Monday, March 20
Spring Break was....... hard. I don't know how else to describe it. It was hard. And I hate that this is my report.
Oh, how I'd love to be able to go on and on about some marvelous vacation, or wax nostalgic about how much "together time" we got to have... How I wish I could reflect warmly on the beautiful weather and the many ways we found to play hard and explore and just be free from the schedule of normal life.
But it was none of those things. Our two minitrips that we'd talked about both ended up postponed for various reasons. The weather, gloriously amazing the whole week before Spring Break, degraded to unwanted, unhappy snow flurries for three of the days, and chilly grayness for many of the rest of the days. That alone killed much of the motivation for "playing hard and exploring"-- we just didn't want to plunge into the bitter chill of the gray days to get in a car to go somewhere indoors where there would likely be swarms of other desperate moms and kids doing the same thing.
And the "together time"? Frankly, that was the worst part of the whole week.
Quinn, for some reason, has taken a turn for the awful recently-- just in time for this whole week together with his siblings. I'm not sure what "stage" this is-- I truly don't think Noah or Lucy went through anything quite like this-- but he is either deeply offended whenever Joe or I correct him and steer him to better decisions (i.e. "Quinn, be careful, that's hot!") or he is incredibly defiant and argumentative, shouting "No!" a lot and sassing us back. We can't win, either way. Add to that the usual challenges of any kids-- alternately chatterboxes and whiny, too loud or too unwilling to listen and do what they are supposed to be doing-- mix in the usual sibling friction and a teething, needy baby... multiply it by gray days and the aftereffects of Daylight Savings.... it just becomes a cesspool of YUCK. At least, it was for me here at my home. For my four kids.
I remember when, as a teacher with no children, I loved how Spring Break was moving to the trend of adding a Friday to the whole thing--- so Friday off, then a weekend, then a whole week, then another weekend-- how glorious! But these days, as a non-teacher mother of four young kids? Not glorious. It was, at times, agony. More often than I ever planned to, I resorted to screens just to sedate them into quiet. Gosh, I HATE that. At a time when I'm already hating how easy it is to fall back to screens to catch a break, it became the only way I could manage this whole last week. Cartoons in the morning. A longer cartoon movie midday. And the "one hour of screen time" tablet time in the afternoon? Stretching to 2 hours. More. Almost every day. Just so they wouldn't fight. So they wouldn't complain at my attempts to give them some activity to try. So they wouldn't pick at each other or whine at me or choose a hard Larkin time to have "emergencies" of their own.
As I sit here, Monday morning, shell-shocked and numb and trying to recover from the past week, trying to process it all... I can't help but blame myself. Surely if I had been better prepared, I could have found ways around the hard weather and the surly 4-year-old. Surely if I had had a better handle on my emotional health, I could've found the fortitude to pack the kids into the car to "do something" a bit more. Surely I could've found something other than screens to absorb them completely. Had I been better all along at curbing their appetite for iPad time, they wouldn't have clamored for it so much when things got boring and hard. If I'd been a better mother all along, pushing my kids harder towards reading and making blanket forts or creating art, surely they'd turn to those staples now to fulfill their restlessness.
But I also know how impossibly high that bar actually is, and I know my inner critic is shouting WAY too loudly right now. Of course all of that is the IDEAL. But my gosh. In the trenches... in the actual HARD trenches of it all.... maybe probably MOST kids aren't blithely turning to art with nary a whine. Probably most kids are not always their best selves. Probably most kids are pushing their parents' buttons as much as my kids pushed mine.
Somehow, here in the quiet, regretful aftermath, I need to figure out how to be gentle with myself. To forgive last week. To forgive my kids for last week. To call upon Grace for my own shortcomings. I'm not there yet. I'm still pretty traumatized and upset. I feel cheated and tricked. I feel dumb and weak. But I also feel, ever so quietly, the beginnings of determination. I feel that inner planner in me crawling out of the muck and beginning to sift through the issues, to begin formulating some goals for "next time"... formulating lists of how to start again this week. There is still something in me that pulls towards light, and I am too stubborn to continue to feel defeated.
