baby years and Amelie’s 6th birthday

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Where have I been all these days?  Crying my eyes out, that’s where.

Kiri and I came to the end of our breastfeeding journey last week.  We had moved from on demand (demand being the key word here) to three times a day, Daniel style (morning noon and night).  Noon dropped out.  Then Devo started taking her out and distracting her in the mornings.  Then one evening I came home from yoga and they had read Goodnight Gorilla together and he’d tucked her into bed with her baby and her giraffe and she’d gone to sleep.

I was ready, she was ready, it was time.  I was ready to end breastfeeding a 20 month old.

But I wasn’t ready to end the baby years.  And that is what apparently just came to an end.  My inner self knew it before my outer self did.  I’ve gone into mourning, grieving hard over the end of something very beautiful and precious.

I have been creating and nurturing life with my body, in my body, for a little over nine years.  That’s over a quarter of my entire life.  And while, yes, I’m glad to be returning to a place of sanity and productivity and the joys of middle childhood, I am heart broken to leave the baby years.

Pregnancy, baby kicks and squirms, labor and birth, the miraculous first days and weeks, the sweetnesses of babies, plump cheeks, fat legs, cuddles under the blanket, nursing, kisses, every day something new, nurturing, our very own baby.

In many ways I feel very alone in this grief.  I think that is because, while others can empathize and support and understand, these experiences are uniquely mine.  They are physical memories.  These years have rent open my heart, my soul, my mind, and my body.  Oh, there’s nothing like it.

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In other news, we have been celebrating Amelie’s sixth birthday this last week with a small party on Friday.  The theme was an old-fashioned garden party (of sorts).  We ordered umbrellas and fans for the girls.  The boys got plastic top hats and handmade bow ties.  I was hoping to make some new dresses for the girls, but contented myself with dressing up their old ones with bright new sashes.  Levi forsook his bow tie and came as Robin Hood.  Kiri wore one of Amelie’s baby dresses, like a little fairy child.

We had set up a stage curtain (which kept blowing over in the afternoon wind), and the littlest girls performed the most darling plays for us.  I always love being reminded how little Amelie still is, sometimes I forget.

Today was her birth day.  It’s kind of nice, because the kids talk about their birthdays so much and for so long before the actual day, that I become accustomed to thinking of them as the next year older before it actually happens.

So now she is officially six and outfitted with a new ballet ensemble, a selection of books, a big butterfly balloon, and a dozen cream colored roses.

According to family tradition, we watched the video of her birth.  The wild, noisy, fast, intense, hard two hours of labor.  The beauty of a home water birth.  The instant recognition and love.  Her first cry.  (I cried.)

We made spring-themed chocolate lollipops for Easter. (Molds in the shape of the desired traditional bunny are apparently impossible to find in-store during the Easter season.  Next year, order online.)

We also went to buy another butterfly balloon when the first butterfly flew away.  (It’s so nice to be able to easily mend a broken heart.)

We fed ducks with the left-over tea sandwich crusts from the party.

The birthday “cake” was a pumpkin pie.  Amelie whipped the cream all by herself.

This week the kids have started sewing their own designs, using the machine, and we had another sewing session today.  Lia can reach the pedal on her own, but all three are having a blast doing the sewing on their own.  I made a few fabric eggs when the machine was free, stuffed with rice they make enchanting hacky sacks.

We laughed through this “duck-umentary” over supper.  Highly recommend.

Edited to add the link for the duck-umentary, sorry!

this morning

lia breakfast

Today was Mommy-and-Lia breakfast out.  Wednesday mornings, Jamba Juice.  Order anything you want.  Devo and I switch back and forth taking the kids–  one-on-one has to be scheduled in around here.  Next week, Mommy-and-Levi.

Chatter, chatter, our boots match!, with freckles sprinkled across her nose.

We squeezed in a trip to the used book section of the thrift store and added a like-new copy of Ramona the Pest to our permanent collection of favorites.

Back in time for Devo to leave for work, and school to start.  (Showers, breakfast, practicing, all done on time today!)

Kiri is entertaining herself.  Her activity of choice is to push a dining chair to a destination of her choice, climb, and get in to something purposely kept above the high-water line.  I’m keeping up with my exercise by lifting chairs up to the table, getting them down when the school kids need them, realizing the chairs have been abandoned and Kiri has requisitioned one for her own use, then racing around trying to put them all back up before she runs off with another one.

As Levi sounds out words, and Amelie dashes off a page of math problems, and Lia types away.

A lesson on chloroplasts leads to a study of Seurat, pointillism, and the color wheel, painting with dots of color.  And, of course, we have to try it out for ourselves with paint and Q-tips.  (Does anyone actually call them “cotton buds”?  Devo calls them earbuds, but he’s not from around here.)

Lots of roasted broccoli with garlic spaghetti and fresh parmesan for lunch.  With sauteed, salty mushrooms if you’re so inclined.

