Back at the Mound

My Mom watched the kids last week so we could get out for a hiking date. We love to take our kids hiking but sometimes it’s nice to go at an adult pace without stops for every pebble, leaf, and mud puddle! The woods are a spring fairyland right now. We stopped for coffee in the quiet little farm town near our home on the way back. It reminded us of our early married days in San Antonio, TX when we’d often leave first thing in the morning, drive into the Texas Hill Country, eat a picnic lunch somewhere on the trail, then meander back home in time for dinner and evening reading or a movie. 

Nature Notes, April 6th – 14th

This is the first of many blurry and shadowy photos ahead as I usually just snap quick photos for later identification, usually while juggling a child or two (or three, or four). We spent this afternoon at the park. I found a robin’s nest in the highest tower of the playground. What beautiful eggs! We lifted each of the kids up for a peek, then shooed them away to protect the nest. I hope the parents don’t abandon it. They picked a busy place to raise their babies.

A week ago only small bushes and the crabapple trees were leafing out. Why do they sprout leaves before the larger trees? The willows came to life again at the same time. For several days the treetop landscape from our hill was all grays and browns, interspersed with fresh yellow-green patches in all the damp valleys and pondsides where the willows grow. We have one in our backyard, too, which makes me happy. I love willows. A week later and many of the larger trees are putting out leaves as well. I found out an interesting tidbit while reading. We often worry about a mid-winter thaw confusing the trees and triggering too-early buds. However, it turns out that trees rely not on the temporary temperature but on receiving a set total number of cold days to start budding. That’s why you want to plant trees grown in your own area. Among other problems, a southern tree planted in the north could be programmed to leaf out too early for this area and get killed off by frost.

The crocuses are dying off. Daffodils are at peak bloom. Many yards have large patches of pretty blue squill. I took the kids on a hike earlier this week where we saw mayapples popping up, trillium, bloodroot, one lonely first bluebell, and this hard-to-identify flower. The closest match I could find in my wildflowers guide was cutleaf toothwort (a Harry Potter-esque name if I ever heard one). It’s a perfect match in leaf, bud, color, and design except that every description of cutleaf toothwort I read said it has four petals and this has five. Any naturalists want to help me out?


At home that afternoon I realized we have large patches of violets in the yard. We also have a redbud tree I hadn’t spotted before. You can’t see the flowers in the pine-shaded woods unless the sun hits it just right so it snuck under our radar. My Mom identified the last plant below as phlox, but wasn’t sure of the variety.

On another hike on Palm Sunday we heard spring frogs by the hundreds in a pond. We also saw lots of deer tracks, and found a large patch of fur where a deer was rubbing off its heavy winter coat.

I usually think of herons as solitary birds but the other day five white herons flew low over the road in front of my car. I’ve seen many others, mostly blue, flying in pairs lately. It turns out that herons nest in heronries of up to 150 birds in the spring. Given the numbers I’m seeing there must be one nearby. They usually pick isolated places to nest like islands or more remote patches of woods so I suppose we won’t get a look. From what I’ve read, what we think of as a white herons is often just a white stage of the blue heron. Either way, they always look eerily prehistoric to me.

Much earlier this spring I saw a huge flock of unfamiliar big birds flying high overhead. Another flew over as I picked the kids up from school the next day. They had unfamiliar and beautiful calls I’d never heard before. Annie’s aide wondered if they were herons, but a heron’s call is a hoarse croak. I finally pinned them down as sandhill cranes. Quite a rare thing to spot (and hear!) around here as they’re not local and just fly through during their migration to northern breeding grounds after a winter in the warm South.

Many other birds are back to stay. I’ve seen lots of cardinals and robins, of course. Pigeons, gulls, and swallows have returned. Jack has a great memory. After hearing a mourning dove for the first time a couple of weeks back he heard another on a walk this week and recognized it right away. The marshland is full of red-winged blackbirds. I see several hawks a day, including a couple of small hawks or falcons I don’t recognize. Are they juveniles or another variety? A pretty little house finch hung out by the dining room window as we ate this weekend and sent me off on a long rabbit trail to identify it.

