Managing Many

A friend sent me a message on Facebook yesterday asking me at what age her twins would be when she wouldn’t feel like four kids was a lot. I responded that when I figured that out, I’d let her know. I wasn’t trying to be flip, but more wanted to let her know that four is just a lot, all the time.

When Annie and Izzie were newborns, and Drew was just 2 and Meg 6, I was overwhelmed. Three kids in diapers, one in full-time kindergarten, a brand new house that I couldn’t manage~ it was all too much. I lived in the middle of the woods with no neighbors, in a town where I hardly knew a soul, and I was lonely and completely lost. I sat on my stairs often, crying with whatever kid was crying at the time and I figured that things would never, ever get better.

Fast forward to today. Annie and Izzie are 6 1/2, Drew is 8 1/2 and Meg is 12 1/2. The insanity of those early years with four kids is long gone, only replaced by a different sort of insanity. Now it’s remembering who has what special on what day of the week (the kids need sneakers for PE and what day is library day and where are their books?), who has what activity after school, who’s going to have a meltdown because hot dogs aren’t for dinner tonight. We just came off two months of overlapping middle school field hockey for Meg, soccer for Drew and dance for Annie and Izzie. Some Mondays all four kids had their sports, so I would send my parents to watch Meg’s game wherever it might be, take Annie and Izzie to dance and have Doug meet me to pick up Drew for soccer. It was crazy, but not as overwhelming as 3 in diapers used to be.

One thing that helps me manage all the kids with all their events is my iPhone. Without it, and it’s handy reminders, I would be lost. I can schedule a school conference, invite Doug so it’s on his phone, and set myself a reminder so I’m not late (I despise being late). I used to use the calendar on my computer, but since I’m on the go more than I’m home, have my calendar at my fingertips is much more helpful. I downloaded Drew’s hockey schedule to my phone and Doug’s as well, and any changes are automatically updated so that we’re always aware of what rink we’re supposed to be heading to.

Now that Meg is older, she is responsible for her schoolwork and her weekly schedule. She has a small dry erase calendar in her bedroom where she keeps track of what UA (unified art) she has each day, what sporting or music event she might have that week, and what other things she might need to do. I use that calendar myself-I check it almost daily-so that I can communicate more effectively with her. When she has an event that requires me to pick her up or drop her off at a specific time, it goes on my iPhone and her iPod.

We also have a larger dry erase calendar in our computer room, and some events get placed on it, but I’ll admit it’s becoming a bit obsolete. The kids tend to draw pictures on it in the memo section and they’re forever losing the markers. But I’ll keep it there because if my phone died, I’d need someplace to relocate everything to (you know, when I was done sobbing over the death of my beloved phone).

The hardest thing about managing four kids is the amount of paperwork that comes in the door every school day. While the middle school doesn’t send home much and Meg keeps her schoolwork with her at all times, the younger kids bring home work daily. Homework packets get placed on our cork board so they don’t get lost; Drew keeps his daily planner and folder together, so that I can review and sign off on his work as he completes it. I’ll fully admit that some things, like book orders, get forgotten because there are just too many other things to keep track of some weeks.

Managing many is still a work in progress around here, especially as the kids are getting older and their needs are changing. I’m sure I’ll have to keep adapting because what works today may not work well tomorrow. Now if someone could figure out a way for me to deal with all the shoes and laundry, that would be fantastic.

End of a Halloween Era

I knew this day would come eventually. After all, she’ll be 13 in just a few months, she’s 5ft 8in and doesn’t look like a kid at all anymore. She texts friends, goes to school dances, plays middle school sports. In my mind though, she’s still the little girl who was a winter fairy, a flower, Ariel, an angel, a witch, a cat (twice), Dorothy, Hermoine Granger, a crazy bug girl, and a hippie.

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(Winter Fairy, first cat costume and flower not shown because I am old and that was all before digital cameras)

Tonight she’ll be one of the adults, hanging out with me and her dad and helping her siblings navigate their way in the dark as we trick-or-treat with friends. This was her decision, but it’s still bittersweet. Sometime I just want them to stay little forever.

Happy Halloween everyone.

On Saying No

As a mom, I say “no” a lot. You know, when kids ask me for candy for breakfast or to wear shorts to school on a 40 degree day-no is the answer, hands down. Sometimes I relent and give in, if the issue isn’t really worth fighting over (still no on the candy for breakfast though). However, I’m terrible about saying no when it comes to me personally.

