Sometimes I'm a writer.
Sometimes I'm a wife.
All the time I'm a mom.
Ok, I'm those other things all the time too. But it's hart to remember that there are other aspects to my life when being a mom sucks up every single ounce and breath and moment of my life!
I mean... My kids are everywhere. All the time.
They are in my things. They are in the refrigerator or the pantry. They are in my bed. In my bathroom. In my way. Underfoot. On top of me. Wrapped around my legs.
Sometimes I don't even see them. They just follow me like a shadow until the perfect opportunity when they can jump out and scare the bejeezus out of me and then laugh when I scream my head off.
They. Are. Every. Where.
And there are four of them.
So basically a million. I mean, it might as well be a million. I don't think I would notice the difference.
The truth is, as much as I'd like to identify myself as this polished career woman, that will NEVER happen. Never. I mean, never ever.
Instead, what I truly am, is a Stay-At-Home Mom who sometimes writes books. Before I'm a writer, I'm a maid, a chauffeur, a chef, an event planner and a slave. And a hundred other things that I can't think up names for right now because there were two kids in my bed last night and I'm tired. (That was really whiny.. but please take this entire blog as sarcasm. This is in no way a pity party. It's meant to be funny.)
PS Slaves and maids are two entirely different things. And I am both.
Every mom is. That's the way of life. We do it because we love our children and we want what's best for them; but it doesn't negate the fact that we are multitasking like we're human-sized spiders with eight fully functioning hands that can handle it all.
2013 marked a brand new year for me in this Journey of Motherhood. It's the first full year I had four rugrats crawling around. And it's the longest I've gone without nursing or getting pregnant in the last eight years.
That's almost a decade of using my body to feed/grow a child.
I've never felt better.
Ok, that's a lie. Once upon a time, I was an eighteen year old girl. Athletic. In shape. Without child-bearing hips and stretch marks.
So... there was a time that I've felt better than I do now.
But those days are long gone. I can't even remember what it was like back then. And I don't really want to.
I'm pretty sure it will only depress me. :) Just kidding!
Anyway. This year has been nothing but a learning experience. And I really mean that. There were moments when I felt like breaking into tears and screaming, PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME LEARN ANYTHING ELSE!! I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE! I JUST WANT TO GO OVER THINGS I ALREADY KNOW!
There were also incredible moments filled with so much joy I was positive I would burst into a million happy pieces.
But sticking with my end of the year lists, I have compiled a list of Fourteen Things I Learned About Being A Mom Of Four in 2013.
1. It's loud.
Let me repeat that just in case you didn't hear me over the screaming, crying, laughing, and shouts for "Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!!!!!!!!!!"
IT. IS. LOUD.
Seriously, so loud. There are NEVER moments of peace and quiet around here. Someone is ALWAYS TALKING. And while I think that God maybe blessed me with the chattiest kids ever- seriously, every single kid loves to hear their own voice. I thought I would get one strong-and-silent type. But no. All of them are Chatty Cathys- there is also just a lot of noise associated with that many children.
I have a thousand memories of eating dinner as a family growing up. My parents were very strict about table manners. And I remember not having a choice but to obey.
But here's the thing. Although I have three brothers, two of them are a much older than me. So when I was a child, they were teenagers. And when I was a teenager, they were adults. This apparently made for a much quieter, more tranquil dinner table when it was just my younger brother and me that needed to be constantly reminded to take our elbows off the table and chew with our mouths closed.
It's not like that at my table. The only way to even describe it is.... PURE CHAOS. There are disgusting jokes, constant speaking over each other in order to be heard and I haven't even gotten to which side of the plate the glass should be set. I mean, sometimes I sit there and just listen to conversation between the 6, 4 and 2 year old and I know they are never going to be invited over to anyone's house! Ever. And there's no chance of them getting married. Not with all the farting jokes and open-mouthed chewing! They are going to live with me forever. Just me and them and fart jokes.
That's my future.
And then there is this thing that they do... It's actually started by the baby of all people. And I don't know how to stop it, well, because he's only a baby. But we will all be sitting there and he'll start this humming noise, real low- almost unnoticable. Then soon enough, the 2 year old joins in at just a little bit higher pitched. Pretty soon they are SHOUTING these sounds out- and it's just this constant, never ending noise! All of them!!! And it gets so loud that they can't even hear me yelling at them to stop!! I. Am. Not. Kidding. You! I have to jump around to get their attention! I'm completely outnumbered.
