I'm new here, but thought I'd join in.
Hi Melissa and welcome!I only have one toddler to contend with during such times but I can certainly empathize. DD has gone through many phases of being super-demanding during dinner-prep time, even if DH is there to entertain her. Sometimes it just *has* to be mama. :)
I can think of a couple of things....One, have you tried wearing her on your back at all? You mention a ring sling but no other carriers - if it is possible for you maybe you could try a mei tai, ergo, or somesuch? Do you have any friends who might have one you could take for a test run? I could also dig up some good links for you and offer some advice on sewing your own lovely mei tai for pretty cheap, if that would be an option for you.
Maybe it's a long shot but any chance of working on recruiting the 3 year old for help and knocking out 2 birds with 1 stone? ;) Trying to take advantage of the 3 yo desire to help and do big boy things - ask him to be your special helper and set him and the baby up with some toys on the floor close enough that you can chat with them/stay connected but far enough to not get hurt/underfoot?
Sorry if this isn't too helpful or clear, I'm pretty zonked. Will try to think on it some more and check back soon.... :>~megan
What Megan said. :)
And sometimes I put Isabella in the high chair with some toys or munchies now that she's a solids girl :) and got things down that way.
Of course, the easiest thing on evenings like that is to order some take-out or delivery, but I suppose none of us can do that every night!
Get a busy box for the two older ones that has things in it that only come out when you need to focus on dinner prep.
With the little one I would try setting her up in a highchair with cheerios or some other distraction, otherwise at that age I also had a jumper that would keep them occupied. Worse case scenerio if Samantha was being clingy I would put her down some times while I had to do the dangerous stuff with the cooking (I mean once its cut and in there it's really just stirring and you can do that with one hand) and reassure her that I would be right back.
Of course there is also take-out or bribery. I admit that I've given the kids a cookie before dinner just to buy me some time! :-)
Welcome to the board!
When I have evenings like that, I put the baby (11 months) on my back and enlist the other kids (4 years and 2 years)
Basically what everyone else said :) I will put my LO in the high chair with a snack and some toys, my 3yr old will try to keep her entertained by making silly noises/faces at her.
Lately DH and I have been on this "it's cook time you take the kids" kick, but when he's not here, I just have to do what I can. I have a hotsling and that doesn't work that well for cooking and grease splattering etc...
Luckily the things I cook I try to make it where I can go back in the living room every few minutes and nurse/play with her and then run back in the kitchen. It's frazzling, but it'll do.... lol