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.

What a ride.

We learned a few things during our recent visit to Seattle:

1.  We would have been amazing parents if we’d only had two children.  We would have totally nailed it.  Of course I can say such a tongue in cheek comment from my little corner of the world where I actually have four children and run from fire to fire.  Maybe like most things, we’re doing better than we think.   But to spend a day with just William and Caroline was a real treat and a great reminder to schedule more one on one or two on two-time with our kiddos.

2.  After more blood work our delightful doctor confirmed that there is no indication that William has cancer or any other major blood disorder.  And while some of the pieces of the puzzle still don’t entirely make sense, what we do know is that William is healthy.  Whew.  Amen.  Alleluia.  Praise Jesus.

Of course I don’t mean to sound so casual about it all, but I honestly hadn’t even allowed myself to think such thoughts {though duh, we had an appointment at the Seattle Children’s Cancer and Blood disorder clinic} because quite honestly I might have officially lost it.

We’re still standing. Praise God He doesn’t give up on us.

It’s taken me a while, but I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that my children and all of the little details that make them who they are, aren’t going to necessarily fit the mold that I’d so {foolishly} dreamed and planned for them {me}.  I’m sometimes reluctant to admit that our Creator, the King of the Universe knows so much more than this suburban mother ever could imagine.  Of course He hasn’t missed a single detail when crafting their personalities, dividing cells and designing each fingerprint.

Conversations with William

While driving home after school…

William : “Mom does June have God in her heart?”  {June is our dog.}

Me:  “I think so William, but I’m not entirely sure.”

William:  “Well, I’m sure He is, June’s one of His creations right?”

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The day after Thanksgiving while working with William on some art projects…

{I’m using the term *art* very loosely here.}

Me:  “William, I used the very same craft supplies when I was a little girl.”

William:  “Where was I when you were a little girl?”

long pause to consider…

Me:  “Well I’m not sure William, maybe you were up in heaven with Jesus waiting to be born…”

William:  “In heaven!?  But I wasn’t born yet!  I wasn’t in heaven, I was in your heart mom.”

Of course you were wise little one.

—————

Later reading through a stack of Christmas books…

Me:  William, I read this very same Christmas book when I was a little girl and now I get to read it to you!”

William:  “Oh, so you read this book when I was still in your heart?”

Me:  “Yes, exactly.”  {smug Mommy moment, we have covered so much lately!}

William:  “Right, when I was in your heart.  And I was God.”

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We’ve been going through a series of blood-related tests with William and tomorrow we head over the mountains to Children’s hospital to hopefully find some answers.  There is no visible sign that anything is wrong; only a bunch of numbers on a report that causes doctors concern and leaves me to wonder what we might have missed.

I tell myself that there is no reason for me to worry but this experience is just plain unsettling.  It seems like we’ve spent so much time trying to get to this place of ordinary life, at least our version of ordinary.   And I want to soak up as much of it as I can.  Naturally I’ve done my best to down-play the situation but the truth takes my breath away.  I love this boy with my whole heart which of course is scary and exactly as it should be, all at once.

An afternoon walk.

Today William, Caroline and I went for a walk.  Why the combination of William and Caroline together in the double stroller has never occurred to me either points to extreme sleep deprivation or the fact that I’m just that square when it comes to thinking outside the box.  {Both are probably true.}

We decided to live on the edge and went on an afternoon walk.  Crazy right?  That’s when babies are supposed to be home sleeping and moms do laundry.  It was a beautiful fall day.  The sun was shining, the air was cool and crisp and the falling leaves were putting on a show.

Moments like this are a quiet blessing in the midst of our rather loud and lovely life.  And I know that someday I’ll look back on these days wistfully and I’ll be glad that I wrote about even the littlest details of our life right now.

PS – Note to self.  Pull out the big camera more often.  The photos really are better.

PPS – a shout out to BOB.  Our double Bob has stuck with us through thick and thin for well over six years.  We bought it when Henry was two and Charlie was a newborn.  It has by far been or most used and most essential baby/kid item.

Birthday Number Four

They grow up so quickly…his first shaving kit already!

As if we haven’t had enough milestones lately, William went ahead and turned four.  Four!  However, if you ask our sweet curly-haired boy how old he is he will answer “FIVE!” Every single time.  I’m not sure if it’s because we’ve *celebrated* his birthday multiple times or because he does a pretty good impression of a five year-old.

William. Oh William.  You still rock your curly head of hair and that pip-squeak voice.  You are a charmer for sure.  You have always had plenty of personality and charm.  Quite honestly you are simply a joy to spend time with.  You still exist on air and the occasional serving of applesauce, bananas, cereal, raisins, granola bars or really any sort of snack food.  Real food be darned.  {Unless a hotdog counts?}

You’re funny too.  Last weekend we were out on the boat and Charlie, you and I were on the obnoxiously large inner tube and your Dad was driving the boat in a figure-eight pattern, making sure we were catching plenty of bumps.  As each wave approached I would say something clever like “hold on to your horses!”  The next time we hit the bumps you yelled out “hold on to your giraffes!”  Ha.  Same ride, a few minutes later you looked up at me seriously and asked, “Mom, if this inner tube could talk what do you think it would say?”  “I’m not sure,” I replied.  “I think it would say, ‘Hey, I’m an inner tube!’”  Of course it would William, of course it would.

I don’t know what the shift has been but I’ve never fallen into the pro-grow camp.  I’ve always been the mama who savored each and every baby, toddler and preschool minute.  But lately I’ve discovered a secret – the preschool and elementary years are pretty darn sweet.  And while William is still a couple of years away from elementary status, nor am I wishing time would move any faster than it already is, he just seems like such a big-boy.  Quite frankly I enjoy his company.  I think we are going to have fun together this year – with big brothers at school and little sister napping – ideally we’ll get to spend our afternoons together.

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.

The real deal.

Silly little moments worth remembering because they perfectly capture what makes William our William.  If only I could bottle up his perfect little voice and coy smile too.

———————-

“Mom!  I hurt myself!”

“What happened William?”

Rubbing his eye, “I hurt my eye.”

“Which one?”

Pause.  “I’m not sure if it was my eye winker, or my tiny tinker.”

This might not initially sound funny, but with our of our babies Nana has repeated this sing-song little game with all of our boys.  “Eye winker, tiny tinker, nosey dropper, mouthy eater, chinny chomper…tickle, tickle, tickle, tickle…

———————-

While riding in the stroller.

“Mom, was this the little piggy that went to market?”

“Yes, William.”

“OK, so then this one stayed home…”

———————-

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.