Thursday, October 10, 2019

14

Dear Gabby,

You turned 14 a few days ago.

I love celebrating you more than you could ever know.  You are the most grateful and most happy teenager alive.  You make every surprise that we had planned for you better than the last and I couldn't stop smiling all weekend.  You are the easiest kid in the world and I sure don't take it for granted.

I love so many little things about you right now - the way you always wear your low ponytail and the way your braid that your sister puts in your hair on Sundays always falls out.  I love the way you support your friends - you are so generous and sincerely happy for your friends happiness and success.  You always get this look on your face whenever someone you love does something wonderful and it's this kind of squaring of your shoulders and a quiet smile, like you are just so proud of your people.

You are Ellie's biggest fan - always telling people about her successes and making a way bigger deal out of her than you have to and I think it's because you are so proud of her.  You've walked a hard road with her and I want you to know that she is who she is in big part because of your love and support for so many years.  After she took you out to Cheesecake Factory the other night, she came home and said, "Gabby is really really funny mama.  We had a really good time." And she kept trying to think of what you said that made her laugh so hard but when she remembered, she wouldn't tell me which made me proud and happy that you have sister secrets (even if they are probably about me!  haha!).  I find you girls sometime at night, fast asleep holding hands where your beds touch and I wonder who reaches out to who.  I don't know for sure, but I really think she reaches out to you because you are her steady rock.  She needs you more than either one of you really know.

Sam is, of course, your very best friend and also sometimes your worst enemy.  Most of your childhood memories will include him and nearly all of the times you've been in trouble will be because he was somehow involved.  I've learned to turn a blind eye to whatever you guys are doing outside as long as you don't kill my pretty birds.  :)  I'll probably never forget looking out the window and seeing you and Scout on the roof of the barn with Sam standing down below trying to get Scout to jump.  Honestly, I just smiled and kept on with my laundry because really what's the point?  I might tell you guys to knock it off but then you would disappear into the woods for a few hours probably doing something worse.

Sophie is your very best girlfriend.  Sometimes I stand at the door of your room and listen to you talk her to sleep at night.  I know you know all of her secrets and you never ever tell and I know she talks to you most about all her friends and fears and hopes and dreams.  You are the keeper of all the best parts of all of us to be honest.  You are the holder of all our secrets and the protector of all our dreams.  We all know we can tell you anything with the assurance that you will guard our little things with your life and just quietly hope that life turns out the way we all want it to.

Of course, you are really Max's second mama.  You read his Bible stories and play with him endlessly - trains, cars, PawPatrol, crafts, anything...you just do the best possible job with him and while you know better than anyone that we need to do something about him sticking his tongue out so much, you also know that he's too cute to get Apple Cider Vinegar.

Your dad spent the weekend with you and said he remembers so much of your weekend just trying to take mental notes on how wonderful you are.  You are just on the cusp really truly growing up and you have been such an incredible little girl that we are having a little trouble letting go.  I have loved every single second of your life.  All the little bits and pieces - all the memories that only you and I have or that only our little family has of you.  You are an amazing young woman.  One of my very favorite things about you is your confidence to be yourself without regard to anyone else.  I love that you live your own life, cheering on everyone else and still beating to the tune of your own drummer.

It's true what I've always said, you really do carry my heart inside your body and your smile really does light up your whole face.  I'm so incredibly proud of you and I can't wait to cheer you on for the rest of my life.  I am your biggest fan, your fiercest prayer warrior and your loudest cheerleader.

I love you.  Happy Birthday my sweet girl.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Saturday

Tryouts are today for the NBA Lebanon Youth basketball where Sam and Sophie will play one million games between now and March.  

Ellie's team ran in Ceadarville but she didn't run because her coach sat the top 10ish for the day.  

Shaun had a parade he had to be in for work so he took the four younger kids to march in the parade.  

Somehow I found myself at home with no kids on a Saturday morning.  It's the first time in years that has happened.  I made myself a second cup of tea, opened my window and made a grocery list of week and scheduled a pick up.  

Shaun and the kids spilled into the house about lunch time with lots of stories about bad attitudes over candy, the most hilarious stories about Max, a number for our local Chinese school and looking all over for basketball shoes.  Sam and Sophie took Scout on a walk while Max cried because he couldn't go to the bottom of the Hill with them (he snuck down anyway) and Gabby retreated to her too sleep - she's fully in teenager mode these days.  

