Saturday, April 27, 2013

As Good as it Can Be

Yesterday Mindy and our Grover cousins joined the boys and I for a bike ride along the river where the kids collected rocks, sticks, leaves, and seeds to fufill a scavenger hunt complete with prizes and goodies. Afterwards, Ryan asked us whether our outing had been successful. Mindy and I both looked at each other and shrugged, unsure how to answer the question. On the one hand, it was a beautiful spring afternoon, the scenery was lovely, the kids enjoyed being outdoors and burning energy, and Mindy and I enjoyed one another's company. On the other hand, it required complete concentration to keep the kids safe beside the river, pushing double strollers while doling out snacks and picking up dropped objects was tiring, and just simply keeping everyone happy was a trying test of patience. I think I ended up responding to Ryan's questions with something like, "it was as good as it could be." And isn't that the truth? That's how I'm feeling about life right now. It's not great, it's not perfect, it's not's as good as it can be. The fact is that having four kids (soon-to-be-five) makes everything, even the most basic of tasks, just plain hard. Even in the best of circumstances--it's a beautiful day, the kids are more or less behaving well, and you're spending time with good friends--it's still hard. There is no way around it, life with young kids just makes everything more difficult.

This afternoon we took a family hike up Big Cottonwood Canyon. It was a gloriously sunny day with the perfect hiking temperature. The mountain was gorgeous with crisp melted-snow water running down the stream alongside the trail. Hank and Max had a great time trying to scramble up the rocky hillside, climbing over fallen logs, and tossing rocks into the stream. The reality check is that Joey started shrieking mid car ride, poor Benny wasn't feeling his best and kept saying, pathetically, "home," the trail we originally planned to hike wasn't open yet for the season so we didn't get to see the waterfalls, and, in case you're wondering, hiking uphill with a kid strapped to your back and another growing in your belly is a workout! So, how did it go? It was as good as it could be.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tiny Terror

He's so little and so cute, and yet such a trouble-maker! Of all my boys, it's quite possible that Joey may be the rascaly-est. He is like a whirlwind of minute he's charging up the stairs (a dangerous stunt due to the slate flooring at the bottom of the staircase), the next he's unrolling the toilet-paper roll in the bathroom, peircing the foil-topped applesauce cups with his tiny sharp teeth, or strewing laundry all about. It is a full-time job to keep up with this little dude.

This morning, the boys all joined me in Ben's room to get Ben and Joey dressed for the day. I've often joked with Hank about him being old enough to start changing diapers, so this morning I teased him again about soon it being his job to change the diapers. To my surprise, he agreed to change Joey's diaper and get him dressed. My heart just melted watching big-brother Hank try his very best to serve his little brother (oh, did I mention Joey likes to act like a greased piglet while he's getting his diaper changed?) and take care of him. I think it will be awhile before Hank offers to change Joey's diaper again, but it was so sweet (and a bit comical) to see Hank being so tender towards his little brother.

Bring it On!

One of the things that makes Utah so Utah-y, is that you can go right to the mall, pay a small fee, and get a quick gender check from an ultrasound shop at only 14 weeks into pregnancy. With the option to take a sneak peek at our baby's gender just dangling in front of our noses, we couldn't wait another six weeks for the standard 20 week ultrasound performed at the doctor's office, and decided to cheat and find out early.

Backing the story up a bit, when Aaron and I felt the inspiration to add a fifth and final baby to our family, it was in large part due to the fact that I felt like I needed a daughter to keep me company and feel closure in our family. Of course I knew that there was no guarantee that we'd have a girl and I was fully prepared to accept and love any baby that our Heavenly Father sent to us. Just based on mathmatical probability, Aaron guessed it was a girl. Since I've been wrong nearly every time in the past, I didn't even bother to take a guess. Then, about two weeks ago, I felt my heart being softened to having another boy and when I thought about the idea of having five just felt right. When I thought about being the mother of five sons, I felt a sense of clarity and deep purpose. So, as we geared up to learn the gender of our newest little one, I felt nervous excitement, but happy that it would be a win-win either way.

Last week I was completely consumed by thoughts of eating food. I'd no sooner finish eating a meal before I'd be planning what to eat next. I couldn't contain my own hunger! Well, ta-da, as if overnight it seems my little tummy doubled and the great appetite mystery was solved--I think I had a month of growth all at once!

The gender scan took all of thirty seconds before our little baby made HIMself known. Aaron and I couldn't stop laughing and smiling at the shock of adding another little rascal to our crazy family. According to Google, the odds of having five consecutive boys is 1 in 32, or 3%! I always knew we were special, but now it's confirmed! We are super thrilled and proud to be the parents of FIVE boys!

As per tradition, after the ultrasound we purchased a tiny newborn outfit to bring our little boy home from the hospital in (probably his first and last item of new clothing, poor guy), and presented the outfit at home to the boys as the big gender reveal. Although Hank was hoping for a sister, he was super excited about having a new little brother and felt pleased with his responsibility as the eldest of four little brothers. Max had hoped for a boy all along so he was happy with the news as well. As for Ben and Joey, they're still so young they will never know any different!

