Saturday, February 26, 2022

And then they went to Disney World!

We started getting the "sooo when are you going to take them to Disney World?" questions when they were babies.  BABIES!  So to say I've thought about this trip and contemplated the logistics over the years is an understatement.  I think I initially thought we might do it when they were 6.  Then put it off another year.  And another year.  Then covid happened... but when you find out Disney charges adult ticket prices at age 10 and you have 6 9-year-olds- you make up your mind real fast- 9 is the age to go!  

It turned out to be an awesome age to go.  Any younger I believe would've been miserable for all the adults involved.  Much older and some of them would've thought it was lame.  My kids aren't big Disney movie/show kids.  Initially they didn't even care much that we were going.  But they LOVED it!  The Disney magic worked on them.  They excitedly talked nonstop the whole trip about all we were doing- even my very reserved Ben.  

I highly recommend using a Disney travel agent. Specifically- this Disney planner extraordinaire! Why anyone plans this trip without one I do not know.  It's free! And they know everything! She got our tickets and character meal squared away.  We chose to stay off property (we had 13 people in our party-saved a ton of money) or I would've had her booking everything!  Her itinerary recommendations and general tips were so very helpful too.  Saved me tons of time!  

As with any big Perkins Pack adventure- extra help was needed.  Luckily, all the grandparents were down for a Disney trip!  Even our surrogate grandma volunteered to join us to be Leah's companion during our vacation.  Absolutely no way we could've pulled off all we did without their help!  Leah came along with us to the parks 2 partial days and hung out at the house with Marsha the rest of the time.  She did so well at the parks, and really loved her one-on-one hangout time.  

Due to needing our van with the wheelchair lift, we chose to drove to Orlando.  It's a 15ish hour drive from our home.  Our kids have been conditioned to the long all in one day road trip, so they handled it about as well as anyone could.  All the grandparents chose to fly and meet us there- they're no dummies.  

Our schedule was drive there, 5 park days in a row, drive home.  It was a fairly intense schedule.  In hindsight- 4 days would've been better.  Or a rest day mixed in.  We were already spent by day 5.  


I chose to do Epcot first.  It opens the latest and since we were arriving very late the night before, I knew we would like a little sleep in.  Also, I had heard kids typically don't prefer this park, so getting it in first seemed smart.  But our kids loved this park!  They loved guessing which country we would walk through next and seeing all the sights.  They enjoyed the rides as well.  My mom, Allison and I were the only ones who hung around for their evening water/lights/fireworks show, but we all agreed- so worth it!  This day I didn't do any lightning lanes and it worked out fine.  We hit the two main attractions first thing and had an hour wait for each- not bad.  Everything else was a short wait.  The kids did not handle our first wait well- they didn't really get the concept of long wait for a short ride.  But, fortunately, during the entire first ride, Andrew held on and yelled, "This is so worth it!!!" 

Epcot was also the only park we ate at a sit down restaurant for our character meal.  Our Disney travel agent got us in at the Garden Grill and all of us enjoyed it!  Definitely recommend.  It's a fun restaurant with legit good food.  Plus, we got to meet Mickey, Pluto, Chip, and Dale- from a distance, of course.


Day 2.  It was a long haul, as I predicted.  This was on a Thursday and I wanted to take advantage of the slightly smaller weekday crowds.  I did genie plus and an individual lightning lane- highly recommend!  Actually, after using both this day, I went ahead and purchased for the rest of the trip.  The other days it wasn't as helpful, but to us, even saving us a wait on a couple rides was worth it.  On this Magic Kingdom day, I calculated using the lightning lanes saved us 6 hours of waiting time.  We were able to fit in most of the park.  Leah was with us half of the day here.  She rode It's a Small World, Buzz Lightyear, and saw the Monsters Inc Laugh Floor.  She did great in all 3!  The best surprise was Levi getting chosen in the comedy show.  If you know Levi, you know he was the perfect choice and totally rocked his cameo.  We dropped Leah back at the house at lunchtime so we could hang at Magic Kingdom until closing time.  The 50th Anniversary fireworks show was amazing and riding Haunted Mansion after dark was one of my favorite moments.  

We found the kids didn't really care for the classic Disney rides.  When you don't have a nostalgic perspective- they're just outdated.  We also quickly learned which kids are the thrill seekers and which aren't.  Andrew is definitely NOT.  Poor kiddo.  Since I paid extra for all of us to do Space Mountain I was vague on the description.  Roller coaster in the dark.  I may have forgotten how scary it could be... Andrew was in tears by the end and Allison was screaming, "I DO NOT LIKE THIS!" during the ride.  Caroline might be the only one to ever do it again.  From then on, Andrew had no trust in anything I said about a ride.  I tried real hard to talk him into Big Thunder Mountain, but as he pointed out, it definitely has a "severe turn" and therefore- hard pass.  They all enjoyed Splash Mountain, except Ben, who doesn't care for big drops.  That flip flop in your tummy is not his jam.  


Day 3.  This was our intended short day which was much needed.  We all hit the Disney wall in the early afternoon and tapped out.  Letting the kids play at the house and swim while the grown ups took a break really helped to get us through the rest of the trip. Back to Animal Kingdom- it's the prettiest park.  We brought Leah this day knowing she'd loved being pushed along the walking trails and hearing the birds.  She rode several rides- even the long safari- and was completely content.  Plus there were several random concerts that were really fun and, of course, Leah loved the music.  River Rapids and Safari were big hits with our entire party.  The kids thought everyone getting soaked on the rapids was hilarious (my dad got a full shower and was soaked) and seeing all the unique animals along the safari ride was really neat for my animal loving kids.  This park was very much worth getting there early.  We had no crowds until closer to lunch time and it was getting real crowded about the time we were leaving.  It's the smallest park, but definitely worth experiencing.  


Day 4.  It was a Saturday and it showed.  The lines were long and the lightning lanes all sold out quick.  So, there was no avoiding all the longer waits this day.  Our cutoff was 90 minutes.  Anything over that and we were skipping it.  Unfortunately, that meant we had to skip one of my favorites- Tower of Terror.  How these rides have 2-3 hour waits all day long I don't know!  We spent our morning doing the easy to get into things - rope dropped Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway (a must do!) and saw all the shows.  We put in the wait time for Rock n Roller Coaster and Star Wars Smugglers Run.  Be warned- if you let the kids pilot the millennium falcon- it's a very bumpy nauseating ride!  I couldn't care less about Star Wars, but I will say that section of the park was impressive.  However, we all loved Toy Story land!  It's so fun!  We all enjoyed the rides and the atmosphere.  This day I took advantage of the line saving apps- Disney Play and Heads Up Game.  Do not forget your portable charger!!! You will need it!!! If you're the organizer of your group you will be on your phone A LOT!


