Whoa, time…slow down.

Where did the time go?  So let’s catch up:

Ava- Ava is almost 8.  I was trying to remember Ava’s toddler voice the other day and I couldn’t.  She has been a “big girl” so long, her baby voice is just a faint memory.  I hate that.  I hate that they grow up and stop being legitimate babies.  She is now in the 2nd grade and doing fantastic.  We had a bit of a rough start with school but is finding a better groove now.  Ava still loves animals, reading, math, art, crafts and still wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up.

Ava is still Ava.  She still struggles some days with giving and receiving grace, not being in control and not being perfect.  But she has grown so much.  It is truly a God thing.  But some days are still really hard.  We decided to go to a new therapist – one Ava felt comfortable talking to and one that had a lot of experience with children.  And we found an amazing therapist that has helped Ava learn so much.  Right now, the good days far exceed the hard ones.  She is really happy.  She has moments of being so silly but always has the responsible, serious side peeking out.  She has a soft heart full of compassion. She will move mountains one day!

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Sam – Oh, my sweet Sam turned 6 this summer.  He is now in the 1st grade and has mixed feeling about it.  He came home after the first couple days of school this year and said “Mom, I’m really mad at you.  You didn’t tell me it was going to be all day long!”  I guess he missed that important detail in all the back to school busyness.  He still loves Lego’s, building anything, art, playing with friends and riding his bike.

One thing I have really noticed about Sam this year is how important touch is to him.  He is so self sufficient and kind of an introvert that physical touch is forgotten.  One day he was really struggling with just about everything.  It was Sunday so he went to the service with us and cuddled up under Jon’s arm.  He didn’t move the entire service and once it was over, all was well.  His love tank was filled and he was back to himself again.  It was just a lesson for me to remember to grab him and hold him for a while, hold his hand or just cuddle with him for a few minutes before bed.  It takes so little but makes the world of difference.

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Jack – We affectionately call Jackson nicknames like Jack-Jack, Jack-o-lantern, Jackapotomus and Jack Attack.  He has latched onto Jack-o-lantern and even introduces himself as that.  Jack turned 3 a few weeks ago and is our little extrovert.  He knows no stranger and loves to tell people about his dad and machines.  “Did you know my dad has an excavator?  Do you have a loader?  My dad drives a loader and a bulldozer.” and on and on and on.  He talks to construction workers every time we go on a walk.  Obsessed is putting it mildly.  Jack is funny, athletic and loud!  He loves being a big brother and is very serious about protecting Stella from all sorts of choking hazards.  Jack definitely makes life interesting!

Jackson has a big personality and is full of life.  But he has a soft heart and a gentleness about him too.  He is our only early riser so we often get extra cuddles with Jackson.  In the darkness he often whispers “I love you.”  He tells everyone exactly what he feels and what he is thinking.  There is something about his 3 year old filter lacking heart that is refreshing.

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Stella – Ah, the baby. Everyone loves Stella…but right now, she is very picky on who she loves.  She is now 16 months and is all toddler.  She loves to climb, find little places to crawl in, laugh when I say no and run when I say to come here.  Thank goodness I have an ounce of energy left to keep up with her.  She is dainty and quite petite so her orneriness is often a little surprising.  She loves her siblings, fruit, being outside, bath time and stealing every single tooth brush in the house.  She is keeping us on our toes!

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We are so blessed by each one of these littles.  God has taught us and shaped us so much in our parenting journey.  We laugh sometimes when we think of life before kids.  What did we do with that abundance of time?

And a few more pics for good measure.  It might be another year before I post again.

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Ava teaching Jack to ride a big boy bike

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Sam and Ava at a swim meet this summer

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Best silly face ever!

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Jack’s 3rd birthday!

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Stella in her Halloween costume! Apparently, she wanted to be Elsa.

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Every once in a while we get some alone time…so we document it.

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Bigger than the sky

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Sometimes I forget about this blog and then I come back and remember how far we’ve come.  Remember when we only had 2 kids?  Remember when we slept through the night?  Haha!  That was so 3 years ago!

Remember when Ava had a rough time managing her feelings and behavior?  Oh wait, that’s our constant battle.  But wait, maybe it’s not.  Maybe it’s so much bigger than that.  The words of my big sister come to mind “she will be your faith builder”.  Wow!  Ava had so been our faith builder.  Maybe if we give this battle to God, He will do so much more beyond our wildest dreams.  Just maybe.

So a few months ago after a pretty intense Ava fit, Jon and I sat down and had a heart to heart talk.  You know, the one where you decide we can’t fix this.  The therapist can’t fix this.  Supplements can’t fix this.  Even Ava can’t fix this.  So we decided to stop all of our futile efforts and lay it down at the cross.  We can’t fix this but maybe God can.  We decided to pray over Ava every day while remaining steadfast in our boundaries.  On our way downstairs to pray over her that first night, long after she had fallen asleep after her fit, I fell down the entire flight on stairs and landed on the bottom, bursting into tears.  Jon rushed to the bottom stair to assess my injuries and asked where it hurt.  “My heart, it’s my heart.”  I have never felt so hopeless in my parenting journey.  I didn’t even really fully believe God could change our situation.

