Thursday, July 7, 2011

Normal

I know I will miss this. This time, these little people, and how we were. But there are some days I won't miss at all. And this was one of them.

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I was about to make lunch so I said no strawberries right now. But five minutes later I found half-eaten strawberries and pink frosting under the kitchen table, smeared into the rug.

I said no to the hose. Babysitter was one her way, I was about to leave for Costco. Two minutes later they turned the hose on high for a mud bath. That's how I found them, water whipping like a fire hose gone mad. I ushered them into the bathroom, stripped down their clothing, put them in the sink to wash off, then carried their atrociously dirty clothes to the washer. Only to repeat the whole scenario three hours later.

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I said no potty talk. It continued. We had time outs.

They pulled all the clothes off their hangers. They scratched, they yelled, they cried.

I felt like a maniac. (Or a "meaniac" - which is what they called me. They said I was a mean mom. And they were right.)

By quarter to six, Doug was on his way home, and that was good, because for a long list of other offenses and disasters, I was ready to pull somebody or something apart. Dinner wasn't warmed up yet (leftovers). Two of the girls were in their rooms (another time-out). The boys were begging for pretzels and I was sweeping a pile of dirt and grass off the front porch when I looked up and saw our sweet neighbor boy, age ten or so, walking his dog. For some reason that did it. I crumbled.

Why can't we just be a normal family!? I thought. I just want to be normal! See? Look at him. He's a good, well-adjusted, normal boy because there are only three children in his family and his parents have time for him. They spend time with him, they show him love. They know his needs.

I know that sounds ridiculous. Every family has their struggles, be it one child or ten. But in this moment, I felt an ache to really know my children's needs.

I want to sit with them on the couch. One at a time. Instead, I sit down and become a human jungle gym, and nobody is happy with their place on the jungle gym.

I want to be the normal mom, who sits at the pool on a chair and watches her kids play. Instead, I sit on the edge of the kiddie pool where every bit of my body language reads "HIGH ALERT." I can't take my eyes off the boys for a second. Can't let my girls swim in the big pool because I can't watch them - so all of us cram into the tot pool. Every two or three year old wants my attention (even if they aren't mine). When I do take my eyes off the boys to look at Sami's goose egg on her forehead, I forget I have two toddlers in the pool who can't negotiate the water that's up to their waist and find Gordon face down in the water, frantically paddling his arms like a wind-up toy.

I want to walk, like a normal mom, into Eliza's dance class. Instead, I cross the parking lot with two boys in my arms, assuming all three girls are right on my heels, only to startle at the shout of a fellow nearby who has just prevented a Land Cruiser from backing right over my Sami.

I want to run an errand - into the post office and out - without fearing I will be handcuffed for leaving all my children alone in the car because I can't handle the thought of unbuckling everyone and hefting out the double stroller for a two minute errand.

I don't want to be stressed out by the thought of having a play date and feeding one or two more mouths, because I can barely take care of my five.

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I want an older brother or sister who can lift a baby into their car seat and get them buckled, or who can keep an eye on the boys while I step inside to answer the phone. Some days I just want to be normal! I want to be the kind of family that enjoys each other, goes places together, and moves along without all this angst and frustration. I know you're probably reading this and thinking no family is normal. It doesn't matter the number or age of the children. And I'm sure you're right.

But tonight, I am feeling less than - wanting to give my children the love they deserve, instead of hustling around the house preparing this, cleaning up that. (We don't even have anywhere we're going - just swim lessons. Maybe that's the problem.)

I am constantly triaging, fixing some meal, cleaning up after a meal, putting on a band-aid, picking up someone for one brief moment to console tears then heading off to discuss consequences, a punishment, a loss of privilege. I'm trying my darndest to stay one step ahead of my gang so we don't live in utter calamity. But right now? I just want to cry.

Most of my time on this blog is spent writing about the precious, but today was a dose of the wild. Wild, crazed, and unruly. No one was happy today.

