My Parenting Secret: Mediocrity

A lot of people ask me how I do it being a SAHM of three small children. I often reply that it is easy: I just ignore them.

People think I’m joking. I assure you. I am not.

Here’s the thing though. Lately, I feel as if even my lowly standards of parenting have been violated. Lately, I’ve really been subpar.

Don’t get me wrong. My children are fed, bathed, clothed, and put to bed at a reasonable hour – but come on. Isn’t that like a bare minimum baseline for parenting? Shouldn’t I be doing something more?

I have been consumed with reading books (not even high literature – just your run of the mill fiction and romance novels) or watching TV. Of course, Facebook and random buzzfeed “articles.” But interacting with my children? That is rare.

I play occasionally with them or cozy with them. But most of my interactions revolve around shuttling them to and from school, feeding (okok, force-feeding) them meals, making them do homework, forcing them to bathe, and the forcing them to bed. I really can’t think of a time I spend really “being” with them.

Part of the reason is I really don’t enjoy playing with children. There is a reason I birthed siblings for them; there is a reason my house is a toy store. It is so I don’t have play with my kids. I mean, I don’t even enjoy reading to them – and I LOVE reading.

I think I keep thinking that someday, when they’re older, we’ll hang out and enjoy each other. But let’s be real. Why would they want to spend time with me if they don’t expect me to in the first place?

The other thing is that I feel conflicted. I certainly don’t recall my parents playing with my brother and I (except card games when we were older). We watched hours of TV and we both turned out fine as people. We are even both avid readers. So, should I really be worried that I don’t play with my kids and give them lots of over the recommended amount of screen time? (It’s in Mandarin! That counts as educational, right?!)

And of course, since my children are creatures of habit, I have a feeling that changing the way we relate is going to be harder than I think. On top of this, I feel guilt about homeschooling. I mean, if I can’t even hang out with my kids, how am I going to teach them?

So I find myself in quite the quandary. Ideally, I would spend some quality time with each of my children. After all, I do love them. It just seems like so much effort to change course.

There are so many things I would like to do and start doing. But then, I get overwhelmed or tired or lazy or any manner of excuses. To top it all off, I feel this crushing guilt. What manner of shriveled up old witch am I that I don’t want to make the effort to have quality time with my children?

This is why I keep having babies. Babies are easy. Simple. They have basic needs and I meet them. None of this other stuff like “relating” or whatever. Too bad babies grow up.

Any ideas on how to kick myself in the ass and just do the things I should do? (I suppose the only way out is through. Thus, the only way to get things done is to just do it. Blasted Nike and their catch phrase!)

No, but seriously. How do you motivate yourself in the face of overwhelming tasks? Let me know in the comments.

Flirting With Homeschooling

So, many of you know that I’m a completely lazy parent. I can barely muster up the energy and desire to play with my children (that’s why I gave them playmates in the handy form of siblings). How can I possibly think that I will be able to teach my children anything and homeschool them?

My brother thinks I’m turning into the DuggarsHapa Papa thinks I barely pay attention to my children now – how will I add teaching on top of that?

Here’s the thing. I don’t particularly want to homeschool, but I am feeling very conflicted.

You see, I firmly believe in kids having lots of free time. Free time to play, to read, to watch copious amounts of TV. In short, to have the sort of childhood I recall having. I also want my kids to learn and be fluent in Chinese so that kills either a Friday night or a Saturday morning for the foreseeable future. If I add sports, music, and other activities on the list, that’s more afternoons gone. I would also have three (hopefully four) kids in these classes. Unless they are all in at the same time, it’s going to be a LONG time. Plus, I’m sure their regular schools will have homework as well.

Don’t get me started on how stupid homework is. I get needing homework for math, science, and reading. But a lot of the homework I’m seeing is truly a waste of time. I already know I’m going to be one of those annoying parents who complain about the amount of homework their kid brings home every week.

My friend told me her first grader (in the same school district my kids will be attending) had to write a paragraph on what MLK’s “I have a dream” means to them. Then, the parents had to write an essay on the same topic. WTF? The parent has to do homework?? I’m sorry. I already have a college degree, thanks. I don’t need to be doing homework for the fucking first grade. Also, how do people who work full time even deal with this shit? If I were a working parent, I’d seriously be even more livid. Why is my precious little time with my kids going to be wasted on busywork and stupid sheets of paper that teach them “math mountains” (what the flying frak is that?) and circling how many things “11” is?

No.

Which brings me back to my dilemma. How do I have my kids in extracurricular activities and school without overscheduling them?

I know there is no way my kids can learn EVERYTHING (forget time constraints – they likely won’t be interested in everything). I also want to say I have certain non-negotiables in terms of what my kids will learn such as a musical instrument, a sport, and Chinese. But even if school lets out at 2:30pm, that’s not a lot of time for other stuff PLUS free time. It will likely be just extracurricular stuff and no time to just be a kid.

