Friday, June 28, 2013

it begins

In some small part of my brain, I always dreamed I'd run a marathon someday. Never mind that I HATE running. I just thought I'd work my way up to it, kilometer by kilometer, until I could do the whole thing. And people would look at me and think, "Isn't she amazing? Imagine the work it took to get across that finish line!"

Last night I crossed the finish line in dirty bare feet and a long cotton skirt. 

A new race is beginning but I think of it as a meandering cross-country run, where you're allowed to pause and admire a bird you've never seen or lie down in the grass for a rest.

July will be spent (by me) completing an online university course to get my Kindergarten Qualifications (this is step one in becoming a "specialist"). The house will be more neglected than usual but between my husband and my mother, I've been assured that this is doable. It's kind of like when you just have faith that there will be enough money next month, even though the previous months have been tight: I'm just having faith that, although I find it hard to sit down to rest, knit, pee, or bathe, the time to do this course will magically appear. 

I've created craft baskets for the three older kids, containing paints, brushes, canvases, peg dolls, googly eyes, feathers, glue, scissors, and so on. I'm covering a wall with mural paper. I'm planning on giving Jude daily writing and math tasks to keep his mind sharp. The leap from  Grade 2 to Grade 3 can be a wide one and I want to make sure the things he learned this year stay fresh.

Every day we'll trek out to swimming lessons, and today we'll create the list we do at the beginning of the summer: each child picks three things they'd like to do over the summer and we use it as our checklist. Jude would like to set up the tent and have a sleepover with friends. Violet would like to go to a local beach. Those will be easy to check off!

This space will be quieter in July as I concentrate all my energy on keeping everyone cool, fed, and happy, while completing my course. Phew. I'm breaking into a sweat just thinking about it.

Happily, we have an open invitation to use our neighbour's pool (hooray for generous neighbours with pools!) and no garden to worry about. Just kicking back and enjoying each other is the rule this summer. Toes in the grass, faces to the sun, watermelon in hand, and not a thought of the winter that will be back with us in six months!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sit Like a Turtle because this is a long post.

If you're looking for pretty pictures, you won't find any today. I didn't have my camera available when I fell down and got drenched.

Sometimes I wish I could be more like this guy. Sleeping like a dog, sitting like a turtle, walking swiftly like a pigeon, and...oh, some other animal simile.

But I'm going to have to do a lot of deep breathing to dispel stress. Sometimes I wonder if it's a character flaw that I have days where it's hard to surrender.

To the fact that, moments after bathing (when I haven't bathed in a week), I have sweat and/or spit up running down between by breasts and pooling in my navel.

To the fact that my children NEVER flush the toilet after they poo.

To the fact that, most mornings, I wake up to a sink full of dishes, even though I washed dishes all day and thought they were 'done' before I headed up to bed at 10:30 with the baby in my arms.

To the fact that, as much as I feel a deep and physical need for time alone with my thoughts, the baby only wants ME from the moment she wakes up (at 6:00 a.m.) till the moment she goes to sleep for the night (at 10:30 p.m.). Nature hates a vacuum, as do children: when my older kids see that Norah is napping and my arms are empty, they are quick to fill the space with their demands for food, stories, cuddles, and bum-wipes.

Yesterday I failed to surrender, and instead, cursed loud and long. I had spent the morning juggling the baby and all the little tasks I needed to complete to prepare for Violet's Kindergarten Graduation. I painted a dozen tiny peg dolls to resemble her classmates, because they were MY Junior Kindergarten students and I wanted a little something to give them as they move on to Grade One. I ironed dresses for the two older girls (because any 'special' occasion demands a clean, ironed least that's what they tell me). I packed the diaper bag, timed Norah's nap so that she'd be well rested by the time we had to leave. I waited till the last minute to cut up the watermelon I was going to bring with me.

