These Yoga Pants Don’t Do Yoga

There may be a universal practice among parents of young children. When you spend energy on problems like deciding who’s going to turn on the light with a 2 year old, and negotiating toy sharing with a 4 year old, and learning to read with a 6 year old, and doing “new math” homework with an 8 year old, and driving to daily sports events with a 10 year old, and getting any of them to sleep properly after Daylight Savings, there’s no energy left to deal with uncomfortable clothing. Thus, “activewear” has become the standard, comfortable, wear-everywhere parental uniform.

Forget going to the gym in this activewear. Besides, we’re active enough chasing, driving, and cleaning up all day long, with no energy left at the end of the day to drive ourselves somewhere too. Yoga pants are the perfect bottom to compliment any top, and to flatter any bottom. They’re so comfortable, you forget you’re wearing them, and with 1,001 things on a parent’s mind, being allowed to forget one thing is a blessed relief.

pants1I own eight pairs of yoga pants, and not one of them has ever done yoga. Yet, the knees are worn thin from playing on the floor, the ankles are scuffed from walking through parks, and the waists are stretched out from bending over to talk to small people. These pants define who I am when my kids are with me. I change into grownup clothes when I leave the house without my kids, but change right back when I get home. It’s more than just changing clothes; it’s putting on the role that I’m most comfortable wearing.

It’s funny how I can long for grownup time away, but when I’m there, it’s uncomfortable. My hands are so used to wiping runny noses, holding little hands, and shooing little feet in the right direction, that they don’t know what to do when no one needs them. I’m not sure what to talk about, if the conversation doesn’t include the alphabet, the ladybug crawling up my chair, or where the nearest bathroom is.

There’s another difficulty now, too. Big Sister and Miss Twin are becoming fashion conscious, and are seeing my yoga pants for what they are: Worn out, faded, black pants that I wear EVERYWHERE. They’re starting to comment on it, which makes me self-conscious about my once-comfortable identity, and leaves me wondering about more than just wardrobe, but about what kind of parent I am to be seen in public in such sloppy clothes, and what I’m teaching my daughters about their identities.

pants2My favorite bedtime story has always been “What Was I Scared Of?” by Dr. Seuss (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXblKdxmmfA). It’s about a pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them. Despite being empty, those green pants have an identity, which is misunderstood, at first. The pants and the character they scare both have to grow before the happy ending. Maybe I need to ask the same thing of my yoga pants. What am I scared of? (Shopping with daughters who might, someday, have more fashion sense than I do? Definitely.) In the meantime, am I scared of growing back into my own identity? Of taking risks and sounding silly and making mistakes? (It’s kind of like middle school again.)

Maybe it’s time to grow out of my yoga pants. I’m still discovering what I’m growing into, but I know that I don’t want my pants to be pale green with nobody inside them. I want to inhabit them, be confident in my identity in them, and show my kids how to wear their own pants. After all, they have the first round of middle school coming up too soon.

Three’s A Crowd

I have a lot of children. There are four small bodies (Big Sister, Mr. Twin, Miss Twin, and Little Sister), but they group, and scatter, and regroup into many more combinations. There are The Twins, and The Should’ve-Been-Twins. Big Sister and Mr. Twin have more matching genetics than the actual twins, including both being left-handed (Miss Twin is right-handed), matching dispositions (Miss Twin is opposite), and even a matching hairline and cowlick, according to our kid stylist at the last haircut appointment.

Kid Pinwheel1We have One + Twins, and Twins + One. I can solve the ongoing debate about which order is easier: Twins + One. They already know how to share, and after you’ve held two crying babies, and worked out which non-walker to leave in the car on a cold winter day while you take the other inside, and potty-trained two toddlers, one little body is a plain old piece of cake!

We have a Big Sister who’s as comfortable wrestling in the mud as she is wearing a skirt and playing Barbies, and boy/girl playmates who are happy to oblige either mood. Little Sister is now 2 years old, and eager to join in playtime (or, at least, walk off with the big kids’ stuff), so we have an ebb and flow of 2 + 2, or 3 + 1, or, on really spectacular days, 4 + 0, which means Daddy and I get to sit down to read a book and drink coffee! It might last 5 minutes, but that’s an improvement.

