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.

 

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.

Just because

The six-month milestone is rapidly approaching and while Caroline has mastered the art of sitting in her high-chair we have yet to actually introduce any real food.  I’ve never been excited about starting solids, probably because I’m also not a fan of rushing through any of the baby stages.  But the good news is we are officially smack-dab in the middle of the golden, happy baby stage.

For Pete’s sake.

Oh my goodness.  I guess you could say that this is my first rodeo.  No one ever warned me about how tricky it is dressing and accessorizing a girl.  Clearly I need a little hand-holding.

Baby girl might have been wearing her sweet little hat backwards for over a week.  Oops.  However, during that entire week we received many complements on her darling little cap and her sweet little cheeks stayed nice and warm.  This week a little birdie told me to try rotating the cap, and voila!  It’s like we have a completely new hat to enjoy.

Thankfully Caroline is patient with her dear mama.

P.S.  Caroline is now fascinated with her hands.  She can’t seem to get enough of them – from discovering how to hold toys to flat-out trying to eat them, they are hands-down a wonderful new discovery.

Saturday morning.

A typical fall Saturday morning has Alex and Henry off duck hunting before sunrise while Charlie, William and now Caroline and I enjoy a slow and lazy start to our weekend.  Honestly it is such a relief to not be rushing off anywhere, to sit and sip my coffee and to have the time to make pancakes {pumpkin spice, yum!}  The boys run around happily building forts, pausing to watch a show, move on to art projects, a big bubble bath, you name it.  I putter, bake something, clean the kitchen, start some laundry, and maybe read.  However, my new favorite Saturday morning pastime is taking pictures of baby girl.  After her morning nap she is happy to watch me dance and sing and coo while I snap away on the camera.  Something tells me that I’ll be quite grateful that I’ve captured as many sweet moments as possible during these fleeting baby days.

In all fairness I should point out that during our sweet photo shoot, Charlie and William were having a nerf gun fight while wearing only their underwear.

PS – these pictures are also a sort of love letter and great big hug for my dear friend.

Caroline – four months

 

…kissable cheeks and a well-earned double chin…

…we’re learning how to accessorize…did we even do this headband thing right?…

…she always looks so serious when I bring out the camera, she really does smile…

…reality…

There is certainly something special about that delicious squishy newborn stage but the transition into the happy, smiley baby stage has us all falling madly in love with Caroline again and again.

Sweet Coco is now four months old and oh what a wonder she is.  She is four months full of joy and of strong will.  Baby girl has a rather demanding spirit but serves as a constant blessing to our family.  She keeps us on our toes and has my brain spinning round and round already.  {Though this might possibly be due to a *growth spurt* that has her waking up at least a bazillion times a night.}

I’d forgotten all of the things that one can worry about with a new baby.  Is she eating enough?  Sleeping enough?  Sleeping too much during the day and not enough at night?  Does she get enough interaction?  Too much interaction?  Tummy time!  We forgot about tummy time!  Does her head look flat?  But that new fancy head pillow that is supposed to make her head round makes her ears stick out…debate endlessly about which is worse, ears that stick out or flat head?  Will she be traumatized by the fact that she takes half of her naps in her carseat on the go?  {sigh, perhaps this is why head is flat?}

And then there is the whole feeling that I’m mothering in three different worlds.  One being the world of a mom with kiddos in elementary school.  {good grief, how did they take me seriously with all the spit-up on my shirt during the parent-teacher conferences?  oh and trying to be a cool mom: “what’s mind crafts?”  and what is the etiquette on nursing when your oldest son has friends over?}  Then there is the preschool world.  {hello, preschool world, I’ve been here for almost six years now…} And the newborn world.  {that beautiful fuzzy world where you fall madly in love with your sweet new baby while living in a constant state of survival mode.  i.e. I can now go four + {!} days without washing my hair.}

I’m rambling.  Of course all I really wanted to do was post some cute pictures of Caroline and write down her four-month stats.

10 pounds 4 ounces

23 1/2 inches

She’s still a peanut.  But quite possibly, the cutest little peanut you ever did see.

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.