One Month In

First impressions of life with eight children under ten?  It doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging!

After some initial settling in time (Delia adores little Annis, but she objected rather strenuously to Daddy returning to work after a week off!) we are all beginning to find our feet.  A new normal is emerging, and God’s grace is still big enough!

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Daddy after a night shift, and Delia, delighted to have him home.

I don’t think I fully appreciated what a long, hard winter it was until it was over.  One of the most weatherific winters on record combined with a newly-adopted child with autism and a very heavily pregnant mama was, in hindsight, kind of a lot.  The warmer air has breathed new life into all of us, it seems, and being able to send the kids outside for a bit most days is giving me a chance to catch my breath, too.

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Delia is doing so well in so many areas.  Everyone who sees her after not spending time with her in a while notices the change.  From the inside, change is sometimes less noticeable and feels slow, but we are nevertheless encouraged.  Delia is more and more often able to sign or gesture to ask for what she wants before getting to the point of meltdown.  Her eye contact is improving as is her ability to focus on a task.  She is having more moments of being engaged and connected throughout the day and less time checking out and withdrawing into her own world.  She has good days and bad days, good moments and bad moments, but there is progress.

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Delia and all the kids love Mr. Jim’s story hour at the library.

 

At one month old, sweet Annis is just the love of everyone’s life.  I don’t remember a babymoon ever lasting quite so long – maybe it’s because she is my escape from an otherwise stressful day sometimes! – but I still just have to stop everything and stare at her sometimes.  Thankfully nursing gives me an excuse!

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At her one-month check-up she weighed in at 9 lbs 4oz, up from 7 lbs 8 oz at birth.  This was a relief after Coraline’s whole scrawny, failure-to-thrive ordeal (scroll down to the bottom to see how that all turned out!)

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Although I’m sure we saw a couple of very genuine, non-wind-induced smiles much earlier, Annis officially began smiling regularly and socially over this past weekend. (She was maybe saving them up for her first visit from Megan!)  I cannot focus on anything else but her when she does it.  She is completely captivating.

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As a final update, a certain little imp turned two-and-a-half this week.  I remember just a couple of months ago remarking to Trevor what an easy, sweet 2-year-old Coraline was.  What would have possessed me to say something like that outloud?  It was no sooner out of my mouth than the terrible twos seemed to arrive overnight.  I daresay a certain new little person in our house may have brought it on, as much as Cora loves her baby sister.  She does seems to be learning quickly that her new personality is not getting her the results she was hoping for, and we’re seeing glimmers of hope that our old, sweet Coraline is returning.  (Through tears: “I was jumpin on Bea’s bed.  That’s a bad choice.  I needa make GOOD choices!”)  In any case, the cute never went away.

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Outtakes of two-and-a-half photo shoot (little imp!):

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I’m sure I could update on lots of other things, but it would be foolish not to sleep while I’ve got eight sleeping children, so this will have to do for tonight.  We are still here, we are all well, and God is still so good.

Annis’s Arrival: Part 2

Continued from here

When Sarah checked me, I was a disappointing 4 cm.  While she busied herself checking my vitals and getting settled in, it felt an eternity was passing between contractions.  The car ride and transition to a new location had scared my labor off a bit.  I could feel Trevor’s “I told you so” penetrating silently through the room.

I apologized, and Sarah reassured me that we’d give it some time and, worse case scenario, if I wasn’t progressing she would break my water and I’d “have the baby within 20 minutes”.  Either way, she said, I’d go home with a baby.  The thought of having my water broken scared me, and I set my mind to do everything in my power to avoid it.  Sarah started my IV, and I got walking.

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Midwife Sarah

I’m convinced I have a fair amount of control over how quickly this stage of my labor goes.  My strong preference is to spend the part when the contractions are really hard either in a nice comfy chair holding on for dear life or in the bath, both of which most certainly slow labor down.  This was not a luxury I could afford under threat of having my water broken (such a pity to waste the gorgeous jacuzzi tub in our birthing suite, though!).  I was going to have to work to get this baby out in a timely manner.

