and didn't want to start with piercings.  I think my mom was going to make me wait until I was 13 or 16, but when we were in Holland for a summer (where my dad was working), she had my ears pierced.  I have no idea what made her changer her mind, but just remember that is when it was done.  I also don't really remember when my 2nd set was done and my 3rd on my left ear.  My last confirmation of my plan was when we met new friends with 2 daughters who had their ears pierced at the same place I wanted to take my group to.  Other than saying no babies or marriage until after college, and legal year marks (16 to drive, 18 to vote, etc...), I 'm not one for birthday deadlines.  I had no expectations for marriage by a certain date or babies by another.  Life will impose its own plan as we go along.

For me, it was always a personal decision.  I had an image in my mind of my piercings and how they would look on me.  It was spurred by seeing piercings I liked on friends and peer imaging from there.  It was similar to haircuts and color.  Nothing impulsive, all very thought out.  Some people keep their hair the same for years, I am not one of them.  Some color their hair to look different, I have been known to add color.  To me piercings are just another extension of self-expression.  If my girls, and even boy for that matter wanted to pierce their ears, I was okay with it.  Since this was their choice, hubby had to be okay with it too.  And, at this point I got to pick the place and set the limits.

#2 (girl #1) was starting to try to negotiate.  If I don't like them, and take them out, can I get the again in a couple of months?  "No," I said, "It would be a couple of years before I'd let you do it again."  All the girls watched as Jamison pierced my nose and ear.  #3 decided to go next.  #2 made her decision and went after her.  #4 was busy being distracted by my phone.  She went last.  #3 left the area when #4 was being pierced because she was afraid she'd have to hear her sister cry.  Both older girls sat straight, didn't flinch or utter a peep.  #4 was a bit too wiggly and had to recline on the table to keep still.  She's just a wiggly sort of girl, and this was no exception.  She said, "ow," which is what I think the other girls were thinking, but got the job done.

At the end of 2 hours or so, #2 had tiny tiny blue gem studs.  #3 went for tiny blue gem studs and #4 went for stainless hoops.  The studs are the coolest things.  They are titanium posts mounted to a small ball.  The ball is the back and is put in the hole from the back.  The gem inserts and snaps into the post.  No pokey posts scratching necks behind these ears.  No earring backs to be lost.  The hoops are cool too.  Small for an adult, perfectly sized for a 4 1/2 year old.  Gone are the days of neosporin or  hydrogen peroxide.  No twisting either.  Only touching them when you wash them with anti-microbial soap and warm sea-salt soaks twice a day.  That's it.

Our timing was planned because it was no longer soccer season and was before baseball season.  It was not beach season and only one girl was currently in swim lessons.  So far so good.  Only a few snags here and there.  A bit of hair caught every now and again.  We just have to make it to February and then we should be all set.  They look awful cute and are so proud.  It worked for our family.  Hubby/Daddy even likes them and mine.  And, No, I am not changing my mind on football for our son.  Again, it's a family decision.  

Friday, November 19, 2010

sweet charity

How, what, when and where is charity taught?

Our school just had a book fair fundraiser that held a raffle.  2 of my kids won something.  This made me think, does this teach them anything about charity?  I really though of it more as gambling, but all the proceeds go to the school library, so isn't it charitable to support the library?  The support is probably more effective than buying books that I could get for a fraction online.  For some reason, in my mind, I think buying books and the school making money off of it is more charitable.  The more I write about it, the more convoluted it seems.  As the kids throw money at the raffle and deposit their tickets into the jar, I remind them that they could just be losing their money.  But, since it's helping the library, it really isn't lost, is it?

When we remember to dole out allowance, 1/3 goes to savings, 1/3 wallet and 1/3 charity.  The charity amount goes into tzedakah boxes the kids made at Sunday school.  It accumulates until we decide as a family how we want to share it.

Last year our school did pennies for peace for Haiti.  We had been collecting in out individual boxes at home for a while.  This spurred the question in my mind if school should be promoting donations or not.  What if we made different choices as a family?  Would my kids be treated differently for not participating at school?  Where was the button to wear saying "I gave at home"?  What this did do was give us the opportunity to discuss with the kids the choices we have with charities.  We explained that you did not have to give to the school program if you chose to do something different at home, or you could do both.  Since everyone's tzedakah is separate, it enabled each kid to make their own decisions.

Everyone decided to go the home route.  But, as the week wore on, some of the kids started to feel the tug towards the school charity option.  #3 decided to not just take her pennies, but take her whole $47 and give it at school for pennies for peace.  She was so proud, and we were proud of her.  She felt good about her donation.  She even got a letter of thanks from the principal.  I can't help wondering if her positive feelings were more about competition, in beating out the amount of most other students?  Is this okay?  It's still charity right?

#1 chose to give his money to a wildlife foundation.  He's always had a soft spot for nature.  For his gracious donation, he was to receive stickers, magazines and a stuffed animal.  This managed to put him on the mailing list for every "ask" this company made.  He did get address labels and magazines, but didn't get the stuffie.  Months later, I got around to calling and he finally got the little leopard or jaguar or whatever it was.  Is giving about receiving stuff in return?

