Wednesday, August 2, 2017


I am just going to come right out and say it...
There have been moments, minutes, hours, ok days these past couple of weeks when I thought I might actually lose my mind if it wasn't for the impending start of school.

I love my kids so much. I am so thankful for them. Sometimes I even want more. (Don't worry, we are making sure that is not going to happen short of divine intervention ;)). But holy moly they can be overwhelming.

I remember thinking toward the end of last year....Aquaman just talks to much after school because he has been saving it up all day. In the summer time he will be home more and spread his talking out throughout the day.

Wrong. He wakes up talking a mile a minute. I point out that I have not yet had my coffee, or that I am working, or that he has morning breath so at least could he step back a few paces or go brush his teeth. He continues talking throughout the remainder of the day. At night, he talks during story time or game time, asking probing questions, pointing out irrelevant details. When I have prayed with him, hugged him, and headed down the stairs to make my evening tea, he comes out of his room with one more thing to say. When I am spending time with JT in our bedroom he knocks on the door to tell me the funny details of his latest book. I am listened out. I am tired. I have trouble finding the line to draw in asking him to stop talking. After all I am working 20 hours a week so that is 20 hours I cannot listen to him talk. So when he does talk during those nonworking hours I feel guilty not being available. Sometimes I do remind myself what the psychologist advised about when he is talking persistently about subjects that bore me to's in his best interest to remind him that not everyone wants to talk about what he wants to talk about, and sometimes he should find something that interests someone else and talk about that. But I am his mother. I truly want to be interested in what interests him. It's a fine line I tell you.

The Dude talks a lot too. He has zero concept about personal space, even though I try to tell him about hula hoop distance and asking before he touches people. So that means I get spit upon a lot. Sometimes because he is actually making sound effect spitting noises because he is a boy, and sometimes because he just spits when he talks, and he so darn close that it hits me every time. He gives me so many hugs, and I love hugs, but when I am right in the middle of cooking dinner and I don't KNOW that he is coming for a hug, and I just get blindsided by what actually feels like a tackle, sometimes I don't really love getting hugged. And once again there is guilt in that because I know he won't be 6 and hugging me every chance he gets forever. But sometimes...whoa...I just want a little notice. He craves attention. I mean, demands it. "Mom look at me. Hey mom, watch this! Mom, look what I made." Not 30 times a day, 300. And if I happen to be doing something like using the bathroom or getting him yet another snack and I don't immediately look, his feelings are shattered and he will probably do something like kick his 3 year old brother in the head.

Greystoke continues to be and probably will always be my easiest child. He was just born flexible and content. One of his favorite phrases is: "maybe we can do that tomorrow." He just goes with the flow for the most part. But right now he is 3, and 3 is a bit controlling and a bit emotional. When 3 is a boy who happens to have 2 older brothers and who also happens to think he is as big as said brothers, 3 gets hurt a lot and needs a lot of comforting. Mostly Greystoke just makes me feel guilty because I want to spend more time with him. He is so little.He is so sweet, and he gets so little of my undvided attention. I am looking forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays with him when school starts. I want to listen to his thoughts and ideas and let him pick things that he wants to do.

And then there is Scarlett, who turned 3 months old a week ago. I still don't get enough time to just stare at her, but I make an effort to stop and do it, often when I feel most overwhelmed. She is sleeping better this past week which helps. At her 3 month checkup we decided to go ahead and try Zantac for reflux, since she was waking up in the middle of the night and seeming uncomfortable and having trouble resettling. She really never screamed, and I often didn't even have to pick her up, I would just keep my hand on her and she would grab my hand and that seemed to comfort her. But she couldn't seem to sleep and that meant neither could I. And one thing I have learned from having 4 kids is that different kids respond different ways to things. Aquaman had reflux and was a miserable baby, but some of that was just his sensitive personality. He was much more dramatic about ear infections than Greystoke who had them constantly but barely seemed to notice them. Pain is a subjective experience. And Scarlett continues to have slow weight gain/ At her last appointment the pediatrician was much more encouraging about it, agreeing that she is obviously thriving despite her continued drop in weight percentiles. Her height is now up to the 95%. It is not because I am not making enough milk. She just spits up about 30% of it.
Anyway, whether it is the Zantac or not, she is sleeping now. She still wakes up twice to eat but goes right back to sleep. She has also stopped fighting her naps and falls asleep much more easily. Not sure if that was a stage or reflux related. Babies can be such mysteries.

