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A Day in the Life While We are Still Six

I’ve documented the minutia of our lives at various stages of children, and it seems tedious, but I’m so glad I did it because reading back on them now there are so many things I’ve forgotten.  I can distinctly remember how each phase of our family has felt, but it’s much harder to recall how the details of our days actually played out.

Here’s a day in the life while we were:

A family of five

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A family with 18 month old twins

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A family with 12 week old twins

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The last two I’ve written right before adding a new baby to the family, and today is no exception.  I’m set to give birth in a week, so I’m knocking this out before the newborn haze sets in.

School is the main difference between all our previous years’ of routines and now.  In all of my earlier days, we might have somewhere to be of our choosing, but it was flexible and just that — of our choosing.  Now we have two six year olds in kindergarten, and randomly opting out of class is generally frowned upon, so we do the morning hustle.  Lucky for us, we are in a school that offers 3-day a week kindergarten (all day), so we only have to do the hustle a handful of times.  This is glorious.

This sample will be from one of their three days of kindergarten, and for fun, let’s also choose a day that Hunter has morning preschool (he also goes 3 days, but naturally only two of them overlap with Henry and Arden’s days at school.  Such is life).

~Henry and Arden, 6.5, Hunter, 4.5, and Jameson, 2.5~

6:20AM  The alarm goes off and I immediately snooze it for 8 minutes.  I’m not a snoozer by nature, but pregnancy will do this to a person.

6:28AM  The alarm goes off again and I face reality.  With the speed and agility of the Titanic attempting to miss the iceberg, I steer my 9-month-pregnant body out of bed, waddle across the room and begin our day.  Henry is usually peeking from our doorframe, as he has the ninja ability to wake when he needs to based on the day.  I give him the nod, and he bounds silently into our room and into bed to snuggle.

If this were a non-school day, we’d get up at 7:15 and all the kids would be in our bed, snuggled up tight and fighting for the insufficient real estate provided by our queen bed.  Today, I dress and head downstairs to start breakfast while the other three sleep.

6:50AM  I’m making eggs and toast and peeling tangerines while Mike showers, Henry and I chat, and Arden comes into the kitchen.  If Mike and I were disciplined the night before, then praise be!  Their lunches are already packed, and all they need to do is pick out two snacks to fill their little reusable zippered bags (my cousin makes these and I’ve bought at least a dozen. They’re brilliant and we no longer buy ziplock baggies at all. End of aside).

If we were worthless oafs the night before, then we are harassed by the empty mouths of the bento-boxes before us.

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(They don’t get notes every day.  That’s likely why I took a photo, so when I’m old and gray I can reassure myself that I was, occasionally, a decent mother.)

7AM We hear Jameson on the monitor and Henry bolts upstairs to get him.  They are best buddies and it fills my heart to the brim.  Jameson comes in with Henry and says, “I waked up!” and gives everyone hugs and hellos.  Babies in pajamas with huge smiles is the greatest morning joy there could be.  Mike wakes Hunter, the family sleeper, and brings him down holding his Roux puppy.  It is adorable.

7:10AM  Mike is helping everyone get what they need and drinking coffee and pouring a drop of milk in my tea.  It’s all a melee of eating and packing school bags.

7:25AM  We send the twins and Hunter upstairs to dress — twins in their uniforms, Hunter in whatever he wants (so…a dinosaur sweater).  All brush teeth and I hurry Arden so I can do her hair, tell them all to put on shoes and grab coats, and work our way outside.  Mike has started the car so it’s at least tepid by our loading time.

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Clues it’s not a real before-school photo: it’s daylight, and they’re not in uniform

7:40AM After 3/4 kids self-buckle and 1/4 gives us a little grief about it, we pull out of the driveway.  Henry is our timekeeper and always notes the time, along with the number of minutes until the doors of his classroom open (they open at 7:45, and tolerate lateness he does not).  Who can believe their school begins at the eye-watering hour of 8AM?

