Parenting is not like riding a bike.

I’ve been really struggling with frustration lately.  We have been having company over 2-3 times a week of late, and I am so, so ticked when my kids work hard to clean up the house to make it presentable and then manage to trash it by breakfast time the next morning.  I feel like all I’ve been doing lately is cleaning up areas that I just cleaned up.  I cannot tell you how much I loathe picking throw pillows off the floor.  Just the sight of a stack of them is enough to get my blood boiling.  Can anyone relate?  Then I run next door to borrow an ice cream scoop from my neighbor at 5 pm, and her house is immaculate.  Never mind that she is an empty nester, she and her husband both work outside the home all day, and they have housekeepers twice a week.  I see her entryway, which is pristine, and I come back to mine, which features inside-out soccer socks, seven pairs of flip flips (more than one pair per resident of our home!), play kitchen dishes, duplos, a couple sweaters (it has been over 100 degrees this week), and several rumpled copies of Highlights magazine.  I sigh in frustration, yell at whatever kid is within range to “come pick up this mess!” and hustle back into the kitchen to get things done.

It occurred to me yesterday while I was sorting orphan socks (is there any task more indicative of the futility of getting it all done?) that I’ve been frustrated with myself and my kids largely because I expect us to have figured this stuff out already.  My kids know how to clean up–I’ve trained them well–and I have dedicated years to training them in obedience, diligence, and personal responsibility.  I’ve been treating housekeeping and child rearing like riding a bike, expecting that once we all learned how to do it, we’d just keep riding smoothly along.  Except that unlike bikes, kids are living, changing human beings, with emotional and physical needs that ebb and flow (my youngest is in the last stages of potty training, so of course things are out of whack around here!).

If I expect that we’ll just get on the homemaking bike and coast, I am setting myself up for sore disappointment.  With young children in the house, it’s irrational to think everything will always be neat and tidy.  All of the pillows in the house are piled in the library because the girls, their imagination sparked by listening to Swallows and Amazons, are camping out there with their dolls.  Each girl has multiple sets of flip flops by the door because they have to coordinate shoes with their outfits, and between potty training and art projects involving glue (because I’m a masochist), there are several outfit changes a day.  I am tripping over paper airplanes everywhere I look because my son’s best friend at church got a paper airplane making book for his birthday and has been teaching T all the best models.  I’m still not sure about the orphan socks.  I mean, we live in Malibu.  The only one of us who wears anything but flip flops on a regular basis is my husband, and his work socks always make it through the laundry with their pairs.

I find myself getting even more frustrated when parenting isn’t a smooth ride.  Seriously, I’ve been in the SAHM business for coming up on a decade now.  Surely little things like teaching my children prompt obedience or developing a sense of personal responsibility for one’s belongings and the state of one’s room should be things I have down, right?  I’ve said to them for years, and I still say, “We obey right away, all the way, and with a cheerful heart.”  It’s just that following through and requiring cheerful, immediate, thorough obedience is a continuous process.  Just because I have a snazzy saying gleaned from a mom’s Bible study from 2007 doesn’t mean that my job is done.



My attitude shifted for the better this week when I changed the analogy in my head, thanks to a field trip with the kids.  Forget the bike.  Motherhood is more like a walk over stones along the beach.  I know how to walk, and I have a vision for the direction I want to go, but I have to keep re-evaluating how to step on each stone in my path, changing my approach as necessary to avoid slipping and falling into the really cold ocean.  And even if I do make a bad choice and slip in, I have to climb back onto that slick rock, adjusting my technique now that I know better, and keep going.  Oh, and if I keep my head down and just focus on the task at hand, I’m missing out on the amazing view I’d have if I looked up for a minute and reveled in the beauty of God’s creation all around me.  So while I’m carefully picking my way across the shoreline, I need to remember to pause and thank God for the beautiful place in which He has placed me, with the beautiful task He has set before me.

Does this analogy shift help anyone else?  Is your parenting feeling like a smooth bike ride or a precarious walk across slippery stones?




Posted in Parenting | 2 Comments

No School!