She is so much to watch turn into a person though. She still smiles nonstop, she has begun "talking" more and makes a lot of grunting noises. But the biggest thing I have noticed is the laughter. She laughs all the time. Often at nothing in particular, just out of nowhere, shrieking laughter. It totally makes my day. Greystoke was a sunshine smiler like she is, but he still is hard to get to laugh. He is just so chill it takes a lot to make him cry or laugh. But she is a giggler. She thinks life is exciting. Her biggest laughs are right after something (or someone, let's just be honest here), startles her. I love her for that. She is so tiny and so resilient, and so beautiful.
I had hopes that her eyes were going to be like Daddy's. He has these green/amber/almost hazel eyes that I love and none of our children have had them, though Greystoke's do seem to be a greenish brown sometimes. But her eyes seem to be getting darker every day. Right now they are the color of the ocean on a cloudy day, a dark and rich green/gray, and I suspect she will also have greenish brown eyes of Greystoke. Her hair is still quite dark, and she gets an awesome tan. Which, when I picture someone with the name we gave her, those features are just what I picture, so I love that. It's hard to believe she could have a red haired, blue eyed freckled and fair skinned brother, and 2 brothers somewhere in between but it is so fun to have 4 such different kids.

Despite her nonexistent BMI, she has tiny little rolls on her legs and I love them. I kiss her all over and try not to think about the days when she will feel uncomfortable in her perfectly made imperfect body. I hope she will see it for the miracle it is, and not for all the things she wishes it was or thinks it should be. I hope when she looks in the mirror she will see the beauty inside of her shining through the eyes, whatever color they end up. That's what I hope.

I am feeling better right now. Grandma took the boys to the zoo this morning and ended up being gone for 6 hours...they are on their way home now. I worked for 2 hours and spent the rest enjoying the baby, enjoying JT who is off today, and enjoying the quiet.
When Scarlett got fussy, I packed her in the car and we took a long walk on the beach. That is my healing place. I told her I know we won't be just alike and that I look forward to getting to know who she is, and what is inside of her, but I told her I hope this is her healing place too. I hope to someday get back on a surfboard now that I am done having babies, but if even if I never do, I will always remember the way it felt to slide under and into the waves. To feel the wildness around me. To feel the hand of God.

God is everywhere. He's in the quiet house that is usually swarming with wild boys, in the soft firm grasping fingers of a baby girl, her squirms and cries when her belly hurts. In the neverending words, the hugs, the tears of little boys. He is in the hurt and struggle of the world and the people around me that sometimes weighs so heavily. But I feel Him most in the quiet. In smell of salt and the hint of past tropical storm swirling in the air.

