Figuring Out How to Keep Kids Rooms Clean (Gratitude – Day Four)

Gratitude, Day Four aka figuring out how to keep the kids' rooms clean. Why today? Because today we "fell back" with Daylight Savings. And we all know that on a day that we have an entire extra hour with our tiny humans (some of us the day after trick or treating, thanks to Sandy) gratitude is not the first word many of us are using.

how to keep kids rooms cleanSo I took the extra hour and took out every single toy my kids own and put in in the middle of their bedroom floors. They were in heaven, and it never occurred to them that I was also working toward accomplishing the ever-present "decluttering your life" goal by weeding out the toys as they played. With two tiny humans, 2 and 4, it seems like figuring out how to keep the kids' rooms clean is a lofty goal. But here are the things I know work for our family of four:

  • Everything In Its Place: Everything has to have a home. Even better if everything has a label, so the kids know where everything goes. Ditto for sitters, grandparents, Dad, etc.
  • Storage, Storage and More Storage: While a toy box is a quick and easy fix, it is disorganized and our toys have a way of getting lost and broken in toy boxes. I much prefer bookcase-style cubes with fabric boxes in them. They are cheap, easy to assemble, durable and replaceable.
  • One Thing At A Time: My kids are much better behaved when they are focused on one activity at a time. On the rare occasion I let them take out multiple things (today), they get overwhelmed and quickly abandon the clutter for another area of the house, trailing toys behind them as they go. To ensure that my tiny humans comply with the "one thing at a time" rule, they each have childproof locks on the closets where their toys are kept. That way they have to clean up what they were playing with before I open the closet to take something else out.
  • Set Expiration Dates: I don't have a schedule for when I go through the kids toys. Mostly I do what I did today – get bored or overwhelmed to the point where I just can't stand it anymore and tackle it. But at least twice a year – usually with the kids input – we do go through everything they own and either keep it, donate it, sell it or toss it. I would like to do it more frequently, but life gets away from me sometimes.

I know that decluttering your life is not a goal you achieve as much as it is a constant state of upkeep. But the above tips, when I stick to them, seem to be the key to how to keep my kids' rooms clean.

So after a loooong day (it feels like we fell back at least two or three hours, not just one) I am grateful to have had the opportunity and energy to tackle the kids rooms. Mostly I am grateful that it is done. And that when I finally wrestle them into bed tonight I expect they will be so tired from staying up an extra hour after playing with every single toy they own, it will be one of the easiest bedtimes in recent history. I am grateful for that, too.

Grandparents (Gratitude – Day Three)

This one should have been yesterday, but being a little bit behind is pretty standard for me. I found myself looking at the date – November 2 – feeling like I was missing something all day. I HATE that feeling. But I am in my thirties. There are countless dates that were important for one year in time – bachelorette parties, weddings, baby showers – and then not again.

Turns out, November 2 is not one of those days that was only important for one year. My Pepere passed away on November 2, 2001. I feel so old when I say things like this, but I will say it anyway – I cannot believe it has been eleven years. I cannot believe all the life I have lived – the best parts of my life – in those eleven years.

So today I am grateful for the opportunity to pause and reflect and miss my Pepere. And while I'm at it, my Memere, Grampy and Grammy. I feel honored to have known three of them for my entire childhood, when I really needed them. I mean that figuratively and literally. I was such a horrific baby that I am pretty sure without my Memere and Pepere driving 2 hours one way almost every day in the early days to give my mom a break, we would not have made it.

And while my Pepere was never very talkative, I think "I love you so much I will walk around this house in circles for hours on end holding you while you cry until you finally fall asleep" says a lot more than words ever could.

Or my Memere, who would cook separate breakfasts for my sister and I like a short order cook and wait on us hand and foot and take us to Stuart's for a special toy at the end of every visit. That is love.

Lastly, I am endlessly grateful that out of 14 grandchildren, I am the only one who got to dance with my Grampy on my wedding day. It was one of the highlights of my life.

I am grateful for these people who raised my parents and helped make us all who we have ended up to be. And while I would love to have had more time with all of them, it has always been comforting to know that when each of them passed I had nothing I felt I needed to say. They knew how much I loved them, and I hope they were and are proud of the mama I have turned out to be because of the things they taught me.