In my area, the Jewish population is large enough that our local public schools are off for Jewish holidays.  So because of Rosh Hashanah, the kids are out of school today!  And because the main (read: cheapest) daycare in the area is at the local Jewish center, the kids in our neighborhood were all at home today.  In my sunrise exercise class, the responses were firmly divided between working moms and at-home moms.  To the working moms, it was a burden to find extra childcare today, especially since we’re also getting next Monday off for Columbus Day.  All of the moms who are part-to-full-time at home were celebrating our chance to just get to hang out with the kids today.  One mom was taking her kids down to La Brea tar pits, another one mentioned the pool, and even though my kids are homeschooled and thus technically had schoolwork to do today, we did some fun projects and had all the neighbor boys over all afternoon.

I mention this situation on the blog (after weeks of silence!) because it struck me forcibly that we as a society don’t tell young women about days like this when we’re assuring them that of course they can have it all, family and career.  A lot assume that once kids are school-age, the childcare dilemma will be over.  Maybe they have a vague sense that there’s this thing called summer vacation, but there are so many camps and summer programs nowadays that it’s not a big deal, planning-wise.  It’s days like today, unexpected holidays in the midst of a work week, that can throw working parents for a loop.  This morning’s conversation among a bunch of sweaty mom friends exemplified the down side of “having it all.”  Even in the relatively flexible field of academia, college courses and office hours are still happening today for my working friends.  When you have a career, you give up the freedom to enjoy these brief vacation days with your children.  Maybe most working moms don’t mind, and maybe those of us who get to spend vacation days at home with our kids don’t appreciate it enough.  My husband had to work today, after all, much as he would have liked eating chocolate chip pancakes and playing board games with us today.  Regardless of how you or I feel about it, this is part of the parenting/working equation.  Young women planning their futures should know about days like today!

(And in the spirit of full disclosure, I had typed up this much when my potty training toddler had an accident all over the bathroom.  It did cross my mind as I mopped up pee that the privilege of staying home and playing with my kids on vacation days also means I have the “privilege” of cleaning up their messes!)

Posted in Daycare, For Younger Women, Having It All | Leave a comment

Hidden Art Friday: The Door

When we bought our house, it was listed as having one less bedroom than it actually has. The reason is that the final bedroom is set up to be used as an office, which is how we will be using it (my husband finally gets his own office!), but because of that, they had removed the door. We had asked the previous owners if they had the door, and they said no.

Fortunately for us, they were wrong. It was in the basement, covered in 60s paint and a good layer of mold.


We tried chemical stripper first. What a smelly mess.


Then, our neighbor who renovates houses for a living and a hobby loaned us his heat gun. I’m in love. I’ll never use the chemical glop again.


(To be fair, this is after heat gun and power sander and hand sanding the corners. This is a job for somebody with lots of free time.) YouTube has tons of helpful and unhelpful videos about how to do this, if you’re truly curious. But if you run across a guy telling you to get chemical stripper out of detail work using kitty litter, DON’T DO IT.

After trying linseed oil on one of the edges, we decided to stain the door a little darker than the wood is naturally. We have no idea what kind of wood it is. We’ve heard that chestnut was used for a lot of these old doors in this area of the country, but ours is some kind of hardwood core with a veneer of something else. No clue.


We bought new hinges and new doorknobs, and my husband installed it.


Ta Da!!


I love it. So much. Which is good, because I think I put about 40 hours into it. The next one should go faster. Really.


I love it so much that I took the next door off the linen closet to try to get it done this fall while the kids play outside. Let’s see…if I do 2 doors a year and there are 20 doors (not including the beautiful front doors, which have been painted maroon)…

Posted in Hidden Art Fridays | 3 Comments

Beyond Monopoly and Candyland: Fun Games for Kids

Everyone who comes to our house comments on our board game collection.  We have shelves and shelves of games, and they’re way better than the old, tired, endless games from our childhoods.  Some board games go in and out of print quickly, but here are a few of our favorites that you can buy right now!  (Or forward the link to grandparents who need Christmas gift ideas…)

e2s board games

Go Away, Monster! is the first game our kids play, starting at age 2.  Players take turns reaching into a bag to pick out pieces to complete their little bedroom scene: a bed, a teddy bear, picture, and lamp.  But beware!  There are monsters in roughly the same shapes!  If a player picks up a monster, they yell, “Go away, monster!” and throw it in the middle of the table.  It’s really simple, taking 5-10 minutes to play, but little kids learn taking turns and how to strategize to find the missing pieces they need.  My three year old loves it and wants to play every night.

