Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Learning to Walk

 It's spring. Our caterpillars turned into beautiful painted lady butterflies (Greystoke and I got to watch one of them come out of his chrysalis!), drank some nectar while their wings dried and then flew away (but not while we were watching, I guess they were shy).
It's been a cool March. Cold windy soccer practices trying to keep our board game money from blowing away. Taking a couple minute break to warm up in the car.
We've been to the pool but just because we've missed the pool area, not because it is actually warm enough to swim yet.
Scarlett has gotten to wear her fluffy pink coat a couple of bonus times.
Saturday we went to big truck day for a little while. Greystoke was excited but the lines were long, and while we were stuck in one line the "horn free quiet hour" ended and at exactly 10:59 all of the horns started blaring.
So we gritted our teeth for one last truck and then ran out of there with our hands over our ears.
JT has been off on the weekends all month, and it looks like this might last into the future due to a new part time lifeguard that likes to work the weekends.It is nice to be on the same schedule. It is also nice to take a nap once in a while. And I have been doing that more lately since Scarlett has not been sleeping so great again (actually I think she is probably sleeping just fine, she just makes it a bit difficult for me).
Greystoke's puking a few weeks ago turned out to be Rotavirus. We all got it, but luckily the adult version wasn't so bad. The baby version was. Thanks to breast milk and zofran we stayed out of the emergency room. It was a long stinky week. And night weaning had just been completed, so smoothly, and she slept through the night exactly one night. And then the next night she kept crying and crying and finally threw up all over everything. As soon as the Rotavirus ended she caught a cold...and then 2 more. So the point of all of this is that night weaning has gone completely out of the window.

When I tried to ease her back into it she cried almost the entire night. She has stopped taking her pacifier. She was acting cranky all the time and we were all completely exhausted.
One night after JT took her for a walk, I took her for a walk then took her for a car ride...I finally nursed her back to sleep and JT and I talked. The outcome? It's ok. With The Dude and Greystoke I did not even try to night wean until they were 2 for this very reason. Some of it has been illness. Some of it is quite obviously separation anxiety. Some of it is the 4 teeth that she is getting. But when I lay down with her that night and slept in her bed I knew we had found the right answer again. For the first few nights she clung to me as if terrified I might sneak away. Since then she has been much calmer at night (except the night before she got croup, that was a rough one), and the rest of us have all been much more well rested.
This too shall pass. My last baby will be 11 months old in less than 2 weeks. This next year will fly by faster than I want it to. Life since kids moves at warp speed.
She is full of sugar and spice and everything nice. She loves to get dirty and messy, and she loves to get her fingers into things. She is on her feet more and more but they are still quite unsteady because she is in such a big rush all of the time.
She doesn't have time for her tripping feet. She has food to eat and boys' hair to grab and a million things to laugh about.

Greystoke is growing up quickly and I am more and more looking at him and saying goodbye to 3...hello to the bigness of 4.
Now that I have discovered that the way to his heart is games I have been embracing it fully. This is a new sort of child to me. The older 2 needed to be outside getting dirty, running, climbing. Greystoke can do these things quite adeptly, but they are not his passion.
Trying to spend some quality preschoolish time with him, I made him some "ooblek", this goopy substance that is fun to play in. The sort of thing Aquaman and The Dude would have gone nuts over. He looked at me like I was an idiot and wouldn't even put one finger in it. Then asked if we could play uno. So I dumped it out and we did.
No task seems too daunting for him. At the Dude's 7th birthday party he was the hit of Adventure HQ, climbing to the top of the "skyscrapers" slowly and methodically and then jumping headlong from the top in victory. "Strangers" and other children his age seem to be a total mystery to him though. While not afraid of them exactly, he seems to have no time for them.
At night when we read our books (which is one of the few times I am allowed to read to him, despite his loving books, because he is Mr. methodical, and I have never had much time to read to him during the day), he has started pointing at words and trying to sound them out. He does not get at all discouraged or upset if it is hard.

He is losing some of his threenager ways. When he wakes up in the mornings now, instead of glaring at me like he did for a long time he hugs me and snuggles me. He tells me he loves me multiple times per day. He will occasionally let something go when I tell him to, without feeling the need to cry hysterically. He will still occasionally attempt to fight to the death with his archrival, The Dude, despite the fact that he always ends up losing.

He is brave and deliberate and affectionate and easy going, and I love watching him turn from a baby to a little boy.

