Growing Like a Weed

So, I wrote this on the morning of January 18th, then let Keith (the blog police, the self-imposed filter...because I do not have one.) read it. I'm finally posting it, 4 days later, now that we are in agreement over the censorship of the first paragraph.

Today I am taking my little girl out for her 5th birthday. Man, oh, man. Can’t believe it’s been 5 years. Bringing her home is still so vivid in my mind. What’s even more a stain in my memory is getting out of bed that first morning in the hospital when my bladder forgot its job. As soon as my feet hit the floor, so did about a bucket of urine. Gross, huh. I wasn’t embarrassed. No. I was mad. Mad that not one of my girlfriends, in all of their birthing stories, had warned me about this. No one had mentioned the complete lack of control I would experience after having delivered the, um, conventional way. (I hesitate using the V word, as I have seen it makes even some women uncomfortable. I don’t have a problem with it. To me it’s just the name of a body part.)

On the other hand, I can believe it’s been 5 years. I have watched first hand as most of it happened. Warning: I may get on my soapbox in a moment. Staying home, for the most part, has afforded me the opportunity to not only see all of those clich├ęd firsts, but also to just enjoy being a mom, which I’ll admit took some learning…the enjoying it part. Babies can be boring. There, I said it. Definitely less exciting than co-worker drama. Plus, I’m a gal who thrives on conversation. Afraid my brain would go into hibernation, I filled our early days by sitting in my favorite chair…the one I’m sitting in now, which came from The Comfortable Chair Store, the one I hope to be sitting in when I’m 50…and doing my favorite activity: reading. From 10 Little Monkeys to What to Expect the First Year to Twilight. I would just sit and read to her. Perhaps my choice of books was a bit selfish at times, but the rest of parenting is selfless. Giving up friends, money, a lifestyle, sleep. Oh, the long lost sleep.

Giving up may be the wrong phrasing. Trading in is more appropriate. Traded in cable TV for slow-paced mornings of a sit-down breakfast with the kids and relaxing evenings with home-cooked meals, usually. Exchanged restaurant lunches for snuggle and story time before naps. Said goodbye to a great neighborhood and amazing backyard, but I have been able to (i.e. have no other choice but to) stop what I’m doing inside and play outside with them. Date night is sometimes with one of the kids instead of the hubs nowadays. Swapped the beautiful guest room for a useable playroom. In the end, or at least after 5 years, it has all been worth it. “Really, it has,” I convincingly tell myself.

Rushing out the door with the kiddos in the morning, getting them home with just enough time for the dinner-bath-bed routine…is there time to truly know your kids? No offense intended for the women who manage to maintain a full-time job on top of a family, but neither am I cut out for it nor can I even fathom how they do it!

My days are far from easy but are the opposite. Catastrophe has struck often before we even make it down for breakfast. On those days I absolutely want to hand them off to someone else to deal with, knowing their demeanor will likely change the moment they are without my presence. What’s keeping me from doing just that may be the control freak part of me that lies just below the surface with the need to ensure everything is done her way, or it may be the inherent caregiver part of me that has been repressed but knows the kids need her. Not her teaching. Not her cooking. Not even her discipline. But just her. Ugh, it is physically and mentally exhausting! Selfless, I tell you…at which I am no good.

For her birthday, Avery basically dictated her wish list to me: a unicorn pillow pet, chicken nuggets, walkie talkies, a few of those tiny princess dolls with rubber clothes to replace the ones her brothers broke, a little sister (which she later specified as a 4-year-old sister), red hair, a Flynn Rider doll (which may or may not exist). She didn’t just tell me once and trust that I would deliver. She recited her list daily, beginning on the first day of January. And, she told not only me but anyone she came into contact with, many times loudly naming the most important items on the list as if that would do the trick: “I’m getting a pillow pet and little sister for my birthday,” she would proclaim. Even her prayers went from thanking God for her brothers, family and friends to telling Him her birthday wishes as if He were Santa (although she never once mentioned wanting anything for Christmas).

Evidence of having brothers. Exhibit A: Snow White and Aurora. Dismantled.

All the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put these tiny princesses together again.

With the help of grandparents, cousins and a few friends, most of her list was fulfilled. That baby sister is under discussion right now. It’s no secret. We want more kids. Indeed, we are crazy. We are dreaming of, asking for, pleading with God over another girl. And honestly I’d take two more. Girls that is. I’m pretty certain our grocery allowance cannot sustain another growing boy. Plus, at least 7 nights per week it sounds like the second floor is going to fall in on us at any moment.

Anywho, we are not planning on, and actually we are planning against, these little sisters coming from my womb. Please, please, God, no. Adoption is the way to go. If I get my way, a few things I won’t miss: gaining weight, driving to Northside Hospital every week, risking delivery from a vehicle, blowing out my pelvic floor, losing weight, breastfeeding, washing and sterilizing pump pieces all the livelong day, hauling around the combined weight of the infant carrier/carseat with infant in tow. I’ll stop there. Yes, we do want more kids. Kids, not babies. Let’s see what God gives us.

Back to Avery’s birthday. Boy, I can really get sidetracked. Maybe I have ADD. The plan for the day: lunch date at “chips and cheese,” a.k.a. any Mexican restaurant, shop for new undies (for Avery, Sicko, not me!), get nails painted, pick up one of her BFFs for a sleepover. And, that will have to suffice until we can grant her the rest of her list.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Avery.


