There's a reason I haven't blogged much lately.

Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen. At 10.5 months, Kieran is walking. And obviously, he is delighted with his new skill.

(Funny story: At Bible study last week, one of our awesome nursery workers asked Teyla if Kieran has learned to walk. "No," she said. "He doesn't walk. He just waddles like a penguin." I see her point.)

Penguin waddle or not, I am losing my ever lovin' mind trying to keep up with him. (I am also losing the last of the baby weight due to the constant-movement, don't-even-think-about-sitting-down thing. Silver lining.)

He is either getting into the plants or taking away the Little People that Teyla is playing with (which doesn't end will for Kieran, believe you me; don't mess with Teyla) or splashing all the dog's water out of her bowl.

(Subtitled: Busted!)

And everything is SO! EXCITING! Life is AMAZING! Have you seen this ball, Mom? It rolls. And this spoon? It makes a loud noise when it hits the floor? And this ceramic thing that flushes? It has water in it AND a lid I can lift by myself!

We have reached the parenting milestone where I cannot cook dinner unless Corey is home to take charge of my smallest charge. Kieran requires constant adult supervision. I had actually forgotten how exhausting this stage of child-rearing is. (Which is mildly amusing, considering I did this just two years ago.)

Remind me again: How do I survive the new toddler season?

To Know the Difference

She doesn’t fall asleep until 10:27, this spritely little girl of mine. She finally stills, her hand resting on my arm, her head on my legs, her hair spread out like a dandelion in bloom.

I’m captivated by her. I sit in her bed, in the darkened room, and I listen to lullabies and I read about other mothers drinking in their little girls and my heart almost breaks with the beauty.

But – I’ll be honest – I’m also irritated because it is 10:30 and it took her almost 90 minutes to fall asleep – and this after book reading and water drinking and rub-my-back-one-more-time-Momma requests. Ninety minutes I’ve sat here in the dark, praying not to chafe against the silken reins on my back and the tender bit in my mouth.

And now it is 10:30 and the lights are out in the house and my husband is getting ready for bed and this? This is the first minute I’ve had to myself all day.

“This is gift,” I whisper gentle stern to my soul (which always leans toward the melancholy at nightfall). “This is gift.”

And I know this season, it chips and wears away at the layers of selfishness which I use to clothe my soul. At this point in my child-rearing, I feel practically worn through. Yet there are still pockets of me-focus to discover.

I beg for wisdom to know the difference between being a martyr and being a mother.

I ask even more for the ability to love well.

A Sanguine Hangover

Do you ever have one of those days when you talk too much?

When you are heartsick over the flood of words coming from your own mouth? When you talk over others in a rush to continue your own thoughts? When you dishonor those close to you by over-sharing? When you sell the story of loved ones for the laugh of a crowd?

Do you ever have one of those days when you wonder if you could give up talking for Lent? If you could button your own lip for 40 day and only unbutton for eating and speaking words that encourage, nourish and are wise?

Do you ever wish God had given you a temperament of restraint instead of one that rushes in? Do you ever ask forgiveness – again – for words too quick, laughter too loud, self too big? Do you ever wonder why you crave the spotlight? Why you have to share just one more story, get one last laugh?

This is what I call a sanguine hangover.

And just like a real hangover, I can testify – the morning after is never worth the fun of the night before.

The more talk, the less truth;
the wise measure their words.
- Proverbs 10:19

Ten Months

Poor fourth baby. Kieran has been so neglected on the blog.

It's a dilemma of his own design. He keeps me SO BUSY, I never have a chance to sit down. (At least, not without him in my lap, which translates into me trying to type while simultaneously wrestling a baby octopus who's drunk 12 espressos.)

With that disclaimer ringing in your ears, I make the following announcement: Kieran is ten months old today.

It's staggering to me that, the more I try to slow time, the faster it seems to go. Knowing Kieran is my last baby, I have tried to savor these last ten months like nothing before. Yet here we are, just a few weeks after his birth, and he's a crawling, standing, cruising toddler-in-training.

A few notables:

At ten months, Kieran weighs almost 20 pounds. He stands 29 inches tall. He wears 12 month clothes, which puts him just ahead of his brother at this stage. (Check out Kieran and Connor wearing the same pajamas -- only seven years apart.)

He is a cuddle monster, especially with Mom and Dad. To set him down is to set him into a cauldron of torture. He despairs when Mom dares to move out of his line of vision. He continues to give the sloppiest, wettest, most intense kisses I've ever seen a baby give.
Given that he's mobile -- crawling, cruising, puling to a stand, trying to take his first steps -- it's not a surprise that he's into trouble. (Pictured here: shredding the mail.)

When he gets excited about something, he kicks his little feet like he's auditioning for Riverdance. He babbles constantly (mamamamama / dadadadadada / gigoh-gigoh-gigoh-gigoh). He delights in his siblings. He is curious about everything.

He is a horrible sleeper, preferring to nap in the car and spend nights tossing and turning with Mom and Dad. (You can't win 'em all.)

But oh my goodness. The joy. The unmitigated, unqualified joy.
I love this age. The whole world is filled with wonder.

Almost every night, when I'm nursing him to sleep, I sit and stroke his silky, dark hair and his chubby, pink cheeks and I inhale the Johnson's baby shampoo and cuddle the cozy fleece pajamas, and I try to memorize the feeling of his soft breathing and the feel of his warm body pressed next to mine. And my heart beats, "The last baby. The last baby. The last baby."

And it's OK.
It's right. The moment Kieran was born, the exact second I felt his tiny little body leaving mine, I had the most bittersweet feeling, a perfect mixture of gratitude and sorrow. It was my soul acknowledging that this season of childbearing is coming to a close. I'm moving to the next chapter of life. It has been so sweet, this decade of infants in my house. But it's also time for me to stop making babies and focus on raising children. I am unspeakably blessed with the four I have. I face this new season with a thankful heart.

But not yet. Because for the next two months, I still have a baby -- even if he's crawling away from me, drooling on the floor, trying to eat a wood chip he found next to the fireplace. (Hang on. Be right back.)

For a few more weeks, I still have a baby in my house.