Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tiny Tornadoes, the Value in Sitting, and Other Things

Y’all.  I am alone.  YIPPEEEEE.  It has been a long week.  Here’s a quick recap.

We set a record for the longest running bedtime on Monday, clocking in at five hours to get all six of the girls to sleep.  For some reason the babies were completely out of sorts and kept waking up crying hard.  Maybe it was teeth?  Who knows.  But during that marathon bedtime stretch, I also learned that, joy of joy, school was cancelled on Tuesday for bad weather.  I had the same thought any parent has when you find out about an unexpected day off: oh crap.  What are we going to do?  Then I quickly poured myself a glass of wine, even though I had given it up for Lent (ambitious, perhaps?).  At that moment I felt like God would understand if I had a glass while preparing for a day alone, inside my messy house, with my six girls.  After that perfect glass, I adopted a monk’s approach and didn’t speak a single word to anyone because I had otherwise been drowning in noise for hours and hours.  My vow of silence was short lived because I found myself snoozing just 30 minutes later. 

Fast forward to Tuesday, our bad-weather-day.  My mom suggested with complete seriousness that I take the day to come up with a plan for the summer.  As she pointed out, summer was only three months away, and the babies will only get busier and busier.  Then I was facing not only the hours ahead of me, but the coming months.  Yikes.  I definitely needed a plan. 

While mulling that over, my neighbors and I had a block party of sorts, urging our kids to get ALL THEIR ENERGY OUT before the bad weather rolled in.  Then we all went inside and waited.  And waited.  And no bad weather came our way!  We were spared! However, the tiny tornadoes aka my children, wreaked havoc all over the house.  The days were long and exhausting when the babies were newborns and you know what’s different now?  Nothing!  HA!  The days are still long and exhausting, just in a different way.  Right now, it takes constant vigilance to make sure the babies don’t hurt themselves or each other.  They’re quite fond of purses and mardi gras beads, which they use to drag each other to the ground and clothesline each other.  You know how toddlers want what they want when they want it?  Now imagine having three wanting the same purse all at the same time.  It doesn't matter if I have three of the same purse, they choose one purse that they ALL want.  In addition to fighting over a pink purse (see pic below), they otherwise spent the day trying to climb up Lucy’s bunk beds and throwing all kinds of things into the toilet, including the tv remote (sorry if you’re here and you use it; it has been doused with Lysol).  At several times during the day, the big girls declared THEY WERE SO BORED and asked what they could do, despite the fact that we own enough toys to outfit armies of children.  I told them they could start cleaning or go sit and read, so then they found other things to do.

Of course there were lots of fun moments too.  The big girls played together nicely and created a tornado shelter for us in the bathroom.  I think they must’ve used 5 blankets and 10 pillows.  Lucy was insistent that we move her pet hamster to the safest place possible, so Brownie rode out the “storm” (I use that term loosely because the weather was fine) in the bathroom.  Thank God she was ok, that could’ve been bad. The big girls also had lots of fun swinging the babies around, dancing with them, showing them books, and hopping from one crib to the next.  It's always fun to see how excited they get to play with their baby sisters.      
Sweet, tired babies
"Hunkering down" in the hallway with all of Lucy's crafts
Libby and one of the favorite purses
Wednesday we got back into the groove of school.  5 of 6 girls went to school or Mom’s Day Out.  Sweet Abby had a fun day out with me.  She enjoyed every single second of being a single baby.  We went shopping together and then had lunch together.  Not a single cry or whine.  She was so happy to have all of my attention.  She basked in the glory of being my single baby.  It was fun.  

And that brings me to today.  I am alone!!!  I am alone alone alone!  The stars were aligned and the babies were all well so they went to Mom’s Day Out along with Emily.  Any time I’m alone I feel the overchoice of options weighing on me.  Do I get something done?  Do I run errands?  Do I organize all their clothes and the piles of stuff everywhere?  No, no, and no.  I sit.  I sit and enjoy the glorious silence and the fact that none of the 60 little fingers I created are touching me, needing me, demanding my attention.  So right now I’m sitting.  Listening to myself breathe.  Ignoring the messes.  Giving myself permission to do it all later.  Or  never.  One of the hardest things about being a mom is that no one will tell you—stop and sit.  Take a break.  So every once in a while—or really whenever you can—you have to say, no, now I am sitting.  So friends, now I sit. 

