Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Big picture vs. little picture

Lately I've felt stuck.  In a parenting rut.  Overwhelmed by the mundane, everyday-ish mothering tasks like coercing kids to pick up after themselves, enforcing rules like no hitting or whining, and attempting to teach good table manners.  I've found myself frustrated more often than not at the kids, and at myself, feeling like nothing seems to work the way I want it to.  My energies all seem tied up in the small stuff which, while small, when it's all smooshed together, feels HUGE.

Then it occurred to me yesterday afternoon (sometime between cleaning my fridge and making dinner) that I've utterly lost sight of what I shall call the big parenting picture.  Somewhere along the way I've sacrificed the impartation of virtues and Godly direction for nitpicking and nagging about the little things.  I'm missing the forest for the trees.  In paying so much attention to the small stuff, I've crowded out the more important big things that probably contribute in a good way to the little things.  Hmmm.

I'm still in the midst of processing all of this, but I definitely want to make a more concerted effort to, say, teach my children about contentment, or kindness, vs. making sure I'm giving a strong enough consequence for disrespecting a sibling.  Both are necessary, but I've really been neglecting the former, and spending way too much time on the latter.

Life around here has, as a result, come to feel a bit unbalanced for me.  And it starts with MY heart, and MY relationship with God, and MY control issues.  Not the kids.  They're good kids, with good hearts.  They need guidance and direction and training and definitely consequences, but I feel a little like I've been running on empty with them.  Trying to do it all by myself, leaving little room for God or His work in our lives.  Ugh.  Why do I end up doing this to myself?

As you may know, we're in an adoption process right now--definitely a "big picture" thing.  We have not talked to our kids very much about what is going on--at least, not since things fell through with the children we'd originally hoped to adopt.  Our kids were really bummed out, and we told them that we would still be adopting, we just didn't know who.  And our kids, being kids, have mostly forgotten about the adoption in general.  (Until we drag them to the notary or the downtown police station as we scramble to get our paperwork in order.)  We're now at a place where we're getting a clearer picture of what we'll be doing, but we won't say anything to the kids until we've signed a placement agreement.  There are some "big picture" things involved, and an amazing story of God's hand in all of this, and I can't wait to share it with our kids and with all of you too. 

All of this to say that this process has unfolded to become such a bittersweet yet powerful testimony to me of God working all things together, and of Him using far-from-perfect me to do things I would never have imagined.  I find myself wanting my children to marvel at God's hand in this, and God's providence, to rejoice in the Lord's goodness and to treasure the things that God treasures.  To love those who God loves.  But they need to be taught these things, both in word and in deed, and to see their mom and their dad believing these things and faithfully living them out.

When I see my life through this big picture lens, I feel encouraged and like things have so much more meaning and significance than I have previously attributed them.  I feel a sense of relief, that I DON'T have to control every little thing in our family's life, that if I focus on the important stuff, the smaller things can fall into place.  And as I reflect on how I possibly fell into the smaller picture worldview, I can only guess that I fell for the lie that it's somehow easier.  But of course, it's really not.

Last night I finished up a book that I loved, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.  SUCH an incredibly timely read for me, as we press forward with our adoption and make decisions and consider how our lives will be altered by the addition of new children to our family.  I'm sure it's all related, but I have found myself over the past several weeks feeling fearful of the unknowns that come with adoption, worrying about how family life will look a year from now, concerned for my current children and how THEY will be affected.  And yet I know in my heart that I am seeing things through a broken lens, a faulty paradigm where I've somehow internalized a few of the world's really stupid ideas.  Donald Miller, in his book, talks about living a good story, and what ultimately makes for a good story.  A safe life with 1.2 kids, a picket fence, a green lawn (now that I wouldn't mind!), and a dog isn't the story I'm wanting to live.  (Even if it were, it's way too late for that!  Ha!)  Instead, I'm living out a story that God has given me to steward and I want to do it well.  He gave me my story for a reason and it will be different from yours, but it's mine, and it is not at all what I expected it to be.  It's so much crazier and much, much better.

But it doesn't work so well when I'm hung up on trivial things or buying into the world's ideas of success or of what parenting should be.  It's ever so subtle, but it's a different way of looking at life.  It feels good to be getting back to the big picture, and really exciting too, because that's where I think about God and His goodness and where I get to see Him in action.

I love these words from Donald's book (apparently we're on a first name basis now):

There is a force resisting the beautiful things in the world, and too many of us are giving in.  The world needs for us to have courage...the world needs for us to write something better.

So.true.  I'm moving towards the big picture, the larger narrative, so I can write something better.  And I'm so, so glad.

Monday, August 30, 2010

First day of homeschool 2010!

Last Monday marked our first official day of homeschool.

I have two Kindergartners, one First Grader, and one Kaitlyn who insists on "doing homeschool" too.  :)  So cute.  (I also have one baby who likes to crawl around and commandeer the other kids' toys while they're occupied.)

The kids woke up to this greeting on the whiteboard in the schoolroom

and little placecards at their seats in the schoolroom with a dish of Mike and Ikes.  (You gotta have candy on the first day of school.  It builds morale.)

But don't worry, they didn't eat them until after their special bagel breakfast.  (We normally have oatmeal every day, so this was a real treat to them.)  We read our daily story out of this Bible, one of our favorites.

We went over some expecations of how the morning would go, and where their schoolbooks are kept (each child has a box on a bookshelf in the schoolroom that contains their workbooks and a set of school supplies.)

Then we dove into Math.  Which they LOVED.  And I finally had to pull them away.  Yosef would have worked all day--turns out the kid has great handwriting, loves numbers, and is awesome at Math.  (He does NOT get this from me.)

We also did some History.  We're studying Ancient History this year, using the Story of The World text and activity book (I still need to order the encyclopedia we'll be using), and we'll be reading lots of library books that correspond with what we're studying.  This particular day, the kids learned about what historians and archaeologists do, and how they each contribute to the study of History.  (This may sound boring, but my kids thought it was so cool.)

