12.27.2008

exactly what i was thinking

(Author: Jon Bloom)

Each year Christmas night finds members of my family feeling some melancholy. After weeks of anticipation, the Christmas celebrations have flashed by us and are suddenly gone. And we're left standing, watching the Christmas taillights and music fade into the night.

But it's possible that this moment of melancholy may be the best teaching moment of the whole season. Because as long as the beautiful gifts remain unopened around the tree and the events are still ahead of us, they can appear to be the hope we are waiting for. But when the tree is empty and events are past, we realize we are longing for a lasting hope.

So last night, as Pam and I tucked our kids into bed, we talked about a few things with them:

* Gifts and events can't fill the soul. God gives us such things to enjoy. They are expressions of his generosity as well as ours, but gifts and celebrations themselves are not designed to satisfy. They're designed to point us to the Giver. Gifts are like sunbeams. We are not meant to love sunbeams but the Sun.

* Putting our hope in gifts will leave us empty. Many people live their lives looking for the right sunbeam to make them happy. But if we depend on anything in the world to satisfy our soul's deepest desire, it will eventually leave us with that post-Christmas soul-ache. We will ask, "Is that all?" because we know deep down that's not all there is. We are designed to treasure a Person, not his things.

* It is more blessed to give than receive. What kind of happiness this Christmas felt richer, getting the presents that you wanted or making someone else happy with something that you gave to them? Receiving is a blessing, but Jesus is right—giving is a greater blessing. A greedy soul lives in a small, lonely world. A generous soul lives in a wide world of love.

It's just like God to let the glitter and flash of the celebrations (even in his honor) to pass and then to come to us in the quiet, even melancholic void they leave. Because often that's when we are most likely to understand the hope he intends for us to have at Christmas.

12.26.2008

tomorrow is another day

i guess i could say that i love the month before christmas, and the day after christmas. today was a day of refocusing on what matters and realizing that we are really blessed to be the family that we are. to have what we have. and to experience all that we experience.

the kids spent all day playing with their gifts. it was a sweet sight given my emotion of last night. eric asked them at the table this morning what their favorite part of christmas was and they all answered................playing with their cousins. not even a mention about presents. interesting, given my frustrations of yesterday. maybe i should take a cue from the kids and realize that there is much more to christmas than gifts under the tree.

being one day removed, i again am of the mindset that i would give anything to bring home another little girl. even if it means small christmases and a few less things in our closets. of course i want leah-joy more than i want those things.

i am embarrassed that i get caught up in the culture of things. but i would be lying if i didn't admit that i enjoy them. i like to dress stylish, i love a nice home, i enjoy my kids looking cute. i know those aren't the most important things in life, but they are values to me. and i don't think that is bad. it is when those things take a hold of my heart to the point that i can't see the bigger picture that they move from values to idols.

and so a new year is on the horizon. so far, i have three things i would like to change.

1)a new commitment to fiscal frugality. if we are going to adopt another little girl we have to begin now to live as if there was a 5th child in the picture. and save what we can for the impending adoption expenses. we have to buckle our belts a little tighter and it will require some sacrifices.

2)a commitment to writing down things that i would like to get as gifts. i think this would go a long way to helping maximize the joy of birthdays and holidays if i can do my part to help eric buy me gifts. we are both so stinking practical we tend to just pick out our own gifts and the fun of gift-giving is lost (or return things...and we know how i feel about that! see last post.) this year, i want to give him a specific list and he can go shopping! what fun to have a surprise (go figure)! even more fun when #1 is in effect and our disposable income is less than it has been being. when that's the case, the holidays and birthdays become a lot more significant - at least in the gift-giving arena.

3)a commitment to losing some weight. okay, i know this is a cheesy, everyone-says-it new year's resolution. and i know i am not in an extreme situation in this category. but it bothers me that i have put on so much weight this year. i would like to blame it on the medication i have been taking since last december but i don't think that's the whole picture. it BOTHERS me. i wake up thinking about it, i go to bed thinking about it. it needs to change.

if i can make those 3 happen, i will be a better person. but i know its not just me that has to make it happen. well, maybe the gift thing is just me. but the other two are matters of self-control, which i have to remind myself is a fruit of the spirit. it is a God-given character trait which means its me and God doing the work to make it happen. which would mean it might be helpful to talk to him a bit more often. hmmm...maybe i have four things to work on.

12.25.2008

grinchy heart

i always say that i love christmas. and i do. but a more accurate statement would be to say that i love the month before christmas. all of the fun things to do and the anticipation of what will be.

i can't remember a christmas night when i didn't go to bed sad.

and tonight's no different. i feel sad that my kids didn't get to open tons of presents. that the thrill of a mountain of gifts that takes 3 hours to get through wasn't part of their christmas memories. i feel sad that i am apparently so picky that once again i chose my own gifts, wrapped them, and handed them to eric to "give" me. no anticipation there. i feel sad that no matter what i choose for eric it is never right. he always chooses to take it back. i HATE that. it hurts my feelings and makes me say to him (with a very grinchy heart), 'forget it! i am never buying you anything again.' who wants to put time and energy into something only to have them take it back. buy your own stupid gifts. (hmmm...sounds like someone else)

i hate christmas nite. i feel sad and torn. i love that my kids go to bed tonight with presents i know they will enjoy for a long time. there were no gifts given that will break tomorrow or be tossed aside within a few days. but they didn't have lots to open. the magic of christmas was limited to a few presents, and then it was over. the american image of present after present with piles of boxes didn't happen in our house this year. that makes me sad. i want to give my kids lots of presents! good ones. i want to spend hundreds of dollars on each kid and have christmas last the whole day. i love presents. i love the joyful faces. i love the screams of delight. i love big bear hugs when they get exactly what they wanted.

if i am looking for the other side, i can be happy that we don't have credit cards to pay off and that ache that comes with financial strain is not part of my christmas. we were frugal, we spent what we had, and no more. and for that i am proud. that part makes me smile. but sometimes it seems like it would be a better choice to go down the other path. to spend lavishly and just enjoy the moment. embrace the gift-giving. throw the frugality out the window.

i hate that i don't have a lot of money. i know it isn't what life is about and i know i own the most important things, but let's face it; money may not buy happiness but it buys a lot of other things. i would love to get the kids a crazy amount of presents and see their big eyes and grins. i dream of boxes from the Gap just for me, some perfume, a couple things for the house, and a piece of jewelry. i want to give my family members a few gifts and not just one. there is a part of me that gets angry that i can't do that. that my kids will have to go to school and realize they didn't get everything that everyone else did. i get angry when i hear anna claire say with sweetness and a tender heart, "that's all? i only have one more gift?" yep, that's all. life stinks. merry christmas.

i get that my heart is completely in the wrong place and what i should be doing if i were a good christian is meditating on Jesus and be thankful for him and forgetting all the material things of this world. but i'm not. nope, not there. i am sad and trying to hold back tears. i hate this night.

and there's that thing about adopting another little girl. and the wallet gets thinner and the presents get less. and i don't care, because i want to hold another little girl. but i do care, because i am crying tonight. over presents. over stupid material things that are not going to matter in a month.

i hate christmas night.

and while i am in a bad mood, let's talk about the other thing i hate. tight jeans. as in used-to-fit-but-are-now-too-tight jeans. i hate them. and christmas reminds me that a year has passed, that the jeans are tighter than before, and i have once again had no will-power to confront the obvious. one of these days i would love to wake up and not have my waistline be the first thought of the day.

i am sad. and angry. and discontent. and frustrated. at myself. at everyone else.

merry christmas.

12.22.2008

dust cloud

i have always thought highly of teachers. now that i have small people who are in their classes, i think that they should be living in mansions and vacationing on their yachts.

