Wednesday, October 2, 2013

One of a kind.

I'm almost embarrassed to admit the shock I felt when I began to realize that the brunette was not at all like the big blonde.  From the very beginning, they have been polar opposites, but as my only parenting experience when the brunette was born had been with her older sister, my frame of reference as to what to expect from a baby was quite narrow.  The big blonde was a horrible sleeper, only ever sleeping for stretches of 45 minutes at a time, usually only in someone's arms, and she was noisy and fussy, and required constant attention and entertainment - from a human, not a baby toy.  I assumed this was just how my babies would be, until, of course, the brunette arrived.  She was four weeks early (and perfectly healthy), and after a frustrating week in the hospital, bringing her home was such a sigh of relief, and although I was nervous about having two people to care for, I was confident that I had learned enough from my first baby that I could get ahead of whatever trouble this one might muster up.  I had no idea that it would be useless - the brunette was a breeze of a baby.  She was peaceful, slept in her bed (for good chunks of the night!), and was quite content to sit in the baby swing and observe her more...outgoing sister.  Aside from gold medaling in diaper explosions, she was the quiet yin to her sister's boisterous yang.  Of course, as she grew, so did her personality (and natural born tendency for the dramatic - on that account, all my girls are equals), and as I finally stopped thinking "your sister never did this", I began to see that while the girls were both of my husband and I, they were definitely not always of each other.  As soon as I got past comparing the two, in all aspects, it became so much easier to enjoy them for their differences, and this became of great value when we brought home a third girl (and soon a fourth) because I was able to just see this little person as someone completely new and different from the very beginning, brushing aside precedents set by older siblings. 
Tomorrow, the brunette will be five.  I have so enjoyed watching all of my kids grow, and while I always loved them as babies, I am finding that as they turn into "real kids" they get so much more interesting.  The brunette is no exception, and her uniqueness in our family is what makes her such a treasure.  She is a remarkable blend of passion and compassion, loving things completely (Peter Pan primarily), and giving love freely.  She wears her heart on her sleeve (and can easily read yours) and both praise and insult affect her deeply.  She is the first to offer help, the first to obey, the first to snuggle, the first to wake up in the morning, and the first to fall asleep at night.  She loves Star Wars and the Denver Broncos (mostly Peyton Manning) and learning how to use tools with her dad and how to cook with me.  She twirls the big blonde's hair when they read books together, gets the small blonde's pajamas out for her at bedtime, and is the only one (don't tell her sisters) who has been patient enough to actually feel the new baby kick.  She folds laundry, adds numbers in her head, loves fancy dresses but not fancy hair, is not "a chicken girl" (or any meat, really), and wouldn't touch a frog if her life depended on it.  She makes silly faces and laughs with her whole body, has sparkly eyes, and can make a threat that will have you thinking twice about crossing her.  When she grows up, she wants to be a firefighter, and a dancer, and a pilot, and a chef, and a saint, and I am confident she'd be proficient at any of those.  She thinks of others often, openly misses those she loves when they're not around, and is easily contented to sit quietly by herself.  For a little while.  She is nothing like anyone I have ever met, and I am so thankful, because if she were, she wouldn't be the brunette I have loved for being herself from the very beginning.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Biology is cool.