Christmas Was Here

This post will chronicle our Christmas events. Plain and simple. I'll try to be quick, narrating as little as possible. A picture's worth a thousand words, right? I only added a few.

We had Christmas with the kids the night before we left town. Do you love their matching festive ensembles and Ivan's masculine socks? We had just returned home from gymnastics, which usually leaves enough time for dinner and a maybe a bath before bed time. Oh, and squeeze in the family Christmas.

No "candy" canes in these stockings. Those are pens. School supplies. Much better than a sugary treat, right?

A present for the boys quickly captivated everyone, except for me. I mean, it's just spinning a little round piece of plastic. How easily they are entertained. Fun times.

Hannah Montana blanket for Avery. I had found it on clearance for $3 this past summer. Score. She probably thanked me a hundred times over the next few days for that thing.

The excitement over Keith's gift is an act. A very cute act but still 100% false. "I already have a watch," he said upon opening the present. Yes, he does have a watch, but it's been broken for about 7 years. I returned both of these 2 days ago.

Those are Toy Story book lights clipped onto Ivan's waistband. He thought himself hilarious. And, gloves...from his stocking of course.

Change of setting: Houston, Texas.

We jumped right into Christmas dinner. All of us in coordinating attire, except for Keith who said navy blue is basically the same as black, hence the reason I am hiding all but his face. I have to add that after lunch I did coerce him into one of his dad's black shirts. At least it didn't have a giant Fox logo across the front. Poor Uncle Tommy sacrificed being part of the picture so we'd have a photographer. No one had thought to get out the tripod yet.

Cousins! Garrison (5), Ivan (3), Avery (4), Addyson (4), Kendall (6)

How cute are we? But, wait! Someone is missing! He was too fast for the camera.

One big happy family, incomplete without that little black and white face on my lap.

The grandparents. Pa Pa and Gu Gu. Wearing age-appropriate head accessories.

Time for the gift-opening mayhem.

Keith's favorite pastime while on the road is taking pictures of those goofy, yet certainly life-changing, church signs and sending them to his BFFs. A little game they play. This book is full of them, and it's the "collector's edition." A few good ones as I flipped through it: "Road Rage? How Would Jesus Drive?" "7 Days a Week Without God Makes One Weak" "God Answers Knee-Mail" Yes, definitely life-changing words.
147 million. That number is astonishing to me. I cannot wrap my brain around it. 147 million kids with no mom or dad. Garrison was telling me a story about "before Ethiopia," which he refers to the time before he arrived at the orphanage....and in the middle of his story, he said, "There was no Mommy." The heart-breaking part is he said it with no emotion, as if it were commonplace. While I'm about to cry recalling this story, Keith is about to cry over seeing this shirt. He's such a softy. And I love it!

The ceremonial receiving of Christmas Eve pajamas! And the mania that ensued the moment they were donned.

I know the question you're asking. Why is Avery standing behind the kid-sized punching toy while Ivan takes a swing at it? I have no clue. This is the effect of having recently gained 2 brothers.

Christmas morning...

Candy canes filled with Hershey Kisses. This was the only gift that prompted all 3 of them to jump up and run to grandparents to express their sincere gratitude. I allowed them to eat as many as they could stomach. I am awesome.

Jesus' Happy Birthday, as the boys referred to the event. Thanks to Gu Gu who didn't use any artificial food coloring with the cake. The boys were a bit disappointed that Jesus didn't "come down" for his party though.

Two peas in a pod. Two very cute peas in that pod.

I am forced to go to the Y to workout anytime we are in Texas. Yes, forced. Every time. But, they have a room of rock-climbing walls for kids 5 and up. Garrison climbed the beginner wall, then the one you see here. The goal is to ring the bell dangling from the stuffed animal at the top. Oh, he did it. Both times.

Gingerbread houses were a catastrophe for the second year in a row. And, all because we are too cheap to buy one at the before-Christmas price. Aunt Renea had purchased these last year for a quarter each. The above picture is the end result of our efforts. Nice, huh.

Ivan spent much of his time in this position, on the table, which is why he has nothing to show in the end.

The grandparents treated everyone to TCBY after the first ever big family photo shoot. Yum.

Our dear friends The Rawlings, also residents of the Houston area, came for a visit with their 3 kiddos since we were in town. We sure do miss them.

Gingerbread house assembly: Take 2. Using graham crackers, homemade cream cheese icing (which I am not recommending for the job) and dye-free edible decorations from the pantry, we let the kids take a stab at this again. Fools we are! The little house above was their example. Perhaps it was too extravagant for them. Yes, that's it. No way the kids themselves could be the problems.

I'm not sure what I've captured below. Is it a house under construction? Is it a proud child's final product? The remnants of someone's snack...someone who decided not to even attempt anything more than icing smeared across the crackers?

But, the kids still had fun. And, because I'm so awesome, I let them eat everything they created. After dinner of course. I am still a responsible parent. Awesome. But responsible.



These last few are of the girls strutting their stuff and their new fab headband/hats. The epitome of sophistication right here.

Our tree and other Christmas decor stayed up an extra week because we wanted to celebrate Christmas with Ethiopia on January 7th. We couldn't adopt many of their festivities: fasting, marching in circles with candles, no gifts. But we did dress up the kids in authentic Ethiopian attire and read some more about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. Oh, and pictures in front of the "Christmas treat," as Ivan calls it, for the last time this year.

Are these captured moments making anyone else cry?