Monday, February 19, 2018

A Farewell--Lebewohl

This is a week I've been dreading.  This week, we say farewell to our German au pair, Merle.  Merle is returning to Germany for a few weeks before pursuing the au pair program in China.

I knew when the au pairs arrived last February that there would come a day when we would have to say goodbye.  I've known that all along, but I cannot even put my level of connection and attachment to Merle into words.

Merle is our comic.  Her wit cuts through some of the most stressful situations.  Her laugh brightens the darkest of room and her love of family warms my heart.

Her laundry folding skills are TOP notch--you should see the stuff she does!  She loves Harry Potter just as much as I do, even though she's a Slytherin...yeesh.

I can't imagine not spending Monday nights with Merle, watching the Bachelor or Dancing with the Stars.  I can't imagine each Cheesecake Factory cheesecake without her.  I can't imagine taking the kids to stroll at UVA and not having Merle walking alongside me. 

Merle has played such a critical role in this first year with our quints.  She's taught them how to feed themselves.  How to sleep more soundly (sometimes!) in the night.  How to open a book and turn pages.  How to roll a ball back and forth.  How to make silly faces (especially for selfies) and how to walk.  She's left an indelible impression on Michael, Ava, Clara, Millie, Luke, Isabelle, and especially me.

We wish Merle all the love and light this world can offer.  And we expect her to come visit soon and often.

We love you Merle!!!




Sunday, February 4, 2018

Working Ahead

Good Afternoon!

I'm trying to get back in the swing of blogging more regularly, so here goes nothing.

So many people look at me like I am a force of nature that they don't understand (or even relate to).  I get it--it's crazy (I'm crazy).  We have five babies the same age.  We have leaning towers of fluffy Elmo-adorned Pampers and we buy grape Tylenol in bulk.  Not cherry--Luke doesn't like the cherry flavor.  Cheerios, Gerber Pouches, and boxed Mac and Cheese have their own respective shelves in the pantry.  The "big people" food gets one and a half measly shelves in what I used to think was a large pantry. 

Still, I wish more people would realize that I am still just a person--not an exhibit in a museum or something to gossip about.  I am just a mom trying to make it through each day without feeling an unbearable amount of guilt, worry, and/or anxiety.  I think most moms identify with that, but I do wish the "circus" treatment would stop soon.  It makes me sad.

Still, moms ask me.  How do you get through the day?  Tips?  Tricks?  How does life even happen at your house?  Well, I've thought about it and I've realized that there's one tactic that serves me very well.

It started in high school.  I used to revel in my ability to work ahead on my homework.  It allowed me to balance my extracurricular obligations while keeping up with differentials, John Donne, and lab reports. Yes, yes, I liked school (and still do).  It's my thing.  But working ahead--this skill--developed in my teens and has continued to serve me into motherhood.

As a mom of five, I work ahead.  That's the name of the game, folks.  I make dinner for that night at 7 am in the morning.  After that, I do the chopping/prepping for dinner the next day.  I also chop veggies/fruit for the kids lunch in the morning before the day starts.

I pack my work bag the night before so I don't forget anything.  I make my lunch for work the night before.

I make electronic lists for all of my shopping spots (pharmacy, CostCo, grocery, etc).  Each time I go to these places, I know exactly what I need for the next week.

I also meal plan 10 days out.  I shop for groceries online and do the pick up outside the store.  If needed, I wrap gifts in the car while I wait. 

When Millie grocery shops, she stays focused.  This improves her efficiency as a baby shopper.

I restock diapers and wipes on a daily basis.  I measure bedtime medicine at 6 pm before we even start bottles--that just makes the feeding go faster.

I pick out my clothes for the week on Mondays (Tuesday is my first day in the office).

I do all of my shopping for birthdays on the third day of each month.  Anyone who has a birthday that month gets a gift and/or a card purchased on the third.