Bees and wasps are back, and we came out to find box elder bugs in tight little clusters covering the front of the house by the hundreds. Annie had a grand time gently poking them off. Then Josie staggered up the front steps, toddled over to inspect a giant clump, turned around, and slowly, placidly…sat on them. Good thing we’re used to laundry.

We’ve had lots of beautiful open windows weather lately. Long walks, hikes, park afternoons, picnics on the deck. Spring!

 

Daybook for the First Week of Spring

Outside my window…


Sunshine is pouring down after a long stretch of cold gray days. [I wrote that two days ago. Now it’s gray and dreary, but at least it’s in the 50s]. We’ve had an odd winter with bitter cold and loads of snow in December followed by a snow-less January and February. Temperatures vacillated between frigid cold and balmy spring-like days. We even had a couple thunderstorms and a tornado watch in the mix. Flower buds popped out along the bare branches on our crap apples and daffodil shoots sprouted all over the yard. Now that it’s March we’ve had another four sticking snows and the kids finally got to use the sleds they received for Christmas. All the plants about to bloom have paused and hunkered back down looking a bit sheepish. If they had feelings I think they’d mirror the embarrassment one feels after standing up for a song in church, looking it up in the hymnal, then glancing around after finding the page to realize everyone else has remained seated. A purely hypothetical scenario not based on personal experience at all, of course. We moved into this house in June so I’m looking forward to seeing the yard in Spring for the first time.

I am thankful…


At the natural history museum. Only Josie seems to grasp the peril of their situation

…that the stomach flu continued on its way after afflicting only Jack. Poor Jack, but lucky us. [Update from two days later: apparently I jinxed myself. Reward: spending half last night up with a vomiting baby].

…for community. We’re glad to be closer to family  but have badly missed our old neighborhood, friends, church, and military community in North Carolina. We’re finally starting to build a few connections after many months of church hunting and it’s a nice feeling.

…for bigger kids. This is the last day of The Man’s latest stretch of ICU call. ICU is still exhaustingl and intense on the home front, but so much easier than it used to be. The Man came home late in the evening yesterday, glanced around the tidied-right-before-bed-with-the-kids house, and commented “You know, the house could never have looked this good in the middle of an ICU week a year ago.” It’s true. 4, 4, 2, and 1 is a very different state than 3, 3, 1, and an infant. When he’s gone for extended stretches it’s still (very) hard work but I don’t constantly feel like I’m scrambling to keep body and soul together. There’s just enough breathing space for little extras like a museum trip, park stop, or store run with all four in tow. I even made it to church solo with all four little kids this morning – a first! They can do things now like eat a picnic lunch in the car with (reasonable) tidiness, skip the occasional nap or snack, or delay a meal half an hour without imploding. Altogether, just a little more flexibility in our days.

I am thinking


about Spring plans outside and inside. Our home has basic landscaping but nothing more. We’d like to plant flower beds, a vegetable garden, some fruit trees, and a few berry bushes but will have to see what time allows. We’re also debating school plans for next year. Continue as we have with private school a couple mornings a week and low-key homeschooling on other days? Public special needs preschool? Full time homeschooling with more room for therapy? Another option?

Learning all the time…


with baking experiments. I love to cook and bake but can easily fall into a rut thanks to the basic necessity of feeding all these people all these meals on all the days. I really haven’t done much with yeast breads in the past. So, in place of the usual familiar dessert baking I’ve been experimenting this Lent with various yeast-based doughs: pizza dough, Smitten Kitchen’s Cheddar rolls (delicious, but I think better with tomato soup than for breakfast), and a couple batches of whole wheat/whole grain bread. Do you have a favorite recipe (or cookbook) for whole wheat bread, the perfect pizza dough, or something else? I’m all ears. We’ve had reasonable success but risen doughs are definitely a learned skill.

