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.

Advertisements

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.

Picture 2102

Picture 881

IMG_2672

IMG_7598

IMG_0944

Picture 734

Picture 126

Picture 243

(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.

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:

Picture 2096

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):

Picture 2248

Picture 2249

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.

Picture 2613

(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!

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.

Yeah, I Pay My Kid in iPod Songs

I’m pretty sure the word “chores” is one of the worst words in the English language. I know it was one of my least favorite words as a teenager. I had to dust and fold towels and I think I got paid for it, but I honestly can’t remember. I hated dusting. I didn’t mind the towel folding so much though.

Now that I’m a mom of four kids, I’ve started assigning Unpaid chores to the kids. They’re unpaid because when we tried the paid option with Meg a few years ago, she refused to do anything that she didn’t get paid for. Yeah, lesson learned there. The kids are expected to clean their rooms when asked. Sometimes that results in tantrums (ok, it often results in tantrums) but let me tell you, when their rooms are clean they are happy, happy kids. I refuse to clean their rooms for them. I will sit and watch them, assisting with what to clean up next, but I will not clean 3 kids’ rooms on top of all the other stuff I’m expected to do for them. It’s called responsibility.

Anyway, now that Meg is 11 1/2, she wants stuff. Books. Clothes. Earrings. Songs for her iPod. She has a couple of regular chores, which she does sporadically at best (clean the cat boxes, wipe down the table after dinner and sweep under the table). Recently she created a list of songs that she wants on her iPod (which is an old 2nd generation iPod Touch I bought used from one of Doug’s co-workers, but she thinks it’s gold) and asked me to buy her some. Being the clever mom that I am, I came up with a mutually beneficial solution~she does chores outside her regular chores, with a smile (or at least not crankily) and I will purchase her songs. Lo and behold, my dishwasher is getting unloaded and refilled more often, loads of towels get washed/dried/folded/AND put away, and songs are magically appearing on her iPod.

I’m not really that clever. I want help around the house, she wants tunes, and voila, we have a solution. I’m happier, she’s happier. The other kids don’t have iPods yet, so I’ll have to come up with some other chore ideas for them. Maybe cleaning in exchange for tv time?

What about you? Do you have your kids do chores? Do you pay them in cash or other ways, or not at all?

On Firsts

I swore I wasn’t going to cry this morning putting the three little ones on the bus, because I’d been looking forward to this day since school got out in June. The first day of school. The first day that I have no kids in my house all day. The first day that no one would be asking for snacks or to print a picture or me needing my referee hat to break up yet another fight. I did tear up, not because I was sad they were going to school, but happy because they were so, so happy. I really can’t wait until they come home and tell me about their first day.

Meg headed back to the middle school for 6th grade this morning. She’ll be with her entire group of friends, have some of the same teachers, and will be having a new teacher for her math and science classes. Her band and chorus permission slips are already signed and she’s looking forward to just getting back to school.

Drew is in his last year at the elementary school (our system has a K-2 school in each town, then the two towns combine for a 3/4 school then off to middle school at 5th grade) as a big 2nd grader. He’s excited to do lots more math, be with some of his guy friends from first grade and check out all the non-fiction books in his classroom.

Annie and Izzie will be in the same kindergarten class this year, with the same teacher that both Meg and Drew had. It was an easy decision to make, because I know that the teacher is a perfect fit for them both, and having them together to start such a big, wonderful adventure will be good for them both. They were thrilled to find out that three of the kids from their t-ball team will be in class with them, and their two best friends from preschool are in the same class, just down the hall.

Yes, they are holding hands and it was so sweet and unprompted that it made my heart swell.

Summer Staycation~Upta Camp

Last month we packed up our van and headed to one of Doug’s boss’ camp in Weld, Maine. This camp is on Webb Lake, just on the outskirts of Mt. Blue State Park. It was our second trip to the camp in the last year, as we were graciously allowed the use of the camp for a weekend last summer as well.

As with last year, the kids’ favorite things to do were to spend time in the lake, which is shallow enough to walk out quite far before needing to swim, and to use the kayaks.

The sunset on our first night was amazing. Doug and I sat on the dock and listened to the loons and drank it all in.

We took a drive on our second day, partly to get cell phone signal (none up there at all) and partly just to see what else was nearby (that is a loose term; nothing is nearby). We ended up at Rangeley Lake State Park, which was breathtakingly beautiful. Itty bitty, isolated campsites, but the lake itself was gorgeous, despite there being NO BEACH. Just a set of steps down to the water. It was strange.

When we weren’t out on the water or traveling the big kids and I played games of travel Battleship, which they’d never played before. They colored and read books and fought like cats and dogs (yes, even on “vacation”). Izzie took a fully clothed fall off the dock into the water and was miraculously unhurt, despite being soaked. We were so grateful to be able to spend time at the camp again this year and the kids are already asking if we’ll go back again next summer.