Wrapping Up 2018

It’s been a rather eventful few weeks here. We spent Thanksgiving with friends and the grand total of kids between our two families was nineteen. Our contribution to the feast was mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli casserole and salad. There was a lot of peeling and chopping going on here to make enough food for everyone. Ryan smartly organized the kids into an assembly line doing little tasks so they made quick work of it. teamworkAll I had to do was the cooking and blending. By the end of it, we had ten pounds of mashed potatoes, two large trays of sweet potato casserole, one and a half trays of broccoli casserole and one giant salad.

For some reason there was a rumor floating around our home that Christmas was the day after Thanksgiving. The littles were mildly disappointed when we broke the news they still had a month to go till Christmas. They quickly perked up when we told them we could dig out the Christmas decorations. Within minutes the decoration bin was brought up, Christmas music was on and we entered the Christmas season with much falalala-ing. I added four new handprint ornaments to our tree this year. Joshua and Hudson were delighted to add their hands to the tree.By the end of the day the house was decorated, the tree was up and the littles were enchanted with all the lights and glitter of the season.A few days later the excitement continued when their grandparents came for a visit from Virginia. Myla and Elliette had their Christmas piano recital and Hudson and Esther had their Christmas program at church while they were here visiting. Everyone was thrilled Mimi and Grandbob were there to see them perform.img_3882.jpgNot to be outdone, Pippa and Georgina decided they’d share their excitement for the season by waking up at 4:45 a.m. for the foreseeable future. They also both figured out how to scoot across the floor at a rather astonishing pace for their small size.

After Mimi and Grandbob left to go back east, we were off to the Christmas party at our homeschool group. All of our activities are wrapping up for the year and the only things we have left between now and Christmas are four physical therapy appointments, one PT consult, and one final Christmas party. Hot chocolate, fuzzy blankets and good books are calling our name these next few weeks, as we get ready to say good-bye to 2018.

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Redemption Walks

“Mom, why are your and daddy’s thumbs bigger than my thumbs?” The question came just after he snuggled next to me on the couch.Hudson and MommyHe’s been part of our family for a year and those snuggles, carefully given, are sweet miracles. Trust, hard earned.

“God made everyone different, Hudson.” I replied. “He gave you extra special thumbs.” He seemed satisfied with that answer and snuggled further into my arms.

God is fashioning a story of redemption in our home. I forget. Far too often. My feet made of clay, get stuck in busy. Stuck in new diagnoses. Stuck trying to come alongside our kids and help them have courage to overcome. I get stuck researching and talking to doctors, therapists, and teachers trying to figure out plans to help. I get stuck in medical bills and meal planning. I get stuck doing. Time and again. But, it’s still there. It’s happening. Those blossoms are blooming and, despite all my busy, I cannot help but stand in awe of what is happening in our home. So many miracles walk here.

This weekend Hudson zipped his jacket all by himself. For a kid with elbows that don’t bend and thumbs half the size they should be, this is a huge accomplishment.Hudson's zipperWhat’s also astounding is that he figured it out all on his own. No one has been working with him on this. He just figured it out. This is a big deal. In the past whenever he’s come up against something he hasn’t been able to do, it’s taken quite a bit of coaching and encouragement to get him to keep trying at something till he gets it.

There are twins learning to crawl in our family. In case you haven’t noticed, we still haven’t wrapped our brains around the whole twin thing…all of the kids adore the twins, particularly their brothers. We have had no issues with anyone being jealous of the babies in any way. If anything, we have an abundance of love and help from all their brothers and sisters.

Joshua, who had no education whatsoever in China, is now reading (and comprehending), writing and doing math at around a first to second grade level. He’s beginning to understand different events and holidays and instead of shutting down from all the newness, he’s been actively participating and interested in learning all about family traditions and holidays. He is rocking new AFOs (braces for his legs) and it’s been another huge adjustment for him. Last year it took months to adjust. This time around he’s already up and walking two weeks in. It’s slow going and it’s taken a lot of prompting and encouragement, but he is doing it.

Redemption walks here. It breathes here. Nearly half of our family should not be under this roof for one reason or another. But, God, the Creator. God, the Author of life, knit our family together. What an honor to bring up all these littles. I don’t know how we got this privilege. It’s tough going a lot of days. Parenting children from hard, hard places will wreck your heart. But there in the pieces oil runs. Healing oil over jagged edges, as God works redemption, smoothing and reshaping the broken into a masterpiece.

