Finding calm in the chaos

Finding calm in the chaos

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Happy 1st birthday, Henry!

Dear Henry,
Happy first birthday, buddy! We keep saying it, but we have no idea where your babyhood has gone. All of a sudden, you have turned into a toddler, which is bittersweet. It is wonderful to see you growing and making new discoveries in the world around you, but that leaves little time for snuggling with your mama. Sigh.
 Take these bear pictures, for example. Between a fussy camera lens and a busy baby, we hardly got any shots. You are a whirl of activity these days, crawling quickly after your siblings, pulling books off shelves, emptying drawers and cabinets. You love to play in Schatzi's dog water--an activity that frustrates your father to no end. You like to "read" books all the time, flipping the pages back and forth, and babbling quite earnestly.
 But, at least you are a happy, happy guy. When we get you out of your crib in the morning, we are greeted with smiles and giggles. You are starting to get over your stranger anxiety phase and are reaching out for hugs with family and friends again, which delights everyone. Sam and Natalie dote on you...even when you break their toys and tear up their pictures. You have an easy grin...and an adorable little dimple in your left cheek.

You light up in a special way when Sam plays with you. You two have this sort of crazy boychild wildness and you both get to wiggling and laughing and yelling. I can't pretend to understand it, but I love it.

Natalie wants to mother you...and boss you. You have less patience for that, but you, like the rest of us, love her amidst your daily conflict. You lure her in with one of your open mouthed kisses and then pull her hair and grin.
 Let's talk milestones because your mama's memory gets worse every year. You weaned a couple of weeks ago; it was a slow easy process but another sad step away from babyhood. You sleep most of the night, waking up once of a bottle, and nap once a day. We are better rested that we have been in nearly two years. You aren't quite the eater your siblings were so you've lost your title as "biggest baby"--at least by the one year mark. You can say "Uh-oh" (although it sounds more like "Uh-uh"), Mama, Dad. You say other sounds earnestly and with intention, but we can't quite figure them out yet. You can sign "more" and "all done", but if you really want something, you just yell.
And...drumroll, are starting to walk. About 3-4 weeks ago, you took 2 steps in a row. Everyone clapped and cheered for you...and then I cried a little bit. You've kind of plateau'd there, though; I think crawling is probably your preferred method because you are so stinkin' fast.

Happy birthday, Henry. We all love you so much, little guy.

Love, Mom and Dad

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Happy 4th birthday, Natalie!

Dear Natalie Doris,

February is birthday month around our home and we started our celebration with your 4th birthday. It was supposed to be your first birthday party with a friend over, but unfortunately, the flu and a huge snowstorm coincided and Rilynn couldn't come. We celebrated the day big anyway, starting out with breakfast out with Lala and Papa Dan and ending with a big Kaufman family birthday with cake and ice cream at our house. (Your Lala was appalled that when she discovered we weren't taking you to Mass on your birthday, so she took you herself in between the two parties). You reveled in everyone's attention and loved every minute of the day...until all of a sudden you weren't loving the day at all and were having a total meltdown at the dinner table.

But, that is how life is with you. High or low. Black or white. On or off. Screaming with joy or screaming with angst. Your rollercoaster personality keeps Dad and I guessing. Our mantra is "nothing worthwhile comes easily" and in parenting you, we have grown in creativity, patience and gratitude.

Wait...gratitude? Yes, sis....gratitude. We are grateful for you, your intensity and your determination. When the tempest of your temper blows over (which happens more easily now that you are the ripe old age of four), we also see the intensity of your joy in life. The way you love your brothers and act as a little mama to Henry. The way you love music and dance (we got you your own "music player"--a CD player--with a No Doubt CD and you love to dance to that spunky girl music). The way you tackle any task you deem worthy of your attention.

The "worthy of your attention" part is key. We haven't yet figured out how to motivate you in any way, shape or form. We can't cajole or bribe you into doing anything...but the very millisecond you decide you want to do something, it gets done. For example, your nose. We have spent the better part of the last 6 months tackling this chronic scab on your nose. It started as a little irritation from blowing your nose and has grown into a chronic scab from the habit of mindlessly picking it when you get bored or frustrated. We've tried ointments, bandaids, stickers, bribes, money all to no avail. And recently, you decided we should put a bandaid on it everyday and's almost gone (knock on wood)!

 You love imaginary play and coloring; you like sitting still and usually balk at any sort of prolonged physical activity. But, I recently took you and Sam cross country skiing. You were a natural! As soon as you realized you were gifted in this arena, you took off. It's not very often that you are faster than Sam at running, biking or skating, and you were thrilled that you had found your sport.

We are trying to harness that determination for good instead of evil...and most days, I think we do all right.
You are growing up into quite a little girl. Although you are little, you and I already have a complicated mother-daughter relationship. (I suppose all moms and daughters' relationships are complicated in some way). You and I can push each others' buttons in a way the boys in our house cannot fathom and sometimes Dad has to intervene so we can both take a time out. But, we also have our fun girl times, too. The other day we went for a run "just us girls" around the block. We took a girls' trip up to Spokane to meet your new cousin Lucy and do a little shopping with Lala.You thrive on time spent just the two of us, whether it's reading together, making dinner, or shoe-shopping. I see how much you take after me and it makes me want to be a better me. I'll keep working on it.

Natalie Doris--our intense, fabulous daughter--happy, happy birthday. These last three years have been a wonderful adventure. Here's to a great 4th year of life.

Love, Mom and Dad

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Confessions of a slacker mom: sleeping in

Aside from the all-too-rare weekend away, Joe and I haven't slept past 7am since we got pregnant with Sam nearly 6 years ago. Their wake-up times are staggered with Henry getting up at 4 or 5 for an early morning feeding and the bigger kids getting up at 6:30 to get ready for school.

Last Sunday, I had a plan.

First, we set the big kids' alarm clock for 7:45am. We found that if we don't set it, they get suspicious about why their alarm clock is not going off and then wake up extra early. This was enough to get them some extra sleep but not arouse suspicion.

Second, feed baby a huge bottle at his morning feeding.

Third--and this is the key--set the Kindle outside our bedroom door.

Fourth--also key--LOCK the bedroom door.

At 7:45 am, we were still in bed and heard Sam and Natalie's alarm go off, followed by the pitter-patter of little feet to our bedroom door. Instead of rousting us from our nice warm bed, they stopped at the locked door.

Natalie: Oh, look. I found the Kindle!
Sam: Well, that was easy.
Natalie: I know! It was just right here.

They spent the next 30 minutes watching cartoons while Joe and I dozed until Henry woke up. Glorious!

It only took me 6 years to figure this out.