Kid Pinwheel2There was a time when I was thrilled that we had gotten three kids for the price of two, and I thought our family was complete. Then, Little Sister defied every odd and redefined all of us. The miracle combined with the four-year age gap made me wonder if she would be more spoiled than the others. Discipline was easy with them, because it’s survival when you’re outnumbered 3:1! Everyone had the same rules, everyone was told “no” when they asked for things in a store (or, sometimes, “I’ll remember that for Christmas”), and everyone saw everyone else have the same rules. Being outnumbered then created the reward now of being able to take three kids to Toys R Us, and having an enjoyable time shopping for someone else’s birthday present!

Then, bring on one adorable small girl, with a grin and a “pleeeeeaaase” to melt any grownup’s heart, and I thought my resolve might buckle. The first time she tried to work her charm on me, my instinct replied before I could even think about it, “Nope, not today,” and she said, “Ok.”

Wait. What?!

Kid Pinwheel3Maybe parenting is like riding a bike. We get on with no idea how to steer, we wobble, we fall down, we try again, we scrape a knee, we hit a wall, we ride, we go with the flow, it becomes second nature—and when someone shows us a new bike, we find the pedaling isn’t all that different. I also have three big kids keeping me accountable, so being outnumbered still works.

I used to plan my day, my week, my life by the minute. I had charts and to-do lists and expectations as high as the sky. Then, I had three babies in two years, and survival took all my energy. I think Life taught me a lot during that time, but just to make sure I really got it, Life handed me a fourth baby. I’m finally starting to appreciate the ebb and flow. Some days, parents know best. Some days, kids might know best. (Let’s not discount their wisdom just because we have more years on them.) Some days, it feels like Snow White’s Dwarves have moved in, with a Grumpy, a Happy, a Doc (who knows everything), and a Sleepy, and just when I’m used to that, they switch roles. Some days, I’m patient and wise. Some days, I slam doors too loudly and talk too much without listening. Some days, we make a fantastic team, and some, we fail miserably, brush ourselves off, and try again. The great thing about ebb and flow is that it averages out.

I have happy memories of all the fun things I did with my crowd of three, and I assumed that I would do the same things with Little Sister. But, I don’t. The sanity-saving family music class, which got four of us out of the house, is too far to drive for just two of us. The gymnastics classes that burned my preschool crowd’s energy don’t work with my big kids’ activity schedules. Instead, we’re doing new things, like rambling in the woods more, and going out for lunch (it’s possible with one toddler, but not two toddlers + a four year old!), and living spontaneously. I felt like she might be missing the opportunities the other kids had, but, then, I realized that we’re creating different happy memories. Quite often, Little Sister wants her brother and sisters’ help more than she wants mine. In short, I’m not the center of her universe, like I was for my Trio.

20150621-PlambeckFamily-7I’m not always the center of theirs anymore either. Little Sister has taken on the job of waking up the big kids for school. She recently held up her hand to stop me, and said, “No, Mommy. You sit back. I wake up.” She did, and Big Sister reported that she likes it better when Little Sister wakes her up than when I do. I say that’s a win-win. Three’s a crowd, but there’s room for a fourth, and I’m starting to understand the ebb and flow of parents stepping back and kids stepping up. It’s a new journey, on a new bike, but pedaling feels pretty much the same.

Full Circle

photo 1Do you hear that? It’s the sound of this rusty old blog opening up again. The dust covers are coming off with a snap. There’s still dust in the air, but I think it will settle. It’s been 2 ½ years since I wrote. My last entry was a bit of a pout about how life was changing. Oh my, has it changed! Now that my hindsight is 20/20, I’m so grateful. Big Sister, and Mr. and Miss Twin were the stars in the old entries, and we’ve now added a Little Sister, who entered onstage in a pretty dramatic way (https://abbyplambeck.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/a-trio-becomes-a-quartet-but-wheres-the-music/). Now that she’s here, we can’t imagine life any other way.