So, I was thinking. If I homeschooled, then my kids could take the extracurricular activities during the regular school day and I could teach them their “normal” curriculum at other times, that would be awesome! I mean, no offense to regular schools and teachers, but I am pretty sure that I would take less time to teach my kids the same stuff by virtue of there only being my kids vs. twenty-six other students. I can tailor the pace to my child and not teach to the mean. If my kids need me to slow down, I can. If they need me to hurry up, I can. Plus, I can teach a lot of stuff in Chinese (and my Chinese will thereby improve, too!). There really seem to be so many benefits!!

There are two main drawbacks for me. 1) Cookie Monster is highly social and I think if he were stuck with me all day, he would miss kids his age. I can sign him up for classes with peers, but there is no real substitute for sharing life with a classroom of other children. 2) I have to teach my children and spend all my time with them. sigh I mean, I love my children to pieces but this sounds truly awful. Almost enough to break the whole idea altogether.

An alternative is if Cookie Monster gets into a Chinese immersion magnet school in Oakland and then, I don’t have to worry about adding Chinese school on top of other activities. Then, it’s really just being reasonable with outside activities.

For those of you who are further along in the parenting time line and have older children, how do you manage? And for those of you who homeschool, any tips? Good sites? etc? Thanks in advance for all your help, friends!

I know I have at least a year to figure out what to do – and that any decision I make isn’t final. I can put them in regular school, pull them out, put them back in, etc. It really is rather flexible. But I do believe in being prepared.

For now, I will think about trying to do more formal teaching for my kids in the afternoons. Cookie Monster is showing signs of wanting to read so I guess I’ll teach him that. Gamera might just learn because she wants to be like her big brother. If I can actually follow through on this (and maybe teach Cookie Monster some basic math), then perhaps I will have a decent shot at homeschooling them in the future.

Or maybe pigs can fly. Sigh.

How to Throw an Easter Egg Hunt

A few readers have asked for some more details on how to throw our Easter egg hunt and I thought, sure! Why not? But in addition, since I’m a giver, I’ll even throw in my general party plan as a bonus! (Don’t say I never give you anything.)

So without further ado (ado, ado, ado!), here is the basic outline of what I do for a party.

1) Costco for everything.

This includes food, drinks, plates, cups, fruit, EVERYTHING. I buy most of the items pre-made (the freezer section is the best!) but I also make a few of my own things, too. Here is a general idea of what I tend to buy. (As most of the attendees at my parties can attest, this is usually the food I provide.)

– Fruit (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, grapes)
– Cheese (either the pre-cut cheese platter, or I go for the Tillamook Sharp White Cheddar – DELISH)
– Salami
– Azuma seaweed salad
– San Pelligrino lemon and orange sodas
– Crackers/chips/kettlecorn
– Guacamole/Salsa/hummus
– Sandwiches (either the party platter or I make my own)
– Salad (usually one that I make)
– Dessert

Two really easy sandwiches (recipes totally stolen from my friends who put on great parties)

a) Chicken Salad Sandwich

– Costco Torta bread or croissants
– Costco rotisserie chicken salad
– lettuce (if you’re feeling fancy)
– cut in half

b) Pesto/Salami Sandwich

– Costco Torta bread or croissants
– pesto sauce
– salami
– cheese
– cut in half

2) Make it a potluck. (Unless it’s a birthday party. That would be rude.)

3) Turn the garage into a play area for the kids. Seriously, the best idea I ever had in terms of space. (This comes in particularly handy during the cold and wet winter months when the kids can’t play outside in our backyard.) I lay out some foam floor tiles (affiliate link) and old bed sheets that I duct tape to the floor. That way, kids don’t have to put their shoes on and keep their socks relatively clean.

I group together a bunch of small tables (I have even used 18-gallon storage bins) and kid chairs and set up several activity stations. I usually have a play dough station with assorted play dough toys, a sticker and coloring station, and a bead and necklace station. They’re easy to set up and gives the kids something to take home.

4) Invite people over and let the kids run amok. 

That’s it. I mean, of course, Hapa Papa tidies up and we try not to look like we normally do (which is somewhat a disaster), but in general this is what we do. Pro tip: Ask guests to take off their shoes. Makes it a lot less messy!

As for the actual Egg hunt, here’s How to Throw an Easter Egg Hunt:

1) Choose a location. This depends on the weather, how many people you invite, and how big your house is. I usually choose a not overly popular park on a Sunday. (I’m hoping there will be fewer soccer/baseball games and that people are at church.)

2) Make it a potluck!

3) Have attendees bring 20 eggs per participating child. (ie: If you have 2 kids participating in the hunt, bring 40 eggs.)

4) Provide extra eggs. There is nothing sadder (at an egg hunt, anyway) than running out of eggs. I usually provide several hundred for my egg hunts, but that doesn’t mean you need to be that extreme. However, should you go the crazy route, I highly recommend going to Oriental Trading Company (pardon the somewhat sketchy name). They sell 144 eggs for $8. $8!!! That’s RIDICULOUS.

