The other day I realized that I spend about 15+ hours a week ferrying my kids to their extra curricular activities. Add the doctors and the dentists and the speech therapists … closer to 20+hours.
That’s a part-time gig’s-worth of time I spend driving my kids around.
You know what I’m not doing when I’m driving my kids around?
Doing my ACTUAL job. The one that supposedly generates the income to support those activities in the first place …
I understand the solution to all this would be to pull my kids OUT of all their extra-currics. And believe me, I have considered that.
Honestly, if it were up to me none of us would ever leave the house. I’m not a tiger mom. I think there is great value in my kid’s coming home from school and vegging out for a little while.
Unfortunately, my kids have other ideas. And because there are FOUR of them, those ideas add up. This fall alone, I had children enrolled in:
- Horseback riding.
- Musical Theater.
- Martial Arts.
- Book Club.
- Soccer Class.
None of these things took place in the same neighborhoods. Several of them took place at the same time. Logistics alone added an hour to my week on TOP of all the driving.
Then I started seeing Facebook posts about an AMAZING service called HopSkipDrive.
HopSkipDrive is kinda like Uber for kids — except about a million times better because HopSkipDrive actually vets their drivers using a 15-point certification process, plus runs background checks that include fingerprinting and registration with TrustLine. On top of all that, the drivers have to have 5+ years of caregiving experience.
If that’s not enough to convince you of the safety of this system, Patti Fitzgerald endorses the service, and I LOVE PATTI.
Here’s how it works:
You logon to their site and set-up an account, with your profile and payment information. You then enter the names of eligible riders in your family (any child 7 and older) and set a password that the drivers should use for each kid.
Then you schedule your rides. The service asks you for pick-up and drop-off addresses, which you confirm using Google Maps street-views (VERY COOL), and for any special instructions (ie. carpool line info, or sign-in info, or where exactly to go find your kid).
After you schedule your rides, HopSkipDrive emails you with driver info for your trip. They also email you the day of your ride to remind you it’s happening, and even cooler, they text you when your driver sets off to get your kid, and text you when your driver delivers your child to their destination.
AND WAIT. THERE’S MORE!
You can also put the HopSkipDrive app on your phone (available for iOS and Android). All your ride info populates there, but even cooler, you can actually watch your child’s progress on the road using the app!
I was sold on this service basically from the first time I heard about it – and lucky for me, they approached me to try it out and tell you guys about it. (Yes, this is a sponsored post.)
We used HopSkipDrive three times last week, to get Diddy home from her camp in Encino on three days when I was busy picking up Gaga in Burbank, dragging Pancake to karate in Koreatown, and bringing Sausage to the dentist in Hancock Park. (See? I told you. I never leave my car.)
Here’s what Diddy had to say about the experience:
I rode in HopSkipDrive three times. I liked all of my rides. The drivers were super nice. Every time was a different driver and they all used their own cars, which were all very different. But you could tell the cars apart because all of the HopSkipDrive cars had flags on them.
Every time, I got a password to say to the drivers so they knew it was me. The drivers were very polite, and each time one picked me up, they asked how I was feeling and how my day was.
You can use HopSkipDrive to pick up your child\children after school, camp, or any other activity or special lesson. (Please note your child has to be at least seven in age for HopSkipDrive to pick them up.)
I think you should start using HopSkipDrive to pick up your kids if you have a business meeting or whatever adult activities you’re doing that day.
–Diddy, Age 8
Here’s what I have to say:
The first time HopSkipDrive brought her home, Diddy strutted into the house, proud as a peacock. She then proceeded to make her own lunch, because, and I quote, “I could use some more life skills, Mom.”
Couple more rides, she’ll be doing her own laundry.
HopSkipDrive, this mama’s sold.
Wanna try it for yourself?
HopSkipDrive currently services all of Greater Los Angeles, from San Marino to Calabasas to Palos Verdes and everywhere in between. Use code CHECKLISTMOMMY to get your first ride FREE!
I'm Just Looking for Some Grown-Ups to Talk To ...
I am counting down the days to the end of school.
You heard me right.
This women right here, the one with four children who were all born way too close together, this woman who once wanted nothing more than to HAVE HER KIDS IN SCHOOL 24/7/365 AND NOT AT HOME MAKING HER NUTS …
This woman who used to say, WEEKEND? WHAT WEEKEND? WE HAD A WEEKMORE!
This woman who used to look at the long weeks of school break on the calendar and think, HOLY HELL THERE ISN’T ENOUGH WINE IN THE WOOOOOOORLD …
Would now prefer to have them all home.
All the time.
Something has happened, folks.
I’ve realized that down time isn’t the enemy.
School is the enemy.
Because here’s the thing:
When we’re not waking up for school … my kids actually sleep in.
There is obviously some flexibility in my use of the phrase “sleep in” (kind of like how “sleeps through the night” is complete bullshit) but here’s what “sleep in” means over here:
Diddy sleeps till 11 am. Gaga and Sausage make it till about 8.
