Friday, March 20, 2015

Turning Two . . . and Three

How is it that the last two month of pregnancy seem to drag on forever, but the first two years after they are born seem to fly by?  I will never understand that, but I know I am always left wishing that I had taken more pictures, more videos, written down more details, blogged more.  Oh well, I guess we don't enjoy life any less, but taking that time to reflect on the details of day-to-day life somehow just seems to let you savor it a little more.

As the youngest of five, Eliana has grown up really fast.  She is very independent, and don't ever try to tell the youngest from a large family they can't do something.  You will get a lot of lip and a lot of attitude.  She has plenty of that.  James and I always comment how she and Darwin are so similar in their personalities.  I don't think it's an accident because when you are the youngest in a large family, you have to fight for every bit of your independence.  In many ways, that's a great thing, but in some ways, it's not so great..

Whenever we are at a restaurant, we are never quite sure how far away we are from our next screaming protest.  That's how Eliana tells us she does or doesn't want something.  We continue to insist that she not scream for things she wants, but her brothers and sisters keep reinforcing the opposite at home.  At home, she learns that the louder and faster she screams, the sooner she gets what she wants.  We haven't been very successful at unlearning lessons learned at home. 

We are still working on the anger management with Darwin.  He still thinks if he wants to get his way with his brothers or sisters, the best way to do that is to just hit somebody.  Again, they keep reinforcing that because as soon as they realize he is going to hit them, they get out of his way.  He's a pretty scary little guy when he's angry.  I'm sure it's frustrating when your whole life you've had not 1 or 2 people trying to tell you what to do, rather 5 or 6 people doing that.  I guess I kind of understand their frustration, but it doesn't make it any easier to work through this issue as a parent.

Bedtime also continues to be a bit of a struggle.  Eliana has been less than willing to wean, but she has just recently started coming around about sleeping in her bed all night.  I know a lot of parents would just put the kid in the crib and be done with it, but I'm okay with co-sleeping.  We've done that with all of our kids, and they are able to go to bed on their own without any major issues.  At this point, I try to just cherish it.

Portion above was originally drafted in July 2013 but I'm publishing it now with some 2015 updates.

It's been now more than a year and a half since I started drafting this post, and it really just reinforces my original point that time passes so quickly when you have little kids.  We've not only celebrated Eli's 2nd birthday but her 3rd birthday also.  If you can't tell, her dad takes WAY better pictures than I do thankfully.

This year my "little one", as she likes to call herself, is turning four.  She is sassy and loud as ever, and it's still hard to believe she's "the baby".  We affectionately like to call her our "frat brother" because she's crass and uninhibited.  For a while, she was punctuating her sentences with fart noises and shouting fake expletives at others for no reason.  In short, we're having a great time raising our little lady.  She's coming up on four, and I can only imagine what our future holds.  We are lucky to have you, Eli!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Herd of Children

We have five kids.  To us, it doesn't feel like "too many" because this is just our life.  However, sometimes I am reminded, like tonight, that having five kids seems like an unmanageable or undesirable amount of children to some.  Recently, at a a Christmas school function, a parent of one of the kids' classmates referred to them as our "herd of children".  I smiled and responded that it's not that different than having three, like them.  Jokingly, he responded that he would take my word for it.

With our youngest now over 3, I find it amusing that some people still wonder how we (and other big families) do it.

Like most parents, I cannot imagine life without any one of my kids.  Yet, I know some parents will cringe at the thought of caring for any more kids than they already have.  Despite compelling evidence to the contrary, most of us are fairly set in our opinions of how many children we want.  Therefore, I share with you my thoughts on my favorite 10 things (no particular order) about having a big family, not because I think it will persuade anyone that having lots of kids is better than they thought.  Rather, to share my perspective on why some of us are "crazy" enough to love having a big family.

10. Love truly multiplies.  I did have some doubts early on whether there would be enough of me to be able to love all my kids how I wanted to love them.  The moment the twins were born, I knew I was foolish for thinking that way.  I didn't just love them.  My understanding of love grew.

9. They love, help, and inspire each other in unexpected ways.  From helping each other with breakfast before mom and dad get out of bed to learning to give a meaningful apology, their emotional intelligence is amazing.

8.  There's always a party at your house, er, our house.

7.  It's a lot easier to get most labor-intensive tasks done with 5 little helpers.  They need a lot more direction than adult helpers, but they love to clean baseboards, walls, and windows, which most adults hate to do.

6.  Nothing else in life seems as challenging as raising a large family.  Really, it's not as difficult as some may think, but it definitely makes my "day job" seem easy by comparison.

5.  I love to be busy, yes, insanely busy.  At the end of each week, we've probably averaged 15-20 extra-curricular events, as well as the day-to-day madness of getting ready for school and work and attending any family or school events we might have.

4.  I am humbled to be surrounded by a house full of little people way more amazing than I ever was.  I love to watch as our kids develop their talents and skills, and I see so much promise in them that I hope I am lucky enough to watch them grow into adults.

