Monday, January 23, 2012

So it begins

One of the worst sounds in our home: a shout of "Mama!" before a child begins to vomit all.over.themselves.and.everything.nearby.

So far, Ethan was sick Friday night, Nathaniel caught it Sunday night, and Eliana and I aren't feeling too great tonight. :)

I'm REALLY hoping the littlest two girls don't get it, because they probably won't make it anywhere close to a toilet.

It's likely, though, that we will all have spent way too much quality time with our toilet before the week is over. :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mommies in Heaven

Johanna: "Mommy, when you die and go to heaven, and I die and go to heaven.....

Can I call you Mommy in heaven?"

Yes, sweet girl. I will ALWAYS be your Mommy. You will never again experience life without Mommy by your side, loving you, helping you, supporting you, snuggling you, teaching you, and just being there with you.

And heaven will be a little sweeter because of you.

Did you ever wonder?

Did you ever wonder how a family our size, with virtual tiplet 2 year olds, goes Christmas shopping?

Brent turned around at Kohl's a couple of weeks ago and took this picture. We didn't stage the shot, in case you're wondering, lol. :)

Did you ever wonder what said triplet 2 year olds DO while we are working on schoolwork with the older children???

A little bit of this:

And a little bit of this:

No, I did NOT know my babies were standing in the windowsill. I found both of these pictures on my memory card. Apparently one of the other children got ahold of Mommy's camera. ;) Oh, and my favorite part of the picture above? Gabbey is hiding behind the curtain! See her little hand??!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Toddler Training Series: Training Toddlers to Sit Still in Church

We have seven children. Currently, their ages are: 14, 9, 7, 5, 2, 2, and -- you guessed it!-- 2.
Here they are, in birth order---even though their heights don't show it!

All seven of our children sit with us during Sunday worship services. We have on occasion used a nursery and I currently serve in the nursery twice a month, so obviously we are not opposed to church nurseries. :) It is just our preference to worship the Lord together, as a family.

It can be quite a challenge to keep one baby quiet for any significant amount of time ---multiple children can make it overwhelming. Over the years (with various babies and ages of toddlers) we've found several things that help with keeping our littlest ones still and quiet during the services.

1) Teach OBEDIENCE first.

Now, I am not talking about teeny-tiny little babies. This series is geared toward toddlers, so I'm talking about the 12 months and up stage.

But, if you have not taught your little one to obey you in simple little commands.....sitting still and quiet during church might be near impossible. :) As they learn that they must listen and obey, however, you will find they will sit quietly longer and longer.

2) Have REALISTIC expectations.

I have been in a couple of churches where a whole row of little ones sat perfectly still with their hands folded during the entire service. I have also overheard the amount of spankings the parents had to administer in order to gain such behaviour. :(  This is not what I am advocating.

Little ones are just that: little ones. They have not yet "put away childish things" and we are foolish to expect them to act like adults.

Our little ones (the youngest four) are not perfectly still or quiet, nor do they fold their hands and look straight ahead for over an hour. (Let's be honest, folks----that would be a difficult accomplishment for many grown adults! :))

We expect that they will wiggle a bit or occasionally make a little noise. It does not anger us if they need to be taken out of the service, because they are little and our ultimate goal is to enjoy church as a family, not have a row of robotic children.

That being said, I have also seen toddlers that acted completely wild during a service---talking, crying, getting up and down, throwing things, etc.

 It is realistic to teach your little one not to do such things during church.

3) Teach your toddler to Sit on your Lap.

It's oh-so-simple, I know, but truly one of the things that will really help during a long time of sitting.

To accomplish this, I start when our babies are around a year old. I will put them on my lap and say "Time to sit with Mommy!" I don't mind if they wiggle or play with a small toy, but I don't allow them to get down until I am ready for them to do so. At first, I only expect a short amount of time. I wait until they're past the "I want to get down NOW!" arching of the back and then expect them to sit a little while longer. As soon as they do so, I praise them, make a big deal of obeying Mommy, and promptly put them down. Once the baby has the concept ---they must stay until Mommy wants them to get down---I can sit through meals and church and such with them on my lap.