I refill the coffee maker every morning at 10 am so that we have enough water for the next day.  I restock coffee pods every night after dinner and I catch up on my phone calls while I'll drive to/from work or the gym.

Mostly, survival=organization, planning, and working ahead.  It's tough sometimes to get excited about chopping tomorrow's veggies today, but if that's what it takes to provide for my precious angels, I'll do it. 

 I think Izzy may be like her mother--who knows, maybe God will bless her with multiples some day!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Christmas in January?

Hello All!

I apologize for my absence.  The month of January has KICKED. MY. TAIL.  First off, the kiddos got the stomach flu.  As in vomiting, no appetite, limited interest in drinking, crankiness, sleeplessness, etc. etc.

And then, I got the stomach flu.  And then, the au pairs caught the bug.  I'll tell you--the whole situation was rough.  The aches, the icky-ness, the fevers.  Wow.  It was a long stretch of unpleasantness.  I'll spare you the details.
Luckily, I have a husband who powered through (and avoided the sickness!). I was able to rest up and get my body back on track JUUUUST in time for the flu to hit our house.  First Millie got it, then Luke, and then Ava.  Then both au pairs got it along with Michael and me.  We were lucky to be able to give the kiddos Tamiflu, but it has just been a long stretch of sleeplessness, hopelessness, and just overall malaise.  I really hope things smooth out soon.

Sick babies are just pitiful!


With all of that behind us, let me catch you up on Christmas.    Christmas has always been one of my favorite seasons, especially as Michael's wife.  Michael LOVES Christmas.  He sings Christmas carols in the shower.  He sets up the nativity scene every year, carefully placing each figurine in the "appropriate" place. He loves decorating the tree, riding around and looking at Christmas lights, and on and on.  He relishes all things Christmas.   It warms my heart each and every year.

Here we are taking the kids to see their first Christmas light display.  Just imagine for a second trying to get gloves, hats, scarves, jackets on all five kids (and keeping them on!).  It was a challenge to say the least.


Millie



We were also grateful for a very generous and kind photographer in Charlottesville, Amy Yang.  Amy and I met in Mom Mecca (ie Target).  She offered to use her amazing photography skills to capture our family's first Christmas out of the NICU.  Take a look at her amazing work.


I also asked Amy to take a photo of the kids wearing the Christmas hats they were given last year in the NICU (yes, I save things like this).


Christmas morning was a bit of blur.  I don't think I can remember ever feeling so VERY, VERY TIRED.
The original Baudinet family on Christmas Eve (Dad, Ellie, and Mom)





Clara



After Christmas, I was so grateful to Michael's family for coming down to help with the kids while I got to visit my family in Alabama.  I had a SPLENDID time with my parents, sister, her husband, and their kids.  Here is my favorite (and only) niece, Emma Kate.  She's an absolute delight and I'm honored to call her my friend.


Bath time has also become such a fun time.  Here is Clara belly-laughing as Luke splashes around.

Millie and Isabelle have also found a new way to do some cardio and practice their walking skills.



We also took the kids to Cheesecake Factory to celebrate New Years.  That was an adventure!





The most beautiful development is that the kids really do love to play together (most of the time when they aren't stealing each others' toys). 


 And most exciting of all, we have walkers!!  Let the fun begin!!


Thursday, December 7, 2017

ONEderful

Birthday suits!

I've always thought that wonderful was a synonym for terrific, fantastic, amazing, outstanding. The list goes on.  I like words--you know this already. 

However, today I stand corrected.  Wonderful means an instance to cause one to be filled with wonder.  A sense of wonder can preclude words, colloquialisms, and even action.  Wonder is a sense of amazement.  Of gratitude.

And wonder--that's what I have as I sit here in December of 2017.  We made it an entire year.  From singing Christmas carols to our five preemies in the NICU in Phoenix to singing happy birthday to five healthy, giggly babies, the lyrics of my life have changed quite a bit this year.  

Here are some photos of our celebration:


Family--notice the ultrasound photos on the table!

