May the Fourth

Of the many elements of Quarantine Life that I never could have predicted, one bright spot has turned out to be, of all things, Star Wars.

What?

Yep.

Star Wars.

To explain, my children were gifted Disney Plus from some family members for Christmas which was cool but not getting much use until, well, Quarantine Life began. I mean, we’d watched a few things on there in the first few months of the year but since mid-March? Holy moly cow. We have gotten very good use of that gift!

What inspired me to take advantage of the Star Wars element of Disney Plus, though, was, ironically, a different show – LEGO Masters, which our entire family loved the heck out of this Spring on FOX. Side note: I promise – our entire world does not revolve around TV, not even in the middle of a pandemic, even though it might seem like it based on this post.

If you watched that show (and if you didn’t, you definitely should!), you’ll remember that near the end of the season, they had a Star Wars themed episode and even though I knew my kids sort of knew what Star Wars is, I thought they’d appreciate the LEGO side of things more if we watched one of the movies first.

Well, the weekend we chose to tackle that turned out to be crappy, crappy weather, which meant one movie turned into three. Whoops! And, let the record show, we chose to go in release date order, so we started with Episodes 4, 5, and 6. I know there are big feelings around making that decision, but considering that I grew up watching them in that order made that choice make sense for me.

Another side note (or two): Star Wars has a significant place in my family history. If I’m remembering correctly, it’s the first movie my parents saw together in the movie theatre (but I’m going to have to fact check with my mom to make sure I’m not twisting details). And my brother loved Star Wars growing up, both the “old” and the “new” (Episodes 1, 2, and 3) that started coming out when we were in high school-ish.

I remember watching the originals with my brother as kids and definitely saw one of the last 90s ones in the theatre, but beyond that, I’ve been out of touch with this world for years. It is *not* Ben’s thing and that’s totally fine. He said maybe he’s seen some of the old ones, but even then, he doesn’t have any real connection to it, so if it was going to be anyone in our family to introduce it to the children, it was going to be me. And by children, I mean Big 3, because no way could Trumy handle these films at this point.

And, honestly, I have loved it. It has been such a joy to share that time and that story-line (confusing as it can be) with them over the course of the last couple months. And yes, in that time we have had enough crappy weather days to watch ALLLL the episodes. Last side note (maybe): we got thrown off near the end by the realization that there are also Star Was Stories movies, not just Episodes, so we may have gone off course by skipping those, but whatever – we wanted to watch all nine movies, and we did. Yay!

What I didn’t expect from all this was the different way this experience would connect with each of my kids.

For Harrison, it was a hilarious throw back in time because years ago his beloved franchise, Angry Birds, released two different (and freakishly accurately done) versions of “Angry Birds: Star Wars” in which they essentially went through all of the first six movies in AB format. And somewhere along the line in his obsession, we got him an AB SW encyclopedia that he read cover to cover (probably multiple times), so he knew a TON of what was going on in the those first two trilogies. Thankfully he knows not to give away spoilers, so he did a good job of not ruining anything for the other kids as we watched.

For Raegan, it was all of the amazing female characters in the movies. Yes, there are img_7741some issues within the stories, but there are some seriously strong women portrayed and I loved watching her respond to that in the films. I think she loved all of the main female characters, but I know for a fact she loved Rey the most and that she is going to have a character connection to her for a long, long time to come. We even had to attempt some Rey hair because, I mean, why not, right?! We’ll work on our costume skills; check back by Halloween for how far we’ve come.

For Lincoln, it was a whole lot of extra, unanticipated snuggles during the movies. He liked all of them and definitely liked acting them out in the yard after the fact, but he was a little less thrilled with the actual fight scenes in the actual movies, which meant that during each of them, at some point or another, he ended up right next to me on the couch. And of course I don’t take pleasure in my kids’ discomfort, but I definitely enjoyed being a source of comfort to him in the midst of that. I honestly don’t think he got as much out of the story as the other two, but the nice part of watching from home was the ability to pause, answer questions, and discuss as we made our way through them all.

And then, to bring the WHOLE thing full circle, B and I decided to get the children a surprise in the form of, yep, LEGO to commemorate this time of life and our movie watching that helped us get through some of the longer hours and days. What I didn’t realize until this morning, though, was that we had to perfect opportunity today (because again, some crappy wind and weather this afternoon) to present them a May the Fourth gift! So now, we LEGO which has been a huge and helpful strategy for our family during this whole quarantine existence.

