Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Little Things

Last weekend our washing machine broke.

The first thought that popped into my head was, "Of all the times to have my washer break!"

But I quickly stopped myself.  Because when is there a good time to have a broken washer in a family of six; four of which belong to the seven and under set?

The kids' clothes were ultra muddy from our Spring Melt but we powered through.  I had Brian make a quick trip to the laundromat to relive our college days.  I needed some clean uniforms for William and couldn't wait for the repairman.  It wasn't a terrible experience but I knew I would have been totally screwed if anyone peed, pooped or puked in their bed.  Everyone pulled out their A game and rallied together for a triumphant return of that blessed little machine that works far harder than it probably should for its age.

Also last week I quickly learned how the benefit of "working from home" sounds a lot better than it really is.

Brian's office moved up a couple floors in his building and it took a week to the get the place conducive to working conditions so all employees were asked to work from home.

We are accustomed to having Brian regularly work from home about once every couple of weeks.  It's a great opportunity for me run errands in the afternoon while the babies are napping and the Bigs are at school.

But never have we had him home for six consecutive work days.  The mornings and early afternoons were OK.  William would get off to school.  I would go to the gym later than usual.  Lucy would be off at 11:00 and the babies would eat lunch and go down for their naps.  But it was when the 3 o'clock hour hit that things got real hairy.  Three o'clock is a terrible time for us on a normal day.  All at once the Bigs get home from school and the babies wake up from their naps.  There's a lot of low blood sugar happening and things are just really loud and messy.

Every single day at 3:00 last week it seemed Brian was leading some sort of important client call and so I was charged with ruling a bunch of unruly monkeys so as to not make it seem as if Brian was taking his call from the middle of a jungle with a bunch of wild animals rioting around him.  It was an impossible task.  I quickly got frustrated, impatient and bitter.

Monday morning, Brian back in the office, was never so glorious.  I might even be a little too ecstatic about the the two-day business trip he has this week.

Some families have found a way to only work from home.  We are not some families.  We need the ability to be loud and boisterous and we need a dad who is our Dad when he is home and not a software salesman.

This weekend we cleaned out our garage. Something we haven't done in a couple of years. I made $20 selling random unused things I found.  It paid for our beer consumption that weekend. The concrete floor is so clean and beautiful I briefly considered sleeping out there.  I'm only kind of kidding.

William has his first ever written and oral report due this week.  The unit is space and the students were allowed to pick any topic they wanted related to space.  William chose to write his report on the first monkeys sent to space.  We helped him do the research online but he wrote the paper on his own.  Every time I walk past his report on the counter I pick it up to read and bust out into a fit of giggles.  It reads:

Monkeys in space! By: William
Monkeys went into space before humans.  The first monkey in space was named Albert.  He rode a V2 rocket and he could not breathe up in space.  When his rocket landed he was dead.  Albert was brave.

What do you think?  A little heavy for first graders?  I can't decide.  I hope there are no PETA reps in his class.  That project is making the memory box for sure.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Post-Vacation Reflections

It has now been more than a week since we returned from our much-anticipated Mexican vacation sans kids.  If it weren't for the skin still peeling off my back and shoulders from my sunburn, I wouldn't believe it is more than 80 degrees anywhere in the world right now.  Spring has yet to arrive in the Great White Tundra.  Mexico seems a lifetime ago.

Oh our vacation!  It was everything.  It was too short and too long.  It was too hot and not hot enough.  I pretended I wasn't a mother to four small children and it was impossible to forget I was a mother to four small children.  I couldn't wait to get home and then when I got home I desperately wanted to be back poolside sipping my margarita.

Being an at-home mom is such a funny thing.  As soon as you think you hate it, as soon as you think you aren't cut out for it, as soon as you think you've chosen the wrong path, as soon as you wonder what the hell you were thinking when you decided to have four kids in six years, as soon as you think you can't do it for even one more second, that's when you find out, in the peace and quiet and serenity of being alone in your own thoughts, that all you ever really wanted is what you already have.

