Thankfulness: Part 2

In no particular order (because, let’s face it, I’m coming up with all of these right now!)

Day 6: Homeschooling.  This is shaping up to be such a nice year for our homeschool.  The kids are loving choir.  I am enjoying rereading some old favorite books to a fresh new set of little ears.  Pippa is so independent and motivated.  Trevor is home just enough to make everything fit.  I feel like my kids are all getting more of me than they have for a while somehow, even the ones who go to school.

A friend hosted a wool-felting workshop in her home last week that we were able to enjoy.  I just love the freedom we have being home together all day.

Day 7: School-schooling. I am so very happy with how all three of our schoolies are doing.  I love their teachers.  I love all the things they are experiencing that they wouldn’t have at home.  I even love being a school mom and getting to have this different role in their education.  I feel as though our whole family is getting the best of both worlds this year.

Also, this boy is just absolutely rocking it.

 

Day 8: Three-year-olds.  Well, okay. This one in particular.  She is spicy and funny and wants to be big so badly, but is still so adorably not big. Annis-Banannis is one of the chief suppliers of much-needed comic relief in our family.

Day 9: My mom.  My mom makes up a good 75% of my support network, and she’s a busy lady herself.  Whether I need someone to drop everything and come watch my gang for a few hours or just let me have a good cry on the phone, my mom is always there.  She is my greatest cheerleader and an unchanging constant in my life.  Her latest feat of motherly superhero-ness was hosting a slumber party for four of our girls and three friends (plus me!) at her house, so that Pippa could finally have a proper 13th birthday celebration.  It was such a great night. And I didn’t even have to clean. 

Day 10: Names.  I realize this is frivolous, but I am actually super thankful for names.  I enjoy them so much that when I have a week like last week when I discover two new-to-me names that are not only beautiful, but full of history and substance, it actually makes me a little bit giddy.

Oh, what? You want to know what they were?  Well, okay.  Since you asked. Some friends gave their daughter the middle name Idelette after John Calvin’s wife, and we watched a documentary on the life of Richard Wurmbrand, whose wife’s name was Sabina.  I’m thinking wives of heroes of the Christian faith must be an untapped treasure trove of fabulous names!

Day 11: Our church family.  This has been a difficult year in the life of our church, and it had also been increasingly challenging for me to get everyone to church by myself as Trevor has been stuck working Sundays for a number of months.  But each time I flop my frazzled self into the pew and think, “That’s it.  I’m not doing this without Trevor again,” God shows me that I am exactly where I need to be.  Friends come and sit behind me to help keep the kids settled during worship.  Others have stepped up to help in children’s church so that I can stay in the service and be fed.  Our small group continues to find a way to accommodate our unwieldy gang each week for dinner and Bible study.  We are so very blessed.

Day 12: The Bible.  I have started copying out verses, just a few a night, into a little notebook.  I hope it becomes a lifelong habit.  I am always amazed at how God’s Word, no matter how familiar, always yields surprises and fresh insights.  Wasn’t God so gracious to reveal Himself to His creation in such a thorough and personal way?

Day 13: My big girls. Yes, this is the best recent picture I have of them.

These girls stay up late way too often, but that’s because they have reached the delightful stage of actually being enjoyable and easy to be around.  They are smart and funny and best friends (still!). They have, each in their own way, learned to do things that I didn’t teach them and don’t know how to do.  They amaze me every day.

Day 14: Cool weather. I think my six years in Scotland ruined me forever for hot weather.  I am thankful for every single day that I am not sweaty.

Day 15: Laughter. Life in our family has been pretty intense lately (did you know we have added one new child per calendar year for seven straight years?!), but I think we are all relearning how to relax together and just have fun.  Our kids are characters.  Every one of them has a side to them that makes us laugh (even Teddy, who ends most evenings with a lengthy imprecatory prayer about Niko: “Chico, bad! No, Chico!  Bad. Owwy!  No, Chico, no!”)

And now, on Day 16, I am very thankful that I have finished catching up my list so that I can go to bed!  Good night, friends 🙂

Thankfulness: Part 1

November is upon us already – it is hard to believe.  In this busy season of life, it seems I no sooner get used to it being a new month than it’s time to turn the calendar page again. I’m sure I actually blog just as often as I always have – it’s just that the time in between is passing quicker than it used to!

