Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Break

I had grand plans this year.  Spring break plans.  I was never a kid that did anything on spring break.  I never traveled in high school or college.  I remember calling the dry cleaner at home begging for a week of work over spring break in order to have enough money to keep me in spaghetti for the rest of the semester.  My former employer was really nice and obliged, giving me a full forty hours.  That is the only spring break  I remember, ever.

And in my efforts to live through my children, I decided to make this spring break one that they would remember.  And oh, will they.  I badgered Eric to take some time off work.  He took Thursday and Friday.  We made big plans.  I bought a bike for Lillie.  This bike, that I wish came in an adult size because, the cuteness!  I buy all my exercise equipment based on how stylish and cute it will make me.
I struggled to assemble it.  Every time I start to think too highly of my intelligence, all I need to do is try to assemble a child's toy.  Or figure out the rainbow loom.  I digress.  Anyway, one of my favorite memories as a parent is packing a picnic lunch one day and taking it to the park.  I remember the kids loved eating at the picnic tables, they played themselves silly and we generally had a wonderful time.  It was one of those days that just came together to be special all on its own.  That was at our house in Fort Thomas.  The park near that house isn't all that close to our new house, so I thought it would be fun to recreate that experience at our new park.  There is a park in our neighborhood that is fantastic.  It has trails for walking and bike riding, a killer jungle gym, lots of grass, clean bathrooms and picnic tables.  It's also at the top of a hill.  It gets a lot of wind.

I discovered this as we unpacked our picnic lunch, yelled at kids to, for the love of Pete, please hold their plates down.  The wind knocked over a cup of lemonade.  It blew a plate full of tuna all over Elise.  It blew food onto the concrete that Chloe rushed to try to eat.  It made Evie cry.  And then Elise. 

We threw in the towel on the lunch and decided to unpack the bikes to ride.  Eric mentioned that we should probably not have tried teaching three kids (while pushing one in a stroller) how to ride bikes.  I thought training wheels on two would be enough to prevent falling, but I was wrong.  There were tears.  We eventually asked each kid to push her bike back to the car.  More tears.  It was declared the worst day ever.  Then the kids declared it the worst day ever.  Lillie decided that she isn't a bike rider after all, but thanks for the bike anyway.  She can at least ring the bell for fun.   And that's what I was going for.  A bell for her to ring.  At least she will never forget this spring break.  Even if she tries.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Elise

Oh, this poor little blog that is all but abandoned.  My hope is that as life eases over the years, I will have the time to return to it without feeling the pangs of guilt when I sit down and see the vacuum cleaner staring at me, the one who needs to be cleaned and pulled out of her highchair and the various other chores that make the blog seem extravagant.

But the one thing I don't want to abandon is the annual letters to each of my girls.  I know I have missed a few here and there in the business of life, but I am hoping to generally keep up.

My oldest baby girl, Elise, just turned eight.  As such, here is her letter.

Dear Elise,

Oh my goodness, sweet girl.  I can't believe you are eight already!  I have actual memories from when I was eight and I can't believe you are old enough that you will remember things from our life now for the rest of yours.

This was a HUGE year for you.  I feel like I say that every year, but it really was.  We moved.  You moved schools.  We changed churches - not really churches so much as the location of our church.  You astound me with your ability to thrive wherever we put you.

It was hard for me to switch your school.  You loved your school and I saw firsthand how much you were loved there.  I was sure you would never find another situation like it.  And although your new school isn't exactly the same as your old one, I am thrilled with how well you have adapted.

You are so smart.  I don't know why this surprises me, but it does.  I think I always had low expectations for you.  I can't explain why.  I remember when Daddy handed your tiny little 5 1/2 lb self to me when you were born and I was surprised that you were so beautiful.  I didn't expect you to be really ugly or anything, but I just wasn't prepared for how beautiful you would be.  I still think you are just gorgeous.

