Florida Vacay Pt. 2

So I’m not going to lie, when people say things like “it’s not really a vacation with kids” I’ve never truly related to that. Like, for sure it’s different. In one scenario you are solely responsible for entertaining and keeping yourself alive, and in the other you are responsible for a lot of people.

Maybe because I’ve never been a partier or a drinker really, and don’t find that to be “fun” or even a little bit relaxing, being responsible for other humans doesn’t typically feel that tedious or as if it’s taking from the vacation. I genuinely enjoy being with my kiddos, as terribly crazy as they often are. And fortunately J does, too. I wouldn’t say we’d never do a totally kid-free vacation, because maybe some day, in the future, we will. Who knows? But for now, we enjoy having them with us, and we are super fortunate that we’ve built a relationship where neither of us feels underappreciated or whatever if we don’t have constant (or if we are being honest, like any) one on one time with each other.

All that said. This vacation was exhausting. Oh my gosh. It wasn’t even the kids, ha. I think it was my rotund stomach and the extreme sleepies of third trimester pregnancy. I was lucky enough to get several naps in, to sit on the beach or in the water and take a load off while J primarily care for the littles, but still. It was exhausting. But no more exhausting than if we’d been at home.

The kids were so happy to be on the beach. It’s really all that Sweet M and Bean remember, and they talk about it daily. Bean even squealed, “I love da beach!” while M inquired, “Shouldn’t we be living here always?” I told him I’m working on it. I’m not sure how many more years, or even months, of cold I can withstand. I thought I wasn’t bothered by cold and snow. And then we lived in Hawaii and I realized I was wrong. So, so, so very wrong.

There is a completely different sort of vibe and atmosphere to being near the water. Life is just more mellow and calm. Everyone is more chill. It’s the way life is supposed to be. Or at least mine anyway. I am not cut out for the hustle and bustle of busy life.

Anyway, here’s a bunch of photos of beach life. I’ll write later about H’s fun surprise. Well, both of them!

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Miss H’s First Communion

I’m not going to go into the debacle of what was originally supposed to be Miss H’s first communion back in April. Let’s just say the world should be really happy that J and I are both super easy going individuals, haha.

So Miss H ended up receiving her first communion this past Sunday. And it was beautiful and emotional (for me), and a long time coming.

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I was baptized Catholic as an infant, but I wasn’t raised Catholic. I wasn’t really raised as anything, so it’s intriguing in some ways that it’s where I teetered back to.

I had the privilege of attending a Catholic high school, by choice, for two years before moving back to Indiana, although I did not remotely identify or practice as Catholic then. It wasn’t until I began my sophomore year of college, a little overwhelmed from the cards I’d been dealt that summer, that I really started to seek a quiet refuge in the idea of religion.

There are a lot of things I probably don’t agree with in the Catholic Church as a whole. I also genuinely do not care if my children grow to decide they want to be Buddhist or Atheist or whatever. It’s their journey, not mine. I’m happy to share with them how I came to this place, but it’s not my choice to decide what or how they believe. That’s up to them.

I was confirmed in the Catholic Church while I was living in England the year before J and I wed, and I knew if I was going to do marriage I wanted it to be a through the Church, for better or for worse. J was born and raised Catholic, and though he was not, and is not, very much a practicing Catholic, he has always whole heartedly supported my decisions and precarious faith.

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We gave H and B the choice to participate in religious education classes and whether or not they wanted to take the steps toward their first communion (B still has another year of classes before he is there) and both said yes. And they’ve both definitely enjoyed their classes more than actual mass, haha. Which I don’t blame them. The few Christmas masses I sat through as a kid I wasn’t particularly fond of. It wasn’t until I was an adult.

Anyway, H’s first communion came. The babies were wild so J ended up outside with them and missed the whole thing, which I know made her a little sad, and J, too. But that’s just life sometimes.

I cried. Because that’s what I do. And by cried I got teary-eyed because I very rarely truly cry. But she was beautiful and it was a beautiful moment and I’m so glad that for now, it’s the path she is choosing is right for her heart.

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And her heart is so big and so full of love and goodness, I sometimes can’t believe she came from J and I. She is definitely proof that it is so much nature, and only a sliver of nurture, as much as we sometimes want to believe otherwise.

