Sunday, November 25, 2012

Birthday Ian

Two years ago, two days before Thanksgiving, in the middle of a blinding snow storm, we welcomed tiny baby Ian into our family.
Ian has been a surprise right from the start. While we knew all along that another baby was meant to join our family, we hadn't planned on that addition coming along quite so soon. In fact, staring at a positive pregnancy test a mere two days before Max went in for skull revision #2 was quite a shock.
Other things I didn't plan on when it came to Ian? Going into labor at 30 weeks, then again at 31 weeks, 6 weeks of "restricted activity" along with the demon drugs terbutaline and nifedipine, and giving birth in a hospital with both pitocin and an epidural on board.

But in the end, when the midwife handed me my baby and we discovered that he was a boy, (another surprise, because I could have sworn right up until the time I was pushing that we were having a girl!) it was if he had always been a part of our family. From the minute we brought him home, we couldn't remember what it was like without him.
Ian has a huge personality trapped in a little tiny toddler body. If there's trouble to be had, Ian will find it. He scales bookshelves, desks, chairs, counters, and kitchen tables like Spiderman, makes messes like it's his job, and has practically no fear. "Get down, Ian!" is a frequently heard motto. This is Ian on the very top shelf of our laundry room...
 One memorable afternoon not long ago, he had a complete meltdown as I was pushing him on the swing in the backyard. Finally, after ten minutes of hysterics, I realized the reason he was so upset was because I wasn't pushing him high enough.

Ian is a complete charmer with his blonde curls and his dimples, and more than once I've been asked if he and Max are twins. When we sat down in church a week ago, one of Max's preschool friends pointed to Max and said, "Look Mom, it's Max!" He then turned to Ian, somewhat confused and said "There's another Max. there's two Maxes!" Ian idolizes Max, wanting to do everything that he's doing, but is just as likely to be found stealing Max's toys or beloved hat and running away, laughing.
Ian has two volumes: loud, and loudest. He has absolutely the loudest scream of any kid I have ever heard anywhere, and definitely knows how to use that scream to get what he wants. He is a bundle of toddler contradictions: heaven help you if you try to assist him in getting dressed in the morning, ("No! Leave me alone! Do it self!") but you're in equal amounts of trouble if you refuse to carry him everywhere he wants to go. I think I spend as much time rocking him in the rocking chair now as I did when he was 8 months old, but the "Love you, Mama" that I often get from him is plenty of reward.  His is filthy more often than not, and I secretly rejoice in the 30 seconds each day right after I brush his teeth and hair, knowing it's like that those are the only 30 seconds that day when he'll be that clean.

At two years old, Ian loves anything that has to do with "Toy Story," loves hot dogs, broccoli, macaroni & cheese, and any sweet thing he can sneak or con someone into giving him. He is very nearly weaned, although he's not super happy about that. Ian is an articulate little chatterbox, who keeps us laughing everyday with his words and his funny, funny expressions. He has to be up on the counter "helping" while I'm cooking, and will frequently try to mimic what he sees me do in the kitchen, which is less than thrilling when it involves him trying to make strawberry jello in a cup on the living room floor. Ian loves to wrestle, to run, to play with "his" phone, to dump shampoo all over the carpet, to watch "Sesame Street," to jump on anything, to drive his sisters crazy, and to snuggle as close to me as possible at nap time.
We doubled up and celebrated his birthday on Thanksgiving with a giant oreo shaped cake, Toy Story figurines, and two foam swords. A happy birthday indeed.

He's such a sweet, charming, hilarious little boy, and I'm so glad he's ours. Surprises and all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

It's the little things

Ten things I am grateful for right this minute:

1~Swimming for FHE? Yes, please. The tired kids that come with it? Even better.

2~A wonderful, successful recital this past weekend. It was the most ambitious group recital I've ever done, and I'm so grateful it's over.

3~The best part of the recital being over? One completely lesson-free week. That means 5 blessed weekdays this week without a 6:30 am lesson. Yes, life is good.

4~Warm socks, a hoodie, and very large blanket.

5~Cold sore medicine.

6~Kneader's pumpkin spice bread brought to me by a sweet violin family.

7~The anticipation of a new novel on my kindle tonight.

