When Mark and I got engaged 10 years ago, it was at a very transitional point in our lives. He had recently quit his job and started his own business, complete with its financial burdens and uncertainty. I was working part time and trying to plan a wedding on a super tight budget. I remember saying to Mark, if we can survive starting a business and planning a wedding in the same year, then we can survive anything.
I think God must have laughed to Himself then, and said, “Ah, but this is just the groundwork.”
That year of planning and start-up was difficult, as were the two to three years following it. Committing your life to someone and living with them, sharing your time, your space, your life, can be challenging. We learned to communicate and learned some very hard lessons about money and budgeting. We grew up and we grew together.
So, of course, when we finally started coming out of financial hardship, we decided it was time to move out of the townhouse, invest in a real home and grow our family. That, in itself, came with its own set of fears and anxieties. Not only the financial concerns and the usual fears that come along with being responsible for a tiny person, but because I had a long history of women’s health issues that, I was told, would make conceiving a child “a challenge.”
Before we were married, I remember after a difficult appointment at the OB’s where I was told I would likely “need assistance conceiving,” that I sat on the ground next to my bookshelf and bawled my eyes out. I had always wanted many children, and I worried my future husband wouldn’t be happy if children weren’t an option. Mark sat beside me, wrapped his arms around me, looked at me in the eyes and said, “I want YOU. If we can have children, great. If we can’t, I’m ok with that. It’s not going to change me wanting to marry you.”
And through it all, even when things have been tough between the two of us, or difficult in our lives, we have always kept that same mentality, that same love in our marriage.
Of course we did go on to miraculously conceive our first child, fought through my post partum depression and his depression simultaneously (oy), and came out of it stronger, more aware of the other person. We experienced secondary infertility and I’m pretty sure my insanity and obsession during that time nearly drove him out the door (or at the very least into hiding in the garage, tinkering with tools). And then when our second child was finally conceived and born, we were tested with colic and sleep deprivation beyond what any new parent should have to endure. We established a support system that involved “tapping out” and a lot of tears on my part.
Then, once again, when our lives finally seemed to be smoothing out, when we were blessed with two beautiful girls beyond all hope and through abundant grace, the good Lord laughed again and said, “I know you fought through all that fear and infertility and now you think your body won’t give you any more children, so, SURPRISE! Here’s TWO babies for you even though you’re still nursing that second one you prayed so ardently for.”
That was a test of enduring real and honest shock – of scrambling to figure out how in the world we would financially and mentally survive. There was bed rest and a shift in household responsibilities. There was a re-commitment to our faith and trust in God and in one another. And then, of course, when the twins arrived, we had to learn to reshape our lives once again.
This morning one of the twins’ teachers told me they have no idea how we all get out the door so early in the morning and even manage to eat breakfast. I told her that Mark and I do it together, we’re a team. We have it down to a point now where everyone has their own tasks they have to complete in the morning. We’re a machine. But now the struggle can be moving out of that “machine” mentality.
It can be so difficult to find time for just the two of us. It’s almost impossible to find a babysitter to keep all four children. I feel like we burn our families out by asking for help during the work week when sitters fall through, and every good sitter we know has either moved or recently had a baby. When people tell us to “make sure we get a date night,” we look at each other and shake our heads. But the thing is, we both know. We both know what it takes to keep things going, to support one another, to love one another when so many other people are constantly demanding our love and attention.
Mark and I joke that we never do things the easy way, but maybe there’s a reason for that. We have endured trials and tests, but the end result of each of them has been greater sacrifice and, as a result, greater love. Mark always says that the first time he saw me, God told him that I was the one. And it didn’t take much longer for me to figure out the same thing. Life is not perfect or even remotely easy, but we stand by one another, we love one another and even when things get stressful, or tough, or frustrating, we will always be the other’s rock, cheerleader and best friend.
I love you Mark, and I’m so grateful that we found and have one another.
Happy 9th anniversary.
P.S. This is the anniversary card he gave me. Perfection.
As Sarah begins to get older and understand embarrassment, I’ve been reluctant to share much about her struggles out of respect for her privacy. But I have a good story to tell about her, one that she can hopefully look back on one day and be proud of.
Without going into too much detail, Sarah often struggles socially and has a hard time dealing with loud noises, changes, frustrations and has a few unhealthy coping mechanisms. It’s prevalent enough that we have sought out help and advice on the best ways to handle it.
For years she has begged me to do soccer and dance. But for the past three years I’ve been so overwhelmed with pregnancy and babies that just getting everyone fed and in bed felt like the best I could do on most days. We have let her do choir through the school, which is wonderful, but the more we dug into what she’s dealing with, the more we realized she needs some sort of regular, structured, physical activity.
Our school put together a kindergarten soccer team. And when sign up time came, as usual, I was slow to react and we missed the boat. But then, by chance, a child ended up not being able to play and a spot opened up on the team. One of the coaches called me and asked if Sarah wanted to participate. My immediate gut reaction was yes, but Mark and I were nervous about practice time and making sure we could commit to all the games. I looked at the schedule though, and decided we could make it work.
