Bits is 4

As cliche as it sounds, somehow our last one is already 4. Not sure where the time went, but she’s so excited to be a “big girl” now because she gets to go to school!

Bits – Your growth over the last 4 years has been so fun to watch. This last year, we’re seeing more and more of an individual come through. Oh, sure, you still look like your sisters, and love to imitate (sometimes SOLELY to irritate) them, but you are your own. You figured out how to ride a bike (with training wheels) because every one else is. You ride a scooter like Evil Knievel in a dress. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve held my breath and waited to see what would happen next. (face planting into the plant is my most recent “oh no”).

Now that you get to be in school, you are living your dream. Every morning you ask if you get to go, and you cheer when the answer is yes. Your teacher tells us how wonderful and cooperative you’ve been. The stubborn streak we see while you learn and teach yourself a new skill will serve you well.

I know you love your sisters more than life, and I think they know that, too. Your smile and sense of humor have made us so happy to have you as our ‘caboose’, ‘finale’, ‘end’. I love my hugs I get when I come in from work. I love the snuggling while we read books and you keep working on words. I love your sass and spark and spunk. Love you to bits, Bits!

 

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Kiddok is 20

In the ongoing narrative of kids birthday – another one hits Saturday. Kiddok is 20…

Because I don’t have permission from her for recent pictures for this blog, this will be without pictures.

In the last year, Kiddok, you have finished your first year of college, returned for the summer, engaged with your sisters, and had a job, etc. You were able to get a job at the library at school, and you really seemed to enjoy it. Your sisters missed you greatly last year (as did your parents!) but technology allowed some long-distance face-to-face conversations which I think helped greatly.

I’m so glad you were home this summer. Although all of us hated saying goodbye to Thor, I’m glad you were able to be here to pet and cherish him. Your bond with him was so important.

You have continued to show your compassion to the world. You have been and continue to be passionate in your defense of the underdog and marginalized. I admire that about you.

Although we didn’t see eye to eye much over the last year (and I don’t just mean the foot difference in our height), I still love you, believe in you, and respect the path you are forging. This year, I wish you to continue finding and pursuing your passions in this world. I’m so very hopeful that you find the ability to travel as part of school, and that it only continues to encourage your global view of life.

Happy 3rd decade kiddok!

 

My baby “started school”

My beautiful Bits “finally” got to start school today. She is only 3 (nearly 4, and thinks she should be 8), but her best friend (i.e. Bug) started full time school last year for a K-Readiness program (her age precluded kindergarten). It nearly kill Bits to watch her go every day.

When we signed the girls up for school this year we had told Bits she could start school this fall. She waited and waited. Bought her backpack and supplies (paper towels, tissues, etc). Waited and waited. And then the big day. But wait, the big day was when her sisters went to school but she had to wait another day because she’s not every day. The tears, the anguish, the pleading, the anger. (I think she really did go through all the levels of grieving in one day!)

So today her Daddy and I took her to school. She got to walk in with her own backpack and find her own locker. She was so proud. She immediately put her stuff away and got to business. Tracing her name and finding her name tag. She did great. She gave me a hug, gave her dad a hug and away we went. According to Mike, she had a great day.

I’m still slightly traumatized. My youngest baby is taking her first steps away from me. Don’t get me wrong, she’ll do great. But it’s my last first. It’s the last time one of my kids will first go to school.

These moments hit me hard. I’m super happy with our family size and I’m happy my kids are healthy and growing and hitting these moments at the right times. But yet. There’s just a little bit of sorrow. I know that soon she will have friends that we might not be friends with their parents. I know that she will soon not care to give me hugs but instead run out of the car or onto the bus with a ‘bye mom’ (or not so much as by-your-leave). I’m just not quite there. So I sit here just a little sadder than I should be. Fly little Bits, Fly. Don’t notice my tears. Notice my smile and my pride.

Thor

A few weeks ago, we had to put our Thor to sleep. We did tell the kids that he went to heaven because both of us can’t imagine not having our pups again running and chasing. Anything that brings and teaches so much about love can’t just leave us.

Our family is grieving hard, and it’s definitely been an experience in honoring all the levels and types of grieving. Grief will immediately show the personalities of each individual. The girls are all at different levels of cognitive abilities, and they all process differently.

Kiddok at 19 is old enough to know exactly what happened, knew it was coming, and hated every moment. We woke her up on a Sunday to the message that she needed to come over and say good-bye. She’d previously lost a cat, and knew that this would stick with her. She’s a quieter processor. She wants to talk about it occasionally, but on her terms and more 1:1.

Peanut at 9 (by the way – it was on her 9th birthday this all went down) is at a different cognitive level. She’s never had a real loss, so this was her first experience. She’s been at a Catholic school for 4 years so that really played into her processing. She was alternately quiet and wanting to be left alone with  needing attention about it. She hated any reminders of the incident if she happened not to be thinking about it right then. Being 9, she wasn’t able to roll with every punch as it landed when someone grieved in her space.

Bug at 5 was very pragmatic. Rather than focusing on the loss of Thor, she focused on the fact that we still had Mahla, and she needed us. She tended to not process vocally at all unless someone started it. She sat and cried for a long time at the time, and then she sort of “bucked up” and moved on. I’m not clear how or why as we worked very hard to not tell the girls to change their grieving patterns. Crying (even hysterically) was honored a long time.

Bits at 3 is the one who truly surprised me and broke my heart. She had no filter on her grief. It was immediate, loud, and raw. (That’s the part that broke my heart.) The idea of her losing her buddy (as Daddy’s helper with the dogs in the afternoon) was so harsh. She also processes out loud. Everyone we talked to that day (and for days after) whether we knew them or not found out about our pup. (Of course, her language skills aren’t perfect at 3, so we sometimes had to interject and help the receiver of the message which isn’t at all awkward). She will still ask about it. This made it very hard on Peanut because she didn’t want the reminders and Bits needed to spit it out.

Then, there’s our Mahla. Our girl who lost a brother and has no cognitive ability to understand why he didn’t come home. She’s still grieving and we just had her into the vet because she’s clearly stressed. She’s licking and biting herself and giving herself an infection. She’s gotten so much love lately to try and make sure she understands she is still loved.

I can tell you that neither Mike or I was okay with this. It killed us to have to make the decision, tell the girls, follow though, and then “carry on”. I’m sure we failed each of the girls at different times by not honoring them and their needs through this. I’m sure we succeeded at other times by working with them to honor each other and give grace as needed. Mike and I both process differently (I’m an out loud – hence the blog, and he’s an internal). All I know is that we are both hoping that Mahla is with us for a long, long time.

See you again some day. Thor. Love you still!

Going to a wedding as a parent

This weekend, we were lucky to be invited to a family wedding, and our children were welcome, as well. I love weddings, and I really love family weddings. The kind where I get to see my family (that is spread across the nation)!  The kind where it’s a joyous occasion and all parties are thrilled!

Mike and I packed up the kiddos, drove 8 hours and celebrated with family. It was great fun, but weddings are way different when you have kids.

Sitting at the wedding, Mike and I were separated by 4 children and a grandparent. I had another grandparent on the other side of me, as well. Usually during a wedding, I’m thinking a bit about my vows, what they mean now, what they meant then. I’m thinking about the fact that I still like my husband (and love him, too!) Sometimes I would lean into him, celebrating our nearness. During this wedding, I was looking across the pew wondering how he was. I was focusing on making sure Bits didn’t use the pen provided to destroy the bible or anything else. I was focused on Bug getting the snuggles she seemed to need right then! Fielding questions from Peanut about why it was different (Lutheran vs Catholic).

At the reception, we were focused on making sure my kids didn’t take out the gorgeous cake. That they were reasonably well-behaved before supper. That they didn’t eat ALL the chocolates provided or spilling the water in that *gasp* breakable glass!

My favorite part of the reception (and I’m mad I didn’t think of this for our reception) was when they asked all the married couples to dance. As the DJ called out years of marriage, you had to be married that long to stay on the floor. My girls saw us leave before 10 because its a few more weeks until our 10th anniversary. They saw their great-uncle help his wife out her wheelchair and hold nearly all her weight so they could dance to nearly 30 years of marriage. They saw their grandparents dance till 45. They saw another great-uncle dance his wife until the very end. (And if you don’t think he was thrilled to be the winner, you don’t know our competitive streak!) Before girls, I would have thought that was cool. Now, it’s so much more. I hope my girls see just what kind of legacy they follow. What a marriage means (not just a cool wedding dress and princess night!) Old age and bad health. Fun celebrating a grandkid’s wedding. Like each other’s family enough to drive 8 hours for a wedding.

We spent much of that night separated watching the girls. Working to make sure they were loved and supervised, fed and more or less unsugared. I got to dance that one dance for about 10 seconds with my husband because this is where we are right now. We’re raising young women who need us more than we need each other.

