December 15, 2012

Dear Jack

Dear Jack,

Both your dad and I dropped you off at school yesterday morning.  We had anniversary plans to go Christmas shopping for the day and your brother and sister were with a babysitter, so it was just the three of us.  I hugged you and told you that I love as you hopped out of the car. I heard you yell something about "you too" as you jumped out of the car, gave your principal a high five and disappeared into the school.

Dad and I shopped for a while and stopped for lunch at Chipotle.  I sat down while your dad ordered, because I haven't been feeling well this week and was a little dizzy.  While I waited, I pulled out my phone and quickly scanned facebook.  I froze on a post from our local news station . . . something about a shooting. 

At an elementary school. In a Kindergarten classroom.

I went to a news website and sat in Chipotle and cried as I read your Dad the news stories about what was going on in Newtown, Connecticut.

I spent the rest of the day with red blotchy eyes as I put myself into the shoes of those parents over and over.  I thought about what it might be like to know that watching you disappear into school was the last time I'd ever see you. I fought the urge to race to your school and pick you up. I thought about how horrifying it would be to get the news that something like this had happened at your school.  In your Kindergarten classroom.  I thought, too, about your Aunt Karina and what it was like for those educators' families.

Last night, your dad and I cried as we imagined what it would be like to go through what those people were going through last night.  The empty bed.  The siblings who just couldn't understand.  Thinking about how terrified their children must have been.  The process of identification.  There are few times when I've been as sad as I am right now.  Just thinking about those parents' pain is crippling . . . it's unfathomable to think about what they're experiencing. My heart aches for them.

I hope that it will be many, many years before you hear anything about this tragedy.  I can't help but wonder, though, if when you do hear about it, you'll think back to this time that you'll remember how we hugged you and your siblings every 10 minutes and told you that we love you so much that you now roll your eyes every time we say it.

This morning, you asked why I won't stop hugging you.  It's not that we love you more now than we did yesterday.  We've just been reminded how quickly it can all be taken away.  We're not guaranteed another year, day or minute with you.  I will not take that for granted.


December 14, 2012


I'm lifting my 8 week blogging hiatus to share this photo . . .

This was taken 10 years ago today.  When I see this, I can't help but think of one thing . . . how much bigger my boquet was than what I had requested.  I wanted a small round bouquet of roses, but I knew, even as we were ordering them, that the florist just wasn't getting it. 

And even though a bouquet that was twice as large as I had anticipated seems like something I would have stressed out about . . . I don't think I stressed about anything on that day.  Well, maybe I did, but I certainly don't remember it. It was probably my favorite day ever, closely followed by each of my children's birthdays.  I was so nervous and so in love.  I'm not nervous anymore, but I'm still very much in love.

I remember on our honeymoon talIking several times about "where we'll be in 10 years."  I think we guessed that we'd have a house (check) and three kids (check).  We did NOT think we'd still be living in Michigan . . . even so, I don't think anything we could have imagined 10 years ago could have been more perfect than where we are today.

I don't deserve Kyle and he doesn't deserve me.  It's by the grace of God that we get to spend the rest of our lives together.

I'm one lucky girl.

November 12, 2012

Claire at 10.5 months

At 10.75 months, Claire . . .

. . . walked across the room once, with the enticement of gerber puffs.  Hasn't done it since and doesn't seem to have any plans to.

. . . talks, talks, talks, but can only actually say, "Mama", "Dada" and "Bye bye."  We think she might say "Ben" too, but it's hard to tell.

. . . is still pretty happy, but is beginning to show her feisty side when she doesn't get her way.

. . . is just about done with taking a morning nap.  Boo.

November 2, 2012


Ben's been telling us about his friend Cody since the very first day of school. Every day when I ask him who he played with, he responds, "Cody" and goes into great detail about what they do together.  They play with the fire truck, play with the cars . . . and they play hide and seek.  He says that they play hide and seek quite often, which always makes me laugh because the preschool classroom isn't that big.

It made me feel good.  From the first day of school on, I knew that Ben had made a friend and it was comforting to me.

At Ben's field trip last week, I asked him if Cody was there and he said yes, but couldn't point him out to me.  There were 150 kids/parents there, so I didn't think anything of it. 

Then at Ben's Halloween party on Tuesday, I asked a teacher from his class which child was Cody and she replied, "We don't have a Cody in our class."

So I asked the other teacher and she gave me a puzzled look.

Um, what?

So, I went and asked Ben, "Where's Cody?"  And he just threw his hands up and shrugged.  At this point, I was a little worried that the teachers would think I was crazy.  So, I asked again, "Ben, you tell me every day that you played with Cody.  Is he in your class?"

Ben just kind of smiled and said, "He's at home still asleep."

Ben's friend Cody is 100% imaginary

When I say that Ben has talked about him, I don't mean just once or twice.  When Jack came home from school that day and asked Ben what he did at his Halloween party, he specifically asked what Cody dressed up as . . . because we all know that Cody is Ben's preschool friend.

And to my surprise, Ben replied, "He dressed up as The Flash.  Like me."

I interrupted and said, "Oh, Cody was at the party?  I thought he was still asleep.  WHere was he when you were decorating cookies?" 

