As I sit here well into 2013, desperately trying to finish gathering pictures and thoughts, for many of the things captured here are now long past, my mind reels back over the past year. What defined last year? What can I say that will forever remind us of our little family, and of each of our children? What mattered? What spoke to us or made an impact? Most importantly, what did we learn in this journey called life?
And, if it weren't for Grandpa and Grandma B being there, well, we might not have had much fun at all.....alone with a newborn, and a 2, 4, and 6 year old. However, they were there and we all shared a wonderful time. We brought along our double stroller, The Bob, and Gracie would nap in the stroller several time a day. We'd leave the hotel at about 10am.....and get back at about 11pm - five nights in a row. Ru Bear would typically crash by the end of the day and spend the last hour or so sleeping in the stroller and grab a catnap or two during the day. The boys? Well, they might have been tired but they were in Disneyland!!! and didn't want to miss a moment of it! We'd take turns staying with Gracie and the stroller, and occasionally she'd come along in the baby carrier, The Ergo. Somehow, we managed to select the one off season week in February that was FULL of international travelers, so it was a rather busy time in Disneyland. But, we still had a magical time, all of us fully absorbing the magic that is Disney. And, it was magical indeed to see the genuine awe and delight on the children's faces....everywhere they looked, and especially at night seeing the parade. Another thing I don't think I'll ever forget is how the boys would hold hands, on their own. It was as if in the great crowds of people, they felt a bit insecure and stuck to each other like glue.
Caleb Finished Kindergarten
And for Mama, it was a bit rough. After all, Caleb was my first one to leave the nest, though he didn't flap his wings much, and made sure to come back and snuggle in his nest with Mama, Kindergarten marked the bridge. It was the bridge from the world of a Mama at home with all her babies, to a world of school, activities, sports, and increasing independence. We haven't dabbled much yet in the sports and activities. I have no desire to throw into chaos the one hour of sanity we have together at home during this stage of life. I need margin. Those things will come soon enough.
A frequent request was to shoot arrows at the old hay bale next to the woodshed - something for which permission must be granted first by Papa or Mama. They also loved building forts in the bedroom with blankets, foam chairs and stuffed friends or playing indoor games. One of their favorite made up games is called "Carnival" in which they set up their room with little figurines and home made targets. They always come and get me and invite me to the carnival, complete with pretend tickets. I'm given a Nerf Gun and told to knock down the figurines. There are rules about how many tries I get (they are typically quite generous), and prizes to select from if I win. It's always fun to see how hospitable and welcoming they are when I come into their self constructed event......generous and encouraging. It makes me think, "Maybe they are learning something after all!"
Swim lessons showed a turning point as well. Caleb, who struggled with being fearful and timid in the water last year finally "clicked" and turned into quite the little fish. Emet never did share his brother's fear of the water, but is still working towards swimming with his legs back instead of straight down....which only allows him to "swim" a few feet before stopping. Emet may well be made of lead, as heavy as he is! He is our sturdy boy, that's for sure!
Night time routines included reading our Bible and Devotional and beginning the Swiss Family Robinson story, that is until the Advent Season when we temporarily switched to our much beloved and anticipated story tradition. This year it was Tabitha's Travels. Then, snuggles were to be had - oftentimes with three little ones and Papa in the bottom bunk, Emet's, listening to Papa's telling of "Hansel and Gretel, the Two Cows"....started one night after Mama told the real Hansel and Gretel story, which Papa didn't know. When Papa went to snuggle them the next night, they asked him to tell the story, but instead of doing so - he created his own rendition, which doesn't at all resemble the actual tale, but rather includes the characters of Caleb and Emet, Neighbor Ned, Farmer Bob, Mr. Frank (our actual neighbor), Fenster Needlehosen, Hansel and Gretel (the two cows!), and a few others, which neither Jason nor I can remember at present! The previous year, it would have been requests for scratch or draw (which they still request) or 100 questions by Caleb, but this year the big snuggle request is always for Annie's Adventures or Hansel and Gretel the Two Cows. Oh the adventures those kids have in these stories! Always to include character lessons and great excitement. Annie's Adventures is the story of me growing up, which I tell in third person.....they prefer it that way. I've asked. :-)
Fall and Winter
Perhaps it was Caleb's heading off to 1st grade,
Anna Ruth was naturally pushed to spend more time each day with Emet, as he and Caleb weren't off playing. And, overall, Emet truly stepped up to the plate of being the eldest at home. He is responsible and helpful and willing to play with Anna Ruth. However, over time, he grows more and more impatient of her three year old tantrums and behaviors and easily wears thin, calling her out....."Anna Ruth!!! Mama...!!!"