And you know me, I love a good theme and a good story! 😉 And, LEGO! But let’s be real, having three kids trying to navigate building the same set did not come without squabbles and attempts to take each other’s turn. Such is life in a busy, big family, especially when we’ve been with just each other for close to eight weeks! But at least the building got started and not every moment was fighting.

img_7749-1

 

I Love You, But…

Oh, my heart. My Bigs are missing school hard these days.

Case in points:

  1. HD’s class does a weekly Zoom which his teacher handles really nicely in terms of img_7299giving them a theme (scavenger hunt, talent show, etc.) and managing the chaos of a dozen-ish squirrelly 10-yr-olds on computers. My child is so excited for each one that he starts prepping his wardrobe and location a solid 30 minutes in advance and is then logged in and ready to go at least 10 minutes early each time. He told me today that he misses going to school because  it “was his entertainment” which is evident in how much anticipation and excitement go into prepping for these weekly hour-long meetings. Hands down, he wishes they could be every night.
  2. RL has had very little interaction online with kids her age and she’s hurting. This is the kid who loves, loves, LOVES school and her img_7333friends and playing games at recess and it is so hard for her to be away from those things. Yes, she’s got her siblings and has had some FaceTime with her Bestie (thank goodness!), but tonight before bed I told her, “I love you, Raegan.” and she responded with, “I love you, but…” and then promptly burst into tears because she just wants to see her people in real life and when is this going to end and when can we go places again and she just doesn’t want to do it anymore, and again – oh. my. heart. She’s feeling a lot of feels right now and a lot of them are the sticky and icky ones and it’s just so hard to watch her struggle in these ways and know that there’s absolutely no way I can fix it or speed up the process. I have promised all the play dates possible when this is over, but of course we have no freaking clue when that might be, so that’s not really helping right now.
  3. LT has struggled the most with doing the packets from school. He too misses his buddies and his super sweet teacher and I think a lot of his anger at the homework comes from not quite being able to read yet and not even making it through a full year of full day school, so the idea of working independently while Dad and I help the other kids here and there just freaks him the frick out. Quarantine School freaks us the frick out, too, Buddy; I promise. We’ve found some ways around this by having him do some worksheets with his BFF over video chat, but that’s a hands-on process for both families, too, and clearly can’t happen every day, so a lot of days are becoming “sure, go ride your bike and play outside time” instead of trying to force the packets time. We keep trying and we keep celebrating any time he does willingly participate with a school-related activity (including the fact that he had to adjust to doing weekly Zoom Speech with a new speech therapist) but this all feels extra hard and challenging, again mostly on the feels front. The fact that he was smiling while playing this Speech Game with Truman was a huge win for this week!

img_7536

Basically all I’m saying here is that I’m heartbroken for the way the school year ended suddenly and without closure. It sucks that my kids can’t have their amazing teachers, classmates, and social outlets. As much as we know it is necessary and for the greater good, none of this feels right right now. Of course we’re still having some fun and making good memories (Hello, Star Wars Marathons with Mama and the Big 3!) but we’re also acknowledging that we love each other but this is still really, really hard.

Double Digits (and A DAY)

I really, really meant for this post to be all about Harrison and hitting the incredible, amazing, how the heck did we get here so fast, huge milestone of turning Double Digits, but then today happened and my brain is too tired to write two posts, so here I am, combining the tale of my two Bookends into one rambly offering. img_4548

So, the brain fog.

We’re on Day Four of being on the road with our kids and my family and sleeping hasn’t been great while we’ve been away, so even before the craziness of last night came, I was tired and a little foggy. We’ve been making the rounds to different locations and family times in SoDak, which has been good, but you know travel and kids is just hard and trying to keep some semblance of normalcy is hard, too. When you add in sickness, though, everything gets instantly more insane.

Honestly, in our ten years of being parents, I don’t know that we’ve ever encountered a kid sick like this while away from home. And by this, I mean a vomiting baby (who is also celebrating a milestone of 20 months TODAY) who woke us* up at 3AM and kept us hopping until noon when we decided to take a leap and get her checked at local convenient care because her inability to keep down fluids was starting to concern all of us.

*Harrison was one of her roommates last night and he is totally the one who took charge and came to tell Ben and I that the baby was sick, so there’s one point about him in his birthday post: he is a kick ass big brother.

Some Zofran and fever meds, a nap, and a couple hours later and we had a totally different baby on our hands; thank goodness, too,  because she was in rough shape up until that point.

