life with three

After the third kid, it’s just logistics. We’re coming up on the last quarter of this Baby Year and I’ve been thinking about things we’ve changed since Chiara was born.

  • Instacart. When I saw our housemate get her Aldi groceries delivered to the house, I was like whaaaat?? I can get overwhelmed by meal planning and grocery shopping at the best of times, but working around a baby’s nap schedule + bad weather made me just give up. Chris shopped for a while (and he spends way less money than I do because he sticks strictly to the list) but he only had time to do it on the weekend and I just wanted him home with us. So, I convinced him that it’s worth it for the one year membership and we’re trying it out. I’m determined to love it (and I do), but then annoying things happen like 1) the shopper only delivers half the order 2) the order doesn’t get delivered or 3) they buy the wrong thing BUUUT I hate grocery shopping enough to look past it. And it gets worked out in an hour or so and I get a refund or redelivery or whatever. So, good customer service. It took a while for me to get in a groove with it (and not forget to order basic things) but now I’m meal planning and ordering on Saturday mornings and it’s been good. When it works well, I’m like, what an age we live in. Technology. 
  • Monthly dates. This wasn’t super intentional at first but with family visiting and swapping with friends, we fell into about 1x/month getting out for drinks post-bedtime. That time together has become much more precious because I now understand how easy it is to only really talk about the day to day schedule stuff.
  • Nightly clean up. We’ve just gotten more disciplined about the bare minimum of cleaning/tidiness so that it doesn’t feel awful coming downstairs the next morning. It really makes such a difference to start the (v early morning) with the kitchen wiped down/swept up.
  • Saturday morning “mama time.” This is for my sanity. Sometimes it’s a run and meal planning, or thrifting, or adoration. Sometimes it’s a three hour nap because I’m succumbing to the cold the girls have. Blerg.
  • Making space for each other’s hobbies.
  • Sleep training. We did this with the other two but I think I got serious about it sooner with Chiara, and we moved her out of our room at 5.5 months (Zelie was in for almost a year because we were in a 2 bedroom apt).
  • No guilt about switching off being with the girls to catch up on sleep on the weekends.
  • No guilt about streaming a TV show for the girls to watch post-nap time/quiet time.
  • Quiet time is sacred. Evangeline does an hour and some days it overlaps with Chiara and Zelie’s naps, some days they don’t all line up for very long, but it’s still necessary for everyone. And now Zelie does a 30 minute quiet time in the morning … I take any sort of quiet, alone time I can get.
  • Laundry. It took me this long to get into some sort of system. The big girls have a hamper and Chiara has one, and they get washed together about every 4 days. And immediately sorted! This is so simple but has really freed up the backlog of folding and getting back to their rooms.
  • Housemate coming in clutch. I’m thinking back to all those nights in the first 5 months that Chris wasn’t home for bedtime and Clare was there to hold Chiara while I got Zelie down, and then I could hold her while I did Evange. My spiritual director said, “Sometimes all you need is a pair of hands for 7 minutes.”  So true. Thanks, Clare!

And this isn’t logistics, but I’ve also been thinking about the sweetness of sister bonds, and how we’ve seen the big girls grow so much in this last year, too. My sister and I are 19 months apart, just like Evangeline and Zelie, so I don’t remember her birth. It’s been beautiful to see Evangeline’s special bond with Chiara. She is quick to try to make her happy – she made up a song to sing to her when she cries in the car – and things I find annoying, like repeating loud one syllable noises over and over again, crack Chiara up. Who knew.

I know in a couple years I’ll think it was silly of me to feel like I had a big kid in the house when my oldest was 4 and a half, but I have been surprised lately at all the things Evangeline can do, and wants to do. As I’m nursing Chiara, she will proudly come and tell me that she dried herself off from the bath, brushed her teeth and hair, flossed, put on her pull-up, put lotions on her legs, and put her PJ’s on. Then she’ll say, “Does that help the family?” because she’s also now on the lookout for ways to earn coins to put in her piggy bank. (Also discovered that she’s super motivated by charts.) And she and Zelie play together SO WELL these days. My favorite is when they act out the scenes from Frozen when Anna and Elsa are little. Do the magic, do the magic! THIS IS AMAZING! It’s just a fun new world with almost two preschool-age kids in the house.

november quick takes

a little round up of what’s been going on around here lately!

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1. Veteran’s Day Snow Storm! Which just really makes it hard for me to believe we haven’t gotten to Thanksgiving yet. I want Christmas decorations up asap. Evangeline has a strong association between playing in the snow (or seeing snow outside) and drinking hot chocolate. She has made some calculated dashes outside to “play in the snow,” only to come back in three minutes later crying because snow is in her boots and then demands hot chocolate. Eye roll. 