It took me a full 24 hours to relearn how to do absolutely nothing.  Just think about that for a minute. When was the last time you had no where to be?  When was the last time a clock made no difference because there was no dinner to be made or nap requirements to be met or bedtimes to abide by or even things to get done before the sitter arrived?  Let me tell you something: It is the weirdest, worst and best feeling in the world.

The feeling of not being needed, at first, is exhilarating.  Especially if you haven't felt like that since November 21, 2006.  I drank up this feeling of allowing myself to just be.  When I first arrived at our resort, I put on my swimsuit, stepped out on our back patio, and slid my body into the quiet and empty pool.  I rested my shoulders and head on the side and let that intense Mexican sun beat down on my back.  I knew I was getting burned and I didn't even care.  The warmth and quiet and stillness felt so good.  I couldn't be disturbed even for a little sunscreen application.  I closed my eyes and let my legs float out behind me. I almost fell asleep.

It was such an out-of-body experience to not have that expectant feeling that at any minute I will be jarred out of my meditative state by a text message, a cry for "Mommy," an alarm telling me I need to be somewhere.

After five days of this I found out that the hardest part of not being needed, is not being needed.

There was a small, 10-second video clip, on Brian's phone of Katherine and Bobby in the bathtub.  I must have watched it 100 times when I was gone.  And that is not an exaggeration.

Oh to be with just my husband, alone and together without disruption, was glorious.  As it turns out, we haven't stayed married these past 10 years just for the sake of the kids.  We actually like each other!  A lot!

But that ache for my babies, it never goes away.  I wasn't a sobbing mess.  I wasn't dying to call to check up on them.  It was just noticeable.  Something was missing.  All was still going to be OK.  It was like I had unintentionally left my wedding ring on my dresser.  My thumb constantly tracing the spot that is usually surrounded in gold.

I am so grateful to so many people in my life that made these five days happen.  They helped love and keep watch over our kids happily and without reservation.  I'm not kidding when I say they practically kicked us out of this country.  It does not escape me how incredibly lucky I am to have others who care about the welfare of my sanity as well as my marriage.

To any exhausted, over-scheduled, under-appreciated, run-down parents out there (especially you, moms) let me tell you this.  There will never be a good time.  There will never be enough time.  There will never be extra money.  It will never be easier.  Your kids will miss you.  You will miss them more.  You will worry.  And it will be a lot of work.

But hear me now: It is worth it.

You deserve it.  Your marriage deserves it.  And most of all, your kids deserve it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Winter Days

I canceled a playdate today.

Have I ever told you that I hate playdates?  Really, I think they are stupid.  Having a good friend come over to play every once a while?  Totally acceptable.  But scheduling your child's play?  Dumb.

I didn't have this pack of kids so that my kids can find other kids to play with.  Need a playmate? You have three to choose from.
Everyone is gone or sleeping?  Enjoy this sacred time to have every single toy in the house all to yourself.  It will last but five minutes.

We live in a great neighborhood where a number of peers are but a house or two away.  I just think kids play better when we let them follow their own natural inclinations instead of forcing them into a prearranged meeting.

I find that most playdates are just a lot of work for me.  They never seem to want to do the same thing at the same time and I end up having to mediate or start thinking up activities to suit both parties.

Yesterday the big kids were outside with a neighbor friend for at least two hours playing some game in a snow fort where they had to periodically run to the fire hydrant on our corner to gain their super powers.

Seriously.  Kids' imaginations are amazing when we just leave them to their own devices.

In other news we're thinking about breaking out the swim trunks and sprinklers today with temps reaching the 40s.  I would take a snowstorm every single day in winter if we could just stay above freezing.  But that's the crazy Minnesotan in me talking.  I also find it totally gratifying to get out the garden spade and chop up all the ice pack in the sidewalk.  It just feels so amazing when I get good path going and huge chunks start freeing themselves from three months of suffocating the pavement.

Oh and also the storm sewer!  You know what I'm talking about, right?  When there's a huge melt puddle (lake!) because the storm drain is blocked with snow and ice and you really have to work to chisel through it all and when you finally break through, even if it's just a tiny hole, the water just gushes.  Man, that's my favorite.

But let's talk about less obsessive things because doing a full self evaluation of all my idiosyncrasies scares even me.

