Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Eve: Say Yes.

On Christmas Eve, we went to the beach. But we almost didn't.

During our whole 2+ week long Florida trip we had been meaning to get out to the beach, but somehow we never quite made it. Living as a family of 5, we've got excuses up the wazoo.

While I was tucking Oliver into bed on the night of the 23rd, he asked me when we were going to the beach. In my head I pulled up the calendar and realized we didn't have much time left: the next day was Christmas Eve, which we spend with Jared's grandparents. The day after that was Christmas, which we spend with Jared's immediate family. And then the day after that, we were boarding the plane back to Minnesota.

We didn't really have any time left to go to the beach.

As I started explaining all of that to Oliver, I realized that I was breaking his heart.  So halfway through my excuses, I stopped making up reasons why I was saying no and instead I chose to say yes.

Yes, Oliver. We will go to the beach. Tomorrow. Sleep well, and tomorrow we will go to the beach.

When "tomorrow" came, it was the windiest, cloudiest day of the whole trip. After finishing my morning pumping session and feeding everyone breakfast and getting everybody dressed, we were off to a late start. We had only a few hours before we were expected to be at Christmas Eve dinner. Again I almost canceled our beach trip, but then I remembered: I said yes.

We were going. We had to go. I said so.

As we piled all of the kids into the car, we tried to set their expectations low and set up some ground rules: 

We can't stay long. 
You can't get all sandy right before we go to Oma & Opa's. 
The weather isn't very good. 
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES are we going into the water.

On the drive to the park, Jared and I argued about which part of the beach would be best. Jared wanted to walk along a more secluded trail, but I didn't think we had the time nor the kids' abilities to walk 2 miles at a reasonable pace. I wanted to head to the boring beach area where everybody and his uncle parks their beach umbrellas because it was the easiest choice.

When we parked the car, we still hadn't decided what to do, so I threw up my hands and decided to give up and walk along the trail Jared chose. A quarter of a mile in, Colin threw himself onto the ground and refused to walk any farther.

So Jared and I argued more. "I told you this was a bad idea!" was what I may or may not have yelled at Jared multiple times before I took the baby and headed back to the car by myself.

For the 1/4 mile walk back to the car, I kept imagining how good it would feel to have Jared return with the two cranky, exhausted older boys so that I could smugly say to him, "I told you so."

But the longer I sat in the car waiting with Bill, the more I realized I didn't want to be angry anymore. I just wanted to have fun with them. When I finally spotted the boys coming down the path towards me, the first thought in my head wasn't, "I told you so" but instead, "I'm sorry."

Apparently Jared also had the same change of heart, because the first words out of his mouth to me were, "Let's not be angry. I'm sorry."

We sat in our rented minivan and looked at the clock. We had to leave in twenty minutes if we wanted to get home in time to shower and make ourselves look nice for dinner.  After a moment's discussion, Jared and I knew what we had to do: We were taking the kids to the beach that they had been hoping so very much to see, even if we only had a few minutes.

As we drove the half mile to the beach's parking lot, we warned the kids that we couldn't stay long. Again, I told them we were not going to be getting sandy or wet right before Christmas Eve dinner.

But by the time we got the kids down the little boardwalk path to the beach, I knew there was no way that I could stop them from putting their bare feet into the sand. After waiting so long to see it, I had to let them really experience it.  Reluctantly, I said to them, "Alright, guys. Go ahead and take your shoes off and leave them here. But stay out of the water."

It was less than thirty seconds after I finished saying those words that I saw Colin running into the surf. I almost opened my mouth to yell for him to stop, but when I saw how excited he was to play with the waves, I couldn't do it. Instead I settled for rolling up his pant legs and a muttering a half-hearted "try not to get your pants wet."

At that point in time, I knew I wasn't kidding anybody. I know Colin. I knew he was going to be in that water. The farther we walked along the waves, the wetter Colin got. The wetter he got, the more pieces of clothing we took off of him until finally he was jumping the waves in nothing but a soaked pair of Sesame Street underwear.

