I’ve had a really nice weekend.  After a solid week of rainy dreary misery, the sun finally came out yesterday and it was glorious.  We’ve got a bunch of cool yard toys, chalk and bubbles and see saws and those odd little car things that the kids can ride in, and they were outside all day long.  Today, we’re back to cool and cloudy, so I’m extra grateful for the sunshine yesterday.  I kept Aria here, Aralyn and her two boys went down to my sister’s house for the weekend.  My kids are extra lucky, because on this little street, there lives one girl who’s a year older than Jessica Mary and a little boy who’s just a couple of months younger than Sam.  They were both over here all day yesterday, plus my cousin came out with her baby daughter and her mother.

Today, it’s just us – Marc’s out playing D&D; with his friends for a few more hours, and I’ve got Aria and Julianna both sleeping like angels.  Sam is watching cartoons and Jess is working on her homework.

I’m really, really focusing on being happy.  I feel like I’ve been super stressed and frustrated lately, and I’m mentally reminding myself to slow down and enjoy what I have.

There’s a zone you get in, when you’re caretaker to a lot of children.  It’s less about spending quality time with any one child, and more about crowd control.  If that makes sense.  With Arie and her three staying here, plus the two I sit for on a regular basis, and the neighbors and stepchildren swinging in periodically – I’ve really had to dig deep to pull out patience and grace.  And of course, all of the kids are somewhere different, developmentally, and require completely different levels of care and attention and discipline.

Jessica is, above all, the easiest and happiest of all.  She’s calm and relaxed, going to bed with no problems, doing her homework, bouncing off to school.  She scoops crying babies, helps Kolbe with his schoolwork, entertains Sam – she’s my wonder child.  I can’t brag enough about how well she’s handling this, I’m so enormously proud and impressed by her.

Kolbe is adjusting well to kindergarten.  I’m looking at him as a model for Sam, and a flashback to the first year I sent Jess off to school.  He started out great, but today, was not at all happy about going.  I’m watching Arie go thru the stress and trauma of shipping a kid off to school when he wants nothing more than to stay home and I know how tough it is.  Not only do I know how tough it was for me, I also keep thinking in the back of my mind of how tough it will be in September when Sam starts school.

Sam is struggling to get used to having everyone here.  I feel so bad for him, because I think it’s hardest on him.  He’s such a good, sweet boy – and he really feels all confused and bewildered by having everyone here all the time.  He and Kolbe are either getting along well or absolutely awful.   He really loves Aria, unless she’s bugging him, in which case, he can’t stand her.  He’s the kind of kid who thrives on alone time at home – and that’s in short supply these days.

Aria – at two, is hands down the most challenging.  She’s also the cutest – I flat out adore two year olds.  Almost all the time.  She’s all about testing limits, doing her best to help out and failing miserably most of the time.  She loves cleaning up, and will often intentionally dump out a cup just to have the thrill of wiping it up.  I’m relearning about how to discipline a two year old, with time outs, positive reinforcement, consistency, etc. It’s just a different world, with a two year old.

Miss Julianna Ruth – hold the phone – is actually, sort of, almost standing alone.  On her own two feet.  She’s done it twice now, of course, only when I can’t see her, when she’s alone with Marc.  But yesterday, I was sitting on the floor with her, and she stood up totally supporting herself, balancing with just her hand laid on my shoulder.  It was awesome – and terrifying.  I’m used to her not walking.  But I’m not that far away from having my own toddler soon.  Can you imagine?

I think there’s a whole bunch of factors, obviously.  But seven was a tough year for us – more so for me.  I didn’t like the sassy, sarcastic side that came out, the temper tantrums were tougher, it was just a rough year overall.  But so far, being eight seems awesome.  Jess is overall much, much happier, she’s easier to get along with, seems to handle difficulties easier, finds joy and happiness so much faster.  School seems to flow better, she’s really thriving and so much more content.  I love eight.   I got her school pictures today – and she’s so grown up, I was really kind of shocked.  How did my tiny pretty bouncy baby turn into this tall, thin, gorgeous serious girl?

Sam is almost five.  He is.  I know.  It still shocks me.  Five.  My baby boy is almost five years old.  He’s going to be a kindergartener in a matter of months and I’m dreading it already.  Not only because I’m pretty sure he’s going to scream hysterically thru the first month, but also because he’s been at my side for his entire life and I’m going to miss him like you wouldn’t believe.  Who’s going to bake cookies with me?

Speaking of which… Julianna won’t let me bounce her anymore.  She’s always LOVED laying across my lap, bouncing to sleep. Even when she didn’t sleep, she’d doze into this hypnotic sort of state that was peaceful and relaxed.  And suddenly, everytime I try to lay her across my knees, she starts twisting and arching her back.  She’s in the process of giving up the second nap, and if she gets one really good nap around eleven to two, she’s good for the day and out for the night until around eight thirty or so.  Last night, she was up twice, and has had a wretched time napping today.  It’s so hard, with everyone here and the chaos that just exists in the house these days to maintain a consistent schedule, and she WON’T FREAKING BOUNCE TO SLEEP ANYMORE, which is frustrating, as she also won’t nurse and is rambling around the living room, just hollering at everyone who looks at her wrong.

