Friday, November 30, 2007

A [n Unwanted] Room Of Her Own

I have to say, not much about parenting has completely surprised me. I suppose I might have been surprised by some things when Jonah was a baby, like the fact that newborns have no eyebrows, or that raisins come out pretty much exactly as they go in. But I can't remember the last time I felt as caught off guard as I felt when I realized that Hilary decidedly did NOT want her own room, which is what she got when Erika moved in to her new room last week.

Honestly, it never occurred to me that there was anyone who wouldn't want a room of her own. But that's just my bias as the older child, the one who was always desperate for privacy to write angst-ridden poetry and listen to Air Supply. I don't even know, so many years later, if Keri ever wanted her own room, or if she liked having me close by, the way Hilary obviously liked being close to Erika, so much so that she announced she was going to sleep in Erika's trundle every night. We told her that wasn't an option, and almost every night since she's come into our room minutes after being tucked in to mournfully inform us that she had a bad dream and needs to sleep in our bed.

Andy told Hilary that when Gretchen was a little older, she could move in to Hilary's room, and Hilary seemed pleased by that idea. I'm curious to see whether she's as enchanted by it when she's six. In other words, what plays the greatest role in shaping our desires: age, birth order or inborn temperament? I can't help but wonder, as I imagine Keri and Matty have also, how Declan might be different if he was growing up as the older of two children in a home instead of the middle of what basically amounts to a family of seven.

Overall, though, Hilary's adjusting pretty well. We're trying to spend more time with her, and we praise her for what a big girl she is. And the fact is, she doesn't hate everything about having her own room. Like every kid in the world, she really loves sleeping on the top bunk, which she claimed the night Erika moved out.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

You Don't Know From a Lot of Kids

Declan has a book called A Squash and a Squeeze (by the wonderful duo Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, who also brought us the fabulous Gruffalo) that tells of an old woman who thought her house was too small. A wise old man had her bring in various farm animals to pack the house, then release them one by one. After the last animal is gone, the old woman is thrilled to have so much room in her house. Moral of the story? It's all relative. This past weekend we got a taste of that ourselves.

I never thought I'd say it, but thank goodness there are only 7 kids in this house.

I always thought 7 was a lot of kids. (See earlier post, "A Lot of Kids.") But at various points during the holiday weekend, we had as many as 20 kids roaming the house. They weren't particularly difficult children, but let's face it: 20 kids is a lot of kids. That's 20 cups of juice, 20 plates of food they won't even eat, 20 cries for dessert, 20 mouths to silence with a movie (for the record, The Sound of Music).

The kids, for the most part, had a blast, though the inevitable cliques and clubs started and folded melodramatically. Tears were shed. But there was also lots of laughter. Amy, her friend Katrina (mother to 3 of the aforementioned kids), and I took 10 of the kids to see Enchanted (when I asked for 3 adults and 10 children's tickets, the usher replied, "Good luck with that"); we took up an entire row and none of the kids made a peep... until after the movie, when 9-year-old Carlyn pronounced the movie "too kissy."

But the fact remains, as sad as I was to see all our friends and family leave, I'm happy that we're back to 'just' 7 kids in the house. I know these kids. I know their fights. And I know we're absolutely, positively, definitely not having any more kids.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Room Of Her Own

If there was one longing that defined my childhood, it was my desire for my own space. When I was ten, I wrote a letter to President Reagan, begging for a little plot of land for a garden (I received a form letter in reply, regretfully informing me that the president couldn't possibly grant every favor that was requested of him). I made my mother nail bedspreads to the ceiling of the room Keri and I shared, and insisted that Keri say "Knock, knock," if she wanted to come over to my side. So as long as Andy and I have been together, I've been adamant that I would never have more kids than I could provide individual rooms for. When we moved into our white elephant of a house with its eight bedrooms, it seemed like that would never be an issue. Then again, I never anticipated having five children, or that Keri and Matty and their kids would move in with us. Suddenly, everyone but Jonah was sharing. And it was fine, until the last few months, when the novelty of bunk beds had long worn off and Erika began melting down on a regular basis about the "little kids" that were always following her around and "messing up" her stuff.

