Let me start by saying, I survived. I survived 4 kids 5 and under and it may have taken me 2 years to sit down and write about it, but I figured maybe it would be better if we all knew I came out ok before I shared (ha!). As of last week, I have kids that are 2, 3, 6, and 8. Somehow that sounds a heck of a lot more sane then 4 kids 5 and under. Like when we are at the store and someone asks how old they all are……wait no.. back up… AFTER they ask “are they ALL yours!?” and they ask “how old are they?” it seems a lot more manageable when I say “they are 2, 3, 6 and 8”. I will never forget the look of horror on the stranger’s face the first time I said they were all mine and that they were “2 weeks, 1, 4 and 5”.
The past 2 years has been crazier that expected but filled with a whole lot of love.
So, today I’d like to welcome you to a bit of the chaos of what was 4, 5 and under….
I think I need to start the story before Miles arrived. I was 40 weeks pregnant and I got a knock on the door. It was the water company, telling me due to freezing temperatures and busted pipes, they’d be fixing some things on our street and our water would need to be off for a few hours. I thanked them and went to get Alex ready for school. As I parted her hair for pigtails, I saw it… one of my absolute biggest fears, multiplied by 100 when pregnant… a bug. Not just any bug: lice. We’ve gotten the letters home from preschool so many times, and every time I took every precaution in the books, HOW did she have lice?! I was near fainting but didn’t want to scare Alex. So I told her not to move and went to wash my hands… right no water. I put the kids in the car and drove to the “lice place” in town. When we arrived, they might as well have told me “sign over your kids’ college savings and we’ll de-lice your family” because I just about would have paid anything at that moment.
This was not part of the day’s plan. This was not at all part of my “nesting” before baby arrives. Now instead of setting up the nursery I was going to be sterilizing the whole house. I can remember sitting in the chair at the lice “center”, that I barely fit in a 40 weeks pregnant, while lice was being combed from my head… and my OCD, type A, neat freak self was thinking…. this is just the start of the chaos. I sometimes think it was God’s way of breaking it to me that with 4, I was going to have to chill out and take what life hands each day. This was my sign. …
Well we had clean heads and a super clean house and I went into labor a few days later mid Target shopping trip. I mean where else do you go into labor with your 4th child? Of course I waited through dinner (which was too long) and had to have a friend come watch the kids so Tom & I could dart to the hospital while Grammy was en route to watch them. I can tell you that labor and delivery, after you’ve done it 4 times in less than 6 years, is a breeze. Rather quickly, we met our little John Miles.
I will never forget looking at all 4 kids together for the first time. It wasn’t quite the super sweet, intimate moment when the other siblings met because they all wanted to see him at once. So we put Miles on the bed and the other 3 lined up along the side of the bed to all look at once. It was a full line up of siblings welcoming in the newest. All wide eyed staring at each other. It was hands down one of the best moments of my life. That silent moment of staring lasted for just that: a moment. Then there was 1 crying, 1 eating all the hospital food and one yelling that they might throw up. Grammy gathered them up and they left in the same tornado fashion they arrived.
I recently was watching videos from the first week Miles was home. We had no furniture in our living room yet (because why not move when you are 3rd trimester?): just a rug and a pack n play. The kids would dance to Justin Bieber and spin around the room and that’s how Miles napped. So very different how we let the 4th nap vs the 1st, right?
This is where you think I am going to say the 1st few months were a blur. But they weren’t and that’s solely because I got help. The first time I had 2 under 2 I thought I was supposed to do it all. I did it all and it was a blur. This time around, with 4 kids 5 and under, I knew just how much ALL 4 were going to need me. A few weeks later Maggie turned 6, but even the “oldest” at 6 needs a whole lot of help with everything. I knew it was impossible to do it all myself and was determined for it not to be a crazy blur, so I got help. Help wasn’t in the budget, but we made it fit. I hired my friends nanny to come over 2-3 times a week from about 5 until 8. It was life changing and worth every penny. We said we’d squeeze it into the budget for the first 6 months. Well, Miles is 2 and we still have our wonderful nanny come at least 2 times a week.
That’s not even where the help ended though. The crazy type A lady that had to do everything my way and had to “do it all”…. she vanished when the 4th arrived. The new me says yes to help. The people that help me, I will help them back, someday… when my sanity comes back, I will help them all. But these past 2 years: my husband works from home more, my mom comes over more, the girls get rides to and from school more, friends step in, the list goes on. Over the past 2 years, I’ve asked for help when I need it and accept it when someone offers. It’s been life changing. I also say “no” more. I’ve said no to doing every activity under the sun, every fundraiser, play date, etc. I try and know my limits and the kids limits and try my best to chill out a lot more than we used to. Honestly I wish it didn’t take having 4 kids for me to realize I don’t have to “do everything” myself or do every single activity under the sun for my kids. We’re happier doing less and letting people help more.