5) If you have it at a park, bring anything you would normally have at a BBQ. Pop-up tents, easy ups, blankets, etc. Those make life much easier – especially if the weather is hot and the park doesn’t have a lot of shade.

6) Have a stated start time and stick to it. I had the party start at 10:30am, but the egg hunt didn’t start until 11:30 because I knew people would be late. However, I warned people in the invite that we would start the egg hunt on time (to respect all the people who are punctual) and I asked participating parents to bring their eggs by 11:15 so we would have time to “hide” the eggs (aka: throw them all on the lawn).

7) Mix up the eggs! Otherwise, your kids end up getting all the same stuff. While that might make the kid who managed to get all candy in their eggs really happy, that might make the other kids who only got stickers sad.

8) Here are some great suggestions (which I got from the person who organized the first egg hunt I attended with Cookie Monster) for things to put in your eggs that don’t involve candy (of course use your best judgment and avoid things that are chocking hazards):

– Money, coins, fake
– Marbles
– Stickers
– Small toy cars
– Dice
– Small Tops
– Decorative shoelaces
– Hairclips
– Beaded safety pin
– Beads
– Finger puppets
– Squeeze ball
– Fun coupons
– Seashells
– Polished rocks
– Doll clothes
– Crayons
– Lip gloss
– Erasers
– Whistle
– Nail polish
– Keychain
– Jewelry
– Pencil grips
– Temporary tattoos
– Video game memory card
– Small action figure
– Small note pad
– Plastic links
– Coin purse
– Pedometer
– Small plastic animals
– Bookmark
– Rubber stamps
– Makeup
– Playdough
– Silly Putty
– Socks
– Bandanna
– Earphones
– Charms
– Lanyard
– Small stuffed animal
– Mini bottle of bubbles
– Body glitter
– Superball
– Fortune teller
– Fidget toy
– Wristband
– Confetti

That’s it! Well, ok. Not really. I usually send out an Evite and ask people to tell me what food item they are bringing in the comments. Now, that’s it. Everyone seemed to think that the party was difficult, but it really wasn’t. All I did really was set a time and place and tell people to come. I only provided the idea and some food and eggs. That’s why it’s my favorite event – so little work yet SO MUCH FUN!

Anyhow, I realize this was a very specific post, so it might not have held much interest for the non-Easter Egg Hunt planners. But hey, if you ever do, this would be the post to reference!

My Genius Business Idea

You know what we need more of? Drive thrus. It doesn’t matter for what. We just need more of them. You would think that in my suburb of soccer moms and mini-vans, some clever shopping plaza owner would’ve built one long drive thru with multiple entry and exit points down the back of a building. I don’t care what that place is selling – I would go there and buy it. Drive thru pie in the face? YES, PLEASE.

Before I had children, let alone THREE of them, I appreciated a drive-thru (especially the drive-thru pharmacy), but I didn’t see the need for most of them. How hard could it be to get out of your car and WALK somewhere? How lazy a nation were we? Drive thru Starbucks? Ridiculous.

I knew absolutely nothing.

How was I to know of the perilous drive in the afternoon with a tired kid who is talking and screaming and hey-mommying non-stop until the second you pull into a parking spot to wherever you were planning to go and you turn around and WTF they are totally passed out? Then, you go through the no-win inner dialogue every parent in this situation has agonized over: Do you wake the kid up or go home?

If you wake the kid up, you run the risk of them being super cranky while you’re in the store running your errand and then they won’t nap at their normal napping time (or maybe this IS their normal napping time and you were just an idiot for hoping this wouldn’t happen). But if you go home, you don’t get your thing done – and wouldn’t you know it as soon as you pull in the garage and close it, blissfully anticipating a baby-free hour or two for your own little nap, your damn kid opens their eyes and wants you to play with them.

And that drive-thru Starbucks? I have friends who are willing to drive to a town half an hour away just so they can get a Starbucks without having to schlep their kids out of the car, wait in line, get their order, somehow carry both their drink and kid back to the car without spilling everything on the ground, shoving their kid back into that stupid car seat, and go home. A five minute endeavor turns into at least a half hour excursion (usually punctuated with pleading, swearing, and weeping – in that order).  That’s probably why McDonald’s coffee is becoming more popular – they have a drive thru.

In the town next to mine, they have a drive-thru dairy where you can pick up eggs, milk, and some groceries. Sure, you may have to pay more, but TOTALLY WORTH IT. I have yet to avail myself of this because I am infinitely lazy and just DELIVER MY GROCERIES ALREADY, COSTCO!!! Safeway will deliver groceries over $50, but I feel too much shame to attempt it. As if I don’t get enough boxes on my front porch from Amazon. Now, I’m so indolent, I can’t make it to Safeway? It’s really only the neighbors judging me that prevents me from doing this. If I lived in the boonies with no one to see or know, you bet your bottom dollar I’d be best friends with the Safeway delivery guy.

Oooh, even better. Star Trek replicator technology. Let’s get to work on that, shall we? 3D printing is close, but not quite there yet. In the meantime, a drive thru is far less difficult and certainly not rocket science. Get to it, people.