Friday, May 24, 2013

celebrate; good times.

The last month has been filled with fun and good things for the C family.
It all looked something like this:

1. Chris PASSED COMPS. It was a long ordeal. After weeks of full time preparation (while also taking and teaching classes), he took 1 week-long take home comp, 3 killer sit-downs, and two weeks later enjoyed his "oral comps", where his board threw questions at him for two hours. He did so great, and still managed to be home for bedtime mutton-bustin' most nights, even when it meant returning to campus after they were tucked in. I remember one night, my heart was breaking into a million pieces, I JUST WANTED HIM TO STAY HOME. I held it in. I kissed him goodbye and wished him good luck and picked up toys and watched some tv, reminding myself it would come to an end. And it did. I am so proud of this man. He is now an official doctoral candidate and ABD, "all but dissertation." 

2. A few days after passing comps, this man of ours turned the big 3-0. Not going to lie, since he is a closet Star Wars geek and his birthday is "May the fourth be with you", I was dying to throw him a big Star Wars party. Chris isn't a guy who likes to have a party for himself, so we kept it simple. A few days before his birthday I took the kids out to find some presents. Carly spotted a My Little Pony shirt (in the mens section?) and said "Look! A daddy pony shirt! I bet daddy would just looooove a daddy pony shirt!" Luckily I talked her down from that one. The morning of his big day our friends watched the kids and we did some shopping and had lunch. Poor guy struck out, but we did manage to find the girls some cute swimsuits on sale. Isn't that just the life of a parent? We also went into the glasses shop where we have Groupons to get our eyes tested and new pairs of glasses (we both have awful eyes). Turns out the place was a bit too hip for these simple old folk. We each found exactly ONE pair of glasses that would work. We spent the rest of the day with the kids, having cake and blowing out candles and opening a few gifts. I'm so grateful for this man of mine, even if he is old now.

3. Well, we didn't have a 30th birthday party, but that didn't stop me from having a little Cinco de Mayo get-together the following day. We had a Mexican food potluck with some of our great friends. Mexican food and I have a very special relationship, and the 3 days of leftovers afterwards made me quite happy. Not to mention the GF tres leches cake my friend made. At the last minute I decided to make a pinata. I looked it up on Pinterest, adjusted a few things to fit the supplies I already had, and made an absolutely beautiful Ritz box pinata filled with random candy, stickers, and birthday party supplies I found around the house. It was so classy. But the kids seemed to enjoy themselves, and it took several rounds of whacking before it burst open.

4. We enjoyed a MSU baseball game with Chris's adviser  Jim, and his wife Linda. Jim and Linda have bee quite good about spoiling our kids, and our kids sure like them. They help make up for the absence of family we have here in the Mitten. MSU baseball games are fun and family friendly, but between comps and the bad weather this spring, this was the first game we were able to make it to . . . the last game of the season. We had fun, but it never ceases to amaze me just how chaotic our little family is. At least we're cute, right?

5. I enjoyed my 4th Mother's Day. I got myself some photo albums, and Chris know me so well . . . I woke up to a People magazine, 4 different Snickers bars, and a family portrait drawn by Carly. Chris did everything that day, changing diapers, dressing kids for church, making dinner. And I got a nap. He made me breakfast, too, and Carly was especially excited that they made me pink (strawberry) milk. I really only like strawberry milk when I'm pregnant, so I choked a little down before offering it to her. I am so blessed to have these little people in my life. They give me a fun for my money, and I end my days exhausted and emotionally spent, but then I look through my phone at pictures and I can't help but smile. They are just so darn cute.

6. Carly finished her year of joyschool preschool! It was a great year, and I enjoyed getting to know the kids, and Carly was always so excited when Tuesdays rolled around. We ended with a bang, doing a Z is for Zoo field trip. I made a little scavenger hunt for the kids to mark the animals they found. Afterwards, we had a picnic and one mom brought cupcakes and another made "graduation" certificates. I can't believe how quickly the school year went by. It really is such a strange thing. And I look at the pictures comparing Carly on the first and last days of school . . . her face looks older and her body looks stronger. We got her all signed up for Tuesday/Thursday preschool at the out-of-district school I was hoping to get her in to. She's excited for "big kid school when I turn 4!", but this mama's heart is just a little heavy about it all. 

