Eating Out With Toddlers

Maybe it’s just my kids – they are crazy – but eating out with kids is like being subjected to the tenth level of hell. I recently embarked on a lunch date with not one, not two, but FOUR toddlers and it was literally one of the worst mistakes I’ve ever made. It doesn’t help that the service was quite slow – although we had an awesome server.

They wiggle and jiggle and yell. They fight over crayons and coloring sheets. They slide under the table and try to escape the booth. Drinks don’t distract longer than a few seconds. They bother the people sitting in the booth next to ours. They completely forget what an inside voice is.

O finds it particularly funny to try to crawl under the table and through our interlocked legs that we have used to form a half-assed gate. He will run to whatever corner of the restaurant seems most appealing, all while smiling and laughing and catching the eye of every person over the age of 55. Why don’t I strap him into a highchair? Mostly because he finds a way to escape the seat belt EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Ugh.

You finally get to a point where you just succumb to the fact that this has become an adventure in parenting rather than a nice meal. O has apparently dropped a piece of fruit on the ground because he comes back up from below the table eating it. I have officially given up.

“So that’s happening. Floor food for the win apparently.”

Did we survive? Sure. Because that’s what you do when you have toddlers. You survive. We had to pull the van up and load the kids up two at a time. One of left to deal with the aftermath and the payment.

The worst part is, I’ll end up doing it again? Why do I subject myself to the tortures of eating out with toddlers? Well, it probably has to do with the fact that if I don’t take them out to eat, they’ll never learn how to act in public. But, man, what a shitty age for my kids and eating out.


Update On My Fainting

I haven’t posted again in awhile regarding my health issues and I’ve had a number of people ask me how things are going.

I’ve fainted twice in two months. Definitely a decrease. It’ll have been a full month in a few days here and I’m trying not to jinx it but we’ll see how my streak continues.

Yesterday I went to a consultation at the Sleep Institute to see if my issues could be related to a sleep disorder. The doctor I saw believes I may have narcolepsy with cataplexy and is looking to perform a sleep study in 3 weeks. I will stay overnight and part of the next day to test my overnight sleep as well as my ability to nap. Such a strange thing. In the mean time he did give me a diagnosis of hypersomnia with cataplexy. He believes that he’ll be able to help me with my symptoms and come up with not only a diagnosis but a treatment plan.

I’ve always been able to sleep for as long as I can remember. I’ve never had an issue with falling asleep. In fact I can nap multiple times a day with no problem if I don’t have an abundant amount of caffeine in a day. Apparently, the ability to sleep most of the day away on any given day is a bit out of the ordinary. I drink copious amounts of caffeine to keep me from falling asleep during the day or while driving. So the hypersomnia seems to be a match. There just might be something more to this.

I may actually have some solid answers within the next month. I honestly couldn’t be more anxious and relieved at the same time. I still wonder if we’ll actually find the answers to get me through these symptoms. The doctor seems to be very confident that we will.

Stay tuned for the follow-up.

The Kindness of Strangers

Today has been a day. Not a good day, not a bad, just a day. The kids had been fighting me on everything from breakfast, to getting dressed, to buckling their own seat belts.

After dropping G off at speech, I thought, let’s go run an errand. I have 45 minutes to walk around and grab the few little things I need. Which undoubtedly turned into me grabbing a few things I didn’t need.

I was wrapping up my shopping trip and inserted my card into the reader to pay. It wouldn’t read my card. Tried and tried. Then tried swiping my card. Still a no go. So I thought, why  not try the ATM. Nope. Now usually I have another card that I can use. Today though, while shopping, I dropped said card and hadn’t realized it. I was waiting patiently to see if there was a way to try my transaction at a different terminal when a woman I have never seen before in my life offered to pay for my purchase. I was dumbfounded. She said she had kids and knew what it was like and didn’t want me to have to go back out into the cold. I was in complete and utter shock. I thanked her repeatedly and yet forgot to ask her contact info so that I could pay her back. Ugh. I’ve been blessed on more than one occasion and can say that it is still just as shocking every time a stranger does something out of the kindness of their hearts – and it shouldn’t as I’ve done similar things for people in the past.

