Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Keep Moving Forward

I think it's safe to say that we are back into our groove since William was born. In the beginning, I gave up on a lot things so I could focus on what I really wanted/needed to get done. I let household chores slip. We used a pre-made meal service. The kids were given practically unlimited screen time, just so we could tackle the things that we needed to get done.

But now, slowly but surely, we've been reclaiming our old lifestyle. We've been getting the kids out to play and we're having fun together each weekend. We've been eating two meals each day at the table as a family.  We've been working a lot harder to be more understanding as parents, to be less reactive to the negative and more attentive to the positive. We have been doing well as a family of five. We're always running and we've screwed up a lot of stuff, but really, we're doing well. We're patting ourselves on the back, because hey, sometimes it's healthy to be your own biggest cheerleader.

Do we have our birth announcements out yet? Nope. Have we loosened our hold over some of the household rules? Yes.  Do we walk out the door looking a mess and smelling like sour milk and vomit? Sometimes.

But we're making progress. Each week, we've been working towards doing something. I cleaned out my cupboards. We've cleared out a closet here, a drawer there. We're doing something in the yard. As part of our "moving forward" plan, every day our goal is to (at a minimum!) run a load of laundry or dishes. Because even when everybody is crying and he hit me tell him to stop being naughty! I can climb into bed at night and say, well, at least I did something today. Even if it was only folding a load of towels. That still counts as something!

The more we do, the better we get. Everybody has been pitching in and learning his/her place in our newly expanded family. It doesn't feel like this huge endeavor just to get the 5 of us out of the house anymore. Eating a meal in a restaurant all together doesn't cause us anxiety. Our laundry mountains have been tamed into regular, acceptable-sized laundry hills.

We are winning! Every day is a little bit of forward progress.  Each completed task is a mini victory. The more we win, the more momentum we gain. All of these things that at first seemed like so much work are becoming our new normal, a regular habit. This is the first time in a long time where I am heading into the holiday season feeling more like saying, "Yes! I've got this" instead of, "Wow. I am so overwhelmed."

Each night Jared and I get ready for bed and discuss what we're going to do the next day, the next week, the next year. One of the reasons I love Jared is because he is a nonstop dreamer and/or schemer. He is always chasing after something better, but he's still grateful for what we've got. His favorite saying is, "Don't let a good thing get in the way of a great thing."


What we've got now is good, but where we're heading is great. And we'll get there one load of laundry at a time.

All five of us.


A day at the park.

Waiting for lunch.

Watching the solar eclipse.
The ever happy Baby Bill.

Biggest and littlest boys.
Happy Fatty in his bouncy chair.


"What does the cow say?" "Neigh." "Are you teasing me?" "Yes."
A cowboy who is particularly gentle with his cattle.

Big Moo, Little Moo, and the one who wrangles them both.

Moo!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Colin.

 I don't know if you've ever noticed this, but I think Colin might be what people in the preschool business call "spirited." I tend to go with the word "naughty" but po-tay-to po-tah-to.

Colin and his "slime hat" invention.

Colin and his caramel sundae topping sandwiches, with a side of caramel-drizzled mozzarella.


Colin, found sleeping on the couch after he snuck upstairs during naptime.
Colin standing on his head at the zoo because we refused to carry him.

Colin, found asleep in his hiding spot with a stolen rice crispy bar.

Colin refused to nap so I gave up on naptime and made him oatmeal. He fell asleep.

Colin caught licking sticks of butter and putting them back into the box.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Smile.

I was having a bad day. Colin was particularly naughty and defiant at every turn today. He peed his pants at school.  I slept poorly last night so I'm more tired than usual. I burnt myself on the stove and then got poop (not my own! I am good with my own poop.) in my open burn wound while changing a diaper. Oliver was distraught because a piece of his artwork got ruined.

I finally got the big kids downstairs for their nap, and then when I came back upstairs and started fixing a sandwich for myself I heard the little baby crying. My first thought was No! Go back to sleep! I want to each lunch. Please let me eat lunch. I need to eat lunch by myself right now.

I was so overwhelmed that I was two seconds away from calling Jared and saying to him, "Come home. I'm exhausted. Help me."

But then William cried out again so I squared my shoulders, took a deep breath and went in to  get him. And do you know what he did? He smiled at me. He wasn't wet or hungry or cold. He just wanted me.  He smiled at me to say, "Mom! I am so glad you're here. I was in here by myself and I was lonely so I called for you and there you are! I'm so happy."



It wasn't the first time he's smiled at me. He's been smiling at me pretty reliably for the last week or so, but I needed it so much this afternoon. I needed somebody to smile and remind me to be happy. And there he is.



First smiles have always been my favorite milestone. There is something so rewarding about that little expression of love and gratitude coming from the person for which you have worked so hard and tirelessly. After weeks of sleepless nights and diaper changes and spit up and turning out the light and saying, "I love you." it's so wonderful to finally hear see "I love you too." in return.


Thanks, Baby Bill, for making my day better. I'm glad you're such a happy little guy. :)

P.S. Isn't he getting delightfully fat?



Saturday, October 4, 2014

Say cheese.

I bribed them with a KitKat to take these pictures.










It's harder than you think.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Happy Birthday Oliver


Oliver,

Last week you turned five.

