Saturday, March 26, 2011

March Madness

I just glanced at the calendar on my way through the kitchen and realized that we still have a few days before the end of March. At first I thought, "I can't believe it's nearly April." Then I thought, "How have we fit so much into March?!"

It has been three and a half weeks since we got Little Girly home. This was obviously the biggest life change and we are all still wiggling around in our new roles to try to make them more comfortable.
Because it happened so fast, we have been fully immersed in getting to know Little Girly while also doing 'life as usual'. Darla finished up a season doing dance/cheer, which she loved. We tried a little homeschooling in the cracks but for the most part March has been a bit of extended Spring Break.
We got to go down to Mount Vernon to celebrate with my brother, Elijah, a long awaited cd release of his band, Into Light.
At the concert, Elijah's 4 day old son Harrison Rits made his debut. That's right- once again in less than a month the Tadema family added more than one baby.
My nephew Gage got to experience his first birthday at the age of five. It was a huge celebration with all the cousins.
Of all the Taylors, Everett has had the most 'adjustment'- as anticipated. He has displayed this by completely reverting in potty training. All our work in the past year has temporarily gone out the window.
In case you needed a visual... the cousin count is now at 14 children ages 6 and under:
We got to visit with long-time friend Steve when he came up to support Elijah's cd release. (This is us attempting a sing-a-long with 14 children underfoot. Fail.)
As though a new baby, getting the hang of the foster care responsibilities, backward potty-training, regular life, and special events weren't enough...our family came down with the stomach flu last week. (I'll spare you a picture- although S.'s face while stripping beds and using an entire bottle of carpet Spot Shot was thoroughly amusing...if I hadn't been gagging.)
Thankfully, we got healthy the day before Hudson went in for surgery. He had ear tubes re-inserted and his adenoids removed. As our most resilient child, he toughed it out and we all had a beautiful family day filled with popsicles, ice cream, smoothies, and a middle of the day movie. Surgery in style.
The next day S. packed up to go speak at a middle school weekend retreat, where he will be until tomorrow. (We joked about who would get more sleep- the one with 4 small children or the one with 100 middle schoolers.)

So here I am with one baby hiccuping beside me, one toddler going through many pairs of underwear, one pre-schooler who hears well and is adenoid free, and one kindergartener (oh, shoot! Kindergarten! Back to that on Monday.)

With a twinkle in his eye, S. has been reminding me of my favorite quote by William Ross Wallace, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."
Look out...we are out for some serious world dominance, people.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Percentage Chance

My dad is a visionary. He likes to dream big and his favorite conversations are about what could be. Growing up it was sometimes hard to gauge if the things we discussed around the dinner table were probable, likely, or just fun to dream about.
I discovered a way to determine what type of intentions were behind our dreaming by asking, "What's the percentage chance, Dad?"
He would laugh and then throw out a percentage that would give me a slight indication. When I asked the percentage chance we'd move into the house that looked like a castle in Redding, CA and he said, "25%" I knew I should get comfortable where I was. When we first toured Lynden, WA in 1997 I asked, "What's the percentage chance we'll move there?" he replied, "87%". I knew it was safe to start imagining. Then in following weeks when it changed to "93%" I knew it was time to break out the moving boxes.

My need to know the percentage chance has become a family joke. My dad thinks he's quite clever to turn the tables...when I was choosing colleges, when we were debating about moving to Mount Vernon, whenever a big decision is on the horizon he gets a gleam in his eye and has to ask.

Last month when we were praying for Little Girly, working on some potential projects for BIG OAK, weighing options for our house...I got antsy. S. was cleaning breakfast dishes and I was hovering- asking every question as though he held the answers.

"What do you think about how this is playing out with Little Girly? Do you have a feeling either way about it? Do you think it's going to happen? I mean...when you you feel like you know anything?" On and on I processed.

Teasingly, S. said, "Are you looking for a percentage chance here?"
"I guess. Yes! A percentage chance of SOMETHING!"

Then quite seriously he said, "Every time I pray about any of our current circumstances I feel like the Lord points me to Moses wandering the desert with the Israelites. He's shown me that in that season, all they were required to do was to be obedient daily." It wasn't for them to set goals as to when they would enter the Promised Land. It wasn't for them to store up manna or anything else that the Lord provided. Each day with the dawn came provision, a call to obedience, and God building a relationship with His people. S. pointed out to me that "every time the Israelites got caught up in their percentage chances, or lost the focus of being obedient and present in that day alone- they were swept up into idolatry, immorality, and self indulgence."

I frowned and cringed. It didn't solve that antsy feeling but I knew by the level at which his words resonated that it is true. I would love to store up manna, would love to set goals and move in a direction that I confidently feel God's blessing over. Ah, but it doesn't seem to be an option for us right now.

