What a Weekend

My blog has been a little quiet lately, and I really did miss doing my Notes for Weeks post on Saturday, but I had not even a second to come up for air!  I do have lots of notes for next week though!  And as for the baby bump picture, I didn’t officially take one, but I’m sure I will have plenty to show you from the Baptism to make up for it.  I just didn’t take any pictures at all that day, so I can’t post them till people send them to me! (Hint Hint! People with pictures!) :)

This weekend was so much crazier than I anticipated.  Between the Baptism, lots of family coming into town and a sick toddler… with lots of curve balls thrown in between, I am just happy we survived it quite honestly!  I am even more thankful that our two newest blessings are now officially a part of our Lord’s family; they have a Father who will never abandon them, never fail them and who has died for their very presence at His table.  He is the perfect Father, and what a gift to know that they belong to Him.

Will write some more later and share pictures, of course!  But for now my little Mambo and I have some rest to catch up on and a grocery list to write.  May you all have a blessed week.

Brothers & Sisters

I wanted to spend some time talking about how all the siblings are doing together.  Sibling dynamics are a huge part of making a family work, especially in out-of-birth order adoptions.  We talked extensively with our social worker before the adoption about how adopting children older than ours could potentially affect our family life.  Most of the information we received was along the lines of, “It’s really hard on the biological children.”  And I definitely don’t doubt that this can be the case much of the time.  Every family is different and you have to know your kids and what their limits are, as well as your own.

On the other hand, adoption comes with a lot of question marks.  There were sides to my biological children I hadn’t seen before their new siblings came home, both good and bad.  Behaviors and reactions to the stress and change that we didn’t anticipate.  I think it’s important when adopting to realize that there will always be unknown factors, and the more siblings you add to the mix, the more unknowns you have.  As parents we have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.  Although we were prepared for that, thankfully, our transition has been far from worst case scenario.

So today I just wanted to give you a fun glimpse of how each pair of kiddos is getting along, the good and the not so good as well.

Evangeline & Jacob

Jacob is six years old and Evangeline is four, however, Evie is still slightly older in all practical senses due to Jacob’s orphanage delays and the global neglect of the nurturing of his mind.  That has seemed to work really well dynamics-wise.  Before adopting them we expected to be artificially “twinning” them developmentally, and although I fully expect Jacob to catch up and for this to be the case down the road, at this point she is still functionally the oldest child.

I think this has made the transition much easier for her.  Both of her new siblings are older than she is, but age is just numbers, and nothing has truly changed with her place in the family.  The language barrier is most difficult for these two.  They are both quite verbal enough to give directions during play time, and it is frustrating for all parties when there are misunderstandings.  Jacob is beginning to get more frustrated when she takes the lead, so I’ve had to step in and redirect her eldest child initiative a few times.

This seems pretty minor, though, and typically these two play extremely well together.  They are both on the same level of play on most things, so they have imaginative parties and games together and enjoy it quite a lot.  I think, out of the three, Jacob has taken to Evie more than Stephen or Hope.  I don’t know how “attached” he is to Evie, or if he would even miss her were she replaced with another playmate, but at this point they are functioning as great playmates and friends.  I do believe that she is encouraging his development, as she is just a tad above him, which stretches him to meet those developmental milestones as well.  And it’s so so helpful to me that they entertain one another!

photo (23)Jacob & Stephen

Now Stephen, on the other hand, is quite a different ballgame.  I am not sure exactly what caused his territorial behavior, but as soon as we came back home with Jacob (Daddy and Hope were still in Ukraine for a week) Stephen went from accomodating host to… quite honestly, a territorial menace.  Blatant atrocities began occuring: hitting, kicking, stealing toys (not to play with, just to taunt Jacob and make him upset), deliberately running to get in front of him so he could stand and block him from moving, etc.

I was shocked and in horror… what happened to my good-natured toddler?  He had become a monster overnight!  These weren’t learned behaviors, these were things he was coming up with on his own just to be mean to his new brother.  He had never seen or experienced these things, he just started doing them.  I knew he was scared, his Daddy wasn’t home, but Jacob was.  Things were crazy; Stephen didn’t know what to make of it.  But I was determined to end the cycle.  The last thing I wanted was for Jacob to think the kids at home were just as bad as the ones at the orphanage or for their relationship to become a permanent sibling rivalry.

My adopted-never-lived-in-a-family-before son actually took it very well.  He never lashed back at Stephen, but always just called for me or waited for my sure intervention.  This made it so much easier to quell the unrest, and I have no idea how Jacob showed such great self restraint, but I was so proud of him!  I never let them play alone together because I couldn’t trust Stephen with him (totally the opposite of how I thought that was going to be, btw) and I watched the kid like a hawk.

After a few weeks, we were all together and settling in and Stephen became more comfortable again.  He got used to the idea of his big brother.  He still does typical little brother annoying things, but no more monster Stephen!  Their relationship isn’t quite the same because of the offenses, but it is growing and they do very well now.  I think it helps that whenever there is an offense on either side I ask that they give hugs and affection when saying apologies, so they actually hug each other more than anyone in the house!  Stephen doesn’t play at Evie and Jacob’s level yet, so he tends to ruin their games just on the merit of his two-year-oldness, which annoys Jacob to no end.

But I am now convinced they are truly going to grow into their brotherhood and will be very close as they get older.  Jacob is the first person Stephen asks about in the morning, and the first child to come to me with concern in his eyes when Jacob is upset.  There are beautiful things blossoming.

photo (21)Hope & Stephen

As much as Stephen didn’t like Jacob being here at first, he embraced Hope from the beginning.  Since she is developmentally a baby, he took to her so sweetly and kindly.  I think that she seemed like much less of a threat, and the older brother role just fits him like a glove.  He loves to help me throw away her diapers and give her her bottle.  But instinctively, I also think he somehow knows that she is older and bigger than he is.  And in true toddler fashion, he loves to imitate her.  I’ll catch him poking at his neck or rolling his tongue just like she does.  It’s perfectly harmless how he does it, and I just laugh, but it drives Daddy bonkers!  This is a super cute picture of them though.  Stephen was trying to give her a kiss and she was not so sure about that! :D

photo (20)Evangeline & Hope

So I don’t have favorite children, but I do have a favorite bonding pair.  These two together… just brings tears to my eyes thinking of them.  Often when I find myself tired and stressed and ready to pull my hair out I look over and watch Evie nurturing and loving her older sister and it melts my hardened heart.  I have thought more than once “She is being a better mother right now than I am!”  And indeed, if there is any sibling that Hope has bonded with at this point… it is Evangeline.  She loves and adores her, and no wonder, Evie will sit and cuddle and play and talk sweetly to her all day long.

