I Am Not a Single Mom, But I Play One at Bedtime

Disclaimer:  This title is not meant to offend anyone, not single parents, not military spouses, nor my own spouse.  It is simply a funny way to say I get my kids in bed by myself most nights.  Relax and enjoy some humor.  It’s good for your cardiovascular system.

With a spouse that works second shift, I am almost always on bedtime detail by myself.

How, oh how do I get stuck on bedtime detail alone every time we have an infant?

If you recall, when Squishy Bean was a little Squish, my husband was working until 11 pm, so I was putting a toddler and an infant (and sometimes a friend’s toddler) to bed alone.  Bedtime with multiple small children can really be tricky, especially the more children you add.

Now that we have three of our own little people, I have had to create two sections of our bedtime routine:  Baby Brother’s bedtime and the girls’ bedtime.

Since I am primary parent on duty from mid-afternoon until late morning the next day, I am a firm believer in decently early bedtimes for everyone and the strategic use of a digital clock to teach staying in bed until a specific time in the morning.  It is truly a sanity saver for me.

Our bedtime routine, then, typically starts around 6:30 pm, after the girls and I have eaten dinner.  Baby Brother has probably been hanging out with us at the table, either in my lap or in the pack and play with some toys.  By 6:30, the Little Sir is getting quite tired.  He has begun to wake at night again, so his nighttime sleep isn’t as restorative as it had been.  Because of this, I am trying to get him down and asleep by 7 pm.  (More on why this isn’t happening currently but what I’m doing to help make it happen eventually).

In our home, someone gets a bath every night, but not every one gets a bath every night.  Baby Brother takes baths on his own, since he cannot sit up, and the girls take baths with each other.  Once Brother can sit up more confidently (much closer to 12 months old), he’ll join the girls in the bath.  But for now, his bath alternates days with the girls baths.  If it is a night for him to get a bath, I let the girls either look at books, color, or watch a short television show while I bathe their brother.

I know a lot of people that like to involve older siblings in bathing baby, but that is simply not for me, nor is it for Baby Brother.  He is a very alert, very extroverted little guy, and his sisters stimulate him so much.  He loves them and laughs at them constantly.  Having them help bathe him is just too stimulating and prevents him from settling down well.

After a bath and some lotion, I diaper and pajama the Little Guy, read him a short book, and nurse him.  Unfortunately he doesn’t fall asleep nursing.  Bitsy Girl always did, and it was a cinch to put her down to bed at night; Squishy Bean was hit or miss, but when she did fall asleep nursing, life was easier.  Baby Brother finds his last little bit of energy after nursing, so I often find I have to swaddle and rock him to sleep.  This usually takes only 10-15 minutes.

(Added Bonus:  Standing while swaying and rocking a 17 lb baby is an excellent oblique workout.  I should write a post on postpartum fitness.  Haha.  Just kidding.)

Theoretically, if all has gone well, Baby Brother is asleep in his crib by about 7 pm.  If not, he is laying in his crib with some nighttime music playing, talking to his stuffed monkey.  (Desperate times call for desperate measures, folks.)

It’s at this time that I round up the girls if Baby Brother has gotten a bath that night.  If it is a night for the girls to get a bath, I let their bath fill up while I’m putting pajamas on the Little Guy.  Once it’s full, I let them hop in and play a bit while I nurse and rock their brother.  Fortunately, the bathroom is right next to the nursery, so I can hear them giggling, playing, and splashing.  I usually instruct them to keep their fun to a dull roar.

After Baby Brother is in the crib, it is time for the girls to either get clean or get pj’s.  Bitsy Girl is very self-sufficient in the bathtub, so she can wash herself fairly well.  I do often help her condition her hair since she has so darn much.  Squishy Bean can wash herself just fine, as well, but she needs to be supervised in order to do so.

Once I have two clean girls, they hop out of the tub, dry off, go potty, brush teeth, and put on pajamas.  Then we tiptoe (like ninjas, of course) to the girls room to read a story.  On nights when they don’t bathe, we can read a longer book; on bath nights, I ask them to pick shorter books.  Most nights they ask for ridiculous numbers of books.  Suffice it to say, we are big fans of reading before bed.

After a book, we talk about our favorite things and least favorite things that happened that day.  I love having these few minutes to connect with the girls and to get a window into their little minds and souls.  Having an infant often means the older siblings get less attention than they had previously.  Setting aside time to talk about the day forces me to look them in the eye and hear what they have to say.

We usually finish our bedtime routine with a prayer.  We used to ask each girl to pray for themselves and others, but recently I read this blog post, and we have been trying to read Psalm 121 each night.  It’s simple enough for the girls to understand, and short enough to read in its entirety before bed.  Plus I love that they ask me every night where Israel is; then we have to check our world map in the morning to see, again, where Israel is.  They are often disappointed to find out it is, in fact, not in Wisconsin.