People think I hate talking on the phone- which, Ok, I do- but mostly there's not a chance for me to talk on the phone! Just try and call me. Just try it. I have this friend, Lindsay, and she has four kids too. And our oldests are the same age. Anyway, she's the only person I talk to on the phone. But she understands me!! It's this constant back and forth between talking to each other and then talking or yelling at our children. There's a lot of apologizing between us, but somehow we manage conversations. I don't know how. But we do. But if anyone else tried to talk to me for that long, they would probably just hang up on me. I mean, what's the point?? Half the time I sound like I'm not even listening to them. I'm all, What? What did you say? Can you speak up? Can you repeat that in simpler terms?? My brain feels sleepy.
Also, I yell things that should NEVER be phrases. Ever. Things like, GET YOUR TOES OUT OF THE BABY'S MOUTH!! Or, If you like that electrical outlet one more time, I am going to put you to bed!!! Things that don't even make sense!! Scarlett, stop calling your brother Moona!! He hates being called Moona!!!! (What IS Moona?? Seriously? Does anybody know???)
The noise never stops around here. It's just constant.
Ok, I don't really believe nobody will invite them over and that they won't be able to get married. But there are real moments of despair that I am concerned for my own sanity if I have to hear one more kid burp the alphabet.
2. Poop. There is so much poop.
You know that book, "Everybody Poops!" I'm changing it. Or rewriting it. Or whatever. My book is going to be called, "Every Child Poops Five Times A day!" Because it's the truth. And five times four is A LOT OF POOP. They just poop and poop and poop. And I am always in the bathroom or changing a diaper or washing my hands or listening to them scream across the store, "MOM, I HAVE TO POOP!"
My life has been reduced down to pooping. We schedule our lives around it. It interrupts every activity. It disturbs meals and conversation and entertainment. There is just me, these four kids and poop.
The next time someone asks me what having four kids is like, I'm going to tell them, "Well, I wipe a lot of butts." And they can figure out the rest.
3. It is impossible to keep the house stocked with first aid equipment. Seriously, it is. If, in the event of an Apocalypse of some kind, do NOT come to my house looking for supplies. You won't find any here. By the time the Apocalypse hits, we'll have been out of every necessity for at least three weeks. What you will find is a grocery list with everything that should be in the house, a bunch of empty containers and some useless medicine droppers.
It's funny how my standards have changed along the way. When Stella was little, every time she got a bump or scratch we'd put a cutesy little bandaid on her to make her feel better. Then we had Scarlett and Stryker and those standards went from made-up injuries to a serious scratch and/or any bit of blood got basic medical attention. NOW. Ha! Now, the rule is you have to be GUSHING blood before you get any kind of adhesive. Seriously, we are not putting anything on it, unless it's literally needed to STOP the blood flow. In other words, I've replaced band-aids with butterfly stitches.
Just don't verify this with them.
4. My grocery bill could pay for one of them to go to Ivy League University.
Oh. My. Goodness. I'm not even kidding. It's INSANE. How do four little people eat so much??? Where does it go??
Other than their poop. Which we've already established is all the time.
It's not even like I let them eat bad things. I'm kind of crazy about fresh fruits and vegetables. And we avoid as many processed foods as possible. I mean, we don't even use a microwave, so they can't eat anything easy.
But there is never food in our house. Never. And when there is, when I've finally taken the pilgrimage to the grocery store for the five hour process of stocking this house, they swoop in like a swarm of locusts and consume everything in sight in seconds.
I should probably capture the phenomenon on video and Youtube that sucker.
Just for the record, when Stryker was a baby, my entire family grocery budget was $50/week. And that fed us every meal for the week. That amount is a hilarious joke these days. I can't even imagine spending so little on our grocery bill!! And I have this horrifying feeling it's only going to get worse. What happens when the boys are teenagers???
5. I never wanted to be the mom that let her kids dress in pants that were too small for them. I mean, growing up and I nanny-ed for years and years and I just always promised myself, "My kids will never walk around in pants that are too short for them. How hard is it to make sure your kids have pants that fit??"
Well? Really freaking hard!!!!!
