Sunday, August 12, 2012

Too Many Toys

On their overflowing bookshelf, one of my boys’ favorite books tells a story familiar to most households. Its title says it all, “Too Many Toys.” The author, David Shannon also wrote and illustrated “No No, David.” It was baby Reed’s second favorite book (It was hard to top “Pat the Bunny” in those days), so we’re kinda partial. I love the book and can totally relate. We are drowning in toys! We’re kinda cheap, so we NEVER buy toys “just because” and we don’t go all crazy for birthdays and Christmas. We don’t have big birthday parties. The boys have a tiny allowance, and we rarely go shopping, so I can not understand where all these stupid toys came from!  But they’re definitely here, as evidenced by the Lego creations stacked on my bookshelves right now and the snakes I found hidden under the covers the other night. Over the years, we’ve developed several weapons in our war on toys. Here’s what has worked (sometimes) for us:

-          Our general rule: Do whatever the heck you want all day, but before nap time and bedtime, every toy will be put away.
-          Put toys with lots small pieces in large under bed storage containers and pray they forget they’re there.
-          Put even messier toys in smaller containers and hide on high closet shelf. Allow only one tub down at a time. Even if you PROMISE you’ll pick them both up. (Learned that one the hard way)
-          Encourage outside play. Sticks and rocks don’t have to be organized into baskets.
-          Keep most popular toys in large, open baskets. It’s easier to scoop them in off of couches or make shots from across the room.
-          Teach the baby to “pick up” and make a huge deal when he puts three cars in the car basket. Every little bit helps, right?
-          Set timer and threaten no bedtime story if they don’t beat the timer.
-          Set timer and bag up all toys left out after it dings. Put bag on a high shelf and threaten to throw away at Christmas (or some other arbitrary date). Let them rescue toys by beating the timer the next night. For every minute left on the timer, they each save a toy. Be prepared to be shocked at what they rescue (crappy, wrinkled paper airplane, anyone?)
-          Realize it’s unfair to the one kid who runs to beat the timer if his brother is doing headstands and bouncing cars off his butt. Assign each kid an area to clean. If they beat the timer, they get bonus play time. Our areas are “bedroom” and “rest of house.” It’s usually pretty even, but if one area looks more tornadic than normal, we improvise.
-          On nights of extra turdaciousness, set timer and issue one spankin’ per toy left in offending turd’s area.
-          Break up the monotony and employ other strategies than cleaning areas.
-          Have kids draw letter magnets. If they draw a “b,” go pick up all the blocks, then come back for another magnet.
-          Make chore cards
-          Throw them a bone and help out sometimes. Tell them for every 25 toys they pick up, you’ll pick up 25.
-          On especially messy days, have them do a pre-pickup before nap or bedtime arrives. It’ll save a lot of drama when it’s really time to clean it all. We’ve tried, “Stop and pick up 50 toys each. Then you can play,” and “Let’s see how many toys you can pick up before the timer dings.”
-          Every once in a while, after they’ve gone to bed, throw away some of the worthless crap. Cover well with other trash or you’ll have some answering to do the next day!

-          On late weekend nights tell them to leave the toys. Let them watch TV the next morning if they pick up all the toys right when they wake up without waking you up until they’re done. Enjoy the blissful extra minutes of sleep the next morning!
-          Remind yourself that one day, the toys – and the kids-- will be out of the house. Try to embrace the chaos.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Farewell to Summer

Ryan went back to work Monday. I start tomorrow. We have mixed emotions, but are mostly excited to get back into a routine. I told Ryan that we are so lucky, because “We get to do it all again in nine months!” Ryan said, “Woah. In a different context, that’d be pretty scary.” Anyway, here are a few highlights of my last day of summer with the nublins:

- Went on a walk to “our” bridge. Calvin sported a six-shooter and his neon Aqua Sox. Big boys picked eleventy billion flowers for me, hiding each offering behind their back with a sheepish grin while I acted like I was surprised for the eighteenth time. Love!
- Plopped on the couch, and read “a buttload of books” and ate freezie pops.
- Max learned a new phrase, “Baby giwl!” Said as an insult (by his bubbies – he had no clue what he was yelling). This comes on the heels of “Wet me go!” (which I’m fairly certain was his first sentence) and “Poop butt!” Decided it’s time to find some more appropriate play mates – and caregivers.
- Made birthday cookies for Aunt Rachel’s boyfriend. Licked the beaters. Dipped pretzels in frosting. Ate frosting by the spoonful. Let the kids have a little, too.
- Made supper with Chef Calvin. He sat on the counter or table and helped with the entire process. The new recipe, cheesy broccoli hot pockets, got a surprising four out of five stars. The dark star? The chef himself, but not because of his part in the meal. When Ryan asked what Calvin did to make it taste yucky, he said with attempted diplomacy, “Well….I didn’t…but Mommy…” and “I think Mommy mightta put too much of something…” I know what the something was: the color green.
- Had a surprisingly uneventful toy picking up/bath/toothbrush/story session. A first in a long time (like, all summer)
- Picked out clothes for tomorrow. Went over the morning procedures. Kicked myself for not rehearsing it!
- Kissed boys good night and told them I had a good summer with them. Felt a little sad.
- Decided the bigguns were being so good, I’d let them stay up a little later to help put laundry away (this is still a privilege at this point – praying it stays forever that way!) Walked out of the room for two seconds and came back to a wrestling match on top of the clean, folded, sorted, and stacked piles.
- Ushered deviants to bed. Had to break up two more fights in as many minutes. Banished Calvin to Max’s room. Felt a little excited for day care opening time tomorrow morning.

To quote the back to school cards Reed made for Daddy and me, “Ihopyouhavagoodsgl”  Me too, buddy, me too. But I’m looking forward to another summer of craziness with you and your brothers in nine months.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dorkiness comes Full Circle

 I’m not sure if science has proven this or not, but I’m sure there has to be a dork gene. I inherited mine from my mother, who used to drive me batty by saying things like “drive me batty”  and “Who does she go with?” (it’s go OUT with, Mom, duh!), and “We think so!” when people complimented our house. We didn’t just have family meetings to resolve issues. That would’ve been bad enough. No, we had a “family council.” She collected decorating ideas and filed them in folders by room! Even her family-photo smiles annoyed me, what with all the miniature laugh/sighs.

And then I grew up and caught myself smile/laugh/sighing for a photo, making decorating idea binders, and realized that I had turned into her! Only I really already was her. In middle school, I once spent an entire evening calling a long list of 800 numbers I had scrubbed from magazine ads, asking “Do you have a catalog featuring your products?” Yes, those very words. I cringe remembering it. My sister describes a home video of a ten-year-old me helping my mom host a baby shower. I’m holding my hands like an opera singer, according to my sister (I refuse to watch it, but I can SO picture it!), wearing my favorite button shirt (A zillion mismatched buttons lovingly sewn onto a knit T-shirt by my Grammy, another proud bearer of the dork gene, as evidenced by her quiet little laugh/sighs at annual family Christmas photos), asking the guest of honor in my prissiest voice, “Mary? Would you like something to drink?”

And today proved that even though I have sons, the dork gene is runnin’ strong up in here! I’ll describe my eldest’s newly-made “activity binder” in a minute, but first a game. Who said the following comments, 6-year-old Reed or his mama? Answers at bottom

1)      As parting words after a phone conversation, “Keep on crafting!”
2)      Describing yummy food, “This is heavenly!”
3)      Describing more yummy food, “I don’t like it… I LOVE it!”
4)      A response when my bachelor brother asked what we’d been up to this summer, “Just keeping up with the garden.”
5)      “I’ll be as quiet as quiet can be.”
6)      To Calvin, “You miscreant!” (Calvin’s sophisticated response? “You’re stupid!”)

So, the activity binder… It was sorta dorky Mom’s idea, but someone sure enjoyed cutting out ideas, 3-whole punching them, and filing them under the appropriate tabbed divider.  Which got me to describing the wonderful world of Pinterest, and boy did his little eyes light up! Later, after he showed Daddy his binder (I was only a LITTLE jealous that he got a much more attentive response than when I tried to show one of mine!) I mentioned Pinterest again and said we’d try it out sometime. He rubbed his hands together and said, “Oooh! PINTEREST!”

All I have to say is that it’s a good thing Reed is handsome, charming, and athletic. Otherwise, he may be in for some trouble with the ladies. I don’t know many high school girls who are attracted to guys with a good smile/laugh/sigh.

Answers: Me – 1, 4; Reed – 2, 3, 5, 6