Monday, May 29, 2017

Summer

Summer is officially here.
Somehow school managed a final parting shot. The Dude got the gift of a cold from his best friend, and since germs are the only thing he actually likes to share, I got it. And now 5 week old Scarlett has it too.
So far so good though. As in everything that is dealt her, she has handled it with grace and poise so far. And hopefully my antibodies will keep it from being too bad.
I just finished antibiotics for mastitis. 4 kids in and this was my first experience with it. Other than the misery of taking care of 4 kids while having a fever, it wasn't too bad since I realized immediately what it was and the OB was able to call in antibiotics.
So hopefully this is all the sick drama we will have for the rest of the summer.
Saying goodbye to another school year was bittersweet. This was a big year for both boys. The Dude's first year of elementary school, and a really growing year for Aquaman.
Since I am still quite hormonal, I cried when I got their report cards. I probably should have read The Dude's first because he just has different gifts than Aquaman, and I know it must be so hard to try to keep up with him. I love that he doesn't really care. I often wonder if his gift of a positive frame of mind is an inborn temperamental trait to help him, or something he has developed as a result of his having to struggle. I am sure, like most things, that it is a little of both. Either way, it is a gift from God to him, and it will probably benefit him more in life than being able to read 130 words per minute like his brother.
At the last minute, The Dude's teacher called and asked for a conference about our decision to retain The Dude. She had been supportive of it, because she agreed that he is immature and that it might help. But when the administration reviewed the decision, they wanted to discuss it further with us, since The Dude is being tested for learning disabilities, and learning disabilities are not a good (or legal) reason to retain.

They were great though. JT was able to come to the meeting too, which helped me feel less on the spot, and they said that ultimately it was our decision because we know things about The Dude that they do not. I definitely was second guessing myself in this whole process, but still, my gut was telling me to go with our original decision. When we walked out of the meeting, having told them we would tell them our decision on Monday, JT and I both looked at each other and immediately said we still wanted to hold him back.

The most important thing to me is that The Dude enjoys learning at this point. The assistant principal suggested intensive practice over the summer, and that went totally against what I know he needs. This summer he needs to play outside, he needs to build things and play games, and listen to me read stories that he enjoys, and help out around the house, and explore interests he doesn't have time to during the school year. We'll still work on the sight words and the reading, and keep plugging away at trying to write his name correctly, but I have no interest in torturing him all summer. He really does have a great attitude despite his difficulties, and I would hate to burn him out at the age of 6.

The day after school got out, we ran into Aquaman's best friend at the store. His mother was quite relieved because apparently he cried after school when we did not get a chance to exchange numbers so they could have a play date.
I am still not exactly sure how we are going to have a play date without his brothers around driving him crazy, but hopefully we can make it happen. He's a sweet kid, as Aquaman's friends always are. He thinks fidget spinners and fads are dumb too, he loves Legos, and he ties with Aquaman as the "2nd fastest running 2nd grader in the school", which is apparently very important.
So far, summer has been pretty laid back. The boys have spent hours playing magnet tiles, legos, and board games. The board game thing is totally new and exciting for me, because Aquaman has never played board games before, he was always too afraid of losing to play. A couple days ago, he had some bad luck initially during Minion life, and I thought for sure he was going to quit or at least do a lot of complaining. His eyes filled with tears and he turned around to regain his composure and I heard him say under his breath "it's just a game. No big deal." When he turned back around, The Dude's eyes filled with tears too, and he started hunting through the pile for "good cards" to give to Aquaman. Aquaman ended up winning. But I was much more impressed with his finishing the game.
These sorts of things might seem little to a lot of people, since they are things that usually happen earlier, but I have appreciated a lot of little victories with Aquaman, since they have been accomplished late. Plenty of things he has accomplished early...walking, talking, academic achiements...but as a Christian, his character and moral development matter much more to me than those things, and it has been yet another reminder to me that kids develop at their own pace, and often a variety of different paces.
The Christian counselor we brought him to last year reminded us: "just because he is incredibly smart and can have an adult like conversation with you, and just because he has been saved, does not mean that his moral development is advanced too. You can't expect to be able to reason with him morally like you would with an adult."

