Tuesday, November 17

their first boat ride

On a beautiful Saturday this summer we finally made it to the lake to spend the day with Aunt Becky & Uncle Bill on their boat.  Grandma came too and we all had the best time.  The kids were loving life on the boat.    

Uncle Bill let the big kids have a chance to drive the boat and they thought that was the coolest.  Tyson was especially into it.

The girls brought Barbies in bathing suits on the boat to swim with them.  

We ate lunch on the boat too which made it extra fun for the kids.  They thought it was neat to eat on the boat and then jump back in the water for more swimming.

The kids absolutely love swimming but since they had never been in a lake, we weren't sure how they would feel about it.  They all jumped in without hesitation and swam like fish, including Violet.  It was so fun to swim around with them and watch them giggle as they experienced something new.

Aunt Becky loves to play with the kids and they had a blast blowing water through the noodle in her face.  So much laughter.

Tyson is a floating machine.

Uncle Bill must get his power naps.

Violet made it her mission to fetch the noodles when they floated out of reach.  She took her job very seriously and would flip out when someone else tried to retrieve a noodle.

No fear in this little one.

A new tradition began that day and sweet, sweet memories were made.  Thanks Aunt Becky & Uncle Bill for your hospitality and generosity!    

Thursday, October 8

my baby-making days are over



I would be like Sarah Jessica Parker (in Girls Just Wanna Have Fun) as she stands in front of a classroom full of girls and proclaims "I love to dance" with an unmistakable glow.  If you asked me to stand in front of a room full of moms and tell about myself I would most likely begin with "I love to be a mom" and everyone would know by the sound of my voice and the look on my face that I was not messing around.

It's just who I am.  I was the little girl who was obsessed with baby dolls.  I took my favorite baby dolls to church with me in a carseat with a packed diaper bag.  I took it seriously.  It was just natural for me and gave me great joy to take care of babies.  I was obsessed and fascinated with baby items, bottles, strollers, diapers.  I will never forget the Christmas that my Aunt Lisa bought me a real life size baby umbrella stroller.  It was navy blue and made me feel like a real Momma.

I was desperate to take care of babies and went so far as to ask my poor single mother to adopt one.  I can only imagine the look on her face the first time I asked.  I simply had a yearning in my heart at such a young age to be a Momma.

Fast forward a few years and my first niece, Tia was born.  I was head over heels before she was even born.  Her and my sister would be living with us so my dream had come true.  There would finally be a little baby in my house to take care of.  I would sit in the nursery dreaming of what he/she would be like.  I would fold and re-fold onesies over and over and tried to help my sister get ready for this baby in any way I could.  I didn't leave the house for weeks after she was born because I didn't want to miss a minute.  I loved her like she was my own.  She was my little sidekick.  About a year later, I gained another niece and felt like I was in heaven.

Several years after that, I was sitting at a restaurant with Jason on our very first date and informed him that I wanted a lot of babies and that I would be staying home with them.  That was my dream and he needed to know what he was signing up for right up front.  It was basically love at first sight for him so he was already too far gone to protest my future plans.  He wouldn't have anyway.  He fell more in love after hearing my dreams.  He is a good good man and he wanted the same life.

I taught kindergarten and first grade for several years while Jason finished up graduate school.  I could not wait to get our baby making days started.  A little less than four years after we got married, we had our firstborn.  I had fears of not being able to conceive since it was something I so desperately desired and when it happened right away, I was beyond thankful.  I enjoyed every second of that pregnancy.  I am not kidding when I say I would walk out of the bathroom after puking my guts out with a smile on my face.  Jason would laugh as I said, "I am just happy to be pregnant!".  Throwing up was a reminder that there was a baby growing inside of me and I could not get over the amazingness of it all.  I felt more alive and beautiful than ever.

God was so good to us over the next six and a half years carrying us through multiple health scares and blessing us with four beautiful babies.  I loved being pregnant.  I loved giving birth.  I experienced the super long and hard labor that almost ended in emergency c-section, the breech baby that broke my water and had to be a c-section, the epidural that only worked in one leg and nowhere else, the baby who came in 2 hours from first contraction and didn't even give the nurses time to put in an iv or the doctors time to arrive.  I hold these precious stories in my heart so deeply and desperately wish I could re-live every single one.

