Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Happy half, Max | 6.5 (and, oops...5.5?!)

If you've read the "Murray Party" blogs for a bit then you know we have a little tradition of acknowledging half-birthdays.  
NO gifts, NO cake, but lunch/dinner at each kiddos "spot".  

This originated when Max was 6 months old.  It went something like this: 

Billy: Holy smokes, we've kept a child alive-and-thriving for half a year!  We're awesome at this. 
Me:  I agree.  We should celebrate.  
Billy:  Let's go to Max's for dinner.  Our kid's name is Max...so we basically have to take him there.  

And with all the free time two-on-one parenting allows...we did.

We had our one lone child to focus on and declared that this was going to be our thing, our TRADITION.  Every year we'd come back to Max's on his 1/2 birthday.  We're so good at coming up with ideas.

But then...we had three more kids.  

And as to not exclude anyone from traditions...we now have 4 total half birthdays to celebrate in addition to the 4 regular birthdays.  I'm telling you...this was our well-thought-out brilliance. So now we're in this never-ending cycle of celebrating and it probably seems...obnoxious. Let's just say this parenting decision, admittedly, got away from us :)
But in the spirit of how much I love each of these little faces...I will take every chance I get to celebrate them.   Simply because I'm happy they're alive.  I'm so happy they're mine and that I belong to them.  There's never a wrong time to say, "hey, dude...I'm really glad you were born." (which, now that Max is 6.5, this is the way he prefers I talk to him.)

Happy half to the first little boy to steal my heart.

***and now for the rewind***

And as I looked back, I realized that I never posted Max's 5.5 pics on the blog last year.  
In my defense...I was two weeks away from having baby #4.  Sorry bud.  Here they are...
Until next year!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sullivan's "Hi, Five!" Birthday

My sweet Sully, You're FIVE!  Or, as you like to say: "A WHOLE HAND!"  My gosh, you're a cool kid.  I hope you never stop being your quirky and independent self.  You love to disappear into the art room for hours working on a masterpiece or go out in the back yard searching for "nature treasures" alone.  I smile at your quiet confidence and how comfortable you are with just being.  I think it's a tough quality to come by and I admire it in you.   

You've always had a distinctly different way of seeing the world and that has changed my view too. You notice details and nuances in everyday things that don't catch the eye of many.  The shape of clouds, the curve of a flower's stem, how a shadow's length changes as the day goes on.  You're quick to point out patterns in unexpected places or the blurry "watercolors" of a sunset.  You turn the veins of a leaf into a treasure map and items scavenged from the recycling bin into a rocket.   This unique perspective is so natural to you. 

Your heart unfolding to the all the things that keep it beating is a magical thing to witness.  You have found passion in life that is well beyond your years.  Or maybe youth is the best time to discover it.  I hope you always trust yourself enough to follow your own path.
So, as you were trying, trying with all your might to blow out those trick-candles on your birthday cake...
I was making my own wishes for you:
I wished that you'd continue to see beauty in the ordinary eb and flow of life
For the kind heart I see in you to stay firmly in place
I wished that you'd always find the courage to grow, but never change
Your dreams: follow them.  
Your intuition: listen to it.  
Stay bright, bold and funny.
I'm so proud to call you my son, Sullivan Michael.  
And my final wish is for you to someday know how fully I mean that from the deepest part of me.
My whole heart,
---And now, the party---
 When Sully and I started talking about him turning five he was always quick to point out that it was the same number  you needed for a "high five" or a "fist bump" (again with his interesting way of seeing things :)  
So we decided that should be his theme.
invite: front  //  back
 I love planning parties with the kids.  They get a budget, we search for decorations and party favors and we design the invitation together.  Sullivan really wanted a magician AND balloon animals so he had to cut back on the grand party-favor bags he was planning, but I think the "high five" hand clappers were a hit.
Making pizza!
His 5th year collecting books to donate.


 Cake time.

 Last, but not least...Sully's birthday breakfast at home.  He's obsessed with penguins and wanted penguin EVERYTHING (and also a big bag of those party store poppers..such a funny kid)

muffins and green smoothies - his favorite.
Happy Fifth, Sully!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Milo | 11 Months

Our final countdown to the first anniversary of Milo's birth has begun.  And I have no words.

Instead.  A few photos that illustrate life with him @ 11 months.
It's action-packed to say the least.  He's climbing, cruising and into everything.  He insists on putting all things into his mouth.  This boy wears me out in the best possible way.

Next month, I'm sure my post will be full of nostalgia about the past and excitement about the future.
But right now, I'm living in these moments.
"I don't have time to sit for a picture, momma.  Too much to do."
 "I'm outta here."
11 months is the official age of running away.
My Moose on his moose rocker.
"THOSE look...delicious."

Dear Milo,

  The eager and enthusiastic way in which you unravel the world around you with so much curiosity is well worth imitating.   
Until next month, darling.

My whole heart, 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Not As-Advertised // A "Perfect" Family Vacation

Behind every picture-perfect family vacation is...well, the truth.  
I posted the cute images on Facebook, but spared you all from the chaotic reality that is traveling with 4 children 6-and-under.  I spared you from the truth, my friends.  The beautiful, messy, memory-making truth.  No one wants to see a picture of my 6-year-old FREAKING OUT because his brother BREATHED on him, do you?  Or maybe you do...in which case, scroll down. 

