Monday, March 18, 2013

Best Mom Tip #180: Run with them

Yesterday I got to realize a parenting daydream 9 years in the making.  In January of 2004 I had just finished coaching a high school cross country team, completed my one and only marathon to date, and began the serious "are we having kids now" discussion with my husband.  By April I knew I was pregnant with my first beautiful baby.

I knew she was a girl.  I would talk to her on runs, which I continued until 1 week before she was born when my doctor told me to stop because I was not helping her rather slow growth rate.  I would tell her that we were strong and healthy and that cool girls run.  I would tell her what made me nervous about becoming a mom (I hope I know how to love you enough) and what worried me about my body (why are you making my knees hurt so much?) and random things I was thinking about (do you think you'd like your walls to be blue like the sky?).

I would dream of having these conversations for real when she was old enough to run with me.  I could picture us taking the laps at our park and heading down the hill back toward our neighborhood.  I imagined a time when running together was like story time or bedtime-just something we did. Together.  I held (and still do hold) the hope that if we run, maybe we'll still have something in common when she's 13 and doesn't like me anymore.

So yesterday, I ran with my girl.  At 8 she is old enough to participate in most 5K events and she was interested in joining me-and getting a medal.  We went to the 5K that accompanies the Georgia Marathon so there was a lot going on and plenty to see.  We went to the race Expo on Saturday.  We rode the train in the dark and walked along the city streets with other runners.  We heard the national anthem together and cheered.  We watched the wheel chair start and talked about how impressive that is.

In the race itself, people told her how well she was doing and how fast she was.  I got to tell her about pacing and form and how to shorten and lengthen her strides with the hills.  And we chatted and passed people and jogged, very slowly, the entire 3.1 miles.  She's a rock star.  And my heart is full of my daydream come true.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Best Mom Tip #179: Steal their toys at night

I spend a ridiculous amount of my time cleaning up after other people.  There are diapers and dishes and clothes and toys and school papers and hair elastics and legos and shoes and tiny pieces of paper and crumbs and goo and hand prints and beloved stuffed animals and crayons and books and flash cards and pencils and more goo.   I don't really want to know what the goo is.

I have mentioned that I have felt like I'm drowning in all of the chaos and mess and sense of never being finished.  So I decided to do something, ANYTHING, differently to see if I could change that feeling a bit. I channeled a little bit of John Rosemond and a little bit of my former teacher self and I came up with this idea:
At the end of every day, once the children are in bed, I steal anything left on the floor or out of place.

It all disappears never to be seen again.  So far, it is working like a charm.  My house has been clutter free for a week--so, not a long term experiment, but still a less cluttered week than the other 100 before it.

In reality, the stuff goes into a bin in the back of my closet that is easy for me to access, but not obvious to the kids.  I'm not sure how long I'll keep the stuff in there.  My current options are 1) forever or until my next Goodwill run; 2) until they ask for a particular item and then another week after that; and 3) I'll clean it out once a month and sort the items into Goodwill, keep, or garbage. I'm still working out the kinks and I'll let you know if I come up with anything more concrete.

But here's what's been so great.  The older two kids are actually afraid that something they really love will disappear because they see that things are actually being cleaned up.  So they clean like madmen and make up for their younger siblings.  When the younger ones (really just my obstinate 2-year-old) refuse to help, I just take those toys and now have less to clean in the future.

Before I started the new plan I cleaned out all of the toys in our playroom, set up new storage cubes that are easy for the kids to use, and explained the new system to them all.  Every night I give them fair warning to check the house and I guide them to toys they may have overlooked (but there aren't very many because of their fear of disappearing toys).

The result?  I don't have to pick up before I clean up anymore.  Now if I can just find the source of that goo...