More Real Life

Marko and I finally made it back to our Thursday playgroup today for the first time since Max was born. It was a cold morning but Marko was a good sport about walking because he had his snowball maker. Max was not so into the cold wind, but he fell asleep pretty quickly. There are lots of new babies in this playgroup and it's nice to have some mom friends who are doing the whole up-all-night thing. I like that I can send a message in the middle of the night and pretty much expect an immediate reply.

The morning playgroup and the walk there and back paved the way for an afternoon nap for Marko, although sadly, Max was awake so I didn't get to lay down. After that, it's exercise time (dancing to YouTube videos), and then we pick up Laurel from school. And bam, that's the day, because it all goes to hell when we get back home.

If the weather isn't terrible, we stay and play in the school yard. There's another mom who has a very similar tolerance for dirt and free play, as well as a similarly chill schedule, so there's always at least one other kid to play with. Today they got super muddy. I'm not sure what game they were playing, but the snow melt today created some pretty intense mud conditions. When we finally called them out of the school yard to come home they emerged clutching large balls of mud. I seriously thought they were holding cow poo. It was made slightly worse by the fact that Marko had a bloody nose at some point, which the girls took upon themselves to help him with, so he was covered with dried blood. I made my kids strip on the front porch with the plan of immediately heading towards bath time. (If it's getting dark, I consider it night and appropriate to start night time routines. Who cares if it's 5 o'clock?)

Laurel had already reached her limits today, and started arguing. She loves to argue so much she will argue against getting things she wants. Then she cries. So then I had two naked children, one of them yelling and crying and the other gleeful to be naked. And a screaming baby. I wish I could say this was unusual. If it's not mud, it's something else.

People warned me about this three kids thing. It's a lot more kids than two kids, they said. No way, I told them.  I was a teacher after all. I'm used to dealing with children in groups of 20.

I try not to think of parenting as an Us vs Them kind of thing. But if it were a competition? The kids would win the matches played between 4 and 6pm. Every. Single. Day.

So here's what I do. First, I put on Brian Eno's Music for Airports. And I get myself a coffee or a beer. This relaxes me more than the kids, but you gotta put your own oxygen mask on first. I neutralize Marko by putting him in the bath. He'll hang out there for a good twenty minutes and there's a minimal amount of destruction he can cause in the bathtub. Sometimes he even remembers to wash himself. Then I help the baby because there's only like 4 things that make him cry and 3 of them I can take care of really quickly. By this time I've gotten used to Laurel's wailing and tuned it out. If I give her a good 10-15 minutes to cry, she comes around with an apology and a solution. Ten minutes is a long time to listen to a six year old cry (sorry, neighbors), but I honestly just think this is part of the way she processes her day.

By six o'clock they are usually all in pj's and eating a snack. (You'll notice there is no mention of dinner...cooking or eating it. I'm sure at some point I'll have to figure this out, but for now, I have given up on real dinner. I make them pb&j's or quesadillas or an egg. Almonds, carrot sticks and green smoothies on the side. Clif bars or muffins for dessert and a hearty glass of milk.) Real dinner is reserved for grownups who don't complain about being served dishes with multiple ingredients that touch each other.

Then we have story time, and suddenly I like having three kids again. If Max is awake, he joins us and the kids will read something to him. Tonight I read Lemonade in Winter and Leaf Man to Marko and the first part of a children's version of a Midsummer Nights' Dream to Laurel. Max fell asleep too fast to get a story this time.

At this point in the evening, Marko becomes the wild card. Some nights he lays down in his bed and falls asleep. If he does not fall asleep right away, I will spend the next 2 hours bringing him ice packs for real and imagined injuries, helping him on and off the toilet, tucking his covers, removing or adding various layers of pajamas, finding his water bottle and other various requests he comes up with that have just enough legitimacy to make it hard to say no. Three year olds are geniuses at this sort of thing.

Laurel falls asleep immediately pretty much every night. Thank you, full day kindergarten.

Once everyone is asleep, I take a bath, which is a cue for someone to wake up. Seriously, as soon as I just start to relax in the water, someone cries. Most nights M is home from work by this time so he deals with it. Tonight he is at a meeting, so I'm just not going to bother trying.

What I want to remember about today is looking across the school yard and watching Marko and Laurel hug each other. Max's big round eyes and his smile when I bounced him on my knees and how pleased he looked with himself as he is learning to hold his head up. I want to remember sharing the last slice of Marko's fire truck birthday cake with him today after nap time and how he relished each bite. Laurel nestled in next to me while I read to her and how quiet and still she was while she tried to make sense of Shakespeare's words.


