Be Here

Seven years ago this coming January, we moved in to our second home. Our current home. We have loved it in that time. Since the spring of 2017, however, when I found out I was pregnant with Baby No.5, we started flirting with the idea of a new-to-us house. Something with a different layout, perhaps, more kitchen space, and definitely an attached garage.

For over a year we looked, off and on, at homes and could not find anything in our price range that would outdo our current house. Oh, we put a few low ball offers in on larger homes around town but none of them panned out, and since that unicorn house that met all the requirements needed to go through the hassle of selling/moving/upping our mortgage never materialized, we decided to once again revisit the idea of what we could with do with some work in our current space.

The answer turned out to be: A LOT.

It took a couple tries and a few months of thinking time to land on the idea, but we eventually came to the conclusion that we could take the room that sold us on this house seven years ago and make it work for us in a whole new, multifaceted way.

Here it is: img_2482

Pretty, right? 😉

But for real, this bonus space in the basement (that quickly became a playroom for our kids after we moved in) is what made our eyes pop the first time we looked at this house. It’s a representation of just how much space the basement does have (there is also a full-size family room down there, a store room, and an unfinished laundry room and a couple closets); we just needed to get creative after a plumbing roadblock presented itself last spring to make it all work. Instead of just finishing the basement laundry room, we discovered that we could turn this beige box into a full sized bathroom AND laundry room, and take the unfinished old laundry room and turn it into a non-conforming bedroom/play room. And yes, trust me – this was the cheaper alternative thanks to the old plumbing in our old house. 🙂

And so the dominoes are starting to line up for this one-after-another project series beginning THIS WEEK!

I realize that we are plunging headfirst into A Thing by taking this on right now, but the work (and money) that will be poured into this home are equal to how much character and love it holds, too. We couldn’t find a different house for us because this is the house for us. Now we just get to take some of the bones of it and make them a little more (read: a ton more) functional for our growing family.

No, I won’t end up with my garage attached to my house when we’re all said and done, but we ARE going to move heaven and earth (just windows and walls, actually) as best we can (not we; a contractor!) so we can continue to live and love and be HERE for years and years to come.

 

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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.

Staying Put

Last weekend, on a total, uncharacteristic for me, whim, I concocted a plan for us to travel to Kansas City this weekend to take the kids to their first Royal’s game. Cool, right?

In theory, yes. But then the week came (LT’s first one of preschool which went really well but left all of us a little worn out from all the extra running around and him in general simply for the fact that it was his first week of school) and by Thursday/Friday both the weather forecast (super hot + chances of rain and thunderstorms) and Wilson (diaper rash from hell and clingyness on Stage Five Alert levels) were not looking great/road worthy.

Then our sleepless Friday night happened thanks to the aforementioned diaper rash resulting in a 2-hr-awake window in the middle of the night and the most dic-er-us (TJ’s version of the word) thunder storm we’ve had in ages that woke our entire family from 1:30-2:30A. We had actually made the call prior not to go to KC, but that sealed the deal from last minute heading down there Saturday because Ben and I, not to mention the kids, were sooooo tired yesterday. Minus the ability to teleport or hire a chauffeur, it just couldn’t have happened.

So instead we’ve spent the weekend making the most of our family time and letting a few rules fly out the window to make up for the disappointing change in plans. The kids stayed up late Friday night for a movie and picnic dinner in the basement. Yesterday we did a family walk to the park, and did not reschedule piano lessons, and they got to go bowling and to Cherry Berry, and we started our first kid audiobook listen (The Boxcar Children), AND they went to bed EARLY to counter the previous night’s thunderstorm shenanigans. Today it has been board games, book listening, show watching, slime making (am I the only parent who hates making slime?), and watching the Royal’s on TV because, of course it’s not actually storming there yet (*face palm*). There has also been time for me to do some grading, Ben to work on budget, not watching the Huskers play, and even some reading.

Honestly? Even though we couldn’t resell the tickets, I don’t really care that our plans changed. Had I been thinking about it being the end of Lincoln’s first week I never would have hatched this plan in the first place because I know better. These first few weeks of school have to have sacred weekends which sometimes means not even going to church because down time is a MUST. Doing some active, some quiet, some food, some free, some cost activities just as a family unit? Also a MUST.