I don’t mean to complain (but since it’s my blog and all…), I’m going to anyway.  It’s pouring today – and the five day forecast shows nothing but rain.  Forever.  And with six kids here right now – the thought of not being able to ship them outside freaks me out just a little bit.   That’s a whole lot of yelling that’s going to be going on for the next week or so…

I’m not handling this well.  It’s hard, having everyone staying here, and I’m feeling overwhelmed and worn out.  I love my cousin and her kids are so stinking cute most of the time, but I’m praying for patience and grace.

In other news… Julianna Ruth is sleeping away, Jessie is cuddled up with her daddy and Samilicious Boy is downstairs playing with the little neighbor from across the street and Arie’s oldest son.  My house is the place where all the kids seem to congregate (other than the thousands that are currently living here).  At any given time, I’ve got my three, plus Arie’s three, two of the neighbors, two stepdaughters and Glennys.  Mostly, I love that – I love that the kids all love playing over here, I like the thought of being the house where all the kids hang out.

I just have to keep reminding myself that.

Sorry I haven’t been updating lately – my cousin and her three kids (6, 2, and six months) have temporarily taken up residence at my house.  I’m used to a certain level of insanity – I do have three kids – but the past two weeks have been above and beyond anything I can describe.

I love Mother’s Day.  Mine was as close to perfect as one could imagine.  Marc woke me up with the kids bright and early with coffee and waffles in bed.  The girls left with Marc and Sammy stayed in bed to snuggle with me – which was perfect, because of all of my children, Samilicious boy is my snuggle bug.  He’s the one kid guaranteed to want nothing more than to snuggle up next to me and share a waffle.  (And on a side note – out of all the husbands I know – he’s the only one who actually got up and did breakfast in bed for his wife – LOVE that man!).

Then my in-laws came over for breakfast, and we sat out on the deck and had coffee and bagels together.  I didn’t do too much socializing, as it managed to coincide perfectly with Julianna’s nap, but it was still nice to see them.  And Marc got to hang out with them, so that’s what really counts.  After that, we went to my mother’s house – where I got to hang out with my favorite other mommies – my cousin Becky and my sister Mandi.  My cousin Aralyn is down as well – so we had all the kids there.  Julie is the oldest baby, at just over a year, and Arie’s son Jax is almost seven months and baby Abby is five months. So freaking cute….

Then, last night, I took my girls to bed with me – and nursed Julianna down to sleep and had her snuggled up against my bed, and my Jessie snuggled in my arms – it was just exactly the perfect bookend to starting the day with Sammy.

I’m a lucky, lucky mommy…

I mean, of course, I’m not pregnant.  I’m still breastfeeding, I’ve got an IUD, and let’s be blunt, I have three small kids – I don’t have sex anywhere near as often as I’d like to.

But I’m late – which, again, because of breastfeeding and the IUD, is totally normal and to be expected.  It doesn’t take really any symptoms for me to assume that I’m pregnant.  As Marc says, I’ve successfully predicted forty seven of my last three pregnancies.

So I took the test, knowing that I was probably not.  Knowing that it wasn’t the right time, that Julianna is barely a year old.  Knowing that this isn’t planned, knowing that I wasn’t even sure that wanted to get pregnant again.  Four kids?  Three is a LOT harder than two – and I’ve got two step children on top of my own three.  Six kids – that’s just insane.  I know that.   Julie’s pregnancy was miserable, and nursing her has been harder than the other two kids combined.

So why did I burst into tears when the test was negative?

Turns out that maybe I do really, really want another baby.  Not today, not right now – but oh yeah, I absolutely want to do this again.  And thank God I’ve got Marc – because he put his arms around me, wiped the tears off my cheeks, and told me that he’d love to have another baby with me.

So we’ll wait, because that’s the sensible, smart thing to do.  Julie is still so little – and I really don’t want to rush her toddlerhood.  But there’s nothing like finding out that you’re not pregnant to really clarify how much you really, really want to be.

Holy moly – my baby girl is a year old.  At one year, she’s bright and funny, sweet and laid back.  She says Mama (a lot), Yaya (which I think is Dada – because she says it to Marc mostly), and seems to call all the kids Baba.  Everything is a phone to her – she’s forever putting random stuff up to her ear and babbling into it.  She’s gorgeous – all big grey-ish eyes and the sweetest little brown curls.  She’s not even remotely interested in walking, is terrified of baths, and spends most of her time just delighted with everyone and everything.

She’s by far my most social baby.  Jess was shy, and perfectly content to observe the world from my arms.  No desire to play pass the baby.  Sam flat out hated any kind of social interaction, and got openly hostile when people tried to talk to him (or even look directly at him).  But Julie just seems to genuinely LIKE people.  She believes that everyone loves her, likes it when people tickle her or make faces.  She loves being around huge crowds of people, and is generally happy to be held by anyone, as long as she can see Marc or I.

She’s still a happy nursing girl – but for some reason, will only eat with her Daddy.  She eats pretty much every meal with Marc spoon feeding her whatever he’s eating.  She’ll munch away at pizza or anything she can hold on her own, but really, most of her diet consists of whatever Marc happens to be eating.

Here are some of my favorite pics of her first year…