And Then She Was Four…

LuluisFour-15I swear she was just four months old…

LuluisFourFour years?

That’s high school.

That’s college.

And somehow, that’s her whole life…

Certainly worth celebrating.LuluisFour-3Balloon drop!LuluisFour-4LuluisFour-5The kids got to chase Andy, the mean dragon, around the house, squirting him with water.LuluisFour-6

There are so many parts of her personality right now that I want to remember.

With Monica as her example, she often acts far older than her years, and I admit, I often expect more out of her than I should. When push comes to shove, tears and fits and time outs are usually involved. But her favorite and best way of calming down is to just crawl into someone’s lap. She’s been like that for as long as I can remember.

“Remember,” I would tell Andy, holding one year old Lu, “Sometimes she just needs a lap.”

LuluisFour-11LuluisFour-8

Her care for babies astounds me. Real or fictitious. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but if there is a baby in the room, you cannot pull her away. She stands attentively by the mom, reaching out to stroke baby’s head, wiggle baby’s toes, coo and soothe and pat, pat, pat. Friends often comment on how some day she’ll be a great babysitter. LuluisFour-9LuluisFour-7

I’m tempted to say, she’d be one now!

LuluisFour-10LuluisFour-12LuluisFour-13LuluisFour-14If you could see the way she cares for her favorite baby doll, I think you’d be shocked. The way she rocks and burps and dresses and feeds and sings…it’s as if she’s holding a real baby. It’s not uncommon for us to be chatting in the kitchen, and she’ll have her feet planted, baby on her shoulder, bouncing gently up and down, all the while discussing lunch or life or siblings. It’s like she’s another Mom in the room.

She talks about her day in terms of her babies: “My baby also loves carrots…She’s one year old and it’s her birthday today…He is going to the pool too…I have one baby in my belly and one that is two…My husband works, so I take care of my baby…She does not like to get dressed…My baby loves her bath…” Anything and everything comes back to her baby.LuluisFour-2Favorite gift? New clothes for her baby doll.

You can imagine the excitement in her eyes every time we discuss the arrival of her next sibling. Here is a video of both the girls, feeling their baby sister kick from a couple months back. Lulu’s face is my very, very favorite:

I understand that pretending to be a mom is not the same as actually being one (oh, boy, I understand!), and I try not to project into my children’s futures too much. But if she’s blessed to be a mom, and shows her real kiddos half the love, patience and attention she shows babies today, she’ll be a much better mom than I. And I say that in complete honesty, without a drop of exaggeration.LuluisFour-16LuluisFour-18

Other things to remember about four-year-old-Lulu:

  • She loves to smell things. Flowers. Food. If I have just put gum in my mouth or chewed chocolate chips, she will stop me mid-sentence, “Mama! What do you have in your mouth?” and then she’ll close her eyes, breathe deeply and smile as I gently exhale on her face. “Mmmm.”
  • I can’t get anything involving food past this kid. She can hear me opening a snack from the very farthest seat in the back of our van. If I mention the “S” word (snack) in the kitchen, she’ll hear me from her bedroom. Babies and food. Lulu’s motivators.
  • She’s a spider smasher. While Mo is a catch and release kinda gal, Lulu will often proudly show me the tissue with the squished remains of her latest find.
  • She dresses herself in mostly pinks and purples. And I take it as a genuine compliment when she says, “Mommy, I love your clothes today.” She knows.
  • She has a beyond-her-years sense of empathy. If I’m having a bad day, she will notice. She will ask if I’m ok. She will give me a hug. And then she’ll dust her room, because she knows that cleaning up “fills my bucket.” She is concerned when other people are sad, and is the first to bring Dom his blankie or favorite car if he is inconsolable. She delivers them with a gentle pat, pat on his back or runs her fingers through his hair, “It’s ok Dom Dom. You’re ok…”
  • Her hair is silky smooth and super soft, a completely different texture than her siblings or parents. And she has a lot of it! She’s always had great hair, and the sun is bleaching parts of it into a naturally beautiful body of highlights.
  • At the dinner table, she is always the first to ask how Andy’s day was. I love her understanding of what her favorite engineer does, “Did you do math and talk to people today Daddy?”

LuluisFour-17LuluBell,
These past four years have flown faster than I thought possible. So much has happened, and there’s still so much more to come. You remain, as always, our fire and ice. A perfect combination of my temper and your daddy’s compassion. You move through this world bringing smiles and laughter to everyone you meet, and the confidence and purposefulness in your stride, says “Look out world! Here I come.” Whoever you are in this life ahead, be it mother, sister, daughter, friend, coworker, boss, caregiver, wife…the limitless list… you will also forever be this lovely, endearing and caring little girl I see today.
Love you,
Today and always,
Mommy

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Mo Update

Well, we officially have a first grader:Mo6

and a 6 year old:Mo6-2Mo6-4living in our house now.

