Sunday, May 29, 2016

Turning Two

We celebrated Hakan's day of birth this week - he is now two years old! We can hardly believe how time has flown by. Merritt's presence is a great reminder of how far Hakan has come. 
We started the celebration on Friday, with cake and ice cream. Hakan picked green for the frosting - so far each of our children's first favorite color has been green. He opened his presents that day, too. We were all thrilled with the fun things that came in the mail, and the kids have all been "sharing" the new toys. 

Our celebration spread into Saturday also, when we presented the kids with the choice to go to a splash park or the zoo. They chose the zoo, and Kira opted to stay home with Merritt and attempt some rest. That did not turn out to be very successful, but at least the older kids and I had fun. We saw a rhino marking his territory, a juvenile gorilla clapped his hands for us, and we ran into a peacock outside who showed off his fancy feathers. It was a great visit.
Among the rest of our activities this week (feeding children, etc.), Avey decided that it was high time she purchased a new scooter. Her first one is now too small for her, so she found one that she thought would work, and we drew up an agreement for how she could earn her share. She did several chores and also wanted to sell (ask for donations) lemonade to passersby outside our home. With Kira's help, she mixed up some lemonade, and she made a sign for the table, then she and the boys played around and attracted everyone they could.
It was far more successful than Kira or I had expected - neighbors came over, a jogger stopped to chat and have some refreshment, and at least one car stopped. Avey made a huge haul, getting her just under halfway toward her earning goal. I guess it pays to be adorable.
Avey didn't stop either. She earned her portion of the scooter, which we ordered, and then she took on more chores to earn money for some projects she's thought up. Inspired by her school art class, she bought some clay to make into some creative pieces (pictures forthcoming), and also fulfilled her dream of purchasing a Venus fly trap kit. We planted the seeds this morning in her little terrarium, and now we are anxiously awaiting the moment we can trick unsuspecting insects into their slow demise. Avey has already formed a list of names for her plants, including "Vanessa," (close to "Venus") and "Snappy," among others.
Merritt is slowly gaining weight and becoming even more aware of his surroundings during the day. He is going for longer stretches at night, but seems more fussy more often during the day. I think he can sense when Kira or I are close to getting some things done for the day, because that's when he's sure to go off like an alarm clock that can be soothed with nothing but being held. We remember Hakan being fussier than Merritt is at this age, but with the neediness and number of the children in the home, we struggle a bit to keep up.
At least we have willing helpers. I have 8 more times to teach my course, and then I hope I can be home for most of the rest of the summer to keep the kiddies occupied. We also hope to break up the monotony with some visitors from out of town [hint, hint]. Just give us some notice, and bring a change of clothes.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Schedule

This was another whirlwind week of feedings and diaper changes, peppered with a few minutes of sleep. We had a few really good nights with solid stretches of 4 hours or so, and then a few awful nights where Merritt kept us up until 11 and then Hakan got up around 4. How my mother raised 6 of us without Netflix is miraculous.
Merritt's Yawn/Smile
We were especially surprised when I double checked my teaching schedule for the summer. I had remembered vaguely that my course was to begin May 24th, but when I looked on the academic calendar, there was no mention of any classes until May 31. With our hectic past few weeks, that's what we had in our heads. I checked again and found no change to the academic calendar, but looked back to find the original email confirmation of my course, which stated that class begins on May 24, this week. After some triple and quadruple checking, I confirmed that I was to start class a week earlier than I had thought. Let the panic begin.
It's really not as bad as it felt - I have been able to prepare for a few minutes here and there, usually right after Carver and Hakan are in bed. I think I may be more worried about catching up with sleep before the course - it's nearly 4 hours long, twice a week!
Playing With Nana Laura's Blocks (Hakan's Early Present)
We are looking forward to celebrating Hakan's second birthday this week! He's been craving the attention, too; it must be Merritt's arrival that's causing him to be this way. Some of the time he is just fine. Avey has been really good to both of the older boys, keeping them entertained. But some days he is just off. This morning, for example, he would just erupt in tears at the smallest disappointments. I reached his blanket for him when he apparently wanted to get it himself, and he reacted as if I had shot his best friend in front of him. He would not sit in his own chair for dinner last night, or for breakfast this morning. Instead, he simply had to sit in my lap, not allowing me to feed myself, or help the other kids.
Hopefully, the attention that comes with this birthday will help him to feel that he is still a valued member of our team, and we have decided to renew his contract for another year.
Otherwise, we're surviving. We've been especially impressed with the outreach from our neighbors - two of our neighbors offered and brought us meals, and more brought gifts for Merritt. We're glad to live in such a great neighborhood with such thoughtful people.

