SAH Sanity Tip #7: Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

Our new year (well, the real new year, when we all returned to real life on Monday morning) got off to a rocky start two weeks ago when I walked into the girls’ room and found they had colored all over their wall.

With magnets.

Who knew you could color with magnets? I certainly didn’t, although I should have suspected that anything can be a writing implement when my older daughter used a barrette to color on the same wall about a year ago.

Oh yes, and this was the wall my dad came down and painted this fall because of aforementioned barrette coloring incident. So I was not too happy. I’m actually very proud that the first thing I did was walk away.

Anyway, I luckily remembered that we had some Mr. Clean Magic Erasers (and I’m not trying to sell a product, I promise–when I went to the store to replace our used erasers, I found a Food Lion brand version, so I’ve bought both and will in the future see if there’s any difference) that I mostly used when spiffing up our old house for sale/rental. I got one out and, with the girls’ “help,” cleaned up the wall.

It seems to have worked just like it should (no paint fading in this case, although I had already decided I didn’t care–we were going to have to repaint the wall if the eraser didn’t work, anyway), and I got a good story to tell all the grandparents over the next week.

I also know that if my daughters are caught without the usual lines of communication open, they will somehow get a message through.

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SAH Sanity Tip #6: Read a Book

It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these, but I need a short post.

When staying at home with small children, reading a book is always a good idea. I’m sure this is news to nobody, but sitting down with a book is a quick way to get everyone (relatively quiet). Also, if you need to take a time-out yourself (see Tip #4), reading a few pages from a book can be helpful for calming down. Finally, my kids are now getting old enough that I can instruct them to sit down with a book on their own for a few minutes, and it makes a nice way to enforce some time out from whatever they are doing to drive me crazy without it seeming like a punishment.

Short and sweet, but hey, it works!

SAH Sanity Tip #5: Leave the House Without the Kids

I already mentioned how important that leaving the house is to maintaining my sanity as a stay at home parent. Most of the time, this involves some kind of outing with the kids. Sometimes, though, I just need to get away from the kids. There are, of course, dates, which my husband and I occasionally try to take (we took a three-day one to New Orleans this summer, so we haven’t had a regular one-afternoon one in awhile). These are very important and great, but they require finding a babysitter and all that goes along with that.

Sometimes, too, I just need time to myself. I don’t remember exactly what brought this to a head last December (right after my husband finished his semester), but my husband realized it before I did, so one evening he sent me out by myself with orders to do something I wanted and not to come back before 8:30 (when the kids should be in bed). It was fantastic. I went to the Hillsborough Yarn Shop, ate dinner at Cracker Barrel while reading my book (the restaurant choice made my husband laugh, but hey, it tasted good and wasn’t too expensive!), then sat and knit and listened to an audiobook at Starbucks until about 9.

It went so well that we did it again last spring (that time I had dinner with some library school friends), and I’m doing it again for several days this month. Our church has a women’s retreat every fall, and I’ve never gone for one reason or another. This year, though, I am going. I’m looking forward to it, and also looking forward to feeling refreshed and ready to tackle daily life anew when I get back.

SAH Sanity Tip #4: When All Else Fails, Retreat

Sometimes, when tempers run high, I’ve found that the best thing I can do is retreat for a few minutes. For me, counting to 10 isn’t enough–usually because I can’t calm down enough to actually do so in the heat of an argument or just when chaos is whirling all around. I have to physically remove myself from the situation. We have a one-story house, so it’s easy enough for me to go into my room, close the door or put up a baby gate (just a deterrent at this point, but one that the kids usually respect) and sit and breath until I calm down. Sometimes I pray about the situation, sometimes I try to take my mind off of it for a little bit. When I choose the latter, it helps me to read, but I’ve found that picking up a novel is not such a good idea. Once I do that, I’m liable to try to hide in my room for the rest of the afternoon, and that doesn’t actually help whatever situation is going on in the rest of the house. So I’ve got a couple of poetry collections laying around that I pick up to read one-three poems from, and then I go out and try again.

The current collection is Good Poems, edited by Garrison Keillor. We’ve had it for a long time, but I’ve just started going through it systematically in the last year. I like the fact that it’s a collection of many different poets, especially since I’m still new to reading poetry.

It’s good for me to recognize when I’ve reached my breaking point and to get out of the situation long enough to come back with better grace before figuring out what to do.

SAH Sanity Tip #3: Remember It’s a Gift

This was actually going to be my first tip, as it’s the one that first occurred to me, and is one that I have to keep reminding myself when I’m losing my temper or the kids are running around screaming.

The chance to stay home with my kids is a gift.

Not everyone has the opportunity to do this. I wasn’t able to for about two and a half years. Now I am, and I need to enjoy it while I can. I know this doesn’t mean I will enjoy every minute, but it does help me to remember that this is a (finite!) special time, and that I get to enjoy my kids’ company more now than I probably ever will again.

It may be a mind game to repeat this to myself, but it’s a truth that I am repeating, so it makes life a little more sane (at least for a few minutes at a time!).

SAH Sanity Tip #2: Leave the House

This is pretty much a no-brainer for anyone who already stays home, but it really does make life easier if you can get out of the house. My challenge is always to make sure I don’t stay so busy with playdates or field trips that I either lose track of chores that really do have to get done sometimes or tire us all out too much.

Some of our favorite places to escape:

There are lots of other places we visit less frequently–especially when we have playdates–but those are our standbys. I am grateful to have so many places around for when we just need to get out of the house! I also just recently discovered The Stir Crazy Moms’ Guide to Durham, which is a treasure trove of places in the RDU triangle area to check out. We’ve been busy enough this summer that I haven’t had a chance to check out someplace new recommended here, but I have it in mind for later in the summer or early fall!

Stay at Home Sanity Tip #1: If They Want to Go, Let Them!

I’ve been toying with doing a “sanity tip” list for awhile–several have occurred to me over the past months, and the idea of having some quick posts in the works also appeals. These are simply tips that have helped my sanity as a stay-at-home mom–if they end up helping someone else, that’s great, but I’m not claiming any sort of cure-all in them.

I had some more philosophical tips in mind, but I’m starting out with one that’s been very practical in the last few weeks: if my kid wants to go to the bathroom, I should take her! This may sound like a no-brainer, but here’s the thing: I am not talking about the kid who already knows how to use the bathroom. I mean the kid who don’t quite know what she is doing yet. Taking a potty trainer to the bathroom every time she wants to go can be very time consuming (it seems like she want to go every 20 minutes, and each visit can take 20 minutes by itself), so it can get in the way of normal life activities.

I easily fall prey to doing what’s easiest at a given moment (and sometimes this is necessary!), but I finally found that sacrificing short-term convenience in this area does pay off in the long run. With my first two, I introduced the potty, I tried to take them regularly throughout the day, but I often sacrificed using the bathroom regularly to getting them down quicker for naps, or to making an outing easier.  But with the third, I’ve finally gotten tired enough of diapers that I decided, what the heck, if the child wants to go, I’ll take her.

Wow! We are not out of diapers, but I am impressed at how well it’s going. Additional benefits:

  1. I got to switch from humongous backpack diaper bag to very small backpack/purse/diaper bag this week.
  2. We used cloth diapers but not cloth pull-ups (we can discuss environmental/economic impact later–I have not found a great cloth pull-up, but admittedly I haven’t looked very hard), so washing diapers is just about over.

Obviously, this trick probably works better with non-first children, since the biggest incentive to use the bathroom (in my observations) is definitely not seeing parents do so, but other kids.

I promise the next few sanity tips will not be bathroom-related!