So when I'm done whining and mourning this hard last week and the many ways I've been dropping the ball as a parent, I'm going to sit in a quiet place with a notebook and I'm going to get back to basics-- rewrite my Credo, if you will. Check in with my Authentic self and revisit what I really want out of all of this-- this parenting gig, this mid-life of mine... and then recalibrate my daily doings a little to get back to center. Today happens to be the first official day of Spring. And Spring is renewal and I want to peel off this old, cracking, tired skin and try again. Try differently. Try with renewed optimism.
I think it will be okay, soon. I hope so. I hate that it takes getting my kids back to school and us back into a disciplined schedule imposed upon us for me to be able to grab those bootstraps and try again. I wish I had the inner strength and discipline to "reset" all of us right where we stand. But the turning of the calendar to a new week, the call of the school bell, and other structured externals are what my wandering right brain responds to, remotivated and ready.
Today, though--- today is for forgiving and healing and resting and soaking up all the quiet I can find. Today is for seeking Grace, so that tomorrow I can start fresh.
Posted by Emily S. at 9:33 AM
Thursday, March 9
I've procrastinated this post. I've drug my feet and looked the other way. I really have. I just cannot bring myself to even tell people that my baby girl is SIX MONTHS OLD. It physically pains me.
It's not that I don't want my beautiful girl to grow and thrive and blossom and learn more and more... It's just that the 6-month mark is this PALPABLE switch from "tiny, new, fresh" little baby to "older, clever, curious, exploring" bigger baby. She is officially no longer NEW. And it's so good. Really it is. She's amazingly fun and gorgeous at this age. But.....
She's my last. And those tiny new moments in the beginning are so fleeting. These babies are just so eager to grow up and out and away. And she's my last. If you've read any of my other Larkin Milestone posts, you know this is a recurring ache for me... that my last one insists on aging up at the usual rate, instead of taking twice or three times as long like I keep asking her. I DO want her to grow up... but can't she take three years to turn one? Another three years to turn two?
And yet here we are. Six months after my baby arrived, she has turned six months old on me.
And I suppose I can't pretend it isn't happening... so here, for your enjoyment, are the stats about my girl Larkin at six months old:
- Larkin is 25" long and weighs 14 lbs and 6 ounces. After being super teeny for her first 4 months, she is now solidly in the 17-18th percentile for her size. Good baby!
- She moved to mostly formula a few months back, but had maintained one nursing session a day until 4 days ago, and as of Sunday, March 5th, we are officially done nursing. It was inevitable, and I knew it was coming sooner than later, and truthfully, if you remember this post, you'll understand that though it's a sad ending for me, it's something to celebrate that we made it all the way to six months. Every single day of this last month that we nursed, I felt the weight of joy that we had one more, and then one more, and then one more time. It was good. And it was enough. I will miss that part of motherhood deeply, but we did the best we could, baby girl.
- Larkin is rolling and moving all over the place-- whether in her crib or on the floor, she loves to roll front to back and back to front and side to side and see where she ends up. She is getting very deft at all of it. No hands and knees yet, no attempts at forward (or backward) motion.
- She loves her bumbo and her exersaucer, and is officially done with the bouncer and swing, both of which she never adored.
- She is also officially done with the rock-n-play. She had her first full night in the crib last week sometime-- she has taken to it really well, in spite of the rough half-week back there where I had to basically wean her from her binkie to get her to sleep in a crib. We're past that hard stuff now, and she can get herself to sleep most of the time with minimal fussing and crying. Some days she needs a bit of crying-it-out time, but it's never that long, and there are several times she doesn't even fuss.
- So she's mostly done with her binkie for now. But I am absolutely fine with her taking it back up in a month or two when she can put it in herself and take it back out herself. Quinn was a late-binkyier, and I don't regret that at all. And I know Larkin loved hers, so it's cool if she wants it back eventually.
- She is also attaching to her pink fox lovey finally. SO cute! She's still one arm in a swaddle for sleep, which I plan to finish with next week sometime, but her free hand will grab for the foxy and keep it near her as she gets to sleep.
- Larkin loves crackly paper and textures, so it's so easy to keep her amused with wrappers and things. She'll join us at the dinner table in her bumbo and I will hand her a wrapper of something and she just plays with it, mouths it, and feels like she's part of the gang.
