Monday, May 6, 2013

Partly Processed

Well. Here we are at the very end of the school year. This is the girls' last week...

I'm feeling a little emotional about this. I mean, it's been a hard, hard year.

I was realizing earlier today that Baby H was only about 3.5 weeks old when the school year started.

 MK with her last project of the 5th grade year: an Anne of Green Gables diorama

Amazingly,  we brought Baby H home after only the usual 48-hour post-birth hospital stay. What a joyous miracle from the Lord, when he could've been born at 28 weeks! Our start as a family of nine was rocky, though. My month-long absence in the hospital seems like it was the next-to-last ingredient in an ensuing perfect storm of...upset and adjustment and imbalance.

I say perfect storm. As we slowly gain perspective on our family's journey, I understand better and better why things seemed to fall apart after baby came. Some of the majors: we went from 4 to 7 kids really fast. We did not anticipate the magnitude of adjusting to adoption, both for the family unit, and for AH personally. The way we parented and lived as our first 4 children came along just doesn't work with our family of seven blessings, but we never caught our breath long enough to engage in thoughtful living during these three intense years. So, survival mode. Reactive living.

 Look at those sweet little chicks, hens, ducklings!

We started our 2012 school year with five students and two "babies" at home. It was a whirly beginning, and truly lost in a fog now, except that I do have pictures of that first day of school, so I do have proof that it happened and that I was there.

I remember writing not long after Baby H's birth that all our adventures were going to take me a long time to process. So true. Not only am I generally a slow processor, but the intensity of daily life has left few quiet moments in which to be thoughtful about our experiences.

So we got going into a new school year, muddling through by the seats of our pants, a chaotic kind of getting by, but making it work all the same. Then October rolled around. On the last day of that month, I had outpatient surgery to correct my hearing loss in one ear (the other ear will follow eventually). The surgery was brilliantly successful, thanks be to God.

See at all the cute farm animals. And there's Matthew Cuthbert, to the left, with his pitchfork. He's a bit hard to make out. Too bad!

The family reaction to my surgery, no so brilliant. My being hospitalized at all and away for the day and all the uncertainty that held and the memories it brought back for the kids was just too much. For a couple of them, it was the catalyst for coming apart. Coming apart needed to happen, since none of us had really dealt with all the upset and insanity that was my hospitalization and the limbo that was Baby H's well-being for a time.

But nobody wants to come apart. It is messy and chaotic and it hurts and can be so confusing. As the fall wore on, anxiety, fear, imbalance, and exhaustion became the dominant words describing our home atmosphere, our hearts.

We stumbled along for a few months this way until it was beyond clear that things were not improving and that we needed HELP! Support! So prayerfully and nervously, I sought out a counselor and found one who was willing to take on the whole package.

I can hear them now, Peep! Peep!

Adjusting to a therapy schedule was tough, but the only option that was wise, because we were all at our wit's ends! The therapy routine meant rearranging our homeschooling situation some; meant me becoming less perfectionistic about it; meant the kids growing more independent. None of those are bad things, are they? Hard changes in the moment, but good in retrospect. God is quite efficient in His work, isn't He?

Our counseling experience has been amazing. Painful. Difficult. Fruitful. It helped us to begin unraveling the knots of anxiety and dig down to some of the root problems of relationships that were not thriving in our home. There were more immediate issues to face, like the concerns and upset surrounding my summer hospital stay and the fallout that occurred after the October hearing-surgery, when all those undealt-with feelings were resurrected in my little people. The Lord's tender mercy: relative to the severity of the anxiety that some of the kids were experiencing, we're amazed at how quickly the girls regained their kilter and and grew in confidence until now there is very little evidence of the fears that dominated those days.

But there have been and are longer-term, bigger realities to deconstruct and process, such as how to parent a broken-hearted child, who has now grown into a tall young-lady-teenager.

There's been a lot of painful introspection for me, and for us as a couple and as parents. It's been humbling. It's been necessary. And such a blessing. I have learned so much and become a good deal healthier emotionally.

 AH loves her some baby-time. And H doesn't seem too unhappy with the arrangement!

Even as I write, I see that I'm using a lot of words that imply thought. Isn't that cool? As we move past the various crises that have become part of our story, the Lord is pouring out grace for us to think again; to ponder; to comprehend. These things don't happen in survival mode. You only see what's on fire and you react. It's a good thing to tuck away so that I'm careful to give grace to others in crisis - you simply don't see so many things when your heart and mind are consumed with the apparent fires that surround. I remember noticing dust for the first time recently. BB had gone out of town and it was spring break. I had a lot less going on than normal. Came downstairs one morning and noticed our tv and dvd player caked in dust. Yeah. Been that way a long time. Did I ever see? Nope. Wasn't important. (Sheepish smile here: it still isn't, because I've never been one to care much about dust. But I do see it now, and take measures occasionally to address it.)

 She looks awfully healthy, yes? That's 'cause she was. We were there for me. I was sick last week and had two doctor's appointments. Glad to say all's well now. Two year olds do get restless in an exam room, though and getting on every surface allowable kept her happily occupied for a bit...actually, she's been awesome through the many office-visit-type errands we've run.

So here we are at summertime. Sixth grade (for two!), fifth grade, third grade, and kindergarten are over for my five big girls. They've been amazing. Such a full year with so many challenges. Academics have most certainly taken a back seat, out of necessity (not that I want them to be a dominant front-seat when life is normal), but the kids have done excellently. They've worked hard and have learned, learned, learned their school lessons, but ever so many more life and God and relationship lessons simultaneously. It's been a lot. I am proud of them. I am praising God for bringing us through, for carrying us.

Out of the ordinary things always happen when BB has a trip for work. Among other things, I had a slow leak in one of my tires. No, I do not normally photograph myself doing such mundane tasks, but CJ was very sad that I would not let her out of her carseat to watch me fill the tire, so I promised to take a picture. Ha.

We are excited to have summer break upon us. We're ready to exhale. Over the past few months, as head and heart have cleared a bit, I've started noticing more things that have been...less than optimal, for way too long. This is everything from our diets to our world view to that aforementioned dust. I've been (and now we are) contemplating and praying over which steps to take, what goals to desire at this juncture. I'd venture to say that we are at a turning point and a changing of seasons. It is time for a fresh start and for purposeful, Spirit-led thinking and doing.

I really don't love taking pictures of myself, but when BB's out of town, we supply him a steady stream of here's-what-we're-doing photos

I've got ambitious dreams and goals for our summer. Praying, praying, praying and working toward those. If I get up my courage, I may share some of them here soon. Much has to do with regaining lost territory in the physical home, pursuing simplicity and order.

This is not even a good photo. But what a good subject! I had to show far-away daddy his dapper young son!

And in the words of the immortal Forrest Gump:

That's all I have to say about that.

Well, not really. It is for today. I'll be back. And probably with lots of words, again. Thanks for coming by!

A piece of good advice that sits in my kitchen window as a good reminder to all of us:


  1. What a glorious testimony of God's tender, merciful faithfulness! And, an encouragement to me.

    At the end of this last school week I will exhale with you and then, as you wrote, "move forward in purposeful, Spirit-led thinking and doing."

  2. dear Beth, thank you so much for this beautiful post. I'm amazed at your family's journey - and I will pray for you, too. I need to put that "kind" saying in my kitchen also :)