Monday, November 28, 2011

This Side of the Mountain

I have so much to talk about, but I am beat. So instead of posting all the gorgeous photos of holiday visits with family and friends and my best girlfriend's wedding, I'm going to simply post this one. This is a photo of my four kiddos with the newest kid on the block, Mr. Quinten Henry. The future is bright!

Shrek has deserted us once again for Beer, I mean, Deer Camp. The six of us, in all combinations, traveled in many different directions over the past four days. So my house was a bit trashed, and the kids were tired and fussy like their momma. So today, I happily took my planned vacation day, kept Max home from school and got to it. It was a long day, but the house has recovered and somehow turned from fall to Christmas, or at least the hint of it, along the way. (Shout out to my mom for her perfect timing in whisking away most of my kids for most of the afternoon!)

Bedtime was ugly. As I carefully climbed down the stairs after the last kiss goodnight, I thought about voiding the whole experience from my memory. Within minutes though, I was feeling much better. A better perspective emerged. And I realized that while the climb wasn't easy, I was happy to say I was on the other side of the mountain.

I've been helping my cousin with her early nursing relationship with her new babe, and I'm happy to say everyone is thriving. At her baby shower, my sis and I admired all the new baby items in their adorably modern prints and sleek designs. I looked at her and said, "You know, this is all really nice, but we're done with it now," and we shared a ruthless high five. I know they say raising children goes fast. And it does. But sometimes it's good be be on this side of the mountain.

I guess that is my overwhelming feeling right now. It's been a busy fall, and I've been pressed in all sorts of ways. Now, nearing December Eve and in anticipation of the year's biggest holiday, I'm ready to slide down, to slow down, to enjoy.

It was a long climb, but I'm on the downhill now, and the walk looks pretty good.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thirty Notes of Thanksgiving

Luke would like to thank his big brother for sharing his lollipop....

I love thank-you notes. I like getting them well enough, but mostly, I like giving them. So it was not a completely selfless idea for me to do a project I'm calling Thirty Notes of Thanksgiving.

The idea bloomed in my brain earlier this month as Facebookers everywhere started populating their daily updates with statements of gratitude as part of a thirty-day Thanksgiving. I didn't want to follow the crowd, but one day, the thought came to me that I could surely think of thirty people to thank, who have made a positive difference in my life this year, for whom I am thankful.

And so, on a trip to town last week, I bought a box of fifty beautiful thank-you notes. Over the course of three or four sittings, I wrote one to our pediatrician, the awesome custodian at work, several of my aunts near and far, to the people whom I call coworkers that keep me sane, to the old college friend who sent Lucas pajamas nine months ago when his birth announcement went out, and to the kind men at Huddle Tire, who take care of me and my trusty green Honda van when Shrek can't. I wrote one to my sister, my mom, the members of my village that help me raise my children. I wrote to three bloggers who have had a tremendous impact on me. (Shout out CJane, NieNie and Ani!) I put some in the mail, sneaked some into office mailboxes, purses and locked janitorial supply closets. I handed some straight to the blessings in human form.

It was fun. It was empowering. It was something I didn't have to do that I really enjoyed doing.

So tonight, on Thanksgiving Eve, I'm writing one last note to all of you. Thank you. Thank you for reading my thoughts and beliefs when I get a chance to harness them into this blog. Thank you for playing the roles you play in my life.

In a month or so, I'm going to be asking for help from all of you. It won't be hard, I promise. But I thank you now for the help you'll give.

May Thanksgiving, one of the most loving, comfortable days of the year, bring you peace, family or friends who may as well be and good food. May we all put our problems aside and remember to be thankful for the many blessings we receive.

Oh, and dear Lord, thank you so much for this healthy little butterball of a cousin born this evening. Sweet baby Quinten, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. And boy, did you ever luck out in the family department!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Kid Party

As perfect as these photos make last night's bedtime look, it wasn't so pretty in actual life. Daddy had gone back to work, the baby wasn't going down without a fight, and I was just trying to get the snack and pajamas part of the process under way. The toothache I've been drugging all week was making me more than a little grumpy. Truth be known, I was exhausted and mirthless before the final kid finally gave in.