3.  Every outing, even simple ones, can really be an adventure.  Some days it's exhausting.   Many times, it's fun, challenging, and some time even exhilarating.

2.  Someone is always ready to spend time with you, no matter what you're doing.  Some days I'm just excited to think about how the kids will react when I tell them what I plan on doing that day.  Many/most things are new experiences to them, and I love to be the one to introduce them to the world.

1. It will never get old and never be less amazing to hold your tiny newborn and feel the hope and power of the miracle in front of you.

I'm sure it does not sound any more appealing to some, maybe most.  Either way, it doesn't really matter.  We're the ones living it, and we love it!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Jameson 1, Bully 0

Every parent has a slightly different take on all the responsibilities of raising children. For James and me, we think part of our job is finding a balance between raising children that are kind and compassionate but also know how to defend themselves.  The story Jameson came home to share with us put me at ease a bit that at least he's going to stick up for himself.

Jameson loves to read, and he is often reading while waiting in the car rider line.  On this particular day, he found himself a comfy place on a bench and began reading.  Here is the story as relayed by Jameson:

Jameson [minding his own business sitting on a bench]

Bully [stares down at Jameson waiting for him to move]: Get out of my seat.

Jameson: No, I was here first.  You can't just tell me to move because you're bigger.

Bully [speechless, likely not sure how to respond to confident 1st grader he can't push around]

The bully walks away and doesn't bother Jameson again.

Yup - that's it.  Nothing major, no major battle just a 1st grade version of "don't f@$k with me, kid".  That's my little guy.  Keep sticking up for the little guys, Jameson!

This post was originally written when Jameson was in 1st grade and never posted it.  I finally had the urge to blog again, and he's a big 3rd grader now.  Hopefully, he's still looking out for the little guys.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bedtime is Mom Time

I have a very demanding work schedule, so I often find myself up at 2 or 3 in the morning finishing up work that I should have finished that day or that needs to be ready that morning.  Late nights mean I don't always get up in time to see the kids off on the bus.  Thankfully, I can count on our kids and James to get everything together in the morning so everyone gets on the bus.

They go to school. I go to work. James and Eliana spend some "just us" time together and after rushing everyone around to after school activities, feeding everyone dinner, showering and brushing teeth, it's finally time settle down for the night.  This is probably my favorite time of day because I get to do the one thing I don't get to do during the day - spend time with my kids.

Like most kids, our kids LOVE bedtime books.  The best part is that I LOVE reading them.  I love to have their full attention while they are learning something new.  I love to watch their faces light up when something unexpected happens.  I love to hear them giggle when we find a book that's really funny.  I see it as an adventure we take together because I don't always read the book before I share it with them.  Sometimes it's poorly written or boring (small risk I'm willing to take), but we usually get something out of every book we read.

It's not unusual for us to spend a half-hour reading bedtime books, and some nights we spend up to an hour.  Tonight, we had one of those nights.  I made a spur of the moment decision that we should start doing math and reading flashcards for just a few minutes each night to see how they improve over the next few weeks (more on that in a few weeks perhaps), and we were having so much fun that bedtime books were more of an afterthought.  We did finally start reading and we only had time for 2 books tonight.  We picked these two:

We enjoyed both books, but Oscar and the Frog did seem to pique their interest more.  They all love science, and it's all about how living things grow.  The book ends with the question 'Oscar thinks growing is great!  Do you think so, too?'.  Right away, Jameson chimed in with "No!".  Truman was my most surprising response with, "I don't want to leave Mom and Dad!".  Thank goodness you're young because Mom and Dad aren't ready for that either, buddy.  In the mean time, I'm trying to soak it all in, and Mom will keep doing bedtime books as long as they'll let me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Freaks Come Out At Night

I used to be a sound sleeper . . . used to be. That all ended once we had children. I thought it was bad enough that our kids wake us up several times each night for whatever dumb reason - nightmares, water requests, "I want daddy!", etc.

Well, I was wrong. Now, somehow we need to be able to "watch" the children when we're sleeping.

Last night, I woke up (as I do every night right now) to run to the bathroom, then I went downstairs for something to drink. When I came back upstairs and sat down in bed, I noticed 2 of Darwin's bedtime companions at the foot of the bed. I thought it was odd because I was certain they were not there when we went to bed. I spend pretty much all day holed up in my bed right now, so I would have noticed if they were sitting there before bedtime or if he brought them earlier.

I recalled an incident from earlier in the night. First thing in the morning, I am used to waking up to Darwin closing his bedroom door as he gets himself out of his crib and heads to our room. The sound of the door always wakes me up. Last night, I was asleep, and I recall hearing a door close, but I was so tired I wasn't sure if it was a dream or if it had really happened. I asked James to check, but I fell asleep before I made sure he followed up. When I woke up and found Darwin's things in our bed, I was afraid that he slipped out of his bed, brought us his babies, and ended up somewhere other than his bed.

When I told James what I was worried about, he went to check on him. Luckily, he was in bed, but I couldn't help but worry and wonder if he had, in fact, gotten out of bed in the middle of the night. If so, how do I keep the kid out of trouble while I'm sleeping?

Tonight, I was doing some work in bed, and I decided to go downstairs to get something to drink. We generally leave the hallway and stairwell lights off at night. I approached the top of the stairs with a dirty cup in my hand, and I reached for the handrail. [This minor detail made all the difference in what happened next]. I started to step on the first step and felt like I was setting my foot on a small, warm dog. I froze and yelled for James as I save myself from falling down the stairs with the handrail I luckily decided to use.

With the crisis averted, I realize that the "dog" on the stairs was actually Amelia. She wakes up multiple times each night, and tonight she decided to lay down on the 1st stair at the top of the stairs, dangerously out of view from her very pregnant mom in a dark hallway. (Note to self: Always check stairs for sleeping children before walking, especially when pregnant). As her dad takes her back to bed, I think 'I could have just killed Amelia, Baby Tiny, and me if I had not been holding the handrail'. I shake my head that I have actually just had that thought.

As they all lie in bed sleeping (for now), I wonder what our next waking incident is going to be. Hopefully, this is all just a phase because James and I might lose it if we have to put up with the nighttime crazies for too much longer.

Originally drafted in Fall of 2011 . . . finally published on post date

Sunday, June 17, 2012

To James on Father's Day 2012

This year for Father's Day I decided I would do something you've been bugging me to do for a while - blog!

With all the kids running around like crazy, it's hard to get anything written, so I decided I would take a short video of each of the kids telling me what they love best about you. They turned out better than expected. You never know what the kids are going to say or do. I'm happy I was able to give you some one-on-one time with each of them again this year. I know they love doing all the creative things you plan to do with them. Happy Father's Day! You are a fantastic dad, and they are SO LUCKY to have you.

This is Take 2 for Jameson.  He struggled with this request, and he felt bad afterward saying, "I can't think of anything nice to say." I'll post t Take 1 if I can get YouTube to cooperate.

For Truman, this was very simple.

Darwin was still musing about his outing with Dad on Friday.

Eliana was not interested in cooperating. I thought I'd catch her saying "Dad", but she just wanted to steal Darwin's hat. Either way, I thought she should participate.

Oh yeah, one more thing . . . Thanks for watching the kids last night, so I could get out to the concert. It was awesome! Say what you will about Lindsey Buckingham, but what a amazing talent. Here's a sample of what you missed.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Letter to James on our 7th

As I think back on the events of the last year, I can't help but tear up (yeah, the baby blues might have something to do with it). We celebrate another anniversary as we welcome our 5th miracle into this world. I have to mourn the passing of our "family building" years as I welcome a year we have already decided should be, at least in part, dedicated to reclaiming our own physical fitness. As I look back thankfully on 7 wonderful years, I am also saddened by the thought of how fast they have passed. Our first 4 babies are babies no more, and I know it won't be long before Baby Tiny is talking and walking.

This year has been filled with lows like my grandfather's passing and having to skip my sister's wedding and highs like welcoming baby Eliana, watching our children enjoying life's simple pleasures, and actually spending a night away from all of them to celebrate our anniversary.

At the end of this emotional rollercoaster of pregnancy, I look back thankfully that I've had you to lean on throughout the last 7 years. With each year that passes, you've shown me all the reasons why I've grown to love you more today than I did the day we got married. I know what Amelia means when she says she wishes she could marry you too. It's that she cannot imagine a greater man than her Daddy. Her world may still be small, but I have to agree with her that I cannot imagine a better husband or father. She is wise beyond her years.

With 7 years behind us, I look forward to what our future may hold. Of course, I pray that includes many more happy, healthy years raising our family. I mentioned the other night that I found the words of Steve Jobs about having kids ("It's 10,000 times better than anything I've ever done.")really struck a chord. I've always felt that family is the most important thing in life, so that is no revelation. Rather, I think the perspective his statement offers, that someone as accomplished as Steve Jobs looks back at life, with the end in sight, and decides that having kids was his greatest achievement is so revealing. Like Jobs, I don't want to look back at life and have any regrets about how I was or wasn't there for our family. Being the workaholic I am, I expect you to keep me in check.

I can't imagine having shared the amazing journey of the last 7 years with anyone else. Fresh in my mind are the memories of our wedding, traveling in Hawaii as newlyweds, finding out we were pregnant with Jameson, watching you sleep with each of our babies on your chest, bringing Truman and Amelia home from the hospital to meet Jameson, laughing at the surprise of Darwin's birth when we realized he was a boy, and our shock when we realized we were pregnant with Eliana. These memories just skim the surface of our years together, but they remind me how blessed we have been. My hopes for our future are simple: health and happiness for our family and time to watch our children grow and build their own families. When you think about it, it's all that really matters, and I'm lucky to share it with you.