Friday, July 20, 2012

8 weeks. Like yesterday or like ages ago?

You know how when you are in the thick of a season of life you can't really tell if the minutes are crawling by or if you blinked it would feel like you were right back at the beginning? I often can never express adequately how time feels when I am right smack in the middle of it all.
In many ways it feels like hours ago that I was walking around like an overstuffed penguin hoping to be rid of my extra baggage as the summer heat started to ignite. That last day of pregnancy the boys joined me in the basement for some prenatal exercises in hopes to bring on a baby and sure enough just a few hours later our squats and lunges paid off. I can vividly and painfully remember every single contraction in those short 2 hours before we met our 3rd son and often I still lay on my back in bed wishing I wasn't pregnant so I could roll to my day soon it'll hit me that I am actually not pregnant anymore but after 3 straight years it's just sort of what I know.
So it shocked me when I went to put a date on our calendar for September? How is the peace of the fall season just around the corner already? We LOVE the fall around's our anniversary season, a time when the doors are always open, and Saturday's remind me much of my child hood with the smell of fresh grass wafting through the house while Larry Munson (tear tear) commentates on our families favorite team. I can already feel the calm that the fall usually brings even with three boys running circles through the house. Yet I just bought my first pair of summer sandals and I just cleaned up from our 3 May birthdays??? Why does experiencing life through the eyes of children make time seem to soar by?
But then it also feels like years ago that our sweet baby was waking every 3 hours to eat at night and sadly, I don't even remember those middle of the night feedings and they happen to be some of my most treasured newborn moments. There were weeks in the wee wee beginning that Bradford didn't open his eyes but for a total of 15 minutes all day and now we get to soak up the gummiest, hammiest, goofiest little smiles for about 30 minutes every 3rd hour of the day and he doesn't even care to wake us at night. I remember wondering if he would ever really wake up and then worrying that maybe something was wrong. Many of those first days felt like decades as we waited patiently to get to know our new little baby. I heard a friend say last night to an expecting mother that if anything feels like it's forever with a newborn it's usually only about 7 days. That couldn't be more true. As soon as you think you have figured something out about the new little one - the pattern changes and you can hardly remember what was so exhausting just days before. But - during those hours with a crying baby or a baby that doesn't seem to wake up the minutes seem to just inch by one by one.
Today our baby is 8 weeks old. I guess by most he is still considered a newborn but much of his newborn traits have disappeared. He sleeps and sleeps so well that I catch myself throughout the day thinking "this is too easy....when is the payback coming?" He is pretty predictable but he doesn't get upset if I'm not. I think we have heard him cry 3 times in his 8 weeks and none of the episodes lasted longer than 3 minutes. He is the prize possession in our home. The big boys like to boastfully announce to the whole house or store or restaurant anytime the baby's eyes open or he he so even makes a peep or if he starts to open his mouth for a cry or if he needs milk and so on. The boys don't let him get away with even an ounce of joy or rage without excitedly commentating his every move. After I first feed the baby in the morning we all gather on our bed and watch Bradford as he giggles and smiles like he was sent here on earth to do just that. How can you start a day off in a foul mood after a morning like that? I'll say it again as I've said on here before- there is nothing as sweet as sibling love.
While I am certainly relieved to have those first few weeks behind us I do hope the next 8 weeks do not feel as quick. We do more and more each day that assures me that life does carry on and we all do adjust and in a way - I'm not ready for that. I like the closeness our family feels after a new member has joined. I like being on lock down and having sweet friends bring us meals. I like the calls and emails and pop-in visits and I love the help offered to a family with a newborn. It's like we are all starting over together.....learning to get back out into the world as a team. This week we (meaning me and the three babes) hit the trails for our first run and while I felt so empowered I also mourned that time had moved on and I no longer have any "I just had a baby" pass cards left. We also conquered the post office, the grocery store, Costco, and a preschool visit altogether. 8 weeks ago or even 2 weeks ago I would have bet against me or any crazy mom of 3 doing any of the above. Moms you can relate - most of the fun of mastering these seemingly usual tasks is the kudos you get from most of the rest of the sane world. I'll take the encouragement any way I can get it...even if I get in the car and cry after completing such tasks.
I read an article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about stay at home mom's on the go who are always trying to squeeze a workout in to their day even in the most humorous ways - jogging to the store or doing yoga in a park. The article said that these moms are labeled "crazy happy." How perfectly fitting. I'll take crazy happy any day over many of the labels I would have given myself over the years when things weren't quite as hectic. Bring on the next happily crazy 8 weeks ....though hopefully at a little slower pace.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Match box cars

If a family's wealth and happiness were measured by the number of 3 inch mostly aluminum toy cars that it houses then our family would surely be as happy as clowns even on the worst of days and we'd use dollar bills instead of Costco wet wipes for every house hold need and dirty nose/diaper. There is not a secret nook in this house that does not have a brightly colored car/truck/van/jeep crammed deep inside.

