Monday, April 17, 2017

Momentous


Right now we are trying to make one of the biggest decisions we will (likely) ever make in the life of our family. I have cried and prayed and rejoiced and cried and sobbed and and prayed some more so, so, so many times in the last week. I don't know how the heck I would be surviving this right now without Neil by my side.

And my baby had an EEG and I cried a lot more. 





It's really crazy around here. So much has happened. So, so, so much, even just in regular daily life. There is so much to blog about, but right now I am barely staying afloat (also before all this stuff came up we signed all the kids up for spring sports, and I literally did not even imagine that there would be 3 games per week per kid so I will let you just do the math on that one for a minute).

I have to go do my yoga now for my rotated/tilted pelvis (another fun story) so I'm just going to leave this picture from a few weeks ago when I set a new PR for the half-marathon and had just the best time running with my kids. Every time I look at this photo it makes me so happy--it's the background and lock screen on my phone because I want to feel like Luke did on this day, and it reminds me to try to find the good in all of this right now. 





Thursday, March 16, 2017

Marching along and totally bragging about my kids


 If I'm being perfectly honest, blogging is about the last thing I want to do tonight--I just got the kids in bed but I've already had to go in once to tell Nathan to stop screeching and I can hear Matthew fussing, so my time is limited (and Neil isn't home so I'm flying solo on the bedtime-stuffing-kids-back-in-bed-thing).

But it's been too long since I've blogged and I keep thinking that there are things I need to write down--some parenting successes and whatnot because heaven knows I need reminders of those!!!



A snippet from my response to the family email on Sunday, since I don't have time to write it all out again--the short version is that all the kids are working SO dang hard in school right now and I am so so so proud of them. Abigail has had kind of a hard time with the introduction of the Chromebook, especially since the teachers totally just let the kids do whatever on it during the school day and don't police it (at least not the way I think they should), but after we talked about it with her she totally got on top of it and has been super careful about her usage of the Chromebook and her grades have really reflected her hard work; she's at the top of every class and is always winning the in-class Quizlet and Cahoot competitions. Juliet has had a hard time with some of the math stuff this year and has been studying like crazy and was just beaming when she came home yesterday and told me that there was one A and one B on her geometry test, and no C's, and everyone else in the class failed it--and she got the A. I am so darn proud of their hard work and if I'm going to brag about it anywhere it's going to be here, right?! And Isaac is seriously just continuing to blow us away with his crazy hard work and his awesome creativity; he has 100 percents in every subject and his teacher keeps emphasizing how incredibly gifted he is beyond what she has normally seen in 28 years of teaching and in teaching the high-ability class since its inception. I went in for Luke's conference yesterday and his teacher was like, "Well, um, here are his test scores, and I guess there's not really anything to say because he's so high above grade level...he's a really awesome kid." He's reading at a third-grade level now (at least--I'm not 100% positive because the third-grade stuff is really easy for him still) and I keep having to pull him back to the kindergarten and first grade math stuff just to make sure we've covered all our bases before we move on!

Email snippet:
"We just wrapped up the third quarter--only 9 more weeks to go until the kids are done with school! I'm super proud of all of them; everyone had straight A's this quarter, and we've had a lurking B bounce back and forth between two of the kids in the previous 2 quarters, so this represents some really diligent work from the girls on some specific targeted areas--"slow down and do your best work" is somewhat of a mantra around here these days! Luke's teacher has requested that he stay full-day over the next nine weeks, and I have mixed feelings about that, so we'll see. He definitely doesn't need it academically (he's at a third-grade reading level now and he's halfway through the first grade math stuff), and I'm not super convinced that he needs it socially, so that's going to be a big decision to make this week (I don't really love his teacher--she's nice, but just sort of okay and not very motivated). Abigail has her spring band concert tomorrow night and we're counting down the next two weeks until baseball (Isaac), T-ball (Luke), and softball (Abigail) start! Juliet has really been loving Girls on the Run and I'm so glad that she can participate in that this year! Matthew is greatly enjoying solid foods (peas, not so much, green smoothies mixed with oatmeal YES!!!) and is just on the cusp of being able to sit independently. He's getting pretty good at rolling and inch-worming to get to where he wants to go, and his fan club is as adoring as ever, especially when it's time to get him dressed--it reminds me so much of when Elise and Rosalind would beg to get baby Abigail into her sleeper!"

