The Creek, the Crawdad, and Apparently, the Competition

Good Times

The Creek, the Crawdad, and Apparently, the Competition

43 Comments 01 July 2013

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The kids are getting bigger and more independent, as 4-1/2 year olds are prone to do, which is great for a whole lotta reasons.  But there is one reason in particular about the kids getting bigger that excites me most of all – the opportunity for adventure!!  Babies are cute and cuddly and all of that fluffy stuff which is why we love them so much, of course.  Toddlers are funny and fun and challenging in their own special way.  I love all of the different phases of early childhood for various reasons.  But I can’t wait until the kids get old enough to really do things – toss the ball in the yard, climb a tree, row a kayak, swing on a rope swing and let go over a crisp, cool lake on a hot summer day – those are the adventures I am ready to discover with my kids!  Eliot has been in adventure mode with me for awhile, but the little ones are just now beginning to touch their toes into those unknown waters…and I am ready!!

So we found ourselves on a little adventure – just me and Casey, Jack, Brooklyn, and Ryan.  Eliot, Britton, and Lila are spending the week at the grandparents’ places so it was just the 5 of us…an almost normal-sized family for once.  Summer is in full swing here in Texas with upper 90 degree highs the standard for the day and that means that you must find water if you are to be outside for any length of time.  And that is just what we did – headed off to the creek for some fun and, of course, adventure!

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Our chosen destination was Bull Creek and it is awesome!  It’s about 10 miles away from downtown and the water is always cool.  There are huge areas where the water is ankle deep and there are other spots where it is over your head, but it is always clear as can be.  The creek runs through some limestone cliffs and cedar-choked hill country and is one of the most picturesque spots in all of Austin.  Oh, and dogs are allowed so we took Lilly along with us.  The kids had a blast swimming, hiking, and spotting sunfish and other creatures along the creek bed.  One creature in particular really got our attention though – crawdads!

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Have you ever heard of a crawdad?  You might know them as crawfish or crayfish – they look exactly like lobsters, but they are little, about the length of a credit card or maybe a pen.  You can find them in the creeks and rivers around Texas and other southern states, usually hiding in the mud or under a rock.  I remember spending a good bit of time in my youth combing the creeks around our house for those little mud bugs…good times for a little boy on the loose!

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Back to the story!  Like I said, Bull Creek is crystal clear and we’re walking along when all of a sudden, Jack yells out, “Look!  A lobster!”  I got there first, just in time to see the “lobster” right before it scuttled under a rock and out of view.  It was a crawdad, for sure, but I couldn’t get him to come out of his hiding place for everyone else to see.  So I gave the kids a little lesson about what Jack saw – a crawdad, not a lobster, but it looks just like a lobster and they live in the creek so be on the lookout for more – and off we went again.  So we’re on the move once more, everyone keeping their eye out for crawdads when I see one and this time it’s out in the open, walking along the floor of the creek.  So I called everyone over, keeping Lilly under control by my side so she wouldn’t scare off our little friend.  ”Look everyone – it’s another crawdad, just like what Jack saw!”

And that’s when something happened, or rather, when something was said.  And I knew in that moment that Jack and I had officially entered another phase of our relationship……………..

“The one I found was BIGGER than the one you found, Daddy!,” Jack said proudly.

Huh.  Oh, really, Jack?  You measured the crawdads, did you?  You, my little Rainman wannabe, knew in an instant of seeing two different crawdads from 15 feet away that the crawdad you saw was bigger than the one I saw and, even if this were the case, you believe this is something that is worth pointing out to the entire group there assembled?  So that’s how it’s gonna be, huh?  Didn’t realize we were competing or that we were on that level now, but I guess I was wrong.  Ok, yours was bigger…I’ll let you have this one, it’s cool…….noooooo problem……

Alright, I’m a big boy, too and two can play at this game.  I’m in, I’m ready………and I can’t wait!!  Let the games begin!

I love you, Jack-Jack, and I am excited about all of the adventures and, of course, competitions (friendly, loving, teaching, learning, growing, big, and small) that are in store for us!!

God Bless,

Ethan

The Trip from Down There (You Know Where…)

Good Times

The Trip from Down There (You Know Where…)

63 Comments 05 June 2013

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We’re back!  Well, sort of.  If you follow this blog (or used to), you can probably tell that I haven’t been too good at keeping things up to date lately.  I would love to tell you differently, but unfortunately this isn’t likely to change in the near future, though I will really try to post more updates.  The good news is the reason for the absence – my work as owner of Eliot J Construction has picked up considerably which keeps me fully occupied during the work week and the kids are at an age now where we are running around quite a bit with them which keeps me pretty well occupied on the weekends.  In short:  a busier work week which enables me to better support my family + more time with the family on the weekends which enables me to keep my head clear and heart full = much less time to write blog updates.  We do still update the Facebook and Twitter pages regularly though so we haven’t completely dropped out and have no intention or desire to do so.  Being able to share our lives with friends, family, and supporters through all of the various media available to us has been richly rewarding and we have not grown tired of being engaged in this way!  We will continue to do our best to share with you the stories, the chaos, the fun, the struggles, and everything in between that comes with a life with five plus one…promise!

