Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mission Accomplished!

K. being served with a court summons to appear in adoption court.

Well, we did it. We all woke up in time to be dressed, breakfasted, and out the door by 6:45 am. We caught an express train downtown and even had enough extra time to grab a cup of coffee on the way to the courthouse. The whole thing was almost a non-event. We arrived, signed the papers our attorney had for us and then waited a bit. Then it was downstairs to the sheriff's office so K. could be handed his court summons. A couple of pictures and plastic badges later and were back upstairs in the family waiting room to appear in court.


K. playing in the waiting room.

After waiting for a while (the family waiting room was well supplied with toys), we were called into the court room. The judge was very nice and our children answered his questions. (Some members of our family are still refining their people skills, so this was an achievement.) It took all of five minutes and we were done. Unfortunately, Cook County does not allow any photographs in the court room, so no picture of K. before the judge. Since it was only 10 am, and it was a gorgeous day in Chicago, we decided to walk over to Millennium Park and play tourist for a bit.

Here we all are being reflected in the sculpture known as 'The Bean'. Officially, it's called 'Cloud Gate', or something like that. Since no one ever uses the real name, I'm a bit fuzzy on what it actually is.
Here we are standing in front of it.

(from l to r, across front of picture) M., K., A., D., and P. The others didn't care to get wet.

We stopped for a bit at the spitting fountains and children waded while I nursed a baby. By this time it was getting on toward lunch, so we decided to make an occasion of it and stopped somewhere to get some food. Afterwards we hopped back on the subway and had an easy ride home despite the Cub's game about to start. (It's always best to run into a bunch of fans pre-game rather than post-game.)

It turned out to be a great morning. There were no melt-downs, everyone was pleasant, the babies slept all morning, and it was a beautiful day to be out and about. And I was right that riding the 'El' would be the highlight of the day for the boys. J. gets the hero award in that he was up all night with the babies. Literally. I think he got one hour of sleep. (I had a minor breakdown yesterday, no doubt due to lack of sleep and J. was letting me get some rest.) That alone makes him a hero in my book, but on top of that he ended up sitting with D. and TM who peppered him with endless, excited questions the entire trip downtown about the train, the trip, and what they were seeing out the window. It was a brutal assault that J. handled without even a touch of annoyance in his voice.

Monday, July 27, 2009

It's a close as I will get to being a celebrity

L. on left, G. on right

I've been wearing the babies in the sling when I've gone out with them recently. (It's so much easier than strapping them into their car seats and strapping the car seats onto the stroller frame. Plus the stroller is huge!) But I haven't quite become used to the stir we cause when we are out. I am stopped very frequently by people wanting to admire them or ask questions about them. I really don't mind showing them off, but it makes it difficult to do anything quickly. J. and went to the grocery store(s) yesterday and I was stopped nearly every aisle. One of the checkers even wanted to take their picture. When it is just J. and I out with the girls, no one asks how many children we have...I think they just assume they are our firsts. But we often get the questions when we have other children with us. I try to avoid this question because people's reactions can get tiresome. Often people will try to say something along the lines of, 'You are amazing'. I don't feel amazing; it's not as though 9 children were dropped in my lap all at once. We were able to work up to it. And, as I've said before, I certainly don't parent on my own strength. The other common reaction is just for people's jaws to drop open. Literally. They have absolutely no idea what to say, as if the idea of a family of more than a couple of children never crossed their minds. The last reaction is the one I like the most, but receive the least. Sometimes a person, often older, will say how wonderful they think it is, often followed by how many children they had themselves or how many siblings they had and how wonderful it was. And I have to say I am thankful that only once have I received the Angelina Jolie comment. You know, the one where the person says, "Oh, you have adopted children and twins, you're just like Angelina!" Yeah, right. I look at the tabloids in the supermarket and often wonder to myself how on earth they got my picture. (It's too bad there is no emoticon for dripping sarcasm.)

