Being Caleb

Dear Caleb,

You are 12.  Sitting at the cusp of your teen years, you are exceptional at many things, best of all at being Caleb.  You are intricately, uniquely created.  You rushed to the house yesterday, your freshly turned 12 self, and had eyes so round and full I thought they might spill over.  My instinct told me you weren’t hurt or worried.  But I knew you needed all of my attention with one glance.  You could scarcely get the words out as you beckoned me with your body to come with you.  Baby cousin in arms, I loped across the grass with you to see the amazing, beautiful thing that blended in so quietly, so perfectly with the mottled tree bark I still can’t believe your eyes could see it.  A barred owl.  Mysterious and stunningly marked with stripes of brown mixed with cream.  Looked just like strips of tree bark.  But with huge brown eyes staring down.  Right at you.  Right at all of us.  All of us who would have missed it.  Would have missed the crazy flurry of protective mama-birds diving and squawking terrified back in the forest at the day time sight of this looming predator.  You explored and wondered until your curiosity at the strange behavior gave way to the answer, sitting up high on a tree branch.

This is the essence of you.  You who sees hidden wonders.  You who feels deeply.  You who hears amplified.  You who experiences the whole of life in a way I can’t, won’t ever, fully be able to understand.  You have, in all your one-of-a-kind way, opened up slivers of life that we would not have known had you not been given to this family.  Your passion for the created world?  Blows.  My.  Mind.  The way you pay attention to the smallest detail in the sedimentary lines formed in a rock sample (of which you now own close to 200).  The way you disappear for an hour and then return with a collection of insects and tell me what they are.  The way you gently place a blue lace-wing moth on your baby sisters’ chubby finger and watch in delight as it crawls across her hand.  The way you care for your seed starts that sit in your bedroom.  The way you can read a (great) book for three hours and not think to look away from the page or stop for water or take a break.   All these ways and a thousand more.  I love them, every one.

We have been stretched by who you are.  In the best way.  Stretched to expand and grow  and to learn new things, new ways, new love.  So much we would miss if you weren’t here to show us.  You point our eyes to see the owl and beckon our ears to listen for the woodpecker.  Thank you for this.  Don’t stop being awestruck.  Don’t stop letting beauty and creation and life take your breath away.

All my love,

Mama

ps – Thank you for seeing this beautiful pink flower three years ago deep in the forest and digging it up carefully and planting it right by the front door “so you could see it mom”.  Three years now it has faithfully bloomed and brings me deepest joy.  This is the kind of thing you do.  This is who you are.

The Finn turns five!

Dear five year old Finn,

I just went outside and you were delightedly hanging 10 feet off the ground from a tree branch.  You are fearless and big boy brave every day of your life.  You’ve climbed trees with ease since you were three.  Now you have a little sister whom you show the ropes to all day long and you’ve taught her boisterous self just how to climb too.  And you are proud.  You have your own garden plot this year and you tell me you want to grow me peas.  You’ve weeded your garden twice despite me explaining that you will have to wait to put the pea seeds in the ground until April.  I often find you at the first aid box opening the green salve and wiping it onto some part of your adventurous self.  In fact you are so skilled at caring for your wounds that two weeks ago when we got to church I noticed you had blood on your shirt and Star Wars bandaids and sticky blood all over your hand.  While we were all getting ready to leave, you had tried to cut open a bagel.  You cut your hand and simply went upstairs to your personal bandaid supply and covered your wound.

You tell the most amazing dragon stories.  And they always have a brave hero.  And his name is always Finn.  You still tell me the story of Caleb saving your life summer before last.  You know which direction the train was coming and you know that you were frozen there, on the tracks.  And you still show great emotion in the retelling.  Near daily you like to ask me “Mom, do you wanna be a mouse lemur or a cockroach?” or “Which animal do you like better mom, a caracal or a sea otter?”.   You tell me that you want to be a race car driver when you grow up.  Your love for all things John Deere is waning which makes me sad.  You are growing into Lego and out of tractor and I wouldn’t mind if you stayed tractor-crazy forever.

