Thursday, November 30, 2017

Into the Big Crazy

Here I am again, stealing a moment on this last day of November. The last day before my favorite month of the year, and I am looking forward to it, even though I already know there won't be a lot of moments quietly marveling at the Christmas tree or getting all sentimental over a Hallmark Christmas movie. That's just not my life these days, and that's more than ok.

I have enjoyed my day so far, though the usual anxious urgency has been howling in the back of my head all day. I haven't taken a shower yet because I got up right when I needed to wake up the boys from school. Scarlett was up and down all night. And then at 3:45 she pooped. She has a terrible diaper rash due to this constant pooping from the combination of antibiotics and all the dairy I consumed on the cruise, so when she poops I have to wash her in the sink and then let her air dry before pasting her up with diaper cream and getting her dressed again. Then I held her while she was restless for an hour, and at 4:45 she pooped again....
So when my alarm rang at 5:45 and she was in a blissful wide open mouth relaxed state of sleep, I snuggled up and went back to sleep with her.
Needless to say, night weaning has been a lost cause since my last post. She has had 3 ear infections in a month, colds with night time congestion and coughing in between, and diarrhea almost all the way through. The diarrhea burned her so badly on the cruise because she was almost constantly leaking, and I just couldn't change and wash her as often as I needed to. I also only had a little vaseline along and not the heavy duty stuff we needed....and a load of cheap diapers when she really needed the premium kind. None of those are to be had in tourist shops in the Caribbean.

She had fun on the cruise though. She loved watching everyone, loved everyone always coming over to say hello. She especially loved the tinder boat ride to Belize on her 7 month birthday.

She is crawling now, all over the place. Pulling up on things. Sometimes letting go and standing by herself for a second before she topples to the floor. She waves hello occasionally, and gives high 5s when she feels like it. She smiles almost all the time. She loves the Tula my friend loaned me.When she is in it, she goes into this totally relaxed and snuggly state.
When I brought her to urgent care for her last ear infection a couple days ago and told them she was fussy, they looked at me incredulously. She was fussy...for her. She whimpers occasionally. She complains a bit. When she does get going, which never lasts long, she screams "Nananananana" just like Aquaman used to when he cried.

The cruise went ok. The kids had the time of their lives, and for that it was all worth it. They all wish they were "back on the cruise ship". Last night when I was rocking Scarlett in the boys' room, I heard The Dude murmering something in his sleep about "finding it on deck 4". There was a ropes course, plenty of hot tubs, bunk beds in the cabin, giant water slides, and 24 hour ice cream, so it was pretty much kid paradise. We relaxed our eating rules the whole week and let them eat lucky charms for breakfast because's vacation. I thought when we got back they would have to detox and would freak out from not having so much sugar, but Aquaman said "I thought this normal food would taste bad when we got back, but it's actually really good" as he sunk his teeth into an apple. And that's pretty much how they have been about it. (On a side note, Aquaman has just started eating unpeeled apples, out of nowhere, and I am through the moon with gladness that he can finally just go get a snack on his own).

We stopped at each port and got out for approximately 30 minutes, just to say we had been there. None were impressive at all, but we can all now say we have been to Mexico, and Honduras. JT did not get off at Belize due to some family health issues, and I did not get off in Cozumel, but he got to take the older boys on an excursion to swim with sharks and sting rays.

East, West, home is best.

Our family is now so officially enormous that we had to have 2 rooms, and since we signed up late, they did not adjoin. So JT and I had to sleep apart each night, which was sad. There was also a lot of stress related to aforementioned family health issues (his family, not ours), and JT got seasick the first night. I, the one who was terrified of throwing up the whole time before the cruise, never felt the slightest bit nauseous.

But it is good to be home. Back to the chaos, back to more ear infections (Greystoke has had 2 in a row 2, which makes him act....very special) and worn out kids, first basketball practices and work. Back to sharing a bed together.

I am so proud of my husband. And as he said "those who go to war together, come closer together". I am more in love with him than ever after once again facing adversity together and coming out on top. We stayed a team. We are one. That was my biggest thankful this thanksgiving.

This morning, as a reward, he got to clean up Scarlett's poop since it "squirted from her like someone stepped on a ketchup bottle" and I had her diaperless to help the rash. Just before we headed out the door to school dropoff, Greystoke shattered a glass bottle. I took the kids and ran, leaving him with a million pieces of glass to clean up.

I am so glad he gets a break at work.

