For years, I have written snapshots of the routines, habits, milestones and quirks that make up our current moment in time. I document events with way too many photos regularly, but the purpose of these written snapshots is to remind us in the future what life was like “way back then.”
The original idea was to write the snapshot at the beginning of each school year, but it has progressively crept further and further back into the fall. This year I haven’t been able to get my act together before now, so here we are in March.
I started writing this to be a snapshot back at the end of last year. I was almost done when Christmas break hit and I never got the chance to post it, so let’s just go back in time for a minute and pretend it’s still fall.
Here we go:
Blake makes his breakfast and lunch and is usually ready to go before I even get up in the morning.
Nash needs some reminders to eat breakfast and we go through a battle every morning trying to think of things he will actually eat for lunch. He prefers hot foods over sandwiches. He has a thermos that we often put leftovers in.
Blake and Nash walk to and from school together. They leave at 7:40am and get home around 2:30pm. Crew cries if he doesn’t get to hug each of them individually before they walk out the door. He runs down the path for those hugs when his brothers forget and rush out the door.
The boys spend a lot of time playing in our alley. We are blessed to have friends they can play with on our street. On one particularly hot day, they needed to get some energy out so I sent them outside. I laughed when I saw that they had created a shady retreat.
Blake responds to texts for me when I’m driving or busy, but not without the use of approximately 67 emojis.
Blake loves to help cook. He can make grilled cheese sandwiches all by himself.
Blake started watching the cooking show Chopped with Troy when he was home recovering from surgery this summer. One of Blake’s favorite things to do now is create concoctions with random ingredients.
Blake’s grandparents gave us an extra apple peeler they had lying around a few months ago and Blake uses it every single day without fail.
He usually whips it out of the cupboard immediately upon arriving home from school.
It not only peels apples but it slices them into one long curly piece. I get sick of cleaning up the cores and peels every day, but I can think of worse snacks he could be addicted to.
Blake’s two front teeth have been out for almost a year and a half. The dentist can see his permanent teeth in X-rays, but we’re starting to wonder if they will ever poke through. He has since lost 4 more teeth so he basically looks like a jack-o-lantern.
Troy and I both try to take the boys on regular one-on-one dates, even if it’s something simple like getting ice cream.
Blake is a full-fledged cub scout.
Troy volunteers as the Cubmaster which means he plans monthly meetings involving several packs, or all of the scouts ages 8-11. I get lost when they start painting faces, talking about the wind and crossing mini bridges for advancements, but Blake loves everything about it.
Blake and Nash’s favorite movie is The LEGO Brickumentary. There was a time when they watched that documentary on repeat and Nash says he wants to be a LEGO engineer when he grows up.
We joined The LEGO Store VIP club which means we can participate in exclusive monthly LEGO builds. The problem is, I have to sign up online on the 15th of each previous month in order to guarantee spots. If I don’t add their names to the list first thing in the morning, the spots are all gone. And despite putting reminders in my phone, I frequently forget to sign them up until it’s too late. The boys loved attending LEGO builds the few times we did get on the list early enough. They give them each a small kit that can be built in the store and then they get to bring it home with them.
Blake and Nash are at the ages where it’s really fun to play games with them. We play the card games Golf and Scum on a regular basis. They love all board games but their favorites are Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan Jr. and Sheriff of Nottingham.
We rarely have a weeknight where we don’t have any after school activities. Between Blake’s piano lessons, swim team practices and cub scout meetings and Nash’s basketball and baseball practices, we are always on the go. And we only have two boys with commitments so far! Thankfully, their school starts and gets out early, so most of the boys’ activities are done before dinnertime.
The hours between dinnertime and bedtime are pure crazy town. We make sure to get all homework and piano practicing done immediately after school because if we wait till later on we have no chance of focus and cooperation. Crew and Finn usually do laps around our kitchen island on their wiggle cars while I’m trying to load the dishwasher. Blake and Nash rotate between pillow fights, light saber duels or wrestling matches. Having a yard to send them out to play in was definitely a luxury; we dream of having one again someday.
