Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One Potato, Two Potato, Three potato . . . No More!

June 11, 2010

DSC00686A year or two ago, I interviewed babysitters very differently than I do now. Two years ago I was willing to hire a sitter because she had CPR and claimed to love children. She proceeded to sit on my floor and pat my kids on the back while watching soap operas. One down. The next one got cozy on my couch and decided it was ok to change what was recording on our TiVo because she wanted to watch something else. Meanwhile, my kids sat on the floor and looked up at her with curiosity. Two down.  I hired a doula who is my mom’s age, and she was wonderful. She came over twice a week, made me something to eat and insisted I go take a nap. While I fitfully slept, she folded laundry, tidied up and fed the babies. But she was ghastly expensive and I desperately needed more help. Three down. All this within the span of a month. Over the next few months I tried one more gal, who seemed great at first – then called in pregnant one day. Four down.

Somewhere along the way in that first couple of months, KK came along. She was laid back, and at first I thought maybe she was not so motivated because she came across as very mellow. Boy howdy was I wrong! She is one of the best things that happened to my kids and our family. This girl walked in and started laughing with my babies, and was equally at ease laughing with me, even though she is young enough to be my daughter (notice I didn’t say I am old enough to be her mother). Over the past two years I also hired two more amazing young ladies, and they all work a few hours a week so I can get out to the store, meet a friend for coffee now and again and they provide extra energy to the kids when I feel just worn out. From them all I have re-learned things I used to know and thought I still did. They are all closer to having been babysat and been children than I am. They are more in touch with playing games, blowing bubbles and drawing with sidewalk chalk than I am. I was so sure I was. I wanted my kids fiercely and I love them with all my heart. But no one tells you how hard motherhood can be. And truly, you can’t know anything about anything until you are actually there. 

Due to the kids’ therapy requirements, I needed to have help. But I could not decide if I wanted one full time person or an occasional sitter. What I did decide, was to have a few college age gals who all do a few part time hours. Then if one got sick, quit or went on vacation, I had back up. Having energetic young sitters around to help me care for and play with my kids has been the best choice I could have made. On days I felt too tired to function, they showed up with songs and games in mind. On days I had more energy, we all walked to Starbuck’s for coffee. But more than just providing energy, they became part of our family. It’s not an office job, they don’t have to dress up. They do have to be on time, they do work for money. But the job of caring for someone’s children, and being able to entrust my kids, my entire home and its contents to someone, is a huge deal. While we are already a family of six and not looking to expand, learning to be comfortable with sitters was not easy at first. 

On the eve of watching two of our girls prepare move on to ‘real world’ situations in their lives, I find myself thinking again about interviewing new people. This time around I will ask tougher questions. I will watch more closely how my kids respond when the girls arrive for interviews. I am no longer desperate for another person to be with me and my ducklings all day. When I find the right person, I wonder if they will fit into that narrow space that requires them to be professional when they arrive, yet quickly become comfortable with our family. But not so comfortable that they become couch potato number five.

Getting Out

June 07, 2010

Black Crowes 018I often underestimate the power of getting out of the house. I’m less motivated to take my kids out when I am alone for several reasons, not the least of which is that I cannot run in three directions if they all take off on me. This is bound to happen sooner or later, but most of the time they are their own play group. Being naturally more solitary, I’m content to stay home. Working at home gives me balance, besides the ever present opportunity to wipe snot off my shirt and pick up empty bottles. Don’t get me wrong, I take the kids on play dates. And we visit the children’s room at the local library once a week (it is a contained room with toys, books and games). This being my comfort zone, I often forget that it is also a vacuum, where it’s pretty easy to avoid drama and have a peaceful existence, outside of the requisite crying and sibling rivalry. 