Emet, likewise, moved up in the world. Though he is not yet in traditional school, he had been with his Sunday School teachers for the past two years. "My Rossiters" he called them. We had long cherished the tradition he and Mr. Rossiter had together. Emet would stop about 50 feet from the door, and wait for Mr. Rossiter to come to the door and see him as he was greeting students. Emet would run across the room and throw himself down onto the floor of the classroom. Mr. Rossiter would do likewise. After observing this for nearly a year, I did finally get a video of the spectacle I hope to long remember. He sure had an attachment to these great people, and we'll miss having him in that class. But, being a big strong five year old now, he hardly belongs in a three year old class anymore.
Fall simply melted into winter for us, as it always does. School leading to the anticipation of our families birthday season....the children making their list of birthday and Christmas wishes for them and each other, planning their cakes and parties, deciding which birthday cereal they will choose for their special day and where we will go to dinner. It begins on October 25th with Emet, then November 2 is Caleb, November 7th is Anna Ruth, and in the middle of all of this is our annual Operation Christmas Child tradition. Following Thanksgiving and our final birthday celebration with Gracie on November 29, we get caught along with all the world in the joys of celebrating Christmas. Somehow we made it through all that and landed on the other side of last year, here in January! I haven't even yet sent out my 2012 Christmas Cards yet! (Though I plan to, even still!)
If there is any theme from the year that jumps out on me over and over, it is that of friendship. We live a life so abundantly blessed with friends and fellowship.....so much so that I believe we are probably rare in our connections with others, and I truly wouldn't trade it for the world. I love that our kids will have memories of friends, fellowship with other families, and great fun. And, to be sure, they will certainly have a jump start on relationship building and working things out! Any time you have 15+ kids of various ages combined is sure to be interesting! They do fairly well though, all things considered.
It's also a blessing that those of us with 4+ kids can experience date nights or go to Doctor's appointments and the like without having to sell our house to do so. We simply give and take in that department, and we all know each others kids well enough at this point to be able to fairly easily step into the supervision role for those children......and conversely as parents to be able to relax and have fun, knowing our kids are well loved and cared for.
We've been part of our Sunday School class for about five years and met with a Small Group Bible Study for nearly four, so these people have become some of our dearest friends. We get together any chance we can get, and laughter and great food abound. I know that for everything there is a season, and I can't imagine as children get older and schedules get more full with school and extracurricular activities that we will always have this luxury. However, if I'm learning anything over time, it is not to fear the loss of a season....but simply to rest in it, knowing that the next season of life will have it's share of beauty too. I remember 10 years ago when Jason and I were newly married how we thought we'd never have friends! We couldn't have imagined the wonderful friendships we share today, yet part of arriving to this time of life required the letting go of that season (home, friends, work) and moving to yet another unknown.
On the order of purpose, I think I have come to terms with several things this year.
First of all, this has been the year of coming to a peace with my home. So much so, in fact, that we have stopped looking at houses altogether and actually want to stay here, until God clearly moves us in another direction. For years, I was stuck in a place of semi-discontent. While I tried to make the best of it, really, I couldn't wait to get out of our home and move to someplace bigger, newer, nicer. However, with much prayer and contemplation....it has become clear to me that there is great purpose in us staying here. The children absolutely love it - every aspect of the yard and the inside too! And, I have come to love the fact that the creaking floors and close confines let us experience fully these early childhood years.....allowing us to partake in the giggles and wrestling, the bumps and thuds that come from the rafters above. We also all remain together in our space, instead of spreading out to this room and that. And in this stage, I love this.....even if it occasionally means that I do appreciate a break! I have begun to get rid of home decor that I have hung onto for years, just waiting to be used when we, of course, moved! Now - we are clearing out those attic closets with hopes to create "secret rooms" for the children. What child wouldn't love that?!
