Wednesday, April 27, 2016

our family of six.

I have four kids. That is kind of crazy. My mom has four kids. I still feel like, "Who's kids are all these?' Oh, they're mine. We've been a family of six for half a year. And maybe, just maybe we are getting used to it. We aren't good at it, by any means, but we sure do love it.

So how are we in April 2016? Pretty good.

In April 2016, Carly is doing great in first grade. After being behind in reading and needing to go to "book club" as they kindly called it, she has since caught right on up and no longer needs the extra daily help. She likes math, science, and art, but seems to care less about writing. She likes to "learn about ancient things" and about other countries. She can read books to John and Quinn. She had her first "late-over" with a friend from school who lives two houses down. She is silly and imaginative and full of life. She is a leader, but she can be bossy too. I make it a point to make sure she's learning the difference, because her leadership skills and the way she draws people to her can be used for so much good. She's spunky and all fun with Quinn and John, so I didn't expect her to be so sweet and completely smitten by Owen. They have a very special relationship, and I love how he brings out her soft side. She loves her daddy, and I pray she'll always turn to him and talk to him the way she does now. The first grade has brought on so many new conversations and it has me bracing for the coming years as life for her gets increasingly complicated. But I'm so grateful for the kid she is now, because shes a really great kid.

In April 2016, Quinn is beautiful and bouncy and fancy and sparkly and pink. She has been in dance class this year and it is the highlight of her week (and, quite possibly, her life). She is actually quite graceful, which I guess shouldn't surprise me but if you've ever seen me or Chris or even Carly dance, you'd notice Quinn was an impressive contrast. A few months ago I got her evaluated for her speech. Quinn has a sweet squeaky little voice. And she has a LOT to say. The trouble is, you can't understand a lot of what she is saying. It was getting to the point where she was frustrated, and sometimes her translators (John and Carly) couldn't even understand. So she qualified right away for speech therapy. She's been going once a week. Her class is just perfect for her: two other little girls and a young fun speech pathologist named Britney. We have fun practicing the sounds, and I'm so impressed by her ability to learn and adapt. Quinn likes "fancy things", and has strong opinions on what she wears. I've all but caved and her wardrobe is just about completely shades of pink and purple. She's loves her siblings. She and John are the best best friends. And she adores Owen. Her heart is as sparkly as her shoes.

In April 2016, John is very very . . . John. John is man's man. I often walk into the kids room or into the living room to find an arsenal lined up beautifully on his bed or the couch: light sabers, crossbow, chainsaw, hammer and wrench. Its slightly disconcerting, but endearing at the same time. John can be entertained for an extended period of time with two random objects he pretends are Star Wars space ships. This happened when he got his hands on two bottles of nail polish, except when he slammed them into each other one exploded, leaving red fingernail polish all over the carpet. John is a considerate and loving kid. Once on the way to speech Quinn was talking about how she wanted to play Barbies, and sometimes she could but sometimes she couldn't. As we watched her walk in, John sighed and said, "I really hope Quinn gets to play Barbies today." Oh, my heart. He loves Star Wars, yard work, getting his haircut ("shortcut" as he calls it) with his daddy, Pullman Building Supply, and Owen (I think there is a trend of fondness for Owen). I think little boys are one of my favorite things, and this one is one of the best.

In April 2016, Owen is the perfect piece to our puzzle. Oh my heck, he is the cutest thing ever in the history of the world. We are all smitten. I mean, he's been around for 6 months and all 5 of us spend half our time oooing and ahhhing over him. Will his novelty wear off? I can't handle him. He likes to grab faces and drool on everything. He laughs when Carly plays peek-a-boo, and gives amused smiles to John and Quinn's entertaining efforts. He often watches them like he'd give anything to keep up with them. He'll kick his legs like he wants to run, and he likes being wrestled and tickled by the daddy monster just like the big kids do. He is everything good. Our hearts are overflowing. And if the happiness in his eyes when he looks at us is any indication, he likes us back. As cliche as it might be, I don't know how we ever lived without him.

