Saturday, August 19, 2017

Chores, Roaming, Pool, & Screens

Where are all my boring friends at? I see you, I get you. Hopefully, you'll read this post and think, "yeah, it's fun doing nothing special at all, isn't it?" Yes it is. 

Now, that Burl and Fern are full-swing in school, I'm reflecting on our summer. As we open our next chapter, I can't help think about the chapter we finished. The summer break chapter. If you know me in person or through the blog, then you know that I like to schlep my kids all over our area exploring what our region has to offer. Having small children hasn't slowed me down, but ramped up my drive to explore. Anything within an hour's drive is sacred ground. I'll find a trail to walk or a treat to eat anywhere and take my kids there. Until now. 

This summer I put our gear in neutral and coasted. Logistically, I couldn't figure out how to manage four young kids between naps, feedings, abilities, and my own personal sanity. I know that we will be back out there later but this summer was definitely on slow speed. 

I heard someone describe it as a 1980s summer. 
Yes! Perfect! Straight from my own childhood. 

So here were my personal margins:
-paper plates for lunch
-same lunch everyday
-pool time on the reg
-summer of savings (we didn't spend money on our activities, mostly)
-harry potter 2, read then watch
-screens were more than allowed (sh! don't tell all those people doing all those studies on the effect of screens on children)
-roaming the neighborhood (as a family or big kids getting big privileges) 
-no social media (besides some light blogging on my part)
-new card games
-chores (the children learned quickly that complaining about chores earned more chores and they got very good at "yes ma'am") 
-my love of pen to paper was rekindled (journals, letters, notes, and doodles)
-and last but not least: lots of empty time where the kids figured out how to entertain themselves (go ahead and tell the people who do the studies, they love this!)

In many ways, it was the best summer of my life. Besides the dark cloud of Fern starting school, it was good. I got overwhelmed at times at the loud amount of chaos in the walls of my home and frustrated at the amount of toys that littered the floors, but I also held those negative feelings loosely and John and I got very good at laughing at ourselves. We do not say that this time goes by quickly, instead we say that it is a small, short time in our lives. We are good at seeing and knowing that this time of pouring out is a blip of time on the span of our lives. When it gets crazy, we get crazy a little, and most of the time we remind each other of the important work that we're doing. The tiresome, rich work (more rich than tiresome-always!)

We've landed back into our school hustle, and Burl and Fern are really enjoying their school days. While I remember this summer, I'm dreaming about next summer and asking "what else can I shave away? Do we really need a trip to the beach?" I've loved being at home with all four children doing nothing special at all. It's given me the gift of watching them grow on their own terms. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sitting Up Lark

Normally with my big ole babies, sitting up takes longer than most. It's a lot of weight to hold up. We start with a Bumbo, then we move to propping them up on their arms and they're stuck, then there's actual sitting up with heavy supervision. After what seems like a very long process, they can finally sit on their own. 

A few weeks ago we started the process with Lark. During an intense game of cars in the incredible masking tape city I made, we gave it a shot. "Let's see what Lark can do!" Well, despite being the biggest baby in all the land, he nailed it. 

There were a few tips and turns, but for the most part he sat up straight and looked more surprised than the rest of us. 

We snapped pictures. We cheered. We gathered around for a group picture. 

Regrettably, this happened on laundry day when the only thing that was clean was his hilarious camo onesie. Sometimes, though, it's good to remember the home-style (i.e., Fern's bathing suit).

Now, Lark is being propped all over the house to play and watch the madness surrounding him. His eyes dart back and forth, and his cheeks hang like Christmas ornaments from his face. Sitting has given him a new form of cute. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Fern's First Day (And Burl's Loving Welcome)

I probably shouldn't be publishing anything I write while in this emotional state. I'm a mixture of utter gratitude and heartbroken pain, because I feel all the feelings and like to name them one by one. (To name it is to tame it, in words of the counselor.)

First, there's Burl who started second grade this year. His seven year old goofiness is right on time, and he uninhabited enthusiasm is still there, one of my favorite things about him. "I'm so excited to start school again. I'm excited about my new teacher, seeing my new classroom, making new friends, learning cursive, and my new three ring binder." He rattled off this list with the smallest inquiry, "what are you excited about?"

It should be noted that our morning hustle is less hustle and more morning. It's just me getting four children fed, dressed, groomed, and out the door. It takes an hour and I did it without yelling and hardly any reminders. We even had time to read the Bible together! 

Because kindergarten does a gentle phase in, Fern's first day was the second day of school. It was the same routine but I felt completely different. The morning was still filled with excitement that fueled responsibility and kindness. John has been painstakingly teaching them to tie their own shoes because I told them I was going on strike this year. If they can do it themselves, then I need them to do it themselves. They slid into home plate at the last minute, and confidently did it themselves:

A touch of nerves hit Fern when I asked for my required photo shoot. She couldn't give a smile, but was focused on a piece of plant that she plucked for distraction. Whatever it takes, Fern, you're allowed to do this big thing.

When we got to school, I pulled out my mom book of tricks and promised a trip to the bakery after school if they gave me a smiling picture. Deal made. 

I didn't realize how excited (excited, there's that word again) Burl was to have Fern at school with him. He told me about a plan that he's been working on for a few years. He's mentioned it occasionally, but I never picked up on it until it finally unfolded. He said that he talked to his teacher about helping Fern get her lunch on the first day. He arranged all the details, and I heard reports from a few teachers that it was the cutest scene. He took his big brother/school host responsibility serious, and ushered her through the ups and downs of the school lunch line. "Only get chocolate milk, the white milk is disgusting!" Fern also told me that she let her preferences be known, "Burl got me a peanut butter sandwich, but I put it back because I wanted pizza instead." 

They told me about a playground passing as well. When one was going in, one was coming out. When Burl saw Fern, ran to her and picked her up with a giant hug. Their bond is stronger than I realized. 

Because I feel things deeply and with my whole body, I could barely eat all day (a problem I rarely have). Ridge asked me several times where they were and eventually started answering his own question with a sad "kule" for school. We numbed ourselves with snuggles, naps, and Curious George on repeat. 

When we walked up to get them at the end of the day, Fern saw us across the lawn. Her face lit up, she jumped to her feet, and sprinted towards us like a seen from a movie. Reunion was finally home. She ran quickly to me, I knelt down for our embrace, and she ran past me straight to Ridge. They hugged for a long time, holding tight, and the teachers let out a sweet sigh with me. Then, I finally got my hug. We grabbed Burl from his line, interrupting a serious discussion about fidget spinners, and we walked to the car. Fern asked right away, "can I come back tomorrow?" That was the only sign I needed that she had a great day, and I remembered Burl's response to his first day of kindergarten. "Can I live there?"

We went to the bakery, drove home, and I heard so many stories all night! I thanked Fern for telling me about her day, because there's no live webcam for obsessive parents to watch!

I knew she would love it, but my mom-ness still had me worried. Those worries turned into prayers, and those prayers were answered and more so! The Lord proved his constant promise to be with them. (It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31.8)

From here we will move into another new chapter. I will pack the lunches, say our prayers, and walk with Jesus through the tension of change. Jesus loves us, this I know.