hand in hand

Rare is the walk where I don't eventually feel a little hand comfortably slip into mine. 

Sometimes it's sweaty.
Sometimes sticky.
Sometimes clammy.
But it gives me a secret little thrill every time. 

Because my boy is not holding my hand because of a "hold my hand while we cross the street" command or a "if you can't stop touching things in the store, you will just have to hold my hand" discipline or even a "do you want to hold hands and walk together?" invitation.

He's holding my hand merely because he wants to hold my hand. As a mama, I LIVE for these unprompted moments of trust, affection, and simplicity. 

I know one day that little sweaty/sticky/clammy hand will slip into mine for the last time. And I won't even know it's the last time. So I let myself revel in each moment. Feel the emotions. Take the pictures. Create the memories.

This life is everything I imagined it would be.


fourteen is a long time

Right before we got married, I was asked if there were any flaws that I saw in Jason. I think it was a "don't go into marriage expecting to change your spouse" conversation opener. After a few awkward moments of thought, I believe I said, "I guess maybe he sleeps too much and spends too much time playing video games?" [Could it be more obvious we were just two young college students?] I'm pretty sure that was not the kind of answer I was supposed to come up with, but I do not do well with being put on the spot [and I would appreciate everyone taking note of this for future interactions with me 😄].

Fast forward 14 years, Jason now lives in a perpetual state of sleep deprivation and only squeezes in a video game session on the random evening free of other responsibilities or entertainment. So I guess it just goes to show that you CAN change your spouse. [And that Jason is apparently now flawless? 😂] BUT, in all of the important "this is why I love you" ways, Jason has remained utterly steadfast and unchanging. He was and continues to be the most logical, selfless, considerate, funny, patient man I have ever known, and I would choose him to be my forever friend time and time again.

While not much has changed in the last 14 years - aside from the four degrees, four homes, and four children - it has still been the most satisfying, most exciting, most normal, most "this just makes sense" 14 years of my life. ♥️

Happy 14th anniversary, love! You make the day in and day out better in every way. I'm so glad you were able to look past all the weird and odd and just see me all those years ago. lessthanthree


how it happened a year ago

Did you guys know we had a fourth baby? Yeah, I was surprised, too.

Usually in the few weeks after we have a baby I write up my version of the events in here. It's a bad excuse (especially since Sharayah managed over a dozen blog posts during the year), but between the baby and the other kids and work, I never got to it. So, here it is, mixed into his 1-year birthday post.

April 2021
We were hoping for an April baby so that every kid would have different birthday month. The due date was April 30, so we thought we definitely had a chance, although it would be close. My spring teaching semester would also be ending in the last week of April, so I made preparations in case Eli early came and I had to miss some final exams. I prepared all my exams over a week early and had them printed and sitting in labeled folders on my desk at work. The department chair had worked out various people who cold step in and proctor any given exam if I needed to miss any. I also got permission to skip graduation since I had to leave in the middle when we thought Sebi was coming (though he turned out not to be born until the following day, as you can read about in his "how it happened" post).

My parents came to be on call to watch the kids when labor started, we did some of the walking, spicy foods, etc. to get labor going, but he did not want to be an April baby.

Saturday, May 1
Sebi's 2nd birthday. We switched from wanting Eli to hurry up to wanting him to wait a little bit so they could have separate birthdays. We celebrated Sebi and things were still uneventful baby-wise.

That night, contractions started early enough that Sharayah didn't go to sleep. I went to sleep at some point but didn't sleep much.

Sunday, May 2
Around 3 she could tell she wouldn't be making it to morning without heading to the birth center. Around 4 she called the birth center and woke me up to call my parents and have them head over from the hotel to sleep on the couch so they could be with the kids in the morning. Contractions were progressing pretty steadily, so it seemed like we wouldn't be having another slow boy.

We arrived at the birth center around 5am. Contractions were already under 3 minutes apart. We got straight into the tub for possibly a water birth. Contractions slightly lessened in intensity once she was in the water, but they were still going pretty consistently most of the time. They definitely seemed to take a lot out of Sharayah. It seemed to me (because I only woke up at 4) that things were moving pretty quickly, but Sharayah seemed kind of discouraged that things weren't moving along as quick as she hoped they would, and she was getting really sleepy and tired. It turned out, actually things were still moving along. She spent most of the time up until the birth thinking that she might still be really far off from the pushing phase. For some reason, she just wasn't feeling those "the baby is really just about to come out" kinds of feelings. I think she was probably worried about it taking a long time like last time (when she labored for about four hours at the birth center) and she was also getting really beaten up by the contractions. I filled my usual role of speaking comforting words, putting pressure on her lower back because apparently that's useful (?), and just being there with her.

Around 7am, suddenly, he was definitely coming. For some reason (dealing with intense contractions?) Sharayah was standing when his head came out, so he was out of the water. They asked me if I wanted to catch him, so I went for it. It's kind of blurry, but it seems like he just kind of plopped into my hands. It was hard to see what I was doing, and such a crazy moment. Birth is always surreal and amazing, but catching the baby is a whole other layer. My brain says he did a sort of half-flip as he landed in my arms, but I'm sure that's just a weird brain thing.

Sharayah switched from exhausted and uncertain and ready to be annoyed if she had to wait a long time for the pushing phase again to over-the-moon happy in an instant. She always gets those post birth super content feelings, but I've never seen her glow quite like this before. She later very accurately described it as euphoria.

After approximately 8 hours of contractions, and less than two hours at the birth center, we got our fourth fella.

We stuck around for all the required checking him (and Sharayah) out to make sure everyone was ok. We stared at another miracle. Then we came home and I somehow waited a year to write this post.

In the past year, Eli has been our tiny, euphoria-inducing lump, another one-pound-per-week superchunk, and now a giant, walking and running tiny little man. He had the biggest chins we've seen yet and radiated the most pure, unadulterated joy. He loves his big brothers so much and couldn't wait to keep up with them. His motor skills developed way faster than any of his brothers, and he was walking freely at 9 months. Now he practically runs everywhere and giggle-chirps excitedly every time he has free reign to wander. He tackles the cat with gusto every chance he gets and tries to eat everything any brother has every held. He kept his gummy grin longer than anyone so far. He is somehow super clingy and needy but also able to play independently for pretty long periods of time (as long as we watch for him eating everything). He has the fluffiest little head ever and gives awesome tiny hugs. I didn't know I wanted a fourth baby, but he showed me I needed one.

The older kids have accepted him into the club with open arms. They constantly talk to him and show him things. As usual, Finley is the biggest baby lover. He now says Eli is his best friend and the one he loves the most. Everyone always wants to hug Eli, try to pick up Eli, or sit Eli in their laps (which is getting harder, since he's about 24 pounds). He just wants to be one of the big boys, and he's getting closer all the time.

Dear Eli,

You have successfully added to our chaos. I know you a little better than I usually know the new baby when I write this post. You are joy encapsulated and a determined, unstoppable force when you want to get somewhere. You (like your brothers before you) make me so out-of-my-mind tired, but I can't imagine our family without you. I'm sorry I took so long to write your birth story, but in fairness you made us wait until May when we clearly explained we wanted you to come in April. I love being your dad and watching you learn and grow and chase after your brothers. Happy birthday (for last year and this year)!


a naturally occurring haiku

After a full day of festivities celebrating Sebastian in all the ways a newly turned 3-year-old would love, it was finally bedtime. 

Every boy jammied.
Every tooth brushed.
Every book read. 

Jason was with the big three singing the songs, giving the animal kisses, doling out the extra hugs. I was with Eli, nursing him, trying not to doze off with him, rocking him before putting him in bed. 

And then it hit me like a sledge hammer to the gut [I know that sounds dramatic, but sometimes emotions are a tad dramatic and who am I to fight it]: This would be the last time I would go through this bedtime routine with my baby before he turns one the next day. In the midst of all the things Sebastian today, I hadn't given Eli's birthday even a passing thought until this moment. And did it ever hit hard.

He will be the same baby tomorrow. I will put him in his bed tomorrow night just one day older, no tangible difference in development or disposition, no quantifiable change in any way.

And yet. And yet, it will be completely different.

