Monday, January 22, 2018

Life Lately: Playing Catch Up

I don't always know the goals of this here crazy blog...sometimes it feels like a pressure, a time-suck or something I'm failing at...but then I also value it as a platform for connection, and a time-capsule of documenting. I often wish I could do more writing, but in the end I try to dwell less on all the photos that sit unedited, or events that were never memorialized, and just be thankful for the times I am able to use this space to process through things, share my perspective and record our stories.

As I looked through my posts from the past year, I was surprised to realize that the last Life Lately entry was from way back in 2016. These are some of my very favorite posts....they help me notice and remember all the little things of life that sometimes don't seem like much when you're in it, but then later you realize were everything. So while I wish I was better at carving out time to document things more regularly...I'll just do what I always best...and jump back in now. I'm making up for lost time here, so it's gonna get wordy, but I know future-me will be grateful for the effort (and forgiving of the lapses) and that's all that matters.
Making: my favorite tree last as long as possible. After Christmas, I was super sad to take down the all the trees, so after I stripped the ornaments from the silver one in the kitchen we started throwing random New Year's decorations and doo-dads all over it. It turned into quite the sparkly vision, and I was happy to extend its life a bit. That section of the kitchen is turning into a bit of a revolving art installation spot in general...I still have little cord clips up there from past birthdays and parties, so I figure why not put them to use as much as possible? If you try hard enough, pretty much any month has an occasion that's "banner worthy", so we toss up garland, and signs, and pom poms, and...whatever. Yes, it's more stuff to deal with, but it's HAPPY stuff. The New Year's tree has since had a Birthday makeover, so it's looking extra festive with hats and beads and balloons. And I have at least one more life for it planned- after our littlest girl turns two this month we'll shift from Bday to Valentine's. I'm knee-deep in a knitting project for some red and white garland that I'm hopeful will be worth the embarrassing number of hours I've put towards it. I'm basically that crazy lady dressing up her concrete goose, and I'm obviously fiiiiiine with it.  (OMG, now I really want a a squirrel outfit!)

all the dang time. You know what's crazy about kids? They expect to day. Multiple times a day, even! The nerve! Breakfast is huge in our house, and Dustin takes the lead there. I didn't grow up with big weekday breakfasts (it was basically cereal or some sort of packaged pastry treat, which I was MORE than fine with) but Dustin feels pretty strongly that we should have a good breakfast for everyone in the morning. It doesn't have to be super elaborate (though it often is) but he feels like a good dad for giving them a balance breakfast. So he makes the effort to whip up eggs and pancakes or waffles (occasionally relying on store-bought donut holes or cinnamon buns if we're in a time crunch). Breakfast is totally his thing, so I stay out of the way ( my bed) and just pass out the milks and the wet wipes when the time comes.

Aside from breakfast, we have the daily lunch packing assembly line (so thankful the little kids are fed at daycare!). The girls all have 5-6 kid friendly things in rotation, filling up the spots in their bento boxes (still obsessed with those lunchboxes, and loving the new clear lid option.) Us grown ups have leftovers of increasingly questionable taste as the week goes on (our standards are remarkably low now, so basically if it fits in a tupperware container, it counts as a meal).
For dinner- our selections have been more and more centered around "bulk" and "easy"...with a consideration towards "the kids won't cry about eating it". So we have a lot of pasta nights, pizza nights, and bring back the 80's casserole nights. We strive to at least have a vegetable on the plate every night- even if it's just microwaved broccoli. At least once a week is chicken, sweet potato and brussels sprout bake- a staple from our "Whole 30" days. 

Drinking: Coke Zero Sugar. Anyone who knows me is familiar with my long-standing love affair with Coke Zero. Wellllll, the fine people at Coca-Cola went and fixed what ain't broke, changing the formula, and the name. So now it's Coke Zero Sugar....all the great taste of regular coke (it really is good!) with much less carbonation (it really is bad!). My official verdict is that it tastes like flat coke. Which I don't hate but I still wouldn't call it an upgrade from where we've been. Nevertheless, the carton of cans calls my name from under my desk every day at 3pm, so I surrender to its siren song, regardless of the changes. 