Here are a couple of quick updates before I get into the story of the trip from you know where…

The kids are growing like weeds, as they are known to do, and life is as crazy and hectic as ever.  No, it hasn’t gotten any easier yet, just different.  But life is as it always has been, probably more so in this regard – a lot of fun!  Seriously, with 5 uniquely goofy, creative, curious, needy, active 4-year-olds running around the house following their superstar big sister on adventures big and small, there is no shortage of fun and laughter in our home.  Life is equally demanding though as fights erupt with regularity, meltdowns over trivial matters are all too frequent, nights are restless, bladders are tiny, accidents of all kinds are common, and messes occur in the blink of an eye…all of this and then some seemingly every hour of every day!

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Eliot will be graduating from the 3rd grade in a few days and in anticipation of the hot Texas summer she cut her hair short for the first time.  She loves the new look which go great with her new braces…super cute!  The quints will be headed off to kindergarten in a little over a year’s time.  The 5 have been in a mom’s day out program two times a week which has been great.  Their teachers are awesome, the kids love going, and the 6 hours/week of free time that Casey gets out of the deal is priceless!  This past spring, Eliot McKenna resumed her role as the Internationally Known Soccer Superstar  with another successful soccer season and two of the kids, Jack and Britton, hope to follow in her footsteps this fall.  Lila, Brooklyn, and Ryan have chosen to dance and will be taking ballet when the other kids start up with soccer.  Yep, our crazy busy life is about to get crazier, busier, and probably a bit more chaotically cute, as always!!

I guess to sum it all up – life is good, God is great, and our kids are crazy!!!!  Now, onto the story of the trip from below…way below……….

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Ok, I have to admit…it wasn’t that bad.  We actually had a good time and came home with some fantastic memories of our time away.  We relaxed, we slept in, we strolled casually (I honestly cannot remember the last time I strolled casually!), we ate great food, embarked on adventures, and enjoyed the glory of God’s creation all around us.  In many ways, it was everything a weekend getaway without the kids ought to be and we are already looking forward to the next one.

I booked the trip without telling Casey and surprised her on Mother’s Day with the news.  On Memorial Day weekend we were to drive up to Denton, drop off the kids and the dog at the grandparents’ house, then head to the airport for 2 nights and 3 days in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the most enchanted of locales in the “Land of Enchantment.”  It was perfectly planned, perfectly timed, and perfectly matched to our increasing need for time away from the constancy of the responsibilities that define our life.  If only things would have stayed perfect……and it didn’t take long for it to go all wrong!

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Thursday night, 11:00, Casey and I are crawling into bed after a long road trip from Austin to Denton, getting the kids settled and put to bed, and making last minute preparations for our flight the next day.  We were to get up at 5:00 am on Friday, leave by 6:00 before the kids got up, and get the getaway started early.  No sooner had our heads hit the pillow did we know that this trip was not going to get off to the best of starts.  It started with Britton – she couldn’t sleep.  Then she had to potty.  Then she had to poop.  Then her tummy hurt.  Then she just wanted to fuss because that’s what Britton does.  Then Jack had to potty.  Then he just started yelling for no good reason because that’s what Jack does.  Then Lila couldn’t sleep, had to go potty.  Then Britton again, don’t remember why.  Then again and again and again.  In the six hours between 11:00 pm Thursday night and 5:00 am Friday morning, our kids woke us up 11 times.  Six hours, 11 wakeup calls………..11 wakeup calls!!!!  I think I got two hours of uninterrupted sleep; Casey wasn’t so richly blessed.  At 5:00 am, my head was throbbing, my joints were aching, my eyes felt like someone had been poking them with their finger for several hours on end, and our little getaway was already in danger of getting away from us.  Nonetheless, our spirits were not to be broken so easily and we headed off to the airport leaving our cares behind!  Nothing was going to stop us from relaxing and having a good time!!

We made it to our hotel with no trouble, checked in, dropped off the bags, and though we were both dead tired we hit the streets of Santa Fe in search of a good time……it was a struggle.  Don’t get me wrong, Santa Fe did not disappoint – the weather was beautiful, the restaurant we ate at was fantastic, the people were friendly, blah, blah, blah…did I mention we had less than two hours of sleep the night before because 3 of our 6 kids decided to do everything in their power to make us hate them??  Fortunately for the kids they didn’t succeed, but neither did we in our efforts to put it behind us and carve out a relaxed, happy time.  We powered through, took some pictures, bought a few trinkets…….and got into bed at 8:45.  And that’s when things suddenly got better, much, much better!

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The sheets were soft, the down comforter was fluffy, and the sleep came easy, 9 glorious uninterrupted hours of zzz’s plus an hour of simply staying in bed, eyes closed yet fully awake, enjoying the silence of a domicile that contained only two people both over the age of….well, neither of them were kids!  This is what getting away was all about and this was worth all of the trouble it took to get here!!!

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The rest of the day did not disappoint.  We decided to take a road trip out to Angel Fire and see what adventures we could get ourselves into in that little part of the world.  After a leisurely, picturesque, windows-down drive through the mountains, we arrived in time for lunch at the base of Angel Fire ski resort.  We had no plans, but quickly came up with something to fill the day.  I’m not sure how I pulled this off, but somehow I convinced Casey to strap on a helmet, elbow/forearm pads, and knee/shin pads, load a downhill mountain bike onto the back of a ski lift, and hop on with it to get to the top of a 10,000+ foot tall mountain before pointing her tires downhill and rumbling down the mountainside over rocks and curves, dirt and dangers of all kinds.  IT WAS AWESOME!!!!!  Neither of us had done anything like this before and had no mountain biking experience, but we were able to not only make it down alive, but do so with only one scrape on Casey’s thigh from a little tumble she took near the top.  By the time it was over, we were both sweaty, covered with dirt, and smiling from ear to ear!  We hit the road back to the hotel, cleaned up, grabbed some dinner, then headed back to our gloriously peaceful slice of heaven (otherwise known as our hotel room) for another great night of uninterrupted sleep…..nothing better!