Summer has been much harder than I thought it would be. And I'm worried it's me. Worried I'm not taking care of all these children the way God needs me to. The way they need me to.

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Having this many little people trailing after me - this many little birds cheeping, asking, is a challenge. They're all kind of in the same stage now. When we went to Grandma's house a few weeks ago, I had to laugh. All five of them were pushing strollers or shopping carts.

I know I can do some things differently, change some habits, try harder. I need some time to process, make a plan, seek guidance. I need time to pray, bang on the heavens, hear that small and still voice.

This sounds like a rant. I'm so sorry. I don't want to complain. The fullness of our little nest is such a beautiful thing. An undeniable gift. I know this.

Some days are just hard.

34 comments:

  1. I understand where you are coming from - maybe not completely because I only have three and not five. But this sounds so familiar. The jungle gym - it's so true. Everyone wants a turn to have mom to themselves, and all mom wants is a turn to herself. I swear all I do is clean and punish. Clean and punish. Clean and punish. Really, I'd just like to be to a point where I WANT to do things with my kids, but with David being so busy at work and me being on solo kid duty all day and night, every day and night, I really just want to lock myself in the bathroom. And put in some earplugs. But, then I'm horrified by how selfish and ungrateful that is, especially when I love my kids so much and am so happy to have them here. I'd just like them to go away once in awhile. ;>)

    Really, all I'm trying to say is, you're right. There are hard days no matter how much you love and appreciate your kids. And you are doing a fabulous job! Five kids, whew! I have enough trouble herding three of them around.

    Thank you so much for posting this. I love reading your blog, Catherine. You are such an inspiration to me.

    Bonnie (google still won't let me comment on anyone's blog that has word verification).

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  2. As I read your story, I see that every bit of stress and whirlwind chaos is anchored (usually literally and always figuratively) by a devoted and loving mother. You are doing it. And you are doing it WELL!

    It is wild and crazy, but I felt the spirit in your home and it was peaceful and sweet.

    Soon enough you'll see your own 10 year old boys walking down the street and as sweet and good as ever...and given your particular situation, I would guess your family will have an unmatched bond as the years go by. Thick, tight, and true.

    And always, always remember, He makes up the difference -in every family, in every situation.

    Love you, Cath. Keep hanging in there! :)

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  3. Thank you for your honesty today in this post. I have had exactly the same thoughts today. With an extra kid in the house for 3 days, I've got 5 kids in my care. I love them dearly...but my patience was severely tested today. I am so glad that they are all tucked in bed. sigh....

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  4. Do you realize how many luxuries you just listed? Babysitter? Dance class? Try doing a bit less and you will get to spend more time with your family that you chose to have - and maybe your kids will want to please you. Right now, it sounds like all you do is scream at them and punish. Who would want to do something FOR that person? Our parents never needed "me" time and they were pretty great people. I think often too much emphasis is put on the parent's needs - perhaps focusing on the kids' will yield the results you're looking for.

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  5. Bonnie - I so appreciate your comment. I know you understand and considering Anon's comment below yours, I do sound selfish and ungrateful. Maybe I ought not to blog when I've had such a rough day. I did choose these children - of course I did! And I'm actually not looking for me-time. Just more quality time with them. Anyhow - I love you Bonnie. Hang in there during this busy time for David!

    Melissa - "He makes up the difference -in every family, in every situation." Thank you for that. I am trying to remember that truth while also realizing I can do a better job, be more patient, love more purely. You are so dear. xo

    Marian - All tucked in bed. Sigh... Sometimes the world seems to straighten out after the day is over and we can see what we're doing with more clarity. Motherhood has tested my patience in ways I could never have imagined. Thanks so much for your comment.