We started homeschool early to accommodate the time it will take for me to recover from birthing a child this fall (how much time do you need for the fourth baby - two or three days?), so we are right in the middle of our third week.  I have to say, it is going a thousand times better than I had anticipated.  Granted, things are coming up that I can see will definitely have to be adjusted, and there are things that may prove to pose a challenge later on, but for now, we have been getting the work done, the girls seem to be enjoying it (someone has only cried twice, and once it was me), and while I am still spending a great deal of time over-thinking everything and second-guessing whether or not I am doing enough, in the right way, with the best materials, it is mostly just great.  On the downside, my house is a wreck.  Sorry honey, it's the education and character formation of our precious offspring or domesticity - I can't do both.  Apparently I had failed to connect that time spent preparing and schooling would ultimately leave much less time for the usually "passable" job I do at keeping our house spick and span, and when you add in the fact that I am large and in charge in terms of pregnancy progression, what we're left with is mountains of laundry and complaints from the small blonde that her feet are sticking to the floor.  Eh.  Maybe after the baby is born...good one.  This is it, people.  Speaking of the baby, the big girls are all very curious about her, asking about how big she is, what she does in there, how does she come out (magic, duh), and can they help feed her when she's here.  The feeding is especially a topic of interest.  I explained that no, they cannot help feed her when she is first born because babies do not eat the same food that we do until they are a bit older and can sit up.  Now, I'm not one to make stuff up just to keep the kids from asking questions (see reference to use of magic in the birthing process), so generally, as appropriately as I can, I try to just tell them what's up.  Why can't you drink pool water?  It will give you diarrhea.  What are hamburgers made of?  Dead cows.  What's on that guy's face?  It's a mole, now hush.  What do babies eat?  Their mother's milk.  Here we see a look of "oh, yes, of course" followed by "but...wait..." and then more questions, which I answer as maturely and matter of factly as I can, because hey man, that's how it goes.  Boobs feed babies.  Deal.  I nursed all of the girls, but I can understand that as they were much younger the last time around, the awareness of it happening was probably not very great, and so it is to be expected that a 6, almost 5, and 3 year old are, well, interested in the whole process.  It is actually pretty rad that a mother's body is entirely capable of nourishing her baby all on it's own, and I get that the experience is not always as dreamy and primal for everyone as it is for some, but you have to admit, that is some fine divine design.  Needless to say, our conversations about breasts have gone up tenfold in the last few months, but in a house full of females, I imagine this is just what I'm looking at for the future.  Sorry husband.  Honestly, I don't think he cares that much.  These breasts have saved him from nighttime feedings for the last three kids, and God-willing, he'll get to skip out this time around, too.  Plus, they're huge, and I'm sure he only finds this so attractive because it's just a visual reminder of how amazing it is that his dear wife is capable of giving sustenance to his beloved children, and that her body has been wonderfully made to do a job that he would be useless in accomplishing without her, and that in itself is reason to overlook the sticky floors and dirty clothes strewn about, because, hey man, my wife feeds our baby every three to five hours with nourishment from her own body, and that's cool, that's really cool.  Right?  Plus, they're huge.  Boobs.  I'm so immature.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Girls girls girls.

When we first announced that we were expecting our fourth baby, more often than not, before we heard "How exciting!" or "Congratulations!" or even "Four kids? Are you crazy?", we were met with an overwhelming, "Well, maybe you'll finally get a boy this time!".  Yes.  We figured we'd hear this - I mean, three girls is more than the average female count in any typical family, but what we didn't figure, myself and my husband, was how annoying it would be.  It was as if people were assuming we were disappointed that we hadn't "gotten" a boy out of our previous pregnancies.  As well intentioned as it was, it came across like a fourth girl would be a waste of a perfectly good opportunity to have a boy.  As a family friend who also mothers a gaggle of girls put it, "This isn't China, people.  We get to keep the girls."  Now, don't get me wrong, a boy would be great!  We know lots of sweet and wonderful and delightful boys, and we don't have one of those, so it would be new and exciting, and bless him, the poor thing would be loved and smothered and harassed by the sisters for all of his days...but, we like our girls.  A lot.  And more would be just lovely.  When the time came for the 18 week ultrasound, we were excited to see our sweet baby, but equally excited to be able to just tell people we were having a boy or girl and get them to quit crossing their fingers for our luck to change.  I'll be honest - we knew it was a girl before we even went to the ultrasound.  We just knew.  Neither of us could really picture the baby any other way, so when a picture of two little legs and nothing extra was printed off, it was not really a surprise to us.  It was almost a relief, like, we got this, we can do girls, we are pretty good at girls, we know what to do with one of those.  There was a tiny moment of pause as we let go of any musings about a little brother, but definitely not any disappointment.  Fortunately, people in our family loved us enough to keep any "aw, nuts" to themselves when we shared to results, and I think for the most part, everyone is over it.  Of course we're having another girl, what else?  The girls we have were jazzed about a tiny new sister, and I think a baby sister will be less likely to be tortured than a brother would - sisters are old news, eh.  And while it is a little irksome to have strangers weigh in (now that I'm obviously pregnant and not just heavy handed in the cookie jar) on how a house full of girls will surely make us poor and crazy, or how many people have had to get through several girls before they finally got a boy, it is easy to shrug it off, because I know the truth, and so did one other elderly gal at the store - she told me, "I had boys and I had girls, and I'll tell you something, boys are nothing but trouble.  Girls are perfect."  Amen, sister.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fun in the sun.

