Thursday, May 31, 2012

6 Months: Turning Point

Was it only six short months ago you were born, Grace?  From now on, you are closer to being one year old than born.  New tiny babies are being born in our circle of friends, and, though you were never tiny to begin with, you are well on your way to the milestones that define this next half of the first year.  As soon as you sit up, which will be very soon indeed, you will have lost all traces of the newborn I once held in my arms, and will be headed full long into babyhood.

You're a tall baby, continuing to grow to keep up with the top of the charts.  Your blond hair and dimples make you your own, but you certainly bear the resemblance of the Ordway Children.....Gerber Babies one and all, with your found face, big blue eyes, and long eye lashes.  A sweet song you are!

Believing you to be our last child, each stage you pass through represents a new stage for me as well.  Since 2006, I've defined my journey through my blog as Gourmet to Gerber.  As of Memorial Day, I now am beginning the journey back from Gerber to Gourmet!  We started solid foods just yesterday, and you gladly chased the spoon into your mouth to sample the Gerber Organic Carrots....your first taste of anything other than my milk.  Rice cereal has been a hit as well. As one might imagine, it was a sad transition for Mama as well...another moment of letting go.  From conception until now, my body has nourished you. Now, we begin the slow but steady process of transitioning you entirely away from dependence upon me.

Your voice is continuing to strengthen and grow, and the sounds coming forth are stronger, louder, and far less shrill.  Frequently, we'll hear you humming the same noises over and over....sometimes happily, and sometimes with the growing impatience brought on by tiredness, and always sliding along the vocal scale.  Hmmmmmm Hmmmmm Hwwwwww Haaaahhhhhhhaaaahhhh.  And occasionally in the frantic moment of impatience just before you get your milk, a high pitched (and very loud) squeal comes out!  In these moments, legs and arms are flailing and grabbing until the immediate relaxation of milk comes upon you.

Your eyes are merry sparkles, shining like always with a secret wisdom held deep inside.  If we're lucky, you'll quickly twitch your eyebrows in flirtation as a smile creeps into your rosy, dimpled cheeks.  And, oh how you stare into our eyes!  If we never looked away, you wouldn't either.  It's as if we are the most fascinating creatures you have ever seen.....sent for the purpose of entertaining you!

Your mouth is frequently open, ready to chew on anything that passes by....hands or toys or clothes. When your hands aren't inside of your mouth, they are often busy playing with your toes or clutching the fabric of your clothes.

I'm probably asked about a hundred times each day between your three siblings, "Can I hold Gracie?"  They must collectively spend hours each day in front of you, cooing and talking in their sing-song happy voices.  How they adore you!  And you them....  If anyone can get you to laugh or smile, it is Emet.  And, he would probably spend his entire day getting you to smile at him.  I've rarely seen a face filled with more joy than when Emet looks upon you.

Favorite toys these days include the rubber giraffe named Sophie, which you squeak and chew every time we are in the car, in addition to the stuffed giraffe we hand you as we lay you in bed. A little grey stuffed elephant also finds its nose inside of your mouth.

No longer do you sleep in the little bassinet in our room.  You have officially moved upstairs to share a room with your big sister.  For a few nights, I thought that move might be the end of us, for you began to wake each morning at 6am, almost 2 hours before you had been waking. But, quickly, I discovered if I brought you down to eat, you would fall back asleep nuzzled next to me.  Lately, you've been sleeping through to your normal wake time, and sometimes even waking happy versus frantic and crying.  Anna Ruth has been especially good, for she loves to have you in her room and won't risk having you taken out if she slips into a big cry.  And she doesn't seem to wake up when you do in the morning.  However, we know that stages are brief, and all too soon, you and she will be giggling and tossing toys from one bed to another. Oh the joys of siblings! And the joys of being witness to the fun they have together!

You're rolling over, though our hard floors prevent us from giving you too many opportunities to practice your newly found skill.  But, when you do, your back arches and you high center yourself on your belly! Typcially, your left arm gets stuck underneath, and the experience ends in a bout of crying until you roll back over.

