This Girl

So this girl turned 9 today!
It was a lovely, low-key celebration with just the grandparents. She got Barbies and Princess Legos and girly clothes and art supplies. She is one happy girl right now.  At the moment, she's up in the girls' room working on her Ariel Lego set. 

This was the first time Gina's ever had a "real" birthday party. She counted down all month. Every. Single. Day. She wanted to be involved in every aspect of watching the cake being made (and sneaking tastes of frosting). She loved choosing her own theme (pink dolphins--yeah...of course, she couldn't pick something that already existed in stores) and blowing up balloons and putting up paper streamers. She got her chocolate cake and her homemade coconut ice cream and her Coca.  And she was surprisingly patient and calm--despite the copious amounts of processed sugar and the plethora of gifts!  At certain points, it seemed like she was really just enjoying the moment. She wasn't in a rush to move onto the next thing. She was content. She got to be the focal point for a whole lot of love, and she was content to just soak it all in.  And as her mama, my heart is happy for her. 

Last year, on this same day, I remember driving through the snow to swimming lessons with tears streaming down my face as I sang this song:

"This is a word to all the ones who feel forgotten but you are not...Oh you are not."

At that stage in our journey, she wasn't yet ours. The last thing we had heard was that CR was trying to split the kids up. We had written a letter to PANI pleading with them to keep them together and allow us to adopt them, but we hadn't heard a word back. I didn't know if they would ever be ours, but I knew that they already felt like mine. So the very thought of Gina spending her birthday in an orphanage was gut-wrenching. I wanted so badly to be able to somehow tell her that she wasn't forgotten. That she was loved. That her life mattered and that God had more for her than pain and disappointment. 

And this year, we got to tell her all of that and more. She's the girl I cried for. The girl who suddenly wasn't legally adoptable just a few short months ago. The girl we fought for. The girl we refused to leave behind.  She's the girl I dreamed about, but she's not that sad little girl with the long black ponytail kicking the dirt. Not anymore. Just like in the song..."we're alive, alive, alive in You."  She's alive. And every day, things in this transition are hard, but every day, I'm amazed at the transformation we've seen in Gina. She was the reason our first agency told us that we could never adopt these very children that God handpicked for us. They said it would be too hard. They said she and Landyn were too close in age. They more-than-implied that it would ruin our lives. 

Yet this is happening more and more regularly. A wonderful friend from church asked me awhile back for a specific prayer request. I said, "Pray for my girls' relationship."  That very week, the girls began choosing to play together for hours.  They started giggling at bedtime and making up silly songs. They started becoming friends. Now they call each other "hermana" when they're playing. I told my friend, "I don't know what you prayed, but it's working!"  She told me she was praying that The Lord would knit their hearts together like David and Jonathan. That's some powerful stuff!  Much more powerful than the condemning words of an agency committee. I'm thankful that Jesus' redemptive power trumps "conventional wisdom" and expert advice anyday!  And I'm thankful for this beautiful 9-year-old girl with pitch-black wavy hair who loves dolphins and the color pink and boots with heels and who asks to listen to the same song every time we get in the car because it's the first song she heard me play on the piano and sing when we were in Costa Rica. Happy 9th birthday, Gina MarĂ­a!  ¡Te amamos mucho!


The past 6 weeks have been such a whirlwind of newness and exhaustion and emotions and blessings that it's hard for me to find time to go to the bathroom for 60 seconds without someone yelling my name--let alone find a solid 30 minutes to blog anything.  I know in a year that a lot of these experiences--both the sweet ones and the ones that give me gray hairs--will seem pretty vague and distant.  Like another life entirely.  And in some ways, we long for that day!  But at the same time, I don't want to forget these firsts. These are the only firsts we get. 

With our busy homeschool schedule, I'm running ragged from the time I get up until bedtime almost every day.  (Man, we had it easy with our first kids!)   And it's really easy for me to always be thinking and planning and prepping for the next thing--the next lesson, the next meal, my next cold cup of coffee...  With a neverending laundry pile, dirty dishes everywhere that I swear I literally just washed, and every blessed pillow from every blessed room of the house on the floor, it's hard to take even a split second to stop and actually see what's going on in our home underneath the physical mess (and the intellectual mess that is our too-cozy school room).  So I've been trying to breathe a little each day and realize how amazing all 5 of our kids are.  In fewer than 3 months, they have gone from strangers to siblings.  And I don't mean just in name.  Legit siblings.  Siblings who giggle and share and play weird pretend games that you'd never play in public and fight and apologize and get into trouble together.  Real siblings.  And people, sibling integration is not for the faint of heart!  But they've somehow done what we expected them to take years to do in a few short months!

