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.

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October 10, 2017

“Oh my God. 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

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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

The Fails

This weekend I had two cooking fails. One redeemed itself and turned out splendidly and one turned out subpar.

If you remember from last post, we were quite backed up on our tomatoes. We had too many tomatoes and too little time. So, getting as many tomatoes preserved as we could was in the forefront of our mind for this weekend. I typically like to use a slow cooker tomato sauce recipe. The tomatoes cook for twelve hours (at least) with a mixture of onions, garlic and spices. The resulting sauce is delicious. Early Saturday morning, Ryan and I went up to the garden to pick the bulk of our remaining tomatoes. We quickly realized it’d take us days to use up all the tomatoes if we stuck with our usual slow-cooker sauce recipe. We knew we did not have enough time to make as many batches of slow-cooker sauce as we had tomatoes before the tomatoes spoiled. So we decided to try something new. Instapot tomato sauce. After some quick calculating we realized we could turn all the tomatoes we just picked into sauce after only sixty minutes of instapot cooking. We prepped all our tomatoes assembly-line style, with the help of the kiddos, and loaded the first batch in the Instapot. Thirty minutes later, round one was done. I opened the Instapot, grabbed my immersion blender and started blending. I noticed right away, the sauce was way too runny. The consistency just wouldn’t do. I sighed and thought I’d have to transfer the sauce to the stove to cook down to the consistency we preferred, a process that would most likely take hours. I cautiously tasted a spoonful of the botched sauce. For the first time ever, I added cocoa powder to the sauce after reading online it would add complexity to the sauce. I was curious how it tasted. I’d also just thrown in a smattering of my usual sauce ingredients, not really paying too much attention to measurements. Oregano. Thyme. Parsley. Salt. Pepper. Garlic. More Garlic. Tarragon. More Garlic. It was amazing. The texture was that of tomato soup and, on the spot, I announced we were going to just freeze it as is and use it as soup. Images of thick sourdough bread, toasted with Brie or Gouda cheese ran through my mind and all the sudden my sauce disaster seemed more like providence.I anxiously started to dump in all the ingredients for the next batch, hoping my fingers remembered just the right amount of each spice to replicate the batch we just made. Sure enough, we got a second large batch of scrumptious tomato soup. So, instead of a ton of sauce this year, we have a decent amount of sauce plus at least four meals of tomato soup for our family. Not bad. With the way the soup tasted, I’ll take that any day.

So, tomatoes are now done. Grapes are also done. We picked our grape vine clean and promptly turned the grapes into jam. Our family has already inhaled half a jar of jam. Homemade grape jam is utterly divine. As are cranberry pecan cookies. This brings me to the next fail.

The second fail of the week was not one I’d replicate again. We had friends coming over and I decided to make my absolute favorite cookie, cranberry-pecan, for the occasion. Everything was humming along beautifully until it was time to add the flour. Two cups went in just fine, but then, alas, I had no more flour. Somehow on my grocery list for the week, I’d not realized how perilously low we were on flour. Most of the kids were with Ryan at soccer practice. I had two choices. I could ask Ryan to go get more flour after the kids were done with soccer. Timing-wise this was a bit tricky because we were having friends over to enjoy the cookies. If I didn’t start baking the cookies until Ryan was home, there was a strong likelihood the twins would be awake from naps and cookies would be delayed (if not scrapped entirely). I had an entire bowl full of nearly ready to go batter. My other option was to improvise. I had two boxes of gluten-free baking mix in my pantry. It might work. I went with the second option. I measured out four cups of gluten-free mix and dumped it into the batter. It looked somewhat decent. After the tomato soup adventure, I had high hopes for my now half gluten, half gluten-free cookies. I popped the first batch in the oven, set the timer and waited (e.g. cleaned up the mess I just made of my kitchen). Twelve minutes later, I opened the oven. Disaster. An entire cookie sheet of flat dough glared at me. All the cookies fell flat, running into one another and making one giant flat blob. I pulled out the tray and walked away, hoping I’d come back in a few minutes and things would somehow be better. No such luck. I scraped the dough off the cookie sheet and decided to put another tray in. A baby was up and I knew I wouldn’t have another chance before friends came over to mix up a whole new batch of cookies.

