Wow!  Tomorrow is finally Friday.  It will mark one week of us being home and hopefully mean that the jet lag has passed.  This week has been one of the most challenging of my life… but also most rewarding.  I figured I would list each of our top 10 moments from the week so you can rejoice with us about the GRACE of God in the midst of hard stuff…

MOM-

1. Not having to cook all week. So thankful for soooo many friends who dropped off meals.  My freezer is still full and we have eaten like an army this week.  Seriously, we are a family of 7 (6 because David is gone), but we eat like a family of 3 or 4 and have been fed like the Duggars. 🙂  Thank you again to all of you.
2. Sea Salt and Caramel Chocolate (courtesy of Emily Flynt).  For those moments when I just needed 10 seconds to recoop.  Perfect treat.
3. Organizing Therapy. I took back control of my life by turning my laundry room into a large dresser for the children and making the clothes chaos a little more manageable.  It is bliss in there right now.
4. Crib for Naomi.  We set up a crib today in the girls’ room for Naomi and she went to sleep in it tonight without a peep.  I will immerse myself in the lack of bloody murder screams tonight.
5. Trip to Walmart.  We ventured out today and we survived.  I realized that I really can do 5 kids and almost look like I’m not a new mom… even though that is exactly how I feel… like I have just had my first child and am learning everything for the first time.
6. My Own Bed.  I just can’t describe in words how great it is to be back in my bed.  Maybe letters will help “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”
7. Sleeping In.  This morning we slept until 4:30am.  Never in my life have I been more grateful to be getting up at that ridiculous hour.  Seems I do my best work lately before dawn.
8. Words from friends.  I am so blessed with so many beautiful people that love me and are supporting us through this… near and far.  Within 10 seconds, I can think of 5 people who I can text, email, or call and they would respond to any need immediately.  Words are my love language.  Feeling the love.
9. Tremendous Neighbors.  Josh and Sandi live right down the street and have been such a blessing to us through all of this.  They have watched our house, our kids, our dog.  Picked up our mail.  Called the police when they thought Ascend’s security guys were breaking into our house (Ironically they were setting up a security system).  Loaned us a crib.  Cooked us meals and chocolate chip cookies (like the best ever).  I can’t even list all that they have done.  Best of all, I feel like they are right here if I ever need anything.  You can’t put a price on that when the hubby has to be gone so much.
10. GRACE of God.  I have felt it dripping from the ceiling around here.  Every time I feel like I can’t go another step, every time I do, say, or even yell something that I regret, every time I don’t have the faintest clue what to do.  EVERY. TIME. He shows up. 

Jessica

1. Room Cleaning.  I walked into the girls room the other day and Jessica was cleaning it from top to bottom, including sorting all the books by size and putting them on the shelves.  This is something I had not asked her to do and when I thanked her she used her translator to tell me that it was what she should do.
2. Ear Piercing.  Jessica got her ears pierced today and Walmart.  She asked me in China if she could do it when we got home and today was the day.  She didn’t shed a tear or even whine even though it was obvious it hurt her.
3. Emotion Sharing.  Our girl has walked around the house all week saying the Chinese word for “happy”.  Tonight when we set the crib up in the girls’ room for Naomi, she asked if all 3 of them would be staying in that room.  When I said “yes”, she lit up like a Christmas tree and said “Kie Shing!” (happy)
4. English Learning.  So to add to Jessica’s limited vocabulary this week.  She learned the word “Milk” and loves to say it.  She also picked up on the word “Guys” during a TV show the other day and since she already knew how to say “Come on.”, she now adds “guys” to the end of it every time.  Today Nathan asked her to “Come on!” and she added “Guys!”  I cracked up.
5. Nathan Loving.  Jessica and Nathan have developed a really quick and fairly strong bond.  Probably has a lot to do with him being home all day, but it is absolutely precious.  From schoolwork to video games to board games to playing outside, they are spending much time together.  I am so proud of my youngest son for the welcome he has extended to our new daughters.
6. Charade Playing.  Charades is often how we communicate, as obviously translators aren’t always handy or quick enough to convey the point.  Jessica acts out all kinds of things that make me laugh.  I am continually amazed at her grasp on what is taking place in any given situation, especially since she doesn’t understand anything around her.  She has great insight into human character… and she is absolutely hilarious often.
7. Daddy Missing.  Jessica and I have both counted down the days until “Baba” would be back every morning.  Yesterday we were both really excited when we realized it was ONE!
8. Mama Watching.  This girl has been in awe of her mama this week, who has a gift for putting things together and also for not waiting on people who could do it better.  She has watched me with complete interest as I have put together the crib, assembled shelving units, and hung pictures.  I can only hope David will be as impressed. 
9. Sister Helping. Every time I turn around, Jessica is either playing with her sisters or helping them with something.  She is even bonding fairly well with Naomi…who has decided that Mama is the only “safe” bet.  She is such a helper and jumps in whenever she sees a need.
10. Food Eating.  I think Jessica has been amazed at the amount of food available to her.  She has “oooo”ed and “awwwww” ed over my cookbooks and probably thinks that in America food just magically appears at your doorstep every night (because it has over here).  She has become very comfortable in the kitchen and frequently gets her own snacks.
Bonus:  Home Loving.  She is doing incredibly well.  She sleeps all night and stays busy all day.  She does not seem a bit uncomfortable with being here or with us.  I have seen no signs of fear or of sadness.  Yes, I know this is probably the honeymoon, but I can’t be more pleased with how she is transitioning.

