Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Snapshot: Thanksgiving Edition

I love Thanksgiving.  It's such a wonderful holiday, perfectly placed between Halloween and Christmas.  The buildup to Halloween with all the costumes and decorations lasted the entire month of October.  And then post Halloween, we're stuck with a mountain of candy that we don't want the little ones eating for days on end.  As much as I love Christmas, the commercialism surrounding it these days is insane.  The emails about pre-pre-Black Friday shopping started at least two weeks ago, and we will continue to be bombarded with all these great "deals" until the last possible minute.  There is a lot I love about Christmas, like our simple Christmas traditions, but I'll save those for a later post.

I spent my 15th Thanksgiving with Jim's family this year!  I was 20 years old when I first started going to Villanova for Thanksgiving with Jim, back when we had just started dating in college.  Now, we show up with four little ones of our own, and while the dynamics of the day have certainly changed, the day is still a day about family.  There are no presents or costumes.  There is nothing materialistic about it.  There are grandparents and aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters and cousins (lots of them...12 little cousins, ranging from 8 years old to not even 3 months old).  For the last 9 years, someone has been pregnant at Thanksgiving, and this year was no exception.  Sarah is due to have baby #2 on March 18--Hannah's birthday.  The cousins adore being together.  Lilly (6 years old) talks about how much she loves AJ (8) and Lauren (7) daily.  Jack (4) and Paul (almost 5) are starting to be buddies.  Hannah (2) keeps telling us that she's "in love with Brookie (1) and Meredif (3) and Julia (almost 2)"...the group of little girl cousins so close in age that it's going to be hard to tell them apart down the road.

This year, we went up to Sarah and Ross' house in Marshfield, MA and as hard as it is to change traditions, at the end of the day, everyone loved being together.  Who you are with is much more important than where you are, especially when you're with people that you love.  The food was delicious, the beer, wine, mimosas, bloody mary's, pomegranate martinis, (insert any drink name here...) were free flowing.  We got to meet our newest nephews, Luke and Will who are just three months old but growing like champions.  Funny to think that next Thanksgiving, Eliza and these two little boys will be running around!

Here is our week in photos.
Lilly's 1/4 mile Turkey Trot at school

...and they first grade girls are off!  
Eliza, post Turkey Trot.
Lilly and Ashley after their race.
Jack's Thanksgiving Feast at school.
Jack studying the map of Scotland on a postcard from Gigi and Papa.
Checking out the Thanksgiving Table in Marshfield. 
Aunt Christine and Eliza. 
Hanging out outside enjoying the beautiful Thanksgiving weather.

The boys. 
Chatting with Meme and Pop
6 napping cousins.  A Thanksgiving miracle. 
At Jungle Jakes, so the "little ones" can play!
Eliza was well looked after by Hannah and Julia.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation was enjoyed by all!
Heading home, rolls in hand. 
Ready for another week :)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Monday Moments

Week 2!  Here we go.  This week:
  • Jack and Lilly were having one of their conversations about how one day everyone will be dead.  They're such lighthearted, fleeting conversations, often sandwiched between a game of "family" and some sort of art project.  In this conversation, Jack decided to chime in with, "Remember, Lilly, Father Sam said we're all going to be dead with Jesus one day.  Jesus and Elvis are already dead.  And we'll be dead too."  Lilly agreed, and then they continued building their lego house.  
  • Since I mentioned Father Sam, I should probably mention how much our children love church.  I mean, we count down to Sunday every week.  On Saturday night, when Jim tucked Jack into bed, Jack said, "Don't forget to remind me to go to church tomorrow, Dad."  Highlights of church include singing (and clapping) "Gloria", seeing Father Sam (who really is a wonderful priest) and eating munchkins with friends after church.  Lilly has even asked to join the children's choir.  Practices start next Thursday--I'm not sure we're quite ready for this.
  • Eliza changes by leaps and bounds every week.  As she approaches the most adorable age of six months old, she has started playing with her hair!  She twirls it between her fingers while I'm feeding her and when she's tired or while resting her head on my shoulder (which is another aspect of this age that I adore).  
  • Hannah is very opinionated.  All of our children are, but Hannah is especially.  This is something that we have known for awhile.  The best part of Hannah asserting her opinions is that she is still only two and a half, so some of her expressions have not been perfected yet.  For example, she likes to tell Jack, "I mam in charge, Jack."  They've all said "I mam" for I am. I'm not sure when it changes, but I love when Hannah asserts herself with a forceful, "No Mom, I mam bringing my blankie downstairs."
  • And lastly, this week, Lilly got off the bus on Thursday chatting away as usual.  Little snippets of her day come out in conversation all afternoon and evening.  Thursday afternoon's chatter went something along the lines of: 
Lilly: Mom, did you know that when you stick up your middle finger, it means a bad word?
Me: I had to look the other way and bite my lip before answering, Yes, Lil...I did know that.
Lilly: Well, I'm just trying to figure out what bad word it means, and I keep asking the boys at school but they won't tell me, because they say I'm a teller.  And I mean, I know I'm a teller at home, but I'm really not at school so I don't understand why they won't tell me.
Lilly continued chatting away, talking about what she made for her American Girl Doll that day after school and how excited she was for game night (their homework every Thursday is to play a game) and the middle finger conversation hasn't come up since, but I'm sure that's not the last I'm going to hear of that.  And this is only first grade.
This is what happens when I try to feed Eliza with anyone else in the room.  She hears a little voice and loses interest. But there's nothing like seeing her face light up when she sees a big brother or sister.  The older ones certainly love this little one too.    
This pretty much sums up our life at the moment.  

