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.

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.

Well-rounded.

Last Sunday Henry participated in his first piano recital.  I couldn’t have been more proud or nervous.  Henry told me that he was nervous too, but followed up explaining “but that’s totally normal to be nervous before a performance.”  Of course it is.

There were seven girls participating in the recital and Henry was the only boy.  I don’t think he even noticed.  I love that about him.  He was so proud to “play in the same church that great-grandma played the organ, {for 30+ years!}”

catching…

Only a week or two left and it will be time to wrap-up baseball season.  It probably sounds like bragging {and well, it is} but Henry is a pretty darn good baseball player.  As a 7 year-old for a majority of the season he’s been playing *up*, going against 8, 9 and even 10 year-olds.   And there is no doubt that he has held his own both at-bat and on the field.  He typically plays shortstop or third base, but has also given first base, pitching and catching a go.

He just loves it and I don’t think we could ask for more than that.

For the most part Alex and I are learning to take this whole parenting thing day-by-day.  A couple of weeks ago we were both frustrated and confused, wondering what we were doing wrong.  And then suddenly we’re back on track.  As much as I would love to take credit for all the amazing things my kiddos do, then I would also have to accept that I’ve helped to contribute to their negative traits too.  Yikes.

Sometimes I look way too far into the future and panic.  Are we doing enough?  Are we raising up our boys to become strong, independent individuals who will contribute positively back to society?  Who love the Lord, their family and friends?  Who value and respect themselves and others?  That can all sound so intimidating and impossible.  And yet when I step back and watch my boys in action, taking things day by day – Henry helping Charlie to buckle his seat-belt, three happy boys running around the house doing who-knows-what, holding little hands at the dinner table while saying grace and yes, *one-more kissandahug* – it’s heartbreakingly beautiful to see the amazing people they are and are growing up to be.

Henry

Dear Henry,

Today we celebrate you.  As our first baby it seems fitting that your birthday and mother’s day fall close on the calendar for eight years ago we embarked on this crazy journey together.  I had big dreams and plans about what it would like to be a parent.  To be a mother to you, my first-born son.

Of course it’s completely different.  More often than not though, it’s better than what I dreamed.  We certainly have our moments, but somewhere in the middle we’ve taught each other a lifetime of lessons on extending and receiving grace.

Sometimes I wonder where that perfect mother, the mother who existed only in my dreams, went.   For I am far from perfect.

Sometimes I wonder how you and I can be so completely different and yet so very much the same.

I also never imagined how charming and loving you would be.  It is funny, being the mother of a boy like you, knowing that you operate best moving at full speed, talking always, knowing everything, and yet at same time you are so empathetic, understanding and always wearing your feelings on your sleeve.

It catches me at odd moments, just how amazing I find you to be.  Already, at only eight you are becoming a grown-up kind of handsome.  And yet almost daily I still catch glimpses of the little boy within.  I wish I could freeze those moments in time.

You are a wonder to watch in action.  You are a natural athlete, I’m not sure if you realize this yet.  You are a gifted people person – a social butterfly if you will – but this gift also brings you trouble.  Occasionally your teacher checks in with us, to mention that you are talking out of turn too often {and too loudly}, or that you are having trouble minding your own business.  And yet in the same note she can’t help but mention how delightful you are to have in class.  This is the paradox of you sweet boy.

Somehow you have managed to create a perfect storm for mothering.

You balance strength with weakness.  You are driven and determined and yet you are restless.  You are competitive and you are compassionate.  You are disagreeable, and then pleasing.  You are a mystery and yet I understand you completely.  I feel the same swing as a mother; one moment I’m teetering on the edge of “I’ve got this” and next I’m loosing my mind.

One thing is certain, I love you sweet Henry.  I’m so thankful for you, for all that makes you, you.  Your laughter, the pure joy, zest and wonder that you bring to this life.  I love you.

Happy Birthday sweet boy!  We are so thrilled to celebrate eight year-old YOU.

I want to give a special shout-out to Kristen. She has a way with words, and has served as a blessing and inspiration on raising-up boys.

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.

This boy.

Before the next big thing {little league baseball} takes over, its worth mentioning Henry’s first-ever basketball season.

