The Sandbox is The Worst

The sandbox is the worst. We can still argue about vaccines, organic food and attachment parenting, but can we all as parents, as humans, agree on this one little thing? The sandbox is the worst.

That doesn’t mean my kids don’t play in it. They love their giant litter box. They’d roll around and make sand angels in it, if it were large enough. Unfortunately for them, it’s too small for that variety of filthy fun. So they mostly just stick to throwing it in each others hair and dumping it all over the patio.


Every time we go outside, that stupid green turtle laughs at me. He mocks me from a distance as if to remind me that there’s no way I can avoid immersing my children into his grimey dusty ring of hell. “HAHA – guess it’s bath night!” He chides.

He’s right. He smirks while they beg me to play in the sandbox, and I relent. “I only said yes because they’ll play happily for at least 30 minutes.” I snap at his smug, green, sun-faded face. Why do all the fun things have to be so dirty? Why can’t my kids love organizing my closet, folding laundry or a quiet game of parcheesi? 

The sandbox wins every time, and good luck enforcing any sandbox rules you may try to establish in order to minimize the horrific nature of sandbox play. Sand will be thrown. Sand will end up everywhere in your home. Sand will end up in diapers, hair and every conceivable orifice. Despite not even playing in the sandbox, it will somehow end up in your bra. Sand cannot be contained. 

If the sand can’t be contained, then why not just embrace it? Arguably I am, since it’s finding its way into my bra. I believe that sand, like children, needs boundaries.

“Sand stays in the sandbox” is a funny little rule I made up when we first got that trite turtle. As a rule it makes sense, but it’s funny because once you hand a toddler a shovel and bucket and then set them in a plastic pit filled with tiny dusty rocks, they’re taking that filled bucket for a walk. 100% of the time. Then it’s anyone’s guess which toy will be the next lucky recipient of a sand shower. 

That used to be a sun hat, before my kids made it look like it had been unearthed in a archaeological dig.

Go spread that sandy love, lawn mower.

“Don’t throw the sand” is a necessary rule that is exhausting to enforce. It’s a little easier for the four-year-olds to comply, but when little dude fills his chubby little paws with what appears to be hundreds of tiny balls, it’s airborne in a hot second. It’s some kind of overpowering, irresistible impulse that little boys have, which means a majority of my sandbox supervision involves sand throwing time-outs. I’m clearly ineffective at explaining to a one-year-old how much better we could all get a long better without microscopic pieces of rocks in our eyes. 

Despite my long list of complaints and loathsome distaste for our sand-filled reptile, there is no denying how effective the sandbox is at occupying my children. As long as you continue to provide mostly uninterrupted entertainment for my wild brood, I’ll suffer the inconveniences and allow you to reside on my patio. I tolerate you, sandbox, but you’re still the worst.


Don’t drink the bath water

Have you ever looked at your kids feet before they get in the bathtub? Like, really looked at them? In the heat of the summer when they’re running around in sandals, there is nothing filthier than children’s feet. Well, nothing other than the murky bath water that washed them off.

 Despite the logical revulsion a person should have to the dirt-sand-butt water that kids soak in while bathing, their favorite tub time entertainment has always been drinking the bath water. The grossest thing about toddlers is that they don’t know what’s gross. And for the record, drinking the dirty water you’ve washed your filth off in, is super gross.

The struggle is real. Four years and counting, I’ve heard myself on repeat; Don’t drink the bath water! Don’t drink the bath water! Don’t drink the bath water! It’s not just one kid, either. There must be some sort of peer pressure situation happening because it’s like a toddler drinking club up in that tub.

My main concern is obviously the unsanitary nature of it all, but there is also the secondary concern of filling up before dinner. They’d drink gallons of it, if I let them. That delicious lasagna you made? Your toddler will not hesitate to tell you how gross that is, but give them a tea cup in the bath tub and they drink their weight in cloudy bath water. So it’s probably partly my fault that I gave them a tea set to play with in the tub. 

I don’t want to say that I think drinking bath water is acceptable under certain circumstances, because it’s most definitely not. But maybe if it was a solo bath, it would be less gag-worthy. At least then you’d just be recycling your own filth. When you’re tub-thumping with two of your siblings, there is no justifying the consumption of that kind of dirt-sand-butt water cocktail.  There’s no getting through to them. No matter how many times I repeat myself, no matter how emphatic I am about not supplementing their diet with soiled h2o, there’s a very real and very strong pull that brings that plastic tea cup full of brown water to their grubby little lips. It’s a pull so strong that I’m not sure I can crush it, which means on a scale from 1 to SuperMom, I’m a couple steps below the dirt-sand-butt water. 

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Before I had kids, wait…let’s pause there. Are you all imaging me frolicking through a field of daisies without a care in the world, skinny, with perfect hair and make up? Me too. I’m also picturing myself sleeping in until 10am and eating a meal while sitting down, two more things that have been mysteriously absent in my life since the birth of my precious blessings. 
::finger snap:: Are we all back to the noisy and sleep deprived reality? Good. Before I had kids, some friends commented that their kids had ruined all their nice furniture. I distinctly remember thinking, so naive, childless, and carefree, “why did you LET them ruin it?!” To my credit, I never said this out loud. But I definitely thought it. I had no idea that the answer to that question was “Because your kids will ruin all your things, regardless of precautionary measures taken on your part.”

I was convinced that the behavior of children was completely based on the parenting; If you don’t let your kids run wild, set boundaries, and discipline, then they won’t destroy all your earthly belongings. You can have kids, but also nice leather furniture, beautiful shoes and expensive jewelry! I know, I’m an idiot.

Apart from obviously having zero knowledge of actually living with clumsy little people, my assumption was based on more than a few false premises. The first falsehood was that the destruction of your property by children is the direct result of bad behavior that should be reigned in (by perfect parents capable of mind control, apparently). 

You brought these children into the world, you cheered when they learned to crawl, said their first word, and took their first step because these are remarkable feats for an itty bitty human. Then you get angry, when in an understandable display of poor coordination, they trip over their own feet and slam into your very full cup of coffee precariously placed on the arm of the sofa. Sure, it’s inconvenient that they had to trip right into the coffee, when tripping literally anywhere else would have been markedly less messy. But this is also a human that learned to walk less than a year ago and had never existed in the world less than two years ago. I walk into doorways all the time, trip over my own feet and drop things on the regular with 30 years of experience. The real miracle here is that with the combination of my poorly coordinated DNA and their sheer lack of experience, that none of my kids have cracked skulls and still possess all their limbs. 

So your sofa is saturated with an aromatic combination of coffee and milk, which is sure to transition to putrid without some type of rigorous deep cleaning. It’s just what kids do; they’re not bad or naughty, they just aren’t good at things like walking straight, wiping their own butts, or avoiding life’s hazards.

The second falsehood that my childless self was too blind to see, is that you can watch your kids at all times and prevent mishaps that threaten your precious valuables. Maybe this is true when you have one child in your charge, but even then, you still have to use the bathroom, take a shower, prepare meals and secretly eat the candy you’ve hidden in the closet. Kids are sneaky little critters, especially once they’re mobile, and sometimes in the midst of enjoying a rare moment of quiet, you forget to panic because quiet is terrifying. 

As desperate as you find yourself for quiet, it’s always a red flag. Quiet means your toddler has emptied your bag of Epsom salts and is making snow angels on the bathroom floor. Quiet means the baby found your lipstick and is creating some abstract art on your beautiful leather boots. Quiet means there are probably stickers with remarkable adhesive qualities now permanently affixed to your television. All it takes is letting your guard down for a second, and suddenly you no longer possess anything of value.

  

So if you find anything in my house that’s nice, unscathed, or in mint condition, keep it secret; keep it safe, or my kids will add it to their to-do list. 

3 Reasons I let my kids watch Frozen

There is a lot of Frozen in my life right now. This might be a cry for adult conversation or television targeted at people over the age of 5. Whatever it is, I’ve found myself appreciating the themes and messages in Frozen and have compiled a list for your reading pleasure.

  

Spoiler alert: The song “Let It Go” is no where on this list. As I previously posited, you might love it after the first few listens, but after you find yourself singing it in the shower for the 419th time, it becomes much less amusing. Get out of my (very limited) brain space! As much as I love my daughter’s sweet singing, after hearing her screech it out (with the wrong words) countless times every day, it starts to wear on you. 

1) Frozen portrays love more realistically than other Disney movies.

