Archive for Parenting

My Light-at-the-End-of-the-Tunnel Moment

Three years ago today, Anna posted about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel from the trenches, and this weekend, I’ve had the exact same realization that the balance has shifted in our home.

If you follow us on facebook, you might have seen my #realhousewivesofe2s update last week that mentioned we’d gotten home from vacation at 4 am (6 am in the time zone we left 15 hours before).  It was nuts, absolutely nuts, and while my husband and I felt like zombies for several days, my kids amazingly just fell back into the rhythms of home life, did schoolwork, played with their new toys, and enjoyed the unheard-of spectacle of multiple rainy days in LA.  I even had to drag them out that first afternoon to my doctor’s office, and all four of them sat quietly in the waiting room while I read Robin Hood aloud, trooped patiently into the hallway of the office while I got poked and prodded, and filed out, as sweet as you please, when I was done.

Lest you miss the point here, my kids were on the road for three weeks (right after mom and dad being incapacitated from a car accident for three weeks, right after passing around the stomach flu for a week), and they just came home and were fine.  This trip was not only our first flight without a diaper bag in a decade; it was the first time, ever, that we asked our kids to step up and carry their own load (literally, through three airports), with severely reduced sleep, and they actually came out the experience more cheerful than before.  It’s never going to be fun traveling with children, but this Christmas vacation, my kids were the easy part and the circumstances were the pain in the neck.  I would rather not ever bring four children along to my doctor’s appointments, but it’s no longer a nightmare.  I noticed the switch this weekend and am grateful for it.

Along the same lines, just as Anna said three years ago, there comes a time when your big kids are more of a net help than a net hindrance in the home.  I’ve mentioned recently that I try to have high expectations for my kids as I train and prepare them to be responsible adults, and it totally pays off. We had a good Saturday morning housecleaning push this weekend, and all four of my kids were able to do real, helpful housework.  It is now on me to make sure they keep helping me out, but knowing that they all are capable is a huge step out of the trenches for me.  It’s no longer just me (and my husband in the evenings) against the accumulated mess of four tornadoes; we’re a team of six, fighting back against dust and clutter.

What warmed my heart the most, though, was looking over as I started dinner the other night and seeing my 7 and 5 year olds curled up on the couch together, with the big sister reading the little sister one of her new Christmas books.  Later, the younger one mentioned that her big sister had read her the entire chapter book in one day because they had both gotten into the story and didn’t want to stop!  My kids are reading aloud to each other.  **happy sigh**

If you are still in the dark part of the tunnel with little ones who are not old enough to be helpful yet, hang in there.  You are making progress, no matter how slowly your days seem to pass. The hard work you’re putting into parenting your children will indeed bear fruit!  I’ll leave you with the same verse Anna did:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9 NIV

Posted in For Younger Women, Parenting | Leave a comment

What a Child Can Do at a Given Age

One of the after effects of a serious car accident, much like breaking my foot a year and a half ago, is that I’ve had lots of time to observe the practical results of my parenting decisions.  When I couldn’t walk for two months, my kids stepped up and took on a lot of personal responsibility for housework, self care, and taking care of the toddler.  This time around, I’ve been pretty discouraged by how much I unthinkingly do for my children, cruelly enabling them to not do it themselves.  We’ve regressed!  So here’s a reminder for me (and anyone else who is feeling overwhelmed by all they do for their kids) of what kids in our family’s age range can and should be able to do for themselves.

