Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Due Date Update - Nathan at Almost Seven

Yes, yes, you read that blog title correctly. It has been seven years, and I still remember/love/hate/notice due dates as much as I did when my babies were still quietly kicking away inside me. And it remains a good time for updates, so here's what's up with Nathan these days:

He is very bright. His love and obsession surrounding dinosaurs has branched out to other kinds of science and animal kingdom factoids, with a special fondness for whales and other animals that are as old as his favorite dinos. (We are very very into sperm whales in particular, these days. Did you know that sperm whales live in every ocean of the world? Did you know that they are the most fascinating kind of whale? Because they have about ten fascinating things about them and other whales have only about four or five.) (That is basically a direct quote.)

He is also newly re-interested in the friend cars, especially the second movie, which is totally not as good but does have cars from around the world and he likes to ask questions about different countries and their flags and languages and such. I remember sometime when I was a kid, going through a phase where I wanted to look up flags of the world in the encyclopedia (adorable right? you know that flag page was the best! it was!) and it seems so unreal to me that my own tiny baby is old enough to show his own interest in that kind of thing. It seems like such... big kid territory. I don't know.

Relatedly, he has learned that he can type almost anything into the YouTube search box and watch a video on it. Which could be dangerous for some kids but little adorkable Nathan is just high on documentaries about dinosaurs and whales and how trains are made, and African animals, and really boring (he denies it, but it is true) people who collect and show Disney and Pixar toys, which basically numbs my brain but he would watch forever if we'd let him. These are also the kinds of things he wants to read about. I have to really talk him into reading stories. He would much rather read fun! fact! type things, which... I mean, okay? Not what I would read (Ramona! Buddy! Get on board! That is good stuff!) but he is his own little creature and I like that he likes what he likes, yknow?

He is still a little on the small side, just below average on the growth charts for his age, but tiny next to his peers, considering he is one of the youngest for his year, and there are many (many) kids who red-shirted kindergarten and are more than a year older than he is. All of which is fine, he doesn't seem to mind, and Mark was always the tiny one in his class growing up, so they can bond over it. And maybe next year his feet will actually touch the floor when he plays his cello! One can hope!

He still loves playing with legos and trains and he loves doing choir and orchestra, and he is a braver and braver swimmer. He is a fast runner and loves to be outside. He seems to be somewhat outgrowing his need to "look cute" (or his definition of that has changed) and most of the time he wanders around in gym shorts and no shirt and no shoes. We keep it rull classy around here.

He remains a pretty sensitive kid, easily offended and hurt (and then crabby about it), but also quick with a kind word or note for people he loves. He is so. much. moodier. than he was a year ago, and I hear that seven will bring even more 'tude, so I am trying to brace myself, and also feel ready to just roll with it. He loves his sisters fiercely, and stays very glued to Anneliese's hip. They have sleepovers in each other's rooms every Friday night (I guess Charlotte will join them when she is potty trained?) and although there are times it pains me to see Charlotte struggle to keep up with them and be included (which is a post for another day, maybe), I would never ever begrudge those two their closeness and attachment to each other. I think Anneliese has maybe been the most important person in Nathan's life since the day she came home from the hospital, and still is.  I could do with less bickering most days, but he is just such a good big brother that is hard for me to remember a day when his life didn't include that role. Weird.

As I am writing this, he is reading over my shoulder and wants me to also say that his YouTube videos are definitely not boring.

So there's that.

Happy due date, sweet Nathan! Almost seven!

Monday, July 21, 2014

More Montreat

So, Montreat. It was once again a spirit-fueling week volunteering at youth conference and hanging out with dear friends and baby Nathan (and no one tell me he is almost seven because no, he's a baby). It's kind of amazing how far from real life it feels up there (and, on the flip side, how obtrusive real life feels when it comes crashing back in).

This year was so much the same as last year and also so much was different. The youth in my small group this year were so easy, so chatty, so smart -- they connected way faster than I thought they would, to me and to each other, and leading through those sessions made the week fly by. The conference leadership was different, of course, which made keynote talks and worship and music all take a new feel, which was fine -- even better in some cases, and some felt lacking, all of it completely normal as the experience of one year morphs into the next.

