Yesterday not only marked seven months home, it marked one year since we got the phone call telling us to schedule our trip to Ethiopia!
There’s an old saying about parenthood- “The days are long but the years are short.” If that’s true of normal parenthood, it’s definitely true in our situation. Some days are so very long. Smiles is really testing limits and it’s hard to discipline him in the way he needs to be disciplined. He needs tons of positive reinforcement and when that fails, he needs to be calmly removed from the situation until he cools down. Easy to type and it’s effective when we do it, but boy is it hard sometimes…especially if he’s pushing boundaries while the younger kids are being needy at the same time. There is no down time, ever. By the time all four kids are in bed it’s a little after nine and then I shower, get stuff ready for the next day, pick up a little, and then it’s time for me to go to bed too. It’s exhausting and sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be able to enjoy a tv show or a book again. The days are long, very long.
But the years- or in our case the months- are truly short. Everyone says that kids learn fast but to see it happening right in front of your eyes is truly amazing. I mean, seven months ago our kids spoke less than a dozen English words and now they are reading (very simple) books. There are many times I look at what third graders are supposed to know and feel discouraged about the work still ahead, but as soon as I get to reflect on the exponential progress being made I feel better. It may be high school before we get there, but we’ll get there.
This kid keeps us on our toes. It’s been a really difficult month with him and it’s partly our fault. I believe in setting high expectations for kids, but we expect him to do the things that other almost 9-year-olds do and given his background that’s not really fair. We just made a conscious decision to adjust the way we react to his outbursts, so hopefully next month will be a little smoother. When he’s not having an outburst he’s great! Soccer finished this month and now we’re on to basketball (the neighbor kid convinced him to pick basketball over karate; they’re on the same team). He’s had two practices so far and loves it! He was Superman for Halloween and I didn’t even get a picture of him because he ditched us to trick-or-treat with his friends. He’s making huge strides in school. We just started doing addition with carrying and subtraction with borrowing- he doesn’t really get this yet, but there’s no doubt he will soon. He really picks up math concepts quickly. He likes telling me about things that provide energy. He is not a kid that will pick up a book on his own, but when I convince him to read he gets into it, and there’s nothing in the world that beats the accomplished look he gets when he successfully sounds out a word.
It’s been nearly a year since we first met the kids. When I think about the Diva we first met compared to the Diva I know now I can’t even believe it’s the same kid. She is so sweet- when someone is sad, she will not leave their side. She is so helpful- she sees something that needs to be done and just does it, whether that’s wiping Wiggle’s nose, restocking toilet paper in one of the bathrooms, or setting the table while we’re cooking. She is so weird- today she spent about 30 minutes using soap and water to clean a plastic grocery bag. She’s making friends at school and often tells me stories about them. She’s learning about 3D objects and this month she finally remembered 13 when she counted! She can count all the way to 30 now, which isn’t too far behind where she’s supposed to be. She loves to read. Kindergartners are supposed to read 20 books in November and she’s already surpassed that. She’ll often take a pile of books somewhere and “read” them to herself by describing the pictures. I always thought she was really clumsy, but after watching the other kids in her dance class I think all 5-year-olds are clumsy. She was Strawberry Shortcake for Halloween and spent the night telling me I was “the best mom ever!”
If I had to pick one picture to describe Wiggles, this would be it. This kid cannot see something more than 2 inches off the ground without jumping off of it. He’s a wild child! Like the older kids, his language has really been developing and he is able to communicate pretty clearly now. It’s actually really great with the big kids doing basic sight words because he’s picked up several too! He loves to sing 5 Little Monkeys over and over again. Actually, not really. He likes to sing 5 Little Monkeys, then 5 Little Pandas, then 5 Little Mommys, then 5 Little anything-you-can-think-of (Thanks, YouTube). We’ve been potty-training for what seems like forever. He does pretty good with #1 as long as we remember to put him on the pot; he won’t tell us. But just forget about #2. His favorite thing is to pee on the potty, tell us he doesn’t have to poo, and then poo in his diaper 3 minutes later. It’s to the point where if he ever does go #2 I give him AN ENTIRE BOWL OF ICE CREAM. Because have you ever cleaned 2.5 year old poop? It’s disgusting.
I have a confession. I don’t really love teeny tiny babies. I mean, I do when they’re sleeping on my chest or looking up at me while nursing but I much prefer them when they’re walking and talking and giggling. The Baby isn’t doing any of these things yet, but she sure is getting there fast! She’s crawling all over and while she’s been able to pull to a stand for several weeks now, she just started doing it often over the past week or two. She sleeps okay- not awful, but not great either. Up until this week I would nurse her at 11 or 12 when I went to bed, but she always woke up around 4 am to eat again. I decided to stop the late feeding and she is still waking up around 4. I need to stop getting her immediately, but her crib is in our (very large) closet so it’s hard to ignore her. Her siblings love showering her with attention and boy do her eyes sparkle when they love on her! She still doesn’t have any teeth or much hair. I’m nursing full time and with so many other kids to feed and clean up after we haven’t been in a hurry to introduce her to foods. But, she has had Cheerios, green beans, bananas, yogurt, and chicken. We certainly don’t have time to spoon feed her so we just put food on her tray and she goes for it. The dogs are really loving this new arrangement.
The husband and I do a pretty good job about regularly getting away for a few hours for girls/guys/date night. But, after those fun nights we come home, pick up the house, go to bed, and get right back to it at 4am. Last weekend we had our first overnight since life got crazy. We went to the Mizzou game and stayed in Columbia. It was awesome! But, it also made me realize how much we needed a break. When you’re in the middle of something you don’t often get a chance to stop and think about it, you just do it. You have no other choice, especially when you’re the default parent. Having a 24+ hour span where I had no one yelling my name, no butts to wipe, no fights to mediate, no dinners to make, no tears to dry, no early wake up call, no house to clean….it made me remember that this life we’re living right now isn’t going to last forever. It’s so hard, all the time. I feel worn-out and under appreciated and exhausted. But I also feel like I’m changing lives and showing love and making a difference…and I can lose a little sleep for that.
But not tomorrow. Tomorrow it’s The Husband’s turn to get up with the kids.