Its been a good and busy month.
I was hoping Chris's schedule would calm down a bit after comps, but that hasn't quite happened, with a two-week grant writing course going on and a national conference to prepare for. But that's what June is for (fingers crossed).

We have a fun summer ahead of us with lots of adventures. We live a sweet life. I think sometimes I can't wait for this phase to be over, can't wait for Chris to have a normal job and have a house and have our kids be a little older. But I know when that days comes we'll look back on these crazy chaotic but fun-filled days with fondness and a whole lot of laughter. 


Monday, May 13, 2013

holland, mi.

A while ago Chris's parents invited us to meet them in Holland, MI to see the tulip festival held there every May. I've always wanted to go, so we jumped at the chance. I pitched the idea to Chris of us going up a day early and going to the beach and staying in a hotel, but we decided in the end it would just be too crazy. Well, the Wednesday before we were supposed to meet Chris's parents on Friday, I brought the idea up again. We had not been on any sort of vacation with our little family since we went to South Carolina when Carly was 9 months old. I needed a mini-vacation. I needed the beach. So at 10 pm that night we won a bid on Priceline for a hotel 50% off, and I went off to pack.

We got to Tunnel Park on Lake Michigan in the early afternoon. You park your car and it doesn't look like there is any water in sight, but you climb a hill and go through a tunnel, and bam, there is Lake Michigan. As I mentioned, it was a hazy day, but it was warm and beautiful and we were some of the only people on the beach. The water was still cold, but just pleasant enough to splash around in on a warm day.

Our 3 kids reactions to the beach were very telling of their personalities. Carly was initially hesitant. The sand was, after all, hot and dirty. And it was a long walk all the way down the hill to the water. Chris and I went ahead with the babies, and she slowly tiptoed her way down, in her sundress and fancy new hat. "You better go up and get Audrey Hepburn," I told Chris. She sure was beautiful.

But after being carried down by daddy and changing into her swimsuit, she ate it up, splashing in the water and warming herself in the sand. She played the whole time. I'm not sure what she was playing; she has the ability to go off in her own imagination and keep herself busy (when she's outside), and that's exactly what she did, with a few breaks to play with her babies and commission daddy to make a sand castle.

Quinn is the most serious, intricate little thing, and the beach didn't change that. If you walked by our little party, chances are you'd find Quinn with a bucket or three, stacking them, putting sand toys in them, and strategically carrying them around and setting them out. She had a plan, and that plan required all THREE buckets, which luckily were not in high demand by her siblings. 

And John is a mess of a human being, proved perfectly by his reaction to the beach. I set him down and he did his high-speed crawl right into the water. He turned around and crawled back out laughing and squealing, then headed right back in. I didn't even get the chance to put his swimsuit on. He also had quite a bit of fun with the sand, as any dirt-loving boy would, and was literally covered head to toe. Poor boy . . . when we left we had to strip him down and dunk him in the lake to get it all off. Cute sandy John turned to shivering purple John, but he still had a smile on his face.

After our beach adventure we headed to our hotel, were they happened to have a free dinner waiting for us. Our room had a kitchen and living area which we thought would work out perfectly. After dinner we headed to the pool. I quickly learned the pool is not going to be our thing this summer. Even with two adults it was crazy to keep two toddlers and a 3-year-old who thinks she can swim from going under. John was having beach flashbacks because he kept speed-crawling right toward the edge.

Our night at the hotel, however, did not go nearly as smoothly as planned. The two pack-n-plays remained mostly empty. The babies have rarely traveled in their young, routine-filled lives, and the strange surroundings got to them. Quinn and I had a snugly night where every move one of us made woke the other one up. Around 3 she decided she was up for good. I would drift off and hear breathing, then open my eyes to see her little face staring at me from inches away. I couldn't help but laugh. Finally around 5 I made her a bottle and abandoned the sofa bed we were sharing, falling asleep on the floor while she did the same sprawled out on the bed. Chris had a similar night with John, and finally abandoned the big bed to John and Carly. At one point I woke up and found him sitting in a hard chair, and at 6 am he headed down to the continental breakfast for a hot chocolate. While our trip was fun, that night in the hotel has made us chicken to ever go anywhere ever again.

