Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sydster update

Four years old is such an interesting and fun age.  It's another one of those ages where your kid is kind of straddling two worlds.  Right now Syd has one food in little girl and one food in big girl.  She still sucks her fingers and needs her special lovey, but also wants to be independent and walk to the neighbor's house alone to deliver a can of tomatoes.  She wants to be making more of her own decisions, but often is crippled by the task of actually DECIDING.  Some days she cares very deeply about her look--from her hairstyle down to her shoes.  I mean, VERY DEEPLY.  It's about a 50/50 chance that getting dressed and out the door in the morning will result in a phase 10 meltdown.  Syd has some of the same sensory issues that Carson did/does.  Socks, shoes and tags on clothing are a daily struggle.  So much so that our household shuts down until we can find a compromise.  (Flip-flops and princess nightgowns are not an acceptable solution in the winter.  Sorry, girl.)
 For the most part, this little Bird has a pretty mild personality.  Of all three kids, she is definitely the most likely to obey quickly and be compliant, the one who wants to snuggle the most.  She's picked up some things from watching her older brother in karate and SHE often says to me "YES, MOM!" and gives me a little bow.  In fact, the times when she gets herself into trouble the most are when she is being bossy with her siblings.  Or she's physically man-handling Asher.  This big sister business is a full-time job, people. 

 This summer I feel like we saw a new side of our middle child.  A more self-confident side.  She tried several new things and did not hesitate.  She took a regular swimming class for the first time, and surprised us by making great strides. I mean, at that age it's lots of bubbles and kicking; however, for this shy girl, the strides were walking confidently away from us towards her teacher, feeling very comfortable in the water, and listening and obeying during class.  Then sometimes she'd smile and wave to us.  We've had our share of peeling her off of our legs when we take her to a new situation (or even not new!) so this experience was so encouraging!
 Syd also tried some roller skates!  It was a short-lived hobby.
 I think we really saw this new side of Sydney at camp over labor day weekend.  At our camp there are 2 water slides and one really big dry slide.  She quickly tackled all three and went back and back and back and back!  Smiling and skipping and waving to us the whole time.  Of course she also wanted to be the one to help Asher go down the small slide for the first time.
She was rocking that life jacket, complete with the buckle that kept riding up her bum.
Yes, I realize this is not Sydney.  I wanted to try to give you an idea of how big this slide is. 
For some reason, I only got this one photo of Syd on the big dry slide, even though she literally went on it over and over again for hours that weekend.  It was such fun just watching HER have fun.  Plus, going up that huge ramp and then three flights of stairs so many times really wore her out.  She slept well!

Sydney is in preschool for the second year.  She goes 3 times a week, and has the same teacher and many of the same friends from last year.  

Another fun thing about this age is that she is starting to make her own friends...not friends because they are children of OUR friends, or siblings of CARSON's friends, but her own friends!  The two she talks about most from school are K and E, who are twins.  The school had a special "twin" day, so these girls decided to dress as triplets!  Sydney was SO tickled to do something special with them.

Speaking of Sydney being excited, the absolute highlight of this fall has been the birth of her cousin, Baby Ellie.  Sydney prays for Ellie every night and asks about her almost daily.  "When can we go see baby Eyyie again?"  The times when we have seen her, Sydney doesn't want to stop holding her.  She gets a longer turn than any of us.  She is completely and totally smitten!  (As are the rest of us!)

Some people who only see Sydney in group settings would not believe how crazy and wild she gets in the comfort of her own home.  :)  And let me tell you: she is a TALKER!  Non-stop.
One benefit if our current schedule is that for about 90 minutes in the afternoon, Carson is at school and Asher is sleeping, so Syd and I have time together.  Unfortunately, it's also the only productive time of my day, so often I am getting stuff done while she tags along around the house.  But I try to be sure to sit down with her for a good snuggle each afternoon.  It's a special time for both of us to re-connect. 