In April 2016, Chris and Erin are a hot mess. Chris's job is going well. He's had a lot of positive and exciting things happen in the last year, including a brand-spanking-new lab which is near completion and a new major proposition to start up in the fall. I've been slowly getting my feet back under me post-baby. Four kids is a lot of kids. Babies are a lot of work. Life is hectic. Kids, job, housework, yard work, and callings all beg for our attention. Tiny people sneak into our bed at night, cry for our attention every waking moment. Our life is so full of chaos. We don't sleep, our budget is tight, we can't go on that 10th anniversary trip we were thinking about, and when is the last time we even went on a date? But I have to say: life is so so beautiful. What a wonderful phase to be living, soaking up every minute with these people we have been entrusted with. We have each other and we have them. I have him and every second I thank my lucky stars that I do. Our kids bring us so much joy. Our little home is bursting with noise and energy and happiness. We have a favorite song that has kind of become "ours". The lyrics say, "The sound of little feet [is] the music we dance to week to week." These little feet are the symphony of our lives, and there is no one else I'd rather be dancing with.

{All these pictures were taken in Idaho at the beginning of April. The whole Thomas family got together, and it was wonderful. So naturally we needed pictures. Here's a few favorites from the whole crew:}

Sunday, April 3, 2016

the big rescue.

"Blog" ends up on my To-Do list regularly, and it is never, ever crossed off. I could keep blogging with newborn twins, but baby number 4 sends me off into blog oblivion? And lots of other forms of oblivion, too. I don't think I'll ever "catch up", but I want to do better. This is our family record, and I love writing it and I love reading it.

Tonight, I want to remember something that happened yesterday.

We were planning to go on a walk between Conference sessions, but our apple tree really needed to get sprayed before we leave town (this past fall our apple harvest was enjoyed more by worms than by us.) So we decided to have Chris stay and spray, and I would walk the trail with the kids. Now, John and Quinn just go their bikes for their birthday and this was the first "major" ride we have undertaken. But it was sunny and the trail is pretty simple, so I had high hopes.

We were doing fine, going up a slight incline, when Quinn went tumbling off the side into the rocky dirt and plants. Her knees and hands were bleeding. I parked Owen and scooped her up. As I comforted her, we made the quick decision to turn around and head back to our van. What I didn't think about was that we had just gone up a slight incline, so turning around meant going down. I was still holding Quinn and checking her scratches when I heard John scream in terror. He had turned around, and his bike was racing down the path. He is such a new rider, he didn't know what to do. Faster than I could react, Carly (who was riding slightly behind him), leaped off her moving bike, which went crashing to the side. She ran after him, and just before his bike went crashing into the large rocks, she wrapped her arms around him and pulled him off of his speeding bike. The bike crashed, and she held him while he cried in her arms. 

It was in incredible example of love and selflessness, and I was overcome by the Spirit as I watched. I started crying right there, thanking her for her goodness and courage. She simply said, "Its a good thing I'm so fast."

Being mom isn't easy. It often feels like I'm doing it all wrong, especially with Carly, who is so spirited and intense. But moments like that . . . it was a moment that taught me these people I'm raising are the way they are for a reason. They have divine attributes, and they are meant to do so much good. I'm so grateful I get to watch them grow, watch the people they become, and hopefully help them be what they are meant to be.

I'm grateful to be their mom.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

happy holidays.

Owen's arrival has meant the holiday season passed in a chaotic, messy, beautiful blur.

October is typically my favorite month, and I had a hard time not enjoying it the way I typically do. Things aren't easy with a new baby, with recovery and exhaustion and adjustment. But we were able to have a pleasant October nevertheless. When Owen was almost 2 weeks old we headed to a tiny little pumpkin patch and u-pick flower field. We were experiencing a warm spell, and it was a beautiful evening. We picked pumpkins in shorts and as many free flowers as we'd like. We enjoyed fall foliage, Halloween pajamas, and festive activities at school and preschool. And we even managed to carve a pumpkin.