Our week was a bit derailed by my 24-hour-stomach-flu and a lab visit, but it feels good to have begun.  My kids LOVE homeschool and are super duper enthusiastic about it.  (Picture me on Tuesday morning, doubled over in stomach pain, shivering with chills under a blanket, and Yosef begging over and over to do school.  They are nothing if not committed!)

Homeschooling, for me, is about simply being a mom and encouraing my children to discover and use the unique gifts that God has given them.  Academics is a means I suppose, but not an end.  There is a tendency to think that way and get caught up in curriculum choices and how to get your child to write the number two correctly, but I want to continually remind myself that I am ultimately raising children to be women and men of God, to spend their lives serving Him in the way that He calls them.  We are born with brains and with the capacity to learn, each and every one of us, and I long to nurture that in my children.  So, in our family, this happens best right now in the context of a homeschool.  We learn side by side (yes, even Mom!), over breakfast, in the schoolroom, in the kitchen, in the car.  And the best learning doesn't usually happen when a child is hunched over a workbook.  It happens in spontaneous conversation during lunch, or after comforting a teary-eyed little one sitting on their bed. 

So I'm really excited about the year, and about the confidence-building that comes with learning new skills.  I can't wait to take my kids to the museum to see some Egyptian mummies, or to spend the day observing and marvelling at the gorillas at the zoo.  We love learning and good books and yes, being at home.  There will be captivating literature to read and cookies to bake and catechism to learn.  Yay for a fresh start to school!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The continuing saga of Mary Lu

This picture was taken up at Glass Lake, in the Rocky Mountain National Park, outside of Estes Park, Colorado.  SO beautiful and serene.  I could have sat there for hours, I think.

I know I've done my share of medical posts lately, but I did want to update you all on our little peanut and her (lack of) weight gain.

The pediatrician called this morning because he got the lab results from Wednesday's bloodwork.
And, guess what?  Sure enough, her hormone level that had appeared woefully low before is now PERFECTLY NORMAL.  Go figure.

All of her other results were normal, too, except for something new they'd tested this time (related to Human Growth Hormone), which was low.  Our doctor didn't know what to make of this, and just like with the other test it may not mean anything...but he said I should make that appointment with the pediatric endocrinologist and see what she says.  I meant to call today, but didn't, so I'll call Monday.  (I had some major inertia today.  Was it because I was still so exhausted from yesterday?  Was it because of all my trips to the hospital lab?  Maybe a combination?)

And so that's where we're at.  She's feeling much better (over the past month she got sick TWICE, poor thing) and seems to be more open to solid foods as a result.  My goal each day is to have her eat some multigrain Cheerios, six ounces of whole-fat yogurt, and either pureed something-or-other with olive oil or butter OR baby food with butter mixed in.  Even if it's not the whole jar.  This is all she's really interested in at this point, and so I feel like this is a reasonable goal.  She of course still LOVES nursing and is up for that ANY ol' time.  Even when we're in TJ Maxx. 

{Don't think I'm too cool to find an empty aisle and plop down on the floor to feed my baby.  And if you were in the Littleton TJ Maxx today, that is precisely what you saw me doing.  Next time, come and say hi!  I'd be happy to chat.  Better yet, you can buy me some stuff there, because I really love that store.}

I'm a bit tired of the whole diagnosing-the-baby phase...ready to find some answers and just MOVE ON. 

I'm glad Mary's thyroid and related hormones are A-OK.  Hoping her HGH levels are actually okay too.  REALLY hoping any future sweat tests come back NEGATIVE for CF.   

Will there EVER come a time when I don't worry about my little ones?

Sadly, probably not.

Interestingly, I don't actually mind trips to the lab or doctor's visits too terribly much.  (Provided that I'm not needing my baby to give a urine sample.  Then I just plain want to scream.  At Miley Cyrus et al.)  They don't really stress me out, my kids are generally pretty great about these types of outings (our homelife must be so incredibly mundane that a lab excursion is an event to rejoice over), and I feel like I'm accomplishing something.

The hard part is the waiting and the wondering.  While I don't mind a trip to the doctor, I don't want my baby girl to be sick.  And I'm supposed to get what I want, right?  :)


It's a good exercise in living for today, and in enjoying the moment, and in not worrying about tomorrow.  Mary Lu is happy and thriving and active today, and I get to kiss her sweet toes and make her laugh.  Sometimes I don't know she's watching me, and I look up and there she is, all smiles for her mama.  Which means today is a great day for Mary Lu, and for me, and it's actually not a bad way to live.  I should make an effort to think this way more often, about more things.

Life lessons from an itty bitty 10-month-old.

No one else I'd rather learn from, I don't think.

I love being a mama.


was orientation at my kids' homeschool co-op program they attend.  It was so surreal seeing all THREE of my oldest at school--especially during PE, which they all have together.  (That's my boys in their Kindergarten class, above.  Tony is sitting between Yosef and Biniam, and Tony's sister Addie is there next to Biniam.  They are dear friends of ours and I'm so glad my boys have them in their class!)

There's Anna in her music/Spanish class--taught by my wonderful friend Angela!  (Who can sing a mean Spanish song.  Who knew she was holding out on us all this time?)

Here are all three of my big kids in their PE class together.  Don't look now, but Kaitlyn's in the photo too.  She'd been begging allllll morning to sit next to Anna in her classes, and so finally in the last class of the day I said she could.  Which she did.  In her rainboots.  Spilling almonds all over the floor.

The morning completely wiped me out.  I had Kaitlyn and Mary with me too, and it made for a chaotic few hours.  I was jumping back and forth between Yosef and Biniam's Kindergarten class, and Anna's various First Grade classes (she and the rest of the first graders go from class to class.)  All while wearing a sleepy baby in an Ergo and with a three-year-old clunking around in rainboots behind me.  Who may or may not have taken off when I was retreiving Anna's backpack that she left behind in her very first class at one point, but thankfully was quickly found by someone--who was laughing when she told me that Kaitlyn wasn't panicked or afraid at all, just self-confidently marching down the hall.  In her boots.  Um, yeah, that's Kaitlyn.  Sheesh.