Catan: Junior is a kid-friendly version of the grown-up Settlers of Catan, the resource-gathering, trading, and building game that was the gateway game into Euro-style games for many of us! Kids collect resources like goats and gold nuggets and wood to build more pirate lairs and pirate ships that will help them build more things and win the game. My kids started being able to play on their own at around age 6. The younger ones play on a team with a parent or big brother.

My First Carcassonne is another kid-version of a great grown-up tile laying game, Carcassonne. In the kid version, players take turns laying tiles, and if you create a road with end points, you get to put your little colored pieces on every matching child on the road. First player to use up all their pieces wins. My five year old can play this, and I like that more advanced players can “help” out younger players by placing tiles where the little ones will get points. It’s easy to make sure no one gets too far behind.

Battle Sheep is sortof a take on something like Chinese checkers. Everyone has a stack of sheep, and you want to be the one to lay out the most sheep on the board before spaces run out. There is strategy to cutting other players off and how many sheep to use in each stack, so my seven year old doesn’t do too well at it yet, but my nine year old loves it and could beat me at age 8! The pieces on this one are particularly nice quality, and it’s actually fun for grown-ups, too.

Sushi Go! is our family’s current favorite game. Perfect for big kids and adults, you’re trying to get the most points by collecting different sets of sushi. Everyone has a hand of cards, you pick one, then pass it to the player on the left. By the time it comes back to you, someone else might have played the card you really wanted, so you’re making new decisions with each turn. My seven year old won the game her first time playing, and our nine year old has been hanging with us for a while.

Forbidden Island is our family’s favorite “cooperative game,” where everyone works together for a common goal, similar to the grown-up co-op game Pandemic. Each player has a special skill, and we all work together to collect certain treasures before the island we’re on sinks. Lots of strategy, but since we’re all working together and discussing, our seven year old can easily play her own role. Our little girls prefer to play on our teams and help turn over the tiles that are under water or rescued.

Forbidden Desert is the sequel to Forbidden Island, and this time we’ve crash landed in a desert and have to find the missing parts of our plane before we die of thirst or get covered in sand.  The game dynamics are a little more complicated than in Forbidden Island, but players still work together using different skills (someone can hold extra water, another might be able to clear extra sand each turn).  Again, if playing with advanced players, my kids can play their own role starting around age 7, but it’s fun with all adults, too.

Ticket to Ride is an adult game that our 9 year old started playing with us this year.  You all have train routes you’re trying to build across the country, and you have to collect the right color of train cars to build each segment.  There’s a lot of strategy in where you build your roads (especially if someone else builds where you were wanting to go) and what you collect, but an advanced kid can handle it.  It’s also a pretty straight-forward game to play when friends or family come to visit.  And now there’s a kid version available (see below)!

Takenoko has to be the cutest concept of all the games we have. You’re trying to grow bamboo to feed hungry pandas, achieving goals for types of bamboo farms, size of bamboo stalks, and colors of bamboo collected.  You’re building out the board and collecting resources, and the cute little panda gets to move around the board.  Our son started playing with us at 8, but the girls just love sit on our laps and play on our team since the strategy involved is definitely more for older kids and adults.

Zooloretto is another big kid to adult game. This time, you’re building a zoo, so you’re trying to collect the right kinds of animals and put them in trucks that you’ll end up taking to put in your own zoo pens.  Other people can steal your trucks as you’re filling them, though, so there’s strategy in how full to fill a truck, when to take it, and what kinds of animals to collect (because you don’t want all animals that other people are trying to collect).

And Target is getting into the board game space with some exclusives.  We picked up a kids’ version of Ticket to Ride last time we were at the store, and the kids loved it!

Ticket to Ride: First Journey is a simplified version of the adult game, with shorter routes and easier goals. A perfect introduction to the game that our seven year old played easily and our five year old played with a bit of help.

Most of these links (except the Target one) are to Amazon, and if you click through our links, we’ll get a little percentage of commission to help cover the hosting fees for the website.  However!  If you have a local game store, please go there and support them.  They provide such an important resource to go touch and feel a game and discuss it with knowledgeable (and always geeky) staff.  We buy most of our games from Valhalla’s Gate in Columbia, Missouri while we’re on vacation.  The staff there have been invaluable in helping us find the right games for our kids’ ages and interests.  There are many great game stores around, and Barnes and Noble actually has an increasingly decent selection, so I usually go there to buy presents for birthday parties since we don’t have a designated game store nearby.  


Posted in Gift Giving | 3 Comments
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