Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Strawberries!

The end of June marks Strawberry season here in Maine. Strawberries are one of my all time favorite fruits so when I heard that our local strawberry farm was open to the public, I couldn't wait to go.

We had a last minute change of plans this morning, so Mairead had one of her preschool friends over for a play date. Afterwards, we all headed over to Maxwell's Farm in Cape Elizabeth to go strawberry picking. I would be lying if I told you I wasn't worried about how this "outing" was going to go over with my four children. I knew Mairead and Lilah would be easy, but I didn't know how the hell I was going to accomplish picking strawberries, chasing a 21 month old toddler and making sure my 11 week old wasn't suffocating in his pouch!

When we got there, all the kids got their own quart container, and I grabbed a HUGE cardboard tray. The big girls would fill their quart container and then dump everything in my tray. Of course, their faces were dripping red. It must have been one strawberry in the container and about 5 shoved in their mouths! As far as Clara went, she did really well, and actually didn't run off. She surely ate more strawberries than anyone there and her face, hands, arms and clothes were proof. Of course, Clara wouldn't be Clara if she didn't try to remove a piece of clothing in public. Thankfully today, it was only her shoes. Yep, she was walking around in the strawberry fields with bare feet. Another extremity covered in red strawberry juice!

Mairead and Lilah had fun exploring with their friends, and I had a blast, too! Today was the perfect day for strawberry picking - overcast, but warm!

So now we have a whole lotta strawberries! I am going to make some homemade strawberry sorbet, maybe some ice cream? and well, I don't know....but we have a lot of eating we need to do! I have to say they are soooo good this year! Super juicy. Super sweet! Just perfect! I love days like this that aren't planned out, but end up perfect!


















Monday, June 27, 2011

Balls

I've mentioned before how I try to be pretty open as far as our bodies are concerned with our children, especially when it comes to childbirth.

Well, tonight, it stepped up a notch. Unexpectedly. All because of one word.

Balls. Thank you, Callum. 


We all (me and the kids, all four of them) were showering together. I had Callum in my arms, washing him. I get down to his penis and say "let's wash your balls...." I've said it before to be funny, just being funny, but no one had ever caught on. Except for tonight.

Mairead says "What are balls?"

I didn't know what to say, so she asked again. So, I said "It's part of a penis, called the testicles"

Mairead: "Do the balls hold up the doody?" (She calls the penis a doody, don't ask me why, it's a name she came up with when she was really little, not me)

Now, how the hell do you answer that question???

I may be good about talking about OUR female body, but the males....Not so good.

My response: "Uhhh, no"

Mairead: "Welllllll, what do they do?"

By this point, Kevin was snickering and I was trying to keep my laughter hidden.

Me: "Ummmmm......well, it keeps the sperm inside"

Yeah. Yeah. You know where this is going.

Mairead: "What's sperm?"

Here we go.....

Me: "It helps to make a baby" trying to be as general as possible. She may have seen her baby brother's birth, but she still hadn't a clue as to HOW the baby got inside of mommy except for the fact that when a mommy and a daddy love each other, they make a baby.

Mairead: "Inside of the daddy?"

Me: "No"

Mairead: "Well, how does the sperm make a baby?"

Me: "Well, we have ovaries and they are right *here*. They have eggs inside of them. So the sperm goes inside of the mommy, goes inside of the egg, and that makes a baby."

You could see Mairead's mind spinning fast trying to process that bit of information. I was anxious to see where the rest of the conversation would go next, but thankfully, that was enough. She then proceeded on to the topic of birth, a topic I am much more comfortable talking about with my 5 year old.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ice Cream Man

So far, summer seems to come.....and go.....come and go, but we've managed to snag the ice cream man a few times already this season!

Tonight we were having dinner outside. Kevin and I heard the ice cream man, snickered and waited for the girls to notice it, too. Within a few minutes, they heard it. Of course, they wanted an ice cream. So, like the good parents we are, we bribed our children. Mairead, Lilah, Clara...if you eat your dinner, and you better eat it quick, you can get an ice cream. Within seconds, the girls mouths were full of food and they were making a mad dash out to the street, down our long driveway.


