may.

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Hi there friends!

May has been a very busy month for us! It’s funny that apparently the busiest month of the summer technically came before the summer started. We had 3 weddings (2 of which David performed), a ballet recital, our Classical Conversations summer practicum, and by this weekend will have taken 5 out of town trips!

Amie’s recital was very sweet, and family and friends came to watch her. She had a great year in ballet and enjoyed being with her friends in class on Monday afternoons. We’ve decided to “take a year off” in favor of doing swim team with her brothers (which she’s been at since January), and possibly neighborhood soccer. We’ll see where we stand next summer.

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I did something a little crazy mid-month and decided last-minute to take the kids to the Great Wolf Lodge all by myself. Some friends from our homeschool group, Classical Conversations, were going. Apparently the GWL has a homeschool discount week in May, so we jumped on board. David couldn’t take off work, but we’ve been several times now (we always go for one overnight), and so I felt pretty confident that I could do it. I had a couple of conversations with the kids about how it was going to be a little different trip without Daddy’s help, and we were all going to work hard at being grateful for this great gift and not complain (including Mommy!).

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They did fantastic! I hardly saw the big kids in the water park once their friends arrived; I just focused on being with the boys and they took turns choosing which area to play in. In the evening a friend watched Noah so that Gabe and I could go on all the big water slides together, which was so fun. Sadly Gabe got sick on Day 2 and Noah wasn’t interested in swimming without his brother, so we hung out with our friends and let Gabe doze while the big kids played, then packed up and headed home.

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Poor buddy. If he’s laying down at the Great Wolf Lodge, you know he’s really sick! On the drive home, Amie asked, “You barely got to go on any water slides. Did you have fun, Mom?” and I tried to explain how much joy it gives me to watch my kids have a great time. I remember as a child feeling bad for my parents for not getting to do “all the fun stuff” or get as many birthday presents, and now I understand completely how they didn’t mind one bit.

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Thanks to our family’s babysitting help, David and I spent two nights in Clemson for our friends’, Spencer and Chrissy’s wedding. David performed the ceremony and my brother Kenny and some friends did all the music, which made it even more special. We arrived home Saturday, and turned around for another wedding in Columbia. A couple in our church had a very unique, small wedding ceremony in the house they’re remodeling together. It’s a beautiful house, and we loved being able to bring our big kids along.

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Here’s a cute photo of our “reluctant napper.” He’s so close to giving up naps altogether, but sometimes just.can’t.make.it. without one. Here’s another:

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He’s pretty cute, isn’t he?

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This week was our Classical Conversations (CC) Practicum, which is a three-day conference in Lexington for all local CC campuses. The moms and/or dads go to sessions and receive training, and we have the option of sending our kids to the day camps. My kids love it! This year Judah and Amie were both in Geography/Drawing camp, and Gabe went to Play Camp. My mother-in-law and brother’s mother-in-law kept Noah, and next year he will join us.

I love the chance to learn new information, to shop for some of next year’s curriculum, and most of all to be with my friends and make some new friends. We get to chat during the breaks and eat lunch together, and I always enjoying picking the brains of more experienced home school moms.

I’ve loved this month, but also look forward to June, when things will calm down a bit.

Happy Thursday!



harry potter progress.

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I shared here about Judah starting the Harry Potter series for the first time.

So many people have asked me how we made the decision to let him begin, and how far in the series we’ll let him go (he’s 8 1/2). Honestly, I wasn’t exactly sure when we started, and that may have been a poor parenting decision on my part, but here we are.

After much deliberating, I just let Judah start book 5 of 7, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I keep saying “I” because David hasn’t read the books, and defers to me, but we’ve discussed it quite a bit, and are on the same page.

If you’re unfamiliar with the series, they begin when Harry is 11 years old, and each book covers a year of his life at Hogwarts School. The books mature as Harry matures, which is one of the many reasons I think J.K. Rowling is a genius. Not only do they follow a plot that darkens with each book, but the characters become complex as Harry moves from the rather emotionally concrete world of middle school, into the murky teenage years where everything isn’t black and white, and he’s navigating different sorts of relationships.

However, there are clear lines between good and evil in the story, and (spoiler alert), good wins out at the end of each book and at the end of the series.

