Thursday, September 26, 2013

picking apples.

We went to our favorite place to pick our favorite apples to celebrate our favorite season.

The day before autumn equinox, we headed to the apple orchard. 
There were cider slushies, hot dogs, and too many pumpkin donuts.
There was a hayride, missed by a daddy and a certain little boy who needed a change and ended up without any pants.
There were animals to squeal over and pumpkins to pick.
There were honeycrisp apples to be picked. It was the first time we've been allowed to pick them. They are so coveted, the orchard usually doesn't allow you to u-pick. But that day they did. And we filled our bag until it was spilling over. And everyone ate as we picked for good measure. (Honeycrisp apples . . . reason #67 I can't bare to think of leaving the Mitten.)

It is crazy to think of our years coming to this place. I remember the year I was newly pregnant with the twins. After an August meant to be forgotten, I finally felt human again once I found the right medication in September. We went to the orchard and life felt repaired. Now here we are two years later, the twins I didn't know about yet walking up and down the rows, eating apples strait through the core, carrying them like teddy bears, chowing doughnuts like they are going out of style. Life has a particular was of changing so much while somehow staying the same. They looked so much like little Carly did during our first visits to the orchard.

Speaking of our firstborn. How much she has grown.

I love Michigan and I love fall and I love apples, but what I really really love is family time. I love escaping everything for just a little bit, to be together. I love family traditions, things we can look back on and remember, things that our kids will cherish.

And I love these apple-eating, cider-guzzling, pants-messing, crazy humans. 

One of my favorite quotes reads, 

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."

Every year as I soak in all that is fall, I can't help but feel that is more than a little true.

Welcome, autumn.
We're glad you've arrived.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

wake me up when september ends.

So, September came and so did all the crazy. Dissertation is up in full swing, job applications are piling up, a half marathon is being trained for, school is being attended, homework forgotten, and soccer practice loved. I don't know how things picked up so fast, but they sure did.

Chris's dissertation proposal is at the end of  October (I told him to wear a Halloween costume but apparently that's not professional. whatevs), meaning a lot of writing and approval has to happen before that. He has also begun applying for jobs. We have a lovely poster board hanging on our kitchen wall, and when the application gets finished, he gets a sticker (you think I'm joking . . . ). It is a stressful thing. We stay up too many night studying up on cities facts, research interests, church presence, and temple proximity. It is a hard balance between being too picky and not picky enough. The applications take a lot of time. But the jobs don't come out all at once. Pass on applying for this job and hope for a better one? We're at 4 now. Who knows how many we'll end up with. We are praying for a lot of interest, and a lot of options. This is our first rodeo, and we have no idea how to hold on to the bull.

I've been training for a half marathon for approximately 17 years, I swear. Its a long story, and I'll tell it some day because I know you are sitting on the edge of your seats to hear it. But I love it and I hate it and I can't wait for the race even though I'm going to puke from nerves and I'll be so sad when its all over. It has 1) taken up way more time than I expected, b) been way more emotional and mental than I expected, and c) been more fulfilling than I expected. But what is life if not spent working toward a goal once thought unreachable?

Carly is amazing and totally insane. Chris says she gets it from her mother. She seems to be doing great is school. Her first ever "homework" assignment was to turn a blank paper human shape into "Carly". I totally forgot about it until bathtime the night before it was due. #numberonemom So we did it instead of bedtime stories. We glued buttons for the eyes and yarn for the hair and she painted a rainbow dress. Paper Carly was adorable. Real Carly didn't want to turn her in, and neither did real mommy. Carly also really loves soccer. She is way more excited about it than school as this point. But school is harder, and mom isn't there cheering her on. I love love love watching her. But I love our "off days", our M/W/F with no school and no soccer where things are like they used to be. She's not all the way grown up yet and I'm sure grateful for that. She is the so great.

