Thursday, September 27, 2012

Picture of the Week - 9/27/2012

Gone!  Gone!  Gone!
Pacis - GONE!  Diapers - GONE!  Chubby baby cheeks - GONE!  Chunky baby thighs - GONE!  Round little baby belly - GONE GONE!  Toddler # 3 - GONE GONE GONE!!! 
In the place of all that stuff gone missing is a brand new preschooler!  And it's an awesome exchange!  Zane is turning 3 on Saturday.  It's been a long year for the little guy!  And SO much has changed.  He's a big brother now; he's not the baby anymore.  He gave up his babyhood - quite willingly as a matter of fact!  He's in preschool now and learning about "his letters" and sounds and the very beginnings of how to read and write.  He's able to memorize songs and entertain himself and he has no problem whatsoever making his wants and desires known. 
This new found ability to get his way (for lack of a better phrase) is something that Zaney Pie got behind with gusto!  Turns out that the combination of new baby in the house plus busy big brother schedules added to a couple of tired parents equates to a 2 year old with an impressive ability to get whatever he wants - when he wants it - how he wants it.  Thankyouverymuch! 
And anyone who has been through the "terrible twos" knows that they are called "terrible" for a reason.  We knew the trying times were coming (ain't our first rodeo, ya know), but the timing caught us a little by surprise.  Spencer and Quinn really had more terrible THREE'S than two's.  So as Bob and I were despairing (around 6ish months ago) about our complete failure in boundary setting for our spunky 3rd child, it dawned on us that maybe Zane was just early.  Maybe he's an overachiever.  Maybe we were in the midst of his terrible twos.  And somehow that realization made everything better.  We just hunkered down and waited!
And what do you know, things are better now than they were just a few short months ago.  We still have times when Zane feels the need to push the limits or make sure that we're well and truly aware of his little presence.  He still likes to test our patience from time to time, but it's not a daily occurence any more.  And that's really nice!  Because Zane is a super cool kid when he's not freaking out about chocolate milk or whining about some imagined injustice!
He loves to be outside and if there's a ball involved he wants to play it.  Z would be perfectly happy if we would sit outside with him all day long.  Actually he'd be more happy if we would oblige his requests to rotate the game he's playing about every 20-30 minutes.  He plays baseball (with a T and bat and glove) and lacrosse (had to get him his own stick) and golf (has used the set we got for Spencer more than S ever did).  He likes to throw balls and catch balls and tackle our tackling dummy - or a brother, whichever is closest!  Zane is more coordinated at *almost* 3 than most 5 year olds I have seen - and certainly more coordinated than his big brothers were at 5 (or 6 or 7). 
And in a way that makes Bob's eyes sparkle with promise, Zane also has an aggressive streak that can only come from being the youngest first-born* in the family.  He has confidence that has come from his brothers challenging him just enough to make him better, but regularly letting him "win".  He is going to be, if current observations stick, a force when he starts real organized sports.  The fact that he's still 2 years away from being able to legitimately play is laughable.  I suppose growing up at the parks has it's perks!
*Not sure if anyone has ever done any reading on birth order, but there's a pretty interesting idea that if there is a big gap between multiple kids in a family then there are first born traits in multiple children.  In our case, Spencer couldn't be more first born if he were concocted in a laboratory and Zane is first born #2 with the added benefit of having built in playmates and role models.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, I think Zane is the luckiest of all the boys simply because of his position in our family.