I do not get such a break at work because I almost always have Scarlett with me, and sometimes other kids too especially when they are sick or when I am making up hours from vacation. I am so grateful for my job, it is one of the greatest gifts from God, because I used to beg Him to let me be home with my babies, and now I can be there for them and still work. It is incredible. Not only that but when I first quit CMS I missed it and the kids so much. But now I have fallen so in love with my clients that I barely remember feeling that way. I love the opportunity to be a part of their lives. I lie awake some nights wishing I could do my job better, because I am so thankful for it.

JT took the boys to get a Christmas tree when I was at urgent care with Ruth a couple nights ago.
I told the boys we could get the decorations out when I got caught up on laundry....which has taken a while since the dryer broke on the first load of post trip laundry and then I ordered a new one and there was an "incident" hooking it up. No one was hurt.

Plus I am still making up hours from our vacation so today was my first school day off to get to work on stuff. Unfortunately there was way more to do than one day's worth.
Hopefully I can go finish getting it put away before we walk to pick them up from school today and we can break out the decorations before we tackle studying geography and multiplication and learning to read, both of which have not come easily at all.

There is soup in the crockpot, I spent 20 minutes peeling and cutting a butternut squash with a dull knife this morning, all the while bitterly wondering if my kids would just shout "eww" the whole time at my soup. At the last minute, I traded out tomato paste for diced tomatoes because Greystoke and the Dude won't eat tomato chunks, so I am hoping for the best.

The shower is probably a lost cause. Fully completing the laundry put away might be too. I'll shut the closet door.
I have left Jesus sitting in our spot in the kitchen more times than I care to mention this week. He's still there waiting for me, right beside my Bible. He loves me anyway, I don't deserve it. But He won't hold it over my head when I return.

I ordered an advent devotion, and am going to return to my tradition of trying to keep the holidays as simple as possible this year. We are going to make peppermint playdough this weekend. We have a snack craft to make at home and deliver to my clients (foolproof I hope, I am no good at this stuff). I asked the boys their favorite holiday tradition last night, and they were walking to see Christmas lights in the evenings, and making Christmas cookies with Aunt Katie. It is the simple things they love. We will probably never go on another luxurious cruise,but we don't need to anyway.

I heard this radio program the other day about a lady who adopted an older child, and she said she and her husband were not afraid going in because they were ignorant about how hard it would be, and she feels that God helped them obey by protecting them from all the truth. I thought about having a 4th child and wondered for a moment if it wasthe same. It has't been for me. I was happy with 3 kids, I loved my boys, I told God we were good. He told me we weren't. I knew it would be hard. I knew it would be sweaty, and chaotic. But I knew it would be worth it. It is.

I struggle with a lot of mom guilt, especially when I am tired. The Dude needs so much help with school, and I haven't gotten to the reading curriculum lately. Greystoke has been watching too much tv. He also has a cavity. Scarlett has had multiple ear infections from exposure to older kids' germs, and the first child would probably never have the kind of diaper rash she does now. Aquaman is my "easy kid" right now, sensory issues, and poor study and eating habits, and inside out clothes and all. So a lot of times I ask a lot of him. A lot of times he gets lost in the shuffle.

But I am so glad JT and I followed God into this big crazy who knows what is going to happen next life. Because yes, He can be there on cruise ships and catching some sun on deck chairs, or sitting through a relaxing dinner not wondering if someone is going to break a glass (again). But I think even more so He is in the ketchup like squirting poop and the shattered glass. We can't see it all, but He is here. He is making all things beautiful. Even the broken things.

Sunday, November 12, 2017


Somehow it is Sunday afternoon again. I am starting this blog before the boys even leave for Awana, because I am letting them have some "extra" screen time this afternoon, and because Scarlett is taking an early nap which means she will be up in the space before JT gets home and after they leave.
They won't all be leaving though tonight. The Dude came down with a fever yesterday afternoon, and though I thought that was it this morning and it was just turning into a cold, he came back up to 101 a couple hours ago. He is heartbroken. He is probably the one who likes Awana the best.