I hope you all have a fabulous Friday!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Weekly Round Up

Here’s a quick update on what’s new in our house.  So many fun nuggets of info to share!  I’m going to try to do a weekly update every week, if for no reason other than it will one day serve as an electronic baby book for me.  I’d also like to share links on my favorite things/articles/etc but for now I’ll start here.

Lucy.  Lucy received 20 crafty birthday gifts and wants to do every single of one of them today.  Right now, at the same time.  She has been very helpful with the babies lately and loves to cuddle on the couch with them.   

Molly.  Molly is keeping us all entertained with her magic imaginary headphones.  She carefully puts them on her head and jams out to whatever type of music she has selected.  She likes us to guess the station based on her dance moves.  This has proved to be a very fun game.

Emily.  Emily is having a hard time deciding what to give up for Lent.  Yes, it’s the middle of Lent.  First she gave up Cheez-Its, but when Seth brought a box into the house, she decided maybe she should give up macaroni and cheese until I made mac n cheese, and then she moved on to something else.  Her most recent suggestion is to give up sleep.  I quickly vetoed that.

Libby.  Libby, my happy, silly girl is working on perfecting her stink eye.  At this point I think it’s pretty perfect.  She also loves “reading” her board books, especially the Elmo ones.  Ruby is generally her partner in crime, and they love to play/fight a lot.

Abby.  Oh sweet Abby.  Abby has learned how to climb onto the top bunk.  She’s a climber like none other I’ve ever had.  Which is fascinating because she does not like to walk.  I assume that at some point soon she’ll decide that walking is easier than crawling, and at that point she’ll probably stand up and run away fast.  She’s also learned how to bite.  Hard.  She bit me so hard the other day that she burst into tears when I started yelling in pain.

Ruby.  Ruby frequently walks around shouting “Mama! Mama! Mama!,” which would be sweet if she were referring to me, but she is not; she now uses that term to mean—give me, I want.  Yes, my name has become synonymous with “help me, give me, I want.”  Sounds about right?  Ruby has a good sense of humor and the most infectious laugh.  It is fun to play peek a boo with her and hear her belly laugh.     

Seth.  Seth survived a week off with us this week.  It was fun for him until it wasn’t, and now he is ready to head back to work tomorrow. 

Me.  I’m 38 today!  How am I middle aged?  I thought I’d feel more grown up by now, but I guess that’s one of the secrets of adulthood—you never really feel like a grownup even though you are.  I went to the spa on Friday and it was everything I dreamed it would be—quiet, dark, and solitary!  Finally, on a funny note, I almost had a heart attack when I thought there was baby pinned underneath the couch cushions but it turns out it was just a baby doll.  Whew.  

So that’s what’s new here.  I hope all of you are having a fabulous week!   

And here's my favorite photo of the week.  New hand-me-down shirts from fellow GGG triplet mom Georgia.  So frilly and fun.  The babies are loving standing on the chairs.  It's only a matter of time before one of them falls off!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

To My First Baby On Your 8th Birthday: The Things You've Taught Me

To my first baby on your 8th birthday,

Happy Birthday!  I can hardly believe you are eight years old!  I remember so vividly when you entered the world 8 years ago today. 

I was working from home and had eaten maybe half a box of Cheez- Its (they’re just so good, as you know), when I started feeling contractions.  I was na├»ve to the telltale tightening and pains, so I waived them away in my mind.  Your dad was busy doing a very long surgery and didn’t get a single text from me because there was no cell phone reception in the basement-floor operating rooms at Georgetown hospital in Washington, D.C., where he worked and where you were born.  I went to my weekly dr. appt and decided I should throw my bag in the trunk “just in case.”  There had been a massive ice storm, so the D.C. roads were horribly icy.  I carefully navigated the roads and then the sidewalks as I made my way into the hospital for my weekly appt.  At my appt., my dr. confirmed my water had in fact broken and I wasn’t just peeing on myself.  I stood up with a giant gush of water, and at that exact time, your dad entered the room.  We walked over to labor and delivery while I felt intense waves of contractions, which left me gripping the wall as I went.  Labor came and went, and at 10:04 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, you entered the world.  You were crying so hard, but when they placed you on my chest, I said, “hi, baby!” and you became so still and quiet, turning your face towards mine as if to say, oh, thank goodness, I've been looking for you. Everything felt so surprising and new and surreal, but I will never forget that moment.  I knew, and you knew, that you were mine.  My perfect little Valentine’s Day baby girl. 

I wanted to share with you some things you’ve taught me about parenting—and life in general—in your eight years.  I think you’ll be surprised how much I’ve learned from you.

Trusting my gut and listening to my mom and big sister are the best parenting resources I could ever have.  I bought so many books during my pregnancy and your first year.  And during subsequent years, too.  I read about crying-it-out, not crying-it-out, co-sleeping, positive discipline, redirecting, and everything else.  I tried to follow all the advice.  But, now that I’m eight years in, most of the time I wing it and trust my own instincts.  As your mom, I know you better than anyone else, and I usually have a pretty good idea of what you need.  And if I don’t know, I ask Liz or Grandma.  They are great moms and always have better advice than all the books I’ve bought.  I’ve also learned that Grandma was right when she said everything is a phase—before too long, we’re on the next big thing, issue, or goal.

The gift of perspective.  You’ve shown me how incredibly fast the years go by.  It almost makes me wince to think about all the things I’ve done right or wrong with you, since you and I did everything as parent/child for the first time together.  But, we’ve learned together.  And while of course some days seem endless, they’re not, and it feels as if I’ve blinked and another year has gone by.  And then I look at you and see how you move, so gracefully, so poised.  You seem… almost too grown up to be my daughter in that you’re definitely not a little kid anymore.  You’re solidly into big kid territory, and it continues to amaze me.  Where did the time go?  How did you learn to sashay like that?  How did you learn to braid your own hair?  Where did you learn those song lyrics and that hand jive?  It’s so bittersweet to see how fast you’ve grown, but, in doing so, you’ve given me the gift of perspective in knowing how fast time will pass with you and your younger sisters.

How closely you pay attention.  You notice everything.  Everything.  Good and bad.  You notice when I curse.  You notice when I get my toes painted without you.  You notice when I’m impatient.  You notice when I’ve worked really hard to make things special.  You notice when I’m wearing my nicer clothes and look ready to take on the world (or at least look semi-presentable).  You notice when I’ve cleaned my car.  You notice when your dad and I are trying to talk in code and have a serious conversation above your head.  It’s not really possible.  You notice it all.  And you make me conscious of the fact that I must lead by example; what I do matters A LOT more than what I tell you to do.

How much you can be like me, and how different you can be, too.  You love coffee.  You would drink a decaf latte every day if I let you.  You also love Cheez-Its just like me (and way to go giving them up for Lent!).  And yet, you love your long hair and so many girly things, like ballet.  I, on other hand, I’ve always been a short hair girl, and I can’t really understand the obsession with doing your hair a different way every single day.  I was more of a tomboy and didn’t really care about girly things.  But, I’m learning to appreciate you for your own interests.  You are your own little person, with your own thoughts and ideas about life, the world, and your hair.  I may have brought you into this world, but you are your own person with your own ideas about the world. 

How much you still need me, and how independent you are at the same time.  You love to play outside all day long with the neighbors and go on sleepovers to your best friend’s house.  You also love to snuggle up to next to me whenever you have the chance.  You need me to hug you, kiss you, and be close.  You always come back for a tight hug and solid, serious goodbye every day before you go off to school.  You always look me square in the eyes and tell me you love me.  If you forget, you run back to me to tell me, saying you forgot something, before you grab my waist and hug me tight.  There’s a constant push/pull of independence, almost like a rubber band, where you stretch farther away and then bounce back next to me to make sure I’m not going anywhere.  I hope you know that the farther you stretch, it’s ok—I will always be right here whenever you bounce back and need me.   

How resilient you are.  There have been many life changes in your eight years: five new sisters, the loss of your grandpa, etc.  With each change, you have adapted and thrived.  I think the biggest change in your life was the arrival of your three baby sisters and everything that came with them--mainly, less of my time and a more hectic household.  You are patient when I have to tend to them and change their diapers, etc.  You are understanding when the babies are sick and I can't lay with you.  Not only are you patient and understanding, you love your sisters deeply.  You love to snuggle with them, mother them, play with them.  I admire your resiliency, patience, and understanding.  
In the end, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve really grown up together.  I’ve grown as a parent, and you’ve grown up right before my eyes.  I’m so grateful to be your mom, and I hope you know how much we love you.  Happy birthday, my sweet first-born baby girl.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Life Lessons from Mardi Gras for My Kids

It’s Mardi Gras time, y’all.  (Side note: for those not familiar with term, “Mardi Gras” literally means “fat Tuesday,” i.e., the day before Ash Wednesday, but the term more typically refers to the days and weeks of carnival celebrations leading up to the Lenten season.  Here in Louisiana, that means lots of parades, which, contrary to popular belief, are quite family-friendly.)  Everywhere you look right now you see the signs of the season.  The swarms of people on the streets going crazy for little plastic throws and trinkets.  The king cakes in every grocery store and at every celebratory event.  The familiar purple, green, and gold colors on clothes, flags, and store windows.  It’s that time of year when we all laissez les bon temps rouler, and let the good times flow like water (or that indescribable Bourbon Street sludge). 

We’ve spent the last two days doing parades with the biggies, which got me thinking about all the great life lessons my kids are learning from attending parades.  So here’s my quick list of life lessons learned from Mardi Gras. 
  1. Be prepared.  Study the parade route.  Plan for anticipated traffic and where you’ll park.  Pack the essentials, including but not limited to sunscreen, waters, juice boxes, and even toilet paper.
  2. Be flexible.  Despite your best efforts to be prepared, things will not go your way.  That sidestreet you planned to park on is under construction?  Move on to Plan B.  Didn’t leave as early as you planned?  Suck it up and move on.  Even the adults are working on this skill, kids.  Example A—your dad, yesterday.
  3. Be patient.  Good things come to those who wait.  Things like giant plastic toothbrushes, fairy wings, frisbees, etc.  So grab a seat on the curb, kick back, and be patient.  Enjoy those juice boxes and snacks, and take in the music and colorful characters around you.    
  4. Do the work.  Like most things in life worth doing, parading is work.  You’ve got to endure traffic, wearing shoes (oh the horror, kids), long bathroom lines, walking to your parade spot, waiting for the parade, and shouting like crazy once the floats start rolling by.  You’ve got to put the time into these things to sit back and enjoy the parade and all your parade throws when all is said and done. 
  5. Make yourself known, stand out from the crowd, and ask for what you want.  This is a biggie.  You’ve got to speak up and stand out from the crowd—make yourself known.  This has been a great lesson for one of my girls who is more reserved.  We practiced shouting loudly and waving wildly so that she could be seen and heard.  And if you want that hot pink stuffed animal, try asking for it.  It never hurts to ask, and you may get exactly what you want.  You never know until you try.
  6. Be Kind.  Even when others are not.  We practiced this yesterday when one of my girls grabbed a coveted red plastic car just as another little girl swooped in underneath her and grabbed the other end.  Neither girl was letting go.  I convinced my reluctant daughter to give it to the other girl.  It was hard for her, and she was sure she had grabbed it first, but she still did it.  Just as I was patting her on the back for letting it go, her sister gave her an almost-identical blue plastic car because she saw how upset she was.  The lesson? Be kind.  Sometimes others will not be, but that shouldn’t stop you from continuing to do the right thing.
  7. You won’t always get what you wantThat’s life.  Still be grateful.  In our house, we frequently buy three of the same things to minimize fighting between the biggies.  No such luck at the parades.  There were lots of tears over a giant light up sword that one daughter caught at Orion the other night.  The other girls desperately wanted one and cried over it for a long time.  But sometimes, you don’t get what you want.  Life is hard that way, right?  I know you’ll want to sit and cry but you have to be resilient.  Pick yourself up and try again.  You really wanted those pink fairy wings?  I’m sorry, baby girl, today is not your lucky day.  But maybe you’ll end up with something else great, like the old-school glass Mardi Gras bead necklaces or an oversized flower.  Be grateful for what you get, not sad for what you didn’t.    
  8. Say thank you.  When that masked man on the float looks you in the eye and singles you out to hand you that stuffed animal you asked for—say thank you.  Say it loudly and say it even if he won’t hear you.  Still say it.  It matters.  Maybe not to them, but it’s still good practice.
  9. In the end, it isn’t really about the stuff but the fun times together.  Judging by the fights my group has been having over a single stuffed elephant they’ve named Ellie, we’re not quite there yet.  It’s still mainly about the stuff for them.  But I hope that one day, they’ll look back and remember the fun times we’ve had together at the parades.  I know that’s the case for me; my parents took my five siblings and me to every parade when we lived on the Mississippi gulf coast.  I’m sure that at the time, all we cared about were the beads, moonpies, and plastic trinkets.  But looking back now, all we remember are the fun times we had together.  We all laughed and let loose, and had a good time together.  And maybe that’s a good lesson for me to remember, too—it’s about the journey, not the destination. 
Happy Mardi Gras, y’all.  Make it a good one.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

