Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Meet Frankie.

Our kids' first pet. 

He (she?) is a sulcata tortoise. An itty bitty baby tortoise. Yes with a straw on it's back. Let me explain. It's a marker for when s/he is outside roaming the yard so we don't lose him (her?). Inside s/he is in a "turtle table" so we take the straw off. 

[Gender is still unknown. Hence the unisex name. But we call Frankie a boy so that's the pronoun I'm going to stick with today.]

We have had Frankie since he was a mere 9 days old. He was even tinier then! And much needier too! And honestly at that point I wasn't sure I could actually keep him alive...while simultaneously taking care of my four kids too. So I didn't write about him then. I didn't want to have to report his demise shortly after introducing him. But he's made it...

to a whopping SIX MONTHS of life! I think he's here to stay. As long as I can keep that fierce looking predator away from him. (Don't worry I don't let Levi roam free at the same time as Frankie without close supervision. Because clearly Levi thinks he looks like a fun toy.)

The back story on Frankie goes a little something like this:

Shortly after moving to Texas one of Joe's co-workers convinced Joe that he should get his kids a tortoise for a pet. This co-worker rescues tortoises and currently has 9 tortoises on her property. I was not so convinced. So last summer Joe took the kids and me out to her property too meet the tortoises. "Just to see". Of course the kids wanted one right then and there! I on the other hand was still skeptical. However they seemed like easy enough pets. They live outside and eat weeds. And occasional vegetables. Easier than a dog in fact. (Incidentally many years ago we promised Isaiah a dog for his 8th birthday. Little did we know that on Isaiah's 8th birthday we would be moving cross-country as a family of six with the youngest member being 4 months old...not exactly an ideal time to get a dog!) So a month or so later when we got the call that there was a tortoise that needed a home I said "yes". A hesitant yes. And the kids were thrilled. 

Turns out baby tortoises aren't quite as easy as an adult tortoise to have as pet. But we are figuring it out. And he's still here*. And the kids love having a pet. So I'm calling it a success! 

Frankie the tortoise. Never in a million years would I have thought I would have a tortoise for a pet. Then again I never thought I'd live in Texas either. Never say never, right?

*One of the first days I allowed Frankie to roam the yard not in his pen I could NOT find him when it was time to bring him inside. I searched and searched our backyard. Then I had the kids + a friend search the backyard. All without any luck. I was convinced a bird or cat snatched him up. I felt terrible. I was sure I had (inadvertently) killed my kids' first pet. I sent Joe a dozen panic filled texts. He came home (with a fountain Pepsi for me) walked in the backyard and within a minute walked in the house with Frankie! Apparently Frankie has a favorite little divot in the yard along out back fence. It's his spot. Now I know where to find him too!  Oh and I did in fact kill my kids' second pet but that is a whole different story for a different day.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter 2016

My mom requested an Easter picture. We were already on our way to church and running a little late so I sent her this...

A very accurate depiction of our Easter morning:) And by "a little late" I mean LATE. So late the kids weren't able to sing on stage with the kids' choir. Oops! But it worked out just fine. Because Charlotte (despite being on an antibiotic) still isn't feeling the best and Isaiah does not enjoy going on stage and Hannah didn't seem to mind watching her friends sing. But they sure would have looked cute up on stage. Just look at them...

Joe's grandparents are "Winter Texans" and only an hour away from us so after church and a quick (less than stellar) ham and mashed potatoes lunch we went to spend the afternoon with them. Because every holiday is better with family! The kids loved exploring their RV.

And the pool was a big hit too! 

The pool pictures crack me up. Because clearly we've crossed the (invisible) line from "young parents" to "old parents". Or maybe it's just that we are firmly in the "large family" category. Either way I laugh because Levi is happy floating around with his siblings...not secure in my arms as would have been the case with baby #1. Oh how things change with more babies! (We were supervising him. Don't worry. The pool was tiny and we were just an arms length away.)

Who doesn't love an Easter swim?

The clouds at sunset on our drive home were beautiful! A pretty good ending to a pretty good day. Now back to studying. Only two more days until the PANRE. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday

The kids are home from school. 

The sun is shining. 

We met up with friends at a new park. 

And these ugly kitchen counters....

are GONE!

Obviously it is still a work in progress. But I'm already so happy with this change! 

Happy Good Friday indeed. 

And now just for fun. A few of the original "before" pictures of this kitchen. The ones Joe took when he toured the house with our realtor while house hunting. The pictures he texted to me...

and responded with "Yes. Buy that house."  I must have lost my mind temporarily?! I'll blame it on the newborn sleep deprivation. 

And now the other side of the kitchen. 


Right NOW:

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Right here.

Yesterday was one of those days.

The kind where I drove my son to school in my pjs and made it there just barely on time. And I started an email only to finish it 60 minutes later. The entire message was one picture + two sentences so clearly it should have taken a fraction of that time. I spent all morning trying to empty and reload the dishwasher. I dosed Tylenol and ibuprofen for a feverish child while trying to keep her baby brother from attacking her. I helped the five year old read. And played babies with the three year old. I prepared, served and cleaned up after three meals. Meals I myself barely got a chance to eat. I wiped noses and bottoms. I scrubbed poop off the bathroom floor while the baby clawed at the door begging to be near me. I attempted to clean up toys and general debris throughout the entire house. I put a certain child in time out...several times. I instructed children on how to behave respectfully toward their siblings and apologize when necessary. I taught the baby to sign "more" and that felt like a HUGE victory. I also caught the entire contents of his stomach after he gagged on a hash brown at the very end of dinner. Speaking of dinner, I cooked dinner and simultaneously helped my son research the history of Tokyo for a school project while holding the baby on my hip. I dropped kids off at church for their Wednesday evening program. Then in an act of desperation I dragged the feverish child sans shoes (oops!) through the public library to find a book on Tokyo. Oh and somewhere in the middle of all that I attempted to study. To prepare for my re-certification exam next week. 

And while I'm certain I have a good chance at failing my PA exam, I feel content with where I am at right now. I'm right where I need to be at this moment. For this stage in my life - this stage in my children's lives - I'm where my heart says I need to be. 

Right here. In middle of my big old messy house. With these crazy kids that keep me running from sun up to sun down  (and sometimes all night too). 

Someday I'll be back in the clinic...after I pass that scary exam. But for now I'm happy to be here. Because I know in a blink of an eye these babies won't be babies anymore. (Half of them already aren't babies!) And I don't want to miss these days. Mess and all. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Camping with Kids: 101

Joe and I have taken all of our children camping starting at a young age. I think Charlotte was our youngest at 4 weeks old. We also both grew up camping. We enjoy it. This past fall we took all four kids camping for a couple days during their school break and it was a great experience. So deciding to take the kids camping for spring break seemed like no big deal. A chance to see more of Texas and spend quality time together. However I've had a few people comment on how brave we must be to tent camp with young kids (and a baby!) and some have even asked for advice in regards to camping with kids. I'd never really thought of it that way before. It's just something we do.

But then Wednesday after loading everything and everyone into the van and driving 200 miles and successfully (and quickly!) setting up camp and serving the family a meal cooked entirely over the fire (because we forgot the camping stove) I got to thinking "Maybe this is brave. Maybe I should write up a little post about how to tent camp with kids." SURE Joe and I had argued a bit in our hurry to get on the road and YES we had to spend two hours in the campground parking lot waiting to check in (because apparently I had chosen THE MOST POPULAR campground in the state). But the kids were happy and didn't seem to notice these little hiccups in our trip. We were camping and doing it well with four kids in tow. I must be an expert, right?


That first night Joe took the three eldest kids to a campground dance while I put Levi to sleep. My plan was to write my "how to camp" after the baby was asleep. That never happened. Instead just moments after he fell asleep Levi vomited all over me, himself and my sleeping bag. And in that moment my "how-to-camp-with-young-kids" died along with my dreams of a magical couple days in a tent with my family.

The remainder of the trip's mishaps went a little something like this:

Packing up and driving another 200 miles across the state to a second campground because each campground only had reservations for ONE NIGHT available. We unintentionally took the scenic route on this drive as we very wrongly assumed we would be able to use our phone's GPS to direct us. We made our best guess and headed in what we assumed was the right direction. Eventually we made it. Only after a pit stop at McDonalds (because nothing says "camping" quite like fast food, right?). Oh and I may or may not have allowed my 5 year old to give the 1 year old a gogurt. A food item he is completely incapable of eating without assistance but he was entertained...and very, very messy! Desperate times call for desperate measures.

On our second morning of camping Charlotte woke up and proceeded to vomit all over her sister's sleeping bag. She then threw up every 30-90 minutes for the rest of the day. We had pre-purchased tickets for the entire family to go on a guided tour of Longhorn Cavern in the afternoon. Our tentative plan, given Charlotte's condition, was to have Charlotte and I skip it so she could rest/vomit in peace. However she REALLY wanted to go so we persevered. Which means Joe carried her the entire time/wore her on his back in the Ergo. Yep a FIVE YEAR OLD in a baby carrier. Most of the 90 minute tour he was also carrying Hannah. Meanwhile I was wearing a screaming/inconsolable Levi in our other carrier. No, we didn't look ridiculous at all! And yes everyone on the tour was shooting daggers at me with their eyes. I thought the low point of our experience was when Charlotte was vomiting into the trash can in the cavern and the tour guide chose that EXACT moment to show everyone the trash can location with his flashlight therefore displaying our sick child to the entire group. But no. I was wrong. It got worse.

The real low of the trip came later that evening on our drive home. We had just survived driving through an incredibly intense wind and hail storm when all four kids fell asleep. Joe chose this moment to stop and get a coffee. Moments after he went into the gas station Isaiah woke up and said he had to go to the bathroom. Seconds later he told me he had to throw up. In an instant I grabbed our throw up bucket (ie our camping dishpan) from Charlotte's lap and lunged back to Isaiah in the third row. I got there just in time to catch the vomit from not just Isaiah but just woke up Hannah as well! And this is the moment Joe returned to the van to find me sprawled across the van catching vomit from two children simultaneously with one bucket. THAT was the real low point of our camping trip. I laughed and I cried. And then I handed my husband a bucket full of puke.

So there you have it. How NOT to camp with young children. Just don't do it.

In all seriousness, there were plenty of fun and good moments in between the bad ones. And though it didn't go as planned I'm glad we went. It certainly was memorable. I think Spring Break 2016 is one we will be talking about for years to come. Plus it made Joe excited to go back to work. Today as I was dropping Charlotte off at school I asked her what the worst part of her break was. Her answer: that we never got to go on an entire family bike ride. Not vomiting across half the state of Texas. So it couldn't have been that terrible, right?!?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A Perfect Saturday.

I love it when at the end of the day I can't stop smiling because it has been a perfect day. (I'll be the first to admit that since moving to Texas I haven't had enough of these days.) But this past Saturday was one of those days. It wasn't completely perfect but pretty darn close! Some of the day's shortcomings include: not showering, children that needed to pee at the park WITHOUT a bathroom thus requiring us to use the potty chair in the van, and Joe being scheduled to work a 12 hour shift.

But all of the good definitely outweighed the bad! It started with Levi taking a morning nap (which is a rarity!) so I got extra one-on-one time with each big kid! Then once the baby woke we headed out for a day of adventures. We stopped at a friend's garage sale where I got a few new-to-me tops. Then we went to a local (free!) event where the kids spent the majority of the time in bounce houses. I enjoyed the 75 degree weather and listened to the music while my children played for FOUR HOURS. After which we headed to a playground where we picnicked and played for a couple more hours before finally returning home. We were pleasantly surprised to find Joe home early! So while I cooked dinner (and secretly moved the clocks ahead an hour to ensure an early bedtime for daylight savings) Joe took the big kids out to bike. And Charlotte learned to ride without training wheels!!! 

