My Fabulous Five

IMG_1655This week has absolutely blown me away.  I’ve been keeping quite busy tending to five, fabulous little people and… well that’s about all I’ve been doing.  No housework to speak of… none.  In any case, we have a new routine set with our sweet Kyrie added to the mix, and it is working out better than I ever could have hoped for.  After a very long and difficult winter, things are certainly looking up!  In fact, things are smoother around here now than they have been since we got home from Ukraine.  Never did I expect adding a child to the family would make my life easier, but it seems to have done just that.

A huge part of that has to do with my own attitude and perspective.  I will be the first to admit that many of the struggles we’ve had as a family in the last several months were really just issues with how I was managing (or not managing) the household.  Emotionally I was running on empty, which meant a lot of withdrawing was going on and not a lot of intentional presence with my children.  Our routine always seemed crazy and hectic, and I was constantly overwhelmed with what needed to be done like… yesterday.

We still have a million and one things to do.  But I’ve just had to take a step back and realize that God has this under control.  We can only get done what we can get done, and my first vocation is to love my family.  I can’t love my family well when I am so caught up in the “needs” of the world.  Has He not provided all that we need?  Will He not continue to do so?  Including providing us with days to run errands and make appointments?!  Of course!  So I’m going to stop stressing over those, and wait on the Lord to provide those opportunities in His good time.

And while I wait, I am working on making my world much smaller and focusing on just being present with the beautiful family He has entrusted to my care.  With Kyrie here I knew I had to lower my expectations with what I could accomplish.  Going into this week I was determined to bring my “A Game”, because I knew I’d need it, and I knew better than to expect anything but the minimum from both myself and the kids.

I have also been convicted lately of not putting as much work into this job of motherhood as I would have if it was a “real” job where I was getting paid monetarily and had to answer to a supervisor who I wasn’t also married to.  Ahem.  Yeah, quite humbling to realize how I stack up against my own self!  Especially since that self was a college kid from seven years ago.  Yikes.

Yes, there are totally differences between the 24/7 job of motherhood and an 8 hour shift in someone else’s home where you only spend about 20 hours a week.  However, I can do better.  And I know it.  So that’s what I’ve been working on this week.  While the children are awake, they are my job, and I am trying really hard to treat it that way.  No more Facebooking at “work”, no more saying “Just a minute,” when I really mean “I sure hope he forgets what he asked for so that I don’t actually have to add that to my to-do list.”  Etc…

This perspective has really been working well, though it’s the equivalent of having a 14 hour shift every single day that ends with being on call until the next shift starts… which is totally exhausting, but also incredibly rewarding and worth it.  It’s also doable, and I know this season of life won’t last forever.  It’s also the reason why I’m not blogging too terribly much.  When I do have a break in the middle of the day now I have been finding I must take that afternoon nap.  It has been a lifesaver, and that is typically my computer time when I’m awake.

I know ya’ll understand that I’m busy, but I also love blogging too or I wouldn’t be doing it.  It’s a great outlet for me, so I’m definitely going to keep trying to make time for it where I can.  Self care is so important when you have other people depending on you for their needs, and with five very needy (and lovely) people depending on me day and night – I have come to realize that I need to take care of myself if I’m going to be a healing presence for them.

But anyway, enough about me!  I did title this my fabulous five for a reason.  I wanted to let you all know how the children are adjusting to our new normal, because that’s the question everyone has been asking.  The answer is… they are doing amazingly, astonishingly well – all five of them!  Let’s start with the itty bitty one first shall we?  Kyrie is a dream.  She fits like a glove in our family.  She is the easiest baby I’ve ever had.  She sleeps when we sleep, at nap time and at night time.  I’m getting more sleep now than I did when I was pregnant!  She is very content in her bouncy chair, which makes my days actually doable.  She almost never cries; she is doing really well with her pottying, which means we won’t have to have two kiddos in diapers.  Woohoo!  (Yes, I will blog more about that later.)

And, best of all, she sleeps through everything.  Anyone who has spent time in our house or on the phone with me will know that this is not a quiet place, and she doesn’t care one bit.  Thank you Lord for little mercies!  When she is awake, Kyrie is always very still and quiet, much more so than I remember Evie or Stephen being.  She seems to have a very contemplative nature, which will be quite an interesting dynamic to add to our very active crew.

Speaking of active :)  Stephen is next.  He is doing great with his new big brother status, it hasn’t fazed him one bit.  He loves to dote on his little sister and holds her every day.  He’s always saying how he loves the baby, and if she isn’t in bed when he is (his bed is still in our room as well) then it is quite concerning.  He is the classic protective older brother, and we haven’t seen even a hint of jealousy.  I expected regression in several areas, but the only change has been that he’s much more clingy in the wee hours of the morning.  That usually ends in an uncomfortable Mommy sandwich with Kyrie on one side and Stephen on the other.  Suffice it to say, I hope this phase ends quickly.

Dear Evangeline has also been doing better, much due to our new routine that has everyone less stressed.  She is incredibly empathetic and perceptive and is a sponge to the emotions of everyone around her.  Because Jake and I have been doing a lot better the last few days, she is also doing a lot better, which I am so grateful for.  Her nurturing side is just basking in having a baby around to care for.  She would hold her all day if Kyrie would allow it.

Kyrie is also just a healing balm to weary souls. (What baby isn’t?!)  But she especially ministers to her older sister.  If Evie is having a hard time falling asleep I’ll even make a point of taking Kyrie in with me, and her presence seems to calm her in a way that even I can’t.  It’s beautiful watching God’s compassionate hand working through even the smallest and neediest of people.

I would say of all of them, Jacob’s life and demeanor seem to have changed the least in the last week and a half that his new sister has been here.  He loves her just as much as the others do, but his interaction with her is noticeably less than theirs.  He does hold her and give her kisses, but he just doesn’t seem quite as interested as Evangeline and Stephen are.  Is it a personality difference, an institutional thing, something else entirely?