Shaun left in a flurry with the three youngest all talking about A teams verses B teams and me hoping Shaun can successfully coach on a more part-time basis this year instead of full time like last year.  

I finished my list and ate some lunch and made some soup and soon enough they were back with the announcement that Sam wasn't nervous at all during his tryouts, which dads were there to observe and that Cookie Grandma was missing.  I made some calls to track down my grandma (she was at the store) and tired to find Gabby's basketball shoes from a few years ago for Sophie to try out in.  

They were off again, Maxy being promised a trip to the playground during Sophie's tryouts and a long text from Ellie about a friend and then another text that she had run a half marathon for a workout today and then another text asking to go Hoco dress shopping tonight with me.  
 
Shaun and I went to a gala last night - it's always fun to be with him but also so fun to get home and just talk about everything and nothing.  The kids stayed home, happy to watch movies and eat ice cream and Ellie even got to go to a football game "like a real teenager" instead of staying home on Friday night house arrest thanks to the Chipster.  

I promised Shaun a nap this afternoon after a long day/late night yesterday (he still won't ever lay down without me) and I'm listening to music, processing our weekend and everyone's plans next week - trying to figure out who needs what when and make sure all the kids have parents where they need them and rides when we can't be there.

I am so thankful for all that the Lord has done and is doing in our lives up to this point.  It's the biggest JOY of my life to share my days and my life with these people.  I want to remember all the things.  All the little moments and all the cute things they say and do and all big moments. 

It's impossible, of course, to remember everything but my heart sure does want to.  Just this regular Saturday morning when I finally have time to write again and there's nothing special at all going on but it's actually all special.  Every second is priceless and I'm so thankful.  




Thursday, August 29, 2019

The End of an Era

It's weird how something ends so fast and I can't catch my breath or take a hot second to process it.

Last year was probably one of the hardest years of my life.

We started the summer with a giant road trip to finish out the Lebanon season for Ellie and dream about the seasons to come at a new high school with lots of opportunities that she really wanted to take advantage of.  So we hoped in the car basically at the spur of the moment and started driving.

Our big blue burb took us to Cumberland College, The University of Tennessee, Auburn University (where I thought I lost my keys but actually left them in the ignition (guess no one wanted the blue machine!).  Then on down the beach where we bummed around eating cherries and fish tacos and riding bikes.  On our way home we toured the University of Alabama, Belmont, Vanderbilt and the University of Louisville (kinda).

Then I collapsed after all that driving and watched my girl get stars in her eyes about all the fun she will have in college.  The experiences I never had for many really valid (and great!) reasons.  So I knew I wanted to give her (and all the kids) what I didn't have.

I started calling around and enrolling in all the classes I could take and before I knew it I was back in college - on my way to get my BSN which would provide a way for me to get my NP or Masters in Education, or heck, just get a regular old nursing job since I haven't worked as an RN in almost 16 years.

We were also finishing up a really sad chapter in my extended family story and there was a lot of preparation - emotionally speaking - for that final tragic chapter.   It was harder than I ever wanted it to be but now looking back, there is a peace knowing I did all I could do for many many years - I tried for more years than I should have honestly, which makes it easier to move forward in some ways.

I thought I had one more year with my Maxy.  I wanted one more year and I needed one more beautiful year, but I didn't get one because that wasn't what was best for him.  I had a deep peace about sending him to all day K (with an afternoon of ESL) because I knew it was best for him (but so deeply sad for me).  I cried so hard on the porch one day and I really think I just needed that emotional release in many ways.

Ellie was starting at a completely new school district her sophomore year of high school.  It took a lot of guts on her part and a lot of work on ours to get her there and home everyday, since she wasn't driving all year.

Gabby was starting her first year of junior high which brings it's own set of issues and Sam was entering into both a new school and his first year back after his homeschool year.

Sophie was really the only one I wasn't concerned about last year.

Oh, and I was working 3 days a week as a preschool teacher and then I took a job as an RN later in the year.  

It was insane.  And it was entirely too much.

