Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Summer Daze

I wanted to take a minute to write about what a "typical" day looks like this summer. We've had our moments, but I'm already starting to view this summer with dewy-eyed nostalgia when I think about the school year starting. So here's just a quick record of how we've been spending our time...

The girls demand breakfast upon waking. We've been eating a lot of frozen waffles, but they aren't crazy about syrup (and I don't usually offer it) so they like topping waffles with yogurt. They get fruit on the side and they drink milk. These kids are going through so much milk--I told David we might as well start buying two gallons a week. I'm still giving them organic Vitamin D whole milk instead of 2%. Nobody else drinks milk in our family and they seem to burn through the extra calories, so I've just kept buying it. Is there any reason I should switch?

If they don't have waffles, they're big fans of silver dollar pancakes (I buy the premade frozen ones because I can only do so much kitchen clean up every day until I start feeling resentful) (also topped with yogurt) and sometimes a bagel with cream cheese or apple cinnamon oatmeal. Always banana or berries on the side.

I generally try to plan some kind of outing for the morning. The girls are most suitable for public consumption between 9am and 11am, so if I need to run errands, that's when it happens. Mornings might take us to the library, Goodwill, the grocery store, or, like yesterday, to the chiropractor (yay for kid-friendly!) and then a quick stop at a friend's house to drop off baby girl clothes.

If I don't have a plan for the morning, the girls are usually good about entertaining themselves and playing together--some version of "family" or superheroes or some other game that involves Zuzu urgently shouting, "Coco, quickly!" and Coco repeatedly informing her that her baby is "coooold" until she can be wrapped in a cloth dinner napkin.

Lunch comes early for us, no matter what time they eat breakfast. They want lunch by 11:30 am most days. I usually keep it simple--leftovers from the night before, frozen meatballs, pasta, hummus and naan, and then fruit on the side and (on a good day) veggies. Steamed broccoli is their favorite, though they will nibble on raw baby carrots.

We've gotten in a routine of letting them watch a show together after lunch. Coco loudly requests "Pig!" and Peppa Pig is the first show (aside from Sesame Street) in which she's ever shown any interest. Peppa's episodes are 10 minutes long, so they watch one (or maybe two) of those while I'm picking up the kitchen and finishing my own lunch, and maybe sitting down to check e-mail on my phone.

Then it's time for Coco's nap. I remember Zuzu at this age, and how she fought me at nap time and I had to read book after book and then physically hold her on my lap, rocking her until she finally gave in to exhaustion and slept for a bit. Coco is not nearly that difficult. We read three books (right now she's obsessed with Green Hat, Red Hat which she calls "Haht! Haht!" and Moo, Baa, Lalala, and Baby Listens. She also loves Busy Chickens, but it migrated downstairs, so out of sight out of mind, at least for the moment. After we read, I ask her if she wants to rock or go to bed. She usually says "Rock" and then snuggles up against me and closes her eyes. I wonder if I should keep rocking her to sleep with school getting ready to start, but she dozes off so quickly and it's such a sweet part of my day that I'm reluctant to stop! Sometimes she'll be restless and then I lay her in her crib and rub her back for a few minutes and she goes to sleep that way.

While I'm putting Coco down, I let Zuzu watch a show. She has graduated out of Mickey Mouse's [Godforsaken] Clubhouse, you guys! I never thought it would happen, but I feel a little sad that Mickey and his inane foibles are no longer on regular viewing around here! She's moved on to this Nick Jr. show called PJ Masks which, from what I can tell, is about three kids who put on pajamas with masks that then turn them into kid super heroes so they can fight kid bad guys. Zuzu pronounces the show "PJ Masquez," which I initially found very confusing, but the theme song does sound a little bit like that when they sing, "PJ Masks! PJ Masks!" The girl character is Owlette, and Zuzu is a big fan so now when she's acting out the show, she's usually Owlette and Coco is Cat Boy.