Then we kiss, hug, shnuggle, and I remind the girls that they need to stay in bed, stay still, and stay quiet.  I turn on some nighttime music, and leave the room, hopefully by 7:30 pm.

There are days when I check back in a few minutes, and both girls are asleep.  These are few and far in between.  Most days I have to check in several times, reminding the girls (ok, just the Bean) to stay quiet and still.  On a good day, everyone is asleep by 8 pm.  On a bad day, I have to grab Baby Brother and nurse him to sleep laying down (which is not as convenient as it sounds).  Then they are all asleep by 9 pm.

At which point I have to face the sink full of dishes.

 

This is Real Life, Friends

A few days ago I connected with a local mom on an international Facebook group to buy something.  I knew exactly who she was, as I had met her a few times before at some kids’ events; I could see her face in her profile picture.

I, however, do not use my own face in my Facebook profile.  When this woman answered the door she was surprised to learn that it was indeed me (someone she had met) that she was selling her item to.  She couldn’t tell, she said, who it was because I had a picture of Baby Brother as my profile picture.

Of course, getting back into the car, I mentioned this to my husband.  I told him that I couldn’t remember the last time someone had taken a picture of me; I was always the one taking pictures.

(And I honestly don’t remember to do that very much.)

His (very honest) retort:

“I do try to take pictures of you, but every time I do, you make a ridiculous face.”

Today, I tried to take a picture of Baby Brother’s “nonplussed face”, which is best taken when he is being held.  I think I proved my husband’s point:

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Also, please enjoy Bean’s photo bomb in the bottom right.  She was either imitating my face, or she is so hopelessly like her mother.

Ra-hubarb

You heard me correctly.

Ra-hubarb.

Around here we pronounce the “h” in rhubarb.

(And by we, I really mean just myself.  My poor husband walks around shaking his head at the ridiculous things I say all day.)

When we first came to look at our rental house it was 40 degrees, cold, and very wet.  Nonetheless, the landlord walked us through the 1 acre lot, showing us where tenants before us had grown grapes and had a vegetable garden, as well as kept chickens.

What excited me most, though, was next to the small “chicken” shed, was a patch of dirt with what looked like tiny alien heads sticking out of the ground.

RHUBARB

I find that rhubarb is one of those foods you either love or you hate.  Or you have never tried it before in your life.

Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, similar to celery, but the stalks are most often used in desserts.  Rhubarb is tart and lovely on its own, but pairs well with sweet berries, like strawberries.

My first introduction to this unique food was in the UK.  While studying abroad, the university dining hall would often serve rhubarb crisp with custard (not ice cream!) for dessert.  I was quite skeptical at first, especially since a British friend of mine described the taste as “making your tongue numb for just a little while but in a lovely way”.  Fortunately, I got over that and took my first bite.

I LOVED IT.

I also forgot about rhubarb completely upon my return to the U.S.  I had plenty of braciolis and sopressata to make up for it, though.

My husband’s family, though, grows and loves rhubarb, and since we have been married I have had to experiment with this tangy vegetable.  I’ve made pies, crumbles, and cobblers.  I’ve even tried my hand at some strawberry rhubarb jam (which was more difficult than I had anticipated).

When we found our little rental place we found there was a small patch of rhubarb next to the shed.  That alone would have sold me on this place.  I wasn’t able to grow rhubarb well in the south.  I didn’t even have to start rhubarb here; someone has already done the work for me!

Needless to say, when our patch grew ripe (well, long enough?) for harvest, the girls and I were out there with a bowl and some scissors.

The first thing we made with our harvest?

Strawberry Rhubarb Smoothies!!

I was so surprised how delicious these turned out:

 

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 cup cut rhubarb

1 cup milk

honey to taste (we used about 2 tbsp)

Blend until smooth and enjoy!

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Some Notes to My Future Self About Moving

Hello Friends.

I am peeking my head above the pile of boxes for yet another post today about how fun it is to move with young children.

First, let me preface this by saying that I have some of the world’s most helpful children ever.  They love to ask what they can work on or help me with, even if what I am doing is too difficult or not appropriate for them.  They are, however, normal young children, and seeing their books and toys again after six months in storage has made them excitedly little people.

Messy excited little people.

We are so close to having all of our things in their permanent places in the home that I feel the move is just about over.  We do have to, however, acquire a few more pieces of furniture to really make this place livable.  Like a couch.  And a dresser for my husband to replace the large, clear plastic bin his clothes currently reside in.

As this crazy season comes to a close, I would like to share with you guys (and yes, my future moving self) some tips, tricks, do’s, and don’t’s for moving with little kids.