The hanging jumper just came out of storage last week to be used for the last time, and the swing and the baby tub are but a couple of weeks from fading into obscurity.  My hardest goodbye will likely be your bouncer, and if one object will be able to evoke instant memories from your baby days - this will be it.  You have bounced yourself like no other.....lifting your leg to bounce the minute you recognize you will be placed in the seat!  Up and down you go, picking the back up off the hard floor and creating a clicking sound as it bounces up and down.  If given enough time, you will move yourself, inch by inch, across the entire floor!  What sweet memories we have of you in this chair.  You could spend an hour in it without complaint, smiling the whole time! Increasingly, though, your little back arches in the seat after a while of bouncing, attempting to roll out and away.  We wonder if you'll love the hanging bouncer just as much.

As hard as it is to say goodbye to the newborn stage, which has slowly faded away, it is a joy to see you grow and change....and we are so excited to celebrate with you each and every step of the way!  God bless you, dear Grace.  We love you!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

becoming a parenting mistake at a time

There are certain "projects" in our home that get shuffled for months on end.  Admittedly, for me, they are pushed aside mostly due to my dread of getting started.  Let's face it.  Life with four little kids is busy and scattered.  The thought of diving into something that takes planning and time, in addition to growing the mess before it gets better, makes me procrastinate.....and so the cycle continues.

As of late, the projects hanging over my head have been sorting and organizing the girls' room, sorting and filing papers (including loads of the childrens' artwork and school papers...which require decisions about what to toss, what to keep, etc.), and sorting through the overfull shoe bins in our laundry room.  The last project I have been avoiding the longest, because as the main entry to our small home, I don't want to clutter it more than it always already is.

Today, I psyched myself up to dive right into the project I've been putting off for a couple of months...reorganizing the tiny room that is now shared by both of our girls.  Clothes of varying sizes were to be sorted and stored away, crib sheets and blankets, tiny doll clothes, play kitchen food and serve ware, books galore, baby toys, and oodles of teeny tiny toys collected and beloved by Anna Ruth.  And all of it, must be functionally organized in the tiny square footage remaining after a dresser, crib, toddler bed, toy stove, and a rocking chair...among other things...take their place.  A daunting task.

I brought out the pretty black and white basket collection I had purchased to sort and store the various categories of things. Anna Ruth "helped" the entire time, doubling my work, but as any mother knows...the extra effort put in now in getting her to take responsibility to sort and organize will be well worth it later when she knows how to pick up her room the right way.  (Yes, I am convincing myself of this as I write!) :-)

Finally, like with any project I begin, it is not finished, but the time has arrived to go pick up Caleb at school.  However, we have made some excellent progress!  I decide it may be a few days before I dive into another indoor project.

I hear Emet call up from downstairs where he has been entertaining Grace, " can come down now!" He had been busily working away on a project he hadn't been ready for me to see, but apparently he too had come to a stopping point.

As I round the corner from the stairs into the laundry room, a beaming Emet steps aside to showcase Gracie sitting in her bumbo seat.....surrounded by each and every single shoe from the now empty shoe bin.....taking up every square inch of floor space from one side of the room to the other.  Gulp.  My hands immediately tore through my hair, and a loud exasperated sigh escaped my lips. "Oh, Emet!  Look what you've done!  Now I have a huge mess to fix! Why on earth would you make such a mess?!"

I know my reaction was not what he'd hoped for after his hour of focused hard work.  His crestfallen face was evidence of that.  And if Emet has one physical trait that stands out above all else, it's his enormous blue eyes that reflect the depth of his very soul.  Oh yeah...and his sweet and helpful spirit. Ouch.  He stood in the middle of the enormous shoe pile sniffing back his disappointed tears.  I attempted to diffuse the moment by offering to take his picture with his "project".  I bought a little of his spunk back with that.  (I find that pictures go a long way with kids.)

I remembered a valuable lesson today....the one about putting a space between an action and your reaction.  No matter your response, you're going to make an impression.  That space you insert there is more than just a pause in time.  It's a chance to build and grow a encourage and inquire of what his mind might have been thinking, and to redirect.  Conversely, it is a chance to tear down and to ensure the individual learns never takes a risk to please you.  Emet clearly was not being naughty.  In fact, when I later asked him (kindly) what his goal was in taking out all of the shoes, he tucked down his little chin and shyly said..."Well, I was just trying to help the family out."  As it turned out, he thought it would be more helpful to be able to see all of our shoes at once than to have to dig through a bin for them.