I strapped on my wedge sandals (because sometimes I feel like being fancy), and wobbled my way down our uneven walkway, baby on hip and watermelon, peg dolls, camera, and keys in hand. I forgot about that hole that hasn't been filled. Can you see where this is going?

I stepped in the hole, and fell hard on one knee, launching the peg dolls and watermelon everywhere. Of course the container opened. Of course I tore a hole in my new jeans, as well as in my knee. The bright side is, I didn't drop the baby! I cursed, long and loud, with my dad as the helpless witness to all this craziness. He let me rant, and got the baby buckled in while I stomped back into the house.

I cut up more watermelon, called the school to ask the secretary to assure Violet that I WOULD be there with her dress, bandaged my knee, and headed back out. I didn't change my shoes, either. I just walked more carefully. 

Then last night I remembered at 6:30 p.m. that today is Pizza Lunch at Jude's school. I know lunch days are a nice break for most parents. For me, they mean recreating gluten and dairy free versions of whatever the special lunch is. So I packed the kids into the van to head to the grocery store for supplies, as the sky clouded over ominously. 

The heavens unleashed a fury of rain just as we arrived in town, so I dropped the kids as close to the grocery store door as possible. As I parked the van, I saw them running out into the rain and jumping in the huge puddles that were blooming on the crosswalk. I ran around to get the baby out, only to find that the door on her side was locked. By this time I was DRENCHED. An old man in the car beside me took the time to roll down his window to say, "Don't get wet, eh??" with an old-man chuckle. He's lucky he rolled his window back up quickly. The baby was screaming her head off, I couldn't get the door to unlock, and meanwhile my kids were being traffic hazards with their puddle-jumping death wish.

The baby started gasping as the rain pounded down on our heads. I ran across the parking lot and into the refreshing cool of the air conditioned store. Of course, we were all soaking wet now, and everyone was whining that they were cold as I tried to keep my very wet baby warm by wrapping the very wet sling around her.

My very nice neighbour was in line ahead of us, and he dashed out to the van to bring it close to the door for me. That was the best moment of the whole day: when Jude looked out and shouted, "MOM! Someone is stealing the van!!" I laughed so hard I cried, but you couldn't see the tears because my face was so wet.

By 7:30, the kids hadn't really had supper (popcorn doesn't count, does it?) so while they changed into dry pajamas I made hot buttered toast and heated up a can of baked beans. I let them watch a movie, and even made them ice cream sundaes, because they were such good sports about being dragged out into a deluge. 

Daddy got home just in time to put everyone to bed at 9 p.m.

This morning I have to drive to Renfrew with the three girls to pick up five hens. All morning I've been asking myself, why do I add to my already full plate like this? I have bouts of optimistic energy where I convince myself that it won't be that much work. Then I go out to check the chicks and realise they haven't been fed and watered since the last time I managed to check on them two days ago. 

I carry down another basket of laundry (didn't I just fold and put away the laundry 8 hours ago? and weren't my kids sleeping for the past 8 hours?), wash last night's dishes, and get the stress out of my system by writing it all out here. 

Thanks for listening. Breathe in, breathe out.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fancy Night

Margot fell in love with Fancy Nancy after I borrowed the book from the library. If you don't know Fancy Nancy, you should. She's a little girl who just likes fancy things: fancy words (preferably in French), fancy accessories, fancy manners, fancy facial expressions. I got the idea to have a Fancy Night after about a week of reading the story several time daily. Margot had been getting up a lot at night, so I promised her that if she spent a whole night in her bed without disturbing anyone, we'd have a Fancy Night. 

She succeeded, so on Friday we headed to the Dollar Store. Money can't buy happiness, they say, but if you're four and the money is spent on boas, tiaras, masks, and sparkly things, it comes pretty darn close. 

The girls were thrilled to wear make up for the very first was to be a Fancy Night, after all. Jude loved getting dapper with daddy while the girls accessorized. 

