Short-Term Memory Loss

Somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of the night, something in the mind of a child seems to reset. I’m convinced they forget every single thing that occurred in the previous 24 hours while they sleep.

Every morning, I wake my kids up for school. And every morning, it’s like I have to remind them of every single step of getting ready in the morning. They seem in awe at the fact that they have to wear pants. They don’t understand why I get frustrated at the blank stare I receive when I tell them to put their shoes on. Each morning, it’s like they’re doing everything for the first time in their lives and don’t have the faintest clue what to do next. “You mean I have to get dressed today?” “What?!? There’s school today?!?”

Like this, only without penguins and a German she-male.

And while I’m on the subject of shoes, why is it that kids never seem to have a clue where their shoes are? You know that you designated a place for them to put their shoes when they take them off. You know that no one else wore their shoes yesterday. You know it, and yet they seem convinced that in the night, some being of darkness must sneak into our house for the sole purpose of wreaking havoc upon their shoe collection and ruining the morning.

But the more I think about it, I think it must happen more than just at night. Think about it. You know they spend six to seven hours of their day in school. You know they learned things. You know they had recess. You know their teacher talked to them. But every day, you ask them how school was. Their response, “Good.” So, like the good parent you are, you ask them, “What did you learn?”

Easy question, don’t you think? But without fail, their answer is always, “I don’t know.” So, you press them for clues. “What did you do at school today?” They reply, “Uhhh…umm…I had a corn dog for lunch!”

You, as the good parent, keep searching for any hint. “What did your teacher talk about?” Blank stares, followed by, “I don’t remember.”

You know your children have just spent approximately half of their waking hours at school. But for whatever reason, they have no recollection of anything that occurred during that time. What exactly do they do at school?

I'm guessing it looks something like this.

So, they wake up each day and have no clue what they need to do to prepare for the day. You send them on their merry way to school, and when they return home, they have absolutely no clue what their day consisted of. And then it comes time for bed. They seem surprised every night when the same time rolls around and you tell them it’s bedtime.

Either their memory is like an etch-a-sketch, or the Men in Black are sneaking in and wiping their memory with that little pen thing.

Whatever the cause, this leaves us, as parents, feeling like we’re stuck in a different film:

Yep, this is my life.

Until next time…

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Survival Tip #4

It’s Monday. I can remember back to the days of being a kid. Saturday morning would come and I could hardly get out of bed fast enough. There were cartoons to watch!!! I’d tear out of my bed faster than a cat trying to avoid a bath (trust me, that’s fast)! I’d flip on the TV and turn the volume down as fast as I could so I wouldn’t wake up my parents (that’s something my kids haven’t learned yet, I guess). And I’d turn the channel to the USA Network, ready to take in what they referred to as the “Cartoon Express.”

Cartoon Express: One of the few good things to come out of the 80's!

These days, however, there is no tearing out of bed Saturday morning for me. There is no racing to the TV to see what I’d be missing if I had slept in. No, sadly that eagerness has been replaced with the adult (boring) habit of attempting to sleep in. I say attempting because it rarely ever happens.

One thing I fail to understand is that the same kids you literally have to threaten to get out of bed for school each morning mysteriously can’t seem to sleep past the first hint of sunlight come Saturday morning. I guess I could understand it if the Cartoon Express still existed…heck, we don’t even have cable!

So, with that in mind, I present…

Survival Tip #4: Learn to ENJOY the Weekend

Monday through Friday I’m awake before 6:00 AM. Sunday I’m up around 7:00 to make sure we make it to church on time (five kids take time to get ready!). So, when Saturday rolls around, my natural instinct is to cling to every last bit of sleep I possibly can. Unfortunately, as I mentioned about, those natural instincts are usually destroyed disturbed by the results of some other natural instincts.

So, since sleep isn’t really an option, why not enjoy the weekend? Hang out with your kids! Do something fun!

I can hear you saying now, “But Mike, I have five kids. I can’t afford to do anything fun!” Hey, I have five kids too, I know how it is. But your idea of fun (fun=expensive) doesn’t equal your kids idea of fun (fun=cardboard box or fun=making strange noises). Make sure you’re not so eager to cross things off your to do list that you just leave your kids to do whatever they think is fun on their own. Odds are anyway that their idea of fun will be to be directly in the way of your idea of productivity (more likely, their idea of fun will be to destroy everything you’ve accomplished).

