Play Rooms (Gratitude – Day Ten)

On the 10th day, I am grateful for play rooms – and that our basement playroom is finally finished! I am not sure who is more excited – the tiny humans or me. 

I think play rooms are important for kids, and important for moms and dads, too. Here's why: 

  • Organized Disorder: When I was little, my parents rarely made me clean my room. They were great that way. But if they were trying to use reverse psychology or use immersion therapy or something, figuring "eventually she will gross herself out and clean her room already," they were so wrong. My room was a pit. I think my kids deserve the same freedom somewhere in their world.
  • Be Creative: I think the kids need a space where they can play with all their toys at once if they want to. Building block castles while dressed as superheroes and taking breaks to play musical instruments or whip up something in the play kitchen? Play room perfection. 
  • Teeny Tiny Library: Long ago, my kids lost privileges to having access to all their books at the same time. Usually because they ended up in a giant pile that resembled what I imagine a book-burning looks like. So we put them in a book shelf – a "novel" idea, I know – and put them in a different room. When they want to read a book, they ask to visit the "library" and take out a book. Until now. Now that they have a play room, there will be a "book nook" with baskets of their favorite books and comfy chairs to read in. Stay tuned for how well that works out. But I do think it is worth a try. Kids need to read. 
  • Keep it Contained: Play rooms need doors. To keep parents out and toys in. The end.

I appreciate the hard work my husband put in the finishing the basement and helping me create a play room for the tiny humans. Here's hoping the play room makes the tiny humans a little less stir crazy this winter – which is supposed to be on the long and snowy side this year. 

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.

Things Change

Today was not my day. I won't bore you with the mundane details, as I am fully aware that my problems – while very real to me – can easily be classified as petty, annoying "white whines." But perception is reality, and today mine sucked.

The icing on the cake came mid afternoon, in the observation room of T's gymnastics class when A looked up at me and said, "Mumma, I pooped." My first thought was, "really, because I just suckered your dad into changing a poop about an hour ago." Followed quickly by "I have no idea where the diaper bag is. And the odds are not in my favor that it is in the car."

What are my options here? I can't pretend I don't know – four other mommies and one grammy just heard my child tell me she pooped. Even if I don't have a diaper, they don't know I don't have a diaper so I have to at least pretend I'm going to change her. Also, it really smells, so I can't even fake a look in the diaper and say, "no no silly girl, that was just gas."

Which leaves me with – schlepping out to the car, fingers crossed that the diaper bag is there. Or maybe a stray diaper hidden under the seat, partially obscured from view by a mountain of fruit snacks and lost action figures. No such luck. I will not tell you what the next step was because A and I made a firm pact in the ladies room of the gymnastics place that we would never speak of it again. I will tell you that it was not pretty, and I judged myself a little bit even as it was happening. Desperate times and all that.

The point is – how did I get here? How did I become a mommy without a diaper bag? Because four years ago – yup, J was born exactly four years ago tomorrow – I was a diaper bag packing pro. I never left the house without a fully stocked diaper bag, including:

– 10 diapers and a full package of wipes (not travel sized, the full package)
– Changing pad
– 3 complete outfit changes, including socks
– 2 receiving blankets
– No less than 2 or more than 4 burp cloths
– 17 assorted sample sizes of diaper rash cream (in spite of T never actually suffering from diaper rash)
– 2 pacifiers (which remained in there long after T just quit taking them around 5 months)
– 3 mini bottles of hand sanitizer
– Mini first aid kit and nail repair kit, including scissors
– Books and toys, including crayons, markers and coloring books
– Snacks and $15 stainless steel baby sippy cup (which T never actually drank out of. EVER.)

It used to take me at least 30 minutes before we went anywhere with baby T to empty, inventory and repack the diaper bag. My husband didn't even try to help – he would just sit quietly with T, trying not to move or make eye contact while I was packing the bag. It was safest for both of us that way.

Fast forward four years – not only have I not packed the diaper bag in months, I apparently cannot even remember to put a diaper into my purse for emergency purposes. So I'm making a little promise to A and I tonight – two promises, actually. 1) I will put together "in case of emergency" mini diaper kits and stash one in each of the cars, and 2) We will work on getting on board the potty train, because I clearly cannot be trusted.

UPDATE: I told you I cannot be trusted. The following day, I grabbed two extra diapers so we wouldn't have a repeat performance (because I haven't gotten around to the ICE diaper kits yet)…and left them on the kitchen counter. And A peed through her clothes at the Bounce Zone. Thank goodness her Auntie had an extra Pull-Up. I. Cannot. Be. Trusted. Poor A.