Seriously, how fast do these kids grow??? It's like I go shopping and buy them all enough clothes to just get them through a season. I mean, I'd like for them to all look cute, but there are FOUR of them... so it's expensive to just keep them with functioning underwear. Anyway, I'll collect the necessary items to let them function in normal society, I sit back and I feel really good. I think, WOW, all my kids have pants that are long enough, socks to go on their toes, shoes that fit, shirts that cover their cute little tummies and underwear! I mean, woot woot! Super Mom, right here!!!
That feeling lasts for three days.
Then one of them grows overnight into an entirely new size and we're back to square one. And I swear, if I go buy one kid new pants, the very next night, another one decides to grow too. Heaven forbid, they get left out. It's ridiculous!
I don't know how many times Stella has come home from school and I've been like, "Were you wearing those pants all day?? I can SEE YOUR SHINS! I JUST BOUGHT THOSE PANTS LAST WEEK!" I mean, seriously. Does she start growing the minute she hops out of the van?? Do they stretch her at school?? Is it part of the curriculum?? This morning I took a special trip to Target to buy underwear for all the children because I just happened to notice two days ago that their underwear was like cutting into them. How can I keep up with that?? They just really do not stop growing. Not even long enough for me to catch my breath.
Which I suppose is a good thing.
But it means, that I've turned into a hypocrite. There are times when I'm embarrassed for the length of their pants, or humiliated by the fit of their shirt (Which, ahem, I'm a little more forgiving of myself if it's one of my girls.. but when Stryker's wearing the belly t's we've got serious issues), Sometimes they wear flip flops for months longer than they should because I don't trust their feet enough to outfit them in tennis shoes just yet. And sometimes the baby wears newborn socks for months because I keep forgetting to pick him up socks that actually fit him.
PS. Thanks mom for buying him socks for Christmas. He loves being able to wiggle his toes in ones that actually fit.
6. Not every meal needs something healthy in it.
I can talk for hours about the importance of healthy eating. Seriously, I used to do these cooking shows in which that was my job. And I really, really try to be the best mom that I can be when it comes to feeding my children and what goes in their bodies. We do strictly fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. I'm not kidding about the microwave. And meals are as from scratch as possible. Don't even get me started on dairy.
But sometimes... all I have energy for is a frozen pizza. I mean, that's as good as it's going to get. And there are lunches where the idea of putting ANOTHER meal together literally makes me want to quit life. And so, when I set out cheese and crackers and tell them to dig in, I'm darn proud of myself. Did you know McDonald's sells a 20 piece Chicken McNugget for $5??? Because they do. And that plus a large French Fry for $1.50 is enough to feed all the kids plus give Zach and me a snack!! I mean.. You can't really beat that deal. And I'm not above bribing with a KitKat at the end of the check out if they will just sit still and be quiet. So whilst I do my best to make their bodies into little temples of health.
We are not perfect.
And sometimes that's the difference between being sane and ahem, not being sane.
7. They would rather have uninterrupted time with me than anything else in the world. Well, me and Zach. It's really amazing how innocent their biggest wants and needs are. Sure, they love new toys and fun activities. But baking with me when I'm off my phone, away from the Internet or not involved in a grown-up conversation is the greatest gift I can give them. Turning off the radio and DVD in the car and just talking about school and friends at the end of it, is when I get to hear the best parts of their day. And sometimes worst parts, but I get to hear them, we get to talk about it, they get to be listened to.
I am so connected to everything in this world. I mean, I run my career through social media and on top of that I have books to keep up with. Plus, I want time with my husband too!!! We rarely ever get grown up time, or moments to have adult conversation. There are thousands of things I can put before the slow, quiet moments with my children. But nothing, nothing is more important than finding time with each of them.
Well, except maybe also finding time with my husband.
Deadlines are important, but they are not the most important thing. Working is vital for our living situation, but it's not the most vital thing to fill up our lives with. Connecting with readers, thanking bloggers, posting teasers, running giveaways are all necessities for my life, but they are not necessities for my children's lives and they will never understand why those things are more important than them.
There are moments to teach them about working hard for what you want and providing for your family. There are moments to show them what it's like to run, struggle, go after your dreams with everything you've got, and then there are moments to show them that they are really the dream- that they are what makes life worth living and breathing.
Balance is a dirty word to me lately. It's hard!!!! I can't find it, I can't maintain it and I can't even begin to understand what it looks like in my life... But it's the most important thing even if it's the hardest. And sometimes it means ignoring the computer to snuggle, or putting down that chapter to make cookies or play Barbies.