Celebrating the liturgical year…


with a low-key Lent. I can’t say we’ve done anything specifically Lenten as a family though we continue as usual with daily Bible reading, prayers, and hymns with the kids. As adults it’s been a quiet but beneficial Lent so far. Not dramatic, but steady. While it’s not specifically Lenten, I’ve also been enjoying richer and more consistent scripture study since Christmas. We’re pretty consistent about reading the Bible as a couple but I’ve struggled with sticking to my own devotions. I’m a fast reader and often find myself skimming through the Bible when I sit down to read it. On the other hand, when I use a formal study the intellectual perfectionist side of me rears its head and I find myself writing exhaustive answers to each question and lost for hours on a section that’s designed to take ten minutes. That’s not bad except that I then get impatient and frustrated and abandon the whole thing. At the end of December I jumped (late) on an Advent-focused scripture writing challenge. I started a new one in January and found I really benefited from the forced slow pace and intense focus of hand-writing a passage instead of just reading it. At the beginning of February I decided to start copying an entire book by hand. I settled on Romans because it’s middle-of-the-road in length, theologically rich, and one I haven’t studied in a while. Because I know myself and my tendency to do things just to check them off the list I didn’t even break it into sections to tackle and check off. Every morning I just read the next passage (usually 3-6 verses), hand copy it, re-read it, then rapidly skim the book back up to that point to place it in context and make sure I’m tracking. I’m happy to say, after years of on-again-of-again personal study that I’ve missed only a couple of days since January first. I’m half way through Romans and am pausing to outline the first eight chapters and review. 6 weeks sounds like a long time for eight chapters but I’m flying compared to my childhood pastor who preached through Romans for two straight years. There really is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

From the kitchen…


as mentioned above, yeast breads. Also, a fair number of meatless meals like potato pancakes, leek and potato soup, salads, black beans, and pasta. I also made crepes for the first time using the Joy of Cooking recipe. I substituted 1/3 whole wheat flour for all purpose. My Mom used to make crepes and I love them so I don’t know why it took me so long to get on the bandwagon. They make a nice Lenten special family breakfast. I skipped the sugar in the batter, spooned warm applesauce down the middle, rolled them up, and sprinkled cinnamon on top. A hit with everyone. Were it not Lent that’d be cinnamon sugar, the way my Mom used to make them for us on cold winter mornings. After Easter there’ll be blintzes and crepes with Nutella and strawberries in our treats lineup.

I am creating…


a scarf. Very. Very. Very. Sloooowly. At this rate it will be ready just in time for the stifling heat of August. Knitting is not a “just like riding a bike” skill for me. I’ve learned and then forgotten how to knit many times: as a small child, an older child, in college, and again while The Man was deployed. At some point after the twins became mobile one crawled to the knitting basket and tangled my work-in-progress. I never finished it. Two more babies followed and all skills were again forgotten. I’m just now getting to the point where there’s a smidgen of breathing room for handcrafts. Courtesy of YouTube I’m now back to knitting Continental Style. I’m making this pattern without the contrasting center stripe or letters.

I am working on…


bits of spring cleaning, as time allows.

I am going


to lots and lots of therapy appointments. Physical therapy for me, feeding therapy for Jenny (the end is in sight after almost three years!), Speech, OT, and Behavioral Therapy for Annie. In addition there are specialist visits for various children and routine pediatrician and dental checkups needed. I don’t really like being a family that has someplace to be every day of the week but right now it’s necessary. Whenever possible I treat appointments as special 0ne-on-one time with a child. We chat in the car, play music of the kid’s choice, and read books or play one-on-one together in the waiting room. Often the long drives are also a good time for me to catch up on my podcasts queue or listen to an audiobook if the child isn’t in a chatty mood.

I am hoping


to prepare well in advance for a weekend trip to New York. Practically, though, who am I kidding ;).

I am praying…


for our three older kids and their first families. Adoption is complicated and messy. A blessing, yes, but also a tremendous loss.

I am pondering

Jack’s face of concentration. Ha!


special needs parenting. I’m reading as much as I can get my hands on. There’s a wealth of (often contradictory) information out there. It’s hard to take that flood of information in, filter it, and decide what’s best for a child who doesn’t yet have much say. Unfortunately many Christian parenting books take a one-size-fits-all approach to parenting that may work with typically developing children but is poorly suited to kids with neurological differences.  It’s humbling as a parent who thought I knew everything before having kids (and frequently judged others’ parenting) to realize that much of our kids’ behavior and growth cannot, and sometimes should not, be controlled by us. It’s a constant fight to focus on what a child really needs and not the way others around us are judging the child or our parenting.