I roomed with my awesome friend Liz from last year, and little Nathan stayed in an adjoining room with Another Nathan, and our little family suite (with another friend Nick, right next door) ended up being really fun and sweet. It took a few nights for the Nathans to adjust to sharing a room, but it ended up just fine, aside from a few spells of kicking and a few spells of sleep-moaning.

We kept a cooler full of snacks and drinks in our rooms, and we spent our nights, once everything had died down for the day, laughing and crying and feeling our feelings all together. Dorm life at its best! It was lovely to have a handful of people I love so much all in such close proximity for a few days. Especially knowing that Another Nathan is moving in just over a week, we were glad to all hold each other close for a bit, in a faithy place, a beautiful place.

It could have been a really sad and emotional week, and it totally wasn't. I mean, well, yes, emotional -- the good-bye tears stay really close these days. But being in the busy and the joy of a huge conference was distracting and friendship-affirming at the same time.

Nick (who was formerly an intern at our church and now lives a few hours away) was hired leadership for the conference, like Another Nathan last year, and seeing him up there leading energizers and being a warm face and smile to a thousand youth every morning was a super way to start our days. Hanging out with him all week was a really fun reunion.

Also, can I just say, sometimes things/people in life are not as awesome as nostalgia wants to convince you they are, but after a week of fast friendship last summer, and a year of emails/texting/calling, I have to say for the record: LIZ IS. She is as awesome and kind and funny and sassy as I remembered, and maybe gets me even more now than a year ago, and being friends with her is just... really good. Really really good. Great actually.
How does Montreat make her hair so very good, and mine so very very bad?
And sweet little Nathan loved Montreat this year as much as last. He insists that his favorite place there is the dining room (um, wuuut?) but actually didn't eat much this week -- all while being insistent that we eat every meal there, and crabby at the times we went into town for real food. (I don't even know.) But he loved the big auditorium, he loved getting ice cream at the Huck, and he loved creek hopping again (with Mark! who came to visit for an afternoon! after him traveling last week, and not crossing his path on our own way out of town, we missed him terribly).

Nathan loved his club/camp (he was a Peanut Butter this year! super cute), which met in the infamous Montreat barn. And he made new friends -- one of whom invited him to dinner during the week at his grandparents' Montreat house, one of whom will be coming to his birthday party here in Raleigh next weekend, and one of whom is the son of one of my childhood church friends, because sometimes this presby world is small and awesome.

He picked out a new Montreat hoodie at the gift shop that I could hardly keep him out of all week. He had fun playing with my mom (who came to visit one morning, and see how Montreat has changed since her own childhood). And he proclaimed the view of the inn (from the paddle-boats on the lake) to be "the most beautiful building in the whole world." So, yeah.

(Side note: because Nathan's feet didn't reach the paddles, and because Nick didn't want to steal little Nathan's front-seat ride, Another Nathan basically paddled all three of them around the lake for the better part of an hour. He was hot and tired from a workout when they came back to shore, while Nick and Nathan were all smiles and relaxation, and yeah -- I was amused.)

More pics:
Marky! At Montreat with us!
A thousand people playing with beach balls, nbd.

Someone leaves their phone on a pew, you steal it and take selfies. It's the law.
(That's Ann back there behind Nick. She is also delightful.)

This pic was really awkward like they were shaking hands with a giant check.
So I cropped it. But apparently am describing the pre-crop anyway?

My *awesome* small group #51!

Oh yes I did buy a Montreat TERVIS. I am not sorry.

Another Nathan was on the conference planning team and wore this
headset to call production on the keynote talk each morning.
He wore it well, but there was much hair-messing angst.

My sweet boy before worship one night.

My most bestest friend, who makes Montreat even better.

So yeah, it was a week of reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, thinking and praying well, singing loudly, and hiding from the emotional weeks of real life that are now staring us down. And it was wonderful.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Reunited And it Feels So... Tired?

