Friday, July 18, 2014

Three Amazing Gifts

Every now and then I stop and catch my breath as I realize how incredibly blessed I am. Today I reflect on three amazing gifts that God has given me.

1. Pepper turned 8 last week. He is a tall, skinny boy with the most tender, gentle, generous heart. His sense of humor develops a bit more every day, and he cracks us up with his off-the-wall comments and unique perspective on life. He is one amazing gift! Happy Birthday, sweet boy!

2. Today our precious Sweet Pea is three months old. She continues to be the easiest baby ever. The only things she could do that would make her easier is change her own diaper and feed herself. She loves to talk and laugh. She lights up whenever she sees one of her siblings. Her daddy is her favorite person in the world. She cries maybe one or two minutes a day, if that. Seriously. She's so much fun, and we're all crazy about her. Happy three months, great big itty bitty blessing!

3. All week long we've been doing VBS at our church. Matt has been doing the teaching. I have been in the nursery caring for the babies and toddlers of the VBS volunteers. We walked out of the church after VBS today, and this was sitting in the parking lot with a huge pink bow on the hood.

Y'all!!! A friend of a friend heard our adoption story and that we are in full-time ministry, and they felt that God was leading them to buy a car for our family. For the last three months we've been driving two cars everywhere because neither of our cars will fit us all. This incredible Honda Odyssey has 8 seats in it and is in perfect condition! And it was given to us!!! I am still in shock, I think. I can't wrap my head around the fact that it is ours. Amazing gift. AMAZING! God is so cool like that!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Two Months Old!

Our little Sweet Pea is two months old. I can't believe how fast these months have gone. So much faster than the last two months of my pregnancy, that's for sure! I'm convinced there has never been a sweeter, happier, easier baby. This little girl is the pride and joy and delight of our whole family. We all adore her and are cherishing every moment of her babyhood. Thank you, God, for this precious gift!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day!

To my wonderful daddy, Jim, Happy Father's Day! I love you more with each year that passes. You're my counselor, my biggest fan, my dear friend, and my hero.

To my incredible husband, the father of our children, Happy Father's Day! Your fathering skills are supreme. Our kids don't know how blessed they are, but I do. This past year, you really stepped up to the plate during my pregnancy sickness, late pregnancy pain, and the challenges of having a newborn. You have been both mom and dad to the kids when I couldn't do anything. I hope you know how much I appreciate you, and that I don't take you for granted. I love you, Babe.

Daddy with Sweet Pea this morning

Saturday, May 31, 2014

He CAN!!!

Pepper is not an athlete. I doubt he ever will be. He has always been very thin, has poor muscle tone, poor coordination, and a greater-than-normal fear of getting hurt. We got him his first bike when he was four. He jumped on it and was instsntly paralyzed by fear. The training wheels weren't firmly on the ground, and the slight wobble of the bike terrified Pepper. That bike stayed brand new in our garage until we adopted the girls, and then Sunny was more than happy to terrorize the neighborhood on it.

That bike birthday was four years ago now, and we haven't been able to coax Pepper onto a bike, even one with training wheels. He has tried a few times, but hasn't been able to get himself to even try to ride. He has burst into tears every time.

Fast forward to today. Pepper now has three seasons of cross country running experience. He has an official diagnosis of joint hyperlaxity (loose joints). We know that he has ADHD which makes him more emotionally volatile. He also has a year of karate under his belt (ha ha ha). These sporting activities, combined with a better understanding of his body and emotional functioning, have strengthened Pepper in every area of his life. I don't know what made him get his bike out today, but he did. He asked Matt to help him learn to ride. So Matt did the Daddy thing and spent an hour running alongside the bike.

The afternoon was not without frustration. It was not without tears and wailing. It was not without outbursts of anger ("My dumb legs just can't understand what to do!"). But it also was not without success. All it took was independently riding about 50 feet with Daddy running behind, and Pepper finally gained the confidence he needed. He did it! He rode his 2-wheeler with no training wheels! I held true to the promise I made him three years ago: When you ride your bike with no training wheels, I will buy you ice cream. Right after Pepper rode that beautiful stretch, I grabbed his hand and marched him across the street to the gas station, where he chose a Jolly Rancher push-up popsicle. Once the popsicle was gone, he went back outside to help Daddy do maintenance on the girls' bikes. A few minutes later, Matt noticed that Pepper was gone. He looked up, and there was Pepper, riding his bike down the sidewalk ALL BY HIMSELF! He came running inside, screaming with delight, to tell me what he had done! He proceeded to babble on and on about how much he loves riding a bike, and all the fun he's going to have now that he doesn't have to be afraid of the bike anymore.

So today I jump for joy and burst with pride and the accomplishment of my timid, scrawny, adorable son. This was a huge victory--and a major milestone--for him. I am so very proud of this boy!

Monday, May 19, 2014

One Month

You blink and it is gone! Time is so fleeting when you have a baby. Little Sweet Pea is now one month old.

At one month:
  • 7 pounds, 8 ounces
  • Wears size Newborn diapers
  • Wears size Newborn clothes
  • She's still a little peanut!
  • We're breastfeeding, and it's going great! I don't have an overabundance of milk this time (with my last pregnancy I could have fed 3 babies...), but I have enough for Sweet Pea.
  • She eats every 3 hours during the day.
  • One feeding takes 20-30 minutes.
  • Her last feeding of the day is at 10:30 p.m. 
  • She pretty consistently sleeps from 11:00-3:30, and then again from 4:00-8:00.
  • Yes, I'm blessed with a great sleeper!
  • She's not on a consistent nap schedule, and that's entirely my fault.
  • I've dealt with a hefty dose of the baby blues, and I haven't wanted to put her down. At all.
  • She sleeps most of the morning in my arms or in the Moby wrap. I'm not complaining!
  • She naps again in the afternoon, and in the early evening.
  • She has nice, long periods of being awake.
  • This baby is very interested in what's going on around her. She is always wide-eyed and alert.
  • She smiled for the first time at 10 days old. We've seen many smiles since then, but they have been isolated...usually just one smile, and then she can't seem to figure out how to do it again.
  • Yesterday she smiled at her Daddy. Over, and over, and over. And she smiled at me several times. The smiles are coming more easily.
  • Sweet Pea prefers Mommy to all others, though she's pretty comfortable with Daddy, too.
  • She is the most expressive for Daddy. Her whole body gets excited when he holds her. She arches her back, stretches out her arms, wiggles, and gets very intently focused on him.
  • She turns her head to the sound of his voice every time she hears him.
  • I've had to ban him from talking close to me when I'm nursing Sweet's tough on the Momma!
  • Sweet Pea is not too sure about her siblings. I took some photos of the kids holding her a few days ago. The only one she was comfortable with was Snapper. She was very relaxed in Snapper's arms, and was willing to stay there for a long time. She got very antsy and fussy when the other kids tried to hold her.
  • She has the sweetest disposition! She's such a content baby. As I type, she's asleep on my chest. When she wakes up, she'll just relax on my lap.
  • She enjoys being in her swing, and often naps there.
  • She likes her play mat, too. She generally likes being on her back.
  • Bath time is her favorite! She has a mesh bath seat that she loves to sit in while I pour warm water over her. 
  • She's a pacifier baby. We knew the day she was born that she had a strong sucking reflex. She loves her paci.
  • She does not like being in the car if it involves sitting at stoplights. She is fine when the car is moving, but she screams when we stop. This is the only thing she screams about.
  • She also does not like being cold. She doesn't scream, but she does fuss. I have a light blanket that goes everywhere with us.
  • She doesn't like having a poopy diaper, either. She lets us know when she needs a change.
  • We are blessed with a healthy, happy baby. Yes, so blessed! How I adore her!
Here are some favorite photos from her first month. As a reminder--I don't post pics of Bubbles, Piper, and Sunny for safety reasons. I have wonderful photos of them, too, that I wish I could share safely. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Happiness Is...

Happiness is...