"He was sitting right by me at the table," he said  All I could do was laugh.

I know that lots of kids have imaginary friends.  But really?  How many parents go two months without realizing that they're child's friend is imaginary?!

I should add that he does talk about several other children quite a bit . . . and I've now confirmed that they are all real.

October 31, 2012


Halloween 2012 was fun . . . and COLD! Even so, the boys were so thrilled to be in their costumes, they had no trouble posing for pictures.

Claire on the other hand . . . not so excited about it.  

It was cold, and trick or treating was short, but it was one of my favorite Halloweens so far.

October 26, 2012

Dear Claire, Months 8, 9 & 10

Dear Claire,

You have become super chatty.  Some might say that makes you a lot like me.  We'll see.

The other night, I was spending some time with you before bed and you kept looking at me and saying "Daba! Daba! Daba!"  You said it with such conviction that I felt like I should know what you're saying.  My interpretation was: "I'm so tired, and I'm doing my best to stay awake so that we can chat for a while."

You've also started saying "ga ba bye" every time someone leaves or is headed toward a door.  We wonder if it's just a fluke, or if you really are saying "Go bye bye."  Or maybe you've just learned that when you say "ga ba bye" you have four people who stop,  smile and give you all of their attention.  That could be it, too.

I love our chats now, but I really look forward to our chats some day.  I love talking with your brothers and I know I'll love talking with you.  It makes me think a lot about what my relationship with you three will be like as we get older.  I picture us as good friends, but I push those expectations out of my mind almost as soon as they enter.  I've learned in my 34 years of life that expectations about how relationships will be often leave me disappointed, so I try to not to expect much. But I can hope, can't I?

Your "baby-hood" is almost over and the toddler stage is quickly approaching.  Just typing that puts a lump in my throat.  You've taken two steps on your own now, but only a few times.  Just like you have with everything else, you're taking your sweet old time.  You have just a tiny bit of hair.  Enjoy it while it lasts though . . . give the genes on our family, you'll eventually have more hair than you can handle.

All four of us are totally in love with you, Claire.  The boys take care of you so well and sometimes your dad and I just look at you and then smile at each other in disbelief over how beautiful you are.  We love you so much!



October 19, 2012

Claire at 9.5 months

At 9.5 months, Claire . . .

. . . weighs 21 1/2ish pounds and measures 28 1/2 inches.  Is that right?  I think it is.  I have trouble keeping it all straight.

. . . loves peas and peaches.  Does not like pineapple.

. . . Will stand on her own for a minute or two at a time.  She's taken 2 steps on her own, but really had to be coaxed.  She never falls back to the ground.  She slowly lowers herself and sometimes pauses half way down in a way that makes it look like she's practicing the wall sit.

. . . sleeps 12-14 hours at night and still naps twice a day. Since she's the third child, we're aware of how lucky we are.  Though, she really does okay if we skip her morning nap, so I think it's probably on its way out.

. . . wears 12 - 18 month clothing.

. . . continues to be the happy, easy going baby that she's always been.  Sometimes I can't even believe how great she is.

. . . has a smile that will light up even the darkest of rooms.

. . . stops whatever she's doing and crawls furiously whenever she hears the door open.  Seeing her dad or brothers come in induces arm flapping and squealing.

. . . squeals whenever we take the gate down because she knows it means we're taking her downstairs to play with her brothers.  She loves those boys.

. . . makes a funny little gasping noise (that so reminds me of Bennett) that makes us laugh every time.  Between that and her stink face, she knows how to make us laugh.

October 10, 2012

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing

I pre-ordered Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing soon after I learned that it would be available.  It arrived yesterday and Ben and I spent a while looking through it and reading bits and pieces.  I love it.  So does he.

October 9, 2012

On Bennett . . .

A few things about my favorite middle child . . .
  • He will do anything you ask him to do . . . in his own time.  He's so much like Kyle in that way.  Everyone tells me what a difficult/stubborn kid Kyle was, and now seeing how Ben is, I can see how he might sometimes be perceived that way.  Ben (just like his father) really needs time to warm up to an idea before he'll participate wholeheartedly.  If he has to do something before he's ready (which is quite often, because some things in life won't wait) he does it under protest, kicking, tantrums, etc.  When possible, I wait for him to come around to an idea.  During all the other times, he just has to suck it up.
  • His favorite game is "made you look."  It's so "fun" when he yells "Hey, Claire's choking on my lego!" and then exclaims "Made you look!"  It's hard to make a 3-year-old understand why that might make Mom frantic rather than make her laugh.
  • He's the first one awake.  Every. Morning.
  • Ben does not like to be the center of attention unless he initiates it.  He loves to tell people what he's done and he's so proud of his accomplishments.  But when he has to do something on his own in a room full of cheering people, he's not all that cooperative. 

    Case in point: The trike-a-thon.  Last Thursday, Ben had the chance to participate in a preschool fundraisher called the "trike-a-thon."  He talked about it all week and asked every day if it was trike-a-thon day.  On the day of, he was the first one out the door, tried to load his bike up into the van on his own and was so excited.  But as Kyle and I watched him sitting with his class, I could see him glancing at the first group of riders watching the cheering parents and I leaned over to Kyle and said, "Uh, I'm not sure how this is going to go."

