Category Archives: family life

The Toilet Chronicles.

Warning:  The following post contains many potty trip descriptions and an obscene amount of references to “pee” and “poo.”

Last Monday we decided to begin toilet training #4 officially.

I say “officially” because for the last few months we have gently inquired as to whether or not she would like to use the potty.  The handful of times she has been so inclined to use said facilities, we have again ‘gently’ encouraged subsequent uses.  We marveled at our own patience with this process but also chastised ourselves for not just making the complete switch over to underwear rather than do the safe route and continue to use diapers/pull-ups (which are just fancier diapers with perfectly coiffed princesses parading all over them).

Each child prior to #4 was trained by age 2.5.  No one used pull-ups and were all trained within a month.  This was normally due to an upcoming preschool/daycare/program start date that required the child to be completely toilet trained.  Serious pressure and tons of anxiety accompanied the process.

#4 is a different child.  She has flat out refused to wear underwear or partake in any toilet shenanigans.  In the morning, she would lie down beside her brother, hold his hand, and they both smiled at me as I changed their diapers one after the other.  She was not so keen on giving up this brother-sister bonding time.  I would ask her to go pee and she would look me in the face and after a long pause (and a shiver), she would say, “I just did” then smile and go on her merry way.  She had no problem having a BM in the toilet but peeing in it was just not her thing.

Enough is enough.  Without consulting Ever-Patient, I made the switch.  I’m not sure what made me ask her that morning or what made her final accept underwear.  It could be that a shuddering statistic flitted across my mind:  I have been changing diapers for the last 7 years (and nursing but that’s another post entitled “The Girl Who Missed Wine and the Occasional Shot of Tequila”).  It could be that I had the ridiculous thought that if she wasn’t going to be trained now, she’d never be trained and possible have to wear those adult diapers for the rest of her life.  It could be that I figured summer was almost over and training is so much easier in the summer that I can’t let this moment slip by when she can just wear summer dresses everyday which would make accident clean-up that much easier.  It could be that I just had the mother’s instinct that she was ready.  (I’m finding that instinct pops up a lot now with 5 kids).  I’m pretty sure she decided to make the big girl switch because we had just bought this underwear from Target in NYC which happened to be covered in hundreds of Little Mermaids.

She went downstairs and announced to her father that she is a “Panty-Girl!”  He gave me a look that said, “Really?”  To which I shrugged my shoulders as if to say, “We’ll see how this goes.”  #4 proceeded to lift up her dress to show her sisters her new underwear with pride.  They all complimented her and gave her words of encouragement.

Throughout breakfast, I probably asked her about a million times whether or not she had to pee.  She’d roll her eyes and say no each time.  I’m already not liking this whole situation.  I’m tense.  I’m hyper-aware that she may pee any minute as she forgets she’s in underwear.  I take her to the washroom about 15 times in the span of an hour hoping she’ll just pee for goodness sake so I can have some peace of mind for another couple of hours.  Each time I get her to sit on the toilet, she stares at me and says, “It’s not coming out.” Another hour passes and she still hasn’t pee.  Now I’m completely neglecting my other 4 children and hoping Ever-Patient is tending to the rest of them as I hover over #4 asking her again and again if she has to pee.  Still no pee after we try to sit on the toilet a few more times.  I go to nurse #5 literally 5 minutes after taking #4 to the washroom and I hear, “Mama, I promise to pee in the toilet next time!”

Dear God.  I can’t do this.

I’m of course second guessing my ‘amazing intuition’ and tell myself she’s not ready.  I fight every anxious bone in my body that wants to run to get a diaper to put back on her.  I tell myself this is just one accident and that I should know that this is bound to happen a few times before she gets the hang of it.  Ever-Patient cleans her up and she runs to get another underwear.  If she’s still up for this, then so am I.

Day 1 ends with a total of 2 accidents and we just won’t talk about the second accident.  Day 2 is spent at home again with a couple more accidents.  After 2 days, she has been able to go to the toilet and pee with Dad and with #1.  Each time I take her, nothing.  Total stage fright.  I think she can hear the voice in my head begging her, “Please. Please. Just pee. Pleeeeaaaase!” and is so irritated with the subconscious pressure I am placing on her that she is just refusing to do it in front of me.