The second tray went into the oven. I picked up baby number one from her nap and went into the living room when I heard whispers. Something was up. I peaked in the kitchen. Esther and Hudson were tiptoeing over to the pile of goo I’d scraped off my cookie sheet. “Shhh” Esther told Hudson before reaching over, grabbing a chunk of goo and darting out of the kitchen. Hudson was quick to follow with his own chunk. A few minutes later, they were back at it. I guess the cookies couldn’t be that bad. The timer beeped and I went to see if the next round turned out any better, noticing along the way that the most of the blob had disappeared. For the second round I had adjusted the size of the cookie dough balls, but that was about it. I opened the oven. Not awful. Still flat. I decided to leave them on the tray for a bit and then try to get them off. Bingo. They did taste slightly mealy from the gluten-free baking mix, but the overall flavor was good. “Mom! I love these! They taste like toffee!” one of my kid’s exclaimed after she returned from soccer practice.

After I wrapped my brain around the idea that these cookies would never be my beloved gooey, gluten-filled cranberry-pecan cookies, I started to enjoy my new cranberry-pecan crisps. I also wondered if I could get away with eating more of them because they were half-gluten. I’ve been avoiding gluten the past few months and so I’ve limited myself to only one cookie when I bake a batch of cookies. Surely, if these cookies are half-gluten I could splurge and eat two of them…or four…four is good, right?

Winding Down…sort of

It’s happened. We knew it would. The tomatocalypse of 2018 is here. It began around the same time as my phone died, the basement flooded, refrigerator fried, new PT schedule began (45 minutes away from home), a miscellaneous smattering of doctors/specialists appointments occurred, and a myriad of other various events transpired in our home making it quite difficult to actually walk up to the garden to pick the tomatoes. The result. We only have one batch of tomato sauce made so far and a whole lot of tomatoes still on the vine.

Ryan went up Sunday afternoon and picked all tomatoes that were in critical condition, meaning if they did not get picked, they’d rot. We all worked together to get them ready to go for sauce making Monday morning. Well, I should say we mostly all worked together. Esther bailed part way through to eat as many tomatoes as she could before we diced them up.Typically it takes me around two hours (including all interruptions by children) to get a batch of tomatoes ready for sauce making. Thankfully, since it was a team effort, we got the tomatoes ready to go in a half hour.Our refrigerator is up and running again. Thank God. By the end of the week and a half of being fridge-less, I just loaded money on J’s school account and told him to go crazy and buy school lunch. He was thrilled.

Tonight we are tackling the grapes and apples won’t be far behind.

As things wind down in the garden, we’ve been making notes about what we’d like to do differently next year. First, some friends of ours had a separate melon garden. What brilliance. Our melons always end up taking over our entire garden by the end of the summer. We are definitely stealing their idea for next year. Also, we’d like to grow more beets. For sure. Beets, once harvested, last forever. They are incredible roasted and are exquisite with goat cheese as an appetizer. We only planted a few this year because we were not sure how they would do and we did not want to waste square footage on a maybe crop. They flourished. So for next year they’ve earned additional square footage. You will probably find this hard to believe since we live in the Midwest, but we have yet to master growing corn. It’s a goal for next year. One way or another we need to figure it out.

We’ve managed to work out a daily school routine here that works well with the babies’ nap schedule. In case I haven’t shared this incredible news with you yet in person or on the phone or in an email, I’m announcing it now. The twins have a bedtime. They have a daily schedule. It’s fantastic. My evenings are back and I’ve even been able to go out shopping by myself (for fun things, not groceries- we still keep Instacart  very busy (here’s a link for $10 off Instacart if you are interested and decide to give it a try) and for coffee with friends (well, actually hot chocolate since I’m still off coffee thanks to the babies’ sensitive tummies). We love our little ladies, but my heavens, the first few months of twindom was something else.

Since our evenings are a little more open, we’ve even been talking about trying out a few new hobbies around here at night. We’re trying to figure out something that neither of us is very good at but are both interested in learning. Painting and/or drawing together is a solid “no”. Learning a new musical instrument is out since Ryan has a definite advantage over me in that area. We talked about working out together, but honestly the appeal of sweating together, after one of our busy days here, is not really there. So, we’ll see what we come up with once the dust settles from all our food preservation adventures and the garden is finally done for the year. If you have any ideas, feel free to pass them along!

Sufficient

Fall always seems to bring with it such promise. Promise of rest, promise of a fresh start, promise of a new season ripe with undiscovered treasures. I’m just about to restart my thankfulness journal. I did this several years ago. I’d write down at least one thing I was thankful for each and every day. I even posted whatever I wrote on my Facebook page. I’ll never forget the fall I started that habit. It was the fall my grandfather passed away unexpectedly and we also almost lost our daughter, who was four months old at the time. It took two hospital stays, several blood transfusions and multiple trips to the hospital each week over the course of two months for her to stabilize and fully recover. Somehow in all of that uncertainty and chaos, I wrote “Today I am thankful for…” day after day.

“Today I am thankful for many things. Most of all I am thankful to all of the people in the world who give blood. You saved my daughter’s life this weekend. Thank you.” (October 11, 2011).