So there is my disclaimer. Many times in this Facebook/blogosphere/online world, we don't see the truth of each other's lives. Who wants to admit they yelled until their throat hurt, as I often do? But it's life. It's the good, the bad and the ugly, and it's a blessing.

Hot cocoa, cinnamon grahams, apple slices, siblings. Reading books by flashlight. It's the stuff of childhood. It's a kid party on a Thursday night.

And while you might not see Colby right away in the photo below, he's there, on the right side of the frame, squinting into the flashlight he's shining into his own eye.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Little Warrior

This little man is a trooper. He's had double ear infections for about 8 weeks now, and, other than his poor sleeping habits, you wouldn't know it. We have tried three different antibiotics in this time, and the verdict is in: we're headed for tubes. And as soon as possible. Like maybe this week or next.

All I know is if the kid can smile this brilliantly with all that going on, it's going to be even more amazing when he feels 100% well.

I'm doing well. November is a quick one, eh? Seems it was just beginning a moment ago, and now we're halfway through!

I just love this time of year. I'm taking advantage of the energy I feel. In the past week and a half, I've organized, ordered and received 733 photo prints from the last 8 months of life with four kiddos. I've sorted the kids' shoes. (This task should be in caps and boldface for how essential it had become.) I've organized the photos for my fourth pregnancy scrapbook and envisioned zipping through it in a session or two. I've reviewed and critiqued the first proof of a new design and theme for this very blog. I've been able to spend time at work catching up on things that had been neglected during the event-heavy October. I've gotten a nice leap on Christmas shopping. And I've spent truly quality time with each of my four children and my husband. If I can do all that in two weeks, I must be in pretty good shape.

Oh yeah, and I started an arm workout for my best friend's wedding... which is in ten days. Think it'll help? Ha! I'm also writing my maid of honor speech in my head, which is a great way to start something you really care about writing.

And, finally, I'm working on my own little Thanksgiving project. I'll tell you more about that one next time! Keep reading.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Happy Exhaustion

We took four kids to the Zoo today. (The picture above might be my favorite.)

I had a 6:45 a.m. wake up call courtesy of the baby, who also woke me no less than three or four times last night. Traveled 240 miles roundtrip to zoo. Packed four sippy cups, two bottles, snacks, two extra outfits, tissues, sunscreen, diapers, cameras, jackets, hats and more. Saw lots of wildlife.

I am exhausted. But happy. Good night!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Better People

I had a fantastic weekend with my birthday girl and my family at the center. I lived in the moment, I celebrated my blessings. I saw the good in all things.

In doing all of this, I was struck by the fact that my little girl has grown into a wonderful person. She's funny and kind. She writes in a journal almost constantly. She draws, better than her momma. She says please and thank you. And she's adorable.

At one point, she wanted me to write in my journal while she wrote in hers. I was trying to nurse a fussy baby to sleep and led her on and on to believe I'd write in my journal with her, but--oops--fell asleep myself. But before I did, she was finding my place in my journal, and we came across a note in her writing. It was found by Daddy in August on the living room floor, and I taped it into my journal for all time. We read it together: "I snuk a book from my mom's closet. It is a high school musical Book. She was maybe saving It for my Birthday But to Bad I Have It."

And we laughed and laughed.... "Too bad, I have it!" she laughed.

It appears my girl has learned how to laugh at herself. And, while that might not seem monumental, it is. It took me a long time to not take myself too seriously. And sometimes I still have trouble with that.

Another thing happened this past week that got me thinking. I was in the basement, putting away clothes, looking for others in sizes and seasons I knew existed, and I ran upon a Pandora's box. It was a tote full of memories, mostly from my teenage and college years, but also an 8th birthday card from my Grandma and Grandpa Strahler, a letter from me ("Two-Ton Tony") to my dear Grandpa ("64-Ton Tony"), my First Communion Bible and all sorts of other precious things.

And that box grabbed me by the heart and wouldn't let go. I stood and read and cried and remembered for more than an hour. My knees begged me to give up but my heart gave in to the memories. In that box was a smaller box of letters from my father during a very pivotal part of my life. Reading them was like reading them for the first time. They were wise and sad and full of humility. And it reminded me of a driving force in my life, a hand that shaped me. There were lines of advice in there, in my dad's somewhat backward way and script, that showed me that, in spite of our differences, we both want the same thing: for our children to be better than we were.

These two events together tell me it's true: I've been saying, and others say it too, that I want a better life for my children than the one I've had. But instead, I think maybe I want my children to be better people. The life, the house, the wallet, those are all details. But If I can have a hand in making better people than I am, now that's something. Those better people will weather whatever they must. They'll shine up their places in this world, and they'll find a better way.

Here's to birthdays, to this day, eight years ago, when I became nearly everything I wanted to be. Here's to raising better people.

And to my mini-me, who spiked a fever on her birthday: Feel better, girlie. I love you!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Present

Ah, the crux of life. I'm so awed by the many moods, the many seasons, the many emotions of life. More than anything, I'm awed by the blessings, all around, everyday. We get so busy and so stressed that we allow the edges of our lives to blur, and we lose sight of the blessings. But they remain.

Tonight, I'm catching up Luke's baby memory book. I'm dreaming of sifting through the glossiness of new photo prints, which I hope to actually be doing within the month or so. I'm marveling in the fact that our four babes, of varying ages, are upstairs, snugly sleeping in the safety and warmth of their beds. I spend so much time thinking of the spacious house we don't have, the backyard we need, the expanse of land I would love to set a home on, that I lose sight of what we do have: a warm, cozy house full of love. I'm proud of the house we built....

We have food too. And toys galore. Oh my, the toys! We could play all day, and often, we do. I've begun my Christmas shopping, and I'm encouraging the kids to think of the five gifts or so they REALLY want, as opposed to the products they're brainwashed into thinking they need every time a toy commercial comes on television. Even Colby has become accustomed to seeking out my face to say, binky hanging and drool falling, "I 'unt dat."

But first, a birthday. My little woman is having friends over after school tomorrow. They will take in playtime, Jukebox pizza, self-built ice cream sundaes and "Dolphin Tale" at a nearby theater. Miss Lily has carefully selected the treats and assembled the treat bags. She has grown more and more excited each day. And this weekend is about her and her birthday, with a family party and then her actual birthday on tap as well. I'm planning to dial down and enjoy it with her: my little helper girl, who makes me laugh and carry on in in ways good and bad. She is precious, and she is growing way too fast. The next time she offers me a place at her table, whatever the activity, I promise, right now, I'm going to take it.

Her brothers also carry on and continue to grow in all kinds of ways. I'm realizing how my busy-ness and my stress robs me of the awareness to see how fast, in fact, time actually is passing. I, on a whim, looked at an old photo album tonight from 2007 and 2008. I had two babies back then.

The work of my everyday life bogs me down, makes me complacent and, sometimes, even mean. But I'm going to resolve, again, to slow down, to cuddle, to savor, to write down the things I never want to forget in my journal, a baby book, this blog. I'm going to print those photos and put them in albums that I'll pull out in a couple of years to remember these days. But, even more, I'm going to squeeze and love and mug on those four little people in all their physical, present glory. I'm going to live more in the now, and not so much in the tomorrow.

Today is a gift. That's why they call it the present.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On the Exhale

Well, I am still catching my breath. I thought I'd post a little photo essay tonight to show what we've been up to the past week or so.

Busy? Why yes, but in the best way. Still trying to land on my feet. More soon!


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