Children and Birthday Parties

So, last year I waited until the end of September to start thinking about DD1’s birthday. I learned kid’s birthday parties are sorta like weddings. You have to plan them far in advance.

By the time we started, it was far too late for most things, so we ended up hosting it at home.

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This was extremely stressful, and frankly, the party was only so-so for my daughter and her friends.

October starts my busy season at work. It’s also Halloween, other family members’ birthdays, including immediate family. Yeah, it’s a pretty full month. Let’s just say her party last year was half-baked, but we got away with it because most of the guests were four.

We won’t get that luxury this year, especially as DD1 will be in kindergarten. So, I started planning early.

I’m not Pinterest mom, but we can do better than putting everything together the night before the party. Yeah. We were real organized last year.

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So, so true.

So, here’s what I’ve come up with:

 

Dance Birthday

The dance place she dances at hosts children’s birthday parties. They provide an indoor venue (critical as we can have snow in October), and one of the instructors takes care of entertaining the monsters children. They also take care of the invitations, set-up and clean-up.

I’m leaning towards this because I’m really busy already. I bring the birthday child and cake. They do everything else

 

Water Park Birthday

There is a small indoor water park in our area. They offer birthday packages where the kids can play in the pool and on the water slides, then afterward they had a room for the monsters children to eat cake before I send them home.

However, this would mean getting into a swimsuit to help monitor them in the pool. I’d really rather not, but it’s an option.

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Not this kind, but I’d like it better!

Other

  • I’ve checked the YMCA, but all kids have to be 6 and older.
  • I asked her about bowling, and she said yuck. Didn’t like the bowling field trip at school and quit after less than one round.

 

As I’m offering the two choices above to my daughter, she proposes a third: an at-home Zelda party.

I squirm. I explain to her that our house is pretty small, she couldn’t have nearly as many friends over.

  • Read: I don’t want to clean and prep for the party. Or clean up afterwards. Or entertain monsters children for two hours.

She says she doesn’t care. She’ll just have fewer friends over. I try again, explaining that not many other children are going to know who Zelda is. She says she doesn’t care, they can come as other princesses.

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Not sure why it’s called Zelda when all you ever see is Link.

So, I back off. Maybe we can convince her later if we phrase it right.

We try again at dinner the next day, and I explain that the dance place has themes and she gets to pick the one she wants. She seems pretty happy about doing the party at the dance place and picked the princess theme.

Then, comes an awful, rushed, hectic morning. We’re finally in the car, with everything we need (I’d forgotten something and had to turn around twice), and now DD1 has me again trapped in the car.

You know where this is going. Yeah, like that.

She tells me she really doesn’t want to do a dance party. She really wants a Zelda party at home. I explain again that we can’t have as many friends come if we do the party at home. I explain again that I don’t think her friends will know who Zelda is.

She is undeterred.

She wants a Zelda party.

I told her to think about it. I have a little time yet to make a decision.

She gave me the patented DD1 look and said she’d think about it, but she already told me what she wanted.

*sigh*

How about you? Ever have to throw a child’s birthday party? Any pointers or tips?

Truth from a Child

There are a lot of sayings about truth coming from children. After having two children of my own, I find most of these to be garbage.

Toddlers lie.

Preschoolers lie more.

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True story.

The concept of truth and why it’s important is something children must be taught. But every once in a while, my preschooler surprises me with an insight that shows how cultural some things are.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I broke my ankle over a year ago. It still isn’t back to the way it was before I fell. I also broke my foot as a kid and have low back issues. I know, lovely, right?

The back issues are hereditary, and I was seeing a specialist for it in my twenties when it first surfaced. First thing he told me was I needed to give up all high-heeled shoes. Even block heels couldn’t be more than two inches. I should also consider comfort brands (read old-lady shoes) as the extra cushioning would reduce my daily pain and the number of flare-ups I was experiencing.

At the end of the appointment, he told me if we didn’t get things under control, I could be looking at spinal fusion before I was thirty.

