Our littlest man is getting bigger every day! And let me just tell you…he has completely stolen my heart! I tell him all the time that I’m wrapped around his little finger and there’s no question that he’s going to be just spoiled rotten! He is such an easy-going baby and while his daytime sleep was a bit rocky the first few months, I think we’ve gotten most of the issues straightened out and he’s content as can be. I’ve also (drumroll please…) been able to add dairy and tomatoes back to my diet and so far (fingers-crossed please!) he’s been just fine! I’m so thankful to have milk, cheese, sour cream and chocolate again! I also had no idea how much I really do love tomatoes…they really add so much flavor to food! But I love Madden a million times more, so the sacrifices were more than worth it! I praise God for this happy little baby and the smiles and laughter he brings to my each and every day!
Last November we started a Thanksgiving tradition that lasts the entire month. I go and purchase a couple of yards of brown bulletin board paper, cut out this huge tree (the trunk is the entire height of our kitchen wall, ceiling to floor) and branches and hang it up with that putty stuff that won’t pull the paint off the walls. I write the word “Thankfulness” in big black letters down the trunk of the tree and each night every family member writes something they are thankful to God for on a fall-colored leaf (I cut these out of construction paper) and we hang them on the tree. The items on the leaves so far this year are pretty wide in scope…everything from light sabers, Halloween candy and Barney (have I mentioned Miles is in love with Barney?!) to a healthy Baby Madden and Mikias and Miles finally coming home! We don’t really push the kids to thank God for something “spiritual” but allow them the freedom to think about whatever it is they really want to thank God for each night. But tonight, Mikias surprised me.
He said, as I was pulling out the leaves and before I really had the chance to ask, “I want to thank God for Mommy and Daddy coming to get me in Ethiopia.” Tears sprung to my eyes and I looked at my sweet boy and said “Really?” I’m sure he was confused by my answer, but oh how precious to me was his choice tonight.
You see, as I think back on the start of our adoption journey and particularly the point when we decided to adopt Mikias, I recognize my pride and this sense that I was doing this great thing by rescuing a child, especially an older, harder-to-be-adopted boy from Africa. But the truth is, God has used this child to rescue me. Adoption has revealed more sin in me than probably anything else in my entire life. Nobody warned me of this and there isn’t a single book that could have prepared me for it (again…I’m tempted to be the one that finally writes one.). And there are so many days where I wonder if my kids long for Ethiopia, for days when much wasn’t required of them and where they didn’t have to worry about a Mommy who might blow a fuse at any moment. There are so many days where I feel like the biggest failure of a parent and I wonder why in the world God chose to entrust not one, but four little souls to me. There are so many days where I’m so hard on Mikias in particular because he is the oldest and I do expect a lot from him and in my inadequacies I forget that he needs my encouragement, my praise and my affection.
So, Mikias’ choice for his leaf tonight was like a huge banner of grace from God straight to my heart. In spite of my sin and in spite of my inadequacies, my son is thankful for his life here with us. On this side of our adoption journey, that is entirely more than I could ever ask for or imagine. God’s grace is sufficient and praise Him that His power is made perfect in my weaknesses.
And I’m not talking about Christmas! Though, incidentally, I am quite happy that the holidays are before us and quite happy that my kids love all of my Christmas music (the music we secretly started listening to weeks ago!). Their favorite right now? Oh yes…Christmas in Dixie by Alabama! They will listen to it at least four or five times in a row and they love belting out “in Jackson, Mississippi” just like I did when I was a child. Poor kids…they have no idea what it means to be proud of the state they actually live in. Mikias even told me when he grows up, he wants to live in Mississippi! At least Kevin and I are staying true to our heritage, huh?!
What I actually meant by the title was tis the season of life I have found myself thrown into at a whirlwind speed. I just realized I haven’t updated my blog in about 15 days…I’m so busy living life, there’s no time to write about it! But I do have thoughts here and there and think “that would make a good post.” I just never find the extra minutes to type it out. So, for now, I’ll just share some tidbits of what has surprised me, what has taught me and what I love most about this season of parenting multiple children under the age of six.
Funny enough, I’ve been most surprised by the amount of laundry and the amount of times we run our dishwasher! Our water bill has doubled since we added three kiddos so rapidly to our family, but our laundry exponentially exploded! I do at least one load a day…all of Madden’s outfits that have either spit up, poop or drool all over them and various towels used to clean up spills or wipe Miles down after a meal. Then I do a minimum of five loads on my actual “laundry day”…two for Kevin and me, two for the big kids and one for towels, sheets, etc. Thankfully, Molly Kate has taken a liking to helping with laundry and she folds all wash cloths and underwear…every little bit helps!! Oh, and the dishwasher! I think we run it every four meals which basically means it has to be unloaded every day. Yep, I said every day. Green people everywhere are just cringing as I write this. 🙂
I’ve also been surprised at how much food it takes to feed a family of six, especially when you have boys. Mikias eats at least as much as I do if not more and has gained 12 pounds in the 6 months that he’s been home. Isn’t that amazing? So one thing I’m learning is how to cut down our grocery budget. I’ve been doing a lot of studying over at the Money Saving Mom website and I’ve recently begun making our weekly menu plan based on what’s on sale at our local grocery store (a suggestion from a good friend…thanks Jenny!). We’re also in process of going to a cash only envelope system budget so we can spend more wisely and hopefully, give a little more here and there. So, in my spare time (haha) I’ve been working on this. But I’m excited to say that in our first month of the new system, we only spent $400 on groceries!
Without a doubt, this season has taught me the most about self-sacrifice. Having so many little people with so many big needs/demands requires that I constantly be willing to lay down my life. When I submit willingly and joyfully to this life God has called me to, I actually do love it and my children flourish. But, because my flesh wins on some days and selfishness takes the throne of my heart, I end up walking through weary days and watch my children suffer. By God’s grace, I do see fruit taking root and He is helping me to seize this season and not wish it away, even when it means I give up my desires..whether its a women’s bible study or clean dirt-free floors! I’m also more aware of my limits than ever before. While I adore hospitality and opening up our home to serve and encourage others, tis not the season for it. My days are more than full…just the time it takes to change diapers and nurse Madden and the homeschool Mikias is mind-boggling. And I have really begun making it a priority to sit and play with my children each day, not just be the teacher, cook and disciplinarian. So, if I then try to add any type of hospitality to my day, something else has to go and the last couple of tries have ended up in my children just falling apart because of the lack of my presence on that day or for those couple of hours. So, for now, my hospitality will just have to be exercised for the enjoyment and encouragement of my immediate family and I’m okay with that. I also have begun disciplining myself to be in bed by 10 pm, 10:30 at the latest. There are nights when I just don’t sleep well or nights when Madden still wakes up and is only consoled by nursing (crying it out is just not working with this little strong-willed man). So, if I’m in bed by 10, I can make up for any loss of sleep I might incur that night and I’m not a monster to my kids the next day! Knowing my limits has brought much more joy and peace to our life and I’m very thankful to the Lord for discernment and wisdom in these areas.
Hands down, the best part of my life is the laughter! My kids possess so much joy and many moments each day are filled with shrieks of laughter and squeals of delight as they simply enjoy life and enjoy each other. Even Madden seems to be given over to laughing…he’ll laugh out loud for no particular reason, but he especially loves to be tickled and we get some great laughs! I really couldn’t be more delighted in how well our children get along with one another. I have prayed so much for this as my own childhood was so much better because my sister was my best friend and I usually always enjoyed playing with her more than anyone else. I deeply desired that our kids would also love to play with one another and God blesses me everyday when I see them making up games together or taking time to do both “girl things” and “boy things”. For example, this morning I found all three big kids armed and ready for battle in a sword fight, but then later today watched them pull out the doll house. I wondered how the girl to boy ratio would work itself out, especially since I didn’t have a brother, but so far, I haven’t really noticed it all. God really did knit them fearfully and wonderfully and we all just fit together…oh, I love it. I also really love that God gave us a baby for this crazy season. Madden wasn’t planned, well not by us, but how glad I am that God’s plans are bigger and higher than mine. There’s something about having a baby that just slows you down a bit and makes you sit and appreciate the little things. I spend at least 10 to 15 minutes every few hours just holding and talking to Madden and lighting up at every smile and coo. And in those moments, I’m reminded of how fleeting life is…it seems like Molly Kate was just a baby yesterday and it wasn’t so long ago that we were awaiting new baby pictures of Miles, not wanting to miss anything. And now they are two and three and asserting their independence and not my babies. Oh for grace to treasure this season more and more and not let any of it pass me by. And I love that I get the privilege of teaching my children the mysteries of God and the beauty of the cross. Today we had another neat conversation about God hating sin as we talked about Abraham and Lot and the city of Sodom. I love that their minds are like sponges and their hearts are so soft toward God right now. May I take every opportunity and use this time wisely.
Well, I guess by the length of this post, you can tell its been a while. Thanks for letting me talk out loud…it may be a little while longer before I can do it again!