But poor Harrison. We just did not get to spend the same time, energy, or focus on his birthday like we would have had we not had such a nasty distraction for the day.

img_4568Fortunately we still got to do some of the stuff he loves like have Pizza Hut (fact number two about our ten-yr-old) for lunch and two servings of ice cream cake for dessert. He also got to watch a bit extra Zebra Gamer (fact N.3) while we dealt with stuff, and I definitely didn’t hear him complaining about that.

Tacos for supper (#4) and a bit more TV before bed (#5 which is truly a rarity) helped, too. So did getting to go get some lake time and play time (#6) img_4564with his healthy sibs (Dear Lord, please let the rest of the them ALL stay healthy!) and extended family, even though the biting flies were out of their ever-lovin’ minds both times we got near the lake.

Although we haven’t had much read time today, that’s still a highlight in his world (#7) and on this trip, and he’s also had some quality Lego building (#8) as of late, too.

Above all else, he’s still my super smart, super clever, super amazing first born (#9) who is always there to catch a gaffe or insert an observation or a question, and I remain in awe of his big brain on the daily.

And now, just like that, he’s 10. 10! For a whole decade, we’ve been lucky enough to call him ours, and I cannot wait to see where his big brain and his equally big heart (fact #10 about him) take him in the next ten years. If he has any say about it, the answer will be Finland, to work for Angry Birds Land, but that’s Fact No.11, so clearly I’m getting ahead of myself. 😉

Happy Birthday, HD! It may not have been the day we had planned, but you’ve taught us from the very beginning to just roll with it, and we’re so glad you were able to do the same today.

img_4525

 

Baseball and Berries

Somehow it is already the last week of June. This means that tomorrow I start teaching my (mostly) annual summer ENGL lecture at CCC (while also instructing two online sections of Comp for Bellevue). And that means by the time the lecture is over, summer break will mostly be the same. Done.

Where has the time gone?

The ball field and the garden, that’s where.

This summer we finally went down the rabbit hole of letting our boys sign up for rec baseball; something we’ve put off for years because of babies and bedtimes and just sanity. But Lincoln breathes baseball and Harrison enjoys it, too, so we just couldn’t hold off any longer, about which they are both happy. Ben’s pretty content, too, and has rocked it at taking video of them each night (which is good because we can’t afford sitters every night to stay home with the Littles, so we’ve had to take turns with attending/parenting). But me? I am over it, and this from someone who actually loves baseball and spent both her high school and college years around her best male friends playing the game.

Mainly it’s the crappy evening schedule that has spoiled things for me. The boys are in two different age groups which means two games a week but on opposite nights, so our family has FOUR nights each week of practice/games. And did I mention that some of HD’s games don’t START until 8P.M. which means he doesn’t get home until after 10? So not only is our dinner routine effed, but so is our quiet time and bedtimes, and Mama’s just not having it any more.

So no, I don’t really have to wonder where this month has gone because it’s been spent on one field or another in a constant shuffle of gear, Gatorade, and games.

Also frantic in our world? June bearing strawberries!

Feel free to laugh at me all you want for that because it is a silly thing to stress over, but holy moly BERRIES. This is the year our patch went bonkers and required hours each day of picking, washing, cutting, and (of course) enjoying/eating every single day. If we skipped a day of picking, we paid for it, and here in the last week it finally got away from us with too many berries getting too ripe.

Y’all, we have too many little people who are still dependent on us for many things. Having a garden that is the same caught me way off guard, especially in the midst of first-time baseball crazies.

So again – no need to wonder about the time suck that turned out to be June.

The whirlwind has landed us on the eve of the first week of dual-summer teaching but also the last week of baseball (and again, berries already overdone, so…..). (Summer)Time will continue to fly, but the side hope is that we should have construction updates to come, soon so, YAY for progress, even when – especially when – it comes amidst the chaos.

 

Minivan Moments

It is no secret to parents that you can sometimes have the best conversations with your kids when you are driving. There is something about the road or the slightly averted eyes that makes it a safe and comfortable place to chat.

Many days when I pick my biggest two up after school, they are talking shouting over each other to tell me stories as we make the all-too-short-to-fit-it-all-in drive back home. And then, just to be helpful, Truman starts chiming in, “Me turn! ME! TURN!” as if I haven’t been around him all day and already heard all his stories. 3yos, man. What a hoot.

