Four Kids in Brain Dump Format

1. When I had two kids or three kids, I intuitively knew where they were at all times. With four kids, I periodically stop and think “Do I know where everyone is? Is everyone accounted for?”. And I have to do a mental roll call and make sure.

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I haven’t lost one yet. Winning!

2. I realized several weeks ago that I had been parenting number three via a “trickle down parenting” methodology. I was assuming that he would fall in line because we had worked so diligently on expectations and obedience with his two older siblings. He’ll catch on by watching and we won’t really need to do all the reinforcements and consequences, all over again. Or he’ll get older and just “get it”.

Ha.

When he was routinely leaving the house to linger on the front porch, visit our neighbors’ front porch/yard, or (once) walk down the sidewalk in his t-shirt and underwear while I nursed the baby, I realized that this method was failing. Apparently he needs- you know- direct, person-to-person parenting.

We have tightened up since then. Now he asks permission before he goes outside, and I consider that a major victory.

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3. There is just a lot of noise, a lot of the time. The only time this is not true is when the baby is napping and the three older kids are in front of a screen. I am making more and more peace with utilizing a dvd as a necessary part of my sanity at this stage. Ideally we would all make daisy chains and finger paint all afternoon, but…no. My three older kids watch some sort of dvd or something on the ipad pretty much every afternoon.

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I offset the bad feelings about this decision by requiring more chores out of them. (The “bad feelings” include guilt that their brains are atrophying for that time every day, and anger that they require this of me because they won’t play calmly for any reliable amount of time. I want to have kids that are capable of being quiet’ish for an hour a day. But ever since old “hell no I don’t respond to trickle down parenting/number three” stopped napping that is not a thing. I mean- he was napping, but then he would be up and wide awake until 10:00 pm and that was not working for us. So we cut the nap out for the most part.)

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Where was I? Chores. They do chores every morning during the week. If they don’t get it done then they do it while the others are watching a show. And noise. Four kids are noisier than three.

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Pictures, in no particular order. The One Who Will Not be Shortchanged of His Legit Parenting Experience… Bike riding master… Cute baby at six months… Tractor Supply at 8:00 am… Last day of school… and me with Bill Clinton.

Happy Friday!

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My Clothes in the New House

*This will only be remotely interesting if you like reading or thinking about organizing/keeping the home/etc. Otherwise- you might want to skip this and just tune in next time. If you keep reading you can see a fuzzy picture of my closet. Wheeeeeee!!!!!!*

As I mentioned before, we just moved into our new house. We don’t anticipate moving anytime soon. On the contrary- we hope to stay for a long, long time.

I love that. It means I can unpack my stuff and buy or not buy furniture and pitch things knowing that this is the space we’re in. Furniture that family members have stored for us can come out of hiding and be put to use (or passed on to someone else). Because there is no “next house” to save furniture for- this is it!

In unpacking my clothes and bedroom stuff I thought about what I did not like from our previous houses, in terms of my clothes storage. So I am changing two things in the new house. The first is: no more storing off-season or maternity clothes in the attic. Getting in and out of the attic is a minor pain and I always seems to have a pile of things that needs to go up there or come down. This time- all my clothes will be in my room, all the time. This is totally helped by the fact that I am no longer storing maternity clothes. For the first time in SEVEN YEARS. Glory.

The second: no more clothes storage under our very-high, very-easy-to-shove-seventeen-boxes-under-it-bed. Every time we move, we talk about keeping the space under the bed clear. It looks so nice that way and let’s talk about how pleasant it would be to actually vacuum under the bed more than once when we move in and again when we move out. Well- you guys- what if we actually did it this time? I mean, what if we didn’t accummulate four years of dust under the bed, hidden by various bins and boxes? It is a wild idea, but I’m ready to try it. Seriously. Watch me.

This means that all of my clothes will go in my closet (no dresser anymore!) and that’s it. And I want to be able to put all of my clothes away easily, even when I am all caught up on laundry. (Sound familiar?) My version of a wardrobe capsule will not be determined by a number, but by the size of my closet.

It helps that I have a nice-sized closet and a row of built-in shelves on the side. And it is mine. All mine. My husband has his own closet.

Observe, via a fuzzy ipad photo:

2015/05/img_1148.jpgIf that is your blue and white scarf on the far left of my hanging stuff, please claim it. I have tried all of my sitters and tons of friends, to no avail. You left it on our coat hooks in the old house and I really like it and want to wear it now, but am too embarrassed to because of obvious reasons. I also don’t want to donate it. It is in scarf purgatory. Save it.

If you are trying to whittle down your clothes so they all fit in the space you have, I highly recommend having a friend come over and help. My friend Lisa came over and unpacked most of my closet stuff and gave me a few supportive nudges to pitch things I was on the fence about. Young Life shirt from 1999? You didn’t make the cut.

We have been here for 6 days and so far I adore my new clothes storage method. I’m positive I will continue with this level of organization, idealism, and thoughtfulness, so count on that fo’ sure. No backsliding here! No way!

More thoughts on moving/unpacking/scarves that aren’t mine to come in future weeks. Lucky for you!!!!!

Moving and Mother’s Day

We moved this weekend. Our fourth- and final- move on this block. What can I say? We like this block.

Moving is exciting and exhausting, even when it is just across the street. The two weeks leading up to the move had me walking through our house, feeling totally discontent with the level of crazy and mess, but knowing it would just be like that for a while longer. One of my kids has been particularly difficult to enjoy lately and it dawned on me that maybe that child feels discontent with the crazy and mess, too. I don’t know why it would only be the adults who feel that way.

The good thing about moving is the intention/ambition to go through all the things, once again, and find a home for all of it. If there’s no home for it, I am likely to pitch it. My “donate” pile is pretty large right now and I have already taken multiple trips to Goodwill before we moved. Inevitably, though, I hit a wall of weariness with all of the things and just start putting them anywhere to “deal with it later” and then don’t. So we’ll see how I am doing in a few weeks, and if there will still be boxes lining the dining room at that point.

On another topic, Mothers Day was this weekend. Oh, you didn’t know? You must live under a rock.

It has been almost 11 years since my mom died. She met my then-boyfriend/now-husband, but has missed my move to Charlottesville, my wedding, my grad school graduation, my four kids. My four moves on the same block.

I remember when I moved to Charlottesville, right after she died, and I realized she wouldn’t be coming to town to take me shopping at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. That’s a mom thing to do- take me shopping for the extra pair of sheets and a new toilet scrub brush. But I suppose I did that trip on my own.

I remember the first spring without her. There was a day when everything turned green and it occurred to me that this was the first spring she was not here for.

That first year or so was all like that. It was a constant awareness, with big punches of particular sadness that hit me.

Now the punches are less frequent. I can- and do- enjoy Mother’s Day and the punch is not as intense. But now- 11 years later- it is still a dull pain that she is not here. It surfaces differently at different times.

Some of what I have done without her- my wedding, and having babies- I got to see her do with my siblings. So I can sort of imagine how she would have done that with me. Like, I saw her care a ton about certain details of my sister’s wedding, so I imagine how she would have had the same opinions about mine. I probably would have felt annoyed with her (and her with me) during some of that process. (But I do think she would have loved my dress. Mainly because I found it at an outlet store when my sister and I were shopping for flip flops, and it cost $89. Right up my mom’s alley.)

I saw her with my oldest nephew and nieces when they were toddlers and babies. So I can picture her with my kids as little babies or toddlers. But I feel sad that I don’t have a clear imagination of her with my almost-7 year old. I didn’t get to see that. So the template isn’t there to insert my older kids into now.

I saw my mom navigate having adult kids who did grown-up things like buy houses and get real jobs and stuff. So I can insert myself into that, even though I had neither when she died. But I didn’t see her watch her child turn 40, or see a grandchild through a big surgery, or welcome a grandchild from the other side of the globe through adoption. I imagine her into those situations, but don’t really know how she would have navigated them.

Would she have fussed and prayed and worried around me during his surgery at Johns Hopkins? Or stayed in Loudoun and met with her bible study group that morning to pray? I don’t know. Probably whatever I asked her to do, but I don’t get to really know the answer. No template.

Here’s a template I do have for my mom; one that I thought of yesterday. I was particularly snappy with my two oldest kids last night. We talked about it and I told them I was sorry, and asked their forgiveness. That is a page from my mom’s book. That is me, stepping into what I remember of her.

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