#2 went the home route and we chose a charity together.

The kids all bring a little bit to Sunday school each week for class tzedakah.  I guess I expect it there, more than I would in regular school.  The schools feel it needs to be reinforced there because not everyone does it at home and it is an important lesson to learn.  I am not against charity, and am conflicted on how I feel about it in the school setting.

I think the messages get confusing since so much other asking happens at school.  Unfortunately, schools need donations too.  How does on differentiate the needs of art foundations, school PTAs, the garden, scouting, community needs and the needy people in our area and far away?  Bring a toy, book, money, jacket, school supplies and so on.  What if we are struggling in our own life?  What if we are not struggling, but make other choices.  Should we feel judged?  Are people judging us?  Do you judge others?  I honestly can say I judge others, but not about charity.

So, giving is important.  The context should be set at home.  Kids that exhibit charitable actions melt my heart.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Two weeks until Hanukkah and I am being besieged by my 10 year old for electronics.  We are a household without hook-up-to-the-t.v. type of games.  No X-box, Play Station (1, 2 or 3), Wii, not even Atari.  Do my kids even need another distraction?

The kids only had use of an old ipod until #1 turned nine.  Then he got an ipod touch.  Prior to that there was no ds or any other game distractions.  We decided to consider the ipod or ds, feeling the time was right.  The ds seemed cool because it had lots of learning options.  It also had lots of parts and was unlike anything we had before.  So, the touch we went.  This would enable him to have his own music sorts and games.

We followed that up with one for #2 when she turned eight.  She's very thrifty and had saved enough cash to buy her own.  She was ready.  We're all under the same account, so can share games and music.  #1 doesn't like to share.

#3 just turned seven.  She wants one so bad.  When she was in the hospital for over a week, I wanted one for her.  We just shared my phone.  So much so, she knows my password.  I pass locked my phone so the kids couldn't just grab and go.  Even though I have oodles of games, I still want control.  Hmm, I wonder where #1 gets it.  #3 is also working to increase her fluency in reading.  She does not need another distraction.

All of my kids are t.v. zombies.  If a screen is on, they are glued to it and cannot tear away.  When they are allowed to play games on the computer, it is the same thing.  When I let the little 2 play on my phone, I have to pry it away from them.

We have friends who have imposed school-year rules of no screens during the week.  I wish we had that in place.  We have a no t.v. during the week rule and no ipod before school or at the table rule.  That's better than nothing I guess.

In polling friends, many sing the praises of the Wii.  "It gives them coordination", "we use it as a family", "there are some educational components to it", and so on.  I am not sure this is the type of "family time" we need.  We should be doing more family reading, family board games and other activities.  We already don't have enough time in the week to get our family things done.

I am very hesitant to add something for my kids to be relegated to the garage to use.  On the other hand, if it's 2 or more people games, this could add to the kid bonding we are lacking.  But what if only 2 people can play at a time?  There are 4 kids in this house!  What?  There are games for 4?  They require more parts that cost more money, but it can be done.  Ugh.

Maybe we can survive with playing it at friends' houses for now.  I just don't feel like we're ready for this.  I'm also not sure I can handle the constant haranguing about it.  Now on to deal with the requests for air-soft guns and a trip to Hawaii....

Friday, October 22, 2010

Yelling "GOOD JOB"

I tell you the following in hopes that you will not judge me.  Rather, I'd love to hear your tips and secrets on how you manage.  I have to be honest about why I'm writing this post.  We have a lot going on in our household right now.  This, I'm able to coordinate and schedule, but one of the downsides is that I get snappy with my kids.    I came across a couple of other posts on blogs I follow that have related topics.

The first is how to stop yelling by Amy Wilson.  It chronicles a week that she tried to not yell at her kids.  At the end she identifies when/why she yells.  It made me think of when/why I yell.  I am often multitasking and tired.  Not giving my kids my whole attention puts us in the precarious position of yelling at any moment.  My kids are also very busy with their schedules.  This makes them tired and they tend to zone out and be unresponsive which makes me raise my voice to get their attention.  Why, when the phone rings do all of my children need my help and attention?  Why do they feel the need to show off when any visitor (adult or child) graces our doorstep?  Are they putting me in the position to yell, or is it me?

I realize from this blog post Unpacking praise by Chris White that my kids have been conditioned to not listen to me.  With the combination of raised voices to get their attention and praise for what they do, my kids don't hear me.  This makes me raise my voice more or even throw a "parent tantrum".  Neither of which is very helpful in modeling behavior of how I want my kids to behave.

#1 just asked me why I am on the computer or talking on the phone so much.  I guess I find it an escape. We've been smashed into funky living conditions for the last 4 months.  Normally a small house, we have even less space due to a much needed remodel.  I have nowhere to escape to, and probably use the computer as such.  It doesn't make it right.  Last year, I committed to myself that I would not go on the computer from when the kids got home from school to when they went to bed.  This was the right decision, but I fell off that train at some point.   I probably wasn't even on the train long enough to assess its benefits.  While I'm at it, I should go on an iPhone diet too.