Day 3  – I’m in the middle of toilet training my toddler AND she is having a couple of accidents a day AND she won’t pee with me.  What should we do today?  Of course!  Let’s go to the zoo where the distances between washrooms span continents (fake zoo continents but still a great distance nonetheless).  Just me and the kids.  What!?  Really? Why do I do this to myself?  I pack a change of clothes and #4 sits on a plastic bag in the car and in the umbrella stroller.  Now I feel like my mind is going to turn to mush and ooze out of my ear as I am thinking a hundred thoughts a minute:  Where is the nearest washroom?  When’s the last time she went?  When do we stop for snack?  How much water should I give her?  Do we do the zoomobile later right after her next pee or now?  Are all my kids here?

After walking around the zoo for a bit, I take her to the washroom where she pees for the first time with me.  I breathe a sigh of relief.  That just bought me a couple of worry-free hours (besides the usual headcount every 90 seconds and trying to brace my abs as I carry around an 18 lb baby in a wrap for 5 hours at the zoo).  I relaxed a bit and would only ask her about going to the washroom every 15 minutes instead every 5 minutes.

A couple of hours go by and the kids want to go on the zoomobile which is about a 45 minute ride on a tram around the entire zoo.  I tell them that we will go after #4 has her next pee.  We stop at one washroom on the way to the zoomobile station and she doesn’t go.  We stop at another one and she still doesn’t go.  We are at the zoomobile station and I am faced with one of those tough parenting decisions:  The kids are dying to go on the zoomobile right now but #4 hasn’t peed in 3 hours.  If she has the urge to go, I have an extremely small window to get her to a toilet before she bursts.  Do we wait by the washroom here at the station until she has to go?  Or do we take a chance and hop onto the zoomobile to appease all the kids?

We went with option #1.  Going to the zoo on Day 3 of toilet training may lead you to believe that I enjoy talking a walk on the wild side (excuse the corny zoo humour) when in fact I fairly risk averse when it comes to training accidents.  Within the span of half an hour, I took her to the washroom 4 times.  No pee and the natives were getting restless.  Finally, I ask #1 to take her in because this was the scenario each time I took #4 to the washroom:

#4 is on the toilet in a stall in the women’s washroom.  I am standing in front of her with #5 in the wrap:

Me begging #4 (and losing some self-respect in the process):  “Just try.  Please.  Come on.  You can do it.  Please, just try.”

#4:  “I don’t have to Mom.”

Me, more begging, and even less self-respect, and a little sweat dripping from my brow:  “Please.  We’ll just sit here for a little while longer.  You can do it!  Please, just pee!”

#4 (with her head now in her hands):  “Mom, it’s just not working!  It’s not, Mom.  I don’t know what to do.  It won’t work here!”

Me (just realizing I have #5 in front of me who is now touching gross public washroom surfaces and then sucking on his fingers):  “Stop touching!  Stop!  Come on guys, let’s go.  We’ll try again in 10 minutes.”

#1 took #4 in and they were out in 2 minutes with #4 running out yelling, “It worked!  I did it!  I peed in the toilet!!!”  The cheers and celebration that ensued between the kids and myself can really only be compared to the reaction of winning the lottery.  I can only imagine what people thought as I was close to tears and hugging her tightly, as tight as one could hug with a baby strapped in front.  The girls gave her hi-fives and grateful embraces and we all ran to the zoomobile for a ride.  Halfway into the zoomobile ride, I start to sweat and panic again.  This can’t be happening.  I have to pee.  Badly. Karma is such a bitch.

At the conclusion of Day 3, I was happy to report to Ever-Patient that there were zero accidents.  I felt so confident that we decided to go to Ontario Place on Day 4, again just me and the kids.  After the whole zoo pressure cooker-fiasco, I eased up on her and trusted her more.  I wasn’t giving her the credit she deserved and decided to let her be aware of her own bodily functions.  She had a few false alarms.  We would go to the washroom only for her to say, “Pee!  Come out!  I don’t know why it’s not coming, Mom.  I thought it wanted to come out.  Maybe not.”  At the end of the day, we were happy to report another accident-free day.

As I laid down beside her that night, she said to me, “Mom, are you so proud of me that I peed in the toilet?”  I looked at her and I just wanted to hold her tight and say that she doesn’t need to seek my approval and that her alone is enough.  I said, “I am proud of you even if you don’t make it to the toilet…but peeing in the toilet is nice.”

***

It’s been about a week and a half and I now ask hourly if she has to pee.  She has been excellent at telling me when she has to go and every time she does she announces to anyone who will listen, “I peed in the toilet!”  or “I pooed in toilet!” or “I peed and pooed in the toilet!”  She has had only one accident since Day 2 which was with my dad although he tells me that she did indicate she had to go but they couldn’t get to the washroom fast enough.  I love how she is learning to pay close attention to her body.  For example, she went to pee at my mom’s house and as she peed in the toilet, she marveled, “It even works at Lola’s house!”  She loves to choose her underwear and is not interested in being a baby anymore.

4 for 4.  1 to go.  I think of all the money we’ll save on diapers now.  I think of the ease of taking her to washroom versus changing her toddler-size diaper.  But I also think of how they’re all growing up.  I think of how the transition to underwear is a major milestone out of babyhood.  A graduation of sorts into the school of independence.

My last baby girl is growing up…at least she still likes to fall asleep in my arms.

on goal setting.

After publishing yesterday’s post, I broke into a sweat almost immediately.  What did I just do?  How am I going to even accomplish these “simple” goals when I forget to eat breakfast and lunch most days?  Why did I have to publicize them and put unnecessary added pressure on myself?  I have a little over 4 months to achieve these goals…am I crazy?

As sheer panic and self-doubt set in, I came across this article.  Instead of focusing what I still had to accomplish this year, I started to reflect on what I actually have achieved this year and began listing my own set of personal mountains I have conquered so far in 2010:

  • Not only have I adjusted to 5 children, I have thoroughly enjoyed finding a new family rhythm.  Because of this, I have been increasingly comfortable taking the kids out on all-day excursions on my own.
  • I fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes (yay!) and feel stronger and more energetic than I have felt in the last 2 years.  Though I am proud that I have lost almost 30lbs this year through hard work, I am happy that I have embraced the exercise and moderate eating habits as a lifestyle – no crash dieting or extreme workouts.
  • Ever-Patient and I celebrated 10 years of marriage and did so in the most wonderfully understated manner:  we took a 3 hour bike ride together – this is something we’ve never done together and something I personally haven’t done in a long time.
  • We have purged about 25% of our belongings and are still in the process of getting rid of more – we are hoping to be living with 50% less by the end of the year.
  • I have managed to spend one on one time with each of the kids at least once a month since the beginning of the year.
  • With the exception of a few weeks here and there, I have kept up with blogging and documenting the events (and non-events) in our lives.
  • I was able to plan and execute 3 birthday parties with school friends this year – a first!
  • We introduced family challenges for 5 months.  My favourites included “Vegetarian Month” and “One Bowl Challenge.”  Each of these will be repeated in the future.
  • After only a week, #4 is fully toilet trained.  It was a bit of an adventure but we did it!  (Rest assure that there is going to be a full post on this soon.)
  • I have managed to take all of the kids to the following places multiple times on my own:  the Zoo, Ontario Place, the Beach, and all during the first week of #4’s toilet training and still live to talk about it.
  • We finally have some Lopez Family of 7 pictures! More on that soon.
  • I have conquered laundry.  There really hasn’t been a pile up since this post.
  • With the help from a friend (who happens to be a landscaper) and his wife, we finally did something with our lawn after years of it being disheveled and unkempt – basically, it looked like the back of #3 and #4’s head after getting out of bed.

I’m sure there are few molehills that I’ve been able to hurdle over that are missing from this list.  I love how that article was able to remind me that I had already rose to the occasion when confronted with everyday life’s challenges.

Setting goals can sometimes backfire and just bring feelings of inadequacy and self-defeat to the surface when its initial intent was to motivate and spur action.  This is what happened last night.  The optimism and associated euphoria I felt after creating the goals quickly dissipated as all the other things on my to-do lists began to amass in my mind.  How was I going to accomplish these goals in addition to my already expanding list of responsibilities?

From the article, this is one of the tidbits that really put things in perspective: “You won’t summit every one you come across, but you will become a better person with each attempt.”  There will undoubtedly be many mountains that will conquer me and goals that will be left unfulfilled…for now.  But at least I am making an attempt.  I am making an effort at becoming better, becoming more, at…becoming.  Each goal I set illustrates my quest to just be more than I am, to grow as a human being, and to demonstrate the belief that I can be more.  Isn’t that what this journey, this life is all about?  Pushing ourselves past the perceived limits.  Pushing ourselves to a realized potential.  Pushing ourselves to test our strengths.  Pushing ourselves in order to know failure and how to rise above it.

With this new-found love of goal setting, I am going to institute a new tradition in our household.  On each birthday, the celebrant must write 5 goals they would like to accomplish that year…big or small.  (I’m wondering if I can get this going for this year even though most of our birthdays have past already.)

If we consistently set goals, we shouldn’t view it as such a Sisyphean effort.  There will always be the next mountain to climb and the next peak to reach or almost reach.  But isn’t that the true goal in life?  To find happiness in the knowledge that when we start our descent from the mountain, there is another one waiting around the corner.

4 simple goals.

I love this challenge.

I have decided to dive into it for a couple of reasons:

1) By posting my goals here, I will be accountable.

2) I like crossing things off a short list.

There is still time before 2011 to accomplish a few things so here goes…

Goal #1:  Create beautiful bedroom spaces for my family.

We have lived in our current house for almost 4 years and we are STILL trying to finish decorating the kids’ rooms and the master bedroom.  It’s always the same excuses: time, money, and general indecision.

Enough is enough.  I have decided to officially become accountable by confessing all of this here and now and by making a public promise to finish the rooms before the new year.  We’ve taken baby steps this summer.  For #2 and #3’s room (and technically #4’s room although she refuses to accept that fact and thinks her room is mom and dad’s room), we added a dresser which we inherited from some good friends.  Living in an older house means living with itty bitty closets so the dresser was  a much-needed piece.

Here is the before pic:

A solid piece of furniture.

And now it looks like this:

Love it.

It’s a bright fire engine red with coral-like knobs from here….though #3 argues that they look like mini antlers.

The kids also wanted to work on some type of decorative element to hang across their rooms.  They were inspired by this and decided to make their own circle-dot banner out of paper:

#1's room - she's going for a gray and orange palette.

The little ones decided they liked the look of floating confetti instead.

Like I said, baby steps.

Corresponding reward:  A guilt-free order from this catalogue.

Goal #2:  Sew and knit something.

I have recently acquired a sewing machine from a wonderful friend and have started knitting here and there.

I’d just like to actually finish a project.

Corresponding reward:  This workshop.

Goal #3:  Organize and print pictures to update the kids’ scrapbooks.

Looking at the kids’ scrapbooks, I have noticed that there are some holes that need to be filled and many moments I would love to include in their scrapbooks.  It’s important for me to record all the stories visually since they love spending time looking at their books and having me talk about what happened, how I felt, and what they said.

Corresponding reward:  This print and a subscription to this.

Goal #4:  Write every day until December 31, 2010.

Whether it be one sentence or 10 pages, I want to write every day.  I need to write every day.  I’ve lagged a bit since #5 has been born and I’ve been noticing how my thoughts have truly overwhelmed me on occasion.  I miss writing gratitude lists and general observations.  I’d say that this one is a biggie for me and will take some major discipline on my part with life being the way it is of course.

Some strategies to accomplish this:

1.  Carry a pen everywhere.  (I can always write on my hand if I need to!)

2.  Keep various notebooks/journals in the house, baby bag, and in the car.

3.  Blog, blog, and blog some more.

4.  Just WSD.  (Write Sh*t Down…even if I have to drop everything – except the baby – when something comes to mind).

Corresponding reward:  A GREAT BIG HUGE book purchase.

That’s it.

Want to join me on this little challenge?

(Oh and remember our family monthly challenges?  Well, we’ve put that on hold for the summer…but we will definitely be continuing them in the fall!)

a tutu and rainboots.

#4 and her outfit of choice.

How do I handle 5 kids?  I pick my battles.  I pick them very carefully.

It was time to go to #3’s soccer game after a rainstorm.  Muddy fields and all.  And #4 decided that this was a must-wear:

Posing amidst the flying bubbles.

Ms. Tutu-and-Rainboots was a hit at the field.  And she splashed in the mud and the puddles and dirtied the tutu.  But, she was all smiles and I averted a temper tantrum before we left home.  I call this “Big Picture” thinking.  Taking a step back to survey the situation.  A happy #4 hopping around in her boots while twirling in a tutu far outweighs the cost of having to scrub a dirty tutu.

Then we arrived home and found a chunk of hair that was clearly cut off of someone’s head.  A small someone’s head.  The texture and colour matched 2 possible heads – #3 or #4.  Another clue to the culprit – #4 has been obsessed with trying to master cutting with scissors.  Here’s how the interrogation went down:

Ever-Patient to #3:  “Did you cut your hair?”

#3:  “No.”

Ever-Patient to #4:  “Did you cut your hair?”

#4 with pride:  “YES!”

She’s a tough one to crack apparently.

Ever-Patient:  “Can we let the barber cut your hair next time?”

#4:  “Who’s Barbra?”

We pick our battles.  Especially since you can’t notice where exactly the chunk of hair is missing from:

Then we briefly reviewed that scissors are only used for paper and not for cutting your hair (or anyone else’s).  It’s not always this easy to see the Big Picture.  Sometimes the terrible twosome of fatigue and impatience accompanied by the nasty “What will people think?” monster get the best of us and we overreact to otherwise harmless events that really just demonstrate how kids can be kids – finding unconventional ways to express themselves without a malicious intent remotely entering their minds.