My whole family is together! Under one roof! For the first time this month!

And we are all tired.

This is what happens when Charlotte tries to skip a nap:

Nathan is still recovering from post-Montreat exhaustion:

And Anneliese cannot get enough sleepy snuggles with me, or my new blanket.

(I do not hate any of this.)


Friday, July 18, 2014

Daily Anneliese: FaceTime Version

Nathan and I have been having a lovely week at Montreat.  The girls have been with my dad for most of it, but they are home now with Mark and we got to video call them this afternoon. Nathan and Anneliese were SO sweet and chatty that I had to take a screen grab of my phone to post.

They haven't seen each other in weeks and weeks and their smiles and giggles totally fueled some happy energy into my afternoon.

Love these two so much. Can't wait to see them reunited in a few days.

Friday, July 11, 2014

This Week: The Non-Tooth Parts

Well, it has been a hell of a week around here, not just with Charlotte's tooth stuff, but my general sense of overwhelm in trying to balance a super-sad baby on top of my own three kids, while flying solo without Mark. Plus the aforementioned broken a/c. Plus the pool turned green. Plus I have been trying to get ready to go out of town myself for a week, to Montreat for another year of youth conference, which involves the usual laundry and packing, of course, but also in this case packing for Nathan's clubs/camp too, and also prepping a whole week's worth of small group sessions I will be leading twice a day. It's... a lot. My brain is spinning.

So anyway in part of my tearful overwhelmed breakdown on Monday, I passed Ali to a nanny friend for a day, and spent some solid time with just my own three kids before Charlotte's oral surgery appointment, and it was (un)surprisingly lovely.

We went to the library and all stocked up on books. We are big fans of library day around here.

We went to Starbucks and drank coffees.

We went to Zaxby's and ate lunch. In the same booth, I think, as that one fateful snowy day in February.

We took a lunch break together the next day too, and went and got groceries.

And then we spent some time another day having a good old fashioned cleaning party, where my children happily cleaned baseboards and bathrooms and y'all, I don't even know.

(I sure know how to some "time off" don't I?? HA HA NO.)

Soon, my super friend Liz (from Montreat last year!) is flying in from Utah and we are heading to our conference again for a week. We will miss Mark by a few hours (he is coming home tomorrow) but I think he might come visit us there on Monday, when he takes the girls to meet my dad for their summer visit.

There are a lot of logistics and even more lists, and I am already tired, but that will hopefully give way to re-energized soon.

Am glad to get away for a bit.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Tooth, and A Turtle

So, this is the story of how Charlotte had her first visit from the tooth fairy when she was STILL TWO YEARS OLD.

Okay so we took her for her first regular dental cleaning last week. Milestone on its own, right? Well in the process of that visit, we learned two things:
1- she gets the award for being the most chill at the dentist (or maybe in almost any circumstance, actually).
2- she has a wonky tooth.

To be fair, we knew about the wonky tooth. Kind of. I mean, we noticed it when she was a baby; one of her bottom teeth got this dark spot we couldn't brush off, and then after some time the dark spot seemed to go away and it hollowed itself out into a little... hole? Or something? Which made the top of her tooth a little jagged but it didn't bother her and it didn't bother us, so we went on our merry way.


It turns out that little hole goes straight down to the tooth's nerve, which means all her everyday mouth bacteria gets in there, and since the nerve goes straight down to the root, well... you know where this is going.

Dissolved root, sitting in a big ol' abscess, and the only way to clean it out is to take the tooth. Fast forward six days later and she had a wee bit of dental surgery and it's now gone. So long, wonky tooth, we hardly knew ye.

Truthfully it was not that big of a deal (except that this has been a hellllll of a week with the air conditioner breaking //HASHTAG: ALWAYS SOMETHING// and the baby being rilllll fussy and Mark is out of town again, so I'm flying solo, and I basically had a breakdown on Monday. There was lots of crying. (Not just Ali.) Lots of cussing. (That wasn't Ali at all.)