  • 6 hours of labor
  • The perfect epidural
  • 3 minutes of pushing
  • 6 pounds, 9 ounces of the most perfect little girl I ever laid eyes on!
  • A newborn's cries
  • Waking up in the morning with a fresh baby in your arms
  • Sweet rosebud lips
  • Long, slender fingers
  • Ten tiny toes
  • Silky newborn skin
  • Soft brown hair
  • Big eyes, bright and alert
  • Seeing my own characteristics in her, and Daddy's, too!
  • Watching her turn to the sound of my voice
  • A good nurser
  • Coming home to my own bed
  • A sweet, swaddled bed buddy
  • Big sisters and brother so happy to welcome their baby sister
  • Mellow!!!
  • A baby who fell right into routine
  • 6 hours of solid sleep every night
  • Virtually no fussing!
  • Lots and lots of dirty diapers
  • Cuddles around the clock
  • Knowing that this little miracle was deemed a medical impossibility
  • A precious, daily reminder that all things are possible with God!
Welcome to the world, little Sweet Pea! We are so blessed to call you ours!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Ticking Time Bomb

38 weeks, 2 days
Dilated 3 cm.
50% effaced.
BFF arrives from California on Sunday night to be here for the birth (We moved up her ticket to get her here sooner, at the advice of my doctor).
Flat on my back until then, praying she makes in time!!!
Once her feet hit the Florida soil (or the carpet of the jet bridge), this show can roll!

Savoring each kick, roll, and stretch in my belly, knowing this is the last time I'll be feeling these things.
Bags packed and ready.
Friends on stand-by to take the kiddos for us.
Gas tank full in the van.
Car seat and diaper bag waiting by the door.
Excited older siblings, asking me every morning, "Is today the day?"
Big sister/Big brother t-shirts puff painted by four antsy sisters and one twitterpated big brother.
Custom made Daddy t-shirt (with all six kids' names on it) proudly packed in Daddy's bag.
Custom made Sweet Pea's Daddy hat (I put her real name on it) secretly stowed in my bag to give to Daddy when Baby Girl makes her grand entrance.
Hip pain. Back pain. Pelvic pain.
Frequent but irregular contractions.
Fatigue like crazy.
Excitement, mixed with tears.

We're ready to have a baby! Little Girl, we can't wait to meet you!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Happy Sweet Pea month to me!!!
Before I turn the calendar page again, I will be holding my new girl in my arms.

My body is definitely getting ready. The contractions have dramatically increased in the last two days. I can't walk without waddling anymore. I have huge pressure and pain down low. There are other symptoms, too that let me know that Baby Day is drawing very near.

I can hardly wait!!!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Maternity Photos

When I was pregnant with Snapper and Pepper, it never occurred to me to take pregnancy photos. I have a very few from my pregnancy with Snapper. I have more from Pepper, but still, nothing formal. This time around I have had the pleasure of a perfectly proportioned belly. With the rise of adorable photos on Pinterest, I was inspired to do a maternity photo shoot. Today my dear friend Traci gave us the gift of photos. I LOVE how they turned out. Here are my favorites!

37 weeks pregnant with our little Sweet Pea!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Happenings at Our House

Spring Break was uneventful, which in our house is a very good thing. When you have five kids--three of whom do not do well with lack of structure--home for a whole 10 days, there's potential for chaos. We did some of the things we had planned, and didn't get to some of the other things. And we did things we hadn't planned. But we had a good time and were ready to go back to school yesterday. Here's a general "state of the family" post, mainly for my own records.

Snapper is now 11 1/2, and thriving. After a period of difficulty in math (not academic...difficulty understanding why she has to do/turn in homework when she understands the concepts), she managed to pull herself together for another quarter of all A's on her report card. Her big triumphs this quarter were in English, with her success in the district spelling bee and earning the high praise of her teacher for her research paper on Marie Curie. She is looking forward to the middle school living wax museum in a few weeks, in which she will be representing Marie Curie. We made her costume already, and she did an outstanding job on her presentation board. She is almost done memorizing her speech. We just have to work on the dramatization of the part now. Such a wonderful project! Snapper just earned her first purple stripe for her orange belt in karate. She's hoping to progress enough to test for her purple belt in May. That will move her into the intermediate ranks. She loves karate more than I've ever seen her love anything else. She has become such a wonderful young lady. I feel like every day I see a little more of the child fade, and more of the young woman appear. I'm so proud of her! Today she babysat her siblings for me so I could nap in the afternoon when I wasn't feeling well. She made snacks, helped the three youngest ones with homework, and kept them all quiet and occupied for two hours. I'm so thankful for Snapper, and so proud of her!

Bubbles is 9. She was recently diagnosed with rapid onset precocious puberty. We've spent a great deal of time in doctors' offices and at the hospital recently, trying to make sure we've thoroughly checked her body for abnormalities. She has been such a trooper, putting up with IV's, x-rays, blood draws, exams, MRI's, etc. The testing is done now. We're awaiting MRI results. If all is clear (as her doctor expects it to be), she'll begin hormone injections next week. This will slow her little body down, and allow her a few more years to be a kid. It will also let her grow to a more normal height. Without intervention, she will not even hit 5 feet tall. Bubbles has significant struggles in school. I've worked very intensively with her as I've home schooled her this year. It has helped some, but not enough. She will be tested by the public school within the next few weeks. I'm looking forward to having solid answers, and to getting an IEP in place for her for next year. We've seen such wonderful emotional growth in Bubbles the past few months. While she still struggles with how to be part of a group of kids without being in charge and having everything her way, she has mellowed enough to make a best friend. Her friend is my friend Holly's daughter, A. Bubbles and A have totally bonded, and are joined at the hip. They even wore matching shoes to church on Sunday, and got the biggest thrill out of that. Bubbles put herself to bed 45 minutes early tonight, just because she was tired. Just 6 months ago she was so fearful every night that there were tears and excuses every single bedtime. We've been seeing some good improvement in the last couple of months. But tonight shows us that Bubbles has overcome this monster in her life! She is no longer afraid to go to bed, and no longer afraid to sleep. She knows she is safe, and can rest peacefully. What a HUGE deal this is!!!

Piper is 8. We recently switched her ADHD medication, and what a huge difference it has made for her! We had been seeing a decrease in the benefits of the meds, and an increase in anxiety, defiance, meanness, and irritability. She said she feels like her brain is back to normal again. She is sweet, cheerful, full of fun and giggles, and is much more focused with her chores and schoolwork. This is what we were looking for, and we're all happy. Piper has made really great gains with her reading recently! Her fluency has increased, as has her ease with sounding out larger words. It delights my heart to hear her read to Sunny in the afternoons, because the reading is no longer choppy or strained. She even reads with wonderful expression, and has picked up how to interpret punctuation in her oral reading. This is a big victory for her. She still has some struggles related to her early years. We're working very hard on honesty, and the importance of being a girl of your word. She's on somewhat of a short leash right now because it is hard to trust the things that she says. She is such a sweetie, though, and she especially loves to help Daddy and me around the house. She's my overall best helper, often jumping in and doing extra chores, just because she sees that the chores need doing.

Pepper is 7 1/2. His ADHD medication has made a huge difference in his overall functioning. He no longer resists going to school or resists doing his homework. He has no problems getting moving in the morning, and is always ready for school on time. His teacher reports that he is interested and engaged at school, and the negative behaviors have melted away. His grades have gone up, too, as he earned A Honor Roll for the first time! Now that he can focus, he's free to learn, and free to perform to his capacity in school. He had all his neurology testing done last week, and he received the diagnosis of Benign Joint Hyperlaxity. In other words, he has loose connective tissue in his joints, and will always be a flexible, floppy kid. There's no cure and no treatment for this. We updated his 504 plan at school to allow him the freedom to sit in whatever position is necessary for him to feel balanced. The good news is that his nervous and muscular systems received a clean bill of health! We are thrilled about that. Pepper continues to be a delightful, generous, forgiving, kind, little boy. He brings me delight and joy every day with his gentle, patient, tender personality. He is extremely excited about our new baby. All the kids are, but I think Pepper is anticipating her the most. He has already claimed her as his baby, and I know he's going to be a wonderful big brother.

Sunny is 6. She's such a tough kiddo to write about. She was finally accepted by one of the best Behavioral Health programs in our state, and we're awaiting her psychological evaluation, which should take place next week. We anticipate the possibility of a serious mental health diagnosis for her. There are several possibilities of what could be causing her troubles. We're praying that whatever it is, there is help available for her. Matt and I know that her struggles in life are caused primarily by what was done to her by the people who were supposed to love and care for her. Most of it is not her fault. But we have to help her learn to cope, and how to function in society. It's a tall order. Her bad days are very bad. But her good days are quite wonderful. There are two big positives that I can emphasize in this post. First, she is doing far better in school than we anticipated. She struggles with her fine motor skills, but is really growing in her reading abilities! She has a good mind for math, too. Her teacher is very pleased with Sunny's growth, and her effort in class. The other great thing is Sunny's attachment to Matt and me. The ambivalence we once saw in her relationship with us has gone. She has finally owned us as her parents, and is really letting herself grow emotional ties. In that regard, she's a different kid than she was 6 months ago. She's much more secure, and finally allows herself to enjoy closeness with us. Such great progress! I have so many hopes for this little one. I pray for wisdom for the doctors who will be working with us in this new program.