I spent the next two hours pacing the floor back and forth between our little bedroom and the kitchen/living area where Sarah and nurse Jeannie had stationed themselves.  My contractions fairly quickly got themselves back into a good regular pattern, and in between I alternated between making small talk with Sarah and Jeannie and poking Trevor, who was fast asleep sitting up in the bed where I was about to deliver our baby.  (Always good for him to get his rest so he’s ready for the big moment.)

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Nurse Jeannie.

By about 5 AM I could feel that my contractions were different, a little pressure-y.  By 5:30, Trevor had perked up and announced his prediction that I would give birth in about a half an hour.  Shortly after, Sarah checked me again and I was dilated to 8 cm.  She suggested I stay in bed at this point, and I knew at once that the hard part was imminent.

At 5:53 my water broke (hallelujah, all on its own!).  As with three of my other births (Ro, Bea, and June for anyone keeping track of such statistics), the baby was right behind.  This is what Trevor says happened next: “I don’t want to push.  Do I have to push? I’m not pushing. I’m not pushing. Oww, oww, oww, oww, OWWW!” <Head.>

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She was born at 5:58 AM (Daddy got it spot on!), beautiful and perfect like her sisters (and brother, and other sister, I’m quite sure, though I wasn’t there to see them arrive).  Trevor announced, with tremendous relief in his voice, that she was a girl (Sarah must have been relieved, too, not to have to keep her gender a secret any longer – she had accidentally found out some five months ago from my bloodwork!).  He cut her cord, and we set about getting to know our sweet new blessing.  There is just nothing like holding a tiny little person in your arms and knowing that, having only just met her, you already love her so deeply and fiercely that you can’t imagine your life without her in it.  It just never gets old.

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*   *   *   *   *

Six days later, when I arrived at the birth center for our postpartum check-up, Sarah came right out to see me.  “You’re not going to believe this,” she said. “Your bloodwork came back a couple of hours after you went home with the baby last week.  Your hemoglobin was up to 11.4!”

Totally could’ve had a homebirth.  I almost wished I didn’t know, but decided, instead, just to be thankful that we had had yet another wonderful birth experience.  And that I hadn’t given birth at the side of the turnpike!

Annis’s Arrival: Part 1

By the weekend before Annis’s birth, I was having pretty frequent practice contractions (Beatrix quote: “Mommy, how come you need to have practice contractions since you’ve already had so much babies?”).  I was fairly certain I would not be making it to my due date (For the record, she arrived 5 days early, right on schedule to follow the pattern set by our other three American-born girls: Bea was 2 days early, Junie, 3, and Coraline, 4.  I love stuff stuff like that.)

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But with my blood count still too low for a homebirth as of my last appointment (10, at this point.  Higher than the 9.9 it was, but not the 10.6 it needed to be), the question of where we’d be having the baby became even more pressing than the when.  Resigned to the likelihood of having her in a far-away, unknown hospital, I decided to remedy at least the part of the situation I had some control over.  We scheduled a tour.

On Sunday, two days before I went into labor proper, we left all seven kids with my mom and trekked 45 minutes to a lovely new hospital to join a half a dozen sets of first time parents-to-be for a tour of a beautiful new maternity ward.  Trevor told me afterwards that he was watching my face during the tour and could tell that it wasn’t doing anything at all to alleviate my concerns about having our baby there.  Highlights of our nurse tour-guide’s commentary included: “About 90% of our moms choose to have an epidural, but no one would try to make you have one.  Unless, you know, you were really going crazy with the pain, ” and “We have our own O.R. right up here.  We do lots of c-sections.”  I bit my tongue and tried really hard not to ask where the bathtub was.  There clearly was none.  Despite having had my first three babies in hospitals with no ill-effects,  it seems I have become very spoiled now, and I just couldn’t imagine laboring in a place so very unlike my cozy little home.  Plus, forty-five minutes away!