And I am so, so thankful, that God felt like we deserved Miss H in our lives, and that we are remotely good enough to be a part of her life’s journey, because she is truly one of the best people I know.

Another Kid is (Mostly) Potty Learned

I’ve talked about potty learning before. And the thing is, I’m not some kind of professional, or wizard, with lots of sage advice or tricks up my sleeve.

But also. It’s been really easy with all my kids thus far.

Miss H was kind of magical, I admit. We had no idea what we were doing and zero plans. J and I hadn’t even discussed potty learning. Like, it wasn’t even a thought in our minds. But she went every where we did, so naturally, she got super curious about the potty early on. At 14 months she was asking to sit on the potty, and by 16 months she was wearing chonies (underwear) pretty much full time during the day (nighttime is a different story).

Mr. B had zero interest in the potty so I assumed he’d be my kid in diapers until he was 3 and I wasn’t really that concerned because I just don’t have the time or energy to stress over those sorts of things. Like, whether he used the toilet on his own at 18 months or age 5 didn’t make a difference to me; either way I wouldn’t be changing his diapers in college. But low and behold, a little over a month before his second birthday he asked for chonies with airplanes while shopping one day. We bought them, he put them on at home, and that was that. Literally. I think he maybe had three accidents after that. Ever.

Sweet M was pretty much as easy, but we were in Hawaii and I was more hesitant to put him in chonies full time, even once he was very consistently using the potty, because omg. Traffic. Honolulu traffic is nothing like Midwest traffic and I really didn’t want accidents in the car seats because that’s a pain to clean out. (But I also wash their car seats way too frequently because – food. So I probably shouldn’t have worried.) Anyway, on his 2nd birthday I pulled the trigger, put him in chonies, told him no more diapers, and that was that. He had a very small handful of accidents that week, but none in the car. Though there were a few days when we’d have to pull over several times in a 30 minute span for him to go potty, but whatevs. It was short lived fun and that was that.

I figured Bean was going to be it then. She’d be the one in diapers forever. But just like all the others, she showed an early interest. And at 20 months, I haven’t pulled the trigger on no diapers at all, but she is naked or in chonies 90% of the time, and has approximately 0-2 accidents a day. Again, it’s more me than anything, I imagine. She’s pretty committed (there is definitely a thrill for her when she squeals “shi shi in the potty, Mommy!” as we are driving down the road), and most of the accidents occur in situations where she does tell me (because I don’t believe in taking a kid to the potty every x amount of minutes, because that’s too much work and I’m too lazy for that, haha), but we just don’t get to a toilet fast enough. Fortunately, it’s getting warm though so she can rock the t-shirt and chonies look, and it makes things easier. She’s been the most drawn out process of all of my kids, but even still, it’s been easy and stress free.

I figure most kids likely have the ability to be potty learned early on. I know it’s common place in many other countries. Again though, I’m not an expert.

Being present, being aware and alert, offering lots of opportunities where they can choose the potty, talking about the potty, reading about the potty, and not stressing or forcing it all seem to have been and currently be pretty important key components for all of my kiddos in potty learning.

And before you think I just have super easy, malleable kids, I assure you, I do not. Not one of them is “easy,” but damn, they’re all loveable and amazing. Bean’s current favorite two phrases are “I don’t like that” and “I don’t want that.” And she wears the same ratty dinosaur dress her Aunt Bucky bought her almost every single day by shrill-shrieking choice (it’s probably why I always call her my sweet, angel baby, haha). My kids are stubborn and opinionated, but they also like to be in charge. And having control where their potty learning is concerned makes them feel quite mighty, I infer.

Having us praise them every time they succeed, and not being upset or frustrated when they don’t quite make it, makes it a smooth-sailing, stress-free process.

And now that Bean is pretty much out of diapers (except on the playground, I am still mostly worried she is going to pee on the slide and ruin it for everyone, ha), I guess we will see how sweet Fimito decides to finish our potty learning easy streak.

Until then.

Constantly Playing Catch Up

This past year has really thrown me for a loop. I constantly feel like I’m playing catch up, and I’m always the person who had my essays written weeks before they were ever due. I read all the books for class the summer before classes even started. I had an entire years worth of birthday cards all ready written, addressed, and stamped, filed away for each month of the year for all of my friends and family.