It’s really hard to know, but either way he does love her and we aren’t seeing any regression with attachment or in other areas, so I’m perfectly happy with where he’s at right now.  We’re still in the process of finishing up his evaluations to get therapy services from the school district, and that should be done mid-March.  I’m looking forward to seeing him add occupational and speech therapy to his repertoire!

And saving the best update for last… sweet Hope.  Things are changing around here for our darling girl, but mostly indirectly due to Kyrie’s arrival.  She doesn’t have much contact with the baby other than a few attempts at teaching “gentle touches” here and there throughout the day.  She is certainly interested in the squirmy bundle on my lap, but she still can’t do much in the way of interacting with her.  Many of the children she shared a room with in the orphanage where babies, so I think she rather likes having Kyrie around, she just doesn’t know how to show it yet.

So, how has our new bundle of joy added to Hope’s life?  There are a few ways.  First, having a new baby forced us to change our routine with Hope.  What we were doing was not working.  I’ll try to blog more extensively about this too, but really, parenting a child who spent nine years in a laying room is a puzzle.  There are very few people experienced in this sort of care, meaning our doctors and therapists and experts can help by laying out tools and resources, but we are the ones who have to figure out which ones to use and how to use them.  As my dear husband says, she is a riddle wrapped in a question mark.

Much of our parenting Hope has been trial and error. I can’t even remember how many different sleeping arrangements we’ve tried in the last six months.  My midwife, on a visit a few days after Kyrie was born, suggested we try a Tryptophan supplement for Hope to help her sleep.  Sure enough, she has slept through the night three times this week!  A first as far as we can remember.  Typically she either doesn’t go to sleep for hours or wakes up around 2 or 3 am.  Having her sleep better is a blessing for all of us and I really pray that it continues.

We are also giving her more intentional sensory/play times, as well as intentional resting times during the day.  Our routine really revolves around her schedule now, as the other kids’ activities are much more flexible.  It’s too early to say how much it’s helped her improve, but it certainly has made our family’s dynamic more peaceful and that is absolutely worth it.

And finally… drum roll please…

Hope has words!! She started talking!  Seriously!!!

Mima spent several days with us that first week postpartum and started a new game with her.  To everyone’s surprise, she loved the game (she is usually motivated by nothing but stimming) and she was so eager to play that Mima got her to attempt the word “ball” whenever she handed the little ball over to her.  The more they played the more her word sounded like ball, and now she will do it consistently when asked!  Crazy!  Then yesterday at lunch I was able to get her to say “oooo” for food.  She tried adding the f sound to the beginning, but we’re not quite there yet.

She actually has sounds that she uses that have meanings attached!  I can’t emphasize how huge this is for her.  Our ten year old girl is learning how to talk!!

38 Notes for 38 Weeks

1. I know it’s been a while but… You’d be surprised how hard it is to find time to blog on bed rest!  And yes, I’ve been off of bed rest for two weeks now, and it’s been even harder to find time to do anything on the computer.  Maybe it will be easier when the baby comes?  A girl can dream…

2. I never thought I’d see a #2 on that side of the scale (if ya know what I mean) but I am rocking the extra poundage, or so my husband says.  He’s not biased… right?

3. Baby bump picture?  Umm… dream on because of the previous note.  Maybe if I can get this swelling to go down you’ll get one before baby comes… ahem.

4. So… Boy or Girl? We don’t get routine ultrasounds so we still don’t know if Mambo is a boy or a girl. But I do tend to get a “feeling” one way or the other, and I’ve been right the last two times. I will probably jinx myself by making a prediction, but I’ll do it anyway. I think the little one is a girl! Of course, we’ll be excited either way, and we have baby clothes for both! :)

5. Jake had a dream… night before last that we are having a girl.  So double confirmation, right?!  He said she was beautiful and favored Stephen more than Evie in her features.  Which is also what I’ve sort of been thinking.  The suspense is killing me!

6. My husband is amazing. It’s a strange feeling to be constantly asked about and worried over. I feel fine. Lots of contractions that are annoying, and Baby is doing great… But Jake, this man is a rock star.  I seriously don’t know how he does everything.  I’m not on bed rest, but I’m still not at 100%.  I still sit around most of the day, because too much walking causes muscle fatigue and pain.  My body is just tired from being in and out of labor for a month… so he’s still doing so much.

7. So when did you go off of bed rest?  Two weeks ago exactly.  I was 36 weeks and we all thought the baby would be here ANY DAY.  No such luck.  I had intense contractions the first two days, and then they died down.  For about a week after that I would wake up with nothing, they would start as I did more throughout the day and be 2-5 minutes apart, and regular, by bedtime.  I would go to sleep and they’d stop… and we’d do it all over again.  It has become a frustrating version of Groundhog’s Day.

8. Where are you at now?  Same place.  No real change.  My contractions are less frequent some days and more on others.  The only constant is that they keep getting stronger, so I know we’re getting closer.  I just have no idea how close!

9. I had my midwife appointment the other day.  I learned several interesting things…

10. The best news is that Baby is doing great!  The heartbeat sounded good, position is good, I’m measuring right on target.  All awesome things.

11. The worst news is… my midwife is going out of town next week.  She never told me because she didn’t dream in a million years I would still be pregnant… And guess who her only pregnant lady left is for several weeks?  Yup.  That would be me.  It’s not the end of the world, but certainly not the greatest thing either.

12. We were thinking of trying to kick start labor last weekend.  However, when she came to check me we were shocked – absolutely shocked – to find that I was only 2cm dilated and not effaced one bit.  On bed rest I was 90% effaced… now?  Nothing.  I am actually nowhere near labor.  The baby is sitting on my pelvic bone, meaning that all those contractions?  They’re just trying to move the baby, and they are doing pretty much nada. So.  Frustrating.

