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.

Kindergarten Christmas Program

look center, up to the left of the bright blue skirt…see our favorite blondie?

Last week was Charlie’s kindergarten Christmas program and I seriously wish that we had invited every single person that we know.  Leading up to the big night we were a bit nervous.  Charlie is doing so well at school but standing up on a stage, in an auditorium that he’s never even set foot in?  We didn’t know what to expect.

As usual, Charlie set me straight.  Not only did he do the hand motions to all FIVE of the songs, but he was SINGING.  Sure he was a bit off-key.  Yes, sometimes he was a beat or two behind.  But to see him standing proudly and to hear his voice along with all of the other kids in his grade was quite simply the best.

Of course I’m kicking myself for not taking more photos or a video or doing something else to document this moment, but honestly Alex and I were paralyzed in our seats for the entire performance.  Amazed.  Panicked.  Ready to run down to that stage in a flash.  But mostly we couldn’t stop laughing and smiling at the wonder of our little guy.

It probably sounds silly, but that night felt a bit magical.

Who knew it could be so good?

**total side note…for weeks Charlie’s teacher, me, really anyone who has tried to get a photo of Charlie cannot get him to keep his head straight for a photo.  I couldn’t figure it out.  Until I was snapping these photos.  And guess who had her head turned to the side while holding the camera?  Duh.  Mystery solved.  ;)

Kindergarten and turning six.

Friday was a DAY.  Charlie turned six years-old AND started kindergarten.

To think that on this exact day, six years ago our Charlie was born.  And a full six years later, to the DAY, that same little boy would be heading off to kindergarten – mainstream kindergarten – is almost more than I can wrap my brain around.  Had this little bit of the future been revealed to that new mama in the delivery room, she would have never believed it to be true.

Words can’t even begin to express how proud I was to drop Charlie off at his new classroom.  I’m pretty sure Charlie understood the significance of the day too – beyond any of the first day of school hype – he knew.  He has a gift of truly understanding those precious minutes in life that will become forever moments.

Charlie – along with Henry, William and Caroline {we travel in a pack} all subtly {ha!} helped our little kindergartener hang up his backpack and get settled into his seat.  As I leaned down to help him start his work he looked up at me and said, “No.  Bye.” while giving me a half push, half hug.  And so we gathered up our remaining troops and left him to tackle the day.

Charlie you have given us so much to celebrate.

Happy 6th Birthday sweet boy!  We can’t wait to see what this next year holds.

Back to school week

This has been our back to school week.  Yes week.  Henry’s first day was Tuesday.  William’s was on Wednesday.  Charlie goes Friday.  Part of me wants to shout-out, Alleluia!  The other part of me sort of wants to cry.  My boys are so ready to be with their friends and have some structure in their day.  I know that Caroline will appreciate the quieter house.  I’m still gearing up for all of the driving – getting from one drop-off and pick-up to the next.  But don’t get me wrong, we’re ready.

I just know that Henry is going to have the best year.  His teacher is fantastic and he seems ready to plunge into third grade.  William is back at Montessori with his buddies and familiar classroom.  That drop-off was easy.  Charlie is the kiddo with the big milestone year.  Kindergarten.  In a mainstream classroom.  Wow.  In so many ways he seems so ready.  Of course that doesn’t keep me from worrying.  Yesterday we met with his teacher who is amazing.  The classroom was the picture-perfect kindergarten setting and Charlie didn’t hesitate to make himself comfortable, bouncing like a ping-pong ball from one activity to the next.  We also met with the team of people who will help to make his school experience the best it can be.  And while I have lots to say on the whole IEP process, transitioning schools, why we decided to mainstream, etc., you’ll just have to take my word for it – this was a well-thought out process – however I just don’t have the brain-power to write it all out.  But we will discuss.  Later.  I promise.

Henry and Charlie will be at the same school this year.

The good news is that we made it through the summer.  I probably wasn’t the most patient mom.  I’m pretty sure I was in survival mode most of the time.  But we did it.  We had fun.  There were plenty of smiles and adventures and popsicles and swimming.  And we’re all happy and adjusting to life with baby.  That seems pretty good in my opinion.

Charlie

“Charlie’s fun to have in class, but sometimes it’s hard to understand him.”

“Why is it hard to understand him?”

“Because he’s speaks in Spanish.”

This conversation was relayed to me by the mom of one of Charlie’s classmates.

It made me laugh out loud and melted my heart.  He is so loved and understood by his classmates, even if communication is sometimes a struggle.

with his two beloved teachers.

School’s out and boy am I a mess of emotions.  I’m not typically a sentimental person but the end of the school year gets me every single time.

We have big school-related changes on the horizon {kindergarten!} and they all center around our favorite little tow-head, Charlie.  I’m in way over my head so I’ve been doing what I do best; research the heck out of all of the various options and opportunities available.  Then talk incessantly about it.  Worry.  Fret.  Pray.  Dutifully get my ducks in a row for every. single. option. possible.

Writing openly and honestly about Charlie has been a challenge.  Not for the obvious reasons, but because it seems like my words tumble out all backwards.  And as he gets older I’m beginning to walk a finer line of what to share and what is his to keep safe within our family.

This much I do know: Charlie is healthy, happy and thriving.  {Yay!}  We have {finally!} found a speech therapist who has helped Charlie to – get this – speak!  We have continued with weekly hippotherapy lessons.  And while I’m not honestly sure if I’ve seen any speech improvement related to riding, I have seen a little boy who is learning how to ride a horse, trust others, and bond with his pony.  And there is little doubt that this past school year has been a great time of growth for our little guy.

However, what I also see is a little boy who has become very aware of his limitations in comparison to his peers.  I see bonds forming between Henry and William that are different than with Charlie.  On the other hand I see that the overall bonds of brotherhood are stronger than any chromosome count and stand witness as they weave all three boys together in ways that only a mother could dream of.  But the subtle differences are there.  I see them.  The hardest part is that I’ve noticed that Charlie sees them too.

It’s oh so difficult to accept that things will always be harder for Charlie.  And yet I have no doubt that we could all learn a thing or two from our second-born.

I’m clearly in over my head in so many ways but it also feels like a good place to be.

Life can be confusing.  The same sweet little boy that I often worry and fret over is also the same little boy who has taught me the greatest life lessons.  And when it all seems a bit overwhelming – as it often is – all I need to do is pause and watch Charlie in action.  Almost immediately my heart is refreshed and I’m reassured that we can – we are – doing this all together.

Spring Break

We did it!  Spring Break 2013 was a hit.  There was nothing better than having the boys home for a week.  When all was said and done I was pretty bummed to head back into our school routine.  If anything I’m looking forward even more to summer.  And yes, this might be the hormones talking since summer = home all day long with three busy boys + one newborn.

I’m such a homebody at heart.  To me there is nothing better than puttering around the house, digging around the garden, baking something each day and just being with my kiddos.  Allowing our days to be determined not by a schedule, {pick-up! drop-off! practice!} but by our own rhythm.  I also love watching the relationships between each brother grow.  Of course this also comes with our fair share of hurt feelings and disagreements.  Yet sometimes its as if I can actually see the threads of brotherhood actually weaving in and out of each interaction.  I’m certain that this is yet another reason I’m so insistent on always circling the wagons.  Keeping playdates to a minimum and just letting my boys discover their days together – as brothers.

This week we are back at it.  Yesterday I counted and I loaded and unloaded and buckled the kids into the car seven times.  {Truthfully I just buckle William and Henry helps with Charlie but I did herd and coral the kids all SEVEN times.}

Yes, I realize how silly I am.  Always wishing for something else.  Like for my sanity.  One less errand.  Or a sudden burst of energy.  Too much to ask?  Maybe.

Seen and heard.

Henry: “William what’s your name?”

William:  “William”

Henry:  “What’s the color of the sky?”

William:  “Blue”

Henry: “What’s the opposite of down?”

William: “up.”

Henry:  “William…blue…up!”  Add lots of laughter and giggles from the boys. And repeat. And repeat again…

william *did* his hair before school.

______________________________

typical before-bed antics.  love you Alex!

______________________________

“Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish….”

or

“Enie, Meanie, Miny Moe…”

“and you are IT!”

That’s how we now decide who says the prayer before dinner.

______________________________

______________________________

Cousin Anna to Henry:  “It smells like up dog in here.”

Henry:  “What is up dog???”

Loooong pause

“OOHHH, I get it.  What is up dog!”

Five minutes later.  “It smells like up dog in here.”

Repeat endlessly.

______________________________

Ah…life with boys.