I'm hanging in there. I'm due in 3 weeks, and have officially reached the miserable stage of pregnancy. I'm still carrying very small, so at least I don't have bulky awkwardness to deal with! I do have some of the other undesirable symptoms of pregnancy, including (but not limited to) restless legs, acid reflux, hemorrhoids, and pelvic pain. I'm very much looking forward to putting labor and delivery behind me, and holding my little Sweet Pea in my arms, not my belly. I have another doctor's appointment tomorrow. I'm also touring the labor and delivery unit at the hospital, and meeting with the birth coordinator to go over my birth plan with her. This is my third delivery, and I'm pretty specific about what I want. I know my body. I know what it's like to have a baby. Experience has taught me what I want, and I'm glad to have someone to communicate all of that to. As I've had to gain a voice and become an advocate the for many special needs of my adopted kiddos, I've also gained a voice for myself. I'm excited that I'm going into this delivery confident, and ready to ask for what I need. Things are pretty much ready for this baby! We're all set on clothes and supplies. I've done all the laundry and packed Sweet Pea's hospital bag. Her car seat is ready in the back of the van. We should be getting our Suburban the first week of April!!! Then we can install the car seat. All I have left to do is pick up the pack & play/bassinet from my friend Tracie. Then we're ready to go! My BFF, Noel, arrives from California on April 8th to be here for the delivery. I can't wait to her to arrive! Then I am free to have this baby. If you had told me three years ago that by the start of summer in 2014 I would have six kids, I would have laughed in your face. Now here I am! Oh my!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring Break at Home

The big question from the kids this year was, "Where are we going for Spring Break?" It seems that most of their friends are going cool places or doing big things. Reports from the kids about their friends' spring break plans include:
Spending the week at Disney
A Disney cruise
Florida Keys trip
New York City

Those things are not possible for our family. First of all, trips with a family our size are very expensive. Second, my due date is one month from today!!! I'm not going anywhere far from my doctor. Also, it is just not fun to travel at 36 weeks pregnant! Third, Matt is going to be taking time off from work when Baby arrives. There's no point in taking time off now.

Even though we've never done Spring Break travel before, there were some very disappointed kiddos in our house when we told them we were staying home. Somehow, they had all worked it out in their heads that we were doing the things their friends are doing. Huh. So I have devised some plans to help make our stay-at-home break lots of fun. Here are some of the things we'll be doing (or have already done).
  • Paint big brother/big sister t-shirts to wear to the hospital when they meet Baby Sister
  • Make new playdough
  • Paint pictures
  • Glamour shot photo shoots in our yard (which means fancy hair and make-up for the girls)
  • A new puzzle
  • LOTS of outside playtime
  • Rent movies 
  • Watch movies while eating popcorn
  • Theater movie dates with Mommy for Piper and Sunny (redeeming gift cards they got for their birthdays)
  • Bake cookies
  • A visit to the neurologist for Pepper (Thursday) and getting a wart removed for Pepper (Wednesday)
  • Free play time at a local gymnastics place with all our friends (Friday)
  • Sleepover at a friend's house for Snapper
  • Picnic lunch at the park with Piper's BFF
  • Buy the Frozen dvd and watch it at least three times
  • READ!
  • Have each kid help with meal prep on a different day (they all love to cook)
  • Make art pieces to mail to cousins
  • Dinner and pedicures for me with my friend Tracie
  • Make new hair bows 
  • Snuggle and tickle and enjoy each other
When we made the list, they felt a lot better. I think they were picturing a week filled with nothing but unscheduled time. A week like that is actually threatening to my kids with trauma histories, because structure equals safety to them. Unstructured time feels like life is out of control. Having a list of what we can do each day helps them feel more secure. It promises to be a fun week!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Feathering My Nest

35 weeks and 1 day pregnant.

I have always chuckled at moms who would tell me that they had the nesting urge. I never had the nesting urge with Snapper and Pepper's pregnancies. Never. I organized their stuff and had fun setting up their rooms. But there was never any urge to get things done. Never any urgency. Never any compulsion to prepare. Never a compelling need to shop. I just did it because it needed to be done. I packed my hospital bag when the contractions got to 8 minutes apart.

I grew up on a goat farm. Every spring our momma goaties would have baby goaties. About a week before a momma goat would give birth, she would go out an start digging nesting holes in the barnyard. On delivery day, she would dig nesting holes in the hay. I never did understand that. I mean, I understood that they were preparing for their babies. I just didn't understand why they spent the better part of the week digging holes in the dirt and hay. Wasn't one hole in the hay good enough?

Now I understand!!!

I am learning for the first time what the nesting urge is. For the last week I've had an uncontrollable urge to shop for baby things. I'm not a shopper, not a spender. This is highly unusual for me. I have indulged that urge, scouring local consignment and thrift shops for the cutest baby clothes at the best price. And people, I've scored some real bargains! Baby Gap dresses--with tags still on--for $2! A sleeper I drooled over in Dillards (somewhere around $17 new there) for $1.75 (it was that or less) in a thrift shop. And then I found the hat that goes with it in another thrift shop for $0.25! I love it!

I've been itching to get things done and ready for this baby. We got a nice hand-me-down car seat from a friend. I scrubbed car seat straps today and washed the seat liner. I put the seat back together and put in her new little head rest and strap covers. Yesterday I washed all her newborn size clothes and got them put away. I assembled the small storage shelf I bought to solve the problem of where to put her things. I put away all the basic necessities on the new shelf and put everything else in a tote in my closet. I packed her diaper bag with the things I'm taking to the hospital for her.

Today I went to Hobby Lobby and got materials to make a whole bunch of cute hair bows for her, and tonight while the kids watched a movie, I made hair bows. A bunch of them. Really cute ones. Layered ones, twisted ones, all different colors, and some flowers, too. They all clip onto interchangeable headbands that I made. I also made a hanger for all the cute bows and flower to clip onto. I have a bunch more cute ribbon to work with, so I know I'll be making more bows in the next week.

While I was at Hobby Lobby, I picked up t-shirts and puff paints for the kids. One of our Spring Break projects will be making shirts to wear to the hospital when they come to meet their new sister. I know they'll all have fun with that project!

Tomorrow I hope to get the crib quilt put together and the quilting done. I don't have the time or patience to hand quilt it right now, so I'm settling for machine quilting. It will still be pretty, and Sweet Pea will not care.

Even though I spent five days in the labor and delivery unit in September for my hyperemesis, I called the hospital to set up a time to take a tour of the labor and delivery area, and to meet with the birth coordinator. When I was so sick, all I saw was the reception area and my room. I want to see the whole thing. This particular hospital has the mom meet with the birth coordinator in advance to develop a birth plan to keep on file at the hospital. That way if Mom arrives well into labor and clouded by pain, the paperwork is already in place informing the nurses exactly what Mom wants and needs. I totally love that! I have extremely fixed notions about my labor and delivery. Having all of that settled ahead of time is a very good thing for me.

Speaking of baby, I saw the doctor today and I'm one centimeter dilated! I know that's really common for moms who are not first-timers. But makes Delivery Day seem that much closer and more real. Sweet Pea is all settled in head-down. The doctor says she has a normal size head and is growing right on target. This is such a relief, given the abnormalities in Sweet Pea's umbilical cord. I am thankful for each day that passes with Baby still healthy and growing inside.

The last thing I absolutely need to do is shop for some pretty pajamas for me to wear in the hospital, and a few comfy outfits to wear in the first few weeks after Sweet Pea is born. Since my tummy outgrew all my pajamas, I've been wearing Matt's Angry Birds lounge pants and t-shirt to sleep in. Somehow it just doesn't seem like the right outfit for a new mommy to be wearing in the hospital. Not with all the photos and visitors that are sure to come!

The other last thing I need to do is purchase a new camera. My wonderful digital SLR survived way, way longer than its life expectancy. But now the quality of the photos it takes is rapidly declining. I need a decent camera before Sweet Pea arrives. We've designated a portion of our tax return money to take care of that expense. I expect the tax return to hit our account next week. At least I hope it does!

If I had a nice stall of hay, I would be digging and digging! I'm going to enjoy this nesting thing while it lasts. It's pretty fun. A little anxious, but still fun.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Irritable and Frustrated

I have officially reached that point in this pregnancy where the end can't come soon enough. I read other moms' stories of cherishing every moment of their pregnancies, loving feeling the baby moving, and being sad for the pregnancy to end.

I am not one of those moms!

Every day feels like an eternity. I have a baby who likes to put her feet under my ribs, and she grinds her head on my bladder. I am constantly uncomfortable. Because of the pre-term contractions I had last month, I am on orders to stay off my feet. If I'm up for very long, the contractions start again. I have so much to do, but no energy to do it. And if I push through the fatigue and try to do stuff, contractions start. So I home school my cranky, uncooperative 3rd grader the best I can. I get the laundry done, because I can do most of that from the couch. Sometimes I ignore the contractions and plunge into a job, which makes my mind feel better, but is not really a smart idea for my body. I leave the kitchen cleaning to Snapper, Pepper, and Bubbles, which means I go through every day with all the breakfast mess in the sink (so not my style). Hubby comes home from work and does the cooking. The rest of the cleaning happens on Saturdays, when the kids can do most of it.

Night is far worse than day. I have way more ligament pain with this pregnancy than with my others. I think it must come from being so much older this time around. I have horrific heartburn, and I have to sleep mostly sitting up, which is never comfortable. I am very thankful for my body pillow, which hooks around my neck and keeps my head stable while I sleep. While I "sleep." I've reached that magical place in the pregnancy when I have to get up four or five times in the night to pee. I feel like when I do sleep, I dream constantly. And probably the worst part of all is the restless leg syndrome. It used to just be at bedtime. Now it's off and on all night. I'm just miserable.

I know, I will be worth it. I know it will be worth it. In a few short weeks I'll be holding my sweet baby, and the rough parts of this pregnancy will quickly fade. But the truth is, I'm walking through it now. Thinking ahead does not help. Knowing that I'm almost done does not help. I just want it to be the middle of April.

I'm facing additional frustration as well. If you've read my blog for any period of time, you know that I am Queen Organization and Plan Ahead. With Snapper and Pepper, I had their nurseries all set up and ready for them two months in advance. I had so much fun washing the little clothes, putting them carefully away, decorating, and getting all my baby gear set up and ready to go. I could relax and rest at the end of the pregnancy. This time is so much different.

We are stacked on top of each other in our little tiny house. We do not have room for a baby and all the gear that comes with a baby. There is no place in our house to put a crib. We can't fit another dresser in the house. I have one small section of my closet that will fit baby clothes. There will be no cute decorations. No neat organization. No special space just for her. She'll live in our room until we move this summer. She'll sleep in the bassinet insert in a pack & play as long as she'll fit in it. All the gear I'm not immediately using will live in a tote in the garage.

And this is driving me crazy.

It may change when our lease expires at the end of June. We must move into a larger house, and I'm hoping the baby will at least be able to have part of a bedroom, with a real crib and a dresser and a place to keep all of her stuff. I know my little Sweet Pea will never remember not having her own nursery. But it's tough for me. I'm frustrated, and I'm sad.

There. I've said it. Gripe is over. are a couple of photos from my baby shower yesterday. My friend Brandee did a lovely job on the shower. My friends are so generous, and I received so many wonderful things! And here's a photo of Sweet Pea's crib quilt. I've been piecing it here and there over the last couple of months. I finished the face today. As soon as I can make it to the store to pick up quilt batting, I'll finish the quilting and binding. Not that she has a crib...

34 weeks pregnant!

Isn't it beautiful???

The shower was a brunch because I love brunch foods so much. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Tale of Two Second Graders

Any parents out there will tell you that even when two children come from the same two parents, those children are as different as different can be. Snapper and Pepper share Matt's and my genetics. In many ways they are alike. But they are so different in far more ways! Add in three more girls with totally different genetics, and we have a house bursting with uniqueness!

We love the individual beauty of each of our kids. Each has something special to offer, a different perspective, and a different way of expressing him/herself. I've written about this before, and about their unique challenges as well.

Never is this as evident as on Report Card Day. Momma and Daddy are faced with two very different report cards from our two 2nd graders. How we respond to them could with make or break these two children.

Piper's report card:
Reading: C+
Language Arts: C
Math: A
Science: A-
Social Studies: A-
Citizenship: All S (Satisfactory), with an S- in "Stays on task and completes work within the allotted time."

Pepper's report card:
Reading: A
Language Arts: A
Math: A
Science: A+
Social Studies: A+
Citizenship: All S (Satisfactory) with a note that there has been great improvement in Pepper's completion of in-class work.

Pepper (age 7.5) has a very, very high IQ. He is a sponge for information, is a brilliant speller, reads on a 10th grade reading level, learned his multiplication facts in one day, and can write circles around most kids in his grade. He has Inattention Type ADHD, and the medication he has been taking for the last month has freed him to be able to focus on his work. His Reading and Language Arts grades have never been this high because never until now has he been able to keep himself focused long enough to thoroughly complete his work. Reading a passage, answering questions, and using advanced reasoning skills have requires too much sustained mental effort for him in the past.

Our celebration of Pepper's grades will not be focused on all those A's. We will buy him an ice cream cone to celebrate the progress he has made in his focusing, his effort in writing, and now four whole weeks without a behavior notice from his teacher!

Piper (age 8) has a brain that was damaged by parental prenatal drug use, profound neglect, and abuse. She also comes from genetics that are not known for intelligence. She is very bright with numbers, and enjoys the systematic predictability of math. She likes one correct answer, and following a procedure to reach the answer. She reads slightly below grade level, and comprehends what she reads. Her problem with reading is the way that Common Core tests. Unless the child has advanced reasoning skills, they will not test well. Piper does not have advanced reasoning skills. The tests are not a true representation of Piper's reading mechanics, nor her comprehension, so this C grade does not really concern me. The fact that she loves to read, reads all the time, and is able to easily retell the story are proof enough for me. Her real area of struggle is Language Arts. Writing. Spelling. Grammar. These come very hard for her, especially since she has expressive language processing struggles. She also has full-blown ADHD. She takes medication and it helps tremendously, but she still has to work very hard to stay on task and finish her work.

Our celebration of Piper's grades will be focused on the improvement of all grades over last quarter! She had C- in both Reading and Language Arts last quarter, and she has been working very hard, especially on her spelling. She had a B in Science last quarter, too, that came up to an A. So Piper will get an ice cream cone in celebration of her effort and improvement.

Our challenge is for the two kids not to feel compared to each other. The truth of the matter is, no matter how hard Piper works, she will never equal Pepper in academic ability. In fact, Pepper will go far, far, far beyond what Piper is capable of. Pepper knows this. Piper knows this. We've been lucky so far, in that no one feels bad about it. Pepper is a sensitive soul, and he is very careful with Piper's feelings. He's quick to offer to help her, and because they use the same curriculum, he's often more help than I am. They enjoy studying together, and Piper feels safe with Pepper. I love that.

Matt and I have realistic expectations. We ask that our kids do their best at school. We require all homework to be completed and turned in on time. We carefully review homework with them before we send it in, and we review the graded work that comes home. If a paper is completed in a sloppy manner, we have them re-do it. If they skip problems or don't read the directions, they do it over. We're teaching them to be neat and thorough, and to pay attention to the directions. When their grades come back, we know we've all done our part. We celebrate progress, hard work, and good effort. The kids are satisfied and we are satisfied. We never, never compare the two kids. If Piper gets frustrated that Pepper doesn't have to study his spelling words (she does get frustrated on occasion), I remind her that Pepper's brain is wired differently than hers, and he has an easier time with spelling because of it. Then I feed her an M&M when she has learned a word correctly, and Pepper doesn't ever get M&M's for spelling. Chocolate makes everything better. =)

How do you approach learning differences in your children? Do you have any special celebration or technique that builds their confidence and celebrates their uniqueness?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Congratulations, Snapper!

Snapper was one of six 6th graders chosen to represent her school at the district spelling bee last week. We have been studying the word list--over 1500 words--since the second week in January. We've been focusing on 20 words per night. She worked diligently and faithfully, and it paid off. On Friday she competed. There were 52 6th graders representing ten schools around our region. There were similar numbers of 5th, 7th, and 8th graders, too. Parents weren't allowed in the preliminary round. Snapper went into a big room with all the other 6th graders, and they did a traditional spelling bee. They were in there for three hours, spelling down to a Top Four. Snapper lost count of how many words she spelled. One of the other girls said she thinks they went 15 rounds. I just know that the word she spelled out on--varicolored--was not even on the spelling list we studied. Snapper came in 3rd in the 6th grade spelling bee! Two other students from our school made Top Four, also!

Then came the real exciting part: the spell-off. The Top Four from 5th, 7th, and 8th grade joined the Top Four 6th graders, and they did another spelling bee for the championship. Snapper survived six rounds. The first two rounds were on the published list. After that, they went off list and there were some crazy words! Now I'm a word lover and an excellent speller, so you know that when even I don't have a clue, it's a smart bunch of kids on that stage! I had never even heard some of the words they spelled! In the end, Snapper spelled out on Wherewithal, adding an extra l to the end. She finished 10th overall. I'm so very proud of her. An 8th grader from our school won the whole thing, and another girl from our school finished 3rd. Good luck to them both as they represent our school at regionals.

P.S. I'm really glad Snapper didn't qualify for happens the week of my due date, and I don't think I could stand another 5 weeks of studying spelling words every day!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hospital Day

Greetings from the hospital. I'm here today with Bubbles, who is undergoing a huge battery of endocrinology tests. For the first 6 1/2 years of her life, she was neglected, horribly malnourished, and had no medical care. When she was in foster care, she filled out and gained health. But it wasn't until she was in the security of our home and family--which she knew would be forever--that her body was able to respond. Over the last 20 months, she has more than made up for lost time.

People, she has grown 8 inches and gained 29 pounds in 20 months. She came to me in a little girls' size 6 clothes. Now she's in a size 10 pants and 12 shirts. She has grown in other ways, too--ways that she shouldn't be growing at age 9.

Our pediatrician referred her to to an endocrinologist back in October, and we had our first appointment then. Bubbles had a bone age test done, and it revealed that sure enough, he body thinks it is in puberty. 9 isn't abnormally young for the onset of puberty. The big concern is the speed at which it has happened. The endocrinologist said in October that Bubbles has done 3 years' worth of maturing in 6 months. She's on track to reach the peak of puberty by the end of this year. Then, she will only grow for another couple of years at the most. If she continues at her current rate, she'll top off at about 4'11" and will be physically mature by age 12. Definitely not ideal!

So today, we're at the hospital. She started out her morning getting an IV and having a whole bunch of blood drawn. They'll be running every test under the sun. Next, she got flooded with puberty hormones. She'll have blood draws over the next 4 hours to monitor how her brain handles those hormones. It will show us how progressed her puberty is. She's also going to have an MRI of her brain at some point...not sure yet if that is today or not.

Once the doctor gets the results, we'll discuss what to do next. At the very least, Bubbles we need monthly hormone injections to slow down the progression of puberty. She needs more time to be a little girl, more time for her body to grow.

I am very thankful for a wonderful hospital, patient, compassionate nurses, and good medical insurance. And I'm so glad we finally are getting these tests done!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Worthy Investment

We can't afford private school for our kids. It is just so expensive nowadays! But this year, Matt felt very strongly that Snapper needed to begin middle school in a private school. I deferred to him, because it isn't very often that he feels so strongly about something. We took the plunge and enrolled her in a Christian college prep school. Every month when I write out that tuition check, my stomach rolls over because's expensive! I try not to think of all the other ways I could be using that money.

And then there are days when this incredible school blows my socks off with something amazing, and I don't mind the cost anymore. IT IS WORTH IT!

This morning I met with the guidance counselor, and Snapper's History and Math teachers. Even though Snapper is in a rigorous program (college prep honors classes), it isn't enough. She is bored senseless in her math class, and has stopped caring about the homework. She does the homework. I check it every single afternoon. She does it, and does it well. But there is a convergence of three problems, here. 1. Snapper could ace every quiz and test without ever once looking at the homework. 2. She does not see how the homework benefits her, and therefore places low importance on turning it in. 3. She has ADHD, and struggles greatly with short-term memory and organization. That convergence has resulted in less than half of her math homework getting turned in for her math class this quarter. While she has a test and quiz average of 98 (it just went up again yesterday), her grade in the class is currently 86. Because homework matters.

The math teacher and I have taken steps to put an accountability and organization system into place for Snapper, and it is really helping. I also gave Snapper permission to not see the point of the homework. But I also emphasized that in this case, the development of her character is far more important than the math. Whether she sees the point or not, she still has to complete and turn in all her homework. The homework is now an exercise of character development. She understood that, latched onto that idea, and has adjusted her attitude accordingly.

Now the school steps in and makes changes to meet Snapper's needs, so that she no longer sees the homework as irrelevant. I am uber-impressed with the team I met with today. Those two teachers--Snapper's favorites--adore her. They genuinely care for her and want the best for her. They recognize Snapper's amazing potential, and are willing to do whatever is necessary to maximize her potential. Mrs. S, the Math teacher, is modifying Snapper's homework. She'll only have to do 1/3 of the daily homework assignment, just to show that she understands the concepts. The rest of her homework will be challenge activities that Mrs. S will prepare for her each day. The challenges delve deeper into the material, and will help develop Snapper's critical thinking skills. When the class does drill and practice to work on new concepts, Mrs. S will have other things for Snapper to work on. Mr. G, the History teacher, also wants to stretch and challenge Snapper. He is going to start having her do additional research during class. While the class works on assignments, he's going to have Snapper get on the computer and find additional information about the key figures, events, and concepts they are studying in class. He will have her share this information with the class. Because she is so inquisitive, she's going to eat it up! If Snapper thrives with the extra stimulation, her other teachers will institute similar interventions for her. The guidance counselor is going to meet with her as well, to do some coaching. She's going to help Snapper understand how her work ethic and good grades now are setting her up for the future. She's going to help Snapper research some different career possibilities, to give Snapper goals. She's also going to give Snapper some say in the interventions she's receiving. She wants Snapper on board with everything, and wants to give her ownership in her own education.

I LOVE THIS PLAN! I love the teachers. I love the school. I love how much they care for this little girl. Yes, worth every penny.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I Survived

It is Thursday, which means I survived Wednesday. God's grace and God's strength...not my own.

The big shot in the arm yesterday was Pepper's 504 Plan meeting at school. We are incredibly blessed to have our kids in a wonderful public school. We moved into this neighborhood 3 years ago, specifically for the school. We were right in that decision, for sure! Pepper's teacher and I were able to tell the district nurse and our school's ESE coordinator all about the things Pepper struggles with as a result of Inattention Type ADHD. We discussed his strengths as well. He is gifted, and highly intelligent. The ADHD dramatically impacts his learning and achievement. The nurse and ESE coordinator worked with Pepper's teacher and me to develop an accommodation plan for Pepper that will maximize his potential and give him the supports he needs to succeed. Probably the biggest, most important one of all is that Pepper will receive accommodations during Benchmark and annual standardized testing. He gets to take the test in a separate room, free from peer distraction. He has the option of taking the test on computer or paper. He also will not have time limits during the testing. This is HUGE! Another wonderful couple of accommodations for Pepper are 1) He has the freedom to eats snacks during the day, as needed, and 2) He is to be allowed the freedom to move around. If he needs to squat on his desk chair to work, or sit on the floor with a clipboard, he can. I am so thankful!

After the meeting was done, I came home and had a conversation with my hubby. I was feeling very pressured to get all of Bubbles' schoolwork finished with her yesterday. We're trying to be completely done with school for the year by the time the baby arrives. Matt looked at my to-do list and quickly crossed off yesterday's math lesson, Bible lesson, and writing assignment. Then he circled NAP on my list and made it the #1 priority. He was working from home yesterday, and took charge of keeping Bubbles occupied so I could sleep. He didn't do any school with her because he had his own work things to attend to, but he did set her up on math games on the computer. She played quietly and I got 90 minutes of rest. I tried to sleep, but Baby Sweetie was too active. Every time I would doze off, Baby would start kicking. Even though I didn't sleep, the rest was very helpful and I felt better when I got up.

Somehow I managed to get through the day. I talked to Pepper's teacher and requested an extra day to turn in his homework. She gladly granted that, which took off some more pressure.

We had a line of severe weather move through last night. Five years ago when I was the commander of our Awana when we lived in Arkansas, we had a tornado warning. We moved the kids into the downstairs hallways of the church while the tornado went by, less than a mile away. It was a terrifying experience then, and I figured it would be a once-in-a-lifetime event. I was wrong. Last night we were in the church in the middle of Awana, and we got a tornado warning. I could tell by looking at my radar that the rotating part of the storm was about 4 or 5 miles away. Still, we moved the kids into the sanctuary and rode it out. The gust of wind that first hit the building was a monster! I don't know if a tornado actually touched down last night, but it was still unnerving. Not a fan of tornadoes. Poor Snapper was a blubbering, snotting, sobbing mess. She hates storms because of all the storms we went through in Arkansas.

Today is running more smoothly. Bubbles is much more cooperative today. A friend from church has offered to homeschool Bubbles for me one day per week to help lighten my load. I will be taking advantage of that, for both Bubbles and me! It will be great for us both. Matt and Piper have a performance of their play tonight, so I'm on my own with the rest of the kids. We'll be finishing up Valentines, having pizza for dinner, and early bedtime for everyone.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Perspective Check

It's Wednesday morning, and my spirits match the sky outside: gray, heavy, and ominous. I went to bed at 9:00 last night because I didn't feel well. My hubby didn't realize I had really gone to sleep for the night, and he woke me up when he came to bed at 10:30. He wanted to chat. By the time I was awake enough to inform him that I had already gone to bed for the night, I was too awake to go back to sleep. And the restless leg syndrome kicked in. Peeps, I am thoroughly and completely convinced that restless leg syndrome will be a special punishment in hell reserved for the baddest of the bad!!! All I wanted to do last night was just go to sleep already, but alas, my legs felt that 1:00 in the morning was an appropriate time to dub step independently in the bed. The result of this lovely turn of events: I got a whopping 3 hours of sleep last night. I woke up--or rather sleepwalked out of my room--at 6:45 this morning, ready to say "screw this day and goodnight." Instead, I made lunches, took Snapper to school, and am sitting here writing and trying to stay awake until Pepper's 504 Plan meeting at school in 40 minutes. Bubbles is anything but bubbly this morning. She has decided that she hates being homeschooled and is trying desperately--with every ounce of stubborn bad attitude she can muster--to convince me that I should put her back in public school tomorrow. This will not happen, of course. But until she figures out that I mean what I say, I'm stuck dealing with a crankpot of a 3rd grader who thinks the 6 times tables are irrelevant to everyday life, and should not concern her. The rest of the day is jam-packed, as Wednesdays always are. I will not have a moment of rest until I crumple into my bed at 10:30 tonight. Little Sweetie Baby thinks she's a roly poly bug. She tumbled and rolls constantly, which makes me sick. I'm constantly nauseous. My legs are in a continual state of "twitch just slightly and I'll cramp on you." And my pelvic bones hurt a lot. This is not a great-looking day, y'all. I posted on Facebook asking for my friends to pray for me because I really need prayers. One sweet friend encouraged me to do what I do best: look for golden nuggets of blessing in my day. She's right. I need to do that. So here I go.

  1. Fresh blueberries in my vanilla yogurt for breakfast this morning
  2. Dr. Pepper in the fridge for an afternoon pick-me-up
  3. That this 504 meeting for Pepper was requested and scheduled and will be fulfilled in a mere two weeks...a miracle, as these things typically take a few months to get rolling!
  4. A wonderfully supportive husband who will do math with my reluctant homeschooler for me
  5. Comfortable maternity clothes that are also cute
  6. A healthy baby who is growing exactly as she should, despite a malformed umbilical cord
  7. My kids excited to memorize God's Word
  8. Flip flop weather outside today!
  9. The pair of cardinals who have decided to nest in the cedar tree in my backyard! I love their songs.
  10. My big comfy chair in the living room. I luff my chair. 
There, Lannece! Ten golden nuggets in a dreary, gray day. I'm still sleepy and sick and my legs still hurt. But my chin is a little higher today. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

So Not Ready for This!

This morning I drove Snapper to school. She's in middle school now, and she has to be to school no later than 7:30. We have her at a private college prep school now because she is so incredibly bright. She needs the academic challenge to thrive. And boy, is she thriving!

We've come such a long way from our days of 1st grade homeschool nightmare. Anyway, as we were driving, we passed another family from her school. Their son, who is also in 6th grade, saw us out his window and erupted into the hugest smile. Then he got embarrassed and ducked down out of sight. I looked over at Snapper, and she was grinning too, but was also beet red. There were sparks flying.

I said to her, "Hey! What was all that about?"
She looked at me and grinned again, a huge grin. "Well Mom, there's no denying that Ethan is really cute. He thinks I'm cute, too."


That's the sound of my heart dropping down into my feet. My baby girl likes a boy, and that boy likes my baby girl. 

"But don't worry, Mom. Ethan isn't the wrong kind of guy. He treats me so well! He carries my backpack for me, he holds the door open, and during 4th and 7th period, he'll even come over and push in my chair."


That's the sound of the breath leaving my body. A boy is treating my baby girl like a lady.

"And Mom, you really don't need to worry. Ethan likes me, but he isn't allowed to have a girlfriend until his parents think he's ready, which definitely won't be before he's 16 or 17 at least. So we have to wait at least four more years before we can do anything more than like each other and be friends."


That's the sound of me falling over onto the floor in a dead faint. 

Not really. Actually, I took it all in stride. I knew this day would come. I'm glad she has the good sense to like a boy who is a true gentleman, and whose parents are taking a wise, active role in his relationships with girls. I know Ethan and his parents outside of school, and they are exactly the kind of family I will {someday} want my girl getting connected with. She has actually displayed really great taste in her choice of boy, and that encourages me. When I was her age, only one thing mattered to me: IS HE CUTE? It so happens that Ethan is adorable. He is tall and slender, has curly, light brown hair, and big blue eyes. He has big teeth and adorable freckles. And when he smiles, it is like someone has turned on a light inside him. He's precious. Yes, Snapper has great taste. I imagine this crush will be a passing phase, like most middle school crushes.

But still...

How did she get so old?

It makes me even more glad that I'm having a baby girl. I get to start all over an enjoy childhood again from the very beginning. Ah yes, I am very glad.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Ready for April

I'll start by saying I'm not complaining here. I'm just stating the facts, because this is life right now and I don't have a pretentious bone in my body. This blog is a pretty accurate representation of the real me. What you see is what you get.

  • From what I can tell, the "golden days" of pregnancy are over. I think the morning sickness--or round the clock sickness for me--has returned. I feel awful all the time, and for no apparent reason. And oh gag reflex is so sensitive right now!
  • It is much more difficult and painful to throw up at 30 weeks pregnant than it is a 18 weeks pregnant.
  • Depends, anyone? Goodbye, normal bladder function.
  • The fatigue is unbelievable. It doesn't matter that I slept for 11 hours last night. It's 9:30 in the morning and I'm contemplating going back to bed.
  • What I wouldn't give for a single night of uninterrupted sleep!
  • Sunny's ODD behaviors are extra exhausting. She's just such a tough kiddo to parent. I pray fervently for her healing, and that God will use her great strength and survivor's spirit for good.
  • My home schooled child is tired of being home schooled. She wants to go back to public school, and she balks and drags her feet on everything we do, except for her new remedial reading program and History. She loves those two. 
  • Matt's show is this week and next week. It means that between final rehearsals and performances, he will only be home three of the next 14 nights. 
  • I foresee a lot of frozen pizza in our near future, because I can't handle food smells with the return of the morning sickness.
  • I love that Matt is getting to do this show! I don't begrudge the evenings out in the least. It has been the best, most therapeutic thing in the world for him, and he's a shining star on the stage. I can't wait to go see the show next week!
  • Before the kids leave for school in the morning, they must clean up their messes around the house. They do not like to do this, and are often lazy about it. Normally I will just pick up the stuff and throw it on their beds if they don't get it done before they leave. Not anymore! As of this morning, anything left out is going in the trash or to charity. They didn't believe me this morning, but they will when they come home from school. 
  • My toes are swollen and my belly hurts and I'm hungry but I can't eat or I get bad acid reflux. 
  • I need to go finish my baby registry but I'm totally unmotivated. The thought of driving 25 minutes and walking around the store and making decisions just plain old wears me out. 
  • I'm super excited about my baby shower, happening on March 8th. It's for all my church friends. I'm hoping there will be one other shower for my other friends, not because I want the stuff but because it is just so special to have my precious friends all in the same place, and celebrating the coming of a very special little person.
  • That little person moves constantly. I wonder if all her activity is contributing to my fatigue.
  • This morning I am praying for the strength to make it through today. 
Things I must accomplish today:
  • Math, reading, and grammar with Bubbles (history and writing can bump to tomorrow)
  • Follow up with the child psychiatrist for Sunny (still waiting on a call back from the scheduling lady)
  • Follow up with the endocrinologist for Bubbles (waiting for insurance approval on a very important, time-sensitive battery of tests)
  • Follow up with the neurologist for Pepper (to reschedule the appointment I made in October that they called me to cancel and reschedule)
  • Do Matt's and my laundry. I'm out of undies. Depends, anyone? Remember?
  • Sleep. Must have sleep. 
  • Prepare myself mentally and spiritually to deal with Sunny's behaviors this week without Matt.
  • If it didn't give me heartburn, I'd add "eat chocolate" to this list.
I'm ready for it to be April. I know having a new baby will add a whole different set of responsibilities to my life. But at least the physical struggles will go away, and I'll be able to put the baby down in her bed when I need to. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

How We Do Laundry

I have five kids. That means I do laundry for five kids. Pretty soon I'll be doing laundry for six kids. Yikes! That's a lot of laundry. It would be very easy for the laundry to control our home, and there are times when it does. For the most part, though, I am in control of the laundry, and here's how we do it.

Every child has his/her own laundry basket. It lives in the child's bedroom. They are much better at putting their laundry on the floor than they are at putting it in the baskets. I do not understand this. On laundry day, if there is laundry all over the bedrooms, I require the kids to sort it into their own baskets. They bring their baskets to the laundry room.

I wash all the kid clothes, sheets, and towels on Saturday morning, first thing. I do Matt's and my laundry on Monday mornings. I also wash karate uniforms on Mondays.

I can usually fit two kids' laundry into one load. I wash Snapper and Piper's clothes together because they share a room. I wash Sunny and Bubbles' clothes together because they share a room. Pepper's load is usually almost a full load on its own because his clothes are bulkier. I do two loads of towels each week and two loads of sheets every other week.

I make my own laundry soap. It's a simple recipe that I got from my mother-in-law. It works really well, but I don't love how it smells. That is easy to remedy! I love the scent of Arm&H@mmer's Fresh Burst liquid laundry soap. I have a huge jug of it, and I put in two cups with the laundry soap I make so I can still enjoy that smell. I used to separate my laundry into different loads based on color, but I no longer have time or energy for that. I wash new things in a cold vinegar wash to set the colors. From there on out, everything gets washed together. Except for the karate uniforms, which get their own bleach load.

When each load comes out, I call the owners of the load to come help me. I sort the load into two baskets, one for each child. Snapper and Bubbles take their own laundry from there. They follow the same process that I follow for Pepper, Piper, and Sunny's laundry. I fold it, match it into outfits, and bag it in gallon ziploc bags. This gives me ultimate control over the outfits. I can make sure things coordinate and are weather appropriate. Then the littles come and put their bags away in their drawers. They can choose whichever bag they want on any day.

My kids do the folding and putting away of towels and sheets. I have taught them exactly how I want it done, and if they get lazy about it, I make them do it over. They usually do a great job.

So that's laundry at our house. I hope my process gives you some ideas. It works great for us!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Celebrating Piper

Piper had a birthday last week! She turned 8 years old. I wish I felt comfortable sharing photos of her, but unfortunately, the things she experienced in her past make it far too risky. I can, however, try to describe her for you so you can "see" what a special kid she is.

Piper is 4'3" tall. She weighs in at 52 pounds, which puts her in the tall and slender category. She is most definitely a cutie pie. Her hair is light brown and falls about to her collarbone. It is very thick and has nice body to it. She has a small forehead, round cheeks, and a little chin. She has beautiful, beautiful eyes. They are huge and round, and their color depends on the light. Some days they're blue, some days they're green. She loves to stare at people, a habit which can be quite uncomfortable for those who don't know her. Her skin is baby soft and perfectly clear. She's fair in the winter, but tans nicely in the summer. My favorite thing about Piper's face, though, is her smile. She has full lips which tilt up just enough to give her a pouty look. When she smiles, her entire face lights up and her eyes come to life. She has been missing both her front teeth for 2 1/2 years, so she has that adorable toothless look. Her front teeth have broken the gums now, though, so toothless is quickly disappearing. I've never known Piper with front teeth, so I'm very excited for them to come in all the way.

Piper has a little, high pitched voice. It's the kind of voice you'd expect to hear from a little girl Di$ney princess. She recently watched a video of herself and said to me, "Oh Mommy, I have such a cute little voice!" When she sings, what comes out is a surprise. She has quite a lovely voice, and though she isn't perfect at carrying a tune, she has great potential. She loves to sing, so we hear her singing voice all the time. She regularly makes up songs, and those songs reveal the ditz within. Oh my goodness...Piper is a true valley girl! Her songs are hilarious, corny, and usually don't make any sense. Tonight in the shower she was singing about Oompa Loompas in bra and panties...
Go figure out that one.

She is my girliest girl, loving anything pink, sparkly, and pretty. Her idea of a perfect outfit is a pair of sparkly skinny jeans, a ruffly shirt, a cute jacket, and some sparkly wedge shoes. She loves to have me do her hair fancy, preferring anything with braids and/or curls. She is a tender mommy to all her dolls. She has an Americ@n Girl doll, an Americ@n Girl knockoff, and a cute baby doll. Leah, Elsa, and Lily get the most loving care. She puts them into their jammies and tucks them in every night, and usually finds time to get them dressed and fed before she leaves for school in the morning. Piper also loves her Barbies, though she doesn't give them the same affection as her other dolls. Piper loves to read, especially when she has someone to read to. Sunny is the most frequent beneficiary of Piper's read-alouds. She likes to play outside, but where my other kids like to be up trees and going fast, Piper prefers to keep her feet on the ground. She adores digging holes in the dirt and "cooking" delectable soups out of dirt, water, and plant matter. She has a vivid imagination and is the best of all my kids at playing alone.

Piper runs on the cross country team at school because she lives a sedentary life and needs some physical activity. She takes karate with Snapper, Bubbles, and Pepper because she needs to be empowered. Because of the abuse she experienced in the past, she tends to be quite timid. The karate--though she isn't passionate about it--is helping her grow in strength, confidence, and poise. We've seen a big difference in her since she started lessons in September.

This girl loves to be a helper. When she finishes her weekly chores, she often volunteers to do more chores to help me out. She likes to cook with me, and often takes the initiative when she sees something that needs to be done around the house. She loves to fold laundry, to sweep, and to clean mirrors and windows. She also loves to help me unpack the groceries when I have been shopping. She is going to make a wonderful wife to some very lucky man someday.

Piper is very sweet and affectionate. She loves to sit on Daddy's lap, give me hugs and kisses, and play with my hair. I'm looking forward to the end of this pregnancy so I can enjoy her affection again. When I'm pregnant, I don't like to be touched and I hate stinky kid smells. LOL! Piper is a joyful child, and she notices beauty in everything. She sees the beauty in the photo I have of my grandmother's hands. She notices every sunset, all the beautiful cloud formations, unique patterns on the back of caterpillars, and the soft details on a duck feather. She is attentive to many little details in life, and she appreciates when I do extra things. She's the one who loves getting notes on napkins in her lunch. She likes me to tie her hairbows because I get them "just right." When I wear lotion or body spray, she appreciates the sweet fragrance. Piper is the sweet breeze of beauty in our home.

She also has a very stubborn streak that comes along with her ADHD. When she is having an off day, she is incredibly difficult to deal with. She will not reason, and can not focus. On those days, we pretty much grit our teeth, get through the day, and pray that tomorrow will be better. She doesn't enjoy feeling out of sorts like that, and is usually quick to plead for help. Unfortunately, she can't seem to follow through when help is given. She has off days once or twice per week.

When I look at this sweet girl, I marvel at her courage. She has experienced more horrors in her short life than most people will in an entire lifetime. Yet with hard work, determination, and tremendous courage, she has overcome most of what happened to her. She's not just a survivor; she's thriving. I am so thankful that Piper got to join our family 19 months ago. She is an amazing blessing, and a true delight. Happy 8th Birthday, precious girl! Daddy and I are hopelessly in love with you.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Looking for The Positives

When everything seems to blow up, sometimes the only way to keep your chin up is to look for the positives in a situation. Look for God's goodness in the middle of HARD STUFF.

Without giving too many details, I will let you know that my little Sunny suffers from a behavior disorder--the result of a very bad start to her life. Abuse, neglect, and exposure to certain substances do horrible damage to a little child. Every day is a struggle for her. Every good choice is a victory. Every inch of forward progress is celebrated. Sadly, we had a major setback this week.

The behavior disorder is considered to be decently managed if the behaviors are only at home.
It is considered not managed if the behaviors spill over to other environments, such as school.
It is considered in crisis if another child is directly affected by the behavior.

On Wednesday Sunny made a series of poor choices that resulted in physical harm to another child at school. This puts us in crisis mode. I had a conference with her teacher and our pediatrician. There are some grave concerns that we need to address, and it has become clear to everyone that we can no longer proceed without professional help. The doctor sent an emergency referral to a pediatric psychiatrist. We'll be having a mental health evaluation on our sweet girl as soon as the psychiatrist can fit her in. This is HARD, people.

Here's where I look for the positives, and thank God in the midst of hard stuff.

  • Sunny's intent was not malicious.
  • She didn't understand the magnitude of what she did.
  • She did not respond in anger to the discipline.
  • She has not repeated the behavior.
  • The child she hurt was not seriously hurt.
  • People are finally seeing what I deal with on a daily basis.
  • People are finally believing me.
  • We have an incredibly compassionate, proactive pediatrician.
  • Sunny has an amazing teacher who is 100% on my team, communicates well with me, and sees past the behaviors to the heart of Sunny.
  • Our insurance will cover 100% of Sunny's evaluation and treatment.
  • I'll be getting the assistance of a qualified professional who can help us meet our girl's needs.
  • The school is taking this seriously.
  • I requested a behavior IEP for Sunny.
  • It typically takes some weeks to pull together an IEP meeting. They got one scheduled for this Tuesday morning!
  • Sunny is going to be safer, and her needs will be better met as a result of all this.
So many positives in the midst of a very bad situation. Keeping my eyes fixed in the right place.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mommy Does Not Lie!

The kids were home from school today because of the holiday. Pepper was at a sleepover with a friend, so only girls were at home. They had a marvelous morning outside climbing trees, building forts with dried banana leaves, and getting along perfectly. I packed them a picnic basket for lunch, and they ate their lunch in their tree forts. Perfection!

About an hour into their morning, I looked outside and saw Snapper up the cedar tree in the backyard. She was about 15 feet up, and the branches were probably only 3 inches in diameter. I quickly went out and reminded her of our tree climbing rule: Do not climb if the branches are smaller around than your arm. They will not support your weight. Even the branches at the bottom of that tree are too small, and it was a disaster waiting to happen.

I brought all the kids inside and reviewed tree safety rules with them.
1. Do not put any weight on a branch that is smaller around than your arm.
2. Wear long pants and shoes.
3. Do not climb with anything in your hands or mouth.
4. Do not climb higher than you are okay with falling.

The kids went back out. Bubbles took the oak tree. Piper took the grapefruit tree. Sunny took the tangerine tree. Snapper took the avocado tree. The two citrus trees are the safest because they have fairly densely packed branches. If a kid were to fall, the branches would scratch her up a bit, but would definitely keep the fall from doing any real damage. The oak and the avocado are a totally different story. They are tall, and the good climbing branches are about 4 feet off the ground. There's definitely some risk involved in tree climbing, but I believe that kids should be allowed to be kids, and that they need these adventurous kid experiences without being restricted and regulated. I fell out of a few trees as a kid, and I grew to be a wise, savvy tree climber as a result. My mom reminded us of safety rules, and my sister and I honored the rules.

Snapper learned the hard way today that my safety rules were not just made up for the fun of it. That rule about the size of the's legit. Mommy does not lie. I always mean what I say. She was about 10 feet up when she grabbed a slender branch to hoist herself up. She wasn't trying to step on it or hang on it, she was just using it as a grip. Whatever the case, it was skinny. Skinnier than Snapper's arm. She put way too much weight on it, it snapped, and down she went. She ricocheted off a branch, caught another branch in her armpit, and fell 6 feet onto the grass, landing flat on her side. Fortunately for her, she fell away from the fence. Fortunately for her, she was wearing long pants, long sleeves, and tennis shoes. Fortunately for her, she just missed falling into the crotch of the tree. Fortunately for her, she narrowly missed landing on the three small stumps at the base of the tree. Snapper's left armpit is like raw hamburger, and it hurts like the dickens. She has a massive bruise on her sternum and the base of her ribs. She has significant bruising on her right tricep, both her knees, her thighs, and her shins. There are scuffed places all over the front of her, from sternum to ankles. Her head and back and feet were spared. She is one sore kiddo, though.

I'm so thankful it wasn't worse. It could have been a whole lot worse!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Facing Defiance and Mothering in the Trenches

We have a defiant child in our house. Every child goes through phases of defiance, I know. It's actually a healthy, normal piece of development. This child's defiance, however, extends well beyond what is normal and healthy. It's a level of defiance that if left unchecked, has the power to completely control the atmosphere in our home, and can leave everyone unsettled and insecure. Let me tell you, it is challenging my mothering skills as nothing else has ever challenged me before.

There are a few things I have to remember. This child's brain was shaped by her bio mom's dangerous choices. She spent nine months developing in a brain bath of cortisol (stress hormone), nicotine, and a consistent wash of illegal substances. Then she spent three years in an environment of filth and absolute chaos, with no discipline, loads of abuse, and limited loving touch. What I have here is a child in whom every fiber resists me because every fiber believes it is in danger. For this little one, losing control (and obeying Mommy means giving up control), feels like a matter of life and death. And she will fight it to the death.

Fortunately, in the last 18 months, she has come to trust me enough to willingly give and receive affection. She loves hugs and kisses, tickling, wrestling, and snuggling. She no longer struggles to make and hold eye contact with me. She gets worried when I leave, and is always overjoyed to see me when I return. She no longer resists my help on the daily tasks of life such as grooming, feeding, and bedtime rituals. In fact, she welcomes me. We're progressing nicely down the road to attachment.

But the behaviors...
Oh my.

I recently read a great, great book called "The Defiant Child." It is written for the parents of children with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), which is what we're dealing with. But even if your child doesn't have ODD--just struggles with a strong will or rebellious spirit--this book is for you. It helps you understand the way this child thinks, which is, honestly, flawed and delusional. It gives practical techniques for parenting in ways that counter the flawed thinking. So. Good. I am working hard to employ these things with my little caged tiger.

This is hard. It's hard to feel love and affection for someone who is often so out of control that by 5:00, the only option left is to feed her an early dinner and put her to bed for the night. It's hard to want to hug and kiss on a child who seems to take great pleasure in destroying the things others have that she wants. It's hard to be patient with a child who responds to just about every request or direction with "NO! I don't want to." Or, "NO! And you can't make me." Or jumping up and down and screaming. Or throwing things. Or spitting. It's hard. And that's where my parenting is most challenged.

I do a great job of being consistent. I am always swift and logical as I give consequences for poor choices. I can almost always appear calm and unruffled, and I very rarely lose my temper. I never back down. (For the record, there is no room for grace with the ODD child. They can not understand the concept of grace, but are only able to see it as weakness and a crack in the defenses). What I am not good at is balancing consistency and firmness with affection. I know I love her because I have chosen to love her. If I didn't love her, I would have given up a long time again. If I didn't love her, I wouldn't care so deeply about the road she's walking. I know that love has to be tough sometimes, and love can set you up for great heartache. The affectionate side of love is the struggle for me. Right now I'm so tired from all this child's shenanigans that I have to force myself to hug her. Literally force myself. Doesn't that sound just awful? Oooh, I cringe to see the words in print!

That's where I'm being stretched. Motherhood isn't all about bedtime stories, family traditions, and helping with homework. It isn't about little handprints and bouquets of wildflowers and sweet faces. It's about getting dirty in the trenches, and sacrificing your own wants and selfishness in order to prepare your children for life. It's about love when times are tough. And that's where I often stumble. See, God has loved me without fail, despite my failings. I have been a defiant child, too, and yet He never gave up on me. I break the rules. I let Him down. I am mean and spiteful. I am disobedient. And yet God does not withhold His affection from me. This morning, as you finish reading this post, would you say a prayer for me? Pray that I'll see my daughter as God sees her: a precious, wounded child who needs not only safe boundaries, but her mother's unconditional affection as well. Pray that despite the difficulties I face as I wade through the mountains of bad behavior, I'll choose the higher road and be affectionate with her. And please pray that God would overcome my selfishness and fill my heart with the desire to be an affectionate mom.

Thanks for letting me bare my soul, here. It's always so risky to be transparent. I hope my open honesty here will encourage someone else today.