Summer is upon us, and the first thing I have to come realize is how much my oldest talks now that she's around all day.  All the time.  About everything.  During everything.  She is not even really making conversation, she's just...talking.  No wonder her teacher sent her home with warnings for being disruptive.  I don't even really have to answer her because she just talks through it, so I suppose this is just what it is.  White noise aside, it's been pretty nice not having to run back and forth from school and such, and everyone has been getting along nicely.  AND, thanks to our pool (yay!) we have been able to avoid five hour Nick Jr marathons and whiny bored kids.  Our pool is great because it's not very big, so the kids can easily swim across it, and I can easily reach in and snatch one up, which means that they can swim and I can sit in the shade and read a book (gloria halleluiah).  Last summer, since the small blonde (oh, by the way, the baby can no longer be referred to as the baby on account of the new baby, so henceforth, she shall be the small blonde) was still quite small, me reading a book by the pool was pretty impossible.  She had the floaties, but I couldn't in good conscience throw a two year old in the pool and not also be in the pool with her.  But hey, three is another story - this girl can swim and hold her breath very well with the floaties on, and the two big sisters are becoming pretty adept in the pool, too.  A disclaimer, though, as I'm sure someone has their panties in a bunch, I am ALWAYS within reaching distance of the girls - no tossing them out on their own, no running inside for a cold pop, no napping while they spastically splash each other into oblivion.  There, ok?  I got safety down, ya'll.  That being said, I will also admit that the girls have not taken swimming lessons.  As valuable as I know they are, when my oldest first started swimming, I also had a two year old and an infant in tow, so lessons would have either been challenging, or they would have bankrupted us trying to do something private.  By now, the big blonde and the brunette have pretty much figured it out on their own, and the small blonde is making strides, so I'll just resign myself to being in of the minority of parents these days whose children learn to swim the "old fashioned way" - i.e. "hold your breath!" and lovingly tossing them into the water.  It is fun to see them get better, and if they expressed interest in being on a swim team, I'd definitely check it out.  Granted, the big blonde is, well, physically awkward (I accept full genetic responsibility for that one), and although I know she enjoys swimming, I'm pretty sure Missy Franklin needn't worry for her champion title.  My mom did send the girls some diving toys, and for the first couple of weeks they sat glittering at the bottom of the pool after having been thrown in excitedly, followed by "they're sinking!" and some crying, but the big blonde has grown bold and decided to get them herself.  It was a spectacle - a lot of splashing, some flailing limbs, and in the end, coughing and empty hands.  With some practice, though, she finally figured it out, flailing limbs and all.  I congratulated her on her new skills, to which she replied, "well, sometimes farting helps push me down to the bottom", followed by, of course, a loud fart, a splash and laughing sisters.  Ah, my precious girls.  So delicate and ladylike.  Eh, whatever gets the job done, right?  And also, thank goodness it's a private pool.  I'll be satisfied if this is how the whole summer turns out - we thought about putting them in some activities, and I'm sure we'll do SOME things, like going to the library and taking some fun day trips, but honestly, who am I to take away the one short time in their lives when it's ok to go swimming and eat popsicles every day?  Nothing is required of our summer but some sunny days and fiber for the big blonde's diving.

Monday, June 3, 2013

That's a wrap.