I got ready last, and I wish I'd had a camera to capture Margot's face as I descended the stairs in very high heels and red lipstick. Her eyes were absolutely shining and for once, she was speechless. I couldn't stop giggling! I made sure to give daddy a big smooch to the wide eyes and squeals of our kids.

We had pizza and pink lemonade (wine for the grown ups). We said Darling a lot, raised our little fingers when we took a sip from our fancy glasses, spoke in French, and used our very best manners. We had parfaits for dessert, and stayed up late. 

It feels as if we might be emerging from the Survival Mode we've been in since Norah was born, and that we are entering into the FUN of parenting four, if the laughter around our dinner table was any indication. 

Do you have any fun dinner traditions?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

loving arms, patient voices

I wrote a lengthy post describing our night. But then I realised that you may have had your own long night, and you don't need every detail of how much time we spent awake, separately and together, nursing the baby and comforting the four-year old while trying to remain patient with her and with each other.

Let me just tell you what I learned (again) during the night:
  • Guided imagery, though well-intentioned, is as likely to be met with "Why are you telling me all of this stuff, mom?" as with the desired effect of lulling your child to sleep.
  • If your child is complaining of a sore tummy at 1 a.m., she's probably telling the truth, and will most likely barf by 3 a.m. Until then, she is not likely to settle back to sleep.
  • A hand on my husband's back to remind him of our goal of patience and solidarity, when met with an answering squeeze, is often the only communication that needs to pass between us at times that try our patience.
  • Supporting your child's emotional needs is a million times harder than supporting their physical needs.
  • Supporting your child's emotional needs is worth it, so worth it, even at the price of some lost sleep.
Margot kept us up for a million reasons: she had her MMR vaccine yesterday, her ear was sore at bedtime, and her tummy was upset. She spoke to her Nanny on the phone last night for the first time in almost two weeks (Nanny's been off on a road trip), and said, "I thought you died...but you didn't!" She never mentioned this suspicion to me, but who knows how much quiet stress the thought of losing her beloved Nanny caused her?

 For her, comfort means her mother's arms around her, her father's patient voice. We comforted her. Yes, we're feeling a bit haggard this morning. Margot on the other hand woke up feeling peaceful and secure, knowing that when she cries for us in need, we'll be there.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Yarn Along: Playful

Joining in with Ginny's Yarn Along.
I just love Noro yarn for small projects like this Puerperium Cardigan (pattern available for free on Ravelry). Watching each color bloom into the next is like watching the sun set, gazing into a tulip, or wondering at a rainbow. It's hard to tell where one colour ends and the next begins, but the overall effect is magical. A soft rainbow sweater seems to be the perfect welcoming gift for a brand-new soul, encompassing all the mystery and beauty of life in this world. 
I got Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen through interlibrary loan (my new favourite thing). My husband has taken on the role of Playful Parent, wrestling, swordfighting, slap-fighting (don't ask), playing board games, and so on, while I get on with the busyness of running a household. I need to get my play muscles back in shape (I was an expert at it when I was a child)! What's nice about this book is that it isn't about the harm parents can do their children by doing x or not doing y. It offers joyful, practical ways to play in small and large ways to foster trust, emotional support, and fun in your relationship with your child. 

It also reminds us that we can get our children to do the things we want (e.g. putting their shoes on to go to the library) by being playful about it, instead of just giving directives. It works! The other day Margot ran away from me as she always does while I was trying to put her hair in a ponytail. Usually I'd count to three (or some other lame, desperate tactic to get her to return), but instead I told her I'd put my (very short) hair in pigtails instead. She ran back giggling, and stood in place. I was happy, she was happy. Sometimes we just need a little reminder!

I'll be starting a course in a week to work towards becoming officially "qualified" to teach Kindergarten, so I've dug out some of my old education books. The Art of Teaching Writing by Lucy Calkins is considered a classic, and is very readable. It rings true after 20+ years: teach the writer, and the writing will come. I came out of a school system that marked up children's writing with red pen pointing out all the mistakes. I remember how thrilling it was to me as a young teacher to use purple and pink pen to encourage my students' writing rather than cut it up with criticism. 16 years later, and I'm still passionate about my work. I'm blessed!

