Having 3 Kids

Originally published on Documentary Family Photographers website:

http://www.documentaryfamilyphotographers.com/going-2-3-kids-really-like-kelsey-smith/

What is it like to have three kids?

Honestly, it’s mayhem. But it’s the most beautiful kind of mayhem. The kind you’ll miss when your house is quiet and your family is grown. It is exhausted gratitude. It is an overflowing heart. It is the greatest gift.

Having three kids is crazy. It is the kind of crazy that means getting screamed at by a 2 year-old in a dream state demanding you bring him a book at 6:00 am because he caught you sneaking in to put his laundry away. It’s the kind of crazy that means 5 out of 7 meals will be made in a crock pot some weeks. It means your oldest will always remember when they didn’t have to take a turn for your attention. It means that your heart will break when you can’t be everything to everyone at every single moment. It is repeating yourself about a million and one times every single day. It is being outnumbered. It is entire days in your pajamas because you just can’t even. It is doctor’s appointments and endless fruit cutting. It is being so tired that you don't attach one side of your baby's diaper and she pees...all over your bed. It is sending your emails at midnight so you don't accidentally start typing what your kid is saying. It means your house will more than likely look like a tornado hit, always. It is Costco-sized bags of Pirate’s Booty. It means your baby will base their sleep routine off of school pick ups and drop offs, and you better hope that baby likes being in the car. It is wearing the baby while making dinner and refereeing an argument over toys. It means always looking for a coffee drive through because there is no way you're going to get all your kids out of the car for a cup of coffee. It is stopping your toddler from trying to jump to the couch from a stool on top of a coffee table, while on the phone with your insurance company...as you nurse the baby. It is being parked in the Starbuck’s parking lot and using the free wifi to do work because all three of your kids fell asleep on the ride home. It is putting on one of only three shirts that fits your post-baby body and immediately having the baby throw up on you. It is locking yourself in a room so you can make a 3 minute phone call while you can hear the house crashing down outside that door. It is a fridge stocked with all the wine. It is getting three little people dressed, fed, cleaned and ready for their day in under an hour with as few tears as possible. It is hearing ‘You sure do have your hands full!’ every single time you leave the house. It is being asked how you can afford to send your kids to college. It is a mountain of laundry, seriously, a Mount Everest of dirty socks. It is my husband and I, using one of our two annual date nights, to sneak past our babysitter and kids and watch Stranger Things cuddled up where the kids can’t find us. It is having your heart torn in three directions every day. It is typing this while the baby sleeps, the toddler plays loudly and the big kiddo bursts in every other minute to ask a question I just said no to. It is ALL of your time. It is the never-ending kind of crazy that is somehow the most overwhelming and most rewarding all at once.

It is hard. But damn is it worth it.
Having three children is the best gift this life could have given me. When I was pregnant

with Everett, my second babe, I was so worried I wouldn’t have enough love in my heart for two. How could I possibly love anyone as much as Daniel, my firstborn. I felt so guilty. So unbelievably guilty and scared. Guilty for making Daniel share his family, his toys, his dogs, his room. His everything. And when we brought home our Everett, I realized how infinite and unconditional love can be. One look at him and our love multiplied. Adding a second baby made our hearts grow in ways we didn’t know possible, Daniel most of all. I’ve never seen two humans love each other the way those kids did before Hot Wheels were involved. Daniel was the most gentle, sweetest older brother. He helped get diapers and clothes. He was patient and loving. He would sit for hours and play peek-a-boo with the baby. And Everett still has never laughed for anyone the way he laughed at Daniel. And although they argue over the most inconsequential crap right now, that strong foundation is already there. When they are older, they will have each other and that unbreakable bond. Always. And just when we remembered what a full night of sleep was, we added our little Miss Meadow Mae. We all turned to mush. The mushiest of mush. She was born the day before Halloween with the fullest head of hair and the sweetest smile. The boys, excited to meet their new sibling and dressed in their Halloween best, walked into that room and turned into puddles. They cooed and sang and whispered that they loved her. In their Batman costumes. It was the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen in this life and one of my most favorite memories. This little girl has completed our family. She has healed me from so much of my childhood. She is the perfect amount of sweet and sleepy. I have never had a happier heart than the day I watched all three of my children meet. The love that those three will have for each other will far surpass anything I can ever give them in this life or the next. So yes, having three kids is crazy but there is not one thing in this world I love more than my chaotic life with my little humans.

