routines · schedules · slice of life

Children crave structure & routine.

I remember hearing “children crave structure and routine” when I was in my first semester of my first graduate degree at Hunter College. I remember thinking that I should write it down since my professor repeated it over and over. Turns out it was an important lesson that I still have to remind myself of fifteen years later.

Once I had my own classroom (two years later), I realized the truth behind this statement. My students thrived when things were structured. (Let’s be honest, I wasn’t as regimented as I should have been during my first year in the classroom.) I sought to create a more structured environment, but it wasn’t until my second year of teaching that I figured out how to make that happen daily. (READ: I was in survival mode that first year of teaching.)

We’re in the final week of summer vacation around these parts. My daughter has been out of camp for the past three and a half weeks. With six days left until school starts, I have to be honest with you, she’s falling apart from the lack of routine. Even though she’s having play dates, mornings where she can sleep in, and lots of time at the pool, she isn’t thriving. She’s arguing with me about nearly everything. A half hour ago, I gave her some time away in her bedroom since she was yelling at me when I reminded her that she had to finish the water in her water bottle before she could watch a half-hour of TV. She felt as though she had been mightily wronged and screamed at me the entire way up the stairs. She continued once she was in her room.

That’s when the idea for this post was born. {NOTE to my daughter who may read this post years from now: You’re not alone in falling apart from a lack of structure during summer vacation. Keep reading so you don’t feel singled out.}

And that’s when I snapped this selfie of me being berated by my six-and-a-half-year-old from my office chair.

 

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Weary.

 

I inhaled deeply. I reminded myself not to take this personally. I repeated the mantra my professor uttered 15 years ago:

Children crave structure and routine.

I began brainstorming ways to make the final few days of summer vacation more structured.

  • Set a consistent wake-up time like we do for school.
  • Make sure bedtime — even on Friday and Saturday night — doesn’t exceed 8:00 p.m.

Then I stopped making my list.

Who was I kidding? We’re planning to do Hersheypark tomorrow morning, then the pool. Thursday and Friday include some appointments and more pool time. There’s also a birthday party in there and time with grandparents. There is nothing structured about the next few days!

My thoughts were interrupted by Isabelle walking downstairs calmly. Under her arm was Little Teddy. In her left hand, an empty water bottle.

I rose from my chair to meet her in the foyer. I knelt down to her level and cupped her face between my hands. “You should be proud of yourself for drinking your water. Do you remember why Mommy wants you to drink the water in your water bottle?”

“So my legs don’t cramp,” she replied.

“That’s right! How would you going to walk around Hersheypark if your legs hurt tomorrow?”

She shrugged. “You should be proud of yourself not only for drinking your water, but also for calming yourself down before you came downstairs.”

She smiled.

That’s enough, I thought.

As I transitioned her to her TV show, I started to think about ways to make the next few days more structured — even though they weren’t going to be routine in nature. All I came up with is a picture schedule that we could co-create the night before so she knows what to expect the following day. If you have any other ideas, please leave a comment on this post. The last thing I want is to start wishing away summer vacation. Summer vacation is meant to be savored.

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schedules · slice of life

A “Guest” on My Side of the Bed

FullSizeRenderBy the time the chimes on my iPhone went off a third time, I knew I had to get out of bed. I was still tired even if I hadn’t been the one to get up with Isabelle in the middle of the night.

I made the bed in the guest room, slipped on my Birkenstocks, and plodded down the hallway.  The light in Isabelle’s room was on, but she wasn’t in it.  Hmmmm…  I didn’t hear the television downstairs, which meant Marc hadn’t gotten ready for work yet.  Our bedroom door was closed.  Something was not right.

I opened the door to our bedroom and found Isabelle sleeping horizontally on my side of the bed with her blankie, her baby, and Teddy.  But Marc wasn’t there.  What on Earth is going on?

Light peeked out from beneath the bathroom door.  I knocked lightly, then let myself in.  He sculpted his hair with gel, getting ready for work.

“Good morning,” he said.

Before I could even ask him how he was feeling (Hence the reason I was sleeping in our guest room since the snoring from his cold kept me awake the previous night.), I said, “I see you had a guest last night.”

“Yeah, I did.”  And then he recounted the story.  Isabelle woke up and walked into our bedroom at 3:30 a.m.  She was confused by my absence and wanted Marc to bring her to me. He refused. He tried to get her back to sleep in her room, but she wasn’t tired. So, he let her turn on the light in her room and play Legos — until she banged them against each other.  At that point, he went back to her room and asked her to play quietly.  She did for several minutes, but kept going back and forth between our bedroom and her’s (all the while leaving me undisturbed in the guest room). Finally, she told Marc she was tired so he told her she could sleep on my side of the bed since he just wanted to go back to sleep.  (After all, he is the one who is under the weather.)  She must’ve gone back to her bedroom to retrieve her personal effects since this I found her quite cozy with four items from her room snuggled-up on my side of the bed.