Her first practice went really well. The coach, a dad of one of the players, was overflowing with compliments about how well Sarah did on her first day. And she came running to the car, grinning from ear to ear, telling me how much fun she had. She talked about soccer the rest of the evening, only complaining once to tell me to send her a change of clothes next time so she wouldn’t have to get so hot in her uniform.
Her first game was Saturday and she was so excited. Coach let her start. But her smile quickly faded as one of the girls on the opposing team began to score goal after goal and our team couldn’t even get the ball onto their side of the field. I saw Sarah start spiraling into frustration mode. First she crossed her arms, poked out her bottom lip and refused to move. Then, after the girl scored again, she marched off the playing field and towards the fence, sat down and refused to play anymore. I hustled over to her while they put someone else in the game. I walked her back over to the sideline and made her sit with me.
Before I could say a word she said, “ I don’t want to play anymore. That girl keeps scoring.”
Me: “But Sarah…”
Sarah: “I don’t want to play!”
Me: “You don’t have to play, but you do have to listen.”
Sarah stared at me fiercely, but didn’t argue.
What followed was a pep talk that involved the ever-fast and athletic Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony. Fortunately, I’ve seen every episode from every season roughly 100 times, so I’m intimately familiar with the characters and plot lines. I told her about the episode when Rainbow Dash gets made fun of and wants to give up, but she doesn’t. We talked about the other little girl who kept scoring and how she has been playing a long time, but this was Sarah’s very first game. And, after all, if you give up the first time you get frustrated, you’ll never get any better. The only way to improve is to try.
She didn’t smile. In fact, her scowl didn’t change at all. But two minutes later she said, “I want to play.”
After a few minutes, Coach came up to her and said, “Sarah, do you want to play? You’re fast, we need you out there.”
And she, quite matter of factly, walked back onto the field. They started the game, the ball was passed to her, and then she took off running with it, quickly outpacing the other kids. And then, just like that, she scored a goal.
After that moment, her spirits immediately lifted. She wasn’t jubilant though, just determined. She threw herself into the game, playing hard. She was stopping the ball with her feet, lining up her kicks and passing and making goal attempts. I was floored by how good she was.
When the game was over, she was still scowling. “Why are you upset?” I asked her, “You scored!” She looked at me fiercely and said, “I want to keep playing.” Coach told her he was so proud of her, that she was like a fast little gazelle making her way across the field.
We left the game and I told her we could go get a treat. “Not because you made a goal,” I told her, “Although that was really amazing, but because you didn’t give up and went back in the game.” Within minutes she was telling me that the little girl who kept scoring was #8, which was also her own number, and that soon she would be as good as her.
That evening, after the game was over, Mark and I talked about it with smiles on our faces. We were so hesitant to put her in soccer because of the busyness of our lives, but after just one practice and one game, she’s already improving with a lot of her issues. At church on Sunday, she even sat in the pew in front of us with one of her friends, and for the first time ever, went to children’s liturgy without one of us. I feel like I’m watching her transform before my eyes – learning to fight through the frustrations, and socialize more.
Soccer may not be our cure all, but it’s certainly proving to be way more than I could have hoped for. It’s the perfect platform for teamwork, social interaction and learning to physically move her body and do things in a loud setting. And, because of that, I’m going to cave and buy her the “special fast shoes,” (cleats) that she really wants.
So, between my minivan and this, I guess I’m officially a soccer mom. Somebody make me a “Sarah’s Mom” shirt so we can seal this deal.
The fact that I’m making this birthday post two days after her actual birthday because her baby sister has been super sick and consuming my days, is so quintessentially “Happy Birthday Middle Child.” Sigh, I swear, we do try our best. And despite the fact that I spent most of Norah’s birthday at the pediatrician’s office, Mark did make her very favorite dinner – potato soup, which requires a lot of prep work – while keeping an eye on the other kids. AND, I did go have lunch at school with Norah, even though she freaked out because we were sitting separately from her class and she thought I was going to leave her at the “trouble table” alone. But we pulled through it. She also got the Stitch toy she’s been begging me for and she and her little mischievous alien friend are now inseparable. Also – Lilo and Stitch luau party this weekend!
Now, onto Norah’s birthday post.
Last night as I watched my girls play in the bathtub, I marveled at Norah laughing, singing and using her imagination, remembering the day she was born. She, ever the child with her own agenda, came three days before her scheduled c-section. I remember holding her and thinking how very different she looked from Sarah, rubbing her head full of hair against my cheek, and staring at her laying on the hospital bed with the sunlight filtering through the windows onto her chubby little cheeks.
That was three years ago, and honestly it feels like so much longer than that. I worry sometimes, that I somehow robbed Norah of her “babyhood” by having the twins while she was still an 18-month-old baby herself, but she impresses me. I think there is a reason that she is exactly where she is in our family dynamic.
Even at 18 months, she was smart and resourceful and had an amazing vocabulary. When I tell people it’s her birthday, people often say, “Oh, is she four?” To which I respond, “Nope, she’s three. All those crazy things she’s been saying and doing have been coming from the mouth and imagination of a two-year-old.”
