30 March 2015

A Series of Catastrophes

It may look like we've been gallivanting around the beach and Disneyland and posing babies in teacups around here but the truth is we got off to a rough start in our new home.

It all started back on move-in day. We were told that there would be an outlet to plug our electric dryer into, but we learned immediately that there was a gas-only hook-up. We had bedding to wash, dirty clothes from spending a week in limbo, and carseat covers that desperately needed to be cleaned after Nash threw up in the car while en route. A functioning laundry room was our top priority.

Troy stayed with 3/4 of the boys at the hotel on move-in day since we knew they would be in the way and have no where to sleep. The minute the movers crammed the last box into our new home, I loaded up Finn and left on a frantic search for a functional gas dryer. A trip that began at Home Depot somehow ended at a storage unit in a city I had never been to, late in the evening, for a used dryer that I could pick up on the spot. It probably wasn't the safest course of action but I was desperate. Troy and I made plans to rent a dolly first thing in the morning to get it up the stairs.

We soon learned that nothing was going to be accomplished for the next 24 hours. Finn kept me up the entire night with a fever. He screamed like I had never heard any baby scream and only slept in occasional 10 minute increments. I constantly rocked him in my arms on our bedding-less mattress and on sections of the couch that were crammed in between boxes. Troy had the bottle of infant Tylenol at the hotel so I just kept hoping Finn would eventually fall asleep. I finally gave up around 5am and attempted to find an open pharmacy. I had no idea where I was going and I felt so delirious from getting no sleep. Thank goodness for my navigation system that led me to a beloved tiny bottle of medicine.

After finally getting Finn cooled down, I found out that Troy had been up with a screaming Crew the entire night at the hotel as well. He didn't know that he had the infant Tylenol that could have saved them both hours of misery. We knew we had to get them to the doctor as soon as possible, but we ran into a health insurance nightmare. 

We still had coverage for the rest of the month from Troy's former company, but we were out-of-state with no primary care providers. I circled around and around on the phone with the insurance company and local providers to find out what our options were. Nobody could give me concrete answers because it was a Saturday and they couldn't access all of our information. Blake was complaining of terrible ear pain as well and we didn't exactly want to check three kids into the ER. After looping around for hours, we finally pinpointed a local minute clinic that would accept our insurance. Hallelujah!

By the time all of our boys were examined and diagnosed with ear infections (no surprise), it was late afternoon. We had intended to spend the entire day getting at least our kitchen and bedrooms in functioning order. Instead, we came home utterly exhausted to an empty refrigerator, a non-functioning laundry room and boxes piled so high in every room we could hardly move around. Did I mention it was Valentine's Day? We don't have the best track record for that holiday considering we spent last year in the ER for Troy's fractured leg.

The next few weeks became a blur of slowly putting our new home together. I had no idea it would take so long to get settled. Everything took about triple the amount of time I thought it would. Taking care of four little boys, especially a baby who needed to be fed every few hours, really impacted the amount of work that was able to be accomplished each day.

I sent a picture of half-opened boxes strewn across our entire kitchen to a few of my friends with the caption, "This is my personal hell. Nothing has a place!" I typically take pride in an organized home where everything we own has a place. The chaos put me over the edge.

I felt like a gerbil running on a wheel. I kept going and going every minute of every day, but I sunk into bed each night with this feeling that I didn't get anywhere. 

It didn't help that sickness kept looming over us. Five days after moving in, I spent a day with Finn at Urgent Care to receive breathing treatments for his poor lungs. He was coughing and wheezing so much that it was getting scary. A couple of weeks later, I came down with strep. That led to another round of insurance ordeals because we didn't have our new policy cards yet and pretty much killed an entire week's worth of unpacking plans.

And then we had a few days where it seemed like everything was breaking. I took down the curtains to wash them and they shrunk over a foot. I sanded the wooden bars on the hammock so the boys wouldn't get splinters and I accidentally caught and broke one of the ropes in the power sander. I mistakenly left the cap off my pen while journaling on our bed and a few drops of ink ruined the quilt. Crew got into our neighbor's potted palm tree, spreading dirt across himself and their entire patio. He dropped my phone off the top of the stairs and it busted when it hit the hardwood. Troy went through three Kindles in a matter of days that were also dropped on the hard floors. What made all of the mishaps so frustrating is that they could have easily been prevented if we weren't making such silly, expensive mistakes.