And ok, sure, Pancake still wanders into my bed around 6 am, but he wanders up whispering, “Mama, cuddle me,” so I am cool with that. (FOREVER. I WILL BE COOL WITH THAT FOREVER. I AM PUTTING HIS FUTURE SPOUSE ON NOTICE RIGHT NOW: LADY, YOU ARE GONNA NEED A BED MADE FOR THREE.)
When we’re not hustling to get to school … we all read at the table.
Even the boys page through their picture books. It’s adorable.
When we’re not AT school … we’re actually ENJOYING lazy days at home.
We no longer have to muster the energy to get out of the house and go go go so the kids won’t explode.
Gaga and the boys are suddenly perfectly happy killing hours at a time at home on elaborate games of their own invention (“perfectly happy” meaning “not as much crying and violence as there used to be”).
Diddy sits in her room and reads and reads and reads.
EVEN I GET TO SIT AND READ SOMETIMES.
I think it may be magic, this growing up thing they’re all doing.
This is, oddly enough, a testament to the truth in that annoying thing people say when you’re a new parent battling sleep exhaustion and teething and potty training and separation anxiety (theirs, obviously) – that thing about,
THIS IS JUST A STAGE, THIS TOO WILL PASS.
Because you know what?
(Seriously, I can’t believe I’m typing this–)
THE DAYS ARE LONG.
AND THE YEARS ACTUALLY ARE SHORT.
I mean, Pancake and Sausage will be in Pre-K next Year, Gaga is entering 1st grade, and Diddy is barreling into 3rd.
The time has passed. The kids have grown.
And I don’t WANT them in school every minute.
I want to hang out with them.
I want to (gasp) TRAVEL with them.
So if you’re just starting out on this parenting thing now, and you have tiny little ones, and it is just so much WORK, and when will it ever get EASIER …
I am here to promise you, it will.
Sooner than you think.
Ok, not exactly EASIER. They grow up, sure, but they grow right into new problems, new crises, new chaos you have to manage.
So if not easier, then, it will at least get DIFFERENT.
It will become a different kind of UNMANAGEABLE.
And you will MANAGE IT.
Because that’s what parents do.
I’m just here to promise you:
In a couple of years, most of that CONSTANT MANAGEMENT is going to get REALLY REALLY FUN.
I'm Just Looking for Some Grown-Ups to Talk To ...
I wasn’t a good eater, growing up. I could happily starve for days at a time if I didn’t like the way a meal looked, or smelled. For breakfast, I wouldn’t eat anything but ice cream with milk poured in it — my pediatrician assured my mother that at least I was getting my RDA of calcium each morning — and I didn’t eat a single school cafeteria meal for my entire K-12 education.
Well. You know that thing about what goes around, comes around?
About chickens coming home to roost?
MULTIPLY THAT BY FOUR CHICKENS.
Four picky-ass chickens who all happen to be picky about different things.
One kid won’t eat anything with tomato sauce but loves sushi. Another won’t eat any meat or poultry showing grill marks but hand her a hot pepper and she’s good to go. Ever heard of a kid who hates cream cheese AND pizza? I’ve got one at my house. His brother only eats bread products and peanut butter (at least he’s getting his RDA of plant-based protein). He believes poptarts are a fruit and honestly if the government thinks ketchup is a vegetable, who am I to tell my kid he’s wrong?
DID I MENTION NOT A SINGLE ONE OF MY KIDS WILL EAT BOXED MAC & CHEESE?
Recently, we decided we were going nuts keeping all of this straight / all of them happy.
So we came up with some workarounds to keep all of us from (further) losing our minds.
1. WE TAKE BREAKFAST ORDERS THE NIGHT BEFORE.
This was actually Mr Big Idea’s idea. He got tired of hassling the kids for breakfast orders at 630 am – and by hassling, I mean, him nagging them and them screaming “I don’t knoooooooow yet I’m so tiiiiiiiiiiired why did you wake me up I’m sooooo tiiiiiiiired.”
So then he tried letting each kid take turns picking a single breakfast for themselves and all the other kids, who could like it or lump it.
For the most part, they all lumped it. At top volume.
So we decided to take the time pressure and the peer pressure out of the equation.
Now we take orders at bedtime, and I write them on the wipeboard in our command center, just under the dinner plans.
Each kid can pick whatever they want within reason – usually it’s some combination of bagel and cream cheese, eggs, or cereal.
Now, while he’s waking the kids each morning, I run the short order kitchen, and all four breakfasts are on the table when the kids get there. They can eat or not eat, but there’s no more whining or nagging at the breakfast table.
2. LUNCHTIME IS SANDWICHES. PERIOD.
I am happy to make any variety of sandwiches. If it’s in the house, I will smack it between two slices of bread or bagel or English muffin, no problem. Everyone gets the same fruit and salty thing on the side and I don’t want to hear another word about it.
3. FAMILY DINNER MEANS YOU EAT WHAT MOM AND DAD EAT.
Or you eat peanut butter.
No, seriously. My way, the highway, or Skipp-ay.
Family dinner is a big deal for me. I grew up with family dinner, and Mr Big Ideas and I naturally fell into the rhythm of eating as a family when we had kids. We eat early, 6-ish, and we eat real food, generally home cooked.