This isn't a discipline issue, just a positive training one. Mommy wants you to sit for a little while, without fussing to get down. If you fuss, you don't get down. Simple as that. :)

Babies and Toddlers are bright, and they catch on quickly to this. I certainly don't mind non-verbal communication (ie, reaching for the floor or squirming to get down) but when Mommy says NO, it always means NO. :)

4) Bring along a Quiet Bag.

I must admit, I had very, very strict expectations with my first two children. I was determined that they would sit quietly without any distractions and such......I regret my unrealistic expectations.

I started the Quiet Bag when our third child, Noah, came along. We've used it ever since and it has worked wonders for our little ones.

The Quiet Bag is a special bag that remains in the van, to be used only when we are in church or another quiet setting (doctor's appointments, etc). There are colorful toddler-safe Bible story books and some picture books as well. I keep gum or mints in the bottom of the bag to pass out to quiet children. :) I sometimes also put little bags of crackers in the bag (for the 2 year olds only).

Often I will sit a toddler on my lap, hold a book open, and slowly turn the pages for them to view. I point to interesting things on the page or hold their finger and help them point. I'm able to look straight ahead and focus on the sermon while the child is sitting quietly with something to look at.

 5) Take a noisy or defiant child out of the service.

Out of respect for our Pastor and other members in the church, we don't allow our little ones to make alot of noise. We remove them if our efforts to keep them quiet aren't working.

However, it is not effective to take a young child out of a church service for misbehaving and put them in the nursery---where they can play instead of sit! :)

If we have to take one of our children out of the service, we either give them a very firm rebuke ("We must sit quietly in church! Shhh! No fussing!" and try again, or we take them to another (boring) room and have them sit quietly there. (For a young child--under 2---we would hold them on our laps. Our over 2's sit on a chair alone.)

They quickly learn that there is no quiet bag or treats if they have to leave the service. :)

It is helpful to sit near an exit door in case you need to slip out.

6) Praise good behavior.

We make a big deal of our littles sitting quietly through church. During the service, we will smile at them, pat their heads, or snuggle for a minute. I will whisper "You are doing a great job!" 

After church, we verbally praise the ones who sat still and, especially with our toddlers, we get all excited and clap our hands. They learn that it is a good thing and that Daddy and Mommy are proud of them. Usually, we reward them with a little outside playtime before we head for home.

** I do realize that this post may not be relevant to some. Perhaps you are not a church member, or you prefer to put your children in the church nursery instead of keeping them with you. For the sake of those who do desire integrated family worship, I wanted to include this post in the Toddler Training Series.

** BTDT Mommys: I would love for you to add your thoughts to the comment section. Let us know what works for you! :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

School--of a Different Sort

Someone asked me recently, "How do you simulaneously teach school to all of your children?"

She is a 1st grade teacher with 24 kiddos all learning the same thing at the same time, so she was interested in how I balance teaching the wide variance of ages and needs of the children in our home.

I have a confession to make.

I don't do it "all".

Shocker, I know. :)

You see, when we first felt called to adoption, I knew it would change our family dynamic for awhile. Little did I know then how big the change would be. (At the time, I thought we'd be bringing home one child.)

Each time the Lord said "Go", I asked Him how I could add another child, another precious responsibility and still keep up with everything I was already doing. He oh-so-gently reminded me that school isn't only found in textbooks. It is found anytime we are learning.

His grace is sufficient, His mercies are NEW every morning, and He would never ask me to do something I could not do.

For that reason, our "school" this past year hasn't been only the traditional kind. We focused on the very basics: Bible, Math, Reading/Spelling/Language Arts, and Music (this one is considered a non-negotiable "basic" for our family! :)) We honestly didn't accomplish much History, Science, Health, Art, Field Trips, etc....

Perhaps that makes me a failure in the eyes of some. After all, I took on the responsiblity of my children's education----shouldn't I be doing it all???

As I reflect back on the past year, however, I see with glaring certainty that the year of school we did accomplish was a wonderful success.

Not in grades or beautiful portfolios.....but in life skills.

This year, my biological children learned the beauty of loving the unloveable. Of sacrificing everything for the good of someone else. Of sharing---their toys, their siblings, their Daddy and Mommy's TIME, and their own thoughts, desires and plans.

 Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.....

(and) Love thy neighbor as thyself."

Our "neighbors" moved into our home this year.

And they are here to stay.

The process of guiding our adopted daughters to blend into our family and our biological children to fully accept them was and continues to be a teaching process.

You know, like SCHOOL.

It means the world comes to a stop when a little one needs reassurance from Mommy.

It means the textbooks get put away when a teenager needs to cry her heart out about her past.

It means the laundry remains unfolded for a time while I take the time to hug a crying child and explain yet again that Yes, you will always be the "firstborn" from my body or No, I do not love my biological children more than I love you.

It means reading God's Word, singing His praises and teaching His love by modeling self-lessness is more important than multiplication.

It means cutting back on the non-essentials in order to focus on the eternal.

And no, it hasn't always been easy. School never is, is it?

The growth I have experienced in my own life and viewed in the lives of my children is far more precious to me than all the accolades and straight A's in the world.

I have watched a girl who had never so much as held a baby learn how to carry, dress, bathe, correct, play with AND love three of them. I have felt her growing love as she tries so very hard to learn how to function in a FAMILY. I have watched her begin to blossom from a socially awkward, insecure little girl into a responsible young lady.

I have seen my children, over and over again, learn to choose forgiveness and restoration in their relationships with Daddy and Mommy and--even more difficult!---with each other.

Our entire family has dug down deep and learned to communicate on a whole new level.

And I have gained an entirely new view and style of attachment, parenting, and godly discipline. (I hope to share more of this in the future.)

All in all, I think it's been a successful year, our schoolyear of a different sort.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dentist Trip Gone Bad

Nathaniel (7 years) had a routine visit to the dentist this morning to fill three cavities. It seems that a couple of his 6 year molars came in already decayed and a bit deformed.

He was so sweet and brave, staying still for the Novacaine and coming out of the chair with a smile.

The dentist reminded Nathaniel not to bite his cheek while it was numb from the medicine and to be careful eating lunch.

I kept an eye on him during lunch and his mouth seemed fine.

Four hours after his appointment, he said his mouth felt funny. I looked inside his mouth, and this is what I found:

Poor baby! He had somehow bitten a huge, nasty, deep cut into his little numb lip! It started gushing blood (think how a bloody nose gushes!) and I made a quick call to the dentist.

She said I could bring him in for sutures, or wait it out and try to let it heal naturally.

We chose to wait it out. His lip is badly swollen and the "hole" is quite deep, but I know mouth wounds heal fast so I'm hoping it looks better soon.

Moral of the story----Numb mouths and children don't mix! :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Blogging Again!

First, my apologies to those who check in here at The Bergey Bunch regularly and expect a new post every now and then more often than once a month.

Second, my heartfelt Thank You to those who have commented publicly or emailed privately to inquire about our family. I wish I could say more than just Thank You, but sometimes there just aren't adequate words to say how I feel.

As most of you know, our family has grown alot this year. Well, obviously we've grown numerically....but we've also grown in different ways.

Our children are learning to love, accept, teach and bond with a new older sister and two younger sisters.

Our newly adopted children are learning to accept love and boundaries from a family unit.

Daddy and Mommy are learning to not only follow God when it's easy, but to follow Him when it's hard. Learning to step out into the water like Peter, knowing that HE is asking you to do so, and trusting that HE will be with you every little baby step of the way.

And while I'm spending so much of my time teaching, teaching, teaching these seven beautiful, precious souls entrusted to my care, I'm learning an important fact:

----God is using these little ones to TEACH ME.---

Sometimes the lessons are exciting, wonderful, and encouraging.

Other times, the lessons are painful, humiliating, and just. plain. hard.

I'm SO excited to share some of the lessons He's been taking me through. Unfortunately, I know myself well enough to know that it would take way too long to share in one post. :)

So, instead of one ridiculously long post, I'm going to jump--with both feet!--back into the blogging water (figuratively speaking, of course!).

I'll even throw in some of our amazing Christmas memories from our girls' first Christmas with us, jump back into my Toddler Training Series, and do a SIX MONTHS in America post on our lovely Johanna. :)

See you all soon! :)