Tag Archives: life with kids

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.

What We Did in the Summer of 2020

1 Sep

The Summer of 2020 was like no other. Well, actually for us, it wasn’t *that* different since we are mostly homebodies anyway. But since it also coincided with me not being on social media, I wanted to write down the things that we did this past summer before I forget. We:

  • Biked from the Arboretum to Dairy Queen
  • Hiked in the open space across the river
  • Went to the Nisswa Waterpark (Corbin LOVED it, Emma was brave enough to go down the waterslides on her own, and Annabelle hung out in the kiddie pool)
  • Barbies, Barbies, Barbies
  • Went to the Gull Dam beach a LOT. One time, we brought our dinner of McDonald’s there, and got caught in the rain. Another time, we left Ryder from Frozen there in a rush to leave.
  • Corbin started swimming in a life jacket. He LOVES the water, and quickly abandoned playing on the beach. For a while, he loved throwing things around in the shallow water, but toward the end of the summer, he only wanted to swim.
  • Boated to Squaw Point on Gull and swam for a couple hours on the sand bar
  • Emma started swimming without a life jacket and started wearing swim goggles. She loved diving for things on the bottom of the lake.
  • Went to my in-laws’ cabin in Voyageurs National Park 3 times. The first time, at the beginning of June, the girls went up with my in-laws for the first 3 days, then Travis joined with Corbin for a very short trip.
  • The second time, in July, all 5 of us went (and my in-laws were there). It rained the whole full day we were there. I swam out to Blueberry Island and back, in the rain, while the girls and Travis paddleboarded alongside. We hiked to the zipline and back.
  • The third time, in August, Travis’ whole family was there too. We celebrated our 3 kids’ birthdays. We paddleboarded over to Houseboat Bay and back (in white caps!). We threw clay at each other.

Where I’m At Right Now…

20 Nov

It has been a hot minute since I’ve posted anything on this blog that hasn’t been an update on one of my kids. But today, I got my kids to school early (!) so I have a few minutes before work to put down some thoughts.

We’re in the throes of hunting season here in Minnesota, which means I’m at the nadir of my emotional and mental resources. Time and time again, year after year, October is balls-to-the-wall CRAZY busy and I enter November feeling like I could take a nap for a year and it would still be too short.

This year, hunting camp ended abruptly when I declared that I was sick and tired of being constantly stressed out, so we just up and left. My poor husband missed opening weekend of rifle season because my dad got remarried (I’m obviously from a non-hunting family), and then it didn’t work out for him to hunt during the week, and then the second weekend got cut short.

I’m stressed out because of busyness — no matter how much I have tried to create white space this year, it just is not happening. That is one of the great questions that has been rattling around in my brain this year: How do we do less, but not be selfish with our time? How do we serve others without overloading our family? 

I still haven’t figured it out. And from what I hear about other family’s schedules, we actually are less busy than most (which blows my mind). I want off the merry-go-round!!

I’m also stressed out by all the conflict in my life. All 3 kids fighting over toys. Various kids throwing various tantrums over various issues. It seems like at least one child is upset at any given time. Corbin crying because he wants another sucker, or to play with permanent markers, or who knows what else (seriously, sometimes I can. not. figure it out). My husband responding in a situation with a comment that he obviously didn’t think through, or cracking a joke in the middle of a serious conversation (not funny!), or swooping in with the dictator approach to a situation with the kids that I was handling thankyouverymuch.

This post is probably a downer, and honestly I’m not even sure why I’m posting it because I’ll probably read it later, and be like “What the?!?”. But my blog is called Life, REALLY for a reason. This is real life. Deep down, I know that I really have a very blessed life, with a wonderful, caring, thoughtful husband (he offered to leave deer camp for me); 3 creative, healthy kids; a beautiful house; a part-time job that I love; friends who care about us; and a God who died for me.