One in a dress.
One in a jacket.
One n aked.

The girls stood anxiously at the end of the driveway awaiting the ice cream man to stop in front of them. Clara stood in the middle of the road. Waiting. N aked.

As he came closer, the girls were jumping up and down with excitement. The truck stopped at our driveway and the girls made their choices.

It's times like these that make me remember my childhood and getting excited over the simplicities of summer life. Hearing the jingle of the ice cream truck make its way around the neighborhoods wondering when your street would be next. I love enjoying these moments with our children. 





Thursday, June 23, 2011

Keep Calm & Carry On...

I should have known that after Lilah puked in the pool (hopefully from downing too much water) during swim school this morning that it probably would have been wise to just go home afterwards, but no, I had errands to run, so off to Target with my four in tow.

We pull in to the parking lot and Mairead sees the big cart with the extra seats. I put Lilah in, and Clara next. Then, Mairead melts down screaming that she wanted in, too. I had no warning of this full blown fit, so I couldn't do damage control. Here I am, in the middle of the Target parking lot, with an almost 11 week old strapped to my chest, a 5 year old flailing trying to push her 21 month old sister OUT of the seat so she can get in, and a 3.5 year old trying to remain in the cart, too. I pull Mairead out, which makes her even more feisty. We enter Target with a kicking, screaming, crying 5 year old. Yeah. Fun.

I attempt to speak to her, but it doesn't help. I see people staring at me - as if I was doing something to my kid. Did they feel bad for me? Wonder why I have so many children? I quickly remember the sign I have in our kitchen:


I took a deep breath, and took Mairead by the hand. She continued to cry. People continued to stare, snicker. I just looked at them, calmly, smiled and carried on. I stop by the athletic wear department, and Mairead is still carrying on, then an angel, oops, I mean a Target employee comes by and says:

"You know, you should be nice to your mommy. If you can't behave in the store, I'll have to ask you to leave the store, is that what you want?"  (In a very nice, life-saving tone, actually)

Mairead looked at the man and shook her head intently, No. She immediately stopped crying and tried to compose herself.

Then, Lilah and Clara decided that if Mairead wasn't behaving, they didn't have to either. Lilah was in the cart and out of the cart....in......out.......in......out......I kept repeating myself. "Get IN THE CART" and Clara would stand on the little seat, sit down, stand, sit down. I'd buckle her in, she'd get out of the buckle. I swear, I wanted to just crawl inside a hole and not come out.

Then, Clara pushes Lilah out of the cart. Sweet! Another crying kid. I buckle Clara in even tighter...she starts to scream with frustration because she can't escape. But wait! Give her a minute and our little Houdini is now unbuckled. All I needed to do was to pinch Callum to make him cry and I would have successfully had all four children cry (not simultaneously, thank GOD) in Target.

Finally, we survived check-out, without any major meltdowns, and made our way to the car. I told the girls how disappointed I was in their behavior and for punishment they had to:

*make their toy room spotless - which is always like pulling teeth.
*clean our kitchen floors with a rag - unfortunately, they thought this was the COOLEST idea ever, and asked if they could do this instead of time out in the future.
*they didn't get to choose what they wanted for lunch - because if they act like babies, then, they aren't old enough to tell me what they want for lunch.
*lilah was made to nap and Mairead had to rest in her bed without toys and no lights for a while.

Not sure what else I could do - not much I can take away on a rainy day that won't let me keep my sanity, too!


Monday, June 20, 2011

Everything else can wait...

As I sit here typing, I am looking and thinking about all I need to accomplish around our home. There is laundry to be done. A dishwasher needing to be emptied. Sandy towels and bathing suits on our front lawn from our quick trip to the beach, and countless other things that are making me cringe. But, I have decided that for now, I will just sit here. And enjoy. No TV on. A slight breeze brushing through the trees in our backyard, birds chirping....and a sweet little boy sleeping peacefully on my chest. I listen to him breathing. In. and. Out. In. and Out. I do not do this nearly enough.