It is pure love and pure chaos.

Navigating The Murky Waters

Originally published on Documentary Family Photographers website.

http://www.documentaryfamilyphotographers.com/navigating-murky-waters-thoughts-parenthood-kelsey-smith/#more-11971

 

Navigating these murky waters is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes. Sometimes, I am the captain my kids need. The house is clean. Like actually clean. My kids are happy. They are full of laughter and love. The weekly menu is planned, the weekly calendar is filled out. Clothes are washed. We have time to play. Like three days in a row at the park play. Until the sun sets play. I am happy and able to steer our ship.

Other days. The seas are rough. Other days. I can't keep on top of it. Other days. I fail. There is a mountain of laundry either dirty or clean but it's been so long that I'm not sure. The boys’ room looks like a tornado hit. I can see the dog hair blow across the living room like tumbleweeds in the desert. We don't have park time. The kids are arguing over every single toy and who gets to sit where. I am behind on work. We are exhausted. It is overwhelming and loud, and I am solely responsible for sinking our ship. These are the days I apologize for.

The patience I didn't have. The short manner in which I told them to grab their ish for school. These are not the days I want them to remember. This is not the light I wanted them to see me in. But I can't shape their memories to my favor. I say I'm sorry and that I'll try harder. They instantaneously forgive me. Our ship rises together. I let them know I love them, I'm just not so good at keeping us afloat all of the time.

 

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At Least for Today

He had those big tears in the corner of his eyes when I picked him up from school. I could see him there across the courtyard, not talking to his friends. His eyes focused straight down. I knew he was just waiting until I walked up until he let them flow. He was waiting until he felt safe.

His "crystal" was taken. This beautiful quartz rock he was given a few weeks ago when we were out hiking. He wanted to take it to school. We talked about the fact that it might get lost, taken, or borrowed. That it might be safer to leave it with me. He decided to take it anyway. He must have been playing with it when he shouldn't have and the teacher's aid took it and forgot to give it back before she left. He. Was. Devastated. He melted into my arms as the tears got bigger and his whole body shook.

I have to admit, these situations don't play to my strengths. I have to force myself to be as empathetic as he needs in these moments. I hate that I'm not naturally the most understanding when it comes to lost rocks but it's on my radar and I'm trying hard to make it right. Some days, I'm trying to figure out if there's another reason bubbling underneath this meltdown. Sometimes that hinders my ability to be a good mom to my very sensitive kiddo. Today, today was all about that rock. He needed me.

I bent down to wipe his tears. I started to talk about this morning and the conversation about the rock and possibly losing it. I stopped myself. He just wanted to be heard. He just wanted to know that I cared about him being upset regardless that he was responsible. He just wanted his mom. His not-so-always-sensitive mom to let him feel safe enough to meltdown over a rock. He sobbed. He cried. He even wailed for a few minutes. I didn't try to distract him this time. I told him I was sorry it was gone and that I'll ask for it back Monday morning. He hugged me tight. Wrapped his little arms around my soft tummy. He squeezed.

Eventually, like always, he calmed down. I don't know what he'll remember from this when he's grown or if he'll remember it at all. But today. At least for this day. He felt safe and important and heard.

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None of it was real and now all of it is broken

At 6:50 every morning, a stream of soft, blue, daybreak light spills across our bed. Our little Meadow Mae and her most glorious mop of dark hair are always laying in this little ray of sunshine. I sneak out of bed to get my morning cup of quiet before the kids and dogs wake, leaving her in the warmth of our bed. Whenever I peek in to make sure she's still sleeping, the light is still hugging her little shape, highlighting all her beauty in the darkness. It doesn't matter where on the bed we fell asleep or how much sleep dancing we did, she always finds her way to the light. She snores, snorts, and wiggles her way around the bed. Somehow, no matter where I move to, she always ends up with her teeny legs wrapped over mine. We fit perfectly, this little girl and I. Like we were made for each other.