Okay, so, old lady shoes didn’t look so bad.

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Maybe they did, but back surgery still wasn’t something I wanted.

It was extremely hard to find stylish shoes that fit my new criteria, and I ended up settling for far fewer shoes as those old-lady ones cost a great deal more than what I had been spending.

As I’ve aged, I’ve found more and more stylish shoes that fit his criteria and more brands entering this market. Or, I’ve become an old lady and they’re just my style now.

Whatever the case, I was perusing the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale and selecting some new shoes to try. I love this sale as it’s the only time some of my favorite comfort brands are on sale and my size is still in stock.

DD1 climbs on my lap as I finish checking out, and I ask her if she wants to look at some of the shoes in her size. She is getting to the age where she wants more of a say in what’s in her closet, so she readily agrees.

Kids shoes at Nordstrom’s? Really?

Because of my back issues and a family history of bad feet, I tend to spend more on the girls’ shoes and go for brands like Stride Rite and Tsukihoshi  Yeah, I spend more, but I hope it will either prevent or reduce issues for them in the future.

Most people have heard of stride Rite, but if you haven’t heard of Tsukihoshi, give them a try. I was astounded how light the shoes are and yet how cushioned. They are amazing! DD2 can’t wear them as they aren’t wide enough for her foot braces (yeah, feet problems in the family, remember), but DD1 loves them.

Anyway, DD1 and I start looking at the shoes, and DD1 picks a pair with a beautiful flower embroidered on them. I explain to her that the brand she picked is known for cute but uncomfortable shoes. She probably wouldn’t wear them more than once if I got them for her, so we should keep looking.

DD1 looks at me like I’m from Mars and asks, “Why would they make uncomfortable shoes? Who’d wear them?”

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Who indeed.

Which goes to show that uncomfortable shoes for women are a social construct, one that must be learned. I’m going to try my hardest to make sure this is something neither of my girls learn.

 

How about you? A child ever give you a truth that reframed your perceptions? Or perhaps you have children that are always truth-tellers? If not, any tips on helping them with learning to tell the truth?

 

 

Practice, Practice, Practice

My daughter was recently in a dance recital.

She had begged to get to take a dance class, and knowing how much work she needs on her gross motor skills and coordination, we agreed to let her attend.

There is a huge recital at the end of the year that parents are required to attend. A four hour recital, but I digress…

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After watching her dress rehearsal, and that of the group before and after her, she came back out from back stage and proclaimed that she was the best the dancer out there. I smiled. It’s not uncommon for children her age to be quite full of themselves.

When I didn’t agree, she asked me directly if she was the best.

I told her “no”.

Harsh, maybe, but I then explained that while she’d done a good job of going to class and listening to the teacher, she hadn’t practiced outside of the class. Her friend, who happens to be a year older, had gone home and practiced every night. It showed.

I told her if she wanted to be really good, she’d have to practice more than once a week.

She was not happy with me. She argued that she didn’t have a partner to practice with at home.

I agreed with her, but told her she could still practice her parts. She could always use a stuffed animal as a stand-in for her partner, like her friend had.

My daughter was still skeptical, but as we talked some more, she decided that maybe next year she would practice more. Which means she wants a second year of dance…

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I know this sounds harsh, and this next bit may sound like a deluded parent, but DD1 is very bright. A lot of things have come very easily to her because of it. She’s not yet in kindergarten, but she’s reading at a 2nd-3rd grade level. Why? Because she wanted to read, was determined to read, and had taught herself to read by the time she started 4K. She was one of two children that could read at the end of her 4K year.

We encourage her love of reading, of course, but she’s the one that practiced and practiced. That pushed herself, especially when she saw some of the cool books out there that she wanted to read without help. She’s starting to eye up early chapter books as she saw a few of those that were My Little Pony.

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This one, to be exact. Which, of course, features Twilight Sparkle.