15 days until school is back in session. if i ever had thoughts of home-schooling (which i haven't except for when i wonder if i would kill or be killed)i have confirmed that i am not called to that arena of education. praise jesus for public school. i don't care how much is wrong with them, this person is thanking God for free, quality, out-of-my-house education.

so, today was the official first day of CHRISTMAS break (just wanted to make sure everyone knows that we are off for CHRISTMAS, not winter). around 10:00 i realized i better get a plan...quick. there is a reason why we belong to the pool in the summer. 4 high energy kids in a relatively small house makes for fun...right? right.

off to the mall we went. upon entering dillards i had one woman look at me and start laughing. i am not sure why except that at that point the kids probably could have been heard by the old ladies in the upstairs lingerie department. did i mention our kids are a little loud? quick, be quiet, try and stifle their christmas excitement at least until we pass the snooty rich women shopping for jewelry in dillards.

then we went to Gap (my favorite store in case you are looking for gifts). i had to do a price adjustment, which was the whole reason we went to the mall. and for those who don't know about price adjustments, they are God's gift to frugal and thrifty, hoping to be fashionable, women. before i went to the register i of course had to look around for any great deals.

josiah, "mooom, this is boring. can you hurry up."
anna claire, "josiah, fashion takes time."

i am not kidding. she really said that. i thought i was going to pee in my pants.

then it was off to mcdonalds at the food court. special treat in our house. order, sit down, get everyone situated with their food..."moooommmyy. i have to pee." and when lydia says she has to go, i better get her there. now what is one to do? i had four kids with their lunch on the table. it wasn't like we were almost finished. we had JUST sat down. so my options are take lydia to the bathroom and leave the three by themselves (WHO would do THAT?) or, bag up all their food, take everyone to the bathroom (which would take about 5 times as long) and then get back to the table with cold food. i won't tell you what i did. let's just say i am hoping social services doesn't make a visit tomorrow thanks to an anonymous tipster.

so then we went to old navy, my other favorite store. i knew i was taking a risk but all of their stuff was 60% off or more and then i go back in two weeks after christmas and get a price adjustment and i can get all of ac's clothes for next year for $1.99! well worth a little chaos. that was relatively uneventful except for the herding cats that was continually happening. i swear that store just breeds loudness and raucous behavior in children.

then, we headed out to the van. we walked nicely through the mall. mother duck and all her ducklings walking behind (by now the stroller was full of bags). we got to dillards where we were parked, walked past the snooty jewelry section (there must be bermuda triangleness around there) and i stop to look behind and make sure everyone is following. just imagine...

micah is on the floor. face down. sweatshirt hood up over his head. josiah is dragging him by the hood. pulling him along as he screams - which i couldn't hear because his face was mopping the floor. oh my gosh! what in the world are you doing?
"he wouldn't come so i was trying to help."

right, okay. maybe we need to have a talk about appropriate encouragement techniques.

you know, it's never a dull moment in our house. and as much as there is chaos that follows us like Pigpen's dust cloud, so does the joy of children. and that, my friends, is why we would love to have another one. the joy is unspeakable. not necessarily unhearable...

12.21.2008

friends?

do you know that i have been messing around with this stupid blog for the better part of today? i think i have erased the background four different times. it drives me CRAZY that i have no idea what i am doing. i don't do well with wanting something done and being completely ignorant! (talk to eric about that...it is affectionately referred to as 'ashleigh mode' in our house) i want one of those cool header things and i am totally inept. i need a blogger friend who will have mercy on me. anyone? anyone?

12.20.2008

windows

I haven’t updated in a while. I sort of feel like I have to have something profound to say before I write. Which I have nothing. Not even any really good kid stories.

Which I suppose is a story in itself.

That there have been no stories.

We have moved into a new phase of our family the last few weeks. It’s as if everyone grew up a little and suddenly the dynamics are new. Micah has morphed into a big boy and suddenly wants to play with all of Josiah's toys. Josiah in turn has been very gracious and ‘allowed’ him to barge into the Lego land that is also known as Josiah’s room. It did require me explaining to him that we were not going to have ‘micah legos’ and ‘josiah legos’ and that they would need to work out some sort of deal, but amazingly (and with great maternal pride) I watched Josiah welcome micah into big boy world. And with that turn in events there seems to have come about a new brother camaraderie that wasn’t there before. The great masculine bonding experience of wrestling has come upon our house and the boys go at it frequently. And again, with great care, Josiah plays with his little brother and takes care of him. I am so proud of the big brother of the house.

The girls continue to be best buddies. It is amazing to watch how maternal Anna Claire is. Quite astounding, especially since her mother is NOT so caring and gracious much of the time (the story of kids crouching in the corner quivering and afraid of their mother will have to come another time)

We have seen a new side of the adoption story the last several weeks. On a handful of occasions Lydia has started to cry with a primal terror that is far different than a normal cry. As far as we can tell, it seems to come when she thinks we are gone but when we really aren’t. In other words, we haven’t told her we are leaving and suddenly she thinks we are not there. One time it was when I went out to the van to start it up to get warm and she was still at the breakfast table and suddenly saw me leaving. Another time was when everyone else was camping and I was still in the bedroom. She walked down the hall in the morning and seemed to realize she was alone. She does great when we leave her and she knows about it. But it is the times when she is caught off guard that fear grips her little soul.

At first it bothered me a bit. That feeling of ‘oh no, I can’t do a thing about this. What is her life going to be like?’ (I realize that is moving ahead a little bit but seriously, I think about how adoption will affect her!) but then I realized that OF COURSE she remembers her loved ones leaving and never coming back. I would like to sweep that memory under the rug but that would be denying her reality. She was 2 ½ when we came to get her so certainly she has a very vivid memory of being taken away. I think about if Micah had gone to china this summer and left us and how he would be reacting. So of course it would make sense that Lydia would have elements of terror in her heart when she thinks we are gone. And in her case she was taken away from her foster family 3 weeks before we got there and moved to the orphanage. And then we came. So she has two very recent and clear memories of being left.

Sometimes that’s scary. The unknowns of adoption. The fact that when she plays with her babydolls they are always crying.

She is grieving. We saw that in china but now we see it here. it’s a helpless place to be as a mom, unable to ‘fix’ her problems. I can hold her and thankfully she does lay right on my chest like a little newborn and snuggle into me. She lets me hold her and rub her head. But she cries and cries and I only wish I knew what was in her heart.

It does go away. Usually in about 10 minutes. And it hasn’t happened a lot, but definitely a noticeable amount of times. Such that we are now very conscious to tell her when we are leaving her, even if it is to run outside for a second. And i have begun talking to her much more about always being her mommy, never leaving, always loving her. I thought those conversations would be saved for when she was a bit older but I guess not. and they really aren’t conversations, they are a one-way dialogue of me speaking truth and love into her sweet soul.

I hope she hears me.

And just for laughs…tonight at dinner, Anna Claire was spending the night with Grammy and Pops, and Eric remarked at how different it was with only 3 kids. Josiah piped up, “man, it’s like only 3 instead of 1000!” not sure if that is a commentary on his sister…or 4 kids…or an 8 year old’s love of exaggeration. But it made me smile. Just wait…5’s coming.

11.27.2008

more than we ever dreamed

We have some great Thanksgiving traditions in our house - big breakfast, hiking, movies, and then big dinner. What the best part is these days is that I am not so involved in the hiking or the movies so I have managed to have almost 5 hours to myself! Now that is something to be thankful for!

Of course, given the holiday, I have been thinking about what I am thankful for. And so much comes to mind. But I also asked the kids, and got a look into their personalities.

Josiah...
my family (awwww...)
lego star wars wii game
movies
computer (do you see why "media" restriction is a first line of defense in our house?)
God
Jesus (working on the Trinity)
food (a boy after my own heart. food is at the bottom of the totem pole. happy to eat cheerios and oatmeal for his whole life)

anna claire -
friends
God and Jesus
my family
Lydia!!! (said with GREAT enthusiasm)
babysitters (maybe we should go out more often!)
Grandma and Aunt Chrissy
Grammy and Pops
neighbors (so far, it's all about the people)
books
teachers
clothes (and she has some cute ones)
food
TV
computer (media restriction doesn't work so well on her)
flowers (what a girlie thing to say!)

micah and lydia are upstairs playing and i dare not interrupt their happy time (it's either happiness or WWIII). so i'll have to wait to see what they say. but truly, there is so much to be thankful for in my life. i sort of wouldn't even know where to start if i made a list.

but this year in particular, i am thankful for the ways that God has worked so obviously in our family life. sometimes life feels stagnant. day in and day out it is the same. this introvert enjoys that on some level, but i find it challenging to see God in the stagnant. and so i am thankful that i can look at lydia and remember God's big, huge, sweeping, obvious working to bring her home. it reminds me that he is real and present. that he isn't asleep on the job.

there is a part of me that is excited about another adoption simply because i know we are going to see God in big, flashing lights. leah will be another reminder of a huge, big God. we will have a story to tell with her.

i am thankful for a nice house in this crazy-expensive city. i am thankful for nice clothes. i am thankful for a church that i love to go to. i am thankful for living 2 miles down the road from Grammy and Pops. i am thankful for close friends. i am thankful for 4 healthy children. i am thankful for a husband who believes in helping 100%. i am thankful that he is my best friend. i am thankful for a great school system for our kids. i am thankful for good health. i am thankful for those who are fighting for our country - many family members among them. i am thankful for reliable cars. i am thankful for a family that gets along. i am thankful for the God who have given us more than we could have ever dreamed of in this life.

thank you Jesus. for yourself, for your provisions, for your peace that passes all understanding. and thank you that you already know the precious little girl that will become ours.

happy thanksgiving.

