Lights Out

The light flicked on again. I stop and stare at the shining coming through the bottom of the door.

“How can he still be awake?” I ask my husband.

“He’s going to be exhausted tomorrow,” he says.

I take a deep breath.

“My turn to check this time.” I set my laptop on the couch. 

Padding across the floor, I gently push open our son’s door. I see the lamp is on. There are toys strewn across the floor. That’s when I notice him.  

He’s sitting on his bed wearing a hard hat, boots, and a superhero cape tied around his neck, meticulously lining up dinosaurs on a pillow.  

“I thought you were supposed to be sleeping?” I ask.

“I wanted to build first.” 

I sit down next to him. “It’s time for bed. You have to get up for school tomorrow.” I carefully slip the hard hat from his head and tug each boot from his little feet.

“I don’t want to sleep,” he whimpers.

“How come?” I ask gathering each brontosaurus and tossing them in a bucket.

“I’m scared. There are monsters in my room. It’s too dark.” Yawning, he crawls into my lap.

After checking under the bed, in the closet, and in his drawers, I confirmed the expected. There are no monsters in his room. Calling dad for backup reassurance, he does a quick sweep of the room and agrees there are no one-eyed furry creatures lurking in the dark.

With another kiss and hug, we flick the light.

“Time to sleep.” I close the door behind me.

Getting back to my cozy spot on the couch, I park my tired body. What’s on Netflix? Flipping through the channels for a new binge series, I hear a car horn. Ignoring it, I keep searching.

WeeOoooWeeOooo

A police siren? I glance back at my son’s door. Sure enough, he’s awake again. 

I peek in his room.

“We just checked for monsters, and there is nothing in here. Lights out.”

He looks at me. A slight smirk is forming on his face. For some reason, I’m starting to think I’m being tricked.

“I have to go to the bathroom.” He’s squirming around in his bed. I send him the Mama Bear stare.

“Hurry up and go.” Picking up his little body and walking to the bathroom he starts sharing a friendship problem at school. 

“I’m sorry those boys were running away from you on the playground. Remember, you want to play with friends that make you feel good. If they hurt your feelings, how about finding a new friend to play with?”

With a nod of his head and smile on his face, I’m feeling confident we’re both going to finally get some rest.

Again, lights out.

Lingering outside his door, I take a deep breath.  

Silent. I return to the couch and bury myself in the cushions. It’s late. There’s no time for an episode of anything.

My eyes start to feel heavy. I drift off to sleep.

Suddenly, I sit up and look around. Where’s my husband? Maybe he went to bed. I clumsily make my way to our bedroom fumbling for the lamp.

Click.

Only the cat lay curled up on the bed.

I poke my head in our son’s room.

Curled up under his covers are my three-year-old and my husband. Both crammed into the toddler bed. I smile and for the last time, turn off the light.

Why We Family Garden

Rows upon rows of colorful produce, neatly packaged and anxiously waiting to be chosen. Shoppers are inspecting each perfectly shaped apple, taut skinned peach, and crisp lettuce head while contemplating the purchase of pineapples shipped from Costa Rica. Comparing this to the dirt covered carrots, roots dangling off the ends, or the misshapen strawberries freshly picked off the vine, when I have the choice, I’ll choose the latter or whatever else is in season.

This thought encourages my husband and me to continue talking with our son and daughter about how we get our food and why we should appreciate it. No more wasting half eaten apples or tossing a banana out because it has too many brown spots. Instead, we’ve shifted our old habits and started new ones. Let’s toss them in the backyard composter and watch them magically turn into black gold or throw them in the freezer to use in smoothies later on.

“In the United States, food now travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles from farm to table, as much as 25 percent farther than two decades ago,” according to an article from World Watch Institute.

Imagine the many hands and miles traveled a single orange or stem of grapes go through before it graces our table. All the effort put into planting, growing, harvesting cleaning, packaging, and shipping just for our enjoyment. Then to be picked over because it’s not as shiny or perfectly shaped as the next.

“In 2008, 43 billion pounds of perfectly good food was thrown out of grocery stores,” according to Move For Hunger.  

Whether the food is damaged, out of date, unattractive, or left untouched due to lack of interest, that’s equivalent to $165 billion wasted each year. That’s an astounding number when you think about it.

Our environmental impact is a topic near and dear to our family’s hearts. We do our best to keep our carbon footprint at the forefront of our minds when making life decisions. That’s why we’ve decided to start a family garden.

It’s an easy way to demonstrate to our kids the amount of hard work involved in the growing of our favorite fruits and vegetables. Sure, we could hop into the car and drive down the street to the local supermarket. But that wouldn’t be an accurate representation of how the process works. Not to mention, tasting the long awaited fruits of your labor is immensely gratifying and humbling.

“Mom, where does our food come from?” our curious daughter will ask. I think to myself, I’ll tell you, and I will show you.

In the spring, we let our kids help pick the seeds, turn and add compost to the tired winter soil, dig, drop the seed, cover, and mark each planting bed. With careful attention, water, and lots of patience, our kids make a stronger connection to the earth and their food by reaping what they sow.

The pleasure we get from watching our children pick tomatoes or raspberries off the vine while shoveling them into their mouths and scouring the beds for more delicious treats is insurmountable. Humorously, I’ve learned my lesson and started planting double of everything after watching the goods get consumed before they even reach the kitchen.

With the rising statistics of unhealthy Americans in our country continue growing, nothing seems more important than instilling a healthy attitude about food within our children and helping them discover the growing process.

As the growing season comes to an end and fall is upon us, we take time to prepare the beds for the next season, tally the seeds that we need to purchase for spring, and say a word of thanks for another successful planting season.

How we Taught our Kids to Ride Without Training Wheels at age 3

“You’re doing it! Look at you go!” I shout at our three-year-old son as he pedals his wobbly bike without training wheels down the street.

Three? You may ask yourself. Yes, that’s right. It can be accomplished. Say goodbye to the training wheels, and self-doubt that your child will never learn how to ride a bike on their own. Sayonara to the oversized bike trailers and “hello” independence. Well, let’s not get too carried away, but that’s how it felt when my husband and I had our two children conquer this life skill by the age of three.

Want to know our secret? It’s called a balance bike. It was no secret to the many families that had already relied on this genius two-wheeled pedal-less bike. But when we discovered it? Our confused thoughts on how to teach this task were gloriously put to rest. It’s a secret no more. We wondered why this didn’t come with the instructional manual on “How to Raise Kids.” That’s right, we never received one when the stork dropped off our two bundles of joy at our front door-step. Isn’t that how it works? Let’s move on.

We first heard about this awesome alternative after a fellow dad kindly and willingly shared his brilliant secret with us. We did a little more research, and within no time, a lime green balance bike showed up on our doorstep. Contrary to the prior statement, it was not flown in by bird, just the friendly neighborhood delivery man.

How does it work?

Unlike ordinary bikes, it has no pedals, larger tires, and lower seating for a toddler to rest their feet on the ground. The child uses their legs and feet to push off the ground to gain speed. After some practice getting on the bike and scooting around, the child will gain confidence and naturally begin to lift their feet for longer periods of time. Mostly, they start to coast around. It’s all about balance.

“Bikes with training wheels tilt to the one side, creating a false sense of balance. In order to ride without the training wheels, a child must “unlearn” how to ride unbalanced and learn how to ride balanced,” according to an article on Two Wheeling Tots.

That sounds like a lot of extra work when some of the steps can be cut out. Basically, with the balance bike, the child will feel themselves tipping to one side and will learn to keep their body upright and support themselves.

When do they start using the balance bike?

Two Wheeling Tots says that kids can start as young as 18 months old, all the way up to 5-years-old. They use the bike for about two years before moving onto a traditional bike without training wheels.

How we did it

To get our daughter excited about the process, we let her pick out which color of bike she would like, along with a fitted helmet. Once the balance bike arrived,  I was shocked at how lightweight it felt. It was a plain bike frame with two wheels. No chains, no other contraptions for the child to get caught on, just pure simplicity.

We started on the driveway first teaching our 20-month old to tilt the bike to the side and lift her leg over the seat. While grasping the handlebars, she practiced sitting and focused on balancing herself. After the novelty of being able to just sit on her very first bike wore away, our daughter gained more confidence and began to push herself around. It went from a single push, to push, push, glide.

In no time, she was testing out the steering, slightly turning, then making larger circles. My husband and I were amazed at how natural the process was. Within a few months, we noticed she would lift her feet to coast along. By the age of three, we felt she was ready to try a bike with pedals.

Unsure of how the transition would look, we purchased a little bike from the second-hand store. We put our daughter on the traditional bike, held the back of the seat, showed her how to keep her feet on the pedals and walked with her as she rode. Eventually, we let go. She fell off but caught herself. We tried again, and within three attempts, she was riding down the sidewalk. It was incredible!

My son didn’t catch on quite as quickly. We thought he was ready, when he was not, so we gave the traditional bike a rest for a bit. He practiced balancing a little longer until he said he was prepared to try again. Within no time, he was pedaling on his own. He just wasn’t ready when we thought he was. It was up to him. That is a key factor in the whole system. The child knows when they are ready to learn and each child is different.

Would we do it again?

Yes! We feel it took away a lot of the guessing that comes along with trying to figure out how to teach this task.

We have since passed the balance bike on to our niece who’s loving this new experience and boost in confidence. If you’re interested, I encourage you to check out the balance bike and if you feel it’s a good fit for your child, give it a test ride.