Thursday, October 29, 2015

I know my limits - but we can still get out a little

Three kids who are so young and cannot wipe their own asses is hard. Much of the time (M, T, W, Th 9-1 and F 9-12) Samara is in school. Some of the time (M, W 9-1, F 9-12) Samara and Elie are in school. Some of the time they're all sleeping (usually 1:30 - 3 these days). All of the rest of the time I have them all, usually all awake.

If everyone is happy and nothing is wrong, and everyone is listening to me, we could go anywhere! We could go shoe shopping, because I could work with one at a time and the other two would wait patiently. We could go to any playground, because when someone is doing something dangerous, or running away, they would stop when I said stop. We could go to a playdate anywhere, because they would all play nicely and safely. But...the reality is that someone is often unhappy, or shy, or needs a little extra something, and we can't go anywhere. We can go to very few places, actually, and we have to have certain things with us in order to do it.

We can go to a few gated playgrounds (Larz Anderson and Newton Highlands are my favorite). We can go to the Farmers' Market - and we have gone, nearly every week since August. We can go on a walk if I have a double stroller and also bring a scooter. Sam and Elie usually take turns on the scooter. Though Samara can (and DID!) hike 4 miles in one day, she sometimes craps out when we're on a walk, and when I have a 2 year old and a baby - I literally CANNOT carry her or help her. I need her to figure it out. But...sometimes Elie is happy to scoot, and she can ride in the stroller. We can go to someone's house for a playdate if their house is completely Elie-Safe and if they don't mind open nursing. We cannot really go out for meals (kill me now). We definitely cannot run errands (I took a babysitter with me shoe shopping for the kids, and even that was SO hard!). I can do anything if I have 2 of the 3 - as long as those two are not Elie and Koby at the same time. Otherwise, I know my limits.

And when I leave the house I always have: a water bottle for Elie, Samara and myself, 5 diapers for the baby and 4 diapers for Elie, wipes, 2 plastic bags (one for dirty clothes and one for a dirty diaper), hand sanitizer, change mat, extra clothes for Koby (extra clothes for the other two are in the back of the minivan at all times), tissues, emergency snack - usually bars, sometimes cereal or fruit, a baby carrier (hoping to get Koby in the Ergo. He has been too small so far, so we have been using the sling and Moby), stickers or some other entertainment book in case of being stuck somewhere, my wallet, my phone, sunglasses and any weather-related necessities.

This is from the Farmers' Market yesterday. There is a booth for Green Newton, and the woman, Margaret (dressed as the devil here) runs the booth and is FANTASTIC with kids. She always has something fun to show them - caterpillars, dead beetles, cocoons, butterflies you can make out of folding paper...SO MANY THINGS. We usually play at her booth for a long while, then we take balls and play up at the basketball courts. In the middle we try to buy some veggies and fruit.

Today the kids didn't have school, as it was a professional development day for the teachers. (Next week will be our first full week of school, though last week was our fault as we were traveling on Friday. It's November next week. That's crazy). Many of the kids from school went to this trampoline park where the kids get to jump and bounce around. Though I haven't been to this specific one, these are the types of places where you really have to be an active parent and help your kid if they need it (or if your kid is jumping on someone's head, and perhaps that kid needs your help). I KNOW that if I went there and I had to nurse the baby, or if he had a pooplosion, or if someone needed to go to the bathroom, or if someone was feeling shy and didn't want to participate...or...or...or...I would find it super stressful and not enjoyable. 

So instead of joining the rest, the kids and I went to Drumlin Farm. We have been to this farm countless times since May, and we absolutely love it. I haven't yet gone with all kids alone, but also I didn't have a stroller Koby could be in, so I was always stuck wearing him. Changing Elie's diaper or helping Elie at all while wearing Koby is not easy, so I had always gone with a babysitter, family member, or some other adult. Koby FINALLY fits in all of our strollers, and he could stay all bundled up like a burrito while the other kids had a great time at the farm. And it was so super fun. We DID have a pooplosion. We DID have a few times where someone was grumpy or cold, or whatever, but being in a safe place where the kids can run around and I don't have to watch every second, and also being able to put everything down into a stroller made it so that we could cope with each moment and even have a great time.

Today at the farm

I forgot Elie's coat at home, so I gave him my fleece, and he was somehow fine (though he did have a full set of long underwear on). We just rolled up the sleeves...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Berkshires

We just got back from a fun, long weekend in the Berkshires. I had always heard of these Berkshires, and I visited Camp Ramah in the Berkshires for a day...but I had never been to Western Mass and not really explored the Berkshires.

My parents flew in on Thursday night, and they spent the night at Nancy's, right near by. At 7:15, while we were all upstairs and the kids were just thinking about getting out of bed, the front door opened, and in they came. My dad rushed up the stairs to get onto his hands and knees and crawl into Elie's room to surprise him as a "horse." Phew - I didn't have to watch two of my kids for the rest of the weekend. We got the car packed up, and by 9 we were on the road...

Gotta love that minivan. We all fit (SEVEN PEOPLE!), plus all of our stuff, a stroller, ice chest and food for the weekend...and it wasn't even squishy (says the lady who sat in the front the whole time...maybe I should ask my parents...).

First stop was near Amherst, at the Eric Carle Museum. It was pretty cool to see so much of his beautiful art and be introduced to so many books that we had never even heard of. We had a great time exploring the museum and doing crafts.

After the museum we went to Northampton and had a fantastic lunch/brunch at Jake's. We walked all around - including all over Smith's campus. Elie had a nap in the stroller and Sam was a champ and walked the whole way. We then hopped back in the car and drove north to the place we were staying, just outside of Sheburne Falls. 

After we got the baby down for a nap (and Matt too), the rest of us went to town to the Farmer's Market. There were two stalls of veggies, a few other random stalls plus a tuba and guitar (and harmonica at the same time) player. The music was the highlight. We grabbed a few veggies and went home to make a simple dinner. Sam and Elie were sleeping in the same room, and we had made the mistake in New Hampshire of putting them to bed at the same time. We had to get Elie to bed by 7, so Sam could go to bed after, but not too late. It worked. All slept well.

When I came out of bed, the kids couldn't even stop reading for a second to say hello to me. They love their Savta.

We got up and out around 9 to a hike called High Ledges, up the mountain behind where we were staying. The hike was basically a mile out to this amazing look out (at high ledges...) and then back. The kids enjoyed a short additional hike with my parents on a more strenuous path with some elevation while I was feeding the baby. The leaves were BEAUTIFUL, and the sky was beautiful (it was cloudy after this for the rest of the weekend).

Elie probably hiked for about 30% of it

Pretty, no?

Bamba is the hiking snack of choice in our family

After the hike, we drove back down the mountain to Gould's Sugar House, which had the best pancakes I have EVER had. No joke. They make their own syrup too (we bought some - even that was so good). We all loved it.

After lunch we drove for a while so Elie could have a nap. We drove out to North Adams, which looked kinda cute, but we didn't get out, other than for a cup of coffee. We drove through Williamstown and Williams College. It was absolutely beautiful. Elie was still sleeping so we stayed in the car. Then we did a hike to Sunset Rock, just outside of North Adams. It was beautiful, but it started to get cold - mid-30s, and no sun. Kids were champs.

I turned Koby around, and he was loving the leaves too.

This was the first hike - so pretty!

We went to grab dinner back in Shelburne Falls, but the one good restaurant had a hour and 45 minute wait (at 5:30!!!). So we got pizza and went back for the same bedtime situation as the night before - first Elie and then Sam.

Matt and I killed my parents at Euchre - BOTH nights.

Sunday it was rainy and cold. We took it easy at the place we were staying (The Kerry Lea House on Air bnb - I SOOOO recommend it!), and we left at 11. Matt and the kids wanted to do this corn maze, so they did that, and we grabbed a quick lunch in Charlemont, near the maze. Then we drove alllllll the way back to Newton, driving through Concord on the way.

Overall, it was a super trip - beautiful to see the amazing colors. Nice to have my parents around. Felt like a real holiday, even though it was barely two days!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Best Toys

My kids are super good at playing. They play alone. They play together. They play with strangers. They play with me or Matt. They even play with my parents on Facetime (see my previous post). They pretty much want to play all day long - with anyone who will engage. That might be normal. I don't know - these are my only kids.

If you're ever looking to get gifts for kids around my kids' ages, these are the toys that come out EVERY SINGLE day and are our favorites:

Magnatiles - these are the ULTIMATE. They were a hand-me-down from the Intraters (could we get any luckier!?). They come out nearly every day, and they're fun for adults too. They're outrageously expensive. Not sure how to get around that...

Medical Kit - We have this one from the Early Learning Centre (not sure if it's available in the US), but the kids are obsessed. It's the first thing to come off the shelf in the morning. By either kid.

Table and chairs - I bought this table and chairs from another mom in Newton (cheap!), and I put it in our "cold room" (uninsulated room off the living room), and it has changed a lot of the way the kids play. I put a whole bunch of (mostly) safe craft materials (stickers, crayons, hole punch, paper, activity books, etc.) in a cheap IKEA storage cabinet, and now they pick out things to do and sit at the table and do them. This happens multiple times a day as well. I think they like the independence of having it in a room that I can't quite see, and they can do it all themselves.

Kitchen - We originally got a hand-me-down kitchen from the Sehgals in Singapore. We LOVED this one and have nearly used it to death, but it's somehow still alive and kicking. It went in Samara's room until we moved here, and it was in the living room. That one has migrated to the basement, and the kids just got a super fancy one from my brother for all of their birthdays this year. The kitchen is also used alllllll the time. And one toy in the kitchen in particular - the eggs.

Eggs - These eggs, by TOMY are surprisingly fun for all ages. They are a super favorite and have occupied my children for days, if you were to add it all up. (Also a hand-me-down from the Sehgals). They're simple for babies to put the eggs together or try to get them into the carton. Then for older kids you can match the eyes, shapes, etc. It just keeps growing with them. Who knew?!

Doll stroller - Also a hand-me-down from the Intraters...(see a theme here?), this stroller carries someone somewhere each day. It is on its last leg and bent all over the place and probably a danger to any child coming near it...but it's incredibly fun for the kids. Every day.

This random Minnie Mouse thing that my friend Kirsten gave Sam for her fourth birthday is a surprising favorite. I totally don't get the major appeal, but they both love it.

Shabbat Set - my mom got this for Sam, and it's Shabbat everyday in our house. Total favorite.

Dress up - We got an amazing set of hand-me-down dress up clothes from the Intraters (also some included that had originally been the Sehgals). They include little girl dress up clothes from all over Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, India, etc.) plus a bunch of great halloween costumes. This has been AMAZING for Sam. Whoever gets it after us is super lucky. It's kinda a priceless collection, and Sam LOVES it.

Pretend play - Samara would have loved to have a big doll house. They do have a barn that my in-laws just got for Elie, and that's becoming a favorite as well as some of these Playmobil sets (we have the vet set and the hospital - both from Jeremy). Little characters who can do stuff in different places are fun.

Baby toys - my kids favorites:
This face thing was Samara's and is Koby's all-time favorite thing to look at and grab. I think we got this as a hand-me-down from Francesca and Bernard.
Sophie. It's so expensive and seems like a silly dog toy, but they love it. (I love this article about it).
This giraffe is also a super favorite, though ours is a bit different (seems to be not made anymore).
This book (we have the woodland animals and cats) with tails. They love it! This brand is fantastic.

Finally...there is a horse that sings and walks. This actually my kids' all-time favorite toy. My in-laws brought it back from Texas. I hate it. It's so noisy. I don't do noisy toys. They all get lost (oops). Or their batteries die and they don't get replaced (I'll do it tomorrow). Or they find themselves in the basement (how did they get there?). This one has dead batteries, but they still try. Nearly everyday. They love this horse. Oy.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Maximizing Free Babysitting

We moved to the US, but we didn't move to Michigan, where all FOUR of our healthy grandparents are. Ok - actually not our grandparents, but the kids' grandparents. Having three littles who need help:

  • Getting any food
  • Getting any drink
  • Ensuring proper hand washing and teeth brushing (though Samara usually does it on her own - perhaps not well...)
  • Cleaning up everything
  • 2/3 need diaper changes
  • 2/3 need help getting dressed

It means that I wish I were an octopus. But I'm not. So my kids are sometimes alone eating a meal (in a high chair, strapped in, and at a little table), or they're sometimes alone playing in the living room. I literally cannot bring everyone upstairs to get the baby and change his diaper or put clothes on him. I cannot watch the kids while I prepare a meal (though I do very simple things and a lot of extra cooking, freezing and defrosting). I just can't do everything I need to do with them.

Enter grandparents. Remember - grandparents are in Michigan. We are in Massachusetts. My parents and in-laws babysite on Facetime.

Every morning we wake up around 7, get dressed and come down. Samara knows she can call my mom once it's 7:15. She will never get the code to the ipod, but once I enable it, she can decide whom she wants to call and pull the trigger. She calls my parents nearly every morning at 7:15. They catch up on what's going on. My dad does games where he teachers her numbers, playing cards, they play "the circle game" which they made up, showing something SUPER close to the camera and Sam has to guess what it is. They read books. They sing songs. They are way entertaining. Sometimes I call it the Papa and Savta show. While my parents are talking to them, they can get the million questions (4 year old and 2 year old mean a LOT of questions and ongoing dialogue that is exhausting even for this crazy extrovert), and I can make my coffee, prepare breakfasts, make lunches, do dishes, etc. My in-laws are also fantastic Facetimers, and the kids love calling them too.

I put laundry in the dryer and my mom reads books to the kids. I can go to the bathroom and my dad does math with Samara. I go get the baby and my in-laws are in the middle of a puppet show when I come back. It's amazing. Sometimes they even give me a warning that I need to step back in. "Mel - Elie is done eating." "We don't stand on the couch." From afar, they help me take care of my kids. It is SO SUPER HELPFUL.

Unrelated photos.

Happy in the park

Sam's new birthday bike from us, Matt's parents and my grandparents.

Apple picking

All 3 kids! Don't drop that baby...

Snack in the sukkah with friends from school

better view of the sukkah

Elie harvested this carrot!

Shake that lulav and etrog

Samara having a secret meeting, harvesting dried beans out of green beans with her buddy, Ele