The first year getting to know someone can be life changing. Every time God gives you a new baby, there is this utterly satisfying realization of "Life will never be the same," and I can't help but revel in it. The Little Things, day in and day out, somehow become the Big Things I Never Want to Change. The newborn days turn to infant weeks, turn to baby months; rolling becomes sitting, becomes crawling, becomes toddling; coos transition into giggles, transition into babbling, transition into "Is that a word??" 

And then, suddenly, it is about to be one entire year since you first met, face to face, this bundle of goodness and wholeness in the squishiest of packages. Just one last bedtime routine. One last time of placing your drowsy baby into his crib before he celebrates his first trip around the sun. 

It hit me hard as I realized this, while literally in the middle of placing him into his bed. Did I lift him out again to walk with him a bit longer, snuggle him one last time? Did I awkwardly manage to pick up my phone off the floor with my toes and maneuver it into my non-dominant-baby-bearing hand so I could take one last picture of my drowsy mere-hours-away-from-being-one baby? Did I nudge him awake so I could whisper how much I love him and kiss every part of his soft face?

Spoiler alert: I did.

You are joy. You are determination. You are contentment. I hope life continues to amaze you with its wondrous discoveries. I hope you always know in your heart and feel in your soul the love we have for you. I hope you know I will forever chuck you under your chins [until you get embarrassed and ask me to stop]. Never stop chasing after good [and Puma]. You are indescribably loved and wanted and treasured.

it is the last night
putting my baby to bed
before he turns one


a day in the life

Just a normal Friday

6:45 am: Ignore first alarm.

6:50 am: Ignore second alarm.

7 am: Kick Jason. "We have to wake up now." Nurse Eli. Say hello to all the boys as they trickle into our room. Throw on some clothes. Put in contacts. Brush hair. Look in the mirror. Eh, good enough. Head downstairs with Sebi in tow. Realize the dishwasher was never turned on the night before. Start the dishwasher. Start making oatmeal. Sebi observes. Throw in blueberries. Sebi tastes. Chop up bananas. Sebi comments on the piece I dropped on the floor. Plop in a glob of peanut butter. Sebi requests to choose his own spoon so he can dip it in the jar. "Breakfast is ready, boys!"

8 am: Lucas eats his oatmeal right to left. Finley eats all the fruit first. Sebastian eats all but the last layer of oatmeal at the bottom of the bowl. Eli eats a flower rattle, a finger puppet dog, and a crinkle monkey. Discuss the huge flock of birds carousing behind the house. Hand wash the breakfast dishes and miscellaneous Tupperware left in the sink. Get Lucas started on his journal. Make a sandwich for Jason's lunch. Get Finley started on his writing and spelling. Jason heads to work. Rescue Eli from under a chair. Reset the Perplexus for Sebastian. Wipe a bottom. Reset the Perplexus for Sebastian nine more times. Watch his ball fall off the track nine more times. "It's not even 9 and you already want a snack?" Affirmative. Snack given. Refocus Lucas on his assignment. Quiz Finley on his spelling words. 25/25. "Nailed it, buddy." Rescue Eli from under the train table.

9 am: Review antonyms and degrees of words with Lucas. Listen to Finley finish his read-aloud. Start him on a subtraction game. Sebi watches. Open a bin of [large] buttons for Eli. Eli dumps out the buttons. Refill the button bin. Eli dumps out the buttons. Sebastian attempts the Perplexus yet again. Refill the button bin. Journal with Finley. Count buttons with Sebi. "Fifteen comes before sixteen." Eli needs a new bib. Wipe a bottom. Eli demands all the attention. Eli gets put in the carrier. Happy baby. Give Lucas permission to make up funny antonyms for his assignment. Initiate the Here's a Task game with Finley and Sebastian. Supervise fourteen stair races - the stairs are now clear of "one day we'll bring this upstairs" items. Open the Bible trivia cards for Sebi so he can arrange them in a row. Check the results of Lucas's three anatomy quizzes. Snack time. Ask Finley to find the scotch tape. Notice that he brings back a car to zoom instead. Make the scotch tape request again.