The next day we were scheduled to see the tulips and other Dutch attractions Holland, MI has to offer. They really play up the Holland thing, with tulips, windmills, and wooden shoes to be found in abundance. As Chris and I drove down State St, it was literally lined with tulips. It was beautiful. 

We woke up on Friday to freezing cold windy rain. Welcome to Michigan. I was frustrated because 1) I had been wanting to see the tulips since we moved here, and 2) I packed for summer. We ended up meeting Chris's parents at Walmart, where they purchased shoes and jackets for our crew at the cheapest cost possible, meaning I ended up in a XL hoody off the little girls clearance rack (which Chris so kindly said reminded him of bubble gum: "You look like the jr high queen bee.") and $10 old lady shoes. Carly excitedly picked out some gaudy Tinkerbell shoes, and Chris walked out with a Mr Rogers sweater. At least Quinn got some seriously cute shoes, and John got a glow in the dark Batman shirt. We were a sight to behold, that is for sure. But we were ready to check out some tulips in the freezing rain.

We perused the store with Dutch trinkets of all kinds, including all sorts of wooden shoes. Chris and I got a ornament and a magnet, because you can't go anywhere without getting an ornament and a magnet. And grandma and papa got Carly a mini pair of adorable yellow wooden shoes. The tulips were beautiful, but it was super cold. We were really just enjoying being with papa, grandma, and aunt Sarah. We walked around, shivering and blue-lipped, and snapped some cute pictures, then headed off to warm up at Red Robin.

As it turned out, we did not actually go to the tulip festival. We went to a wonderful tulip garden with a Dutch shop, but the full tulip festival was in downtown Holland. Next year, our final May in Michigan, we are going for reals, and its going to be a warm beautiful sunny day. I won't stand for anything less.

It was a pleasant, exhausting trip. All three of our littles snoozed the entire way home, while I worked to keep Chris awake using graham crackers and roadtrip questions I found on Pinterest. But it was just what the doctor ordered. Some sweet time with my sweet family. The sand and sun. Some beautiful flowers and a little culture. And a Red Robin Royal Burger.

It doesn't get much better than that.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

my piece of foreign sky.

When I went off to college at 19, I had a plan.
One part of that plan was to study abroad in London.
I love history, and Europe is dripping with it.
I had always wanted to go, and to live there would be beyond my wildest dreams.

And then, a month later, I met Chris.
There were prayers and prayers and prayers.
And in the end, my choice was no choice at all.
We married and began our life together.

I became a mother 3 years later.
And 2 and a half years after that, two more babies showed up on my doorstep.

I see people going to Europe, jetting off to exotic islands, and experiencing the beauty of the world, and I am happy for them, but my heart aches to do the same. It longs to see it all.

I first saw this shortly after Carly was born, and whenever I read it, it hits perfectly home in my heart:

You are the trip I did not take;
You are the pearls I cannot buy;
You are my blue Italian lake;
You are my piece of foreign sky.

Some day I will go to Europe.
Chris and I will make it one day, even if its when all our kids are grown and gone.
I'll see the sites, I'll soak up every drop of history and beauty, and I will love every second.

But I already know the most beautiful piece of Europe will not hold a candle to John's sloppy kisses, Quinn's sweet giggles, or Carly's brilliant words.

Just today John started taking shaky, unsteady first steps. You should see his face when he comes falling into my arms. You should see how thrilled he is. And my soul soars with every step he takes, every success he and his sisters make.

Motherhood is so incredibly hard.
But these little wild ones are my greatest adventure.
And here in a small townhouse in Michigan, where I spend my days cleaning and feeding and singing and reading and wiping tears and giving kisses, they are my piece of foreign sky.

Friday, May 10, 2013

at the beach.

It is not often that I break out my big camera. 
The ease of the iPhone wins out on almost every occasion.
But yesterday we went to the beach, and I broke her out.
More on our trip to come, but I couldn't help but share an outrageous number of pictures.

It was a beautiful day at Lake Michigan.
It was hazy, and the sky and water blended so perfectly, you couldn't tell where one ended and the other began.
And I've never seen anyone love anything as much as John loved the beach.