Year in Pictures

It’s been a couple years since I have done a “Year in Pictures” post. Here are a few tidbits of our 2015 in pictures.

January ~ Dave turned 30! Despite the fact we were just coming out of survival mode from Sarge’s birth, I managed to throw together a Surprise Party for him. It was truly a surprise as he had no clue!

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February ~ Our 3 little Valentines

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March ~ Sarge was born with a birth defect. He had surgery to fix the defect and was in the hospital four days. His surgeon said the outcome of his surgery could not have been more perfect and for that we are very thankful.

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April ~ He is Risen! Happy Easter!

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May ~ Little Bug turned 6! She has matured greatly over the past year. She is still a spit-fire but we’ve captured her heart and she truly does desire to please the Lord and her parents. Little Bug is in 1st Grade and enjoys all things arts and crafts!

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June ~ We took our first vacation as a family of 5 to the family cabin in the mountains.

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July ~ We began our third year of homeschooling! We decided to begin schooling year round this year. This gives us more flexibility to take a day off here and there if needed. We also joined Classical Conversations and it has been an absolute blessing to our homeschool.

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August ~ Sweet Pea turned 4! Sweet Pea is still as sweet as can be, but she holds her own when necessary! She has come out of her shell somewhat. She loves her new role as big sister and enjoys her preschool time with Mommy each morning.

Little Sarge turned 1 in August. He has made tremendous progress in his first year of life. After a rough start, you wouldn’t know it now. He went from being an infant that just laid on a blanket at six months old to rolling, sitting, crawling, pulling up and walking in just five months time!

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September ~ (This actually happened in October, but I didn’t have many pictures from September so decided to put this one here.) I took the girls on a 24-hour road trip/field trip to visit a dear friend of mine who I actually met through this blog. The girls enjoyed playing on a farm with new friends and Meg and I enjoyed getting to talk face-to-face while all of our children played together!

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October ~ We took our annual Pumpkin Patch picture.

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November ~ We spent Thanksgiving with my parents.

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December ~ We enjoyed our Christmas Eve tradition of eat dinner together with the family, singing Christmas Carols, looking at Christmas lights and then heading home to get everyone tucked in for the night!

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Merry Christmas to all

and

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

What I’ve Learned {2014} Part 3

In a matter of a week, I went from gearing up to starting Little Bug’s Kindergarten year to sitting 2.5 hours away from home in a NICU.

Ironically, we had begun our school year in late July because beginning in early August I was going to be keeping my friend’s 4 month old baby until the baby was old enough to attend daycare. (Looking back I see that was a foreshadowing of what was to come for our family!)

Friday I had kept the baby and had a normal day with my girls. My last ever normal day with just my two girls. We had gone on a walk and the girls had taken their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle buckets to collect treasures along the way. That evening we had gotten the pool out and let the girls swim until we had a picnic dinner on the back deck. And then we had done our normal bedtime routine of bath time, Bible story, hugs and kisses. I tucked my girls in their beds not knowing just six hours later we would be leaving in the middle of the night to drive to a city 2.5 hours to meet our son.

And just like that my focus had to majorly shift. No longer was my focus on my life back home. Instead I had been thrown into a whirlwind of an adoption and my focus was on this little baby boy and his birth mother.

It didn’t take long for us to figure out that we were in the middle of crazy circumstances! We were going to be in this city long-term and we had no idea how long! When I thought I was going to start our second official week of school, I found myself instead sitting in a NICU unit with a very sick baby boy that was my son!!!

I had to consciously shift my focus to the here and now. God had sent me to care for this baby and to be his mother and, even though a newborn was the furthest thing from my mind and my plans, I knew this baby was now my calling in this present time.

I hate hospitals, especially NICUs. I remember sitting there and feeling trapped but then I would refocus my mind on what God had called me to do. And His calling on my life at that time was to be in the NICU with that baby boy, advocating for him.

I held him almost non-stop those first two weeks. He was born four weeks early so I looked at those first few weeks as my time to nurture him as if he was in my womb. So I held him and did Kangaroo Care with him as much as possible. Sitting skin to skin with a newborn infant son was not in my lesson plan book at home! But there I was….and nothing would have made me leave him.

