I have looked forward to writing this post for a long time. When baby boy and little girl first came to our home, I often wondered what it would feel like to make it this far. This past week marked two months that they have been with us. It seems like a small monument to pass, but for some reason, I have held on to the goal of making it to two months and I feel a sense of victory and renewed energy to see it pass. When baby boy and little girl first arrived on our doorstep, they were accompanied by the necessary upheaval and acute transitions that would occur in our home. We knew this was coming, we did not have any false pretense that it would be easy. Our expectations were met, it has indeed been difficult. Nate, who used to be potty-trained, reclaimed his position as baby and, despite my failing efforts, is now back in diapers. Not to mention that he has also taken to stripping himself naked, diaper and all, and falling asleep on his bedroom floor after we have tucked him in and left his room. Yes, two year olds have creative ways of protesting change, but I digress. Erik and I spent the first three full weekends, from Friday evening to Sunday evening, trouble-shooting and problem solving, in desperate attempts to make our life more manageable. Imagine baby gates, child proofing rooms, buying extra sippy cups, re-creating a quiet homeschool space, setting up diaper changing stations, etc, etc. – such was the fodder for discussion in any free time we could find. I cleared out our schedule to accomodate a flurry of initial doctors appointments, therapist evaluations, and caseworker visits. After two months, the whirlwind of craziness is settling, and those necessary, but pesky guests, “upheaval” and “acute transition”, that accompanied baby boy and little girl through our doorway, are finally making their exit. Aahhh, little victories. We have made it to two months and I breathe a sigh of relief. Now I am excited to be through with “settling in” and turn even more attention to enjoying these sweet children.
And enjoy them we have. All of us have, including each of our bio kids, who give us unsolicited glimpses here and there into their feelings. The other night I was telling Bryce it was time for lights out. “Oh, I have great news,” I exclaimed (I had found a set of Scooby-Doo chapter books that he loves on Ebay). He put his book down, his eyes widened and with a grin he inquired, “we get to adopt them?” I chuckled, “no, no, only God ultimately knows what will happen, we won’t know for a while.” That night he made me smile, as he had given me a candid glimpse into his heart.
Similarly, I was talking with Bethany at the kitchen table one night after all of the littlest ones were in bed. She was asking me details about court dates, judges, bio parents, timelines, caseworkers, etc. I explained to her the steps that the courts go through to determine where children are permanently placed. For the first time, she told me she was afraid that we wouldn’t be able to adopt little girl and baby boy. Again, she had given me a glimpse into the leanings of her heart.
Despite Nate’s shenanigans and regressions he is still his happy, exuberant self and I know with time he’ll adjust and act as if there never was a time without baby boy and little girl. To see him and little girl together, you’d think they had been siblings for life – they play with intensity, they bicker and fight with intensity. Despite the considerable size and weight advantage Nate has on little girl, she has proven herself his worthy camrade when it comes to climbing and running and his worthy opponent when it comes to taking toys from one another. Despite her petite package, she’s fiesty. I like that.
In this whole process, it has always been Leah that I have been the most worried about. We’ve done everything we know to do for her. We reassure her of how much we love her and remind her that that will never change. We make attempts to carve out special time with her, which has required some creativity. For example, she has become my special “synagis” helper (synagis is a shot given monthly to premature infants during the winter to prevent RSV). So every month, when I am taking baby boy in for his 8:30am synagis appointment (always go for the first appointment of the day – that’s one of my mantras in life 🙂 ), I wake Leah up and she accompanies me. Actually, if I have hope of any of my children going into the medical field, it’s her. She is fascinated by doctors visits and likes to watch how they give baby boy his shot. So our “synagis dates” have been a good fit for her. The clinic happens to be right across the street from a starbucks – so add coffee for me and a cake pop for her and it’s golden! We also have tried our best to give her space and to not be surprised by or overreact to negative comments she may make along the way. Early on she was quite clear, “I just want to go back to being us”. Two weeks in her tune changed, “we can foster them but I do not want to adopt them.” Four weeks in her tune changed again, “oh, baby boy is just soooo cute, can we please adopt him? And, by the way, I do NOT want to adopt little girl.” (Why, you may ask? Because little girl is almost two – she cries, she takes toys, she occasionally hits, etc, etc. I get it, two year olds can be hard to love wholeheartedly). Now, two months in, her tune has changed again, “I really like little girl, can we please, please adopt both little girl and baby boy.” It took some time, and there were moments when my heart cringed with fear as I heard her honestly express her concerns and wondered if she would always feel so negatively. I am now overjoyed to begin changing MY tune with her from, “don’t worry about adoption, that is nothing we will even discuss for months and we may not even be given the chance to adopt them,” to “I am so glad that you want to adopt them, but we won’t know for months if we can, and it’s good if they can be with their biological family again. Only God knows what will happen so we have to trust that He is good and is doing what is best.” I’ve always known Leah would get me on both ends. The initial adjustment and acceptance would be hard and slow, then she would attach deeply and, should the day come that baby boy and little girl leave, she will have the hardest time letting go. I love that about her. She is the only one of our children who still refers wistfully to the two Ugandan girls who stayed with us one week last year as they were passing through San Antonio with an orphans choir. She’ll mention them by name, with that tone in her voice that indicates she is on the verge of tears. Ugh, saying goodbye would be most difficult for her. But, I’ve already shared with you, I’m not afraid of hard, even for her (see previous post).
