Friday, September 30, 2011

Hoarding Helps Me Tell My Story

I am afraid of hoarders.  Because you guessed it, I am afraid I will become, I mean I'm afraid I am already...a hoarder.

And I am really afraid that my daughter is once again following in my footsteps.  

She is more knickknack-y than haorder-ish.   

Her room drives me crazy.  I am more a stuff everything in drawers and hide piles in closets kind of gal.  Lucy displays everything, even one-armed porcelain statues she got out of one of my memory boxes.

Ahhh, memory boxes.  I have moved a lot of in my life.  But somehow I have managed to keep several large memory boxes.  That is the positive side of hoarding-type behavior, I kept a lot of personal little treasures that are insights into my past.  
Treasures like my Cabbage Patch Doll's adoption papers and the original Charlie's Angels trading cards. Priceless.

The classified ad for the first home my parents bought in Michigan and then sold to build their dream house.
Then I found a piece of wood from that dream house  they were building and I even wrote down the date!
Lucy and I also uncovered a box I had completely forgotten about, my old prom, homecoming and fancy high school dresses.  And she and I had fun trying them on.

Do not be fooled, none of the backs of my dresses were zipped up completely.

As Lucy and I looked through all the boxes one Saturday afternoon, I told her stories about all of it.  I told her how cool Charlie's Angels were and how they can really never be replaced.  She didn't really get the appeal of Cabbage Patch dolls.  I told her what my houses were like growing up and about all the fun (okay not all the fun)  I had in those old dresses from high school.

She was listening to every word, asking questions, laughing with me and at me.  It was a full circle moment.  I remember trying on my mom's old prom dresses and wondering just what my life was going to look like.  Now I know and I am sharing it with my sweet, knickknack-y little Lucy.  And I watch her look in the mirror as we both wonder what is in store for her.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Favorite Child

There was a study that came out last week about how parents have a favorite child.  It claims that if you say you don't have a favorite, you aren't being truthful.

I don't know the specifics of the study, but I think like most things that get attention on the news, it is inaccurate and silly.

Here is what I know.  I have favorites.  You bet.  My favorite child is the one that is being a good listener and most importantly, nice to me.

"You are awesome mommy," JT said with a huge smile on his face.  He was my favorite until I realized he was talking about the mommy wii character in golf that he was using for a perfect putt.  

"Let's play like we are prisoners and we have to sweep and clean up before they will let us go," said Lucy after I asked her to clean up the mess in the basement.  A little time intensive, but she was totally my favorite at that moment.

JT came home from school today and just melted into a puddle of "I've got the kindergarten blues" tears.  "I missed Peyton," he said in between sobs.  So, his big brother without me asking took him in his arms and consoled him.

"How was school today JT?" Peyton asked.  "Did you have gym?"  Patting him on his back he kindly told him, "It's going to be okay."

Peyton was my favorite for his moment of compassion.

And whenever Wade dances on the table or makes a crazy face, you better believe he is my favorite.

But just one all the time?  Who likes their kids all the time? 

As a mom, I get blamed for a lot--if the school bus is late (or early), traffic jams, rain on a field trip day, and so many, many things.  If kindergarten sucks you know whose fault that is.  And that is okay.  JT has been not so nice to me since school started and I wouldn't tell people he is my favorite, but that is okay too.  He needs someone that he can let loose and get it out with.  

When Peyton, my oldest, was a toddler he would come home from daycare and just meltdown and have terrible fits.  I apologized the to teachers for his behavior one morning at drop off.  "Oh he doesn't do that here," said one of the sweet teachers who I was starting to hate.  "He is a perfect little angel with us," she added as he ran to her with open arms.  I totally hated her and cried the whole way to work.

That night I scoured the baby/toddler books and found this was a very common problem.  Toddlers feel comfortable and safe with their parents and know they will still be loved even after their horrendous fits. Peyton must feel very, very safe I thought to myself.  Were those my favorite memories?  No way.  But they were important moments for both of us.

Just like the important moments that are just on the horizon.  I can see how teenagers and toddlers are comparable.  Just like Peyton needed that safe place to be a real jerk of a baby, he is going to need that entering these tween years.  Friend trouble, girl trouble, acceptance trouble, school trouble, sports trouble. Ugh.  He may not be my favorite again for like 10 more years.  

