How to Make Tough Calls When Getting Rid of Toys

Posted by Carly Morgan

It’s de-cluttering season!

Just kidding. It’s always de-cluttering season around here. Living in a small house with two kids (and counting!) means that stuff goes out as fast as it comes in. It’s kind of like living in a retail store. Or maybe a vending machine.

Anyway.

Last summer, I took the kids’ dress up collection out of the big plastic bin it was living in and gave it a home in the walk-in closet in their room. I installed four small curtain rods and a bunch of curtain rings with clips, and made a wall of costumes (two rods full) and a wall of accessories like hats, wigs, and wings (two rods full). For everything that couldn’t be hung up, we added a big rubber bin. It was all lovely and organized and there was still enough room to get dressed and see yourself in the mirror. Mom win!

Dress up closet

Alas.

We kept it just like that for about a month. At month 3, more of the costumes were being put in the bin than back on the curtain rings, but you could still see everything when you went in there. Month 6 was when we started to lose stuff, like the back of the closet was actually leading to Narnia and costumes were falling out into the snow. And sometime during the last month I realized that the large pile of costumes on the floor of the closet was containing a dangerous amount of broken glass and plastic thanks to all the wands, bracelets, glasses, and mirrors that had been stepped on accidentally by little feet searching for the right outfit.

I was tempted to put it all back, to tell myself that the kids were a year older now and that would make the difference, or to just shut the door to the closet and not think about it until next summer, but it was obvious that the dress up situation needed wrangling. At the end of the day, there were just too many things in there. Too many for a bin. Too many for a closet. Too many for anyone who doesn’t have a separate wing of their house dedicated to pretend play.

The tough thing was that I had already made the kids weed out the costumes that they didn’t want anymore last summer. We had cut the costume collection in half, but it had been a struggle to remove those bags because the kids had begged to keep the random too-small dresses and cheap costume jewelry. A few more cheap pieces snuck in this year, but for the most part their dress up collection was still nice costumes that fit, weren’t ruined, and most of which were gifts. This was going to be a fight.

Aaaaand it was.

Calvin cried himself right into an extra afternoon nap after he watched me put his favorite pair of musical gloves in the go-away pile, so I was spared most of his pleading but Eva sat and sadly watched me put dress after dress in the bags, commenting on how she remembered wearing that on such and such day and how fun that had been. Before you pull out the pitchforks, I have to defend myself by saying that the gloves, gowns, and everything else that went into the bags hadn’t been worn in months because everything was inaccessible AND we did keep a decent collection after all was said and done AND the “go away” bags are currently being held at my mother’s house just in case anyone has a panic attack and suddenly needs to dress up like a storm trooper.

It was sad and I felt like a mean old mom all afternoon, but when it was said and done the closet was more manageable and the kids were actually able to dress up, play, and put everything back on their own:

IMG_7170

Getting rid of stuff they didn’t want to get rid of let us get the space back and meant that they could start playing in there again so it was a good decision. I do feel a few twinges of guilt over the particularly expensive and new-ish things that were bagged up (especially the ones my kids had only every played with once or twice) but I’m trying to keep the big picture in my mind.

Clutter = stress because clutter = mess and broken toys and not being able to find anything. We had a rough afternoon, but the kids were happier today getting reacquainted with long lost costumes and nobody cried over that bagged cowboy hat they just couldn’t live without.

Since the kids couldn’t separate out their favorites (i.e. EVERYTHING was their favorite yesterday), I had to make the tough calls. Here were the guidelines I used in case you’re stuck in the same bind:

/// How new is it? We had some costumes that were received recently and a few buried costumes the kids didn’t remember they had gotten for Christmas. They were kept for the most part to give the kids a chance at enjoying them.

/// How ruined is it? Some very beloved costumes had to be bagged because they were ripped, stretched out, bent, etc. Even though I might have been able to mend a few, given our situation it didn’t make any sense to add them to a “mend” pile (which would have sat around for at least a week if not a month) so we said goodbye.

/// How practical for play is it? Costumes in general are pretty useful (compared to one-hit-wonder toys that don’t do much) but I bagged the costumes that required tons of separate pieces, a lot of lacing or buttons, or which didn’t let the kids move much once they had them on. Same went for the ones that left glitter trails around the house and the flimsy costume jewelry that never seems to last long.