    Sure enough, it was his turn and he refused to ride.  The teacher had his bike up there ready to go and he wouldn't get on.  About two hours after the trike-a-thon, he announced he was ready to ride, but it was obviously too late.  Life lesson . . . check.
  • As we were driving to school this morning, Ben yelled "MOM!  JACK'S ANTAGONIZING ME!"  A year ago at this time, I was having him evaluated for speech therapy.  My, how things have changed.
  • He's still loving preschool.  All he'll ever tell us, though, is "I had fun."
  • He loves to "read" books to us  . . . the ones he's memorized, that is.  If he doesn't remember the words, he just makes them up.  The made up story is usually more entertaining.
  • He looks forward to Jack coming home every day.  It's a count down from when he wakes up from his nap.  He looks out the window and asks about every 10 minutes when Jack will be home.  It really is cute.  Though, within 5 minutes of Jack arriving home, the boys are fighting, so I'm not really sure what he looks forward to exactly.

October 7, 2012

Taking back the basement

The basement is where we keep most of our toys. And if you had ever been in our basement before last spring, you know it looked like we have at least 12 children. It was ridiculous.

Back in April, I was at my breaking point. There were toys everywhere and I couldn't keep up with it. I expected the boys to take care of their things and put them back where they belong, but they're 4 and 2 and were practically drowning in all of the stuff. I've organized and rearranged more times than I can count. We needed a different solution.

And then I found an article on pinterest that changed my life. I didn't pin it and when I went back to find it, I couldn't. If you know which one I'm talking about, PLEASE link to it here because this particular blog had some other great ideas for living simply with children.

This particular post basically said that usually kids have way too many choices and that inhibits their play. After reading that, I watched my boys and both of them (especially Ben) just kind of bounced from thing to thing and never really sat down to play with anything for any significant period of time. Also, we never had all of the pieces to most of the toys together, so they couldn't even play with some of them.

So over Easter weekend, Kyle and I took all of the toys from their room, the living room and the basement downstairs and we all went through the toys together. We eliminated over half of the toys!

Here's our new system for the leftovers:

90% of the leftover toys were divided between five tubs. Two really large tubs and three medium sized ones. All of the tubs are in the closet under the basement stairs. Our original plan was to bring out one tub every day.  At the end of the day, all of the toys went back into the tub and back in the closet.  Then the next day, the new tub would come out.

We left out plenty of "staples" that are out all the time.  Their play kitchen is stocked with pretend food.  They have a bin of balls. We also left out the large cardboard blocks and the trio blocks because those are things they play with regularly.  We left out the train sets for the same reason.

We started the new system that week and I was pretty sure that we'd get a week or two in and abandon it.  But we didn't.  It was GREAT!  Every day was like Christmas when they'd open the new bin to see what they could play with.

We have made one adjustment, though.  We now leave each bin out for 1 - 2 weeks at a time.  I was noticing that Ben would be really excited about the fire truck one day or Jack would get really interested in a particular puzzle, but then we had to put it away at the end of the day without them really getting enough time with it.  Also, it was getting annoying to have to go downstairs and shift REALLY heavy tubs each and every morning.  So, we pretty much just leave it out until it's time for a change.  And then it's like Christmas all over.

All of Claire's toys are upstairs and the only boys' toys allowed upstairs have to be baby-safe and approved by Kyle or I.  This is a little tricky, and we do a lot of sending them back downstairs with things, but overall, it's really helped.  When Claire started crawling, we put the gate up at the top of the stairs, and it's been nice because when the boys come up and wait at the gate for us to let them through, we can tell them to take things back down before they even get them upstairs.

When we feel overrun with toys, we just leave all of the bins in the closet for a while and just let them play with the staples and all of their books.  It's been interesting, too, because they've made up more games than they ever have before and I wonder if it's because they aren't as distracted by the other stuff.

I rarely stick with this kind of organizational system, but this one works so well, that it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

October 6, 2012

On Jack . . .

Jack is enjoying Kindergarten, though he asks to stay home quite a bit.  I don't think it has as much to do with Kindergarten as much as it does him missing being at home and wondering what his brother and sister are doing without him.  His printing has improved drastically over the last month and every so often he'll talk about something else he did at school, but other than that we don't get much information from him about how things are going.  In one email, his teacher indicated he's doing well.  I'd love to know more and to ask questions about him in class, but I don't want to be THAT parent.  I'm still trying to navigate this whole "parent of elementary school student" thing.

He started soccer this month.  He had only 10 minutes of his first practice/game (in pouring rain) before it thundered and it was cancelled.  Last week he actually go to play.  I really enjoy watching him play and he seems to enjoy playing.

Jack has become really crafty.  Don't leave a cardboard box, scrap paper, string or anything else lying around.  It will become something new.  Ipads, checker boards, helicopters and other weird hovering vehicles . . . he has created more contraptions than I can name.  He loves to come and sit at the work table in my office and just cut things and create things.  I like to think he got that from me, though while I think that I'm creative, I don't think I'm very crafty.  He probably takes after my mom and my aunts in that area more than he does me.