At three, Norah is really coming into her own. It’s one of my most favorite things about this age. And while she holds definite opinions about things (a big NO to pizza, for instance), she does love to follow her big sister’s lead in playing make believe. Together they will line up the My Little Ponies and play school with them, or put on costumes and dance through the house, or play mermaids in the bathtub.
At three, Norah is always a source of entertainment and frustration in our house. One minute she’ll be physically kicking someone out of “her spot” on the couch and I have to go running in to rescue the screaming victim, and then in the next moment she’ll be sharing her beloved “kiki” blanket with her crying baby sister. I can’t pretend to understand her thought process or reasoning – but what’s life without a little guesswork?
At three Norah is charming and knows how to get people to do what she wants. I’m sometimes kind of horrified by this quality, but I know it will likely serve her well as she grows into the leader she’s destined to be. Out of all my children, people comment the most that Norah makes them laugh or smile. Her fierceness combined with her mischievousness and devilish grin make her a bottomless well of great story material. Even now her former teachers and babysitters will tell me Norah stories that make me laugh and often embarrass me, but she takes it all in confident stride.
At 3, her ability to process and understand things also amazes me. In the weeks leading up to her birthday, I asked her what she wanted for her birthday. Her response was, “You mommy.” To which I replied, “No, what do you want for a present?” Norah said, “To spend the day with you.”
It broke my heart and made it melt at the same time. And due to the logistics of things in our lives, we couldn’t get exactly that, but I did have a day with just me, Norah and Sarah,” and together we had lunch, got ice cream and got to pick out a My Little Pony from the store. Both girls told me it was the “best day ever.”
Our house and appliances have been broken, painted with various lotions and sunscreen, colored on and had holes punched through them more times in the past three years than I thought possible. We’ve made far too many ER trips and learned what a papoose board is, to my great dismay. Norah truly embodies her favorite movie character, Stitch, but like Stitch, she also has a heart of gold and places all of her trust, love and joy in her “ohana,” her family.
Mark likes to say that God must think a lot of us for giving us Norah, and yes, she challenges us daily, but somehow, even in the midst of her worst disasters, we often find ourselves trying not to laugh. I am so grateful for the chaos, the joy, the laughter and the love that Norah has brought into our lives over the past three years.
Happy third birthday, my girl. We love you.
One of my coworkers recently told me that she looks forward to Mondays just so she can hear what shenanigans Norah has been up to over the weekend. (Insert embarrassed/awkward emoji face here). But it’s true – she is always up to something. This past weekend it was spreading a combination of sunscreen and toothpaste along the hallway and around the bathroom sink – and that’s really pretty mild all things considered.
But, last week, she did have her first note home from school.
Now, Sarah is far from perfect and has her own set of issues, but she’s usually a quintessential firstborn rule follower. In the past three years, there has never been a note sent home from school, though her teachers have all filled me in on some of her antics that resulted in pulling a card.
But, as we all know, Norah loves to buck the system. And when I was loading her into the car last week, one of her teachers could barely contain her laughter as she began explaining to me why Norah’s face was colored purple. In her backpack found a note that read:
“Norah found a purple crayon at nap time and drew all over her face with it, colored the floor and ate some of it. The crayon was nontoxic. ” I do so love our teachers for being concerned about the crayon’s toxicity.
Of course she got in trouble and had to make a serious apology to them the next day, during which they worked hard to keep from smiling.
Perhaps I should gift them both with jumbo-sized boxes of Magic Erasers.
And lest we forget the other three individuals who reside in our house, they have been up to their own set of antics. And no, I’m not talking about my other three children, I’m talking about our two dogs, Leela and Bonnie, and Angie Cat.
We discovered, after having the twins, that Angie Cat protests by peeing on any and all clothes that happen to be on the ground in our room. And while this did finally force us to keep our closet floor clean, any time a piece of clothes would fall out of the hamper, it was game over. We’ve been very diligent lately about keeping all the clothes off the floor. Angie Cat though, refused to be deterred.
We discovered her next target when Leela started waking up Norah in the middle of the night by climbing into bed with her. (I find it hilarious that she seeks out Norah’s bed at 2am, because Norah often torments Leela during waking hours). I couldn’t figure out why in the world the dog would suddenly start sneaking into the girls’ room in the middle of the night until I smelled it. Angie Cat had struck again – this time taking out the dog beds. They were so sabotaged that we just had to chuck them out. We’ve made other attempts at making dog beds with blankets, etc, but without fail, nearly every night I am woken up by Norah whining and yelling, “Get off LEELA! GET OFF!” And then it’s often a good 10-15 minutes before I can convince Norah that it is, in fact, still dark outside and too soon to wake up.
Thinking to thwart this newest set back, I set a pressure gate up outside the girls’ room to block Leela from going in. (Norah won’t sleep with the bedroom door closed). So, of course, the first time I set the gate up, at 2AM, I heard Sarah crying in the hallway. Half asleep, she was standing there by the gate, shaking, telling me she was freezing and her stomach hurt and she couldn’t get to the bathroom.