I've already made #1 cry twice this week.  Yikes.  Even when I am not yelling, he hears me as yelling.  Saying, "I am not yelling" doesn't help.  It is probably in how I say whatever it is I'm saying.  Also, having 4 kids adds challenges.  To be heard, most of us talk over the others to get our point across.  The kids all want, need and deserve attention.  I'd love for it to be good attention that I give them.  They rely on each other a bit, but compete more than they support each other.

I've tried counting without emotion.  1-2-3.  Now I count backward from 5 to 1.  But, when I get to 1, what happens?  I yell consequences which are threats.  Oops, there's that emotion again.  I am pretty good with following through, but who's happy then?  No one.  Our communication should be more than consequences.  It should really be about connecting with each other and teaching through example.  I see how my kids treat each other and wonder if that is how they see me treat them?  I hope not.  Shouldn't emotion be involved?  Isn't that where compassion and empathy come from?  There are good emotions aren't there?

I am hoping it is not too late to recover from my mis-steps.  Now, if someone can just tell my hormones to stay out of the equation, we'd all be better off.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

my Volunteer state

For those of you interested in following my blogs, you can click the follow button.  It's off to the right down a bit.  That way you'll know when I have a new riveting post.  I personally don't "follow" blogs, but use Google Reader.  I'm treated to a snippet when updates happen.  Either way, it's easier than checking back and being disappointed that I've gotten lazy and haven't posted for a while.

Let me start this by saying that I have 11 hours a week with no children around me.  This is my time to do things for me.  Am I getting mani-pedis?  Shopping?  Lunching?  Most often, not.  I choose to volunteer in my kids' classes.  I say choose because it is a choice.  There are so many options at our school, like most I'm sure, to help.  There's the PTA (book fairs, harvest fests, hot lunch, and so on), art foundation, contributing money, helping in the class, garden, coordinating safe riding/walking to school, room parenting, picnics and so on.  There really is something for everyone.

My most favorite thing is to help in the class.  When #1 was in kindergarten, I helped in the library.  This was a great place to see the kids and their personalities.  It was also a nice place to start.  One reason was because they all carry around a card (placeholder) with their name on it.  Boy it was hard getting to know 20 new kids.  I also helped in the class at "centers" or "jobs".  This was diverse and also enabled me to see how the teacher operated.  It gave me cues on how to communicate with them and the kids and also a preview of the work they were focusing on.  Yes, I helped him with his homework, but now I knew the purpose of the work.

The next year I got to help in centers again.  It was an amazing experience as well.  It gave me such insight into the kids in the class and their dynamics.  It also helped me forge a relationship with the teacher.  I feel lucky because we have had this teacher 3 times.  This is 2 times I didn't have to start new relationships.  That is a big deal when there is the potential for having to learn 3 new teachers a year.  One other opportunity was driving on field trips.  Wow.  I can't even remember how many times I've been to the Lawrence Hall of Science.  It's made me get a membership there because of their amazing kid programs.  Slide Ranch was phenomenal and I then sent my kids to summer camp there for the next 2 years.  So, I've gotten to know my kids' teachers, know their peers and seek out enrichment programming for summers.  I've also gotten to see what level of skills the standards are held to and where we need to work more at home.  All this for 1-2 hours a week of my time.

2 years later I had 2 classes to volunteer in.  Yikes, how to split my time.  Luckily the teachers are so flexible.  I was lucky enough to get to help with writing assignments.  Boy, it really tells you a lot about a kid when you see what they write.  Amazing pieces of personality.  I love feeling connected to who my kids are in school with.  I am lucky enough to have #2 in the same class where I get to help with writing again this year.  This is what precipitated this post.  I can't imagine doing something else with my time.  I am blown away how fast time goes by.  It made me jump in for an extra "shift".

Each week is not perfect.  There are conflicts, kids who cry, subjects that are hard to learn.  One week I had to read from Charlotte's web.  Phew, I got to stop just before she died.    I would hate to cry in front of 20 third graders.  I don't get my kids in my group each week.  That is okay.  I get to see them a lot besides school.  They are actually worse in my presence (especially on field trips).  I think the other kids like snippets of other parents too.

I can honestly say that my worst year, out of 6, in my kids' public school was the year I was not allowed to help in their classes.  It was the worst year for my kids too.  I had no idea who the kids were, what they were learning and lacked clear communication with the teachers.  It made me understand what I wanted to contribute to my kids' futures and how I could make a difference.  In 5 years, I only missed 1 field trip for #1.  It does get more complicated as I have more kids in the system.

Sadly, as the kids get into the upper grades, their need for parent volunteers diminishes.  I really don't understand this since there are more kids in the classes.  We increased our class size from 3rd to 4th grade by almost 1/3.  How can almost 10 more kids to 1 teacher ratio not need help?  I took what I could get and got to grade cursive books at the end of the year for about a month.  (Girls really do have better writing than boys.)  It enabled me to stay committed to helping #2 and #3 in their classes as I had in the past for #1.

