Around Here 25: 06/17-06/23

Monday, June 25, 2018

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this minute.

second generation Tap Run kids!

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 221+ hours  (of 1000)
I'm up 24 hours this week which is nearly 4 hours a day, but still too low for my liking.  It was such a crap week, SO MUCH RAIN, and I was curious to see how my hours this year are racking up against my previous attempts at this challenge considering we're about half way through the year now. I took a peek and In 2016 at this time in the year, I was at 228 hours (7 hour difference) and in 2017 at this time of the year, I was at 245 hours (24 hour difference). So I'm still underperforming at this point, but at least in the same ballpark, considering we've had such wacky weather this year (below freezing to start the year, longest winter ever, such a rainy early summer, ugh). I got the dogs out for a walk down the road while the big kids rode their bikes and it was so good for all of our souls, even though no one (but the dogs) felt like going when I proposed the walk at 8:30p - and then we all felt refreshed and renewed the moment we got out there. Which is basically what it feels like every.single.time you force yourself away from the indoors and screens and get outside. I know, I'm a broken record, but it is truly the path to human healing.

Reading The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn for our new Books & Brews book club choice. We had our book club meeting this week too at Nyko's and both of my girls decided they wanted to join. They had their own little table nearby us, but spent most of the time at our table (and on my lap) anyway. The sushi was delicious, the outdoor seating brought me joy, and the conversation and time with girlfriends soothed my soul like always. The kids and I also made our way to the library this week for free summer kid lunch (noon-1p M-F!) and took home a library haul full of fun new-to-us books to add to our 100 Picture books this summer challenge (we've read 23 so far).

Feeling so grateful for the Dads in our lives and celebrating them for Father's Day. We kept it low key this year which turned out to be exactly what we all needed. B got a lot of homemade cards and a big breakfast. We got to visit both grandpas on the holiday and spend some time loving up on them. We also sent video messages to the kids' godfathers for the day. I am so very blessed to be able to have these men in our children's lives.

Chicken coop'ing. For father's day, Brandon wanted to spend the afternoon working on finishing the chicken coop with the Cherry wood that we scavenged from his parents' newly finished pool fence (yay for re-purposing and free!) It is both beautiful and necessary (to protect the plywood from weathering) but we worked for hours in the hot, hot sun and we both dehydrated and sunburned ourselves (LOL, super romantic). Rusty is a big help when giving food and water to the chickens while Gem was awesome cleaning out the chickens' bedding and rocks this weekend. Bullet is still our champion herder and Violet is our chicken whisperer. We have names for half of them (the only ones we can tell apart for sure:  T'Challa, Chickaletta, Buck, Momo, and Snowball)

Cheering Grey and his team as they won the Championship! We played at West Suburban for the second game of the series on a blistering hot day (there appears to be no middle ground for weather this summer, it's either raining and cold or kill-me-now hot). The team had a great game and clinched the title! Grey and his teammates were so excited after a season of hard teamwork.

Playing volleyball together again! We went through a few weeks there that either only me or B could be at our co-ed league volleyball games due to baseball, soccer, or school board meetings. But we finally got out on the court again together and with the double bonus of not having to worry about the kids because Uncle Juice took them all out for ice cream and a playground visit (in Sheila! hahah, which is really really funny if you know Uncle Juice and the kind of bachelor vehicles that man drives!) We won (all three!) and it appears we should be able to play side by side for the rest of the season. yay!

Appreciating summer chore charts. It has been really nice to get some extra help around the house and the kids are loving that I added kitchen/cooking items to their list. Each day one of them is either making breakfast, lunch, or afternoon snack! I personally like the extra vacuuming and bathroom cleaning that I've been getting out of chore charts.

Meeting our newest friend, Ivella. Baby Ivy is only two weeks old and the kids were over the moon to get to meet her and spend some time holding her. Congrats Carli & Joe, she is so beautiful!

Sleeping over with friends and fam. Having sleep overs is some of our favorite summer activities. A treat for both the kids and the grown ups (! down a kid or two at home for a night makes such a huge dent in needed one-on-one time for others!) Grey got to have two sleepovers this week, once with his friend Gabe and another (including a trip to the movies to see Jurassic World 2) with his cousin Caleb (thank you Valentines & Rummels!) and Gemma invited her friend Rourie over for a sleepover at our house where there was a impressive 'show' from the Principal & Vice Principal about their 'student council trip' (hahha! complete with dress up clothes, papers, and clipboards!) And so much Just Dancing and giggling.

