Monday, June 18, 2012

The little freedoms

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Lauren is just beginning to realize that when she sleeps, life still goes on without her and she really hates that.  The boys and I have developed a game where each afternoon I tell them all that it's going to be nap time... for everyone.  I wink at the boys, and they wink back.  We clean up lunch and the boys run into their rooms, hop under their blankets and pretend to be asleep.  Tiptoeing, I take Lauren to peek into her brother's room and show them to her as they lay there with grins and stiffled giggles, pretending to be asleep.  And she totally buys it. I read her a story, tuck her in, and close the door to her room.   Once the coast is clear the boys jump out of their beds and race downstairs to pack their backpacks with water, snacks, and bandaids, and slip out of the house while their sisters sleep.  I give them my cell phone, reminding them that I'll be checking in on them every 20 minutes and not to talk to strangers or to go into anyone's house. Despite their three year age difference, the two have become inseparable little compadres. Today as I watched them race off down the street towards their afternoon adventure of jumping their bikes on dirt ramps, I realized how nice it was that they had reached this stage of limited independence.

As I walked back inside and caught a powerful whiff coming from upstairs, I was reminded of our morning fiasco.  Lauren had dumped an entire bottle of my new hair serum on the carpet, followed by a bottle of fingernail polish remover on top of it and then rubbed it in... just for good measure.  I caught her just as she was beginning to paint her left leg with bright purple Insta-dry fingernail polish (the kind that dries in 60 seconds).  Nap time couldn't come soon enough for this little monkey.

There are so many little freedoms that disappear with kids.  You often don't even notice they're gone until they reappear after years of absence. Hobbies are forsaken, 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep seem like foggy memories from a former life, even uninterrupted piddle time is a thing of legend.  The past few months we have reached several milestones of recaptured freedom, one of them being quiet afternoons.

Lauren became potty-trained and Calista switched from formula to milk.  I figure that change alone saves us well over $100 per month.

Camden finally learned to scrub bathrooms and do other household chores well.

Luke has learned to shower independently.

Calista phased from 2 naps per day to one.  She has also learned to crawl and entertains herself for hours on end discovering the nooks and crannies around the house visible only to 2 foot elves and small children.

Ahhh... the small things that can bring so much relief.

I joke sometimes that having small children feels like house arrest since we could never go anywhere for the longest time because it seemed like someone was always napping.  While I consider scheduling and organization one of my strengths, it can also become tiresome when the children become so accustomed to it that it becomes hard to break from the routine and be spontaneous.  They become deliriously irrational when naptime is delayed by only an hour and our lives seem to be ruled by potty breaks, naps, and sippy cups.

The road to regaining independence is traveled slowly, one step at a time and victories large and small are celebrated all along the way.  But unfortunately each step on that same road also takes me closer to the day when who once seemed like little balls and chains will fly the coop and all will be quiet.  And then I wonder, what's going to be more painful once I get to the end of the road? The loss of freedom I feel now or the emptiness of the house once they are gone?  I don't need to think about that answer.  I already know and it hurts just thinking about it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Optimism on a dark day

Yesterday I was reading an article in the news about a crime that was so unthinkable and horrific that after reading the graphic details, I suddenly felt light-headed.  I had to sit down and put my head between my knees to stop the ringing in my ears and the spinning of the room around me.  My reaction reminded me of the way I felt after I changed my first ostomy bag after graduating from nursing school.  Even though the crime had happened years ago, it was as if the sun shone a little darker for the rest of the day.  The man convicted of the crime was to be executed this morning.  It's a humbling thing to think that as I write these very words, he is likely meeting his Maker.

Last night I watched a clip about a boy who had lived his whole life feeling rejected by others.  He hid his pain through a terrifying outward appearance which only led to further isolation.  He wasn't good at anything, he said stoically.  And I suddenly I saw my own little boys in him and the tears began to flow.  This wasn't just some creep who made mothers with children in tow cross to the other side of the street as they some him approach, this was someone's son- just as special  to another mother as mine are to me.  He had once played with trucks and squealed over fruit snacks as my boys do now.

A week before that, as Dennis and I drove out with a group of people from our ward to scout out the route we would be taking for an upcoming youth trek, our bishop told us in non-specific terms (keeping everything very anonymous and confidential of course) about some of the tragic things he had witnessed in his few years as serving as a bishop.  My heart sank to the bottom of my stomach as I thought of the darkness and sadness that exists all around me, often behind closed doors as people suffer in silence.  I had to turn my head to keep the tears from coming as I thought of the shattered lives and the heartache of people living in all around me as I sit blissfully ignorant in my posh little life.

