When A Carefully Built House Of Cards Collapses – You Build It Again

Yes, yes. It has been a long while since I paid any attention to this little blog. I do have my reasons.

  •  I started a new blog about our move to a rural life at Small Town Gal that I am trying to keep updated.
  • I took on paid writing work.
  • I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo again to flush out a story idea that a few encouraging people told me to finish.
  • I started binge watching Netflix, again.
  • I began excercising more seriously, again.
  • I realized I require more sleep.
  • I have three kids.

Nonetheless, I also wasn’t sure if I had anything of value to share on parenting three or more kids that I haven’t either already wrote about or was written about in the general blog, Facebook, Twitter space. After all, I’m just one mom in a million who have multiple kids and I struggle with time management, to-do lists and priorities just like everyone else.

I also had to take a step back, is it really different having one versus two versus three or more children? I think so, but maybe it’s just because I’m not great at the juggling act as others. Of perhaps it’s because I feel guilty that I find managing three little people at times, challenging and unrewarding. Maybe it’s because I just turned forty and I’m tired. Or finally, is it simply that this is my reality so I think having three kids is unique or different in some ways and I tell myself I deserve a space to vent so I don’t go out of my mind. Who really knows? Not me. It could be all of it or none of it.

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From mycity4kids.com

 

But now that I’m here, I have noticed that spending the last few months having little bits of time with one or only two of my adorable munchkins, it seemed, well easier. A breath of fresh air. This small thing along with discussions with others about kids made me realize something. Having kids is hard. Having more than one kid is hard. Having three or more is crazy. Crazy fun sometimes, but crazy.

This fall, I’ve been dealing with a lot of emotional management. Sometimes I do okay and other times I fail, big time. I find having kids that sponge off me physically and emotionally although necessary and wonderfully empowering as a mom who tries to be there for them that they take my advice, hugs and want me there is not so great for me as an individual who requires some personal space and time. The whole thing is sometimes very draining.

But, we have had a lot going on and they have required more attention than normal. We moved. Across the province. Away from our support systems, friends and schools. Big picture it makes sense for us. After all, this was not an easy or whimsical decision but a well thought out, hard one. Regardless, the last few months have been an emotional roller coaster for us and the kids. Happy one minute, enjoying their new home and exploring  the area with unbridled passion all seems wonderful. Then, in a snap they can be in tears. Homesick for what they know, friends they used to see everyday. So much so that it tugs at our heart strings and we wonder if we robbed them of their idyllic childhood.

I almost wonder sometimes as a parent of three or more kids, do they secretly strategize out a plan to keep me on my parenting toes? To see how much I can stretch as a mom?

This past week or so,  just as I finished dispensing hugs and encouragement to my almost eleven year old, told her  that she will indeed find new friends in her new school, the next day my eight year old starts to well up, her eyes full of tears as we leave a playdate back in our old town and wham! I’m back in the therapist chair. The house of cards is starting to fall.

Then, (oh yes..not done), I get her calmed and excited about seeing her new friend at school the next day when the next day wham! My little man, the five year old, breaks my heart when he draws a picture of two very sad stick people, separated by a line. With crocodile tears running down his face he sputtered,

“It’s me and P. Separated forever.” (P was his very good friend from SK last year who we haven’t yet visited since we moved this past summer, although they’ve exchanged a few letters only the way five year old boys can.)

The house of cards is down. Something has been triggered in all three of them. Maybe an unseen hand knocked my thriving kids backwards and I was back to square one. At least it wasn’t all at once, someone had the foresight to only give me as much as I could handle. One emotional tailspin at a time.

I picked Jacob up, he sobbed onto my shoulder and part of me wondered at the sensitive nature of my usually happy-go-lucky man. (I secretly hope he maintains this side of himself and doesn’t hide it away. ) In this moment, although he needed me both physically and emotionally, I had to reach over to stir the taco meat on the stovetop. I rocked him back and forth and told him it was okay to be sad. For on this night, I also have a starving and cranky tween daughter who kept hollering that I can’t expect perfection from her, a reaction because I made her rewrite her messy assignment.  I bit my lip and looked longingly at the glass of untouched red wine on the counter. It had to wait. At least the eight year old seemed content today.

The house of cards is down and I woke up today and started to rebuild. Because that’s what we do. Thankfully, all three of them are seemingly better this morning after a week of roller coaster emotions, the only thing I can think is thank goodness it wasn’t all at the same time.