Those moments can be the most difficult because I'm not tangibly accomplishing something, but nothing is more important than making the most of these small moments I have with these babies. They are why I do everything. And if I can't have time with them and treasure them, then I'm doing something wrong. Then it's not worth it to try so hard or even begin to succeed. Success in them first. Then the rest comes.
8. Teaching a child to read is the worst experience of my life.
And I have to go through this three more times.
HELP ME!!!!!!!!!!! Here's the thing. I used to nanny. I nanny-ed full time for two families. One family had seven kids. And the other had four. I've taught a LOT of children how to read.
And I have hated every single minute of it.
I hoped it would be different with my own child. You know? I thought it would be exciting and life-changing and it would be these amazing memories we would have together forever.
It was not those things.
It was the OPPOSITE of those things.
But it's not like I can opt out of this! It's not like I can just choose for my children not to read. It's not like Milk. We don't drink cow's milk.. I think it's bad for you. We drink Almond Milk. Can I do that with reading?? We don't read. I'm not patient enough for that. We just do math. They're good at math.
Teaching children to read makes me want to bang my head against the wall and listen to the jazz flute until my ears bleed. I just can't... there are no words.
And I have three more to go. This isn't over. This will NEVER be over.
Why can't kids just be born with this ability???? Teaching them to ride a bike was easier than this. Heck, potty training was easier than this!! And Stella is really, really smart. Like, very smart.
She should have been easy!!!!
Oh, no. What if she WAS easy??? What if it only gets harder from here??? Oh, gosh.
9. Just because you stop nursing, doesn't necessarily mean you stop lactating.
Oh yes. We're going there.
Solo turned one in August. I stopped nursing at the end of September.
I lactated for MUCH longer than that. Is this too much information?? Sorry. But it needs to be said.
I mean, there were moments when I really thought that I had nursed for enough years of my life that my boobs forgot how to NOT nurse. Like, this was just my life from now on. I was going to give up writing and become a wet nurse.
It got weird. And it totally freaked me out. There was some panicking. And some out right refusal to go see a doctor. I mean, why would I, when I can just Google that stuff?
Thankfully, it's all under control now. But.. seriously, Boobs?? As if I don't have enough issues with you??
And it was like, Ok, I've had my four kids and now I just want my body back!!!! I just want to move on from being this vessel for taking care of children. I want to not have fluids leaking out of me for just like a week. Can that happen? Can I get some cooperation here???
Eventually, my body decided this was a great idea, too. Thank goodness.
10. I will never have anything nice.
At least not until the last kidlet moves on to college.
Even then it's iffy.. because I suppose they'll want to come back and visit.
I remember hearing this my entire childhood. My dad would always tell us, "I can never have anything nice! You kids destroy everything!!" Usually.. right after we'd just broken something.
I thought/assumed/hoped that the destructive nature of children had been reserved for my brothers and me specifically. I mean, I'm pretty klutzy. Maybe that trait isn't genetic??? Nope. Wrong.
So. Very. Wrong.
My kids destroy everything they touch! Everything.
That's only a mild exaggeration.
Our kitchen table? Scratched to all heck. Our family room couch?? Fine, just as long as you keep the cushions flipped a certain way and ignore the springs popping through underneath them- because my kids love to take the cushions off and play Olympic Trampoline all over them. Their bunk beds? Great, if you enjoy the artistic flare of a three year old that turned them into her personal masterpieces with Sharpies.
At least I know my brothers and I were not alone. This destructive disease was not possessed by us alone. Instead, it affects children everywhere.
11. Four is a lot of children these days.
And it really is. I know that. Believe me when I say, there is not a moment in my life that passes and I think, wow, we have a small number of children... this house just feels empty. Usually, I'm thinking the exact opposite. Usually, it's more along the lines of, WHERE DID ALL THESE KIDS COME FROM?????
Seriously. If someone could explain to me how they all got here, that would clear up some confusion. I'm not sure I understand it.
But what I interpret as loud, sometimes violent, sometimes angelic little extensions of myself, the rest of the functioning world sees as a horde of tiny little menaces.
Every time I'm out in public with "the Litter" or I prefer, "the Gaggle" I get stopped and commented to about how full my hands are or how busy I must be. Which, both of those things are true. But really, once you get beyond three kids, the rest kind of just fill in the extra space. You barely notice they're there.