Saturday is most likely the only day you’ll get in a week to have fun. Sure, you might squeeze something in on an evening somewhere. But bottom line is, you’re usually too wiped out to try to have fun on a weeknight. So, next Saturday, take your family and do something fun. It can just be running around in the yard. It can be having a family movie day in front of the TV. It can be whatever your imagination can dream up. Kids are entertained very differently than you, so just make sure you’re doing something to recharge your emotional and physical batteries.

And if you don’t get Saturdays off, pick another day of the week to be your fake Saturday. You need it. Your kids need it. Your health and life depends on it.  Am I typing this as someone who has been great at doing this? No!  It’s more like I’m preaching to the choir here! It’s something I am going to try and be more purposeful about.

So go, enjoy your day off and have fun.

Until next time.

Some Days You Gotta Pick & Choose

Let me start my latest blog post by saying I’m sorry it has been three days since my last post (feel like I’m in a Confessional or something). When I started this blog, my goal was to post every day. I missed one day in the first week due to illness, which couldn’t be helped.

This time around, missing three days in a row causes a variety of different reactions in me. On one hand, I’m frustrated because I didn’t achieve the goal I set. But on the other hand, I know that my reasons for “skipping it” were valid. The first day I missed posting was because I had a long day and needed to just unwind and not think about “doing” anything. The two following days, we had company over.  We played games, ate dinner, goofed off, and had fun. And, I have to keep telling myself that is ok.

You see, as a parent your life is a constant juggling match (is that a thing?), spending every waking hour trying to keep all your priorities straight and trying to make sure you get everything done that needs to be done. From the moment you wake up, until the time you actually fall asleep, there are demands (not just children) pulling you in every direction. When you’re single, you can go home after work and do NOTHING. Even when you’re married without kids, you get home, spend some time together and you can both decide to do NOTHING.

But once you have kids – and remember, I have five of them – you very rarely have those NOTHING moments. Somebody needs help finding pants. Someone else needs help tying their shoe. Somebody is hungry. One of them is thirsty. This one needs help with her homework. This one forgot he has a paper due in the morning. There’s always stuff…never NOTHING.

I ran across a shirt online that is a good idea (in theory), but in reality doesn’t work with multiple children:

The person who designed this shirt clearly has no children.

With one kid, you might be able to keep them busy playing toddler/parent ping-pong. But if you have multiple children, there’s always another one standing in line, waiting (<sarcasm> patiently, of course </sarcasm>) for something from you. Bottom line is: Life with Children = Busy Life.

So, as a parent, you just have to sometimes choose to let things go. Some days you have to decide that although you desperately need to shave, it can wait. Some days you have to just decide to let cleaning the garage go another week. Some days you just have to find someone to watch the kids and take some time to do NOTHING. It’s the only way you can survive as a parent.

So, although I feel bad about missing a few days blogging, life goes on. I had to take a few days to have fun and relax a little. I’ll try not to miss another day, but it’s bound to happen. So, with that in mind…

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…

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…

Survival Tip #2

As a father of five, things work a little differently than a parent with one or two kids.  When you have one or two kids, juggling kids and responsibilities is a breeze.  Sure, I can (vaguely) remember back to having two kids and thinking life was overwhelming.  But in reality, it’s a simple issue of manageability.

Here’s the math to support my hypothesis:

Parent A + Parent B = 4 hands, and 4 > 2.

This means either

(1) Parent A manages two kids at once with two hands, freeing Parent B up to do whatever needs done with the two remaining hands (clean up messes, shop for groceries, pick their nose (you know they do), etc.).

OR

(2) Parent A manages one child with one hand while Parent B manages the other child with one hand, freeing up one hand per parent for any required tasks.

Unless one (or both, God forbid) parents are amputees, or one parent is a double-amputee, the math (and logic) are sound.  Simple, easy, manageable children.  Even if you were to increase the number of kids to four (provided both parents have full use of both upper limbs), there are still the same number of hands as children.

Parent A + Parent B = 4 hands (still), and 4 = 4.

Sure, in this scenario, life becomes difficult as there are no extra hands to get anything done – leading to more messes and difficulty getting everyday tasks completed.  Difficult, but not impossible.

But, when you graduate to kid number five, you have a simple irrational equation.

Parent A + Parent B = 4 hands (magic how that works each time)

But suddenly, there is an imbalance as 4 < 5.  And barring growing a third arm (depending upon your proximity to a hazardous waste dump), picking up a Parent C is your only option.  But, since polygamy is illegal in most states, and it usually leads to even more kids anyhow, that option rules itself out.