I think the kids have 3 field trips to the Lawrence Hall of Science this year.  How can I complain?  Every year is a bit different.  I've been to Angel Island, Muir Woods, The SF Symphony, Academy of Science and more!  People travel the world to goto these places and I'm doing it in my "free" time?  One thing I'd like to say if teachers read this, don't send 4, 5 or 6 boys in a carpool together on a field trip.  It's just asking for trouble.  Nothing a round of "quiet game" and a few quarters couldn't handle, but I'm just sayin'...

So, I will continue to give up my free time to get so much more in return.  Thank you to those who make it possible.  My kids, their teachers and my hubby.  He's had to pinch hit for my commitments and has kid watched for me so I could go on field trips.  It's pretty funny to hear his recap of beading in kindergarten and seeing him try to remember who the kids were.  It takes a village and thank goodness I'm part of a great one.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

L'chaim-to your health

With our first runny nose/cold upon us I thought I'd put a post up about what we do to stay healthy.  First off, note that it is the child who sucks her thumb that has the cold.  I have found that my kids who suck/ed their thumb get more colds than my other kids.  Even with this, I feel that my family has less colds/illnesses than average.

What do we do?  I believe that less processed and more whole grain is better.  We do not use anti-bacterial soaps.  We do (well, really the kids do) drink whole milk.  We shop first at the farmers' market for meat, fruits and vegetables and have our milk delivered from a local organic dairy.  We believe that food that has touched less hands and miles will be fresher and have less problems.  Our meat is grass fed and so are our milk and eggs.  This means that the vitamin D that is from the sun is in our milk, butter, meat and eggs.  With the vitamin D in food we eat, we get vitamin D.  Yes, all of this food costs more.

We eliminated processed cereal.  Even whole grain that has been extruded into the cute shapes.  My kids miss this, but haven't gone hungry.  We initially switched to bagels and granola cereal and then to warm rice cereal that can be cooked in 6 minutes.  My original thinking was that less processed was healthier.  It has turned out to be cheaper too.

We also supplement with cod liver oil and elderberry.  In the past, I put one teaspoon of Nordic Naturals cod liver oil in juice and had my kids drink that.  It was the only way they received juice.  I was not very consistent with this, but tried.  The elderberry came in liquid format of Sambucol.  My girls all took a teaspoon of that very easily.  Because it is elderberry and it has the word "berry" in it, my anti-fruit/vegetable son refused.

What we do now is have the kids vitamins on the table.  I buy the chewy cod liver oil vitamins at Costco (32mg DHA/4mg EPA), of which my picky son will eat (only yellow ones though).  I also have Nordic Naturals in capsule format (375mg DHA/246mg EPA).  This brand was recommend to me by an anthrosophophic doctor we were seeing.  When #4 was 6 months old, she was very underweight and behind in motor skill development.  We put cod liver oil in everything she ate.  She now doesn't even notice its flavor in food. It has a high level of nutrients compared to the other brands (as you can see comparing the 2 different ones above) and is pretty pure in how it is made.  We've also switched to capsule format in our elderberry and chewables.  Gaia is the brand of capsules with 800mg of sambucus and Solaray for the chewables with 400mg of sambucus.  Elderberry/sambucus can be taken 2 a day and then up to four times a day if a cold is coming or sets in.

I now leave the vitamins on the table and the kids all serve themselves.  This takes mommy remembering out of the equation.  I have taken the Nordic Naturals capsules and can taste them after.  Yuck, but don't tell my kids.  I found Metagenics EPA-DHA Extra Strength.  They are enteric coated and smell like vanilla.  They have 400mg of DHA and 600mg of EPA with no nasty after-taste.

This isn't free, but I'd pay a bit for healthy kids.  It keeps us out of the doctor's office and in school.  It keeps me from feeling guilty when I want to take them out of school for fun things.  I will also say that we choose to not have the flu shot in our family.  Other than when I was pregnant with #1, none of us have had the flu (knock on wood or whatever will keep that statement true).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How and choices

There is rarely a day that goes by that I am not asked how I do it all and seem so calm.  As I mentioned in the schedules post, the calmness isn't in my head.  I am a consummate planner.  This is what makes my execution seem not so stressed.  I plan and plan in my head.  Ask my kids, I even yell.  I wish I didn't, but I do.

Recently I joined a conversation.  Rather, when I walked up and the conversation stopped.  The ladies were speaking about how frazzled they are with 2 kids and all there is to do.  They felt that they couldn't complain with me near because I have FOUR kids.  I say, that that isn't fair.  Everyone has the right to their perspective.  I will not judge anyone based on how many or few kids they have and what they have scheduled.  Well, I'll try not to, so continue on in your conversation.  I want to know how others get it done too.  I also am always looking for ways to help and be helped.

Not until a new friend invited my whole family over for dinner did I realize that other than family and family-like friends, no one has us over.  People don't usually ask us for play-dates either.  I think people are afraid of what it would look like if we reciprocated.  Really I think people are afraid to ask us to help them because they think we are burdened with 4 kids.  Well, here's the deal.  One more kid, or four more for that matter, don't make that much of a difference.  It actually helps sometimes because the kids have choices on who they can play with.  I just keep the freezer stocked with popsicles and redirect when necessary.  So, ask away.  Also, ask us for help in carpooling or food or shopping or whatever you might think of.  It's really our pleasure and helps us feel connected to our friends when we can help, plus I'm going there anyways.