But it  never ends, not really. There will always be one of them out of sorts. Always. For that is life as we know it and I think I’ve learned to accept that. It’s part of the deal being a parent to three or more kids, the difference if you will between having one or two or three or more kids. You oftentimes will have a fire to put out, a flare-up to manage or a full out storm so intense it takes your breath away, there are no real breaks in between. And perhaps that is what I can offer; how to survive the constant barrage on your own self. I can offer strategies to cope, suggest how to be kind to yourself and most importantly be someone who can empathize when you say, I have three or more kids. For I get it. I really do.

So for today, for all those parents who throw up your hands and ask will I have a day where there isn’t any drama from one of my multiple children? My answer is yes, yes you will. It may not be a whole day, it may be an hour, but take it. Grab tight and do something you love. For me, it was yoga first thing this morning. It calmed me. Maybe I’ll get to do it again this week, maybe, if I’m not busy with the hose.

 

 

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It’s Complicated

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Audrey

 

The staircase groans under the thundering steps of my eldest child.

“Mom! Audrey is crying again.”

Sighing, I glance up from the weeklong emails I am trying to answer. “What is it this time?”

She shrugs the way an older sister does with an impatient tap upon the ceramic tile in the foyer.

Moving the cat off my lap and placing the computer back on the desk, I stretch out my stiff back and follow her up the stairs. Sore legs? Her sister called her a name? It could be a number of things. The middle child, Audrey is the most sensitive. She is the one I worry about letting in the joys and sorrows of the world with no idea how to filter them.

Walking into the dimly lit room I am relieved to see the girls have turned off their lamps. The tiny stars on their finely webbed fairy curtains drape each of the beds.

“What is it darling?”

“I lied to you.”

Wondering what crime a six year old believes she committed, I sit on the bed rubbing her back. “Well, tell me about it and you’ll feel better.”

“I tried to do what you said and stay on the blacktop at school but Emily went into the field and I followed her.”

Trying not to smile I nod, “Okay. But why did you tell me you stayed on the blacktop when you got home?”

“Because I didn’t want you to get mad.”

Knowing that sometimes I can be a bit abrupt and stern about rules, I pause.

“I’m not mad. But you have to stay in your line so you don’t miss going into the school. If you want to take the bus you have to do that so I know you’re okay and the teachers know where you are. When you’re older you can play in the field. We talked about this last week, actually I talked to both you, Emily and her mom who agreed.”

After a spontaneous visit to the school playground last week, I was surprised my grade one student and her friend were playing in a restricted area. Taking a “watch and see” approach, they did not hear when the bell rang and were left behind as the lines went inside. Afterwards, I had spoken to both girls about being responsible and staying in their area. Following up with Emily’s mother she agreed that in grade one, they were to stay in place during the chaotic morning drop off. It was too easy for two little girls to go missing.

Audrey’s brown eyes look up at me, “But Mom, Emily’s mom told her it was okay to play in the field.”

Here it was, another conversation about my parenting tactics versus another parent. Did I believe Audrey? Yes. So either her friend Emily was telling a tall tale or her mother contradicted me, again.

Keeping the annoyance out of my voice I parrot my standard phrase, “Well honey, I’m not concerned with what Emily does. You are to follow our rules.”

“Okay Mommy, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” I hug her wiping away the remaining tears. “Now go to sleep. And thank you for telling me the truth.”

As I close the door for the second time, relief washes over me because for now I outrank her friends. At this age what they do is relatively harmless, easily fixed with a hug and repetitive message. Hopefully when the time comes, my voice will be louder than the lure of her peers or other parents.

 

Playing hooky

“Mom!! When are we going apple picking and pumpkin picking?”

“Soon kids. Soon.”

Time was running out. The last of apple picking season was upon us and I knew that first frost was days away and I had promised the kids we would fit in apple picking this year. But birthday party after birthday party. Family events. Weather. You name it, it probably happened over a four-week period preventing me from taking my three anxious budding apple pickers out to a local farm to participate in an annual event. To be honest, the throughout of facing the crowds, on my own, at one of the few pick-your-own places in our area was more than I could bare on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Then it was pumpkin choosing time. The weekend after Canadian Thanksgiving when the kids start dreaming of Halloween costumes and scary lit jack-o’-lanterns.

“Pumpkins! Mom, we have to get our pumpkins.”

“Soon kids. Soon.”

I started to panic. The clock was ticking and I was about to fail a major parenting moment in front of three increasingly vocal and aware children. No longer could I get away with, “They won’t remember the experience anyway.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I love doing this stuff with my kids. I do not love doing it by myself while dealing with crowds of people losing my voice as I should at Elizabeth to stop touching everything, manage Audrey’s emotional state and pull Jacob down from the fifteenth climb up onto the vintage tractors littering these farms all while trying to carry gear, water bottles, snacks all while trying to snap a few pictures as proof of my supermom powers.