Normally, she’d scamper over the gate, no problem, but this particular night it turns out strep had taken over her body. And because bunk beds don’t lend themselves well to vomiting children, I moved her to the couch in the living room. With no place left to block the dogs out, Leela decided that she was just as content snoozing with a sick Sarah, and Sarah, bless her poor, ill little heart, didn’t mind the company.
Our new neighbor asked me last weekend why we have pets – “Aren’t they so much work with all your kids?” she asked. And while they can sometimes be just as irritable and messy as our children, they are part of our family. They were here before the children were and, despite the sometimes angry revenge peeing, take the kids all in stride and even deign to snuggle with them – on their own terms of course.
P.S.: That cat pee smell is the worst and so hard to get out, but since we are cloth diapering now, I discovered a whole bunch of awesome things that get nasty smells and stains out, and this stuff is THE BEST at getting out that ammonia smell. I use it all the time. I am not getting paid to promote this stuff, just wanted to share it with my fellow cat/dog/kid parents as a FYI. Click on it to find it on Amazon.
This weekend was ROUGH. I mean, by the time it was over I was begging for Monday, dreaming of sitting at my desk in the peace and quiet for a few hours. I realize that probably makes me sound like a terrible mother, but, well, we all need a break sometimes.
This cold I’ve managed to get has snuggled itself down into my chest and refuses to leave. I sound like a hacking, wheezing old woman most of the time and it hurts to raise my voice. And because the six of us are in such tight quarters, I was not surprised when everyone was snotty and hacking by Sunday.
Let me back up. Friday night and Saturday were actually quite wonderful. The big girls stayed with their grandparents, Mark and I ordered Chinese food, without having to worry that no one else would eat it, and then the twins and I had a whole day together with just the three of us on Saturday.
Vera was unusually fussy, but upon investigation, I saw that in addition to the two front teeth I knew were coming in, she was also actively dealing with four giant molars pushing their way through. I was shocked. She’s been physically behind her twin brother on everything, including teeth, and then she somehow leapfrogged him on this particular milestone.
But then it was time for the big girls to come home and you know what happens after 24 hours with the grandparents. That’s right, blowback.
It turns out they had a rough night of sleep with their grandparents and then Norah barely squeaked a nap in. So Sunday, on top of exhaustion, everyone had colds and we had to cancel all of our fun plans for the day, including a play date with one of Sarah’s best friends that left her in tears.
With guilt riding heavy on my shoulders, I still attempted to make the day fun. We made Norah’s favorite muffins (pumpkin chocolate chip), and both the girls were very helpful with the baking. (Seriously! And I had predicted total disaster). But Norah, well that was probably her only good moment of the day.
The girl refused to nap, and instead spent nearly two hours alternately running out of her room, or laying in her bed screaming at the top of her lungs, which also resulted in the babies being woken up early from their naps.
And the throwing things and flushing them down the toilet compulsion has gotten out of hand. So much so, that Mark is now the proud owner of one of those plumbing snakes that he had to use at least three times over the weekend. (But hey, it does actually work to get things out!)
Norah also felt compelled to dump all the toys we own onto the floor to make a “swimming pool.” Though at least that entertained her for a while and was easy for her to later clean up.
Here’s a sample of a real conversation Mark and I had Sunday morning:
Me: “Where are the Kleenex?”
Him: “In the bathroom.”
Me: “Why are they in the bathroom?”
Him: “Because I needed somewhere to put them really quick and your coffee and toast were on the window ledge already.”
Me: “That’s because I had to find a place to put them really quick where the babies couldn’t grab them because I caught Norah buck naked, covered in Boudreaux’s Butt Paste.
Him: “Right and I went to the bathroom to make sure you didn’t kill her and took the Kleenex so the babies wouldn’t empty them out.”
And oh the screaming. There was so much angry screaming on Sunday that Mark and I made the executive decision to have the twins in their beds at 6:45pm and the big girls in bed by 7:15pm. After they were down, I sprinted out of the house and to the grocery store, just to have some alone time for 45 minutes while I bought the week’s essentials. And you better believe I stopped by our stress eating outlet of choice on the way home: TCBY. I’ll take a giant Oreo filled frozen yogurt (so I don’t feel guilty, but really it’s ok because I forgot to eat lunch anyway) thing, thankyouverymuch.
Moms all know that even if we are gasping for air through one barely opened nostril and glowing with fever, that we aren’t really allowed to “be sick.” So when I started having cold symptoms about five days ago, I did what any mother would do, and ignored them in favor of caring for the kids and powering through a press deadline. Even as I felt my throat getting sore and my chest began to ache, I insisted on getting up and getting it done. So it’s no surprise that by Wednesday evening I was hanging by a thread.
Even Mark took one look at me and told me to go lay down while he cared for the kids and got them to bed that night. Grateful for the reprieve, I fell into bed and buried my face in a pile of Kleenex. I decided that my body was toast and agreed to take the next day off of work. Despite that, I still got up at the crack of dawn the next morning to get the girls ready for school, knowing that as soon as they left, I could crawl into bed and hibernate.
