Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas 2012

We spent a chaotic yet relaxing and fun Christmas day here in our new home. PopPop joined us for fun and a "grazing" afternoon of appetizers as dinner. It's hard to choose just a few photos, so here's a bunch.

Monday, December 24, 2012

More Pictures from Maryland

Before visiting Santa, we enjoyed decorating some Christmas cookies.

Waiting to see Santa, looking extremely cute.

Also waiting to see Santa, looking extremely cute.

Discussing whether we are on the naughty or nice list, and some things we might want for Christmas.

Aunt Eileen has made famous the "pile-up" lunch. Kai made his with just crackers and pickles.

Typical Alexander.

Grandma's always good for some candy. Jack's still got those lashes!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Then and Now

Just a quick little Then and Now of Alexander and his cousin Joey. They played together when they were little, but then distance separated them until recently. They first saw each other again in March, and during our recent visit to Maryland, the six cousins were all together for the first time ever.
Then: January 2007
Now. They bonded over video games.
All the cousins, best shot. Kai and Shelby are bored. Alexander, Jack, and Joey are ridiculously silly. Noah just wants to rip Shelby's face off.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Five Years of Santa

The first time we took the kids to see Santa, Alexander was three and Jack was one. Alexander was shy at first, but ultimately thrilled. Jack... not so much. We started a tradition that day, though, of attending Frederick County's Visit with Santa each year. None of the kids ever got quite as upset as Jack did that first time, but we've never gotten the perfect picture, either. We've always slipped the youngest one in for a quick photo op and then removed him while the older one(s) chat longer. Santa always brings Mrs. Claus with him on these visits, and both Mr. and Mrs. Claus always recognize our kids from year to year, commenting each time a new one arrives. This year Santa actually mentioned the gift that Alexander and Jack had asked for last year! They spend a nice amount of time with each family, often producing bell ornaments from amazing places. (Seriously, this time one appeared in Kai's pocket and even I wasn't sure how it got there.) And we've always planned to be early, often first or second in line. It's been wonderful, and we weren't sure any of Santa's visits to our new area could match up. So we went back to Maryland! It was a quick, whirlwind visit, but we were able to see a couple of friends, Santa, my aunt, and Justin's whole family. For this post I'll just include five years of Santa visits. 
2008- Alexander (3), Jack(1)

2009- Alexander (4), Jack (2)

2010- Alexander (5), Jack (3), Kai (8 months)

2011- Alexander (6), Jack (4), Kai (1)

2012- Alexander (7), Jack (5), Kai (2), Noah (8 months)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

For the Love of a Shower

I remember the first time I was desperate for a shower. Sure, there were many times before that day when I wanted a shower, or even needed one. But the day that I gave birth to my first child was, fittingly, the first time I can remember being absolutely desperate for a shower. That day was the beginning of many things, including a years-long struggle to stay clean.

On February 3rd, 2005, I woke up around 6AM, showered without realizing the luxury I was rushing through, and headed off to work at the bookstore. As I left at the end of my shift, I told a coworker that if I didn't show up the next day it would be because I was having a baby. I had noticed some signs that I was in early labor and, on the drive home, I experienced my first contraction. When I got back to our little apartment, I messaged Justin at work to tell him that labor had begun. Then I gathered up a small snack, a notebook, and a pen to track contractions, and I settled down to relax on the couch for a few hours. As the contractions grew closer together and more regular, I decided to take a shower. I thought the warm water would be soothing, and I didn't know when my next chance would be. The warm water was, indeed, soothing. I barely felt the contractions while I was in the shower. I wondered how soon I'd be able to see my feet again without a huge pregnant belly blocking my view. I awkwardly shaved my legs and wished I had gotten a pedicure. Soon after I was out and dressed, I told Justin it was time to go. It was around 8:30PM.

I think that, from time to time, we all realize what an amazing thing a hot shower is. But most of time time, we take it for granted. It's not until an extended camping trip leaves us overly grungy, or a bout of illness keeps us abed for several days, too weak to stand long enough to shower, that we are reminded how lucky we are. Remember Giselle in Enchanted? "This is a magical room." How about Lori, Rick, and the gang in The Walking Dead when they got to the CDC and heard there were showers? There's a reason that at least one reward in every season of Survivor involves a shower. Let's face it: showers rock.

I experienced a very difficult delivery with Alexander. The epidural didn't work. The nurse was mean. I had to push for FOUR HOURS. I was put on oxygen. They threatened a C-section. The nurse told me I wasn't doing a good job. Eventually they had to vacuum-extract him. All 9 pounds, 4 ounces of him. They put him on my chest and all I could see through my tears was a big batch of wild, black hair. I thought all the regular new Mommy thoughts. He's perfect. That was awful. I wish I could see him. I think he might fall off of me. This is the best thing that's ever happened to me. When will they clean him? No, don't take him yet. 

Within minutes, I also realized how desperate I was. I absolutely HAD to get in the shower, and I needed to eat at least half my weight in high-calorie food. Immediately. I would eat in the shower if necessary. Unfortunately, as anyone who's ever given birth in a hospital probably knows, you don't just get up after giving birth. First of all, you're still attached to at least three different things. You've got your IV, the baby/Mommy monitor on your belly, the blood pressure cuff, and maybe a few extras like an oxygen mask. Even once most of those things were removed, my nurses have (every time) decided to leave my IV in, in case I should need anything via IV. So there I was, having come in contact with just about every bodily fluid there is (I don't think anyone vomited), unable to take a shower. Tears, sweat, amniotic fluid, lots and lots of blood.... and all they did was wipe me off.

If I'm being honest, it's pretty unlikely that I would have been able to stand up long enough to take a shower at that point. I felt like a truck had hit me. Or maybe a bus. Most likely, a truck and a bus. And all I wanted was a goddamn shower. I got my food soon enough, but I didn't get my shower until the next day, more than 24 hours later, when they finally agreed to take my IV line out. It was a pitiful shower, unable as I was to stand up for more than 3 or 4 minutes or to lift my arms above chest level. But it was a shower, and it was awesome.

Ten days later I was back in the hospital with a blood clot. I lamented, as they stuck various monitors and lines to my body, that I had only just finally been able to scrub the last bits of adhesive from my body. Like I said, it was a rough delivery and it took quite a long time for me to recover physically. As a result, showers were really just quick rinse-offs. I didn't have the strength, energy, or time to scrub the heck out of my back.  With that second stay in the hospital, it was probably two and a half weeks after having Alexander that I finally was able to remove the last bits of adhesive from my back. That stuff means business.

And thus started my years-long struggle to manage a shower. In those early days, I told my dad, "The baby won't let me take a shower." He replied, "What? Does he crawl out of his crib and turn off the water?" The answer was no, of course not. But he did insist on eating every 45 minutes and crying whenever he wasn't being held. I brought him into this world, I thought, and it was my responsibility to tend to his every need. Who was I to need something? Something as trivial as a shower? 

Over the past eight years, I have showered with a baby in my arms many times. It makes it pretty awkward to wash my hair or shave my armpits, but it keeps the baby from crying and it's better than nothing. I've showered with a baby in a chair outside the shower, and played peek-a-boo to keep them calm. I've abandoned showers halfway though, with only one leg shaved, because I heard my baby crying so desperately in his crib. I've taken showers with a toddler sitting in the end of the tub, gnawing on a rubber-ducky. I've taken showers with older toddlers who insist they love showers, until they get in it. Every time. I've taken showers with my toddler screaming outside the bathroom door because he wanted so badly to be with me. I've been surprised in the shower by a toddler who sneakily joined me. I've taken showers late at night after they're all finally in bed, hoping I wouldn't wake them with the sound of the water. I've gotten out of the shower to find that my three-year-old had discovered he could open the front door and walk out.

Just the other day, again desperate for a shower, I set the older kids up with a show to watch so that they wouldn't be tempted to get into trouble (or escape). I put Noah in his rocking chair in the bathroom and hoped that the bar of dangling toys would entertain him long enough for me to get clean. One minute into my shower, Jack entered the bathroom. "Can I have some crackers?" Two minutes in, Kai came in. "I want milk." Three minutes in, Noah started to fuss. When I looked out to check on him, he had somehow managed to lean forward and escape the straps of the chair and was crawling across the bathroom toward the open door. I abandoned yet another shower, hair unwashed.

Every time I get to the point where even the youngest of my kids is old enough to mostly be entertained by a snack, some crayons, or a show long enough for me to take a daily shower, the next baby is born and I start from scratch. Dirty, dirty scratch. 

I hope I don't stink too bad. I just can't manage a shower every day. But with Justin as my witness, Noah is my last baby. Because someday, someday, I will take daily showers once again. Not even the realization that three boys easily fit in one bedroom, leaving room for a fifth kid, or the fact that there are seven seats in my van, or that fact that I still don't have a little girl will persuade me to change my mind. All for the love of a shower.

I'd go take one now, but Noah just woke up from his nap.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Typical Homeschool Day

I am new to this homeschool world, but even I know that there is no typical homeschool day. It could vary widely from family to family and from day to day. However, because it is one of the things that I was most curious about before I started homeschooling, I thought I'd share what a regular day might look like for us by just describing our day from time to time. If that sounds insanely boring to you, then by all means skip this post!

I woke up at 1:30AM, 3:30AM, and 5:30AM to a crying baby.... wait, that's not relevant...

Noah woke up for the day around 6:30AM and as usual, I fed him and then set him on the floor to wander around, suck on discarded socks (Mom of the year award is in the mail, I know), gnaw on board books, and slobber on toy trains while I lazily, desperately tried to stretch out every last minute that I could stay in my bed. Kai came in around 7:30 and I was forced to rise.

Alexander and Jack came raucously down the stairs soon after and I got to work on four different breakfasts. Normally we aim to start school around 9:30, but Alexander was so excited about our social studies unit on Hanukkah this week that he asked if we could start with that. So, at around 9:00AM we started in with some reading about Hanukkah. Alexander and I worked together on a cardboard dreidel, and then all three kids and I played for a while. About five minutes in, on one of Kai's turns, he looked happily down at the dreidel and exclaimed, "I got Gimel!" and pulled all the pennies to himself. He picks up quickly!

At around 10:15 we stopped and Alexander and I worked on his spelling words, some grammar, and I introduced his new poem for memorization which we read over several times and discussed. I'm sure Kai and Jack were doing something during that time, but I honestly couldn't tell you what it was. If the state of the playroom is any clue, they battled some sort of tornado-troll. The kids are not allowed any screen time during the day on school days. In all seriousness, Jack and Kai play quite well together most of the time while I am working with Alexander. They certainly quarrel like any other brothers, but I think their phase of intense "wrestling" seems to be in a lull.

By 11:00, Alexander and I were done and we all breaked for an early lunch. My kids eat all day. ALL DAY. I am pretty sure I won't be able to homeschool past elementary school because I am going to have to get a JOB to pay for all their food.

After lunch I got to work with Jack. We did some work with flash cards on identifying lowercase letters. Again, I am sure that Alexander and Kai did something for those fifteen minutes, but whatever it was, no one was shrieking and I didn't hear any crashing, so it wasn't memorable. After Jack and I were done with the flash cards, all the kids and I played a game we call Alphabet Actions. For each letter, we think of an action we can do that starts with that letter. Jack was responsible for telling us what sound each letter makes, so it was phonics reinforcement for him and some pretty good exercise for all of us. That took until about 12:30, at which time we all got ready to go out. It's true what they say, you know. You can homeschool in your pajamas.

Jack and Alexander each take one activity per week at the YMCA. Today Jack had tumbling for an hour. During that time, Alexander, Kai, and I walked a leisurely loop around the short track, did a few races back and forth down the hallway, and Alexander did his daily half hour of forced pleasure reading while Kai worked on a PuzzleBuzz magazine.

We got home around 2:30 and surprise, surprise, it was time for a quick snack. Afterwards Alexander breezed though his math assignment and a page of copywork (handwriting practice). He was done by 3:15.

Our homeschool day is done, except for the idea that homeschool bleeds into life and vice versa.

Now, in order to get a better feel of how our day went, go back through and insert various baby needs, noises, and actions about two or three times per sentence. Do most of our days go pretty smoothly? Yes, surprisingly so. But yes, I do have four kids here, two of whom are still very young and require quite a bit of supervision, hands-on care, and entertainment from me. There are days when we don't get everything done that I had planned, but so far we've always been able to find time later in the week to make it up without getting behind. It works out and I wouldn't change my decision even on our worst day. Not yet, anyway.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Three Bears According to Kai

Tonight as I was putting Kai to bed, I asked him to tell me the three bears story for once. I don't have it word for word, but it went something like this:

There was a Papa Bear, a Kid Bear, and a Baby Bear. The Papa Bear wanted to be Batman. The Baby Bear wanted to be a little Robin and the Kid Bear wanted to be Spiderman. One day Papa Bear made noodles for his family, but he didn't make it too hot, so they didn't have to go for a walk or a bike ride in the woods. They sat in their chairs and ate their noodles. Then they were tired so they went to their beds and fell asleep. Who wanted to come see them? A pig! When they saw the pig, they were so scared that they ran all the way to their apartment. And that was the "the end."

My kids are pretty great.