We've really enjoyed Giant Tree and the Boy, a poignant tale of a tree's life cycle and the legacy we leave our children by planting seeds. And Spoon is silly and charming, like my Krouse Rosethal's Little Pea. Simple illustrations and cute stories to make the kids and grown ups giggle. Win win!

What are you reading and knitting these days?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Life's Riches

Life's riches other rooms adorn, but in a kitchen, home is born.
The attic purge continues, and the other day I came across this. My mother gave it to me a few years ago and of course I tucked it away, determined to finish the stitch work someday. When I mentioned to her that I'd rediscovered it, she told me that my grandmother gave it to her when she was preparing to move into a care facility.

It was started by my great grandmother, Pearl, who was a milliner and accomplished seamstress. In photos, she has a solid, serious, imposing air about her. I know she adored her daughter and dressed her in beautiful handmade clothes. As a little girl, Grandma was all bright eyes, rosy cheeks, and dark curls. Her dresses and coats spoke of how precious she was to her mother, who raised this little girl largely on her own. 

I find thread to match, and begin to work on the fireplace. My stitches blend seamlessly with those my great grandmother started years ago (how many? Fifty? Sixty? More?) and this piece is a few steps closer to its destiny: a sweet piece of handwork, framed and adorning a kitchen wall. I can imagine how satisfying it will be, to finish something my great grandmother didn't find the time to complete. 

It kind of makes me wonder about the unfinished projects I will inevitably leave behind, and the great granddaughter I'll never meet who will find it in her attic. She'll see me in photographs and wonder about who I was, then will take up her needle and begin to stitch.

Monday, June 17, 2013

stumbling towards clarity

The body of our most food-sensitive child seems to be a barometer for our family's health. There are times when I can only describe him as clear, or bright. I can't pinpoint what exactly this means. It is as much about the look in his eyes as in his ability to "get" jokes, to take challenges on with a smile, and his patience and affection for his little sisters. I've seen this look come and go over the years, and each time it takes energy to tune in to what is creating the change.

A few weeks ago we started dabbling in the Paleo way of eating. Basically, we focused on fruits/veggies, meat, eggs, and 'good' fats (avocados and coconut), omitting grain, legumes, and dairy. Within days, we were all feeling very good. Jude has been dairy and gluten free for years, and at first I was hesitant to remove more choices from his diet (rice crackers and hummus being a staple on his school lunches). 

Jude eats what he's served with enthusiasm and without complaint, and once again I saw that 'bright' look in his eyes. But as lovely as Paleo is in theory, it requires a lot of preparation, creativity, and yes, money to sustain variety and flavor. Things got busy, and I found there were days when it seemed that everyone was dipping their heads into the cupboards and fridge. I caved and brought back the rice crackers, the rice cakes, the hummus, the popcorn (our favorite snacks).  I concluded that I just can't afford the time or money to spend so much of each day preparing costly food.

Over the past few days, we've noticed some quirky behaviors in Jude. He's been hitting his sisters immediately if they bug him in any way (which is unusual). The other day he wanted some boiled eggs, so I walked him through how to make them himself. I sent him to find a pot and he came out of the cupboard with...a bowl. Then a strainer. This seemed kind of weird and funny, but upon reflection, it was concerning. He just seemed confused, like he knew what a pot was but couldn't put his knowledge together with the concrete item.

This morning I sent him up to get dressed for school with a clean pair of shorts in his hand. This is one of those routines: get dressed, brush teeth, come down, comb hair, put on socks, then get ready to head out the door. But this morning it was as if he were stuck. Ten minutes later when we checked on him, he was in his room in his undies with no idea where he'd put his shorts. Robin first reprimanded him (getting any eight-year old boy to focus on a task when toy soldiers beckon can be a challenge), but I soon found him hugging Jude. Jude just look kind of confused and off. 