I talked to my midwife the next day and expressed my concerns to her.  “It’s far,” I said.  “It is far,” she agreed.  I love her so much for what she said next. “I think I’d feel safer delivering you at the birth center than risking you giving birth at the side of the turnpike.”  Me, too!  She said she’d talk to Sarah, the other, newer midwife in the practice about it and see what she thought.

On Tuesday, when I went for my appointment, Sarah told me that she, too, would be willing to deliver me at the birth center, just 15 minutes from home and nearly as cozy.  I had to agree to an IV and an understanding that at any sign of bleeding, meds would be given.  Also, I promised not to bleed.  Deal.  I almost decided not to have her draw my blood again to check my hemoglobin.  It seemed a done deal that I’d be delivering at the birth center, so why bother?  But a few minutes after we left I had a change of heart and Trevor drove me back.  Just in case I didn’t give birth in the next couple days, and just in case my hemoglobin went up dramatically… well, just maybe a homebirth wasn’t completely out of the question yet.

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It was warm that day (note: it snowed again yesterday, and it is currently in the low 30′s.  Where are you, Spring?), and we all walked to a park about a mile and a half away after lunch.  This seemed to kick my niggly contractions into gear for a while.  We decided to skip small group, and by 8 PM, I was contracting every 7 minutes or so, and we called my mom and asked her to come spend the night.

Then at 10 o’clock I called her back and told her not to come.  My contractions had spaced back out to every 10 or 15 minutes, and I was sure I’d be able to sleep through them and start over again the next day.

Almost as soon as I called her off, they started coming every five minutes, and with some real conviction.  Reluctantly I called her back at 11.  She was still awake, and came right over.

I was just finishing my first of only two “labor baths” (I’m pretty sure three is usually the magic number, a statistic I perhaps should have paid more attention to) when she arrived.  We chatted for a while between contractions, and I took another bath at around 1 AM.

By 2:30, I was a pretty uncomfy little girl and my mom looked a little panicked that things might go quickly, so I woke Trevor up to consult.  He was thoroughly unconvinced that it was time to spring into action, but I persuaded him that with having to actually drive somewhere we needed to make the call earlier than usual.  “You didn’t say it,” he chided me. “Fine,” I said, rolling my eyes, “‘It’s time!’ Happy?”

I called Sarah, the midwife on call, who had just put the emergency on-call phone number into my new phone for me at my appointment 12 hours earlier.  “I trust your judgment,” she said.  And she was waiting for us at the birth center when we got there at about 3:30 AM.

To be continued…

How She Came To Be Annis Octavia

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Star Anise, from www.southhillsbrewing.com

The story of Annis’s name really begins in the middle.

About seven years ago, when I was pregnant with my third girl, I ‘met’ a woman online who was expecting her eighth.  Girl.  Her girls all had lovely, classic names and she was seeking advice on naming her newbie.  In the end, our little group of name enthusiasts persuaded her that her daughter’s middle name absolutely had to be Octavia (meaning eighth child).  And so it was.

But I thought to myself way back then, if I ever had an eighth child, I would use Octavia as her first name.  It is the loveliest of lovely names, but really only suits an eighth child.  Of course, back then, that was a purely hypothetical scenario, because who has eight kids?!

I never forgot about Octavia, and when we discovered we were indeed expecting our eighth child (note: last time we were expecting, it was our fifth child.  How is that even possible?) I said to Trevor, “You know this one is Octavia, right?”  We both loved it, and for a while it seemed like it might be her name, but nothing is ever that simple with us and names.  It’s a beautiful name, but what would we call her?  We couldn’t seem to find a short form we both loved (or, to be precise: I liked several short forms and Trevor vetoed all of them) so it seemed we were back to the drawing board.

Reluctant to part with our long-beloved Octavia, we moved her to the middle and went in search of the perfect first name.  If you are familiar with our Rules, then you know that this was no simple matter.  One of the names has to be a family name, and reserving the middle slot for Octavia would force us into a Juniper configuration, with the family name first.  It was a tall order.