Oh and I totally beat Isaiah in a gladiator battle.  He never stood a chance...

All in all a pretty good start to our spring break week!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Drop off disaster (part 2)

Well I've done it again. Made a complete spectacle of myself at school drop off. But this time I didn't even realize how foolish I looked until after the fact.

It was an ordinary Tuesday morning around here. Which means of course I was running late. I hurriedly got everyone buckled into the van and we were off! I went to Charlotte's school first as it is only a few blocks away. As I was pulling through the drop off lane I noticed the crossing guard giving me a funny look but honestly I didn't think much of it. I was too distracted calculating whether or not I would make it across town to Isaiah's school before the first bell. After a quick hug and a kiss, Charlotte hopped out of the van and we were off to school drop off #2. 

About a mile down the road I saw a flash of white fly past my passenger window and that's when I remembered...the night before in my haste to unload everyone quickly from the van and get inside to start dinner, I placed a dirty diaper on top of my van on the passenger side! And I forgot to take it off. Meaning I dropped Charlotte off at school with a dirty diaper ON TOP OF MY VAN. That flash of white? The diaper becoming litter on a major road in town. 

Gosh. I'm good at making a fool of myself without even trying. And littering. (I feel bad about that one. I went back later and could not find the diaper.). 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Like Mother. Like Daughter.

I'm a bit of a worrier. And I feel guilty...a lot! Not a great combination. But it's who I am. I don't really know how to be any other way. Unfortunately I've got a daughter just like me...

Tonight a thunderstorm was rolling into town as we were driving home from Bible study. Initially she was just nervous about the lightning and thunder. Then Isaiah mentioned hurricanes. By the time we pulled into our garage Charlotte had an entire hurricane escape plan for our family and insisted we pack bags of food and clothes and "special things" to have ready just in case there is ever a hurricane here. She was in a tizzy! And very determined to make this happen NOW. I promised her we would pack a hurricane box before hurricane season...but not tonight. Which seemed to satisfy her. Joe was rolling his eyes at all this worry-filled drama so I told him about the bag I had packed as child and stored in my closet just in case my house caught on fire. All the stuff I didn't want to lose. Clearly the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree. 

Ironically one of the things I've worried the most about the past 6 months is Charlotte and my decision to send her to kindergarten as a "young 5". I say my decision because honestly it was my decision. Joe trusted me to make the right decision. And initially it didn't even feel like I was making a decision. It was just the thing you do. You send your five year old to school, right?!? It's what I did with Isaiah and it all worked out well so I didn't really consider an alternative. Charlotte turned five in June and she started school in August. 

And then started the worrying. Was it the right choice? Is she too young? Is it too much for her...emotionally, physically, mentally and socially? A mere three weeks in I was ready to pull her from school. She was so tired and emotionally labile. But then things got better. So we continued. A month would pass and there would be another incident...a mean classmate or hard test or scary substitute teacher and I'd be ready to pull her from school once again. But her teacher sang her praises at conferences so I kept her in school. I would be okay for a bit and then the worry would start up again. It's a vicious cycle. 

Just tonight that worry and regret came back. I'm worried that I did in fact make the wrong decision. She is still so young. And all day kindergarten is a lot for her. She has friends but she's struggling to choose her friends wisely. Plus (and here's the fact that just doesn't sit well with me) I could have had her home with me for one more year. I could have kept her little just a little bit longer. But now it's too late. That opportunity is gone. And I'm not sure I made the right decision for my daughter. 

I'm not sure where we go from here. What we will do. But I do know we will have a hurricane box packed ASAP.