Day 5.  Whew.  We were dragging but can't quit at this point!  Sunday at Magic Kingdom.  Do not recommend.  So so so very crowded.  Took us an hour just to get into the park.  Other days weren't like this at all. Thankfully, I was a slave driver our first day at Magic Kingdom, so we weren't trying to squeeze in as much.  We rode what I could get lightning lanes on and took time to see shows and watch the parade and run around Tom Sawyer Island and do some final souvenir shopping.  Much more chill of a day.  Since that park is so huge (hence the 2 days dedicated to it), we were able to have a completely different experience and only repeated 2 things the kids really wanted to do again.  They were sad when it was time to board the ferry out one last time.  Side note- monorail vs ferry- we split it evenly, but the ferry ended up being our favorite.  They pack ya into that monorail, but it was easier with Leah in tow.    


Kid funnies...

The kids rooms had TVs in them.  So exciting!!  But on the first evening Allison called me up there to fix it because it wasn't working.  However, it was working just fine.  It had old school cable from the days of yore where you had to press the channel button and flip through the channels hoping you found something good to watch. Or actually input a channel number.  The horror!!!!  No YouTube or Netflix!!!!  They were aghast, but got over it fast.  

Levi "Are we not coming back until we're the parents?"

Me "Probably so.  This was a big deal for y'all to come here"

Caroline "Yeah Levi. This is expensive.  The whole trip probably cost $1,000"

Not even close sister!

Extra tips...


The policy was lifted while we were there, but if that changes, or you'd prefer to wear masks while indoors- get the mask lanyards.  They do not look cute, but they're a lifesaver when constantly taking masks on and off.

Genie+ and Lightning Lanes: 

Worth it.  1000%.  If it's in your budget pay all the extra money.  Your Disney planner can direct you on choices if you need to pick and choose.  I started with a pick and choose plan, but ended up giving up other things in my budget to do this.  Those lines suck.  Especially with kids. The only bummer was on the really crowded days and the options sold out by noon on the Genie+.  The Lightning Lanes I didn't even get a chance on because we stayed off property.  Also, rides would randomly close for a bit throughout the day or close all together.  This definitely threw a wrench in some plans, but nothing you could do about it.  Take some time to learn all the rules beforehand and set your alarms!

DAS pass: 

If you have someone in your party that qualifies for this- GET IT.  You can call ahead of time.  Expect a ridiculously long hold time on the phone (4 hours for me), but having it all set up before you go is so nice.  But long gone are the days of your entire party skipping all the lines.  You get to choose 2 attractions per day and they limit to 6 people total (including your DAS person).  This did pose an issue for us.  However, in Magic Kingdom they were extremely accommodating and allowed us all on rides with Leah no questions asked.  In Animal Kingdom I had to speak to guest services in order for all of us to ride at the same time, but they cleared it.  We didn't take Leah to the other parks, so I have no idea how they are.  


If eating quick service in the park- mobile order every time! Lines suck.  Buy the refillable popcorn bucket and carry it around your entire trip with pride.  You are smart.  We had 4 of our adults (my parents, Dave, and I) carrying backpacks all day everyday filled with food, water bottles, ponchos... amongst other necessities.  Big time and money saver!

Gift Cards: 

Buy Disney gift cards ahead of time.  I did this so each of my kids had a souvenir budget.  Once their card was spent, they were done.  This worked really well!  The only meltdowns were after day 2 when my big spender's money was long gone.  Life lessons are hard.  


Now-for the first time ever- The Pack participated in a blog post!  All of their individual recommendations are listed below in case you want a kid's perspective.  Ben was my super interview helper and loved doing this.  I did have to intervene with all of his leading questions though.  His opinion is not the only opinion.  



Epcot (park)  

River Rapids (ride)

Least Favorites

Hollywood Studios (park) 

Splash Mountain (ride)

Must Dos

Epcot: Garden Grill restaurant, Ratatouille, Frozen, Living with the Land

Magic: Speedway, Buzz Lightyear, Shooting Range, Big Thunder Mountain, Tom Sawyer Island, Thirst Rangers (mist station)

Hollywood: Toy Story Mania, Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run, Mickey and Minnie's runaway railway, eat a churro

Animal: Safari, river rapids


Epcot: Imagination, Nemo

Magic: Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Country Bear Jamboree, It's a Small World, Peter Pan

*Mickey Pretzels



Magic Kingdom (park) 

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (ride)

Least Favorites

Animal Kingdom (park)  

Imagination (ride)

Must Dos

Epcot: Soarin, Ratatouille, Frozen, Living with the Land, Garden Grill restaurant

Magic: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Speedway, Tom Sawyer Island, Monsters Inc Laugh Floor

Hollywood: Rock n Roller Coaster, Slinky Dog Dash, Toy Story Mania, Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, Millennium Falcon Smuggler's Run

Animal: Safari, River Rapids 


Epcot: Nemo

Magic: It's a Small World, Peter Pan, Country Bear Jamboree, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise



Magic Kingdom (park) 

Splash Mountain (ride)

Least Favorites

Hollywood Studios (park) 

Slinky Dog Dash (ride)

Must Dos: 

Epcot: Garden Grill restaurant, Ratatouille, Frozen

Magic: Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Speedway, Aladdin carpets

Hollywood: Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway, Toy Story Mania

Animal: River Rapids, Safari


Epcot: Soarin, Imagination 

Magic: Space Mountain, Country Bear Jamboree, Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan, It's a Small World Haunted Mansion



Animal Kingdom (park) 

Safari (ride)

Least Favorites

Magic Kingdom (park)  

Peter Pan (ride)

Must Dos

Epcot: Ratatouille, Frozen, Soarin, Garden Grill restaurant, Fireworks show

Magic: Splash Mountain, Speedway, Big Thunder Mountain, Haunted Mansion, fireworks show, Aladdin carpets

Hollywood: Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway, Indiana Jones stunt show, Slinky Dog Dash, Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run

Animal: Safari, River Rapids, It's Tough to be a Bug show


Epcot: Nemo, Imagination

Magic: Country Bear Jamboree, It's a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, Monsters Inc Laugh Floor



Magic Kingdom (park) 

Splash Mountain (ride)

Least Favorites

none (park) 

Space Mountain (ride)

Must Dos

Epcot: Ratatouille, Frozen, Soarin, Garden Grill Restaurant

Magic: Buzz Lightyear, Speedway, Haunted Mansion, Aladdin carpets, Shooting Range, Thirst Rangers (mist station)

Hollywood: Toy Story Mania, Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run, Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, Indiana Jones epic stunt show, eat a funnel cake 

Animal: river rapids, safari


Epcot: Spaceship Earth, Imagination, Living with the Land

Magic: Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean, Country Bear Jamboree, It's a Small World, fireworks

Animal: Dinosaur 

All in all- this was an incredible experience for our family.  I'm so glad we did it and it's checked off the childhood bucket list.  It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows by any means (we all had our turn at a meltdown- including me), but all the exhaustion and work was worth it to see how excited and happy they were.  


Unedited Kids Notes

Ben: Here's another thing if you see another restaurant that's not Garden Grill I don't know if it's good.

Levi:I went oof oof oof on Space Mountain( and I learned that I am  worse at driving than I thought I was...................................................................................:)

Allison: You need to go to Epcot and go to China to get dole pineapple whip!!!!! (You can find it in other places in Disney World).

