Thursday, November 20, 2014

Is my house full of drama while raising four girls? Noooooo.

Often, when I reveal that I have four little girls, people say, "Phew. You must have a lot of drama at your house."

Usually I smile and shake my head in the negative, "Nahh. It's great."

Or they say, "Ohhh, just wait until they are teenagers."

And I smile and say something non-sarcastic and hopeful, like "Oh, I'm sure it will be great. We're pretty easy-going."

But maybe I need to change my denial coping mechanism. I should just own it. We are drama. And I should start putting away money to build Mike a ginormous bat cave for the teenage years. Wait. What about me? Even though I'm a woman, who supposedly understands and is part of all this drama, I'll need some place to hide too. So I'll start putting away money to build a ginormous parent hideout with soundproof walls and a recording that repeats in a soothing voice, "You are right. You are so right. Thanks for working so hard at parenting." Is this a thing? It should be.

Tonight I spent TWO HOURS combing a doll's hair. Why did I do this? Because every time I stopped combing the doll's hair, to do something unimportant like make dinner, rescue the two-year-old from being beat to death by an eraser that looks like licorice, or take K a drink of water (she's currently dying, dying, dying because she threw up 24 hours ago), H would throw herself on the floor, "You promised! You promised! What about MaryLyn's hair? What about her hair? Her hair! Her hair!" And then she would grab my arm in a vice-like grip and refuse to let go. (This always brings out the sweet and calm mother in me.)

Now, normally I am a completely rational mother who always follows through with consequences, and never gives into whining. But sometimes, sometimes, my dearly beloved H (and K and E and N) pushes me beyond the limits of whining.

It's like I am the comet 67P, and they are the Rosetta, whining and skittering around space for 10 years, picking up momentum until they finally catch up to me and are able to launch a probe onto my surface. And the only way to emerge unscathed from this whole Deep-Space Whine encounter is to pretend that it was my idea in the first place to put all other needs aside and comb the *(%&# doll's hair for two hours.

I guess I will just chalk this up to another skill that I never thought I would develop, but now have, like cleaning up throw-up, or wiping noses, or tying blankets on as capes. My next job application is going to be pretty awesome:

Tissue application to unwilling noses
Cape-blanket tying
Doll hair care and maintenance
Disposing of and Cleaning up throw-up
Shutting the door and locking it
Finding teensy-tiny things in sandboxes
Matching socks
Dancing with short people, including the dizzy twirl
Wiping up spills
Speaking calmly while incredibly angry
Swearing privately
Ignoring desperate, soul-sobbing crying about suckers
Breaking up slap fights
High tolerance for whining and general unhappiness

Friday, November 7, 2014

Halloween 2014 Matryoshka Dolls

Just because everyone had to ask what the girls were doesn't mean it was an epic fail, right?

Can you guess what they are? Let me give you a hint: Russia. Okay, another hint: Dolls. Okay, okay, don't give up, they were Matryoshka Dolls, otherwise known as Russian Nesting Dolls. 

They're still adorable, even if you don't know what they are. My sister Alisha always has these great ideas for Halloween for my girls.  So even though every year I vow that I am not going to make Halloween costumes, every year Alisha has this great idea and then I have to figure out a way to make it work.  

I googled for some ideas on how to make the costumes, but only found elaborate things that looked difficult to sew or paint. I sew just about as well as I perform cartwheels (marginal at best, with one leg always crooked), and I don't paint, so none of those was going to work for me. But then I found a pumpkin costume tutorial, made from a too big shirt and I adapted it to fit my needs. 