11.26.2008

the train is moving

I have been wrestling with God for the past couple of weeks. I had this sense in my soul that he was up to something but I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly what it was. I thought it was regarding #5, but maybe I was totally off base. So I asked him for an obvious sign. Why not? He’s big, and I get confused easily. And if we are talking about more children, that is no small decision! So I need big, clear signs. Well, let’s just say we need to get the journal rolling. The big guy upstairs isn’t messing around.

But wait, I must catch you up on a few things. In our prayers for #5 we have been weighing two options – biological or adopted. Biological would require a costly surgery and no guarantees, but less costly than adoption. And of course the wonder of childbirth. Adoption is well, one of the greatest things we have ever done. So one morning I was imagining what I wanted (not that what I want is the supreme thing going on here but I was indulging myself) and here is what I came up with…1) adopted; 2) Chinese; 3) girl; 4) toddler. And yet I was still wrestling with which path God wanted for us? Strange, seemed pretty obvious to me at that point. So what was really going on I figured out (or God revealed I should probably say) is that it was all about the money. Sure, there is a certain euphoria to birthing children but truly everything else was amazingly unappealing. Fatness, pain, throwing up, sleepless nights, major age difference. Not what I wanted. What I REALLY wanted was another little Chinese girl! But I want to be clear, it is not the same as wanting a new pair of shoes. This is a deep, life-changing, mind-consuming, heart-stopping desire. God was clearly directing us to adoption. I had been pushing it aside because we were both scared about the money, but there was no doubt after those moments with the Holy Spirit, adoption it would be.

So that settled it. And Eric and I are thrilled. We can’t wait to see what God is going to do this time around. We think we are in store for another miracle, there is not a big fat chunk of change sitting in the BB&T coffers like there used to be. I thought it was going to take a while to see him in action but take this in…

**TODAY, I happened to read an article about plummeting interest rates (who says God isn’t in the liberal media!) Called the mortgage people. Refinanced the house. Saved $150/month just like that! EXACTLY the amount we had talked about wanting in our budget for another child so that we could keep our current savings/retirement plans as they are. Hmmm…you think that’s a coincidence?

**AND, our first big expenditure is the home study. We can’t officially start until July but nevertheless the $1800 is looming large given the not so large nest egg. So as I am talking to the mortgage lady, she offhandedly remarks, “Oh, and when you close on the new loan you will skip a house payment so you won’t have anything due in January.” Really??? Are you kidding me? No, our house payment is not $1800. But, rewind, remember a small detail I just learned, we get a $500 discount for using the same home study agency so really our bill will be $1300. Yep! That’s our house payment.

God is doing BIG things to bring this little girl home. We know it!!! We see it!!! We feel it!!! She is going to be another little miracle. Leah, we are coming for you. Hang on girlie, your mommy and daddy will be there soon. We will love you and will never leave you. We will give you a home and a family. And there are four little people who can't wait for little sister.

11.17.2008

throw me a bone

life is weird. the twist and turns that we find ourselves on. and it continues to amaze me how we can wake up one day and suddenly the entire path of life changes. two have come our way this week...

#1 we are 99.9% sure we have finally found an 'answer' to our frustrations with josiah. if he isn't the textbook case of ADD i don't know who is. while i am excited that there is HOPE, and maybe some real answers other than pulling our hair out and submitting josiah to a life that has him eternally grounded, it is nevertheless life altering. now we have a kid with a 'need', a kid who requires special attention and maintenance. school isn't just school anymore, it's this mammoth thing in front of us that at this point is driving us all crazy and we are facing this giant of a thing that we have no idea how to handle. life is weird. just when i was rejoicing that josiah was a great reader and wasn't going to have difficulty in school...

#2 at the same time that we are experiencing this reality check on what life with 'older' kids entails - more time consuming, money consuming, emotion consuming, energy consuming - we are also feeling the push to pray about #5. for a variety of reasons if we are to go for #5, the decision needs to be made fairly soon. and so we find ourselves having one day this week suddenly burdened for #5 and investigating the options. what in the world?

i don't know what we are doing. we know nothing about ADD. we know nothing about a kid who struggles in school. we know nothing about what God wants our family to look like. but i WANT to know SOMETHING!

11.15.2008

you never know

eric's out of town and so dinner was the kids and me, and a box of graham crackers, with a bowl of clementines, and some yogurt. all the important food groups i might point out. sometimes i get tired of talking kid talk (and by that i mean pretty much all the time). i am not well versed, nor particularly interested in star wars, pretend school, legos, kung-fu panda. i am most definitely not one of those moms that breaks out the scissors and glue and creates projects with their kids while wearing matching aprons and pulling hot chocolate chip cookies out of the oven all while listening to the latest fisher-price sing-along cd. it's not me. one might wonder why i have 4 children. sometimes i wonder too. but i love it. i love them. they just have to be crafty-crafty all by themselves!

okay, lest i digress. so, sometimes i just need a conversation about me, about something i care about (i know...selfish... but i NEED it, N.E.E.D it, NEED it). tonight's question.............."do you think we should have another baby?" responses included...

josiah - "NO! then i would be responsible for (counting...) FOUR children and i would probably have to change diapers. NO! although, we could adopt one from paris, france. that would be awesome!"

anna claire - "YES! ...but i want it to be a girl baby because i don't want anymore boys in this house. and mommy and daddy are SO not going to paris."

micah - "YES! i want a boy but can he be three years old so we can play together and he won't wear diapers just like me?"

lydia - focused solely on eating, as is her usual posture at the table.

so then i decided we should discuss names. i explained to them that all of their names went together because they were from the bible and they all ended in the "A" sound. josiAH, annA, micAH, lydiA. initial candidate included dalton (okay, we weren't quite getting the original explanation) but then they came up with some good ones. elijah, josiah suggested, which i happen to really like. sarah was nixed - josiah thinks that name is ugly(maybe unreturned affections in kindergarten). mariah was a go. like that one.

who knows. maybe there will be #5. and if so, we have the names elijah michael (after eric MICHAEL) or mariah leigh (after me, ashLEIGH). hey, we're halfway there! now all we have to do is figure out if God needs an elijah or mariah sanzone. or who knows, maybe both.

11.03.2008

i don't know

one of my life's values is honesty. i never want to come across as that person who seems to have it all together. although, i think sometimes i do, for the mere fact that i am shy. silence equals put-togetherness. especially when you are the pastor's wife who is supposed to be perfect, right? okay, well, i'm not. let's get that out there. no perfection living in this body. not even close.

so i found myself thinking about my last blog post and i couldn't bear to go to bed without posting again. it sounds so fluffy, so nice, what a sweet adoption story. and it is in so many ways. certainly looking at our 'special needs' child one could only be amazed and filled with gratitude. we have many friends who are struggling with their children and their adjustments and in some ways i even feel guilty for how easy lydia has been. which makes me even more want to proclaim the other side of the story.

four kids has not been easy. the adoption part of lydia has been a breeze. the part of adding another family member has not been. the bottom line is i am in a situation in which i can't possibly do all the things i am supposed to be doing. i have been tasked with a job too big and i must constantly ask myself, 'what is the most important thing to do at this moment?' depending on the time available, how many kids are around, what the weather is, what's most pressing, how i am feeling...i make my decision. for the past two weeks, the answer was something other than going to the grocery store. so, one day at lunch, when i was really hungry, i looked in the refrigerator and realized we had NOTHING to eat. nothing. not even a bowl of cereal. so i ordered a pizza. (coming from the family who didn't order a pizza for the first 6 years they were married.) and i proceeded to eat on the pizza for the next week while eric was out of town. no time for grocery shopping. the weather was warm, the grass needed to be mowed. birthdays were coming, need a present. there is not enough time for me to put food on the table, run the kids to activities, monitor homework, exercise, pay the bills, discipline the kids, keep the yard looking good, do my bible study, play with the little ones, plan for christmas, volunteer at church, clean the house, and all the 100 other things a mother must do.