You holler fairly often at present.  But it’s beginning to diminish  You have lots to express and don’t always have the patience to wait for words.  You don’t care that shoes were meant to be worn in pairs or that typically people wear shirts in the winter.  I love these things about you.  I love all the boy that you are and could not fathom our life or this world without you.  You are one of a kind awesome and it’s my absolute gift to be your mama.

Always,

Mama

The fantastic Finn

He turned three this week.  If I thought I had been exposed already to “all things boy” with two other boys already, I was wrong.  Phineas continues to keep me on my toes and I continue to marvel at the person he is…

Dear Finn,

Nearly every single day you do something that astounds, surprises, shocks or terrifies us.  Just when we think we’ve figured out how you manage to get out of your room in the middle of the night to take a Costco-sized bag of hoagie rolls into your bed with you, we are found wrong, again.  You’ve mastered the “child proof lock” over and over.  It apparently is no match for your ingenious young self.  You have a tree in the front yard that is sort of your own…you climb to the top with ease, have done so since you were 2 1/2 years old and peek out the top calling my name.

You potty trained yourself for three months last summer but then decided that was overrated and haven’t done so again since.  When I hold up a green crayon and ask you what color it is, you reply “John Deere”.  And I don’t correct you.  Truth is, I’ll be sad the day you are grown up enough to call it green.  You know the rest of your colors just fine.  Your vocabulary and ability to communicate is beyond any of your siblings at this age.  When you open your mouth in the company of someone who doesn’t know you, they are quite always surprised to hear you chatter on in long sentences….you’ve done so for at least 6 months already.

You live, breath, love all things John Deere.  You can’t stand wearing jeans but love wearing either pajama pants or your Carhartt “farm suit” as you call it.  This morning while I was doing dishes I looked out my window to see you outside, in 38 degree February weather, walking around the yard with your new “chainsaw” trying to fell every tree you came across.  After a few unsuccessful attempts, you were content to sit on the playset and hold your saw and grin at me:

002

I came downstairs two weeks ago to find you very diligently doing the dishes…

124

Obviously they needed doing.  This is you in a nutshell.  You see everything around you.  You find ways to obtain or accomplish just about anything you set your mind to.  You are tenacious and determined and possess such strength that sometimes I can only shake my head and hope that your dad and I can harness and direct your energy in the right direction.  I can’t wait to see who you will become, who you were created to be.

We are so thankful for all that you bring to our family!

Love,

Mama

90 years

His life has been so rich.  His contributions so many.  And in these last years of his long and amazing life his world is growing increasingly small.  I don’t think too often about what the rest of my life will look like.  My today is full and requires everything I have (and usually a little bit more).  But when I’m 90 I surely hope I love Jesus and love family the way my Grandpa does.  Getting to share a week with him this July was such a treasure.  Since we won’t all be able to travel back east for his 90th birthday bash, we celebrated out here.

Great Grandpa with Rylee at the beach
With Audrey!
Our last living grandparent, Grandpa Larson, and his 7 great-grands!
My sisters and I with Grandpa

As we took turns going around the room and reading him our birthday letters, we shared with him the impact his life had had, on us and on many.  After each of us spoke, he would say that he hoped that what we’d said was even partly true.  And we would choke up and tell him that indeed, what we had spoken was what we meant.  His humble and tender heart, the way he tells me “You’re doing such a great job, keep up the good work with those kids!” speaks so deeply to my being, every single time he says it.  He is a great and brilliant man who has worked very hard and lived a full and rich life.  It was a delight to celebrate with him while he is still with us.