Steps to Make a Matryoshka Doll Costume

1. Find a shirt that is too large. I used X-small women's shirts for my normally 7-8 oldest girls and 7-8 size shirts for my toddler and preschooler.
2. Using elastic thread, sew the sleeves and arms of the shirt. This is a fun technique to make a too-big t-shirt fit a little better. You just wrap the elastic thread on your bobbin and use regular thread on the top. Here's a tutorial on sewing with elastic thread that I found helpful.
3. From felt, cut out an "apron" (the large pink piece) and the flower pieces. I traced two different size Tupperware lids for my flower and freehanded the leaves. My pink bottom pieces were 14 inches tall and 9 and 3/4 wide at the bottom, and they fit onto size 7/8 t-shirts. The older girls (age 7 and 9) are in small women's tshirts and their "aprons" are 18" tall and 13" wide at the bottom circular part. I freehanded the pink aprons by tracing a giant lid on the bottom to get the circular shape.  
4. Hot glue, or sew the top of the flower together. I finished it off with a button.
5. Sew/Glue on the flower stem and leaves
6. Sew/glue on the flower top
7. Hot glue the "apron" onto the t-shirt. I hot glued it first to get it where I wanted and then sewed it on. (Be careful not to sew over the hot glue or it will gum up your needle.)
8. I cut out the head kerchiefs all the same size and I was going to sew them and make the edges all nice, but then I ran out of time so they just had raw edges and it was okay. Now they won't be able to keep them as treasured momentos of their fantastic Halloween, but oh well. They were triangles that measured 32 x 21.5 x 21.5. 
And there you go.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Kidathlon

Three years ago, at one of our get-togethers someone brought up the idea of doing a triathlon for kids. I think it was Melissa, or it could have been Caroline. She had seen it on a blog and we thought, "Hey we always do a triathlon (the Spudman), we should do one for the kids." And thus the Kidathlon was born.

We begin with a strenuous swim in a friend's pool. The kids do half their age, rounded up in laps:

H, pausing for breath.

K, getting ready to take on one more lap.

E, getting ready for the start.

Next we bike an arduous 1.5 miles to the end of a neighborhood trail.

This is not an actual action shot. It's an after shot.

Then, we finish it off with a grueling .5 mile run. (.25 if you are 4 years old)

The girls had a great time, and I rode my bike and ran with E. She was delightful. When I asked her if she wanted a drink on the bike she said, "Only when I'm done with this race." And when she fell down in her first few steps on the run she said through great big tears, "I'm okay Mom! I'm okay." She ran almost the whole way and loved being cheered for at the end.

I only got to see the other girls during the swim, since that was my station, but I heard that Kenzie worked hard (she was a little sick at the end), and Hannah pushed herself to do her best. Way to go girls!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Potty Training, Part Deux

I am playing my own personal "Game of Thrones" right now-- except our throne is made of porcelain, not iron. And my bid for power involves pitting my will in an epic battle against the Princess of the Pull-Ups.

I haven't ever seen Game of Thrones, so I'm going to have to end my analogy here, but here are some of my favorite moments from the last two weeks of potty training. (Yes TWO WEEKS. And this is just two weeks in our long, long journey that started back in January. Do you think my book, called, "How to Potty Train Your Defiant Child in 9 Soul-Sucking MONTHS," will be successful?)

Good Times:

Day 1: I decide that school is in session, structure is abounding (kind of), and I am not buying anymore diapers. PERIOD. She wakes up dry every morning. She's gone on the potty before. N's will is strong, but I am pretty sure that mine is stronger. She only has two years of practicing mule-headedness; I have 35 years under my belt--in fact, for me it's not mule-headedness, it's mule-headedfinesse. And I will not be defeated.

I gear up with reward M&Ms. "We're wearing underwear and we're keeping it dry," I say. "Every time you go potty, I'll give you some M&Ms."  Four hours later and four loads of laundry later, I decide that maybe I will buy some diapers again. BUT I AM NOT GIVING UP. Later that day, my beautiful, angelic, fabulous daughter pees on the floor of the sports equipment store. I pretend that I am not embarrassed and/or angry. After all, I did set myself up for failure by leaving the house. Everyone knows that while you're potty-training you shouldn't leave the house. EVER.

Day 2: I eat all the M&Ms in a moment of self-pity. I buy more, and break out the little potty. I have been using a seat on the toilet, because that is so much less gross. But she'll sit on the little potty a lot longer, so the disgusting little potty it is. I also buy suckers, to convince her to stay on the potty for more than 2 seconds.

Day 3:  After two days of ritually following these steps: 1. Sit her on the potty 2. Read her some books 3. Look in the empty potty 4. Sigh 5. Pull up her pants 5. Change said pull-up two minutes later, I lock N in the bathroom with myself and say, "We are not leaving until you put some pee in the potty." She has consumed a juice box 30 minutes earlier, and I know she needs to go. One hour later, I am still sitting in the bathroom. Finally, she pees. Hallelujah! She hands out M&Ms to the whole family. We celebrate!

