Keeping My Kids From Feeling Lost In The Shuffle

Looking at daughterWhen you become a parent, your love really does multiply each time you have another baby. But no matter how much we try, our time does not multiply along with each new addition. Although you obsess less with each kid, because you just don’t have the time to, it is tricky when it comes to making sure everyone is getting enough attention.

I am finding that quality time spent with each of my four kids has to be much more deliberate, especially as they get older. Reality is, I don’t have time to play with my children very often. I am almost always cleaning, preparing meals, changing diapers, bathing and pretty much keeping our family afloat. My husband, Mike,  works long hours and every day we do the best job we can as parents.

I try to take opportunities to connect with each child and make sure they know they are special, like making a big deal with lots of hugs and kisses when I first see them in the morning. We also split the kids up as often as possible when running errands.

But, one of the most deliberate things we do is take our kids on special dates. Together, Mike and I think about what each child is interested in, and plan special outings tailored to each of them.

This past weekend, I took our oldest daughter, Beau, to the ballet to see The Nutcracker. She is our little ballerina, and I have been wanting to take her to see The Nutcracker for a very long time. I bought her a fancy dress, and braided her hair exactly as she had asked.Beau at the NutcrackerShe was mesmerized for the first half of the ballet, but as intermission was coming to a close, she started to melt down. Aside from being tired, she knew that her brother, Holden was at home making a ginger bread house with Mike, and she became fixated on the idea of wanting to do that too.

I was okay with cutting our outing short. She is only four, and that is a long time for her to sit. But as I guided her out of the theatre, she threw a full-on temper-tantrum. Which, unfortunately, is not too unusual for Beau. She began pulling me and screaming. Her face was read and she was sobbing so hard she could barely get a word out. I could see parents glancing over at us with looks on their faces like “oh man, have I been there before.”

I was able to keep myself calm, but my chest tightened as I heard the familiar sound indicating that intermission was over. I finally got her outside and into our car.

I at there quietly for a minute . Beau was still sobbing and I was trying to decided if I should lecture her, or I use this moment to listen and connect so that we could understand each other. I told Beau that we weren’t in a rush, and I was ready to listen and talk when she was.

Finally Beau calmed down enough that she was able to tell me that she wanted both, to stay for the rest and go home and make ginger bread houses. I hugged her and let her know that I thought she sat really well for the play and that I would read her the nutcracker at bedtime so we can find out how it ended.

I embraced the unexpected moment in my car, with just the two of us. It gave me a chance to tell her what a great sister she was being to her siblings, and that I think she is doing an incredible job in school. I was also able to explain that when she throws these temper tantrums, I have a very hard time understanding what it is she really wants. She really listened, and since then we have been listening to each other more.

Although our special date took an unexpected turn, I will look back at that memory with happiness. Even the part in the car afterwards.Beau and I off to the balletIt can be easy for our kids to feel lost in the shuffle.

But Mike and I will continue to make sure that each child feels special and feels like they are being heard.

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Having Four Kids Can Be Brutal Sometimes… Especially When Everyone Is Sick

Illness and four kidsHoly crap, I am a mom of four! I am fourteen months into being a mom of four, but I feel like it is really sinking in once again. For the past week, illness has been ripping through our home. There is nothing like having five members of your family to drop like flies. I am the last one standing.

Let’s back up a week. I had been feeling a little stressed. I don’t have any childcare until November, and the weight of trying to get everything done each day was making me feel like I couldn’t catch a break. Although I had successfully calmed the anxiety I had been feeling, but I was starting to pity myself a little too much. This was kindly pointed out to me by Mike, the day after we went out on a date, and I complained the entire time. He told me very nicely that I need to stop complaining and start being more proactive, especially about getting out with the kids so that I am not as isolated.

After being ticked, because he dared to tell me I could change my own situation, it sunk in a little and I decided to yank myself out of my pity spiral and take control. I put plans in place for a week of outings with the kids, a lunch with some friends and a date night with Mike. Monday rolled around and I packed all of the kids up to go pick up pumpkins for our Thanksgiving (we are in Canada) dinner we were going to be hosting. Kids and pumpkinsWe had a really fun time, and I felt pretty great that I was getting out with everyone. But on the drive home Beau started to complain that she didn’t feel well. And a couple hours later she was violently ill and could barely move.

Little did I know that this was just the beginning of two separate illnesses bouncing around our home for a week. A stomach flu and a bad cold. It went from Beau, to Mia, back to Beau, to Mike, to Everly and then Holden. There were even a couple days that Beau had been fine, so I sent her to school, only to be called 30 minutes later because I had to pick her up because she had been sick. Ugh!

Having one or two sick twins that share a room throws a wrench into everything. You worry about them waking their sibling and we eventually found that we had to remove the sick, crying twin to let the other fall asleep. Eventually we were able to put the sick twin back into their crib  without a melt-down. But this would be a long process.
Sick twinsEverly and Mia each had us pull all-nighters, and because we are not spring chickens anymore like our college years, this sleep deprivation hit us hard!3am in our home

This is what 3 a.m. in our home looks like, just in case you were wondering.