My main hesitation with letting Judah finish the series now was wanting to protect him from the dark elements of the plot, which, quite frankly, give me the creeps. There are also some “teenage themes” as the books progress, which include dating, falling in love, and kissing, but I think it’s handled fine.

I guess in the end I realized two things:

1. There are a lot of things I want to shelter Judah from right now, while he’s 8 1/2, but the content of the Harry Potter books is just not high on that list. I love the characters. I love the themes of friendship, loyalty, making wise choices, standing up for what’s right rather than what’s popular, and forgiveness. We’ve talked about the dating stuff, which is just part of life, and we discuss other situations and characters as they come up. Oh how I wish I could start assigning him literary analysis papers, because this series is a treasure trove of characters and themes (I’m such a nerd, I know).

2. Judah has always known his limits with regard to what scares him, and he’s said that the books haven’t been too scary yet. You know what I realized? Because of his age, I think he’s processing them differently than I do. Because I’ve experienced more of the world, I shudder at the evil and grief and loss. But right now Judah sees it all as a magical world and a big, glorious battle between good and evil. I’m okay with that.

3. If you yourself are trying to decide when/how to let your children read this series, all I can say is that every family is different and every child is different. Definitely read the books yourself first so you can discuss situations that come up. Both Judah’s Mum-Mum and I are reading each book right behind him as a refresher, and lots of our family and friends have read them too, which makes for fun conversations right now (he’s exchanging letters with David’s aunt as they read, which he loves). Watch your child to see how he/she is processing it. Are they consumed by it? Are they having nightmares?

One rule we have is that Judah doesn’t read the books right before bed; he and Amie listen to something light like Beverly Cleary or the Boxcar Children on audiobook before they fall asleep. Another thing I’ve realized, is that I think in general people can handle violent or scary scenes in books better than on TV. There’s something about the images on a screen that stick in your mind, whereas when you’re reading a book you subconsciously create the image and scene for yourself, and typically it’s not as graphic. So Judah reads the books, but knows that he doesn’t want to watch beyond the first movie for now.

 

So that’s our update! I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me to see my child embrace reading and get swept up in a really great story. I hope this is just the beginning of a lifelong hobby for him!



house update: let’s try this again.

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Well, you guys, I wrote the previous blog post this weekend, and then one of my holds came in at the library: Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, by Kristen Welch.

I started reading it hoping to find some practical tips to help me teach my children to complain less, but what I didn’t expect was to crack open the book and immediately feel convicted for my own complaining. Reading Kristen Welch’s description of our entitlement culture exposed my own subtle feelings of entitlement, which I’ve been blind to of late. I realize that underneath my so-called “disappointment” with our house process is a belief that I deserve better.

I deserve a bigger house, or at least a bigger kitchen. I deserve another bathroom. I deserve more storage space. I deserve a prettier front yard. I do not deserve to have to wait as long as I have for our building project, and then subject myself to a process of renovations that will be uncomfortable and stressful.

God, don’t You know I now have four kids — two of them I adopted, which is no easy task — and I stay home with them all day and educate them, and my husband and I are in ministry!? I need a bigger, better house! Now!

And if I can’t get it now, then I want to spend money and buy new things and have fun experiences to make me feel better about waiting.

It’s pretty ugly, isn’t it?

How did I get here?

I don’t deserve any of this. What I deserve, thankfully, God has protected me from by His salvation. And that and anything beyond it is a free gift. He owes me absolutely nothing.

I rebuke my kids for always wanting more toys and treats, wanting to know what fun thing we’re doing next, complaining when they’re bored. And yet my heart is just as sinful as theirs. Actually it’s more so — I have 34 years under my belt of witnessing God’s faithfulness and provision to grow gratitude in my heart. I know that stuff doesn’t bring happiness.

I’ve seen the way other people live — both people in other parts of the world, and also friends here in our city: in the projects or the halfway house, one who’s currently in a state correctional facility, which, quite honestly, is probably better than being homeless, which he’s also experienced.

And I think I somehow deserve more?

After reading a couple chapters of Raising Grateful Kids, I felt instantly ashamed of my last post and wanted to take it down. But I won’t. It’s part of my process, and that process is not always noble, I’m afraid.