This is surely the mark of a house with boys. Yesterday I went to said Costco to fill up the family car with gas. I open up the gas cap and out falls a yellow race car and one of the boys favorites - an orange conversion van. So I opened up the passenger door to toss the cars inside and I start to clean out the mounds of cheerios/graham crackers/goldfish that have accumulated in oh....the last 3 days...and stuffed deep inside the seat belt whole is yet another favorite - a blue hatch back. Before I finished my fill up I had acquired 9 of the little boogers, many of which were at one lucky day in a cars life - the boys most favorite of them all. Poor, forgotten about matchbox toy.

The oldest boy likes to sit as any oldest child would do and line up his cars in perfect rows along a table or dresser or even the cracks in the hard wood floors. He could do this for hours and he would know quickly if one were missing.

The youngest boy likes to do two things with his cars. First of all - according to the oldest none of the cars are actually the youngest's - they are just being borrowed temporarily. And like any 2nd born - he really doesn't care because his attention span is nothing short of nonexistent. First he uses them as defense and throws them or mischievously pushes the perfect lines of cars off the table just to get a rouse from his oldest brother. Secondly, he transports them to and fro. To and fro where you might ask? Oh, the usual and necessary places - to the bathtub and from the dishwasher. To the small space behind the tv to behind the toilet...where every car toy would like to be. And he likes to use the oddest of vehicles to transport "his" cars....a glass bowl, a plastic bag from the grocery store, a shoe, a helmet...whatever holds things aptly holds his cars and you would think the little one was getting paid in lollipops to take these cars and put them in the most unlikely places.

There is not a purse or bag without two cars deep inside. This comes in handy at a restaurant or the doctor. And there literally isn't a corner, crevice in the couch, basket, drawer, oven, or cabinet that is not home to a matchbox car at any given moment in this home of little boys.

AND I LOVE IT! In my fluctuating hormonal state I started flooding tears when I opened my gas tank yesterday and the two cars toppled to my feet. I love these little boys like I never knew I could and I love watching their personalities come to life even in the way they love/care for/abuse and hide their little cars. I am grateful that we have many many more years to accumulate many many more little cars and I hope when the house is a little more quiet in the years to come that I can always open a drawer for a rag and find a little car taking cover.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Up for air

The only thing I know about serious swimming is the one aqua arobics class I witnessed several years ago when an orthopedist told me my running career of 15 years was over. I pulled out a very unattractive one piece swimsuit and hit the pool with every other senior inside the metro Atlanta area. It was one of the more entertaining hours of my life and I think I was too distraced by the circus in the pool to really understand the countless benefits of exercising under water. I do know, though, that activity done in water is hardly felt by the joints and therefore is extremely kind to your body whether your'e 25 or 75.

When youre in the water - everything feels weighltess.

That's the perfect picture of our lives right now, these 5 B's in a pod, on a Monday in the heat of July.

People often gawk at me when I am in public with 3 humans not yet tall enough to ride the big kid rides and honestly, I welcome it. I just hope that we leave our gawkers with a prettier picture of 3 kids in 3 years than they had imagined! You see, we are a moving circle of chaos right now and I don't say this to just make a joke - this is real life for us right now. At any moment one of us doesn't have a shoe or shoes on and another one of us probably doesn't have on underpants. Usually 2 of us are wearing some sort of breakfast in our hair and to say I don't mind this is an understatement because the smell of syrup smells a whole lot better than a 2 year olds feet after a day of hard play wearing Crocs. Every hour someone has a meltdown and every hour an important item is missing - ie: "bubby" (William's stinky blanket), his glasses, my keys, the baby's pacifier or Brooks' prized toy of the day that he "must" have at all name it, if we need it - it is missing. But really, none of that even phases me when I am this deep in the thick of a young family.

When you are under water, you just dont feel the heaviness of things weighing you down...youre just in it and that's all you know. And this is really the blessing in disguise of having children who will most likely occupy the top three grades of their high school at once. We have never left the toddler or even the baby stage in our last 3+ years enough to know that life beyond diapers and sippy cups and 7pm bedtimes can be a little more freeing....a little less physical work. So when bystanders comment "how do you do it?" often my first thought is "how do I do what?" It's not at all that this (prolonged) season of babyhood doesn't require effort it's just that after awhile you really don't know anything different so your perspective of normal is a little skewed. You just keep kicking and keep pushing the water behind you.

