Thursday, June 14, 2018

#3Under16

I don't flatter myself that this hashtag will catch on. However, I've been meaning to post about this since I had #3Under15, so I better hurry as that second number keeps creeping up, and I'll have #3Under17 tomorrow!

You've all heard mamas talk about their struggles with 2 under 2, or 3 under 3, or one friend from our Sunday School class with 6 under 7!! ­čśé

I agree, the struggle is real. None of your children can go to the bathroom by the themselves, put their shoes on the proper feet, make it through the day without crying about something, cut their own meat, the list could go on and on. We had 2 under 2 for 10 days, I know it's intense.

But what you may not know is that 3 under 16 is still a handful!

None of these people can drive themselves anywhere! Fortunately, 1 of them can buckle her own seat belt and even help with the other 2, but she's also the reason we're usually driving anywhere. At the end of the school year, Angie won the Triple Threat award for playing a different sport all 3 seasons of the year! That meant a lot of tagging along and cheering for her little brothers, and a lot of driving and coordinating for us parents. I'm gonna start buying 15 year-olds Uber gift cards for their birthdays, or maybe I'll buy them for their parents' birthdays, as their parents are the unpaid taxi drivers toting them to practices, friends' houses, games, school, events, and of course shopping!

The real challenge with 3 under 16 is cohesiveness. Everyone's always going in different directions. I've mentioned it before, finding fun for all the ages is nearly impossible. There are few things that engage Angie that the boys are able to participate in. When Angie needs help with geometry homework, the boys need help bathing and getting into their pajamas. When Paul needs to nap, Isaiah needs to stay awake (lest he keep us up all night), and Angie needs desperately to be taken to the mall or the movies. Reading stories as a family, watching movies, playing games, even going on vacations is tricky with 14+ years between the kids.

Even with #3Under16, perfect family pictures are an unattainable goal. Never will they all be looking at the camera, and if you catch that unicorn moment when they are, someone will have their eyes closed or be making a weird face.
But the fun part is that they adore each other! The boys are just starting to get to the point where they can interact without screaming or biting. Angie would still prefer to bring a friend along on outings, but sometimes enjoys being seen with or helping her brothers, if it doesn't cramp her style too much. Yesterday, 4 teenage girls swooned at Paul on the beach, Angie should have made some new friends.
Next week, we'll have one on a tricycle, one on a balance bike, and one with a driver's permit! Lord, help us all. I'm not one to grasp at time as it flies by too quickly, but these next, possibly last, 2 family years sure do look short and fleeting. May we maximize every moment for training, bonding, and loving well for as long as we have #3UnderOurRoof. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

My Sunshine


After Angie came to live with me in Bolivia, we would often take walks with our only other family member at the time, our darling Labrador, Ruby. During those strolls, Angie would open up to me and tell me about her past. There was something freeing about the activity, the fresh air, being side by side instead of face to face maybe. Sometimes, it seemed that her little 8 year-old mind was forming the thoughts as she was sharing them, as if she was digging up stories that had long been buried.
It was on one such walk when she mentioned that her name wasn't always Angie. She used to have another name, she told me, but she didn't like it, kids made fun of her, "it was the name of some kind of oil or something." So, her mother at the time, changed her name to her own name, Angelica.

That day, I found out that before my little girl was called "like an Angel," her name was Girasol. When Angie told me this, I remember stopping dead in my tracks. Stunned. I had never heard that name before. And she had no idea that Girasol had been the perfect name for her. As this was long before I had a smart phone, I had to wait until we got home, open the computer, and pull up "Girasol" on Google Images. Her eyes lit up as the screen did with gorgeous, brilliant, breathtaking Sunflowers.
My little girl is turning 16 this week, and we celebrated last night by filling the house with laughter, food, friends, and sunflowers.
 

