I'm Fancy

For the first time in known history I went places and did things. ALONE. 
It all started when I burst into tears watching the snapchats of my sisters all together at Cam's baby shower.  I cried and cried. Camille was having a baby and I was missing everything.
Camille is the Lou to my Mimi. She is ten years younger than me (15 and having a baby! 😑) and she was my baby.  She slept in my room and I tucked in her pacifier and woke up to her happy little face every morning. Watching Mimi with Lou is like reliving that part of my life and it brings me so much joy.
So how could Mille have her own private baby without me?!
The weekend after Camille was to have her baby my mother graciously planned and provided a trip with my sisters to see Shakespeare in Ashland.  I committed six months before the trip. I had pie in the sky dreams of watching Shakespeare again.
But I have five stinkin' kids! I can't leave. And surely not two weekends in a row. I have never left. I've taken no breaks. I haven't been fully alone in years.
But the tickets to the shows were already purchased. One sister had already bailed. I wanted to go, badly. 
Camille only has her first baby once in a lifetime. I couldn't miss it.  
Guilt, fear, worry, planning be damned. I needed to go and I knew I'd live in regret if I missed these events. 
So I utilized all my years of people managing and made a plan.
Thankfully I have a solid team. My friends, family, nanny, and husband covered me. Everybody survived, nay, thrived with a much needed break from each other.  I feel very grateful and proud that everybody did so well without me.  Apparently I am not crucial.

My trips were rad.

First, LA. Mille moved down there a month ago (btw, I call her Mille bc when she was little she deduced that nicknames were just the latter syllables of names). LA is home for me and I have a million memories and friends down there. As I was boarding the plane I got a text: the baby is here! LAME. She had been in labor for over 24 hours and I missed it by two hours. 
But I arrived shortly after and met her sweet perfect baby Lorenzo.
The next two days were baby days. Pam and I cleaned her house and got things ready. Of note: she went into labor in the middle of a massive cooking project that included tons of chopped onions and uncooked chicken. Her fridge was bursting at the seams.  We went to and from the hospital and got to hold and snuggle that little guy. He's a beautiful boy. Birth wiped Mille out though.  I was glad I could be there to help with nursing.  They didn't have much in the way of lactation support at that hospital so I did what Paige had done to me when Mimi was born: shoved that boob in the kid's mouth and taught her what a good latch feels like.  They are a successful nursing pair. I was grateful to be useful.

Nathan was in LA for his birthday so on Friday night we threw a party for him.  Was great to catch up with my ragtag band of misfits down there. I love those people. 
Pam and I drove back to Danville together on Saturday and then on Sunday I was invited to attend the wedding of the century.  Bronwyn and Todd were married at City Hall in SF and it was an epic black tie affair.  The bride had no less than four outfits and looked stunning in every one.  All of my favorite Danville people were there.

I rolled into SLC at midnight, spent three days resupplying and bonding with my children and then unloaded them on my dear friends for the next trip.  I'm telling you, it was an intense two weeks.
Off to CA again and then a five hour drive to Ashland, Oregon.  The babies stayed with their dad and he did a wonderful job with them.  The big kids were farmed out each with a different family.  It may have been the best weekend of their lives.
Celia, Ellie, Pam, and I saw Twelfth Night, Great Expectations, and a bluegrass production of the Yeoman of the Guard. We ate delicious food, shopped, and chatted.  It was one of the best Ashland trips I've been on, many thanks to Pam for making it happen, Celia for planning the itinerary, and Ellie for driving. 
I was home by late Sunday night and in school by Monday morning.

I am so grateful I was challenged by forcing myself to have fun outside of my children.  My identity gets swept up in other people's needs and it was revelatory to be away.  I think we all learned a lot.  But man, I missed my babies and I am glad to be home again.