But I’ve reached a point where I’ve lost my emotional resiliency. I forget library day for my middle child AGAIN, and we’re running out of the house late for school AGAIN, and I forgot to do something important at work AGAIN, and I overreact to my kids not listening AGAIN, and I am just done. Done.

So I’m going to see a Christian counselor. I need professional help. My first appointment is the second week of December. I need someone outside of my life to speak into it. I need someone to connect the dots that are scrambled in my head. I need someone to authoritatively tell me that it’s ok to say no to good stuff, stuff that I should be doing, for the time that it takes for me to get my crap together. Or for that someone to tell me how I can serve others without neglecting my family.

Maybe my hopes are too high. I sure hope not. I know several other people who have received counseling for various issues, and they all say that it was the best thing they ever did, and they wish they would’ve done it sooner. Hopefully by next hunting season, I can look back and say the same.

{6-Month Update} 2018 Focus: White Space

24 May

I just emotionally vomited on my husband. It’s my last day at home with Corbin while the girls are at school and daycare before I go back to work, and I feel this intense pressure to at once enjoy my fleeting time with him (why do all the moms with newborns on Instagram seem to do this so well?!?!) as well as get stuff done during his naps. Except that he decided to not nap today unless I was holding him, and then only in the swaddle, not the Baby Bjorn. So I’ve accomplished exactly nothing today.

I wish deeply that I was ok with that. Why can’t I just enjoy holding him, even if it means I accomplish nothing? Why can’t I be ok with not having planned dinners for over a month? Can’t I let a dirty kitchen floor and dirty bathrooms go for just a few more weeks? It’s not that bad wearing dirty clothes, right? I don’t need to exercise, shower, write blog posts, finish thank you notes, or drink another cup of coffee, right?

Part of the reason I’m not ok with those things is that I’m a Type-A neat freak who is literally stressed out by a dirty, messy house.

Part of it is that I love accomplishing things and checking things off my to-do list. Getting to the end of a day and not being able to say I did anything but survive is a major killjoy.

And part of it is that I’m overly ambitious, always wanting to do 500 more things than I have time for. It’s sadly ironic that the days I’ve had either without kids at home or with just the baby at home have been some of my most stressful days because I feel pressured to do all the things. I almost always pray in the morning on those days, “Lord, I know that only about 2 things out of the 50 I want to get done today will actually get done. Give me wisdom to know what I should do, patience when I don’t get everything done, and trust that You’ve got the things that are undone under control.” That prayer helps, but I’m obviously still a basketcase.

I felt like this even before Corbin was born, and now it’s exacerbated 1,000%: I don’t have time for the things I want to be doing because I’m spending all my time doing crap I have to do. To solve this dilemma, I either have to A) Stop wanting to do things, or B) Decrease the amount of things I have to do. I choose Option B.

Enter Minimalism. I first really started reading about it during the winter of 2017, and that following spring, I spent weeks decluttering our entire house, getting rid of things that we had been holding on to from our college days thinking we would use “some day.” (And I’ve been a declutterer my whole life, so this was even a deeper level of getting rid of stuff.)

But that alone wasn’t enough. The week that Corbin was born, Travis and I had a tense discussion about a familiar problem: Too Much to Do and Too Little Time. The house where we live is in many ways our dream house. It’s in a mature woods, with no neighbors for two lots on one side, and a neighbor with just a garage and a garden on the other side. Our driveway is long enough that we can barely see the road leading through our quiet neighborhood, and our backyard leads to the river, all combining for a very idyllic, serene setting.

The house itself has four bedrooms–three on the main level and one in the walk-out basement, which my husband uses for his office, since he works from home. It has a lofted ceiling and big windows that look east onto our backyard and the river, filling our living room and kitchen with morning sunlight. In the summer, sometimes the sun even reflects off the water onto the wall in our living room.

We love living here. We love the space, the quiet, the water. However, we don’t love the required maintenance. You’ll encounter house maintenance in any house. But as I’ve told Travis, if I had known how much work it would be to live here with these woods and this lot, I would’ve seriously reconsidered buying it.

