Thursday, February 24, 2011

So, howz about a Tristan update? You got it.

Trissy is 3 months old. He's fat and jolly and awesome, like a tiny beardless Santa Claus. If he's not sleeping or hungry, he's smiling. Even when you're sleep deprived, seeing a fat little baby beaming at you in the middle of the night is good stuff. I can get a giggle out of him if I try hard, but it's a slightly nervous half laugh, half cry. 

Loving Tristan feels exactly like loving my bio kids. The MOG and I are passionate about him, think he's beautiful and funny and advanced and we are totally in love with him. Zero difference. I tell you that because maybe you wondered, I know I did pre-adoption. 

In some ways we feel like it's a little easier to just celebrate and enjoy him, because we aren't recovering from the emotional trauma of bedrest and preterm deliveries. He's also Toby and Brynn's favorite toy, now that they've figured out how to make him talk and smile. I have to save his life multiple times a day, although he doesn't seem to mind being in the line of fire. 

It's interesting to look at his face, and to see his birthfamily there, and feel the sweetness of that. I think about his birthmom most days, just because of his eyes. The birthfamily is doing well, by the way. We've been in contact a couple of times in the last month, mostly by text and the photoblog I set up for them. I honor his birthmom, and I know she loves him and will always be his first mom.

That doesn't change how he sees me, as his mama. He looooooves me. I get the shared shock of joy every time he wakes up, both of us remembering again how great it is to have each other. 

Adoption is good stuff, y'all.  


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I can't help getting my hopes up. My middle guys have been doing ballet and gymnastics and whatnot for like, over a month now. I never did lessons, for anything. That's right, no lessons. My soccer skills and mad dance abilities are just raw natural talent.

I did have a brief run as a tap dancer. I spent most of my 9th year holding on to the bannister in our tile hallway, tapping wildly and randomly to Elvis' "All Shook Up". I just have to stop a minute, and let you take that in. There's just so much.

Ok. My point is, I never did any kind of classes that I can remember, although I probably could have if I cared enough to put down a book and leave the house. And I've never really thought I'd be a soccer mom, because it seemed too expensive and too much driving and such. Then I started haphazardly and occasionally homeschooling Toby, and I realized he needed something drastic to get out his wiggles, and sports around here involves frostbite waivers*. I was thrilled to find a Christian ballet class for Brynn, and then a gymnastics class for both of them.

They're really loving it, and they're doing so well. I think that will be motivation enough to keep enrolling them in stuff seasonally, as long as there's money for fees and such.

What's surprising me is how important it is to me that they do well. I really want them to be awesome at everything. So right now, while they're doing as well as most of the other kids in the class, with the exception of that one REALLY good kid, I can't help getting my hopes up. They can do FLIPS! Maybe they'll be in the Olympics! Maybe they'll be brilliant holy musician athletes that are totally balanced!

It's no big deal right now, but I can tell this might be a thing someday, like if they are good at something and then they want to quit. This is new parenting territory.

*not really frostbite waivers

Monday, February 21, 2011

Back in the day, when the MOG had hair on his head and I was buying shirts in the little boy's department, we had no plans to have kids. Our plan was to have a revival youth ministry and take over the world and stuff, and it didn't seem to us like you could do that with kids. (silly us)

Our journey to parenthood has been really complicated. Read through the Clarkives for the whole story. It has 5 preemies, 2 extended bedrests, 2 infant deaths and an adoption. During that journey, we went from not wanting kids, to wanting unlimited kids to being afraid to have kids at all.

Here's the thing. If my womb and what-not worked like the average bear, I think I'd be semi-quiverfull. That is, trusting the Lord with it, not preventing pregnancy, and having a million kids. (I don't endorse ALL quiverfull beliefs) But the womb, she don't work. So now I'm in the position of having a lot of control over if and when children join our family through adoption. (I'm not talking about another baby right now, I'm just thinking)

So now I'm thinking, how many kids can we handle? And really, what's the right thing? Because I'd like to adopt one every couple years, and there's always enough love and beans and rice. Maybe that's crazy talk. It already feels like I crossed some kind of line going from 3 to 4, like I moved over to the beginning of the Big Family line. Seriously. I remember feeling crazy and overwhelmed for months with 2 kids, and on and off with 3. 4  feels like a lot, but not like unmanageable. (Note: it might feel unmanageable when my mom moves back and I'm doing all the laundry and cooking again; check back)

this has been an oft-interrupted stream of consciousness, and I don't even know exactly what I'm saying. It's like this. I think I should have lots of kids, I think I'd like to have lots of kids. I'm not sure how many kids is reasonable, and I'm not sure it matters. Something like that. So there you go. 

