Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Other Side of the Coin

Since I told yesterday about my fabulous time away with my big boys, I thought I should share about the rest of the story. 
John has been sick for more than a week now.  I hated leaving him.  As much as he had been attached to Ken in the beginning, he's a momma's boy now.  I really wasn't looking forward to leaving him.  I also knew that Juli's relationship with Ken has never really gotten off the ground and that she would have a difficult time with me leaving.  What I didn't plan for was Diana's reaction.  When I told them about it she seemed ok.  Then Saturday morning, she was playing on the floor and just looked up at me and said, "Mami no va."  (Mommy don't go.)  I explained to her that I needed to go and that she would sleep that night and have the whole day tomorrow with Daddy.  When she went to bed that night, I would come and kiss her goodnight after she was sleeping.  She was having a difficult time dealing with it but when she saw Cody packing clothes to go, it was all over.
I needed the time away but I hated to do it.  These kids have been through so much before we got them.  And when you look at it, they've been through an awful lot since we've gotten them.  They had to leave their homes, their schools, everyone and everything they knew to go to another city and have this 'new' family thrust upon them.  When they finally started getting used to the new space, we had to up and go to a new place.  That place was no fun; we couldn't really go and do much.  It was a whirlwind of doctors appointments, photos, applications, meetings here and there, shots and sooooo much waiting.  There was no time to cope with or heal the emotional upheaval caused by this move before we had to hop on a plane for five hours to go home.  The home that's they've never seen before, yet, they are expected to view it as home.  A five hour plane ride is difficult enough for little kids but put on top of that what they have to deal with emotionally for this move.  We've been home for 3 months and 2 days.  Ken has had to leave for work several times, but mom hasn't left them.  I did a quick trip to the store a couple of times but really, I've never left them. 
How are they supposed to believe me when I tell them it will be ok?
But Ken is fabulous.  He is so very patient with them and he is really hands on.  He is such a great dad.  They went to the basement and played.  He made pepperoni rolls for dinner.  He sat with John when he was upset and crying for Mami.  He did laundry.  He changed diapers.  He did math.  He held John when he accidentally fell asleep on him.  The only thing he didn't do was go to church.  John ended up being entirely too sick for that.  He did such a good job that when I went to the girls room to get them the next morning, they really weren't all that excited to see me. 
I guess that's good.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Time Away