The kids costumes were fun this year. I had started asking them in September what they wanted to be, as I expected Owen to come mid-October. Carly had a hard time coming up with anything, which surprised me. She finally fessed up, and it turns out she wanted to be a black cat. That is just about the easiest costume ever, so I was down with that, and she looked adorable. She wore her ears and tail for a long time before Halloween actually arrived and it cracked me up to see her tail bouncing behind her.

Quinn, meanwhile, had no reservations: "A ballerina fairy with a fancy sparkly dress--dark pink, not light pink--and wings and a wand and a sparkly crown." Those requests sum Quinn up pretty well. Luckily, we already had it all except the dress, which I found on Amazon among flower girl and pageant dresses, and which she wore every day for about 3 weeks straight and still wears regularly. She was the pinkest thing you've ever seen, and she couldn't have been happier about it.

John also had a hard time choosing. But while Carly had a hard time because there were so many things to choose from, John had a hard time because he just didn't care that much. He was totally apathetic about the whole thing. Finally we went to the store and I told him he had to pick something. He found a red light saber, and really wanted it, and that is how we ended up with Darth Vader. He was a pretty awesome Darth Vader, though, and in the months since he has become a full-blown Star Wars nut like his father before him.

Sweetest Owen was a bunny. Because 1) bunnies are yummy, and 2) he is yummy. I had bought the hat over the summer, and found a little cotton tale and play carrot to go with it. He was the cutest thing on his first Halloween.

The main event brought a Halloween party at Carly's school, a ward trunk or treat and Fall carnival, and the big night itself. It was a blustery, crazy rainstorm the night of Halloween, but that couldn't stop these kids from candy. Chris took them and they were out for over 2 hours. It was some serious dedication, as they all came home soaked. Meanwhile, Owen and I hung out at home and watched Call of the Midwife, and the kids gave me all their Almond Joys. Everyone wins.

A blurry November later, and Thanksgiving week arrived. Grandma came to town and we had so much fun with her. The hardest thing about leaving Michigan is just how far grandma and papa are now. When you have your two sets of grandparents on opposite sides of the country, you're always too far from someone. We had a fun week with her. The day before Thanksgiving we went swimming. Thanksgiving day Grandma did most of the cooking. We went on a walk and played at the park and papa arrived just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. The next few days were filled with Chris and Papa doing lots of projects around the house and building the girls' new bunk bed.

Mimi and Grandpa joined the party on Friday night. We were awfully spoiled to have all four grandparents at our house at once. Pullman isn't exactly teeming with exciting things to do (or even places to eat), so we ended up going bowling. But, as it turns out, bowling is actually quite fun with the right crowd and we had a really good time.

Sunday was a special day, as Owen was blessed by his daddy in a circle of priesthood holders that included both of his grandfathers and my uncle. It was a freezing day, and the world was coated in white ice; perfect for a blessing day. We are so grateful our parents could be there. We are so grateful Owen is in our family. What a sweet way to finish Thanksgiving weekend, because we really do have so much to be thankful for.

Our company left, and the Christmas season began. Its so easy to feel overwhelmed by everything Christmas brings, and I felt more than once that I wasn't doing good enough, that I was barely holding it together. My wonderful husband gave me more than one pep talk, and I finally "came to terms" with our sweet and simple Christmas. But now that it is behind us, I have to say it has been really really wonderful,

We went ice skating with Chris's department, and the kids loved it. They were a little confused why it was so hard, as we had watched Olympic figure skaters the night before in preparation, and they make it look so easy. 

Pullman has been getting a so much snow. I think we got exactly one snowfall last year, so I've been rather impressed. I didn't know Pullman had it in her. It is fun that the kids are old enough to bundle up and send out into the yard. Chris has been home during the break, and helped them make a most impressive snowman. I think he's over shoveling the driveway, though. Owen went out into his first snowfall. He though it was a bit too cold and a bit too bright, but he was delicious in his bear suit.