  1.  Get rid of excess stuff before you move:  I did this pretty well when we packed up our home in Virginia.  I sold a lot of things at yard sales that I knew weren’t worth the amount of space they would take up in a moving van.  As my poor husband knows, my rule of thumb is:  If you haven’t used it or missed it in a year, you won’t use it, so get rid of it.  I use this rule for just about everything:  movies, music, clothes, games, toys, etc.  Books are a different story, since one can only read so many books in a year.  This one small rule helped us get rid of several boxes and garbage bags full of things we were holding on to for little to no reason.
  2. Don’t get rid of things you will actually need:  I get a little trash bag happy when it is time to clear things out of my house.  I really err on the side of having way too few things, rather than having too much.  This is all fine and dandy until you move in, unpack your kitchen, and realize that you donated your toaster to Goodwill before you left Virginia.  (Yes, that really happened.  We had to buy a new one.)  There are some items that just don’t make sense to get rid of because you will have to replace them anyway (like a toaster, or an iron).  Unless you are planning to replace the item anyway, regardless of your home-moving status, keep it!
  3. Label boxes as specifically as possible:  When we were packing our home in Virginia I may have been a tad emotional.  It was the first home my husband and I owned, and it was the home we brought our girls home from the hospital to.  We had made many memories in that house.  We built a great life out there, as well.  We had family and friends that were like family, plus a fantastic church.  It was so hard to leave.  And, you know, I was pregnant.  I was having all the feels.  I procrastinated packing up, then in the end I wound up throwing items in boxes and labeling them “Random”.  I wish I was kidding.
  4. Write whether boxes are for “storage” or “immediate use”:  This would have come in handy for our latest move.  We had a big crew of helpers who did a fantastic job of getting our things out of the grandparents home and into our new home very quickly.  Unfortunately, I stayed behind to finish packing up at the grandparents and wasn’t able to direct the final placement of all the boxes.  This meant we were left with some boxes that weren’t going to be used immediately (like Christmas decorations) in the middle of our living room.  I’m sure, had I said which boxes could have gone into the attic, our moving crew would have happily obliged.
  5. Make a plan for unpacking:  This I felt I did pretty well for this latest move.  There are a few rooms in one’s home that are completely indispensable, the first, in my opinion, being the bathroom.  As the storybook says, everybody poops.  And everybody needs to shower and brush their teeth.  You will need a functioning bathroom immediately, and having everything put away in there just makes life so much more pleasant.  I found that getting the bathroom put away was an early, quick victory that helped me gain momentum. Next on my agenda was the kitchen; we need to eat in order to poop, yes?  That took a bit more time, but was also very worth the effort.  The kids bedrooms were next on my list, since they had to be done when they were otherwise occupied (by my lovely husband), then our bedroom, then the living room.
  6. Occupy your children while you unpack:  Next time I will do a better job of securing some childcare for a few days while the hubs and I unpack the house.  I thought I could use the girls’ help as I put things away, but as it turns out, they were so excited to see some of their toys that they were little help at all.  Duh.  I found that packing was a three steps forward, two steps back kind of process as I put items away, only to find them in the middle of the living room 30 minutes later.  Having several dedicated hours (or days) to unpack would probably have made this process go a lot more smoothly.

 

We’re Still Here

Folks, allow me to reiterate, if I haven’t already said it enough, that moving with three children is no joke, especially if your spouse cannot take days off to help put the new house back together.

I spend my days alternately unpacking boxes and laying around in my pajamas.  I have never been one who can moderate my own work level, so instead I work myself exhausted one day and do basically nothing the next.  It’s truly how I function best.

The kitchen, of course, was the first to be unpacked.  I had that done the first day we moved in.  A family has to eat, and in order to eat, we need plates, utensils, cups, etc.  So that was unpacked first.

The bathroom next, of course, because, well, no one likes the smelly new family next door.

We are slowly putting things in their places, and as we clear out the boxes I am so glad to be sharing photos of our new home.

It is amazing to me that we are living in this home.  We have so many thing sin this home that we didn’t in our first home:  a walk in attic, a basement, a garage, healthy rhubarb patch, and a heater in the bathroom.  It has more than enough space for us, and it has enough character to suit my love for old, lovely things.  I can’t wait to share it with my readers!

One Last Push

Readers,

I am pleased to announce that this silly family of five will finally be getting our own digs.  A place of our own.

home.

After lots of searching, looking at rental homes, contacting way too many Craigslist advertisers, and lots of prayer, we finally found a place for us.

There hasn’t been much going on here besides packing, and since Baby Brother has been simultaneously teething and going through a bit of a growth spurt, he has been strapped to me for most of the process.

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Thankfully, he can take his naps back there, despite my packing frenzy.

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Once we are moved in this weekend I’ll be sharing a bit about our new place and the fun things (GARDENING!!) that we will be able to do there.