As I looked out the window as we drove to the Owyhee's for our trek excursion, I saw the fields coming to life with color as the sun rose in the eastern sky.  I saw the snow-kissed mountain tops in the western horizon and the majestic Snake River winding it's way quietly through the characteristic rimrock mountains of southwest Idaho.  It was breath-taking.   The contrast of what my ears were hearing in our conversation and what my eyes beheld was stark.  This, what I was seeing, was God, not the calamities or the blunders of men.

Gordon B. Hinckley, who is one of my favorite optimists said, "I see so many good people everywhere-- and there's so much good in them.  And the world is good.  Wonderful things are happening in this world.  This is the greatest age in the history of the earth...  We have every reason to be optimistic in this world.  Tragedy is around us, yes.  Problems everywhere, yes...  You can't, you don't build out of pessimism or cynicism.  You look with optimism, work with faith, and things happen."

This past weekend Dennis and I ran the Sawtooth Relay with his brother, two cousins, and one of his aunts.  It was one of my favorite races I have ever done.  It was an all out blizzard most of the time as we trudged through the snow in the 62 miles from Stanley to Ketchum.  As I ran my two legs of the race, I struggled to keep my mind off the discomfort of my body adjusting to the altitude and the soreness in my hips.  I looked up and saw the snow coming down, felt it's wetness on my face, and saw the expanse of the road ahead of me.  This was why I chose to come to Earth- to feel it all from the wonders to the grief and the pain.  I thought of people who would give their right arm to be able to do this even if they had to endure these uncomfortable elements to do it.  After the race was over, we all agreed that part of what made it so memorable was the snow and the wind, and the fact that through it all we really enjoyed ourselves and even wanted to do it again.  Even in the thick of the snow and the freezing temperatures, the comraderie among the racers was still there.  I wish I could tuck away that ability to always enjoy the race amid the storms.

Somewhere between the beauty of the scenes that I beheld in the Owyhees and the Sawtooths and the atrocities of what I had read is where  life unfolds itself.  Yes, heaven is on earth, we just have to open our eyes to know where to find it.  And more often than not, it's right under our noses.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How to boil a frog

I used to look at mothers with their quiver full of kids and wonder how in the world they did it.  After having Luke, I was in dumb-struck awe of anyone who had more than two children.  I have people approach me all the time when I'm at the store and comment while shaking their heads on how full my hands are.  Yesterday at Costco, an older lady said with a wink, "Honey, it looks like you need to have more kids," as she saw me unsuccessfully trying to keep my three little goats corralled around me (the fourth goat is thankfully still small enough to be buckled into the cart).  I'm sure I looked like a really bad circus act parading through town.

Yesterday was one of those days where the thought of my youngest being only a year old and that I have at least 17 more years of this mayhem ahead of me makes me want to sit in a corner rocking back and forth and banging my head against the wall.  
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As a kid, I didn't really enjoy babysitting so I imagined that my home would never be overrun with the sounds of stampeding little feet and my walls covered with greasy little paw prints.  Maybe a couple pitter patters, but nothing more.  But I've decided that the chaos that is added with each kid is like the story I told the kids in Sunday school about the frogs in boiling water.  If you put a frog in cold water and raise the temperature slowly, bit by bit, soon the water will be boiling and the frog will be belly up, never having noticed what was happening.  

I started the day out with a refrigerator void of milk and having to resort to powdered milk for breakfast.  Dang it.  Being married to a farm boy for 11 years, I knew that would never fly.  I was going to have to go to the store with all four littles, something I usually avoid at all costs.  Warning the kids early in the morning of what our plans were for the day, I spent the next hour getting the girls ready, making beds and cleaning up breakfast, and calling out the time we had left before I wanted to be out the door.  As I loaded the girls in the van, Luke sauntered downstairs in his pajama shirt and nothing else... nothing else.  "Luke!  Buddy!  We're leaving!  Go get dressed!  I want to be out the door in about 30 seconds!"

"What?!?  Where are we going?"

Fifteen minutes later we were pulling out of the driveway with a sulking 5 year old in the backseat muttering things under his breath that he's probably lucky I didn't hear.

