Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflections on our year; mourning Tom's death

As 2014 comes to a close, I am grateful for so very much, most of all my wonderful husband and my four beautiful boys. 2014 brought us sweet Ezra - at this time a year ago, he was no bigger than my fingernail, now he is rounding out 9 month size clothing at 4.5 months old! Thanks be to God for a healthy family.

I am also acutely aware, in the wake of Tom Palermo's death last Saturday, that we are not guaranteed anything in life and that it can all be over in an instant. As the wife of a Baltimore cyclist, I mourn with his wife and children, though I do not know them. I cannot imagine the pain they are going through, but I sympathize knowing it could just as easily have been my husband cycling on that stretch of road just a quarter mile from our house.

Life is fragile. I am reminded now more than ever to live each day to its fullest.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Babies don't keep

Ezra insisted on napping with me today, so when I started to feel unproductive and unhelpful for spending the afternoon in the rocker with him, I decided to re-read this lovely poem.

Song for a Fifth Child by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton (1921- )

Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!

Oh, I've grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby, loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew
And out in the yard there's a hullabaloo
But I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren't her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.)

Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby. Babies don't keep.

The mothering work I am doing right now is hard, intense, and draining...but I strongly believe I will look back on these years of having babies and young children as the most treasured time of my life. I know it's cliche, but I do try to treasure this time now, in all its messiness, joy, tears, and exhaustion.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Special Outing: B & O Railroad Museum

(Jude took this one - you can see how tired Ezra was, but he refused to sleep!)

So I stayed up till midnight last night ordering Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers - last minute, I know - I was going to do it earlier in the week, but then the stomach virus hit on Sunday night and pretty much swallowed up my entire week. Oh, plus our washer/dryer was non-functioning from Sunday through Thursday, and our bathtub drain was clogged all week (and still is). So it was a long week. I am trying to see the opportunity in having no bathtub or shower for the weekend (new plumbers are coming Monday) - for example, this morning Dan offered to watch the boys while I went and took a shower all by myself at the Loyola gym, which was quite a treat. And this evening, Dan bathed Ezra in the kitchen while I made our pizza, which was fun. Tomorrow we're going to take the boys to the gym for showers - Felix is so excited, he was threatening to wake Ezra up so we could go tonight. Rather than being frustrated that we have no bathing capabilities, I'm trying to see it as a bit of an adventure - and be grateful for all we do have.

Anyway, as soon as I laid down in bed last night, Ezra woke up to nurse and I was up with him till 1:30 (not sure why it was so long, maybe I drifted off). Then he woke up at 5:15 and was wide awake. This was the first time he's ever been awake after his early morning feeding, usually he goes right back to sleep and sleeps until 7 or 8. Maybe he was excited about celebrating his four month birthday because he hardly slept all day.

I learned a few years ago that the best thing to do on my most tired days is to pick a fun destination and get out of the house. If I stay home when I'm especially exhausted, all I can think about is how tired I am and I feel sorry for myself. But if I take the boys on a special outing, it usually turns into a great day. (I was reminded of this last Thursday with our very successful outing to the Natural History Museum). I wanted to visit the "Choo-choo museum" as the boys call it while they had their holiday displays up, and the boys always love going there, so today's outing was an obvious choice. They were so excited, I don't think I've ever seen them get ready so fast! As I said recently, we haven't been going on many outings lately so this was especially exciting for them today. We had a great time and picked up a gingerbread train kit at the gift shop that they made with Henry when he got home from school. Top it off with a Thomas train Christmas movie for movie night tonight and it was a wonderful "train day" for everyone. (Actually, Dan and Henry were at Lessons and Carols, which I was sad to miss but it was way too late for Ezra to be out). Tomorrow I will attempt to put the train together. 

Here's hoping Ezra sleeps better tonight and tomorrow than he did today!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Two moms, 6 kids & a minivan...a Thursday adventure.

