Thursday, September 8, 2011

Surviving 5 Kids and a Blog Post


I’m very sorry to inform you that there will be no blog today. I tried, I really did, but sometimes by the end of the day I sit down to write and my brain falls asleep before my eyes do. Not that I can really blame it. After 18 solid hours of listening to children cry, fight, yell, shriek and bicker while I bumble through my myriad of daily activities, how could I possibly expect it be able to formulate complete sentences, let alone witty anecdotes?

Like today, for example. It being only the second day of the school year, I was not yet used to waking up at the crack of dawn. To make matters worse it was my son who woke me up—by dive bombing onto the bed and planting his knee into my gall bladder. I had accidentally fallen asleep with my contacts in (who am I kidding, I haven’t taken them out a single time since Lacey snapped my glasses in half 4 months ago) so even though my eyes were technically open I was walking around in enough of an eye-goo haze to trip over my phone charger and smack my shoulder against the dresser. Awesome. After stumbling down the stairs like a drunk after a bender, I threw a few frozen waffles into the toaster and pressed down the lever. There, breakfast is done. Moments later I smelled the unmistakable stench of melting plastic but I had to stand and stare at the toaster in a confused stupor until it popped up and jolted me back to reality before I realized that the empty plastic bread bag from yesterday’s PB&J lunch was smashed underneath the toaster and melting into an ooze that became one with my counter.

Meanwhile my school age kids come be-bopping out of their rooms, complaining about the smell and asking me to assist them with 37 different things all at once. I asked them nicely to stay quiet in hopes that the three remaining children, still snoozing in their beds might actually stay asleep. They both nodded solemnly and reverted to hushed whispers for about 3 seconds until Brileigh suddenly thought of something

“OH HEY MOM!! DON”T FORGET TO PACK MY GYM SHOES!!!”

“Shh… Brileigh! Be quiet! The shoes you are wearing are fine for gym”

“Oh, sorry… I forgot the babies are sleeping. NU-UH!! I CANT WEAR THESE SHOES FOR GYM!”

“Bri-leigh!! Please stop talking so loudly! Yes, those shoes are perfectly fine.”

“Nu-uh.”

“Stop arguing with me, they are fine!”

I turned to walk away but not before I heard “whatever” muttered under her breath.

Button officially pushed.

“BRILEIGH!!!”

The baby immediately began crying from her crib. I spun around to give Brileigh the eyes of death, at which she pointed out that it was me who yelled and woke the baby up.

Tony, with his ever-present sense of 7-year-old boy-ness, flew into the room and slid across the tile in his socks. He tossed his shoe up in the air so that he could leap onto the couch to catch it with flourish but knocked over a full cup of milk in the process. Oops. Anxious to fix his blunder he bounced back off the couch and rushed to grab a paper towel, slipped in the spilled milk and ended up drenching the leg of his new school jeans. Oops again.   

I sent Tony up to change while I searched under the couch for Brileigh’s left shoe. Then under the bed. Then behind the TV, and the desk, and the trampoline. (Yes, I have a trampoline in my living room. Which makes more sense to have in the living room of a home with five children: a nice chair and loveseat that the little monsters will destroy or a trampoline to help them bounce off some of their energy?) WHERE is it? I swear I just had it, but of course I’m losing my mind, so what do I know? Tony came back downstairs, freshly changed and hiding Brileigh’s missing shoe under his shirt, giggling wildly at the fantastic trick he was able to play on us. So fuh-reekin funny, isn’t it? I hoisted their backpacks up on their tiny shoulders and booted them out the door towards the bus stop before I had a chance to strangle either of them.

I reluctantly rescued Lacey from the confines of her crib and changed her diaper. I set the dirty diaper down next to me for a nano-second while I put on the new one but it was evidently plenty of time for the dog to race past and snag it. He bent down on his haunches and hopped around the dining room table as I chased after him. Oh good, he want to play. Me too, that sounds swell. I yanked the soggy diaper out of his mouth which caused it to rip open and spilled out a small pile of those nasty urine-soaked gelatinous bead-like thingies that diapers are filled with. Incidentally, those beads are non-toxic. Not that I would recommend popping them in like potato chips, but if you by chance happen to ingest a handful or so you won’t die. I learned this when I had to call poison control a few years ago because one of my kids decided to eat a diaper. Yeah, true story, unfortunately. Equally unfortunate, that kind of thing is so common in my house that I don’t even remember which kid ate the diaper, which will make it really hard to tease them about it when they are teenagers.