"He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul."
Psalm 23:2

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ups and Downs

Life has been moving at such a pace that it's been hard to keep up.
Having a bunch of little ones is such a roller coaster. I feel just short of totally crazy most of the time. Much of the time I am so happy I can hardly contain myself.
Like last Friday, walking through the mall, holding JT' hand. Scarlett was in the front pack with him, and the 3 boys were walking ahead of us, holding hands and giggling.
JT looked over at me with a big smile and said "3 wouldn't have been enough, would it?"
And then Greystoke fell down and started crying hysterically.
This past week seems to have reached its pinnacle in the exhaustingness of it all.
Scarlett is often not sleeping well at night. She wakes up every 3-4 hours to eat, which wouldn't be so bad, except she often wakes up between the feedings with belly aches. She doesn't scream and refuse to be comforted or anything, and often I can leave her in the cosleeper beside me and just keep my hand on her and replace her pacifier every couple of minutes while she squirms around trying to get comfortable. Sometimes burping, or spitting up helps, sometimes she will finally get rid of the gas and relax again. But it is a lot of waking up.
Some nights Greystoke is up several times too. Always at least once a night. He is not that hard to put back to sleep. I just walk him back to bed and lay down with him.
I am pretty sure if I stopped lying down with him to put him to sleep at night, that he would probably not wake up and come looking for me so often. But I won't be doing that any time soon, because life is so busy, and he is still so little, and that is our time.
Daddy puts Scarlett to bed. She is the first baby he has ever put to bed, and I love peeking in the room to see how it is going. He kneels beside her bed and puts his hands on her, and she loves that. She loves them. Daddy's girl. It almost kills me to see them together.
So I am tired, for one thing. Several days a week I get up early to work before the kids get up. I am overly caffeinated, and often not eating enough because I feel like I spend all day feeding the kids, and I am sometimes too exhausted to feed myself.
But just when I feel like I am going to totally lose my mind, like around noon today when I realized I hadn't eaten enough to balance out the 2 cups of coffee I had ingested, and the air conditioning man hadn't shown up even though his window was 8-12, and the kids were restless and there were blocks all over my floor...
Then we do something like go to the beach. With my sister who is visiting, and her kids. And then when the thunder chased us away from the beach, I took the younger 3 to the pool where we met up with my friend who is also my neighbor and another friend. And when I came home, I felt better. I put Scarlett to sleep snuggled in bed with her, not trying to train her to fall asleep on her own, which is what I spend a lot of time doing, just as the rain was starting. And I didn't give her a bath, and she still smells a little like salt. And she's still so little, so she also smells a little new. And breathing all that in, felt so good.

So I finally decided to write, because there is never a good time. I feel so guilty stopping to do anything. Even taking a shower makes me feel guilty because there is so much laundry and dishes to put away, and floors and cabinets to clean, and everything just feels like it has totally gotten away from me. But I do take a shower, because a shower is sort of for everyone....
And now I am taking a few minutes to write, because....well...just because. Because every now and then I just have to steal a few minutes.
It's hard because mostly I want to steal those minutes to stare at my kids, especially the beautiful baby who is changing so rapidly every day. So most of the time those are the moments I steal.
I find myself almost desperate for school to start again, and a little more rhythm and a little less confusion juggling the kids, and a few more minutes of quiet with my younger 2.
Greystoke has had a little bit of a hard time with the chaos of summer. He has been sort of anxious, stuttering a lot, peeing a lot. The older 2 are so loud and so fast, and he thinks he should be able to keep up with them and that's a lot.
But there is also a part of me that gets a stomach ache thinking about school starting again.

We have started back up with some school work during the day...not much at all...20 minutes of Aquaman practicing his typing skills and The Dude practicing his writing. Mostly his name. Which day after day never gets better.
I mean, actually it is a lot better than last year, IF I am sitting right beside him reminding him how to form each letter. But the minute I walk away and ask him to write it himself, the best that he can do it, it is all over the place, half of the letters are backward, some are random capitals, and they are spread all over the paper.
But I have also been noticing more and more how smart he is in different and unique ways, and appreciating that.
It only hurts my stomach to see the way he writes his name and to think about school because school is really hard for people like him, and sometimes hard things are good, but sometimes too hard things for a kid can be really bad.
And also because I know it is not just school. I have seen how hard regular life has been for JT because in the world we live in reading and writing are like...everything. And everything is harder when they are really hard for you.
Blue collar jobs are hard too. It's hard to make enough money to support your family, it's really hard to get respect from people, and the people you work with can be really difficult. JT has always had to work jobs where he has to work weekends, and he has to sweat a lot, and people are disrespectful to him, and he has to work twice as hard at things that I have taken for granted. And it is not because he is not smart. JT is a genius. But our world is very focused on words.
I want so much to help The Dude find things he does better, he does uniquely, to focus on his gifts instead of his weaknesses. But I know that might be hard in the school environment. I am praying for teachers who see the same things I do, who take the time to bring out his gifts.
He has the heart of a lion, the hugs of a teddy bear, quarterback good looks and the biggest brown eyes and longest lashes you ever saw. And I feel quite certain that his struggle with words was given to him by God just as much as the heart, hugs, and looks were. It is the weakness that accompanies the strength. It is all a part of the glorious plan.
And speaking of God's plans, I have been loving watching Scarlett's personality come out.
She can fight sleep with the best of them, but is still most of the time in such a good mood.
She is incredibly strong. She still loves tummy time, and has rolled over several times. She also pushes herself forward during tummy time. When you lay her down she tries to sit up, and as a matter of fact, she CAN sit up for about 10 seconds with only a hand hold. At less than 3 months. She is seriously ready to get going.
She's a serious spitter, there have been days I have counted 16 times before we hit lunch time. But she seems to be gaining weight better, and is generally happy about all of it.