Celebrating our family friend, Ryan who is on his way to Navy Officer training. There was a big party for him at my parents' house on Saturday and the weather held off for the most part. Our kids had so much fun making new friends and getting hilariously muddy (ahem, Gem) while running around with Ryan's cousins and family friends. When I was a kid, Ryan and I (and our siblings) were all part of the Tap Run Ski Club kids. Our parents were all friends for a million and a half years (and still are!) and the whole lot of us would get to spend huge amounts of time together - on vacations, bbqs, parties, and even a special 'kids' day' event with games and fun they had planned for us. I was second to oldest of the Tap Run kids and Ryan was one of the youngest. A baby Tap Run kid grown up and making us all look good. So proud of him.

Making tacos, spaghetti, and ordering in for pizza at an alarming frequency (LOL).  For breakfasts we had banana, blueberry muffins, pancakes, donuts with a surprise visit from Aunt Kitty who is visiti from Bermuda! and Grey took breakfast orders from everyone and made egg, sausage and bagel sandwiches! I made chili cheese dog casserole to drop off to a friend and hawaiian meatballs and chocolate chip muffins to deliver to baby Ivy and her parents.

siblings come first.

Friday, June 22, 2018

I remember when we only had Grey and he was a little more than a year old and it was a struggle for me to agree to the grandparents taking him to an amusement park without going myself. I recall it so vividly this internal battle that I wouldn't be there to see all the things he was going to delight over and smile about, I wouldn't be part of those memories and how painful that was as a new mom.

Eight or so years later, I've grown a little in my parenting and whether its because I've prayed and reflected so much on my own motherhood or because with four kids, you just need to lower your expectations significantly (LOL). My thoughts and heartbreak of the fear-of-not-being-there-for-every-smile (basically MomFomo) has transformed.

I have come to see the incredible learning and relationships that my kids have from spending time with other people without me. Memories and moments that they have spent on their own with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends' families has stretched and expanded their lives and personalities. Their lives and experiences are fuller, stronger, and richer because they have learned and laughed and made their own decisions without us.

I've also come to realize that it strengthens my kids to be able to know they don't have only Brandon and I in their corner in life. We would lay down our lives for them, but not every scenario requires someone ready to go to battle for your honor. Sometimes you need people that can see the whole picture, sometimes you need someone who has lived that same experience, sometimes you need someone who knows someone who knows someone. As much as Brandon and I want to be the ones who can fix everything and give advice on all things - we are so deeply invested in raising decent humans and so rooted in unconditional love that our perspective is at a hard focus on the horizon. our kids need people who can switch the lens focus or turn to a different angle sometimes.

I have written about it before, but one of my favorite sentiments on parenthood comes from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran,
"It is that our job as parents is to send our children forth like arrows into the world where we will not be permitted to follow. We are the stable bows that remain behind in the Archer's arms. Our aim is to send them swift and far"

I have always been mindful of the relationship they are building with their siblings, but recently as Grey and Gem have seemed so grown to us and having them all together for summer, it has been particularly on my mind.

Mary Louise Parker wrote to my exact heart in Dear Mr. You in the section Dear Future Man Who Loves my Daughter,
"I want them to take comfort in the fact that they share a mother that is only theirs, and a childhood as wild and special as they are. I need them to have each other. It's almost all I need." 
Many times this summer, I have found myself in the kitchen making dinner or doing dishes listening in on their conversations and little games in the living room between the four of them. Lots of giggling, so many rules to their made up games, some arguing and then figuring it out together. I have to plant my toes to the tile to keep from abandoning my chores and going in with them, asking with a wide smile, "what are you guys playing in here? Can I join?" because I know in my mother's heart that they need, they deserve, to have this to themselves.

They need these funny inside jokes and memories together that don't include their momma. They need to know that 'we are a family and we take care of each other," as the six of us - but the four of them are strong without the two of us too.

So as I watch them come to each other's defense, even when the fight is against me, I beam inside. I find myself lulled into contentment as I listen in on the snippets of laughter and hushed schemes from my lonely post at the sink. I allow a little more mess than I like when it comes to fort building, or couch 'gorilla' tackling, or forest maze cutting because they are doing it together. They are creating and weaving this beautiful, bright, intricate quilt of sibling wild childhood together in hieroglyphics that I can only appreciate but do not, cannot, should not be able to decipher.

It is heartbreaking to me every single day as a mum to know my entire job description revolves around erasing their dependency from me line by line. It began with giving them every little piece of every little thing I had. I was swallowed whole in their need for me. But each day, my purpose as their mother is to take away a nail of that scaffolding, to show them the tool they need and teach them to use it on their own.

If we do this correctly, if we slowly eliminate our job fully (as our amazing parents were able to), we are gifted with awesome adults who choose to maintain relationships with us, who return with spouses and children and their own friends that will enrich and brighten our lives. But gosh, how hard and sad it is to know that the whole of parenthood is a slow goodbye after that first incredible, miraculous, hello.