Leading the pack. Reading all the books.

Getting her hair cut (by Mama) so that she suddenly looks 16 instead of 6.Mo6-2-2Mo6-5

Also, she got a real purse and a real wallet for her birthday. So, her favorite thing to do is walk around the house wearing both saying, “I look like a teenager. I look 18. Teenagers have real purses and real money. I’m a teenager now, Mom.”

Blink, blink.

She doesn’t know how much I already feel that. Feel that time travel. It’s a bizarre sensation, to see your child’s life flash forward. One that is both exhilarating (She’ll be a teenager! She’ll be a grown up! She’ll make her own choices and go her own way!) and depressing (She’ll move away! She’ll tell her friends things instead of me! She’ll make hard choices…).

Mo6-3For now, purse and comments aside, I stick to the present. She’s six. She loves legos and books and giving me hugs. She wants to help me make dinner and pick flowers from the front yard. She encourages Lucia to write her letters and cuddles with Dom. She feels my belly kick and prays for her Baby Sister every day (yes! We’re having another girl! We get to raise Elder girls in triplicate, as Andy happily declared!).

She still doesn’t like intense parts of movies, especially when coupled with dramatic music (“Cover your eyes, Mo. This is scary!” warns Lulu). That’s in large part to her great auditory memory. She can hear a song once and sing it accurately a week later. She’s constantly getting smiles a Mass for her boisterous “Amen!s” and enthusiastic singing.Mo6-6

She’d rather release a spider than smash it, and she’s often overwhelmed by the breadth of knowledge in the world. She was recently brought to tears because she befriended a worm, then placed it next to some ants. The ants started to eat the worm, because, well: nature… and she sat there paralyzed and sobbing, “I didn’t know they would eat the worm! There’s so much I don’t know!” After I washed the worm off and returned it to a (different) dirt patch, I held her, stroking her head. We chatted about the circle of life, and how it’s ok to not know everything. And, yes, sometimes the things we don’t know hurt people or creatures. But that is why it’s important to keep learning and investigating.

She’s always talking about becoming a scientist, or a doctor, or a mom, or a teacher, or a (insert other adult job that touches her life). And I am humbled.

Humbled by her love of discovery, her confidence in the future, and her recognition of those areas of knowledge she lacks… I may be five times her age, but I think sometimes her wisdom (and definitely her compassion) far outrank my own. Mo6-7

Mo Bug,

Thank you for making me a mother. Thank you for loving me and teaching me how to love. Thank you for your help, for your hugs, for “Mommy, are you ok?” and all your other genuine questions. Five was great; I think six is going to be even better. You’re blazing the trail for the rest of this crazy brood, and I couldn’t be prouder of you.

Love you. So much.

Mommy

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Fatherly Love

In a world sometimes filled with fear and sadness, I have always felt loved and protected. Never once have I doubted that there was a man in my life who would go anywhere, do anything, sacrifice everything for love of me. Time FliesHow lucky am I?

The love from my Heavenly Father has sometimes seemed to wax and wane (my fault, not His), but the love from these corporeal men keep pointing me back to Him in a very tangible way. FatherlyLove-9FatherlyLoveFatherlyLove-5

On this Father’s Day, I am eternally grateful to these men. My fervent prayer is that everyone may have an example of this sacrificial love, especially my own children.FatherlyLove-7FatherlyLove-8FatherlyLove-3FatherlyLove-4

I love you guys. Happy Father’s Day.

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Quick Hike at Lake Tapps

Our Memorial Day weekend was filled to the brim with love. Mostly loving on friends and babies we hadn’t seen (or met yet!) that all live in the general vicinity of Seattle. It was a beautiful time of reconnection and celebration.

We had a couple hours between seeing the Roppos in Tacoma and celebrating a different family in Kirkland, so I googled a local place to explore.

“I found a lake. Wanna go?” I asked.

“Um…sure,” replied my always patient and good-natured husband. Being spontaneous with two grown ups? Whining and panic are usually kept at a minimum. Being spontaneous with 3 kids 5 and under (plus a hungry, pregnant wife)? I know it just spells D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R to him. But he puts up with my ideas, and even quells the inevitable melt-downs..I think it’s because he loves me…

Or he’s scared of hangry-preggo wife.

I like to think it’s the former (this is him digging up generations-old blueberry bushes for me because they were going to be bulldozed for a housing development, if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is).LakeTapps-16

Lake Tapps it was, a short drive away to our adventure, and only a small fee to get in.

