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…With Water.

Oh, Thomas. He is a sink cat. He LIKES water. Cats don’t like water. But Thomas doesn’t know that. Ever so carefully, I turned on the water so that just one little drop would drop at a time. And then there was a pause. And then, another drop. He was loving it. But it was confusing him. Watching him made me giggle and grab my camera. I wish I would have captured more of his playing, but like any photographer’s child, he’s done being cute when I pick up the camera.

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Those last three, he cracks me up. I was just about done, because so was he, but I’m so glad that I waited and snapped a few more.  He caught that drip out of the corner of his annoyed little eye and flipped his head right back around. But then he was totally done. Hopped down and went and laid in the middle of the kitchen floor.

Because now, he’s going to entertain me.

By being in my way.

paybacks.

 

*insert crazy freak out right here, right now.*

August is the end of summer – though really, our weather for the last week of July totally felt like September, I think Mother Nature is a bit confused. I dread the end of summer. I love these hot afternoons, long light days, sounds of nature everywhere. And I love doing everything and nothing with all of my kids. I’m never ready to send them back to school – ok, some days I feel like giving them that structure and break from home – but it’s only temporary. They’re never ready to go back to school. It’s sad that learning and discovering and socializing comes with such dread. Over the last few months, when thoughts of homeschooling have been more and more, I hope that I could be that change that removes the dread and brings in the excitement. Kids really shouldn’t dread going back to school. They really should get much more play time in their lives. They’re kids. That’s what they should do. But I do dread them going back to school as much as they do. We don’t spend our summers coming and going and doing all kinds of crazy things. We just spend time together. That’s so important to me. It makes me sad when I hear or read other moms anxious for school to start and to get rid of their kids for those hours.

Seriously, if you’re excited for your kids to go back to school for any reason, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!

We should be excited for them to learn and grown and to broaden their horizons – but you should already be doing that with them every day, no matter what time of the year it is. You should be cherishing every moment that you have with them, even when they’re overtired and cranky and pushing each other’s buttons, and grating your very last fried never. We know that happens, nobody’s life is pure bliss and nobody is perfect. But we should still be thankful for those days, because we have those days. We shouldn’t wish them away or think that going to school will take them away. School is that many more hours every single one of those days that you don’t get to spend the whole day with your child. Yes, school is necessary. But looking forward to being away from your kids, I don’t, and never will understand that.

Yes, I’m crazy. I love my kids like crazy. And when they drive me crazy! Because it does happen. But I just take it in stride – that’s life. But it doesn’t make me wish to have less time with them. I have to sacrifice that enough as is.

Embrace it. Love it. Own it. Don’t take a single day for granted. Live in the now. For me, that doesn’t mean living in the extreme every day – sometimes it’s just getting by and going through the motions of a mundane day. Mundane days are ok.

There is still summer left. I will not be sad that each day is closer to the end of summer. I’m going to try to forget that as much as I can. We have plenty of school prep to do but there is plenty more fun to have as well! I have not accomplished nearly what I thought we would, but that’s ok. We’ve spent time together, and that’s what I love.

With August and discussion of pack to school, I tend to get in ” over planning mode.” I have a whole stack of new irons to put into the fire. Some rekindling of old irons, too. As if my plate wasn’t already full… But sometimes, I thrive on the chaos and the trying of new things. I’m going to start making some goals at the beginning of each month, share them here, and hope to check them off the list one by one. Sometimes doing things “out loud” really helps.

In the meantime, the napping is over and The Littles are ready for fresh air and sunshine – so am I! We are off to the big backyard!

Summer is in full effect this week. It’s hot. Really hot. The kind of hot that I love, but only for part of the day. After a little while, I’ve had enough of sweaty baby heads and itchy, sweaty skin, and worrying about sunscreen (even though I love the smell of that stuff!) and water intake, and the inevitable cranky that comes after getting too much hot everything. But at the same time, I am over the moon and head over heals in love with summer! Shorts and tank tops, bare feet and sunglasses, fresh fruits and veggies, long days full of sunlight, warmth, family, and fun.