When I last wrote, Big Sister had just started kindergarten. Now, she’s almost 8 (going on 13). Mr. and Miss Twin were 3 and had just started preschool. Now, they’re in kindergarten. Little Sister was just a grainy, black-and-white photo; a surprise, then an insurgent, then a hope, then a miracle. Now, she’s a toddler, and I’ve come full circle, back to the experiences written about in my previous entries, and needing to consult my own advice!  (In particular, how to get a toddler to eat: https://abbyplambeck.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/dinner-in-a-cupcake-tin/)

I’ve come full circle, but with a new perspective. When I had three children ages 3 and under, I couldn’t imagine life being any harder. Well. Now, I know it can be. Despite twin potty training calamities and applesauce poured down a heat vent, I actually had a lot of control over our life. I determined where they went and when, what they ate, when they went to bed, which art projects they did, and who they played with.

Now, we’re into a new stage, when they’re in school and activities, and out of my sight most of the day. I can no longer see what they eat for lunch, monitor who they play with (and fight with) at recess, and hear what they whisper about in the library. They’re coming home with new ideas, challenging questions, changing bodies, and a whole new social life, which wears out this introverted mom way more than twin toddlers did, because it’s something more than physical exhaustion, it’s mental and emotional too. My to-do list is insane, the phone is always ringing, the emails are always dinging, the papers are always overflowing my counters, and the children are always hungry!

Yet, I keep volunteering. Why? Because I still want to be part of their daily lives. Because I want to know who their friends are. Because I’m fascinated by how my babies are turning into people, with their own dreams and questions and brilliance and mistakes, and I want to watch the process and learn from it too. I used to despair over a messy house. That mess hasn’t changed much, but now we’ve added emotional messiness, and that’s certainly harder to clean up.

Now, when my 2 year old dumps out a bin of toys, or demands chocolate at 7 a.m., or colors on my walls, it’s easier to take it in stride and to set boundaries. I see the results in the older kids, and hindsight has shown me that this innocent stage is short and sweet. Little Sister is already catching up to them way too quickly. I learned with small twins that every stage has its pros and cons, and the grass always seems greener elsewhere. I feel pretty blessed to be able to compare the grass on both sides of the fence now, and to find sweetness on both sides. The applesauce is still in the heat vent, and serves as a reminder that not everything can be cleaned up perfectly, and that’s okay. It also makes great blackmail for Mr. Twin. 😉

A Trio Becomes A Quartet, But Where’s The Music?

Sometimes, I write to figure things out, and, sometimes, I have to figure things out before I write.  The latter is what has been happening with this blog since my last post in June. We received the shock of our lives just before July 4th: We’re having another baby! I had been celebrating Independence Day in all of its aspects, especially the new independence of our Trio of kids, and one tiny strip with two little blue lines changed the course of our family in a moment. The irony and miracle is that we needed fertility treatment to get the other three and then I had my tubes tied. Wait. What??!! Yes, I’m the first person in my doctor’s address book to have this happen. I’ve always been a big fan of Serendipity, but She clearly went overboard this time.

My summer writing plans were replaced with throwing up in the kitchen sink, falling asleep at odd times of day, and making plans to borrow back all the baby gear I had just given away. Then came September, which was a momentous time in our house since Big Sister (now the eldest of two Big Sisters) started all-day kindergarten and Mr. and Miss Twin started preschool. I was not at all prepared for how labor intensive kindergarten would be—for me! The kid is doing great, but I’m still trying to catch up with all the forms to be signed, volunteer hours to be given, nickels and dimes to be spent, gym socks and rest towels to be washed, lunches and snacks to be packed, and library books to be read and returned. The learning curve is smoothing out a bit now that we’re two months in, and I hope this means I’ll be a pro next time when I’ll have two kids starting kindergarten at the same time.

So, after finally catching my breath from all that (which is getting harder with an expanding tummy to tote around), I realized that it had been 5 months since I had blogged. Dear readers, thank you for your patience and for your gentle inquiries about whether there would ever be another update. For this one, I figured I’d just tell it like it is. Simon Cowell would call this post indulgent, but motherhood has so little indulgence in it, that maybe all of us are entitled once in a while. I admit I went through a stage of resentment too, and took a page from my toddlers by having a temper tantrum. I had been looking forward to this new era with older, more independent kids as my time to get back to writing and my grownup goals. (We’re almost done with twin potty training, for goodness sake!) Instead, here we go again with sleepless nights, diapers, and (sigh) more potty training. Therefore, I pouted and decided to not write at all. The great thing about you, wonderful readers, is that you keep me accountable and continually remind me that this babe will just give me more stories to write.

