Monday, August 10, 2015

These Are the Days

I flipped through my Instagram feed early this morning and my heart sank a little. These days are so quickly becoming years…and I haven't done as good a job documenting as I'd like.

The babies, especially, seem to be changing so quickly and in the frenzy, I don't see it…until I flip back through pictures.

And…we set the Engineer's grandmother up on Instagram so she could see the day to day, but it isn't the same as the good ol' blog. And she loves the blog!

It's a rainy morning here. My head is throbbing and my throat sore. I wonder if my baby girl hasn't shared whatever the bug is that's caused her fever these last four days.

She and Henry are sitting with me, pretending to type.

The last fifteen months have been a blur…survival in many ways. {insert laugh}

It's bizarre to think that a mere three years ago I was aching for a baby and now our quiver is spilling over. My how life has changed!

Little Bit turned six at the end of June!

She's every bit full of spunk and marches to the beat of her own drum. Her outfits kill me! (Today: a hot pink visor, navy ruffled tank, purple leggings, and pink cowboy boots…) She's such a sweet gift.

I think this one will be our spitfire. Her favorite word: "NO!"

And these two together…monkey see, monkey do. I cannot keep up with them. They tag team. From drinking out of the toilet (with cups!!!) to emptying book shelves, to dipping my makeup in the toilet, to flooding the kitchen, to rolling the vacuum down the steps, to sneaking all the icing off the cupcakes, to throwing a pot full of potting soil on each other's heads…one gets pink eye, the other gets pink eye. If one carries a purse, the other carries a purse. He stands to potty, she insists she too, will stand to potty. (Eventually she will catch on!) They brush each other's teeth, with their own toothbrushes! They wear each other's shoes - usually on the wrong feet! They rummage through the garbage. They love poor Scout…nearly to death. They color on the walls. They are a mischievous duo. I wouldn't trade 'em for anything! We are so totally in over our heads!!!

Sister turned eleven a few days before Little Bit turned 6…we celebrated both girls after the fact at our dear friends' pool. The girls and I made and decorated the cake. We were pretty pumped with the outcome. {smile}

Over the summer, Henry went from sheer hysteria at the mention of getting into the pool, to jumping off the side into the water. He's come such a long way!!

Baby girl is a DARE. DEVIL. in the water. All summer long she jumped off a 3' tall ledge into the water. No fear. The scary kind of no fear.

Henry has mastered the tricycle. He cracks me up in that helmet!!

And he has nailed his head more times…ugh. That stage of toddlerhood…er…defiant boyhood.

Spit. Fire.

The Engineer is back in class at work…and still making/repairing/building things on the home front.

Sister had lots of adventures over the summer and is maturing into such a precious young lady. She's a huge help and blessing to me.

We spent the Fourth at the lake with my grandfather and his precious new bride. I grew up going there as a child and it was so sweet to get to re-live and share some of those memories with our children. Sparklers on the dock, fresh watermelon, homemade peach ice-cream, etc.

We did a lot of swimming and jumping off the dock.

Little Man wanted to take the canoe out solo…The Engineer gave him a list of things he had to prove he could do before he'd be entrusted with such responsibility. He did every single thing on that list. Blew us away! And he took the canoe out again and again and again. Our last morning there, he got up before everyone else, got the entire den picked up, his things packed, and had the canoe in the water before 7am. This is the stuff boyhood adventures are made of.

We've played lots of tinker toys and legos over the summer...

Baby Girl has refused the high chair. She and Henry have taken to eating in "big" chairs, just like the "big" kids. We've added another leaf to the table and can now comfortably seat 8. Wow. We should have one more baby so we don't have an empty spot at the table. Bwahahaha. Kidding.

Love this boy! And I marvel at how far he has come.

He just got his second set of tubes…it's like he's a new kid. He'd been without tubes for two months and we hadn't realized how profoundly it was affecting him. Suddenly he's back to babbling lots and lots. He had his palate repaired in February, right after his second birthday, and has been in speech therapy for several months. He's got SIX words! We are proud of him…and have a long row to hoe! But hey, we'll eat that elephant one bite at a time.

Love me some Saturday mornings...

With my pajama babies...

Here's my wild child in action. She layered a skirt under her dress. Girl's got style.

This back door opens and closes a million times a day! Little faces smashed against the glass are a familiar scene.

Sister and Little Man have taken up cooking…mostly Sister. It's a new stage in life. She's so helpful! She's planned several meals and made most of what was served. She's creative with it - she's such a blessing and this is a game changer. She's become my sous chef…always ready…and oh the conversations!

Familiar scenes...

We've started back to school. 5 days down, 175 to go! We've got a fifth grader, a third grader, and a first grader!

The babies are going to Mother's Day Out twice a week. Hooray!!! I am so thankful for this!

OH that boy!

This picture doesn't do the moment justice. The sweetest giggles and hugs!

My precious girl!

Peace out.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Ni Hao, Y'all

The title is Chinese for, "Hi, Y'all!"

It's been about eight months since I've been in this little corner. Babies don't keep and children have, ahem, lots of needs. I've missed recording life in this space. #thankgoodnessforinstagram

I mean…wow. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since we last visited. We had an insane ride home from China. Henry-oh, and forget calling him Heng. That was part of his official Chinese name and I'd thought would make a good nickname on this space, but it led to a lot of confusion and his English name got out and that's OK. He did great on the first leg of the trip, despite leaving in a horrific storm and a two hour wait prior to take off... buckled in our seats. 

There was also that moment when I was holding Henry, waiting in line to use the facilities, and a kind stewardess who spoke no English insisted we follow her upstairs (in the plane) to the "business elite"…and with Henry and a backpack in that TINY bathroom, I could barely move and ended up bracing myself and Henry as the plane tipped and teetered in the storm and the stewardess banged on the door, insisting we come out and take our seats (at least, I assume that's what she was saying) and I spilled milk EVERYWHERE. (It was a super nice bathroom - with fresh flowers and cloth towels…Definitely for the business elite and not an exhausted mama and toddler trying to potty and change diapers and make bottles. I'm afraid I might've left a bad impression of Americans??…eek!) 

During all of this, Little Man was scratching himself all over. He kept telling us he was itching terribly. We dismissed it as nothing more than mosquito bites. We were wrong.

By the second and absolutely longest leg of the journey, Little Man was in tears and had clawed himself to the point of bleeding in several places. His lips were swollen. It was scary. And I was terrified of being quarantined again. 

Thankfully, as always, the Lord provided. There was a huge group of nurses seated all around us who offered medical help. We had him amped up on benadryl in no time. 

Henry had a rough ride and cried if we weren't standing up while holding him. No telling how many hours we "slept" with our eyes open, bouncing him.

Stepping foot on American soil was SOOOO SWEET!!!!! One last leg of flying and we'd be home, with our girls. I was a nervous wreck on that last flight. We hadn't slept in 24 hours. It was entirely business men and our little family on a tiny plane and Henry made his presence known on several occasions. Much to my surprise and relief, everyone was so kind. 

And then, before we knew it, we were reunited!!! And I have pictures somewhere of this precious moment and I can't find them! Grr. It felt so good to hold my girls in my arms. There were happy tears. The Engineers parents and grandparents were there. Mama was there and so were both of my sisters. A sweet friend and her children were there. Everyone had flags and signs and it was such a deeply impactful moment, forever etched on my heart. There's nothing like familiar faces and family who love and love well. 

We planned to spend our first night in the States at Mama's and then to head on home the next day. However, we ended up delaying our return because Little Man couldn't shake the hives. By the time we'd loaded the car and called the children to hop in, he couldn't walk for the hives on his feet. And we were so tired. So exhausted. I hadn't slept the first night in the US for fear Little Man might stop breathing because of his hives…between that and Henry's restlessness and crying out - I was just done. 

And so a day later than planned, we made the trek and Henry hated his carseat…every minute of it! And arriving at "home" was just as sweet as our arrival at the airport. Friends lined our drive with signs and flags and balloons and flowers…the fridge was stocked for at least a week. Meals came. Giant coffee toffee cakes were homemade and delivered…the yard had been done - like - edged and blown and cut - every need was so thoughtfully anticipated and met. It is humbling to be so well loved by so many. (Again  - I have pictures of all of this and can't find them at the moment…ugh.) 

