Saturday, August 26, 2017

Meaning

It's Saturday morning and I have been trying to get started on this for 2 hours.

 JT is at swim practice, and then heading to work. 3 out of 4 kids were up before 7 am. The Dude is still sleeping at 8:20. Aquaman is playing minecraft on the computer, Greystoke is watching Daniel Tiger and playing Perfection. And I am sitting on my bed next to Scarlett, who is napping in her cosleeper. On her side, with her face pressed against it, which is how she rolls lately. And totally freaks me out. I can flip her over but she will either A) wake up. Which is no good. Her naps are really short anyway. Or B) roll right back over on her side and press her face against the mesh. It's breathable so I know it is fine, and the pediatrician assured me that as long as I am setting her on her back, I can let her do what she will do after that. But I still check her every 10 minutes or so.


So much has been going on these past few weeks. The boys all started school....3rd grade, kindergarten x2, and 3 year old preschool 3 days a week.

 They are not thrilled about it, at least on the outside, but I take that as a compliment, that they had a fantastic and restful summer. It's hard to get back to work after a vacation. But I think at least to a small degree, that at least the older ones are enjoying the stimulation too. Aquaman even admitted that it is a bit of a relief to hang out with some older kids again. And he gets excited about learning new things: not just new academic things, but new people. understanding a new teacher, learning the dynamics of a new class (in which none of his best friends happen to be) even though he would never say it out loud.
The first day was hard and overwhelming. And there will be more hard and overwhelming days ahead. 3rd grade is a serious grade, no messing around. I have placed his homework on his shoulders this year. No longer my problem. A week into school I informed him that this year I would be giving one reminder daily, and I would always be available to help if he asked me, but I would no longer be responsible for making sure it was done or checking that it was done perfectly (unless he asked me to do so). He was shocked and horrified and asked me why, and I told him it was his homework and not mine, and I was not going to make my life miserable fighting with him about it. He smiled then and said "but I kind of liked that part!"
He is a little stressed about the responsibility of it, but I think it is going well so far.
He's still not exactly sure what he thinks about his teacher, and he is definitely positive that he doesn't like the new playground rules which get more stringent every year , the complications of living in an upper class litigious neighborhood. He also finds it stressful to have to sit in one place so long. But we hit the beach or the pool in the late afternoon/evening to try to counteract it. And even though he is wound up very tight from all the stimulation in the first 30 minutes or so after he comes home, he has been handling the frustrations and sensory overload like a total champ. He has really grown up.
The Dude is not sure how he feels about kindergarten yet. Everything is so hard and so easy for him at the same time and that can be confusing and overwhelming. He goes back and forth from wishing he had gone to 1st grade to saying that kindergarten is too hard. But I am still happy with our decision. He has made best friends with a set of twins and enjoys playing with them. He gets much more free and movement time in kindergarten than he would have in first. And even though he got a teacher who is brand new to school, she seems to be a really good fit for him. She has a complicated behavior chart and sends home the results every day and that is very important to him....if boundaries aren't very clear he slips easily out of bounds.
He is finishing up his testing, which has been a total of 7 pull out sessions. I am impressed so far with how thorough they are being. I was afraid they were only going to do a few basic tests at first, and I think that is what they started out doing, but they kept adding things on. I suspect they are just as perplexed by him as we are.
I try not to worry much, but I worry a little. He is so much like JT. And JT struggled so much in school. He told me before we got married....our kids might have learning problems too. And I told him, if it makes them as sweet as it has made him, I hope they do. And I meant it. Obviously I think JT is something extraordinary. It's just that....it's been hard to watch him struggle. Wishing the world could see what I see in him. And it will be hard to watch The Dude too.
These days there is more help available, and there are more options available too. But that also means more weighty decisions, and that's a lot of pressure for a parent.
The one thing I do know is that I want the main focus to be on what he is good at, because I know there are some things he is really good at. I want to find those, and focus on those strengths. That is one way in which I feel the education system failed my husband...spending all of their time trying to make him learn things he was just not ever going to be awesome at. Obviously weaknesses need support. But mostly strengths need to be built.
Greystoke cries every time I drop him off at preschool. He never did, except once after Christmas vacation, the whole year for 2 year old preschool. He obsesses about how he doesn't want to go, how it is "stupid" and his "friends are stupid" (stupid is his favorite adjective right now...). His teacher assures me he is fine as soon as I leave, and shows me pictures of his big grins, and I believe her. I am guessing it is either that he doesn't like that Scarlett gets to stay with me, or that he is finally old enough to understand all the school poison vibes the other two send out, or that the 3 yr old class is much bigger (he says there are too many friends), or probably just a combination of all those things plus the added complication of being 3....