- She continues to love being worn, both in my ring sling and in the Tula carrier.Often when she's kind of done with being happy, I can put her in a sling and she'll give me a good additional 30 minutes of being chill before I have to put her down for a nap. She loves being near me and I love being near her.
- She is mostly still a 3-nap girl, but she's moving towards two, I think... her first two naps are getting longer. She will nap 1.5 hours in the morning and sometimes as long as 2.5 in the afternoon.
- Her bedtime is between 7-8, and she gets a bath most nights. Joe does the bath and lotion and jammies usually, while I work on the other kids' bedtime routines. She smells like pink baby lotion every night and I ADORE it.
- She had some bumps in the road this past week with her nighttime sleep.. but she's teething (no teeth yet) and has had a runny nose, so I think that all threw her off a lot. But she seems to be settling back into sleeping from 7-10, then getting a bottle at 10, then sleeping from 10-5 or even 10-6:30 am. Sometimes she'll wake around 2 and will take a bottle then, but I *think* she's moving out of that. Last night she woke and fussed for 2 minutes around 4, but then went back to sleep without any help and slept til 6:30. Now if I could just convince her to sleep til 7, I'd be fine with a 4:00am bottle, I think.
- She loves her siblings, and they love her. Noah loves to hold her, Quinn loves to make her laugh, and Lucy loves to help out by picking up things she's dropped or by bringing me things I might need.
- And she LOOOVES her daddy. Her entire body lights up when he gets home from work. She physically wiggles like crazy as she breaks into a full smile. It's pretty amazing. And Joe loves to come home to her.♥
- No teeth yet, no sitting up yet... but all my other kiddos didn't experience those things til 7 months, so we're in no rush.
- Her hair is still pretty sparse compared to when she was born, and is lighter than when she was born. But she's not at all bald-- she just has wispy, reddish brown, prone to waves, longer-strands-mixed-in-with-the-regular-length, bald-spot-in-back baby hair.
- And her eyes are really warming up. Gray, still? Probably? But greenish yellow too? Not true brown. NOT Lucy-blue at ALL. So maybe a gray-green-hazel. So crazy! (scan these photos and decide for yourselves... What do YOU think?)
- She loves being outside, loves being in a swing with me (or the hammock), loves watching Fiona. Loves holding things and of course *loves* having everything in her mouth-- especially hoodie strings and necklaces. She loves toys and loves being sung to.
- And lastly, she has had her first solid food! We started her with a grand feast of Baby Mum Mums (rice rusk teething "crackers" that melt in baby's mouth) and a dish of mashed avocado with formula and baby oats mixed in. She LOVES being part of the big kid crew in this regard, though she's still working on actually keeping food in her mouth. For now, we've not replaced her usual bottles with solids-- it's still more of a practice thing-- but it has been fun. And like I've done with all my other kids, I took photos of her first tasting experience (Lucy Noah Quinn). So I'll wrap this post up with photos of her having solid food and frankly being, if possible, CUTER THAN EVER. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Posted by Emily S. at 3:19 PM
Monday, March 6
Ack. It's March. I let a whole month go by without blogging. Poo. I really have this goal to blog twice a week, even just quick little freewrites like right now--- a quick 20 minute BLURT... but this past month got away from me. I have the plan to come home from dropping Quinn off at preschool on Mondays and Wednesdays and put Larkin down for nap and then sit and do a blog.... But this last month had many times where Quinn didn't go to preschool-- either days off like President's Day, or sickness keeping him home, etc., and the whole Blog Plan flew out the window. Add to that I want to blog my Hawaii photos from last year, so I easily talk myself out of any other blog posts, since I "have" to do the Hawaii one first.....when that's a cop-out. I could certainly blog other things in the meantime.