As always, I struggled to find the right words to write to you. I started two separate letters, but I deleted them both because I couldn't say anything I really wanted to say. You've been feeling left out since the baby was born. I haven't had the time for you that I used to have. It's true that you're getting the short end of the stick, and I feel guilty for that. So many times you ask me to do something with you, and all I have to offer you is an excuse.

I have to feed the baby right now. 
Colin is being naughty right now. 
I have to get dressed before we leave for school.

You always accept that I'm busy. I can tell you're disappointed, but you accept what I say with such maturity. "Maybe later," you say, and it breaks my heart. I wanted to write something to tell you that this situation is temporary. That I've always got time for you even when I don't. I wanted to write something that would shout to you, You're not left out! You're special! I love you just as much as ever and I always will!
I wanted to write those perfect words, because I mean it. All of those things are true. I wanted to write those perfect words, but they just couldn't come out. Nothing was good enough. Nothing conveyed exactly how much you mean to me, whether I have 2 minutes to spend with you or 2 days.

The truth is, out of all my boys, I struggle the  most with parenting you. I'm not even sure if I'm supposed to admit that as your mom, but there it is. I have a hard time knowing exactly what it is I should be doing. Don't get me wrong - it's not that you're a difficult child. You're about as far from being a difficult child as could be. You are so loving and kind and helpful and smart. You can be more patient than a 5 year old has any right to be.

But the thing that I struggle with is that, with you, we're always exploring a new frontier. You're the first five year old I've ever had to parent. You've always been the first to go through each age and stage with me, and you've had to put up with every novice mistake I've made along the way. Every unknown phase is, for me, intimidating. It seems like the older you get, the harder the issues become. You're stuck being the guinea pig while I learn how to navigate in deeper waters, and that kills me.




Tonight you wet the bed (which is completely out of character for you, you've been potty trained since you were 2.5.) and you were completely distressed. Your dad called me in to come comfort you and calm you down. And for the first time in a long time, you sat in my lap, just wanting to be held. It was such a simple solution, holding you. So I did that. I held you on my lap and you said to me, "I'm just having a hard time." I said to you, "It's okay. We all have a hard time sometimes."

After holding you for a minute you were calm again. I helped you into a clean shirt and I tucked you into your bed and I went back upstairs to my bed, but even at 2am  I couldn't stop thinking about sitting down on the floor and holding you in my lap while you pulled yourself together.

At five years old, your world is still small, but your brain is getting so big. I'm often not able to hand out black and white answers to you anymore. When you were younger, explaining things was so much easier.

If you bite, it hurts people.
If you run too fast, you will fall.
If you touch the stove, you will be burnt.
Everything you wanted to know used to have an answer that I understood and could explain. But now, you're starting to ask things that I can't always answer.



People who love you can still hurt your feelings.
Sometimes people are rewarded for doing bad things.
Life isn't fair.
All of these confusing things have been going around and around in your head lately and I've felt like I was failing you. Failing you because I didn't know things any better than you did. Failing you because I have so much on my plate right now that you unfairly get pushed aside, punished for your good behavior and self-sufficiency.  But tonight while I laid in bed listening to the rain, I remembered what I said to you:

"It's okay. We all have a hard time sometimes."


And that's the truth. We all have a hard time sometimes. And that's okay. Now is a hard time for all of us as a family, but you still have your place. You're still my big (little) 5 year old. I'm still doing my best. You're still doing your best.

And that's totally good enough. You are good enough. I couldn't imagine doing this without you, my oldest boy. My steadfast sidekick. The Biggest Brother.

Every day I am grateful for you.  You are so loved, and you shouldn't doubt that for a second. 

Happy birthday, Oliver.




Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Good Morning from That Baby.

Baby Bill is 4 weeks old today. I mean Will. Or William. Or Little Fatty.

We still don't have a stand-out choice of name for him, but he doesn't seem to mind being called "that baby" or "the small one."  He is also losing all of his hair, but that doesn't seem to faze him either.



For the most part, he just hangs out and spends his time pooping or eating or sleeping, as all good babies should. If he's crying, it means that either a.) he's hungry or b.) Colin is antagonizing him.




He's quite popular around here, so I often bribe the older kids with the opportunity to hold him. "If you pick up the blocks without complaining, you can hold your baby brother!"


(Sorry, Bill. I can justify this because you won't remember any of the trauma of Colin holding you when you're older.)


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Minnesota Harvest

Last weekend we took our annual trip to Minnesota Harvest to pick our yearly bag of apples. This year, the plywood photo prop got a new coat of paint, and we added to it our newest member.

Can you believe that baby wouldn't even smile for this?

Exciting tractor wagon ride.

Colin takes tractor rides very seriously.

Selecting a choice apple with Grandma.


Annual selfie on the wagon ride.
Their apples rarely made it into our bag.

Running through the sunflower maze.


This baby did not contribute to the apple picking.
Jared, ready for the maze.
Since then, I've been making apple stuff. Apple smoothies. Apple butter. Apple cake. I even made these apple turnovers, which Oliver dubbed "gross burned triangles that aren't even food."

So they're not exactly Martha Stewart quality, but I wouldn't go so far as to label them "gross burned triangles." 

Next weekend, we're hitting the corn maze. Good thing I won't come home with a giant bag of corn to bake up.