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And then it all came crashing, clanging, banging, and screeching to a halt and it all ended with one little text message.

From Casey’s mom, 7:30 am, Sunday morning:  ”Casey, I hate to bother you with this on your vacation, but I feel I have no choice.  Lilly Belle has been throwing up all night and this morning she won’t stand up or move at all.  I’m afraid she must have eaten something in the yard and her intestines are blocked.  I don’t know what I should do, but she is in very bad shape.”

NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  (That’s pretty much all I remember doing for the next several hours.)

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Let me tell you something about Lilly Belle – she’s a great dog and we love her dearly, but she’s a dog and therfore she can be really, really stupid in spite of her breed’s supposed intelligence.  She is half golden retriever and half poodle – a combination of two of the smartest dog breeds in the world and through her training, etc. she has proven to have some smarts…dog smarts.  But she’s still a dog and dogs as they relate to humans are stupid.  They can be trained to do really smart-seeming things, but left to their own devices, dogs are as stupid as stupid gets.  Loveable, cute, adoreable, wonderful in many ways, but dumb as dirt on a lollipop when compared to the intelligence of even some of the dumbest humans around.  There are exceptions, of course.  Lilly is no exception.

Lilly has a fiendish appetite for eating two things that no human no matter how intellectually challenged would ever dare to ingest – rocks and socks.  She doesn’t chew the socks up, she swallows them whole.  By absurd and wholly incomprehensible contrast, she chews on rocks and sometimes one slips down her throat.  We’ve found both socks and rocks in her poop and her vomit since she was a pup and we have been unable to get her to stop eating these things as well as incapable of keeping all of the rocks and socks away from her.  We feared that this dreadful day might someday happen, but of course we were completely stunned when the day actually arrived……at 7:30 am…..in a hotel room……in Santa Fe, New Mexico……while we were supposed to be getting away from our stressful lives for a tiny little 3 day getaway……..

Goodbye weekend getaway, hello stress bomb!!!  Goodbye casual stroll, hello frantic texting!!  Goodbye savings account, hello to even more belt-tightening!!  Goodbye clear headed peaceful tranquility, hello questions with bad or no answers, difficult decision-making, and partial solutions!!  What do we do?  How much is this going to cost?  What if she doesn’t survive the condition or the treatment?  If we spend the money and she does survive how are we going to prevent this from happening again?  Wasn’t I supposed to be sipping a mimosa and meandering through an art gallery right about now????

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Well, we did the frantic texting and got the bad answers – yes it is an intestinal blockage, yes she will die without surgery, yes it will cost way more than we can afford, yes dogs often swallow things they shouldn’t, no there isn’t a good way to keep them from doing so.  Fantastic.  Then we made the difficult decision – yes go ahead with the surgery.  I never got that mimosa, but I did meander through a few art galleries…it was an angry meander though, nothing like the casual stroll of the day gone by!

Our flight left later that day and we eventually got back to our parents’ house around 9:00 that evening.  Lilly had made it through the surgery – a rock, a sock, and a ponytail holder were extracted from her small intestine (way to pack it all in, Lilly!) – and she was in recovery. The kids were thrilled to see us and we were……..um, yeah, we were thrilled to see them too….yeah, that’s what we’ll go with.  I wish I could say the drama was over by that point, but apparently our bad luck had not run out quite yet.  Lilly was not recovering well and needed to stay on IV’s for at least another day (it ended up being another four days) and yours truly came down with a stomach bug just in time for the drive back to Austin.  Faaaaannntttaaaasssssstttiiiic!!!!

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So we did get some good sleep on our trip and had some great weather.  We also had a near-perfect day on Saturday; I honestly do not know how it could have been any better.  The kids had an absolute blast with Nana, Bappa, Summer, Angel, Grandma, and Grandpa and that always gives our hearts a smile.  And I got 64 consecutive hours alone with Casey Ann.  And even though our time together was mostly spent either sleeping, sleep-deprived, or stressed out of our minds, time alone with my lady is absolutely priceless and I’ll take it under any conditions.  Lilly did survive, finally came home from the vets, and will be coming back to Austin in a few more days.  Our bank account will survive as well (though, unlike Lilly Belle, it will take more than a few days for it to recover).  So all’s well that ends well, right?  Right?  Right??!  RIGHT???????!!!!

