One year.

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Caroline, today you turn one.

One year.

Certainly, our long-awaited sweet baby girl couldn’t have known what sort of loud, crazy and loving family she was being welcomed into.

I suppose a big milestone like this – celebrating the first year of a beautiful life – is a pretty good place to jump back in and start sharing our story again.

Truthfully, this last year has put me out of my comfort zone.  It has been both crazy and beautiful and overwhelming and humbling and emotional.  I can’t explain it.  And for a while didn’t even want to try.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve fumbled everything up this year.  I mean really, how does one make a big mess out of a season that was supposed to be so special?  And perfect?  For heaven’s sake we had a baby girl.  A daughter!  Our family was now made perfect.  Complete.  Game over, ride off into the sunset.

Of course life is never that simple and since I seem to be unfailingly human, sweet girl your mama often struggled more than celebrated her way through this first year.

Goodness.

And there you are.  Sweet as pie.  The perfect calm in the storm.

I won’t go into the long story.  Really, I don’t know if it’s even appropriate for a birthday post, but it is the story of our first year together.

Somewhere along this journey I lost my balance, and let what felt like *big scary things* alter my perspective so much that I failed to miss the abundance of beautiful and lovely moments that truly made up our days.  First there was colic.  For four months.  And just when we were getting into a lovely groove there was the first scary doctor appointment.  Followed by relief.  And then another scary doctor appointment.  An MRI.  A visit to an important doctor.  And then relief again. Praise Jesus, you’re just quirky.  Like your mama.  Lucky girl.

Sweet girl, this is life. I should know this by now.  I should know this roller coaster ride by heart.  But I just can’t seem to get the hang of it.  I’m ashamed to admit that sometimes I mess up the recipe of life, getting the measurements of bitter and sweet out of balance.

You should know that your dad handles all of these seasons with the confidence and grace of a man who both willingly loves and leads his family.  No matter where life may take us.  He is always calm when I’m the one losing it.  He is always the one who points out that in the end, it all works out.

Caroline.  More than anything I want you to know that you are loved.  You have been fiercely loved from day one.  Oh and you are ever so lovely.  Sweet girl, people stop us all the time when we are out and about.  They tell me how beautiful you are.  Maybe it’s your smile that catches their attention.  Your lively blue eyes?  Or maybe it’s because you’re such a peanut but do such big girl things?  Whatever it is you simply sparkle.

A few things that make you, you.  Caroline {or Coco as we often call you} you are stubborn.  {again, that darn apple and tree.}  But you are also the most laid-back, happy and content baby we’ve ever known.  Your hair is strawberry blond and wispy with the slightest hint of curls.  You refused to take a bottle for the entire first year.  But God-bless you sweet thing, because just this week you decided whole milk and bottles were OK after all.  You love to eat.  Anything is fair game.  You crawl, pull to a stand but refuse to walk because quite simply, you haven’t decided to walk yet.  You talk, saying: hi, dada, up, and all-done and you always remember to wave good-bye.  You adore your brothers and they adore you.

Caroline I’ll admit that with three boys already, I wasn’t sure what to expect with a baby girl.  Would you be different right from the start?  It sounds silly but oh how I wish I could protect you forever.  There is a part of me that wants to hold onto you so tight you’ll never feel the need to spread your wings and fly.  But you are a lovely gift that has been thoughtfully designed by our perfect Creator and so instead I pray you stay brave and dream big.  I pray that as you grow and spread your wings you know that your identity is found in Him.

Just know that in the meantime I’ll be telling you to hold your horses already, to stop growing up so quickly.

Happiest of birthdays baby girl.  We’re going to *officially celebrate* with family on Sunday, but I’ve been so thankful for today, which has been a quiet day of joy and reflection.  And oh sweet girl know that there is so much joy and sweetness and goodness.

I love you so much Caroline.

 

Lately.

It’s ironic that when we are at our busiest – when there are so many possible topics to write about – I’m finding it harder to share.  Possibly because I don’t even know where to begin.  I could easily write volumes about the last few weeks.  Or better yet pen a script for a new Lifetime mini-series.

But for now let’s keep it simple with emoticons shall we?

👨👸👦👱👦👶🐶🐟
👍😀😜
🏠
🚐 🎹⚽️⚾️🏀🏇
⛽️
🍺🍷☕️
🚐 🎹⚽️⚾️🏀🏇
⛽️
🍺🍷☕️
🍪🍰
⛽️
🚐 🎹⚽️⚾️🏀🏇
⛽️
🙏
🏡
😁😳
🙅🙇
😷
😓😢😬😕
🍺🍷☕️
🏠🏡
😘😋

Basically.

We’re all alive.  Happy.   A little nuts.  Tired.   I practically live in my car driving littles around from one thing to the next.   We’ve prayed for a long time to find a bigger home for our bigger family.  Prayers were answered.  As of today we own two homes.  Naturally we’re a little nervous.  Excited.  Overwhelmed.  {Wanna buy a house?}  We’ve had some other scary stuff come up.  I know He’s got this but I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot.

So I guess really nothing’s new.

😋

P.S.  Thanks to everyone who has been checking because the blog has been so quiet.  That really means a lot.  😘

 

 

 

 

A date

In a big family like ours one-on-one time with mom and dad can be tough to come by, so last week Alex and I took Henry out to dinner.  It was a wonderful and much-needed evening for all three of us.

I’ll be the first to admit that in this whirlwind of caring for little people – feeding the baby, packing lunches, doing laundry, driving from one practice to the next, making dinner – its easy to get caught up in all that I have to do and miss out on opportunities to slow down and check-in with each child.  When the boys were all little we tended to lump them into one big group.  And sometimes, basically out of survival we parented them as a herd.  Today, the younger children seem to urgently demand my time and attention, meanwhile our first-born is fighting to stretch his wings – separating himself from the herd – and needs our attention in new and more complex ways.

Of course I never handle this parenting thing as gracefully as I’d like.  Nor are the answers always obvious.  Even as their mother, I will never know exactly how my children are feeling or all the burdens they carry.  I’ll never know the responsibility Henry feels as the oldest brother of four.  Or understand what it’s like to have a brother with special needs.  Or how he manages to almost always meets everyone’s high expectations.

We’ve never set our to burden our eldest son.  His independent soul and strong will are characteristics we’re proud of.  So is the way that he seemingly handles everything with ease.  He’s so grown up.  “Thank goodness for Henry” we say, “isn’t he amazing?”  But as we all know even the lightest of expectations can begin to weigh you down.

What it all boils down to is this: I really, really, really want Henry to know without a doubt that we love him.  Not as the oldest brother, the big helper, the good friend, or the great student.  That we simply love him for who he is.  No matter what he’s feeling, or how he’s behaving.  Our love will remain constant.

Once again we are learning as we go.  We pray everyday for grace and forgiveness as parents and I don’t think this will ever stop.  We pray to find that sweet spot of encouragement and love and discipline.  And we pray that we will always be there for each of our children, to help ease their burdens and join in their celebrations.

Chicken Little

I’ve lost my groove.  It’s been a seven-month funk.  Nothing like the winter blahs coupled with a dose of postpartum depression to make you feel awesome.

I know that this won’t last forever but when you’re in the thick of it you can’t help but feel stuck.  For me this doesn’t translate into days or weeks of doom.  More like intense moments of panic or anxiety.  Think Chicken Little.  The day is going smoothly and then bam!  The sky is falling.

There’s no doubt that being a mom is simultaneously the hardest, most wonderful, enlightening, terrifying, stressful, joyful thing I have ever done.  But right now there are days when I wake up racked with anxiety, because there are four little people I’m responsible for.  And Alex and I have the daunting task of molding them into decent, kind, good human beings while also letting them blossom into who God designed them to be.  Meanwhile I can’t seem to get the baby to take a nap, keep the three boys from fighting or convince them that the potty talk needs to stop.  I’m sure the sleep deprivation isn’t helping but I also think these struggles are a daily {hourly? minute by minute?} reminder of my own short-comings.  And lately I’ve never been so aware of my own shortcomings {there are many}.

I know that we will work through all of this.  I know that Caroline will someday take a bottle.  Or a sippy cup.  Or she will just be very thirsty.  And then I will have something new to worry about.  But in the meantime it does feel good to at least admit that yeah, this stage right now, it’s hard.

The New Year.

I just love a the beginning of a new year, to me there is nothing better than a fresh start.  And to be honest, 2013 just about did me in.  Of course there were plenty of highlights – hello Caroline – but the year was not without its challenges.  So for 2014 I’m carefully thinking through all the possibilities this new year might hold for myself and for our entire family.

I have this elusive dream that this year includes calmer days that are loosely planned, with lots of wiggle room.  {It’s ok to laugh but this is my goal, perhaps not my reality.}  Because let’s be honest, this ship {aka our family of six} doesn’t exactly shift gears on a dime.  Plus, I’m a gal who needs lots of margin and white space to function on all cylinders.  {I know, the irony, right?}

While dreaming about this next year words like simple, mundane, calm and peaceful keep floating up to the surface.  Probably not exactly words that describe this stage of life, but they seem to be what my soul is craving.  I’d like my focus to settle on creating a safe haven for our family to rest in the midst of the storms of this life.   Oh and not to be forgotten, there’s the elusive goal of balance.  We’re learning how to balance this very full life.  Life with two kids in elementary school.  A preschooler.  A baby.  It’s a fun and crazy mix that no doubt always keeps us on our toes.

Alex and I have also talked a bit about our big dreams and long-term goals and it’s exciting.  I think we both feel like we’re in such a great place right now as a family and we just can’t stop counting our lucky stars.    We have both big plans and little plans and lots of perspective.  {And while we may have lost a bit of momentum coming out of the new year gate, I have yet to find a rule that says you can’t start fresh on the 15th of January.}

All in all, I think it’s going to be a good one.  So Happy New Year to you.  On January 15th.

Oh and the word that comes to mind most often as I’m looking ahead?  Hopeful.  I’m feeling very hopeful and I can’t think of anything better.

P.S. Thank you Jimmy for snapping these pics.

Christmas Vacation

Our Christmas vacation was packed to the gills.  It may have gone by quickly {pretty sure I blinked and it was over.} but we certainly lived it up.  Between blinks there were many dinners with family, an evening with Poppy and Birdie, a pancake breakfast with friends, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day {at our house!}, we squeeze in a trip to Sun Valley for a week, celebrated the new year with our little family and wrapped things up with a fun brunch with Gigi, Grammy, Aunt Corey, Uncle Andy and cousins.  Oh and Caroline and I also made a quick overnight trip to Bellingham.

And somewhere in the midst of all that coming and going Caroline checked a few fun milestones off the check-list.  She was on a roll {literally} while also giving real food a taste, and learning how to sit up independently.  She’s also become quite the charmer.  That is unless you are holding a camera.

It was truly a wonderful, almost magical, two-weeks.  There really is nothing better than an abundance of days filled to the brim with family, lots of fun and lots of crazy.  Just the way it should always be.

December.

{caroline and my grandparents}

{a new tradition.  family bowling and dinner at the golden wheel.}

{one of charlie’s many kinder christmas art projects.}

{our over-the-top decorations.  grocery store plant and limbs from the backyard.}

{four stockings!}

{real life}

{christmas baby}

{life with boys}

This season has been a constant reminder of God’s love and grace.  We’ve kept things simple this year and it’s been such a blessing.  We’ve held onto a handful of our silly traditions and I think we may have even added one or two new ones into the mix.

I’m counting my lucky stars to be home this Christmas with our little family.  Happy.  Healthy.  Together.  {Just praying for a bit more sleep.} ;)

Merry Christmas and very Happy New Year to you!

My beautiful children. Right now.

More often, and at what always feels like the last-minute, I try to grab my camera to get some shots of the kiddos in action.  And always, always I’m so glad I did.  Looking back, my favorite photos are the spontaneous, in the moment shots.  But a good old-fashioned posed picture is just as precious.  I love pictures so much because they capture what sometimes words can’t express.  You can’t help but see the distinct personalities, feelings and features of each child.  And isn’t it amazing just how different each sibling is?  Together I’m certain that these four make up the sweetest little family I could have ever imagined.

Henry.  At eight he no longer sees himself as a little boy, but isn’t quite as grown-up as he’d like to be either.  He still finds so much comfort in the safe cocoon of our family but is just starting to spread his wings and establish an identity separate from us.  It is both heartbreaking and lovely.  He is so, so brave and I know that this school year has not been easy for him.  His days are a swirl of love, responsibility, the need to distance himself and the pull to protect his brother.  It is a lot to ask of one little boy.

Charlie.  This has been such a year of growth for Charlie.  His speech is taking off and if all else fails there is no doubt that Charlie could beat anyone in a game of charades.  He will pull out all the stops to make his opinion/wants/needs known.  He has also become so aware of his limitations.  His frustration is real but his tenacity is greater.  Those traits serve him well.  Little dude is also mastering scissors and getting pretty darn good with his colors.  Oh and he’s never met a sweet treat that he didn’t like.

William.  He is healthy, praise God.  He is all spunk and sweetness.  He is smart as a whip and stubborn as a mule.  And funny, he’s really funny.  He is my little buddy, afternoons are ours – eating lunch, doing chores, and puttering around the house together.  He’s obviously not the baby of the house anymore but in a way I think he will always be my baby.  I sort of wish I could freeze him in time right now.

And Caroline.  My daughter.  Daughter.  Someone spoke that word to me the other day and for some reason it just hit me.  We have a daughter.  Isn’t she lovely?  And she squeals!  High-pitched little girl squeals.  And she talks and smiles and coos.  She also knows how to wear a serious expression.  She is alert as can be and always on the look-out.  With three boys flying through the house who can blame her?  She is sweet and she is spicy.  She is opinionated yet laid back.  She just might be the most relaxed of all our children.  This is something I never would have said four months ago.  Go figure.

The more I write and ramble I realize that it’s difficult to separate my story from the story of my children, or at least the story of their childhood.  My hope is that through all of these photos and ramblings my children will one day look back and see how grateful I was for each one of them.  I hope they see a mom who loved them unconditionally, stumbled right alongside them, prayed over their mistakes, laughed often with them and did her best to hand her mountain of worries over to the Lord.  I hope they see a mom who was far from perfect, but loved them so much.