It seemed like every day was just a catastrophe waiting to happen. Unplanned disasters kept popping up. One morning after getting Blake off to school, I loaded up the rest of the boys to go to the windshield repair shop. A rock hit our windshield while driving from Utah to California and the crack really needed to be filled before it spread. On the way there, Nash announced, "I don't feel so good." I pulled over and handed him an airplane barf bag that was still in my purse from pregnancy days. We made it to the parking lot and then he lost it. I held the bag under his mouth but it was useless. His shirt and our car were covered in throw up. We eventually made our way into the waiting area of the windshield repair shop, completely disheveled. Nash was shirtless and Crew somehow made it out the door shoeless. We headed to the bathroom where as I was rinsing out Nash's shirt, Crew was happily splashing in the toilet water. I don't think I could make this stuff up if I tried.

While I'm learning to roll with the punches a bit more and laugh at the quirky situations that are bound to occur with four boys, I have never felt so overwhelmed, so exhausted and so inadequate in my entire life. My days of early morning seminary and all-nighters to cram for college exams don't hold a candle to the level of exhaustion I have felt over the last six weeks. 

To top it all off, one morning I walked out to the parking lot with a cart full of boys and groceries and found this note on my car:
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That was my breaking point. 

Yes, my car was parked crooked. However, it wasn't overlapping any lines and a vehicle could have easily fit on either side of mine.

But those four hurtful words pulled the trigger for what was probably a long overdue breakdown. I had been holding it together for so long and suddenly I was keenly aware of every area I was falling short. Our world had been turned upside down and I finally let the weight of it all sink in. 

I sat in my car in the parking lot and sobbed while simultaneously feeding my baby and handing snacks to my starving toddler and discouraging my preschooler from stuffing mini cookies into the air conditioning vents.

I tried to give her (I'm assuming it was a "her" by the handwriting) the benefit of the doubt.

She couldn't have known that parking my vehicle perfectly straight was about the last thing I was worried about.

She couldn't have known that I had just packed up our entire life and relocated to a new place that was foreign to me.

She couldn't have known that I was barely holding it together while trying to find our new "normal."

She couldn't have known how hard it was to release my grip on everything that was familiar to me; our dear house, our close friends, nearby family, our old life and any sense of control.

She couldn't have known that a simple task like picking up groceries was a major ordeal to achieve.

She couldn't have known how much effort it took to get everyone out the door in between nap times and navigate through the store with young, needy children.

She couldn't have known that I had been up multiple times a night with a baby for the last six months, leaving me in a permanent state of exhaustion.

She couldn't have known that I dreaded any public outing with my boys because I was guaranteed multiple questions from strangers, asking, "Were you hoping for a girl?" "Are you going to try for a girl?" "Are you going to give all those boys a sister?" 

She couldn't have known that I was sick with worry about my oldest son starting over at a new school mid-year while still dealing with some serious bladder issues.

She couldn't have known that the day before she left the note, I had forgotten about school getting out early and my frightened son showed up on our doorstep because I wasn't at our meeting spot on the walk home.

She couldn't have known that what probably seemed like an easy opportunity to point out someone else's flaws spiraled into feelings of not being enough in every aspect of my life.

At first I was mad right back. It surprised me that someone would spend the time and energy to write a note to a complete stranger full of hatred. But then I realized that my list of challenges wasn't really what mattered. I was reminded that I should think about what was on her plate. Maybe she was under some serious pressure at work. Maybe her marriage was falling apart. Maybe someone died. Or maybe she was just having a rough day.

I instantly thought of one of my favorite quotes:
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Even though the words were hurtful, I learned something from that anonymous note leaver. Since that day of tears in the grocery store parking lot, I have rededicated my efforts to be kind to others, no matter how consumed I am in our own family's catastrophes. Catastrophes are becoming our new normal, after all.

At any given time, every person has something difficult going on. Our family's moving woes seem a little silly to even mention since this phase will soon pass and we'll move on to the next difficult challenge. But hard is hard, regardless of the scale on which the trial can be ranked.

Lately, I have been surrounded on all sides with people who are going through their own sorrows. One of my friends from book club just lost her newborn baby girl after only a week of life. Another friend is constantly battling her child's extreme allergies. Another is desperately longing for a child. Another is spending the last few days of life with her grandmother. Another is going through chemotherapy and experiencing miserable side effects. Another has lost a job. Another is struggling with anxiety and depression.