I am a board member on our little league board and the hockey association board that my kids play for. Both these positions require huge amounts of my free time during their respective seasons (I’m responding to emails about hockey while writing this post). For the most part, I love being a part of these organizations; I get to know the parents and the kids for the divisions that I run, and I’ve known some of these families for years now. I also just finished up a volunteer coordinator position for the soccer tournament that my son’s league hosts. It was an intense month of work leading up to the tournament, as well as 24 hours of face time on the fields during the tournament itself. I enjoyed every minute of it, despite needing almost a week to recover from the weekend.

All these positions are things that I volunteer to do of my own free will, but sometimes I wonder why I agree to do them. Yes, I enjoy seeing my hard work come to fruition. Yes, I am very organized when it comes to these kind of responsibilities (but you can’t find my countertop or my desk because I have SO.MUCH.PAPER and my kids don’t always have clean folded clothes in their rooms). Yes, I like getting to know people and yes, I like making others happy. However, these things don’t always make me happy and I’m beginning to wonder if it’s time to say no.

I’ve already decided that this is my last year on the hockey board. I only have one skater left in the organization (Drew) and after 4 years, I’m ready to pass on my knowledge to someone else. The frustration with people who don’t listen or respect me outweighs my happiness in running a good division. I’m on the fence with staying on the little league board as well; this past season was too disorganized for my liking.

With all my volunteer jobs taking up large chunks of my free time, I haven’t had much “me” time since Annie and Izzie went to kindergarten last year. The plans I put in place for myself haven’t come to fruition and that saddens me. Sometimes my “me” time is sitting staring at my phone, playing Candy Crush, because it’s all the energy I can muster. I deserve better, and quite frankly, so do my kids. I think saying no is going to make me the happiest yet.

Friday Free for All~Back to School Edition

These short school weeks are hard. The kids are WIPED OUT when they get off the bus, and by wiped out I mean cranky and angry and not at all a pleasure to be around. We’re taking a trip to the library after school today in a desperate attempt hopes that everyone will get rid of their crankies before we step inside the house. Parenting school age kids is a rough gig sometimes.

September is my vacation time. Classroom volunteering doesn’t begin until October (after the myriad of testing dates-3 weeks worth-end) which means I have free time to myself after a long summer vacation of only having free time when I went to work. I can play Candy Crush with no one looking over my shoulder, eat a piece of candy without everyone whining that “it’s not FAAAAIR” and generally take a small breather during the day. Oh sure, the house needs to be vacuumed and the collection of paperwork from school is starting to breed (already, I KNOW) and oh look the dishes aren’t done. But in order to be a better me when the zombies darling cherubs get off the bus, I’m going to drink coffee, fritter away time on Facebook and read a book. At least for today.

Fall showed up on our doorstep the other night and it’s glorious right now. The mornings have been chilly and the afternoons have been nice, unlike last week when the kids were sweltering at school and we had to run the air conditioners all day. The leaves haven’t started to turn their gorgeous colors quite yet, but this new weather pattern will definitely help the cause. Fall has always been my favorite season and I try to soak it up when it arrives. I think I need to go dig out some fall related decorations today.

Soccer is on the agenda for us this weekend. What about you?

Back to School

As much as I’m ready for summer vacation by the time it rolls around, I’m even more ready for the kids to head back to school come the end of August. My kids love school; they love the structure, the time with friends and generally not being all together, all the time like they are when we’re home for the summer.

The kids headed back to school last week, even if it was just for two days. This year I have kids in 3 different schools~middle for Meg, a grade 3/4 for Drew, and K-2 for Annie and Izzie. The younger kids all still ride the bus together (thank goodness!) which does make life a bit easier.

Meg’s heading into her last two years of middle school as a 7th grader. Sixth grade was hard for her, not academically, but socially, and we were both so glad when that year ended and we could both move on. Seventh grade has great promise, with a new team of teachers, best friends who are REAL friends, and the ability to play middle school sports (other than ice hockey, which she could play as a 6th grader). Field hockey practice started on the first day of school and she’s LOVING it! She’ll be ready to go when ice hockey season starts at the end of September (nothing like overlapping sports).

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Drew has left the younger elementary school and is a 3rd grader now. He’s in the same classroom that Meg had as a 3rd grader, which is fantastic as I LOVED her teacher. He’s excited to be back to school with one of his best friends in his classroom with him, and can’t wait to dive into more multiplication, which he started doing last year. Drew’s playing travel soccer this fall; he’s already played keeper twice and is really enjoying it so far. Soccer and hockey will overlap for him as well, so our fall is going to be very busy!