Sometimes people are just genuinely good people putting genuine good out into the world.

So today, at some point, I’m going to pay it forward. And not just with a coffee in the Starbucks drive-thru. Give me some ideas! What would be a good way to repay this good deed so that it doesn’t just stop with me?

Organized Chaos

So awhile back I posted my blog Cinde-who? about how I go about keeping my house in a more organized chaos. I’ve updated my cleaning list recently and prettied it up a bit.

I found that with my health issues, I had let my home fall to the way side. Not really the smartest way to go in order to keep my chaos manageable. My fainting spells seem to becoming less frequent and thus more manageable. Because of that, I decided it was time to whip out the old trusty cleaning list and start making my home a little more manageable as well.

Each day, I complete all the tasks on the daily cleaning list and then follow it up by completing the corresponding days tasks on the weekly cleaning list. I’ve created multiple cleaning lists over the years and with the help of one of my number one besties, I combined her list and my lists to create one master list, using her formatting.

You can snag your free copy of this cleaning list – here – so that you can tweak it to work for your home.

I know that most of the items on this list are no brainers. Wipe the counters. Sweep the floor. Take out the trash. But for me having the list to cross off seems to hold me accountable for the items I should be doing.

Another thing that I’m beginning to implement in my home is a chore/routine chart for my little ones and an earn it chore chart for my bigs. I scoured the internet for a photo chore chart that was easy to use, functional and actually looked good. What I found after a long time of searching was that I loved the one I found on the blog A Mother Far From Home. They cost a minimal amount and all I had to do was print them off. I’m sure that I could have found some on Amazon to use that were already printed, cut and laminated but why not support fellow mom bloggers instead? Am I right?

I created both a chore chart and a daily task chart for Gabe – Oliver will be using this bit by bit as he understands as well. I attached it to a magnetic board and glued magnets to the back of task cards to make it almost like a game. As the tasks get completed we match the cards to each task.

For the older kids the work for pay chore chart that I found on Living Well Spending Less seemed like the easiest route to go. I bought a decent looking cork board, some clips to attach chores and money to and hung it up. If the kids want to earn money, they choose a chore and once complete they can take the corresponding cash. Win, win.

As far as chores go, I looked up numerous “age appropriate chore lists” on the internet and found a handful for both the littles and the bigs. For the littles, I pay them a dollar per year old. So Gabe earns $3/week and Oliver earns $1/week. The older boys can earn as much as they want depending on what chores they decide they want to do. Their rooms must be in order and their beds made before completing any of the “for pay” items and each item must be mom/dad approved before being paid.

For the little ones:

put dirty clothes down laundry chute
match clean socks
sort silverware
put toys away
clean doorknobs

For the big kids:

mow the lawn – $5
shovel the sidewalk – $4
take out trash – $1
wash laundry – $2
clean bathroom – $3
de-clutter toy room – $1
put dishes away – $2
walk the dogs – $2
vacuum/sweep a room – $1
babysit siblings – $5

So far, Gabe seems to love having some structure and asks what’s next a lot. Still waiting to see what the boys end up doing with their chart. I’ll keep you posted. How do you think this could work for you?

Mom of Many Survival Tips

As a mom of four, I’m often asked how I manage my brood and stay sane. A. I am far from sane and 2. There are far more people with the same if not more children that handle it much better than myself. I’ve been complimented on my ability to be so relaxed… don’t worry, my give a shit is just a little lower than it probably should be. But after so many kids you start to realize what you actually need to worry about and what you can let go.
Here are my go-to’s to getting through as a mom of many.

1. Let it go.

This is not an ode to the ever famous Disney movie. There are so many little things that will stack up and topple down… you can choose to pick up the mess or let it knock you down too. You have to decide not to let little shit get to you. Realize that your home is never going to be perfect, your life is never going to be perfect, you are never going to be perfect and your kids are never going to be perfect. Once you realize this, you can get through any of your hard days.

2. Let the kids be kids.

They’re going to fight. They’re going to fall. They’re going to get hurt. If there isn’t blood, take a deep breath and let them do their thing. If something is really wrong, they’ll come to you. Brush them off, check them out, give them a hug and send them off to keep playing.

3. Have the big kids help.

Luckily I have a big gap between my older and youngers. But older kids – no matter the age difference – are going to help the little ones. Let them. Why not take advantage of it and lift some of the weight off of your shoulders.

4. And on that note – everyone should be helping out.

Give age appropriate chores to your whole brood. You shouldn’t be doing everything on your own. It makes you become resentful. Even if all your kid does is throw his diaper in the trash, pick up their own clothes or clear their plate… it helps.

5. Feed them.

As long as your kids are fed and you’re trying your best to get them something healthy at every meal, you’re doing it right. Your life doesn’t have to be 100% organic. Hell, I let my kids eat day old apples and cookies off the ground. Know why? It isn’t worth the fight and the tears and the screaming. Sanity mama, sanity.

6. Weather appropriate is what matters.

Eventually you’re going to let go of the need for your kids to be matchy matchy and perfectly dressed. It is so much easier. Let them be creative and dress themselves. If its weather appropriate, its appropriate. If your kids are anything like mine, they should probably have a wardrobe change at least once a day. But if you’re really like me, it won’t happen until bedtime/bathtime.

7. Screen time saves lives.

We’ve all heard the studies on screen time. And we all know the mom who doesn’t allow any and the mom who lets it happen whenever. I’m a firm middle of the ground mom. Sometimes I need that movie/tablet to help wrangle these kids into submission so that my sanity doesn’t fly out of the window. Sometimes, you have to do, what you have to do.

I’m a firm proponent of surviving parenthood. To me that means you do whatever it takes to get through your day. Some days you’ll have it all together and other days you’ll want to hide in your closet with a pint of ice cream and a bottle of wine and just cry. As a mom though, you don’t really get to do the second option. So instead, follow my little rules for survival. Let it go. Breathe. Try your best to raise your kids in a nurturing environment and if shit hits the fan and is filled with temper tantrums, fussiness and just plain old meltdowns … throw on the television, sneak a candy bar and BREATHE.

4 Years of Marriage

Today is our 4 year wedding anniversary. It has been four years filled with lots of highs and lots of lows, yet here we stand, together still.

Our wedding story is super untraditional. We originally planned to elope in Vegas. We were going to go down for my birthday and get married on October 10, 2014. We began planning a reception that would take place back here in Minnesota in January. We booked a venue, I bought my dress, things were going smooth. Then I found out I was pregnant with G. Vegas plans were cancelled and we changed our would be reception in to a full blown ceremony.

We planned an entire wedding in a four month time span. Cake, photographer, food, flowers, DJ… the whole thing. It was a whirlwind.

The day of the wedding, I decided we would wait to see each other until the ceremony. No sneak peak. No hiding behind a door to say hello. Full on first time seeing each other was at the ceremony. What. A. Mistake. I balled like a baby when I saw my husband for the first time. He had cut his long hair off and was standing at the front of the room ready to promise a future together forever.

My mother-in-law officiated the wedding and I wrote the entire ceremony, including the vows. It was truly beautiful. Towards the end we did a sand ceremony in place of a traditional unity candle. Mr. B, myself and B and D each poured sand into a picture frame and then we announced the gender of G and what his name would be. A surprise for everyone in attendance.

Nothing about our relationship or our family has been traditional. Nothing ever goes as planned. Even on the day of the wedding there were hiccups. But somehow we always manage to work through them. Our relationship is far from perfect. If someone asked me for marriage advice, I’d likely direct them to the nearest couples counselor rather than defer to any sage advice I may have. I do know that we have a love that will never die and through the highs and lows we call on that love to get us through.

We don’t always make time for each other, we don’t always do the little things they recommend. But there is one thing that we do follow. We choose each other. Every. Single. Day. We continue to choose each other. Some days other things might come first… like the kids, work, writing, the need for time alone. But we still make the conscious decision to be with the other person forever.

I also rely heavily on my relationship with God to help shape my relationship with my hubby. Cliche to some but my relationship with God has gotten me through some dark times and continues to do so. I firmly believe that God keeps our relationship strong.

After nearly eight years together, four of which we’ve spent married, we’ve added two kids to the mix and spend every day choosing this life over and over again. I know that the future won’t promise a life of ease but I also know that if we continue to embrace our love and choose this life that we can get through anything the world throws our way.

The #10YearChallenge

I reached out to my friends recently to see what they would want me to write a blog post on… one of the things brought up was where I thought I would be in life right now, 10 years ago. With the #10YearChallenge underway, I thought the timing of this blog was only appropriate.

Now, I did the challenge a bit differently and took my first photo from Facebook and my most recent photo. The difference? 13 years. I was still in college. I was actually in Australia at the time. Acting a fool and learning about the cultural differences between Australia and the United States.

I still thought I would be a nurse at the time but with my indecisive nature I ended up switching my major not once, but twice, only to end up with a double major in two areas I’ve never used. Women’s Studies and Broadcast Journalism. At that time, I think I probably thought I’d end up married to my boyfriend at the time, hopefully have kids and be working as a nurse.

Here I am today.

I’m employed as a Pharmacy Technician, although at the moment I’m back to being a full time stay at home mom due to my health issues. I definitely did not marry my college boyfriend and the kids thing definitely went a lot differently than I thought it would.

I didn’t think that I would never use my degrees that still have me in debt to this day.

I didn’t think I would ever be a stay at home mom.

I didn’t think I would fall in love with and marry someone younger than me.

I didn’t think I would have what was once considered an untraditional family.

I didn’t think I would eventually finding a job that I love … even if it is outside of my degree.

I never thought I would be a stepmom.

Or a boy mom.

Or a hockey mom/basketball mom/swimming mom.

Here I am though. I struggle like everyone else and post happy, smiling photos on social media. Life is crazy beautiful and I know that I am blessed beyond measure. Overall, I am happy with the way my life has gone. There have been ups and there have been downs but I know that there is a plan laid out for my life and I’m just trying to enjoy the journey.

50 Simple Acts of Kindness

As the new year is underway, I was thinking of ways I could make this year truly amazing. What better way then doing something kind for someone else. I know that when I do something nice for someone else, it always makes me feel better no matter how bad of a day I’m having. So here are some ideas for some simple ways to give back and put some good karma into the world. I tried to pick some easier ones since I know how busy life can be, but remember that there are so many ways to give back to the community.