I am kidding of course, but I am sure there will be those moments.  Those moments of compassion, humor, helpfulness that make my heart swell with pride and love.

Now those are my favorites.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Happy Calm Place=Arthur and The Sneetches

Since school started, my kids have been waking up early.  They are up and ready to roll usually about 5:30 a.m.  The baby, Wade, is the one that gets the morning going.  He can now climb out of his crib and the world is his oyster now.  He is so damn excited that he can climb out, he wakes up literally clapping.
Doesn't he look like trouble? But cute trouble.
It is hard to be too grumpy or groggy when a cute baby comes in your room clapping, so excited to start the day.

The big kids are a little slower to rise, but once they are up, they are ready to go too.  Ready to argue, ready to watch tv and not get ready for school, and you guessed it ready to wrestle.  (When aren't my boys ready to wrestle? Ugh.)

I started a strict one tv show rule before breakfast policy.  And the show cannot be on Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network or ESPN.  The kids are only allowed to watch nice, calm shows like "The Berenstein Bears" and "Arthur."  My older two, who are the very sophisticated ages of 7 and 9, think this rule is ridiculous.

 "Believe in yourself that's the place to start.  And I say hey, what a wonderful kind of day, where we can work and play and get along with each other."--doesn't get much better than that message!

But they are nicer, calmer people when they start the day out with a sweet positive message about sharing and caring.  In fact I think we all would be.

I remember when my oldest, Peyton, was a baby and I worked full-time, we had a morning tv ritual that was quite calming.  We watched "Bear in the Big Blue House" on Disney Channel.  I promise you, my days were always better after that very positive Bear solved the problem in the house than the days when I watched the world's problems on "The Today Show."

Good old Bear 

There has to be a study somewhere, but I am not going to look it up because I don't really need to do that.  My informal study is my household of crazy, loud, over-stimulated, screen-loving...people.  I was going to say kids, but as I was typing the description, it sounded like me too.

It isn't even just television, kids' books make people nicer too.  While reading my favorite Dr. Seuss book, "The Sneetches," to JT, he said "Geez all this guy cares about is money, can you believe that? Phew, we don't know him."  The innocence, the sweetness melts my heart.  "I know, phew is right," I told him like we were equals.  Like I wasn't a grumpy old adult who had forgotten all the sweet, happy messages of childhood.

So here is my really wise advice....feeling stressed?  Pick up a copy of "The Sneetches" or watch an episode of "Arthur."  Kids aren't home or you don't even have kids?  What the hell, do it anyway.  I promise you will feel happier, calmer and be nicer to people.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Support Nature, But I Don't Like It

I support nature, but I don't like it.  I take that back.  Trees are fine.  Flowers, who doesn't like flowers?  I do.  The ocean, lakes, rivers....I like them a lot.  

What I really mean is I don't like animals in nature.  I am a huge scaredy cat. 

This is me trying to film the beautiful butterfly for my children, but then the damn thing flies right at me.  Terrifying!

Bugs don't bother me as much as all other living creatures in the wild such as mice, moles, raccoons, bats, deer and ducks.  Even squirrels.  Actually I might dislike squirrels the most.

We live on a tree-lined street across from a park where everyone thinks it is so cute to feed the squirrels and ducks.  Everyone but me.  Because what you end up with are squirrels that think it is their quaint little tree-lined street and you are just visiting.

Anyway, squirrels are weird, especially cocky, well-fed park squirrels.  They are as big as cats and are not afraid of humans whatsoever.   One time I called the cops on those asshole squirrels.  You read that right, I called the cops.

Here is how it went down: one day, what seems like a million years ago when I only had two children who napped every afternoon, I looked out my window to see 30 squirrels in my tiny front yard.  And there were two more laying spread eagle on my small front porch, laying flat on their stomachs with their paws, arms whatever sprawled out.  Three more were rolling on their backs on the sidewalk.  

It was insane.  It looked like the end of the world was near.  Cars were slowing down and staring at the crazy squirrels in my yard.  I started to panic.  I called my husband at work.