Day 7: Norah has yet to poop in the potty. Today she is in the garage with me and says, "I'm pooping." I rush her to the potty and she finishes in the potty. GROSS. I have lost all sense of disgust, though. I'm counting this as her first poop in the potty. She gets 10 M&Ms.

Day 10: I eat all the M&Ms in a moment of self-pity. We have gone through six large bags of M&Ms.

Day 11: We are down to the last two out of our package of 24 Pull-Ups, but she is pretty successfully going in the potty. She is "mommy-trained." She will pee in the potty if I set her on it, but she has only told me twice ever that she needs to use the potty. I put her in underwear anyway. I can do this. She's sitting on the front steps of my sister-in-law's house, eating an ice cream cone. She says matter-of-factly, "I'm peeing," as a stream of pee trickles down the steps. ARGHHHH!

That night, I eat all the M&Ms in a ritual of self-pity.

Day 13: I lose my temper when N pees on the floor of the bathroom at the Church History Museum while I am breaking up a fight that involves biting because there were only two stools and there were three children. (Makes sense to me. I would totally bite someone if there was a stool shortage. "Brush Your Teeth So They Will Be Strong Enough To Bite People" is one of our family mottos.)

I clean up the floor while my four children howl like wolves with their feet cut off in the small "powder room" portion of the bathroom. I come out to find a woman trying to have a phone conversation. She finally leaves in disgust. So sorry that the bathroom didn't work out as your private phone booth. So sorry.

Day 14: She pees the bed twice. While N is not successfully potty-trained, I am successfully addicted to M&Ms.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Blessed Back To School

I often think about home schooling. Then summertime rolls around and I get a taste of what it would be like. And I give up my thoughts on home schooling and celebrate the loveliness that is professional teachers.

And now, let cuteness abound:

K, fourth grade

H, second grade

E, preschool (a co-op preschool that I do with 7 other moms)

N, Sassypants School for Two-year old Tyrants

The oldest two were crying a little bit about going back to school, and I was trying to assuage their fears. I said, "Girls, I am so excited for school to start because you have such a great opportunity to learn new things and make new friends!" 
And K said poutily, "No! You're just excited because we will be gone all day!"
Ouch. We had a fun summer, but I must admit that August was a bit trying in the patience and love department. I am loving my ability to get a few projects completed. And I love the structure and scheduling that school brings to our lives. Happy Back-to-School!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Summer Kid Goal: 100 Miles of Biking

It involved an R.O.U.S., a few rain storms, a lot of snacks, some tears, and a ton of fun, but we made our goal of riding 100 miles on our bikes this summer!

I scoped out the trail by our house and read somewhere that it would be a round trip of 16 miles to Jensen Nature Park. So I promised the girls we could feed the ducks and pumped them all up about completing our goal.

We had spent the summer riding 2-5 miles per day, usually after breakfast, but with vacations and summer camps and sometimes just laziness, we still had 16 miles to complete. The girls were all pumped up to ride farther than we'd ever ridden before.

On Tuesday morning (the day before school started) it was rainy and a little bit blustery. Mike left us a cheerful wish-you-well note and some Life cereal to help us have a great breakfast. We hurried through our chores and took some time filling water bottles and gathering food, jackets, bike pump, slime (for emergency tire repair), and dolls and then we set off into the wind.

About mile into our ride we encountered the R.O.U.S. (warning: graphic picture of huge rodent follows).

Luckily, the Dread Pirate Roberts had already dispatched it. K shuddered and made gagging sounds when she saw it, H was fascinated and wanted to prod it. E and N didn't really like it. Later that day H asked me if rats could climb up the pipes into the toilet. BLECK!

The ride to Jensen Nature Park was good. It looked pretty stormy and Mike had warned us that we might get rained on, but we decided we could handle it. I kept scoping out shelters like newly built houses or boweries that we could shelter in if it started thundering, but the weather held. We made it to the shelter just as it started really raining and the wind picked up. We ate our lunch and eventually the wind died down, but we were glad we had brought jackets. It took us about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get there. And I didn't tell the girls yet, but I had been watching the mile markers and it had only been 6 miles, not the 8 we were hoping for. 

