Sunday, October 8, 2017


It's quiet for a few minutes around here.
The boys just left in one final flurry of activity, getting dressed from the pool, grabbing their Awana bags and heading out the door to go to Jason's Deli before Awana starts.
Scarlett, worn out from the pool and the Johnny Jumper that she was relegated to while I got everyone ready to go, just fell Greystoke's bed which is her new napping place. Since it is on the floor and she is a serious rolling machine lately.
Sundays are fun days around here. Last week there was no Awana, but it was still a really relaxing and fun day, as the picture above can attest. It rained most of the day and we went to church where I helped in the nursery with 10 babies, and after that coming home to 4 kids seemed like a piece of cake.
This week has been sunny. The storms seemed to have passed, though we are still on a boil water alert from a water main break during some of the rain.
I had nursery again this morning, and there were only 9 babies, but they were extra needy.
Sundays are the best days because they are the days I try my best not to try so hard. I don't worry so much about the house. I don't do much laundry, I make simple food to eat so there is less cleanup, and I don't try to do things like clean bathrooms (unless there is a bathroom emergency, and those definitely exist...) or take on some new organization project. Mostly I just try to be really present. I don't mess much with my phone. I get in the pool instead of sitting in the shade.
The boys and I look forward to Sundays because it is the day that I play with each of them individually. I am a quality time person. I want to be side by side with the people I love, one on one, learning them and engaging with them, which can be hard in the crowd mentality of a biggish family. Everyone always says that guys bond by doing things together, so maybe I am a little guyish in this, but I would rather be doing something fun together than sitting and talking for hours. So bedtimes and Sundays are totally up my alley.
JT is working again today. He has had to work every weekend day lately.
In some ways, that is nice, because his days off have almost all been the days that I am working, and it makes things a lot simpler to have him available to watch kids during that time.
But it's also hard not to have a day off together. Hard for the kids not to have him home on the weekends.
Right now, I wish we could have this time during Awana to hang out together.
But it's nice to have a few minutes of quiet too. There's plenty to do, and it's hard to stop. The boys did a great job picking up before they left, but there are always crumbs to vacuum and there is always laundry waiting to be put away.
But I had all these great pictures, so I had to stop and put them up. Because wow. Life is hurtling by and you can measure it in a baby.
She will be 6 months old in 2 weeks and she is coming to life.
She is bouncing and rolling and kicking and "swimming" and growling and squealing, and mostly smiling and laughing, but occasionally lodging a complaint or two because I think she is trying to get some teeth and she is probably also fighting off the many germs the older boys bring into the house but thankfully my immunity is helping.
Her arms and her legs are so long and she is filling out every day from the all night diner situation we have going on, and I suspect that she will be my earliest mover of all, and I don't know how I feel about that part.
Night time is going so much better. She falls asleep nursing while I am sitting with Greystoke holding his hand as he is falling asleep. She transfers well to her bed and stays asleep for several hours. Then she mostly sleeps in my bed and it doesn't bother me one bit, in fact, I love it more every day. I feel much more rested than I did a month ago, and I enjoy the all night snuggles. It will get old as she gets older, I expect, as it eventually did with the boys. But she is the baby, and she will be starting 3rd grade and wanting to walk to class by herself and not be seen getting mom hugs in the blink of an eye.
Her new thing is to wake up at 5:30 am. She will squeal for a little while, and play, and then she will poop. Which is a pretty good trick really because then I have to get up. Greystoke has also recently been waking up before 6 so I may as well get up anyway. And I  have been remembering the joys of early rising. You can actually get something done before the day starts. And the quiet and the dim light, and the coffee are kind of soothing.
Was heading to bed one night and found Greystoke on his buddy's bed...
The boys' school offers free breakfast to everyone in the school every school day. We stopped in a couple weeks ago because we were running early and The Dude said he was hungry despite 1st breakfast at home. Ever since then, we have gone every morning. All the boys love it. I pack Greystoke breakfast in his lunchbox and he feels very important. The big boys like to see their friends and eat different foods. I like having a chance to sit with them in their environment, and free from the endless distraction of housework. Plus breakfast mess doesn't happen which is an extra bonus.
yep, we already have Halloween costumes....we get them at once upon a child and you have to go early to get the good stuff!
Sometimes Aquaman sits with us, but mostly he wants to be independent. One morning he sat completely by himself with his legs all twisted into a knot. And he gave me a hug when the bell rang but I could tell he didn't want to, so I asked him if he wanted me to just hug him at home before school now. And he said yes. He's getting big.
The next day he also sat off by himself, but one of his friends came and joined him, and it made my day.
He is having a great school year. His first interim report was straight As...and 100 or 99 averages in several subjects. He is stressing a bit about math because 3rd grade is all about math facts...multiplication.He does not like math facts. Not only do they totally bore him, but timed tests totally stress him out too. And it doesn't help that he still reverses his 5s, 6s and 2s almost every time, and then he has to write them over....within the time limit.
I had my first IEP meeting for The Dude (aka spiderman, below) on Tuesday.
The test results revealed that he does have a writing disability. His reading was close enough to not be considered a disability yet, but the visual motor test they did showed deficits in visual perception as well as motor (in the 1st percentile for motor). Basically, he has dyslexia. I wanted them to tell me that, but I guess that's not something they do. It matters because it is a whole different way of thinking, and he will have to be taught differently. They are going to pull him out 4 days a week for extra help and he is going to get OT. I was happy with the IEP meeting despite the dyslexia puzzle piece, and also wishing they had tested his IQ but we may have that done on our own because I know learning disabilities can mask giftedness and I wouldn't want him to miss out on the opportunities of that diagnosis.
I also found a homeschool reading curriculum that is recommended for kids with dyslexia, so once I can scrounge up the funds for that I am going to start doing that with him instead of just trying to muscle our way painfully through books.
The best part of that meeting was listening to his teacher and the principal and the therapist and the psychologist, and the resource teacher talk about how much they enjoyed spending time with The Dude. They all commented on how happy he is, how social, what good manners, and most of all how persistent he is even when things are hard.
I love my kids so much, but one of my favorite things about school is seeing other people truly enjoy them too. It makes me look at them with a whole new respect. They are people with their own lives apart from mine for a little while and they effect other people already.What a gift their teachers are, and ultimately they are also a gift to their teachers (well, most of the time).
I also love the testing and evaluation process because it helps me understand my kids from professional perpectives and see things that I would not otherwise. Labels can be too stifling, but they can also help you understand and help someone and I am thankful for them.
My love and respect for the Dude has grown these past couple weeks. He struggles through his writing and shows me the results so proudly. He often declares his day at school to be a 14 out of 10. He has so much energy and drive. His academic tests showed him to be at an 8.5 year level in math skills and he plays with calculators all day long. He makes intricate rope swings and climbs trees to tie them with incredible poise. He showers me with hugs.

Last night he swallowed an ice cube whole and he came running down the stairs with tears in his eyes, scared, in pain and just stood there while I hugged him and looking down at his knobby knees and great big feet I was just overwhelmed with my love for him. He is precious.
I have been enjoying my time with Greystoke too. Life is getting back to normal from hurricanes and sickness and I have 2 days off a week with him and Scarlett. I never get done all that I think I will. He "helps" me with everything. He talks the whole time. He loves to take walks, and the cooler rainy weather has facilitated a lot of them this week. He never ever stops eating, especially after grocery day when he sees all the splendor.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed by how hard it is to get ahead financially. I mean, we are saving for a bigger house, and I think we might be able to get one by the time the kids graduate college.
But then I go to the store, and I am able to fill up my cart with all of this food for all of these hungry boys and I am filled with gratitude. We have everything we need and so much more.
I told her not to eat the sand....

I have been struggling to find a time to read my Bible in the mornings distraction free again.
Now that the younger 2 are up so early and needing things, and there is so much that has to be done each morning.
Plus since I am often sleep deprived, the first thing to go is my ability to concentrate in busy environments.
But I did take out a book I have on praying for boys the other day and I am starting with that for now.
It has verses to pray and a blank to insert a name in it to make it specific for each person.
So even though it's supposed to be for my boys, I pray them for my husband too.
And I even pray them for my daughter.
This morning the subject of prayer was wisdom. And we all need that.
Scarlett has been up twice, but she has fallen asleep again in my arms. I think she is confused by the quiet of this house and the fact that I am sitting in one place. I think I will go put away that laundry now, and maybe take the stroller for a spin around the neighborhood. Maybe say one of those prayers about wisdom.
This week stretches ahead of me full of all the unknowns of life. The hopes, the dreams, the expectations. None of it will go just exactly like I thought it will, some of it will be hard and growing, and some of it will be just full
So much has been happening around the world lately. I showed Aquaman in the Bible the other day how God talks about wars and earthquakes and hard things. I reminded him about birth pains, which we spent a lot of time talking about during my long labor with Scarlett. They get closer together. They get stronger. There are cycles to everything. There are hard times in all of history. But the birth pangs are getting closer together now. They won't stop until they come to fruition. Real labor never stops even though it goes slow, even though it seems long.
There's a real urgency in that, and that's what's been on my heart lately. How I get so distracted by IEP meetings and baby kisses, but there is a real big story going on, and I need to be paying attention, and I need to be a part of it. I don't know what that means exactly.
But if time is measured in babies, it's getting faster. It's getting more beautiful every day.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Unprepared teacher

 A few things have happened since my last post.