    Anonymous - I wondered if I ought to delete your comment. Ouch. Today was unusually challenging. But I see what you are saying and I agree. We do have so many luxuries. Each day, each lesson, each child - they are such gifts. As for doing less, we actually don't do very much at all. Just swim lessons this summer for a month. And I hire a sitter only when I've gone so long without errands that the pantry has run dry and we're in real need. What I'm actually pining for is a way to spend quality time with each of my little ones. Not me-time or time away from them. I am hoping with some inspiration I can see where to let go, what to focus on, and how to make those moments happen more frequently. I see how my words can sound insensitive, ungrateful, and self-absorbed. But we're all human and flawed. I simply chose to give voice to that part of me today. I hope you've found something worthwhile in some of my past posts. Best to you.

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  6. Anonymous obviously didn't read your post. It makes me so angry when people take the easy opportunity to kick when someone is feeling low.

    Your whole premise is about being more present with your children and not "trying to get a break, or get away" - any person who actually read it would see that.

    Grrrr... it's infuriating!

    All of our comments/advice are worth what you paid for. Even less when the advice giver won't show their name. shame on Anonymous #2 !!!

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  7. Do you live in my house? You've just described the last 2 weeks with us! I'm sorry yesterday was hard. On those days, I remember dory from finding nemo and remind myself to "just keep swimming..."

    I found this post to be refreshing. Life w multiples is not always sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes I don't want to share my fresh blueberries either. Having a babysitter so you can run errands by yourself - it's not a luxury, it's for survival (says she who misses her mommy's day out Wednesdays - hurry up Mom's knee healing!)

    Hugs - hopefully today is a better day!

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  8. Sounds like a normal day in my family, *lol*. We went to the toy store today, and all around me were families with three or more kids -- all well dressed, ironed shirts and dresses, combed hair, all well behaved...

    ...and then therer were my kids.

    ;-).



    ****Worried I'm not taking care of all these children the way God needs me to. The way they need me to.****

    Stumbled over that... God certainly wants you to prepare your kids well for the world outside... and you just don't do that, if you are a super mom! The kids learned from you that, yes, there are bad days, but they pass. This experience will make it easier for them later on, they'll be able to cope more easily.

    So long,
    Corinna

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  9. Oh, Catherine, five kids in five years! Two sets of twins! No other explanation needed.

    Grace. That's what it all comes down to. We will always be (in this life) less than we want to be. Just as Melissa sweetly said above, "He makes up the difference".

    Wishing you some moments of catch-up this weekend! (By the way, have you heard of Puddle Jumpers flotation devices...best things ever for my twinners in the pool!)

    Anonymous #2, wishing you well. It is clear that life has dealt you some hard blows if you are here writing such bitter words.

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  10. How I can relate to this post! Having multiple multiples is such a joy and challenge. I hope anonymous comments don't stick. I have to say that I think her comment is one of the meanest things I have ever read online. I think this is a good example of someone judging someone/a situation they have no frame of reference for. That or they just needed an outlet for an amazing amount of personal frustration and anger.

    It is obvious from your blog what an amazing, devoted, caring mother you are. I am glad that you included this day. Life is real my grandma always used to say, my mom says it now to remind me of how sorrow helps us recognize joy.

    I share all of your worries...how to individually parent all of these little ones who are so close in age? I don't know....I do know that the Lord has faith in us and our abilities to rely on him on this journey. Here is to all of the joys and heartaches of motherhood. Life is real. Virtual love is being sent your way!

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  11. i love you!
    you are an extraordinary girl living an extraordinary life.
    i am always so so proud of you. xox

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  12. Over the years I've definitely left comments on blogs that I've strongly disagreed with. But they have never been mean spirited and they have never ever been anonymous. Frankly, I pity people who behave cruelly and hide behind anonymity. I also worry what they are teaching their own children when it comes to how we treat others and personal accountability. And I admire your gracefulness in dealing with the comment. You children are lucky to have such a thoughtful mother.

