Thursday, June 20, 2013

From a Mother of Three's Perspective

Is life with three crazy?  Are you getting any sleep?  You really have your hands full!

Over the past three months, most conversations have started with one of the above statements.  And, given that I've had ample opportunities to respond, my answers have evolved.

Is life with three crazy?

Well, it really depends on how you look at it.  When I see my life through the eyes of one of my siblings when they come to visit, then yes, my life is crazy.  Whenever we chat with Edward who is over in Singapore, by the end of the conversation, his eyes have this glazed over look.  Both Joseph and Ellie have been to visit over the past few months and have come to appreciate 7pm with a whole new meaning.  There's nothing like a quiet house and an alcoholic beverage after a day full of very small children.

Things that will surprise no one about this picture...the ridiculous size of the rock that Joseph is throwing into the water and the beer he's subtly holding in his other hand
Lilly and Joef's infamous toothbrush dance 

Trying to get a picture with everyone is never easy!
Third children bonding :)
However, given that I wasn't thrown into this situation and that I didn't go from being single to being married with three children overnight, I would have to say that life with three is not much crazier than life with two.  It's not like I was sitting around reading all day before Hannah came along!  Life has been busy since Lilly's arrival four years ago, and Hannah has slotted right in. Would I pay for an extra pair of hands sometimes?  Absolutely.  Like last week, when Jim turned on the shower and while he was in the kitchen waiting for it to warm up, Jack walked into the shower fully clothed.  Having small children definitely requires a sense of humor.  So we did the only thing we could do in this situation...we laughed and took a picture.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided while Lilly and Jack were in the bath that I was going to check them for ticks more diligently.  We have had a few deer in the yard and they spend most of their afternoons outside.  I don't know much about ticks but I hear horror stories about Lyme disease, and their pediatrician said I should be checking them regularly, so I checked them.  I started with Lilly's hair, and all I had to do was part her hair down the middle before finding a tick sitting smack in the middle of her head.  Having no experience with tick removal, I called my friend Meg to walk me through it.  And of course, this is all taking place at 6pm--the most relaxing time of day in any house with small children.  So, I calmly asked Lilly to sit next to me while I talked to Meg.  I got Jack out of the bath and put him downstairs with Ellie, who was holding Hannah.  And just like that, it was like a bomb went off.  Hannah started screaming and wouldn't stop.  Jack was running circles around the house, and peed on the floor.  Meg was trying to explain how to calmly but firmly remove the tick and Lilly was talking a mile a minute asking if she could move now and why was there a tick in her hair and how were we going to get the tick off and could we call daddy to tell him....AAAAAAAAH!  Jim walked in the door 10 minutes later, and was able to remove the tick with me.  I fed Hannah and she stopped crying.  We put Jack in a diaper.  And life went back to normal.  So, yes, life with three has its crazy moments, but life with one or two has its moments as well.

For the most part, we have our new routines.  Hannah has been an amazing addition, sleeping well and
eating well and has just been the sweetest little baby.  She spends her day in and out of carseats and strollers and bouncy chairs, until the end of the day.  After we put Lilly and Jack to bed, we get our time with Hannah.  So from 7-9, we get our cuddles and smiles and newborn hugs.  As always, it is going by way too fast.

Are you getting any sleep?

Yes!  My children like to sleep--probably because Jim and I like to sleep and truly are miserable when we're sleep deprived.  I remember sitting with Mum at California Pizza Kitchen one day before Lilly was born, chatting about babies and what it's like to be a Mum.  When I asked Mum for advice, she told me that of course your world changes with this new little person, but it's important to set some sort of schedule so you can have your life too.  So, from the beginning, I try to feed my babies every 3-4 hours.  When they're tiny, during the day, I typically don't let them go more than 3 hours, even if it means waking them up.  Sometimes it's 2.5 hours...occasionally even 2, but 3 hours is my general goal.  And then at night, I let them go as long as they want.  At the moment, I'm feeding Hannah for the last time at 8:30/9pm and she's been sleeping until 4:30/5:30am depending on the day.  She's even made it to 6 a few times.  I cannot complain.  She was up in the night a few times the first week we were home from the hospital, but I only woke Jim once to help me, so he really loves Hannah!  Any baby that doesn't interrupt sleep is a good baby in our book.