I readily admit, I was sympathetic. And Matty told me that the storage room at the back of the second floor could be converted into a bedroom easily enough, just by ripping out some built-in cabinets and giving it a bright coat of paint. At first, my plan was to set the whole room up and surprise Erika, but I chickened out when I realized that if she was too afraid to sleep so far away from everyone else, I would be stuck with a lilac and buttercup guest room. So I told her, and she was as thrilled as I hoped she'd be. She moved in on Thanksgiving day, even though the carpet, desk and nightstands haven't arrived yet, and her clothes are still in her old room because I'm still cleaning out the closets in her new room. She hasn't even complained about the fact that the room is always cold - and I mean really cold, sixty degrees cold, two comforters and a space heater cold. But I know I wouldn't have complained either. She's just happy, as I would have been, to have a door knob to hang her "Keep out" sign from.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Lot of Kids

Sunday night, through an unusual set of circumstances, Andy found himself in charge of 5 of the 7 kids in the house. On Monday, he admitted to me that he hoped he wouldn't be judged as 'Uncle Andy' on the basis of his performance Sunday night. "It's a lot of kids," he admitted.

Monday night, those kids reminded us of why we all live together in the first place. It was about 7:30pm, the last hour before bed ticking slowly by. The kids were scattered, but then Matty started kicking around some tennis balls in the foyer. Erika jumped in front of the steps to play goalie. Declan heard the commotion and ran in to help Erika block balls. Ronan jumped at the chance to throw tennis balls--hard--without repercussion. Aaron toddled in, eager to be a part of the gang. Hilary made a valiant, if failed, effort at goalie.

Everyone was throwing balls, everyone was getting hit by balls. No one was crying. Andy taught Erika how to throw properly, Matty taught Declan how to catch properly (for a 3-year-old). No one noticed the clock tick past bedtime.

This is what I envisioned when we first talked about moving in with my sister. Sure, it happens. We just need to make it happen more.

I Already Failed

Though I must admit I was tempted to fake a few posts by backdating them, I have to concede that just 2 days into November I dropped the ball on the NaBloPo challenge. Many apologies to my reader.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Must... Post... More... Often...

In the hopes of guilting myself into posting more often, I signed up for NaBloPoMo--National Blog Posting Month. The goal is to post once a day for the month of November. Two posts today--I better pace myself.

Halloween Through the Eyes of a Child

If you think about it, Halloween is a truly bizarre holiday. We take our children to strange homes, ring the bell, and take candy from strangers. No wonder Ronan had such a hard time with this yesterday. It might also have something to do with his lack of a sense of time. What's the point in saving candy for later when you can eat it right now?

Here's how Ronan does trick or treating: Take candy, try to tear open candy with teeth until grown-up takes pity and intervenes, eat candy, at next house, throw candy on the ground to begin ritual anew. If I actually got the candy out of Ronan's hand before he ate it and put it into his candy sack (which was mostly empty), he would wail and run back to grab some more candy from the unsuspecting homeowner. It was pretty cute, and it was a special occasion, so we caved and mostly let him eat candy all night.

I was actually quite impressed with Declan's approach to trick or treating. After each house he would ask, "Are we going to see more people now?" Not, "Are we going to get more candy now?" He seemed to really enjoy the social aspect of the holiday. That's not to say that he didn't eat more than his fair share of candy, and of course there were tears shed later at home when we shut him off.

In fact, all the kids were happiest when we ran into other groups of trick or treaters on the street. Unfortunately, that rarely happened, as we seem to live near a decidedly quiet neighborhood. The other kids we did run into, mostly all preteen girls, were quite sweet with our little ones, exclaiming over their costumes and constantly crying and pointing, "You're so cute!"

And they were so cute. Hilary made an adorable Minnie Mouse, Erika a cuddly white bunny, and Ronan a solo little pig. But not Declan.

"I'm not a baby!" he whined when I told him how cute he looked. I conceded that he was, indeed, a very scary pirate. Satisfied, he cried to be carried and stuck his thumb in his mouth.