tales from a stay-at-home mom of four boys

Archive for the month “August, 2013”

Death by parenting

I’m sure that I heard from multiple sources that having kids is a lot of work and exhausting work at that, but I don’t think anyone ever told me that having kids might kill me.

I have three boys; three very active boys. Whenever people see me braving the outside world with these three boys (who are spaced out in age at two year intervals), they make comments like “Wow, you’ve got your hands full!” Or “I bet they keep you busy.” But unless you’ve had three boys this close in age, you have no idea what it is really like.

As of this fall, my sons will be 2, 4, and 6 years old. Fun ages for sure, but also very trying ones. My almost 2 year old is at an age where he wants to be just like his older brothers and thinks he can do what he older do, but he lacks the motor skills and sense of danger that his older brothers have begun to accumulate with age. In recent days he has decided to: ride his riding toy down the middle of the street (twice), attempted to climb to the third story on a play structure, pushed a step stool over to our bar stools in order to climb up to the bar, tried to ride his brother’s Razor scooter, fallen and split his chin open on said Razor scooter requiring stitches, continual climbed up on and hung off of any and all tables, danced on the coffee table until he feel off backwards, jumped repeatedly from the coffee table to the couch, tried to figure out how the lawn mower works, stood on chairs to reach the water machine on the refrigerator, found out what happens when you put plastic toys in a fan, and attempted to climb the hill across the street and then jump off the hill into our neighbors backyard. Those of you with a two year old might think that sounds like a typical day for you. Those without a two year old might think that is enough to do a person in. Well, that is just one of my three boys. My almost four year old isn’t as daring, but he tends to be on the receiving end of his older brother’s wrath most of the time, which leads to lots of tears and many falls. My middle son takes falls (pushed or otherwise) from chairs, tables, scooters, stairs, beds, couches, and the stone wall. He also gets hit by many things such as: toys, plastic bottles, Legos, clothes, pillows, controllers, shoes, and balls. There is no end to the bumps and bruises, scratches and scrapes that this one gets. As for my oldest, my almost six year old, he is the most trying and troublesome one of all. Not only does he make constant demands upon me with no ability to wait for things, but he is also at an age where he is constantly pushing the envelope and doing things he knows he shouldn’t be doing. I feel like this past month I have become a warden constantly doling out consequences and enforcing punishments. He is going to kindergarten in a few weeks and I’ve been trying to explain to him that he is going to have new responsibilities, but also new privileges. He has taken this to mean that he is now a big boy and can do all sorts of big boy things that he clearly isn’t ready for. Among these privileges that he mistakenly thinks he has are: the ability to use art supplies, including scissors and paint, whenever he wants, taking a shower in the bathroom that doesn’t have a shower curtain, riding his bike halfway down the block with the 11 year old neighbor, ride his bike in the street, use a knife to cut food, cooking things in the toaster oven, turn the electric fire place on, go outside without permission, and using tools such as,hammers and nails, while I’m putting the baby down for nap.

All of these recent “adventures” with my boys are raising my blood pressure and some days (like today), I feel like my head is going to explode. My heart has skipped a beat more times than I can count in the last month or two, and I’m pretty sure the amount of grey hairs I have has doubled since summer began. The fact that we’ve made it this far into summer vacation with only one ER visit amazes me. If school weren’t just around the corner, I’m pretty sure I would just collapse and die one day soon and my official cause of death would be “mothering three young boys.” Let’s just hope I don’t have to change the name of this blog anytime in the near future.


How to take the lead out of a lead foot

I love our new house and neighborhood, it is so family friendly. Really, you couldn’t ask for a better place to raise your kids. When we moved to the Pacific Northwest, we were even lucky enough to buy a house on a cul-de-sac, which is perfect when you have three very active boys. My boys have been riding their scooters and bikes with all the neighbor kids around the cul-de-sac all summer; life couldn’t be better. Well, maybe it could. We do have one slight problem on this small, child-filled cul-de-sac, a lead footed neighbor.

We are one of only 4 houses on our private little street and all 4 houses have children living in them, 3 of the 4 houses have young children. The problem lies at the very end of the cul-de-sac where our lead-footed neighbors live with their 3 tween and teen children (one of whom just got his license and a brand new car). These neighbors at the end of the street are very private, keep to themselves, and are very protective of their property, which is bordered solely by my house. They are friendly enough to wave and say hi and I’ve even driven their daughter home from camp before, but they have never taken me up on any offers to join us for drinks or food like the other neighbors. I simply chalk it up to cultural differences and try to be respectful of their privacy. I do take issue, however, with the way they sped up and down our tiny little street with no regard for the little ones that play in and around our private street. I have considered talking to them about this issue, but have been advised by other neighbors that this will do no good as this has been an issue since long before I moved in and many neighbors, including those on connecting streets, have tried to convince them to slow down as they travel our child-filled neighborhood. Apparently one neighbor got so sick of their blatant disregard for the repeated requests to slow down that it ended in a shouting match. Knowing this, I thought I would try the subtle approach.

