Sunday, July 25, 2010

And now, for your listening enjoyment . . .

. . . sit back, relax, and enjoy The Morguess Sisters:

Annabelle -

Little imp, that one.

Daisy -

Lilah -

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Someone in my circle of Facebook friends posed the question recently: How do those with large families keep up with household chores? This is a favorite topic of mine.

Let me start off by saying that I am an Anal Retentive Control Freak. There, I said it. I feel better now that it's out in the open.

Because I am an Anal Retentive Control Freak (hereafter referred to as ARCF), having a clean, tidy home is high on my priority list. I can't help it.

I'd like to first address this popular notion out there that families with a lot of kids should not have clean, tidy homes. In fact, it seems that a large family living in a clean, tidy house is viewed by a certain sector of society as something bad. Apparently it means that too much attention is being expended on household cleanliness at the expense of the children's emotional well-being. To that I say: BAH! Methinks people who are judgmental about clean, tidy homes are merely using the age-old method of attempting to make themselves feel better/superior by putting someone else down.

Personally, I have nothing at all against families who don't mind clutter and untidiness. To each his own. It's just that for me, I need relative tidiness to feel held-together at the seams. I'm sure it's a vestige of some coping mechanism from long ago - you know, controlling the things I actually could control as a means of coping with the chaotic, crazy things I could not control. Blah blah blah ... yawwwwwwn.

Anyhow, so yeah, I like a clean house. How do I do it, people seem to want to know. Here's a rundown of things that get done pretty much every day here in our house:
  • The beds get made every morning. Kevin and Joey are responsible for making their own beds, which is actually comical. Kevin actually sleeps on top of his covers and bedspread, just using a throw to cover himself. Meaning, he never un-makes his bed. He's been doing this for a number of years, I kid you not. I'm pretty sure this developed out of a desire to never have to make his bed. I remind him from time to time that someday when he's married, he's going to have to learn how to sleep in a bed, under the covers, again. Joey isn't terribly proficient at bed-making at age 8, although I'm convinced that his lack of skill is really due to lack of interest. Okay, fine. Their room usually looks like a bomb went off in it anyway, so we just keep the door closed.
  • Dishes get done after every meal.
  • Kitchen floor gets swept multiple times a day, and Swiffered about every other day.
  • Laundry is a constant. The washer and dryer is almost always running in our house. I don't let clean stuff pile up too much; I'm pretty good about folding and putting away in a timely manner. The older boys are responsible for putting their own clean clothes away, and Kevin is supposed to do his and Joey's laundry (since they share a room and, thus, a hamper), but he usually lets it pile up until it's spilling out of the hamper and neither of them has clean underwear.
  • The kids, it goes without saying, trash the house every day, but toys and such get picked up and put away at the end of the day.
I confess that I have a housekeeper, too. She comes in once a week and spends the better part of the day doing all the "deep" cleaning - dusting, mopping all the floors, vacuuming, scrubbing the bathrooms and kitchen from top to bottom, cleaning the blinds, etc. My husband seems to think it sounds pretentious if I make mention of my "housekeeper." In my defense, I don't think of it as a status symbol or a class distinction, and I certainly don't think that housework is beneath me. I actually don't at all mind doing housework, but the truth is that it is hard to keep up with it all when you have a big family (hell, it's hard to keep up with it when you have a small family), and since having a clean house is important to me, I'm willing to shell out some moolah to keep it clean. And seriously? On Monday afternoons after the housekeeper leaves? That feeling of reveling in an utterly clean, tidy house? It's almost orgasmic. To me, anyway.

I've been trying, on and off, and with varying degrees of determination and success, to get the kids more involved in household chores, just because I think it's important that everyone contribute to the maintenance of the family home in some way. I think it's important to instill a good work ethic in my kids, and I want them to grow up into people who can fend for themselves. Everyone should grow into an adult who can wash a sinkful of dishes, operate a washer and dryer, set a table, and take out a bag of garbage, don't you think? And really, with all these kids, I shouldn't have to lift a finger. Okay, I kid. I've made chore charts and made promises of allowance based on chores (which I know is controversial, but let's be honest: money talks, and it's a great motivator). And it starts out with great enthusiasm, but the novelty soon wears off for everyone, me included. And I inevitably find myself not wanting to deal with hounding them to do their chores, not wanting to listen to the whining and complaining. Also, being the ARCF that I am, I tend to inwardly cringe at the imperfection of the tasks undertaken by their clumsy little hands and I inevitably fall back on the attitude of "If I want it done now, and if I want it done right, then I might as well do it myself." Not very effective parenting, I know. It probably plays right into the theory of Faux Incompetence - you know, where someone acts like they don't know how to properly do something merely as a means of getting out of doing it.