And now?

Shit. Now I’m throwing together lunches for my kids seconds before we are headed out the door, and I honestly don’t know they last time I sent a birthday card.

Sorry. For real. I wish I was more on top of it, but this past year has just knocked me on my butt.

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I don’t even really have a good excuse, other than we went from living the Aloha life where we had a flourishing community and my husband was actually home on the daily, to back to Midwest where M-F is spent parenting alone, and most of my time is spent alone with two adorable toddlers, and a sweet, surprise baby is on the way, and I’m really just tired. Like really tired. But I also don’t want to be so tired and behind that I miss it all because this is my dream.

Like really and truly. I am living my dream. So I don’t know how I can always be so behind and tired when I literally have everything I could ever want right here. Well, except maybe for my husband Monday through Friday because I actually super like him too.

I’m trying to make myself be more intentional. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the mundane of it all. Sometimes I forget to pause and breathe. That it’s okay if the laundry isn’t put away or that the floors don’t get vacuumed three times a day. Because lets be honest, my house doesn’t look any different when it all gets done as opposed to when it doesn’t (but I notice how good those baseboards look after I’ve washed them down. And there is some sweet satisfaction there).

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We finally have beautiful weather and so we are basically living outside these days, and it’s pretty glorious. I’m starting to feel energized and awake again. Although my three-year-old is testing every ounce of extreme patience I have, I definitely have more to give when we are living outdoors as opposed to being cooped up inside.

Three year olds. Lord help me. He is just a fabulous, wonderful, delightful little human. Who is also trying to see if can make me throw out all of my respectful and gentle parenting beliefs. I will say thus far, he hasn’t succeeded. Well, maybe other than the moment I told him I’d have to leave him at home alone if he couldn’t pull himself together and be kind to his sister the other day. It wasn’t a proud moment for sure, but also, I like to remind myself it could have been worse. I didn’t yell. I didn’t manhandle him. But I probably shouldn’t have threatened him with abandonment, but what else will he have to discuss in therapy one day otherwise?

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We’ve made so many plans this year that didn’t come into fruition, which is hard for me, as an avid planner. I’m also trying to learn to be better at “go with the flow.” J is so darn spontaneous, and I admire and also deplore that about him. I so badly want to be like that, but it’s also kind of maddening at times.

I feel like I’m on a constant quest to declutter and minimize, and I don’t even know how it’s possible when we went from comfortably living in 800 square feet a year ago to now being in nearly 2700 square feet, and I definitely feel more overwhelmed and swallowed up here than I did there. Like how? And why isn’t it possible to get rid of all. the. stuff?

And at the same time I feel like we need more space because I don’t even know where to put kids at this point.

Sweet M just started sleeping on his own this past week, and I put him in B’s room because I don’t want him sharing a room with Bean because she sleeps so darn well that I don’t want to mess it up. And H deserves her own space; she’s 9 and entering tweendom and I want her to have that space. But omg. Mr. B and Sweet M really do love each other, but they also butt heads and should not share a room. Fortunately M is young enough now that all of his toys are pretty much downstairs and his clothes are in Bean’s room, so basically he is just in there to sleep but there have been a lot of sad, “I don’t even have a bedroom!” moments from him and that’s a little gut-wrenching. Though again, I try to remind myself of how good they have it, and that lots of kids share bedrooms (myself having been included!) and it’s totally fine, if not actually beneficial for them in the long run.

But omg. Some days these things just seem so huge. And other days, of course, they don’t. Some days I laugh at how worried I get about such trivial things, and then I just blame pregnancy hormones. And exhaustion. And the deep fear of failing the only thing I’ve ever felt passionate about, which is mothering these sweet humans.

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I could say more right now. There is a million things running through my head and this is only the tip of the iceberg. But I knew I needed to sit down and at least start somewhere. For my own sanity. But all the tiny humans are asleep and there is a million other things I need to do right now: order scholastic books, do the dishes, put laundry away, vacuum, and pack lunches. And my bed time is in like 30 minutes so I need to go at the pace of Wonder Woman. Or a cheetah.

I wonder which is fastest when it comes to trying to catch up?

Morgan Mayhem is 3!

It’s kind of that age-old question of which came first: the chicken or the egg?

