a family of five in fifteen months

A couple days ago, Papa Bear and I were discussing how to pack for our trip to IN and PA (we leave this afternoon). We were trying to figure out how many items we would be carrying with us on the plane (two diaper bags and one carseat for Baby Bear), how many items would be checked at the front desk (the remaining two carseats and two suitcases), the double-stroller (checked at the gate), and baby carriers (the Ergo for Fuzzy Bear and the Ktan for Itty Bitty Bear).

Then Papa Bear made an interesting comment.

“We just have to realize that from now on, we are traveling as a family of five, not a family of two adults and one infant.”

So, of course, I responded, “Wow, we went from a family of two to a family of five in about 15 months.”


We had the privilege of attending several wonderful events on Saturday.

AM: Papa Bear took Baby Bear to the zoo to play in the water and see the hippo. I stayed home with the smallest bears to get some laundry done and other such things.

Afternoon: we attended the wedding of a lovely couple from our church.

PM: Our agency has started to offer free baby-sitting evenings once a month. So Papa Bear and I dropped off the Bears and headed out to get some school clothes shopping done, and eat some dinner together.

At the end of it, I asked Thomas if he felt like our lives were absolutely crazy because of having three small Bears. We agreed that life was much fuller, much busier, and could tip into crazy very quickly, but that it was all manageable.


I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s strength, and how He gives it to us.

Prayer: I can’t count how many times has motherhood brought me to my knees, in wonder and in fear.

Fellowship: Being with other Christians who support what we do, and love on us whenever they get the chance has been an incredibles encouragement. I’m not the only one loving my Bears, and I can rely on God to continue to put loving people in my path.

Worship: Hearing the Word of God preached, singing hymns, praying together, studying the Word together has reinforced a sense of both my smallness in a large community all with individual needs, and the incredible sacrifice Christ made to give salvation, redemption, and a body of believers like this.


Perhaps we are a little crazy for this. And, yes, there are MANY times A DAY when I see my own pride, anger, and selfishness all too clearly. But, this sort of crazy is our kind of crazy.

“Nothing”: The KeyWord in Disney’s Live-Action Cinderella

Thomas left for Dallas this afternoon. He will return this Friday or Saturday, so I am facing five or six nights without him, and very much with babies. Whenever I have a long evening alone at home, I prefer to listen to books on tape, podcasts, or put on a movie, so I have noise in the background as I do housework or paperwork. Once 9:00 hits, however, I can’t risk waking up the Bears with a podcast or an audiobook that I carry around with me. So, movies have been my go-to. I set up my laptop in the dining room with a good movie, and get to work. It keeps the house from becoming too quiet, and gives me something to think about as I move about the house.

So, this post will be more academic than update. Feel free to skip if you wish.


 

The story of Cinderella stretches across cultures, times, and languages. China, France, England, Native Americans, Africans, almost any culture that has a tradition of legend tells at least one story of a young person fallen on hard times with no family or friends to turn to, to be saved (often because of persistent virtue through their difficulties) and live happily ever after. In the West, Disney’s animated classic is probably the source for the most universal images of the story, from the blue ball-gown, to the magical carriage, and the glass slipper.

Disney’s more recent adaptation added so much depth to the characters, while harkening back to the older versions of the tale.

These details, though fascinating, are insignificant compared to a single word: “nothing”.

Each character must come to grips with their understanding of “nothing”. Ella’s father, who dies towards the beginning of the movie, has very few scenes of happiness. After Ella’s mother dies, the narrator describes grief differently for Ella and her father. For Ella, her grief “turns to memory” and happy memories at that. Her father, however, is described as “much changed”. He seeks a second marriage as a desperate attempt at one more chance for happiness. He cannot face a life without his beloved wife. He cannot face the “nothing” of grief. In that second marriage, he maintains an abundance of kindness, but cannot muster up the courage to be a good father and a loving husband.

Towards the end of the movie, Lady Tremaine admits that she treats Ella cruelly because Ella is “young” and “innocent”. The viewer is left to understand that Lady Tremaine considers herself and her own story to be worthless. Afterall, she married once for love, and once for advantage, and neither succeeded in the end. Lady Tremaine speaks of her daughters as useless housewares, wishing simply to accomplish “advantageous marriages” for them, since they are beautiful but stupid. She is left better, jaded, and flees the kingdom. She has possessed courage to ambitiously seek her desires, but does not have the courage to be kind.