By Wednesday afternoon I was so tired, so frustrated and so isolated, that I started to unravel. In fact, I believe the words I uttered to my mother when help finally arrived were “I never signed up for this! I went from two kids to four and never got to experience having three kids. I am done!” Obviously I love my family very much and wouldn’t change a thing, but mentally and emotionally I needed a break.

I was able to still make it out for my lunch with my friends because Mike could see that I was cracking and took some time off of work. We also made it out for a quick date night. Both of these outings were just enough to regain my sanity, recharge and be there for my family.

What happened to our Thanksgiving dinner? We pulled the plug and cancelled. Our family was very understanding and decided to move it to a restaurant. Holden, Beau and I were able to join in as well. thanksgiving dinner 2Every once and a while, I get a wake-up call that I do, indeed have four children. This was one of those times. I am learning that especially while everyone is so young, to embrace survival mode when necessary, and to also be very protective of any breaks I can grab.

The clouds are finally parting and everyone is starting to sleep more and we are able to re-enter life again. We are back to our daily to-do lists, play time and giggles. I have come out on the other side of this week, being humbled by the enormous responsibility of caring for these precious four children, but also feeling stronger and more confident as a mother.Everly sick

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Life Shocker… Twins are on the way!

Twins Ultrasound 12 WeeksFraternal Twins, 12 Week Ultrasound

You may have wondered why my posts had started to become few and far between.  I am happy to say that initially it was because business was booming and I was hopping from one project to another but then I started to feel a little under the weather, and then very under the weather and did I ever have a reason why!

Okay, lets back up a year.  My husband Mike and I had always wanted a lot of kids.  We had Holden and Beau back to back and Mike was ready to have a third and be done.  I, on the other hand either wanted two or four kids.  Being one of four kids myself, that kind of chaos always felt normal to me.  Once I resurfaced after having our two, got out of the diaper stage, survived a very moody toddler and helped him along with a language delay I was beyond burnt out.  I took an extra year for myself to work in design, then start my business and rediscover who I was besides being a mom.  Initially I had toyed with the idea at stopping after two but I could tell that I wasn’t finished having kids.  We started trying a year ago and despite getting pregnant with our two by pretty much looking at each other things just weren’t happening.  The past year of trying and two very early miscarriages was filled with frustration, confusion and then finally acceptance.  Maybe this was meant to be?

By early November we decided to investigate before throwing in the towel.  We had our initial meeting with a fertility clinic and was told to STOP WORRYING and RELAX.  I would have to wait for a month before we could start investigating so I decided to take the month off.  I already felt like it was now someone else’s problem and I should just enjoy life.  We started having fun, going on a wine tour and lots of dinners out.  By mid November the Norovirus moved through our house and after that I just couldn’t seem to kick the nausea and upset stomach.  Honestly thinking I was still fighting off this stomach bug two weeks later I completely missed any signs that I could be pregnant, even enjoying a Christmas party along with the white wine!

A couple days later after a home test and a couple blood tests at the fertility clinic I got my answer, I was pregnant.  I tried to keep to my normal routine as much as possible but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was not like my other two pregnancies.  The nausea was relentless and the exhaustion was something I had never felt before.

Because we had started the process with the fertility clinic I was able to get an early ultrasound at 7 weeks.  I left Mike at home with the kids; afterall I had been to many ultrasounds before and didn’t feel it was necessary for him to join me.  The ultrasound technician quietly did the ultrasound with the screen turned away from me.  Because of the newly tightened information laws, I would have to wait until I spoke to the nurse after I was done.  I took a quick peek at the screen while I was leaving the room and saw something a little alarming… two sacs!  While I sat in the waiting room I tried to rationalize with myself, “maybe I was just seeing my full bladder beside the sac, besides I have never had an ultrasound that early before so I didn’t know what it was supposed to look like”.  I texted Mike with a joking tone telling him what I saw.  He casually said to just let him know how many carseats to buy.

When the nurse called me in all I was waiting to hear was that there was a heartbeat.  I can’t even remember how she told me but in a very cheerful tone she started to explain that there were two healthy heartbeats, both measuring at 7 weeks and 1 day.  I literally started to laugh and couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear.  “I never even took fertility drugs or had any investigation done… I don’t even have twins in the family!”.  She explained that because they were in separate sacs, had separate placentas and because there were only two (which I chuckled at) it wasn’t a high risk pregnancy, unless any complications cropped up.  Everything made sense now!

I walked into my home to my worried and curious husband wondering why it took so long and why he couldn’t get a hold of me.  All I could do was hold up two fingers laughing with tears rolling down my face.  After a lot of convincing that this wasn’t a joke Mike was thrilled, and surprisingly calm.  We told the kids who were also over the moon and family members and friends soon joined in on the excitement.  After a year, of emotional ups and downs I couldn’t help but feel that this special surprise was planned all along for our family!

IMG_54949 Weeks, Twins Baby Bump

Twins Ultrasound 12 WeeksFraternal Twins, 12 Week Ultrasound

Now that I am having to pull back on murals and intensive work for a bit while focusing on growing two babies, my blog will be taking on a different tone in the meantime.  I will be following my journey with twins and two older kids as well as blogging about the redesign of each of our kids rooms on a budget including a twin’s nursery and lots of DIY ideas.  So stay tuned and share!