God bless,

Ethan

 

These Days

Good Times

These Days

35 Comments 23 September 2012

As of this moment, not the one in which you are reading these words, but the one in which I am typing the words into my computer, it has been nearly 313 days since our family was last in front of the cameras filming a new episode of “Quints by Surprise.”  I know that it probably seems like it has been forever since we’ve been on your TV screen, but really, can you believe it has been nearly a year??  We miss filming the show – we miss the crew and we miss the energy that percolates through the atmosphere on filming days.  We miss having a soundtrack playing in the background of our lives and we miss being a front row spectator to the creative process that transforms our daily routines, challenges, victories, and frustrations into something that is at times fun, funny, and faith-filled, heartwarming, uplifting, and hopefully, always very, very real about the very real ups and downs of life with quints plus one…

When we last filmed, Eliot was keeping us all busy with another soccer season and getting settled in to her new school year (2nd grade) as her super-infatuation with all things Taylor Swift was beginning to overtake her life (that’s her in the picture below, head on my shoulder, Taylor’ed out – before the concert was over!).  This time last year, Eliot was ready to rock it in her vampire costume for Halloween, the seeds were being planted for a cheerleading future when she got to hang out on the field with the Baylor Bear Cheerleaders, and she was wearing the “missing my two front teeth” look with pride and warming up to sing about it at Christmas time!

The Fab Five, meanwhile, had Casey and me neck deep in potty training (and life training!) – the grip of the terrible two’s clinched oh so tightly around our lives!  When they weren’t scheming new ways to keep us on our toes, they were enthusiastically taking on every new experience we could think to throw their way - learning how to ride their bikes and how to dance ballet like Eliot, getting their first real taste of football season in Texas and what it means to be a Baylor Bear football fan, and preparing for the ultimate experience of their 2-1/2 year old lives – dressing up as the Wizard of Oz characters for Halloween!

It should now go without saying (though I’ll say it anyway) – the show has been a positive force in our lives and hopefully in yours, too.  It has helped us to create and of course document amazing memories for our family; it has opened our world up to interactions with people all over the world – some who check in just to say they love the show and appreciate our family, others who are looking for advice or encouragement, and still others who simply want to share their story, their struggle, and their joy, and  want to thank us for inspiring them in some small way to keep smiling and to keep the faith.  Judging by these messages and the many others we have received through Facebook and Twitter, the show has had a positive impact on the lives of many others outside of our little clan…truly an answer to our prayers!

Also judging by the many, many messages we get on the subject, I can tell you that there are many out there wondering the same thing you may be – will the show ever be back??!  Well, the honest answer is that we don’t know for sure, that we hope that it does, and that with each day that passes without a call from TLC, the prospects of the show returning grow weaker and weaker.  There are times when it absolutely kills us to not have the cameras around, to know that what we are experiencing at that moment with the kids is not being captured for the show.  The quints’ 3rd birthday party, our attempts at teaching them how to swim, our first family trip to the beach, funny little games the kids make up, Eliot’s development as the best big sister on the planet – Facebook and Twitter are great, but we would really love to share these experiences with you in living color!!

But the choice is not ours to make…it’s not in our hands.  And those whose job it is to make decisions such as these aren’t committing and they aren’t saying exactly why.  Nonetheless, no matter what happens with the show, we are incredibly grateful to have had this experience and we are incredibly grateful to all of you who have watched and followed along with our little adventures…

So since you won’t be seeing us on your TV screens anytime soon, I thought I would fill you in on what defines “these days” for the Jones family…

These days, those “cheer” seeds that were planted at the Baylor football game a year ago have produced a Four Points Pop Warner Mighty Mite Viper Cheerleader!  Eliot’s soccer days are behind her and it’s nothing but pom-poms and high kicks for now…she loves the cheering, hates the Texas heat she has to endure while she’s cheering on her team!  Eliot has also just started her new school year (she’s a 3rd grader!) and in spite of some struggles getting to know all of the new faces in her class, she is completely in love with her new teacher and is off to another great start!  And how about this – only in our family does a cheerleader have her very own cheer section…

These days, we are still struggling to get all five 100% potty trained…grrr!!!  We made a huge push a year ago to get this done and we had pretty good and pretty immediate success, getting all five completely trained has proven to be really, really difficult…and frustrating!  We’re trying to be very, very patient and not push them too hard, but oh my gosh we are tired of cleaning up pee off the floor!!!!

These days, The Wizard of Oz is still one of the faves in our home, but it has serious competition from Peppa Pig, Max & Ruby, and The Fresh Beat Band.

These days, Eliot is still a superstar big sister – both in our eyes as parents and in the quints’ eyes as adoring little super fans!  Eliot loves to take the kids into her room, one at a time, to have special little play dates with each of them which they all absolutely love.  She has also started to join me at bedtime so that she can read to them, help tuck them in, and give them a giggle before she bolts downstairs.  And her maternal instincts have kicked in – she’ll often jump in to help settle disputes, soothe hurt feelings, and correct the kids when they are going astray…Eliot, the caretaker – who would have ever guessed?!

These just-ending summer days, the kids got more than their fill of sun, sand, swimming pools, ice cream treats, trips to the zoo, sprinkler fun in the backyard, kite flying, and all of the other summertime fun you can think of!  The 5 got their first trip to the beach when we made the trek with both sets of grandparents to the Texas coast…they loved it, they wore us out, and now they wear us out everyday asking when we can go back!!

These days we have finally managed to get the whole family to church and Sunday school on a regular basis…hallelujah!!  The quints love going to church and get excited every week to get to see Miss Kelly and Miss Allie who shower them with good love every week!  Eliot thinks the youth pastor, Todd, is as cool as they come and Casey and I are just plain happy to be back to the church we love so much.  We really can’t say enough good things about the warm, loving, and Christ-focused environment that greets us every time we get the opportunity to be on the Riverbend campus…God has been so good to us through our church home!