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2. Thankful Turkey! But I am loving this art kick she is on. She loves drawing pictures each day on a “thankful feather.” Highlights include, “I am thankful for myself and the wind.” And we get to host Thanksgiving for the first time! I made an unsuccessful Target run (silly me, thinking there would be anything fall-related left in the stores in November) but had fun doing a pre-styling prep of the table. My mom and sister will cook and it’s going to be so fun!

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some “fall beauty” with snow outside

3. Sleeping arrangements! In preparation for having family visit, and also because Chiara started waking up more and I wanted to kick her out of our room, the big girls are back to sharing and C is in the guest room for now. Bedtime is staggered but going really well. But we are trying to potty night-train Evangeline and girlfriend pees so much at night!! I limit her water, and Chris is in charge of waking her up to pee, but this has meant that we both are getting v interrupted sleep (because he has to wake her up about 3 times!). Hoping we discover a pattern and/or she learns to hold it longer soon. Which also brings me to …

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4. Precious Little Sleep! I’m back in the baby world where a lot of my mental space is taken up by sleep schedules. A few weeks ago, my friend Annie observed Chiara falling asleep nursing and then waking up when I put her down, and asked if I’d like to borrow her sleep book. To which I said, YES PLEASE!! (I would have been annoyed by this if it came from just about anyone but her, lol). I was caught off-guard by Chiara not being a newborn anymore – hah! The old nap techniques were no longer working and I was not down with her being awake until 9:30pm anymore. And this book has been THE BEST. Funny, practical, balanced, and so helpful. I am all about it. I had a lull in my work with my editing job and tackled breaking her sleep association with nursing at bedtime (she was textbook with it, so good), got her out of my bed, and in good naps. It gave me a sense of control over something and therefore, so happy. All the praise hands!

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5. For my birthday at the end of the summer, I got these jeans, and I’ve worn them every single day through fall. They are the most expensive jeans I’ve ever had, but they have also ruined every other pair for me. So comfortable! They never sag! I never wash them! (except to get poop/yogurt/paint off).

6. Make up! Another birthday present – in the self-care, restorative arena, I had been thinking for a while that I would like to learn more about make up. To look my best to be my best and all that. And also, I would like to know a little more about it and be able to help my girls with it some day waaaaay down the road. Like the millennial I am, I finally decided on this collection via someone I follow on Instagram, because she was able to tell me which color foundation to pick. So, now when I want to be fancy, I can be!

7. Marco Polo! My new favorite thing. (It’s an app where you send video messages to friends.) It is a weird way to communicate (I concede, Maya!), but it works for me right now. It’s how I stay in touch with good friends long-distance because, in reality, I’m not going to send long texts or emails and we’re never going to find a time to talk on the phone or FaceTime. I can listen to a Polo while I fold laundry or whatever, and I can send one back whenever I have a minute. Or twenty. I’ve loved feeling closer to friends and having some really good, deep conversations through it.

And, that’s about it! Happy weekend! 🙂

how montessori is helping me be a better parent

When I was asked if I’d like to help with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program for the primary students at Evangeline’s school this year, I jumped at the chance. Childcare is always tricky but the other mom who is helping also has a two year old daughter, so each week we switch off entertaining the little ones, and the other gets to be in the Atrium (the room where CGS happens). I had my first turn in the Atrium yesterday and it was the highlight of my day. These are some of my observations from the time and how it’s interacting with the thoughts I’ve been having about parenting.

I re-read this book on the temperaments this week, looking for help dealing with Evangeline’s tantrums and some behavior issues (like, she locked the back door the other day to try to lock me out of the house, and I found a container of oats behind/under the couch that she had been secretly snacking on back there – what?) and was relieved and amused, because yes, she is definitely my conquering choleric child. And as easy going phlegmatics, Chris and I are often bewildered by her outbursts of passionate screaming. The girl is just so loud sometimes. She reacts quickly and intensely, and yes, we will have to continue to help her learn to control her emotions, but she’s also confident and loves to be helpful and independent, and fingers crossed, those qualities will serve her well through adolescence and beyond. Having the temperaments as a loose framework helps me to see when I am being worn down (or bullied lol) by her insistence (lately it’s been letting her watch an episode of a show, or two, after quiet time, because I need a longer break) – and putting my foot down to break habits I don’t want us in. It also helps me have more empathy and patience when she reacts so loudly. (She doesn’t do this at school, btw. She saves it all for us at home #blessed).