The list goes on. I think I made it to around four hundred things I was thankful for from the time I started my list that June till when I stopped. This time around I’d really love to get to 1,000. I’d heard of this from a friend who’d gotten the idea from Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts.” I eventually borrowed the book from the library and inhaled it, slowly. I took time to write out all the parts I loved so I would remember them long after I returned the book. It remains one of my favorites and I eventually purchased it for our home library.

I’ve found that thankfulness multiplies. Even in the hard. The past two weeks here have been rather challenging and my spirit is aching for a season of refreshing and hope. Most of the time in life when things get rocky, I’ve realized it’s my own perspective that needs to change not the circumstance. So, I’m sensing in my spirit the need for reflection on all God has done and is doing in my own life and in our home.

We knew going in adoption is not an easy road. There are moments of joy, absolutely. We’re realizing, a year in, adoption is very much like a marathon. You see trauma isn’t just something that is worked through and then it goes away. It comes back. It has many layers. Fight or flight rears it’s ugly head whenever a child is stressed or uncertain. Things taught and comprehended are suddenly forgotten in a moment. Regression happens. Change to routine or the norm may result a kaleidoscope of behaviors long thought ended, usually bringing with them new challenges, exposing even more layers that need worked through. A year in is still so very little compared to the years our boys spent without a permanent family.

As we help each of our seven kids settle into our new normal for the school year, I’m resting in the promise that God’s grace is sufficient. We’ve got a whole mess of things going on this year, many of which are new. Some are rather intimidating. Roads we’ve never walked before. Let alone with seven kids. Even in all of the new, in all the challenge, in all of the hard, there’s still reason to thank. Reason for joy. I’m determined to find it. To note it. To not just get through, but to keep His goodness always on my lips and on the forefront of my mind. To rest in His grace. Knowing, full well that it is enough.

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee. My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore I will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Monday Night Mash Up

It’s Monday night here and the first chance I’ve had in a week to sit down and write much of anything.

We got our first taste of our new normal last week – and then some. Overall, it went okay. It helped I kept my expectations relatively low for the week. I didn’t plan a lot of “work” for the four-year olds, because, well, they are four. I knew they were SO crazy excited about starting “school” that it’d be hard for them to focus on much of anything. Just as I suspected, they were bouncing off the walls the first two days. We did a few crafts with their new supplies and they were tickled silly over the whole thing. We took a field trip to the garden on an ABC scavenger hunt and found a stunning spider web along the way. The big girls completed their school work in record time and were asking for more all week. Turns out they missed school. IMG_0195.jpgOur school week was mildly interrupted midweek when a storm came through our area and we lost power in the middle of the night. The power stayed off for over ten hours. Since it was the middle of the night when it went out, we didn’t get the generator on right away. This meant the sump pump had no power for around an hour or two and the basement flooded. The night turned into a comedy of errors. We got the generator hooked up, but it wouldn’t power the whole house (unlike other times when it powered everything just fine). It would only work if we plugged things into the generator outlets. So Ryan ended up drilling holes around our house at one in the morning to run the power cord down for the sump pump to prevent the basement from flooding further.

We stayed up the rest of the night getting the water out of the basement and making sure the sump pump continued to work through the downpour. Once power was restored we realized our refrigerator was fried. That turned into its own fiasco. The end result is we have no upstairs fridge or freezer till later this week (and that’s an improvement from the two-week timeframe we were originally told). It’s a rather large bummer. We’re praying the part the technician ordered comes soon.

In the meantime, we moved all our upstairs freezer foods to the basement freezer. We packed the upstairs fridge with ice and ate as much of the food out of it as we could. It’s taken some creative planning, but so far we’ve not had to throw away any food.

Our garden is winding down for the season. We’ve had a daily supply of cantaloupes coming in. Watermelons are at their peak. Tomatoes are ripening at a nice, steady rate. I wish I’d written down the varieties we bought this year. I much prefer this pace to last years’ when they all decided to come in at the same, exact time. Apples and grapes are in the wings, ready to go whenever I decide to inventory our canning jar supply, restock if needed and then dive in to processing those for the year. The end of our gardening adventures this year is near. We’ve been blessed by all the goodies. We have a nice stockpile built up and I’m looking forward to having a bit of a break from preserving all the yumminess. I’ve got a few books picked out to work through this fall and my couch and a cozy blanket are looking really nice about now. Oh, and a fridge. Let’s not forget about that necessary piece of equipment. It does, after all, hold my cashew milk, a necessary ingredient in my lattes, which pair really well with a good book. If we could get that going soon, it would be fantastic.