Racking my brain I looked and re-fiddled with our family calendar. If we went this day right after morning activities, got back in time so Audrey could go to her party. Mr. L would be home so he could help. Dammit. Both girls have birthday parties and one is a sleepover. I need to have time to dig out the sleeping bags and help her get packed.

For two weeks these conversations rattled around in my brain as my kids started getting nervous we wouldn’t be going.

One night, after all kids were soundly asleep I beseeched in my sweetest voice to Mr. L., “Please…any possible way there is a date you don’t have to work on a Sunday and we can go together? Or you could come home early and we can go right after school? Rush hour up to the farm will be easier if there is two of us!”

Regretfully he shook his head. I know part of him wants to be at these things but his work is such that meetings, hosting duties and court dates set months ago are not easily changed because his wife wants him to go to the pumpkin patch. I also know how tired he is on the weekends and we try not to schedule too much.

Then it hits me. What’s stopping me from playing hooky with the kids? A weekday trip during school hours would ensure the apple picking farm is not busy, traffic would be better and the kids would get a kick out of being pulled out of school early.

So I plan it praying the weather cooperates. I plan a day where none of them have library, or a test to be missed. I write notes in agendas and pack larger lunches hoping it will buy me some time in the afternoon and remind each of them, “Remember, I’m picking you up right after lunch. Try to eat everything and we can go straight to pick apples and get pumpkins.”

The day arrives with cooler temperatures but sunny skies. I ensured they wore mittens, toque and boots thinking ahead to the damp rows of apple trees. I checked the farm’s website seeing that some apples were still available. Eureka!

Rushing through my morning’s scheduled activities I stopped to pat myself on the back for thinking ahead and packing extra warm clothes in my duffel bag and I  happily arrived at the first school pick-up right on time. Ten minutes later both my daughters sauntered into the school foyer, excited and carrying their lunch boxes.

“Did you eat?” I asked.

Guiltily they looked at each other. “Some.” They answered.

“No problem,” I say intent on keeping a cheery attitude. “We have a half hour drive, you can eat in the van.”

The final pick-up goes well too. Jacob is already outside at recess having ate all his lunch. We drove off to Chudleigh’s Apple Farm, due north away from the breeze of the lake and I noticed the temperatures warmed up slightly. Upon arriving the day was even more idyllic that I had dared hope. Cool but not cold.The last of the buses from the school field trips were leaving and my heart sang, it truly would be only a scattering of people there. No breeze in sight and the warm sun helped the kid’s arguments that mittens were not necessary so we left them in the van. As we plunged into the farm, our first stop was to climb aboard the relatively empty awaiting tractor hay ride to head out to the apple orchard.

“Only Ambrosia’s left.” The farmer said.

Grasping our plastic draw-string bags we didn’t care. We were happy to pick anything and enjoyed the ride around the farm viewing the spectacular picture show of reds, golds and oranges bordering the property. As the tractor jerked to a stop, we ran up and down the aisles finally finding a bountiful crop of delicious red apples. We filled each of our bags to the fullest when I realized. I had to carry four bags of apples. The kids being good sports offered to carry their own and after a bit of fiddling on the best position, we managed to make our way out of the orchard back to the farm to find a large, heavy wagon to carry our load.

From there it was easy. We viewed the petting zoo. Picked our pumpkins. Ran a hay stack maze and then to the kid’s thrill, had the slide areas all to ourselves. The bakery was still open so wanting to celebrate our successes, we ate cookies with chocolate milk with pride.

When you have three or more kids, sometimes the easiest solution is to break the schedule once in a while. Play hooky. Be smart. We had a much more relaxed time going mid-week than we would have fighting the line-ups and crowds on the weekend. Especially if you in the position that there is one caregiver for three children, the rule of the day, make it as stress-free as possible. The kids will have much better memories of a day spent outside with a mom not screeching at them to stay where she can see them and that is what is important.

 

 

 

When the robins say goodbye..

For the first time last week, I felt I could breathe. Although still busy my sense of panic about finishing projects has given way to a confidence it will all get done. I’m still not sure when everything will get done, but I know it will.  My mud room is still in disarray. The winter coats are clean but the mountain still lingers in my basement ready to be put into the closet.  When you have three or more kids, those small piles of clothes get bigger and bigger as the kids get bigger and bigger!