I try to tell myself that this is just a nice way for me to keep record of what's happening in our family's life, as I am the worst parent in the world about taking pictures of things (honestly, as the blonde puts it, it's much better to watch things in person than on a video, so I like to think I'm just enjoying the moments rather than trying to "capture" them, but it would be nice to have more than two pictures of the last birthday...), but as it turns out, I start feeling guilty about not posting anything, or, my mom starts asking me about it, so... here ma, enjoy.
We are finally, FINALLY wrapping up school.  Thank goodness.  Towards the end, it is like trudging through mud trying to get anyone, myself included, motivated to get going anywhere, let alone back and forth across town a thousand times to do the drop off blonde drop off brunette pick up brunette pick up blonde cycle that I have grown to loathe so much this school year.  And beyond that, I have been really itching to finish it up so we can tuck it away and move on to what I feel will really make our family thrive - homeschooling.  Yep, we are doing it.  It is something that has been pressing on me since the blonde became preschool age, and while for a few years I tried to put it out of my mind as a mother's paranoia over the innocence of my darling children being ripped away from them by "the man", it gradually grew into more of a desire for something...different.  Their schooling became a smaller part of it, while our family's lifestyle became a much larger reason for my interest, and the education of my girls as people with needs both intellectual and spiritual and whole.  I wanted to be able to offer them something I knew they wouldn't get in a traditional school setting - exposure to the world, to life, to living, to exploring, to learning at your own pace in your way about what you are interested, not an education designed to accommodate "most" children, given to them by teachers who have to divide their time and attention between 20 other students and the school district's demands.  I didn't want them to be limited by what was in the curriculum, and I didn't want them to feel pressured to move on to keep up when they might need extra time, or when they just enjoy and want to know more, I didn't want them to feel pressured socially to be anyone but themselves, and I wanted the freedom to take advantage of opportunities that would otherwise be missed because of the constraints of a school calendar.  Idealistic?  Maybe, but after having done public school for a year, I can say it's not what I want for my family, and, as I am in a position to offer something different, I feel like I 'd be doing my kids a disservice if I didn't at least put in a solid effort to homeschool.  Maybe it sucks and we fail miserably, but is it really a failure if we can say that we tried, we learned that it sucks, and we can move forward from there?  Obviously, I'm hoping it definitely does not suck, and while I totally get that it will be challenging (um, did I share we're having a baby in November?) I am sure that by the grace of God alone, we can make it work, and that it will be completely worthwhile.  Kindergarten was great, the teacher was a lovely woman, and the blonde met some great little friends and really did learn a lot (she reads ya'll!), and the brunette had just as great of a time in preschool, but it's time for something else, and thankfully, as we talk about it with the kids, they are all eager to make the change, too (we can have field trips any time we want!).  This time last year I was still wrestling with this choice, feeling like I wasn't ready to take it on, like I wasn't qualified to be quite so responsible for my children's education, but I found a statement made by Pope John Paul II turned a light on in my heart - "Parents are the first and the most important educators of their own children, and they also possess a fundamental competence in this area; they are educators because they are parents."   Who better to teach our children, whether through homeschool or just in treasured time spent with them, than those who love them the most.  And I sure do love them.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

What a mother.

Over spring break, we were delighted to find out baby number four would be joining the ranks this fall.  Okay, we are definitely delighted, but there was a variety of other emotions that surged through first - I was a bawling mess.  Not because I am having a baby (well, I was looking forward to all of the delicious summer cocktails around the corner, and now I suppose lemonade will suffice), but because I am having a baby in Florida.  We have lived here for two years now, and have nicely settled in and gotten used to traveling back and forth between here and Denver, and the heat is...well, it sucks, but I know now not to go outside from May until September, and we have (finally!) made some great friends to get us out now and then, of a baby coming tossed out any good vibrations I had been getting from living in Florida.  When a woman is pregnant she needs her tribe - or, in other words, her mother.  My mom is 1900 miles away!  How will she babysit for doctor's appointments?!  How will she come over in the middle of the night when my water breaks?!  How will she whisk the other children away and change a diaper or two so I can take a nap?!  All of these things she was able to help me with for our three girls, and it was a huge blessing that we all both loved and appreciated, and that I maybe hadn't realized was so special until now that it's not available.  Of course, I sobbed all of these things to my mom over the phone, and because she is awesome, she came out for a couple of days to put me at ease.  We always love when Meemaw comes - the girls adore her - but I was especially glad to just have her around for a few days to let go of my anxiety over the whole thing.  We lunched, we planted tomatoes, we shopped, we talked about how fast the girls are growing and how sweet my husband is and how silly my brothers were (and are) and how everything is going to be fine.  And how maybe someday we'll be back in Denver, but for now, this is our life, and it's great.  I am so thankful that my mom is willing and able to come visit - I know when we were kids we lived out of state for a while, and my mom's mother was not able to do the same.  They got a call on Sundays, and a visit for Christmas, which was a happy and precious time.  It makes me extra grateful for free long distance and video chats (even with a bad connection), and healthy, travel-savvy parents.  And still, even if all I got was a letter delivered by stagecoach twice a year, I'm always grateful for my ma.