November always feels like a good month to focus on thankfulness.  Trevor showed me an article a few weeks ago on a blog he’s read for years that really got me thinking about appreciating the little things in my life.  (You can read the article here, on The Simple Dollar). So I thought I’d take up the challenge of finding one thing for each day of this month that I am thankful for. I probably won’t actually post every day, but I’ll try to catch up when I do.

I am thankful for:

1. Birthdays (and also a break from birthdays now that October is over!)  Last month I hit a milestone that feels entirely too old to be my real age.  Although I can’t say I’ve completely made my peace with my new first digit, I am so very happy with the life God has given me, and with the season I am in right now.

Happy 6th birthday to our lovely Coraline Audrey!

2. Adoption. This is by no means a “little thing” in my life.  It has changed the entire landscape of our family, and I am thankful for it every single day.  Both for the opportunity to be the mom of these four precious souls, and also for my loving heavenly Father who adopted me into His family at great personal cost.  I see my own adoption struggles reflected in my children daily: to trust, to feel secure, to rest; and I have learned so much about my Lord and myself through them.

 

3. Quiet nights after the kids are in bed. Time to reflect, process, and just breathe. And as a bonus: a bit of extra quiet time tonight thanks to the clocks going back!

4. Friendship.  Tonight my best friend Mary and I celebrated 35 years of friendship.  We met in the first week of kindergarten. The Lord has absolutely spoiled me in the friend department.  I just love the relationships He brings into my life, some that last for years, others that are only for a season, but every one precious.  (Trevor sometimes teases me when I come out of a store or the bank with a little grin on my face after chatting with an employee: “What are you smiling about? Oh wait: you were connecting with another human soul again, weren’t you?”. Yep!)

5. This baby.  She is 13 months old today, and at one of my absolute favorite stages.  She is waving and saying hi to everyone she sees (an extrovert like her mama, perhaps?), clapping her hands, nodding and shaking her head yes and no… Just suddenly bursting with personality.  She brings us so much joy.

Stay tuned for the next installment.  What are you thankful for today?

 

Fall Highlights

We are in the midst of our Summer/Fall birthday season right now and these three dear ones have had birthdays since the last time I updated:

Happy 11th birthday to Teddy, 13th to Pippa (a teenager!) and 1st to our sweet little Verity Laine!  Isn’t it nice that even the big ones still indulge me and let me take their annual teddy bear photo?  Here is Pippa at about Verity’s age, for 1. size comparison (13-year-olds are huge!), 2. likeness to Verity (twinsies!) and 3. just for nostalgia (because how on earth is my baby thirteen already?!)

Aww!  Wasn’t she sweet?

But probably what you really want to hear about is how school is going, right?

It is going so, so well!

I will admit that I spent the first week saying, “What have we done?” as I spent every evening signing dozens of forms and reading up on all the rules and regulations and getting to know each teacher’s little preferences and idiosyncrasies.  But now we have found our groove, and it’s a good groove!

As a homeschooling mom, I held my breath for the first couple weeks to see how the girls would fare academically, and they are both doing very well: at or above grade level in all major subjects. Whew!  Romilly’s teacher told me at back-to-school night that she is engaged and participating valuably in class, which is a huge part of what she wanted to get out of this year.  Bea is in student council and plans to run for treasurer, and she’s also joined an afterschool singing club.  Ro goes to an after school fitness class on the same day.  Both are learning instruments and playing in the band.  They have made friends and are finding acceptance.  I could not have asked for a better first month for them!

Lewis is also thriving!  I have to work a little harder to know how he’s doing, but here is what I do know: 1. He loves going. 2. His take home note each day has consistently informed me that he had a “Great” day every single day except for one in the first week that was only “Good”. 3. His ability to accurately copy letters has improved more in the past month than in our whole year of homeschooling.  At home, Lewis has had some behavioral challenges, so we are working through those, but overall, this is such a good fit for him.

As for the “homies” we are having some new adventures of our own this year.  Pippa, Niko and Junie have joined a homeschool choir, the Keystone Youth Choir.  The are learning much and being stretched there as well as making new friends.  (Bonus: the littles and I have a built-in playdate each week during choir with a friend from AWANA whose big brother is also in the choir.)  Also, when Delia (and soon Teddy) go to Theraplay for speech and OT each week, Pippa, Niko, Junie and Cora are still going to the Weavers’ home for what is now officially called Family Science Club.

Pippa, in 8th grade this year, is almost completely independent with her schoolwork.  I give occasional guidance in grammar and math, and we grade her tests, but otherwise, she runs her own show.  I am amazed at her self-motivation and determination this year.  She designed a weekly checklist of all the work that needs to be done, and she is a tough taskmaster!

Delia with her new communication device!

 

I am finding with three at school and Pippa working largely on her own, that my teaching load at home feels much more manageable.  I carve out time to work with the littler kids in the morning while Niko and Junie do some independent work.  Then I can help them until lunchtime.  After lunch we read together or do science.  At 3:30, when the schoolies get off the bus, our homeschool day ends, too.  Wherever we get to, there we stop. This shift in our day provides a nice change of pace for everyone.  The homies get to have some fixed free time (which never used to happen!), and I get to debrief with the schoolies and help with homework.  Life is feeling more doable than it has in a long time.

Coraline making a rainbow

 

Another unexpected side effect of having a few kids leave each day is that we have so much to talk about at dinner!  The schoolies tell us about their adventures, and we tell them about ours.  The best part is that it is so balanced, with neither side generally feeling that they’ve missed out on anything, but everyone, having had a full and fun day, happily sharing and being excited for each other (disclaimer: it is also very noisy!)

 

A New Adventure

Our summer has continued to be full and busy.  Delia celebrated her 11th birthday.  Happy birthday, beautiful!

Teddy went to his first VBS, his first (and second!) baseball games…

 

As well as his first camping trip!  This trip to the familiar haven of our friends’ parents’ home in central PA was our practice trip for a longer camping adventure later this summer.  Teddy did really well.  Our biggest fear was that he would escape from the tent and get into mischief in the early morning, but in fact, he loved the tent so much that a few times he escaped INTO it to hang out and look at books during the day!

But the biggest first of all will be happening for our family in just over three weeks, when THREE of our children will be going to public school!

It all began back in the Spring with the thought of sending Lewis.  I have enjoyed teaching him, and he has done well at home, but at this point, he can really only be doing schoolwork when I am directly working with him.  He has a good attention span and is a hard worker, and I just felt like he could benefit from more direct instruction time than I could give him.  So we began the IEP process with our local school.

Over dinner one evening, the other kids began to realize that this was a thing that was really going to be happening, and immediately, Beatrix and Romilly spoke up to say that they wanted to go to school, too!

I’ll admit, I was a bit dismissive at first. We have always said that if any of our children ever wanted to go to school, we would hear them out.  So far, whenever anyone has voiced a desire to go to school, it has been followed by, “…so I can ride the bus/have recess/have snow days,” so I wasn’t expecting this conversation to go far, but my girls surprised me.

Romilly, our highly sensitive, tender-hearted introvert, shared that she felt she would never overcome her shyness if she wasn’t pushed outside her comfort zone.  After hearing her out, I found (surprisingly) that I agreed with her.

Bea, our bubbly, tomboyish chatterbox, had completely different reasons, but excellent ones.  She feels that going to school is part of our shared cultural experience, and she wants to experience school for herself so she is better able to relate to others.  (I’ll admit I have been teasing them that Ro needs to go to school so that she can learn to talk to other humans, and Bea needs to go so she can learn to let other humans talk!)

They had gotten past me, but I was fairly certain that Trevor, the die-hard homeschooler of the family, would veto this crazy idea.  But you know what?  He heard the same thoughtful maturity in our girls that I heard, and gradually, a “we’ll see” turned into a “maybe” and blossomed into a “yes!”

Both of us have a peace with this decision that I never could have imagined I would ever have even six months ago.  The girls have never wavered in their resolve.  And Lewis loses his mind with excitement every time he sees a school bus, anticipating his big adventure this year.  We are all excited.  The ones who are staying home are excited for their year, too, though it will look very different without our three public-school adventurers in the mix at home.