"Honey, there is a problem here," I said in a high pitched voice.  "There are squirrels everywhere!"

"What the hell are you talking about?" asked my poor husband who clearly believed I was finally going crazy.  "Sorry, but I don't really have time for this. Maybe you should call animal control."  

"What can we do for you?" the cheerful woman at animal control asked me.  
"I have almost 50 squirrels in my front yard acting very strange," I explained as I watched the mad squirrels.

"You are calling about squirrels?" she asked with an all you-must-be-kidding-me-lady tone in her voice.

"Yes, I am calling a bout squirrels that must be sick or something, I really think they might bite someone that walks by," I said thinking the public threat might warrant the call.  She told me they would send someone out soon.

I paced frantically, waiting.  But then just like teenagers drinking at a high school house party, all the squirrels ran in separate directions out of my yard and off my porch. Just as the police car animal control sent pulled up to my driveway.  Seriously?

The officer got out of his car, pulled up his belt and looked around.  "I am here about squirrels?" he said.

"Yes, there were just about 60 squirrels here just a few minutes ago," I desperately explained.

"Riiiiiiiggghhht," he said looking unconvinced.  "Well, you just let us know if there is ever a squirrel problem again ma'm."  

Those damn squirrels.

Even the deer scare me, maybe because of an old show that was on that showed a deer attacking an innocent man.  Or maybe because they too seem so unafraid of humans.

I was running in the park recently and came a across a group of four deer.  If there had been a group of knife-wielding muggers I would've been less afraid.  Never have I run so fast and with such purpose....flee the wild deer!

I try to hide my fear/dislike of wild animals so my kids won't do as I do. But it doesn't seem to bother them.  In fact, they seem amused by the whole thing and I don't trust them to not use my fear against me. Like when we are walking by a group of smug ducks in the park and Lucy looks at me and says, "You scared of these little ducks mom?"  She is making fun of me!

Those damn kids.

And don't even get me started on those damn jellyfish.

A most hilarious, and I find quite relatable, scene from "Modern Family" that involves a wild pigeon.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Becoming the Underdog (not meant to inspire you to be one)

So many things to be grateful for, and I am very grateful.
"I have to drop out of running the bake sale because I have fallen off the wagon, I am shooting heroin again and am going back to rehab," the tall, nervous woman stood up and told everyone at a recent PTA meeting.  

The woman sitting next to her stood up and put her arm around her, comforting her.  Women all through the room were nodding their heads agreeing she was doing the right thing, a couple of them clapped.  One woman leaned over to another and said "she is so brave."

"Inspired by Sue's honesty, I must confess that I too am feeling overwhelmed and may not have time to volunteer.  You see, my husband is addicted to online porn and we are in major counseling three times a week," said a woman fiddling with her purse as she spoke to the crowded room.  

Again, the women nodded, one grabbed her hand and gave it a supportive squeeze.  Several women leaned over to others and said "been there" with a lot more nodding.

"I am so glad we are feeling comfortable talking about real things, real issues.  I have to admit, I am feeling overwhelmed because my husband and I made some big mistakes with our money, you know credit card debt, underwater mortgage and all that, and I am so stressed I think I might have an ulcer and I can't volunteer," I told the crowd with a big exhale of relief that it was out there.

No nods. Where were my nods?  The women looked down and avoided eye contact with me and each other.  The silence was deafening.  Until way in the back of the room a woman stood up, I was so relieved.  Until she unbuttoned her purple cashmere cardigan to reveal a McCain/Palin tee shirt circa '08 and started yelling and pointing.  "It is because of people like you that our country is in such horrible shape," she screamed.  "You mess up and we all have to pay!"   Her veins were popping out of her neck and she was spitting her words out.  She was irate, she was dangerously angry.

I was asked to leave the meeting and never come back.

Okay, that didn't really happen.  But it is the scary daydream I have about what people will think if I ever were to stand up and announce that I suck at managing money.  Understatement, I mean I might be the worst ever with money.

Can I blame my self-diagnosed ADD?  I think yes.  Can I blame my impulse control issues?  I think yes again.  But as usual there is more to this story.