When she awoke, I asked, “Are you comfy?” She smiled.

Don’t get used to it, kiddo, I thought.  You’re going back to your bed tonight.

Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com on Tuesday for more slices of life.
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com on Tuesday for more slices of life.
routines · schedules · slice of life

Recalibrate Upon Re-entry

Processed with Moldiv“How did you feel when Mommy went away last week?”

“Sad,” Isabelle replied.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because, I missed you.”

“But Bubbe and Zayde came to visit. They took good care of you while I was away, right?”

“Yes. But I still miss you.” Isabelle admitted.

“I know,” I said as I put my arms around her.  “But mommy had to go away.  To work with teachers.”

“I know.”

“But you didn’t like it?” I inquired.

“No. I not like it,” Isabelle shook her head.

“Because you were sick or because I’ve been away lot lately?” I asked.

“Boff (both).”

I nodded my head. “I have been away a lot lately. I will be around a lot more for the next couple of months. You’ll probably get tired of me and wish I were going out of town.”

Isabelle shook her head.  “I miss you when you’re gone.”  (Taken straight from Pitch Perfect’s “When I’m Gone.”)

* * * * *

In the past six months, Isabelle has been in the care of at least one of her grandparents for a day or more eight times.  That’s right, eight times. Some of the trips were short: a train trip to NYC and back in a day. Most were overnights, with the longest being four nights away to write.  While the typical mom response is to say I feel guilty about my absences, the truth is that I don’t.  I’ve done speaking engagements and spent time nurturing my writing life. I even spent a couple of nights away with my husband to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  If six months is approximately 180 nights, then I’ve been present for 160 days of wake-ups, tuck-ins, and everything in-between.  That means I’ve been here almost 90% of the time! That’s nothing to feel guilty about!

What I do feel badly about is the way this weekend’s re-entry process has gone. Typically, Isabelle is delighted by my return.  This time she has been ignoring my questions and arguing with me every chance she’s gotten. By this morning, I felt as though she was pushing every single button I had, which is why I drove the two of us to the Hotel Hershey after my allergy shots.  It was a recalibration, of sorts.

You see, Isabelle loves hotels. She especially loves the Hotel Hershey.  (It is a four star, historical hotel. What can I say? The kid has good taste!) The two of us spent some time in the lobby where she did her artwork on their fancy memo pads with their pens.  Next, we went to the Cocoa Beanery where she got a cookie and I had a much-needed latte.  Finally, we went upstairs to the Fountain Lobby where we played “kitchen,” a game she invented a few rainy days ago.  (That’s right.  This is my go-to spot for rainy or super-cold days when we find ourselves with downtime in Hershey and don’t have enough time for a more kid-friendly activity.)

By the end of our almost two-hour mini-vacation, the two of us were getting a long better.  We had had a heart-to-heart (i.e., the conversation written out above) and enjoyed each other’s company.  While she still “wiped off” the kiss I gave her in the car, she was more pleasant towards me on the way home. Perhaps our trip to the Hotel Hershey will be a turning point as we attempt to get back to our daily routine. After all, I’m not going away overnight for the next two months. In other words, she’s stuck with me.

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Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com on Tuesday for more slices of life.

 

OBSERVATIONS · schedules · slice of life

‘Cago

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Marc shows Isabelle the map on the end pages of Catching Kisses.

Fridays are supposed to be a happy time around here.  Daddy is supposed to be home for the weekend.  The three of us are supposed to have an abundance of family time.  But this Friday morning felt like any given Monday morning since Daddy was going away.

I followed Isabelle into our bedroom where my husband was packing to go on a business trip.  She came alongside him and inquired about his suitcase. That’s when he dropped the news: “Daddy is going away for the weekend.”

“No! I miss my Daddy!”

“Come here,” he said as he moved towards his night table to retrieve one of Isabelle’s favorite bedtime books.

He removed Catching Kisses from the pile. She plodded towards him. He picked her up on the bed. They sat beside each other.

“Daddy is going to Chicago this weekend.” Then, he opened to the inside back cover of the book and showed her the map of the United States we examine after read aloud of Catching Kisses.  “This is where Chicago is,” he said pointing to the dot, icon, and name of Chicago on the map on the end pages. “This is where we live,” he said pointing to the space west of the New York and Washington, DC dots.  “I’ll be back from Chicago on Sunday.”

I stood there, kvelling at the way my husband used a favorite read aloud book to show Isabelle where he’d be going.  And then I heard:

“I wanna go ‘Cago too!” Isabelle declared.

Daddy had to explain what a business trip meant.  Daddy had to explain she wasn’t going to be joining him.  Daddy had to explain she’d have fun with mommy and the other family members coming to town for the weekend.

“I miss my Daddy!” Isabelle said when he finished talking.

“I’m going to miss him too,” I added.

And then I joined them for a hugs and kisses (How could you not when the you used Catching Kisses?) on the bed.

This weekend is one of the 2-4 times per year he misses a weekend at home to attend a conference.  2 – 4 weekends away per year isn’t a lot when you’re an adult, but when you’re three years-old it seems like 2 – 4 weekends too many.

OBSERVATIONS · routines · schedules · slice of life

A Slice of Sadness

Friday nights are a happy time in our house.
Monday mornings are a sad time in our house.

Friday nights are when we eat a festive dinner.
Monday mornings are when we rush through breakfast.

Friday nights are a time for family again.
Monday mornings are a time for routine again.

Friday nights are when Daddy is home for the weekend.
Monday mornings are when Daddy goes back to work.

Friday nights are filled with “I love my Daddy.”
Monday mornings are filled with “I miss my Daddy.”

one little word · routines · schedules

Vitality

My daughter has a small rubber duckie collection. She placed “Dr. Duckie” on my elliptical rider’s foot pedal. Is she trying to tell me something?

I was feeling a bit sluggish when 2012 came to a close. I gained a few pounds in December since we went to New York and celebrated our anniversary.  Even though I had been going to bed at 10:00 p.m. nearly every night and was exercising, I wanted to be healthier and more vital in 2013. In an effort to keep my wellness top of mind, I picked “vitality” to be the one little word to guide me through 2013.

About a week into January I got sick with a sinus infection that was so bad it affected my asthma and required two courses of antibiotics. I barely exercised that month, which means that when I got back on the elliptical rider and the reformer, it felt as if I were a newbie working out for the very first time.  If I had made a resolution to workout more, then perhaps I would’ve given up.  However, one little word is like a marathon. I couldn’t give up since that was my word of the year.  hit the reset button on February 1st, once I was completely better, and renewed my quest for vitality.

I’ve completed 96 Headspace sessions since I purchased my one-year subscription.

I began meditating in late March as a way of trying to achieve a greater sense of overall vitality. I started out by listening to a 10 minute podcast from a program called Headspace, on my iPhone. Initially, it was challenging to carve out 10 minutes in my day for this purpose so I was meditating before bedtime, which meant I’d often fall asleep during the meditation. I rescheduled my meditation for earlier in the day and began to have more energy and found a greater sense of calm.

Every day I listen to a 20 minute podcast, which helps me reset my body and my mind. As a mother of a toddler, I have found I have more energy for keeping up with my daughter since I started meditating.  Furthermore, I have more patience for dealing with the inevitable mood swings and the constant testing that go along with having a toddler too. My meditation time is something I closely guard and value as part of my daily life.

My husband reminds me (often) that I need to make myself a priority. He plays with Isabelle or takes her out on the weekends so I can make time for exercising and meditating while Isabelle is awake. (That enables me to use her nap times to do work.)  In fact, if he comes home from work and finds out I was unable to carve out the time to do either one of those during the day, he takes over so I can take care of myself.  Having his support certainly makes it easier to achieve greater well-being.

If I’m lucky (and I mean really lucky), Isabelle will nap for three hours in the afternoon.  That means I have three hours to meditate (25 minutes), workout (60 minutes), and get work done (95 minutes). That doesn’t leave a lot of time for work, which means I often spend the evenings, after she goes to bed, writing and working on presentations.  Since I’m still in bed by 10:00 p.m. (and up by 6:00 a.m.), I often have to have someone watch Isabelle so I can get work done before presentations and consulting engagements. While hiring an occasional babysitter isn’t ideal, I have to balance my day times in order to stay true to myself on my quest towards vitality.  However, I know I’m a better mother, wife, daughter, and friend when I am well-rested, take care of my brain, and treat my body well.  Therefore, this is the path I’m sticking with for the remainder of this calendar year.

As for the rest of 2013, I’m going to try to drink more water and reduce the amount of chocolate I eat. (NOTE: Reduce, not eliminate!)  Also, I’ve been in the process of cutting back on the amount of caffeine I consume. I’m still going to work on that for the remainder of the year.

Since early April, I do Pilates 3 days/week and go on the elliptical rider 3 days/week. I give myself one day off for “good behavior.”

What one little word are you living by this year?  How is your word helping you stay on track with your goals or do you need to reset and give yourself another chance to live by your word this year?