Me? I am just going to say it. I feel like I have been able to draw in this huge sigh of relief since school started again.
I can think again. I can plan for the chaos when school lets out. I can be intentional and purposeful and less overwhelmed and distracted when the kids get home.
In the mornings I wake up early still, when I used to work. I empty the dishwasher, start a load of laundry, take a shower, get ready for my day. But mostly I sip some coffee in the quiet and read my Bible and pray. I feel like a person by the time it is time to get the boys up for school. I sit down at the breakfast table with them for a few minutes.



Tuesdays and Thursdays I can focus on catching up on housework and spending time with the younger 2. Greystoke has stopped stuttering, just like that. The boy that I thought was so quiet, never stops talking. He has a bigger imagination than the other 2 did at this age. Well, Aquaman had no imagination. To him, at that age, imagination was "lies". He was very steeped in reality. I suspect The Dude might have had more fantasies if Aquaman was not around to squash them. But Greystoke is full of elaborate stories. Sometimes he seems to almost think they're true, but most of the time he will laugh hysterically and said "I made that up!" I love to listen to him talk. He will say things like..."tomorrow, when I was 13...." in his high pitched voice. Or once he told me "there's this really easy game called the punching game. If you punch someone you win!" I told him that didn't sound nice and he said "it's very nice!! Girls get to go first!"
He is fascinated with numbers and letters. He wants me to sound out words for him in books even though he is still learning to recognize the letters. He counts everything. His mind is just always working, this is such a fun age of growth.
Scarlett is growing up too, becoming.
She just passed her 4 month birthday, which is such an awesome age. She rolls from tummy to back and back to side. She spins around on her tummy and tries to move. I just got her a Jump Up and she swings violently and excitedly in that. She laughs hysterically, most often at silly noises, most often at her brothers. She smiles almost nonstop, and even when she fusses she is sweet. She is mommy's girl. But is very fascinated by Daddy.
At her checkup a couple days ago, she stayed on the same weight percentile for the first time since she was born. She is still in the 93rd for height, and has these long skinny arms and legs. Her arms are starting to "work" and she loves grabbing things. I don't know if it is the Zantac that is helping her gain weight, but the doctor was very happy with how she looked. And if she misses a dose of Zantac she is up all night so I suspect it is doing something. She still wakes up twice to eat, and has a restless night about once a week, but she is doing great considering my 4 month olds usually stop sleeping all together (maybe it is still coming, I don't know.)
Last week, The Dude came to me, in his sweet exuberant way, and said: "Mom? I know Jesus was God's best gift to us. But I think babies are His 2nd best gift."
I think so too, Dude.
Life hasn't been all sparkly baby laughs and quiet moments.
Just before school started back up, Aquaman was diagnosed with walking pneumonia, The Dude failed his PFTs and had to have more asthma medications added, Greystoke got swimmer's ear, and Aquaman split his head open on a wall. It makes me appreciate people who have kids who have chronic illnesses, because my kids are healthy, but still keeping up with their doctor's appointments and medications and bandages was completely overwhelming.
JT took one for the team right after school started and finalized our baby making years.
It was supposed to be a simple procedure, better in 2 days, but after 7 he could still barely get out of bed. He ended up having an infection. It was a long week for everyone.
I have been reading Ecclesiastes during my quiet time, one of my favorite books. Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.
I mean, both JT and I have siblings who had to go through terrible medical procedures just to have children. And here he was going through all this to NOT have children. Not because we don't love having children, but because at some point you have to take stock in what you have and invest in it.
This too, is meaningless.
But luckily, we don't have to understand all of that.
I listened to a radio program a couple days ago, talking about the culture of America these days, and the speaker said that the question of suffering is only asked in first world countries. In 3rd world countries, where so much of the suffering is actually taking place, most people there believe that there is a bigger picture that they just can't see. In first world countries, we question everything because we think we know more than God. It's pride.
I can see that. Like most Americans, I came to a point in developing my own faith in which I had to stop asking the questions and just admit that there are some things I will never understand on earth.
This day will be filled with the chaos of Saturday and 4 kids. I will make food and it will be consumed. I will clean up and the house will be messed up again.

The boys will be best friends and they will be worst enemies.
"A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This, too, I see is from the hand of God." Ecclesiastes 2:24
I better get downstairs. The Dude is up, which means he and Greystoke are fighting, and Aquaman is becoming very indignant. Scarlett is finishing up nursing. There will be cereal all over the floor that has been stepped on and game pieces scattered everywhere due to my lack of supervision. I will question whether it was worth it to steal a few moments to write. I will question whether I will survive the day. Then I will vacuum and we will pick up and I will feel better.
I will thank God for all of it today. The laundry that gets dirty, gets cleaned, has to be put away and gets worn again. The dishes, the fights, diapers. I will smile a lot because it feels good to smile. And because it is all a gift from God. The chaos and the stillness. The baby smiles and the big boy questions.
It's all meaningless, really. Unless you know the One who gives meaning to everything.



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Restoration

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







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

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

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




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






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








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

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

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
















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

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

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