Sunday, March 02, 2008

Wow - what a week! I've been working hard-core on potty training the twins for the past week. They still have several accidents a day and it's been almost beyond my ability not to scream and hurt them when they insist they don't need to go potty one minute then poo in their underwear the next! I've decided one of the worst things about being a mom is cleaning up poo - it's not fun wiping bums of diapered kids but it's really disgusting trying to get a kid out of underwear filled with poo and clean up the mess (I've thrown away a few pairs of underwear in despair rather than try to clean them). I've dealt with at least one poo accident and at least 3 pee accidents every day and all the ensuing cleaning of floors and laundry hasn't been fun. As soon as I turn my back for one little minute, the twins seem to have an accident so I'm constantly on edge and stressed out and the twins have been begging for their diapers back. But we have small victories like today when Ollie decided to go potty independently (even though that meant he covered the wall across the room with pee! That guy has some serious difficulties with his aim). Oh, the sheer glamor of my life!

Jared's been very busy with work - they had a major problem with their new payroll system and all drivers got overpaid by a lot in the last three pay periods and now that they're trying to take money out of current and future paychecks to gradually recoup part of the loss, many drivers have threatened to quit and Jared's done a great job helping them understand the situation and most have decided to stay but it's been VERY stressful and has involved LONG hours from Jared.

And with everything going on with me and Jared, it seems the older kids have really been affected by the stress in the air and have manifested it with record-breaking bad behavior on the part of the boys and bed-wetting and excessive neediness of my attention on the part of Eliza. Ashton went to a friend's house after school on Tuesday without asking and I had Ana and Ike searching the school while I called anyone I could think of on the phone and tryed to keep track of the twins and Jake (who I drive home). So often I feel like I'm herding cats - some very ellusive, some who meow a lot! I finally found Ashton who strangely had decided to walk home with a friend's older brother even though his friend was at the dentist and wouldn't even be there to play with him. That was weird and we had a big talk and he got grounded.

Then on Friday I really reached my breaking point. I expressly told Ashton NOT to take his bike out because he'd wanted to play outside with Cam and Ollie and he needed to be playing with them and watching them, not riding his bike. We had a big talk about him really watching the little kids while I cleaned up Si (from another poo accident) - but I guess he came and got his bike when I wasn't watching. So he was riding around (and Ollie wasn't being supervised) and Ike got his bike and they went in an area between Jo's house and the next house and Isaac knocked into a pipe and broke it, creating a big water fountain and a Jo and Aja had to turn off their water and it was quite a process for Jared to fix it. Poor Jo had had this terrible terrible week at work and the last thing he needed was to deal with another problem with Isaac and Ashton who were claiming they had NO idea how the pipe got broken.

I went over there and while I tried to get the truth out of the big boys, Ollie and Si ran off and started up the scary stairwell that goes to the roof of Jo's neighbor's house and Jo yelled at them to get down and they didn't listen and Jonah had to drag them down. So I sat them in time out on the curb next to me while finishing talking with the big boys. After insisting on his innocence numerous times, Isaac finally told the truth and apologized to Jonah and we talked about how he'd have to pay to get it fixed and it was a big sad thing for Jo and Aja to have to turn of their water. During this discussion, Ollie filled his underwear and pant legs with poo as he obediently stayed on the curb where I had sternly told him he must quietly sit. I walked home with a bunch of disobedient difficult kids, one of them a big liar and one of them covered in poo and I felt more desperately hopeless than I've felt in a long long time, wondering how I could quit this job. There are just too many kids and not enough of me to do this job.

I've been getting better at saying no to a lot of things. I'm trying not to notice too many needs that I have the ability but not the time to solve. Once I see a need, I feel very guilty if I don't do something about it. I want to save the world, darn it, and I have all these ideas and I've got a lot of education and experience and connections. But I know I need to focus on the very needy and very important little world of my own family for this season of my life. So what do I do? I've really scaled back on a lot of things - I've put CareerMothers on the back burner (after all that work to get the website and manual almost done, it just felt right to leave it alone for a while), I just do the basics which only takes a few hours every few months on Joy School stuff (I just do the billing and support the 12 schools using the curriculum with a little email here and there - I'm going to rewrite those lesson plans someday...), I don't even ask about Mountain Interiors anymore and just let Jared handle it (after doing so much work to get the whole website rewritten a while back), I keep things simple while still trying to really give good lessons and be a good leader for the girls in Young Women's, I've passed off a lot of responsibility on the parent participation program that I started at the kids' school to someone else.