The Dude turned 7 and it seems to be his turn to go through a rough patch. He had evened out so much around 6, but his fire and intensity and ultra sensitivity have returned with a vengeance at 7. Oh yeah, and not to forget his dogged determination, which can have its down sides.
School is still going fine. He is tired of it, as we all are in spring, but his writing and reading have improved so much this year and it has been a hard fought battle for him. He loves basically everyone in his class, and they all seem to love him. Even his teacher, who has been a bit more intense than we would have liked, is obviously quite fond of him, and for that I am willing to do a little extra make up work for a doctor appointment, even though I think it is kind of ridiculous in kindergarten.
He is a lot of fun to be around, except when he isn't. I forgot about 7 and its emotional relapses. Aquaman was very dramatic at this age too. I am incredibly grateful for the parenting classes we took with Aquaman's counselor, because every time he storms off in high drama, I remember them. Don't engage, it adds fuel to the fire. Stimulation to the already over stimulated.
Despite his amazing attitude, I know school is probably pretty difficult for the Dude. He was not designed to sit in a chair all day reading and writing. Everything has been too hard or far too easy this year, and I know that is confusing to him. So I try to give him grace when he comes home and takes his frustrations out in confusing ways. I try to give him grace when he makes a mess everywhere he goes. I call him my "creative genius" because he is always making something. Creative genius comes with big messes, so I try to reframe it in that positive way, mainly for my own sanity.
He has started getting into the Legos, and will sometimes stay up late into the night. He doesn't make things the way Aquaman does...orderly color coordinated vehicles. He makes elaborate houses with docks and recreational vehicles. They fall apart easily. He doesn't like that. Neither do I, for that matter. My house has been completely taken over by tiny bits of plastic that the baby loves to shove in her mouth.
Aquaman is in the "golden years of childhood", as JT likes to say. He is so agreeable and helpful. He picks up and gets himself ready and helps out with the little ones with very little complaining. He continues to hate school but he gets up and goes without much fuss.
He told Greystoke the other day that he was going to be home schooled next year and Greystoke thought about it for a minute and then said "well I was home schooled when I was 1."
Aquaman is playing soccer now, his first game is on Saturday. I never pegged him for a team sport player despite that he is a very athletic person, and this may be the last time he plays a team sport, but I am really proud of him.
I know it is very much out of his comfort zone. But he enjoys kicking the soccer ball around, he actually even enjoys the running.But the relational side is a bit more difficult.
Among the many reasons I am looking forward to home schooling him next year is that he really struggles in learning social skills and I really don't love him learning them from a big group of obnoxious 10 year olds. Most 9 and 10 year old boys are just plain annoying. And it's fine, it's normal, but he struggles a lot with it because he is an "old soul", he is not like them.
It confuses him a lot when they tease or when his own teammates kick the ball away from him or when they laugh when he messes up, which happens because he is just now learning how to play and most of them have been playing for years.
On the way home from his last practice he was very upset and then I got upset listening to him play the role of the victim because I know that will not go well with him. He ended up upset with me and I had to leave him alone for a while. I came back later that evening and he was much more rational and agreed that maybe that is just the way some boys act and not that everybody hates him.
I hurt for him sometimes because I was an ultra sensitive kid too. I know what it is like to internalize everything, and I know how dangerous it can be to get stuck in that.
God has delivered me out of my ultra sensitivity and my fears now, but I know they are really only a wander away. Every day I must be intentional to put my eyes on Christ and not on the world around me.

I have been realizing lately that I want so much to spare my children those wandering times, but the fact is they are part of the process. I want them to skip the immature mindsets, the self-centeredness, the deep loneliness, but the only way that I got to the place where I am in this life is by going straight through it. And they will have to as well.
That's not to say that I am going to just throw them to the wolves though, because I won't. I also refuse to ignore their cries for help or minimize their feelings. But it's a wobbly tightrope we walk as parents in all of this. Backing up just a little as they grow to let them find their own footing. Letting them learn to walk the same way Scarlett teeters on her feet and ends up with bloody gums. But always being there to clean them up, to hold them for a little while, to let them rest before we set them back up on those wobbly feet again.
I am living in every moment these days. Soaking in every baby giggle. every board game, construction paper robot, perfectly symmetrical lego vehicle. Holding my baby all night long. Sitting in the rocking chair pretending like I am rocking the baby just to sit beside my biggest boy a little longer. And he wraps his whole body around my arm and I hardly feel sleepy anymore.
These days will be over soon. They will stumble up and out of my arms. I will cheer as they go, placing them in the capable arms of their true Father, who let me hold them for a little while. Because He loves not only them...but He loves me. Oh how He loves me.
Scarlett has been dozing in my arms for the past 30 minutes. I went straight into writing after I finished working today because the boys are all out having fun with grandparents and this was my chance. There are 4 loads of laundry waiting to be put away and there is dinner to make, so I will go now.