10 am: Supervise Finley and Sebi's clean up project in the front door area. Spray down bathroom sink to wash in five minutes. Start Lucas on an ounce conversion activity. Ask Sebi to play peekaboo with Eli during Eli's diaper change - Eli about bursts with excitement. Hear Lucas wailing about a mistake that he made in his math. Turn on a Bedbugs Bible Gang episode for Finley and Sebi. Go upstairs to nurse Eli and put him down for a nap. Come back down to find Lucas has finished his math and squeezed in between his brothers to also watch. Snack time during read-aloud. "I wonder what will happen to the one-eared bear." Show awe and interest in Finley's declaration that he is going to make a "ladder stand-er." Sebastian watches intently. Turn on some music styled to Ancient Roman times for Lucas.

11 am: Spray down the bathroom sink again due to forgetting it an hour ago. Review perimeters and areas with Lucas. "Remember, calculating your half perimeter will be useful for checking if your area layout is correct." Help Finley get some Lego heads off of Lego torsos. Wipe down the bathroom sink. Play cars with Sebastian. Discuss Ancient Roman entertainment with Lucas ["gladiators sure do fight a lot"]. Watch Sebi water paint and notice how carefully he's staying inside the lines. Listen to Finley's very detailed explanation about his Lego "hunting truck with equipment for catching bad guys." More Perplexus ball resetting for Sebastian. Start bread toasting, peanut butter spreading, crust cutting, apple peeling, cheese stick stringing. Explain to Finley the complicated situation of a good guy Lego man thinking another good guy Lego man is a bad guy and fighting the good guy instead of an actual bad guy. Supervise Lego room cleaning so Finley can make his 500+ piece set. Bible study with the boys while eating lunch. Wonder again why Isaac couldn't just give Esau another blessing. Rescue Sebastian's accidentally dumped out lunch bowl from the paws of the cat. Watch How It's Made while finishing up lunch. "You haven't seen every kind of rice there is, Lucas." Pick hairs off of Sebi's apple slices. Rub peanut butter out of the carpet.

12 pm: Clean up Eli's post-nap poop. Get some water for Finley. "You didn't spill that much, but if you want to change your shirt, you can." Take the TV remote out of Eli's mouth. Field questions from Lucas about how garage door openers know which garage door to open. Help Finley open his new Lego set. Announce to everyone that Finley is going to be building his new car set so that everyone goes to watch him. Enjoy five minutes of me time, interrupted only by taking You Can't Eat That items out of Eli's mouth. Endure Eli's climbing-on-mama skills. Tickle baby thighs. Put the Perplexus ball on the start spot for Sebi. Print out Lucas's reading comprehension worksheet. Clean up the front room. Request Eli not drool so much. Watch as Eli ignores request. 

1 pm: Vacuum front room. Shake Eli off my leg. Continue to vacuum with Eli hanging on like a sloth. Warn Finley and Sebastian that they're playing a dangerous game. Set up Lucas's Chinese lesson. Run to see who is screaming. "Where are your clothes and who is hurt?" Give the okay for a balloon battle. Follow Eli upstairs. Turn on some music for a dance session. Collect random articles of boy clothing strewn about the living room. Snack time. Debate whether a duck can fly or not and if a panda named Duck can fly or not. Put Sebi down for his nap. Nurse Eli. Wipe milky baby sneeze off my face. Ooh and aah Finley's lego police car. Trail behind Eli all over the house.

2 pm: Play cars while Eli eats cars. Build duplos while Eli eats duplos. Take apart some Lego bricks. Find a brick remover in the middle of the floor. Pre-quiet-time bickering. ("No, you don't need a bookmark for that. Just remember the page number. No, you aren't on page 25, you're on step 25. Because I remember. Because I saw you do that step. You should still try to go pee. Because I don't want you careening out of your room in five minutes when you're upstairs and your brother is napping. No, you didn't just go, you went two hours ago. I know you don't like to wash your hands. Why are you still sitting there? That's not your bowl. Where are your animals? I don't know where Deer is. Please stop whining about this."). Bask in the quiet for three seconds before remembering there's a baby somewhere. Find him in the kitchen eating foam magnets. Head upstairs. Catch the last ten minutes of Let's Make a Deal. "Just pick door three!"