While I am cooking and cleaning and breaking up arguments and trying to catch my breath, Evie has no other responsibilities and is totally free to make sure that Hope always has her favorite toy, has someone to make her laugh, has enough blankets or isn’t poking herself too hard.  She brags about her new sister to everyone she meets.  I thank God daily for the gift that these two are to each other.  Hope has brought as much joy into Evie’s life as Evie does into hers, and it’s a marvelous thing.  How amazing and beautiful is the pure, unadulterated love of children.  I surely don’t know how they ever got along without one another.

Evangeline & Stephen

Yes, our two bio kids, but I thought that their relationship was worth mentioning.  We’ve seen their dynamic change too since the others came home.  They have become closer.  I do believe this connection will wane with time as our family begins building a common history together, but instinctively they know that they have a common history that the other two do not share.  We all live in one house, eat at one table, play together, pray together and live as one big family… but Evie and Stephen share a little more than the other two do.  At least for now.

They are incredibly close, closer than they were before.  There is very little bickering between the two, and the play together angelically most of the time.  Stephen follows her around and does whatever she says in true little brother fashion, and they hold hands quite often.  It’s such a joy to watch them grow in their bond, and it was an unexpected blessing.  My prayer for them is that their closeness continues to remain even after this transition time is past, and that they will also learn to become equally attached to their new siblings as we build those connections together as a family.

photo (19)Hope & Jacob

And finally, our two new kiddos.  There is not very much to say about these two.  Jacob did not interact much with Hope at all at first, I don’t think he really knew what to do or how to approach her.  There were no babies or very delayed children in his orphanage, so her developmental level was a new experience for him.  He was not afraid or hesitant of her, he’s always been very accepting and affectionate.  But he just doesn’t do much in the way of interaction.  This is slowly changing as he watches Evie and Stephen help me with her.  In the last week I’ve noticed him trying to put her blanket on or play with toys with her, which has been sweet.  It will be fun to watch how they grow up together, and I can’t wait for Jacob to embrace his “big” brother role as time goes on.

First Haircut!

Ok so it’s not literally the first time his hair has ever been cut… but it is the first time it’s ever been cut with love and attentiveness, for more than just practicality’s sake.  It is the first time he’s ever gotten to look at pictures in a book and pick his very own haircut, or the first time he’s gotten to sit in a fun swivel chair with a little booster on it.  It is the first time he’s had a Mommy to wipe those annoying hairs off of his face for him, or that he’s watched the strange ladies put tinfoil on their heads.  It is the first time he’s had a room full of ladies gush about how cute and handsome his new hair is.  And, most importantly, it’s the first time he’s gotten to eat a sucker and go to the playground afterward.

So I don’t know… I guess for all intents and purposes… it really was his first haircut.  And I had to document it, of course.

Going to miss that fluffy hair!  Although I know he won’t with the way the heat has been lately…

photo (18)

So hard to sit still… it tickles!

photo 5 (1)

My handsome prince. <3

photo 4 (1)

Someone else got a new haircut for the big weekend too!

photo 3 (3)

CHEESE!!!!!!!!!!  Had to take pictures for Stephen as well.  Not his first haircut, but the first time with the clippers!  He laughed hysterically.

photo 2 (3)

And Mommy hates it… he’s not allowed to look this grown up.  Can we get that reversed please?  Ahem….

photo 1 (3)

And as much as he looks like he hates it, I think he mostly hated all the hair in his eyes.  Poor kid was definitely ready to be out of that chair.  And yes I did cut his bangs properly when we got home, because when I asked her to fix Jacob’s bangs she just cut them shorter and more crooked instead of cutting the one little patch she missed.  So I just let those stragglers go, but they’re gone now.  :)

And so am I.  Have a good night!

16 Notes for 16 Weeks

photo (15)Yesterday was the start of my 16th week so it’s time for round two of Notes for Weeks!  Man those weeks are flying by.  Baby is going to be here before I know it, and I don’t even have any paperwork or travel planning to do.  Woohoo!

1. Almost Feeling Kicks.  Last week at our midwife appointment baby was kicking up a storm.  I couldn’t feel it, but we could hear it while listening for the heartbeat!  In the last few days, on the side we heard baby, I have been feeling some pressure.  It was like the baby was stretching out and pushing against my tummy.  Or at least how that felt, not quite kicking, but almost!

2. B12 is My Favorite Thing Ever.  I have been waking up around 4:00-4:30 every morning for the last four days or so.  And guess what?  I feel a ton better than I did when I was sleeping in till 7:00am!  I contribute it to my new favorite friend, B12, who I mentioned before was coming back into my life.  I don’t know why I ever let it leave in the first place!  I am in love with my whole food vitamins and won’t ever take a chemical based vitamin again.  The difference really is night and day.

3. Embryo Adoption.  One of my favorite blogger mamas is adopting again… this time they are adopting four little ones… very, very little ones.  She and her husband are taking a leap of faith into the world of embryo adoption.  I encourage you to check out her fantastic blog.  This issue is something we really need to be discussing as Christians.  What is embryo adoption, what isn’t it, and as people who value life in every stage – how do we approach embryo adoption Biblically and ethically?  Or can we at all?  There is a lot of confusion and controversy over whether or not it is moral for Christians to be involved with such things.  I am hoping to put my thoughts together in a blog sometime soon.

4. A Note on Attachment.  Because I wrote very openly about our attachment with Jacob in a previous post, I wanted to address it just briefly.  Please know that we are doing great for the short amount of time we’ve been home, and we really couldn’t be happier with the newest additions to our family.  We are slowly and surely making gains in this area, but we are also realizing that we need to be very cautious of his needs and limits.  There are so many people who want to love on our sweet new kiddos, and I love that.  Unfortunately, some love is just too much for a child who doesn’t yet know proper boundaries.  I’m trying to think of a tactful way to address this with everyone, pray for wisdom for me on this.  It’s so hard to ask people to step back from their generous heapings of love on these precious kiddos who have never had it at all.

5. Baptism Next Week!  For all those who are local, we invite you to join us on Sunday the 31st at 10:00am for the Baptisms of our sweet Jacob and Hope.  Our family will be hosting a light lunch in the fellowship hall immediately following the service (cake included of course!) and make sure to bring a casual change of clothes for a fun water party after that.  If you have kids, bring their swimsuits or something you don’t mind them getting all wet in!  We will also have plenty of extra sets of play clothes on hand in case anyone forgets.  Please come join the fun!  We are so excited to celebrate Jacob and Hope’s adoption into God’s family.