They are curious and are constantly exploring the world, experimenting with funny words and figuring out how things work.  They make me laugh when I desperately need to.  They remind me how childhood comes only once.  They teach me how seemingly incompatible items can actually work quite well together like tutus and rainboots and scissors in #4’s hand.

NYC 2010…part two.

Where did we leave off?  Ah, yes…

Some dancin' in the fountain.

#4 unsure and tentative about this whole fountain thing.

Sister to the rescue. #2: "Don't worry...I know it feels weird..we'll scrub our feet in the bath later when we get back!"

Washington Square was a hit again.  So much so that the kids did not want to leave particularly because other people decided to join them in the fountain and they also began performing public services for the NYC park staff:

#2 fulfilling the request of a park staffer to fill his hat with water.

Ever-Patient took off with Mr. Cranky-Boy-Pants (which is how I will be referring to #5 for the rest of this post and which is different than Ms. Cranky-Pants who is #4’s name between the hours of 3pm and 7pm when she doesn’t have a nap) and they went to find a good hit of espresso.  The kids finally exited the fountain.  While #2 insisted I cover her with a towel as she changed to her clothes, compulsively checking to see if the towel was being held tight enough that no one could see her change, I looked over to see #3 in her birthday suit trying to figure out which way her underwear goes.  We all stare at her and she says, “What? I still have trouble figuring out which way is the front.”  #2 , horrified, quickly changes and pleads, “Mama, please cover her!”

Notice how #2 is covering up even though she's in her swimsuit.

#1 was not down with the wading. She decided to people-watch instead. She especially enjoyed the acrobatic hacky-sackers.

Another “don’t”:  Don’t arrive at Washington Square at 4:30pm and make dinner reservations for 5:30pm at an amazing restaurant in the East Village.  It was 5:05 by the time they changed and Ever-Patient still hadn’t returned with Mr. Cranky-Boy-Pants from the coffee run.  We ended up meeting the boys at the tiny playground for the wee wee ones at the other end of the square.  This playground is about 1/5 the size of the one they were expecting to run around in but it was good enough for #4 and #5:

His favourite past-time.

A brief hiatus from crank mode.

#4 swinging next to her bro.

#2 and her temporarily wavy (and mildly crunchy) hair. Let's just say we spent a lot of time in the bathtub that night.

#3 happy to be alive as always.

A much-needed iced coffee for mama.

We had to cut short the playground bliss at 5:15 since we had to get to the restaurant for the early seating and before #4 held her own crank fest.  After many “How much longer?” and “My feet hurt!” type of exclamations, we made it there.  It helped that the streets were numbered and we could do a countdown to our destination: “Ok this is 3rd street and we have to get to 1st street, so how many more?”  Dirt Candy is a small and wonderful vegetarian restaurant in the East Village.  When I say small, I mean so small that our little family of 7 takes up 1/3 of the restaurant.  I have to admit that my heart did skip a beat or two as the kids clambered into their seats for a couple of reasons: 1) They’re tired.  When they’re tired, they don’t do well in small spaces particularly when they’re sitting next to each other – this is the main reason why we leave for road trips in the middle of the night.  2) It’s all vegetarian.  Although they fared very well during our vegetarian month, I’m never sure how they will react when confronted with adventurous cuisine.  Everything we ordered was absolutely amazing – the kids especially loved the jalapeno hush puppies with maple butter (#4 licked the butter dish) and the corn grits.  The kids were awesome.  Although they didn’t love everything, I was ecstatic that they tried everything.  The greatest part was knowing that we ingested high-quality and healthy food.  In the end, we skipped dessert because we were definitely pushing our luck with Mr. Cranky-Boy-Pants who sucked on a bread crust half the time and who sat with me on a nearby stoop outside the restaurant for the other half.

Dirt Candy...and the stoop I sat on.

Dessert at a nearby Pinkberry.

Another “don’t”:  Don’t leave a nice, clean restaurant without taking the kids to the bathroom.  About 10 blocks into our walk back to Soho, #1 has to pee.  So it’s a race to find a Starbucks since they normally don’t expect you to buy anything to use their washrooms.  Once we find one, I make sure that EVERYONE goes to the washroom before we continue on our adventures.