I realized I basically wrote this same thing years ago, pre-Tristan. I am a predictable creature.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Somehow I, the gypsy, have raised a Rule Guy. I mean, I'm a fairly legal eagle, what with the speed limit and other stuff that might get me arrested, and I show up on time when I make a commitment, but I'm preeety casual about schedules and specific plans.

Enter Toby. He likes to have a plan for his life. He has figured out iCal, and he opens it, scrolls through months, and tries to type in plans, with every letter dictated by me. You know how long it takes to dictate, "Toby and Brynn Gymnastics Class" letter by letter? I'll tell you. Too long. And he never forgets.

My mom and he have hit a bargain, where she writes meals and mealtimes on the board, and he passes by multiple times a day, reassuring himself that there will, in fact, be a peanut butter sandwich and fritos at 12:00. If we are late, he can handle it, no breakdowns or anything... just endless questions about the change in plans, and what we're going to do to get back on track.

So he and Mama have got it going on. Even Brynn is using the bathroom on a strict schedule, which is working, hallelujah.

Here's the thing. When my mom goes home in April, I will be left with a manager. He is CRAZY about all this routine and order around here. He gets to play with my laptop while I take a shower, so now he's showing up at 8:30, wanting to know WHEN I'm planning on showering. No, exactly what minute, because in a little while is not cutting it.

I just... I have to figure out how to use this to my advantage, because it is probably an excellent life skill. Like, maybe I'll never have to set a timer again, because he'll tell me how many minutes we have left, once a minute. So... that's uh, kind of a perk.

Maybe she can teach him to cook.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I try to avoid the Pain Olympics, i.e. my pain is greater than your pain, because... but I can at least say that I've been through some legit crises. As such, I can now call myself a Certified Pain Expert, and can advise you as such. 

So, let's say that a family member or friend of yours is in crisis. Someone has died, or a child is very ill, or there's been an accident, or Russian Mafia have abducted the President's daughter. 

Let me start with what you should never say. "I know how you feel." Unless you have been through the EXACT thing, you don't. In line with this, don't compare, for example, "I know how you feel. I haven't had a baby die, but in 3rd grade my cocker spaniel was hit by a car. I cried for DAYS." No. 

In line with that, don't try to be helpful about the silver lining. "Well, at least you still have ONE leg!" No. 

One of the things with crisis is, it is all consuming. When you're in it, nothing else matters. People in crisis often move into survival mode, where everything else is stripped down, so they can devote all their strength and mental energy to surviving. That is why it's not a good idea to ask them to call you and update you on the status of their tragedy. No. Find a relatively stable contact person, who is on the close outskirts of the situation without actually having blood on them, and get updates from them. Or if there are general updates online, work with those. People in crisis will tell you the nitty-gritty when they're ready. 

Some things that are generally good to do: 
Give food. Everybody has to eat, and even if there's no appetite now, at some point there will be. 
Say something. "I'm so sorry" is a good start. 
Give money. Crises are expensive. 
Give practically; offer to babysit or clean their house. Don't say "Let me know what you need." They probably won't.
Offer an ear, when or if they're ready to talk. Often after a tragedy, you might not know what you are and aren't allowed to talk about, so let them lead. If they bring up their loved one, then don't act awkward or change the subject. Just listen. 
Hug them, pray for them, and most of the time, don't offer advice. Odds are good that you don't know what you're talking about. 