Is we Mayhem because we named him so? Or did we name him Mayhem because we knew?

It’s crazy that somehow this baby that was so deeply wanted and prayed for, literally for years is three years old. All those years of longing for him seemed like eternity, and yet the years we’ve been so blessed to have with him have utterly flown by.

He is such a fun little guy. He is full of more zest and spitfire and energy with a touch of cray cray than I ever could have predicted. And I was predicting he’d be a hand full as is.

He is a chupi-lover and doesn’t seem to be parting with that anytime soon. And J and I have made our peace with that. We wouldn’t throw out a stuffie he was deeply attached to and brought him significant comfort; we won’t do that with his pacifier, even though we always said we wouldn’t have a “big baby” with a pacifier. Oh, and is this three year old of ours so big! How humbling parenting is.

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Sweet M has had such an epic third year of life. He went from beach-living on Oahu, to traipsing through Europe for a month, to moving to the Midwest.

He’s got the little brother role down pat, and is utterly attached to his big sister. He loves his big brother, but probably loves driving him crazy even more. Whoops.

And he’s learning how to be a helpful big brother to his little sister. He adores her to pieces, but is definitely having a harder time as she progresses into toddlerhood. He definitely still sees her as a baby, and wants her to be so (he is very excited to be getting another baby sibling this summer!). But he also loves her ability to play with him, and he adores teaching her new things.

He is pretty obsessed with play dough and board games. And books. So many, many books.

He loves helping his papa cook. Maybe because he seems to love eating as much as his momma.

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He is starting life as a 3 year old with cool, blue glasses, and bunch of missing curls. Although I want nothing more than to turn back the clock and keep him tiny, I’m so grateful that I get to watch him grow into such a fun, creative, and spunky little boy.

When Motherhood is Lonely

I don’t have rose-colored glasses (or rainbow ones, either!) on when I recall our time in Hawaii. I’m well aware that as much sunshine and rainbows that were there, it wasn’t in all the moments.

There was red dirt that ruined all of our clothes. The August heat and lack of air conditioner made me consider skipping the island before we’d hardly had the chance to know it. The traffic is insane. The cost of living is outrageous. Rats and cockroaches are a thing. Legitimately. And have nothing to do with the cleanliness of your home. And the house itself? It was 800 square feet for a whole lot of us.

But, you know what else was there?

 

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We had a huge yard with a coconut tree (home of said rats). So we had fresh coconuts at our disposal. A plumeria tree in the front of our house that was perfect for climbing and swinging. And the view? That view of Diamond Head and Waikiki was killer. With a weekly fireworks show just for us that we could watch out our living room window on Friday nights.

We were always hiking and climbing and playing. And the beach. I didn’t think I was a “beach person” until living in Hawaii. Until that was a part of our daily lives. I crave the ocean now. The waves, the sea salt, the sand between my toes. It visits me in so many of my dreams now that I know its woven into the threads of my soul whether I like it or not.

But the best part? It was the community. The people. The ones I knew and loved intimately and the ones I passed in the grocery store. The uncles who sang songs to my fussy toddler while we waited in the grocery line, or slipped him a piece of candy. The aunties who watched my kids at the beach as vigilantly as I watched theirs, and loved mine nearly as much as I love them myself. The people who made motherhood a beautiful experience even during the most challenging of times.

 

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The mommas who passed clothes and shoes down onto my kiddos, who piled into tiny houses with gaggles of kids running around, who broke bread and fed each other and never questioned or expected anything in return, even though it often came tenfold.

Not once in Hawaii did the sentiment of “motherhood is lonely” cross my mind. And that had been the only sentiment of motherhood that had been steadfast from the moment I brought my first baby into this world.

I thought motherhood was meant to be done in isolation. I thought it was a sacrifice you made. You spent your days alone, with your children, and that was that. If you wanted to be with your children you didn’t get to have anything else. Know anyone else. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too, you know?

And that’s how it is here. That’s what I know best. Occasional dinners with friends, but not the daily friendships and community of mothers working together. Teaching, raising, disciplining, loving all their children together in a community where no one is ever alone unless they wish to be.

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I think I would have been content if we hadn’t lived a different life, a different way. I think if I’d never known that it could have been different, I would have made a way to be at peace with the way our modern, western society says motherhood must be.

