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.

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.

Sickness. And Sports.

I had so much fun participating in Momalom‘s Five for Five and thought for certain I’d get back on the blogging horse. I enjoyed coming to this space every day, thinking and writing. But then real life threw a kid with two bouts of strep throat back-to-back in my face, together with 3 other kids with some flu bug that just won’t quit, and my blogging time went back on the back burner.

When I haven’t been dealing with sick kids, I’ve been at baseball fields and I have to tell you, I love it. All four kids are playing this season~Meg’s 2nd year of majors softball, Drew’s first year of player pitch, and Annie and Izzie’s first year of t-ball. Meg’s settled into her role as catcher, a job she shares with 2 other girls on her team. She’s eleventy-billion feet tall and has a great arm.

Drew has pitched in two games and caught in one so far this year. His team is made up of 7-9 year olds and he’s such a good little player. Maybe he’ll take after his big sister and like being behind the plate.

Annie and Izzie had their first t-ball game Friday night and it was a ton of fun. Annie is a switch hitter (for those of you who don’t know baseball, it means she can hit either right or left handed; it’s rather uncommon).

Izzie likes to prance about in the field, but she’s all business up at the plate.

Coordinating the schedules for four kids playing sports is challenging (to put it nicely). This coming Wednesday all four of them play, at the same time. At different fields. As Doug is Drew’s coach, he will stay with him; I will have to drop Meg at her field and then stay with the twins for their game. We should be able to catch the end of Meg’s game since t-ball is only an hour and softball takes at least two hours to complete on a weeknight. I finally put all four schedules together on a calendar for my mom the other day, then had a good cry. It’s not fair to have to pick and choose who I get to see play when they have conflicts. Since Annie and Izzie are only 5, staying at their field is the right choice. With everyone being under the weather I’ve missed two of Meg’s games and one of Drew’s in the past week. While the kids are pretty good about the overlapping schedule issue, I do hate hearing one of them needle me with “you haven’t seen me play lately.”

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the rain that just started this morning carries on through the day so that Annie and Izzie’s game gets postponed, as Annie is sick and Izzie has a terrible cough (the end result of this bug). I’d rather they both be able to play instead of just one, and I already wasn’t going to be able to attend as Meg has her final chorus concert of the year tonight and that’s where I’ll be. It’s the price I pay for having four involved, active kids. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you have multiple kids in sports or other activities, how do you balance it all?

Just Write

The sun is bright, too bright off the snow that Mother Nature dumped on us last week. It shows every speck of dirt on the rugs, every crumb left on the table and floor. It shows all the stacks of papers and books and boots and mittens that aren’t in their place. It shows my failings too easily.

The kitchen floor has Thomas trains mixed in with hats and mittens and scraps of food that didn’t make it to the trash can last night. The living room has car mats and library books and my son’s socks from yesterday. I look at it all, and it overwhelms me. I know I should take it one room at a time and clean it bit by bit, but I have two five year olds who trail behind me and fill in the clean with more trains and books and crayons (mostly broken) and coloring books and it just means I have to do it all over again. It’s a never-ending cycle.

The cat food dishes are overflowing onto the floor and the boots on the mat aren’t really on the mat at all. The bright sunshine illuminates it all, reminds me of all I have to do. Some days it causes me to retreat and ignore, and others, like today, I will start with the trains and find the order in the chaos.

Stream of Consciousness

I just put some cocoa in my coffee in a desperate attempt to wake up and get moving on the zillion things I need to do today. It’s gray and rainy and I’m not holding out hopes for a white Christmas. We had a foot of snow for Halloween and another for Thanksgiving, but I haven’t heard that we’ll have any of the white stuff for Christmas.

My kids have all told me what they want for Christmas and I just have to share it:

Meg: a pug puppy (live)
Annie: a cow (live)
Izzie: a hundred lambs (live)
sense a theme here?
Drew: all the Star Wars Lego toys in the world (at least he’s practical, although indulgent)

I am thankful that the twins’ preschool teacher talked them down from the live animal ledge the day they announced those choices at school last week. Seriously, live animals??? We already have a rooster, four hens, three cats, four kids, and a partridge in a pear tree. Oh my.