His school pictures are today and he insisted wearing his Superman shirt.  Kyle and I were encouraging him to wear something else but finally gave in.  We don't plan on doing anything with these pictures, other than throwing them in his Kindergarten memories folder, so who cares?  And now forever, we'll remember how obsessed with superheroes when he was in Kindergarten. I did make him promise that he'd wear whatever I ask when I take them out for photos soon.  I'm so trying to let him make as many of his own choices as I can, and only stepping in on the big things.  That's so hard for me to do.

A few weeks ago, he was really upset with me about something and flung himself onto his bed exclaiming, "I don't want to be your son anymore!"  I was sitting next to Ben on his bed and said to him, "Well, Ben.  I guess that just leaves you and me."  I was, of course, joking.  We moved on with our bedtime routine.  A few minutes later, Jack still had his head buried in his pillow and I heard little sobs coming from his bed.  I went over and sat with him and didn't say anything.  He just looked up and said, "I said something that I feel so, so bad about."  He apologized and told me that he does, in fact, want to remain my son.  I apologized for joking about it and told him that he didn't need to worry because there was nothing he could say or do to change that.  It was a sour moment turned sweet.

The top three things I love most about Jack during this stage:  His helpfulness, his creativity and his sensitivity.

October 5, 2012

Remember when . . .

. . . I didn't have to start every blog post with a statement on how bad I feel that it's been so long since I've posted?  No?  Me neither.

It was after midnight on Monday when I started this post.and I should've been in bed.  It's now Friday morning.  I feel guilty.

I need to blog.  Not because it's been so long or because I have some sort of quota to meet . . . but because the three kids I have sleeping down the hall are growing so fast and life is moving so quickly that I can barely remember what happened yesterday.

I think if I could sum this "stage of life" up in a few words, it would be something like "kids are messy" or maybe "kids are time consuming."  Oh wait, no . . . it would be "kids are expensive."  I 100% love my kids and in a weird way, I love this hectic chaos that has surrounded the last month or so.  It's just exhausting.  And really, really hard.

We had our house professionally cleaned on Tuesday. {insert defensive statement about how my life is so crazy that I need professional cleaning services to keep me sane}  That same night, Claire dumped a potted plant on herself and all over the living room floor.  I had a bowl of chili explode all over my kitchen floor.  And then later, one child pooped on the bathroom floor . . . about 18 inches from the toilet.  Which was okay, because there was potting soil still all over the floor from Claire's bath and that needed to be cleaned up anyway.  It's hard to keep up.

The day to day is sometimes overwhelming.

It doesn't help that I'm averaging 4 - 5 hours of sleep each night.  Oh, and the back pain I've had over the last couple of weeks . . . let's not even get started on that. In addition, my business turns 5 years old next month and it's not slowing down.  FIVE YEARS!  In 2007, I had 17 sales total.  I sold more than that yesterday.  I still have a hard time wrapping my head around that.  Oh, right . . . and I still have a full time job at camp.  DId I mention that?

Life is chaotic and I sometimes find myself looking forward to a day when they're all self sufficient and Kyle and I will get more time together, but I don't want to wish this stage of life away, either.  A little more than six years ago, I wondered if we'd ever have children.  And six years ago next week, we heard Jack's heartbeat for the first time.  These kids aren't just our responsibility . . . they're our privilege.

September 23, 2012

Dear Bennett, Month 36

Dear Ben,

I cannot believe you are three.  I'm sure I'll say that every year, but I'm stunned by it. I'm not sure I've met a 3-year-old cuter than you.  There are so many things that you do and say that make us smile.  The voice that you use when you're pretending with your toys, is this deep throaty voice . . . and it applies to any imaginary character or situation.  The voice you use when you talk to Claire is high pitched and, well, a little bnoxious.  You also have this quiet, shy voice that you use when you're asking for something that you know you know that you probably shouldn't have.

You started preschool and you started using the potty all in one week this last month.  Potty training went remarkably well.  We've only had one accident at night and none during nap time.  You've had relatively few daytime accidents.  I can't help but marvel at how easy it's been.

You started preschool without problems, too.  Every day when I pick you up, you say, "I had fun!" and little else.  Every so often, you'll mention the name of another child that you play with or what you had for snack, but that's about it.  Your teacher says you're doing well, so I guess I'll just take her word for it.

I still sing to you sometimes at night.  You ask for it regularly and it makes me feel good that you like it so much.  Someday you'll realize that I don't sing well, but until then, I'll oblige.

One of your favorites for me to sing is "Step by Step."  Here are the words to the chorus:

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise you
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise you
And I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

And I will follow You all of my days
And I will follow You all of my days
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days 

You always sing this one with me and some of my most special memories with you will always be laying with you, almost nose-to-nose, while you sing "I will follow You all of my days." Every time we sing that together and I hear your little voice singing the words "I will follow you all of my days," tears well up and I pray that it will be so.

I love you Bennett!  Happy Birthday!


September 6, 2012

Claire at 8 months old

At 8 months old, Claire . . .

. . . crawls faster than we can keep up.  She'll crawl a few yards and then stop to look back and see if anyone is coming after her.

. . . pulls herself up on pretty much anything, whether it's stationary or not.

. . . semi-cruises, but mostly around things and not really between two things yet.

. . . when crawling, pushes her self up on the soles of her feet and using only one hand so that it looks like she's about to get up and walk away.