These days, there is nothing better for me than to watch Eliot and Jack play together…it is endlessly fun to watch these two go at it!  Jack will come out of nowhere to tackle his big sister, catching her completely off guard!  But you know our little spark plug isn’t going to let him get away with it so the chase is on!  They laugh and giggle and tackle and  chase and poke and punch and then do it all again…it’s awesome and it is totally unique to these two!  None of the girls gets after Eliot the way Jack does and though I know Eliot loves it, I really think part of her doesn’t know exactly how to handle this rambunctious little brat that won’t give up, won’t stop messing with her, and won’t stop giggling is curly little head off when he does is coming after her…so so so cute!

These very recent days, The Fab Five have started attending a “Mom’s Day Out” program two days a week…YAY FOR CASEY!!!!!  The program is held at a local gym, 3F Fitness, and the kids learn tumbling and stretching as well as their abc’s and 1-2-3′s…and I’m sure you guessed this part – they LOVE it!!  Thank you so much to the owners, William and Haley, for putting this program together and inviting our family to join!

These days, sleep is much less difficult to come by though we had to go through fire to reclaim the blissful treasure that comes with a full night’s sleep!  Earlier in the year, the quints put us through every trial you could imagine – Britton waking up at all hours of the night in a screaming fit, Lila waking up at 5:00 or 6:00 am day after day after day, Jack waking up everyone in the room at 3:00 am to tell them all that he has to go potty, Ryan waking up at 5 am so she could wake Lila up who would then make sure Britton, Brooklyn, and Jack got the memo that it was 5:00 am and time to torment mommy and daddy….it was BRUTAL!!!

And because sleep is more consistently available now, these days, life has become almost routine in our usual chaotic sort of way.  Casey’s and my morning workouts have become pretty regular and the kids usually don’t get up until about 6:30 which is a godsend to us…though we long for the days that it will be 7:00 or 7:30.  And since we got rid of nap time, bedtime has become much more consistent (and much less intensely chaotic and stressful!) – the kids are in bed, lights out by 7:30 every night and they’re usually all fast asleep by 8:00.

These days, we still have a handful of committed, loving, and totally awesome volunteers who have been with us from the beginning and who continue to provide loving care to our little ones, giving Casey and I much needed breaks from the perpetual craziness that defines our life.  To our volunteers, past and present:  thank you, thank you, thank you….THANK YOU!!!!

 

To answer the question we get quite often – no, these days are not any easier than the days that have gone before…though we’re hoping that the 5′s 5th year of life will bring some relief to our weary souls!  I’ll repeat:  no, it hasn’t gotten any easier; rather, the challenges have changed.  Gone are the sleepless nights, hello mega-attitude and meltdowns from 5 hyper-sensitive little beings trying to find their place in the world.  Gone is the endless parade of dirty diapers, hello pee accidents by the handful and the joys of taking 5 tots to the bathroom 5 times when we dare venture out of the house.  Gone are the days of bottle feeding and burping, hello knocked over milk cups, protests over what has been provided for a meal, food thrown across the table, and ginormous messes left at the dinner table…and the dinner floor…and the dinner clothes…and the dinner hands and faces…and so on and so forth.  No, things are definitely not easier by any barometer we can measure by…just different.

But as I write these words, I am reminded that in many ways life these days is no different than those that are past.  We are blessed, abundantly so, and that is no different than before; we are challenged, abundantly so, and that is no different than before.  It has been said that to whom much is given, much is expected.  Well, to put it simply:  we have been given much!  This is something that has not changed and will not change – life with quints plus one is a rare and awesome blessing in every sense of the word.  And no doubt, we will continue to be given much as we face the challenges of raising these 6 to be 6 happy, healthy, respectful, caring, well-adjusted, and God-loving tweens, teens, and beyond.  Let the blessings flow down!!

God bless,

Ethan

 

 

The Carousel of Bunnies and Bluebonnets

Good Times

The Carousel of Bunnies and Bluebonnets

9 Comments 06 April 2012

Easter is almost here so I had to break from the blog posts I have been doing on each of the kids to properly recognize one of my favorite holidays!!  We are celebrating this time around as we have for the last 5 or 6 years – in Austin with a house full of family – nothing better!  All of the kids are super-excited for the festivities and the wall-to-wall fun…and hopefully someday they’ll be as excited as Casey and I are for the amazing opportunities for worship and praise that await us at Riverbend church!

I don’t know exactly what it is, but the Easter holiday seems to take on more and more significance in my heart with each passing year.  Casey and I first visited Riverbend Church on an Easter Sunday several years ago and we were instantly hooked on the atmosphere, the warmth, and the mission of the church – to serve the bruised, the battered, the broken and the bored of our community and world; reclaiming, restoring and reproducing for the cause of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.  But it wasn’t until Eliot came along and then when the Quint Invasion took over our world that we realized fully the impact of what Christ did for us on the cross so long ago and continues to do for us today by his LIFE, LOVE, and GRACE.  There is not a doubt in our minds, He is risen!!