8~Text messages. And the friends who have day-long conversations with me via text messaging. (Seriously, what did we ever do when we had to actually pick up the stupid phone...?)

9~My sweet husband sitting next to me, both of us typing away on our respective laptops, keeping each other company.

10~A (mostly) clean house. Or at least the part I can see. Because let's face it, even if my house hosted its own Armagheddon today, I wouldn't be doing anything about it tonight. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Birthday Boy

This handsome little dude is Max.

Max who, four years ago yesterday, was born in my room in a giant tub of water.

This little boy has never met someone he couldn't charm the pants off with his sweet smile and blonde curls. He's hysterically funny, makes us laugh everyday, and has and amazingly kind, tender heart. 

He was so excited about his birthday. Whenever I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he would answer "Presents." Funnier was when I asked him what kind of cake he wanted, and he would answer "With candles to blow out."

In the end, all our little boy needed to be happy was a new "Woody" doll from Toy Story. The other gifts were icing on the cake. He was so excited about his new toys that he tried to get up at 3 am, 4 am, and 5 am  this morning to play with them, and now is as excited for Ian's upcoming birthday as Ian is.

At four years old, Max's favorite toy is any and all Woody dolls from Toy Story. He also loves Cars 2 characters, Veggie Tales, his ratty, torn red hat that he has worn nearly constantly for the past year and a half, and can quote and sing from entire episodes of Sesame Street. He will only eat about three kinds of fruit, and then only if he's in the mood, but will eat an entire can of pineapple if you give it to him. He has two volumes: loud, and louder, and has unbelievable energy from wake up to bedtime. He adores his little blue "Boot Scoot" bike, playing outside, going to preschool, and wrestling with Daddy. He loves his sisters, but his absolute favorite is his sidekick and best buddy, Ian. 

We've learned so much in the past four years during our journey with Max. Can't imagine our family without him, and can't wait to see the person he becomes. Happy birthday, little buddy, we love you!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Boys (A photobomb!)

When we first discovered we were pregnant with Max, we did the traditional boy or girl guessing games, although we both knew all along that he was a boy. By 9 weeks along in the pregnancy, we knew his name was going to be Max, even before we had ultrasound confirmation.

And I was terrified.

Not just because I'd been parenting girls for seven years, and it was all I knew, although that was part of it. Much of my trepidation came from being raised with four crazy brothers, all of whom struggled throughout their growing up years. While their stories aren't necessarily mine to tell, watching my four brothers and their dealings with drugs, alcohol and crime, as well as the grief they put my parents through was enough to make me doubt our ability to raise boys and make them productive members of society.

But now, these boys. They are my heart. I can't imagine what I would do without them.
(And really, how lucky am I to have two adorable little boys with blond curls?)
These boys need each other. They are truly best friends.

Of course they bicker, fight, yell at, slug, and tackle each other with regularity.

But at the same time, they can't stand to be away from each other. Yesterday, while Max was at preschool, Ian must have asked "Where's Max?" 75 times.  (Seeing as he's not even 2, it always comes out as "Mats." We love it.) And the first thing I heard from Max when I picked him up? "Where's my Ian?"
They're also partners in crime. Beware two boys in the bathroom and a closed door. Give them 60 seconds unsupervised in a bathroom and you'll find a filthy sink, a disgusting toilet, and one or more soaking wet shredded rolls of toilet paper strewn all over every surface of the bathroom.
I love their energy, their curiosity, and their compulsive need to climb, jump, and flop all over anything in sight.

I love watching them be super heroes, (Super Max to the rescue!) and seeing their loves for bikes and all things with wheels.

While I'm not certain that I love the heart attacks that Ian and his fearless nature give me on a daily basis, I love seeing his adventurous nature and his thrill at trying new things. 
It also gives us quite a laugh when we see Ian teach his big brother how to get in trouble more efficiently...

I've been choked up more than once watching them truly care for each other- singing to each other, comforting each other, and running to find each other the minute they wake up at ungodly hours.