I've heard that if you're road-tripping with a pack'n'play in tow, countless diapers and a double stroller all crammed into your giant SUV...it must be referred to as a "trip"...not a vacation.  And I think I'd have to agree.  Not to say that it wasn't one of my favorite experiences of all time...I wouldn't change a thing...but vacation it was not.

For clarity...

This is a vacation:
Playa in January
This is a trip:
Both are transformative experiences in their own way.  And this is a season of our lives I don't ever want to forget or take for granted. I know I'll miss these wild, juggling-act days when they're behind us.

But here's the reality of what filled in the gaps between our sunny beach days and family fun:

It started in St Louis - the first stop on our 5-day, 1,000 mile journey. We arrived at our hotel and discovered someone booked the wrong room type.  And I'm not saying "someone" in an accusatory tone...because I'm not sure whose fault it actually was, and it doesn't really matter.  But the fact remained: we somehow reserved a teeny-tiny room with one Queen bed for 6 bodies + the "non-vacation approved" pack'n'play. 

When we checked-in the very nice guy at the desk informed us that the hotel had absolutely no availability for an upgrade/room change and we were stuck in the tiny room with one bed.  The next thing I heard myself ask was..."so, like, not even the penthouse is available?"  Why would I ask that?  Such desperation.  Either way...he informed me that the penthouse was, in fact, booked.

I covered our hotel room floor with blankets and pillows and configured a makeshift "room" using the closet door and bathroom door for Milo's bed to hide behind (no way would he simmer down if he could still see the big boys).

Baby in a crib behind these doors.
So we're all set for our big slumber party/lock-in.  Except that we're not and there's crying and angst and discontent among the littles.  There was something about our proximity that made them more needy than usual.  We shuffle them in and out of our bed, scratch backs, read books, give cups of water and everyone goes potty an average of 57 times each. It's sweet and tiresome at the same time.  Finally, silence.  They're asleep.  Billy's asleep (because, narcoleptic).  And I'm staring at the ceiling (because, night owl).  But it's fine because all is well with my babies. 

AND THEN THE FIRE ALARM GOES OFF.  The sound + strobe light kind.  The entirely booked hotel is beginning to evacuate and though I generally er more on the side of "I'm sure it's fine" in these types of situations, we have the kiddos so we can't really act casual about a fire alarm.  The baby wakes up, the boys are yelling all of the fire safety tips they've learned in school - crawl towards the door, stop/drop/roll.  I praise their quick thinking while fumbling with the phone trying to get through to the front desk.  Long story, short...there was no fire.  Just four wide-eyed little boys with a second burst of energy.

Another round of kid-shuffling/water/potty/etc ensues and at last everyone is asleep again.  Except me.  I'm still wide awake. So I hold my breath and tip-toe into the bathroom with pillows and a blanket.  Luckily everyone stayed asleep and I got to read on the quiet, cold bathroom floor for a couple hours.  I actually didn't mind it one bit.

  The next day a little swimming and room service lifted our spirits after that wild night and we were on the road again, Chicago-bound.

I'm going to speed this up for the sake of space and tell the rest of our messy, fun vacation through pictures.  The ones I shared on Facebook - with the smiley, glowing faces - were entirely real and genuine, but to be fair to our real story I have to capture this stuff too.

Here are my top 5 imperfect memories that I want to keep forever...

1.  When Milo called the shots with his constant protesting/angry kicking from the backseat.  Any guesses as to which age is toughest to travel with?  We've discovered that it's a newly mobile baby who's way too active and curious to stare at the back of a seat for hours on end.  We had to stop and let him climb around in the front seat to save us all from his frustrated, hi-pitched squealing. 
 Gosh he's cute.

2.  The time my Fletcher shaved his head with a razor.  I thought he was in the bathroom going potty, but the silence became suspicious. Max said, "At least he didn't shave his eyebrows."  So true, Max, way to stay positive :)  This was the evidence I found.  The bald spot was thankfully not too noticeable.

3.   The boys enduring a little child labor.  Our friends put the boys to work sweeping and vacuuming and grocery shopping while Billy and I went to dinner. They weren't going to let them get spoiled while on "vacation" :)   I love that my friends love my kiddos enough to teach them the value of hard work and earning your keep.  The boys were happy to be helpful.
This is the pic they sent me while we were at dinner.  Boys taking a break from all their hard work.
 4.  The day Fletcher spent his entire time at the beach stalking the ice cream guy.  He refused to do anything other than stand within arms reach of the cart.  He'd scream if we tried to get him to move too far away from it.  We would have bought him some, but he "lost dessert" for some bad choices he made earlier in the day.  He was definitely feeling the weight of those consequences.  We're so mean.
"I can haz ice cream if I smile?!"
Hoping against all hope the man would take pity on him and give him a free treat.
 5. The night Max could not sleep because Sullivan was breathing.  Max stomped around the room and refused to lay down near his brother.  All Billy and I could do is laugh.  Laugh at how absurd he was being.  Laugh at how much we could relate to the frustration of being in extremely tight spaces together for 5 days.  I had no more fight left in me either.  All I could do was take this picture.
These little people are so hilariously irrational sometimes.

Oh, there were so many more moments deleted from my phone or that were not even documented because I didn't have the strength to see the humor in them at the time.

Sometimes it takes the less than ideal moments to remind us of the value in living through it all together.  That’s the payoff.  Family trips are wonderful in the way that all hard things are. There is treasure in all of the memories and stories even if they're not perfect.  
I love that this wonderful, crazy life is ours.