Bed, Bath and Beyond came first.  In and out in two minutes- that was my plan.  Within 10 steps of entering the store, my plan was already shot to heck.  Camden stood in open-mouth awe at the shelves stacked to the ceiling of gadgets he could use to rubber-band and tape together to make all sorts of weapons of mass destruction.  Within 8 seconds flat, Lauren had discovered the world's most fantastic tea party with $20 plates and $15 teacups, which just so happened to be in the most breakable, expensive part of the entire store... the wedding registry office.  I'm sure the employee that followed us discretely throughout the store watching us had nothing to do with post-destruction clean up he was sure would happen.

Costco was Costco in all it's wonder and glory.  How thankful I am for their large parking spaces, limousine shopping carts, free food samples, wide aisles, and a food court with inexpensive churros and hotdogs.  Surely the CEO of Costco has a quiver full himself (or herself). God bless you.  

...Aaaaand that's how they lure in these mommas and get them to spend $200 each time.  

Then came the doctor's office with Luke and Calista's well-child checks.  I wonder sometimes if the reason so many kids are diagnosed with ADHD is because they were sitting in a stark white doctor's office for an hour before they were diagnosed.  My kids were bouncing off the walls, literally.  And then the pediatrician dropped the real bomb when he told me that the new state regulation was that children stay rear-facing in their car seats until their two years old...   TWO?!?  Are you kidding me?  Are there really that many people in the state legislature that have never had kids? Are they oblivious to the fact that the one year mark is celebrated by parents, largely in part because they get to say good-bye to rear-facing car seats?  As Calista howled and screamed after getting her one year shots, the poor nurse had to navigate through three chimpanzees bouncing around and singing, trying to make their little sister smile.  As deafening and raucous as it was, it warmed my stressed out little heart.

On the drive home as we rocked out to the Sesame Street soundtrack, poor little Calista had several explosive sneezes- the kind that send snot flying everywhere, giving her a nice little gooey web to play with. Camden, the designated snot-cleaner-upper since I was driving, would hand over the snotty tissue holding it by the tips of his fingers with watery eyes and turning his head trying not to gag.  A few minutes later I looked in the rear view mirror and saw Calista's little mouth, chewing on something like a calf with a mouthful of cud. When she flashed me a big gummy grin and I could tell it was something plastic that wasn't supposed to be there. Camden had had it with baby duty and sent Luke up to see what it was.  {insert dry heave} "Gross! She's chewing on her bandaids!"  Sure enough my little lady had picked each of the bloody bandaids from her shots off her chubby little thighs and was blissfully gumming away.

The rest of the afternoon was a mind-numbing blur of folding clothes, keeping thieving little hands out the pantry, tying water balloons, and fighting a pounding headache.  

When Dennis came home, he asked if I wanted him to take the kids to tennis lessons.  No!!!  I'll do it!  An hour of sitting in the van reading a book while the kids took their boundless energy out on a poor, unsuspecting tennis instructor sounded heavenly.  Aaah... to finally sit down, kick my legs up and read a book.  And wouldn't you know it, halfway through their lesson, a freak monsoonish-type storm kicked up, cancelling their class a half hour early.  Back to the trenches to start with the bedtime routine.  

After kids were tucked in bed and the kitchen cleaned up I went around to check on the kids.  Thinking the boys were asleep as I went to turn off Camden's lamp, he turned to look at me and smiled.  

"Did you have a good day?" I asked.

"Yes!  It was an awesome day.  Thanks for everything you do.  You're a great mom," as he wrapped his arms around my neck and held me in a long hug.

And just like that, it all become worthwhile for this little frog.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Birthday letters

Cher (a long-time childhood friend), I hope you don't mind me stealing your idea to write a letter to each of my kids on their birthday!  I loved reading yours to your kids on your blog and decided I need to do the same for mine!  Luke and Calista have birthdays just a week apart so here are theirs together.

Dear Calista,

It is your first birthday and what a year it has been.  I can't help but smile every time I think of you.  If ever there was a cheerful, sweet-spirited baby, it would be you.   People are constantly commenting on your calm disposition and how studiously you examine everything and everyone around you.  When we were at the pediatrician's office, instead of crying as he examined you, you carefully studied his stethoscope, tongue depressor, and hands- slowly and gingerly turning them over, and then smiling shyly and turning away when he caught your eye.