In fact, she already is. I knew from the beginning that it was a girl, which was recently confirmed, and it’s serendipitous that my Trio all said from the start that they wanted a sister. Our dear Mr. Twin is going to grow up to be a very sensitive man! Miss Littlest Sister already has a story to tell about her beginning, and I have a feeling she’s going to burst into the world, not come quietly. There’s obviously a reason for her existence and I can’t wait to see what it is, and how she brings change, balance, and adventure to our family. Stay tuned for the ongoing story, but if the wait here becomes too long, then please join me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/abby.wojahnplambeck?ref=tn_tnmn) for daily updates.

I would love to hear about a time in your life when you thought you had it all figured out and Someone Else changed the plan. How did you cope? Did the change take you down a different path that you otherwise wouldn’t have tried? Is your life more challenging or more meaningful (or both?) because of it?

A Few Of Our Favorite Things

I feel so fortunate to have small children in 2012. We have disposable diapers, washing machines, televisions, microwaves, and air conditioners. Imagine what our foremothers would say about microwaveable mac & cheese (probably, “Awful stuff!”) or about Dora (probably, “Turn that off and go outside to play!”). As with most things in life, there are pros and cons for all of our modern conveniences. However, some of them are absolutely fabulous and make life with kids so much easier! I bet our foremothers would appreciate that. Here are a few of our family’s favorite things:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This juice holder has saved us many a red-stained shirt! It holds boxes and bags secure where little hands can’t squeeze them, and is easy to carry and set down. (http://tinyurl.com/cz8xzd5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I first saw this popsicle/ice cream holder at a friend’s house when Big Sister was 1, and ordered 6 of them as soon as we got home. They’ve saved us not only many a sticky shirt, but also hands, feet, elbows, chins, floors, and everywhere else a popsicle or ice cream cone is liable to drip. Plus, kids can finally set down their popsicles to melt somewhere else besides in a parent’s hand! (http://priceproductsllc.com/Dripstik.html)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My kids all started playing computer games at age 2, but we had a hard time finding a mouse small enough for their little hands. We tried an advertised “kid-friendly” mouse that looked like a frog, but the button eyes fell off. The  kids got confused and frustrated by the two buttons anyway, so we then looked for a single-button mouse, and found this from Amazon. It’s small, simple, and has saved Mom and Dad from hearing many a cry of “Help!” after someone accidentally messed up a game with a right click. (http://tinyurl.com/82pld8h)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My toddlers like to go crazy with soap dispensers to see how many bubbles they can make. When you add up all the handwashings in a day from potty training and sandbox expeditions, it equals a lot of soap! These automatic dispensers have solved the problem for us. You control the amount of soap released with a +/- button, and only that amount is released each time a hand is put under the sensor. You do have to be careful to not put anything else under it though. I’ve accidentally flavored my coffee cup with soap when I meant to add water from the faucet! The dispensers require a thin liquid soap. So far, we’ve only used the soap made for these particular dispensers (http://tinyurl.com/7cx38yv) and found that one bag lasts a good month, even with two grownups and three kids. However, you could try any liquid soap. (http://tinyurl.com/7jhomt8)

 

 

 

 

 

We once had a disastrous trip to the zoo with a double stroller and three kids, because I assumed Big Sister would walk. I found out we weren’t ready for two-seat transportation, but we had outgrown the triple stroller and, anyway, I had pushed that monster around long enough! Thank goodness someone had the brilliance to create this wagon “train.” It’s a families-with-multiples dream because up to five cars can be attached and removed as needed. Of course, since we’ve had it, Big Sister has preferred to walk. (http://www.step2.com/p/Complete-Choo-Choo-Train-Combo)

Please post a comment and link for any products that have made your parenting life easier! Our foremothers might be appalled that our kids don’t know how (or why) to darn a sock, or to entertain themselves all day without electronics. But think of how lucky we are, since our modern conveniences save us time and energy that previous generations of parents didn’t have. So throw that load of laundry in your washing machine and head outside with your kids to show them how to whistle with a blade of grass while you look for shapes in the clouds.