Jordan

1. Back to School.  Our oldest boy has a lot on his shoulders as he tries to catch up from being gone as well as keep up with the current.  Thankfully Thanksgiving break is around the corner and should provide some breathing room.  I will breathe a sigh of relief if we pass this quarter.
2. Basketball.  He missed basketball goals the most in China, so he is taking every chance he gets to play.  His school season starts soon.
3. Jacket Request.  Jordan recently informed me that he needs a certain North Face jacket that everyone at school is wearing.  I’m hoping there is a really similar Walmart knock off.
4. Jetlag Woes.  The week has been hard on us all, but Jordan has taken it like a man and gone to school every day.  He has been the only one of us without the chance to nap.  He’s completely impressive.
5. Sisters.  Of all of us, Jordan is having the biggest problems with transitioning and they are not really big problems, but it is hard losing your spot as the oldest.  He has worked hard to remind us that he is not a little brother.  Acclimating to having 3 sisters is a big job.  He is working hard at it, but it will take time.  And everything is harder when you become a teenager.
6. Co-parenting.  Jordan is going to make a GREAT dad someday.  I know because every day he tells me what I should and should not be doing as a parent.  I often hear “You know, Mom, you are going to have to teach them to….” Yes, I do know.  What has been surprising to me is often he hits the nail on the head, even if his timing is a bit off.
7. Carpool.  Jordan has gotten to ride this week with some awesome people that live right down the street.  The Sanders have been Jesus to us as they gave him a ride to school most of this week so that we did not have to pile everyone in the car.  Serious blessing!
8. Cooking.  A couple of days this week, Jordan has taken on the responsibility of making food and serving it.  After about 5pm this week, I have been SHOT so it has been wonderful to be able to rely on my oldest son to help oversee the house.
(Jordan gets top 8 because we just have not seen him a whole lot this week and this is starting to take longer than I planned.  No offense to him… hopefully he will never know.)

Nathan

1. Homeschool.  We have had a little bit of difficulty getting back into the swing of things with schoolwork so Nathan has been enjoying a light week of Math lesssons and reading catch up.  After Thanksgiving break we will have to hit it hard.
2. Life with Jessica.  Jessica and Nathan have tried to play almost every board game we have this week.  It’s funny because often they work out the communication part… or they just give up and play a completely different way.  He has also taken her out and introduced her to his friends.
3. Adding Humor.  Nathan has always been hilarious, so he is lightening the moment with his quick wit.  He can make just about any of us laugh.
4. Kate Buttons.  When Jordan went back to school this year, it threw Nathan and Kate together for the entire day.  For a short while things were quiet around here… then the button pushers appeared.  Both of them know the others buttons and how to push them…and sit on them.  This week has been filled with Nathan’s “KATE!!!!” and Kate’s most annoying whiny cries back at Nathan. Definitely brother and sister.
5. Servant Heart.  Nathan does pretty much everything I ask of him almost immediately… most of the time.  This does not include schoolwork, but often I am saying “Nathan, could you get ‘this’ or ‘that’ and he is immediate to help.  Such a big deal when we are dealing with 2 new kids in the house.
6. Help with Lunch.  Nathan has made mac and cheese a couple of times this week along with a smoothie that Jessica helped cut fruit for. I was a little taken aback when I walked in the kitchen and Jessica had an American knife in her hand cutting strawberries, but I guess she has mastered the knife because all turned out well.
7. Easygoing Boy.  Out of all of us, Nathan has most easily acclimated to life with 4 siblings.  He has accepted it from the beginning.  I think that he believes we are going to try to adopt all the kids in the world, so he just has resigned himself to the fact that at least it is only 3 right now.  He interacts with his sisters as if they have always been here.
8. Back with Friends.  Our wonderful neighbors down the street that I have already mentioned have 4 kids who have become Nathan’s life line here in Albany.  He loves nothing more than to run down the street and spend hours at their house or bring them back here for some fun.  Often he eats dinner with them.  They have a wonderful connection that could only come from the Lord.
9. Jessie.  This show on Netflix has been on in the house every time I turn around.  The kids missed Netflix in China, so I guess it is catch up time.  I put my foot down yesterday when I heard the episode watched in the morning come on in the afternoon… though he has probably watched every episode 3 or 4 times.  Just the kind of week we are having.
10. Gift from God.  Out of everyone who is helping or has helped with this first week back at home, I can truly say that Nathan has outdone them all.  Day in and day out, he has been here doing whatever I needed him to do, plus helping Jessica completely acclimate to the family.  He has been instrumental in easing this transition and I don’t know if things would be going this well without him.

Kate

1. Baby Teeth.  Kate is very upset that she cannot yet lose her baby teeth.  She mourned this exceedingly last night.
2. Back to China.  Often during the day, Kate will announce that she wants to go back to China…to which we all groan and in unison say “NO!” (we love China, but the travel and recovery is brutal…not to mention the sewage smell and lack of clean water).  Yesterday she came out with some toys packed up and went to China anyway… she took her cell phone so I could call her… it was a short trip that ended when I brought out her favorite snack.
3. Learning to Share.  Many times this week, Kate has had to be reminded that I am not just “her Mommy”.  “My Mommy” has been an often used phrase and there have been many meltdowns so I would “Pick her up” and “don’t pick up Mei Mei”.  Yes, to be expected there are some jealousy issues being worked out.  Thankfully Naomi understands very little English…
4. Big Sister.  That being said, Kate is a tremendous big sister and I am so proud of her.  She helps and oversees Naomi continually.  When Naomi gets upset because she can’t navigate the 2 steps in our house with her toys, Kate runs immediately and helps her down or up.  She has been amazing at becoming a big sister.
5. Helper Kate.  Kate loves to help me with anything that I am doing.  It usually presents a problem but at least she is well meaning.  From unpacking suitcases, to making beds, to putting together furniture, “Can I help?” is an often used phrase.  And she doesn’t take “no” for an answer.
6. Night Time.  Kate has acclimated well to sharing a bed with Jessica and now will not go to sleep if Jessica is not in the room with her at night.  Last night I thought she would never stop giggling at something Jessica was doing.  It is music to my ears to hear her loving having sisters.
7. Kate the Dancer.  After discovering Angelina Ballerina, Kate is continually propelling across the house in ballerina style… often falling all over the place as she works to master balance.  She also wants to be a pirate after discovering “Jake and the Neverland Pirates”.  “Yo ho ho”.  Oh and “Lock down the castle! Guards, I don’t want anybody in here!” has been her favorite cry this week as she imitates the Bear Queen on Kai Lan.  (Maybe she watches too much TV.  We’ll have to work on that when the jet lag wears off and the house is clean again)
8. Daddy.  Kate is another one that misses Daddy tremendously.  She has taken to calling him “Baba” since we went to China and she is constantly asking when he is coming home.  This morning right after coming to consciousness, she asked “Daddy coming home right now?”  She knows it is Friday!
9. Overcoming Jetlag.  Kate is going to be the death of me when it comes to jet lag.  2:30am on the dot…every morning.  The last two, I have made her go back to sleep until 4:30am, but that was it… the latest she will sleep.  This girl is not affected by any sleep aid whatsoever, or by her bedtime, though I am considering making her stay up until 11pm if this doesn’t change.  She could survive on less sleep than any adult I know.
10. That Smile.  Her smile still lights up the night.  This week she has reminded me that she loves me at the most random times.  She has showered my hands with kisses.  She has reminded me why we do the hard… because look at the difference a year and a half makes… and if it takes 4 or 5 years, it will still one day be worth it.  It’s funny how much Kate feels like one of my bio children right now.  I really keep forgetting.