But, yes, a good day.  Lunch at the park afterwards with good friends and then home to relax before meeting some other girlfriends for ice cream later that evening.  (Kid-free, no less!)  Home at 10:30 pm, just in time to watch something on DVD with Kevin and criticize various things in the latest issue of Adoptive Families magazine.

Tomorrow I have to make it to the thrift store to get some back to school clothes for the kids.  Otherwise I'm declaring it a day of rest.

And as for today, I have no clue.  Big kids are watching The Lion King, Mary is napping, and I need a shower.  I'm also craving soda at 10 am, so I may need to take care of that at some point.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Assorted life updates

This was Mary Lu up in the mountains recently.  Her head is chopped off in the photo because I was working to get her to smile, and I inadvertently held the camera too low.  We'll just pretend I was being artistic.

So.  Various thoughts for the day:

--Mary's labs came back.  All of them were NORMAL, except for one.  Our pediatrician consulted with an endocrinologist yesterday, who didn't think anything was conclusive, but recommended we have the test repeated (thyroid and horomone measurements fluctuate and change), in addition to some other tests.  I'll be calling the endocrinologist tomorrow to make an appointment with her.

--SO, back to Children's Hospital today for another blood draw.  NO urine test required, YAY!  Today was much better too because my friend's daughter was there for a procedure, so we got to meet up and chat for a bit.  She even brought chocolate.  I have wonderful friends.  (And of course I would never wish for my friends' kids, or my kids for that matter, to be at Children's Hospital--but if they need to be there, it's nice when we can all show up on the same day.  :) )

--My three big kids have their first day of school tomorrow.  (We began homeschooling on Monday, but tomorrow they go to their weekly schoolday.)  They are THRILLED.  It's orientation, so I (and Kaitlyn and Mary) will be with them the whole time, and it's just a half-day.  Anna (1st grade) will have several teachers and go from class to class (SUCH a big girl!), and my boys will be starting KINDERGARTEN!  Oh my goodness, I still remember holding them for the very first time in Ethiopia.  Now they are Kindergartners!!!  How did that happen?

--We are making major headway with our Ethiopia adoption.  (What's that?  You didn't KNOW we were adopting again?  That's probably because it's been a crazy process with various twists and turns, and I don't blog about it much.  Because for most of the process, I honestly had no clue what was going on or what we were gonna do.  There was sadness over things that didn't work out, things far beyond our control.)  But God is doing big things and I'm pretty darn excited about it all.

--I had this really random 24-hour-ish flu-type thing that I'm pretty much over now (thank GOODNESS).  I caught it from sweet, precious Mary Lu Lu--looking at her, you'd NEVER guess that she would inflict such misery on her mother.  But miserable I was.  HORRIBLE stomach pain, a fever for goodness' sakes, yuck.  I would not have survived yesterday without having a six-year-old daughter who can make everyone lunch AND bring me Mary when she wakes up from her nap, or a five-year-old son who happily brings his mama 7-Up or water. 

--A dear, dear friend from California, Andy, is in Denver on business and we got to spend the morning with him!  Kevin picked him up from his hotel and they went to breakfast (I wasn't sure how my day was going to go health-wise so I stayed home with the kids), and then came back here for a bit.  It was SO great to see him, and I really wish Jeannett and their sweet kids could've been here too.

Well I think that's all, friends.  Right now I'm basically knee-deep in:

the start of a school year
an adoption process
and Mary's health issues.

Each of those alone seems enough to keep me busy and on my toes, but really, things are going quite well.  Kids are happy.  We're finding our school-year groove.  I'm genuinely excited about our adoption for the first time in months.  I worry about Mary Lu, but am so very grateful for good doctors and medical care, and that we're taking action and hopefully working towards some answers.  I hope nothing is actually wrong, but if it is, we're in good hands.  Not to mention, when life is so incredibly full, and your baby is so happy and cute and giggles at you throughout the day, ultimately...no matter what health issue she may face...I can say that things are good.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The husband and the wife

I love this guy.

This self-portrait of us was taken up in the mountains several days ago.

Doesn't matter what we're doing, we have a good time. 

{Reminds me of one of our favorite lines EVER from A Mighty Wind.  "If you punched a hole in them, you'd have a good time."  Hahahaha.  I know, it's not really funny if you don't know the context.  And if you haven't seen Christopher Guest's movies, you have to.  You just do.}

Lately I've been thinking about how it's really, really nice to be on this here life journey with somebody.  I spend a lot of time bouncing ideas off of Kevin (who is generally more than happy to listen and offer input when I want it).  We talk about parenting and current events and various other random stuff that no one in the world probably cares about but us.  :)  And when something isn't going well...an adoption, or an issue with one of our kids...I am not alone.  I feel so blessed.

I always knew that I wanted to get married someday.  I didn't necessarily envision becoming a wife at age 20--I assumed it would be later--but then I met Kevin, and visions of being his young bride began taking up space in my mind.  :)  And, I'm really glad.  No stage of my married life would have been better spent unmarried.  Not one.  I think God gives each of us a role to fill, and for some that is the role of wife and mother.  That's obviously what I've been given to do and live out.  It's pretty much all I do, and I'm okay with that.  Most days, it feels like plenty!

In all fairness, I WILL admit that being a mother is more work than I thought it would be.  :)  Not even so much physical work, but emotional work.  Mental effort.  Working through problems and solutions.  Trying to be intentional.  Loving even when I'm tired.  Choosing to be patient.  Doing everything in my power to place my trust in God, even when I want to be in control and have all the answers.  Being a "wife", on the other hand, doesn't seem like a ton of work, in and of itself, but I think it's all connected to the "mother" part.  Doing the work of a mother is ultimately doing the work of a wife, and vice versa.  Becoming a mom made me a much, much better wife.  Becoming a mom to many has made me a better wife, for that matter.

And, I really like being Kevin's wife.  He makes me happy.  And he's a good guy.  I suppose I primarily think of myself as a mom, because that is what takes up most of my time.  But I'm a wife too, and I have a husband who is pretty great.  And we took our picture up in the mountains and there aren't even any little ones in it, save for the top of Mary's head in the Ergo.  A monumental occasion, I think!