Real Life

Max just spent a half an hour trying to let go of his left hand with his right hand. You know how little babies can't really control their grasp for a while? There was much grunting and heavy breathing over the effort, but no crying. Exhausted from the effort, he fell asleep. I took it as a gift and grabbed the opportunity to make myself some lunch and read Facebook while I pretended that I didn't know that Laurel and Marko started another Netflix show.

It is 5 o'clock. Laurel has no school today or tomorrow. M was in Florida for work last week, and I don't think I've quite recovered from the experience of being by myself with 3 kids. The days were long. The nights were longer.

Also, winter.

Getting everyone dressed and out the door and then immediately back in the door and undressed because someone forgot to use the potty and then redressed and out the door and the baby is now screaming because he's hot...well I didn't even start down that path today.

Things that happened today....

Marko and Laurel found Pez dispensers. And many rolls of Pez. They hid under the couch and ate them for breakfast. Thank you very much to whoever bought these for my children.

Marko went to his annual physical and apparently had an ear infection that is now fortunately clearing up on its own. He also has gained the appropriate amount of height and weight despite refusing to eat 85% of what we prepare for him. PB&J's forever.

Laurel emerged from Quiet Time with a large amount of makeup on her face. But it wasn't makeup because she's six and doesn't have makeup, so she used crayons. It was applied surprisingly well considering she doesn't have a mirror in her room.

I bought a subscription to Beachbody because I'm all gungho about working out and losing what I'm calling baby weight, but is actually more due to my husband becoming an ultra marathoner this year and me eating enough to also be an ultramarathoner, but not putting in the miles. The kids ended up doing more of the workout than I did because Max screamed the whole time and I sort of tried to keep up using Max instead of my dumbbells but I'm not sure I actually burned any more calories than I would have if I was just doing the usual rocking and bouncing and patting routine.

I'm a little bit in denial about how fussy Max is.

I have a book and a magazine and three weeks worth of New York Times Sunday Editions still mocking me from inside their blue bags, but I cannot comprehend anything more complex than blizzard photos right now. Just a tiny bit tired these days.

So Facebook it is, and a few words on this blog and waiting for M to get home from work so we can have Pho.

And that's Real Life around here.


Max at One Month

Max is a month old already. I just reread what I wrote about the other two when they were this age and found it hilarious how similar Laurel acted when Marko was born to how Marko is acting now. Three year olds, man. They are a trip.

Laurel had a colicky stage, which forced us to go to great lengths to stop her crying (and eventually just masking it to save our sanity). I can remember one time my parents walking in and we were rocking her in a cradle with the vacuum cleaner parked next to it, all other sources of white noise having failed us. If there is a six year old version of colic, she still has it. Her feelings will not be a secret to you or anyone else. She has a need to cry in order to process some things and bursts of creative energy that must be released. It's kind of beautiful actually, to see the world through her perspective. It's so very intense.

Marko was the pure opposite as a baby. Maybe because he was a tinier baby and born at an earlier gestational age? He didn't really do anything except sleep until he was about 2 months old. He has lots of energy now, but is goofy and entertaining. He can read an audience and perform in a way that Laurel doesn't.

And who will Max become? As a newborn, he has been somewhere in between. He gets a little fussy with gas at times and he hates to have a soiled diaper. But we can also swaddle him up and put him down. He can fall asleep and stay asleep without touching someone. In fact, he doesn't really like to ride around in the wrap or to sleep on my chest the way the other two did. Sometimes in the afternoons or evenings, he wants to be held in the crook of our arms, cradled close to our bodies, but so that he can look at the lights.

M and I go between enjoying the ease of having a third, healthy baby and dropping f-bombs over the astonishing amount of mess and chaos that descends upon our family from time to time. We know how to take care of Max, so that part is much more relaxing. On the other hand, it's totally nuts around here. We'll have everything under control, and then some kind of a cyclonic energy hits the kids and everyone cries, dumps out every toy they own, pees their pants, spills our coffee...all at once.

Max at one month is about 10 pounds, up from his 8 pounds 3 ounces at birth. His ears are very round. He has different cries...he uses a particularly angry one for a wet diaper. He likes the Soothie brand pacifier and relaxes the second he hears the white noise app on my iPhone. He has a tiny tuft of hair that sticks up on top. I have only given him one real bath so far and he seemed to like it ok, once he got over the initial shock. I haven't read to him that much but the other kids do. I love the way that he recognizes my voice and turns his head when I come into the room, and how he looks at me with big, round eyes. Chemical love. It's deep and out of my control. I do not choose to love him, it washes over me. Slows my heartbeat. Flows down my arms so that my shoulders drop their tension. I suppose this happened with the other two, but I was always distracted by worries. Was the latch right, what's that rash, should we sleep more or less, should I cut out dairy? This time, freed from such distractions, I can really savor the mother/newborn bonding that is happening.


