Category Archives: preschoolers

Visitation Day Blues: Kid Edition

As we all piled for our morning cuddle on the couch the kids asked what the plan was for the day. I told them, “Don’t forget, you guys need to pack your backpacks with quiet activities, today is visitation.”

Captain, my oldest asked, “Is it the one where we go to the coffee shop?”

“No, that’s the other visit. Today is the one where you need to sit quietly in the car in the parking lot so your baby sister can sleep while the baby is visiting with his mom.”

Both my preschooler and kindergartener groaned. This is the least favorite day of the week. We eat an early lunch, every one goes potty, and we load up into the van and head to the other side of the county for our fosterling to visit his mother for an hour. Because of when it’s scheduled, my little ones end up stuck in the car for two and a half hours. I don’t like it either. Trying to keep my older kids quiet and occupied so that my youngest can get some sleep is stressful. On good days, she gets half of her normal length in nap. On bad days, it’s a 5 minute nap and a whole afternoon of meltdowns. It’s not easy on our foster baby either. Some how it always works out that he gets awoken to go to the visit or awoken once we get to the visit. Lots of interrupted sleep usually equals a very long day with lots of crying, nap fighting, and fussiness for him.

“Mom, we don’t like this visitation day! It’s boring!” I sighed as the day had just started and the complaining was already starting. Milkman looked at me sleepily from the corner of the couch where he spent the early morning after a very early wake up call from our foster baby. We trade off nights, so I actually got sleep last night, but I couldn’t say the same for my sweet husband.

As much as I wanted to reply, “Stop complaining, too bad!” I realized this was a teaching moment. “You know what guys? I don’t necessarily like this visitation day either. It’s stressful for me trying to ensure every one is quiet in the car. But… Well. Do you know why we do this? God says that we need to care for orphans and widows. Do you know what a widow is? It’s someone who has lost their spouse and has no one to care for them. Do you know what an orphan is?”

They looked at me blankly.

“An orphan is someone who either doesn’t have living parents, or their parents cannot currently safely care for them. The foster children we’ve had in and out of our home are considered orphans. So we actually have a really important job, because we are obeying God when we care for foster children. We don’t just do this because babies are cute— even though they are! We do this because we love them, and have a duty to obey God, and this is how our family has been called to obey. And one of the jobs of foster families is to make sure foster children get to see their parents.”

They nodded slowly. Well, the older kids did. My youngest, Peachy, was dancing around like a wild maniac to Celtic Christmas music. Never a dull moment.

Milkman chimed in, “Can you imagine if you only got to see mama and papa two hours a week?? You would miss us so much and we would miss you so much, right? The baby’s mommy wants to see her baby.”

I continued, “Exactly! And that’s one way we can serve his mommy, too. She loves her baby. So I know that visitation day is kinda lousy and boring for us. But it’s a sacrifice we make together as a family to obey God and to serve the baby and his mommy. Can you understand that?”

“Yes, mama.” They replied. I’m sure they didn’t feel super happy to go on with the plan for the day, but at least they now knew there was a valid reason behind their boring day ahead.

Sometimes teaching moments are hard to come by, and sometimes they fall perfectly in your lap, like it did for us today. My kiddos do sacrifice a lot for our family to continue fostering. While it’s not as much as Milkman and I have to, it’s a decent amount for very young children.

I hope they know, for as long or short as we have to foster, it’s not just something we do for the heck of it. It’s something that takes self sacrifice. It’s something that is hard to do. It’s something that takes giving up our schedules, preferences, and desires. It’s certainly not something we do for praise from others or accolades. But, most importantly it’s something that we do in love and obedience— together. As a family.

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5 Things I Learned While Living Without Netflix

So, we moved!

 We were living in a 1,000sqft duplex in a nice 1970’s neighborhood. We loved where we lived, it was just the right size for our family, and had a nice big backyard. We had hoped to continue renting there until we could afford to buy, but when we got notice of a sizable rent increase, we had to start looking elsewhere. We looked at scores upon scores of homes. Everything was so expensive or in a bad area, and nothing seemed to be falling into place. 

Just as I was despairing and hope seemed lost, we saw an ad for an old Farmhouse that was renting for less money than our current duplex. It was 2,500sqft, and sat amidst acres upon acres (upon ACRES) of farmland. We went to look at it and found out there were 75 people who wanted it. Somehow (oh you know, probably God! Haha) we got the place. 

While nearly the perfect home, there is one huge drawback to living in the middle of nowhere: Crappy internet options. We went 3 entire weeks without internet. And you know what that means? No Netflix. For 3 weeks. Can you say #firstworldproblems? Well, anyways, it seemed like a big deal at the time.