But alas, as soon as Mark left with the girls, the babies started to fuss. I decided to let them fuss for a bit before I got up to get them, but that’s when the shrieking started. So I stumbled into their room and found Luke sitting astride the crib rail, leg caught between the crib and the wall, riding the dang thing like a pony. Our boy has figured out how to climb out of the crib at 16 months old. UGH. And I am SO not mentally prepared to move him to a big bed yet.
I dragged the twins into the living room, put up the pressure gate and laid on the couch with them until Mark got home and then stumbled into bed and crashed, relieved to finally get a break.
But, as things always go, my plans for a desperately needed “break” quickly got dashed. Mark was out picking up lunch when I got a phone call from school that Sarah was sick. Mark, when he got home, dropped the food and left to go get her. When he picked Sarah up, they asked him if he wanted to check Norah out too, to which he quickly replied, “No,” and took Sarah home. Together she and I cuddled on the couch and watched Netflix in misery.
Oh, but it gets more fun. You see at some point Wednesday evening, we noticed that all the kids’ toothbrushes were missing. After some interrogation, Norah told us that she had flushed them down the toilet. How? I have no idea. But the toilet was absolutely, 100% not working. So on Thursday, as Sarah and I were laying around feeling bad, we were also down a toilet and I had no inkling or energy to call a plumber.
I completely missed Back to School Night for the twins, though perhaps for the best because it was raining cats and dogs. When the kids were finally all in bed that night, I took a shot of Nyquil and passed out.
So of course this morning, Norah comes waltzing into our room bright and early. And for some reason, she’s started speaking about herself in third person. So she comes into our room and loudly proclaims, “Mama! Norah made a mess. She got it EVERYWHERE. She got it all over my jammies, all over my bed, all over the floor. ”
“No, no Norah!” she told herself, “Mama told you not to make a mess.”
I just groaned and rasped out, “What is it? What did you do?” Mark rolled out of bed to discover an ice cream sandwich lining, well, all the things she had named.
I resolved to pull myself back together today though, and everything else mostly followed. The rain finally stopped. Mark and his dad managed to physically reach their hands down into the bowls of the toilet and extract all four toothbrushes, saving us a huge plumbing bill and getting the toilets working again. And, perhaps best of all, Mark asked his parents to keep the big kids tonight. So when the twins went to bed at 7:15, we did a (somewhat muted from the sickness) dance of relief.
But now, of course, Mark is getting sick.
And I think I’ll go indulge myself with an 8:00 bed time.
Man, I’m old.
Any time we make a big change or upset the schedule in our house, we experience a period of what my husband and I have dubbed as “blowback.” Spend the night at grandma’s? The break is nice, but then there will, without fail, be a day of fallout afterwards that includes, but is not limited to, epic periods of screaming and crying, protests over dinner, refusals to go to bed on time and unprecedented messes.
Enter school. Now, not only are we all having to get up early, but the kids are back on structured days and having to spend time learning instead of painting themselves in mud in the backyard or coloring the walls. And the blowback has begun.
Blowback Round 1:
Last week, I was rejoicing because Norah finally went to school and didn’t throw a tantrum. I rode that high all day, thrilled that we were making progress. Then, I got home from work. At first, I didn’t notice anything was amiss. I jumped into taking care of kids and Sarah was snuggled up on the couch with a blanket, watching TV. Then I turned my attention to her to ask her a question and gasped, “Sarah, did you CUT YOUR HAIR?!” A half smile spread across her face as she nodded in affirmation.
“Mama,” she said, “I was tired of my unicorn mane bangs, so I cut them off.”
“Where are the scissors and WHERE IS THE HAIR?!”
At first she tried to pretend like she had done this days ago and had no idea where the contraband items were. But after seeing my rising ire, she quickly complied, ran into her closet and produced the small pair of scissors and the giant chunk of missing hair.
I was upset. Mark chocked it up to, “it’s hair, it will grow again,” but all I could see was that my girl now had some sort of mullet/ Maria-from-The-Sound-of-Music hybrid haircut. And this was on the heels of us finally halting her anxiety-induced behavior of years of yanking out her own hair. Finally, finally my little girl was starting to get thick hair that almost looked like a bob and now it was all gone.
But while I was upset, Sarah embraced her new do, telling me that she liked that her hair is out of her eyes. Maybe I shouldn’t be so vain. So, after I had a solid glass of wine, we dug around, found some headbands and started trying to figure out how to make the mullet work.
Blowback Round 2:
In protest to having to go to school and do things she didn’t want to, Norah staunchly refused to nap on Saturday. Finally, to my great relief, I thought she had fallen asleep. I got up to use the bathroom and walked in the room to find a toilet full of toys, wipes, cups, bowls and two empty bottles of Burt’s Baby Bee wash, each emptied into the toilet and bathtub respectfully, but not before being slathered all over the toilet seat and bathroom floor. Worse still, I didn’t realize it was on the toilet seat until I later sat on said seat, and when I went to stand up, well the seat tried to come with me.