I know that this too will pass. And some day I will not have mini-humans who need me as much. Some day, it might be me watching my child marry the love of their life. Or trying to help them contain their kiddos in a church during a different marriage ceremony. I treasure the time we had this weekend to be with family and help support one newly  minted marriage on it’s way.  I’m grateful that we could go, that life worked out.

Picture by the amazing Megan Stans at meganstans.com!

Peanut is 9!

In the ongoing series of telling my kids about their awesomeness at least annually – Peanut is 9.

It’s hard to forget 9 years ago when I was so ready to meet you, and you weren’t ready to come out. I remember if I sat too close to the desk, you would reach out and kick or shove the desk and you could actually move us. I should have realized then how strong you would be, and how independent you would need to be.

In the last year you’ve tried travel softball. You ran your first (and currently only) 5K and finished strong. I hope you learned we always finish strong. It’s okay to struggle in the middle and wonder why, but you finish strong. You are working so hard in softball right now to get better, struggling a little, but finishing strong. Please don’t ever forget you can always pick yourself up and keep going. Just like in softball, Dad and I are here to help you. We’ll help you get better at any dream.

You fought for your rightful place in the reading groups and then you excelled at it. Your teacher constantly told us how wonderful of a kid you were; getting along with everyone, being thoughtful always. You would always make sure to tell her good-bye every day. Peanut – you definitely can be a thoughtful kid around others. Sympathetic to a bad day on someone else.

This year, we had a transition too. You became the de facto big kid. Kiddok went off to college and was home rarely. It was a tough one, as you missed her, too. I get that, we all missed her. You would reach out to her for conversations on a bad day. I love that. Please keep remembering she’s there for you, even half a continent away.

Meanwhile as the big sister, you cheer your sisters on whether it was when they did their first almost-cartwheel, read their first words, or hit their first pitch. As the big sister, your little ones do look up to you and mimic you. Remember that. You always have your eyes on your big sister to learn, and so do they. And in this case, you’re the big one. You’re the one getting to do things first. Keep their trust.

Peanut, we love you. We think you are pretty special, and we look forward to another year of adventures with you!

** Pictures courtesy of the amazing Megan Stans at meganstans.com.

Has it come to this?

We signed Peanut up for travel softball this year. She’s 8. As part of this, we had to go to a mandatory meeting for parents and kids. Information like who the coach was, how practices worked, etc. Introduction to some of the leaders of the Softball org. I’m on board. Then, the conversation takes a turn. And I’m well and truly baffled.

We got a discussion (really closer to a lecture) about not posting on social media about how bad another team is, or how horrible an ump is. About whether another teammate is any good or not. Are you kidding me? Oh – and this was directed AT THE PARENTS. Apparently, every year, some parent or another posts a derogatory comment about another team, organization, teammate, etc.

Oh, and lest you think they had faith we could behave off social media, nope. We also got a lecture about not complaining to or about the umps. About not going off on the kid’s playing time to the coach. About not saying anything to the other team. Because every year they get 1-2 calls about parents who were yelling at the ump, the coach, or talking smack about their kid’s teammate(s) or opponent.

My kid is 8 years old. She’s playing on a 3rd string U-10 team. Yes, 8. C team. How did we get here? How did we get to a point where an organization for and about kids has to tell parents to be nice. To play nice. To respect coaches who are donating time. To respect umpires. To teach our kids that if we want playing time, we have to practice more, we have to get better. It’s not some guaranteed thing when you get to travel.

I don’t get it. I often think ‘what?!?’ when an ump or ref makes a call. Sometimes it comes out, but I never, ever get after the ump. (Half the time they are 18yo kids learning their first job). I would never blast a coach in front of my or any other kid about playing time. If I thought she got a raw deal, I would have a conversation with the coach out of my kid’s hearing (email?). I would listen if he said, well, she’s not been hustling, or something. hmm. Then I’d have a conversation with her about how you get rewarded for hard work and are not entitled to everything just because you’re you.

We watched her first double-header yesterday. The kids on both sides were definitely playing at U10 level. But, they had fun, they tried. Our coach is loud, but he’s about the learning. Our coach got on the kids, not about their errors or batting, but about cheering each other on. The girls had fun. They learned a little something. They have probably forgotten about it already. But, I haven’t… I saw parents cheering their kid or giving directions, but I didn’t hear put downs. I heard our coach tell their catcher nice play.

My kids play sports. And it’s not because I want them to earn a scholarship to college (that’d be nice, but that’s a pipe dream). They play because there is something inherently fun in sports. There’s something about camaraderie of team sports. A feeling of success when you master that next skill. A learning to win well and lose better.