You really have your hands full!

I still don't know how to respond to this.  I smile.  Say things like, "Yes, don't I know it!"  But I know that when I'm older and out at the grocery store shopping by myself because all my children are at school, I am never, ever going to say this to the mom with a toddler sitting in the shopping cart, pulling the stroller with a baby behind her and another little one pushing a cart beside her.  Like I didn't know I have my hands full.  Granted, it's usually an innocent comment, and more often than not, it's an older person who says it to me, but I have to say that I'm pretty sick of it.  I still don't understand why people feel entitled to comment on my life; there's something about pregnant women and women with babies that draws comments from people passing by.  It's like the "oh, you must be due any day" comment when I still have half my pregnancy to go, or the 7394873939 people who told me that Hannah was going to be a boy (in case I wanted lots of strangers' opinions on the gender of my baby...) or the ridiculous number of people who look at me with three little ones and say, "well, it'll be busy for awhile but at least you're done now."  How do they know Jim and I don't want 18 children? (For the record, we have no intentions of having 18 children, but still, it's nobody's business but ours).  Life is busy, that's for sure.  But it's the good kind of busy.  The kind of busy where we go to bed every night exhausted, but so thankful for our wonderful little family.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Gigi, Papa and Boston

Sarah and Ross got married last weekend, which allowed us to pair a fun family party with a visit from Mum and Dad! After Hannah was born, Mum and Dad graciously agreed to plan their next trip to Connecticut around Sarah and Ross' wedding, so that Jim and I could have an (almost) child free weekend in Boston.  We took Hannah with us and loved being able to spend time cuddling our littlest child.

Meeting Kelly! 
Meeting Joe!
Watching Sarah, the youngest of the Clark children, get married was emotional for everyone.  Since Jim and I have been married, I always cry when I watch the bride and her Dad walking down the aisle. The memories come flooding in, of Jim and my wedding day, my hand shaking, Dad's arm holding me steady as we walked down the aisle to Jim.  Last Saturday, I watched Ross' face, overcome with love, as he saw Sarah walking towards him.  I looked at Sarah's eyes, radiating happiness as Jim passed her hands to Ross at the alter.  Nothing compares to those first moments; true expressions of love can't be rehearsed and Sarah and Ross' faces said it all.

Jim and I had a fantastic weekend away.  We got to spend time with each other; we got to catch up with good friends; we laughed and danced with Jim's family.  Clark weddings are always a good time.  The weekend was made even better knowing that Mum and Dad were looking after Lilly and Jack in Fairfield.

Jack's (first course) breakfast, as arranged by Papa.
Breakfast--one of the best times of the day!
As hard as it is, living 1799 miles away from Mum and Dad (according to google maps), it means that when we see them, we get to spend extended periods of time together.  Life continued right where it left off when they left after Hannah was born.  The house was fully stocked with fruit, coffee, beer and wine.  Dad went to the French bakery down the road every morning for fresh baguettes, which we all devoured with Vegemite.  The lemons were ready for Mum's morning lemon water.  The scotch glasses were waiting for Jim and Dad's evening scotch.

March 2013
Having Mum and Dad here this time reminded me of when I'd return home after a semester at college.  My body seemed to shut down.  Up until they arrived, I felt good!  I seemed to have things under control and had acclimated to life with three little ones.  And then, almost instantly upon their arrival, it all hit me.  I was exhausted.  I went to bed early and slept in.  I did very little around the house.  Yet somehow, the laundry was always done, the dishwasher always unpacked, the meals were delicious, the fridge was always stocked with food and the beer, wine and scotch was neverending.  Mum and Dad have had their fair share of house guests over the years.  Living abroad makes you especially susceptible to that.  As a result, they're very sensitive when it comes to things like overstaying their welcome and draining our food and drink.  So sensitive, in fact, that we often have to convince them that we love it when they visit, and that they're welcome as often and for as long as they're able to stay!  The day before they left for Austin, Dad went to the grocery store and replenished everything; they left the house with more food, beer, wine and scotch than was here when they arrived.  They are the house guests that everyone dreams to have.