But we made it.  I gained 20 pounds and the kids ate more frozen chicken nuggets and tater tots than they should have.  But the summer came and we all kind of collapsed and re-configured everything and it was glorious.

School started for the kids the same week that it ended for me.

And with that - it's over.

I did one final presentation on August 22nd 2019 and I went straight to the couch and stared at the wall for two whole days.  I didn't eat or drink anything.  I did the bare minimum I could as a mama and I just stayed right there - processing all that had happened.  The schooling and the relationships and the weight and the fact that my house was wreck and the fact that as a family - we all pitched in and we did it.

I got up the following Monday morning and started working.  Cleaning out closets and hanging up pictures and throwing everything away and making banana bread and pumpkin cookies for my babies.  I lit candles that smell like fall and opened up my windows and donated clothes.

Shaun's taking the day off tomorrow and I'm wondering what we will do to celebrate.  The kids and Shaun and I are headed to the Boathouse on Saturday to mark the end of a season and the beginning of another one and I hope the Boathouse will be a celebration spot for us for many years to come.

I was in the kitchen making lunches for everyone the other night and Ellie just looked at me and smiled and said, "Mama, you just look different now.  You look happier."  And that's so true for me.  I am the happiest when I have full, busy home - filled to the brim with all the people I love the most.  I know I don't deserve a single minute of my blessed life, but I am aiming to savor it with all that I have in me for these next few months.  Ellie's a junior in high school now and things are starting to change - I can feel it in my soul.  I want to squeeze out every last drop of life right now and while I'm so glad I was able to do school - I'm so glad it's over.

The end of an era...in the best possible way.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A snapshot of right now

Life is rolling right along.

Ellie is 16 driving her own little white Camry and "vroom-vroom-ing around" as Shaun calls it.  She loves school at Mason, is newly single and loving it (and we are too!).  She's working at Whits and running a ton and recovering from some minor (we hope) hip injury left over from her days at Lebanon during track season.  She loves her Mason coaches and her Mason friends and it's kind of hard to believe what a turn around she's had in one short year.  This time last year Lily Hallum was inviting her to Impact for the first time and driving her around in her little blue car talking about how much she was obsessed with goats.

This year, the track sprinter boys came over yesterday to "see the goat" and Scooter the Goat also made a hoco pro "You'd be the GOAT if you came to hook with me!"  right there in downtown Mason for all to see! Our little Scooter is famous (not really!).

Gabby is entering 8th grade.  Slowly friends are becoming more and more important to her.  We bought her a KI pass in the middle of June and she's already almost paid for it.  She's responsible and looks so forward to gaining more independence.  And I am so happy for her...maturing for her always takes a little extra time, but she always just takes off flying so fast and it always catches me by surprise.  She's still taking her piggies to the fair and loving it.  This year she added turkeys.  I love that she's completely confident to do her own things and make her own way and yet, I don't know if she will always do 4H with her daddy.  We kind of just know that each year might be her last and try to savor it, although every year it gets easier and easier.

Sam's summer obsession is basketball and the Y this year.  He asks to go every single day and we usually take him.  He meets guys from all walks of life in that little gym and the YMCA people always look out for him.  He's committed to going to Mason next year and we are ready for him to make the switch, while also super aware that he might not.  He had a great fifth grade year (although the last day of school was a little rough) overall he had a really successful year both academically and socially and that was just what he needed.

He is also taking pigs and turkeys this year at the fair but after he takes care of them he always hopes they die (insert eye roll) so I think this is a one and done for him.  I'm proud of him for doing it and I'm proud of him for knowing what he likes and doesn't like.  He's so good to Max and they still share a room with no issues, even though they are both so messy.  He thinks Max is the cutest and best and he's easily the most patient with him of all the kids.

Baby Sophie is still our sweet Baby, although we aren't calling her baby quite as much anymore which makes me so sad.  She loves the family most of all - just like usual - and is doing 4h with the guys.  She lost one pig early this year for some weird reason and her other one is super small so I just don't know if she will make it.  But if she doesn't she gets first pick of the turkeys, so maybe there's a grand champion in the works for her anyway.