Quinn is the best human ever created. And I know I'm biased, but at the same time we've created 3 and Quinn really is the best. She is so funny. She is becoming quite the little mischievous bully, and you'd never guess it because she has the sweetest smile and voice ever in the history of forever. The other day I watched her: sitting next to John, she slowing moved her hand toward his ear, and pulled on it. He swatted it away. Repeat over and over until John freaked and screamed like "Leave my ear alone!" And Q was smiling and laughing like it was hilarious. Because it was it was so dang hilarious. She makes the best "oink" ever and her hair grows straight down into her eyes so she looks at you from under it, or blows it up with her mouth. She loves her blankie and sleeps with a little Book of Mormon on occasion. And if I had one wish it would be that Q stay exactly how she is right now forever.

John is a mess of a human being. He likes sticks and balls and getting dirty and screaming all the dang time. The other day the girls were having a tea party and Q was there in her tutu and carrying a purse and John came up and threw a soccer ball on the table, knocking all the dishes. That sums up John. He is a punk and all boy and so dang cute you want to bite his head off. He says "bye bye" and "night night" and waves when he is tired. And he LOVES Carly's soccer about as much as she does. He follows the big kids around, dribbling and doing throw-ins and sitting in the huddle. The coach is good about it, because I can't keep him away. It is insanely cute. But if you do anything, one single thing, he doesn't approve of, he screams like you chopped his hand off. He cray cray.

Fall is hands down the best time to be in Michigan. There are apples to be picked, pumpkins to be chosen, leaves to be admired, cider to be guzzled. My heart is aching that it is our final Fall in this beautiful place. I want time to slow down, and late September and October last forever.

Love this beautiful mess we're living.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

growing up.

Big kid school.
I signed Carly up for "big kid school" in June. And we've been talking about it and preparing for it all summer. I told her she could go when she turned 4, and it was 3 LONG weeks after her birthday that it finally started.

Carly is going to preschool twice a week in the mornings. I think it will be just enough, without being too much, and still allowing for a lot of casual family time. It is at an elementary school, which gives it a real "big kid school" feel. We've been excited.

In the days leading up to her first day, all my motherly emotions came to the surface. Lately she has been having some behavior problems, talking rude, throwing massive tantrums, being moody. We are working through it, but I worried about her behavior at school (though she has continued to be perfect at church). I worried about her making friends. She is wonderful, but she is a type-A big sister to twins (aka: bossy), and that can turn other kids off. And she gets frustrated when people don't do what she says. She has so much light in her; I just wanted desperately for that to shine rather than some recent struggles.

The night before her first day, we had a special back-to-school family home evening. We talked about respecting her teacher, we talked about being kind to friends, we talked about making good choices, we talked about having fun. Then she received a tender priesthood blessing from her daddy, her first back-to-school blessing. She was happy, and my mom reminded me to not worry, just be excited. So I was.

The morning of the first day, she put on the outfit she picked out and we even used a curling iron on her hair. She was so excited as we headed out the door. Then we arrived at the school, and I think this is when it hit her. I think she finally understood that I was going to leave her there. I looked back at her and her eyes brimmed with tears: "But I just want to stay at home with my family." My already heavy heart spilled. I'm sure my cracking voice was a real confidence builder for her (#momwin). I told her she was going to have fun, it was going to be so great. I finally convinced her to "just try it, and if you don't like it, you don't have to stay."

[a friend from church is in her class. so fun.]

We got inside and she got her name tag and she looked completely nervous and unsure. Other parents were just headed right out, but Carly wanted me to stay. Finally it was time for them to head to the classroom. Carly waved, trying to be brave, but lost it. She cried for me to stay, to not leave her. And I lost it too. I told her she would have so much fun. I kissed her hand (dang Kissing Hand book), and I promised I would be back, I always come back. She clung to my hand. Her teacher had obviously done this before, and gently took her hand and tried to strike up a conversation. Carly cried out for me, but I rushed out the door. My heart hurt for her.