6. Cuddle Time.  I took this picture this morning before Church.  Hope was playing on the floor and Jacob cuddled up next to her.  Just too precious not to share, right?

photo (16)

7. Sisters and Friends.  Speaking of siblings, Hope seems to be attaching amazingly to Evangeline and vice versa!  Evie is so attentive and loving toward her, and Hope just soaks it all up.  Stephen will help, and Jacob is becoming more interested in that too, but Evie is always going over just to spend time and play with her.  She lets me know if she needs something and runs off to get her favorite toys if they got left in another room.  Evie loves to tell people about Hope and how sweet and pretty her new sister is.  They love sharing a room and are already getting into trouble for giggling during quiet time!  We were told by people before we adopted Hope that if we brought her home her extra needs would ruin our other children’s lives… I’m pretty sure Evangeline would heartily disagree.

The picture below is from the other morning.  Evie had woke up at 4am crying, so Hope was awake too.  Neither could fall back asleep, so I took them downstairs.  They cuddled, “read” stories, and laughed together for an hour while I cleaned.  Watching these two bond is one of my greatest joys.

photo (14)

8. Stimming.  I have mentioned a little bit about Hope’s stimming behaviors.  They’re getting better.  She no longer does them 24/7 and it’s usually only when she’s tired, overwhelmed, bored or frustrated.  It used to be all she thought about, but now she is learning that there is a huge, big world to enjoy; she is more comfortable and we are seeing less of the self-harming.  It still happens a lot, but it’s no longer constant, and for that progress we’re grateful!

9. We Made it to Church!  This morning we attempted church again, and we did great.  I was so proud of all my kiddos.  Hope was overstimulated and struggled a bit, but we managed well enough.  We had help from a few lovely people during the service for which we are very grateful!  This is one of those times where I really wish my husband was in the pew with me and not the pulpit, but I estimate in a few weeks we will be able to make it through an entire service on our own.  At least hopefully before baby comes, right? :)

10. Round Ligament Pain.  Yes, ouchies.  Random little movements make it feel like I just pulled every muscle in my abdomen.  Round ligament pain is the worst thing about the second trimester, in my humble opinion.  It’s been making me pull back even more from holding the little ones, which is tough.  But praising God that this is the only real discomfort I’m dealing with so far!  This has been such an easy pregnancy up to this point, and for that I’m incredibly thankful.

11. No Matins Yet.  Sigh… I know I mentioned it before… but we’re not there yet.  Maybe this week.  Trying again :)

12. Gaining More Weight.  Hope and I are in a contest to see who can gain weight the fastest.  Unfortunately, I’m winning, but she’s making progress too!  She gained a whole other pound this week and we are certain she has some new inches on her also!  She looks and feels taller than she used to.  Can’t wait for her next check up to see where she’s at!

13. Routine Game.  One of the best moments of my week.  I was making dinner and went into the family room to see the three kiddos sitting on the floor in a circle doing a “bedtime routine” for their “babies” (who happened to be Noah’s ark animals…).  They did everything exactly like we do every night.  They sat on “their” (couch) pillows and “read” stories.  Next they sang hymns from their “hymnal” (Amelia Bedila book).  Although Evie has a few memorized so she actually was singing hymns.  Then they folded their hands and prayed the Apostle’s Creed, Lord’s Prayer and Luther’s Evening Prayer.  Last they sang our bedtime hymn, “Now Rest Beneath Night’s Shadow”.  They sat still and attentively for twenty minutes reinacting that together!  I was amazed.  I wish they could do that at nighttime too :)

14. Blog Needs Updates.  If you haven’t noticed my sidebar and the pages on my blog are still incomplete and pretty outdated.  I want to get everything set up, but I will probably have to take a week off of blogging to do that.  I’ll give you all a heads up when that happens so you can know not to expect any updates for a few days while “construction” is going on. :)

15. Thinking of Taking the Plunge Again… the Whole 30 plunge.  I miss eating healthy; it’s really good for the baby.  I want to start up again.  Planning on doing a round beginning next week after the Baptism, let me know if you’d like to do the 30 day challenge with me for some accountability!  The more the merrier I always say!

16. Please Continue to Pray.  We are still in need of 114 more signatures on this petition in order for people to be able to find it in a search on the White House website.  This is so important, and we need to reach that milestone quickly to have a chance at reaching the volume of signatures needed for President Obama to release a statement.  Please, please sign if you haven’t already and share this with others you know.  The precious lives of our Christian brothers and sisters, and those of their children, are at stake.  If you have already signed, thank you!  Please continue to pray.

Homemade Baby Food

Yum yum yum!  That’s what my newly home six year old says when it’s time to eat, and it is in that spirit that I write to you today.  I was so excited for the opportunity of making baby food at home.  It might sound silly, but as a child-led weaning momma I feel like I got left out of one of the fun, crunchy pursuits of our day… homemade baby food.  It was actually one thing I was really looking forward to… until I learned about how babies don’t really need baby food in the first place, sigh.

But now I have a daughter who does need it, and I was thrilled to give it a whirl (and thanking the Dear Lord for my Vitamix!)  One of the first things I did when we got back from the hospital was Google “baby food recipes”, and I was seriously disappointed in finding nothing to spark inspiration.  Hope needs baby food with no (or little) fruit, no dairy and no grains or legumes.  Luckily our family completed a Whole 30 Challenge earlier in the year, and so I was accustomed to the ingredients I had to work with.

I found my inspiration from the homemade meals I know our family really enjoys, so I wanted to post a couple of my favorite recipes, some flavor combinations and other tips, in case crunchy mommas happen to come behind me and are looking for a little bit of a spark for their little one’s pureed diet or just aren’t sure where to start.  Although, remember, a great place to begin is always your own comfort foods!  If a flavor combination works on a plate, it will probably work in the blender too.

Things to Keep in Mind…

Before you start making baby or pureed foods, first take stock of what’s important to the person who will be eating it.  Babies are not the only ones who need pureed diets, often times older children and even adults with special needs require specialized diets like this, and I think it is important to protect the dignity of the person (or baby!) you are feeding by keeping their preferences in mind.  Are there certain textures they don’t seem to enjoy or can’t swallow as easily?  Be sure to avoid those.  Are there different flavor combinations they prefer?  Do they like spicy or mild, sour or sweet food?

I knew our daughter, coming from the orphanage setting, was used to two basic flavors: bland and sweet.  Lovingly spiced and aromatic foods are not to be seen in Ukranian laying rooms.   However, an abudnance of fruit and sweet formula, or oatmeal flavored with milk and sugar?  Yup, it’s cheap and easy, and children eat better if the food is sugary.  The first week we had Hope she didn’t really want anything we had to give her unless it was full of processed sugar or fruit, but we knew this was not a long term solution, and had to cut it off cold turkey once we realized it was causing her so much digestive trouble.