This morning, after several that were so muggy, it was so much cooler, and breathing in the fresh air was so refreshing. I turned the AC off and opened all of the windows so wide. I could feel myself relaxing almost instantly. In our jammies, The Littles, The Zoo, and this mama – with fresh coffee in hand – headed outside to play in the yard before the heat could get hot. Those two cuties headed straight for the dirt patch (oh, how they love it but I’m ready to pave it!)  and the dogs sniffed everything in sight while the cats nibbled grass and rolled in the dirt patch. I sipped my coffee, soaking it all in. This was just about as perfect as it all could get, except for the rest of my brood who are all dispersed for the day. I always soak in those moments, thinking of all my littles, wishing they were all still little and under my wing every minute of every day. And missing James while he’s gone. *breathe in, breathe out. I can’t dwell here, it makes me emotional – but you get the idea.*

Lucas asked to “call Dad” so we did. With Facetime. Seriously. How in the world did we get so lucky to have such awesome technology so that these kiddos could run around the yard, play in the dirt, jump on the trampoline, throw balls with the dogs while their dad gets to watch from halfway across the country?! Being apart is so hard. SO HARD. But it’s things like this that make it just a little bit easier and lets us not miss out on the everyday things that sometimes, we take for granted. The kids love it, they want to hold the phone and walk with Dad or show him something that they think is cool. It warms my heart, completely. My phone photography skills were clearly lacking today – but sometimes, buttons get bumped while trying to press two buttons at the same time while holding the phone all in one hand and holding a squirmy baby in the other. This mama has mad skillz!! Or not. ha!

facetime

After awhile, we went back inside, had some breakfast, I indulged in a second cup of creamy coffee, did some laundry, fed the dogs, and lazed around a bit. But it’s Friday, which in our neck of the ‘hood, is “garbage day.” And in a house full of boys, that’s a pretty big deal. It’s taken on a different feel over the past few years as it meant hauling the can to the curb, but this past winter, The Littles discovered the GARBAGE TRUCK! And since it’s summer, there is also the added bonus of the wood chipper truck and today was also recycling day, which means RECYCLING TRUCK! So we gathered up the household garbage and while holding Levi on one him, Lucas and I wheeled the can to the curb and then pushed the recycling bucket to the curb, and then neither wanted to do anything else but hang out in the front yard. So I put them to work and we pulled some weeds.

Levi weeding

But then a few minutes later, while I was slaving away, I found them wrenching on the truck wheels. These two, they crack me up.

Lucas Levi wrenching

We headed back in for some quiet time, only it wasn’t quite as quiet as I was expecting, but there were some cute moments.

iPad

After some napping and other mundane things, we snuck back outside, just in time to catch the sky doing some pretty cool things as an awesome summer storm was rolling in. I absolutely love the clouds and the sunshine and the fun things they do together. It’s stunning. And amazing. And perfect.

sky

Grandma “Fran” stopped by so the boys could play in her car. Gosh they love that so much. Keys and windows and doors and changing seats and opening compartments – they are in little boy heaven when Grandma comes over! We were outside for quiet awhile before the brisk, cool wind picked up, the skies got darker, and the sprinkles started. And just at the time that Grandma had to leave, the sky opened up and it downpoured. She later called it a “gullywasher,” a term that I’m not sure I’ve ever personally used in my adult life, but I remember hearing it used a lot when I was a kid. I don’t think we have any gullies, whatever that is, around here. Maybe I’m wrong. I’ll have to consult the online dictionary. Ok, I did. I’m wrong. There are likely gullies everywhere. Learn something new, everyday. Anyway, we went inside and after waving goodbye to “Fran” for 5 whole minutes, I realized the patio door was wide open. And the rain was pouring in. Sopped it up, closed the windows, and I caught Levi watching the rain.

Levi rain
Only a short while later, after we had filled our bellies with pizza delivery, a little spontaneous scream it out fest, and some jumping on the couch, the nighttime crankies kicked in and that cute little dude found himself sound asleep and in bed. Lucas and I got some quiet time together while Hannah vegged out with some Minecraft after work. Finally, Lucas has fallen asleep and I’ve just texted my dear friend who is in the hospital getting ready to have her first baby. She’s going to be a great mom!

I reflect on these days and always remember how lucky I am that I get to be the kind of mom that I have always wanted to be. Enjoying the wonder that’s in the little things that these little ones and big ones do and think and say and feel. Laughing so hard that we cry. Even when the days are trying and exhausting, they’re so worth it. It’s totally worth it.  There is nothing better than being a mom. I mean it.  Nothing ever can compare to all of the emotions that fill a day, that fill a heart, that fill a LIFE by being a mom. It’s a super huge responsibility, one that I don’t take lightly. It’s hard work. It’s cute and fun, but it’s hard work. But there are these kick back and mostly relax kind of days that are there to put you in your place and remind you that this is the good stuff. The really really good stuff. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Not even to never have winter again.

But I’d really love not to have winter again.

