Soul Books

We love books.  A lot.  When we left Bartlesville, we cut our library in half, trying to let go of what is now available online or on our phones and not necessary to make other people help us cart around move after move.  Even then, these are all boxes of books that we still have:

The children loved opening each box to see which books were inside, and whether they were “grownup” books (we told them there is no such thing) or “kid books” (and if so, if it contained their own personal books).  They had a blast and were so excited!  They were less thrilled, however, to realize all the books had to be sorted and put back up on the shelves:

Alex said, “all these books are like papers of our hugs.”  He’s hilarious.  This resulted in a round of hugs for everyone, so we all felt loved up enough to finish the job.

Kyrie helped mostly by pulling every single book out of the stack in which we had placed it and moving it to a different stack where it did not belong.  It was making me crazy!  But instead of fussing at her, I managed one parenting win so far this year, at least, by using an old drawer-box to make a “baby bed box”.  This managed to distract her the rest of the time, long enough for us to get books up on the shelves!  I was grateful, even though I am glad she already knows to love books.

Nothing tells the new neighbors what classy people we are like a front porch full of trash.

But we made progress that first day!  We got the children’s books up first, because that’s the most important, even if it means half of our favorite books usually reserved for those spaces find other homes and other shelves for now.  Oh, the sacrifices of parenting!

We had to stop that night because the bunk beds were coming, which was just as exciting as books.  We will share that story in another post, but we tackled books again first thing this morning!

The living room is still a disaster, and there is a ton more unpacking to do, and I threw all the instruments up on top for now so they are safe until all that’s done, but we got books up where they go, almost!  This is half of our library, and it feels so good to be able to see and smell and feel these friends again!  It is such a great comfort to me.  Maybe it is silly, or too nerdy to be interesting, but reading and study are my favorite forms of self-care and one of the few things that can get me to sit still very long.  Very few of these books are novels or anything like that, most of them are study books in some form or another, though we inherited a few – like the entire Harry Potter set – from my mother, which the children are very excited about getting old enough to try.  I love that they love reading!  Having had a librarian for a mother makes it extra special that they have received this gift and soak in books the way Nathan and I love to enjoy them.

We are settling in slowly, but consistently.  We finished getting the bunk beds back up today, and everyone is back in real beds tonight.  They would rather stay on their camping cots and enjoy the adventure, but I know they are glad to feel cozy again and have all their blankets and stuffies.

We are all adjusting pretty well.  The tiny blue house was such a gift for us to be close to Mary’s school and Kyrie’s hospital and my residency, so that we could endure those things as a family, but it is good to be home again.  I don’t know what will unfold with the group homes or what that means about where we will live, but we have been promised a respite here, anyway, and we gratefully accept it.  Mostly this week we are all overwhelmed and overstimulated as we unpack and get things put away.

Nathan is working on three projects right now.  He has a musical about to be produced in Philadelphia, and a musical about to be produced at the Erie Canal of all places, and another composer is paying him to help write an Opera.  On top of that he is still taking on freelancing writing projects because Kyrie needs a new oxygen concentrator and I can’t work any more jobs than I am already doing.  He’s doing so much and working so hard!

I braided Mary’s hair this morning, and she walked around the house like a Queen.  She is a mystery to me sometimes, such a mix of stateliness and the most bizarre thought process that is either hilarious or creepy, and sometimes we can’t decide!  She is such a delight, and is in a new phase of trying to say and do the things I do when she interacts with the kids.  I am in awe of how far she has come and the attachment we have and the way she has blossomed now that she has language and some stability (despite our best efforts moving way more than what these children needed).  She already has a new friend at church, and I am relieved.  She’s the only extrovert in our family, and friendships are really important to her.

Alex has been a mess, as we expected.  It’s always harder than you think it will be, though, even when you try to prepare yourself.  We did as much predicting and as much organizing and as much participating in every way we could, but this level of chaos is just pretty much the worst thing for autism.  He has been very dramatic, with crying and naughty behaviors he hasn’t had in ages.  When one of these incidents resulted in me getting hurt, I screamed so loud!  Not screaming at him in anger, but screaming in pain… but as the sound came out of me, so did relief, and so it just kept coming!  Then I just sat down on the floor and started bawling.  He felt terrible, as he hadn’t intended to hurt me but just was being careless and not following directions and the natural consequences of that all weekend had been one person getting hurt after another because of him.  When I was calmer and able to catch my breath, I called him back to me and sat with him and we talked about it all very seriously.  We talked about safety, and our job as protectors of him and the other children, and his need to find ways to express what he wants and needs without hurting other people.  We talked about ways to set limits, to take breaks for his own self-care, and how he could help more effectively one on one rather than in sibling groups while it was so chaotic.  We made a safety plan, and talked again about autism and what that looks like and feels like in Alex world, and curled up together for a little while, and things have been better since then.

Kirk is doing really great.  We are being careful with him because he gets so fatigued, but emotionally I think he has liked the fresh start.  He seems to be thriving.  He is the only one who has carried the routine through to the new house and is following directions consistently.  I know that sounds like a miracle child and we could brag on him, but it’s actually a red flag for Kirk.  He holds everything in and shoves it deep down inside until it explodes in ugliness later, so we also pulled him aside for some one on one time that was rest and play and not just work no matter how badly he says he wants to be a helper.  We want him to feel confident and productive and participatory, and we know that he’s eager to do everything despite cerebral palsy.  But it’s not his job to unpack the house, and all the work of moving is not his responsibility, and he is not the parent in our family.  It’s okay to be a child.

Barrett has also made remarkable progress in the last few weeks.  Turning five has been good for him, and I am relieved!  We are not seeing meltdowns!  He does have some pouting when he is angry, but who doesn’t?  He is able to calm himself down, practice self-soothing, and regulate even when he gets upset.  This is so huge for him!  So huge!  I am really proud of him, and love that he is becoming an actual person.

Anber has unexpectedly regressed this move, as if she doesn’t remember the house itself because she was too little, but she somehow remembers her state of being from then.   You know how in foster care, when children get visits with their biological parents they always regress to whatever age they were when they were taken into custody?  It’s been like that.  All the sudden Anber is Kyrie’s age, mimicking her behaviors and interactions and the old Anber tantrums that left us wrestling in the dirt.  We are countering this with lots of positive attention, emphasizing she still gets her one on ones, and celebrating any kind of independence at all.  We are adding new “big kid” activities that we haven’t let Anber and Barrett join in before “but now you can because you are five (and almost five)”.  This seems to be helping ground her and reorient her, and she’s doing really well.  Getting her bed back seemed to be a huge difference from her, so I am glad she likes her bed and feels comfortable in her room.

Kyrie also just needed her bed back, and continues to take inventory to be sure we have left nothing behind.   We have actually, and have a few more trips back to the other house to pick up some final loads of little things and pictures on the walls, plus the final house cleaning.  But we mostly have everything, and I think she is just enjoying the stimulation of a new place and new adventures in every box.  It’s wearing her out, though, so I have been super strict about naptime and bedtime!  That keeps her happier!

I’m just glad to be home.  My body aches and I am exhausted, but I am getting over my cold and my cough is slowly going away.  I lay in bed at night in awe at the reality I once only saw in visions and dreams, receiving these very experiences promised in blessings so long ago.  Home, here, with my family, for a time of rest and comfort.  I tell Him, when I pray those final breaths before my eyes close at night, that I am so grateful He is my Father and my God.

Barrett said at breakfast this morning, Mama?  Did you ever notice our house feels like the temple?

I sigh and smile, because I’m glad he feels that and I am glad to know he knows that’s important.

But then I look down, and twist my spoon in my oatmeal, because really I am thinking, Maybe it’s because you stopped screaming, you little punk.

Except maybe I am talking more to me than to him.

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Soul Books — 1 Comment

  1. Can Anber and Barret really be 5 years old already?? WOW! They are all so amazing !