I could stare into these eyes all day
Gresytoke trying out Aquaman's soccer stuff

Waiting for Zofran with her puke towel at the doctor

Thursday, February 22, 2018

10 months with 4 kids

 I have been pretty busy living, and haven't had much time for writing, but I realized today that it has now been over a month and my pictures are backing up fast so I better get to it.
Things have reached a whole new level in our house since Scarlett became fully mobile. I mean she has been crawling since she was 6 months old, but now she can crawl FAST. Now her hands can grab with lightning speed. Now she is even starting to climb. And she is vertical more and more often. She is 10 months old today and I wouldn't exactly call her a walker yet, but she is cruising around everything, stepping between things, and has taken 6 steps in a row on multiple occasions.
She has been driving the boys (and let's face it) me, crazy getting into everything. I fear for her life some days, I really do. She reminds me of The Dude when he was tiny and that slightly terrifies me because he still leaves devastation in his path at almost 7.

Sleep. What is that? I don't know. I remember this song from when Aquaman was a baby that I used to sing: "maybe a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near."
Well I am working on almost 10 years of sleepless nights now. And I think there is something to that. There is something so near to God in those middle of the night hours when everyone else around you is blissfully sleeping and you are holding a shrieking baby. A dependency. An ability to go beyond yourself and what you think you can handle. I can't handle it, but God does. Every night.
I am night weaning currently, so there is hope for sleep, but right now it feels remote. It's always darkest before the dawn, they say. I kind of night weaned Scarlett before, but not fully because I wasn't ready to put her in her own "room", which incidentally is our walk in closet. But I am ready now. So we are 6 days in of not nursing to sleep for 7 hours overnight and there is still plenty of screaming and sleeplessness. But this isn't my first rodeo. It usually takes a couple weeks. So I am holding on to hope.

Last night was complicated by Greystoke vomiting all over his bed just before we went to bed. Then 7 more times before midnight when he finally fell asleep without having to jump up and run to the toilet anymore. Scarlett thouhght the whole thing was a lot of fun and stayed up until 11 looking on, so basically the rest of the family should have this thing in approximately 36 hours unless it is some sort of food poisoning.
Once Greystoke finally fell asleep, Scarlett woke up every 45 minutes until about an hour ago when Greystoke woke up, drank a big cup of water and then threw it all up again. He fell back asleep, but she decided she was ready to get up for the day.
Scarlett is finally getting 2 teeth, but they are taking their sweet time coming in.
The Dude finally lost 1 tooth, and will be 7 in 10 days.
The cool weather abruptly seemed to end and work has been much busier and hotter for JT as they enter the crazy season. I have been going on a throwing and rehoming rampage all over the house, one of my favorite things to do. With 4 kids in 2 bedrooms and 1344 square feet only the necessities must stay. I am a little sad to see the cooler weather go, but happy about putting away the winter clothes (and moving out another box of 3 year old boy clothes as Greystoke moves on to the 4s).
Aquaman took this picture and I love it because I am coming down the stairs with the laundry basket which seems like what I am always doing these days.