Here’s what I learned living without Netflix for 3 weeks:

1.  I always thought it was the fault of Netflix that Milkman and I were up so late. Totally not. When you watch sitcoms before bed (we love Frasier! On our 4th time through, because I’m a creature of habit!) your evening post kids bedtime is broken up into 23 minute increments. If we turn on Frazier at 8:45pm, I know we can watch about 3 episodes and then we need to go to bed. 

Without Netflix to tell time by, Milkman and I either would watch a movie on DVD that was too long and stay up late, or we would just stare at the ceiling til 11:45, look at the time and say “Woah. We should go to bed. How is it almost midnight??” 

 Clearly my late bedtimes have very little to do with Netflix and everything to do with poor self-control!

2.  My kids actually CAN entertain themselves for longer periods of time without TV. Without a steady stream of Beat Bugs, Sarah & Duck, or Zootopia, my kids had to find other ways to stay busy. They spent more time outside, looking at books, and playing pretend. I feel like my children were more content since they knew they couldn’t just ask for a show and one would appear. 

3.  You don’t always need background noise. I’ll admit part of the reason Netflix is often playing in our home has 75% to do with needing to fill the house with some sort of non-kid voice noise. Being a stay at home mom can be lonely with no other adult interaction. Having Andy Griffith or the Great British Baking show on loop during the day with us seldom watching is how I can hear adult voices, and indeed, break up the time my husband is at work into episode sized chunks. 

With no background noise, I got to appreciate the sound of the neighbors’ chickens clucking, the sound of wind brushing through the leaves in the trees, and birds singing on my porch. I got to live in the moment a bit more, rather than just waiting or the next best thing to happen (that means Milkman pulling up the the house and me getting a break!) 

4.  I have a lot of CDs I don’t listen to anymore, with some really good music on them! This is kind of a result of no Pandora or Spotify rather than just no Netflix, but since the Netflix is usually running on the TV, and when we do listen to music, it’s streaming, I forgot about how much music I have! Captain learned how to work the CD player and would just throw random CDs on to listen to from my old collection. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Jars of Clay, Ace of Base, Nightwish, Funker Vogt… so many good tunes. We enjoyed a lot of dance parties!

5.  While we reluctantly enjoyed the lack of Netflix, because of the extra family time it brought us, the thing I learned the most, is I really freakin’ love Netflix. You could go broke renting from Redbox constantly, and even more broke buying DVDs of your favorite shows or movies, but Netflix is one heck of a sweet deal. For $8 a month with Netflix, you get more than what you pay for. Unlimited access to documentaries, kids shows, and Frasier? You don’t realize just how great it is, til it’s gone!

Our internet is still super lousy, and sometimes it’s so slow that Netflix can’t stream, but I gotta say, after 3 weeks with no internet and no Netflix, I wouldn’t willingly cancel my subscription any time soon.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some Lockup: Women Behind Bars to go binge on. 

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The Day Mamitas Weaned 

The first time she nursed, she had just been born. The world was a scary, cold, and bright foreign land to her. She screamed with all the gusto her 8lb. 5oz body could muster– which was quite a lot. 

She had an angry (and quite frankly and ugly) scream. The nurse had to move her over under the heat lamp for something, I don’t quite remember what, but Milkman was snapping pictures of her as I heard her scream. I kept saying “okay, just give her to me now, okay, please give me the baby, I just want to nurse her!” You see, that was the one phrase Milkman used to help me get through her 23 hour labor: “Just think about the first latch with your new baby…” So after weeks of prodromal labor, months of painful walking and moving, and a day of no sleep, all I wanted was to nurse that baby. 

Finally, the nurse handed her over to me, and her ugly little scream filled the room ’til she latched on, I sighed with contentment and then– OW! She bit me as hard as she could almost immediately! That was the beginning of our 3 year nursing journey. 

It started with clogged ducts, mastitis, 6 months of undiagnosed ductal thrush, blebs, and lazy latches. Things didn’t get easier til she was almost 9 months old. I got pregnant not much longer after then wth Ezra, and weaned Captain right before I lost Ezra. I told Milkman that she would not nurse as long as her older brother, surely she would wean at 18 months. But she didn’t. Surely at 2! She’s such an awful nurser, and my milk had dried up from Peach’s pregnancy, but she didn’t. Certainly at 2.5, that’s when Captain weaned. But she didn’t. So when she was 2.5 I asked when she would wean and she said “I will wean when I am 3.” And so every night for 6 months we continued to nurse before bed. We have counted down, and talked about it. I have looked towards her 3rd birthday with eagerness to say goodbye to tandem nursing. And as it drew closer, I started to feel a sadness. The end of an era. 

We picked Golden Slumbers by the Beatles as our weaning song. We listen to it, sing it, nurse to it, and cuddle. Every night this week I have asked her if she’s really, truly going to be done nursing and she smiles and laughs and says she will be all done at 3. Tonight, the day I have looked forward to with relief and sadness is here. Time to wean. 