I love this picture of Syd and Asher.  This is truly how I picture her--very carefree.  She loves singing to herself and skipping around the house. I read something by Beth Moore, one of my favorite authors, who suffered terrible abuse as a child.  She said her prayer for her own daughter was that "pain would come as it should: a surprise."  I so resonate with this.  Not the abuse, but my heartfelt prayer that the Lord would allow Sydney to ease into the reality and pain of this world.  That her hurt feelings and heartbreak would be mild.  That she would maintain this innocence and excitement for life.  I know I can't protect her from every heartache, every scraped knee, every hurtful comment.  But I pray that I can instill in her such a warm and secure foundation of love and confidence that she will never experience anything that will shake her belief that she is wholly, dearly and unconditionally loved by us and her heavenly Father.  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Classic Blog Fodder

Thanks everyone for your encouraging words after my last post.  I heard a story recently about a mom of a newly adopted kiddo who posted online that she was having a hard time, and someone responded "This is what you asked for."  Yikes.  Thank you for having more compassion for me in my honesty than that woman received.  Yes, this is what I asked for, and I'm so grateful for our family of five!  Doesn't mean that it is easy.  I decided to take a few blog posts to go back to the old recipe of basic updates on our family.  This is just for the grandparents and long distance relatives. If you're here for funny stories or adoption related updates, check back in a couple weeks. Also it is for my own memory and posterity.  I'm gonna take a post on each kiddo, otherwise I'll stall in procrastination of such an overwhelming task!  Of course we have to start with the PFB (Precious First Born.)
Carson started first grade this year!  ALL DAY at school. He chose his first day outfit AND the one-shoulder strap back-pack.  He's so cool.
As I mentioned in the birthday post, as far as we can tell, Carson is a very good student. Great reader, good at math, well-behaved.  But this year has been a hard start for him. He gets clingy almost every morning, saying he doesn't want to go to school. None of his good friends from last year are in his class, which is part of the problem. And also, he's at school three times as long! This is not lost on him. He actually counted the hours and informed me. We've casually talked and pointedly interrogated to see if there's something else bothering him. It seems he's just rather be at home. I'm sure lots of kids have a hard time getting used to the all-day thing.   Just last week he told me he "thinks he might" be getting used to his schedule.  Here's hoping that is true.

Carson is also an overly scheduled child right now, because he is playing soccer and doing karate. Karate is a once-in-a-childhood thing that fell into our laps (a friend won a 6 month membership at an auction and decided not to use it, sold it to us for the price of ONE month membership), and although it means another 2x/week commitment, it's awesome and a great thing for Carson. They emphasize respect and discipline and self-confidence and physical fitness. Love it. Trent is coaching the soccer team again, and I'm sure there is a blog post coming about that, b/c friends? Coach Trent takes his role very seriously. If only you could see the spreadsheets, the playtime rotation charts, the practice drill diagrams, the field graphics, the player assessment and improvement scales. What's that? Yes, all the players are five and six years old. ;)
Here's some pics from karate class.  

Money shot!

He even tested and earned an orange belt!

We are pretty proud of this kid, and love seeing him grow in his humor and his understanding of the world around.  We can talk about more grown-up things and share more abstract spiritual concepts with him.  I mean, he's still a 7 year old boy, so mostly we're asking him to stop screaming and running in the house, get his hands out of his pants and not teach his little brother how to make fart noises. 
I'll leave you with 2 quick Carson stories.  This morning I put white socks with purple toes on Asher.  Carson was very concerned.  "Why is Asher wearing GIRL socks?!?" he asked.  "Because he is a little brother and that is his lot in life," I answered.  "He also wears a Hello Kitty bike helmet. Besides, he doesn't even know the difference."  This was not acceptable for Carson.  "Well, it is MY RESPONSIBILITY to teach him the difference!  Asher!  You are wearing GIRL SOCKS!!"  It seems Carson does understand responsibility!

Another wonderful moment happened without me, but Trent replayed the story and it made me smile.  Carson befriended a boy on a playground, and Asher was wanting to tag along.  Trent asked Carson to keep an eye on him.  Carson told the other boy that this was his little brother, and we're not sure what the boy's response was, but Carson, seeming to have a script memorized, said "Are you surprised?  I know he doesn't look like me.  It's because he was adopted from Thailand." The other boy responded by telling Carson that their family is adopting a little sister from China!  It was just a lovely moment to pave the way for other possible conversations about why his brother looks different--may they all go as smoothly. We were proud that HE seemed proud to be Asher's big brother!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Big picture

OK, here is the blog post I've been sitting on for a few weeks.  I didn't post, b/c it is very complainy.  But I was encouraged to post it by a fellow-adoptive mama who is going through trials that make mine pale in comparison. She encouraged me to keep it real and not sugar coat parenting or adoption for those who will walk this path after us. 

