By the numbers

So here’s a recap of my weekend by the numbers….

4 sick kids

2 kids with multiple fevers (they kept coming back)

3 kids with constant diarrhea diapers (sorry for the tmi—just keepin’ it real)

2 times I got puked ON.

1 vomit episode on the bed (all by the same kid—Poor Little Rascal)

3 different kinds of meds (essential oils, tylenol, and a kids cough syrup)

15 loads of laundry washed and dried (FIFTEEN!!!) [notice I didn’t say folded?!]

1 master bathroom toilet repair

1 downstairs family ceiling leak (due to previous mention about master toilet)

3 different grocery stores shopped at

7 make ahead freezer meals DONE.

2 times a day the dishwasher washes a full load

1 very dirty kitchen floor

1 grumpy-still-working-nearly-all-the-time-daddy

1 doing-90%-childcare-and-can’t-wait-for-hubby’s-work-to-let-up-and-exhausted momma

Goodnight.

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Mini Man’s 4th

Happy 4th Birthday Little Man!

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Little Man you have taught me what a true gentleman is.  You exude a gentleness that I never knew existed with boys.  When I was pregnant with you, Daddy and I decided to not find out whether you were a boy or a girl, but I had a strong suspicion that you were all boy in there.  And boy did it terrify me.  All I knew about boys were destruction, trips to the ER, and trouble with a capital T.

But you turned all that upside down with your bashful smile and tender hugs.  Your shy demeanor might turn away some, but when you decide that someone is safe, that special person gets to witness the ginormous heart that you have.  I can already see that you might not have a ton a friends when you get older, but the friends that you do make will be lifelong buddies.

You impress anybody who is patient enough to listen.  You were talking so well by age 2, I constantly forgot that you weren’t 4 already.  You knew your letters and numbers by your 2nd birthday.  When everybody talked about how boys mature so far behind girls, I kept shaking my head wondering what they were talking about.  You are brilliant and I can’t wait to see where it leads you one day.

Your daddy and I can already see some musical aptitude (hence your nickname here).  You have natural rhythm and love to “play” your guitar just like daddy.  You also graciously musically accompany your sister when she is putting on her one woman sing-a-long show.   You are patient with your take charge sister and willingly allow her to dress you up in whatever girly get up suits her fancy for that day.

You are often (but not always) are patient with your emotional little brother during his highs and encouraging him during his lows.  When your baby brother came home, my heart burst with joy at the amount of love you showered him.  I’ll never forget you holding our baby for nearly 2 hours content to sit with him like nothing was more important.  You even cried when I offered to take the baby so you could play with toys.  I couldn’t believe what a fantastic boy we got with you.

You my little guy are most certainly quality.  The Lord has rewarded me with a fantastic son.

I couldn’t be more proud to be your mommy.

Love,

Your very blessed mommy

But, I’d be even more thrilled if you would just be potty trained already.  Seriously kid.

Staying True to My Word

Remember when I said that my New Year’s goal and motto was “LESS IS MORE!”?  Well I do and I’m keeping my word.  Ever since we came back from Minnesota for our Christmas vacation, I have been diving into our piles of stuff and selling or donating as much as I can.  Its nearly become an obsession.

I have been doing this since September of 2013!!!  Ever since we moved to another state with nothing and lived with the very basics, I have been a changed woman.  I have understood the value of having less stuff.  Less stuff means less time taking care of said stuff.  You see I am a recovering hoarder and stuff has become my enemy.

With the chaos that Christmas can bring, it creates a whole new challenge of managing our massive quantities of stuff.  Getting rid of stuff has practically become a full time job.  But my heart gets happy when another pile of clothes gets donated or another piece of furniture gets bought.  In fact, recently I have decided to stash my earnings in a separate place and decided that if I wanted to buy something from one of the sites that I was selling from, then I would have to use my stash.  Well, I found a dresser that was perfect for the master bedroom!  I mean its gorgeous!  Pearly white with a black top that someone lovingly restored.  Best part?  I had made enough money selling off my childhood furniture to buy this piece that ‘spoke to me’.  It felt great to get rid of (a ton) of old to make room for the new.  And to pay for it with my earnings?  Bonus!!!

When I am deliriously tired from the constant kid needs and homeschooling and no husband to help (he’s always working), but still need to purge our house from my enemy, I focus on that feeling of euphoria when it will be gone.  Good riddance to used stuff.  Hope it blesses others as much as it does me by not having it!