All sorts of things going through my head. I am in amazement at how much our sweet little boy is changing. He no longer has the look of a newborn. His face is getting chunky. His personality is shining through. As I listen to him breathe, I think about his first week in the NICU, the memories still very fresh inside of me. I remember what his breathing used to be like, and now, it is perfectly normal. As I caress his head, he smiles in his sleep. This is the life.

Yeah. I could be cleaning and doing things around the house while the girls are napping/resting upstairs, but instead, I will sit here. Enjoy my baby boy, for tomorrow he will be even bigger, and all too soon, he will be big like his sisters, and not need his mommy so much. I love this time with our babies. It's the one time I can sit down and enjoy without the interruptions from the others. Life goes by way too fast and today, I am going to enjoy him. Everything else can wait.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Daddy's Day

Happy Father's Day to the sweetest, most amazing daddy we know!

It wasn't until I snapped these photos that I realized just how awesome Kevin and I have it. We are so lucky to have such beautiful little girls and a beautifully sweet little prince. Yeah, there are a lot of days when I know Kevin may doubt himself, and think, "what the F...... have I got myself into" and I know there are days where he thinks the complete opposite, but really, we are so lucky to have what we have. It isn't easy and most days it is filled with controlled chaos, but nothing a glass of wine can't cure.

My dad & Kevin with our crazy crew
Our children are so lucky to have such an awesome daddy who works so hard for all of us. To watch him look at our children with so much love and devotion is such a gift. I feel so lucky to have found such an amazing father and husband. I know in the last year we have been faced with different challenges from Kevin's deployment to Alabama for the Deepwater Horizon spill to my 4th high risk pregnancy to our upcoming move to Washington DC to Callum's birth and subsequent NICU stay.....but, we have partnered up and continue to come out alive, if not, stronger as a family and as a couple. While Kevin and I may not always be "happy" with each other, we always come back to each other...stronger with more respect towards each other.

I love that our children have a daddy who wants to be a part of their lives. Who loves to participate in their life. Someone who gets excited about life as much as our girls do. I know that our life isn't perfect, but the one thing I do know is perfect is the love and devotion Kevin has for his children and family.

Happy Father's Day, baby...We love you so much...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Ocean

Growing up in New England, I've spent a lot of time on the beach. Building sand castles. Rolling in the sand. Making childhood memories last forever. Since moving to Maine three years ago, I have made sure our children have had the same chances to make childhood memories at the beach. There is just something about sandy toes and salty kisses from my girls that I just love so much.

Living just a short two miles from several beaches, our girls have grown to love and adore the beach. Building sand castles, catching hermit crabs on the shore, making sand angels and eating too many peanut butter & fluff sandwiches to count. Kevin and I are true water lovers so watching the joy on our children's faces as they develop a love for the water just makes Kevin and I excited for our future together as a family.

Moving away from the open water and ocean air later this summer is something I do not look forward to. While we will have access to a pool, it just isn't the same as spending the day at the beach. The salty air just does something a pool cannot. I love watching our girls make new friends and use their imagination as they build castles in the sand. Until we move, I have promised myself to spend as much time at the beach as humanly possible. This past week, we spent five lovely days at the beach. Building sand castles, playing with friends, collecting hermit crabs, and for Clara, exploring the beach, n aked. Yes, n aked.


I love the many memories the ocean has made for me in my life and I look forward to making even more memories with our sweet children. Here's to life with an abundance of sandy toes and salty kisses...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Homeschooling

Not much in life is final, and this decision is certainly not final....but, I am 99% sure that I will be homeschooling Mairead for Kindergarten. I honestly never thought I would even consider homeschooling my children, and to be perfectly honest, I really enjoyed the time when Mairead was in preschool this year.

I don't know what it is, but I have a lot of reservations about sending her off into public schools with lots and lots of kids. I will be the first to admit, I am not ready for my innocent 5 year old to experience bullying, or mean people. I am not ready for her to take life so seriously, after all she is only 5. I am not ready for her to grow up too fast, I want her to experience true childhood, and yeah, maybe that is going to Kindergarten, after all, that's a pretty big milestone, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel bad that she'll never have that "kindergarten" experience. I think about how I am going to accomplish homeschooling Mairead while tending to the other three children. It won't be easy, but nothing in life is, and I like challenges if you haven't figured that one out already.

