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.

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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!

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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.

Our Drawn Out Dominoes

After RL started off September with the fever germs, LT decided last week to end the month/start October with a similar seeming virus. While he didn’t quite get the migraines that she did, he did keep popping fevers for four solid days and then sported a cheek-to-toe spotty little rash that was just lovely and kept him home from school for three days last week. We made a new family special sicky fort with a dinning room chair and blanket to block to the light and then did our best to keep the baby away from him (and failed, clearly).

We then had a lovely little Thursday/Friday/Saturday with the normal comings and goings of allllll the activities, and then came to today, Sunday, with the plans of going to Sunday School and church so we could partake in the communion service for which our kiddos helped make the bread at their Wednesday night programming. Thankfully, with the change in season, this morning was slightly less sweaty at church and I maybe even heard bits and pieces of the message. But I also noticed partway through that Truman was only going from Ben’s lap to mine and not in a bouncy way, but more in a “hold me, rock me, love me” way which for my active crew is never a good sign. (I mean, they do love on us when they’re feeling good, but extended daytime snuggles like that? Nope; not typical).

Sure enough, Little Dude skipped eating one of his favorite ever lunches after church (Gorilla Cheese and Tomato Soup) and then he voluntarily curled up on the couch for most of the rest of the day. And yep – he’s now sporting quite a fever to boot.

So, first of all, my apologies to anyone who was around him this morning. We had no idea he was going to take such a nosedive today, much less start it before the end of church.

Second of all, if you’re a praying person or a good vibe sending person, please throw some our way because this drawn out illness trading is way too similar to last fall and I’m not really sure I have the stamina to keep up with one kid after another after another with all this. Granted, it’s no easier to have a handful of sick kids all at once, but as we all know, the never-endings are just as brutal. img_5394

Off He Goes, Go He Must

All of our babies have family namesakes (some on multiple levels) and it is from Lincoln Thomas’s, my dad Tom, that I know the phrase used above in the title. From as early in my memory as I can go, which is probably about the age LT is now, I remember my dad saying some version of, “Off I go; go I must” when he’d be headed out of the house to the field or the truck or where have you. This phrase seems fitting today because Lincoln Thomas embarked on his own first big adventure away from home – full day Kindergarten. img_4862

Of course Linky’s had some practice at being away from us over the last three years with increasing days of preschool, leading up to five day half days all of last year. But this whole away-from-home-all-day-every-day business? Goodness, it feels different.

Of course I know he’ll be fine. He is my small-but-mighty, my little-but-fierce and I know he’s going to learn and love a lot about school this year. Getting him to this point this summer, though, has felt like a bit of a proving ground.

Based on frustration levels (both his and mine) and gray hairs (just mine), I’m pretty sure we went through some serious teenage-like push-away phase during the last month where I know he still loves me and I love him but holy moly whoa…challenging attitudes and behavior and moments and just all the things that I guess are making it easier for us to separate now that he’s off to school all the time? That’s how that works, right, as they claim more independence and grow? They sometimes have to gain that space by making it for themselves.

Both the hubs and the BFF think that some nerves and anxiety on LT’s part might be behind it all, and that’s probably all true, too. Goodness knows, I’m as mama-heart-nervous to send this one off as I have been with all the others. As much as I know he will be all of these things, I sit here and ache a little with the longing for him to be OK, accepted, understood, and loved. I mean, it’s what we want for all of our babies, yes? Now and always. Yes.

But the beauty of this kid and all that is sweet (and those little bits that sometimes turn sour) is that he was indeed ready to go this morning. It probably helped that his own BFF is in his class and started today too, which is another calming factor for all of us, I think.

All told, the first morning was fantastic. We stood all smiles and high fives in line until it was time to go, and he told me he didn’t need me to go in the building with him, so we stood and we watched and not a tear was shed by any of the Welschies, not even Mama! For as hard as the last few weeks have been, I know it will be equally hard to be away from him all day today.

So to all you mamas sending pieces of your heart off to school this week or the next (or the next), trust me when I say that I get it when you are both so excited to see them go (again – multiple levels to this, my friends) and missing them like crazy while they’re gone.

But off they go, as they must. This is the way, the path, and bumpy as it may be at times for all kinds of reasons, it’s an honor and privilege to be along for the ride with these incredible young souls.

 

3/5 Tunnel Free

Having one of those “my baby really isn’t a baby anymore” moments today, on the eve of Lincoln’s 6th Birthday.

SIX!

How on earth did we get here so darn fast?

Of course that’s both entirely true and total hyperbole, all at the same time. It is equal parts hard to believe he is already this old and easy to see that we have paid some dues in The Tunnel and are happy to be moving forward with our third kid out of it.

You remember this analogy, yes? That until a child turns six, he or she is VERY much IN The Tunnel of needing you for everything all the time. Each year shifts and more independence comes, but I know no better testament to life with young Littles than this, the Tunnel years.

And tomorrow Lincoln crosses that magical threshold of leaving it!! That accomplishment (on his part as well as ours) is almost as cool as he is.

A quick SIX look at my sweet Yankee Doodle:

  1. He IS a Yankee! At least, he is a huge Yankees fan which is as funny as it is insulting to this Royals-loving household.
  2. He eats, sleeps, dreams, plays, and breathes baseball. And for a little guy, he’s pretty good to boot and super fun to watch as we did this summer during his first go as city rec league. That’s his jersey he is wearing (wither PJ pants) on a bday eve trip to the store today. Cutie!
  3. Still a music kid. Current faves are “Old Town Road” and “Fifth Avenue” by Walk Off The Earth. Love his singing and dancing.
  4. He’ll tell you no when he’s not feeling it but he’s still an affectionate little bug who gives the sweetest hugs and kisses a lot of the time. He’s a tough little nut but has such a tender heart under that shell.
  5. If he could, he’d eat chocolate covered granola bars and blueberries all day long (just not together).
  6. He’s still a kick ass brother. Of course with some of his siblings his brother role includes a lot of fighting and fighting and more fighting, but with Wilson it means nothing but love. She may just stay his favorite person for ages to come.

We have fun parade and family and friend plans for tomorrow which is going to be great. I’m sure at some point, though, there will be a heart-string-pulling moment of looking at him and seeing that little firecracker baby who came just hours after the parade those short six years ago…and another for being lucky to be his mama, because there is none other quite like Lincoln. 💚

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.

 

Longest Winter Ever??

We’ve had hard months before, no doubt (April, I’m looking at you). There have been some periods in our parenting where everything felt like a lot, and maybe a bit too much. But I don’t know that we have ever had six+ weeks of one after another illnesses that have left us with little more than a 48 hour window in which maybe all seven of us were feeling OK-ish.

Friends, I don’t know how I am going to do it if this trend that started the first week of October continues all winter. Because as you may know, we aren’t even TO winter yet, so holy moly cow. Please, please, please don’t let our fall be any indication of what is to come when actual cold and flu season arrives.

Our baby is one week away from being a year old and yet Ben and I both still feel like we are in Newborn Sleep Dep Mode. Trying to sleep with coughing and feverish kids one after the next, but rarely at the same time sick, has been exhausting on a whole new level. I told my mom last night that I felt like I’d been run over by a bus (this was after surviving an illness-induced meltdown with the 5yo for 15 minutes in the waiting room at the orthodontist because I had no choice but to be there solo with all five children) which is before the same child then had us up in the middle of the night and then sleeping lightly (read: crapily – what that’s not a word?) the rest of the night wondering what would come next. So maybe today feels more like being hit by a train than a bus?

img_2256Of course this is the day (night) B has conferences at school and RL has visitation at dance which I now have to bag out on because I have to stay home with her sick brother, so clearly the feeling of being plowed over isn’t just the physical exertion, it’s also the mental strain of being constantly worried about if you are doing enough to take care of one child (or more) while knowing you are also letting down another one (or more).

Normally there’s a “so what” to my posts, so chalk it up to my tired brain or my tired spirit, but I’m not sure I have a point in writing this beyond saying: This is hard. Of course we can do hard things, but This. Is. HARD. And it feels forever-happening at this point. So maybe that part will change and everything will feel a little less intense? Goodness, that would be nice.

