Thursday, July 30, 2009

regarding the transportation complication

Having recently given birth to our fifth child, we field many "how do you manage it?"-type questions. Sometimes people will ask us what the hardest part about having 5 kids. That is what this post is about.

If we've been to your house, chances are we rolled up in this:

This has been our primary mode of transportation for about 6 years. This 2003 Honda Odyssey is [finally] paid for and we have enjoyed the vast majority of the just under 70k it shows on the odometer. It suited our family of four very well.

Family of five? Not so much.

And for a very simple reason.

Our government requires kids to be in a car seat of some sort until they are just shy of their 19th birthday. This is fine if you have only a few kids or even a lot of kids far apart. It's also fine if you own an 11 passenger van.

I like our minivan. And though I think someones going to come take away my man-card for saying that, I'm not ready to part with it yet.

But those car seats make for quite a tight fit.

Tight but it works.

But the "fit" is only the beginning of the problem. Let's remind you of who sits in the back of this van.

First we have Justus. This whole problem is pretty much on him.

Ava is also a significant contributor to the problem due to the girth of the car seat that her undersized frame requires.

Ethan is sort of in between a full booster seat and the kind without a back. At least he can use a normal seat belt. And even buckle it himself. Except for the times when he can't.

Luke is on the cusp of being tall enough to ditch the booster, but since he's only 6 the law says he's got to be in it. Now, we consider ourselves to be upstanding, law-abiding citizens, but considering that I rode on the center "hump" between the front and back seats in my mom's Ford Pinto all through my childhood (and survived) we'd be okay with letting Luke slide a bit on the booster.

He'll have none of that. Not even for a trip to the store.

Aidan is an adult in the eyes of the law when it comes to seat belts. This is a good thing. But he still adds in a fair amount of complication to the seating chart.

In case you're not up to speed on the form of car seat required for children of various ages, here is a handy reference.

Later on, you can cut out these pictures and use them as game pieces to help solve the minivan conundrum. But I'm getting head of myself. You first need to understand the rules to such a game.

First remember, it's cramped in there.

You can hopefully imagine that only certain combinations of seats will fit together. For instance, there's no way you're putting 3 of our seats across the back. One is fine. Two can work, but having two crammed in there makes it difficult for everyone back there to be able to buckle themselves in. Remember, we need to fit, but we also want to maximize efficiency. It already takes us a minimum of a half hour to get out of the house. We need to save every minute.

Of course there are other complications as well.

Though almost irresistibly cute, this pairing does not work in the car. Justus' seat really does not fit in the way-back seat. This means that the person who sits next to Justus not only needs to be capable of handling his binky and adjusting the baby-view mirror but must also be able to handle passing food, water and other things to the back row. So this combo is out.

For largely the same reason as above, this combo doesn't work so well. Ebo is just a little bit too unpredictable to be Justus' car-bound chaperon. And when he passes things back, they spill at least a third of the time. This is a great ratio of you're hitting baseballs, but not so much if you are trying to keep our van clean.

This pairing has relational challenges. Physically it works fine. When they are together in the back you have to be careful that Ebo can still do his own seat belt. It really sets him off when he can't do it. But even after the logistics, these two are just a little to good at pushing each others' buttons. Sure, we could be all-star parents and employ smart, calm and consistent discipline to solve this problem but executing such a philosophy is difficult at 65 miles per hour. We'd rather nip this one in the bud via strategic seating assignments.

These two get along great. No issues there. They require no booster and the smallest booster seat, so space is not an issue. But they need to be separated. They are our two best players and we need them on separate teams. One needs to be in back, one in front. Aidan does great riding next to Justus, but we listen to a lot of audiobooks and the sound is better in the way back. When we put Aidan in that middle row, the chorus of "please turn it up" requests drones on unceasingly. So him in the way back is better.

So are you getting how complicated this is? It reminds me of one of those logic puzzles where you have to figure out when all these guys can go to the doctor, but Joe can only go on Tuesday or Thursday but only after Jim goes and Jeff has to go between when Joe and Jim goes, etc...

