Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Extracurricular Activities: Striking a Balance

Now that my son is now 4, I'm ripe with ideas of fun extracurriculars I want to sign up for-- both for his sake, but also because I have always loved learning new things.  It is really easy to say before having kids, "I won't sign up for every little thing.  Protect their free time!  Just spend time alone together!"  However, once I had kids, a primal instinct emerged-- at least in me-- to provide them with as many rewarding experiences and advantages that I can.

While I won't be able to whisk them off on a private jet to the Great Barrier Reef anytime soon (though Australia-- flying commercial-- is definitely on our family bucket list!), and we won't be enrolling in the fanciest private school in town, I do want to give my children as many opportunities as we can.

But how much is too much?  My son falls squarely into the Highly Sensitive category, which in this arena translates to him becoming easily overwhelmed when faced with too much stimulation or when too many new things or people are introduced at once.  I am the same way, though as an adult, I know how to protect myself from too much of anything (saying "no" to extra committees, too many social outings, etc.).  A 4-year-old has little experience being protective of his own needs; such protection still requires much parental involvement.

As a result, I am trying to find a balance between introducing my son to various pursuits that he has expressed strong interest in-- learning another language, taking up a musical instrument, trying a couple of sports-- and his need to have plenty of downtime.  All this on top of another year of preschool starting soon.
Of course, I must also consider this:  how much money can and should we throw at every opportunity that comes our way?  Surely, my husband and I can impart at least some wisdom free of charge.  (And there's always Dora.  Just kidding (kind of)).

My current strategy is to sign up for what matters and seems appropriate to him and to us, and then to drop things as necessary in order to respect his personality and our family time.

What about you?  At what age did the extracurriculars ramp up in your house?  Did you or will you sign up your kids for lessons or sports at a young age?  Why or why not?

~ Julia @ Frantic Mama
Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.
I am honored to contribute to:  Mamalode and What the Flicka?  and two 2015 anthologies focused on parenting and relationships [details to come]!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Thrifty DIY Side Table

I'm at it again:  Another little DIY project in the Frantic Mama household.

We converted a small room in our basement into a guest room, and like most guest rooms, all of our least favorite furniture ended up there.  While it looked fine, I wanted to spruce it up.  I am always happier with a project on my hands [even if it takes forever to complete because I can only work on it for 5 minutes a day with two little monkeys children on my hands].

My husband bought an inexpensive 3 piece wood veneer dresser and side table set at Target about 10 years ago (how is that possible?) before we were married.  They were passable but a little rough around the edges at this point.

(The Before shot)

We recently repainted the playroom, and FranticMamaHubby had gone a little overboard on gray paint samples-- he was determined to find the perfect one.  As a result, we had LOTS of samples of lovely gray paint sitting around.  I hate wasting anything...but then I had a light-bulb moment:  I could use the samples to refresh the old Target furniture!  

(The After shot)

The two small side tables needed just one container of the Benjamin Moore sample paint (2 coats each).  I used the shade Cobblestone Path, a soft gray with slight blue/green undertones.   Once the two coats of paint dried, I sprayed on a coat of Rustoleum Clear Gloss to give them a shiny, finished look [Major Important Tip: You should spray paint outside or your entire house smell for at least a day].


It took a little elbow grease, but as always around this house, the hardest part was finding time to paint without my kids hanging on me.  Mission Accomplished!

(Stay Tuned:  The coordinating dresser is getting a fresh coat of paint as well.)

P.S.  I'm honored that Mamalode is sharing my piece about the postpartum anxiety that many mothers face but few discuss.  Read Angel in a White Coat here, and please share with anyone you think might benefit.

What DIY project have you tackled or hope to tackle?  Do you have a favorite DIY website or Pinterest board you follow?