Kindergarten and a Vegetable Garden

It’s been too long since I blogged, partly because of the old excuse of being busy, and partly because I’ve been content to just observe. We had birthdays in April, so Big Sister is now 5 and Mr. and Miss Twin are 3. I remember that Big Sister changed exponentially between 3 and 3 ½. There’s a Moment in my memory of watching her swim at age 3 ½, and realizing that there was no more baby or toddler left in her. Her chubby legs had turned muscular, her cute baby swimsuit had given way to a functional Speedo, and her ponytail looked more athletic than Trixie-style. I’ve been curious to find out if the twins will change so dramatically too. With two of them, the caveman stage is accentuated and slower to leave our house entirely, but every week, there are more Moments to prove the twins are on their way. Like when Miss Twin went in her own bathroom stall at the YMCA and decreed, “I do it myself!” And she did. Or when Mr. Twin quietly put on his pants all by himself and showed up ready to go, instead of melting down for any of 101 unknown reasons.

The GeoTrio with the geocache Big Sister found!

We no longer have a toddler and two babies here, or even a preschooler and two toddlers. Big Sister graduated from preschool and is off to all-day, every-day kindergarten in the fall, and the twins will move up to her former preschool. Since our life will be so dramatically different in three short months, I plan to have as much spontaneous fun as possible this summer with my Trio of independent, strong-willed, adventurous kids. We have this glorious Moment when independence meets still wanting to hang out with Mom, and I know that’ll change all too soon. Summer has just started, and we’re already having a blast! We’ve taken up geocaching (http://www.geocaching.com), which is proving how far we’ve come because the entire tribe can tromp through the woods without a stroller. After 5 years of babyhood in our house, which required meticulous planning and packing before we went anywhere, this new ability to be spontaneous with big kids who can walk, talk, and wait 5 minutes for a meal has me feeling like the whole world has opened up and demands to be explored!

We also planted our first garden and were all excited to harvest our first radish and lettuce yesterday. The difference between the tiny seeds we planted and the now perfectly red radish with gorgeous green leaves got me thinking. I did nothing to make it grow except provide food and the right environment. Once those were given, that little seed had the inherent ability within itself to change when I wasn’t even looking. Maybe that’s true for kids too. I marvel at the big kids in my house and wonder how they got here. Life has been more chaos than planned in the past three years, yet somehow three independent, confident people have emerged from the pandemonium. Some days, it felt like my parenting only consisted of feeding them and keeping them from setting the house on fire, yet apparently they were growing even then.

If it feels like you’re running on a hamster wheel with your kids, doing and saying the same things every day, take heart that progress is being made under the dirt, just like our radish. All of a sudden, you’ll see a bit of maturity poking through, and you’ll know that your little radish is ready to venture into bigger gardens. As I’m looking at kindergarten, I acknowledge that change can be bittersweet, but then I sit down with my iced mocha topped with whipped cream during a Moment when no one needs me, and remember that after three years of chaos, THAT’S pure sweetness! 🙂

Post a comment about a Moment when you noticed a big change in your child(ren). Did you do something to make it happen or did it happen by itself?

Reflections On Life With Twins At 3 Months And 3 Years

I have exciting news! Our twins just turned 3, which means we’ve survived the first leg of this crazy, amazing marathon with multiples. I remember sitting in my favorite little coffee shop when they were 3 months old, where I somehow gathered enough sleep-deprived brain cells to write a “Reflections On Life With Twins At 3 Months.” I thought it would be fun to post it again here, with a comparison on life with twins at 3 years, to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Reflections On Life With Twins At 3 Months:

-I’m learning that my children are as worthy of my respect as I am of theirs. They’re influenced by me, but they aren’t clones of me.

-I’m learning that it’s never wrong to ask a question or to validate someone’s feelings and experience, even if that someone is very small.

-I see that there are endless opportunities for activities, personal growth, and childcare. Because of that, there’s no reason for martyrdom.

-I’ve realized that only I can take the initiative for my mental and emotional well being.

-I’m learning that tomorrow really is another day, and the world will continue to turn if I don’t accomplish everything on my to-do list. In fact, I need to give myself credit for accomplishing even one small thing in a day!

-I understand now that my energy is a precious commodity and not endless, thus I’m choosing more wisely how to spend it.

-I’m learning to live in the moment rather than planning so much.

-I’m learning to use the time when my children are awake to focus on them, and to save chores for when they’re asleep.

-However, I’m realizing that I must spend their sleeping time on my needs first, otherwise I miss the opportunity for restoration. There will always be laundry and cleaning to do, but neglecting my needs creates a debt that takes a toll on my well being and my ability to meet my family’s needs.

-My husband has a different role as a father than I do as a mother. We’re a team, but since I’m with the kids 24/7, my time away from them is a necessity, not a luxury.

-I’m learning to listen to my gut when making decisions. It really is always right!

-I’m realizing that I have to let go of my children and let them learn from other people. My role is to be the consistent foundation at home that they can always return to.

-I’m learning how fast childhood goes, and that these few short years are the foundation for the rest of my children’s lives and my relationship with them. My personal sacrifices now are actually very small, yet could reap huge rewards.

-I’m learning that consistency is the key to most things in life: parenting, career success, relationships. It’s much easier to set the rules/boundaries and maintain them, instead of letting them go and having to rebuild them.

-I’m learning that life is beautiful at its core, that there are endless chances for starting over, and that there’s something to learn every day!

Reflections On Life With Twins At 3 Years:

-I’m learning that change is constant, so I might as well grab some coffee and chocolate and go along for the ride.

-I’ve learned that three kids who can walk, talk, and feed themselves are an enormous gift that will still inspire awe in my heart long after they no longer want to be seen walking, talking, or eating with me.

-I’m learning that time does heal all sorts of wounds, and that kids have an amazing ability to forget their wounds and rush headlong into the next adventure.

-I’m learning that whispering is more terrifying than yelling. Now, I need to learn how to do it.

-I’ve learned that one bag of Goldfish crackers will reproduce itself multiple times in my car’s backseat.

-I’ve learned that opposites attract: No matter what I expect, the opposite will happen.

-I’ve learned that nothing makes fighting kids band together faster than a parent who charges into the room and demands to know, “What’s going on?”

-I’ve learned that 3 big kids can play together long enough for me to accomplish one small thing on my to-do list, and I might be able to accomplish one more thing while I wait for them to fight their own battles.

-I’ve learned that kids behave better in public than at home, and to accept that gratefully rather than question it. I’m learning to be grateful that they feel safe expressing themselves at home, although we might work on that being upstairs, in their rooms, with the doors closed.

-I’ve learned to adjust my expectations. I expect at least one spill per child per day. Sometimes, it will be milk, and sometimes, a diaper.

-I’ve learned that there are always adventures to go on, if I just take 5 minutes to locate them, and that kids are quite able to make up their own, if I let them try.

-I’m learning that I need to spend an equal amount of energy finding adventures for myself, because no one else will do it for me, and Mommy’s Time Away benefits all of us. Whoever said, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and “Familiarity breeds contempt” must have been a parent! I’ve learned that my going is sweet, but the coming home is then sweeter.

-I’ve learned that natural consequences are the best discipline. A child who rewards a mommy’s offer to play hide-and-seek by throwing woodchips on her siblings’ heads because she won’t share her hiding space will then watch her siblings take all the stars off her reward chart, see them each get an extra star for longsuffering, and hear a mommy deny her next request to play. But she will still get and give a good night hug, and we’ll all start over the next morning. I’ve learned there’s always a new chance to start over.

-I’ve learned that kids who have the opportunity to put a mommy in timeout for overreacting will not let that mommy serve her sentence in peace. They’ll keep coming back to point at her with delighted grins, and to pretend to take her picture.

-I’ve learned that laughter is the best medicine!

What have you learned during your parenthood? Post it here!

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