Last night, Michael asked Kevin to do the dinner dishes, which is actually supposed to be one of his daily chores, but one which I rarely enforce because, like I said, it's usually easier to just do it myself the way I like it to be done. Anyway, Kevin started sulking and he said to me with a puppy-dog expression, "I don't do a very good job doing the dishes." I clapped him heartily on the back and said, "You do a fine job."

Go, me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Water Babies

Swim lessons started this week for all three girls. Let me just preface this by saying that their swimming background is nonexistent - that is, up until Monday, none of the three of them had ever set toe in a swimming pool (unless you count the inflatable pools we get for them to splash around in every summer, which I don't). I suppose I should have had them in swim lessons much sooner than now, especially the twins who are fast approaching six years old. But, spilled milk and all that.

Anyway, they were all actually very excited about the prospect of having swimming lessons, and the first day went surprisingly well. Probably because their swim instructor, a college girl who is Red Cross certified and gives private lessons in her parents' backyard pool, went pretty easy on them the first day. It was just a gentle introduction to an actual swimming pool, a get-to-know-each other proposition, during which all she really asked of them was to stand on the steps of the pool and get their faces wet.

Yesterday, the second day, however, she got down to business. And it's gone downhill from there. Kacie, the instructor, is great - I really admire how she handles the kids, and she clearly knows about teaching kids to swim. It's my kids. Man, oh man. Here are (poor-quality cell phone) snippets from today:

Annabelle -

Daisy -

Lilah -

I don't know if the commonality is obvious (she says sarcastically), but they're all screaming and crying. Gah.

I have a little sympathy, but not much. I mean, really, I do feel bad that they're scared, but I am completely confident that they're in good hands and I don't think that coddling or babying them through this is going to do them any favors. I think they need to tough it out and at some point (hopefully), there will be the turning of a corner, the clearing of a hurdle. Fortunately, Kacie and I are in agreement on this.

At the instructor's suggestion, we - er, they - practiced putting their heads under water during bath time later in the day. Still, Daisy informed me at bedtime, "Mommy, I have a tummy ache, and when it's time for swimming tomorrow, I know I'll still have a tummy ache and I won't be able to go swimming." Oh brother.

Three weeks of daily lessons we've signed up for, people.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Built to Last

July 20, 2001-

July xx, 2010-

When you marry someone, you exchange vows that are, at the time, really nothing more than pretty, eloquent words. Heartfelt, yes, but also naive and idealistic. When you stand before each other, saying these words to each other, making each other these promises, it is impossible to fathom the highs and lows you will actually face together, and only time will tell if your union will withstand everything that comes your way. And it is only living through life's experiences together that gives those pretty words and promises actual texture and color and meaning.

Today marks nine years of ups and downs, thick and thin, sickness and health, hurdles, challenges, smooth sailing, laughter, tears, music, fear, sadness, surprises, predictability, division, solidarity and yes, wedded bliss. Nine years ago I married the love of my life. This is what I longed for my whole life: this kind of acceptance, this kind of security, this kind of respect, this kind of laughter, this kind of love. Our life together is perfect in all its imperfection.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Family Vacation

We did it! A family vacation! Our first as a family of eight. The last time we went anywhere of any great distance, we were a mere family of four, and we haven't ventured anywhere far as a family in several years for a lot of reasons - among them: that it seems like I've either had a bun in the oven or a newborn every year for the last several years; that it's terribly expensive to go just about anywhere with this many humans in tow; and really, just that with each passing year and the addition of more kids, it's felt more and more daunting and undoable to go away anywhere. But we did it! I think Michael's surviving cancer has really brought a new appreciation to us, and a determination to make the most of what we have and what we can do instead of being bogged down in limitations. So we packed up the kids and stuffed the truck to the gills with necessaries and headed up the coast.

We left bright and semi-early last Wednesday morning and headed first to Cambria, a beautiful little rustic coastal town. It took us roughly seven hours to drive there, which included stops totaling about an hour and a half. In Cambria we stayed in a nice cottage at a lovely lodge with beautiful gardens you could (and we did) walk through. The lodge was situated in the woods, but just across the street is the ocean. The kids were in awe of the novelty of a "hotel" (and the girls were completely enthralled with, of all things, the little bar soaps in the room; I don't think they've ever seen bar soap, as all we use at home is liquid soap - so there was much washing of hands going on). We had dinner at a little grill and arrived back at the lodge only to discover that the truck had a flat tire - boo. But Michael changed it and everything was fine. Nobody got much sleep that night. There was one room with two queen beds for the kids - the three girls shared one and Kevin and Joey shared the other. We brought the pack 'n' play for Finn to sleep in, and he started out in the room with the other kids but that didn't work, so I moved him into our room, but he wouldn't sleep there either and spent most of the night wrestling around in our bed. Anyway, it was a beautiful little town, and really we could have stayed there longer.