The baby is sleeping, the toddler is head over heals in the dirt patch, the deck is shaded, lightly breezy, full of cats and dogs, and it’s a beautiful morning to sit out on it and enjoy. I love these kinds of days – slow and easy and no big to-do list or agenda. Just quiet time and loving what life has given us right here at home. It’s nearly silent, at least until Levi wakes up. There are birds chirping and distant neighbor noises. There are no clouds in the sky and the sun will soon move to this side of the house, bringing summer along with it.

It’s crazy to think that school has already been out for a month. We’ve had our share of busy – playdates with friends, trips to the skatepark, house work, yard work, geocaching, park time, bocce ball, and plenty of lazy time. The weather has been perfect! We’ve had plenty of rain but it’s kept everything green and full. It’s been hot, but not scorching, which for me, is PERFECT. I sure wish that every day was summer. I could spend it just like this.

I’m such a lucky mama. I feel so fortunate and thankful to be able to enjoy these things every day!

Far away friends are grieving the loss of their 1 week old son. I cannot put into words how that kind of news shakes a parent up. I am so thankful, every.single.day, for my very healthy babies, who all have had minor struggles here and there, are growing and thriving and who are HERE every day for me to wrap my arms around them and tell them that I love them.

Everyday, I love them. And everyday, I will tell them.

How precious life is.

The unimaginable grief, I can’t imagine what my friends must be feeling. How can I feel so helpless?

Everyone leaves their loved ones too soon. There is never enough time. But they had only just met their baby boy. That is just so heart wrenching and unfair.

Just for fun, I thought I’d detail out all the “things I did” for the day. Being a “stay at home mom” (yeah, right) definitely isn’t a relaxing job. Granted, I wouldn’t ever rather go back to the 8-5 shift work instead of staying home with my kids and being awesome. Awesome, but not glamorous.

I grabbed my notebook and pen and kept it nearby most of the day. I made a list of the highpoints, tally marked the oh so not glamorous, and just had a mostly normal and typical Saturday with my kids.

Mostly in chronological order:

  • I woke up and loved on The Little’s as they wiped their eyes and started their day with smiles. I wasn’t quite as anxious to get out of bed as they were.
  • Made coffee, unloaded the dishwasher, reloaded the massive stack of dishes from the night before, and took the recycling out.
  • Cleaned up the kitchen cabinets, swept the floor, dealt with some crazy kids.
  • Made homemade waffles and finally got to drink my coffee. Well deserved and delicious!
  • Breakfast for the dogs and cats, cleaned up after breakfast, sit down for a breather and nursed Levi.
  • Snuggled and loved and laughed.
  • Multitasking at it’s finest – talked to my mom on the phone and cleaned some more things and carried the baby all over.
  • A quick bath for me and then for the babies. Got them dried and diapered and dressed.
  • Gathered up AllTheBoys and drove across town to get Connor to baseball practice. Paid his fees. Left him there for an hour.
  • Hit up the grocery store.
  • Picked up Connor, stopped at the video store for weekend reinforcements, made it home for some play and downtime. (yeah, right)
  • While nursing the baby, did some St. Patrick’s Day planning (thanks Pinterest!), replied to some emails, and got sucked into the nets for awhile.
  • Gave up on making dinner – because that’s just the way I do it when things get a little loud and crazy around here.
  • Took the orders and went through Subway drive-thru.
  • Garbage out.
  • Fed the dogs. No Subway for them, except for the crumbs on the floor.
  • All out play time – cards, throwing diapers around, chasing cats, chasing dogs, jumping on the bed, dumping Trix on the floor, watching Minecraft videos.
  • GANGNAM STYLE DANCE PARTY!! Lucas loves it, over and over and over, and we all get into it. Fun times!
  • Jammied up the babies. They look and smell delicious.
  • Toss in the laundry. Then another load a little later.
  • More baby nursing and internet wasting time. I can’t quit you Candy Crush!
  • It’s getting late but got the babies to bed. Ahhhhh, quiet.
  • Levi up. Levi down. Levi up again. Then Levi down.
  • Tidied up some toys and things that get left all over.
  • Brownie time!
  • Relax. Wait, what’s that?
  • James got home!! (dude, it’s midnight, if he weren’t coming home, I’d have been in bed hours ago.)
  • Oh yeah, St. Patrick’s Day – made the Leprechaun Milk.
  • Collapse in bed. Snuggling, minor chatting, zonked.
  • There was also letting the dogs out 12 times, 12 diaper changes, bathroom breaks, 7 additional nursing the baby times, a hundred and one dog and cat pets, and a billion hugs, kisses, and loving moments with my kids.

It’s so nice to have a full day and end it with all of my people in one place. I love our big family. I love spending my day with them.