Months later, we continue to pray every day.  She curls up in Jon’s arms before he leaves for work every morning and he prays for her.  I wrap her up before she gets on the bus and I pray for her.  We pray for her before she goes to sleep.  We are specific in our prayers.  And we have seen a change, a huge change.  Its been healing for all of us.  She is lighter, you can see it. She was showing me tonight some of her drawings on which she wrote “You can choose to be happy, Ava.”  She is getting it.  Happiness is often a choice and we have so much to be happy about.

We will always have hard days and hard seasons with Ava. We will have them with Sam, Jackson and Stella too, they’ll just look different.  But the most valuable lesson we’ve learned here is no matter how big our love for Ava is, Gods love for her (and me) is infinitely bigger.

10 years

This past July, Jon and I celebrated 10 years of marriage.  

As I reflect on our 10 years together and look forward to our next 50 plus, I am just so very thankful.  

In true Jon and Mal fashion, we celebrated with a pizza dinner and a walk around Target – child free. 

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Four kids…four!

It has become one of my favorite things to see the reaction on people’s faces when we tell them we have four kids.  Lately, with Sam and Ava in school, many people see me with Jackson and Stella and think they are my only two.  I love seeing the surprise when I tell them that I have two more kids at home.

I had all of the kids and we were walking to the Y a few weeks ago.  A man stopped me and said “I have 4 kids at home, I remember the days when they were all little.”  I looked at him and said “well you survived.  I have hope!”  He smiled and said “my best piece of advise is never take them all to the store.”  That was some really sound advice.

I love having 4.  It is busy.  I have lowered my expectations of myself and of my kids.  There is always someone needing something.  There is lots of noise.  There are lots of learning moments for all of us.  There is never a dull moment.  We are all exhausted by 8pm.  I rarely find a moment to sit during the day.  Someone always complains about what I made for dinner and someone always loves it.  There is always laundry and dishes to be done.  It looks like a circus when we go on a walk with 4 kids and 2 dogs.  There is always someone who wants/needs a hug.  But this is our life and I wouldn’t change it for a thing.  God knew what He was doing…He always does!

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Estella Grace

StellaEstella “Stella” Grace was born June 5, weighing 7 lbs, 3 oz and 19 inches long.

We decided to go into the dr to get checked out because I was having some contractions and pain.  We were told that we would be meeting our baby girl that day.  We headed straight to the hospital.  Since we werent prepared and didnt have any bags packed, our dr told us to have family bring us some things because she would be here within the next 2 hours.

Once we got to the hospital, things moved fairly quick and we were prepped and heading for the c-section within 2 hours.  I have a strong fear of needles, quite specifically, epidurals but the anesthesiologist was amazing and the head of anesthesiology even attended our c-section.  He was quite happy to assist since it was his last day of work, he was retiring.  Funny, I, too, was retiring that day from ever being pregnant again.

Estella Grace made her entrance into the world showing us her strong set of lungs.  She screamed for her first 30 minutes and proceeded to scream once we got back into our room.  She stopped screaming once the nurse put a hat on her with a bow and has been quite content ever since.

Our doctor informed us that all my pain was cause from my bladder being adhered to my uterus and then being flipped upside down.  He repaired all the adhesions and told me I should feel a lot better now.  I sure did!

Stella has been such an easy baby.  She is a great sleeper and a very easy going, happy baby.  The first thing Ava ever said about her was that she has her ears.  Sam adores her.  Jackson never calls her Stella, just “baby sisser.”  She fits perfectly into our family.  We are complete.

5 years

Sam,

You are one excited 5 year old!  You are truly a joy to be around.  You have fallen in love with Legos this year.  It has been so fun to see how your brain works and how you design such awesome creations.  You are off to Kindergarten now and will surely use that smart ol’ brain of yours to impress the teacher with your love of learning.  

I have often referred to you as my closet learner.  This summer was no different as you shocked me when you began to sound out words and read sentences.  You are always paying attention.  

You are still so sweet and your love of others is evident.  Just last week you told me that you wished Bubba (your cousin) was in our family.  I told you that he was.  You said  “no, I mean I wish he lived at our house.  I wish he was my brother.”  You love holding hands, giving hugs and smothering your baby sister and brother with kisses.  You are really the best big brother.  I pray that your sweet and gentle spirit remains the same as you get older.  

I love being your mom, Sam.  

Love always,

MomSam1

6 years old

Dearest Ava,

You are 6, how can that be?  Your first year of every day school has passed and you loved every minute of it.  You are now in 1st grade and getting used to the new routine, one that doesn’t include naps.  You have always been my sleeper.  It will take some adjusting but I am sure that in no time, you will have mastered it, as you do most things.