Troy is much more efficient at bedtime than me. I linger in each room, tidying up and making sure dirty clothes are in baskets and new clothes are set out for the next day. I let the boys read. I lose focus and get overwhelmed sending instructions to get pajamas on, brush teeth and pick up toys in all directions. But Troy gets the job done with no fuss. Pajamas, teeth brushed, prayers and lights out lickety split. It may look like a tornado the next morning, but he can get them to bed in a third of the time it takes me.
Nash loves when I snuggle with him at bedtime. I love it too, but it’s just not realistic to add an extra 10-15 minutes of snuggling each night. So, I told him we could snuggle on a weekend night each week. He holds me to that promise and asks almost every night which night is our snuggle night.
The elementary principal called me to give a “good news report” on Nash. It scared me at first when I heard her voice on the other end, but she assured me that she was calling because Nash’s teacher had been really impressed with how much he was excelling in math and reading. It also “knocked her socks off” when Nash volunteered a well-thought out answer when she asked the class what the definition of equality was.
Nash has been really brave with sharing some of our religious beliefs with friends at school.
In general, the boys have been healthier this fall than they were last year. Finn usually only lasts two weeks in between sicknesses, but the older boys seem to be faring better. Nash has only missed one or two days of school which is amazing considering what last fall was like. That doesn’t mean we don’t still do breathing treatments galore for their asthma though. They are so used to having the masks on it doesn’t even phase them anymore. Even Finn doesn’t resist as much as he used to. We amp up the treatments via nebulizer at the first sign of a sniffle or cough to avoid trips to the hospital. When Nash and Crew are healthy, we switch over to maintenance with an inhaler which is so much quicker.
Our three month supply of medications for one child is daunting. Multiply those boxes by three and that’s how much we go through.
We have been in the habit of calling Crew and Finn “the babies” for so long. We’re trying to switch over to calling them “the littles” since at ages three and two they really aren’t babies anymore. But it’s a tough habit to break.
It has been a long-time question amongst moms whether having a two-year-old or a three-year-old is harder. I’m here to report that it’s the hardest when you have both. When you’re not reasoning with one you’re reasoning with the other and it seems like one of them is always having a tantrum about something or other. Or sometimes they are simultaneously having tantrums. Don’t even get me started on the picky eating battles.
Sometimes Crew puts on his brothers’ backpacks or headphones. He wants to be just like them. He is getting to the age where it’s harder to leave him out of activities that are meant for the older boys. He just always wants to be a part of what they are doing.
Crew is the only one in our family who calls Blake “Blakey” and me “mommy” instead of mom. I love it.
Crew’s nap is almost completely phased out. I still send him to his room for quiet time each afternoon, but it doesn’t last long since he hears his older brothers get home from school at 2:30pm.
We waited until we were in a regular school routine to start potty training Crew. I had to laugh at the sticker chart I created for him to track his progress. I whipped out a piece of scrap paper, flipped it over and wrote “Crew Potty” on it. That’s it. It was nothing like the elaborate poster board sized train chart I hand drew when we were going through the process with Blake. There were no prizes and half of the time we didn’t even remember to add a sticker. Definitely third child syndrome. I wonder if child number four will even get a chart. But you know what? It did the trick.
Crew was pretty proud of that filled up chart.
Crew’s favorite part of using the bathroom on his own is the handwashing. We bought him a little step stool and he spends 5-10 minutes lathering and rinsing his hands.
Crew’s love for babies continues on. All of his preschool buddies gained a baby sister this year and he is often found oohing and ahhing over the babies instead of playing with his friends during free time at preschool. We laughed that he was “sister shopping” when all of the babies were lined up at a birthday party.
Which one, which one?
Crew dotes on his new baby cousin.
Crew and Finn often tap their sippy cups together at meals and say, “Cheers!” I have no idea where they got that from.
Crew and Finn can not get enough of the TV show Umizoomi. The characters in the show are robots who solve math problems having to do with shapes, patterns and counting. There are also gizmos that have switches that turn from “make clean” to “make mess” mode. They are great motivation because if I speak the words, “Make clean, make clean” to the boys in a robotic voice, they immediately dive in and start picking up toys.
When Finn gets mad, he roars at you like a lion.
We discovered that when we ask Finn to say the word “Ikea,” he won’t say it, but instead, he moves his jaw up and down repeatedly. The boys and I often have a good laugh at dinner requesting, “Finn, say Ikea!” over and over.