Her math skills have also came easily to her so far.

We practice a system of rewards for good behavior. She had six behavior points and knew she needed fifteen to get the treat she wanted. She was able to devise that she needed nine more behavior points to get the reward without any help from me.

Also, if you send her to her room and tell her to count to one-hundred before coming out, you must specify she must count by ones. Otherwise, she’ll count by fives or tens to get out faster.

So, yes, I’m glad she’s got drive and some natural gifts in these areas. I’m also not upset that she isn’t naturally gifted at dance. I’m glad she still loves dance and wants to be good at it. I want her to have to work for it, to have to practice for it.

I want her to see she won’t always be the best at something just by showing up. But I want her to have fun along the way.

She’s my Type A child. She’ll push herself hard, and I want her to learn that it’s okay to not always be the best. That it’s even okay to fail as long as she tried her best.

I bit of wisdom in there I should perhaps practice as well as preach…

 

How about you? Ever had something come easy? Something come hard that you really had to work for? Did the extra practice make you the best? Were you proud of your accomplishments even if you weren’t the best?

One Month

I’ve made it through one month of strength training.

Eleven sessions in four weeks. Not quite the three per week that is ideal, but not bad either. It’s a start to rebuilding the bone I lost when I had my little ones.

But now to stick with it.

See, I hate strength training. I don’t like the feel of heavy weights in my hands. I don’t enjoy the feel of a bar across my back or the burn in my legs as I squat. I just don’t.

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I hear “do something you love” all the time. I get that I’m much more likely to stick with an exercise I love.

Sadly, that’s not easy either. See,  I don’t love much exercise. Reading. Yup. Writing. Mostly. You’ll notice neither of those are exactly physical activities.

I loved tennis in my youth. There was something about chasing the little fuzzy ball that kept me entertained. I’d spend hours hitting the ball against a backboard to force my backhand to improve. I even found lighted courts so I could play at night.

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I learned to ignore the bats that came out to eat the bugs the lighted courts drew. I found ways to practice even in the winter. I loved the sport.

But, in my very early twenties, I learned I had a genetically bad back. The twisting motion from tennis was aggravating it, and I had to stop.

So I did.

Was years before I took up walking with my husband. We started small, but soon, we were traipsing around the neighborhood. Everyone knew us as “that couple we see walking”.

We’d literally walk for an hour or two every night after work. We’d talk about our day, hopes, wishes, dreams. Then, we started playing an RPG, and we started talking about characters.

That’s when the walks got really long.

We loved making characters. Seeing what they would do in different scenarios. It was a fabulously creative way to spend the evenings. We both dabbled with our writing, but neither of us had really taken it seriously at that point. After all, I was finishing graduate school while working full time, and after that, we were planning to start a family.

And start a family we did.

Complications in the pregnancy made us give up walking, but eventually, we had an amazing little one.

We just didn’t realize we’d never be able to have a grown-up conversation again. At least not while she was awake.

Once we were able to take walks again, talking about anything that did not directly involve her was impossible. She started talking at 11 months, and hasn’t stopped since.

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We bought and elliptical machine and treadmill and plopped them in front of a 60 inch TV. We thought we could watch a movie or catch up on a few shows while we worked out.

You already know how that went for us. DD1 was not tolerating being left upstairs while one of us went to the basement. Sure, we could’ve ignored her tears, but I get two hours with her a day. Less, if you include that part of that time I’m making dinner.

Gotta say, Sesame Street and My Little Ponies are NOT conducive to a strong workout. Even with an audio book playing, I still can’t concentrate on it with the sound and motion.

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For me, working out consistently for a month is an accomplishment. May not be for most other people. But I’m not them. I’m me. I have to compare me to me. And, I’m giving myself kudos for making it a month.

If I make it another month, I’m rewarding myself with a massage. I may not like exercise, but I can like the rewards that come with it.

 

How about you? Do you love exercise? Hate it? Find it boring? How do you motivate yourself to do it, especially if it’s not one of your favorite things? Any treats you give yourself, or maybe something else?