This year, though, because my kids are in a two-year temporary building for school, our drive TO school in the mornings has gotten longer. Originally they were riding the bus but the schedule changed (insert eye roll here) and it became far more convenient just to drive them the extra distance instead of heading to the bus stop earlier. And what I have found on these mornings (besides the fact that I need to drink my coffee BEFORE the 7:30-9:00 drop-off craziness of every day) is that my kids and I have some pretty cool chats during those extra early minutes together in the car.

It is during these drives that I get to hear about what is going on at school that day or how things are going with so-and-so and this-and-that in their classrooms. This is when we get to quick review what we have going on later in the day so everyone is (sort of, mostly, kind of) on the same page after school. And this is when they get to just ask me whatever or tell me whatever is floating around their (pretty darn awesome) brains.

I really dig it.

And, because this one cracked me up, I have to share one of our conversations from last week….

As some of you know, HD decided to apply for Student Council this year. The day the applications came home, he told me he wanted to do it and he already had in mind his platform proposal (my words, not the school’s). He wanted to assign student helpers, student janitors, if you will) to help so the custodian wouldn’t have to do as much to keep the bathrooms clean.

“You know, Mom, like I do? They could push down the paper towels in the trash and stuff?”

Love him.

So. We talked about his answers to the application questions and he filled it out, took it back on time, and was told that yes, he could indeed run for StuCo. Yay!

Then, last Thursday morning, when we had approximately 20 minutes before we had to head out the door and I still had lunches to throw together, he tells me that he needs a speech to present to his peers. That day.

Oof.

My Mama heart freaked. I wanted to help him but I didn’t want to do it for him and he was right that he did not have enough time to write it all out himself.

So. We compromised. While I made lunches, he told me his ideas and I wrote out an outline on a half sheet of paper. I then handed it to him, told him to give me his speech, and lo and behold a future debator was born – he did it. He used that outline and elaborated and it was just cool to watch him do that so easily. He practiced a couple times  (“Mom, time me to make sure I’m under the time limit!”) and then we were out the door and in the van.

On this particular morning drive, after we had just done the mad-dash outline save, after a week of applications and conversations, is when Harrison decided to ask me, “Mom? What’s Student Council?”

Friends, it took everything in my being not to burst out laughing that he waited until that moment to make that inquiry, but instead I did my best to answer and away we went across town to school where he did share his ideas with his classmates and he was in fact elected to that mysterious entity otherwise known as Student Council.

Bless his heart. So proud of him. So entertained by him in that moment. So glad to have a few extra minutes with them all in the morning, even though the in-out-load-and-go of it all is a damn circus every day. To be a witness to their development and their personalities is worth it. And, thanks to the change up in my coffee routine, I’m coherent enough to remember the funnies that pop up along the way.

img_1465

Give Thanks

If you’ve been keeping up with the FB posts here lately, you’ll know that our Crazy May has indeed continued the last few days with RL taking another turn for the sickies Friday night (and then being totally OUT of it all day Saturday) and then Truman following suit (in the messiest way possible) late Saturday afternoon, resulting in more couch “sleeping” and So. MUCH. Laundry!

In the midst of all this chaos I realized I dropped the ball last week on Teacher Appreciation gifts (and also Mother’s Day cards, because adulting is hard), so the kids are taking them this week instead.

img_0094

Now I know in the past I’ve done “crafty” TA gifts because I’ve written posts about them (as if someone might pin them – *snort*) but clearly that’s just not happening in our world right now, so instead, a little truth for you. This year I went the “support local businesses” route instead, buying gift cards for teacher gifts (for coffee/alcohol, depending on their preferences – lol) and, a first, store bought (but still local!) cookies to share after LT’s preschool program.

Do I feel bad about this? Not at all. It’s what we could do and no one wants anything coming directly out of my house right now, anyway, so it’s all for the greater good.

img_0100Also for the greater good? Actually expressing gratitude (that gets hard when you’re low on sleep and immune systems), and by this I mean: writing thank yous.

Now. Writing thank yous is something my mom made us do always when we were growing up. I know I sometimes drug my feet a bit on it, but I’m pretty sure I always did them and the habit has stuck with me. I continue to send thank yous because I think they matter and I think they help us focus on the good in our life (and I don’t believe thank yous are just for responses to gifts, an idea that is supported by this book which is a great read), and I want my kids to do the same.

Writing thank yous is clearly nothing new in this house, but this weekend you would have thought I threw the biggest curve ball EVER when I asked the boys to do theirs to accompany their Teacher Appreciation gifts (RL was still convalescing and she wrote a thank you note of her own volition on Friday for a friend, so she’s clearly not part of this).