Zane loves to play with his brothers - probably more than anything else.  He will wrestle with them and giggle with them.  Sometimes the 3 oldest will all be sitting together watching TV in the toyroom, perfectly content to have legs overlapping and be leaning on one another.  It's a heartwarming invasion of personal space to witness!  And there's already a pretty special bond between Zane and Beck.  It mostly stems from the shear and utter delight that B displays whenever he sees Z at the end of the school day or first thing in the morning.  It's pretty hard to ignore such blatant adoration, and Zane certainly isn't immune to the clear ego boast that he gets from his little brother.
I've particularly enjoyed watching Zane's imagination come to life.  He doesn't have much of an opportunity to play alone, but when he does it's really fun to watch.  He makes up stories and voices and plots.  He bends the original intent of his action heros and cars and dinosaurs.  When he gets into his own little world, he has a blast!  Very cool!  One time that he can regularly relax and play is when he's in his crib (yes, still a crib because he hasn't pushed for a bed and I'm not pushing him to one!) before he falls asleep.  We often watch him playing with the million stuffed friends he has in there with him.  He sometimes pulls books from the shelves.  (His room is always a mess with books on the floor!)  He sometimes plays under his blankets.  Sometimes he sings.  He has lots of fun up there before he puts his pillow pet on TOP of his head and falls asleep!
There are definitely things that Z doesn't love.  Eating pops to mind.  I swear that child can go for days without eating dinner.  I learned long ago (thank you Quinn) not to worry about it.  If he eats, great!  If he doesn't, he's not gonna starve.  He drinks enough chocolate milk to live on, for one thing, and I'm sure he eats when he's at school.  So dinner time isn't a big deal.  Normally he just sits with us anyway and plays with something on his plate.  Sometimes he whines and fusses that things are too hot or he doesn't like them.  Whatever...  it's just dinner.  It wasn't until I stopped and really looked at him getting ready for a bath (something he still loves even though he also takes showers now when the big boys let him in with them) that he's thinned out SOOOOO much.  He looks like (sniff sniff) a little boy now.  Flat belly and longer legs.  His face has changed...  it has features now.  No more round baby face.  It's an awesome thing to notice the changes.  Because they are so very swift!  Putting together this year's collage was another eye opener!  This time last year Zane was still such a baby!  Not anymore!
We're having a dino themed birthday party for him in about a week.  I'm excited for him to get a chance to play with his friends - because he has friends!  And he can tell you which are his "best friends" and which ones are "mean".  I hope his personality is as magnetic at school as it is at home. 
When we were choosing names for Zane we had a fairly easy time.  I loved the name Zane from the first time I heard it and Bob didn't take too much convincing.  It seemed like fate when we looked up the meaning for his name.  Zane means "God is Gracious".  And with Zane, God really outdid himself.  We are so very thankful that He was kind enough to give us such a special boy in Zane.  Bob and I were just talking the other day about how very glad we are that we didn't stop at two kids.  I can't imagine a world without a Zane.  And I can't wait to see what changes the next 12 months bring!
Happy Birthday to our Zane!  I wish him a smooth and easy year full of smiles and laughs and as much chocolate milk as he wants to drink!
PS - We're off to football practice tonight with 3 dozen cupcakes to celebrate Spencer's birthday.  I hope I made enough!!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Picture of the Week - 9/20/2012