The season did bring a Christmas tree with ornaments and lights and presents underneath. The kids loved looking at the tags and finding their names. The tree was such a tender mercy. Lately Owen has been either sleeping through the night or going the extreme opposite and being awake for 2-3 hours in the middle of the night. When you have a lighted tree in your living room, those middle of the night waking periods are just a little more pleasant. Christmas break arrived and it was been so nice to have Carly home. We made cookies, wrapped presents, sent out a few Christmas cards, and snuggled on chilly mornings.

Christmas Eve came entirely too quickly for my taste, but the kids would disagree. On Christmas Eve morning Carly asked "How many more minutes until this day is over?" Haha! We did our traditional breakfast out, and enjoyed going to our friends' house in the evening. The night brought new pajamas, The Polar Express and Luke 2, cookies for Santa, and falling asleep in the glow of Christmas lights.

Christmas morning was a success. We had a desire to keep things a bit more low key and simple this year. The kids got so much last year that they didn't/couldn't really appreciate it. This year I think we got it just right. A lot of fun things, but some useful and out-of-the-box things too. Carly got a white board from Santa, and she totally loves it. Every day since she is writing, drawing, doing math, and making mazes. Quinn got a whole lot of pink, fancy, sparkly things, including some new outfits to wear to dance. John got a chainsaw, a light saber, and a crossbow (among other things). He is man's man. Owen got a whole bunch of stuff I really wanted to get him but would never justify buying any other time. Tiny babies are fun to buy for ;).

On Christmas Day we opened presents and then spent the entire day in our pajamas playing with our gifts. It really was a perfect day. We are now enjoying the remainder of Christmas break. I love that Chris's career will always allow him to spend a great deal of Christmas break at home. We decided not to travel this year, and our snowy Christmas staycation has been just want the doctor ordered. Together with my people in my home is the best place to be. 
What a whirlwind of a holiday season. There were many days I had to take deep breaths and remind myself it would be easier next year. But I'm grateful I was able to find enough peace to enjoy this year. Because 6, 3, and newborn are some really wonderful ages to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Owen Christopher.

On October 4th, we welcomed Owen Christopher to our family.
It was been a wild but oh-so-sweet seven weeks.
That is a story for another time.
Today is the story of Owen's birth.

Around the time September turned to October, Carly complained of an itchy head. I checked her scalp and noticed irritation. I looked closer and found lice nits, and one single live bug. I was almost 38 weeks pregnant. I burst into tears. Apparently it is a somewhat common thing with elementary school kids, but I was on the verge of having a baby. This was too much. 

We treated Carly--chemical shampoos and combing out every strand of that crazy thick hair every day. We stripped beds. We bagged stuffed animals, We vacuumed, We sprayed. This was extreme nesting to say the least. Luckily, Carly's low pain tolerance seemed to work to our advantage, because I only ever found one live bug. We seemed to have it more or less under control on Friday, October 2nd. But we had to keep combing and washing bedding for at least a week.

On the 2nd I shared the below lovely picture of my girth. 38 weeks and looking it. I was at the point where people looked at me nervously when I was in public. I had been so ready to have that baby early, but with the lice surprise, was now hoping he'd hold off. But babies have minds of their own.

On Saturday October 3rd I woke up between 6 and 7 to a contraction. I'd been having Braxton Hicks and round ligament pains for months. Previous experience told me this was the real thing. They came every 20 minutes for a while, and gradually got closer. At 10 minutes apart, I was pretty sure we were going to have a baby. I was overwhelmed. That day was General Conference. We were going to enjoy the sessions and go to a fall festival at a pumpkin patch in between. I was really looking forward to it. I had just gotten over my lice emotional breakdown. I was tired.

As crazy as it sounds, one of my "goals" this baby was to not look like a wreck. My two previous births came in the middle of the night, and I was just a mess. So on this day, as my contractions progressed, I took a shower and did my hair and make-up. I was going to look presentable this time around. You just see. But then, the contractions started to slow down. They got further and further apart. We called the hospital and they suggested I lay down and try to get them to stop--after being in labor all day! My parents had driven 5 hours, about half way to us. I called them and they decided to turn around and go home. I developed a migraine, and went to bed.