. . . has once again, found her voice.  Every time we think that she couldn't get any louder, she proves us wrong.  She jabbers like crazy.

. . . really missed her brothers while they were gone last weekend and looked all over for them.

. . . wears 12 month clothing.

. . . will clap her hands, but only when she feels like it.  Never on demand.  She sometimes uses clapping to sign for more.  If we don't see her signing that soon enough, she just shoves both fists into her mouth and cries.

. . . loves cheerios and peas and would probably eat them in unlimited quantities if we let her.

. . . also likes bananas and peaches, and would probably like them more if it didn't take so much effort for her to get them into her mouth.

. . . enjoys gnawing on wooden toys.  I think she enjoys the sound that her teeth make on them, too.

. . . still sleeps 12 - 13 hours at night and takes 2 hour-ish long naps during the day.

. . . nursed for the last time on her 8 month birthday.  She's doing better with it than I am.

. . . raises her arms high above her head about 30% of the time when someone says, "soooo big."

. . . continues to be super agreeable and easy going, but has shown a little more fiestiness that I think is preparing us for what is yet to come.

September 5, 2012

The first day

Jack made it through his first day and was excited to go back this morning!  The chaos of drop off and the stress of having a newly potty trained two-year-old really distracted me from being emotional, though when we were back on the road leaving, I did shed a few tears.  But just a few.

The things that broke my heart:

  • His little cluster of desks where he sits includes him and three girls.  He asked each of the three girls if they could be friends.  They all said no.
  • He really liked recess, but didn't have anyone to play with.
The things that encouraged me:
  • He did say that he made one new friend that he really liked.
  • He said that everything they did in class was fun.
  • He really likes his teacher.
  • He ate lunch with a friend from preschool, even though he's in a different class than he is.
  • He seemed really excited that he saw Jasmine, Hailey and Samantha at recess.
  • He informed us that we no longer need to pack a lunch because THERE IS PIZZA AT SCHOOL!  We informed him that we'll probably still be packing a lunch most days, but maybe once in a while he could get pizza.
  • He chose white milk instead of chocolate at snack because he thought it would be healthier choice to only have chocolate once a week (we had previously discussed this with him, but we weren't sure if he'd really do it . . . but he did).
  • He LOVED gym class.
  • He has a doodle book to draw in during their rest time and that was right up his alley.

I'm sure there were more things that he told us, but I can't remember them all.  He was so funny when he told me that he can't wait until next year so that he can do a first day of school all over again!  I'm just glad to have the first day over with.

I love this kid so much.

Edited to add:  Printable signs now available here.

September 4, 2012

Staying Dry

Day #1 of potty training was hugely successful.  Shockingly so, really.  Ben had very few accidents and went both #1 and #2 on the potty!  I had no expectations that we would conquer #2 anytime soon, so that was fantastic.

He was dry during his nap and overnight (we did get him up once before we went to bed and he went then).  When he woke up this morning, he came out dry and I think saw how dark the hall was and just wet himself right there in the doorway.  Tonight, we'll leave the hall light on.

Today, on the other hand . . . well, let's just say it's keeping me humble.  Naptime was dry, but I think that might have been our only success.  He walked into the kitchen after naptime and said, "I don't have to go!" and then proceeded to pee right there on the kitchen floor.  I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we've resumed our regular schedule today.  Yesterday, Kyle took both Claire and Jack and kept them out of the house for a lot of the day and Ben had my undivided attention.

He starts preschool a week from today, and while potty training isn't a requirement to go, I think it'll be helpful since he was ready anyway.

September 3, 2012


I've spent the last few weeks fighting the urge to impart last bits of wisdom to Jack about anything and everything that I can think of.  You know . . . thoughts on making friends, resisting peer pressure and not dating a girl who doesn’t consider modesty a virtue.

You know . . . the real kindergarten essentials.

I know it’s only Kindergarten, but this stage . . . this pre-school stage . . . it’s over.  I never thought that I’d be THAT parent . . . the one that stresses over Kindergarten.  I so badly want my kids to be independent and confident, and I didn't think I'd approach Jack's first year of school fighting the urge to not let him get out of the car tomorrow.

I cannot believe that I’ve been a mom for five years.  I cannot believe that I’m sending a child to Kindergarten.  I cannot believe that one of my children will spend so much time away from me every day.  I’ve found myself reconsidering homeschooling.  I’ve wondered if we should wait a year.

I've spent much of the last two months hoping that we've done enough and getting down on myself for the games of Candyland I said "no" to and the books I didn't read.

I know, I know . . . drama, drama, drama. 

Tonight, I was talking with him about what he was most excited about for tomorrow.  I asked him if he was scared at all.  He replied, "No. But I know there are probably other kids who are."  As we talked about the kids who are nervous (and I suspect he is a little too, but won't admit it), I was struck by his ability to see outside himself.  I love how compassionate and kind he is.

Then it hit me: We did that.  Well, not totally.  Some of it is surely innate.  But Kyle and I are also responsible for who this incredible little boy has become . . . and I think we've done a good job.  Have we done enough?  I don't know.  I do know, however, that the grace of God has filled in where we've fallen short.  We're really good parents.