Complicating matters slightly (or perhaps simplifying them?  I’m not really sure…) was the fact that we didn’t really have one particular person in mind this time to honor, just a certain branch of the family tree that had been too-long-neglected.  With each of our other girls we had honored first all of their great-grandmothers and then several special great-aunts, but when you’ve already named six girls, you begin to run out of people to honor!  I asked Trevor’s mum for as thorough a list as possible of family names on her side, and then set about ‘working the list’.

I tried out female forms of male names from family tree.  I tried smooshing two names together to honor two people at once,  rearranging letters to make new names, forming nicknames out of initials.  Nothing was sticking.

Until Annis.  I was playing around with Trevor’s great-grandmother’s name Anne sometime around the halfway point of my pregnancy when I stumbled upon this lovely, ancient gem.  It is (I discovered, thanks to this blog post) actually a medieval form of Agnes that was once as common as Mary but has been out of use for at least a century.  As it happens, I have a great aunt Agnes as well, so she has a double family name pedigree!  (It also bears mentioning that Annis is pronounced like Janice without the J, since a few people have asked for clarification there.)

I pitched it to Trevor, and he loved it.  We both loved it.  So simple, so pretty, so old.  We loved the connection to the spice anise, the licorice-ness of it.  It was perfect.  We niggled a bit over the spelling, but I eventually agreed to Trevor’s favorite and he was officially sold.

We had several hours of blissful agreement before I happened to refer to it as “a family name”, to which Trevor replied, “It’s not a family name.”  I reminded him that his great-grandmother was Anne.  He said he didn’t even know that, and therefore it doesn’t count.  “Nevertheless,” I urged him, “your great-grandmother’s name was Anne, whether you knew it or not.”  Nope, not buying it.  We could still use it, he said, but we weren’t counting it as a family name.  Sigh…

This discussion, believe it or not, continued off and on for weeks (months maybe?) until we arrived at a tenuous agreement:  Annis is sort of a family name, though slightly stretchy both for being a bit too far up the family tree to be super meaningful as well as for it’s questionable tweakedness.  Octavia is also sort of a family name, since it acknowledges her special spot among her siblings.  Two sort of family names make a pretty solidly meaningful name, and that’s good enough when we both absolutely one hundred percent love a name and agree on it.  And we do.

For the record, we never did have a boys’ name this time around.

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Hello, Little One!

It’s been quiet around the blog, and that almost always means things have been anything but quiet here.

In the early morning of Wednesday, March 12, we welcomed another precious daughter into our family!

Meet our lovely Annis Octavia, who arrived 5 days early weighing 7 lbs 8 oz and 20 inches long.  We are so thrilled that she’s here!

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I will share more about her birth when I can, but know that God answered prayers once again.  Though my iron level hadn’t come up quite enough for a home birth, we were able to have her at the birth center, just fifteen minutes from home and nearly as cozy.  The delivery went very smoothly, and the only lingering concern is that my blood pressure has been slightly elevated since a bit after the birth.  Laying low seems to help, so it has been a huge blessing to have Trevor home all this week and not returning to work until Wednesday.

Thank you all for your prayers for my pregnancy and delivery.  As always, God’s plan and timing were perfect, and we are so thankful for His precious gift to our family in little Annis.

Festivities

Today officially concludes the month of birthday madness in our home (though unofficially, Trevor has really had the short end of the stick so far, since he had to work tonight).  Four birthdays in 3 weeks is more than plenty for me, though I’ll admit I did think it would be fun if little one had made his or her appearance today on Daddy and big brother’s birthday, especially if he is a he!

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On Sunday we celebrated the three kids’ birthdays with a party at grandmom’s house.

