Wednesday, February 19, 2014

four and a half year old Carly.

Carly reached four and a half on the tenth. Honestly, its been the longest winter in history, so her birthday feels like ages ago. There is a lot to remember about four-and-a-half-year-old Carly, so let's just dive right in.

Carly has always asked a lot of questions, and lately they are getting more intense. She is really trying to get to the bottom of things. One Sunday it was pretty clear she had learned about the Plan of Salvation. She was talking about Lucifer and how he wanted to take away our choices and how he wanted to be in charge. So we talked about how Jesus wanted us to keep our right to make choices, and that is why it is important to make good choices. She went on and on, and it was bedtime, so we told her it was time for bedtime prayers. "But I want to keep talking about Lucifer!" she whined. Never expected my daughter to say that! She's also particularly interested in our spirits, what they look like, if you can touch them, where they go when we die and get resurrected. "I thought my spirit was just like a tiny circle inside of me," she said. She looked amazed to hear that her spirit looked just like her. We've had some wonderful conversations.

The flip side of this is song lyrics. Normal people just listen to music, Carly listens to the words and wants to understand the story. It makes me extra conscious of the music I listen to, that is for sure. A break-up country song came on the radio: "Why are they sad?" she asked. "Because they have to say goodbye, and they won't see each other for a long time," I answered, dancing around the notion of a romantic break-up. "Well, they could always FaceTime," she answered. Ha! We like to listen to Les Mis songs too (the babies love them, they break out into a round of applause after each song), and she is constantly asking who is singing to who and what is going on. I find myself trying to turn a very adult tale into a child friendly story: "Well, Marius and Cosette love each other, and Eponine is their . . . friend. And the school boys are fighting . . . and the daddy wants to keep Cosette safe . . . and the police man thought the daddy was bad but he's really not."  During Javier's Suicide, she said "This sounds sad.What is happening?" Serenity now.

Other lines of questioning involve what in this life is real and what is pretend (I may have told her mermaids are "kind of real" . . . I couldn't crush that one) and how babies get out of mommies ("Mommies have a special hole where babies come out." "Is it in your back?" "Kind of."). Needless to say, I feel like I am explaining things, hard things, all day long. But moms are supposed to be fountains of knowledge, right?

Carly is what I like to call a "type-A queen bee." This can be good at times. She is, for the most part, great with John and Quinn. They adore her, and she is good at organizing how they play and caring for them when they need help. She is an amazingly fun big sister. But this also means she's got the biggest pair of bossy pants you've ever seen. I'm pretty sure she thinks she holds the same position as me in the home, except I have to do all the cleaning. One day she asked, "If a big girl has a baby brother and baby sister, does that mean she is the boss of them?" Just hypothetically speaking, of course. I laughed and told her, "Nope, that just means she has to be helpful and play nicely with them." She wasn't thrilled with my answer.  

Carly loves board and card games. We broke out the old Uno cards and now it is one of our favorite activities during naptime. It has been interesting to watch her figure it out. At first she would use a wild and pick any color she wanted, but I've been watching her become more strategic, use certain cards at certain times. I try to play fair and square so sometimes she wins and sometimes I win, but lately she has been genuinely beating me when I am trying to win. It is impressive. We also love Sorry, Hi-Ho Cherrio, Go Fish, and Guess Who.

[cavegirl Carly]

Carly also loves playing pretend. She loves dressing up and acting things out, though that type-A personality can get pushy and she often tries to control exactly what her playmates are doing. We got her Frozen toys for Christmas, and she would much rather be Elsa and act stories out herself than play with the dolls. She also likes pretending to be a caveman, a veterinarian, and a pirate looking for treasure.

Carly doesn't like the crust on her sandwiches. How does one suddenly figure that out? She likes to wear shorts and short sleeves at home, with the understanding that she has to put pants on when we leave the house. As she has been since the day she was born, she is terribly impatient. I know all kids are, but she asks for "a really really cold drink of water" and you don't even have time to respond before she starts with "mom mom mom mom." We need to work on it, but I'm not sure how. She still really likes school, and has made some really sweet friends. The other day I was picking her up and found her huddled with two other little girls giggling. Not sure when she turned 10.