So now here I am, ten years after that first positive pregnancy test.  I once again feel something in the pit of my stomach but this time it is not a baby, I am back to the yearning for one.  I can't even believe these precious baby making years are over.  It doesn't even make sense how fast they went.  I feel so sad about it and I want them back.  I want to experience every second of it all again.

But I can't.  I have big babies now that still need me but in different ways than my tiny babies did.  They can all get dressed by themselves (with occasional assistance), use a potty, brush their own teeth, and they all know how to sleep through the night.  I know it felt like it was all going to last forever, the nursing, the potty training, the lack of sleep, the cutting up of food into itty bitty pieces.  But it didn't.  It flew by in a flash and I miss it.

I feel like that Grandma in the store that tells you to "Enjoy your little ones cause they grow up so fast".  I am already that Mom and my youngest is only 3.  I am that Mom who is hyperaware of all the things I will miss one day.  I realize how fast it all is going.  I already know that I will start cleaning the bathrooms one day and begin to cry because the toilet does not have pee all over it and there are no tiny toothbrushes lying around.  I will wish I had lunches to pack and homework to help with, and will without a doubt wish I had someone to tuck in at night.

Of course, this perspective and these feelings do not make me immune to frustration and anger with my kids.  We have bad days, really bad days.  Days when I wonder why we had so many of them, days when I feel like I am drowning, and days when I want to run away from all this responsibility of raising four little humans.

And this is why I write down my perspective when it is where I want it.  I can read this on those bad days and remember why I longed for these kids in the first place and why I get up day after day and give this mothering gig my best shot.

This is my mission for today.  To love my family the best I can and not wish for another time but to enjoy NOW while I have it.  They aren't babies anymore and I want to embrace that.  I want to stop looking back longingly but instead look back with peace and gratitude for what once was.  We are in a new season now and though it will be much different than the last, it too will be filled with joy and excitement.  I will give myself permission to let the tears flow when I look back at photos or have a day where baby fever is at an all time high.  All of that is okay as long as I also welcome this new stage in our journey with open arms and an overflowing heart.

Saturday, October 3

family vacation (my favorite week of the year)

It gets better every year.  Maybe this year it was because Violet was potty trained and fairly independent.  Maybe it was because we went into it with reasonable expectations.  Whatever the reason, it was a week to remember.  It's just hard to go wrong when you are all together with nothing really to worry about except whether you should go to the beach or pool first and where you should eat for dinner.  Vacation is such a beautiful thing.

We are blessed with awesome road-trippers.  They wake up devastatingly early when we are away from home but they travel like champs.  That is our third year in a row driving to Florida without a DVD player.  We listen to chapter books and they can't get enough.  Even Violet will just sit quietly most of the time sucking her thumb and listening.  The whole family gets into the book and then we can discuss it too.  It also helps to get books where the reader has a British accent.  

We stop halfway both directions and that makes everyone happier.  It's all part of the trip and our way of sucking the life out of every last minute of vacation and keeping everyone sane by not traveling through the night.  We pulled the all-nighter the first year as rookies and it just wasn't for us.

Of course swimming at the hotel is a favorite.  And I got one of my favorite pictures from the whole week that first night.

Violet was mainly used to being in shallow water where she could reach so she kind of freaked out and refused to leave Daddy when we first got in the pool.

It took a whole five minutes for her to realize she could easily do it on her own and then she wouldn't let us near her.  She is a funny kid.

The shots of all our babies together on one bed especially with their Daddy make me happy.  I can't resist taking them every single time.  Tyson happily slept on the floor in a sleeping bag, the big girls had the other bed, and Violet in a pack and play.

There was a barstool for each of them so this is where they ate breakfast every morning.

When I would first bring my camera out, it would fog up so bad and you could never get a clear picture until several minutes later after cleaning the lens.  But sometimes the haze makes the pictures better.

Most days we would rest a little in between the beach and the pool and put Violet down for a nap. One day we stayed out longer and didn't make time for naps so Violet fell asleep on the couch waiting for Mommy to take a shower before dinner.  It was precious.