I’m thankful for Kristen Welch’s book, for her wise words that say that the entitlement in our household begins with us grown-ups — how can we expect gratitude and contentment from our kids that we ourselves don’t have?

I know I already mentioned that I’ve been fighting for gratitude, but now I want to fight harder. You can’t be content and also feel sorry for yourself. The pity party stops right here.

If we have to wait two more Christmases for another bathroom, that’s what we’ll do, and we’ll be just fine. I have everything I need. Here’s what I’m thankful for today:

 

1. We have a house

2. It’s warm in the winter and cool in the summer

3. We have running water and electricity and an indoor bathroom

4. We have money to fix things that break

5. We have a roof that doesn’t leak

6. We have a beautiful backyard that is fenced-in, with space for our children to run and play

7. We have lots of windows and pretty things to look at and comfortable furniture. We have a bed for everyone in the family.

8. We have toys and games and clothes and lots of books.

9. We have a refrigerator and pantry full of food (we have a refrigerator! and a pantry!). We do not go hungry, or wonder where our next meal will come from.

10. God is very, very patient with me. He shows me my sin and brings repentance, so that I can be free. A contented life is a joyful life.

 

Those are just the first ten. I can keep going for a long time.

Starting now, these are the things I focus on, instead of what I don’t have or what I’m waiting for.

I feel lighter already.

 

P.S. As you can probably tell, I highly recommend Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World! I’m almost finished, and David just started it. These are exactly the words I needed right now, and I really appreciate the honest, practical, hopeful way Kristen Welch brings us along on her family’s journey.



house update: may.

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Here’s the front of our house as it currently stands, in all its patchy sadness (the roof looks like it’s plain given up, the yard is sandy, even the plants on the front porch are drooping).

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about our Great House Addition plans: to add a Master bedroom/bathroom in 2016, increasing our square footage from 1,470 to nearly 1,900. I know you’re wondering about the progress, and unfortunately I’m here to report that there’s not a whole lot of it.

Here are the things we have done in the past year:

– Hire someone to draw up building plans
– Remove the tree that stood to the right of where our van is parked, as you’re facing the house (this is where the addition will go)
– Have our electrical box moved
– Replace our AC unit (it kicked the bucket this month, which wasn’t entirely a surprise, since we knew it was on its way out)
– Move from trying to oversee the building project ourselves, to hiring a general contractor for a large portion of the project
– Get a quote and plan to meet with the contractor to formulate a plan

Now that I look back over this list, I see that we’ve done quite a bit. I guess the main lesson we’ve learned is that it all takes so much time. I thought I was being entirely reasonable to say I wanted a second bathroom by this Christmas, but I’m discovering that it may very well not happen.

The addition, which will include a small hallway with built-in storage, bathroom, walk-in closet, and a master bedroom, will come forward from the left side of the front of the house. The window immediately to the left of our porch will become the interior doorway to the suite.

We plan to move our driveway from the left to the right side of the house, which makes much more sense with the front door/walkway, and eventually we’ll remove all the gravel and sod/landscape the rest of the yard.

Honestly, the process this year has been a bit discouraging for both of us. David has worked hard, setting goals for each week, but he still doesn’t have a ton of time to give, and it’s been nearly impossible to get any contractors to return phone calls. Well, we realized why last weekend when some friends told us about their own delayed house project — that everyone is now tied up with post-flood renovations. Suddenly that makes a lot of sense; insurance money has now come in, and contractors are scrambling. The contractor we’re talking to said his earliest opening to begin the project is for September, which suddenly sounds okay to us, since we’ve heard other contractors say they’re booked until the spring.

During this whole time we’ve been doing what we Gentino’s always do: continue to look at house listings in our area. We went to two open houses a couple weeks ago, and I was just certain one of them was going to be our Dream House, and would magically solve all our space and renovation woes. But alas, neither of them was the right fit.

Honestly, I still don’t want to go through a renovation process. I believe it will be time-consuming, expensive, and stressful. And right now when I look at our house, I see project after project that needs to be done in the next 5-10 years. As soon as we finish the master suite, we’ll have to move the driveway and tackle the front yard. Then will we feel compelled to start expanding and updating our tiny kitchen? And if so, where in the world will the washer/dryer go?