I have been somewhat of a socialite lately.  I mean everything is relative but I have to admit that the main ingredient in me not taking a leap off that cliff this winter is that I have been getting out of the house quite regularly.

Having two toddlers in a too-small house takes a CRAZY amount of energy, patience and wits.  But a definite positive over last year's setup, having a newborn, is that it is much much much easier for me to leave everyone with someone who is not me.  Being able to pass the feeding and bedtime process onto someone else because it's easy is just such a relief.

Of course, I would never really call this easy, but it's amazing how your perspective changes when you've walked through the valley of the shadow of death and breastfeeding and no sleep and constant crying.

I choose now.

As I type this I'm witnessing Bobby trying to steady himself on his big, strong, one-year-old legs.  He's days away from walking.  I'm eating it up this time.  Not forcing it like I did with the others.  I know this time is fleeting.  Sometimes the ache pounds on my chest making it difficult to breathe.  And other times the passing of another stage lifts a weight making it easier to breath.  I can't decide.  I can never decide.

Here he goes.  Balancing in a squat, standing himself up tall.  He grabs onto the walker close by.  He expertly swings it around in the direction he desires and just as he's about to get going he teeters to one side, then the other and plops down on his bottom.

He lets out a little whine and looks up at me.

"It's OK," I say to my boy, "Try it again."

And so he does.  Again.  And again.  And again.

Friday, January 24, 2014

7 Quick Takes: 1.24.14

1. It's 11:15 and Katherine is still in bed.  She was up off and on last night wheezing, barking a croupy cough and sporting a raging temperature.  I checked on her this morning to make sure she was still breathing and every once in a while I can hear her coughing but for right now it appears she prefers her bed.  I hate it when any of my kids are sick but I would be lying if I didn't tell you that the silence that has fell upon my house at this moment is pure divinity.

Katherine has a major cuteness factor going on right now but sweet Jesus she is a lot of work.  Third-borns are a funny thing to parent.  I find myself giving in to her demands like she's the emperor of Asia.  It's just easier and I don't want to find out what will happen if I turn her down. Then I catch myself and wonder what happened to my balls. "NO," I say firmly, "You CANNOT have a third cookie."

There's always exasperated pleas of screaming, knees giving out and a bit of fist-pounding but the meltdown usually doesn't last as long as I think it's going to.

2.  Last night was Kindergarten Roundup for Lucy girl.  I love how our school thought it was totally appropriate to call off classes because of the cold, but the chance to grab your registration fees? Oh yeah, they're still totally up for us wandering out in the Arctic to give them that.

I'm surprisingly sad and hesitant to send my girl off to Kindergarten in the fall.  With William I couldn't get him out the door fast enough.  His fall birthday made him more than ready to fly the nest and it was good for him.  I couldn't provide all the stimulus he needed here at home.

But Lucy is different.  She plays by herself really well and doesn't antagonize her siblings the way William does.  I don't have to help her play.  She just comes up with it all on her own.  I'm going to miss our quiet times together in the afternoon while the babies are sleeping and before William gets home.  So many afternoons we can be found snuggled under one blanket on top of my bed reading books until she is gently coaxed into a short nap.

Lucy is so excited to join her brother at the big school.  Last night she waited, literally, on the edge of her seat until her group number was called to go explore the Kinder rooms.  When her number was up she quickly popped out of her chair and daintily and independently walked to the front of the auditorium without even looking back at me.  Oh that girl.  I haven't been able to place my finger on what exactly she is just yet.  But it's something.

3. Since it's Pro-life Week let me just point out to you that this here is what an unplanned pregnancy looks like.

Admittedly, not pictured are all the sleepless nights this boy gave me.  Nevertheless, here he is, at one whole year and not resembling one morsel of the difficult, if not impossible, newborn he used to be. And now he sleeps 12-13 hours at night. Straight. Winning.

Had a unplanned pregnancy of your own? (Who hasn't?!) Tell me your story or share your pictures. It's all so worth it, isn't it?

