Friday, March 28, 2008

Ella ha ido a casa

The Little Girl has returned to her mother. The system worked: she was removed from a potentially unsafe situation, placed in a loving home while things were being investigated, then returned post-haste.

We are sad that she's gone (sad for us) but happy (for her) as well.

I'm not sure that we will be short-term fostering again anytime soon, but I don't regret saying yes one little bit. I feel in my heart that the Lord is pleased with our willingness to be His hands.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Falling in love

A perfectly mundane, perfectly miraculous moment:

Oliver-- soft baby flesh naked but for a diaper--in my arms as I approached the top of the stairs. I'd just been at work on his horrendously chopped, beautiful hair, trying to begin the process of putting to rights what will someday be a head full of brown locks. The fly-away strands tickled my nose as he bobbed from side to side in my arms, trying to get a better view of the massive dog that is somehow always underfoot these days. I glanced down to get a glimpse of his delight at seeing the dog. Just then, he flicked his eyes up at me. And there we were, grinning at each other. A long second and then ... a huge grin spread across his face, and he began his manic happy baby dance. Arms flailing, feet kicking, knees bump-bumping my sides. His hands grabbed around my neck and he burrowed his face into my collarbone, still wiggling ecstatically.

My heart almost burst. It was the almost-painful moment I can clearly remember with each of my bio kids--the absolute second that I felt like this baby was mine, and that to be without him or her in my life would be like deciding to try to live without air.

I am head over heels in love.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


School? What school?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I am probably certifiably crazy. Either that, or I really am finally listening to the small, still voice that tells me I can do a lot more in the name of Christ.

It looks about the same to the outside world.

Anyway, I woke up this morning with absolutely no intention of doing anything outside of the status quo. You know--a social worker visit, some school work, a little Baby Signing with Oliver, watching a movie with my kiddos. My husband is out of town this week, so we're on a relaxed version of the normal routine, which is a relaxed version of a routine to start with.

Then the phone rang, and there was nothing I could do but say yes. Say yes to what? To a little three year old girl who had just witnessed an INS raid that left all the adults in her world in handcuffs and on their way to the US/Mexico border. She arrived in the CPS office at 9 a.m. this morning, speaking not a word of English. She's probably a short-term foster--not the foster-adopt we signed on for. Just a little one in need--dire need--for a few days or weeks. Could we help?

Could we help? I have an empty bed sitting in Jo's room, know enough Spanish to get by, and have cupboards full of food. Can I do something to make this terrible time a little better for a child?

As if I could say no.

Today in our Sonlight read-aloud, I choked up. This happens fairly often, but the topic today hit my heart like a hammer. A little girl in the Great Depression is told by a young hobo that her house bears a mark labeling it drifter-friendly. Go here, the mark says, if you want some food or need a little help. The girl finds the mark--written in chalk--on the side of her house. She points it out to her father and tells him what it means.

Keep in mind that this was during desperate economic times. And that these were transients coming to the door, passing through with no ties. Could be good guys, could be bad. The father in this story could have gone around and gotten his garden house and sprayed the chalk off of his house. He could have told his wife to quit giving sandwiches to every beggar that came to the back door. He could have put up a no trespassing sign.

But this man got a bucket of white paint, and he made sure that the mark on his house was permanent.

That brought tears to my eyes. This man opened his eyes to the needs around him, and he said yes. Use me, Lord. Use the gifts you've given me, use the resources you've put at my disposal. Yes.

I got the phone call about the little girl about four hours after reading that passage. It was still fresh in my mind. The minute I heard the situation, I pictured a wiry, Italian father scraping by as best he could hefting a bucket of paint and heading for the side of his modest house in a not-so-great neighborhood. If he could say yes to a dirty, ragged drifter at his back door, how can I say no to a skinny, brown-skinned little one sitting alone in a CPS office?

So tonight, five children are sleeping under this roof. Three have known nothing but love and comfort from the moment of their birth, and even before. One was severely neglected and is learning what it is to be smiled at just because. And another is an absolute unknown.

She needed a place to be safe, and we can at the very least give her that. I am thanking God tonight for the riches of macaroni and cheese and beds and pillows and a glut of teddy bears that can make wide-eyed little ones smile. Our Father has given us so much.

I may be crazy, but I don't think so. I think what I really am is blessed.

Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me. Mark 9:37

Just another day

Life here has taken on a fairly consistent rhythm that it seems we can all dance to. Granted, the steps are nowhere near as smooth as they were prior to adding Oliver to the mix, but the overall effect is definitely more fun when you're trying not to step on a 15 month-old's chubby baby fingers.

Mornings--never my strongest suit when it comes to staying on task--revolve around trying to get everyone up and running. Dh is out the door before we're all awake most days. Oliver wants breakfast about two seconds after he rolls out of his crib, so that pretty much puts the squash on any kind of full-court breakfast press. The days of omelets and from-scratch pancakes are hereby suspended on weekdays until further notice. I've gotten a bit more on the ball since I began to feel more like myself physically and am now remembering to double and triple batches of baked goods and such to stick in the freezer for easy morning meals. This is a very good thing, Jo tells me, because if she has to eat anymore organic instant oatmeal

she will turn into a rolled oat. And probably not an organic one, much to my dismay.

After breakfast, we switch gears and turn our attention to getting the house running. Jo and Atticus work together to empty the dishwasher while Logan clears the table and then feeds the massive wondermutt that is our dog. Oliver clings to my hip like a monkey while I start the morning's laundry and sweep the downstairs to make it fit for his little pink hands and knees. That's where my handy-dandy ergo baby carrier comes in, uh ...

Oliver is a happy hip rider during this time, which is a very good thing, since I'm pretty certain that with all the commotion that ensues at this hour, he'd be stepped on by a well-meaning but clueless dog or brother or two.

During those pesky
hygiene chores (wash up, get dressed, brush teeth, brush hair, make beds, etc.), Oliver entertains himself quite nicely either in his crib or in the playpen that he uses to nap in. This is an entirely new sensation for me--a baby that is content with me out of sight for a full ten minutes? Whoa! None of my bio kids could stand to take their eyes or their hands off of me until they were roughly two years old, and even then, it was hit or miss. By contrast, Oliver seems relieved by the down-time he gets when he plays alone. When I go in to pick him up after I'm fully dressed and sweet-smelling, he greets me with a big, mostly toothless grin and usually offers up whatever toy he has in his hands as a hello. Of course, I usually have to wait in line to get near him, because the bigger kids are faster than I am at throwing on clothes and grooming, and they use their free time to cluster around the baby and giggle and goo at him.

Then it's time for school. This has been a bit of a challenge to coordinate, but I think we're getting the hang of it. Oliver is sometimes thrilled to be given free reign of the downstairs toys while we work at the kitchen table. Other times, he wants a playmate, and we alternate the older children with him while I work with the other two kids. And occasionally, he wants to sit in his booster chair and feel like part of the action by eating crayons and slamming them on paper from time to time.

Our school schedule has been dramatically reduced these past few weeks. I am admittedly bare
bones-ing it while we acclimate to having a baby around. So far, I think I'm still covering all the bases. I do feel a bit like I'm selling the older kids short, but they are not complaining. I've fallen down on the job of gathering additional resources, and I know that I am going to have to carve time out of my day for that. I just don't know when yet.

Lunch is next on the agenda. Jo helps out with that a lot, if she's done with
her work. Logan usually plays with Oliver while we're preparing food, and Atticus sets the table. I'm eyeing a Costco-sized batch of paper plates to cut down on this job and the clean-up duties, though. I know it's terrible for the environment. I know it. But ... how many times a day can I run my dishwasher??? And: is that any better for the planet, I ask you?

Oliver gets a bottle just after lunch. I rock him and read a
Sonlight read-aloud to the older kids while they color. This is a really nice, quiet time. I find myself looking forward to it each day. A baby in my arms, a book in hand, and children splayed on the rug around me ... it's almost painfully perfect. I feel so full and happy in that hour or so of time that I find myself reading just one more chapter, then another. It's an absolute blessing balm to my day.

Nap/rest time is still immediately following lunch and reading. Oliver naps until about 2:30 p.m. The big kids read until about that same time, and I sneak in some writing time. Again, a blessing in my day that I am so grateful to have.

After nap, Oliver needs a snack, and the older kids need some wide-open play time. They have been retreating to their rooms, or to the game room where they have set up a massive Lego structure based on The Great Wheel. They don't have enough curved pieces to build a full wheel, though, so I have a feeling that the Empire State Building might be on its way soon.