The light bulb in my mind clicked on then, and I know what we need to do. We need to get this kid off grains altogether. The change is so subtle to begin with that we don't always notice it, but when this bright, loving, patient boy starts seeming confused and short-tempered, I know there's a change coming. In pieces, the symptoms are vague and bewildering and seemingly unrelated. But when I have a moment to step back and survey it all from a distance, it becomes clear to me.

I called his bus driver and the school to let them know he'd be staying home today. He's going to come to the library with us, read his first Percy Jackson and the Olympians book, rest, and build his Roman army.

As we prepare to start Norah on her first solids, we'll be doing things a little differently than we did with the older crew. We'll be avoiding grains altogether until she's older (or maybe forever) and will work towards 'weaning' her older sisters off the breads, pastas, and crackers they crave. It's time for this family. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

::this moment::blind man's bluff::

Wishing you at least one moment of gut-busting hilarity this weekend!

(Joining in with Soule Mama)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Simple Breakfast

After a sleepover at Nanny and Papa's, Violet was excited to tell me about the breakfast she had with Papa when she got up early with him.

I knew before she told me what it would be, because my dad used to make the same thing for me when I was a little girl who woke up earlier than the rest. *Ahem. Pardon me while I get choked up here. Sniff. Okay. I'm okay.*

A piece of toast with butter. A little bowl of (real) maple syrup.

Dip. And eat. And dip. And eat. You can time it so that your syrup lasts till the last bit of toast (you may have to scoop up extra towards the end to make it work out perfectly). Then use your finger to swipe up any bits of crumby syrup that's left behind. It takes focus and concentration to not waste any drops as you carry the syrup to your mouth.

In many families, food is a legacy that passes in simple ways, and I can only imagine that my grandmother used to make this for my dad when he was a little boy who woke up earlier than the rest. It's like the onion and mayonnaise sandwich I eat once a year on my grandmother's birthday, because it's delicious and perfect in its simplicity and the memories it carries.

I can imagine Violet, 30 years from now, making this for her child and saying, "My grandpa used to make this for me when I was a little girl". 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Yarn Along: Ready for Summer

Joining in with Ginny's Yarn Along.
I like to have a plan of action in place as summer approaches. We all adjust to being home full time, daddy works a different job, and I find that being prepared ahead of time makes the day-to-day rhythm much gentler on everyone. I'll be doing an online course through July and I know it will be less stressful to find the time if I know the kids' hands and minds are busy with something other than watching movies!

This year I'm creating a basket for each of the children containing items that will keep them busy when my hands aren't able to set up a craft or activity: peg doll blanks, paintbrushes and acrylics, watercolour paints, yarn and needles (a knitting spool for the youngest), play dough, googly eyes and feathers, glue and scissors, pencil crayons, sketch books, a word find for the oldest, a bird identification book for the middle. I look forward to them taking ownership for their materials, and am interested to see what they create without having to wait for me to help!

Mariah Bruehl's Playful Learning is a wealth of ideas, displayed so beautifully in this book! I love the idea of having addressed, stamped envelopes ready for children to fill with drawing and notes for loved ones and friends from school. I hope to have literacy and numeracy activities set up for them (simple word problems for the older two to solve using manipulatives). While I fantasize about months of unstructured time, I find that my children thrive with a flexible schedule where they know what's coming next.

Knitting time is limited, but I've started another Puerperium Cardigan, this time in Noro Silk Garden. The colours are breathtaking, like watercolour paint blending into a soft rainbow. I got enough skeins to make about four little sweaters for the many babies due in the next few months. I may use some to make this little dress as well, as the one Norah received from my friend at Wabi Sabi Wanderings has had lots of wear. 

As the heat of summer continues to elude us here in Ontario, I'm dreaming of the little ones that will be warmed beautifully by my knitted creations!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Attachment Siblings

For all of you who are busy with one or two children, and look at me and wonder, How does she do it?, I'm going to let you in on a little secret that mothers of four or more children know.