Age 3-4 (**realizing that some of these are hard to do when overtired**)

  • Dress herself in appropriate clothing (long sleeves/play clothes/church clothes/pjs) as directed by me
  • Put on shoes herself
  • Come when called (in house/at playground/at church nursery/etc)–our family standard is that we “obey right away, all the way, and with a cheerful heart,” and this is definitely a work in progress at our house.
  • Unload silverware and kid items from dishwasher every morning (we keep all our plastic kid cups/plates/bowls in a low drawer so that even the little ones can reach them)
  • Load dishes directly into dishwasher or cup back in fridge at the end of a meal
  • Put away art supplies such as construction paper, crayons, colored pencils, in designated bins.
  • Put away books on shelves with their spines facing out
  • Put away dolls, legos, duplos, blocks, trains, etc in designated bins when done playing with them
  • Get into carseat right away and buckle top part by herself
  • Help herself to easy-to-eat snacks such as cheese sticks, bananas, cuties, baby carrots
  • Fold clean washcloths and put in bathroom cabinet, fold dishcloths and put in kitchen drawer
  • Put dirty clothes directly into the dirty clothes basket in the laundry room
  • Put clean clothes away in proper drawers, as long as someone else has done the folding
  • Organize family shoes into our storage cubbies in the hall closet

Age 5-6

  • All of the above
  • Brush her own teeth after breakfast
  • Brush own hair and put it into a pony tail (I honestly had no idea she could do this–it was a revelation a few weeks ago when she came up to me with her hair done…with four of us girls in the house, all with long hair, this is a huge time suck every morning!)
  • Set table, as long as the grown-up dishes are handed down from the tall cabinets
  • Dust shelves using fleece dusting rag
  • Organize random toy mess into appropriate places
  • Get into carseat/booster as soon as she gets into the car and buckle herself up
  • Make toast or sandwiches with pre-cut bread (we primarily eat homemade, and she has had to get stitches for using knives, so the big kids or I still have to slice it for her)
  • Pour milk without spilling
  • Fold cloth napkins (which we use instead of paper) and put away in proper drawer
  • Sort clean clothes into piles by child in order to be folded
  • Hang up clean dresses
  • Bathe self except hair

Age 7-8

  • All of the above
  • Tie own shoes (we just seem to have velcro or slip-ons until this age, so shoelaces are a late-learned skill at our house)
  • Dress self in weather-appropriate clothing without being told; wear appropriate combos (still working on this one with my print-on-print loving girl!)
  • Floss and brush teeth at night
  • Bathe including hair, wash and rinse out sisters’ hair
  • Fix breakfasts not involving boiling water for little sisters
  • Fetch and put away food while I’m cooking (eg, knows her way around the pantry) and unload groceries to appropriate places
  • At grocery store, help me get produce (often in the fruit aisle, I’ll have her pick up apples while I’m getting the bananas, etc)
  • Crack eggs without getting the shell into what we’re making
  • Microwave leftovers without help
  • Wipe up spills on floor
  • Cut bread for sandwiches/toast, help little sisters with breakfast/lunch
  • Fold and put away clean clothes
  • Read to younger siblings when I need them occupied (eg, when I’m doing schoolwork with big brother)
  • change diapers (Yay!  No diapers have needed to be changed in our house for a couple of months now!)
  • Take younger sibling to the bathroom if we’re out at a park (they don’t need help any more, I just want them to have a buddy in public bathrooms)
  • Switch clothes from washer to dryer and pull out of dryer when done
  • Sweep kitchen floor (multiple times a day)
  • Collect trash all over house and replace trash bags
  • Vacuum rugs and empty roomba when we’ve run that
  • Wipe down bathroom surfaces with clorox wipes for quick clean before company comes
  • Navigate around the children’s account on the computer to pull up audiobooks/music so that I don’t have to drop what I’m doing to do it

Age 9-10

  • All of the above
  • Do the boiling water part of breakfasts (oatmeal/tea) for mom/sisters/self
  • Pack our lunches (make sandwiches, wash up apples, fill up water bottles, etc) when we’re going to be out for the day
  • Wipe down kitchen counters and table after cooking/eating
  • Make macaroni and cheese or other stovetop lunches
  • At the grocery store, go off and pick up specific items for me while the girls and I are getting other items–note that this only works well at a place like Sprouts where I can see across the store.  I would not send him off on his own at Costco!
  • Read schoolwork directions to one sister while I’m doing schoolwork to the other, lead sisters through CBS (Community Bible Study) homework by reading the passage and telling them how to spell big words in the answers, usually while I’m getting other schoolwork ready
  • Do math and writing on his own, just needing me to check work or help when stumped.
  • Sort and start a load of laundry (then transfer to dryer, take out, fold, put away)
  • Take out trash and recycling to our community dumpster (we don’t have individual trash pick-up, so this isn’t on a certain day)
  • Scrub or mop kitchen floor as needed
  • Scour toilets, clean bathroom, scrub tub/shower as needed
  • Vacuum out car with shop vac
  • Buckle youngest sister into her carseat and check that it’s appropriately tight; unbuckle her before getting out of the car
  • Put away bike and outside toys in the evening when all the neighbor kids are coming inside for dinner — this is a huge struggle for us!
  • keep room tidy and organized (ha!)