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” — William Morris

My petite posse

Motherhood can be dreadful and a painful process.  Many days I feel like all I am doing is commanding orders or being their slave.  Sometimes its too easy to be busy with all the ‘must do’s’ like preparing meals, laundry, cleaning, that sort of thing, to enjoy this SAHM lifestyle.  Of course you have to do all the chores, but it rarely leaves time for much else, especially with three kids in diapers.  Perhaps it’s because my kids are so young, but I feel like there is barely enough room in the day for the ‘want to’s’ (yes I realize that isn’t a real word auto correct.  Just go with me on this), like simply playing with my kids, going to the bathroom uninterrupted or having a dessert I don’t have to share.

Which is why tonight was oh so special.

I believe there are few moments of true bliss and recently I was able to capture that with me and my petite posse.  You see I suddenly discovered the you tube button on my smart tv.  Suddenly disney sing-a-longs were happening at full blast with all of my children jumping into the mix.  My daughter, who believes in her own future stardom, was a clear enthusiast holding our play microphone ready for her solo.  My 2 year old music lover has been exhibiting his own a capella songs during lunches recently, and was definitely excited about this new living room adventure.  My shy-please-don’t-look-at-me-too-long 3 1/2 year old was so excited he grabbed the nearest play guitar to jam with our little people family band.  Even the baby, who is prone to rock out every time he hears a good beat, was in for the fun bouncing back and forth during an especially good tune.

For a moment, I was able to really enjoy the precious and rare moment where we were all legitimately having a wonderful time together.  (Come on you know Candy land is ‘fun’ but a trying experience!)  We were all in on the music/dance/fun train.  We were all rocking out without a care in the world.  Suddenly I can appreciate that these little people aren’t just my kids.  They aren’t just the miniature humans that I must sacrifice and serve all.day.long.  For once, I could see them as fun friends.  And it was amazing.

Perhaps that family band isn’t such a pipe dream after all.

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*potential 1st album cover* LOL

Tips for traveling with small children

We are back in the land of the bright and shiny, and the land is pretty warm too.  😉  Which means to say that our vacation in “I don’t know how humans survive this!” weather in the midwest is over.

This also means that we can put another badge on our parenting vest for “Traveled with Small Children…. And We ALL Survived!” because really, it is a miracle.  And these days its a miracle that we haven’t gotten kicked off the plane.  We have 4 kids which means we have a 400% greater chance of landing in a non designated stop with only one family being personally escorted off the airplane.

One might conclude that I am either A) Amazing or B) Utterly Insane for all the traveling we do with 4 kids 5 and under.  I’d like to think I’m a little bit of both.  Having successfully managed this Mount Everest Parenting Task (MEPT), I’d thought I’d jot down a few tricks of the trade, in case you were thinking of being a bit insane too.