I love our little Meadow Mae. She has completed our family as only a sweet and sleepy third baby can. She heals a part of my heart that only a daughter is able to when you were unloved by your own mother. She breaks the cycle. Finally. I will always and forever protect her and my boys from ever entering into that familiar spiral.

I came from a lineage of women that refused to take any responsibility for their own actions and instead packaged everything with a pretty little bow for the outside world. It didn't matter that you hurt just long as you pretended your family was fine. You didn't have to believe in God, you just had to make sure people saw you go to church. The mother she was in public and the person she was behind closed doors were not one and the same. Because the illusion was all important, the mask so convincing, I was always the wrong one. Always. As children, we were taught to protect the image. First. Always. My heart broke a million times in the relationship with my mother but it never mattered. It never does when the most important thing in your life to is project perfection outwardly while playing the victim and martyr role perfectly behind the scenes. I was dying on the inside, I just had to make sure I hid the pain. More importantly that it never reflected badly back on the family. And when it did, I was always vilified, at any age. Every age. I fulfilled my wayward daughter role quite well until I became aware that it didn't have to be. And so goes the heart of the scapegoat in a family with a narcissistic mother.

None of it was real and now all of it is broken.

Meadow makes me want to be the strongest, fiercest, most empowered woman I can be. For myself and for her. For all women. I want to teach her all the things I was never taught. Give her all the permission to be herself that I was never granted. I want her to feel the maternal love I was denied. The support. The truth. The laughter. The light. The life she deserves. That every child deserves. She will have everything I didn't. I want her to know she will be loved, just as she is and whoever she grows to be. And whoever she is is just perfect. For today. For always.

My sweet little Meadow Mae, with her entire beautiful life waiting to unfold before her. Every morning, I stare at her in that soft glimmer of light. Every morning, I know that, without a doubt, she will be whole and happy in this life.

This Love

Every single night, at about 5 pm, our little Meadow's witching hour hits. It is not an easy hour for our family. Between dinner and dishes, evening stories and tubbies, 5-6 ends up being the crescendo for our already loud day.

But after having two babies that refused to sleep, I am so grateful for a baby that asks to go to bed. Dinner is left to simmer, dishes are left dirty, and the bath water cools. Out of the wrap she goes and into a quick bath followed by warm Pjs. I massage her little arms and chest with lotion and wrap her tight in her swaddle. Then we read this "I Love You" book that grandpa sent. It immediately calms her. Even from a near feverish scream. As soon as the first page is read she has completely calmed. I kiss her round cheeks after each page and she smiles. The same sweet smile she shows us all day. The lights go off and the white noise on. She drifts to sleep and thankfully stays there until at least midnight.

Yesterday, I needed help. The baby was fussy but didn't want to be wrapped. So I laid her in our bed and her brother asked if he could read to her while I finished the dishes. For an hour, this sweet boy read the same 10 pages over and over, changing the story every single time. I love that he can make up his own stories. Meadow laid there just staring at him and smiling. It is the kind of sibling love that makes me completely forget that an hour before I heard battle cries over legos coming from the boys' room.

It is this type of love that I hope they remember.

Please, Universe

I’m sharing this photo as a statement to the universe. Because you have to put your hopes and dreams out there for them to happen.

So Universe, this summer I want to go to Hawaii with my family. I want to rent a van with beds in it and travel the island (or islands if you feel so generous). I want to get paid for it or at least break even. I want to adventure. I want to see my kids climb mountains and play in the rain.

This photo was taken in Victoria from my family’s greatest adventure so far. A few short weeks before this, the rug had been ripped out from under out feet. My husband had been working up to 20 hours a day, some of those days were 7 days a week to finish a project at work. I was 6 months pregnant, we had just bought a new house with a hefty new mortgage, we were finally in a happy place financially and we were excited for the future as a family. Until it all went south.

Without warning, he was let go. The day he was let go, he was also told he wouldn’t be paid for all of his overtime. All of those hard hours he was killing himself. All of those hours that we missed as a family. All of the extra housework because he was only home for a few hours when we were sleeping. He was told to be grateful for the experience. Can you even imagine?

This lit a fire in both of us. For my husband, it was to start his own business. Make his own hours. Pay his own employees and treat them with the respect we weren’t afforded. For me, it was to hit the road. To pack up our falling apart travel trailer and load the kids and one of our pups into our 15 year old car and send offerings to Buddha to make it to the Canadian border.

We set off. We had less than zero dollars to spend on anything that wasn’t gas or Voodoo donuts. We slept in our trailer in the most beautiful rest stops in America and Canada. We swam in lakes beneath the great Mt. Shasta. We took detours and had no idea where our destination was. We saw the coast. We saw the mountains. We explored.

Our kids stopped asking to watch movies and started looking outside their bubble. They were dirty and muddy and I’ve never seen them so happy to be outside. They smelled like campfire. They rode their scooters at places I have dreamed of visiting since I was little. We were happy and tired. It was the most perfect adventure.

I want to do this every summer. I want to pick an adventure and go. I want my kids to always ask for more life. To not worry about having nice clothes. To not care what people think.
To be happy and free.

So Universe, I did my part. Now you do yours.

Please.

Oh Ev

Oh Ev.

My indestructible, stubborn-as-me, tough little guy.

You don’t fool me. Beyond the jumping off couches, not listening worth crap, and screaming fits because you want to do something just exactly how you want to do it, I see you.

I see you, Ev.

Your daddy once joked about the chances of making a beautiful baby with his determination and my stubbornness. We knew we would be in for the challenge of a lifetime. He couldn’t have seen into the future but somehow he knew you were ours. Beautiful you. With your gray-blue gaze and infectious smile. You surprise us daily with how much we could simultaneously be so in love and so damn frustrated.

You are the best little judge of character. You never let your guard down when we leave the house. You always shy away when you are spoken to by strangers. You make people earn your love. You love to make them work for it.

You are a brute, a beast, a bear. You are off the charts tall and a boy of very few words. I think you like that intimidating combination. You hit, jump, scream first and ask questions later. You take what you want. You don’t take no for an answer. You are fearless. You are reckless. You are destructive.

But I see you, Ev.

I see the little boy that reached for the pink baby doll one day when we were shopping and it quickly became your most treasured toy. I see you kiss your little sister on the forehead with a gentleness I didn't know you possessed. I see you look up to your big brother, I see the admiration in your eyes and I know you will always be best of friends. I see you get hurt and need a kiss from us. I see you when I put you to bed and tuck you in like a burrito. You laugh as I add all the toppings and tuck you in tighter with each one. I see you at 2am, drowsy and terrified from a bad dream crawl into our bed and cuddle. You are a lover and a fighter.

I see you, Ev. My sweet Ev. Little love of mine.

My Little Girl

My little girl. This ever-so-sweet little girl.

She shares our bed in the early morning hours. She nurses, cuddles, grabs onto my finger, and makes the tiniest little mouse squeaks as she drifts in and out of sleep. Her grip fades as she smiles softly and drifts back to her dreams. I run my fingers through her hair because she’s the only 4 month-old I know that has bed head. She wakes and smiles at me. She nods off. She looks outside through the blinds, she has loved to do that since we brought her home. The white noise and the warm bed make it hard to get up. She drifts back to sleep. It is quiet and perfect in our bubble. This tiring bubble. She wakes. She giggles. Her brothers burst in. They climb into bed. They coo at our little girl. Tell her they love her. Everett squeezes her cheeks, hard. She laughs and giggles at him. Daniel kisses her forehead.

Our little girl. Our sweet, sweet little girl.

 

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You are three.

You are three, Everett James.

You are sweet and salty. My absolute favorite combination. You don’t take crap from anyone and we love every last ounce of you and your battle cries.

Happy birthday, little love of my life. Thank you for all the fun and noise you bring to our family.

Tiny, Little Clothes

My husband says to let them go.

I know he's right but I can't. I fold these tiny little clothes. I fold them for the millionth and one time. It is mindless and numbing and boring to fold. Until it's the last time. Until we've both agreed that our last baby was our very last baby. I have tears welling up saying those words. Five years and some odd months ago I had my first son. Today, I blinked and my family was complete. There will be no more pregnancies. No more uncomfortable sleeps. No more belly rubs, belly kicks or belly hiccups.

From now on, they just grow. There is no new life on the horizon. From here forward, it's a matter of nurturing the babes that make our family complete. But I can't let go. I hold the tiny clothes to my chest. I feel the fabric between my fingers. I remember just what my kid looked like as he was wearing this little hat. These tiny pants. That small shirt. I remember how cute and smiley he was. I remember exactly what pictures we took in it. And then I packed it away for his brother. And then I packed it away for his next sibling. And now. Now, we don't need these tiny clothes but I'm having a really hard time letting them go.

With them go the hopes of expanding our family. With them go the memories. With them go the tiny rips and tears from their falling first steps. They are taking a piece of me with them too.

Our family is complete. I keep saying it over and over and hoping the next time it doesn't sting to say. We live in a tiny home with five people and two big dogs. I completely understand my husband’s rationale that we need to find either a massive amount of cash or a house twice the size of ours. It's logical and reasonable and the best thing for our family. But it doesn't take the hurt away. When I think that our family will never meet another member, never bring a new baby home, never experience another personality to call our own. It hurts. It's logical but it hurts.

These teeny tiny little clothes. How much love and life they hold.

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When I fail. I hope you forgive me.

Know that I love you. Know that I care. Know that it's not your fault. Know that my heart breaks. Know that I am embarrassed. Know that I will try harder. Know that you matter. That you are heard. That you are important. That you are amazing. Know that it's my fault. It's my shortcomings. It's my lack of patience. It's my stress. It's my inability to handle it all. It’s me.

It's never been you.

The Light They Shine

They fight. My Buddha, do they fight.

These brothers. They are insanely competitive. So much so that we now only ever buy two of the exact same things for them. The Easter bunny brings identical baskets and Santa somehow always leaves nearly the exact same loot. Otherwise, it's just mayhem. Meltdowns. Tantrums. Arguments. Bloodcurdling screams. All over a damn hot wheel. It drives me insane, like I’m-going-to-shove-my-head-into-the-wall insane. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I can start to feel my blood boil. I have to close my eyes and go into that tiny reserve of my brain that is only slotted for natural childbirth and fights over toys between siblings. It is my biggest pet peeve as a mom and it is the only thing that is guaranteed before my first cup of coffee.

But these drag out fights aren't just reserved for toys. That would be too easy. It also encompasses dinner seating arrangements, who gets to take a tubby first, who gets in the car first, who gets their book read first, and much much more. See where I'm going with this? It's everything. And it is crazy making.

We try to manage it. We've done everything. We've read the advice, changed our tone, followed the simplicity parenting book and completely minimized the few toys they have. Nothing has worked so far. We have assigned seating at dinner, assigned car doors for each boy to get in the car, we take turns with who gets to tubby first. And yet they fight. And they argue. And it drives me mental.

I remember one of many times that I've had to step in and stop a fight. I was trying to work. They were supposed to be napping. Instead, they're both on the same bed fighting over a toy. Not even a favorite toy, just a toy. I lost it. I had tears in my eyes. I yelled. Like loudly yelled. I told them that they are all they will ever have someday. There is nothing more important than this relationship and they're throwing it away over a toy car. I didn't come from a close nuclear family and I'll be damned if I was going to let my kids pass through childhood without the close relationships I always wanted. So when they fight, it's amplified a million times more in my mind. I start to imagine them as adults living on opposite ends of the world not speaking for years at a time. It kills me. I want them to have each other, to love and need each other. To be friends. To be close. To have the kind of close family love I always craved. I want them to be brothers.

And then, on nights like tonight, I see it. I see it in this photograph. In their closeness. In their laughter. And even though you can't see their faces, I know exactly what faces they were making at each other. In this photograph, I can see their love. I can see the light they shine only on each other. I can see the strength in their bond. That unbreakable bond.

It's there. I just have to trust in it.

Happy Half Birthday, Minnow Mae

Six months. She is six months old today. Meadow Mae, the last of our babies is almost not a baby. I blinked and the entire first half of her entire first year has vanished. It feels like she’s always been with us, the perfect little addition to our imperfect little tribe. It is unimaginable to think of us without her.  My sweet little miss Meadow Mae with her 6 month-old giggles and adorable mop of dark hair. I don't know how it went so fast. I don’t understand how time speeds up exponentially with the more children you have. She still takes her naps on me, she always has. With her tiny, little face next to my heart. Every single day for six months I've seen that view. Her baby hands lay on my chest. Each day they get bigger. Each day I beg her to stay little. Each day she is more Meadow than she was the day before. Happy. Sweet. Beautiful.

It seems my first son, Daniel, made time screech to a halt. We anxiously waited his arrival, simultaneously terrified and excited. Time stopped when he was born. An unimaginable break in the space time continuum that changed our lives forever. It was the first time in my adult life that I didn’t go to work. My entire job was to take care of this little human and I had barely learned how to take care of myself. I did all the things I thought I was supposed to do. I made baby food, taught him sign language, read books morning noon and night. And although I was ticking off all the boxes, I wasn’t truly stopping to enjoy the time. He hit all of his milestones ahead of schedule. We would tick off the box and move onto the next one. We encouraged, celebrated, and rushed him quickly through his first year. I am still so sad about that.

Then we added an Everett, our second son, and again we measured his milestones. This is not a great thing to do when your big brother hit all of his months early. And just like Everett does now, he did everything when he wanted and how he wanted. So he rolled over months after his brother did. He barely spoke a word until he was 18 months. Refused to walk anywhere. Refused to learn sign language. We were scared something was misdiagnosed. We took him to speech therapists and doctors. We scoured every book we could find. And just in perfect Everett fashion, he would hit a milestone as soon as I had made him yet another doctor’s appointment to check his progress. He has always been his own little person.

And then came Meadow. The sweetest of sweet and she turned all of us into the mushiest of mush. And right after her came the decision that our family was complete. And again time came crashing to a halt. This perfect little marker of time taught us to finally enjoy these moments instead of measuring them. We stopped rushing her to the next step. We stopped wondering when she would roll over, reach for food, or sit up on her own. The moments became more pure, sweeter somehow as we knew this was our last babe. We became less anxious and happier to just spend the days together. We noticed a few weeks ago that she was starting to show interest in food. My husband mentioned he could stop after work for some bananas to start her on her food journey. I begged him for one last week. I just needed one more week to before that milestone. To hold onto my last baby. I cuddled her extra close. Stroked her hair as she napped on my chest. Laid down with her to rest at bed time. We talked and cooed. Her brothers read her extra books. And then when we were ready, we pulled over her high chair for the first time. She was so happy to join us at the table. Naked and covered in banana, she just smiled at everyone. She was ready. And I finally was too.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunrise and Donuts

6am is an ungodly hour for a Saturday but today we had work to do. I have not seen the sunrise in a very long time. Years actually since I woke early and went somewhere to watch the day break. I am amazed at how much life I’ve been missing in those early morning hours. I packed up the baby, the big one, my camera and a massive cup of coffee and we went to find the sun. 

I always wonder what my children will remember from their childhood. Will they remember the big events, the birthday parties and milestones or is it the in-between moments that will stay with them forever. Will our daily shortcomings as parents stick with them more than our successes? What if they only remember the bad and can’t feel how much we loved them? 

When my husband talks about his childhood, one of the most lasting and impressionable memories he has is of his dad waking him up in the early hours of morning to go fishing. Before sunrise, still sleepy and warm in his bed. I can almost hear his dad whisper for him to get dressed. I hear the love in my husband’s voice when he tells me this. 

I thought of this today. At 6:02 am when I went to go make a pot of coffee and wake my oldest. Except he had heard me stirring and woke himself in an effort not to miss a thing. We grabbed an awfully mismatched outfit with pants that were three inches to short to accommodate his recent growth spurt and a red Christmas sweater with reindeer on it. He found his mud-covered shoes and made no effort to tame the bedhead. He looked wild and unkept and happy as hell. 

We watched the sunrise. We talked about school, Christmas and how much he loved his little sister. We talked about what donuts he was going to pick out after. He told me he loved me. I told him I will always love him. He felt special in that way that you can only feel special when someone gives you their undivided attention. I tried hard not to ruin his outing by taking too many photos. I tend to ruin moments by trying to capture them as they happen. But I couldn’t let this moment leave without having this image to forever remember it by. 

