Thursday, July 31, 2014

Vaca - First as a family of 6

Earlier in July, we took our first family vacation since Maggie joined our family. I use the word "vacation" loosely. We were only gone 3 days and 2 nights! But it was enough for us!  

We went to Indy, only a couple hours drive.  We didn't know how Maggie would handle a strange bed in a strange place after all these months of providing her with stability and routine.  Plus, hey, our other kiddos don't handle change that well either! So we wanted to keep it close and simple.  

We did a lot in those 3 days.  We visited a cool place called Conner Prairie, which is an interactive history park.   We got to learn about the way life used to be.  We got to see old homes, an old schoolhouse, a blacksmith (Ben's absolute favorite and apparently his new career aspiration), a barn with live animals to pet (some of which were less than 24 hours old!), a general store, see a looming demonstration, make our own candles, see a Native American hut, etc.  Very cool.

The next day we hit the Children's Museum.  It was very cool and a little overwhelming. We wanted to see as much of it as we could and do things that were age-appropriate for everyone.  They enjoyed it, but it was a lot in one day.  In addition to their regular things, they also have a China exhibit right now, which we tried to soak up a little of as well.

Later that day we rented a paddle boat on the canal, which was really cool.  However, we went a little farther than we should have for the short attention spans, and the trip back was a little hairy. I finally got out of the boat with Maggie and walked back with her alongside the canal; she was too wiggly!

Then my oldest son decided it was okay to pee on a tree in the state park in front of a state trooper.  
Fun times.

The last day was probably our favorite. The zoo there is very cool, much smaller than our zoo, so very doable for our crew. We got to pet sharks, see a dolphin show and dog show, feed birds (their very favorite thing for some reason!) and be outside on a beautiful day.  

We made a lot of great memories and got to do some things we had been wanting to do for a long time with the kids. But keeping it real, it was not the easiest 3 days!

Allie really struggled with the change in her routine.  Although her behavior has been somewhat better the last month or so, she slipped back into her frequent tantrums while we were away and it was stressful for all of us.  Ben I think was a little bored with some of what we did and would have much rather just stayed at the hotel to swim the entire time. 

Sam and Maggie were our champions of the trip!  Maggie was pleasantly, surprisingly great.
Maggie is not a nap-on-the go type kid, but thankfully she took a cat-nap in the stroller for about 45 minutes each day.  She was overall very easy going and handled all the activity well. 

Sleep was the hardest part, as it always is for our kiddos.   We had a one bedroom suite, with 2 double beds in it. We decided for us all to sleep in there and reserve the other room with the couch/TV for being awake.  Maggie slept in a hotel crib, Allie in a pack n play (which she is WAY too big for, but she loves it and I think she feels safe in the small space), the boys in 1 bed and us in the other.  That's a whole lotta closeness in one small room!  Yikes.

The first night in the hotel room was NOT pretty, though, trying to get Maggie to sleep in a strange bed. She screamed for probably over an hour. The kids were SO cute, we could hear them singing song after song to her to comfort her, Ben even got in the crib with her for a while.  She finally passed out and thankfully slept through the night. The 2nd night was much easier.  

Meals are also VERY difficult when we travel.  Sam's egg allergy is a constant stress and strain on us.  Egg is in so much food and he cannot have even the smallest amount of egg cooked in something. So trying to find safe things for him at the various places we went was not easy.  It's frustrating that places aren't better about being aware of what's in their food and having ingredient lists readily available.  The hotel breakfast was awful, they didn't have ingredients listed on anything.  He's also getting increasingly frustrated (understandably!) with having to eat something different from the rest of us, so we try to have all the kids get the same egg-free thing when we can.  Meals can take so much longer with having to figure out what he can eat first, and we're all tired and hungry and needing to refuel. Plus the cost of food at the places we visited was outrageous.  One of the only things he could eat the zoo was a hot dog; the kid's meal hot dog was SEVEN DOLLARS .... AND.... he couldn't eat the bun because it contained egg. He cried for a while over that one, and we cried over the cost of buying each of us a hot dog meal....after we spent a ridiculous amount of time going from place to place inquiring about ingredients.  They don't allow outside food, although next time we will be bringing our own regardless of that policy.

Don't get me wrong, we enjoyed ourselves and don't regret going at all. But as my friends in bible study keep reminding me, this is just a trying, challenging time in our lives right now with 4 young kids.  Going out of town, changing our routine, simply feeding them is a challenge! I'm so glad we did it, though, and I know overall they loved it.  

We had one day left after that at home before Jeremy had to go back to work. We spent time playing at the river and visiting our local candy store.  Perfect ending!

Here's some shots of our memorable little vaca.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

8 Months

Eight months ago today we got home from China with our tiny baby who seemed more like an infant than a 13 month old.

She couldn't walk or communicate in any way.

She was so fearful and her only nutrition was a bottle.

She's still tiny, but man has she blossomed!

She uses a bunch of signs, hums songs, runs, jumps, climbs, swims, eats everything we eat and feeds herself, acts more like the almost 2-year old she is, not to mention has become quite fearless about a lot of things!

Oh yeah, and had major, life-changing surgery too!

She's our little miracle.

July is National Cleft Awareness Month. Cleft Strong!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Random Cuteness

Maggie is 21 months going on 13 years old.  She is developing quite a hilarious personality and a bit of an attitude. She has learned to roll her eyes, and does it at appropriate "teenager-ish" times, when she's mad or annoyed. She also clenches up her whole body and shakes when she gets mad.  We got her to do a little demonstration... such a ham.

Backyard fun

Pizza picnic

Loves her Daddy

She's wild... loves to horseplay

Playing "pretend naptime"

Discovered the boys' matching feet-over-the-edge when I went to check on them one night.

Playing dress-up with sissy's sweater

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Opposites - What are we going to do?

Sometimes Often I really struggle with coming to terms with the 2 polar opposites in my head/in this world. On one hand, we have this amazing (albeit challenging at times) life here in the US.  Man are we lucky.  Four healthy kids, 2 cats, 2 dogs, fenced in yard, pools to swim in, lots of family time, etc... the list goes on and on of how blessed we are.  A big part of me wants my kids to have "the American dream" type of childhood.  Not necessarily a modern childhood, filled with video games and electronics, but the type of childhood that I had.  Especially in the summer. We're playing outside, riding bikes, hiking, swimming, celebrating the 4th of July, picking blueberries, catching fireflies, doing experiments, etc.  Such the norm where we live that we often don't give it a second thought.

And yet, it's never far from my mind the fact that most children do not get to have this type of childhood. Many of them are hungry, starving even.  Literally dying from not having clean water to drink. Growing up on the streets. Not knowing what it's like to have a warm, soft bed to be tucked into by a mom or dad at the end of a long, fun day.

It breaks me.

These kids are real people.  As real as my kids. As real as yours. And every bit just as important.

And so I struggle to see all that we have and come to terms with all that others do not have. I'm not okay with it.  It leaves me unsettled.  Wanting to do more but not knowing what.

All children are made for family.  God does not want any children to be alone.

We need an "epidemic of adoption" to arise. We need adoption to be common-place instead of just a few families who do it.  We need to move and be bold and open our homes and our hearts.

People tell me all the time that they wish they could adopt, but they can't afford it.  Let me be clear. We (my husband and I) cannot afford adoption. My husband is a mechanic and I stay home. Money is tight.  And yet, we've done it twice. We didn't do this alone; we did it along with our God, who is faithful and moves mountains. We did it with our friends and families.  We did it by making sacrifices.  And you can do it too.

People also tell me, "We're good with 2 kids."  Yeah, I get that. We were good with 2 kids, too. But you know what? We're so much better with 4 kids! It's a gift to give your children siblings, something you'll never regret.

I believe God has blessed us so fully so that we can then be His hands and feet to bless others. So I ask, what are we going to do?

Please take a moment to watch this video and read this article; they can say it better than I can.

While adoption for us began as a response to God's call, man oh man have we been fully blessed in return.