November 2 – a day for remembering my Pepere. (Writing it down. In my calendar. The iPhone one, so I really can't forget.)

Attitude of Gratitude

A few people on my Facebook newsfeed have been posting things they are grateful for – one each day – in anticipation of Thanksgiving. It is a nice change from the constant political updates and seems appropriate in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to focus on the positive. Most of us are so lucky, and have so much, when compared with 90% of the world.

I have decided that instead of posting what I am grateful for on Facebook, I will write it down here. I am secretly hoping that it will help me write more often. But, because I am me, and I am busy, I am already a day behind. So today will be double-gratitude.

November 1: I am grateful for my sister. She and I are 11 months apart, and we have not always gotten along. Beginning in our teen years, we finally did get along. When we were in our early 20's she went through some things that were heartbreaking and sad and ugly and hard. On her. On our family. On all of us. And I thought for a long time I might never have a sister – not the way I wanted, not the way we talked about when we were teenagers.

And then she came back. And we accidentally (her) on purpose (me) had kids at the same time. Very recently, she met someone and it seems like it is going in a good direction. My fingers and my toes and everything in between are crossed hoping for this person to be her person. She deserves it, trust me. (And someday, I think maybe we will write a book about all the people who were not her person and why Internet dating – while often successful in the long run – can be so, so sketchy.)

So yesterday we went to Target with A to update a few necessary wardrobe items (yeah, we're fancy Target shoppers) and wander aimlessly up and down the aisles. It occurred to me afterward, "that was nice. I am glad we are able to do that. Because there was a time, once, when I thought we never would."

November 2: I am grateful for my dad. My dad is thoughtful in little ways that make a big difference. He realized recently that he spends a lot of one-on-one time with my nephew, and he has been spending some time with just A and I while the boys are at school, but he never spends any one-on-one time with T.

Today he took T out to breakfast, then to the fire station*, then to Target to pick out a toy. T had a great time, but I think the gesture meant way more to me than it did to him. It is never easy to balance things when you have multiple children or grandchildren, and because of complicated family dynamics things don't always feel like they are coming out even.

So today, I am grateful to my dad for realizing that and making an effort to get to know my kid better.

* The trip to the fire station, while fun as a standalone, was really to make up for my shortcomings as a mother. A few Fridays ago, a fire truck came to T's school and even though he doesn't go on Fridays I said I would bring him to school to see it. But first we had to run errands, and T and A threw a stage 5 tantrum in the checkout line at Target (seriously, a woman suggested that I go home and drink wine. It was 10:45 am.), and we were four minutes late. And the firemen were ten minutes early. Which meant that we missed the freaking firetruck. Worst. Mama. Ever.

More tomorrow. And the day after that. And so on until Thanksgiving. HOPEFULLY.

I Can’t Breathe

I have not been able to breathe right this week. I, like many other millions of people, heard the story about Taylor Swift performing a song for Stand Up 2 Cancer. The song is inspired by a little boy and his mom, the boy having lost his battle with childhood cancer.

When I became a mom, I wasn't prepared for the way things would start to hit me. Things that seemed cruel or unfair before now make me feel like I have been kicked in the stomach. I take on other people's pain because of the universal bond of motherhood – that child could be my child; that mother's pain could be mine. The world looks – to borrow a vocab word from Momastery – awfully brutiful (brutal/beautiful). All. The. Time.

So I didn't listen to the song – Ronan – right away. I was avoiding it. But then I was stopped in traffic, and I clicked this link someone posted on Facebook and it took me to Ronan's mom's blog. I began to read, then I began to cry. The light changed; I had to pull over in a parking lot. I sat, and I sobbed, and I couldn't breathe.

Her pain – this complete stranger's pain – hit me so incredibly hard. I have been walking around carrying this pain, this fear, and this worry ever since. And I can't breathe right. This morning I watched the video of Taylor Swift singing the song, which sucked me into an hour-long rabbit hole of googling and reading Rockstar Ronan. I donated money to the family's foundation hoping it would fill this hole and help me breathe. I included a note to the family because it felt like something needed saying.