~Frantic Mama
Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.
You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Things Forgotten (Things Remembered)

Here's an alarming thought:  There are HUGE, gigantic pockets of my life that I have completely forgotten.  Especially from my childhood.  You know how people ask, "what's your first memory?"  I have absolutely no idea.  I can tell you what my first favorite book was (Green Eggs and Ham) and about the charming old cottage in Michigan we visited in the summers, but I barely remember anything specific and concrete from before I was about 6 or 7.

That begs the question:  Will my two children, to whom I devote most all of my days now, remember anything from the past several years?  Will they remember that visit to the Children's Museum one hot summer morning, the spontaneous trek to a new park one afternoon, the exciting first trip to the local zoo...anything?

(Photo from our most recent trip to the beach, last spring; 
it was our first morning waking up there, and we were all so excited to go see the ocean!)

I heard somewhere that once kids turn 3 or 4, their memories improve.  That offers at least some comfort, except it still means their first three years-- the ones that fill a disproportionately large part of my own memory space-- will be a complete wash for them.

My husband and I take lots of photos, and this helps capture special moments and then relive them when we occasionally look through albums.  Still, something makes me quite sad that my son will probably not remember our family trip to the beach when he was 2, when he was our only child, and that my daughter won't have any recollection of visiting my sister's boys in North Carolina for the first time when she was just 11 months old.

(At the zoo, checking out the leopards.  
I have mixed feelings about zoos (the poor, trapped animals!) 
but it is amazing to let your kids see them up close.

On a bad day, when anxious, lonely, or frustrated, I could easily ask myself, Is it worth it?  The effort and exhaustion that creating extra special memories requires if my kids won't even remember them?

However, I am proud of myself when I do consciously up the ante and take my kids on an adventure.  Maybe those special trips-- when sprinkled into our regular, routine but still mostly happy days-- will give them an overall fond, albeit foggy, impression of their lives as little people in my care, and will give me a chance to remember this time fondly as well.

P.S.  I'm honored that Mamalode is sharing my piece about the postpartum anxiety that many mothers face but few discuss.  Read Angel in a White Coat here.

What efforts do you make to capture and remember special times with your families?  Can you recall your "first memory?"

~Julia @ Frantic Mama
Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.
You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

(More) Things 4-Year-olds Say

My son turned 4 in May, and the things that come out of his mouth often crack me up.

Here are a few recent favorites.  Share some of your own in the Comments (below the post) or on my Facebook page.  

*Caveat:  The following might only be amusing to FranticMamaHubby and me.  

Recently, I dared go to the bathroom alone and shut the door.  My son quickly followed, didn't hesitate to open the door, and when I looked at him in surprise, he explained, "but I like to be with you...all the time."

While he has eaten chicken, fish, and beef for a long time now, my son is just beginning to understand that those foods were once...animals-- i.e. living, breathing creatures.  This transitional knowledge is not going well, and I change the subject whenever the source of a chicken finger or fish stick comes up in hopes he will continue to consume the few proteins he is willing to eat.
Here is one conversation:
Son: "So, a fish stick isn't really fish," he implores hopefully, staring at his plate.
Me [reluctantly]:  "Well, yeah, it is actually fish, cooked so you can eat it."
Son:  "Well" [struggling to rationalize this]... "but it's not the kind of fish you catch in the water though..."
Me, wondering what other kinds of fish there might be?:  "Right..."

While watching Lazytown, in which a superhero in a tight, blue spandex sports a strange thin mustache, my son asked, "when I am a man, can I have a mustache?"
Me, surprised that would appeal to him:  "Sure, that's fine." [Also thinking, dude, if that's the biggest issue we face as you grow up, I'll be thrilled].

Lots of little kids bite.  It never alarms me very much.  I was counting on the fact that my daughter would eventually bite her brother if she was teething or testing him, but I wasn't expecting his reaction.
Son, alarmed yet oddly amused: "Mama!  She's chewing me!"
Me, not able to control laughing:  "She's chewing you?!  Bwhahahahaha!"