Maybe someone can take my kid to a practice and I can take yours to a birthday party.  There are so many ways to help and be helped.  Yes, "it takes a village".  There is no way I could do half of what I do if I didn't group together with like-parents.  I rely on safety in numbers to get 2 of my kids to practices 3 times a week.  I rely on carpooling to get my littlest one to her soccer.  I pay for preschool to take my child so I can help in my other kids' classes.  I rely on t.v. to entertain #4 when she is home and I have to get stuff done.  I rely on her good nature in being the "schlepp-baby" running errands with me.

I know families that have two working parents and kids in school.  I can't even imagine how that works.  I worked up until I had 3 kids.  None of them were in school yet and there were NO outside activities on the calendar.  How does homework get done?  What about dinner?  What time does everyone go to bed?  How do you get yourself together in the morning?  I get to drop the kids off and come home and eat or do what needs to get done.  When does the laundry happen?  This all seems tougher to accomplish if you are not home.  Yes, I'm home, and busy, but stuff gets done.

I know families that are being faced with childhood illnesses that I wish did not exist.  I know they are asked "how do you do it?"  "how do you be a parent and fight bureaucracy and stay fit for public consumption?"  The answer is that they just do.  What are their other options?  Not have hope?  Not go to doctor appointments?  NO.  Obviously that is ridiculous.  I am sure there are days and times that they want Calgon to take them away.  We all do, but they deserve it more than I do.  Does this stop me from living my life?  No.  Does it make me feel guilty?  No.  It makes me take perspective and remember to give extra love and hugs to my kids.  It makes me remember to love my choices that I have the opportunity to make.

Each one of us has a life that we have chosen or been given the opportunity to live and execute to the best of our ability.  At the end of the day, we all do what we need to do to get by.  What?  My child needs therapy and tutoring?  What?  It is going to cost $300 a week that I already don't have?  Well, guess what, we made it happen.  There are usually choices.  We may not like the choices, but they are there.  Do I want to clean my own house?  No, but I cut my cleaners back to every other week to help cover other expenses.  Some people I know don't even have cleaners.  "Gasp!" It's a luxury item they cannot afford at this time.  I also cut out things that were helping me keep my sanity such as massages and acupuncture and shopping.  Overall, my health may not benefit, but I am usually more stressed about money than stress itself.  Again, it's a choice.

So, yes, sometimes we do not have a choice.  But, there usually is a choice within that.  Make it a good one and do the best you can.  It's what I do.  Oh yeah.  Don't forget, I couldn't do it without help and help comes in all different colors, shapes and sizes.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I had a great conversation on booster seats and buckling up tonight with a friend.  It reminded me that I wanted to post about it.  So, here we go....

Wow, I must have a pretty boring life if talking about booster seats is fun.  The key here is that it's important to me that my kids are safe.  What that looks like is different for every family.

I've read reports that say the recommended age to keep kids in boosters until they are 8, 80 pounds or 4 foot 9.  Wow, that means my kids should be in them still because 2 are under 8 and none are 80 pounds or 4 foot 9.  The recommendation was tried to put into law in place of age 6 or 60 pounds.  It never passed and I am glad about that.  Why does the state need to tell us every detail of what to do to keep my kids safe?  Do they not think I have common sense and can't think on my own?  I like recommendations to use as guidelines, not laws that don't take into account differences in situations.

When my oldest turned 6, our "western" pediatrician said he was old enough to go without a booster.  This is even though he was only 4 feet tall and 50 pounds.  I didn't feel comfortable with this recommendation.  I decided to wait it out until he was 60 pounds and tall enough to not be choked by the seat belt.  I have seen kids smaller than my 4 year-old that are "old enough" without boosters.  This makes me nervous, but they're not my kids.  I also see loose kids in cars that aren't buckled up, even in the front seat.  This seems negligent to me.

I have friends who have adjustable seat belts, so it was easier to move their kids out of boosters.  By adjusting the belt down in the car, it was properly fit to each child.  My cars aren't that coordinated, so my kids had to wait.  This was hard for them because many of their friends were out of boosters.

Now we're having the pleadings to ride in the front seat.  I think the law is 6 years old, but they tried to get it passed to 12.  Wiki says 10 and 70 pounds.  Some other site said 12.  If I wanted, I could call the CHP to get the real answer.  But, since in my mind the answer is 12, there is no need.  I like having my kids in the back for more than safety reasons.  I like my own space.  More than space though, I like them being safer.  This is a decision that each family needs to make on their own.  I will say that the peer pressure is annoying.  My kids nag at me because their friends are riding shotgun.  I pass no judgement on other families' choices, but will stick by what my husband and I agree on.

I probably moved my kids to boosters from 5-point harness car-seats earlier than most.  Does this make me a bad mom?  I don't think so.  Sure, with my first I kept him in longer.  As I started piling the kids in my car and wanting to hand down the cars-eats, I shifted them younger.  I made sure they didn't play with the buckles and kept it across them.  If they weren't able to do this, a 5-point harness made more sense.