So I'm documenting it here.  Us.  In the beautiful Rocky Mountains.  And if all you saw was this photo, you'd never really know that there were a bunch of kids at our feet, exploring the woods and searching for bears.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Of samples and Miley

Today was a really, really, REALLY longgggggg day.  (I know, Mary looks kinda like an alien in this picture. She was all blurry for some reason.  Well, the reason would be that I wasn't holding the camera still.  Whatever.)

I got up this morning and decided to give the ol' bag another try.

Waited and waited and waited some more.  But when Mary finally peed, it leaked out of the bag.  Again.

(If you didn't read my previous post, you are hopelessly and utterly lost by now.  Oh and I'm sorry, but I'm talking about peepee.  Go back and read the post.  Or, just know that it's virtually impossible to get a urine sample from a baby girl.  There, now you're all caught up.)

Sooooo, I packed up a lunch for my other four kids, instructed each of them to grab their special tote bag and choose some toys and books to bring along, and set out for the hospital.  I vowed that we WOULD NOT LEAVE until Mary had given a successful sample.

We arrived at the hospital lab around 12:30.  Someone put yet another bag on Mary right away.  Then we waited.  And waited some more.  Mary had some baby food.  Eventually the other kids got hungry so we went over to the cafeteria/eating area for them to have their lunch.  I debated whether or not to get something for myself, thinking maybe I could just hold out until we got home (how long would we really be there, anyway?)...but opted to buy myself a salad.  'Twas a good thing, as it turned out.

{I will stop here to say that the best part of our day at Children's was running into a friend who works there!  It was so nice to see a familiar face and explain the "bag dilemma" to a nurse who understands.  Plus, I really like this friend and rarely get to see her.}

Anyway, after my friend left to go back to work, I decided to check Mary's bag.  Um, yeah, she'd finally peed...but IT HAD LEAKED OUT INTO THE DIAPER.  Again.  Oh my goodness.  Soooo incredibly frustrating.  As I was on my cell phone venting to Kevin about this latest leak, I suddenly noticed that there WAS some sort of liquid in the bag.  And all up her diaper.  And on her shorts.  Uh, yeah.  Apparently Mary's current illness (she's had a fever since yesterday) involves some intestinal issues that I did NOT see coming.

So with a "I've gotta go, Mary just pooped everywhere and it's diarrhea and I need to go clean her up and this is the worst day ever, bye", I told all the kids to throw their trash away, grab their bags (filled to the brim with the usual assortment of ratty stuffed animals and half-dressed Barbies), and we made a beeline for the "family restroom" near the lab.  I was able to get Mary all cleaned up (while all of my other kids plugged their noses, and also used the bathroom themselves--we are so efficient), and then we went back to the lab.  A new guy was at the desk.  I told him my sob story (and while I wasn't ACTUALLY sobbing, I was definitely on the brink) and he was SO NICE, and really seemed to care.  He got us into a room, a new lady came in to actually put the bag on, and she was so frustrated on my behalf and said she wondered who'd done the bag the previous times, that they probably didn't know how to put it on etc.  She took great care to get it in just the right spot.  This time I actually felt a bit hopeful. 

Back to the waiting room.  We waited and waited.  The kids played.  Watched TV.  I nursed Mary a bunch and waited some more.  She fell asleep laying on me...which was so incredibly sweet.  That doesn't happen too often these days.

And as she was laying there...I suddenly felt something warm...and I looked down...

And there was pee!  IN THE BAG!  I immediately jumped up in excitement and dashed over to the counter.  (I was SO beyond caring if anyone thought I was a lunatic at that point.  And the three teenage boys in the room at the time probably did.  I dare THEM to spend two days trying to get a urine sample from a baby girl, and not jump for joy when it finally happens.)

"She WENT!  It's in the bag!" I said excitedly to my pal at the desk.  And, God bless him, he acted just as excited as I felt.  He rushed into the room, had someone come in and help us, and lo and behold, Mary Heldt's urine was sent to be resulted this afternoon.

Whew.  I.am.beat.

I have to tell you that we were at Denver Children's Hospital for over FOUR HOURS today.  And I also have to tell you that my other four kids were absolute ANGELS.  No complaining.  No fighting.  No whining.  They were INCREDIBLE.  It was literally no extra work to have them along with me, and they actually had a really good time.  They loved watching TV (is there ANYthing more ridiculous than those shows on the Disney Channel?  SO obnoxious!  But it kept the kiddies happy, so I won't complain.  In this post, anyway.) and also enjoyed their toys.  When I told them we were going to be spending some time at the hospital today, they were happy to go.  Happy to be with their little sister.  Excited for her when she finally went pee in the bag.  I was so proud of them.  So, so very proud.

But not as proud as I was when that dang bag finally caught my baby's urine.  I was proud of Mary, proud of myself, and darn proud of the two lab employees who made it happen.  I honestly could have kissed them. 

My goal tomorrow? 

To NOT go to Children's Hospital.  Two days in a row is plenty.  Two days of Miley Cyrus is MORE than plenty.

Right now though it's time to relax and watch a TV show on DVD with my husband.  Have a great weekend!

Not what I wanted to hear

Yesterday Mary Lu had her weight check.

To see if she had gained any weight since her last visit.

And...she weighed LESS.  She LOST weight.


I feel so sad and frustrated.

My ten-month-old weighs less than she did at SIX months.

So we ended up over at Children's Hospital here in Denver to run some tests.  Some of the results I should have today, but unfortunately we weren't able to get a good urine sample so I'll have to go BACK to the hospital so they can try again.

Obviously I was hoping for better news.  I was hoping to see that she'd gained some weight, even if only an ounce or two.  But, no.

To be honest I feel a bit defeated.  I was so tired after yesterday's medical appointments--I didn't leave the hospital until 5:45 pm...and stopped for greasy pizza on my way home.  'Cause it was that kind of day.  (And don't think that I didn't have several pieces of pizza PLUS two sticks of crazy bread AND a can of soda.  I enjoyed it immensely.  Didn't feel the least bit guilty.  Or care that I ate more than my husband.)

I guess at this point I just want closure.  I want to know why my baby can't seem to maintain her weight.  Most of the time I'm pretty laid back when it comes to this sort of thing (I am so not that person that freaks out if my kid's not on the growth chart, or if they have a fever), but right now I admit I'm a little worried.

There's a condition the doctor suspects she may have (an issue with her kidneys where there's too much acid in her blood, and which she would eventually outgrow), and he's also testing her thyroid and other stuff too.  If everything comes back negative, he'll order a sweat test to rule out Cystic Fibrosis.  (For which she literally has no other symptoms.  Goodness, I hope it's nothing serious.)

Being a mom is so hard sometimes.  We love our little ones so incredibly much and waiting on test results is grueling.

ALL of that being said, Mary is one sweet baby, babbles lots now and loves lifting both of her arms up over her head in the air.  So very cute.  (And of course it goes without saying that she's crawling all over the place and getting into all manner of stuff she shouldn't be.)

For now, I've reattached her little bag and am waiting for her to pee.  (And hoping the bag actually catches the urine this time.  It was an epic fail yesterday.)  Then it's back to the hospital with said bag.

Isn't it funny how in middle-class America you (well, I do anyway) develop this false sense of security with your little ones?  They're not supposed to be sick, or have medical issues, or learning delays, or whatever.  But when else does life work that way?  I just keep thinking about how much I love my sweet baby girl, regardless of any issues she may have been born with.  I know so.very.many. mamas who have sweet children dealing with major medical stuff.  It's apparently part of life.  Some people may escape with a pretty ho-hum, "happy" existence but difficulty is bound to touch some aspect of our time here on earth.  It just is.

In summary: Mary will be okay, we'll be okay, mostly I hate the waiting and wondering, and I'm really, REALLY hoping that she pees soon so we can get that sample to the hospital and be done with the tests (for now, anyway)!  And I'm oh-so-thankful for such great family and friends who pray for us and remain a constant source of encouragement that I can count on.  Not to mention, when you have a baby who grins at you like she is in that photo, who can feel sad or anxious for too long??!!

I'll keep you all updated on whether her bag actually catches the urine what we find out.  Yay for Friday!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Always watching...

My youngest and my oldest.
Nearly six years apart but head-over-heels in love with one another.
Anna can get Mary laughing like nobody else.
And her patience is unending with her sweet baby sister.

I can't help but think that Anna is getting some great mama-training, having a baby in the house--I imagine that children soak up a lot of life experience based on what's going on in the home.  My older kids--each one of them--is learning about patience, sacrifice, and the sheer joy of adding a little one to the family.  Those are good life skills to have.

Just the other day, as we trekked into WalMart, Kaitlyn looked around and aggressively earnestly asked, "Can we get some more kids?  Because this is all the kids we have" (gesturing around at the baby snug agaisnt my chest in the Ergo, and the three big kids swirling around my cart.  Oh and at herself of course.)  I burst out laughing, finding the irony in her nothing-if-not-direct question.  More kids?  We already have more kids than probably 80% of US couples.  Apparently she thinks the more, the merrier.  And that is good to hear, considering the fact that she was the one dethroned as the "baby" when Mary Lu came along.  She didn't seem to mind losing that status, and welcomed her new sister with open arms. 

More and more I'm realizing that children are like sponges, and they begin absorbing your values and attitudes very early on.  What's another sibling added to the mix?  More fun and more love, basically.  That's what my kids think (even though I've never, ever explicitly taught them this) and it's what we think, too.

Sometimes I wonder if people think I see the world through rose-colored lenses, if I'm a glutton for punishment, or if I belong on that show about hoarders.  Hopefully the actual answer to each of those questions is "no".  :)  Raising children is hard work.  Some days I want to stay in bed with the covers pulled up over my head.  And ignore all the demands requests and questions and meal prep and housework.  Occasionally I daydream about the simple, quiet life where my house doesn't get messy in under thirty seconds and where I don't need a special kind of car to transport my family around.

But if you couldn't tell, I don't really think that's what my life is supposed to be about.  (As nice and luxurious as it all sounds.)  I can say that because all you have to do is look at someone's life, and see what they're doing, to get a small idea of what they value and what they aspire to and how they believe they ought to be living.  So me saying that isn't big news at all.  I'm stating the obvious.    

It would seem that my children too are picking up on some themes in our life and internalizing those.  They may not always hold those values, but for now, they do.  They love their siblings, they love the addition of new siblings, and they assume that moms stay home with kids, and dads go to work and empty the dishwasher and do blessings at bed-time.  It's funny (and a little scary) to think of how our kids are being shaped by our homes.  Without us saying a word.  I recently had to explain to my children what daycare is when they heard about it in a movie.  I've had to tell them that not all families have adopted children.  I've also had to tell them that not all families have four or five children, and that it's rude to ask people "Why do you only have _____ kids?"  I generally have a live and let live attitude, but my kids still take their greatest cues from what they see in our family.  Anything outside of what we do is a foreign concept to them.  It's interesting.  And a bit unnerving, because our family is far from perfect.  Not to mention, there is no one-size-fits all formula to follow.

Funny thing is, my kids don't make value judgements about other people.  When they ask why so-and-so doesn't have any Ethiopian children, they're simply genuinely curious.  If you DON'T have adopted children, YOUR children may one day ask why our family has kids from across the globe--or why we have so MANY kids.  (Don't worry, I won't be the least bit offended.  But please don't tell them that I see the world through rose-colored lenses, that I'm a glutton for punishment, or that I'm a hoarder.  :) )

While sometimes this stuff can make for awkward moments, mostly I love that my kids are learning from our family's dynamic and lifestyle.  Truly.  I think it's how it's supposed to be.  When I see my growing-up-ever-so-quickly eldest daughter holding her baby sister, cooing and making her laugh and entertaining her, when she feeds her baby food or changes the occasional diaper or patiently waits for something or other while I try to get a fussy baby calmed down, I think about what a great mama she will make one day.  God is forming her heart and shaping her values and teaching her a whole lot about baby care, right here in her own home.