Those Final Few Boxes

Ahh. Sanity. The twins slept through the night the past three nights. Prior to this they’d been waking up once or twice a night, which is still so much better than when we were up round the clock with them the first few months. Since I’ve been clocking more sleep for the past few weeks, my brain has a bit more energy to think about things I’d neatly tucked away into the back of my mind…like decorating.

I’m not going crazy over here with decorating (who am I kidding…I don’t have THAT much extra time), but I realized, with much surprise, it has been three years since we moved to Chicagoland, and I still have not unpacked any of our decorations from our home in New York.

Initially I didn’t unpack them because I wanted to get an idea of where our furniture would eventually settle before putting nail holes in the wall. Then we were busy updating adoption documents to our new address. Then we were going to China. Then we brought the boys home. Then we were buried in doctor’s appointments and found out twins were on the way. Add in more doctor’s appointments and a NICU stay to the mix and, before we knew it, three years had passed.

I admit I loved our time in New York. It’s been a bit hard for my heart to feel settled here in Illinois. I miss our family and friends in New York so very much. I REALLY miss our farmer’s market there. I miss the mountains, the lakes and even the snow. There was so much more snow there to play with each winter.

Three years in I am coming to terms with flat land. I do REALLY love how we can actually have a garden here that isn’t growing in soil we had to pay for and have delivered to our house.

I’m still working out how to do wholesome living out here. Groceries are significantly more here than in New York…or maybe it’s just that we’ve more mouths to feed now. Either way, I don’t feel like we’ve quite found our rhythm in some ways. Not yet. I’ve dabbled around with a few different CSA options, tried a few places for milk, and even had the farm in New York, where we’d been members of their meat CSA, deliver to us all the way out here in Chicago, but I haven’t quite found our groove. Hopefully soon. I’ve got some new leads to check out for sources for meat and milk out here so we’ll see. In the meantime, I spent the past two days unpacking our decorations.

Our extended family photos were beyond outdated at this point. Missing from the photos were two new (well, not so new anymore) brother-in-laws and nine nieces and nephews. Oh dear. Well, my project has birthed another project and I’m getting right on this one. For now though at least the frames are out and up and our last few boxes are finally unpacked.

Mountain Blossoms

“And ready, set, here we go.” I announced as I pulled the shower knob on and stuck my entire face in the shower’s stream. I started my pep talk. “You got this. All things. All. things.” I muttered as the water pelted away the tension from today. It was co-op day. Six of the kids and I spent the better part of the day with other homeschool families touching on a variety of subjects- history, science, art/music, math, grammar, Latin (yes, the four year olds are learning Latin), and so on.

Esther and Hudson learning how to play the tin whistle at co-op.

The kids all love our co-op days. Next week they are all dissecting a crayfish. It’s been the hot topic around here for weeks now.

My neck and shoulders were screaming at me today for hauling the twins in and out of van twice. It is a rather high off the ground van for my five foot two self. Tomorrow is therapy day- our once a week adventure to a rehab hospital, nearly an hour away, for Joshua’s physical therapy.

(Kids making their “serious” faces while they pretend to work at the hospital)

I take all the kids along on that adventure. Medical bills from our twins’ six-week stay in the NICU have made a regular babysitting budget a bit tricky for the time being. The end is in the sight though and so my pep talk continued. “7 more weeks, 7 more weeks. We can do this.” I push away the nagging voice reminding me we are about to up our time at the rehab hospital from once to twice a week and instead I remember Caleb, who in the Old Testament roared, “Give me this mountain!” (Exclamation point and roaring voice are my own additions to this story). Despite all the odds, Caleb asked for the mountain. There were giants there. Great cities. High walls. Caleb wasn’t deterred. At eighty-five years old he told Moses, “I am as strong this day as on the day Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain” (Joshua 14:11). Years later David would be anointed King of Israel on that very land.

I stretched my arms under the pounding water, thinking how absurd I probably look. I smiled. My kids would laugh their heads off if they saw me doing their ballet poses the shower.