I love my boys to peices and feel honored and humbled to be blessed with five little boys to raise. When friends and neighbors ask me how I feel about having five boys, I say, "bring it on!" Bring on the camping (hey, I'm being open-minded!), hiking and fishing. Bring on the Saturdays spent at the ball park. Bring on the years of cub scout birdhouses, boy scout overnighters, and Eagle Scout projects. Bring on the wrestling and rough housing. I'll take the stinky feet and bottom-less appetites. They're loud, they're wild, they're mine, and I love it!

Monday, April 8, 2013

My Big Preschool Boy!

Sending Benny to his very first day of preschool = I may well have just cut my own heart out with a butter knife. With the exception of a Friday night date here and there (babysitting compliments of Nana Grover), and the two hours spent in nursery class each week on Sunday (which is debatable since I spend the better part of church-time in nursery with him to keep him calm anyways), I never go anywhere without Benny. So sending Benny, who very much IS my heart, to preschool all by himself, quite literally felt like it was breaking my heart. For months leading up to this day, I have been feeling heavy anxiety about Benny's first day of preschool: will the other kids in his class be nice to him? will the teacher understand him when he tries to communicate? will he feel completely abandonned when I leave him in a foreign place? what if he fell or hurt himself and I'm not there to kiss it better? The logical part of my brain understands that preschool is the next step in Ben's forward progress, that his teachers and specialists will get to know him and won't be able to help falling in love with him, and that he is strong and will be ok. But that mommy side of my brain aches just a little bit...he's so little! doesn't seem right to send my baby off to big-kid school with a Cars backpack stuffed with diapers! I just want to protect him and shield that pure, sweet little boy from all the hurt lurking in the outside world.

I made arrangements for Max and Joey to play with friends so that I could spend as much time with Ben as necessary until he felt comfortable in his new classroom. Holding his little hand, walking him through the halls to his classroom, I couldn't have felt any more nervous if it was my own first day of school! When we entered Ben's class, his teacher, Miss Holly, was waiting with a smile to greet Ben. Miss Holly immediately showed Ben where to put his coat and backpack and then invited him to play. Ben zeroed in right away on a box of Legos and got busy happily stacking and sorting. I made a quick exit while he was occupied, and then watched him play through the window on the door for a few minutes. As I was about to leave, Ben looked up at me through the window. I blew him a big kiss and he gave me a big smile, reassuring me, "I can do this Mom. I'll be ok." Thank goodness I didn't act like one of those crazy moms who falls apart and bursts into tears the minute they drop their kid off!....I was crying like a baby waaaay before that! Clearly the entire experience was a lot harder on me than it was on him. I'm so excited for Benny to develop the self-confidence that follows gaining a bit of independence and I can't wait to see all of the progress that he will make from his daily speech sessions, vision and orientation and mobility assistance, and adaptive P.E. classes. I am so proud of Benny and the courage that he has shown every time he is presented with a new challenge. You can do this, Benny! And I'll try, too.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Happy Birthday x 2!

Happy Birthday to my very most favorite three-year-old and one-year-old on the planet! Even though they shared a family birthday party, we tried to make them both feel extra loved, extra special, and extra celebrated. Nana and Papa Grover, Uncle Ryan and Mindy, and Aunt Robyn and D joined us between conference sessions for a joint-celebration of pizza, strawberry shortcake (why? I'm pregnant and it sounded good to me), and presents.

Ben is 3!

A Few Special Things About Benny:
  • Benny eats crackers and cereal exclusively (eating is definately not his best skill). His favorite variety is Chicken 'n Biscuits and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
  • Benny loves music and loves to sing. He loves to listen to primary songs from the Children's Songbook while we drive in the car and after each song ends, he says, "more!" He has a great ear for music and hums several tunes throughout the day.
  • Ben's favorite thing to play with is his lego collection. He is masterful and stacking lego and creating different shapes and patterns. He also likes to play with any type of collection or toy that he can sort and put into cups and baggies. It's uncommon to find him without a cup or baggie filled with legos, blocks, beads, cards, or some such collection.
  • Benny loves to swing. Odd as it may be, we have a swing installed in our bedroom, just so Benny can swing whenever his little heart desires.
  • Ben loves, loves, loves attention and will engage any passerby in his trademark charming game of peek-a-boo. It's pretty much irresistable.
It's no secret that  this little boy holds a very special place in my heart. He is an absolute gift. I treasure the light and joy that he brings to our family each day, but today, on his birthday, I especially celebrate the beautiful, pure, loving, and sweet little boy that is my Benny. Happy Birthday Benjamin!