 In other news we were sick for three weeks straight; it totally stunk.

 

Can't believe this guy is almost six months old!!! He is trying SO hard to crawl. Just an absolute bundle of sunshine.


 Instagram caption for this image: "

There are two "best parts" to my day--reading stories with the children is the first, but the second is working with the "dinner helper" every night as we cook dinner together. These days we are reaping the rewards of a lot of patient training with our dinner jobs and it is amazing. Last night we got home from clarinet lessons and track practice with a hungry baby and no dinner prepped beforehand. I went to nurse Matthew while Abigail made dinner (broiled lime tilapia, steamed broccoli, and fresh plums). Luke set the table, and after dinner Juliet washed all the dishes while Isaac wiped the table and swept the floor...with no complaints from a single one of them. It's taken SO much effort to make this happen--but you guys, it was worth the effort. I may yet turn this horde into a bunch of functional adults!! (Now excuse me while I go tell my boys to hose the mud off themselves before dinner.)"


Seriously, these kids are pretty awesome. I was telling Neil last night (since he was gone again) that Isaac took forever eating dinner so he ended up doing dishes up until right before bedtime, and the little boys were doing something he really wanted to join in on, and he just kept right on with the dishes and said once, "Mom, I'd sure like to be with the boys, but I know this is the consequence because I took so long eating and now I need to do my dinner job when everyone else has free time." Aaaahhhh it is clicking!! I have to remember this for Nathan because he's driving me nuts lately and never ever listens to me. It will come!


But meanwhile Nathan is still pretty cute with his "struction vehicles" and his play-doh mess--he could seriously sit here all day listening to Classical Kids and driving his trucks around.


The other day we tried to scientifically figure out who has the longest eyelashes--pretty sure it's Nathan but it might be Isaac. It's close.

Matthew has discovered his toes and he loves them greatly.

 Contemplative little boys on a walk last week...



 And then a random snowy day!!!

Boys snuggling together yesterday morning after all the biggies left for the day

 And Abigail's band concert a few nights back--did I get a good shot of the band? Nope.

We actually weren't planning to take everyone to this because it was pretty late, but when I said something about Abigail getting ready to leave everyone was like WHAT WE ARE COMING IT IS MUSIC AND WE LOVE IT. And then they sat there raptly listening (well, Juliet had a really good book so she read) through the whole thing. I took the littlest boys home about five minutes before it ended so we wouldn't get stuck in traffic (or get rear-ended like the last concert) and Neil said a guy asked him if those were all his kids, and then said they were the most well-behaved children he'd ever seen. So that was nice to hear! (Because usually they're not.)

My fat-faced little lovey and his sticky-out ears.


 And I can't even tell you how much joy and peace of mind those chunky thighs bring me after Nathan!!!

And now he's REALLY howling so that's me over and out.



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Matthew is five months old & Isaac's half-birthday party


Well, I pretty much dropped the ball on the last few Five for February posts, but the truth is that Matthew got sick and basically quit sleeping--and I was already so sleep-deprived that I turned into a zombie. But he's five months old now! And look at those chubberly little cheekies! (Trying to include myself in more photos, even when I look as tired as I feel!)

And I have to say, a really good way to avoid feeling sorry for yourself when everyone is sick--because now all the rest of the kids are sick--and you're only sleeping in small forty-minute chunks--is to read about the Holocaust. I started reading Rose Under Fire (sort of a sequel to Code Name Verity) and gosh, it was such a pageturner that it was the perfect thing to read when I was just rocking Matthew all night desperately hoping that he would get enough sleep AND reminded me that my problems are so tiny and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and that I am hugely blessed to be able to take the time to just sit rocking my baby.


Not sure if you can tell in these photos, but his little eyes are all swollen! Neil's eyes always get really swollen when he has a cold, and all six of our kids inherited that...poor little weepy-eyed crew.