I returned home and worried incessantly about her until it was time to pick her up. When I did, she was all smiles. "You came back!" she said. I told her I always always do. Everything seemed fine and dandy.

We arrived home because I need to grab something, but I pitched the idea of a celebratory lunch at Old McDonald's. And I don't know what happened. In hindsight, I think it was the combination of so much emotional stress and excitement all in one morning. I think it was a lot for her little, high-intensity system to handle. But she completely lost it. What followed was an hour and a half long out-of-control tantrum, that started in the car, continued in her bedroom, and wrapped up in the basement because the babies had to nap. Carly has thrown some whoppers in her life, but I've never heard or seen her react this way to anything. During this hour and half, I questioned every decision I've made as a mother. I felt like I was doing nothing right. Maybe she wasn't ready for school. Maybe it is too much. Maybe it is not enough? Maybe this, maybe that. When she finally came around (trust me, I tried to stop it, but there was nothing that could be done, and when that is the case, I just let her do her thing in a room that isn't occupied), I was defeated. She cheered up, and we spent the next day very pleasantly at the park, but my anxiety spiked. I was worn.

I prayed hard for her. I prayed for her to be strong and patient and capable. She is a truly brilliant and shiny girl. I prayed for her to be that brilliant and shiny girl.

Today, we got up and ready for school. She was happy. She was excited. Chris dropped her off and reported that we was perfectly fine. After school I picked her up and we played outside for a while. I asked her questions and got very few answers about her day. But as the day wore on, she told me more and more about school. I love hearing about it from her view. I love that she is experiencing things that I don't witness, and she can tell me about it later. I could tell as she talked, that she was owning it, that it was becoming hers. That is exactly what I wanted for her. She was brave. She tackled it. And I think she is going to have a great year.


Tonight was another beginning.
Carly started soccer. I was so excited to sign her up. I grew up playing soccer, and just loved it. Carly was a bit washy in her excitement, and kept asking when she could do ballet. Then the mommy guilt came flowing. I put her in soccer because I wanted her to play soccer. I loved soccer and didn't love ballet. You get to run around and score goals in soccer! You get to be outside and wear cleats and be on a team. I was biased. But I felt she would love it given the chance.

We got her some cleats, and she picked out some sparkly silver shoelaces to spice them up. She also picked out the socks with hot pink stripes. Like most things in life, Carly is tackling soccer with a certain amount of flare.

Her first practice was tonight. Her coach is fun and peppy. Her team sat out in a little huddle before and after practice and I felt like it was about two weeks ago I was at my own soccer practice, standing in my own huddle. My, how time flies. She has two friends from our ward on her team, which will be so fun. It was a beautiful evening. And Carly just loved it. She had pretty good ball handling skills, but when she was supposed to be going around the cones, she just dribbled all over the field. She was intense, and adorable. After practice she didn't want to leave, and we stayed and played as a family for a while. When we got home, Carly said, "I wish I had my soccer game every night."

School is cool.
Soccer is fun.
It is going to be a fabulous fall.
Though I'm not sure when we became the parents with school and soccer practice to schedule around.
It is a bizarre feeling.

This week was a tough one. So much anxiety, so much changing, so much growing up. On Tuesday night, I went to bed feeling a bit overwhelmed and hopeless, praying everything would fall into place. Tonight I'm all smiles. I'm so proud of Carly and so excited to watch her tackle hard thing after hard thing, because she really is so strong.

But this week was another swift kick in the figurative parenthood gut. It was a reminder that parenthood never gets "easier". You tackle one phase, and then another begins. You "start over" over and over again. And for the rest of my life, there will not be a day where I'm not worried about, praying for, celebrating, or encouraging one of my kids. My poor mother gets insane stressed text messages from her daughter all the time. Kids just never leave you alone.

But then you have victories.
Today was a victory. The image of her running excitedly out of school with her backpack bouncing, and the sight of her chasing after a soccer ball in a sunshine-bathed field, those are the payments for the hard parts. And they are worth every second.