She adoes her brothers, all of them. She stares at Aquaman until he begrudgingly looks at her. He can't help smiling back at her huge grins.
The Dude is all over her, but doesn't have much time for her before he is off on another mission.
She and Gresytoke have the most special bond I think. He gets right in her face, and squeezes her legs kind of hard and makes her crack up laughing. She is not intimidated in the least. He cries when "the Dude is hogging her".
I have been trying to get her to fall asleep on her own but things are just so crazy it kind of feels impossible. I am weaning the swaddle currently and she is down to only one arm swaddled, so at least that is kind of going well.
Most of the time when I am trying to teach her to fall asleep by herself, the boys get into a knock down drag out screaming fight and all is lost.
She mostly doesn't cry hard when I leave her to herself, but I don't even like to let her fuss long. Sometimes when she falls asleep easily after a few minutes of complaining, and when I check on her, I think to myself...she doesn't know. Shedoesn't know that her mother is a big softie who has not let any of her babies cry themselves to sleep and isn't about to start with her baby girl.
I am often torn about whether I want her to immediately sleep through the night anyway...after all that is our time. Life is so chaotic and there is so much to do as soon as my feet hit the floor. So I sabotage myself sometimes and hold her extra long at night. She's only my baby for a little while.
We are finally coming to terms with the fact that we will have to move someday. We are still looking at several years since I don't want to work more when they are all so little. But eventually they are going to be teenagers...they are all growing so fast. And enclosing patios and knocking down walls really isn't going to solve the space problem.
I want them to bring their friends to our house instead of wanting to go somewhere else when they are teenagers.
Right now the lack of space only drives ME crazy, especially when there are legos all over the living room and 4 children in our tiny kitchen. But eventually it will become something that drives them crazy, and I don't want that to happen. You just need a certain amount of space when you have 4 kids and all the stuff that that entails.
But sometimes that seems impossible, and that has made me a little tired this week. Right now the association is painting, and also gave us a list of things we need to do, so we had our screen replaced, and our courtyard pressure washed, and our balcony railing painted. Then JT wanted to put in a new outlet. And our air conditioning drain line got clogged. And there is always something.
But for now all we have to do is live today anyway. That's what I keep reminding myself, and what my time in the book of James has reminded me lately.
We can plan for tomorrow and think about tomorrow, and do our best to save for tomorrow, but we really have no idea what tomorrow will bring.
And there is something reassuring about that.
But now it is time to make dinner, and turn off the boys' tablets and burp Scarlett because she just finished nursing after a particularly loud clap of thunder, and now she is fussing and punching me because her belly hurts and because I am typing instead of burping her.
Back to the never ending and never done.
JT will be home soon. There will be the mess and exhaustion of dinner, which try as I might I never really enjoy. Then bedtime, which I do enjoy. Games and books and the Bible and prayer and lots and lots of hugs.
Occasionally JT and I will look over at each other over our childrens' heads and wonder what we have done.
But as we drift off to sleep he will reach over to take my hand, and we will both thank God for what He has done.