Blowback Round 3:
Norah has now started sneaking into the kitchen when she thinks we are occupied to secure any and every kind of food for herself. Sunday morning, Mark and I were recovering from the week’s events and were particularly lazy about getting out of bed. We had already gotten the twins out of their cribs and had them in bed with us, but they quickly scampered out and ran into the living room with their sisters. It took us a few minutes to get out of bed, but no one was screaming so we weren’t too worried. Then I walked into the living room, grabbed a baby and my hand came away sticky from the back of his pajamas.
One sniff told me it was maple syrup. Further exploration lead us to find that Norah had half emptied a bottle of maple syrup on to the floor, on to about seven paper plates, which she had then distributed and laid on top of random items around the kitchen and living room, and on the backs and heads of her twin siblings.
It was not pretty. While I stripped and scrubbed babies, Mark took control of the Norah situation. When I came back in the kitchen, Norah had a full mop bucket and a washcloth and was scrubbing the floors while Mark stood guard. Our normally defiant child was dutifully scrubbing every inch of the floor where that syrup had landed.
And there have been other incidents: while I tried to shower, Norah grabbed my mascara and painted the door with it because I wouldn’t let her in there with me. Last night, over the course of two hours, I kept having to go into Norah’s room to remove cliff bars and popsicles that she was sneaking into her room at 9 and 10’oclock at night.
So it seemed like some sort of divine justice that Sunday morning, when we were late to Mass, we got seated on the very front row. All I could think was that Norah was either going to kick and scream and have to be carried out in front of everyone, or that she was going to run onto the altar and take part in the liturgy or knock over the communion wine. But, to the great surprise of all, that girl shined her halo, held our hands and stood, sat and kneeled when she was asked to. I thought her good behavior was because she was nervous in front of the priest and deacon, but Mark thinks she was just so darn pleased to be in a spot where she was getting plenty of attention from everyone.
Either way, at least we are capable of putting on our good faces for Jesus.
Imagine that you’re laying in your bed, having some weird dream about a politician trying to convince you to vote for them, when you distantly hear a scrambling and scuffling noise coming from your kitchen. You have two dogs though, so it’s not too out of the ordinary. Then comes the “pat pat pat” of little feet running down the hall, little arms and legs scrambling into your bed… and then a freezing cold, dripping fudgcicle is planted onto your nice, warm arm. HELLO 6AM!
And that is how we began Day 3 of school.
Me: “Norah, WHY do you have a popsicle at 6AM?!”
Norah: “Mama, I can finish it after breakfast?”
And her early wake-up was on the heels of us finding her in her sister’s bed at 10PM the night before, having moved her pillow, all her stuffed animals, and all of her sheets and blankets into the top bunk, on top of her sleeping sister, in an attempt to wake her up to play with her.
Needless to say a morning started on sleep deprivation and sugar did not go well. There was more screaming and crying when it was time for Norah to go into her classroom that day, but it was over in less than 2 minutes – a new record!
Though I very nearly ruined it. The school has Mass on Wednesday mornings. It just so happened that our bishop was saying Mass and so, in my work capacity, I was there to photograph it. I didn’t realize the K3 class was in the church until I turned the corner and saw Norah pressed up against the teacher, chattering away.
I never knew I possessed an inner ninja and that I could move so efficiently or so quietly until I had to back peddle my way down the aisle and out of the church before she saw me and her screaming could halt the homily.
Later – in what is quickly becoming my favorite part of the day – we had our usual after school driving home discussion. After Sarah carefully outlined both of the girls’ entire days, telling me how Norah cried all day, especially at recess, I took a deep breath and tried a different approach. “So,” I said, “Can everyone tell me something happy that happened to them today?”
Sarah immediately launched into a story of arts and crafts and the bishop visiting her class. She was so proud that when he asked if anyone knew his first name, she had the answer ready and waiting. (Turns out having the bishop over for dinner at our house had a big impact on my kiddos).
Then it was Norah’s turn. I asked her to tell me something happy that happened to her during the day. She sat quietly, pondering. And right as I started to repeat myself, she quietly murmured, “The bishop said ‘ello to me.” My heart melted and I started to get hopeful about school again.
Last night we decided that we were going to do everything in our power to make Day 4 better – and that started with Norah going to sleep before 10PM. So, Mark and I took turns standing sentry outside her bedroom door. Every attempt to get out of bed was met with time out in the corner. An hour in, just as I was giving up all hope of it working, she caved and went to sleep. 9PM was late, but it was still an hour earlier than she’s been keeping herself awake for.
This morning’s wake up was notably better: No time-outs (and no fudgcicles for that matter). For the drive to school, we let Norah hold her stuffed buddy Snoopy and we put on dancing music. The protests still started when we turned onto the street our school is on, but we pressed on. It was starting to rain, so we quickly grabbed our backpacks and made a dash for the school, leaving Snoopy to wait patiently for his friend’s afterschool return in the car.
As soon as we walked inside the school, the pleas continued. “Mama, I don’t want to go to Sarah’s school. Mama, I want to go home with you. Mama, hold me.” I braced myself for the moment when morning assembly was over and she would have to go to the classroom – the moment when the tantrums have started every day. We got her backpack and as she watched her classmates line up to leave, I saw something click in her brain.