OBSERVATIONS · schedules · slice of life · the need for safety

Blueberry Picking

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Isabelle runs down the aisle between the blueberry bushes in an effort to catch Lauren and Jack (who are a bit ahead of her).

Our days are busy… even in the summertime.  Every morning we have something (usually speech therapy for my daughter), so it’s rare to have a full free morning for a play date.  One Tuesday, each month, we have NOTHING scheduled.  I knew, in advance, today was the day so I made plans with my friend Lauren to go blueberry picking with her and her sons.

Lauren and I have known each other since I moved to Pennsylvania.  We were pregnant with our kids (i.e., her oldest) at the same time.  Izzy and Jack are five weeks apart and get along splendidly.  In fact, they’re in the same parent/child class as us so we see a lot of each other during the school year.  However, Lauren’s second son arrived two months ago, which means Izzy and Jack haven’t spent as  much time together lately.  Therefore, when I knew we had a free day, I immediately checked with Lauren to see if she was free.

Despite the gray sky and ominous weather report, we ventured down to Dillsburg to pick blueberries with the kids this morning.  The kids picked berries off of the bushes and put them in their buckets.  (Though Izzy ate more blueberries out of our buckets than she did from the bushes!)  Being the kind of friend he is, Jack noticed he had more blueberries than Isabelle so he began feeding her some of his berries.  They giggled as they shoved berries in their own mouths too.  By the time we were finished, the kids’ fingers were sticky and their tongues were bluish-purple.

But it wasn’t all fruit and smiles.  There were many bees in and around the bushes, which caused Izzy to scream many times.  I landed up holding her a lot more than I expected, which meant we only picked 1.87 lbs. of blueberries by the end of the morning.  😦  Alas, being a mommy means being the one who comforts your child and tells them they’re safe even when a busy bee threatens their personal space. Therefore, we didn’t pick nearly as many blueberries as we did last summer.

While the bees terrorized Izzy, there were more squeals of happiness than there were cries of fear.  Once we got into the car I asked Izzy, “Did you have a good time.”  She nodded enthusiastically and said “yes” as clear as day.  (When she says “yes” like that, she always means it.) 🙂

Even though we don’t have all that many blueberries, we’ll bake blueberry muffins later (Click here for the most incredible muffin recipe EVER!).  And, we’re going to go back and pick blueberries again with some other friends next week.  Hopefully the bees won’t be a nuisance to her next week.

OBSERVATIONS · routines · schedules · slice of life

Simple Sunday

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Pretending to drink coffee like Mama.

I recently read the chapter on schedules from Kim John Payne‘s Simplicity Parenting. The idea of having an ordinary day resonated with me since our Sundays tend to be quite ordinary. Until reading this chapter from Payne’s book, I was hung up on how boring our Sundays seemed.

Wake up. Eat breakfast together. Play. Exercise. Complete the shopping list. Go grocery shopping. Eat lunch. Work during Isabelle’s nap time. Play with her upon waking. Prepare and eat dinner. More family play time. Put her to bed. Do whatever else we need to do before going to bed at 10:00 p.m.

My Sundays as a child were much more exciting. They’d usually consist of a trip into New York City. In fact, an odd weekend was when we didn’t go into the City. But now “THE CITY” is three hours away from our home and heading there each weekend is not my reality.

Payne asserts that every day doesn’t need to be highly scheduled to be a great day. There is something beautiful about a run-of-the-mill day that is predictable and simple. Children learn to appreciate the simplicity of ordinary days, which is important since their happiness doesn’t hinge on over-the-top fun.

This morning, I made 10-grain chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. Then, I went upstairs to exercise while Marc played with Isabelle. After my shower, as I put on a simple cotton dress, I started thinking about my upcoming trip to the grocery store. There’s beauty in going food shopping every Sunday. First, we’re fortunate enough to be able to afford food. Second, we’re fortunate to live in a place where we have a wonderful selection of locally grown produce and other goodies. Third, we’re fortunate to have the kind of kid who is willing to sit in the shopping cart. After all, there is a lot to be learned through observation at the grocery store.

So off Isabelle and I went to the grocery store.  (My husband stayed home to prepare an upcoming presentation.) She oohed and aahed as she watched the train go around on its track in the store. She delighted in the empty paper cup I got her when I bought my coffee. (She insists on an empty cup so she can pretend to drink coffee whenever I drink coffee.) She impressed the folks in the cheese department with her willingness to sample and enjoy sharp cheeses. She delighted in the orange balloon I got her. Just another Sunday at the grocery store.

Once we finished, I loaded the groceries, the balloon, and Isabelle into the car. “Did you have fun?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said smiling.

Ah, the joy of a simple trip to the grocery store. Nothing wrong with an ordinary Sunday. Nothing at all.