by amy castellanos

Starting Out Rough

Every parent suffers from tough days– working parents, stay-at-home parents, grandparents. Life with kids is hard. Period. But Luis and I are extra ambitious. We made the conscious (somewhat insane) decision to make our lives very hard with 3 kids all 17 months apart that are ages 5, 4 and 3 AND take on new jobs that require quite a bit of travel and late work nights. Just to give you a glimpse, in case you don’t know exactly what a day-in-the-life is like, here’s the last time I almost had a breakdown:

I was working from home taking a conference call that started at 3:30 pm. Luis had just dropped off our 3yr old, Cole, at the house before heading to the airport. Luis turned on the TV for him, and we kept our fingers crossed that the little one would stay quiet until my call was over. Then I kissed my husband good-bye because I wasn’t going to see him for another 3 days.

Of course, the DVR show ends before my call does, and my kid busts into my room complaining. (LUIS, WHY DIDN’T YOU PUT ON A LONGER SHOW??). I swiftly mute my call while I put on another episode of Team Umizoomi. Nothing can knock down your credibility as VP more than a 3 yr old yelling in the background during your conference call.
Whew! Crisis averted.

Thirty minutes later this call is still going strong. I mute my call to load up my 3 yr old, so I can pick up the 2 other kids at 2 different school and head to a 4:30 pm soccer game.

Dear YMCA,
What, in your right mind makes you think a 4:30 pm game on Tuesday is a good time to have a game?? WHY???

With the 5 year old soccer player in the car, I’m yelling at him to hurry up and put on his shin guards and cleats because we are late to his game. Yes, he’s doing this while I’m driving because it’s really the ONLY way I can make this hectic schedule work. He tells me he needs to poop, but that he can probably hold it until the game is over. THANK, GOODNESS.

I get to the soccer field, but had to circle the park twice for parking. Apparently, EVERYONE is playing soccer at this exact park at this exact time. On the third round of looking for parking, I just pull over and tell him to jump out.

F-this. I’m just going to pick up the 4 year old since there is no parking anyway. It should only be about 10-15 minutes. Tyler is playing soccer…he’s good.

I get to Spanish House preschool in 20 minutes of traffic to pick up our 4 year old, Tori. The conference call is finally over, and I don’t think anyone heard a kid. That’s a small win for the day.

I get Tori’s backpack, lunchbox and water bottle. Then I go to the playground to grab her as 3 yr old little Cole follows me around. I find her picking things out of the hair of a sweet little girl that Tori must have thought enjoyed mulch-showers. She knows she did something wrong, so I take the time to talk to her about making good choices.
This leads to crying, which leads to not walking, which leads to throwing herself on the floor. Ughhh, I start to threaten her with the list of consequences if she doesn’t stop. Still tantruming….


Finally, I resort to a less preferable styles of parenting. “ Fine Tori, I’m going to leave you here and pick you up later if you’re not going to straighten up.” This is only partially effective because it gets her in the car, but she is still pouting and quietly crying all the way back to the soccer game. It takes 20 minutes to drive back in traffic. After two rounds around the park, I find a parallel spot, so I try to shimmy in my Odyssey mini-van. After 4 tries and some man passing me while shaking his head, I give up. I park a block away, across a busy street. We briskly walk to the soccer game, all holding hands to not get side swiped by a car or hit in the head with a soccer ball. I see some new parents that we’ve made friends with and I want to say “Hi”, but that’s just too much work right now.

Missed the Game

I see Tyler, but the game is over. Oh man! I missed another one! He’s fine though, and he’s grabbed 3 goldfish packages, so each of his other two siblings could have one and an extra Gatorade.

Me: “How was your game, Tyler?”
Tyler: Great, mom! Mom, please hold my goldfish until after dinner.

He hands me his goldfish and takes-off to precariously step on the stones around the creek. Of course, his siblings follow. I follow them and see a nice empty park bench where I can sit and take a breather while the kids burn off some energy.

Then, another work call. It’s a serious one. Our general contractor has sent us change orders for additional fees…and it’s not a small number (I’m in commercial real estate development). I talk through the issues with our construction manager, while I’m flailing my arms silently for my kids to get off those rocks near the creek. Of course, no one listens, and I can’t yell while I’m on a call. If they fall in, we’ll just deal with it later.

I’m dividing my focus between the work call and my kids walking along the creek bank. Then my son tells me he’s got to poop sooooo bad. Oh yeah, he needed to even before the game, so I’m sure all that running really got things moving. Ugh, I’m still on this work call. I see Tyler stop mid-stride to squeeze his butt cheeks. Then he puts his head down with this very desperate look on his face. Poor boy, he’s just hoping his pants don’t explode. I get up from the bench, but as soon as I do the soccer coach motions for me to talk with him after I get off the phone.

Great! I bet he’s going to reprimand me for leaving my son all by himself. I finally, just cut off my construction manager on the phone because the coach and his wife have been waiting with serious faces long enough. The coach motions to me to have a private discussion where no kids can hear. Tyler runs up to me, patting me anxiously to leave because he’s got to poop! The coach and I ask him to just hold on really quick.