#1 is getting restless and wants to do a little shopping.  Thanks to my dad, each of the kids had a little bit of spending money.  By the time we get back to Soho, it’s already 8:30pm and we really only have time to hit one store.  We hit Uniqlo since we don’t have one here, the prices are affordable, the sizing is Japanese (which will fit #1’s super lanky-thin frame), and there are tons of staple clothing for #1 to stock up on.  While #1 is shopping, #2 is pulling many dresses off the rack for me to try on – she’s the best at that since I detest clothes-shopping, #3 and #4 are doing their best not to play hide-and-seek amongst the clothes, and Mr. Cranky-Boy-Pants is climbing all over me trying to gnaw my shoulder off.  #1, #2 (my personal stylist who tells me exactly what does and doesn’t look good on me) and I go to the change rooms.  It’s now about 9:30pm and the kids have been walking around the city for about 10 hours now.  Much to my surprise (and relief), #4 has not crashed and burned yet.  But I notice that she is a bit delirious.  Here’s what took place while the remaining Lopez clan waited outside the change rooms (turn up the volume on this one):

You can tell her degree of tiredness by how disheveled her hair is and how contorted her facial expressions are.  It’s a fine line between CrankyWorld and CrazyWorld.  I’ll take CrazyWorld any day.  (And #3 couldn’t let #4 have all the fun of course.)

Another “don’t”:  Don’t get on a subway train a 10:30pm at night without knowing where it’s going.  We ended up taking a train that was not going to stop at Grand Central Station or come close to it really for that matter.  We had to get off near Times Square and yes…walk to Grand Central Station to catch the EXPRESS train at 11:26pm.  And if we missed this one, we’d have to wait an hour for the next one.  5 super-tired kids?  2 super-super-tired parents? One stroller? One wrap?  Minimal snacks and distractions for the train ride?  Let’s move people…

then again...one quick picture with NYC nightlife behind the kids...ok..now let's haul ass!

We made it with time to spare.  But the train ride was another story and another “don’t”:  Don’t ride on a train with only an empty water bottle, a chap stick, and a very expensive camera as possible toys to entertain the kids.  That train ride was LOOOOONG.  I stood for about 2/3 of it with Mr. Cranky-Boy-Pants doing my walking and swaying thing.  After banging #4’s head with the empty water bottle making himself giggle, he fell asleep eventually….though it was only when the doors opened for us to disembark.  #3 alternated between laughing and crying hysterically during the ride.  #4 kept asking for snacks as she licked the inside of the popcorn snack bag we had brought.  I know, I know…crazy rave dancing and the munchies?  I swear she’s clean.  #1 tried to sleep but kept being awakened by a bored #2 and a camera flash.

I thought passing out after the long road trip was heaven on earth. Oh no.  Passing out after our day in the city?  Now that was pure bliss.

The kids woke up the next morning begging to go into the city again.  Ever-Patient and I looked at each other and I said, “Maybe we should find a nice Target nearby today and spend time with your new cousins or hit a nice air-conditioned mall!”  They frowned and then I said, “Then we can have an early family movie night!”  There was a collective “Yay!” and they were happy with the new plan.  Thank God my kids are easy…except for Mr. Cranky-Pants who came down with a mild fever that lasted on-and-off for the remainder of the trip.

The kids were treated to some books by Ever-Patient’s cousins – a tradition they started 2 years ago.  We are so grateful for their generosity and their efforts to remain close to us and the kids.  We spent our last day with family – at brunch with Auntie Jac thanking her for her hospitality and ultra-fluffy towels, and at the baptism (and after-party) of their newest cousin.

The kids and Auntie Jac.

The celebrant.

#4, #3, and another little cousin who hails from Frisco.

Mr. Cranky-Boy-Pants and his "What the eff are you looking at?" face.

We headed home right after the party.  For more details about the ride home, read this post.  We got home at 3:30am and the kids were sound asleep for the last leg of the trip.  Why were we in such a rush to get home?  #2 was starting art camp Monday morning.  The last “don’t”:  If your family is like our family and tend to take a lot of last minute road trips to NYC, don’t schedule any summer camps for the kids.

We love NY.

****

I know you want to see this again…go ahead and pump up the volume (and take a look at her new shoes…and if you ever see her wearing them, do me a favour and compliment her on them – she frowned for an entire day when no one commented on her new shoes)…

NYC 2010…part one.

Overall, we had a great time though there are things that I won’t do again.