Ultimately, you will do some things right and some things wrong. The important thing is to be there, physically or emotionally, however the person in crisis prefers to be supported. Good luck! 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Saturday night I tucked my 3 year old daughter into bed, explaining to her that when she woke up, she'd be 4. I pulled her close into a hug, reveling in her wild waves of hair and sweet pointed chin. Then she asked me, in a manner of speaking, if she would be a boy when she woke up. The tears collecting in my eyes turned into tears of laughter, and I gave up on sentimentality for the night.

This year we got to have her party on her actual birthday, and we invited some non-related kids, which was a first. She woke up talking about it. Actually, all of the younger set were pretty focused on the party. R2 stood in the kitchen, staring at the cake mix and making annoyed squeaking sounds all. day. long. Toby carried around a bag of balloons for about 3 hours, and Brynn screamed with excitement about everything all day. "I'm having TOAST because it's my BIRTHDAY!!!! EEE!" "Is this my BIRTHDAY SHIRT???" etc.

Finally it was time and we started putting out the sparkly pink stuff everywhere and making the little party favor bags, and I thought Brynn might combust. She could not contain her joy at every single thing. There is a tiny part of me that's not in denial, that knows someday they might be somewhat apathetic teenagers, and the energy and excitement of birthdays might weaken a little. Right now, though, it is the FUNNEST thing. I'm gonna blaze right on through that sentence, using the word I want to use and darning the consequences.

I made a cake. In the spirit of keeping this blog entry about me, let me tell you. I make food that looks strange and tastes good. I try so hard, and it never works out. I tried to talk my Valentine's baby into a round cake instead of the heart shape and failed. Note to everyone: heart shape cakes SUCK. They stick to the pan, yea, even though I grease it with animal fats and dust it with flour. Anyway. She loved it. She said it was BEAUTIFUL AND PERFECT.

It was such a fun party. She loved her presents, in fact she wouldn't go to bed because she was busy walking around in her party dress and apron, force-feeding adults plastic chicken and vegetables.

4 years old. She is a bossy, sweet, impatient emotional beauty. She brings me so much joy. Happy Birthday, baby. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Right, about this blog. Would you believe I've started to type entries about 7 different times, and every time I was interrupted by something that required at least my brain energies, if not my entire being. I started to write about Toby and Brynn's first gymnastics class, and then that never got finished or published, and then I wrote a few paragraphs about R2 going to the doctor and having blood tests and various exams, which revealed nothing, indicating that he is, in fact, just a pill right now, and it may be non-medical. Then I started to write about my husband missing me and calling me incessantly, even though he had 5 days of tour left, and how I miss him too but I'm fairly distracted here, and then he surprised me and came home early. So, win.

4 kids is busy, real busy. And that's with my mom here doing EVERYTHING. I have lots of interesting ideas in my brain, and

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I've been a parent for almost 12 years now. 6 years of that was parenting an atypical child, and then I added some "typical" (albeit weird) kids. Nobody really gave me advice with the first one, since most of them had no idea what to do with oxygen tanks and hydrocephalus and seizures and what-not, but once I had Toby and Brynn, I became aware of Mommy Wars. 

There's no manual to parenting, we all have to make it up. Since that's insane, we buy books and watch shows and read the internet and then your mom and your grandma say stuff like, never get a baby's head wet, or if you take them out without socks, they will be rebellious LATER. And all the books and the websites and the aged women say different things. Here you are with this little moldable human, and your only strategy is schizophrenia. 

It comes to a point where you realize, no matter how you do it, you're doing it wrong.

Lemme help you out a little, mommies. Every dadgum kid is different. Even identical twins are different. There is no real "normal". Your goal is to figure out YOUR kid and do what they need. And cut your mommy friends a break. If they're doing it the opposite way, they probably have a reason. The goal is to love our kids. Read the books, listen to friends and family, and then do what comes naturally to you! 

For me, that meant feeding my daughter excessively and sleeping with her in my bed until she was 18 months old. I tried other ways, and ultimately, things that seemed unnatural to me, or I had to force, weren't the right choices for me and my baby. When the time came, she was ready to wean and sleep in her bed, and it wasn't a fight like it had been with Toby, who I tried to parent "by the books" on that subject. 