For the record, I was age-appropriate in my asking. HD was asked to write his in entirety and LT was asked just to sign his.

To protect the not-so-innocent, I won’t go into detail about what ensued, but it was ridiculous and long-lasting enough to frustrate even the utmost of patient parents (which I doubt we were given the lack of sleep and abundance of sickies in our house this week).

Eventualllllllllllly, they got their acts together and completed the tasks (and yes, HD wrote the perfectly lovely note I knew he was capable of doing). It’s not that they don’t appreciate and like their teachers; they just didn’t like and appreciate me telling them to tell them. And I get it. Forcing them to do thank yous creates one more power struggle here at home, but dang if it isn’t one that I’m going to keep after because I do want them to give thanks (preferably with a more grateful heart, but we’ll get there). I want them to know how to look around and see all that is being provided for them and to be able to express gratitude for it because those are valuable tools (and gifts).

Eventually we will find a way to remove the struggle from our thanks giving, which as you can see, RL has down in the best new-writer fashion:img_0128img_0126

 

 

The Camel’s Back + Football Pretzels

For the last week, our house has been in attempted healing mode. I’m not entirely sure how well our efforts have been going if we’re still at it a week later.

For me, that means my knees. After taking a tumble on a concrete driveway last Wednesday, it took several days just for the injuries to scab over, much less really start healing. While one is definitely closer to fine than the other, I still can’t put hardly any pressure on them (I can at least bend them enough to squat down to kid level though), and, like most injuries, you just don’t realize how many times in your daily life with Littles that you put weight on your knees until your knees tell you NO.

My discomfort, however, has taken a backseat to the health mystery of Mr. Harrison who has had an incredibly strange seven days/beginning of his school year. I’m no math teacher, so this could be wrong, but at this point he has darn near missed as many days as he has attended (one of those was our own doing with our Eclipse Day).

The culprit for the rest of them? Fever. One that showed up last Wednesday afternoon when I picked him up from school, then spiked on Thursday night (and resulted in couch sleeping shifts for B and I that night), and then persisted at various levels the whole weekend. Of course we kept him home on Monday but ended up not at the doctor because the fever went down (I had my own doctor’s appointments for Baby No.5 that day, so we still had familial representation at the medical park), to the point that he was then good to go to school Tuesday. But then the fever showed up again, low-grade, last night and was still there, low-grade, this morning. So. Another day home, but this time for sure to the doctor.

I should mention that we also did a trip to convenient care on Saturday where they did test him for strep, which was negative, but you know how sometimes you can just look at your kid and know something is still not right? That has been the last five days with HD. img_7527His eyes just haven’t looked right this whole time.

So this morning, another strep test and a finger poke to check blood counts and whatnot. Everything came back – again – negative. But you can tell something is wrong just by looking at him, much less by peering in his throat, so we’re thinking the medical mystery is a virus last week that broke Monday but then resurfaced as a secondary infection yesterday. So meds it is, as many fluids as we can get in him (unfortunately the child got his father’s hydration habits and not mine, so this is a challenge unto itself), and hopefully back to school ASAP.

From a parenting standpoint, this has made the last week, um, challenging. Next to nothing has been normal, and even though I am not teaching for CCC, I am still working via Grounded Sky and coordinating not only a big event for September, but also still teaching yoga classes of various styles. Plus, hello Third Trimester with Baby No. 5. I feel like that should be explanation enough as to why things have been less than smooth these last seven days.

So wth does this have to do with a camel and pretzels?

Today, after getting home with all three boys from preschool pickup, after spending much of the morning at the doctor’s office/pharmacy with two of them, in a span of two minutes, the 4yo managed to lock me out of the house and then then 2yo (once I was back in the house), dumped an entire bag of football shaped pretzels all over the dining room. Normally those aren’t really things that would make a person lose their shit, but I lost my shit. Which really means, I yelled and stomped around the kitchen a bit, and was just generally a big old mess of human because my patience and nerves (and knees, because ouch – literal salt in the wounds trying to clean up the pretzel mess) are shot.

And, clearly, I desperately need some normal, because so far, we are two weeks into the school year and I still haven’t found what that means for us yet. So with our window for establishing a routine being so short before we upturn everything again, I’m not terribly surprised that locked doors and pretzels were enough to tip me over the edge today.

Humanness + tunnel of parenthood + recovery mode pretty much = I need a nap, lots of coffee, just a teensy bit of normalcy, and no more damn pretzels.

img_7559