Beyond the house, I a beginning to see some direction in my writing. I've known for years that there was writing in my future. I've felt that strongly in my heart, but haven't known the what or how of it all. Ever since I had that revelation, I've kept this blog....but it's truly only my life journal.....for us...for our children....and though I don't mind sharing it with others, that is certainly not it's primary purpose. Besides, everyone needs a place to put down their thoughts "edit free". As I'm still trying to work out the details with God, I guess I'll write more on that later. But the many thoughts coming to my mind all center around the things that are dearest to my heart and my general skills and abilities. I guess I shouldn't be surprised there, eh? This may come as a shock to me later as I read this, but over time, I haven't always followed my heart....I've spent a great deal of time trying to be good at the things I wasn't gifted in. And, of course, while I did glean some things here and there - I have found those pursuits to have been rather meaningless.
Most importantly, Caleb entering the first grade as been an enormous reminder of the passage of time. Huge. And, I'm gently prodded once again to be here. HERE - present both mentally and physically during these brief hours I have with my children at home with me. They seem endless, but they are oh so brief! I'm clinging to them....I love them....and yes, I need a break and a maid. Sometimes I get both (thanks Mom).....sometimes I get neither. But, I love my life regardless.
What I hope to always remember.....the things I've loved
- Inquisitive, pondering look with one slightly raised eyebrow..."Hmm...."
- If I look sad or disappointed, he'll often be extremely in tune with my feelings and ask "Why do you look sad, Mama?"
- Tender spirit hiding beneath a tough exterior. I'll never forget the time he lost his brand new Pirate Mickey Mouse sweatshirt in Disneyland in the bathroom. As soon as Grandma asked where it was, he raced back in with Grandpa to find it missing. Grandma said he shrugged and offhandedly said "I don't care..", but later when I questioned him....he broke down into heart wrenching sobs....deeply sad over the loss of his new sweatshirt. When I had bought the boys the sweatshirts the first time as a surprise, he said "You're buying us these? Wow! Thanks, Mama!" He seemed truly grateful, knowing how much they cost. After he lost the sweatshirt, he went without the next day, shivering without a coat. Jason and I decided to purchase him another one, knowing how important it was to him. He was nearly moved to tears when I pulled his new sweatshirt out of the bag, having a true heart of thankfulness and quietly saying, "Thank you for getting me a new sweatshirt, Mama"...with a sweet, tearful face.
- Fits of rage, throwing his head and arms back and stiffening his body when asked to do the simplest things...."OK!!!" He looks like he is about to blow a gasket or hyperventilate.
- and following this, the looks of chagrin that pass over his face as he reads our night time devotional when it talks about controlling your anger and being nice. :-)
- He recently lost all of his toys and things to his anger, to be earned back by twenty acts of showing kindess and love to his family. I must say that the family time we've had playing games together since then has made this a great benefit. Oh, and seeing the boys play with toys long laid aside, such as the Lincoln Logs - which now are built into houses built around catapult traps and lines of catapults (or what he calls catapults anyways)
- the ever so slight little change I'm starting to notice in his voice here at years end...I'm getting a glimpse of that voice of the future that will no longer belong to a little boy
- the fact that there is a couple of words he still says wrong, makes me happy - "Libary", "Extercise", "Ridiculus", "Conputer" for instance
- Papa calls you his Mighty One
- his graciousness "And by the way, thank you for getting x, y, z"
- his "new recipes", wanting to make us coffee in the Keurig
- his quick attitude towards service, "Emet, can you..." "Sure! Yes, Papa."
- asking for something (like candy) he knows we'll probably say no to with a smile, and then an obedient, "Ok, Yes Mama" if we say no.
- general exuberance...."Oh yeah, Baby"
- love of "Brown" (ratty little brown puppy he's had since birth) and his other stuffed friends
- Emet's servant's heart, always asking if he can help in the kitchen, wash dishes, help me make something, and last but not least - he loves to make you coffee in the Keurig
- going to get wood, 5 and 6 loads even all alone, while brother is in school. They still do it together on weekends.....what a hard worker he is!
- Emet's excitement about doing his chores to move over magnets on his new chore chart.