13. I missed wishing my sweet oldest daughter a Happy Birthday on here!  It was so simple and lovely.  We did it my first day off of bed rest.  So since I missed it, I’ll spend a few notes gushing about her lovely self and all our birthday fun…

14. A Golden Birthday.  I was so excited to have her home for her Golden Birthday.  My midwife came over a couple days earlier and I was in tears because she didn’t want me going off of bed rest yet and we weren’t going to be able to do anything for it.

15. Side Note… a lot of people told me that week beforehand that she would “just be happy” cuddling with Mommy for her birthday or that she wouldn’t know it was her birthday that day and we could just do it another day, etc.  But, like many adoptive mamas I know, I had dreamed of giving her a beautiful birthday for the first time in her life.  No one had ever done that for her before.  The day was more than just a day, it was a milestone in her life and in ours.  The thought of missing it was heart wrenching in a way that is possibly very difficult to understand unless you’ve been there.

16. ANYWAY… My midwife told me I could go off of bed rest.  Hooray!  And my contractions stopped (go figure).  Two days later, I was up and getting a party ready!

17. Her first present was a new hairdo!  She got her first ever ponytails, which she hated putting in, but actually liked in the end.  I think she enjoys the consistent tugging of the hair.  It gives her sensory input.  She always loves it when I play with her hair :)  And she looked adorable!

18. I also got her this beautiful birthday dress…

Hope's Birthday

19. A dear friend of ours offered to make cupcakes for her.  She made the cake and gorgeous flowers and butterflies to put on top.  I made a special frosting that would be a consistency and a sweetness that Hope would like.  (She doesn’t appreciate really sweet things. And hasn’t approved of frosting before.)  So this was more of a sweet, whipped yogurt – but still delicious!

20. Presents!  Hope got some sweet presents.  Her godmother gave her a cute little bear with fun zippers and buttons and things to play with, and she got oodles of new clothes!  She wasn’t really interested in the clothes, but she did enjoy throwing all that tissue paper on the floor.

21. Happy Birthday to You!  We lit her candles and sang to her.  All the other littles were lined up beside her and she just seemed to be loving it.  Even the small party we had would have been way too much just a couple of months ago.  But now it was almost as if she knew that we were singing to her and she was soaking it all in.  It was such a beautiful moment!

22. Progress Updates.  Well I don’t have many of those.  I actually don’t have any of those.  Since I went on bed rest no therapy or stretching has been done for either Hope or Jacob.  And they had been doing so well!  I am frustrated that those things have taken a back seat and I’m dreading how much progress we’ll have lost by the time I can get them back to their routine.  But trying to not worry about it because I can not control it, and there simply isn’t a point in fretting.

23. Dealing with Regression.  Which brings me to my next note about regression.  All four kiddos have regressed since bed rest.  Their behaviors, their attachment, their felt security… everything is back sliding.  It’s so hard to watch.  It was hard to listen to Stephen cry for half an hour while his poor Daddy tried to put him to sleep, and all he wanted was me.  Evie and Jacob and Hope weren’t getting attention from me at night, and that had always been our most consistent and essential bonding time each day.

24. Is it better now?  Being off of bed rest has helped some, but we’re still far from reclaiming what we had.  There is a lot of leftover anxiety and insecurity manifesting, and we are still in survival mode, which makes it difficult to concentrate on refilling the little one’s cups with felt safety and all the attention and love they need.

25. As for bedtime… I pray that we’ll be able to go back to some sort of normalcy in routine after baby is here, but I remember how horribly difficult those first few weeks were after Stephen was born.  Whatever happens, we’ll muddle through it and eventually get to a place where things go back to a sense of normal and routine.  I. Can. Not. Wait.

26. Things are getting easier.  We really aren’t drowning in chaos anymore.  There are just several things that can’t get back to normal until after the baby arrives, and our little Jacob thrives so much on routine that he has been very out of sorts.  We are all weary at the end of this journey, and just can’t wait to have our newest little member join us on the outside so we can move forward with the rest of our year!

27. Speaking of which… Happy New Years!  I know I sort of missed the big event, but I still thought it might be nice to take a moment and look back on 2014 while looking forward to 2015.

13. 2014 was the hardest year of my life.  I know, I’m still pretty young, so this isn’t like headline news or anything… but for us it was such a stretching, trying, challenging time.  It has not just been adoption and special needs parenting, although those things are certainly near the top on my list of hardest things I’ve ever done.  But it seems that we just haven’t been able to catch a break, emotionally, spiritually, practically or otherwise.  It was rough.

14. 2015 will be better.  I’m sure of it.  We may not have seen much of any good fruit from our labor last year, but so many seeds were planted.  This year my prayer is that those good seeds will take root and bear fruit, that our family will see the joys and blessings of our sacrifice.  I pray that our children especially will benefit, all five of them, and that Jake and I will grow closer to the Lord and to one another as we wade through the deep waters of these fleeting days.

15. Did I mention that Jake is awesome?  Because he is.  I just thought I’d mention it again.  Seriously.  There’s no one else I’d rather be raising five rambunctious, out-of-control, adorable little monsters with.

16. Speaking of monsters… I’ll do a little note for each one of the kiddos.  And I say monsters as a term of the utmost endearment.  We have great children, they’re just… ya know… in need of some direction for their copious amounts of energy 😉

17. Hope.  Starting with the oldest, Hope is the same sweet little girl she’s always been.  Very, very slowly she is opening up more to eye contact and interaction and becoming less averse to learning new things.  She can go to church and do a few short trips in public without screaming from the overstimulation and anxiety.  She is needing less isolation and more loving, and it’s a fun (albiet slow) transformation to watch.