No one tells you about this kind of thing when you are pregnant with your 5th child. But I wanted to put it out there. I think we've more or less figured it out, but our arrangement is far from perfect. I figure time will eventually sort this all out.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

aidan, the oldest

It is so easy for us to treat Aidan like he is older than his eight (and a half) years. I think this is just part of the deal when you are the oldest. You are given responsibilities sooner, you are asked to act the most mature (not that you always do) and be independent sooner than your siblings. Not all of this is bad of course, I think a lot of it grows some really great leadership qualities in those oldest children but sometimes (like Aidan found out yesterday) the ride can be bumpy.

We were at Target picking up a few odds and inns, all seven of us together. So after we are done checking out the skateboards (which was Luke and Aidan’s request because they want to save their money to buy one) we head over to bedding to pick up some plastic sheets to stock up for when we move Ava to a big-girl bed. Mike and I decide to split up; he will get something in the baby department and I will get the sheets. As we split deciding who will go with whom, we realize that Aidan is not with us.

Since the sheets were back in the direction from which we had come, we figure that I would find him on my way. So I casually call his name as I retrace my steps. I don’t find him. When I meet back up with Mike and realize that he does not have Aidan either, we conclude that Aidan is lost. We call his name a few more times and then we start coming up with a plan (who will take which row) to find our boy.

It is about this time that I hear over the loud speaker, “Will Amy H. please come to the front counter to meet your party.” I walk as fast as I can to that counter to get Aidan. My sweet baby boy is there crying and waiting for me. He is not sobbing, he knows it will be OK, but he is crying because that was really scary for him. I cried too.

Once I get Aidan, we hug hard and he doesn’t want to let go. He also held my hand the whole rest of the time we were in the store. As we walked away from the counter, I got his side of the story.

Aidan was looking at some toys and didn’t follow us right way when we left the toy section (he does have a habit of dilly-dallying and we often are waiting for him to catch up). So we moved on and he was left there. Once he realized that we had left, he tried to find us but couldn’t. So (in tears) he looked for "someone with a nametag." He quickly found a Target employee and told them that he was lost. They asked for our names and took him to the front counter.

I was so pleased that he knew what to do and how to handle the situation. When I told him so a few hours later he responded with a few more tears that he was so glad that I had taught him what to do.

It is because he is the oldest that he was left. We do not move a step without making sure younger Ava and Ethan are with us but it is the other way around with Aidan, he is to keep track of us. However, it is also because he is the oldest that it worked out. He is the one in our family who would remember the day years ago that I taught the kids what to do if they are ever separated from us in a store.

I am thankful for the lesson for all of us, thankful that it all worked out fine and thankful too that I am reminded to re-teach that lesson again to the other kids. Because after all as every yahoo in this town wants to remind me, I do have my hands full.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

sweet luke

Luke is such a sweet, thoughtful boy. The other morning, Luke came into my room announcing that there was a surprise for me in the kitchen.
This is what I found:
Luke had gone to the garden first thing in the morning to harvest one container of peas, one container of beans and two cups filled with buttercups.
He set it all up on the counter with these notes.
What a dear. Luke was not content with just giving these gifts, he also checked with me several times that day to make sure I was eating and enjoying this harvest.

Here is a picture of Luke being a kind and gentle big brother.
Luke loves Justus and shows him with care. Justus is pretty happy with his big brother too.
Later this same day, I took the kids to a parade where they scored a bunch of candy. Luke left two pieces of his loot on top of a note that said "Daddy" next to Mike's pillow. Mike came home at midnight from a business trip to find this act of love.

That Lukers, he's a lover!

Friday, July 24, 2009

more baptism

I love it that Mike enjoys photography so much. And I really love it that he is so good at putting together blog posts for our family scrapbook. But sometimes he does not add pictures because the lighting is not good, the focus is off and something about bokeh. And sometimes he doesn't include a memory if we don't have pictures to go with it.

Like this picture.
I like this candid of two of my men enjoying the afternoon at our BBQ. It was such a nice time hanging out with good friends in the sunshine celebrating God's goodness.
This picture of Adia was not included in our last post. I know the lighting is off and all, but look how cute she is! I loved seeing our friends all dressed up as we are usually more casual around each other and Adia was darling in her dress. See her wild hair? The kids all had a grand time playing together (there were 17 friends age 8 and under who attended Justus' baptism! He will never be in want of a friend!).

I don't want to forget the food.
Mike mentioned the great burgers but we also had tons of yummy sides lovingly prepared by friends and family. Everyone contributed. We had pasta salad, pico de gallo & chips, melon-fruit salad, amazing fresh berries, I made a chocolate-espresso-banana cake and of course their was ice cream!

Is it OK if I remember the incident where a certain Papa had a certain situation with a certain substance ALL over his hand causing him to call out, "CUTZI, I NEED YOUR HELP HERE." Hilarious.

This is only made funnier by the fact that we Hollisters had our own version of an incident earlier that day.
About 10 minutes before the end of Pastor Kevin's sermon after which the baptism would take place Justus began to stir in his car seat. Upon taking him out, I felt that he was wet. Unsure if it was sweat or one of two other substances I lifted his backside to Mike ans asked, "Is it bad?" His answer: "REAL BAD!" I rushed to the bathroom and gave Justus a complete wardrobe change (he even needed his socks changed!). Justus and I walked out of the bathroom just as Pastor Kevin was asking the family to come forward. We came from opposite sides of the church and met in the front giggling at our shared joke.

This next picture is also not good, picture wise.
If I knew how to crop, I would cut the adults out of the picture and make Xochi bigger. But I don't (with Mike's fancy program). But that's OK because I want to remember sweet baby Xochi's face (and getting good pictures at this age is hard). I want to remember that I am (almost) always nursing Justus these days. And I want to remember how nice it was to do so in the sunshine with friends that day.

After the BBQ most of us did a little of this:
And this is the best picture we got of the main man of the day:

Maybe not a perfect portrait, but enough to sufficiantly see how preciously sweet is Justus.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

justus, baptized

Last Lord's Day we baptized Justus. Pastor Kevin preached a wonderful sermon about why we baptize and how we are to view our children.

It was very special for us.

We happened to taking pictures for the Church directory. AND we happened some of our best friends in the world present for this occasion.

Ava warmed up the "studio" which was actually a couple flashes, cheap umbrellas and a very wrinkley sheet.

Ava warmed up the sheet.

We snaged pictures of our friends in front of the sheet. No blog for these folk, but we fit very well with them.

And of course you know these friends.

And these folk often make appearances on here.

And this ravashing lady is my own dear mother, looking rather fetching in front of the wrinkly sheet.

After the service and pictures, we headed out to our place for a barbeque.

You'll have to bear with me as I was busy cooking; all we have are pictures my mom took. But she had some good ones. Unfotunately no pics of the burgers. They were pretty good. I still have some room for improvement. But the grilled onions really make these things sing.

A great battle ensued.

This pictures kills me. That backswing is totally past parrallel. No wonder I've been chunking it so much lately.

Maybe super-E-bo can save my swing.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

an afternoon with friends

... just because it's been a while since we posted some pictures. And Aunt Helen probably needs a fix.

We spent a schorching day with some friends.

It was all about long-time friends...

... and soon-to-be long-time friends.

And ice cream.

For everyone.

Then I let Aidan shoot some pictures.

I think he did a good job compensating for the camera's tendency to underexpose the subject here due to the strong backlighting, but he really needs to work on his raport with his model.

He liked this one because he caught his brother in motion.

It was pretty hot. After ice cream, we retreated to back our friends' house for some shady quiet. While Justus nursed, Aidan read a book to Ebo and Steele.

I guess it was a good book because it started to draw a crowd.

Pretty soon they had maxed out the couch.

Just a fun afternoon and some fun pictures. Especially this last one. This was my favorite picture of the day. Isn't she adorable? I think out of all my friends' kids she probably likes me the most too. And she likes to smile for my camera. So this is probably not the last picture you'll see on here of Aida Moon.