Caroline: Rollercoasters are FUUUUNN!(Especially fast ones like Big Thunder Mountain and Rock'n Rollercoaster). :):):):):):):):):):)!

Andrew: I do not like fast rides and I like calm rides.(some are creepy) :(.

Leah:I liked hanging out with Marsha at the house in Florida.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

And then they all got COVID

Before I even get started, I feel a disclaimer is necessary.  I know the whole Covid topic is a touchy one.  Beyond polarized with opinions and lots of feelings.  I know people on all sides.  I know people who have lost loved ones to this virus from hell.  I have respect for them all and am certainly not here to argue about how we handled things.  As with all my posts, this is primarily for my memory keeping.  I choose to share what I choose to share with whom I choose to share it with.  All the details of life are never ever public information.  This is simply my experience mixed with my humor and my perspective and gratitude. Back to the post…

As we’ve all learned in the last year and a half- pandemics are hard.  Covid is the worst. For a multitude of reasons. Then right when you think it’s going to get better… it doesn’t.  Ugh.  And after a year and a half of avoiding the dreaded virus- it got to us.  Not exactly sure from where- and really- it doesn’t matter. 

Caroline reading to me from a distance.

One of my sweet get well cards

I got it first.  Again, not sure from where as no one I had been around was sick or got sick.  But, that’s covid for ya.  Once I realized what was going on, we did all the things you’re supposed to do.  The isolation and masks and sanitizing… but, alas, the day after I was out of my quarantine- Dave tested positive.  Disappointment abounded.  

Then a couple of kids started showing symptoms.  I mean- how could they avoid it at this point? So I loaded them up, found a drive thru testing site, and got all the kids tested too.  It took a 2 hour long line, a bribe of Chick-fil-a, and a very sweet nurse who gave us all popsicles out of pity… but they handled it pretty well.  You should’ve seen that nurse’s face when I said I had 6 kids with me and they all needed testing!  She said, “It’s ok!  We’ll treat your family like we did the baseball team last year.”  It worked.  And then 5 out of 6 came back positive.  Levi was pretty proud of himself… until the next day when he woke up with a fever and a cough.  Gotta love a false negative.  

Popsicles save the testing day

For the first time EVER- I had a sick husband plus 6 sick kids on my hands and we were quarantined from the world.  It was a lot.  I realized I had gotten better just in time for everyone else to crash and burn.  The worst of times- when it really all hit the fan- was the night Dave was having lots of intense symptoms at once and was absolutely miserable, Leah was on night 5 of not sleeping/cranky cries for hours, various kids were at various symptom levels and were all in my room for comfort’s sake, and the dog must’ve been feeling left out because she started vomiting.  All throughout the night.  Always on the carpet. 

As a person you get to the point where you must laugh to keep from crying at all that is happening around you.  And maybe you start singing “Another one bites the dust” to yourself too… because there’s always a song for everything.  

I eventually lost all track of times and days and whether I’d brushed my teeth or put on deodorant.  Losing your smell and taste can do that to a person.  Covid did not bring out my best self.  

Day after day things got better as we counted down the 3 weeks of no fun quarantine. (Side note: all at once was way better than doing this one at a time! That’d add up to 80 days of quarantine and I would not handle it well whatsoever) The physical ups and downs were rivaled by the emotional.  The mourning of canceled summer plans we had been looking forward to.  The sheer disappointment.  The pity parties.  The stir crazy of too much time in the house and with each other and can’t we play one game without a fight? We watched the movies and the shows and played the games and did the puzzles.  As we got better we cleaned the house, did all the laundry, organized the closets… until all the house things got really old.  Thankfully, our quarantine time ended the day before school started.  We were all so ready for it!!  I felt a tad bad for the teachers getting a pack of kids coming off absolutely no schedule or routine and way way way too much screen time.  But, survival mode is what it is.  And normalcy is the quickest way out. 

To no one’s surprise, this crazy virus affected each of us differently.  Dave had it the worst.  I don’t recall ever seeing him so sick.  Some kids never showed symptoms, some were just extra tired, and some had coughs and fevers.  Leah was our biggest concern, but she handled it like a champ.  Definitely not a great week, but so much better than expected.  I had terrible headaches off and on for 10 days.  In the grand scheme of things, we were all mild cases and just had to ride it out.  

What it looked like here for 10 days

The biggest silver lining of this covid case- was the kindness shown by others.  I’ve said it a billion times- and I’ll keep saying it.  We are so blessed and so grateful for our support system.  They are THE BEST!!!  The people have changed throughout the years, but the actions have not.  The texts and calls and prayers and check ins and food drop offs and door dashes were so very appreciated and much needed.  On the craziest of days, I stopped to look around and realized- our people must believe cookies and balloons and flowers are the cure to covid.  Of course, that’s silly.  But they sure helped lift our spirits and entertain a pack of disappointed bored kids.  And their disappointed bored mom was ever so grateful.  

Now- here’s hoping there’s never ever a sequel to write.  

Saturday, May 1, 2021

And then they turned NINE

It’s that time of year!  Birthday season and the annual blog post.  Each year I’d like to think I’ll remember all the little things and write and document more often than the occasional facebook post, but I do not.  So buckle up my friends, it’s going to be a long one....

Since last April:

It has been a year, right?!  Threw me back to the toddler skipping a nap potty training days of juggling chaos and being absolutely done with all the days.  Quarantine plus virtual school plus no volunteers plus Dave working at home... I pray never again.  The pack’s bond grew stronger, but so did the fighting.  My parenting style became mostly- figure  it out, work it out yourselves, that’s enough, everyone to separate corners, etc.  I tell myself they are going to be the best people to have on group projects and as coworkers thanks to this genius approach.  Solve all the group dynamic issues.  You’re welcome future world.  

The Virtual School Experience:

I’ve said I would never ever homeschool.  Not for me.  Unless I absolutely HAD TO for the sake of my kids.  And then the whole pandemic thing happened.  And, ya know, since I never ever learn to never say never ever.... the first 9 weeks we kept them home and did virtual school.  Ugh.  We turned our dining room and office space into a school space with laptops and bins and folders and a supplies closet.  The kids liked being able to go to school with their shoes off- ha!  Learning to navigate all the zooms and virtual classrooms at the same time was as nightmarish as it sounds.  The first few weeks I believe there was someone crying at all times- usually Allison.  Andrew took every opportunity for extra snack breaks, Ben would only turn on his video if absolutely necessary, Caroline had as many panic moments of missing something or getting behind as Allison did (a lot), and then there was Levi who loved the camera and often had to have his video turned off by the teacher because his antics distracted the class.  Levi and Andrew also found changing their Zoom names entertaining (i.e. Andrew the Hugger, Cool Guy Levi... you get the picture).  Andrew missed people so much he was excited to raise his hand and share whatever popped in his head (typical Andrew); my personal favorite: “I don’t have any questions, but I’ve got something to say!” And then there was that one day we had Safety Dave the hall monitor.  It was one of those seasons I’m sure the reality show producers would’ve loved loved loved.  

