Birthday Weekend.

Our weekend was filled to the brim with family and friends all gathered to celebrate Alex’s birthday.  We’ve sort of been living under a social rock lately, but after four months of colic-induced survival mode there’s nothing like a birthday to force you to fling open the front door and welcome in your dearest family and friends.

Friday evening we had friends over for a fancy dinner of KFC and store-bought ice cream cake.  The kids ran amuck, Coco was super-happy, easy-going baby, and so we opened up a bunch of wine and beer and celebrated that we were all together.  Saturday we had doughnuts and coffee with Alex’s family.  It was super-simple but so lovely to just relax and catch up – no one was rushing about.  Sunday we had a family dinner and I even tried out a few new recipes and baked a birthday cake for my love.

It’s almost like we sort of rediscovered how awesome our life really is and how much fun it is to have people over – even if all you’re serving is a bucket of fried-chicken.

I love our family and our friends.  But I especially love Alex.  He’s the best ever, so a whole weekend of celebrating him felt just right.

Today, the big kids are off to school and Caroline is taking an extra long morning nap.  As I write this I’m looking around our silent house so grateful for this life of mine.  I love to have our house filled to the brim with people we love and equally I love these pockets of peace and quiet.  Really and truly I’m living the life I always dreamt for myself. {Which is sort of funny for a girl who craves order, quiet and neatness, to end up with such a busy house that is filled to the brim with people to love.}

But for more reasons than I can count, I realize that this life is a great blessing, bumps in the road and all.  And I am so thankful for Alex, who so willingly leads our family.

In the midst of all of our celebrating we took a family field trip to one of Alex’s favorite places – his duck hunting club.

There is nothing better than watching Alex with our children.  The boys adore him and I’m pretty sure that Caroline thinks the same.

And now with all that said, I have not one, but TWO leftover birthday cakes as well as a box of doughnuts sitting on the kitchen counter taunting me.

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Halloween

A cowboy who doesn’t like his hat, Uncle Si, a mouse, and a “super-uncle Willy”

“William what are you dressed up as?”

“This.” gesturing to his cape and headband.  “I’m dressed up as this!”

the cutest little mouse you ever did see…

We did it.

It was touch-and-go for a bit.

But we did it.  And we had fun.

The kiddos dressed up for school, I wore my big ‘ol orange wooly sweater {which didn’t seem quite so big this year…} I was able to help out at both Henry and Charlie’s class parties, we visited nana and my grandparents, Alex took the boys trick or treating around our neighborhood and Caroline and I passed out candy at home.  Later, after filling their own pails William and Charlie were thrilled to share their stash with all of our *customers.*  In fact passing out candy at our front door might have been their favorite part.

Don’t quote me, but there might just be something to this whole dressed-up candy-crazed holiday.

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.

Boo.

Pretty sure we nailed Halloween this year.

Oh, and Halloween is still three days away.

Boom.

I’ve never been one to hide that fact that Halloween just isn’t my gig but somehow, someway, we pulled things together at the last-minute.  And by last-minute I mean that we were 30 {45?} minutes late to the pre-school Harvest Festival because we were still trying to figure out who was wearing what.  Henry was all set with his Uncle Si costume.  And since the manly men around our house have been duck hunting long before it was all the rage, we had almost all the key pieces.  Charlie was a cowboy.  Again, we were pretty much set in that department.  William was the wild card.  First he was going to be John McEnroe.  {Possibly the only time I’ve ever tried to put together a real costume.}  Alex nixed the idea – too cold and really would anyone get it?  Next he was going to be a package delivery man.  Then he changed his mind and put on a monkey costume that was at least three sizes too small.  Finally he acquiesced and went as Willy {Willie?}, side-kick to Henry’s Uncle Si.

My total lameness was solidified upon arriving at the event only to realize that I had forgotten to put Caroline in her costume.  Oops.  Honestly it didn’t matter – we were just thrilled that we made it to the party {along with a plus-one} no one was crying and we were almost able to carry on a conversation or two.  A total success in my book.

Total side note.  The last few weeks we have had a running rotation of extra kiddos at our house.  Granted, the kiddos have all been elementary aged, but honestly I’m thinking that four kids is the tipping point.  Five kiddos?  Six?  No problem-o!  And it’s been so much fun!  However, I should also point out that we are all set with four.  It’s OK mom, take a deep breath.

Oh, and a pretty funny story.  William changed his costume about 20-ish times before we left for the Harvest Festival and in the process kept various layers and pieces of each costume on or with him.  Apparently a key part of his “package-man” costume was a stack of envelopes.  Immediately, upon our arrival at his school festival he went to work passing out the envelopes.  Come to find out they were his offering envelopes from church, each with a picture and scripture boldly printed across the front.  Kiddo was preaching it and asking for donations.  We didn’t even realize what he was up to until one {concerned?} mom handed me a card with a burning bush and scripture asked what William was doing.