So I have a couple of quick stories that will put a smile on your face.  First, if you follow us on Facebook, you probably saw this little story about the absurd conversations our little ones somehow get us into.  It was too funny not to share here for those who didn’t catch it the first time around so here it goes again…

If you haven’t heard, we have been potty training since shortly after the Fab Five’s 3rd birthday in January.  It has been a tough few months, but we are about 95% potty trained!!!  And of course, you know we have had plenty of funny/frustrating/ridiculous times along the way to teaching 5 tots how to use the potty properly!!  So underwear and panties are now a big deal in our home, more importantly the cartoon character or Disney Princess that is on the underwear is what has become the topic of much discussion.  And this is how one of those discussions played out the other day…

Britton: “Ryan, do you like my Belle panties?”
Lila: “I want to see your Belle panties!”
Britton: “No, YOU can’t see my Belle panties ‘cuz YOU’RE not my best buddy!”
Me: “Oh no you didn’t, Britton – you are not going to be a brat like that! You show Lila your panties!”
Britton: “I caaaaann’t doooo it!”
Me: “Britton, you pull down your pants and show Lila your panties right now!”
Britton: “I caaaaaaannn’t!”
Me: “Britton, you pull down your pants and show Lila your panties or you’re going to timeout!”
(Britton pulls down sweatpants to show her panties)
Me: “See, Lila? See Britton’s panties…aren’t they pretty?”
Lila: (couldn’t care less about the panties)
Me: “Britton, pull your pants up…”

I’m pretty sure that one belongs in the Parent-to-Child-Conversation Wing of the Parenting Hall of Fame!  That exists, right?  The Hall of Fame of Parenting………??

And for story #2, we pick up the scene as the Jones family has embarked on another of Casey’s picture taking adventures, arriving to meet Casey’s crack dealer, Elle Mendenhall of Ella Bella Photography fame, in a field of Texas wildflowers.  This field, by the way, is incredible!  I have been sworn to secrecy as to its location, but let me just tell you, there is no better field of wildflowers, tall grasses, live oak trees, and all things that scream springtime in Texas…it is a slice of Heaven on Earth!

So we’re taking pictures and having a pretty good time with it because the kids are loving all of the flowers, Brooklyn most of all.  Our little princess, Brooklyn Faith is absolutely giddy in love and can’t take her eyes off of the Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes as Elle snaps away.  Recognizing that Casey is about to faint from her feelings of elation from knowing she just might get the cutest photos ever taken of any child ever in the history of child photo taking, Elle goes in for the kill and pulls out……………..A BABY BUNNY!!!!!

OH…MY…………..GOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHH!!!!!!  Are you kidding me?????  At this point, I seriously begin to worry that both my wife and Brooklyn might die from an overdose on cuddly cuteness!!  Acute Cuddly Cuteness Trauma – trust me, it’s a medical condition – rarely seen, often fatal.  Against better judgment, we put the baby bunny in Brooklyn’s lap and she literally cannot stop giggling and glowing from her whole being as she looks down upon this helpless little creature before her.

You may not understand how much Brooklyn loves bunnies so let me make this abundantly clear:  the little girl’s world revolves around three things:  princesses, flowers, and bunnies!!  Every night at bedtime I go around to each of the kids to tuck them into bed and I ask them to tell me something good about their day.  You can imagine the responses I get – they are as varied and hilarious as the day is long.  But there is one constant to this routine – every time I get to Brooklyn and ask her the question, I get the same response:  “I love my bunny.”  Sometimes I get, “I love bunnies” and at other times I also get, “I love bunnies hopping in fields of flowers.”  Every! Single!! Night!!!  She never mentions princesses, doesn’t say anything about the color pink…it’s ALWAYS bunnies!!!

I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP!!!

Ok, Back to the story…

So this bunny, the physical manifestation of all that Brooklyn has dreamed of since before her first breath, is sitting in her very lap in a field of flowers no less!!  If it is possible to die, at the age of 3 no less, having achieved and experienced everything you have ever dreamed of in life, it would happen in this moment with Brooklyn, the bluebonnets, and the bunny!!  And for some reason, I seem to be the only adult who seems to be concerned about the possibility of Brooklyn’s spontaneous combustion before our very eyes!!!

And then it happens.

The bunny is still in Brooklyn’s lap and Brooklyn is still super-duper-crazy giddy with excitement when something else somehow catches her eye – the flowers!!!!  And suddenly it’s as if the baby bunny IN HER LAP does not exist as she giggles helplessly at the flowers surrounding her.

And then it happens again – something other than the flowers catches her eye – the bunny in her lap!!! And suddenly it is as if the flowers SURROUNDING HER do not exist as she giggles helplessly at the baby bunny.

And then, the flowers around her once again catch Brooklyn’s eyes and it’s as if the baby bunny IN HER LAP does not exist as she giggles helplessly once again at the flowers surrounding her.

And then, the bunny in her lap catches her eye and………….this carousel of bunnies and Bluebonnets goes around and around and around and around and could still be ongoing today if we had not pulled the bunny for fear that we would all die from Acute Cuddly Cuteness Trauma!!!!!

CLASSIC Brooklyn Faith, our sweet little princess…need I say more??

Yes, I will say one more thing:  HAPPY EASTER FROM THE JONES FAMILY!!!!!!!

God bless,

Ethan

P.S.  Elle is super slammed this time of year, but found time to get me the pics for this post! Thank you, Elle!!

Three Years…But Who’s Counting?

Good Times

Three Years…But Who’s Counting?