Today we went to the Museum of Natural History in DC. We carpooled with our friends and it turned out to be a great trip! I must admit, I was rather apprehensive about going. As I posted earlier this week, we've been staying home/close to home lately, as the goal of my days is peace and that is what seems to bring the most peace these days, so I was pretty nervous about rocking the boat. I'm so glad I did, though, because we all had a wonderful time. It was lovely having the drive to and from to chat with her and the kids enjoyed talking and playing together in the car. I think they had a lot more fun on the drive than if it had just been us by ourselves. We got a parking space right out in front, went inside and had lunch, and saw several exhibits before heading back home. As we were getting into the car I said I wished I had brought a DVD for the kids to watch on the way back - turned out A Charlie Brown Christmas was in the DVD player! The babies were a bit fussy on the trip home, but aside from that it was smooth sailing.

I need to remind myself of today the next time I am feeling nervous about doing something new or challenging. I often wonder "Why am I considering doing this activity/outing? What are my goals? Will it be worth it?" Today I decided my goals were flexibility (for me, mostly :) and friendship. I think we definitely achieved our goals.

Side note: it was one year ago today that I found out I was pregnant with Ezra. The night before, on Felix's birthday, I was eating the cake I made for him and it tasted "off." Then I had that realization: it's not the cake, I think I'm pregnant. Took the test the morning of December 11 and the rest is history...look at him now!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Felix turns 4!

Today was Felix's birthday. For months, he's been telling everyone "On my birthday, I'm going to change numbers." I love the fourth birthday because it's the first one they get really excited about and really look forward to. They do a bit at 3, but I think they "get it" a lot more at 4. Anyway, he had a great day. Emotions were running high, as they always seem to do on a birthday, but we had a lovely celebration and I think he really enjoyed it. He opened his presents after proudly wearing his birthday crown during breakfast (he loves the oatmeal I've been making most mornings). Then we made the gingerbread play dough for his party. 

Which reminds me: I love seeing my children's' interests and talents develop over time. Felix LOVES to cook. Anytime I'm in the kitchen, he's right by my side, asking to help. The other day, he peeled a sweet potato and asked me to boil it. He then mashed it and ate it for his morning snack. 
Earlier this week, he made a fruit salad for dinner. Like a real fruit salad, with grapes, apples, and banana slices that he made all by himself. He hulls berries and helps me make jam. He slices vegetables for dinner. He cracks eggs when I'm baking. It's pretty awesome. I love having his help in the kitchen. 

So. Back to the birthday. He helped me frost the cake, we had some lunch, then his friends arrived. He had 3 friends over and I think it was just right. He seemed maybe a little overwhelmed so more kids probably would have been too much. He opened his presents right away and loved them. The kids played with the gingerbread play dough as well as Christmas tree play dough his friends made. We had cake and played "pin the star on the tree." The kids played upstairs in their room in between activities and near the end, we broke out the balloons which of course they all enjoyed. Felix was so sad to see his friends go, he cried and told me to make them come back. The look on his face when he realized his party was over...he looked crushed. I remember feeling that way as a kid. It's such a let down when you realize your birthday is over for a whole year. Anyway, after talking through his feelings with him for a few minutes, I could tell he was exhausted (and I also needed a break to nurse Ezra) so I turned on Chuggington and he promptly fell asleep. He woke up when Dan and Henry got home, we had dinner, lot the candles on his cake and sang to him again, and then the walkie talkies Jude got him arrived! They had fun playing with those for a little while and then went to bed. He asked me to read to him in his new play tent and insisted on sleeping in there too (poor Jude was quite jealous of this). When Dan asked him what his favorite thing about today was he said "my party, my presents and my friends." 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Home is where it's at

I am finding that our days are most peaceful right now when we stay at home. We have a daily rhythm that I try to follow, but not having any scheduled activities gives me the freedom to address behaviors as they come up and take as much time as I need to deal with them (there seems to be a lot of this lately). I always try to get us outside for some outdoor playtime or a walk or bike ride, but I don't really consider those as "outings." We can often successfully do a quick errand (post office, grocery store, etc), but sometimes even those are challenging, most of which is getting them dressed and out of the house before I want to tear my hair out because they are taking what is, in my opinion, an inordinate amount of time to get ready.