I am reading


Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck as an audiobook read by Gary Sinise. It’s wonderful, and Sinise has the perfect voice for it. Even if you’re not a Steinbeck fan I highly recommend this account of his casual journey through 40 states. He combines dry wit and poetic description with detached observation and a warm interest in the people he meets. I love a good armchair travel book but frequently cringe at travel writer’s scornful summary of the people they encounter. I can’t imagine how the people Bill Bryson or Paul Theroux describe must feel at the authors’ sardonic assessments of their lives. Steinbeck manages to describe foibles without mockery and approaches others on his travels with warm interest. I’m also reading Madeleine L’Engle’s first memoir A Circle of Quiet which is enjoyable and thought provoking. She’s incredibly well-read so each page brings up some other book I should also read. Dangerous fodder.

I am listening to


Podcasts, whenever I can. When I was growing up my parents frequently had the radio on. Classical music, talk radio, or the news in the car, often Old Time Radio or Car Talk on Saturday mornings. I almost never turn the radio on but I think Podcasts are my equivalent. It’s nice to have a grownup talking to me about something interesting as I do the dishes or fold laundry. We’re also listening to classical music quite a bit as the kids usually request “singing” in the car and one can tolerate only so much of Elizabeth Mitchell or the OkeeDokee Brothers. Right now it’s Haydn’s masses in the car and Beethoven in the CD player at home.

I am hearing


The washing machine gently swishing, laundry tumbling ’round the drying, and an anemic burbling from our increasingly useless coffee maker. The baby spent half the night vomiting through multiple rooms so I’m in wash-and-sterilize-everything mode.

I am struggling


with my hair. Which sounds a bit silly and vain but I’ve never been a hair or makeup person. All my life I’ve just washed every couple days, combed or brushed, and tossed it back in a bun, braid, or ponytail without blow drying, styling, or products. The very hard water in our new home is wreaking havoc on my hair though and it constantly looks unkempt. Dry strands, frizz, and unevenness abound. The hard water doesn’t really bother us in any other way so I’m wondering if there are better product choices vs. investing vast sums in a water softener.

Clicking around


Well, not much really. I’m doing my best to cut back on social media in particular and screen time in general. Which, bonus, allows time for things like writing and reading!

Around the house…

SuperDad comforts four fussing children at once.

we’re making plans for painting a few rooms. We haven’t made any changes to the house and have only hung one picture since we moved in Hopefully we can get a few small projects done before warmer temperatures pull our living outside. We’re adding in some more consistent chores for the big kids now that they’re four. We’ve always had them help, but are adding in a few more regular jobs at regular times for them like vacuuming the dining room after meals and a set whole house cleanup every evening. They’re still at the age where it’s more work to supervise them than to do it ourselves, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.

One of my favorite things…


The quiet hour or two before the kids get up. I’ve been consistently getting up at 5:00 or 5:30 since New Years with only a couple of later days from illness or missed alarms. I consider the earliest hours my personal time. For this introvert it’s a key window to read, eat a quiet breakfast, do my Bible study, exercise, or knit. Sometimes I squeeze in a chore or two, but I don’t feel obligated to use that time for household purposes. I find when I start the day with something mentally fulfilling I’m a much better spouse and parent throughout the day.

A few plans for this week…

About typical for our “selfies for six” attempts. Seven if your count Annie’s beloved bear.

Therapies and specialist appointments. Dinner with the pastor’s family tonight. Sending off picture and email updates to the kids’ birth families.

A little peek at my day…


A sick baby overnight means a freshly-bathed baby with fabulous hair in the morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out Solo

I often take all four kids out by myself for walks around the neighborhood, tricycle rides, playing in the yard, or car-based errands like the bank drive-through. Going to actual destinations by car is a different story. I managed baby twins out and about easily, and even outings with three kids aged one and under were doable. Going anywhere with all four kids aged three and under is much more difficult. Without a second adult to help with the prep/potty/diapers, into car, out of car, activity, into car, out of car, resettle at home routine it can take so much time that everyone is starving, cranky, and in need of a diaper change with missing socks before I’m half done.