It’s safe to say that sticking to meat, vegetables and healthy fats is the way to go.  It is better for all of us!  (Especially babies and young children should stay away from grains and processed dairy until their digestive systems are more developed.)  Hope needed to learn to eat this way for her health, (as most of us probably do) and I wanted her to enjoy it, so I was determined to make those meat and veggies taste delicious.

Also note that our daughter is severely malnourished, she weighs 31 pounds now, at nine years old, and that is after having gained six pounds after we picked her up!  Needless to say, the girl needs to gain some weight, so my recipes are based on that.  They are heavy in good fats to boost calories.  If the person or child you are feeding does not need weight gain help, you will want to tone down the fats in the recipe a bit.  However, the recipes as written seem to be working great for someone who needs to gain!

One last aside before we get started, I’ve been using canned meat because it is less expensive and quick (something a mom with four little ones definitely needs!), but it’s certainly not ideal flavor or nutrition-wise.  Fresh would definitely be better and I hope to add more of that as we go, if you have extra from meals, or want to take the time to make fresh, and you’d like to substitute – that’s awesome!  Just use some basic math to convert the portions as needed.

The following two recipes are Whole 30 compliant.

Baby Food Recipe 1: Chicken & Tomato Basil

One of our families favorite meals is Tomato Basil Bisque with a side of shredded chicken.  It’s warm and inviting, and the flavors mesh perfectly.  I knew that chicken and tomatoes worked and that tomatoes and basil worked, so I made the final leap and it has been a smashing success, her favorite meal and umm… my toddler can’t stop himself from eating it either!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 Cup Chicken Stock
  • 1/3 Cup Coconut Milk
  • 2 Large Cans of Shredded Chicken (or fresh equivalent)
  • 1 Large Tomato
  • Other Veggies (Optional)
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • Several leaves of Fresh Basil (or app. 1 Tbs dried)
  • 2 Heaping Tbs Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Directions

Pray that God would direct your hands and bless your work.  Add ingredients to your blender in the order they are listed.   Gradually increase blender speed to high (Variable 10 for a Vitamix) and puree until smooth.  I often add another vegetable that I have on hand (not too many different kinds, sometimes less is more!), cucumber adds a nice fresh element, carrot boosts the sweetness while offering some added starch and zucchini made pretty green polka dots!

Baby Food Recipe 2: Southern Inspired Tuna

Let me preface by saying, I am not a tuna fan… at all.  But our cupboards were overflowing with the stuff and Hope needed to eat… so reluctantly I took the plunge.  SO glad I did.  My first attempt was less than happy, but adding the avocado and lemon was just what it needed… inspiration from my guacamole-loving days.  I open the cans and can’t stand the smell of it, but by the time I’m done blending it’s actually quite pleasant.  Hope definitely seems to enjoy it more than her green beans ;)

Ingredients

  • 1/4 Cup Chicken Stock
  • 1/3 Cup Coconut Milk
  • 4 Cans of Tuna in Water (or fresh equivalent)
  • 2 Medium Tomatoes
  • 1 Avocado
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • Juice of One Lemon

Directions

Pray that God would direct your hands and bless your work.  Add ingredients to your blender in the order they are listed.   Gradually increase blender speed to high (Variable 10 for a Vitamix) and puree until smooth.  Feel free to add anything else you have on hand that seems appropriate, garlic might be great depending on the palette, but this is not as flexible as the chicken recipe, in my opinion.

Other Fun Combinations

Now these are just two of the many different courses I’ve made, and it is worthwhile to note that these are the “main” dishes.  I give her one serving (about half a cup) of one of those protein-filled dishes and two servings (about two cups) of a vegetable based puree.  I think vegetables are much easier to  figure out, and I follow about the same method with those, so below I’ll list some fun extra flavor combos I’ve used without the specific recipes.  I do add less liquid to the veggies, because vegetables naturally have more water/juice content than meat does.  So here are a few Hope has enjoyed so far and a few that I intend on trying in the near future:

  • photo (13)Zuchinni, Summer Squash and Okra (Pictured on the right)
  • Peas and Fresh Mint
  • Carrots and Sweet Potatoes
  • Green Beans, Tomatoes & Basil
  • Roast Beef, Sweet Potatoes, Onions & Carrots (Try the meat ratios for this one.)
  • Ham Apple and Carrots (Meat ratios again)
  • Butternut Squash and Tomatoes
  • Bacon Drippings with… Anything (Not as healthy as coconut oil… but definitely a delicious treat!)

Now it’s Your Turn!

Use some of the delicious ingredients below to make up your own healthy, taste bud-approved, pureed meals.  Have some great ideas?  Leave them in the comments so we can give them a try too!  There are obviously a lot more options for add-ins, but I have tried to include the highest quality, most nutrient dense ones here.  It’s obviously not an exhaustive list, just a jumping off point.  Tailor your meals to your loved one’s needs!

Liquids: Liquids are essential for processing pureed meals, but never use just plain water!  Make the most out of every ingredient by finding liquids that pack a nutritional and flavorful punch.  Remember, homemade stocks are always best!  And if you use coconut milk be sure to get the canned, full fat milk for good nutritional value.

  • Breastmilk
  • Beef Stock
  • Chicken Stock
  • Coconut Milk
  • Raw Milk
  • Vegetable Stock

Proteins: Protein is essential for a healthy diet and should be included in every meal.

  • Bacon
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Roast Beef
  • Salmon
  • Steak
  • Tilapia
  • Tuna
  • Turkey
  • Venison

High Carb Vegetables: Just eating meat and veggies doesn’t mean you’re on a low carb diet!  Include plenty of these, ideally a little at each meal, for little ones, pregnant and nursing mothers or anyone else who is in need of a healthy intake of carbohydrates.)

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Taro Root
  • Winter Squash

Other Vegetables: Getting a good variety of vegetables is not only great for the palette, but essential to a well-balanced diet.  Aim for two or three different colors of vegetables per day, as different colors provide different nutrients to your body.

  • Asparagus
  • Bell Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Green Beans
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Okra
  • Onion
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Tomato (Yes, yes, I know… it’s actually a fruit.)
  • Turnip
  • Zuchinni

Healthy Fats: Not only do good fats add good taste, they have great nutritional value as well.  Many vitamins are fat soluble, and so it’s good to have a little fat at every meal.  Not all fat is created equal, so try these delicious options for a healthier dose of good fat!