The Grand Duke sees love, honesty, kindness, and integrity as “nothing” in comparison to the advantages other kingdoms can offer. When the Prince asks why he must marry a prince rather than a “good honest country girl”, the Grand Duke responds with a biting, almost sarcastic question in return: “How many divisions will this good honest country girl bring? How will she make our kingdom stronger? We are a small kingdom among great nations.” His focus is ever on the advantage. He plays life as a giant chessboard, and he is a master of the game, if only the pawns would actually follow his wishes. When the prince insists on searching for the mystery princess of the ball, the Captain of the Guard encourages the young monarch to “take heart”. The Grand Duke responds quickly, “on the contrary, lose heart and gain wisdom!”. When the Prince demands a search still be made, the Grand Duke insists that the Prince must marry the Grand Duke’s choice of princess if the mystery girl cannot be found. Like Lady Tremaine, the Grand Duke has great courage to pursue his goals, but no kindness. In fact, kindness, goodness, virtue, are “nothing” if they can only be found in country girls.

But not every character faces “nothing” with desperation or ambition. Ella’s mother, when facing death, tells her beloved daughter that there is magic in “courage” and “kindness”. She does not falter to admit that death is coming, that Ella will forever have a hole in her life from an absent mother. But she does not tell Ella to “live her dreams”, or some abstract goal. Instead, Ella’s mother gives the child the keys to a life of love and service for others.

The King also understands the importance of kindness and courage in the face of death. After the ball, the king encourages his son to “find the girl they’re all talking about: the one who loses her shoes”. He also commands his son to not marry for advantage, but to “be his own man”.


 

Finally, Ella. This, I’m afraid will require a second post, as this one has already become very long. So, I will say goodnight for now.

Three Little Bears Went Out One Day…

… when three adults were present to accompany them.

Yes, it’s official. We now have three little bears, and, even scarier, I’m a go-it-alone Mama Bear till Thursday night or Friday morning this week, and then again most of next week.

As I type, Bitty Bear (the new one) is sleeping in the travel bassinet in the living room. She’s probably tired out from waking up a few times in the middle of the night and insisting on eating only a couple ounces at a time.

Fuzzy Bear (the newly-inducted-middle-child) moans inconsolably in his crib. He has been tiring himself out more easily the past two weeks, but fights sleep with all his impressive force of will. He has also decided that he ought to be carried everywhere he could possibly desire. This means that crawling is not a priority for him: instead, he just lies on the floor and screams at me for whatever object/food/entertainment/comfort. Some of this is his tiredness speaking, and a lot of it is him adjusting to not being the adorable baby any more.

Baby Bear has his probably-empty-by-now cup of milk and is banging it against the walls of his crib. His Grammie brought a whole bunch of new books (Baby Lit versions of The Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland, Moby Dick, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Secret Garden, etc.), and “reading” these to his Owl is his new favorite naptime activity. Papa Bear and I continue to be thrilled that at least one of the Bears has already latched on to reading. In fact, the only way to get Baby Bear to cuddle is to read with him. Fuzzy Bear is starting to latch on to the whole book idea, too. Unfortunately, the word “latch” can also be translated as “chew”, but we are working on that one.

Papa Bear is up at UD again. He has his Greek Final Exam tomorrow. We are trying to figure out if he should continue with Greek this semester. We are currently weighing the options: he may never get to study Greek again under such excellent teachers, and he could be very marketable as a Classics and Humanities Teacher rather than a Latin and Humanities Teacher. But, he knows what true mastery of a foreign language looks like (since he teaches a foreign language) and that true mastery requires dedicated time and effort, which he may not have much of in the coming year.

As Mama Bear, I am trying to prepare for the coming year, with part-time teaching every school day, and part-time day-care for the little Bears while I teach. We are hoping that adoptions will start coming along in the late fall, or Spring. Till then, we wait, hope, and pray.

More posts forth-coming, especially about our more recent adventures.

P.S. Just got permission to travel at the end of the month with Bitty Bear! Hurray!

Soli Deo Gloria

Bitty Bear or Chickadee?

We officially have our third placement! I currently can’t decide which nickname fits her best: Bitty Bear (since she is Baby Bear’s younger sibling, it seemed appropriate she share similar starting sounds) or Chickadee (because I can tell she is super feisty, and my super feisty Aunt always called her nieces and daughters that when we got super feisty). I figure I’ll give her a few days to grow into one. 😉

My MIL is currently visiting with us, and parenting three littles becomes much less daunting with three adults running around after them.

Thomas and his mom are both here until the fourth of July. Then, Independence Day shall truly be a test celebration of just how Independent I can be with three littles. God is good, though, and has already surrounded us with so much support.

Fuzzy Bear remains intensely curious about this newest addition to the family, and we have to monitor him carefully to make sure he doesn’t take his curiosity out on her face. Baby Bear loves to walk up and touch her clothes and try to steal her pacifier. She seems rather oblivious to their presence, but is not all too thrilled with the noise level they are capable of.

Papa Bear is thrilled to have a little girl, and she smiles most easily for him. Mama Bear loves having a little girl to dress up, and I can’t wait to see all the ways she resembles her older brother (she moves her fingers just like he did!).

More to come later. Thanks for the prayers!

Of Mice and Bears?