7:46AM  The twins sail out the door of the van and run into school, and I park further down the way to take the two boys down to the soccer field for a little morning runaround.  Hunter’s school doesn’t open until 8:30, so we have substantial time to fill.

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8:20AM We arrive at Hunter’s school and park, waiting for the doors to open.  When they do, we kiss him goodbye and watch him say good morning to his teacher.  Jameson and I sail off in silence, giving each other a look that says, “We have done ALL of this and it is only 8:30AM.”

8:45AM  Jameson and I do a little cleanup, read some books, have a morning snack, play a little music, stick a load of laundry in, and generally enjoy the tranquility of the house to ourselves.

9:45AM  When I was a little less pregnant, we’d load up the jogging stroller and jog/walk to the library a mile away; drop last week’s books, do any printing for MOPS, pick out new books, and enjoy the fresh air and exercise.

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10:40AM  We’d get back, he’d play in the playroom, I’d take a mighty fast shower, and then I’d dress and get ready to pick up Hunter.

11:30AM  Hunter pickup!  I’m always so happy to see that cherubic face.  I want to ask him thirteen questions, but I usually settle for two or three, since he likes to ride quietly back to the house.  School fills his social cup and he likes to recover without being pecked to death by we chickens next to him, and no one understands that better than his introverted mother.  Jameson, ahem, does not, so I always hear:  “Hunter!  Hunter!  Hunter?” until he replies, “Jameson I don’t feel like talking,” and I say, “You can play with him at home, lovey, he’s just tired,” which placates him enough to put his thumb back in his mouth and gaze happily out the window.

11:50AM  I make lunch, which is fabulously easy for just two littles, and they sit in their stools and chat with me.

12:30PM After they eat, they occupy themselves together in the family room while I clean everything up.  Then I ask Jameson if he’s ready for nap and he always says, “I go night night” and “Hunter get me!” since he wants Hunter to chase him up the stairs.  Hunter always does, since they’re buddies, and they just became roommates, so it’s extra cute.  We tuck Jameson into Hunter’s bed (he loves to nap there because Hunter has dinosaur covers) and he holds his silky blankies and sucks his thumb and says, “nigh-night!” and goes to sleep.

12:45PM  Unless I’m starving, this is Hunter and Mommy time.  We head into the playroom and play Sorry, Hisss, Guess Who, Yeddi Spaghetti, whatever he chooses for the day.  We play two or three games (or two or three of the same game if a certain someone hasn’t won yet…), and then I make my lunch and he reads books.

1:45PM  I do some computer work, email, MOPS work, paying bills, whatever needs doing, and Hunter has a little fruit snack and hangs out with me or does a puzzle.

2:10PM  We wake Jameson, who’s usually okay with this, unless he was right in the middle of a REM cycle, in which case, he’s an angry elf.

2:35PM We’re in the car and headed to pick up Henry and Arden.  Many times Hunter will fall asleep in the five minute ride, and I let him snooze as we wait in the pickup line.

2:50PM  Henry and Arden tumble into the car, jazzed from their day at school and spilling information and questions in equal measure.  Jameson sticks his arms in the air, (often just one arm so the other thumb can remain in his mouth) and he expects each twin to give a big hug as they make their way to the back of the van.  They’re giddy to oblige.

3:05PM  We arrive home and the twins do their after-school routines of emptying backpacks and changing into play clothes.  Then they all head outside to see who’s available to play; it’s the daily neighborhood roundup.  We don’t have much daylight these days, so they rush door-to-door to gather the gang and start football or tree climbing or bikes or basketball.  Jameson and I follow them out and cruise around making sure no one is too close to the street and everyone is being kind.  Sometimes other moms are out, sometimes only one of us will shepherd the herd, but it’s a team effort.

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5PM  Everyone is called inside since it’s basically as dark as night, and I start making dinner.  This is my hairiest time of day, since they all want attention or help with something, or in Jameson’s case, to climb the pantry shelves, just as I’m starting to cook.  This is when I’m calling Mike for an exact ETA, and it’s also when my body most needs to sit down, but can’t.  I try to tell one twin to start piano practice, have the other color, let Hunter play Bey Blades with Jameson… but usually the twin on piano needs help, the other only wants to play indoor football, and Jameson only wants me to put his Bey Blades back together, despite Hunter having a PhD in the subject.

5:30PM  Mike walks in the door and everyone charges him, pummeling him with hugs and love and questions.  I give him a look of exhaustion or desperation or joy or relief, depending on the day, and after a quick change of clothes, he either plays with the kids to keep them occupied or takes over putting dinner on the table so I can sit for a minute.

6PM  We dim the lights, light a candle, and dinner commences.  If a child begins the meal with “What is THIS?” I feel like I might throw my fork straight into the drywall.  But other than that, we say our prayers and dig in.  Dinner is fun and chaotic, all chatter and laughing and a little too loud and sometimes too many buns getting up out of seats (mine included) but it’s also when Mike and I look at each other and our full table and feel like it’s all worth it.

6:30PM  Mike or I do dishes (he is technically always on dish duty since I cooked, but often I’d rather do dishes than play with the kids because my cup is full on that front…see 11:30AM introvert description).

7PM  We all head upstairs where 3/4 of the children get into pajamas and brush their teeth without help (hallelujah) and one child is dressed and brushed by us.  We either read or tell stories, then all go to their own beds while we do-si-do the goodnights and closing of doors and getting of waters.

7:30PM We are in our own jammies and downstairs for parental recovery time, which looks like watching a show and eating food we can’t eat in front of the children.

10PM  We’re in our bed, tired but also still wired, still talking about the kids, still grateful for another day, still in disbelief that soon there will be a baby in the bassinet next to us.  It’s wild, it’s a ton of work, but it’s so exquisitely good.

Rephs259

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When What Happens is What Everyone Assumes Is Always Happening

Last night held one of those moments where I stopped in the middle of the melee and thought, “THIS is what those ladies in Safeway probably mean when they widen their eyes and say, “FOUR kids?  THREE are boys?!  Oh, you are in for it.”  They assume my life is chaos every waking hour.

It’s not, not even close, but when it is, it reeeaaally is.

I was supposed to have dinner with my girlfriends, my beloved gals from college days, who gather monthly to make sure we stay connected through all of life’s changes.  We call ourselves ThirThur, because we meet on the third Thursday of the month.  (Actually that’s not even true anymore, but SecWed just never had the same ring.)

Since it’s set on our calendar, Mike knows I’ll be heading out around 6 to make our 6:30 dinner.  Except this day, his CFO asks for a last-minute 5 – 6PM meeting downtown, and to his credit, he texts me to ask if this is okay.

I text back, “Work comes first so of course — but since it’s downtown could you tell him you need to jet at 5:45?”  He says no problem, and I resign myself to making and feeding the children their dinner, a task I’d hoped to relegate to him for my night out.

One of those girlfriends, Kelly, stopped by to greet the kiddos, since she hadn’t seen them in several months.  They go into an elevated state of energy when we have company they love, so making and serving dinner was loud, overwhelming and chaotic; it was like herding feral puppies just to get everyone seated at the table.

I texted Mike a touch of an SOS:

5:36PM “The kids are driving me insane with their energy.  It’s because Kelly is here but will make it so hard for me to get dressed and ready.  Please hurry.”

He replies:

5:54PM “Left 10 minutes ago!”

I uncharacteristically write, “Bless you my love” because I truly was so grateful he was honoring our deal so I could get out of the house on time.

Kelly takes off so she can get ready for our dinner out, and I clean dishes and wipe the table before heading upstairs to get dressed myself.

I stood in the closet trying to pick a maternity top that made me feel dressy enough to be out to dinner, only to find after putting it on that the first one has a mysterious water-like stain right in the middle of it.

I choose another — and discover a different faint mark in the midsection of this one.  I’m horrified that my clothes have stains I didn’t know about.  Then I realize it’s amusing that I’m shocked by stains on my clothes when I am cooking for and running after four children all day.  There shouldn’t be a surprise factor here.  But what’s to be done?  Wear an apron?  Are rubber gloves and a hairnet far behind?

After donning outfit number three, I start fussing with my hair and makeup.  Arden is hanging out with me in the bathroom, as I always dreamed my daughter would, when Henry walks in, eyebrows high and little palms face-up in a surrender pose.

He says, “Don’t be mad.”

Few words cause me to panic faster.

“What is it?” I ask.

“Jameson did something.  He really did.  But don’t be mad.”

“WHAT is it?”

“Don’t be mad, it’s broken.”

“Henry, it is so, so much worse for me when you draw it out like this.  WHAT is?”

“You know that Christmas train that turns around and makes music and…he broke it.”

“Do you mean the snow globe!?  Is it shattered all over the floor??”

“Yes,” he says, eyebrows higher than ever, hands of supplication still raised.

Henry doesn’t have a dishonest setting, so I know he’s telling the truth, and yet I’m baffled that such a thing could occur without me hearing it.  I’d heard a thud a few minutes prior, but nothing like the sound of an enormous snow globe shattering.

A glimmer of hope flickers in me that perhaps a piece of the train around the snow globe has broken off, and that’s the extent of it.  I don’t give a flying French hen about the globe itself, I just really, really don’t want to deal with the aftermath.

I reach the bottom of the stairs and look down the hall at huge shards of glass cascading up the hallway, a lake of water across the hardwoods, and wet, goopy glitter everywhere.  Jameson and Hunter are frozen in front of it,  and Jameson’s socks are soaked, but he isn’t crying, so I hold my breath that he hasn’t cut himself.  They’re each holding a white trash bag, presumably to clean with, and I notice the rolled-up rug in the adjacent bathroom — trash bags and pushed-back rugs are stunning acts of household preservation from my preschoolers, and perhaps this is what keeps me from completely losing my mind.

At this point one may be thinking, the negligence!  What kind of mother leaves a 2.5, 4.5 and 6 year old downstairs when she is upstairs?

This mother does, every single day, because that’s life.  I cannot stand next to them every moment; there are chores to be done, things to grab upstairs, clothes to change, diapers to attend to — we all can’t be in the same room all day.  Nine times out of ten, nothing happens.

This was not one of the nine.

I tell everyone to sit across the bottom stair so I know they aren’t near glass, and I gather paper towels, rags and a broom.  I begin gingerly picking up glass fragments, hunched over and painfully reminded that I’m eight months pregnant.

I look at the row of boys and say, “Who did this?”

Hunter and Henry: “Jameson!”

Jameson:  “I did!!!!”

His shamelessness is disarmingly endearing, and I salute myself for not having yelled or screamed so far.  It is an achievement that I hope will be recorded in my Book of Life.

After a few minutes of cleanup they get restless on the stairs, and start to tussle.  I am having none of that, so like the genius I am, I send them to another floor away from me.  It worked so well the first time.

“Go up to the playroom so I can clean — go! Go play!”

They run up the stairs and I resume cleaning until it occurs to me to call Mike so he’s forewarned about what he’s walking into.  It’s also now 6:20, so I’m a liiiiiiiitle curious how much longer he’s going to be.

After I describe the fiasco, he says, “I’m five minutes away, you’re doing great, I’ll be there soon,” and I sigh and unroll more paper towels.

I text my girlfriends the situation, and tell them I’m going to be very late, so please, order your wine and begin your evening.  One writes back, “We’ll order you two glasses of wine!”  before remembering I’m pregnant and writing, “I realized it after I wrote it.”

By the time he walks in I’ve got 95% of it cleaned, and I’m eerily calm.  He sends me back upstairs to finish getting ready, Arden joins me and gives me a hug, and then runs back to the playroom.

One minute later she comes back in.

“So how mad are you right now?” she asks.

I sigh and say slowly, “I’m fine; I’m not mad. Didn’t you notice I didn’t yell at all?  I’m fine.”

“So how much madder would you be if something else happened?” she asks tentatively.

I look over at her with my hands frozen in the creation of my topknot.

“What happened?  You can’t be serious.  What happened?” I ask.

“Umm,” she looks at me nervously.  “Don’t be mad.”

Those magic words again.

“I don’t want to tell you.  Let’s just not go look,” she decides.

I turn to walk down the hall to the playroom but notice the twins’ door is closed with the light on inside.  I open it.

Henry is up on his bunk bed, Hunter is sitting on the floor.

“What’s going on?” I ask them.

“I’m grounded,” Henry says sadly.  He’s already meted out his own punishment, which is precious, but makes my anxiety triple.

I start walking toward the playroom but Arden runs ahead of me saying, “Don’t go in!  Don’t look!” I push past her and open the door to find our brand-new light fixture dangling from the ceiling, hanging on by one teensy wire.

I gasp and say, “It’s been ONE MINUTE!  How did this — ” but I see the plush football as Arden says, “They were playing football.”

I return to the boys in their cowed positions and calmly say (where is my award for non-yelling excellence!?), “We will not be playing football in this house.  Is that clear?”

Hunter: “Yes, Mom.”

Henry:  “Yes, ma’am.”

There’s nothing like a “yes, ma’am” to rip my heart out, so I walk over to him and tell him I love him, kiss him on his cheek and rub his hair.  Just then Mike gets wind of what’s happened and his face is a storm, but I say, “I did NOT lose it over THAT down THERE so you are not losing it up here,” and he inhales deeply but doesn’t lose it.

I announce: “I am out of here.  I am gone!  Goodbye, family.  I am now 30 minutes late.”

Arden follows me downstairs, all reassurances, with maturity that makes me adore her to the point of cracking open.

“Mom, you’re just going to have the best time tonight.  It’s going to be so great and you’ll just have the best time at your dinner.”  She grabs me halfway around the waist, because I no longer have one, and kisses the baby belly before racing back up the stairs.

The girls text me not to stress, and for the first time maybe ever, I don’t.  I just drive.  I don’t drive like a bat out of hell, which is what I would normally do when I’m even five minutes late.  I just drive.  I recount to myself what didn’t happen: no one cut themselves.  I didn’t yell.  I didn’t cut myself.  I didn’t shame/blame Mike for being late, or not being there when I had to deal with the mess.  Somehow, grace got through.

In short, it wasn’t a disaster.  It was a broken snow globe.  And this might be the first time those two were not synonymous.  Which, really, makes it a victory.

 

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Party of Five

We are having our fifth baby!

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We’re really excited and we’ve been surprised by others’ excitement when we told them.  We thought we’d get a lot more eye rolls or aghast expressions, but mostly we’ve felt nothing but love and joy from our friends and family.  Shoppers at Costco don’t know yet because I’ve yet to take all four while my bump has been visible.  We’ll get those aghast stares yet, folks.

Each of our previous children have arrived before the prior child turned two, so this feels like a huge gap to us.  Jameson will be about 7 weeks away from his third birthday when the baby is born, and that is eons older than the 21-months-old twins we brought Hunter home to, or the 3.5-year-old twins and 22-months-old Hunter we brought Jameson home to. His ability to talk, understand, obey, and generally function will be light-years easier than our prior experiences.

We also feel really unfazed, and that’s the blessing of time and experience.  We’re not holding our breath or totally freaked out.  When Jameson joined the family, it didn’t make waves the way the first three did.  He synced into our lives and brought happiness, not strain.

We anticipate a similar experience with this baby, because really, what other option is there?  That’s the secret behind larger families that we’re discovering: your first child alters your universe, the second rocks your world, the third overturns the apple cart, but the fourth has to roll with what’s already there.  The fifth?  They are allowed very few demands, by necessity.  We already have routines, school schedules, commitments, structure, and the baby will hopefully jump right in.

Maybe I’ll read this six months from now and weep from my own ignorance, but I doubt it.  It’s funny how we’re finding that though life is much busier, wilder, and louder with more kids, it’s not exponentially harder with each additional kid.  The bell curve shoots straight up from kids one and two and then kind of levels out.  From what I’m told, most people opt out of kid 3 and 4 because they assume (and why wouldn’t they?) that the bell curve rockets straight into the sky indefinitely — and who could live like that?  But it doesn’t.

For instance, I’m not making more dinners or driving more places…I’m just doubling a recipe and setting one more place at the table, and dropping more kids at the same school.  Do you see what I mean?  We don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time.

The real sweetness is in their relationships with each other.  Mike and I could not be more obsessed with our kids, but we know the long-term blessing is what we’re giving them in each other.  Watching them run out of the house every day to play football in the yard (with two vs two they can actually make do even if the neighbors aren’t home), or hearing Arden and Hunter play school in one of their rooms, or seeing Henry wrestle both boys, these are the moments when our effort in the daily grind is nothing compared to the joy before us.

I’m constantly amazed by the lightening of my load in other ways too.  It wasn’t long ago that I was pushing a double stroller with a baby on my chest, and now I have four kids racing ahead on their bikes, leaving me hands-free to jog behind them.  It’s so easy!

The car, though.  The car.

Everybody asks what on earth we’re going to do about our car.  We drive a minivan, obviously, but all the kids are still in car seats.  So if we put the middle seat back into the middle row (it’s captains chairs right now), how will two kids access the third row?  We can’t fit three car seats across the back row, or we’d do that.  The twins are still in five-point harnesses, but we’re thinking it’s time to switch to lap belts — still, that doesn’t reduce the size of their car seat, it only changes how they’re strapped to it.

We are seriously considering a sprinter van, which would make us look like we’re delivering Amazon Prime packages, but I may have to make my peace with that.  I don’t think I can do a Suburban, because I’d lose my auto-open van doors, which are the crown jewels of my loading-kids-in-the-car experience.

I don’t spend my days thinking about February when the baby will be here.  I spend much more time savoring being pregnant.  I love it wholeheartedly, and every day I walk around ecstatic that I get to do this again.  It’s glorious feeling the kicks, it’s fun to have to quasi-waddle or hold my hands on my back like a pregnant woman in an 80’s movie, I love when my body demands that I lay down for ten minutes because it feels so good, I love that I am eating what I want and still exercising, I love wearing maternity clothes again…I could write endlessly about my love of being pregnant.

And having had several kids, I know what’s ahead with a newborn, so I am consciously grateful every day that this baby doesn’t yet need to be fed, held, rocked, nursed, quieted, soothed, bathed, changed — nada!  This baby just hangs out silently inside me, eating what I eat (sorry about Halloween, baby), sleeping when I walk, and waking and kicking when I lay down.  It is the greatest.

The kids can’t wait, though like last time, they’re toeing the party line on baby’s gender.  Boys want a boy, Arden wants a girl.  We’re talking often of preparing our hearts either way, so no one bursts into disappointed tears in the delivery room.  I think they’ll see the little bundle in a blanket and newborn hat and fall in love either way.

I’m almost 29 weeks, so we’ve a little over two months to go.  To say each pregnancy goes faster than the last is an understatement, but I also know that the baby stage goes faster each time, so I’m hoping to savor it, even the harder parts.

Mike and I can’t believe we’re going to have five kids.  Five!  It’s bananas, and we’re overwhelmed with gratitude.

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