Joey is 1!
A Few Special Things About Joey:
* One of my greatest accomplishments in my parenting career thus far, is finally creating a baby that is a good-eater. It's such a treat to simply give Joey bits from the dinner table without having the specially prepare "kid-food" for him. Joey loves fruit of all kinds and has a sweet-tooth like his mom.
*Joey doesn't seem to be entertained much by baby toys, but would prefer to tag along after his brothers or get into mischief climbing the stairs, opening cupboards, or hunting for bits on the floor to put into his mouth.
* Joey likes to squeal. He emits a shrill squeal when he's tired or hungry, but his squeal isn't reserved just for when he's feeling cranky--he also likes to squeal anytime he is excited, when he wants something, or just when he is in the mood to listen to his own voice.
*Lately big brother Max has taken a special interest in caring for and protecting Joey and looks for any excuse to pick him up and carry him. Joey is very tolerant of being man-handled by Max.
* Joey is a mama's boy. If mom is out of sight, he will sit contentedly and play with Dad but as soon as Mom comes into view, he will scream like a banshee until he has regained his rightful position on Mom's hip.
It's hard to believe that my little Joey is growing up so quickly--already one! Babies just don't come much cuter than Joey. I'm in love with his killer smile and throaty, deep laugh and can hardly help squishing his little body and kissing his sweet cheeks. Joey is absolutely adored by the whole family and we love him to peices! Happy Birthday Jonas!

General Conference Weekend

Each time general conference rolls around, I struggle to reach that delicate balance between teaching the children to listen and show reverence for the messages of the prophet and apostles being broadcast on tv (which, considering the 2 hour x 4 length of each session, and the fact that the talks are typically not geared towards the entertainment of 4 and 6 year-olds, is difficult for their short attention spans), and creating a fun environment by entertaining the kids with dollar-store crafts and conference activity packets, and knocking myself out cooking outrageous meals before and after, in order to help them look forward to conference and not dread it with boredom. I guess it's still a work in progress for our family...

Hank and Max were entertained with completing their conference activity packets for nearly an hour.

For some reason, I always feel the need to celebrate Ben's birthday in some small but meaningful way. Just throwing a "spiderman party" like every other kid doesn't seem to express the joy and gratitude that I feel on the anniversary of such a special gift of life. This year, instead of a traditional birthday party, we celebrated Ben's birthday between conference sessions by updating our 72 hour kits. Aside from being very practical, it was actually kind of fun to fill each of our seven (!) backpacks with emergency food and supplies.

Spring Break!

I impressed myself with the number of fun, family activities that we jammed into our Spring Break this past week. On Monday, I surprised the boys with a trip to the Kangaroo Zoo and a stop at the library afterwards. The boys picked out a few movies and a couple chapter books that we enjoyed reading aloud together each day during "quiet time." On Tuesday, we visited The Musuem of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point. Despite the dinosaur museum practically being in our backyard, it was our first time checking it out. I can imagine having a lot of fun at the dinosaur museum in a few years when all the boys' attention spans are longer and their reading ability a little more advanced. At this point, the museum pretty much just served as an indoor recreation area, rather than any educational excursion.

Museum of Ancient Life:

On Wednesday, we invited our old friends from Washington over for a playdate and had a great time catching up with them. That afternoon, we checked into the downtown Marriott for an impromptu overnighter/swim-party at the hotel. First, we ordered pizza to our room and raided the consierge lounge for treats. Then it was time to swim! Hank and Max splashed and played in the pool for hours while I entertained Joey and Ben (who both seem to prefer the land over the water) from the pool deck. As much fun as we had swimming and playing, I must say I gained a greater appreciation for the comfort of my own bed after spending the night "sleeping" with a restless baby kicking and squirming in bed beside me, a toddler on the floor who periodically woke up confused and disoriented in unfamiliar surroundings, and two boys who fought over their shared covers and fell off their shared bed all night long. Small sacrifice for making such a fun memory.

Hotel Overnighter:

After checking out at the hotel on Thursday morning, we went straight to This is the Place Monument and Historical Park. We couldn't have chosen a better day to visit the park--the weather was just right for walking and exploring the historical village. Part way through our visit, Hank commented, "when we first got here, it didn't look like it was going to be very much fun...but it was!" I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much we all enjoyed This is the Place. The boys enjoyed all of the hands-on exhibits like panning for gold, weaving wool into thread, plowing the field, riding the train, and pounding iron into leather. Aaron and I enjoyed immersing our family in "the simple life" and, in some ways, agreed it doesn't seem all bad.

This is the Place:

How cool is that? The boys found our ancestor "Thomas Grover" on a monument dedicated to the first company of pioneers to enter the Salt Lake valley.

The fun didn't stop there. On Friday, we invited our cousins over for a playdate and then joined more cousins that night for dinner--Nana and Papa Grover took all the cousins to a movie and then hosted a night-time Easter egg hunt and a cousin slumber party.

I loved the time we got to spend together this week unemcumbered by schedules, appointments, and routine. We stayed up late, we slept in. We played. We made memories.

And now, back to normal life: bedtime, school, work, chores, homework, and a week's worth of neglected laundry. Boo!