When I first started this blog not too long ago I vowed never to blog about sex or money.  No sexy talk because my dad reads and that is just too weird.  No money because, well, it is embarrassing and personal.  But screw it, I am writing my truth and that includes tremendous struggles with money.  (Still no sex though, way too weird.)

You see my plan growing up was that my life was never going to be about money.  My mother (again with the mother, I am the poster child for recurring story lines) was always fighting with my father about money and she married her second husband after knowing him a couple months because my child support was going to dry up.  I watched as she lied and manipulated people to get more money, even using me in a couple scams to get money out of my dad.  

Money=evil and unhappiness to my simple, idealistic post-college mind.  So I made sure that I would never make any by working in the nonprofit service sector and writing.  Then I married a man (with no prior money=evil issues, but he wasn't/isn't much of a spendthrift) who also wanted to work in a field that wasn't extremely lucrative.  He picked education, specifically working with disadvantaged teenagers.  His kids at work are the kids society has pretty much given up on.

You see, we believe in the underdog.  But the irony of our feel-good do-gooder story is, somewhere along the way, we became the underdog.  And life became about money.  Because I can't stop worrying about "is it enough."

We made mistakes.  And I am not blaming all my crazy issues on all of our money problems, but boy they  sure do help explain why and how I let some of it happen.  Are we as bad as some of Tim's students?  Hell no.  We are not living in a car.  We are not without insurance.  And we are grateful.

But we are drowning in debt from medical bills, grad school student loans and those f-ing credit cards.  Our house is underwater because of the damn Michigan property values and we have a kid with a dietary issue which is extremely expensive.  We are not unique.  In fact we are the new American storyline, right?

I still believe that I don't want my life to be about money, but I do want my life to be about security for my family.  And we will work our way to that, I believe it.  I do worry a lot--how are we going to live the life we want, how are my kids going to thrive, etc.  

There is so much shame attached to money screw ups, I believe that people are weirder to each other about money than other human failures.  Especially women.  There is anger and judgement, just like so much of politics these days.  

But like Dr. Phil has said for years, "It's time to get real."  Yes, I do look for guidance from talk show personalities, who doesn't?  Seriously.  I must admit over the last few years I turn off Suze Orman every time she has popped up on screen.   Even though hell yes I could benefit from her advice, I am afraid of her, like I could feel her judging me through the tv.  

Now we're getting real, buckling down and moving on.  I am trying to keep the ulcer at bay by watching a lot of Real Housewives because they all seem to suck at managing their money too.  But I am not judging, no, no.  I sit, watch and nod.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Go ahead, Bring It Fall

This is how my day started.  

Running onto my front yard in my robe and yelling at my older kids as they were running to catch the bus.  And have I mentioned that we live on a very busy street?  A very proud moment. Then running back into my house to watch the little ones, my 5-year-old, JT, has the camera to capture it all. Seriously?
I will spare you the close up of my face on this one.  It isn't pretty.

Later in the day I felt like Steve Guttenberg.  That is a sentence I promise you I never imagined typing. Ever. Not my normal week. Many of you may not remember Guttenberg, but he was a kind of big star in the 80s.  One of his big movies was "Cocoon."  Remember that movie?  Remember all the old people?  Well, Guttenberg was one of the only young guys in the whole movie.

While at a new doctor's office to get a pneumonia re-check/x-ray today I found myself smack dab in the middle of a "Cocoon" recreation. Old people in the waiting room.  Old people in the elevator.  Old people coming in and out of the patient rooms.  Everywhere I looked, old people.

Of course I had a child with me, never really without one, ever.  Most of the old people loved my baby Wade who was quietly taking in the scene from his stroller.

"They call these olden years the golden years, guess that's true, for the doctors," chuckled the old man sitting next to me.  He looked like Ted from the Mary Tyler Moore Show, except older.

(I know, I can't stop with the entertainment references.  No apologies though, it is how I roll.)

Some moved slowly with walkers and smiles.  Many old couples were there and the wife would wait for her husband while he went in for xrays or tests.  Some were there with caregivers.  Some of them talked about their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Others talked about the weather.

"Oh, I remember those days," said one old lady as she watched me try to navigate the stroller through the waiting room.  "Best time of my life, the good old days."  