that's the fact of the matter. there is simply not enough time. the older ones are helpful, very helpful. but none of the four are independent. for now, we have four little people who constantly need mommy or daddy. so what gives? most of the time it is the food. cereal and hotdogs are regular meals at our house. but as of now, i am sick of that food. i want something GOOD to eat. well, got to pick something else then. maybe exercise. then i feel horrible about myself and am grumpy not to speak of the fact that my pants don't fit. that's not good for anyone. dirty house. that's okay for a while. but after a few weeks its gross. moldy toilets are not good. i'm not obsessive about cleanliness but seriously, dirty is gross. winter is coming so the yard won't be so much work. but christmas is coming too, and buying presents for four kids is no small task - already working on that - not to mention the decorating and celebrating that goes along with the season. so I DON'T KNOW!!! i don't know how to do this life.

i love it. i hate it. i am excited. i am exhausted. the kids bring me life. the kids suck the life out of me. i am navigating a new road and i by no means have figured out all of the curves along the way. sometimes i want it to all go away. sometimes i couldn't think of anything better. tonight, i am thankful that they are sleeping, that no one is pooping on the carpet, that grandma is here visiting, and daddy is finally home. and wondering who will be our next president?

scary, scary skeleton


people keep asking us how lydia has adjusted. and the answer to that question is pretty easy. miraculous. that word has a tendency to be overused. too often it is used to describe what would more accurately be surprising or amazing. not truly miraculous. not truly an only-God-could-do-it experience. but lydia, she's a miracle.

first and foremost, her language is unbelievable. she speaks fluent english, understanding everything and talking a mile a minute. of course, it's two year old talk so sometimes it requires a mommy translation, but most of time she is fairly clear. she was singing in the van tonight, "scary, scary skeleton, walking down the street..." some silly song the kids learned in music class. she often announces in frustration, "oh man!" and her favorite phrase is "mommy, what are you doing?" if i had a nickel for everytime she asked that i would be going on vacation to hawaii!

in other areas, she is equally amazing. she sleeps great. she has improved tremendously with her gross motor skills, trying to keep up with her brothers and sister no doubt. her fine motor skills are out of this world. she has bonded with her siblings, eric and me, her grammy and pops. she is certainly well loved by many. she is proving to be quite a gregarious little girl. at first it bothered me that she was so friendly to everyone - i felt like it was a sign of a lack of attachment. but in the recent months we have seen that her friendliness is more a part of her personality. she clearly prefers mommy and daddy and shows all the signs of a good attachment but the kid just loves people! (she is like her daddy!!!) once she gets the sign from me that i approve, she embraces new people with typical extroverted exuberance. i keep saying she is my only hope for a child who won't scream when i take them to kindergarten!

so, lydia is wonderful. she truly has been our miracle girl. but i would be remiss in painting such a heavenly picture without being honest with the realities of welcoming a new child into our family. it has been difficult. and continues to be challenging. day to day life is a lot. i feel maxed out. and sometimes i feel more than maxxed out. but more on that later. no need to spoil the miracle tonight!

10.30.2008

oops.


it's been awhile. i figured people had long since dropped off of the lydia blog bandwagon but in the past few weeks i keep having people ask me when i am going to update! its not that i haven't thought about it. in fact, i find myself inundated with blogging ideas and thinking in bloggerese - which is sort of obnoxious - i just haven't had the energy. i get to the end of the day and i am whipped. but...i want to write and record these times so thanks to all those who keep bugging me about it! : )

life is going very, very smoothly for the little lydster. she is every bit a selfish two year old who loves to pick a fight with her pseudo-twin brother. but adjusting to live in the USA. in fact, our social worker was here about a month ago and said, "i don't think i have ever observed a child so well-adjusted." official words to what we have felt. we are chalking it up to the huge, big miracle it took to get her here. can you believe 6 months ago we were 5 years from a referral? crazy. miraculous.

it did occur to me recently that i have never even posted pictures of lydia since we have been home. that is bad. really bad. plus, she is so dang cute! so i will post a few to try and catch you up.

here's to more blogging in the near future!

8.13.2008

288 different directions

sometimes i feel like i am going crazy, and so i started to analyze my life and came up with some interesting facts...

let's suppose that a child needs my attention approxiately every 10 minutes. could be they need the play-doh, or a referee, or a band-aid. maybe it is just to touch base, or a kiss, or probably more likely to ask if they can play wii (which they know they can't until the weekends and even then they have to earn time by reading but they still ask...)

so that's 6 "mommy's" per hour, and of course any request is initiated by a drawn out "mooooooooo-mmmmmmmyyyyyyy" - and generally spoken at a loud decibel from a room other than where i am. multiply that by four children and we have 24 per hour. and let's suppose that i am with them, at least in the summer, for about 12 hours a day, 8a.m. until 8p.m. so we multiply 24 by 12 hours and we have 288 times a day that someone is needing me.

no wonder i feel like i am being pulled in a 100 different directions. in fact, on any given day i am being pulled in 288 different directions. so, i have debated whether to unplug the answering machine or just to say this, "hi. you have reached the crazy house. currently, i am on the #182 mommy of the day, 106 more to go. by the time i get this message i will have absolutely no interest in anything or anyone. so if you really need me, try another time. guaranteed, i will not call you back."

so yes, life is crazy. but we are having fun too. the 3 older kids are into sleepovers these days and seem to have suddenly discovered that they can be great friends. on any given night they are sleeping in each other's rooms. last night, it was all three of them in josiah's room. there they are, all in line on the floor just being buddies (never mind that josiah has two beds in his room, they like the floor).

lydia is blossoming and talking more and more. today she was dressing herself (yes, she is potty trained AND can dress herself!) and the hood on the back of her shirt was covering her face. much to my surprise she says, "where's lydia?...boo!" whoa - where did that come from!

so life is good. not too many moments sitting at the bottom of the pool. we are walking on our tiptoes these days. one thing we haven't done is take a lot of pictures, so i promise to do that soon and post them. since we don't always manage to get dressed i will have to plan before i get the camera out...

only two more weeks of summer - hard to believe we will have a 2nd grader and a kindergartener. yikes, where does time go?

8.05.2008

on my toes

(a copy of our final email to our adoption email group)

I watched Micah cross over the rope today at the pool and enter into big-boy territory. While he can’t swim, he discovered that if he stands on his very tippy toes and the water is calm, he can walk around. He was so excited! However, if he loses his balance or if the water is less than serene, he suddenly finds himself drowning. There is very little margin between life and death, between exhilaration and terror.

That’s me. There are days when it seems this new life is coming together and we are having so much fun. And then there are times when I truly don’t know how I will make it to bedtime without causing permanent damage to someone or something. It is a day to day journey. Today, I was sitting at the bottom of the pool. The kids woke up whining and fighting, I was repeating myself 100 times, the house was a disaster, my to-do list running onto page #2. Just as I was beginning to wonder how much more I could take I began to smell something burning. Really burning. I finally traced it to the microwave where I opened it up to find oatmeal. Not unusual, except that in my quest to fix breakfast for the fearsome foursome, I had forgotten to add water. Now…the house was quite odiferous, the kids were complaining (I couldn’t really blame them), Eric called to say he had my keys at the office, and it was only 9:00 in the morning. Oh my.

We are all learning. Today I learned that pouring a bowl of Cheerios is much simpler than cooking oatmeal for all of them. You cook it, you let it cool, you mix different things in each child’s bowl, you listen to them ask at least 72 times if it is ready to eat, you listen to at least one child scream because they insisted on trying to eat boiling oatmeal, and finally 45 minutes after you started you sit down for breakfast only to find out that the first kid’s oatmeal is cold. I don’t care if it is expensive or unhealthy; as of today this house is converting to cereal. So I learned. That’s good. Each day is new and it seems someone is learning something every day. Yesterday, Lydia learned to say “bye”. And so all day she walked around waving her hand and saying, “Bye, Mommy. Bye, Mommy.” She was so proud of herself, and we were too (we won’t read too much into the fact she was pretending to leave the scene!)