You might even know this if you spaced your three children widely apart. I didn't, so I'm only starting to experience the real benefits of a larger family now that I've had four.

In a house where the children outnumber the adults, the parents learn to creatively delegate the work (which really feels like play to our children). I've heard people say that in larger families, it isn't fair to expect older siblings to help. Seriously? It's not like we're taking them out of school to pick rocks in the fields or something. It's always voluntary, and we always relieve them when they don't want to do it anymore.  

Last week I left Norah in the girls' room with Margot for company while I washed the dishes. Surrounded by pillows, she played for twenty minutes while Margot repaired the undercarriage of her bed (in a ballgown, of course). Making breakfast is a cinch if Norah is driven around the kitchen in a cardboard box. Jude proudly wears his alien pajama pants and his little sister (and I think of the wonderful dad he'll be someday). Violet takes her responsibilities seriously, and handles the baby with all the gentleness and confidence of the mother I hope she'll some day be. 

So, for those of you who wonder, that's how we do it. We wash the dishes fast while an older sibling plays peekaboo. We send them upstairs to entertain her when she wakes up in order to finish folding the laundry. We know that through Norah's eyes, the world is full of loving faces and arms that want to hold her. 

It's a beautiful world, through her eyes.

(Thanks to my friend Erin for inspiring this post!)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Frida Kahlo, a peg doll

Last week I fell in love with Frida Kahlo all over again, after seeing a peg doll rendition of the artist. I started thinking about the kinds of women I want my children to know about, and started a list. Then, as my mind tends to do, I wandered into wondering about what kinds of role-model dolls I could create. 
In some ways, Frida is easy to capture: she has been described as being "militantly feminine" in her dress, all flouncy skirts, peasant blouses, lace, flowers, earrings, braids, lipstick, and shawls. But the power in her gaze and the defiance of those marvelous eyebrows turn the idea of femininity on its ass.

I got to work on Frida right away, and as I've worked with my daughters watching the progress over my shoulder, I've told them all about her. How she was a woman ahead of her time. How she struggled through physical pain and created beauty out of the stories of her life. How she was politically active and a complete original.
My children will know who Frida Kahlo was. This doll is delectable, I tell you. Her shawl is made of silk yarn, and her little flowered headband is so tiny and detailed (sewn from wool felt). I feel as if I've done the artist justice, capturing her level gaze, fierce and forward-looking in spite of adversity. I almost thought of offering her as a giveaway, but I simply can't. If you'd like a chance to win one like her, let me know in the comments and I'll get right to work.

Amelia Earhart is next on my list!

Friday, June 7, 2013

::this moment in video::the bike stunt::

Hope this gave you a morning laugh!

Inspired by Soulemama's "This Moment".

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

two steps back

Yesterday mom was here and in the two hours it took me to run errands alone-oh-joy-oh-bliss, she had the kitchen swept, dishes washed, and the baskets of clean but wrinkly laundry folded. As she pushed a pile of clean clothes back on the table, it shoved a cup of water off the table. No big deal, but of course it was rinse water from Jude's peg-doll painting. And he'd been painting with black. 

I'd just replaced the broken heat-vent cover that the kids kept stepping through with a nice, shiny white one. We've also just put up new white bead-board in the kitchen. Guess where the black painty water splashed? 

Mom said, "One step forward, two steps back!"

That's the way things feel these days. The dishwasher broke, and I've gotten used to washing dishes by hand again. I find it kind of meditative actually, and the kitchen is cleaner in general because I can't pile dishes on the counter all day. I also feel good about cutting a bit on our energy and water use. So we decided to just leave it broken.

Then I registered for a course, after much deliberation and figuring out how to summon the time, energy, and money for it. I had the exact amount in our savings account, just in case (of car repairs or broken appliances) but decided to go for it and trust that nothing would break before I rebuilt that fund.