4. The man and I are celebrating the big 1-0 anniversary this year.  It won't officially be ten years until August but since it's been such a terrible winter we booked our first ever beach vacation since having kids and will be traveling to Mexico this coming March.  I think I'm excited.  It's a lot of work to divvy out the kids and all the logistics that go with it.  We're so incredibly thankful to have family who are willing to step in so we can treat ourselves for a few days.  I know it will be great as soon as I get the airport.

5. We originally slated to remodel our basement this spring, and that still *might* happen.  But the time came where we had to decide what we wanted to do for sure: a vacation or a new basement? We have a lot of other big expenditures coming up including doubling our tuition bill in September and possibly replacing our second car.  Trying to live debt-free is hard.  A lot of sacrifices are made.  But one thing it makes you do is prioritize.  I'm so glad Brian decided we needed the vacation.  I think I might have chosen the basement because it seemed more practical.  But our marriage is number one and I think this trip is much needed after four kids in seven years.

6.  Once on the beach I will undoubtedly settle into a great book.  And here is where I need your help. What can't-put-it-down books have you read in the last few years?  You know the kind that stick with you months or even years after you've finished?  Don't recommend Twilight or Hunger Games or 50 Shades.  I need something like The Help or the Wally Lamb books.  Ready, GO!

7.  Katherine just woke up with the most perfectly pink cheeks and cutest squeaky little sick voice.  I set up a bed for her on the couch and she's currently enjoying an old-school Donald Duck marathon while I force-feed her cup after cup of water.  We're going to drown this virus the old-fashioned way.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Live Blogging Thoughts on a Closed Day of School

It's the third day of closed schools in two weeks.  And that doesn't include the day off for MLK Day. It doesn't fair well in this household that thrives on routine.

William is Snap Circuiting.  My coffee is lukewarm.  The girls are in the basement slamming doors.  Bobby is boycotting his morning nap.  Every single pillow and blanket is off the couch and on the floor.  It's driving me crazy.

The Snap Circuit project isn't working.  I can't figure it out.  Katherine just came upstairs with the light saber and is attacking every wall.  Now she dropped the light saber and is screaming "PLEASE MOMMY!" But I have no idea what she's asking for.

Just realized Kate is screaming because Sesame Street was paused on the DVR.  I'm pressing play because I need to eat breakfast in peace.

This Snap Circuit project is really bugging me.  Why isn't it working?  I'm starting over.

Putting Snap Circuits away.  I don't have enough brain cells.  Sesame Street for the seven-year-old too.  Eating my favorite cereal, Cracklin Oat Bran.

Gymnastics are happening in the living room.  I'm reminding the kids AGAIN if they want to do that they can go in the basement.  No one is listening to me.  No one.

It's negative 14 degrees in case you were wondering.  Not windchill.  ACTUAL temperature. Windchill is negative 30.  NBD.

Five minute penalty for jumping on the couch.

Another five minute penalty.
I have to go wake up Bobby.  I hate doing this.  But if I don't stick to his schedule he won't sleep at night.  And I typically like to sleep at night.

Bobby was fast asleep with poop in his pants. Poor baby.
I put William to work putting away laundry and making his bed while Kate went and undid everything he did.  It's a good thing two-year-olds are cute because they sure are terrorists.

Best toy for all ages and both genders: matchbox cars.

I wonder what I should make for lunch?  I could go for the standard sammies and fruit and yogurt or I could really be winning and make the kids' favorite, baked oatmeal.

I folded the blankets and reassembled the pillows on the couch.  I feel better now.

William is carrying Bobby around like a roll of carpet. These are the things you don't consider when there's six years between siblings.

I decided to go with the baked oatmeal.  Here's the recipe I use: 2 cups oats, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1 cup (+/-) fresh or frozen berry fruit.  Mix together all ingredients and spread into a greased square baking dish.  Bake at 375 for 25 minutes.

How do I get off the Enlargement Supplement email list?  Because we're all set over here.

Katherine is obsessed with a stick of butter I've got softening on the radiator for banana bread.  She thinks it's cheese.

The kids are devouring the oatmeal. I'm playing "Beast of Burden" on my phone to boost my mood.  I'm obsessed with this song lately.

I should have doubled the oatmeal recipe.

Rest time.  I've got three of the four in their "spots."  It's just me and B-man for a little while.