In any given season, there’s at least 2-4 hours of weekly maintenance that need to be done. In the summer, you have to pick up dog poop, mow the lawn, and deal with the large areas of landscaping the previous owners created (if you don’t want to look at beds of weeds). In the winter, you have to blow snow off the long driveway. In the fall, you have to pick up leaves (though thankfully, because we have the use of my inlaws’ Cyclone Rake, this takes a fraction of the time it would otherwise). Then there’s the cleanup after every storm, and at least a dozen 50-foot trees that need to be cut down.

All things that young kids cannot help with, which means Travis ends up doing these things by himself while I take care of the kids on my own.

Two to four hours a week may not sound like much, and it isn’t really, but it’s just enough to cause an imbalance in our family life. Travis works full-time, and has in the past traveled a decent amount, so the weekends are usually the only time he has to get things done. Even when he’s home, the evenings are all business with the kids–dinner, bath, bed.

That leaves a day and a half (half of Sunday is taken up by church) for him to squeeze in chores, family time, his own hobbies, and hopefully a break for me. Newsflash: those things rarely all happen in a weekend. Just like I don’t get done what I’d like to get done on my days without kids, we don’t get done what we’d like to get done in a weekend. It may work on paper (and honestly, as I’m typing this all out, I’m wondering, “So what’s the problem again? This doesn’t sound so bad…”) but it doesn’t work in reality. And it’s not working for our family.

(For a period of time last year, Travis only worked four days a week, and let me tell you, it was AMAZING. Even though we lost 1/5 of his income, the balance it brought to family life was priceless. He had a whole day to get his chores done and do his hobbies, we had a day together as a family, and then a day to go to church and relax. I wish it could have stayed like that!)

Which has led to us half-jokingly, half-desperately suggesting to one another that we sell this house and move into a town home, where all the maintenance is done for us. 95% of me says that’s crazy, there’s no way we will ever sell our dream house! 5% of me says yes it’s crazy, and it just might be the crazy move that will save us from a lifetime of the rat race.

Because the breakneck speed of life seems to be universal. This is just the way life is, people say. It doesn’t slow down as you get older. You’re just as busy, or even busier, as your kids get older. (Insert mind-blown emoji here.) So ever since I started my minimalist journey, I’ve been wondering, How do you get off this merry-go-round? How do you put your foot down and say ENOUGH to all the busyness? 

I honestly do not believe that God intends for our earthly lives to be lived this way. For us to only have time for the stuff we HAVE to do, and not the stuff we WANT to do or FEEL CALLED to do. I lost my marbles today because I have not actually played with my girls since Corbin has been born, and even before that, it was sporadic. I am barely keeping my house clean, failing at feeding my family (why is that always the first thing to go?), not exercising, and falling into bed after the kids are asleep with only the energy to watch a 20-minute show.

I know the season of life with a fussy newborn is even more taxing than normal life with kids, and having three kids is NO JOKE. And even though I’ve gotten a lot better during this year of White Space at stepping back from being the responsible person, and the person responsible (even when I wonder if other people think I’m dropping on the ball on something I should be doing), I am still learning to respect my limitations, and to operate within them–at least, as much as I can with three kids.

But there’s got to be a way to carve out even more margin, more time for doing the things we want and feel called to be doing. Joshua Becker, author and blogger at Becoming Minimalist, writes,

“Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.”

That is what I want for my life, and for my family. To promote the things we most value and remove what distracts us from those. Selling our house is one of the most radical things I can think of (and I’m only about 10% serious about it at this point in time), but if selling it would free up more time to be together as a family, serve others, and make a bigger impact for God, then it would ultimately be worth it.

We’ve given ourselves until next spring to make a decision. I’m interested and excited to see how and where God leads us during that time.

Have you or your family adopted a minimalist lifestyle or mindset in any area of your life? Any books or resources you would recommend?