The last time she nursed she wore a pink pajama shirt and pigtails. She had just finished her cake and ice cream. I asked her if she was ready to nurse for the last time and she happily said yes and giggled nervously as I began crying. She asked for our song and we sang “… Sleep pretty darling, do not cry, and I will sing a lullaby…” And she wiped my tears off my face one by one while she nursed. Her big brown eyes held much more seriousness than her 3 years of age allowed. I didn’t time her or cut her off, and she nursed longer than she has in 6 months. I kept asking if she was done and she kept shaking her head no. And then, she popped off and said “Mama! I unlatched! What’s unlatched mean? Cos I did.” And gave a cheesy grin. And with that, she was done. 

For 3 years I have hated, loved, resented, and appreciated nursing her. And in that one moment, it was over. This chapter of our lives closes, and it isn’t one that gets revisited again. I am so sad. But I know, as I learned from weaning Captain, that our relationship isn’t over. It’s just a new chapter. 

I love you, big girl. Happy 3rd Birthday. 

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GIVEAWAY! Our Fun Day at Simi Valley Saplings!

Summer is in FULL swing.  I put out the word locally and asked if there were any mom-owned businesses that catered to families.  One of the first invitations to visit her business was Leah of Saplings in Simi Valley.  I hadn’t heard of Saplings, but after a quick perusal of her website, I knew I had to come visit.

 

Simi Saplings is an indoor play area unlike anything we have in Ventura county.  Most of us think of an indoor play place as being focused on gross motor skill play, and while those places are awesome, Saplings is on a different scale.  

 

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From the moment you walk in (entrance is on the side of the building!), you are transported into a calm and cool (hello! Escape the Summer heat!) atmosphere.  The theme of Saplings is woodsy and outdoorsy!  Leah told me that her family loves to be outdoors, to hike, and go camping.  Since she knew she would be spending a considerable amount of time indoors at Saplings, she brought the outdoors inside.  Calming sky blue walls with painted trees (and a SUPER cool tree Leah constructed!) give the place a sweet and charming woodland vibe.

 

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There are LOADS of imaginative play stations around the room. Your little one can be a Doctor, Vet, Store Keeper, or Hair Stylist.  For the little performer there is a band and music area (complete with a drum set, which Captain LOVED) and a Puppet Show stage.  Your child can race their cars with a friend, have a camp out next to the felt campfire and roast pretend marshmallows while they sit on a cushiony tree stump.  If your little one wants to climb and slide, there is a playground right in the center of the room.  It’s just the right size for your preschooler!  There is a reading corner, complete with a soft rug, fluffy pillows, and kid-sized lounge furniture next to a window with lots of natural light pouring in, which Mamitas liked especially since there was a book with her hero (Minnie Mouse!) to be read! 

 

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The Seedling Meadow is a safe and cozy play area for little ones from 0-2.  It has a half-wall protecting it from the rest of the main play areas and from older playmates who may not see little ones underfoot.  Peach had such a blast crawling, playing, and sitting on the little riding toys in the enclosed area.

 

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Have a budding artist?  The art area is INSANE.  Fully stocked with various artistic mediums, easels, tables, and a chalk wall.  In fact, Leah goes the extra mile and on Tuesdays and Fridays, at no extra cost but your general admission, there is a special craft lined up for your child to do, and bring their craft home with them!  Saplings also occasionally teams up with Color Me Vino for the kid and alcohol-free version of a wine painting party for a Paint N Play party!  Your little one can come in, and for $25 they can create a work of art taught by an instructor on a canvas, and then play all day!

 

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Which brings me to my next favorite feature: ALL DAY PLAY.  It really means all day.  That means ins and outs for the whole day once you pay your admission!  You can come first thing, play with your little one, eat your packed lunch in the food area, go home for naps, and come right back after naps until closing without paying any extra.  That is SUCH a plus if you have littles who need to get their midday siesta in!

 

Another great thing is you only pay for your kiddos to play.  So while parents are encouraged to play with their little ones (and the space is made to facilitate just that!), adults do not pay admission costs.  For those of us with multiple children, Saplings offers a sibling discount!  Leah has 3 little ones herself and appreciates that it costs families with multiple children more to do fun things.

 

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They also offer two different party packages for birthday parties.  One is semi-private and the other is offered on Sunday’s and it totally private.  You can either do all the decorating yourself, or talk to Leah about having her plan your fuss-free party with the various add-on items.  Just show up with your party after booking and she’ll do all the shopping and decorating for you.

 

While I loved how much my 3 kiddos enjoyed playing at Saplings, I also really enjoyed getting to talk with Leah and hear about her life and her passion for bringing parents and children together to play.  Her husband has been a huge support to her as she has seen her dream realized since she hung up her teacher hat and went into mom and business owner mode.  She made a place where she could bring her children to work with her, and invites you to come and play with yours there, too!

 

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Head over to my Facebook page for a chance to win a day of play!

 

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