I’m not remotely ready for the holidays. The big brown truck has been here a few times in the last couple of days so things are starting to come together. We’re holding true to our no toys for Christmas, although Santa will be bringing a few toys. There’s magic in Santa that I’m not planning to take away from the kids.

Christmas music has been going non-stop here since just after Thanksgiving. It’s my way of getting into the spirit of the season. The kids all have their favorite songs~Annie loves Frosty the Snowman, Izzie loves The Little Drummer Boy, Drew loves Straight No Chaser’s Twelve Days of Christmas and Meg loves just about every song (especially ones she can play on the clarinet). We have the tree up and decorated, and snowflake lights around our sliding door and dining room windows. I wish my I could take some photos of our holiday cheer with my camera, but my 18-55mm lens is broken and needs to be sent back to Canon (oh how I’d love a new lens for Christmas, Canon!) and while I like Meg’s Nikon Coolpix, it just isn’t the same as my very own Rebel.

I am currently blasting Whitney Houston’s Do You Hear What I Hear? on Pandora. She may be a mess of a person but her voice, oh her voice is just beautiful.

Laundry is calling me. There is a Christmas party for two little girls in this house tomorrow and a jumper with snowmen on it must be washed. Annie’s jumper with the wreath on it has been hanging in their closet for a week, just waiting for party day. I love how excited they get to dress up for something special.

Whitney’s singing again. She’s lifting my spirits with every word.

The Christmas Dilemma

I’m not buying my kids toys for Christmas this year.

Phew. That was hard to write, because I really WANT to buy my kids toys for Christmas. Meg and Drew love Legos and I’m sure they’d have a fantastic time playing with new sets. Drew’s right into the Star Wars Legos and I’ve seen some newer, affordable Harry Potter Legos for Meg. Annie and Izzie would love toys that feature cows and lambs and I know there are some at Toys ‘R Us that they’d adore. But I’m not buying them.

Here’s the thing. My kids don’t take care of the toys they have. Drew can’t find his Lego people because he doesn’t put them away in their DESIGNATED spot when he’s done with them. I can’t get into Meg’s room at all because her floor is a mess. Annie and Izzie leave toys, clothes, papers, books, scattered in their room, the hallway, the playroom. The kids’ playroom is a total disaster. They’ve broken most of the storage drawers we purchased for them and the toys are always all over the playroom floor and they get stepped on and broken. There’s no way I’m adding more things to that mix this year.

I’ve told the kids I’m not buying them toys. My mom is even on board with it and told them the same thing. None of my kids believe me when I tell them that they aren’t getting any toys this year. They all still believe in Santa (yes, even Meg, or if she doesn’t, she hasn’t let on for the sake of her younger siblings and for that I’m grateful, because I am a Polar Express kind of girl and still hear the ring of the bell), which leaves us with a bit of a dilemma. Should Santa bring them a gift or two in the form of a toy? Would they appreciate the things they get if they got a toy or two each, just from Santa?

It breaks my heart to have to tell my kids that they aren’t getting toys. I love Christmas, I love buying and wrapping things for them to open. I love seeing them excited for something new, as we don’t buy toys during the year. But to have them show a complete lack of respect for the things we (and others) get them has me really down. Getting them to clean up their rooms or their playroom is a long, ridiculously frustrating experience that leaves me exhausted and wondering why I just don’t do it all myself it I want it done at all. But I have an almost 11 year old, an almost 7 year old and two almost 5 year olds who need to start taking some responsibility for their own things and I guess this is my way of getting them to understand that. Will it work? Will it fail? I guess I have to wait and see. The whole thing leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and I really wonder if I’m making the right choice.

Tricks or Treats

We lucked out! Despite the Nor’easter which dumped a foot of snow on the ground on Sunday, we were able to get out to trick or treat last night! This year I told the kids I wasn’t spending money on costumes, and other than Meg’s mask/tail (which cost $5), I didn’t spend a DIME! Annie and Izzie wore old things of Meg’s and Drew wore his own gear. I have to say, they were adorable and had a great time!

Now we have a boatload of candy which needs to be consumed. Lucky for us, we don’t get trick or treaters at our house, so we don’t have to deal with leftover candy we didn’t hand out!