However, things are shifting. Josie is 10 months old and has reached the point where she doesn’t spontaneously combust from a late nap or feeding. Jenny can walk with reasonable stability and copes with the occasional missed morning nap. The twins are dramatically more capable and mature at 3.5 than they were at three. In the last month I’ve taken all four out alone for hikes, errands, park time, the town festival, and the nature center among other things. I’m enjoying the ability to slightly relax the tight daily routine that keeps our family ship under sail. Yesterday I took them out for a quick one mile hike before dinner. We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon and lovely walking. Lest taking two three year olds, a one year old, and a baby hiking alone sound too Mary Poppinsish I’ll add that one child had to stop at the public restroom where the twins touched everything (then licked their hands). Also, I had to bribe them past the playground at the end of the hike with cookies to get home in time for dinner, which they then refused because they’d just filled up on cookies. Also, Jenny woke up with vomit caked into her cornrows this morning. You win some, you lose some.

Spring Park Morning

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We’ve just pushed through four suffocatingly intense weeks. In mid-February I flew to Illinois with Josie for a whirlwind househunting trip while the Man stayed home with the older three. After my return we spent increasingly long days preparing our house for market with contractors, DIY repairs, decluttering, and endless games of “furniture tetris” while simultaneously preparing to close on our new home in Illinois, doing regular work, surviving ICU call, and caring for our home and kids as usual. This Tuesday we closed on our new home. This Thursday the realtors came to take listing photos of our home; it should hit the market tonight. We could not have done it without a great deal of help from family, friends, and babysitters! While maintaining a house for showings with four small children underfoot is no joke we’re breathing a big sigh of relief at crossing the first hurdle and achieving maintenance level.

Last night for the first time in many days we didn’t do any home buying or selling tasks, just relaxed, took a breath, and got a good night’s sleep. This morning after speech and feeding therapy and a quick hair fix we took all the kids to the park for the first time in weeks.

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(Good luck taking a photo of four non-synchronized kids swinging together…every other shot amputated part of at least one child).

With four kids in a 34 month span someone’s always hitting a new milestone.

  • Josie (8 months) rode in a park swing for the first time and loooved it. She gave us lots of happy baby chortles every time she swooped back for more pushes and belly tickles. IMG_0620.JPGIMG_0617.JPGIMG_0630.JPG
  • Jenny (21 months, basically 18 months adjusted for prematurity) hiked on her own instead of riding in the carrier for the first time. She also pushed the stroller for the first time (juuuuust reaching while walking on her tiptoes), threw rocks in the stream with the big kids for the first time, and enjoyed (instead of tolerating/whimpering to escape) the swings and slide for the first time.IMG_0602.JPGphoto 1 (8)IMG_0633.JPG
  • Annie (3) rode in a “big kid” swing for the first time. She also played with another little girl at the park in an age-appropriate way, a big achievement for a kid with anxiety issues and speech and social delays. We were so happy to see her cheerfully engaging with a peer other than her siblings!IMG_0635.JPGIMG_0625.JPGIMG_0637.JPG
  • Jack (3) also rode in a “big kid” swing, and carefully helped Jenny hike the trail by holding her hand.IMG_0627.JPG

In the afternoon the Man stayed home with the babies while I took the twins on a run to preschooler Disneyland (aka the hardware store). Is there anything better than a row of 20 tractors when you’re three?

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This spring holds many more challenges – showing our house, minor surgery for one child, moving cross country, settling into a new area, etc. – but we were so grateful for a beautiful day of refreshing family time!

Birthday Hike

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The Man and the twins all share a September birthday. We spread celebrations out over several days – a zoo trip one day, a special dinner the next day, and a grown ups’ hike while a babysitter watched the kids on another day. We headed to a local state park, too-little-for-sitters third wheel in tow. We enjoyed perfect weather and a lovely mellow hike. Our chaperone stayed cheerful as long as we a) didn’t put her in her carrier, and b) stopped to feed her often instead of hiking. There are worse things than relaxing by a lake on a breezy fall day while the baby eats and the adults talk.