As hard as that time was, those are some of my most cherished moments with my baby boy. I had nothing more to do in this world than sit and hold him…so I did. There were many hours spent just him and me in his room. I would think about what I had thought I would be doing at this time. What I was actually doing was so far from what I had been doing just weeks before.

Those moments taught me the importance of living in the moment. It did me no good to think about what I was missing at home. God had called me that hospital room to be an advocate for that baby boy and I had to essentially block out the rest of the world and focus on the tiny baby God had delivered into my arms.

All we have is now. And there is something to be said about just relishing in where God has you now. Those four weeks in the city where Sarge was born were awful, but God taught me to live in the moment and cherish what is now.

What I’ve Learned {2014} Part 2

This turn of events in our family also meant that I had to step back and look at the needs of each of my children as individuals and the needs of our family as a whole. This proved very difficult to do because it forced me to make some decisions that were outside of our goals as a family.

We feel very strongly about homeschooling our children but bringing Sarge home totally changed the dynamics of our family in the drastic ways I have already described. Those first few months were extremely chaotic and I was searching for ways to bring order and stability back to our home. In a moment of desperation and weighing our options, we decided it would be best for our family as a whole if Sweet Pea attended the preschool Little Bug had also attended at age three. With it being a 2 minute drive away from our house and the environment being one that we totally trusted, we enrolled Sweet Pea in late September. With one child in preschool three mornings a week it gave our family some measure of peace with only two children home.

Oh but I worried about my little Sweet Pea. I felt like I had “shipped her away”. At that season of our lives, I had to for the sanity of our entire family. I wanted all three of my children home though, but I knew this was just a season and I knew sending Sweet Pea to preschool for a couple months until things calmed down was best for everyone. Including Sweet Pea. She needed a push to grow up some; to be her own little self without constantly being in the shadow of her dominant big sister. Preschool seemed to be a good fit for her. She would come home and say she had fun.

But then my Mommy-antenna’s began to feel that the needs of my children actually were not being met. This is how most mornings would go down:

Me: Sweet Pea, it’s a school day!

Sweet Pea: (crying) I don’t want to go to school.

Little Bug: Mommy, where are we going today??

Me: Nowhere, Little Bug.

Little Bug: (crying) But I want to go somewhere!!!!

I was shipping my introverted-quiet child away from home while my extroverted-loud child was feeling like a caged prisoner because leaving the house with Sarge in tow was virtually impossible unless it was for a doctor’s appointment for him, of which there were many in those first few months home.

And so it was time to reevaluate. Our original plan to help bring peace and a new normal to the family was no longer working.

That was when we started considering schooling options for Little Bug – something six months ago was not even on my radar. We were going to homeschool. Period. No discussion necessary. It was a decision we had made years ago before Little Bug could even walk.

But now our circumstances were such that I could not implement the plans I had in place that would have given Little Bug plenty of social interaction throughout the week.

It is amazing how God provides our every need. That has been a theme throughout Sarge’s entire adoption. From baby items that appeared out of nowhere as soon as it went public that we were adopting a baby boy to….learning of a school less than 10 minutes from our home that partners with homeschool families in the education of their children.

During one of our crisis moments where we felt our family was drowning, God laid this school on both of our hearts. When we finally found time to come together and talk about what we needed to do bring stability to our children, we both mentioned this school.

One thing lead to another and after I went to observe the Kindergarten class in action and spoke to the administrators at the school, we both felt certain this school was our answer.

Little Bug’s first day will be January 6th and we are all elated!!

What did this teach me?

Even when we have strong convictions about something, we must keep our minds open and our hearts sensitive to the needs of our children. Half a decade ago when I already knew I wanted to homeschool my children and felt strong convictions about doing so, I had no idea during Little Bug’s Kindergarten year we would adopt an infant that would totally throw our homeschooling plans for a loop!

Above even our strong convictions, we have to be in tune to our children’s needs. It quickly became apparent to me that full-time homeschooling was actually not best for my Little Bug. This school will feed her need to get out of the house and be social three days of the week while still allowing us to homeschool two days of the week. I can’t think of a more perfect arrangement for her and our family as a whole.