We come back together around four or so. On sunny days, we've taken walks.
Atticus' baseball practice is two nights a week, and AWANA is one other evening, so occasionally we need an early dinner. The kids--all four of them--play and listen to a book on CD while I cook. Sometimes Jo joins me in the kitchen, but often she's enjoying the role of Little Mommy so much that she can't be pulled away.

After dinner, it's bath and stories and bed and ...


Life is so good.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The reason for it all

The ten million dollar question--
What's been going on with me?

I debated about how much to share, and decided in the end that God gets absolutely no glory out of my silence, so here goes:

A few days before Oliver arrived home for good, I found out that I was pregnant. Long-time readers know that a) that was a totally random, yet very wished-for blessing and b) that opens the door to a whole lot of roller-coaster emotions due to my history of m/c. Because of that history, I immediately went for a blood draw to have my hcG levels checked and sure enough, they were in the low range. I had my second blood draw (to see if they were doubling) the day Jo had her tonsils out. How convenient, as I just so happened to be at the hospital that day.

The results of those numbers were not good, either. Low range of normal, but still rising. Not doubling, though.

Last Monday, I began spotting. I had an u/s and saw a healthy, but small, sac and no baby, despite the fact that I was supposed to be around 7-8 weeks. That began a rough week where I would spot, then stop, cramp, then stop, spot some more ... and all the while, the numbers seem to still be creeping up. So there was still hope, in other words.

Finally, late Saturday night, I started to miscarry in earnest. I am going to be brutally honest and say that in a strange way it was almost a relief--I was praying fervently for something ... for the bleeding to stop and the baby to be o.k., or for it to all be over. I think I was nearing the end of my rope emotionally, and God answered in His perfect timing.

My husband has gone above and beyond over the course of these past 10 days. My precious Jo--who was never let in on what was going on as a way of sparing her further hurt--has been such a helper, such a blessing that it brings tears to my eyes. I am honored to be her mother. And of course, being able to lay my eyes on the four children the Lord has given me here on earth was immense comfort as I waited for another one to be received by Jesus.

God has been so good to us throughout this whole sad process. I have felt His hand in the tiny details (like a random opening for an u/s, and a meal delivered "just because" by an acquaintance) and the big ones, too. While anyone who has BTDT can attest that miscarrying is never anything short of a painful loss that brings you to your knees, I am awed to say that not only was the Lord there the whole time, but He made sure that I felt His strong arms at every moment.

I may or may not be up to normal blogging as I return to the world of the living. Thank you for your prayers and patience.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Due to personal health issues, I'm taking a short hiatus. Feel free to email me at this blog's name at gmail

Sunday, March 9, 2008

On a scale of ...?

I am overwhelmingly happy to report that for the first time since her surgery on February 27, Jo reported that her throat is at a 0 on the pain scale index. This was an unmedicated score, which makes it that much more exciting.

I think we can officially declare the recovery period a success, and move on.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Cheaper, but nowhere near a dozen

We're almost finished reading one of my favorite books as a read-aloud: Cheaper By the Dozen. If you've only seen the Steve Allen movie by the same title, I have to tell you, you're missing out. The real story revolves around a real life family with a dozen children, run efficiently by a loving mother and father whose standards are high, and whose love is strong. Jo especially has gotten a kick out of this particular story. Don't you love it when you get to share a beloved book with your children? I find myself reading it a bit more carefully this go-round, and feeling inspired by what one family accomplished with far more children than I've been given.

Execution of plans seems to be this family's strong point. Not so here at Casa MG. For example, the "big kids" (which now include Logan, who prior to Oliver's arrival was not a member of that exclusive club) did a bit of schoolwork today. We experimented with Oliver being a factor during what has always been independent schoolwork time and found that nope, that's not gonna' happen. He's more than content for me to read aloud to everyone while he roams and plays, but bring on the math work and he is none too cooperative. That alone was enough to motivate me to revisit the idea of scheduling in blocks and rotating said "big kids" through playtime with the new baby brother. While I don't see a need to assign buddies to my four children, I am definitely seeing the wisdom in making sure that things are plotted out more clearly than they are in our current way of working.

A new wrinkle came to light last night. Atticus was delighted to hear that his baseball coach called to inform us of practice times. I was breathless when I realized that we now have a Monday and Friday evening obligation from 5:30-7 p.m. Since we already have a standing AWANA night from 6:30-8 p.m. every Thursday, that means a grand total of three nights a week when Oliver will not be getting to bed at a proper time. That doesn't factor in Logan's t-ball practice, which may very well kick it up to four nights a week. These plans were all made before a certain 15 month old little boy came on the scene, of course.