10 years!

I know I'm a little early in my celebration of Spencer's 10 birthday, but since we happen to have another birthday for a certain little blonde-headed cutie pie next week, I didn't think you would mind the early birthday shout-out to my oldest.

I find it super hard to believe that it's been 10 years since Spencer turned Bob and me into Dad and Mom.  In some ways it seems like it's been merely moments.  In other ways it seems like Spencer's been around forever.  He's like an old sweatshirt - in the best possible ways!  

He fits! 

He knows his place in the family and he excels as a first-born big brother.  He turned our world upside down and then 16 months later we did the same to his. But he never missed a beat and has embraced every life change since.  (And we have asked him to accept more than his fair share!)  I've talked before about how seriously Spencer takes the job of protector and playmate for his brothers.  I really couldn't ask for a better role model.  

He's easy! 

There is no thrashing about rules and expectations.  There's very little limit pushing.  Long gone are the days of temper tantrums.  He typically goes about his days without complaint and for the most part stays out of trouble.  Spencer will go days without asking for anything special.  He wears what I pull for him every day.  He eats what we serve him.  He comes when we call him.  He does what his coaches, teachers and parents ask without complaint.  He is just easy.  

He's comfortable! 

I can't really describe the feeling of peace that having Spencer in the family provides.  It may be cheesy, but I firmly believe that he was exactly the right fit for our family at the right time.  He's a blessing!  He has such a mature look on life that I am often 100% comfortable with whatever he's involved with.  I don't worry about him at school.  He's smart enough to be lazy and he knows it.  I don't worry about him on a sports field.  He's big and strong enough that he can more than handle himself against his peers.  And the fact that he seems to feel no pain and have no fear do not hurt!  I don't worry about him with his brothers.  He's more patient and kind and gentle than they deserve!  I just don't worry much about Spencer at all.  That does not by any means mean that I don't have dreams of what he will become and standard which I hold him up against.  He probably has no idea how much I think he can accomplish - and that's OK, because I'm not worried.  He's likely going to surpass my expectations just like he's been doing for the last 10 years.

He's fun!

Spencer makes me laugh.  His sense of humor is dark and sarcastic.  It's probably a bit too mature and over the heads of most of his classmates, but I bet the teachers are amused.  (I know his teacher last year specifically told us that she would make comments in the class that she knew only Spencer would understand.)  His sarcasm is probably going to get him in trouble someday.  He'll need to temper things before he gets into the world of email and text communications.  

He's smart!

There is no denying that Spencer is bright.  (See sarcastic humor above.)  I think the fact that he can problem solve with the best of his peers will serve him well.  I think the fact that he doesn't need to work to pick up new concepts will eventually bite him in the butt.  His propensity to engage in active debate about illogical concepts and requests already does… Now we know where “BECAUSE I SAID SO” comes from.  I would never trade his intelligence, but I do wish he had a better work ethic!  

He's warm!

There is a tough exterior to Spencer that only a very few people ever see through.  I think it's because he can be aloof.  His personality isn't open and welcoming.  (I often recognize myself in him.)  But if you are one of the lucky few he lets into his world, his big heart is obvious.  He may have a funny way of showing his feelings sometimes, but if you know where to look (a "tree hog frug" or a shoulder bump or a smart-a$$ comment) you will know how very much you mean to him. 

He's special!

There's really only one chance at a first beginning.  There's only one first born.  There's just one moment that a parent is born.  Spencer is our one.  It doesn't mean we love him any more than the others.  It just means he holds, and will always hold, a special place in the family.  He's a trailblazer.  He handles the spoken and unspoken pressures of being the first with ease. He understands that his actions are always watched (and imitated) by his younger brothers.  He's our guinea pig.  We've made mistakes with him and learned lessons and practiced for those who come later.  

I know that the time will come, like it is coming for my favorite 22 year old OSU sweatshirt, for me to let go of Spencer.  I can't. even. imagine.  For now, I will not worry about that day 8+ years from now.  For now, I will just enjoy!  For now, I will just try to soak in every moment - good and notsomuch.  For now, I will just love my 10 year old!

My wish for Spencer this year is that he continues to forge his very own path.  I want him to build on his interests and continue to explore the big big world around him.  I want him to have fun and find joy in the every day.  I want him to be happy.  I want him to know how very much he is loved.  

Happy birthday to my big guy! 
Happy birthday to my sweet, strong boy! 
Happy 10th Birthday Spencer! 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Picture of the Week - 9/13/2012

Changing "Have to" to "Get to"
I've been thinking about this idea of changing my mindset from one of "Have to" to one of "Get to" for a host of reasons this week. I could share the thought process, but it's pretty boring. It includes some stuff as minute as Facebook posts about new babies and new houses and general whining to some stuff as important as the 11th anniversary of a day we will all remember for the rest of our lives. It's pretty hard to reflect on what I was doing (and thinking) on Sept 11, 2001 without realizing how very blessed I am today. And while I would never dream of trying to rationalize those terrible events, I will try to take some lessons from them in the hopes of personal growth.
We have had a couple of hiccups in our hectic schedules the last week. Nothing earth-shattering! An extra night at the football field. A couple of sick kids. A need to miss watching Spencer play in a game in order to take care of his little brothers. It's pretty safe to say that our schedule right now (mine and Bob's) includes very little of the stuff that we want to be doing and a bunch of stuff that we have to do.
And there it is!

