Big Deal-Not Big Deal

Her nails were cracked, peeled back from the edges. She had been picking again, unable to keep her fingers still as she listened for instructions at school. She’s a good listener, but if something is sticking out where it shouldn’t, poking something else, rough to the touch, it has to go.

I know the feeling; I’m a picker too.

“Honey, you have to STOP doing this!” I grab her fingers, a little too firmly, trimming the edges clean. “You are going to hurt your fingers!”

“I’m trying Mommy, but I just can’t” she whines.

I see the future, I know where picking leads. Scars, infections, doctors appointments and medications. So, I persist.

“Just STOP! Just STOP doing it!” I grab the broom, sweeping up little broken crescents. She stays seated, looking defeated. I sit back down. She stands up, trying to walk away.

“Baby, I used to do the same thing. Except, I bit my nails. And I would bite them till they bled. So you know what I did? I sat on my hands. I sat on them while I listened to the teacher. My Mommy suggested that to me, and it worked.”

She looks down at me, big blue eyes wide with a question, “Did she get mad at you, too?”

“Who?”

“Your Mommy. Was she mad at you?”

Oh.

My heart leaps and my stomach drops. Tears spring to my eyes, and my cheeks blush hot embarrassment.

“No. My love.” I whisper “She was not mad at me.”

I gather her in my arms, and for the millionth time, ask her forgiveness. Over and over and over I fail at this parenting thing. Over and over I lose my temper over teeny, tiny things because, in my mind, they become big, giant things.

Ripped finger nails lead to infection leads to medication leads to another doctor appointment leads to finding someone to watch my other kids leads to….on and on and on. Until I’ve lost sight of the truth.

A tiny, ripped fingernail. Now clipped. Now swept. Now gone.

I am a big person. I see the big picture (realistic or not). She is a little person. Her picture is so, so little. And I want it to be that way for a while yet.

So now, in our house, we’ve established a new rule. There are “big deals” and there are “not big deals”. Spilled milk- small deal. Sissy running with scissors- big deal. One requires yelling and immediate reaction. The other requires calm and a response.

The kids are pretty good at recognizing one from another.

Surprise, surprise: I am not.

There are lots of excuses for reacting badly to little things: no sleep, hunger, answered 10,000,000 questions already today, worried about other people, worried about medical stuff, about the world, about the future… My brain is a flurry of worry. Excuses they are, but not good excuses. Those are big people problems that take up space in my brain and wear my patience thin. To expand my big-people-problem-world into their little-people-problem-world is to ask them to grow up already.

I must let the little things be little so that my little people can stay little… For as long as they can.

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Humbled by the Chaos

So, we recently added another kiddo to the mix:

DSC_6092Hi Mateo!

And he’s been on the outside for 2ish weeks now. This was Andy’s first week back at work, read: Cait’s first week WITH ALL THE CHILDREN.

Now, going from 4 to 5 is, admittedly not as difficult as some transitions we’ve done. I submit that (for me!) going from 1 to 2 kids was the hardest. However, considering how good I feel, and how well I thought I was doing, I should have known to have my guard up.

Mothering a pack this size gives me a certain spidey-sense. There’s an undercurrent, hum even, of activity in the house. I, for the most part, know exactly where everyone is and what everyone is doing, that way my spidey-sense, maybe we’ll call it Mom-dar (tink, tink, tink), knows from where to expect silence and where to expect chaos.

My Mom-dar was on point the last few days, allowing me to quickly dispel arguments, suggest activities, and know when Sissy was digging through the trash can or sitting in the dishwasher without even needing to be in the kitchen.

Then…there was tonight.

DSC_5977Let the record show, if I ever become prideful in my not-so-super Momming, this blog post will act as a reminder of how quickly everything can descend into chaos and provide a necessary dose of humility.