Finn calls firetrucks “woo-woo” based on the noise they make. If we happen to pass one, Finn excitedly exclaims, “I see a woo-woo!”
We gave Crew’s hand me down nie-nights to Finn since Crew clung more to his binky as a baby than he did to loveys. We thought it was the greatest idea to have a couple of spares around the house in case we couldn’t find one at bedtime. Little did we know, that just encouraged Finn to get attached to all three nie-nights. It’s a little out of control how he insists on bringing them everywhere and he cries and cries if he doesn’t have them all at bedtime.
I only sneak one nie-night away at a time to wash, but Finn always notices when he’s down one. He cries and sits on the dryer until the washer cycle is finished. When I hand the clean nie-night to him, he’s so happy to be reunited that he doesn’t even care that it’s wet. It’s rare that his nie-nights ever go in the dryer because he can’t bear to be without them that long.
Finn loves wearing shoes. He often asks me to put them on him to wear around the house, even if we aren’t going anywhere.
I started cutting the boys’ hair myself. Four heads of hair every six weeks was getting expensive, so after watching a few tutorials, I took matters into my own hands. Sometimes they are cooperative and other times they act like they’re being tortured. You never know what you’re going to get.
We have an iPad and a couple of Kindle Fires for the kids to play games on, but I hide them during the week and only take them out on the weekends.
We can all go on bike rides together now thanks to a secondhand bike I bought for Troy and a bike cart for the littles. I have a beach cruiser with a little seat on the back for Finn as well, so sometimes Crew rides his balance bike and we’re all on two wheels. We’re looking forward to more daylight when we can go on walks or bike rides in the evenings again.
This probably deserves its own post, but Troy is really private about the fact that he’s been on a major health kick this year. He started out doing several weeks of juicing and our garage refrigerator was filled to the brim with fruits and vegetables. At the beginning of the school year, he switched over to tracking macros and weighing all his food in addition to a hardcore workout plan. He prepares his meals for the entire week on Sunday afternoons. His self control is unreal. He has lost 60 pounds so far which is truly remarkable.
I loved how colorful the fridge looked when he was juicing.
Troy’s health awareness doesn’t come without sacrifice. He spends two hours at the gym every day except Sunday, which means he usually gets home right when I’m getting the boys ready for bed. The days and especially the dinnertime hours can feel really long for me, alone with four boys. But we’re making it work and we have already seen so many benefits from prioritizing Troy’s health. We keep saying that we’re in this together and we’re planning a pretty epic trip next summer to celebrate both of our efforts.
I iron all of Troy’s shirts for work and usually have a few items of my own thrown in there as well. I try to stay on top of it but sometimes I don’t get to the ironing pile for a couple of weeks. I actually don’t mind the task, especially because it’s about the only time I turn on the one show I watch (This is Us) or catch up with my best friend on the phone. But the time is so hard to find. This was a particularly long ironing session; three weeks of piled up items. It had to be documented when I was finally finished.
Sometimes when I get really behind on laundry or ironing I beat myself up for not being more on top of it. I also can’t stand the clutter. I had a breakdown the day after I returned home from the hospital with Finn because it was one of those times the baskets were still filled with unfolded laundry, five days after they had been washed. Troy told me, “Don’t be so hard in yourself, we had a family emergency this week!” I laughed because it seems like we have a family emergency every week. If someone isn’t the hospital, someone else is throwing up in his car seat, breaking his arm, smashing a lightbulb against the wall, spilling oil paint on the floor, refusing to eat dinner, in need of extra breathing treatments, having potty accidents, flooding the bathroom with bath water or accidentally tangling the tassels of a blanket in the fan creating a fuzz massacre. There’s never a dull moment.