And this mama, who in nearly thirteen years of parenting has never sent a child to school, is learning whole new lessons about trusting God and letting go.  Not to mention back-to-school shopping!

Summer So Far

I always think I’ll have more time for things like blogging when school is over, but it never seems to work like that.

We’ve had a couple of days at lakes in the Poconos.  Teddy was unimpressed by the water the first time, and mostly hung out with me in my “nest of warmth and dryness”, but the second time he was much more adventurous!

We’ve also had a few days at my dad’s house, a wonderful haven with a tire swing and a trampoline and tractor rides and chickens, and most of all a delicious meal I don’t have to cook!

The kids’ Sunday school class treated our whole family to a field trip to a life-size replica of the tabernacle of the Old Testament out in Lancaster.  Niko volunteered to be a priest in the demonstration.  Earlier in the tour, Lewis had played the part of Joseph with Bea and Teddy as his jealous older brothers.  Oh, how I wish I gad acted quickly enough to get a video of that!

We had a lovely visit with my grandparents, who are both in their nineties and are blessed to still be together in their assisted living home after 72 years of marriage!  Grandmom is on hospice care, and looking forward to meeting her Lord, but we were very thankful for the time we still have with her.  She is one of two Alices in whose honor we chose Romilly’s middle name, so it was extra special for Ro to get to see her.

Over the holiday weekend, we were thankful to have Verity and Teddy dedicated in church. Verity wore the same dress that each of our babies has worn (and tried to eat the pastor’s mic!  Cheeky!)

 

Fourth of July saw us at Teddy’s first big parade.  He jumped right in and started dancing with a Bolivian dance troupe, which, thankfully, they were totally cool about 🙂

 

And finally, we celebrated Bea’s 10th birthday with a day out to the Garden State Discovery Museum, to which we now have a membership.  (Kudos to them for, unlike every other attraction we looked into, not limiting number of children on a family membership!)  The kids loved it, even the ones who were slightly too big to love it 😉

 

The slower pace of summer has been just what we’ve all needed to adjust to life as a family of thirteen.  Teddy is doing so, so well, and we are all finding our new groove.

First Impressions

Teddy and my weary world-travelers are home – praise the Lord!

Today is day five and I feel I am only just starting to get a sense of what things might be hard about our new normal and what things are going to be awesome.  And it will likely all change again by this time next week.

The first few nights, Teddy was jetlagged, which meant he was wide awake in the middle of the night.  This was when we learned (well, we sort of already knew) that Teddy is a great collector and relocator of things.  He helped himself to a few of the sweets Trevor had brought back from China to share, but not as many of them as we initially thought – he hid a second box in Niko’s bed.  The next morning, he had stashed a few pieces of (fairly important, undealt-with) mail in the puzzle cupboard in his room, my Borax and Trevor’s shaving cream in the fridge, and all the pens and pencils we keep in the kitchen in the big crayon basket in the boys’ room.  We can chuckle about it now, because as he’s slept later each morning he’s had less time to devote his item relocation program, but it was pretty unsettling.

He is mostly very happy and sweet, game for whatever the kids are busy with.  He does have a very strong stubborn streak, which I’m sure we will see more of as time goes on, but for now, he is mostly happy to be with us and do what we’re doing.

He immediately adored Coraline, having apparently identified her as a smaller, squishier version of Bea. He is fascinated with Delia. They both love to give each other hugs, but usually only at times when the other doesn’t want one. It will be an interesting dynamic to watch! Lewis is enjoying him tremendously and suddenly seems like the resident big kid in charge, excitedly introducing Teddy to all the fun things about being a Young (“Teddy! Tuppon (Come on)!” All of the kids are just really excited he’s finally here.

Teddy is super affectionate.  He was uncertain about me when he first got home on Saturday, but I got my first bear hug on Sunday morning just towards the end of our church service.  I then got my second through twelfth bear hug, along with hugs and kisses for Niko, Bea, and Pippa.  At first, we could hear “aww”s from the pews around us, then “aww”s gave way to giggles as he kept relentlessly smothering us with hugs and kisses.  It was pretty sweet, but it got less entertaining when I finally had to try to peel him off his siblings, and that was no easy feat!

All things considered, we’ve had a good first week.  Going from 8 kids (I got a little bit comfy there!) to 11 was an adjustment for me.  I think I had prepared myself for Teddy being hard, but forgot what an adjustment it would be for everyone else.  As always, God’s grace has been huge, I just need to learn to lean into it more.  We are so thankful for the incredible gift He has given us in our new son.  Welcome home, Thaddeus Merit.  You’re officially a Young now!

 

 

 

 

Homeward Bound!

As I type this, Trevor and the kids are having one final lunch in Guangzhou and then beginning their journey to Hong Kong and home.  And that means that I am officially *not* going to China!

Yesterday (Wednesday) morning for them was Tuesday evening for us, and we were all praying fervently for the consulate appointment that caused us so much uncertainty just before Trevor traveled.

He was in a group of a dozen American adoptive families, all waiting, as he was, to finalize their child’s US visa.

The first thing they announced to the group was: we will need just one parent to come forward for the interview, and that parent must be a US citizen with their US passport.  (I am so thankful I didn’t hear the tale until everything was already over!)

Trevor was the very last to be called, and, as promised, the first question was, “US passport, please?”

Trevor showed his British passport and US permanent resident card, and produced the email from that very office stating that he would be able to complete the adoption without me.

The man conducting the interview went to fetch his supervisor and discuss.  I can only imagine how long those minutes must have felt.  Finally, he agreed that the permanent resident card was sufficient, and continued with the interview.

After asking Trevor a few questions, the man spoke to Teddy.  China’s policy (which I knew about but had forgotten since it never applied to us before) is that any child age ten or older must give consent to being adopted.

Well, our boy was apparently not in the mood for an interview.  Though he is fairly verbal and certainly understood what was being asked of him, he refused to answer.  “Well,” the man suggested in Chinese, “Could you point to your daddy?”  Nope.  Teddy could not.

The supervisor was fetched again.  When it was clear that Teddy was to be an immovable force, the man said to Trevor, “I can tell from your interactions with him that he is clearly part of your family.”

And with that, the interview was over.  Praise be to God!

They fly home on Saturday.  God speed, my sweet loves!

 

A Mother’s Day

I was just saying to Trevor a couple of nights ago during our twice a day brief Facebook chat that things have been going so very well here at home.  Normally, by the end of his work week, I find myself stretched very thin and so ready for a break, but while he’s been away, I have felt carried.  I told Trevor that I have felt like Peter this past week, keeping my eyes dependently fixed on Jesus and doing what I would not have thought possible: not just surviving this time apart, but living life with joy and peace.  But I also admitted to him that I’ve had a few moments when I have started to let the waves frighten me a little,  when I’ve counted the long days and nights ahead (including the ones *after* they get home!) and felt panic begin to set in.

Well, today I took my eyes off Jesus and took a good hard look at the waves around me, and I started sinking fast.

Mother’s Day is never my favorite, I have to admit.  I am thankful for my kids every single day, don’t get me wrong, but Mother’s Day is just another day, with all the same messes, all the same parenting, all the same disputes over who is sitting where and who gets to put their feet in Mommy’s lap while we read together.  I’m used to that, and I’d like to think I’m pretty good at making the most of the day anyway, enjoying the seeds the kids have planted for me in Sunday school, and maybe getting to spend some time with my own mom.

Today was Day 11 of 16 days of caring for eight kids without Trevor.  I arrived at church weary but peaceful, happy to get to sit for an hour and nurse the baby without any interruptions.  My best friend Mary and her daughter Maura had had a slumber party at our house the night before, and were with us for church.  It was shaping up to be a pretty good day.

Not five minutes after the kids went to their Sunday school class, Delia’s teacher came to get me.  Delia had had an accident on the floor.  While we were cleaning that up, she threw up.  I took her out of her class and thought the two of us could just sit in the (unused) nursery while I fed the baby.  Then she threw up again all over the nice new glider chair.  While I was taking the cushions off and scouring the chair and all its parts as well as I could with wipies, the custodian came in and said, “Hmm, that’s going to stain.”

At this point, I’m looking at the waves, and they’re huge, and I’m freaking out.  There goes our nice dinner (McDonald’s was the plan, but still!) with my mom and grandmom today.  There goes my whole week, come to think of it.  They’re all going to drop like flies now.  I’ll probably get it, too.  Hey, we’ll probably still have it when Teddy gets home on Saturday.  Awesome.  A stomach bug is exactly what we need right now.  (So much sarcasm in my darkest moments!)

I more or less held it together until I got home and called my mom to tell her we couldn’t come to dinner, and in the warmth and safety of her response, I fell apart.

But God was so gracious and patient with me on this day that was not going how I had hoped.

First my dad called and came over to measure our new table for some custom-made benches (to fit a few more little bottoms than the chairs can comfortably accommodate.)

Then my mom and sister came over in the afternoon before going to dinner and brought me coffee and popsicles for the kids.

While they were there, Pippa got an idea to surprise me and reorganize the dresser in the girls’ room according to the Konmarie folding method.  She mobilized a couple of sisters to help her and an hour later showed me this: (I wish I had a before picture, but believe me when I tell you it was a hot mess!)

In the very bottom of one of the dresser drawers, they found this:

I laughed when Pippa brought it down to me.  This card is probably some fifteen or twenty years old and intended for my mother-in-law (sorry, Elaine!)  I have no idea why we had it much less why it was in the girls’ dresser, but it felt as if Trevor had planned this elaborate scheme from China just to brighten my day.  And it did.

The rest of the afternoon was passed with me and most of the kids making picture-and-word labels for all the new toy storage bins in the boys’ room.  (Delia did stay curled up on the sofa feeling lousy for the rest of the day, but thankfully she didn’t throw up again, nor has anyone else so far!)

It was a lovely day.  A truly lovely day.  I don’t have a photo of me and all my beautiful children in our Sunday best to show for it this year (or one of me with MY mom and sister this year, for that matter), but I am surely the most abundantly blessed mother there is.

How It’s Going So Far

I’m still having technical difficulties getting photos to load here, but I think I’ve pinned down that it is just because the files are too big.  This is a heavily cropped one that worked just fine, so we should be able to get to the bottom of it now.

Three Peas in a Pod

Trevor and I get about a half an hour of chat time each morning and evening (his morning to my evening, and mine to his -still so weird!) so I get little tidbits of their adventures each day.

On the first night, Niko took one for the team by taking a bath with Teddy to show him how fun and not-scary bathtime is.  Apparently Teddy was fascinated by Niko’s jutting, bony shoulders and elbows (I tease him that he sharpens them when I’m not looking!) and kept reaching out to touch them.  They do have rather opposite body types!

Teddy is quite the entertainer.  He did a rousing bit of interpretive dance in the park, patted a man’s tummy in an elevator (thankful he was a jolly sort of man and patted Teddy’s right back) and collected some leaflets in a goverment office and began handing them out.

It sounds like they are having more good moments than hard, but there has been some hard as well.  Please pray for endurance for Trevor and the kids, and that they would continue to be able to laugh rather than cry in those moments when you don’t quite know which one to do!

As for us, our days have been full and peaceful, which is such a gift from God.

The Big Day

Today was a red letter day: Thaddeus Merit Young is officially ours!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes a picture is worth so many words that you don’t even know where to begin.  This morning, I woke up to this picture, and my heart was full.

If he looks a little uncertain in the picture above, he didn’t stay that way for long.  Back at the hotel Teddy had a blast brushing the kids’ hair and posing for silly photos.  Unfortunately, I have tried and tried to share some of them here, but the files seem to be too big.  I will do my best to fix this technical difficulty soon!

Trevor says that Teddy had a good first day.  Some stubborn moments, but he can usually be persuaded to comply with a smile and a bit if silliness to diffuse the situation.  He slept well (it is already tomorrow in China!) which is a huge blessing in itself.  The kids are absolutely loving him, as you will see if I can ever get my blog to talk to Trevor’s pictures.

Meanwhile, on the homefront, we have had smooth, easy days so far.  This is as much an answer to prayer as Teddy’s good first day.  Thank you for your continued prayers – it is still 13 more sleeps till they come home (though only 12 more bedtimes, which is a bigger deal from where I sit!)