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Monday, December 15, 2014

Penelope had a half birthday.

I neglected to write anything about Penelope on her first birthday so I thought I would jot a few thoughts down as she turns 18 months.

She is at one of my favorite ages.  She is big and independent, but still a baby.  She talks but doesn't talk back.  She's discovering new things each day, and it's wonderful to watch.  At this age, she has a way of diffusing tense situations.  Stephen and I will be frustrated after disciplining a child or frazzled from trying to walk out the door in a hurry, and she'll walk by and just be cute.  We'll look at each other and smile and say, "I don't know what went wrong with those first four kids, but we made this one and she's adorable."

She is so pleasant in the morning.  As I yell for the school kids to wake up from my bed, she mimics me from her room.  "D'arcy!"  "Julian!"  "Schroeder!"  If the big kids are being particularly difficult to wake up, I'll take Penelope out of her crib and lay her on top of them.  She'll pat their face and say "UP! UP!" which makes them giggle.

Penelope likes hats and pointing out people's features...nose, mouth, ears, eyes.  She likes walking around in other people's shoes.  She likes Frozen and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.  She loves baby dolls and feeding them a bottle.  She LOVES dogs.  She gets giddy and giggly when she sees one.

She hangs out with me in my bathroom as I get ready for the day and pretends to put makeup on with my blush brush and an old blush container.  If she's hungry, she goes to get a plastic bowl from a low cabinet and brings it to me to be filled.  Basically, all her food must first be placed in a bowl before consumption.  She has standards.  No eating off the table or carrying your food around like an animal.

I had all intentions of weaning P at twelve months.  Then, I just never wanted to say that this was our last nursing session.  So I nursed her when she asked, and she asked often.  At first, a couple times a day, and then a couple times a week.  I felt like I didn't need to mourn the end of this stage because I didn't really know when it would end.  Even now, we'll go a whole month without her asking, and then she'll come sit on my lap, pull on my collar and say, "nurse" in her tiny voice.  Most of the time, I offer her some milk in a cup, but sometimes she insists and I let her.

She has one pacifier left.  We've lost all the others.  It will be misplaced for a couple of days, and then she'll find it somewhere and pop it in her mouth.  She's a fan, but isn't dependent on it for sleeping or comfort.

At night, the kids spend time upstairs playing before bed.  Penelope usually joins them, and they teach her things.  They taught her to say "Six".  And then they'll ask her any question like, "What is your favorite number?"  Six.  "How many fingers am I holding up?"  Six.

At Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law said, "I think I just heard Penelope count to six!"  I sort of shrugged.  If she did, she didn't learn it from me.  Isn't that what school is for?!  But, in fact, she is counting pretty well thanks to her siblings.

She's a master climber...our stairs, the couch, her little slide.  Her vocabulary grows daily, but the words I love hearing the most are Begbie, D'arcy, Maddie (aka Maggie), Breakfast, Stinky, Hello,  Thank You, and Mama.  The other day, I took something away from her and told her it was yucky.  She looked at me with a scrunched up face and yelled, "NO YUCKIE"!  I laughed out loud.

My sister and brother both have small babies, and she is pretty enamored by them.  I keep thinking how great a big sister she would be.  But that role isn't in the cards for her.  She's our baby even if her babyhood is fleeting.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Welcome to the family.

I thought today was the appropriate day to break my cycle of procrastination and publish this post about my new niece.

Towards the end of August, my brother called me.  My phone is typically on silent or on it's last bit of juice.  So, the call rolled to voicemail and Kyle asked me to call him when I got a moment.  I plugged my phone in and rang him up, fully expecting him to talk about some detail for an upcoming playdate.

The minute he said hello, my heart started beating a little faster.  He and his wife have been waiting for an adoption referral for over a year.  They have a little boy, Rogi, who they brought home from Ethiopia in 2011.  This process has been a bit different, though, because they are adopting domestically.

Kyle told me that they had just received a call for a little girl only a week old who was in the NICU at St. Francis and that after thought and prayer, they were going to accept the referral.  They expected to bring her home within the week.

The next day, I was invited to come and meet my new, very sweet niece, Katie Abigail.  She was so little, a full two plus pounds smaller than any of my newborns.  But, she had loads of soft, brown hair.

I'm so happy to have her in our family, but late that night as I was telling Stephen about my visit, I cried for her.  You know, I went to Ethiopia with Emily to pick Rogi up.  By that point, Rogi was big and chunky and nine months separated him from the moment his birth mother walked away.  But here was newborn, little Katie, and the whole of her situation just felt really fresh and raw.  So I cried for all she was losing, and for all the hard things she had experienced in her few days.  But I also cried for what she was gaining, a family that will wholeheartedly cherish her life.

