Monday, December 29, 2014

Why I Stopped Saying "I'm Busy"

It's become almost an automatic response to the question "how are you?"

"I'm busy!"

"We are just so busy!"
"It's just a busy time of year!"

I don't question the validity of those statements for a second. And I wholeheartedly agree 100%.

But it's getting on my nerves.

Why? Well, for starters it's not unique to any one person. It's become so much of a norm in our lives that it almost doesn't deserve mention. It goes without saying.

And I think people use it as an "out." It's become an excuse for not returning a phone call, responding to an e-mail, taking on an extra project or attending an event. Yes, I've had my fair share of moments where I have forgotten one (or all) of the above items because I've been busy. But using as a preemptive strike? Not cool.

What's at the root of busy schedules? Is it because we are overworked parents? Or because we are caring for a sick loved one? Do we have too much on our plates between family, work and volunteer activities? If yes....then let's say so! Let's start being honest, truly honest, with each other in our exchanges. Let's tell each other flat out, "I'm interested but I cannot make that a top priority right now but I can get it to you in the next two weeks." Or "No, I'm sorry. I cannot committee to one more thing but here's what I can do." Or "I'm really struggling right now with (fill in the blank). I know this is important to you and I will do the best I can do to meet your expectations."

Can we all just agree, in 2015, to acknowledge we are all busy without having to actually say it? Or if we must say it, to not use the phrase so flippantly? I'm truly looking for a honest answer to the question "how are you?"; it's why I asked in the first place.

Can we start being a little bit more genuine (and gentle) with each other in this new year? I think we'll find we become a little less "busy" when we take moments to better understand and connect with each other. Our "busyness" is relative and temporary, as is everything else in life. Let's not waste time on empty statements. Let's make our daily exchanges more meaningful.  I think in doing so we will gain more that we ever imagined.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Adventures with Emily

Everything is an adventure with a toddler. I have come to realize this. Even the most mundane of activities (say, brushing one's teeth) will probably include a myriad of emotions, will take twice as long as you might think it should to complete, and will leave you tired, frazzled and asking yourself "WHY must we go through this?!" 

Special activities (say, picking out a Christmas tree or going to see Santa) are the above scenario times...say 100. Ok, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. Times 99.

Case in point: deciding to take a toddler to pick out a real, live Christmas tree. "Oh, it will be fun!" you think. "Just like my childhood! And we will get cute pictures of her dressed up around all the trees and can use them for a Christmas card!"

And let's say you do manage to get her all dressed up and she only has one tantrum while tree shopping (SWEET!). But all your pictures end up as one of two versions.


 Or this....

Ok, clearly we are done here. Let's just pick the last tree we see and call it a day.

Since we clearly didn't learn the first time, we decided our next adventure should be to make the obligatory trip to the mall to see Santa.  And I was prepared with a plan. We were going to go after work on a Wednesday to avoid the long lines. And I brought a change of clothes with me so she wouldn't have to wear her pretty dress up clothes all day long.  We made it through the afternoon traffic to the mall, successfully changed clothes (in the car, but whatever) and got in a relatively short line to see Santa.

All good, right? Um, not so much. Apparently "Santa's helpers" that work during the week are...shall we say....less efficient than the weekend crew. With no more than 20 families in front of us we waited almost one hour. One hour, people! And since we came straight from work, I was still in heels. Standing. For one hour. Holding (for most of the time) a 30 lb toddler. Why oh why??!?!

We finally made it up to Santa...after lots of rolling around on the floor, eating graham crackers and chatting up other toddlers in line around us (who were amazingly well behaved AND strapped in their strollers).  Now, I knew this Santa thing was probably not gonna go down as planned. I figured (because she she FREAKED. OUT. last year) she would not be crazy about him this year. But ever the optimist, I hoped it would be different because had been talking about him and she was another year older.

She shyly walked up and said "hi". He asked her what she wanted to for Christmas and she said "toys." (Girl of few words) We asked if she wanted to sit and talk with Santa she said "no" but did go in for a .5 second hug. He handed her a Rudolph book, she blew him a kiss and that was all she wrote.

One hour. For that.

I almost burst into tear. Ridiculous. But we waited all that time and didn't get a single picture. (Randy's response, by the way, was "well, at least she saved us $30." And yes, it's truly not worth traumatizing my child for a $30 photo package of memories.)

I looked down and Emily and she was happily skipping along in her Christmas outfit, looking at her new book and excitedly talking about her meeting with Santa. She was so excited, this was the best picture of her:

I asked her what she wanted to do next and all she wanted was to ride the mall carousel and "da bus":

There's the look of joy I was hoping for! Pure happiness right there. And all I could think was, "ya know. Do your thing, sister." She was happy, I was happy. So what if we didn't do exactly what we hoped we would be able to do. That's part of life and that is especially part of life as a parent. And in the end, we got an amazing Christmas tree, a fun family outing at the mall and a few random, funny Christmas memories.Which is a win as far as I'm concerned!