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The kids all (even the non-birthday ones) received a joint gift of two new pet mice (the last of our three sadly passed in January after weeks of faithful nursing from Beatrix).  They were promptly christened Kit and Kaya and welcomed into the family by all.   If you’re ever strapped for cash but want to deliver a crowd-pleasing joint birthday gift to small children, you could do a lot worse than a pair of mice!

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Juniper’s birthday proper was a busy day full of appointments, but we squeezed in a few presents and a trip to the Lego store, and she was happy as a clam.  Can’t believe this little one is 5 already!  She was just the baby a little while ago, it seems.

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We have had an annual tradition since Niko joined us of lining up our five consecutive ages during the 4 days between June’s birthday and Niko’s, but now that we have Delia, we have an even greater degree of age clumping.  We can now take our time about doing this photo, since we have such an abundance of 2006 babies to fill the middle slot, but for tradition’s sake, we took it before Niko’s birthday.

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Today we focused mainly on Niko’s half of the boys’ birthdays, since Daddy was sleeping for a night shift tonight.  Niko had presents in the morning, a free cookie at Barnes & Noble in the afternoon and a family movie night after dinner in honor of his special day.

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This boy (whose photo I cannot for the life of me figure out how to rotate) will be celebrated sometime over the next couple of days with a simple Chinese take-out or similar.  When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, as usual, his response was “For you to not spend any money on it.”  Chinese sounds good to me!

Happy birthday to all these dear ones the Lord has blessed me with!

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PS If I could ask you to pray again, since the Lord has answered so many prayers so directly over the last few weeks, I have another little pregnancy request.  I am just ever so slightly anemic, but despite taking the same liquid iron supplement that did the trick in my last pregnancy, my blood levels have stayed stubbornly below the cut-off for a non-hospital birth this time.  My midwife sent me to Whole Foods (that could be a whole blog post in itself!) with a whole shopping list of bizarre supplements and iron-rich foods.  I think I am getting enough iron for a small elephant now, and I’m trusting that if it doesn’t work by this week’s appointment, then God has a reason for wanting this baby born in a hospital.  Nevertheless, prayers are appreciated!

More Answered Prayers and Happy News

Thing 1:

As of my 36-week midwife appointment yesterday, baby is now, once again, HEAD DOWN!  Hallelujah!  Midwife Sarah (who always seems to have good news for me, although I am still a little mad at her for accidentally knowing the gender of our baby) thinks that at this stage, baby will probably stay put.  She also encouraged me that the fact that it is head-down now is a good indication that we could persuade it to get that way again should it have another moment of stubbornness later on.  A very happy visit all around.

If anyone happens to have stumbled onto my blog for baby flipping advice, I can’t really say for sure if anything we did worked or if baby just got its act together.  We did try the main position for the transverse lie from Spinning Babies, which involves kneeling on the sofa with your elbows on the floor.  Are you getting a mental picture here?  Yeah.  I know from a video the kids like to watch that giraffes have an intricate system of valves in their heads to keep them from exploding as they bend down to drink water.  Very impressive stuff.  I’m pretty sure now that I have no such mechanism in my head. Owwy.  In any case, baby cooperated, and it is my firm belief that it had an awful lot more to do with many prayers on my behalf and a gracious Heavenly Father who knows just how small my plate is than with my baby spinning skills.

Thing 2:

This little lady, in addition to her obvious musical talents*, has acquired a new skill over the past couple of weeks.  Being largely homebound by the weather gave her the perfect opportunity get completely potty trained!  She has now had a good week’s worth of outings to public places and friends’ houses in big girl panties and has stayed more or less completely accident-free with minimal prompting.  (I’m whispering here, but she’s even been dry at nap time!)  If it sticks she has been our easiest potty-trainee yet, and I am so thankful to have this hurdle cleared before our next diaper-wearer arrives on the scene.

* This performance is entirely to the credit of the toddler nursery staff at Faith Community Church, and not at all to mine.  We sing a lot of Jesus songs around here, but for some reason that one isn’t on our usual playlist.

