This has been the most outrageous year.
Full of highs and lows.
SO much stress and SO much joy.
We began the year finding out that we were having a girl. Our fourth child, after three boys, was finally going to be a little girl. We were over the moon. We just absolutely could not believe it. Even though this was our fourth child, we found ourselves feeling a little like first timers.
Even though our lives were very busy, we were still planning several upgrades and projects in our new home. We went through 22 samples of grey trying to find the perfect shade for the living room, and 13 yellows for the kitchen. We designed and put up a plank wall. We re-tiled our kitchen back splash. TWICE. We had plans for upgrading our back hallway into a functional mudroom.
Harry was in preschool and floor hockey, and Rich was chugging along at DRW. Finn and Theo were in a nice routine staying home with mom and having playdates with our friends. The big boys took swim lessons at Goldfish swim school, and the played baseball at the park district. As a family we were building great relationships with the people in our small neighborhood. Rich co-managed a neighborhood softball team and the boys were getting comfortable walking just three doors down to our best neighbor friend. It was a busy, but very enjoyable spring.
Then in June, a special opportunity came up and we decided to pick up and move to London. From then, our life went into hyperdrive. But as usual we embraced the chaos and made it happen. Rich continued to play softball through the summer. We sold the house in ONE SHOWING the week before Viv was born. This forced us to move the kids and I home to Casey before moving to London, because our London home wasn’t ready yet. This turned out to be a perfect 8 weeks, spending lots of time with all of our families before moving. We snuck in photo-shoots with both sides of our family, just to take advantage of being all together.
Then we moved. We still, now, look back and can’t believe we did it. It’s so huge. And crazy. Sitting here typing this, I still can’t believe it. Looking at the kids passports, I still can’t believe it. We didn’t need to do this, but we did. We were happy living in suburbia. We were really so happy. And we could have stayed there long term. But, we choose it. We choose to take this adventure with our kids. It’s certainly been challenging, but so far there are absolutely no regrets.
Harry is thoughtful, curious, imaginative, somewhat serious, and very typical-first-born-type A. We love how much he loves and adores his siblings. He has loved every one of them from the day they came home and has never been jealous. He is so generous with them and protective of them. When he goes to a birthday party, he sneaks a piece of cake home for Finn. If Viv is crying, he’s the first to her side.
He is my rule maker, follower, and enforcer. He shines when he has made us proud and crumbles if he disappoints us. He loves to be home. He loves to be right, and loves to learn.
On a daily basis he amazes us with his creativity. He loves to draw and write stories, or cut up pieces of paper and construct a bad-guy. He is our master builder. He can build anything, and everything out of Legos. Creatures, animals, restaurants, Airport Security checkpoints, vehicles, zoos, anything.
He can be very tenacious and competitive when he wants something. He’s a very logical thinker and an excellent problem solver. He has always struggled managing his emotions in a new situation and this year we saw improvement in this area. He became much more resilient and flexible this year.
This year Harry’s mental and emotional growth has been outstanding. He started this year in a preK classroom in Oswego and ended it in a Year 2 classroom in London. His graduating preschool class prided themselves on knowing a few sight words and being able to count to 100. At the end of the year in London, he is reading simple books, writing stories, and doing basic multiplication. It’s amazing what their little brains can absorb. We feared that the curriculum gap would break him, but it didn’t. We thought we’d have to hire a tutor to work with him every night, but we didn’t. He has risen to the challenge and he very rarely gets frustrated. He’s not alllll the way caught up to his peers, but he’s not needing supplemental support to keep up either. We are amazed and proud.
Learning to do several things on his own: make a snack and a simple breakfast, make his bed, fold his clothes, take a shower, change a (non-poopy) Theo diaper!, change Theo into pajamas, brush his own teeth.
The end of the season of floor hockey and swimming
The beginning of floor hockey and swimming
Having to switch schools.
Homeschooling and making up the curriculum gap in the UK.
Favorites: Legos, Ninja Turtles, anything animals, anything dinosaur or Jurassic World, anything super heros, writing stories, drawing and coloring, sausage and bacon, grilled Cheese, trail mix, chocolate, yogurt raisins, video games
- Now that you’re 6, what’s different?
Hum… You go places like Chuck E Cheese and the Lego Store.
