Getting it Done with Four Under Four

Three weeks ago Angela went into the hospital with wierd symptoms that soon disappeared.  During the course of testing, however, they discovered that she had pre-eclampsia, and she was on bedrest in the hospital until the baby was born.  That’s how Lucy came to stay with us for the better part of several weeks.  Her father would make the long drive down from Palmdale (remember?  they’re no longer three doors down, sad) drop off Lucy, go to work, pick up Lucy, visit Angela, and make the long drive back up to Palmdale. 

They have a network of friends, but few of them are as at-home and available as I am, so I didn’t have her every day, but the bulk of days.  Lucy’s pretty easy, so it wasn’t a big deal.

Buuuuut, having four under the age of four (stuck on the math? chew on this: Little Red 3, Boy Blue 18 months, Lucy 11 months, Aiden 9 1/2 months) is ex-haus-ting.  Aiden, who normally loves his petite girlfriend, was annoyed that she had usurped his position and that he had to share attention.  Boy Blue, who also normally loves Lucy, also had his moments, like when he’d wake up from his afternoon nap and come downstairs to see the two of them playing, and he’d just give them a look like, “you’re still here?  ugh!”

It was an organizational feat.  With all four of them, I was physically unable to leave the house, not having enough car seats or spaces in the car for all of them, and not having a stroller big enough to accomodate three.  Staying inside has it’s own challenges as my place is small and we are prone to cabin fever.  I will shamelessly confess to using the television more than I would like, but proudly announce that it wasn’t as much as I thought I would need.

Afternoon naps were always a gamble.  Who would go to sleep?  Who would sleep for how long?  Who would wake up whom?  Little Red naps on the couch or in my bed, as he’s “too big” to nap but still sometimes does.  Boy Blue naps in Little Red’s bed, because Aiden naps in Boy Blue’s crib, being 24 pounds, strong and mobile, there’s no way I’m going to continue to subject the bassinet to his I-won’t-sleep antics.  Lucy has always napped best on my couch with an arm pillow between her and the edge.  (Don’t freak out, I’m always watching her, and she has never falled off, neither here not at her own place, nor have either of my boys who have both slept the same way.)  Twice, I believe all four slept at the same time, for an overlap of about 25 minutes.  Bliss.  At those moments (or even when three were asleep) I thought, “this isn’t so bad!”

Lucy spent one night with us, the night her brother was born.  I had gone to all the trouble of making sure that he father brought over her pack-n-play so that she had her own place to sleep; she only slept in it long enough for me to take my shower, read scriptures with Paul, and climb into bed.  I wasn’t surprised, she’s used to cosleeping with her parents, and woke up suddenly in her play pen in a room that wasn’t hers, having not even seen her parents all day.  Unable to soothe her enough to go back to her bed I brought her into bed with me, but when Boy Blue woke up and I went to take care of him she noticed I was gone and would have nothing to do with Paul’s attempts to please her.  I finally just slept with her on the couch, and after the 12:30 incident, neither baby was awake at the same time, so I was able to juggle their needs. 

(I must say this for all your formula mothers out there, I don’t know how you do it.  I can’t think of anything more brutal than mixing a bottle in the middle of the night.  No thankyou!)

Mealtimes got difficult before Lucy came because Aiden has taken a keen interest in whatever my boys are eating, and they eat their daytime meals at the children’s table, making them sitting ducks for Aiden.  I had begun to strap Aiden into the high chair with some cheerios while my boys ate, but mealtimes were also when Lucy needed to be strapped into the high chair and be fed.  I can only say that mealtimes were chaotic and there was always someone mad at me.  I usually ate my food cold (tepid macaroni, … yum …) or as I was doing something else (lots of bread and jam, eat with one hand, feed with the other.)

I said back in May, when Aiden first started coming, that it worked only when I didn’t do anything other that babyland during the day.  No banking, nor organizing, no filing, no cleaning (except dishes, those became a necessity.)  This became even more true when Lucy joined up with us.  I’m still nervous about opening up the bank account because I’m still not ready to deal with whatever happened while I was “away.”

I decided early last week, knowing that it would be our last week with Lucy, that I had to take my two boys to Disneyland yesterday, no matter what (Janel had Columbus Day off so we didn’t have Aiden.)  Paul was approved the time off, but then it turns out that didn’t much matter.  We went anyway, despite our Friday night news, and while we stayed for an unprecedented 12 hours, it was exactly what we needed.  My boys needed to know that they didn’t always have to share my attention with a bunch of other people.

The truth about getting things done with four under four?  I set my standards low.  As long as everyone’s diaper was clean and their tummies were full, we were good.  I repeat what I’ve said before.  Anyone who spaces their children closely together on purpose, is insane.

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5 thoughts on “Getting it Done with Four Under Four

  1. WOWZA!!!! You are officially AMAZING! You must have far more patience than me! Well done my friend, well done!

    BTW, isnt’ two children under 11 months REALLY close? I would be a crazy woman, no doubt!

  2. Me and my older brother are 9.5 months apart. My mom had 5 kids ages 4 and under, with no twins. Yeah, absolutely, unarguably INSANE.

    I totally agree with you on the bottle feeding too. Breastfeeding is SO much easier!

    Good job keeping everyone clean, full, and happy! You are awesome!

  3. WOW. Your life is certainly crazier than mine. That is amazing of you to watch Lucy for so long. I’m sure their family greatly appreciated. You are a superhero. Seriously.
    And thanks for writing all the details down. I’m really curious how this works for families with so many little kids. Of course, a larger living space may help the napping situation a bit. And yea, PURPOSELY putting kids that close in age? No thanks. “Jon and Kate Plus 8” is enough to remind me of that!

  4. > I must say this for all your formula mothers out there, I don’t know how you do it. I can’t think of anything more barbaric than mixing a bottle in the middle of the night. No thankyou

    You don’t mix bottles in the middle of the night, silly! You prepare them ahead of time. Then whoever is in charge of feeding the baby (mom, dad, grandma) warms the bottle, checks the temperature, and cuddles the baby while he/she feeds.

    I suppose you could mix up a formula bottle on the spur of the moment anytime, but when you are storing expressed breast milk for alternating with formula, it really helps to keep it all in one place and organized.

    By the way, “barbaric” is a pretty strong term for something you seem to know very little about.

    I pre-measured everything before bed, but this particular formula couldn’t be mixed more than an hour before feeding or something … I was just doing the best with the information I had. I agree that barbaric is a strong word and that my experience is limited, but it was such a rough night that I don’t see how anyone can do that over an extended period of time. I have changed the word now that I’ve had a little more sleep. My point is, I just don’t know how all the parents out there who use formula can do it, all better people than me.

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