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.

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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.

 

Flip of the Switch? 

Sometimes with Littles, changes are gradual and you don’t even notice until weeks later that they are demonstrating some new skill or wearing capris that once where definitely pants. And then other times, kiddos can seemingly overnight do something that draws your attention and makes you go, “Whoa! Where did you come from, child?!”

I had one of those switch flipped moments with Lincoln this week and as baffled as I am, I am also happy for him and pleased to see this kind of growth in him. 

If you know LT via the blog or my stories, you know him more as I know him…a loveable, athletic, uber independent, little spitfire. If you also/only know him in person, unless you are around him a LOT, you might see glimpses of these things, but mostly he has always been far more reserved and withdrawn with others outside of our family. 

Case in point? We have been tossing around the idea of having him evaluated for speech and when I discussed it with his teacher so she could keep an ear out for any indicators, she (unsurprisingly) agreed but also said (unsurprisingly), “But he doesn’t really say much at school.”

Then yesterday happened and we met for the first time a new sitter who is going to help me out occasionally this year and my kid who is normally hiding behind my legs (& will probably continue to do that, btw) was an animated goof the whole time she was at the house….talking, running around, kind of a wild man (way to show the sitter what she’s in for, kid!) goof! It was really fascinating to see. 

And then today? More confirmation of a change and some growth. We attended our first Toddler Art in over two years (birth of and subsequent year of napping Truman + Tuesday preK last year kept us away) and Lincoln was totally into it. He was pumped to go, and he participated by singing and volunteering answers to questions (this was the part that made my heart swell a bit). Again – fascinating and so, so cool to witness.

The most fitting part of today? The art theme was turtles and I couldn’t help but think I was literally observing my own kid come out of his shell a bit while we were there. Not that there has ever been anything wrong with him or that I’ve been waiting or pushing for this, but I still love that he’s willing and able to put himself out there more than ever. 

Plus, I have been telling friends for years that when this kid does come out of his shell to watch out, world, because there will be no stopping him. Looks like we might just be at the start of a very grand new adventure!! 

Life with a 4yo

Life with a 4 year-old is many things, and often many things in a very short time span. Take this morning, for instance…

Life with a 4yo is him walking into your bedroom and leaning his head against Mama, just for a second, just to say “hey.”

It is seeing just how many times and in how many ways you can touch your sister at the breakfast table even though Mama has said at least five times, “For the love of all things holy, quit messing around and Just. EAT!”

It is being totally cool with wearing pajamas all the live-long days (that are not church/preschool days) and being extra excited to be big enough to move up to the next size of Brother’s hand-me-downs (no, really – bless his sweet heart. he was SO excited to see some of the clothes I pulled out for him to wear, in part because he is so thrilled to be wearing stuff that HD remembers wearing).

Life with a 4yo is spending five minutes frantically pulling bikes and random yard toys/tools out of the garage so you can get to the double stroller that he has specifically requested for taking to school drop off for the first time this year.

It is then spending the next five minutes (the first half of the walk to school) telling him (with the help of the big siblings who had to help with extraction/wait to get going) that he picked the stroller so now he must RIDE in the stroller.

img_7547It is THEN spending the next five minutes (and later, the whole way home) pushing just the baby in the double jogger because the 4yo bailed and refused to get back in said requested stroller. Classic 4yo, I tell you.

Life with a 4yo is requesting to hear this song, not that one. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

It is “Can I have a berry bar?” at 8:15 a.m. (every blessed day).

It is red-faced, foot-stomping “NO!”s (sometimes from Mama, too).

It is wide-eyed, mouth dropped open wonder at seeing Mama’s belly wiggle from the baby juking and jiving in there.

Life with a 4yo is taking the toy truck and trailer away from the almost 2yo one minute and then sharing it without being asked the next. Repeat forever.

It is ball throwing, furniture climbing, self launching from various surfaces, and “Tag! You’re it!” also forever.