For your baby, they might sleep better separate, or maybe you can't breastfeed, or they hate being worn. Don't force it! Just learn your kid. You know them best. Try parenting by instinct, just a little. You'll probably find it a relief. 

Now I'm figuring out parenting preschoolers. Totally making it up as I go along, and stealing advice from the Bible and doctors and grandmas and TV shows and then making it all fit into my crazy wonderful chaotic kids. I think we'll be all right.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Buying clumsy 5 year old skates from the thrift: $1.98
Laughing at my kid while he falls A LOT on video: priceless

Friday, February 4, 2011

I got my driver's license when I was 21. Fascinating story, really, full of procrastination and not being able to parallel park. According to those who know, I'm not a terrific driver. The truth is, I've only wrecked once, so that's not so bad. ("You drove into an 18-wheeler" says Richy Clark, in my head) ANYWAY. Sometimes I back into poles, or small cars. Whatever.

Yesterday I had to drive to Target and get R2's seizure medication and I also had to make a deposit, lest the rent check bounce. Those two things were significant enough to break my 5-day streak of not leaving the house. (Side note: I would rock as an agoraphobic. I'd be ordering Chinese food, getting my groceries off Amazon...)

The problem is, it's insanely cold. Quiet, Northerners. It's insanely cold, and there was like a jillion feet of snow in my driveway, and I don't even know if we have a snow shovel. I put out my plea on the interwebs, and some angels came and shoveled not just the driveway, but the whole sidewalk and our steps and everything and salted it all, and cleaned the ice off my windshield. We gave them cookies, and Toby nearly exploded from the excitement of it all.

Then I drove around, sliding through the residential areas and trying to figure out how to work the defrosters and see out iced windows and such, pretty much being a menace to society. Once I got on the freeway, massive blocks of snow started shooting off the top of the van into the cars behind me, and I gotta tell you, I felt pretty hardcore, like I had some kinda laser rays or you know, those tailgate rocket things. Did the essential chores and also ate a cheeseburger in glorious silence, and then it was back to the zoo, where my purchases of eggs and butter were cheered loudly.

Did I just use about 300 words to say I drove to Target? Yes, yes I did. And if you got this far, you read it all, so I guess it was good enough to post. OR, you are seriously bored. 

And now, some cuteness: 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Well, the end of days was somewhat uneventful. Chubby little baby cherubs floated by on clouds, gently tossing snow across Missouri. It was a lot of snow, but you know, nothing that could be called ferocious or blizzard or certain death. Still, its like a foot and a half of snow or something, and the children haven't left the house since Saturday, when their father went on tour with a rock band and the only keys to the minivan.

Kids are resilient, though. They find ways to amuse themselves. Currently, they're trying to see if they can make me or my mom turn to the drink.

We have toys. We have boxes and boxes of toys, and we have books, a virtual library of children's books. We have a variety of costumes, but none of these things are interesting by themselves, when you are snowbound. You have to get creative.

For example: a box of toys can be upended and used as a fort. You can also use the hard toys to defend your toy box fort, by bashing interloping siblings who try to join you.

When that gets boring, try to find a nice pile of clean laundry, and change outfits a few times, so you have something clean to pee in. Unfold blankets and drag them around the house, because you're a superhero, or maybe a camper, or a ghost, but not a Halloween ghost, so it's okay.

BOOKS! You could just read one, but wouldn't it be more fun to read the one your sibling has? GET IT AT ANY COST.

Carry around a flyer from Price Chopper, yelling at the top of your lungs that YOU NEED TO GO TO PRICE CHOPPER AND GET SOME OF THESE BEST CHOICE CORN CHIPS.

Really, though, what Grandma and Mommy love the most is running and screaming. Find a central location. You might have nearly 3000 square feet to play in, but try to find where the grownups are cooking dinner or folding laundry, and play there, because we are a family. Find that family spot and run, as fast as you can, in circles. Next, do Buzz Lightyear jumps off the couch, and flips into the re-folded blankets. Good, good.

The last step is find the cheese crackers, and eat them somewhere BESIDES the table, because a crunchy floor is a fun floor, and anyway, Grandma needs something to occupy herself with while she has a nervous breakdown.

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