It's beautiful to watch.

And I love my front row seat.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What I'm thinking about: the gift of time

I'm loving this post today.  Love, love, loving it.

Because it's thought-provoking.  And real.

My sons came home from Ethiopia at 16-months-old.  They'd been institutionalized for all but a month and a half of that (when they were still with their birth mother.)  So, most of their lives had been spent in various orphanages.

Yosef had met all of his developmental milestones so far, pretty much, in spite of his environment.
Biniam had not.
Biniam was not walking.  Neither boy was talking.  Biniam had low muscle tone.  We would occasionally wonder if something more was "wrong."

People would often recommend that I get them into speech therapy...have Biniam evaluated...get some early intervention...get them caught up.

But something in me said, "wait".
Something in me said that what my sons needed was a mother, and a father, and a big sister. 
Something in me said that my sons needed love, and to learn what it means to live in a family, and to be able to truly depend on someone.

I believed the talking could wait.
The walking could wait.

We DID immediately take the necessary steps to fight off parasites, lice, and a double ear infection.  To get the boys healthy.  (Here is where I shall insert my disclaimer that it IS VERY, VERY IMPORTANT to address certain medical needs RIGHT AWAY.  I'm not saying that it's ever okay to ignore things that really need to be dealt with.)

But I was in no rush to stick my sweet little boys in multiple therapies...yet another revolving door of adults casually traipsing in and out of their lives.  They were 16 months old.  They'd only been exposed to limited English in the first place...so why SHOULD they be speaking it yet?

I would often tell people that we were waiting.  That I would give my sons time.  Part of me wondered if they thought I was a bad mom for not signing my kids up for various therapies, but the other part of me didn't care if people thought that.  :)

The thing was, I made the choice not to care if my son walked later than your son did.  (And he probably did.  Now the kid won't sit still.  Go figure.)  Or if my kids weren't talking as early as yours were.  My sons' first adoptive family decided they didn't want to parent my boys based on the fact that they weren't "where they should be" developmentally.  Well, I'm sorry, but they spent their early life being cared for by nannies, amidst lots of other needy children.  I'm so grateful that they ended up in an orphanage where they were loved and fed, but at the same time, it is not a family--where optimal development happens.

We're watching a documentary right now about a set of twins where one of the little girls was born with a particular special need, and the other was not.  This family didn't have any other children, and were able to devote tons of resources to early intervention.  In spite of her needs, this little girl was doing all sorts of amazing things not much later than a typical child might.  Pretty amazing.  At the same time, the reality is that not all of us have that situation.  We may have (several) other children to care for, bills to pay, places we need to be.  I wonder if we need to guard ourselves from making our child a "project" of sorts...setting our standards so incredibly high, deciding what is NORMAL and devoting every ounce of our strength to bring a child to that level.

I'm processing through these things because we just finished up our homestudy and soon will be able to look at files of waiting children in Ethiopia.  We are currently considering adopting a child/children with  the same need as the sweet girl in the documentary.  This is new territory for us in the sense that I had never imagined us pursuing this type of adoption, until God began speaking (whispering, really) to our hearts over the past several months.  I'm excited.  But nervous.  I've been doing a bit of reading and research about it and it's definitely something where we would potentially have lots of decisions to make in this area.

Don't get me wrong, I believe as a parent it is my responsibility to help my kids reach their God-given potential.  But I wonder what type of potential we should be shooting for?  Sure I could enroll my kids in top-notch gymnastics training programs for eight hours a day and try to help them become really great, world-class gymnasts, but at some point, I think you need to accept the fact that a child is a child.  They need love, a stable home life, attention, time with you and with their siblings.  If I have a child who is not overly gifted in math, or reading, or art, that is okay.  They are gifted in other ways.  I probably won't go overboard trying to get them proficient in calculus by the fifth grade, but I WILL do what I can to ensure they can do the math that they need for college and for life.  Meeting challenges is good.  Trying to force everyone into the same mold, at the cost of relationship and fun and childhood, is not so good in my opinion.

When adopted children come home, they need to feel safe.  They need to adjust.  To attach.  My sons certainly did.  As they began to acclimate to our family and take ownership of their new life, their milestones came naturally.  Had they not, we would have certainly pursued some type of intervention.  But it turns out we didn't have to, and I'm glad we didn't wear ourselves (and our kids) out by doing those things prematurely, when they weren't necessary.  (If you know my boys, you will be surprised that there was ever a time when they weren't talking!)

We will do whatever it takes for ANY of our children to succeed and thrive in life.  For some children, this may involve a bit more work, or intervention, or resources.  I'm prepared for that.  But we need to remember that sometimes, for an adopted child, the best gifts that you can give them are yourself, and time. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sometimes I love...

...the sound of an anonymous child crying somehwere in the distance, because I get to think to myself, "THAT'S a crying child that I'M not responsible for!"  Heehee.  (Sorry.  I know that was random.  And totally rude and horrible.  But it's a little bit true.)

Moving on.  Before I divulge any other less-than-stellar character traits to all of you.

Right now we're enjoying having my dad here for the week!  (Mom didn't come this trip.)  We haven't seen my parents since Christmastime and, while we talk on the phone regularly, it's just not the same.  My kids are soaking it all in and I am too.  Thankfully my mom and dad are planning to retire here in a year or so, so that makes the distance a little more bearable.  We were only an hour's drive away from them before we left California.  Now we are 18 hours away.  Boo.

Unfortunately my kids are sick with yucky colds.  (Why they decided to get sick right when Grandpa showed up I have no clue.)  They're still having a blast, but they are SO much more emotional and whiny cranky easily upset when they don't feel well.  Add to THAT the "my-grandparents-are-here-and-therefore-I'm-extremely-distracted-and-also-therefore-I-don't-have-to-obey-my-mom" mentality that takes over and, well, you have some major chaos in these here parts.    

I don't like chaos.

But I LOVE having my dad here even if my kids are making me angry, and boy am I going to miss him when he goes back home next week.  Still on our to-do list: the zoo and the mountains.  Today was Wal-Mart (where each kid got to choose a new toy or two), lunch with Kevin at Quizno's, and some sight-seeing.  We've also taken a drive to show him where the kids' school program is.  Add to that his creative, funny bedtime stories for the kids (which will include M&Ms as a prop tonight), some classic SNL and Seinfeld watching after the kids go to bed, and great conversation. 

Yes indeed, we're having a great time!

Laughing at "Matt Foley", the "motivational speaker".  Oh my, how we were laughing.  So.very.funny.

Grandpa playing "stuffed animals" with the girls.  He did a great voice.  He is officially WAY better than me at engaging in make-believe.  Love it!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My littles

My three biggest kids will all be at their school-for-homeschooled-kids-program on Thursdays this year.

From 8:30 to 3:30. 

That means that I will have one full day per week with just my two youngest kiddos.

Lots of time with Kaitlyn Jane and Mary Lucille.


There will be ice cream cones.  Meeting Daddy for lunch.  Grabbing coffee with girlfriends.

Wintry days spent at home having tea parties and sipping hot chocolate with two of the sweetest little girls on the planet.

I'm excited.

(And yes, I'm wearing shorts in the above photo.  You just can't see them because of all the cuteness occupying my lap.  But they're there.  And I wanted to let you know, just in case you thought maybe I made a habit of going places without pants.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Boys to men

We recently attended our neighborhood's annual picnic in the park--live jazz band, free face-painting and balloons for the kids, and free homemade ice cream from Pajama Baking Company (the cutest nearby coffee/ice cream/pastry/sandwich shop--I can walk there from my house!  I sometimes meet a girlfriend there for coffee and scones, although I really think I need to try some of their other food because it looks positively amazing.) 

The above picture cracks me up because it reflects Yosef and Biniam's relationship and respective personalities well.  (The face-paint actually reflects their temperaments too.  Maybe that has something to do with the fact that the face-painter was a psychic.  No joke.  A full-time psychic.  Well, when she's not painting faces, apparently.)

It's hard to believe that my sons are already five years old...nearly SIX years old...and they are just seeming so grown up to me lately.  They unload the groceries from my car and bring them into the house.  They help Kevin move furniture and work on household projects.  They look after their younger sisters.  They do laundry.  They can write their names.  They're about to start Kindergarten.  Sheesh.

It's also hard to believe that my sons were, at one time, living in an orphanage.  Unfathomable, really.  Because they're my sons, and their life in Ethiopia seems a lifetime away.  They're growing up, and growing into some pretty awesome young men.  Having adopted children is such a deep, tangible reminder of God's hand on an individual life, on an individual child's life.  If I stop to think about it, and I do on occasion, I know that who my children are has something to do with me, but not everything.  Not even close, actually.  My boys have kind and compassionate hearts, but I certainly wasn't there to comfort them and love them and teach them to love for those fourteen-plus months that they spent in three different orphanages.  God has brought them so far and has, in so many ways, protected their sweet, tender hearts.  Kept them believing that they deserve love, and that they have love to give.  He gave them hope.

And they are growing up. 

And I am not sure how I feel about the whole matter.

But time won't stand still (even though it feels like it when you're in WalMart buying school supplies, and your tired nine-month-old is screaming and crying while you're frantically searching for a pack of twenty-four number-two pencils that are already sharpened, and your three year old has decided to take off her rainboots that she insisted on wearing on a sunny, 90-degree-day), and I am just so excited about who my boys are becoming.  Someday they'll be men.  Today they're still boys.  But they're growing up.

So I'm savoring the moments and delighting in these last days before Kindergarten begins, and enjoying my helpful, happy, love-filled sons.  I don't fancy myself a great "mom-to-boys" (perhaps another topic for another time?  Do YOU feel like you're better at parenting one gender over another?  Yes, definitely worthy of its own blogpost), but I'm finding such joy these days in raising my young men.  Boys are different than girls, and there are some unique amazing-ness-es (yes that is a word, because I just made it up) to be found in having sons.

Especially when they're as much fun as Yosef and Biniam are. 

And now I need to go indulge in candy and soda some sort of comfort food, because just remembering our day at Walmart has me stressed out all over again.  I DID eventually find the pencils.  I did NOT find some type of pen that I couldn't find last year either.  Hopefully the homeschool program won't notice.  I guess I'll keep looking.  Mary eventually fell asleep in the Ergo and Kaitlyn put her boots back on before we went out to the parking lot--but on the wrong feet. 

Yeah, okay, I'm heading for the fridge.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Lake day (or, four-out-of-five ain't bad)

We recently spent the day at the Chatfield Reservoir with family.  It was so fun!  (Kaitlyn and Biniam seem pretty thrilled at least!)  There was a nice little swim beach where the kids splashed, played, and dug in the sand.  I pretty much sat on the shore and enjoyed the sun and good company.  Oh, and worked to keep needing-a-nap Mary happy.

Speaking of Mary, here she is in her shade tent, all smiles because (as you can see from her messy face) she was eating one of her faves, pureed garbanzo beans + olive oil.  She makes me so, so happy.  I love this little bug!

This is Anna in between her two cousins, Aubrey (on the left) and Ainsley (on the right).  My kids LOVE getting to see their cousins, and it's pretty sweet that we only live forty minutes away from them now (as opposed to 18 hours, back when they lived here and we lived in California.)

I don't know who Biniam thinks he is, but he was sure enjoying the good life when I snapped this photo.  Kicked back in an innertube, floating away, not a care in the world.  Oh, to be a kid again!

For some reason I don't have any pictures of Yosef to share from our day!  (This seems to happen when you have five children.  So if you have one child, and you have photographed him or her meeting every single milestone (and you artfully display them in a big fat baby book filled with lots of memories and anecdotes), you are not allowed to judge.  Four-fifths of my children captured on camera is a definitive success in my book.)  I can assure you that he was there as well, digging lots of holes and filling them with water.  He is an extremely focused child and does great with detail work.  So he got really into those holes.  (He of course also had a ton of fun IN the water, too.)

