The New Year.

I just love a the beginning of a new year, to me there is nothing better than a fresh start.  And to be honest, 2013 just about did me in.  Of course there were plenty of highlights – hello Caroline – but the year was not without its challenges.  So for 2014 I’m carefully thinking through all the possibilities this new year might hold for myself and for our entire family.

I have this elusive dream that this year includes calmer days that are loosely planned, with lots of wiggle room.  {It’s ok to laugh but this is my goal, perhaps not my reality.}  Because let’s be honest, this ship {aka our family of six} doesn’t exactly shift gears on a dime.  Plus, I’m a gal who needs lots of margin and white space to function on all cylinders.  {I know, the irony, right?}

While dreaming about this next year words like simple, mundane, calm and peaceful keep floating up to the surface.  Probably not exactly words that describe this stage of life, but they seem to be what my soul is craving.  I’d like my focus to settle on creating a safe haven for our family to rest in the midst of the storms of this life.   Oh and not to be forgotten, there’s the elusive goal of balance.  We’re learning how to balance this very full life.  Life with two kids in elementary school.  A preschooler.  A baby.  It’s a fun and crazy mix that no doubt always keeps us on our toes.

Alex and I have also talked a bit about our big dreams and long-term goals and it’s exciting.  I think we both feel like we’re in such a great place right now as a family and we just can’t stop counting our lucky stars.    We have both big plans and little plans and lots of perspective.  {And while we may have lost a bit of momentum coming out of the new year gate, I have yet to find a rule that says you can’t start fresh on the 15th of January.}

All in all, I think it’s going to be a good one.  So Happy New Year to you.  On January 15th.

Oh and the word that comes to mind most often as I’m looking ahead?  Hopeful.  I’m feeling very hopeful and I can’t think of anything better.

P.S. Thank you Jimmy for snapping these pics.

Advertisements

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.

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.

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?}

Perspective

Leading up to our weekend away I’m certain that had my head not been attached to my body I probably would have forgotten to pack it.  Just days ago all I could see was where things were going wrong.  God seemed far off and while all I wanted to do was feel His peace, I was also wishing He would just cut me some slack already.  It’s sort of embarrassing to admit to such icky feelings now.

Which is probably why the timing was perfect for a getaway to one of my favorite places with some of my favorite gals – my mom, Caroline, and Aunts Maribeth and Kimberly – to help gather some perspective and get my wits about me.

It was such a blessing to just be.  To be taken care of and to be heard.  To listen to others and to offer support and encouragement.  To feel like your head is screwed on just a wee bit tighter.  Of course my mom spoiled us with her hospitality and ability to always have a meal ready and a bottle of wine open.

somebody got new cozy boots…somebody else got a cozy stripy sweatshirt…sue me, we’re predictable.

p.s. Coco you are a dream baby.

And while all of this restorative and life-giving magic was taking place, back on the home front, Super Dad pretty much earned lifetime superhero status.  In between, loving, feeding, and shuttling them to and fro, he took the boys bowling, to the movies, to church and to a friend’s house for a game of apple baseball.  He navigated playdates and handled bedtime like an old pro.  And not only did the boys have an amazing weekend with their super dad, but my hubby who knows me oh so well and gave his wife the welcome home gift of a spotless house, a freshly mowed yard, a garage cleaned out and – for the win – all the laundry was done.  Amazing!

My only complaint* is that now mom is going to seem super lame.

But really, I’m OK with that.

*really I’m not complaining…remember I keep the bar set very low. Free suckers at the bank and the kiddos think I’m a rock-star.  And if I use that sucky, tube-y thing to make a deposit?  Well then I’m just too cool for words.

Anyhow.  Life is good.  Mama’s refreshed and I even have a handful of grainy pictures of me with my baby girl.  How could things get any better than that?

PS – Somehow I don’t have any close-up photos of mom or Kim…perhaps they planned it that way?  No matter I’m sneaky, see that pretty picture up there with two people walking in the distance?  There they are!

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.

It’s almost summer and 37 weeks.

amen.  

We’re getting awfully close to the end.  The end of the school year and the end of this pregnancy.

Both prospects seem a little scary if you ask me.