“There’s not much for kids here. No playground or anything…It’s a great place to launch a boat or come on a sunny day for swimming,” said the glum gate keeper as we all looked up at the overcast skies and watched the proud flags whip in the wind.

“Let’s try it anyway! I’m sure we can find something!” I said, in my best chipper/desperate, we’re already here so we’re going to make it work kind of voice.

The kids did like exploring the waterfront a bit,LakeTappsLakeTapps-2LakeTapps-3

and an awesome hollowed out tree…LakeTapps-4LakeTapps-5

There wasn’t even any whining as noses turned pink and started to water. I “went to go get my phone to google something else to do” in the van, but mostly sat there a minute or five to warm up my cold fingers…

After they were done posing for a super cute album coverLakeTapps-6

a sheriff drove by and gave the kids Junior Sheriff stickers. Highlight of their day!

We then proceeded to avoid him as we drove the kids around the waterfront, not in their car seats (Gasp!) at 2 miles an hour. Second highlight of their day! That snails-paced 5 minutes reminded us that we didn’t really need to do much to make them giggle and laugh and have a good time.

However, we may have inadvertently taught them to avoid uniformed officers when doing something slightly illegal,

“MOM! I can see the sheriff! Everyone get down! Hide!”- Mo. Hysterical giggling from the back of the van.

Parenting win for the day… not.

I just happened to be looking out the window and spotted a trailhead. In the off chance that the trees would shield us from the cold, and with another hour we needed to kill before a barely acceptable lunch time of 11am, we parked and headed into the woods.

Photo dump time!

We proceeded boldly onto the trail and then stopped every 30 seconds to study all the enthralling wildlife this tiny piece of wilderness had to offer:

Slugs!LakeTapps-7LakeTapps-12LakeTapps-13

Centipedes!LakeTapps-14

Thimbleberry Flowers!LakeTapps-10

And lots of lots of green!LakeTapps-8LakeTapps-9

The hiking was easy, the kids were entertained, no one fell, got stung or was mauled by anything. The whining only started on our way back. A win in my book!LakeTapps-11

It does look like a beautiful place to be on a sunny summer day, and I’d say after our hike, picnic lunch and general running around, it wasn’t a bad place to be on a cool spring day either. Thank you Lake Tapps for a fun couple hours.

And thanks Andy, for always agreeing to adventure with me.LakeTapps-15

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Now it’s a tradition

mothersday2016-11Last year I decided for every Mother’s Day from here till forever I wanted pictures with all my kids. Individuals and a group shot. In all but a few of the thousands of photos we take each month (gosh, that seems ridiculous to say out loud…a thousand photos? Really? What in the world am I going to do with all of them?), I’m behind the lens. At least once a year, I make a real effort to get in front of it. Now, I’m not saying I get dressed up fancy or even put make up on, but I intentionally hand Andy the “good” camera (exposure set) and he happily snaps away while I wrestle/cajole/love-on our kiddos.

Since we’ve done it two years in a row now, I officially dub it a tradition!

mothersday2016-5mothersday2016-6mothersday2016-7mothersday2016-8mothersday2016-9mothersday2016-10This feat certainly comes with its own challenges, which I imagine will change from year to year. But, for now, they’re all small enough that I can physically pick them up and/or bribe them.

Although Dom is almost too dense for the first tactic, and Mo is becoming wise to the latter…

Bonus photos this year included all the Elder grandkids (isn’t our Godson just the cutest? And that’s not even half as wide as his smile can go. He’s seriously the smiliest baby I have ever seen!)mothersday2016

plus grandparentsmothersday2016-2

and requisite outtakes (And Lulu takes Dom down with a tackle hug!). mothersday2016-3

And all five of us (plus one! Can’t forget I’m 21 weeks preggo in these photos!)mothersday2016-12

As much work and effort as it takes to get everyone dressed and fed and sitting and looking in one direction and smiling (PLEASE?! Please smile!!! Just one more time and you can have any snack you like! AnytTHING you like! Just hold still…), these pictures make my heart happy.mothersday2016-4

They are well worth the effort (Andy’s efforts for these shots included jumping around like a crazy person behind me and making noises that should only be emitted by farm animals or equipment. The kiddos loved it).

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Kinder Jogathon

Jogathon-7So it begins. The world of school fundraisers.

I was quite proud of Monica. She made all the phone calls herself. Asked for pledges with a little coaching from Andy. Got the 5 pledges she needed.

She told people, “I think I can do 5 laps!” and that seems like a reasonable goal for someone with such little legs. Thats 1.25 miles, right?

Wrong.

JogathonTurns out, K-3rd grade ran on a fabricated course, inside the big track. Meaning, their laps were far shorter than a quarter mile. And they had 45 minutes to complete as many laps as possible.

Meaning, Mo did WAY more than 5 laps.

24 actually.

While I couldn’t help but be proud of my little girl’s determination, I started to count all the dollars that people had pledged with each lap. Oops… I reckon at least a couple of you would have changed your pledge had you known.

Well, we’ll all know better next year. But for this year, I think the school will do well by Monica Elder and the pledgers that love her…

Jogathon-3Jogathon-6Jogathon-2With the DJ playing music and so many teachers and friends giving out high-fives and encouragement, everyone wanted to participate. We didn’t even count the laps Lucia and Dominic did! It made the heart of this (once upon a time) distance runner so very happy.

Afterwards there was a block party, with DJ music, jamba juice and food carts. We danced and danced on tired little legs. Well done PTO! What a fun day.

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Parenting and Stomach Bugs

IMG_8775We’re in the middle of Spring Stomach Bug of 2016 over here at Casa Elder, and it’s about as much fun as you imagine.

(If you’re imagining that being fun, I really need to figure out how to type in *sarcastic*. Is there a font for that?)

Well, I think we’re in the middle…but maybe we’re at the end (*gasp! Don’t even say that out loud! Jinxing is a thing!) or we might be just at the start. Because this dang bug is unpredictable. It comes in, knocks a kiddo off her feet and puts her head in a barf bowl for a day, and then said kid has a great day of feeling better.

And then it comes back.

48 hours later.

There should be some sort of unwritten rule of the Universe: once vomiting stops, it stops. Like, for realz stops.

Because this just seems unfair.

So far the kids have alternated their bad days, so we’ve never had more than one puker a day. Thanks for that Universe, I guess…

However, my days are filled with the most attentive couch-sitting child-watching I think I’ve ever mustered. A second of distraction means barf goes on the couch and not in the bowl. That’s the problem with having sicko kiddos who aren’t old enough to grab a barf-bowl themselves.

This has been a stretch for me, because my parenting style is one I might nicely call: lax. “Helicopter” is not really part of my parenting vocabulary, but “Ignoring” is well established. Go, child. Find something to do. I know you can entertain yourself. Can I call it “Ignoring Parenting”? That doesn’t quite flow, but Ignorance Parenting sounds worse… I’ll stick with IP. Turns out IP and stomach bugs don’t exactly jive if I want to salvage our upholstered furniture. So during the day: I hover.

Nights are spent sleeping next to one of the sick kids, panic-waking with every cough or moan or mumble. I haven’t timed myself yet, but adrenaline does wonders for a parent who needs to go from sleeping to awake-with-the-phone-light-on-holding-a-bucket-at-the-ready. If there’s a record somewhere, I think I may have beaten it. Good and bad though, 90% of these wake ups are false alarms, so: no barf in the bowl, but there’s still adrenaline in my veins. So much for falling back asleep (parents in Newborn Land, I salute you! Many, many nighttime wake ups is really hard…I’m just starting to remember that as I sit here nursing this mocha).

I’ve consulted enough Dr. Google pages to know this sort of delayed return to sickness is common, and you know what? All you Mamas of multiple kids (or even just one!) who’ve already experienced this circle of vomit-hell: I’m sorry. This sucks.

So far Dom, Andy and I have been spared. But instead of making me feel better, it’s just added to the general anxiety of the situation. How in the world do I keep Dom from getting sick? (Baby gate quarantine, and lots of hand washing- I’m really betting on that being the right answer). Did that toy cross the quarantine line? Did Dom stick it in his mouth?! Can I wash his tongue with soap? Was that a burp or an urp? Do I feel sick? I think my stomach hurts. No, it doesn’t. Moms can’t get sick. So, No! I feel fine! I feel fine! I feel…fine? Andy, do you feel fine? You know you’re not allowed to get sick, right? So, you feel fine too!

So Friends, all joking aside, prayers that we’re at the end of this saga, please? Now, I should stop ignoring my sick kids and get back to watching them.

But if I have to be a helicopter much longer, I might just fly away…

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Yearly Woodburn Tulips

There’s a reason we keep coming back to this place, Tulips 2016year Tulips 2016-2after year Tulips 2016-3after year Tulips 2016-4after year Tulips 2016-5after year.

Wow! That was a little bit of time travel…

We’ve been there in the rain and sun and shade and every PNW Spring weather you can imagine, and this place never disappoints.

However, the more kids we add, the harder it is to get a nice group shot.Tulips 2016-6Tulips 2016-7Tulips 2016-9Tulips 2016-11Tulips 2016-8

Speaking of adding kids! Here’s a shot that Mo took with my fancy camera.