Perhaps a day will come where foresight is more than by the hour, but what a reminder right now is to the way the Lord calls me to live. Perhaps not as contentedly as my husband, but I am fully present in what today is.
I don't know if Little Girly will be ours forever. I don't know how many days I have with any of my kids, for that matter. Two of my dear friends lost babies this week- one in the first trimester and one at 23 weeks. I was reminded that no matter what we think we know, what we try to control, these things are not really in our hands even to begin with.

We are moving forward with selling our house...percentage chance that it will sell before foreclosure? Percentage chance that our income will meet our monthly "goals" for ourselves on a regular basis? Percentage that Little Girly will become a Taylor?

No idea.

Percentage chance I will rest in the Lord tonight? Getting close to 100%.
Percentage chance that all four children will be tucked in and quiet by 9pm tonight? Significantly less than 100%.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Not-So-Quiet Time Chair

This morning in my "quiet time" chair, I got the giggles. I got the giggles because sitting in my chair was anything but quiet.

Our Little Girly is adjusting to our family beautifully. Darla summed up how we all feel when she said, "Mom- I don't feel like things are really that different with her here. But if she has to leave...that would feel really different. I wouldn't like that at ALL."
During nap times, Darla has Little Girly in the crib in her room. She takes great pride in being the one to get Little Girly to sleep for her afternoon nap. Darla stands by the crib giving a pacifier, singing, and talking until eyes are heavy and both girls settle in for a rest. Their beds are no more than three feet apart, but even that feels too far for Darla. So instead of napping in her own bed, she sets up blankets on the floor and lays against the crib- as close to Little Girly as possible.

The sweet moments are many and my mind is quickly trying to snapshot it all and file it away. Which is why I chose to laugh this morning in my quiet time chair instead of letting exasperation sneak in. As it is when adding any new member to the family, adjustments are made. As I expected, Everett takes the brunt of the adjusting. It is so good for him to not be the youngest. With a strong will and a natural inclination to feel entitled, it is a blessing for him to have someone to protect and nurture. It's also good for me to have no time to give in to a power struggle!
As I did with my other kids, I make an effort to include Everett and affirm his new role as big brother and I also make sure we have some time to read while I give Little Girly a bottle, or to rock before naps while Hudson plays with Little Girly.

I'm finding that Everett isn't extra clingy or whiny... but his mischievousness is at work when I am preoccupied. This morning while I was sitting in the quiet time chair feeding Little Girly, Everett barreled in. Somehow he managed to narrowly miss my coffee on the end table but with his elbow caught a potted plant and sent it flying. He picked up what he could and I assured him I'd help him take care of the rest when I was done. Darla and Hudson were running in and out and getting ready for the day. As they ran back down the hall, Everett decided to peek-a-boo behind my chair. Instead, he knocked into a floor lamp and broke the lightbulb. Then as he popped back out, managed to pop Little Girly on the head with his own head sending her to tears.

After "Sorry baby! Sorry baby!" I suggested he find something to do with Hudson. They were quiet for a couple minutes and then emerged ready to fix my lightbulb. They were wearing hard hats, working goggles, and a utility belt. In their arms were all the lightbulbs from the hall closet. Mercy! Hudson's idea was that Little Girly and I scoot forward on the chair so he could stand on the back to reach the lamp.

At this point I laughed my way to the bathroom where S. was getting ready. After explaining the situation to him, he good naturedly joined the boys and after a group effort (how many Taylor men does it take....) they changed the light bulb.
This is a fifteen minute snippet into what my days are currently like. This morning was a drastic improvement from yesterday when I took Everett to the doctor for allergies and swollen glands only to have him fully throw up in the doctor's waiting room. He has never thrown up in his life and thankfully was fine afterwards. (I spent a nervous few hours mapping out how I would handle the stomach flu with four little ones.) Throw up in public was a parenting first for me.

Every time the chaos bubbles over and I'm up to my ears, I grab my phone. You see- when I had just turned six, my siblings were four and two, and my parents adopted a baby. Ironically, my children are the exact same ages. My mom understands like no one else and has a beautiful perspective now that all four of her children have stopped (for the most part) keeping her up at night. So we laugh, commiserate, and strategize. Then I hang up ready for what the next fifteen minutes might hold.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Most Productive Un-Productive Week

Oh yes, now I remember what it's like to have a baby. I remember what it's like after a string of interruptions to say, "What was I just going to do? Oh yeah, I had to go to the bathroom... was that really an hour ago?" I remember what it's like to wake up at 5am and realize, "Hooray! She's sleeping through the night!" and then be too excited to go back to sleep.

Each day I have my list of to-dos and each night my jaw drops at how little I was able to accomplish. In fact, one morning this week S. was about to shower when he realized he didn't even have one pair of clean underwear. Never in 10 years have I let that happen!

It has taken immense discipline for me to slow down, block out the messes, unanswered e mails, and lists to focus in on our new Little Girly. It is quite different than having my other three kids as infants because Little Girly came with an empty love tank. I have determined to comfort her often. I'm pretty sure the only way she was comforted was with a bottle so it's taking much effort to teach her to be comforted by touch, singing, and cuddling- not to mention the resulting eating habits that need correcting.

