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.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Even If

It's 7 am on a Saturday morning, and there is chaos in my living room.

On week days, I start trying to wake up the older boys at around 7, and usually have to drag them out of bed at around 7:15. But on Saturdays.....everyone in the house is up and moving at a vigorous pace by 6:30 am.

I look forward to the weekends all week. I miss the big boys when they are at school all day. I just wish they didn't have to start with such....intensity.

The Dude was the first one up this morning. He is the one with the most energy and intensity right now and usually he is the one who sleeps in the longest, which is convenient. But not today for some reason. Today for some reason he was up first and he turned on every light in the house and forgot to shut the bedroom doors, and since I am sleeping with a baby, it is not a simple matter just to get up and shut the door because if I get up she will wake up too and she will look around and see lights on and it will all be over.

It turned out that way anyway because she stirred and looked around and saw all the light flooding into the room and started poking Greystoke (who had crawled into our bed half an hour before) in the eyes and then it was time for everyone to get up.

I went downstairs and made breakfast and then I went to turn down the volume on the tv that The Dude was watching and he tried to put me away with his foot in my stomach. So I sent him upstairs and turned off the tv and a few minutes later I went upstairs to talk to him and when I came back downstairs I found Scarlett in the bathroom eating toilet paper.

Aquaman could see that I wasn't doing well before my coffee. He offered to take the other 2 boys upstairs to play with them and give me a few minutes to wake up. I was touched by the offer and it helped me have a better attitude, I told him that I was fine. A few minutes ago, The Dude was in my face telling me the details of the workings of the Ninjago techno blades and Aquaman said "Dude, mom is trying to write right now, back up a little bit." I told him it was fine, and he said "I guess your coffee is starting to work." But what was really starting to work was the mental dialogue going through my head, reminding's Saturday. There are a million things to do and they will not all get done, and that's ok.

My battle continues with the urgent and important. If you do not make time for the important, the urgent will crowd it out. The important to me this morning is sitting down to write for a few minutes. Even if they make a mess and I face constant distractions while I am doing it.

The important is letting them distract me with their arguments about how many times bigger the sun is than Jupiter, and ask me for 2nd breakfast.

But it's hard to remember the important sometimes when the multi tasking seems to have reached such an intense new high.

Life is great. Most of all of our stress is good stress, stress for positive reasons.

But sometimes what it feels like is death by a thousand cuts. Not a moment to think my own thoughts. A million interruptions. New tires. Physicals. Another school fundraiser.

It doesn't help that Scarlett isn't sleeping well at all. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that she is currently teething, finally. She will be 9 months on Monday, and she is getting her first tooth. But it is not the ones you would expect. It is is one of her canines. And it has been trying to push through for weeks. I should probably change her nickname to Fang. Of course at the rate this tooth is pushing through, it will be another month and she may have more teeth by the time it is actually out.

I wish it would just come through already and she would start sleeping again, but I have learned by now that with a baby it is always something.

School has also been pretty exhausting. I finally negotiated a plan with The Dude's teacher regarding homework....she was sending home an 8 page packet every Monday, and that had to be done on top of reading every day. Which I guess might be manageable, but after 6.5 hours of school, what little attention span the Dude has left is gone. It's hard enough to get him to read a book to me which I think is far more important than doing the same worksheets he does all day at school. His teacher ignored my several requests to change up his homework, saying that she would have to check with his IEP team, but never getting back with me. So I finally went to his resource teacher who agreed with me. Apparently histeacher is the squeakier wheel though because after they talked, it was decided that he would do his writing homework during his resource time, and his math homework at home. Which I think is kind of a stupid use of his one on one time, and that the resource teacher should get to choose what he does in there, but whatever. He doesn't have to do it at home.

I am not a huge fan of the Dude's teacher.

Aquaman is just tryng to survive this year too. He has gotten more and more stressed as the year has gone on, and he has gone from straight As to what will probably be Cs by the time the year ends. He is a perfectionist with anxiety, and that looks different from the typical perfectionist. When he starts to struggle with something his anxiety goes straight to a 10 and then in order to alleviate that anxiety he stops trying.
At the beginning of the year, I told him his homework would be his this year, he would be in charge of it. I told him I would be happy to help him with it, but I would not make him do it, or check it over to make sure it was done perfectly. I thought that would work fine, but I am struggling a bit with it. Given the choice, he just chooses not to study. When he gets a C on a test, he shrugs his shoulders. When I ask if he cares he gets tears in his eyes and says yes but it doesn't do any good to get upset. I am not sure what the answer is, really. Even if he can recite his spelling words and multiplication tables to me perfectly, when it comes to the anxiety of a testing situation he will forget to put the t in staircase and miss it anyway. So I can kind of understand his laid back attitude toward studying.
To be honest, I kind of agree with the more balanced approach to life anyway. I don't think life is all about making the best grades and I don't really want that to be his focus. But I would love for him not to feel like a wound up ball of stress.

Speaking of stress, conditions are deteriorating around here. The Dude broke one of Aquaman's huge lego masterpieces....again. He breaks everything he touches and Aquaman is obsessed with his stuff.
I have been trying to write this blog for 2 hours with thousands of interruptions, and I haven't even written about what is really on my heart, and that is what a gift it is to be back to regular life and death by a thousand cuts. We have stayed healthy for an entire 2 weeks (minus some colds which pretty much never end this time of year). And I feel a little guilty about that, to be honest. I am still processing my emotions from our New Year's adventure in the hospital with Greystoke.

On Christmas Eve he woke up with a fever and complaining of ear pain. He has had fluid in his ears off and on for several months, so I wasn't surprised. On Christmas Day he also developed a couple of strange spots on his face. I knew he fell off his new trike and figured they had something to do with that, but couldn't figure out how he would get them in that location. The next day I took him to the doctor. His ears were fine, and apparently throat pain can be referred to the ears. They thought the spots were weird too so they did some bloodwork. Strep was negative and the bloodwork was fine, so they pronounced it viral and we went home happy. But it didn't go away. And 5 days into it his fever went to 104.4 and he didn't get out of bed all day. He barely ate or drank anything. He didn't play. He didn't pee. The doctor's office was closed for the holidays so I took him to urgent care and we were admitted to the local hospital in the middle of the night. Scarlett had to come along because she won't take a bottle and won't sleep without me. That night was a comedy of errors, and one of the most exhausting nights of my life, which is saying a lot. The urgent care told us to go straight to peds, but the front desk sent us to the emergency room to be admitted. There is no way to go through the hospital so I had to walk around the building outside by the homeless people with two kids in tow on a freezing cold night with my flip flops, a carseat, and a diaper bag. Once we got there, transport forgot about us for 2 hours. We weren't actually in a room with IV and medications going until about 4:30 am. I am glad Greystoke won't remember any of this.

The hospital gave him much needed fluids and some toys but not much else. The hospitalist came in once for 5 minutes during our 2 day stay. Greystoke started peeing but didn't get any better otherwise. His fever went up every afternoon. He got too tired to get out of bed and had to wear a diaper all day. The 2nd day I was starting to lose my mind and wanted to see his own dr, so when he came in and declared Greystoke to have viral tonsillitis and asked if I wanted to take him home I signed the papers right then and there and did the happy dance walking out even though I knew it wasn't over.
I took all my stuff down while the nurse stayed with Greystoke, and then forgot the stroller in the van. So I had to carry Greystoke down in the Tula, with Scarlett on my hip. And somewhere in that chaos I lost my key and had to call JT's dad to come and get us (JT had to work all this time because his job is so awesome).

We came home and stayed for a day and a half. I was trying to get through New Year's so we could see the pediatrician, but by the time we got to the next evening I knew he had to go back to the hospital. He lay in my bed crying and asking me to sit with him, but if I touched him he cried out in pain. His back hurt, his legs hurt, everything hurt. I hadn't seen his smile in over a week.
I didn't want to go back through the trauma and nightmare of an overnight admission again so I packed our bags that night and we left the next morning. JT had to work again. The big boys were off school but luckily Grandma was available to keep them entertained. We drove an hour to the children's hospital and when we got there we checked in and then went to the bathroom and when we came out, they were calling us back. Within 15 minutes we had seen the doctor, and within an hour we were admitted. They didn't want Scarlett to stay with me and gave me a hard time about that, but what was I going to do? She stayed. The next 2 days were a blur. They finally started antibiotics. His fever continued. He turned white. Despite improved hydration, his capillary refill got more and more sluggish. It was the morning of the 2nd day, looking at him small and curled in his bed with all those monitors, all white, barely able to keep his eyes open, listening to the dr say that he had a hemoglobin of 8 that it occurred to me that this wasn't just a terrible episode of suffering we had to get through...this was very possibly a matter of life and death.

I didn't cry. How was I supposed to? I was running on adrenaline. Caring for a baby and the sickest of terrified kids, dealing with all of these strangers. When they both fell asleep, I listened to one of my favorite songs: "Even if you don't". It got my through the loss of K's first adoption a couple months. It reminded me that God is God, and I am not. I let a few small tears run down my face and then I wiped them away.

JT got there later that morning, and he took one look at Greystoke and his eyes filled with tears. We said a prayer together. We sat together.

They started a new antibiotic and a few hours later took his blood again. He sat up. He asked to play a game. His blood came back and was improving. He asked for and ate a hot dog for dinner.

The next day he was skateboarding on his IV pole. He was climbing in the windows. He was asking me for bacon. Scarlett and I praised the Lord as I bought his bacon and Lucky charms, and I looked at the other parents in the elevators, and I looked at the kids being pulled by in the wagons as we went to explore the playroom, and I wondered why. Why did my boy get better, and why do some boys not?

It wasn't until a week later that I finally cried. I was finally alone in my car, on the way to work, and "Even if you don't came on the radio."
"You've been faithful, You;ve been good all my days. Jesus I will trust in You, come what may. I know You're able. I know You can. I know You're able, I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand, but even if You don't. I will trust in You alone. I know the sorrow and I know the hurt could all go away if You'd just say the word, but even if You don't I will trust in You alone."
All that emotion I didn't even know was there came pouring out of me.

He said the word, my boy is fine. I didn'teven remember what his laugh sounded like, but I have heard it countless times in the past couple of weeks. That day that my son turned the corner, my sister K got the text that she was a Mommy. She went and picked up her son. Her son. And I met her as a mother this past week. I met my long awaited and prayed for nephew .

JT has been quoting this verse lately from Psalms: "Our days come to seventy years, or eighty if our strength endure; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass and we fly away....teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom."
Psalm 90:10,12

But the Psalm doesn't end there. It's true of course. JT and I are in the "prime" of our physical life. Our 30s. And we are tired. We are overwhelmed, overstimulated, over tired.
But it is the trouble that makes the victory more beautiful. The sorrow that makes the beauty more victorious.

"Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, Your splendor to their children....May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us....yes establish the work of our hands." Psalm 90: 15, 17

And now I had better return to the work of my hands.