Staying Sane: Not-so-Small Blessings

Let’s be honest. Holidays are stressful times. I’ve made it through this one – my first as a divorce, sharing my kids. What had started as an unbelievably frustrating experience with co-parent, wound up as a week+ of adventure, re-connections, and more focused time with the individual kids. I am ending an amazing Thanksgiving holiday, newly divorced, and feeling the fullest I have in years.

Some background: I had planned a trip back east to take part in my brother’s wedding celebration the weekend before Thanksgiving. As the time got closer, me and co-parent had to ask for the help of a child mediator to help us sort through the holidays (ridiculous, I know). I wound up with this first Thanksgiving. But at this point, it was too late for any of my family to fly out. Despite this, I was convinced that I could still make this a fun Thanksgiving for the kids so I agreed to this arrangement.

As time drew near, it hit me. Take Big Bro and Red with me, and keep Twin Crazy and Twin Husky behind with co-parent. We worked out a schedule where I stayed with Twin Crazy and Twin Husky (two on one) the time immediately before and immediately after our trip – And me, Big Bro, and Red had a full week away two-on-one. So each parent had two-on-one time with pairs of kids during the 10-day time span.

It was amazing.


These are the things that I LOVED about this trip:

  • Big Bro’s defiance and self-assertion removing the jeans that I packed for him. He only likes wearing shorts now (West Coast, I know). He wound up a week in Philly with shorts on freezing his little ass off.
  • Big Bro and Red’s amazing enthusiasm for the trip, and helping every step of the way. I told them that travel days are difficult and that we have to help each other out when we need to. Big Bro was defiant in wanting to pull our one piece of luggage, and Red carried the toy roller bag that she and Big Bro packed together.
  • WE ALL SLEPT ON THE RED-EYE PLANE! We somehow arranged ourselves to all be horizontal and sleeping on each other and actually getting sleep. I loved cuddling with my little kiddos this way and feeling so close to them.
  • I know this is bad for me to say, but yes, I enjoyed sharing a bed with both of these kids for the ENTIRE week. Somehow traveling makes it sort of OK, but I know a hard habit to break.
  • Running at my Aunt’s house in her backyard with each of the kids. I wanted to get their bodies moving after our nap at her house. I wanted some exercise. We had a great time playing tag, chasing after each other, me running against Big Bro while having Red on my back… I loved it and they were giggling like you wouldn’t believe.
  • Seeing my brother and extended family and welcoming his wife and son officially into our family. I am so happy for them. It was also wonderful to see so many of my extended family in one setting – I so rarely am able to do this. So at least two of my kids got the opportunity to see my aunts, uncles, cousins, close friends of family. It is unbelievable to me that the Twins are almost 3 and have yet to meet so many of my family…
  • Dancing with Red and Big Bro at the wedding celebration.
  • Seeing Red and Big Bro interact so well with everyone at the wedding celebration.
  • Connecting with so many that are now so far away from me.
  • Cheesesteaks and pizza. The way they were meant to be.
  • Being able to do work and have productive days while at my mom’s house. She was able to entertain the kids and I was able to be productive and actually work remotely on those days. In fact, I talked to two prospective clients and they have decided to join our forums… so this was extra big for me this past week.
  • Playing “War” with Big Bro and Red.
  • Walking with Big Bro and Red and Nana and her dog and collecting leaves along the way. The leaves were gorgeous. Bright reds. Bright yellows.
  • Running with the kids up and down hills in my mom’s neighborhood.
  • Playing chase and hide and seek with the kids in my mom’s neighborhood.
  • Doing homework and daywork (he missed two days of school for this trip) with Big Bro. I love spending time with him and these activities. He really enjoys the work and learning. I love being there with him and encouraging him to learn.
  • Working with Red on her letters; she wants desperately to mimic her brother with his schoolwork. We wrote out the names of her classmates and used those letters to create words. We drew out a number line and Big Bro taught her how to use it for simple arithmetic. She was hooked. She kept craving more and more and more equations to work on and she did SOOOOOO amazingly well at them. I am so unbelievably proud of her.
  • My mom’s dog finally accepting these kids and letting them pet her gently and her kissing each of them and interacting with them; seeing Big Bro and Red every now and then simply reaching out to her when they were in the middle of doing something to pet her and acknowledge her existence and show their affection to her. I thank Cocoa for this and having them had some experience with a pet of their own.
  • Trying to see Santa but we were first too early and then too late. Big Bro’s response: “Great! Now we get to go home and have ice-cream!!”. He was not upset at all. We all laughed.
  • Big Bro’s response to my step-father’s pancreatic cancer: “He did not look as sick as I thought he would.” So I guess the little guy was preparing himself for the worst and thinking of my step-dad looking more sick (he is thinner, but does look great otherwise). Afterwards, we talked about cancer, what it is (cells that are growing too fast and they crowd out the good, healthy cells), and how you can’t really cure it. You can either take it out, or use medicine to help control the growth. Big Bro understood and said that Joe-Joe Pop was not going to get better, but the medicine he was taking would help to keep him feeling better longer. I wanted to reach out and squeeze this kid so badly then.
  • Red playing with her toy “pets” that Nana gave her and her sharing with Big Bro. Both of them caring for these “pets” during the trip and also drawing yards and even GARDENS for the pets to live in. I love the fact that the garden I am trying to build is making an impact on them. They drew the things in the garden that they wanted to grow that they thought would be good for the pets.
  • Spending Thanksgiving with family. It has always been my favorite holiday, before the kids arrived. It was such a better way to spend the day – with my mom, my uncle, my brother, his family, and Big Bro/Red. It felt right.
  • Seeing Big Bro and Red play so well with their cousin. The twins have yet to meet him.
  • During a conference call, I spent time cutting out hand-drawn “carrots” and “apples” for above mentioned pet gardens.
  • Ice-cream each night with Nana and the kids.
  • Big Bro taking a shower by himself.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and donuts.
  • Two plane rides back with absolutely no tears or breakdowns. These kids are seasoned travelers. Playing “war” with them while they enjoyed their drinks of apple and orange juice with two straws.