2014 in Review, Part 1: January – June

It seems everyone on the internet wrote family reviews covering the past year. I like the idea because I only wrote sporadically in 2014 but there are many details I don’t want to forget. Our year was blessed, busy, and full of big ups and downs: illness, travel, a back injury, extreme work stress through the winter and spring, a new baby, weeks in the NICU, another new baby… Fair warning that this is a long, unedited post full of run-on sentences and giant photo dumps. All but the grandmothers, beware!

January

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(All photos from our Illinois trip, bottom three by my awesome sister-in-law, who runs her own photography business).

After hosting the Man’s family at our home for Christmas we flew to Illinois to spend New Year’s with my family.It was so nice to catch up with my parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, niece, and nephew. After several days at my parents’ place we drove into Chicago to spend a few days with the Man’s family as well. Unfortunately we all caught a vicious cold that knocked most of the family off their feet for four solid weeks.  Rather than spending time out in the snow or exploring in downtown Chicago we mostly stayed in by the fire and coughed. I ended up in the ER with pleurisy (…it felt so…Dickensian. Who knew that was still a real diagnosis?). Even after we flew home we all slogged through most of the month feeling feverish, miserably sick, and sleep-deprived from pathetic babies who coughed so hard they vomited at night for many weeks. In addition, the Man’s hospital started the new year deep in preparation for a major inspection that kept him away from home and stressed much of the time. It was a rough start to the year! Bright points in the month included catching up with our families, Jack learning to walk in Illinois (cheered on by crowds of relatives), celebrating our niece’s first birthday after a medically rocky year, visits to Daddy at work when he couldn’t come home for evenings, and welcoming our fifth anniversary at the end of the month.

February 

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Things finally began to improve on the illness front. The Man and I celebrated our anniversary a few days late by hiring a babysitter and taking a day away by ourselves to hike in the snowy woods, grab some Mexican food, and enjoy baby-free conversation. Extended time together and long outdoor expeditions without kids’ on our backs are very rare treats these days; our hiking day was one of the high points of the year. We also enjoyed a few rounds of beautiful snow. While the Man’s work continued to be intensely stressful, things felt quieter on the home front. I got the house back in order after our sick month, cooked, played with the twins, and took them out as often as possible for walks, hikes, and outdoor time. Just for fun at the end of the month we took a quick weekend trip to Charlotte, NC. Everyone enjoyed the break from work tension and the chance for a little “city time”. We rented a small cheap apartment downtown via airbnb and spent a couple of days walking, hiking, enjoying treats like French pastries and Chinese takeout, exploring the city center and old neighborhoods, eating breakfast out, and (wheeee!) wandering IKEA for an afternoon while the Man stayed with our napping toddlers. There isn’t an IKEA for hours around our home, which is probably a good thing for our bank account. We also racked up our first (but far from last) call to poison control after the kids found a scent diffuser plugged into the apartment wall, broke it open, sucked down the gel, and vomited on the rental’s couch. Lovely!

March 

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For the most part, I stayed home with the kids while the Man battled ever-increasing inspection tasks at work. There were lots of long days and late nights. On weekends off, we always loved gathering for worship on Sunday mornings, and joining our small group for Bible Study and a shared meal together on Sunday nights. The friendships we’ve made through church, and, in the last year and a half, our small group have been a rich source of encouragement, edification, and fun. Several months of increased stress on my back finally sent me to the pain clinic; several months of doctors visits, x-rays, chiropracter visits, and PT followed. As the weather warmed up, the kids and I spent many days out on walks or in the yard clearing up after winter and prepping the gardens for Spring planting. At 18 months Annie finally started walking one day as I played with her in the backyard (she’d had us nervous due to other developmental delays). At the end of the month the Man’s stepmother flew down to watch the twins for a long weekend while we drove off for our very first kid-free getaway together. We went to Savannah, Georgia, and absolutely loved the gorgeous architecture, much-lauded squares, food, and ambiance. Unfortunately, the Man’s work once again intervened. Mid-way through our first full day in the city hospital staff began calling and texting non-stop about the inspection. By that evening we learned we were being called back early. We left first thing the next morning. While we thought Savannah was amazing, incessant work interruptions and the Army cancelling our leave really put a damper on our special trip away sans kids. Perhaps another time.