For example, we will never leave for a 9-hour road trip at 1:00am.  The kids had fallen asleep at 10:00pm while we finished packing and tidying up the house.  We headed straight for Stamford, Connecticut, where Ever-Patient’s cousin was our gracious host who let us stay in her home for the duration of our trip.  We arrived at 10:30am.  Though Ever-Patient and I slept for maybe a cumulative amount of 3 hours, the kids had only woken up at 9:00am (except for #5 whom I fed a few times during the drive).  You do the math.  They were quite well-rested to say the least and were excited about possibly going into the city and seeing their cousins whereas I wanted to curl up in the fetal position and pass out.

Here is another reason why I won’t leave at 1:00am again: your mind does not work the same at 1am as it does at 9pm.  You forget things.  No, we didn’t forget the passports, the camera, suitcases, diapers, or anything extremely vital to our trip.  We forgot #4’s shoes, actually her flip-flops to be more precise.  How does that happen?  All our half-asleep kids with the exception of #4 and #5 walked to the car at 1:00am.  Ever-Patient carried #4 to the van while I carried the baby.  We had stopped for a pee break when the kids woke up and I told the kids to put on their shoes to go pee and to stretch it out.  #4 kept saying, “I don’t have my flip flops.”  In my groggy state, I kept saying, “Keep looking.  They must be on the floor somewhere.  Let’s go, c’mon!”  She repeated, “I…DON’T…HAVE…THEM!!!”  I turned to #2 and said impatiently, “Can you please look for your sister’s shoes?”  After a few minutes, #2 said, “Mom, they’re not here.”  I looked at Ever-Patient and we silently stared at each other while we could hear the wheels turning in both our heads.  Crap.  We forgot them.  #4 interrupted our light bulb moment and said, “I have to PEE!”  We are in the midst of toilet training but I had put her in a pull-up diaper for the car ride.  The wheels continued to turn in my head:  No shoes.  At a rest stop in the mountains.  Icky bug-infested washrooms.  She’s in a Pull-up anyway.  I’m super-exhausted.  How bad a mixed signal would I be sending her if I told her to just pee in her pull-up just this once?  I couldn’t do it.  I picked her up and we went to the washroom which was in fact icky and bug-infested.  It was quite the circus act and a workout getting her pull-up off and on.  Yay…a small victory for mom putting principle and consistency before convenience.  But ask me if I was thinking that as I tried to balance her on my knees as I held a squat for 30 seconds praying I was in good enough shape not to fall on my ass on the questionable liquid slime that blanketed the floor of the washroom.

Anyway, did I mention that #5 was in teething hell during the whole trip?  Another “don’t”:  Don’t go on road trips with a teething baby.  Actually, don’t leave the house when your baby has 4 teeth coming out at once.  He was feverish and irritable and definitely not his perky smiley self.  He wanted me and only me and not only did he want me, he wanted to be carried by me.  Not only did he want to be carried by me, he wanted me to carry him standing up and walking and swaying from side to side.  And he would bite my shoulder or arm intermittently. When he was in the car, he cried if he wasn’t asleep.  I sit diagonally in front of him in the car and he would contort his neck to look at me and frown-cry as if to say, “Why are you doing this to me? Don’t you love me?”

Another “don’t”:  Don’t pass out without giving specific instructions to your children when staying in someone else’s house.  Instructions like “Don’t touch anything that doesn’t belong to you” or “No hide ‘n’ seek” or “No playing with the blinds” or “No pillow fights with the fancy sofa throw pillows.”

We spent the first day resting and then went out for dinner with family.  The kids met 2 cousins for the first time and of course, #3 immediately took one under her wing:

#3 and her little 2-year old cousin.

The next day we took the train from Stamford to NYC.  Another “don’t”:  Don’t take the local train when you can take the express train.  We had just missed the express train to the city and hopped on the next available train.  Had we waited for the express train that heads straight for the city with no stops as opposed to taking the local train which has a million stops (at least it felt that way) we would have shaved off 20 minutes of total time on the train.  20 minutes is a lifetime when you have a teething baby who won’t let you sit down and a toddler who was happy for the first 10 minutes having snacks and then decides to irritate each sister as a means to entertain herself for the rest of the ride.  The one bright spot was watching #3 become exceedingly excited as we got closer and closer to the city.  I swear she was a New Yorker in a past life.  At one point, she stared out the window of the train and started softly singing, “New Yoooorrrrk…Concrete jungle where dreams are made of…there’s nothing you can’t do….”  Hilarious.

We finally get to the city and make our way to Tribeca to go here:

Another “don’t”:  If you have only one day in the city, don’t spend most of it walking even if it means you may not get to some cool places you’ve always wanted to check out.  We originally wanted to spend most of our time in the Greenwich Village/Soho area so this was a major detour.  It’s not so far if you don’t have a 5 year old and 7 year old trying to keep up in nasty New York summer heat amongst the hustle and bustle of the crowds.  The kids enjoyed the arts and crafts projects, smoothies, and the funky forest at Moomah but was it worth the detour?  Not so much.