You love to sit contently and watch those around you with a smile on your face as you wiggle your hands and feet.   You rarely fuss or cry so when you do, we all come running to see what the matter is.  I have to keep the baby monitor on at the highest volume when you're napping because the only way I know you've woken up is from tiny little mouse-like squeaks or soft cooing coming from your crib.  When I put you down to sleep, I simply lay you down, give you a kiss, and close the door and I rarely ever hear another peep until it's time to wake up.
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Even though you look different from your siblings, your dad and I can see bits and pieces of each of us in you.  You wrinkle your nose when you smile just like your momma, but your 2nd and 3rd toes on your right foot are webbed just like your daddy.  You have your daddy's eyes and your momma's hearty appetite and stocky build.

You took your time learning how to crawl and even when you do it is done cautiously, stopping often to study the fibers on the carpet or a crumb on the floor.  Your teeth have also taken longer to come in and as they have, your canines have come in just after your two bottom teeth so you look like the cutest little roly-poly vampire I've ever seen.

You don't say much but you love to mimic sounds.  So far the best sounds you do are kissing and roaring.  Sometimes you'll blow me a kiss then wrinkle your nose and roar right after.  My favorite is when you crawl, swinging your head back and forth roaring and laughing.

I will admit that before you were born, I was nervous.  How would I handle another baby and keep my wits about me in the process?  But you came along and brought with you a soothing and calming influence that this stressed out momma needed desperately. 

Sweet little Calista, you have a spirit about you that this world so desperately needs.  It's one of peace and calm and contentment.  It's one of patience and caution, happiness and unconditional love.  I adore you more than this momma has words for.

Happy first birthday.


Dear Luke,

Luke's birthday 005-3You just turned 5.  How did that happen?  It seems like you were just Calista's age and now you're getting ready to start kindergarten.  I've heard people my entire life talking about how time flies but I never really understood it until I had kids of my own.

Sometimes it's a little eerie for me to see how much you remind me of your Uncle Jesse, especially when I see you and Lauren together.  It's almost deja vu as I watch the two of you squabble with the sneaky instigating, the protests of innocence when you're caught, and the smirk of satisfaction when you've reached the ultimate goal: a sibling meltdown. The other night as we were laying in your bed before you went to sleep, I told you that before you were born, we were trying to decide between naming you Luke or Jesse.  How ironic!

But even through it all, YOU- little Mister, have a way of wrapping people around those little mischievous fingers of yours.  Your older brother is starting to get a little bit of a complex with all the attention you get everywhere you go.  You have an ease when it comes to talking to people and striking up conversations.  Usually within minutes, you have them laughing at your silly jokes and comic impressions of others.

You have a heart-melting sweetness with your baby sister and your momma.  You love to draw me pictures and make me crafts.  My favorite thing is to come into my bathroom and see a picture you have carefully drawn and taped up to my wall for me to enjoy. You tell me they are so I'll think of you and know that you love me.

You are also remarkably generous and thoughtful.  There have been several times when you and I have gone on a special outing and I've tried to treat you to something like an ice cream or a new Hot Wheel.  You insist that if you're going to have one, then Camden needs to have one too.  You have even told me you would rather walk away with nothing if Camden can't have one!

You are becoming quite an ingenious little Lego builder and artist as you've used your creativity and what you've learned from your brother.  You love to play outside with the hose and to ride your bike.  You love to cook and are extremely helpful in the kitchen, especially as I make dinner.

One of my favorite things about you is your determination to do what YOU want to do and to make your own choices.  While at times it can certainly make my life challenging as a mother, I admire your determination to be independent and to decide for yourself.  If you foster that quality and use it wisely, it can become one of your greatest strengths as an adult.  I hope you always keep that independent mind (sometimes you may hear me refer to it as unbelievable stubbornness!).

You have a passionate, spitfire personality.  Sometimes that passion comes out in unrequited love for your preschool teacher, or it comes out in the form of a fiery temper.  You feel things deeply on both ends of the spectrum and while that quality can by problematic at times, it is also one of your strongest attributes.

My little Lukester, I love you with all my heart.  I love how you make me laugh, and you sure know how to do it well.  Not a day has gone by since the day you were born that you haven't made me laugh.  Sometimes the laughs come  after a long day when you're in bed and I'm exhausted, but they most certainly come.  You are such a special member of this family and my life wouldn't be complete without you.

Happy fifth birthday.