Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Tenth

When we first adopted Juliana I thought the high point of our adoption story would be attending Christmas Mass as a family. One of the most difficult things I had ever done was to get on an airplane and fly half way around the world leaving my three daughters at home in December. As we were preparing to fly home, Juliana had a *very* high fever unlike any I'd ever seen. We'd called our pediatrician who told us to keep doing what we were doing and get her home. I was nervous and hadn't slept. Then at the airport there was a complication with our tickets and we were being held off the flight. Our group was boarding and our guide and David were trying to sort everything out, but I was left holding a sick baby girl and afraid I would miss Christmas with my girls. I broke down crying. This is frowned upon in that country and I knew I wasn't helping the situation, but I just wanted to be home. We made it on the flight, Juliana threw up all over an older woman next to me, but we made it. Then we missed a connecting flight because we were both so exhausted. Still, we got home around 8 PM Christmas Eve and I felt like a complete family. Attending Christmas morning Mass as a family with our new little one was indeed a memorable day.

Then came the day we baptized her. While I expected the joy of Christmas, I was taken aback by how much her baptism meant to me. This was the real reason we went through all the paperwork, this is why we sacrificed extra savings, this is why I was willing to walk on that airplane. Not just to add another child to our family, not just to give her the gift of an earthly family, but to give her a heavenly and eternal family. Her baptism is when we truly completed her adoption process. That day was January 10, 2009 and it was a glorious day.

One year later on that day, David and Hannah walked into another orphanage and were given our dear Joseph. It was an entrance into the world of boys and our lives were forever changed. This crazy day was the start of a busy few days as my sister waited for a heart transplant, and I was 11 months pregnant with Gabriel. I only saw Joseph over the computer that day, but again our family was growing through the blessings of adoption.

One year after that on January 10, 2011, unbeknownst to us, another little boy was born in China. I thought our adoption days were over. We had six children and I thought our family was complete. Then through a random email and a book, God revealed he had other plans. It was around that time we started a new adoption process and little Peter would join our family shortly after his first birthday.

All this on the same day in January.

Six years have passed, full of more stories of biological children and keeping up with life with all our children.

Then yesterday, January 10, 2017, once again becomes a banner day for our adoption stories as we received and accepted the file of our newest child. She is 18 months old and absolutely beautiful (we can't share pictures publicly right now). We were surprised by the call as we expected to be waiting many more months, but know God's timing can not be outdone.

This is our fourth adoption and I am again surprised by how much and how quickly you can fall in love with someone just by seeing their picture. It changes everything. Please pray for our family and our littlest daughter as we begin the process of bringing her home.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Introducing John Edmund

Three months have flown by. It's hard to believe this sweet boy is growing so quickly. 

John, or Baby Jack as we call him, had a fairly uneventful birth. There were many concerns from the hospital staff since this was my sixth c-section. The anesthesiologist even took a few extra minutes to get a new IV in me when he heard how many previous sections I'd had and what the potential complications were.  The pregnancy hadn't had any major complications, I was very swollen and very tired as I had been during Mary's pregnancy. The surgery went well and the minute Jack was born he gave out a hearty cry which was music to this anxious mom. After cousin Oliver had such an ordeal at his birth, I was especially nervous. All fears were allayed with that cry and my first glimpse of a beautiful pink baby boy. I had been worried since we had moved up the date of his birth because I wanted to be able to attend Sophia's First Holy Communion, but little Jack was just fine.

I tried very hard to enjoy my hospital stay. When Hannah was born I couldn't wait to get home to start life with a baby, but with Jack I was looking forward to a few days with just him before trying to get back into the swing of big family life. Despite my efforts to enjoy that time, I found that I was very anxious. I was having a difficult time sleeping and I felt on edge. By Saturday evening, I was incredibly thankful to be going home the next day. I had developed a cough that was bothersome as nothing is as painful as coughing with a c-section incision and the anxiety had reached an uncomfortable level. David had come to visit without bringing any of the other kids and it was the first time we'd had a conversation alone. I didn't understand then why I felt so anxious and emotional. I just wanted to be home and feel normal.

We walked two loops through the hallways and I hoped to be so tired that I would finally get a decent night's sleep. After I said goodbye to David, I asked the nurse to take Jack to the nursery (I very rarely do this) so that I could sleep. I told her I wasn't feeling well and really felt I needed some sleep. She agreed and thought the sleep would help my breathing which had become hard. We both thought I was battling some anxiety and sleep was the best remedy.  I tried for hours to sleep. I tossed and turned, I moved the bed into different positions, but I just couldn't sleep. As time went on it also became harder to breathe. I didn't feel as though I was short of breath, it just felt like each breath took so much effort. Finally after more than 3 hours, I told the nurse something was wrong.

I was sent for a CT scan very quickly and had to call David in the middle of the night to come back to the hospital. The CT scan ruled out an embolism, but showed excessive fluid in and around my lungs and a  moderately enlarged heart. They then did an echocardiogram which showed I was in congestive heart failure with an ejection fraction of 15-20%. I was transferred to a telemetry floor where I could be monitored for at least 24 hours and could start the heart medications. I also was given a diuretic to help get the fluid out of my body. I left the hospital 30 lbs lighter than I'd come in.