And we settled into our days and trying to find a rhythm. Wren was mad for a while. Both girls keenly felt our absence. Henry slept fitfully and woke very early. Little Man set up camp in the girls' room. After two weeks of caring for five nonstop - and the experts tell you to hunker down and help your adopted child learn his new norm…but y'all, at the end of two weeks of that (not leaving the house) and no time alone, rising early to Henry's screams, going to bed late, to Henry's cries, trying to love my other four well. And not a moment away. Or alone. Except when I slept…I had a little meltdown. The adrenaline wore off and I was done. Dead. Empty. Had no strength. And so I had a really hard cry and The Engineer sent me away for the afternoon the next day. And I sat in my car and ate a bag of caramel popcorn. 

The doctor appointments began. There were so many. And our sweet little boy had several procedures done in his first (and only, so far) surgery. Tucking him into his crib the night before surgery was so bittersweet. Because I knew he'd be so changed post surgery. Which I totally wanted. Knew should happen and was best for him. Without a doubt. But it was still bittersweet. 

Surgery was a phenomenal success. I cannot believe how dramatically altered his lip is! What a sweet blessing!!! 

He had a LOT of breathing issues post surgery. And it was amazing to see the ways the Lord provided for us. I am talking - several trips to the ER and a night in the PICCU - and every. single. time. we had multiple physicians call and pave the way ahead of us. Our pediatrician was amazing. En route to the ER we actually drove past one of Henry's surgeons, who was out running, who stopped and evaluated Henry and even called to collaborate with another of Henry's surgeons and also called ahead and prepped the ER. It was so amazing how sweetly the Lord tended our EVERY need. Again and again. My MIL kept our children. Dear friends joined us at each ER visit and brought food, etc. It was just amazing. Period. The Body of Christ loves well. 

Eventually all the breathing drama tapered off…we still aren't certain of the exact cause. And as life calmed, we fell into a routine. Our new normal.

August 20th marked Wren's first birthday. A sweet friend asked what kind of cake I planned to make and I laughed and told her, "the kind you buy at the grocery store." She made Wren a strawberry cake. And it meant so much to me. Just another example of being so well loved. So often it's those little details - I mean, there was just no way I was cranking out a cake. I was too overwhelmed just keeping my people together.  And part of my heart was sad. I've always (I think) made my kids' first birthday cake. That cake was a sweet gift.

And then, melt my heart, Henry stood up in his highchair and reached over to Wren's and they shared her first piece of cake. Which was doubly sweet because he didn't have cake on his first birthday. Oh!  these babies!

Having two little ones is a lot of fun. A whole lot of fun. And it's also totally daunting and overwhelming. At least it is to me. Henry and Wren are best friends and worst enemies, but mostly best friends. 

There's a LOT of tag teaming. OH, the trouble those two get into! I've lost count of how many times we've found them playing in the potty! It's awful. I am constantly asking everyone, "Did you close the bathroom door!?"

By the time we were back to school, I officially knew I absolutely could not add homeschooling to my plate and not completely lose my mind. The Engineer graciously agreed to hire someone to come in one day a week and care for the younger ones so I could steal away with the older two to hit the books hard. I'm so thankful for this provision. It is such a gift!

History aside, the BULK of teaching in our other subjects is done in one very long day. The rest of the week is spent on history and completing assignments related to that heavy day of teaching. This has worked so well for our family. While Sister and Little Man work independently, I am able to spend one on one time with Little Bit as she learns to read and write.

Several months ago I  broke down and did something I said I'd NEVER do. I bought one of those huge snap together baby gate octagons…plus a few extensions. We call it the "baby jail" and it was the best use of accumulated gift cards I think I've ever enjoyed. It's so big and takes up so much space, you can't open our front door all the way. And that's okay. This is a season and sanity is a precious thing! And oh, the difference this has made with school!!!