    Before reading the comments I was planning on responding with this: Although I've only been reading for a short time I've definitely been envious of the patience and energy you seem to have while parenting. I worry my one kid isn't getting the stimulation and attention your 5 receive. And I'm terrified about how to integrate my second, who is due in August, into our family. From the remove of the internet it seems you are a mother that inspires admiration (and perhaps a drop of jealousy from those of us who struggle with being selfless) in others. I'm sorry you had a rough day. You are totally allowed.

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  13. I think you're a wonderful mom! I'm constantly impressed by you. Your kids are so lucky to have you as their mom. Heavenly Father knows you can do this or He wouldn't have entrusted so many precious children into your care. Stay strong!

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  14. Dear friends - your words have carried my heart this morning to a better place. I had trouble sleeping last night. There is risk in blogging and for some reason the option for anonymity allows people to say things they normally wouldn't in person. When we know each other's stories and hearts, we are apt to be kinder. But I do care deeply about the message I am sending here. So I slept uneasy. I will respond to you in more detail later today. Your thoughts were so wise and compassionate. Thank you. Right now we're off to swimming lessons (I will be buying floaties this weekend for my boys - thank you Anne Marie.) To all of you - your grace and charity have truly lifted me.

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  15. Cath stay strong. It will all feel more managble tomorrow. Take a second for yourself. We all have days where we feel like no matter how hard we try nothing is working. Just know the feeling doesnt last.

    Just remember we're all supporting you!!

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  16. I hope you didn't lose too much sleep over the anon.. Please trust me when I say I know the feeling! ( even more so now that my book is in the hands of reviewers and bloggers).

    Sometimes those blog posts that are most painfully true- you know, the ones where we feel like we've opened a vein and spilled blood on the screen- are also the ones that draw the miserable people out of their hideyholes to inflict their pain on everyone else.

    But those posts are also the ones that impress upon people's hearts.

    So, disallow anonymous comments, I'll stop reading my reviews, and we'll both be happier.

    Love you, Cath.

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  17. Anyone who knows you, Cath, or has stopped for a moment to imagine themselves in your shoes, would understand that you are allowed rough days! I have always marveled at how well you handle your kiddos with such patience and efficientcy. I struggle at Costco with my 9 & 6 year olds and think you are brilliant for hiring a sitter! Plus, I would never call grocery shopping 'me' time! I'm sorry that anon decided to criticize where they have no right. You handled it well and I'm sorry you lost sleep over it. We would love to have our cute cousins here anytime you want some REAL me time! You deserve it! Love you!

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  18. I loved this "wild" post. This morning I went into the bathroom to blow off some steam and within 30 seconds I had Meg & Cole crying on each knee. My very first thought was "how does Cath do it?" So, I appreciated this post today.

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  19. I don't know how every day isn't complete chaos at your house. Your kids are lucky I'm not their mom. Keddington, you are marvelous in every way. The inspiration will come. When a heart is as pure as yours the connection to God and his inspiration is inevitable. I make my twins wear life jackets that they physically can't take off by themselves anytime we are near water. So let's see...that's 4 life jackets for you since my twins are the age your older twins. Wo. I can't believe your life. Love you girl.

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  20. You are such a gift to your children. You are an amazing mother and a graceful, lovely human being. Your life will be its own living, breathing, happy, hard life. Nobody elses. And it will be beautiful and intense and deliberate.
    Anonymous doesn't deserve a breathe other than to say that their comments made no sense relative to your post. They were completely and maddeningly ridiculous.
    You are a gift to me and I love you.

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  21. Knit1,Knit2 - Thank you for your understanding. "Sometimes I don't want to share my fresh blueberries either." lol.

    Corinna - "and then there were my kids" - oh! you are right there in my brain friend. I can probably count on one hand the days this summer I've done my girls' hair. And I loved your wisdom about my children learning from the experience. We ALL learned. My children were much better yesterday and I was too. Thanks for listening.