In Which I Talk Mostly About the Weather

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A proper snow a couple weeks ago. Excellent packing snow – a good time was had by all.

We’ve had a lot of snow this year.  I think I heard we’re on our 11th storm system of the season.  We’d already had more snow while we were in Bulgaria in early December than we get altogether some years.  It’s been kind of nuts.

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Bea and her snowman. She ate his nose and eyes shortly after this was taken.

 Mostly, we’ve enjoyed it.  No one in our family really gets snow days, per se, but we’ve tried to get out and play at least one time in each snow fall.  We’ve sledded, built snowmen, drunk hot chocolate… on the whole I think we’ve made the most of it.

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Juniper opted for the smaller scale project.

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Daddy’s handiwork (and Romilly’s feet).

 Then came the “storm” that did us in.  There wasn’t much to it.  Freezing rain that washed some of the last snow away and left a coating of less than half an inch of ice on our tree branches.  The roads didn’t even need to be plowed.

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 But at 7 o’clock on Wednesday morning last week our power went out, and we wouldn’t get it back until 6 o’clock on Saturday evening.

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Poor snowmen never knew what hit them.

 It’s funny how things that become huge ordeals don’t always seem like them at first.  Our house only got down to the low/mid fifties that first day, and it didn’t really occur to us that the power would stay off for any length of time, so we put on sweatshirts and just went on with our day.  I think the kids actually forgot the power was out a few times.  Pippa came into the kitchen to find me washing dishes by hand and exclaimed with the most heartfelt sympathy, “Mom, how long do you think we’ll have to live like this?!”

It got a little weird when Trevor left us to go to work in the dark and we still had an hour and a half to kill before bedtime, but we read together by candle and flashlight at the dinner table and then cuddled up on the sofa and told stories.  It was nice, like Little House on the Prairie.  Everyone grabbed an extra blanket and went to bed.  Maybe by morning we’d have power back.

By morning, the house was 10 degrees colder, and sweatshirts and carrying on as usual did not seem like the order of the day.  My mom had a forced snow day from work (and had her power back on already), so we packed up our school books and headed for grandmom’s house.  We stayed until bedtime and got straight under our covers when we got home.

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Delia and her best friend – oh how this girl adores dogs!

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School time at grandmom’s house.

 

Each morning was a little chillier and more difficult than the last.  We were fine as long as we stayed under covers, but getting everyone dressed and out the door to hide somewhere warm for the day was a little rough, even for our seasoned Scottish campers.  We spent day 3 at grandmom’s again, but since day 4 was Saturday and Daddy was off from work, we decided to tough it out at home.  We had men working on the lines in our back yard early on in the day, so we knew the end was in sight.

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Day 4 of camping in our house.

On Saturday at dinner time we had a surprise visit from my mom and grandmom.  After dinner, we were just about to head out to escape the cold until bedtime when the heater started whirring and the lights came on!  We had our little outing as planned, and came home to a balmy 50-degree house.  We were giddy at the thought of waking up all warm and toasty the next morning.  I’m still a little giddy each time the heat kicks on, to be honest.

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It only reads down to 40, but it was COLD.

We all had our moments of grumbling for sure (Coraline was particularly distressed that the “mah-a-veve” was “bo-teen” [microwave broken] as I never quite mastered warming her morning milk on our gas stove), but I do believe that four days without electricity taught us all something about thankfulness, about how much we take for granted from the hand of our loving Father.  I’m sure we will again.  But for now, even as I sit here with Trevor having been stuck at work for 36 hours with yet another snowfall, I am thankful to be warm and have a laptop on which to blog.

Other news you missed during our big freeze:

Romilly turned 8 on our first day of power back on!  I honestly think that waking up warm would have been gift enough for her, but we were also excited to be able to keep our plans to have some dear friends over for blueberry muffins and ice cream in the afternoon to celebrate.

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Happy birthday, lovely girl!  The deep inner workings of your heart and mind never cease to amaze me.  You are such a blessing to us!

