June 20, 2012

Three Months as a Family of Five

March 12, 2012

Three months.  Three months.  I'm letting that sink in.  Has it really been three months already?  Has it only been three months?  I find myself going back and forth like this, shocked that we have known her for such a short time and yet somedays I'm left wondering how long it will take before I'm not exhausted all the time...or maybe that's just what comes with being 40 and having three young children in the home.  

Aside from being tired, things are going well.  Autumn is doing great.  She is such a blessing to us, even though her brothers may not agree with that right now or until adulthood.  She's understanding a lot of English and speaking it more everyday.  When I say a word in Chinese she will often correct me and say it in English.  It's still a little difficult to understand her, however, because she leaves the ending consonant off of every word and will sometimes just improvise with sounds.  She often screams, "Aaaaaaaaaa!" Which, I believe, and correct me if I'm wrong, is Chinese for "You misunderstood me, you bozo!"

She began swim lessons this week.  Every kid was required to jump into the pool (10 feet deep) to a total stranger on their first day of lessons, two times.  If you're interested in traumatizing your children like we have, check out Splash Aquatics.  In spite of the intensity, she enjoyed it and didn't cry at all, which is unusual because sitting along the side of the pool you'd think the children were being tortured based on the screaming and wailing coming up out of the water.  With that said, it's only taken each of my kids three days to learn to swim. They may be scarred for life and blame their future marital problems on the fact that mom put them through the American version of water torture, but at least they can swim, and all for the low price of $65 per kid.

Just ignore the sheer terror on Josiah's face.

Autumn is regularly mistaken for a boy, so we've been trying to grow her hair out, but the back hasn't gotten any longer in three months.  At least its a cute cut.  I guess we'll just keep putting her in pink and more pink because she refuses to wear any of the thousands of hair accessories we've inherited.

One particularly warm night, I sat with Autumn as she wrestled to fall asleep.  I was absorbed in a book when suddenly I heard a tearing noise, somewhat like Velcro being undone.  In the dusk I saw an object fly over the railing of her crib like a giant beanbag flung at a baggo board.  It was her Pull-up.  Full.  Apparently, it was hot and full.  We had just changed her before bed.  What was the deal?  So, maybe she ate a quarter of a very large watermelon that evening.  And maybe I forgot that watermelons are made up of 92% water.  And just maybe it was about 80 degrees in her room with no wind because I was too cheap to turn on the air.  Don't worry, I learned my lesson.  Now we give her watermelon only before 5 pm and we use the A/C on hot nights.  But unfortunately, my lesson was learned too late.  A trend was started.  She does the Pull-up fling almost every night now, causing her to wake up whining in a pool of pee, forcing me to do daily laundry.  I'll probably just go buy more crib sheets to support her Pull-up flinging habit.

She continues to get into EVERYTHING.  She's learned to open locks and regularly uses chairs to get to higher places.  We took the little tea table chairs out of her room, so at least she can't access anything upstairs.  We're running out of places to store things where she can't get to them.  

She has no fears and still puts everything in her mouth.  I apply at least three Band-Aids per week to some part of her body even with my "there must be blood" requirement.  A few days ago I caught her chewing on a fish oil vitamin.  Gross.  Even worse, is she seemed to be enjoying it.  

I'm slowly getting more accustomed to having three children.  I've become more lax, and even more laid back.  When Sheehan was three I made sure he was well groomed, I fretted over getting him enough fruits and vegetables, I matched all his clothes, and kept all the game pieces with the appropriate game.   With the introduction of each new child that high level of parenting has disintegrated to something like, "Oh, you wanna take up chain-smoking?  That's interesting.  Well, lemme get a 5-spot and we'll head on down to The Smoke Stack for a pack of Marlboros.

We've seen a lot of progress with the boys over the past month.  They are beginning to act like typical siblings - playing together and terrorizing their sister: sitting on her, taking her toys (just for fun), and sticking their finger up her nose - in a store no less - simply to antagonize (I can think of less gross ways to antagonize).  But, this is great progress because a month ago there was no playing, no terrorizing, just complaining and heart break.  

A few weeks ago I caught Sheehan protecting Autumn from a 4 year old bully at the playground.  He told him to stop then kicked the little boy in the eye.  On the same day, there was another bully on the playground.  He blocked the entrance to the slide so there was a line four kids deep waiting to get on.  He wouldn't budge.  As Autumn was climbing up the ladder the kid sized her up and snarled, "is she a baaaay-bee?"

I countered the little potato chip on his shoulder with the cow chip on my own.  "She's three!  How old are you (punk)?"

As haughty as a teenager, he replied, "I'm two."  I sneered and thought, Yeah, that's right you're two, you little twerp, she's older than you and she's tough and she'll take you down.  Look at her.  She's completely ignoring you because you're so nominal to her.  That's right...That's right...Tough guy.

Note:  For anyone preparing to adopt a child just assume that the first two point five months will be very, very, very challenging.  Hey, but then it's all fun and games after that - kind of.  Oh, but if it's your first child ever, I'd give it six months.