I offered you a challenge this summer.  You struggled to want to practice reading so I told you if you read 30 books, I would buy you the Lego set you wanted.  You did it!  You read 30 books in 3 days!  I was shocked how fast you accomplished your goal but I shouldn’t have been.  Once you set your mind on something, it does not waver. 

Your determination, strong-will, tender heart and empathetic spirit will take you far in life.  You want to be a vet, mom and a humane society worker.  If anyone can accomplish those things, it will be you.  It amazes me how you have always wanted to do something to help others – a doctor, a vet,etc.  You would be an amazing “helper” to anyone in need.  I am excited to see where God will take you this year and pray that you let your little light shine.

I’ll love you forever,

Mom

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Sweet Sam

Earlier this week I took Ava and Sam out for an evening.  We decided to end our time with a trip to Orange Leaf.

While we were sitting and beginning to dig in, a large group of college kids and one set of parents walked in.  When they sat down they began to sing Happy Birthday to one in their group.  Sam asked “Who has a birthday today?”  I told him that I didn’t know and he said he was gong to tell them Happy Birthday.  When we finished our treat, he grabbed my hand and asked me to come with him.

We walked over and I said “Excuse me but we were wondering whose birthday it is today?”  A young woman answered, “It’s mine.”  Sam turned to look at her and said “Happy Birthday” with the biggest smile on his face.  She blushed and thanked him, telling him it was her favorite birthday wish of the day.

I have prayed since Sam was a wee baby that he would have a soft and tender heart, that he would embrace his sweetness and always be thinking of others.  I see God at work in him…my sweet Sam.

 

Hearts of gold, I tell you…

I realize that I brag on my kids a lot.  They are pretty awesome.  But in reality, they are normal kids who argue, hit and throw temper tantrums.  And then, a few moments later, they do something purely selfless and thoughtful.  Take for example the following:

A few weeks ago, we all got the 12 hour bug.  It started with Jackson, then Ava and I got it, followed by Sam and later Jon.  Ava and I had it on the same night and I must say, she had it far worse than I did.  As she would get sick, I would rustle out of bed to go hold her hair back and wipe her face with a wet rag.  Then we would go to the pallet Jon put together on the floor for her and get her tucked back in.  We did this several times before it was my turn.  To my surprise, she rustled out of bed to come and hold my hair back and hand me a rag to wipe my face.   That sweetness melted my heart.

Then today Sam and I were at Jackson’s 15 month appointment.  Sam knew Jackson would be getting shots today.  He planned all the things that he would do when he got the shots – share his Lightning McQueen, hold his hand, etc. but what he actually did brought tears to my eyes.  When the nurses left, I started to dress Jackson as he continued to cry.  Sam came over and began to brush the hair off his forehead and kiss him.  And then he began softly singing “Hush little baby, don’t you cry…”  It was precious!

So on bad days, when the kids aren’t following the Golden Rule, or any other rule for that matter, I have to remind myself of these precious moments.  They really are amazing kids with soft, sweet spirits.

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I am a planner.  I always have been.  But  I am not sure why I continue to plan because my life has veered from the plan drastically.  My plan: Have a career, marry at 27, kid #1 at 30, kid #2 at 32, stay at home until kids go to school and then continue my career.

So here’s real life: married at 21, had a job, kid #1 at 25, kid #2 at 26, kid #3 at 29 and now kid #4 at 31.

HAHAHA!  So my life has not gone according to my plans…Not.At.All.  But here is the cool thing – God has a sense of humor and He says “For I know the plans I have for you,”… “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

In October I had a sonogram to address some issues I had been having.  The sono tech showed me my ovaries which were filled with cysts and my uterus which also had a cyst.  I was not prepared for the phone call from the doctors office the next day.  The nurse informed me that I had an enlarged uterus, polycysitc ovaries, a uterine cyst and the lining of my endometrium was too thick.  They were recommending a diagnostic d and c and I was scheduled for Nov. 1.  They hoped to pin point the cause for some on my issues and would be able to address more accurately our fertility future.

For the next several days, I was just sad.  I didnt want to deal with this.  It was to be my 7th surgery in the 9 years I have been married to Jon.  He was amazing.  Jon knew what to say, when to offer a hug and when to give me some space.

On October 14th, Jon left for a work trip and I followed our normal routine.  I got Ava on the bus, took Sam to preschool and headed to the Y to work out.  On the way home, I stopped at Target to grab a couple things and on a whim bought a pregnancy test.

When I got home and had put Jackson down for a nap, I decided to take the test.  I left it on the counter and picked up a little and came back to throw it away, fully expecting it to be negative.  It was positive!  I immediately took the other test and this time I saw the results immediately…positive!  I couldn’t believe it.

I texted Jon a picture, knowing that he was on the road and said, “I guess God has other plans…”

We talked with the doctors office and decided to go in for blood work to confirm as I was concerned the cysts were causing a false positive.  The call came the next morning confirming the pregnancy, assuring me that there was not any immediate cause for concern and scheduling my first appointment.

So that is it.  That is the story of my life – “I guess God had other plans…”

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Other Plans

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