On Thursday we headed out of Cambria and up the coast another few hours to Monterey, where we rented a little three-bedroom house for three nights. My friend Lisa of Genetically Enhanced happened to be working in Monterey and she came to the house for a visit and some pizza! On Friday we went to the apparently world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, which was pretty amazing. We had lunch at Bubba Gump's, a shameless capitalization on a wonderful movie . . . but what are you going to do? We walked around Cannery Row that night after dinner and took the kids for ice cream. We had considered driving up to San Francisco for the day on Saturday but when we realized it would be at least a two-hour drive each way we decided instead to just bum around Monterey. Sunday morning we got up early, packed everything and everyone up, and headed home, making it in about six hours with only one stop for lunch.

All in all it was a really, really nice trip. Some things we learned:
  • Kids generally don't appreciate scenic drives, and are really all about the destination and not the journey.
  • It IS very expensive to take a family of this size anywhere. Even though we packed a cooler with food for the road and bought groceries to keep at the rental house, we still ate out a few times and it's impossible to get out of a restaurant with six kids for under a hundred bucks.
  • Vacations seem to make everyone appreciate home! Honestly, the kids really did well, all things considered, but by Saturday night we had a couple of them in tears, wanting to go home and sleep in their own beds. I felt the worst for Finn who, unfortunately, spent a lot of time strapped into a car seat or a stroller. He was very happy to get home to his toys and wide open spaces to conquer.
Most of all, we learned that we can do this! I really hope we will make it a point to go away someplace as a family every year from here on out.

We took a shizillion photos, which can be viewed here.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


My weekend away with the girls was fun, fun fun! There was much eating, drinking, laughing, lounging, shopping, and girl talk. I had an hour-long massage followed by an hour-long facial (okay, let's just touch on extractions. Seriously? Ewwww! Who would want to be an esthetician, anyway, and voluntarily deal with other people's zits and blackheads - and so cheerfully?) We stayed in a beautiful villa at a resort, had dinner at a lovely restaurant where entertainment was provided by a very drunk guy celebrating his fortieth birthday and taking his shirt off and dancing in front of our table. The trick was dancing to impress without falling down! Very nice.

Anyway, really couldn't have been any better - it was the perfect getaway. And I missed the kids! And I realized how healthy it is to actually have an opportunity to miss them, and for them to miss me. Michael and the kids fared fine without me, the house was in respectable order when I got home, and Michael even made dinner for me when I got home (no, you can't have him, he's taken).

And now I have two days to get ready for our first-ever family-of-eight vacation! I'm very excited . . . and nervous, and stressed. But mostly excited. And stressed.

But it's good to be back for now!

Friday, July 9, 2010

All for the greater good

You know, it gets very tiring always basking in the accolades for all that I do. In a way, it doesn't seem fair that Michael is forced to hide in my shadow. So this weekend I'm giving him a gift: I am going away for the weekend so that he, and he alone, can care for the dear children. This is just my humble way of allowing him the opportunity to wallow in the boundless appreciation of his offspring for fetching, slaving, mediating, chauferring, comforting, disciplining, and cleaning up for them. Plus everyone else will declare how awesome he is for doing what I do every damn day, every day of the year such a fabulous job. And I have no doubt that when I return, I will be welcomed into a house that has not been trashed in my absence. And perhaps the children will even have been fed and bathed as they look upon me with their shining faces and say, "Welcome home, Mummy" (in my fantasy, I've suddenly become British).

As for me, well, I'll be partaking of food, drink, merriment, and shopping with a handful of girlfriends. Oh, and also a shamefully expensive massage and facial.

It's a sacrifice, but one I'm willing to make for my husband.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dream Wash

Wow, has it really been a week since I posted anything here? These kiddos are keeping me bizzzz-eeee, I tell you. I don't know where the days and weeks of summer are going. I do know that the stores are already putting all their summer stuff on clearance and putting out the back-to-school stuff!! What gives?

Anyhoo, just a quick little slice of sunshine before I hit the sack:

Joey, who shares a room with Kevin, sometimes has bad dreams. When it was time for bed tonight, Joey told me that he had a bad dream last night and asked me to sit with him for a while before he went to sleep. So I sat with him on his bed for a while, chit-chatting, and then asked him if he was ready to go to sleep. "Maybe I need some dream wash," he said. "Dream wash? What's dream wash?" I asked. Kevin piped up, "Oh, dream wash. I'll get you some, Joey." Kevin disappeared into the bathroom and came out a couple minutes later, bearing a dixie cup with, apparently, Dream Wash, in it. He gave it to Joey and told him to drink it down and that it would keep the bad dreams away. Joey was grateful.

Apparently this is not the first time. Turns out this "dream wash" is just water with a tiny bit of toothpaste in it for flavor. Kevin came up with this all on his own.

What a great kiddo. What a wonderful big brother. I suspect he's going to make an awesome dad some day.

Thursday, July 1, 2010