Friday, April 5, 2013

This little light of mine.

My first child, the blonde, turned six last weekend.  She, of course, had big plans, and turned six with style - got her ears pierced and everything (sob).  Fancy shopping, fancy dinner, and even skipped a birthday cake so she could order fancy dessert at the restaurant.  She's a fancy girl, what can I say.  The blonde is our walking experiment.  As the first child, all disciplinary action, privileges, and milestones are tried out on her before we run them on the other girls.  She's how we discovered that if you want a baby to sleep in it's bed, you cannot let her sleep only on your lap for the first six months of her life.  She's how we learned that it's ok to throw away a onesie.  Not all poop explosions are worth cleaning up after (in a public restroom).  She's how we learned potty training is not a race, and not all kids work for stickers.  She's how we learned that if you spell the same secret word in front of your kids all the time, they'll figure it out and ask to go to the P-A-R-K.  She's how we learned that children cannot always be reasoned with.  Sometimes they just need a little hug and some candy to forget the trouble they've gotten into.  She's how we learned that the dark is scary, and everyone needs a night light.   She's how we learned that they grow too fast.  We spent so much of her little time counting down to milestones, and wondering how she'd change, that suddenly, she has, more than we had thought.   She is teaching us that she won't be a kid for long, and now is the time to let her just be one.  Let her like princesses for as long as she wants to.  Let her snuggle whenever there's a lap available.  Let her brush her own teeth, but still zip up her jacket for her.  Let her be silly, but be serious when she wants to be.  Let her imagine she is any wonderful thing she dreams up, and let her continue to teach you how to be a good parent.  Mistakes will be made, but fortunately, all I see in her are things we did right - she is loving and kind, she is honest, she is compassionate - she is a gem, and she shines not because of us, but because God has made her a wonderful child.

Friday, March 15, 2013

My baby you'll be.

It's a strange thing to see your children grow.  You look at them every single day, but somehow, one day, they seem to have changed overnight without you noticing.  And without giving you a warning so you could take one last look at the way they were before they suddenly changed.  The baby changed.  She was telling me about something in great detail, and in the moment between searching her pocket and turning back to me, it left - her babyhood took up on the breeze and faded away.  She is forever my baby, but it is apparent now that I'm the only one who sees her this way anymore.  It took me by surprise, her not being a baby any more, as she herself tends to take people by surprise.  She has always been petite - not even six pounds when she was born - and her stature often belies both her wit and her volume.  My grandmother always comments on "what a loud child she is", and not in a way that would suggest she is obnoxious (which honestly, what toddler isn't obnoxious now and then), but only because her elfish face doesn't lead on to the bellowing voice inside.  She is silly, but observant and thoughtful, retelling intricate stories of her sisters' shenanigans, and offering well thought out plans for excursions and activities (her most common opening line is "I have an idea, how 'bout we...").  She likes things that are weird and unusual, and when given opportunities to choose for herself, she rarely chooses what you would have thought she'd like.  Her sisters both baby her, which she allows, and now that they see she has value as a contributing playmate and isn't just an elephant in their china shop of imagination, they seek her out to play.  The baby is the most neutral of the girls - she'll happily hop from one sister's game to the next, whereas the older two take a bit more mediation to play nicely.  She is just so sweet.  Or dramatic, but I feel the spells of distress and injustice she plays out now are mostly just to keep pace with the sisters (it's not fair!).  I'll admit, I baby her too.  But she is the baby!  She's too little.  Be careful with her.  Let me help you.  Sigh.  Of course, this has only been met with fierce independence on her part, and an occasional reprimand for my husband - "just let her do it".  She is very capable, and is a fine example of how little all of those books for first time parents matter in raising a child.  By the third child, you find a breast and a bed are all a baby needs to be happy.  And she is.  My little baby, my tiniest one, my sweet fuzzy peach, my precious child.  She is three now, and as exciting as it is to see our family grow and change and put one phase behind us (no diaper bags, yeah!), I'll always be thankful I caught the moment before she checked her pocket.