Anyway. Anyway! *brisk clap* Charlotte's procedure was fine. She handled it great, no crying until the very end when Nathan and Anneliese came back to see her with hugs and kisses and she cried and smiled all at once. (Feelings are weird, kid. Welcome to your future.) She hated the numbness in her mouth and she spent most of the evening just nodding and shaking her head at our questions, since she wouldn't talk.

But she was mostly a champ, and she will be fine, even though her smile is different now and it makes me feel funny. (The same thing happened with Anneliese's injury. Somehow a baby-smile era ended, really fast, too fast.)

And last night, in a midnight panic for tooth fairy planning, a mini magnadoodle took the place of that little tiny orange treasure chest (containing a tooth, ewww) on her windowsill.

Oh! OH! And here is thing you wouldn't think is relevant to this story BUT IT IS: we found a turtle in the pool! We asked Charlotte if she felt up to swimming after dinner (*nod nod nod*) so the kids were out there playing and splashing, for a good while, and then suddenly Anneliese looked up and there was a TURTLE swimming happily right by her shoulder.

Y'all. Anneliese has never moved faster in her life than getting out of that pool and away from that turtle. She was terrified. Like, completely lost her sh!t. Abject weeping.

I got the turtle out of the pool with the skimmer basket (no, not with my hands. I am not scared of turtles, but I don't want to hold them with my hands, because they pee out of fear, and their pee smells really bad and is impossible to wash off, and don't ask me how I know this, it is just a thing I know) and set him free to roam on the other side of the fence, away from our pool and dog and kids. And let's just say if I were doing shots for every time one of the kids said "turtle" in the hour following that and bedtime, bedtime wouldn't have happened because omg "hey mom, turtle, turtle, turtle, mom, turtle, hey mommy, turtle turtle turtle TURTLE" was basically all I heard.

ANYWAY. All that to say, when I *ahem* the tooth fairy got into Charlotte's room last night to swap the magnadoodle for the tooth in the treasure box (y'all, do you ever just say sentences, and then stop and think to yourself wuuuuuut? parenting is everything and nothing I thought it would be), and she was half asleep in her chair, and promptly burst into tears telling me there was a turtle in her bed.

Okay, I won't lie. I checked. I did.

I whipped those blankets back, Fraulein Maria style, just to make sure. (It was late! I was a little creeped out, okay?) But there was no turtle, and it was just a bad dream, and it took some tricky maneuvering but the tooth fairy got the swap done under cover of darkness while soothing a turtle nightmare, which I'm pretty sure deserves some gold stars. Someone send me gold stars. Gold stars, please!

But then she woke up twice more, with the same turtle-in-the-bed panic, and neither of us slept worth crap all night. I was expecting a hard night because of mouth pain. I was not expecting a hard night because of a TURTLE PANIC. These are the things one just cannot plan for.

But she was still thrilled in the morning to find the mini magnadoodle. She has barely put it down all day, she calls it her treasure.

She has also told me numerous times that Another Nathan brought it to her. *head desk*

And that's the story of how Charlotte survived her first dental surgery, the tooth fairy, and developed a fear of turtles, ALL IN ONE DAY.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Awkward Sibling Pic, v. 11

Well, my kids have (mostly) figured out that the gabbles go on your eyes, not above them. And have (mostly) figured out that no one calls them gabbles but our family.

This is a framer, yes?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

I think I Have Wavy Hair Now. Let's Discuss.

Hey, here's something that has nothing to do with anything: it turns out my hair isn't limp and straight like I have always assumed. It turns out if I leave it alone (that is, don't blow dry and straighten, or resort to a ponytail), it is like... wavy. Weird. WEIRD. WHO KNEW.

So I am trying this new thing where I intentionally wear it wavy, even while fighting my own instinct that it just looks... undone (which is a hard mindset to shake, even though people keep telling me otherwise), because y'all! If there is a happy medium between the time/effort of blow drying and straightening, and the sloppiness of a ponytail, that would be a GAME CHANGER for me.