I can't say that the challenges I'll face with my boys as they grow up don't make me a bit nervous. But I also know that even when they grow up to be stinky, sweaty man-boys, I'll still claim them as my babies.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Home Sweet Home

A few days ago, we signed some papers and officially sold our townhome. We lived there nearly four years- four years of blessings, struggles, laughter, clutter, and all manner of family togetherness. Sometimes way too much family togetherness, especially when it involved all six of crammed in our tiny kitchen. Max was born in a tub of water in my bedroom, we brought a tiny Ian home from the hospital to that house. All six of us lived in 1600 square feet far longer than we wanted to, but when we got word that it had been sold, the process of securing a new place to live was a long, drawn-out process that tested our faith at every turn. There were more than a few times that I worried that God had completely forgotten us, and that we'd end up homeless, broke, or (maybe worse) living in my parents' basement.

Little did we know how blessed we would be. Everything fell into place at just the right time, and this house? It couldn't be more perfect for us. We absolutely love it here. It has everything we need, and many, many of the things on our wish list (although we wouldn't complain at all about central air...) We are nestled right at the foot of the Wasatch Back, and there aren't words for the beauty of these mountains, or the peace and gratitude I feel to be surrounded by them every day.

I love fall. The months of September and October make up for the fact that it usually snows six months out of the year here. And while I'm absolutely dreading the snow flying, there isn't a time I've left the house these past few weeks when I haven't had to stop and just admire how beautiful the changing colors are. I truly believe we live in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

I joked with a friend that it feels like we live in a real-life "Mayberry." I send my children on their bikes to the grocery store when I need rice for dinner, or when a craving for 25-cent donuts hits. Everyone waves at everyone else, we can take a ten minute stroll to "downtown," and my children are routinely distracted during their schoolwork by the squirrels and chipmunks that squabble over the apples off of our apple tree and run along the top of our fence.

I took the boys on a short walk yesterday morning. In the course of four blocks, we saw a squirrel, a couple of roosters, several friendly dogs, a cat or two, and the highlight? Two horses, who were as delighted to see my boys as my boys were to meet them.

Did I mention I love it here?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

School Days

So here's the thing. We've been "schooling" off and on all summer with the girls, much to their chagrin. BUT, today was the first day of school for all the kids in our district. So, if you were wondering, here's what the first day of school looked like for the girls today.

However, my little Max had an official first today: his first day of preschool. He could not have been more excited. (And as a side note, oh my word. Isn't he adorable? He looks like such a handsome little man. I may or may not have teared up a little today when I picked him up and heard him chattering on and on about his day. Anyway, this picture melts my heart!)

As for me, I was pretty excited for the few minutes when Ian was asleep and Max was at preschool when I could focus on the girls and their schoolwork. Ah, the ever elusive balancing act. Maybe I'll figure it out one of these years.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Doula in a former life

Once upon a time, I had just two little girls and immersed myself in all things natural birth. After a wonderful, if somewhat unexpected birth experience with Ashlynn, I was reading birth stories, research, and haunting message boards dealing with natural child birth like my life depended on it. In the back of my mind, while covered in spit-up and buried in the never-ending demands of little ones, I thought it would be fun to be a doula. It was one of those idle fantasies of the "perfect" job- cute, tiny babies, grateful moms, and fabulous natural birth endorphins all around.

A few years later, Tom and  began planning for a homebirth with a much anticipated pregnancy. I hired a midwife that I instantly clicked with, and I was thrilled to be looking forward to creating the perfect birth I had been reading about for years. I miscarried early in the second trimester, and worked through my grief with the help of that wonderful midwife. A few months later, she put out the word that she was looking for doulas to join her team, and I jumped at the chance. I joked about it being my "infertility project," but the truth was, I was thrilled to have the chance to pursue doula training and start attending births and it gave me something constructive to do while we were waiting to add to our family.

I quickly found that although there were many wonderful, joyful moments as a doula, there were just as many moments that pushed us to the limit physically and emotionally. For all the giddy excitement and adrenaline that accompanied a 2am phone call from a mom in labor, there was also the weeks on call waiting for the phone to ring, the 24-36 hour marathon births, the days recovering from sleep deprivation, the not being able to move for two days after giving hours on end of physical support, and the various inevitable grossness that accompanies birth. (Don't ask. Unless you're a doula, you don't want to know!)