3 pm: Nurse Eli and put him down for his nap. Wake Sebi up from his nap. Eat all the plastic foods that Sebi feeds me. Read books with Sebi. "I like that digger, too." Tell the big boys they can come out of quiet time. 

4 pm: Cheer when Jason gets home from work. Take a dinner poll. Beans and rice win again. Hear Sebi whisper, "I'm big." Note Lucas and Finley working together on a big Lego build. Put together a farm puzzle with Sebastian. And an underwater puzzle. And a space puzzle. Retrieve Eli from his nap. Shuffle Uno cards for Lucas and Finley. Start burrito rolling and applesauce pouring. 

5 pm: Eat dinner. Take post-dinner activity poll. Clean basement stairs. Enjoy the squeals and giggles from the boys on the trampoline. Nurse Eli. Remind Finley he wanted to do a math game. Explain to Lucas why there is not time for him to also do a math game. 

6 pm: Clean up the kitchen. Clean up the living room. Wonder how the front room is a mess again. Look at the clock. "Ten minutes til bedtime, boys!" Herd everyone upstairs. Give eight reminders to put on jammies. Cozy up in bed and wait for the boys to bring books to read with me. 

7 pm: Read four books. Give six hugs. Nurse Eli. Kiss that sweet baby head. Breathe a sigh of completion when that bedroom door closes. Collapse into bed. Listen to the boys tell stories through the monitor. Finish the day's Bible reading.

8 pm - bedtime: Contemplate all the things I could do to be productive. Do none of them. Hang out with my best guy.


second Christmas

Tonight is Christmas Eve round 2.

Since December 25th left much to be desired in terms of festive spirits and healthy, giggly children, we told the boys as soon as everyone was feeling healthy again, we would do Second Christmas for them. And so here we are, Christmas Eve-ing again.

Our house is probably the only one in the neighborhood with their Christmas lights still on. Our tree is casting Christmas-y flickers about the living room. As soon as the boys are asleep, Jason will be up building the boys' "big" gift down in the frigid basement and I will be wrapping the few gifts that arrived post-Christmas and listening to cheery Christmas music. Tomorrow we will read the Christmas story and open presents and eat a boy-requested Christmas dinner of burritos and applesauce. We are all very excited.

This morning Lucas announced, "We are going to have TWO Christmases this year! First, we will have Christmas on January 8th, and then we'll have another Christmas on December 25th. That's pretty great." And then Finley exclaimed, "Maybe we'll even have THREE." And Sebastian chimed in with, "Maybe THREE!"

We probably won't have a third Christmas. But if Second Christmas goes well, then... well, never say never.


24 hours

How much can happen in 24 hours?

A vomiting 4-year-old who can't keep anything down.
A power outage that started in the middle of the boys' bedtime routine.
Tornado sirens through the night.
Uncharged phones.
Sleeping on the floor outside of the boys' rooms [because no power means no monitors] so we could hear when Finley was throwing up or Eli wanted to eat or Sebi needed something.
All the anxiety that comes from the swirling thoughts of "How long is it okay for him to go with zero intake?" and "At what point do we need to get everyone out of bed and take them to the basement?"

So much stress.
So much prayer.

But God is good.

The 4-year-old ate some toast and applesauce today. He finally had enough energy to get off the couch this afternoon and play and laugh and bicker.
The sirens didn't wake anyone up.
The power came back on last night so we didn't have to spend the whole night miserable and uncomfortable in the hallway.
The tornados passed just east of us with no damage to our house.

I'm still decompressing from my drastically heightened state of emotion. I do not handle "unknown health status of my child" well at all and seeing the contents of your baby's stomach repeatedly emptied onto the floor or into a bucket rates pretty high on my personal scale of traumatizing events. So I've basically been useless the last 36 hours or so. But Jason.

Jason has been incredible. He thoroughly cleaned up the very purple, blueberry oatmeal vomit from the carpet and couch. Every single time Finley thought he was about to throw up, Jason was there to hold the bucket and comfort him. He went to work late and came home early to help me with the kids. He kept a close eye on the storm radar throughout the night. He was always positive, always helpful, always trying to get me to laugh or improve my mood. I love this man with all my heart.

This has not been the weekend we envisioned. But I think we've made it through. Thanks be to God.