Despite my "Mama Fail" moment, Emet and I are ok.  I haven't ruined his future as a helpful individual,  and I doubt he'll remember me as a terrible Mama.  However, it doesn't hurt to collect some lessons along the way and do better next time. How else can I become an expert? :-)

"An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field." Niels Bohr

Friday, May 25, 2012

Running in Circles

As Grace was sitting in her Bumbo seat in the middle of the kitchen floor, Emet was running circles around her. Around and around he went.  At one point, Anna Ruth stepped into the path and..."SMACK"...down they went into a big pile of angry tears.  I heard Emet tell Sissy..."Anna Ruth, get out of the way!  I'm running in circles!"

What irony, I thought.  We do that a lot in life, don't we?  The boy was literally running in circles, and going nowhere, like a hamster on a wheel.  Yet his course was important to him, much more than the feelings and well being of those around him.

How many pursuits do I have that send me on this same circular route.....spending time and energy to no great end?  How many days do I frantically run about, pushing aside my children in an attempt to ensure the kitchen is clean, laundry is being processed, and my "important" to-dos of responding to this inquiry or that on my computer.  How many outside tasks pull me away from my goal of pouring love and time into my children during the short years I have them at home and under my strong influence. Yet, in the end...will they remember my eyes looking into theirs? Or, will they see my face staring at a computer screen or phone?  Will they remember me sitting down to put together a puzzle, color a picture, or play tag outside?  Or will they hear the words..."Not right now, Mama's busy...Mama has something important to do"?

It seems like for each morsel of time I have, there are several small commitments vying for a slot.  And, they all call out their minimal requirements...."Meet only once per month......only on Wednesday nights for two hours....All I'd have to do is...."  Yet, no matter how worthwhile or important they may seem, they pale in comparison to my high calling as a Mama to these four beautiful children.  My time of great influence in their lives is brief.  I think I'd better be evaluating my course with every decision and commitment I make.

The prophet Nehemiah was likewise adamant in his refusal to leave the important work of building the city wall, despite numerous pulls for his attention.  "And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”" Nehemiah 6:3  

Likewise, I have an important work before me, and I dare not leave it for yet another hamster wheel....all in order to run in circles to no great end.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Murphy's Law Strikes Again

This evening marked an annual tradition as we headed down to the REI sale to purchase new Keens for the children.  As we pulled into the parking lot, Emet excitedly exclaims, "It's the shoe factory!"  Between The Old Spaghetti Factory and the Cheesecake Factory, I don't think our children have any hope of understanding that all stores and restaurants are not called factories. I don't correct him.

Jason and the older three children headed into the store to be measured while I fed Grace in the car.  Never being the most talented with the Ergo baby carrier, I attempted to slide her in while still sitting in my seat instead of doing it outside the car.  As she hung by her ankle, panic stricken, as I slung her over my shoulder, I was glad for this decision.  Into REI we went, baby carrier snugly on my back, Gracie in my arms.  This should have been a sign.

We found the family somewhere in the midst of the enormous stack of shoe boxes.  Caleb was searching for a youth 2, Emet for a 13, and Anna Ruth for an 8.  The dig for size and color began.  As I continued to fumble with Grace and the carrier, Jason finally took them both, and I dug into the boxes.  Best move of the night. 

I heard a little voice say, "I knee go potty!" and turned to see Anna Ruth dancing around at the end of the row.  Now, we're only three days and three accidents into being diaper free, so these statements are taken VERY seriously.    As I ran over to scoop her up, I noticed that her little pants were already getting wet and there was a bad smell.  I could hear Jason's voice ringing in my ears as he asked me at the car if I would be bringing in the diaper bag.  "Nah" I had said.  "We won't need's just one more thing."  Gulp.  This could be ugly.  

Sure enough, entering the tiny stall and helping her pull down her little pants I found I was right....ugly indeed.    I also noticed she was wearing the new, but still unpurchased partially soiled. Ah well.  Thankfully, they were the ones we planned to buy.  Let's just say that the little purple and blue flowered big girl undies are now property of the REI dumpster, and I pity the poor soul whose job it was to empty the trash in that bathroom tonight.  Yikes.  

