29 December 2015

Snapshot 2015

Life is swirling around me so quickly and often so chaotically that sitting down and recording memories helps me to sort it out and make sense of it all in a way that is meaningful.

There are only a few days left in 2015 so I want to make sure I record our annual snippet of everyday life before we ring in the new year.

I know, like I need more records along with the hundreds of pictures I take to document life. But I mostly write about specific events and not as much about the full picture. I recently read our snapshots from past years and I love that I can remember those little slivers of time all in one spot. 

So here we go; 2015 in the here and now:

Troy and I were recently at the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor for consecutive appointments with three of our children. We were both filling out paperwork and Troy was stumped when it came to their prescriptions as well as dosages. That led to him stating, "I wouldn't have a clue what to do if you died." We had a good laugh about it and I asked, "Would you know that Nash has to bring his library books to school on Tuesdays, Blake needs gym shoes on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and Blake has to bring book share books on Wednesdays, reading counts books on Thursdays, and library books on Fridays? Or that Blake's math facts quizzes are on Thursdays, I drive the kindergarten carpool on Thursdays and every third Wednesday, and on Tuesday afternoons I pick up Nash after school while Blake stays for an extracurricular class, and then after I pick up Blake from his class, he has 15 minutes to change into his scouting uniform until the carpool for scouts arrives...?" Troy cut me off right there and exclaimed, "Stop, just stop!"

I guess you could say we are full swing into the elementary school years and all of the assignments and carpools and extracurricular activities that go along with that phase of life. And somehow all of those commitments and their corresponding days are safely tucked away in my brain, with the exception of some missed book returns.

After 10 months, California is really starting to feel like home. I was driving home from a late night meeting a few weeks ago thinking how familiar the streets felt and how blessed we were to live near friends we have grown close to in a short period of time.

The boys love spending time outside. With such nice weather, they can be outside almost every day of the year riding bikes and skateboarding and swimming and making up all sorts of games. The second they hear other kids' voices, they want to peel out of our house immediately to join them. It makes squeezing in homework time quite a challenge some days, but I'm thrilled that they are thriving in our new community.

I can't say I mind the lack of seasons one bit. I never thought I would miss winter and so far, I'm right. The boys have mentioned missing snow a few times, but not me. I'm perfectly content that our "fall" contains a few clusters of changing leaves here and there with palm trees in the background.
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The only thing that made us crazy were all of the crickets that ended up in our garage over the summer. I started out being slightly terrified of their sudden movements and shiftiness, but ended up being so mad at all the noise that I crushed them any chance I was given. I starting dreaming of crickets and I get agitated every single time I hear a cricket noise.

The biggest change to our day to day lives this year was the diagnosis of asthma for two of our sons. Nash chronically coughed for six months straight and Crew ended up in the hospital for a night with his first asthma attack.
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After Crew's incident, doctor appointments and breathing treatments took over our lives. We started having appointments every week with the asthma specialist, ENT, radiologist and pediatrician. For a few months, each time we went back in for follow-up appointments, we found out the boys were worse. Their bodies were resistant to multiple rounds of antibiotics. Every time I thought we were getting a hold on their symptoms and treatments, we received more bad news. 
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My heart broke for our boys and their constant breathing treatments and syringes of medicine. They eventually grew accustomed to the nebulizer, but some of those oral prescriptions were so awful we had to think of every trick in the book, including pinning them down, in order to get them to take them. It was not uncommon for us to walk out of appointments with five or six prescriptions for each of them and complex instruction sheets.
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Our countertop became our asthma medication station for several months.
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They seem to both be responding to our current treatment plan much better than they did a few months ago. Our nebulizer time is our reading time and I actually really enjoy having the consistent reminder to sit down and read with them. Their medicine load is waning and I am enjoying less frequent trips to the pharmacy. My eyes have been opened to the world of children with medical issues and even though the appointments and treatments can be difficult, I feel so grateful that their diagnoses are manageable and will not affect may aspects of their lives. 

Finn had his own medical setback when his ear ruptured three times within eight months. We added him to our ENT visits and he will have surgery to have tubes placed in his ears in a few weeks.

Blake is our only son without any major medical issues this year. I walk him half way to school in the mornings and he walks the rest of the way with hundreds of other children that fill the streets along the school. Nash starts kindergarten two and a half hours later and we have a carpool rotation with three other boys in his class. Blake and Nash walk home from school together and it is life changing to have them appear at home while the babies are already down for naps.

Blake packs his own lunches for school and is allowed to buy lunch one day a week. It has been a game changer for me during busy school day mornings.