Prior to that decision, there is the rule to keep kids rear facing until they are 1.  We kept to that rule pretty well.  We also followed the weight/height restrictions for their car seats.  This meant having to move them from the infant carrier to a rear facing 5-point harness seat.  I know many people who kept their kids in the infant carrier past the recommendations.  This in turn lessens the effectiveness of the seat which makes it less safe in my book.

As you can see, I don't always follow the rules.  Because I have 4 kids, I reuse my items longer than they should probably be.  Yes, technology on these items has improved.  I tried to buy effective seats for the value that were "rated" excellent.  This meant spending a bit to make this happen.  We also bought 2 sets of seats so both of our cars were able to accommodate all of our kids without the "oops, the booster is in the other car" situation.

We've done some traveling to Mexico.  My kids see us bending the car-seat rules there.  I guess we rationalize this because they are still safer than most kids who live where we go.  My kids aren't riding on top of vehicles or in the open backs of pick-up trucks.  They beg for it though.....

I will end this by stating that my recollection is riding in the back of our station wagon with no seat or seat belt (not always, but sometimes).  I also recall riding shotgun in my dad's VW Bug from a very early age and roaming in the motorhome while we were cruising down the highway on vacations.  I survived, but are drivers, roads and conditions different now?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


For me the word freedom means many different things.  Yesterday was the first day all 4 of my kids were in school for this school year.   I had the day to myself (I hadn't had one of those since last June).  It was also my husband's last day of work at his old firm.  Yesterday #1, in 5th grade, went to soccer practice with 8 friends and 1 mom, walking.  Today I heard the plan that #3, my 2nd grader was to walk to practice with 2 friends and no adult (maybe with a 4th grade older sister).  Am I ready for that much freedom?

I believe it depends on a child's maturity in how much freedom you give them.  Or rather how comfortable I am with letting them go.  #2 is very mature.  I've felt comfortable leaving her at taekwondo since she was in 1st grade.  The problem is that she's seen me be around for #1 most or all of his activities and she doesn't want to be on her own.  If #1 is left on his own at taekwondo, he tends to get into trouble.  Not so much when he's in class, but more when he isn't and is waiting.  It seems the waiting makes him forget how to behave.  He'll learn, right?  I've had to learn that "hovering" in class doesn't make my kids behave more, it makes them more anxious.  It takes away the power of their teacher to teach them if the kids are trying to please their parents the whole time.

My kids have gone to their taekwondo class without me a few times.  It's right next to their school, so it's a route they are all comfortable with.  We ride bikes, scooters, rip-sticks, etc... every day to school, so this isn't any different.  But it is.  Our neighbors go by themselves.  I have seen both of their mothers franticly look for their kids who haven't returned home in time.  Ugh, just when I thought I was ready to let them go on their own.

The same thing happened when I was just starting to let the bigger kids go ahead of me to and from school and "meet" me there.  A story came out that a stranger approached a girl, the same age as #2.  Why, every time I'm ready to take a step forward in independence for and from my kids do these situations arise?  Turns out the story was made up.  It did make me have the conversation with the kids about how and when to ask for help again, which isn't a bad thing.  I try to not attach a story to the "conversation" because the kids will just want the details and won't listen to the message.

Another issue is that we let #1, in 4th grade ride with friends to practice last year on his own.  Why is that an issue?  They did great and were able to get there safely without a grown up.  None of the kids even had a cell phone.  At the time, I felt unsure that that was the correct way to proceed.  I felt uncomfortable without a way to reach out and give a change of plans or check in as I would do if there was a grown up with them.  Obviously, that was my issue and not his.  The real issue is that now that he's tasted freedom, he wants more.  Even though he is part of a group of kids, some of who's parents aren't quite there.  It doesn't make sense to him that he got to go by himself last year and now has a parent with him this year.  There are differences in these scenarios, this year the location is further and they have to walk versus last year they rode bikes in a smaller group.  Regardless of the mode of transportation, he's more confident, and that's a good thing.  He likes the freedom.

So, do I make the choice that is right for my kids as individuals, even though it's not the group's decision?  Will I look like a bad parent if my child goes unsupervised?  Is it even about me?  There are a lot of "what ifs".  I've been reading Free Range Kids blog for a while.  I know the what ifs are there, but you shouldn't react to them for the most part.  Making smart choices about their safety will get me further.  Helmets when riding, seat belts in the car and supervised swimming are among my sticking points.  I'm not sure that being with them en-route to practice is one of them.

I know what seems logical, what would be ideal, and what makes me anxious.  These don't always line up.  I also know I like freedom and like my kids liking it too.  I have also found that if I am not at their class or practice that we have better discussions about it.  The kids have to go into more detail to bring me up to speed.  I like hearing from their perspective.

Some of the references above leads me to want to talk about cell phones, but I think I'll put that in a separate post in the future.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Writing this during summer vacation is easy.  School starting in 6 days is not.  It makes me anxious.  On vacation we have no obligations, no schedule.  Well, except for construction happening in the house and having to have the whole house use the facilities by 7:30 AM.  Actually, being away from home is the best because there really isn't a schedule.  Summer is definitely a reduced amount of stuff, but still some stuff.