So I've pared things down to what feels like the bare minimum of what I need to do in order to maintain my sanity - I'm just doing what's necessary to keep from totally giving up on things I've worked hard to build and to keep from loosing my vital few links to other adults and the larger world. But there's still not enough of me to meet the needs of my kids and be even close to the sort of mother I yearn to be - and there wouldn't be enough of me even if I cast off every single non-motherhood thing I ever do. I simply can't watch every kid all the time. I can't give every kid all the attention he or she needs. I can't sit by Isaac help him have a positive experience with his challenging homework after school while showing adequate enthusiam over the 10 works of art that Eliza produces every hour while trying to get Ashton to focus on the essay he's supposed to write while making sure the twins don't spread food all over the pantry floor or pee or poo in their pants. I could meet the needs of 2 or 3 kids simultaneously - but 5? It just doesn't work. There are infrequent moments in some days where I feel like things are OK - like when I've got the twins down for a nap after laying by them for 20 minutes (interrupted by the phone or Eliza and having to start the falling-asleep process all over again often) and I get to sit and read to Eliza for a few minutes in peace and she's in heaven and so am I - or when I've got Ashton helping Isaac nicely with homework while I read to the twins and Eliza happily plays with Polly Pockets. The moments where things are in balance and everyone's getting what they need do happen - usually because I've worked hard to stagger things a bit and get a couple kids doing one thing so I can help others with something else. But somehow my carefully orchestrated good times are generally short and usually followed by a crazy mess of moments where everyone suddenly needs attention all at once - I'm trying to cook dinner and the twins come in covered in pee and as I'm cleaning up their trails around the house and trying to get them to stay in the bathtub, the phone is ringing and Ashton is asking me if I know how many noses a slug has and Eliza wants me to listen to her new song and Isaac is crying because he needs help with his next page of homework. It seems like at least 10 times a day, at least 4 people simultaneously need something quite desperately from me - and their needs are mutually exclusive and quite noisy!

Then there are the many many times when I'm faced with horrible decisions with no good answer. Should I go volunteer in the boys' classes which they love so much even if it means I have to beg for babysitting favors and/or stress out about all the stars being aligned so that the twins will be sound asleep for naps right on time and Aja can listen for them without any worries? Should I let the kids play outside when they've been begging to go out all day even though we don't have a fenced yard and cars often drive fast by the house and the twins are not 100% good at staying out of the street and I can't watch all of them all the time? Should I keep trying to do this parent participation program that really feels inspired even though the PTA president doesn't care about it and there are only a handful of teachers and parents who are really excited about it? How can I get the support I need as a mother without starting a mothers' group that I will inevitably have to be in charge of and it will be one more thing to worry about? Should I even bother trying to call anyone or return phone calls when the kids will almost certainly hang on me and talk to me when I'm on the phone and I'll be totally stressed out and annoyed? How do I be a good friend and neighbor and Young Women's leader and visiting teacher when I can never seem to make or return phone calls? Should I stop offering to help since I really don't have time to help and people seldom seem to really value my help or offer to help me in return? If so, how can I live with myself and my overactive conscience and need to be involved in things beyond my own home? I could go on and on but I'll spare you...

We moved here from California for many reasons but one was so that Jared could be more actively involved in parenting these kids during this busy crucial time where they're all so young and needy - and could be so much fun if they could get a little more attention. But Jared's working very very hard to get a struggling company off the ground and things look very promising with Miller Gordon overall despite large and small setbacks that keep popping up just when things are really starting to go well. He loves being the boss and I'm so happy he has this opportunity to really take the helm and learn so much and see the fruits of his work little by little. He's going to try to be home an afternoon or two a week when things are most wild and that will certainly help. He is so incredibly helpful and so much more involved with the kids than most dads and I count my blessings daily to have such an amazing husband. But he's busy with other things so I've got to be the primary parent and I just can't seem to quite do this. We keep trying to get babysitters to help out - even though we can't really afford them - but nothing seems to be panning out and what the kids really need is not a babysitter but another person or two just around all the time. The times that I really really really need some extra help aren't generally times that I could anticipate and plan to have another person here to help. I just need two or three of me and a couple Jareds as well. I'm still looking for a babysitter so that I can get a few hours a week to do errands that just don't work with the twins, help in the big kids' classes and maybe even chip away at a couple back-burner projects that could give me a chance to feel like I'm accomplishing something tangible in the larger world (a need I've realized isn't going to go away).