Mum meeting Hannah--just a day old
On top of their extraordinary generosity and valuable extra hands, Gigi and Papa are amazing grandparents.  They gave Hannah cuddles.  They fully appreciated her always-vertical-often-blowing-in-the-wind hair.  They answered Lilly's endless questions.  One conversation with Gigi in particular stands out in my mind.  A few hours after asking Mum the names of her parents (Grace & Edmund), over lunch one day, Lilly asked Mum if she was ever a baby inside Grace's tummy.  Mum answered her question with a smile, and a sweet, "Yes, Lilly, I was a baby inside Grace's tummy.  And do you know, that's the first time anybody has ever asked me that question before!"

Lilly and her stethoscope had just informed Gigi that her heartbeat must have gone away for a little while because she couldn't find it anywhere!
Lilly and Dad can banter back and forth for hours.  When Dad asked Jack to hand over a pair of "Mummy's scissors," Lilly informed Dad that they were not in fact my scissors, but they were her little scissors.  Dad said that it didn't matter whose scissors they were, Jack shouldn't be carrying them around. And Lilly again informed him that they were her scissors.  Dad gave up, told Jack to give him "Lilly's scissors," and finished with a statement like, "well, that really made all the difference, didn't it!" It reminded me of many conversations growing up.  It's sweet to see how Lilly now understands Dad's sense of humor, and has a good time giving it back to him as well!  Dad is really good at getting in the last word.  Unfortunately for Dad, Lilly, being an oldest child, also likes to get the last word, but if I've learned anything growing up in the Stephens family, it's that Dad always wins.  I think Lilly has realized that as well, although being four years old means that she's not going to give up easily.  Dad sent me the picture below, after a dinner battle back in March.

Gigi arrived with little knitted animals, gorgeous booties for Hannah and a little jingling mobile, all of which she made.  She swaddled Hannah and talked to her and sang to her and just adored her.  Gigi taught Lilly how to go across the balance beam at the park by herself.  You might think that was the highlight of their trip to the park, but if you ask Lilly, she'll tell you that her favorite part was when Gigi let her go to the bathroom next to a port-a-potty at the park, because going inside would be too disgusting!  Anytime we've gone back to that park since Mum and Dad were here, Lilly has tried to go to the bathroom next to the port-a-potty!  Ahhh, memories.

A lamb and two little kittens, for Hannah, Jack and Lilly.  There's a cute little penguin too (not photographed).
Hannah getting to know her Gigi

One of my favorites.  Mum is appreciating Hannah's hair on the windy beach!
Jack and Papa made Dad's morning coffee together, imitating all the noises that the keurig makes.  Papa read Jack book after book after book.  Or the same book over and over again.  Last time they were here, the book of choice was Millie Cow.  This time, the book was one of those Hallmark books, which Ellie and Edward gave to Lilly a few years ago.  It's a book of nursery rhymes, where Mum, Dad, Joseph, Ellie and Edward each recorded a rhyme so that when you turn the pages, you'll hear Mum's voice saying, "Mary had a little lamb..." and Dad's rendition of "This little piggy went to market..." and Ellie with "Little boy blue, come blow your horn..." and Edward with "Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle..." and probably their favorite of the bunch, Joseph singing "The itsy bitsy spider..."  As you can imagine, Lilly and Jack love this book.  However, Papa, with his neverending patience, tired of this book pretty quickly.  When we returned from Boston, I found it on the highest shelf in the living room, on top of all the DVDs.  And when Jack discovered it there, it was quietly put away in the hall closet, where there was no risk of it being found.

Just a few days old!
Jack helping Papa make coffee

Dad's "magic" is still going strong--pulling coins out of ears!  Lilly loves it.  Jack isn't too sure...
Gigi and Papa took all the little ones for walks to the beach, where they would run around, build sand cakes, and skip rocks (or in Jack's case, find the biggest rocks he could find to throw) along the water.  They discovered cats and wild turkeys on their walks.  They looked for school busses and trucks for Jack and picked flowers with Lilly.  They took advantage of one of the rare months when the temperature is above freezing in Connecticut.

Another favorite.  Skipping rocks together.
Choosing a good rock
A left-handed pitcher in the making?

As always, we had a wonderful time while Mum and Dad were here.  I was sad to see them go, but eventually, life has to go back to normal.  I'm not exhausted.  Three children seem manageable again.  I'm cooking and cleaning and being a Mum and a wife.  I feel happy and refreshed, and I can't wait until next time.

June 2013