We pulled Sweet Pea out of preschool at the beginning of December. As the months have turned since we arrived back home from our four weeks in the NICU with Sarge, I have seen some insecurities arise in Sweet Pea. She has a delicate personality anyway. I had no time to prepare her that we were leaving…..because we didn’t even know we were leaving for such a long time when we left! She attached herself to her Grams while Grams was her main caretaker during that time as I knew she would, but recently Sweet Pea has showed insecurities with not wanting me to leave her at all. Totally understandable after what her little just-turned-3-year-old self went through, so I am looking forward to three mornings a week to focus on Sweet Pea while Little Bug is at school. Sweet Pea needs that individual time with me just as much as Little Bug needs to get out of the house.

I’ve learned part of being a parent is being able to put aside our own wishes and dreams sometimes to do what is best for our children. Little Bug attending this school was no where near any of my plans for her, but I know that now it is what is best for her and I am thankful to God for providing this school for our family.

What I’ve Learned {2014} Part 1

The year 2014 has been unlike any other year in my entire life. My faith has been tested multiple times. I’ve had to do things I never could have done without God’s strength. There were seasons when life was completely turned upside down. There were seasons of simply trying to survive one day to the next. Many tough decisions were made this year.

But here we are at the end of 2014 and I can still say after the toughest year of my life that GOD IS FAITHFUL.

At the end of this year, where there could have been brokenness, there is redemption because God is faithful, His plans prevail and His plans are good.

I usually summarize the year by choosing one picture per month and writing about it. There is no way one picture a month can summarize 2014! So instead I am writing about what 2014 has taught me.

There are seasons of motherhood. This year has taught me to give myself grace as a mother. This doesn’t mean that I use this as an excuse not to do the things that are my responsibility as the caretaker of my family and home. Instead it means that I am capable of recognizing what I can and cannot do during the seasons of my motherhood and I don’t try to do more than I can handle so that I can be SuperMom.

I was so looking forward to this coming year with my girls. I just knew they were going to be some of the best days of my life as I was going to spend my time teaching my little girls academically, socially and spiritually as we went about our days together. We were going to go on many adventures together as we took school beyond the walls of our home. I had been looking forward to this stage of motherhood for years. I loved the years my girls were babies and toddlers, but I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t say that I looked forward in great anticipation when my girls became school-agers and I could be their teacher! That time had finally come!

In a matter of two weeks, all of those plans washed down the drain as I suddenly found myself in the middle of a very unexpected adoption of a newborn baby boy.

When I should have been starting our first weeks of school, I was totally separated from my girls in a city 2.5 hours away sitting in the NICU unit holding a very sick little boy.

Four weeks later when we arrived home with our son, our lives were totally turned upside down! We arrived home on a Thursday night and by Sunday I had literally collapsed from the physical, emotional and spiritual turmoil I had been through in the past month. It was an extremely humbling moment for me because I realized it was impossible for me to care for all three of my children by myself.

I wanted to jump right back into where life had left off but that was not only impractical, it was impossible! Our family was in survival mode like we had never been before, which meant we were doing good to have all three mouths fed at the end of the day. You could forget everything else. Laundry. Cleaning. Homeschooling. It wasn’t happening.

Sarge required constant care upon arriving home. He had issues learning to eat in the NICU and was first fed through a feeding tube. Gradually, he learned to eat from the bottle, but when he came home, he still struggled to eat every single bottle of formula. It was a learned art to get him to eat; an art Dave, my mom and I quickly learned. It took him an hour or more per feeding to eat his 3 ounces of formula. Do the math. At 8 feedings a day, that was 8-10 hours a day spent just trying to make sure Sarge got the nourishment he needed in a 24 hour period. It was a full time job just feeding him!

After he was done eating, he would writhe in pain, which required holding. I could not put him in a sling and go about my day. His temperature was higher than the average newborn and he would sweat in the sling in a matter of minutes. Plus, being jostled around as I walked around was the last thing his little body needed. He needed me (or someone) to sit and hold him tight while his little body endured the pain. By the time his pain had subsided, it was nearly time for him to eat again! That left me about half an hour every 3 hours where I might be able to do something that didn’t involve caring for Sarge! With a 5 year old and 3 year old that I also had to take care of, I had to have constant help to care for my children.

This came in the form of my mother. She basically moved in the first month we were home with Sarge and between Dave, my mom and myself, we survived those first weeks home. It was literally a juggling act between the three of us to care for all three children! I felt like we were a circus act and had you been a fly on our wall, I am sure it would have been pretty entertaining.