Then there was poor Leah.  She HATES the sound of voices through Zoom, so that posed its own challenges for virtual school.  Ultimately, I had weekly Zoom meetings with her teacher and therapists and did my best to create activities based on her goals and similar to what they’d do in school and sent in videos and pictures.  All of the above plus what I typically do- again- as exhausting and insanity inducing as it sounds.  All of their teachers were wonderful and so supportive, but by the end of the first 9 weeks, even though we had a good routine down- I was done. Back to school they went and their grades went up, their smiles got brighter, the fighting decreased, and I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.  Bless all you teachers and homeschool parents out there.  

I’ll admit it wasn’t all tears and trauma.  I did enjoy the extra time with Leah and seeing how the other kids work and not rushing around in the morning was nice... but I also wasn’t sad to see that time end.  And since going back to school, the kids have all acquired the ability to completely get ready for school on their own!!  From packing lunches and homework to making breakfasts and personal hygiene- It’s AMAZING!!!! Makes the mornings fairly calm and we make it to school the minute the doors open for kids to arrive.  

Birthday Tidbits:

Since last year’s birthday wasn’t exactly what we all had planned, this year we went all out!  From actually going to the grocery story to pick out cereals to the double slumber parties they’d been begging for. We fit in all the traditions and it was a whirlwind week of celebrating!  

However, there was one tradition that had to be altered.  The birthday lunch.  It’s too funny not to remember.  Typically, I bring them restaurant food and eat with them in the cafeteria.  It’s the only day I’ll agree to do such a thing.  However, this year none of that is allowed.  So, I had a backup plan.  Take each kid out to lunch throughout the week.  But NO!  I was told that was a TERRIBLE idea.  I believe the exact words were, “Why would you ever think that was a good idea?!”.  Ok.... Plan B: check them all out on their birthday and do a group lunch date.  “You’re going to make us miss recess!!! NO!!”  Ok. Fine then. Plan C: leave your lunchboxes at home, I’ll pick up food, put in lunchbox, and bring to school saying you forgot your lunch.  Again, NO!!  So we went with their plan.  Plan D: pick up happy meals the day before so they can just pack them in their lunchboxes the morning of their birthday.  All 5 kids agreed this is by far the best idea and exactly what we did.  Cold French fries and all.  And they were so excited!!

The Pack:

Andrew Noah Perkins

My Andrew Bubba or Bubs... he hates those nicknames, but he just seems like the Bubba of the family to me.  The oldest.  The biggest brother. The goober.  The quarantine was hardest on this people loving kid.  He’s extremely outgoing, loves to give hugs, and ask lots and lots of questions to new people. He also loves dogs and guessing the breeds and yelling at people while we’re on walks “Hey!  Is that a chocolate lab?”  He’s complimentary to all and has a way of making friends wherever he goes.  And a way of including everyone and doesn’t care about different needs his classmates have.  He talks about all of them as his good friends.  He has a sense for when I’m having a bad day or a rough moment and he’ll just come give me a hug.  Sometimes saying nothing, sometimes with a “you’re the best mom”.  I love that he has that ability.  Of course, he will also do that after asking for something, but I know the difference.  He’s much much smarter than he lets on.  He works that to his advantage.  He’s not going to put in extra effort for any sort of work.  He’s there for the snacks and the fun and to be where the people are.  He can lie with the best of them and is sneaky sneaky.  One time I caught him sneaking screen time and when confronted immediately said “I was making sure your iPad was charged and working Mom.”  I mean, I wasn’t fooled for one second, but I was impressed.  He also has a gift for spinning just about anything into a positive light.  Some recent examples from PE class : “My timed mile goal was 16 minutes, but I did 17:30!!! Yeah!!” And “The required push ups were 2, but I did 4! Doubled it! Yes!”  One big big change in Andrew this past year has been his behavior at school.  I’m not sure what prompted it, but one day he told me and his teachers that he was going to change and not be naughty anymore.  And you know what?!  He has done exactly that.  All Es in behavior across the board ever since and no phone calls to me about anything he’s said or done.  Super proud of him!!  He loves legos, Minecraft, watching TV, anything that involves a screen, hugs, dogs, snacks, dancing, music, and people.  

President Perkins in the making.  But he wants to start out as a YouTuber.  

Benjamin Luke Perkins

My Benny!!!  By the way, it’s just Ben now.  He curses those 3 years he made everyone call him Benny Boy.  Quarantine was Ben’s jam.  Introverted to the max.  He loved virtual school and not having to deal with all the people.  Got his work done faster, more time for reading, it was amazing.  He’s very shy and quiet until you get to know him and break through that thick shell.  Or ask him about something he loves or something he’s knowledgeable about. He’s happy to correct you.  “Well, actually...” is one of his favorite phrases.  He’s extremely competitive- especially at Gaga and dodge ball and running races.  Lots of natural athletic ability, but only uses it on his own terms and when he wants.  He’s creative and makes up games, science experiments, and inventions all the time.  Loves to tell you every single little detail.  Detail oriented is an understatement.  Also- analytical.  Even bigger understatement.  All things must make sense.  If it makes sense, he’s all good.  Change isn’t his jam, but if you warn him and explain why, he’s ok.  He’s my night owl and absolutely not a morning person.  He knows the exact minute he must be ready for school and he is ready at that minute- no sooner, no later.  This trait of his drives his sisters CRAZY and that fact alone gives him much satisfaction.  One of my current favorite things is our almost nightly conversations.  He waits until the other kiddos are asleep and then comes down to chat with me.  Or on the nights I work, he waits for me to get home so I can go chat with him before bed.  He shares whatever thoughts are in his head and I never know what to expect.  Then every time he ends with, “And what do you want to talk about Mommy? What’s on your mind?”  I love this time with him so much.  Ben loves his few close friends and his family but he’d never ever admit it.  I know I’m his mom, but Ben is crazy smart.  He LOVES to read.  Loves it!  Hard to get him to stop sometimes.  I believe this is why his vocabulary is that of an adult.  Ben wants to be a scientist or an inventor when he grows up and he eats a PBJ for lunch everyday.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s a recipe for success.  

Caroline Grace Perkins

My Caroliney!  She’s really come into her own this year.  It’s so fun to see!!  She’s still quiet at first, but so much more talkative and open in sharing her thoughts and ideas.  She’s much more social than she used to be amongst her classmates and girlfriends.  She’s turning into quite the athlete and bookworm.  She’s most likely to be found running, swimming, kicking the soccer ball, “shooting hoops”, climbing trees, reading, or writing.  She loves her screen time games as much as her siblings, but she’s more content doing the other activities.  She’s even been my little workout buddy quite a bit lately and loves getting to do the grown up stuff with me.  Caroline loves to learn and set goals for herself.  During quarantine she decided she wanted to write in cursive.  She followed a handwriting book and taught herself!  Same with basic piano.  Used my old primer books and taught herself a few simple songs.  We’re working on her Heart and Soul duet skills now.  But, really, it’s time she gets a piano teacher who’s not me!   She’s also learning a lot about cooking and grocery shopping and nutrition.  She’s always wanting to know what’s healthy and why or why not.  She’s my little sponge!  Caroline is driven and determined and has such self discipline and admirable work ethic in her plans and routines to accomplish what she wants to.  She’s also my one that needs assurance in what she can do though.  If she convinces herself she won’t be perfect, she won’t try, but 98% of the time- she succeeds!   She sets her alarm way way way early to make sure she’s up and ready to go long before it’s time to leave, sets the routine, and bugs her brothers to follow along and does not appreciate when I try to brush her hair before she brushes her teeth... or whatever the order is.  She’s still moody and if she’s tired or just up from a nap- it’s best to stay away.  Monster Caroline can still rear her ugly head. She and Levi often butt heads, but at the same time, are super close.  In a lot of ways, she’s my little mini me.  Which is as terrifying as it is fun.  However, 10000% unlike me, she wants to be a soccer or basketball player when she grows up.  