School comes easy to sweet Sophie and friends do too.  She's a great kid, a kind friend and sweet soul but she takes zero garbage when it comes to girl drama.  I love that about her and I hope she always stays that way.  She still gets tummy aches at night when she's stressed and will sometimes yell out in the middle of the night but the sleepwalking has pretty much stopped.  I think it really helps her sharing a room with her sisters that she adores.  She is so much company and my favorite thing to do with her right now is go shopping.  We are always going shopping together - for food or clothes or anything and she can hang with the best of them.  She's so thoughtful too about what to get for everyone she loves.  I just know she's going to be a great gift giver as she grows up.

Maxy is still our sweet baby boy.  He's made so many great strides in school and socially, but he's more aware than ever that he doesn't have anyone else who looks like him around.  He's very drawn to his China things and he loves all things China.  I am looking forward (with some nervousness!) to see what he grows up to feel about China/his adoption/etc..  It's so hard to imagine our life without any of our kids, but he brings something so special to our little family.  I am so grateful to be his mama and so grateful he's my son.  But as he grows I'm more aware than ever that his adoption came at great personal pain to him and great personal pain to those who loved him in China as well.

Some funny things he says right now are, "Gateraider" for gatorade.  He also told Ellie to "stop attacking him" when she told him to get ready for church.  He loves to stay, "STOOOOOOPPPPPP" or "don't worry about it" when he's doing something wrong.  In general though, he's an easy little boy who just loves his brother and sisters and hates going to bed.  I love him so much it's hard to describe.

The fullness of our lives is kind of unreal.  There is something going on 100 percent of the time and I love every second of it.  I loved my baby years so much but there is just so much joy in finding out that the little people you loved so much have grown up into some wonderful people who I just enjoy being around more than nearly anyone else.

Monday, March 4, 2019

State

On Thursday night last week Ellie came home with sad/happy news.  Sad news because her friend Faith had been sick all week but happy news because that meant that she got to take Faith's place in the state track meet on Saturday morning.

We scrambled trying to figure out a good solution because Thursday night at 7pm just before I left for Bible study she said we needed to leave at 1pm the next day for the Spire Institute north of Cleveland.

This was even trickier because we we had just sold our family car and were still in the market for a car to hold all Seven Bevan's for a road trip.

Friday morning at work I sent texts to my people and rounded up my mom to pick up the boys from school and thought I would just make a girls trip out of the meet.  But Shaun had other plans.  We have just finished up our NBA  basketball youth season and we were craving both time together and time all as a family so Shaun rented a van at the airport and had decided to surprise the kids with a quick trip north.

We ran down to the airport to get the on-sale rental car and Shaun picked up Ellie and I picked up Gabby.  We met back at home and threw some things in a bag and left to pick up the three youngest at their schools a few minutes early so we could really surprise them.

First was Sam who came with Shaun and Gabby to the van with a red face and happy soul.  He said he yelled "YESSSS!!!" when he found out he had an unexpected early dismissal and wondered if we had bought a new minivan.

Sophie was second and I wish I would have gotten a picture of the look of sheer surprise and amazement at her family in a weird new van with all her stuff packed up.

Max saw us in the car line, got a tiny little smile on his face and climbed right in.  We told him we were going on vacation and he said, "WE GOT A NEW HOUSE?!?!"

And we were off.

It was a long ride with a stop for frostys and Subway for dinner.  Ellie looked sick all the way up, she was so nervous for the race and was just quietly on edge.  The other kids traded phones off and on and I napped a little bit and tried to read a book.  Mostly, I just enjoyed the feeling of all of us together and chatted with Shaun about whatever popped into my head.

We got to the hotel and realized I had booked the hotel for the NEXT weekend on a travel website.  Thankfully Shaun got it worked out and all seven of us snuck into a four person room as usual.  Ellie had a shake out run with her girlfriends and we snuggled in to watch an inappropriate (for the kids) Lifetime movie.  A couple of kids got showers and we went straight to bed early.

The last time we stayed in a hotel room must have been a while ago because our kids have grown and it wasn't that pleasant of a night.

Shaun and Ellie and I started in a bed and the other four shared the other double bed.  But Sophie couldn't sleep so she snuggled with me and then Ellie was tense because she had a race in the morning and was too squished.  She didn't say a word, but I could just tell by her breathing that she was having anxiety.

