Friday, September 1, 2017

Expecting Oliver, Part 3

In the middle of October, 2015, we learned that our sweet fifth baby was a little boy.

Greg and I rejoiced over the best cheeseburgers in town and marveled at the idea of another little blue-eyed, towheaded Smith kid inhabiting our home and our hearts. Oliver, we thought. We think he'll be Oliver. 

The months that followed were a blur of joyful chaos. We went up to my sister's farm with our close friends and surprised them with the news that our baby was a boy...

We took advantage of a beautiful fall day and went to the zoo with our homeschooling pals...

We picked pumpkins at Shenot's with our family, a sweet annual tradition we had dearly missed when we were in Rochester...

We trick-or-treated with our cousins...

...and had a Halloween party in the park with our friends.

We celebrated the first goal Max scored in a game...

and I was one large and in charge grammar and writing tutor to some incredible kids...

 And we found a house we loved. We'd moved into a rental in mid-June with the intention of staying there a whole year, but the surprise news of Oliver's impending arrival put our feet on the gas pedal to find a place to call home. We found it. We saw it. We loved it. We bought it. Three days before Thanksgiving, we signed the papers and the house was ours.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Expecting Oliver, Part 2

One of my very favorite memories of my pregnancy with Oliver was the day I told my mom that I was expecting him. My sis, mom, and I have a really fun tradition. Once a year, either in the spring or summer, we go to the Grand Concourse for brunch to celebrate our birthdays. We get a table looking out onto the river, eat plate after plate of delicious food, and drink lots of hot, fresh coffee. We talk and we eat, which is what we do best.

I knew my mom was going to be completely floored when I told her we were having baby #5, so I wanted to surprise her in a special way. The night before our brunch, I went out and bought a baby bottle, and when we arrived at the restaurant I excused myself to got to the loo and snuck to the wait stand instead. Our waitstaff could not have been more accommodating when I gave them the bottle and asked them to deliver it to her; I think they were more excited about it than I was! They poured fresh squeezed orange juice into it, and as soon as she asked for a glass of juice, they said they'd go grab it, walked quickly to the kitchen, and then returned with nothing but the bottle. They sat it in front of her, and then kindly began snapping pictures for me!

This was the very first picture they took. My sweet mom was so confused! I had a little note tied to the front of the bottle - something about her becoming a grandma again. 

 Still confused... and trying to be polite. We were celebrating her birthday and I think she just thought I was giving her a really weird present the kids had made :-).

The moment she figured it out...

"Really? Really?" she kept asking.

Now the tears... she was so excited, which meant the world to me.

This is what we call the Wheatley Family Ugly Cry. No major life event would be complete without it.

 Even the waitress cried! We all were so excited about our darling baby on the way.

I gave her a framed picture of his first sonogram, and she stared at it as if she hadn't already stared at fifteen grainy sonogram images from her first fifteen grands. She stared and stared, saying, "That's amazing." People always marvel to her, saying "Wow, only three daughters but so many grandchildren!" but God's had this figured out all along. He has given her grandbabies upon grandbabies because she cherishes them so much.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Expecting Oliver, Part 1

Two years ago, we had just moved back to Pittsburgh after two years in Rochester, NY. We moved into a rental home, unpacked a few boxes, flew to a wedding in Atlanta, and discovered that I was pregnant. In that order. We were thrilled, which surprised people. I'm still not sure why that was. Because we already had four children? Because we weren't in our twenties anymore? We were surprised by the world's surprise... Another baby was welcomed, wonderful news. We rejoiced.

We snuck away a few days later for my birthday and I had the first tiny picture of our sweet boy in my pocket... that morning I'd had an ultrasound my new obstetrician had insisted on because of my age. Determination of viability, she'd written on the script. I know that cruelty was not her intention, but her words sliced my heart like a sharp butcher knife, and I walked into that ultrasound the next day with quaking knees. I already loved this baby. I was already dreaming of his smile, his soft newborn head cradled against my chest, that sweet first gaze we'd share. When I saw his tiny heart flickering on the screen, his tiny arms and legs already swimming and cycling, I felt that specific joy I've only felt three other times in my life. He was so new that his heartbeat couldn't be picked up on a doppler, and yet there he was: one hundred percent alive. One hundred percent our boy. If anyone ever tells you that at six weeks gestation, or eight weeks, or twelve, it is not yet a baby, you are being lied to. Email me, and I will tell you the truth. I give you my word that I will help you.

We stayed at a fancy hotel downtown and hung out on the rooftop deck with the twenty-somethings. We felt old and didn't mind. Already queasy, I sipped ginger ale and looked out over the city I loved so much, the city that God, in His faithfulness, brought us back to. We were home, and we were having a baby, and life could not have been sweeter that night.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

In Which I Dump Two Years of Life Into a Rapid Series of Posts

Life has a way of turning nearly upside down when you suddenly find yourself the homeschooling mother of five. I still can't figure out how to get the laundry done. I still rarely get a full night's sleep. We still haven't finished the math books, and it's June.