I woke up -- in the middle of the night! of course! -- to the hardest contraction yet. A few minutes later was another one, A few minutes later came another. I was moaning through them, trying to keep sleeping. But they kept coming, harder and harder. It was time to go. I called and told my parents, who, after 10 hours of driving, had just arrived home! They were going to get some sleep and come back in the morning. They are the best of people. We called our wonderful friend and she came over in the middle of the night to stay on our couch, and then took our kids to her house the next day. We headed to the hospital. This was our third drive in the middle of the night to the hospital with me in labor. I had washed off my make-up, my hair was messy, and I was exhausted. Guess those glamorous post-birth pictures just aren't in the cards for me, but that is ok. I can't imagine it any other way.

By the time we got there, I was in some serious pain. They checked and I was between a 5 and 6, but baby's head was still high. It was epidural time and I couldn't wait. So they called Ed. A little later a man in jeans and a sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head comes rolling in with a cart. I thought it was the janitor, I kid you not. It was Ed. This was the person that was going to stick a needle in my spine? I felt a wave of panic. But Ed chatted with the nurses and with my doctor so apparently he didn't come in randomly off the street, even though that's how he looked. And in the end he gave me the most lovely epidural. While we were waiting for the epidural to take, Ed and my doctor discussed cycling around Coeur d'Alene. I don't know why, but that is one of my most vivid memories of my labor.

After chatting with my doctor (by the way, small towns have their downsides but they also have their perks--my wonderful doctor was there for the entirety of my labor, and didn't just come in at delivery), we decided to break my water to help baby drop. Chris and I were both exhausted after a long day of contractions, continued lice prevention care, and general there's-a-baby-coming stress. My doctor suggested we both get some sleep before he broke my water, and we were in favor of that. I was warm and numb and settled in for a nice nap.

I woke up to a wave of nausea. A nurse came in just then and I told her I was going to throw up. Then my vision went fuzzy. I was going to pass out. As the blackness started to take me, a whole lot of people came rushing into the room and machines started beeping. Chris woke in a daze. They put an oxygen mask on me and turned me to my side. Somewhere in there, I felt my water break. Everything happened fast and my consciousness was blurry. But the oxygen helped bring me back. My doctor checked me. I was at a 10 and baby's head was all the way down. He said what likely happened was that baby's head fell really fast (probably because of relaxation from the epidural) and that pressure caused a drop in my blood pressure. But it resulted in our little boy being ready to come. So much for my nap. 

It took just under an hour of pushing to get our boy into the world. This was the hardest pushing I have had to do. At one point I was on the verge of tears and said, "He's never coming out!" It turns out little Mr. was sunny side up. Afterwards my doctor said it probably added 30 minutes of pushing and a pound of baby weight pressure to the experience. So that was fabulous. But he came. It was shocking to see him. My entire pregnancy I had a hard time wrapping my mind around another baby, and here he was! He was really there all along. He was born at 4:55 am, weighing 7 lbs 14.5 oz. And he was absolute perfection. 

Our boy came out with the most peaceful demeanor. Oh, he is a piece of heaven. There aren't even words.

As for his name? Naming this boy felt hard, but I'm not sure it really was. Owen has been a favorite name of mine since I was a little girl. My dad is Jedd Owen, and I always thought it was such a great name. We discussed many others along the way, but Owen had always been my favorite. I just needed Chris to catch up! We both really liked Henry, too, but Chris wanted to call him "Hal" and I just couldn't get with that. By early September I was 100% sure on Owen, and Chris was at like 90%. I knew he was serious when I asked to order a hat with the name on it and he approved. At worst we were just out a little money, right? We tossed around a few middle names--names of men we love. There are simply too many. But I got top choice. I wanted his middle name to be after his daddy. So in the end, our sweet boy shares his name with my two favorite men: my daddy and his daddy. Owen Christopher. 