Sometimes people tell us they don’t know how we do it. “We don’t either,” we reply laughing before continuing, “It really is the grace of God.” Going from three kids to seven in nine months was quite the curveball. Our feet are made of clay just like everyone else’s feet and it’s not like we have perfect kids either. I mean that would totally make life too simple. No, our kids are well, kids. They can have us tearing up with their acts of compassion and thoughtfulness one second and in a nanosecond have us wondering if we’ve somehow made a wrong turn and are now living in a zoo. Don’t believe me? Today I went in the bathroom and found this. Yes, it is a shoe. On my sink. Sigh. Then there was this lovely learning experience the other day.img_1762-2“Mom, can I make lunch for everyone?” It started out simply enough. “Sure.” I replied. I admit I was a bit distracted by the twins when I was asked about making lunch. I didn’t really think much about it being one of our children who’d never really made lunch before. Everyone loved it- tuna sandwiches (there were two versions of tuna- one regular and one “fancy”), diced plums and cranberry relish. It was nicely done, even if things did get, well, a bit messy. By the end of it, this is what I found on my floor…img_1758Ellie the elephant, comforting the broom who was about to go into a cleaning frenzy…yes, I found them this way and no, I’m not sure which child decided it’d be a good idea for the elephant to hug to the broom (on the floor in the middle of the kitchen nonetheless). No, there is never a dull moment around here.

It’s been twenty minutes of letting the water run healing over my sore muscles, my tense jaw. Tomorrow is another long day for us. I think of Caleb and I smile. That mountain. He fought hard for it. A king walked that soil years later. Sometimes the hard brings the most beauty. Sometimes it’s the grit of grace that washes away all the filth we never knew was hiding under the surface. The hard seasons are often exposing seasons. Healing seasons. Seeds blossom sweetly in soil raked raw. Seven weeks to go. God is all over this and we are beginning to smell sweet blossoms from our mountain.

Welcome to Twindom

It was an idyllic fall day. I was outside chatting with Ryan when all the sudden out of nowhere I felt ill. “Oh my gosh. I’ve got to throw up!” I announced before bolting into the house. The feeling passed a few seconds later.

“That’s weird.” Ryan said. “Yeah, maybe there’s a bug going around or something” I replied, thinking nothing of it. A few days later, on a whim, I decided to take a pregnancy test. Within seconds I knew. Oh my. We’d just gotten back from China two months earlier after adopting our two sons and surprised doesn’t quite adequately describe our feelings when we found out we’d be adding another little one to the mix. We were thrilled nonetheless and patted ourselves on the back…good thing we’d gone with the eight-seater van last time we were car shopping. We could still squeeze one more in. Phew. No need to buy another car.

I called and set up our first prenatal appointment. Since we’d had other babies before I was pretty certain I knew what to expect. We called ahead to make sure the appointment would be under an hour long. We did not feel comfortable leaving the boys with a sitter quite yet so Ryan met me at the doctor’s office and took the kids to lunch while I went to the appointment.

It’d taken me a bit of searching to find a doctor’s office out this way. All our other pregnancies were in New York and we had a midwifery practice there we loved. I was hoping to have a water birth with this newest one like I’d had in New York. There was only one hospital and one practice that offered water birth as a potential option, but it was an hour drive from our home. All our previous labors had gone as planned. In New York we didn’t mind a forty-five minute drive while in labor so fifteen more minutes wouldn’t be that much further if we could be at a hospital and with a doctor or midwife we loved.

As crunchy as I may be at times, I never felt one hundred percent comfortable with home birth for myself. I tend to worry and imagine every possible scenario while in labor and I know if I’d be laboring at home I’d be wondering if there was an issue and worrying about whether or not we’d make it to the hospital if necessary- not exactly the most helpful train of thoughts to be having in the middle of contractions. Then there’s also the issue of focus. During the last hour or so before baby arrives, I don’t really like people too much. I don’t want to be touched or talked to or even see other folks so to labor at home with all our oftentimes-nosey (bless their hearts) kiddos, would be challenging. I much prefer the quiet of a hospital room. You may be thinking a hospital is not all that quiet. Let me assure you. Compared to our house, a hospital is like a monastery.