Speaking of school, the fate of Carly's entire growing-up years is resting on my shoulders right now and it is stressing me out. (A bit melodramatic, perhaps?) But for reals, Carly is an August birthday (DON'T have a kid in August), and I have been wrestling with what to do in terms of Kindergarten. According to the cut-off date in Pullman, Carly is old enough to go to Kindergarten by 21 days. If we put her in this year, she would be barely 5, she wouldn't turn 16 (driving and dating) until her junior year, and she would turn 18 right when she started college (the single perk I can think to this is she could get a whole year of college before going on a mission. haha!). Now, it is tempting to think to just focus on right now, but you can't as a parent. You have to think of the big picture. But even considering Carly right now, I'm not sure she's ready. Well, she is ready for Kindergarten, but then 1st grade? A few weeks ago, we walked out of Carly's school and she looked sad. I asked her what was wrong: "We were supposed to find all the lower case letters, but I could only find the big ones," she told me sadly. Another time she sadly informed me, "All the other kids' letters look better than mine." The kids in her class are mostly 5 and soon to turn 5. She is a smart smart girl. She is really bright. She picks things up quickly. But she's a year to a half a year younger than her classmates. Of course she isn't going to be where they are. I have heard endless anecdotes. Pretty much nobody waiting a year has regretted it. Many people put them in young and they do fine. I've also heard of putting them in young, and the kids struggle for a few years but then catch up. I guess I just feel why not wait? Why not give her every advantage? I am inclined to do just that, but the great predicament is making the year of waiting worthwhile and productive. I've been trying to look into preschools long distance. A few I found said they couldn't be 5 yet. Another tough thing is Pullman Kindergarten is half-day, and I honestly think Carly would adore half-day Kindergarten. It is full-day in Michigan, and if we were staying here there would be no question. But being removed from Pullman and the idea of half-day Kindergarten (for free!) has made the whole thing harder. And I know it is totally dependent on the kid and the situation, but I am hoping the perfect situation turns up for her. I know she will be successful regardless, because she is just that fabulous. I just want to do everything right by her. We'll be seeking some divine guidance on this one, though if God were imperfect He would surely be weary of my prayers concerning our move.

Carly has a heart of gold. She always has. She reads stories to the babies, she wrestles John, she tenderly plays with Quinn (the perk of twin sibs is you get the rough-house brother AND the princess sister). She loves her daddy. Those two have a special relationship and they always have, since she was a newborn and he was the only one who could calm her down. She is sweet. We were watching Olympic cross-country skiing the other day, and a racer fell just before the finish line in the front pack. We watched the winners celebrate, then she says, "But I just feel so bad for the man that fell."

Carly is such a kid these days, I can't believe she was once my tiny baby and once my chatty toddler. She has brought so much joy these four and a half years. I'm so glad she was sent to us.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

love day.

In keeping with my year of simplicity, we kept Valentine's pretty low key this year. Last year it was quite the event, and I think it is easy for me to get carried away. This year I pretty much just completely avoided Pinterest. On Wednesday we enjoyed our annual Valentine's cookie decorating playgroup. On Thursday Carly had her school party. They sang a cute little song about love and had food and played Bingo. She has a sweet little friend (who is a boy) who always gives her big hugs and says "I'll miss you!" when I pick her up from school. We were putting her Valentines together and she said "J* loves me." I paused. "He loves you?" "Yeah, he likes to play with me a lot." Ok, 4-year-old friendship love I can appreciate. "Good," I told her, "It is fun to have nice friends." That afternoon we made a super sugary Valentine treat mix and watched a movie (Carly's first Redbox: "That's pretty cool how it just makes the movie!").

[What a perk to be born with a built-in Valentine.]

Valentine's Day arrived. The kids woke up to new books, and we indulged on Nutella strawberry pancakes (but don't you worry, the kids' were whole wheat). We played in the snow and painted and played in our basement playroom. A sweet and fun and very normal day. We enjoyed a fancy dinner of Cottage Inn pizza on paper plates in the candlelight. We kissed our sweet Valentines goodnight, and ate Dairy Dan's ice cream and watched the Walking Dead (so romantic!). It was a most lovely day.

