Managing life with a 4.5-year-old, 2.5-year-old twins, and a 5-month-old, I can't tell you how many times each week I hear: "I just don't know how you do it. I can hardly handle my one kid/two kids/pet sea monkeys."
So lucky you for sticking around through my blog posting drought. Because YOU are about to hear all my secrets revealed: how I do it.
1. What does "it" mean, really? I've never asked people what they mean by "it," but I am actually quite curious. Because my answer is always, "I'm not really doing it!" Whatever it is they think I'm doing, I'm probably not. I am in survival mode right now. How am I cooking healthy, well-rounded meals for my children to eat? I'm not. How am I coming up with fun, creative crafts and activities so they don't watch hour after hour of Little Einsteins every day? I'm not. How am I getting enough sleep, cleaning the house, keeping the fridge stocked, staying on top of the laundry, making sure Bean completes any "homework" for preschool, planning *anything* in advance, remembering where I left my car keys, watching a TV show during the actual week it aired, and blogging? I'M NOT. The one thing I am doing: keeping the kids and myself alive. And the dog. So far.
2. Help. Lots and lots of help. If possible, convince your parents to move 2,000 miles to lend a hand. What would I do without my Mom and Dad? I surely don't know, I refuse to let my mind wander into such dark places. I appreciate them every single day. On a typical weekday, my Mom shows up by 9 am. She takes over keeping the children alive for an hour while I get ready for the day. Sometimes we'll run errands or go to library story time. When the kids nap, she'll go home (or she'll take Bean to his afternoon preschool class). Then she and my Dad will show up around 4-4:30 and we'll all have dinner together. DH tries to get home as early as possible (6:30 pm) so they can go home. My parents also take Bean overnight once a week and the twins sometimes on another night. Even with me and DH and my parents all working together, the kids are still a handful, and I'm always on duty 24/7 with at least one child clamoring for me at any given moment. It definitely takes a village.
3. Keep a schedule. I appreciate moms who are laid-back and like to go with the flow. But if I didn't keep my kids on a schedule, I would spend my entire day alternating between putting someone down for a nap and scrounging up food in the kitchen. I keep things flexible enough to accommodate whatever plans we have, but the older three kids generally eat and sleep at the same time. And not only them, but I keep myself on a sleep schedule too: bed at 10/10:30 pm, up at 6 am. Since Bean, Nix, and Gax don't get up until 7 am, that gives me an hour to eat, shower, and generally prepare myself for The Chaos that descends on the house when they descend the stairs in the morning. The appearance of the Littlest Man has thrown me off completely, because now I'm up frequently at night and way too tired to get up before absolutely necessary -- plus he hasn't gotten the memo that's he's supposed to sleep until 7 am. But it's only temporary, and I do hope to get the new guy on his own schedule in the next month or two that will help me get back on track as well.
4. No Facebook, no Pinterest, no expectations. Why am I not on Facebook or Pinterest? Other than the fact that I am tragically uncool with only a modest grasp of the latest technology? Because it's easy enough for me to be plagued with feelings of inadequacy, I don't need to be bombarded by stories and pictures of people doing far more than I am capable of doing right now. Did you and your husband go backpacking in Ireland this summer? The closest we'll get to experiencing international culture is watching "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted." After it's released on DVD, of course -- no movie theater for this family. Did you shop at a farmer's market for local organic ingredients, and then whip up a 4-course meal that has words in it like "quinoa" and "reduction sauce"? I drove through the fancy Taco Bell that also has a KFC attached, and I maybe pulled up to Taco Time as well because they have crustos that I like for dessert. I wish I had the confidence to ogle everyone else's beautiful homemade projects, creative knitting, themed DIY birthday extravaganzas, unique field trips, perfect life, etc. But at this point I'm just happy to get through the day, and I need to focus on my family instead of being tempted to compare myself to others. Try me again in about 5 years.
5. Have quality friends. And a quality husband, too. I am so grateful for all the people in my life who are supportive, encouraging, sympathetic, and helpful. You know those moms who act like they have it all figured out? And they are eager to top any story you tell with one showcasing how obviously superior their child is? Okay, so my boys didn't learn to walk until they were older than yours. It's not like mine keep ramming into walls now, they seem to have figured it out just fine in their own time. What I love about my friends is that we openly share our strengths and weaknesses with each other, providing advice and celebrating success without being competitive. And we are always volunteering to help when someone is overwhelmed or needs a helping hand. Okay, so it's always them volunteering to help me. But one day, I will return the favor, I promise. And it's the same with my husband. Even when I collapse into bed at the end of the day feeling like the parental equivalent of the doggy deposits that Evey leaves in steaming piles in our backyard, he looks at me with a genuine, comforting smile and says, "You are such a good mom. And such a good wife. I love you." Without the moral support from people close to me, this job would be a thousand times more difficult.
6. Moisturize. Frequently. Mascara as needed. Just because I *feel* like the Living Dead doesn't mean I have to look like it. I will admit, there are times that I am so tired at the end of the day that I skip flossing and mouthwash after brushing my teeth. (Cue collective GASP!) But I never ever ever skip removing make-up, washing my face, and using eye cream and face moisturizer. And in the morning, I use day creams for eyes and face as well. Following that, I put on at least a small amount of make-up so I don't frighten the townspeople or cause my friends great alarm at the depth of the circles under my eyes. I have different routines based on how long I can steal in front of the mirror -- one minute is tinted moisturizer, a quick puff of powder on top, some mascara, and lip gloss. If I can manage 15 minutes, I can use my mineral foundation, eye shadow, eye liner, and brow pencil. It doesn't have to take hours, just spend a moment on YOU. I have been told I give the impression that I have everything together, which is funny because I feel like I'm precariously held in place with Scotch tape at the moment. I'm pretty sure it's just the moisturizer.