In our attempts to encourage better relationships in the family we did something that wouldn't be considered one of our smartest family moves.  We gave Sheehan the title of "Captain of the Kids".  Our intention was to encourage him to be more responsible and to lead and protect his siblings.  We had thought it through and talked it over...

"Do you think the title Captain or Dictator would be better?"
"Oh, definitely Captain.  Although Dictator does have a nice macho ring to it."
"Yeah, but Captain sounds so nautical, and since he's a good swimmer and all..."
"Yeah, you're right.  Definitely Captain." 

Needless to say, it backfired.

Josiah has quickly adjusted to his spot as the middle child.  Like a little Jan Brady, last week I caught him wearing a wig and rubbing lemons on his face.  He's drowned out by his older brother who demands attention and his younger sister who cries for it.  He's particularly easygoing and doesn't always express his needs audibly; Steve sent him to the stool last week for a time out and accidentally left him there for 45 minutes or three days or something like that.

Overall, I am so proud of the boys on the restraint they have, more often than not, exhibited when it comes to putting up with a little sister that messes with their things, is difficult to understand, and bangs on their backs with her fist when she doesn't get her way (she's so stinkin' cute!).  Things are coming together and we are getting into a groove with a new normal.  The house is noisy, but it's a nice noisy...most of the time anyway.  Autumn is very funny and makes us laugh everyday.  And I enjoy seeing her wake up with a big smile on her face every morning as she runs into my arms.  A true blessing.
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June 12, 2012

New Blog Title?

I've been toying with the idea of changing the title of my blog.  I know, I know...why change it when Welcome to the HOG (the Hall Blog) rolls off the tongue so easily? Well, I don't know if I'll actually change it, but if and/or when I do I'd like to be prepared, so I scribbled a few ideas down.  Let me know what you think.

1. Me and My Family:  Full of...Wit
2. Family Ties...Up Their Kids So They Can Get Some Peace and Quiet
3. I Hate Angry Birds...and Other Things My Kids (and Husband) Are Obsessed With
4. A Family Affair (Man, That Mrs. Beasely was One Ugly Doll)
5. Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine with My Morning Quiet Time
6. Happiness Is A Warm Puppy...and Low Expectations
7. Eight Is Enough...Actually, So Is Three
8. Dang, Which One of You Just Passed Gas?...Or Was That Me?
9. Just Let It Go and Love...and Then Go In Your Bedroom and Punch the Wall

I couldn't come up with a clean 10.  Any suggestions?  If you had a blog what would you call it?
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June 06, 2012

Autumn's First Wedding

We took Autumn to her first wedding a few weekends ago.  My friend Lauren was getting married in Indianapolis.  The wedding was outside at a beautiful nursery with creeks and ponds and lots of flowers on display.  It was a hot day, like 88 or 188 or something like that.  

We arrived about 15 minutes before the start of the ceremony and lobbied for the box seats (in the shade), but my kid's sweaty heads and somber faces weren't convincing enough to make the groom's family move.  

We dragged ourselves back about five rows to the Hades seats (appropriately named by us because they were somewhere in close proximity to the white hot gaseous fire-spitting blazes of the sun).  Lauren's invitation said to dress for the weather, but I didn't think it was appropriate to wear our bathing suits.  

Steve and I took turns walking the kids over to the shade about 15 feet away from our seats (actually walking to the shade was more for Steve and I and if I'm really honest, more for myself because Steve only took one turn).  The couple sitting in front of us offered the kids Tic-tacs.  The man held out a handful and I told the kids to each take one.  The boys each took one, and then Autumn took the remaining eight and threw them in her mouth.  The couple laughed and said they had a three-year old at home...AT HOME!

The seating of the grandparents started and I looked down to see J-Man laying in the grass at my feet.  He was flat out with his arms behind his head like he was sunbathing or taking a nap.  I whispered for him to get up and sit in the chair, but my wide eyes had a more threatening tone. 

He got back to his chair as Autumn began wandering back to the Tic-tac couple. She reached her arm between the man and woman, holding her palm up, implying she was ready for a second handful.  I pulled her arm back gently and tried to explain that they were all gone, which was a big fat lie because she could see them as clear as day, but I didn't know how to say, "you can't have anymore," in Chinese, I could only say, "all gone."  She made three more Tic-tac attempts before the ceremony was over, and one time I caught both Autumn and J-Man, on separate occasions, looming in the wife's purse that was wide open showing off the Tic-tacs.  They each leaned in to take some before I grabbed their arms.

Holy crap it's hot! ... can I get a Tic-Tac?

The bride was ready to enter, so everyone was asked to stand.  Both boys started complaining loudly that they couldn't see anything, even though Lauren was coming in through the side, a perfect view from our seats.  As I saw other children, sweetly sitting on their mother's laps or in chairs next to their parents I started to wonder what kind of manners classes they were sending their kids to and how in the heck did I miss out on them.  Because clearly, the homeschooling version of Manners 101 is significantly lacking.