And when you entered school I was just shocked at how smart you were.  I was never that smart.  It's weird to raise a kid who is smarter than me.  I remember struggling and crying in the second grade over counting money.  You mastered that (without the tears) in first grade.  You have mastered addition and subtraction and have moved on to multiplication, which is not supposed to be done until third grade.  I have no doubt that you will have that completed before you enter the third grade.

You stopped bunking with Evie and got your own room this year.  We discovered that Evie was making you turn off the light long before you were tired and you were frustrated with staring at the ceiling in the dark for hours each night.  We set up a room for you with a bookshelf, which you have filled with probably a hundred books, all chapter books.  I'm certain that you have read at least half of them.  You journal.  You make bracelets.  You have your own e-mail account and write your extended family.  You have your own little life going on inside your room, all set up the way you like it and I am amazed every time I get a glimpse of what you do when you are on your own.

I have enjoyed this year with you.  I have loved being able to have real conversations with you and getting to be friends.  You are a great kid and I will always love you with all my heart.  I am so proud of you.  You are amazing and wonderful and I am your biggest fan.  I love you Elise.

-Mom-

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Lalalala life goes on

Does anyone remember that Life Goes On show?  I don't remember much about it outside of the theme song.  And like every other show of the 80's/90's, it tried to teach a tidy moral lesson in half an hour, minus the commercials.

Anyway, life has been going on here.  I was looking at Chloe's baby pictures yesterday.  I'm officially at the point where I can look back and say, "When was she ever that tiny?" and get all indignant about how much they've all grown up.  We now have what is still a baby to me, but is more of a toddler.  When I ask if she wants to eat, she replies, "Hun-gee.  Food!" which is exactly how I respond when someone asks me how I'm feeling.  She knows that her sisters frequently stand at the top of the steps and yell for me, so she has started to do the same, although she's always a bit startled when I respond.

We've entered the glorious stage of smearing food through the hair, and our bath totals have increased as a result.  Chloe is fiercely independent and desperately just wants to be one of the big girls.  As such, if she finds stacks of clean clothes, she combs them (read: throws every article all over the floor) for underwear to put on over her diaper.

This has been the winter of no school, as we've been getting small snowstorm after small snowstorm.  Monday was MLK Day, and Tuesday and today are snow days.  The kids really enjoy it, but I have noticed a certain kind of chaos going on and a definite hint of desperation on my end to get back to my normal routine and have a smidge of time in the afternoon to get some things done.  Homeschooling moms are either my heros or have lost their minds entirely.  Possibly both.  I would say that I don't know how they do it, but I have had enough people say that to me that I know the answer is just that they adapt and do.

We are deep in the throes of putting together our dossier - again.  I am hopeful that this is the final time and, although the waiting will be hard, it's nice to be in a stage with the adoption where we can focus on other things and just let God move the paperwork along.  We are hopeful to have it done and sent down in February.  We are also hoping that I will have a chance to go down for a visit either in the summer or the fall.

We are throwing a 65th birthday party for my mother-in-law in three days, hence my slight desperation to get the kids to school so I can have some cleaning time alone.  I am not super experienced in party planning, but I am hopeful that it will be fun.  And even if it isn't, everyone can be very quiet and eat because I'm planning tons of food.

I have been doing a fitness competition with some other women, which largely means I'm spending five days a week on the elliptical machine that I had been considering a sculpture or a bit of abstract art.  It was way more fun as artwork, but I guess my legs are becoming more sculpted anyway.

Well, I have someone who just wandered down the stairs on this snow day and demanded breakfast, so I'd better go help Eric.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Reflections

2013 was a year.  A wonderful year, an exhausting year, a year of direction, a year of change and a year of hope.

We moved.  Have I mentioned that?  Moving was a big change in my world.  We lived the first nine years of our marriage in a little white stucco cape cod.  The neighborhood was nice and we could walk Elise to her highly-rated school.  But this cape cod that seemed so spacious when it was just us newlyweds wandering through became tighter and tighter and our family grew to include four girls.  The walls, incidentally, got pinker.  