With Ryan and the kids off to lunch, I strolled into the doctor’s office praying the visit would be super short so I wouldn’t puke on anyone. Although I’m sure that event would be a fantastic first introduction to my new doctor, I was really hoping to avoid it. I was so very sick this time around. All. The. Time. There was no food or drink that would alleviate the nausea. The only thing that would help was sleep. The minute I woke up until the time I went to sleep I was severely nauseous.

Soon I was checked in. The receptionist found out from our paperwork that we had adopted and had lots of questions about the process and our boys. The nurse also had lots of questions about our adoption. I told them how my husband and I would often joke during the adoption process that we could have had two kids in the time our adoption had taken start to finish. They laughed.

The doctor came in and estimated our due date to be May 19, 2018. She began to do an ultrasound to confirm the due date and make sure the baby was growing well. She quickly found the heartbeat. “Everything looks good!” she said. “The baby is measuring right on track.” She announced. She paused for a minute, “Wait, what’s that?! There’s something else in there!” She yelled, quite surprised, before turning off the ultrasound machine and demanding the nurse to call and request a more in depth ultrasound immediately. The nurse jumped to make the call.

“What do you mean there’s something else in there? Like twins?” I asked her in disbelief. “I’m not sure.” She replied. “Let’s get you down to the other ultrasound machine. It’s higher resolution.” With that she walked out of the room.

My mind was spinning over her “I don’t want to say” comment.” Cancer, some disease, another baby, were all thoughts running through my mind. She’d only found one heartbeat that I knew of. I anxiously texted Ryan that it’d be a bit longer. “They found something in the first ultrasound and are sending me down to get a more detailed one.” I knew it was getting to be late and the kids were probably about fed up with being in the car. My thirty to forty-five minute long appointment was quickly spiraling to well past an hour.

The nurse walked me down to the other ultrasound room (in a different part of the hospital) and left me there with the ultrasound tech. This was the first thing we saw when she touched my stomach with the ultrasound wand.

IMG_0954

October 10, 2017

“Oh my gosh! There are TWO!” I cried. I started laughing. Then crying. Then a bit of both mixed with “I just can’t believe it. This is crazy. There are TWO! There are REALLY two!”

“Are there two heartbeats?” I asked, holding my breath. Before she could find out we watched as both babies began to kick and move all about. She quickly confirmed that there were two, healthy heartbeats.

“I can’t believe this,” she said. “They are identical! It’s very rare for us to ever get to see identical twins! This is only the second set I’ve ever done.” She shared.

“It was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen to see two babies floating around and kicking together. Praise God! I am in awe of His workmanship.” I wrote later that evening in my journal.

The rest of the ultrasound I alternated between laughing, crying and laying there in complete shock, watching the babies kick away. The tech finished taking all the measurements and announced, “They’re growing just fine. Everything looks great.” She turned off the machine, gave me a few pictures and sent me back to the doctor’s office.

As I soon as I got back to the doctor I asked if I could leave. I couldn’t wait to see the look on Ryan’s face when I told him. I was so shocked, amazed and just plain tickled at God’s sense of humor.

After congratulating me, the doctor went over a few more things. As she talked the nurse began taking blood so I could leave as quickly as possible. By this point the appointment was pushing three hours. The doctor told me I couldn’t have a water birth because any twin pregnancy is high risk. She also said identical twin pregnancy is particularly high risk. “I wouldn’t tell anyone just yet.” She said.

“Why?” I asked. The ultrasound tech had just said everything looked great.

“It’s relatively common for one twin, if not both, to not make it with this type of twin pregnancy.” She shared. “If they do, they will most likely be quite early because this type of twin shares a placenta. There are a lot of complications that could happen.” Despite her words of caution, I was still over the moon excited. Regardless of how things could potentially turn out, I was simply in awe of seeing two babies moving around inside my body. What a miracle.

I hurried out to the van where Ryan and the kids were waiting. He jumped out of the van. “Is everything okay?”

“Here! Look at this!” I said showing him the ultrasound picture. He gave it a quick glance.

“Oh, only one huh?” He replied. Every pregnancy he’s hoped we’d have twins.

“Ry! Look closely! There are TWO!!!!” I exclaimed.  He grabbed the ultrasound picture before bursting into laughter. We were completely surprised, shocked and overjoyed by the whole thing.

Given the news the babies may come quite early and having been told a water birth was not an option, we decided to switch to a doctor who practiced at a hospital with one of the top NICU’s in our area. It was quite an experience being pregnant with twins. The sheer number of doctor’s appointments alone was staggering. The way my body grew so quickly to accommodate two babies was astounding. IMG_1716 2It seemed like I couldn’t walk around very well in no time at all. It was like being stuck in the ninth month of pregnancy indefinitely. God was so faithful during that season to bring so many people alongside to help without us even asking. People brought meals. People helped watch our children for the many, many doctor’s visits. People brought groceries. People helped with laundry. They were all such instruments of God’s grace and goodness.

Five months after that first ultrasound, Pippa Josephine and Georgina Rose, were born via c-section at 32 weeks, bringing immeasurable joy to our family. Pippa (left) was 4 pounds, 4 ounces and Georgie (right) was 4 pounds, 11 ounces. They spent six weeks in NICU before coming home.

For that month and a half our family was at a standstill. I spent most of every day at the hospital with the girls. We are forever thankful to the NICU doctors and nurses. They saved our girls lives on more than one occasion and the images of them bending over our daughters’ ever so tiny bodies to help them breath again will always be etched in our minds.DSC04817There were three nurses who primarily cared for our girls. One was in the operating room when our girls were born. DSC04500She was with us the first week of their lives when the girls were struggling to stabilize. She was there when we held Pippa for the very first time.

She was the one who gently told us we could not hold Georgina quite yet during the first few days because Georgie was not yet stable. She was there when Georgie had grown strong enough to hold, arranging all the wires and cords and coordinating all the doctors and specialists to be in the room just in case Georgie did not do well. DSC04882DSC04872She was just as excited as we were when the girls went down to a smaller nasal cannula. IMG_3981She saw Pippa’s first smile with us and celebrated when the girls no longer needed feeding tubes and were able to wear clothes. DSC05032She was there helping us pack everything up the very last day we were in NICU. As I drove away from the hospital, she was right out front waving goodbye to us.

This past weekend we were able to go to the NICU reunion hosted by the hospital. It was such a blessing to see all the girls’ nurses and they all loved seeing how the girls have grown and meeting the rest of our children.IMG_1214
Today our girls are happy, healthy six month olds who continue to keep us on our toes. They’re busy rolling over, giggling and stealing toys from each other, much to everyone’s amusement. They have quite a fan club with five adoring older brothers and sisters. We never imagined we’d be twin parents, but here we are. Oh, and that van…it had to go. We upgraded to a larger van this spring that can fit all our kids plus a double stroller plus a walker plus a wheelchair plus the kids port-a-potty and well, you get the idea…11-IMG-11

Snippets and Pretzel Making

Things here have been humming along at a rather rapid pace. This past weekend was one of the first we have had for quite sometime without any doctor’s appointments or loads of time spent on food preservation. Our weekend was simple and sweet. Laundry was entirely caught up (for about four hours) and Ryan had a nice bit of time to work on a new project. Friends came over for chili on Sunday. The whole weekend was just a lovely time of rest.

Check out some of these sweet photos Myla and Joshua took and edited on Saturday.IMG_0922.JPGIMG_0923.JPG IMG_0924.JPG
After being exclusively breastfed for six months, our twins dove into the world of solids this past weekend. They were super excited about food. So far their favorite thing seems to be avocados. I am so thankful we made it to the six-month mark with breastfeeding. I wasn’t sure how it would go nursing twins. It was definitely challenging and it seemed most days, especially early on, were spent nursing round the clock. I am really proud we made it this far. Hopefully with the introduction of solids, both girls will feel fuller for longer and will start sleeping for longer stretches at night too. One can hope, right?IMG_0917
I’ve been experimenting the past few days with pretzel making. Years ago I tried unsuccessfully to make pretzels at home from scratch. They were okay. I thought maybe one of those pretzels in a box kits would better so I bought one and tried it. They were also just okay. Neither option was stellar and I abandoned pretzel making. I hadn’t really thought much about it until a few days ago. I was originally going to attempt, for the first time ever, to make a Jelly Roll, but despite having 21 chickens, we didn’t have enough eggs to make the roll. I was in a rather eccentric, high-energy baking mood so I didn’t want to abandon my urge to create something delicious so I flipped through one of my favorite cookbooks until my eye caught the pretzel recipe. It didn’t need hours to rise and we had all the ingredients so we began to bake.

Years and years ago when I was in Salzburg I had a pretzel. It was nothing like anything I had ever eaten in America. It was crispy, deep golden brown on the outside and divinely soft on the inside. I had no idea how to create that crunch on the outside, while still keeping the middle soft. After a few days of experimenting and trying out various flavors, I think I’ve got two recipes that we are all nuts over, so much so that none of my kids really left my kitchen for hours anytime I (plus five helpers) was making pretzels. They kids all liked making their own individual pretzel shapes. I was really impressed with Ellie’s peapod pretzel. IMG_1116.JPGThey were in pretzel making and taste-testing heaven and wanted me to take their picture while they were munching. So, here are those pictures to go along with our family favorite recipes.IMG_0967.JPGIMG_0979.jpgIMG_0980.JPGIMG_0982 copy.jpgIMG_0972.JPG

Garlic Onion Pretzels*

Ingredients

2 cups warm water
yeast (around 2 ¾ tablespoons – this is around what would be in one packet of yeast)
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of onion powder
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
4 cups of flour
4 tablespoons of baking soda
Dried minced onion
Melted butter

First add sugar and yeast to two cups of warm water in a bowl. Let sit for five minutes or so until the yeast is happy (starting to foam up a bit). Then add onion powder, garlic powder, salt and flour. Mix in a kitchen aid mixer with a dough hook on medium speed for several minutes or knead thoroughly by hand. Cover with a cloth and let rise for 30 minutes. Prepare a pot on the stove of water (4-6 inches deep) and 4 tablespoons of baking soda. Bring to a boil. Once the dough is finished rising, dump it on the counter. Cut into even pieces. Try not to over work the dough. Roll into strips around 15 inches long or so (longer if you’d like a full-size pretzel shape). Shape into pretzel shape (or whatever shape you’d like). At this point it really is up to you how thick or thin you’d like the pretzels to be – just use whatever amount of dough you’d like to get the desired size/thickness of your shapes.

Drop the shaped pretzels one at a time into the boiling water/baking soda mixture on the stove for about five seconds. Remove and place on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Top with a sprinkle of salt and a bit of minced, dried onion flakes to taste. Bake for 15-20 minutes until deep golden brown. Brush with melted butter once done. Best when eaten warm. (If not planning to eat right away, wait to top with melted butter mixture until ready to enjoy).IMG_0963.JPG

Coconut Pecan Pretzels*

Ingredients

2 cups warm water
yeast (around 2 ¾ tablespoons – this is around what would be in one packet of yeast)
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
½ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut flakes
3 tablespoons of brown sugar
4 cups of flour
4 tablespoons of baking soda
Melted butter plus 1 tablespoons of brown sugar

First add sugar and yeast to two cups of warm water in a bowl. Let sit for five minutes or so until the yeast is happy (starting to foam up a bit). Then add salt and flour. Mix in a kitchen aid mixer with a dough hook on medium speed for several minutes or knead thoroughly by hand. Towards the end of kneading add in pecans, coconut flakes and brown sugar. Cover with a cloth and let rise for 30 minutes. Prepare a pot on the stove of water (4-6 inches deep) and 4 tablespoons of baking soda. Bring to a boil. Once the dough is finished rising, dump it on the counter. Cut into even pieces. Try not to over work the dough. Roll into strips around 15 inches long or so (longer if you’d like a full-size pretzel shape). Shape into pretzel shape (or whatever shape you’d like). At this point it really is up to you how thick or thin you’d like the pretzels to be – just use whatever amount of dough you’d like to get the desired size/thickness of your shapes.

Drop the shaped pretzels one at a time into the boiling water/baking soda mixture on the stove for about five seconds. Remove and place on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until deep golden brown. Brush with melted butter mixed with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar once done. Top with shredded coconut flakes. Best when eaten warm. (If not planning to eat right away, wait to top with melted butter/brown sugar mixture until ready to enjoy).IMG_1123.JPG

*Modified from Soft Pretzels recipe in The All New Good Housekeeping Cook Book (2001) edited by Susan Westmoreland

A Good Life

One of our children spent the first eight years of his life in an orphanage. We adopted him a little over a year ago when he was nine years old. One thing we have realized over the past year is just how much children learn by just being children in a family. Its incredible how much they pick up on just by being a part of a family. We didn’t realize the depth of this until we adopted our two sons.

We will be humming along as a family and then realize, wait, we need to back up and teach one or both boys about a concept or idea that we never consciously taught our girls.

This week we came across one of these “gaps”. Honestly, we realized it’s been a “gap” for a while but we were thinking with increased language acquisition and exposure to opportunities it’d be learned. Perhaps it would be learned with more time, but, nonetheless, today presented itself with a perfect teachable moment.

Joshua’s been attending public school this year for half-days. He has a one-on-one aid that helps him while he is at school. His aid shared with us yesterday how much everyone at school likes Joshua. No surprise there. Joshua is very social, easy-going and, come on- his smile is just the best.

This morning I decided it was time to have a discussion about people with Joshua. If you’ve adopted a child you may already know where I’m going with this. Children who have been adopted may display something called indiscrimate affection. The short version summary of this is that they bond with everyone- they’ll hug anyone, talk to anyone, go with anyone and don’t really have any boundaries. The theory behind this is, basically, because of their traumatic backgrounds they are not able to trust that their adoptive parents are really going to stick around so they need to win over anyone they come into contact with in case they need to find someone new to take care of them. While it might seem sweet to have a little one bond so quickly and seem so very loving to you if you are a new acquaintance to them, please know adoptive children need to know their new parents can be trusted. It’s always best to point the adoptive child back to their parents, particularly for all caretaking needs. This is vital, particularly in the first few months so the child/ren learn who their primary caretakers are, that they can be trusted and that they are not going to abandon them. That is the super quick, simplified version and I’m digressing. Here we go. Back on track.

While we were waiting for Joshua’s bus this morning, I asked him if he had any friends at school. “Oh yes! I know everybody at school Mom!” he replied. “Oh, but knowing everyone does not mean they are your friends.” I told him and then I launched into a discussion about different types of people in life- strangers, acquaintances, friends and family. The discussion ended with an encouragement to go to school and be a friend to someone. I gave him some examples of questions to ask like “What do you like to do?” or “Do you have any pets?” The bus arrived and he waved goodbye after promising he’d try to get to know just one person he’d like to know better. I went inside and had the same discussion with all the rest of our kids over breakfast. I figured I might as well cover the basics with everyone just in case. Even if they’ve heard it before (okay, yes, they’ve all heard it before but English for some of our children is still a work in progress so comprehension is, well, an entirely different matter for all of our children), a reminder is always good. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.

Joshua got off the bus this afternoon and, never one to make lots of small talk- I jumped right to his task. “Who did you get to know today Joshua?” He told me all about his new friend and how she had a dog and two parrots. He was clearly pleased with himself. The matter dropped and we dove into our usual afternoon routine.

At dinner tonight we rehashed (ahem, reviewed) the conversation we had this morning about types of people and how to make friends. Joshua jumped right into the conversation. “Yeah I asked Mr. R if he has a rough life,” he announced. Mr. R is Joshua’s aid. I mentally reviewed our conversation from this morning wondering where the whole “rough life” part came from. “Oh really?” I asked. “Yeah…he said no.” Joshua answered nonchalantly. “Then Mr. R asked me if I had a rough life!” Joshua said as if he was shocked Ryan even asked the question. Ryan and I looked at each other across the table. “I said ‘no’” Joshua answered. “No?” I replied. “No. I have a good life.” Joshua announced. “I’m happy.” He said casually. “I did not have a good life before. But, now I have a good life. I am happy.” And then life went on. Dinner finished. The table was cleared. Life carried on. I sat there for a good little while, as life zipped along around me, thankful for the sweet gift that fell into our lap entirely unexpectedly at dinner with Joshua’s revelation.

There are days when we wonder if we’re doing anything right. Adopting two boys and then having twins soon after has been one humbling experience. Then, we find ourselves (usually unexpectedly and without doing anything of merit) in moments of such simple, raw beauty. Where we know we are exactly where we need to be. Doing exactly what God has given us to do.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

John 15:12-13