Solid Gold

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Charlie participated in his first Special Olympics event today.  He is part of the regular kindergarten class at our neighborhood school but spends some time in the contained classroom.  Today our local Special Olympics put on a basketball tournament during the school day for kindergarten – high school aged students.  I pulled Henry out of school and along with William and Caroline we had our own little cheering section.

While I could tell Charlie was a bit overwhelmed by all of the action he did wonderful!  It was so heartwarming to see him interact with his peers and give it his all.

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His moment of glory.  Charlie was passed the ball and knowing the goal of the game – to score obviously – he ran that ball {carrying it of course} down the length of the court and tossed it up somewhat close to the hoop.  You’d have thought he scored the game-winning shot based on his reaction.  Arms raised up, face all smiley and crinkly he raced right into the arms of his teacher.

Charlie.  You, kiddo are the jam to my sandwich.  I love you!

God must have known that we needed a bit of sunshine this week.  This certainly did the trick.

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*Today was all about Charlie but I feel like I need to add a little footnote to myself, to that scared new mama with a baby with a scary diagnosis.  I would have been petrified by an event like today.  I would have most likely burst into tears overwhelmed by all of the kids with special needs.  But today?  Today, this mama’s heart was bursting with pride.  I’ll admit I was shocked but there were no tears today, no overwhelming fears.  Nope.  Instead I was living in the present, soaking up the moment.  Taking in a gym bursting with high school kids cheering the athletes on and all of the teachers, parents and volunteers who made it all happen.  And of course my sweet four kiddos, three in the cheering section and one amazing athlete.

**OK, I guess this would be a footnote to my footnote.  I’ve been debating about making our blog private partly because I don’t post consistently and partly because it’s easy to get weirded out about the whole “our life is on the internet thing.”  But I haven’t.  Because if there is any chance that I can give hope to new family who has received what feels like a scary diagnosis then it’s all worth it.  Put simply, I’d tell them that yes, while it might seem overwhelming, please don’t be scared.  This life is a beautiful and wild ride.  Our family and our love is deep and messy and real, but it is built on the cross.  And honestly, I think that’s better than any sort of vanilla life they are trying to sell us these days.

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On giving thanks.

Gosh I love them.

There is so much to be thankful for, we are abundantly blessed.  Our life is full.  Bursting at the seams.  So much has happened this year {hello baby Caroline!} Sure we have had our fair share of bumps along the road, but God has been by our side through each one.  {I only wish I was better at skipping the drama mama part.}

Life with four kids is a sort of beautiful chaos.  It’s been a challenge for me knowing that even on my best days I’m pretty much just scrambling from one moment to the next.  I’m learning that motherhood is just a constant state of changing from one phase to another.  I still don’t know why this surprises me.  Or why I’m so surprised when things go smoothly or equally shocked when things go south.  This is hardly the calm, quiet, organized version of motherhood I’d imagined.  No, life is messy.  The good kind of messy.

In the middle of it all I find myself praying.  I pray a lot.  Prayers of thanks. Prayers that the baby would only wake-up two or three times a night.  Prayers of praise.  Of frustration.  Prayers asking why.  Asking forgiveness.

I’m also continually giving thanks for patience.  Not always for me, but for a very patient God.  My prayers have also been for God to work a miracle through me, to meet me in my weakest moments.  {And there are many.}  That the Lord would give me the peace, calm and clarity that I so desperately need day in and day out. Because let’s be honest, while being a mother is the best thing I’ve ever done it’s also the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I am so incredibly thankful for Alex for dreaming big in our life together.  For taking risks, for working incredibly hard because let’s be honest, being a husband and father is a big job and thankfully, Alex is one of the hardest workers I know.  He gives so much of his time serving our community, at the office and yet still has energy at the end of the day to play with the kids and help with bedtime. I don’t thank him enough but he certainly is adored around here.