Please Lord,
let their Achilles heel be their siblings - as mine has always been.
Let them fall back on the crutch of their brothers and sisters when times get scary
and let them feel responsible to rise up to their siblings' expectations.
They will be more courageous, brave, forgiving, gracious, and silly
because that is who their brothers and sisters see them as.
Please, let them speak the secret language of glances
and make group chats together that are undecipherable to anyone else.
May they hold in their hearts forever that they are a family
and may they feel joy, pride, and gratitude in caring for one another.

my babies,
We are eternally grateful to have these front row seats to your lives.
you will be forever tied together as the original cast
whispering each other your forgotten lines
rewriting the script and changing the scenery
you will bring in new characters
and have your own soliloquies
the lights will be bright and the music cheerful
and the lights will sometimes dim and the orchestra will bring us all to tears
but you'll be in it together, knowing you can count on one another
and Dad and I will be your captive audience

home and parents

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

I have a bunch of blog posts in as drafts and I have wanted to get them finished and posted, but my moral compass feels too dishonest to post anything about our sugarcoated bubble life when my mind and heart has been so distracted by what is happening on the border.

I sat down with my two big kids yesterday, to just talk through things that are happening. I do this often as I care about giving them a wider lens of the world. They are so vastly blessed in so many ways and I hope and strive to raise them up to use their voices for those who have none.

Here were our conversations:

Gemma, 6
Mum: what's the worst thing that's ever happened to you so far?
Gem: um, nothing. No bad things really happen.

Mum: what's the worst thing that could ever happen to you?
Gem: not being with you and Dad. you guys getting dead.

Mum: what do you think could be a reason that me and Dad would ever say, we have to leave our house right now and run away?
Gem: you would never say that

Mum: but let's pretend that we did say that. Why do you think me and Dad would ever take you guys away from our home and go far away?
Gem: maybe because something bad was happening here. Like bad guys?

Greyson, 8
Mum: what's the worst thing that's ever happened to you so far?
Grey: being embarrassed

Mum: like when have you ever been embarrassed!?
Grey: at the championship game yesterday!

Mum: What?! I didn't see anything embarrassing!
Grey: (through fits of giggling) They walked the batter and the guy on first started to run to second and I screamed 'He's going!' and the kid was like, "Dude, it's a walk you can't get me out"

Mum: (laughing) did anyone on your team hear you?
Grey: (hysterically laughing) yea! I screamed it

Mum: okay, let's call Dad quick and tell him that because he will have a brighter day, that is FUNNY, Grey, not embarassing!

--call Dad ---

Mum: okay, questions again - what's the worst thing that could ever happen to you?
Grey: You or Dad dying.

Mum: what do you think could be a reason that me and Dad would ever say, we have to leave our house right now and run away?
Grey: our house burns down? you can't live in ashes

Mum: Okay, any other reason?
Grey: um, someone is trying to kill us? and the first place they'd look for us is in our house?

After the questions with each (during which they sit on or close to my lap while I look them in the face), I told them a little bit about why I was asking those questions.

Mum: I asked you those questions because right now, families are running away from home and going to a place they think will be safe for their kids. The place they think is safe, is here, The United States, but when they get here, they are getting in trouble because they didn't ask to come first.
Grey: why didn't they ask first?

Mum: well, there could be a lot of reasons, if you think of running away, usually it's quick and you don't have time to really do anything.  And most times, it takes a long time to get permission, there's a lot of paperwork and forms and a waiting list. And when you're in danger- or you think your kids are in danger - you can't wait for anything, you just have to go. So what do you think should happen when you get to the safe place even if you didn't ask to come?
Gem: they should help you
Grey: you should say why you came and then they say okay but you have to do the papers still but in the safe place

Mum: well, what is happening right now is that the Mom and Dad are going to jail because they didn't ask and since the kids can't go to jail, they are going to a different building. So they get separated from their parents

Looking at the picture of the centers (while I try to stay quiet and just let them sort through their own questions)
Grey: why are they in cages though?
Gem: what are those blankets?
Grey: do they still get to play? do they get to go to school?
Gem: will they get their moms and dads back?
Grey: how long do they have to stay?
Gem: is the bad thing still at their house? Can they just go back home again with their moms and dads?

I showed them the (now well known) picture of that baby girl crying and told them,
Mum: it says she's two
Gem: Rusty is two.
Grey: she has to go to the cage too?
Gem: I would take care of the babies, momma. and then I would break out of there and come save you and Dad.