I haven't blogged in a while. I'd like to start back up again, and the reason is that this is the most precious record of our fleeting days that I have. Some people scrapbook, and have those lovely Shutterfly albums of every major life event stacked up neatly, chronologically even, on their living room bookshelves. Some are really good at taking their kids to those photography places every six months to stand on the dirty white background and cock their head to the side while holding some silly prop. I am not good at scrapbooking, and my kids look like plastic versions of themselves in those white-background silly-prop photographs.

I blog.

More accurately, I used to blog. It was the truest way I found to capture our lives on a daily basis. I read posts from six years ago, and can remember the exact way I felt that day, the exact way my children looked, the exact pitch of their voices. What a gift.

So begins my stuttering attempt to resume the recording of our moments and days. We have lived so much life in the past two years, and it's time to start marking it again. This is the only way I know how.

"God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December."
James M. Barrie

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Saturday's Kid

As the summer days began their surrender to fall, I found myself dreading Saturdays. Summer Saturdays were blissfully slow - wide open spaces to weed, read, and grill dinner at seven as the sun started to sink behind the hillside out back. All the while, September Saturdays loomed like a tempest on the calendar, the small white boxes filled with angry black sharpie marching orders: ballet, gymnastics, soccer games, grocery runs.

Busy is often necessary right now. We're in a busy season. Greg and I considered each yes carefully before we said it on behalf of ourselves or our children, sifting through the consequences of that choice before the words left our mouths. We have no regrets.

Even so, busy is hard. I sometimes find myself thirsting for grace as I heave the carseat in and out of the minivan and bark orders at my kids to hurry up, slow down, get your shoes on, grab your bag. And when that begged-for grace is faithfully imparted, it always catches me by surprise.

Greg usually heads in one direction with the older boys, while I head in the opposite direction with Chloe and the littles. With time to kill, we've taken to meandering the streets of one of our favorite little towns, hitting up the library and the sweets shop before the clock strikes twelve and our ballerina is ready for us. We love to walk down a few of the lovely tree-lined lanes running parallel to the main street, picking out our favorite houses and kicking up the leaves. 

God took what I was dreading and made it sweet.

As they say, all is grace.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Artist, Baker, Butter Maker

Never has there been a more eager kindergartener than our Charlie - at least not within the Smith family. Give this kid all the crayons, all the snipping, all the glue sticks. He'll churn through 'em and ask for more. I bought him his kindergarten  handwriting book (the same one his older brothers didn't even finish because they were so uninterested) and he cruised through the entire thing in - no joke - one day. I died - it was twelve bucks! It was supposed to take us all the way into May of next year, and instead I was back on Amazon four hours later.

When I casually mentioned as we were learning about the letter B that we might make butter, I was speaking from a purely hypothetical standpoint. What I meant was, It says here in the book that we're supposed to make butter because it starts with B, but I'll be honest, I'm not really into it. What he heard was, Let's get churning.

Way back when his big sis was in kindergarten, we attempted this very same project. The experience left me simultaneously unimpressed and filled with wonder that someone would rather do this than just buy some at Costco. They sell it in bulk there. 

But persistence is Charlie's middle name, or at least it should be. Every few days he drove the guilt bus through town... Mom, we still haven't made that butter, and Mom, we're already on G and we still have no butter! I realized there was only one solution to this problem, and it involved heavy whipping cream, a mason jar, and a whole lotta shaking.

He loved it. Of course, he loved it.

And we sure do love him.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Success Redefined

One of my fourth graders has a really tough time sitting still. He insists that he thinks best when he's dribbling a ball up and down my hallway. He invented this annoying game called "Hitball," and he has the uncanny knack of deciding to play it as soon as Oliver hits REM sleep during naptime. I'll be creeping and shushing my way through the house with a basket of laundry when, like clockwork, I hear the dreaded thud! thud! thud! of a dirty old deck hockey ball being hurled at my stairs in the latest round of Hitball. I drop the basket and skid like a maniac toward the stairs, shushing furiously, but it is always too late. REM sleep is broken, furious cries erupt from the nursery, and lo and behold, I'm teaching math to four different kids with a cranky baby on my hip.

Being this kid's mom is a schizophrenic experience. I often simultaneously want to hug him and shake him. On a recent morning I was running behind, so I wrote three sentences on the board for the fourth graders to diagram. The plan was that I would take a three minute shower and Oliver would remain in REM sleep. My sixth grade resident grammar scholar was on standby to assist in my stead if questions arose. A few minutes later I emerged from my room to check on their work. One of the fourth graders had neatly and efficiently diagrammed the sentences on his notebook paper, per my request. The other had abandoned his paper and had written, sloppily, on the white board instead.

These are the sentences he was told to diagram:

This is what he did instead:

At least he knew he had created an interrogative sentence that began with an interjection. Success, redefined.