This is by far the most common question I get right now. I appreciate it. I love that friends and family are so invested in our little Margaret that they want to hear how the first few weeks at home are going. The only difficulty is how hard it is to answer that question.
It's good, maybe even great. We're all back home safe and we're relatively healthy. We all adore this newest member of our family and it is exciting to see her personality and to get to know her better. Everyone works hard to see her smiles and to hear her giggles. She's got more and more of them too. We're coming out of the jet lag fog and I really appreciate how well she's sleeping. There have been some sleepless nights, but they are getting fewer. We are settling into the best routine we can with our now ten kids. Above all, I just feel blessed. I am blessed to be called to parent this beautiful girl and all of my children.
Still, it's hard work. For every sweet crooked smile and little giggle, there is still fussiness. She still cries sometimes and while at times she accepts our comforting, she also still is clearly grieving the life she left. Often her frustration is the normal almost 2 year old difficulty with trying to communicate with limited verbal skills, but it's compounded by language barriers. Everything she was learning in China now has to be relearned. She frequently gets upset when we can't figure out exactly what she wants. One dinner it was ketchup. At a table with 11 other people, it was 10 solid minutes of fussing and crying before we understood she wanted ketchup for her sweet potato fries. We now know she *loves* ketchup (can't get anymore American than that) and it's the first thing on her plate, but that discovery was hard earned. There are so many others just like it and we're still just figuring her out.
There are also a lot of us that she has to figure out. I took her to Joseph's school for an event and was amazed at how quickly she recognized him and loved the excitement she had at seeing his face. She is learning she has her older sisters wrapped around her fingers. They will stop and give her attention and pretty much anything she wants at a drop of a hat. She gets a little frustrated with the younger ones as they tend to give her too much affection.
She's also realized that Mom is not as much fun. I make her get dressed, I wipe her nose, I put her to bed, I change diapers. None of these is as much fun as her sisters and the constant new fun they show her. We didn't want to stifle the mutual love for each other, so we instituted a rule that only Mom feeds her. This has been invaluable in our bonding. Much like a newborn learns love and trust for a mother through feeding, Margaret is learning to trust me through food. She grabs my hand for snacks and such often now. She also has learned I provide comfort. I think she first saw this from the other littles. She watches them and it has helped her to see through them how important a mom is. Last night was the second night she cried and wanted me to hold her. That is an indescribable feeling to finally break through a little.
A friend in our adoption group posted her experiences on Facebook and used a Lego analogy. I loved this because we brought home a ridiculous amount of Legos from China. They've overrun our house. The friend spoke of building a Lego house, staggering the next row over the seams of the previous row for strength. She built a house like this for her children with many little details she was sure they'd love. The kids did love it and naturally her 5 year old wanted to add to it. (This is adoption for our family, there is so much love that our kids want to add to it.) He built his addition using columns to butt up next to her house. The column method was ineffective, and it wasn't stable. They had to together tear down her carefully built wall to add his addition onto the house in a manner that would be stronger. She went on to relate this to adding a new child through adoption. We can't just slap an addition onto the side of our house, we have to dismantle part of our walls so that we bond together stronger. We also can't just add a child without breaking down a few of our own walls too.
This is our life right now. We're breaking down a few of the walls in an effort to have a new stronger home and family. This is evident in the logistics of our family life. Managing the logistics of nine kids was often overwhelming and adding now a tenth child who in the short term needs a lot of attention has had it's difficulties. We've missed a few activities, we're figuring out a new school routine, daily life has to find a new normal and we're figuring that out. Our buddy system is being reworked, our chores are being reassigned, and even our meal schedule is being refined. These are no small tasks. We've already begun trying to make decisions for the next school year as deadlines approach quickly. Add to this end of the year events, soccer games, and TWO sacraments this week and the logistics can be overwhelming.
Those aren't the only walls either. Each of my children, in some way, has to figure out their new position in our family. This is most obvious with Jack who struggled with Mom being gone and is now struggling with not being the baby. The others feel it too though. Mary was convinced that Margaret was adopted just to be her friend. It has been hard for her to have Mazie favor the older girls simply because they can carry her around and have more access to fun looking items throughout the house. The older ones too are craving the balance and peace that comes from Mom and Dad having things figured out. We're working on it, but the walls have to come down before the addition can be added more securely. It's a work in progress right now and sometimes it's hard and messy.
Still, I wouldn't trade this work. It is the task to which I've so clearly been called. A few weeks ago in the midst of a particularly overwhelming week this verse was part of the daily Mass readings, "Here I am Lord, I come to do Your will." It has stuck with me and I've been praying it frequently. "Here I am Lord, I come to do Your will." It motivates me to keep pushing forward, it gives me new energy and grace when I feel depleted. It also helps me to let go of all that I don't accomplish. It reminds me that as long as I let Him guide me, He will accomplish through me all that is required. So we push on with rebuilding and pray again, "Here I am Lord, I come to do Your will."