While we’re talking about disasters, let me share this text I sent to Troy and a few close friends:
I remembered today why I NEVER take all of the boys to Costco. Strangers stopped us in every. single. aisle. to ask, “Are those ALL yours?!” or “What is the age gap between them?” or my favorite, “You are SO lucky it’s not four girls!” (while aiming a gun at her head). As if we weren’t drawing enough attention to ourselves, all hell broke loose in the food court. Finn was chucking his shoes at strangers while climbing between sections of our overflowing shopping cart. A grandma was shooting me dirty looks while telling him to “sit down, honey.” Once we finally got our food, Crew started screaming bloody murder because I wouldn’t let him fill up the drinks. I gave Nash that job, who of course spilled soda all over the floor. While dealing with that disaster, Finn escaped, barefoot, and threw an epic tantrum as I attempted to scoop up and contain his squirmy body. Every pair of eyes was locked on us when I declared to my children that we were D.O.N.E. and going home. I threw their uneaten food back into the cart and booked it out of there with two screaming toddlers on my hips and Blake running into people left and right with our shopping cart. It was humiliating.
I feel like this would be a good time to mention that Troy still picks up fresh flowers for me for no reason a few times a month.
Now that Crew is in preschool a couple of mornings a week, I usually plan my errands for when I only have one child in tow. As long as I have snacks packed, Finn is the best errand buddy. Our Costco trips go much smoother sans three additional brothers.
We go through two gallons of milk and one case of apples within a week. A Costco size container of grapes usually doesn’t last more than five days and a bunch of bananas is gone is two days. That’s with half of our boys not being great eaters. We are in trouble for when they get older!
In addition to being the Cubmaster, Troy also volunteers as the church building cleaning coordinator. Every three months, our congregation is in charge of cleaning the building each Saturday for the entire month. It starts at 7:30am and Troy always picks up donuts for those who come and serve. The boys love to go with him; it’s the highlight of their week to wake up early on a Saturday, pick out donuts and help be in charge of the cleanings.
I still volunteer as the music leader for 120 children ages 3-11 on Sundays. It is a demanding responsibility requiring a lot of prep work, but I’m getting more comfortable in front of the kids and other leaders. And the icing on the cake is when I can convince my husband to dress up as a scripture hero and he goes to the store and puts together his own costume for the part.
I go baby showers twice a month on average. It’s inevitable in a town full of young families. From February to June, I went to nine baby showers, all for girls. At least I’m making my mark in the girls’ side of clothing stores.In addition to baby showers, it seems like it is always time to celebrate the birthday of one of my friends. We usually go to dinner but sometimes we switch it up with a trip to the beach or go all out for a girls’ weekend. Add in our weekly viewings of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette and the calendar fills up quickly with social events. I really value my female interactions; especially living with a house full of boys. Even though Troy is home less than ever, he makes sure that I go to girls’ nights on a regular basis.
When we have company visit us, which was often this fall, the boys all shift rooms to accommodate our guests. Nash regularly sleeps in the queen-sized guest bed, so when we have visitors, we move him to an extra twin-sized mattress on Blake’s bedroom floor. Crew shares a room with his grandparents when they are here, but if friends are visiting, we stick his toddler mattress up in our master loft. And if we have a family of six staying with us, we move all of our boys to our room and spread them out between our closet, floor and loft. We love sharing our beautiful surroundings with visitors and even though we’re in a small 3-bedroom home, we make it work.
We have limited storage so I go through and purge our closets and drawers every few months. I actually love that we don’t have the room to store extra “stuff.” I’m a purger by nature, but I like that it is a necessity for me to stay on top of my game without a storage room as a crutch. It is freeing to have less stuff and it sure accumulates quickly with six people under one roof.
I stock up on Grandma Sycamore’s white bread whenever I’m in Nevada, Utah or Arizona, and if we have visitors from those states, my only request is that they bring me a dozen or so loaves. I freeze them and ration one loaf per week, mostly for my morning peanut butter toast. When I have excess on hand I’m more willing to share with the boys. Trust me, I’ve tried all of the California breads and nothing even comes close to comparing.
I still try to fit in design work whenever I can. It’s never as much as I would like, but a little coding and designing here and there helps keeps me sharp.
Troy can’t go to sleep at night without reading first. He usually lays on his back, holding his Kindle in the air above him. Without fail, that Kindle almost always falls on his face when he starts to doze off.
That’s life 2016 in a nutshell. Some days we feel like we’re barely surviving and others we feel like we’re thriving. Some days feel heavy and other days we are overwhelmed with gratitude for the blessings in our little family.