In a span of 2 minutes (even with Andy home!):

-The kids were caught jumping off a window sill onto a pile of pillows in the playroom (including Sissy). And while Andy worked on an acceptable punishment (trying to also suppress his astonishment and the gutsy-ness of that move)…
-Mateo destroyed his diaper (and onesie), literally filling it until we reached max capacity, overflowed and spread up his back, all while I was holding him. And I just watched as that classic baby-poop-yellow started to seep out of his clothes. Because…
-Lucia stood up from reading in a chair and declared she was covered in ants. Because she was- inside our house, in our living room- covered in the tiniest black ants I’ve ever seen. She’s a pretty cool cat, so there wasn’t any screaming, but there was extremely quick clothing removal and a good heebie-jeebie dance. Just in time for…
-Sissy to come running around the corner carrying my extremely full, open water bottle, which she had probably already back-washed into.

DSC_5959I pride myself in being able to assess a situation and prioritize. I think it’s one of my biggest selling points on the resume I’ll write some day explaining how I qualify for nearly any job based on my training as a parent. But this particular cluster left me a little befuddled and giggling at the absurdity.

Ultimately Andy took diaper dooty (that’s a joke for you Jessie), and I brushed the ants out of Lucia’s hair. Sissy, with a little coaxing, actually put the water bottle down all by herself,  but then quickly found Mateo’s “baba” (binki) and sucked on it until we were all a little less distracted and snatched it away. After the kids were down, we moved some furniture in the playroom so that hopefully there’s no more high-dives off the window sill.

And…phew. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. Hopefully my Mom-dar and prioritizing abilities won’t be quite so tested…

But, who am I kidding. Five kids is a lot of kids. Welcome to your new normal Caitlin.

DSC_5932And welcome, everyone else, to Elder- Party of Seven. I’m sure there will be many more tales to come…

 

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Mother’s Day 2018

Continuing a Mother’s Day tradition, I try to step in front of the camera on Mother’s Day and get some photos with each of my kiddos.

Genevieve (18 months)

Dominic (4 years)

Lucia (5 years)

Monica (7 years)

I know, even now, that I want to remember being a part of their childhood. I want to have photos not just of my kids, but with my kids. And, even if we’re not all smiling, we were all there.

With patchy shade and grumpy teethers, it gets harder every year to get a “good” shot with everyone together, but that’s motherhood right? It’s messy and distracted and beautiful and dappled with more love than I thought possible.

And for those same exact reasons, it’s worth remembering.

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Silly, Silly Sissy

Sissy 5-18-5Genevieve is just a hoot right now. She’s in that super-sponge 18 month(ish) phase where she’s absorbing so much, I can almost hear the neurons growing in her brain. Every day there are new words, new faces and new stories she likes to tell.

Sissy 5-18-6Her vocabulary takes a little interpretation, much like her oldest sister. But she’s happy to tell her favorite memories to anyone who will listen:

Kitty, kitty (while pointing to her arm): the kitty scratched me (this girl will NOT leave Athena alone, and our kitty is old and grumpy, now…she’ll learn some day to have soft hands)!

Sissy 5-18-9Dog dog! (while sticking her finger up her nose):  Uncle Jacques’ dog licked me in the face!

Maaahhh, wa-wa (while pointing to her shirt): Dom spilled water on me!

Yes,  you read that right. Her word for Dominic is a growling Maaaaaahhh sound. It’s hilarious, and probably has something to do with the fact that he currently speaks in mostly dinosaur.

When I ask her for a kiss, she pokes my face with her little finger (exactly as I’m showing her, “Come on Sissy, give Mama a kiss. Right here on my cheek!”)

Sissy 5-18-2Sissy 5-18-4Her favorite thing to do is faceplant onto pillows. She climbs on ALL THE THINGS just like her big brother did. And she is the first kid to be found, unsupervised, with markers, drawing all over the floor and wall and toys (I blame it on the house move and not finding a good place to hide the markers yet…).

Sissy 5-18-1Her “bah bah” (binki) and other “bah bah” (blankie) are her two favorite things. Lucia is quick to find them whenever G is crying.

She wears everyone’s shoes, steals remote controls, and tests just how far she can get to touching the electrical outlets before she gets in trouble. Good thing she’s so dang cute.

Sissy 5-18-7Every night after bath, before PJs, Andy carries Genevieve wrapped up in a towel, tip-toeing through the house to look for me. She puts her finger on her nose and whispers “shhhhhh!” until they find me and they yell SURPRISE! Well, Andy yells and Sissy laughs hysterically.

Sissy 5-18-3All the big kids take their turn loving on her. She looks up at each of them (Mo-Mo!, Ooh-ooh! Maaahh!) with straight up love in her eyes, and they each make her laugh like no one else. Of course, she has her struggles and also yells, and cries, and gets mad at each of them, but I am more often floored to find them all sitting together or playing nicely.

She has the funniest old man laugh. Always has. And it’s the quickest way to make even Andy’s hardest day turn around 180 degrees.

Sissy 5-18-10Sissy 5-18-8Every day we see a little more of who she is and who she’s becoming and it is a delight!

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Not Alone

One of my favorite bloggers, Beth Woolsey, often “waves in the dark” to her readers. It’s her way of communicating that nobody is alone in their struggles and fears. And I feel like I need a little of the same tonight…

So, for all the mamas
Who feel mediocre.
Who know, if they could just figure out that perfect __________ (sticker chart, discipline method, sleep routine, screen time regimen etc) the kids’ behavior would improve.
Who know, if they were just a little more intentional, they could find an organizational scheme so that permission slips wouldn’t get lost and socks could be matched and kids could find their shoes.
Who know if they just had the discipline to wake up a little earlier, they wouldn’t come screeching into school, late, sweatpants-clad yelling “hurry up!” as everyone falls out of their old van like a shabby, grumpy clown parade.
Who count every negative kid-interaction, placing them on the scale against “I love you”s, and fall short of being balanced. Every. Damn. Day. And who know that their fly-away temper is going to ruin their kids for life.

For all the wives
Who know that spark would be a flame if they could just figure out a way to make date night a weekly thing.
Who know if they could just find the right ___________ (gym, work out video, diet plan etc) they would stop eating all the kids’ Easter candy, and maybe fit back into their wedding dress for an important anniversary some day.
Who know they should be able to handle all the cleaning and cooking and home-ing like all those other wives are capable of doing.

For all the friends
Who worry about calling, because they know everyone is too busy to talk.
Who know that that one stupid, weird thing they said ruined a budding friendship for sure.
Who know that their text, no matter how funny, doesn’t really deserve a reply from that beautiful, popular friend.
Who know if their house was just a little cleaner, better organized, a little less sticky, and a little less loud, then they’d also be posting photos of great play dates and smiling BFF selfies.

For all of you who know you know that that none of these things are actually true, but who feel it sometimes anyway.

Hi.

You are not alone.

And neither am I.

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Wordless (Retreat!) Weekend

IMG_0418IMG_0421IMG_0399IMG_0404IMG_0406IMG_0410IMG_0420IMG_0413

Photo credit for most of these: Mom! (thanks for coming with me! And next year WE need a photo together!!)

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Wordless Weekend, Almost Spring

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Wordless Weekend Returns

*Breaking the WW mould with some words here… A very dear friend reminded me today that I used to post photos on Mondays about what we did over the weekend. I’m going to pick that habit back up (Thanks for the encouragement Teresa! *muah!). I think it’ll also help me pick up my camera (or iPhone) more intentionally. And the Good Lord knows I take enough photos… I currently have 146,870 on our computer. WHAT?! What in the WORLD am I going to do with all of those?! Print? Delete? Back up to 3 different kinds of storage? Probably leave them on a hard drive for my kids to dig through some day… Anyway, I now realize I have a lot of feelings about the legacy of photos that will be saved for a different (worded post). I’ll let pictures do the rest of the talking.*IMG_0134

img_0137.jpgIMG_0138img_0141.jpgDSC_4252

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State of the Family 2018, Part 1

February is a good time to stop and take stock, right? January is full of recovering from Christmas while simultaneously trying to reorganize and revamp stuff, life, food, exercise- ALL THE THINGS.

By February all the pretend motivations have fallen away, and one is left with a much clearer picture of the truth.

And the truth out here is good, and hopeful, and so full of projects I just don’t even know where to start to document them. So, the kiddos will be first because they (sometimes) smile nicely for photos and honestly take up 85% of my time and 95% of my brain-space (sorry Andy, but we make up in quality what we lack in quantity right? *fingers crossed)

I’m going to split this into several posts. My intention is to follow each kid around for a day or two with my nice camera and to document the things that I want to remember about that specific kid, at this specific time.

This first post is easy though, cause I only have one photo of our youngest kid.US Dec 5

HA HA HA! Get it?!

Oh man, I crack myself up.

Yes, another Elder will be here in July to make our Tales longer and fill our lives with more memories, more tears, more laughs, more…everything.

Love never divides, only multiplies. Considering all the siblings this kiddo has, this Little One has no idea the love that awaits him or her earth-side.

We’ll get more photos here shortly at our 20 week ultrasound, but for now we spend our time imagining how Baby’s limbs have grown and profile has emerged. Talking about this baby has been especially fun because (in addition to a toddler and preschooler) we have “older” kids this time round. They ask excellent (sometimes unanswerable) questions and make great predictions.

Based on past results though we can pretty much guarantee Baby will end up with a giant head, blond hair and blue eyes.

I’ve had all the feelz about a 6th pregnancy and adding a 5th kiddo to the mix. But that’s a post for a different time because emotions (especially when fueled by hormones!) can be strange, convoluted and confusing. I’m still working on some of them.

Gratefully, this pregnancy has been much like the others, very little nausea and (so far) no major complications. So, our current state is one of joyful anticipation… and mild panic while we try to get ALL THE PROJECTS done before Little One’s arrival and balance school, work, food… 35645

I’m good at priorities.

Next up: Genevieve!

This sneak peak should give you a little insight into her personality:IMG_0116

Can’t wait to see how much of her I can catch on film. Or, is it “in pixels” now?

Regardless, insert: wide eyed emoji and facepalm emoji

 

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Currently…

Life is busy. So, busy.

But also, not. You know?

There are times of the day where the minutes fly, and my temper flares, and we are always running late (mornings, evenings…).

And then there are hours of quiet. Sleeping babies breathe softly into monitors and I sit, just wondering when the next panic segment of this sitcom-life will start again.

Thus the hiatus in writing. The hiatus in photos. The hiatus in many, many things.

However, the last week I have felt more of a calm. A settling. A little less yelling, a little more playing. A little less running, a little more singing.

And I remember why I like myself. I remember why I like my kids. I remember why I like my life. I never doubted that there was love for all of these, just sometimes it’s hard to like. To like is to be in the present moment. To appreciate the little things. To understand that time is fleeting and worthy of appreciation.

There was a resentment fog that had settled in my brain and in my heart. There was so much change (seemingly) so quickly. And then so much sickness (none too serious, but just serious enough to drain). And so little sleep…

Routines have returned. Sleep has returned.

So, joy has returned.

I really do look forward to documenting our lives here again. I spent some time re-reading posts from the past, and I was shocked by the nostalgia. Maybe that’s silly and I should have expected it. I mean, for what purpose did I start writing here?

So that I could time travel and hear Mo’s 2 year old voice. See Lucia’s silly dances. Re-live my warrior labor stories. So that I could enjoy remembering.

Because, these kids? This life?

It’s worth remembering.

Worth Remembering(Plus, I don’t think I’ll ever make up that stupid sleep-debt, so without writing things down I doubt I could remember any of these years, even if I tried!)

Here’s to 2018 and many more Tales of the Elders!

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