 

 

 

One year ago today…

…I was getting pulled over on 405 by a police officer with all 4 kids in the car.  Seconds before I saw his lights I’d hung up the phone with my midwife.  I had barely gotten on the freeway and could not figure out why he was pulling me over.  He walked up to my window and I was unmistakably, enormously pregnant.  He asked me if I knew my tabs were expired.  Five months expired.  As soon as I opened my mouth I’m sure he regretted it – it went something like this, with no breaths for air:

Oh my goodness no!  In October, what?  I thought they mailed you that little postcard that told you to get new tabs.  That’s right, I remember someone telling me that they don’t mail it anymore, have to save money somewhere.  But I never looked at my plates so I didn’t notice.  Oh my.  The midwife just called me and I just hung up with her when you were pulling me over.  She’s going to come to my house in two hours, TWO HOURS, and I’m going to have a baby.  TODAY!  So I’m, you know, a little frazzled and excited and I wasn’t expecting it to be today and I’ve got to get home and is there any way I can renew my tabs after the baby comes?

I’m pretty sure that wasn’t all but you get the idea.  I was a mile-a-minute to the moon bursting with excitement and nervousness and could not care less about my tabs just had to go home to get my home birth box all set up and my kitchen clean and have a baby and all.  As soon as I let him talk he said, “Oh wow, yeah you have a lot going on.  You get yourself home safely and have yourself a baby.  Just renew those tabs as soon as you can.”  I smiled and said I would and headed home.

I made the calls and picked up the house.  My sister started a dinner that would feed the midwife and whoever else was at our house.  The whole story was that the weather was cold and it was supposed to snow.  I have a history of fast labors, barely made it to the birth center last time.  And I was very progressed and ready but not in active labor.  So she gave me the option of them breaking my water so that we would know for sure that the midwife would be present for the delivery.  My husband had read the pamphlet entitled “What to do if baby arrives before midwife” and he said he really didn’t want to utilize the info.  Who could blame him.

The midwife and her student went to get coffee after my water broke and pretty soon I called them back to say that things were moving right along.  About three hours later a plump and purple-ish baby boy was born in our bedroom – with Rylee behind me rubbing my back and my mom and sister standing next to me with Kyler and Audrey. His daddy helped catch him and told us all “It’s a boy!”.  He got some oxygen and perked up and all I could think was “there are rolls EVERYWHERE”.  He was so plump and round.  After snuggling and getting rubbed off, he weighed in and everyone gasped.  10 pounds 11 ounces.  I was instantly thankful that he’d been born that day and not one day later!

We all sat on my bed together and soaked it all in.  It was the experience I had dreamed of but it still seemed very surreal.  It was bedtime so my mom and dad helped get kids in bed and we settled in for the night. We marveled together as we watched him sleep and counted ourselves tremendously blessed.

One year later and we’re not sleeping much but we wouldn’t trade the sleep for anything.  Phineas is a perfectly wonderful addition to our family.  We joke that he’s like a movie star in his own home.  Every time he wakes up from a nap there is fanfare and greetings galore for his sleepy, smiley face.  His brothers love to crash trucks to make him laugh.  His sisters love to snuggle and play baby with him.  His daddy loves to hold him in just the right spot on his shoulder.  His mama kisses his face and head all over.  Every single day.

Yes, it’s loud.  Yes, there is chaos.  Yes, we’ve got hard days just like everyone does.

But oh my, the love…there is
so.
much.
love.

first time for everything – he didn’t make a fuss, just fell asleep in his high chair
first time climbing into a drawer
finding the apple box
he's got a penchant for emptying the recycle bin!

A nine year old!

Nine years ago last week we welcomed a tiny, sick, premature baby into our family and became parents for the first time.  She has grown into an amazing, beautiful girl who will be a young woman before we know it.  This is her birthday letter (part of it at least…) from this year:

  You are nine years old.  My heart bursts with gratitude for the girl you are becoming.  As I watched you open gifts last night for your birthday you were so grown up and polite and genuine as you found delight in each present you had been given.  I did not have to remind you to say thank you and you were so grateful and so quick to appreciate what you received.  It reflected a growing up, maturing heart that is often a beautiful reflection of Jesus to those around you.

Your heart for others Rylee, its amazing.  And for years now I’ve agonized over the lack of friends for you in our life and how hard daily life with your brother can be day in and day out.  You endure a lot with him and sometimes you have such a great time.  But there are days that he hurts you with words, hands and attitude.  We’ve tried our best to provide friendship-making-opportunities for you but nothing great has panned out.