/// How many of that type of toy do we have? The kids had an epic collection of bracelets. And glasses. And gloves. And purses. And hats. It would have been a ton of fun to keep them all, but they only have so much space on their little bodies. We kept a few of the best and bagged the rest.

/// How even is everything? Eva had far more costumes than Calvin, but they like to dress up equally (and usually at the same time) so that wasn’t very fair. I deliberately kept more of the costumes that were close to his size and bagged the ones that were borderline too big for Eva just to make it more even. Side note – I don’t worry about gender with costumes or any toys yet because the kids aren’t old enough to be choosy in that way (Calvin makes a fierce princess fairy) but I could see that being a factor later if they start to show preferences.

/// How different are the things I’m keeping? Our costume collection was princess heavy thanks in part to all of our Disney trips and while gowns are still the leading choice for both kids, I bagged more gowns than anything and kept unrelated costumes like doctor scrubs, the firefighter jacket, and a few animal costumes. This is me being a little pushy because I’d like if if they occasionally played those roles, so that’s a parenting call you’d have to make.

None of these rules were things I could explain to the kids very well but they did help me make the tough calls. For example, Calvin’s musical gloves were (1) well-played with so he’d been able to enjoy them, (2) starting to get a little fritzy with the sound because he’d gotten them wet, (3) usually not together as a pair so more time was spent looking for the lost glove than actually wearing them, (4) one pair out of about a dozen dress-up gloves, (5) a little too small for Eva, and (6) Disney brand princess gloves so they didn’t leave a ton to the imagination. I felt bad for his sad little face, but I stand by my call.

Do you let your kids make the call to get rid of toys or do you step in to be the mean parent?

I Don’t Know How to Talk to My Kids About Race

Posted by Carly Morgan

If you’re waiting for this to be one of those profound truths that gets shared and re-shared on Facebook, it’s not here. Lots of people in my parent and lifestyle blogging circle have written touching posts about everything that’s happened this week with the people of color in America. It’s been heartbreaking and lovely to read through them.

This is not that. This is flailing.

multicultural colored pencils

Kyle and Calvin got back last night after being in Ohio for a week, so Eva and I have enjoyed a lot of mama-daughter time. We’ve had great conversations on everything from Kindergarten to her allergies to why there aren’t plants in space that we know of (and why we don’t know everything about space). We did not, however, have an effective talk about race. I can’t give you the exact word for word conversation but it went something like this:

Me: Eva, you know how some people have different skin colors from you?

Eva: Yes.

Me: What do you think about that?

Eva: I think they have different skin colors than me. And sometimes their hair is different.

Me: You mean like it’s a different texture?

Eva: Like it’s yellow sometimes. Or red.

Me: Ok. Um, did you know there are people who think one kind of skin color is better?

Eva: Yes.

Me: You do?

Eva: Yes. Everyone thinks their own skin color is the best skin color.

Me: (amazed at her insight) Well, do you think that’s ok?

Eva: Yes because you’re supposed to love yourself just as you are and not be jealous because of how someone else looks different. We’re all beautiful in our own way.

Me: (derailed) Ok…but would you like someone more because they had your skin color?

Eva: Like in a crayon?

Me: No. Like, if there were two friends and one had your skin color and one was different, would you want to play with one more than the other?

Eva: Why aren’t we all playing together?

Me: I don’t know. (long pause) Don’t be mean to people who have different skin colors than you.

Eva: I’m not mean to anyone.

Me: I’m just saying. I don’t want you to think someone is weird or going to hurt you because they look different than you.

Eva: (another long pause) Well, it would only be weird if they looked like me. Like if another Eva showed up somewhere and started chasing me. That would really freak me out.

Me: That’s not going to happen.

Eva: What are we talking about?

Me: I don’t know.

Obvious maternal fail. Not only did I fail to get my point across, I think I might win the award for being the person to point out that potentially one could think someone was weird if their skin was a different color. I’m actually the person who introduced racism to Eva. Not a win.