I have gone a whole week and touched neither blow dryer nor ponytail holder, and tried lots of different (cheapo) hair products (nothing spendy yet, although I am clearly not above a spendy hair product if I need it and love it), everything from sprays to creams to foam to mousse to just leaving it alone altogether. And I took about eight thousand selfies trying to solicit opinions from people smarter at waviness than I am. And to remember how it looked on which days and what I liked/didn't about x product's feel/smell/hold/etc. (I totally made a photo stream for it, in case you didn't believe anyone could be that self-indulgent, I CAN.)


Here are a bunch of pics. Comment or text or email or tweet or message me so I know what looks best to the objective eye.

apparently this one looks backwards to other people, blah blah mirror, whatever
back to the "right" way now, better? except... are my glasses always that crooked?

ignore the frown; it was unrelated to my hair. or that triple venti.

(This is only a small fraction of the hair photos that currently exist on my phone. Do not judge me.)

I think I have settled on a cream from Herbal Essence for immediately post-shower (it holds without getting too crunchy or heavy, and it smells good) but I would love a second-day option if that exists? Or does this look only work from wet hair from the shower? Should I just... spray it wet again the next day if I don't want to re-wash? HELP ME I AM BRAND NEW HERE.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

First Swimmers

Happy July! Is it July already? *cue freakout*

All of our pool time (and the bribery promise of any frozen/lego/cars toy they want) has brought some real progress on the swimming front for Nathan and Anneliese. Progress as in, THEY CAN DO IT.

I mean, there is no good stroke work going here, or anything fancy, but they are letting go of the wall and the bottom and moving their bodies in the water, willingly, without help, and OH MAH GAH I'M SO PROUD. (And relieved. This is a big safety thing for me.)

Anneliese did it first, on Sunday:

(If you can't see the embedded video, click here to watch on YouTube.)

And then Nathan, in a burst of "can't let little sister outdo me," did it today. It's all in the legs for him, apparently:

(If you can't see the embedded video, click here to watch on YouTube.)

(We actually don't hate that Anneliese did it first. According to my sources, middle kids hardly get to do anything first. Also, she is (most of the time) a wee but more confident than Nathan, so seeing her do it was good motivation and reassurance for him. Peer pressure in the best way.

They will also both go underwater for diving rings (mostly just off the steps) and just in general are not freaking the eff out about getting their faces and heads wet. It is huge progress for these kids who are slow to catch up to their water-loving genes, apparently.

Oh! And baby Ali had her first swim too! In our pool! (Both our girls had their first swims in Uncle Nick's pool, so this was a sweet turnabout.) Considering how much she likes to yell about life, we weren't sure that she would be very happy about swimming, but she loooved it.  Stayed happy and content in the water for a good long while. She was squishy and slippery and drippy and oh so sweet.

It has been an emotionally wrought few days around here, nothing having anything to do with the kids, so seeing them be summery and proud and determined is basically the best thing ever. It makes me teary.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

It's Day Camp Week. Also, I'm Tired.

Lest you think everything is sunshine and roses around here (I don't want to use the internet to vent alllll my problems, nor do I want to pretend that my life is always shiny; it's a fine line), it isn't. I'm tired this week. Like, life weary.

The big kids have been in day camps through our parks and rec offerings in Raleigh. (You'd think this might make my week seem easy and low key, but camp has been a neutral force on that front, at best.) Anneliese does an art camp all morning, and Nathan is doing a lego camp in the afternoon, at a different location. Surprisingly the schedule has worked okay, but it is a lot of driving during trafficky times, and a lot of fussy crying lunch hours while I try to feed all three big kids, and get a bottle into the baby, and get us moved from one parks facility to another. I have been packing lunches to eat while we go, but I'm not ashamed to admit we also drove through for chicken nuggets twice already.

Also the dryer is broken (again!) (whole separate problem from before! what are the chances? please file this under Always Something) so add some laundry drying stops at Another Nathan's house during those lunch runs too. (He is out of town but his house/dryer is near one of the camps, so.)