As I've reflected on all of these things, I became thankful for my job's flexibility that has allowed me to spend so much time with him.  The late nights and early mornings of work suddenly seem like a small price to pay to have been there for so much of his time at home.  I'm thankful for the incredible babysitters we've had to fill in the other times.  I'm thankful for a husband who loves his kids so well and takes as much responsibility with the kids as I do, never just assuming that their care is "my job."

Jack starts Kindergarten tomorrow and Ben starts preschool next week.  My babies are growing up.

August 25, 2012

Dear Bennett, Month 35

Dear Ben,

There's a game that we like to play together called "Scavenger Hunt."  It's really good for when I'm feeding Claire or trying to keep your mind off of getting into trouble.  It's pretty simple:  I call out a shape or color or letter and you have to go put your finger on an object that matches my description.  For instance, I'll say "go find an orange triangle" and you'll run all over the place looking for the puzzle piece or block that is both orange and has three sides.

The best part of this game is that every time I give you a challenge you respond immediately with, "Oh, that's easy."  And then you run off to find it.

Oh, that's easy.

There are so many things that come easy to you.  You're smart, strong and capable.  There are things, however, that don't come as easily.  Like . . . sitting still.  And obeying.  And not hitting.  There are moments when I see teeny glimmers of hope.  There are times when I ask you to do something and you respond with "Okay, mom."  Or I ask you to NOT do something and you say, "Alright."  These moments don't come along very often, but I treasure each one.  And someday, these moments will come easily, too.

 One of my favorite things to watch is how well you play with Claire.  She LOVES you and she looks as if she won the lottery each time you walk into the room.  You sometimes play a little too rough, and I have to step in, but she doesn't really seem to mind.  I walked into the room yesterday and you were sitting on the chair and she was sitting on the floor below you.  You were gently popping her in the head with the sole of your foot, just enough to make her rock back a little.  She laughed each time you did it and the game persisted for about 10 minutes.  It was so funny to watch.  You two have a very special relationship.

You have a fun relationship with Jack, too.  You look up to your big brother and get upset when he doesn't let you play with him or doesn't acknowledge what you have to contribute.  When you're getting along, though, you two invent games and stories that entertain your dad and I to no end.  Together, you invented a game this week called "Come and get me whoopsie."  One of you yells "come and get me" and the other runs after him.  Then the caller jumps out of the way and yells "whoopsie" as the runner flings onto the bed.  So, so funny.

I love you so much, Ben.  I love your honesty and your playfulness.  I love how you take care of your sister and how much you admire your brother.  I love it that when I ask for help, you jump at the chance.

There are some things about being your mom that are difficult, but loving you is not one of them.  Loving you is easy.


August 14, 2012

What I shouldn't be doing . . .

. . . is blogging.  I have approximately ONE MILLION projects on which I should be working, but this sad little blog has been neglected long enough.  It's hard to remember a time in which I wrote here daily.  It was a different life. 

Here's a hodgepodge summary of the last two weeks:

Jack's at VBS right now, so I've been working the last few nights from Panera.  Our church does a fantastic job and I'm so glad that it fell after camps were over so that we could bring Jack.  He asks every night if we'll be able to do it again next year!

Our summer youth camp season ended on August 3, which is the earliest it's ever ended.  The last week was rough, for so many reasons, including, but not limited to, the fact that all three kids had a mystery virus that caused alarmingly high temperatures for all of them.  That wasn't fun.  Summer is a crazy time and being forced to slow down and take care of them ended up being a good thing, but was still stressful.

The Sunday after camps were over, we left on vacation, but now we're back at it.  We have tons of cross country camps, soccer camps, rental groups, etc. and  we have adult and family retreats from the end of August through the beginning of October.  And then we start planning for winter camps, spring retreats and next summer.

Vacation . . . I don't really think "vacation" is the right word for a trip with three young children.  Don't get me wrong.  We had fun.  It was just a lot of work.

I didn't pack my usual bag of games, toys and snacks for the ride up.  I just bought a few new DVDs.  They love to watch movies in the car and I wasn't going to fight it.   All the way there.  All the way back.  Claire slept and played with the toys I handed her.  4 1/2 hours with no stops . . . easiest trip ever.

We rented a house near the campground where Kyle's entire family camped.  And while it was fun to go to the campground and beach, I was SO glad to be in a house and not in a tent or a trailer.

Claire is full out crawling and pulling herself up now, so I think a dusty campsite would have been rough.  And I'm convinced that my two-year-old ran out into the road every time we were there, simply to see the panicked look on my face.  The house was perfect for us and we enjoyed getting away. 

We hiked up to the overlook in Boyne City and it was beautiful.  Getting three kids up to the top (mostly the two youngest) was difficult though.

Ben and Claire started this way:

 And ended this way:

Yeah, that's Kyle carrying both of them.  Almost 500 steps.  Super fun for him.

But the view at the top of Lake Charlevoix was lovely.

We tried to get a "cousins" picture, but this was the best that we could get Ben to do.

I celebrated my 34th birthday while we were up there.  It was kind of a crappy day.  I just wasn't feeling well, and nothing really went as planned.  Kyle had scheduled a massage and facial for me that day, but I got a sunburn earlier in the week that would have made both of those things uncomfortable.