Motherhood is such a growing experience.
"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
Philippians 1:6

It is such a reminder to just keep going. It may feel like you are getting nowhere, but one day you wake up and they get something you thought they would never get.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
Galatians 6:9
He has been so excited about summer. He thought for sure he would be happy to sit around playing legos all day, but I think he forgot to factor in the exhaustion of dealing with his little brothers (Greystoke wants him to do EVERYTHING for him, and will hardly let me play with him or help him with anything when Aquaman is around), and his own need for stimulation. I really didn't plan much for the first couple of days of summer, and Aquaman multiple times came to me looking glassy eyed and asking what day it was. It doesn't help that he can't seem to sleep when the sun is up, so he is going to bed late and getting up early. Yesterday he sheepishly confided that maybe he did need to go to some summer camps after all, and asked when his first one was scheduled.
The past couple of days, JT has been off though, and things have been a bit more exciting. The boys are on "an adventure" right now.
I am enjoying the quiet, snuggling the snotty and gassy Scarlett while I type with one hand.
There is something about a 3 year old hearing the word don't....


He couldn't resist.

Scarlett is growing and changing every day. Her 1 month checkup revealed slightly lagging weight gain again, but the doctor wasn't worried because she is healthy and happy and growing. Her naps are short, unless she is in someone's arms, and she still eats every 2 hours, but she is happy and calm all the time. Even when she is obviously uncomfortable, she never does more than complain for a few seconds.
I will finish with captions because I am tired and I need to get dinner started. One more week of maternity leave. We are going to cram a lot of fun into it!
Greystoke and Papa putting his Paw Patrol puzzle together at K and I's birthday party.

Greystoke gets really into his building....and Scarlett loves the movement of the swing. Probably because I never sat down when she was inside me!

We have and will spend a lot of time here this summer! Scarlett and I find the shade!

My girl and me.

Greystoke's pose on his last day of school. Threenager!

Too hot for the park now....we lasted like 10 minutes.

The crew. I brought them all grocery shopping yesterday and this very nice older couple told me that watching my family was better than TV...it is pretty entertaining...which is good since there isn't much time for tv now unless you count Umi Zoomi...

This guy is an awesome brother, even though he is totally bored by his baby sister.

This guy is not bored in the least. He is quite enchanted actually.

And I am enchanted by the journal he brought home from school even though his teacher had to interpret...

No words necessary. Angel baby.

Her first big smile. We were talking about her brothers.

Love.

Before school let out I took Greystoke and Scarlett for one last not chaotic zoo trip.

These cherries were worth every penny. They were so busy pitting and eating them that I got to take a shower in the middle of the day.

Ready for summer. He won't eat watermelon any other way...

I love her.

She has lost some hair up top but still quite shaggy in the back, poor thing. She doesn't seem to mind though.


Two of my favorites. Greystoke went to the beach with me on my birthday.



Last gymnastics practice!

They are both getting so strong.

4th child tummy time. Someone put toys on her back and then left...

They all saved their allowance the whole school year and went shopping the 1st day of summer.

This guy loves his books most of all.

what else?

Cold day at the pool for Florida boys....

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Back to Life

I am not really sure where to begin this post because my thoughts are all over the place.

The newborn period is such a strange time, even with the 4th child. Sure, to some extent, they sort of just fit into your already insane schedule. But they have their own sort of chaos that is completely out of your control. I am sure some Babywise fanatics would argue against this, but I won't go there.
The first couple of weeks, she mostly just slept and ate. And I was tired and also hopped up on adrenaline, and also not feeling much pressure to accomplish anything other than snuggling my new baby, and helping the boys transition to having another family member. While also keeping the house from completely falling apart.
And my sister, K came to visit last week which was another good excuse to do the bare minimum and just spend time together. She did an awesome photo shoot, gave her lots of snuggles, and made the older boys feel special too.
But now 3.5 weeks have passed. My maternity leave will be coming to an end in a couple weeks. And on top of that, summer is approaching even sooner. The older 2 are out of school 1 week from today, and Greystoke's last day is this Friday.