Here's E showing off her mad picnic table parkour skills. 

K and H eating our lunch of pbj, cucumbers that we ended up throwing away, and go-gurts. 

After lunch the girls wanted to feed the ducks--the aggressive, loud, noisy ducks. K and H ran off with their allotted duck bread, and were soon screaming in terror as the ducks rushed them. I had to run over and do some serious Mommy-bear stances to get the ducks to back off. I taught the girls to stamp their foot at the ducks and act tough and their screams of terror stopped. 

Then the girls became obsessed with feeding this little family of ducklings, trying to shoo off the big ducks. I said, "Girls, stay on the upper part of the cement, up here." Then I turned away to help N ward off an aggressive goose. K and H did not listen. Next thing I knew H was screaming louder than ever, and splashing about wildly in the lake! She had lost her footing and slid into the water. I'm not sure if she was more terrified of the ducks coming to get her or upset about being wet, but she was super upset. 

I'm pretty sure the fisherman who saw the whole fiasco was laughing his head off and I had to bite my tongue just a little bit. I calmed her down as best I could, and we headed to the bathrooms where luckily there was a hand dryer so we were able toget her clothes somewhat dry. I knew it was going to be a really long ride home because it was not warm and her jacket, skirt and shoes and socks were soaking. I gave her my jacket and called Laurie, who lives about a mile away from the park, to see if we could come over there to dry off a bit more before heading back. 

The girls on the bridge, after the fall in. 

At Laurie's house she found some clothes for H to wear, she gave us Twix brownies and other food, and was so nice. The girls were well-rested and re-charged and ready for the ride home after our visit and playing with Brody. Hannah loved the clothes so much that Laurie let her wear them home too. We gathered H's mostly dry clothes and headed back out. We tried Brody riding in the bike seat behind me, with N and E in the trailer together (I usually separate N and E because I prefer my children to not gouge each other's eyes out). Brody did not like being away from his Mama, and after a short ride, Laurie picked him and N up. At this point, N was crying sadly and refusing to go back in the seat, so Laurie saved us again by offering to drive N home while we finished the ride. I couldn't believe how much easier the ride home was. It was probably a combination of having dropped 25 pounds off my bike (without N) and the wind was at our backs too. It only took us 1 hour and 10 minutes to ride back home. We stopped whenever we needed a drink and kept the pace pretty slow.

With 1.5 miles to go we stopped to try and take an usie. It wasn't working out for us.

Sorry E.

Now, sorry H

E gave up and went back to the trailer, but I bet we would have got it in this one. Yes, K had a helmet, she just took it off every time we stopped.

A "wild" billy goat we saw.

Here we are exhausted from the long ride! 

We celebrated with Creamies and high fives. Then I mapped our route, just to see if it had been 16 miles with our detour to Laurie's. It was 13.5. I had an internal debate about telling the girls this. They would never know right? I didn't want to rob them of their accomplishment, but I didn't want it to be a sham either. So after thinking about it, I told them. They cried. I felt awful. But we wiped away the tears and decided we would do the last three miles with Mike. After back-to-school night and tumbling (we had way too full of a day), we jumped back on our bikes with Mike and even E rode her little 16" for our last three miles. It was awesome!

The completed bike chart! Good job girlies! Now we get to celebrate with a day of no chores and going to Lagoon!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Potty-training: Torture defined

I have successfully potty-trained three children. And yes, I would like an award. Potty training is like preparing for a large-scale invasion. It takes months of preparation, is full of uncertainty and doubt, and it will pretty much destroy your life. But you must fight on, because somewhere, someday there will be a land that can be free from diapers. (This land will probably be ruled by a tiny three-year-old tyrant, but it will be diaper free!)

Here's how I'm doing with potty training our youngest:

In January we began playing a computer game called "Elmo's Pottytime." Elmo is put in various situations where the player has to "press a key to help Elmo go to the bathroom." N, who if I am typing important facebook messages or emails thoroughly enjoys throwing in a backspace, shift, triple alt iiiiiiiihkury, just to make my life more interesting, refused to press any keys. This gave me much anxiety. I was pretty sure if we didn't press the button to help Elmo he was going to wet himself and we'd have a huge mess to clean up. So I pressed the buttons.