This last year, I’m not going to lie, it was rough. I know I mentioned it before and I don’t want to dwell, but it was the kind of rough that made an impact, not a victim. I was challenged in so many ways. I was forced to look at my life from a different perspective. I evaluated my parenting, how I was doing things and what I wanted to do and could do differently. There were plenty of realizations and questionable moments that kept me awake at night, that sent me searching for answers and solutions and options first thing in the morning. There were days that I struggled with the challenges of being a mom of 5 but was refreshed and ready to take it all on – because that was my job.

For me, it didn’t matter what road I had to choose or what obstacles were thrown at me, my job was to be the best mom to these kids and to provide them with a wonderful and loving life. No.Matter.What. It’s my responsibility to do the best that I possibly can – and this means being flexible, learning every single day, changing things up, being willing to admit my faults and pick myself up and try again, to be aware, to be kind and loving and gentle and nurturing  even on the hard days. And there are hard days. It has nothing to do with being a mom of 5. Being a parent is freaking hard work.

This family is the.most.important.thing to me. I take an enormous amount of pride in all of us. I try really hard to help us all work together and keep the day to day moving smoothly. I cannot imagine what my life would be without any of us in it. I have to do everything that I possibly can to preserve our lives and keep us together for as long as possible.

Part of that is becoming the kind of mom that I never thought I’d be. Well, maybe not never, but it didn’t completely appeal to me when I first became a mom. As I’ve gotten older and learned more and forced myself to not take everything at face value but to trust in what I can learn on my own, I’ve changed my thoughts more away from an “everything in moderation” mentality.

Moderation is good, for a lot of things, but not everything. The foods we eat, the products we use, their kind of moderation is killing us. So now, we’re changing that up. I’m transforming into the eco-mom. To be vague for now, things that I never really cared about or just accepted as “good enough” now really shock the hell out of me. I want to shake people for using bleach in their homes and for allowing formaldehyde on their brand new babies. I really wish someone would have told me how horrible these things are when I was a brand new mom. Now, I can’t shut it off. I can’t stop learning more and wanting better and feeling drawn to sharing with the world. If we accept the in moderation mentality for some things, we’re really shortening our lives with our children and families. Nobody wants that.

Every day I find new things to do and make and try and eat. It’s overwhelming and consuming but it’s so exciting! I feel empowered and in control of our lives. I  know that not all change happens quickly and that sometimes it’s a process. So, we’re in the process. Some things, like no more bleach, was a no-brainer. Other things, like getting away from processed foods, that’s a bit tougher – but we’re working on it.

We only have this life. This ONE life. There are no do-overs. But there are do-betters!

So while this year has been tough, I’m so thankful. I’m appreciative of the change in perspective. I know this is all going to lead to something bigger and better for my kids and my family. And me. I like this process and who I’m becoming. I try really hard to not be an extremist. I’m really understanding of people’s choices and beliefs, but I can’t help but want to share the knowledge. An activist of sorts? Maybe.

But at the heart of it all, I’m just a mom. Just an everyday kind of mom, trying to be a great mom, trying to raise great kids and have great family, and to do great things. This is my job. And I love it!

So many of my friends are breaking out there blogs in the past few weeks – some new, some diving back in, some fumbling their way around. It’s given me the notion to need to dive back in. Here I go!

It isn’t often that I’m awake before everyone. I’m the earlybird of the house, mostly because my bladder kicks me out of bed and then my brain won’t let me fall back asleep. Or I’m afraid to disturb the peaceful little angels hogging my bedspace. So I get up, start the coffee, and enjoy the silence of my home. I know it won’t last long. The crazy bustle of a great big busy family will amplify soon. So, in the silence, I will type.

I knew better than to say that out loud. Hello children!!

Never.Ever.Fails.

It’s amazing that I’m ever able to do anything. I look forward to naptime. We have asome things to do today, outside of the house, so I’m thankful that my big guys are home to help out with that a bit.

I’ll try this again later. I think that if I’m ever really able to accomplish getting some meaningful thoughts out of my head, I’m going to have to get up REALLY early. I’m just not quite ready for that.

I’m a hands on mom, I’m home all day with my babies and wouldn’t trade that for anything. I have a bit a lot of noise intolerance [inherited from my dad] so there typically is no such thing as “cry it out”, not even for a minute, in our house. I have to say, that I’ve been pretty lucky. I think that my kids have all been pretty easy for the most part, not big criers, well entertained on their own or by others, and not OMG SO NEEDY.

Until Now.

But, I know it could be worse. I have heard worse. And I have many times been oh so thankful to see other babies/children and know that they were not mine and I did not have to deal with THAT.

