Our Brand of Crazy {A Day in the Life}

8 Sep

Baby #4 is now 4 months old, so we’ve pretty much gotten into the groove of being a family of 6, and let’s just say… it’s nuts.

I know more than a handful of families who have at least 4 kids, and I’ve had to be very careful to not compare our level of activity, sanity, and general having-it-togetherness to theirs, and think, “But why can they handle doing x and y with 4/5/6 kids, and we can’t even find time to clean the bathroooms?” The short answer is: because we’re us, and they’re them.

Here’s a little peek into our brand of crazy:

Our days usually start with Corbin (3.5 yrs) getting up at the ungodly hour of 5:30. He wanders out of his room (which he now shares with Annabelle) into ours, and we pull him into bed with us, hoping he’ll go back to sleep. Sometimes he does. Most times, he doesn’t. He does lie there until 6:00 or so before whispering, “Mommy, hungryyyyyy.” So then I have to get up. I grab him an applesauce and fig bar, and make myself a cup of coffee while he watches the iPad.

Emma (8.5 yrs) and Annabelle (6.5 yrs) usually wander out of their rooms between 6:30 and 7:30. Now that Emma has her own room, she comes upstairs every morning after making her bed, getting dressed, combing her hair, and brushing her teeth. I don’t even tell her to do that! #winning

Travis and Neola are usually up by 7 or 7:30. Travis is a night owl and lately has been working extra at night (his company is super busy) and going to bed late. Neola always wakes up happy, and I usually wait an hour or so to feed her. The girls like to hold her in the morning, and Neola is also usually content to lie on her activity mat.

Once all the kids are up, they go from zero to 60 way too fast. Sometimes they dive right back into whatever they were playing the day before, sometimes they invent something new. (This morning, Emma came up with her play hairdresser stuff and now we’re doing spa day, and it’s not even 8:30.) Last week, they were sending their backpacks from the deck to the swing set via an umbrella “basket” sliding down a rope, and then playing together on the platform of the swing set. I don’t even know what!

Around 8 or so, I wrangle them for breakfast, which is usually some combination of toast, yogurt, cereal, or protein shake. Each of them asks for a different variation, but I allow it because 1) then they actually eat it and 2) all of the options are easy to make. I try to start school while they’re eating because they’re a captive audience, but sometimes I end up having to feed Neola or wrangle Corbin, or pick up a mess, or who knows what.

From breakfast on, the day is a blur. The biggest challenge I have is getting the girls to sit down for our combined subjects (Bible, Memory Verse, Poetry, and History or Science) while also trying to occupy Corbin with an interesting-enough activity that won’t require too much supervision or result in too big a mess. (Sensory bins, painting, kinetic sand, even markers are all no-go’s. He makes a mess with everything.) If he’s not content to play with toys, we usually do play dough or water wows, he works on something at the table with us, or we move school outside. Some days, though, he watches iPad until our combined subjects are done and then one of the girls goes to play with him.

And usually, just about the time Corbin is occupied, and the girls are at the table, and I start reading, Neola starts crying because she needs a nap. Ok, new plan! The easiest way to get Neola down for a nap is to swing her in our chair swing (I guess they’re called a hammock swing?) outside — meaning I sit in the swing with her. If we just started school, I have the girls come outside with me, and either I read or they read while I’m swinging Neola. If we had covered a few subjects before she got fussy, then we just take a break.

Then there are the days that the older kids are just riled up. They’re giggling at everything, or chasing each other around, or fighting over toys, or won’t stop trying to talk to each other while I’m reading. Or they really want to do a certain activity while I read (like swing, or monkey bars, or twirl in circles) but they can’t do it while also paying attention (as evidenced by their inability to tell back what they learned, or know what happened in the story). Or my favorite, I’m reading and they get up and walk away without a word to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water. ?!?!?!?

After our combined subjects, the day is a flurry of feeding Neola; keeping Corbin out of trouble; getting snacks and making lunch; putting Corbin down for a nap; alternating math, reading and language arts with each girl; getting Neola to nap; switching laundry; cleaning up random wrappers and sippy cups; discovering inside toys that are outside and outside toys that are inside; sweeping up sand off the kitchen floor; drinking yet another cup of coffee; trying not to care that the oven, microwave, refrigerator, kitchen sink, dishwater front, sliding glass door, master bathroom, and windowsills are all disgustingly filthy; changing diapers, poopy and otherwise; and diffusing umpteen fights over ridiculous things.