I am figuring this thing out. Some days I am walking on my tippy toes with a big grin on my face, other days I lose my balance and suddenly I am drowning. The challenge is finding out how to keep on my toes. What makes me fall, what needs to change, where can we tweak life a little bit so that steady is the norm. And what do I do when the water is overtaking me. When I feel like I am sinking to the bottom, when I feel like this is more than I can bear. We are learning. God is teaching. All six of us – it is most definitely a family affair. (Much to their chagrin, Josiah and Anna Claire have figured out that one more little one means Mommy needs a bunch more help!)

God has performed a miracle to bring us sweet Lydia. There is no doubt in our minds and hopefully not in yours as you have followed along. She is a living, breathing personification of God’s miraculous hand. I wanted to send one final email to let you know how grateful we are to you. I wish we could have a huge party and somehow convey to each of you the depth at which we appreciate your friendship. We have not walked this journey alone and because of that, we don’t celebrate alone. Thank you. From the bottom of our hearts, we offer prayers that God would use Lydia’s story to strengthen and emblazon your journey with Him. May His name be glorified for many, many years as a result of this little girl we are now privileged to call our daughter.

With a hugely grateful heart,
Ashleigh

7.31.2008

innocence



at the risk of being investigated for child pornography, i thought you might enjoy a look at the infamous tan-lines of the sanzone children as referenced in a previous post. actually, the italian princess is the darkest of all but since she has 73 different bathing suits her back doesn't quite reflect her brownie browness.

"oh," they say at the pool, "you are the mom of the brown kids!" and now, its "you are the mom of the brown kids and the chinese kid!" what a place i have come to in life.

and be sure to note, the zebraesque stripes on the littlest member!

7.29.2008

miracle

i don't have much to say. to be honest, today was a very long day and i am tired and out of words. but i did want to report in that this afternoon was our appointment with the international adoption pediatrician. me and all the kids - which resulted in "uuhhh...what is the age difference between the 3 kids..oh!...that one is yours too? wow." sometimes, i do feel like an exhibit at the zoo. everyone just stares. as if they have never seen someone with 4 children before. i don't know, i didn't think we were that weird! lest i digress, what the doctor had to say...

"when i see newly adopted children, i always schedule an hour for the appointment. most of the time there is a lot to go over, many questions, health concerns, etc. lydia, well, she is a perfectly healthy little girl. her growth from september is staggering. i have never seen anything quite as dramatic."

and with that, we left his office in a matter of minutes (we didn't actually leave the lab for another two hours - they had to draw 6 vials of blood for routine adoption tests, thus one reason why today has been a bit long!) what he didn't say, but what i know, is that lydia is a miracle. 10 months ago she was a child who was not even close to being on the growth chart - her height, weight, and head circumference FAR below the 1st percentile - even on the chinese growth charts. today, she is a chubby little kid with a bit of a height challenge (hey, she is chinese!) who couldn't be healthier. a miracle. i want to be sure and shout that as loud as i can - lydia is a living, breathing M-I-R-A-C-L-E. there is no other explanation.

when i write those words there are tears in my eyes. i am overwhelmed at the gift we have been given. when there is temptation to live life in a single dimension of the here and now, lydia will always be my reminder that God is bigger, that he sees far beyond what i do, his strength is immeasurably more than my abilities. the journey God took us on to find lydia has taught me lessons for life and my prayer is that i will never forget them.

each of my children have their special place in my heart. josiah - he will always be my firstborn, my "first love" as it were; anna claire - she is my princess, my first little girl, my helper; micah - he is my baby, the one that almost didn't make it, the one that i would always choose to spoil; and then there's lydia - my miracle.

should you doubt it, let me remind you, God is a God of miracles. there's one sleeping in the bed upstairs.

7.23.2008

just the four of us

i was asked the million dollar question today...the dear woman with a furrowed brow inquired, "Are they all yours?"

Well, yes ma'am, they are. All four of the little urchins. "How old are they?" she asked. I replied quite proud of myself, "7,5,3, and 2 1/2." I feel like superwoman when I say those numbers (especially when i throw in the 1/2)! "Oh honey," she replied, "you have your hands full." And with a look on her face as if to communicate horror and sorrow all at the same time, she quickly left the scene. I think she was afraid she would get drafted!

And so it is with our new life - four little rascals who at times allow me to see the wonder of siblings and friendship and big family and lots of love. I can picture the Christmas tree with our grown children and their significant others all coming together for cookies and laughter. One big, happy family where love flows deep and life is shared. hopefully, some day.

And...then there are times...when I wonder if they will still be arguing about whose fault it is come their wedding day and who gets to go first, and as they are walking down the aisle, one is yelling sssttttooopppp while the other completely ignores them. what is it that allows them to think that the word "stop" has no meaning and even if the other one has said it 10,000 times if it is enertaining you then by all means continue! oh my word! enough already.

in all fairness to the situation, the last few days have been great. my house is STILL straight (i didn't say clean) from monday. mostly due to the fact that we have spent the morning watching cartoons - don't let anyone tell you TV isn't a great babysitter, a necessary babysitter at certain times in life - and the afternoons at the pool and then on to naps. the older ones are learning their new roles as helpers. josiah is now in charge of unbuckling both the little ones and getting lydia out of the van. anna claire is in charge of getting lydia dressed. and they are both learning to help around the house. they have lucked out when it comes to chores. we only had a week out of school before we left for china so we are just now getting to the summer chore routine. lest they think summer is all full of fun and games! the chore cards are making their return...

really, all is well. micah is having a rough go of it but he is hanging in there. although today he did mention sending daddy and lydia back to china...but he was planning for mommy to stick around!

i was snuggling with the little guy today and lydia came over to us crying, which is not abnormal. she does not like it one bit when micah is in my lap. after a minute or so she began to motion that she needed to go potty. which, we have learned, is her way of controlling us. if she isn't getting her way, she signals that she needs to go potty, we take her, and suddenly we are doing exactly what she wants! so i was not about to take micah out of my lap for her manipulation tactics. well, she kept sitting there and crying and i kept snuggling and after about 5 minutes i decided it was lyd's turn. only to find out - she had peed all over the carpet! aaaghhhh. oh well, i guess she really did need to go. hopefully no long term affects from my neglect!

speaking of neglect, lydia is sporting a new set of stripes these days. we took her to the pool and she has this cute little bathing suit with small red and white stripes. i lathered her with suntan lotion as she is by far the fairest one in the family. and when we got home, anna claire says to me while she is getting lydia dressed, "mom, lydia has stripes!" i go in to check it out and sure enough, there are bathing suit marks on her little back. amazing - 30 SPF lotion and in just 2 hours the kids has tan lines! but no, that is not what anna claire was talking about. "no look mom, lydia has stripes!" i look at her back and to my utter confusion the kid has these little stripes all across her back. she has gotten a tan THROUGH her bathing suit. unbelievable! the sanzone kids are famous for their tan lines but this brings it to a whole new level! i have seen the SPF clothing for kids but i chalked it up to a gimmick - i guess i stand corrected, suntans can be gotten through the bathing suit!

life with 4 is fun, crazy, exhausting, fulfilling, stretching, energizing, everything i have dreamed of. i am so thankful for our family. and don't hold me to it, but i am thinking the sanzone family is complete. we'll see...

