Monday, February 27, 2017

Sunday Morning Decisions

 "No one can do everything, but everyone can do something."
-Max Lucado

 Life is full. Time keeps flying by. There still never seems to be enough time to do....everything.
But there finally feels like enough time to do something.
 I read that Max Lucado quote on the wall of one of the assisted living facilities I was visiting for work about a month ago, and, I'll blame it on the hormones, got a little teary reading it.

 Every day I am forced to face the fact that I simply fall short. At home, at work, even just within my own body there are so many limitations, and I know that this is exactly where God wants me to be.
 But it can be so overwhelming. When faced with a million "needs" it can be so hard to prioritize, to move in one direction. It requires a lot of prayer, and I have gotten better about taking the time in the moment to do that.
 Sunday morning JT was working out before church, I had just agreed to let the younger 2 watch their favorite show, Paw Patrol in my bed upstairs. The laundry and dishwasher were going. Aquaman was on the floor of the living room, where he can always be found, close to his Lego blanket, surrounded by his ideas.
 I wanted to go upstairs and finish sorting The Dude's clothes, because I am still severely and feverishly nesting, and it is a little addictive purging and organizing right now. But I looked over at my oldest son, who doesn't ask much of me anymore. I mean, sure he spends hours telling me every detail of an audio book he is listening to or something he saw on tv, and recent injustices or funny mishaps from school. He still needs me to peel his apples and carrots for him. And I do make an effort to set a timer and play with him at least once a week. But usually at least one brother is nearby interrupting things. Because they are so demanding that if they are busy I have to get something done.

 But Sunday I asked God what He thought I should do, and it didn't take much overthinking to know what He was telling me.
 I heard this Focus on the Family broadcast a few weeks ago about  building relationships with our kids, and how that is even more important than enforcing the rules. I already knew that, I have tried to live it since Aquaman was born...breaking all the rules about sleep training and various other things. Still it was good to be reminded. Of all the parents of grown children that were interviewed and asked what they would do differently, the overwhelming answer was not to have more rules, but to spend more time playing with them. Taking an interest in the things that they are interested in, Entering into their worlds.

 So Sunday morning I entered into Aquaman's world. Our play together has evolved recently in that I no longer build something of my own, because my creations always turn out looking like something out of a Dr. Suess book, and this is difficult for him to stomach. Our play now involves mostly me helping him find the pieces he envisions for a creation. Sifting through the blanket, listening to the scraping of the bricks against each other. A sound that I will always associate with Aquaman...the sound I wake up to almost every morning. It is an oddly soothing activity, and I think it has been the source of much self regulation for him too. Swish swish swish, humming a tuneless tune. I will so miss these sounds when they are gone.
 Sometimes he lets me insert my own ideas for what should go next. Sometimes he patiently explains that my ideas are too weird.
 Sometimes we talk, about Legos, about school. Sometimes neither of us says anything at all for a long time, and it is the most comfortable silence in the world. We played until Paw Patrol was over, and when he pleadingly asked me if they could "have just one more episode", I didn't even have to ask God this time. I knew.
I still don't feel like I have time for friendships....I struggle with this a lot because I have always had a core set of close friends in my life, they've been important to me. I think a village is really essential. I keep telling myself that someday I will have time for girl friends again, but in 2 months we are going to start all over with another baby, and I am going to have a marriage, 4 kids, and a job to juggle so I don't see how anything is going to change with that any time soon. But I am thankful for the friends who remain even when I can't stay in touch as often as I wish I could.
I have gotten better about exercising now that I am feeling better. Ironic since now I am in the 3rd trimester and also feel as big as a house.
And thanks to pregnancy insomnia, I have gotten much more quiet time alone with God than I have in months, and it has been amazing. I was struggling with my exhaustion and inability to get up early and then I realized...I am up half the night anyway, why not make this my time with God? So I pray a lot now. I meditate on all the Bible verses I can remember. I sing old hymns to myself that I haven't thought of in a long time. I don't get up, I let me body and my eyes rest. But while my mind is awake, I rest it in Him. The difference, that carries over long after the frenzied wake up and the alarm and the backpacks and lunches and shoes is amazing.
And I am so enjoying my boys in these last months before we add another precious life and personality into our family.
Greystoke is absolutely hilarious these days. My sweet, compliant, happy baby and toddler is a full on threenager, just a little early. He wants control, control, control. He screams at me to do something one way and the minute I do, he screams that he wanted it done the other way. Every now and then it frustrates me....but 3 kids in, I have seen it before, I appreciate and relish and revel in the process of his growing up, his growing wings.
He tells me daily that he doesn't like me, that he "only likes Daddy, because Daddy does the pillowcase game with me" (which involves putting him inside a pillowcase and swinging him around!!). Out of the blue, driving in the car, he will announce that he "wishes he was a real Ninjago, so he could smash this car and kill me". He says all of this quite pleasantly. It does not hurt my feelings.
I remember reading "your 3 year old, friend or enemy" when Aquaman was going through this stage. I remember how 3 is a time of a child realizing that they are not actually Mommy, they are their own real person, with their own abilities and ideas. They are realizing that they must separate and it is a terrifying and exhausting and exhilerating experience for them. I still believe that the most violent detachments are the ones that are the closest, and so I smile in it. I feel him pulling away and I am proud of him for doing what he is supposed to do. For this little stage of growing up. There are so many more to go, and God willing, I will get to experience all of them and watch him bloom into an amazing person.

His response to everything I say is to turn it back around on me: "Ezra, you are grumpy today!" "No YOU are grumpy!"
"Ezra, put your socks on." "No YOU put your socks on!" He does not think it is funny when I start to laugh.
He is Daddy's boy right now, his little shadow. I love to watch my husband with his three sons. It has been such an experience watching him grow as a father every year, and with every child. I am so thankful for his patience and understanding. And for the times he comes home to utter insanity, and instantly has to bail me out by being the bad guy, which his least favorite role in the world. But he does it for me, and for his kids.

I can't wait to see him with our little girl.
Who, by the way, they don't suppose is very little after all, despite my having measured small for a while. I had an ultrasound 2 weeks ago and they estimated her to be 4 pounds already, No good 3d face pictures because her cord was right in her face and she kept sucking on it. But I already think she looks like Greystoke. And if you look closely, you can see she already has some hair, and quite a bit of it! Unusual for my children. Sadly, the tech warned me sometimes it all falls out by birth....
Not that I haven't loved my bald little babies. I always thought it must be a pain to wash the spit up out of all that hair. And there is also something special about nestling your head up against a sticky bald, still smelling like heaven head.
JT and I had our 2 night, 2.5 day staycation a couple weeks ago, and it went without a hitch. The kids stayed well, and everyone did ok except the last night when Greystoke wouldn't go to sleep.
It was really amazing, and way too fast. I was glad we decided not to go anywhere. It was so relaxing to sleep in, in our own beds. We didn't have a long drive, didn't have to pay for a hotel, or pack and unpack. We spent a little bit of time catching up on house work and odd jobs, and it is crazy how that feels like vacation when you are not also herding small children.
We went to the movies, out to dinner, slept in, and took naps. We exercised together, and spent Valentine's Day giving each other massages, which is way better than anything you can get at the spa.
There is nothing quite like time stretching before you, and no demands upon you for a little while.
I am so glad to have been married to this man for almost 10 years now. He is my best friend and the love of my life.

During our staycation, one day JT went swimming and I was too tired to go, so I took a long quiet walk by myself on the beach. Heaven.
The Dude is turning 6 on Saturday. I can tell that 6 is going to be a great age for him.

He can still be so incredibly stubborn and irrational, but he is growing into some of it.
It is really fun to watch him truly emerge as a person. Kindergarten is a big year for a kid. It's a long day away from mom and dad. So many demands placed upon you all at once. It is a lot of pressure, especially for a boy like The Dude, and he is handling it more and more in a truly graceful way.

One of the things I have dedicated more time to since slowing down at work is working with him on school stuff, since he has been struggling. His reading has improved by leaps and bounds. His writing is getting better but is such a slow and painstaking process. I have learned to rejoice in the little victories.

His teacher has to sit beside him during independent work because he needs the help and also because he has such a hard time staying on task. They are already using words like "easily distracted", and I know which way this is all headed. It makes me hurt for him, in some ways. My little hunter-gatherer, forced into a farmer's world.

But at the same time, he always manages to keep bouncing back up to the surface, stronger, more positive, full of affection and enthusiasm and zest for life, and it fills me with pride to watch him succeed in that way.

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn't really matter.”

― D.L. Moody

The Dude has a heart 10 miles wide. He will have his struggles, but that will carry him through, I definitely believe that.

Well I have run out of pictures, and out of time.
Aquaman has graciously been letting Greystoke destroy his lego creations so that I could have a few minutes to get this done. Every 5 minutes, Greystoke says something like "Aquaman, because you are my best friend forever" (he randomly inserts the word because into almost all of his sentences).
I better get off the computer so that Aquaman can start his homework.

Saturday, February 4, 2017


I'm finally in the good part of pregnancy. 30 weeks tomorrow, the beginning of the 3rd trimester, and I am feeling great.
The nausea is finally gone, except the occasional 30 second wave. There are still some certain things that gross me out more than usual. Mostly hot coffee, which is a major bummer. But a few weeks ago I discovered that iced coffee goes down like a charm and JT knew the technique for how to make good stuff from his restaurant days and showed me, and now I can have my necessary caffeine without gagging every morning.
We've had our first round of illness for the year, but it really wasn't too bad. Aquaman got walking pneumonia and wheezed for almost 4 weeks, but he is fine now.
The Dude got strep. But the awesome thing about strep is that it can be cured within a day, and it just isn't as contagious as colds and such. No one else in the family got it.
Greystoke and I both got chest colds, but no further complications other than a week of waking up every 2 hours which definitely wore me out. His ears have grown up and he has not had any infections yet this season. So overall, we fared quite well. I just hope we can stay well for a few more weeks.
JT and I have a "babymoon"/early 10 year anniversary planned on the 13th, 14th, and 15th. If all goes well and no one gets sick, we will take the boys to school on Monday morning and not pick them up until Wednesday afternoon. They have alternating overnights planned with the grandparents.
We had originally planned to go somewhere...first a bed and breakfast, then some sort of cabin in the woods....and then we decided...what if we just stay home? We already live in paradise after all, and it doesn't get much easier than that. We can go to the movies, a walk on the beach, out for dinner, swim some laps and work out together, soak in our own hot tub, and take naps in our own bed.
We are also going to squeeze in one of my OB appointments and an ultrasound, JT's first since he had to miss the anatomy one for work.
As I have in almost all of my pregnancies, my fundal height is measuring 2 weeks behind, and the perinatologist had already recommended a growth ultrasound after my 18 week one, you know, since I am an old lady this time and all. Since it happens every time, I am not at all scared. The baby always measures right on track, it just seems to be the way I carry. Just another chance to see her. Hopefully she won't be sideways like Greystoke was, or will get herself shuffled around at some point since I don't think the midwives I have do any sort of turning. Oh how I miss my old doctor.
Life is still flying by at a crazy speed, but it feels less out of control since I started working less hours.
Mostly right now I am spending that extra time giving more attention to the kids and nesting. Nesting like crazy.
This is the best time to nest. I am pretty tired, getting pretty big, and for the first pregnancy ever bordering on anemic, probably because I couldn't eat well the first 5 months of my pregnancy. But I really feel quite good. It is all starting to become real. I have just been so busy that there hasn't been any time to sit and look at pregnancy books, and when I see a tiny baby out and about it all feels so foreign even though we were just there 2,5 years ago.
But it's not really scary either. We have done it 3 times. It will be as amazing and tiring and different with this one, and we will survive and thrive in it.