So things are tough - but I know the answers are out there and I will find them. The kids memorized Nephi's "I will go and do the things the Lord has commanded for I know that he giveth no commandment unto the children of men save he shall prepare a way for them to accomplish the thing which he has commanded" (something like that - I've been trying to keep the twins distracted while Jared has helped the big kids memorize the scripture on the mornings where chaos subsides enough for scripture time). I know the Lord wouldn't have given us these 5 beautiful busy children in 5 years if He didn't know we could handle them. But part of handling them, I've come to understand, is seeing where I need help and trying to find it. So we'll keep watching and praying and doing the best we can do and trying to cherish the good moments and forget the bad. If I could just get the quantity of good moments a little higher than the quantity of desperate horrible moments, that would help! I know a lot of this involves me using the Spirit more and I know I get too angry and too frustrated and the Spirit could really help make crazy situations seem more bearable. So that'll be my focus this week.

Sorry for the ramblings. I only post this in case something here may help someone out there feel less alone and more able to face their own challenges!


Jen H. said...

Wow. Thanks, Saren. I was just having a little pity party because my girls were running through the house laughing and screaming when they were supposed to be getting ready for bed, and my husband's not going to be home for a few more hours, and my patience is thin because I'm stressed about a new church calling and my husband's company's future. But I've got nothing on you.

While I wish your life were more fun, it's kind of comforting that I'm not the only one who has a little voice in her head sometimes that says "I hate this! I cannot do this anymore!"

You and Jared are some of our heroes. Your kids are lucky to have you as parents.

shawni said...

Oh Sar, I'm sorry things are so crazy for you right now! I know you'll figure things out, but please let me know if I can help. I do feel your pain as much as I can with kids spread out much further. It's just tough. But just remember you'd never really change it, right? I'd say put the diapers back on at least one of the twins and work on one at a time... That may alleviate much of the stress. But I'm sure you've thought it all through. Keep working on that babysitter! I've tried to call a few times with no luck getting through but I'll try again today. Sure love you!

Shumway Family said...


Lest you think I am a stalker - I came to your blog through someone I cannot remember right now, but it's been a long time - Boston long.

I am smiling at your post because I have been feeling much the same way - 4 small kids who demand constant attention, a Returned Missionary foster son who lives at home and sometimes still acts like a teenager, and a husband who owns his own company and somehow recruited me to do the finances - something I've never studied before and am hoping gets better the more you do it because it takes me forever right now - time I don't have.

Anyway, I don't know if I have any advice for you since three of my children are currently yelling at each other and one is hissing and spitting like a cat, but HANG ON!

When times get desperate and I feel like I am going to really lose it - I turn on music really loud (for some reason my kids like Bon Jovi's "It's my life") and they sing and dance while I yell out the lyrics. Then I follow it up with a classical piece to calm it down and I feel better.

Know that your kids have the mom that was perfect for them, even when you think you aren't doing a great job - I remind myself of that often.

Take Care!
Maureen Shumway

brittanimae said...

I'm so glad you posted this Saren! It is always good to know you're not alone. I've been cleaning non-stop diarrhea and vomit today, and if it's any comfort, Emerson has been potty trained for over a year and STILL had another poopy (yes POOPY--the word I grimaced at before I had kids) accident in his diaper last week. And do you know what is the biggest lie of all--the one where people say that after your second child, each additional one doesn't really change things much. THEY"RE ALL PEOPLE WITH NEEDS! Anyway, I'm glad things are going better. You're a great mom.

brittanimae said...

I'm so glad you posted this Saren! It is always good to know you're not alone. I've been cleaning non-stop diarrhea and vomit today, and if it's any comfort, Emerson has been potty trained for over a year and STILL had another poopy (yes POOPY--the word I grimaced at before I had kids) accident in his diaper last week. And do you know what is the biggest lie of all--the one where people say that after your second child, each additional one doesn't really change things much. THEY"RE ALL PEOPLE WITH NEEDS! Anyway, I'm glad things are going better. You're a great mom.


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