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A full plate

Today I made a trip out of the house to go over to a girlfriend's for what turned to out to be a made at home lunch (yes, people do that--cook multiple times a day). Since September 2nd, nights at my house have become extremely challenging. The babies are teething and having a hard time at it. I can see the teeth in the gums, the pediatrician can see the teeth in the gums, but they aren't moving. They are just frustrating the babies. My husband came down with a cold two weeks ago. My three-year old caught the cold. I have been drinking Airborne like a fiend and so far (fingers crossed!) have avoided catching it. Luckily we are all getting over it, still, it's been rough. The babies are refusing to nap. Absolutely angry at nap time, "How dare you?" they cry. I stare them down and continue to go in, give a passey, soothe, leave, go in, give a passey, soothe, leave... on and on for almost two hours. Meanwhile, D is being a wild man in his room, running out because Momma isn't enforcing the "Quiet Time" rule. The dog is pacing by the door, "I have to go! I really have to go! If you aren't going to take me, I will go here!" The other day during the nap time/quiet time, I looked at the chaos around me: the kitchen floor stacked with piles of dirty laundry, clean dishes in the locked dishwasher, stacks of dirty dishes on the counters and pouring out of the sink, pajamas on the bathroom floor, unmade beds, a dirty unbrushed dog, D in messed pants, screaming red-faced babies, trash cans that needed to go out... the list goes on, toys, books, mail piles... It all kind of fell on me that all of this chaos is my responsibility and I am the one that needs to master it. Me. It felt like, for a moment, that I was punched in the chest. All I wanted to do right then was jump in my car in a pair of cute heels and run to Nordstrom. Find solace in racks of unstained clothing. Relax over a blue cheese and pear salad. Nordstrom. Instead, I prayed. I prayed my favorite verse in Philippians: "Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance" (2:18b-19). I recited it over and over to myself as I soothed inconsolable babies, cleaned D up, took the dog on a walk, moved the laundry over, folded clothes with a baby in the sling, a baby on the bed, singing Beatles songs out loud for D to dance to and the babies to calm down to. (I am still amazed that my singing voice can actually calm children when it makes adults cry.) I recited that verse as I made dinner and put the dishes away, put all the dishes away. I rolled up my sleeves and enlisted the Lord's patience and love to guide me through a day that was overwhelming. At the end of the day, when I was anxiously watching the baby monitor, waiting for the lights to jump suddenly at the sound of a cry on the other end, I thanked God for helping me through it. How can I manage all of these tasks?

My husband told me the other day that there is too much on my plate. I agree on one level, but how do you tackle a plate at, say, an all you can eat restaurant? Stacked high with desserts, fried chicken, pastas, and rolls, and a salad coated in ranch? You organize it! The next morning I sat down and thought about the times of the day when there is too much going on: morning feeding, dinnertime, and getting the babies to bed. The biggest "problem" during morning feeding and bedtime is when the dog needs to go out. I eliminated that issue by buying some delicious bones and chewing treats for L and crating him during those two hours. Problem solved. That left dinnertime. Even though I try to cook earlier in the day, after the babies have a full tummy and before the evening fussiness hits, it is still too difficult. They have been too demanding the past three weeks for W and I to eat more than cold sandwiches or cereal after the kids go to bed at 8:00 pm. I went to the women's retreat at my church a couple weekends ago. In the course of conversation with some of the women, it was suggested to me that I divide and freeze meals in Tupperware containers with portion sizes for my family. That way I can pull out one Tupperware container, defrost, and have a meal ready to bake instead of trying to cook dinner on nights that are too chaotic. I found recipes for casseroles that include ingredients already in my freezer and will tackle the task of cooking them this weekend. It is a big job to get that done, but the results will be worth it. I can already taste a hot meal with a side salad... maybe a crusty bread... mmmm....

With this craziness going on around me, I have appreciated the sound advice of good friends, especially the ones that let me rant for a minute. Or five minutes. One of my friends, who also has twins, emailed me easy dinner recipes for me to try after I told her about our dry tacos and burnt chicken. I'm struggling even getting easy things on the table. Who can remember the chicken needs to be turned when the three year-old found a permanent marker, your husband is calling (again), and the dog is attempting to eat the couch, all--of course--while twins scream in their high chairs? Life still goes on. While I am elbow deep in scheduling, our washer gave out. We had a few things in our apartment break that I need to schedule maintenance for. The wipers on my van need to be replaced. D needs fall clothes. Puppy training. AWANAS. Park and rec classes. 3-year check-up. 6-month check-ups. Puppy appointments (shots and then neutering). Refilling prescriptions. When did life get so busy that I forgot to schedule in time for me to get breakfast?