(Image not mine (Google Images); but is there anything better than laughing with (or at) your kids 
or seeing them crack each other up?)

He has also disclosed to us recently that he is "very interested in tattoos."  One night, when my husband had just tucked him into bed, my son, eyes huge, whispered seriously, "Dad, I have to tell you something."
Husband, a little nervous, with baited breath:  "Ok..."
Son:  "At the baseball game, in line for the ice cream, there was a guy with lots of tattoos."
And???  (That was it).

On a more serious note, I recently decided that it was time to gradually begin introducing the concept of life and death to my son (I have no clue if I'm early or late on this one-- probably late), but he is so very sensitive and worryful (my word) that I held off on it for a long time.
I showed him a book with angels and told him that once people or animals die, they can become angels.  He seemed intrigued with this idea, and it didn't make him too upset (though tears welled up in my eyes when he asked if "boys or girls ever are angels...and if Mama and Dada would be angels too?").
In any case, there was a dead bee on the floor of our garage that I hadn't cleaned up, and he noticed that it had not moved...for a while.  He must have figured out it wasn't 'just sleeping' (as I had so often said about lifeless animals before), and looked at it a long time.
Son:  "Mama, is that an angel bee?"
It was just so poignant and dear.

After preschool one day:
Son, matter-of-fact:  "Mama, not everyone wears hair."
Me, stifling laughter-- clearly he had seen a bald person at school that day and has asked his teacher where his hair was: "Well, um, yes, that's right..."
The bigger picture here:  Is he so sheltered he had NEVER seen a bald person before?!  We really need to get out more.

Pulling out of McDonald's Drive-thru:
Me:  "Yes, you can have a fry on the way home, but remember, it might be too hot.  So drink water if it is."
Son:  eats fry...silence...
Me:  "Are you okay?  Was it too hot?"
Son:  "It was hot, but all you need to do is just wiggle it around in your mouth a while like this" [enacts hilarious movement of fry in mouth wagging his face back and forth to "cool it off"].

Funny little moments during the day really help me lighten up and appreciate the fun of having young children in the house [all day long], so I like to try to remember them when I can.

P.S. Pssst:  Think these are funny?  I think the quotes from when he was 3 are even more absurd.  

P.P.S. My very personal piece regarding postpartum anxiety is up on Mamalode's site starting today. Click here to check it out [she says, while hiding behind a blanket all day].

~Julia @ Frantic Mama
Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.
You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Five Friday Faves: Summer Edition (Round 2)

It appears that the inspiration fairy has visited me again, so I'm sharing a few more of my favorite things with you on this lovely summer Friday.

Revlon Colorstay Moisture Stain.  I've been a fan of their longwear lipstick for a while but am a little dissatisfied with how it dries my lips out and is kind of half-on/half-off by the end of the day, so I recently did not resist the impulse to buy this new glossy stain.  While it doesn't last as long as the longwear lipcolor, it does keep your lips feeling moisturized while also adding a true pop of color (unlike most glosses).

Paw Patrol.  This cute, quirky cartoon on Nick Jr., is one of my faves by default.  This is because it is less my favorite show than it is my 4-year-old son's favorite show (and again, by default, it is quickly becoming a favorite of his little shadow, my toddler daughter).  Yes, yes, I know it's just horrendous to fry your children's brains with too much t.v., but a little t.v. now and then gives the kids a chance to catch their breath, and me a chance to pee alone.  This show is adorable.

Folgers Colombian Blend ground coffee.  Before the recession hit a few years ago (are we still in it?), I bought my ground coffee from Starbucks to brew at home without thinking twice.  Overnight, everyone-- including me-- got paranoid about spending money, and I decided perhaps gourmet coffee was a luxury I could scale back on.  Enter Folgers Colombian.  You can get a BIG container for less than $10, and it tastes really good.  I've started stocking up on this pantry staple.