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Annie and Izzie are sharing a classroom again this year, as 1st graders. Our district is fantastic about letting the parents decide how to place our twins. I talked with their kindergarten teacher back in the spring about their placement, then wrote a letter to the school with our request. For now, they’ll stay together until a)they start to compete with each other, b)they request to be separated or c)all of the above. They each have their own strengths (Izzie is a strong reader and Annie has strong math skills) so they don’t compete too often. Having twins in school is still a new phenomenon for me, so we’re take things year by year. The girls will play soccer again this fall, but have opted out of hockey for the year. They’d like to take dance classes but we haven’t made a decision on that yet.

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I’m trying to get myself back into a semblance of routine as well. I’m still working at least 1 day a week in the office, volunteering on two different youth sport board of directors and am the team administrator for Drew’s soccer team. School classroom volunteering will start in October, so I’ll use September to clean house and breathe.

Who else is excited for school to be back in session? Am I the only one?

Boston in my Heart

I’ve started and stopped several posts this week about the horrific attack at the Boston Marathon this past Monday. Boston was my home for three years while I attended law school and it’s a place that is as familiar to me as my own little town here in Maine, if not more so. My brother, sister-in-law, aunt, niece and nephew all live in or just outside of Boston and like everyone else with family there, I spent much of Monday on Twitter/Facebook/my phone making sure they were all safe.

I’ve avoided much of the television coverage of the tragedy, not just for my own mental stability, but because the kids are home this week and there is only so much I want them to know. They’re all aware there was an explosion, but only Meg knows that the explosion was caused by someone and it wasn’t an accident. At 12, she can barely comprehend why this happened, so keeping her 8 year old brother and 6 year old sisters partially in the dark is my way of keeping them safe and protected in this dangerous world.

If you follow me at all on Twitter or we’re friends on Facebook, you’ll have likely seen my tweets or status updates about the fundraising efforts of my nephew Nick, a college student at Emerson College in Boston, to help the victims and their families. Along with his friend Chris, Nick partnered with Ink to the People, and created a simple yet powerful t-shirt which simply reads “Boston Strong”. As of today, over 11,000 t-shirts have been sold, raising over $150,000 for One Fund Boston. If you wish to support this cause, you can find the Ink by going here: http://inktothepeople.com/marketplace/ink-detail/3731. The shirts are $20.

What I’ve tried to focus on this week is what Nick and Chris did, what the first responders did after the bombs exploded, what Bostonians did by opening their homes to shelter stranded runners-they showed kindness and compassion for others in the face of terrible tragedy. This is what I want the kids to know about, that there are more kind people than mean people in the world, that everyone can make a difference and that caring for others is so incredibly important. I’ll continue to shield them from the darkness in the world as best I can and I’ll do my best to remind them of the goodness in people.

The kids, Doug and I all watched the opening of the Boston Bruins game on Wednesday night and witnessed this amazing moment. As the tears flowed, Izzie asked me why I was crying and I told her that what we were witnessing was something to be proud of, that when she hears the National Anthem she should always remember this night. I hope she always will.

Birthday Cake Wrap-Up

The kids’ birthdays have come and gone and I realized I haven’t shared this year’s birthday cake creations. Having four kids with birthdays immediately following Christmas right through January means I spend a lot of time covered in flour, trying to make something that they’ll love.

Drew’s birthday always sneaks up on us, since it’s 3 days after Christmas. He is a very laid back kid when it comes to his birthday and therefore had absolutely no idea what he wanted for a cake. I spent too much time trolling the internet looking for a different Star Wars cake (last year’s cake ). I again put Doug to work with his steady hand and we came up with this cake:

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Annie and Izzie’s birthday came next and this year we went with a winter theme. Annie chose a snowman and Izzie a snowflake (although the snowflake looks a bit too much like a spiderweb for my liking):

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Meg’s cake theme this year represents what she loves the most: music. I again spent too much time trolling Pinterest and Google for ideas, but finally settled on making my own frosting (thank you Ree Drummond; it was awesome!) and my own music notes with melting chocolates.

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(Not sure why the image has such poor quality, but you get the idea)

I love making the cakes for my kids, but as they get older inspiration is getting hard to come by. Meg has already asked me to make a clarinet cake for her, which I politely declined. Good thing I have another 7 months before I need to make another one!