A common theme in Disney movies is “love at first sight” and whirlwind romances where people fall madly in love very quickly. I’m inclined to think love is portrayed this way, at least in part, for convenience in a 90 minute movie. But I also know that love seems so much more romantic when it is reckless, unrestrained and unabashed. We all know (Don’t we?) that’s not how it works. In today’s “Bachelor” culture, I’m starting to think people may actually think that’s what love looks like. I certainly don’t want to give my children such unrealistic expectations, or have them make lifelong relationship decisions based on an elated feeling after a handsome stranger returns a lost shoe, or gives you a rape-y sleep kiss. (I didn’t say you could kiss me, dude. I’m in a magically induced coma and we’ve never met. Get up off it.)

I don’t some of their first impressions of romantic love to set unrealistic expectations. I don’t want them to miss out on true meaningful human connections and imperfect but genuine love because they’re waiting for a grand gesture or great romance.

I want my kids to know that in real life, love comes from truly getting to know someone, finding out what is most irritating about them, and then deciding that other people are more irritating. That’s real love. In Frozen, Anna meets Hans, immediately “falls in love” and becomes engaged. In what seems to be an interesting commentary on other Disney movies, all of Frozen’s  main characters completely disagree with this decision. Krisftoff brings it up numerous times by questioning her judgment, since she’s the kind of person willing to get engaged to someone she just met. Elsa refuses to “bless” their union for the same reason. Anna spends most of the movie trying to justify her rash decision with “true love,” despite all the other characters constant jabs that mock the notion of “true love” between strangers. The message, even before any of the predictable plot twists, is that “love at first sight” is irrational. 

2) Frozen reminds us that all people are not good people.

Big surprise, Hans ends up being a bit of a sociopath, which most of us should have picked up on the minute he proposed to a woman he just met. Ever met a guy genuinely willing to commit to marriage after a first date? If you have, he was probably later featured on 60 minutes after it was discovered that he had 4 wives in 4 different states while simultaneously running a Ponzi scheme that kills kittens. It doesn’t add up, y’all.

I like that the antagonist in Frozen is a real person. He’s not a witch, or a beast, or a sorcerer; He is a real person with ulterior motives and aspirations of power. He uses Anna, lies to her and manipulates her. While I hope this never happens to my kids, it certainly could, which is why I don’t mind them seeing it happen to a movie character.

I’m all about protecting my children’s innocence, to a certain extent. I’m not interested in exposing my children to harsh realities before their little brains are ready to process them, but I also don’t mind the idea of them knowing that all people aren’t good people, and some people lie. Sure Hans is mean, and says hurtful things to Anna, but that’s real life. People won’t always tell you the truth, and it’s not a bad idea to guard your heart. One of the best ways to do this, is to avoid getting engaged the same day you meet someone. Also, rigorous background checks.

I’m sure I’m coming across as a cynic here, and I’m ok with that. If you think I’m too cynical, you probably also think Beauty and the Beast is romantic, a movie where a woman is held captive, developes Stockholm Syndrome and lives happily ever after with her captor. We can agree to disagree.

3) Frozen shows us that true love does exist.

I’m not dead inside. I do believe in love and happy endings. The final reason I like Frozen is because it shows us that true love does exist. It’s not a prince coming to save you, it’s not romance saving your life and completing you. Elsa accidentally freezes Anna’s heart and only an act of true love can save her. This is when she must quickly return to Hans for a kiss, because true love’s kiss heals all. Unfortunately, she finds out Hans is just a youngest child with delusions of grandure and no real affections or plans for marriage beyond spousal homicide. It’s a rough breakup. 

A selfless act from Anna and the true love that exists between sisters is what finally saves her. True love does exist, between family and friends, and yes, romantic partners with whom we’ve invested the time and energy to get to know. True love requires self-sacrifice, it is not selfish or self involved. True love is not about how it makes you feel, but about how you want the best for the other person. Olaf, the lovable dope of a snowman, ends up offering the most insight, saying that true love is putting someone else’s needs before your own. That’s a message I can get on board with, even if the messenger has twig arms and a carrot for a nose.

That time I joined a gang.

My friend loaned me a Fitbit in an attempt to recruit me into her Fitbit gang. I use the term “gang,” because I’ve noticed that people with FitBits band together, talk about their FitBits and then peer pressure other people into getting FitBits. This ruthless gang just happened to be a bunch of suburban moms challenging each other to get 10,000 steps a day…or else. It’s all very West Side story. Although, instead of knifings and street fights, the loser buys coffee at the next play date.

They all sing the FitBit’s praises and honestly seem healthier for it, so I decided to give it a shot. What did I have to lose, except a few pounds? A week in, after my brutal gang initiation (kidding), I gotta tell you, I’ve got a beef with the Fitbit.

Aside from the fact that it sat on my wrist judging me all day, pressuring me to do more cardio, I found it to be unprepared for my Mom lifestyle. For starters, steps are only counted when you aren’t carrying or pushing anything, which for most Moms, is never. I’m always carrying something, whether it’s a misplaced toy, a human, clothes, dirty clothes, a dirty human, or old food I found under the couch.   Don’t act like you know me, FitBit. You think you’re better than me?!

When someone or something isn’t being carried, it means I’m pushing a shopping cart or stroller. I was outraged to find that the Fitbit did not record most of my steps at the grocery store. Much like all my weekly grocery trips, I clung to the cart for dear life, praying that no one would go all orangutan on me before I acquired the items on my grocery list. Ends up, the Fitbit requires that I’m gently swinging my arm in a rhythmic fashion to properly record the steps, which doesn’t sound like any outing I’ve ever had with my kids. Don’t judge me, FitBit, and then neglect to count those hard-earned steps! Didn’t you notice my heart rate was through the roof? Maybe my wrist was too sweaty from loading and unloading three squirmy toddlers, but go ahead and draw some conclusions; I’m sweaty with a borderline panic attack level heart rate, throw a couple extra steps my way.

The one silver lining to all those precious lost steps was that the pleasure of my kids’ company at the grocery store induced an elevated heart rate, which resulted in my time at the store being recorded as “active fat-burning minutes.” Thank you, Fitbit, for giving me hope that my stressful daily mom-tasks may somehow contribute to a slimming waistline.

In addition to ignoring most of my multi-tasking steps, the Fitbit also doesn’t distinguish between the varying degrees of difficulty that certain tasks require. For example, it may have only taken me 25 steps to haul the screaming toddler down the hall into timeout, but the Fitbit didn’t know that while I was doing that, another child was clinging to my leg. Yes, we went for a walk around the block to the tune of 1,500 steps, but the Fitbit didn’t know that I also had to drag all the bikes home after my kids decided, halfway through the walk, that they weren’t going to ride them anymore. I should get additional steps for that kind of monkey business. Don’t act like you know me, Fitbit!

In addition to tracking steps, the Fitbit claims to track sleep, calories burned, heart rate and distance. Unfortunately these are also ignorant to my actual level of mom-tivity. I was insulted when it claimed I got more sleep that I actually did. My Fitbit didn’t see me laying motionless in bed, NOT sleeping as I listened to the snores of my husband. Just because I wasn’t up walking around with a natural and leisurely arm sway doesn’t mean I didn’t startle and wake to any slight stirring. How about I tell you how little I slept, Fitbit, and then you rub my back and tell me I’m pretty. Now that’s something I could get on board with.

 I’m not sleeping, FitBit. Those snores are not my own.

So make yourself useful, Fitbit. Track my caffeine intake and warn me before I go from “caffeinated enough to make grilled cheese sandwiches for the third day in a row” to “my eyes are bouncing in my skull and I keep calling you all the wrong names.” Start tracking my alcohol intake so those play dates that involve day drinking don’t get out of control. When my blood alcohol gets too high in the evening hours, send me a “you know your kids are going to wake up at 5:45am tomorrow morning” alert and cut me off. 

Feel free to add these features to your next model upgrade, the “Fitbit Mom.” All I’m asking is that you track my curiously frantic and spastic movements and assume it’s because I’m tip-toeing away from a sleeping child or crawling under furniture to obtain lost toys. It’s definitely worth some sort of extra credit. 

Why I Love My Minivan

I’m not going to say that I was cool before I had kids, but I definitely showered and wore pants more often. I also didn’t struggle to complete sentences. With the birth of my children, certain standards for “cool” have taken a back seat role. A third row minivan back seat, to be precise.

 

 When I was newly pregnant, we agreed I would just keep my Ford Taurus. As a practical, safe, mid-sized car, this made sense and didn’t require purchasing a new vehicle. Fast forward a couple weeks to when the ultrasound tech dropped the “I see two” bomb. My mind immediately began to process the logistics involved with mothering, feeding and transporting two newborns, two infants, then two toddlers. Initially we were in denial; we could still use the Taurus! She was so reliable and large enough for two car seats! But then what do you do if someone parks too close and you can’t get the door open? Put one baby on the roof, back out of the tight parking spot, and then open the door, remove baby from roof and secure into car seat base? It stopped making so much sense. Then we rationalized an SUV – so much more room! Lots of cargo and hauling space, but yet, the unable-to-open-doors-baby-on-the-roof problem still existed. Finally, acceptance; sliding doors were a must. 

My husband tried to pitch the idea of modifying an SUV to add sliding doors, but shockingly none of the car dealers we spoke with were amused or enthused by the idea. We settled on a minivan. How was this possible? We were so cool! (Kind of.) We agreed that the abomination, I mean, minivan, must have leather seats. The idea of scrubbing spit up, vomit, milk, snacks or any other substance capable of rotting and growing mold out of fabric seats did not sit well with either of us.  So the search began. 

On Valentine’s Day 2012, my husband called to see if I could check out a minivan after work. After exhaustive research, we had been unable to find a suitable candidate in our area within our price range. This one might be the one. I dolled myself up for our hot Vday date and headed to the Honda dealership. She wasn’t pretty, or new, or cool, but she had automatic sliding doors, heated leather seats and cup holders galore. In the most cliche and poetic fashion, on that Valentines Day, I fell in love.

It was most unexpected, partly because I had been so cool, but also because I’d spent most of my adult life swearing I’d never drive a minivan. I was 7 months pregnant with twins, thus getting in and out of the Taurus had become both moderately embarrassing and genuinely harmful to the structural integrity of the vehicle. I was immediately pleased with the lack of bending, grunting, and hoisting required to enter and exit my minivan. Maybe it was the ranging pregnancy hormones, or the doors that opened with a push of a button, but I was head over preggo-belly in love.

My love for my minivan grew along with my children. Once #3 joined the family, we removed one of the captain’s chairs to better access the toddlers in the back seat. Oh, glorious convenience. Don’t get me started on the DVD player, which makes our 3 hour drives to Nana and Papa’s a breeze. Apart from the obvious reasons I initially fell for my Golden Gal, (OK, I won’t lie, gold wasn’t my first choice, or even on my list) she continues to surprise me with new traits well-suited to my new motherhood lifestyle. I don’t want to make all you non-minivan driving Moms feel uncool, so I’ve abbreviated my list to the top five reasons I love my minivan.

#1. The doors, obviously. With two infant car seats, all you need is one free finger to open the doors. I have since honed my skills, and I can haul #3, a purse, drag two toddlers and open the doors with just my teeth. Now that my babies have mutated into toddlers, the doors are amazing because it prevents any little mischief makers from opening their door smack into another car. I’ll chalk that off as a car insurance win. 

#2. No one expects you to look good. You see an SUV rolling down the road, you expect a clean cut and well put together soccer mom with cupcakes in tow. You see a gold minivan screech into the parking lot, it’s no surprise that when the door conveniently slides open, 37 broken toys and crumbled goldfish crackers cascade into the parking lot. It’s also no surprise that my hair may still be in the same messy bun I went to bed with last night and I’m attempting to pull off yesterday’s mascara. I’m not pretending to have it all together, and the minivan serves as your advanced warning.

#3. It’s basically a giant diaper bag. I was super organized when the twins were babies. I had a neatly packed diaper bag with any conceivable necessity. By the time I had three in tow, I was literally just chucking a couple diapers and a pack of wipes into the backseat. There is a first-aid kit under one of the seats and probably a couple changes of clothes in there somewhere. An emergency might require that I hike out to my minivan to obtain proper supplies, but there’s a solid 98% chance that what I need is in there. 

#4. No one questions why you are weaving in and out of lanes. If you see a vehicle failing to staying within a given lane, you might assume the driver is drunk or texting. As you pass them you may give them a salty look or curiously examine what they are so irresponsibly doing that would result in such careless driving. You see a minivan weaving in and out of the lanes, you say a prayer for the poor mother because you know she’s yelling “DO NOT MAKE ME TURN THIS VAN AROUND!”

#5. Need a snack? Check the floor. It’s a smorgasbord of tasty toddler treats. We can’t promise it won’t be stale or previously nibbled upon, but in a pinch you can satisfy a craving. Just make sure it’s food before you give it a taste.

It’s not where I imagined myself five years ago, but life has a funny way of changing all your expectations. I might not be “cool”, “well-rested”, “organized”, or “wearing real clothes” but I never once had to put a baby on the roof of my minivan.