12 Comments 25 January 2012

First of all, happy 3rd birthday to The Fab Five – Brooklyn Faith, Britton Grace, Jack William, Lila Addison, and Ryan Elizabeth!!!

Three years.  Has it really been that long?  Wait – has it really been that short??  The answer to both questions is yes…resoundingly!  When the doctor told us 3 years, 5 months, 9 days, 2 hours, and a handful of minutes ago (who’s counting, huh??) that we were going to be raising quintuplets, we knew we were in for the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced.  And we were right – the Quintuplet Invasion left no stone unturned in its mission to force change, challenge, defeat, and triumph into every aspect of our world – and the invasion continues today.

We also knew on that day that in facing this challenge – these challenges – win, lose, or draw, we were going to be richly rewarded for our efforts.  And again we were right – the 5 little blips on the TV screen that day turned into 5 little miracles, 5 little blessings, 5 enormous personalities, and at times 5 little tyrants……..

But we were also wrong about a few things, too…our crystal ball must have been a little fuzzy that day (and so were our heads and our hearts and our spirits and our perspective and our…ok, pretty much everything was fuzzy that day!).  Mostly, I think we were wrong about the scale of things.  The challenge has been far greater than even we imagined and the change these challenges have wrought has been far deeper and life-lasting.  And so too have been the rewards…in which case, the changes have been life-everlasting.

 Yep – three years.  And countless smiles.  Three years…and more wiggles than you can imagine.  Three years and………..

More imagining than we’ll ever again experience…

More surprises,  good and bad, the memories of which will never fade…

More anguish over the color of a sippy cup than any man should have to be a witness to…

More sweet little voices than a man can bear saying things like, “I love you, daddy!” and “You’re beautiful, Mommy!” and “You-you-you getting your boogers out, Daddy?”…

An endless supply of lost shoes, missing stuffed animals, messy floors, messy mouths, and messy clothes as well as broken crayons, broken toys, and sometimes broken hearts and broken dreams…

An expert knowledge of the negotiating tricks and skills of a two-year-old trying to avoid bedtime as if their life depended on it…

A lifetime worth of pull-your-hair-out frustration after a night-after-night routine of facing the negotiating tricks and skills of 5 two-year-olds trying to avoid their bedtimes as if their lives depended on it…

Countless diapers, countless middle-of-the-night wake-up calls, endless drama, endless chaos and countless picture-taking opportunities for my endlessly crazy wife!!!!  But I digress…

A steady supply of warmth, care, and love from friends, family, and once-upon-a-time strangers who have carried us through some of the most difficult times we have faced along this path…

An overflowing of pride and joy and gratitude at the sight of Eliot McKenna being everything a big sister should be and becoming more and more of what a big sister should be with each new passing moment…

Not enough date nights, vacations, and moments of peace with my endlessly crazy wife, but more longing for each than either of us can stand at times…

 

Never enough hugs and cuddles from our oftentimes too busy tots…

A continuous loop of the subtly-maddening choruses of Barney and Friends…and Toddler Tunes…and Little Einsteins…and Wonder Pets…and Dora and Diego…and Disney princesses…and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”…and…ok, I’ll stop now…

A never-faltering faith in God’s hand at work in the life of this family…

Three years.  5 little miracles.  Life…abundant.

God bless,

Ethan

For more photos of the birthday celebration, follow us here:  JonesLife on Facebook!

Evolution of an Epic Fail

Good Times

Evolution of an Epic Fail

9 Comments 19 December 2011

It was a simple plan, really it was.  No preparation necessary, no cameras, no fuss, and really no bother.  It was going to be fun, festive, and full of family cheer…even for a family unaccustomed to the uneventful.  But before it really even got started, it all fell apart.  And so it was – the night of the epic fail…

So this was the plan:  it was Friday afternoon, deep in the heart of the Texas Christmas Season and the Jones family was ready for some Christmas cheer…well, the Jones parents were in the mood at least.  My first priority was to shut down my work day in time to scoop up the family and head out for the night.  Some clients of mine who live in the neighborhood (less than five minutes from our home) are Steiner Ranch’s version of the Griswold’s…and I’m not exaggerating when I say that.  Their light display boasts over 90,000 lights with light effects and displays that synchronize to holiday music…it is completely out of control!!  Every year when the light display is ready, “The Griswold’s” have a holiday party to show off their work.  So the plan was simple:  head over to see the light display, have some holiday treats, say hello to a few friends, then shuffle back to the car, drive around the neighborhood to look at the other light displays, and head back home to put the kids down and ease into a quiet evening with my lady.  Simple, right?  Out of the house for maybe two hours, not traveling more than about 2 miles, see lots of Christmas lights (always a kid favorite, right?!), load the kids up on some Christmas candy, keep them out just a bit past their bedtime so they would fall asleep easy…PIECE OF CAKE!!!  Did I mention that it all fell apart?