But I know. I know different now. I know better now. I watched not only my children, but myself thrive in a different way of life. And once you go from thriving back to just surviving, it’s soul crushing.

Don’t get me wrong, we don’t sit around lamenting what is no longer. Not all the time anyway. It’s in the small moments that it’s so evident what we’re lacking. And in those small moments when I find myself struggling to help find ways for my children to best thrive in this life scenario, without also teaching them that I agree with the livelihood or lack thereof that is the rat race; the “keeping up with Joneses.”

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Motherhood is weird. A time and place where you have so many thoughts and so many desires, and at the end of the day they don’t matter because the focus and intent is so centralized on what is best for your children in order for them to thrive and grow as well-rounded, happy, empathetic humans (as it should be, and the only way I would have it be).

And sometimes, depending on where you are, that just means that motherhood is lonely.

Book Lovers, and the End of B&N

Since Miss H was a baby we’ve been going to our local Barnes and Noble story time on Wednesdays.

We have a routine that includes coffee, cookies, and lots of books. What more could anyone ever want?

The story time is fairly epic. We’ve been to other Barnes and Noble story times in other towns, and they never quite compare. Ms. C who runs story time here always has 2-3 books to read to the kids. They get a delicious snack. And always have fantastic crafts to create afterward that go along with the stories. None of this coloring sheet business. There is glue and stickers and glitter and yarn. It is worthwhile.

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And Ms. C knows all the kids. She remembers them by name and becomes a pseudo-grandma. H even wrote to her while we lived on Oahu and Ms. C wrote back. She’s just that loved and loveable.

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Needless to say, hearing that Barnes and Noble is closing mid-February was a bit gut wrenching. Hormones probably don’t help the situation, but I just cannot imagine my parenting journey without this weekly tradition of coffee and train tables and books.

Yes, of course, we have the library, but it’s different. This is more homey and personal and just an overall different vibe.

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It’s been a good run, and it will be sorely missed. I’m sad that the babies have such a short experience of this, and that baby Fimito will never know it. But I am so, so thankful of all the dreary Wednesdays that Barnes and Noble gave me a momma-pick-me-up during some of those loooong toddler-parenting days through out the years.

Christmas with American Girl

We have are heading west for Christmas this year to see friends and family that we haven’t seen in way too long, so we decided to celebrate Christmas at home nearly two weeks early.

I know, I know. The kids begged us to wait and celebrate in January. They insisted we hold off and were utterly heartbroken when we forced them to unwrap gifts so early.

Just kidding….maybe someone else’s kids, but not mine!

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Outside of art supplies and books, we don’t really buy our kids toys year round. They’re saved for Christmas and birthdays. There are a lot of reasons for that. 1.) We have four kids. That’d add up fast. 2.) We want them to learn delayed gratification. 3.) We want them to truly enjoy the toys they have; not need a new toy high every week.

And if that’s not how you’re family rolls, that’s okay! All families are different, and that’s what makes life so fun and enjoyable. We all figure out what works best for us.

One thing Miss H has really been wanting is the American Girl Grand Hotel. I grew up as an American Girl aficionado, so it’s definitely an interest I love to cultivate in her. And I also love that at almost 9-years-old, she is still immersed in the world of imaginary play. I hope she holds onto that for a bit longer.

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As a Historian, I really feel like American Girl opened up a whole world of realistic fiction for me as a kid. It’s also a company that empowers girls, so I always feel good about investing in their quality products. And Mr. B and Sweet M both also have dolls from American Girl – Mr. B has Logan and Sweet M recieved a Bitty Baby for his last birthday; it was all he wanted. So I love that a company geared toward cultivating strong females, also has space for the boys, too. It’s a win-win all around.

Needless to say that Miss H was absolutely thrilled to open her American Girl Grand Hotel on “Christmas.” And Bean was pretty excited to get in on the action, too! She can attest that the doll bed is in fact sturdy enough to withstand baby sisters. Over and over again.

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H will tell you that all the the facets and details of the Hotel are her favorites, and Sweet M is pretty obsessed with the hair dryer, but as a momma of four littles who likes things tidy (I know, but we all need dreams and goals, right?), I will tell you that I especially love how nicely it all folds up so it can be put away when she’s done playing with it. Everything in the hotel has a spot, it folds up fairly compact, and can be stored away safely until she’s ready to play again.