But with the hectic pace of life these past 2.5 years there is a lot to do to get ready. I threw 4 garbage bags full of junk out from the kitchen when I was organizing it. Gave away a huge bag of books. I'm going through every closet and dresser and reorganizing, making room. 1344 square feet with 6 can't afford to be a hoarder of anything. You can only keep what you use regularly. The only things I am keeping that we don't use all the time are some boys' clothes that have yet to be grown into and my pictures and journals, which I am storing in rubbermaid containers in the closet.
We decided to turn our master closet into little girl's room. It will work fine for her when she is little, and in 5 years or so when we are busting at the seams, we will probably be ready to break down and move. But for now, we don't have to, and that is a relief.
An electrician is coming in to put an outlet in the closet, and when we replace our air conditioning soon (we were told it would probably have to be done by this summer), we will get them to vent it too.
None of our babies has ever had their own room. For Aquaman's first 20 months we lived in a one bedroom condo. Sharing our room with our babies is our norm, so she will probably be right next to us the first 2 years anyway.
For now the boys all love to be together. I know that will someday change, but I love to go into their room at night when they are all asleep and look at that bedroom full of little boys.
I think Aquaman most of all enjoys sharing, even though he has 2 little brothers to drive him crazy. I have been realizing lately what a unique personality he has in that while he often doesn't want to be bothered or interact with others, he craves and seems to pull energy from being around people. He does not like to be alone.
I didn't get to have a conference with his teacher after his last report card because she was going out to have surgery, so I sent her an email to see how everything was going. He is still having an amazing year, she wrote on his report card that he is a leader in his class and excels in every area. He did get Ns (needs improvement) on his writing again, and then I started worrying...I know 3rd grade is a much bigger deal with the writing. What if he gets a teacher who picks on him a bunch about it again, and this teacher this year was just ignoring that he was falling behind in it? I haven't been making him do any writing at home at all. For homework, she allows him to work on his spelling words using play dough and computer programs and so those are the homework activities we select.
But she assured me that she is not concerned about his writing at all. She said he is definitely making progress and is doing fine. One thing they do now that I really appreciate is every time they write a "paper", after they write it they also have to type it. I know that typing skills are going to serve him well.
I also wondered how he was doing socially since this is his other area of struggle, though he has seemed to do much better this year. She said again that he is doing great. He works well in group projects. He still prefers to play by himself on the playground, but he is perfectly happy about it. The sweetest thing is that whenever there is a child on the playground that has no one to play with, they send him to Aquaman, and she said Aquaman is always very kind and welcoming though he obviously prefers to be alone. I love that boy.
The neighbor's 4 year old grandson recently moved into her house and he spends half of his day trying to escape and come to our house since our house is filled with boys and legos.
This is a difficult thing and a growing experience for Aquaman, if you know Aquaman. His legos are his domain. He spends hours raking through them making the perfect vehicle, and has a table full of his completed projects. But again, because he craves being around people, and having his toys available, he does not want to hide them somewhere to protect them, he just wants everyone to know not to mess with them. He has his little brothers pretty well trained. But neighbor boys are a different story.
But it is once again a sign of his growing. After about 20-30 minutes he starts getting tense and agitated and we have to try to do something else, but for those first few minutes he is becoming so much more flexible, more gracious and patient and welcoming. I was upstairs working on the closet a couple days ago and heard Aquaman say "oh, hi AJ. Did your mom say it was ok? Ok, come on in, you can play with my Legos," We have been reading in the Bible about how God wants us to love our neighbors the same way we love ourselves, and he is trying so hard.
He is growing up so big. Literally actually. He suddenly shot up and is now in the 70% for height, though he is still as skinny as ever. We finished up 6 months of OT and he "graduated" last week, which he was a little sad about. He has enjoyed the 1:1 attention and I think just the understanding the therapist had of him and way his mind and body work. But she did agree that he has grown a lot in the past 6 months...developed more coping mechanisms for his sensory sensitivities and almost caught up with his fine motor skills.

This year is the Dude's year to struggle in school. His report card looked great actually...he got the highest marks possible in most areas: math, science, phonics. He is still struggling a lot with his writing though. He continues to be unofficially pulled out for OT with another boy in his class, and she thinks he may have some sort of learning disorder, but said she is not allowed to tell me that.
I am not convinced entirely and still wonder if he is just a late bloomer.
Now that I have more time, I am spending more time on homework with him, and his reading is improving, but it is still very tedious and exhausting. I requested that we stop doing the writing homework and are now exclusively working on handwriting without tears 10 minutes a night working on letter formation. I do think he is getting better. He is just so active and easily distracted that it is hard to tell what he has trouble actually learning and what he is simply not paying attention to.
JT recalled that when reading his teachers used to block off every word but one at a time because it was too much for him to handle looking at all those words, so we are trying different strategies like that. I don't know what's going to happen. Both JT and I both very much want to have him repeat kindergarten, but for some reason the schools really don't like doing that if they are doing math and reading fine. It just makes no sense to me. If he is improving with his writing but still way below grade level, it makes no sense to shove him into 1st grade and let him fall further and further behind and get more frustrated.
He mostly holds himself together at school, but his teacher does think that his behavior is deteriorating since he has fallen farther behind and has become more frustrated. She also reports that he is much more shy than I imagined him to be in the group setting. He sometimes struggles to find friends on the playground.
But he is so sweet, so cute, and so charming when he wants to be. He and Greystoke have been getting along a lot better lately, as The Dude has finally figured out that if he doesn't want to be the odd one out at home he has to be gracious to his little brother. He used to be jealous of the attention Aquaman gave him and then pick on him, and that pushed him farther from Aquaman. He is figuring it out. That is one of the biggest things I have appreciated about my schedule. I have more space in my schedule to help them figure out their issues, come up with strategies of give and take, and watch them learn to work it out. Aquaman got wait listed for a social skills program this spring, but I am less concerned about it now, now that I have more time to help him work on them right here at home.

We are still trying to decide about a sport this spring. The Dude wanted to play football but it had already started. Then he watched one pro football game on television and decided "you could really get hurt doing that!" and changed back to baseball. And it turns out he is actually still young enough by a few days to do the casual weekly tball that he did last year. But I don't know if I am even up to weekly games at this point, especially because the baby will be born right in the middle of it all. We will see.
Greystoke is totally turning into a threenager. He is getting so big and having more and more opinions. He has a certain idea in mind for the way things are going to get done, like getting dressed, and the order of bedtime. If you do things one way one time, you have to do it that way every single time for the rest of his life. Until something new comes along that is better.
He loves puzzles and books, and his "matchy match" game and Candyland. Whenever he goes to childcare at church they comment on his long attention span. How he can sit in one place and play for long periods of time. Praise the Lord, I needed one like that.
He likes to play Legos with the big boys too. He makes "boats" putting pieces very carefully on top of each other and then showing them to everyone to admire.
He just learned how to pedal his trike by himself, and is pretty good at scootering too. His body moves at the same time as his mind, and I marvel sometimes watching his coordination.
He is all boy and as different from The Dude as The Dude is from Aquaman, and that is one of the most fun aspects of parenting. He is getting some brown hairs mixed in with the white ones on the back of his head, and I think he will be a brunette by the time he is 5. He is beautiful. I could stare at him for hours, and though I don't have hours, I catch as many precious minutes as I can.
And now I had better get off this chair. Paw Patrol is getting old and the kids are already working on 2nd breakfast. JT will be home from swim practice soon and I am sure it will be an adventure packed Saturday.