It's 9 pm and the only noise I hear is the sound of the dryer running. I love the chaos and noise my children bring, but I also love the quiet of these later hours when they are all in bed. :) I take a deep breath and enjoy the brief period of silence.
Lately, with two back-to-back adoptions, most of our posts have been about Johanna or Alyssia. These girls have affected our entire family in so many ways, so tonight I want to update on each one of our precious children. (I'll warn you, it's a long post, with no pictures, and it doesn't "flow" the way I might like, but I just wrote what came to mind when I thought of each child!)
JOHANNA, 14--Fourteen in birth years, but a toddler in emotional years, she's growing right into her own place in our family. We've experienced some harder days, where she would "fight" obedience, especially in family relations.
For example, when you hurt someone (either physically hurt them, or hurt their feelings), you make it right by apologizing. Or, if Mommy asks you to do something, you do it with a pleasant attitude. These kind of situations were often met with quiet, pouting resistance by Johanna. She would stick her tongue out at the offended party instead of apologizing, or whisper "yes, ma'am" instead of answering in a normal voice.
Not "major" issues, sure, but they could easily make our daily life a battle, especially since there are so many little ones watching Johanna and waiting to see if she will obey. It is essential that the older children are good examples to the younger children in our home. The key for us, though, is not just obtaining "outward obedience" but rather reaching her heart and having her WANT to please us.
This has been a daily process, but I have been seeing some wonderful improvement and we are so proud of our Johanna. She is like a mirror image of me some days, as she copies and mimics not only my words, but my actions as well. Where once she was harsh with Gabbey and Ethan, now you will hear her say, "Gabbey, what's wrong? Do you need a drink? Okay, stop crying. Say 'please'. Good girl! Here's your drink. Say 'thank you, Johanna'. Good girl!" :) I feel like there's a parrot in the house, lol.
Although she's 14 and hasn't been exposed to the daily life of a loving family before, Johanna has grown to really enjoy our affectionate household. I often have to carry her to bed and give her 10 kisses. She likes for me to dress her sometimes, and hold her on my lap. Just tonight, an interesting thing happened. She laid down on my lap and told me she was a "baby" and needed to "eat". Cuddled in a nursing position, she "pretended" to make sucking noises. (Keep in mind, she had clearly NEVER seen a nursing mother before being here in America. We've had several discussions about how I fed my biological babies and she's been very curious and has pretended to nurse her dolls.) Anyway, for a second, I thought about telling her to get up as it must have looked ridiculous :), but Ellie was the only one in the room anyway.
The more I thought about it, the more it so clearly made sense. You see, Johanna is old enough to KNOW she missed out on having a "normal" childhood. She sees me parent the babies and knows she missed that time with her own mother. She has looked with longing at my pregnancy pictures and cried when I've told her that I will always wish I could have adopted her as a baby. Adopted children often "relive" the emotional stages of childhood that they were deprived of as babies/young children, and it has been AMAZING to so clearly see Johanna craving the "baby" affection of a mother/child relationship. So, while it did indeed feel a bit ridiculous, tonight I let my 14 year old teenage-yet-still-a-baby-in-so-many-ways oldest girl pretend to nurse.
I thought, yet again...........why? Why did she have to wait until she was FOURTEEN to experience the unconditional love of a Daddy and Mommy?
(Goodness, I'm only done with one child. At this rate, I'll be up all night! :) )
ELIANA, 9--My oldest by birth, and the child who so willingly gave up forever the title of OLDEST when Johanna joined our family, I am SO proud of this girl. She has shared every last single thing she owns with Johanna---her room, clothes (they wear the same size!), bed, toys, family. Ellie has also experienced the emotions of having a sometimes-moody sister, one who likes you one minute, then doesn't want anything to do with you the next.
We've had some excellent communication and teaching moments through this time. I LOVE what adoption allows us to teach our children about unconditional love. You see, it's EASY and completely natural to love a baby who joins your family. It's NOT so easy to love a teenager at times. Ellie and I have talked about how love is a choice, a daily decision we make, whether we feel like it or not, and whether the other person reciprocates those feelings or not. Love is ACTION, it's sacrifice, and sometimes it's hard work. We've cried and prayed together on the hard days, and I appreciate how the Lord is working in Ellie's heart through this time.
Ellie has a natural gift for music and is loving violin lessons. Next week she will start the Suzuki Book 2 and that has her very excited! We all love hearing her play, and the younger children (and even Johanna) cannot WAIT until it's "their" turn to take violin lessons.
Johanna and Eliana love to "organize" together, and have taken everything out of their dresser THREE times this week, just so they can fold it, put it all away, and, in their words, "organize" it. They ask me, "Mommy, is there anything else I can organize?" Um, sure girls! :) So, the baby toys, baby girl clothes, shoes, you name it, Johanna and Ellie have it all "organized".