I could allow myself to go down a path of feeling sorry for myself and complaining about how busy we are every day. I could share this with anyone who would listen in hopes of getting some kind of sympathy. I could wake up every morning with a sense of dread for the daily hoops we will have to jump through to keep the household running. But none of those things will accomplish anything. And they are SUPER counter-productive for me.

So I'm trying to swap the phrase "have to" with the phrase "get to" and it's pretty amazing how that simple little switch changes my mindset. Try it!

·         I don't "have to" stay home with Zane and Beck while Bob takes Spencer to practice. I "get to" cuddle with my babies and take care of their needs and read them stories and put them to bed. There will be more football practices, there will never be another day exactly like this one with my little boys.
·         I don't "have to" stay up late finishing some quilting homework for a class that Berber and I have crammed into this jam-packed fall schedule. I "get to" spend some time re-igniting a hobby that I've let go dormant for too long.
·         I don't "have to" get up before the sun to get to work. I "get to" leave early for a job that allows me to provide a very nice life for my family while also giving me the opportunity to head home in the afternoons in time to enjoy all our evening activities.
·         I don't "have to" stress out about planning a birthday party for a soon-to-be 3-year-old. I "get to" watch a little boy who is starting to understand what it means to be the birthday boy get SO excited for his upcoming big day.
·         I don't “have to” sit in traffic on the way to and from work every day. I "get to" spend some time alone, in a relatively nice vehicle while decompressing from my day and gearing up for my real job - the one that doesn't start until I get home!  And more often than not, I get to catch up with my mom while driving. I can think of worse ways to spend 45-75 minutes a day.
·         I don't "have to" grocery shop and meal plan and cook dinners. I "get to" take care of the nutritional needs of my family. (This one is a bit of a stretch, but when I think about it this way it somehow seems like less of a chore and more of a privilege.)
·         I don't "have to" deal with a schedule as crazy as ours is right now. The truth is, we are fortunate enough that I "get to" let my boys experience all these extra things without worrying about the expense or the schedule or the added chaos. The reality of our crazy life right now is that it's our doing and we wouldn't be doing all this stuff if we couldn't handle it.  We wouldn’t do it ff we didn't think it was important and valuable. I "get to" provide these full and rich experiences for the boys and I am blessed to be able to do so. It's easy to forget that part!

The only thing I haven't really been able to justify is the time I have to spend away from Bob. We do way more divide and conquer than I'd like. I can't figure out how to spin that in a way that makes it seem like a benefit. I miss him!  But I suppose we can dream about the days (some 16-18 years from now???) that we will have less on our plates and we can spend more time together. Dreams are good!

So that's my mindset for this week. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Carlos Castaneda "We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same."
Here's to HAPPY!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Picture of the Week - 9/6/2012