 Aquaman turned 9. One last year until double digits. We had a family party at the beach. The pictures are farther down in this post, because I don't have time to coordinate the pictures with my words today.
 A couple days before his birthday a song came on the radio that I hadn't heard since he was an infant: "safe in my arms".
 The lyrics go something like this: "your baby blues so full of wonder, your curly qs, your contagious smile....and as I watch you start to grow up, and all I can do is hold you tight....knowing that storms will rage and clouds will race in....but you will be safe in my arms. Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around, but you will be safe in my arms."
 I don't have much time to think these days it feels like, but I thought a lot about that song over the next couple of days.
 I used to sing that song to Aquaman and cry when he was a baby. He was such a demanding baby. He needed me so much. He never slept during the day or during the night. He cried a lot. He was scared when strangers even looked at him funny and it could set him off screaming for an entire hour if one reached for him.
 He also smiled a lot, and was full of personality and drew all sorts of attention. His eyes so blue, his hair so red and curly.
 He was my first baby and I had never seen one grow up before, and his growing up seemed so hard for him. Even though his infancy was so sweaty and exhausting, I held him tightly and slightly terrified at the idea of someday sending him into the world. He is so sensitive, so intense, the world would not understand him. He is safe with me.
 I thought about that me, and that Aquaman and I thought about Aquaman now and the mom I have become now from watching him grow up.
 Today I am not scared anymore of his leaving the safety of my arms. He still needs me of course, and I will always be a safe place for him, but he is not safest in my arms. He is safest in God's, and he goes out in them every day.
 We have had hard years since then, one in particular. But he made it through. I knew he would see the injustice of the world long before he was ready to handle it, because he sees most things long before he is ready to handle them. But he kept walking. He kept coming home to the safety of my arms, his dad's arms, ultimately the safety of the arms of Jesus, and he kept going, and he grew. And there is something so amazing about watching those baby blues turn wiser and more resiliant. He still struggles with some rigidity, but it often eases into a laugh and he shakes it off. He struggles to understand some social nuances, but he listens when I explain them to him and tries to adjust his behavior.
 That year in 1st grade, there was another popular song I used to sing to him: "I know your heart's been broke again. I know your prayers ain't been answered yet. I know it feels like you got nothing left, but lift your ain't over yet."
 We laughed at the terrible grammar because we both care about things like that, but that song always elicited a smile. A ray of hope.
 There will be more hard days for him to come. It is hard to be as sensitive as he is in this world. But I have seen first hand that he is safe. Not in my arms. In God's arms.
 And it's funny how different the 4th child feels in my arms. She is strong and tenacious and bright and happy so her personality is totally different. But she is a baby and she needs so much from me.
 When Aquaman was a baby I wanted to hold on to that even though it was so exhausting. But with Scarlett, I am just enjoying it. Knowing it will be over quickly, but that it isn't all there is to motherhood, even though it is the most intense phase. Watching them grow and get their wings is a really amazing part too.
And my oldest is only 9. I can only imagine later as the stakes get higher but the rewards get deeper.

 So besides my oldest child turning 9, some other things have happened too.
 First, Scarlett stopped sleeping entirely.
 Which always happens with my babies at this age. I kind of saw it coming, but thought the fact that she weaned relatively easy from the swaddle would prevent the extremity of it. But alas, no.
 I have gone back and forth between fighting and accepting it, but I know what I will ultimately do.
 Ultimately I am not at all ok with having her cry for hours at a time. Nor is our house or family life really set up for such an undertaking.
 Simple measures won't work. She is too awake and alive to the world now. Elaborate bedtime routines and charts and schedules just kind of make me laugh now. For one, I have spent hours on them with previous children and they resulted only in frustration. For another, I have no time to revolve the life of a family of 6 around a baby. Sorry chickie, just not going to happen.
 When I set her down in her bed her eyes pop right open every time. She does not scream, she usually smiles as if it was a delightful game and a restful 5 minute nap in my arms and now it is time to play again.
 If I leave her by herself she will play happily for a few minutes. She will scritch scratch her fingernails against the side of the bed and take great pleasure in the noise it makes. She will roll from front to back and back to front and scoot up and down her bed. And then she will realize that she is alone and tired and start calling for me. Patiently at first, she's a 4th child after all, and then with more passion because she is a 4th child and sometimes you have to assert yourself.
 When I appear to rescue her she will burst into an enormous grin and snuggle up against me.
 So like her brothers before her, she sleeps inb my bed now. And though I am tired, I am happy. She is warm and cuddly and close and she feels safe and that's how I want her to feel.
 She is insatiably curious, and her mind is always going. Last night we rocked for an hour before bed because her body and mind were so excited by life that she could not rest. She alernated between laying her head against my chest then throwing her body back and staring into my eyes thoughtfully for a long time. Occasionally reaching up to very gently touch my cheek. It reminded me of her first night home from the hospital. Still just a tiny bundle of the middle of the night I spoke and she suddenly threw herself back to look at me and I almost dropped her. She knew my voice and she wanted to put a face with it,
 The good news is we don't have to worry about her weight anymore....her thighs are filling out from sleeping in such close proximity to her food source.
 In other news, the kids have now been out of school for a week and a half and a week ago we were evacuated to Viera to await a hurricane the size of the entire state of Florida.
 2 days before school was cancelled, I picked up Aquaman at school early for his well visit and he hadn't eaten his lunch. He didn't talk all the way to the doctor and was quiet throughout the whole thing. On the way home he threw up in the car.

 So we all got sick for the hurricane. Luckily it was a very mild one.
 We were also very fortunate in how we fared in the hurricane. 87% of the county lost power, and 30% are still without. We stayed in Viera and never lost power. Our home lost power for only 24 hours because we are attached to the police grid.
 It has still been a long couple of weeks. The media getting everyone all frothed up a week in advance. The panic in the stores, at the gas pumps. Everyone fleeing the state as if the whole thing was going to be under water. School being out has the kids wild and confused and excited. I am looking forward to the return of regular life.
 But we had fun too. Grilling outside on the porch at my parents' house, reading books by the fire. Spending time with my older brother and his wife during evacuation.
 Being reminded of God's neverending mercy and grace.
 I am tired and overwhelmed a lot of the time.
 I struggle with the burden of the many things my children need to be taught at any given time. It is so much responsibility, so much to keep up with.
 At the moment, Scarlett is learning to sleep in new ways, learning to sit up, learning to coo. Her current main form of communication is growling. She requires so much attention all of the time. Aquaman helps a lot. She thinks her brothers are hilarious. She will often get fussy when I am the only one around. I can never get her to laugh like they do.
 Greystoke is having to learn 3 year old things like how to not drive everyone crazy with obnoxious behavior. I am relistening to the audio book 1,2,3 magic because I needed a reminder in how to deal with him. I definitely feel calmer now.
He is just reaching the point of learning to fall asleep on his own at night which will be helpful when it is done, but is so time consuming.
 The Dude is learning to read and write, and those are pretty much going to have to be taught at home because with his learning differences, he is simply not just going to pick them up at school when the teacher has 20 other kids to attend to.
He is learning a lot of important things at school that I definitely don't feel equipped to teach at home, but reading and writing are going to be mainly my responsibility, and with 3 other kids and a job that feels overwhelming.
He is still learning to control his impulses and to pay attention longer than 3 seconds and teaching him those things is tiring.
 Aquaman is learning everything at such different rates that it makes my head spins. I feel like he will probably be learning quantam physics before he figures out how to eat with silverware, wipe his face, or remember to put his shoes on.
All that, and they could use some time just being enjoyed too. I want to get to know them. I want them to know that I like them and their unique personalities and gifts and weaknesses.
 And there is still the matter of the laundry because you just can't let it take over the house.
 But for now I am just going to keep walking. Lift my head. Know it isn't over yet. Know every day is a new opportunity to try and fail and live and love and learn.
Now I better go. My sister K is in town and we better make use of our short time together. Squeeze it all in because it all goes so fast.
I'll just leave the rest in pictures....
The lip....

Building some of the many many legos he got for his bday!

dirty silly puddle boy

she is just so sparkly

I can't believe I have a daughter

games, that is all he wants to do. Especially life. He loves counting the money. He is good at math. It makes him feel good. I love to watch his wheels turn.

More building

Feeding the birds

Scarlett was in heaven but Greystoke was not pleased

She wants sooo badly to get into his stuff...

I want to kiss her

Silly monkey

The store was out of all the bread except butter bread because everyone was panicking. Aquaman said "look Greystoke we got FANCY bread" because we usually get whole wheat....

I don't know what to say....

One last swim before the storm.

We went to the zoo the day before we evacuated and had the whole place to ourselves since everyone was at the store or on the interstate enjoying the panic...

One last trip to the beach before the storm.