Our CPS social worker came over to check on Little Girly and find out how our first week went. When the social worker began speaking to her, Little Girly grinned and cooed back. The social worker in surprise told me, "The foster family who had her the night before I brought her here said they couldn't get a smile or much eye contact from her. I found the same thing the day I had her."
After a few more minutes of debriefing, she shook her head and said, "I can't believe the difference a week has already made in her."

This morning when I walked in the room Little Girly gave me an enthusiastic reception complete with grins and leg kicks. Just a few days ago I would have to say her name repeatedly to get her to focus in on me.
S. came in while I was giving her a bath and I pointed out how she doesn't seem scared of the bath anymore- she actually got a few splashes in!

As he walked out of the bathroom he said, "See? Look at what a hugely productive week you've had."

I'm so glad he feels that way...because I'm not sure how much clean underwear is left.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Yes- this picture is a repeat but it works so well here, too.

"Oh, I could never be a foster parent. I couldn't handle the heartbreak of getting attached to a child and then have them taken away."

How many times I have heard someone say that in my lifetime. In fact, at one time I said that myself. Initially when we decided to adopt, I resisted the option to foster-to-adopt for that very reason. Oh, the risk! The potential to be hurt!

Then the Lord began showing me that His will isn't for me to insulate myself from heartbreak. His will isn't that I build up safeguards around me so that I ensure a risk-free life. He began showing me people who pour out their lives for others...even as their own hearts are vulnerable. I don't think Mother Teresa began serving the poor because she could handle it or "it doesn't really affect me. I don't get attached so I'm the one for the job."
On the contrary, I believe she was the one for the job because she was compelled by Christ to love, to the point of her own discomfort (and even depression).

"For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus; that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." 2 Corinthians 5:14,15

If Christ is my example then it is quite clear that remaining detached and safe is not the game plan. The intensity of His love, the rejection and heartbreak He experienced, the physical pain, the whole "coming down and becoming human" part... there is not another example of One who never holds loved ones at arms length. He has decided it is always worth the fight.

I don't believe everyone is called to foster care but I do believe if we profess Christ as our Savior, we are then to trust Him with our heart- not our own judgment. I have had my heart broken in various ways and as much as I wish I would never again experience that trampled on feeling, I know that the Lord is near to those who have broken hearts. I know He has a beautiful way to redeem the pain eternally and it causes me to be a deeper, more empathetic person in the meantime.

All that being said- I have to remind myself hourly of these beliefs I hold. Every time I scoop up our Little Girly, every time I'm trying to get her to drink a bottle but she's too busy cooing at me- I realize that if I don't get to be her Mom forever I might break.
I suppose I should be holding all of my kids this way: realizing their lives are in the hand of God and not my own, believing that His best is better than my best, and loving them with everything in me for the days that I do have them. Oh...but it's much more real when waiting to hear from CPS if we will get to move forward with adopting.

Regardless of how many days we get to love on Little Girly, I am already amazed at how God has orchestrated her arrival. For months Darla has been drawing pictures of our family and including "the sister we adopt". One picture had a name written above it. I remarked that it was a cute name for a little sister and remembered it because it was the only time Darla put a name on the mysterious "adopted sister". She had read it from a book or something.
When the placement coordinator first called a month ago and described the situation and Little Girly, I told her we would like to have her placed with us.
As I was ready to hang up, the placement coordinator said, "By the way- her name is ___." I hung up feeling miffed and somewhat delighted. It was the same name Darla put on her picture weeks before.

We prayed for her without ceasing, as a family, for the past month. When I took Little Girly to the doctor on Friday he marveled at how well she is doing. He was quite surprised that this was the same Girly that came out of such an unhealthy situation because there are no indicators of her previous situation. It has built our faith knowing how miraculously the Lord protected her.

Speaking of miracles...she just had the best nap yet but is now telling me expressively that it is time to eat!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Midnight Gift

At 1am this morning we got to see how God answered our prayers for the little one we've had on our hearts for a month now. In fact, this little girly has been smothered with kisses, held, rocked, had six hands fighting over who gets to hold the bottle...all day today.

I would love to pour out the miracles; beautiful moments orchestrated by God that we are seeing. At the same time, foster care has heavy responsibilities in confidentiality and privacy during this stage. So many stories yet to come.

We probably won't know for awhile if we'll get to adopt Little Girly but I can tell you it took all of one minute to decide that we'd like to! At this stage her social worker will be exploring what the best permanent solution for her will be. We would love for you to join us in praying for God's best. There seems to be quite a battle going on and we believe that God has a beautiful redemptive story to write with her life. Please pray that nothing would hinder the best and that she would be protected in her body and soul.

I was hoping to share more but I have four kiddos to tuck in to bed so it will have to wait- thank you for all your prayers and sharing in our giddiness!