Kindergarten and a Vegetable Garden

It’s been too long since I blogged, partly because of the old excuse of being busy, and partly because I’ve been content to just observe. We had birthdays in April, so Big Sister is now 5 and Mr. and Miss Twin are 3. I remember that Big Sister changed exponentially between 3 and 3 ½. There’s a Moment in my memory of watching her swim at age 3 ½, and realizing that there was no more baby or toddler left in her. Her chubby legs had turned muscular, her cute baby swimsuit had given way to a functional Speedo, and her ponytail looked more athletic than Trixie-style. I’ve been curious to find out if the twins will change so dramatically too. With two of them, the caveman stage is accentuated and slower to leave our house entirely, but every week, there are more Moments to prove the twins are on their way. Like when Miss Twin went in her own bathroom stall at the YMCA and decreed, “I do it myself!” And she did. Or when Mr. Twin quietly put on his pants all by himself and showed up ready to go, instead of melting down for any of 101 unknown reasons.

The GeoTrio with the geocache Big Sister found!

We no longer have a toddler and two babies here, or even a preschooler and two toddlers. Big Sister graduated from preschool and is off to all-day, every-day kindergarten in the fall, and the twins will move up to her former preschool. Since our life will be so dramatically different in three short months, I plan to have as much spontaneous fun as possible this summer with my Trio of independent, strong-willed, adventurous kids. We have this glorious Moment when independence meets still wanting to hang out with Mom, and I know that’ll change all too soon. Summer has just started, and we’re already having a blast! We’ve taken up geocaching (http://www.geocaching.com), which is proving how far we’ve come because the entire tribe can tromp through the woods without a stroller. After 5 years of babyhood in our house, which required meticulous planning and packing before we went anywhere, this new ability to be spontaneous with big kids who can walk, talk, and wait 5 minutes for a meal has me feeling like the whole world has opened up and demands to be explored!

We also planted our first garden and were all excited to harvest our first radish and lettuce yesterday. The difference between the tiny seeds we planted and the now perfectly red radish with gorgeous green leaves got me thinking. I did nothing to make it grow except provide food and the right environment. Once those were given, that little seed had the inherent ability within itself to change when I wasn’t even looking. Maybe that’s true for kids too. I marvel at the big kids in my house and wonder how they got here. Life has been more chaos than planned in the past three years, yet somehow three independent, confident people have emerged from the pandemonium. Some days, it felt like my parenting only consisted of feeding them and keeping them from setting the house on fire, yet apparently they were growing even then.

If it feels like you’re running on a hamster wheel with your kids, doing and saying the same things every day, take heart that progress is being made under the dirt, just like our radish. All of a sudden, you’ll see a bit of maturity poking through, and you’ll know that your little radish is ready to venture into bigger gardens. As I’m looking at kindergarten, I acknowledge that change can be bittersweet, but then I sit down with my iced mocha topped with whipped cream during a Moment when no one needs me, and remember that after three years of chaos, THAT’S pure sweetness! 🙂

Post a comment about a Moment when you noticed a big change in your child(ren). Did you do something to make it happen or did it happen by itself?

Guest Post: The Worth of a Thousand Words

I’m excited to host my first guest, J.C. Nierad, who blogs about pursuing dreams at http://dream-hour.com/. While that can sometimes be an ambiguous, hard-to-define subject, J.C. does a beautiful job of writing in specifics about how to identify and achieve dreams. She also provides weekly inspiration and methods to track her own and her readers’ progress. In this guest post, J.C. writes about why she started a journal to her daughter, and how you can do it too. I believe in this wholeheartedly, and started journals for each of my kids during pregnancy. My goal has been to write at least once each year on my kids’ birthdays, but J.C. has inspired me to record more of the daily moments too!

The Worth of a Thousand Words

By: J.C. Nierad

When there is a family event, my mom is notorious for taking a couple dozen photos minimum. I use the term “family event” loosely because my mom thinks every time a grandchild is in her presence, it qualifies as a “family event.” Despite the constant flash photography, my mom is only in a small percentage of the resulting photos. She is the picture-taker, the moment-preserver, the woman behind the camera. I love her enthusiasm, but I also want to see more of her in the memories our family preserves.

As a new mom with a husband who wouldn’t notice a Kodak moment if snow was falling in July, in Phoenix, as a baby seal swam in our pool, I worry about becoming the woman behind the camera — present, but not preserved in our family memories. So, I have taken matters into my own hands and started writing a journal for my daughter. I plan to record special and mundane memories as she grows up and give her the journal(s) at some point when she is an adult. It’s not a baby book or a scrap book (much less cutting, pasting, and planning). Just words. Currently, the entries range from detailing the snow balls we threw on Christmas Eve and the experimental vegetarian meal we prepared, to describing a 30 second moment when I watched her walk down our front path carrying reusable bags over her shoulder and holding her dad’s hand as they left for the farmer’s market one Sunday.