It seemed to work on the teen drive and the father as they slowed down to go around the sign, it it didn’t seem to work on the mother. Instead of slowing down, the mother gunned it as she passed the sign, driving up over the gravel on the side of the road. Her actions were done in such a way that all the neighbors who witnessed it felt that it was a blatant rebellion against the signs simple request. So I decided that I needed to go a step further and give them a little more motivation to slow down.

Note the large rocks piled in rather strategical intervals off to the side to make it more difficult to gun it through the gravel area. On the grass side some toys with sharp edges have been left on the edge of the road in a rather unfortunate spot for tires that might ride over them. If my neighbors decided to ignore my sign again, they will pay for it in the form of new tires. Hopefully my neighbors will get the point before it punctures their tires.

Only time, and lots of strategic toy placement, will tell if my neighbors will learn to slow down. If they don’t, this post might become a series of posts. Either way, I hope they make the choice to reserve the lead foot for highway driving and drive more cautiously through the neighborhood, before they hit a child and this story turns tragic.

Best laid plans and co-sleeping

So I’m a bed-sharer, there, I said it. Co-sleeper, bed-sharer,whatever you want to call it, my kids sleep in my bed with me. I am very aware that this is a frowned upon activity in this country; trust me, I’m aware (I hear it almost daily from my neighbor). But this is a choice I have made, even if it might not have been part of my original plan when I first became a mother.

Though my life before having kids is a bit hazy, I’m pretty sure I never thought to myself “hey, wouldn’t it be grand if, in my future, I were to have three kids and they all (or at least 2 of the 3) slept with me every night until they were five or older?” I’m pretty sure that if I’d thought that I would’ve have had myself committed. Yet here I am, almost six years into this parenting thing and two out of three of my kids sleep with me every single night while the third sleeps with my husband in a different bed. No, not ideal, but it works for us, right now at least.

It didn’t start this way, it just kind of progressed to this point. When my oldest was born I had a crib in another room and a co-sleeper in my room. I used to put him down in the crib after swaddling him and nursing him to sleep and then tend to him two hours later when he woke to nurse again. The problem was, in the house we lived in at the time, my bedroom was upstairs and his bedroom was downstairs, directly off the garage. That made me uncomfortable, so I used to bring him up to my room when I retired for the night. I would nurse him back down and then lay him in the co-sleeper. When he woke in the middle of the night, I would get up with him, go downstairs, and nurse him back to sleep before attempting to put him back down in the co-sleeper. The problem was, half the time I was so tired I began to fall asleep in the rocking chair, and the other half of the time, he would wake up as soon as he was laid back down into the cold co-sleeper, and just about every time, he would wake to feed a again within thirty minutes of me finishing this whole process. So basically I was getting no sleep. After two months, I had to return to work, so I knew I needed to work something out so I could get some sleep at night. That’s when I stumbled upon a solution. I found that a lot of times during the day, I was so tired that I would pass out with the baby in bed as I nursed him and we slept much better. My concern at night was that my husband would roll on top of him. So I figured out a way to prop the baby up on a pillow with my arm around him and angle him just right so that I could plop a boob in his mouth as soon as he began to wake so that I didn’t have to fully wake up and could get maximum sleep (with a newborn that is). This worked and as he got older, I enjoyed cuddling with him. At the time I was working during the day, so co-sleeping at night gave me a chance to bond with my baby. By the time my second baby came, we had moved to a house with bedrooms all on the same floor. My oldest was starting off the night in his crib and even sleeping through the night in his crib, on occasion, and I continued my co-sleeping tactic with baby number two. Before baby number three came along, my oldest was spending most nights in his own bed and my middle child would at least start off the night in his own bed. The problem was, they often woke during the night and came looking for us. My husband was getting up with the older one and bringing him back to his room, but then my husband began falling asleep in my oldest son’s bed and not returning. By the time my third son was born, my husband had got to the point where he would just go to bed in my oldest son’s room so that he didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night, while my middle son started off the night in his room, but eventually wandered into my bed. So it all just evolved over time as something that worked for us in order to get as much sleep as possible with three small children in the house. Sure, some nights we don’t get as much sleep as we like (okay, most nights), but I figure, we are still probably getting more sleep than we would be getting if we were playing musical beds all night like we used to. When the kids are sick, or teething, or having bad dreams, it doesn’t matter whether they are in their own beds or our bed because we aren’t going to get much sleep anyway. At least this way I have my own pillow and am not hanging off the edge of a toddler bed.