I'm sitting here asking myself what people with Cheaper By the Dozen families do when it comes to scheduling this kind of thing? Many, I know, forgo outside activities all together. I just can't see doing that with my brood. My husband and I both participated in organized sports as children and found it to be a valuable experience. My husband actually still plays in an over-30 men's soccer league. Sports and activities that allow children to follow their individual interests are a very big part of our learning philosophy. I just don't know how we reconcile that with a little boy that's bound to be cranky more than half the week because he's missing his bedtime so that his brothers can swing a bat.

As I've been saying all week, I know that we'll get it down to a science. I'm not worried about that. I'm just wondering how we make sure that none of our experiments blow up in our faces!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Loving life

We had two social worker visits yesterday--further proof that finding the balance of the new norm will not quite be as easy as it was when we added to our family via birth.

Oliver comes to us 3/4 of the way through his wait for TPR (termination of parental rights). His placement is also through a private agency whose standards for worker involvement are much higher than the state's. Overall, both of these are very, very good things; we are blessed to be able to know and bond with Oliver now--without waiting months for his termination hearings. We are also blessed to have caring Christians holding our hands through the process and serving as our go-betweens with DSHS.

BUT--we also have weekly social worker visits to look forward to for at least the next month. I have set up the schedule for those visits already, and have tried to arrange them as best I can so that the lifestyle of learning my family has come to embrace can go on with as little disruptions as possible. Still, the fact remains that we will be hosting our friendly social worker N. each Tuesday afternoon for a couple of hours. I am a miserbale hostess, so a standing date is something akin to torture for me.

I've also waded into scheduling the evaluations that Oliver needs. He definitely needs weekly PT sessions, but I'm asking for OT assessments and a couple of other early intervention evals. The services are in place for children who need them, and if Oliver qualifies for any of them, we plan on taking full advantage. We are doing all of this through private providers thus far; we are blessed to live within driving distance to several wonderful children's centers that accept med coupons and therefore allow us to stay as separate from the local school district as possible. Granted, this means more time spent on our behalf (the school district would offer in-home services) but I really don't want anyone making mental notes of how our homeschool is or is not working in their eyes based on a an hour or two a week of observation.

After meeting with Oliver's state worker yesterday, we got more information on potential visitation, and advice on how much time to leave time available for that should it become a reality. Though to date his bio parents have been disinterested in having access to him, they are still legally entitled to two visits per week, and should they decide to take that, we need to have two set aside days that we can transport Oliver to a DSHS office for that. (DSHS contracts with people to do transport for you if you wish, but I neither dh nor I have a bit of interest in a stranger driving any of our kids anywhere.)

So that's three solid days--at least--that need to be set aside for the time being just to address Oliver's needs. Three days of no other plans, of no other obligations and no set in stone requirements.

Which leaves exactly two days set aside just for school here at home.

I'm going to admit that I'm not very good at having blocked out time that often. I'm a homebody by nature, and while I will most likely spend those potential visitation days just homeschooling my kids, the idea that I might have three days worth of appointments is enough to make me feel very, very tired indeed.

It's funny; I didn't expect that adopting--especially foster-adopting--would be the same as giving birth. But I guess I really did expect that life would just mold around the new child as it always has, scooping that child up and continuing to flow with the same ease that I've always experienced. And while that may well still happen somewhere down the road, it isn't as close as I thought. There are still quite a few hurdles to jump over before we regain a sense of the old routines.

Thankfully, Jo, Atticus and Logan are so happy to have a new little brother that they could care less that their normal fluidity of planning is being suspended. They actually much prefer staying home, too--it seems to make outings that much more exciting. They seem especially delighted to have skipped right over the whole boring sleeping newborn phase and straight into the smiley, into-everything crawling baby phase. I guess that's a fair trade for being scheduled meet-ups with friends for right now.

This journey has been nothing like I expected, and I keep wondering what each new day will bring. Jo seems to have gotten through the worst of her tonsillectomy recovery. Oliver's got an ear infection. "Did you flush?" Atticus wants to know when baseball is starting. Call to check on OT eval. How quickly my baby girl is growing. Logan is entering a Lego drawing contest. "Mom, I'm out of lemon popsicles." Cute big boy grins. The phone is ringing off the hook. Beloved friends are bringing by food and gifts. Physical Therapist on the phone! "Mommy, can I play with clay?" Atticus has a new joke. Is that my adorable baby crawling around? The dog is tracking mud on the rug again. "Honey, I'm running really late at work." Did I send out that email?