So here are a few little snapshots of things we get to see and experience each day ( the beautiful, the weird, the downright ugly and everything in-between):

When I get up in the morning, almost always before I get to drink my coffee, there are 2 little boys in cozy jammies who are nearly always the first ones awake.  One is a snuggler and always has been since the day he was born, and I hope he nevers outgrows it.  The other is usually as cranky as a bear, but he's wicked I guess it evens out.

Then, down comes my first girl, who has grown up so much (both physically and emotionally) over the past few months.  Literally.  How did she get to be so tall?  She is my little chef, and she has taken to helping me cook and prep meals, which saves little shreds of my sanity every day!  She has become a sweet sister to her littlest brother, and he has come to adore her.  He calls her "Landeeeeee."  :)  She also speaks Spanish so fluently now that she translated an entire Sunday school class for her sister...on the fly and without being asked.  We've actually had to ask her to speak English...because with her around, our Ticos have no reason to learn English!

Next, my oldest girl stomps...or slides...or tiptoes...or creeps...or tumbles down the steps to join us.  I never know exactly how she's going to enter the room, but thankfully her emotions are now more predictable than her entrances.  She just has a flair for the dramatic!  Sometimes her over-the-top antics make me crazy...But when I look at her and think about all she has worked through in the past 3 months, I'm awestruck.  She is the reason our first agency wouldn't let us adopt these kids.  She was a wild card.  And she terrified us those first weeks, but she is not at all who she was.  Redemption is doing its work in this one, and it's pretty glorious to behold.

Then, our oldest trudges down the steps with some serious bedhead.  He insists on eating peanut butter and jelly as many times a day as I'll let him.  He is obsessed with Temple Run Oz...and all things Oz, really.  Don't worry.  It'll be something different next week!  That's just how he rolls.  He has struggled the most lately, and he was the one everyone said was calm and cooperative and obedient.  One psychologist in CR even told us he would "fade into the background" if we weren't careful!  Hahahahaha  Not happening.  But this kid is so hungry for the things of God.  I'm excited to see what God does with his little life.

Here's a random snapshot for y'all:  Toothpaste.  Everywhere.  All over the sink.  On the door.  On the walls in the hallway.  On the handtowel.  On David's face.  And his shirt.  I officially hate toothpaste now.

And another: Asher and David have the tendency to get every single toy in the boys' room out and spread them out on the floor....of every room in our little house.  God help me.  I'm focusing each day on not yelling.  It's hard when I've stepped on the same Lego 3 times...and I've asked someone to pick it up 7 times. (And I'm praying for a bigger house with a playroom for all this junk!)

It's all hard.  But it's not as hard as it was a month ago.  We have a decent routine down.  School is flowing well.  I'm having to use less and less Spanish.  Gina and Wagner are starting to read and speak in English.  David is at least only breaking a few things a week. (He has a destructive streak...I'm glad the Lord made him cute.)  Our Ticos are learning the concept of "quiet play."  And Landyn and Asher have taught them how to pretend!  The 5 of them play some pretty weird games where they all pretend to be random animals who are teenagers.  But hey, they're playing TOGETHER!  They squabble over dumb stuff, but it's normal sibling stuff!  Bedtime isn't horrible anymore...most of the time.  We have a lot fewer tears overall.  (Although I made someone cry twice today.)  And we have a lot more random singing, which I consider a good sign (even when it's super annoying).

Overall, we are still working through the hardest months.  Some conversations about their first mom have come up, and overall, they've handled it fairly well.  I know those memories have to be painful for them.  Sometimes, they seem so well-adjusted that it's easy to forget what they've endured.  And other times, it's impossible to forget.

We're still really exhausted.  All.  The.  Time.  But I think that's par for the course at this stage.  Keep praying for us!