  • Avocado
  • Coconut (Butter, Flakes or Fresh)
  • Coconut Oil
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Flax Seed
  • Ghee
  • Grass-Fed Butter
  • Olives

Well, now that I’ve written a book about baby food and pureeing healthy meals, I am going to stop and go to bed!  I hope this is helpful to someone, or at least enjoyable to a few.  I warned you that I was feeling enthusiastic about this new crunchy territory I’ve entered!  Which is probably good, because it can be time consuming and has definitely taken over the kitchen, so I’m glad I’m enjoying the experiments!  If this has blessed you or if you have some recipes to bless us with, be sure to share in the comments.

15 Notes for 15 Weeks

photo (12)I am 15 weeks along in my pregnancy now (well, 15 and 3 days but who’s counting?) so to celebrate I am starting up a new series called Notes for Weeks!  For every week along that I am, for the rest of the pregnancy, I will blog the same number of little tidbits about our life.  I’m excited because it will give me a reason to do a baby bump picture every week and also give me the opportunity to blog about a lot of random little things I’ve been wanting to say, but that don’t really warrant their very own post.  Ok, ready?!  Here goes!

1. Thank YOU!  Yes this first note is for you, all of you lovely people (thousands and thousands) who have read my previous post “Adoption is Not Love” and who have shared it with other families.  My only goal in writing that was to maybe help a handful of people realize that they were not alone on this crazy ride, and their feelings are totally normal and expected.  I hoped that others who knew adoptive families would get a glimpse into what their friends and neighbors might be going through.  But ya’ll, it took off!  Never have any of my posts had so many views, and such an overwhelmingly positive response.  Thank you for sharing; it has reached so many more than I ever imagined it would, and I am honored that God used this little blog to touch other families who needed that bit of encouragement.  People have asked, and yes, please do share!

2. A Quick Request.  I assume we are all aware by now of the crisis facing Christian and Yazidi minorities in Iraq and Syria during this time.  The Islamic State (ISIS) has taken over a vast amount of geographical area and has massacred thousands upon thousands of men, women and children.  Some from the affected areas managed to escape to a nearby mountain, where they are dying of hunger and thirst in the scorching heat.  Parents are being forced to choose between watching their children die this slow, painful death, be captured by ISIS or throw them off of the mountain  themselves to avoid such evil ends.  Friends, we can do something.  We can do more.  Sending money is good, but this might even be better.  Please sign this petition to grant these refugees asylum in the United States, which has been refused at this point.  We need at least 150 signatures for the petition to be searchable and have a shot at reaching the White House.  It only takes ten seconds, really.  I beg you to add your voice to ours.  Click here to sign the petition.

3. Our Littlest Girl is Catching Up!  Hope is now a whopping 30lbs!  She has gained five pounds since we took her out of her orphanage, and her thighs and upper arms are definitely showing a little chub.  We are over-the-moon for this milestone and next we are going to work on getting her on the height/weight chart!  Just four more pounds to go and she will be at least on the chart and on her way to a healthy weight.

4. Baby Stuff!  I had my very first prenatal appointment with the midwife yesterday.  It went fabulously; she is a lovely lady and has 36 years of experience.  Not to mention she lives less than ten minutes from us, so hopefully we won’t have another unassisted birth like last time!  My official due date is February 7th.  Seven is my favorite number and also the day of the month I was born on, so I was pretty happy with that.   Evangeline came with me and we had a great little Mommy-Daughter date.

5. Nicknames for Mom.  I can never remember being called anything other than “Mommy”  (baby babbling not included).  But recently I seem to have developed all sorts of other nicknames from my littles.  The first new one was “Mama”, the Russian word for Mommy that Jacob calls me and the others picked up.  Then next, he started shortening it to “Mom”… and so did everyone else.  Jacob and Evie’s voices are practically indistinguishable shouting that from another room so I never know who it is!  Mom is probably the only one I don’t like so much.  It sounds too grown up for my little ones to say… and they usually say it when they’re, ya know, shouting from another room.

But, there are two names, in particular, that have stolen my heart: Momitchka and Momanee.  Momitchka is a name Jacob started calling me a few days ago.  I was so touched, because from my limited Russian I know that adding “itchka” to the end of a name is an endearing thing to call a person who is close to you; it’s intimate and reserved for family, someone in your very inner circle.  I knew we were truly beginning to bond when I heard him say that, almost brings tears to my eyes just thinking of it.  Momanee is something that Stephen came up with out of nowhere and has been saying for a few weeks.  He always does it in this loud, sing songy toddler way, with a huge smile on his face, and it totally melts my heart.

6. Her First Real Cry.  Our sweet Hope is such a strong kid, she is a survivor if I’ve ever met one.  Here’s the thing, she has a hard time crying, as in it doesn’t happen.  Before this week I had seen her cry once – one time.  We were in the hospital and her stomach was in knots after eating (before we figured out what to cut out of her diet).  She was in so much pain that she sobbed for fifteen minutes.  I called in the doctor because I knew that it was totally not normal for her.  Jake had seen her cry before too, but only from pain.  She couldn’t cry because she was stressed.  If she is stressed enough to need that release she literally has to hit herself (hard enough to probably break things) to initiate tears.  Until this week.

I was putting on her knee immobilizers for the first time since we had been home from the hospital.  She was terrified of them, probably because they are restraining and she remembered them every day at the hospital.  I was trying to comfort her and keep her legs straight enough, no easy task.  I was able to keep her from hitting herself though, and then the saddest and most amazing thing happen.  She burst into tears!  It’s always hard to see your babies crying, but I was so thankful that she actually had a real cry just from stress alone and didn’t need to hit herself to do it.  It was a short lived cry, but a much needed one.  Here is a picture after she settled in.  Her sister was very attentive to her the whole time she wore them and Hope was never short a toy to play with!

photo 3 (2)

7. So Tired.  That is pretty much where I’m at.  I’ve been trying to wake up around 5ish… sleeping in until six or seven instead.  And I am still totally exhausted.  Hoping some B Vitamins will help.  All four of my children have been sleeping through the night for the first time in years so why exactly am I having this problem?  Sigh… so frustrating.

8. Baby Food Time!  I know, I know… I am still working on that post, promise.  Planning on doing some veggies tonight and then I will be ready to finish the draft and post!  Can’t wait to share some recipes and tips for delicious, nutritious pureed food.  Every time I make any my two year old asks for tastes!  Craziness…

9. Double Baptism!  We said before that Jacob would be the only one needing a Baptism, but unfortunately we were never able to get Hope’s orphanage to bother to actually find any confirmation of her baptism.  So, being uncertain, we will simply baptize her here with Jacob.  The ceremony will be on Sunday morning the 31st and I am having so much fun planning it!