So the coach doesn’t reprimand me for leaving my son alone. No, that’s not the problem. He tells me that another Dad is pissed because apparently the coach’s son and Tyler have been ganging up and picking on other kids together! What!? Now, I have to deal with this?? “Okay” I tell him. “I’ll have a serious talk with Tyler.” I think coach was expecting a little more from me at that moment, but WE GOT TO GO!

Not Out of the Woods Yet

I finally get all the kids in the car. Then all of a sudden—another tantrum bomb!

“Cole is eating all my goldfish! I already gave him goldfish! Now, I don’t have any goldfish and I really wanted it! How did he get it?” Tyler’s face morphs into that super ugly crying face that kids get when they think the world is coming to an end.

How did he get it I wonder? Oh yeaaaah, I handed it to him so he would stop trying to talk to me while I was on the call with my construction manager. OOPSIE. “Ok ok, don’t worry” I say. “I’ll give you other yummy snacks when we get home.” Well, that’s about the stupidest thing a parent could say. We all know that the only thing that will stop the crying is that EXACT bag of goldfish that Cole is eating.

So what do I do? I hunch over and crawl into the minivan, and in my sweetest mommy voice, I ask Cole if I can please have the goldfish back since he already ate his bag. Then I slowly and sneakily take the goldfish bag out of his cup holder.
“Here you go, Tyler. Cole hardly ate any of it. See it’s all good”

At the exact same time Tyler’s face turns back to normal and his tears start to fade. I hear another whine crescendo in the background. Cole has realized what I’ve done and is obviously heartbroken that he’s been hoodwinked. I turn to the right to calm him down, and then I hear another crier start to build to my left. Oh God, why is she crying!? Oh yeah, because all that crying reminded her that she’s still very upset from the whole mulch-shower fiasco.

My blood pressure is building. Everyone is now crying, no one is strapped in.
STOP CRYING!!!!! I can’t! I can’t take it anymore! I feel a mommy melt-down coming on. Take a deep breath, Amy. Just remove yourself from the situation. I close all the car doors and just pace along-side the mini-van.

OK, ok…just reset yourself…let the kids cry it out….just count to 10….ok that didn’t work….count to 10 again. I still hear muffled crying in the car. I open the sliding door, pull Tyler out and ask him to sit outside until he’s done crying. In about 20 seconds, which felt like 10 minutes, the crying subsided. My mommy meltdown subsided, and we’re all back on the road heading home.

Shoot, now dinner. As if I hadn’t had enough, the after school routine is only beginning.
I’m a super-mom, though, who recovers quickly, so I decide that a quick in/out of the grocery store is necessary and not impossible. I ask all the kids what they want for dinner.

“Tacos!” “Spaghetti!” “Chicken!”

Never, in the history of children have kids wanted to eat the same thing for dinner on the same night. It’s a phenomenon!
I decide I can buy a bunch of ground beef which is easy to cook in bulk. Make tacos tonight and use the rest for Spaghetti tomorrow. Plus, I have a left over roast chicken in the fridge. Yay! Dinner for the three nights has been determined! That is a huge win. I reach for my wallet. I dig. I dig. F&*k! No wallet. Forgot it because I was distracted on my conference call “Okay kids, we’re all eating chicken and rice for the 3rd night in a row.” They must have been tired of crying because I received minimal protest this time.

Dinner and bedtime went smoothly once we got home. THANK YOU, GOD!

A Happy Ending

So needless to say, Tuesday was hard. REALLY HARD, but Wednesday and Thursday were great. Some really sweet moments happened throughout the rest of the week:

My son read to me.
My daughter counted to 30 in Spanish.
My youngest cleaned his toys after only asking one time.
Each kid got one-on-one cuddle time while I had the extra space in my bed.
I got a lot of hugs, butterfly kisses and “I love you’s”
We danced to Despacito.
I heard boisterous laughter from their bedroom.
They showed me their muscles after pretending to work out.

And now, I’m in the Uber to meet the hubs in San Francisco. I decided I could tag on a weekend adult getaway to his 3 day conference.

Sweet isn’t sweet without the sour…

Although there are moments of total and complete breakdown, you can’t have sweet without the sour. There’s a yin and yang to everything. That one Tuesday where I thought I was going to die–I didn’t. I actually survived and had a super happy rest of the week. Of course there are times when I’ve screamed my head off into a pillow, sobbed in a locked bathroom, or paced outside of a parked car full of kids, but I would say that 90% of the time, I’m so happy. For me, being present in the day to day experience with my family is why I do anything… It’s lovely…Life is just so lovely.

On Monday I’m traveling, so Luis has the kids all to himself from wake-up to bedtime. Then on Wednesday Luis is traveling, and I’ll be fending for myself once again. So this could all repeat again next week. Hopefully we both survive to live another day because it’s an amazing thing we call life.
Yes, it sucks at times, but all-in-all I LOVE IT!