Once upon a time, I lived for three months in Washington, DC as an intern for FRC. Thomas spent half of that time in Europe, and the other half in PA (his homestate) and NY (his parents’ homestate). Those three months was the starting point for this blog. I had finished my junior year of college, and had been dating this amazing, brilliant young man… but, we weren’t sure we were going to get married. So, we decided to take the summer, since we were going to be so far apart anyways, to step back and think through what we wanted with our lives.

Within days of moving out to DC, my two roommates asked me, “So, when are you going to marry Thomas?”

I was a bit floored, actually. I mean, we were taking some time away. Very MUCH away. He had left for Turkey three weeks earlier, and I hadn’t heard from him at all, and I knew I wouldn’t hear from him for another couple weeks. That’s not to say I didn’t want to marry him. I was pretty sure I did very much WANT to marry him. But I wasn’t sure we were right for each other. I mean, marriage is a huge decision. What if I was wrong?

“Well, we aren’t really sure we are going to get married, actually…”

“But he’s the one person that appears in almost every conversation you are part of. You obviously really enjoy each other’s company, you value his opinion, and you have a ton in common. What will you do if you don’t marry him?”

Well, that settled that. The next time I saw him, on July 4th weekend when he came down to visit me, I asked him, while sitting on the West Lawn of the Capital Building listening to the orchestra warm up for their Independence Day concert…

“So, are we getting married or aren’t we?”

His answer?

“Yep, I think so. Are you ok with that?”

“Yep!”

And, we moved on with our weekend.

So, about the title of this post. Soon after having this conversation, I went up to PA to visit him and his family for a long weekend. I titled my post about that weekend away, “A Town Mouse and a Country Mouse”. Thomas was raised in the country, and I was raised in suburbia, so the title was pretty appropriate.

Well, almost 6 years later, and that Country Mouse is now my Papa Bear. He is currently in Dallas, learning Greek. We will probably continue to talk every evening, as he tells me all about this gorgeous language that I have loved since high school, and that he is loving already (and FINALLY!). I know it isn’t Father’s Day yet, but after a few nights of him being gone, and knowing that we will see each other in shifts throughout the summer, really got me thinking. Especially after seeing the little Bears’ reaction to hearing his voice over the phone, or seeing his face on the computer as we facetime. I came so close to not having the past 6 years. I’m so glad God had a different plan.

So, to all my military friends, traveling spouse friends, missionary friends, etc., I don’t know how you do it. My hat’s off to you.

As for me, I’m looking forward to the day when Grad School in the summer is done and our Papa Bear comes home.

Soli Deo Gloria

 

Summer Projects

While Thomas learns another language (Greek) and takes two other grad school classes, I figure it’s only fair that I do some amazing things of my own.

Behold, my summer project list. And, yes, I will be enlisting help from local high-schoolers who need summer work, and from anyone else who is interested in helping out.

  • finish the last bits of mulching in my flower beds, and weed.
  • Tame the jungle that is our chicken coop.
  • scrub the wood floors of our house. This will take some research, because, apparently, not all wood-floor cleaners are created equally.
  • scrub down the inside and outside of our fridge
  • scrub down the bathrooms, top to bottom, and maybe replace the sinks.
  • update the journals for my little Bears.
  • Create individual binders for each child, and tackle the mass of paperwork that is foster-care
  • hang up our guitars where we can actually reach them!
  • re-string my guitar
  • get Dekker groomed
  • find an Ancient History Podcast that doesn’t take forever to move through…
  • since Thomas is gone, all of his tools and construction projects must find a new home in the garage, or else Baby Bear might find his own storage spaces for Papa Bear’s tools…
  • re-organize the cupboards so that storage makes sense.
  • get the mattresses switched
  • return new mattress (review to come later of Tuft and Needle – in short, we were not impressed)
  • clean up the master bedroom so it is ready for our newest Bear to sleep there
  • Get my Grandmother’s Hope Chest out of the garage, fixed, and in the master bedroom where it belongs
  • find paint swatches for second bathroom (fresh green), master bathroom (royal blue), library (reddish-brown), and kitchen (grey of some sort)
  • clean the window sills and the windows themselves, including the outside.
  • install locks on all of our kitchen and bathroom cabinets
  • find a good way of storing coffee stuff
  • organize the attic space
  • hang pictures
  • pick up baskets for organizing various things throughout the house
  • get all of the carseat stuff into proper storage somewhere (besides my kitchen table)
  • figure out how to block the hole underneath our kitchen sink.
  • paint the bathroom

Of course, all of this happens while little Bears are in bed, or while other people are willing to come out and occupy the Bears, or do the work themselves.

I’ve also made myself a promise that I cannot watch amazing new shows or movies, and I will not listen to astounding podcasts, unless I am tackling one of these projects.

Hopefully, this will keep me on task when I do have the free time to work, and still give me plenty of time to focus on the Bears while they are awake.

And, it will pass the time until we are a family again.

Soli Deo Gloria!