I absolutely loved the time I had with these kids. I did miss the Twins, but it was so amazing to spend so much one-on-one time with these older kids. When one kid would ask me to do something with them, I was actually able to respond with “Yes, I’d love to do that with you“. I saw the impact in their eyes and still feel so lucky to have shared this time with them.


When we returned, I dropped Red and Big Bro off with co-parent and picked up Twin Crazy and Twin Husky for the weekend.

These are the things that I LOVED about this weekend:

  • Twin Husky saying “Let’s go!!!” when I picked them up.
  • Twin Crazy saying “I’m glad that you came back” when we drove home. Twin Husky repeating and agreeing with her.
  • Walking into my first home after my first personal travel trip away. It smelled good; different; I felt completely at ease. The rest of the weekend I enjoyed doing house projects and cleaning. I love this home.
  • Waking up late with only two of the kids. Waking up to Twin Husky (as usual) and then Twin Crazy in my bed. Them understanding that we would get up at 8 AM.
  • Twin Crazy looking at me and just smiling ear to ear.
  • Playing loud music and dancing along with Twin Crazy and Twin Husky for most of the weekend. At one point, I was only holding Twin Husky’s hands and he was holding back smiles (embarrassed) as I told him that I loved dancing with my son. He is so sweet. They both sang and danced most of the weekend.
  • Taking them to Cold Stone Creamery after their naps on Saturday, before dinner. This was a BIG hit.
  • Then going to Trader Joe’s and having them actually remember what was on the list of things to get.
  • Them singing “baby beluga” and swimming like fish in the bath
  • Puzzle time – Twin Crazy actually doing the puzzles by herself and BEAMING with pride. Twin Husky getting frustrated with his puzzle, but I was able to spend time with him to work through it and the look on his face when he was actually getting the pieces together.
  • Bedtime books with two. It makes a difference.
  • Waking up to their warm bodies again in the morning
  • Picking weeds and Twin Husky saying that he wanted me to do that with him. Working in the garden with them and discovering worms together.
  • Twin Crazy dancing like you wouldn’t believe. Shaking her little shoulders and head. Knowing that it completely cracked me up.
  • Twin Husky pulling me by my hand “Mommy, come with me.“….
  • Each of them wanting to cuddle with me on the couch. Each of them soaking in mommy-time.




Tonight I drove them home, and picked up Red and Big Bro for one hour of together-time before I dropped them all off for good at co-parent’s. I took them ALL out for ice-cream. There is just something about holidays/vacations and ice-cream with me. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t get enough ice-cream during vacations. So this was my last hour of vacation/holiday time with all four of my kids together. They had a great time re-uniting with each other. I actually heard squeals and saw some hugs. And I had a brief time with all of them together before ending this holiday break. I couldn’t be happier.



So now I’m getting ready for the week, a normal week, and I’m not down that the holiday time is over. I’m OK with it. It feels good to be back home. I am glad that I was able to reconnect with my family on the east coast and also bring some kids with me. I’m glad that I was able to spend REAL time with the kids. I am glad that I was able to TALK to them and learn with them and celebrate their growth. And talk to them about missing people and how I know that it hurts and sometimes can be sad, but then you get a chance to see them again.

It breaks my heart when I leave them, but then I think of the next time I will see them and then it’s not that bad.

So it was the many, many, many small blessings that I had over the past 10 days that I am SOOOOOOOOOO grateful for. And I know that there are few people besides myself that can get this much of a charge out of each of these four little people. I know that these kids can light me up in such a special way that others simply cannot – and vice-versa. And this comforts me in some strange way when I am not with them.

Have a great week everyone –

– Mama K

Staying Sane: Communication and getting to the root of the problem

On Sunday nights I usually try to post something in my “Staying Sane” series… and something happened over this past weekend that I wanted to write about. It was about a temper tantrum and a conversation that I had with my eldest son, Big Bro.