So we’re at the Holiday party checking out the lights and not ten minutes have passed when the trouble began.  Eliot came to me complaining of an upset stomach…a really bad upset stomach that needed pretty immediate attention, if you know what I mean.  Let’s mark that as Problem Event #1 in our Evolution of an Epic Fail timeline.  Ok, no problem…we’ve dealt with 5 stomach bugs at a time we can handle this and probably salvage the night.  So we gather up the gang, barely waving goodbye as we race to the car, and I start piling everyone in.  At this point we’re in a rush so I grab any kid and pop them in any seat available.  And here we mark Problem Event #2.  Britton gets car sick so she always sits in the middle row middle seat right next to Eliot to help prevent any tummy trouble.  So when I grabbed Lila and put her in Britton’s seat I made a mistake that would prove to be fatal.  Britton immediately noticed that she was not going to get her usual spot and as you all know Britton’s flare for the dramatic, she blew her top brighter than any Christmas display we saw that night!  Well, sorry Britton, but we’ve got to go and we can’t take the time to switch kids to different seats.  And you guessed it:  mark that as Problem Event #3!

In spite of the trouble, we manage to get the kids in their seats, buckled up tight and ready for the mad dash home so we can take care of Eliot.  Britton is exorcising a few demons from deep within her soul, but that’s nothing new so the only real trouble at the time was the urgent need to get Eliot back to the house.  We’re less than five minutes away so we’ve got this, no worries, and believe it or not we made it home without any new trouble events!    Our hope was that Eliot would make a quick recovery and our night could be salvaged so the plan was to keep the kids in the car with me while Casey ran in with Eliot to tend to her stomach trouble.  Mark the optimistic parental hope down as Problem Event #4.  Casey runs in with Eliot, I’m in the car with the 5, Britton’s  hair must be on fire the way she is carrying on, but that’s nothing new so things appear to be somewhat stable for the moment.  Not so fast, my friends…

Problem Event #5 happens unexpectedly when I turn on some music in the car – nothing crazy, just some acoustic guitars…pretty light stuff.  But Ryan comments immediately that she doesn’t like it.  What?  That’s strange…there is really nothing not to like about the music and the kids have never had any issue with the music I play in the car so what gives?  I more or less ignore Ryan about the music, but she decides that she really does not like the music and wants me to turn it off.  I tell her that it’s not going to happen  at which point some of the flames from Britton’s burning hair apparently jumped onto Ryan’s head and set her ears on fire because she starts screaming her head off and again insisting that I turn the music off.  AND THEN, Jack starts throwing a fit because he DOES NOT want the music turned off!!  We’ll go ahead and mark that as Problem Event #6.  Up next:  Problem Event #7…not to be outdone by her brother and sisters, Lila decides to get in on the action by kicking off one of her boots then immediately decrying the injustice of not having a boot on both feet by stretching the outer limits of the human vocal chord.

So just to recap:  Eliot is inside with Casey having God knows what kind of issues, Britton’s skin has apparently turned itself inside out, exposing every pain nerve in her body to the elements, Ryan’s ear drums are about to explode because of the acoustic classical guitar music I’m playing softly in the car, Jack is boldly sticking up for his daddy’s musical affinity but doing so quite vocally and with a great deal of anguish, and Lila’s screams of bootless terror are haunting the damned residing beyond the seventh gate of Hades…and we haven’t been out of the house 30 minutes.

But what about Brooklyn, you say?  Ah yes, Brooklyn…sweet, sweet Brooklyn.  God love that little girl!  Brooklyn is my own personal eye of the storm in this less-than-festive moment of cacophony.  Sweet Baby B is just sitting there, calmly surveying the scene, and casually ignoring the chaos.  When I manage to make eye contact with her (speaking to each other is clearly not an option with the amount of noise emanating from the mouths of the babes in our car), she just smiles at me sweetly as if the world has never been a happier place.  GOD. LOVE. THAT. GIRL!!

In the 2 years, 11 months, and 2 days that these five beautiful babies have bettered our lives, it can rarely be said that Casey or I had absolutely no control over any situation with the kids.  That can’t be said for the event being experienced at that very moment.  I was utterly helpless to calm the situation so I just sat there smiling at Brooklyn and pretending that I was in her world of butterflies and blue skies, far, far, far away from the mayhem that had taken possession of our family…

This goes on for a good four hours (or maybe 20 minutes, but who can keep count when the gates of Hell have obviously opened up a portal to our world right there in your vehicle??).  However long it was, Casey and Eliot finally emerge from the house, apparently with Eliot feeling much better and ready to resume our evening of festive cheer.  And as the optimistically obtuse parents that we are, Casey and I decide to try and salvage the night by driving around the ‘hood for awhile to look at Christmas lights.  At least three of the five are still apparently being ripped apart by rabid ants judging by their screams of anguish and the Quints’ bedtime has just passed, but we’ve only been out of the house an hour by this point and we are going to experience some Christmas cheer if it kills every last one of us!!!  Mark that as Problem Event #8 – we lasted less than ten minutes………..We bailed and it didn’t take too much convincing.  We were forced to admit that the night was officially a bust.  We rushed back home, hustled the kids upstairs, put them in their jammies, and put them down to bed as quickly as possible, Eliot included.

 

We have had our kids on planes and trains, in Oprah’s studio chairs, and at photo shoots galore.  We have experienced their lowest lows – stomach bugs, ear infections, nasty colds, and more.  We have had them over-sugared, over-stimulated, and over-tired.  But none of these moments in time can compare as memorably nor as challengingly to the night we simply tried to experience a little Christmas cheer.  It was a simple plan, really it was…too simple perhaps.  Clearly we were not prepared for what it was apparently destined to be:  a quintuplet-sized, complete, and total epic fail!!

God bless and Merry Christmas!!

Ethan

 

 

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