Sunday, June 30, 2013


I've been living on the downside of 30 for over a week now, just waiting for something profound to say about this phase of life.  And so far - nothing.

The truth is, we've been living like we're in our 30s for a while now.  The high school advanced composition class essay I wrote on "Where I see myself 10 years from now" has been out-of-date for quite some time.  I've picked up more degrees, jobs, and babies (oh the babies) than I ever expected at this point.  And with that in mind, I think we'll keep the next 10 years wide open.  No goals, other than to be wife and mama to the people I love most in all the world.  To help them grow and achieve their own goals.  To give them plenty of opportunities to fulfill their own "where I see myself 10 years from now" essays.  And I'm learning, with that kind of perspective, 30 isn't so bad after all.

So what does 30 look like?  It looks like going to bed before 11:00 and striving to be up first every morning, just for that sliver of quiet before the Littles rise.  It looks like Target runs in the minivan, blasting Hillsong Kids and playing DJ for my guys, flipping only between tracks 1 (Jude's favorite) and 11 (Jack's favorite), while tickling Julia's toes so she doesn't fall asleep on the way home.  It looks like finally cleaning out the high school field hockey t-shirts and college jeans to make room in the wardrobe for maternity shirts and nursing tanks.  It looks like counting - counting to three to get Jude to take another bite of dinner, counting the number of seconds it takes Jack to change out of his jammies into his clothes (all by himself), counting as loudly as possible to get two small wrestlers' attention...

It also looks like compression hose and ice packs.  Swollen ankles and bulging bellies.  Tired eyes and deeper laugh lines.  Oh, the laugh lines.  Because no matter how difficult, how challenging, how exhausting these pre-midlife years have become, I've never been happier.  There's just too much to be thankful for.

So while the big 30 looked just like any other day - whining kids, piles of laundry, a late-working husband, and the hecticness of packing up our family of five for a road trip - there was a celebration waiting on the other side.

And it looked very much like a page taken from one of my favorite novels.

Lady Marmie.

Michelle - the kitchen help.

My mamas and the amazing Michelle!

Tea bag cookies.

My mom worked hard to plan and execute a Jane Austen Regency style tea party for my friends and I (just ask her how long it took to copy and paste some quotes into Word!).  And while I knew she and Jon had something planned for Saturday morning, I didn't know exactly what to expect.  Until I found my first clue hanging in the closet.

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Growing up, my closest friends and I had healthy imaginations that we regularly indulged in "dress-up."  On Thursdays the local thrift store had a fill-a-bag for $8 special.  And so we'd raid the formal dress rack, roll those layers and layers of tulle and satin up into tight wads, and stuff as many in a bag as possible.  And since neither my mom nor myself has had the heart to go through the trunks of memories still harbored away in our garage storage, most of those dresses are just the way I left them over 15 years ago.

Well, until Mom busted a few out for party decor and costume options.  Because dressing-up was on the agenda, and the most hardcore guests dove right in.

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Alli rocking the 50-some year old wedding gown ... like a pro!
My future-sister-in-law diving right in ...
... or maybe she improvised.
Liling in a vintage bridesmaid dress.

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And then there was my number.  It was a little hot, and I had a hard time hearing through the layers on my bonnet, but for a little while I got to walk in Jane Austen's shoes.  Okay, so not really.  My left foot was entirely too swollen to sport any Regency foot ware, but I got a sufficient taste regardless.

35 weeks - Regency dresses are so pregnancy-friendly.

But nothing quite like this guy.  Who utterly shocked me when he walked into the room looking like this.

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And reciting the famous Mr. Darcy proposal speech that he had been, unbeknownst to me, memorizing over breakfast that morning.  Shocked, people, just shocked.  Keep in mind this is the man that watches a periodic British film with me about once every 10 years, and then makes snarky comments throughout the entire movie.  Now, that's true love right there.

Mama's girl.

Oh, yeah, all out in one breath!
In addition to typical tea party refreshments, we also played the word game featured in "Emma" and took a "Pride and Prejudice" quiz.

Notice anything wrong with this picture?
And then I was even more surprised, overwhelmed and abundantly blessed by lovely gifts from some even lovelier ladies.  It's so nice to have such wonderful friends back "home" that continue to shower me with love even though I don't live there anymore.

