Thursday, May 19, 2016

Leaving the Kids at Home

I had a lot of anxiety about leaving my two girls at home for three weeks. 
I knew that they would be fine. I knew that they would have a lot of fun with Doug and that he would take really good care of them.
But... I had never been away from them like this before. 
Because I am a stay at home mom I have never had business trips away from them and I have been at home with them during the day and after school. When Maddy was born I had to stay in the hospital for about 4 nights (as it was a C-section) so that was the longest I had every been away from Abigail. But even then she was able to visit me at the hospital during the day. 
I have also been away to Comic Con with my mom for a night and spent the night at my parent's house a few times by myself. But that's it. 
Abigail seemed okay with it until the week before the trip when she started getting a little clingy and anxious about the trip and Maddy was pretty much that way every time she thought about it for the past few months. 
I decided I wanted to make it as easy for them as possible. And fun. 
I sat down with a notebook and came up with lots of ideas to help them (and me!) get through the time apart. 
First of all, Doug took off the first week so that he could be home with them during their spring break and then he worked it out to be able to go into work late and leave early so he would be with them during the normal times that I would have been. I think his coworkers were as excited as my family when I came home!
Next, I knew that he was going to be doing something he had never done before. He has never had to be the sole parent for longer than a day or two and be the one to take them to and from school and make sure homework is getting done and that they were presentable. 
I also knew he would be working from home and dealing with the shorter hours so chances were he would be a little bit more stressed. 
I made a menu for the entire three weeks I was going to be gone and about a month before I started freezing food. I froze breakfast foods. I froze dinners.
Then I made a binder for him. 

I had a tab for each day that I would be gone. 
I also had one for Schedules and important information.
Under the Schedules and Information I listed any medication that they might possibly need and the dosage for each child, their doctor and dentist information, their school information, and any thing else I felt would be helpful for him so he had it all in one place. 
Then for each day I listed any information that was important for that day, where I would be with the name of the hotel I would be staying at that day, and a menu for their day along with any instructions to go with the meal. It would also tell him what he needed to take out of the freezer to thaw. 
He knew that it was flexible but it gave him one less thing to think about. 
Before my trip not only did I freeze a lot of food but I also bought all of the non perishable things to go with each meal for the entire three weeks. 
Then I bought the perishables for the first week and then in the binder told him which day he would need to go shopping and what he would need to get for the meals planned. 
Yes, that was a lot of work and may seem like overkill but I know he appreciated not having to worry about it. 
Also, I did all the laundry the weekend before my trip. We have these clothes organizers that I bought from IKEA hanging in the girls' closets where we can put outfits for every day of the week. 
After doing laundry I filled up all the spots with a week's worth of cute, matching clothes with all the accessories, panties, and socks needed to go with them. 
Then I told him and the girls that those were the clothes for the week when they went back to school. 
That way they could wear whatever they wanted during Spring Break but he knew that they would have good outfits for the entire week of school the next week and not have to worry about their laundry until halfway through my trip. 

The biggest thing I did was to plan out a surprise of some kind for them every day I was gone. 
I stocked up on a few cheap things over the preceding months and also came up with ideas with things we already had. 

I had them all in bags in my closet with a number on them. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture before I left and Doug didn't take very many pictures while I was gone. 
But he did send me this one with Maddy holding one of the bags. 

I took them to Build A Bear way back in December when they had a sale going on and we had some coupons and I let them each pick out an animal. 
Then I went back in March and had them stuffed, put a scent in, and added a message so that they could squeeze the hand while I was gone and they would hear me talking to them. 
I gave these to them the morning that I left for their first gift.

They loved that. 
Some examples of other things in the bags: 

A $10 gift card to Build a Bear for them to pick out an accessory.
In one bag I put the loofahs and bath crayons in the above picture together and told them to put on their swimsuits and take a bath. 
One day had an index card that said to make cookies together with the frozen cookie dough in the freezer. 
I made them really simple Pokemon fabric bags to take to Pokemon club. 
On the day I was visiting Beatrix Potter's house the bag had our already owned Peter Rabbit movies and puzzles in it so they could watch them for Family Home Evening. 
One bag had a craft I found on clearance at Shopko. 
Another had a drawing book in it. 
In one bag was an index card telling them to go to McDonald's for dinner. 
Another telling them to play one of our Harry Potter games on the day I was visiting the Studio tour. 
I bought an English cottage play set off of a few months ago when it was on a great sale and they got that while my mom and I were staying in our cottage in the Cotswolds. 
One card said to have a video game night. 
One held Imagine Ink sets for use at church that day. 
One had free ice cream cone coupons I had been saving and told them to go get some ice cream. 

One day there was a small gift just for Abi (MLP figurine) and one day there was one for Maddy (Shopkins blind basket).
I printed out a free paper play set of the Eiffel tower for the day I would be visiting it. 
I put a new movie in a bag along with two bags of microwave popcorn for them to have a movie night. 
There were gummy bears in one for when I was in Germany.
I printed out coloring pages of Neuschwanstein for the day I would be visiting that castle. 
I found some painting sets at Target on clearance a few days before the trip and replaced a regular painting activity with those for the day I would be visiting the Louvre. 

Maddy was super excited about that and I loved it when I face timed them later that night and got to see her finished picture. 

And for the last day I put in some little Lego sets.
So, as you can see, some of the "prizes" cost money but some of them didn't.
You could do it with all free things if you wanted to or all bought things if you wanted to but I liked having a mixture of both.

I bought a set of two preschool type calenders in the dollar section of Target and hung them on the wall in the hallway.
On one I wrote where I would be each night and Maddy was able to cross it off every day when she went to bed so she had a visible example of when I would be home.
The other one I used to write down what number bag to open that day and when to open it. On some days it would say open after breakfast or before bed. Usually it said "open after homework is done" to get Maddy motivated to do her homework.

And of course they did some fun things that only Daddy would think of like having only Texas Toast and Sour Patch Kids for dinner. Yuck. I can't even imagine doing that but I know they will remember those moments with him forever.

I wanted to make sure they felt good when I left so the night before the three of us had a game night while Doug was working late to prepare for the rest of the week off of work.
I let the girls pick the game.

We snuggled a lot and stayed up late and read to each other and had a wonderful night.
It was still hard to leave them the next morning but I think it made it easier.
I tried to face time them as much as possible while gone. I would have done it every day but Doug said that on some days it made Maddy more sad so during the first couple of weeks it was about 2-3 times in a week and a little more the last week.
We texted as much as they wanted.

Obviously I didn't have to do any of this, but it really did help things to go smoother and it helped me to have a lot more peace of mind being away from them.

Next up: The Trip Begins!


Donna said...

You're an amazing mother and wife!! Your family is very blessed to have you!

cheryl said...

Aww thanks. I think you are too!

The Kings said...

I appreciate all you did to plan our trip and I know your planning and preparations for Doug and the girls meant so much to them! Great job!

cheryl said...

Thanks mom!

Seth and Julie said...

You are way too nice. When I went to Girls Camp, I just told Seth good luck and took off. I think they went out for every meal. I am sure with that long of a trip and that far away though, it was good for your peace of mind to have things in order for them. I am cracking up about the Texas Toast and candy for dinner. I think playing Mr. Mom helps dads to see how much work goes into staying home and creates memories with dad that they will never forget.

cheryl said...

Haha. I think I did it more for me if I'm honest. So I didn't have to worry about what they were doing and eating.
It's true. Doug really gets how much goes into it now... almost.
The kids don't seem to love Texas Toast as much anymore. :)