18. Jacob.  His language skills are getting better.  He actually tries to speak full sentences with me now that have more than one point.  His personality is coming out more than ever, and I can’t wait till he reaches that threshold.  He was such a jokester whenever he would talk to translators in Russian.  I’m excited for that personality to come out again.

19. Evangeline. Her reading skills are starting to stick, and she’s still interested.  I think once she gets the basics of phonics that she’ll just teach herself the rest.  She is so smart and so motivated as far as books are concerned.  We got her a xylophone for Christmas, though, and reading music is going to take a little more work I think – lol!  In other news she is continuing to grow into her big sister role, she’s always been such a nurturing little girl.  It’s absolutely true that God gives us exactly the children our family needs at exactly His perfect time.

20. Stephen.  If I had one word to describe this two year old tornado it would be “RAWR!!” It is his favorite word and also embodies everything he loves… dinosaurs and monsters.  Oh and baseball.  He’s all boy and he’s really good at it.  Channeling his constant energy is a daily challenge in energy and patience.  But he has a lot of gifts and a lot of love to give.  He brings an amazing amount of joy and laughter, and Heaven knows we need those!

21. Mambo.  And this little one is just ornery!  Moving constantly… all over the place.  Baby was head down and pretty comfy until the contractions started.  Now?  Just constant kicking and pushing and spinning all over the place.  You’d better spin back to your proper position before I go into labor kiddo!  No breech babies allowed.  Good grief.

22. Confession… so about my last note… I actually wrote that three and a half weeks ago.  Lol!  Yes… I started drafting this at 35 weeks and am just now finishing up.  That is what my life has been like lately.

23. So what is Mambo really doing?  Little one has slowed down a lot, very little movement compared to what I was having on bed rest.  Heart beat and measurements look great, I just think there’s much less room in there than at the beginning of the month!  My midwife says this is a good sized baby, not huge, but certainly healthy, which makes me happier than could be after all that drama!

24. Which brings us to our next point…. about the drama.

25. I.

26. Do.

27. Not.

28. Want.

29. To.

30. Be.

31. Pregnant.

32. Anymore.

33. Seriously.  I mean… does more than that really need to be said?  At this point we are nowhere near labor and my due date is approaching quickly.  It’s exciting and frustrating all at once!

34. Hopefully on Friday… my midwife will be back in town and we will start attempting to get the baby engaged properly.  I’m hoping that once that happens labor will be able to begin promptly.  I can get contractions going, no problem, it’s just that at this point they are all trying to position the baby (ornery again) and not doing anything constructive.  Once we get the baby in its proper place we should be able to get the ball rolling.

35. Happy birthday Uncle Brandon?  My brother’s birthday is January 31st so we are shooting for that!  Wish us luck! 😛

36. The kids are all sleeping.  Jake and Grandma are at Bible study… the house is quiet and peaceful.  Score one for me.

37.  I’m going to take advantage of the peace and quiet because… *drum roll* I have nothing left to write about for today!

38. And that is how you make it to the end of a 38 point post when you don’t actually have that many points to make 😉

 

P.S. – This is the first comment I got after publishing my post: “It might have been a bit easier to get to #38 if you hadn’t jumped back to 13 from 27…”
Yes.  Yes indeed.  Thank you pregnancy brain.  Maybe that makes up for the month of posting that I missed?   Sigh…

Happy Seven Years

To the strongest, most handsome, gentlest, most amazing little boy I have ever met…

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Dear son, you have been through more in your seven years than many of us endure in a lifetime.  May the next seven be blissfully restful, healing and kind to you.  May you find all the love that you had lost and make as many fun and happy memories as most of us do in a lifetime.

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We missed so many years, so many candles and so many wishes… but now we have the time together to make up for them all.

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Your Daddy and I love you to the moon and back, to infinity and beyond.  It was an honor and a great joy to celebrate you today, my oldest son.

Love Always,
Mommy

A Glimpse at Three Months Home

I posted our “Glimpse at One Month Home” a while back, fully intending to update you with what our days look like now that we are three months in. Unfortunately, I can’t actually think of two days that have been close to the same… if anything life is more hectic now. Every week seems to throw us a curve ball between doctor’s appointments, holidays, Jake’s work schedule… nothing seems to remain consistent for long and certainly not longer than a few days in a row. Then we compensate and do something new. It’s pretty crazy around here.

But, the good news is that there is lots of good news in the crazy day-to-day. We are actually making so much progress as a family, even though it often feels like I am doing nothing at all to facilitate that. We are so focused on the bare essentials right now that I’m not working as much on their therapy as I would like, I’m not doing as much intentional bonding as I would like, etc… and yet they are still growing by leaps and bounds. These kids, this family… amazes me. I live with five pretty spectacular people!

Anyway, I still wanted to give you all a three month glimpse, so we’ll just do it a little differently. Progress. Let’s talk about how far they’ve come! Here is a list of the many milestones they have reached in such a short time, and a reminder of how worthwhile this craziness really is. The “Befores” are all descriptive of Jacob and Hope while they were in their orphanages, when we first met them. The “Afters” are who they have come to be after three months of settling in with their forever family.

P31Jacob

Before: Curved spine, couldn’t sit up straight. After: Almost totally straight spine, sits straight most of the time!

Before: Heavily contractured legs and feet, could not bring legs apart above his knees or bend his feet at the ankle. After: Has good enough hip rotation to walk; can spread his legs apart to be held with no difficulty or discomfort and has gained significant flexibility in his feet. He can now bring them to an almost neutral position. <– This is HUGE!

Before: Could not balance himself to sit without back support or to stand with support. After: Has great balance and has no issues sitting or standing with support.