And I can run faster.
- How tall are you? 6
- What are you really good at? Legos
- What’s your favorite thing to do?
Build legos… mixels and a couple more like ninja turtles and transformers.
- What’s your favorite thing to eat?
Eggs, cheese sandwiches, and quesadillas
- Where’s your favorite place to go and why?
Lego store… so you get legos there and you ride on a roller coaster.
- Who’s your favorite friend?
- What do you want to do when you grow up?
Just be Harry
- How old are mom and dad?
Mom is 38, and dad is 32
- What does Daddy do at work?
He buys money
- What do you like best about mom and dad?
Daddy gets us (plays chase), and mommy tucks us in bed
- How strong is Dad?
He’s strong 100!
- What’s mom’s favorite thing to do?
Clean up the house… like vacuuming and cleaning up the floor.
- What’s your favorite thing about your brothers?
They play with me. Finn, that he plays with me and Theo too.
- What do you think of girls?
- If you could have a super power, what would it be?
Clean-up-your-toys super power.
- What’s the best thing that happened to you this year?
All the new things I can do like reach tall things.
18. Are you going to get married someday? To who?
No – kids can’t get married. I can’t get married – that’s why.
19. How long does it take to make dinner? Hum…..A little bit.
20. How do you make cookies?
You use chocolate chips, and bananas. Then you scoop them out and put them in the oven. I don’t know what else.
21. How much does a car cost? 20 dollars
22. What’s the healthiest thing you can eat? Eggs
23. Can you give me an example of a good deed? Share.
24. Can you tell me a joke? Yes!
Knock knock? – who’s there
Fish – fish who
Hello I’m a fish!
25. What do you know about God and Jesus?
He loves us very much. He died on the cross. He lived in a cave, when he was still alive.
Finn is SILLY. Ever since he was little I would catch him doing just silly weird little things when he’s left on his own or with his brothers. Finn is our early riser, and our sunshine baby. He’s NEVER ever, ever in a hurry. He daydreams. And he chases butterflies. But despite his wanderlust nature, he is surprisingly and incredibly smart. He’s the one, who at 2 years old, could do a 48 piece puzzle completely on his own. And at 4, he can follow directions and complete a small Lego set completely on his own.
His imagination is equal to Harry’s, which means they spend the majority of their time together doing imaginative play. Finn is our best player with Theo – being able to navigate around Theo’s tricky toddler stage. And although he’s not always the most compassionate, he fights for Harry when he needs to.
Finn is also very coordinated. Even though he was our biggest baby, he hit all the milestones first. He rolled, sat, crawled, and walked first. He can throw and kick easily, and he expertly races his scooter to school and back everyday.
This year, Finn talked in third person for a solid 2 months. At first we thought it was funny – and it was – but then it didn’t quit.
He named his fish ‘swimming.’ Swimming the fish.
He is easily impressed and finds himself full of wonder at the smallest thing. So many things, like a spider on a thread in the breeze, are SUPER AWESOOOOMEE!!! When he says things, he says them with such genuine feeling. It’s like everything he says has an exclamation point after it.
He has always marched to his own drum, and sometimes that drum is on a different planet. And this sometimes means he blatantly defies us. He’s never been afraid to break our rules or not listen to us. He didn’t pick up his coat off the floor because he “didn’t want to!” It doesn’t matter if that’s mommy’s rule.
And we definitely have had the most discipline lessons with him. We often have to re-think our approach with him, and give him extra one-on-one time.
Highs: Seeing anything that he thinks is awesome. Getting to see his favorite people. Getting to go… anywhere.
Lows: Finn doesn’t really have any lows. When he’s tired, he’s pretty grumpy – that’s about it.
Favorites: animals, bugs, snakes, anything outside, running, his scooter, following Harry’s lead on imaginative play with ninja turtles, super heros, and dinosaurs, pizza, ketchup.
- Now that you’re 4 what’s different? Look how big I am… look at my BIG feet!!!!
- How tall are you? 60!
- What are you really good at? Jumping – “see look how big this is!!” (Demonstrates jump)
- What’s your favorite thing to do? Um.. RUNN (while running)
- What’s your favorite thing to eat? Big pretzels and cheese pizzas!
- Where’s your favorite place to go and why? Lego Store, for I like getting the old guys (mixels)
- Who’s your favorite friend? Jordi
- What do you want to do when you grow up? House cleaner
- What does Daddy do at work? Gets money
- What do you like best about mom and dad? Mom – that you make my food, Dad – getting money for us…
- How strong is Dad? 100 strong
- What’s mom’s favorite thing to do? Get dresses for the baby sister!
- What’s your favorite thing about your brothers? Harry – that he plays with me, Theo – he plays with us.
- How old are mom and dad? Mom is 18, and daddy is 60, 82
15. What do you think of girls? umm…. They marry boys.
16. Where do you want to go on vacation? Ummm…. Go camping?
17. If you could have a super power, what would it be? To be a million strong!!!
18. What’s the best thing that happened to you this year? Umm.. I got sick.
19. How long does it take to make dinner? 14 for making dinner
20. Are you going to get married someday? To Who? Ya, when I’m 16… to Avery.
21. How do you make cookies? You use oatmeal and cookies, and then you use a banana… and then that’s it. That’s how you make em!
22. How much does a car cost? 16 monies.
23. What’s the healthiest thing you can eat? Carrots and apples
24. Can you give me an example of a good deed? Play with somebody
25. Can you tell me a joke? I don’t want to say a joke.
26. What do you know about God and Jesus? They make people.
So, Theo was HANDS DOWN our easiest baby. Oh my gosh. He slept through the night at 7 weeks and never looked back. All the way through… like 11 hours. He would happily play on the floor, and then just… roll over and take a nap.
Like, what? Not only did he sleep great, he ate great too. So that was super weird. He was happy and very very easy going, also kinda weird, right?
He was incredible. And part of me knew that we were going to pay one day for his good behavior. This invoice was adding up. He was such a dream baby and it was too good to be true. Yes, that dream baby was just adding it up. And it was expensive, very expensive. And we had to pay the invoice this year. Wholly moly.
Of the three boys, he was without a doubt our hardest one year old. So many times, we didn’t know what to do with him. He’s stubborn, he’s temperamental, he unpredictable. He bangs his head, and likes to sleep with his blanket completely over his head…
Sometimes he would just walk around and cry… or go from crying to laughing and back to crying again. Sometimes he would eat toast, sometimes he would cry and rub the toast in his hair. Some days he was never happy… all day. He’s really attached to me one day, then really attached to Rich the next. Somedays, he would just follow me around. Literally, like a little tail wherever I went, crying. Until I would either pick him up, or sit down with him. It seemed like everyday I was just walking on eggshells around him. Or – as we started calling it, cutting the wrong wire. You cut the wrong wire and the bomb explodes.
For example: He liked the green cup yesterday, and he wanted his granola bar cut into pieces. But today he wanted the blue cup – which was fine. But then I cut up his granola bar into pieces and now he’s crying face down on the floor. I guess he wanted his granola bar as a whole today. And stupid me didn’t know. Cut the wire… bomb exploded.
I felt (and sometimes do still feel) like I was working for a highly demanding, completely irrational, bi-polar boss. At this age, both of the older boys certainly had bad day, or a bad spell for a little while. But this has truly gone on almost the entire year.
Also, a little after his birthday he started rhythmically banging his head on the side of crib every night before bed – sometimes for an hour, off and on. We researched, talked to two doctors, he’s fine. It’s just one of those weird things, and a soothing mechanism for him. We notice it gets worse when he’s cutting teeth. We hoped it would pass, but he still continues to do it today. Some children do it until age three… so, we’ll see.
For whatever unknown reason, he finds the banging of his head soothing. So, when he is having a tantrum you’ll get the standard limp-noodle bit, but you might also get a head bump right in the nose. It’s hard to say… Just watch out.
Now – I know, we threw a lot at him this year. He was replaced as the baby of the family and then he had to change homes, twice, within a few months. All while cutting teeth, and trying to grow and develop. He is also stuck in sort of a no-man’s land. The big boys take off without him, and mommy is always taking care of Viv.
So, we’ll cut him some slack and let him slide…. This time.
Despite the drama, he has an incredibly sweet side. And we can’t get enough of his cute little face. Per the toddler instructions, he is completely ruled by the right side of his brain. His lows are low and his highs are high. We can grit through the lows with tricks of distraction and snacks. And then enjoy the highs… and the middle ground.
He loves to cuddle with Viv, and laugh with daddy. He loves to dance to Justin Bieber. He loves to see how many potato head pieces he can jam in his mouth, and he’s never met a meat he didn’t like. He loves a truck or a car more than the older boys ever have.
He is happiest when he is included in whatever the big boys are doing. Whether it’s just sitting on the floor, or coloring at the table, or playing ninja turtles, or reading books in bed. If they are doing it, and he is also doing it – he is the happiest man in the house.
Highs – Learning how to walk and talk, and climb up the stairs. Being able to copy his brothers. Cuddling.
Lows – just about anything, and then something different tomorrow
Favorites – cars, oatmeal, ketchup, meat, his brothers
Our sweet and long awaited princess entered our life at the end of July. With all of the other pregnancies, we’d always thrown around girl names at the beginning. And we surprised ourselves landing on Vivian, as it was never on the list before. But, it is perfect, and she’s perfect.
Her birth was the hardest of the four babies. Something weird happened to me and I decided it was a good idea to NOT get an epidural. Don’t do that! It was a huge mistake. Labor and delivery was… rough. However, she was born healthy and beautiful, so it’s all the same in the end.
She is just…. So… great. We love having a girl after having three boys. It’s so fun to finally get to buy pink. It’s so fun to have new possibilities for toys and outings. It’s so fun to get an American Girl doll. It’s so fun to think about dresses and necklaces, and nail polish. It’s so fun to think of special mommy and Viv days. It’s so fun to think that Rich might get to walk someone down the aisle.
We finally have a girl of our own and I can’t wait to braid her hair. We try not to be biased towards her, but how can we not be? She barely cries, because someone is always there to tend to her. When she was first born, I barely set her down. Not because she was fussy, but because I just didn’t want to. I strictly never slept the boys in our bed, but with her – anything goes.
She was born with a thick, luscious head of hair. As it grew, it stood straight up and continued to grow and stand straight through the end of the year. Her hair attracts so much attention everywhere we go.
So far, she’s been sweet and smiley and good natured for the most part. She has a serious, thoughtful side and spends lots of time watching and observing. She loves to roll around and kick her legs out the side of her crib. She hasn’t been the best sleeper, but not the worst either.
She’s very attached to mommy, and doesn’t take a bottle very well. Usually just the SIGHT of mommy calms her down if she’s upset. And she doesn’t like to be left alone or out of mommy’s sight for very long. Ask me if I care if she’s attached…
She giggles the most for daddy, but is completely captivated by all of her brothers. She loves them and they love her
Highs – learning how to put herself to sleep, roll over, and sit up, sleeping through the night (on occasion)
Lows – having trouble sleeping through the night, only pooping once a week… leading to weekly diaper blow-outs
Favorites – anytime her brothers are in the room, riding in her stroller, teething toys, spoons, cell phones
day in the life 2015
6/6:30 The kids start waking. We’ve trained them to stay quietly in their rooms and play nicely until we come get them.
7:30ish Help boys get ready for school, change Theo, change Viv, bring everyone downstairs and make breakfast.
8:00 serve breakfast
8:30 get the big boys out the door for school (papa or daddy takes them)
8:45 clean up the kitchen, start laundry, vacuum, play with Theo and Viv
9:45 nurse Viv and lay her down for first nap
11:30 feed Theo lunch
12:15 clean up and lay Theo down for nap
12:30 Viv is up, nurse
1:00 eat lunch
2:30 nurse Viv again and lay her down for second nap
2:45 Theo is up
4:00 big boys are home from school (papa went and got them)
4:30 make dinner for the boys
5:00 boys eat dinner, Viv is up. Nurse, boys play.
6:30 bedtime snack for boys, followed by baths, brushing teeth, reading books, and then getting in bed at 7 – if we’re lucky. And if we are, then they are thrilled to get to watch a show in their beds.
7:00 Put Viv to sleep for third nap, read with Theo and put him to bed
7:30 Boys show is over, lights out!
night in the life 2015
I want to include a night in the life, because the night is just as much a part of our life right now as the day. And because if I ever feel a little twinge to have another baby – I can go back and read this part. As if the day wasn’t enough…
7:30p – all boys lights out. Mommy and daddy eat dinner, and sometime in here Viv wakes from her third nap and wants to nurse, play and hang out downstairs
10:00p – nurse and lay viv down for bed.
10:00p – 11:30p the no kid time. Sometimes Rich goes straight to bed. But if he doesn’t, we can talk to each other, maybe shop online, fold laundry, whatever…
11:30/Midnight – mommy bedtime
3:30am – Viv is up and wants to eat. Nurse her and put her back to sleep (hopefully).
4:00am – Theo is awake, banging his head on his crib. Maybe his teeth hurt? He’s not crying, just banging. So, I leave him alone but I can’t go back to sleep when I know he’s up.
4:45am – Theo is back asleep
5:15am – I’m back asleep
6:00am – Finn, our early bird, is up and has to poop. Rich takes this one, gets on up for work, and sometimes lets me sleep if his schedule allows. Sometimes he has to leave early, then it’s me who is up for this. Finn is supposed to lay quietly in his bed until Harry wakes up. He does this sometimes, but other times he makes multiple trips to our room whining, or he wakes up Harry, or both.
6:30/7:00am – Theo and Harry are up. I’m still sleeping in our room with Viv, if I don’t have a boy or two coming in. If Rich is home, he gets up and ready for work then makes breakfast for the boys and gets them ready for school. I attempt to sleep through the chaos.
8:00am – Viv is up, I’m up for the day. We have to leave for school drop off at 8:40.
Now, this is not the case EVERY night, but it definitely is the case sometimes. Our night schedule was some variation of this from October to December. If you’re keeping track, that’s only about 5 hours of sleep for me a night and it’s not even continuous. And also, I was doing this at night and then getting up and homeschooling for a few weeks. So… ya… I’m definitely glad to be moving further away from this season of our life.
Harry: I’m awesome
Finn: I’m a nice boy… and funny.
Harry: We need a sister!
Me: What? Why?
Harry: We have three boys! It’s too many!
(Harry is learning to cough in the crook of his arm at school, and Finn was coughing in the car)
Harry: Finn! You have to cough in your arm, like this….
Finn: Na, I’ll just cough on my teeth.
Finn: I love my hot pants!
Finn (running): Watch me mommy! I’m making the wind!
Finn’s responses to mommy during a bedtime meltdown:
You have to go to bed because I said so – ‘I don’t want you to say that!’
You have to go to bed so you’ll feel good – ‘I don’t want to feel good!’
You have to go to bed so you can grow – ‘I just want to be smaaaalllll!’
Harry: Why does daddy do everything you ask?
Me: Because he’s a good daddy.
Harry: And because you’re the queen?
Me: Yes, and because I’m the queen.
Finn: We need sticky shoes to climb up the mountain!
Harry says hummer instead of hammer, curtain instead of cape, shocks instead of socks, domin-yo’s instead of dominos
Finn calls cashews cat shoes and refuses to say it right.
Finn (after throwing up): The germs got me, mom.
Finn: these pretzels are SUPER AWESOME! Chocolate soy milk is my SUPER FAVORITE!
We got a new coffee table. Immediately upon it being plopped in the living room, the boys climb on top of it.
Me: get down please. The coffee table is not for climbing.
Harry: what’s it for then??
Harry: quit switching movies mommy, and just pick one!
Harry: Theo is cute 1000, and other babies are cute 0.
Finn: I’ll like green when I’m older.
Finn(on the toilet): Mom! If I say fish, then I’m done. If I say door, then I’m not done.
Me: ooooookkay…. So.. is it fish, or door?
Finn: I’m hungry. Ahhh… I don’t see ANYBODY making DINNER!
– went to parent teacher conference on the wrong night
– sent a card to my grandma with no stamp
– sent Harry to school with no back pack, twice
– was in a hurry to clean up the kitchen and leave the house, so I spilled orange juice on the floor, and feta cheese throughout the fridge and freezer.
– thought I needed a bigger size in some new shoes I bought, so I went to the store, found the shoes, determined that I needed a 9.5. Brought the shoes up to exchange, to discover that the ones I brought to return were size 9.5. – I also did this with a pair of Harry’s shoes.
– went to the farmer’s market and majorly splurged on all organic ingredients for soup. Made the soup. Ate the soup. Looked forward to at least two nights of leftover soup. Left the soup out on the counter to cool and forgot about it over night. Ruined delicious expensive organic soup. Had to make dinner again the next night.
what I learned this year
This year I learned a lot of things, small things, big things, smart and dumb things… but I think what I’m most proud of is that I learned how to EAT OUT WITH KIDS.
That’s right. I learned it.
Most of the year I was pregnant. Which meant that I was tired, and also hungry. In addition to being pregnant, I had three boys under 6 and it was summer. Which meant that I was desperately tired and extremely hungry and very hot. I was starving, but too tired to do anything about it…. This lead to us going out for dinner quite a bit.
Before this time, eating out with the kids was only something we only did on accident or during trips downstate. We always avoided it. Always. Because my feeling was “why would I pay to go out to eat, and then sit there trying to get my children to sit and not act like animals.”
Behave! For goodness sake.
If the kids are with us, I can’t even talk to Rich, like, at all.
If we go out to eat, it needs to be quiet and peaceful. I need to eat my food while it’s hot and enjoy every bite. It needs to be worth it. We’re paying so much more than just staying in, I want to enjoy myself.
So, in an effort to meet my expectations I would constantly be annoyed that the kids were bothering me. We are sitting at this table together and the kids know I can’t leave. So, they’re taking advantage of it and bombarding me with everything they’ve ever wanted to tell me. (Similar to being in the car)
They are being too loud or too fidgety in their chair, or they won’t quit whining about how hungry they are or how long the food is taking. And then the food comes and I have to chop Harry’s into rectangles and Rich has to cut Finn’s into squares. Theo needs more Cheerios with his and then we eat our food nice and cold. I would then watch most of the kids’ food go uneaten because they filled up on chips, or they can’t stop staring at the neon sign in the corner. All of this, just ruins my exquisite dining experience at TGI Fridays.
So, why bother.
One day, I just realized. It doesn’t need to be a struggle. First – I needed to change my attitude and shift my expectations. If we’re going to be doing this more often, it’s got to quit being a source of anxiety. It’s not practical for me to expect the kids to sit and be quiet. If they did that, we’d be worried they were sick or something.
Secondly, yes, I CAN appreciate ANY dining experience that does not involve ME prepping, cooking, or CLEANING.
You didn’t have to plan for this meal, shop for this meal, or prep or cook this meal with noisy children pulling at you.
At guess what else?
You don’t have to clean up.
It’s like a dream. The perfect situation. I sit, you bring my food, and then I leave.
This is awesome.
Neither Rich or I ever feel like we get enough direct communication time with the kids. This is the perfect time for that. I realized I could take advantage of us being required to sit at this table. Instead of fighting them and handing them terrible crayons and ipads, I try to think of a game to play together or something to talk about. You guys want to talk about dinosaurs? Ok! Let’s do it, and let’s draw some too. You guys want to tell me how long your arms are? That’s awesome. Maybe we can measure them with these crayons. Let’s go around and say our favorite thing about Harry, and then our favorite thing about Finn. If we engage the children, instead of being annoyed by them, sitting ‘still’ and waiting is suddenly EASIER… for everybody.
At one point, I think I even brought a book to read together. I also looked up “waiting games” on Pinterest. I noted the ones that were age appropriate, and I always have one on my brain. And now, generally, we can sit together and have a great time eating out together. We talk with and enjoy the children. I still bring the ipads, and they go to the kids at the point when they get bored WITH US. Which does happen. And for the Theo and Viv – I usually still bring cheerios or whatever.
Do Rich and I get to talk to each other? No. Not really. Unless, like I said, the kids get bored with us and request ipads. But if that doesn’t happen, we can talk to each other later at home. Because after the kids are in bed, we don’t have to clean up the kitchen. Plus we both agree that we really enjoy the kid time at the restaurant table anyway.
Do I still eat cold food? Sort of, yes. We help the kids, if they need it, and then move on to our own food, alternatively. Not much to be done about that.
Do I worry if the kids ate?
Do they get to eat again at home?
They certainly do not.
I know this is silly, and everyone else figured this out a long time ago, but it was an important milestone for me this year.
Think of all the dinners I would have spent mad at my kids?
That little part of life is that much easier now.