Between help one day a week and the baby jail, life was feeling better. Henry still hadn't made it a Sunday in the nursery without us being called in…and so about a month ago I had a melt down. 

It was Sunday morning and because Sister was willing to go in the nursery during church for us, The Engineer and I got to attend worship together - this hadn't happened in about seven months…Sister eventually snuck out of the nursery so she could go to Sunday School…and then I got the call. "He won't stop crying. Won't let anyone hold him. We need you to come." And the tears started to bubble up. 

I slipped out of the classroom and bit down on my lip, determined not to lose control of my emotions. And as I crossed the street, en route for the nursery, I just couldn't turn it off. And the tears came and came. Floods of them came. And I couldn't stop them for the life of me. It was so embarrassing. A friend intercepted and took my place with Henry. I hid in the church library - so I could purge the rest of the tears. It was that awful hickey-snot crying where your eyes are swollen and the snot just runs down your face and there aren't enough tissues…

And I got a text. From another dear friend. "My husband said you left Sunday School upset. What's going on?….Where are you?….Stay right there. I'm coming."

And she came. And put her arm around me. And cried with me. And loved me in all my snotty, swollen eyed, crying ugly. And a handful of precious friends took our place in the nursery and helped with Henry and allowed us to worship together for the rest of December. And guess what happened? By the last Sunday, Henry fussed a tiny bit and played the rest of the time. 

And now he and Wren are on lockdown. He's got his next surgery in February and we are doing all we can to keep him well. But oh, the love of friends…laying down their lives for ours and in so doing, feeding hungry, weary souls. What blessings! 

This has kind of been the year of being stripped. So many things I've always held dear are being pried out of my fists. I've felt claustrophobic - perhaps? I hadn't realized how much I thrive on being creative - on making things, doing things…and this has been a season where, for the most part, the doing of things is done by The Engineer while I tend babies. I really, really miss working together.

I've seen a horrible side of my heart. It's like the layers are being peeled back and what this season of life is revealing is not pretty. Deep down, I am a lover of myself above all others. This has become increasingly evident. 

I am a perfectionist and with five children and loooong work days for The Engineer and living in an old house (We are all sharing the same shower and have plastic taped to the ceiling of our bedroom - from where a leak/flood was - several months ago. Whatev!) and homeschooling - keeping things "perfect" is waaay beyond my control, despite my best efforts. There have been times I've been so unreasonably out of sorts, I have wished someone would wear me out and send me to bed. Without dinner.

And yet, truly, when I reflect, I wouldn't change it for the world. I wouldn't send my big kids off to school. I wouldn't put the babies in daycare. And I wouldn't go back to work. Even though some days that sounds so, so, so good. 

Maybe we're all a little bit like that? Imagining the grass must be greener on the other side. Not content with what He has given and called us to. I just don't think ten years down the road I am going to wish I'd gotten more done or had a cleaner house…I don't think we are going to regret these choices. Even though it feels they cost dearly in the moment.

I keep telling myself this is a season. And it is. The day we took these pictures I kept chasing the babies down as they neared the curb. Neither could safely step down. And now Henry runs right over that curb without missing a beat. Time passes and we change. And grow. 

And goodness I hope I change and grow and learn these lessons well. I don't want to become a bitter old woman. 

And so our days have settled into a routine. Both babes sleep through the night. Henry occasionally wakes. By the grace of God, I am learning that He sees and knows what happens in the darkness, in the wee morning hours when the house is sleeping. I don't have to stomp and make sure The Engineer knows what I am doing. (I have done this sighing and stomping thing. Many times.) 

It's been precious to see the older three rise to the occasion. They care and love for the babies so well. (Usually!)

It's been fun to see the dynamics between each of the children and it's sweet to see their relationships growing.

As far as the home front goes, we are slowly making progress on this ol' house. One little bit at a time.

The Engineer was off for a few weeks during Christmas (YAY!!!!!) and spent almost the entire time working on a tree house for the children. I can't wait for it to be finished. It's already the scene for many adventures.

I hope 2015 is off to a wonderful start for you and yours! I can't wait to see how life unfolds this year. Happy Saturday, y'all!