Tulips 2016-16That right there is a 17 week old baby bump! The next Baby Elder will be joining us at the end of September of this year.

I’ve gone back and forth on how to announce this baby. Because he or she is actually Baby #5. But from outside observation, this one (God willing) will be our fourth visible kiddo. This is hard for me to explain to people.

Strangers, it doesn’t matter. Since I have more than two the only comment I hear is, “Wow! You’ve got your hands full!” To which I try to respond, “Yes, but you should see my heart.” That seems to be the perfect mix of off-putting and sweet, usually eliciting a smile or two. So whether a stranger knows that I actually have 5 kids matters little.

It’s in conversation with you people that I have the hardest time articulating the role of this baby. It is the people who love me the very most, who draw me into the biggest state of confusion. Because, for me, for our family, Baby #4 will forever be Lucas.

This was made so very apparent to me a couple weeks ago when I said, “Mo! Wouldn’t it be neat if this baby was a boy? Then we could have 2 girls and 2 boys!” (The scientist in me craves that kind of symmetry).

“Mama,” she replied very seriously, “You already have 2 boys. Remember? Lucas?”

Of course I remember. Of course.

And so does she.

And maybe that’s what I’m most worried about. That in the excitement and rush and energy that surrounds this baby, my fourth Little One will be forgotten. I immediately feel silly even writing that, because how? How could that happen? How could a mother forget her child?

I can’t. And I won’t. One of my most sacred Mom jobs is preserving the his memory, and one of my greatest Mom privileges is seeking his intercession.

Then, I guess this is the bottom line and the peace I’ve found: it’s ok if you do forgot. It’s ok if you refer to this pregnancy as my 4th baby. It’s ok once s/he is born if you do a head count and make a joke about 4 kids. I know you love me, love us…love Lucas.

But if you see a flicker in my smile, know it’s because I’m thinking of my fourth Baby, my Lucas. And in that way, because of his little sibling, he will be often remembered and never forgotten.

Whoa, that went a direction I wasn’t expecting, but that I apparently needed. Back to adorable pictures of the tulip fields.Tulips 2016-10Tulips 2016-12Tulips 2016-13Tulips 2016-14Tulips 2016-15Tulips 2016-17Tulips 2016-18

And pictures that show my Monica suddenly seeming very grown up…Tulips 2016-19Tulips 2016-20

Four years difference. She’s a completely different person, and still so very much the same…Tulips 2016-21

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Alleluia! 2016

He is risen, He is risen indeed!

Easter 2016-9I have hunted many an egg in this yard, the yard belonging to my grandparents. This year, it was my own kids searching for Easter treasure.

Easter 2016-6I swear there were as many eggs hidden this year (just for these five littles) as the years my countless cousins and I battled. And battle it was. Corey remembers being shoved to the ground by someone (cough cough Jessie! cough) on the way out the door, only to have her hands land squarely on top of the $50 egg.

Easter 2016-4Easter 2016-10Yeah, you read that right. A $50 egg.

You understand now why we take hunts very seriously!

And look who found it this year!

IMG_8567That’s my man! Bringing home the bacon!

Or, at least, the egg salad…

Easter 2016-8My mom spends an inordinate amount of time hiding eggs. It’s an art, really. Blending shell color with the varied pallet of the yard. You have to look up, down, reach in and under and sometimes throw an elbow or two…

Well, that part starts once the grown ups can join.

Easter 2016-7Easter 2016More important than the eggs or the food (or the money!) is, of course, the family. The smiles. The connection.

In his  Easter homily, the priest extolled the community, “Experience the risen Christ! Find Him in our world! He did not die as Lazarus did, to die again, but to live forever.”

Easter 2016-5Easter 2016-3This family, this community, these memories, are as close to forever as I can touch right now.

And it is so good.* Alleluia, Alleluia.

Easter 2016-2*Not pictured: simultaneous chocolate-induced melt downs, 6 million group shot outtakes, all the whining because SHE HAS A BLUE PEEP!, and the excellent lessons in greed and gluttony: “Mommy, look at ALL THE MONEY I GOT! It’s MY MONEY! and ALL THE CHOCOLATE! It’s MY CHOCOLATE!”

 

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When the Sun Shines…

almost summerIt’s time to get outside.

almost summer-2almost summer-3almost summer-4almost summer-5Still soggy from the recent rain, and looking at more in the forecast, we soaked up as many rays as we could.

almost summer-6Also, it is really nice to have a DSLR again. Unlike a little rain, the sea destroys even your favorite electronics. How rude.

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