So when I was offered tickets to a Black Crowes concert, I hesitated. I confess, I actually had to look them up and listen to some samples of their music to see if I recognized any of it. I did, but I still wasn’t sure it was my thing. Since my kids were born, I have struggled to do anything new, opting for things of comfort and security. I decided I would reach out. I invited a new friend I don’t know well, who I would like to know better, and who I knew could also use a night out. She has twin one year old boys and hasn’t lived here for too long, and agreed to join me. We chatted about motherhood and related issues on the drive to the concert, noting that making new friends is sometimes like dating – trying people on to see how they fit. It can be tough to connect with people. At 40-something, I figured the Black Crowes would not really be our thing. But where it got comedic was when the Dolby Surround Sound truck offered us a listen in their rolling theatre. I hadn’t exactly expected that we would end up drinking wine that was chilling in a cooler in the Dolby guy’s car trunk. As I anticipated, the music turned out not to be for either of us. Watching the opening band and the Black Crowes, all old guys with too much beard, flannel shirts and incense floating around made us realize that it was pretty late. We had fun, and it was nice to be out and about. But five a.m. comes all too fast when one and two year olds decide it’s time to start the day. I don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep.

Ice Cream as Punishment?

May 12, 2010

Ice creamThe timer goes off for the nutritious lunch I have put in the oven for my little ones. Once they are safely ensconced in their high chairs, I casually move the Ben & Jerry’s container into which I have been digging for that elusive ribbon of caramel, over to the other side of the fridge so they cannot see my gluttonous indulgence. 

What I realize as I shovel in the very tasty and oh so satisfying treat, is that I used to do this in college when I was a young and angry girl. Down with every spoonful or forkful of attractiveness prohibiting food I ate, went my misery, anger, sadness, whatever the negative emotion of the day was. My lips coated in sugary caramel, I ponder that which has been eating at me (pun intended) of late. Family issues rooted in childhood. Ok, now that sounds pretty much like everyone I know, so why is this still lingering? I could answer that, but I won’t here.  I already know the answer. The problem isn’t that I don’t know the problem, or the answer. It’s how it works its way into my mouth instead of out of my head. 

Why then, do I not turn to something with protein, like chicken? Or steak? Food like ice cream is supposed to be bad for you, and supposedly I am punishing myself by eating it instead of working it out in some other manner, like exercise, as a healthy person might. (I do exercise, but it is just not enough to account for what I eat.) Therefore, I am indeed punishing myself. When I am at the market next time, picking up more ice cream for my husband (it was his stash I delved into), I will inevitably see a magazine with a skinny bitch airbrushed on the cover and sigh because I would give my eye teeth (what IS that anyway?) to look like that. The truth is, I would like to know what it feels like to look like that, but I am apparently unwilling to do the work it takes to get that way, minus the airbrushing. So I stand here, hiding behind the fridge, eating my punishment, which feels so much like a reward it’s no wonder women have a hard time with body image. It’s a mixed signal I am not sure I want to figure out.

Clearly I ought not be eating this, or like this, but I do nonetheless. Hypocrite that I apparently am, I sneak it thinking my kids won’t figure it out. After all, I can’t have them picking up my bad habits. 

I Work for Free

May 06, 2010

Break_freeI like working at home. I also like working for free. I know you’re sitting there thinking, “What is she talking about?” But it’s true. Years spent in corporate management yielded traveling, high salaries, free hotel rooms, TONS of accumulated mileage, great clothes, shoes, parties. Right, what’s the downside? I also was alone a lot, I missed TONS of family events, my friends and boyfriend(s) moved on when they got tired of waiting for me, and I was a slave to the paycheck. I was also a slave to the corporate culture. I had to act a certain way, be there on time, chant the company lingo and mantra at every opportunity, throw myself on the grenade for the good of the company (someone actually told me to do this once). What can I say? I was young, I needed the money. Or so I thought.

Of course I needed to put food on the table and have decent clothes to wear. Everyone has that need. But what I really needed was the freedom that comes from what I do now. Living my life. I have a strong work ethic and belief in self discipline and delayed gratification. This has served me well and still does. However, this does not mean that it must be used in nine to five circumstances. Since it only took me a couple of decades to figure that out, I was glad I didn’t have kids until I had come to that conclusion. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I would have been a horrible mother trying to have it all. 