I'm willing to bet that more of us are struggling in private than any of us will ever know. We can't share everything, we don't want to share everything, but wouldn't that make the world a little kinder, easier place if we just knew when gentleness was needed? I think the key is that there is never a time when gentleness isn't needed. Everyone needs an extra dose of compassion, because everyone is going through something

In the end, Troy and I were able to laugh at being judged on something so insignificant as my parking abilities. Our days have been full of messes and tantrums and things breaking and sickness and endless worries. But as long as I'm parking my vehicle straight, all is right is the world! 


23 March 2015

Beach Days

We live only miles from the ocean, but it took us three weeks to make it out to the beach. Getting through the stacks and stacks of boxes along with starting a new job and a new school really turned our world upside down. Once we finally cleared enough space to park one vehicle in the garage, we decided we were overdue for a break to the sandy coast.
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Those cheeks though.
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Troy's mom came out to visit and was incredibly helpful when I came down with strep for the third time this winter. I think it's safe to say that the stress of the move and spending every waking moment putting the house in order combined with four young children and a baby who wakes up multiple times a night hasn't helped my immune system much. I don't know what I would have done without her while I was stuck in bed with a fever for a few days.
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I don't think these boys are going to have any problem becoming California boys.
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21 March 2015

Outtakes

I took Crew with me to shoot some six month photos of Finn in the giant teacup. When I lifted Finn out after the first round of shots, I turned around and saw this.
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I died laughing. The huge, scraggly haired, almost two year old in the teacup didn't have quite the same effect as the sweet little baby.
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Crew sure loves his baby brother. He is still a baby himself, but he insists on pushing Finn in the stroller and greets him every morning with a "Hiiiiiiiiiiii, baby!" in the highest pitched voice you can imagine.
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I'm glad we created a little friend for him since Blake and Nash's friendship was sealed years before he came along.


17 March 2015

Finn | Six Months

Finn's half birthday snuck up on me.

He was four months old when we were getting ready to move, and then five months for a brief moment, and then bam. Six months.

For the first time in any of my babies' lives, I missed a month of documentation. I had good intentions to squeeze in some five month photos and an update all month long. But somewhere in between an overwhelming move to a new state filled with sickness on all accounts and twists and turns with every step of way, that fifth month just passed us by.

I'd like a do-over, please. I wish I could have spent the last month soaking up Finn's scrumptious cheeks instead of spending every waking minute unpacking and feeling like I was drowning in our new world.

But even though the last few months have been a complete whirlwind, the timing of our move ended up being such a blessing. Troy began the interview process while he was on paternity leave, immediately after Finn was born. I was terrified that the impending move would force me to miss out on the already too short newborn stage.

However, every step of the process took some time. Even though we were eager to advance through many rounds of interviews and plan our future, for one time in my life, I was grateful for each month that the process dragged out.

For the first three months of Finn's life, I wasn't even tempted to start organizing and purging our belongings to prepare for the move that was becoming more and more certain. Each day that I could put it off was another day that I could have Finn curled up tightly against me. If you know me, you know that I'd be chomping at the bit to get everything prepared in any other situation. It was such a blessing that I didn't feel any urgency to get started while I was in my newborn bliss stage.

With Finn, I have thought often of the advice that my old principal gave me during my teaching days. Shortly before I had my first baby, all of the teachers at my school threw me a little baby shower. Most of them were mothers and they went around the room and gave little tidbits of advice for motherhood. Only one word of wisdom has stuck with me all these years. Ann, my dear principal, told me that when she had her last baby, she held her longer. She rocked her more. She let herself enjoy every moment. Back then, I remember thinking, of course I'll hold and rock my baby. But I don't think I really knew what it meant to hooooooold my baby until now. To feel the pressure of time slipping away and try with all my might to grip on to each moment. Each breath. Each movement. Each smile. Each tiny noise. Each gaze into those innocent eyes.

I am so grateful that our move didn't interfere with those sacred first three months. There was one night last week where Finn fell asleep curled up against me, just like he did when he was a newborn. That almost never happens anymore. So, I threw out my long to-do list which always seems more pressing once the other boys are in bed and instead sat perfectly still on the couch for hours. I focused on Finn's tiny breaths in and out and memorized the way his eyelashes fell so perfectly on his cheeks. Goodness I love babies.