I feel like my current biggest struggle is teaching them to "do what I say right away." I find myself needing to enforce this constantly. This is another reason I like being at home better - when we're not on a strict schedule there's more margin for working on this, whereas when we're trying to get somewhere (or back home) at a particular time, I find myself losing patience a lot faster. Does anyone else struggle with their kids listening and doing what they're told promptly? It's not just me, right?!

On another note, sweet Felix turns 4 tomorrow, and we've all been working hard at preparing for his birthday, as well as for the little party we're having for him tomorrow. Yesterday I introduced the activity of making paper lanterns as decorations and they LOVED it. They made a ton. They resumed this morning and things were going great...until they took all the lanterns down mid-morning while I was nursing Ezra in order to "take them upstairs and play with them." (Jude's idea, of course, but Felix followed suit and helped take them down). I was pretty angry and upset because 1) they had ripped some of the lanterns while taking them down and 2) I would now have to repair and rehang all of them, adding to my already long to-do list for tomorrow. However, after expressing my initial disappointment for these reasons, I saw an opportunity and explained to Jude that making something for someone and then taking it back for yourself (which is essentially what he was doing) is selfish and unkind. I suggested that next time, he should make new lanterns for himself to play with, instead of taking the ones he had already made for Felix.

Anyway, they were so excited today they could hardly contain themselves so it was hard to get anything done. It was also hard for me to maintain my patience with them as I felt they were "slowing me down" from accomplishing the things I need to do for Felix's birthday. So I just kept repeating my new mantra "It's supposed to be hard" and reminded myself how fortunate I am to be celebrating the birthday of my healthy, vibrant Felix tomorrow.

Let's try this again

I was talking to my dearest friend on the phone last week, lamenting how hard parenting has been lately. I was so discouraged by my children's behavior (one in particular), convinced I was doing something wrong, and thinking about making a major change as a result. My friend said these words of wisdom to me: "Katie, just because it is hard, and you have to keep disciplining for the same things over and over, doesn't necessarily mean you're doing something wrong." This reminded me of a post Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool had written, and she happened to post it to FB later that day. Boy were those words good for my soul that day. Seriously could have written them myself. I also re-read her post It's Supposed to be Hard on Steady Mom. Since then, I feel a load has lifted from my shoulders. How freeing to be able to remind myself in those many difficult moments "It's supposed to be hard." 

I tend to get caught up in tasks I'm trying to accomplish - doing the dishes or laundry, making dinner, wrapping a present, trying to get out the door for an appointment, making a phone call - and forget that what I'm REALLY trying to accomplish is raising four sensitive, thoughtful, kind, and loving boys. And that is HARD WORK. I often used to get incredibly frustrated that their misbehavior was getting in the way of my completing whatever it was that I was trying to do at the moment - and I still get frustrated, but now I remind myself that everything is an opportunity for character development, which is really more important long-term than getting to my chiropractor appointment on time, or finishing a load of laundry, or whatever it is that I'm trying to do, and that yes, those moments are hard but so so so worth it. Jamie says that blogging through those years when her kids were the ages mine are now was very helpful to her, and I think it might be for me too, so I am going to try again to post regularly here. I hope it will serve as a place for me to process my days, for me to look back on years from now so I can actually remember "what did I do all day all those years?" and hopefully, some other mamas will read this and comment and share their ideas, struggles, and perspectives. What I often feel is most lacking in my days are "coworkers" (i.e. other mamas who are "in the trenches" like me) to bounce ideas off of, for me to be able to say "am I on the right track?" and get some good feedback. Most days I compose the most eloquent posts in my head, always at times I'm not able to write them down, and by the end of the day I'm so bone tired I can barely stay awake to finish the things that absolutely need doing, much less write anything. But I'm going to try, and I hope some of you will join me on my journey and let me share in yours as well.