One day, after 13 straight years in corporate leadership, I turned in my AMEX card and quit. A few days later I began coaching skating, and eventually carved out a career of sorts for myself in the world of figure skating, where most are volunteers. I believed I was headed for creative bliss on the ice and no more desk jobs, yet very shortly after I started this venture, I found myself being pulled into leadership again. It was different this time though. There was no money involved except for coaching. I could set my own hours. I rarely if ever saw my co workers, and I collaborated with people nationwide on projects instead of the daily routine.
I have been going about my life this way for over 12 years now. It’s great! I meet with everyone a few times a year, and the rest of the time, no make up, no dress up, and no early wake up! Well, that last part was true until my triplets came along.  A few days ago I returned from our annual meeting. I am exhausted, but so very satisfied. This morning, sitting on the floor with my kids, feeling like my legs are made of jelly, I smiled, realizing that I could get up and write an email right now to my group and come across as informed and articulate. No one would know how tired I am, or that I am wearing yesterday’s sweats and I have toddler snot on my shirt and smashed Cheerios under my butt (they're a carpet, they're a food, they're a carpet, they're a food . . .). . I like it this way. I work for free. Correction, I work for freedom.

Noise and Routine

April 20, 2010

NoiseMostly I can’t stand the noise or the crying. It doesn’t always bother me if they are upset. I can deal with whatever they have going on. But I feel like I have to keep taking these deep breaths and sighing and exhaling to stay calm when the noise level reaches a point where I can’t hear myself think any longer. What to do, what to do. I can’t hide in the garage, they know how to open the door. I can’t go outside, they want to go too. I can no longer put them in a pack-n-play, they can escape. 

I have recently changed our morning routine to keep them more occupied, with ‘distraction and action’ as my new mantra. Taking advantage of the time change, I have been trying to get my seemingly naturally early risers to sleep later.  That seems to be working mostly. After a later breakfast, or a second breakfast if they don’t eat enough the first go around, they play, then we read. When we sit down to read, we all prop up on pillows, cover our legs with blankets, and everyone takes a nice, deep breath. Genius! Once we have plowed our way through the same 10 books, they play some more, and then – it’s nap time. I live for that some days. 
This is, unfortunately, one more thing I am trying to adjust. Being very early risers follows with late morning naps instead of after lunch naps. This means we can’t go to classes anywhere because all the programs for their age group are held in the mornings. Play dates are tough to squeeze in with this schedule too. After lunch, it is one lonnnnnnng  stretch of backyard bubbles, fighting over toys and indoor noise until dinner and bath time. Then we do it all over again the next day. Most days it’s ok. But some days I just want world peace, err, peace in my world. 

Poo-Pooing the Potty

ElmopottyMarch 30, 2010

I hate toilets. I have always hated them. I don’t like being near them, I don’t like touching them, I get out of the bathroom as fast as I can, especially public bathrooms. This has all been very amusing to my husband, who was eager to see how I would handle diapers, poop and all things smelly baby related. Multiply that by three and I was in fear for my delicate nasal sensibilities my whole pregnancy. Surprisingly, diapers and their inevitable contents have not been that difficult for me. Changing them is no picnic, but I can do it pretty quickly, and my husband is kind enough to empty our fast filling diaper pail often.  But looming ahead of us is something I have always dreaded even more than diapers and toilets.  

Potty training. 

I am so not looking forward to this. I have heard that if you start potty training a child at two years old, they will be trained by three. And if you start training a child at three, they will be trained by three. Mine are a little over two now, so I am not in any big rush to get this going. But watching the Elmo’s Potty Party dvd, or whatever it’s called, daily, has apparently been so inspiring to my kids that they are starting to ask about sitting on the potty. While Elmo’s daddy sings, “Put your body on the potty”, and, “Everyone has accidents”,  I watch as my now toddlers look around for the potty door in our house that Elmo comes out of so they can go in it. This has resulted in tape around the door knob safety device so they cannot pop it off and go stick their hands in the toilet. Ewww. There is not enough anti bacterial gel to overcome that.

My husband has had potty parties a few times when he has gotten the kids to tell him they have a poopy diaper. Once he changes their diaper, they follow him in a pied-piper-like procession that moves to the bathroom where the offending excrements are ceremoniously deposited in the toilet and one of the little ones gets the privilege of flushing it. They wave ‘bye bye’ to the poop and march back into the living room proudly to tell me all about it. I informed him that he can continue this, but I will not be following up with it during the day. 
And perish the thought of the day I will have to toss perfectly good Cheerios or Apple Jacks into the commode for aiming practice. The only thing worse than being in the bathroom is being in the bathroom with food. That’s gotta be about six kinds of wrong, or more. But hey, perhaps it’s a good dieting strategy. I mean, who wants to eat in a bathroom?