Somewhere in the 45 minutes we stood in that tiny stall, I bent over to help with a wipe up and decided to flush the toilet.  Apparently, it was a power toilet with a jet engine flushing system.  Water shot out of the toilet and INTO my mouth.  I froze, wanting to frantically scrub at my face, but instead I maintained my cool so as not to panic the already distressed toddler.  After several trips back and forth off the potty, we finally left the stall.....thankfully the pants were dark and disguised the wetness.  I hadn't brought a change of clothes from home (of course), so that's what we had.  We rushed back out to the car to find no pull-ups either, but I did convince her that a one time trip back into a diaper wouldn't harm her status as a potty trained big girl.  

Ultimately, we ended up with Keens for all and everyone is back at home, showered and in bed.  I am the only one up, just finishing up apple cinnamon muffins for our Sunday School class tomorrow.....which I might add were made with eggs added as the last ingredient and no cinnamon.  But, had the day ended any other way, it might not have been fitting! I have one last task of taking a shower.  Hoping for the best... :-)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother's Day 2012

I would be remiss not to capture this Mother's Day in writing, for it is the epitome of my days as a Mama in this stage of life.

Starting Friday, Caleb was insistently asking what my second favorite ride at Disneyland was.  I think I finally, under his suggestion, decided on Thunder Mountain Railroad.  And my sweet Jason continually reminded the children "This is Mama's special weekend" with each choice that was to be made.

Caleb with a gleam in his eye, proudly handed me the Mother's Day gift he had made in school, along with his picture on a Sunflower that doubled as my card.  Inside was a drawing of Caleb and I in the car, heading to Starbucks, because he said his favorite thing to do was to go on special dates with me. Emet immediately realized that he too wanted to give something to me, so he and Caleb started planning what they could do for me.

Saturday was spent preparing and planting the garden, and Jason slaved away cutting out sod with a shovel to create a new garden plot, since Anna Ruth and I purchased way too many seeds and starts for our normal spot during our Mama - Daughter outing.   The kids played outside and helped me to plant the seeds, and the day ended with Jason and I snuggling up to watch Band of Brothers.

Sunday arrived and I was greeted by the reality that not everyone remembers special times every moment of the day.  There were a few whines as the children dressed for Sunday School and service.  Somewhere in there, Emet excitedly presented me with Caleb's gift.....a plastic flower pot that said, "Your Love Makes Me Bloom".  The kids are so excited for me to plant something in it.

Picking the children up from Sunday School, I was presented with a handful of papers (as usual), except this batch was of Mother's Day cards the children had made.  Emet's was a basket that he had decorated with flowers and stickers, and Caleb had drawn a picture of he and I holding hands in front of the Disneyland Castle and on the Thunder Mountain Railroad together.  Anna Ruth colored some purple on a picture of a mom and little girl and made a Popsicle stick flower.  That said, when I asked her if they were for me, she put on her "Angry Bird" face and said, "No, Me!"  So, apparently she made herself a Mothers Day card and flower.  She continues to be quite insistent about it.

After a free brunch buffet at Costco, and a swing through Starbucks for an extra special treat of Strawberry Frappuccinos for the kids (for making me a Mama) and an Iced Mocha for me (Jason had his at Costco), we headed home for another day in the garden.

As is typical in the life of a Mama of little ones....the afternoon didn't go quite as planned.  Instead of being outside with my family in the amazing sunshine, I mostly stayed inside and tried to pick up, process just "one more load of laundry"  (because maybe then I could finally catch up...will I ever learn?), then cleaned up from Anna Ruth time and again after what may have been a reaction to shellfish.  Papa held Ru Bear in the cool breeze outside, while the boys played on the Slip n Slide and Gracie in her play station.

The day was dabbled with two beautiful bouquets of buttercups, wrapped with blue painters tape, and two wadded $5 bills, one each from Caleb and Emet's own money, that are to be put towards a pedicure for me (and supplemented by Papa).  They had such pride in their gifts to me.  And though they will likely only understand this when they are parents.....the act of the gifts was the best gift of all.

Someday, I too will join in the millions of Mama's (including my own) that receive a call on Mother's Day.  Some years there's a card and gift (delivered weeks late if at all)....some year's there's not.  It's not that the thought isn't there, it's that I'm experiencing the above stage of life....which as joyous as it is, consumes my ability to get many extras done.  And, hopefully then, I'll be able to look back on this sweet and all consuming part of life, where I, Mama, am the only woman in their world....and I am dearly loved....relaxing in the sunshine, iced coffee and book in hand.  :-)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

It's Jesus. He's in my hawt.

Until very recently, our morning routine as gone something like this.....

I make the children breakfast, (often times oatmeal and eggs), then we eat and discuss the things we can be thankful for or lay before God in prayer.  Eventually I'll say, "Ok, so who wants to pray?"  For the past few months, every morning, Anna Ruth has chimed in with, "Me!".  Yet, after we've all joined hands and bowed our heads, there is nothing but silence.  As the boys begin to giggle, I lead her through a short prayer, easily repeatable by a two year old.  The end.  

So, several days back, you could imagine my surprise when I heard words, albeit quiet unintelligible ones beginning with the phrase "Dee Got", coming from her mouth after heads were bowed, and ending with "Amen."  

Later that day in the car, she belted into the quiet with her sweet voice singing the entire song of Jesus Loves Me.  "Wow, Anna Ruth! Good job!  I'm proud of you," I said.  "Yay, Sissy!" came the voices from the back row of the Suburban.  Looking in the rear view mirror, I recognized her look of sweet pride....checks lifted into a soft smile, a sweet twinkle in her eye.  It was silent for a few moments, then she said, "It's Jesus.  He's in my hawt."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Another piece of goodbye and a new beginning

Two nights ago, little Grace moved out of the little bassinet in our room and into the room of her big sister Anna Ruth.  This is the same little green bassinet we've had in our room for all four babies, and soon we'll be taking it down for the last time.  Given our very small bedroom and the fact that every square foot of floor space is valuable, one would think I would be happy to be rid of it.  But mostly strikes a melancholy chord.

And now what? Do I sell it for a song?....that little bassinet that has held all of my babies?  Sending away those two tiny white bears hanging above that have always become the fascination of the little ones laying within.  With each child, I had a hard time not moving the bears along with them to their new bed.  Yet, they have remained with the bassinet to the fascination of the next child.

Gracie's new bed upstairs has likewise been the crib of all of our children, built for Caleb's birth by Grandpa B, the strong, sturdy crib is a beautiful piece of furniture and comes with its own set of memories.  Caleb falling out and breaking his arm....Emet's little chew marks on the rail....the jagged edge of the glued bar that was snapped off by Papa in an effort to free little Anna Ruth's stuck leg.  And the months ahead will tell what stories Gracie will add to the book.

And then what?  Do we dismantle and store it away for our grandchildren? Will Grandpa B be around when it is set up again?   Will I remember the little marks on the side were chewed by Emet?

So, up the stairs we went tonight - me and my Grace.  I sat down for the first time with her in the rocking chair, and we sang Jesus Loves Me as she pushed back her little neck and happily bobbed her head.  Being my last child, I think I might know to treasure those moments a bit more than I did in the past, for I know from experience three times over that though the days seem endless, the next two years will fly past. There might only be a hand full of times that I actually remember sitting down with Grace to rock, just her and I...undistributed by the world around us.

And so the adventure begins anew, two little girls beginning the walk of sisterhood and the joys and struggles of sharing a room.....and giggles and squeals will now abound aplenty from both sides of the hall, as brothers and sisters make the memories that will be their childhood memories in their childhood home.

And I, as their Mama, will continue to watch, astonished, as these beautiful moments pass before my very eyes.....trying my best to capture what I can, to experience the joy of the moments, and to unclench my fists....allowing God to move things away so that new things can be placed there.  Easier said than done, I believe.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Five Months: New Discoveries

Let the great discovery begin! You've discovered your chuckle, and if not yet certainly is in the double giggle stage, as if you are only slightly amused.  But the twinkle in your eye tells a different story.  

You've discovered your toes!  It's amazing how in an instant, you go from a baby that simply wiggles arms and legs to....encountering them during a diaper change.  What fascinating little objects those toes are!  And grab them you do! 