The excitement is palpable. Mostly I am just glad that homework is over. When they get home from school this week, we have a snack and then go to the pool. I turn on the tv while I make dinner because I decided that is better than losing my mind when they all get tired and start fighting over the magnet tiles
Most of the end of year school craziness is over too. Last week I had a luncheon for Aquaman's gifted class, in which he performed as the Big Bad Wolf in a skit, a meeting with the intervention team for The Dude in which it was decided that they would test him for learning disabilities before the beginning of next year, a kindergarten luncheon, in which I teared up when they sang a song called "Don't give up", because The Dude seriously never gives up and I love that about him, even though I really really hate that he has to struggle. And a 2nd grade mother's Day tea for Aquaman's class in which he served me cookies and tea and made me a book that I think was supposed to be about how I am a good mom but ended up kind of weird. "She is as helpful as a vacuum cleaner" he wrote. Which was very touching....
though he pointed out defensively that it is much easier to use a vacuum than to pick up little crumbs with your hands...
I am not sure what to say.
Except I love that kid. And I hope if he marries that his wife has thick skin.
This week has been a bit more relaxing. I took a walk on the beach with K on Monday morning during school hours, and yesterday I took Greystoke to the zoo. Greystoke has really begun to settle down now, after his initial struggle with change when Scarlett came into the picture. I think he has figured out that everything is going to be ok. Some things have still gone backward, like constantly having to remind him to go to the bathroom when he starts dancing around, and my having to lie down with him when he goes to sleep again. But he doesn't mind that Scarlett is on top of me while we lie there, And this morning he agreed to the very first outfit I showed him to put on for school.

Tomorrow The Dude is getting another character counts award at school, and that will be the last school event of the year to attend.

And this morning I sat down and wrote my very first to-do list in 3.5 weeks, because...nothing is going to get done in a few weeks when work is on and school is out.
I don't know how people have more than 4 kids, because my head is swimming trying to keep up with summer schedules. This kid goes here at this time, and this kid goes here at that time, and no one can possibly keep all 4 at once. I need more coffee. And a big jug of water.
The boys' bucket list is short this year though, and I love that about young children. Aquaman said the only 2 things he really wants to do are go to the local pool that has a waterslide, and to the inlet. Mostly I think they will be perfectly satisfied with trips to our pool, and the beach, which they finally like again because the water is warm and the waves aren't too crazy.
I love the hope in the air as the school year comes to a close. I love that I still live in the same town, with the same weather, the same feel, because this time of year I always feel like a kid again, looking anxiously forward to long hot summer days. My nerdy trips to the library and reading books by the pool and not going anywhere.
It has been an amazing year. When I think back to the beginning of the year, when I was so nervous for Aquaman after his hard 1st grade year. He has matured so much this year, he no longer hates school, he has picked up on some social situations, he has made a best friend. He still hates to read and write, but his lexile level is now over a thousand, at a 9th or 10th grade level. He has learned to balance some of his natural negativity with humor. Even though that humor sometimes drives me crazy.
The Dude has had a good year too, despite its difficulties. His teacher showed up to that intervention team meeting with a huge folder of The Dude's work to show them, and all the proper paperwork filled out. She brought in the occupational therapist who was technically not even supposed to see him to vouch for what she has seen, and I didn't have to say more than about 10 words the whole meeting. The psychologist looked through everything and said that The Dude was obviously a very bright boy who should not be struggling so much. His teacher said she has seen very few children with as good an attitude as he has had despite his struggles. Shocking to me, he even tested at age level for his attention span, I thanked her at the end of the meeting for going above and beyond for him and she said "I am just doing my job. That is all." I wish good teachers made a million dollars because that is what she has been worth to us.
When Greystoke started school this year he was barely 2. He still hardly had any hair. He was so little. Now he seems huge. His favorite pastimes are tracing letters, matching cards, doing puzzles, and playing Candyland. And eating Shrimp for breakfast. When I read to him at night he makes me point to each words as I read it. He tries to memorize the books so he can say them with me, because he thinks that means he is reading.
And at the beginning of this school year, Scarlett was barely implanted. I spent Aquaman's first day of school at the lab getting an Hcg level because I had been terrified I was losing her when I strained my back.
I spent countless weeks hanging over the trash can. I did a lot of crying. I was so tired.
It was worth it, times one thousand. I hated my pregnancy with her, I will admit it. I would do it all over again right now to make her a part of this family.
It's so true what they say...some days seem like a million years but then you blink and your kids are another year older. Stretching out farther across their beds, asking deeper questions, making their own cupcakes for their birthdays.