During the school year, I get overwhelmed during two times.  In the fall when we go from zero to 60 in 2 seconds and in the spring when everything is due and happening at the same time.  Unfortunately for #4 she gets jilted.  I do nothing at her preschool and she is limited to 1 activity.  At this age, the other kids were doing 2-3 things.  Seeing the big kids now, they don't even remember those times and the things they did.  I can definitely use my wisdom and be more selective with "her" choices.

That brings me to my mental problem....and financial....  I know my kids are over-scheduled.  I know this before it even begins.  At the start of summer, I had the kids' soccer schedules.  That was nice of them, because I could map out the rest of their obligations.  #1 has therapy every other week and hebrew school on the same day every week.  Then there's the tutoring once a week.  #2 has piano (which reminded me to make sure just now that it didn't conflict with anyone's soccer) once a week.  They all are doing some form of soccer and the big 3 do Sunday school.  This is my first year with 3 doing the city soccer.  This means games and practices, not just one class during the week.  #4 is also doing her soccer class at the same time.

These things cost money and time.  Oh yes, and theres the taekwondo.  We have one year of really good work until 2 are ready for their black belts.  At any level if you don't practice, you don't progress.  Boy this costs a lot of money.  $200 per kid per activity.  I spend more at taekwondo than I do my temple, but I spend more time there too.

I also saw A race to nowhere, a great documentary about over-pressured and over-scheduled kids.  It overwhelmed me.  How do I cut out things?  Everyone says "good for you" for starting therapy and tutoring before the issues become mountainous problems.  How do I cut out the religious stuff when we really believe in the path, maybe not the steps, but the path?  How will my kids be Bar and Bat Mitzvahs without religious schooling?  How do I cut the fun stuff when it's the only things scheduled the kids choose to do?

Now, my intent was to just start this post with one sentence that came to me and come back to it later.  I haven't stopped typing since.  It's also making me anxious, so I think I should get it all done so I can put it behind me.  I know that won't work since the chaos starts officially in 6 days.  Maybe it's the fact that other people's kids have started school already and I'm not home that is making me anxious.

I actually do turn activities down.  I also try things and when I (or rather my kids) can't participate at the level I am comfortable with, I don't resign up.  I see other kids with even more on their plate.  No, they don't have 4 kids in their families.  Some do have 2 working parents and some just have a lot to do.  Others let their kids do only one sport a year.  Yikes, we have soccer and baseball and taekwondo.  We did say only 2 besides taekwondo, so basketball was nixed.  Yes, it is about what works for your family,  I'm just not sure if it means that it's what doesn't make the mother crazy.

I also see a lot of options available that my kids would love!  I feel bad that they can't go to the former PE teacher's after school camp (a money issue), or summer camps in the summer (time and money issue), or do certain classes that they would really enjoy.  Not bad enough that I let them do it, but bad none the less.  And what about learning a language?  I also want them to learn spanish while it's easy and while we travel to Mexico where it would be useful and amazing to practice.  I guess this will have to wait and it might be harder, but at least their mother won't be in the crazy house.  Speaking spanish is not as important as having their mother home....I think.

Lastly, thanks to my parents for giving me a college education.  I could not manage 6 peoples' schedules without it.  So, "Thanks mom and dad,"  and "you're welcome," for the amazing 4 grandchildren I've given you.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I should have known I was in trouble when #1, in preschool, stated on his "person of the week" full body drawing stated that SUGAR was his favorite food.  How did my then four year old pick something that was barely available to him?  My family elders thought I was such a stingy mom because my kids didn't have even ice cream until they were at least 1.  Their 1st birthday cake was often the first sugar they tasted (at least for the 1st and probably the second).

It's all my fault.  When pregnant, I craved sugar.  Yes, it is horrible for you in general, but when pregnant, it is worse.  It was nothing but trouble for me and my loosening joints and back.  That did not stop me from eating it.  Home-baked cookies were my favorite.  Oh and movie candy, even if I wasn't going to the movies.

I don't even let my kids drink juice.  Juice is sugar.  We had friends over.  One of the moms asked for juice for their kid.  I said that my kids don't get juice without cod-liver oil in it.  You couldn't pay me to drink that, but it worked.  They used to think lemonade was water with 1/2 of lemon squeezed into it.

This year we went to a couple of functions where soda was free flowing for the kids.  I let them have it, but not caffeinated ones.  I had friends who did not restrict their kids intake.  Their rationale was why stress out when it isn't every day.  Enjoy the party and let them enjoy themselves too.  If it means soda and even caffeinated soda, and cupcakes and so on, then go with it.

I also have a hard time not using sugar as a motivator.  #1 was very overwhelmed with obligations of tutoring and such.  Stopping for frozen yogurt or ice cream made life easier for all of us.  His tutor even said it did not impact his work or attention.  But, food and especially sugar, should not be a motivator.  I am a bad mom.  I have said that we can only go once a week for the yogurt/ice cream.  Now we go to the drug or convenience store for a non-caffenated soda or candy.