Oh, the sunburn.  I haven't had a bad sunburn in so many years.  I used to get them all the time.  I wear sunscreen constantly, but my back just wasn't used to that much direct sun for the 2 1/2 hours we were at the beach that day.  Even with SPF 50, I didn't stand a chance.  I had chills and felt sick almost all night and it made me uncomfortable for most of the trip.

Even though I got that sunburn, we did have some good beach time.  The boys played in the water with Kyle, I sat and dug a disturbing amount of sand out of Claire's mouth.  I sat at the edge of the water with Claire for a while and just let the waves of Lake Charlevoix splash over her legs and belly.  She was a little unsure at first, but seemed to really like it eventually.

We did get a chance to play miniature golf . . . which was pretty much the only thing Jack requested that we do while we were there.  Kyle beat us all.  I did get a hole in one . . . though I didn't even know it because as soon as I hit the ball, I saw Ben splashing in the bottom of the waterfall and ran after him.  I still kind of wonder if Kyle just hit it in the hole for me because it was my birthday.  At any point on the course where there was water, either Kyle or I had to be standing right with Ben to make sure he didn't . . . well . . . go for a swim.

I took family pictures for Kyle's sister and brother-in-law and nieces.  I worked on a few pictures while the kids were napping one day, but they're now sitting here as one of my unfinished projects.  It made me wish I had hired someone to come take our family pictures while we were there.  I have tons of great pictures of other people's families.  Very few of my own.

On our last day, we went to Petoskey and let the boys choose any toy (within reason).  Jack chose a puzzle and a license plate with his name on it.  I bought an educational toy for both of them to share.  And Ben?  Ben chose a push broom.

Seriously.  A toy broom.  And he had fun sweeping the streets wherever we went for the rest of the day.  I love that kid.

So, we're home.  We're getting ready to send Jack to Kindergarten and Ben to preschool . . . both of which I have anxiety about.  Our beloved babysitter of the last 3 1/2ish years let us know at the end of July that she was picking up more hours at her real job and wouldn't be available to watch the kids anymore.  I got the message in the dairy section of Walmart and tried to hold it together, but ultimately finished my shopping while ugly-crying.

It wasn't just that message. The message from the babysitter was just kind of the straw that broke the camel's back.  It has just been a rough summer.  We never really figured out a routine with babysitters and child care.  Logistically, camps were harder than they ever have been before.  I've been dealing with a neverending sinus infection and ear infections.  I just felt anxious and frustrated for a good portion of the summer.  And then three kids with mystery illnesses that last week?  It was just the icing on the cake. 

That said, I also think that this summer was the one that we saw more lives changed and more spiritual growth in our campers than we have in a while.  So, it was definitely all worth it.  I just need to keep that all in perspective.

August 2, 2012

Claire at 7 months old

Claire, 7 months old

At 7 months old, Claire . . .

. . . gives sweet slobbery kisses anytime we ask.

. . . likes to dance.

. . . loves, loves, loves bath time.

. . . sleeps from 6:30 - 6:30 and then naps for about 90 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon. 

. . . crawls forward and has chaffed knees from doing so.

. . . will eat pretty much anything like a champ.

. . . will sometimes wave when we say goodbye.

. . . makes a noise that sounds an awful lot like "hiiii" whenever we say "hi" to her.

. . . "sings" when the radio is on in the car.  Stops when we turn it off.

. . .  nurses only in the morning now.  Has bottles the rest of the day.

. . . does this funny little thing where she smiles and tucks her head down to hide her face when someone smiles at her.

July 27, 2012

Dear Claire, Months 5, 6 & 7

Dear Claire,

It happened.  You've become the "typical third child" category with my delay in monthly letters.  If you knew how guilty this made me feel, you'd totally forgive me.  Yes, you have fewer letters than your brothers, and I'll probably take less pictures of you than I did of them, but when they've gone off to college and you're the only one living at home, getting anything you want, you'll be glad to make that trade off.

Claire, the 5th Month

Let me remind you of an important advantage of being the youngest . . . you have four people who absolutely adore you.  In the eyes of your brothers, you can do no wrong.  They're the first to try and calm you when you cry and the first to applaud you when you do . . . well, anything.

Claire, month 6

The last three months have brought so much change that I don't even know where to begin.  You're sitting up, eating solid foods, almost-crawling, giving sloppy kisses, squealing with delight, waving 'hi' and 'bye', and babbling like crazy.  You're a different kid than you were the last time I wrote.

Something that has NOT changed is that you are HAPPY. About 92% of the time.  With the exception of evening crying when you were 6 - 12 weeks old, you've been one of the happiest babies I've ever met.  Sure you fuss sometimes and can get frustrated when your needs aren't being immediately met, but in general, your disposition is lovely.  I can't get enough of you.  I keep waiting for everything to just come crashing down and for you to become more of a challenge.  Maybe it'll be when you start crawling more.  Maybe when you hit the terrible twos.  Maybe your teenage years will be full of angst.  But for now, I'm enjoying your sweetness.

Claire, 7 months old

Perhaps your good nature is a result of the massive amounts of sleep you get.  You sleep 11 - 12 hours at night and then take 2 decent naps during the day.  Sometimes 3, but usually just the 2.  You fall asleep within minutes of me laying you down and you wake up all gurgley and smiley. 