Above all, life with a 4yo is never dull and rarely quiet. And as gray-hair-making as it can be, life with a 4yo is amazing. See, for example, leg/under the bump hugs on the first day of preschool. Also classic 4yo. img_7534

Little Lincoln?

To be perfectly honest, I did not have any thoughts, whatsoever, about who Baby No.5 resembled at our 20 week ultrasound. How can you really tell in those space-agey images if a kiddo looks like another kiddo or one of you two? I figured that arms up by the face (which pretty much all of our ultrasounds have looked like) was enough proof of being a Little Welschie and left it at that.

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And then I got a text from one of my dearest friends after she saw the image on FB that said, “That picture is SO Lincoln!” and when I went to look at it again, holy moly cow, I saw that she was SO right. Now I can’t see anything but Baby Lincoln’s little face and it is entertaining to think that our babe who did not resemble the others when born might end up with a little twin in November. In fact, I love it.

I mention all of this because I have actually been struggling a lot in the last couple weeks and the last time I remember being this constantly angry and discontent was the time April tried to do us in, the spring I was pregnant with – you got it – Lincoln. Do some of you remember the birth that month of Captain Cranky Pants? It’s a name I’ve come back to a time or four over the years, but I honestly don’t think it’s been quite so accurate of a connection until now. Because, whoa. Everything and everything is irritating the crap out of me these days.

The real culprit? Probably not a shocker, but my guess is sleep. The 4th of July put us behind and it’s not like I’ve ever really been ahead since, oh, mid-March, so I know I’m a very tired, fairly pregnant mama and I’m just not handling (any)things very well.

What occurred to me, beyond the CCP connection, relates back to something my OB said at my last appointment – the same one where that very image was captured by the ultrasound machine. We were talking about my going back to CO this month (sadly, I opted out because it was one thing I could take off my schedule, even if I didn’t want to, and the risk of another setback was just too much for me to take on, even if medically speaking, going wouldn’t have been an inherent risk for either myself or the baby) and I mentioned that I’m just so much more tired and worn down this time around, which led to her response of, “Yeah, you haven’t had an easy go of it with this one.”

Of course my immediate response was, “Oh, it hasn’t been that bad.” because tough as it’s been, I wouldn’t call this a bad pregnancy. But that’s not what she was calling it either. It’s not bad. But it certainly hasn’t been smooth sailing, and that’s where the still-behind-on-energy-and-appetite feeling, even at 21 weeks, comes into play.

The last time I heard her say something like that? Well, I tried to find it on the blog archives to verify and couldn’t, but I am pretty darn sure that she said something very similar during Linky’s pregnancy which was, yes, not easy. And then, as it did now, it took me a while for the reality to sink that if my obstetrician is pointing out the difficulty of my experience, perhaps it would be OK for me to acknowledge and accept that for what it is. And then, perhaps I could cut myself a wee bit of slack with the guilt over being a raging crank momster (error intended) and instead focus on doing what I can to get back to feeling good again.

Honestly, it might take some time. It might take 1,000 baby steps. It might take acknowledging and accepting that this too may just be a season in the tunnel that I have to ride out, because eventually this sweet Little Lincoln-clone is going to join us earth side and while I probably won’t sleep much in the immediate after (is it wrong if I start having daily convos with the bump promising favoritism if s/he comes out as our best sleeper ever? yeah? it is? darn.), someday I will again be rested and able to carve out a space for myself in our family of seven. And while I know that no human can be expected to never have some CCP flareups, I also know that eventually – whether it is tomorrow or next July – mine can be fewer and farther between, and far less cranky in general.

And in the meantime, I can be far less hard on myself for having (and seeing it as such) a hard time.

P.S. Just in case more evidence was needed…it was after Lincoln was born that I reached the point of starting therapy which lead to yoga and breakthroughs and all the work that I have spent the last four years doing to better take care of myself mentally, so again, no shocker here that his little buddy is putting those same tasks directly in my face again. And just as with Lincoln, I’ll be forever grateful for the nudge to do so.