I have been reading the Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family by Mary Ostyn, a mom of 10 kids, some biological and some adopted.  I don’t know that my family really qualifies as “large,” but four kids seems like the tipping point, so I thought I’d check out how someone else handles it.  Last night, I read this passage:

Whether you have one child or ten, there will be times when the nine-month-old flings oatmeal on the carpet or the three-year-old throws up in the night — three times — and the seven-year-old loses his shoes — again.  But in a large family, the frequency with which this stuff happens can be overwhelming.

My advice?  Expect the chaos.  The more fully you embrace the chaos factor, the happier you’ll be as a mom.

Fast forward to tonight.

After dinner, we decided to take Michelle Obama’s advice and take the whole family for a walk.  We loaded up Lucy in the stroller, put a leash on the dog and off we went.  A few blocks into the walk, Eleanor dramatically announces that she stepped in dog poop.  In flip flops.  Which meant the poop was all the way up her ankle.  We may have laughed a little, which made her mad, so she stormed off ahead of us.  Then Lucy decided she wanted to walk, so after some blood curdling screams, which I’m sure caused the neighbors to peek through their blinds, we unstrapped her and she takes off.  Less than a block later she tripped over an uneven part of the sidewalk, scraped up her knees and sent her forehead bouncing off the concrete.  OK, forget it, Mrs. Obama, we’re going home.

We arrive home to find a package on the front porch.  While Eleanor goes to wash the poop off her leg in the kids’ bathroom, I open the package and find that it’s the step stool I ordered for the little kids.

Get your own on Etsy – search “Ethiopian Stepstool” and you’ll find my friends Amy and Doug, also adoptive parents of Ethiopian siblings.

I am so excited about this.  Ayub has finally started going to bathroom by himself.  For months, we had to go with him because he was afraid the lions would eat him if he went in there alone.  (I don’t make this stuff up.)  Now the only thing stopping him from total bathroom independence is the ability to reach the faucet.  So, of course, even though Eleanor was still in the bathroom washing the poo, I took Ayub and the stool in there, too.  As I’m showing him how to get the faucet on, I look up just in time to see Lucy has also entered the bathroom (that’s right, there are now four of us in a tiny bathroom) and she proceeds to stick her hand in the toilet.  I shove Ayub out of the way and grab her, only to realize that the toilet isn’t empty.  That’s right, there’s a floating log.  GAG!!  So I grab Lucy and rush to the kitchen sink to wash up, only to realize that we’re out of hand soap in there.  Back in the bathroom, Ayub somehow falls off the stool and injures his boy parts.  (Again, I don’t make this stuff up.)  Let’s just stop and tally that for a moment.  Girls covered in poop = 2.  Injuries = 2.

I don’t know if it was because I had just read that chapter on chaos or if I was just in an incredibly jolly mood, but I didn’t let it get me down.  I’m a bit of a control freak, and even though EVERYTHING that happened after dinner tonight was out of my control, I had to laugh and take it in stride.  This is my life now.  This is who we are.  Covered in poop and banged up, but loving every minute.  And I guess I knew that eventually, we’d make it to that magical time of night known as BEDTIME.

Goodnight, everyone. May tomorrow bring more chaos!


Family Vacation

We just got back from our first vacation as a family of six.  I have to admit, I was a little intimidated at the thought of loading everyone up, going for a long car ride, then spending a week at the beach.  Seemed like a lot to manage.  But it went great, and the little kids did fabulous.

So, how did we do it?

First, find some friends who are super-understanding and rent a beach house.  We chose Tybee Island in Georgia (which is highly recommended, especially if your family likes to boogie board).  This was really the only way we could have accommodated all of us.  We went with Brad and Laura and their two kids, a girl who is Eleanor’s age and a boy who is Ayub’s age.  While this led to occasional spats, it kept our own kids from interacting too much with each other, which is almost always a disaster.

The whole crew.

Second, pack wisely.  We bought groceries at Costco and ate breakfast and lunch at the beach house every day and alternated families cooking dinner.  Not only did we save money on eating out, but we also didn’t have to control wild kids at a restaurant.  Of course, it was a challenge to pack our mini-van with all those supplies, but we bought a hitch and piled it on the back.

Third, use the ocean and the sun to wear them out.  That was the easy part.  We spent every morning at the beach, when it was less crowded, and did some other activities after nap time in the afternoon.  We went on an ecology tour with Dr. Joe, where everyone looked for ocean life and then he taught us about what we found.  It sounded like it might be over Ayub’s head, but he loved looking at all the creatures we found.  One afternoon, we took the girls to the art museum in Savannah which has a great kids’ interactive exhibit.  We also took the kids on a dolphin tour and got to see a lot of them swimming around the boat.  We had movie nights, and generally stuck to bedtimes for the little kids.

Here’s some proof we had fun:

Boogie boarding with Dad.

Always had a shovel in her hand.

With a fish that was caught on the ecology tour.

Sunrise walk on the beach.

A woman pulled me aside during the ecology tour to tell me what a good big brother Sam is.

We had been explaining the concept of vacation for several weeks to the little kids.  But I guess we forgot to mention that it was temporary.  When we loaded up the car I asked Ayub if he was ready to go home and he started pointing at the beach house.  He didn’t realize that we weren’t staying there forever.  Poor thing…I know how he feels.  But, we’re already making plans for next year!

I Quit

This week, I quit my job.

I’m going to stay at home with the kids.  I’ve been a mom for almost 11 years now, but I’ve never done it full-time.  I’ve always worked.  I’ve had a successful career.  I’ve made a lot of money.  I got promoted.  And promoted again.  I supervised a lot of people.   And this week, I walked away from it all.

So this week, I start my new career as a full-time mother.  The difference is, I was trained to do my previous job.  I went to graduate school, read lots of books, did lots of research, read the journals, and kept up with the technology.  But there is no graduate program in what I’m about to do.  There are books, websites, and, of course, blogs, but they all contain contradicting information.

So here’s my plan.

I’m going to take the next year to focus on becoming a better mom.  I don’t know what that means yet, but I know there are some basics.  I want to find a way to deal effectively with my household chores so I’m not the mom who is constantly engaged in drudgery.  I want to focus on our family’s finances so that the sting of losing my income isn’t quite so painful.  I want to find ways to engage with my children in ways that are meaningful, not just necessary.  In general, I want to find ways to apply the lessons I learned in the workforce to my own household.

Join me as I chronicle what I learn.