This is the only picture I got of Anneliese's "camp" and it has nothing to do with art, and it isn't even at her camp, but Nathan's. She was walking in with our packed lunch and her sunglasses and said "Guess who I am? I will give you a clue! I am mommy!" (I don't get it, but okay? She looks sweet though so I will take it.)

And this is the only picture I got of Nathan's "camp" week, again having almost nothing to do with lego camp, other than it was taken in his camp room holding a camp toy and proclaiming he had a solution to how we could make a sperm whale cake for his birthday (which is what he has been asking for, and of course I don't know how to do that, is he for real??) -- just make a cake, and put a sperm whale on the cake, and look wouldn't this one be so cool?

Sperm whale toy has now been ordered, and Amazon officially doesn't understand my purchasing patterns. Oh and also, Nathan loved lego camp. Anneliese loved art camp too, despite my being too beside myself to be super aware or memory-making about it all. *sigh*

In heavier news, I saw a man on a motorcycle get hit by a car (he did not survive) and it is heartbreaking and horrible, of course for the family more than me (not about me at all! I know this! I know!) but it still was somewhat traumatizing to witness. AND in an unrelated incident I hit (bumped) another car in a parking lot and I left a note and asked everyone at the rec center playground if it was theirs and it was not, but no one has called which means maybe nothing will come of it? But it feels unsettling, like, did I do the right thing? Should I have called the police to file a report on myself? (There was no mark. It was nothing. But still.) Bah.

(Car-crash type events, incidents, whatever -- they make me stressy. It is a Thing.)

Unrelated to any of this, my mom is trying to plan her Final Arrangements and they are, um... unusual. To the point that she wants to get all of us siblings on board now, which is fine, okay, but it sure makes for an awkward phone conversation when she caught me with a spare moment ("spare" haaaaa) feeding the baby a bottle while the big kids played on the indoor playset at the rec center waiting for Nathan's camp doors to open. Weird! Morbid! The other parents were backing away slowly, I could sense it.

So ALSO, Mark is traveling a lot. His new job is good for him, for experience and title and interesting things to work on, but he works a lot more. Like, a lot more than he used to, and a lot more than I was expecting. And that work includes traveling, not because the job itself involves travel (it doesn't, in theory), but because there are trainings and meetings and blah blah blah I don't know. It seems to be a lot of Special Exception Case trips and extra shifts and going in for storms, etc etc etc, and I guess Special Exception Case things are normal at the beginning of any job. But it has been several months now and I am ready for him to have more than a day or two off every several weeks. He is finally coming home tonight from his third trip to Charlotte this month and I am just done.

(I normally am more supportive than I feel/sound right now. I promise. It's just that my days feel long and they also feel like they never end, because they go all night too, and I'm at my limit of being... needed. I am feeling a panic-level need to be alone. I am counting the hours.)

This might be obvious, but I haven't been sleeping well either. And ugh there is hardly any feeling worse than being wired and exhausted at the same time. While lone-wolfing it for the third week in this month, with four kids, one of whom yells at unpredictable intervals because she's still at that stage of infancy where if she is awake she is fussy, save lots of jiggling and attention which is sometimes fine but sometimes feels overwhelming with three other kids also needing me, which means everyone ends up somewhere between fussy and frustrated. (I know there are worse feelings. Of course there are. Have some perspective, right? But for where I am this week, it is hard for me to remember what those worse feelings might be, because frankly this sucks. Like, grade-A level suuuuuucks.)

Ready for some brightsiding now?

This afternoon Anneliese has her cutie friend Beatrice over to play, and Nathan is still at camp, and both Charlotte and Ali are sleeping quietly upstairs. (People in my house reliably take naps! I do not take this for granted!) I am sitting by the pool now watching their playdate happen; I brought my leader's manual outside so I could start reading through it and planning my small group sessions for my Montreat conference in a few weeks, but it turns out that blog-venting some frustrations a sentence at a time takes less eyeball- and brain-power than that so I'm doing this instead. And if I am honest, watching them swim and laugh and excitedly ask me for jumping pictures is definitely the best moment of my week.

And my time to be alone will come soon. Not soon enough, but it will come. Please come, alone time.