I had a system whereby I gated our four girls back in a section of the house that included a hallway, a bathroom and two bedrooms so I could clean without tripping over anyone.  Tripping over little people was actually a regular occurrence, especially in our tiny kitchen.  I can say with confidence that this period of life produced contentment.  I remember coming back from Haiti and realizing that our little cape cod was a palace.  It was clean, had clean water, kept the rain and snow off our heads and it was a gift from God that we were able to provide amply and abundantly for our children there.  We loved that season of our life, whatever the inconveniences may have been.  

But there were inconveniences.  We owed little on the house, which was wonderful, but whatever we were saving in mortgage payments, we were spending in repairs.  A new roof.  We needed new decks.  We needed to re-do some retaining walls.  There were multiple projects that we could no longer wrap our minds around, once our kids came along.  They are blessings. Time-sucking blessings that make "fixer-upper" houses very difficult to actually fix up.  Oh, and the mice.  It was not infested at all, but about once or twice a year, I would smell something, call Eric to demand he check into the smell, and discover two dead mice in our traps that were perpetually set.  And then the stink bugs invaded the country and found their way in.  And my blood pressure went up.  I and was constantly smelling dead mice, whether they were there or not.  Most of the time they were not.  But the biggest problem was really the repairs that an 85-year-old house requires.

And so we looked into moving.  And God's providence was never more evident.  We found our dream house for a great price.  A full $3,000 under our ideal budget.  We were able to get some new appliances out of the deal, which took that much more off our list of things to save for.  We sold our house in one day of showings with multiple offers, while the dumpster we rented to empty the basement was still in the driveway.  I didn't even have to paint or fix up the multitude of things I thought I would to make it sell-able.   From my first call to our realtor until the day we moved was about seven weeks.  

And the new home - it's amazing.  It's everything we wanted and needed.   It's nice without being formal.  We aren't formal people.  It's big without being too big.  It has a "dining room" that we use as a home office, unless we are having lots of people over, and then it can magically transform into a dining room.  It has a playroom that houses both toys and a study area with a computer for the kids.  It has three full bedrooms for the kids and their own bathroom.  It has a flat backyard that is visible from the kitchen and living room, so the kids can play out there to their heart's content in the summer.  There are no trees around, and therefore very few stinkbugs.  It's mice-proof, although I did have to have one very small snake removed from the exterior of a basement window.  But to the house's credit, that snake could not find a way in, despite hours of trying.  And to Evie's credit, she's not freaked out by snakes and found the whole thing fascinating.  Oh, and brand new houses don't have any weird smells.  In fact, I haven't purchased a single candle since we moved.  Not that the old house smelled to anyone but me.  I have a weirdly sharp nose.

We are thrilled to start this new chapter of our lives too.  We are finally far enough into our marriage and life together that we can say, "Hey, remember that old house we lived in when we were first married?"  It's strange to me that something that was such a fixture in our lives for so long will be only but the faintest memory, if a memory at all to most of our kids.  This is the house they will remember as home.  This is the house they will build Christmas memories in.  This is the place that will feel like home when they come back from college on breaks.  They will remember the feelings and smells from this house.  Their memories of making mischief together will be from sneaking out of their beds and into the bathroom together in this house.  Oh, and squeezing toothpaste all over the counter in an attempt to make "chemical x."  

We are so thankful for this blessing and can't wait to use it and build lasting memories.

  




Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kate, the cow

Hey, I thought you were all maybe taking me a bit too seriously, so I've decided to show you this.

This cow and I have had a lot in common for the better part of seven years now, but now I am leaving the work up to her.  Best of luck, Kentucky Kate.  By the way, all photo and humor credit to Erin.  Thanks Erin!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Six

Dear Evie,

Happy birthday!  Well, a day late anyway.  You had a fun birthday at school.  You took in rice krispie treats, wore a crown and a sticker, got to be the line leader and received all manner of fun attention.