Blake ranks the order in which he likes particular meals. For example, when I make Italian chicken, he says it is his "number 47 favorite meal." Stroganoff is his "number 1 favorite meal" and broccoli cheddar soup is his "number 3 favorite meal."

Blake loves to use Siri on my phone. In fact, he changed my name from "Lindsey" to "Awesome For The Rest of Your Life." Now, all of my emails go to "Awesome For The Rest of Your Life," as well as my home navigation and contact information.

Blake recently passed all of the swim levels required to join the swim team and he will be starting that endeavor in the new year. He is currently taking a Lego engineering course where they build Battle Bots. Now that he is eight, he is officially a cub scout and whether I'm ready or not, we are adding scouting to our schedule.

Nash has always been a collector and his latest collection consists of nature's souvenirs. Whenever he is at the park or on a walk, he picks up acorns and seedlings and twigs and mini pinecones to add to his bags full of what he considers "ordinary stuff." In fact, "ordinary stuff" is now a well known term on our street and sometimes the neighbor kids join him in collecting items from nature.
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Nash is a fanatic about ice cold water. He fills up his entire cup with ice from the ice-maker and adds only a tiny bit of water. It takes him several minutes to go through this process and he'd rather have no water than room temperature water. We always know that the cups filled to the brim with ice belong to Nash.

Nash also usually goes straight for the Otter Pop popsicles when he gets home from school.

Nash's love for drawing grows greater and greater month by month. I think it began during all of our wait times at doctor's appointments. He began doodling in a notebook I kept in my purse and now it is his preferred activity. He makes elaborate drawings of stories and mazes and good guy vs. bad guy scenarios.
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Nash is involved in swimming lessons as well, which have moved to the indoor pool for the "winter." He will be starting Little League with his buddies from kindergarten in February.

Whenever I have bobby pins in my hair, Nash thinks it is hilarious to grab his magnetic fishing pole and "fish" them out of my hair.
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It still surprises me how much boys want to have their shirts off. When the roughhousing begins, the shirts come off. When it's dinner time, the shirts come off. When it's bedtime, the shirts come off. Blake especially likes the feeling of his sheets on his bare skin. I'm pretty sure they would go to school shirtless if I would let them.

We've been working really hard on nixing the phrase "Me and so-and-so." It is one of my pet peeves. They are starting to remember to use correct grammar; "Blake and I..." or "Nash and I..."

Blake and Nash love to collect Box Tops to help earn money for their school. In fact, the minute I get home from the grocery store, they scour all of the boxes while they are still in the grocery bags and cut out any Box Tops they find. We have a special system in place to make sure they are evenly distributed or there would be a war over the Box Tops.

We started giving baths to two children at a time because four bodies in one little tub is a bit crowded.

Speaking of four bodies, it's pretty crazy how many comments we get from strangers when we are out in public. The boys feel like celebrities. It's so funny when they start quoting the things that are said to us. Here are a few of our favorites:
"Are those ALL yours?"
"Four boys? Your husband must be stoked!"
"Are you going to try for a girl?" (Super original. Never heard that one before.)
"Just stay tough. Boys really need that."
"Oh honey. It will get fun in about 5 years."
"Four boys and you're wearing earrings?"
 "You're half way to a full baseball team!"
...and my favorite...
"Are they all from the same dad?" 
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Nash and Crew are still roommates and for the most part, that arrangement works out wonderfully. Sometimes Nash is annoyed by Crew's chattiness when he wants to go to sleep, but he often tunes him out and conks out. Blake has his own room for the time being because Finn still sleeps in a portable crib in our closet. It's dark and quiet in there and it just works for now, but eventually those two will be roommates.

I love spending time with Crew and Finn during the four hours that the older boys overlap at school each day. Errands are a breeze and lunchtime is so quiet.
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Crew is a chatterbox and every word he exerts is the most exciting thing on the planet. He is so animated and so enthused about life. Some of my favorite things he says are, "swi-soup" (for swimsuit), "What the heck?" and "Check it out!"

Crew begs to watch the television show Team Umizoomi. He just can't get enough of those mighty math superheroes.

Crew is a baseball enthusiast. He could swing his bat and play catch for hours on end. 

When Crew repeats phrases for prayers, he always whispers them with a quiet smirk on his face.

I usually get Crew and Finn down for afternoon naps less than a half hour before Blake and Nash get home from school. They get out so early at 2:20pm. Sometimes if I'm really on top of it, I have a quiet house for one whole hour.

Finn still takes a morning and afternoon nap which limits our daily ongoings. But in a way I don't mind being trapped at home. I get too frazzled on the days we are away all day. The older I get, the more of a homebody I become.