This parenting thing is hard work.  It gets even harder when you try to blend a family like we have.  It gets me thinking about the Brady Bunch. 
Anyway, when I only had three kiddos, I poured myself into them and there I found my joy, my purpose.  I was good.  I know a lot of people who get overwhelmed being a mom and need time away to get refreshed.  That had never been me.  I'm not trying to come across as superior or better, it's just that's the way I am.  Have you ever heard the saying, "Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life."  Yeah, that's how I was being a mom.  I rarely needed refreshed because what I was doing was what refreshed me.  I loved my job.
I still love my job.  And I love my kids.  But sometimes, it's overwhelming.
Really.  Really.  Overwhelming.
Ken has been going away for work 3-4 days a week for the past several weeks and I find that I'm pretty well toasted by the time the weekend rolls around.  And then we found out that Rylan drew the Sunday afternoon slot for his gymnastics meet for Valentine's Day weekend.  Oh, that makes things difficult.  Ever since Rylan went competitive, we've been faced with the issue of dealing with Sunday meets.  It's hard.  We really, really want to convey that God comes first, that worshipping is more important than a gym meet.  On the other hand, he's really good.  This isn't something that he dabbles in.  This could be his 'thing,' if you know what I mean.  So a long time ago, we decided that it was ok for him to go to Sunday meets, and that one parent would take him but that the rest of the family would go to church. 
However, as it turns out, he had drawn the afternoon slot.  The meet was in VA Beach and we've done this before.  In the past, we drove down on Saturday, spent the night, got up and visited with a local congregation, grabbed lunch, gone to the meet, and drove home that same day.  We thought about doing that again.  However, as Ken and I talked about it, we both knew that the new kiddos weren't ready for this kind of trip.  The decision was made that one parent would take Rylan and the other would stay with the other five.
I hate to admit it.  I knew in my head, the easiest, most logical choice was for me to stay home.  I was used to handling all the kids alone.  It would be difficult for Ken to stay with them since he wasn't used to doing it solo.  Also, the girls seem to relate better to me.  The have come to realize that I'm the parent, whereas they are still testing Ken's authority.  In my heart, I was heartbroken.  I would like to say that I was only heartbroken that I wasn't going to see Rylan compete.  That was part of it.  The other part was that I was screaming on the inside.  I didn't see how I was going to do the weekend without Ken sandwiched between two weeks of him being away for work.  I needed a break. 
The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to be the one to go.  Rylan has always been the one that needed a little more mommy time and he's been surviving on the bare minimum since we got home.  I wanted a break and I wanted time with him, and not just him.  I wanted to shower my affections and my attentions on Rylan and Connor.  I have had to ask so much more of my two big boys than I ever imagined that I would have to ask of them.  I have had to ask so much more of them than I ever wanted to ask.  The have grown up so much in the past 4 1/2 months, they've had to.  And they've had to do with much less help from mommy, much less attention from me.  That's the part I hate.  I knew I was going to be putting a lot of attention and time into the new kids.  I knew that my 'old' kids would take a hit on their attention and time, but I didn't realize just how much.  And I had no idea that I would need them so much.  I had no idea that I would have to call on them for help as often as I've needed to.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how much all three of us needed this.
I pleaded my case with Ken.  As it turns out, my husband it amazing.  He never batted an eye.  He said, "OK.  I'll stay with the kids."  And that was it, it was decided. 
It ended up that Cody joined us, too.  It was really, really great.  I was able to have whole conversations with them.  They didn't have to wait for my attention.  We talked almost the whole way down.  Even when they were playing video games, they would stop and talk to me.  Rylan told me about the Trojan pig he was making in Minecraft.  Cody was full of all of his questions, the kind he's always had but I haven't had time to answer lately.  They aren't the usual kid questions and his mind comes up with all kinds of things.  Connor picked out the CD's and we all sang along. 
When we got to the hotel, we went to the pool.  It was very cold and we didn't stay long.  We went back to the room and ordered pizza and watched the Olympics until bedtime.  We weren't able to find a church service that would allow us to get to the gym in time.  I really agonized over that as my boys lay there sleeping.  Truth be told, if I had known that we weren't going to church, I would've left Connor and Cody at home to go to church with Ken.  I knew then that we wouldn't be going and that we'd have a little time to sleep in.  The next morning, Rylan woke about 30 minutes before my alarm was set to go off.  He snuggled in next to me.  He's not too big to cuddle, you know.  When I told him that it was time for me to go shower, he held on.  This was a moment that I will remember.  I don't know how many more we'll have now that our family is bigger and he's getting older.  I will try to make them happen as much as I can.
We got ready, went to breakfast, checked out of the hotel, stopped at the 7-11 for a power bar and got to the gym early.  We sat in the van and talked before going in.  Even then, we were a little early and the boys' section was surprisingly quiet.  We found seats and waited for Rylan's coach to appear.  I was really hesitant to talk to Rylan about his gymnastics.  I try hard to be a mom and let the coach do the coaching.  But he hasn't been doing as well lately with his gymnastics.  I don't mind when he scores low or places low, but I could tell that he has not had his head in the game.  Against my better judgement, I went around to the other end of the seats to talk to him.  I told him how much I believed in him.  I told him that I knew he is gifted in this sport.  I told him a lot of things.  I don't know if he listened to me or if it was the embarrassing mistake that he made at the last meet, but we saw a good bit of the old Rylan yesterday.  He was focused.  He wanted to win.  He made a few mistakes, a step here, a hop there, an extra circle on the mushroom, but there was no denying that the Rylan that made me fall in love with the sport all over again was back.  And the whole time that I was watching him, Connor was by my side.  He signed up to be the videographer so I could take pictures.  He and I shared some really good conversation.  He's turning into quite the amazing young man.  I really enjoy being with him and talking to him.
For the first time ever, Rylan placed in both Pommel and Vault.  For the first time ever, he placed in all six events.  He tied for third in the All Around. We cheered him on through the awards ceremony.  We beat it out of the gym and off to the van.  We had exactly an hour to make it to the church in Williamsburg.  It takes an hour to get there.  We got there and as I sat and listened to the lesson, two boys on one side and one on the other, I was struck by just how blessed I am, how much this weekend meant to me (and hopefully to them), and how I felt like it was just what we needed. 
After church, we ate at Friendly's and I didn't even make Rylan eat all his dinner before he moved on to ice cream.  I was sufficiently sugared up having had two sodas and a whole lot of ice cream, that I made the drive home easily despite the hour and long day.  I don't know if it was the sugar or the company, but I felt like I was flying.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Thankful for a Husband Who...