Leah Michelle Perkins

My Leah Peah!  She’s the best.  Her gigantic smiles and infectious giggles light up the room and bring joy to everyone who knows her.  Her sheer excitement at hearing the same songs everyday makes me smile.  This past year we discovered her absolute LOVE for AC/DC.  Classic rock is her jam.  We go back and forth between the Laurie Berkner song collection and the complete AC/DC collection- minus Hell’s Bells.  That one makes her cry.  Not everyone so easily switches between Old McDonald Had a Farm and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, but this girl does!  Music continues to be her happy language, her motivation, her source of calm, and pretty much everything else.  Needless to say there is ALWAYS - and I mean ALWAYS- music playing in our house.  It also helps keep my advanced tuning out ability in check.  Leah continues to work so so hard.  She still receives therapy at home multiple times a week after school.  She gives all her effort until she’s wiped out and literally rolls over and goes to sleep.  Now, she will play possum from time to time to get out of work like any kid, but most of the time, she’s going strong.  She loves her gait trainer and cruising through the house and being pushed around the neighborhood.  She’s completely calm and content riding along hearing the nature sounds.  I’m grateful she has an extraordinary team of teachers and therapists who are always working and creating new ways for her to achieve goals and communicate.  They help us out so much and she’s always making her tiny progress goals.  Leah has also physically grown a ton this year!  We’ve had to get new everything to accommodate her growth spurt: wheelchair, bath chair, gait trainer, and van with a wheelchair lift!  It’s been an adjustment for sure.  With her growth spurt has come new challenges within her diagnoses as well as the added physical challenge of lifting and moving her now that she’s almost 4 ft long and almost half my weight.  If you haven’t tried to lift a heavy dead weight moving object- it’s hard.  I’m grateful I’m capable, and I work at it, but it’s also one of the things I worry about it as I’ve watched most of the people in our lives not be able to hold her and move her anymore.  But, as with all of the things, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.  

What will Leah be when she grows up?  Who knows.  But I like to say she’ll be a rock band groupie.  

Allison Kate Perkins

My Allikins!  What would I do without her?  She’s the little mother of the group as she has been since she was 2.  Incredibly organized and responsible, she’s got it together and likes to make sure I also have it together and her siblings.  We’ve had many a conversation this year on how she is indeed NOT the mom and need only worry about herself and if her siblings don’t do what they’re supposed to- it’s not on her.  These conversations also occur when I hear her parenting her siblings.  She’s not wrong, mind you, she’s saying verbatim what I would say and in a motherly tone- but stay in your lane little one.  She, most of all, cannot stand Ben’s snail speed in the mornings.  Probably because this girl packs up her lunch  and backpack at 4pm the day before.  Prepared always.  She’s most likely to do someone else’s chores for them and take care of everyone else’s stuff if they’re taking too long or not doing it to her standards.  Little mothering adult in a tiny little body.  Allison loves loves loves animals!  Finding all the baby turtles and ducks and geese around our neighborhood is one of her current favorite activities.  As well as watching the birds in the backyard and the squirrel that frequents our bird feeder.  She even names them all.  She’s my girly girl.  All the pink and purple and sparkles and unicorns and sloths- her favorite animal.  She loves to do crafts!  All kinds.  She’s really into helping me cook lately too.  She recently learned to use a knife and chop, so any opportunity to chop things- she’s all about it.  Her favorite books are Babysitter’s Club and her favorite show is Fuller House and both of those facts make my heart happy and full of nostalgia.  She not only keeps track of all us, but all her little girlfriends too.  Those girls know how to talk and share- that’s for sure!  Allison often flies under the radar as she’s shy and quiet and just so darn well behaved and doing everything as perfectly as she can.  If she thinks she’s wrong or not doing something perfect, she’ll shut down and only speak in what I call her dolphin sound.  No one likes the dolphin.  But then she’ll surprise you with a swift kick to her brother or run a 9 minute mile or something else equally impressive and stick up for herself.  She, like Andrew, is smarter than she lets on.  And, unlike Andrew, always gives 100% effort.  She’s so fun and dainty and very very sensitive and wise beyond her years.  She really does make being her mom so easy.  

Allison wants to be a zoologist when she grows up- or anything involving animals!!  

Levi Thomas Perkins

My Levi Guy!  He’s currently watching and waiting for me to finish so he can read what I wrote about him.  It has killed him that I go in birth order and he’s last.  He’s just had to wait forever.  Patience isn’t his virtue.  If you recall from an earlier statement about distracting his class with his silly antics- that’s spot on.  He’s a ham and a half, loves the camera, and loves to make people laugh.  He’s silly and goofy and has the little kid humor down.  Say the word butt or fart and it’s a guaranteed laugh.  During quarantine he perfected the armpit and behind the knee fart sound.  He’s also SUPA creative (his words) and crazy smart and quick witted.  Too smart for his own good if you ask me.  He still loves to draw and is constantly drawing his own comic strips and characters.  He’s outgrown the Lightning McQueen obsession, but he still loves cars, just a more sophisticated taste these days. His artistic ability is quite impressive and I’ve heard other people say that too!  Not just his mom.  He’s gotten just as into sports as Caroline has this year.  He really enjoys “shooting the hoops” and playing catch with me.  He’s way beyond my throwing and catching ability already and often gets frustrated with mom’s bad throws and inability to catch a football.  But I’m all he’s got and it’s our thing we do together for now.  Levi still loves music but has gotten quite particular.  Everyday he tells me what to play and requires music from TODAY- not my old 90s stuff.  If he finds out a song came out more than 2 years ago- it’s OLD! CHANGE IT! ...How rude.  Levi often has a quick temper and gets mad mad mad but he gets over it quickly and moves on.  (As he’s watching and reading he said That’s not me that’s Caroline!- told ya those two butt heads).  We often say Levi can be so stinking cute and sweet but then be an absolute poop head.  He probably gets in trouble the most.  When not playing sports or drawing or entertaining the masses, he likes to read and play all the video games - especially racing- and, some days, he still likes to cuddle with me.  He’s also into fashion and his hairstyle and is SUPA COOL!   Not surprisingly, Levi wants to a YoutTuber when he grows up.

