Thursday, August 11, 2016

Just In Case Prep

I hate thinking of the worst case scenarios.

I am generally a pretty optimistic person. I'm the one who likes to consider the possibilities that the major storm may not be as bad after all. The person who hopes that the news is the media using scare tactics to generate buzz. I don't bury my head in the sand, but I don't like thinking of doomsday scenarios.

Recently Adam and I were watching the How I Met Your Mother episode where Marshall and Lily prepare their "death folders" after their wedding. I hate, hate, hate thinking that these may be necessary, but the rational and logical part of my brain knows that a death folder is just as practical as having a will. Passwords, user names, pertinent info, all locked in our safe just in case. We don't call them "death folders", but even though I hated doing it, it makes sense.

Just in case.

We also put little notes in the girls' backpacks and bags. Obviously their schools and activities have our information, but it's always helpful to have some emergency info right with them.

Just in case.

The last one we did a few months ago. I was reading about a family that had gotten into a car accident. Both kids, strapped into car seats, were conscious and fine. Both parents had been incapacitated. A scared child is generally not the most reliable source of information, and the responders had a tough time getting the information they needed. The writer urged parents to find a place to put that information in the car, just in case. Ages. Medical information. Parents names. Emergency contact. Put it on a bright sticker and stick it on the car seat, so that emergency personnel can find it.

Just in case.

Just in case feels scary. It feels like you're expecting a tragedy. Like you're inviting it.

But really, just in case should feel comforting. It's like buying insurance. You don't plan to use it, but you feel better knowing that it's there.

Just in case.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Top Eight Reasons I Want a Minivan

Now that my car is showing its age, Adam and I are having the conversation about future plans. Do we start shopping now, when my car is still technically functional? Do we wait until we've absolutely run it into the ground?

And his most important point - am I REALLY sure I want a minivan?

Back in college, my girlfriends and I each came up with something that indicated "mom style" or "middle age" that we absolutely wanted the others to stop us from doing. The SNL soccer mom parodies were big, we were barely in our 20s, and we would NEVER stoop to any of these stereotypes. I can't remember who said what, but I do remember a few of the indicators.

Wearing a holiday themed teacher sweater. Now that ugly sweater parties are a thing, this one could be moot. But I suppose wearing one without the party excuse would still count.

Mom jeans. Do maternity pants count? What about those "Not My Daughter's Jeans"? 


Clearly, twenty year old me had some things to learn. I thought a minivan was the worst of the suburban mom cliches. Not necessary, total soccer mom stereotype.


I have minivan lust. Minivan envy. When my best friend got her new minivan, we spent time drooling over all the fabulous features. I've done a fair amount of car research and writing over the past year, and everything drives me back to my singular desire for a minivan. I could come up with many, many, reasons, but here are my top ten.

1. The Space

My current car is deceptively small. Packing it can be a nightmare. When Adam pushes his seat back, Reagan is basically sandwiched into her spot. Fitting three people into the backseat, let alone three in car seats, seems to max out around age 7.

Minivans feel like a beautiful open plan house after living in a studio apartment. Ahhhh...we can breathe. We can fit. We can take a vacation without feeling like we are packed so tightly we can't move.

2. The Organization Possibilities.

Underseat storage. Cargo beds. Pockets and door caddies and cupholders galore. The wannabee organizational guru inside me is itching at all the possibilities of traveling like this.

3. The Separate Seats.

My girls have reached a stage where they fight over everything. And the middle of the bench backseat is a big target. Two captain's chairs? Yes, please!

4. The Ability to Move Around.

One of my friends from our dance studio uses her car as her "mobile dressing room". She covers the windows, hangs a blanket, and her daughter has room to stand up and actually maneuver herself into a leotard and tights. Other friends with young kids find that they can actually move around and get everyone settled without pulling muscles from leaning and angling and reaching.

5. The Ability to Carpool.

No, I haven't lost my mind. I actually want to set up carpools. Dance is twenty five minutes away. We go at least three times a week. Several of the girls live right in my neighborhood, yet I'm left out of the carpools because I can't participate. None of the girls are big enough for the front seat, and my backseat is literally full of booster seats, without room for another body. Seating for eight would actually cut my driving time way down. Honestly, this alone would be worth it.

6. The Cupholders.

There are more cupholders than seats in the models I'm looking at, and we could use every single one of them.