    Anne Marie - Grace. That word was on my mind all day yesterday. Our friend Ann would have told me the same thing wouldn't she? Grace from Him. Grace with others. Grace that needs to flow in and out of us. Your thoughts (and your email) helped so much. I love you. And I tagged the floaties on amazon yesterday. Will purchase today. Bless you dear friend. I'm so grateful for you.

    Jen - "life is real" and "sorrows help us recognize the joy" - so true. You always share the kindest comments. Thank you so much. Multiple challenges. But multiple joy. Thank you for relating.

    Cristie - thanks for loving me.

    Karen - Oh my! My five are definitely not getting the attention I think they could use. But even with one, I think we doubt ourselves, wonder, question if we're doing alright. Can't tell you how much I appreciated your comment. I am wishing you blessings and a smooth transition as you bring number two to your family. You're only weeks away, yes? Please keep me posted. Loved your comment. Thanks.

    Natalie - hello little mama. Thanks for your sweetness. love you.

    Back in a few. Gotta change a diaper.

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  22. Anon3 - " It will all feel more managble tomorrow." You were so right. The kids were better and so was I. I felt your support. Thank you.

    Brod - sage advice from an experienced writer. "the ones where we feel like we've opened a vein and spilled blood on the screen- are also the ones that draw the miserable people out of their hideyholes to inflict their pain on everyone else." Why is this true? Well, let's put on our blinders together. So grateful for your friendship Brod.

    Jill - yes, finding a sitter to go to Costco was a matter of survival. We were out of wipes, chicken, TP, you know how it goes. As for some cousin time, that would be wonderful. I'd love your girls to come hang with mine. I love you Jill.

    Darling Alex - your two children are so lucky to have you. I need to opt for 30 seconds of cool-down in the bathroom. Great tactic. Would you send me an invite to Ateam? I'd love to check in with you more often. Contact email in navbar. xo

    Samsel - your twin experience and thoughts have been such a help to me. And that makes two votes for the puddle jumpers. I'm on it! Love you.

    Dearest Kara - "Your life will be its own living, breathing, happy, hard life. Nobody elses. And it will be beautiful and intense and deliberate." I am reading these words for the second time and they are still making me cry. Your kindness, extravagance, and acceptance of our life yesterday turned the day around. I am so blessed to be your friend. I love you.

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  23. I am sitting in a hotel room because I can't sleep...so I just read all your comments. I am in awe by you. Your life is incredible. And look how you handled that very sad anonymous person!...with such grace and patience.

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  24. I feel this way and I only have 2!! I want more and soon. I think I just have to decide that the dishes can wait.
    My blog can wait.
    Laundry can wait.
    Babies and food and diapers can't but pretty much everything else in my day can.

    ;)

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  25. Also, I just want to say, I guess some people just read things differently because I totally "got" that you called in the babysitter only every once in a while. And why shouldn't you?
    Like I said above some things can wait. But then there are days where things HAVE to be done.
    Dishes can only stay dirty for so long.
    Also, I think you absolutely should have written this post on that day. Being a mommy is so TOUGH. Sometimes you need a little help from your friends. A little encouragement. A little sympathy to make you not feel so unconnected.
    We talk to little people ALL. DAY. LONG.
    I know when my hubby comes home he doesn't always want to talk talk talk, which is what I want to do. So, again, sometimes we just need the women in our blogging community to make us feel "normal".
    Kudos to you on being a mommy of 5.
    What blessings.
    Again with just two there are many days where I feel like I'm being so mean to my 3 year old, who is still adjusting to being an older sister. I just have to keep telling myself that this season of defiance and jealousy on her part, and me being unable to meet all of her needs immediately will pass. It may not be tomorrow, but when it does happen I will still look at her and think, she's gotten too big too soon.
    Just cherish their littleness, and remember, momma said there'd be days like these.
    Don't let anyone go to bed angry or hurt, and kiss em' all as much as possible.
    They'll be fine.
    You're a good mommy.
    I feel like I've rambled and repeated. Sorry if this was confusing.