Sometimes I feel like I have so much to write and say but it all gets jumbled up and doesn’t come out right.  I guess it all boils down to this – I’m so very thankful.  Thankful for the love, relationships, challenges, laughter, noise, full house, tears, big hugs, lack of sleep, big smiles.  For all of it.  Because without all of that we wouldn’t have this beautiful and full – very full – and blessed life.

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.

Summer

It’s how we roll.  One bike + one double bob + one single bob + 4 kiddos + 2 parents = one family walk.

Ready for a good laugh?

This afternoon I answered the front door to find a man asking me if my home was a daycare center.  No joke.  He said that he was driving through our neighborhood trying to find the daycare where his he was supposed to pick up his grandson.  Story goes he saw all of the toys out front {pretty much all the contents of our garage} and “I just assumed I was at the right place.”  I’m certain I looked both horrified and confused as I sent him away.  Even better, after closing the door I turned around and saw that I had four kiddos right at my heels. {Henry had a friend over.}  And it goes without saying I was holding the baby.  Poor guy probably thought I was lying.

Let me just say that I am officially in love with this little girl. My heart literally explodes when she smiles.  Sweet Caroline gives us the most incredible grins these days and she has started cooing.  It really is the best.

People ask me all the time how the boys are doing with her.  They love her so much, each in their own way.  Sometimes they get a little over-excited, kissing, hugging, singing, squeezing, talking with their faces two inches away from her face.  Naturally Coco gets a wee bit overwhelmed but there is no doubt that she is loved.

News alert:  This week I left the house three days in a row. {And not just for a trip through the Starbucks drive-thru, does that count as getting out of the house?}

Wednesday, I took the children to the dentist.  I felt like a very responsible mom who was on-top of things for an entire morning.

Yesterday I put on jeans {that button!} and a real shirt. I even put on make-up.  All in the name of getting my hair done.  It was heaven.

Today, my cute new yoga pants and workout top were literally calling my name.  Next came the pony tail.  To be honest I just feel overdressed these days if I’m in anything with a zipper.  {Which I probably tell myself because most of my zippered pants don’t well, zip.}  All this dressing up was done in the name of a trip to Costco.  By myself, with my four children.  {So I guess I wasn’t really by myself…}  And let me tell you I was never so thankful that I was in workout gear, because by the end of our excursion I was sweating more than I do after most workouts.  But the good news is that we have food again.

Whew.  All that to say we are really doing this.  It’s a beautiful miracle really.

I just love this family of ours.  All of the love and smiles and chaos.

There is no doubt about it.  This summer has been good to us.

I honestly can’t believe that school begins next week.  I know that the structure and routine will be a great thing for the boys but I honestly can’t wrap my brain around getting them to school on time.  It sounds next to impossible.

And Charlie starts KINDERGARTEN next week.  And he turns 6!!  Let’s not talk about that yet OK?

PS – It doesn’t feel right to not mention that we have also had our fair share of days when the baby has cried all day, I’m exhausted and our house feels like meltdown central.  To be honest, just this week I feel like I’m beginning to keep my head above water.  The other day another mom and I bonded over our hermit-like tendencies due to our fussy/colicky/reflux-y babies.  It was the best.  Because no one ever talks about their fussy babies.

BUT, the good news is that the kids and Alex are happy, the baby is fussing a little bit less and sleeping and smiling more {alleluia!}  Plus she is pretty darn cute, that helps too.  So I don’t think things could get any better.  And that’s what I’m choosing to remember.

Four

Four weeks.  Four kids.  It’s been a bit of a blur.

A couple of things.

I’d forgotten that we make babies who tend to be a bit fussy the first few weeks {months?} of life.  {tend to be = baby will cry and or scream unless they are sound asleep or attached to the boob.  no exceptions.}  This means that I pretty much nurse all day long and try to parent, discipline and direct the boys from the couch.  Henry is going stir-crazy.  Charlie has taken to running and trying to escape – the house, the yard, etc.  William has become addicted to the iPad.  Parent of the year I am not.

Even with all of the crying and lack of sleep this baby girl has us smitten.  She is so loved.  I’m so thankful that she’s a mama’s girl because I can’t seem to get enough snuggle time, coos, almost smiles and that baby smell is literally intoxicating.

Little boys are loud.  Three little boys are very loud.  Add a fussy baby to the mix and you have one loud house.  Sadly I don’t even notice this until we have guests, of which we have had quite a few lately.  Every single guest seems more than a bit shell-shocked by the end of their visit.

Alex bought a water ski boat when the baby was four {five?} days old.  And while Caroline probably won’t be hitting the water anytime soon Alex has been super-daddy taking all three boys along with friends and family out for multiple boating days.  {And for the record I believe the quote went something like “Mama got a baby and Daddy got a boat.”  Hmmm….

Keeping with his super-hero status Alex packed up all three boys for the weekend and took them to a family wedding in Missoula, MT.  Solo parent of the year award.  Meanwhile Caroline and I enjoyed our first-ever girls weekend.  Minus the sleepless nights it was pretty dreamy.

In an attempt to get the kiddos out of the house {it’s been so hot!} I decided to take the kids to the library for story time.  It’s important to note that not once has a child of mine sat through story time but I was hopeful.  Five minutes and one screaming baby later we left the library with our heads hung in shame.  William put it best, “Why would I want to go and listen to some stranger read me a story when you can just read to me at home?”  Good point buddy.

Charlie

“Charlie’s fun to have in class, but sometimes it’s hard to understand him.”

“Why is it hard to understand him?”

“Because he’s speaks in Spanish.”

This conversation was relayed to me by the mom of one of Charlie’s classmates.

It made me laugh out loud and melted my heart.  He is so loved and understood by his classmates, even if communication is sometimes a struggle.

with his two beloved teachers.

School’s out and boy am I a mess of emotions.  I’m not typically a sentimental person but the end of the school year gets me every single time.

We have big school-related changes on the horizon {kindergarten!} and they all center around our favorite little tow-head, Charlie.  I’m in way over my head so I’ve been doing what I do best; research the heck out of all of the various options and opportunities available.  Then talk incessantly about it.  Worry.  Fret.  Pray.  Dutifully get my ducks in a row for every. single. option. possible.

Writing openly and honestly about Charlie has been a challenge.  Not for the obvious reasons, but because it seems like my words tumble out all backwards.  And as he gets older I’m beginning to walk a finer line of what to share and what is his to keep safe within our family.

This much I do know: Charlie is healthy, happy and thriving.  {Yay!}  We have {finally!} found a speech therapist who has helped Charlie to – get this – speak!  We have continued with weekly hippotherapy lessons.  And while I’m not honestly sure if I’ve seen any speech improvement related to riding, I have seen a little boy who is learning how to ride a horse, trust others, and bond with his pony.  And there is little doubt that this past school year has been a great time of growth for our little guy.

However, what I also see is a little boy who has become very aware of his limitations in comparison to his peers.  I see bonds forming between Henry and William that are different than with Charlie.  On the other hand I see that the overall bonds of brotherhood are stronger than any chromosome count and stand witness as they weave all three boys together in ways that only a mother could dream of.  But the subtle differences are there.  I see them.  The hardest part is that I’ve noticed that Charlie sees them too.

It’s oh so difficult to accept that things will always be harder for Charlie.  And yet I have no doubt that we could all learn a thing or two from our second-born.

I’m clearly in over my head in so many ways but it also feels like a good place to be.

Life can be confusing.  The same sweet little boy that I often worry and fret over is also the same little boy who has taught me the greatest life lessons.  And when it all seems a bit overwhelming – as it often is – all I need to do is pause and watch Charlie in action.  Almost immediately my heart is refreshed and I’m reassured that we can – we are – doing this all together.

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.