A couple of weeks ago Erik and I ventured out with our six children to the Hondo Corn Maze. It was a Friday night, and I was reluctant to go – as I envisioned spending my entire time frantically counting heads in the dark in an effort to not lose a child. Well, much to my surprise and cluelessness, the Hondo highschool football team had made it into some big playoff game that night. As such, we practically had the entire corn maze to ourselves (ahem, non-Texans, high school football is a BIG deal around here, I am not kidding). One of the favorite attractions, for all of my kids, was a 50 foot tube slide mounted on the side of a hill. The kids would climb the hill, slide down the pitch dark tube, emerge at the bottom triumphantly, and run off to do it again. Initially we hadn’t paid the extra $4 for little girl to ride the slide, unsure if she would even be willing to try it. As a test, Erik took her up with the older kids, set her in the dark tube and launched her down (she had to go by herself, no lap riding aloud). I watched with some trepidation to see her response at the bottom. Several seconds later she appeared from the tube. As she came to a stop, she paused briefly, then rose victoriously as her expression changed from bewilderment to all-out smile, and exclaimed “again!”. As she ran to climb the hill, I overheard Bethany tell the teenager working the slide, “my Dad is going to pay to get my little sister a wrist band to ride the slide”. I smiled, “little sister”, I liked the sound of it as it rolled so easily off her tongue. For the next 45 minutes, I sat on a picnic bench facing the slide. I watched as my children appeared one by one from the end of the slide, laughing, screaming, giggling, calling to one another, “come on, let’s go again!”, waiting for little girl and taking her by the hand. Erik was poised at the bottom taking pictures. As the sun set beyond the hill, pinpoint stars began to dot the sky. I sat there with all of my senses focused on the moment – the sight of happy children and my husband, the perfect 70 degree breeze on my face, the smell of the night air, the warmth of a happy baby in my arms, the sounds of laughter and togetherness before me. It was one of those rare instances in parenting, well, in life in general, when all of the cares and distractions of life completely fade away, and it’s as if time stands still. For a moment all the world seemed right and with joy in my heart, I took in a long, deep breath of contentment.
So things are better, much, much better. That’s not to say that it’s all fun and games and shiny, happy moments around here all the time. Last week, Leah came to me after an altercation with Nate, crying, “I just can’t take this many babies! Do you know what hard work this is for me!” What could I do but hug her tight so that she couldn’t see me laughing? Last week we also had another round of sickness go through the house. This time, when Erik and I were both hit hard on the same day, we learned that we can debate as vehemently as trial lawyers when it comes to trying to prove who is the more suffering patient and therefore most deserving of going back to bed. One night that week, after tucking six children safely in bed, I was uncharactersitically struck with fear – fear that this is too much, fear of what the future may hold, fear that we’ve overestimated what we can handle, fear of the unknown, etc., etc. In our sickly state, Erik and I candidly lamented over our fatigue and my fear and prayed together for God’s grace. In the morning, after the gift of a good night of sleep, the fog of fatigue and fear had lifted. Now, when those moments come, they are countered by the strength and resolve this past two months has built in us, a resolve that this is without doubt the craziest, hardest, most unusual, yet … BEST … thing we have ever done!
So, I have a list in my mind of FAQs I want to take the time to address at some point. One of those questions is what it’s like to go to court. Well, it’s almost time for us to find out. Our first court dates are approaching, and I’ll admit, I’m a little anxious – anxious about potentially meeting bio family (who I’ve heard can be loud and aggressive – wouldn’t we all be??), anxious about having unmet expectations, anxious about facing the attorneys and judge who will ultimately decide the fate of these children (humanly speaking, that is), anxious about what I will wear (silly, I know). All that to say, stay tuned, there’s so much more to this unfolding story.