During a culling of baby dolls (we had more than thirty), Eva summarily got rid of all of the minorities, then the redheads, and then the baby boy dolls until we had nothing but Caucasian girls left. I pointed out that she lacked diversity and she proclaimed that the discarded dolls weren’t as good which is either horrifying or literal since the dolls she got rid of were from IKEA or other inexpensive impulse purchases and the ones she kept were white baby girl dolls from Madame Alexander and American Girl. Which, you know, my fault again.

We don’t have any black friends in Utah. I was trying to think if the kids had ever met and spoken to a black person and this is all I could come up with:

11034472_10105698606019775_4628947000516118991_o

FAIL.

Honestly don’t know what I’m doing here. Should I buy more dolls? Start intentionally looking for characters of color in the picture books? Should I seek out more diverse playmates (NOT an easy task here in Salt Lake City) or is that crossing some line where I turn things into a racial scavenger hunt and fall ass-backward into being part of the larger problem anyway? Is it enough to just keep having the fumbling conversations or do I need to wait until they’re older so we can actually talk about this?

I get that it’s a privilege to decide when we want to introduce racism to the kids. I get that lots of parents have to have those conversations early whether they want to or not. I also get that, unless some recessive genes take a stand with this baby, all three of my kids will go through life with no hint that they’re racially mixed. My kids are white.

I got to enjoy the perks of being a minority (yay, minority scholarships!) who doesn’t look like a minority (hey look, I have to GOOGLE racism for good examples) but there aren’t going to be any minority scholarships on the horizon for my kids because of how white they are. I also get that this whole mom problem isn’t a “problem” as much as it is an exercise in not letting the Morgan kids grow up to be problems for someone else.

I don’t know. I hope we keep this larger conversation going because I need help here.

 

At the End of the Day

Posted by Carly Morgan

It’s just about 4:17 and I need to make dinner in the next 58 minutes or hungry people will start to settle around our dining table and complain.

I am currently laying in bed wearing pajamas while my two-year-old relaxes next to me, playing on my iPhone. His sister has a iPad somewhere in another room.

We didn’t homeschool today.

I also didn’t do any laundry today, I haven’t emptied the dishwasher, and I thought I was going to the grocery store but it didn’t happen.

When Kyle walks in, the house will look pretty much the same as it did when he left to go to work nine hours earlier. If he’s lucky, it will also smell like dinner fresh from the oven. Right now, I’d put my money on a dinner of leftovers, sandwiches, or cold cereal.

You might wonder why I’m writing this, since I obviously should get up and throw something in the oven, empty the dishwasher while dinner cooks, and do a quick sweep to pick up whatever the kids have pulled out today. After all, I’m the stay at home mom. If I can’t do dinner and a toy sweep, what the hell am I doing?

I’m not going to lie, I struggle with this thought a lot since I stopped doing as much writing. I wanted to step away from blogging so I could focus on my family and spend more time with my kids and I’m doing exactly that. I just…I thought it was going to be more…productive. Like we would make lots of crafts and go to the library all the time and build all these memories around the city. And we do, I guess, but it doesn’t feel the way I thought it would feel. We made a banner about Spring today but that just meant scribbling on lots of paper, fighting over the tape, and reminding the kids to complain because it’s cold outside.

We also cleaned up from breakfast, which involved spilled milk, multiple trips from the table to the kitchen, dropping each utensil eight times, and rubbing the table with sopping wet washcloths (doing nothing beyond spreading the syrup around) and then trailing water around the house as they tried to dry the table with the same soggy sticky rags.

We read books, put the books away, did a puzzle, put the puzzle away, made a train track, put the train away, etc. Ultimately, exhausted with trains and puzzles and each other, we retreated to our own screens for some down time. I should totally make them do coloring pages instead. Or we should play a board game. Or I should have them help me chop veggies for dinner so they can learn about healthy food AND life skills.

I’m not. And maybe this is why people argue that daycare is better. In daycare, every minute would be occupied with some age appropriate activity and each day would bring something exciting. I would love to do that at home, but honestly I can’t. Sometimes the trains and puzzles are all I have to offer.

I want to believe that this time is good for us. I want to believe that they’ll remember that I was home with them and that we played and read and that I let them “clean” the dining room by destroying it. I also want to believe that I’m contributing to the household just by keeping them alive while Kyle is at work, even if they aren’t reading Chaucer or starting their own businesses. But man…right now, I have to admit that it’s hard to step back and see the big picture on this motherhood thing that sometimes feels like it has eaten my life.

