The Art of the Melt-down

In my years as a father, I’ve noticed something alarming. I am thoroughly convinced that our children are secretly plotting together in a concerted effort to destroy any scrap of sanity we might have remaining (which is not a lot with five kids).

We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of the store and one of your kids totally loses their cool. It might be a fit over not getting that toy they so desperately “need.” It could be they have to go potty 2 1/2 minutes after you just took them to the potty. It could be they are so hungry they simply can’t wait another minute for you to provide sustenance for their frail, weak, emaciated little bodies. (If you made it through this paragraph without picking up on the thickly-laden cynical sarcasm, please do one of the following: (a) Re-read that paragraph using every ounce of sarcasm in your being, (b) Stop reading now. This obviously isn’t the blog for you, or (c) Dress like a pirate, go to the grocery store, and address everyone as “Me Matey!”)

"Where be your ranch dressing, Me Matey?!?"

Or maybe you’re catching up with friends right after church. One of your kids obviously must’ve stumbled upon a hidden stash of pure sugar, and is now running in circles all around the foyer, despite any attempt at discipline. You’re embarrassed out of your mind, worried that one of the well-meaning church ladies might try to cast a demon out of them if they don’t stop (sometimes YOU wonder).

But have you ever noticed that only on very rare occasions will more than one of your children have a melt-down? Sure, there’s certain days where more than one will have issues – such as the day after Halloween, the day after Easter, anywhere within a two week window either side of Christmas, etc. But outside those “special days,” that is a rare occasion. And that, I submit to you, is no coincidence.

Late at night when you’re convinced they’re sleeping, I’m convinced your children are gathering for a conference. For the sake of this blog post (it’s my blog, suck it!), I’ll call it the “Crazy Conference.” At this meeting, your children are secretly plotting together to ruin any shred of mental health that might exist. In my head, this is a very organized meeting. I imagine the children follow Robert’s Rules of Order and make up an official agenda. Although I have yet to find a meeting agenda for one, I’m convinced the agenda would look something like this:

Derrickson Children
Crazy Conference Agenda
Monday, January 30, 2012

  1. Call to Order – 2:00 AM
  2. Reading of the Minutes from the Previous Meeting
  3. Unfinished Business
    1. Grocery Shopping Prevention Measures
    2. Re-evaluate Effectiveness of Church Foyer Policies
  4. New Business
    1. Stopgap Plan to Prevent Future Dinner Invitations
    2. Fundraising Strategies to Replenish Hidden Candy Stockpile
  5. Next Meeting – Monday, February 6, 2012 – 2:00 AM
  6. Adjournment

"And then you'll climb up on Dad's head like this..."

My plan is to try and infiltrate one of these meetings and see if I can dismantle this organization. My sanity depends on it. If you don’t hear from me in the next week or so, please alert the local authorities to look for my body in the McDonald’s ball pit.

Until next time…

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Getting Organized

For 2012, we’ve been working on bringing more focus to our lives. For January, this involved cutting Television out of our life. During all the times we’d just default to turning on the TV and plopping on the couch, we instead devoted that same time to doing productive things. We’d do something with our kids, knock out a project we’d been wanting to do, spend time talking together, etc. This blog was one of the things that was birthed from our “No TV” month. I discovered I desperately needed a hobby – and now this is it.

For February, our focus is to find ways to be more organized in our lives. If you couldn’t guess, when you have seven people living under one roof, life tends to be kind of busy. So, we’re looking for ways to get organized and keep track of the busyness of life.

We first attempted to map out what we needed on paper. It looked a little something like this:

Makes sense, right?!?

Our list consisted of my work events, Becky’s work events, church events, personal things, family events, etc.

So, instead we opted to go the electronic route. We both have Android phones and are Gmail users, so we decided to create several different shared calendars that we’d be able to take the chaotic list and bring some organization to.

We downloaded an app for our phones that would pull in calendar events and tasks from Gmail into an easily readable list on our phones. I have been using the app – called Gtasks – for quite a while with my personal calendar, so I knew how to use it already.

For the better part of the evening, we’ve been plugging in events on each calendar. The nice thing about going this route is if I only want to see family events (days off from school, birthdays, etc.), I can deselect the other calendars. Or if I just need to know what my wife’s schedule is, I can only select her calendar.

Of course, if we have all calendars visible at once, it begins to look a little bit like the photo above, but you can look at the whole schedule by month, week, or even one day. We’re hoping this can be effective and we can stay on top of everything.

It should be more effective than our current system!

If you have any other ideas to help us get organized, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Until next time…

Survival Tip #3

For my regular readers (as regular as a little over a week blogging can be), you’ll remember that Survival Tip #1 was “waking up early.” With that in mind, I present:

Survival Tip #3: Staying Up Late

I realize that to the uninitiated, this tip stands in direct opposition to tip #1. I can hear you (or the sleep-deprived voices in my head) saying, “But Mike, if you’re waking up early AND staying up late, aren’t you tired?!?” And my answer to you is, “YES!” (My answer to the voices in my head is, “Shutup! I’m trying to write a blog post here!”).

According to the National Sleep Foundation (who knew that existed before now?), adults need anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. But if you need 7 to 9 hours of sleep, obviously they’re dealing in averages. There is no such thing as getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep! You can get 7 hours of sleep, you can get 9 hours of sleep, or you can get anywhere in between. So, if they’re dealing in averages, it must mean that there are adults out there who can survive on less sleep, and adults out there who need more than that. And with my scientifical hypothesis (made up words make things sound official), I’m perfectly fine only getting an average of 5 to 7 hours of sleep (again with the averages!). Most nights I get at least six hours of sleep, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. And sometimes, I get a lot less (not very often).