So here we are entering year 10 of parenting sextuplets.  I’m soaking up these next couple of years as I’m a little scared of age 11 and on.  But as they age, I absolutely love seeing their individuality and having real conversations and talking over issues with them and how they do that with each other.  I so often forget how remarkable our family situation is and how unlikely it was that we’d make it this far.  As anyone who knows us knows, we’ve received so much help and love and support along the way and we are ever so grateful for every bit of it.  There have been many times I’ve doubted how things would work out, but every time it does.  And I’ve learned to be faithful and trust that good will come.  

Until next time... Happy 9th Birthday! 

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Random Reflections on Parenting in the Quarantine

We’re a month-ish into Covid-19 Quarantine.  Weeks have never flown by so fast and also taken so long to pass at the same time.  Our normal seems like a distant memory, but I miss it.  Well, some of it.  Not so much the crazy busy schedules, but I miss freedom and people that don’t live in my house.  And if I happen to see someone in person, not worrying if I’m getting too close.  And telling family to stay away from my kids is awful.  I mean, I’m certainly not much of a hugger or a cryer, but I want to give hugs and I’ve started crying on a regular basis.  Stupid quarantine.

My best friend is in my quarantine circle.  Judge me all you want.  I’m over those comments.  

In the beginning I kept telling myself I’ve done this before.  As any high order multiple mom has.  When you have lots of tiny babies who can’t afford to get sick- you’re hyper aware of germ exposure, you hardly leave the house, and essentially put yourself in self quarantine.  But it’s not the same.  My husband is working from home amongst our chaos on a make shift ironing board desk.  No one can come visit.  The kids don’t nap.  They need schooling and want me to cook all the time and they ask a million questions a day.  Mostly “What can I do now?” Or “ Is it screen time yet?”  And some days my answer is “I don’t care anymore!” You win today, children.  You wore me down.

Speaking of questions, I frequently get asked if I’m going to homeschool.  Because it’d be so perfect with all the kids in the same grade, right?  Well, sure, if you’re into that sort of thing.  Which I’m not.  I’ve always answered that question with a firm NO- unless I’m forced and/or that option is what’s best for any of my kids.  Well, you’d think I’d learn to never say never my friends, because here we are with a set of sextuplets on forced distance learning (i.e. crisis homeschool).  And guess what? It’s not for me.  Firm NO was spot on.  Four weeks in and I’m more thankful than ever for teachers.  I don’t know how they do it day in and day out.  And my kids’ teachers have gone above and beyond to support their students and parents during this craziness.  We hit the teacher jackpot.  Which makes me more grateful, but also more sad, because we just found out they won’t be going back until next school year.  And, honestly, I hate that.  It sucks.

The school situation goes from me feeling like it’s all working to panic and overwhelm of all that I should be doing.  Between the 2nd grade curriculum and Leah’s plethora of services, it’s hard to know where to draw the line on what’s best.  Plus, you know, the usual mom stuff.  Originally, this post was going to have some of my helpful tips I figured out during the first couple of weeks.  But things have changed.  I don’t even care about what I figured out a few weeks ago!  I guess the semi-controlled chaotic laid back structure is working.  But it’s much more likely my kids will be Minecraft masters and turn into giant pizza rolls by the end of this than writing in cursive and explaining character traits.  And that’s ok.  We’re all in this boat together.  Paddling in circles.  Debating jumping in the life raft to save ourselves.

Now don’t get me wrong- we’ve also had fun!  My kids really are best friends.  They play and work well together.  They bicker and fight, of course, but just as siblings do.  During this time, I have loved the conversations with my kids over the Bible and faith and reasoning what they’re learning in school.  They know so much more than I thought they did.  We’ve played new games, made new recipes, watched new movies, gone on countless walks,  and I’ll cherish those memories.  We’ve sorted toys and clothes and planned a quarantine birthday.  I’ve loved spreading joy and cheer to others however we can and seeing other people do the same.  That part is pretty awesome.  But I’ve also found a pile of boys underwear with poop still in it and a very stale pop tart behind a shelf and who knows what else awaits me in the nooks and crannies of home.

Obviously, We have had our ups and downs and special moments like everyone else.  I’ve gone from “we’ve got this!” to randomly crying to hiding in the closet... one week I even put hiding in the closet on my daily schedule.  But at least I’m not hiding in the pantry eating peanut butter anymore.  Although I’m not completely above it.  

But I’ll leave you with this- an interesting observation two dear family friends brought to my attention this week... we are three women of different ages and very different life stages.  We’re all experiencing different quarantine experiences- almost opposite really- but, yet, all having the Exact. Same. Feelings.  All over the place.  From grateful to lonely to peace to frustration to worrying about a million things and everything in between.  But all of us cling to our faith and prayers and hope for the future.  That’s what keeps us grounded.  Because these are weird times and we’re not in control.  But we’re all in it together.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Random Reflections on having a child with special needs

This is a tough one.  I don’t go into details about it very often or with very many people.  It taps into a lot of emotions that most people don’t understand.  Or they try and it gets awkward.  Or they have a child with a different set of needs and it’s not quite the same for either of you.  And it’s easier to smile and say “she’s such a joy!”.  But after writing about birthdays, I felt this needed its own post.  I get the most attention for having high order multiples, but Leah’s needs make it a whole other ballgame and those needs alone equal that of the other 5 put together.  I wrote a post a few years ago about being outnumbered, so I won’t get repetitive... just know not much has changed in that regard since they were two.

Leah has so many needs because of her siblings squishing her in the womb.  Her brain didn’t fully develop which led to very significant delays in all motor skills, vision, language, and eating/digestion.  Beyond her basic needs and simple therapy exercises, her needs are often put to the side because of her siblings collective needs.  Yet having so many siblings is a huge blessing.  If I only had Leah, I think I’d be much lonelier.  I wouldn’t bother to take her on outings or swimming or anywhere I wasn’t sure she’d have a positive reaction.  Therefore, not meeting anyone and only seeing therapists and teachers as adult interaction- and Leah wouldn’t get exposure to much either.  If I only had Leah, I also might be obsessive with her care and activities.  There’s just SO much that we could be working on with her, that it’d be easy to fall into a serious schedule trap.  Instead we do the best we can.  That often means admitting to doctors and therapists that I didn’t do any of the “homework” I was last assigned.  But ya know- she’s loved and she’s happy and that’s what I focus on.  And when all her siblings start singing together to calm her down and cheer her up, or ask to push her on a walk and check to make sure her feet and hands and head are in the right place, or cheer her on during a therapy session- I see their bond and how special it is to have so many siblings the same age.  

And Leah IS a joy.  Everyone tells me so and I believe them because I see it.  She’s joyful.  When she’s happy, she lights up the room and it’s contagious.  When we come back to school every August, it takes us two hours to make it through the classrooms because Leah’s fan club has missed her over the summer and wants to love on her.  They don’t do that for just every kid.

She’s also made me appreciate the little things.  I mean the tiniest most minuscule of things.  Because when your child meets no developmental milestones- I mean NONE. Ever.- you get excited over the tiniest things they accomplish.  Hold their own head up for 7 seconds when it used to be 3 seconds?!  WOO HOO!!!! I mean we’re seriously excited over these things.  The tiny things add up to new accomplishments before you even realize it.  Thankfully, her therapists take notes and when I don’t feel like any progress is being made, looking back a few months always proves otherwise.

But with the joy and love and celebrations, there is also a recurring grief and fear and anger and sadness.  I have learned it’s never easy to hear there’s something “wrong” with your child.  Whether there’s a shock involved of an unknown issue or your mama’s heart feels something is off- it’s never easy to hear a professional say the words out loud.  Makes it real.  No more inkling of hope it might not be true.  It’s even harder to be told there’s nothing you can do.  She’ll never be able to do anything.  Try what you like, but it won’t matter.  Especially when she’s 2 months old and weighs all of 3 lbs.  So I grieved the image of the girl I thought I’d have and the things she’ll never do and experiences she’ll never have.  Every now and then that grief comes back up, usually while completing developmental questionnaires.  It’s not fun to check no to every question- no need to actually read the questions.  And there’s fear of the future.  What happens when I can’t lift her anymore and she’s as big as me? What happens after she ages out of the school system? Will her siblings care for her when we no longer can?...If she even lives that long?  Things parents of special needs kids think about at night.  I try to keep myself out of that rabbit hole because I’m not there yet and worrying about things that are so far ahead does no good.  But it’s there.  The anger and frustration of the whys and hows and dealings with doctors and insurance companies appears periodically.  And I often feel sad for the parents who put complete trust in what those professionals tell them.  That a child will never do anything no matter what you try.  Ugh.  It’s just not true.  It might take a lot of time and a lot of work and a change in perspective- but progress is progress and everyone can do something.  Even if it’s just spreading joy with a smile.

But what I always come back to, what grounds me, is faith.  That God made her just as she is for a purpose.  That God gave her to us for a reason.  Do I know what that is? Nope. Do I have doubts? Yep. Is that ok? Of course it is.  And I can look back and see how God was preparing me for this mom job years before I ever saw it coming.  It’s absolutely not a perfect pretty picture, but I’ll take it and keep on doing the best I can.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Random Reflections on this 7th Birthday

The kiddos turn 7 today.  I know this because they’ve been counting down since 18 days.  And as April 23rd rolls around each year, I have the same thoughts and all the feelings as I reflect on how we’ve made it through another 365 days.

The days are long and the years are short.  So cliche, right?  But so true.  I don’t know how many times someone tells a story from the baby and toddler days about something I did or said or that the kids did and my response is “I don’t remember that but I believe you.”  Because it went by in a blur.  Besides major events, medical histories, and random song lyrics- I don’t remember.  “How did you do ____?”  I’m not sure, but we did it.  I’m very helpful like that.

7 years!  Seven.  Years.  7 years of being known as “the lady with all the babies”... by the way- my name is Lauren... and they’re not babies anymore.  They’re so their own little people now.  About as independent as a person can be at that age.  I love seeing them learn new things and play together and how they care for each other.  The fighting I could do without, but who doesn’t fight with their siblings?  I could also do without the big kid attitudes, but I know we’re just getting started there.  And who knew 1st grade is the new 4th grade?!  They’re learning and dealing with things I wasn’t expecting for a few years.  Pretty sure I blew a few life lesson conversations, but I’m sure I’ll get more chances.

Every year when I look back, the biggest thing that always sticks out in my mind is how faithful God has been to our family and how He works through us and our Team Perkins Pack.  It’s truly remarkable.  The sheer fact that these 6 kids are even here.  And we aren’t completely insane.  Doctors told me my pregnancy made no scientific sense... and they were right- it didn’t. But this was meant to happen.  I always wanted to be a stay at home mom, and I got what I wanted- just not how I thought I would.  In the bouts of infertility, I was once told God would grant me the desires of my heart- but I needed to relinquish my control and seek Him.  I didn’t even realize how much control I was holding on to.   Learning to trust and have faith is so hard but so liberating.  And I’m still working on it.  Thankfully, I’m forgiven for all the many mess ups and God still shows up.

I have so many stories about how people have come into our family at just the right time, and right when we truly needed each other.  I know these things are beyond coincidence.  They’re God stories and they’re my favorite!  Too many to type on one post, but I recently realized something about many of our Perkins Pack people.  Out of all the people who have helped us the last 7 years, a handful stand out as putting in MAJOR time and commitment and just being involved in their lives.  Some have moved on and some are more recent, but all of them had the desire for children in their lives and didn’t have kids and/or grandkids of their own for various reasons.  And here I am with plenty to share!  All God.  What if I had held on to that control?  Not been open enough to let people in to see our messy?  Our good, bad, and ugly?  Given in to the times I wanted to scream “Everybody get out of my house!”?  All the blessings that would be lost.  Precious relationships.  A couple things that were told to me back in the baby days that have stuck with me... 1. when you turn down offers of help, you’re taking away a blessing from someone.  2. Your family is now your mission field.  Raising these kids and how you interact with all the people that are coming in and out of your family’s life.  God’s love and purpose can be shown through your situation.

Such truth.  Stories are meant to be shared.  God uses us all and in all kinds of situations.  Let your story be used.  Don’t waste it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

And then they were SIX

It’s not that I haven’t had anything to write about in over two years, it’s that I haven’t felt like it or was just too dang brain tired to do so.  I’m sure I’ll regret this lack of memory preserving one day (kinda already do), but it is what it is.  Time keeps on flying by.  These kiddos just finished up KINDERGARTEN!!  Like for real had a kindergarten graduation (I’ll spare you my opinion on this).  I remember a time when kindergarten was all my dreams were made of- 6 years in a blur, but I have a distinct memory of being surrounded by babies and repeatedly thinking “If I can only make it till kindergarten...”.  And look!  We’ve done it.  I have six 6 year olds y’all!  What in the what?!

Before we get to the individual break downs of sextupletness, the kindergarten FAQ:

- They were split 3/2/1 in classes: Caroline Ben and Levi; Allison and Andrew; Leah.  No, not sure what the plan for next year will be, but I will be asking the kids’ opinions.

- I packed lunches, backpacks, and had clothes laid out the night before or else we’d never make it on time.  Cut it close every single day as it was.

- They all have loved school and done well and have learned way more than I ever did in kindergarten.  Homework was optional and we generally opted out.

- Andrew got in trouble the most.  Actually, he’s the only one I know of who was ever in trouble.  He’s a sweet boy, but sometimes doesn’t listen and sometimes just plain talks too much.

- None of them liked going to school more than I loved dropping them off in the morning!  Sweet taste of freedom- for a few hours on weekdays ;) The school year spoiled me.

Now without further ado... in birth order... my six year olds:

Andrew Noah

This boy.  He is a goober.  I know that may sound bad, but really, that’s Andrew.  Who he gets his extremely outgoing nature from, I haven’t a clue.  He knows no stranger and has no filter.  Things he has recently said to complete strangers (after properly introducing himself with his full name, of course, and likely any and all family members present):

I came out first.
In August we go swimming.
Want to see my ninja moves? 
Are you coming with us to ___?