But it also includes the kids playing store and doctor; riding their bikes or pushing each other in the jogging stroller; drawing funny pictures; creating Barbie worlds or truck crashes; pretending Duplo blocks are fruits and vegetables at their farmers market; and getting dirty outside.

School-wise, it’s seeing Annabelle finally read a story, completely on her own, and be so excited about it. It’s having Emma say her favorite subject is math, and that she likes multiplication and division more than addition and subtraction. (!!!) It’s watching them create imaginary worlds based on what we just read about, or having them ask questions about something, googling it, and learning about it together. It’s seeing siblings playing together for hours on end, the little brother wanting to be like his older sisters, and the baby sister getting oodles of attention all day instead of just hanging out with boring ole mom.

So it’s crazy. But rewarding. But also crazy. And exhausting. That takes us until whenever Travis gets off work, which is usually between 5 and 6 pm. One of makes dinner while the other wrangles the kids (some days, I want the peace and quiet of cooking; other days, I just. can’t. and I deal with the kids while Travis cooks.) We eat around 6 or 7. Corbin hardly ever eats what we make. He is the *pickiest* eater! Annabelle puts a small fight but usually eats it all. Emma is almost always a champ (because she wants dessert).

Around 7:30, we start the bedtime routine, which is: give the kids melatonin and vitamins, tell them what to do next at least 4 times even though it’s the same every night (jammies, brush teeth, potty), catch them lollygagging in the hallway or doing “one last thing” with a toy, and threaten to either throw their toy in the river or give them a spanking. After all that, Corbin (and now Annabelle, since she moved to his room) watch 5-10 minutes of “baby truck” on the iPad. We try to read picture books with them but often run out of time (see aforementioned lollygagging). I’ve been reading Emma a book before bed, but down in her room. (Bedtime downstairs with just her is a different world from the circus upstairs!)

After the older kids are in bed, we finish loading the dishwasher if it’s not already done, I fold laundry and tidy up the upstairs (the downstairs only gets picked up once every couple of weeks at this point). Neola usually nurses and goes down around 8:30/9. Sometimes Travis works on his computer or down in the garage. Sometimes I take a shower because I didn’t get one in the morning, or even change out of what I wore to bed the night before. I always end the night with either reading or watching a show. I just finished reading Anne of Green Gables. Now I’m reading The Moonstone and watching Victoria on Prime.

I honestly think that if Travis and I both could figure out how to fit in a Bible quiet time most days and a workout 3 times a week, and if we could hire a cleaning lady to come every other week or once a month, we’d feel like this life was fairly manageable. At least, manageable until our kids get a little older and we get into a different season.

When Corbin was born, I felt like any margin we had had with only two kids disappeared. If you got behind with three kids, in sleep or house projects or whatever, you just stayed behind.

Well-meaning people told me that having 4 kids was just like having 3 kids.

…It isn’t.

My friend Sarah put it well when she said, “Until that 4th baby can actually play, you’re just adding a baby to the craziness of your first 3 kids. The newborn/baby stage is hard no matter how many kids you have.”

If 3 kids was a marathon that Travis and I were able to run with a very slow, focused pace as long as it involved no detours or side shows, then 4 kids is a relay race where we have to hand off kids or tasks or duties to other people every so often. We can’t carry it all ourselves. Some parents might be able to with 4 kids (or maybe they just act like they are able to), but we are finding it difficult.

Travis’ job lately has been stressful because he says they’re putting out one (proverbial) fire after another. They’re just moving from crisis to crisis. There’s no time to be proactive or intentional. They are overwhelmed by the amount of work, and completely reactionary.

That’s our parenting life right now too. Overwhelmed by the amount of work. Moving from crisis to crisis. But nevertheless, we must strive to be intentional. It’s hard to believe parenting can be any harder than it is now, but I do believe that the challenges continue in different form as kids get older. So if we’re not intentional now, then when?

Homeschooling definitely adds to the crazy and I’ve wondered more than once in the last few weeks if we should just send the kids to public school. But for this school year, we are here, taking it one day, one moment at a time, and trusting God to redeem our failures and stretch our two mites into enough.

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