Avery would spend any down time reading on the balcony and she loved it...until a sister or brother would come out and bug join her.

We went to the restaurant with the alligators as the kids requested.  They were so into the alligators and did not want to leave.

Mia had a whole story to go along with the alligators on the dock.  There was a Grandma, teenager sister, and all kinds of different family members.  She was very serious about it and knew their life story.

The kids meals come with a tiny plastic alligator which became all of their favorite thing for the next few days and it definitely kept them busy as we waited for our food.  I had Avery take a picture of Jason and I as we alligator watched outside and it actually came out decent.  I really need to do that more often.

Avery is a fun little goofball and just had to get a picture taken with the alligator statue and her head inside it's mouth.  She thought it was hilarious.

I love walking behind everyone on our way to the beach and just enjoy the view.  So thankful for my people.

Violet was not very excited about the beach the previous two years so we did not know what to expect.  She pleasantly surprised us by being thrilled with the sand and everything about the beach.  Except for the "crazy waves", she only liked the "calm waves".  We did have a red flag the last few days and the waves were big and she wasn't a fan of that unless Daddy took her out and held her tight.  She liked to play in the sand next to Avery a lot.

Mia & Tyson love the ocean.  They played in the sand some too but no matter how crazy the waves were, that was their preference.

They love it when Daddy digs huge holes for them to stand in.

Avery got excited about the little sand shelf that the waves had created.  She said it was "art" and she messed with it for hours requesting a picture with each change caused by her or a wave.  It was serious business.

I caught Violet eating sand quite a bit.  She seemed to enjoy it and I couldn't figure that out.

I have no idea why she was crying at this point but it was cute so it was a moment worthy of a photo.

This was totally random but Mia found a bra pad in the ocean that had come out of a swimsuit.  It entertained her for a long time and she kept calling it a bra and using it to make her sand castles.  She even walked up to a few women and asked them if they lost their bra pad.  I could not stop laughing.  Jason just gave them a look and they answered no and then laughed afterward.

Oh, my boys.  They are the cutest.

I only take my camera to the beach one day during the week and this ended up being the perfect one.  We went in the afternoon on this day and the clouds and red flag must have kept people away because it was not very crowded.  I am practically floating on air as I photograph my family on the beach.  It's my favorite.

One night we got ready to go to dinner and we noticed that Tyson was heading to the door without pants on so we whispered to get the word around to the girls.  He had been so busy wiggling his super loose tooth that he didn't even remember to put on his shorts.  We all walked out trying hard to hold in our laughter and then we just stood there at the top of the stairs staring at him.  He had no idea why and wasn't even paying much attention to anything but his tooth until Jason asked him if he was missing something.  We all cracked up.  I cried.  It was hilarious.  That's our boy.

We walked to our favorite restaurant on the ocean for our favorite popcorn shrimp.  We had a blast and everyone was goofy as ever that night.  We had so much fun.

And that tooth of Tyson's finally came out as we were sitting at dinner.

Our waiter even offered to take a family picture for us.

After dinner that night, we walked on the beach for a bit and it was just extra gorgeous that night.  The kids were all looking cute and I loved every minute of it.

The best part was the way Violet and Mia were just dancing around and singing without a care in the world.  Just pure joy.  It was awesome.

Tyson could not resist jumping from the huge wooden box on the beach that holds chairs.  He would have done that all night if we had let him.

There was a giant inflatable shark that belong to the condo place or somebody had left it there.  Everyone staying there that week enjoyed this thing and it was funny to watch people get on and off.  It was not an easy task.  Jason fell off a couple minutes after this picture was taken.  Good times.

We met all kinds of nice people at the condo again this year.  This time Violet and Mia befriended an older couple.  The wife's name was Sandi and Violet referred to her as "my friend Sandi".  She talked their ears off and they seemed to love every bit of it.  We sat back watching and cracking up.

We had an amazing week and none of us wanted it to end.  And not only was vacation ending but school was starting just a few days after we got back home.  That was rough and not great timing on our part.  I was desperately wishing summer could go on and on but those fresh memories of a sweet vacation were stuck in my mind and that helped a little.