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!


  1. Wonderful post! So happy to hear from you again. Keep the faith. Stay strong. God has you and yours in His ever loving care.

  2. Oh I just cried throughout this... For the beauty of your family and for those tough long days for you! You and your people are such precious souls and are doing such an amazing job loving each other. And as far as it being a year of stripping back layers and revealing the ugly? I think it was Beth Moore that said I thank God for those moments that bring out my worst so that I can give them to God and deal with them! This is a season and it will end all too quickly, but oh how it is changing you eternally. Praying for you sweet friend! Lots of love to you all!

  3. I did have tears in my eyes reading your journal just now. You have no idea how happy I was to see an update on your sweet family post bringing Henry home. I remembered thinking after your last post, with a bit of foreboding, that here would be huge changes, and that I better not expect an update any time soon as I had an inkling of how overwhelming it could all turn out to be.Thank god that you made it safely through the physical and emotional storms, and are left standing- in grace! Your family is wonderful and I am so happy that you were willing to take the time to share more of your journey with us.
    All the best for 2015!

  4. Thank you for this wonderful update! I was just thinking about you and your family the other day, and wondering how everything was going since the last update. (Funny how I think of you as a friend since I've read all of your blog.) Stay strong, I know this time is hard, but wonderful at the same time. We're all here rooting for you!

  5. You have been on my heart so much...I love you and thank the Lord for you. We pray for you., know that, right? How precious it is to see all your *catch up* photos and peek into the *everyday* with your little (and not so little) people. We will be praying for surgery #2 and for the continued grace of God in all of everything. XOXO

  6. Oh you sweet thing. What an adventure. When we say yes to God it is never boring is it? What precious children you have. You are right. That house can wait, but children can't. I yelled at my kids the past three days because everytime I turned around my children left a tornado like mess behind them. It was sooo frustrating! I was convicted. I will do better this weekend. My anger comes from blocked goals and the perfectionist in me. This is not how I want to be remembered by my children. A picked up house is nice, but it isn't a necessity. God bless you my friend. I will be praying for you!

  7. So happy to see you back in this space. Thanks always for your honesty and sharing your sweet family with us. xoxo

  8. Jenn, you're back!! Yay! I've been thinking about/praying for you so much. Please don't be so hard on yourself. You are amazing. Homeschooling is very, very hard and none of us are perfect. {{{{hug}}}}

  9. Love it, Love it, Love it. Thanks for being real, and sharing :) So good to hear how you are. :)

  10. So happy to see you all doing well and settling in to your new little ones. I have thought of you all on occasion and prayed that you were doing well. Love all of the beautiful pictures that you share.
    Many Many Blessings to you all!

  11. Yay! Love it all! Love the pictures of the joint sweet. So glad Henry is feeling more settled now and that you have a good plan in place for homeschooling and getting a *little* relief. Thanks for sharing it all! Much love!

  12. Love this sweet post. I'm so glad you were able to make time to blog! Love you!

  13. So happy to see a new post and an update on your precious family! Thank you for being "real", I identify so much with much of what you wrote about this "season". I feel it as I potty train the 2.5 year old and the 13 month old is pulling up onto the backs of my legs, trying to play in the potty, screaming when I leave the room....and I still do work prn... and honestly, being at work is sometimes a heck of a lot easier than being at home, BUT....the whole time I am there, I miss my babies like crazy!

  14. You are back! And look at your gorgeous family! Thank you, thank you for sharing yourselves with us! xoxox Anna