  1. The dollar store is your friend.  I often go to the dollar store to pick up a few new toys for each of the kids and sometimes I even wrap them up to give them a few more minutes of play time (i.e.: not crying time).  These new toys are fun to explore and keep them occupied for a little while.  Plus they aren’t expensive (hello its a buck!) so if they lose it by the time we hit the runway I don’t care.  Its worth every cent.
  2. Dum Dum suckers.  Either at the dollar store pick up or at the local convince store I try to stock my diaper bag with a couple of dum dum suckers per kid.  When you have an infant it is easy (or rather easier because nothing is really easy with a baby) to help their little ears with the pressure and flight/landing with nursing or a bottle or even a pacifier if they will take it (my 2 year old does when he wants to sleep so he took one and I didn’t care about the shame that my 2 year old still likes a pacifier).  The bigger kids need something too, so I give them suckers during take off.  The kids think this is the coolest thing since I never give them suckers otherwise.  Its become our new tradition.  And on this last flight I happened to have a bag of hard candies and a box of gum (I never seem to have these things on a regular basis so I’m convinced that it was an angel who placed these things in my bag), which was great for me because my ear was hurting so bad and the sucking and chomping really helped.
  3. Get the right bag/parent/kid combo.  If you are traveling with more than one kid and perhaps in more than one row, like us, this tip can really be beneficial.  I divvy up the carry on bags by which parent and which particular kid they will be sitting with.  For this trip daddy had the evens (#2 & #4) and I had the odds (#1 & #3).  Because daddy had the baby in his row it was important that he have the diaper bag, which had the bottles, formula, diapers, a few baby toys, and a blanket he needed to help him fall asleep (see tip #5).  I had the big kid bag which had the coloring books and crayons, dollar store finds (tip #1), snacks (see tip #6), and the IPad with a few pre-loaded shows.  You need to know which bag goes with which kid/parent set up.  If not done well, results could be disastrous.  You would hate to be the parent with the baby and no diaper.  Awful.  Plan ahead of time.
  4. Empty your sippy cups.  I know it seems like a “duh” moment to say “Hey don’t bring any liquids!” on a plane since they aren’t allowed…. for adults.  However, they do allow certain things for kids.  I have to bring bottles for my littlest so I can’t get away from bringing some liquid, but I have stopped bringing anything for the bigger kids.  I have found it to be so much easier to have empty sippy cups to open and have ready for the regular drink cart round up.  It helps cut down time with the TSA inspection, which can be such a drag.  The flight attendents will fill up their sippy cups as much as you want and its plenty for the kids.  Bonus, if you limit the kids liquid intake before the flight, the better chance you have of not having to enter the bathroom of shame that is located in the back of the airplane with your potty trained kid.  Have you ever shared that teeny tiny space with another person?!  Let me tell you, you will curse the cheeseburger, ahem, ok ok the many cheeseburgers that you have eaten and vow to start dieting immediately once you return to your seat.  You will take a look into that low lit circus fun house mirror that resides in all planes, and wonder how did you get here as you are praying that your young child doesn’t lick anything while your butt is in their face at the attempt at giving her ‘privacy’.  But I digress…..
  5. Make sure to bring your child’s special nap time friend/paci/blanket.  Whatever it is that your kid needs to fall asleep, bring it.  This is for 2 very important reasons.  One, you don’t want to put it into your checked baggage in case it gets lost and then you will be in a world of hurt for as long as it takes to get it returned to you, if it even does.  Two, if you are flying during a nap time or on a red-eye, you want to give them and yourself a fighting chance at sleep.  My 2 year old has a special tiger and when he doesn’t have it he will whine whine whine whine whine whine whine until he has it.  Its dreadful.  I can’t imagine what it would be like if I forgot it.  *shudders*  Don’t put yourselves or your fellow passengers in a torture tube.  Bring the special things!
  6. Bring snacks!  I can’t stress this one enough.  Snacks makes everyone happy.  Kids are entertained by food and when their bellies are happy, everyone is happy.  Pack way more than you think you need, because suddenly they become ravenous creatures with a hollow leg.  Imagine that they will eat the entire flight, because they just might.
  7. Fill up your freezer.  This tip is for your return home.  Before you leave, freeze any remaining milk and bread that you have left over that you couldn’t eat through before you leave for your trip.  This is great for a couple of reasons.  One, you don’t waste anything, which appeals to my cheap nature, and two, you have necessary items at home when you return.  On flight days, from door to door, it can take up nearly the entire day, so the idea of getting home and having to turn right around to the grocery store is the worst.  This time we froze our basics and simply pulled them out of the freezer and was able to survive for a couple of full days before we had to venture out for fresh food.  It made our transition home oh so much easier.  I highly recommend this.
  8. Make sure to bring cash or credit.  In case you didn’t due your homework, the flights do have snacks and electronic devices that you can rent.  Give yourself the option and get these things if you didn’t bring the necessary items.
  9. Have a sense of humor.  Honestly, it is really really hard to travel with young children and sometimes the only way you can survive this crazy adventure is if you laugh at the insanity of it all.  When there are rude people all around (and believe me they are ALL AROUND), or the flight attendants get snarky about your ‘I thought the brochure said I should’ baby wearing, or the other passengers accidentally bump into your just-got-to-sleep-baby and woke up him up, the only thing you can do is either cry or laugh.  I try to laugh.  But don’t do it loud.  Everybody freaks out at loud noises on planes.

These are simply tricks that have worked for us to streamline our travels with our young posse.  These are also tips that perhaps you haven’t thought of.  Got any tips to share that I might have missed?  I would love to hear them!

New Year New Beginnings

Today is the start of the new year.  No big surprises that many people are resolving to implement new and life changing goals into their lives with this fresh start.  I’m no different.  Although I don’t usually have new years resolutions, I have decided to change my outlook on them due to some re-evaluation.

You see, for the past several months my family has had some turmoil.  Not me and my Music Man or our children mind you.  But family is family and sometimes their drama leaks onto your own messy life and somehow you have to find enough paper towels to clean up everybody’s mess, or at least enough to make sure that your own hands get clean.  And in dealing with the sticky affair of other people’s sorrow, I have been unable to concentrate or fully be present in my own life.  Some of this is a natural reaction, but some of it is not.  I want to change that.

So here is a few thoughts I have for myself for this coming year.

1.  Do less.  Have less.  Acquire less.

I have realized that I busy myself so much that I don’t seem to have the time or energy to really be present with my most important life work; my kids.  Often I find myself impatient or tired or an attitude of “please leave me alone” when I’m around these precious little ones.  Granted, its normal and probably understandable that I might have these feelings, however I realize that I have had a part in my own grumpy attitude and needing to acquire more me time.  I feel that if I can cut back on things, and more importantly the necessary bit of taking care of said things, then I would have more time and energy to spend quality time with my kids.  Read to them.  Play games with them.  Go on a walk with them.  Bake cookies with them.  Whatever.  Frankly it doesn’t matter.  Although I’m a SAHM, I still feel like I miss it all.  I’m too busy with cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc.  I’m drowning in all the stuff that doesn’t matter.

2.  Leave the drama for my momma

I’m a feeler.  I always have been.  I have a Bachelor’s degree in counseling.  I’m an actor.  I was an only child who spent her childhood very lonely and earned myself a very active imagination.  Feeling is like breathing.  Sometimes these traits are a blessing, and sometimes its a detriment to my soul.  After a life changing year of being an RA in college, I realized that I couldn’t be counselor.  Why?  Because I would take home every sad, depressing, and heartfelt story and it would fester within me till it leaked out of my pores.  I can not carry the weight of every one else’s problems.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t care.  On the contrary.  It means I care too much.  And since I can’t change this about me more than I can change my skin color, I’ll just eliminate drama as much as I can.  If I can’t, I’ll simply turn my heart head away and focus on what’s important for me and my family.  God, husband, children… the good stuff.

3.  Less Facebook/Internet

Coming to Minnesota has helped cure some of my laziness and tv addiction.  It helps when you just simply don’t have it.  However, I still find myself wasting a lot of precious time randomly scouring the internet for goodness knows what.  My face is in my phone while my kids are tugging on my pants desperately trying to get my attention.  I need to scale down my distractions, and this is a big one for me.

4.  Make time for quality not quantity relationships

Living in 2 places sounds like an adventure.  And it is.  However, I have felt that instead of being connected and enveloped into 2 places, often times it feels like I am disconnected from 2 places.  Connections and friendships are harder to maintain.  I often wonder if I have friends at all most days.  Sure, some of that comes with the stage that many of my peers are in with work, family, and school keeping us all busy.  Its natural.  But it’s still difficult.  So for this next year, I’m going to keep my relationships simple.  Quality over quantity.

Seeing a theme here?  I’m aiming at a more minimalistic way of life.  If that is even possible with 4 kids and husband!

2015 mantra… LESS IS MORE.

London Family Fog

Turkey.  Stuffing.  Sides.  Pie.  Laughter.  Joy.

These are the things I look forward to during the lovely Thanksgiving holiday.  Most of these things were served up and went down my gullet just fine.  Although, this year we departed from tradition and celebrated way too early.  In fact, we ate our fancy feast the weekend after Halloween.  We decided that it was more important that we were all together on this celebration than apart on the actual calendar day.  However, along with the delicious food, someone decided to heap this onto my full plate…

Drama.  Chaos.  Internal Family Combustion.

Needless to say our Turkey day wasn’t as awesome as I had hoped for.

Since then I haven’t been able to concentrate or be creative in many ways.  Perhaps this is the reason that every time I have tried to write a blog post, I seem to be unable.  My mind goes blank.  Thoughts drip out of my head like a leaky faucet.  It doesn’t help that during my most potentially productive time, the kids are around and it makes it harder to shut them out focus.

When I’m able to process more and pull my head out of the fog, I’ll update you on what is going on.  But until then, enjoy a couple of cute kiddos.  I do.

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Children’s Hunger Fund field trip

Recently my baby girl and I participated in a field trip.  This field trip was more than your average learning experience.  This was our first venture into volunteering or more appropriately caled, serving.  Really, is there any other more important life lesson that we can teach our children?

We drove to a nearby city to do what we could for a great christian organization called Children’s Hunger Fun (CHF).  Their ministry is to package dried fruit, rice, or other non perishables to those countries in need.  For this go around we were packaging dried fruit for children in Haiti, whose lives have been destroyed by an earthquake, and Liberia, for those infected or trying to fight Ebola.

What none of us knew ahead of time was that a camera crew would be with us to film for their noon day humanities story.  Miss Ariel can be seen for just a moment, but mostly you hear her screaming due to all the fun she was having.  Did she help?  YES.  Did she get distracted?  YES.  Was she excited to help other boys and girls who needed assistance?  YES.  Was she exhausted by the end of the day?  YES.