And how can we possibly do all of this with four kids and homeschooling and a church?

But then I take a deep breath and pour myself a cup of tea and carry it out to the pavilion, and just sit in the backyard.

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Our yard is an oasis. It’s a living backyard: somehow David has created a space with both sun and shade, with green grass and a heaping compost pile that turns into soil that we actually use. It’s a place where all kinds of birds come. There are vegetables and flowers and we have two large skinks who made a home in our woodpile that bring endless amusement to the kids. We have bees and butterflies (and of course wasps and mosquitoes). We have a matchbox-sized screened back porch that’s just big enough for coffee with a friend, or for candle-lit home dates.

I sit out there and breathe a sigh of relief and know that none of those dozens of houses we’ve looked at comes close to this backyard, with space for a playhouse and trampoline and pavilion. And it’s not just the yard. We love the natural light inside our house, the honey-streaked hardwood floors, the sweeping living room. We love that our kitchen and dining room, though small, are really one room so that we can all be together while someone’s cooking.

All of that to say: right now I’m disappointed, and finding contentment with our house is a very real, daily struggle for me.

But, I also know I have so much to be thankful for. And I think we’re on the right track, I really do. If we can just take it one day at a time, one house project at a time, we will be so glad that we put in the hard work and invested in our little patch of earth. In the meantime, I’m watching episodes of Fixer Upper to motivate me to stay the course (although doesn’t it all looks so easy on the show?)!

And when I feel like screaming over our lack of storage and tiny bathroom, I watch our kids playing outside, and know that this is all way harder on me than on them. Give them the freedom and space to roam outside and they’re happy.

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lately.

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Hello friends!

I had a pretty wonderful Mother’s Day yesterday — David and the kids surprised me with a new laptop! You’ve gathered from my complaining/intermittent posting that mine was on the fritz for a looong time, but I definitely did not expect a new one any time soon!

My last laptop was a refurbished Macbook Pro, which we bought in 2010, before moving to India, and I loved that thing into the ground. Now this one is the very first brand-new computer I’ve owned; it’s a 13″ Macbook Air, and I’m smitten. It’s so crisp! And clean! I have a “delete” key! And best of all — when I tap the keys, things that are supposed to happen, actually happen!

Anyway, sorry to gush, but this should mean that I’ll be blogging a little more frequently!

Here’s some of what we’ve been up to lately …

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Can you believe that our church, CPC, is nearly three years old? This is Noah and his buddy PJ, who’s been with us since the very beginning. He reaches for her as soon as he sees her.

I get tearful whenever I think of how our church family loved us through our adoption process and first year. Not only did they contribute generously toward our expenses, post-placement they prayed, dropped off meals, respected boundaries when our family needed to hunker down at home for awhile, encouraged, cried, laughed, prayed some more, and best of all, enveloped Gabe and Noah in love from the first day they met them, no questions asked.

 

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We already love our zoo, but it just opened a huge splash park/outdoor play place for kids, and we checked it out one morning last week. It was great! I’d say it’s geared a little more toward toddlers/preschoolers, but Judah and Amie still thoroughly enjoyed themselves and I think would enjoy it even more if we came back with some of their friends.

If you haven’t been yet, my words of advice are: 1. Park at the Botanical Gardens entrance, 2. Go early, like right when the zoo opens at 9:00 am. After 11 it got so crowded — and summer break hasn’t even begun yet!, and 3. Wear bathingsuits and pack a change of clothes for afterwards (I didn’t wear a swimsuit, which was fine, but my flip-flops got soaked, so be warned!).

 

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We’re pressing on to finish our school year by the end of May. We worked hard this year, and so at the end have been spending lots more time reading aloud, and it feels very restful. Some friends invited Gabe and Noah over one morning, so I took the opportunity to take the big kids to a coffee shop for school. We sat and sipped our drinks and I finished a novel about a group of kids during World War 2, and we did a few worksheets. Any moments I get to connect with just one or two of the kids at a time feel like a gift.

 

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The same friends that had the boys come play, noticed how much they enjoyed their son’s water table, and dropped one off for Gabe and Noah later that day (again: the sweetness of our church family)! I’m not exaggerating when I say it has already brought our little guys hours of delight. Noah finishes breakfast, strips right down to his skivvies, then races outside to play with the water.

 

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Speaking of Noah, this has been our set-up on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, when the big kids are in swim class. Usually there’s at least a couple of other moms and a toddler or two. As of last week, Noah now does 10 minutes in the pool one-on-one with a coach to start getting him ready to join the others. He’s not technically supposed to start until he’s four years told, but he has been dying to get in the water, as you can imagine. He loved it so much that he burst into loud wails, when we made him get out.

 

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A couple weeks ago, my friend Jessica and I took a little road trip to Greenville, to meet one of our literary heroes, Jacqueline Woodson. We both love her memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, and I’ve since read a handful of her other children’s and young adult books, and enjoyed them too. We had a great evening stopping in at M. Judson book shop for the book signing, meeting Jessica’s sister for dinner at the Trappe Door (a favorite Greenville restaurant), and then heading to First Baptist Church to hear Jacqueline Woodson speak on her writing and on growing up in Greenville and New York.

 

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On Friday night, some friends got married in Charleston, and we drove with Kenny and Shari and stayed overnight! I’ve never been to a wedding in Charleston, and the reception for this one was at the Yacht Club — it was lovely to be right on the water. We haven’t taken any sort of trip with Kenny (my brother) and Shari, just the four of us, since before we all had kids, and so we had the best time talking nonstop, squeezing into a hotel room, walking downtown in search of good coffee, hitting Folly Beach on Saturday morning, and rounding out our trip with fresh seafood for lunch.

 

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And finally, we had an extended family gathering last night for Mother’s Day, and my other brother, Danny, came in from Florence to hang out!

Now that I read back over my last couple of posts, I see that May is more an entire Adoption Celebration month, and that’s a very sweet gift from the Lord. It was a long year, but He met us in it over and over again. I love spending this month traveling and celebrating His goodness together.

I’m working on a Summer Bookshelf post for you all, and am having fun doing it! This has been a great reading year thus far! Any interest in a children’s bookshelf post too? I thought of compiling a list of our favorites.

Happy Monday!



one-year adoption trip.

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We decided to celebrate our first year of adoption with a family experience. David and I are terrible about keeping surprises from the kids, but we managed to keep our overnight trip a secret until Wednesday morning. We sat at the dining table doing school work, and David came in from CrossFit and announced that we were dropping everything and heading on an adventure!

Going on a “benture” is Noah’s favorite thing in the entire world, and something he requests daily (along with pumpkins, the Great Wolf Lodge, and the beach). Everyone was thrilled! So we booked a hotel room on Priceline, packed a suitcase, and hit the road.

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We had a lovely lunch by a pond at Table Rock. We have this picnic lunch thing down to a science, and now pack it on all of our road trips in order to save money and avoid eating that one extra meal out: tuna salad with crackers, hummus and carrot sticks, apples, and a dark chocolate bar.

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Nearly all of our adventures are sprinkled with a certain amount of misadventure (just ask anyone who’s gone along for the ride with us). But we’ve learned a lot about being flexible and having fun no matter what!

Somehow we took a VERY circuitous route to the end of the Art Loeb Trail outside of Brevard, NC, which David recently hiked with a couple of friends. He wanted to take the kids to do a little hiking and play in the Davidson River. What should have been a 2 1/2 hour road trip took about 4 1/2 hours in all, and everyone was a little stir crazy by the end! We also never found the exact spot David had in his head, but the kids seized the day and had a blast splashing in the river anyway. We planned to stay for several hours, but after about 30 minutes, they were freezing cold and ready to get dry and warm, so we changed clothes, loaded up, and went searching for another activity!

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We drove into Brevard and found a playground downtown (Franklin Park) that the kids loved. We played there for an hour until dinner.

David and I have been trying to eat at Rocky’s Soda Shop in Brevard for three years, ever since we discovered it back in our MTW days. Somehow it’s always closed when we show up for dinner, so this time we called ahead, and made it before it closed at 6:00 (I think they have later hours in the summer). The food is good, but it’s the whole old-fashioned diner atmosphere that we wanted the kids to experience, complete with chocolate milkshakes for the first course.

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We drove 40 more minutes to Flat Rock to spend the night, because we wanted to end up there the next morning. Our best find of the trip was a hotel with an indoor pool!

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We brought sleeping bags so the three oldest kids could camp out on the floor; I shared a full-sized bed with Noah, and David took the other bed (David jokes that my definition of camping is all of us sharing one hotel room). We got everyone tucked in at around 8:30, and David and I dragged the two chairs into the little kitchenette to huddle with our books and plastic cups of wine by lamplight, and Judah read Harry Potter in his sleeping bag. It was cozy!

We ate the complimentary hotel breakfast the next morning, and let the kids take another swim before packing up and checking out. We stopped by the Flat Rock Village Bakery for coffee to-go, then drove around the corner to the Carl Sandburg Home for the morning. You guys, this place is amazing! Friends have been telling us to go for years, and we just hadn’t made it yet.

The grounds are completely free; you only pay a small fee to tour the home, which we opted out of this time. So we walked the trails in the woods, saw the ducks in the pond, then wandered up the hill past the house to the goat barn. We met the four baby goats, then the kids got to run free in the field with the adult goats (or “ghosts,” as Noah called them). It was surprisingly cold and windy yesterday, but other than that, idyllic.

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I honestly didn’t want to leave, and if we stay in Flat Rock again, we’ll definitely be returning. There are more hiking trails we didn’t get to try out, and the whole place is tremendously beautiful and peaceful.

We finished our adventure with pizza at the Flat Rock Wood Room (which has fantastic barbecue too), and then hit the road to come back home! We contemplated an afternoon hike, but Noah was lagging, and we decided to end on a high note. Maybe next time!

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The full honest truth is that traveling with young children is not for the faint of heart, especially traveling with four young children. We’d gotten to a much more flexible, easy stage with our two big kids a year ago, and traveling these days requires much more stamina (and more packing; somehow packing for one overnight feels the same as packing for a week — and I still always forget something)!

But even though it’s more exhausting, David and I also decided it’s way more fun too. Doubling the kids doubles the excitement and energy for anything we do. The pool was full of shrieks and splashing and singing, and we just love watching our four kids enjoying one another’s company. There’s always a sibling to keep you company, and we love how the addition of Gabe and Noah makes our whole family experience the world around us differently.

We also couldn’t be happier that these boys love to travel as much as the rest of us do!

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our first year of adoption.

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The best way I know to describe older child adoption or sibling group adoption, is that it’s like culture shock.

Let me explain. This is what it was like to move to India:

We planned and dreamed and worked so hard to get to this new country. And after a 24-hour trip in three different airplanes, we set our feet on the ground. I’ll never forget that first nighttime ride from the airport, the cool wind in my face, craning my neck to take in the streets and leafy trees and buildings. Everything. I was exhausted to my core from juggling two toddlers on the Longest Trip Of My Life, but I was full of wonder. We did it. This is our new home.

The four of us managed to sleep a few hours that first night, in our friends’ flat, and awoke to the blinding India sun the next morning. Jet-lag made us feel like we’d been hit by a truck. We took a shower in a floor-to-ceiling tiled bathroom with a shower head that, bewilderingly, soaked every inch of the tiny room. And then we tracked water across the guest room and got dressed and stepped outside in soggy flip-flops, cotton-brained and slack-jawed, into dust and trash and noise and cows and many, many people.

We’d studied about moving overseas and traveled to other countries; read books and taken classes and spent a month in New York City in an international neighborhood. I was prepared for the first stage of culture shock: The Honeymoon Stage.

Except, that it didn’t happen to us. For whatever reason — perhaps it was the country we chose, perhaps it was landing in that country with a three and a one-year-old — we bypassed the Honeymoon Stage and landed smack on our rears in Disintegration.

Reality didn’t so much creep in, as punch us in the face.

Now, please understand this. We chose to move to India — nobody twisted our arms. We wanted to be there. We knew it was the exact right thing.

And also, we were drowning.

Everything was different. Every possible sense was assaulted every minute of the day. There is no way for me to describe to you the smells, the sights, the dirt, the tastes, the crush of people, the noise. Oh, the noise.

But we made ourselves set one foot in front of the other and get out there. Every single day. With the help of friends, we moved into our flat. We bought furniture. We found the office to set up Internet, and a preschool for our three-year-old. We learned to pay in cash and shop for groceries (a process that involved not one but a handful of shops). We learned to hail auto rickshaw cabs. We hired a house helper and learned to navigate this strange new cultural relationship of having an employee in our home every day who didn’t speak a word of English. We learned to brush our teeth with bottled water, and to disinfect fruit and vegetables before we ate them. We took our kids to the playground. We ordered take-out.

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I list things for you that took an unimaginable amount of time. Everything moves slower in this country. And nobody seemed as bothered by that as us foreigners.

Have you ever noticed this? When you’re in a season that’s difficult, time just slows right down too. And so the hours we waited for our internet company to come were actually twice as long as normal hours. Each day felt like a marathon.

And yet. Piece by piece, agonizingly long day by agonizingly long day, we began to find our bearings in a brand-new place.

Of course, at the time it didn’t exactly feel like it. It felt like struggle. It felt like one step forward, two steps back. It felt like being the stupid one, the one that didn’t know any of the rules or how to make friends. It felt like wanting to go home where life was familiar and comfortable, where we were known and respected. It felt like a whole lot of anger, gushing from someplace deep inside where we didn’t know it existed.

We put in the seconds and the minutes and the days and the hours, and fought hard not to give in to the thought that This will never get better.

And then eventually, without our hardly realizing it, it did get better. Although at the time it just felt like pointless hardship, all of those seconds and hours and days had been adding up to accomplish something, to get us somewhere.

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Slowly we found some confidence and the right places to shop for meat. We could go on neighborhood walks and not worry constantly about getting lost. I could set out with my backpack and just round our street corner into the sea of humanity, and move along with them, enjoying the sounds and color and, well there was just so much life. We began to find things to love about our city, little things at first, but we clung to them fiercely, and added to their number. We made friends. We watched how our children saw everything in India as a great adventure, and we tried to be like them. We laughed more.

Friends, I wish I could give you fuller picture of our Independence Stage of culture shock, but as many of you know, we had to leave India suddenly after just a year and a half, due to my health. While the rest of me recovered and actually wanted to put down some roots in our new home, my body never did. And so we had to leave, when we’d only just begun. That was a whole other kind of shock, but it’s a story for a different time.

But after that first year, I tasted a sip of Settling In. The anger had eased. Our city began to feel a tiny bit like home.

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And so, as I begin to reflect on our first year of adoption, this is the picture that comes quickest to mind. In fact, I thought many times over this past year, This, right here, feels exactly like culture shock.

It’s the head-spinning, earth-shifting, wonder-brimming, anger-gushing, bone-tired-exhausting, tears in bed at night, will-this-ever-get-better jolt. Except with adoption, I’d up the ante just a wee bit by adding, there’s-no-going-back. Ever.

I believe that my body and my mind and emotions experienced the trauma of adding two new strangers to our family, in the same visceral way as landing with a pile of suitcases in a completely foreign country for the first time and realizing on Day One that the honeymoon stage was the ride home from the airport.

But I’m hear to tell you today, at the end of our first year, that we’re okay! We’re emerging from the crazy. We find more things to love every day about this strange new country that is our family of six.

I’m so happy to be living here.

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one year.

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Our family of six turns one today! We made it!!!

Some first-year adoption reflections to come … in the meantime, David and I are celebrating by going to bed early.



five on friday.

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Judah. My brother Danny keeps him well-stocked with Calvin and Hobbes these days.

 

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Amelie. We think she’s part Labrador. She thinks so too.

 

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Gabriel. This is the face I get when I ask, “Gabe, focus! Are you listening to me!?” I think it’s pretty cute.

 

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Noah. His pout stops strangers on the street in delight. He can work a crowd.

 

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Owen. My sister-in-law and I do an all-afternoon play date swap on Thursdays. One Thursday she takes all my kids, and the next week I keep hers. It’s one of our favorite traditions. This Thursday during our cousin-time-show-and-tell-with-popcorn, Owen pulled out his tooth for the audience. Everyone was very impressed.



poetry teatime.

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I really enjoy watching writer and homeschool coach Julie Bogart on Periscope, and when I first learned of her idea for a poetry teatime with kids, I felt instantly intimidated. And I wanted to throw up my hands in despair. After all, I’m just trying to get through the day, here, people. Forget flowers and tea and poetry!

But she is just so wise and down-to-earth, and explained this little habit is one of the easiest ways to expose your children to something really beautiful (poetry!) — because kids love treats! So why not combine a set-apart time for treats with poetry?

She also says that poetry teatime is good for moms (or dads!) too, because, whether we homeschool or not, often parenthood in these little years can look like us running around like crazy all days fixing meals, doing laundry, cleaning, overseeing school/homework, and forgetting to just do something fun to sit and connect with our children.

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So I determined to at least try out this poetry teatime thing. I even put it on our daily schedule for this week for accountability, and found that it was fun to have Judah ask about it, intrigued.

And I’ve decided to blog about our experience so that, like me, you can see that it’s really not intimidating at all!

Our first poetry teatime was very simple and inexpensive — it could’ve been free, but I saved my money for two things: a tablecloth from World Market (because we do school at our table and also eat peanut butter sandwiches and broccoli, and I wanted to transform it into something different and pretty for awhile), and a pack of scentless candles in glass holders from Wal-Mart.

Julie Bogart says that whatever you do, make sure each kid has their own candle to blow out! She was right — they adored that little addition (by the way, it’s amazing how much kids love candles. it’s one of the easiest ways I know to make a mundane event become special to them; sometimes we even pull out the candles during school time). When we were at the library last week, I found a couple of books from the Poetry display for us to try out, and added The Llama Who Had No Pajama, from our own bookshelf, because I know my kids love it.

Everything else we had on hand too, including the borderline-stale brownie bites from our New Members class on Sunday night. I wanted to bake something, but also wanted to make this ritual simple so I don’t stress myself right out of doing it.

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Here was the key to a successful Poetry Teatime: I set everything up during the last 20 minutes of the kids’ afternoon room time. Perhaps that means I deprived my children of the fun of setting up together, but I just knew I couldn’t.even. And so I felt calm instead of harried, mostly because I wasn’t tripping over little people or having to answer two dozen questions about everything I was doing. So when the kids emerged at 3:00 pm, the table was set and the candles were flickering, the classical music station was playing on Spotify, and I was just stirring up a pot of chai tea.

If you think it all sounds perfectly idyllic: it was! And then my kids entered the room, ha ha!

Here’s the real scoop: 1. Judah instantly rebelled against even trying the chai, so I poured him apple juice. 2. Gabe got mad that Judah had apple juice and he didn’t. 3. Gabe and Noah did not like my chai, so next time I’m making a pot of hot chocolate for the three boys (although Gabe now tells me he also does not like hot chocolate) — or who knows, maybe they will just drink apple juice and my daughter-who-understands-me will sip real tea with me. 4. Noah spilled his chai all over the new tablecloth.

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But guess what?! I decided in the beginning that a spill would most definitely happen, so I minded not at all! I let him go on sipping/mixing/licking crumbs off the tablecloth to his heart’s content until we were finished. I decided that arguing would happen and I wouldn’t be able to please everyone, and we’d make a mess. But that wouldn’t keep us from having fun, darn it!

And we did!

The best part of the whole thing was exactly what Julie Bogart suggested: For about 30 minutes, I sat still and looked at my kids and we laughed and read a few poems and just generally enjoyed being together. Gabe begged me to read “just one more” of Mary Ann Hoberman’s poems, while Judah dashed into the living room for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, so he could read us the song of the Sorting Hat.

At the end they asked if we can do it again next week!

 

 

Note: I was inspired to try my own adult version of poetry teatime the other night with a glass of wine and a few candles on the back porch. I read Elizabeth Alexander and Langston Hughes aloud to myself (because the experts say that’s the way poetry ought to be experienced), and I enjoyed myself so much that I thought, Now why don’t I do this more often? You should try it!