Okay, I get it.  The old people and the universe are telling me to enjoy my good old days.  Instead of worrying about every detail and every money problem.  Instead of stressing every time my kid doesn't seem happy.  Instead of fretting endlessly over every decision. I need to get more in the moment.  The good moment.

So now, as I prep for another busy weekend of an over-scheduled life with kids that mean more than the entire world to me, I am thinking about all of this.  

I vow to worry less and laugh more; snap less and hug more; yell less and listen more; and simply be in the moment.  And more importantly, enjoy the moment.  Because these are the good old days.

And the funny days.  I have to believe one of my children will grow up and have a sense of humor about their crazy mother running down the street in her robe to yell at them to "have a good day honey."  Or it might be a good story for their therapist.
This picture taken at Kmart in front of the giant bras might be used in therapy someday.  
Those good old days.

So, bring it fall, I am ready!  I am so going to be in the moment and love it, or at least laugh at it.

***This is not a craft blog and I never claimed to be crafty.


What? You thought I was going to have a "Cocoon" clip?  C'mon? That movie is way too old.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Speaking in Multiple Choice

When the kids get off the bus after school I am anxiously waiting for them.  With a smile and open arms, I wait for my precious babes to come home.  And they excitedly jump off the bus and run right past me.

They drop their backpacks on the floor and head for the kitchen, grunting about how they want a snack. And then go in search of a screen, computer or tv, either will do nicely in their opinion.

"How was your day?  What did you learn? Did anything great happen? Do you feel smarter? Are you happy?"  Yup, those are the questions I eagerly ask my 9, 7 and 5 year old children.

They grunt a little more.

I stand holding their snack with my frozen smile on my face, waiting.  Waiting to hear all the glorious details about elementary school.  
They go about their business like a group of cool teenagers in a John Hughes movie.  And I am the Joan Cusak character in Hughes' "Sixteen Candles"---you know the one, the awkward girl at the dance with the brace and the drinking fountain.

(It's not the drinking fountain clip, but you get the idea.)

But today I found a way to reach my little Breakfast Club of oddballs.  I asked this very intriguing question, "Anybody get in trouble today?"  They made eye contact with me.  Lucy raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips, like she was deciding to talk about her trouble or someone else's.  They started talking.  

Sure it was about how so-and-so cut in line and another so-and-so said a swear word, but they were engaging.  I felt like a very good mother listening to them tattle on other kids.

Then my oldest began snapping at everyone and stomping around the house.  And once again I became the needy nerd and the frozen smile returned.  "What's wrong honey?" I asked.  


Then I got annoyed and snapped back.  But all the snapping led to another breakthrough.  He didn't have the words to express how he felt so I gave them to him.  In multiple choice form.

"Ok, A. You had a bad day and you are really grumpy, and sorry for taking it out on us; B.You don't know why you are being grumpy and you are sorry for taking it out on us; or C. You are mad at us and want to go to bed; or D. None of the above.  Pick one," I told him in a determined, decisive, mama's sick of the attitude voice.

"B," he said quietly. 

"Ok, now, which one was that?" I asked confused.  It almost worked perfectly.  But he felt better and again I felt like I was in control of the situation, sort of. At least for a few minutes, until the homework battles started with my daughter.  I have no good ending to that scenario.

I think I am going to try the multiple choice style of communication with my husband.  I am pretty sure he will love that.  
"Honey, ok, A. You understand completely how I feel and you are sorry for anything you might have said that hurt my feelings; B. You will never really be able to understand how I am feeling, but you respect that I might get emotional about certain things and you are sorry for anything you may have said that hurt my feelings; or C. You are just plain sorry for anything you said that may have hurt my feelings; or D. All of the above."

Ahh yes, he will love this game.

And just for fun, "The Breakfast Club" dance.  Didn't everyone re-enact this?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Everything is a Soap Opera

Anderson Cooper is my new Phil Donahue.

I have always loved Anderson.  But after watching his new daytime talk show I love him even more.  I just watched the interview with his mother Gloria Vanderbilt.  Fascinating.

I loved Phil Donahue too.  As a kid, I would watch him after school.  I remember wondering how people got the phone number because I totally wanted to call in and ask him for help.  It usually had to do with my mother, what hasn't in my life?