We spent that day trying to catch up on rest and soak in our Owen. I could tell I was a little rusty. Late in the day the nurse asked if he had had a dirty diaper yet. Oh, diapers! I forgot about changing diapers. I hadn't changed him all day. But he was a good little nurser from the get-go. The doctor put him straight on my chest after delivery, something I've never had before. They also did delayed cord cutting, which explained his red hue later on (I thought he was really hot! haha! Am I a first time mom?) But quite the opposite, Owen had a hard time keeping his temperature where it should be. He was taken at one point to the nursery warmer, and they kept him bundled up the whole time. He didn't even get a bath until he got home. But by the time it was time to go, he was doing well.

So, by Sunday evening it was time to bring our crazies to meet baby brother. My big kids looked SO big after spending the day with such a tiny baby. They were so excited to see him (though, they may have been more excited to see mimi and grandpa, who had finally arrived after two days of driving). They were so sweet, looking at his tiny features. John, our tender-hearted John, was absolutely beaming over his baby brother. Over the last 7 weeks, John has easily been the most interested, sweet, and helpful. They all love Owen, but John has something a little extra. It was surreal to see what had become two different worlds in my mind -- kids at home vs baby at the hospital -- combine. But it felt so good to have us all together. 

We brought Owen home on Monday. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. We were going home to chaos, but I was just ready to be in my place with my people (and my mommy!). My harder delivery meant a somewhat extended recovery. Caring for a newborn while trying to keep up with three busy older kids has on more than one occasion resulted in tears (from mostly me, but sometimes them). We found lice in Quinn's hair when Owen was 4 days old, and started that insanity all over again -- even more thoroughly. It was wild, but it was so so good. We have a lot of love, and that's what matters most.

We are all smitten over our Owen. I wrote early in my pregnancy that he was the missing piece to our puzzle, and I was certainly right. We wouldn't be complete without him.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Learning to Fly.

Its the last day of September. October is tomorrow, and I love October. This particular October is bringing about a lot of change to our family. Our 5-person dynamic that we've grown quite cozy in is shifting. We are all so excited, but there is a little piece of my heart that sees it as just a tiny bit bittersweet. The last few months of our Party of Five have been good ones.

Speaking of parties, our Carly turned 6 in August. That's such a big number, 6. We hosted a Wonder Woman party with some friends from school and church. I wasn't feeling very well that day, and Chris stepped up and ran the show, filling a million water balloons that 10 6-year-olds popped in a matter of minutes, and writing a rhyming, super-hero themed treasure hunt around the yard and house. It was totally impressive, but he locked himself into a lifetime of writing rhyming treasure hunt clues. Carly had a lot of fun and her party, and it was so fun to celebrate her on her big day.

A few weeks later, our big 6 year old started 1st grade.

Oh, first grade. There was a lot of excitement and apprehension as first grade began, from all parties involved. I'm not the most organized person on earth, but felt strongly I needed to pull it together to make sure her experience wasn't chaotic. To date, we've been good. Reading and signing everything that comes home in her folder, remembering her book on library day, setting out clothes, packing lunches, getting to school on time. We decided to have Chris take her in the morning, and then she rides the bus home in the afternoon. It gives her 45 extra minutes at home in the morning, and I don't have to pick her up in the afternoon, so its a win-win. More or less, that part of school is going well.