Delia has continued to sleep through the night every single night since we moved her to the little girls’ room.  Without exception.  We decreased and then stopped her melatonin altogether.  She just sleeps now.  Still wakes up loud and crazy, but at least she does it in the morning now.  Praise the Lord!

Finally, if I could leave you with a prayer request: the baby gave us a week or so of being reassuringly head-down a couple weeks ago, but is now back to bobbing around between transverse and breech.  In six pregnancies worth of doctor and midwife appointments, I’m not sure the word c-section had ever even been mentioned, but it’s been mentioned now.  There is still time for the baby to turn on its own (especially for a sixth baby – it’s roomy in there!), and there are things to try if it doesn’t, but it’s beginning to look like this might not be the simple, uncomplicated birth and recovery that I’ve become accustomed to.  (See, didn’t I tell you I take things for granted?)

While I have no sentimental attachment to having my perfect birth story – I have had more than my fair share of those! – I’m just not sure how we’d swing the logistics of a c-section with its longer hospital stay and recovery restrictions with life at home being a little busier than usual anyway right now.  God knows our desires and our needs, and we are praying that this little one will figure out what it needs to do soon and that we will have peace in the meantime, whatever happens.

Sweet Sleep for Delia (and Me!)

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I’ve been a little afraid to write this post this week, not because I’m superstitiously afraid of jinxing anything, but just because I feared it was premature and I’d just have to write a recant post soon after.  I’m still a little afraid of that.  BUT…

I have to share what God has done this week in a huge answer to the prayers of many on our behalf, because it is encouraging even if it doesn’t last forever.

For weeks my mind has been anxiously consumed with what to do about Delia and sleep. It was practically all I had wanted to talk to Trevor about (well, you know, that and names, of course).  The question of how we were going to balance a newborn with a middle-of-the-night-screaming 7-year-old all in our bedroom was eating me alive and stealing my joy.

But where could we put Delia?  Put all the other girls back in one room and give her Pippa and Romilly’s room?  Let her have our room and sleep on the sofa bed in our living room ourselves (not much help once the baby arrives!)?  There just didn’t seem to be a good solution, but I knew we needed to start trying something so that if it didn’t work we had time left to try something else before the baby comes.

So we tried Plan A.  It was always our intention for Delia to share the room across the hall from our bedroom with her three littlest sisters, and we wondered if, just maybe, that plan might still be crazy enough to work.  We decided to put her in the top bunk, hoping it would make her feel a bit more contained than an ordinary bed.  She can climb down, but she’s quite timid about it and generally stays put, plus she seems to enjoy the view.

Do you know that our girl has slept through the night until at least 6:30 for six nights in a row since we moved her in with her sisters?!  She had done that exactly one time (on Christmas Eve – wasn’t that lovely?) in the seven weeks that we’d had her prior to this last week.  It feels like nothing short of a miracle.

I do have a couple of theories as to why this arrangement is a better fit for her.  She may just be more comfortable sleeping in a room with other children than with adults.  That is, after all, what she’s known her whole life.  I also believe that when she woke in the middle of the night in our room, she immediately switched into attention-seeking mode knowing that I was there.  This is a daytime behavior of hers as well that she seems to reserve just for me, and her midnight caterwauling was always much worse on nights when Trevor was at work and she knew it was just me in the room with her.  Plus she would only really begin exercising her vocal cords once I gave her some sign that she had awakened me, such as leaning out of bed to look at the clock.

Whatever the reason, she is sleeping, and we know that is a gift from the hand of God and are praising Him accordingly!

She still wakes up very, very loudly, and this has made our early mornings interesting.  I’m not sure what we would (will?) do if she woke and started her noise-making festivities at 3 or 4 AM like she used to now that she’s sharing a room with three other little snoozers, but with each passing night I am growing a bit more optimistic that this may at least be a new pattern if not a new rule.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for praying (and rejoicing now!) with us.  There is still much to pray for, but we are seeing amazing answers!