My husband has been wonderful through all of this. When I "serve" him Honey Bunches of Oats, he says thank you, without any sarcasm. He walks in the door with a smile on his face and immediately starts hugging the boys hello, giving L a good scratch. He always has a hug for me, a joke he heard on the radio, or a story about something that happened that day. I look forward to when he will come home every day, not just for the extra pair of hands (which I need), but for his company. That, to me, is worth more than a full-time nanny... unless you know one I can afford. ;)

Here is our new revised schedule, which is my fall back when I need to refocus the day:

First thing in the morning: Take the dog out

0645 Get D up (I have him wait in his room now until I come and get him instead of allowing him to come wake me up as soon as he is awake... at 0500.)

0650 Feed the dog

0700 Wake C&O: FEEDING 1 (Dog in crate during first feeding, after he finishes his food)

0730 Walk the dog

0800 D breakfast/Get boys dressed

0830 Feed C&O some baby foods

0900-1000 C&O nap time (Momma get ready... and wolf down a Chiobanni Greek yogurt)

1100 FEEDING 2

1130 D lunchtime

1200 Optional: Feed C&O baby food, if I didn't have a chance to do it in the morning

1300-1500 Afternoon nap/Quiet time

1500 FEEDING 3

1530 D snack time

1530 Creative time: art, stories, baking (never quite made it to the baking option yet.)

1600 Take the dog out

1630 Start getting dinner ready

1700 Feed C&O baby food while dinner is cooking, or have them work on grabbing things in highchair

1730 Family dinnertime

1800 Take dog out before crating (in crate during the babies' night time routine)

1815 Get C&O ready for bed--bath, jams, meds, prayers

1845 Story time with all 3 boys (yeah, also hasn't happened, though we are working on it)

1910 After the boys are down, I take the dog on a walk, usually with D.

1930 W get D ready for bed--bath, jams, stories, prayers

2000 Lights out! ALL the children are in bed.

I stick to the feeding schedule no matter where we are. The rest of the schedule is just kind of a guide for me to follow and help me plan our day. It really helps me lay out what needs to be done and gives me a chance to plan the things I need to do. I thoughtfully laid out each activity in a time window that I know will work with each of the children. I know, for instance, that I can take a shower during their morning nap or that usually they will happily play a little before morning nap if I wanted to shower then. If the day is really busy, I can also throw all the clean loads of laundry on the bed as they come out of the dryer and know that I will have a chance to fold those during the afternoon nap. Or if D wants me to read him a long story, I can give him a time to wait to, "Let me feed your brothers, then we will sit on the floor and I can read you that story for twenty minutes." The schedule really helps me stay on target and allows W and I to leave the day's responsibilities to one person and know that things will get done. Each day I always: take the dog on at least one walk, do at least one load of laundry (more often, two loads), run the dishwasher, take out the trash, and tidy our living spaces. I make a conscious effort to give L some good playtime, have some one on one face time with D where we can talk about the day (even if that is just walking the dog outside to G-O and talking on the sidewalk), talk individually with each baby ("Ma-ma! Ma-ma!" I'm bound and determined that will their first word--haha!), and have some one on one time with W (usually after the kids go to bed, talking about our days, what we are doing that week, etc). After those get done, I try to correspond with friends who live far away (email, text, call, Skype, Facebook, whatever), update my blog and family website, call my family (though I do talk to my sister often during the day. I can hang up on her when a baby spits up in my lap), journal, write grocery lists. And lower on my to-do list would be organizing "trouble areas" (places in our small apartment that don't work): our disorganized desk, the storage room (need a trip to Ikea and the Container Store), and the babies' closet, as well as restocking our supplies in the van, stroller, and diaper bags. What I'm really struggling to find time for is my devotional. I can multi-task or apply half my brain to unloading the dishwasher, texting my mom back, while washing bottles, but focusing on a devotional is a whole different story. That I am still working on.

And to those special women who have helped me through the past couple weeks: thank you. You know who you are. ;)


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