Monday, September 16, 2013

A-camping we will go

The part of our camping trip I was most nervous about was the drive.  Wait, scratch that.  First I had to get through packing us all up in time.  Now THAT was a chore.  Packing is more and more involved with each new child we add.  And packing whilst also trying to entertain kids is even more interesting.  Plus, we try to leave the house semi-clean before we leave, which is hard enough on a normal day.  I decided the best thing to do was start packing a year in advance ... okay, just kidding.  I did as much as I could before Tuesday, sent the boys to preschool, and then finished the packing, loading the car, and cleaning the house while they were in school and whenever Joci would let me put her down.  I packed the kids a lunch for the car and we hit the road before noon.

I knew we wouldn't be able to make the trip without at least one potty/nursing break, the question was just when.  As long as Joci kept sleeping I wanted to keep driving.  We drove out of town, past all the familiar landmarks, past civilization itself and then I realized we had entered farm country.  Right about that time Jack starts complaining he has to go pee-pee.  I push through, hoping for any restaurant, gas station, friendly looking business.  And then Jack starts saying he has to go "pee-pee'er and pee-pee'er!!"  It's right about this time that Joci wakes up and wants her mama ASAP!

And then I saw it, rising in the distance, a porta-potty!!  And right next to it - a swing set!  All conveniently located at a friendly farm stand.  I mean, when you think about it, a porta potty is ideal for someone in my situation.  Had Joci remained sleeping (like her sister), I could have just pulled right up, let Jack hop out, and kept the car running the entire time.  Drive-thru bathrooms - now that's an idea!  As it was, Joci needed to eat and the boys aren't able to exit the car without disturbing Lia.  And Jude wasn't really able to utilize the porta potty on his own.  The lady running the stand took pity on me and offered to help out.  And since I can't let a stranger help my sons use the bathroom, I gave her Joci instead.  I think that's okay, right?  I didn't really think about it.  I just rushed the guys through and ran back out there to retrieve my hungry baby.  And then we bought some apples, honey sticks, drinks, and crackers as a thank you for providing this oasis in the dessert.

We made it the rest of the way without further mishap and arrived at Cape Henlopen a little after Marmie and Poppa.  Now, I should clarify, this wasn't tent camping.  I'm not that crazy!  (Although we did take Jude tent camping when he was only 10 weeks old (and when it got down to the 40s at night!!).   Nope, we stayed in the same kind of cabin we stayed in last year, with a bed and electricity.

This year's cabin also had a massive sand pit out in front.

Cooking with Jocelyn.

Lia, you are not a baby!!
The biggest difference between this year and last year was the temperature.  It was up to nearly 90 some days, and that's just a tad hot to be camping!  I might as well add here that although I was happy to have a July birthday in the family, I still hold to fall babies being my favorite!  I am not a fan of nursing, wearing, snuggling, diapering, etc. newborns in the heat of the summer.  Ick.  But Joci's a sweetheart and didn't seem to mind much at all.

Marmie got a big beach bucket for our big family.

Daddy said she got chunkier while he was in Hawaii.

She drags that poor doll everywhere!
I think I've mentioned this before but camping (or vacationing in general) with 4 kids is still work.  Even with both my parents around we were still outnumbered.  Apparently, kids don't stop getting dirty, testing their parents, and peeing and pooping on vacation.  But even so, it's a nice change of scene and I was able to get some reading done and half-relax a little.

We met a friendly fisherman named Mr. Gene.

Somebody was not a fan of the showers...

... so Marmie bathed her (and baby) in the bucket.
At the Nature Center, where you can use two fingers to touch the horseshoe crabs.

On top of "Rapunzel's tower."
Our last day there was chilly and overcast, almost as if summer had final given up.  It was the perfect way to end our mini-vacation.

Even though we've left the campground, it still lives on in our house.  The boys play "camping" every day and Jack still talks about "Rapunzel's tower" and the fish.  It's a little sad, knowing that he'll be in Kindergarten next year and our fall camping trips are probably over (for at least the next 18 years).  But we have some great memories to look back on and a bright future ahead of us!