Here is the clip that made it on to the local news.  (sorry my host site won’t currently let me load a video)

http://www.nbclosangeles.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Volunteers-Ship-Care-Packages-to-Ebola-Stricken-West-Africa_Los-Angeles-281870231.html

Compassion.  Empathy.  Kindness.  Service.  Selflessness.  All of these character traits are taught and must be cultivated.  Some people are naturally gifted in this way, but ultimately we are all sinners who are selfish and unkind.  It takes discipline, faith, and a heart for the Lord to love others.  It is wonderful to be able to take the time to work this muscle alongside my sweet baby.

If we were to do just one field trip this year.  This would be it.

There is nothing greater than to Love God and then in turn love others just as Christ loved us.

Date night

A couple of weeks ago Music Man and I made a plan.  We were going on a date whether it killed us.  We barely have time to sleep, let alone make time for one another.  But it truly is necessary.  Luckily for us we discovered a BOX FULL of gift cards.  We apparently had been saving them EVER SINCE WE HAVE BEEN MARRIED.  (Um, talk about hoarding.)

It was like a Christmas miracle.

We snagged an awesome last minute babysitter, and despite the hijinks that ensued that made her 45 minutes late, we were out the door.  Because of my out of control insecurities (hello 4 babies worth of pregnancy fat, I’m looking at you), I actually cried saying “I don’t want to go.  I look awful.”  Guess my kids aren’t the only ones who throw temper tantrums and are ungrateful.  My dear sweet hubby was a little frightened about his next move.  Should he say “oh no honey, your fine!” of which I would vehemently deny.  Should he give into my frustration and give up too?  Or should he just smile, nod and quietly walk out the door in fear that I’ll turn my self loathing onto him?

He was wise and stuck with me on my emotional train and politely insisted that we go on a proper date.  We tried to remember the last time when we got out of the house, sans kids, and just had an enjoyable time (not a Fundatory time mind you) with ONLY each other.  We honestly couldn’t even remember.  That’s a sad realization.  We work so hard to have an enjoyable life and are too busy working to actually enjoy it.

We felt fancy by picking an often-a-wedding-venue restaurant to have dinner.  It wasn’t in our quiet little town.  It was new surroundings and unfamiliar territory.  And it was completely free!  Thank you gift card box!

We arrived and were transported into a fancy cocoon of coupledom.  The only tables they had were 2 seaters.

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*terrible picture I know*

The waiter came by our table and we began chit chatting with him and disclosed that we had 4 kids under 5 and homeschooled them.  He felt so sorry for us that the next time he came to our table he gave each of us a glass of complimentary champagne!  Guess it pays to live the life people envy…. er, I mean a life that freaks people out.  The best part?  I wasn’t pregnant!!!  Do you know what that means?  I could actually enjoy that glass and I had a glass of wine with our gourmet meal!  Amazing.

We got lost.  We laughed.  We relaxed.  We enjoyed each others company.  We ate delicious food (that I didn’t cook!).  We experienced something new together.

These are the moments.

Fried eggs

Crack.  Splat.  Sizzle.

Fried eggs.

THAT is what my brain is like these days.  My husband is in a very busy season.  He is working 7 days a week all day and into the late night.  He is surviving on coffee and sheer determination (me too).  I admire him.

Needless to say, when he is busy, I am busy.  Very busy.  Very tired.  Very crabby.  I can’t even make fully functioning thoughts most of the day.  In fact, I’ve been trying to write this post for the past half an hour and I’ve only gotten this far because I’m watching tv I can’t keep a rational idea in my sleep deprived head .  Daylight savings hasn’t helped either.  The kids have adjusted faster than I have.  My eyes open and my brain says “GET UP.  WE HAVE WORK TO DO”, but my body has “SUN SUN GO AWAY COME AGAIN ANOTHER DAY”.

I don’t know if you know, but kids are needy.  *snicker*  3 boys in diapers (don’t even talk to me about my failure to potty train my 3 year old!  UGH), 1 crawling and constantly hungry baby, 1 sensory perception disorder kid, 1 homeschooled kindergarten and 0 help.

I’m tired.  Scratch that.  I’m exhausted.  Scratch that.  I’m like a car with the low fuel light on practically outta gas.

The silver lining is that this is a great time to lift up my husband to my kids and tell them often about the hard work that he is doing for them and for me.  It was precious to hear my kids praying and thanking God for daddy working hard for them.  Understanding that daddy is a man who works hard is a good example not only for them, but for their expectations in their future spouses.  Instead of moaning and grumbling about how hard it is for me (and it truly is) I tell my hubby thanks for working hard for our family.

But with him unavailable to help with the family, I’m not gonna lie, I have visions of nannies dancing in my head.

A stay at home mom can dream.