I climbed out of bed and snuggled in beside Sam in the other bed and he hates nothing more than to snuggle with his mama so he wasn't feeling happy but he didn't really say anything.  Max slept like a log all sprawled out and Gabby never moved.  Sam and I traded getting comfortable but neither of us could into a good spot but finally we dozed off.  I woke up to Ellie's sighing and Shaun's light snoring so I got up and asked him to turn over.

I sat in a chair for a while, listening to the sounds of everyone I loved sleeping in the same room and just enjoyed the quiet peaceful feeling moms get when all their people are together and safe.

It's such a privilege to be a mother.  It's my best and most favorite job I have ever had and I love every waking moment, even the ones in a random hotel room squished in a room that really doesn't fit us anymore.

I know our years of all sleeping Ingalls style is coming to an end in the next few years and I can feel the bittersweetness of these last precious days.  I don't take a second for granted.  I adore my five kiddos and their handsome daddy and I would give my body and soul for any of them without a second thought.  But more than that, I just enjoy them.  All the arguments and fussiness and all the laughter and stories and traditions and just LIFE.  I love doing LIFE with these beautiful people.  And that's what I thought about as I snuggled in again with Sam and tried to doze off again.

Shortly after I fell asleep Shaun was snoring again and I went to turn him over again.  He's a side sleeper and we always spoon so without me next to him he rolls on his back and snores.  Always has. It's adorable but it's not good for him and Ellie had a race the next day.  She really needed her rest.

When I got back in bed with Sam for the third time I found him whimpering in his sleep.  I woke him up just a little bit in case it was a bad dream and he said his ear was really hurting.  He had a fever too.  Of course.

I threw on a cardigan over my nightgown and some pants from the day before.  Cleveland Walgreens was about to see too much of Jill Bevan but it was only 2am and Sam would never last through the night.  Thankfully the front desk had some Advil and Sam swallowed his very first adult pill like a champ - even half asleep.

We both fell back asleep but at 3am I was up again, quietly reminding Shaun to roll over without waking anyone else up.  He felt so bad so he let me squeeze in with the girls and slept in the chair for the rest of our short night.   We called the on call doctor in the morning for a telephone conference and Sam was prescribed some amoxicillin which we could pick up after Ellie's race.

Ellie was up early riding with a friend to the meet for warmups while we took our time getting ready. We drove the rest of the 40 minutes to the middle of no where for the coolest indoor track ever.  She ran scared (and puked afterward) but her 4x8 team broke the school record so it was all worth it!

After her race Shaun and I took the kids to Walgreens to get Sam's meds and Ellie a gatorade and then we drove back toward our hotel about 30 minutes to a Panera.  We had gift cards for there and we had already promised the kids some bagels.

The bagel pack at Panera is the best deal going to feed five kids breakfast.  Shaun and I shared a table and a kind-of date while the kids ate cinnamon bagels and cream cheese.  On our ride back to the Spire Institute where Ellie was still cheering on her teammates we rested and Max napped.

Shaun napped in the parking lot while we waited for Ellie and then we headed home.

South of Columbus we embarrassed ourselves ordering $1million dollars worth of chicken at Chik-fil-a and finally rolled up the Hill around 6pm.  Ellie had to speak at a FCA event at 7:30 so she showered and we rolled back down the Hill.  Shaun and I met at the airport to return the car and Ellie caught a ride home with a friend.

Finally, about 11pm Shaun and I crawled into bed tired and happy and madly in love with this life we've been so blessed to live.

It wasn't anything terribly unusual but just a full few days with all of our people and maybe the last time we all sleep together in the same room.

I'll miss the sounds of them breathing and snoring and ear infections in the middle of the night.  I'll miss the morning breath and sharing a bathroom and wondering who used what toothbrush.  I'll miss being a little grossed out to share the same tiny towels with all the kids and I'll miss the stinky shoe smell in the car.

But most of all I'll just miss knowing.

Knowing what to order at Wendy's and Subway.  Knowing what shows they love and what music they like.  I'll miss listening to them negotiate seats and windows up or down and some of them trying to sleep while the other ones are laughing just a little too loud.