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If I’m also being totally honest, I’ll admit that my main motivator for wanting to go to the game this weekend (besides cheap tickets because, let’s face it – not a great season for the Royals) was to give my kids one fun trip that was not also grief-tinged. Every other major trip we’ve done this year has been and I wanted one start-to-finish excursion that was not, but then we (re)discovered that going was far less valuable to us, at this time, than staying put.

So put we are. Doing our things. Taking it easy*. I’ll take it.

*I repeat: Slime sucks.

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.

Close Proximity

Crickets here on the blog lately as for the last couple weekends, Wilson and I have been sharing sniffles back and forth and back again. You see, she’s awfully darn cute, so when img_1071I got some head cold germies, it was hard to remember to keep my distance from her (plus we still nurse around the clock, so….) and then when I got better and she got them, it was hard to remember not to let her slobber-bobber-ness get too close to me, so….I’m starting off my second Monday in a row with a head fog.

Fitting as we’ve been in a fog these last couple weeks, anyway, awaiting Ben’s grandma’s funeral (happening this weekend) and trying to wrap our (foggy) brains around the fact that school is starting, well, next week! Ben actually went back today for his first round of meetings and dives in full force with those this Thursday with kids starting classes the following Thursday.

We will have two in elementary and two in preschool (after he officially turns 3, for Truman, but knock on wood, potty training is going well, so looks like it is a go), which means this mama has to wrap her (foggy) brain around all the drop off times and split locations and all that again, which is different this year as our kids’ school is doing a two-year remodel, so they have to be taken to a different location, which feels new and little nervous making for all of us, I suppose, even though I know it will go fine once we get the new system figured out.

But we’ve honestly had a strange summer and a strange year, so shifting into the new school year and all the change that comes with it is making me glad to have at least a few more days here with all my babies under one roof (even if we are sharing too many back-to-school germs before back-to-school has even begun). I like it better when Ben is here with us so we can divide and conquer and enjoy just a tad bit more, but that’s what Paw Patrol is for, right? Right.

It may not have been the summer (or spring) we had planned or wanted, but we have been able to be together just the seven of us a lot, and that is always, always a good thing in my book.

Grandmas, Gravy Boats, and (another) Goodbye

The first time I met my would-be-husband’s family, I crashed their family reunion. We had been together about a month and it would only be five more until we were engaged, so maybe that sounds like a weird first encounter, but really, I think we just knew this was it and there was nothing odd at all about diving in headfirst.

I’d like to think Ben’s grandma, Louise, knew it, too, because she was the one who insisted I be in the group photo, front and center next to Ben (Cox/Welsch crew: if anyone has that photo, can you snap a copy and send it to us, please?). I wouldn’t put it past her to have had that kind of super power because she was indeed a wonder of a woman.

Unfortunately, my use of the past tense is not accidental. After a decline that began in March, that we all had thought/hoped was turning out to be a miraculous recovery, Louise passed away in the early hours of Tuesday morning. So here we are, once again, faced with paying respects and giving our kids, and ourselves, one more lesson in life and loss and goodbyes.

What. A. Year.

I’ll be honest, this one hits hard for me. It’s way too soon after saying goodbye to both of my remaining grandparents (Ben still has two, now), but it is also that I feel this loss like it is my own. Geographically, Louise and her husband Eugene have been the closest ones to us in our married life which meant we saw them more, but really from Day One, Louise treated me like one of her own. Always caring, always asking after my work and my family, always wondering, in early days, when that first great grandbaby was going to come, and after early days, how each of those great grand babies was doing.

The weekend before last, Ben took the Big Four to see her and since I couldn’t go, I wroteIMG_9368 a card that he was able to share with her. In it, I teased her (gently, with love, in a way to hopefully bring about that kind flash smile/eye twinkle that she had) that in those early days she was always telling me that she was only going to live to 83, so would I kindly please get on it with the great grands. I told her I was so glad she didn’t call it quits then because, instead, she got to meet, hold, love on, and know all five of my babies, and for that we were all so lucky.