Have I mentioned I love summertime in Colorado?  :)  I think I maybe have.  My formerly-California-kids, sadly, are no longer fifteen minutes from the ocean, but they seemed blissfully happy at the lake with their cousins.  I love doing fun stuff like this, and knowing that my kids are making memories and building relationships that will last a lifetime!

Friday, August 06, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday {#7}

I'm taking my cue from my much-more-organized-than-me friend Jennifer, and having an "organization" theme for today's "7 Quick Takes."  (Seriously, go to her blog.  She has such pretty pictures to go with her post!  And her house is so cute.  As in, I've actually been there and know this person in real life, even though I may or may not have met her on the internet first.) 

1.)  This week some sort of organizing-bug hit and I spent yesterday afternoon cleaning out our mess of a bedroom closet and our coat closet.  I got all of Anna's schoolwork she did at the homeschool program she attends, and organized it by subject in a $1, 5 pocket file I picked up at Target.  The day before that I cleaned out what used to be the guestroom, and what will now function as Mary Lu's room, and got my homeschool stuff organized on the bookshelf in our schoolroom.  I also found some over-the-door hooks for the girls' bedroom that now hold bathing suits and a backpack  (for $2.50.  Can you tell I love the dollar section at Target?!)  I am generally too lazy and unmotivated to dig in and organize, but when the fancy strikes, I run with it!

2.)  Now I'm in a dilemna over what to do with kids' shoe storage.  We have a rubbermaid container with drawers in our coat closet, and each child has a drawer for their respective shoes.  The thing is though that this particular container is large, and awkward in that space, and I'm not really a fan.  I'm wondering if it would be better for each child to have their own basket/bin/something-from-the-Target-dollar-section to keep his or her own shoes in, in their bedroom.  Of course THAT leads to the issue of, my kids' rooms are small.  Homes built in 1912, and added onto in the 1970's, don't have big, huge, sprawling bedrooms with lots of space for shoes.  Bedrooms are mostly for sleeping anyhow so I'm really (usually) okay with somewhat cramped quarters.  But the shoes.  Yosef and Biniam have a good-sized closet so I could find space in there.  Anna and Kaitlyn, however, have a shallow closet with not very much room.  They have toy bins under their beds, although I might be able to fit another shoe bin underneath.  How do YOU store your kids' shoes?

3.)  Speaking of under-bed storage, we de-bunked our boys' beds last night and moved their old, rickety dresser that recently fell over on Yosef into the original, un-finished part of our basement.  I can now use that for storage of linens, etc. (YAYYY!!!!) and I've decided to put all of their clothes in shallow bins under their beds (one for shirts, one for pants, etc.).  We've been doing that with PJs for a long time now, and they are able to manage their clothing really well that way.  (They put away their own laundry.)  The dresser however always got too full, and things were just stuffed in there and it fell on top of Yosef...basically they showed themselves a lot more capable of maintaining order with a bin under their bed than with a dresser, so for now, that's what we'll do.

4.)  Our garage STILL needs desperate, desperate attention.  It is a mess.  It looks like a tornado came through and deposited a lot of random stuff all over the place.  We don't park in there (it's detached, and there's no room, because of all of our junk) and we probably won't even when it's cleaned out and organized.  We'd like to use it for storage, but we really need to go through and get everything situated/thrown away/sold on Craigslist.  My main thing is, we have an extra fridge out there that I'd like to plug in and start using.  Kevin doesn't want to do this, but I'm tired of my kitchen fridge being so full of stuff that it's a pain to get to anything.  We buy four (!) gallons of milk at a time, and until two of those gallons are gone, things are pretty tight.  Anytime I have a party and need to chill drinks, it's a nightmare too.  (As if I entertain or throw parties more than about three times a year.  But I can pretend.)  The other day I made a peanut butter chocolate pie that had to be refrigerated, and I was barely able to make room.  SO I really look forward to utilizing that garage refrigerator.  Kevin will come around.  I just know it.  (We have a huge industrial-ish freezer down in our basement that is WONDERFUL.  It was even more wonderful before I accidentally knocked something frozen into the lightbulb and killed the light.)

5.)  One of the hardest things for me to stay on-top-of around here is clothing my kids have outgrown.  We keep it all because we have five children, and Anna's things become Kaitlyn's things which will eventually become Mary's things.  Someday we may have more boys, so we keep Yosef and Biniam's old clothes too.  But it is so hard to maintain order of all this stuff!  We do have some organized bins out in our garage, but I need to do some more sorting and get some more bins.  Darn.  That doesn't sound very fun.  Part of me would LOVE to just donate all the clothes to the ARC, but honestly, this whole hand-me-down thing saves us a lot of money and hassle.  (Well, I suppose I'm trading one hassle for another.)  So I will keep going with it.  Even if it kills me.  And it might.

6.)  I'm also attempting to find a good place to store a large printer/copier/scanner.  This thing is a behemoth.  I'm so glad that we received it free-of-charge from Kevin's aunt, because we really needed one, but where shall I put it?  I'd like to have it actually set up for use, as opposed to just storing it and then having to lug it around when I want to use it.  I'm THINKING maybe I should put it in the guestroom.  Then I can move the laptop in there when I need to print or whatever.  I have an old changing table in that room that it MIGHT actually fit on.  We will see.

7.)  Today I'm hoping to get to Walmart to pick up school supplies and lunch boxes for my soon-to-be-kindergartner-sons!  They're so excited!  I found them backpacks recently but they still need lunchboxes.  (Anna of course still has her backpack and lunchbox from last year.)  Last August when we got school stuff, we made a fun morning of it and then met Kevin for lunch.  Hoping to do the same today, although I still need to make a list of what we need and also, you know, get the five kids fed, ready and out the door.  No small feat.  But if we go out to lunch, I get to have a soda.  So I'm thinking we'll do it!


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