  1. Stop by a friend’s house with their favorite kind of coffee.
  2. Hide a love note for your significant other to find.
  3. Make a donation to a local Museum for a family in need to get their admission free.
  4. Send a bouquet to someone on a random day.
  5. Give a gift to someone – just because.
  6. Write a thank you note to someone who has touched your life recently.
  7. Donate old books to an at-risk youth program.
  8. Offer to do laundry for a friend that just had a baby.
  9. Become a classroom volunteer in your students classroom.
  10. Adopt a family during the holidays.
  11. Organize or participate in a park clean up for Earth Day.
  12. Babysit for a single parent.
  13. Call an elderly family member just to say hi.
  14. Help motivate a friend who is working on a new goal.
  15. Adopt a section of highway.
  16. Walk a friend or neighbors dog who might be having a hard time getting out for whatever reason.
  17. Plant a tree.
  18. Sign up to be a bone marrow donor.
  19. Donate blood.
  20. Shovel snow for a neighbor.
  21. Stop and help a car stuck in the snow.
  22. Donate unused toys to a shelter for children in need.
  23. Bring flowers to the hospital and leave them at the nurses station. They’ll know who needs them most.
  24. Leave an encouraging post it note on bathroom mirrors.
  25. Give fair trade gifts.
  26. Help unload a neighbors car.
  27. Give a hot drink to your mail carrier on a cold day.
  28. Bring in a box of donuts for the office.
  29. Read a story in the childrens section of the library.
  30. Adopt a soldier.
  31. Send a post card to an old friend.
  32. Hold the door for someone.
  33. Pay for the coffee for the car behind you.
  34. Leave change in the vending machine.
  35. Let someone go in front of you in line.
  36. Insert coins into someone’s parking meter.
  37. Leave a large tip for your server.
  38. Buy groceries for the person behind you
  39. Pick up the tab at dinner
  40. Smile at someone
  41. Offer to help a mom who is struggling
  42. Offer to help someone carrying a lot of items
  43. Donate to a cause you care about… need ideas? Check out the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation or the Blue Dot Project.
  44. Make no sew blankets to donate to hospitals or homeless shelters
  45. Put together packs to hand out to the homeless
  46. Pick up litter in your neighborhood
  47. Make greeting cards for residents at a retirement home
  48. Make a tag announcement that reads “Take What You Need” with pull offs of words like compassion, faith, happiness, etc.
  49. Volunteer at an animal shelter
  50. Leave money in your DVD case for snacks for the next renter at the Redbox

Surviving the Threenager

As a self-proclaimed veteran mom – simply because I have older children as well as younger – I try to be as candid as possible about parenting. In other words, dont expect me to sugarcoat anything. When people ask me to describe my children, many colorful descriptions come to mind but usually the word “terrorists” make it’s way in. And if you were to ask me to describe my 3 year old, well, the kindest way I can do so is calling him “spirited.”

Everyone has heard of the “terrible two” stage but it seems that we are unfairly kept in the dark about the threenager years. Like, as soon as they turn 3, things will get easier. NO. NO. NO. This is a lie to try to keep you sane during the “terrible two” stage. Then 3 comes along and they become absolutely impossible to control and their attitudes become comparable to that of a teenage girl who was just told no to going to prom as a freshman.

This age is best survived with a tribe of other moms whom also have tiny little terrorist threenagers ruling their lives. It is also helpful to read as many mom blogs centered around the threenager as possible – not for the advice per se, but for the solidarity.

At this age, they’re working on developing their emotions and being able to verbalize what it is their feeling. That might be why you’re seeing a Jekyll and Hyde situation where one minute they’re trying to push/punch/slap and the next they’re hugging/snuggly/loving. These little ones dont have the vocabulary to express how their feeling in the moment so they act out their emotions instead.

The best thing to do with a 3 year old is to model the behaviors that you want them to mimic. Easier said than done. Because it is so easy to snap in these trying times when they’ve done the same bad behavior 300 times that day or have broken down for the millionth time in an hour. And it will happen – you will snap. Give yourself grace. Apologize. Give them a big hug. Move on. They have and if you dwell on it, it makes parenting that much harder.

This age is hard. Hell. It can plain old suck at times. Remember that this is just a developmental phase and you’ll get through this one, just like you got through the last one, just in time to start the next one. You will not get out unscathed, but you will come out stronger and able to manage your tiny person a little bit better.

Trust me when I say, I know what you’re going through. G has used a brand new television as a slide. He tells me he doesn’t love me when he doesn’t get his way and then that he does love me when he’s in trouble. He will try to beat O one second and then snuggle him up the next. He runs through this house like an overzealous tornado. Most days I want to cry, pull my hair out and laugh all at the same time.

Just breathe. This too shall pass. Laugh when you can – even if you have to do it so they can’t see. Take a break from them – put them in their room for quiet time so you can breathe for a minute. And remember that one day you’ll be the old lady at the park telling a mom how much you love this age.