My initial diagnosis was Peri-Partum Cardiomyopathy (PPCM) since I have not had any history of heart problems. The diagnosis is complicated by my family history though. My sister has idiopathic cardiomyopathy and it is thought that we must have some sort of genetic origin of the dilated cardiomyopathy.

It was a scary few days of hearing so many new medical terms, learning about medications with the added complication of breastfeeding, learning about new dietary restrictions, and coming to terms with what will most likely be a chronic condition. I was thankful to be able to go home after a few extra days. I was so thankful that I was able to attend Sophia's first communion.

At the end of May I had a cardiac MRI and they found that my EF had improved to 37%. Each day  I continue to feel a little better. I'm tired and the fears and anxieties sometimes creep up on me, but I am learning to give those to God in prayer. Another time I will have to blog about how the prayers of so many family, friends, and even complete strangers brought (and continue to bring) me strength and peace, especially at a time when praying was difficult for me.

Jack continues to bring such joy to me and our family. He has begun to laugh and that sweet sound rivals his first cries. His smile brightens me even when I'm exhausted. That hair, the one dimple, the bright blue eyes, the beautiful lashes, oh he has quite the hold on my heart!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Back in the Groove

Blather on about why I took a blog break, then link to the new posts... That was the note I left myself about this post I wanted to write about trying to once again get back into the swing of regular blogging.

My guess is that with a smile like that, this little one is going to provide me with a lot of blog worthy material!

The truth is I'm busy. With eight kids to keep up with, a new pregnancy (blog announcement coming), school, laundry, fatigue, dinner, and countless other distractions, the blog just fell to the wayside. Then I started remembering why I started this blog in the first place. Not as a space that would have a major readership, but rather a family space to remind me of all the special blessings my children bring me each day. Many years ago I kept a digital journal of the funny things Hannah and Catie did as toddlers. I would have forgotten so many of them if I hadn't written them down. Now with the dog and pony show my home has become, it is more important than ever to chronicle our adventures.

My life sometimes--running around in circles and everything all a blur!

Hopefully in the coming weeks you will see more posts from me. I'd like there to be new posts about all of our current happenings, but also some "make-up" posts of all the special events that took place during my blog absence. Here's a list of what I hope will be some of those posts:

Where We Are Now
First Day of School
When Eight Isn't Enough

Birthday Posts:

OK, that list looks intimidating. I'm just going to do my best.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Where We Are Now

Do you ever think back to what you thought you'd be as a child, a teenager, young adult? How different my life is than I expected it to be and yet how I can see the hand of God guiding me each step of the way. How surprising to be here in some ways and in other ways how could I be anywhere else? What is also amazing to me is that I don't have to look back on childhood thoughts, teenage dreams, or college aspirations to be surprised where we are.

This is my family less than five years ago.

Look at all the pink, the orderliness, the femininity. If you had told me then that in five short years we'd be expecting the arrival of a FOURTH son and have another sweet girl in that mix, I'm not sure I would've believed you.

Still, here we are weeks away from the birth of another little boy. My house is littered with cars, trucks, trains, and countless airplanes. Unfortunately I don't have a recent family picture. Hopefully that will be remedied with Easter, but here is one of my favorite pictures of my boys.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Watch Out There's a Teenager in the House

I can't believe I am old enough to have a teenage daughter. I can't believe she is old enough to be a teenager. Hannah Banana ushers in what is sure to be a lloooonnnnngggg few decades of having a teenager under our roof. When she was born I remember being told to appreciate each moment because it would go so fast. I have honestly tried to do that and still it has gone by too fast.

While I am certain there will be more than a few difficulties as we journey these next few years together, every time she flashes me that sweet smile of hers I can't help but notice that in her eyes she is still that sweet Banana that stole my heart the minute she was born. I still remember the look on David's face as he placed this sweet child in my arms. He knew I was somehow changed with her arrival-- I was now a mom.

Now, that smile reminds me I am the mom of a beautiful teenage girl who still can melt my heart with her kind words, her willingness to be helpful, her desire to grow to become the young woman God is asking her to be. Sure, she has her moments. Still, I am incredibly blessed to be her mom.

To celebrate, we took a group of Hannah's friends and her sisters bowling after Catholic Kids Camp. I think she really enjoyed herself. Her gift from us was a week at Camp KRIC (Kids Rooted in Christ). I know she thoroughly enjoyed that week and can't wait to attend next year. She was blessed by that week as she learned to Shine for Jesus. It is bittersweet to watch her growing so quickly. I want her to stay little forever and yet I am so excited by all that is in store for this truly amazing young woman.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

My Small Garden

"We cultivate a very small field for Christ but we love it, knowing that God does not require great achievements, but a heart that holds back nothing for self."-- St. Rose Philippine Dechesne

This powerful statement has had a spot on my bathroom mirror for a few years. It's been a favorite of mine for even longer. It seems so simple, but every now and then it strikes me in a new way. This year we put in a new backyard garden, my own little field if you will. We have a small yard and there was no place for it until we put in a fence. Now there is a perfect little corner and dh was kind enough to build a raised bed for us earlier this spring. We started small with room to grow. Goodness knows I'm going to need some way to feed these boys as they get older.