Bell's Oberon.  This is a throwback to my college days, and I never tire of it.  Bell's is a Michigan beer company (hence, my college days), and Oberon is their summer seasonal brew.  It is simply one of the best summer beers I have ever tried.  You may not like it if you are a light beer drinker (or, of course, if you don't care for beer at all), but if you like more taste in your mug, you will love this one.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.  I have read two of her other superb novels, The Husband's Secret and What Alice Forgot, so I quickly added her newest one to my Kindle (Note: this book's title is not to be confused with that absurd-looking show Pretty Little Liars that I will never allow my daughter to watch one day even when she is older and hates me).  I started reading Moriarty's newest novel a few days ago and just like her others, her gift for writing and character development is apparent on page 1.  (Another note: I am not typically a fan of the "murder mystery" genre, and while technically this story does have some of that, I still love it and look forward to reading it every night).

Do you have any favorites you would like to share?  Please add them to the Comments section below or as a comment on my Facebook page!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama
Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.
You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Five Friday Faves: Summer Edition

Oh yeah, it's BACK!  

Five of my Faves, brought to you on the best day of the week, Friday.

1.  Airborne Kids.  I don't shop at GNC or Vitamin Shoppe or anything, but I diligently dose out our family's fair share of daily multivitamins.  During cold and flu season, I will try just about anything to shorten or prevent colds.  (For more on the Hell that is taking care of young children with colds, you can read this post).  I found these new Airborne Kids supplements at Target.  My 4 year old son calls them gumdrops and thinks he's getting a real treat when I give him one.  Win-win.  You better believe I will be stocking up for fall and winter.

2.  Chalkboard Paint.  This is everywhere right now, and I have eagerly jumped on the bandwagon.  Maybe I'm even getting a little obsessed with this one (click here for my latest and greatest project), but chalkboard paint really is easy and fun to use.

3.  Pioneer Photo Albums (because who has time to Scrapbook?).  Remember the old-school photo albums that your parents used for family Polaroids and prints?  Me too!  You can still buy the Pioneer brand online.  Photos stored on my computer just get lost in the shuffle, and while I love the idea of  scrapbooks, I simply don't have the time and energy for them right now.  I can usually manage to order prints from Snapfish and stuff them in these big, three-ring albums a few times a year.  The results aren't perfect, but I try to remember the quote, "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."  I love having so many albums that we can physically flip through!

4.  Raffi CD.  Dear readers, this guy is magic.  One or both of my kids usually decides to get fussy in the car at some point during the day, and Raffi's calming, cheerful voice-- think "Baby Beluga"-- has distracted them and therefore saved my sanity many, many times.

5.  Twix Minis Ice Cream Bars.  We all deserve to enjoy a treat now and then, right?  I randomly saw these (and grabbed them off the shelf) a couple of weeks ago, and well, the box is just about empty.

What are some of your new-found or trusty old favorites?

~Frantic Mama
Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.
You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What was your Hardest Parenting Transition?

My husband and I occasionally talk about what we think was the harder transition:  Going from 0 to 1 child, or going from 1 to 2 children.

We agree that 0 to 1 was the hardest.  Your entire life changes when you bring your first baby home, and it took us a while to truly wrap our heads around that idea.  When I was pregnant with my son, I had this vague notion that I would be tired and busy once baby arrived, and that I would go out at night a little less (Ha!), but it was impossible for me to see much beyond the new crib, the rocking chair, the tiny clothes, and the excitement of a new huggable, lovable baby.

I think in part that kind of rose-colored view of motherhood must be biological.  If we knew just how hard it was going to be, would the human race even really continue?  Just kidding [kind of].

When we had our daughter, our second baby, the hardest part emotionally for me was still trying to connect with my sensitive son (who was 27 months old) as much as I could, despite recovering from surgery and the typical new-mom exhaustion.  I had heard too many stories about the older child being sad when a new baby 'steals' the parents' attention.  I just couldn't bear it.  I missed my son while I was in the hospital having my daughter, in that weepy, overwhelmed, hormonal way many women feel postpartum.

It was also quite terrifying the first day (and many days after that) when my husband left for work after his puny one week off, and I had to face being home all day with TWO tiny, needy people in my care.

Now that my son is 4 and my daughter will be 2 soon, there are definitely moments-- a lot-- when I feel physically and emotionally pulled in both directions.  My anxiety can spike when I realize, again, at 6:30 a.m. that my day will revolve around their needs.

However, here's the rainbow: they are also getting old enough where I make a point of explaining that mommy has needs too-- eating, going to the bathroom, even making a phone call.  I'm not sure I did that when I had only my son.  But it is a good lesson for them to learn, isn't it?  That women have needs and we need to respect that?  Perhaps it is a necessary, hard-earned lesson we learn once we have more than one child.

I can't speak for going from 2 to 3 (or 3-4, etc.), of course; I have heard mixed feelings about the transition of adding more children to the family.  Some have said that adding a 3rd is the easiest transition, and for others, it is clearly the hardest.

What do you think?  What was your hardest transition as a parent?  Did you change your parenting with each child you welcomed into your family?

~Frantic Mama
Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.
You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

DIY Magnetic Chalkboard Wall

I'm always looking for ways to get my kids to play independently.  Meaning, play without me.  Not that I don't like playing with them on and off throughout the day, but I can only send cars back and forth for so long until I get up to make a snack, switch activities, find a Paw Patrol episode, take them on an errand, etc.  You know the drill.

Both of my kids (my son just turned 4 and my daughter is almost 2) like chalk and magnets... I decided to go for it and create a magnetic chalkboard wall to keep their little hands busy.

My dream objective:  to sit with a glass of wine juice for 
minutes and 
watch them color on the wall.

We have an empty, unused wall in the corner of our playroom (a converted space above our garage and one of the reasons we bought our house!).  I could also see painting with chalkboard paint on a closet door, a basement rec room, the side of a dresser, or even a portion of your kid's bedroom wall.

Here's what you'll need to cover several square feet of wall/door space (I found everything I needed at Target; Home Depot or Menards would probably have all that you need too).

1 can (30 fl. ounces) magnetic primer
1 can (30 fl. ounces) chalkboard paint
2-3 paint rollers (smooth nap)
1-2 paint pans for the paint and rollers
a screwdriver to open cans (a head's up for true painting newbies)
a paintbrush for details
four pieces of moulding if you want to frame your chalkboard for a more finished look
latex gloves
large drop cloth or old towels to cover the floor where you are painting
painter's tape

Want to try it?  Here are the steps I took:

1.  Tape up the area you plan to cover with painter's tape and put drop cloth or old towels on the floor.

2.  Stir (a lot) the magnetic primer.  Open the windows and turn on the fans, people, because it STINKS!  Hindsight is 20-20:  wear latex gloves.  The magnetic primer is black and is hard to get off.

3.  Paint 3 thin coats of the primer about 30 minutes apart using a roller.  *The only way I was able to actually accomplish this was on a weekend during my daughter's nap while my husband took my son out of the house.

4.  After the primer dries, get out the chalkboard paint.  It took me a few days to get around to this step.  Use two coats of the chalkboard paint (with a fresh roller).  After the 2nd coat, you must wait 3 days to use chalk on it (this was definitely the hardest part-- keeping my kids away from it!)

5.  Add the moulding for a frame if desired.  Full disclosure:  FranticMamaHubby did this for me with some inexpensive white moulding he bought at Fleet Farm.

The verdict:  Definitely a satisfying DIY project that will hopefully get a lot of use.

(Note:  The chalkboard does not wipe completely clean with a typical dry eraser.  I occasionally use a damp washcloth to get it cleaner).


What DIY projects have you attempted?  Have they been worth the time and effort?  

~Frantic Mama

Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.
You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?