Approximately four diaper changes, six trips outside with the dog, one meal, 43 snacks and seven episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba later, Tony and Brileigh walked back through the door. Where on earth had the day gone? There were still breakfast dishes on the table (still are in fact) and my teeth were still unbrushed (hmm… yep, those still are too). But no time to clean now, it’s time to go to football practice. Today was picture day so my boy had to be there early and looking clean. On the way to the car Delaney offended Ainsley by opening the door on her side of the car and then Ainsley retaliated by climbing into Delaney’s car seat and refusing to move. Tony and Brileigh began the inevitable war over whose turn it was to sit up front, and once I finally got everyone in place and buckled in, I threw the car in reverse and backed over a bicycle. I don’t have staunch regulations about where the children’s bikes belong, but under the back wheel of my Suburban is not on the list of options.

After using my Herculean strength to unwedge the Huffy from my bumper, I managed to get us on our way relatively unscathed. I was pressed for time but a trip to the bank was mandatory. There are few opportunities in life when having a large family is financially advantageous, but going through the bank drive-thru is one of them. See, while most people moan and groan amount outrageous bank fees and interest rates, I rest assured in the fact that I earn back all of my finance charges by way of generic lollipops. Two or three trips to the bank each week times five suckers each trip—well, you do the math.

Their mouths now occupied with processed sugar, the remainder of the trip to the football field was silent and serene. I navigated my beast of a car into my parking spot and began to unload my sticky children. Sigh. The entire car trip could not have taken more than 15 minutes but in that time frame Brileigh managed to fall dead asleep against her arm rest, sucker still in her mouth, purple drool dripping onto her arm. I guess the new school year was wearing her down as well. I woke up my sleeping beauty who immediately began protesting that she was too tiiiired for cheerleading practice. Her whining continued while I suited Tony up in his football pads, making certain to tuck in his jersey carefully for optimal photos. Once I was finished fussing over him I stood back and smiled at my sweet boy. “Ready for pictures?” “Yep!” he smiled, revealing a mouth full of bright red lollipop-stained teeth. I guess in the long run the bank managed to screw me anyway.

Making a mental note to add tooth brushes to my car emergency kit, I fished through my purse until I found a pack of baby wipes. I scrubbed my little linebacker’s teeth with a wipe until they were relatively white again. He was now nice and clean again and had the added bonus of baby-fresh breath.

I spent the next two hours chasing my two-year-old around the field while my daughter reluctantly cheered and my son depleted the remaining ants in his pants by racing back and forth across the field colliding with his friends and avoiding the ball. Once home again, we had just enough time to scarf down the pizza we had picked up on the way home and shower my sweaty athletes before it was time to put everyone in bed to prepare to start it all over again tomorrow.

So you see, as awful as I feel about leaving you hanging there is just no way I could put together a blog post tonight. I’m physically and mentally exhausted, and I wouldn’t be able to think of anything to write about anyway. But I promise, I will try to make my weekend a little more interesting so that I can come up with something good for you on Monday. See you then!        


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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Surviving 5 Kids and Back to School


For some reason, the question I am most often asked as a mother of five (besides Hey lady is this your kid running naked though my yard?) is “Do you home school your kids?” I suppose people are curious because so many large families do chose to home school—enough that it has become somewhat of a stereotype. Nevertheless my response to that question is always “You’re kidding, right?” See, in my mind, home schooling one single child seems feasible if you are the teacher-y type, which I am not. But the mere notion staying home all day, every day with my own five children while I attempt to teach them everything from their ABCs to long division sounds downright horrific. While I have nothing but the strongest admiration for those who can pull it off, I know that if I attempted it myself, my children would learn their lessons from PBS while I sat in the closet crying.