Suddenly she was dashing off towards her classmates, elbowing her way to the front of the line where she defiantly declared to her teacher, “I want you!” And then proceeded to, matter of factly and without tears, lead all of her classmates down the hall to their classroom.
I think my dear child must have thought, “Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, lead ‘em.”
And that, my friends, is my wild and strong girl in a nutshell.
After she walked through the door, when I recovered from my initial shock, I danced in celebration right in the middle of the gym for everyone still filing out to see, high fiving my friend Stephanie and the assistant principal. By gosh my girl, we are going to get through this.
Let’s talk about Day 2 of school.
So yesterday when I picked the girls up from carpool, Norah’s rather harried and worn out teacher desperately said to me, “WHAT IS KIKI?!” And I had to quickly explain the blankie lovie that Norah sleeps with and takes comfort from whenever she is upset. She looked at me dead in the eyes and said, “Put Kiki in her backpack tomorrow. Norah is loud.”
Er, yea. So prior to starting pre-school, we received a note of things they were not supposed to bring with them, which included a list of toys and items from home that might get messed up or cause fights. For some reason, in my infinite and exhausted wisdom, I extended this to mean Norah’s Kiki. Because obviously she would do just fine in a completely new environment and be expected to nap with no issue without Kiki. What was I thinking?!
Fast forward to Day 2. We had Kiki safely and securely packed away in Norah’s backpack. I was going into the day with more confidence and optimism. I kept chanting my new found mantra, “We have Kiki! We can conquer the day! Yes we can!” with great positivity and gusto.
And all was going well. The pouring rain stopped as we pulled up to school and both girls even enthusiastically let me take their photo together in front of the school. “Yes,” I thought, “Behold the power of the Kiki!”
We walked into school without trouble, made our way into the multi-room for morning assembly. Sarah bolted off to her section and I went to follow and take Norah with me… and then the meltdown started. That little Norah howler monkey scurried up my leg and onto my torso and next thing I knew I had a screaming little girl clinging to the side of my body and I was saying a quiet thanks that I had worn pants that morning as I physically pried her off of me. I stood by her side during morning assembly as she periodically turned around and begged me not to close the door – which meant leave her in the classroom with the door closed.
I soon got a full report of Norah’s attempts on the first day to make every teacher there do her bidding. So despite the waterworks, obviously she hasn’t lost all hope of bringing the entire school under her will just yet.
But as soon as it was time for us to make our way to the classroom the tears started rolling. And when we caught up to her classmates, she let out a howl that instantly spread to her fellow three-year-olds and several of them started crying as well. Bless our assistant principal’s heart, because she gallantly scooped up my screaming little girl and wrestled her into the classroom.
Off I went to work, head held low, questioning whether putting her in K3 was indeed the right move.
The day wore on. I continued to worry and question myself before finally emailing the assistant principal and checking in. She got back to me instantly and assured me Norah was doing just fine. Relieved, I tried to rally my morning optimism for the car ride home. But once again, when I got to carpool pickup, she was screaming and crying and making me feel generally terrible.
On the car ride home, Sarah told me that Norah cried throughout recess while her little friends stood around her and asked her why she was crying. Sarah, in great detail, explained how the three-year-olds cleared a path for her, the big sister, to make her way to her sobbing little sister. Norah, however, was having none of it and told Sarah to go away. So Sarah, not wanting to waste any moment of playtime with her new found unicorn soul sisters, scampered off and left her to it. She told me Norah spent recess next to the teacher because she was sad. Part of me kind of wonders at this point if this is all an elaborate ruse to gain attention. But still.
So as we’re discussing this issue on the way home, Sarah says, “Hey Mama! I have a great idea! Let’s read The Kissing Hand tonight before bed and you can give Norah a kissing hand to take to school with her tomorrow!”
(Note: The Kissing Hand is about a mama raccoon and a baby raccoon who is about to start his first day of school and he’s scared, so she kisses the palm of his hand and he can press it to his cheek and feel his mama’s love any time he’s upset at school. A beautiful, generally tear-inducing book).
I think Sarah may be a better parent than I am sometimes.
After I dropped them off at home, finished up my work day and darted through the downpour to my car and make my way back home, I walked into the house and everyone burst into tears. I have no idea why the sight of their mother brings all my children to tears, but without fail the youngest three lose their minds when I walk through the door.
What followed was an overwhelming amount of things to do in a three hour time span. Sarah had her first homework assignment, and even though it was very basic kindergarten math, my mind immediately began to spiral to all the homework I’m going to have to help four children with in the short time between getting home from work, cooking and somehow getting them into bed at a decent time over the coming years. Maybe it was the children holding onto my legs screaming while I tried to cook, or maybe it’s adjusting to our new wake up time, but this felt like a very real serious life crushing thing.
Somehow though, I read the homework instructions to Sarah over the screams and in between stirring pasta and she made quick work of her homework and asked me to make up some more homework for her and Norah to do. I hope this bodes well for her future.
But while I was proud of myself for cooking, helping with homework and hurdling over screaming toddlers while Mark mopped up the mud and dog pee filled hallway, that joy was soon crushed when I discovered Norah had snuck off with Sarah’s homework scissors and lopped off a chunk of her hair. I mean, WHY? Fortunately it isn’t terribly noticeable and I can probably braid that section back in a discreet fashion.
And then, before bed, per Sarah’s suggestion, we read The Kissing Hand together and all practicing kissing hands and pressing them to our faces… that is until we got to daddy and he told Norah she couldn’t kiss his hand because it still had dog pee all over it. Fair point Mark, fair point.
So, tomorrow, I think my new mantra will have to be: “We have Kiki! We have a kissing hand! We can conquer the day! Yes we can!” And let’s hope that works. If not, Starbucks and I have a date, first thing.
Today was Sarah’s first full day of Kindergarten and Norah’s first full day of PreK3 – both at the same school.
I’d love to say that the whole event went off without a hitch, but it was more like driving full speed down a road full of potholes that we just kept falling into and stumbling out of over and over again.
It began the night before. No, let me back up, it started Friday. Friday was kindergarten orientation, which was fine. Lots of listening to policies and procedures while sitting in bleachers and tiny 5-year-old sized chairs. But it was good, that is until I took Sarah home and realized Luke was running fever… one that quickly escalated to over 104 and sent me into panic mode and left me feeling off balance the entire weekend. There were sleepless nights spent trying to cool an exhausted sick baby down in a bathtub at 3 a.m. and lots of panic adrenaline that left me feeling tired and empty.
Fast forward to last night. I was busily trying to gather all the things two little girls would need for school the next day, do dinner, take care of all four very busy children and get my anxious energy under control. Norah, during the hustle and bustle, secured a green marker, which she then used to color her eyebrows green, thus earning her the name “little Grinch” for the remainder of the evening. The good news is that the marker did mostly come off. The bad news is that she was left with a green tinge that looked like bruising all around her eyes. Happy First Day of School and no-I-don’t-beat-my-kid-I-promise!
Not to be outdone, as I continued to prepare for the next day, I thought all four of my little angles were sleeping, preparing the way for a great first day. It was only when Mark and I made our way to the bedroom at 10:00 and discovered that his Kindle was missing that we realized Norah had snuck into our bedroom, stolen the Kindle and was watching YouTube videos under the covers in her bed.
Needless to say the first morning of school was… well, not exactly wonderful and lovely. I had to physically pry her exhausted booty out of bed, fight her into a uniform that she did not like, attempt to comb through the rats nest she made out of her hair and get to school on time.
As I was finally making my way out of the neighborhood this morning, late and trying in vain not to take out long-stalling school buses on my way to school, I realized I had left their carefully packed lunchboxes sitting on the kitchen counter at home. This might not have been that big of a deal, but Norah, ever the child of hand-me-downs, got to pick out her very own special brand new Snoopy lunch box for school and it was the one exciting thing she kept talking about. Too late to turn around though, I pushed forward knowing that I would have to make another round trip and be late to work.
We did manage to arrive on time, however.
Sarah scampered off to her new Kindergarten class in the assembly room without so much as a look back at me. I probably should have been emotional and weepy over my girl starting kindergarten, but honestly I was just so relieved that she was so happy and excited about it.
Norah was cautiously excited, but stuck to me like glue. I stood with her during morning assembly and walked her to her class. But when I got ready to leave, well you would have thought I was really and truly bruising up her eyebrows. She exploded. First thrusting her head onto her desk and screaming, and then bolting for me and having to be retained by both the principal and her assistant teacher. I felt terrible. TERRIBLE. But I left, because I knew that was the only way.
After the round trip of securing the lunch boxes, I sat at work anxiously all day. I figured they would surely call me if things were going terribly, but the phone didn’t ring. At carpool time, they brought her out to me screaming and crying, but assured me that she had been fine all day.
As I drove the girls home, my heart was heavy. I had tried to do everything right and felt like such a failure. But then I began asking the girls about their day.
Sarah, wearing her first day of school crown she made, was exuberant. She told me all about the new friend she made, enthusiastically telling me that she now has “TWO friends” and all they did together that day. My poor little introvert has been at the school for three years, all that time only managing to make one real friend. So this was a big deal and it absolutely made me tear up.
She then told me about every time she saw Norah throughout the day – at lunch, at PE, leaving music class, recess – and how every time they saw each other they ran and hugged one another. Sarah told me how they got to play together at recess, playing “Team Unicorn,” and about how “Norah didn’t even get in trouble once or have to sit on the line by the teacher.” She was the proudest, kindest big sister and Norah told me how much better that made her feel.
I may not have been emotional at first day kindergarten drop off, but first day kindergarten pick-up melted me into a gigantic puddle of goop. Our school has the phrase “kindness is practiced here” emblazoned all over it, and I’m so happy and so proud of my kindergartner for being kind and caring so much for her little sister when she knew she was scared and upset.
Thank you, my sweet Sarah, for showing me what’s really important. Look out Day 2, we’re coming for you.
- Celebrating 9 Years
- Soccer, Rainbow Dash, and Life Lessons
- Happy Third Birthday to My Norah Bean
- The First Note Home and the Animal Revolt
- Is it Monday Yet?
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