You're rolling over!  After weeks of attempting and being caught up on your arm, you completed the turn.  And once you roll over, you enjoy being there.....for a short while.....then it becomes a little stressful, and you let us know you'd like some assistance returning to your back, or just being held.  :-)  You can and have rolled back over by yourself, but a helping hand goes a long way when you're tiny.  You pay us back with your sweet smiles after you've had a chance to calm down.  

When on your back, you've been lifting up your head and neck, as if trying to sit up!  So strong you are.  Yet, there are little things you do that take me back to those first weeks....when you have a burp stuck inside you, your body goes stiff as a poker....then almost limp with relaxation after it is released....unless you're not done eating yet...then screams and cries continue until I return you to your meal.  

You've discovered your hands!  Yes...just today, I saw you connect them together, instantly realizing you'd found yet another interesting object.  It was so fun to watch as you intently watched the two objects connected before your very eyes.  "What fun I'll have with these!" you must have mused.  

Your little voice isn't tiny anymore, full of only coos, oohs, and boohs.  You've added the aahs and high pitched sing-song squeals to your vocabulary, which you slide along the scale when you awake, or as you happily bounce in your bouncer. There is a definite difference between the edgy squeals of tiredness and the happy squeals of contentment.  Another new sound is the hum, which you will do occasionally as you nurse.  

You love to blow bubbles, suck your upper lip, and chew chew chew on your little fists.  Sophie the Giraffe is a favorite friend now, and when your fist isn't in your mouth, Sophie often is. When neither object is in your mouth, your little mouth is often open, searching for something to chew on.  You'll follow a nose, or a finger, all the while making your little "ahhhh" sound.  The pacifier has gone by the wayside.  Last month's theme was trying to reduce it.  This month's has been trying to make it occasionally useful, with little success.  Your thumb occasionally finds its way into your mouth, especially if you are extremely tired, but it isn't a frequent occurrence. 

You're still in our room in your tiny green bassinet.  The little white bears that hang above your head from velcro strings are of supreme interest to you, as they have been to each of your older siblings, both when you lie down to rest, and when you're ready to rise. I attach them, and within seconds you have reached up to pull them back down.....and into your mouth! 

I always wonder why it is around 5 months when we moved our babies to their own room....until we again have a little one in the room, and then I remember the stage.  It's a stage of wakefulness.  Every little sound that's heard in the wee hours of the morning stirs you to a stage of wakefulness.....Papa's alarm, the creaking of the bed and floor as Papa gets up for the day, the jangling of keys, the dog scratching.  Yes, it may even be this very weekend that you will move to the room you will now share with your big sister, Anna Ruth.  She is so excited to welcome you into your new room. And your time together as sisters will really and truly begin.  It will be she that sees you first thing in the morning, and you two will giggle back and forth.  Later on, chattering and giggling will continue late into the night.  But for now, we're really hoping that you don't wake each other in the middle of the night or in the early morning hours.  It worked for your brothers, so we suppose it will work for you girls as well.  :-)  

Probably one of the biggest memories I'll have of this stage is of you in your bouncer.  You LOVE to bounce.  We've never seen anything like it.  Your right leg starts to kick before you are fully lowered into the seat.  Buckling you in is a must, for if we didn't, you would likely launch yourself right out. In another month or two, you'll be sitting up on your own, and the bouncer will be a thing of the past.  But for now, it provides many hours of exercise and entertainment for you as we tote it from room to room so that you can be a part of the family.  

Seeing all of the changes in your this month, I know you have begun the age of discovery.  And this month ahead will be the turning point. From birth until now, I have considered you a newborn.  The coming month will begin to propel you more into the age of "baby". And, all too soon, you'll toddle away into the toddler years.  But for now, we'll love and cherish you just where you are at now...our sweet baby Grace.  

No matter how many months pass, one thing seems to remain the same since the beginning.....the sweet, knowing twinkle in your eye, the amazing dimples and frequent grins, the soft duck-fluff hair atop smooth skin, soft and kissable rosy cheeks, and five family members who would each love to spend their day holding and cuddling you and trying to win a smile....which isn't hard.  :-)