Before: Did not know how to play with toys, could not play even at the level of our almost two year old son.  After: Plays intricately with toys for long periods of time and has learned imaginative play. He plans elaborate scenarios with toys and executes them with good concentration.

Before: Could not accept praise, love or words of endearment. Such things caused embarrassment and shame.  After: Seeks out praise and affection, loves to be told that he is loved and is learning to give love and affection to others.

Before: Believed he couldn’t walk. Spent all day sitting in a wheelchair or crawling on the floor.  After: Now has his very own walker and… walks! He still gets around with his unique crawl, but he can walk and he knows it. That is amazing.  And never is he sitting in a wheelchair on the sidelines.

P12Hope

Before: Weighed 25 pounds at nine years old.  After: Has gained ten pounds, as well as some inches!

Before: Was wearing size 3 diapers and 4T clothes.  After: Is snuggly fitting into size 6 diapers and wears a size 6 or 7 in children’s clothes.

Before: Could not tolerate laying on her stomach for more than 30 seconds. After: Will happily do tummy time for several minutes and has even started experimenting with pushing herself up on her arms this way.

Before: Had virtually no protective movements (such as putting your hands in front of you when you fall). After: Has developed some protective movements and is learning how to catch herself with her hands.

Before: Was terrified of open space around her and could only sit with a great deal of support, never with a straight back. After: Sits very well for long periods with great posture, as long as she has a little back support. Is able to sit totally unassisted for a few seconds at a time! She is also becoming much more comfortable with open spaces, which is necessary for unassisted sitting (and so many other things!)

Before: Was totally uninterested in playing with toys, other than using them for stimming. After: Is starting to play with toys purposely and is learning to manipulate her environment to be more comfortable. (Again this is a HUGE step!)

Before: Spent most of her time zoning out and withdrawing from the world around her. Did not focus on people or events around her for very long. After: Is increasingly interactive with her environment, seeks out the activities and people around her with interest, and withdraws less and less.

Before: Was unable to eat sitting up, she needed to be greatly reclined from eating in bed her whole life. She also had no idea how to get food from the front of her mouth to the back, only how to swallow. After: She sits completely upright for meals and all we need to do is get the spoon from the bowl to her mouth. She has even experimented once or twice with picking up the spoon, but drops it when it gets to her lips instead of taking food from it!

Before: She was afraid of food being taken away so she would scream constantly during meals. The slower feedings (she didn’t have time to breathe between bites at the orphanage) made her think we weren’t going to give her anymore food. After: She is no longer afraid of not being fed enough. I can give her a few bites and then stop for five or ten minutes to help the other children and she waits completely patiently to finish her meal.

Before: Could not tolerate holding for long periods; it was incredibly overstimulating. After: She loves being held and almost always welcomes it. It doesn’t overstimulate her anymore and she feels secure in the arms of her Mommy and Daddy.

Before: Incredibly hypervigilent. Could not fall asleep if someone was nearby. After: She still tends to be very hypervigilent, but it is not as pronounced as it was. She is now secure enough that she is able to fall asleep in my arms.

I’m sure there are more things I’ll think of as soon as I hit “publish”, but this gives you a little bit of an idea about just how far they both have come!  I post this not to show you how great of a job we are doing, because as I said before, I feel like we are still in survival mode – just getting the bare minimum accomplished.  Instead, this is to show you how great of a job our children are doing, and what amazing things God is working in their lives.  When a child has grown up with literally nothing, it often doesn’t take but just a little love and care to see a great deal of progress.

And, of course, my plug… we’re not doing anything spectacular with these little ones – we just took them into our home and gave them what they needed: clothing, food, a little love and attention… and they are thriving.  There are a million other things I’d love to do but haven’t gotten around to, and yet their little bodies and souls are blossoming in spite of how little I feel we are able to give.  If you’ve ever thought “I could never do that”, trust me… you probably could!  I’m not doing anything super human here, just being a mom and watching as God does some amazing things right before my eyes.

Most of the time I feel totally unequipped and inadequate, but our Lord doesn’t need much, just a couple of unsteady hands and clumsy feet will do – and with those He can fashion some pretty beautiful pieces of living art.  I encourage you to offer up your own hands and feet and ask if He’ll make something beautiful with yours too.  Because the great thing is, when it is your own hands doing the work, it is also your own eyes that get to watch the miracle unfold.  And there really isn’t anything like it.

We are Still Here

Dusting off the blog tonight after a few weeks of hair-pulling madness around here.  I think about writing every day and just never seem to sneak it in.  The kiddos have decided that laying quietly for two hours is no longer their favorite thing, so finding writing time is a little difficult.  I would just make them all lay down anyway but… sleeping at night goes SO much better if they are up and running during the day.  I thought I needed that time for my sanity, unfortunately, the Lord may be telling me I’m ready for a level up.  (Less rest more play.)

Lots and lots has been happening here.  Jake was privileged to give a presentation to our local LWML chapters on adoption, which he absolutely loved.  I have been doing nothing but trying to keep down the fort, which seems to be flying away more and more these days as I am able to put less and less effort into it.  My third trimester is quickly approaching, and I’m definitely feeling the tension between my body telling me to slow down and my four littles telling me to speed up.

I had a midwife appointment yesterday and all is looking very well.  She is such a dear lady and so encouraging, and gave me some good tips on how to know my limits and manage my days as a pregnant lady who does more lifting and chasing than recommended. 😉  So no need to worry.  I am being very well taken care of, and my husband is quick to pick up all the slack that I’m dropping when he’s able to be home.  I love that man.

All of the children are doing so well right now.  They play together as if they were never apart, and Jacob and Hope fit seamlessly into the chaotic, loving, rambunctiousness of our home.  It certainly wasn’t like this at first, but the way they treat each other now, I couldn’t tell you which of them had been together from birth and which just came into our family three months ago.