My class begins Tuesday, so if anyone has a desire to help feed and entertain kids, now's the time to volunteer!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Four's a Zoo

My mother has an old VHS tape of our family when there were just four boys, and it is entitled "Four's a Zoo." Growing up, I didn't really understand the title. Now I do. 

It's been a very busy week, but not because we have a lot on the schedule - there's just so much work to do all the time. Fortunately, we've had very pleasant weather this week, so I try to get the kids out of the house for an outing each day, and they can often find some fun in the backyard.
It's funny how the boys suddenly become willing to eat when they get the chance to do it outside. Unfortunately, it lasts only a few minutes before they become more interested in running around. Still, it's better than arguing with each other inside.
The beautiful weather also allowed us an excuse to plant flowers in our flower pots, and for me to hang up a birdhouse that Avey painted a few weeks ago. I saw these sparrows checking out a smaller house that had been hanging for some time without a buyer (I'm guessing it swings too much in the wind), and so I figured I had to get Avey's out while the market was hot. Sure enough, later that afternoon the sparrow family started moving in. Here's a shot through our dirty window:
I think I have the most fun out of all of us watching their activities from the kitchen table. I also found a chance to catch a picture of a young rabbit that's been hanging out in our yard a little bit most days. It likes to munch on all of our weeds:
Naturally, the wildest wildlife is inside our walls. Merritt has been doing very well - it's just the combination of the four children's needs along with our own that is keeping us busy and exhausted. Merritt sleeps comparatively well. He even gave us a 7-hour stretch a few nights ago. Otherwise, he eats well and spends his free time either sleeping, filling his diaper, or looking around. His eyes get clearer each day and he is starting to grow into his face. He gives spectacular smiles when he's asleep, but we haven't witnessed any really clear ones while he's awake. Those should start up pretty soon, though.
Surprisingly, we've been so busy that good pictures of him have been hard to come by. Avey is the one snapping most of them with her little tablet. We'll do our best to get some more over the next few days.

In the meantime, Carver has taken more interest than ever in learning to read. Avey taught him how to spell his name today, and he and I worked on reading a book for about 20 minutes earlier in the week. He seems genuinely excited to be like his big sis' and start ignoring his parents by sticking his nose in a book.

Hakan's behavior has been little changed since Merritt's birth, except for today. He would not leave me alone for most of the day, following me around pleading, "Daddy, daddy!" He was especially tired, so maybe that's got something to do with it, but I also wonder if the additional person in the family is beginning to affect him. I did my best to give him plenty of attention, but it seemed that he just could not be satiated. One effect that might be resulting from the tension is that he is forming more complete sentences. One such gem he has been using is, "I hate it!" in his soprano as he throws whatever it is on the floor in front of him. It's more of a whine than anything, but he puts full emphasis on the "hate," which is pretty hilarious. He also has been favoring the sentence, carefully enunciated, "Let me show you," as he grabs me by the finger and leads me to whatever.

Avey is nearly done with school, and cannot wait to have more free time to hold her littlest brother. She's had a great year, and will surely miss her teacher, but is looking forward to next year. This summer should be full of adventures.

More to come very soon...

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day! (Kira's Tribute to HER Mom)

Happy Mother's Day! As a new mom - for the 4th time - this is a poignant Mother's Day for me. I enjoyed having my own mother with me for 9 days for Merritt's birth. I thank my mother for all she is and does for me. She is my teacher, supporter, confidant, cheerleader, impressive example, forebearer, and friend. The more I take on the responsibilities and drudgery of motherhood, the more I almost daily reflect on watching and learning from my mother how she coped with the challenges of motherhood. I respect and value her example of coping with stressors. I recall that she would manage her challenges with things like singing to us, explaining/teaching us, calling friends and family for support, being silly with us, talking and acting realistically, meaning she did not pretend to be well or happy when she wasn't, she would keep moving until the work was done, but she also took time to relax and do fun things with us. She was/is not a perfect mom, but the more I struggle, the more I respect and stand in awe of all she DID do well, and all she accomplished and overcame as a mother of 5 children. I am so blessed and grateful for her hallmark of excellence and continued example to me now. I have been molded in many positive ways because God made her MY mom. I love you Mom! Sincerely, Kira

...And Then There Were Four

As you may have noticed from the post early Monday, the biggest news of the week was the birth of Merritt late Sunday night. Kira's water broke around dinner time and then the contractions began to get more regular and intense. She kept in contact with the midwife as we got kids to bed. Avey started freaking out - she could not wait. She asked me half a dozen times if Merritt was going to be born that night. The best I could tell her was "probably." She was already light years ahead, planning out our next child, which she insists will be a girl. We, of course, were in no position to be discussing that. We tried to rest a bit, but a little before 10 p.m., it was time to go to the hospital.