This was such a difficult time for me for multiple reasons. The most obvious being that my son was suffering and I was helpless to take his pain away. I was also extremely frustrated because this was not how I saw our Fall going down! I wanted to be able to care for my family because caring for my family is my calling in my life right now. But I could not manage on my own.

Looking back, I learned so much through this season about motherhood and the seasons of life.

Sometimes our life circumstances are so that we cannot do it all as mothers and we need to rely on help and be okay with receiving help. It is humbling, yes, but it is just for a season.

Sometimes we need to sit back and think, What do my kids really need me to do in this season? What my girls needed most was my presence. To be present with them, I had to have help with the baby. It was either take care of Sarge or take care of the girls. When I got home, I wanted to take care of everyone but it was impossible, so I had to lean on help so I could be present with my girls and still know my baby was being taken care of. And then I had to have help with the girls so I could take care of Sarge.

My mom helped daily from the day we arrived home from the hospital until the first week of December when Sarge took a huge turn for the better.

Those weeks were some of the hardest weeks of parenting I have experienced this far. I felt so torn between my children. I felt like a failure nearly every single day because I wasn’t managing my family and home like I was used to doing. I had to have help just to care for my children properly. I had to consciously remind myself to take care of myself during that time….or I would have missed many more meals.

There were days I questioned what God was doing because daily life was such a struggle and anything but what I had imagined it to be during that season.

And then slowly God began teaching me an invaluable lesson: There are season to your motherhood, Elaine, just like there are seasons to life. There are going to be times in life where you are not on you’re A-game for motherhood due to circumstances outside your control. There is a time for everything and as long as you keep what is most important priority, everything else will eventually fall back into place.

So that’s what I did. I focused on what was most important. Being present with my girls and acclimating everyone to our new family dynamics. Everything else was put on hold.

And, sure enough, it all was just a season. Sometimes life is about survival until the tidal waves settle and new normals can be found.

We got through that very difficult period and with the coming of December, things finally began to settle. Sarge’s episodes of pain became less frequent, he started drinking his bottles in 30 minutes or less, and a new normal was beginning to take shape in our family.

But not before we had to make some difficult decisions to help our family find this new normal. Making those decisions taught me about the importance of being in tune to the needs of each of my children as individuals and the needs of our family as a whole.

Oh, and the SuperMom title? That title is around to make mom’s feel guilty for not doing more or for doing something the “wrong” way. Any mom who meets the needs of their children in ways that are best for her children is a SuperMom.

Part 2 coming next.

Happy New Year!!!

Back into the swing

Today we are back into the swing of things and it feels great!!! Breaks are nice, but normal life is nice, too. The Christmas décor is put away and as much as I dislike seeing it go, I love the freshness of a clean house to start the New Year.

The girls have been difficult lately and I know it is mostly due to being off their normal routines for a couple weeks now. Today was Boot Camp and it took one instance with both of them for them to figure out that vacation time is over, and life has resumed to normal. We’ve just had the best day together since!

I went to lay Sweet Pea down for her nap and I told Little Bug when I got back it would be time for school and she said with excitement in her voice, “We are doing SCHOOL today?!?!”.

I guess I wasn’t the only one longing for “normal”.

Today I’m just extra thankful for the ability to be able to homeschool and I’m looking forward to the rest of this school year.

I’m also looking forward to cleaning out this house! The major areas that need it are the master closet and toys. I need to go through toys (again), get rid of all toddler/baby toys and reorganize to make room for toys that the girls received for Christmas. And my closet? Well, let’s just say it has become the “catch all” place and it needs some major organization!

It is going to be very cold here tonight. As in, temps that I felt during my trip to Pittsburg! This is very unusual for us and by the end of the week it will probably be sunny and in the 70s again. I hope.

Stay warm and I will be back later this week to begin my reviews on the curriculum we’re using this year!

Happy New Year!

And just like that we rang in a New Year last night! I said I’d be back to normal posting at the New Year but it might take me a little while to get back into the swing of things around here. My plan had been to catch up on writing during the holidays so I’d have my drafts full and ready to go, but the truth is my drafts are still blank here on January 1st!

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It’s been a wonderful holiday season this year for my family. From Thanksgiving to the first week in January we have been blessed to be able to see just about every one on my mom and dad’s side of the family. The last of family leaves this weekend and then next week it is back to normal routines around here.