Jacob got his brand new walker last week and he loves it… well he loves the idea of it.  It’s hard work though!  He doesn’t have a lot of stamina on his feet yet, and it’s cumbersome to move that big bulky thing around, even in our spacious home.  So it will take some getting used to.  His orthodics should also be on their way soon, and that is going to be another big milestone for him, as he takes on the enormous task of training his feet and legs to work properly.

Hope has not been doing much therapy, but her next PT appointment is on Thursday and I am so excited to share all her progress with her therapist!  We have been seeing improvement in attaching.  She actually is letting us hold her to calm her down now when she’s overstimulated.  That’s huge!  I think she’s beginning to prefer my arms to the felt safety of her stroller, and that just makes me beyond giddy.

Last week she reached two enormous milestones all in one day.  First, she sat up unassisted for the first time!  Our therapist told us she may be able to do it within a year… but three months?!  Wow!  What was holding her back was not weak muscles.  She does have a ways to go there, but her biggest hurdle was an underdeveloped and damaged nervous system.  When she came home she had next to no protective reflexes.

Now if she lurches forward while sitting she puts her hands in front of her body to catch herself.  And it’s beginning to be a consistent reaction!  Woohoo!  The other day she did that with both hands while we were practicing a sitting position on the floor.  I was supporting from behind, but she lost her balance, caught herself and sat unassisted for about two seconds!  Of course, she hated it and threw herself back into me as quickly as she could collect her thoughts.  But I praised her like crazy, and I’m sure she definitely just thought I was crazy.  😛

That same day Jake came back from a drive with the kids and told me how she was actually playing with a toy in the car!  She has always held toys and stimmed with them, but after a while home we realized that’s all she was doing… stimming.  She was never actually playing, just using them as a way of zoning out or escaping her surroundings.  But this time she wasn’t tapping, hitting or stimming with it at all.  She was holding the toy out in front of her and purposely pressing individual buttons to hear them make different sounds!

My baby girl is learning to play!! Eeeeeeek!  I just don’t know if I can emphasize what amazing, miraculous progress this is for her.  It sounds so small, but for this nine year old treasure – it is huge.  I have been asked if she’s done any more purposeful talking.  Unfortunately, nothing yet, although she did repeat “baby” after Evangeline the other week.  I still have hope for her learning some speech or communication.  But right now she’s got quite a long way to go before we get there.  Both kids need speech therapy, and that is the next thing on my list to find for them.

I promise I’ll try to be better about blogging.  It’s hard, there are SO many things I’d love to write about and just so little time for all of them.  God willing, more time will become available, but I only write when He grants me the time and if a break is what He thinks I need then that’s what we’re all going to have to live with for a while.  But please know I think of this little blog and all my dear readers very often, and want very much to continue!  If there is something you are especially hoping for me to write about soon, please let me know and I’ll make a note of it.

Blessings!

Updates for Everyone

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I have been wanting to write again all week, but the days just pass by with no in-between time to squeeze out a blog.  We are definitely feeling the exhaustion of the marathon that is parenting lots of little children, with no big ones yet to help.  I am not even thinking about February, I’m just blissfully ignorant of such things and enjoying the little kicks here and there and not having to devote too much attention to nourishing the little one just yet.  On the other hand, I couldn’t be more excited to meet our new babe.  I don’t want to leave anyone out, so today’s post is just going to be quick updates on everyone.  Youngest to oldest sound good?  Ok here we go…

Stephen is doing just dandy.  Besides a little bit of a cold he seems to have picked up from somewhere, he is his usual, hilarious self.  He has decided to be kind of clingy in the early hours of the morning; I think he caught on to my plot of getting up earlier than they do and is trying to put that to a stop.  I admit, some mornings I’m glad for the excuse to stay in bed!  But I get so much more done when I don’t… He has started using sentences this last week (with prepositions and conjunctions even!); which is terribly adorable and always surprises me when I hear it.  His three favorite activities are singing (or yelling lavishly, whichever label your prefer), baseball and running.  Yes, running.  He just likes to run laps everywhere, he will have me watch him for a few minutes until he tires out and then he’ll be so proud of himself for how fast he went.  Oh boys are fun.

Evangeline is also doing well, very much in a mothering phase.  Her baby dolls do therapy, stretches, go to the hospital, you know all that normal baby stuff.  You know you’re a special needs mama when your kids play hospital more than school.  Ahem.  I still haven’t started doing reading with her yet, although it’s painfully obvious she is rearing to go.  That’s the next thing on my school list to start – reading!  We are doing great with sign language, though.  She has over a hundred words in her vocabulary now, and we’re practicing sentences.  She’s even started using her signing throughout the day, which is awesome.  Jacob and Stephen use it a little too, but I am mostly focused on getting Evie conversational and I definitely think she will get there before the end of the year!

Jacob is also doing well; his spoken English is coming along a little more each week and he continually surprises us with how much he comprehends.  He loves to sing and read books, which is great because we do a lot of that in our house!  As far as bonding and emotional stuff goes, he is so fragile.  Any change in routine or less-than-perfectly-planned outing creates so much distress in our poor boy.  He thrives on stability and routine.  I do believe he’s attaching to us, and I think that has actually increased the behavioral difficulties we are seeing.  He’s scared of being close, so he’s pushing away.  It’s heartbreaking to watch a six year old who is so terrified of love.  It should not be this way.  But we are working so hard to bring him to a better place, and he’s come so far already.  He is such a brave young man.  Last week he was fitted for orthodics for his legs and feet, so with any luck we will be able to get him in a walker before the month is over!  You have no idea how excited this Mommy is to get him up on his feet.  It’s going to change his world, and I can’t wait to see how he reacts to finally being able to walk after years of being told that he is incapable of learning and that his legs will never work.  So many blessings we get to watch unfold, our hearts are full.