Until now.  God has heard our many prayers and He has opened up new doors with a sweet group of girls that I can see becoming long time, precious friends for you.  He cares so much about you.  He knew just who you would be and just what you would need.  As you head into the pre-teen years, you will crave companions and these new girls are perfectly suited to share life with you.  They love animals, they are in 4-H, they go to our co-op, they have parents who love Jesus….the list goes on.  I just want to make sure I wrote you about how faithful God has continued to be to you and how much we see Him in and around you.

You love to put your baby brother down for naps and are so proud when you get him to sleep.  You often ask me if I got much sleep when you see me in the morning.  You are quick to help with meal preparation and love, love to organize things.  You share.  A lot.  You are the apple of your little cousin Ruby’s eye.  I’m pretty sure you’ll need chiropractic help for your back after all the time you LOVE spending holding little ones.

You’ve identified our baby pattern and have resolved that the “next baby God gives us will be a boy”.  It’s that simple to you.  Our value of life, all life, is so internalized in you – it often truly blows me away.  How you will live out your life and your purpose with driving truths as counter culture as these I do not know.  I do know that your dad and I cannot wait to see your life continue to unfold.  Your sensitivity to what is going on around you in the lives, faces and hearts of others is far, far beyond your years.

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.

YOU ARE OUR TREASURE.

Our life, our family is so, so much better because of you.

Happy 9th birthday sweet girl!

Modeling the pillowcase dress she sewed last week at a 4-H sewing workshop!  After she shows it at the fair it will be donated to an orphanage in Haiti.

Cinderella girl

This year in celebration of our 8 year old birthday girl, we headed to the PNB ballet for their exquisite performance of Cinderella.  It did not disappoint.  We shared dinner with two girl friends and their mamas along with both Grammy and Nana.  I’m pretty sure never before has Rylee anticipated anything as much as this night.  Here are a few snapshots of our fun:

The gift of together time

We booked a campsite many weeks ago and it wasn’t refundable, so when the weather forecast turned to rain, we went back and forth about going or not.   Since we’ve talked for several years about camping in the San Juan Islands and had never done it, we opted to call it adventure and go for it.   There is so much that I used to take for granted when Chris worked at his old job.  One of the biggest was simply time together.

Nearly two years into his new position, family time is now of utmost value.  It is a little sad it took the loss of it for us to realize how precious it is.  But better than not at all.  It’s all part of the journey, I know.

On a lighter note, we learned many good things camping with four little people.   Like “EZ setup” might mean nearly two hours of hard work and the use of bandaids to hold poles together….and that a big pot of chili is not the best camping fare when all six share one tent…and that the term “quiet hours” doesn’t apply at some campgrounds.

Since it’s Monday here is the continuation of my list of 1000 gifts joining the gratitude community combined with some shots from our trip:

#211 – the delight of memory-making

#212 – surprising Daddy with birthday brownies while we camped on his special day

#213 – learning yet again that so much of life is all about how you look at it

#214 – hiking/climbing the kids’ first mountain, Turtleback Mountain on a spectacular sunny day

#215 – long ferry rides and trying to explain what archipelago means

#216 – being windblown

#217 – being up so early together that clouds were still sitting on many of the islands!

#218 – boys who don’t always like eachother but can sure act like it sometimes

#219 – four imperfect children who continue to refine and change us

#220 – coming ‘home’ from our great hike to see this fella in our campsite – incredible!

#221 – sleeping snug and dry while rain poured all night over our tent

#222 – the end of belly sleeping for mama till springtime

#223 – how it feels to do something you’ve so long wanted to do

#224 – the way I was able to breathe again after calling to cancel a certain 4 year old’s attendance at preschool

#225 – the massive challenge and blessing of homeschool

Ranger Kyler’s birthday party

A few months ago I found old movies on DVD from the thrift store.  One was a bunch of old Lone Ranger episodes.  The kids were hooked.  So naturally, Kyler ended up with a Lone Ranger party this year.  I’m actually finding it a delightful challenge to pick a theme and plan a party that doesn’t blow the bank (like $250 to rent Jump Planet!) and that is plain old fashioned fun.