Chris and I have never been real Valentine's people. We prefer to celebrate our anniversary, a day special and unique to us and without the insane crowds. But, like every holiday, Valentine's sure can be fun with kids. We had a Family Home Evening where we wrote things we love about each other on hearts. It is sweet to see my kids love for each other, and I hope they always see the love between me and their daddy. Because even though we aren't Valentine's people, I sure do love my man. Nearly 8 years later, I still feel a thrill when he walks in the door (and not because it means I have someone to help with the kids, though that is nice too). 

Somehow, a tradition of photo Valentines to our families has stuck. This year's idea was my brain child, and I dare say it turned out pretty cute. Though, the bloopers are my favorite. I kid you not, I took exactly one picture of John by himself. He sat down, held his list up perfectly, and gave the most adorable smile. In the end I realized I wouldn't get all three of them holding their lists and smiling, so yay for picture collages.

The final product:

I certainly love my four people.
It was a sweet and simple celebration.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

a weekend away.

On Thursday after Carly's school, Chris took the kids to his parent's house. We were planning on going down there as his mom had several people who could participate in his dissertation study. Then he suggested, "Why don't I just take the kids, and you stay here?" Being a mom is hard. Being a mom with a busy husband, who will only getting busier this year, is hard. Being a mom during this particular Michigan winter is downright awful. Not to mention the long list of things that I could get done, pre pre-move projects. So that is what we did. I was so worried about his drive. My kids have a tendency to be little tyrants on road trips. But, naturally, they were angels for him.

[Playing the the snow in Indiana.]

So I have spent the long weekend by myself. On Thursday I spent a long afternoon at the gym, watched some tv, and spent 3 hours at Red Robin with wonderful friends. It was my little vacation. Friday I got to work. My main project was our wreck of a basement, and I spent 10 hours down there, like a creature in the black lagoon. I went through every storage bin, every box. I ended up taking 6 boxes of who-knows-what to Goodwill, and reducing our stored kids clothes from 5 bins to 2. It was literally a back breaking project, and I have a feeling I'll have to do something like it again when it is time to pack up, but it felt good. And the basement is so clean and open now. I keep going down there just to look. Saturday was spent purging closets, doing ridiculous amounts of laundry, and doing our taxes. Throughout the weekend I also watched a whole lot of Bomb Girls, ate a few too many bowls of ice cream, made the most divine fish tacos, and got emotionally invested in the Olympics. I have to admit, the days have gone by incredibly fast.

I learned a few things about not having kids. When you clean something, it stays clean. Like, I walked into the living room and no one had ripped all the books and toys off the shelves and spread them over every inch of the floor. When you need to go somewhere, you just go. You put on your coat and it takes 45 seconds instead of 45 minutes. You don't have to put on 6 pairs of boots (because even though I only have three kids you know those boots don't stay on the first go-around). You don't have to worry about who went potty when or who might need a snack or how long until meltdown hour. You just go and it takes 15 seconds to get to the car and 20 minutes inside the store. What a bizarrely glorious thing. I remembered the sound of silence. I'm talking complete silence. What has stuck me more than anything is just how very quiet life can be. Sometimes I reveled in it. But as someone who is accustomed to noise, it often gave me the heebie jeebies, and I kept music or the tv on. I often feel like life is noise and chaos. But it is them that is the noise and chaos.

[Going to space, naturally.]

I needed the break. I needed a little calm. I needed to therapeutically clean, and my home sure needed to be therapeutically cleaned. But the Lord chooses unexpected times to send us messages, and what I learned more clearly than anything else this weekend was just how much I love being Mom. Lately I have been feeling like I'm not enough. It seems as though everyone does something else, something other than being "just a mom". This world is filled with incredibly talented women, and it is so wonderful they can share their talents. But me? I'm just a mom. This weekend reminded me I'm not "just a mom", I am Mom. I have never once thought of my mother as "just a mom", because she was Mom, and she was the steadiness in my world growing up. And while I don't excel at much, most of the time I'm a pretty darn good mom. And I love spending my days with my messy, loud, beautiful, funny little tyrants.

I can't wait to have them home. I need the squeals and giggles and screams. I need to slip on books and step painfully on trucks and princesses. I need bouncing smiles in the morning and I need to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star every night before bed. Because while every life is different, these things make my life exactly what it is supposed to be.