Staggered Start

In a strange and most likely never-to-be-duplicated turn of events, we are smack dab in the thick of the longest, most drawn out start of a school year ever for our family. I suppose the fact that we have more family members than ever before enrolled/teaching school this year might have something to do with that, but truly, we’ll see an entire month go by between the first person’s and last person’s start date (Holy Transition Period, Batman!).

Ben started off with back-to-school meetings on August 6th and then he and the biggest two Bigs had their first day of class on August 16th. The other bookend will (finally) come next week when Truman gets to start attending Two-Day preschool which can’t happen until he’s three, but because his birthday is on a Thursday, that means his first day will be the day he actually turns three (and gets to bring treats and have his first swimming lesson and again, I say unto you, Holy Big Day, Batman!), and y’all, stick with me for a minute on this tangent, but I’m really not sure how this is going to go. Maybe it will be great. Maybe it will be easy peasy, lemon squeezey. Or maybe we will pay for one month of preschool and then decide to wait a bit, because even though he is now potty-trained and seems to think he’s as big as the rest of the Bigs, I honestly have no clue if preschool will stick for him yet or not. No. Clue.

The other two of-school/teaching age family members are, of course, Lincoln and I, and we both had/have our first day TODAY! LT is an old pro at preschool these days, and he is SO excited to be attending the five-day class this year, he was practically wiggling from the minute he got up this morning. He headed off into the classroom without so much as a backward glance (or goodbye!) and came home lit up about, of all things, book orders! No wonder that boy has my heart! He’s grown so much since last year – both physically and socially; I can’t wait to see all that he learns and does this year.

And then there’s me, with my strangest back-to-school first day ever. For the first time I am teaching solely online and for a new-to-me institution, Bellevue University. So no teacher clothes or hauling books around or being gone in the evening hours and missing time with my family. Instead, I’ll navigate how to fit in my online hours during naps and at nighttime, and I’ll do it all from the comfort of my couch (with blue-light blocking glasses) or perhaps, on weekend, the coffee shop. img_1274

It feels like a big day. I suppose because it is. A big month, actually, as we all take a deep breath and begin/continue figuring out what this year looks like and means for all of us. I’d say it all looks pretty darn good, even if it is the longest beginning ever in all the evers. And yes, that is my new favorite shirt in all the evers, too.

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.

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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

 

 

Little Ben

I don’t know if it is more of a physical or personality resemblance, but I have long thought that of all my kids, Lincoln is our Little Ben. There is just something about those two that makes them seem awfully similar to one another, so why not write about LT on B’s bday? 😉

One indicator that Linky is his Daddy’s boy? I can already see that Lincoln, should he one day decide to embark on such, is going to be a terrific daddy himself! For real, this kid loves babies, which I didn’t quite put together until after Wilson got home from Omaha.

It was clear that Lincoln loved Baby Truman, too, but I thought that was more of a toddler thing perhaps. LT was 2 and change when TJ was born, and whenever Lincoln was having a fit or was upset, his go-to way to self-soothe was to run to Truman and hug him. It was sweet but I didn’t know just how characteristic it was of Lincoln until this time around with a new baby when by far the things I hear him say the most are:

“Ooooo, I just can’t stop hugging her, Mama!”
“She is so adorable. She is so huggable!”

And, “Where’s Wilson? I need to give her a hug!” (not much guessing involved to determine his Love Language, eh?)

Take this morning, for example, when Ben and Lincoln were getting ready for school (and a longer than normal day for Lincoln away from the house). Lincoln could not head out the door until he’d figured out where Wilson was hanging out so he could, you guessed it, give her a big hug and snuggle.

Holding her, helping me get things for her, talking to her during Tummy Time…all of these are Lincoln’s super skills right now and it is so sweet to observe. As if this girl didn’t already have a bunch of Super Fans! Clearly she’s got a No.1 champion in her No.2 big brother.

There is a LOT to be said about the Effing Fours (which we are thankfully seeing less and less of now that we’ve crossed over the 4.5 mark), but some bits of four are absolutely fabulous, including how big, soft, and huggable their hearts make them.