Funny little side story.  Katie has Downs Syndrome.  Kyle was quickly connected with a lady who attends his church who also has two kids with Downs.  Kyle shared a little about Katie, and Tara was surprised to realize that she already knew about this baby.  A friend of Tara's also had a baby in St. Francis NICU, saw that this baby was going to be placed for adoption, and asked Tara to pray for her.
Kyle was telling me about Tara and this little story and he asked, "I saw you were friends with Tara on Facebook.  How do you know her?"  Tara and I both attended the same church in years past.  I had just suggested her to speak at our MOPS group on how we can support mom's with special needs kids.  I also realized that I knew the lady, Cyndy, who's baby was in the NICU.

These little coincidences are significant to me.  I just have a sense that baby Katie was surrounded by friends early on.  She was being cared about even before Kyle and Emily were notified she existed.

I've got to brag on my brother and his wife for a minute.  The adoption agency thought about them specifically when Katie's case came up.  They hadn't set out to adopt a baby with Downs Syndrome.  They just wanted another baby to love, care for, and raise.  A baby to fill their home and their hearts, and they were able to recognize that Katie's Downs Syndrome didn't disqualify her from being that baby.

I don't want to romanticize their decision too much.  Adoption is hard and hard work.  Tara spoke at our MOPS meeting a couple of weeks ago, and she made it clear that parents with special needs kids aren't super parents.  They'll probably have doubts and plenty of discouraging days.  They'll need lots of encouragement and support.  But...I'm super proud of them for being willing to do this hard, valuable work and for holding the crazy belief that the their life will be better for it.

Today, they hauled their sick family down to the courtroom to make it official.  So now she is legally Katie Abigail Clark.  Welcome to the family.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Julian is eight!

Julian turned eight.  One day a few months ago, he told me that he wanted to be seven and free forever.  He seemed pretty excited about his birthday and turning eight so I would guess that he would revise his life motto to be
  Eight + Free

Freedom to Julian is being able to play video games whenever he wants, as long as he wants.  By that definition, he is definitely not free now.  At this point, he has no plans to marry.  That would hinder his ability to do what he wants.  I suggested he find a lady who likes video games.  He's thinking about it. 

Of course, my hope is that he figures out what real freedom looks like.  

His birthday snuck up on me this year.  Do I say that about all my kids birthdays?  Probably.  On the second day of October, I looked at a friend and sort of gasped.  "It's October already, isn't it?"  It was.  I was headed to a conference in Louisville with a friend for the weekend, and I realized I had yet to plan anything for his day.  

But by Tuesday, I had arranged for Julian's good friend Leo to join us at Monkey Joe's in the morning.  With the help of Schroeder, I purchased a LEGO set that was sitting on his bed when he awoke.  I paid extra for "The Brick Bible" to be delivered in one day so it arrived on the afternoon of his birthday, and I made a cake for dessert and invited his Grammy and Poppy over to celebrate.  He seemed to feel special and he was completely in the dark in regards to my procrastination.

Stephen woke him up early for his birthday breakfast at City Cafe.  Birthday breakfasts with dad are a tradition Stephen started all on his own.  That makes me smile.

Julian spent several days reading his New Testament Brick Bible.  Basically, a man created the scenes from the bible with LEGO figures, took photos, and created a comic book like Bible.  The wording isn't altered for children which I like.  Julian kept coming up to me throughout the week saying things like, "Mom, I just read one of the parables we did at church.  The one about the great banquet."  "Mom, Jesus said that if you know me you know the Father.  I know what he meant by this."

Our faith is important to Stephen and I, and we want to share it with Julian.  I don't want to shove it down his throat or manipulate him into a empty decision, but I do want him to have exposure to Jesus' teachings and if LEGOs help it come alive to him, I'm all for it.

Immediately following his completion of the New Testament Brick Bible, D'arcy convinced him to begin reading the first Harry Potter.  Just thought I should mention that.

D'arcy has always plodded through novels at a amazingly slow pace, but Julian is flying through chapters.  I told him his teacher would be proud of his reading prowess.  He shrugs because he is keeping any regard he has for pleasing adults on the down low.

I told Stephen that I was writing this blog and asked him what he thought about when he thought of Julian.  He mentioned his dance moves.  Which are looking like this these days.

A video posted by Melissa Williams (@melissa612) on

Julian ended up having to use some of his birthday money to buy his sister a new Rubix cube because in a moment of foolishness, he threw it down the stairs and it busted into a hundred pieces.  Foolishness happens often in this house.