Normal for us is loud car rides and afternoons in the driveway counting rocks passing the time. Normal right now is unfolded heaping piles of laundry and mismatched shoes (I am talking about me here, not the boys!). Normal is a scoop of peanut butter for lunch and a "date night" on the front porch when two of the three kids are asleep just for a change of scenery. Cheers over a big poopoo, and even using the word poopoo are quite usual along with whole days spent in pajamas and doing chores with a "baby on board."
{The sad look was my face after seeing the heaping piles of undone laundry. Sigh...}
Oh, and making a plan to do anything is long gone for now. We literally have to take each day and then look at the waking hours and focus just on what needs to be done that hour - whether it be a meal, a cleaning, a changing, a sleep, or a teaching. What needs to be done this hour? That is what I say to myself throughout the day.

The other reality about being in the thick of it right now is that we just can't even come up for air barely. I don't say that for sympthy, really. It's just our reality and if we choose to focus on our inability to breathe or rest (ie -excotic vacations and long weekends with a book and a cold glass) then we will literally drown but we have to focus on end of the pool and on all of the work that is behind us. I don't wish these days away, I really dont. I look at some of my aunts whom had kids several years before me and I know that many of them would love to squeeze the cheeks of their babbling 2 year old or to sit and snuggle with a newborn. That's not to say they'd go back but you can see it in the eyes of parents in the next stage - there is certainly an innocence and a sweetness that is gone so quickly. So I know that I am to savor each of these moments but honestly, it's a task to try to truly enjoy all the work when youre in the pool, paying the dues. From what I do know about swimming or anything that requires great endurance - you get the best feeling when you look back at what you've done and you think about the distance you have gone.

But here are the little things that bring infinitely more joy than the work that goes into them -
*Overhearing the two big boys as they live their lives together each day and grow closer by the minute. There is nothing on this earth that I have experienced that is more genuine and that fills me with more joy and pride than witnessing these two siblings talk, encourage, giggle and even argue with eachother. So much of it is unrehearsed and unscripted. It is just their little personalities and their innocent views of the world coming to light. And it is absolutely the most fufilling thing I know. It makes each stroke worth it.
*The 30 minutes of absolute silence that happens maybe once a day when all the little people are resting up for an afternoon of chaos. Those quiet minutes are so quiet it is frightening but they are enough to keep me going....atleast until I hear the sweet sound of a green truck pulling in the driveway come late afternoon.
*Hearing your son pray out of the blue for his dad's best friend who just lost his life. I can't type that without turning into a puddle. And I can't wait to see Brooks, William, and Bradford grow into the man that our friend Jay was to everyone he knew. That will make it all worth it.
*Witnessing the fresh smile of a 6 week old who really requires nothing in this world but a little food and alot of sleep. He usually likes to smile for about an hour around 4 am and I actually don't mind it a bit. It gives me enough air to keep going.
*Feeling the weight of a two year olds huge head on your shoulder after a long day. His only request is that we "wock mommy." 5 minutes of rocking your all-boy toddler is enough to get me through to the next special 5 minutes of rocking the next day.
*Seeing the smile on your husband's face as he drives down the drive way to greet all of the people he is responsible for...I know there is also an "Oh my crap, thats alot of people" type of feeling I am sure but I can see the pride beaming from his eyes and it makes it alllll worth it....every last crumb and tear and wet wipe and booger.
*The taste of my sweet tea from McDonalds EVERY SINGLE DAY even after it took 40 minutes to get in the car to get it. WORTH IT!

I am grateful that the Lord gives us the little things to hold onto while we are deep into the minutia of raising children. Being a parent in general is no joke but I know we could have made it a little easier on ourselves having perfectly spaced out our children just as each older one had learned to use the potty. But I also know we would have missed out on this beautiful feeling of utter dependence. I can't imagine being anymore helpless and exhausted than I am right now but oh, what a place to be! I am fully dependent on the Lord's grace to give me the perespective I need to even do this job. I am 110% dependent on Brad of course for his helping hands but mostly for his broad perspective too when I can't see past the hour and the 5th dirty diaper. I do not have what it takes to be this selfless everyday (and every night right now). It's just not in me but I thank God each morning for the little moments He gives me that allow me to know deep down that we are running the race well and one day we will be able to look back at all the work and feel the reward of a job well done.

Here are some tangible "breaths of air" that keep me going: