Year End 2016

Last year I said that 2015 was ‘the most outrageous year.’

I never would have thought that it was possible to have a MORE outrageous year.

But, in fact, it is.

2016 was the MOST OUTRAGOUS YEAR.

I mean… in 2015 we had a fourth baby. And it was a girl, after three boys – so we felt a little like first timers. We decided to sell our house, almost all of our possessions, and move from Chicago to London. We lived intermittenly with my parents. We home-schooled. We took four kids under 6 on a plane across the ocean. We were excited and over-stressed. We slowly settled into a new country.

I guess when you keep a high standard of activity like that, it seems LAZY to just kick back for a year. SO. We achieved the goal. The goal I didn’t set. The goal of having a crazier year than 2015.

Looking back, I think it would’ve been better to pace ourselves. But.. what are you gonna do? Life is short.

In addition to the small task of navigating the British lifestyle, the main stamp of this year is that we TRAVELED.

more specifically, we travelled to:

Amsterdam

Rome

Munich

Paris

Croatia

Las Vegas

The Chalk Cliffs of England, Bath and Stonehenge

oh, and Rich and I BOTH made separate trips back to the US for family occasions.

and oh, also – Rich went to Glasgow with his brother to watch the British Open.

 

And here in London, we took a couple fun day adventures:

Legoland

Chessington Worlds of Adventure

Natural History Museum, Hampton Court Palace, and the London tourist circut (a few times)

 

I can’t imagine we’ll ever have another year where we travel this much. It was incredible, and honestly our wallet is pretty sore. But… how amazing.

This year has had so much activity… so many changes… and so much growth for each of our children that when I think back it HONESTLY feels like two or three years instead of one.

The longest post ever may now commence:

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We started the year with our German Au Pair (Rica) moving into the guest room. Also in January, Harry started at his new school. This was a big deal. He was resistant, to say the least. Life became harder for us, now that I needed to be two places at once (hence Rica). All of this is detailed in my “school saga” post.

Viv started exploring the world of eating food, and sitting on her own.

In March, Theo turned 2! And Daddy had a birthday too.

Then on Spring Break, the O’Rourke’s visited and we took a trip to Amsterdam and Rome. All 6 of us, plus 4 O’Rourkes, plus Rica. We were quite the entourage.

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Then in May, the angels sang and Finn was offered a place at Harry’s school. Both boys at the same school!!!!! This was also a big deal, for me specifically. And once again it’s detailed more in the “school saga” post.

For several reason (to use a British expression) I wasn’t ‘keen’ to throw birthday parties for the boys.  In lieu of a party, we chose an outing – this year it was Legoland. Both boys agreed on this. We went on a weekend in June between their two birthdays. And then, on the actual day – I decorated, we had birthday breakfast and presents from mom and dad. Then, after school we invited just a few close friends over to play. We had cake and their friends brought small gifts – even though I asked them not to. It worked out wonderfully for both Harry and Finn. They do much better in a small grouping, we didn’t get overloaded with a toy hurricane, and it was simple and fun for mom and dad. It ended up being the most perfect thing. They each felt special and celebrated.

Viv started sitting on her own, crawling, and pulling up!

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Harry’s birthday playdate with Toby, Tilly, Loic, and Reece

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Finn’s birthday playdate with Jacob and Yusef

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She can pull up!
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She’s on the move!

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We had the busiest summer in recorded history, with all of our family visiting and trips to Croatia, Munich, Paris, Paris again, Las Vegas, the Cliffs, Bath, and Stonehenge.

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Oh, and also Viv started walking and turned ONE.

When I was pregnant with Viv, we were deciding whether or not to take this London oppurtunity. I realized that if we did, it would be possible for us to take baby girl to Paris for her first birthday. I envisioned taking her picture in front of the Eiffel Tower eating french pastries. I had this picture in my mind before she was born, and I’m so thrilled that we actually made it happen. On top of that she literally took some of her first brave steps in our Paris apartment.

Also, I decided to make a donation in the kids’ names for their birthday. So I started this year with Viv’s first – donating to Little Ray of Hope.

 

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We rounded out the summer by visiting Chessington Worlds of Adventure, Hampton Court Palace, and the Natural History museum. Other than that, we played outside a lot.

At our parks:

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Natural History Museum
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Aquarium at Chessington Lands of Adventure

 

The Magic Garden in Hampton Court Palace

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In September, the big boys returned to school. Theo and Viv continued to grow and learn to play together. Also – up until school started we were moving children’s beds around in different rooms trying to figure out which combination of kids in which rooms was going to be best. With Viv still sleeping in our room, an au pair staying, and then lots of family visiting – everyone was moving all summer. I think every kid slept in every room at some point. And we tried different combinations of kids. But school was the deadline for a decision on WHO was going to sleep WHERE. We settled on NOBODY in with mom and dad. Theo on the third floor. Guest room open. Harry and Finn together. Viv by herself. It’s not the most glamorous, but it works just fine.

Also a couple small things in the house, I finally finished our command center, and our art-wall in the kitchen.

 

We also got to spend our first summer without air conditioning. And, I have to say – I thought I would die. But I did not. Generally the London climate stays mild, but this year was one of the hottest summers London has had in a long time. So, for purposes of future air-conditioning purchasing plans, I decided to rate the days as they grew hotter: totally fine, nice but warm, or completely uncomfortable NEED AIR CONDITIONING NOW!!  We had eight days of NEED AIR CONDITIONING NOW. And they were NOT consecutive. But those eight days still had our wimpy butts researching air conditioners and air coolers. They don’t really have ‘window units’ here, and none of our windows are suited for it anyway. Any other options require window tubes and stuff and are a big huge pain. We ended up buying an air-cooler that’s basically just a bad fan. And as I looked around the neighborhood, I couldn’t hear the hum of air conditioners, or see one sticking out anywhere. And when I would talk to the neighbors and asked if they had air conditioning – they looked at me like I was ridiculous. So, we’ll just have to get over it and bear the 8 days of blazing inferno every summer. I guess I’ll survive.

With fall, came beautiful weather and a new house guest. Maleah came to stay with us. She’s a family friend that we know from Illinois. She stayed in the guest room from August to December. She took classes online, she traveled around Europe, and she helped me run the ship. She did more than pick up the slack, and was not afraid of a crying kid or a poopy diaper. She was like a better, more efficient version of me. We trust her, we love her, and we miss her greatly.

The boys started school and we still spent lots of time outside. The boys especially love our garden, which I consider the outdoor playroom. Even as the weather gets colder – I still make them go outside. Boys need to be outside a little bit each day…. even if that means you shove them out there and tell them they can’t come back inside until you let them.

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Also in the fall, Rich got a promotion at DRW. He was on the team, and now he’s the team lead. Shortly after that he hit his one year mark in the London office. It’s been a challenging and very busy year for him, but he’s very happy in his new role.

ALSO in the fall I may have purchased my 11th and 12th strollers.

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Whatever.

Shut up.

You bought 12 strollers.

I need what I need.

Anyway.

For Fall break, I learned from Summer break, and actually organized myself. In the summer, everything just sort of happened in uncontrollable chaotic streams. I was constantly two or three steps behind the kids. Like, we were getting up and I was dishing food out all the time and then cleaning up the kitchen mess. And they would ask for fun summer-type things and I would help them, or I wouldn’t. And then in like 5 minutes, they’ve re-arranged all the furniture upstairs and turned the bathroom into a puddle because they were making “potion.” But most often, they were doing as they pleased – which resulted in a lot of screen time. Which resulted in over-stimulated, brain fried WHINERS.

SO, for fall break, we had a schedule with daily activities and designated screen time, free play time, friend time, and reading/writing. The kids took to it really well, and it was simple and much more relaxing.

And, oh ya, the Cubs just won the World Series. We had to pull an all nighter to watch them win in real time. It was easy and fine.

 

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Tent, always.

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The morning after the CUBS WIN all-nighter.
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a friend from the Chicago office sent a few papers to us!
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the park we attend almost every day
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I kept getting weird looks. I DIDN’T KNOW she had a Duplo motorcycle in her mouth.

 

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When I make BBQ, I always have two spotters.

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a hiding black spy and a king… two things that make sense

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And then Halloween.

I didn’t have it together for Halloween costumes. Harry and Finn were really wanting to be Wild Kratts – the show they (especially Finn) love so much. Then on the day, Harry changed his mind after realizing that no one in England knows who the Wild Kratts are. He put on his skeleton from last year. I didn’t get Theo a costume because I assumed he wouldn’t want to dress up. If he did, we have a bunch of dress-up stuff upstairs. I was right, and he just wanted to wear his hoodie and it wasn’t worth a fight. I knew Viv would be happy to wear a fun skirt, so I got her some ears and a tail and she was a cat!

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Around Thanksgiving, Erika and Jake returned for a quick trip without the kids. They stayed with us on the weekends and travelled to Paris and Ireland during the week. We went with them to our first British Tea time and conquered an escape game. We also began testing out the neighborhood Church-of-England church. We really like it!

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Relaxed Tea Time at Muriel’s Kitchen
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Mulled wine and WinterWonderland!

Then there’s Christmas and return visits from both Grandmas.

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____________

the babies

Harry

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Age: 7

Height: 4’5″

Harry has continued to amaze us this year. He grew and developed both at home and at school. He continues to love his siblings and embrace his role as head-kid-in-charge. He fawns over Viv all the time saying things like “I can’t believe how cute she is! I love her so much!” And when Finn had trouble with a kid at school, Harry says “Who is it? Is that kid younger than me? If he is.. I can help you Finn. Just show me who it is and I’ll help.”

And, he’s so patient with each of them, imitating my calm directives. “Pause it Finn. Now, I know you’re excited to show me this new land… but you have to let me do it on my own.” And “I can’t understand you when you whine.” He is truly good help with Viv when I need an extra pair of hands to sit with her or feed her.

 

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He is the leader, and the director of everything play. Whether it’s constructing a tent, playing Minecraft, creating a zoo, or organizing a hunt. Theo and Finn, and sometimes Viv, just follow his lead. All the ideas go through him. We’re lucky that Finn’s demeanor so greatly meshes with Harry’s personality. They are able to play together with virtually no conflict. And if a fight does break out, Harry is great at resolving it.

This year they made me laugh playing ‘sell the house’ where they enjoy placing all of their things in containers and pretending to move them. And then playing ‘travel’ when they dig out their suitcases and pack them. Then travel around the house announcing where they are and how they are traveling there. Harry:”Now we’re taking the underwater train to Paris! And if you are good boys at security I’ll buy you a treat!” Security is in the bathroom and the underwater train is mom and dads bed. They’ve picked up knowledge at school and piled it on with our travels, and their adventures take them from Russia to Asia, to Africa and the Arctic. It’s cute and amazing.

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Also this year, Harry has really taken off with his computer skills. Rich gave him the tools, (his own super-computer in his room) with a few “games” and there’s been no stopping him. He can do things and make things – homes, and tools, and rollercoasters in Minecraft and dinosaurs in Arc. He’s seven and he can do it all.

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At school Harry has completely caught up with his peers after starting out severely behind last year. The curriculum in the US is 1-2 years behind the UK. After our parent teacher meeting in November, he is right at age level – in fact, a little high in some areas. Back in the spring, the kids were writing “joined” as they call it here. Or cursive. But his teacher wasn’t pushing him on it at all. Completely on his own he started trying to write cursive, and now he has some of the best hand writing in his class.

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He reads amazingly well, and is obsessed with multiplication tables. He comes home and reports on his knowledge of the science units on volcanoes and oceans. But most of all he loves to write. As he became more confident, he began wanting to write at home ALOT. He would write to-do lists, plans for machines, gift lists, facts about animals and dinosaurs, books about animals and dinosaurs, super hero books and cards, short stories, and even entire board and card games. He went through three whole notebooks in just a couple months. The things he wrote at the beginning of the year are printed and the things toward the middle of the year are in cursive.

Harry is also very headstrong. Sometimes – depending on his tiredness level – we can’t even reason with him. He has outright refused to comply at GP and eye doctor appointments. The school sometimes has reward days, NON-UNIFORM days, where the kids can dress however they want. On these days, Harry insists on still wearing his uniform. That’s just what he wants and he doesn’t care if he is LITERALLY the only one dressed in uniform at school. One of the days, there was one other kid wearing his uniform at school – and he was only wearing it because his family had been out of town and his mom didn’t know it was a non uniform day. And he insists on wearing way-too-small boxers OVER his boxer briefs to bed every night, no matter how much I tell him how ridiculous it is. whatever….

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Most of the time we find ourselves annoyed by his stubbornness – but other times I’m proud. Like when he refused a Gatorade from the team-mom after baseball because it was ‘too sugary” he told her….

He used to be terribly self-conscious, and this year we’ve seen lots of improvement. He definitely still has a self-conscious moment here and there, but generally he sticks to his convictions – even if they don’t make sense to us. And as he’s settled into school, I see him starting to gain a better understanding of social dynamics. Not to be confused with ‘being social’ because he definitely is still on the more reserved side, IN PUBLIC.

Despite his reserved nature, he seems to have no trouble making friends. He enjoys having them over, and tells me often about the things the play together at school. Their favorite game to play together is “Archa and Neato” a band of superheros that they have made up. His best friends of the year were Jerome, Tieri, Loic, Reece, and Toby. He was over-the-moon proud to receive the ‘Best Rounders Player’ trophy at sports camp this summer. Not everyone received a trophy. And on the self-improvement side, he had a little bout of lying to us this summer. He said he felt like he couldn’t tell the truth because he was afraid of getting in trouble. I assured him that lying to me was much more trouble than whatever he did. We were able to squash it with negative reinforcement. But Finn still reminds him, and us, of ‘all the times Harry lied about stuff.’

Favorites: Legos, Minecraft, Arc, Lego Jurassic World, Ninjago, YouTube suprise egg and gaming videos, pepperoni pizza, crumpets with nutella, “movie” popcorn, Skittles, Digestives

Birthday Questions:

  1. Now that you’re 7, what’s different?   That I’m taller. I’ve grown bigger
  2. How tall are you?   Don’t know.
  3. What are you really good at? Umm… Lego’s, being nice, reading books, being at school and being nice, taking a shower all by myself! making breakfast!.
  4. What’s your favorite thing to do? Legos! And Minecraft! And watching DanTDM!
  5. What’s your favorite thing to eat?  Chocolate cake and chocolate chip cookie with white ice cream with M&M’s, and Nutella toast, Digestives, and now two healthy things… sandwich with ham and cheese and eggs!
  6. Where’s your favorite place to go, and why? Legoland! In America, because everything is made of Legos!
  7. Who’s your favorite friend? Jerome.
  8. What do you want to do when you grow up? Lego Master Builder
  9. How old are mom and dad? Daddy is 33 and Mommy is 29!
  10. What does daddy do at work? He fixes computers
  11. What do you like the best about mom and dad? Daddy plays video games with me. And mommy…. uuuuu. I don’t really know… oh ya, watching TV with me.
  12. How strong is dad? REAAAAAALLLLY strong. Like Hulk. Because his muscles look like Hulk’s. But it’s not the same size, it just looks like it. And he’s really strong.
  13. What’s mom’s favorite thing to do? Work on the computer – I see you do it all the time.
  14. What’s your favorite thing about your brothers? Finn plays with me nice and Theo’s cute.
  15. What do you think of girls? Umm. Don’t know. Tabitha’s in love with me. I don’t love Tilly anymore.
  16. If you could have a super power, what would it be? Being really strong.. ya. Because then I can jump really high and climb.
  17. What’s the best thing that happened to you this year? Not sure yet, going to Wimbledon Park Primary?
  18. Where do you want to go on vacation? No where. I want to stay home. Well, actually, I want to go to a hotel with a pool in the summer. Maybe every summer first we can go to a hotel with a pool.
  19. Are you going to get married some day? to who? No. Well… probably. Maybe I will because Tabitha’s in love with me. But I don’t love her. Maybe when I grow up, I can see.
  20.  How long does it take to make dinner? umm…. about 3 minutes.
  21. How do you make cookies? Umm… I don’t know. Sugar, bread, and milk. Eggs. And uuuu.. salt. And chocolate! Mix it all up and put it in the oven.
  22. How much does a car cost? ahhh… 50 pounds because it’s really big and they help people, so they are expensive.
  23. What’s the healthiest thing you can eat? Umm… oatmeal and soup. Oh – and ham. I love ham.
  24. Can you give me an example of a good deed? I do not know. Give someone a present on their birthday?
  25. Can you tell me a joke? Um, no. Ok, Knock knock. ‘Who’s there?’ Cow. ‘Cow who?’ Mooooo!!! Hahahaha
  26. What do you know about God and Jesus? That they take care of you and that they help you.

Finn

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Age: 5

Height: 3’11”

Finn, our sunshine baby, continues to be just that. Most of the time. He is most often happy to go along with whatever is happening. He’s our “most likely to be in his underwear” and also “most likely to wander off.” He’ll wander not because he’s trying to escape us, but because he saw a butterfly or a bird or a gap in the trees. He finds the most to laugh about. He looks at things in a new and different way – often seeing things I don’t. He noticed our uber driver’s hair or our tour guide’s shoes and says things like “That shirt is lovely. I would like this lovely shirt.” and “The water looks beautiful.” and “A rose is my favorite flower.”

And oh man, does he listen. He listens and remembers what you say and takes in his world better than anyone. He doesn’t LOOK or sound like he’s paying attention. But he is. When it’s something he’s interested in… he is paying attention.

Like with animals, for example. He eats up anything animal, like “Wild Kratts” and “Planet Earth” and our Animal Encyclopedia. ON THE DAILY – he spouts animal facts to me. “Mom. Did you know crocodile eggs: if they’re hot, it’s a boy, if they’re cold, it’s a girl?” “MOM. A Peregrine can glide down so fast!” “MOM. A trap door spider doesn’t have a web. It builds a hole and then builds something over it and… and… ” “MOM. A Honey badger lives in Africa and regular badgers live in America.” “MOM. Did you know that the Asian Beetles moved to Africa?” “Mom. Did you know a beaver’s teeth never stop growing?” And so on and so on. He tells me all kinds of things. I often come up to his room to find his animal books open. He’s been looking, and trying to read them.

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He also remembers everything else too. I took him and Theo to Hampton Court Palace in mid August. Because of where it is, it’s two trains and then a bus from here. It takes about 45m. We took the trains, we took the bus. I didn’t mention anything specific. I shuffled them there and back. We had a great time. Fast forward to mid October. Hampton Court was so fun, I wanted to take Harry because he didn’t go on the first trip. The big boys had a day off of school so I decided to leave the two little ones with Maleah and take just Harry and Finn to Hampton Court Palace. After we got off the second train, I was maneuvering them through the platform and out of the station, simultaneously checking my phone for the bus route – because I didn’t remember which bus number we needed.  Finn says to me “Mom, since we don’t have a stroller, can we ride on the top of the bus?”

And I say back “Yes, but I’m not sure if THIS bus has a top. I think it’s just a single deck bus.”

And he says back “Nu ah, the 111 has a top.”

I stopped in my tracks and stared at him. Then I glanced at my phone for the route information. We needed the 111 bus.

“Finn!” I said “You’re right. How on earth did you know the bus number? We only came here one other time, weeks ago.”

“I just remembered” He says.

So then I say,”Well, ok, but I still don’t think the 111 has a top. So if it does, we can. But I’m pretty sure it’s a single, so be prepared.”

“Ok, but it has a top.” He says.

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And ^ that’s them riding on the top of the 111 bus. Because not only did I have to look up the bus information again, I HONESTLY thought I remembered it being a single bus. Little did I know, I just needed to ask Finn.

His sunshine nature is offset by troublesome stubborn-ness, and a little bit of social awkwardness. He’s stubborn enough to lie sometimes, to get the results he wants. And despite his open, carefree attitude at home – we’ve learned that he very much keeps to himself at school. His teachers say he behaves very well, but that he’s reserved. He’s not the most outgoing or outspoken, and he isn’t the first to run around and make friends. It takes him more time. He likes more subtle friendships, a closer relationship with one or two people instead of a small group. At Riversdale, his old school, his BEST FRIEND was Yusef. He talked about Yusef constantly, and I was so happy to hear that he had a friend. But then he had to leave Riversdale to come to Wimbledon Park.

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I caught up to Yusef’s mom on Finn’s last day. We exchanged numbers and we’ve gotten them together a few times since Finn’s transfer. They always seem happy to see each other.

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Shortly after the start of the new school year, I was elated for Finn to ask to have a friend over. He asked Jacob and then also Leon. But now we hear more about a friend called Hamza. I’m sure with time, he’ll find a good social fit. This year was just challenging for him, on that. He was also sick with a fever and cough and missed a full week of school in May and another in November

Social issues aside, Finn is absorbing what is being taught at school. At five years old, the full day of school – every single day – is hard for him. Some days he gets home and just melts or lays on the couch or cries… or all three. And I know it’s because he’s mentally and physically exhausted. Despite it being so tiring for him, he is doing very well. He often gets behavior rewards and he is right on target with his classmates on writing and math. His reading has really taken off. He uses the phonics rules to sound out words he doesn’t know and takes pride in reading new things. In November he moved up a reading level from where he started in September.

Despite his obvious brightness, he is 5. And within the first few  weeks he lost these things at school:

water bottle (found two weeks later)

school sweatshirt (found 6 weeks later)

red polo shirt (still missing)

rain coat (found two days later)

shin guards (found 8 weeks later)

lunch bag (still missing)

a glove (found the next day)

and then came home with – someone else’s shoe laces, someone else’s cardigan, and someone else’s jumper.

At home Finn is endlessly goofy. Every once in a while he’s in a stubborn grumpy mood, but most of the time he’s up for an adventure. Up for playing in the rain. Up for eating treats in the middle of the day. Up for a dance party. Up for pretending he’s a bird. Up for telling a joke. Where Harry often wants to stay home – Finn wants to go out. And when we have non-uniform days at school, Finn is SO excited to wear his own clothes. When he plays video games with Harry, he’s so into it. He jumps up and down until he’s red and sweaty. He is the VERY BEST play mate for each of his siblings. He has the most mesh-able personality.. happy to fit the mold of whatever Harry or Theo or Viv need him to fit. Without virtually ever irritating them.

He’s the best at NOT wearing his clothes.

He’s naturally coordinated – making him good at any video game, kicking a soccer ball, or racing his scooter to school.

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And then there’s this:

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Favorites: minecraft, candy, snacks, playing adventure, animals, snacks, animals, cake, pizza, animals

Birthday Questions:

  1. Now that you’re 5, what’s different? nothing different
  2. How tall are you? one, actually i’m not one. i’m 100.
  3. What are you really good at? i’m only good at eating
  4. What’s your favorite thing to do? playing minecraft
  5. What’s your favorite thing to eat? strawberries, sweets, and cereal!
  6. Where’s your favorite place to go, and why? the Pig and Whistle, bc it has chicken! and pigs!
  7. Who’s your favorite friend? Yusef!
  8. What do you want to do when you grow up? I want to be an explorer, a famous Minecraft person, and a scientist!
  9. How old are mom and dad? Mom is 1 and Dad is 100! hahahaha
  10. What does daddy do at work? sleeps on his computer! hahaha
  11. What do you like the best about mom and dad? don’t know, i love you. and I like daddy setting up minecraft on the computer.
  12. How strong is dad? 100 strong!
  13. What’s mom’s favorite thing to do? i don’t know… watch tv?
  14. What’s you favorite thing about your brothers? don’t know
  15. What do you think of girls? I only know two girls. Ashtyn and Avery.
  16. If you could have a super power, what would it be? Super Diego power! To save animals!
  17. What’s the best thing that happened to you this year?  don’t know
  18. Are you going to get married some day? to who? I’m not going to get married bc i’m going to be a famous Minecraft player.
  19. How long does it take to make dinner? 6 minutes!
  20. How do you make cookies? You need wheat and flour and chocolate chip cookies!
  21. How much does a car cost? 94 GBP
  22. What’s the healthiest thing you can eat? That’s easy.. it’s oatmeal.
  23. Can you give me an example of a good deed? I know, it’s hugging them.
  24. Can you tell me a joke? I can! What does a cow poop like? (what?) sausage pizza!
  25. What do you know about God and Jesus? I don’t know, only that they are really old. And Jesus was born in Christmas.

Theo

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Age: 2

Height: 3’1″

We’ve seen lots of change in Theo this year. Last year I wrote that he was THE MOST challenging toddler, and I stand by that. We put him though a lot, all while he was learning to communicate and grow and develop. He was constantly wanting to fit in with his big brothers, but feeling left out. And I know he often felt separate from Mommy and Viv. We started noticing a difference in his attitudes when our Au Pair moved in. He finally had someone more dedicated to him. I think she really helped to usher him ‘over the hump.’ The terrible-toddler-hump.

By late summer, he went from ‘zero to hero’ as Rich says. Now he’s our sweetest, cuddliest, cutest little bear. He is just SO CUTE. And easy and fun to be around. He’s starting to actually enjoy playing by himself. He dances around and tells us the most adorable things in his cute, excited little voice. He’s always happy to see us when we come in from being out, or when we come into his room to get him, or when we’ve been upstairs. He loves to sprint from the front of the house to the back of the house. And of course, he loves to hang out with his brothers. By the end of the year, he’s starting to see Viv as more of a playmate. I’ve caught glimpses of them playing together. They spend a lot of time trying to make each other laugh – usually by spitting food out of their mouths. For most of the year he lovingly called her ‘baby gurl.’ And I’ve started seeing Theo trying to protect Viv from things, and giving her kisses if she hurts herself. He will also worry about mom or dad if they cough or stub their toe. “you otay?” he says.

He also has very good manners, thank you. you’re welcome. good job! You’re so smart!

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He definitely still has lots of grumpy moments, and times when he just needs to chill in the stroller for some TV.

He enjoys getting Viv to mimic him, including his act-like-a-dog phase (which coincidentally Finn also went through). He will sit at the table and try to eat his food from his plate without using his hands, but most often calmly dumps his snacks on the floor and then eats them like a dog. He taught Viv. It’s fine.

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Speaking of eating, he has really struggled with eating this year. He was a great eater as a baby. But now, he doesn’t want to sit. Typical for a grazing toddler. And he piled that on with deciding he didn’t like two thirds of what I make. Turning into a real ‘picky eater’ or ‘finicky eater’ or ‘problem feeder’ or whatever it is.

I was just letting it go, but then he started losing weight so I had to try harder.He stopped eating oatmeal and bananas, and stopped drinking milk. Three big staples for me. He stopped eating any fruits and vegetables. The only ones he gets are snuck into bars or muffins that I buy or make. This phase included me doing absolutely ridiculous things like following him around with a bowl offering him bites, feeding him in the living room, and feeding him in his bed. I can’t be catering to him like this, but I also can’t have him waste away. I’m still doing ridiculous things to make sure he doesn’t starve. It’s so dumb. “Like c’mon kid! Don’t you realize that if you don’t eat, you’ll die?!”

I know from Harry and Finn that, with time, the whole Theo-trying-to-starve-himself phase will pass. But until then, I’ll be pretty grumpy about it.

Along with food struggles, he decided that maybe he doesn’t need to nap. NOW…. I am the nap princess. The nap dictator. We nap here. So, I was utterly confused when he just randomly starting dropping it. But at only 2.5, he actually seems to do ok when he doesn’t take one. And then he goes to bed at 6:30 and sleeps a full 12-13 hours. So, I decided to be cool about it. He still goes up to his room for rest time. If he sleeps, he goes to bed later. And if he doesn’t, then it’s lights out early. And at the end of the year, it’s working well. But odd, and sort of freeing, to think he’s ok without his nap at almost 3 and that I might only have one napper left in the house.

I had the loose goal of teaching each kid their letters, numbers, shapes, and colors by age two. Like, in or around two – between their 2nd and 3rd birthdays. Harry took to it early, so I decided it was reasonable. It’s not like I drill them or anything, we just play puzzles and cards and if they’re interested, they pick it up. If not, then that’s fine. At an early two Harry knew his colors, letters, and shapes. But NOT his numbers. Just didn’t interest him, and didn’t stick – and I don’t think he learned them until he was four. Finn came along and ON HIS SECOND birthday knew his colors, his numbers, his shapes, but NOT his letters. Didn’t care about that. Now Theo, I have at 2.5. He knows his letters and his numbers, plus his shapes. But you know what – NOT color. So, there’s that for the child phycological development section.

Mentioning science… as if I am conducting an experiment in nature vs. nurture, Theo started loving anything tech – OF COURSE. He can actually hold a controller and do things with it. He can also move a mouse around and do things on a computer. And his Ipad – forget it. He’s a little bit too obsessed and we have to limit his time. He’s a master at Temple Run, of all things. Much better than me… which isn’t saying much, but still impressive considering he’s two. Impressive for him, not me.

He also loves to pull all the cushions off the couch and sit in front of the window. He talks about the things he sees outside.  90% of the time consists of him keeping tabs on the spider in the bushes. He was also deathly afraid of bubbles this summer. Hiding under the patio furniture when we got them out. But he’s more okay with them after a few months.

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He continues to bang his head as a soothing mechanism. He does it considerably less frequently. As he approaches three next year, we’ve read it should taper off. We will probably transition him into a ‘big boy bed’ sometime in the new year. And I have a feeling that will help to stop the head banging – because if he’s upset he can just come get mom or dad of course. And… yes, he’s almost three and still in a crib. And NO, he’s NOT potty trained. I see no need to rush these sorts of things. Everything happens in due time… when they are ready. On the crib – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And on the potty – he’ll let us know when he’s ready. What’s the point of struggling? IN FACT, on December 11th, he asked to sit on the potty himself. So… maybe something will happen soon.

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This has also been the year of Blue’s Clues. HE IS COMPLETELY OBSESSED. If he gets to pick at the breakfast table, for rest time, for bed time, for when he’s throwing a fit – it’s Blue’s Clues to the rescue. It’s his show, it’s his thing. He has all the episodes memorized. I guess he could do worse. Steve has a nice demeanor. He’s learned a few key phrases from Steve that he loves to use like “Jud job! You’re so snart!” and “exactly.” And “Did you see a clue?”

The other thing he loves is puzzles. Again – just like his brothers. He started wanting to do them, and I can’t stop him. At the end of the year, he can easily do 48 pieces by himself. Most of what he got for Christmas… new puzzles.

Favorites: Blue’s Clues, cookie  balls, puzzles, playing anything with Harry and Finn, Blue’s Clues, puzzles, Blue’s Clues

 

Vivian

Height: 2’7″

Age: 1

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OH MY GOODNESS, Vivian.

In 2016, Vivian arrived.

She let us know who she is. She is attitude to the max, sass to the max. And she is fearless. I call her Tiger Princess.

From 6 months old in January to 17 months old in December, this has been a year of constant growth and change for her. She began with learning to sit, then crawl, then pull up. And once she was pulling up, she immediately started cruising. Once she was cruising, she took off walking with no fear. She climbed up on the couch. And then up on the arm rest. And then the book shelf. If it looks like she can climb it, she tries.

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Her favorite thing was to climb up on the couch and then toddle along the front edge of the couch. I eventually gave up and just let her climb everything, and toddle along the front edge… which lead to her falling a lot. But then lead to her actually being able to walk along the edge of the couch without falling off. She has more balance and coordination than any of her brothers, and more might too. She moved through the crawl/cruise/walk thing faster than the boys did. She was ready to do the next stop, no hesitations. She is also freaky with her fine motor skills. Since she was itty bitty she could pinch and pick up something tiny, like a raisin. And at a year old she could open the window shutters in the living room – and then grab them by the tip of the hinge on the inside and pull them closed. She also managed to shove some of her bracelets in a crack between the window sill and the radiator. A task I struggled with when I tried to repeat it.

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She’s very vocal, and very bossy. She’s learned to use shrieks and screams to defend her toys against her brothers. She likes for you sit on the living room floor and watch her play. She doesn’t like for you to necessarily play with her. And she definitely doesn’t want you to sit on the couch.

Floor. And watch.

And like, when I come in her room in the morning she never greets me with a happy smile – it’s always a grunt/whine and tapping her hair – a demand for me to pull her hair up.

She is generally a happy baby, she just likes things to go her way. And she lets you know immediately if they are not just so. And she’s just SO loud you can’t ignore it. She just gives me this look… like “Why don’t you have it more together? Why can’t you get me all the things I need every second and have things the way I like them all the time?” Half the time I feel like I’M an inconvenience to HER.

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She’s on the serious side. But she’s also very curious and thoughtful. She’ll sit back and watch me do something. She’ll watch me with such intensity, it’s like she’s taking notes.

And when she’s not being serious and demanding – she can be sweet and happy. Her teething really bogged her down this year; with almost a whole mouth-full slowly coming in over 4 or 5 months. But every once in a while we’d get a day or two where we could tell she was having an easier time and we would glimpse her fun and silly side. And it’s glorious. When she’s happy and feeling good – she relaxes and has fun. We can turn on some music and she loves to dance. She’ll get a blanket and cuddle up on the couch. She loves to get on the floor and attempt to rough house with the boys. She’ll play with her favorite red bus, or throw a ball around, or join Theo playing cars and dinosaurs.

And there was the day she played with these raw potatoes all morning.

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She amazes us with all the ‘girl’ things she does, despite the constant boy influence. She ALREADY notices the things she wears and admires them. She LOVES to carry around any bag, or multiple bags. And she hooks them through her arm, like a girl does. She loves to wear bracelets, and spins in a little happy circle whenever I put them on her. They way she carries things… cradled up on her front, like a girl naturally does.

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And I have to admit, I was a little surprised. We put the baby dolls in her room, but I thought she wouldn’t be interested. I’m not used to the sight. I made sure to have a doll on hand for the boys to play with. It never got any action of course, and eventually made it’s way out the door. But, Viv has a couple babies and she likes them.

And then there are shoes. Her favorite toy/thing to do is anything involving her shoes or your shoes. She loves to look at her shoes, carry them around, put them on. She also loves to discuss YOUR shoes and put them on. She’s OBSESSED. It’s one of the things she says most clearly “SHOES!” She got slippers for Christmas. Indoor shoes that she can play with all the time.

She’s also an diligent product quality tester.

She started the year as my most enthusiastic eater EVER. I did some baby-led weaning techniques with her, and this lead to a very confident chewer. She loves to explore the texture and taste of food. She’ll try anything. The boys all started with feeding themselves, but didn’t like the textures or the mess on their hands. But not her. She takes mashed potatoes or oatmeal or pasta and just smooshes it all in her hands, then shoves her hands in her mouth.

She makes an unprecedented mess almost every meal. She would eat any thing and everything with ease and joy. Then she started teething and became very finicky, throwing almost everything on the floor. Towards the end of the year, she’s starting to slowly return to better eating.

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When she was born, I really expected for Viv to be a soft sweet little flower. Not sure why I thought that…. none of the other kids have soft, calm demeanors. They are each so strong and vibrant and varied. No wall flowers here. She’s no different. Now that I know who she is – a fire tiger princess – I really love her more for it. She has a sweet and soft side, but so far…  she’s hard to contain. And I wouldn’t want to.

Favorites: shoes, her clothes, trash from the recycle bin, dancing, her brothers, the red bus toy, bags and backpacks, yogurt

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a day in the life

At the beginning of the year, Viv went from three naps to two. Then in the summer, she went from two naps to one. Theo is transitioning out of his nap, and the boys are in school most days. A typical week day:

5:30 AM Finn has to poop

6:00 Finn whine

6:30 Finn comes in for snack, goes down for TV

6:45 theo starts banging, Viv starts fussing – bring him his Ipad in crib, change Viv and give her drink in crib. close my eyes again for 20 minutes, then get up and get dressed

7:40 make breakfast, go back up for Viv and Theo, dress kids, sit kids down for food, everybody’s shoes, everybody’s teeth, big boys need backpacks, water bottles, and anything extra for activities/homework/show and tell/special projects/school fundraising

8:40 walk to school, return home and clean up kitchen. playtime for Theo and Viv

11:00ish – lunch for T and V

11:30 – naptime for V

12:00 – theo goes into bed with show, probably doesn’t nap

choose a couple – clean up lunch, eat my own lunch, workout, bake, clean the bathroom, prep dinner, laundry, watch survivor, put in grocery order

1:30 – Viv is up. play in her room, while we continue to let Theo have alone time.

2:00 – play in theo’s room together

2:45 – snack time

3:15 pack up and leave for school pick up

3:45 – return from school, unload backpacks, wash hands, additional snacks for whiners, big boys retire to their room or the couch if their brains are extra mushy

4:30 – load up babies in stroller again and head back to school to pick up whoever stayed after school for an activity which on Wednesday is Harry for football, Thursday is Harry for Brainblocks, and on Friday is Finn for football.

– make fast-as-lightning dinner while Viv and Theo take turns crying in the living room

5:15 – Kids dinner, try to clean the kitchen during and after they eat.

6:00 – Theo bath, ask Harry to stay in Viv’s room with her.

6:15 – Finn’s shower, brush teeth. Brush Theo’s teeth and read a quick book.

6:30 – Put Theo in bed with a show (remember, he didn’t nap)

Read with Finn.

6:45 -Put Finn in bed with show.

read and play with Viv – again stays with Harry, so I can go up for Theo.

7:00 – Theo’s show is over, prayer and song, lights out. Come back for Viv – song and lights out. Instruct Harry to start his shower.

7:15 – Finn’s show is over. Song and prayer with Finn – lights out. Help Harry finish showering, supervise him brushing his teeth. Then, read for a while with Harry. Then, go down and finish cleaning the kitchen and prepping for adult dinner. Harry can play quietly or watch a show.

7:45 Rich is home.

8:00 Prayer, song, lights out Harry.

8:20 Adult dinner.

Clean up, finish laundry.

  • ^ this is when Rich is working his late shift. And usually on the late shift, he is home for breakfast and walks the boys to school. Every other week he works an early shift. For the early shift everything is the same, he’s just home at 5:30 – if we’re lucky.

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kid words

Me: What’s your name?

Theo: Name.

Me: No, What’s your name?

Theo: Finn!

 

I gotta write Finn on my face so everyone knows my name! – Finn

My arms are actually really long, see! – Finn

Finn’s fore-brain is hot! – Finn

This place is awesome!!! – Harry (at Battersea Park)

Let’s fire this baby up! – Harry (about a fan)

Red roses are my favorite flower. – Finn

I’ll never stop loving you mom. – Finn

Someday, if a girl thinks I’m handsome, she could marry me. – Harry

They speak Italian in my school.. only they call it French. – Harry (trying to learn Italian)

I love our family. It’s fun to have two brothers and one sister. – Harry

When my friends are over, I want to call you mom. But when my friends aren’t over, I will call you mommy. – Harry

I’ve got a rocket and I’m going to space. – Finn

 

Rich, after pulling rocks out of Harry’s pockets – You’re such a boy.

Harry – Why?

Rich – because. every little boy I know always puts dirt and rocks in his pockets.

Harry – Na uh, daddy! Just me!

____ ____ ____ ____ ____

a selection of words from Finn in the bathroom:

“Thank you and Goodnight.” (after me wiping his bottom)

 

Me: Are you done Finn?

Finn: NO. My poop is still trying to win the race.

 

“I have to learn to wipe myself because you’re going to die someday.”

 

(I told Finn that when he mastered wiping himself after going number 2, I would get him a special prize. He asked me what ‘mastered’ meant – and we discussed it. Then a few months later, he was sitting on the toilet crying – not wanting to wipe himself.)

“I don’t WANT to be the master of the toilet mommy!”

____ ____ ____ ____ ____

Finn (after going on a tour of Stonehenge) – Mom, I LOVE our guide.

Finn (riding in an Uber), points to the driver and whispers – I love his hair.

Mom, can you write ZOOOOM! on my airplane. That’s his name. – Finn

I want my hair to look like a forest. – Finn

My health is at 200. – Finn

Na, I’m just gonna sit on the couch and eat some grapes. – Finn, after asking him to come upstairs for bed

Chocolate milk is not important, being alive is important. – Harry

Dammit! – Harry

But I’m already wearing a shirt. It’s invisible. – Finn, after asking him to put a shirt on

Mom, when you grow up, you should be a baker. – Finn

Your grandma sounds like a cowboy! – our neighbor, Reece, about Grandma Janice

 

Good job painting your eyes black! – Theo, after watching me put on mascara

 

My favorite number is 100 – Harry

Well, my favorite number is 64! – Finn

 

The coffee table is not for climbing – Me

What’s it for then? – Harry

 

Harry to Finn “I love you no matter what”

Harry about Viv “She’s just sooo adorable, I JUST LOVE HER SO MUCH!!”

Nobody knows how much bacon I ate. – Finn

 

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mom fails

I’m so jealous of Rich’s brain function. He can add numbers in his head and remember today’s date. He knows what he ate for lunch and when I ask “Hey, can you grab a shirt for Theo when you come back downstairs” he almost always remembers.

– threw away a full container of formula

– didn’t realize/forgot that Finn needed sunblock at school. He came home with a sunburn (slight… but enough).

– completely missed the permission slip for Harry’s field trip (he still got to go)

– paid to ‘not run’ in the school 5K

– Left Harry in our Rome apartment (we got to the lobby and realized we forgot him)

– sent Harry on a different field trip in the wrong shoes, with a lunch that didn’t look like anyone else’s

– sent Finn on field trip with an ordered ‘school packed lunch’ when everyone else’s mom packed them one. The school offers to pack a lunch for them on field trip days. I was like. YES!! But, I guess everyone else doesn’t think that way.

– Took Viv to the wrong doctor’s office for her shots

– Missed the deadline for Theo’s nursery application

– Realized Rich and I WERE SHARING A TOOTHBRUSH

– melted brand new expensive water bottles in the microwave (this one hurt BAD)

– ruined a rubber spoon and a spatula… trying to help the food processor. Had to comb through recipe searching for bit of spoon and spatula.

– accidentally make rock candy instead of sugar syrup and ended up with sharp-as-glass sugar shards in my cookie ball recipe. Had to comb through batter and fish them out.

– sent a picture of Maleah’s gift to my mom to see what she thought. Oh wait, no I didn’t. I sent a picture of Maleah’s gift to Maleah.

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what i learned this year

I learned the origin of why they drive ‘on the other side of the road’ here.  There used to be horses on the roads. The men on those horses carried swords, and most of those men were right handed. This meant they carried their sword off to their left. So, they drive their cars on the left to keep their swords from hitting.

I also learned the origin of the word Piccadilly and dilly dally. Piccadilly Circus is sort of the London equivalent of Times Square. Its huge, lights, mega action shopping place. Savile Row is a famous street of suit shops and men’s clubs. A woman, more specifically, a prostitute used to be called a Dilly. Wasting time staring at and flirting with the Dillys became dilly dallying. Women would accuse their men of dilly dallying while they were out. Just around the corner from Savile row, there was a street known for it’s Dillys. So you could get your suit, go to the mens club, then go around the corner and Pick-a-Dilly. Piccadilly. I think that’s fun.

I also learned, from the Brits, how to take my time. I don’t need to do everything at Tasmanian devil speed. Just like I’m always telling the boys – take it back a notch.

Viv cries every time I load/unload the dishwasher because I lock her out of the kitchen. I lock her out of the kitchen because she can’t handle the dishwasher being open. Anyway – me taking an extra minute to put the dishes away without breaking them in a hurried rush is worth it.

But overwhelmingly this year, I feel clueless with the kids. Like I’m constantly in uncharted territory, never sure of myself, – not only with Harry and Finn, but also with the two younger ones. I’m always telling Maleah, “like, I don’t know what to do here…let’s try X, and then we’ll try Z.”

I think a parenting thought evolution goes like this:

after one kid: Alright, I know some things.

after two kids: I know everything!

after three kids: Okay, there were a couple things I didn’t know….

after four kids: I know nothing.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Year End 2016

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