My husband and I are okay with our arrangement for the time being and we know that it is only temporary. The problem is, other people don’t seem to be okay with our arrangement. Normally I’m not one to care what other people think, but when I have to listen to people constantly tell me that I “need to get those kids out of (my) bed,” I begin to get a little irked. Yes, everyone has an option and they are entitled to it, but I don’t need to hear it. You raise your kids your way and I’ll raise my kids my way. Still, people feel the need to give misguided advise. When the boys were young, it was a constant commentary on how unsafe it was to sleep with my babies or that I was “spoiling” them and that I should just let them “cry it out” or they would never learn to self-soothe. Now I hear things like they are too old to sleep with me and should be in their own rooms, or that it isn’t right that my husband and I don’t sleep together, it will ruin our marriage. So for all those people who have felt to the need to constantly share their loving, but critical options on my sleeping arrangements, let me share some information with you.

First off, co-sleeping with your baby is perfectly safe, if you take the correct precautions. Both Dr. Sears and Dr. McKenna support co-sleeping and have research to show that, when done correctly, co-sleeping can decrease the chances of SIDS and can provide many benefits to both mother and child (Dr. McKenna, Dr. Sears) . Secondly, whether people realize it or not, co-sleeping is the cultural norm in 90% of the world and is practiced by nearly 200 cultures (cosleeping ). For whatever reason, we here in the US seem to think that every child needs their own bed and their own rooms. People forget that it wasn’t that long ago that multiple generations lived under the same humble roof, sharing both living and sleeping space. It is really only in the past 20 or so years that people have begun building these McMansions to live in, banishing children to their own wings. As far as spoiling a baby, their is no such thing. For nine months that baby is cuddled, comforted, and soothed inside the mother. On they day the child is born, they don’t just suddenly adjust to all the bright, harsh sounds and lights of the outside world and no longer need to be comforted. If that were the case, we would be born like other animals and walk out of the womb. For this reason, I refused to let my children “cry it out” (I won’t even go into the psychological effects I believe it has). That’s great that my neighbor kicked her kids out of her room when they were four days old or that a former co-work of my husband started to let his four week old “cry it out”, they have to live with those decisions just like I have to live with mine. Children are really only little for such a small amount of time in the grand scheme of things (despite what it might feel like at 2:30 am for the third night in a row of tearful teething). I want to cuddle my boys as much as possible while they will still let me. They aren’t going to be still sleeping in my bed when they are 18 (I’ll probably be lucky to get a hug from them by that age). When my boys are ready, they will begin to sleep on their own, in their own beds; after all, they do have them. As for my husband and I, people shouldn’t worry about our relationship, I mean we did manage to have three kids. Plus, I’m not sure my husband really wants to sleep with me. On the few occasions in which we have shared a bed recently, he usually moves to a different bed by 1:00 am because he says I’m too restless of a sleeper; I’m not sure he ever wants to share a bed with me again.

Each family needs to figure out what works best for their own family and what works for some might not work for others. I’m a bed sharer and I like it. For those of you who aren’t, don’t judge; after all, I’m not judging you for isolating your kid in a dark room each night.

Potty training part 3?

Maybe it is too soon to know, but this fall might bring the beginning of my third and final time potty training.

My 21 month old came walking into the kitchen this evening while I was making dinner and started pointing at the bathroom. I thought he just wanted me to help him wash his hands, but then he began pulling on his diaper. I asked if he wanted to sit on the potty and he gave me one of his huge, head bobbing “yes”s. I sat him on it, but can’t tell if he actually went, but he did sit for a while. Afterwards, I asked if he wanted to start to use the potty like his brothers. He thought for a minute, began to shake his head no, and then changed his mind and gave me another big “yes” head shake.

I guess time will tell, but how much am I going to love life when I no longer have any kids in diapers!?! Now if only I could get them to wipe their own butts.

Giving new meaning to “a day at the beach” and “a walk in the park”

A day at the beach.

A day at the beach.

So yesterday I took my three boys to the beach for the first time and afterwards we went to play at a nearby park. This got me thinking about sayings like, “it was a walk in the park,” meaning something is easy, or references to, “a day at the beach,” meaning relaxing and peaceful, (which probably initially helped prompt my desire to make this trip). But as I experienced this day at the beach and walk in the park, it occurred to me that the people who came up with these saying, obviously did not have kids with them at the time.

I vaguely remember a time when parks where things I strolled through leisurely and beaches were places where I relaxed in the sand with a trashy magazine while working on my tan. Maybe that’s why I still had this misconceived idea that spending a day at the beach with my kids would mean blissful hours of sand castle building while I sipped an ice tea and caught up on celebrity gossip, then joyfully splashing in the waves to cool off, followed by relaxing on a bench while the kids went down slides, swung on swings, and frolicked at the park. That wasn’t the case though. Once you have children, outings that you once found enjoyable morph into soul crushing battles of the will and wits.

First off, just to get ready to go on any kind of outing with three kids is a process. My husband often times laments the days when, if we wanted to go somewhere, we just got up and went. Now, I must pack for any possible situation and even for ones that might not be possible (because with three boys, anything really is possible). To go to the beach yesterday, I began packing the night before and was still packing things right up until the moment I walked out the door. In total I brought four different bags (one with bags within the bag), a sleeping bag, a stroller, and one more bag of things I picked up at the store last minute. The drive there wasn’t too bad (thanks the inventor of portable DVD player and wireless headsets). Once we arrived, I had to change the boys in the van, since we came straight from camp, and then the unloading of all the previous mentioned things began. Being the only adult, I couldn’t possibly carry all those things alone, so I had to load the stroller as full as possible, which really didn’t leave room for kids. We had to park up the street from the beach, so I had to wrangle the two kids, who didn’t fit into the stroller, and the two bags, that didn’t fit, and the stroller, about two blocks to the beach. Of course, once we reached the actual beach, the stroller had to be abandoned and I had to drag everything across the hot sand to the location in which we were going to set up camp. The kids, of course, wanted to immediately run into the water, but we still had to squeeze water shoes on and lather our bodies in sun screen. Once that was done, we were ready to joyfully splash in the water. Well, the was definitely splashing, but it was less than joyful. They were splashing each other, they were splashing others, at one point my oldest dumped a bucket of water on some poor, unsuspecting boy whom he thought was his brother. Then there was the rock, sand, and seaweed throwing. Oh and did I mention that watching small children around water, especially wavy water, is far from relaxing or fun? When we were done in the water and ready for a break, it was time for a snack, which consisted of a little of everything that I’d packed mixed with fistfuls of sand, and then a reapplying of sun screen, which felt more like a sand scrub thanks to the copious amounts of sand stuck to our bodies. Then there were the multiple trips to the bathroom in which all four of us trekked across the sand carrying anything of valuable with us, only to make the trek again ten minutes later when someone else now needed to use the bathroom. At this point, it was time for some blissful sand castle making. Yes, this was my moment to really relax and read a magazine or newspaper; right after I settled the fight over who got to use which pail (after all, we only had four pails and three boys, so why would it work out that everyone got a bucket?). I managed to make it to the third page of my paper before I had to talk to the boys about flinging sand. After the tenth time I talked to them about this, I managed to return to my paper and get a few more pages in before I had to tell them to dig separate holes since they were fighting over it. I was so close to finishing my short, local paper, when the screams began, the shovels full of sand flew at faces, and one of the boys ended up pushed down into the sand. Eh, there really wasn’t anything all that interesting in the paper anyway, time to pack up all this crap and hit the showers. So, I pack up everything, I drag it across the sand to the stroller, and then I push three boys and all our stuff, now hap-hazardly thrown onto the stroller, over to the showers were it becomes a full on wrestling match to get the boys to rinse off the sand from their bodies and to keep them from going back into the sand.

At this point, it was time to grab some dinner and call it a day. Aside from my middle child deciding to lay on the floor and throw a fit every chance he got, dinner went rather smoothly (I’m sure the promise of ice cream to anyone who was good had nothing to do with it). In fact, dinner went so well that I decided to venture to the park around the corner to burn off any left over energy they had before we started the drive home. I figured, a frolic in the park would be the perfect way to end the day, which was already beginning to have a nostalgic haze, thanks to the ice cream comma I was slipping into. Unfortunately, frolic seems to have a totally different meaning for boys. Apparently frolic means, running around like crazy, climbing up slides, jumping off things way too high, charging head first at moving swings, and trying to kill yourself and/or give your mother even more grey hairs. I knew it was time to call it a day when my not-quite-two year old got plowed over by his swinging oldest brother and took a fall that would make his chiropractor cringe, coming up with a face (and mouth) full of wood chips. Oh yes, it was now time to head home and watch as these tired little guys passed out, leaving me with the easy bedtime of carrying them and all the wet, sandy bags in from the car. Ha, ha, ha, like it would be that easy! Only the youngest fell asleep on the way hope and he promptly woke up the second the car pulled into the driveway. The older two, who were so close to snoozeville, quickly perked up as soon as they walked into the house and saw that their dad was home. So much for that plan.

Of course, despite all that didn’t go the way I intended, and my dreamy little picture of that day being smashed, I must be a glutton for punishment, because on the ride home, I asked my two older boys if they had had fun and wanted to do it again another day. Of course they’d had fun and wanted to do it again! After all, they’d just had a day at the beach and a walk in the park. And you know what, I had too.

A new meaning to the phrase “standing cheek to cheek”

As my kids stripped naked for baths tonight, I looked over to see my 5 and 3 year old standing bent over, butt to butt. My 5 year old than shouts, “Mom, we just did a butt high-five!”

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