Last night, the washer broke. 

And to make it even kind of funny, my old glass-and-wood washboard fell off the shelf a few weeks ago and smashed on the floor so I can't even was the clothes by hand.

Kind of funny. But not really.

It seems to be the rhythm of life with small kids, though. You save money on groceries one week, just to find that your kids have all outgrown their shoes the next. You clear out two bags of clothes to give away, then find three bags of second-hand clothes on your step, left by a kindly friend. You put away the last of the clean laundry, grin in satisfaction at your empty laundry baskets, then find the pile under your child's bed. Okay, honestly, that never happens (the empty baskets thing).

I could go on and on about this dance of one step forward and two steps back...tidy the house for a birthday party, then end up with a messier house than you started with. Have all the dishes washed, then find that your husband has cleaned out his car and filled the sink with moldy containers. Get all the garbage and recycling ready for the dump to find that you don't have a card for the dump (and the store that sells them is all out). You finally put the baby down for a nap as your preschooler barges in the door roaring and crying for a band aid.

This morning Robin went to school in Birkenstock clogs and asked me if they looked funny with his dress clothes. I said, "Kinda". Then he told me that he has NO clean socks because he hadn't been putting them in the laundry this week. That kinda turned into kinda sad at that point.

If you're a mother of small kids, or have ever been a mother of small kids living on a tight budget, you know the steps well. If you try to lead, you end up stiff and awkward. If you just lean into it, trust your partner, and handle it with grace and a smile, it's not so bad. I do find the occasional curse whispered under my breath helps, too.

On the bright side, it's an opportunity to show your children how to handle (first world) adversity with grace, faith, and patience. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

the only constant

After a sleepless night or two, a single day can last an eternity. I check the clock when I feel I've been awake for hours to find it's 8:30 a.m. and I wonder how I'll get through the many hours till bedtime. I find myself wishing for time to pass more quickly on those kinds of days.

Then there are times when I want to dig my heels in to slow things down, the way I used to stop that old bike my sisters and I shared as kids, the one that had dodgy brakes. Heading down a hill, you'd have to gauge when to start dragging your toes so that you'd stop before you reaching the intersection. It was a risky procedure when I look back on it, but it always worked.

Somehow I can't seem to slow things down here the way I want. Jude keeps growing (almost 2 inches since January). Violet is now the quintessential six year old with a gap in her smile and a newfound lisp (she loves to say sassafrass and Mississippi). Margot has completely grown out of her toddler curves and is officially a four year old, getting taller and leaner each day. And Norah changes every single day, it seems. Now rolling over, sitting up on her own, reaching for our water glasses and food. Gnawing on whatever she gets her wet, chubby hands on, so that I expect to see a tooth one of these days.

In those rare moments when I'm sitting aside, watching my family twirl around me, I gaze at  one and think, She will never be like this again. We may experience this stage again with her little sisters, but this is the only time that she'll wear braids with two missing teeth,  the only time that her eyes will light up when she sees the Tooth Fairy didn't fail her.

Or I think, Next year, she'll be in school. This time of having her with me every day is coming to an end. She'll cry at the beginning, but will grow used to the change and will slowly grow away from me. Her life will be filled with new teachers and friends and stories that I don't have a part in. 

Or Next year I won't be here with her anymore. I'll only see her at the end of each day and will try to fill up on her scent, the feel of her in my arms, and nurse her enough to tell her how much I love her and wish I could stay home to raise her till she's big enough to go to school.

I see the length of his feet, the size of his hands, and know that the time between now and when he's a towering teenager who's starting to shave and borrow the car will seem like a mere moment, even with all those endless days thrown in.

I whisper a prayer of gratitude that I had the time, perspective, and wisdom, even just for a moment, to watch and savor each of them as they are right now, because who knows who they'll be tomorrow? I remind myself that I'll like them just as much (if not more) tomorrow, with all the new changes that come.