My sister had her baby last week so my planning had been minimal but we still pulled off a super fun day at a gorgeous local park

The kids were instructed on the Lone Ranger’s job of bringing justice to the Wild West, they were informed that a bank robber bandit was loose in the park (Daddy) and they need to find him.  So they headed out with hats and horses gallivanting  around the park.

Doesn’t he look bad? (grin)

It was a great day for this little man and although he got a bee sting and his eye is now mostly swollen shut, I’d say it was just about perfect.  We’re getting the hang of this birthday thing…two years ago we decided that we wanted birthday’s to be a bigger deal and to take the focus of Christmas off the gifts and focus on the Gift and on blessing others.  We also talked about how having a large family we needed to be intentional about celebrating the uniqueness of each person in our family.  While we don’t have it figured out, it’s sure fun learning!

Sir Caleb’s birthday bash!

Before I could write this birthday post, I had to write yesterday’s post so that the full awesomeness of the birthday could be understood.  I don’t want to forget this part of the journey.  It was Caleb’s third birthday, at a train museum with a bunch of kids, that I began to realize that I really didn’t understand what was going on in his little brain.  The noise, all the people, the attention, the pressure….everything completely overwhelmed him.  He didn’t have any fun, it was so sad.  I won’t post the pictures I have that prove it.  From that point, with a lot of help and support, we began to figure out how to do things so that he could enjoy them.  His next two birthdays were small, simple family events.

This past year he’s taken leaps and bounds and as soon as we started the birthday party brainstorming (this was the first party we let him invite just who he wanted to and actually plan with us!) – I really felt like he could handle a big, boisterous party.

Handle it he did.  Enjoy it he did.  Experience it by the minute in sheer delight he did.

And we watched in wonder.  Only those who’ve known him for years could fully understand the changes and appreciate what a monumental, life victory kind of day this was for our sweet six year old.

We made a last minute change of plans due to weather and met up at an elementary school so we could eat lunch at my parents house.  The phone call the night before went something like this:

Me:  “Mom, I was just calling to see if you think we should move the party since it’s raining and cold?”

Mom (not stopping to think):  “Might be a good idea.  You could have it here, we could use the woods at the school and then eat at our house.”

Me:  “Um, Mom, don’t you remember there are 18 children between the ages of 2 and 8 coming?”  And don’t you remember that you just remodeled your kitchen and that you have cream colored carpets?

Mom (cheerful and certain):  “Sure, it’s no problem, it will be just fine.”

Sort of in disbelief but very grateful at the offer, I said yes.  I almost called back and said we’d have it here.  But the reality of 32 people in our little rambler was enough to keep me from it.

First the kids decorated little burlap satchels that our kids had sewn for them.  They would hold their (chocolate) gold coins from the forest hunt.

Then everyone lined up to get instruction for the Sherwood forest adventure.  Chris had hidden dozens of gold coins in the forest and we also hid a bunch of canned food.  I explained that Robin Hood always wanted to help the poor and that in the spirit of Robin Hood, we would hunt for food then donate it all to the food bank after the party.  I also told any that might not know that when Robin needed help from the members of his band he would blow three horns on his bugle.  So everyone got handed a bugle (my friends may not forgive me for the OBNOXIOUS noise they make!) and they were off.

After the mad frenzy search for coins and food, we all took turns shooting with Caleb’s new bow and arrows that he graciously shared with everyone.  Check out that handsome archer!

After everyone had had a hand at the bow and their fill of gold in their purse, we headed for Nana and Papa’s.  The kids pulled the red wagon full of food and walked the few blocks home in a darling parade.   Then there was food and feasting!

We shared many sweet glances throughout the day, that said more than words could have.  All the hard work, late nights sewing, etc was worth it.  Way beyond the party work, I think we both felt like life in general was worth it.  And for all that life has been these last couple months, we really needed a day like that.  All of us.

For a few more fun photos, especially of my nephew Isaac at the party, check out my sisters’ blog!