Jacob, my little man still at home with me, is a happy go-lucky type of kid (generally) who will help me clean windows, go grocery shopping or take the dog for a walk. He’s recently dropped his naps and I am happy (cautiously so) that he seems to be pretty  well potty trained, at last! I was not sure how I would feel about him dropping his naps. The hour or so I would get each day was a break for me, a chance to drink a coffee, catch up on  emails or finish some chores. But on the upside, we can take the dog for a proper walk. I can go and get groceries and not worry about rushing home before 1 pm so  he can nap. Maybe I can go to the gym early afternoons while he plays at the daycare. The opportunities are endless!

Last week, on a sunny but cold day, Jacob sat on our bench facing the windows that overlooks our small backyard. Rabbits are constant visitors at breakfast and during the summer months, the songbirds endlessly chirp. Since moving into this house, we are always lucky to have a robin’s nest tucked into one of the floodlights and hatchlings to watch in June. Since the onset of cooler temperatures, the last of the songbirds have vacated our Southwestern Ontario area traveling to warmer climates. Who can blame them as I dig in my massive hat pile to find a clean toque? Yet, last week, as I opened the windows to let in a bit of fresh air, I noticed a couple of red-breasted friends peering at us as they sat perched on the wood fence. Hopping down to our garden they searched for any stirred up worms who had not burrowed themselves deep into the ground or for seeds from the recently trimmed bushes. Jacob got so excited he started jumping up and down,

“Mom! Mom! See! The robins!”

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They chirped back at us as if to ask what we were having for lunch. After a half hour of hopping, peeking at us and enjoying the warmth of the late autumn sunshine, they flew off without a sound. It was a reminder that winter will be soon enough and being able to open the windows will be something I dream of when spring comes. However, winter also means more time. More time to spend with the kids inside playing board games, reading or watching a movie. More time to go through the closets and finally attack the cupboard of baby bottles still lingering from two years ago. It is also my last winter with a little one at home. So if I want to take a walk and search for a trace of the robins with the kids so we can say goodbye until spring, that seems more important than if my mud room is perfectly organized.

Achoooo!!!!!

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This past week I have felt the sympathetic looks from many people. Teachers. Friends. Other parents at the bus stop. Random strangers in the stores. These silent pats on the back have kept me going through nearly two weeks of runny noses, coughs, sinus infections, sore throats and a very, very grumpy family. Cold season hit our household like a tsunami. Large waves of kleenex rose up as a tidal wave as the mantra became, “Go get a kleenex to wipe your nose.”   This mom of three is so tired she turned on the television so she could nap for twenty minutes. Soups and chillies were made through a sinus headache in an attempt to battle the colds away. Orange juice and almond milk was poured into glass after glass to lessen the fluids seeping from every nose of nearly every single family member. We have a dad so tired he plods through the house after work still in his untucked button up shirt too exhausted to go upstairs to get changed. 

How do we do it parents? When we are sick ourselves and fighting exhaustion, how do we still manage to put one foot in front of the other to make lunches for the kids (who are lucky that day not to have a fever), go to work, start up a volunteer snack program at an elementary school or simply function when this kind of week hits a household?

We are the soldiers. We may have larangtyis, drink green tea with honey instead of wine (hell, I haven’t even wanted wine for the last two weeks) sit zombie-like under a warm blanket watching whatever is on the television, sleep when we can, pop tylenol to numb the pain of a headache or sore throat, but we get through it. Or so I keep telling myself this week. 

How do I manage when fall colds hit our house? Besides the above already mentioned I try to remember: 

1) At least it’s not the stomach flu. 

2) It’s only 5-10 days. Colds do end. 

3) It is a good excuse to get that hired cleaner in and scrub every surface in the house to get rid of lingering viral intruders. 

4) Water. Water. Water. Make sure everyone is drinking lots of water. Good habit anytime. 

5) The kids think it’s great to get juice every day as it is usually a treat. Super Mom points. 

6) It is kind of nice to sit cuddled with one (or all three kids plus the dog) watching a movie because frankly, we are all too tired to do anything else. 

7) Never run out of kleenexes. Good excuse to hit Costco. 

8) Green tea is better for you than a glass of wine. Instant detox program. 

9) My body needed a break from exercising anyway to heal up from last race. 

10) You can cancel almost everything. No other excuse is needed. Who wants to be around someone with a bad cold anyway? All obligations can be re-scheduled and you actually have free time to write, nap, catch up on tv, read whatever your fancy. 

How do you manage when colds hit an entire household?