7. The Sliding Doors.

Bonus points for automatic.

8. The Ultimate Momness of it All.

Yeah, I know. This is what twenty year old Meredith didn't want, but it's what Meredith the Mom wants more than anything. Minivan designers get moms. They know what we need. They know what we want. And they give it to us. It's like when husbands know that the most desirable thing they can do is help clean up the kitchen. It's not sexy, but it is somehow exactly what we want.

Right now, I'm being patient. But if you see me hanging around dealership lots, drooling, don't judge.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Responsibility Time

The girls have a lot of activities. A lot of bags that need to be packed very specifically. And a lot to remember.

This, most of the time, feels like I need to have multiple bags packed and ready to go at any given time. It gets overwhelming. Dance bag, backpack, purse, car's a lot.

There were a few days last year when it hit me that Madison needed to start taking responsibility. Madison danced 3-4 days a week last year. Some days she needed her prop for her solo, some days she needed all her shoes, some days she needed a snack. She has a dance bag that can easily hold everything and it hangs on our hooks by the garage entrance.

Because the prop was on the bigger side, I took responsibility for that one. I also packed her snack.

Yet there were two days when she showed up completely unprepared. Once, I had decided to be on top of things, and I packed her snack early. She went into her bag, assumed it was from the previous class, and ate it. During break, she didn't have anything and it made her crabby. One day, she hadn't looked in the bag. She had taken out all her shoes to practice, and never put them back. When we got to the studio, twenty five minutes away, and she realized her mistake, she was incredibly upset. Understandably so. She may be young, but she's passionate about dance, takes it very seriously, and hates when anything makes her look like she doesn't.

But what did she do both times? Lashed out at me.

"You didn't tell me to put my shoes in my bag!"

"Why didn't you check to see if the snack was still there?"

Oh no. Oh, no, no, no, my dear. We are NOT starting this at five. Mommy may still need to help you, but she is NOT your personal assistant. I make sure your clothes are clean and in your drawer. I make sure your hair is done. I make sure you arrive on time. But there is a line, and boy oh boy did she cross it. Everyone, including me, forgets things from time to time and needs some help. But I don't want to start down the slippery slope of having her expect me to be in charge of her things when she's thirteen. I've seen in with kids I used to teach, and it's not a great picture. By that point, it's a hard habit to break.

Reagan still does need some help, but Madison is getting to the point where she needs to start taking responsibility for making sure that she has the correct bag, packed with the correct stuff, at the correct time. Like everything, we scaffold.

In the morning, we talk through the day. Is it a co-op day or a day when we're homeschooling out of the house? She'll need her backpack. We talk through what she needs, I help her write a list, and she gets it ready. Is it a dance day? Check the bag - make sure all the shoes, extra tights, water bottles and snacks are ready.

Are we going on a car trip? Will she have her car bag? I'll help her pack it initially, but both within the car and on our way home, it's her responsibility.

Right now, her purse is more of a fashion choice than a necessity, but I'd like to think that I'm helping her down the path to becoming a responsible young woman.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Developing Safe Habits

Growing up is hard.

On me, that is. 

For example, I have been known to exclaim, every six months or so, with teasing exasperation, "will you PLEASE stop growing?" Shoes that fit one day can't even be squeezed into the next. Reagan has the advantage of a full wardrobe at the ready, even if it isn't pristine, but there have been times we've gone to dress up and found that Madison has, literally, not one pair of appropriate shoes that fit, no matter how recently I'd checked. Every time I buy clothes for her, I buy big, hoping to get two seasons, and every time, I'm thwarted.

Then we're constantly entering new seasons of "do I know what I'm doing?" Am I giving them too much responsibility? Too little? Do I expect too much? Not enough?

And then, as the girls grow up, they are growing out and away from us.

Yes, I know they are only six and four. But I want them to be able to handle themselves in the world. If we work on developing safe habits now, they'll already be ingrained when they're older. They'll be comfortable navigating life with safety AND independence.

Right now we're working on developing safe, yet independent, habits in stores. Since we're in Target a lot (yes, I'm a cliche), we've started there. The girls like to get popcorn, so I've taken to giving Madison the cash, sending them to the snack bar while I hover within eyesight, and letting her handle the transaction from ordering to paying. We started slow - I ordered, she handled the money. Then she handled the entire transaction with me standing next to her. We talked about getting attention if necessary, speaking clearly, having manners, accepting change. Then I slowly pulled back to where we are now, a place where I don't even need to approach the snack bar.

In certain stores I let the two of them go to the restroom alone. We've talked about how to behave, how to handle themselves and look out for each other, and what to do if something comes up. I'm always close by, and if they are taking a long time or I feel uneasy, I can check in, but I want them to feel like they can have some independence.

Safety with strangers is another place where I'm making sure that they are growing out safely. I want them to know that making small talk in line is ok. That not everyone is out to get them. But that politeness doesn't mean that you need to make conversation with someone who is making you uncomfortable. There are safe people you can ask for help if you're lost (store employee, mom with kids) but that an adult should never need to ask you for help. (I did a post on this about a year ago, since I have such an outgoing child).

They're learning to be independent, yet safe, at home. We scaffold everything as they build independence. Learning to bathe themselves, take care of their morning and evening hygiene, get food and drink, problem solve, clean up, stay safe both in the house and around cars. Sometimes we have to back up and take some of the responsibility back, but they're learning.

They're learning. We're learning. They're growing. We're growing. We're all developing habits now that will stay as we keep moving forward.

And hopefully, we're all becoming independent while staying safe.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Prepared AND Organized

I've said it before and I'll say it again - if you ever need to survive the zombie apocalypse, find a mom. Between her purse and her car, she's got you covered. Need a fork? A drink? A band aid? Done.

I love my giant mom purse, but it is a little tricky to keep organized. It's big enough for everything I could possibly want or need to carry with me, but because it's one big bucket bag, it can become a black hole. And it might be great that I have snacks and band-aids and hair ties, but if I can't find them, it's really not helpful.

It's just like in the car. It's great to be prepared, summer or winter, but if it isn't organized, it's just a messy car.

By the way, I am totally guilty of this a good portion of the time. But I'm trying.

I'm not willing to give up my giant mom purse. But I can make it more efficient.

I joined Ipsy a few months ago, and I get cosmetics and beauty products every month. But even better than the samples and make-up is the cute cosmetic bags. I've repurposed them into purse bags. So in that giant mom bag, I have (among other things floating around):

  • a wallet that doubles as a clutch (for when I actually DO just need a clutch)
  • a grocery coupon wallet
  • a store coupon wallet 
  • a cosmetic bag with painkillers (children's and adult), stomach meds (children and adult), and benedryl (children and adult), band-aids, wet wipes and tweezers
  • a cosmetic bag with hard candy, mints, and gum
  • a cosmetic bag with lip balm, hair ties, a small mirror, a small brush, lip gloss, and mascara
  • a cosmetic bag with small snacks (fruit snacks and granola bars), two plastic spoons, forks, and straws
  • a cosmetic bag with pens, a small notebook and a few stickers
I grabbed a few key tags, labeled each bag, and tossed the bags in my giant bag. Now, instead of digging for a pen, I know where it will be. Just like in my car.

Prepared AND organized.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Keeping Everybody Happy

I write a lot about keeping kids happy and organized and learning and thriving. Which makes sense. I have kids that I'm still trying to figure out, and the researcher and teacher in me wants to figure things out and write about it.

Then I go to a conference, where I tell people that I write about raising kids while still maintaining the "Meredith" part of my identity, about how moms need to take care of themselves too, and I think "Hmmmm...have I actually done that lately? Or have I focused more cleaning and car seats?"

Yeah, it's more of the cleaning and car seats. Whoops.

I mean to. I want to. I really do. But sometimes you just get into the habit of making everything family centric.

Sounds great, right? Family! Most important thing! Until you realize that you've focused so much on them that you forgot you're a person too.

See how slippery a slope it is? You go shopping for yourself and wind up with a bag of clothes for the kids. You plan your meals based on what your kids like to eat. You spend so much time packing their bags for a trip that you scarcely remember to pack underwear for yourself.

Cleaning and car seats. Whoops.

Adam and I recently took a day trip without the girls, and it got me thinking about how I should be thinking, and writing, about that too. What are the road trip essentials for adults? Where is our packing list?

I don't necessarily have all the answers today. Sometimes just thinking about it is enough to jar me back into the kind of balance I encourage other moms to have.

For now, just trying to keep everyone happy, including me, is enough.

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