A few years ago I sent an email to Dr. Phil asking for help with my dear mother.  My very private sister even said she would go on the show if he could help us know what to do.  He never emailed back.

It is no secret that I love television and movies and all things entertainment.  I used to call myself a pop culturalist so it sounded better.  More artsy.  More intelligent.  But really, I am the girl that grew up on soap operas, game shows and talk shows.  And now I am the woman who looks to talk show hosts for guidance, reality shows to feel better about myself and all the other shows to make me happy.

And the new season of television does make me happy.  It feels a little like Christmas--busy, happy and a bit overwhelming.  And just like Christmas, I will get let down and cry.  No I am just kidding.  It is all good times.  I thank God over and over for the invention of the DVR.  

Even before Tivo, I was a master at being able to keep up with shows 20 years ago.  At one point I watched every daytime soap opera on the air by flipping channels.  I could probably tell you more about storylines from "Guiding Light," "Another World" and "All My Children" than I could about stuff that was happening in real life back then.  That sentence didn't seem so disturbing in my head.  And yes, I was going to school during this time in my life.  

In high school, one of my teachers, Mrs. Maxwell, reached out to me and changed my life.  She taught history.  She looked a little bit like George Washington and some mean kids used to put her face on fake one dollar bills.  I spent a lot of time talking in class, showing up late and kind of spacing out in a daydream fog.  

But Mrs. Maxwell liked me for some reason.  One day after class she pulled me aside and said, "If you don't stop talking in class and paying attention your mom is going to be pissed."  She hadn't met my mother yet obviously.  My mother usually spent conferences crying to the teachers about her sad life and not caring too much about what was happening at school.  

When she could see her comment didn't reach me, she kept trying.  We talked about what I did after school.  We talked about what TV shows I liked.  She told me if I thought of the Roman Empire as one great big soap opera it might change how I acted in class and I might actually be interested in learning about history.

"All My Children" goes off the air this week and I will be having a moment of silence.  

Well, I did and it certainly did make a difference.  I got an A in Mrs. Maxell's history class.  And from then on, I thought of everything as a soap opera.  Not so sure that is what Mrs. Maxwell was going for, but I ran with it.

So I may be into TV a little too much, but I think it has made my real life more interesting.  Maybe I have to believe that, but it is working for me.

And I have to stop writing so I can go watch "Dancing with the Stars," "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," "Anderson," "Young and the Restless" and I am going to be picking up "Parenthood" this year.  And I can't wait for "Modern Family" and "The Good Wife" season premieres.  Oh my, I could go on and on.

And yes, I just might send an email or find the number to call Anderson Cooper.  Maybe he will be the one that finally helps me with my mother.  Until then, I will enjoy the soap opera of life.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Making it Work

So yesterday I was raving about how great it is to have four kids.  And I even made a video about it. It is crazy that my baby will be two in a couple of weeks.  I have been a mom of four for almost two years!

I just reread the post and watched the video and I felt like I was reading about and watching someone's else's sweet family.  Because I am definitely not feeling it tonight.  I was simply going to put the video up here, but felt like too much of a hypocrite.  Aren't I all about keeping it real?  I mean didn't I put up that hideous sick picture of me in the name of realness?

Yes, my children are adorable.  Yes, I love my life.  But it is hard sometimes.  

Tonight at bedtime, I found myself begging for my family to be nice to me.  It went something like this:
"I take care of you, I make sure you have clean clothes, healthy food, that you are safe and all I ask is that you are nice to me."  Ugh.  It was pathetic.  The kids knew it.  They sensed my need for acceptance, my need to be loved and they were a little disgusted. 

I followed up my statement with the very mature "I quit.  I am going to go get a job and you guys can take care of yourselves."  

JT did a fist pump and mouthed "yes!" and I stormed out of the room.

Mature? No.  Real? Um, yeah.

I will be better tomorrow.  I love my kids.  I just get tired.  And sensitive sometimes.  

But we will make it work. 
Please watch the video, where hopefully I redeem myself.