7.21.2008

one week

I was talking with a dear friend of mine, also an adoptive mom, and she reminded me that when she brought her child home at 6 months I reminded her regularly that she couldn’t look at life like she had a 6 month old, she had to look her days based on how long Evelyn had been in the family.  I think that was pretty good advice – and good to be reminded of now that I am in the middle of the scene.   I can’t base our adjustment on life with a 2 ½ year old; I have to think about life with a one-week old.  Now that is a whole different ballgame.  And makes me feel so much better!  The truth is that we are a family with a brand new baby.  So for those of you who haven’t been in the new-baby world for a while, let me remind you…

            *4 hours of continuous sleep is considered a gift from God

            *pajamas are the clothing of choice

            *crying is the primary method of communication – depending on the day, this may include mom as well

            *personal hygiene is reminiscent of ancient Rome

            *walking aimlessly around, standing in awe of the mess, is standard behavior

            *survival is the name of the game – just make it another day

 

So, I think we are right where we should be.  The past two nights I have been able to put Lydia to bed and walk out of the room – a huge step forward for her and a welcome respite for me.  I was getting weary of having to campout until she went to sleep.  And last night she was up only once and that was quickly remedied with a touch and a kiss.  Today, Eric’s day off, I was able to de-junk all the kids’ rooms (how do they get all of that stuff in there?), clean out the playroom, balance the checkbook (ugh.) and get several more things done on the to-do list.  Accomplishment!  Lydia is definitely getting more comfortable but generally one of us has to be available to her.  Even if she plays for 10 minutes by herself she has a need to connect with us on a regular basis.  She will drop what she is doing and begin crying until she finds us – sometimes the crying is easily consoled, other times not.  So it really prohibits me from doing anything unless someone else is around.  Needless to say, this task-mama was thrilled to get some things done today.  I feel a little more like a real human being.  Haven’t hit the shower yet, but plan to…

 

We did take the kids swimming this afternoon – first time for Lyds.  She was understandably timid but after the first hour she was getting the hang of it.  I continued to be intrigued by her personality.  The funny thing about adopting a toddler is that their personality is there, alive and well.  But it has to be discovered.  There are glimpses of her every now and then that I think are more her true self but at this stage, they are few and far between.  For the most part, she is very clingy and timid, easily upset and very quiet.  However, in those few moments she is this very happy child with tons of energy, super confident, happy to be here kid, so completely different.  I think that is probably who Lydia truly is, behind the grief and sadness that she is experiencing.  And who can blame her – I have to remind myself when I am at my wit’s end with her crying – that she has been torn from everything and has been immersed in a world that is so completely different.  If that had happened to my little Micah it would take him months to recover, and I would expect the same with sweet Lydia.  It will be fun (exhausting…) to discover who she is beyond the transition.  Let’s just say I am looking forward to December.

 

Tomorrow I am on my own again!  Aahh!!  I have to simply remind myself that NOTHING gets done beyond breakfast, clean up, lunch, clean up, dinner, clean up, bed.  And the clean up is only a possibility.  It is highly likely that breakfast dishes will still be on the counter come dinnertime.  It’s okay, it’s just a phase, this too shall pass, I will recover…what day is it?

 

7.19.2008

precious prodding

i was sitting at a swim meet this morning - 95 degrees, no shade, three races, two minutes of swimming, 5 hours of waiting. i know, unbelievable that anyone swims. but we love it. anna claire even swam today, first time all season she actually made it into the pool at a meet. all the way to the other end of the pool without even a hesitation. pretty good for a little 5 year old!

so i was pondering why in the world i would subject myself to such a saturday morning. and i quickly came to the conclusion that its what we love. i grew up swimming, we live by the water, our kids love the pool, it is simply what our family chooses to invest in. and to be fair, it is no different than sitting at a double header for baseball or a tournament for soccer. its all the grueling agony of waiting for that little bit of action that is going to make it all worth it. that moment when you see your kids shine - when they finally beat the 40 second mark for breast stroke or when they take that first jump into the pool and head to the other end after being scared to death all season. its worth it.

i think its the same with my relationship with God right now. if i am honest it is not something that tops out on my 10 favorite things to do. really, when am i supposed to have some quiet time with God? in the morning, so i find myself grumpy all day from exhaustion? at nap time, when the list is a mile long of things that need to get done without the help of little hands? at night when i fall into bed oftentimes already pondering how i will make it to nap time tomorrow? there isn't a convenient time these days, and hasn't been for a good five years. so why make it a priority? because it is what i know is best, it is what i know will sustain me, it is what has proven over the years to be my strength. and so i do it.

i wish i could say it was that simple - i do it. but i don't. i put it on the back burner, i find 101 things more important, i make excuses, i simply choose not to. as i reflect on this past week i think it has been one that God has been quietly whispering my name. these past 3 months have been God shouting loud and clear and maybe i have grown complacent in his obvious presence. this week, a lot of other things have been shouting and i fear drowning out the voice of Him who has delivered me to this place, the very place i begged him to be.

our little girl has been with us for a week, in our home. almost three weeks in our family. the days have been good, great, horrible, and somewhere in between. we have run the gammet. but no matter where we are - for life is sure to bring us to depths deeper and broader than those of the past few days - i want to remember the God who orchestrates it all and his precious prodding, calling me to himself.

maybe i will do better this week.

7.17.2008

chugging along

i wish i could know what is going through lydia's head. here i sit in her room, working on the computer, while she toddles off to dreamland. if i try and leave the room, she cries. but she doesn't care if i am in the bed with her or holding her. she just has to be able to see me. so, i figured i would get something done! i like the idea of sticking around my kid's room while they drift off to sleep about as much as i like chinese food. not really how i trained my other kids. but i know it is right for her. hey, look on the bright side, all by myself in the peace and quiet! maybe we could keep this act up for the next 10 years. it could be my place to work on my book, which i think i need to change the title. i think a better title would be, "What the hell was I thinking? And other questions of motherhood." broad appeal - i am envisioning the oprah show and ellen.

our day was much better today. lydia has actually gotten to be quite sick in the last 36 hours so we made a trip to the doctor. she was wheezing like crazy and had a high fever. so we got some drugs and she is doing much better today. love modern medicine.

micah has begun to act out a little bit. throwing fits and refusing to do things. today we were in line to pick up the older two from vbs and i was holding lydia and he refused to move! as in, refused-to-move!! he plopped himself down in the floor and would not budge. when i tried to put lydia down she screamed so here i was holding her ever so precariously and dragging him by the arm, all while being observed by what felt like the entire congregation. at one point a man behind me said, "oh, are you ashleigh sanzone?" well, yes, i am. in all of my glory. or maybe i should have claimed a second identity at that point. i only wish, or maybe i don't, that i could know what he was thinking! i finally asked a friend of mine to pick micah up and bring him to me - by that time i had moved down the line quite a bit - which she did, as micah stayed hunched is his little ball even in mid-air. i think i might try the stroller tomorrow for one of them. 'tis a learning curve this sort-of-twins thing. but micah and i did have a special date this afternoon. we took anna claire to gymnastics and then we hit the grocery store for some hershey's syrup to make chocolate milk. just us, and i carried him the whole time. he was thrilled.

i realized something scary today. yesterday in my psychotic state it never crossed mind to call on jesus. wow. how could i have allowed myself to be so far gone and forget the place of my ultimate strength? i don't know the answer to that question. i have pondered it all day. i don't like it though. i know i can't do this thing on my own. funny how it is so easy to forget who got me to this place - you'd think i would remember and be telling him he better get me through it!

well, the girls are both asleep now. thank heaven for anna claire who goes to sleep in about 1 minute and could sleep through a tornado. at thank heavens for lydia who doesn't seem to care about ac's snoring! one more day gone by and one more day towards being a little more settled. for this, we have jesus!

7.16.2008

we are doing well.

i have always said i wanted to write a book. and i think i have finally figured out the title..."everything you need to know about motherhood that no one ever tells you" and then i am going to proceed to tell the real story, the one that no one talks about but everyone experiences. when was the last time you heard anyone tell a newly pregnant woman how horrible hemmhoroids are??? hmmm...yeah, i didn't think so.

well, that's sort of where we are right now in our house. feeling out the realities of a new child. bringing lydia home has been remarkably similar to bringing a new baby home. she's up at night, she demands attention, we are getting used to another family member, the kids are having to bow to her needs. unlike a new baby, i can't let her scream. i am a big fan of putting my babies in the crib when i am at my wit's end but in this case, i can't do that. if she is wanting me then i have to give myself to her.

so here is today. we skipped swim practice at 7:15. got up and discovered that eric was down for the count, sick and in bed (he was sleeping in another room). okay, that's what i needed. after a morning of vbs, we headed home. oh dear. breakfast dishes were still on the table. by now the cereal had morphed into some sort of alienesque blob. miscellaneous breakfast food is on the counter...all still open of course. a puzzle is strewn about the open section of the house. the playroom is covered, and i do mean covered, with toys. the den is set up as a campout scene with pillows and blankets and stuffed animals all over the place. somehow, it didn't get cleaned up in the 4 hours we were gone! lydia is refusing to be put down, micah is pulling on me and wants to be held, anna claire is wanting me to play, and josiah is whining about why daddy isn't awake. eric has not gotten out of the bed and i am feeling the effects of not having been in the bed for a large portion of the night. OH MY GOSH!

you know what was going through my head, let's just get it out there..."WHAT THE HELL WERE WE THINKING??????" (hopefully my mother nor my pastor will read this
!) yep, that's where i've been this afternoon. i couldn't take it anymore. all of the emotion of the day and the weeks flooded me and i became this possessed being for about 5 minutes. screaming at the top of my lungs, yelling at the kids. i can't describe how angry and frustrated i was. i wanted my old life back. i thought about calling my mom to come rescue me for an hour but i wasn't sure i wanted her to see me this strung out.

it's not that we weren't prepared for the adoption - i think we read everything and talked about things as much as we possibly could have. but like a new baby, you can't know what it is like until you get there. and we are there. new baby, four kids 5 years apart. the youngest 6 months apart. its a lot. i know that it is what God has for our family - who could doubt that after our journey to get lydia - but it is on the crazier side of crazy right now.

so, when people ask how we are doing (which i get asked at least 47 times a day) i think i will say this. "we are doing well. we haven't killed anyone, buried anyone alive, or even locked them out of the house. we haven't run away or driven aimlessly around the city. we haven't even locked ourselves in the bathroom. no one is starving, everyone is clothed, a roof is over our head. so, all things considered, we are doing very good."

i don't think most people really want to know. it takes all the fun out - the story is too dreamy. really, the fun family comes home with the china doll and everyone lives happily ever after. but for those who do want to know or who will come after me on this journey, there it is. the real, live truth. really, we are doing well.

7.14.2008

easy, hard, and everything in between

back in america. what a joy it is! the trip was wonderful in terms of lydia. she slept a large portion of the flight from tokyo to detroit and was entertained pretty much the entire other portion of the trip by play-doh. we couldn't have asked for her to have been any easier.

however, once we landed in norfolk i have never felt so drained in my life. i thought i was going to collapse right in the middle of the airport. i think it was a combination of physical exhaustion (we were on hour 27 with about 2 hours of naps along the way), lack of food (airplane food is a little lacking...especially japanese airline food), and absolutely emotionally wiped. and the anticipation of seeing everyone about put me over the edge. i wasn't sure if i was going to make it! i quite literally could not even hold lydia so thank goodness she was willing to walk. it was a weird feeling to be so weak. i wanted so bad to freshen up and look great - or at least better - for our reunion but it was all i could do to just make it upright. oh well, we just won't frame those pictures!

as for being home, it has been much harder and much easier than i expected. lydia has done amazing. at times i am even a bit worried at how well she has done but i think it is all part of her miracle. she has embraced the kids, runs around the house, lets our parents hold her. lest i paint too pretty of a picture, she does want someone with her all the time. so i can't really do anything unless eric or one of our parents is around to play with her. she will play with the kids to an extent but she seems to want an adult for security.

so that brings me to the hard part. i severely underestimated how physically and emotionally exhausted i would be. in that sense, i feel like i just gave birth. i am wiped. it is all i can do just to make it through the necessary steps of the day. today, the shower was at 6:00 at night. and added in there are so many emotions. for 3 years we have been invested in this little girl and her adoption and now it is over. there is some letdown involved. and now we have this little girl who while she was very much loved in our hearts it is a little bit weird to actually have her. i think it is going to take a while before i feel like she is really ours and is a regular part of the family. right now i sort of feel like i am babysitting. i don't know. i haven't really processed it all and can't put words to a lot of my feelings. and of course, there is the general difficult of adding a child and having 4 little ones to take care of now. suffice it to say it has been a bit hard.

she is sleeping with me in our bed. eric is on the sofa, although i think he may sleep in josiah's room tonight since josiah has taken to sleeping on the floor. she took her nap in her bed today so i think we are almost to the place where she can sleep the night in her bed. i would rather sleep with her than have to get up and tend to her. she has done great - last night was just about 5 minutes of crying and being awake. can't complain about that.

overall, we are doing as good as could be expected. lydia continues to do the miraculous. and we are so thankful for that. and someday, i will come out of the fog of 4 children...i have a year, right?

thank you so much for your prayers. we would appreciate continued prayer for bonding and attachment within our whole family (especially josiah and lydia) and strength to figure this all out. grandma and aunt chrissy leave tomorrow, eric goes back to work on wednesday and i will have the 4 by myself. yikes! when's naptime???

7.10.2008

bye-bye china, hello america!

I am signing off.  Lydia is taking a bath, get her to sleep, put in a movie and sweet dreams.  We have our wake-up call at 4:30a.m!  I have lots of thoughts but I will save them for another time.  Right now I am focused on a good night sleep.

Thank you so much for your prayers.  They mean more to us than we could ever communicate.  We can’t wait for you to meet the miracle we have all watched unfold these last few months.  She is pretty darn cute!

See you in Virginia!

** for those of you who have said they want to be at the airport (which I DO NOT expect anyone to make that a priority – except our family!)  : )  …kelly rex has all of our flight info and we will be in touch with her if we are delayed at any point in time.  We fly from here to Tokyo to Detroit to Norfolk.  Right now we are scheduled to be in Norfolk at 7:02p.m. on Friday, flying northwest.  Her number is 463-8266 if you need it.

Can’t wait to see you all.

ashleigh

7.09.2008

the wall.

Yep, we’ve hit it.  We really want to come home.  We are tired of shopping, tired of spending money, tired of eating strange food, tired of living in a hotel room.  We are just tired.  We can’t wait to get on that plane.  It is sort of like labor – by the time you get to the awful part you are so ready to have that baby it doesn’t matter how much it hurts!  So it is with us, we are loving the idea of 24 hours of travel if it means we get to see our friends and family and bring Lydia home. 

Tonight after dinner we went to starbucks and had a wonderful piece of blueberry cheesecake.  It was a piece of heaven.  Anything that tasted remotely American was what both of us wanted and it fit the bill! Sitting in starbucks you would never know you were in china – it looks exactly like it does in the states.  Amazing corporate marketing!

We did nothing today.  Eric played with Lydia in the room and I worked on our shutterfly picture book (it is going to be so cool!)  Lydia loves to sleep so she didn’t wake up until 10:00!  Of course, she didn’t go to sleep until almost midnight but she does seem to like to sleep in.  we are keeping really weird hours on this trip.  We go to bed around 11:00 and wake up around 9:00.  a little vacationy I would say – its back to the real world come Saturday morning and a 7:00a.m. swim meet!  But I can’t wait to get back to real life and see my sweet family!

Lydia has done much better today.  She is responding well to some popage and is getting the point loud and clear I would say.  She continues to come out of her shell a little more each day – today she was jabbering in Chinese for a majority of the morning when eric was playing with her.  Until then she has only talked to her babydolls.  She generally shuts down when she gets around a crowd (sounds like her mom!) so I am not sure what to expect the first little while home – we have a crowd and a loud one at that! 

We kept her up today and didn’t give her a nap to see if she would go to sleep early.  A practice round for tomorrow when we need to go to bed early for a 4:30a.m. wake-up call.  She was great and laid down with eric around 7:30 and I think it may have taken her 2 minutes to fall asleep, maybe.  It could have been more like 1.  amazing.  I wish I could go to dreamland  that quickly!  Like I said, she has been much better today – no tantrums!!!

Tomorrow is the consulate appointment to get lydia’s visa and passport.  She will remain a Chinese citizen until we touch ground in Detroit at which point she is an American.  She will have to forfeit her Chinese citizenship as china does not allow dual citizenship.  I hate that we are leaving her heritage and all that she knows but boy will I be glad to be in the USA!  Chili’s, Detroit airport, chips and salsa, and a HUGE glass of ICE and TEA!

I would ask for your prayers.  Eric and I are both at the end of our ropes.  We are tired – physically and emotionally.  Please pray that God would give us an extra measure of patience and ability to push through.  He is by far the better handler of it all – today I was way grumpy and tend to take it out on him.  I had to say I was sorry and ask for his forgiveness.  He has been the most amazing husband and father you could ever imagine.   But we are all ready to go.  Pray for us if you think of it.  We want to arrive home a happy and loving family, albeit tired.

36 more hours!

**this picture is just one of the reasons why I am really excited about seeing American soil!  In case you can’t tell…snakes…your choice of dinner entrĂ©e.

And one more fun fact, tonight when one of the shopkeepers we have been dealing with saw eric coming he ran inside and hid!  Eric has quite the reputation of bargaining on this little island!!!  We are on night 4 of trying to get some Christmas presents at a certain price.  I don’t know if we will come home with them or not!  I think I might have to remind him that we can’t ask for a lower price at Home Depot.  He has way too much fun haggling with these people!

7.08.2008

There is a contemporary cultural phenomenon in china these days.  It is called the ‘little emperor syndrome’ and comes as a result of millions of little boys being the only child in their families and oftentimes the only grandchild.  Spoiled, bratty, lazy little boys…emperors in the making.  I am pretty sure that we have the little emperess.  Spoiled, bratty, lazy little girl…an emperess in the making. This kid is amazing!  This morning she dropped her doll dress on the ground and she refused to pick it up!  She sat there reaching down, never bending her knees, screeching and looking at me to retrieve her fallen wares.  Someone even asked if she had something wrong with her legs because she wouldn’t bend them! NO! she is just a spoiled little brat.  Seriously, she is not that far above the ground – about 2 ½ feet to be exact – you would think she could make it down there to pick up her beloved dress.  Nope, not a chance.  Since the bus was leaving I was somewhat forced into getting it for her but my nerve count took a tumble.  She better hope that I get some nerves before Friday!  If she doesn’t want to walk, she sits down.  If she doesn’t want to get out of the stroller, she glues her arms to her side so you can’t pick her up.  if she wants to be carried she holds her legs up and refuses to stand – some serious abs this girl has…somewhere underneath the chunk-o-lunk.  I really have never seen anything like it.  This afternoon she was going potty before naptime.  And since her favorite activity in all of the world is taking a bath she thought it would be a good time.  she kicked her shorts and underwear off, stood on the floor and refused to lift her feet up so that I could put them back on.  When I forced her feet to go in her underwear, she stomped them until she was so off balance she fell on her head.  That was the last straw…the mighty hand that has administered 100’s of pops and is prepared for 100’s more made a swift move to the leg and she was officially indoctrinated into the Sanzone family.  Enough already kid.  …It is a good thing she is so cute. 

So today was a banner day, the day of dethroning.  The day the discipline began.  The day our little emperess became just a regular old American kid. 

Things are winding up here.  14 of the families in our group leave tomorrow – 7 of us on Friday.  We took a short trip to a museum and the botanical gardens this morning.  Experimented with Benadryl this afternoon – which resulted in a rather lengthy nap – and worked on what I hope to be an amazing shutterfly picture book capturing our memories.  We did get all 4 kids something super cool – handmade just for them – but alas, I cannot write it here because my sweet Josiah can read!  Sorry buddy!  You all will have to wait and see. 

It is a weird feeling knowing that we are leaving lydia’s homeland in just a few days.  Who knows if we will ever return.  I sure hope so, but there are no guarantees.  And certainly if we do, it won’t be for a long time.  Although eric and I were found discussing the name of our next Chinese daughter…  at any rate, we are leaving behind her essence and there is some sadness to that.  Not that it will keep me from getting on the plane, i am just saying there may be a few tears shed as we take off.

Currently, our little emperess is laying nicely in bed jabbering away in Chinese.  I think the 3 hour nap might be one reason why she is still awake at 10:45!  But…we have made progress as she is not screaming but merrily chatting to her animals.  She is a trip, this kid.  I am so thankful for her.  She is our little miracle.  Even her little emperess status is a miracle – loved and cared for so obviously before she came to us. 

We are on the countdown!  Tomorrow is the consulate visit to get her visa, Thursday we take the oath, and Friday we are coming home!  I want brownies and a strawberry light smoothie!

7.07.2008

the good, the bad, and the ugly

 

 

 

if i were a rich man...

Or at least a smart man, I could be a rich man!  We went to the pearl market today and boy, I had no idea how many different kinds of pearls there were!  It was astounding.  You could pick from thousands and millions of pearls and make whatever you wanted to.  Big ones, little ones, white ones, gray ones, perfect ones, imperfect ones, pink ones, yellow ones.  A little overwhelming, but I knew what I wanted which was super basic.  Each strand ran anywhere from $15 to $75.  One lady in our group said that last time she was in china about 9 years ago she bought a necklace for $50 and went home and had it appraised for $1200!  Man, we could finance our whole adoption at the pearl market!  Of course, that would require me knowing something about pearls, which I don’t.  Maybe next time.  I bought myself a necklace and then we bought two for Lydia – for some sort of special occasions.  Maybe 16 year old birthday and wedding, or something along those lines.  We bought a big long strand of each so she will be able to do with them what she wants.  Actually, I had picked out one of the least expensive ones and Eric said we should get the more expensive ones in addition!  What kind of man is that?  I think a father who loves his little girls.  So we walked away with two different presents for her someday.  I don’t know if she’ll appreciate them or not but she will at least have the symbolism that we bought them in china when we came to get her.  And hey, she can always hock them on eBay and buy some new tennis shoes, or whatever timeless thing 16 year olds want!  : )

Currently, Lydia is screaming in our room.  She has been coming out of her shell the past two days and is quite the stinker.  Tonight, she has decided she doesn’t want to go to sleep and so she is crying in her crib.  I have tried to hold her and comfort her and she just continues throwing a massive tantrum.  So I finally have decided to lay her down.  It is so hard to know what to do with the little thing.  If it were my biological child for one, they would not be 2 years old and screaming about bedtime…but if they did their little butt would get some attention.  She, I am afraid, is going to have a hard few weeks ahead of her (and so is our whole family…).  Today she threw a massive tantrum in the middle of the hotel floor – kicking and screaming.  Embarrassing to say the least.  The good part is that the whole group is figuring out what to do with their kids and so they are understanding.  As long as she is getting what she wants, she is a gem!  I have to remember that she has only been ours for a week.  She has had a lot happen in her little life in the past month.  I am getting increasingly nervous about home.  What do we do when she is screaming at night?  She is sharing a room with Anna Claire and our house is not that big!  And what about the 1000’s of times a day she doesn’t get the toy that she wants.  And how about the Mommy who can’t devote 100% of her energy to her?  And then there’s Daddy who has to go back to work?  AAAAHHHHH!!!!!  I’ll stop thinking about all those questions right now!  Tonight has enough worries of its own.

After the pearl market Eric and I decided to leave the group and go explore Guangzhou.  It was fun, in an exploring china sort of way.  We definitely were the only westerners around and were getting quite the stares with Lydia.  Although when we ask, our guides have said that generally the Chinese think positively about international adoption, I have not felt warm and fuzzy feelings from the general population.  they just seem puzzled and the older generation definitely seems to look at us with disdain.  Today we had a younger person, maybe late teens or early 20’s ask about Lydia.  They said, “you American, she Chinese.  How come?” it was like they had no concept of adoption and they couldn’t figure out how in the world eric and I could make a Chinese baby!  And when we were at mcdonalds for lunch, along with at least 200 other people (for real) the family we sat across from stared at us THE WHOLE TIME WE WERE EATING.  They could not stop.  I wanted to say to them, “Your government is the one who forces women to give up their babies!  Don’t look at me like I am the crazy one!”  but…I didn’t say that.  It does intrigue me though.

I still can’t get over how many people there are.  It is amazing.  It is like mt. trashmore on the 4th of july, except everyday and everywhere.  I told eric that if we ever move to china (which I am NOT planning on doing) the hardest part for me would be the people.  They are everywhere and there is no such thing as personal space.  A claustrophobics nightmare.  And of course, what would a day in china be without seeing multiple children pooping on the sidewalk.  Really?  Yes, really.  I don’t think you should be able to host the Olympics when your population doesn’t know the meaning of a toilet.

We did some more shopping tonight.  I didn’t think that was possible but now we have moved into the realm of Christmas presents.  Hey, what’s a person to do when they have 15 days on a little island filled with nothing but shops!  So if you are on my Christmas list you can pretty much count on getting something from Guangzhou (not from the pearl market, ladies).  we tried to go to hong kong but turns out you have to have a separate visa so that was a no go. 

Coming home is getting to be a real thought in my head.  I started packing today.  Not because I needed to, it just made me feel better.  We are getting all our laundry done before we leave!  Now that is a perk of china.  We found this great little store that does our laundry dirt cheap and it comes back smelling great, folded, and vacuum sealed in plastic bags.  In some ways I can’t wait to get home and in other ways I am scared to death.  Lydia is still crying…I have handed her off to eric…could be a long night…

We can’t wait to see you all soon. 

7.06.2008

Our failure-to-thrive child!