As you can see, I obviously expect the responsibility to grow with age.  There is a LOT of training at 2-3 that gets many of the skills going.  Do these sound like reasonable expectations for you, or are they too lenient?  What other important skills am I missing here?  Or if your kids are past this stage, what did you do right to help your kids learn these skills?

Posted in Parenting, Practical Housekeeping | 3 Comments

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

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Summer Vacation


We’ve been out of school for about three weeks in my neck of the woods, and man, has it been hard.  I imagine most every mom–working outside the home or full-time at home, sending her kids to school or homeschooling them–has dreams of the fun, relaxing summer vacation that the family is going to enjoy together.  Pinterest is full of bucket lists, most towns have lots of free and cheap family-friendly activities, and if you’re lucky enough to be married to an academic, Dad even has more flexibility with his work schedule.  Except that along with all the freedom of summer comes the testing of boundaries and all that fun stuff.  Last week, as I was being kicked, bitten, and head butted for half an hour by a little girl who was having an out of control temper tantrum over a single disputed duplo girl, I thought, I totally get moms who have their kids come home from school and send them right back out to camp for the summer.  This is not how I thought summer break was going to go!

I’ve opted not to send my kids to summer camp, nor even to VBS, this summer.  We worked hard up through the last day of school, and we’re driving over 5000 miles on a month-long road trip this summer, so I wanted our six weeks of summer vacation at home to be a real vacation.  I’m glad I did this.  We’ve gotten to do some fun field trips with friends to local zoos and museums, we’ve had some leisurely days at home and an impromptu afternoon at the beach, and I’ve gotten to do a lot of parenting work.  During the school year, I’m parenting all the time, but our routine and general busy-ness (we were out of the house at least three times a week this spring) often prevent my girls from having enough time to play together long enough to start fighting over Veronica, everyone’s favorite duplo zookeeper.  It’s not that my kids are innately holier during the school year, but rather that their little sin natures are hidden under the generally compliant behavior of a child who is getting to play with her best friends several times a week.  When we’re not on the go, it’s much easier to see the state of all of our hearts.  And it’s not too pretty.  Everyone wants the same duplo.  I am beyond exasperated that they are fighting over something so stupid and just want to get rid of all our duplos.  Tempers flare.  Teaching opportunities abound.

So what is the solution?  Send them off to camp, distract them with tv when they get home, and then bribe everybody with popsicles in the evening, collapsing in bed too tired to fight anymore?  For some moms, that might be the right call for a season, and of course this doesn’t preclude heavy duty parenting in the spaces between activities.  But this summer, I’m trying to embrace this chance to train and shape their character.  I’m rolling up my sleeves and getting down to eye level and working on cheerful obedience.  I am embarrassed to admit this, but this month, I’m finally getting around to teaching the little ones to fold and put away their laundry–there’s no reason just the big two and I should be doing all the work!  I’ve mentioned before that extended free time at home over school breaks goes better when I’m purposeful.  In addition to that fun summer bucket list, I have some heart goals for each child, and I’m plugging away at them.  I also used our school marker board to write up 1 Corinthians 13, replacing “love” with “our family.”  It’s sortof an overarching goal for the summer.

Has your summer vacation been good, bad, or ugly so far?  Do you find yourself having to work harder at parenting once school is out?

Posted in Home Life, Parenting | Leave a comment
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