Life has been as busy and as tiring as ever, but lately I have been feeling so happy.
I wake up in the morning and drink my coffee after a long night, with a long and overwhelmingly impossible list of tasks before me before I can sleep again, and I thank God for all of those tasks. All of these bills. All this mess, because it means I have a big beautiful family.
JT said he and Aquaman were taking a bike ride a couple days ago and when they pulled back into our neighborhood, JT said "we live in a nice place." And Aquaman, in all his wisdom and realism and struggle with being positive said very seriously: "it could be worse. It could be a lot worse."
I almost died laughing when JT told me that story because it is so Aquaman. I think he really meant that as a positive thing to say.
But lately I have been making it up to read my Bible almost every morning. I have been spending sometimes only about 6 minutes of not-so-quiet but intentional sitting and prayer and it is crazy how that reframes my whole existence.
It doesn't change anything I have to do all day, it is all still there: the laundry, the dishes, the vacuuming, my job, the caring for 4 children with such incredibly different needs, the trying to somehow connect with my husband in the midst of it all. Theoretically, it gives me less time to accomplish it, but as God has promised it doesn't work that way. This is what it does: it reminds me what is important. Because when you seek Him first everything else falls into place. Not the way you want it to, but the way He does. And that's the only way you can have peace anyway.
Somehow I have been able to make more time for board games.
I have been able to get the kids all gathered after they are ready for school and read the Bible to them.
I have been able to clear out some of the mess that is in the house that fills up my head. And that is freeing.
We have been making an effort to get outside every afternoon for at least 20 minutes despite the homework and housework because we all need it.
The Dude finished up basketball on Friday, and Aquaman started soccer on Monday. Sports are crazy, and that is about all I can say. I signed him up for recreational soccer because this is his first time playing, and also because I think sports are meant to be recreational and not a lifestyle, especially at this age. I have no problem at all skipping a practice or a game if these occur on a Sunday, are too far away, or interfere with a family activity. But even recreational soccer has 2 practices a week at this age plus games,  I can tell that even the recreational parents are crazy intense about it, so it should be interesting. I was so proud of him that first day though. The email they sent said it was going to be a meet and greet so we showed up with no supplies and Aquaman was in sandals. They ended up taking the kids to do some drills and Aquaman was slipping and sliding all over the field with a bunch of 13 year old boys who have been playing for years. There were a few tears initially, but I would have cried too. He was crazy brave and even seemed to have a good time. I never thought I would see the day that he played a team sport. Maybe he will even eat a hamburger or a piece of pizza some day...
We have made the big decision to home school Aquaman starting next year, and I think that has been a part of my peaceful feelings lately.
I have wanted to home school him for a long time, particularly after his terrible 1st grade year, but even though I have been mostly able to work from home and am only working 24 hours a week, it just wasn't the right time with a new baby coming. I also didn't want to stop public school on such a bad note.
Now we are doing it because we have decided it is best for him, not because he hates it and wants to quit. Because honestly he still hates school but he is a little skeptical about what home schooling will be like, although I also feel like he has been a little more relaxed since we made the final decision.
I am excited. I  want to spend more time with him, want our influence to be the biggest one in his life, want him to be learning his social skills in good settings and not from a bunch of obnoxious 9 year old boys.
He is such a sweet boy with an incredible heart though he so often comes off prickly to the outside world. I want to fill that heart with things that are true before he has to start sorting through all of the lies out in the world. We have planned to homeschool for middle school anyway, so it will only be a couple years earlier. And there is an awesome STEM co-op nearby that I think will be right up his alley.
I don't know what the future holds, but I do know that God told me clearly that I should do it. And ironically, when I had a moment of questioning before I brought it up to JT he came and told me a story he had read in the Old Testament and the main point of the story was we have to do what God tells us to do no matter the cost or what it looks like to the outside world, and I knew that story was straight from God too.
I am sure it will be messy and up and down and crazy, but I am excited about it.
Greystoke is signed up for VPK next year so I will be working every day for short days instead of 3 long days. Greystoke is obsessed with learning to read, though he doesn't seem quite ready to do it yet. He knows almost all of his upper and lower case letters and most of the sounds. He is also obsessed with television which drives me crazy. He wants to play games alllll day long. I wish I could, I really do. I try to make myself play 2 games with him per day and that seems to satiate him. Luckily The Dude is very into games too, but Greystoke is still so volatile and The Dude likes to push his buttons, so their games currently often don't last very long.
The Dude is doing great. His reading and writing are definitely improving. He is maturing a lot. I really enjoy spending time with him and his positive enthusiasm. He is getting better about personal space even though, thankfully, his hugs remain plentiful. The girls everywhere just love him. JT said he was trying to talk to a girl on the opposing team right in the middle of his last game.

The boys love him too. He makes everyone just feel good.
Well, I better get moving. I need to take a shower and make sure every trace of vomit is off of me, which feels impossible when a 3 year old is sick. The big boys will be off to school soon and then I am hoping for a nap before my dentist appointment. I will leave the rest in pictures.
This girl loves to be outside getting dirty just like her brothers (and, let's face it, me)

She waves at everyone like they are long lost friends

Maybe the best big 3 year old brother ever. He is so patient and kind to her, never jealous, always gentle. He blows me away every day.


Apparently I need to strap her in

The little guy wants to be exactly like the big guy. Incidentally, the big guy has learned a lot from the patience of the little guy too.

Another great big brother. He is always right there to help her and loves to make her smile.

This guy adores his little sister. He is often too busy to play with her long, but he always has a hug and kiss for her.