And our oldest princess, I know many of you are wondering how she is doing now.  A couple weeks ago Hope spent two days in the hospital for some concerning seizure activity.  They found a brain bleed that may have been causing it.  We are thrilled to report that the activity we saw seems to be disappearing and we are praying that the follow up CT scan on Wednesday will show a parallel improvement in her injury.  She just learned how to clap all on her own, which is something we’ve been working on and we could not be prouder of her for that accomplishment!  She is gaining strength and has almost reached a healthy weight for her height.  We discovered that she loves bath time; it’s incredibly therapeutic for her.  She usually never lets me cradle her for long, but in the water she relaxes and completely melts into my arms.  It’s such a gift to have found a bonding activity for us, we were really in need of one.  Not only is it healing for her, but for me as well.

Speaking of which… how are Mommy and Daddy holding up?  My last blog post was tough, but we had been on a downward spiral of tough for these last two weeks trying to catch our breath and recover from the unexpected hospital stay.  I’m happy to report we are all in a much better place right now.  It’s a ridiculous roller coaster of huge highs and deep lows.  There are incredible miracles going on right under our roof, and we are first hand witnesses to all of them.  It’s spectacular!  But at the same time, the spiritual warfare is crazy intense.  The emotional toll of inviting trauma into your home, like I talked here, is a really heavy load to carry.

Please know, we’re not dying over here :)  We have some pretty bad days, but we also have some really awesome ones.  Our adjustment period is not going horrendously, and it’s not going spectacularly well either.  If I had to guess, we are about the average of where a typical adoptive family is at that point – especially factoring in that we adopted older children from hard places.  This is hard work, excruciating, exhausting, intense work.  But it’s good work and it’s work that needs to be done.  I was talking to my Dad the other day and he compared it to running a marathon, you know it’s going to hurt… but once you get to mile 23, knowing beforehand doesn’t really make it hurt any less.

And I think it’s an apt comparison.  Running a marathon isn’t for everybody… but it could be for a lot more people than the ones who actually do it.  Will it hurt?  Yes… but it’s also going to be incredible when you finally cross that finish line.  One foot in front of the other, taking it one step at a time…. Or as my favorite blue fish would say: Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming :)

18 Notes for 18 Weeks

photo (29)1. Baby is doing great.  Although Mama wasn’t too convinced of that the other night.  I suddenly got super worried that something was wrong.  I felt a kick about two weeks ago and then nothing… at all.  I kept thinking “Any day now…”  And after about two weeks of that I started to be concerned.  Thankfully my midwife lives just a few minutes down the road so I hopped in my car and drove over to check fundal height, hear the heartbeat and get my peace of mind back.  All went awesomely, I felt much better and then…

2. She brought out the ultrasound machine.  I knew she had it, but I did tell her we don’t really do routine ultrasounds.  I’m not a big fan.  I mean I am crunchy, right?? Crunchies don’t do routine ultrasounds… Ok so justification time started in my head. This wasn’t really “routine” after all… and it is a low-level ultrasound so it shouldn’t be too bad… right?  And it might be fun to see the baby just once… ahem.  So I didn’t object.  I was sad Jake wasn’t there to see too, but I did take pictures!  And oh-my-goodness how adorable, and I feel like a first time, giddy mama all over again.

Here is Mambo’s very first picture, baby is looking straight at the camera with super sweet eyes and pooched out lips.  Ack!  Can’t stand the cuteness.  And yes, I have always judged moms who think their babies’ ultrasounds are cute, I mean come on… really?  But I can’t help it… I just want to squish those chubby little adorable tiny cheeks!

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In this picture the baby looks a tad bit more alien-ish, but you can see the whole body and the tiny little legs that were kicking and trying to get comfortable after we disturbed the poor little one with the big, prodding stick.  And, yes, they were kicking the placenta… which is why I don’t feel it.  Good to know!

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And the last one is possibly a favorite, you can just barely see some fuzziness by the face here (it’s a side-profile).  That’s baby sucking it’s fingers!!  I got to see the sucking motions on the ultrasound screen and they were so clear and it was just breathtaking.  I was smiling from ear to ear the whole way home.  Made. My. Week.

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3. God’s Newest Children!  Jacob and Hope were both baptized on Sunday.  Praise God!  It was all quite wonderful and I can’t wait (literally) for people to send me pictures so I can tell you all about it!!

4. So many things, so little time…  This was definitely one of our busiest weeks so far.  Jake did have his day off on Monday, mostly, though he did have a couple hours of work to do.  And the rest of the days have been chock full of pastoral duties.  He was doing so many visits and extra services that today is an office day, as he didn’t get his usual office stuff done during the week.  I think we handled it pretty well though, which is encouraging with Advent peering around the corner!

5.  Learning to reach out.  Zhanna Hope has bug bites right now.  She scratches them until they bleed, poor baby!  Two nights ago she was furiously attempting to itch them and Daddy was sitting with her making sure she couldn’t get to them.  Such spunk this girlie has; she tried everything.  One time she had her hands innocently up by her face, then slowly, nonchalantly moved it onto her leg and… itch, itch, itch!  She got him on that one.  She also had lifted a piece of foam she was playing with up by her leg for a while and hid her scratching under that.  She is wicked smart.

Once Daddy caught on and took her hiding spot away, I think she realized the game was up.  She made the saddest most awful pouty face you have ever seen, then glared at her Dad and tried to scratch obstinately… while he was watching.  He moved her hand away and she looked like she was going to burst into tears!  She didn’t, but boy was she mad.  I knew it was distraction time, so I came to save the day!  I put on my most fun, sweet mommy voice on and said “Come here sweet girlie.”  As soon as she heard me she looked up and reached her arms out!!  She has never ever done this before.  She has allowed us to pick her up before; she has enjoyed being picked up before… but this is the very first time I have seen her so plainly ask for me to hold her.  We were stunned and so excited for this new milestone!