So that is how my fourth decade has started out.  We've been going non-stop since then, so I haven't had much time to dwell on my advanced age.  And perhaps that's a good thing.  What they say about kids keeping you young - it's all true!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

(Partly) Happy Father's Day

I am strugglin' here.  I started to think that the newest pregnancy symptom this time around, that I haven't experienced before, was compulsory spending (that straw sun hat for Julia?  I'd like to see you say no when she puts it on and smiles...).  But lately there seems to be a new, perhaps hormonal??, issue - the grumps.  My kids are driving me CRAZY this week!  They are like louder, faster, more intense versions of themselves.

When Jack does his typical I'm-not-getting-my-own-way wail, it's more piercing, of a longer duration, and ten times more aggravating.  Jude seems to need me more and more.  I feel like half my day is spent helping him get re-dressed after yet another potty trip.  Or fixing his flip-flop.  Or acknowledging his boo boo.  Or cutting another hang nail.  Or reaching his cup.  Or cleaning up spilled drink.  And Julia is suddenly the baby again.  Up at night needing to be comforted, up at 5:15am and then swiftly back to sleep, on my chest, snoring in my ear, drooling down my shoulder, oblivious to her sister's protesting kicks, while I lie wide awake for the next one and half hours...

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And we might as well not leave out Little Sister.  At 34 weeks I feel like I'm peaking.  Full-fledged swollen feet, the occasional kick that literally takes my breath away, that pressure on my joints and rib cage, that urgent need to pee every time I shift positions, and the sheer difficulty of keeping up with three small children and all their needs, messes, activities and volume ... when all I really want to do is curl up on the couch, watch "Sense and Sensibility," look at baby things on Etsy, and for heaven's sake find this child a dresser to keep her clothes in!!

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All I can say is, thank goodness vacation is right around the corner.

In fact, a lot of things are just around the corner.  It's exciting, and keeps us busy.  And just a little scary that it's all going to go by so fast and the next time I blink I'll be holding a newborn.  I've always wanted a summer baby, but clearly I wasn't think about family vacations, weddings, showers, and all the extra house guests that warmer months bring.

So unfortunately, I've got a major case of the grumps.  I guess you could say the good news is at least I'm aware.  And I so much want to rectify it.  I so want these last few weeks of pregnancy and last few weeks of mothering my precious three to be joy-filled and peaceful, it's been my prayer for the past few days and I'm hopeful we'll turn the corner soon.

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33 weeks.  Sadly, I've completely lost track and only know this because my calendar is sitting right in front of me.
And while I'm sure my current state has a lot to do with it, I'm not the only one who's noticed my kids have upgraded to their latest version.  I think Jon had a good taste of it this weekend as well.  And it all seemed to come to a climax on Father's Day morning.  I had a MOPS retreat all day Saturday, in which Jon had the kids to himself, and he went golfing with Uncle Jared that evening, in which I had the kids all to myself.  And so we all woke up for church this morning just plain OFF.  Of course, it went downhill from there.  With each boy alternately screaming/crying in the car.  Julia screaming as I dropped her off at the nursery.  Everybody yelling and fighting and picking and tripping when we got home.
Also, occurring this week - a tornado warning.  I corralled the kids in the basement and we danced until Twitter informed me all was clear.

I'd like to say that I packed a lovely Father's Day luncheon and we picnicked at the park and had special family time together.   That's partly true.  Father's Day actually slipped my mind until last night, when I took all three kids out to three different places trying to figure out what we were going to do.  And then spent a small fortune on prepared picnic food at the grocery store because I knew I wouldn't have the time or energy to plan it myself.  And then came home, passed out paint to the Littles for their project, only to realize soon thereafter that it was not washable paint.  Doh!  And then, after cleaning up all kids, putting them to bed, and answering Jude's potty/drink/boo-boo calls for the next hour after bedtime,  to feverishly scanning Pinterest well into the night for a Father's Day idea, any idea, that I could finish before Jon got home.

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Their "house". It's amazing what they can accomplish in the amount of time it takes me to switch out a load of laundry.
And so by the time we got home from church, and Jack and Jude had both been put in separate spaces at least three times.  And Julia had dumped out the contents of a kitchen drawer, my purse, and a box of toys, we were about ready to call it all off.  I mean, no one felt like celebrating anything.  But we persevered, got everybody buckled in, set off down the road, were about halfway there, and then Jon realized he forgot his wallet so we had to turn around and head back.

We did make it to the park.  And, if nothing else, the weather was perfect.  While our lunch started out a bit rocky, I decided to segue into cards/gifts and that soon lightened the mood.  I had turned the boys' painted artwork into tie "bookmarks" and then taped them on to a dress-shirt card.  But the best part was what the boys "wrote" to their daddy on the inside.  Well, I wrote.  They spoke and I transcribed.

Dear Daddy,
You're strong like a coyote.  You're a good uncle to my friends Aviel and Gabe.  Thank you for taking me to the beach.  I like your "moving high-fives" when you put me to bed.
I love you!

Dear Daddy,
I like it when we wrestle and play in the leaf piles.  I like to be waterboarded.  You have big muscles like me and big teeth, too.  I love you!

We were laughing so hard I'm sure the people around us thought that the world's best Father's Day was going down right at our little picnic table.  And just for clarification, when Jon puts the boys to bed and gets them a drink of water, Jack likes to lay on the floor and have Jon pour it in his mouth.  It's their new thing.  So no, we do not waterboard our children.  Although I have been trying to think of  a way to get them to tell the truth ...

One truth we know to be certain, Daddy is certainly as strong as a coyote and truly does have big muscles.  He's also the best Daddy we could ask for and we're so incredibly thankful he's ours.  Especially weeks when Mama is particularly grumpy and half-wishing she had asked the midwife to put her on modified bedrest at the last appointment.  Just kidding.  Maybe.  To quote my middle child, "Are we going to the beach yet??"

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The business of busy-ness

I've noticed something about when I talk to my friends that have older kids - they're always in the car, or somewhere else.  Soccer practice, music lessons, swim class, church groups, school meetings, etc.  It makes me very thankful that, although our life seems crazy right now, at least I can keep that craziness at home, for the most part.  Now that preschool is over, we only have one perpetual event on our calendar in a general week, and that's church on Sunday mornings.  I can never leave my house the rest of the time if I want to.  Not that it ever works out that way, there's groceries to be got, library books to be returned, clothes to be dropped off for consignment, and all those other little things that creep into my daily schedule.  And if things start to get a little overwhelming we can retreat back to base and take it easy on ourselves for a little while.

We actually have a name for those kind of days, Jack calls them "home days."  In fact, he often will will ask me soon after he wakes up "Is today a home day?"  Because he knows if it is, then he's allowed to wear one his many pants with holes in the knees and we can skip the whole hair-combing ordeal.

But even "home days" have their own level of busy-ness.  And I know I've said it before, but one of the aspects of motherhood that I've never fully adjusted to is just how much work it takes to accomplish so little.    But rather than dwell on all those minor items, let's talk about the good things that have happened recently.  Like a Memorial Day weekend visit from Jon's sister Kate and her two kids Gabe and Aviel.  In some ways, it's almost a small break having other kids around because they all do so well at entertaining each other.  Of course, it's also interesting to see older kids in our house and what new things my kids pick up from them, anything from playing "Duck, Duck, Goose" on the trampoline to standing on the very top of the castle playhouse roof.

We made the beach a priority this weekend, because it's our happy place.
Memorial Day weekend was good for me.  Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own little world and solving all the issues that mothering three under four can bring.  It's good to have outsiders, guests to entertain and remind me that there is so much more to life than just what goes on in our little bubble.  And it also gives me a good excuse to log-off work for a little while, both the job that pays in cash and the one that pays in hugs and kisses, and just enjoy life with my family and friends.  Which is why we were so quick to beg our Cayman Island friends, Nate and Jenn, to add our house to their itinerary on their most recent trip to the states.  It did involve Jon waking up at 4:30am to drive them to the airport the next morning, but it was well worth it.

We offered Jenn whatever she wanted to do that she couldn't do in the Caymans - shopping, Rita's, downtown Annapolis.  Instead, she opted for a walk among the hardwoods.   So we took her to our special place and introduced her to the green swamp, teepees, dragons, giant snake, and everything else my boys imagine dwells in the small patch of forest at the end of our neighborhood.

We had just enough time to clear out the guest room, empty the dishwasher and clean the bathrooms before welcoming Jon's aunt, uncle and cousin Nicole in for lunch on Wednesday (they''ll actually be back later this week for a longer visit).  This was their first visit to our house, but one look at the gifts they brought and my kids were fighting over who could make friends first.  We used up all 7 bottles of bubbles they gave us within one afternoon, and Jack has already found a number of different uses for the lacrosse sticks from Uncle Gene.
Notice the lacrosse sticks in the background.  Jack said it's a "trap."

On another note, I love that I can bribe my kids to clear their plates with yogurt and fruit, just because it comes in frozen form.
Their visit was short, as they had a flight to catch.  But it was probably good they didn't stay too long since Jude, Julia and I were all feeling fairly shoddy by that evening.  I'm assuming it's allergies, but all I know is last week was the first time I took a nap since my first-trimester nod-off-like-Mr. Bean days.  Granted, I was only able to sneak in about 20 minutes of sleep before Jack was asking me for a snack, but just that obviously means something was very wrong.  Jon started to feel pretty bleh the next day too and actually ended up going to bed at 6pm that night.  Fortunately, he was feeling better enough the next day to leave work early and go golfing with his co-worker.  And not that I begrudge my man a round of golf, we all need a break sometimes, but  it's starting to hit me that I'm just not functioning at 100% anymore.  And after putting the kids to bed by myself 4 out of the last 5 days that week, and knowing that he was going to be spending his entire Saturday in Pennsylvania with his dad while I was alone with all the kids, I was sorta, kinda at my wit's end.

Any picture where he is actually looking at the camera is purely coincidence, he's very anti-picture taking right now.
It's a good thing I married a perceptive fella.  Whether it was the sound of my voice when I called him at 7:00 only to find out he still had two more holes to go.  Or the look in my eyes when he pulled in the driveway just as I was giving the final "keep your head on your pillow!" demand.  Or the sight of my bulging belly and swollen ankles.  For whatever reason, he kindly offered to take both boys with him to PA for the day and drop them off at my parents'.  And because I'm feeling so desperate at this point that I was willing to pull favors with anyone, I called up my parents and asked if they'd be interested in just keeping the boys up there until their scheduled visit on Monday.  And in typical Marmie and Poppa style, despite the mere 12 hour notice, they heartily consented.  And so by the time I finished cleaning up the breakfast dishes the next morning it was just me and my girl.

And it was so nice.  We shopped, we ate lunch out, she watched Baby Einstein while I did work, we went thrifting after dinner and topped off the evening with some frozen yogurt.  And she absolutely relished the one-on-one time.  Meanwhile, Jack and Jude were living it up in Central PA, visiting "the little beach" (R.B.Winter State Park), church, the "fun park" (Knoebels), and the animal auction (Dewart Livestock Auction).

Jon took his girls out on a date to Ikea Sunday night.  And we managed to find a Jason's Deli nearby (something I've missed since leaving Virginia Beach).  So while I was happy to have my first "Nutty Mix It Up" salad in three years, I was also somewhat discouraged that we did not find a dresser for our newest daughter.  I'm suddenly feeling the urge to inventory some baby clothes and I NEED a place to put them.  We still haven't decided exactly where we're putting all of our children and their things once the baby gets here, and I'd like to have that figured out fairly soon.  And it certainly didn't help that I was having false labor the entire time we were canvassing Ikea.  Like stop and rest in one of those faux living rooms so I could catch my breath false labor.  It also didn't help that I was hearing heels.  And that the strap on my heel broke before we even hit the marketplace.  Stupid swollen feet are ruining my footwear!!

32 weeks, pre-swollen feet/broken sandal strap, and absolutely positive we'll be coming home with a dresser.
I was vindicated by a trip to the consignment store the following day where I found out I made $78 on my first batch of clothes I've consigned, and got to walk out of there with a bagful of "free" clothes for the new baby.  Too bad there's just no place to put them.

Marmie and Poppa brought Jack and Jude back on Monday and then stayed on to keep all three kids the next day so that I could go watch my husband's award ceremony for work.  Jon's dad drove down to join in the festivities and, after three days of mothering only one child, I got to enjoy an entire day of no parenting responsibilities.  I also got a small glimpse into Jon's job and a chance to meet his captain and admiral.  It was a fun day and I'm so proud of this guy and all his hard work this past year!

When I look at this picture, all I see is belly button. :(

 Marmie and Poppa headed out today.  We're in the middle of washing the guest bed sheets again and soon the bathroom will need another good scrubbing (can I just mention here that my little girl peed on the potty today!!!).  There are two basket of laundry waiting to be folded, half a flower girl skirt that needs finished, and a bunch of teeny, tiny baby girl clothes just begging to find a home.  But it will get done, it always done.  Good thing tomorrow's a "home day."
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