I love it when Bobby sways to the music in his high chair.  Like he can't even help himself.  He was born with this innate need to move to a beat.

Also the little curls in his blonde locks are TO DIE FOR.  We're getting very close to mullet territory but I don't care.  You can't make me cut it.

Remember at the end of August when Minneapolis called schools off due to the heat because the schools aren't equipped with air conditioners?  That's super hilarious and ironic now.  Come to Minnesota if you want to experience all the weather extremes.  And yet, despite the elements, still the fittest city in the country.  Rock on, Twin Cities.

Some Arizona reporter, who didn't agree with the Twin Cities being the fittest city, wondered what good all those bike trails did if we could only use them for half of the year.  That's why you're not number one, Arizona.  You're not creative enough.  Cross country skiing, sled-pulling paths, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and yes, they even make snow tires for bikes.  We also possess the ability to plow and shovel, you know.

But seriously, Arizona, I'd still hop a plane to visit you right now so we're all good.

Bobby just pinched his finger in a door.  I tried to make him feel better with a sip of milk but the cap wasn't on tight.  Whoever said there's no use crying over spilled milk didn't have four kids at home in the frozen tundra.

Just raided the See Kai Run friends & family sale to stock up on shoes for the kiddos.  I love that brand.

I'm having banana bread for lunch and I'm not sorry for it.

One kid keeps coming out of his rest spot asking me how much more time he has left thus defeating the "rest" purpose.  I'll give you one guess who it is.

Turning on Shark Tale and going upstairs to reassess my outfit of the day.  Is the spandex under sweatpants look still in?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

That One Time When I Took a Two Month Blogging Hiatus

So here I am.  I'm back.  And I have no idea how to begin.  I wasn't even sure I wanted to come back.  Taking two months off of blogging is sad.  There's so much that happened that will be left undocumented -- for who?  I don't know.  Me, I think.

But a break from blogging was also kind of nice.  I worked out.  I showered.  I did laundry.  I cooked.  I cleaned.  I played with the kids.  Some days I watched all three hours of the Today Show while sipping hot coffee.  I let the burden (burden??) of writing that usually dangles over my head fade away.  The first few weeks were the hardest.  It was pulling and pulling at me and I kept thinking, "I need to get on the computer."

But it was Christmastime and it was an easy excuse.  Too much else to do.  Then January came  and I just didn't know how or where to start again.  And because the break was kind of nice or maybe just one less thing to do, I worried if I started too soon I wouldn't be able to keep up.  Maybe at this stage of my life I'm meant to be just a once-every-two-months blogger.

So for those of you who care and even bother to check in on this here web address any longer (hi, Mom!) here, in a single paragraph, is what happened while I was gone.

Thanksgiving happened.  Warm, cozy, relaxing.  Brian went to San Francisco for ten days for work.  TEN DAYS.  Some of it was OK.  Some of it was terrible.  Someone smashed into my car.  It still hasn't been fixed.  Bobby turned one. ONE!  He is a delight.  I love one-year-olds, I think.  New favorite, for sure.  We had Christmas at home.  Warm, cozy, relaxing.  Then we went on a Northern Wisconsin vacation with Brian's family.  It was amazing.  Zero complaints.  All around good times had by all.  The new year came and we were supposed to go back to school except this fierce little fellow named Polar Vortex came to visit.  The little bastard called off the first two days of school after Christmas vacation.  Things started resembling The Shining.  Luckily Brian removed anything that resembled a noose around here and replaced it with alcohol.  We pulled through alive and well.

And here we are.

January has been tough for me.  It always is.  But this year seems different.  Brian has been busy with his new job and it seems to have put a magnifying glass on my own life which seems dull and monotonous by comparison.

I just finished some photo journaling projects.  At the end of each year I gather all the photos I've taken and make both a calendar for Brian's office and a family photo album.  It's a lot of work but it's so much better than letting all those great memories remain stuck on my hard drive.  I always get a little teary-eyed when I'm finished.  My kids are cute.  And funny.  Good kids all around.  And my husband so loves his family.  Together the six of us are quirky and silly and really, very close.