Yeah. There are a lot of what-if's and a lot of questions, but one thing I do know is that it will be a learning process for everyone. I get excited about all of the possibilities for our children to learn outside of the school system. Our children can learn together. Our family can learn together. Kevin and I can continue to be responsible for what our children are learning and if they want to learn by playing, they can do that. It makes me sad that school has to be so serious because there is plenty of time in life to be serious.

I am not excited about moving to Northern Virginia. It makes me sad to leave Maine. Our family. Our friends. But one thing I do know is living in Northern Virginia will make homeschooling easy or more manageable. There are so many amazing resources, groups and activities that our children will not be sheltered, actually, they will have more time for activities and socialization than if they were in school. Northern Virginia has amazing community recreational activities that go from nature classes to dance classes to swimming to you name it, they probably have it. Our girls will be able to try all sorts of new things, explore new places, and meet lots of new friends. And that excites me. Sitting down at a table and learning "A,B,C's" will be such a small part of what we will actually be learning.

One thing I know for sure is that if homeschooling isn't for us, there is always the opportunity to place Mairead into the public school system, and maybe that will happen, but for now, we will try to homeschool our children while we are living in Northern Virginia. Mairead is so eager to learn and I really look forward to teaching her because I know she will motivate me!

Now that our decision has been made, I have to decide how I will tackle this - curriculums? activities...etc etc. I am looking to take a non-religious approach to homeschooling - and interested in a mix of "unschooling-traditional approach" Any words of wisdom and/or advice are greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Two Months

Two months ago today, I gave birth to our beautifully sweet Callum John.

For weeks leading up to Callum's birth I had a feeling something wasn't going to go right. I didn't know what it was, but I chalked it up to having a boy and knowing boys don't always behave as well as girls do, especially those who are born early.

When I entered the hospital the day before his birth, I had a voice telling me something was going to go wrong with Callum. Once again, I chalked it up to him being early and being a boy. I had some internal guilt knowing that he had a higher chance of problems because of his early birth due to my cervical incompetence. Many people said that he would come when he was ready, but unfortunately, for our children, this has never been the case. My cervical incompetence has always evicted our children before they were truly ready. Having three perfectly healthy girls before led me to believe "my luck was up".

After Callum was brought to the special care nursery a few hours after his birth, I really started to feel guilty, like I had done this to our baby boy. Not that I would wish our baby to be extremely ill, I did take comfort in knowing that his pulmonary hypertension was not caused by him being born early, and that most babies who have had this are full term infants. The neonatologists assured me of this.

Now, two months later, I look at our healthy, growing baby boy. He is perfect. The first days of his life were a glimpse into who Callum will be. Strong and determined. Doctors said he would be in the hospital for several weeks. He was in for 11 days. Doctors and nurses said he probably wouldn't be able to nurse for several days or longer after he was taken off of the ventilator. He nursed that night. He proved everyone wrong.

Callum is such a sweetheart. He is so content and sweet. He is easily consolable. Loves to sleep. Loves to snuggle. Loves to nurse. Loves to be moving. He is eerily like his big sister Lilah. She was the same way, but, if he is truly like her, his toddler years will be full of activity and craziness!

He is a great sleeper. He has his last feeding between 10-1030 and will now sleep anywhere from 5-6+ hours. He will then come into bed with us for the rest of the night. He nurses on demand, but usually every 2-3 hours during the day. He is smiling all the time now. You just have to talk to him and he smiles. He loves his sisters, and they love him dearly. He is truly an easy baby. A love.