The realization is, we have done this to ourselves. We have given in over and over and over to avoid the crying, to try to accommodate his lack of verbal skills by asking him if he wants everything under the sun, to just keep the peace because we are busy and not feeling like having the energy to do anything different than just give in.

It’s hard being a parent. We want to have fun and raise good people. We want to teach, but not dictate. We want to be firm, but not strict. We want to do it right, but knowing what’s right is a never-ending parenting mystery. I was raised by screamers and spankers and I do not ever want to be that parent. We weren’t given a lot of choices, we were told, “no, because I said so” more times than, “sure, that sounds like a great idea.” I’m not a perfect parent, I have lost my cool, I have raised my voice, I have had to apologize to my children too many times. But I try to learn a better way all the time. I want them to know that there is a better way.

And somehow, in the crazy chaos of  it all – we have really slacked off with Lucas. Maybe it came from having a preemie colicky baby – there was a whole lotta cryin’ goin’ on for quite awhile! Maybe it’s me, being too tired while James is gone. Or maybe it’s James, overcompensating for his time away by giving in when he’s  home. This past week has been really, obnoxiously tough.

Lucas just wants what he wants and if he doesn’t get it, he screams. The kind of screaming that forces all the snot to flow from his nose and the hyperventilating sounds to occur, along with a bright red face and oh so many tears. It’s all I can take right now to just let him have his fit, not try to console him or offer him something else or bargain with him to just get him to stop. I don’t like to see him that way, but I do know that he’s being willful. He’s  not hurt or scared, he’s just pissed off. He’s worked it for some time and we’ve given in far too much. But the undoing that behavior, it might kill me dead.

I KNOW it’s about consistency. I talk about it all the time. But I’m not so great at it in all situations. James isn’t either. He has the guilty feelings maybe more than I do. We are both aware that being inconsistent isn’t helping anything. But we haven’t yet found a good way to stick to our guns and wait out this period, and get things going in the right direction again.

And in the meantime, I’m EXHAUSTED. Screaming to sleep, waking up crying and mad, starting the day off on a bad note every day for a week is really taking it’s toll. There is a secluded beach with my name on it somewhere!

And I know that it’s only temporary. This is only a short time in our parenting life. While it feels like hours and hours and that he might scream his life away, it’s not. And he won’t. My brain and attachment/helicopter mommy guilt isn’t understanding that at all. So it’s hard. REALLY HARD. I worry about the long term effects. But there isn’t any way that I can let this carry on. Because those long term effects are likely to be far more detrimental.

In the meantime, I suck it all up and stuff it all in and consume cookies and brownies to temporarily find my happy place. I look forward to James being home so I can get a little bit of breathing room – so the wait it out doesn’t feel so long and harsh. I wish winter wasn’t arriving so quickly so that fresh air and activity could break this up a little bit more.

The undoing of created behavior. It’s going to be my undoing!

And I thought the hardest part of meal planning would be coming up with a month full of meals – and just dinner meals – all at once. It turns out, I was so wrong. That was tedious but because I love Pinterest and there are so many cool ideas there, I was able to fill things in enough after figuring out who would be home for dinner on which nights and accommodating for sports and other activities. The hard part, COOKING. And more specifically, not OVER COOKING. I turned into a meal planning follow through failure in 1 week. First, I overcooked, we had too much food after a few days  that there was no more room in the fridge to put anything. And I first thought that I would freeze those leftovers so that we had a few quick servings or meals later. But I am the leftovers eater – that’s typically my lunch. And I hate freezing and thawing and wasting all that time. So then I didn’t cook so that we could just eat the leftovers sooner than I planned. And then we got too busy one day and I didn’t get things prepped before everyone in the house was HANGRY!! (when hunger turns into angry due to blood sugar drops and general irritability) and ready to die from starvation at any moment so we opted for pizza delivery. 20 minutes from computer order to door – I can’t make PB&J that fast!

I am still trying to keep with it to some extent. I did really well the first week and bought everything for the meals at one time, avoiding the quickie and overindulging trips to the grocery. That was GREAT! I will be making some adjustments:

  • Don’t make too much – but that’s hard when 1 “batch” isn’t enough for our large family and doubling it is too much.
  • Plan more “leftovers” days
  • Balance big meals with lighter meals so food doesn’t pile up
  • Utilize leftovers into other dinners better
  • Never ever ever again feed the children. When I ask the kids “what would you like for dinner?”  they give me the “I don’t know” reply. But when I just make something, I get the “oh maaaaaannnn” reply.
  • Problem solved – if I don’t have to feed the children, I don’t have to meal plan!

I’m back to the drawing board – I can see where this is really going to work – in the long run. But it may take a few months of trial and error to get it going smoothly.