  • Works really, really hard to provide for our family so that I can stay home with the kiddos.  It's not exactly easy living as a family of 8 on a single income but Ken works hard.  When he changed jobs a year and a half ago, I was treated to a night out with him at the company's Christmas party.  I was almost brought to tears as one after another person that I met told me how happy they were to have Ken on the 'team,' that they'd never met anyone with such a strong work ethic or upstanding moral character, how good he is at what he does, etc.  I mean, I've always liked him but it's really good to hear that what he's doing is appreciated. 
  • Works really, really hard to do what needs to be done at home.  I know he's tired but he rarely takes a load off.  If something needs done, he does it, whether it's laundry, sweeping, reminding our ever distractable child to find his chore chart, helping check math problems, changing a diaper, emailing some guy on craigslist because one of our children has found something they want to purchase with their birthday money, printing up worksheets for school, running to the grocery store, taking one child to guitar lessons or picking another up from the gym, booking a hotel for the upcoming meet, cleaning the gutters, super gluing a toy, fixing the stupid computer that won't do what I want, and the list goes on and on and on.
  • Works really, really hard to spend time with each of the kids and develop/maintain a relationship.
  • Will sit patiently on the side of the bed waiting for a restless two year old to fall asleep because I can't stand to hear him cry but am so emotionally spent that I can't do it myself.
  • Will stay home from work to do my duties when I find myself with a migraine that keeps me in bed all day, usually meaning that he has to stay up late after he gets the kids to bed to do what he would have done had he gone into work.
  • Follows God, wherever He leads and leads our family along the way.
  • Was willing to trade sides of the bed with me to sleep next to the crib so that he could help John back to sleep and I could get a little more rest.
  • Will go downstairs to supervise the kids running off some steam because he knows it's needed and that really isn't my favorite thing to do.
  • Is an enthusiastic supporter of the kids in all their activities, be it swimming, guitar, gymnastics, church activities, school work.
  • Has given me a back rub nearly every night of our 13 1/2 years of marriage, save for two illnesses and when he was deployed.  If that isn't love in action, I don't know what is.
  • Puts up his mother-in-law in his house.
  • Tolerates my mood swings and calmly allows me to vent.  He is also smart enough to wait till I ask if I'm overreacting to tell me, "Maybe a little" with a smile on his face.
  • Tries to do all the little things for me that I have been meaning to do for myself and just haven't had the time, like putting my easy pass up so I don't have to hold it every time I want to drive on the HOV lanes, putting seat covers on my van seats, putting a new battery in my phone, and even repacking the church bag from when I puked the stuff out and converted into a "taking all six kids to the doctor's office" bag.
  • Is right now, even as I write this (11:15pm), tending to a sick little toddler.  A boy who was born in another country to complete strangers but is very much his own son and will know the love of a father because my husband cared for someone he'd never even met.

Thank you so much, my love, for all that you do for me and our family.
Thank you, God, for so richly blessing me with a man that is so much better than what I deserve.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Hair Weekend

Most people actually say "Hair Day."
But it takes me all weekend to get the girls' hair done.
Well, not ALL weekend but pretty close.  On Friday afternoon I start by taking all the beads out followed by taking all the braids out.  I let the girls pick a movie to watch when it's their turn so they will sit still.  They are both actually pretty good about it.  This is the only time I let them watch TV in Spanish but it's worth it.  Anything that helps. Of course, during the time that I have to take the beads and braids out, we have to stop to take Rylan to gymnastics... then we have to stop again to go pick him up.  I'm not sure how long this takes... I can go much faster with the simple hairstyles that I put on Juli than with the many, many braids that I put on Diana.
Once the hair is all free I take the girls up to soak in the tub.  While we are there I wash and condition their hair.  The conditioner is the kind where you leave it on for 15 minutes under a shower cap to get nice and toasty and really deep condition.  I let them play in the tub while we wait and then stand up to rinse the conditioner out and shower.  Once the shower is over, I put leave in moisturizer on, part the hair into sections that I'm going to use the next day and put each section into one fat braid to keep it from getting tangled overnight.  This part takes about 2 hours.
Tomorrow, starting right after breakfast, I will start braiding.  I will take a break to shower at some point and I will have lunch.  Last time I did this, it took about 6 1/2 hours to do Diana's braids.  At that point I only had time to do the cute little crisscross ponytails in Juli's hair... which I absolutely love but they don't last very long.  Juli has told me that she really wants the beads in her hair this time so I will do her first and do braids... although, I probably will make the parts a little farther apart and try to go faster.  She's really good about sitting still but she's four.  We'll see how it goes.  Diana wants the same braids as last time so hopefully with all the practice, I'll get faster.
I both love and hate hair weekend.  I love doing the girls' hair.  It's just another form of art and I'm looking forward to getting much better and being able to do more.  I love the time I get to spend with them on my lap and the time sit in the bathroom playing and talking.  I love washing their hair for them.  I know how much I enjoy going to the salon and getting my hair washed by someone else and I think they really enjoy it, too.  I love that I get to do this for them.  However, I really, really wish I could go faster, both for their sakes and for the boys.  I feel like I neglect them to get it done.
Anyway, wish me luck!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Catching up