And check out my new Gluten Can Suck It info page! Click here!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Party of Four

Having four kids makes me part of a special club.  For example the other night, at my kids' elementary school, I met some other moms.  We instantly started asking the how many kids do you have question.  The mom across from me said the magic number, four.  Instant connection and we forgot the other moms were there.

Mom-of-four and I bonded over all the funny looks we get, how people asked us "why" when we were pregnant with the fourth and more.  We also discussed how much we really love our kids and enjoy them.  There was talk about how we never volunteer for things because of the other kids, run a little bit late to everything and how strange it was to be pregnant or nursing for almost an entire decade.

"We gotta stick together, us moms of four," she smiled and looked like she was going to give me a fist bump.  But she leaned in closer and said, "I mean we have a lot of kids, but can you imagine five?"

After a good giggle about how people that have five kids are nuts we said our good-byes, telling each other to have a good year since neither one of us will be volunteering in the classroom.

This is a bracelet my pal Stephanie made for me in the weeks right after having my fourth baby.  Even though she only has two kids, I made her an honorary member of the club, because she gets it.  And yes, I think it is funnier now that the "e" has fallen out of mother.  And no, I don't wear this in front of my kids, only PTA meetings.  Just kidding, I don't go to those.

"Three Is The New Two," exclaimed a headline from an article I read online.  And there was a story on the "Today" show about how cool it was to have three kids.  Back in 2006, I was feeling pretty cutting edge and with it as I watched Matt Lauer talk to the child psychologist and parenting expert.  My third baby was on my hip while I was getting breakfast ready for my other two--I was happy and possibly trendy for the first time in my life.

But then we decided to have another baby.  Three kids people can wrap their head around, but four changes everything.

We always wanted four kids.  When Tim and I were engaged I would stare dreamily at the newly popular SUVs imagining our rowdy brood riding around town in one.  

You see Tim and I are dreamers.  Ever since we first met, we have talked about what our future will look like.  We dreamed of a farmhouse, but not too "farmy" (per my request).  We dreamed about years of babies and toddlers.  We dreamed about having a couple of dogs, labs or golden retrievers.  

The first time we talked about maybe having a fourth baby, I did what I think most people would do, I googled "families with four children."  Isn't that what you would do?  Oh, you might look at your finances, house size, career goals?  I said we were dreamers, not planners.

So I googled and dreamed.  And I swear to you during that time period on TLC there were all these shows about ultra large families.  Families with 17 children and they all seemed happy.  I reasoned that if they can be happy with all those kids in an A-frame house in northern Minnesota, I can handle four in a Detroit suburb.  

And then there was Diane Keaton and the rest of the cast that influenced my decision.  My husband Tim and I love the movie "The Family Stone."  It is a movie about a family with five adult children that come home for Christmas.  The movie is kind of sad because the mom dies (sorry if I spoiled the ending, still worth watching if you haven't seen it).  But the feel good chaos of the fake family appealed to us.

See, we do chaos really well.  The everyday details of life management, still working on that.  But we always make it work.

It is interesting to watch the four kids pair off. It is always changing.

And our chaotic larger-than-in-fashion family is happily making it work.

That's right we are using Brainy Smurf in Dora CandyLand, along with a headless action figure and a diary lock, as our "guys."  Just another example of how we are making it work.

As I dreamed about having four kids in my SUV I had no idea what it all meant.  To be honest, I am still wrapping my head around it all.  Tim once said parenting this many children is like playing Whac-A-Mole.  Just when you think you've pounded all those problems down, another one pops up.

But I do know that my house is always full of noise and I love it.  My kids don't get everything they want and they already know that life just sometimes isn't fair.  They play together and make up games  (or melt army men with blowtorches). Boredom doesn't exist in my house.  Because if they are bored, there is always some one to fight with or mess with.  And they do fight, but they also defend each other and love each other.
The kids are bonding over how to demolish this toy truck.  Destruction of property brings my kids together.   And keeps them quiet and busy for at least 15 minutes.

And our small house?  Can you believe they all want to share a room?

I know there are changes in store.  Now I dream of happy, well-adjusted teenagers that play in the band and run track.  Because from what I remember from high school, all those people in the band always seemed so happy and not on drugs.  And people that ran track didn't get concussions.

But whatever happens, we'll make it work and I can bet you it's not going to be boring.