Like all of our American Girl products, the Grand Hotel is definitely an investment I feel good in making, as it is such high quality and I know will last for years to come and be well-loved by all of my kiddos. I’m so happy we that American Girl was able to be a part of our Christmas this year!

 

 

***This post was sponsored by American Girl, but as always, thoughts and opinions are completely and genuinely mine, and I only sponsor products that we honestly adore. 

The Nutcracker, and Time

One of the most challenging aspects of parenting is, without a doubt, time. Even if you only have one kiddo, there will seemingly never be enough time. Whether you’re an at home parent, you work outside the home, whatever.

Time is simply vengeful. And I find that the more kidlets we have, the more precious our time truly is. It’s hard to get very much 1:1 time. Sometimes I see it as a curse. Other times I view it as a blessing. Because my kids genuinely are so selfless. They know the world doesn’t revolve around them because they each have three other siblings and there just isn’t space or time for the world to be about them.

That doesn’t mean we don’t strive to spend 1:1 time with them. We do. Not only because they need it – of course they do! – but J and I also need and desire that time with them. It’s so special, and they are each so uniquely special and precious to us. Even though we don’t want them to be self-centered, we do want them to know that they are amazing, important, wonderful humans who are so deeply loved and cherished.

Because of the age gap between the boys (4.5 years), we often split them up as the “bigs” and “littles.” And sometimes that means we get to enjoy time with a “set” of them, as opposed to just one of them. And that’s always really fun, too!

Miss H and Mr. B both had friends performing in IU’s The Nutcracker Ballet this year, and they both wanted to attend. I had been in the past with just H, but this was the first time that both J and B also came along, and it made for such an enjoyable experience.

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They were excited to get all dolled up and have a grown up night away from the babies, where they feasted on cookies and hot cocoa before the show.

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They both watched the entire performance completely intrigued and devoted, even though it began at their normal bedtime (yes, yes, they do go to bed fairly early in fairness). B started to droop at the end, his little eyelids heavy, but overall I’d say it was a success, and reminiscent of our pre-M days when we attended musicals and shows with Miss H and Mr. B quite frequently.

It was a lot of fun to spot their friends dancing and recognize all the Nutcracker music the kids didn’t realize they actually all ready knew.

I love seeing what independent, selfless kiddos we are raising. I also love being with them so much it almost hurts. I never dreamt I’d just thoroughly enjoy these kids the way I do. And as time has slipped us by so quickly, funny how that happens, I hope I’m forever mindful of the time I have with them. Sure to make it quality. Sure to be present, not just there. Because they are so worth it.

A Christmas Photo

I totally had my shit together. We were up early, the kids were clean and dressed in snazzy clothes.

I had a plan!

I told them we were off to take some cute Christmas photos and then I promised them chocolate chip pancakes if we could make it through as team players.

Fountain Square mall is always so gorgeous around the holidays, and one of my fave places to take holiday pictures. We showed up with a game plan.

And the doors were locked.

For real. It was Sunday, not Saturday like I was thinking. Of course. So the mall doors didn’t open until noon.

I had four well-dressed, but hungry kids. And no place to take a nice photo.

Go figure.

So we left, defeated, to feed them pancakes.

I did make J pull over to the side of the road along the way to snag this photo.

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And it truly is such an accurate representation of the four of them.

B with his glasses sliding down his nose, wearing his button up shirt uniform that he’s dawned since he started dressing himself as a toddler. His arm around his little brother, because even though they butt heads, he loves him something fiercely.

M with his chupi in his mouth, a huge smile on his face, looking at something else because he’s always so busy and distracted.

Bean, smiling, but totally not willing to look at the camera because she has a mind of her own and gives zero fucks about what others may want out of her. I guess, pretty much the kinda girl I want her to do be.

And Miss H. Focused. Ready to get the job done. Protectively holding her baby sister so she doesn’t leap off the age, and keeping her eye on the prize throughout. The epic oldest child.

After we feasted on pancakes, we did return to the mall later for photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus since the kids wanted to do so. There were way too many people around to take any decent photos with all the decorations, but I guess we will call it a win anyway.

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