Wow, it's been almost two months since my last post.  I've had many a person tell me how they miss them.  I could get a big head here.  Although, I don't really feel that my writing was anything special or eloquent, I do understand how friends and family can get attached to this kind of story and want to hear the next 'chapter.'  I have a friend who moved her family to Austria for a couple of years and vowed to write something on her blog each day.  For two years, I read her blog every day and it felt like she had never left.  Honestly, I knew more about what was going on with her family than I had at any point since we'd left college and I felt like I was right there with her.  After her two years were up, they stayed on for another year but she hasn't been writing *every* day.  I miss it when she doesn't write.  (hint, hint)
Anyway, I also feel like there were so many people who helped us get our children home.  I feel like they are entitled to know how we are doing and what's going on.  I don't want to be one of those authors who ends the book badly... or in an entirely bad place to end a book just so you have to suffer through waiting for the next book in the series.
Another reason I'm going to try and recommit to writing more frequently, although I can't promise it will be daily like when we were in Colombia, is that it has a cathartic effect for me.  I can get on here and write all the horrid stuff that happened with no filters and reckless abandon and realize that's not how I actually think about my family and certainly not what I want the world to think I think about my family... so I delete.  And as I delete, something inside of me lets go.  The unimportant stuff disappears and I can really see what matters, what happened that day that makes a difference.  It's not that I'm trying to show a faux family to the world... it's that the first draft before the delete is the venting and the second, subsequent writing of the day is the hindsight, the wisdom, if you will, of what the day really was about.
The final reason I want to write is that I need to write.  It's entirely selfish.  It's not just that I need to write either.  It's that I need you all to read it.  I need you when the times are tough.  I need to be open and honest about what goes on here.  Somehow it's easier to say to the computer than it is to say it to your face when you ask how things are going as we stand and make small talk in the church foyer or pass each other in the parking lot of the gym.  I have always believed in the power of prayer but never have I seen evidence so clearly in my own life as through this adoption process.  I have seen God answer questions clearly and without confusion when we needed to know what to do next.  I have seen Him provide for us in ways that we never imagined when we trusted Him to pave the way.  I have felt His peace at times when I needed it more than I could ever explain. 
We knew it was going to be really touch in Colombia.  We were taking home (to a hotel) three kids that we had never met before.  These kids had been through a lot of stuff and were going to need loving, caring arms to hold them.  These kids needed to grieve.  And at the same time, we wanted to make sure that the three big kids were having their needs met and didn't feel like they were getting thrown out with the trash.  We were prepared.  We had read a lot.  We had a plan but we are laid back enough to realize when the plan needed changed.  We were ready.  We were ready physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. 
It was unbelievably difficult.  Although we had expected it, the expectation didn't make it any easier.  It was in Colombia where I finally figured out what Paul meant when he said, "Pray without ceasing."  It was really, really hard.  It was exhausting.  The big boys stayed up late and the little ones got up early, all the while, John didn't really sleep through the night.  The daily (sometimes twice or three times) battles with Diana were physically draining.  The nonstop needs of three little broken souls along with the emotional needs of three big boys were enough to dry up one's emotional spring.  But through it all, I was at peace.  I was calm the whole time... and those who know me well, know that calm is not me... it's not part of who I am.  I had the strength that I needed when I needed it.  There is no doubt in my mind that we were carried on so well because we were lifted up in your prayers.  I know that a lot of you read the blog daily and prayed for whatever was going on with us.  I know that God answers prayers and that He listened and acted when he heard your petitions on our behalf.  For your prayers, your time and your energy, I will forever be grateful.  You called for the strength and the peace and the patience and the calm for us when we were too tired to utter the words for ourselves.
But then we came home.
And that was good, but somehow, I had convinced myself that the worst, hardest part was over.  And I became a little vain and forgot just how it was that I made it though that part.  I patted myself on the back for a job well done and acted as if we had done it alone and it wasn't God that had carried us through.  It was almost as if I had said, "It's ok, God, we'll take it from here.  We're home safe and sound now so You can go on about Your business.  I've got this." 
Yeah.  Well.  Guess what.  In some ways it got easier.  In others, it just got a whole lot harder.  I've been really struggling and I realized that I haven't been praying without ceasing.  I haven't been sharing my struggles.  I haven't been relying on Him, I've been relying on me.  Truth be told... I shouldn't rely on me.  Because I can't do this.  It's too hard.  It's too much.  I'm not strong enough.  But then again, God never really intended for me to do this.

He intended for us to do it, together. 
So friends, pray on, if you will.  If you can forgive me for how I left the end of the book hanging.  I will write more about how the kids are doing in my next post.
I promise.