If you know Angie, you know that when she smiles, her face glows as bright as any sunflower. There is no happier happy than Angie's. When God saw the world needed a little more sunshine, he created my Sunflower. 
Angie, mi Girasol, if you remember from the vast fields of sunflowers in Bolivia, they are drawn to the direction of the Sun, and when they face skyward they are in their full glory. Sweet Girl, you too, will be your most glorious, your most beautiful, exactly the perfection you were created to be, when you face heavenward, and look to the Son. Thank you for bringing so much light into our family. I know God will use you to shine into the lives of so many others for a long long time.

Feliz cumplea├▒os a Ti, mi Amor! Te quiero mucho!


"In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." -Matthew 5:16

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Trampoline Memories

I'm not particularly traditional, but I do like traditions. There's a set of 12 Days of Christmas drinking glasses, literally with my name on it, at my grandparents' house. In 1992, they wrote "Bequeathed to Lauren Spears," on the box, because I'm the one who most cherishes the moments around the dinner table on Christmas Eve when we all sing the song together. Let's be real, I'm the only one who will admit to cherishing it at all, but everyone's laughing as they're complaining about it every.single.year. 

In Of Mess and Moxie, Jen Hatmaker says, "Mamas, the traditions and experiences we provide during the Family Years are paving a road our kids can always return to, one that always points home. There is something about a recurring shared memory; the sum becomes greater than the parts." 

That really resonated with me. And as our Family Years with Angie are slipping away, we wanted to be sure to take advantage of what time we have left. So, we signed up for our third year of Family Camp, fully aware the place wasn't going to be baby-proofed per se, but still a little surprised at just how mischievous Paul could be.

Here's what Paul was supposed to be doing at the kid singalong times during camp worship 4 different times throughout the weekend.

Here's what he did instead. Approximately 7,854 times he attempted to climb the stairs onto the stage.
Can you see him looking back at me and grinning?
He was so cute about it that all these boys in the front rows became his cheering section. They learned his name the first night from his nametag, and had a running commentary of "Baby Paul's" activity the rest of camp. If he could write, he would have been signing autographs by day 2.

Needless to say, camp was not exactly the peaceful getaway we dreamed it might be, but we made memories.

It's hard to find fun that works for all our kiddos with the 12-year age gap. When we decided to buy a trampoline for the them a couple Christmases ago, we hoped it would bridge the gap a bit. Silly of us I know, but I think we anticipated a lot more jumping. We fretted over the "1 person at a time" guidelines stated by the box, because we envisioned it as a place for family fun, but we had no idea what we were in store for. 

Very little actual jumping or acrobatics are done on the trampoline, which should be keeping our insurance premiums down. Instead, it makes for a perfect shade cover for Ruby and the boys as they tear up the yard below in their makeshift "sandbox."

But, hands down, our favorite times with the trampoline so far, are trampoline picnics. Friday evenings this spring/summer, when no one is obligated elsewhere, you'll find us grabbing some carryout and taking it out back. 


The trampoline provides such a fun, peaceful, easy environment, that we've talked about moving all our meals out there, but spaghetti, soup, actually most any food, would not cooperate on our bouncy laps. So, if you try this at home, we recommend KFC tenders, biscuits, and tater wedges. No one said trampoline picnics were healthy, but what they lack in physical nourishment they make up for in mental and emotional family healing. 

What's so different about a trampoline picnic than a regular picnic, you might ask. Well, bugs. We have virtually no problems with bugs crawling or flying near us since we're off the ground and surrounded by a net. 

Second, movement. Something about being confined to a chair, makes our boys basically lose their appetites. And children climbing all over me during mealtimes, makes me basically lose my mind. So, to keep both their hunger and my sanity, the children grab a bite, then take a lap, do a handstand, have a tickle fight, start a game of dodgeball, or tackle someone... The options are as limitless as the sky we're eating under.

 

  

Even Ruby kind of gets in on the fun.
But these are just the logistics.

What really makes this family night into a nearly guaranteed success is the togetherness. This space is almost sacred. The clean-up, homework, housework, and schedules can't be heard calling to us this far from the house. Phones and distractions are minimized, physical touch and laughter are at an all time high. The trampoline is the closest thing to completely Baby-Paul-proofed that we have found, and it's so sweet to enjoy each other without the word "No" tainting our conversation regularly.