7. That's a wrap. I couldn't do it without babywearing. Actually, I can't always do it even with babywearing, but it helps. It's simple math: when one child is strapped to me, he is most likely not contributing to the chaos. At that moment, I have 25% fewer people to worry about. It also helps meet that child's need for closeness with his mama while I can potentially get something done around the house. Yay multitasking! Beyond being practical and awesome for bonding, there are some side benefits that I enjoy as well. First, I have met such awesome friends through babywearing -- we email each other constantly, yes about geeky carrier stuff, but we also share life woes and successes and support and advice (see #5 above). I lean on them a lot. And second, I am active on the swap circuit, where I enjoy buying, selling, and trading my carriers. The fabrics are just stunning, I love waiting for a new carrier to arrive in the mail, and then trying it out with my crew. I do have a babywearing post in the works, maybe one day I'll actually finish it. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any question!
8. Sometimes, you just have to be tough. I'll get right to the point on this one: sometimes, my kids just have to cry about it. Sometimes they don't get a choice. Sometimes they don't get to do it themselves. Sometimes the answer is no, and that's final. Don't get me wrong, I do try to give my children options, to help them learn to be independent, and I am willing to negotiate with them on certain things to teach them how to develop a good argument for something they feel strongly about. But sometimes I do have to impose my will on them for my sanity as well as to keep the house running, and I like to think it's good for them to have to learn to adapt as well as to have control. I can't possibly please all four kids at the same time all day long. When I try to keep everyone happy and everything fair, those are the days that seem to be the hardest. I do the best I can, and that has to be enough.
9. When all else fails: the minivan. There are times when my kids go after each other like a room full of barracuda fighting over a shrimp dinner. They know *exactly* how to make each other cry, and they don't hold back. I get very tired of playing referee and often want to lock them in their respective bedrooms for the rest of the day so they can't even look at each other (because looking at each other is on the list of things they do to piss each other off). But there is something else in my possession that has restraints but is not associated with acts of "bad parenting." A gorgeous, gleaming red minivan. My kids absolutely love going for a ride, and it's often just what we need to break the cycle of WAAAAAAAH! HE STOLE MY TOY! Not that car rides are always completely free of drama, but the kids are facing forward (other than the baby) and they are strapped in so they can't really see or touch each other. If I turn on their favorite music -- currently "Babel" by Mumford and Sons -- they will also be singing and thus not irritating each other verbally. I will get gas, pick up a coffee at Starbucks (and get a donut for them to share in the car), follow a bird flying over the highway... whatever it takes when I'm at the end of my rope and I need them to stop fighting. It's not the coolest ride in town, but it gets the job done.
10. Keep perspective. Having kids is hard. It's easy for me to get caught up in their needs and worry about how I am failing them. But despite what you see on Facebook or Pinterest, no parent is or has ever been perfect in the history of this planet, and somehow the world keeps on spinning. I am grateful that I was able to have children after years of infertility. I am grateful that my children were born healthy. I am grateful that I am able to stay home with them full-time and experience these early years with them. Sometimes I stop and just look at them, the miracle that started as a small blob of cells, half me and half my husband, that I get to watch grow from squirmy newborns to four men who will have jobs and perhaps spouses and children of their own one day. And this time of such dependence on me is fleeting. One day there will be no one screaming from the bathroom to help him wipe. No one will ask me to make Spongebob macaroni and cheese for him just as I raise a fork of my own hot lunch. No one will beg me, through tears, for the Star Wars battleship Lego set pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease mom? I won't hear a chorus of tiny little voices squealing in delight as they pretend to be firefighters putting out fires with the detachable hoses from my vacuum cleaner, causing mass destruction in their wake. I do look forward to them being older, being able to do new things as a family... but I also know that as the years pass, I will be less central in their lives. I will always be the quiet supporter in the background, but no longer the person they turn to first to share their news (girlfriends...sob). I don't mean to get all sappy, but that is how I get through many of my days -- reminding myself how much I will miss this time, even when I am actually sleeping for more than 2 hours at a time and reading books of my own choosing. This too shall pass... for better and worse.
Do you have any tips on how you "do it" with your kids? Or any questions for me on something I didn't address? I'd love to hear about it.
And now on to pictures from the last month. Enjoy!
|Preschool is back in session!|
|Bean with his best friend at their first soccer game.|
|Bean is a superstar goalie! All that practice defending his toys from his twin brothers is paying off. And yes, that other player is climbing the inside of the goal while the ball is in play. Gotta love the 3- and 4-year-old league!|
|Loyal soccer fans.|
|Watch out, ladies!|
|Preschool class visits a farm.|
|After the farm, Grandma needs to wash her piggies!|
|My Aunt (and Godmother) visited us from Michigan. The boys adored her, and we appreciated the help!|
|Toilet paper and the cooler in the exersaucer. Why not?|
|Visiting our favorite pumpkin patch!|
|Showing off our new rain boots. We are so Pacific Northwest.|
|My friend K was visiting Seattle with her DH and son, and they joined us at the pumpkin patch. We have been friends since kindergarten, and she was DH's partnered Cheerleader when he was on varsity football in HS. Memories... :)|
|When this was taken, K asked me how old the boys were when they all would sit still together for a picture. It's however old they were on that day, because it was the first time ever. And most likely never to occur again!|
|Bean meets solid food (avocado) for the first time. Hopefully the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship (that also involves sleeping more than 2 hours at a time).|