“Why he’s just trying to add a little Jesus to your pagan holiday ma’am.”  {Don’t worry, I didn’t respond this way, but it would have been pretty funny right?}

Smiley baby.

Someone was all smiles the other day so I dusted off the camera and snapped some photos of our sweet Caroline.

Sometimes she is so serious.

Her “Do you have any idea what you’re doing?” stare.  She makes this face often.

Sometimes she just laughs and smiles when I walk into the room.  My heart melts every single time.

These early months with a new baby are nothing to joke about.

Here’s the truth of it, and probably a little more than you’d like to know about me.  I tend to go through some rough patches during that dreamy {ha} postpartum period.  It’s sooo fun.  Especially for Alex.  And my mom.  Add into the already hormonal mix a colicky baby and voila!  You have one fun mother.

During this particular postpartum ride I’ve felt especially vulnerable.  I simply couldn’t do it all by myself.  And so I had to rely on our amazing circle of family and friends to help shuttle kids to and from activities, bring over a meal, or take the boys for a playdate.  And sometimes at the end of the day instead of basking in the blessing of those helping our family, I felt guilty that I couldn’t pull it all together myself.

Writing this out probably makes me sound ridiculous.

So yes, it was an easy sell, this vulnerability.  And sometimes it all seems magnified because you have completely isolated yourself in your home because your baby cries all the time and you fear taking her anywhere.  {hypothetically of course.}  Which only then magnifies everything even more because you never get out and instead live in your own little bubble of worry and trials.  {again, purely hypothetical…}

And sometimes you just need a swift kick in the {stretchy} pants {and a good night sleep and a smiley baby and a date night} to remind yourself that this life is pretty darn good.

“…always remember that, nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit.  You’d be amazed at how easily and repeatedly you can confuse the two…”

source…oddly this quote struck a chord… ;)

The fair.

It’s tradition.  A pilgrimage of sorts.

Because life’s not crazy enough, last week we took our family of six to the county fair.

But this was the mostly good kind of crazy.  I think.  Which is good because most of the time life feels just crazy. The plain kind.

Ah, the beauty of low expectations.  Don’t ever underestimate them because when you decide to take the kiddos to the county fair and do all sorts of exciting things – Go on rides together! Get an elephant ear!  Stay up past your bedtime! {7:30 pm!} – your children will think you are the coolest parents ever.

On the Scrambler, which growing-up was my favorite fair ride.  Today they call it Haywire, and as I learned, for good reason.  {Somehow we picked up a spare kiddo.}

Only real life photos here folks.

This is how I looked right before I cracked my rib.  Yes, you read that correctly.  While trying to be *cool mom*.

Fair {ha!} warning, this is not the easy-going Scrambler of our childhood.

Don’t worry, that didn’t slow us down.

We persevered, going on fun rides like the “Drop zone” where you literally free fall.  Why yes, of course we took our 8 year-old with us too.  One might wonder if we had temporarily lost our minds?  Perhaps we were making up for the last 12-weeks of colicky induced stress and panic?  Darn it, we were out of the house and we were going to have FUN.

You’ll be relieved to know that I came hold of my senses as it became dark, because really, who wants to be that creepy family with the stroller on the midway at the fair after dark?  Not us.  We’re crazy-responsible.

September

September! How did you fly by so quickly?  School is in full-swing, bringing with it homework, routine and boys who happily settle into bed at the end of the day.  We’ve had a backyard rodeo.  Peaches have been canned, applesauce made and jams frozen.  We’ve enjoyed a handful of low-key but lovely birthday celebrations.  We’ve had many family adventures – days spent boating, an afternoon of fishing with the family, heck each day feels like an adventure.  And not to be forgotten was a visit from Uncle Jimmy.

September has also been a season of major growth and change for our family.  {Though let’s be honest, when haven’t we been going through some sort of *season* around our house?}  We really are doing well.  The boys are all three thriving at school and Caroline has settled into a pretty nice routine herself.  But I’m not going to lie, parenting four kiddos is hard work.  I’ve lost count of the times I’ve looked at Alex like a crazy lady and we’ve both laughed in the midst of all of this chaos we call our life.  I’m so thankful that we have chosen laughter because pouting and keeping score wouldn’t get us anywhere.  It’s all about survival and quite honestly I think we’d be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t at least try to laugh at all of the ridiculous moments each and every day brings with it.

And so we persevere.  We keep thinking of one more adventure, one more outing for our family.  Sometimes so many of these wonderful adventures sound so much better in our head. The baby isn’t screaming, there aren’t any accidents and no one is talking back.  But I am so thankful that we have been and continue to be brave and bold.  And thankfully, I have a feeling the kids have nothing but happy memories, so I guess in the end it’s all worth it.

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.