Clara

Millie

Luke, Millie, and Ava

Luke

Ava

Luke

Isabelle

Isabelle

Party hats!


Millie
In showing you all of this joy, I also want to be transparent about all of my feelings.  I do indeed feel joy.  And I feel wonder.  But I also feel sadness.  I long for a day of being a “normal” mom. 

I’d love to be able to run an errand to Staples with a chatty, bubbly baby(ies). 

I’d love to go to Target without someone asking me if I was on fertility drugs.

I would love to take a stroll with my kiddos without someone whipping out his/her camera to take a photo (without asking).  And then, of course, asking if we have a Facebook page. 

I would love to live moment to moment instead of worrying about that one day two weeks from now that I don’t think I’ll have enough help.

I would love to do all of these things, but the reality is, I can’t.  That isn’t my life and I’m coming to accept that.

I get to see five smiling faces each morning. 

I kiss five foreheads goodnight.

I change five diapers each morning.

I hear the harmony of five giggles during play time.

I hear the shrill screams of five (very healthy) lungs before dinner time.

I hang five stockings on my mantle piece.

I lug five car seats out to car.

I get the good with the bad.  But, here’s the thing, we all do.  We all take the good with the bad.  We all have days when we wonder if we’ll be able to get out of bed tomorrow.  We all get bad news.  We all get embarrassed. We all laugh until we cry.  We all tingle with love after hugging a loved one we haven’t seen in a while.

We are in this journey together.  Yes, mine looks a little different than yours, but it’s so important to honor your feelings and find comfort in the camaraderie of others.  You’re not alone.  We’re not alone, especially as we enter this beautiful holiday season.

So here’s to wonder.  Here’s the honesty. And here’s to grace.   

Merry Christmas.



Thursday, October 19, 2017

Train of Thought







So, many of you know this.   A mom's brain never stops.  Ever. Here's a sample of my brain on a daily basis:

Wake Up

Oh mercy.  What time is it?  Is there a baby awake?
I'm exhausted.  What day is it?  
Why does it matter?  Weekends don't exist.
Ok, I'm up.  Let's do this.  It's 5:32 am and I've got at least 18 minutes before a kid wakes up.
I'll make dinner.
Wait, that laundry needs putting away.
Shoot, that lightbulb needs changing.  I'll change it on my way to the chest freezer.  And laundry.  I MUST. PUT. AWAY. THE. LAUNDRY.
Ok, lightbulb done.  Let's brown the meat for dinner while I put away baby bottles and prepare their breakfast.
Shoot the water cooler needs refilling.
I'll do that when I walk over to plug up my phone to charge.
Ok, phone charged, water cooler refilled and gracious, I forgot to pay the folks that help us with the kiddos.  I'll stop and do that while I go upstairs (I use my smart phone to pay bills).
Ok, upstairs and my face is clean and clothes on.  Gosh, I really need new tennis shoes.  I'm running these into the ground.
Oh well, another day.
Baby's awake.  And she stinks. Poop patrol!
And the meat is still on the stove top.  Ok, change diaper and drain meat.
Give baby puffs while I pour meat into casserole.
Did I put gas in the car?
What time do I need to leave for work?
Does my husband have enough leftovers from last night for lunch today?
Oh and he wants me to take his blazer to the dry cleaners.  I must remember.
I should sell some of our baby stuff on Facebook.  I'll add it to the list for tomorrow.
Shoot, two more babies awake.  No more thinking-must start feeding the masses.