Reading: "book in a bag". Our kindergartners come home each week with a tote filled with books at their reading level to practice as their homework. It's a lot of "I see a rake/cake/lake/kid named Jake!" and "Dog is sad. Dog is mad. Dog is glad! Bad, dog, bad!" type of plotlines, but it's fun to watch them making progress with sight words and sounding things out. One of our kiddos pretty much hates to read, so it's a struggle to get her to even sit down and try. And with five kids running around it's hard to get either of them to sit and focus for the required ten minutes...but we try to prioritize it at least a night or two a week. All of the kids love to be read to, so we've also got a basket full of library books that sees a lot of action (I'm thankful for some new titles to supplement our collection so I'm not reading the same things alllllllll the time.) 

Some favorites from our recent haul: 
Not a Box and Not a Stick (cute little imaginative book that's basic enough for our toddlers to repeat and love), Sick Simon (it's disgusting, so our kids naturally love it), Dig Dogs Dig (such a perfect book for a 2 year old boy. dogs AND construction? yes yes!), Next to You ("a book of adorableness" is exactly that), and Ish (a great find for our artist + perfectionist kiddo).

Wanting: to put everything from my kitchen countertops in a box, and light it on fire. Surely we wouldn't miss all of the plastic trinkets, old receipts and priceless "one scribble on 17 consecutive papers" works of art, right? 

Looking: ahead to the Summer. I's too soon, don't wish your life away, yada yada yada. But ya know what? I love the Summer, and so I'm going to allow myself at least a little dreaming about what it's going to look like for us this year. We're trying to put together a trip with our extended family (not the 30+ person reunion of 2017...but even just our family plus my siblings' families totals up to quite a crew). And I'm hoping to maybe do a little getaway with just our fam...or maybe even just me and Dustin? I don't know...dream big! When you work full time, Summer isn't super different from every other season...maybe just a bit hotter. But I do love the relaxed vibe that comes with the warmer weather, and even the little break from the to-do's of the school schedule.

ice cream shop. Miller got a wooden ice cream set for Christmas and it has been the hit of the season. Someone is always serving up cones (or counting money) around here. Our bigger girls have also reached a stage where they can understand card games, so it's been fun to introduce them to classics like Uno and some new favs. Spot It is by far the family favorite- we play it at least one night a week, and though it leads to constant arguing, we all still really love it. It's become our go-to birthday present for kids, but is also one of those rare games that's equally fun for adults too. (The premise completely blows my mind- how is there one- and only one- set of matching symbols on every single pair of cards? What kind of math/sorcery is that?!) Miller is too young for it, but doesn't know that, so he slides right into the fun, yelling things like he's winning it all. It would still be a bit over his head, but he would probably love the animals in the Jr. version. We've also tried out Snappy Dressers which is a similar concept, but with little hipster animals (and a few more variations in how to play).  And after playing it at a local game bar (yes...that's a thing...and it's basically the dream I didn't know I had for my life), I bought myself Blurble for my birthday. It's a fun little word game where you have to look at a picture and be the first person to say a word that starts with that same letter. With a little modification to the rules, it's been really great to play with the kids. I was surprised by how well they could do it!

Wasting: at least an hour every night laying on the couch not wanting to do anything. Guys. The struggle is real. And the specific struggle that is exceptionally real is to get off my lazy bum and do something of value, rather than watching three DVR'd episodes of Married at First Sight, while eating a carton of Halo Top ice cream (Because it's good for you!!) I can rationalize this alllll day with reasons that I need an escape, deserve a treat, and just am not wired to do much of anything of intellectual significance past 9pm. But it's honestly just a problem I need to deal with. Staying up late, constant snacking, and consumption of programming garbage are a vicious cycle (one that I've lamented too many times, and even documented here repeatedly). I've said it before (and I'll likely say it again) but I do believe we're going to have to make some changes around here.

Wishing: that evvvvvvverything wasn't a competition or argument. That might just be life with 4, 5 and 6 year old girls, but good gravy, it makes me tired.