We're doing a lot of milk-mixed-with-oatmeal right now and he is starting to enjoy it.




































And I think Isaac's party last week was a success!! Five little friends joined us and we carried out Isaac's planned party (although we had to scrap the outdoor obstacle course as it was rainy and cold). He wanted a treasure hunt that finished at a Darth Vader pinata, a cake with his name on it, superhero games (we tied green balloons to everyone's feet and called it the Hulk Stomp--basically you tried to pop everyone else's balloon without getting yours popped), and to paint canvases like we did at Juliet's party. Neil and I were both laughing because it was SUCH a boy party--loud, loud, loud (especially when they started playing basketball, which is funny because we got an indoor over-the-door hoop for Christmas and our kids could not care less about it, but Isaac's friends LOVED it...and Isaac still didn't care about it even when they were playing; he just started working on Legos! We're working on that because both of us LOVE basketball and we've got to get our kids equally in love with it!) and we just could not believe how much pizza all those kids put away! Fun times.


And that wraps up this series. And as always, my favorite things of the day are the little things that happen every day--cooking dinner with a child, listening to everyone's goodies and baddies around the dinner table, cuddling up to read stories, and seeing my children learn and grow.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Best of the best!


Neil had his preliminary examinations this morning for his doctorate--and he passed! Hurray, hurray, hurray!! This is a pretty huge deal. His committee was very impressed by all of the research he has done--one of the reasons why his degree has taken so long is that there were so many avenues his advisor asked him to explore before finally settling on the dissertation research three years ago (that's eight years of other stuff, if you're counting). But those other years have yielded ten publications, which is pretty darn impressive, and two teaching awards, one of which is the very highest award that the university awards to doctoral teaching assistants. Now that prelims are behind him, we are really ramping up the job search, so please let me know if you have any leads for laser-additive manufacturing. ;-)
We are SO proud of him and so, so, so incredibly grateful for all the insanely long hours and hard work he has put in without complaint. I don't know how he keeps going day after day (everyone else who entered this program with him under this advisor was either asked to leave or decided to quit, so he will be the only one his advisor has ever successfully graduated in this program). It has been a long and lonely road for him, and he has borne an enormous burden without complaint--I know I already said that, but seriously, he doesn't complain--he just works tremendously long hours, sleeps very little, and gives 200% to his marriage, his family, and his research. He's a pretty quiet guy, but gosh, I just wish the world knew how amazing he is--so I'll do my shouting from the rooftops here on my blog!


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Twenty-two



























Today's been a tricky day--I still can't shake this cough and I seem to have passed it on to a few more kids. Matthew isn't coughing, but his little voice is so raspy that it's heart-breaking when he cries.

But there are still lots of good things. I need to start writing these down earlier; I think of so many during the day and then I forget them!

1) Today I got to talk with my mom, my sister Ruth, and my sister Mary Beth on the phone. Such a treat! And I got to talk with Elise via text. (Rosalind is in Hong Kong, so our texts seem to connect only at 8 am and 8 pm!)

2) Tonight was one of the nights where we weren't rushing off somewhere (well, Neil was gone, but everyone else was home). We took our time getting ready for bed--reading stories to tucked-in little boys, rubbing backs, brushing and flossing with great diligence. Luke fell asleep right after his story (with his book on his face and his glasses in his hand) but everyone else somehow migrated in to sit on Isaac's bed and reminisce fondly about past road trips (our topic was the worst throw-ups, but hey, memories are memories).

3) For no reason at all I just really relished the process of brushing Nathan's teeth tonight. Maybe it was the realization that these years are so fleeting and there is something so wonderful about a happy little boy who is so enthralled by his own toothpaste and who leaps off the counter into my arms and wraps himself tightly around me and gives me a million kisses with his peppermint-scented breath.

4) Since I knew Neil wouldn't be around this evening, I made one of the kids' favorite dinners--are you ready for it?--fish and roasted beets (and roasted carrots too, and applesauce, but those were incidental). My kids are obsessed with roasted beets, especially when served with fish, because they rub the beets all over the fish so the fish get pinkish patches and then pretend they are bloodthirsty little savages who have just caught the fish and are now eating them raw. Obviously.