Wishing you and yours the happiest (and maybe even funniest) of holiday memories!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas Crafts for Toddlers (Our Version)

It's December which means Christmas is right around the corner! Hip hip HOORAY! I love this time of year. (And yes, I know I say that about every time of the year. But it's TRUE!)

We spent last weekend putting up Christmas decorations and had a blast. Emily loved putting ornaments on the tree but it's becoming increasingly difficult to convince her to leave them on the tree. And I doubt she will be interested in taking them off when New Years rolls around and it's time to clean up.

I was scrolling through Facebook the other day and a friend posted a link to two blog posts 20 Fun Toddler Christmas Activities and 20 Cute Christmas Crafts for Toddlers. Both were exactly what appeals to me as a parent: a great collection of arts and crafts activities to engage little ones in fun and learning.  There were a few on the lists I wasn't sure about (like, is it safe for children to play with Epsom salt?) and a few that looked easy and fun (the wall Christmas tree and holiday hand wreath).

Last night, I decided I would try out the holiday hand wreath. Because, ya know, what time better to do an arts and crafts activity than after a long day at work and day care?! But we had finished an early dinner (thanks to a wonderful husband who started cooking as soon as he got home) and it wasn't quite bed time.

You know those "nailed it" Pinterest memes? The ones with the cute Pinterest pics of bunny shaped biscuits beside a pic of someones best attempt that look more like possessed demons? Yep, that'd be me. 

Bless sweet Laura from Lalymom for guiding moms like me through activities like this. Because as much as I want to be that mom, I just think it's beyond some of us. Her suggestions were awesome but we successfully missed the mark on all of them.

Since I could not locate my phone to snap pictures of the tornado that was this craft activity, allow me to replay my internal-that-is-almost-always-external dialogue as I walked Emily through what should have been the simplest of steps:

"Ok, it looks like we need a paper plate. Do we have one of those? I probably should have thought of this before we started. Oh yeah! In the china cabinet!" (And yes, I get the irony here.)

"Dang! A paper plate is really hard to cut!"

"Ok, there we go. Emily, please don't touch the scissors."

"Emily, do not touch the pen. That's Mommy's. Here, hold the paper."

"Ok, Emily let's do your hand prints! Wait wait....come back! We are making a surprise present for Daddy!"
(I have learned that the words "surprise", "daddy" and "present" are magic words that get Emily to comply with just about any request. If you are able to use all three in a sentence, jackpot.)

"We don't have a glue stick. I guess a glue bottle will work? I dunno. I really should have planned ahead."

"Laura says: 'remember to allow the child to do the steps they can do.' Hm, what steps are those exactly? I will not be overbearing and try and 'fix' Emily's work. This is her's to make."

After managing to cut out red and green hands, we attempted to put them on the plate. "Emily, let's put your hand here. Ok, Mommy is going to hold the glue...."  ("WAAAAAAHHHH" from Emily) "Ok, Mommy will hold the glue with you."

Emily put exactly 5 hands on the plate and decided she was done and ran off the rest of the paper hands.

I peaked her curiosity and she came back to the table when I finally found some gift wrap ribbon (again, plan head MEGAN!). She proceeded to unravel the entire roll as I was attempting to paste the rest of the hands on the plate. (Well, I tried to let her do it by myself. I really did!)


"Ok, Emily! Almost done. Help Mommy put the ribbon here and here! Just a little piece and you can have the rest, I promise!!"

After tapping ribbon on the back to hang the wreath (yes, went off script but who is honestly surprised at this point), Emily proudly ran over to Randy and said "Daddy! I made you pwesant!"

There it is. The moment I was hoping for.

Randy oohed and ahhed for the appropriate amount of time. We put the wreath in a safe place for "Daddy to take to work tomorrow" (and yes, it is still sitting there this morning).  Randy returned to his tv show and Emily started her next project: dumping toys out of her toy basket.

I turned around to a table covered with glue, construction paper and a tangled mess of ribbon on the floor.

The last paragraph of Laura's post popped into my head: "Ta-da! Now you have a lovely wreath to hang or give as a gift! And bonus- your kids had lots of great fine motor skills practice! That’s how WE do classic kids crafts at our house! How do you do Christmas crafts? Fancy? Open-ended? Messy?"

Messy, Laura, always messy. But entertainingly so. That's how we do pretty much everything. And I fully accept that I am that mom.

Happy holiday crafting, friends!