One struggle has been the emotional adjustment for Carly in particular. For weeks she came home in a terrible mood, speaking in such a mean way to me and John and Quinn. It was kind of heart-breaking, because we all missed her, but the Carly coming home was not the Carly we knew. I had the urge to get after her, put her in time-out every afternoon. But I had the overwhelming feeling that wasn't what she needed. I realized this was a huge life adjustment for her. There was a lot of pressure and stress and change and new challenges every minute of the day. I could see where she was coming from. And after talking to other first grade moms, I discovered Carly wasn't alone in her behavior. So we started something new. Every day Carly comes home and she and I sit together, just the two of us. Sometimes I hold her on my lap. Sometimes its on the front steps, or in the yard. We sit and I ask a few questions. Sometimes she talks, sometimes she doesn't. I look at whats in her backpack, and it gives her a chance to open up. Or we'll talk about something not school-related at all. After a week of doing this, I could see her decompressing. I'm sure it was a mix of our time together, as well as getting used to school, but now that we are a month in, most days she comes home very pleasant. Our mommy/Carly time has become a habit. She comes home and goes straight to our spot in the shade in the yard. I have memories of chatting with my mom after school over a little bowl of mini M&Ms. I hope I'm setting up a situation in which she always feels like she can come home and talk to her mom.

We've also faced some real life. Boys calling her names on the bus and threatening to hurt her on the playground (papa bear took care of that one real quickly). It feels unsettling to send her into the real world, but I know it is learning to deal with difficult situations, and communicate with her parents now, that will make all the difference. 

Carly was "selected" to take part in the reading program at her school. This is a nice way of saying she is behind where she should be in reading. We knew that. Having not gone to kindergarten, I knew she would be. But it was kind of hard to see that physical evidence in the form of a letter in my hand. I can't help, at the risk of sounding over-dramatic, but feel like its my fault. She's a really brilliant girl, who loves learning. She is really good at math and loves doing problems for fun. When the school year ended last year her teacher said if we read all summer, she should be right in where other first graders are. Instead, we hardly read at all. I mean, we read to the kids a ton, but I hardly had Carly read to me. So when we got the letter I felt like I had failed my brilliant, loves-to-learn girl. My weaknesses as a mother were now directly effecting her success. But I am grateful for a great school that is making an effort to help her catch up. As it turns out, there are 9 kids just from her class in "Book Club", as they call it. She goes every day, and gets to bring home a new book each day. I think it will be great, and know we can have fun catching her up.

Carly's not the only one doing the growing up around here. John and Quinn are now three and a half, and have the choas, humor, creativity, and whining to prove it. I was a bit worried about Carly being gone all day. She is the ring leader. She comes up with all sorts of fun things to do. But she is also type-A, and wants to control everything going on, which leads to conflict. The most amazing thing about Carly being gone is watching John and Quinn play for hours without conflict. A month later, and they still rarely fight. They have such a sweet relationship, and are very generous with each other and accommodating when they differ in opinion. One example is how they play "family" with trucks. The big ones are the mom and dad, and the little ones are the kids. This way, John is playing with trucks, and Quinn is playing a version of dolls. It is so cute to watch. 

Our dynamic duo also started "school".  We are doing a co-op group with our ward. With two sets of twins, it makes for 7 kids and 5 moms. It is a fun group of kids, and they were really great when I taught last week (Though, I'm amazed at people who make teaching young kids their career. Its totally exhausting!). They are such cute little school kids, and love going.

But for Quinn, even more exciting than preschool is the beginning of dance class. In the spring, I started her in a little "class" (term used generously) run by a day care. The teacher was a daycare teacher that came in her jeans and sweatshirt, and the only other student was a boy from the daycare. It lasted only a few weeks before the teacher just stopped showing up. It was disappointing to say the least, and Quinn still talks about how her teacher stopped coming. So now, she's old enough to go to the wonderful teacher Carly went to last year, and she is in a class full of little girls in pink. It is heaven for our little ballerina. She is so funny though, because she takes it so seriously. I watch her as I leave the room and she has this intense look on her face, not even cracking a smile. Then she comes home and shows us what she learned. She is a really coordinated girl, light on her feet and naturally graceful. I never thought Carly would be a long-term dancer, but it looks like there is a decent chance that Quinn will be.

Carly had no interest in another year of dance, and that's ok. She expressed a lot of interest in playing soccer this fall. But soccer is three times a week, and with the adjustment to full-day school and the season falling right when we are expecting the baby, it just felt like too much. I'm so glad we didn't do it, as things have been busy enough. Basketball starts in November, which will be way more fun anyway (and is only twice a week, with no games on Saturdays. Cheers!).