See Your Memories, Sept 2016

Facebook just sent me one of those "See Your Memories" notifications.  In it was a link to this post: Shine on You Crazy Diamond. Reading through your comments on that post gave me blog guilt.  I'm sorry for my absence! I feel bad that I've written less about my children this past season because I will have less memories to revisit.  Time is steadily slipping away and with it the little things.  I never recorded catching LouLou expertly applying deodorant.  I didn't write about the time I bet against Silas by offering him $5/lap at the fundraiser expecting him to quit after two laps and then he ran 29 laps. I've caught Philo's army crawl on video but don't have a context with the rest of the family.
(Why the George W Bush face?) 
Blogs are an inefficient medium.  You have to put more effort in to write, remember, associate, and explain. Instagram is so much easier because it takes two seconds.  Facebook easier still, though status updates have become article sharing opportunities. But Instagram doesn't tell the story and facebook isn't very linear. So I'm going to play a bit of catch up as a gift to my future self.
 Hello, future self!  I'm proud of you. You're keeping everybody alive. You're working three days a week teaching college. Silas can almost read. Philo is a cuddly baby who doesn't push out of your arms. Mimi is your right hand woman and she loves playing American Girl Dolls.  Cubby is in second grade and into Harry Potter.  Hush's project is painting the house.  You are really busy but very fulfilled. You're worried about getting the downstairs remodeled (not happening yet), Hush's commute, and Philo eating things off the floor.  You're challenged by keeping the house clean because holy crap 7 people are messy (especially toddlers!) You're working on money management because holy crap 7 people are expensive. You're obsessing over Camille having her first baby.  You've just completed project lose a bunch of weight. You need a new personal goal. 
That is what's up. Here's what it looks like:
Lou is two. She has unicorn shoes and lots of feelings but few words.  She's a late talker. She has great fine and big motor skills. Lou and Philo share bottles and food.  BL could play outside on the trampoline all day long. She's discovered how to open all iPads and phones and find the games. I do not like nor allow this. She loves baby dolls right now and loves to feed and diaper them.
Mimi is getting really tall and she will not let me brush all the way through her hair. She has lots of friends and a few crushes. We love her teacher this year and Mimi is challenged by the amount of homework each night. She just started an Aerial Arts class.  She is still cooking with me all the time and getting really good at it.
Philo, 8 months. Don't you just want to eat him up? I love this age of babies.  He's sleeping pretty well but wakes up at the crack of dawn. Everybody adores him. I think he's about to get his top teethies. Mimi tried to take him to school with her last week and made it down the block. I love when he follows me around the house doing his army crawl. My heart bursts with love every time I see him or just think about him.
Silas likes friends, ice cream, his Ipad, and Philo. In that order. He's doing well reading Dr Suess. I especially like Silas in the morning because he's the first kid up and very cooperative.  Si is going through an easy phase, bless him.
  A week ago Silas offered to be the waiter for my book club. He set the whole table with China and dressed himself in a suit and tie.  He ushered people in and then served them food and drinks.  It was adorable.
Jude, pictured here on his birthday wearing one of my flip flops because he cut his foot, is having the time of his life.  He just started cub scouts with all his best buddies.  He goes to skateboarding class on Saturday. Last week he started his orthodontic treatment and he feels very proud of his appliance.  The ortho said that while he was putting on Cub's expander he was the toughest most stoic kid he's ever worked on.  Jude is going to be baptized in two weeks.
Hush recently drove the whole lot of us down to AZ to stay with his family.  Whilst there Lou collided with his forehead and took a chunk out of it with her teeth.  It's a pretty good battle wound. We swung by the Grand Canyon on the way home.  He is doing great at his job, watching a lot of college football, and helping out with the babies and kids. 
And here's me this week holding baby Lorenzo:
I am continuously trying to get pictures with everybody in them.  I like to see them in reference to one another.


Neighborhood Camps: Our Summer Sandlot

Around April I started to worry about summer.  Three big kids, two babies who aren't very portable and me.  Me facing the music of my parenting choices. 
Summer camps are affordable here FOR ONE KID. But tutition for three would put me in the poor house!  Did I want my three bigs rattling around the house bugging each other and begging me to schedule play dates? When did moms become the captains of kid's social calendars? Go find your own friends, kid. 
I needed a plan. I needed a Sandlot.
Thus Neighborhood Camps were born.
My years of Devil Mountain Summer Camp under the tutelage of Nancy and Colleen gave me all the training I need to organize and entertain big groups of children. Matter of fact, my life more closely resembles DMSC than any college experience.  Life and survival skills currently employed were gleaned from working summer camps and from my other fun job choreographing my mother's plays with Danville Children's Musical Theater.  I'm an expert at playing.
The plan is to have 5 or 6 weeks of organized play for 5-10 year olds during the summer.  Camps are TWTh so that they don't impede weekend travel.  We start at 10am when it's still cool and end at 1. As a mom I do not feel activities for kids are worth it unless I get three hours away from them.  You can actually get stuff done in that amount of time and by stuff I mean a legit nap.  With that schedule and plan I made a Google sign up form and sent it to my friends.
I've hired a nanny to take care of my babies during camps.  She's the adult at home while we are at the school playing.
Our weeks planned are Baseball and Nerf week, Soccer and Bike week, Craft and Lego/Barbie week, Sport Camp with my teacher sister Val whom I'm flying in from LA and street games, and Gymnastic and football week.  Lunch is also included, accomplished co-op style.  I request a $5 per kid per week donation, but I think next year I'm going to structure that by family instead.  Maybe $20 and $5 for each additional kid. That way it's not prohibitive for big families.
I asked local young teens who are good at that sport to come coach and give them the donations to sweeten the deal. 
When the kids get there at 10 they just wander into my back yard. We gather, talk about the rules (don't get hurt, use the downstairs bathroom, let me know where you are) make sure everybody has the gear they need and then head across the street to the school.
At the school the teens lead them in playing the sports.  It's a ton of fun.  It's like the Sandlot. 
At 11:45 I send two kids up to my house and our dear nanny helps them make the lunches with the food that's been provided by the parents in bulk.  Week one was corndog week, this week we're making PB&J with the two big loaves of bread and vats of peanut butter and jelly sent by a parent. Other parents provide fruit and treats.Noon is lunch in my backyard. No plates, no waste. Then we hydrate with water bottles and sprinklers.