I’m just confident that out there somewhere, there is some man or woman who sleeps an average of 12 to 15 hours per day. But the problem with that is, either this person is living in his or her parents basement or they’re working some job that they get paid $80 an hour and only have to work 20 hours a week. (Where can I get that job?!?).

If you’re a parent with five kids, you just have to learn to survive on little to no sleep. You see, after the kids go to bed is the only time you get with your spouse and with yourself. From the time you wake the kids up in the morning, to the time they fall asleep, life is constantly demanding things of you. You wake the kids up, they need help finding socks (or pants).  You get to work, and the day is full of people demanding stuff from you.  You get home, and there’s always things to do around the house (with five kids, there is ALWAYS stuff for you to do around the house).

So, that time after the kids are actually asleep (which is sometime well after the kids’ bedtime) is your only time to relax, decompress, spend time with your spouse, etc. If you want to survive as a parent with a lot of kids, this is your only saving grace.  You see, if you don’t have any time to relax and decompress, you’ll end up like an overcooked hot dog (which as a parent with a lot of kids, you’ll see a lot).

This one, specifically.

So, although you’ll be tired and sleep-deprived, you’ll need to wake up early AND stay up late.  It’s the only way to have a chance at remaining sane in any way at all.

Until next time…

Do it Again

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years as a father, it’s that you’d better be prepared to do anything – and I mean ANYTHING – a second time.

Working on something on the computer…get up for a second to run to the restroom…forget to hit save…and when you return, you find one of your children composing a literary masterpiece (mostly made up of random letters) in its place.

Like this, only less hairy.

Proud of your accomplishment as you’ve finally managed to catch up on dishes and laundry for once…turn your back for five minutes, and the hampers are full, lunch was made, and all your hard work has been destroyed.

Things like this happen so frequently when you have five kids, you learn to just sort of accept it as normal.  If you go to bed at night with a clean house, you expect to awaken to a tornado-stricken federal disaster area in the morning.  If you were to wake up and it was actually still clean, you would seriously swear upon the existence of tiny cleaning elves or housekeeping aliens (if that were a thing, I’d totally be on the alien welcoming committee).

But if you set your mind on the fact that you’ll have to do pretty much everything more than once, your life can be so much happier.  Sure, you could walk around frustrated at the monotony of it all.  But seriously, who has the time (or blood pressure) for that?

And when I say you’ll have to do it all more than once, I do mean almost everything!  For instance, you should’ve seen the first draft of this post that I had almost done BEFORE Ellie came over and smacked some random button on the side of the keyboard that closed my browser.  It was WAY better than this garbage you’re reading right now!

I looked like this, only with better hair...and no tie.

I’d take more time to (re)write it, but I’ve got to go do something (again).

Until next time…

Irony

So apparently in response to my previous post, my body decided to play a practical joke on me…and now I’m not feeling the greatest.  Just thought I’d say…It’s not fair!!!

Until next time…

Fairness Among Siblings

As a father of five, I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon among my children. I’m sure this is something that is common to all children, but it seems to be amplified the more children you have.

This strange phenomenon I have noticed is this mindset that everything has to be “fair.” It’s a principle I’ve tried to instill in them since they were very young that life isn’t fair. A simple glance at pretty much anything in society tells us that life isn’t fair. Some people have more, some people have less. Some people life long, healthy lives, and some people’s lives are cut short by illness. Even people who live healthy lifestyles often die earlier than expected. Plain and simple, life isn’t fair. God is good in spite of it, but life is most definitely not fair.

Yet when it comes to children, they’re obsessed with everything being fair. “He got more than me!!!” “Why does she get to stay up later than me?!?” “Why can’t I ride in the car without a booster?!?”

So we, as parents, go out of our way to try to make everything as even as possible. We count the number of crackers, we line up their bowls to make sure they look the same. It’s absurd, really, the lengths we go to reinforce this notion of fairness. But we do it anyhow, just to try and have one more meal, one more moment without hearing someone whine!

And I guess I can understand their desire to have things fair. They want to have the same amount of food and the same amount of Christmas presents and such. I get that. But all that aside, there’s another part of the “Fairness Doctrine” (not this one) which I just can’t understand.

The fairness to which I refer is a frequent occurrence when you have five children. If one child is sick, the other children seem to envy the attention and “special treatment” (sprite, crackers, obligatory barf bowl, etc.) the sick child receives.

So, these otherwise healthy children will begin to project the symptoms of the sick child. If your sick one has a tummy ache, suddenly someone else’s tummy aches. If the afflicted one has back pain, suddenly another child is on the ground writhing in pain, asking you to rub their back too. If the one who is ill is throwing up, one of your other children will start coughing and say they’re going to throw up. If your little prince or princess is stuck on the throne with diarrhea, suddenly another one just HAS to go potty really bad.

And again, I understand fairness in food and the amount of gifts. But this equality in illness just doesn’t make any sense. If I’m eating my brown bag lunch at work and one of my co-workers brings in a burger and fries from the cafeteria, I’m suddenly afflicted with food envy. But never in a million years have I heard (or watched) someone being sick and thought, “Gee, I wish that was me…I wish my diet could consist of yesterday’s lunch, lukewarm sprite, and saltine crackers too.

How bulimia starts.

If you understand this, I’d love to hear your theory. I guess this is one part of parenthood I just have to throw (my hands) up and resign myself to never understand.

Until next time…