What surprised me was how much work this little patch of land has proved to be. There was the building of the bed and the trips to the hardware store that entailed, the trucking in of dirt requiring coordinating the use of Grandpa's truck, the work of choosing the best plants, planning the space (we went to three different stores looking for broccoli), all before we set about actually planting anything. Then once it was planted there were a few cold nights requiring me to traipse out in the dark with old sheets and in search of rocks and such for weights to shield the seedlings from the crazy ups and down of Ohio weather. Then, despite my efforts we had to make yet another trip to the nursery and replant a few spots where the cold crept in.

Then there is the maintenance. The weeding, and the watering. The task of unrolling great lengths of hose to get from spigot to garden. The even more tedious task of rolling up the hose when done. Watering the garden often means watering the kids too. This means more laundry, more towels, more dirty wet floors to tend. Each time I think I'll just spend a few minutes on this little garden, I'm amazed to find I've spent an entire morning, especially since the mornings are my time to spend with my youngest three children.

As much work as this "field" is, the work of my "field for Christ" which is my children is even more demanding. Lately the task of caring for them has been arduous and exhausting. I suppose spring is the season for laying foundations and that always seems to entail more work in gardening as well as child rearing. With so many little ones, we are in a springtime of sorts within our family too. The foundation is being set for our little children learning to take care of themselves and work as a family. They are seedlings growing in virtue. Trying to keep up with this training of little ones, the endless activities and appointments, the mountains of laundry, and maintain a peaceful home with the bustle of children has left me exhausted. It also left me a little bitter wanting more "me" time.

I struggle daily to see that the weeding and the watering are what bring a good harvest. They are what God is asking of me. The pedicures, shopping, time alone, glasses of wine, night off, or the endless list of things in my mind I've decided I deserve because of all of the hard work I've put in, are not going to bring about the harvest God desires.

Don't get me wrong, those things aren't bad in and of themselves. I assure you I still plan to go for a pedicure hopefully with my mom who has had an even rougher few weeks in and out of the hospital. There is a beautiful bottle of my favorite port on the counter which will inevitably make it's way to a few glasses as I sit on the front porch and try to have an uninterrupted conversation with dh. It's just that today I needed the reminder that those things aren't what it's all about. Those things are supposed to be a help. They should help me at the true task of cultivating my field whether that field is big or small. We all need a break, a respite, or we will get worn down to the point we are unable to cultivate any field, but it is all too easy to allow our selfishness to overtake these respites and start allowing them to hold us back from our tasks of cultivation.

It was clear that I had let them become too important, I had lost balance and perspective. I had let the weeds of my own self indulgence choke out my harvest. Instead of refreshing me, I just wanted more time for me and thus had less time for cultivation. Self indulgence always does this. It leaves us even more empty with a greediness for more indulgence. While it brings some immediate gratification it robs me of a true harvest. True fulfillment only comes from giving more of myself, even when that self-centered evil angel is sitting on my shoulder telling me how much I deserve more.

One simple test I have used to determine if my down time is becoming too indulgent is to ask myself if after the time spent do I feel energized in my duties as a wife and mother. After a Mom's Night Out do I feel renewed in my vocation? Do I have a new zeal for cultivating the small field given to my care? Often times the answer is yes. My time has provided a much needed break, and the great friends I have offered new perspective and encouragement. However, sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes I just want more, more, more. One night out leads to the desire for another and soon I'm not enjoying the task of motherhood, I'm resenting the demands of it. Sometimes it even has nothing to do with the frequency I engage in these activities, but more to do with the place they hold in my heart. The thought of time away from my duties consumes me and even though I am still tending my garden, I am doing so resentfully and not with the love and care it deserves.

At these times, I am in most need of more self sacrifice, not more self indulgence. If the things I am using for rest and relaxation do not result in a renewal or in increased physical, emotional, or spiritual energy to tend to the field, then I need to rethink them.  I need to set myself again to the task given me with a revived spirit of self-denial. I need less pedicures, less retail therapy, less indulging, and more prayer. Prayer is the ultimate water for our gardens and the truest refresher for a tired gardener.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sweet Smiles From a Usually Serious Boy

The Swing
by Robert Louis Stevenson

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside--

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown--
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

Dear Peter is a very sweet boy. He is, however, usually pretty serious. When we first brought him home we would only catch a glimpse of a smile on rare occasions. As he bonded with us we found his smiles were becoming broader and more frequent. We noticed for many months that he was a different kid when out and about. At home he was comfortable. He knew his place in our hearts and family. When we were out, he seemed nervous. He's now starting to show that smile more in public. He's learning that we are forever his family and no matter where we are, he will always hold a special place in our lives. That makes my heart beam like the smile on his face.