But thankfully so do hugs.  Julian gives good hugs.  He'll come wrap his arms around you and then hang from you so you'll be forced to squeeze hard and pick him up.  I know that sounds horrible...maybe you just have to be his mom.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Here are the Fally Felkers.

I've been blessed with a couple of great girlfriends in this season of my life, and Christie is one of them.  She and her family are dear to me.  She asked me to take some photos of her family.  I sent her to the website where I go to get  Christie was cool enough to give me the freedom to attempt a really candid, low key session.  They dressed warm and hung out in the pretty awesome yard doing their favorite fall family activities.  If I were to get my family photos done, (which I must confess minus pictures friends have taken we haven't ever really done), this would be the type of session I would want....hanging out in our house or neighborhood.  Anyway, I liked these photos so much, I thought I would break some of my blog silence to post them.  

This post is a little of this (Schroeder and Kindergarten) and a little of that (Washington DC).

Some days, I spend a lot of mental energy fighting the desire to feel sad.  Slowly, but surely, I'm losing my kids to a bigger version of themselves.  A moment passes so quickly and I can't bottle it up for later.  But, man, I want to be present in the moment instead of being sad about the inevitability of losing it.  It's a sentiment I've shared before.

Schroeder has had some serious trouble adjusting to kindergarten.  It took me by surprise.  He's been five for half a year, and he went to preschool without much problem.  And, plus, I've sent two other kids to school with little difficulty.  But, yeah, all these kids are a little different.  They keep me humble, and they keep me on my toes.  

There are a couple things going on.  It's a long day for the dude.  Nope, he doesn't need a nap, he doesn't seem to be physically tired.  He just has a hard time staying focused all day.  He's used to having loads of free play time where he decides what's interesting.  He seems to like school, but there are moments when his interest is lost and he decides to make it more interesting by...destroying stuff.  Cutting up other kids' papers and knocking over their block structures.  And spitting and throwing stuff out the bus window.  When there is nothing to destroy, you might find him running around the room or rolling on the bus floor.  

Oh, and plus, he's just super impulsive.  He comes by it honestly.  Please contact my poor college roommate, Kristin Bedi, to discover the many impulsive, strange behaviors I exhibited as a twenty year old.  For example, once while we were jogging, it occurred to me that it would be funny if I blew my snot out my nose onto her.  So, without thinking again, I did it, and she was pretty disgusted.  
Thankfully, somewhere about year twenty-eight, I started to reign in some of my impulsive actions.  We are working with Schroeder to get a handle on it before that birthday rolls around.  And, I'm really hopeful because despite the principal's questioning his kindergarten readiness, I think Schroeder is working hard.  Yesterday, he said with lots of hope and excitement, "Mom, I'm going to school tomorrow and I'm not going to get any think sheets.  I'm not going to roll on the bus floor, and the principal isn't going to call you."  

And I wanted to bottle that little blue eyed, dimpled five year old boy up.  

But, I can't, and instead I'm searching for a moment to make me happy to remember.  I landed on memories of our trip to Washington DC over spring break that I neglected to blog about.  

We took D'arcy and Julian to Washington DC for a long weekend in March.  I remember that Julian told me on the plane ride over that he was going to miss "the new five year old in our house".  They are buds, and Schroeder will be invited on our next big kid trip.  I remember Julian being enthralled by the plane ride like it was his first one.  I had forgotten that kids don't remember what they did at three.  

I remember Julian being adamant that we go to Mount Vernon, and walking around in a lovely spring rain.  D'arcy took about a hundred bad photos with my phone.  

I remember walking about twelve miles from Arlington Cemetery to Lincoln Memorial to the MLK Jr memorial to the White House.  At some point, the kids started complaining (D'arcy started crying) so after lunch, we splurged and spent ten dollars on an Uber to take us back to our car.  Stephen loves taking Uber cars.  I prefer taking public transit, the transit of the people.  My opinion is better, but I compromise when I have to.

I love our little opportunities to pretend that we have a family of four.  What would life be like if we had stopped with a girl and a boy?  We rented this tiny little car, and we all fit!  It was fun, but I'm glad it's just pretend.  We all are.

(Update on Schroeder.  The day after I blogged this but did not post it, his principal took me aside when I picked up for LEGO club to have a mini celebration.  The bus driver came into her office to tell her how much Schroeder's behavior had improved.  And then, the next day, Schroeder had a substitute bus driver, and when she dropped the kids off she said, "That little one was all over the place."  Sigh.)

(So, I was going to put photos from our trip up, but my external hard drive is giving me grief.  So I'm putting up photos from my Instagram.)