Yes, I try to choose recipes I think the kids will like, but I know I can’t satisfy everybody all the time, so when I put dinner on the table, I also set out a jar of peanut butter and a pile of spoons.
Again: no nag. No fuss.
As long as you sit at my table with your napkin in your lap and you use your fork instead of your fingers, and seriously how is it possible to get HAMBURGER IN YOUR HAIR, HOW IS THAT HUMANLY POSSIBLE?
Okay, so maybe there’s still some nagging and some fussing.
But I’m pretty sure when they gave me this Mom gig that was sold as a pretty big part of the job.
* Full disclosure: this is not a sponsored post, but it does contain affiliate links. Those links help support the operation of this blog.
I'm Just Looking for Some Grown-Ups to Talk To ...
Ours is a very loud house.
For one thing, it’s an uber-modern, glass and wood and concrete bunker. Not a lot of rugs, or window treatments, or anything else that might dampen sound. (Whoops.)
For another, six people, two dogs, and a cat live here.
We make a lot of noise, even in the best of times – every footfall echoes and reverberates, but add the TV in the family room and the cat whining for water and the dogs barking at passers-by and the kids screaming at each other and us screaming at them to stop screaming …
Mr Big Ideas has taken to wearing ear plugs much of the time.
The problem with the ear plugs is that he now often can’t hear ME.
Unless I’m yelling and screaming at him.
Now, I come from a family of yellers and screamers, so I understand that much of this is my problem, that I am perpetuating a cycle of yelling and screaming.
And to be fair, Mr Big Ideas is willing to cop to his own part in this problem – he does his fair share of bellowing, too.
He just thinks I do it more.
You know what that makes ME think?
I’ll become the quietest, calmest, most effective Mama EVER. I will stop the yelling. The kids will stop the yelling. And then YOU, Mr Big Ideas, will be the only one still yelling. And THEN YOU’LL SEE WHICH ONE OF US YELLS MORE!
As you can tell, this hasn’t been easiest thing for me to get a handle on.
I’ve tried mindfulness. I’ve taken a few mindfulness classes offered to parents at our school, and most days I manage 15 minutes or so of mindful breathing using the guided meditations at insightLA.
I’m a big fan of mindfulness in short doses.
I enjoy breathing. In solitude. (What Mom wouldn’t?)
And on the days when I manage my 15 minutes, I do much LESS yelling and screaming, absolutely.
But not ZERO.
And while my own attempts to be mindful and calm IN THE MOMENTS of stress and conflict have improved tremendously in the last year or so, I have noticed a little problem with this method:
Man does it seem to piss other people off when you stop and take five deep breaths to stay calm when they are being big jerks.
All that said, I love the IDEA of mindfulness, even if I’m not the world’s best practitioner, and I’ve tried to get my kids into it, too.
Dan Siegel’s great book, The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind has been a great help. All of his books are grand — truly.
But still, we needed more.
Finally, a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a pretty neat solution. Jury’s out on the long-term effectiveness of this plan, but so far, so good —
The moment anyone around here starts whining or screaming, I say:
I Can’t Hear You, Because Whining and Screaming Just Bounce Off My Ears.
Strangely – and completely unexpectedly — this seems to have the IMMEDIATE effect of making ALL the kids stop and re-think how they are approaching me.
Sometimes I have to say it twice, or three times, but I am telling you, eventually, it works.
They stop. Re-set. Take a breath.
And talk like normal people.
You wanna know the coolest thing about all this?
Keeping my mouth busy SAYING
I Can’t Hear You, Because Whining and Screaming Just Bounce Off My Ears,
keeps me from SCREAMING
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
Even when I DO find myself yelling or screaming at the kids, they now say the same thing to me:
We Can’t Hear You, Because Whining and Screaming Just Bounce Off Our Ears.
And you know what?
Being called out like that really works.
I actually stop, reset, re-phrase, re-approach.
Even Mr Big Ideas has been slowing down on the ear plugs.
In fact, I’ve even heard him saying it a few times … maybe he can hear what I’m saying around here after all …
I Can’t Hear You, Because Whining and Screaming Just Bounce Off My Ears!
*Full disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. Affiliate programs help support the content of this blog.
I'm Just Looking for Some Grown-Ups to Talk To ...
Every once in awhile, what I write about over at sklevy.com happens to overlap a great deal with what I write about over here at ChecklistMommy.
Yesterday was one of those days.
The post I wrote over there began:
This weekend I attended the New Member meeting at the WGA-W. The meeting happened to be scheduled at the exact same time as Gaga’s class Tot Shabbat service. Obviously, I wanted to be both places at the same time. Obviously I couldn’t be both places at the same time (damn you, physics) and I will say now that arriving late to the WGA meeting was stressful (I fucking hate being late anywhere) but ducking out early from my daughter’s performance – despite the fact that MrBigIdeas and all the other kids were there to support her – brought me to tears.
That’s a pretty good summary of what it’s like to have kids, love them more than anything on earth, and yet to still harbor career ambitions that you just have to pursue because otherwise the psychic cost to you and your family will be so terrible it will make the economic costs seem piffling in comparison.
If you’d like to read more, click here.