10. The Only Bad Thing About…  exclusively breastfeeding?  Your children never learn proper etiquette for feeding their baby dolls.  Propping bottles and all.  Oops, better teach them some bottle safety!

photo 1 (2)

11. Routines and Things.  Our routine is still going strong at about the same place we’ve been for two weeks.  Really hoping to add in more than just meals, nap and bedtime routine every day.  Although, trying to be grateful that we have that down.  Our next goal is Matins in the morning during the week.  It’s great church practice for the kiddos, as we get to do it in the sanctuary, and a lovely devotion for the start of each day.

12.  Hymnody and Love.  I am really beginning to believe that beautiful hymns are a love language.  Hope perks up every time we sing them.  Jesus Loves Me is her favorite, and she gets the hugest smile when I sing “Let’s His little Zhanna come in…”  She has the best smile ever.  Also, when she starts getting agitated, Evangeline will go to her and sing her the hymns she knows.  Her go-tos are: Lamb of God, Glory be to Jesus and Jesus Loves Me (of course).  The most beautiful thing in the world is a young child singing comfort into the life of another.

13.  Raw Milk Deliciousness.  So glad to be back home to our raw milk farmer friends!  It’s a half hour drive, totally worth every drop.  I cannot speak highly enough about raw milk and so glad to have it for the kids’ diets!  Not to mention this particular milk is the most delicious I’ve ever tasted, and I don’t have to feel bad about drinking a glass every day.  It’s the little things in life…

14.  Shout Out To… the best husband in the world.  Mine.  Why?  Just because.  He’s an amazing father, husband, pastor and friend.  I just don’t tell him enough how great he is so, I’ll say it now.  You are the best!  Can’t believe I get to love you for the next bazillion years. :)

15. Last but Not Least.  For all those who’ve helped bring our little ones home, please know that we are forever grateful.  Even though it might take that long for your thank  you to arrive in the mail… ahem.  We really are working on them with the little bits of time we have here and there.  Know that we have not forgotten you or the amazing love you have shown our family.  I could not imagine being more blessed by so many.

Adoption is Not Love

photo (11)

Isn’t that a great picture?  Jacob took it of the two of us as we were sitting and enjoying each other yesterday, one of his first selfies!  I would love to just post the picture and skip the not-so-glamorous background… but that would be doing a disservice to you and everyone who reads this little blog.  You see, this picture symbolizes a great victory for us: my son and I cuddling and genuinely having fun together.  It is terribly simple, but it took a lot of tears and effort for us to come that far.

There is a dirty little secret the adoption community never likes talking about.  And I understand why, it’s a really tough subject.  It’s a hard pill for us to swallow as parents, let alone to share publicly with the world.  I mean, it’s totally confusing.  You see this adorable or heart wrenching or emotionally pulling picture of a small helpless child whose eyes are just crying to be loved.  Your heart immediately aches, you “fall in love”, you pray and talk with your spouse and pray some more and before you know it you’re shelling out all your savings and spending all your free time in piles of paperwork, and headaches and nights where you can’t sleep because “your baby” is alone somewhere, cold and hungry and totally clueless that anyone is coming to help them.

And then after what seems like absolutely forever, you get the word that it’s time to travel and meet this picture face to face and you can’t hardly stand the wait any longer.  You put your whole life on hold to jump head first into a sleep deprived marathon in a foreign country you’ve never been to before, running on pure adrenaline with the thought of meeting your child for the first time.  Then you get to the orphanage and see their face (just as cute as you thought they’d be) and “fall in love” all over again.  You visit and bring them cookies and toys and attention they’ve never had before.

They light up like a tree on Christmas, their personalities blossom before your eyes, they’re so sweet and lovely and they call you “Mama” and “Papa” and brag to everyone that they have a family and they’re going to America.  The day finally comes and you bust them out of the orphanage forever, you do a marathon of flights back home, exhausted, but so happy to be there… and after a week or two the dust settles and you start to come out of your fog to see your new life with this child you “loved” for so long from afar… only to realize you don’t love them at all.  In fact, you don’t even think you like them, and what on Earth have you done to your family?  And is there a way to undo this?

All the compliance and love you received back at the orphanage has turned into manipulation and tantrums and anger and confusion… so much confusion.  And then you become angry and frustrated and of course you’ve read all the books.  You know their behavior is from trauma and profound neglect and abandonment and fear; you know it is not their fault, and yet you still can’t help but despise the chaos they have brought into your home.  And you begin to wonder, do I still love this child?  Did I ever really love him at all?

Friends, I have a confession to make.  For months I shouted and shouted for Jacob and Hope.  I told you how much I loved them, how I loved Hope for years, how much we desperately wanted them home.  We swore we would go to the moon and back if we had to, and then we did. (Ok, ok… we went to Ukraine, but it felt as far as the moon and took about the same amount of time.)  We were told dozens and dozens of times how brave we were, how much love we had, how awesome what we were doing was, etc.  I saw adoption t-shirts being sold all year with the slogan “Adoption is Love” glistening on the front.  I believed it, I believed it with my whole heart.  But now I know better…

If you have ever been married you might understand this a little better.  When my husband and I were engaged, I told him I loved him every day and I *thought* I meant it.  In a way I was right, but not really.  Love isn’t that fluttery feeling you get in your stomach when your handsome, strong, doting new beau walks in the door.  It’s not writing little love notes in class instead of paying attention to a boring lecture or staying up for hours talking about what your babies will look like one day.  Sure those things feel great and we love to feel them, but those feelings are not love.

Many couples have told me, and I agree, that they didn’t love their spouse on their wedding day.  How could they?  The wedding is the moment you agree to love, that you make the decision to love, but the wedding isn’t love in and of itself.  Love is still giving your husband a kiss when he gets home every day, even when that fluttery feeling in your stomach hasn’t visited in months.  Love is listening and empathizing, giving your undivided attention when your mind wants to wander every other direction.  It’s making an effort to do things the way your spouse likes them, instead of always leaning toward your preferences.  It’s not saying anything when he takes the last cookie that was supposed to be yours.  Love is forgiving and asking forgiveness every single time you annoy each other, anger each other and hurt each other.  Love is serving that person, feeding, cleaning up after, holding, cherishing that person even when you don’t feel like doing any of it at all.  Especially when you don’t feel like doing any of it at all.