Sometimes you forget about them completely.
No, I really don't forget about the baby. Even if that means there is this constant chant of "Don't forget about the baby. Don't forget about the baby. Don't forget about the baby. Don't forget about the baby." in my head.
Needless to say, that yes in fact, Four IS a lot of children. But I love my big family. I love the clutter and chaos. I love that our rooms are filled with noise and affection. I love that they have playmates that will be with them forever and they never have to be alone. I love that they learn to share and communicate with each other and treat each other with respect. I love that my hands are full. And that it takes thirty minutes to get out of the car and we need two carts to get through a grocery store and that I have five more years of preschool left...
No really, I do love it. Yes, they all shout at me, but they also all tell me how much they love me. Yes, they all fight with each other, but they also all love to play together. Yes, they can be violent, but they can also be extremely sweet. And nothing beats the cuddles, the kisses and the moments when I know that I'm just glowing with pride for them.
12. iPads have saved my life on more than one occasion.
I'm all about being active and playing outside. I really, truly am. But thank goodness there are those precious electronic devices that can entertain all ages of little minds. Car trips. Church. The thirty minutes before bedtime. Long Sunday afternoons. Deadline days... I mean, really. I want my children unplugged most of the time. I want them to learn how to sit still without being constantly entertained and I want them to enjoy being physically active instead of sitting in front of a screen constantly- like I do. But I also, sometimes, occasionally, desperately need some peace and quiet.
And Netflix, or Angry Birds or Makeover Mania (er, or whatever) can be the biggest life saver.
And for all of my single/un-parentified friends out there that have told me multiple times how your children- when you have them- will have nothing to do with a tablet or smart phone of any kind, ever and that it's ridiculous... HAHAHAHAHA. <----- that's me laughing at your naivety. Just you wait, my friends. Just. You. Wait.
13. I am a REALLY non-confrontational person. Until, it comes to my children.
And this is so very true. I don't make waves. I don't step on toes. In fact, I go so far out of my way to avoid stepping on toes, I often times step on my own toes. Does that make sense? No? Good.
But seriously. I am an overly forgiving person and a people-pleaser. So go ahead, mess with me all you want.
On the other hand. Do. Not. Mess. With. My. Kids.
I will cut a bitch.
Just kidding!!! Mostly. Unless, of course it has to do with the children.
I never knew I could be like this!!! I mean, Mama Bear comes out if you're not careful.
There has never been anything in my life that I've wanted to protect so fiercely. And I will. No matter what.
Of course, there are life lessons they need to learn. And I am not at all the mom that is down at school every day because my child is being treated "unfairly." But I will stand up for what I believe is right.
And sometimes standing with them quietly is worse than lashing out at whoever hurt them. I will always be a million times more heartbroken than them when there little hearts ache. I will always feel it so much more when they get in trouble at school, or fight with their friends. Nobody feels worse than me. Nobody sheds more tears- of course, privately, in my room with door locked, so they don't think I'm a freak.
14. And finally. FINALLY.
I just didn't know a person could love this much.
Truly. I had no idea.
My heart is so full. So blessedly full.
After I found out I was pregnant with my second child, I just remember thinking, "How will there be room to love another baby? I love Stella SO much... as much as humanly possible. So how can I make room for another kid???"
But I didn't have to. Because as my family grew, so did my heart. Cheesy? Definitely. But oh, so true.
And now with four kids and a husband that changes my life daily, I am just bursting to the seems with love for them and for this crazy, chaotic insanity we call life. They teach me a lot. They demand a lot from me. They need me a lot. They yell at me a lot. They give me a LOT of gray hairs. But they also love me a lot, too.
So much, sometimes I feel a little emotionally unstable because it just brings me to my knees with tears. I love these little monsters- more than should be possible. And I wouldn't change anything about them or the adventure they bring with them.
Who is Rachel?!?
Rachel Higginson is the author of The Five Stages of Falling in Love, Every Wrong Reason, The Star-Crossed Series, Love & Decay Novella Series and much more! She was born and raised in Nebraska, and spent her college years traveling the world. She fell in love with Eastern Europe, Paris, Indian Food and the beautiful beaches of Sri Lanka, but came back home to marry her high school sweetheart. Now she spends her days writing stories and raising four amazing kids.
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