Two Years of the Blessing of Niko

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This frightened little boy said goodbye to everything and everyone he had ever known on January 30, 2012, two years ago today. I wasn’t there that day, but sat at home glued to my computer waiting for updates from Trevor, who picked him up with Pippa and Romilly.  The goodbyes were difficult for our little man.  He was understandably upset and tearful, but he never looked back.  As soon as the car pulled away, it seemed, he joined our family whole-heartedly, and we are so thankful he did.

In two years our funny, smart, determined, adventurous little boy has amazed us.  He came to us just shy of his 6th birthday, speaking no English, and we were told that only about half of his spoken native language was understandable.  His attention span wasn’t long enough for even the simplest coloring page or story book.  But his mind was sharp and curious.

Niko is now doing math at a first grade level and reading at about a late-kindergarten level.  He loves listening to books being read aloud (The Candymakers was a recent favorite) and volunteers to read aloud to his little sisters, though it is a still a bit slow-going.

He has worn hearing bilateral hearing aids consistently for about a year now, and his speech is constantly improving.  He began formal speech therapy in September and his teacher was amazed how much he had improved just since she evaluated him in March, and he has improved steadily since then.  At home we are still working the glitches out of his Bulgarian grammar and syntax (“Mommy, what that says?” “Try again, Niko. What…”  “What DOES that SAY?” is usually all the prompting it takes these days.)  I commented to Trevor while we were in country picking up Delia that Niko’s English is now much better than our facilitator’s was!

Medically, Niko is doing great.  Since his surgeries just over a year ago, we’ve been checking in with his specialists every few months, but there is no expectation at this point of the need for any future surgeries.  He’s all good.  Thanks to glasses and a long year or so of regular eye-patching, he has also regained the use of his left eye to the point that his vision with glasses on is 20/25.  Amazing considering he had lost all use of his left eye before coming to us.  We still patch for two hours three times a week, with the firm understanding that any whining will land him right back at daily patching.  Doctor’s orders.

While it never felt like we had a particularly rough transition with Niko behavior-wise, we can certainly look back now and realize how very far he has come in this area.  Most recently, I discovered with joy that he is developing empathy.  I can vividly remember about a year ago abandoning a walk to the drug store because Niko had knocked June over trying to get to the front of our little troop in order to get a better view of a four-wheeler in the back of a truck parked along the road.  As she sat there at his feet sobbing with a bloody knee, he looked on at his prize with a huge grin on his face, completely unconcerned for her plight or the fact that he had caused it.  We headed home as much because I felt so utterly defeated as because we needed a band-aid or two.  A couple weeks ago, Niko and June, now the dearest of friends though they fight like an old married couple, were playing legos together at the table and knocked heads lightly by accident.  I heard my little gentleman say, completely unprompted, “I’m sorry, Juniper (always the full names for his sisters!).  Are you okay?”  And my heart swelled.  He forgets himself sometimes still, as I’m sure all little boys do, but so much of his must-be-first survival instinct has been worn down and replaced with tenderness.  The Lord knew he needed sisters.

Adoption is such a leap of faith.  It is the hardest thing we have ever done as a family.  Twice over.  But in the midst of the hard, we have watched a new young man begin to emerge happy, loved, confident.  He is so much a part of our family it is hard to remember sometimes that he hasn’t always been here.  He has challenged and stretched us and taught us how to love better.  I still have so much to learn.

Today, this little boy laughed with abandon at a library story hour.  He read a superman book to Delia.  He took too long to do his handwriting because he forgot to do his best work the first time around.  He came up with 8 words that can be made from the letters in TWINS.  His eldest sister baked and decorated him a cake that said “2 Years of Niko” and we all sang “Happy Gotcha Day to You” at tea and snack time.  He took a bath and told me he was “getting the mushrooms” from behind his ears. He kissed me goodnight, then a finger-kiss on the chin and on the forehead, just like every night.  He is my boy, and I wouldn’t trade him for all the riches in the world.

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