I'll miss sharing gum and hummus and sweet tea and having them in the backseat to read this thing on my phone for a quick second.  I'll miss looking at Shaun across the car or across the room and knowing that he's thinking the same thing I am...that he just LOVES his life.

He's so happy on an adventure with his babies and I just love that about him.  I've taken sooooo many trips with that man and NEVER seen him once lose his patience on vacation.  He's just so happy on a trip.

I had my fussy moments on this trip and so did a few other kiddos.  We really missed our therapy dog a few times and I might have ended up on one of the kids laps kissing their face off in the middle of Ohio trying to make a mad kid happy.

But I wouldn't trade a second.  Not one memory.  I know what I'll miss but I also know what I'll be thankful for.  All of it.  I'm thankful for every single second.  And I'm thankful that the beds didn't quite fit and that this mama got the chance to hear her babies and her man sleep all together maybe one last time.

I'll grieve this life to be sure but I'll also be so grateful to have lived it.


Monday, February 11, 2019

Sundays

We aren't a youth sports family.

You will find us AT youth sports because we are all about joining our kids in what they love to do, but we sure don't enjoy them.  I know some parents really do, but we just don't for lots of reasons.

However, Shaun always coaches whatever the kids want to do and I'm always there in the stands cheering on someone I love (kind of - really I'm just there for social reasons!  Ha!)

This year we have Sam and Sophie playing youth basketball in our little town and Ellie's indoor track season has started.

Sam and Sophie play between 2-6 games per weekend - usually we have two games on Saturday and two games on Sunday.  Ellie's indoor meets aren't every weekend, usually one or two a month, but they can be far away.  Saturday she's running at either Akron or Lexington.

Yesterday was a typical Sunday for us...church - we drove separate because we just sold the Suburban and because I'm usually running late.   After church Shaun took the little kids home while Ellie and I went to the post office to mail an NHS form. Shaun volunteered to take money for Sophie's team day from 11 to 12pm and I did it with a friend from 12 to 1pm.  Sam's game was at Berry at 2, so Shaun got there at 1:30.  Gabby stayed home with Max and Sophie.  Ellie had an interview at Whit's at 2:30 and then she watched the rest of Sam's game with me.  After the tough loss Shaun took Sam home and started some meatloaf for dinner while I took Ellie to Walmart for a folder she needed for NHS.

Ellie had youth group at the Croppers at 5 so Shaun took her there on the way to Sophie's game at 6 and I got there around 7 because the gym was running an hour late by that point and I had dropped Gabby off at Nerf Night.   Sophie finished up her game around 8 (another tough loss) and Shaun went home to put kids to bed and do laundry while I headed to pick up Ellie who was done about 8:15 and took the long way home with her so she could process prayer night with me.  I dropped her off around 8:45 and left to pick up Gabby at 9.  We got home around 9:15.  Max and Sam were already in bed and Sophie was on her way.

Gabby got a shower and packed lunches while Ellie worked on APUSH and Shaun fixed a leaking potty.  I picked up and got a shower and helped Ellie with some NHS essays.

Shaun I went to bed around 12am but stayed up talking until at least 1am because we had missed each other nearly all day and wanted to catch up.  Finally we fell asleep mid-sentence.  Sleep comes easy for both of us right now thankfully.

This day was very typical for us.  Not much margin, but everyone has what they need and gets where they are going.

Monday morning was a rough start for all of us but that's okay because I just know these years are flying right by...

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Tonight

I'm sitting on the couch tonight after a morning of teaching four year old's the letter Qq and an afternoon of college classes.  The kids are all over the place. 

Sam is cleaning the kitchen with a good attitude and he does it loudly.  I can hear the glasses being slammed down and the water splashing and the silverware being thrown in the drawers carelessly but not rudely.  He is an 11 year old boy after all.  Shaun took him and Max to get a hair cut last week and while I love both of their haircuts, I almost cried when I saw them because they both looked at least 3 years older.  I don't know what it is about boys with shaggy hair and busy mama's that make them look little.  Neither one of my boys look little anymore.  As Max would say, "I BIG now!"  Sam is waiting for Shaun to get home from Sophie's basketball practice so he can go to his practice.  Basketball makes for a busy winter but he loves it.  He's also loving the Y right now.  It's like a little club for fifth grade boys...basketball with his buddies, a safe amount of independence and his flip phone in his bag.  He asks to go every night but he understands if we can't quite get him there.  

Gabby and Max are playing Paw Patrol at my feet.  They have been for the last hour at least.  They have pretend conversations and talk about the pups and all the Paw Patrol toys are spread all over the kitchen table and the living room floor and the hallway and even the playroom.  I will be a little sad when I ask them to clean it up later because we are getting to the age around here when I never know if THIS will be the last time I ask them to clean up the Paw Patrol toys.   

It's the week of CNY and we celebrate it Maxy style around here.  Lots of Chinese food that he piles on his plate and doesn't eat because he's talking too loud and too much and too fast and his mouth can't keep up with his thoughts.  He doesn't say what he remembers about China but he does love to talk about his China grandma and grandpa and how he wishes he was born in my tummy.  I agree.  Too much talk about China and adoption are still hard.  They bring out big feelings which look like exaggerated reactions to minor things.  Today Sam bumped his leg and he got so angry and so loud and curled up in a ball. Sam was near tears and Shaun scooped him up and I held him on my lap on the couch while he was angry.  Then we gave him a drink of warm water out of the sippy cup from New Day and I made him some sausage and red peppers - which he didn't eat but who cares.  Food is important when feelings are too big.  

He's getting so big and learning so much.  He can read all the sight words and knows all the letters and sounds.  Reading books to him is both more fun and less fun because it's soon slow.  He likes to point to each word and say the ones he knows and it can take 14 days to get through one Curious George (which has been and I hope will forever be his very favorite).

In the time of me writing this Gabby has started making Max a mask that looks like a dragon with plain copier paper and some sewing string.  Her imagination and playfulness is incredible and she's going to be an amazing mama someday.  I envy her ability to live in the moment with her people.  Her circle is as small as ever, but her smile is as bright as it has always been.  She's funny and teachable and the sweetest caretaker I have ever seen.  When Max was having big feelings tonight he wanted to watch TV.  Because he needs to connect to people during emotional times, we said no to TV but YES to whoever he wanted to be with.  He chose Gabby.  When he wants to play, he almost always chooses Gabby.  When he wants to do crafts he almost always chooses Sophie and when he wants to snuggle or wrestle he almost always chooses "my Sam."  They are embarrassingly good to him and he adores them all.  

Sophie is at basketball practice with Shaun.  She's tall and coordinated and never intimidated and I love that about her.  She loves all sports all the time and we keep trying to push  she gets tired before everyone else in the family.  But when she's with people her own age, she's fun to watch because she's the biggest.  Here, she's always the smallest.  It's such an interesting dynamic.  She's easy as ever and just finished up her 10th birthday party 2 months late.  She was gracious as always about our big family schedule.  

Ellie is nearly an adult.  She's both confident and self-conscious and she loves her independence but sometimes I think she misses the pressure-less days of her younger years.  She's one of my closest friends, always up for an adventure.  She's an extremely deep young woman, nearly desperate to follow Jesus at any personal cost.  But she's reserved around people she deems as unsafe - she gets that from her mama.  Her small hurts go deep and but she's brave and pursues healing and health all the time.  She just got back from a trip to Iceland for her 16th birthday.  My dad probably rolled over in his grave because she left Warren County.  But it was the right thing.  She gets her love for adventure from her daddy and they are often like two mirrors of each other.  Going to Mason was good and right for her, hard to leave the people and places she's held so dearly, but ready for new relationships and challenges.  I am amazed by her.  I would have never done that at 15, I don't even want to do that at 40.  

Life is full as always.  Five kids and two jobs and a mama as a full time college student makes for not much room for margin.  Somehow I'm squeezing in a women's Bible study and Shaun and I agreed to lead one for the spring in the evening for couples.  Shaun's doing all the laundry these days.  I'm shopping online at Kroger and the kids are connected to us.  The house looks like a family has exploded but it's just for a season.  We can do this.  But in the we can do this phase, I don't want to miss the magic of us all being here together.  I love the mundane which feels like magic because this is all I've ever wanted.  These people in this house during these years is the only dream I've ever really had.  

Grateful beyond measure every single day.