Nap Time
Oh sweet goodness, they're all asleep.  
Today Show.  I need the Today Show.  At least the first seven minutes.
And coffee.  Ok, refill Keurig with water, wipe the counters while I wait for coffee and grab my computer to work on email while listening to the news.
Ah, yes.  I can do this.  This is amazing.
Ok, 18 new work emails and 4 personal.  Not bad for my busy season at work.
Wait, phone is ringing.  It's the early intervention folks.  They want to talk about the kiddos' routine.
Ok, if I'm going to be on the phone, I'll pause the Today Show and sweep while I talk.
Sweeping done, phone done. 
Today Show. 
Rewarm Coffee.
Email.  Must keep up with email.
Ok, that's done.  I've got 14 free minutes before babies wake.   I could organize family photos?  Prep the guest room for the guests this weekend?  Plan the menu for next week/order groceries online?  Ok, I'll do the menu and the groceries.  We have to eat.  What are we out of?  
Shoot.  We need more baby food.  We. ALWAYS need more baby food.  How are we going to afford this life?!!
I should call our financial planner.
While I'm up, I might as well sweep off the back deck.  It looks terrible.
Rewarm coffee.
And there's a baby awake.  
I can read her a book while I stretch my back.  No problem.
It's cold in here.  Kiddos need winter jackets.  
I'll run to the attic to get those before things get nuts.
Speaking of coats, I need one too.  But nothing fits like it used to.  I should really go shopping. Oh well.  Another day.
And now three babies are awake.  No more thinking.
Rewarm coffee.

Witching Hour/Bed Time
Oh gosh, are we done yet?
Why must every one of my babies insist on playing with the SAME toy?
Annnnd the meltdowns begin.  Ok, let's feed.
Clara ate.  She burped, right?  And Izzy ate, but no burp.  Luke has eaten and burped but needs to be changed.  
Millie hasn't eaten.  Ava is half way done but needs her bottle rewarmed.
Do we have enough PJs for tonight?  Are they warm enough?
I should run upstairs and turn on the heater.
And I should put dinner in the over to warm.
Do we need breadsticks?  Yes, I'll go get those out of the chest freezer and take out the garbage at the same time.
Ok, the babies have eaten.  They need new diapers and PJs.
I should do laundry tonight.  I'll go collect all of the laundry so that it's all in one place.
Clara just spit up on herself.  She needs new PJs.
Dad wants to read a book.  Go get one for him--gosh, think.  What's age appropriate?  Should it have a story line or just a touch and feel book? 
Have I practiced their "Mamas" and "Babas" enough with them today?  How much tummy time did they get?
Oh, the breadsticks.  Right.
Let's start putting babies to bed.
Don't forget Clara's paci and Izzy's blanket and book.
And Millie's penguin.  Oh it's in the dryer.  Hang on one sec.
And Luke--he needs a teether for bed.
And Ava should go down first because it takes her longer to settle.
I should set the table.
And restock diapers on the changing table.
And wine.  I need wine.  Soon.
Oh and the diaper pail is full.
I'll take that out on my way to take the breadsticks out of the oven.
Ok, babies are down and quiet.
Now I need to serve dinner. Is it warm enough? Well rounded?  Does everyone like it?  Do we have enough for leftovers for lunch?
Wine.  I need wine.
And I should shower?  Oh mercy I'm exhausted.
Wine.  Shower.  Bed.

And then I do it again, right?  Right.  This is the hardest job I've ever loved.



Goodnight.





Saturday, October 7, 2017

MOM=CEO

There are so many things that I'm discovering about motherhood. You moms who came before me, you keep really good secrets. You've made this whole mommy thing look easy.  Granted, my former dance teacher always said, "Only the best make it look easy," so, I guess you guys are the best.  Way to go!! You've got this whole mommy thing down pat. Maybe I will get the hang of this sooner rather than later?  One can only hope.

I've come to discover that MOM equates to CEO.  In my former life, I ran a small service based non-profit.  I currently manage a medium-sized college counseling practice.  Still, my title as MOM requires the most executive management skills that I possess.  And I'm sure this rings true in many households across the country.

As the mom, I am the chief executive officer.  I make HR decisions about who cares for my children and when. I make financial decisions in buying brand vs. generic groceries or medications. I make our monthly budget and do the budget/actual analysis. I make decisions on what the children should wear; what they eat and when they eat it; where they go and how long they stay; how long they sleep; where they sleep; in what attire they sleep.  I decide what the family eats every week.  I decide how we allocate leftovers and how we organize the refrigerator.  I plan family trips and the supplies to get us there.  I plan family holidays: decor, invitations, menu, house cleaning regimen, gifts, attire, etc.  And of course, I worry.  I worry about milestones. I worry about social skills.  I worry about sleep patterns.  I worry about the health of my little family.  I worry about those that I lead.

Moms, you understand this.  We make countless decisions every. single. dang. day.  We are asked countless questions--by our kids, by our mothers, our mothers in law, our childcare helpers, our coworkers, our bosses, and of course, who could forget perfect strangers in the grocery store.

What kind of baby food is best?
What sleeping philosophy do you follow?
Do you allow your baby to sleep with a lovie?  Why?
What will the children wear for their first birthday?
Have you lowered the cribs yet?
Have you baby-proofed your house yet?  You are SO close to crawling.

I tell you.  The questions.  They are everywhere.  I can't escape them.  And I realize, I probably won't escape for quite some time.  I guess I just need to face facts and take a deep breath.


As moms, we must be tactful, yet strategic.  Empathetic, yet firm.  Listening, yet advocating.  Thoughtful, but not overbearing.

WHERE IS THE BALANCE?

There isn't one.   I know.  I know.  All of my wise friends say it's just about integrating the role of mom into the person you were before you had kids.  That sounds really good, but it's certainly not perfect in my life.  Mom takes up about 65% of my world, if not more.  The remaining 35% has to be squished into my role as a wife, the work that I love, my family, my yoga practice, and all the rest.

All of this to say, Mamas, you have life skills.  If and when you decide you want to re-enter or continue in the workforce, I believe in your skills.  You know how to manage and how to lead.  Mamas are a powerful force in this world that deserves to be celebrated and respected.  I know I have a new respect for the female race.

MOM=CEO, you betcha.  Bring it on, world.

Tupperware is the best thinking cap.




Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Tough

Thank you for your support following my last blog.  Body image and self respect are so important, especially to mothers.  Thank you for honoring this issue and helping me work through my own emotions during this tranformative time.

I had a bit of an epiphany earlier this week and I thought I'd share it with you.  I had a client meeting in Charlottesville and following the meeting, I thought I would go for a walk/run.  Granted, I don't run as much as I used to, but I thought it would be nice to clear my head (and listen to some good '80s rock music).

As I began to keep pace, I realized how nice it was to be outside.  To breathe in the fresh, autumn air.  To see the afternoon sun spread its fingers through the trees.  To see a man and his fuzzy dog on an afternoon sidewalk stroll.  To see an older gentleman tending his pink, feathery dahlias as his wife watched.  It was as if everything on Earth stood still.  Until......SPLAT.

I fell.  On my face.  As I rolled over and surveyed the damage, I realized my favorite running tights were ripped as blood ran down my knee.  What's more,  my hand was bleeding as crumbly bits of gravel rained down from my hands.  Crap.  Double crap.

At that moment, I had a choice.  I could hobble back to my car, drive home, drown my sorrows in Chardonnay and Milano cookies, and dramatically declare this the "Worst day ever" on social media.

Or, I could roll over and keep walking.  Keep breathing that fresh air.  Keep seeing the good.  Keep savoring the moment.

So, I did.  I finished my walk and enjoyed my moment.  When I returned to my car, I thought to myself, "You know, that was tough."

"But I am tougher."

That was my take away from that day.  Falling down is tough, but I am tougher.  Raising five babies is tough, but I am tougher.  Working full time while trying to be the best mom I can imagine--that's tough.  But, I'm tougher.

So, I encourage you.  Recognize when things are tough.  But remember.  You are tougher.

Onward!
My friends Anna, Brook, and I.  Thumbs up, everyone!