I am trying not to think about everyone else getting it over the course of the next week, because by now I know that it is inevitable. I am not going to necessarily say that we are overcrowded, but with everyone sharing a room, and with The Dude's disinterest in giving anyone personal space, I just have to be realistic.
Whenever I look at him, with his fingers inching toward his nose, with his harsh asthma-mixed-with-chest-cold cough, the only words that come to mind are from nursing school: viral shedding.
I snuggle him anyway.
It's kind of a bad week to be getting sick, because I am working every day this week in preparation to be off all next week for the cruise we are going on with all of JT's family for thanksgiving.
But then again, it is better that we are sick this week than next. Although I already found myself counting on my fingers....if Scarlett gets this very nasty cold in the next couple of days, that mean she will also develop her 2nd ear infection while we are somewhere in the Caribbean.
But oh well, it is what it is.
One thing is for sure though, I am looking forward to vacation. I dragged my feet about going on this cruise, which JT's parents are very generously paying for, for quite a while. I was worried about motion sickness, and am not a big fan of crowds, particularly since I became the mother of boys, and one in particular who gets very overstimulated by a lot of action. I especially don't like crowds during flu season, see above regarding overcrowded conditions.
But I also know that my kids are just going to have a blast. They will get to have so many new experiences, and I am all for experiences. On top of that, I spend the majority of my life, when I am not working, in the kitchen making or cleaning up food, or in my bedroom sorting and putting away laundry. And those are 2 things I will not have to do for an entire week while we are on the cruise.
JT will have 10 days off in a row, I will have 9, and we will be able to spend a lot of time with his family.
It will be perfectly exhausting, I am sure, as all things are with 4 children, but it will be a trip to remember forever.

Well, Scarlett woke up. I played the Lady Bug game with Greystoke for a few minutes, got everyone's shoes on, and we played in the garage for a while waiting for Grandma to pick up Aquaman and Greystoke.
Now The Dude and Scarlett are playing on the floor. I asked The Dude to give me a few minutes of quiet, but he keeps forgetting. He is sitting indian style on the carpet asking me questions like "At Doubles do you make your own ice cream? How do they put in the cone. They hand you the cone? Grandma has a nicer house than you do. Why are you typing so fast?"
We moved outside to the Johnny Jump up and hot tub, and then I got a call from my sister K, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to talk to her for a few minutes.
The Dude is back inside now, he had enough of the hot tub. Scarlett is trying to eat my leg while she stands up in the jumper. I swear, she wants to run before she actually crawls.
She has been rocking on all 4s for weeks, and I kind of figured she would have taken off by now, but she is still kind of just creeping along inch worm style. Every now and then she'll get a coordinated looking rhythm going, but then she will fall on her nose or something and have to start over.
Actually, I think there is a chance that she would be crawling had she not had a corneal abrasion followed by a yucky cold followed by an ear infection. But to be honest, I am not complaining.

She is the happiest little thing, for the most part. She always has a smile, and usually a laugh for her brothers.
She loves to be out and about, watching everything. I always say she wishes she had a lego man head so it could do a 360 wherever we go and she could see everything at once.
She hasn't been a huge fan of the solid foods, and it is complicated by her shuddering spells, which worsen when she eats with a spoon, but she is getting a lot better. Actually she loves meat and vegetables much more than fruit. And she prefers all of her foods warmed up, thank you very much. She tolerates everything, like the good sport that she is, but she is not terribly enthusiastic about any of it.
Not sure if that is a girl thing, or a Scarlett thing.
But her most recent weight was quite well established on the charts, at least in part from eating all night long which she has done for the past 2 months.