The adoption process can be long and grueling and hard and painful, but it isn’t really love.  Much like a wedding, adopting an orphan isn’t loving them, it’s just making the decision to start loving them.  Adoptive parents aren’t great because they made it through a home study, got on an airplane and signed a few papers.  They are great when, after months and years of hard stuff, they still choose to love this child they brought home.  We’re just like any parent really.  No one told me how awesome I was for making it through pregnancy and labor!  They mostly just said, been there done that :)  But as the child grows and blossoms… you start to see the effects of love take place and you think, what a great job they are doing with their kids.

So back to my confession, I won’t go into the gory details but… Jacob and I?  We’ve had a hard time bonding with one another.  Hope and I have struggled too, but she is a little more forgiving, she just loves everybody.  I brought these two treasures home and almost immediately began wondering what this terrible mistake was that we had made.  Scared and shaken by the reality check that I had two children I felt no good will toward, I turned to my dear friends and mentors in the adoption community.  And what did I hear?  I heard how common this is, how attachment is hard (even for parents!), that we shouldn’t expect to “feel” loving toward our new children right away.

I learned about how important newborn bonding is not just for the baby but for the mother, and how we need to be gentle with ourselves because we lost such an important stage of development in our relationship just as much as our child did.  I found out how many adoptive parents feel the exact same way, how depression is common, even typical, post adoption.  I stashed some new strategies up my sleeve and I resolved to fake loving my children until I really did love them…

But then someone led me to the Scripture, and what does it say about love? In His sermon on the mount, Jesus tells us: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Love our enemies?  Does that mean that we should like them or have warm fuzzy feelings around them or enjoy every second of our time together?  No… so what does love mean?  It means to pray and to serve and to put another’s needs before your own… especially when you don’t feel like doing any of it at all.

It means, feed them, rock them, hug them and dress them, help them and speak kindly to them… especially when you feel like recoiling instead.  It means read them a story when you’d rather shoo them away.  It means take two minutes and cool down so you can coach yourself on how to talk softly and not be harsh.  It means, dear adoptive parent, don’t panic when you get home and find that you don’t feel loving toward your child.  I don’t always feel loving toward my husband, but I choose to love him anyway, and when I fail I ask his forgiveness and most importantly… I never give up.  And never once have I said I didn’t love him just because the feeling vanished in that moment (or day or week or month…).

There have been many times in these first few weeks that I failed both of my newly adopted children, especially Jacob.  I didn’t feel like I loved him, and it showed.  But I repented and I tried again. I’m not perfect, but we’re doing so much better.  He’s finally beginning to attach, to seek me out, to trust me.  And I’m finding that I am beginning to feel that love for him again as well.  For me, adopting Jacob wasn’t the loving part… mothering him is the loving, and it is sometimes a battle minute to minute, fighting against all of my feelings and weaknesses.  But it is a battle that, with God’s help, I am persevering through.  We will make it through this difficult transition, because I made the choice to love this boy every day of the rest of my life, and that’s exactly what I am going to do.

Remember the picture I posted?  That was me and Jacob yesterday, with all the fun, happy, loving, mommy-and-son feelings you would expect us to have during a moment like that.  It was a great moment, and those moments are becoming more and more common.  But they are hard won moments, moments of joy breaking through days and weeks full of the loss, and confusion and heartache that is adoption.  Healing is a beautiful thing, but it is both bitter and sweet.  My prayer tonight is that we might all learn to take the bitterness and the sweetness together, with a thankful heart, as we seek to love all those whom God has placed in our path… especially when we don’t feel like it at all.

P.S. – If you are an adoptive parent who is feeling more of that loss and heartache right now and less of the love and joy you expected…  First, be gentle with yourself, and do reach out to someone you can trust.  I am no expert in attachment, but there are plenty of people who can help and resources where you can find the tools to fight this battle for your family and the child you have chosen to love.  Please don’t keep it hidden, because you are not alone, and there is hope and healing on this long and winding road.

A Time of Quiet

photo 1 (1)

As you can tell, I haven’t been updating as regularly.  I have lots of things to talk about, but the more fun we have the less time there is for blogging!  In many ways this feels to me like a season of quietness for me.  After so much being public for so long about our adoption process and our little ones I am feeling a desire to step back for a little while and be out of the spotlight for a time.  I absolutely have no intention of going away, there are so many of you who have helped to get us to this point and I will continue to share our family with all of you as the Lord provides the time and ability for me to do so.

With that being said, we have had a fairly good week.  The kids went to their first doctor’s visit here in town and saw our favorite chiropractor who is great with little ones and specializes in adjusting children with special needs.  She does an incredible amount with children who have autism and was able to give us some more insight on Hope’s stimming.  For example, the reason why she pokes her eyes is because it causes her to see spots and colors.  It’s a way of getting new visual stimulation when you never leave your crib.  Hope is not autistic, but she does have many behaviors similar to what you see with autism that are caused by the chronic neglect of an institutional life.

I have been noticing, bit by bit, her stimming is beginning to slow down.  At first she did it constantly, 24/7 when we were home, and most of her behaviors are self-injuring so I had to watch her like a hawk.  But sometimes now she will go 15-20 minutes at a time without even thinking of stimming.  Her dietary transitioning I am very pleased with.  She still does not handle grains, haven’t tried dairy yet, but she can do some fruit with no issue.  We did a little family birthday party for Stephen on his baptism birthday a few days ago.  Everyone else got cake and ice cream, so I gave her some banana baby food as a treat.  No trouble at all!

I have also switched from Crystal Light to coconut water.  Apparently I got the yuckiest flavor of Crystal Light in existence and no wonder I couldn’t get her to drink it!  I decided to switch to coconut water because it’s not fruit juice (I think that’s just too much for her system right now) and it is natural without a bunch of junk in it.  I was hoping it would be just sweet enough that she would be agreeable and she loves it!  Right now we’re using the one with added orange juice and gradually putting in less of the orange juice and more of the regular coconut water.  The goal is to eventually get her to drinking regular water, but that will probably take some time as she has never had water in her life and there isn’t much flavor to encourage her to drink it.

I am also moving from store bought baby food to all homemade.  Right now the vegetables are the only thing she’s getting from the store, and the meat portions I’ve been making taste better, are more filling and are way healthier.  I can add extra veggies and fats and season it a little.  I currently have a draft on homemade baby foods I’m working on.  So excited to share that when it’s done!

In other news, we did have a birthday party this week for my favorite two year old kid.  He missed out on a regular party due to the craziness of getting his new siblings home, but we celebrated on his baptism birthday two days ago and it was a great.  We had a gift, a cake, some balloons and all six of us together.  Here you can see the newly dubbed Big Brother helping Daddy put together his first bike.

photo 3 (1)

In other news the children are very much enjoying their baby dolls lately.  Getting their older brother/sister gears in order I suspect!  Today was a hoot.  I let them bring their babies outside and they were all trying to do everything with them.  Swing, ride bikes, go for a spin in the toy car… ya know, to go to the gas station for cheese sticks and baby food.  (Can you guess which little girl took her dollie there? Lol!)  Speaking of sweet girls, Evangeline is insistent that the baby is a girl and really wants to name her Allie, which also happens to be the name of her baby doll.  Her pleading is so irresistible I am almost considering the name… almost.