The "i" Generation

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I wish the above weren’t so true. Although, she is figuring out a fork. Just not as fast as she did my iPad.

There is a ridiculous amount of guidance out there on how much “screen” time you should allow your children to have.  For the longest time, children under two weren’t supposed to get any. Even if they had older siblings.

We tried to follow this with our first child, and I swear she could smell the iPad. She could find it tucked away in the back corner of a dark room, and she hated dark rooms. She would find it and come toddling out with it triumphantly clutched in her tiny fingers.

Our saving grace was that she loved being showered with attention more. Loved being read to, “helping”, anything that put her front and center of our world. So, we could get the iPad away from her without a complete meltdown.

I know, kids cry, etc. But when you work, you’d like your few hours with your child to be as nice as you can get them without a tug-of-war over an electronic device every day.

At a neighborhood block party, I asked some of the other moms how they kept their little ones away from their TV and iPad. They offered me a cocktail, told me to sit down, and then explained that they didn’t. If the pediatrician asked them about it, they’d lie.

Wait, what?

Most had older children, and they said it just wasn’t possible or reasonable. They then informed me our school district gives kids an iPad starting in kindergarten to do all of their homework, reading assignments, etc.

Still, I tried to keep her away from TV and the iPad for a while longer, but the realities of making dinner, doing laundry, and washing the dishes won out, and we allowed her to have Sesame Street.

That mostly made her happy, and she would drop TV like a rock the moment we could again give her our undivided attention.

DD2 is an entirely different child. She likes attention, but on her terms. She laughs, gives hugs, and even pets you to soothe herself, but she wants “alone” time. We were terrified at first that this was a sign of autism, but our pediatrician reassured us. DD2 was normal. DD1 was exceptionally high maintenance.

However, this means that if DD2 gets a hold of an iPad, there is no getting it back without screaming. It’s like stealing her favorite toy. Which, in a way, it is.

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So, we compromised, as parents so often do. She’s at a formal daycare all day, so she gets no screen time during the day. We figured a little at night while we’re making dinner won’t hurt anything. And if I’m truly honest, I’m concerned not introducing kids to technology early enough puts them at a disadvantage to their peers.

We took our old iPad and removed almost everything from it except some games specifically designed for her age group that her therapist recommended. These were games she was only allowed to play while she stood on uneven surfaces, for example.

She loves them, and they do seem to be teaching her things.

We still have story time and snuggle time. Playing with Fisher Price Octonauts time, Duplo time, and Magna Tiles (Magna Tiles are amazingly fun, even if you’re a grown-up). To that, we have added TV time and iPad time.

Everything in moderation.

How about you? Did your kids know how to work an iPad before a fork? Did you allow them to have any TV?  Could you lure them away from an iPad with books?

Talking Turnip

It’s January.

It’s cold. It’s dark. Did I mention cold?

Why did I move to the frozen tundra again?

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You’d think I’d have lots of time for writing, but being stuck inside with two small children during these dark and cold days is not conducive for writing, revising, or anything resembling creativity. Unless your definition of creativity is running out of ways to burn their energy, giving in, and letting them watch more TV.

I cannot tell you how painful children’s shows are to the grown-up brain. Worse yet, is when my husband and I look at each other and then try to come up with a logical reason for anything in the show.

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At one point, we’re watching the Octonauts, and my husband makes a comment that they aren’t properly classifying some creature. They have the wrong phyla, and the creatures in the story are not actually closely related.

At which point I look at him, and ask him if that’s his biggest issue with a show that features a walking, talking turnip and a polar bear “captain” that doesn’t eat the penguin, sea otter, or rabbit on his ship.

Yeah, too much kids’ shows.

How do you get through these brutally cold, dark months? Any kids’ shows out there that don’t make your brain want to explode?

Morning Children: A Special Torment to Writers

My husband and I are both night people. We’ve learned to adjust our internal clocks to take into account work and other grown-up responsibilities. While it’s not nearly as hard to get up at 6 am now as it was when I was a teenager, I didn’t have to get up at 6 am on Saturday when I was a teen.

Our oldest child is a morning person. Always has been, and she’s never had a concept of “weekend”. We had to get her a digital clock before she was three so that we could forbid her from leaving her bedroom in the morning before her clock said 6 on it. And yes, she learned numbers early so we weren’t getting up with the sun in the summer. Where there’s a will, there’s a way…

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While I’ve been able to adjust myself to getting up long before a night-person should, I haven’t convinced my muse to join me.

As much as I’ve sat diligently in front of my computer during afternoon nap-time on the weekends, my muse is nowhere to be found. Sure, I can pound out a few words, but it’s not the same. Whether you write, paint, compose music, there’s this creative zone that you get into that allows you to achieve more in an hour than you can in three. There’s something magical about this time. It’s like fairy wings and unicorn farts have jumped into the mortal plane.

For me, this ultra-creative time always, always, always comes after 8 pm. Usually later, but given my current need to be up with the birds, I try to be in bed before 10:30 because 6 am comes around awfully early.

There are those days when inspiration strikes, and I seize upon it, blowing through my bedtime even though I know will pay for it in the morning. And oh do I! Nothing quite like a chipper preschooler bouncing around the house rather than getting ready for school to put your previous night’s choice into perspective.

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Of course, my preschooler isn’t making the beds, eating her breakfast, or getting ready for the day. Heck no!  These are days that she requires the most wrangling. It’s like she knows I’m struggling and chooses that time to drown me rather than throw me a rope. Because children smell weakness and will exploit it at every opportunity.

I wish I had something insightful to offer. Some way that I’ve conquered the muse and brought her to my side before the owls come out. But I haven’t. I still have to make the choice most nights as to whether I’m on a roll and have to keep going, or whether I need to be a grown-up and go to bed. I’d love to say the grown-up wins most nights…

 

How about you? Are you a morning person or a night person? Does it work for you? When do you find yourself most creative? Have you figured out how to get your muse to come on your terms?

The Fear of Regret

“Enjoy it now, because you’ll miss it later,” is a refrain I hear all the time.

I have two small children, a spouse, I work full-time, and I carve out time to write.

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My life seems full of regret.

  • I regret the time I’m at work and not with my family.
  • I regret not pushing harder in my career.
  • I regret the time I spend writing.
  • I regret when I don’t write.

DD2 insists on being on my lap all the time. She’s going through a powerful “momma” phase, and while it’s super sweet, it also seriously limits my ability to stuff down around the house. If I try to slip away from her, she’ll grab my arm and pull it around her. If I leave her anyway, we have a full melt down including real tears.

I can’t walk away from that no matter what anyone says. She’s my toddler. So, yes, it’s a tough time for both us, but whenever I mention it, I’m told how much I’ll miss it when it’s gone.

Yes, I probably will. And, in a few months, I probably won’t remember the dishes that needed to get done, the floor that needed to be swept, or the laundry that needed to be folded.

I probably won’t regret how much time I spent holding her and being there for her.

But fear of regret holds me back.

Have I tried for some of the toughest jobs in my field? No, because I’m afraid I’ll regret spending less time with my family, that I won’t be the spouse and mother they need.

I feared I’d regret it if I didn’t dedicate myself to our family and soak up every precious moment. So when we decided to have that family, I put aside writing for years. How could I not regret taking time for writing when I only had a few hours with my spouse and daughter?

Yet, I also regret the years I didn’t spend writing. I frequently wonder where I would be and what I could be doing if I’d taken it more seriously. I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. It’s one of the few things that’s remained constant in my life.

I want to shove regret aside. Learn to live in the moment. Learn to follow my heart (and learn to accept a messy house with two small children).

 

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My role model!

 

How about you? Anything you don’t do because you’re afraid you’ll regret it? Or are you like a cat and regret nothing? Have you learned to accept a messy house?

Kitten + Toddler = Well-Loved Tree

The presents have been purchased for sometime now and are all wrapped and ready to go. My oldest daughter really gets Christmas this year, so that’s been fun.

My youngest daughter doesn’t really get it, but she has learned the words: Get out of the tree!!  And listens. Mostly. Okay, not at all. She must be physically plucked from the tree, and the moment her feet are on the floor, she’s right back into it.

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She took this as a personal challenge. And won.

She can be distracted with toys, books, and cuddles.

Our kitten, on the other hand, has no such weaknesses. There are no baby gates high enough and no squirt bottles wet enough. I have literally soaked him with a water bottle, and he will not get away from the tree. He has broken four branches, yes, broken them, and destroyed ornaments I didn’t think could be broken.

He steals ornaments off the tree and hides them. The big red Santa has been missing since the day the tree went up.

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Some of you are thinking I should’ve seen this coming. Except that I’ve had cats since I was a about seven and not one of them was this obsessed with a Christmas tree.

While our Christmas tree won’t make the cover of any magazine or blog spots, it’s been well-loved and brought a lot of joy (if also a lot of fussing).  We were smart enough to not even bother putting any breakable ornaments on the tree, and we saved the really sentimental ones for another year.

 

How about you? Ever have a pet, child, or someone else mess with your holiday decorations? Perhaps even destroy them? Any tips or tricks on how to protect them?

Invasion of the House Snatchers

I had no idea what I was in for when we had kids. I have a touch of OCD, and I like my home clean, neat and organized. Especially the kitchen. I know, some of you are already laughing.

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When I lived alone in an apartment, I traveled for work a lot. As in about 80% of the time. My apartment was usually immaculate. As in, company could drop by in 5 minutes or less as I tucked away the 3 pairs of shoes I’d left out. Yeah, I know, and I’m still awful about my shoes.

Then, I got married. Marriage involves compromise, and my husband has never been as compulsive about cleaning as I have. As a matter-of-fact, we sat down and made a house-cleaning list so that he would understand everything I thought that needed to happen in order for the house to be considered clean.

The end list required compromise. My mother used to spend every Saturday cleaning our house and she drilled into me what was expected. I was never as good as she was (sorry mom!), but I tried.

DH loosened those standards a bit more. And that was on Saturdays where we bothered to clean. There was so many things that we wanted to do, that we tried to clean the house once a month or when “comany” was coming over.

This worked for a long time. Well, for the seven years of our marriage that we didn’t have kids.

Then we added a child.

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That was rough. Working full-time and taking care of a child, even with my husband’s help, was hard. Especially as there was so much more work to do. I couldn’t believe the amount of mess one small child could create. Until that child grew a little older. Then she made even more of a mess.

Then we had a second child.

My house hasn’t been really, truly clean since…well, since the Christmas after our first child was born when we were hosting. We made a real effort to truly clean the house. All of it. Haven’t done it since, though I told myself things would change as the kids got a little older.

I had assumed that children could be taught to clean up after themselves, especially once they were no longer toddlers. More experienced parents are now wiping tears of laughter from their eyes.

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We grow, change and adapt. And I simply didn’t have the time or energy needed to keep my house clean anymore. So, I had to adapt.

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This didn’t quite work out for me as DD1 was terrified of the vacuum. 

Adapt I did. How much I’d changed was brought home to me hard the other morning as I was picking up toys, again, and putting them away when I found a crust of peanut butter and jelly toast tucked onto one of DD2’s bookshelves. Clearly, she was saving this for later. My pre-child self would have been utterly horrified. My post-child self sorta shruged, threw it away, and decided it was time to take a break and check my e-mail.

 

How about you? Do you keep your house super clean? Is cleaning a weekly ritual? Monthly? When you have guests? Have you found it super difficult to keep things clean with children?