Then baseball season came upon us.  #1 was in the minors.  Gatorade was free flowing.  Yuck.  I get how hard the kids are working and don't want them to get dehydrated on the rare hot day.  The problem compounded with the snack shack at the games and 3 little sisters wanting what their brother had.  All sugar intake must be fair, regardless of the size of the sibling.  I finally had to buy the powder and make it at home for fear of going broke.

We try to have club soda or diet tonic water be substitutes, but it only gets us so far.  We started making popped corn at home.  Now I eat buckets of it.  We've instituted a rule where #1, who HATES fruits and vegetables, had to eat a form of fruit or vegetable for breakfast and dinner or else he would not be able to partake in any potential sweets.  I'm still a bad mom.  Don't punish your kids with sugar.

We just went to a wedding where sugar was readily available for the kids.  I decided to relax and have fun and not worry about it.  #1 drank 5 Izzys!  Each kid had left with a full tummy of nothing but sugar and maybe a couple of bites of fries and mac-n-cheese.  They all proclaimed that the wedding was the best event they had ever been to.  We had fun too.  They left with buckets full of candy and bags full of jellybeans.  Our next day was 7 hours of driving.  I decided to let them gorge themselves with hopes that they'd run out or make themselves sick and not want to eat anymore.  It didn't work.  They still have some left and didn't get sick.  They were a bit wired after no exercise and all sugar, but it enabled us to only stop once for gas and twice for potty breaks.  They were content.  I'm going to regret this for sure.

Halloween is coming up again.  I do not like this holiday.  It ranks up there with Valentines day for me.  Too much centered around sugar.  I still have bags of the kids' trick-or-treating candy in the freezer.  They get to freeze a large zip-lock bag of their bounty each year.  It is doled out as treats at various times of the year.  Surprisingly, I haven't raided the bags.  Out of sight out of mind really works for me.  The freezer in the garage is just far enough from my brain and food that I don't even think about it.  I wish I could say the same about my kids.  Oh well, at least I'll have something to pass out to trick-or-treaters this year without shopping for it.

What is the answer?  Will they learn to self regulate?  Will I stop feeling guilty?  Who knows?

P.S. I predominantly shop at the farmers' market.  I didn't want you to think I only feed my kids sugar.  I'll post another time about our house food choices.  This post was really about my kids' food choices.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


We're visiting my folks.  Their place makes it so easy for us to move in.  That's what happens when a family of 6 comes to town.  The kids have their own room with 2 sets of bunk beds.  This houses all the kids for sleeping, but creates choices every time we visit.  Who sleeps in what bunk?  Who gets the top?

At our house #1 has his own room.  In the past he chose the bottom bunk.  Most recently he switched to the top.  Now, during renovations, all of our beds are in the family room.  He's got the top and is "letting" #4 sleep in the bottom.  The girls have a triple bunk.  #2 has the top, #3 was in the middle and switched to the bottom after her appendectomy.  #4 always gets what is left.

Every trip to my folks has produced #1 sleeping in the top bunk.  #4 starts asking in advance, knowing this is her only chance to move up.  This makes it not fair for #2 and #3.  I left the room while they were negotiating.  #2 and #4 were on top.  #1 was in tears.  Part of me wants to say "suck it up, you've been on top your whole life."  The other side of me knows how he feels.

When I was little, we camped in a motor home.  The 2 bunk choices were above the driving seats or the bankette.  I hated the small space over the seats.  It was too claustrophobic.  I would throw a tantrum until my brother gave in and gave me the lower bunk.  Mind you, I was in middle school at this point.  A bit older than #1 is.

Oh yeah, I'm on this trip without hubby.  This means sleep time is all on me.  I'm usually done with my day at 7, with no more patience.  Its the part of my day that always gives me regret.

I felt proud to let the kids work out the solution on their own.  Or so I thought.  #1 was not happy and when he's not happy, he's a nudge.  He is stubborn and won't back down.  I've been where he is, but with 4, I can't back down.  Oops, I took this moment to tell him that he won't be having his bed when we move back into the back of the house.  Now he starts negotiating...."I want a t.v. in my room, a sofa,..." and so on.  The floor or the bottom were his only choices and I left the room.

He slept fine and late and said he bumped his head when he woke up in the morning.  How he managed this, I'll never know.  Good thing we're raising the ceiling in his bedroom at home.
6 peas in a pod.  Our sleeping arrangements while we update the bedrooms.

first post

I've wanted to start this blog for a while.  There are so many small issues that are big issues in my head.  My goal is to not screw up my kids by the choices and decisions I make.  I've had tons of people tell me that they perceive me as calm and patient.  That is not what's happening in my head.  "You're the best mom I ever had" is where I will try to sort out some of these decisions.  Speak up and join me in my journey in dealing with kids and the conundrums that come with raising them; times 4.

Where my 4th came up with the phrase "you're the best mom I ever had," I will never know.  As soon as she said it, I knew I had the title of my next blog.  As I said, I had wanted to blog about topics that came up in my life.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to vent, ask for help, or what.  I guess we'll see what comes of this.  Thanks for following along.