The times it was craziest was in the morning and at night. The time in between was almost like a resting period for the craziness that was the mornings and nights. Or… actually any time we all had to leave the house was a little crazy. When I was alone, I felt incredibly out numbered when we tried to get anywhere. The only way I could do it was to bring everyone’s clothes, socks, shoes, diapers, hair brushes, etc into one room and shut the door. I’d get everyone ready, assembly line style and only open the door and release the animals when everyone was ready. Then the older 3 would watch a tv show or play while I nursed the baby. Then usually by then someone had pooped, spilled a drink on themselves or spit up and we’d have to “re-get ready” but occasionally it all worked out!
As Miles first Christmas approached, I remember thinking “we’re almost a year in to this crazy life with 4 kids”. The house was more decorated than I thought I would get done and we had zero plans for winter break for the first time ever – so maybe we could relax a bit. And then there was a bat in Maggie and Alex’s room. A bat that my husband and a cop tossed out the window, only to find out that in NJ the bat must be caught to test for rabies. Since the bat couldn’t be tested we all had to be treated. Yes, that’s right…. our relaxing winter break would now be spent going for several rounds of rabies vaccines as a family. I remember thinking “you have GOT to be kidding me”. Round one was disastrous, like 6 people crammed in a hospital room for 6 hours the day before Christmas break waiting for 25+ shots disastrous. We had to wait so long because there were SO many of us they didn’t have enough vaccine…nothing says Merry Christmas like your family clearing the hospital out of rabies shots. Then there was the day we showed up for a round of the shots and the kind woman at the front desk who recognized us announced “oh the rabies family is back”…. I will let you imagine the looks we got with a baby in a stroller, a toddler and two little kids being welcomed in as “the rabies family”. That’s when I realized, we may have made it through the 1st year, but we were the rabies family…
A few things you should know about our house:
It is only neat after 8pm. It is also insanely loud, except after 8pm. There is almost always one child in pajamas and one child running wild in a diaper. I do not remember to brush everyone’s hair every day and there are more “grab whatever you want” meals than I’d like to admit. I don’t cook every night and if our babysitter and my mom didn’t help with the laundry we’d all be running nude at this point.
There are so many moments over the past 2 years that I say to Tom “we will laugh about this someday”. Some of them we are already laughing about and some may take a few more years.
There are times when 4 little kids seems like a whole lot. Honestly it’s at odd times: like when they have sliced italian bread with butter at dinner. They all like 2 slices, so when I am buttering 8 little slices of bread, I often think, goodness how are all these kids mine? Or when I clip all their nails. I wrestle them and fight them and then clip my own while I’m at it and then all of a sudden I have clipped ONE HUNDRED nails in 5 minutes and that just seems totally nuts. Add them up… 100 nails to clip…
Then there are times when it seems like the simplest, most complete little tribe that would be lacking tremendously without all 4. That’s usually when they are all laughing in unison or all crammed in one bed.
There are times when I get frustrated when the girls are trying to get off to school or to sports and it takes so long for them to say goodbye: all 4 have to all hug and kiss each other goodbye all the time. I stop myself, because while there are a million things in my day to get frustrated at, the fact that it takes a while for all 4 kids to love each other, is not one of them. I pray all the time, that if nothing else, my 4 kids keep loving each other their entire lives, the way they love each other right now. If they do, then all the crazy, chaotic, sleep deprived moments those first few years were surely worth them all being so close in age.
Now that they are 2, 3, 6 and 8 their closeness in age is amazing. They all play together, like to watch the same movies together and really entertain each other. When we travel they all like to do the same things and go to the same types of places.
People often ask me what it’s like to have 4 kids.
Some moms ask me when they are pregnant with their 4th, you know more of a “what am I getting into?”. For them I always sugar coat the crazy…
There are also moms that ask more specifically about what it’s like to have kids so close in age.
It’s crazy for the first 2 years and then they have a best pal, are on the same sports, teams, similar friends, etc.
Then, in reference to having 4 kids, many ask “how do you do it all?”.
I don’t. As I mentioned above I have a lot of help and welcome help. I also have a husband that helps out a ton. I find time for this blog because it’s something I love and something I do for myself. Sometimes I work at night when it’s nice and quiet at home, sometimes at nap time and sometimes, when I need a break, I escape for the morning and write at a coffee shop (don’t worry I don’t escape until the babysitter arrives). Just because I write recipes, please don’t think I cook every night and just because I share activities to do with kids don’t think that I do activities with my kids every day. Moderation is putting it kindly these days.
Over the past 2 years, our house has gotten louder, messier and crazier. It’s also felt much more complete and often, the noise is a lot of laughter.
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