So, here I am to present:

Survival Tip #2: Strength in Numbers (or Dividing the Troops).

When my wife and I go shopping, we do one of two things (depending on how our kids are acting. We either go together or one of us keeps the kids while the other goes to the store.  One thing I’ve found that seems to help when we go together is getting two shopping carts.  We’ll each have one of the youngest kids in our cart, and then we set our kids up in formation, leaving one of us with three kids (usually me), and one of us (usually my wife) with two (she has them at home more, she deserves a break).

On the rare occasion we’re feeling brave (aka, stupid), we stick with one cart and have a hilarious sight for all the other shoppers.  In the cart, sitting in the basket are the two youngest – Seth & Ellie.  Standing on the front of the cart, our seven year old, Josh.  And flanking the cart on either side are the two oldest, Oriyah & Joey.  This is only on the rare occasion when we’re after something quickly, because there isn’t a lot of room (or safety) for very much stuff in the cart with two kids.

So if you have five kids, make sure you’re a team and if you’re going to take all the kids, make sure you both go.  It’s for your own good.  Alternately, you could hire a babysitter or convince a family member to watch them – but with five kids, it is incredibly difficult to find someone who is brave (aka, stupid) enough to want to take them all.

If you’re a single parent, I’m so sorry.  You’ll need to either find a Parent B or grow three more arms.

Pictured Above: The Typical Single Parent (I think).

Until next time…

The Economy of Parenthood

As previously mentioned, I get a lot of questions about being a father of five.  Recently, someone asked me to give an estimate of how many diapers I’ve changed.  Unfortunately (but probably not), I haven’t kept track.  As a father of five, there’s no time to worry about such petty things.  I’m too busy making sure Seth doesn’t tackle Ellie or Joey and Josh aren’t play fighting to count diapers.

This did, however, get me thinking.  Oriyah is going to be turning eleven in April…well past the diaper stage (thankfully!).  I changed her first diaper on the day of her birth, April 13, 2001.  As I thought through all the years and all the kids, it occurred to me that the only time in my life as a parent that I haven’t had to handle diapers was an approximately three month stint between Seth being potty-trained and the birth of Ellie.  To review, outside of those three months, I have been changing (and buying) diapers for almost eleven years straight!

This brings me to the economy of parenthood. Being a parent isn’t for the faint of heart.  And although I haven’t kept track, they say on average a child goes through 4 – 6 diapers a day from birth until they are potty trained.  So, let’s do some math.

According to this site, it has been 10 years, 9 months & 11 days since I changed Oriyah’s first diaper.  In days, that is 3,938! Man, how time flies!

So, if we’re to subtract the approximately three months we spent diaper-less, I’ll use the average month length of 30 – removing 90 days from the total.  That leaves us with 3,848 days of buying (and changing) diapers.  If we were to just calculate average number of diapers (we’ll say 5) times the number of days, we’d end up with having changed 19,240 diapers!!!  That number blows my mind.

But wait…that doesn’t account for the times we had more than one kid at a time in diapers.  With five kids, that was a lot of days.  So, for a (hopefully) more accurate number, I went to this baby trivia site. It says the average child will go through 7,000 to 9,000 diapers from birth to fully potty-trained.  So, taking the median of 8,000 times our first four kids (Ellie isn’t potty-trained yet), we would have changed 32,000 diapers.

To find out how many diapers we’ve changed for Ellie thus far, we would take the average of five diapers daily for the 656 days she has been alive.  This would add 3,280 more diapers to our total.

Add it all together, and you’d get……..*drum roll please*……35,280 diapers changed so far!!!

Now to the dollars and cents of it.  On Wal-mart’s website, the cheapest pack of diapers is $9.47, which Wal-mart says averages out to $0.19 per diaper.  While there is a wide variety in price (and quality) of diapers, we’ll use this figure for the purpose of our parenting economics lesson.

So, if we’ve bought and changed 35,280 diapers at a cost of $0.19 per diaper, that would mean we have spent approximately $6,703.20 on diapers (so far)!!!

My mind is melting!!!

That would buy a very nice used car!  That would be enough to go on more than three cruises with my wife!!!  That would be enough to do a whole variety of different things.  And that doesn’t even take baby wipes into account. But, children are a gift from God and so we’ll take them as they are – dirty diapers and all.

Just think about how much more money we’ll have once we’re done with diapers.  But…just about the time they’re done using diapers, they start eating more and wanting more entertainment, and on and on.  But that’s another blog post for another day.

Until next time…