Oliver was right there with Colin, scooping up sand with his bare hands and throwing rocks into the waves. Oliver's pants, too, were soaked. The beach was deserted and it was the windiest, cloudiest day you could imagine but we were having so much fun. We knew we really should be leaving the beach if we wanted to get home and shower for dinner, but we saw how joyful those boys were with just the waves and the sand, and we stayed longer. The shower wasn't worth it.

We stayed on that beach until the very last minute, every single one of us having a great time. We rushed back to the van when our time was up, laughing at the piles of sand in Colin's hair. Both older boys were so sandy that we actually took them over to the dog wash and literally hosed the sand off of their bodies.  While running back into the car, Colin tripped and skinned his knee. He cried the whole ride home. When we tried to clean out his scrape, he got so upset that he peed all over himself and Jared. At one point, all three of our kids were crying in the back of the van. Jared and I, still riding the high of our successful and offbeat beach trip, exchanged a look that says, "This is so us! Isn't this funny? Our life is great."

We ended up being late for dinner and walking through the door with saltwater in our hair, dried tears on our cheeks, and a skinned knee but it was so worth it. What started out as such a terrible, rushed morning actually turned into the best hour of our whole vacation. All because we willed it so. Because we chose to have fun. Because we said, "Yes."

Will waiting in the car, but clearly he wasn't angry.
Walking to the beach.
Almost to the beach, everybody is still dry and fully clothed.

Feet on the sand.

Staying out of the water...
...but not for long.
Colin's signature look on the beach.
Jumping waves sans pants.

So windy.

Very sandy. Moderately wet.

Even more sandy. Even more wet.

Baby testing the gulf waters

Now shirtless and pantless, but still with dry hair.

Completely soaked from head to toe after going under.

Later that night Colin was given a shirt which reads, "Put your toes in the sand. Let the sun kiss your face. Enjoy life."  How funny that Colin got to do all of those things only hours before. All because we said yes.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Three months old! Well, close enough.

Will is three months old. Actually, he's been three months old for a while, but. You know. He's the third baby. He gets what he gets and he doesn't get upset.

I packed away and sold a box full of 0-3 month sized clothing. There is an empty shelf in the closet left from when I took down the box of 6/9 months' clothing. For once, that space isn't being filled with more baby clothes to save for later. Part of me feels like I should be sad that this is it. There won't be any more 0-3 little footie pajamas.  But the other part of me is able to look at the new, larger clothing and be amazed thinking, he is this big already. He will be able to do so much.

Tummy time is already a thing of the past. If he doesn't want to be lying a certain way, he takes matters into his own hands. His fat little belly is so round that a gentle breeze could send him rolling. When I sit down next to him on the floor, he twists his whole body and flails his little arms out towards me to say, Look! I'm right here! Pick me up!

The thing I love most about him is that he is so generous with his smiles. Any tiny thing is a good reason for him to smile. I can leave the room for just two minutes, but you'd better believe that when I return he will kick his legs and squeal with glee as if to say, I was waiting for you! I'm so glad you're back!

Every night when the big kids are in bed, I take this little baby and I sit him up on my knees with our faces just ten inches apart and we talk. You wouldn't think that a 3 month old baby would be such a good conversationalist, but every night he tries so hard to communicate with me. I say a few words to him, and he smiles & coos back to me. Every night. Without fail.

And it's not just me he loves. He loves his daddy. He loves his brothers. He loves anyone who is near enough to give him a friendly glance.

On my computer you can scroll and scroll and scroll through all the lines of smiling photos of I have of this baby, and he's only three months old. Every night I take another picture of his smiling face. I think I'm going to need to buy a few more hard drives just to keep up.

Anyway, happy 3rd (month) birthday, Baby Bill. Keep smiling.

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.


Thursday, October 16, 2014


 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


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.