And here are the kids sharing their favorite part of camping.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Summer's End

The windows are all open, I'm snuggling my hoodie-clad daughter, warm in my comfy sweatpants but with toes numb in the chilly breeze.  (It's too early for slippers and I'm too clumsy to run around bare wooden floors in only my socks, especially while carrying a baby!)  The pumpkin spice candle burning on the table has overtaken the entire house.  And I can't help but notice my rustic orange shirt blends in perfectly with the yards and yards of leaf garland that twirl around the mantle, the mantle over the fireplace that there has been talk of utilizing this very evening!

The "Magic Seat."

Oh, hello there favorite time of the year!

In case you haven't herd, her recent nickname is Gassy Jassi.
I welcome fall.  And along with it I welcome routines and schedules, a family rhythm that we're still attempting to sort out with the now-six of us.  Trying to figure out what we're capable of and what needs to go on the back burner for another time.  As it turns out, Joci is capable of 7, 8, even 9 hours of sleep at night!  She is not capable of taking a nap without my assistance during the day though.  I've had lots and lots of time (baby-juggling, room-pacing, mama-shushing time) to determine why this is the case and I've come up completely and utterly blank.  The mystery as to how my daughter can sleep hour and hours on her very own after 9pm, but can't bear to be out of my arms the entire day leading up to that, remains just that - a mystery.

If I lay her down after she's fallen asleep, she's usually good for about 10 to 20 more minutes of sleep.
As for me, I'm capable of getting four little ones up, fed, dressed, teeth-brushed and out the door by 8:15 in the morning for preschool.  Now the next step is to get myself in that same state.  What I'm not capable of just yet is making my family a full dinner.  Meals from our MOPS and church friends officially ended two weeks ago.  Since then we've been living off the bounty I froze the night before Joci was born.  When that's gone ... well, I suppose we'll all just fast.

The one thing I accomplished while the boys were at preschool - all the diapers boiled and hung out to bleach in the sun ... where I left them for four days.  So don't worry, she's laying on the cleanest of clean cloth diapers!
Lia is capable of telling us when she has to go potty ... after the fact.  I'm sure she could be trained at any time now.  Unfortunately, time is just not something I have enough of right now, well at least, time I'm not holding a baby.  So at the moment, we endure her running around with her pants off and yelling "potty!"

Girlfriend loves her bike helmet.
Jude is capable of going to preschool.  We weren't so sure after the first day.  The first day in which he was all smiles until we got to the door and he refused to go in.  And then ran out into the hall.  And then was dragged back in.  And then threw himself on the floor and crawled back out.

I eventually left him in the hands of the very capable Ms. Bonnie, whom he said he was going to kick if she came near him.  According to her report, he spent the first part of school in the corner making raspberry noises.  Eventually it got old and he decided to join circle time and ever since then he's been a lover of all things school and Ms. Bonnie.

Jack's first day!  (Jude refused to get a picture.)

Both boys walking in to school.  Can you believe half my kids are in preschool?
Jack's an old pro at school.  He's in a smaller class this year with all older kids.  I heard that one of the boys blew in his face and smiled with gratitude that Jack would have his equal in friends this year.  Nope, Jack's new thing is soccer.  He's capable of playing on a team and scoring goals.  He's already doubled his personal record and scored two goals this past weekend!  Jon and I are just as eager for Saturday mornings as he is, there's nothing quite so entertaining as a bunch of 5 year olds attempting to kick a ball around.  Half the time there was no ball to be found!

Pointing out what direction they should kick the ball.

This picture sums it up!
Jack's a natural athlete and born leader, but we'll have to work on those soccer skills just a little bit more.  For now, he seems to spend more time falling on the ground than actually making contact with the soccer ball.

Finally, I discovered one more thing I'm capable of in this thing called motherhood.  I can pack up and drive 4 kids under 5 for a few days of camping at the beach.  I always think it's funny when people respond to certain aspects of my life with "I don't know how you do it."  Usually, the answer is "How can I not do it?"  Most of the time, I don't have a choice.  Jon was in Hawaii all last week so in this instance, I did have a choice - spend 5 days alone at home with 4 kids or attempt a road trip with 4 kids.  Neither sounded very appealing but only one ended in the prospect of a 1.3 kids to 1 adult ratio.  And so that's just what we did.