Finn uttered his first words, took his first steps and broke his first teeth this month (at fifteen months). I'm conflicted between wanting to be his biggest cheerleader and dreading each moment he moves further away from babyhood.

Finn is becoming super attached to me and insists on holding on to my legs whenever I'm trying to make dinner or get ready. It's equal parts charming and frustrating.

Legos somehow make their way to every countertop in our house.
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The boys have all been really interested in vocal beatboxing lately. When Troy gets home from work, they watch YouTube beatboxing videos together and do their best to compile their own versions. Dinner time is L-O-U-D.

We reworked our family job system for the school year but we have been awful at it lately. It was working really well when I was on top of it and following through. I'm looking forward to a fresh start in the new year. Family systems have to be tweaked so many times.

The boys weren't so sure at first about our 10-20-70 system. But in time it became second nature to put a portion of their dollars aside. 10% goes to tithing in our church (giving money helps to remember that in the grand scheme of things it's not really our money in the first place), another 20% goes to savings and the remaining 70% is theirs to save or spend.
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I am hooked on Amazon Prime. I order everything online from folders and ink cartridges and birthday presents to diapers and shoes and school supplies. Amazon is my go to for just about everything. That two day free shipping is always worth one less trip to the store with several children in tow. I am also a huge fan of Prime Now. Groceries and household goods delivered to my door within two hours of placing my order? Sign me up! It is only available in select U.S. cities and we are lucky enough to fall within their delivery range.
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We have really loved using our Disneyland annual passes. I remember thinking how amazing it would be to go to Disneyland whenever we wanted when we came out for vacations. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that this is our reality. Our passes expire in February and we're planning on taking a year off so that our "on" years can be more of a novelty.
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I get together with friends every Monday night when The Bachelor is airing. We have the best time, mostly chatting over the noise of the TV and occasionally rewinding to catch tidbits we missed.

I have had to cut back my design work significantly with the addition of child number four and the move to California, but I love it too much to give it up completely. 

In our church, we all take turns and volunteer in different positions. Nobody is paid and we are asked by our ecclesiastical leader (our bishop) to serve in various "callings" or responsibilities. Right now, my calling is Primary Chorister. I lead singing time with 120 children ages 3-11 every Sunday. It is way out of my comfort zone and I often feel inadequate and unqualified. But I am serving and trying my best and finding brief moments where I do enjoy the responsibility. Maybe not at 2am when I have ink all over my hands after fighting with my printer, but certainly when the children are attentive and singing their testimonies with their whole hearts.
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Troy arranges volunteers for all of the church building cleanings on Saturday mornings every three months and serves as a Scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts program.

Troy deems every Friday "pink shirt Friday." I actually didn't catch on for a few years that he wears a pink button down shirt every Friday. But now that he has to take his clothes out of the closet the night before work since Finn sleeps in there, if he is ever away on a Thursday night, I make sure to follow suit and grab him a pink shirt option for Friday. 

He managed a team in Virginia Beach and traveled out there several times this year. One week while he was out of the Southern California office, his co-workers played a little prank on him and replaced the photo on his desk with their own version.
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I'm sure I could keep going, but there you have it. 2015 in a nutshell.


28 December 2015

Family Photos

A few months ago, our neighbor who is a photographer braved the heat and humidity with us alongside thousands of flying gnats that were in a nearby field. It was truly a miserable evening to be outside, let alone expect cooperation for family photos.

Somehow we still managed to walk away with the shots that were important to us.
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And a few crazy ones too.
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I have photos hanging in our bedroom with each of my babies and me. It was important that I captured Finn's babyhood in the same way. 

It's a good thing Finn looks younger than he is because I didn't manage to fit in our photo session until he was two days shy of turning one.
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Aside from the family Christmas card photo and a shot with my baby and me, my only other request was for individuals of each boy. Their faces now hang larger than life on four square canvases in our stairwell.
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Oh, and I had to take a silly headshot too for work. I remembered why I prefer being on the other side of the camera.
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Family photos can be really stressful, especially when you have extreme weather conditions and young children involved. But in my book, they are always, always worth it.


26 December 2015

Christmas Moments

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The entire month of December was a race to survive this year. Now that Christmas Eve and Christmas morning are safely tucked behind us, I feel like I can breathe a huge sigh of relief.

One week ago, I had no idea how it was all going to come together. But thanks to online shopping, a few nights that lasted until the wee hours of the morning and super fast shipping, we made it through.

