It’s been too long since I’ve blogged, which is a sure sign that life has been really great lately, or really hard lately, or both at the same time.
It’s been a bit of both, honestly, but I’m typing this with a smile on my face.
I’m giving a little update on each member of our family here and the plan is to catch up a bit on the last six months in the next few posts.
The adjustment to four kids has been a roller coaster, mainly because our newest family member is head-over-heels adorable and captivating in her cuteness… and she spits up a lot, screams a lot, and sleeps less soundly than I’d like. She feels emotions very strongly and can go from giggling to devastated in the time you can blink. Her gorgeous eyelashes are often seen batting at you with tears still clinging to them from the latest cloudburst of despair.
Josie has the best open mouthed expression of excitement/wonder/joy and she enjoys a good snuggle as much as her parents do. In fact, pressing her cheek up against Scott’s cheek is her favorite thing to do. No contest.
Coincidentally, that is also how I feel when Scott gets home from work.
Because I want to remember life on this blog and not just the sweet parts of it, here’s a photo to balance things out. (To my queasy readers, avert your eyes…)
This is what our kitchen looked like while I cooked dinner often:
I was hoping things would improve when Josie started solid food, but alas only a little bit. In happier news, she is a well-behaved nurser, lights up when she sees her siblings, and does pretty well in the car. And happiest of all, she’s ours. 🙂
Side note: I heard a great lecture at homeschooling conference on homeschooling with a baby in tow, and the woman speaking reminded us, “The baby is the lesson.” She said that rather than constantly trying to quiet the baby so learning can happen, we should recognize our older kids are watching the way we love our baby. They see us show continued love to a fussy baby instead of impatience and exasperation and it gives them confidence and security to make mistakes and be themselves, knowing our love doesn’t wear out just because a child is messy or noisy. Children are always a gift, not a nuisance. I haven’t modeled that perfectly for my older kids, but I’ve seen my efforts pay off in their attitude towards Josie and it’s sweet to watch.
Daniel (3 1/2) is every bit as loving as always, quick to give hugs and kisses. He’s a sensitive soul who has learned how to “shoot” and “bang!” everything in sight, despite being in a house full of tutus.
It’s amazing what time and environment can do. It seems like not that long ago I wondered if he’d ever enjoy being read to because he would just wiggle away a few pages into a story. Now he begs for long picture book sessions and can sit for an hour immersed in great stories.
He’s also started learning how to read and is so teachable that it’s a pleasure to snuggle up with him each day to work through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.
I was waiting on reading lessons until I was sure he was ready, but he started trying to read on his own and was so frustrated that he “didn’t know the words,” so I trotted out our book and away we went! He’s on lesson 23 now.
This is Daniel’s recent handiwork:
He and Caitlyn both experience things by reaching out and feeling them. That means plenty of accidents. Cashew ricotta was actually on the ceiling because he “just touched the bowl to see.”
I have a bunch of cute pictures of Daniel helping cook in the kitchen, playing the piano (out of his favorite Thai cookbook – his favorite song is Spicy Beef with Chili Sauce), and other things… but he’s not wearing pants in any of those pictures so they aren’t going on the blog.
I made a “pants all the time” rule when he turned 3 but the photographic evidence seems to indicate I’ve let that slide. I regularly find every pair of pants he owns piled up in the bathroom. Every time he uses the potty is a new chance to race out in his underwear leaving his shackles (er, button-fly) behind. He then dutifully goes to his dresser and gets a new pair out of his drawer when I refuse to feed him the next meal or let him play outside until he puts pants on. But the next full bladder is a get-out-of-the-bathroom-with-no-pants-on card, so the cycle repeats.
He actually asked my friend to draw a picture of him on a bicycle “with pants on” the other day. She lifted her eyebrows at the specificity of the request and he clarified, waving a hand in the air, “but no shirt!” That’s a battle I’m saving until he’s 4. 😉
I did get a picture of this amazing flower Daniel pulled up from our yard and presented me. “It’s to you!” he declared happily.
How did I ever live without this little boy?