Claire, 7 months old

I sing to you most nights, but it doesn't last very long because you like to be laid down pretty quickly.  Rocking isn't really your "thing."  I can normally only get through one verse of any given hymn.  But when I lay you down, I always end with the doxology.  As I sing the words "Praise God from whom all blessing flow" I can't help but count you as one of those blessings.  You bring us all so much joy, Claire.  And even if you wake up cranky tomorrow, or you become a defiant two year old or grow into a moody teenager . . . we'll still be delighted by you!


July 25, 2012


I am the anti-hoarder.  I like to throw things away.  I mean . . . really, really like to throw things away.

I'm not super organized or neat.  My house is often a mess (by my standards, at least).  But I really, really like to simplify life by having less laying around . . . much to the dismay of my kids.

Happy meal toys last an average of 7 minutes once they're through the door.  Art projects are rarely saved for more than a day or two.  The really special ones do get left out for a while, but then move to storage.  When Jack was little, I had this grand vision of taking pictures of him with his art projects before we, um, "relocated" them, but I never kept the projects long enough to get around to photographing them.  A few times, we've had to dig through trash to find important lists or notes that Kyle has left laying around, because I thought they were trash and tossed them.  Back in May, I went through the boys' toys and got rid of half of them.  The other half were divided and stored according to our new toy storage system . . . which deserves an entire post of its own.

I do feel bad this week, though, after hearing about Jack's conversation with his grandma.  She told him that he left the mask he made in her car, and asked if he wanted it back.  His response was, "No.  If I bring it home, it'll just get thrown away."

Ugh.  That was like a kick in the stomach.

I don't really know how to find the balance, though.  Clutter makes me crazy.  I can't function in a cluttered house.  And honestly, what do you do when your child brings this home and wants to keep it forever and ever?

At the same time, I don't want my kids to feel like I don't value their creativity or have respect for what is theirs.  Will I look back 20 years from now and wish that I still had every preschool picture that Jack drew?  I don't think that I will.  But I don't want the boys to look back and remember a mom who was more intent on keeping the clutter down than on celebrating their creativity.

I hope that I can find that balance.  I would welcome any suggestions.

July 24, 2012

Dear Bennett, months 32, 33 & 34

Dear Ben,

I'm sorry it's been so long since I've written a letter . . . I've been busy.  Doing laundry.  And I'd say half of our family's laundry is YOURS.  You are the dirtiest little boy I've ever seen.  You like to play hard and you aren't afraid to get messy.  All of your summer t-shirts are stained, and the bathtub looks like a mud puddle after we get you cleaned off at night.  You always have sand between your toes.  And fingers.  And usually in your hair, too.  You're all boy.

Your independence has become both endearing and frustrating.  Your most common phrase is "I DO THAT ALL MY FELF!"  You don't like unsolicited help from other people.  I try to give you your space as much as I can.  You don't like to hold my hand ever . . . especially in parking lots.  Often if I tell you NOT to do something, you just stare me down and I can almost hear you wondering whether or not doing it will be worth the consequense.

Last night, we were in the car and you were especially ornery.  Perhaps because of the 10 empty peanut butter cup wrappers I found in your bed during nap time.  Or maybe because we had you out too late.  In any case, you were testing my patience and your limits.  You had your cup of water from the restaurant we were leaving and you took the lid off.  I told you to put the cup in your cup holder and put the lid back on the cup.  You looked at me, and with a perfectly straight face you tipped the cup upside down all over the seat and floor of the car.  So, I channeled my remarkable parenting skills and began yelling at you. 

I yelled.  And you threw the cup.  And I yelled more. And you continued to throw everything that was within your reach.

Not my finest parenting moment.  Not exactly a shining moment for you, either.

When these things happen, I always worry that you're "acting out" against something . . . like us not giving you enough attention.  Or that we've steered you wrong somehow.  But I think it's just the terrible twos. I think these are just exercises for your dad and I in patience and consistency.

Much to your dismay, you went to bed as soon as we got home.  You hugged me and told me how much you love me and I told you how much I love you.  All was right with the world again.  I hope that no matter what happens over the course of your life, that you'll always know that.  No matter what you do, or how much you throw at me, I'll always love you.


July 14, 2012

Claire at 6 months old

Claire, 6 months old

At 6 1/2 months old, Claire . . .

. . . makes all kinds of noises, ranging from high pitched shrieks to low grunts that her brothers call her "lion noise."  She also makes "goos" and "da das" . . . but her favorite is "ya ya ya ya ya . . . "

. . . will get up on her hands and knees but can only move in reverse.

. . . weighed 19 pounds, 4 ounces at her 6 month check up.

. . . is super smiley and is rarely bothered by anything or anyone.  The 100 degree temperatures tested it last week, but she was still in good spirits.

. . . measured 27 inches long. at her last check up.

. . . has just shown a few signs of separation anxiety.

. . . eats solids, when we remember to feed them to her.  She eats really well at home, but not nearly as well at camp, where distractions are abundant.

. . . is super distracted while nursing and prefers a bottle.

. . . sometimes waves when people say "hi" and "bye" to her.