I suppose it’s all going to happen whether or not I like it. But I can’t imagine liking it. Sigh. In the everlasting words of Elmo’s daddy, “What you gotta do, do”. 


March 23, 2010

ChangesI visited a pre-school the other day. It was nice, everyone was friendly, and the rooms were neat and filled with children’s artwork and imaginary play toys. It was kind of an out of body experience until I realized that MY children’s artwork would soon be hanging on those walls. MY children would soon be running willy-nilly around the cute playground. And I will be the parent worrying that the gate can be pushed open for my oh-so clever escape artist child to take off through and make his way into the world. The gate itself is actually secure. Even if he tried to push the bar that opens it, he will not be successful in getting out. But one day, he will be allowed out, and will push other bars open on other doors, actually making his way in the world. This alarmed me as I am sure it has with mothers before me and those to come after me. Was I waxing too philosophical? How can they be two years old? How can they almost be ready for a pre-school class? 

Once upon a time I was a day camp director and had files upon files of medical release paperwork for the kids attending camp. Medicine lists, allergies, physical considerations, etc., all telling me what to do in case of an emergency. Not that I was nonchalant by any stretch, but I can say now that looking back, I had only a simple concept of what that paperwork meant. I was responsible for those children, and I took it seriously. But what it really meant was that I was a temporary ‘parent’ for the day. Those parents all trusted me and the companies I worked for to handle their children carefully. Though I cared for hundreds of children before my own, the responsibility I now feel for my three is more weighty than I could ever have imagined. Now that it is my own children, I must fill these forms out and trust that “in case of”, what I write down will be followed and my kids will be ok. But I can’t know that. We can’t ever really know that can we? We can only trust that we are making the right choices for them until they can do it on their own.

Splish Splash

February 22, 2010

LexiFrom time to time when I am washing endless bottles and sippy cups, I feel the warm water running over my hands and think about how nice it would be to just sit in a Jacuzzi, or a hot bath. Then I think about what it would take to get to the point where that would be possible. Sigh. After feeding, dressing, playing with and refereeing between three two year olds all day, it’s all I can do to get THEM bathed. No fair. They get to splash around in a bath tub, make a mess, NOT clean it up, then wiggle into fleecy jammies and go to bed listening to soft music.

The bed and bath time routine covers a nightly rendition of the clean up song (we have to sing it every night to put all the toys away), a disrobing where my daughter decides she is suddenly amped and ready to run around the house until we can catch her and steal the clothes off her body, and a special march into the bedroom to put Panda and Barney in bed before hopping into the tub.

For many months now I have been eyeing our hot tub in the back yard with a longing I cannot put into words. Unfortunately, cleaning up the water in it and maintaining it just isn’t high enough on the priority list. Things like groceries and doctor appointments keep getting in my way.

Perhaps that is why when my kidlets make such a huge ruckus in the tub, toss their toys out laughing, I sometimes don’t have as much patience as maybe I should. Tonight I smiled at it, remembering that they are having fun. It’s pretty great to see them bonding with each other. I just wish I was the one bonding with the hot water.

The Kitchen Symphony

February 14, 2010

LexiKids love routine. It turns out, so do adults.

Wash the bottles
Make the coffee
Cut the fruit and waffles up
Serve some to each kid
Clean the counters
Put away the high chairs

That’s breakfast.

I can barely hearken back to the days I slept late and meandered to the coffee shop before work or on weekends. I remember it, it just seems like it was someone else’s life. In those days the biggest decision was what to wear and which of my Starbucks coffee cups I felt like drinking from that day. I suppose that was a routine of sorts, but the choices only affected me.

Once we get naps underway, and oh yesss, the routine is in full effect for that dance, I have a little time to do whatever I want around the house. That usually involves some sort of getting on the computer with every intention of writing, doing a little work, or paying bills. Sometimes some of that even gets done.

Lunch and dinner are the same kitchen symphony. The cookie tray makes its metal banging noise as it the heat rises in the oven for the chicken nuggets, the pan sizzles as food is cooked, the forks get smacked against the high chair trays, the refrigerator doors open and shut in their own rhythm. I often find myself moving around the kitchen to the beat of it all, picking up fallen food and dropped water cups. Then I realize, I depend on this routine too. Though free and easy might sound good at times, on the whole, routine is what makes running a house full of kids work well. And the carefree choosing of a coffee cup just can’t compare to playing dress up with my kids, reading books with them and hearing their goofy laughter when they jump off the couch together. I count on it. 