We thought of presents for everyone on our list. All but one of the packages containing gifts were shipped to us with a day to spare. The gift wrapping marathon concluded just in time for the festivities. The Christmas cards were addressed and mailed out in entirety. We attended multiple Christmas parties. The program at church ran smoothly after hours of practice. 

The holidays sure can feel like a whirlwind. I think it is so easy for the holly and jolly to get lost intermixed with the hurricane surrounding the season of checking off lists. I know I am guilty of seeing everyone else who is "doing it all" and wondering why I can't keep up. How am I supposed to keep a joyful, Christ-centered Christmas when a clingy baby won't let me put him down to even cook a meal? Or when every time I turn around there is another mess to clean up, more homework to help with, more laundry to fold, more breathing treatments to set up, more design orders to complete, more church meetings to attend, more music lessons to plan, more carpools to drive, more service to give and more outings to attend? 

Each year, I want so badly to enjoy the weeks leading up to Christmas. To really be present with my children and husband instead of being stressed out day after day. However, the more Christmases that pass, the more I realize that the joy I seek isn't found in grand events or perfect harmony or every expectation being met. The true spirit of Christmas is found in small moments. Moments that come unexpectedly amidst the rush of activity where everything pauses and my heart fills up.

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I had a few of those "moments" this holiday season.

One of them came during our Christmas church program. The choir conductor cornered me several weeks prior and asked me to join the choir. I felt like I could not possibly add one more thing to my plate. But she was so persistent with emailing me and texting me that I just couldn't say no. I actually ended up loving the practices before church on Sundays, where I had a break from the ruckus at home to fill up on beautiful music.

But the moment came as we were singing the last verse of O Holy Night on Christmas Sunday. When the organ and piano came together along with the choir and congregation on the last verse, my eyes welled up as we sang the words:
Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
It was powerful. It was just the reminder I needed that Christmas isn't about Amazon or perfect trimmings, but about a tiny babe who was born in the most humble conditions who made the ultimate sacrifice.

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Another moment came on Christmas Eve Eve. We went to see the light display at a local resort. As we were sitting on outdoor bleachers, watching an animated light display version of the Nativity, Crew squealed with glee every time the baby Jesus illuminated. He jumped up and down and pointed as he exclaimed, "I see it! I see baby Jesus!" The people around us started chuckling at his very vocal declarations and yet somehow it did not get old just how excited he was each and every time. Once again, my heart was full in a simple moment where all distractions were put aside.

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Some of my favorite moments throughout the month were when we all were together, encouraging our tiniest brother to perform new tricks. Finn learned to say a few words and take his first steps in the weeks leading up to Christmas. His brothers were his biggest cheerleaders. They were constantly asking him to repeat the words he knew. "Finn, say uh-oh!" "Finn, say ball!" "Finn, say more!"

It was the absolute best when we gathered around the tree to read our Christmas book each night and encouraged Finn to let go of the couch and take a few steps into our outstretched arms. He wobbled toward us with the hugest smile on his face and we collectively cheered for him each time he made it. And then we laughed when Crew inevitably generated his own round of applause by mimicking Finn letting go of the couch and taking some steps.

No matter what else was going on, those quiet moments of encouragement seemed to pause time each night and let us bask in love and gratitude.

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Checking off pressing items on the list and running around frantically did not make December meaningful. It was the stillness that was recognized amidst the hustle and bustle when time froze, even if only for a moment. That is the joy that somehow made the rest of the hurricane worth it.


17 December 2015

Thanksgiving Weekend

Troy's parents flew in the day after Thanksgiving and since they missed out on the big feast, we spent the rest of the weekend making up for lost time.

I never imagined we'd be spending the end of November at the pool and beach.

The pool was a tad chilly but it didn't stop the boys from jumping in.
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Crew wasn't interested in the water in the least bit.
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He was much more invested in the pool accessories.
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Even when we changed him into his swimsuit, Crew was much happier on the sidelines playing paddleball with his grandpa.
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We met up with a bunch of Troy's extended family who happen to live right on the beach as well. First on the agenda was a family picture since it is rare for us all to be together.
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It is incredibly tricky to get the lighting right at beach and getting six kids to cooperate was nearly impossible, so the photo session was short lived.
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The boys couldn't wait to change into their swimsuits and run free.
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We took a walk to the tide pools and Troy was thrilled about being the designated shoe carrier.
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We stayed all the way till sunset which happens to be at 4:30pm in the winter, but we were still the last ones standing on the beach.
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After a lifetime of Thanksgivings in the cold and snow, spending the weekend in swimsuits was a welcomed shift in traditions.