Naomi

1. Food Lover.  Naomi has food issues.  I don’t know what she experienced in China, but when she came to us, she would fill her mouth completely with food, never swallow it, and just suck on it… for hours and hours.  When she finally did start swallowing, she has not stopped.  She loves food more than anything else and will follow it to the ends of the earth.  It calms her down, perks her up, and keeps her happy.  For this reason, I do not use it in any way to manipulate her.  It must be put in its place…first challenge.
2. Bedtime Hater.  Naomi hates to be put to bed.  Naptime and bedtime have been battle grounds this week.  Last night I had my first glimpse of hope when we put up the crib and put her to bed in it without a sound.  She did shake her head back and forth (her coping mechanism) until she fell asleep, but she has slept all night and is still in there at 6:20am… praise be to JESUS!  Ya’ll just don’t know.
3. Mama Follower.  If Naomi does not have food nearby, she follows me everywhere I go.  Poor girl is getting her exercise this week as I try to get things in order.
4. Attachment.  Naomi has quickly attached to me, but still refuses to call me “Mama” though we know she can say that much and overhear her saying it.  I am not sure what that is about, but I have had to work really hard not to take it personally.  I know it will come.  She does not seem to have a problem attaching at least to a primary caregiver.  I think she is afraid that I will be gone if she lets me out of her sight.
5. Sibling Adjustment. Naomi has a gesture that pretty much looks like “Away with you”… she often uses this on Kate.  She does not like to share and displays much orphanage behavior when dealing with her siblings…especially Kate.  I perceive this to be an instinct to fight for what is hers and to feel threatened by other children.  Kate showed some of this as well.  She is learning to trust.
6. Special Needs.  I am really not sure how well Naomi can hear.  I know that she CAN hear because she turns her head at every sound and when we call her name… I just am unsure if I am sounding like the Charlie Brown teacher to her with everything I say.  I do not think so, because she obeys certain commands that she has come to understand.  This just adds a little bit to the challenge.  She babbles like a baby and I am not sure at this point if she can say words though they said that she can.
7. Screamer.  Naomi has an ear piercing scream that I try to avoid at all costs.  It has gotten better over the course of the week, but the girl can get angry!  I mean, bloody. murder.
8. Laugher.  As amazing as her scream is, her laugh is even more.  When they brought her to us, they told us that we would have to work hard to make her laugh.  Not this family… she is laughing at the drop of a hat over here.  She loves car rides and going out in general.
9. Starer.  I’m not sure that it is a word, but Naomi Grace can stare you down… I mean without blinking.  I have almost taken to calling her “The Creeper” because I will turn around and she will have just appeared out of no where and be staring at me.  She could totally star in a horror movie… no joke.
10. My Challenge.  As challenging as this week has been with this girl, I would never, ever give her up.  I asked myself last night, if I had the chance would I hand her off to another caregiver…even temporarily… and everything within my being said “NO!”  She is my daughter and I am her Mama.  We are stuck with each other and we are gonna work this thing out if it takes forever.  Because we now have forever.

Top 10 Jet Lag Mama Moments

1. Spilling a whole cup of coffee all over the couch.
2. Over pouring the cereal all over the counter and floor.
3. Dropping a whole smoothie on my foot.
4. Turning into the wrong subdivision on the way home from school.
5. Not moving my fingers out of the way fast enough when I shut the screen door.
6. Forgetting to take credits against our contractor invoices (the contractors love me these days)
7. Putting away food in the trash can and throwing away trash in the pantry.
8. Knocking over anything my arms get near.
9. Forgetting to eat altogether until my blood sugar demands it (my body thinks it’s night time while I’m awake, so I get the hungriest when I wake up in the middle of the night)
10. Smashing my finger between the washer and dryer (Don’t ask)

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this update that I wrote at 5am… I take no responsibility for spelling errors or things that don’t make a bit of sense.  We just survived our first week and Daddy is coming home today and next week is Thanksgiving.  I think we might actually make this work :).