Nope. I am the mother who has the first day of school circled on her calendar in bright yellow marker. It is the light at the end of my long summer tunnel, the gold at the end of my double rainbow, the salt in the margarita that will be consumed at 8:05 a.m. when the sound of the rattling bus disappears into the distance. But before us slacker-moms can rejoice in end-of-summer celebration, there is one last hurdle we must jump to earn our daily six hours of peace and quiet: back to school shopping.   

I can’t claim to dislike back to school shopping. It’s a great excuse to peruse the office supply store and inhale the heavenly aroma of fresh new binders and dry erase markers. But having to do it with all of my children sucks the fun right out of it. Something as simple as buying a folder turns into a 20 minute deliberation over unicorns vs. puppies and kittens. I buy a 25-cent bottle of white glue; they want the $3.00 scented glittery version so that when it leaks all over their pencil box at least it will be pretty. I have attempted to make the school supply excursion alone in the past but am always left feeling guilty when I remember how much fun I had as a child picking out my own supplies.

I only have two children in elementary school who actually require school supplies, but my two preschoolers can’t bear to miss out on the fun. They plead to stock up on scissors they aren’t allowed to use, pencils that they don’t know how to write with yet, and crayons that will end up broken and melted in the broiler drawer of my oven by the end of the week.

The supply lists that the teachers provide are handy but a huge change from what I grew up with. Back in my day (did I just say that?) we were required to get a pencil, a folder, a box of crayons and some glue. Sure, some of us scored a super cool hot pink Trapper Keeper, but overall it was a fairly basic list. My kids come home with a laundry list of specifics that leave me combing the discount stores with a slew of other frantic moms the night before school resumes. Pencils can’t just be pencils anymore. They have to be plainly colored with a #2 lead and a white eraser. And don’t bother with an 8-pack; each child needs 24 pre-sharpened regulation pencils on the first day of class. A glue stick simply doesn’t cut it anymore; my kids were asked to come to class with TWELVE clear drying glue sticks each. What on earth is the class gluing together that would necessitate 240 glue sticks in a 9 month span of time? By the time all five of my children are in school, I will require three shopping carts just for the bare essentials.

As annoying as shopping for supplies may be, it pales in comparison to the torture of buying new clothes. I most definitely take no issue in passing my four girls’ clothes down from one to the next, but the chain of hand-me-downs must start somewhere. My eldest daughter and my only son grow rapidly, requiring a nearly complete new wardrobe each year, and the littler ones need a few new things to round out their closets as well. At 6 and 7 years of age, purchasing school clothes should be a simple task; a few pairs of jeans, a few t-shirts, a fresh pair of kicks, and a pack of underwear—done. But, unfortunately, this is not the case. Somewhere along the line, children as young as kindergarten began to care about labels and styles. Nothing will convince me and my wallet to go into an expensive store just for the name; however I do try to keep them looking fashionable and reasonably trendy. My kids seem to know exactly what they want, so all that is left is for me to haggle with them over hemlines and price tags.   

Once the trauma of shopping is over, nothing is left to do but put them on the bus and wave goodbye. It’s the moment I’ve been waiting for all summer, the return of my sanity; no more fighting rambunctiously bored children, no more late nights of playing. So why on earth does it make me cry every single year? How do I begin missing the little buggers before the bus even pulls away? Seeing them climb aboard the big yellow bus, each year so drastically older than the previous, is a harsh reminder of how fast the years are going. Over the next three years, my youngest three children will also be sent off for kindergarten to begin the flash of time that is their school years, returning each fall a little more independent and ready to be away from home. While it’s beautiful to watch them grow, it is a bittersweet feeling to see my babies maturing and acquiring lives that don’t center around their mommy.

Each school year is a new adventure full of lessons learned—both in the books and in the scary social spider web of childhood—that our children will carry with them into adulthood. So raise your glasses to another summer gone and embrace the new crisp mornings that are upon us as you tearfully wave goodbye to your children and curl back up in bed for another hour of sleep.