- his elaborate stuffed animal displays he creates when making his bed, most notably "the singing Christmas tree"
- and you will always, and forever be, unstoppable....it's your genuine, tender smile. It will always work in your favor
- and then there's the "Smoulder", which you picked up from Disney's Tangled movie. :-) That's unstoppable too - though it elicits a bit more laughter.
- our little dictator, the "Ru-tator" we have coined her...."I am NOT the Rutator", she tells us! :-)
- most frequently has a slightly angry look on her face and is in the process of demanding something or telling on "bobos" (or bruders)
- oh, but when she smiles...it is either a glorious laughter like little bells ringing.....or a sweet closed lip smile that pulls up her beautiful cheeks. It's as if she is in a state of complete contentment.
- Not using "R" or "Th"....sometimes still "S" is missing "Nuggle me!", but as the year progressed, she has picked up her "S" more and more.
- "Da Boys....", "Bruhdows", "Gwacie No-ay-al"..."Papa No-ay-al" :-)
- "Bes Fwen" is "Kwistian"; Although no one can make her light up like Austin. They have been friends since before birth...and they get so excited when they see each other, it's contagious!
- this little girl loves her dollies. Especially when she is away from home, she'll be seen in the nursury carrying around or rocking 3-5 dollies at once. She takes very good care of them....occasionally nurses them (when Mama is nursing...though she has done this less as the year has gone on), and as the year ends - likes to change their clothes alot (with assistance).
- Delightful, melodic giggle
- Pat-a-cake, Pat-a-cake, Make Oh's Man....Shut it in the oven fow Gwacie and me....Yay Gwacie! to which Gracie immediately glows happily and starts clapping.
- "Ah-knee da Pooh"
- Peanut butter an samwhich
- Yow siwy!
- I love the sweet little smile you have on your face
- I luf you too, Mama
- You look pwetty too, Mama (with the sweetest ever smile on her face)
- Doe (though)
- Ending sentences and thoughts with "So..." - I'm gonna mawry Kwistian, so....
- her sleeping bag is her "Bean Bag", and she loved to participate in her first official "camp out" with the boys and Papa on the living room floor.
- bwestkist (breakfast)
- Ru Bear has created the habit of coming downstairs sometime in the middle of the night and crawling into bed with Mama and Papa. (She always goes to Papa's side). Neither of us are in a hurry to have her stop though - her sweet, cuddly self....and we now know how quickly time passes, and how this too will only be a short season. Eventually, it will stop on it's own.
- At years end is beginning to be a huge ham! She will squint her eyes closed then pop them open and look at you.
- You're starting to indicate you understand us....almost always responding to our question by gesturing, vocalizing something "Wah, Yah" and nodding yes stiffly.
- She will shake her head yes with a stiff, forward shake of her head, and will also shake her head "No" from side to side.
- She is taking a few tentative steps out into the room....I have seen up to 4....but typically, she will only venture from point A to point B.
- Popping the worlds biggest dimples with the cutest, open mouthed smile you've ever seen.
- A big smile with her tongue sticking out shows your happiness
- A huge open mouthed smile with your whole tongue out - you are beyond excited and pleased with yourself!
- Wah (sort of sounds like yeah) ....with a smile...of course! :-)
- 1/2/13 You took several steps today....as if you almost preferred the idea of walking to crawling. Before today, you have gone several days without taking steps....then 4-5, skip a day, 4-5 more...but today - you have done 5 steps or so several times!
- 1/6/13 - Today's the day!!! From this evening on, you will likely be walking more than crawling. Something clicked tonight, and over and over again you walked across the kitchen to to and fro. Tomorrow may be our last 1/2 and 1/2 crawling day...(sniff, sniff)....and onto the great adventure of life!
- And here we are at the end of January, the time I've taken to put together my notes to capture in this blog, and you are pretty much a 95% walker now. Every now and then, we'll see you bear crawling under the table, or crawling from point A to point B, once you're already on the floor playing. However, when you fall over, you immediately get back up in that spot, and you are getting more steady and quick by the day. Every day for the past week, one of us at least has said, "She's a walker!" :-)
Little family, I love you so. I can't wait to see what God has for us together. He sure knew what he was doing when he put us together. I love you guys!