The kids and their projects...#4 didn't actually have a kit...she just used the scraps from her sisters' kits to make a puppet.

Another “don’t”:  Don’t expect to take a lot of pictures when you are busy taking role call every 90 seconds.  Although I carried #5 in a wrap, I often was holding the hands of 2 children since Ever-Patient was pushing #4 in the stroller and #1 was taking her own pics with her own camera.  And when I decide to take a picture, it’s a whole production – everyone has to move to the side of the street and wait patiently as Mama tries to capture a “candid” moment like this:

This is #1 pretending to hail a cab or be a tourist's confused daughter who wants to capture a "candid" moment of her daughter pretending to hail a cab.

Another “don’t”:  Don’t hype up a particular place unless you know for sure it is NOT closed and under construction.  The last time we went, the kids LOVED the playground at Washington Square.  LOVED.  Next to Central Park, it was their absolute favourite part of the city.  Since we weren’t heading all the way up to Central Park this time around, they were really really looking forward to playing in the playground at Washington Square.  Of course, I didn’t bother to do much research before we left home since last time, we stumbled on so many wonderful surprises on our trip.  And of course, we hike up to Washington Square only to see the entire playground area under construction.  They are disappointed, hot, and tired from walking about 25 blocks.  So what is a mom to do?

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Do you see them yet?

There they are.

That’s right.  They stripped down to their bathing suits and jumped into the Washington Square fountain.  When we had first got there, there was no one in it.   The kids were eyeing it as if it was an oasis and they had spent the last 40 days in the desert.  They didn’t ask to go in although when they looked at me I knew what they wanted.  They wanted to jump in.  I looked around for any signs that would prohibit any type of wading and the only sign I could find was a “No dogs allowed in fountain” sign so I simply waved my arm signalling “Go right ahead” and they squealed with delight and headed in.

#2 and #4 going very slowly...due to the "slippery" fountain floor.

#3 is never camera-shy.

More from Washington Square and the dramatic conclusion of our road trip adventures tomorrow…

(I’m being dramatic…there’s nothing dramatic only more exhaustion of which I’m sure you’ve already guessed.)

NYC 2008.

We just got back from a short trip to nyc.

The details:

Left last Wednesday night and drove 9 hours with sleeping children.

Spent the next 4 days with family and seeing a little bit of the city.

Drove home Sunday night.

So tired but so worth it.

In 2008, we took the kids there for the first time to meet some of Ever-Patient’s American family members at a wedding.  Here are some highlights from that trip:

#4 holding on to our guide as she napped in the stroller.

Walking through Times Square…not our favourite place.

Central Park and #3 performing a song in the middle of it…one of our favourite places.

#1 outside our main mode of transportation (besides walking).

#2 and #3 sharing a stroller made for one (and enjoying a treat from Pinkberry).  This is how we were able to walk over 100 blocks during that trip.  #4 was strapped onto me.

The arch and #1 at Washington Square…another favourite place.

While on our way to Soho, we stumbled upon this playground in Washington Square.  While Ever-Patient was on his search for a good hit of espresso nearby, the kids had a blast here.  It was one of the real highlights of that trip – veering off plan and enjoying the unexpected.

#4 was fascinated by these kept looking down and trying to talk to these:

Lots of delirious silly times on the train back to our hotel on Long Island after a long day in the city.

#4 loved the train rides.

#2’s favourite stop: MoMA….she liked the Dali exhibit (can you see her Dali-esque moustache?):

#2 and #3 walking back and forth the little bridge in the courtyard.  Apparently it was the funniest thing ever.

The gang in Central Park.  No one wanted to leave.

Shopping schmopping.  All the kids need is a good playground.

#4 with a new buddy.

The kids made connections with family on that trip and fell in love with the city and being together.  Our itinerary was full of places we wanted to take the kids but in the end, we were open to detours and hidden gems and listened to their cues for when they just needed to play.

We couldn’t get out there last year since I was uncomfortably pregnant last summer.  But Ever-Patient’s NY cousins came for a visit which strengthened the connection with the kids.  There was a familiarity and comfort level as if the kids had known them forever.  So this year, we decided to continue the tradition and head out there for a brief 4-day road trip.

Were we able to re-create the magic of our 2008 trip?  Did we survive NYC with 5 kids in tow?

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post: NYC 2010.