I’m doing my best to savor each little nuance of this last pregnancy but at the same time I’m done.  I’ve entered into the last stage of pregnancy when all you think about all day long is that you are PREGNANT.  And that you could have a baby TODAY or you could have a baby in WEEKS.  That alone could make anyone crazy, nevermind all the hormones.

I’ll be honest, the last few days I’ve been crabby.  The irony is that physically I’m feeling pretty darn good for a water buffalo, but I’ve lost control of the filter between my brain and mouth.  This is not particularly helpful when we’re trying to insist on some basic rules with the littles.  Rules like no talking back, no tattling, and please, please, treat each other with some respect.  And let’s practice some self-control and patience while we’re at it.  Funny thing is, “do as I say not as I do” training doesn’t seem to work particularly well with little ones.  Ahem.  Yes, I’m taking notes.  Because even mama needs to practice some self-control and patience.

Thursday is our first full day of summer vacation and I’m a little nervous.  I feel like the stakes are higher than usual and that we need to do something big and fun and exciting before baby.  I also have to be careful not to set the bar too high though, because the last thing I need is the kiddos expecting super-mom all summer long.  Because let’s be honest, this summer is going to be all about keeping things simple.  Think lots of popsicles, turning on the backyard sprinklers and filling up the wading pool again and again.  Maybe adding a slip ‘n slide into the mix to shake things up a bit.  And don’t forget everyone’s summertime favorite; lots of quiet time.  Ha.

Meanwhile I’m spending my time both making plans and trying not to make a single plan.  And I debate important things like, should I make *just one more* big trip to Costco to stock up?  What about all those photo albums I was going to finish?  Or maybe I should just sit at home and enjoy this last little bit of quiet?

I know, I know, all of this might seem crazy because yes, we have done this three times already, but the thing is each new baby is life-changing.  Soon we are going to meet a sweet baby girl who is going to steal our hearts.  And I know it will be beautiful and overwhelming and peaceful and chaotic all at once.

Lucky stars.

We had the best, low-key, unplanned weekend.  It was just what we needed as we gear-up for all the busy-ness the end of the school year brings.

Oh, yes and as we prepare for baby.

Even with the grey and rainy weather we had no major meltdowns. We played board games and read books aloud.  We stomped outside in the rain.  I drank a full cup of hot coffee each morning after finishing up breakfast in bed.  For real.  Alex and the boys surprised me by serving breakfast in bed not once, but twice.  Spoiled alert.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune.  Certainly I had planned on lollygagging in bed a little each morning.  You know, giving the kids the freedom to snack on Cheerios and bananas while arguing over which PBS kids vs. Disney Junior cartoon to watch.  That’s what weekend mornings are all about right?  But I think it was the combination of some early contractions and exhaustion, my looming birthday, plus the fact that Charlie has started to boldly pull out frying pans and eggs that made Alex jump out of bed each morning.  Nothing like the fear of early labor or bedrest, coupled with a small child turning on the stove to get the day started.

Don’t be totally fooled by all this low-key talk.  Alex was a champ checking things off of our {my} to-do list.  Things that MUST be completed by the time baby arrives.  Like cleaning out the garage.  Getting the yard in order.  Clearing out over 30 balls from our gutters.  And while I learned the art? skill? of relaxing we still managed to have a pretty social weekend.  We had friends over for dinner and hosted a long-time friend of Alex’s one afternoon.  We celebrated my birthday one evening with my parents, grandparents and brother.  And then we wrapped up the weekend with an impromptu playdate with some dear out-of-town friends.

It was a successful weekend for sure.

Yet even after all of this low-keyness I’ll admit that by Monday afternoon I was exhausted.  So I did what any good mama would do, I fed the kiddos an early dinner {4:30!} loaded them up for a quick ice cream stop, and headed back home for baths and an early bedtime.  As in lights-out by 7pm.  And in my defense, I don’t think I was that far off because we only had one round of “I have to go potty” before everyone was out cold.  But as for getting myself to bed at a decent hour?  Total fail.  Oh well, that’s what coffee is for right?

So much is happening around here.  Sometimes it seems impossible to keep up, but it’s really all so wonderful.  I mean holy smokes, we’re about to have another BABY.  And we have three thriving boys already.  And I’m married to a guy who quite possibly might be the most patient and loving husband around. {I know this because he has to live with me.}

I can’t help but thank my lucky stars.