During this time, we were pursuing expensive and often humiliating fertility treatments. We had exhausted all the first line, "relatively inexpensive" options, and were ready to be done. It wasn't that we didn't want another baby, but I was increasingly busy with births, considering a midwife apprenticeship, and we didn't have the money or the emotional resources to do more extensive fertility treatments. Of course, the minute I was at peace with that decision, we discovered Max was on his way. Within a few months, we made the decision to downsize and move, and of a necessity, the number of births I was able to attend decreased.

When Max was born, managing him and his litany of medical problems became a full time job. In the meantime, the midwife I was working with moved to New Mexico, and I was immersed in the demands of mothering a medically needy baby. I had two or three doula clients during that time, and while I loved them, it took a real toll on me and my family to be away for long births. The last client I took was due four weeks after Max's second surgery, and her water broke four weeks early, two hours after we got home from the hospital, and one week after we found out that we were very unexpectedly pregnant again. Needless to say, my poor client had to call her back-up, and I decided that it was time for me to put doula work on hold. While I missed it desperately, I knew that with four young children and a bunch of violin students, it was time for me to focus on my family.

Until this week. My dear friend asked me to be a part of the homebirth of her fifth baby, and I was thrilled to again be called at 2am, slip out into the night and race down the canyon. I loved being witness to the strength, courage and grace of my dear friend, the excitement of four older brothers, the tenderness and compassionate care of the midwife, and the love and concern of the husband. I cried like a baby when the little girl was born and placed on the mama's chest.

And it turns out, I really, really miss being a doula. I had forgotten that while violin teaching is my job, (and I do love it) doula work fulfills me in a way nothing else has. I love making a real difference in the lives of the mamas, babies, and families that I serve, being there for the miracle that is a new life. Several times this week, as I've been coming down off the high of attending a beautiful homebirth, I've had to remind myself that there are times and seasons for everything. Right now, I have four children, two of which I'm homeschooling, and two of which I'm trying to keep from killing themselves on a regular basis. (As a sidenote, you know you're a mom of four and have spent some time on the medical merry-go-round when your son falls off his bike, needs stitches, and it ends up being one of those "all in a day's work" moments.) I also have 20 violin students, and a myriad of homemaking responsibilities. There isn't room in my life for doula clients, as much as I would like for there to be.

I know this sounds all very "The Road Less Traveled"-ish, and I really am happy with my choice to mother, teach, and be there for all my people, little and big. I know they need me, and this time of small-ness and neediness won't last forever. I tell myself that someday I'll return to birth work, but I don't know if I actually will or not, and that makes me a bit sad.

So for now, I'll help Ashlynn work the place value problems, keep Ian out of trouble, (or attempt to!), take Max to the clinic to get stitches, and remind Abby to slow down as she practices, cuddle all the tiny babies I come across, and hope that one or two more of my friends decide to ask me to be their doula. And that'll be enough.

Monday, August 6, 2012

If you're wondering...

One box of peaches+one afternoon equals:

7 quarts of bottled peaches,
15 cups of strawberry-peach jam,
1 pan of fruit leather,
1 peach cobbler,
4 kids with bellies stuffed full of fresh peaches,
2 loads of dishes,
1 very trashed kitchen,
1 house hotter than the surface of the sun,


1 very pleased mama.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sweet Success

You know those moments when  you realize that all the work, grief, tears, arguments and money have been worth it?
Abby took a handful of fiddle lessons this summer, we hired a guitarist, and had so much fun at the Wasatch County Talent Competition last night!

She came away with 3rd Prize, $50, and a huge smile on her face.

Way to go, Abby! We're so proud of you!

Monday, July 30, 2012

General Conference, here we come!

It's a bit of a rite of passage when you're a Mormon and you move into a new ward (congregation): the new families always get pegged to speak in sacrament meeting.

I don't mind speaking in church. It doesn't make me terribly nervous, and I enjoy the in-depth study time I get about a gospel topic. And being asked to also play my violin yesterday didn't phase me either.

You know what does phase me? What does make me shake in my boots a bit? When I'm getting my violin out and ready and Ashlynn comes up to me and says "Mom! Mom! Isn't that Elder Holland?"