January 28, 2010

This past holiday season was the first one where my kids opened presents. Before that they didn’t knowPanda  what a present was. After one day they were asking, "Presents, Mama, more presents?" I tried to go easy with gifts, but I got a little carried away.
I ended up filling a bin with toys that have outgrown, and another with some of the new stuff. I need to start rotating toys in and out of play. Three kids alone is enough, forget about the toy mess. Goodwill here I come. All they really needed was the paper. Then I got the bright idea to take the used wrapping paper and re-wrap the toys they already have so they could keep opening presents. Not sure if that was clever or if it will perpetuate the desire for ‘more’, but they had fun. I wonder how many years I can get away with that?

Their second birthday followed the holidays a month later. Given my daughter’s long standing obsession with panda bears, it seemed inevitable that she would receive more than the one she already has (that we have to pry from her death grip sleeping fingers as she lays on it at night in order to wash it). And she did. One dressed in a cute ice skating outfit, and another that talks. And two books with a panda on the cover. God help us all when one of the boys gets ahold of panda. Mayhem breaks out in the form of, “Paaaaan-daaaa!”and “PAN-da!” and “Pan-DAHHHHH!” When panda is safely nestled back into her loving arms, the sounds turn to a cooey, “Pandaaaaaa” and huge smiles. The boys each got an animal of their own this time around. A frog for one, (Hop Hop), and Barney for the other. Suddenly I am grandparent to a frog, a purple dinosaur and zoo animals as they all parentally feed, clothe and care for their menagerie.
Amongst the birthday spoils was a doctor kit from their beloved sitter KK, who taught them how to use the pieces in it. Daily we are now getting our hearts and ears checked, along with temperatures and pulses. Of course the ‘babies’ are getting checked too, and receiving shots as needed. At two years old they are mimicking everything we do (gotta watch the language). I’m just glad they also got brooms and a dustpan in their gift pile.

The Fish Oil Diaries

January 06, 2010

We were stunned at the 7am wake up yesterday. This morning, when I heard the first cry from the kids’ room, I groaned as I rolled over, dreading the reality check the clock would no doubt soon provide me. We were stunned yet again as I blinked in amazement that it said 6:30a. Ok, 6:25am. But damn close! For the first time in practically forever, my husband had to scramble to get his things together to go running with my brother. Usually we are up long before their planned meeting time. I felt the knot in my stomach as he readied himself, knowing I would be alone with the kids screaming, fighting, stealing bottles.

But OMG. I could actually feel my soul breathe a sigh of relief as I made some coffee and watched my usually crazed and screaming daughter calmly play with her toys and her siblings for almost 2 hours after they woke up. I wanted to shout, “It’s a Festivus miracle!” not that it has anything to do with any particular holiday). But that was the first funny exclamatory comment that popped into my head. We watch a lot of Seinfeld what can I say?

Amazingly, they also ate every single thing I put on their breakfast plates. Seriously. Not one scrap on the floor. And when I took a bathroom break, the two that usually rock hard in their chair to get the chairs to move? Nada!

We looked at each other as we rolled out of bed and wondered aloud what we did differently. My husband suggested we write down whatever we are doing in the next couple of days and then follow it religiously. The only real thing that has changed though, is giving the kids omega 3 fish oils. After two days of this, the changes are apparent. I have been thinking about this for some time and finally did it. Like I said, OMG! Not only did they sleep longer, play more nicely and not demand bottles first thing out of bed, but we got EIGHT HOURS of sleep ourselves! Though there is a small voice in the back of my mind questioning how long this will last, in this euphoria of the novelty, I am idealistic and hopeful. We are looking at a 2010 filled with a 13 year old’s angst and the ‘terrible twos’. But believe me when I say HAPPY new year!

On the third day however, they woke up at 5:30am, didn’t eat as much, napped one short stretch and generally were cranky. This left us scratching our heads as to what we did or didn’t do differently. I don’t actually expect miracles, but I am sure hoping . . .