It was a rough summer, friends.  Like, please don't look me in the eye because I'm on the verge of tears quite a lot of the time kind of rough.  It's impossible to pinpoint the exact reason, but it basically was the intense emotion of adding a new person to our family, a little guy who had endured a majorly traumatic life change, making that three small kids in our small house, when we arrived home on the very first day of summer vacation with no schedule or school to distract us, and all the experts tell us to stay "cocooned" in our house and not leave, when all we want to do is leave, and we're all dealing with the emotional roller-coaster of this addition, who himself can swing from obsessive hugging and loving to spitting in your face, shrieking like a banshee in a matter of seconds, and all three kids know that they love each other so madly but still get insanely jealous and angry if anyone else has mom's attention for longer than 15 seconds, and everyone is bored out of their minds, mom has lost her ability to parent calmly or creatively, children have lost their ability to play independently or get along AT ALL, and we're all working to figure out how we can best love this new little wild child who has found every permanent marker in the home and colored on every wall, destroyed 5 tablecloths, broken mirrors, mugs and more lego creations than I can count, pulled handfuls of Sydney's hair out, but whose smile just melts us EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  

The days were long.  SO VERY LONG.  And it felt really out of control which I don't like.  I feel like I fell into every negative stereotype of a sitcom-ish stay-at-home-mom.  I got NOTHING done.  NOTHING.  I was screaming: "STOP YELLING!  WE DON'T YELL!"  I was disheveled, had my hair in a pony tail for 8 weeks straight, you don't even want to know the forest that was growing where my eyebrows used to be. I felt like I lost any sense of ME and was only MOMMY.  Actually, I was Bad Mommy.  I gained weight, never found time to exercise, grabbed my kids' arms a little too rough when dragging them kicking and screaming to their rooms, could not manage crowd control for these three people when we ran errands, then snapped rudely at the NUMEROUS masters of the obvious who would say "Wow.  You have your hands full." or "They have a lot of energy."


But you know what? We had more than a handful of wonderful times as well.  I should add that Trent was very supportive of me during the dark days, often seeing my crazed eyes (or hearing my teary phone messages) as he walked in the door and whisking the little lovelies out of my sight before blood was shed or duct tape was used.  But I swear we had fun too.  Great beach trips, playdates (over here of course), dinners with friends, camping trips and those rare moments when all three kids and their mom decided we were going to MAKE IT WORK DANGIT, and we had a lot of fun.  I knew I needed to just keep my crap together until school started, and I was right. That has helped tremendously.

And now that I have a few moments each afternoon to gather my thoughts (and sometimes blog!) I've realized what helps most of all: I have to force myself to think MACRO, not micro.  Focus on the BIG PICTURE, not lose myself completely in the moment-to-moment insanity.  I'm referring partly to the adoption: when I remember how LONG we waited for this little guy, how FAITHFUL God was throughout our wait, how fervently our friends and family prayed for us, how far Asher has come with his behavior and attachment....I cannot help but celebrate and thank Him.  But I think this is also a general life/parenting technique that keeps us from committing crimes or being committed to a padded room.  Think about when these little brats squirrels were infants--remember that favorite picture?!  Where did the time go?  It doesn't matter how cliche it is, it is TRUE: They grow up fast.  Any parent will tell you that.  I have to remember, seriously considering a tattoo that says: THE DAYS PASS SLOWLY, BUT THE YEARS PASS QUICKLY.   I need to stop focusing on the biting and the bickering and the tattling.  I need to think about my cute husband and his job and little giggles coming from the other room and this house and our families and our church and our friends and our neighbors and a God who is a father to the fatherless and my memory foam pillow and pumpkin bread and food to buy groceries and worship songs that so perfectly capture what I want to say to the Lord and kids who ask to cuddle and sunshine and autumn leaves and everything about life that is good and wonderful. 

Thank you, God, for a glimpse of the big picture. 


Friday, October 12, 2012

A shot of adrenaline and a mouthful of sand

Of all the things I wanted to blog about this summer, but never got around to it, my birthday adventure was at the top of the list.  Went went to the coast with some friends in late July, which happened to be my birthday weekend.  The husbands went golfing in the morning, 18 holes, which we all know means several hours of the moms entertaining 6 kids in a beautiful, but non-child-proofed home.   So in the afternoon, the guys told us to go do something by ourselves and they would watch the kids.

Well, to be honest, my first thought was that I'd rather just take a 3 hour nap uninterrupted, but I don't often get 1-on-1 time with my friend Kate, so I knew we needed to get out.  I figured we'd go take a walk in old-town, maybe catch a movie, sit in a quiet coffee shop.  Kate had other plans.  My friend Kate is an awesome mash-up of contradictions.  Before she started working full-time, she said she would often spend naptime folding laundry while watching Charlie Rose AND Wendy Williams.  Yes, soak that in for a minute.  You have to love her!  Our little petite brunette friend was not planning to sit quietly this afternoon, sipping chai.  No, she wanted to race dune buggies.  I thought she was kidding.  She was not.

She even took it upon herself to go online and find a couple local shops that rented them.  In the business, they call them sandrails, not dune buggies. We just drove to the shops to look at our options.  We really wanted to drive ourselves around the HUGE (I mean, acres and acres) mountains of dunes this town has--for adventures' sake.  Turns out we could rent a 2 person sandrail for about $170/hr.  Uh, out of our price range.  We could also rent a quad ATV for about $80/hr, but even with a helmet, I was terrified that I would roll it and snap my neck.  Thank you very much, husband who works with brain injury and paralysis patients, for scaring the heck out of me.

So, we relented and went with, sigh, RIDING in a sandrail, driven by one of their drivers.  It was $28/person for a 30 minute drive.  After I got the guts up to do this whole thing, I thought I was kind of compromising my level of adventure by not driving myself. 


As soon as our driver pulled up, I knew I may have misjudged the situation.  He was COVERED in sand, as were his passengers.  The people getting out were speechless, woohoo-ing and high-fiving, faces filthy with sand, except where their goggles covered. It was a 6 person sandrail, but don't let this description fool you into thinking it was a bus.  This vehicle hauled...uh, you know what.  We traded places with the passengers and got in with a young teenage couple.  It was the four of us and our driver.  He tossed us goggles, checked that our seatbelts were buckled, tightened his bandanna around his head, put some gloves on and gave us a very mischievous smile on his scruffy face.  There was a bar about chest high for us to hold on to, and another bar near our feet.  Without a word Scruffy Bandanna took off out of the parking lot, at a jaunty pace, toward the dunes.  There were 2 other sandrails with us.  As soon, and I mean the SECOND we hit sand, he floored it.  Like a bat out of hell.  Nothing could have prepared me for that surprise, and he certainly hadn't given us any words of warning. We fishtailed left, right, spun in circles (doughnuts?  I don't know the lingo here people), flew on the side of hills so steep I was 100%--ONE HUNDRED PERCENT positive we were going to flip.  Kate and I were screaming our heads off.  Like jr high girls in a haunted house.  And each time we would get a mouthfull of sand. I could not shake the feeling that we were on a crazy-scary roller coaster, b/c he would go straight up a steep hill, in my mind I could hear the click-click-click of Space Mountain, and then go STRAIGHT DOWN the other side.  But people?  There are no rails!  We're not attached to this sand in any way!  Did I mention I was POSITIVE we were going to flip?  We did have a roll bar above our heads, which gave me some comfort, but did not stop me from shrinking my body as low as possible, often smothering Kate if she was up-hill from the drop.  I was gripping that bar so tightly with my hands that I had blisters! 

After about 10 minutes, Scruffy Bandanna pulled up to a stop on top of a dune, alongside the other drivers.  We gasped for breath, laughed, smiled and I said to Kate "Should we tell him we are MOTHERS!?!"  It seemed an important piece of information for the person who had our life in his hands.  The teenagers behind us heard us exclaiming and said with surprise and disdain, "Were you guys really scared?"  I said "Oh, Justin and Selena, shut your face."  I also took time to ask Scruffy Bandanna if he's ever rolled the rig.  He said "Not once."  Oh fyoosh.  "Maybe twice."  And he gave us that sly smile that made him seem like a ADHD 5 year old in a 30 year old's body.  We were strongly warned not to bring any purses, cameras or other things that were not tightly zipped or strapped to our bodies.  So all I had to capture the moment was my ipod, so we took the opportunity to have Scruffy take our pic.  It was a gorgeous sunny day on the Oregon coast.

After surviving those first 10 minutes of insanity, I started to loosen up a bit.  SB had kept us upright for 1/3 of my ride, so he had earned a little trust. I was still screaming like my hair was on fire, but I realized I was enjoying it more. I actually LOVE roller coasters, and this was about 15 times as long as most of them. After the break, we took off for more life-endangering fun.  Then we noticed a disconcerting pattern, which was that OUR driver was a bit of a rogue.  The other two drivers would follow each other, but when they turned left, SB turned right.  They would holler out things to him, like, "You're headed to Devil's Toilet?"  I kid you not.  If I had relaxed at all, that image tensed me right back up again.  I didn't know where we were headed, but I did not want to get flushed.  When we were wildly circling the pond at the bottom (I can only guess it was the aforementioned toilet), we were again tipped so far sideways, I was not even bothering to look at the scenery, but rather studying my seatbelt, so when we flipped into the water, I'd know how to free myself.