In fact, her sleep has been getting so bad that I have started grinding and/or clenching my teeth during the few hours that I do sleep. So a couple mornings this week, I not only woke up completely exhausted and overwhelmed, but with my jaw and teeth hurting so much that I could barely eat anything and ended up with a throbbing headache as well.
So the 2nd day in a row like that, trying to keep my cool with 4 kids, working 24 hours a week, caring for a baby all day and all night with barely a 5 minute break, I decided something had to give. I nursed all the boys to the age of 2 most of the night because I couldn't figure out what else to do. We lived in tiny houses and they cried so much. On top of that, I somewhat relied on night nursing as birth control.
But this time, Scarlett takes a pacifier, and it is a lot of work to get her to sleep with that instead of nursing, but it is not impossible. Everyone has their limits. This is mine. So this week I started night weaning her, but as usual that is a time consuming process, and it is always complicated by illness or teething or travel or anything else when it comes to babies. I did great making her wait 4 hours between feeds, though she continued to wake up every 60-90 minutes, though when it was time to feed her, I would often fall asleep and wake up 2 hours to her still attached to me.
But I do have hope now, and that counts for a lot.
Scarlett is fussing at me right now. The Dude keeps interrupting me every 3 seconds to say "Mom. The clock says 4 dot dot 47. I just thought you should know. This is my quiet time. My few minutes each week to try to think straight. I find myself wishing I had given him ibuprofen and sent him on his way to infect his little awana friends. But I am trying to hold it together.
He is so into math right now. At night he lays in bed listening to audio books and doing math problems on his white board. It is totally adorable. He wishes he could read. Sometimes he will take a favorite chapter book and count the page numbers since he can't read the words yet.
I am listening to an audio book lately called "The gift of dyslexia" and have found it totally fascinating. Not only have I come to understand a lot more about The Dude, but about JT as well. The theory is that dyslexia is simply a different way of thinking that can cause a learning disability. I have long suspected that The Dude's writing problems were related to dyslexia, despite his being able to struggle through and stay on grade level for reading last year. And for the first time in this book, the author described his problem: some people with a severe form of dyslexia cannot see diagonal lines. This is exactly The Dude, and why it took him so long to learn to write.
This guy's theory was that the child has to create the pathways of diagonal lines in his brain by creating the letters correctly themselves. He recommended clay, which we used a lot of last year, but connecting dots have also helped.
We are using an Orton Gillingham approach to reading homeschool curriculum after school, because it is supposed to be the most effective in teaching someone with dyslexia to read....and actually comprehend what they're reading. I am more and more convinced that once it clicks, it is going to take off and he will be reading with the best of them. I hope so.
Greystoke is now 3.5, and he is without a doubt, a threenager. He tells me every day that he hates me. Especially if we are in the middle of doing something fun, or if I suddenly tell him how much I love him, or if I give him a hug after he hurts himself.
The past couple of days he has been something....extra. I really don't know. I guess it is just the cold he has had, and adjusting the tortuous time change, but it has been something to behold.
When he is sweet, he is completely adorable. That is usually when you are giving him whatever he wants, or for me at bedtime, because that has always been our special time, and probably because I am extra patient with him then because most of my work is done and that is my time to just be with him.
Aquaman is just at the most incredible age. JT always likes to quote something that he heard about age 10 being "the golden year of childhood". As far as I am concerned, Aquaman at 9.5 is totally golden right now.
He is so independent, but at night when I come in holding Scarlett and rock in the chair next to his bed, and reach over to him as he is falling asleep, he folds his big boy hand into mine and tells me he loves me. He picks up all his legos all day long with very little complaint. He will do anything to get Greystoke to stop screaming, and he loves to hold Scarlett and make her stand up, or laugh.
When I get completely overwhelmed with everything that needs to get done, with the impossibility of dinner time, and homework, and taking care of a baby, and a job, sometimes he will come pat me on the back and tell me he is sorry that I am so stressed, or that I am having a bad day. It makes me feel so much better. Partly because someone cares, because a lot of the time it is just me and the kids, JT has been working most weekends, has been off only when I am working, and is gone for 10 hours which include the worst hour of making dinner and finishing homework and a cranky baby. But also partly because he's my son, and he is a kind and compassionate person, and I am proud of him for that.

The Dude just asked me if I liked dried pickles. I told him I didn't think so, and then he asked me "what's a dried pickle?"
He then informed me that it was 5:17 pm, which totally stressed me out because I need to get to Doubles to pick up dinner before JT gets home.
I was going to make dinner, because it is so much cheaper, but I lost my energy when I knew that The Dude would be home with me during my quiet time, so I am doing it the easy way, even though the easy way actually sounds exhausting to me.
There are 2 more loads of laundry upstairs that need to be put away, and new sheets on the boys' beds.
I really wanted to spend this time writing about what I have been learning during my quiet times lately.
They have been anything but quiet this past week since the time change. I have been up with Scarlett most mornings before 5, and the boys have been down before 5:30. That means I have been able to get a lot done in the mornings, but it also means my quiet times have been pretty busy.
I sit in the corner of the kitchen reading my Bible and drinking my coffee. Sometimes I leave my Bible there all day just so I can see it when I pass by, since I spend so much time there, and I can remember in the chaos, in the feeling like I am somehow going to implode from all the details there are to remember, that I am loved and cherished, and that Jesus likes to spend time with me too.
When I am tempted to empty the dishwasher instead of sitting down there on the floor, I imagine Jesus sitting there, like a real person, waiting for me. He would wait quietly for me all day there in that train station of a tiny stuffy kitchen because He likes to sit with me. Sometimes I apologize as I plop the baby down on the floor with her toys beside me, and I imagine Him smiling at me. I imagine him saying: "I love to see you as a mother."
It's a big part of who I am right now. But it's not all I am to Him. I am me. And He loves me. He longs to sit with me. He loves to walk to me. He is happy to join in the chase with me. But He is often urging me to slow down. Not everything gets done. Not everything can.
But life is not meant to be lived frantically, or anxiously.

And now I must go. Scarlett is nursing again. The Dude just said "Mom" for the 400th time, and I could feel the virus shedding on me. JT will be home in about 10 minutes, and we all need some dinner.
Thanksgiving will be here in just over a week, and I am so thankful that I could sit here and type for a few minutes.That I have something to type about. That I have so much to love.
And mostly that I am loved.