Not What I Expected, But I Probably Should Have...

Last year we went to CodeMash for the first time, which is a conference for developers, but also has a bunch of activities for families, which they call Kidzmash. I remember being really surprised and delighted because so much of what is called STEM for young children is poorly done. The main thing Laurel remembers was making a robot that colored. She wired it up and everything. Very cool. The conference also has the benefit of taking place in the country's largest indoor water park. A bunch of people from M's office go, and some of them were presenting, so of course we thought we should go again....despite the fact that we had just welcomed Baby Max 4 weeks before and have not exactly worked out all the logistics of managing our family yet.

Sometimes we have good ideas. And sometimes we have good ideas that end up not being that fun when we do them, but they have that element of "2nd degree fun" - miserable now, but it makes a great story, or we'll laugh about it one day. Great childhoods are dependent on lots of 2nd degree fun.

And sometimes we just have terrible ideas. This was pretty much in that category.

After we arrived home and I was giving Marko a bath, I asked him what his favorite part was. He said getting candy from the vendors. There was a 12,000 square foot wave pool and a van de Graaff generator, but he liked getting the mini packet of M&Ms from the guys at the IBM table. We never even really made it to any of the formal sessions for the kids because just getting all of us to the bathroom was practically an hour long process. I didn't get a chance to ask Laurel what her favorite part was because she went to bed immediately, saying she had a headache. My guess is that she probably liked the candy the best too.

Live and learn, though. I'd rather try stuff and have it not work out perfectly than never go anywhere with the kids.

I wanted to blog about Kidzmash, but I don't have much to say except that the Open Hangoutz room was spectacularly equipped with toys, games and art supplies, and Marko and Laurel played with other kids and learned some very cool new games. Marko liked Gobblet Gobblers in particular. Laurel dug into the art supplies and immediately started crafting all sorts of interesting things. She totally gets the whole "Make It" movement, although she seems to be driven more towards artistic creativity than engineering creativity. Of course, the stack of empty boxes from the conference t-shirts proved to be the one thing that all the kids liked playing with the most. We did not get to make a flashlight or play robot laser tag or use the Snap Circuits. Perhaps next year.

Instead, I'll tell you about the parenting lessons learned. It was a humbling three days.

I should have borrowed a double stroller. I usually think of Marko as way too old for a stroller. And last weekend he walked almost five miles right along side us. But if I had brought one with me, he would have taken a few cat naps on the go, which is what he really needed. Last year he was 1-almost-2 instead of 2-almost 3 and that's a big difference. He probably weighed about 22 pounds and I carried him on my back in the Ergo, leaving my hands free to help Laurel with the activities, which is why she got to do so many cool things. This year, I ran out of hands and he had no place to sleep. I am totally shopping for a double stroller on Craigslist right now.

White noise is magical. This should not surprise me, but the white noise app put a fussy Max to sleep in the middle of a chaotic hotel room. Wish it still worked on the big kids.

Don't try to make it epic. Because last year was so amazing, we had high expectations. On Thursday, we left our hotel for the conference center right after breakfast, with plans to stay there until the big Family Dinner which was starting at 6:00pm. Disastrous. By 10:30, I was losing my mind. I actually wrote my phone number ON MY CHILDRENS' BODIES because I was worried I would lose them. There was no place I could sit and nurse Max while watching both Marko and Laurel play. There were thousands of people everywhere, and it was way too noisy and overwhelming for the kids. They needed some quiet in between the activities. I ended up taking them back to the hotel for a couple of hours to chill out in our room. We should have picked one conference activity and one waterpark activity each day, and that would have been more than enough. Should have kept it simple.

Car seats are clearly engineered by the Devil himself. We have a midsize SUV. You should be able to fit 3 kids in the back. Why are car seats so wide? Why are the latch hooks designed for installation of only 2 car seats? Why do the little seat belt clicky things fall down into the abyss? Who put a banana peel underneath the car seat??? After much YouTube research and experimentation, I finally found a way to safely install our seats, but it is a long and involved process each and every time.

Six year olds still have a lot of needs. I suppose all humans have a lot of needs....they just change over time.  Laurel is extremely outgoing and self-sufficient, so it's easy to backburner her when Max is crying or Marko is suddenly naked for no clear reason. Recognizing her changing needs has probably been the biggest adjustment for us lately but we're working on it.

If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Put your own oxygen mask on first. Otherwise, the whole family is doomed.

Remain united. We may be technically outnumbered by children now, but M and I are smarter, more experienced and have the money and the car keys. It's all good as long as we work as a team.