My emotions, true to postpartum style, swing ;like a pendulum back and forth throughout the day. I work hard to ground them in truth, and remind myself that they are just feelings, no to be depended upon.

Some moments when I am watching my kids, the whole world feels right. Like nothing sad or hard could ever happen. Like we are safe in our sweet little crazy family bubble. Sometimes in the middle of the night I sit in the boys' room nursing Scarlett and look each of them asleep in their beds and think how perfect life is.

The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand." Psalm 37:23-24
Other times I can be sitting in that very same room, the exact same perspective, and fear will blindside me out of nowhere. Somehow the room feels too small, the children too big. I wonder if I will be enough for them. Is it wrong to make them live scrunched up in this little townhouse where the only place in the house that Aquaman's train will not get stepped on is under his bed? Can I give all of them what they need from me? Suddenly I don't know anymore.
I am a stranger on earth;
    do not hide your commands from me." Psalm 119:19
Some days I walk out the door with 4 children to bring the older 2 to school and my clothes are covered in spitup and my hair is sticking up all over my head, and my coffee-less brain is in a total fog. And I feel like a stranger on this earth. And maybe that's better.
But I make it my goal not to depend long on my feelings.
I made the mental commitment to give up my morning shower in lie of a quiet time, because right now there just isn't time for both.I know everyone's advice to new moms is to "at least take a shower every morning", but I have decided it is just as good to get the kids to bed and do it then. There is a spiritual cleansing that is more important. The spitup can wait. The faulty perceptions cannot. Not when so much is at stake.
Not when so many are looking to you.
Last night Aquaman said "why have I felt like I was trapped in a box all day?"
His emotional understanding of himself often astounds me, considering how he struggles with appropriate social interaction and sensitivity, and a black and white nature.
I stopped what I was doing and looked at him and said "I don't know, but I do know exactly how you feel."
I think for him it is probably just the end of the school year. He said the feeling is worse when he is at school.
For me, it is learning to be a mom of 4, growing and changing. It is learning to enter a new stage of life too, saying goodbye to each baby day as it passes and looking to new stages of family growth.  I love the chaos of it really. I love the feeling of teamwork that juggling it requires with JT. I love sitting down at our bigger table to eat, and the messes and the terrible manners, and the boys who are learning to sit just a little bit longer in their chairs.
I love reading Harry Potter, and little critter books, and Proverbs in a room crowded with little boys and trains, even though they fight through half of it, and stand too close to me and spit in my face when they talk.
Scarlett has entered the new "fussy" baby stage. She still doesn't scream at all, she is totally good natured and patient, but her tummy hurts her a lot and she keeps me up sometimes at night. I love that too. That feeling of total peace when her head is tucked under my chin and her warm body movies gently up and down (and sometimes frantically when the pain hits her again). I don't even mind when she suddenly burps and I feel the warm slippery goo of spit up going into my hair, because I know it makes her feel better.
I love waking up to check on her when she has the occasional 5-6 hour stretch in the middle of the night, and my body is aching to feed her. I love how comfortable bed is again after 9 months of restlessness.
Every day I memorize her some more.

And now I had better move on to my to do list, because the day will not be long, with the older boys having early release, and then gymnastics this afternoon.
Scarlett has taken advantage of the opportunity of my wanting to sit here in this chair, and has been nursing about half the time I have been writing.
I am going to go try to do something besides stare at her, but I can't make any promises.

My boys....it's Legos, blocks, and magnet tiles all day long.

Oh, and crazy knife fights...


She loves the beach already

And her big brother, Dude, is totally captivated by her.