I'm so blessed.  BLAH! I hate that word.  It's so overused it has lost its meaning.  But looking at those photos makes me realize what a great life I lead.  And maybe it is only because you can't hear screaming in a photograph.  Thank God for that.

Last week I got mad at Brian for something and he, rightly, called me out on myself.  Picking a fight because I just wasn't happy.  Not happy with him, just not happy period.

It's not the kids.  It's not my husband.  It comes from within my own being.  I'm responsible for my own happiness.  I've got to dig down and find that spark again.  My own meaning.

I'm not pregnant.  No longer breastfeeding.  Just a plain old mom of four waiting for the next big thing.  Only I'm not sure what that is just yet.

I made a list of things I want to do or try in 2014.  Some things that are just for me.  Things that have nothing to do with being a wife or a mother.  Because those things are GREAT things.  The most important things.  But they aren't all the things.

And so I'll be back.  Said Arnold and now me.  Sooner than later, I hope.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's Heaven to be Seven!

Oh, William.  I struggle with you.  I do.  I'm writing that here because I'm not afraid to tell you that in person now or when you are old enough to "get it."

When you are at school or when you are asleep I think about you constantly.  And when I think about you these are the words that immediately come to mind:

You are such a good kid.

And then I tear up for not being the mom I wish I could be for you.

You are at the top of your class.  Your teacher said so at conferences a couple of weeks ago.

You have exactly one hundred quadrillion friends.

You are seriously handsome.

You have a deep love for every one of your siblings.

But the minute you walk into the house, things happen.  And I get frustrated.  And you press on.  And I get mad.  And you react.

You are an instigator.

So there we are.

When I sit down to analyze it, I know exactly what it is.  And you are so self aware at the tender age of seven that you even verbalized it to me.

You said: Mom, I think Mrs. S (your teacher) is better than you because she has things for me to do.  Like, activities and stuff.  And you don't.

And so there it is, my boy.  You're at the top.  The oldest.  The one with all the expectations over your head.  The one who should know better.  And take care of himself.  And help out.  The one who is expected to sit still.  And be quiet.  When all the others are not.

But your little mind cannot stop.  You are a do-er.  You need to be working constantly.

You are getting A LOT of Lego sets for your birthday.

You are reading fluently now.  I can pick any book off the shelf and you can read it with little to no trouble.

We thought you might struggle with math since you rarely showed interest.  And then, to our surprise, we received a letter from school requesting our permission to move you into an advanced math class.

You are now allowed to roam our neighborhood (within a block) without supervision.  And you always return the minute I call your name.

You love superheroes and comic books and Ninja turtles and Ghostbusters.

You can recite the entire Despicable Me movie from start to finish. Your memory is crazy.

You are a bad, bad, bad joke-teller.  And a really terrible smile-r for pictures.

Your favorite toys are Marble Run, Snap Circuits and Lego sets.  But funny thing: the minute the Lego set is assembled, you care nothing about it.  You are passionate about assembly and step-by-step instruction-following.

You are responsible when given the chance.  I'm the first to admit I'm too much of a micro-manager and you are much more capable than I give you credit.  You never forget your library books on Wednesday.  Or the days you get to have hot lunch.  You are quick to retrieve toilet paper or Kleenex boxes in the basement closets for me.  You carry full laundry baskets up and down stairs.  You take showers by yourself.  You lay out your clothes the night before.  You make your bed and take out the recycling.

You love football and golf.

You are a really good friend.  And big brother too.

You can get your brother out of his crib and downstairs before I can.  And you can zip others' coats and put on their shoes too all before I even get to the back door.

You share a room with your baby brother and many nights we let you fall asleep in our bed so that you can read with the light on while Bobby sleeps.  Later in the night Dad or I come upstairs to move you into your own bed.  And sometimes, straight out of the Love You Forever book, I'll pick up your great, big seven-year-old body and rock you while you're half in, half out of sleep.

It's the only chance I get to do this when you're not squirming about or trying to make a joke of it all.

I'm not sure if you remember it the next morning or not.  Maybe one time I'll ask you.

But know this for sure: I love you  and am so, so incredibly proud of you.  Our family would not be the same without our goofy, kind, thoughtful, blue-eyed William.

Happy Birthday!

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