The only problem with PJ Masks is that Zuzu's interest in it is so INTENSE that when it's time to turn off the show after 30 minutes, she can't even handle life. We've had screaming fits that are so bad it's made me consider not allowing any TV at all whatsoever. I know it's because she's also tired and resisting nap, but the battle is problematic. I found a bit of a workaround by setting the sleep timer on the TV. No negotiations--I may even be downstairs folding laundry or something and the TV shuts off so that it can "recharge."

She'll ask me periodically through the afternoon if she can watch a show, but I am pretty firm on limiting her (David is much more lax about TV, and I could write a whole post about this and how I resented my parents for limiting my TV so much and also not getting the Disney channel when ALL OF MY FRIENDS got to watch Avonlea in middle school, but now I don't want my kids watching much TV whereas David got a lot of unlimited access to TV and seems to think it's fine for Zuzu to watch more than I what I would allow...).

After PJ Masks we sit down at the dining room table to do some "work." She has a preschool workbook with the alphabet, so we do a few pages each day and then I have her practice writing her name. I'd really like her to be writing it independently when she goes back to school, but I'm not sure that will happen... I also taught her to do all lower case letters except for the E, and I have no idea why. Anyway, as much as I love her Montessori curriculum, I've just felt compelled to have her work on some traditional alphabet stuff, and I need to pick up a math workbook so I can morph into a hardcore Tiger Mother.

After working, we color or play a game or read books or do puzzles. Sometimes she'll play independently, but never if I actually wish that she would!

Coco usually wakes up around 2:30 or 3:00, and wants a snack immediately. If I don't have a clear plan for the afternoon, I almost always regret it. They are pretty good about running errands at this time if we didn't make it out earlier, so we've done some afternoon grocery runs and yesterday went to Home Depot for spray paint. Every afternoon finds us eating popsicles (their favorites are frozen yogurt tubes) on the front porch so that Zuzu can stalk the neighbor kid and see if he's home.

We have gone to the swimming pool more often than I expected this summer. It's so kid-friendly that I've felt okay about taking both girls by myself since Zuzu can touch in almost all of the pool and Coco is not as bold as her sister. It's even better if we meet up with my neighbor and her two kids because two moms with four kids is much easier than one mom with two kids.

If we don't go to the pool, they play together at home and trash either the living room or the backroom or the basement. I try to keep the chaos confined to one room for my sanity. They also get pretty fighty in the afternoon, mostly because Zuzu would benefit from a nap herself.

My big parenting tip is to keep a bag of popcorn in the car. I buy the sea salt kind (already popped) in whatever brand is on sale and keep the bag and two little plastic bowls in the console of my car. It's the perfect snack when they are whiney at any point during the day. They always want popcorn at the pool, but when they start asking for it, I know that it's time to head out, so I get them out to the car with the promise of popcorn (and I've been known to grab a handful or two from time to time).

We usually can't hold off on dinner until David gets home, so I fix something simple for the girls. I keep thinking we need to be better about family dinner but right now it just feels too hard, so I'm just accepting this phase of life for what it is.

And what it is is usually scrambled eggs at five o'clock.

Then it's a countdown until David gets home! If it's not so hot and swampy, we try to take a walk or play outside when he gets home, but a lot of times he's not home until after 6:00 now, and the last couple of nights they've already been in the tub.

After bath is often an energy kick, which makes me crazy sometimes and makes me laugh all the time. They run around (naked) and goof around and chase each other and have dance parties and finally we settle them down to read books and brush teeth and give good night kisses.

Typically, David reads to Zuzu and I read to Coco and on a good night they go down easy and early and then we go downstairs and hang out. On a rough night, Coco fusses, I rock her to sleep while reading blogs on my phone, and David falls asleep listening to an audio book with Zuzu.

Right now it feels like this has been our routine forever and like it would go on and on, but in a few short weeks everything will be different! And I know I'll be both sad and ready for the change.

Any tips for getting through that witching hour of 4-5pm with a four-year-old and two-year-old? Anyone else keep popcorn in their car? It's basically my greatest parenting discovery ever.


  1. This is awesome - for you, lol - bc I have no idea how I used to get through it with my now 15 & 14 year old! Love that you're getting it down for posterity!

    I don't think we had popcorn, but I always had chewy granola bars with us. *Always*. Popcorn is probably the better idea though - less sugar!!

  2. For the first 3-4 years of both girls' lives I worked 4 days a week, so we did have Fridays together, but it was always just one kid at a time because of their age spread. We were always out the door after breakfast through lunch, and then the afternoons were nap time. I loved spending the time with the girls, but I was NOT cut out to be a homebody mom. I was a much better mom outside the house, for sure. And then I wasn't tempted to do house chores.

    E was a really easy child to take anywhere because she was so quiet and didn't fuss. She also loved high chairs. We'd seriously go anywhere with a high chair - I used to go to this pottery painting studio that is now closed. It had great light and was warm on winter mornings. It would be empty, and I loved the owner. E would sit in a high chair and babble with me while I painted for a couple of hours. I would make these really detailed Christmas ornaments, and it was so calm and relaxing. Remembering this now makes me wonder if it sounds like I was doing my own thing and dragging my kid with me, but she was just that kind of kid. She loved to watch, even as a toddler. And now she's the kind of kid that you can't drag away from a project - she gets really immersed and can do something like that for hours. F was a different story, but we still frequented libraries and bookstores and coffee shops. A little more active, but pretty easy to entertain.

    Bummer Z doesn't nap anymore. Nap time was our golden time, even on the weekends. There were plenty of things that frustrated me about those early years, but the silver lining was the fact that both girls could knock out a three hour nap any afternoon. I'm pretty sure they still could, if we let them.

    I never have snacks in my car, but M does. He does the afternoon shift, so snacks are essential. Granola bars, fruit leathers, etc. We love popcorn too, but don't eat it in the car.

  3. Fwiw, never switch to low fat milk! Dairy fat helps stave off obesity. Blocks the sugar! My daughter drinks way more milk than I do but, even when I do, it's the full fat stuff.
    I keep a huge thing of costco cashews in the car! It's carried us through a lot of hangry moments.
    So I don't know if this would make things better or worse, but have you considered switching show time to that 4-5 o'clock hour? Maybe the guiltiest pleasure during the roughest hour would help everyone get through more seamlessly?
    Of course, maybe the witching hour would just find itself a new time slot. ;)

  4. I'm super high maintenance so I always have nuts in my purse, for G though I've kept small containers of varying foods through out her life, trail mix, peanut butter ritz bits, Cheerios, etc. I keep it in my "Mary Poppins bag" though because there have been many a Walmart trip where baby girl gets hangry.

    Sounds like summer is treating you fairly beautifully.

  5. My 4 and 2 yr olds love the preschool prep dads (colors, shapes, numbers, letter sounds, letter blends, sight words). They will watch them over and over - I usually do them during the witching hour. They think they are winning because they are watching tv, but I feel less guilty because they are learning.

  6. We always have snacks in the car. It's like getting in his seat makes Bode instantly ravenous. And lord help me if I've forgotten water because nothing makes me feel like a terrible mom like my child begging for water we don't have.

    Kirk is more lax about shows too and I try not to let it bother me (clearly it does) even when I've worked to entertain and say no to too many shows all day. I almost punished Bode and myself the other day when I yelled "if you ask again, no shows for the rest of the day!" Thankfully he didn't ask and I was able to offer one awhile later.

    Getting out of the house for errands really helps the day not feel too long. I love being home with him a lot, but the constant "mama will you play with me?" gets old even though I know how much I'll miss it when this phase is over.

  7. It is seriously uncanny how similar my boys are to your girls. I've had this thought multiple times before. From the sleeping-or not-patterns to tantrums to daring-ness, Zuzu and Sprout and Coco and LJ are practically identical. Yours are a few months older than mine, so thanks for blazing the trail and sharing your wisdom!!