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Earlier this week, I went to a volunteer training at the school, and it was an unexpected, lovely reinforcement of how I want to be as a parent. A scientist, a saint. What are my buttons? Ask others for help. So good to think about. The principal of the school commented, “We don’t ask the child, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ We ask, ‘How will the universe be different because you are in it?'”  #CosmicEducation

I’m coming into all this Montessori stuff a total newbie. I didn’t know anything about it  when Evangeline started at a Catholic Montessori school that runs from preschool to junior high. I have slowly been picking up the philosophy, the lingo, and the planes of child development here and there, from different books and articles, in a haphazard way. And mostly from my homeschooling mom friends, who are incorporating aspects of it into their homes.

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So I’ve been on a kick with it this week, reading The Montessori Toddler and having fun arranging activities for the girls to discover and play with in our play room. Hiding toys to bring them out in rotation has left bare, minimal shelves which are easier to tidy at the end of the day. My MIL sent me this article a while ago and I’m finally putting some of these ideas into practice, and something about it is really fun for me. Thinking about what toys actually get used, or are part of a complete set, and eliminating whatever is random and excessive and not age-appropriate, is freeing. And thinking about what activities the girls would enjoy, and what items we have around the house or yard that would work, is using some creativity that is life-giving to me.

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in her fancy dress to move her frogs around the room all day 🙂

Anyway, bringing all that into the Atrium with me this week, I noticed some things.

  • The order, detail, and thoughtfulness of the materials in the room creates a peace and a beauty that feeds something in my soul.
  • Seeing other adults interact with 3-6 year children in a calm, respectful way helps my own struggle with patience when it’s just me at home, outnumbered by my three.
  • Children are still children in this beautiful space. They get silly and distracted by each other, they sometimes need redirection. But mostly, they are reverent, focused, and eager. And it is delightful to just stand back and watch.

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oh crap! potty training. my thoughts exactly.

No one prepared me for potty training!! I mean, I don’t know what preparation would have looked like exactly, but man, it was a PROCESS. Any new milestone that I approach with Evangeline (eating solids, sleep training, climbing out of the crib, etc) I go through this angst (CHANGE!). And potty training was no different.

In July, I made a friend who has a girl Evangeline’s age, like week apart. I noticed her taking Coral to the potty one day and was like WHAT! She’s POTTY TRAINED?! I didn’t know we could do that yet! And my friend said, yep, I trained her at 19 months.

MIND BLOWN.

She told me that she read this book and followed that method. I was intrigued because approaching any big change, a book is comforting. So I thought about it a lot, thought about how much it would suck to have to take the time to train Evangeline when right now it was just so easy to let her pee and poop in a diaper. And how would car trips work? How would I go anywhere? 

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But then I started listening to the book and was won over by the author pretty quickly. She’s funny and she frames it as a really cool milestone and “your first glimpse into how your child learns.” And I’m all about that. And then she started going through the steps and I was like wait, wait, slow down and Amazon Primed that book ASAP. Help me. 

Her intro and first couple chapters made me realize, Evangeline is totally ready to learn this. I am the limiting factor. So I braced myself, marked the start day on the calendar (September 1, just to give us a few days to calm down after her birthday, and nice clean start date) and cleared our schedule. Honestly, our schedule is going to the library, etc, little fun morning outings, but even letting go of this was hard. Totally home bound for several days? Yikes. 

A couple things were working in my favor with this venture.

1. Our 500 sq foot apartment set to be demolished in June. There’s always a potty within reach! There’s already years and years of pee soaked into this carpet and it’s going to be destroyed soon anyway!

2. Summertime. When I couldn’t keep her inside anymore, I let her go out to the playground with no pants on and brought a potty along. There were many accidents out there, and it was possibly a questionable parenting choice, but other moms were sympathetic.

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But still, the first week was SO HARD. Like, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Similar to childbirth, I think there is necessary amnesia associated with potty training. 6 months later, I’ve already forgotten some of how exhausting it was to strike the balance between complete focus and total casualness. I’m watching you super carefully to learn your pee pee dance, but it’s no big deal to me if you pee on the floor, you do you, gf, this is not a power struggle. But I do remember thinking at some point towards the end of that first week – Shoot, if I have more babies, I have to potty train them too. (I did not have that thought after giving birth, btw.)

One of our first trips out, on Day 9, was a walk to campus for a ND football tailgate with seminarians. Got one pee in the potty and one pair of wet pants. I called it a win.

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My friend also recommended this portable seat to make big toilets accessible and it was CLUTCH. Basically, all credit goes to Katherine. 🙂

Overall, I recommend Jamie’s method. It’s super intense, but it works. Potty training was all I thought about and talked about for 2 weeks, and then it got more normal. There were (and still are) accidents here and there, but I really liked not having to change her diapers anymore (just down to one baby) and not buying them (!) and throwing them into landfill any longer. After Christmas, when Evangeline had a total regression at Grandma’s house (my fault), we got home and got right back to it and she picked up again in no time.

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tricycle for her bday. a much less messy milestone.