An Ode to the Drive Through Coffee Shop

Drive through coffee shop, how I love thee.  Let me count the ways.
  1. It’s like Cheers—sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.  Or at least your order.    
  2. You can do some serious multitasking while you’re in line.  Chat with a friend.  Amazon Prime that birthday present for Susie’s party on Saturday.  Pluck your brows.  Or if you’re feeling really ambitious, pump milk for your triplets on your portable breast pump while covered with a giant blanket (hypothetically speaking, of course).  
  3. Did someone say naptime?!  For the kids, not for you.  Thank you, Starbucks, for putting my kids to sleep since 2008.  I specifically pick the coffee shop that is across town from my house so that my kids will take long naps, and every time it works like a charm.    
  4. No touching.  Not a single toddler hand can smack your face, not a single preschool foot can burrow into your back.  
  5. No touching.  It bears repeating.  
  6. You get a coffee drink that’s made especially for you—and no one else.  Want it half caff?  Ok!  Want it nonfat with two pumps of vanilla, too?  Done.  It’s all yours, baby, and you don’t have to share.
  7. You don’t need a bra.  There, I said it.  
  8. Or shoes.  No judging, they can’t see your feet.
  9. It’s the only thing open about at 5:30 a.m. when the kids have all woken up entirely too early. 
  10. Instant adult interaction.  That friendly barista really wants to know how your day is going.  So tell her about your crazy morning and how your kids are sick and you have no plans except savoring every sip of that perfect, piping hot latte.  Chat away.    
  11. Hungry? Add a cake pop and make it a meal!  No, just kidding, that’s dessert.  Lunch is a mean grilled cheese or, if feeling really indulgent, a giant chocolate chip cookie.
  12. It’s an acceptable reason to stay out of the house an extra 15 minutes.  
  13. If you’re really lucky, your coffee shop will have a trash can after the drive through.  Coffee and cleaned the car out?  Boom, your work is done for the day, friend! 
  14. It counts as an outing with your kids.  You ask what we’re doing today, kids?  Well, we already went the coffee shop, so go play outside til dinner.  
  15. When you really can’t make it into a grocery store for milk, you can order four grande milks instead.  No need to unload all those kids into the grocery store, the coffee shop has it covered.  
  16. It restores your faith in humanity.  Occasionally, the wonderful soul ahead of me pays for my coffee.  Maybe they hear me yelling at the kids?  Maybe they’re just generous people who want to put a smile on my face.  Done, strangers.  I’m smiling.  Thanks for covering my coffee and my $22 tab for all my kids’ drinks too.  I promise I’ll pay it forward.  
So friends, if you pass me on the road, I’ll raise my coffee cup to you as we pass each other.  Cheers to another day of caffeinated goodness.