Technically that card turned out to be my goodbye to her but it is not the end of my memories of her. She will forever in my mind be the one who came to see four of my five babies when they were still hospital brand new and deemed each one “SUCH a nice baby” (& who always wanted to know if they had blue eyes in every subsequent phone call and/or card sent). The one who LOVED the color red and was thrilled to buy us the Fiestaware gravy boat from our wedding registry because it was one of the pieces I had picked in her favorite hue (plus super appropriate piece coming from the woman who hosted countless and delicious family dinners). img_0839The one who collected quilts and made sure to give us one for each baby. The one who helped make some of their blankets, too. The one who played Five Crowns and Play Nine (& other countless card games) with us and our children. The one who sent me a sympathy card when my grandpa Cliff died and told me how lucky I was to have a grandpa for so long.

She was right about that. But here is what I also know: I may have only been able to call her mine for 12 years and not 36 like my two 89-yr-olds we’ve lost this year (Louise would have been 89 next month), but I am by far a better person and a better mother because of her.

Road Weary

Yesterday we did a first ever (and let’s be real, unlikely to be repeated for many, many years) 9+ hour drive with the children in one go. Also a first ever? A six day trip with the children, and as any of you currently living with the 10&U crowd may know, a TRIP is very, very different from a VACATION.

Yes, we did touristy things, but no, I would not call our Black Hills Extravaganza a vacation because we had to do all the normal parenting things but with a bunch of extra hours in the car, sugar, loosey-goosey bedtimes, and not in our own house. While I know what I signed up for when having (this many) children, I also know that I look forward to the day when B and I can once again travel in such a way that does not involve working harder than we do when we’re at home.

Of course, the trip itself had a slightly heavy undercurrent as our real reason for venturing so far from home with so many young children (maybe by the end of this post, I’ll get mentioning that so much out of my system) was to pay final respects to my grandpa, Cliff, and attend his internment ceremony at Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, SD. So yes, tourists over the weekend and once again mourning on Monday. But it was good that we could be there because I slipped up big time when we attended his funeral in March by not taking a moment to say my actual goodbyes to him, and on this trip I made darn sure to get the closure that I needed.

After tears and hugs and goodbyes post-ceremony, it was time to hit the road home because two kids had camp starting this (Tuesday) morning and we knew were looking at 7hrs, 45mins even without kid stops and a time zone change to boot, so on we rolled.

img_0819Truth be told, the kids did well. Ben did amazing (he drove the whole way). And I did my best to be a solid co-pilot, spotter, DJ, snack and water provider, fight-breaker-upper, and food source (breastfeeding while traveling post coming soon, friends). While I thought it would be the tireds that got the best of us, it was really the discomfort of being in the car that long that did us in.

We spent many, many hours driving last Wednesday and Thursday to get there, and many more each day of our trip to see the sights scattered around the Hills, but yesterday took the cake. Or rather, it ran over the cake and smashed it good and flat. I think Harrison and I felt it the most as he was the poor kid stuck in the middle of the back seat bench with no proper place to get comfy for sleep and my back was just PISSED by the time we were halfway home. And unfortunately it’s still not very happy with me, even though I can’t fault it one bit because of all the work it did all trip long of schlepping Wilson in the Ergo darn near everywhere (including 250 ft. below ground in Wonderland Cave).

The hope with the night-trip home was that the kids would sleep, we’d transfer them to their beds when we got home, and that would be “it.” The problem with a plan like that is that the children must actually sleep, which 3/5 of them barely did (and 1/5 of them I don’t think did AT ALL). And, again, I get it. Discomfort, lights (sun and then headlights), the sillies — all of these things make it hard to sleep. In the case of RL, the stars (which apparently she’s seen very little of in her life thanks to her sleep strict parents) were justimg_0823 too beautiful to watch to bother with sleep, and so. On we continued, through was sounded like all the bugs in Nebraska until just after midnight when we got back to Hastings where we promptly got all the kids in their own beds and then collapsed in ours until the whopping time of 7:13 when the first kid got up for the day. Keep ’em up so they sleep longer in the morning? No such luck.

So, in case you see us stumbling (no, really – Trumy fell at least three times more today than an average toddler clumsy allows) or gimping around in the days to come, just know that we are in post-travel fallout, doing our best to realign bodies and sleep patterns while also being very grateful to have been there and back on our trip.