April

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We kicked off the month with a miserable bout of stomach flu. Once recovered, we headed to New York City with the twins for some meetings and time with extended family. From our fairly isolated town Manhattan is a very inconvenient place for a trip with small kids. Add in the logistics and costs of packing, sitters in another state, transportation with car seats, etc, then reversing the whole process two days later and it’s an enormous amount of work! However, most worthwhile things take some effort. It was a good change of pace to dress up, eat fancy dinners out, walk a bit in the city, sit in meetings, and catch up with family as the cousins played. We were glad to survive the trek back and resettle the kids into their usual routine, though! Once home we planted our vegetable garden. We also went through a very rough stretch of toddler tantrums with Annie (as in, four hours of screaming a day for a full week). We celebrated Easter with local friends (who patiently endured more toddler screaming, and took the family photo above) and spent lots of time outdoors soaking in the beautiful springtime South.

May 

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As the twins edged closer to the two year mark we privately started talking about adoption again. We didn’t feel ready to adopt right away, but knew that the process can be very long. Since we knew that another lickety-split adoption like our first was highly unlikely (*cough* yes, well, we’ll see…), we mentally set a time frame of four years until another child came home. We hoped for something much faster, but didn’t want to get our hopes up in the face of long timelines and the usual bureaucracy. We quietly started to do a bit of internet research and talked about special needs adoptions. At the end of the month my parents visited. We celebrated my Dad’s birthday and then spent several days renting a cottage together right on the beach. If you’re traveling in a group, it definitely pays to rent a house; even though we stayed right on the beach and had a whole cottage to ourselves we spent far less than if we’d booked a couple of cheap hotel rooms further inland since we cooked our own meals. We loved the convenience of space to spread out and having the beach right out the door – no packing sandy toddlers and gear in and out of the car several times a day. We all soaked up time playing in the ocean, walking on the beach, boogie boarding, digging in the sand, exploring the local historic town, eating ice cream, watching dolphins, sea and skies out the cottage windows, wandering the marinas, playing games, and watching movies together. Unfortunately the tension of the never-ending inspection at the Man’s work continued to hang over our heads and interrupted the trip a few times. Regardless, it was so nice to spend time as a family, relax, and enjoy the ocean. Having my parents’ extra helping hands and staying right on the beach made it a real vacation for the Man and I (perhaps less so for the grandparents!). Nothing makes you appreciate your extended family like having small children! We don’t live near any of our family members, so their visits are always a treasured treat.

June

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Southern summer settled in. We played in sprinkler with the kids, took family bike rides, picked blueberries in our yard, grabbed homemade ice cream at the farm, ate dinners on the porch, and watched with pride as our toddlers took their first hike on their own legs. It’s a milestone as big as anything on the pediatricians’ charts in this outdoors family! On Father’s Day, our usually silent Annie who hadn’t really spoken in half a year and had never sung a “real” tune, surprised us by humming through “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” perfectly in its entirety unprompted. Definitely one of those “blink and stare at your child open-mouthed” moments. We put out preliminary inquiries to a few agencies for information packets on their domestic, international, and special needs adoption programs. We also emailed our old adoption agency just to see if adopting through them again was even a possibility. We mutually confirmed that another adoption with our old agency was not a good option since we’re likely to move out of state within the next year or two.

I stayed back with the toddlers while the Man headed to Chicago for some quality one-on-one time with his sisters, Dad, and stepmom. We had colds. He had dim sum, went to the Art Instititue of Chicago, and swam in Lake Michigan. It’s possible one of us had more fun :). I was so glad he got to enjoy a visit without the distraction of busy toddlers and their needs, though. The month ended on a sad note as we passed empty houses around town and empty pews in church. We’re in a military town, and June is peak PCS season. At least half a dozen of the families we knew best all packed up and moved to new postings simultaneously. Military life can be a gift when it brings new friends from all around, but it’s hard when duty calendars coincide and all your closest friends leave in a flood.