When I looked up to see Elder Jeffrey R. Holland walking up to the stand, my heart jumped into my throat. I was going to be speaking and playing the violin in sacrament meeting with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve sitting directly behind me.  I don't remember the last time I was nervous to speak or play my violin, but this time, I was more than a little intimidated.

(For those unfamiliar- the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency make up the governing body of the Mormon church. They preside over all the affairs of the church, speak in General Conference, and we sustain them as being prophets of God. Elder Holland also happens to be one of my husband and my favorite speakers to listen to because of his eloquence and the spirit that he brings with him.)

My heart was pounding and my palms were sweating. I wasn't sure if I wanted to laugh because of the absurdity of the situation or bolt out of the meeting before anyone noticed us.

In the end, of course, it all worked out. Going into the meeting, I was pleased with how my talk turned out, my girls wrote fantastic little talks themselves, my husband was prepared, the music was ready, so we just stood up and did it. The girls were pros, I didn't trip going up the stairs to the podium, and my husband was brilliant. (If I do say so myself.)

And when it was all over, Elder and Sister Holland were incredibly warm, complimentary, and gracious. Elder Holland praised the talks and the music, then chuckled as he also said how impressed he was with our kids-wrangling ability. (Ian was rather, um, vocal about his parents being up at the podium speaking.) He joked about how we gave him ideas for his next conference talk, and I have to admit to getting a rather big head when someone told us that Elder Holland was taking notes during my talk. And I would sit down with Sister Holland any day of the week- what a fabulous, loving woman!

Tom and I spent the rest of the day grinning at each other. Church with little ones isn't always easy, memorable, or pleasant. But yesterday was certainly a Sunday to go down in the history books.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A pox on your house!

Chicken pox, that is.

You want an example of how things work in our lives?

Last Wednesday, I was sitting in the backyard with a friend, and we started chatting about vaccines. For many reasons I won't go into here, the girls have been partially vaccinated, and the boys haven't had any. So we were chatting about various vaccines and I told her that we had basically made up our minds that if the girls hadn't had the chicken pox by the time they were twelve, I'd probably just vaccinate them so that they weren't completely miserable when they got it.

The next morning, Abby came into my room. "Mom, I think I have the chicken pox."

Bleary-eyed, I answered, "You don't have the chicken pox, Abby. You didn't have a fever. Chicken pox always starts with a fever." (In my defense, it was first thing in the morning. I could hardly remember my own name, let alone diagnose an illness.) "You have some red bumps, You're probably allergic to something. Here's some benadryl."

Later that day, after rounds of claritin and benadryl didn't help, the spots kept spreading, and I was forced to turn to Dr. Google.

Sure enough, those spots looked suspiciously like chicken pox.

I started laughing. Because what else was I going to do?

Then I called Morgan, to tell her that my children had exposed her children to chicken pox, and beg her to still be my friend even though if her kids contracted chicken pox it would be when she was approximately 38 weeks pregnant. (So far, she's still talking to me. But we haven't passed the 2-week incubation period yet.)

Then I emailed photos to Abby's pediatrician after speaking to them and having them tell me, in no uncertain terms, that they were NOT interested in seeing her in the office.

Sure enough, my family somehow, somewhere managed to contract chicken pox.

Ashlynn started with the spots that night. As far as two cases of chicken pox go, they were both very mild. They took a few baths, itched for a while, and complained about being cooped up in the house without friends.

Now the girls have recovered, and there's no sign of spots on the boys. Which is super weird, because if there's a virus, a bug, a sniffle, they're going to catch it, love it, make it their own. So we're waiting for another set of itchy, red spots on another set of kidlets. 

Figures that since we haven't seen the pediatrician since February that it would be something big, rare and obnoxious.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Recipe for summer fun

Add Friends, the sun, a hose, water and sand,
(make sure to mix the sand thoroughly in your hair for optimal shine...)
Apply the hose liberally to the nether-regions,
Add three cute boys, and three cute plumber butts,
Sprinkle in just a touch more water,
And don't forget to sample the hose water, just to make sure it tastes ok.
Then, after the battle for faucet supremacy is won,
Make sure you get extra, extra dirty,
Then add an ice cream sandwich to finish the perfect afternoon.
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