... he’ll end with whatever personal questions pop into his head.  He makes friends wherever he goes!  While the others tend to stick together, Andrew is likely to find his own people to hang out with.  Once when I went to eat lunch with them at school, he sat down with another family and ate with them.  Thankfully, that parent found him entertaining. 
He’s still sensitive, a scaredy cat, a little bit of a bully, but loves his people big.  I get “you’re the best mom ever” almost daily from him.  He’s the tallest pack member by a head, yet still wants to be picked up and flipped around like the littles.  But don’t let that gooberness fool you, he’s much smarter than he lets on.  And you really should see his ninja moves.  

Benjamin Luke

Oh Benny Boy.  A true Perkins indeed.  Why change when you can be perfectly content in your own quirkiness?  Yes, he still calls himself Benny Boy and makes others call him that too.  But I have heard at school he lets his teachers call him Ben.  He’s been rocking the long sleeve, shorts, and sandals wardrobe for a solid 3 years now.  3 years.  Long sleeves.  In Houston.  He is that stubborn.  And bossy as bossy can be.  And his siblings listen to him!  He says he wants to do nothing when he grows up, but I think he’ll be a boss- of something.  He loves attention when he wants it, and if he doesn’t just do yourself a favor and do not look in his direction.  He’ll willingly perform “tricks” or share another “great idea”... or he may go sneak off to play by himself.  He’s my night owl.  I often find him up way past bedtime looking at books, which of course leads to fun school mornings.  Ben is still my talker.  Not as much constant commentary as he used to give, but detailed accounts of his day or upcoming plans or instructions.  My Ben Boo has so many nicknames and still charms the pants off most people he meets.  His little old man ways are pretty cute.  And he could survive on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches alone.  Preferably of the double decker variety.

Caroline Grace

Sweet Caroline! Or Sweet Caroline?  Depends on the hour with this girl.  No matter her mood, she’s a girl who knows what she wants and makes it known.  Which sometimes requires a calm down break (aka time out).  Silly, smart, and stubborn to the nth degree (some people say she gets it from me, but what do they know).  She loves pink and often wears it head to toe, but HATES anything remotely girly.  Don’t you dare try to fix her hair or make her wear a dress.  Trust me, not worth it.  I never wanted a tomboy...because what do I do with one of those?  But I got me one.  Caroline loves to color, read, and soak up as much one on one time as she can.  Just about any adult will do, but she’s a mommy’s girl at heart.  Every single day she wants to “do a workout” with me.  Just the two of us.  Sometimes it’s running around the block, but usually she locks us in the master bedroom and we take turns calling out exercises for the other to do.  Sounds like a blast right?!  But then she’ll completely ignore me when I’m visiting them at school.  Won’t sit with me at lunch, cries when I enter the classroom, and sometimes won’t even look in my direction.  But then again, this girl’s always been a little complicated.  She still loves breakfast, being a helper, and sleep.  She asks to take a nap most days and still sucks her two middle fingers.  And she is awful proud of her toots.  That’s my girl ;)

Leah Michelle

Leah Peah.  She is such a joy!  Happiest disposition of anyone I know.  You know something is wrong in her world when she isn’t happy.  Especially if music doesn’t cure what ails her.  Music is still her love language.  Uptown Funk and the entire musical collection of Laurie Berkner never get old to her.  We’ve been listening to the same selection of songs for 5 1/2 years- everyday- but it’s worth her calm and happiness.  Basically, I’m a master tuner outer at this point.  She loves cuddles and kisses as much as she loves music.  She’s getting kinda big and awkward to cuddle, but we make it work.  Leah loves being in the water too- bath time and pool time relax her.  Since the last time I posted, Leah’s health has been a roller coaster.  We’ve learned to manage new things to hopefully avoid some downs, but you just never know.  Despite the setbacks, Leah is still hitting her inchstones (we don’t focus on milestones ;)) in school and therapy.  She works her booty off and is completely exhausted by the time both are over every weekday.  She is a speed demon in her gait trainer- even on carpet, rocks some cause and effect toys, and is learning to use switches to communicate and identify objects.  She has become much more vocal this year- she uses her vocalizations to respond to questions and make her opinions known.  She has different tones for whining, being tired, pain, excitement, and what we call “drama”.  Her siblings help a bit in her care now too.  All her teachers tell me she’s their favorite.  They may tell that to every parent, but I like to think it’s true.  

Allison Kate

My Little Miss.  We don’t call her Smidge anymore, but she’s still a tiny little thing.  And she knows how to play that card too.  But she can hold her own against her siblings when she needs to.  Allison always has been and always will be the little mommy of the group.  She knows what should be done, what needs to be done, and tries her best to keep everyone in line.  Sometimes even me!  She loves her teacher and wants to stay in kindergarten forever.  Alli is by far the shyest of the pack- unless she’s on our cooking videos- and is usually terrified to go into new social situations or try anything she might not be perfect at.  Perfectionist indeed.  Once when we were decorating cookies, she was meticulously placing sprinkles and such on her cookie while a sibling haphazardly dumped on theirs. She looked over and exclaimed “Ugh.  That is so wrong.”  And she’s my girly girl.  Princesses and pretty dresses and painted nails and make up- YES! But no hair fixing.  She is extremely responsible for her age and I’ve said before if she were my only one, I could take naps all day and not worry a bit about what she’s doing.

Levi Thomas

Little Dude.  Monkey Man.  Levi has about as many nicknames as Ben.  What he lacks in stature, he makes up for in personality!  All things butt, poop, and fart are hilarious these days.  Levi still loves to make everyone laugh and act as  silly as can be.  But he can also pop an attitude with the best of em.  Sometimes I think he’s going on sixteen with his eye rolls and smart responses.  He’s got a quick temper too- we call it the “Levi freak outs”, but he’s also quick to calm down and go back to his sweet, caring self.  Levi has been my big surprise in school.  He truly loves to learn.  He constantly asks questions about everything, how it works, and why it is.  Sometimes I don’t know the answers!  I thought he’d be too easily distracted for school, but he’s proven me wrong.  Levi is very into art and drawing right now.  He’s already drawing better than I can and has the best handwriting of any left-handed 6 year old boy I’ve ever seen.  He’s not as outgoing as Andrew, but still much more so than the others.   I recently found out he told the one kid no one wants to play with that he’d be his friend.  I love that he noticed and cared.  Levi has always been independent and moved to the beat of his own drum.  But he still needs his mommy hugs and cuddles.  He still loves music but now race cars are in the mix too.    He’s very much my jack of all trades and no telling what he’ll end up doing with all of his skills.

I love how very different they all are and seeing each child develop into their own person.  Yet, they’re still the best of friends and undoubtedly share a special bond.  They have each started forming their own friendships at  school, and of course fight like siblings do, but still play so well together, encourage each other, and love their brothers and sisters so.

I can’t ever end a birthday post without a thank you.  Our Perkins Pack support team has amazed me from day one and continues to do so.  A few people have stuck around for 6 years and others have come and gone, but the fact that so many have given of themselves to help  us has never gone unnoticed or unappreciated.  From the little things to the big, THANK YOU for your kindness and generosity!!  We are so grateful for another year of this adventure.

* photos courtesy of Lisa Holloway Photography