I’ll end Daniel’s update with his signature move, the Tackle Snug:
It is so endearing and heartfelt that it makes up for a great many smashed towers and scribbled on art projects.
Caitlyn (5 1/2) continues to collect friends everywhere she goes, from the mailbox to the grocery store. She’s never met a stranger. She had been hovering on the brink of reading chapter books herself having done Pinocchio, Charlotte’s Web, and a few others cover-to-cover but mainly just reading bits and pieces of chapter books – an approach which would drive me batty. Then she discovered the Boxcar Children. She’s plowed through one a day for the last week. I really love this post about helping struggling readers with series books, and it applies to all emerging readers I think.
This picture shows life for her right now:
I remember Mackenzie going through a similar phase at this age. She wants to stretch herself and grow in independence but gets frustrated when we don’t see eye to eye on that process, or when she tries her wings (or bike, in this case) and falls. She feels emotions so strongly that we try to just be a calm presence as she rides out the storm. We also spend a lot of time talking about the word “sassy” and how a better response is to be “sweet.”
Mackenzie (8 1/2) is loving our gymnastics class we’re trying out over the summer, which is great to see from my normally reserved girl. It’s a stretch for her to try new things in front of new people but she has really stepped up to the challenge.
I feel like she has grown up quickly since Josie was born. She’s doing lots more independently and each new thing is bittersweet. I do a fist pump for an independent kid while at the same time harboring a totally impractical desire to freeze time. She’s doing dishes, clipping her own finger nails, no longer in a booster seat, pronouncing fewer and fewer words improperly. This has been one of the sweet parts of having an early reader. She has her own relationship with words on the page and it takes a while to hear a word spoken aloud before she makes the jump. (I’m holding out hope she never learns how to say “variety” and “archived” the right way. Currently they are vigh-air-ity and ar-cheeved. Please don’t tell her differently 😉
I can’t put into words how grateful I am to have an oldest child like Mackenzie. She is a wonderful help with her siblings and they have a close, special bond. She’s old enough to understand plenty of inside jokes and we have so much shared experience together through books and through her excellent memory that we laugh together a lot.
Every child (at least every one of ours) has had some very challenging periods of time but having Mackenzie in an easy phase right now and having a strong relationship with her has really been a life-saver this past year.
I’m writing this on Father’s Day so I’m feeling extra sentimental, but I love parenting with this man. He is a good provider and a good example to our kids. He offers excellent insight when I’ve hit a road block in a relationship or teaching issue and is the best encourager I can imagine.
He’s still singing with Willamette Master Chorus and is taking a trip with them up to Canada for a competition next month. He’s also deep-ending on home design because after keeping our eye on the market here for 3 years while renting, we’re looking at a new build.
This isn’t a high-quality picture but it’s clear enough to tell that’s a high-quality man in it, filling our home with beautiful music and putting the fussy Josie to sleep in the process.
I am living out my dream. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that fact, but it’s always true. Having four great kids and spending each day learning together is magical – and messy because none of us are perfect.
I have hit that post-baby phase when I have (or somehow find) the energy to re-order the things in my life that have been put in survival mode for the past year. I’m finding again that habits and consistency are powerful and needful because life tends towards entropy. It takes constant effort to order my thoughts, my environment, my attitude, my belongings, etc. and I’m on the lookout for efficiencies so I can dig in and do some of the “like to dos” rather than just treading water with the “must dos”.
I’m (slowly) working my way through about a dozen books, still focused on my four goals for this year (running 500 miles, drawing 50 times, and getting to bed before 11 am 5 nights/week… and meal planning consistently). I’m really enjoying planning our homeschool next year. We’ll start in the middle of July and I have lots to square away before then. I’m also pretty immersed in home design with Scott.
It looks like I managed exactly one pretty awful picture of myself in the last six months. Ha! Here it is:
I’d better end this post with a picture of some things I made instead:
I don’t know at what age I stopped doing things I enjoyed simply because I wasn’t particularly good at them, but homeschooling has cured me of that. My 8 year old’s art occasionally now looks better than mine own but that doesn’t diminish my joy in creating it. 🙂