With our seats in the sun with no breeze, the temperature, at that point, was something like 212 degrees.  I think I saw bubbles rising in my bottled water.  But this wasn't the hottest wedding we'd been to by any stretch.  In 2007, my cousin and Steve's cousin each had weddings in separate states on the same day.  Steve and I split up so we could each represent.  I took Sheehan with me.  It was over 100 degrees for both weddings, one in Minnesota, the other in Virginia (we still try to convince each other that the wedding we each attended was the hotter one).  Sheehan was only two and he stripped off all his clothes down to his diaper in the middle of the ceremony.  Classy.

After the bride was given away we were asked to take our seats.  I began to sit down and heard a sudden yelp a few feet away.  I looked over and Steve was jumping up out of his seat.  Apparently Autumn moved her water bottle to Steve's chair while we were standing.  It was one of those small squatty bottles and was standing upright...until it met Steve's rear end.  Thankfully, only the eight rows behind him noticed.

Steve explaining to Autumn why a wedding is 
not the time or place for a proctology exam.

The ceremony was hot and beautiful.  Afterwards, we walked through the gardens to the tent for the reception.  They had different flavored popcorn as appetizers, which I thought was really creative, and kid-friendly to boot.  (Although, you could tell which flavor Sheehan chose because his white shirt was streaked all over with orange fingerprints.  We're still working on that whole napkin thing.  Who needs a napkin when you've got a shirt?  Same goes for a tissue.)

As we waited for the bridal party to arrive after pictures we took the kids out to the creek to look around and cool off.  J-Man began moving large rocks around from a display to build a dam.  We explained to him that the rocks were part of the landscape display and shouldn't be moved.  You'd think that we never get out of our house by the way our kids act.  I really shouldn't be surprised by their behavior - I mean, they're just kids - but I always am.  My mom still shares the story of when I was a teenager (a teenager!) and we went to a Christmas program at a church, and at the time we didn't do church, so my mom was feeling a little uncomfortable.  Well, there was a sweets table after the program with cookies and cakes and other goodies.  I got a plate and piled my cookies and cakes and truffle balls up like Mount Vesuvius.  My mom was mortified.  And if that wasn't bad enough, as we walked toward the steps to leave, with everyone watching, Mt. Vesuvius erupted and my rum balls and truffle balls rolled off the plate and bounced down the steps.  My mom couldn't get to the car fast enough.  I don't think we ever went back to that church.

By dessert, Autumn was running around like a little maniac that only had a five minute nap (which is all she had).  I suddenly hit a point where I thought, "We have to leave.  I can't do this anymore."  Steve is always - ALWAYS - the one who wants to leave anywhere first, but I've found that with three kids and one as active as Miss Autumn, I'm ready to leave a place sometimes as soon as we walk in the door.  I am perpetually exhausted.

Before we left, I found myself hanging out outside the men's bathroom like a wedding crasher (I was waiting for one of the boys) and a man came out, that I'd never seen before, appropriately dressed in wedding attire.  He looked at me like I was a wedding crasher.  Then he asked me my name.  I thought, "this guy thinks I'm a wedding crasher...and who is he anyway?...sizing me up like he wants to know what I'm doing hanging out outside the men's bathroom at a wedding.  With a little "I'm NOT a wedding crasher" chip on my shoulder, I told him my name and shook his hand.  Then he introduced himself as the Father of the Bride.  How could I not know that he was the Father of the Bride?!  He only walked Lauren down the aisle two hours prior.  He was in the Top 5 Most Important People at a Wedding, and I didn't have a clue who he was.  Plus, I had met him before at a party for Lauren a few years ago.  I backpedaled and explained that I used to work with Lauren "at the church" (which I stressed to show that I did indeed know Lauren and wasn't just some weirdo out for free popcorn), and that I had been to his house for a party, and blah, blah, blah.  I looked like I was lying, like I really was a wedding crasher.

As we were leaving, we found Lauren to say good-bye.  During the goodbye, J-Man disappeared and when we turned around to look for him he was on top of the railing of the gazebo. If we had stayed any longer, we probably would have caught him leaping from table top to table top like a gazelle.

In the parking lot, one of the women I was talking to at our table mentioned how hard it could be with three small children (she has three that are 11, 10, and 9) just from the sheer exhaustion of constant multi-tasking.  I said, "That's it!  That's exactly it!"  She said, even if all you're doing is watching them, they're all going in three different directions and you're trying to keep track of all three at the same time.  She hit the nail right on the head and what makes it even harder is that we're still transitioning with Autumn and are still learning what she may do next.  There are so many situations where we can't even predict how she's going to respond or act.  We just move forward and see what happens.  And then sit back in total exhaustion at the end because we've spent so much of that time chasing her.

Ahh...guess we won't use this one for the 2012 Christmas card
...or maybe we will.

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