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sunday Snapshot

I want to try something.  I find it hard to sit down and write all I want to write during the week.  So, I've decided to keep a list on my phone of little snippets of my week--things that make me stop and smile; milestones; really just little insights into everyday life at the moment.  I'm not going to put pressure on myself to write too much about each moment, but I am going to write them down.  Every week.  I'm thinking I'll call it a Sunday Snapshot.  I may change it to Friday Favorites; or Saturday Snippets; or Monday Musings. I know Dad will have something creative, so the name may change.  But for today, it's a Sunday Snapshot (published on a Monday)!   

Clark Sunday Snapshot #1.  
  • Hannah is such a little character, with extremely strong opinions.  One of my favorite things that she does (and has done for months now) is whenever Jim or I pick her up, she pats our backs--just like Jim and I used to do to her when she was a baby.  It doesn't matter whether she's happy or furious.  She can't help it.  So the other day, I picked her up to take her upstairs for a nap, which she was less than thrilled about, and she still couldn't help herself; one of her little hands patted me on the back.  She catches herself when she's angry and doesn't want to do it, but she always gives at least a couple of pats before she realizes what she is doing.
  • Eliza is in one of my absolute favorite baby stages: the toe eating stage.  As the picture on my last blog shows, she eats her toes everywhere.  In her crib, her carseat, the bath, her bouncy chair... and she just sucks away!  Every time I see her do this, I have to stop and watch.  It's just the best.
  • This is one of my favorite recent stories.  A few weeks ago, Lilly brought home a little box from school.  It was a Trick or Treat for UNICEF box.  Naturally, all the little ones wanted to know what it was for, so I was explaining to them how we can collect all our coins in it and the money will go to help children who need it; children who don't have homes, for example.  Lilly was less than thrilled at the idea of taking money from her piggy bank to give to these children, and I understand that.  There is no way that could seem real to her; in her life all children have homes.  We talked more about it and I helped her understand through some photos how children in other parts of the world live, and how we could do a little bit to help.  Jack chimed in to our conversation, with his profound observation.  "Yes, Lilly...we have to help people like Uncle Joef and Auntie Ellie...they don't have homes either."  I caught myself from bursting out laughing, and then calmly explained that they both do in fact have homes.  They don't live on the train or at the train station, and that New York City has lots of homes.  Jack would like to visit them, just to be sure.
  • Every day at around 10am, Hannah asks for a snack.  Whether we're home or out and about, in Hannah's world, it is snack time.  So, if you're with us around 10am, you'll most likely hear, "Mum, can I please have a granoga bar?" Yes, granoga bars.  They're a staple in our house, and in most houses, although most people refer to them as granola bars.
  • Our bus stop is so full of life in the mornings.  All the little ones love going and waiting for bus; the big boys throw footballs around; the little boys drive matchbox cars down the driveways;  the girls talk about what they brought for snack, what's for lunch and chat about their shoes, coats, (insert any article of clothing here).  A hot topic of conversation is always the instruments that the older children bring with them to school.  Starting in 3rd grade, you can play an instrument.  Lilly ran up to me the other morning at the bus stop and announced that when she's in third grade, she would like to play the gorgonzola, like Lauren.  Lauren in fact, plays the viola.  But in our house, it's now known as a gorgonzola.    
  • Saturday was all about leaves.  I'll let the pictures do the talking for this one.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Last Times

I started this blog weeks ago, and re read it today and decided to finish and post it even though it's a bit outdated.  Such is life for me these days!