5) I have cinnamon roll dough rising on the counter for tomorrow's breakfast and I think there are going to be some pretty happy little people in the morning. ;-) (It's a special occasion--that's not a normal weekday breakfast!!!)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Twenty-one

1) Abigail had some trouble turning in an assignment today; the link where she needed to upload her paper was broken. She wrote an email to her teacher about the issue and attached her paper, and I was just sort of in awe of the fact that she was so confident and knew exactly what to do and was so pro-active about it (the assignment isn't due for another week, but she gets extra credit if she turns it in early). Middle school has been pretty nerve-wracking for me in terms of stepping back and having less and less interaction with her teachers and letting her take charge, but I am so darn proud of how well she is doing and how hard she is working.  My grandmother gave her a 2017 calendar and without any prompting or suggestion from me, she hung it above her bed and wrote down all of her due dates for major assignments, extra credit opportunities, music lessons, etc., and she checks everything off as she does it. Pretty darn amazing to watch your kids functioning as little mini-adults without your interference.

2) Isaac was my dinner helper tonight and he was so proud of the dinner he made (pasta primavera w/ homemade alfredo sauce with red bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, onions, and tomatoes). He does not like either the peppers or the tomatoes, but he ate them without any fuss tonight because he made dinner, darn it! I love how these types of jobs help my kids take ownership (you better believe all of my kids clear and wash their own plates after meals, because the kid responsible for clearing the table and the child responsible for dishes will get after them if they don't and then it just ends up becoming a habit! Hah!)

3) Neil and I have a saying, "Never let a movie go unearned," which is why I bought off enough quiet to nurse Matthew down and put him to bed without Nathan/Luke interfering (Neil took the older kids to piano) by telling the little boys that if they cleaned up and vacuumed the living room and library they could watch "The Gruffalo" (which is one of their favorite books and the short film is absolutely enchanting). This is especially impressive because they had been playing with Nathan's construction wheat tub and there was wheat EVERYWHERE. But it was immaculate by the time they were done, and then I was able to feed Matthew in peace (super important because he is at the stage where if he gets interrupted even once by a loud noise anywhere else in the house, he won't start eating again, and that is not what I want when I'm trying to tank him up before bedtime).

4) Over the weekend, the department IT guy managed to crash all the servers, and I was super worried that--as happened once in the past--I would have to rebuild my website from scratch. But I woke up this morning to a functioning website--hurray!

5) I've been rereading some French parenting books lately. Today I tried out a few of the techniques on Nathan and they worked surprisingly well. This is a very good thing. (I spoke with confidence! I outlined a firm boundary! And I gave him the big "owl eyes" and stared him down! Now where's my pain au chocolat?)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Twenty





























1) The kids had a holiday from school today, so we took a looooong walk in the woods this afternoon--I think they climbed every tree and swung from every vine in our path. And lots of stick-throwing! Fine with me because they were happy and Matthew fell asleep, and it was so good for my soul to get some time outside.

2) I made crepes for dinner tonight (which we stuffed with an assortment of veggies, cheese, and ham...nothing beats honeyed goat cheese on a piping-hot whole wheat crepe!). Neil usually does crepe duty because I don't love using our little crepe-maker, but my dad gave me a really awesome new frying pan that is absolutely perfect for crepes! I foresee a lot more of these in the future.

3) I finished going through everyone's summer clothes today. I always dread this task and it's so good to have it done, and I have all the outgrown stuff either boxed up to pass down to siblings, or bagged up to give away to friends.

4) For years I've hated Gatorade, but a few months ago when I was really sick and couldn't keep anything down Neil got me some of the blue powdered kind. I think being able to mix it a little weaker really helps my ability to tolerate it, and I've been using it for my late-night Monday long runs the past few weeks--it's always nice to have something to look forward to every couple of miles! (11.2 tonight and my legs still think this treadmill belt is much harder to run on than my old one...hopefully it breaks in soon!).

5) On that note, I'm really grateful for water. I've been feeling super parched lately and I'm just so thankful that my cold clean water is so easily accessible out of the tap--that is a huge blessing!
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