You also lost your first tooth.  That part was not my favorite.  You are pretty pain averse, which you probably got from me.  You kept telling me that you were scared and it hurt.  As my only natural birth, it took all my restraint to tell you how scared and hurting I was six years ago.  This morning, the trauma is gone and you have decided to be a dentist when you grow up.

This year...  I have learned to enjoy you again.  I have decided that four years old is the year that makes me want to put my head through the wall.  With you and all your sisters, four is the WORST.  Five is the year that I start breathing again, and six is the year that I finally decide that you are pretty likable again.  We are starting to have fun together again, you and me.

Your big memories from this year are, of course, moving.  And also, Coney Island.  We spent the day at Coney riding the rides and you haven't stopped talking about it since.  You were so brave.  The only ride you hated was that giant swinging pirate ship.  I squeezed your hand, counted down the seconds and helped you through it, although I secretly hated it too and it made my stomach feel gross.  I was so glad that it got better from there.

You started kindergarten, which you passionately love.  I love that you love school and you seem to be excelling.

You like the boys.  You have always liked the boys.  From the day you were born, you really preferred Daddy.  I love that you are so close with him.  It scares me that you might like a boy that isn't as good as Daddy.  So find someone like him or better, okay?  But wait 20 years first.

You are, by far, our most athletic and strong girl.  I can't wait to sign you up for some sort of sport.  You'll kill it.  Dad and I look at each other and wonder where you got your athleticism.  We still haven't figured it out.  We were all out for a walk one night, but you were running.  You usually run ahead, run back and run ahead again, waiting for us to catch up.  A giant dog started bounding toward you and I saw Daddy getting ready to run and tackle the dog.  You stopped cold, put one hand on your hip and the other out and firmly yelled, "Stop Dog!!"  He did, although I suspect it was the electric fence more than your bravery.  I will never forget that image of you.

I am so unbelievably proud of you and love you so very much.  I can't wait to experience this next year with you.

Love,
Mom

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The one where I'm a little cranky

So I am not digging 80 degrees in October.  October!  The whole reason we hang on until October is that we know it won't be 80 degrees.  It's also the whole reason we don't live in Texas or Florida.  Actually, I don't think that's the real reason we don't live there.  And it's possible that I have a PMS driven case of ranting.

I was e-mailing with a friend a little bit ago.  A friend who is still my friend even when I send her e-mails full of PMS-y rants.  Then I sent it and went upstairs, took one look in the mirror and saw a huge streak of chocolate across my face, which more or less confirmed that I have a major cranky case of hormones.

So in an effort to not be driven by my hormones, I think we should talk about the good parts of October.  As the great philosopher Anne of Green Gables once said, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."  Our Octobers bring birthdays, pumpkins and the pursuit of the perfect Halloween costumes.  After Lillie's performance as a pirate last year, I was desperately trying  to convince her to do an encore, but being a cupcake is much  more alluring this year.  Elise is reprising her role as a mermaid, but mostly complaining that her mother is too cheap to buy her a ninja costume.  And she's reached the age where the red wig that goes with the mermaid costume makes her feel silly, not gorgeous.  Evie is still at the age where a long blond wig makes her feel gorgeous, so she's Rapunzel.  I'm at the age where I just want one of my girls to be a pirate and let me use my eyeliner to draw a beard on them.

Otherwise, our October is bringing nicer temperatures (next week at least) when I will be throwing the windows wide open, baking and taking the youngest two on long walks.  The nearest park is a mile away and I'm trying to decide if Lillie would walk that far with me.  I know she'll walk a mile to the park.  I just worry that she'll insist on being carried a mile back home.

The older girls are almost home and I guess it's time for me to do the daily search of backpacks, enforcing of homework and packing of lunches that are mostly healthy, but not so healthy that they would rather forgo lunch than eat.