While writing a journal for my daughter began as a selfish activity (wanting to be remembered), the journaling has evolved into a much more exciting tool. I hope these journal entries allow her, not only to know her mom in a different way, but also to find value in family, respect for herself, and appreciation for small moments. Through my words, she’ll have clues to my perspective on life and the values I hold. She’ll know some of my dreams, successes and failures, and she’ll know some of the hopes I have for her life.

Any parent can start a journal for his or her child, regardless of the ages of the children. In fact, Mom or Dad, if you’re reading this, your 32-year-old daughter would love to read a journal written by you. Start now and record little memories and milestones, communicate your dreams for your children, and allow your children to know some of your dreams for yourself!

Most importantly, don’t listen to the voices that say “I can’t journal because…”:

  • I’m not a writer: Unimportant! I don’t draft and revise my journal entries. Journal writing is unplanned and absent of any pressure to be “good.” If you write the truth of the moments, it will be a great journal.
  • I’d never keep up with it: Follow my friend’s lead who has a 3-year-old and twin babies. She keeps simple spiral notebooks readily at hand in the kitchen for quick recording sessions. I may write once a week or once a month. I may not even finish an entry sometimes, but recording little thoughts every so often will accumulate into a really special gift for your kids one day.
  • My kids won’t care: We all love the many ways we can easily share photos, and thoughts, and statuses today (thank you picture messaging, email, Facebook, Snapfish, etc…). However, these methods are focused on the immediacy of moment-sharing and not the importance of memory-preserving. I believe our kids will appreciate memory preservation tools that have a little more longevity. I know I do!

While a picture can be worth a thousand words, a thousand words written out of love for a child may just be priceless. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, consider starting a lifelong, unplanned, perfectly unique love letter to your kids in the form of a journal.

Moms, Pack Your Bucket List Along With The Kitchen Sink!

By: Abby Plambeck

We love our daycare. It has a fantastic preschool program for our Big Sister, a stimulating and cozy daycare for Mr. and Miss Twin, and, best of all, the kids can all go at the same time. That said, I cried the first time I left them there. It was only 3 hours each week, but the Mom Guilt over leaving my babies shredded my heart. The second week was easier, and by the third week, my tires squealed and left treadmarks when I drove away. I figured out pretty quickly that those 3 hours restored my sanity and made me a much better mom!

We’ve gradually added hours in the 2 years since then and just graduated to 3 mornings each week. Big Sister is now in 4K and the twins are in the same toddler room where Big Sister started. I longed for this milestone during this past summer, in between breaking up fights and taking away toys and issuing timeouts. Three whole mornings! I could write. And do errands. And catch up with friends. And rejoin the adult world after a 2-year absence! It sounded like paradise.

Then, something surprising happened. I arrived home alone to a house that was too quiet. All the things that irritate me when the kids are there become endearing when they’re not. The toothpaste trail in the sink. The splotches of spilled milk on the couch. The cupboard doors left standing open. The toilet paper unrolled and strewn across the bathroom floor. The strangest thing is that I can clean it all up at my leisure. There isn’t anyone yelling, “Mom!” or fighting or making more messes. No one needs me.

After two and a half years of insane chaos, self-denial, and multitasking, I’m a little uncomfortable when no one needs me. We went from one easy toddler to three children under the age of 3 in one day, and I’ve been trying to catch up ever since. There’s a strange benefit to limited time and energy for myself:  Most of my insecurities disappear. When my kids are with me, I’m not afraid to speak up in public, I’m more assertive in asking for what we need, and I feel  more comfortable in my own skin.

There’s also a confusing side effect when my kids aren’t with me. Those old insecurities pop right up! The truth is that no matter how much we live for and give to our children, eventually we’re going to be left with ourselves again.  We were complete people before we had children, but it’s too easy to give up those other parts of our personalities, and if they aren’t recaptured from time to time, we lose them. It could be a career or hobbies or future goals or the relationship with a significant other. As I discovered that third week of leaving my kids at daycare, time away and reconnecting with our non-parent selves makes us better parents and teaches our kids how to parent our future grandchildren.

I often meet other moms who have postponed their dreams for so long that they’ve given up on them. Let’s reclaim them here! Post a comment about one of your passions, goals, or dreams that you’d like to pursue when your kids are more independent. I’ll start: My bucket list (things I want to do before I kick the bucket) includes: Writing a Great American Novel, learning how to fence, taking guitar lessons, and living in a Tudor-style house in England. Now, it’s your turn!

I’m also learning that as much as I miss my kids when they’re gone, exactly 5 minutes after they return home, I’m deeply entrenched in chaos, riots, and cries for “Mom!” again. When three people need me at the same time (and often the dog too), the grass on the lonely side of the fence looks a little greener!