According to Henry basketball was: “Pretty fun, but I’m not sure if I’ll want to play it again next year.  It does interfere with duck hunting season mom.”  This was especially comical coming on the heels of a game where he scored 20 points and had 10 rebounds.  While only playing two quarters.

{Now, before you think we’re the crazy point-tracking parents, let me clarify, my dad was there.  HE tracks this sort of thing.  This is especially worth noting because if truth be told, Alex and I – while we both played years of basketball – we were more of the bench-warming type.  Apparently twiggy arms and legs can only work so much magic on the court.  So to see their grandson nonchalantly playing and playing well was a real thrill for the grandparents.}

Anyhow, this boy, our Henry loved his basketball season for what it was.  Short and sweet.  We’re slowly getting into this world of extra-curricular activities as we’ve tried to avoid them at all costs.  But alas, it’s time for our kiddos to start testing the waters, to see where their interests and skills take them.

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.

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typical before-bed antics.  love you Alex!

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“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.

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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.

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Ah…life with boys.

Happy New Year!

I realize that I’m about three weeks late with that sentiment but in my defense this is the first {ok, maybe second} *real* week we’ve had back in our usual routine.  The boys school vacation schedules were off so I was in part vacation mode/part real world mode for almost a month.  We {me} forgot more appointments and practices than usual and I probably spent more time in my jammies than I should publicly admit.  But somehow it was just what we needed.

We met the Christmas season moving at a snail’s pace.  And by the time the little ones were out of school if Amazon wasn’t delivering then it probably wasn’t going to be under the tree.  I just don’t take my little ones shopping.  Target and the grocery only if necessary, but other stores are an absolute no.  I can’t make a decent decision for the life of me and they are miserable too.  So we just skip it all together.  This probably also explains why we know our UPS man personally.

Anyhow, Christmas was wonderful.  We left town for a week of skiing and Christmas celebrations.  We have done this for a few years now and love it.  This also allows us multiple early Christmas celebrations with other family members who aren’t travelling with us.  We get to celebrate together but we aren’t rushing around, we actually get to relax and enjoy our time together and the kids have the chance to savor each gift they receive rather than loosing them in the shuffle.

I also realize that with our growing family this might not always work.  Quite honestly while on the road we looked like an episode of Hoarders buried alive, the *on wheels* version.  With three kids, two parents, one uncle, ski stuff for everyone, food, clothes, presents, etc. and yes even a suburban with a rocket box on top and we were drowning.  Oh and our speedometer broke.  But don’t worry, there’s an app for that.  However, there was no app to fix our DVD player.  Which also broke.  Sort of.  It would ONLY play Elf and Home Alone.  Parents of the year we are not.  In our defense it was a 9-hour trip.

We had a blast.  And of course I’m going to share an overload of vacation pictures.

Alex skied two full-days.  I skied two full-days.  Henry skied five.  Go figure.  And yes he has officially passed almost all of us up.  He is fast and prefers the bumps.  Did I mention that he is fast?  It scares me to death.  He was however, also very protective of me on the mountain.  “I don’t want anyone to run into you mom.  You’re pregnant so you need to be very aware of other skiers.  Tell you what, I’ll just ski behind you to make sure you are safe.”  That of course lasted for five seconds, but it was the sentiment that I loved.  This also means that I have no pictures of Henry actually skiing.

Charlie and William also put in some quality time on the ski hill courtesy of the magic carpet.  They both love to be on skis and their giggles as they fly down the hill and even when they eventually fall are the best.

We went bowling.  This was a great family activity for all of our kiddos, even the little guys had a blast.  As for scoring I’m pretty sure William was right behind Alex, and Uncle Jimmy might have come in last.  And yes, we used the bumper guards.

And bless my parents hearts.  They still welcome our loud montely crew.  We take over the entire basement and you can be sure that our stuff spills onto the other levels as well.  No matter, they still feed us and genuinely seem to have a good time with the whole crew under one roof.  {It’s 2012 kids, and Pop-pop is reading the Night Before Christmas via iphone…}  And a special shout out to my brothers.  My boys pretty much think they walk on water.