Today marks the first day of fall.  It was a beautiful, sunny 80 degree day.  School is in full swing and the days of summer vacation feel like ages ago.  We're starting to get used to our new morning routine.  Lilly gets on the school bus right in front of our house every morning at 8:32 and gets home in the afternoon at 3:45.  It's a long time to not have Lilly at home; I miss my little chatterbox and even after two weeks, all it takes is a baby photo of her to pop up on the computer for me to get teary eyed.  Jack if off at school from 9-12, which he just loves.  As soon as Lilly's bus pulls away, Jack grabs my hand and tells me that it's time to take him to school.  He still loves his maps and land and water forms, but is branching out and enjoying painting, cutting work, tracing shapes and has started coming home with lots of letter practice.  He gets to stay one day a week for lunch and taekwondo.  As he was carrying his backpack and lunchbox out the door on Monday, he turned to Hannah and said, "Bye Hannah.  You're probably going to miss me because I'm getting bigger so I get to have lunch at school sometimes..."  He was so proud and I could do nothing but smile.  Hannah is 2 going on 16.  Yesterday morning, when everyone was getting ready to walk Lilly out to the bus stop, Hannah stopped and turned to me and said, "Mom, when am I going to be 6?  It's taking forever and forever and forever."  She's dying to get on that bus with Lilly, while also not wanting to leave my side.  Eliza, at 15 weeks old, is smiling and laughing and sucking on her hands or her toes given any opportunity.  She sits in her bouncy chair in the morning, watching everyone have breakfast and get ready for school, kicking her legs and bouncing away.

In what little quiet time I have, I find myself torn between wanting certain phases of our daily life to pass, and trying to slow time down.  Then, this little voice in my head (usually Mum or Dad's) tells me that this is something I have no control over; I can't force a phase to pass or make time stop, so I take a step back and just try to be present.  Our daily life is busy; especially since the months since Eliza's arrival.  Being present and not trying to think of the 1449857839 things that are on my never-ending to do list is not always easy, but I remind myself as often as I can to just enjoy my days.

I love being a mum.  The hardest part for me is letting go.  I have to stop myself often from looking at Eliza and thinking, What if this is the last time I have a squishy little baby who spends her mornings sucking on her toes?  What if this is the last time I get to lie in bed and nurse a gorgeous baby who often stops eating to look up and smile at me?  What if I'm putting away all these tiny little baby clothes for the last time?  It's easy to see how I could get carried away.  More often than not, I never know when that last time is going to be.  I didn't know exactly the last time I swaddled Eliza; or when the last time was that I unwrapped her from her swaddle and watched one of those mega stretches where she uses her whole body.  I didn't know she was sleeping in her bassinet for the last time (the bassinet that Lilly, Jack and Hannah slept in as well).  I didn't know exactly when Lilly stopped saying "Wiwwy" or Jack stopped calling Lilly "Lala."  These were all just natural transitions that happened when the time was right.  I have to believe things happen this way for a reason.  If I let them, my days would be filled with so many last times, and as a busy mom with lots of postpartum hormones, the tears could be free flowing.

To keep myself from going crazy, I look ahead at all I have to look forward to.  I am often in awe at the little girl Lilly has grown into, and can't believe that one day, all four of these little ones will be school age.  While it's sad, it's also exciting.  I'm excited for a day when we can all sit down and play a board game by the fire without someone getting upset about not winning while someone else runs off with game pieces while I'm bouncing a crying baby in the bouncy chair next to me.  It will be fun to snuggle up on a cold weekend with a good book on the couch, while the little ones are all doing the same.  It will be fun to go on road trips and have animated discussions at the dinner table.  I can't wait to see where these four little people, who I love so much, will go in life.  I know that there is so much to look forward to, and that is what makes it easier to let go of so many last times.