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  26. Thank you for writing this. We have SO MANY days like that. We end up waiting on the front porch for daddy to come home, so mom only has to hold one 2 year old:) Having multiples is like being on a roller coaster there are wonderful highs and low dips (sometimes more dips than highs). But I've figured out you can't have highs without lows, so on hard days (or hard weeks), I lean on my husband more and try to rest enough to make the next day better. Sometimes just telling someone (or blogging in your case) is exactly what I need. I think you SHOULD write blogs like this, because it helps me feel more "normal"

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  27. Cath, You do an amazing job and PLEASE don't let the outsider opinion of one person, who doesn't even have the guts to put their real name on it, offend you. I call my mother every day and ask her how? How did she raise 7 human beings? She did it over a 13 year span too not in 5 years and two sets of twins! You are a great mom and you just posted my favorite post I have ever read on your blog because it was totally honest. People feel the need to judge others to make themselves feel better. This post made me feel better!!! We are moms, human moms, not robot ones and we need breaks, sitters etc. Lots of love! Michelle

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  28. Jess - I love your candidness. And that you're hoping for more (children)! Despite my discontent last week - it IS wonderful. And this? "mama said they're be days like these" - made me smile.

    TaylorClan (It's Meredith, right? Oh. I hope I'm not wrong) - I totally get the waiting on the porch for daddy to come home. Just one more pair of arms and hands. It's like manna from heaven. Thank you so much for your comment. It was really cathartic for me to blog last Thursday out. And you're so right. How can we recognize the good, call it what it is, without the bad? Such was God's plan. You are dear.

    Meesh - I just love you. Your words meant a lot to me. I'm glad we can make each other feel better. I think a supportive blogging community is a huge help. At least for me, it is. And this was great: "We are moms, human moms, not robots." Amen. xo

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  29. Thank you for this post - yesterday I cried at the kitchen sink feeling just this way. Just then I got the most calm feeling that - this job is important - keep going! I appreciate you taking the time to share and help more of us feel "normal".

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  30. We all have rough days. Anyone who reads your blog can see you are a wonderful mother. I have 10 month old twins and often look to your blog when I need to be uplifted. I appreciate how positive and honest you have been about your experience as a mother, especially as it relates to having multiples. The job of a mother is so important, and I think that in order to be a good mother I need some brief "me" time every now and then. Our kids can not draw from our well if it is empty. You deserve an extra hand or a break any time you can get it.

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  31. Oh, Cath, sometimes it helps to hear that someone I admire struggles too. Because boy, some days ARE just wild (and HARD). I don't know why. Sometimes I wake up, get a couple of hours into the morning and think, "Ummm...can I take a pass on the rest of this day? There isn't much hope it will get better."

    And some days ARE precious. Or some moments are precious, anyway.

    I admire your ability to find beauty and grace in the tiring and mundane. I also admire your willingness to share the harder things.

    And poor anon...I got one of those a while ago and decided to block anonymous comments. Somehow people feel more able to spew nastiness when hidden behind a mask. I don't mind hearing hard things from people who love me, but I hate hearing them from people who don't. You were more gracious about it than I wanted to be.

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  33. It hurts my heart that someone would leave such a cruel comment on your beautiful blog. Did they read you post? It was all about your desire to have more time for your children-- not 'me' time. Anne Marie's comment that they must have been dealt some difficult blows was the best response.

    Your life with all your littles is hard, Catherine. The very best most fulfilling sort of hard, but still emotionally and physically exhausting every single day.

    Love you!

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  34. Cath- This post in particular made me laugh and cry as I saw my own life in your experience. It's funny that sometimes the more detailed an experience, the more universal it actually is (if that makes any sense.) Thank you for being so personal and real. You truly do uplift me every time I read your blog. I need it. I know I'm not the only one. Thank you! Love, Suzanne C.

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