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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Surviving 5 Kids and the Zoo


With crispy fall mornings becoming more frequent, I looked back over our summer vacation with a sense of incompletion. Our three months of warmth flew by filled with activities, appointments, and agendas yet nothing really stood out as a memorable experience. Having a family full of young children leaves us fairly limited in what we can do, or rather what we care to even attempt to do, but our children deserve a few good summer memories—even if it kills me and my husband Brian in the process.

Last year Brian and I visited the Columbus Zoo for our anniversary. It was a much needed weekend away from the children, but all we could think about while we were there amongst the lions and elephants were our little monkeys at home and how much they would surely enjoy the sights we were seeing. And so we decided that we were going to stop talking about wanting to do it, and actually, well, do it.  

Just us.

With all five children.

Yikes.

Our first mistake was informing the children of our plans before we had a concrete date in mind. It would require a day where we had a little extra cash on hand, a week day that Brian was able to take off of work to avoid the weekend crowds and a day with good weather—not hot enough to create cranky kids but also not rainy enough to make soggy ones. For weeks on end I spent my mornings answering the question “are we going to the zoo today?” as each set of eyes popped open. And each day I battled the groans and whines when I didn’t give them the answer they had hoped for.

Finally the big day arrived. It was a gorgeous Friday, the weather was perfect, the crowds were thin and a fresh week’s pay was burning a hole in our pocket. In an effort to keep the cost lower than a mortgage payment we packed our own lunches into a cooler and filled a backpack full of snacks and water. A little more work, sure, but far preferable to buying overpriced hamburgers from the Safari Shack to feed seven hungry zoo explorers. We packed up the car and began the three-and-a-half-hour road trip to get us to our destination.

Once we arrived at the zoo gates we horrified to realize that it was going to cost nearly $75 just to get us all of us into the zoo. So much for a low cost alternative to amusement parks! But we quickly discovered that for a few dollars more we could buy a family membership that would get all seven of us in free for a year—definitely a better value.  Score one for the large family.

Within moments of entering the zoo the first shriek of delight rang out. “I see an animal! I see an animal!” The rest of my kids gathered around and ooh’d and ahh’d at the amazing creature before them. They were so thrilled and excited by the whole zoo experience that I almost didn’t have the heart to tell them that a squirrel perched on a garbage can was not what we were there to see.

We made it to the first set of exhibits, only to find that most of the animals were fast asleep and tucked away in makeshift logs, presumably to hide from the sun and the slew of gawkers intruding into their homes. We spent the first half hour of our day playing “spot the little fuzzy sleeping ball” in various forest scenes, but the kids didn’t seem to lose any enthusiasm. They clapped and squealed upon spotting each obscure brownish critter in the “North America” wing of the park. It wasn’t until we came to the bears that the children were able to come face to face with something they immediately recognized. The polar bear was impressively large and the thick glass allowed us to get nice and close to the massive beast. The children were awestruck as the bears snout fogged up the glass inches from their face and shook with delight when we took them downstairs to actually walk underneath him. It was then that the thrill of the zoo kicked into high gear.

We walked from continent to continent, exhibit to exhibit with Lacey riding calmly in her stroller and the older kids walking obediently by our side. With each new animal we visited whether beast, fish or fowl, my kids each reacted the same way. Tony ran ahead of us yelling cool!, Brileigh said aww, it’s so cute!, and Lacey said dats Ozzy!—because in her mind an animal of any shape or size is named “Ozzy,” like our dog. Ainsley and Delaney were equally as enthralled—at first. But it didn’t take long for their attention spans to wander to more enticing and expensive thrills such as face painting and cotton candy.

We stopped briefly at a picnic table to refuel with a snack and rest our weary legs when a rabbit hopped out of the bushes nearby to inspect our goodies. Obviously used to the zoo crowds, he hopped right up to us, less than arms length away, and wiggled his nose at some dropped crumbs under the table. A collective gasp was the last thing I heard before the droppings hit the fan.

“AHHHHH!!! IT’S A BUNNY!!!! Mom this zoo has BUNNIES!!!! LOOK, LOOK, LOOK!!!!!”