After lunch last week I organized a Nerf gun shooting range from my porch.  Kids volunteered to be turkeys. It was pretty hilarious. We also played capture the flag.  
This week we went to the empty school parking lot on our bikes.  Using sidewalk chalk the kids chose a parking stall and designed their home.  Then they chose another stall and made their business. We had a police station, a bakery, a crystal shop (not crystal meth), a mechanic, fire station, etc.  They drew roads and played to their heart's content.
I planned for 10-15 kids, this week we have about 25. The more the merrier! 
I am so grateful to live in a supportive neighborhood with so many kids and great parents so I can do this with my kids.  I live in fear that somebody will get hurt and I will get sued, but we will solve that problem with waivers pretty soon.  We are having a rad time! 


Mom Brain Chatter

I would like to begin this post by thanking Jesus that I have not had any car accidents or walked into any stationary objects. I definitely should not be operating heavy machinery.  Do not be surprised when you happen upon me staring into space and drooling. 

At any given moment my Mom Brain is overloaded with life chatter.  This is not a to do list nor a complaint list (indeed I am grateful that these are my minutiae rather than show stopping problems), it's just a real time list of the thoughts and worries that go through my head in the last ten minutes, all day every day.
Right now, right this second, these are the thoughts bouncing around.  This is my Mom Brain Chatter.

How much is this car repair going to cost?
When was the baby last fed?
Dude, the gun law issue is out of control.
When was the baby baby last fed?
Has Silas had enough hugs and touch today?
Go pick up the Rx.
Return the library books.
Use the bananas tonight or they'll go bad!
Has Mimi been on Instagram?
How are her allergies?
When did Jude last take a shower?
Don't forget to clip that talon toenail on Silas, even if you have to wrestle him to the ground.
Jude needs a haircut.
Tend to Mimi's cut on her foot. Is the super glue still working?
Are the gates closed? Can LouLou escape?
Has Mimi had enough one on one time?
Where are Lou's pink shoes?
Did I change over the laundry before it goes bad?
The lawn needs watering.
Call the irrigation company.
Kitchen counter is sticky, make time to wipe it off.
Silas' speech. Remember to go over his word pronunciation.
The car needs the speaker fixed.
Have I taught my kids about sex trafficking?
Did Mimi pack socks for her trip to CA?
Is she being hard?
What time should Philo be going down to nap?
Remember to put away his laundry.
Plan D's birthday activity, text all the people.
Did you remember to take out the fruit to avoid fruit flies?
Check the student loan bills.
Has easy kid Jude gotten enough attention?
What's on his mind? How is he coping with this chaos?
Mimi needs new running shoes.
What am I making for dinner?
That Jesse Williams speech was amazing.
Do I still have frozen chicken in the freezer?
Oh my gosh Silas' hair.
Do we have enough bread for sandwiches?
Am I on top of Lou's diaper rash?
I think I owe Amelia money. Pay the sitter.
When did Jude last shower?
Schedule the babysitter.
Cancel the doctor's appointment.
Silas doesn't get enough story time. Work on that.
Actually, all the kids need to read more.
The fourth season of Orange is the new black is pushing it. 
Did they watch too much TV last weekend?
I need to sing to Lou more.
Take time to relax and have fun! 
When does school start again?
Holy crap it's going to be 100 today. Take kids swimming.
Need to teach Si to tie his shoes.
Got to get the laundry into the drawers somehow today.
Clean house for inlaws.
Does Philo have a blessing outfit that fits?
Do I need to organize any of that?
Go through the papers on my desk.
It's almost July. Visting teaching for church needs to be planned and done.
Kids haven't seen Dory yet. Plan for that.
How much are the tickets to baseball game and do I need to buy ahead.
Try to make it through all the food before we leave on Saturday.

Ok, is that everything? 

Strangers frequently say to me, "You have your hands full!" Yes, but you should see my brain.
Full brain, full hands, full heart.

But don't worry, I turn off my exhausted brain for ten minutes every day.  I've recently found and adopted mindfulness meditation in order to force my Mom Brain Chatter off for a few minutes a day. Highly recommend the Calm App.  
Gotta go. Finishing car errand.
(Green are days I've meditated. Very proud of my streak.)


Lessons I Never Taught

Once upon a time I had three kids in three years.  Mimi is 17 months older than Jude.  Jude is 16 months older than Silas.  Their birth years are 2007, 2008, 2009.  
It was hard.  It was harder than hard.  It was comically hard for at least 18 months.  
But I figured it out and I am grateful I blogged my way through it so I can refer back to the wisdom I once gained and then blacked out of my mind because it was such a rough time for me.
Now I am reaping the rewards.  I am soaking in the payout for the hours and hours logged.  The three minions and I survived together.  We made it to 6, 7, and 9.  
I didn't plan to have three kids so close in age, but they were meant to be born together as Irish Triplets.  I stress constantly that they aren't getting adequate one-on-one attention.  I worry they won't develop their own personalities being all lumped together.  But the worries are far out shown by the benefits.  

Now that they are in the elementary stage I am enjoying observing the Lessons I Never Taught Them.  While I was busy teaching these kids to do normal kid things like use the toilet and tie their shoes I am discovering that I was also inadvertently teaching them more valuable life skills.  I was scraping by hustling one kid out of the bath before he peed in it while at the same time corralling the other kid away from the dishwasher loaded with knives.  While I was busy keeping them alive, fed, and clothed they were learning amazing things without my intentionally teaching them.
Lesson Learned:  Responsibility
Because they were raised in a pod and my hands were always full my kids learned to work together.  If I couldn't get Silas' pacifier because I was helping Mimi in the bath Jude could handle that need for me.  I didn't have to ask him, he just became sufficiently irritated with the fussing that he figured out a way to make it go away.  The truest test of responsibility is seeing a job that needs to be done and doing it, without being asked.  If I have taught that (by default) then I am making children who will be contributors.  They can see a problem and try to figure out a way to fix it.
Lesson Learned:  Compassion
There are many times when kids do not get the same nor equal things/treats/opportunities.  I learned from one of my sisters to guard these moments because they would teach the kids that life isn't fair.  But that's not what happened.  Instead when Silas got a treat he had already experienced what it feels like to be the one without the treat and he developed empathy.  He wouldn't give away his treat but he would certainly share bits of it.  This applies to play dates, presents, video games, time alone with me, nearly everything.  They know what it feels like to be left out or deprived and they work to prevent that experience for the others.  

Lesson Learned: Patience
This might be my favorite benefit of pod children.  They do not get all of their needs met immediately.  This mitigates entitlement and curbs spoiled children.  If they have to wait a minute to get out of the car it's ok.  If I have to pick up one kid somewhere at the same as another kid that child learns to wait and not panic.  They learn that a bonked head is more important than your ice cream being scooped.  They know their place in the world.

Lesson Learned:  Service
There are so many kids around here.  There is no way I could do everything by myself.  So we serve each other.  The funny thing about service is that you learn to love the people you serve.  Sure they're resentful when they have to clean up the legos that they didn't mess up but it makes them aware of their own impact on their environment.  They give help and they get help.  

Lesson Learned:  Forgiveness
When your entire existence includes two sidekicks you learn how to manage them.  They negotiate with one another, take turns beating the crap out of each other, gang up and restructure their gang to leave the other person out.  They hurt each other's feelings and have to work it out.  This is universal among all siblings but when you're all just about the same age and in the same space you learn to get over offenses almost immediately.  Nobody harbors anger for very long.
Incidentally, I think this is the best lesson I learned from being in a big family myself.  My siblings and I fought all the time and then it would be over ten minutes later.  Now, as an adult, I have extremely high tolerance for conflict and I can interact with people even when they are being difficult.  I am unable to harbor anger.
Lesson Learned:  Friendship
For the first four years of their lives the three big kids slept in the same room.  I would try to move them out but during the night they would migrate back together.  We had enough rooms, they didn't care.  They wanted to be together.  Now they are each other's answer to boredom.  You can't play catch alone and jumping on the trampoline is no fun by yourself.  Thank goodness for siblings.
Photo credits: Jessica Peterson the magnificent

Having kids close together was difficult but the payout has been magnificent.  For every time I had to find and put on three pairs of shoes there is an hour of outside play time together.  I was so sleep deprived that I hardly remember those years.  But here I am with an opportunity to have children close in age all over again and I have chosen to do so, without a second thought.  Lou and Philo are 16 months apart.  I feed them with the same spoon, they steal each other's bottles and wear the same size diapers.  There is frequently a line for the changing table.  And it is non-stop tag team constant needs hard.
But I know the payout is worth it.  They are learning lessons I could never teach.