Ah, life. I am blessed. Drink it in.

Monday, March 3, 2008

More transitioning

The transition is going well. Sometimes, I think, a little too well; Oliver has not hit the wall that one would expect a fifteen-month old to crash into head-first when he realizes that the woman he knows as "Mommy" is gone and not coming back. Maybe I am underestimating the malleability that a 10 hour-a-day daycare setting will impress on a young child. I don't know. All I know is that while Oliver is not keen on letting me out of his sights, he's also not wailing in the corner ... which is precisely what Jo would have done. Atticus and Logan, not so much--that's the power of having an older sibling to hang on to, you know.

Oliver is learning the tough truth about sleeping, though. Turns out that he has had two deeply ingrained habits that we are in the process of (gently) breaking: number one is falling asleep in front of the television with a bottle and a blanket, and number two is being given a bottle every time he stirs at night. Because he slept in a bedroom with his fostermom and her two children, it was imperative that he be kept as quiet as possible. Having lived in an apartment with an infant, I know what that looks like--jumping to shush every whimper or threatening whine. In my case, I ended up with Logan sleeping cozily at my b**b for ten months while my husband and I got nary a wink. In Oliver's case, his fostermom filled the bill with one of the three bottles she kept ready at her bedside.

Seeing as how we don't have television, per se, there's no way that his habit of nodding off in front of the tube is going to be indulged. He's taken this quite in stride: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is apparently a reasonable substitute for American Idol. In a pinch, at least. I've been deliberate about establishing a solid routine of bath, story, bottle then bed while he's still fairly lucid. He's cried for as much as five minutes when I've laid him down, but he tuckers out fairly quickly. And lest you think I'm an absolute monster, I am still letting him have his binky to sleep with. Even though that drives me nuts. See, I'm not such a witch after all.

As for nighttime wake-ups, we've only had one significant event. The first night he was with us, Oliver's cold was so awful that he coughed and snuffed and snubbed through the first half of the night. When 1 a.m. rolled around, he had had enough. I gave him a bottle per his fostermom's instructions, but did it by picking him up, rocking him until he finished, and putting him back in bed. Guess what? That was no good, no good at all! Mr. Man wanted a leaking nipple in his mouth for the next few hours ... and he was incensed that I'd offered a poor facsimile of what he was used to getting. We went back and forth for about an hour--me soothing and patting and inserting binky, him relaxing, dozing off and then getting hopping mad the minute he realized I had no intention of letting him sleep with a bottle. Dh did his turn at the helm, too, don't worry: he has taken up post as Adult in Charge of Medicating Tonsillectomy Victim. That means he's up every four hours, like clockwork. Poor him.

I think we're getting the hang of this whole older-kids-and-a-baby thing. It's certainly different than life with three under five was back in the day. I'm having to remember all the tricks of the trade and balance the demands of raising children who can actually think beyond their next meal. It's a whole new world. Wonder what next week will look like?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A MeMe and a CONTEST

Thanks to Paula, who tagged me to do a 5*5*5*5*5*Book MeMe.

Here's what you have to do....

*1* Get your favorite book
*2* Turn to page 55
*3* From the top of the page, count down to the 5th sentence
*4* Write it and the following four (a grand total of 5 sentences)
*5* Tag 5 more people

So, here goes:

He wanted, even though he was just a boy himself, some babies. His heart melted around them, his spirit soared. He might not have been able to put it into words, but they made him noble, they raised him up.
And he wanted that little four-eyed gal, the one he had seen at a basketball game over by Gadsden on the Alabama side. There was just something about a black-haired girl with blue eyes.

Here's the fun part. Name the author and title of the book (no googling, people--let's keep it fun!) and I'll put together a little prize to send your way! :-) This one could be a toughie, so pass it on to people you think just might know the book I'm quoting from.

Here's who I'm tagging:
Sarah at Ponderings... because she runs a very cool book club
Kindred Blessings because she's a new blogger and avid reader
Anya at St. Udio just because I want you to visit her blog and congratulate her on her new little ones
Jana at The Joy Box because I am sincerely curious as to what her favorite book might be
Angi at Choice Central because I am still amazed that she has time to pick up a book to even flip to page 55, let alone read it.