After our chats, we spent some time doing read alouds with the babies and then played a fun Mommy-monster game which always leaves them squealing and shrieking in giggles. We had a normal summer day in our safe home in which I could choose to distance myself from facebook and the news and go about my day because it's not happening to me and my children.

because that is privilege. to be able to ever say, 'that difficult thing is not happening to me, so I don't have to think about it.'

And 'difficult thing' could be so much: a sick child, a lost loved one, addiction, racism, infertility, discrimination, weather disasters, depression, a car accident, no wheelchair ramp, unfair pay, over-priced meds, mental illness, broken marriage...fill-in-the-blank.

The important thing to remember is that it's not happening to you...this time. Each of us will go through difficult moments of our life (and at varying degrees of difficulty) and when it is your turn, will anyone help you carry the weight of hardship? Will anyone fight on your behalf?

So much of our grown up worldviews are determined by who said what or little portions of the whole picture framed in distorted justification.

But kids strip all that away because they can look at something and see it in black and white: it is either good or bad. period.

kids being taken away from their moms and dads is bad. It is literally the worst thing that my own children could ever imagine happening to them.
This is bad. period.

Around Here 24: 06/10-06/16

Monday, June 18, 2018

A peek into what it is like to live in our home just this minute.


Intentional Outdoor Hours: 197+ hours (of 1000)
Adding another 28 hours to the count this week. We've had mostly beautiful weather and we got a chance to get out the little pool and sprinkler this week for water fun at home. I let Grey mow some grass (!! he's not heavy enough, so he has to ride with a sibling behind him on the seat and I walk behind the entire time to make sure he's all good - hooray for extra steps!). We've been making good use of the fire ring and the back porch picnic table.  We have had a bad week with ticks though - I took four of of Gemma alone! - the kids have been busy cutting a maze and hideout in the weeds which has been so fun to watch them imagine natural playgrounds - but also...the ticks.

Reading and finishing two books this week! I finished my Books & Brews book club book The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien and was intrigued and horrified. Looking forward to book club so we can debrief about this one! I started and finished a YA novel, Famous Last Words by Katie Alender which was recommended to me by a student this year. It was a ghost mystery story and was really captivating and a perfect easy summer read. (thanks Faith for the suggestion!)

Enjoying long summer mornings that come with #nobedtimesummer. The kids are sleeping in until 10am some days (!!) but we are realizing quickly we need to make some restrictions on bedtime because Rust has been an overtired monster at night. He is staying up longer than anyone! It has been borderline heaven with the kids sleeping in, giving me a chance to nearly complete our 2016-17 yearbook (!!) and do some writing and planner organizing.

Updating our outdoor toys with a trip to Toys R Us (60% off closing sale!) with Greyson's birthday and 1st holy communion money in hand. He purchased his own good bike with his money, and then because it was such good deals I got the babies both scooters and Grey put more money towards a new scooter for himself (with peddles, like a moving elliptical!) They have been non-stop on those scooters that past few days and the babies and I even took our bikes to the high school parking lot while we waiting for Gem's cheer practice to finish.

Worrying about Trixie when she woke up with a huge swollen throat and jaw seemingly out of nowhere. Poor thing was so pitiful looking and then I had such a struggle getting hold of the vet, but finally we got through and had her seen that same afternoon. Turns out she had an abscess under her chin from some puncture wound (could be a million things as she chews everything constantly including about a baseball a day) that had become infected. We got her some antibiotics and it drained a little bit and she was perked back to normal by the next day!

Summer sporting with the final weeks of regular season baseball. Grey's team made it to the championship game after a win on Thursday. They had first round of the 'ship on Saturday and they won! Grey was so excited and the team has come so far together this year. I was grateful to have some fans (Uch & Kevin and Mimi) there at the Saturday game while I helped in the concession stand. Gem attended cheerleading camp M-R each evening and had a great time learning cheers and spending time with some of her besties (Mya, Emma, and Kenli). Our co-ed volleyball team had a double header on Tuesday night but we had to play without B as he had a school board meeting.

Celebrating a good season with the baseball coaches and their families with an impromptu fire at our house. Grey was in all his glory to have some of his teammates over for the evening and I scrambled together some s'more materials (did you see these on Pinterest, so easy!) and quick pizzas for those hungry monsters (thank you baseball fundraiser! hah!) Then we attended our favorite babysitter's graduation party to honor our Miss Hannah on her high school graduation. The kids were glad to get in some playtime with the Stiffler crew and I was immediately reminded of how happy graduation party food season makes me (LOL).

Making Please Make More Meatballs, tacos, chicken and veggie casserole (times two so I could deliver to a friend down and out with an injury), and sloppy joes. We had peanut butter cookies and Applesauce & cinnamon muffins for afternoon snack and I whipped up some egg and sausage roll-ups for breakfast before the round1 championship baseball game.