4 already!

With the recent 4th birthday of our eldest, I have have been reflecting on the last 4 years and how our lives have changed from the days of being on double incomes with just a labrador, to being a crazy, chaotic family with 3 kids (and a labrador) on one income.

I get asked all the time how I cope with having 3 kids, people are especially interested in the fact that they are so close in age (21 months between the first and second and 20 months between the second and third). My usual answer is that number 3 is a breeze, it’s the other 2 that are tough going! In all honesty the age gap is a personal preference kind of thing, we had a long journey to have our first baby so were slightly older than we had planned to be when starting our family so it made sense to us to try and pop them out in pretty quick succession. My theory is also to get all the ‘baby-ness’ over and done quickly without leaving too much time for the body and mind to get accustomed to long stretches of sleep!

Honestly though, 3 under 4 has really not been too bad, we have a good daily routine including the 2 big kids going to preschool 3-4 mornings each, compulsory sleeps/quiet TV time at 1pm and a pretty strict dinner, bath, story, bed routine between 5.30 and 7pm. Oh yes… it feels like groundhog day everyday, but it’s just what we have to do for the foreseeable future to maintain our sanity and make sure we get some time together in the evenings. It might seem like a bit of a random thing but… I do washing everyday… yip everyday… rain, hail or shine, if I miss just one day I tend to feel like I am drowning and it becomes the catalyst for feeling like life is getting on top of me.

Each week we each try to spend some time 1:1 with the kids, especially the boys. Louis has 2 and Willem has 1 “Mummy Day’, a morning spent with Mummy and their baby sister while the other big boy is a preschool. Louis loves to help me bake or prepare dinner, while Willem has a swimming lesson and a cafe treat in town. Daddy also tries to slip in some time during the weekend with one or both of the boys, he takes them out running in the buggy stopping at the beach to hunt for crabs or they take the dog to the beach for a swim and try to skim stones. They are all growing up so quick so we really try and make the most of these precious times.

Sometimes the hardest thing in such a busy house is to find time to connect as a couple, the moment Daddy comes in the door the boys want his undivided attention so they can tell him about the songs they sang at preschool or show him their latest Duplo creation. This often frustrates him as he often wants 5 minutes peace to get changed and wind down after work, he has learnt though that it is best to give them some time and the last of his energy before setting them up in front of TV. We then find ourselves with a 20 minute window to catch up on each others days while one of us puts the finishing touches on dinner. And as I said we are real sticklers for the 7pm bedtime, so that we catch a couple of hours together before hitting the hay. Thanks to my husband’s awesome parents who live relatively close we get to treat ourselves to the odd ‘date night’, although we do find ourselves home and tucked up pretty early in preparation for our gorgeous little early risers!

Oh how our lives have changed in 4 super short years… from sleep inns, late dinners with friends (and copious amounts of wine), weekends of going our separate ways to play sport and early morning walks together with the dog to arguing over who lies next to Mum in the big bed, McDonalds Happy Meals, weekends doing the rounds of the local playgrounds and sneaking down the hallway hoping for that first cup of tea alone and in peace! It’s crazy and chaotic, fast-paced and at times frustrating but I firmly believe the keys to making it look easy are… Routine and teamwork.

If the last 4 years are anything to go by I am sure the next 1 will absolutely fly by… so crazy, exciting and nerve racking to think that in less than 12 months our dear wee man will be off to “big school”, I know he will be well and truely ready and we will all embrace the next crazy and chaotic chapter of our lives.

Dinner Dramas

Sometimes in the middle of dinner my husband glances up at the clock and mouths something along the lines of “73 minutes babe… 73 minutes!” Long gone are the days of sitting opposite, or even better beside each other at the dinner table making civilised conversation while using both hands to eat a hot meal. No, no, no… dinner time has become a military type operation consisting of gently encouraging (force feeding!) a picky 4 year old, reigning in the enthusiasm of a speed eating 2 year old, keeping spoonfuls up to a keen solids starter and filling constantly empty drink bottles all while we attempt to eat our own dinner and encourage polite conversation and good table manners!

The planning towards dinner begins on a Sunday night when I give everyone the chance to choose one meal for the week, the next step are the inevitable tears as Mr. Picky realises that Watties “orange spaghetti” is not a valid choice! Eventually they all make a choice and I go about planning the week to ensure that we don’t have pasta 3 nights in a row. Weekly meal planning is a relatively new concept in our house and although it seems like a drag on Sunday night it makes the grocery shop (usually done online) so much easier and eliminates the daily discussion/argument between my husband and I. Don’t get me wrong the meal choosing and planning are not solutions to Mr. Picky’s eating ‘issues’ but it does help in that we can talk about what is for dinner during the day and this has put a stop to the outburst of wailing when he gets up to the table and sees what is on his plate.

The challenge has been in finding meal ideas that contain meat and vegies, but are not just the traditional ‘meat and 3 veg meals’ that I was brought up on and that my husband would probably prefer. I must admit Chelsea Winter’s awesome cook books have been a god send in providing me with nutritious, family friendly meal ideas. Some of our favourite Chelsea meals are… ‘Good Green Spaghetti’, ‘Best Ever Spaghetti and Meatballs’, ‘Beautiful Bolognese’ and  ‘Spaghetti Amatricana’. We are also big lasagne fans… lasagne makes me happy as it contains meat and I can cram/hide lots of vegies in it too (and if I play my cards right I can make it last 2 nights!).

P.S. All going to plan, 73 minutes is the approximate time left before our three gorgeous munchkins will be all tucked up in bed.