But it isn't right. And there is very little I can do. There are a lot of things us moms do to keep our babies safe but against this we have no defense. It is cruel and it is random and it is just so unfair.

So I wrote a check, and I wrote a note, and now I will write this post to remind myself of something important. Every moment I have with my kids – who drive me crazy and who I blame my wine-drinking hobby on – is precious. I am going to try so, so, so hard to remember that on the very worst days.

Because on those very worst days, the days where I am at the end of my rope, crying for a vacation, I am selfish. Because somewhere else in the world, there is a mom wishing for one more day – even a bad day, filled with tantrums and whining and potty training accidents – with her child who she will never see again.

On the worst days, I am going to try to breathe, remember this mom and her lost son, and do a better job. Hug them a little tighter. Count to 10 or 20 or 1000 – however long it takes – instead of yelling at them. I will pull them close and just be grateful for the bad days because it could ALWAYS be so much worse.

It’s Karma, Baby

I believe in Karma. Not in a crazy incense, patchouli oil and crystal worshiping kind of way, but more in a gravity kind of way. I don't give it much thought, I just take it for granted and believe in it like "duh, obviously."

So last week I was feeling like it was a distinct possibility that I had done something, sometime, particularly nasty that was coming back to bite me in the ass. I couldn't put my finger on it, but it must have been something HORRIBLE because the week sucked. And it kept. Getting. Worse.

We don't have to get into the specifics of the suckiness here, as our readers (at this moment, just me and my BFF Katharine) are well versed in those particular white whines. But the pinnacle of the suckiness occurred on Sunday afternoon. T and I were driving back from our after hours pediatrician appointment, almost to the pharmacy to pick up the antibiotic for his double ear infection. (Side note: if you know me, you know this is a big deal. T is 4, A is about to be 2, and the total number of times I have taken them to the after hours pediatrician equals ZERO. Until now.)

I casually reached over to the passenger seat for my purse. Casual reach quickly turned into frantic fumbling, throwing miscellaneous papers and receipts onto the floor. I pulled into the nearest parking lot, made one more futile effort to locate my purse – wallet – life inside the car knowing full well it wasn't there. Realizing with a sinking stomach that I had put it on the hood of the car while I strapped T into his booster. And failed to retrieve it.

Weekend just went from bad to wayyyyy worse, and I got to spend the remainder of it on the phone with various financial institutions and police stations in an effort to protect and/or recover my identity.

Flash forward 18 hours, back at the pediatrician's office for T's annual 4 year check up. The husband was roped into driving us, as clearly I cannot be trusted to operate a moving vehicle without losing something important. Did not want to risk losing kids. A came along because our pediatrician is awesome and checks both kids ears regardless of whose appointment it is, often saving me from making a separate appointment to diagnose the same germs.

Anyway. Pediatrician's office, 9:25 am.
Receptionist (with attitude): "You know your appointment was at 9, right?"
Me: "Nonononononononono! (Considering curling up in fetal position on floor.) I mean, um, I'm pretty sure our appointment was at 9:30."
Receptionist: "No, it was at 9:00 and there is a fifteen minute rule and she can't fit you in. Can you come back?"

At this point, I actually started crying. And in my mind, all I could think of was "I need something to go right. JUST ONE THING. I need to not screw up JUST ONE THING." Deep breath, wipe tears, try not to scare children. Turn to husband. "Babe, we have to leave. I got the time wrong."

Husband (checking voicemail): "It's okay, someone found your purse. We can go to the police station and pick it up."

And that's karma, baby. Sometimes, when it really counts, you get what you ask for. If you're me, it means continuing to return the change when the Dunkin' Donuts lady gives you too much back or to keep going back into a store to return an item that A shoplifted or doing anything that just feels like the "right thing" because when the shoe is on the other foot – it'll come back your way.

Oh, and the person who returned my purse? They returned EVERYTHING in it – including the $181 in cash that was the kids' Christmas money yet to be deposited. That person is my hero. I hope karma sends them a winning lottery ticket. Worth at least $182.