It was Friday night. I had the kids all day and all evening, solo. We had a full day – and at bedtime all kids were pretty much wiped out. Books are a very important thing in our family. We have been very consistent with each child (the Twins got a slow start though, I’m sad to say….) and they really, really, really, look forward to books at bedtime. So much so, that our eldest kids are enjoying reading to the Twins!!!!


But I digress. The important thing to note is that our children love book-time at bed. And each child gets to pick out their own book for us to read.

So it is Friday night. And I read a book to Red (“Handa’s Surprise” by Eileen Browne. I even love it.). Big Bro was busy finishing up teeth brushing so he entered the story halfway. The kids normally get into a routine where they love a book for weeks at a time and then move on to another. Well, I was reading a book that I’ve must have read 100+ times — it was not a new story. It was a story that my kids know well. And even though Big Bro missed several of the first pages he knew the story like the back of his hand.

There was also a Spiderman book next to me. I mistakingly thought it was HIS choice of books. So I read it. Then I said it was bedtime.

And that is when the tantrum began.

We’ve experienced these plenty of times in the past with Big Bro. He is our first and our most spoiled. He throws himself on the ground in fits more often than our toddler Twins.

Our conversation went like this:

Me: What is wrong?
BB: I want you to read that Handa book again, from the beginning. [sob sob, whine whine, cry cry]
Me: But [Big Bro] sweetie, I said that it was book time and I asked you to sit next to me with the Spiderman book and you didn’t want to. You had your book. I read two books. I’m not going to read another book again.
BB: NO!!!! [scream, sob, cry, yell] [while I pull him into bed]. I want you to read the book!! I want you to read the book!!!! I want you to read the book!!! From the beginning!!!!
Me: No sweetie, I’m sorry. I said that I was ready to read you the Spiderman book but you weren’t paying attention. I read the two books for tonight. I will check on you after I take my shower [yes, I revert to this on weekends – no time for my own showers in the morning on weekends].

So I go and take a nice shower, thinking that by the time I get out all will be well, he would have settled himself out, and things would be wonderful in the world again.

I was wrong. He was sitting in the middle of his floor, eyes red, looking half asleep, and looking like his version of an “Occupy” standoff.

I asked him to get back in bed. That is when the REAL tantrum started. I decided there was something more going on here. I decided to get to the root of the problem. There is more here than just a damn book.

Me: BB, BB, BB, sweetie, please, look at me. [I kneel down and take his face so that I can look at him in his eyes]. Please calm down. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Please. I know that there is something else that’s bothering you. Please I don’t think I have the full story. Please try to calm down and tell me what is really upsetting you. It’s NOT that I didn’t read that Handa book a second time. What is it? Can you find the words to tell me what is making you so upset?
BB: You read to [Red] but I didn’t get a book to pick out.
Me: Oh…. you mean to say that you did NOT pick out the Spiderman book?
BB: No.
Me: So you didn’t GET a book to pick out for me to read to you tonight?
BB: No.

Oh my goodness my heart just melted into pieces. I took for granted that the Spiderman book was his book but he was the one that actually picked out the Handa book. He wanted me to read him that book and start from the beginning since it was his book that he chose and I started reading it without him. He just wanted his full turn and his full time with me.

So of course I sat him down immediately and we read the book. Red even came over. And his body stance and how she snuggled up to me and how were were interacting and talking about the book was like a 180 degree turnaround. It was like I had whiplash.

Misunderstandings happen. We know that. It happens all the time with our kids. And the tantrums at night can be easily over-looked as being over-tired. But seeing my child stand-off to me (in an almost peaceful sort of way) even 20 minutes later told me that I wasn’t getting it right.

I am so proud that he took the time and through his tears to pause and stop and find his words to express what was really upsetting him. Sometimes this is very hard for kids to do. Sometimes they even forget why they are so upset. But him in his tired and half-sleep state trusted me enough to work through it with me and explain in a different way what was bothering him.

Of course I made a big deal out of it. I told him how proud I was of him for calming his body and finding the true reason why he was so upset. It wasn’t that I didn’t read the book a second time, it was that he never had a FIRST time with a book that HE picked. I repeated this to him and I told him that this is what a mis-understanding is and that sometimes misunderstandings happen. But it is important to TALK about it and find your words that way the other person [me] can truly understand. It is important that I truly understand what is bothering him and each of my kids.

Of course Red was there listening to all of this too. So I reiterated this lesson to both of them, again. And I apologized to Big Bro and commended him on his strength and patience and ability to express himself so clearly to me. And the hug that I gave him was strong and REAL. And he knew it.

So I left the room with more emotions that I had originally envisioned. I felt guilty for putting him through this. But misunderstandings happen. But what he DID get to see out of this is how I took the time to work with him and talk to him and that he saw that it was very important for me to really understand what was causing his distress.

So now I know to listen a little more, do not take situations for granted, and push each of my children to find the words and communicate to me – to talk about their feelings, why they are upset, and even the good stuff too.

Thanks for listening –
– Mama K

%d bloggers like this: