Thursday, May 31, 2012

Staying home, trying to get stuff done

The UPS man delivered our crystal ball prism last night, and this morning we woke up to little rainbows all over our kitchen. They dance all over the walls and floors, but you can't grab them in your hand or tuck them away to keep.

Suzi is dancing around with a paper coffee mug and decanter she cut out of a magazine, singing a happy nonsensical tune and asking "would you like some coffee?" Ivey is working on an art project involving scissors and glue at the kitchen counter. I can't see her. I am a little nervous.

While I tried to set them up for crafts and put diapers on to wash, Robert grabbed his sippy cup off the table and shook it out all over the floor and himself.

There was glue to unclog. A Bobber to change, because he was soaked from sippy cup water. I poured myself a third cup of coffee.

Suzi asks again, "hey, would you like some coffee?" I tell her to please pour it in my mug. That way I can drink pretend coffee and the real one at the same time. It is cold now, but it still works.

Yesterday was Suzi's fifth birthday, and she got a Green Lantern doll. Today she told us it was Green Lantern's tenth birthday. She decorated a little gift box for him with marker, we sang happy birthday, and he opened his gift. He really liked the card Suzi made him.

A little while ago I had to put the sofa cushions back on because Ivey had taken them and several blankets and thrown them in the floor. She was having a picnic, you see. Almost our entire collection of board books is strewn all over the dining room floor, probably for a similar reason. I'm not sure. My grown-up eyes don't see what they see.

I love watching Suzi and Ivey play together, as long as they're not fighting. Ivey and Robert love to play together too. Ivey is sort of bilingual. She can talk to older kids and adults, but also communicates well with Robert, who is 20 months younger than she is. I keep catching them working together as they play, sometimes making sounds but not speaking words. With Suzi and Robert, it's not the same.

I've just nursed Robert to sleep, but I'm afraid to try to put him down. It would probably wake him up, and if that didn't wake him up, his sisters would wake him up with their yelling. He's kind of sweet when he's asleep, anyway. It's just about the only time I get to hold him anymore.

Through the sliding glass door I see a yard spotted with a million bright yellow dandelions. Those will need to be mowed tonight. I get a little panicky thinking about being inside alone with the three kids for a couple of extra hours while Jordan takes care of the yard. We are having a birthday party this weekend, and I still need to de-junk the dining room, clean the kitchen and the bathroom, pick up the living room, keep up with the dishes and laundry, bake cupcakes and frost them, decorate the house, and wrap a gift. It's insane. I have a lovely countdown checklist that would work like a dream if only I could stick to it.

But the children are on my heels, undoing what I've done, undoing me, and distracting me from doing anything else on my list. It's like swimming upstream, running against the wind. I don't hate it. It's a challenge. They are more than worth it. After a few more years of this, I don't know how I'll ever be able to handle just working on a task again. It'll be lonely and too quiet. It'll feel weird. My limits are being stretched and I am growing during these distracting, loud, messy, exhausting days.

Now Robert's power nap is over. The boy can't walk yet, but he can rearrange lightweight furniture. He can also pull a chair up to the bookshelf, climb onto it, and pull down books. The floor is covered in a vast array of interesting toys, but he can single-mindedly pinpoint every possible way there is to get into trouble and drive me nuts. The things I cannot babyproof.

Some days I just give in completely to the chaos. I just let the mess overcome the house because cleaning it up is like peeing in the ocean. I know that someday we will be able to have nice furniture, and keep drinks and books on our end tables. When that happens I will probably miss having a teeny boy cruising along the furniture saying "dat! dat! dat!" and grabbing for anything he can spill, break, or tear into pieces.

And that is why some days I just give in to it. But today I have a party to prepare for. I can do this. I will scoop up the giggling gap-toothed boy, put him on my back in the Ergo, and attack my to-do list with excessive force. I will not get sidetracked. I will not blow my top.

It will be a good day.

UPDATE: It somehow all got done! Dining room, living room, kitchen, dishes, laundry, and I even wrapped the gift and started decorating. The kids were so sweet and let me work, and now we are running on schedule. Jordan finished working in the yard and it's not even 7:00. Also, I put all the wooden train tracks on vacation and brought out some larger toys instead, so now the kids can't trash the house quite so severely.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My first baby is turning FIVE!