I don't even know. It's kind of still a weird zone of life over here.... Just managing the dailiness of four kids has proven to be massively more time consuming than ever before... more than even with three kids. Daily things like getting them ready for the day, fed, out the door, keeping the dishes/laundry/groceries in rotation, keeping the basic clutter at bay-- not even the deep clutter-- just the basics like "shoes on the shoe shelf, throw pillows back on the couch" kind of thing. And at the moment it doesn't feel like it's getting easier, like it has in the past. In the past, it's been mostly a matter or learning the new level of skill needed to manage my life. Like, once I master the new level of hardness, things level off and I am breathing again, with room to do extra things. But this is frighteningly starting to feel like it's ALWAYS gonna feel this intense. Not much breathing, and not much EXTRA stuff. Yikes. It doesn't help that Larkin has been kind of a needy baby suddenly. With the onset of teething, her first cold, and all her wiring buzzing like mad with new milestones (rolling and being able to get herself to things she wants on her own, solid foods, full nights in her crib, etc.) she is just intense. She needs to be held or interacted with nonstop, and is shaking up her predictable behaviors, especially sleep behaviors. Add to that Quinn and his two sicknesses in February-- a tummy bug and an ear infection-- and add in the usual February BLAHS, and we're in a weird spot these days.
I need to be outside. I need my kids to get outside.... I need to put down my phone and just close my eyes and inhale fresh air. I need to read inspiring things and write my feelings down until I begin to understand myself again, and I need to get quiet and listen to my inner self and try to remember how to hear what she needs. But then, I also need to learn how to take care of what everyone else needs at the same time... and I think that probably means that there will be lots of times I can't just cater to my own inner self, and she'll have to learn to wait and be at peace with the waiting. I need to learn that too. I need to trust that this season is happening just like this for a reason, and that there is time yet for other things... And that THIS--no matter how weird, chaotic, displaced, dissatisfying, frazzled, or weary it all feels right now-- THIS is my real life. It is what it is. And I can't keep waiting for something better, or more predictable, or more in control, or more "free" to begin to happen in order for me to claim it as my REAL LIFE. This right now IS my real life. So I need to own it, sit in it, breathe it in, accept it, and see it for what it really is.... even the blah parts.
Well, Larkin just woke up. After a long, fussy road to sleep, she only slept 45 minutes instead of the usual 1.5 hours. This is real life. There are no SHOULDS. I need to remember that. Just because she SHOULD sleep longer doesn't guarantee it. And so I leave the freewriting and dive back in... back to life.
(Trying out the "glasses" look. I think I like it. Haha!)
(I've been chomping on chiclets all morning... three pieces at a time til they lose their flavor, then into the trash with them and three fresh pieces popped in.)
Posted by Emily S. at 10:45 AM
Tuesday, February 7
Our little lady is suddenly FIVE months old. I cannot even.
She doesn't look that much older, but she'd definitely made progress this past month. It's so crazy how time flies while things seem to stay the same.
At five months old, Larkin:
- Rolled from back to tummy! She's only done it a couple of times, but will get about halfway to a roll lots of times.
- Has a bona fide laugh, and it can be triggered by Quinn being silly or blowing raspberries, or by Joe or I making exaggerated faces at her, especially if we zoom in and out from her sightline.
- Has officially moved up to 0-3m pants and 3-6mo tops and dresses and rompers.
- Is still in size two diapers.
- Has seen no change in her sleeping situation... except today I began swaddling her with one arm out.
- Is now taking 6 oz bottles. She tends to have one in the morning, then a half bottle before her first nap. A 6 oz when she wakes, and a half bottle before her second nap. Another 6 oz in the afternoon, then 4-6oz around 5-5:30 when she takes a short third nap... Then 4-6oz at bedtime (between 7-8) and a couple of ounces when she wakes for a minute at 10pm.
- Mostly sleeps from 7:30ish-10:00pm, then from 10:15pm-2 or 3 or 4 or sometimes even 5 am. She's really doing well! If she wakes at 2 or 3, I give her another bottle, then do our one-time nursing session around the 4-5 o'clock hour. At that point, she'll usually sleep til 6:30 or 7.
- Has had some time in the Jenny Jump Up. She's not jumping, exactly, but she seems to love the chance to "walk" her legs around on the floor. I plan to bring up the exersaucer here in a week or so.
- Is pretty good in the car these days. She can go on short trips with no crying, and sometimes even do longer trips!
- Loves clutching and grabbing and scraping at things... clothing and my face and necklaces and any burpcloth or lovey I put in her hands.
- Is noisy when she's happy! She coos, cackles, does the inward-breath gasp thing, and even fuss-talks when she's getting irritated.