By the time our 30 minutes was up, I was really having fun, planning all the family and friends I want to coerce on this same adventure.  When we stopped back in the parking lot, we took a quick second to take pics of each other:

I couldn't figure out why my legs were sore and I was having trouble walking, and then I realized it was because I was pushing up against that lower bar SO hard with my legs for the entire 30 minutes!  We had sand throughout our clothes and completely engrained in our hair.  But we also could not wipe the stupid smiles off our faces! WE were the speechless, silly high-fivers.  I almost gave Mr. Scruffyface a hug for not killing me.  I held back.  But I did hug Kate and thank her for talking me into the best birthday adventure I've had in years.  Hello, 35.  Not planning on slowing down anytime soon.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


OK, here's part of the reason why I don't blog more.  I always feel like it's been SO long since I blogged, that I have to include an update on everyone in the family and everything that's happened.  Or I feel like I need to crank out some really deep thoughts, like a manifesto on my parenting philosophies  or a really good embarrassing story or some heartwarming vignette of my little angels.

But I need to just get over myself!  I think of blog posts all the time, but never get around to writing them, b/c I over analyze everything.  I have a very long post all written and saved in my drafts, but I can't bring myself to actually publish it, b/c it's about how HARD this summer was, and how low I felt.  People--it was rough.  But I think that needs a little editing before I want to share that with the world.  When I do, however, it could possibly be sold in mass-quantities as its own form of birth control.  Consider yourself warned.

All of that to say: sometimes I have a quick word and it doesn't come with a ton of pictures, and it might not be very deep, or embarrassing or funny, but I'm going to write it down and post it! So there. I'm determined to write more.  Here's one story:

Over labor day weekend we attend a Christian camp on the coast for families.  You bring your crew, you spend 90 minutes in the am and 90 minutes in the pm at sessions--one for all the adults, and several for the kids in their age groups. Then the rest of the time you play! The speakers for the grown-ups are usually geared towards family/marriage topics.  Good stuff.

During one of the sessions, the speaker was starting a thought and he said "You need to think long and hard about how you present your family...."  And I immediately and reflexively finished that thought in my head.  I almost said out loud, " the world."  But he said "You need to think long and hard about how you present your the LORD."

Oh. My. Gosh.  My jaw dropped, kind of in horror, to be honest with you.  What is wrong with me that my FIRST THOUGHT was about how my family is viewed by OTHERS?!  NOT how our heavenly Father sees us and whether or not we are pleasing Him.  It was a major owie moment for me, and the rest of the message was kind of lost as I sat in that sad truth for a bit and tried to make sense of it.  And justify it?  Probably a little.  But mostly to change it.

When I think of "presenting" my family, I think of the image I want to portray.  The pictures I post on instagram. The impression we make when we are walking into the school building to drop off the first grader.  The opinion people will have when they see us at costco.  Whether my daughter's hair is combed, whether my son's a good reader, whether or not I can keep the littlest one from bolting into traffic, if maybe all three could (pretty please) be meltdown free while we are public?  I think of the awesome family pictures we just took, and how they are so beautiful, but they only "present" one shiny side of us, not the gritty crap that we try to keep within the walls of our messy home.  THIS is what I worry about far too often.  THIS is a standard I try to live up to and of which we continually fall short.

"We are posed and color coordinated!  We never hit or fight or write on walls!  We memorize Scripture by the chapter!"

But after that smack in the face (and, ironically, the speaker probably didn't even INTEND for it to be a big point, it's just that my whacked out sense of priorities caused it to be so), got me thinking about the real presentation.  The only presentation THAT MATTERS AT ALL.  At the end of the day, how has my parenting reflected the love of Christ?  How have Trent and I modeled a godly marriage?  What actual principles are we teaching--directly and indirectly--about living a life that PLEASES GOD?  What is our family doing to serve others, to bless out of our blessings?  What spiritual growth have any of us experienced? And perhaps most importantly, what do I need to do to keep THESE questions at the forefront of my mind, and not what some soccer mom thinks of me at carpool pick up?

I don't have the answers to all of these questions, but I think I've found some peace in the realization that answers are overrated.  It's asking the right questions that makes everything start to fall into place.  Then I can focus on presenting myself--gritty crap and all--to the only One whose opinion I need to care about.