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Written by Mama Monday

Blog posts written by mamas on cloth diapering, green living, natural parenting.

This past Saturday we had rehearsal for the Christmas pageant, followed by a birthday party for a friend of Kate’s who has a December 26th birthday. At some point, I realized that I hadn’t ordered our picture Christmas cards yet so I frantically searched for a “virtual coupon” that would cut enough off of the price that I would feel less guilty  paying extra for the “rush shipping.” We hurried home so I could get the girls asleep before my sister came over to be there while I ran to the airport to pick up Cooper and my husband who had taken a boys’ trip to Tennessee to visit family. We got home at ten.

The next morning we were up bright and early for the Christmas pageant. Between the early arrival and costume donning, followed by dropping off our obligatory edible contribution to the “Pageant Party,” and the obligatory eating of goodies that other tired parents had whipped together at the last minute, we were at church from 9 a.m. to noon. On the way home, we picked up a Christmas tree, came home and decorated it by a warm fire while giant snowflakes floated down from the sky. It was picturesque. Then we fed the kids a quick healthy snack and headed to a four p.m. Christmas party. We were home by 7:30, got the kids to bed and by that time, I was ready to fall over. I hadn’t done one bit of Christmas shopping, nor had I helped Kate work on the shirt she is supposed to decorate for the Secret Snowflake exchange her first grade class is having on Friday.

This morning, third grade Lauren was panicking because she had forgotten that she needed to write a little note for her Secret Snowflake exchange (notes or poems every day this week, with clues as to who their Secret Snowflake is, ending with a very small gift on Friday). There were no pens to be found–not one.  (And why does every piece of white paper in this house have an unfinished piece of kid-art on it and more importantly, why I am looking for a pen when I am trying to pack lunches, get kids dressed, hair brushed and fed breakfast??) Suddenly Kate asked “Mommy, how many more days until Christmas break starts?” “Two weeks,” I told her.

As I continued to multi-task, silently cursing the extra holiday projects parents are given just before school lets out–thus leaving them with very little free-time not either filled with holiday-school-related-busy-work or worse, actual kids at home, it occurred to me that if winter break wasn’t for two more weeks, the Secret Snowflake projects were either A) not due this week or B) my brain had completely melted and I didn’t even know what week it was. Unfortunately, the answer was B. I looked at the calendar and literally gasped like someone had stuck me with the needle I apparently should have been using right that minute, to sew buttons on Kate’s t-shirt project.

“What’s wrong?” Lauren asked, obviously thinking I had sliced my thumb instead of the sandwich I had been making for her lunch. “Winter break starts on Friday! Christmas is next week!” I wanted to cry.

I love the holidays. I really do. As a kid, I started feeling the “Christmas spirit” as soon as the leaves started to change. I couldn’t get enough. I don’t mean that I was only looking forward to all of the gifts either. I really and truly loved the “feeling” I had—the coziness, the family time and the all of the extra fun activities that were going on. As a mother, though I still love the holiday season, I often feel like I am so busy trying to get everything done, I don’t ever have time to sit and “feel” the magic. This week, having three kids in school, I have three different holiday parties for which I need to bring in food, school related-holiday party crafts to finish, I have to send out the Christmas cards, and teacher gifts? I haven’t even given them a thought.  I have a lot of Christmas shopping that still needs to be done. Next week, the kids will be out of school and I haven’t quite figured out how I am going to do Christmas shopping with them around. My sister, having perhaps wisely decided to skip out on the holiday madness, is going to Mexico with her husband and three boys. They’ve decided to make the time about “family’ and opt of out of the consumerism. I admit, I would hate to be “skipping Christmas” and yet, trying to find time to actually enjoy it is challenging.

So here’s to all the moms, who didn’t realize until they read this blog, that yes, winter break starts FRIDAY, and that you still need to bake 6 dozen cookies, attend multiple class parties, put money towards the teacher gifts and most of all, feel Merry while you are doing it! Break out your dreidles and your jingle bells because the countdown has begun–both Christmas and Hanukkah are here!

 

Unwashed dishes in a sink; an authentic situation.

Unwashed dishes in a sink; an authentic situation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Between my new nonprofit, Big Hearts Big Soles, and the four to five short blogs I write for Thirsties each month, I wouldn’t even say I qualify as working very part-time, but I am a stay-at-home mom full-time. Given that I barely have five minutes in a row to sit down and write during the day without Cooper wanting to show me something, requesting food, stubbing his toe or a whole myriad of other possible events that require Mommy’s attention, I really can’t comprehend how some parents work real jobs, from home, with their infants and toddlers at home too.

Today for instance, I had a list of things I needed to get done–including to get a blog written and uploaded for Thirsties, to go to the bank to deal with a fraud issue on my account, tracking down new shoes for three teenage foster boys for Christmas (and trying to get some Denver Nuggets or Broncos gear donated to them as well) when I got a call at eleven this morning from Kate’s school saying that she had a bad earache and needed to be picked up. Now I find myself with two children at home (so now Cooper has someone to fight with–I mean, play with) and instead of doing anything else I need to do, I am waiting for the doctor’s office to call me back so that I can drop everything and bring Kate in whenever they can see her. I am only able to sit and write this because I have the trusty “TV aka Nanny” keeping the children occupied momentarily. This hasn’t however, stopped Cooper from calling out “Mommy!” every few minutes, even if it’s just to tell me something funny he’s just seen on Scooby Doo.

Children aside, there are so many other things that distract me while I am trying to work at home–namely housework. It’s very hard for me to sit and focus on anything else when I have dishes sitting in the sink, crumbs on the counter or a pile of laundry that needs to be folded and put away. I find myself hopping up to help Cooper with (insert anything here) and then thinking “I just heard the washing machine stop–I really should just go throw those clothes in the dryer and get another load going.” While I am in the laundry room, I notice the cat litter has to be scooped, the trash needs to be taken out and before I know it, I’ve left “my work” and have done random, non-urgent tasks for 30 minutes. I have a very hard with time management because it seems that nothing, and yet everything, needs to be done first.

I found myself thinking the other day, how lucky parents are who get to leave housework behind and go give 100% of their attention to their paying jobs without trying to do everything all at once. And then of course, I thought about it from a work-out-of-the-home parent’s point of view and realized those parents might be thinking “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could throw in a load of laundry right now since I am sitting here waiting for X and then I would have less to do when I got home.” Sigh. I guess, the answer is, there is no such thing as “easier” when it comes to being a working parent. The old adage, “The grass is always greener” seems to apply. Working parents wish they could spend more time at home and stay-at-home parents wonder why they never realized how hard staying at home can be. I’ve come to the conclusion, yet again, that being a parent, whether working at home, out of the home, or just doing housework and parenting at the same time, is really, really challenging and a lot of us feel like we’ve always got to neglect one thing to give our attention to another. We’re doing the best we can. Now you’ll have to excuse me…Cooper is heading up to “poop” which means I’ll hear “Mom, I need you to wipe my butt!” in three minutes, Kate needs some more Tylenol for her earache and I think I hear my phone ringing. It’s probably the doctor’s office. Proofreading this blog will have to wait.

My plan seems to be improvise, wing it, hope for the best and prepare for the worst. But it always feels like chaos and I end up feeling like I am doing everything at once and yet doing nothing well. How do you balance your time between working, parenting and doing dishes? Do you clean the house first or ignore the dishes and do your paying job first?  How do you stay organized and how do you manage the kids and everything else–all at once?

 

 

Cover of "Elf on the Shelf"

Cover of Elf on the Shelf

 

The first day of the Advent,
The first day of December.
Our Elf should be arriving
But I can’t seem to remember

Where in this house I stuffed him
Over eleven long months ago.
But the kids did not forget,
Looking high and low.

I hid him somewhere very safe
I knew the kids would never look
I put him somewhere in a bag
Or behind a boring book.

I’ve ripped apart the whole garage
My storage bins and shelves
And I’m wondering where other parents
Stash their blasted Elves?

I stuffed him in a closet
Or with the camping gear,
Yet still I cannot find him
And school pick up time is near.

I hope that when I find you,
You little handsome little knave,
That you will work your magic
And help my children to behave

Because while you sit and grin,
You silly little Elf,
My sanity is sitting
Right beside you on that shelf.

 

 

 

 

 

I am feeling particularly grateful this holiday season. My children are healthy, they’re happy and well-adjusted (most of the time) and we’ve made some huge progress figuring out how Kate’s diet affects, not only her moods and her behavior, but also her ability to learn. Life is good. But the thing that has me most excited right now is my new nonprofit, called Big Hearts Big Soles Inc.

Let me tell you the little story that got the whole thing started. I was dropping off some items I was donating at the Salvation Army—did I mention I’m a Thrift Store regular? They are my favorite place to buy clothes for myself and the kids, books and furniture. I love a project, like an old shelf, to repaint and fuss with until it looks like new again. Or if not new, funky will work. Anyway, I digress. I happened to overhear an employee of the Salvation Army, half talking to himself, half to me, mention he was looking for some size 17 shoes. “Who needs size 17 shoes?” I immediately asked, knowing both shoes and feet that big are rare. He told me a local homeless man needed them…and it was at that point that it occurred to me, how hard it would be for low-income or homeless men, to find shoes that size. Most people who need larger than a men’s 13 have to custom order their shoes…and they aren’t cheap either. What were the chances the right size would end up at the right place for someone with little to no resources? Slim to none, apparently.

I ended up telling the man that I might be able to help. Crocs is based in Boulder and I know someone who knows someone there. I also have some connections with the Detroit Pistons. I said, “I can’t promise, but let me see what I can do.” This encounter changed my life. Crocs immediately sent two pairs of size 17s to me (and they had to be sent to Colorado from out of state, the home-base of Crocs, which shows how hard it is to track down shoes this big) and pretty soon, three pairs of brand new athletic shoes, all size 17, that had been sitting in the Pistons’ equipment room were headed to Boulder. Being able to give this man the first new shoes he had in over three years was amazing. I realized that I don’t have to be independently wealthy or even anyone special to jump in, get involved and make a difference.

To make a long story short, the woman who works at the shelter, who had initially put out the word out that this man needed shoes, became my co-founder and since October, we’ve been able to provide 19 pairs of shoes to people in our area, including three size 17s, three size 15s and 10 pairs to a high school students in Denver who play basketball but can’t afford decent athletic shoes to play in.

Me Serviving Soup to the Homeless

Me Serving Soup to the Homeless

Since starting Big Hearts Big Soles Inc., (and yes we are now an official 501C3) I’ve made an extra effort to get involved with the homeless population in Boulder. Just because you don’t need big shoes, doesn’t mean Big Hearts Big Soles won’t try to help. In fact, I’ve realized I might be a horrible business woman because I can’t say no to anyone. If someone approaches me, I will try, no matter what, to get them what they need. The homeless folks I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting, are the farthest thing from “lazy moochers who are looking for handouts.”  Many of them are among the least selfish I’ve met. A visibly shivering man kept refusing my offer of warmer clothes when the temps hovered around 5 degrees last week saying “I’m sure there’s someone here colder than I am.” But there didn’t seem to be so I put on my Bossy Hat (which I am quite comfortable with as a mother of three) and told him he had to go put on those extra layers. I was laughing…but I meant it. And he did. I also took a homeless man and woman I met out to coffee one morning as I had been trying to find boots for Donna Jean. She had been wearing sneakers with soles that flapped open like an old puppet when she walked. I encouraged her and her friend Bear to order whatever they wanted but even though they hadn’t eaten breakfast, they would only let me buy them coffee and a muffin.

Other than the immediate benefit of knowing that I am helping others, starting Big Hearts Big Soles Inc. has also helped my children to understand that sometimes we “need” things and sometimes we “want” things. It’s helped them put their own lives in perspective (a little) to know that even though some of their friends have bigger houses or more toys or go on tropical vacations while we stay home, we’re still pretty darn lucky. So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for all of the things that are easy to take for granted: health, employment, shelter, warm food and clean sheets.

What are you thankful for this year?

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My husband’s company encourages it’s employees to take care of themselves. Our health savings account is credited when we get annual physicals, take online health assessments and even exercise. To motivate us to exercise and remain active, they’ve given us Fitbits which we wear on our wrists. The Fitbit sends information to an app that we installed on our smartphones so we can see how many steps we’ve taken, how many calories we’ve burned etc. I like to call mine my microchip because it seems to know exactly what I am doing at all times. It counts each step I take, it senses and counts “active minutes” which I assume means when I am doing something other than walking—like jogging. I’ve logged plenty of active minutes when I wouldn’t consider myself being active but maybe it’s counting running up and down the stairs to help Cooper on the potty and then running back down to make sure dinner isn’t burning.

The thing that I love most about my Fitbit is that it confirms what I already knew: I don’t stop moving. Being a full-time stay at home parent is a physical job. Yesterday, I walked 16, 643 steps (7.16 miles), I logged 15 active minutes and burned 2,499 calories. What did I do? I took the dog for a walk…less than a mile since it was freezing cold, I went to Costco and other than that, I did mom stuff around our 1,300 square foot house. I fixed breakfast while intermittently breaking up fights or helping someone trapped inside a turtleneck to become unstuck. Then I unloaded the dishwasher while helping someone get on their mittens and hat and coat, then ten minutes later, I helped someone take off their mittens and hat and coat. I vacuumed while yelling at someone to mop up the dirty snow someone had tracked in and then gave up and did it myself. And so on and so on. But the point is, I rarely sit down and if I do, it’s for minutes at a time or else I am in the car.

My husband, on the other hand, works in an office. He loves nothing more than to go on a five mile run in the mountains or go for a three hour bike ride. His Fitbit confirms that he needs to make time to do these things because he averages 7 thousand steps a day if he’s not able to exercise.  I average 14 thousand steps a day. If I am able to go for an actual run or get to the gym, I usually log over 20,000 steps that day. I jokingly told my husband that he can’t ask me what I’ve done all day if he comes home and the house is a mess because my Fitbit doesn’t lie—but the state of the house often does: I’ve been working my buns off and I still can’t keep up with housework, cooking, laundry, kids and pets. I mean, you don’t log over 14,000 steps watching the soaps and eating bon-bons, right?

Another cool thing about the Fitbit is that it also logs how well I sleep. When I turn off my light and lay down for the night, I click the button on the app that says “Begin sleep.” When I wake up the next morning, I click, “I’m awake.” Then I can see how many times I was restless or awake, in the form of a little graph. It’s very cool. I can look at the little red lines and remember “Oh, yes, there is Kate’s nightmare when I got up and checked on her,” or “This is when Cooper crawled into bed and started thrashing around next to me.” That’s usually when the most “green lines” show up…once a child comes into the bed. But no matter what the Fitbit says about the quality of my sleep, I still have to get out of bed and get ready to walk  6 or 7 miles in circles around my house picking up Monster Trucks and sweeping up crumbs!

Fitbit Sleep