- Loves her feet, looking out the window, having her cheek and hair stroked, is on the "too ticklish" side of ticklish, loves her daddy's face, and enjoys peekaboo.
- Is so chill in the mornings, thank heaven. She is so content to lie in her rock n play in the dining room with us as I get Lucy and Noah fed and out the door for school.
- Absolutely LOVES "Itsy Bitsy Spider", especially when I do her hands for her, and when we say "WASHHHHH the spider out!" Her face breaks into the biggest grin, and I am addicted to this moment.
- Loves the ring sling, and will let me prep food with her in it with almost no protesting.
- Has a crib!!! Joe got it assembled last night, and it is so cute. But she's not slept in it yet. That'll come.
I wish I could bottle up her sweetness.... I wish I could share her with you all in more than photos. She's such a gift in our lives. She is so yummy and squishy and gorgeous and sweet. I continues to ache that she has to keep growing and changing so quickly.... I would love it to slow down. But every new thing is just another level of light in our lives, and I'm grateful she is healthy, happy, and so beloved by the rest of my kids. our Larkin Clementine.... ♥
Posted by Emily S. at 9:57 AM
Monday, January 30
To begin with, enjoy this smattering of January cell phone photos, in no particular order.
Today is Larkin's month-a-versary. I don't even want to say how old she is, because it cannot be so. I still haven't finished her newborn photos! I still haven't relished her tiny, sweet, new, early months enough! She cannot be one month away from baby food and beginning to sit up and sprout teeth. It's too soon, and I am not ready.
(Larkin at 12 days old)
I will be taking her month-milestone photos on her bird quilt a bit later, and hopefully post her blog update in a day or two.
I'm already sick of the winter blahs. I am craving being outside, having real, uncanned air blowing through me, sun and vitamin D soaking into my depleted skin. I want to move and feel my muscles work and my lungs fill. I am craving pushing my kids out the doors and letting them get restless and bored enough while out there that they begin to come up with creative ideas to be entertained by the natural world around them. The other day, I googled "how to fight the winter blahs" and one suggestion had a phrase that has stuck with me--- "Make friends with the enemy"-- meaning, no matter how gross it is outside, be it freezing, wet, boiling hot, etc., find a way to get out there anyway and find some good in it. That phrase has stuck and I am trying to embrace it. Now I need to work on preparing my kids to embrace it too. I should just bundle them up like that kid in "A Christmas Story" and make them go outside anyway. Hm... something to work on.
I accidentally was let go from Jamberry after three years, and it still kind of makes me feel sad, even though I was doing NOTHING to promote it to others or sell the product. I still use it myself all the time, and love it, and I think it's just my nostalgic, sentimental side that is feeling bummed that that era is over. ("let go" because in order to remain a consultant, you need to have a minimum of $600 a year in sales, which was always easy to do, until 2016 when I was just busy growing Larkin and keeping my head above water in my photography biz and parenting life... so... ) I have to ponder if it's worth the $99 to sign up again, if maybe I'd only be doing it to get that part of life back for nostalgia's sake. I dunno.
I want: a fresh pedicure; to have a good solid three hours to sort and purge the toys in our basement; to have an easy way to fit a daily walk into my schedule; to have a place for all the random piles of "stuff" in my life; a haircut and color; to go see all the Oscar Best Picture nominated movies; someone to make yummy healthy dinners for me; good beef; to cross-stitch again; to sew a little again; to have a concrete way to help the Muslim population in my city; to have a girls' weekend with my OLW girls, stat; to be back in Hawaii (almost one whole year since I got to go there. I have photos! I should blog them! One year later! haha); to have a nap.
Larkin is officially moving into her own room! Joe disassembled the old crib (which was a convertible crib and recalled anyway, and had the drop-down side broken beyond use right as we were switching it to a toddler daybed for Quinn) and the pieces of Larkin's sweet pale pink Jenny Lind crib have been moved in and and are awaiting assembly. I need to start thinking about actual fabric for her crib bedding. I have colors and scheme already planned, but need the actual fabric to make a crib sheet and ruffled bedskirt. I want to recover the glider cushions, so I need more fabric ideas for that. I have a canvas already printed of Larkin as a newborn in the ring of flowers, and I have an idea of a few prints/things I want for her walls.... So this is kind of exciting! A nursery! Finally, and one last time. ♥
Things that don't quite yet feel comfortable but feel inevitable: 1. I turn 40 this year. That is all I can say about that right now as it is still SO uncomfortable. I have some raw and tender thoughts about it I want to blog soon. 2. In the past several months (maybe a year or more?) I feel more active and concerned politically than I have in my entire life. I seek truth and I seek goodness and I seek ways to love and include and listen. It's weird. But it feels right. And good.