There are some things that I love more than I can probably adequately describe about having 4 boys.  There are a million things I love about it, but some of them just fill up my heart in ways that I don't think anything else could possibly do.  One of these things is watching how the boys interact with each other.  This probably seems obvious, but if I didn't have four boys, there would be way fewer combinations of brother-to-brother interactions for me to enjoy.
If we had stopped after two kids, I'd have to be content with watching Spencer and Quinn play together.  And they really DO play well together.  They spend way more time in front of a video game of some variety than I like, but at least they are mostly playing games that force cooperation - or fighting against each other - or at the very least they are in the same room.  I suppose that beats playing in completely different ways and never communicating with one another.  I choose to look on the bright side and see this video game obsession as a shared interest!  I like watching those guys growing closer as they grow older.  And their significant differences in personality are a pretty endless source of entertainment.  If we only had 2 boys, I know I'd be content and consider myself lucky to have such great kids - and I probably wouldn't have any idea what I was missing out on. 
But with 4 of 'em...  WOW!  I feel like we are blessed to the point of overflowing.  (And I'm not just talking about the very very loud noise level that often spills from the house!)  Watching the Big Boys (BBs) interact with the Little Boys (LBs) is easily one of the best things I've ever witnessed.  And it's even more interesting to me because there are so many distinct and different relationships.  (12 of them for all my nerdy friends out there!)  Zane and Beck haven't really started to build their relationship much yet, but it's getting there.  Lately when I take B into Zane's room at school to pick him up, the littlest dude just giggles with delight.  And it's all I can do to hold onto him as he kicks his legs and wiggles wanting to give his littlest big brother a hug.  (Really...  I'm not exaggerating!) 
Quinn deals with Z and B in completely different ways than Spence does.  Quinn is more insistent, less patient.  In many ways he's a better playmate because he's willing to do little boy stuff more readily than S.  (Think playing with toddler toys and watching little kid shows on TV.)  In other ways he's more frustrating because he tries to "mother" those boys when they really don't need mothering.  I'm sure there are many occasions when Beck would like to tell Quinn to just "back off!"  But there are many more occasions when I thank my lucky stars for the Mighty!  He's such a good helper and he's always willing to do just about anything I ask him to when we need an extra hand!  And no one can get Beckett belly laughing like Quinn can!  Quinn and Zane have the most "typical" of brother relationships of all of them.  They are totally hot and cold.  They are either cracking each other up and totally in tune or they fight like cats and dogs.  The other day we went out to eat and while we were trying to order and juggling things getting Beckett settled, Zane and Quinn sat at the end of the table entertaining themselves.  We really weren't paying them much attention until a guy from the table next to us stopped by to comment that he imagined those two didn't always get along so well.  When we turned to notice what he was talking about it was obvious that the two "middles" were being quite adorable together!  They were taking turns filling their cheeks up with air while the other one popped the air out - and then giggling like mad!  They really were cute!
Spencer's relationship with the LBs is so very special.  It's really changed (for the better) again now that Beck is a little more sturdy and able to crawl (and chase) around the house.  Spencer is the quintessential big brother.  I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Zane and Beckett view Spencer as a demigod!  And really, as a mom, I couldn't possibly ask for a better role model.  S will often grab one or the other and hoist them up and over a shoulder.  (Yes, he regularly hauls them both around!  I figure it's a good way to build muscles!)  They will squeal with delight - until he puts them down again!  He's also the best - hands-down, no contest - wrestler with littler kids.  He's been wrestling with smaller kids practically his whole life and he's awesome at it.  More patient than you could possibly imagine and so VERY gentle - even when his little wrestling partners are beating the TAR out of him.  He just takes it.  Never complains.  And the LBs adore him for it!  (So do I!)
I heard a bit on the radio the other day that made me realize, once again, how lucky my boys are to have each other.  (And how lucky I am to have the privilege of watching them grow up together.)  The local radio station was doing a piece on high school football and callers could call in and give a "shout out" to a team or player or whatever.  One caller wanted to wish his brother (a junior in HS) luck in his football game that evening.  The caller was a little boy and was adorable.  The radio guy said to the boy "Is your brother your idol??" and the boy, who is in the 4th grade, didn't hesitate when he enthusiastically said "Oh!!! Yeah!!!!"  Yep...  I know some boys like that!
Have a great weekend everyone!  We'll be running from field to field and enjoying football and lacrosse - and each other!
Here are some pictures for you of Spencer and the LBs.  One is during a wrestling match with Zane (notice all the football bruises on his arms!!) and the other is from my attempt to take a picture of S before a football game.  He insisted that he bring his MINI ME out with him!