But alas, we'll save that story for another time. The grunting, sighing, fist-sucking sound going on next to me indicates that my free time is up for now!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A little Labor Day lovin'

I've sat down to write this post a half-dozen times, and each time I barely get a word or two typed out.  The baby needs held, the nearly-2-year-old needs a diaper change, the nearly-5-year-old needs his shoes tied, and the 3-year-old needs a drink.  Need, need, need.  Know what mama needs?  Just a few minutes to herself!

The sleepy-pout.  I die.

Love when she's completely and overwhelmingly relaxed.
It hasn't been any easy month.  Jon was supposed to be gone 2 days the other week and it ended up being the entire week.  A whole week of just me and the littles.  I think it's funny when people tell me my "hands are full."  Ummm... two hands, four kids?  "Full" is an understatement, I'm pretty sure they were "full" two babies ago.  And when it's just me, just me changing diapers and clothes, just me keeping up with the house and food and dishes.  Just me sloughing through the dreaded witching hour and laying down the law at bedtime ... Sometimes, okay most times, it's just seems like a little too much.

Post-Sunday school.  She's the female version of the collective Joshua and Caleb, spying out the promised land.

She loves her tubby time!
We won't go back and rehash all those events, but suffice it to say, many tears were shed by the kids and I.  Now that Jon's home again I'm trying to bury that chapter underneath a couple of other good ones.  Speed reading if you will.

We've finally starting making it to the 9am church service on time, and color coordinated at that!


Oh, and did I mention I just had a baby six weeks ago?  I keep forgetting that.  Keep forgetting that if this was an "outside the home" job, I'd still be on maternity leave.  Keep forgetting that I'm supposed to take it easy.  Keep forgetting that the reason my infant likes to be held all the time is because she's just that - an infant.  Keep forgetting that my body isn't entirely back to normal and that I'm awash in a strange mixture of hormones.  That the world really isn't that terrible and if I just tread water through this fresh burst of tears a happiness wave will soon follow.

So thankful that our friends Nick and Lindsey were in town while Jon was gone. They brought me coffees, made me dinner, watched my boys, and made the kids super-cool super capes!

When we get together, that's 7 Coastie kids under the age of 5.  It's REALLY, REALLY fun.  Just kidding.
And that's where we are now, surfing this current wave of happiness.  The Coast Guard gave Hubby a four-day weekend and we savored every minute of it.  Jon got to work cleaning the house Friday afternoon (after a round of golf, of course) and Joci decided to take a few stellar naps that did not require me to hold her, and so by bedtime the house was back in proper order.  It's amazing how much having a clean house can brighten my mood.

Super Jude and his super smile... and Super Jack getting his white socks super dirty.
And we celebrated the holiday with Jon's sister, Katie, and her family.  We spent Saturday at a local beach and exchanged babysitting and date nights the rest of the weekend.  And while it wasn't exactly a  relaxing holiday, having houseguests certainly helps me take the focus off myself and (as we often say to the boys) my stinky attitude.

We've said goodbye to newborn diapers and clothes earlier this month.  Mommy's having a hard time packing everything up. :(
I seem to fall more in love with Labor Day weekend each year.  I mean, it's not every day we celebrate the END of something.  And with the sun shining outside and the air conditioning still running on full blast, it's hard to believe that we've said farewell to summer.  We haven't dug the leaf garland out just yet (still have to work my way through a couple of boxes of baby and kid and maternity clothes for storage).  But we've already started to "feel" fall.  I feel it in the way we're settling down, with less travel on the calendar and more events here at home.  I feel it in the way my kids have stopped fighting bedtime because "it's not dark yet."  I feel it every time I pull a peach crisp out of the oven (we've had a lot of peach crisp lately, per Jack's requests!).  I feel it whenever Jude wears his new "school shoes" and Jack asks me to put on his shinguards and soccer cleats so he can kick the ball around outside.

Notice Jude purposely trying to NOT be photographed.

It was a wonderful summer, a summer full of changes.  And this new season is looking to be quite full of promise as well.  I'm sure there will be some tough days, some days where it's all I can do to tread water.  And likewise we'll have days of smooth sailing where we all ride the happiness wave.  Like any good book, we can race through the bad parts and take in the good chapters over and over again.  We'll read on, keep turning pages, and of course, never, ever sneak a peek at the last page.
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