Enjoying: our wake up routine. The "big girls" wake up before we do, and get themselves settled into some Netflix and tablet time. I should really be better about getting up's on my permanent list of goals! But for now...they love the screens, I love to snooze. It works. Once I'm up and ready, I go get Miller up which is the best five minutes of my day. He's such a joy, and I get (take) a pile of snuggles and kisses before he asks to go get our little foster girl. He loves to barge in her room and yell good morning (G'MOOOOOOORNING!!) through her crib slats. Then they both ask for "uppa" and I head downstairs with "2 babies, mama!!" in my arms to join the rest of the fam for breakfast.

Waiting: to get the kids in sports. The girls have taken a gymnastics class, and have done little soccer and cheerleading clinics through school, but so far we haven't gotten serious, joining any real leagues. I see a lot of their friends getting into the Saturday morning routine of basketball, or soccer, or t-ball, and I do think it would be great to expose them to all those lessons in teamwork, and perseverance etc. Buuuuuut, I also really like that we don't have anything set on our weekend calendars, and frankly...I'm not exactly too anxious to start spending our Saturday mornings in a muddy field watching a swarm of preschoolers chase after a ball. We'll get there...soon enough.

working our way back through the full series of The Office on Netflix. That show is so awkward it hurts, and so funny I cry. 

if we'll be able to stand the incessant giddy bragging that will occur if the Eagles win the Superbowl in the same year Dustin won our league's fantasy football trophy. (I haven't stopped hearing about the latter event since it occurred, so it's pretty safe to say the former would lead to equal amounts of boasting).

Loving: this "miracle" detangling brush my mom got the girls. "Loving" might seem a little bit over the top...but even the world "miracle" (which my mom called it to try to 'sell' it to the girls) seems pretty accurate. It allows me to brush my kids' hair with NO crying, so yeah: superfan.

Hoping: that I can somehow get better at my New Year's Resolutions...which should really be called "things to think about after my birthday". My big focus for the year was surrounding "miracles", but I also made a few more tactical commitments for this month. Specifically- no "fourth meal" (you know...that extra round of food that seems desperately necessary around 9:30pm?) and...wait for drinking alcohol at home. Now- before you call AA (which might still need to be done...but just hold off a minute), let me explain my reasoning. It's not that I was getting blackout on the regular...far from it. We had just gotten into a rhythm of having a beer or two a few nights a week after the kids were in bed. Not a bad thing really, but also not actually necessary, and paired with the snacking, it was just adding up to more meaningless calories than I'd like. So I figured if I limited cervezas to actual celebrations, vs. just "We made it through another Monday!" cheersing, we'd be in much better shape (literally). I look back on the month so far, by rough count, I've failed this....every day. So. We shall start anew. Now with a lot more people knowing about it, and a more realistic chance of success now that my birthday "treat yo'self" extravaganza is behind us.

Marveling: at Miller's speech. I swear this stage is magical (though I say that about nearly every phase). He learns something new every day, and I could just listen to him talk forever. The simplest things sound adorable, and he's always blowing my mind with new phrases he's able to master and put together. If you ask him a question, his typical response is a shy, giggly, "I no knoooow...". When he pops his head through his jammies he shouts "Hello, dare!". If you ask him how his day was, he reports "I play Yego's wif mah friends!". And if you give him direction on what not to do- and why, he always warns about the outcome, "That be bad!/That be funny!/messy/silly..." 
He'll repeat anything you say, but also has started to use language to actually express himself more and I adore every second of it.

Needing: a system for everything. We haven't really gotten to "a place for everything, and everything in its place", but we have had to get our shiz in order around here, if we wanted to successfully manage five kids/minimum just not die. That basically translates to- we put everything on our whiteboard and iphone calendars so we don't forget to show up somewhere, and we do everything we can the night before. Laying out clothes, packing lunches, prepping dinner, stuffing backpacks...pretty much anything that can be done in advance, is, because once kids are actually running around, we make anti-progress. Dustin and I have a logistics check in every day- which car are you taking? who are you picking up? when do we have to be there? did you coordinate a sitter? what time is your meeting over? where are my pants?...We're not always a well-oiled machine, but I'll settle for a mostly functional machine with really good intentions.

Smelling: ummmm...nothing good, usually. 

Wearing: The same outfit at least 3 times a week. If that's wrong I don't want to be right. (I'm half  pretending my three favorite items are actually a part of this whole "capsule wardrobe" thing people are so keen on these days. But really it's just an "I'm not keen on laundry or thinking too hard about things these days" thing.)

Following: along with the e100 challenge. Our church is doing this bible reading plan, and so our small group is getting into it together, through the YouVersion app. Honestly...I haven't actually done any of the reading so far, but I love being able to check in with other people's thoughts and progress, and see how they're processing things. We get together every week to share life together and chat through what we've been learning, so I'm curious to see how focusing specifically on the bible itself (vs. sermons, or other Christian studies) will lead to a different type of conversation and growth.

Noticing: individual dynamics between my kids. It's so fun to watch their personalities develop, but then also getting to see them interact with each other. Piper and Fin have a really close bond of course, but then Piper and Miller buddy up a lot too. I feel bad for Fin sometimes during those moments, because she's the middle one, kind of lost in the shuffle, but I've come to think it's really more her choice than anything. Piper is really nurturing, and loves to make up little games for the younger ones, or have them snuggle up on her. And Fin? Is content to have her tablet to herself, and no little mitts touching her without asking. Can't say that I blame her. It will be interesting to see how this might shift as Miller gets older and he and Fin spend more time together next year. It was always PiperandFin, PiperandFin, so I'm enjoying watching the other relationships grow.

Knowing: something had to give, but also feeling a little bit sad that we're not running The Bachelor pool this year. It's been about a decade strong (give or take...I can't really be bothered to look it up. I just know I feel at least ten years older than when I started) so it's strange to just sit back and watch this one, without the pressure to recap or keep track of details like a kiss count. Coincidentally it has to be the most boring Bachelor of all time (the show and the man himself) so we might have gotten out at exactly the right time. 

about the next school year. This week we had to do school enrollment for the girls for next year (I know! So soon!) so that was a reminder that everyone is moving up and moving on. We were toying with where to send Fin, because we have a few options for Kindergarten...I liked the idea of her going to public school with Piper (I'm going to have a first grader!! That's real real!) but we also adore her school now. So we ended up deciding to keep her in her private school for one more year. Because she has a Summer birthday, we could also reevaluate what she's ready for later, but this feels like the right step for right now. And come Fall, Miller will be proudly participating in G'mi & Papa days...he'll be with my mom a couple days a week, getting a taste of the grandparent magic his sisters have enjoyed so much over the last couple of years. Oh- and with all of that change means we'll be paying approximately $9 jillion less in daycare costs per year, so don't be surprised if you find me next September sitting in a pile of coins weeping happy tears of comparatively rich joy.

Bookmarking: at least eight parenting books that I don't seem to have the time to read. I've skimmed The Connected Child, and know that if I could just find the time to fully commit it to memory (and fully implement it in practice) it would change our experience with our foster kids. I also have a few of these phase guides to parenting that I really want to dig into more...they have one for every year of a kid's development (I have the 4-year-old and Kindergarten copies)

Opening: endless group text messages. I'm in a few different group threads (family, church, worship team, girlfriends...) so it seems there is another stream of silliness a few times a day. It gets a little overwhelming at times (looking down at my phone during a meeting and seeing 45 unread messages...) but I love the ability to connect with people throughout the week, and by connect, I obviously mean watch videos of a friend Animoji'ing himself as the pile of poo. 

Giggling: at kid jokes. They are truly terrible (Knock knock...BANANA COW!) and simultaneously hysterical. 

Feeling: nostalgic over some old school games we ( kids) got for Christmas. My dad and step-mom won a silent auction with a ton of classic games, so we've been playing some throwbacks like Simon, Twister and Lite Brite. (preschoolers are hilariously bad at Twister, by the way, but it does allow them to get some wiggles out...and maaaaaybe start to learn their left from their right.) It's so fun to introduce them to things I loved so much as a kid. Lite Brite holds a special place in my heart because when I was young, I would design something new every month or so, and my dad would actually display it like real art over our mantel. (It was like the Letter Folk board of my youth!)

Pretending: it's all going to be ok. Even with too many kids. Even with too many needs. Even with too many everything. Because if I just believe it, there's nothing to it. (That's either from the Bible, or Space Jam. Either way: truth).

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