The kids and I tried out a friend’s soymilk maker to make almond milk.  Generally, we use the vitamix and a bag to strain out the solids.  Neither Devo nor I care for the zen-like process of squeezing the milk out in the midst of the bustling morning routine.  It’s fun for occasionally, exasperating for routine.  I think what we really need is a salad spinner-like apparatus that spins the milk out.

Almond milk for dessert, in fancy glasses and teacups.

An after-lunch, before-rest, clean up session.  I, again, contemplate therapy, seek a release from the daily freak-out (mild today).

Resting time is in full swing for the older three, and the Mama.  Devo works from home and keeps an eye on Kiri.  (A new and blessed commitment this year).  Always an hour rest after lunch.

 

cleanliness, sleep, Downton, and my birthday

:: cleanliness is next to godliness

My computer is looking cleaner after a face wash with a wipee.  It had been bearing splatters from a (failed, nasty) experiment with broccoli soup.  And a random sticky spot that I think might have been honey.  My computer gets around.

:: sleep, or the lack thereof

Kiri is snoring next to me.  She had a fever over the weekend with lots of night wakings, completely blowing our “sleep through the night” routines out of the water.  We have fairly good results with her through the cry it out method…after several very long nights with hours of crying.  But every time something disrupts the routine, we have to start again.

The stick in the proverbial spokes this time around is that she has started a habit of pooping in the middle of the night.  I’d let her sit in it, but she gets terrible diaper rash and hollers out “owwwww!”, poor baby.  How on earth do you teach a baby to stop doing that?

But let’s veer away from that subject because I’m getting perilously close to whining.  Or crying.

:: Downton Abbey

So is anybody watching Downton Abbey?  Apparently nobody in my facebook feed is, because last week came and went without a mention.  Unless everyone was, like me, too traumatized to even mention it.  I’m loving Rachel’s weekly recaps and think she summed up last week just perfectly:

Boo to the ever loving hoo.

Take that, Downton Abbey.

:: birthday

My birthday ended up being a very nice day, in spite of it all.  We went to Indian food buffet for brunch (our new favorite thing to do, beat the crowd!  Don’t have breakfast dishes to wash!)

Then we went and picked up our long awaited, much desired, beloved trampoline.  The dream has come true.  Pictures are coming, if I can convince the kids to keep clothes on despite the broiling (they protest) 75 degree weather.

Devo and I spent the afternoon putting the trampoline together (my arms are like jello today) and the kids jumped until well past sundown and then again after dinner and then again before bed.  They were out there first thing this morning.  This is a good, good investment.

I got to talk to my Grandma, my cousin Emily, my dad Jim, my Mom, and my Mother-in-Law.  A feat which spans the country and the world.  More impressive is the fact that there was enough peace and quiet on this side to actually hold conversations.  A rare treat, indeed.

My sister, Liana, came over to babysit for our scheduled every-other-Sunday date night.  I thought it was a big joke, expecting everyone to sleep for two hours, bwa-HA.  So we bypassed the Cheesecake Factory plans and went down the road to Subway.  Then we parked our van in front of our house and ate our sandwiches and watched Downton Abbey on the laptop.  Romantic and exciting, all at the same time.

Yes, we pay our babysitter so that we can sit in front of our house all by ourselves.

And guess what?  Nobody woke up.

 

Goodnesses

The morning was pretty terrible.  Mostly me.  Well, almost entirely me.  I was wigged out and freaking out and short on sleep and short on patience.  I finally put everyone in the car and we went for a drive so I could cool off and get a grip.  Then we stopped at the store for fruit leather.

I was so tempted to sink into the misery of self-mortification.  So tempted.  But I’ve been working on that, and the practice is starting to pay off.  As we drove around, I started talking out loud, naming the good things of the day.  It’s so easy to list the bad things, the failures.  But today I chose to lift my eyes up to the goodness that is here and now.  When those good moments come, I make an effort to stop for a moment to acknowledge their goodness.

Here are some of today’s good moments.

:: Waking up with a fragrant, kissable, cuddly baby snuggled in my arms.

:: Playing soccer in the morning sun with Levi.  Wet grass, pink slippers, arms full of baby, sturdy boy legs, twinkly boy eyes.

:: Watching Lia concentrate on her first day of subtraction.  (“It’s easier than addition,” she says).

:: Making Amelie’s braided pigtails stick out like Pippi’s and laughing together in the mirror.

:: Hearing Amelie quote long passages from Jungle Jam (recommend!).

:: Being privileged to offer a listening ear and encouragement to a grieving friend I saw at Costco.

:: Enjoying sister time in the car with a chorus of singing children for background music.

:: Sitting on the couch beside my husband in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday for a (very) few quiet minutes.

:: Hearing Levi sing John Rutter’s Star Carol  in his little boy voice.

:: Buying all the kids and myself a piece of fruit leather, just because.

:: Doing some rearranging in the kitchen to make room for the groceries I bought yesterday.  Ironed out a few more of the organizational wrinkles and got stuff labeled and stowed away, feels good.

:: Bags full of pomegranates and fuyu persimmons from a friend who offered me understanding when I feared censure.

:: Reading an evening message from a cousin far away who is also in the baby days (hello temper tantrums).

A few weeks ago, I was looking photos on Posie Gets Cozy.  They’ve finally adopted their long awaited baby girl, and the newborn miracle of it all just struck me in the heart.  Those newborn days are so so precious.

Too think that four times I have had that newborn miracle, lived it.  So blessed.

Before I could get melancholy over bygone days, I realized that just as I had that, the newborn days, I have this.  This with our new home, our homeschooling days, our so grown up almost 8 year old, deliciously five year old, still small three year old, and one I can still call a baby for a few more months.  This is my now.  This now is as miraculous and fleeting as ever those precious first days were.

It bowled me over.  What on earth have I been doing mired in details?  I have this and I have it now.  Take it, enjoy it, be in it.

All the to-dos, must-dos, should-dos scream at me so loudly sometimes, I get unbalanced (off my rocker?).  I get caught, literally stuck, in a whirl of overwhelm and I can’t fight my way out.  My patience is snappy, my kindness comes out with a sharp edge.

A few months ago, I was saved from the tyranny of feeling unhappy by Sylvia Boorstein with this simple idea: The question is not whether you feel happy, the question is are you able to be kind?

I’d like to add to that now.  In order for me to be kind, and patient, and gentle, I have to be happy.  

The truth is that when I’m locked in stress or overwhelm or unbalance, I cannot muscle my way to gentleness.  I cannot maintain patience.  I turn into a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde apparition that mortifies me.

So for all of our sakes, I’ve been asking myself the question, Am I able to be kind?   If the answer is no, I do my best to find a way out of whatever has me all caught up.  What will help me find the space to be kind (to be happy?)?

Sometimes the answer is letting go of the housework.  Looking above the messes so that I can fully engage with the children.

Sometimes the answer is cleaning house.  Putting other things aside so that we can calmly bring order back to our space.

I’ve let go of a lot of things in the past few weeks.  (The to-do list is truly breathtaking.)  At the same time, I have spent more time laughing with my children.  More time listening with my full attention.  More time with a peaceful heart.  More crafts.  More sewing costumes.  More opening pomegranates.  More goofiness.  More soccer.  More singing.  More kindness, more gentleness, more patience.

This is it, this is my now.  I’m counting my good moments.

What good moments did you have today?

 

The Professor Tells It

Is the day done?  <looks around furtively>

OH, please, please, please tell me the day is finished.  That it is now time to patch myself back together again before tomorrow comes.

Duuuuuuude, what a day.

Funnily enough, I had a conversation with one of my college theology and philosophy professors this weekend.  He was a young parent, oh, 50 or 60 years ago, and often reminisces about those days with me.  There must be something about the company I keep that sparks the memory.

I don’t think he enjoyed the early days of parenthood, judging from the general gist of our conversations over the years.  (I think that, as many of his generation, he wasn’t around for much of the joy, so the challenges seemed overbearing).

This week he commented that infanticide really is understandable.

Bwa-HA, did he just say “infanticide”?

When the baby has kept you up for the 18th night in a row.

Or the eighth year. 

And it can be so challenging (insert continued conversation about the trials of babies and toddlers) that…

And he really said this..To me…

…so challenging that Leilani the B*#&h comes out.

He nods sagely.

 

Something to add to my list of favorite professorial quotes.

I was taken aback at the gall he had to verbalize the absolute crazy that comes out when parenting small children.  (Although, not thoughts of infanticide, blessedly.)

Parenting has brought out the very very best in me.  And it has also brought out the worst in me.  Ugliness that I didn’t even know I had the capacity for.

This is something we don’t talk about much, we mothers, we parents.  Maybe we should.

heart garland, epicness, a recipe, and a surprise

:: heart garland

Today I did something entirely frivolous.  I put something pretty on the wall!

Our walls are still mostly (almost completely) bare.  Part of that is indecision on my part, part of it is because I couldn’t find the box with the things I knew where I wanted them to go.  Found the box a week ago, and today I made our lives a little bitty bit prettier.

This is the girls room, by the way.  The beautiful, long desired headboard, the deal-of-the-year comforter.  I love the blue on the wall.  The chair doesn’t actually belong there.  I have my eye on IKEA Hemnes nightstands (but in what color?).  And I’m on an eternal craigslist quest for a wood chest to put all of our dress up clothes in.

The garland is, of course, a pinterest find.

:: epic happenings

On our way to the UCR botanical gardens, we experienced silence in the van for approximately four minutes.  It was epic.

Also epic were the butterflies.  Monarchs, gulf fritillaries, painted ladies, we saw them all.  Up close.  I’ve never been so close to so many butterflies.  A white-haired volunteer came over to the butterfly garden and taught the girls how to pick up monarch caterpillars and why milkweed is called milkweed.  She couldn’t hear much of the knowledge the girls were showering on her, but she whipped out her iphone and showed them photo after photo of butterflies she has seen.

I have now added milkweed and butterfly bush to my list of desired plants for the back garden.  Imagine,  your own butterfly garden!

 

:: homemade grapefruit soda syrup

We have made our own Grapefruit Soda several times recently.  It’s like homemade Fresca.  Even the skeptics in the family love it.

 

:: p.s.

I almost forgot.  Kiri fell prey to an aspiring hair stylist today.  (And we all know that this is just the beginning of the mischief Kiri and Levi are going to get into together).

It’s not tooooo terrible.  She just looks a little shorn, a little bit like something nibbled on her.  I’ll trim it up a tad tomorrow.

Well, now I don’t have to decide whether or not to trim her bangs, Levi did it for me.

 

 

 

Minutiae

:: waxing philosophical for a moment

I believe in minutiae.

Minutiae happens.  Minutiae is important.  Minutiae is revealing.

A lot of minutiae tells a story.

A lot of stories make up a life.

{Has anyone written a “This I Believe” based on minutiae?  I’ll have to google it.}

I’m really starting to embrace the validity and importance of minutiae.  Especially here on this blog.  I think I’ve finally closed the door on the everlasting search for a “message” or a “theme” or a “topic” that successful bloggers are supposed to have.

This blog is about my story and my story is made up of, you guessed it, minutiae.

Maybe I should create a button to pin on my lapel.  (Do I have any clothes with a lapel?)

I LOVE MINUTIAE!

<smile>

:: fussy baby

Kiri has been very fussy.  She has big big lumps on her gums – the molars are coming.  She can be heard squalling most of the time.  (What must the neighbor’s think?)

Her favorite squalling word is “owww-oooooooo!”.

Not because anything is owie.  It’s just a good word for howling when somebody takes your toy.  Or somebody touches you.  Or somebody looks at you.  Or somebody doesn’t look at you.

She kind of sounds like a wolf, “ow-ooooooooo!”.

Poor baby.

:: what a pain in the … head

I’ve had a recurrence of the weird headaches I had last year.  I am entirely unable to think about anything remotely confusing or requiring concentration.  Anything with eye movement (Facebook, triominoes, grocery shopping) makes me motion sick.  It’s so weird to get car sick when reading to the kids, but it makes total sense.  Wiggle, bump.

Anyhow, I’m pretty sure it’s thyroid.  Again.  (The only other time I had this was when I had swung to hyperthyroid).  We’ll find out tomorrow.

Between Kiri and the perpetual headache, I’ve been taking things very very slowly and carefully.  Nothing taxing.  We may or may not get all of our practicing in this week before piano lessons.  C’est la vie.  Or, rather, que sera sera.

:: bug catching

For science today, we kitted out our hiking backpacks with a bunch of loot from our awesome Young Naturalist and Insect Collector Backpacks.  Binoculars, magnifying glass, specimen bags and vials, field notebook, and bug-catching net.

The young naturalists let Mommy have a go at the net.  I dashed about the backyard, swooping the net and stalking winged things.  It was hot and I was barefoot in the wet grass with a sleeping baby on my back and an inquisitive explorer by my side.  We finally caught two insects – we think one is a moth.  Bug catching is harder than it seems, but a ton of fun.  (Thanks, girls, for sharing!  I had so much fun!)

Next up, learn to use the flower press.

Maybe I should start titling these posts by coming up with a sentence that uses the main concepts from each section.  Like “Fussy Baby Catches Philosophical Bug.”  Or “Bug Catches Headache and Philosophical Fussy Baby”.  Or “Philosophical Headache – Bug or Baby?”.  

Then again, maybe not.

 

Teeth Tales

Kiri was unusually, weirdly fussy on Wednesday evening.  It occurred to me that she and I had been separated for a record-breaking length of time that day.  Between dentist appointments and Children’s Choir, we had been apart for about four hours over the course of the day.

She’s 14 months old and I’ve never been gone from her for four hours in a day before.  I like that.

The dentist  appointment was full of intrigue.  The recent coloration at the bottom of my molars is not receding gums or some disease.  (Am I really so hypochondriacal about this stuff?  I confess.)

Apparently it’s staining.

My hygienist assumed I drink coffee or tea.  But I don’t.  So we’re a bit baffled.  Well, she shrugged.  I baffled.

This summer we saw my mom’s cousin who is an orthodontist and he took a look in everyone’s mouth.  He didn’t bat an eye at Levi’s catawampus mouthful of teeth, but was interested in the extra tooth and the possibility of an extra permanent tooth lurking somewhere.

Lia has two permanent teeth growing well behind her teeth line (is that what it’s called?), all in their own little row.  Uncle Randy told me that those teeth need to be out by the time she starts orthodontia next year.  He mentioned having a dentist pull them, being doubtful that they’d come out on their own.

I told Lia about the upcoming orthodontia (“When I’m eight and a half, I get to have braces!”), but I didn’t want to freak her out with the whole “dentist pulling teeth” bit.

was freaked out.

I’ve been encouraging her to wiggle them and get them out, and she’d been working on it occasionally.

So the dentist takes a look in her mouth on Wednesday and says, just says it right there after all my hushed behind the back conversations, that she needs to get those pulled.  He said it several times.

I maintained Mature Mother Facade and looked sideways to see how Lia was taking it.

Lia?  I was worried about Lia?

Oh, that was just some positive incentive to get working on wiggling those teeth.

A chirpy announcement to her father later, “I have to pull these teeth, otherwise the dentist will pull them!  I have to pull them out before I get braces when I’m eight and a half!”

Wiggle, wiggle.  Wiggle, wiggle.  Wiggle.

Two days later, one of them is almost out.

I encouraged her to wait until tomorrow to pull it out.  I didn’t bother mentioning my motive…the Tooth Fairy is tired and the Tooth Fairy’s money-origami-folding Assistant is down the road in her dorm room.

And I learn yet another lesson that things never really go how you expect them to go.  Kudos to Lia for being an adventurous and courageous girl.  You go, girl, no tooth pulling for us!

And just for some fun, a couple of links.

Chai Spice Snickerdoodles.  I haven’t made these, but I’ve mentioned them to about a gazillion people this week.

Roasted Apple Spice Sheet Cake.  I’ve mentioned this recipe to no one, but it has taken up residence in my subconscious.  Maybe it’s the mention of “soft pillows of apple pie-like puddles” that have so enamored me.  I need a reason to make this.  Actually, I need the time to make this.  Soft pillows of apple pie-like puddles are a good enough reason for me.

40 Things To Say Before You Die.  I was apprehensive that this was going to be one of those sappy lists, but I clicked over because Devo is not known to recommend sap.  Loved the little drawings.  I especially like #21 – “You come from a long line of people who convinced others to sleep with them. Remember that.”  Snicker.  You go, ancestors!   Need to practice #19.

Jinx, Need Exercise, the String Bean

:: Jinxed it

Ironically, after last week’s posts on less fear and less mess, I ended the week with a lot of fear (lots of bad news about friends) and gigantic messes (lots of, ahem, mess).

Do you believe in jinxing things?  I think I might.

::Pool closed = bad, very bad

We were unable to swim last week, due to the pool being closed.  It continues to be, as we say around here, stinkin’ hot.

We had lots of bouncing off of walls and lots of small bodies that were just uncontrollable.  We tried our best to be active, but nothing beats two hours in the pool (scheduled for tomorrow, thank goodness).

Levi saved the week by inventing a tumbling course.  He lined up a chair and the two child-sized tables to make a runway to vault over the edge of the couch.  He does an excellent mid-air somersault.  He spent most of the weekend running and jumping, and the girls have been happy to join him.  And we have been happy to have couch cushions cast hither and yon (or piled up and vaulted over).

I think it’s time to put up our in-house swing again.

And get a trampoline.

:: Kiri, aka String Bean

In other news, Kiri is just about 14 months now.  (When do I stop announcing her age by month and just say “one”?  I forget.)  My pet names for her currently are “Funny Buns” (or would I spell it “funnibunz”?) and “String Bean”.  Her little arms remind me so much of Super Grover.

She wants to be down, she wants to be up.  She doesn’t know what she wants, but she’s pretty sure this isn’t it.  She asks, “Up-ah” in the most darling little baby voice.  So politely.

 

 

Ups and downs

Tuesday was the best best day I’ve had at home in a long, long time. Months, maybe. It took me back to the idyllic days of late spring last year when I was in my second trimester with Kiri. An easy, full day.

Summertime, and the living is easy.

We had moved out the excess furniture and stowed away the things cluttering around. I felt that we were in control of the space, it wasn’t the space (and mess) controlling us. Because we had all of our ducks in a row, we were free to play and create and enjoy. It was so so very nice. I stopped a number of times to enjoy it.

Wednesday, on the other hand, was a study in managing frazzled. A clingy, fussy baby. Everything is an emergency when a baby is crying. Compound that with a current trend of eager (and constant) conversationalists, and you’ve got a formula for frazzled.

Some of my current favorite coping techniques are::

Noticing. I just take a moment and notice what I’m hearing, what I’m seeing. What my senses are noticing. Where my body touches the ground or the chair. I don’t judge any of these things as good or bad, but just notice them. It’s a very grounding practice.

Hold on to the good, let go of the bad. I tend to do the opposite these days, holding on to the bad to either do penance or to try to eke out some good. The truth is that I’m holding on to the bad, while the good slips by uncelebrated. Hold on to the good, let go of the bad. It’s a good mantra, cleansing.

I’ve been noticing recently just how full every day is. Every moment has a task, a need, a demand. That doesn’t even include the “should do’s”, it’s just the barest of basics.

Frankly, I’m hoping that this doesn’t continue. In the large scope of things, I need room for a little more breathing, a few “I want to’s”, more small moments between tasks to catch my breath and center myself. Maybe even, eventually, a real break.

Sometimes I get a little scared that it will never balance out again.

Blessedly, the nights are improving. Kiri is sleeping on her own all night until about 5am when she joins me in my bed (ah, sweet snuggles). Levi has been banished to his own room and we have taken a firm line with his nighttime nonsense. He’s responding well. I think he’s slept all through for about 5 of the last 8 days.

Now that I’m getting good sleep…I’m extra tired. That doesn’t baffle me like it did with the first baby. It’s just my body saying that it’s time to catch up on a year’s worth of broken sleep. Whoever said you can’t catch up on sleep is grievously wrong and I pity them with my whole heart.

Finally, I’ve begun a practice of trying to name good things about myself. (More of holding on to the good and letting go of the bad). It was very hard at first (which both surprised me and made it clear that this is an important thing to do), but I’m getting a little better. Case in point, I didn’t have to cogitate for too many minutes to come up with something tonight.

I have an expressive face and utilize it often.

It’s not profound, but it is something good.

Anybody else have a good thing about yourself to share? (And was it easy or hard to come up with?)

house stuff, plus a lot of exclamation points

:: positively amazing

Whew!  What a difference one week has made on my whole outlook on life!  It sounds so cheesy, but the power of positive thinking is just amaaazing.

Oh, I’m a little ship sailing on a sunny sea.

Everything is coming back into focus.

My week of “recalculating” ended with listening/watching this interview with Sylvia Boorstein on NPR’s Being entitled What We Nurture.  I was so moved, so unburdened, so inspired.  Just listening to these two wise women reminded me of so many things I know and brought me new understandings, new tools, new laughter.

Remember how I was asking myself, “Do I feel happy?” and found that to not produce positive results?  Sylvia Boorstein suggests replacing that question with, “Am I able to care?  Am I able to be kind?”  Yes!  Yes!

I enjoyed watching the interview, not just listening to the radio cut.  Definitely worth the time.  Be sure to listen to the question and answer time as well (I think that’s only available as audio).

:: thanks, guys

Thank you, thank you for your comments on my last post.  I’m working my way systematically (okay, higgledy piggledy) through your suggestions and commiserations.  It turns out Kiri is teething.  And I hadn’t realized that maybe some methods that didn’t work with the other three might just work with this one.  {lightbulb moment}

Speaking of Kiri’s teeth, it looks like the teeth that are coming in are her incisors.  So far she just has the two bottom teeth, why would the incisors be coming in now?  Weird.  I hope her two front teeth show up first.

:: house news, the decorating version

Okay, so house news.

We have paint!  On the bedroom walls!  It’s pretty!

I’m second guessing the blue I chose for the dining room.  Eeeee, should I have stuck with white like the living room? Oh, but it seems like every picture on my pinterest board has blue walls.  That’s got to be a sign.

When my house speaks to me, I must listen.  So far, the house has said ::

  • blue dining room walls
  • kitchen nook turned office
  • don’t take down the entire wall between the dining room and the living room, just make a ‘window’.  (This surprised me, I’m all about wide open spaces.)
  • remove upper cupboards between the kitchen and the dining room — effectively cutting the storage by a fourth, but opening the kitchen (and therefore my sense of connectedness to the world around me).
  • a canvas world map in the entryway (ikea!) (will I have enough money to buy it after we do all the things we must do first?)
  • berry bushes along the wall on the right side of the patio

And I’m currently trying to decide if the kitchen really is saying “open cupboards to display pretty legumes and grains” or if it’s saying “resist creating a dust magnet”.

The house has not yet spoken a’tall on matters such as garden design (raised boxes?  side planters?  winding country path?), to keep or remove the fireplace, and what welcome mat to get.  I must attune myself to these matters.  Haha.

I was there the other evening for the first time at night, and it was such a warm, welcoming, cozy little space.  Friendly.

OH!!!!  Guess what!!!???  So the girls have been sleeping on a double mattress/box spring for years now.  Years.  And for months now, months I tell you, I have been searching craigslist for a headboard for it.

Apparently I am picky about headboards because I found only one I truly wanted.  But it was $150 and I couldn’t decide if that was too much or not.  And then I kicked myself when weeks later I decided that I wanted it and it was gone.  Kick, kick.

We were at a friend’s house this weekend and what did they have sitting quietly in their garage waiting to find a new home?  An almost identical bedframe.  They’re bringing it over soon.  *happy tear*

:: house news, the renovation version

We’ve been getting quotes from contractors and flooring people (for the ‘window’ between the living room and the dining room and for new flooring throughout).

The previous tenant stopped by today while Devo was there.  He said they were very happy in this house and loved it (phew! I’m all for good vibes).

He also said that the master bath that looks so new with it’s fancy shower and new tile and the ubiquitous granite sink, etc….leaks so terribly that they moved out when the landlords refused to fix it.

We’re glad we found out now.

And the flooring guy says there’s asbestos tile under the carpet.

We’re glad we found out now.

We’re also glad we got an uncommonly big tax return this year so that we can pay knowledgable and capable people to do what needs to be done.

Hey, guess what?  We’re homeowners!

Tomorrow is a big day for us, we need to finalize decisions and get on with the work.

I’m beginning to suspect that my big plan for moving in room by room and simply putting things away where they belong is not going to pan out.  We might need to do a quick move on May 31, if you know what I mean.  I’m also beginning to suspect that I will be so eager to get moved in that I won’t mind the months it will take me to dig out from the debris of a quick move.

in which…

:: in which I am useless

My prediction about Five Minutes was spot on.

We did get the keys to our new house.  We did buy paint.

(Dear geometry teacher, Why didn’t we just calculate how much paint a house needs, including hallways, in geometry class?  That would have been so useful.  Oh, I never took geometry.  Right.  And this is why my children are playing with pattern blocks and tangrams.)

And over the course of two full days “working” on the new house, I “worked” for approximately 35 minutes.  It took four separate tries to sweep up the smallest room in the house.  And I did a lovely job of priming a two foot section of wall down near the molding.

It was funny.

But at the end of the weekend, I decided that enough was enough and I would return with the children to our regularly scheduled life and get out of the way of progress.

Personally, I think Kiri likes to fuss at the new house because her voice echoes in the empty space.

We love our little house and I’m getting anxious to move in.  We had planned to do X, Y, and Z before moving in, but now I’m getting antsy and wondering what things on that list we can postpone to a “Sunday project”.

:: in which I tell a story

So we brought some friends over to show them our new house.  It was a summery evening.  The kids were playing, the adults were chatting, the babies were enjoying the echoes.

A wail arose from the backyard.

And I said to Marni as we rushed out the back door, “I wonder if we’re going to the hospital.”  (I’m always wondering if we’re going to the hospital when I hear a wail.)

We were.

Levi had been running on the grass when he tripped and his mouth landed on the raised patio.  Chipped front teeth, with one pushed back out of place.

As we left Urgent Care that evening (with only a dose of tylenol and a tetanus shot), I just couldn’t help but be terribly relieved.  We’ve been to the ER in life-threatening situations, and chipped teeth just seem so…comparatively easy.  Like we’ve escaped tragedy once again.  Worthy of a little skip and a jump on the way out.

Poor little fella, all banged up.  But he’s on the mend and I think that tooth is moving forward again, yay.

Thus we have baptized our house.  It is now a home.

And somewhere in the grass are two little pieces of teeth.

:: in which I make a shift

I was mulling over my life recently and the image that came to mind was a ship.  A ship on a stormy sea, being battered and beaten, blown off course, tossed with the waves, deluged.  But the ship still struggles on.  The ship Must. Keep. Moving. Forward. or risk sinking.

I’m tired of being that ship.

In an effort to find some new methods of coping, I would go back to a particularly trying point of the day and see if, hours removed, I could formulate a better way of handling it, a more peaceful and less wild-eyed way of existing in its midst.  But just thinking about said part of the day would raise my hackles and I would find no workable alternatives that didn’t start and end with something that sounded very much like, “failing again, oh yes you are.”

I treated myself to a copy of Jamie Martin’s Mindset for Moms (less than $5 with Mother’s Day coming right up!) and have been working my way through it, using her chapter titles as mantras.

Talk less.

Fake it.

This week, I’ve been working REALLY HARD on my self-talk.  Stopping anything remotely negative in its tracks.  Stopping that annoying and currently useless habit of analyzing stuff (is this good or bad?  do I feel good or bad about this?  oh no! I feel bad!  why do I feel bad?  what can I do to feel good?…it hasn’t been helping at all).

Instead I’ve been visualizing another ship.  (What’s with the ships?)

This ship is also moving forward towards a destination.  But it’s sunny, and the sky is blue, and the sea is wide and calm, and the breeze is light.  And the ship is smiling.  (Because, obviously, I’m supposed to be the ship.  And I like to smile.)

This ship on it’s open sea has been enormously helpful to me.  When in the midst of what I would previously experience as that Stormy Ship, I think about that other ship on it’s sunny sea.  I like that ship.

:: in which I seek advice or commiseration

Bedtime around these parts is 7ish.  Everyone is asleep by 8 usually.  And then between bedtime and about 11:30, Levi and Kiri play tag.

First Kiri wakes up (she’s up right now, as a matter of fact) and I nurse her back to sleep.

Then Levi wakes up and either wants water, his diaper changed, or goes non-verbal and just cries and cries.

Get him back to sleep and pretty soon Kiri wakes up.

And so on and so forth.

I suspect that Levi is generally overtired on these nights.  He has recently gotten rid of naps (and if he has even a short one, he won’t fall asleep until about 9 and wake up the next day even more tired).

Kiri, though, I don’t know why she does this.  After about 11, she wakes up her ‘normal’ amount – every two or so hours.

But during the evenings I only have segments of about 20 to 45 minutes when everyone is sleeping at the same time.  And they’re pushing it so late I’m losing sleep and am getting really tired.  More than usual.

Dish up, friends.  Advice or commiseration desired.

Snot, Kiri, and the Garden

:: I got to yoga today and discovered that I had a smear of baby snot on my shoulder. Or maybe it was drool. (Two teeth coming right up!) I was reminded again that pink is the best color for hiding snot. Not black.

It wasn’t too noticeable (no boogers, thank goodness) and it brought a smile to my face.
I love my life and today I’m extra mindful, extra grateful that I get to spend my days doing something I love.

:: Kiri has a wonderful life. There are so so many benefits to being the fourth baby. We say that she is the most loved baby…because she has the most people to love her. That baby girl is just showered with love.

Someone creeps in to our room every morning to see if Kiri is awake yet. The three older kids sit on the bed and pass her around, so everyone gets some of the early morning smiles. On the rare morning that they get distracted with activities in the living room, Kiri looks around, and I imagine she’s a bit puzzled.

She’s always going adventuring. Someone will come and get her and carry her off for some sort of frolic. When they’re tired, they bring her back.

I’ll often find her perched somewhere next to a little girl and a pile of dolls. Or snuggled up with Lia and a book. Or being loved on by Levi. When she’s in the walker Levi can take her places, too. He likes that.

They turn to Kiri in times of disappointment or tears. She’s better than a stuffed animal when in need of a little comfort.

She’s such a bright, warm, calm little being. We look at each other several times a day and I nod in agreement, It’s a wonderful life.

:: So the backyard is a disaster. Neglected. Forlorn. Ugly. Morning glory vines taking over everything. The creeping fig vine had half fallen off of the back wall due to an unfortunate incident with the clipping shears (six months ago). Undernourished roses. It’s pretty bad. And embarrassing.

But, see, we’ve been house hunting for almost four years now, always intending to move soon. So I haven’t been able to justify putting a bunch of money into a garden we will up and abandon. I just can’t bring myself to do it. I. Just. Can’t.

I think I’ve finally come up with a solution that will help me to break out of this state of utter garden dejection and paralyzation.

We are going to weedwhack a great deal of the garden down to the ground (leaving up only beloved and flourishing perennials). Rake the soil to expose the roots of the weeds so that they will die. Let the next batch of weeds start up then rake the bejeebees out of them, too.

Then we are going to buy a $13 packet of seeds (butterfly habitat!) and sow liberally. All over. No planning, nothing.

If I decide later in the year to plant tomatoes (but what if we are going to move? says the voice), I’ll just dig up whatever already grew. So there. POA stated.

Now I just need to buy the string thingy for the weedwhacker because we used the last bit of it today and we’ve barely gotten started. Courage, Leilani!

Enormous

Each of these weeks transitioning into our new life has brought it’s own gladnesses and challenges.  Each equally strong in its goodness and its challenge.

Every day, every week, we add one more thing back into the mix and we are almost at full capacity.

This week’s big add was school, homeschool, with the added pressure of learning the ropes of charter school documentation.  Three hours in the morning, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

And it went very well, with lots of exercise in maintaining a calm center.  (Pat hiccupping baby, take Levi to his crib for timeout for the sixth time since starting the math lesson, nurse hiccuping baby, remove Levi from crib…plus, you know, math, handwriting, science).  Next week will be better, simply by virtue that it won’t be new anymore.

But as for me, my inner dialogue, what this week brought was a new, dawning, growing awareness of the enormity of the tasks I have taken on.  And not just the sheer volume of tasks, but the far reaching magnitude of many of those tasks.  Think (and multiply by four): character development; inspiring, enhancing, and supporting love of learning; developing healthy relationships, etc. etc.

H.o.l.y. C.o.w.

Might I say, in a small voice, it’s alot.

Or maybe I should say in a small voice, I didn’t realize how much it is.

Really, I didn’t.  This week gave me the gift of realizing and acknowledging, for a moment, all that I am responsible for.

But I think I will ditch the small voice for full, deep breaths, and maybe a courageous roar.  Or a full-throated song.

After all, I know that very soon enormous will turn into normal.

I tweak the schedule and tweak it again.  Soon it will cease to be a schedule and will suddenly be a rhythm.  Soon.