And people ask about John. He likes dig in the dirt in the park while Quinn is at dance. He's my low key man, and I guess I'll take advantage of that for now. T-ball is in the spring, and he can already whack a ball quite proficiently off a tee, so that will be all sorts of fun.

Meanwhile, Dr. Connolly started his second year as a professor at WSU. Chris really enjoys his job. It has stress and pressures, and he has a lot going on, but he likes what he does, and has a lot of exciting things in the works. I like his relative flexibility, personally. The last 9 months have been especially hectic for him, with a job, being Young Men's president, and picking up all my slack. But I'm so grateful and proud of all he does, and that he does it with joy. My kids really couldn't have a better daddy, and I couldn't have a better man to share my life with. On his first day back to fall classes, we headed to Ferdinand's, WSU's creamery, to enjoy their delicious ice cream. It was our second year doing it, and I see it being a long-standing tradition.  

Baby brother is growing. We are only two weeks from the due date now. A few weeks ago, baby was sitting breach, and I was more than a little nervous that after avoiding a c-section with my twins, I would be getting one with my caboose. But he is a good boy, and is now perfectly head-down. He looks to be average size. I feel humongous, and the doctor yesterday said baby was sitting completely out in front, which is why I thought he was huge (very grateful it doesn't look like he'll be the 9 pounder I was fearing!). Baby brother seems like a peaceful guy. John was so spazzy in the womb, which translated into his personality, and his status as a difficult newborn. Quinn, however, was super peaceful, to the point I'd worry about her. Internally, baby brother is taking after Quinn. I'm constantly sitting down with a cold glass of water and poking at him to make sure he's ok. He's most active in the evenings, and I think that is because I finally stop moving after busy days of going non-stop. His movements are so fluid, we joke he's our Washington hippy baby: "It's all good, mama." Quinn asked the other day if he has black hair, since she knows she was born with a full head of black hair. And suddenly I was so excited to see him. It will be so wonderful to put a face to the baby we get to know over 40 weeks.

And then there is me. For so long I've been ready for this baby, rooting for an early arrival. Now, every night I feel like I am way too tired to have a baby. I have way too many things on my to-do list. I don't want him to be late, but 39-40 weeks sits well with me now, despite my aching hips and restless sleep. Because honestly the pain and sleepless nights are way worse post-baby, amiright? I have recently begun being hungry all the time. The fall-ish weather has brought intense cravings for baked goods and hot fudge. I'm gaining weight a wee bit too fast but really, there's like two weeks left so its fine, right? I do have a hospital bag packed, because third time is the charm. I'm voting for my water to break at like 10 am, because then I'd likely have gotten ready for the day, and it would be easy to find a place for my kids to go. The last two times happened in the middle of the night when I hadn't showered in days, so maybe this time will be more glam. Because giving birth is totally glam, you know. Anyway. I'm ready for a baby, but a little bit not ready for a baby. Mostly, I'm highly curious to see how this one plays out. And look forward to baby toes to nibble on.

35 weeks.

Chris introduced the kids to "Learning to Fly" by Tom Petty. I do my part, and they love "Midnight Train to Georgia" and a variety of Spice Girls hits, but they really love Learning to Fly. For quite a while, Carly requested it every morning as Chris drove her to school. When we got in the van for John and Quinn's first day at preschool, they both requested, "Learning to Fly!" So I put it on and we sang as we drove. 

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

And in my pregnant, emotional, my-kids-are-growing-and-I'm-having-a-new-baby state, I got a little teary. We have it good here, with our people. We are all learning to fly, as a professor, a first grader, new preschoolers, and a mom. We are figuring it out, even if sometimes it feels like we ain't got wings. But when we do come down, we all come down together, in our home, where we eat dinner together, play daddy monster, read stories, say prayers, and sing songs at bedtime. And when our baby bird arrives, he will fit right in, and will learn to fly along with the rest of us.