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.

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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.

Hello

January. The ground here in Maine is quite snow-covered, the icicles very long off my front porch. It’s birthday season here in our family; Drew turned 8 just after Christmas, Annie and Izzie will be 6 next week, Meg 12 in just three short weeks. Report cards have come in for all four kids and they’re doing so incredibly well, all of them. We are proud parents.

We’re in full hockey season mode, as all of the kids are skating again this year. Annie and Izzie are still doing skills and improving all the time. Drew is in his last year of Mites and cross-ice hockey; he’ll be moving on to Squirts and full-ice games in the fall. He’s improved so much as a player and goalie this year. Meg re-joined the world of co-ed hockey after a season of playing with just girls. She is one of four girls on her PeeWee team and one of two girls on her middle school team. When the kids aren’t skating with their teams, they’re outside on our rink, practicing what they’ve been learning so far this season until the sun goes down. It’s nice to see them love it.

I hope to come back to this space more often, to share details and photos of our life. I’ve been so busy living it lately that taking the time to document it, whether it’s here or in my scrapbooks (haha, I am so, so far behind) gets pushed to the side. I’ll take baby steps, stop in to say hello, then try to get myself more organized and visit for longer. I miss it here.

Winding Down

We’re on the downside of summer here. The calendar says August 6th and that means school starts for all four of my kids in less than a month. Part of me is screaming “yay, school starts in less than a month” and part of me is wondering “how is it already August”?

Our summer has been busy with trips to lakes, beaches, state parks and forts. We’ve been to our local library weekly, checking out a lions’ share of books each visit. We’ve had All Star softball, birthday parties, soccer and volleyball camps. We’re heading camping with friends this weekend and then will spend the rest of August winding down. We have school supplies for four to shop for, clothes to organize, eye exams. Bedrooms and computer rooms and kitchen counters need to be spruced up and ready for the upcoming school year. Soccer cleats need to be purchased, hockey gear needs to be sorted and lists made of what is needed for the season. It’s time to read more books, take last trips to the lake before the weather changes, get a little extra sleep.

These last days of summer inevitably intertwine with school year preparations and a balance needs to be found to cling to the last warm days while purchasing pencils, graph paper and erasers. The cool nights are coming, but they aren’t here yet. So, we’ll plan beach visits with friends, head to the library for more books, and still buy new school shoes. We’ll slowly switch gears from lazy summer mornings to school bedtimes complete with bedtime stories. I’m ready to embrace it all.

Stream of Consciousness

I’m watching Annie and Izzie out on the front “lawn” (term used loosely as it’s just patches of brown grass for another couple of months), riding their bikes. Annie decided a couple of weeks ago that she was going to learn to ride Drew’s old Spiderman bike. Said bike no longer has training wheels, but she didn’t care. She learned in about 30 minutes, all by herself, and now goes careening down our driveway like a madwoman. She hasn’t yet learned to stop, so she either crashes or just turns uphill a little to slow down. She’s a very determined little girl and I like to think that she inherited that trait from me. I’m certainly going to tell everyone that she did.

It’s chilly today, despite the sunshine. We ran out of oil last night so we have no heat or hot water, just another consequence of being too busy all the time to remember to check the oil tank. After a flurry of phone calls this morning the oil man is on his way, and I’m dreaming of being able to wash my hands in warm soapy water so I can warm up. The other consequence of being too busy is that laundry isn’t done and I’m stuck wearing a short sleeve shirt and lightweight sweater today. There’s something to be said for being busy and not bored, but there’s also something to be said for finding balance. It turns out I’m not good at finding balance.

I came home from a hockey association meeting the other night to the babysitter telling me that Meg took a softball to the mouth at practice. My first instinct was to feel horribly guilty that I wasn’t here to take care of her. But then I thought some more about this and realized that I can’t always be there to take care of her, and I can’t always protect her from everything. Her coach got her an ice pack and she took care of herself just fine. I’m trying to raise all my kids to think for themselves and be able to take care of themselves, so maybe I’m not doing so badly after all.

Stream of Consciousness

I’m terrible at giving my blog posts titles without repeating myself. I know the title is what is supposed to draw people in, like the title of a book, but I guess I don’t really write for others but for myself. You know, when I have time. Which lately, isn’t very often. So I throw these little posts together to get my thoughts out and maybe have someone stop by and say hello. And if you don’t stop by, I don’t get mad, because writing these little posts mean I had more than 30 seconds to sit still and I was able to do a little something for me.

The time between Thanksgiving and the end of January is notoriously busy for our family. We host Thanksgiving at hour home, so there’s lots of cleaning and cooking and more cleaning involved, but very little picture taking (I don’t think I even got my camera out on Thanksgiving). Then December rolls in and I’m creating holiday cards and calendars for our families and then WHAM the twins are on school vacation for 4 days before their siblings and Pandora is running full-tilt in Christmas mode and WHAM it’s Christmas Eve day and I’m wrapping ALL the presents because quite frankly, I’m too tired to wrap them at night in the days leading up to Christmas. But then Christmas Eve rolls around and this happens and I’m sitting and relaxing with family and I breathe.

Christmas brought more family and less toys but still ridiculously happy kids.





Christmas wraps up and we run headlong into Drew’s birthday. He turned 7 and I couldn’t really wrap my head around it. How is it possible he turned 7? Wasn’t he just born? It certainly seems like it to me. We celebrated with family on his actual birthday with a little Star Wars theme this year (isn’t every 7 year old into Star Wars and Legos and Pokemon or is it just mine?).


We also celebrated with his hockey and non-hockey friends at the local ice rink with skating, a gigantic whoopie pie cake made by one of our friends, along with homemade gelato.

I’ve been interrupted too many times to count while I’ve been trying to write this and I’ve lost my train of thought. 2012 has already brought us Annie and Izzie’s 5th birthday and Megan’s 11th is coming up in 10 days. I’m still trying to clean up from Annie and Izzie’s party and haven’t even uploaded pictures to the computer so I can’t blog about it until I get that task done. The washing machine is beeping at me, insistent that I remove the wet sheets and get them drying and it’s just about lunch time even though I started writing this 90 minutes ago. Izzie’s now singing Frosty the Snowman for me while she looks at the book and Annie’s asking for me to tell her what letters she’s reading spell. I’ll come back again, someday.

I Can Now Say I’m a Hockey Mom

It’s official. It’s done. I’m officially a hockey mom of four kids. Annie and Izzie started their beginner hockey program a couple of weeks ago, after a year of begging for their turn to get out there and skate like Meg and Drew.

Meg and Drew were helpers the first week on the ice. The majority of the kids out there are ages 5 and 6, so Annie and Izzie are a bit younger than everyone else.

The girls like putting on the equipment and I think they like the idea of playing hockey, but a full hour on the ice has been tough on both of them and it breaks my heart because they’ve been so excited to play and it’s not coming easy. I took a tearful Annie off the ice on Saturday because she just couldn’t do it anymore. But she said she wants to try again this week, and that’s really all we can ask of them.

Because this? This is what I love the most.