6. She called me Mama!  Yes, she really did, I think!  Ok, so the very next day after the first bug bite incident, we were sitting in the living room and she was trying to scratch again.  I was sitting there this time, covering it with my hand.  After a few minutes of that she started moaning, like she does when she’s grumpy, but it wasn’t just a moan it was a “Mamaaa!”  I immediately turned to her and said “Da Zhanna?  Mama?  Mama slushaiyu Zhanna.”  (Yes Zhanna?  Mommy is listening to you.)  I said it a few times and she was tickled about the Russian but no more attempts to communicate her unhappiness.  So I turned away and sure enough, not a minute later “Maamaaaaaaaa!”  Then I played and distracted and cuddled on her for a bit and no more grumpies :)

Mama was one of the babbling sounds she made when she was still in the orphanage, but this is the first time I feel like she really used it appropriately in context, so I am cautiously super excited :)  Is it possible to be cautiously super excited?

7. Jacob has been having some great days too!  For the first time in weeks he went an entire day yesterday without raging about something, and we’re still going strong today!  He’s also started calling me “Mamitchka” again, which I haven’t heard in quite a while.  Our bonding was pretty temporarily damaged by all the visitors and craziness last weekend, but things are finally starting to get back to awesome and we’re thrilled!

8. Hope had her first swim!  Ok so it wasn’t “swimming”, but she did sit in the pool and she did splash in the water and she did have a really great time!  She sat happily there for a good 45 minutes at least, and she usually hates being outside that long.  I was ecstatic and can’t wait to get her in the water more often.  I am a real fish so it’s always fun for me when my kiddos enjoy the water too!

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9. Sleeping Beauty.  When you adopt, the little things really do become the big things.  This is true for all parents I think, but especially for parents of children with special needs and those that come from hard places.  For her whole life Hope had done nothing but lay in a crib.  The first time we saw her in a stroller she was scared to death of it.  She got used to that fairly quickly, but falling asleep not in a bed?  Not happening.  She has always needed to be laying down.  But the other day we were playing outside on a summery, warm afternoon and I caught her doing this…

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You go baby girl!  I was stoked.  She fell asleep in her stroller… sitting up. 😀  Maybe this means we’ll be able to take longer car rides soon?

10. A Blessed Bounty.  I couldn’t write about the past week without mentioning the amazing welcome home gift we were given by the congregations in our area.  They overwhelmingly surprised us with a huge shower of gifts for our family.  I came close to tears unpacking everything and laying it out.  The love from so many… it’s just too much to take in all at once sometimes.  Thank you.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

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11. What About Matins?  Umm… oh yeah, do I keep saying we’re going to start that soon?  Hmm… remind me next week.

12. Whole 30 Prep.  In other news, we’re eating all our junk and gearing up for the Whole 30 on Monday!!  Woohoo!  I cannot wait to see our family back on good, real food.  Seriously.  Tomorrow is the big throw-away-everything-non-compliant party.  Remember to join us on the forums!  Here is a link to the thread I created just for our team: September 2014: Team Awesome

13. My Babies (Attachment Update).  Some adoptive parents say that in the first weeks home with their new child they look at them and feel like they are babysitting someone else’s kid.  I must admit, this is how it has felt with Hope and Jacob most days… but this last week something amazing has happened.  All that love I have been acting out is starting to have feeling behind it again.  Several times I have looked at my new children and thought “That is my baby.”  I am bonding and attaching and feeling more and more like the Mommy these children should have always had from the day they were born.  I am beginning to honestly, truly adore these blessings from Heaven.  I’ve seen their dark moments, watched their tantrums, changed their dirty clothes, lost sleep for their sake, been annoyed and frustrated and at my limit… and yet… I still feel so much love for these little people.  It really is starting to come.  We are starting to feel like the family that we are.

14. I’m not the only one!  Jake and I have talked about this and we both sense the feelings growing toward our new littles.  But it’s not just us.  This morning Daddy overheard Evie and Stephen fighting over whose sister Hope was.  It was happily resolved when Daddy intervened and let them know that she was both of their sisters.  😀

15. Hymns are the medicine of the soul.  I have started a new thing where, when I feel frazzled during the day, I just start singing hymns.  We flip through the hymnal and sing for however long or until I can think of something better to do.  Some children enjoy it more than others, but they all love it when it’s their turn to pick a hymn.  Having the words and melodies in our home is like a healing balm on the craziness of our days.  It’s my favorite way to do Mommy Time Outs, because let’s face it, sometimes we need one too!

16.  First Gymnastics Classes.  After a few months of hiatus Evangeline is back in gymnastics.  I think the break was the best thing for her.  She was getting overwhelmed by it, but after being away for a while she was excited to get back and more ready to master the skills than before.  Stephen is also just begging to have “his turn” at the gym.  I’m going to ask about getting him in a Spring class even though technically he’ll be a little young.  He is definitely ready, and potty trained so… bonus right?

17. Kids are too honest.  Conversation with Evie today….

Me: Would you like me to get you a cookie?
Evie: Yes, but I can get it myself.
Me: Oh, you can?
Evie: Yes, because I’m a big girl now.  I’m four and not little at all anymore.

*Part of my Mommy heart breaks a little…*

18. The honesty of kids makes my heart smile… and my favorite note.  The last one because it happened just tonight!  Jacob told me he loved me.  I was saying good night and I love you and he replied “I love you too mom.”  He said it in his not-so-clear way, but I heard every word.  It stopped me in my tracks.  Never before has he told me he loves me in Russian or in English.  This was the first time.  I really believe him.  My heart is full.

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…

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So hard to sit still… it tickles!

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My handsome prince. <3

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

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

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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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!

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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!

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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.

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