NATHANIEL, 6-- By far the busiest of our children, Nathaniel also has the hardest time when someone "leaves". This is his third time in 9 months experiencing a China trip by being left behind, and, in his words, "I just CANNOT take another adoption!" (which translates to mean that he doesn't want Mommy or Daddy to leave again).
I've given him all the "man" responsibilites while Daddy is gone, and he takes them VERY seriously. He checks to make sure the doors are locked, takes out the trash, and carries heavy items for me. :)
Sweet, out-going, too-quick-for-his-own-good Nathaniel has been acting out some since Brent's been gone, in part because there's been so many changes in his little world lately. We put an twin air mattress on the floor in our room when he was sick so he could sleep close to us, and he's pretty much been in our room ever since. :) Brent and I don't mind (obviously it's not forever!) and both know it seems Nathaniel really needs the closeness and security right now.
Each child needs reassurance that Daddy and Mommy still love THEM just as much as we always have, even as other children are joining our family. The actual "acting out" of that reassurance is manifested in a different way with each child. For Nathaniel, he craves closeness at bedtime, and right now, we're okay with that. :)
NOAH, 4--Half toddler, half "big boy", Noah is, by very nature, a TRUE middle child. He's been super easy-going and obedient since he was just a small baby, a go-with-the-flow, "okay, Mommy" kind of boy.
He enjoys tackling with his brothers and Daddy and playing cars, and plays nicely with just about ANYONE. Hardly ever does anyone complain about Noah, because he's just SO sweet! Brent and I have to REMIND each other to pay attention to Noah, because most of the time, he just doesn't "demand" it.
He makes his own bed, gets dressed, and picks up his shoes EVERY single time he takes them off. (unlike some of his older siblings) :).....
He's been a little more emotional lately and after an usual "battle" at bedtime the other night---he never keeps getting out of bed!--I realized he was probably needing some extra Mommy-time. I picked him up, turned out the lights, and rocked him to sleep. We've continued this all week, and I must say that even Mommy is looking forward to our "rocking" time ;)....I love listening to the way he takes a deep sigh, snuggles into my neck, and is off to dream-land.
ETHAN, 2--Ethan, the cutest 2 year old boy EVER. :) Okay, so I'm biased. Seriously, though, with his big blue eyes, his white-blond hair, and his fat little cheeks----well, I can't get enough of our Ethan.
I could sit and listen to him talk ALL.DAY.LONG. because his little voice is simply adorable!
(To those offering sympathy to me because we're going to have 3 two-year-olds in our home, DON'T, because I LOVE 2 year olds!) :) LOL
Ethan's had two big accomplishments this week: He potty trained (well, with Mommy's help, of course) and graduated to a "big boy" bed! I wish I had pictures of Ethan in his little "train" underwear, but the camera is with Brent in China. So, you'll have to take my word for it, he's stinkin' cute! :)
I'm also one of those weird Mommy's who enjoys potty training. Okay, okay, I don't enjoy cleaning up poop that's running down a certain boy's legs.....but other than that, I love potty training! I normally train my children right around their second birthday, but it was such a busy summer, I didn't want to leave a newly-trained munchkin for Meme to take care of while I was in China, and I thought I'd do all three of the youngest at the same time.When I found out that Lyssie is already potty trained, I thought, why wait another day? Bye-bye diapers, hello to visiting every public restroom in town. :)
GABRIELLA, 2--Gabbey just had her 2nd birthday, and I still need to post her birthday pictures! She became a "big" sister to Alyssia, but will still be the smallest in the family. Gabbey was a preemie, only 2 lbs 12 oz at birth, and is still super tiny---18 lbs at 2 years!
Trust me when I say this----she doesn't THINK she's the baby anymore! If one of the other children gets something or does something, Gabbey thinks she's JUST as big and should get to experience it, too!
She's got amazing motor skills (I can brag since obviously she didn't get them from me! :)) and can buckle, zip, and put on her own shoes.
When Gabbey wants to be, she is feisty determined, but I just remind her that I'm bigger and I always will win :)
She's very attached to us, but not SECURELY attached as of yet. It's clear we are deeply bonded, and the feelings run deep, but Gabbey is still terrified we are going to leave her. Whenever she sees someone putting their shoes on, she finds me and starts fussing. She continues to fuss until she is buckled into her carseat and it is evident that she is NOT being left behind.
Gabbey is snuggly and giggly and she loves all the girly things already---hairbows, shoes, dolls, and kitchen toys.
Her language is finally starting to blossom and it's so fun hearing her start to communicate with words!
She tolerates Johanna now, but still shows a strong preference for "Sissy" (Ellie). Ellie will put Gabbey on her back and carry her when we go shopping....it's precious watching a little girl carry an even smaller girl!
Gabbey has come SO far in the 9 months we've had her. Brent and I have fallen deeply in love with this tiny little person and we are so excited to see what the Lord has in store for her life.
-----Well, there's a tiny glimpse into what has been going on with our oldest six children lately. Life is never dull, that's for sure, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
And yes, I am counting down the days until Friday, when I can finally meet our youngest blessing of the bunch! :)