Today, he had his well baby check at the pediatricians office. He weighed in at 9lbs8oz.......a 3lb8oz weight gain since he has been home from the hospital. He was 20.5'' long, 2'' longer than birth. He is growing, thriving and to this point, is developing normally. I only hope he continues to grow and thrive and do everything he is supposed to do. I can't help but wonder if he will suffer any longterm problems stemming from birth and beyond. But, all I can be is grateful that he is here with us.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Goosebumps

Today, I had my 6 week post-partum check up (at 8 weeks if you're counting) with my OB. It was just me and Callum while Mairead was at a birthday party and the two "middles" were with daddy at home. I was looking forward to seeing the doc to say thank you and for her to meet Callum.

The last 4 weeks have been so wonderful with Callum. He has been progressing beautifully and I finally can look at him without reliving the worst 11 days of our life and being sad about his first week "being taken away" from us. He is smiling. He is wonderful. He is healthy. And like the nurse today said "he was supposed to be here" - and she is right. 

Very frequently we drive past the hospital where Callum was born and I think about his birth, but I don't really think about it in detail. But today was a different story. I pulled into the entrance of the hospital and all I could think about was what happened to Callum, how different his story was from Claras, who was also born at the same exact hospital, in the same exact room. Clara's birth story was perfect, and everything Kevin and I could have ever hoped for, but Callum's was quite the opposite. As I just stared at the building my heart began to race a bit, I got goosebumps and I just couldn't stop thinking about Callum, watching him leave in the transport isolette on the way to the NICU, or when I was transferred to the same hospital, alone, without my sweet, baby boy. The feelings that were inside of me that day are indescribable. I was in complete disbelief that day. While it was so sunny that day,  it was so very cloudy and dark to me. 

While I know that day will become further and further away from us, I know my memories will always remain of that time. I look at our beautiful Callum and see how lucky we are to have him here with us, doing so well. Our sweet Callum is so strong, and I have learned so much from our little boy. Todays appointment brought some closure to our experience with Callum. I just wish those precious days weren't lost with him. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sometimes decisions are made for you...

Since life has been getting 'back to normal' or as normal as it can be with four kids, we've been faced with deciding about our upcoming move back to the Washington DC area. For a while, Kevin and I both held out hope that I would stay here with our children and Kevin would commute back home on weekends. We knew it would be tough, but our life here in Maine is hard to give up for a lot of reasons.

Before Callum was born we couldn't find anywhere to live. It was very discouraging and stressful, so we decided to stop looking until after things settled with our new baby. And it has. We've spoken with realtors, told them what we wanted and almost everyone chuckled and said "good luck" - it made the potential of us staying here in Maine very real.

Then, we found a potential home in Maryland. Then another in Virginia. Both equally enticing, each with their own personalities and downfalls. The home in Great Falls, VA is perfect for us. The only downfall, the size of the back yard. It's tiny. And since we have a large, beautiful yard here in Maine, it seems almost mean to have a yard that size with four children and two dogs. The only thing to make it better, a tot lot across the street. The home in Arnold, MD is in a waterfront community, our children will be able to continue to enjoy the open water and a beach setting, a large yard, but a smaller, more expensive home with a longer commute. It's such a difficult decision for us to decide which home is best for us when we've never even stepped foot in either house, hell....in either town!

Yesterday, we met with a rental property manager. She gave us some figures that didn't quite jive with our mortgage, once again, we were faced with the possibility of us staying here. We had spoke with some friends that let us to believe we could get more for our home than what this lady had told us. I placed our home on Craigslist, and Voila! we had a small influx of interested parties. We showed our home today to a really nice family with two small girls. They loved our home, and before they left, they said this is where they wanted to live - heck! they'd be silly not to, this place rocks, and it saddens us to have to leave.

When they left we knew they had made our decision for us. We would all be moving to the DC area. Together. It makes us sad. We love so many things about Maine. Our family. Our friends. Our life. Our home. Everything about Maine, we love. I want to stay here and raise our children here, but, I know that isn't a possibility right now, it is the best choice for everyone to move, and to throw a lot of money away by staying here just isn't smart - and that is what it comes down to...money.

So now, we are faced with the decision of which house to choose. The Great Falls house that is THE perfect HOME for us or the Arnold house that is THE perfect LOCATION for us that is more money. Once again, more adult decisions to make in the next day or two. Sometimes making adult decisions are just no fun at all!