I'm not sure how long these encapsulated meals will last, as Angie's independence and freedom threaten to lead her in many different directions. But the de-stressing moments of pure joy that we've already shared are enough for me to recommend you go buy a trampoline, or create a tradition perfect for your own tribe.  I'm so grateful we've found ours.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Dailies

I don't know about you all, but the entropy of the daily tasks has been a bit overwhelming recently. No matter how hard we strive for order, the natural decline back into disorder is stronger than any of us. Even if the house were vacant, the dust would settle, the food would decay, and the yard would overgrow with even the slightest bit of neglect.

But let's be real, there's nothing vacant about this house. I don't know about your family, but we have 6 live bodies who call our place home, and 5 of "us" are not very tidy.



Maybe it was adding a third child to the mix that's making me feel so helpless in the face of the chaos. Or maybe it has something to do with the washing machine, dishwasher, and microwave all being on the fritz, causing me to have to re-rinse dishes, re-spin clothes, and re-nuke food nearly every time. Either way, the daily chores so often seem insurmountable these days.

In a moms' group I'm part of on Facebook, someone was venting and listed all the tasks she'd performed that day taking care of her kids and home. It was daunting to read, but really not any different than the rest of us. I commented, that it's probably better not to itemize the list, lest it send you into a deeper funk.

There are the big chores, that we can put off and do every once in awhile. I've seen your charts, you're cleaning your bathrooms, washing your sheets, and mopping your floors, a lot more often than I am. But even I, with my "good enough" mantra, can't get by without keeping up with the Dailies as I've not-so-affectionately nicknamed them. 

I've said it before, and so have you, these people in my house want to eat 3 Times.Every.Day. And cereal for more than one of those meals just won't cut it for the rest of them. 

So, we're left with the never ending cycle of grocery shopping, meal prep, clean-up and dishes. I'm really not sure when the last time I saw my entire countertop was, because it is constantly covered in dishes drying, or dishes overflowing the sink waiting their turn for the dishwasher. I cannot make it home from the grocery store without needing to add something back to the list that I forgot or someone just thought of.

And don't get me started on the laundry basket. I have not once finished a load from wash to putting away without dirty clothes appearing in the hamper ready for the next round.

I promise the dog sheds the entire time I'm vacuuming, possibly even more than usual. And now we get to start mowing and weeding because the inside of the house doesn't have enough mess, we're going to try to manage the outside this season too!

All this to say, I can sure get bogged down in the repetitiveness of it all. I can imagine many of you do too.

But I've decided to be intentional about looking at it like this:

For every load of laundry, I'll try to be grateful to have a family healthy enough to play hard, and work hard, and get dirty!

For every pile of dishes, I'll be thankful, not only for the food we're blessed with abundantly, but for the home-cooked meal with my people around our shared table. Time together that will shape each of us as we grow into who God has for us to become.

And every time I pick up toys/shoes/cups from all over the house to be restored to their rightful location, I'll be glad our tribe knows enough grace to leave their junk all over the place like barbarians, without fear of dire consequences.  

At least this is my new resolution. I haven't quite been glad, grateful, or thankful for these dailies much yet, but I've been trying to practice the presence of God as I scrub yet another pot, and this is the place He seems to be leading me.

After all, the loads of laundry in various stages of cleanliness invite the family to participate in the process of restoring order to the home, if anyone cares to have clean underwear. The piles of dishes teach our kids that they're more important to us than a pristine countertop. And the tumbleweeds of dog hair show our loved ones that we value time with them more than the coveted vacuum lines on the carpet.

Now, to decide whether to take a quick Sunday nap or spend time with the kiddos, because I can barely even hear the kitchen clutter calling me anymore. :)

Lord, remind me often that you are more concerned about our relationships than the cleanliness of where we nurture them.


Superman with this precious boy is worth a mess left unattended a little longer.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Three Years of Sweet Isaiah

For a good long stretch there I thought we were in the running for a Guinness World Record with this kiddo--Latest Kid to Start Asking "WHY?" And I was so pleased. I really thought I'd be able to post about him at 3 years and say "We made it through the 2's without the dreaded struggle of the Whys." But, alas, he started at 2 years 10 months. I'm thanking God for that little extra measure of peace around the house for that long. His inquisitiveness now isn't nearly as pestering as it could be. His curiosity can usually be satiated with a few answers, usually...

It's nice of the Lord to let us keep that bit of sanity, because we need it for the meltdowns. Breakdowns about his food being cut in half, not being able to find a missing part to a toy (don't ever give us multiple part toys, Puh-lease!), his brother touching anything, when he has to stop watching a video, his clothes hurting him, and then sometimes, of course, we have no idea why. He's a sensitive soul, or I should say he was 2. But he woke up 3 this morning, and I'm optimistic it's a new day. 3's a game changer, right?

Seriously though, when he doesn't have to share with his slobbery brother, this guy's a delight. He's starting to use his imagination, and it's adorable. He remembers the cutest things. He got two tow trucks at his party last weekend and a day or two later, he asked "Does the tow truck tuck the broken cars into the cozy service station?" a line from a book we had read weeks ago. That big head of his has a lot of information coming and going and it's all starting to fit together.

He's finally counting from 1-10 without skipping any numbers, and he's stopped leaving poor "N" out of the alphabet. This learning and discovering phase is so precious.

At his birthday party, I was praying for him before lunch. I gave him a squeeze and said, "Thank you God for this little guy..." and he loudly interrupted with the attention of all his party guests, "I'm not a little guy, I'm a big guy!" My big guy is growing up, but with each new stage there is wonder, and I'm so grateful to be along for this wild ride.

He loves to entertain his brother with Peek-a-boo!


He already loves having a big sister with pretty friends.

TRUCKS! His world revolves around trucks!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Birthday Brothers

Our boys both have February birthdays, but beyond the month they were born and the family they were born into, they don't have a whole lot in common. Well, they do both have exceptionally large heads.

Also, all three of our kids like footwear. Angie likes to buy shoes, Zy likes to wear them, and Paul likes to eat them.

That's about where the similarities stop.

When people ask about how the boys are different I sometimes refer to them as football positions. Paul’s the linebacker to Isaiah's quarterback. I second guessed myself once recognizing that it’s not fair to compare the mind of a 2 year-old to a baby. But then I remembered the first words spoken about each of them. When Isaiah was handed to me in the hospital, the nurse said “He’s so alert!” And that was repeated by strangers his whole first year of life. When Paul was born it was instantly apparent that he was strong. And that’s been said of him not only early but often. 

For the most part, Isaiah has been calm and contemplative. He goes at about 45 mph, a nice cruising speed. He’s careful and cautious about everything. He’s a clone of his daddy. And loves helping him with tools more than anything. "Daddy, do you need my help?" "Always, Buddy!" And Isaiah runs to get his tools as my heart melts over this pair.

The books Isaiah enjoyed reading in our laps at one year-old, Paul eats! This kid lives in extremes. He has the biggest smile when he sees me, and the saddest, most piercing cry when his tummy hurts. Paul is usually going 110 mph, climbing over anything that dares stand in his way. Jon says he's a Go-getter. I say, he's a bull in a china shop. In other words—he is just like his mama. 

The tide is turning around here. Squishy hugs are turning into wrestling matches. And the little guy who just wants to play with his big brother, is about to be able to hold his own. The fear mechanism that keeps Isaiah on high alert at all times, has yet to be turned on in Paul. He keeps us on our toes physically while Isaiah keeps us laughing with his antics. They are precious treasures we never would have guessed we'd enjoy so much! Thank you, Lord for these perfect gifts.

Here are a few pics to see the boys' personalities and huge adorable heads.
We didn't even need to buckle Zy, but if it's not a 5-point-harness, Paul will escape.


Sharing is a concept they've yet to master.
I told you the tides are turning.
Paul is raring to go!
Isaiah's 3!

And Paul's 1!