It is not a very endearing term, but it is the one that most accurately describes what it feels like to be in public with all four children.  I say “in public” because at home, I usually feel like I see Pace. Mary Aplin. Jay Paul. and Mae.  Each an invaluable and integral part of our home.  Each an individual.  When we are in public, most specifically when we are in a parking lot walking from our car to wherever we are going, I feel like I no longer have four individual children, but instead a swarm of small, vulnerable people humming around my legs and hanging from my arms.


We had a Whoville kind of Halloween! The Grinch, his dog Max, The Cat in the Hat, Thing 1(who temporarily lost her number before this picture), Thing 2, and the Goldfish

I know that it always takes time to re-establish your normal routines after adding a new member to the family.  I had a 30-minute long conversation with my friend Ann recently, solely on how to navigate from the grocery store parking lot, through the store, and finally the check-out line.  If you were eavesdropping, you would have wondered what military re-connaissance effort we were planning.  Doing the grocery store with children is not for sissies. Three months into life as a mother of four babies, and I feel pretty confident about taking on our normal activities.  It doesn’t always go well, but I at least have a protocol to fall back on for most situations… …


Max was very confused about how Daddy and the Grinch could be the same person.


But he warmed to him eventually.

What I could not establish a protocol for, was how to stop feeling like a swarm.  How to stop feeling overwhelmed and short of breath about the number of lives I was responsible for.  How to feel like I was mother to Pace. Mary Aplin. Jay Paul. and Mae all day long.


Trick or Treat

The startling revelation that I came to, was that I needed to seek out time with them as individuals.  Please realize that I say this with caution, knowing that this may not always be how we operate.  It may not seem the least bit revultionary to you like it has been for me, but living moment to moment and seizing every possible opportunity to be with them one-on-one is how I make it through the day right now.  It is how I have found my breath again after adding number four.



Often, it is not so much that I am DOING anything differently, as it is that I am RECOGNIZING and making the best of ordinary times in our day.  For example, Mary Aplin gets out of school at 12 and Jay Paul takes a nap until it is time to leave again to pick up Pace at 3.  That is now my coveted time with Dapples.  We do her homework, normally.  Nothing too special, but later in the afternoon, when it is time for Pace’s homework, I don’t feel bad sending Mary Aplin upstairs to “babysit” Jay Paul in the playroom.  I have had my time with Dapples, and the 3:30-4:30 window is Pace’s time.



Once I started noticing these windows of positive time, it helped me realize who had a defecit…it was poor Jay Paul.  And as frustrated as I have been with him for all his naughtiness of late, I started to wonder if it could be that my neediest child was in need of focused attention.  So, I dropped one of his mornings at MMO and started devoting Mae’s (marvelous) morning nap all to him at least one morning a week.  He started loving me again.  Instead of being frustrated ALL of the time, now it’s only 3/4 of the time 😉


Thank you Dean Family! For letting us come to your house for Halloween, for throwing an awesome Halloween party, and for letting my children get to experience Halloween-on-steroids in Grove Park. We don’t get many trick-or-treaters out our way 😉

My Mae’s moments have to be stolen in little spurts throughout the day.  I have started going (alone) to the nursery to nurse her at least a couple times a day.  Sometimes Jay Paul finds us and tears the room to shreds around us or squeezes in the chair with us demanding “Book!” “Book!” as he wallops us with it, but sometimes he doesn’t.  And I get to gaze at her little face and we smile at each other so big that my heart swells to three times its size.  She is a patient wonder.


No Max, you cannot hold the Goldfish. Smiling through the stress

There are still times when I get overwhelmed by the swarm, but spending the day looking for one-on-one times, valuing those moments when they do present themselves as a precious opportunity, and praying God continues to provide the energy for me to make it through them all is how I’ve survived so far.  It gives me benchmarks to feel like I’ve accomplished something throughout our day, instead of just powering through it.  And there are times, like yesterday afternoon when all three were playing together at the park, and Mae was happily observing it all from my arms when I LOVE the swarm.  All of them together.  All at once.


I love this family.

6 Responses to “Surviving the Swarm”

  1. Wendy says:

    Abby, I don’t know you, but I absolutely love and adore you. You have this very unique ability to write the truth, without coming across as complaining, moaning, hating life, etc… It is so very refreshing and a truly wonderful gift. I can feel your love for each of your children, even during Jay Paul’s most challenging moments. I would say just make sure you are taking time for Abby, too (easier said than done I know). Momma’s need recharging. Again, I don’t know you, but I sooo think your Mom must be beaming with pride as she looks down on you.

  2. NameKendall Boggs says:

    You are so wise for your years my dear! I love that you noticed something that needed attention and worked on it. I love when you write! Love reading! Also goodness you are looking so much like your mom! I love you sweetie!

  3. Lacey says:

    Abby, I have enjoyed your beautiful blog through many late nights feeding babies. My third is three months, and I have been doing a lot of powering through as we go through the wonderful, but extremely challenging, growing pains that come with every new baby. You have inspired me to just breathe and look for some special one on one moments. Thank you for that. We all just crave that time! I keep reminding myself that even thOugh I can’t mother three the exact way I mothered just one, that they also get so much from each other.

  4. Caroline Blair says:

    You are an amazing mom and the way you handle all of your little chicken wings with love and creativity spurns me on to have more kids! Yall are all so adorable and unique in your own individual ways and you embrace and have the ability to capture it all in love and reality. Life is not easy but you sure do make it look fun and worth all the stress!

    Love and hugs to you! Thanks for sharing your heart and pictures!

  5. Kelly says:

    I can’t tell you how much I love the truth you speak. You are honest that life is not all rainbows and unicorns, yet you do it without it sounding like a complaint. And you do it while looking DARN good! Seriously, you are stunning – inside and out. Thanks for putting it out there … you are helping more people out there then you know I am sure!!!

  6. Kellie says:

    Love your writing and your honesty! We are all in this together! And that last picture of you, you look JUST like your sweet mom!!!! Miss you all!!!

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