Next I began trying to indoctrinate N with a video called "Go Potty Go" that had previously convinced E that going on the potty was awesome. This video has a catchy little tune that says, "Big kids don't wear diapers they wear underwear. Underwear, Potty Chair, I'm a big kid now." N watched this video for a few minutes and then declared, "I baby." Every once in awhile I play this video for her and talk about how exciting it is to be big and wear underwear! "Hooray!" I sing in my best chocolate-for-dinner voice. "Underwear!" and then I clap wildly. Perhaps she can sense the desperation hiding behind my enthusiasm, because she just looks at me.

For my next trick, I began wrinkling my nose and telling her how much I despised changing poopy diapers. "Poop goes in the potty! It's so yucky! No poop in your underwear." (Yes, Professor Shigley, I am totally immersed in using my Master's degree to contribute to our society.) N just laughed at me. "Poop yucky! hahaha!"

"No," I said frowning and shaking my head while changing her. "I don't like it. It's not funny. Don't poop in your diaper."

N grew concerned. "I sorry mommy," she said so sweetly. And then she patted my hand that was wiping her little bottom. Hmmm. . .

Next, I bought some underwear with ponies on them. Who doesn't want underwear with ponies on them? N, that's who. I also thought I would try some cute princess pull-ups to see if that might interest the girl. Nope. She freely pees on the princess without any remorse.

Uncertainty and Doubt

Part of me thinks that eventually she will potty train. Right? Why push it? Why make myself and her miserable? But then I change a horrifically disgusting diaper or I picture myself changing a kindergartener and I begin thinking of new strategies and trying to implement them. And then I think, "I missed the window. I was too busy taking kids to school and practice and trying to keep some semblance of order around here and I missed the opportunity at 22 months when she was ready to go. I blew it. I can just give up." But then I go back to thinking about potty-training because she is over two years old now, and all my other girls were potty-trained by now, even the indomitable H. So I say to myself, "I just need to find out what motivates her, and then I will successfully potty train her. Gumballs. I can do gumballs. She loves gumballs." Apparently, she loves peeing in a diaper more than she loves gumballs. And then I think, "Why should I potty train her anyway? Then I just have to find bathrooms at every place we ever visit and I have to drop everything at a minute's notice to rush her to the nearest disgusting bathroom where she will touch everything and crawl on the floor and we will all end up with e coli. I'm not doing it."

Ruining Your Life

If I just managed to stick to it for three days, I bet she would be potty trained. So, following this line of thought, I begin the morning by rushing her from her crib to the potty. Then we sit there for 20 minutes singing, reading stories and staring at each other, willing the pee from her body. 20 minutes of sitting on a tiny stool in a bathroom that needs to be cleaned, reading to your child about raccoons is probably an act of torture that is forbidden by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Finally she tinkles. The other children are running around the house wondering if they will possibly ever be fed and almost succeeding in killing each other, but we have success! I give her a sticker and a gumball and praise her like she just built the Eiffel tower all by her self! Amazing! Fantastic! "Do you want to wear panties?" Oh yes, she is so pleased. She puts on the underwear. I set the timer for 20 minutes and then we sit on the potty every 20 minutes until I can't convince her to sit on the potty anymore and she runs away and hides until I give up, because I have to stop her sisters from spraying milk around the kitchen in a spur-of-the-moment food fight. Then, she comes to tell me she peed on the floor. Refraining from swearing, I clean out her underwear, wipe up the floor and swear off potty training until the next morning when we begin again. This goes on for a week. One success in the morning followed by abject failure in every other way. Then at the end of the week she peels all the stickers off her nifty potty chart and refuses to sit on the potty.
Currently the underwear are sitting unused in the top dresser drawer. The pull-ups are resting on a shelf (because they are way to expensive to waste on someone who is not even interested in going on the potty), the little potty seat is gathering dust in the corner of the bathroom, and I am still changing diapers.

Maybe I can just modify my diaper-free dream a little bit. Maybe I can just hope for a life free of using public restrooms with two-year-olds.