The saddest sight

Finally, a spark of regular Finley after 36 hours of sad Finley ♥️♥️♥️


the magical donkey

Eli has always been my most finicky baby to nurse (not that you can tell by his physique), and I do not care for it. It is the type of thing that stresses me out big time. He goes through terrible phases of just refusing to cooperate any time it's time to nurse. We are in one of those phases right now (albeit not the worst one, thankfully) and he was just screaming at me every time I tried to feed him. 

Finally, at my wit's end, I sat him up, randomly grabbed his stuffed donkey, and nuzzled it in his face. He almost instantly stopped crying, if only to investigate this new turn of events, and then wrapped his chubby little arms around the donkey. I decided to risk lying him down to nurse again, holding my breath, waiting for him to start screaming at me again, but... he didn't. He latched. He ate. He kept a tight grip on his donkey. And he fell asleep. 

And my soul calmed. 

His little hands squeezing furry ears. His steady breathing in and out. His body relaxed against mine. I let both of us rest in that moment, waiting those few extra minutes before putting him in bed.

Is it a magical donkey? Will I be nursing my almost 21-pound, 7-month-old baby with a donkey squished between us from now on? Probably not. Most likely it was a one-time-only moment of sweetness. But I will take it. It was just what I, and apparently he, needed. 

This mama gig is the most emotionally trying and emotionally fulfilling job in the world. But even on the hard days, I love it more than words can say.


goldfish, down the hatch!

Today Sebastian accidentally knocked an entire open bag of goldfish crackers upside-down onto the open air vent. As I heard them pour down the vent, clinking and clanking as they went, I was so.annoyed. The first thing out of my mouth was an exasperated "Why would you do that?!"


It is such a pointless question to ask, especially of a 2-year-old. Why did he do that? Because he's not super aware of his surroundings and moves without thinking. Because he's human and he makes mistakes. Because he's a child, who is in need of grace on the daily.

It is such a pointless question and yet I hear myself asking it of one child or another at least once every.single.day. Inevitably, once the exasperation has worn off a bit, I hear myself and I find myself so annoyed by my reaction. It wasn't a big deal, probably less than a dollar's worth of crackers wasted, clearly a harmless accident. Why do I let my knee-jerk reaction be one of pointless shaming? Why would I do that?!

And then I hear myself. Again. Using the same phrase to shame myself for unthinkingly shaming my child not five minutes ago. 


Why would I do that? Basically for the same reason my 2-year-old does things [only with a wee bit extra awareness of my surroundings]. Because I do and say things without thinking. Because I am an imperfect human who makes mistakes. Because I am a child of God who is in need of His grace on the daily.

I am so glad God's knee-jerk reaction is not an annoyed "Why would you do that?!" but rather a patient "I love you. Here's how I can help you make it right." So that is what I will work towards: Less shame, more grace, and not leaving open bags of snacks around.

Completely unrelated: We need to buy some more gold fish from Costco soon. 


mama's boy

My little Sebastian. 

He has always intensely been a Mama's boy, as a baby and even now as a toddler. I cannot step into the kitchen without him running in, dragging a chair over to the counter, and saying, "Mama, what doing? What making? Want see that." He loves to help load and unload the dishwasher, peer into every jar I open, hand me dishes to rinse, and taste test everything. He is such a sweet, shy, affectionate boy.

Recently, he has been dealing with all the big emotions. Just bursting into tears at random times and answering our "What's wrong? What made you sad?" with wails of "I don't knoooow!" He has also been deliberately testing his boundaries, knowingly doing things he's told not to or flat out refusing to obey. It's been a lot, for all parties involved.

I imagine it is hard being at that in between age of No Longer a Baby But Not Quite Yet a Big Kid. New freedoms, new abilities. But also new expectations, new rules. Sometimes I fear he must find life confusing and parents hypocritical.

But, I know he will get through it. I know we will get through it. There will be a lot of tears and unexplainable moments of body-shaking frustration, yes. But, I promise you, my darling boy, they will be countered with a lot of hugs, a whole bunch of snuggling, and the always promise of "I love you no matter what." 

You will forever be mama's little boy, Sebi ♥️