I tried to explain that this was just a regular bunny that happened to be hanging out inside the zoo perimeters; he wasn’t any sort of exotic zoo-sanctioned Japanese Red-tailed Bog Hair or anything, just a regular old long-eared hippity-hop trying to nosh on our grub. But my explanations fell on deaf ears as my slew of children swarmed the brave bunny and plotted ways to snare him and steal him away in our back pack. Luckily this bunny must have had a sixth sense about impending danger because he quickly hopped back off towards the tiger display where he was undoubtedly safer.

 The next exhibit along our route was the reptile house, most definitely my least favorite part of the zoo. Like most other squealy, prissy, pink-coated girly-girls, I do not appreciate things that slither. In fact I’m not particularly fond of any animal that doesn’t posses fur and cock it’s head to the side when I talk to it. But my husband is a reptile lover and I would hate for my fears to be passed on to my children, so I painted on a brave face and entered my own personal tomb of terror. Immediately we were greeted by a woman seated with a small snake wrapped around her hands. Oh boy. Resisting my urge to throw the children out of my way and bolt out the door I ushered my poor sweet vulnerable babies into the line to—gulp—pet the snake. To my surprise they each rubbed their fingers over the vile thing as calmly as if they were petting a kitten. Even little Lacey reached up without hesitation. And in that moment I think she decided that snakes were her most favoritest thing in the world, because she spent the remainder of her time in the reptile house running from window to window trying to grab each slithery serpent through the glass. It wasn’t until a particularly active iguana lured her little face close and flicked his tongue at her unexpectedly that she finally crawled back into the safety of her stroller.

As the day grew longer the toddlers’ attention spans grew shorter. Delaney was the first and only child to get reprimanded and sequestered to the stroller after throwing herself down on the ground and refusing to budge. It wasn’t until she fell asleep moments later that we realized the countdown clock on our little bombs had been set and it was only a matter of time before all of the children were writhing piles of whininess destined to be dragged out of the park under our arms. We decided to skip “Australia” and head back to the car a little early; the kangaroos would have to wait until next time.

On our way out we stopped at the gift shop and allowed each child to pick out a small stuffed animal to bring home, a reward for toughing out an enjoyable but lengthy day with surprising smoothness. There were three large shelves of various animals to chose from so Brian and I stepped aside to watch their decision making process in action. Tony, with his ever burning desire to assert his masculinity in a house full of females, decided to the most manly animal of the selection was the wolf. I’m not sure exactly what criteria he used to come to this conclusion but I wasn’t about to argue with his choice. Brileigh, agonized the longest over the decision, touching each and every animal to find the one with the softest, cuddliest fur; in the end this was apparently a panda bear although I couldn’t quite feel the difference myself. Ainsley was immediately drawn to this small, reddish little animal with a long complicated name on its tag. For whatever reason, it was the first animal she chose and she immediately fell in love with it without giving the others a second glance. Delaney pondered over a few choices before putting them all back and selecting a bright blue sparkly frog with long arms and legs that she insists is a monkey. At barely two, Lacey’s idea of making a choice was gathering up as many animals into her arms as she could fit and then crying pitifully when I took them away. In the end I chose an adorable little elephant for her that she named Elmo.

As we headed back to the parking lot I asked the kids what animals were their favorites. Tony and Brileigh each rattled off a list of impressive jungle fauna, but Ainsley and Delaney unanimously agreed that the best animals were the bunny and the squirrel. Next time I’ll save my hundred bucks and take them to the park. The long ride home was peaceful and serene. My exhausted babies fell asleep quickly, clutching their new furry friends, and Brian and I rested our throbbing legs while we rehashed the events of the day making us laugh all over again at the raw enthusiasm and innocence that children display. It was a long and exhausting day; the tedious task of keeping everyone together took it out of us. After all, the children outnumbered our eyeballs. But it was easier and more enjoyable than we ever could have predicted and it has made us eager to attempt more outings with our brood. Maybe next year we’ll even try Disney!

Hmm… and maybe not.  

To see more hilarious comics by J-Sto, please visit www.mykidcomix.com



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