How ridiculous, right? But sure enough, this time five years ago we were at the hospital. Suzi made her debut at 1:13 am on May 30th. She has grown and changed so much over the years, and Jordan and I have grown and changed with her. I'm so happy to see that even though we mostly had no idea what we were doing, and still frequently don't, we have this wonderful child.

I can't believe we've come this far. I remember being hugely pregnant and thinking she'd definitely come early. HA. Holding her and clumsily trying to nurse her that screechy second night in the hospital, accidentally bumping her head on the side of the bassinet because she was wiggly, and then Jordan admitting he'd done the same thing. Lots and lots of mistakes. But some of those days, when I was still on maternity leave, I'd nurse her to sleep and then I'd lift her up, and she'd arch her back and stick her chin out to stretch. Then I would lay her on my chest and just stare at her. Those times were my favorite.

For her first birthday, I made invitations that said "Our little princess is turning one!" See how I didn't know what I was doing? Suzi is never, ever a princess. She squished frosting and cake all into her tutu that I made.

It finally became clear that she was going to be a performer. She also always loved to tell stories, like the time she was two and "dere was a bug crawling on the laundry basket, so I said 'AAAAHHH!' and Mama took care of dat bug."

She became an amazing big sister to Ivey. She helped give her baths and frequently said "aww, she's so cuuuute. Lookit at her."

She attended her little brother's birth and cut his cord. I can't believe how mature she is sometimes.

However, when she is unhappy, she will let you know that she is really, really unhappy. There may even be a guilt trip. You can bet she has a plan for how she'd like things to go and a picture in her head of how it will be. It can be hard to get her to do a specific thing, but she is also a self-starter and will work hard at something she finds rewarding.

One of the coolest things about Suzi is that she will talk to anybody. She sees a kid at the park and immediately has a new friend! She tells me "mom, come meet my friend!" And if I don't strike up a conversation with the friend's mother, she might give me a pep talk. "Mom, I know you're a little nervous to talk to your friend, but..."

When she was a baby I imagined what she'd be like, had grand thoughts about homeschooling, and daydreamed about having conversations with her. The day she turned five was some distant, imaginary point in the future. I can hardly believe we are there! Of course, now there are two more little ones and our days are wild and imperfect, but they are so awesome at the same time. And my Suzi is awesome.

These five years watching her grow and her personality unfold have been such a gift to me. Her party is this weekend and the theme is Green Lantern. I can't wait to wrap her gifts and wake her up with a hug tomorrow morning. Happy fifth birthday, my wonderful girl!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

YMCA membership... Was this a good idea?

Have I mentioned that we joined the Y? For a family membership, it's $82 a month. There is a warm pool, an indoor track, lots of fancy exercise equipment, and child care. Two hours of child care per visit! Since I started running I had been wanting to add strength training, and the kids love to swim, so we joined.

The cool thing is that during the summer our YMCA also has a little water park for the kids. I've never been, but it looks fun, and Suzi is excited. It'd be a great way to spend some of those hot summer days we'd otherwise be stuck in the house. There are yoga classes, which are included in the monthly membership cost. And did I mention they watch your kids for two hours?

It sounds magical, doesn't it? But with three kids, it's somewhat complicated. First I have to get them rounded up and dressed and out the door. I dress the girls in their swimsuits and cover-ups so I don't have to do that at the gym. I also make sandwiches and cut up fruit to take for lunch. Robert doesn't get why I can't hold him while I do all this. There is usually screaming and crying before we make it to the van.

Once we are at the gym, I take the kids to the Child Watch area. The girls enjoy it; Robert screams. He usually only does it for a minute, but it makes me feel awful. There's a sign in sheet and a sticker tracking system to deal with at drop-off, but I know they are safe and happy there. Only once so far have I been called back to get Robert because he was crying and wouldn't calm down. Being called back derails our whole plan, though, because before I go for the kids I take a few minutes to shower and get my bathing suit on. There is no way I can do that while holding Robert, and there is nowhere to sit him, either. At home we have the jumperoo and the floor is clean enough for him to play in. When he can stand up and sort of listen to directions this won't be so much of a problem.

The locker room situation ticks me off. Children are not welcome in the nice adult locker rooms with TVs and saunas and steam rooms and all. I'm not sure why. I guess I can see how this could be unsafe if a child ended up in there alone with a sexual predator, but I think the problem is really that the adults get annoyed with kids. Or maybe they don't like kids looking at them naked. (Let me just suggest, if this is you, that you could go into a stall to dress. They are readily available and only a few yards away. Just saying!) Anyway, since we are not welcome in there, we have to walk wayyy down the hall to the special needs locker room, where there are two showers and two toilets behind locking doors, and the lockers are only half as big. I have to carry a diaper bag, a gym bag, a lunch box, shoes, and the Ergo. Our stuff takes up two lockers.

Once I've gotten Robert into his swim diaper and trunks and helped the girls use the bathroom and asked them fifteen times to remove their cover-ups and shoes, we walk to the pool. It's a long and rather slippery walk past the nine-foot-deep lap pool, because the special needs locker room is further away from everything, including the pool. I keep having to remind the girls to walk, not run. Then it's into life jackets and finally we can swim. Sometimes there's not much space in the shallow end. Today there were two swim lessons going on and I felt like we were in the way. Robert splashes, kicks, and whines. We are not allowed to use a baby float because it might block the lifeguard's view of another swimmer. It's really no fun holding him with both hands the whole time while he struggles.

When we are out, Robert is thoroughly irritated that he is wet and cold and needs changing yet again. I put him in a fresh diaper and outfit, but let the girls ride home wet. I've tried showering and changing them there and it is a total nightmare. They hate the shower and I only have one hand anyway because I have to hold Robert.

The cherry on top of this mess is that they decided to put the massage therapy room right inside the special needs locker room where they send all the toddlers! So as my children are singing loud, repetitive songs and whining at top volume about how no they will not put their shoes on and running noisily back and forth over the tile, I can rest secure in the knowledge that the people on the other side of that door are totally pissed.

Once we finally make it back to the car, I absolutely love the ride home. Peace and quiet! Ahhh! And once we are home, naptime! Even better! Of course, by the time we reach this final stage I am totally exhausted and hardly good for anything the rest of the day. Plus the kids still need baths.

I've figured out how to use most of the machines in the gym, and I love running on the indoor track. It's great being able to run without worrying about getting hit by a car or attacked by a dog. I'd like to take a yoga class. Swimming lessons for the kids will be discounted. It's a great way to get out of the house and get some exercise and a change of scenery, especially on a rainy day. And the Splash Zone water park will be open soon, so membership is not without its benefits. It's just... $82 a month, plus the gas money we use driving out there. We probably spend around $120 a month on this. We could use that to sign Suzi up for karate classes and buy some new homeschool goodies I've had my eye on! Besides, the days I go are days that hardly any work gets done at home. If it were relaxing and refreshing that would be one thing, but three little kids plus the kajillion rules make it super stressful. They think they are family friendly, what with their giant mural of kids emblazoned with scripture about children being a blessing. But all these rules.

As I was walking out today, there was a woman complaining to the front desk people that there were children! Showering in the ladies' locker room!!! I'm sorry. I don't get it. It hurts my feelings and brings ugly, mean thoughts about how this is exactly why there are neglected elderly people in nursing homes. We are taught from birth that people who are inconvenient or annoying do not matter and should be put away somewhere so they can't bother anyone.

Anyway. There are a couple of ways we could possibly solve this. Jordan and I could take the kids together after he gets off work or on the weekends. It may be crowded then, but I don't know for sure. Also, they open at 5:00 AM, so I've thought about going alone then, while the children are still in bed and Jordan wouldn't have to watch them. Haven't made it yet, though. Besides, the rare days I get up at 5:00, there is always housework to be done and I just can't see leaving that to go work out, knowing I'll return tired to kids who are ready to party and a house that's a disaster.

We will probably keep our membership through the summer because of the Splash Zone, although because it is outdoors, sunscreen application will add an extra degree of difficulty. Sigh. I am getting spray-on.

After writing all this out I am still not sure what to do. Hmm. It's quite the first world dilemma.