A few days later, we celebrated his half birthday by putting him in the giant teacup. This has morphed into somewhat of a family tradition (Crew and Nash).
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At six months, Finn loves to suck his thumb. He is ambidextrous. It doesn't matter which thumb it is, as long as he has access. He is completely flexible which is a direct result of me not getting my act together to put him on a schedule. I can't believe I'm even admitting to that - where did that organized, schedule-driven mom go? I'm not positive but I think she is somewhere in cuckoo land juggling three older brothers.

Because of Finn's lack of schedule, he isn't the greatest night sleeper. He wakes up several times a night to eat and so far I've been too exhausted to work through that issue. Or the issue of him probably needing to move on to the dreaded spoonfeeding stage. 

If it weren't for the lack of sleep, I'd be happy to keep him in this rolly-polly, slobbery-grin, face-lighting-up-at-everyone, happy-go-lucky stage for always. 

Happy half, little man.


11 March 2015

Disney

What do you do when you have to wait a few days for your moving truck to arrive?

Go to Disneyland, of course.

It was Finn's first time and he was easily the best behaved.
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We snatched up our SoCal resident passes and leisurely made our way through without the pressure of having to do it all within a few days.
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Crew was a big fan of the bubbles at the parade.
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We've gone back a few times on Friday nights and the fun has continued. When we initially sat the boys down to tell them we were moving and tears streamed down their faces, one of the bargaining chips we had was living close to Disneyland. The happiest place on earth is never a bad place to be.


10 March 2015

iPhoneography: Saying Goodbye

Our last few weeks in Utah were spent having many dates with friends we were about to leave. I only captured about half of the outings - there were so many good people to fit in.

We had a belated New Years' Eve ice skating extravaganza, complete with Waffle Love.
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We visited neighborhood friends that have celebrated birthdays and holidays and countless playdates with our boys.
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These four boys were born exactly nine months apart, like some crazy, unplanned relay. My friend Steph and I took turns being pregnant; when one baby was born another one was immediately on the way. I think it's safe to say that trend is not going to continue.
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Crew went over to play with Bella while the movers were loading the truck.
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I died laughing when her mom sent me pictures of Crew trying to sit in her Barbie chair.
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We said a tearful goodbye to the family that sat by us at church every Sunday. I could not have survived the last two years alone with four kids on the bench without this awesome family. They made my job so easy. On our first Sunday at our new church congregation, Blake said, "I don't know if I can do this without the Guevaras." I hear you, buddy. 
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When I picked Blake up on his last day of school, every one of his first grade classmates gave him a high five on the way out the door. Blake held back the tears until we were safely confined in our car, and then he sobbed. It was heartbreaking.
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His classmates each made him a card with well wishes.
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I especially liked Kate's. 
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We also had one last dinner with the bishopric Troy served with for two years, a lunch date with friends I grew up with in Michigan that now live in Utah, one last book club, a work outing with many colleagues that Troy has spent the majority of his time with over the last seven years, one last round of haircuts from my cute neighborhood friend with a salon in her home, a playdate with Blake's best friend from school, and one last typical triple date with our best friends, hopping from a Thai food joint to another restaurant for dessert.

Although it was sad to leave our home behind, it's really the people that we are going to miss most. We made wonderful friends who enriched our lives. They helped us through our worst times and our best times. We went through some tough times over the last few years, but we always looked forward to escaping with friends on weekend nights, where we would be guaranteed to laugh, no matter what.

I'll never forget swinging by the hospital last year on Valentine's Day to pick up a hobbling Troy from the ER. We were bound and determined to go out with friends that night, and not only did Troy crutch his way into a nice restaurant in sweatpants and excruciating pain, but we told our friends that baby #4 was on the way as well. Now, we can look back and see the humor in that whole crazy situation. There sure were times where we were a mess and our friends were the bright spot in our lives.

Moving carries with it the stress and fear of "starting over" in a new place. It is hard to move into an area where people have known each other for perhaps many years, and then step into it, wondering if you have anything to offer them.

It took time for us to feel settled in Utah and we know it will take time to feel like we belong in our new home as well.

If only we could skip over moving month(s) and instantly go from one life and be nicely situated in the next.