We figured this delivery would be relatively fast, and we were right. We checked into the hospital at about 10, and Merritt was out and screaming at 11:27 p.m. He was Kira's third consecutive VBAC, completely natural. Here he is the next morning, taking a peek at the world:
Merritt has been a superstar since he came. He's healthy and strong, and got nursing down pretty quickly. He has even impressed us with his sleep. In fact, he gave us less trouble than did the hospital staff (who need to wake us up every hour or so for one reason or another); His first night home he went a full 4 hours in between night feedings!

He arrived with pretty good timing; Kira's mother arrived on Thursday, so that gave us a few days to have her help with the preparations, and I got to focus on some grading. Fortunately, that was all done by Friday afternoon. Kira's mother also got some time to become familiar with the kids' schedules and dietary preferences before she flew solo. I did miss my classes on Monday and Tuesday, but had some coworkers lined up to cover the material with the students.
The hospital staff wanted to keep us a full 48 hours to make sure that Merritt was not showing signs of an infection. That would have meant that we had to be there until Wednesday, but because he was born on Sunday, we suggested that they release us at midnight on Tuesday. The doctor on Tuesday was very reasonable, and agreed to let us leave at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, as long as we agreed to see the pediatrician the next day (which we did).

Kira's mother left Friday, and we've missed her help, but are managing pretty well. Avey has been especially helpful with her other brothers, and she's made it a point to be extra good for Mothers Day. This morning she cleaned up the toys that were still spread all over the house. Carver has been much more interested in Merritt than he was with Hakan.
This is a very special Mothers Day indeed! We are all excited to get to know Merritt as he develops, and are especially looking forward to whatever games and jokes he invents. Who knows what quirks he'll develop or pick up from his siblings (and parents)?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Merritt Iver Ricks

Merritt Ricks was born at 11:27 p.m. on May 1st. He is 6 lbs., 7 oz., and 19.5 inches long.
It was Kira's third consecutive VBAC, and she did it all without medication. We are far too tired to post more detail now, but stay tuned.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Baby Merritt

...is still not here [nervous laugh]. We were holding out desperately for Kira's mother to arrive before the metaphorical bomb went off, or so we thought. She arrived on Thursday, and each day since then we expect to be the day. I spent Friday hurriedly finishing some grading from my courses so that I could have that over and done with, but still Merritt left us hanging. Yesterday was an especially big tease, as Kira had a contraction every 15 minutes or so, at least for a while. We went to bed hoping for a few hours of respite, and then awoke to our surprise several hours later to the normal chirping of birds in the wee hours of the morning. Kira was uncomfortable, but certainly not in labor. This morning thus far continues to appear uneventful, but who knows what's in store? Surely he'll wait until I make the 45-minute drive to teach my course tomorrow and then interrupt. That would not be a very good first impression...

We've made good use of the delay at least. Kira and her mother have been working on Kira's to-do list while I've occupied the kiddies and tried to keep up on some of the housework. Somehow, with all of the business, we've had no time for pictures. I'll try to take some later today, and certainly once we're at the hospital.

The kids are getting impatient with the waiting, too. Avey tries to pass the time with lots of reading, but she blows through books so fast that the library is having a hard time keeping up with us [probably]. Carver spends most of his time trying to avoid sitting still at the table, and often ends up playing loud games, or perhaps I should say, "playing games loudly." Hakan has been glued to his grandma since she arrived. He loves to have a new playmate who'll chase him and to whom he can show off. He loves to impress with his jumping into the air about 3 inches, and flexing his muscles - a trick he learned from Carver. He will tighten his arms so that they tremble a little, and he makes a "tough" face. It's pretty adorable, so I'll try to get some video of it soon.

In the meantime, I'll post news of the birth as soon as there is some...