I snapped a couple shots of baby dolls on the swing set for ya’ll.  And guess what Stephen found out today?? My phone takes black and white photos!  And sepia!  How neat is that!?

photo 5

photo 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mambo #5

One… Two… Three, Four, Five…

So for those of you who remember the song, I hope I got it stuck in your head for the day.  Everyone else, you really aren’t missing much of anything, I promise.

So, why am I dragging this old 90′s hit back up to the surface where it probably shouldn’t be?  Well, when we were in Ukraine our drivers almost always had the radio on.  There were a couple of stations that played English music, some newer American songs that were horribly covered by European artists, and a bunch of old originals that I hadn’t heard in a decade or two.  We enjoyed the trip down the good the bad and the ugly of the pop of yesteryear… mostly by laughing at them.

Mambo #5 was no exception.  It came up, we laughed about it and we moved on.  But it has become much more significant for us, and I’ll explain why.  During one such drive I wanted to drop a question to Jake about a certain new person in our family, but the driver spoke some English and we hadn’t exactly told anyone about this new unnamed person yet.  So instead of saying something conspicuous like “the baby” I said “You know… Mambo #5“.  He got it right away, as this is our fifth child… oh did I mention we are expecting our fifth child? :D

photo (6)Yes, we found out while we were in Ukraine, just after having accepted our new daughter’s referral.  Boy was that a whirlwind of a week, the emotions, the fears, the uncertainties.  But I’m getting off topic.  Anyway, so from there on out, whenever we wanted to talk about the baby we just called it Mambo.  Mambo, the fifth little number in this dance of our family’s life, fun right?!  I am enjoying it.  When I was pregnant with Evangeline we called her Little Bean.  Stephen was affectionately nicknamed Nini by his aunt and this one is Mambo.  I think we have ourselves a new family tradition.

So now everyone knows about little Mambo, we told friends and family, we told our congregation this morning and now I am telling all of you!  We are super excited about this surprise gift God nestled in the middle of our adoption and cannot wait to meet our miniature bundle of joy.  We are so grateful for how joyous everyone has been for us, we were a little concerned about negative reactions on God’s humorous timing.  But everyone has been truly wonderful and genuinely happy for us, which we couldn’t thank you more for!

Have a blessed Sabbath rest!

Boxes, Beds and Blessings

The last few days have been a whirlwind, but it also feels like they’re dragging by.  I have just been so exhausted the last week, but I added some b12 to my vitamin routine and think that’s helping a lot.  It’s so hard to keep a good attitude with four little ones when you just feel like passing out most of the day.  They all need so much extra love right now that I just haven’t had the energy to give.  It’s hard on them, and it’s frustrating for me.

Last night I felt like crying after two hours of one child deciding not to sleep, being so tired and knowing I had to to do the exact same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day.  It’s overwhelming at times, but hoping that slump of a couple days is past us and things will start looking better now!  Other than the tiredness, though, things are still chugging on fairly smoothly.  And by fairly, I mean much better than I expected!

Yesterday it rained all day long.  I panicked when I woke up to pouring rain.  Four stir crazy kids cooped up in a house all day??  What was I going to do with them!?  TV only works for so long, especially with these ones.  Hope listens to the music for about one minute and then is bored (I don’t think she can actually see the screen; we really need to get her in to get her eyes checked.)  Stephen is like me, not much of a TV guy, he just runs around and causes problems for everyone else!  And my other two enjoy it, but only to a point.

So instead, I decided to introduce them to their Activity Boxes today.  This is an idea I’ve been saving in the back of my mind for a long time now, adapted from several different families’ approaches to occupying lots of littles at once when there are other things to be done.  I bought a little floor rug (the fun ones with the roads for little toy cars!) for each of the kiddos, and a box for their activities with their name on it.  I don’t have any toys in the boxes… except for the toy car that came with the rug… ahem.  But other than that, it’s just activities.  They have markers (washable!), crayons, coloring books, drawing paper, beads and threads, legos, alphabet cards, stickers, etc.

There are just two rules for their Activity Mats:

1. You may only use one activity at a time
2. You may not get off your mat.

If a child is not following the rules, the current activity they are using gets put in Mommy’s Box for the rest of the day.  Although, I have been pretty lenient about that so far until they get the gist of it.  We only do Activity Mats for about 15 minutes or so before moving on to something else.  The last thing I want is for them to be bored!  Yesterday we did it for a little longer; we spent about an hour and a half cleaning the house with these neat little boxes.  I would pick a room and a kiddo to help me clean it, the other two played on their Activity Mats until we finished.  Then we’d have a water/potty break and move on to the next room, taking turns on who got to help clean and who got to do activities.  It was a smashing success for our first go-round, and I cleaned three rooms with all four little ones awake and in the room with me!

Here are Jacob and Stephen enjoying their Activity Mats while Evangeline and I picked up the dining room:

photo (7)

Hope does great sitting in her little chair and watching the others play while I clean.  I am trying to get her worked up to using the baby carrier more, but it’s just difficult.  She only tolerates it for a short time, and she is so so tall that in order to turn and look at something I have to physically lift my chin over her head.  That doesn’t make for very efficient cleaning or… anything.  So for now sitting up with some toys is our best option during chore time.

In other news, bedtime is going really well.  Some nights it’s totally frustrating that it takes at least an hour to get all four of them settled in and asleep.  But I think I might just have to readjust my expectations.  We did just double the amount of children we’re putting down at night, after all!  And we are truly blessed that all four of our children from 9 years down to 2 years have a nearly identical sleep cycle and that they all still nap during the day!  Yes, all of them.

This blog post is brought to you by nap time, the quietest and most relaxing part of your day.

So yes, we are doing well.  We are figuring out this new normal thing, repenting daily of all the many ways we’re failing as parents (opportunities for that have also instantly doubled… talk about a humbling experience), and getting up to do it all again the next day.  Some moments are harder than others, but I’m finding the happy moments are increasing and the hard moments are already getting smaller little by little.  We keep pressing on, making it through each day by God’s grace and usually a helping of chocolate (for me, not the kids).  Even in the hard moments, it’s obvious that we have been greatly blessed beyond what we deserve.

%d bloggers like this: