Home Again Jiggity Jig

We are home from vacation, and so naturally need a vacation.

Except not, because it really was very nice.  Other than a few incidents of screaming toddlers, everyone was really very good.  We also just took it easy, because that’s what our family needed.

And I did laundry there, before we came back, and everyone just unpacked and put it away, and I am laundry free for a week.  Or a few days.  So there.

My favorite moments of vacation were these:

Once, we were on a treasure hunt.  Instead of driving to the biggest playground, we walked there, and along the way I had them find items they had to count.  Part of our walk was over a hill, and at one point the baby (who is eighteen months, we now know, not fourteen) fell.  She was fine, and in no danger of rolling down the hill, but Five ran to her rescue and said, “it’s okay, baby! Take a breath and you will be fine.  I will dust you off.  We will stand you up.  Where is your little happy face, baby?”  He did it in the most tender sing-song voice, and wasn’t intrusive at all – as soon as she stood back up, he let her go and she kept on going.  I was so proud of him!  He really had some breakthroughs in the last week, finally understanding he is the leader of the pack (for better or for worse), rather than regressing to their ages by trying to act like them.  I am so relieved, and he has become a huge help to all of us.  It really is nurturing a strength he has, this intuitive compassion he has.  It reminds me a lot of Nathan’s mom, even though I know Five is such a boy it makes her crazy sometimes.  They are a lot alike, though, in the good ways, and it gives me such hope for who he can become.  I know that means, too, that he is picking up pieces of Nathan into himself, and really becoming part of our family in new ways.  It’s an amazing thing to watch, and makes me grateful that Nathan’s mother raised him so well so that not only do I have an incredible husband, truly, but I have confidence in the gifts passed on to my children (even if they must choose who to become).

One day the kids actually all took naps, at the same time.  This is pretty much a miracle, as any parent knows, as even when you have three toddlers (all six months apart), even if they all need naps, it doesn’t always happen at the same time.  Nathan and I found ourselves with two whole hours all to ourselves, and it was glorious.  We sat on the back patio, in the autumn breeze, overlooking the wooded hills, writing in parallel play.  It was just like our honeymoon, and one of the best anniversary moments we had this week.  I worked on Hebrew and my talk that’s coming up, and Nathan worked on The Giver musical and another project.  It was so delightful, and so exactly what we needed.  I cannot tell you how those quiet moments together filled us up and relaxed us and nourished our spirits.  It was an afternoon we sorely needed, and I was grateful.

I love also the moments when I get to see Nathan being a father.  The children adore him, and love to be helpers.  When we arrived at the cabin, he pulled things out of the van and they ran it up to the room.  When we were packing up, they ran everything down and “helped” him load the van again.  He was so patient, even when their help was not always helpful.  Because of my medical issues, I could not ride rides at Silver Dollar City, I could stay with the toddlers while Nathan rode rides with the older two.  I loved watching them scamper from ride to ride, the looks of sheer exuberance on their faces during each experience, and the funny games they played in line with them.  He is so creative, and the kids so much more alive than when they first came here, almost like different children.  One afternoon the baby and the toddler were throwing such fits they did not get to go on the day’s outing, so Nathan sent back pictures of the kids from a play, from a hayride, and from some railing someplace where he had taught them how to plank!  I laughed so hard!  After the kids “worked hard” last night, taking out the things we didn’t need for church this morning so that the van could be packed already, he rewarded them with carmel apples!

There were other great moments, like me having two phone interviews (my first ones ever – one a radio interview about my article about talking to your children about Ebola, and one was with Salt Lake about getting called to be authorized as a chaplain), meeting with the Southwards at Silver Dollar City of all places, that time the toddler sang “Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Girl” in the public bathroom during dinner, getting notes and treatment plans finished, me and the kids having an official pajama day (yes, you still need clean underwear and brushed teeth for pajama days), and seeing my brother and his family at church today.

The best moment of all, though, I think, was last night: all the kids were exhausted enough to go to bed without a fuss, and stay there,

and Nathan and I got a real date night and talked for hours.  I am so glad he is my best friend, and I love creating with him.  There are so many things we know we are being asked to do, so much we have already been asked to do, and so many things we want to do and are getting to watch slowly evolve and unfold.  It’s an amazing process, and I am glad he is with me on this journey.

I am also really glad to be home, and back in our little routine of work and school and play.

It’s happiness, you know, even if we are a mess and our lives chaotic and our success at it all never quite what we had imagined.

That’s why I am glad it is him I married, because of the happiness factor.

He was (is) the exact one I needed, and exactly perfect for me.

I see him pray every morning across the bed while I pray, and study his scriptures while I study mine, and then he prays with me, and then we pray with the children individually, and then we read scriptures with them, we pray as a family before we leave for the day, and then it all happens over again in the evenings.  I see him bless their heads and mine, and I see him talk with them about their choices and who they want to become.  I see him teach them to imagine and create and appreciate beauty and make music and make up stories and play games.  I see him tickle them and hug them and read to them and sing with them and change diapers and run errands and make grocery money and help the boys get dressed and do buttons and zip jackets and tie shoes and brush their hair.  I feel his hand in mine, and hear him check on me to be sure I am okay, and feel him steady me on the stairs.  I see worlds in his eyes, and I know he was the right choice.

That’s why vacation is awesome, because you get to pick what to work on and play a whole lot and rest even more.

And it does you good, renewing your mind and refreshing your spirit and making you whole again.

Unless you take five kids that may or may not belong to you, then it’s just hard work.

But really – just as worth it.

Salad Surprise

Today was insane.  Insane.

We somehow slept late, even though we went to bed on time, but managed to get in our morning exercises and all my meds and proteins and all that stuff that reminds me I am not as well as I pretend.

(I could have slept for days.)

I had to drop off one of the kids for a visit on my way to work, then pick her up on my lunch, then later take another one to visit in between patients.  On another break between peeps, I had to pick up two of ours from preschool, take them to pick up a third finishing a visit, drop two others off at the house for DHS visit, while delivering two others for a parent visit this evening.  I still had two more hours of work after that!

All the while it was raining, all day, as I got kids in and out of my car, all day.

My head felt very, very naked and cold today, even with my new hair almost growing in.

We did not even get all the kids back home again until after everyone was ready for bed and two were already asleep.

Know what saved us today?  Friends showed up with this:

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Hot soup for our family, with an amazing salad and gluten free crackers. There were jello jigglers for dessert, which was perfect since one by one the kids dropped like flies.  Everyone came down with their flu bugs tonight from flu vaccines last week!  That will make our anniversary exciting all night long, as all five kids start throwing up in turn.

It will be almost as much fun as our first anniversary last year, when we had five kids (two of the same, Five and toddler, plus a three-sibling-group) and the same thing happened except it came out the other end that time.  Clearly we timed our wedding well, to celebrate the flu vaccine sickness every fall on our special day.

(Nathan’s mom warned us Friday the 13th was a bad idea, but with our work schedules, there was really nothing else we could do and still get a week off.)

Nathan didn’t miss the effect entirely this year, as he helped me clean up the kitchen after dinner.  He was working on the trash and bent down and said, “why is there a brownie on the floor?”  It wasn’t until after he picked it up that he realized it was poop, and not a brownie.  Somebody had played with a diaper in the trash!

That was our very romantic anniversary-day.

We could be resentful, or even whiny, about not getting a day that is just-so, or a night away from the kids.

Excepting that this, right now, even driving kids around and picking up diaper messes, is our life.

And we worked really hard to get to have kids, and so are committed to the full experience, even with the flu.

And I am feeling really, really good for all the words I got to puke up in that hair ball of a blog post earlier today, during all that time of waiting here and waiting there for patients and kids and families, and am surprised by the degree of closure and letting go I feel.  I am so glad, and it feels so much better than holding that inside still.

So I am thinking that instead of picking up new dirty laundry (no pun intended), we can just let this day go, and be glad – again – that we are in this together.

Because this, my friends, is real life, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

(Mostly because it was Nathan who got to pick up the poop, and I am okay with that.)

Anniversary

This is my present from Nathan, for our second anniversary (tomorrow).

Because when you have had the kind (and amount of) experiences we have had in only two years of marriage, nothing says “Happy Anniversary” like an in-depth academic study of the book of Job.

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Finger Painting

Saturday mornings around here are usually slow and easy.

Today was different because for some reason everyone was especially gross, and I was paranoid because of the baby coming back with lice (no nits) yesterday.

Instead of letting those adorable babies know I was disgusted by them, however, I needed a good plan to get them in the voluntary mood for baths:

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Then I could keep them busy (mostly, and sometimes unfortunately), while having time to bath each one and treat their hair, too, just in case. No one else had any bugs or nits, but still. Gross.

My head itches like crazy just thinking about it, even though we only found one and I caught it right away and treated her immediately.

That’s why we check them any time they have any kind of contact with family at all, and I hope the worker really makes mom get treated and it doesn’t happen again.

Nathan tackled everyone’s sheets (yay! More laundry!), and we got everything treated without anyone being worried or even knowing what was going on.

It took four hours, though!

Whew!

It was the kind of morning where I realized why some parents just turn on the tv and let it babysit.

Legit parenting is hard work!

Once everyone was cleaned up, we made homemade pizza and I got the younger three down for naps while Nathan took the older two with him to the recycling center. That gave me just enough time for my own shower, for which we are all grateful. My hands are so soft from treating Six’s hair, so I am enjoying that unexpected bonus.

I am also enjoying all these sweet children, even if it is a lot of hard work (and if the dryer is full of stuffed animals).

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Holy Socks

There are some things you might not think about fostering.

Like how when a new kid comes, everything they bring has to be washed and disinfected.

Hard work, you might think, but not such a big deal, you say.

Except for when you go through four new kids in two weeks.

And every load of laundry washing new-kid clothes is a load of already-here-kid laundry piling up.

Last night I did laundry for three hours straight!

I don’t mean it was going while I was doing other stuff.

I mean straight up sorting, folding, and hanging up.

Tonight I did another four hours of laundry, after deep cleaning the kitchen and sweeping all the floors while the kids cleaned their bedrooms.

Four hours of more sorting, folding, hanging up, and finally getting to put it all away.

The only break I got was delousing the new baby again after a visit, so that was exciting.

Oh, and that meant more laundry, because everything (including bedding and car seats) had to be re-laundered, just in case.

I also had to go earlier today, after delivering kids all morning for visits, pediatrician appointments, and lawyer meetings, and back home again for DHS worker visits, and go get clothes for Three because he didn’t actually have any. He came with mismatched 2T stuff because he is so tiny, and we have 4T from Five when he first came, but Three is finally starting to gain weight and soon will grow fast and it is cold and he had no long sleeves, pants, or 3T clothes. He also needed underwear and socks. It is so hard when they come and start from scratch!

So today was not at all what I expected, and I was glad to even get my notes and collateral contacts done for work. But everyone got where they needed to go, everyone now has plenty of clothes, everyone has jackets, coats, hats, mittens, undershirts, underwear, footie pjs, shoes, and nobody has lice. Today.

I guess, when it was all finally done, and my feet hurt too much to pull off my shoes, and my body was too tired to pull on my own pajamas, and my eyes too heavy to try and wait for Nathan to get home from symphony rehearsal… I guess it was one of those moments when I felt like maybe I am a mom after all, if all I got done today was laundry, and it took all day, and no one will even care or notice.

Except for that favorite Spider-Man shirt Five had been waiting for.

And that long-sleeve blue shirt I promised Three.

And that dress a friend gave Six, the one she would wear every day if I could get it clean fast enough.

Or the Toddler’s favorite “my grandma shirt” that Nathan’s mom gave her.

That’s my token of love, a quiet one, while they aren’t looking, these little clothes clean and put away and ready for them to have a wear like happy, healthy, provided for children that have sufficient for their needs.

It’s not just that we have so many kids that makes laundry so hard.

It’s that they are all the same size!

Except for the items I can pull out of the stack by color or by glitter, I almost have to check the tags on everything to be able to get it sorted right. I am fast at it, with so much practice, but laundry sure is harder when it’s tiny and inside out and tangled with everything else and the same size as all the other pieces.

The only thing worse?

Socks.

With two boys and three girls, and two older ones and three younger ones, everyone just almost wears the same size socks – except not, and just not-enough that I have to figure out which socks are which.

This is my nightmare, like the dessert of a meal you didn’t order, like the final yards of a race where you can see the finish line but it is way further than it looks.

Or maybe like how you get nitrous at the dentist because you are a big ole whimp, and they are afraid of you so give you lots, except then they always turn it off before they actually get their hands out of your mouth, so that you wake up to the nightmare they promised to help you avoid.

Or how you survive cancer just so you can fold laundry all day.

It’s just not right, folks.

But it is necessary, and so I am diving in to the sock basket (mostly because it may be true that three of the five kids wore their last pair today).

I needed you to know, just in case I don’t make it back out again.

Here goes…

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Hebrew Hungry

While I ate lunch (or maybe instead of eating lunch), I got my Hebrew homework done!

I love my classes again this semester, even though doing a post-doc with five foster kids means getting up at 4am three days a week.

This semester is fun because now all my homework is typed, and I have a Hebrew keyboard, and a Hebrew document software program (Davka), and so today was my first day to ever get to type Hebrew.  When I have typed in Hebrew in the past, it was using the iPad keyboard, which I still can use, but that’s different than this dual keyboard for my PC or getting to type in a made-for-Hebrew program that doesn’t get confused when you start from the right.

I am so excited, and love it so much, and it was the best nerd moment to rejuvenate me!

I am grateful that I already had used the Hebrew keyboard on my iPad so much to email Israeli friends or for blogging, because this class is very fast paced and it would take me ages if I didn’t know where the letters were already.

I can’t tell you how excited I am, or how good for me this is!

I also finally finished translating 1 Nephi 12 from Hebrew, and now just need to put it back together into English again and I can post it.

Hebrew, somehow, in ways I cannot fully grasp or understand, is a language of my heart.

I really, really, really love it a lot.

And the only thing more exciting than finally being able to type in Hebrew is – for the first time – learning what Hebrew sounds like, as this class puts together my reading and writing skills with listening and speaking as well.

I am so, so, so excited.

My other class (medieval Judaism) starts the weekend after next, and I am already started on that reading every time I am waiting in line at schools or the pharmacy or doctors or the hospital.  It is a hard thing for me not to write about what I am learning, but the policy on that is strict on not writing or blogging about class in any way, so I will have to process privately.  It reminds me of the children, so much we cannot say or share, and so I am full-up with marvelous secrets and treasures bursting at the seams to share so many amazing things.

(Edit: sorry for confusion. The not writing about what I am learning has nothing to do with any secret religious teachings as many have asked me. It is about not sharing homework or processing so that others cannot copy my work and to keep the class a safe place while online discussions are still ongoing. I can process more at the end of each quarter, when the class is finished, just like my other classes other quarters. The difference is that my other schools encouraged processing and posting of the work in progress on social sites to encourage hard work and more processing, while this one has rules about talking of a class while still in it. I don’t mind that at all, just meant it was one more area – like my work or like fostering – that is cordoned off from my writing, which is a disintegrative feeling.)

In the meantime, my heart is full of delightful things, and my mind flowing over with fresh eyes seeing the world in new ways, and a Self hungry to be, to know, and to become.

In other news, it is Sukkot in the Jewish world, and it’s the holiday that gathered the people for King Benjamin’s speech back in Mosiah.  CLICK HERE for an excellent article about that particular Sukkot celebration in Book of Mormon history.