While I am looking forward to getting back to “normal”, I tend to always feel a little down in January. I know I’m not alone in this feeling. With the holiday season past and my husband’s CRAZY work schedule in Januarys, I just don’t like January much at all.

But there are things to look forward to in 2014! I always look forward to my “Go Through Everything and Get Rid of Stuff Januarys”. I start in January going through every closet, drawer and cabinet in the house, evaluating what we have, getting rid of stuff we don’t need and reorganizing what we do have, if necessary. I LOVE doing this every year and I do it in January because it gives me something to do while Dave works his crazy hours. Plus, it’s nice to start the year with a clean, organized home.

I am VERY excited to follow the journeys of two friends as they bring their children home in the year 2014! Rebecca and Luke leave for the country their child(ren) is in on January 17th! They’ve been in town for the past few days and we’ve had a ball together. Luke’s company has an office in our city and I tell them all the time they need to move here! And, extra bonus, the house across the street is for sale! haha!

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Another dear friend of mine is due to have her baby at the end of January. She unexpectedly got pregnant after battling infertility for years. She has taken me along on her pregnancy journey and given me an inside viewpoint of pregnancy via her experience. I am so looking forward to seeing the face of the little “blob” who miraculously came to be last summer.

And then there is homeschool. I am already beginning to think of where we are going next after Ready-Made Preschool! I have some ideas of where I think Little Bug will be academically and what might be a good fit for her next. I’m also starting to think about Sweet Pea’s Learning Time and what that is going to look like now that she is nearly 2.5 years old.

As a general rule, Little Bug does not like to take pictures. I was shocked when she said, “Mama, take my picture here!”.

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It’s crazy that this year my baby will be THREE. When Little Bug turned 3 she seemed so old. Sweet Pea still seems like a baby to me! We still affectionately call her “the baby”. I’ve had more people ask me if we are “done” or will adopt again now that our baby is two. At this point, I can honestly say we feel like our family is complete just the way it is at this moment in time, but we have learned that God is the ultimate decision-maker in our family growing process and if He wills another child into our life He will reveal that to us when the time is right – and we will follow Him in obedience.

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The girls are doing well. They are both in a slightly difficult stage right now and I’m in one of those phases (again!) where I dream of bedtime a little too much probably. But I know all this recent craziness with them is mostly due to all the holiday festivities and being off our routine for several weeks at a time. If there is one thing I’ve learned about parenting it is this: Children THRIVE on structure and routine and when you take that away from them the normal “craziness” of raising children is just magnified ten fold. I am looking forward to giving my children the gift of structure and routine next week so that things can calm down around here!

Happy New Year!

Looking back

I’m not really a football fan by any stretch of the imagination but the Green Bay Packer game was on Sunday evening and my family was gathered in the living room watching it.

One of the players started running the ball to the end zone but didn’t make it. (Turns out, they did call his play a touchdown, I think. Like I said, I’m not really into football and once that play happened, this post started rolling through my head.)

My brother said, “He shouldn’t have been looking back the whole time.”

Looking back.

It’s good to look back on life and reflect on things, but my brother’s right.

We can’t run the race of life constantly looking back.

Maybe if that player had put his all into running forward, there wouldn’t have been so much discrepancy over whether he scored a touchdown, or not.

There are times when I do think back to everything I went through when we started trying to grow our family.

It is good to remember where I was; the hopelessness that was felt, the disappointment of month after month of finding out I was not pregnant.

It is even good to look back and remember the worst day of my journey – the day I knew it was time to surrender my dream.

While it is good to look back occasionally and remember, I cannot run the rest of this race called life with my eyes transfixed on my past.

I know a major component of my healing process from infertility and being barren has been my resolve to look forward.

Life moves in one direction. Forward.

On this first day in 2013 I encourage you to turn your focus from your past and look forward.

Remember what you need to from the past, but run the race of life looking forward to the plans God has for you.

It seems there has been an influx of emails that I have received from readers lately who are asking me how I knew what “God’s Will” was for my life.

I am going to attempt to write a post on this soon. It’s a tough subject; one I think that is going to be tough to put into words. But it is something I want to write about.

Until then, I wish you all a very Happy New Year!