I cannot thing of any more randomness for the moment. It's all good. I feel purged and blank-slate and ready for the week. And I am no longer still jittering from my phone calls. So ONWARD-- carpe diem. Time to see what to do next today. Peace to you all, and love, and .... and in spite of the dark and looming clouds of fear and dark WEIRDNESS that is enveloping our nation right now, I wish for you HOPE and remembering to list things you have to be grateful for. Gratitude is power. And it heals. So..... go be thankful, if you can.
Posted by Emily S. at 4:48 PM
Monday, January 23
Once upon a time......
But no, really-- once upon a time I found this GIANT green prince frog at Target as I was walking around with Joe. I don't think Lucy was even more than a baby at the time. And the frog was deeply discounted and just so silly and HUGE, and I had a sudden vision of my girl as a princess with this frog. So I bought him with the sole intention of doing a "princess and the frog" photo shoot with Lucy someday.
Fast forward more than a few years: I'd finally happened across a perfect dress and a sweet headband and I decided it was time. I talked it up to Lucy and she was cool with the plan. I waited til my boys were at my folks' house for their turn at summer "Grandparent Camp" so Lucy and I would have the house to ourselves. It was all going to be so perfect-- FUN and girly and a fulfillment of a vision I'd had long before. I even had one of my friends over to braid her hair since I'm not super great at french braiding.The scene was SET.
Except then Lucy decided right as I was ready to go that she didn't love this idea anymore. The dress was scratchy. She felt put on the spot. She didn't want to kiss a stuffed frog.
I just..... I mean.... really? Are you SURE, Lucy? I can't fake-cheerfully try to tell you why this is gonna be AWESOME and cute and FUN? *insert undercurrent of stressy mom-tographer frustration*
I took the dress back off of her and put a shirt and leggings on under it. Scratchiness minimized. I offered a whole list of possible bribes. I got her to at least sit in front of my camera. I tried to breathe deeply. And I tried to find that undercurrent of stress in myself and blow it away... tried to tap into a sincere empathy and understanding of my girl. Tried to find what it might take to help her lighten up and just.... participate a little, because she wanted to, and not just because I was begging.
I tried to just talk to her.... To show her that I didn't need this to be precisely what I'd envisioned... that we could just hang out-- Lucy, the frog and I-- and maybe it wouldn't be so bad. I went inward and made myself let go of what I thought this shoot should've "looked like." I just took it slower and took photos of whatever was actually happening with her as we talked.
And even then, we still had some moments of reluctance and even a few more tears (she REALLY didn't want to kiss the frog. Oh, Lucy- but it's SO CUTE! And not even slimy!)... But I found myself drawn into her wide eyes, and her softer expressions as a result of her mood being a little melancholy. She was still the loveliest little princess, and I still loved these moments.
A little more talking through it, and we got our kiss. And it wasn't even terrible, right, Lucy?
And finally, a real smile... my happy Lucy, right at the end.
So even though it wasn't exactly what I thought it would be, we had a sweet, tender, learning experience in the less than 15-minute session we did here. I got to take photos in spite of her mood, and she got to have a mama who worked at relaxing the control and stress, and we both ended with smiles. And then we promptly ditched that dress and got her back into play clothes and had a great rest of the day-- some art-making, some "Magic School Bus" watching, and even a trip to the swimming pool together in the afternoon, just being mermaids together. (I told you this was once upon a time... back in August, to be precise!!)
I hope as the years go by, my kids appreciate the photos... but also remember that sometimes I succeeded at turning off the "photographer bossy stress face" and remembered to just try to listen and talk and laugh a little as we did our photos together.
Posted by Emily S. at 10:07 AM