On an unrelated note, we have decided that all of us will truck downtown on Wednesday morning. I just hope the babies go to sleep easily tomorrow night. It will make it that much easier to get up at the ridiculously early hour that we need to.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Decisions, decisions

So, what would you do? Next Wednesday is our court date to readopt K. When we did TM's readoption, all of us trooped downtown to be a part of it. This time I can't quite decide if I'm up for that. Here are the pros and cons:

Pros to taking everyone:
  • We have a picture of all of us at TM's readoption and it would be nice to have that for K.
  • It is a family event after all.
  • The younger ones would love a chance to ride the 'El'.
  • Even if J. and I just take K. and the babies, we would still need to ride the 'El' anyway since I can't imagine parking our van downtown.
  • There would be more hands to hold babies while we wait around the court house.

Cons to taking everyone:

  • We have to be downtown by 8 am, which means we would need to be walking out the door with everyone between 6:30 and 6:45 AM.
  • We would have to pay a lot more in train fare.
  • Keeping track of 7 children (the babies will be in the sling, so don't need to be kept track of) on the train at rush hour doesn't sound like a lot of fun...though I've done it before.
  • Did I mention what time we would need to leave? And that everyone would have to be dressed and breakfasted before then?
  • Not everyone is a morning person and some tend to be grumpy and non-cooperative in the early hours. (And I have to go either way, so I'm not factoring into this.)

I go back and forth and my decision changes hourly...often depending on the group's behavior at the moment. I just can't decide!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"A family is everyone all together"**

A. has been gone since last Sunday on a vacation with a friend. She was invited to go up to Door County, WI as a companion for her friend since she (the friend) is an only child. It sounds as though she is having a wonderful time. But I'm missing her. You would think that with 8 other children at home I would hardly notice when one is missing, but that's not the case. When one (or more) of my children are off somewhere else there is a huge hole in our family. It always feels as though more people are missing than really are. Each member has such an integral place that it doesn't matter who is still here, the empty spot left by the missing member is blatantly obvious. A. comes back late on Sunday; we will all be glad.

Since I've been thinking about A., I thought this would be a good time to show off the dolls she made for G. and L. before they were born. A. made these all by herself...she found the instructions, gathered the supplies and made them without any help. I'm pretty impressed.




**from A Baby Sister for Frances by Russell Hoban. If you haven't read the Frances books to your children, go now and check them out of the library. They are probably in my 'top 10' of children's picture books.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Back to the paperwork

Now that I'm not pregnant and am starting to function again, I can start to work on K.'s readoption. I had wanted to do it earlier...perhaps before the girls were born. But by the time I had saved the money, I realized there was no way I could manage to get myself down to the courthouse in Chicago. It would have involved too much walking. So now we'll be going with two babies in tow instead.

I've spent some time gathering the adoption documents the lawyer needs and will fax them to her today. (Am I the only one who is paranoid about these documents? I have them tucked away in a fire proof safe which no one else opens, but yet every so often I feel compelled to look at them just to make sure they are all still there. As if in the dead of night the papers will hatch an escape plan and disappear.) Of course all the documents were there where I left them. It will be a relief to get this step done. Then all that is left is K.'s US passport and to change his name on his social security card. I tell you, in the hospital, when I was filling out the birth certificate forms for the girls, I wanted to go up and down the hall telling all the mothers how much they should appreciate the little box which asks if you want your new baby to have a social security card. How easy can it be? No waiting in line at the social security office, no arguing with the employee about whether you have the correct documents or not, no having to change the name on the card once you do have it....

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Milestones


G. on left and L. on right
The girls are now a month old. Actually they were a month old on Wednesday, but I never got around to posting. (My laundry, though, is completely caught up for the first time in 9 months!) They are gradually starting to wake up during the day and to sleep better at night. Night before last they both were up just once, one right after the other. It was the most sleep I've had in a long time. The problem is once they do that a time or two, one starts to expect it. And then they have a night like last night where they each slept just once. At least it's what it felt like. When I just couldn't nurse anymore, J. took them both downstairs and the three of them watched Monty Python DVD's while I got a little sleep. I'm not sure the girls really appreciated Monty Python. L. fell asleep and G. just cried.
Everyone asks us if they are identical. The fact is, we don't know. To know for certain, a blood test would need to be done. The more I look at them, the more I'm pretty sure they are not identical. They are looking more and more different to me. We did a test and I was able to tell who was who when they were dressed alike. I have a feeling it won't matter whether they are identical or not, I'm pretty sure others won't be able to tell them apart. All of our babies have looked remarkably similar and many people still have trouble telling A. and P. apart unless they are standing next to each other.

K. dressed as a pirate.
I think when you have a child who is battling developmental delays, you appreciate new milestones that much more. K. has enjoyed his tricycle a lot, but he has made it go solely by pushing with his feet on the ground. We've tried to get him to pedal, but it just wasn't working. He couldn't figure out how to make his legs go, plus he didn't have the muscle strength to propel himself forward. So it was very exciting when on Thursday, he was able to make it work. He pedalled down the front walk, turned the corner and kept going. He can only do it for short periods, but it is a huge triumph for him.
K. also hit another milestone this morning. As I have mentioned before, language is the area where he lags behind the most. The past few months we have been thrilled that he has started to use two word sentences. Well, this morning, there was an altercation on the third floor between two children and A.'s foot was hurt as a result. (It's fine.) But, she was crying and K. was concerned enough to come for help. As he comes down the stairs into the kitchen, he very clearly tells me that, "A. foot owie". As far as I know, this is the first time he has strung three words together.
J. and I are not really concerned about K.'s overall development. Other than sharing our excitement with you at his accomplishments, I blog about it mainly as an encouragement to others. When reading the description about a child, sometimes the diagnosis can sound very scary. But, what sounds scary in the abstract becomes manageable when you think about the child first and the diagnosis second. We are blessed that all of K.'s delays have turned out to be environmental, but we were prepared to parent K. even if his delays were more organic. If we hadn't been open to that possibility, we would have missed out on loving and parenting one of the silliest, loving, and joyful children I have ever known. When we accepted K.'s referral, it felt a bit (OK, a lot) as though like Peter, we were climbing out of the boat into a stormy lake. We didn't know what would happen, just that this is what we were being called to do. I don't want this to sound like bragging because it's not. Choosing the paths we have over the past three years has been purely a result of trying our best to follow Jesus and be obedient to His call. Any success we have had is purely due to Him.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Baby wearing x 2

This will work for a while, until they get too big. And really, G. likes the sling after we get moving.



See...


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hospitality

I've been thinking a lot about this recently as we have been the beneficiaries of so many wonderful meals from friends, family, neighbors, and church members. We are heading into our fourth week of having more meals provided for us than we have had to prepare. It has been such a blessing and has allowed us to focus on G. and L. and not worry so much about dinner. I have to admit that sometimes it is a challenge for me to graciously accept the gifts of others without feeling guilty. If you haven't guessed by now, I'm something of a perfectionist and often feel as though I need to do everything myself. But as my grandmother often told me, we need to learn to be good receivers and not just good givers. I love to take meals to others or be able to help them in some way, and I have to remind myself that others feel the same way and I need to allow them the joy that comes from helping others.

Bringing a meal to someone, whether because of a new baby or an illness or a death, also involves more than just the food provided. What I have enjoyed as much as the meals has been visiting with the people bringing the food. I love reconnecting with friends and showing off my babies. This is also the piece I enjoy when I am providing food. It's wonderful to see someone in person and admire the baby (or lend a shoulder to cry on if it is a death). Sometimes the food is just a helpful by-product of the actual visit itself. A while back our church had a new pastor, whose wife gave birth to a baby after they had been here just a few months. The membership helped to provide meals to this family, but I'm not sure everyone understands the personal component of bringing a meal. Instead of bringing the meal to the house, it was suggested that we drop it off at the church instead and the husband could take it home. This was for a woman who was already feeling isolated in a new town with a toddler and new baby. How much better would it have been if new friendships could have been made while a meal was delivered.

I realize that not everyone is comfortable with having people into their home. Women are often worried about the state of their house and the impression it will make on others. But if people are truly our friends and brothers and sisters in Christ, then it shouldn't matter. Those bringing the food will focus on the person and not the surroundings...especially since meals are often brought in times of transition and crisis. (Who is worrying about vacuuming and dusting at times like that?) And those receiving the meal need to remember that they are valuable and loved no matter the state of their home. I am often telling visitors they are welcome in my home as long as they pretend it is pristine. I long ago stopped aiming for pristine or magazine-like in real life...toddlers will do that to you.

Being on the receiving end of so much hospitality inspires me to reciprocate when I am back to being fully functioning. I am always amazed at people's creativity. One friend came over once a week toward the end of my pregnancy and helped out around the house...folding laundry, doing dishes, helping to fix dinner. It was wonderful to have some odd jobs done, but it was also nice to be able to visit with a friend at the same time. Other friends have stopped by with meals just to go in the freezer. Others haven't brought full meals, but have brought fresh fruit or dessert. One homeschooling friend of ours brought by bagels and zucchini bread. It was perfect because breakfast choices had become pretty thin. We feel doubly blessed, by both the babies and by the tangible reminders of the many friends we have.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Relief

Last Thursday, G. and L. had their first pediatrician appointment. I had an uneasy feeling about it, but didn't know why. It turns out I had a reason to feel uneasy, because when the girls were weighed, they had yet to gain back their birth weights, and L. was even under her hospital discharge weight. The doctor wanted us to supplement with formula, which I was not wild about doing. While it would help the girls pack on calories, it would do nothing for my milk supply, and I desperately wanted to nurse these babies.

After having a (not so) minor breakdown...gotta love those post-partum hormones...I talked to a good friend who has La Leche leader training. After discussing the girls' nursing with her, I realized that they were not as good of nursers as I thought they were. So over the weekend I did several things: paid much closer attention to how they were nursing so they were getting as much milk as possible; upped my calorie and protein intake (a lot); drank fenugreek tea; and tried to nurse as much as possible. J. also gave the girls 1 to 2 ounces of formula at night with a syringe after they had nursed just to be sure they were getting some extra calories. Pretty much I was consumed by nursing all weekend.

Yesterday they had a follow-up visit to the pediatrician. I was nervous all day, worrying that they hadn't gained any weight. But, I'm very happy and very relieved to report that they did gain weight....nearly half a pound each in 4 days. The doctor was also pleased and we don't need to go back for another month. I'm sure I'll still be extra-vigilant about their nursing, but now I feel as though I can go back to just enjoying them again, too. I don't need to feel twinges of worry every time I hold them. (I am already a world class worrier, even without any valid reason. Give me a real reason to worry...well, let's just say it's not pretty.) The lactation consultant at the doctor's also gave me a couple more tips for ensuring milk supply. One of them was to take fenugreek capsules. Evidently at high enough dosages (which I should be taking), it makes one smell like maple syrup. I foresee a strong possibility that children may be overcome by cravings for pancakes for the next several months.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Three years

(TM and L.)


Three years ago today, half way across the world, TM became our son. While we celebrate the fact that he joined our family, today is not necessarily a day of celebration because of all the pain and grief that the transition caused TM. When you're 3 1/2, you may understand the words that people are telling you, but what it really means to suddenly have a new mommy and daddy is beyond comprehension. This is particularly true when you have been happily living with people you thought of as 'Mommy' and 'Daddy' and can't remember anything or anyone else.



We were the interlopers. We were the ones taking TM away from everyone he knew and loved for what seemed to him no discernible reason. You can't explain to a 3 year old about being a ward of the state or about having no permanent place. All you can do is what you think is best and watch as the child grieves. And because TM grieved by raging, we found it difficult even to grieve with him. The best we could do was to pretend we liked him and hope and pray that we weren't making the biggest mistake of our lives.



But, today, I can look back at our beginning together and grieve for him now. He is now my son and his pain is my pain. The journey to reach this point was probably one of the most difficult paths I have ever walked. Parenting can be a humbling experience, but adopting a difficult child is positively so. In the process of learning to love TM, I discovered things about myself that were not very lovable. Being TM's mother has made me a better person.



I also look at our family today and wonder what it would look like if we had not taken the path that we did. When we were in Vietnam adopting TM, we had no idea that another of our sons was alive and living in an orphanage outside of Saigon. The path to TM also led to K. And because as Robert Frost says, "way turns onto way", I have to ask if our two new precious babies would exist had we chosen a different way. It's probably just as well that three years ago, holding a raging child in a hotel in Danang that I didn't know we would be adding four children in three years. Some things are better not known ahead of time. But I am eternally grateful that God led us down that path the He did.
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