I hope it doesn’t sound like I don’t want to be home with them, because it’s not so simple. I love being home with them, but I don’t know how to quantify it. I can’t tell how to clock my hours here without that paycheck and a quarterly performance review. Is this right? Am I doing good work? How many points did I lose when we had chicken nuggets because I knew the kids wouldn’t eat quinoa today?

And the big question…if I’m not meeting my own low bar for parenting, how could I ever manage “real” homeschooling through grade school?

Eva

Who’s Running This Show, Anyway?

Posted by Carly Morgan

Life with two kids

Last night, I made a pretty simple dinner: egg noodles with a little shredded cheese and some steamed broccoli. I served it to the kids along with some carrot sticks and a little Eva-safe ranch. It’s all food that they’ve had before and I didn’t anticipate any trouble.

Ha ha.

Neither kid ate. Both requested different foods and those requests were denied because I am not a short order cook. Calvin never took a bite. Eva took a bite and then let it sit in her mouth with her eyes watering for an hour. We begged, we commanded, we bargained. Nothing.

They were sent to bed a little before seven, which is more than an hour earlier than usual, and we wrapped up their plates of untouched food and put them in the fridge. This morning, when they woke up, they woke up to dinner for breakfast.

Fast forward another two hours. Eva had given in and eaten eventually, reveling in the fact that she was the “good one” (I can’t relate but Kyle says it’s a great feeling when you’re a kid). Calvin hadn’t eaten and instead sat and glared at me patiently while I did crafts at the table with his sister. Finally – finally – he really wanted to work on his valentines so I asked him to take just three bites (much less than his sister had eaten, but I know when I’m beat) so I helped him eat three egg noodles and carried his plate to the kitchen.

While I was around the corner, I heard Eva say “Oh noooooo…”

Yeah.

Calvin threw up from one end of the dining room to the other. It was not pretty.

I’ll omit the details here but long story short I made a batch of sugar cookies, put jam on a bunch of English muffins, and let the kids eat as much sugary junk as they wanted to for lunch. I also wanted to see if he was buggy, but the cookies and English muffins and sweet tea stayed down so apparently it was notsomuch the flu as it was the forced eating.

Obviously, this was a parenting mistake but is it ok for them to go on a hunger strike because they only eat nuggets and pizza?? No! But what do we do?!

The Internet says this:

  • The rule in the family is that you have to try three bites of each food that is served. If you still don’t want it after that, you don’t have to eat it. (Source)
  • No seconds until you try a little of everything—but then seconds can be whatever part of the meal you like most. (Source)
  • Let your kids serve themselves and do not discuss what they eat or don’t eat. Simply clear their plates at the end of the meal. (Source)
  • The best way I know to eliminate pressure at dinner is to serve a few bites of fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack…most days. That way you know that when your son gets to the dinner table he’s already eaten a lot of the good stuff. (Source)

Well, we have a one bite rule but it’s still not working. Seconds pretty much only happens when burritos and pancakes happen and we can’t only eat burritos and pancakes. If I let the kids serve themselves and then clear their plates THEY WON’T EAT. And I didn’t know not serving fruits and veggies at each meal was an option so that doesn’t help either.

Blah! Where is instruction manual for this stuff??

Don’t Put Sidewalk Chalk in Your Kid’s Hair

Posted by Carly Morgan

Long story short: Eva wanted to be a mermaid for Halloween and she wanted mermaid hair. I saw a thing on Pinterest about using water and sidewalk chalk to color your kid’s hair.

It was a bad idea.

Because when you get chalk wet (while simultaneously ruining your recycled plastic plate)…

Wet sidewalk chalk

…and then you pinch the chalk between your fingers to make a paste and rub it into your kid’s hair…

Sidewalk chalk in hair

…and then you dry it because you think that might make it look better…

Color hair using sidewalk chalk

…it will not look better. It will, however, leave a fine layer of chalk dust over absolutely everything in your clean bathroom, especially the white towels so they can get all rainbow stained when you use them.

And the hair? The hair will not look good.

Mermaid hair using sidewalk chalk

And now you know.

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