Happy Sunrise, Friends.

The Pieces Didn't Fit

Yesterday. The pieces just didn't fit. I was broken and defeated. Sobbing while listening to Amy Grace speak about the head and the heart and wondering where I had lost both of mine that day. I was red faced, embarrassed, and sad about the mom I had become that day. After the house was quiet, I went to the bathtub and sulked and soaked on how I had ended up being the mom I didn't want to be. I was praying for the baby to nap, sending all my thoughts to Buddha for my patience to not kill my two year old as he ripped apart books we had carefully picked out for him and his brother. I had a deadline to meet, dinner to cook, photos to edit, 10 days of laundry to fold, the baby to nurse, the toddler to hug, the 5 year old to reassure my love for, the kinder meeting to make, the dishes to put away, the floor to scrub. Never mind the goals I wanted to meet. This was just to stay afloat. I thought of the vacuum that doesn't vacuum anymore. The house that is never as clean as I need it to be. The dogs who need more walks. The husband who needs more kisses. The babies that just need my time when it's the only thing I don't have to give. 

I cried. I don't cry. I thought of my failures and cried. 

But I remembered a quiet moment that morning. The moment my Everett was coloring on his own in this beautiful window light in our living room. And I stopped. I stopped for 5 minutes to look at him. Not to see if he was coloring on the walls or throwing crayons. I just watched him. His too long dirty blond hair covering his cornflower blue eyes. His mismatched outfit he picked out. His bare feet. His always bare feet. And he just sat there quietly in the alone moments he has when his brother is at school. Unaware. It didn't matter to him that I needed to work. That the house was a mess. That dinner wasn't made. He didn't care about any of that. He looked up and smiled at me. His most mischievous smile. The one I love and hate at the same time because it normally precedes a huge mess I'll end up cleaning. 

He lowered his eyes and went back to his crayons. The baby woke up. I heard an email come through on my phone. The dogs started barking. The moment was over but I am so glad I hadn't missed it.

Midadventures

Misadventures. Our adventures are always more misadventures than anything.

There is always good intentions in the beginning. Some idyllic, lofty daydream that features our family harmoniously playing at our campsite after a beautiful day hiking in some national park that just happened to have free entrance that day. The boys enjoy a root beer, organic sarsaparilla of course, while dad and I have our IPAs. There is lots of laughter and fun. Some frisbee and soccer is played. The boys scoot or skate around the campsite while Meadow takes her nap wrapped up close to me. The dogs are well behaved. We make jiffy pop and tell ghost stories. We make s’mores and hot cocoa. The sugar doesn't affect them at this altitude. The kids all go to bed without a second thought. Dad and I stay up talking underneath a canopy of stars. It is a three day weekend and there isn't even an inkling of discord the entire trip.

I should know better by now.

At one point tonight I whispered to my husband "It must physically hurt them not to speak at all times." We were an hour and a half late getting on the road and while we normally leave the dogs with a pet sitter because of severe anxiety of our oldest pup, we decided today would be a good day to go against everything we know to be true in this world and take them. Thundershirt on and puppy prozac swallowed and she still barked at every single car from our house to the beach camp. Every. Single. One. We forgot one of the blankets so we had to go buy one. One of our headlights is out and our brakes are shot which makes just getting anywhere a misadventure already. We realized about 13 seconds after we arrived that we didn't bring anything for the baby to sit, rock or play in all weekend. I took the kids for a walk to go collect wildflowers for our picnic table and Everett parked his scooter in the middle of the road, which caused a woman who was skateboarding next to her pup to have to stop so she didn't hit it. Her kids were riding bikes behind her and didn't get the memo. They slammed into this poor lady. We couldn't have been here for an hour at that point. We didn't bring IPA, my husband bought a 30 pack of Natural Light. For old times’ sake. And it is just as awful as the last time he brought home a case. Our one dog peed on the other one. And at that exact moment I thought, "Yeah, that's about right." Everett threw a tantrum to end all tantrums. Our neighbors hate us. Who can blame them. Our dogs bark at everything that walks past the campground while we're constantly trying to shoosh Everett repeating "ME NO GO POTTTTTTTTY". There are no s’mores to be made tonight. No stories to be told. We are halfway considering begging our amazing babysitter to come get the kids and the dogs and give us a day to recoup after this day of "vacation". And I couldn't get the damn fire started. I always get the fire started. Quickly and easily, it's my camp thing. And we all sucked tonight and there's not much else to say.

Except that tomorrow is not today. Tomorrow is a clean slate. Tomorrow, we will wake up to the waves of the ocean (and more than likely our dogs barking at some kind soul). Tomorrow we will try harder. We will play soccer in the sand and we will scoot our happy bums up to the camp store and find a thing of Jiffy Pop.

Tomorrow will be better.

This is Two

This is two.

This. Is. Two.

This is count-down-the-days-to-three two. This is let-me-tell-you-a-story-about-the-grocery-store-trip-we-took-last-week two.

Wednesdays are accounted for. Every single second from sunrise to sunset is taken. We mad dash in the morning to get my oldest to his class in time. This usually means we've either forgotten to brush teeth, comb our hair, or put matching socks on. We kiss him goodbye at the door of his classroom. We can see his the back of his little Christmas reindeer cardigan as he runs to his friends. We run to the car and fight traffic just to be 17 minutes late to my middle kids "school". In reality, it's a mommy and me development class at the local college and truthfully he doesn't play with a damn kid there. But all week he asks me if it's Wednesday and if it's his turn to go to school. So we go. And he ignores everyone and it's equal parts hysterical and adorable.

At noon, we walk back to our car half a mile away because I refuse to pay for a parking pass. Then because it's Wednesday and Wednesday is double deal day at Sprouts, we head to the grocery store. Except it's nap time. And this kid needs a nap. Nuclear-meltdown-needs-a-nap two. So normally I drive slow and then I park at the grocery store and menu plan with my littlest in my lap. He gets a solid 45 in the car which is just enough to tide him over for an early bedtime. But this nap in the car means we have to rush through the store and then rush home with only enough time to put the cold stuff away before we have to go pick up my oldest. So I tried something new. And it failed miserably. I thought if I had him stay awake right after school then he could sleep after grocery shopping and he would be able to take a longer nap and in turn yell at me less.

It did not work that way. He had just fallen asleep as we got to the store. I handed him his canvas bag and got him all riled up to pick out his favorite produce and what sushi we were going to split for lunch. He was fine until he saw the chocolate muffins. He lost his ever loving crap. I tried to distract him. I tried to reason. I tried to get him to breathe with me. I tried to bribe him with a honey crisp apple. He lost it even harder. Epic-battle-cries-lost-it two. The-whole-store-is-looking-at-us two. I’m-debating-on-leaving-the-cart-and-walking-out two. And that's when a very sweet employee came over and asked what was wrong. And he screamed MUFFIN at her like he signs her paychecks. She asked me if he could have one because she would like to buy it. I politely declined and walked to the next aisle. Where an even sweeter employee bent down and asked him what was wrong and tried hand him stickers. He smacked them out of her hand. I thanked her for her kindness but said he just needed some space to work through this. We started with the produce. His favorite part to pick out as he normally chucks apples and bananas in his bag. Except I had to put him in the cart and he was furious that I had picked the wrong ones. So he took them out of the bag and threw them back in the pile. And then he picked the exact same freaking apples and put them back in the bag. At this point, an employee from the deli brought him a cheese slice but he pushed it away and then freaked out when they walked away with it. So they came back and laid it on top of the broccoli and ever so slowly backed away. I went to thank him for his kindness but the words hadn't left my mouth before someone else brought him a cup of fresh fruit. Then he decided he couldn't share the bottom of the cart with anything and started kicking the groceries to one side. He sat in the corner of the cart and ate fruit and sobbed. He was over the worst part. We breathed together as I eyed the wine aisle. I mentally added a massive white wine bottle to the meal plan. We picked out our sushi, we got an extra packet of soy like always for our crunchy roll. We paid. We thanked everyone again and we parked our exhausted bums on the wood pile in front of the store and we ate lunch. He laughed and ate and talked about how much fun it was.

This is two.

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