The infant stage with any baby has specific challenges, so my experience is that it usually takes about six months to adapt to having a new child in the family. However, the adjustment was much easier with James than it had been with Peter. The three older boys could all walk without help, I think they were all potty trained, and they probably even dressed themselves by that point. The 2-and-a-half-year-old probably still needed some help in the latter department, but I’ve always encouraged early independence among my kids, and I could enlist the older boys to help him. By the time that James was born, Samuel, our eldest, was already 5 years old and able to be really helpful. It was a completely different experience—and easier—than when I had only had three kids.
I have six kids—to be precise, I have six boys, ages 3 to 14. Other moms often express amazement over how I’m able to manage with so many kids when they feel overwhelmed with just one (or two, or three). I always affirm their feelings of difficulty or overwhelm and then share the secret I’ve learned from having lots of kids: it’s hard at first, but it gets easier the more kids you have, and there are great blessings that more than make up for the challenges.
During the COVID lockdown last spring, I had an epiphany. For the first year of pandemic restrictions, I saw things one way, and then another parent’s comment in the chat group for my 2nd grader’s class caused a shift in my focus, and suddenly, everything looks different.
If you didn’t read part 1 yet, you can find it here.
Peter looked so pale and fragile lying in his hospital bed after surgery. I later learned that the fracture had been so complicated that repairing it had been something like piecing a puzzle together, resulting in the long surgery. Because of how much blood he lost, they almost gave him a blood transfusion, but his cautious surgeon, wanting to avoid the potential complications of that procedure, wanted to wait to see if Peter could pull through on his own. His blood test results weren’t in the danger zone, so it was possible that his body would be able to replace the lost blood by itself.
After a long break, I began to post on this blog again in the spring of 2020 with grand aspirations of writing something new every week, but several things happened to interfere with my plans. I’d like to explain … and then make another effort to start posting regularly again!
We live in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine. Right downtown. As in, our living room balcony overlooks a sidewalk cafe on one side, the entrance to a hostel on the other, and a 24-hour coffee shop across the street. (Why we need 24/7 access to coffee is beyond me, but they get business all day and all night long. I once even saw a couple park below our balcony around 3 am, stroll hand-in-hand across the street to the coffee shop, and emerge a few minutes later with take-out cups in their hands. I was a little dumbfounded. But, to be fair, I witnessed all this while standing on our balcony hanging up wet laundry at 3 am, so perhaps there were three people out that night whose actions could have raised eyebrows.) There are plenty of interesting things to watch from our balcony, from cars passing on the street, to people walking their dogs, parents with children, old ladies sweeping the sidewalks with short brooms, and once even a crew of men using a cherry-picker and a chain saw to trim limbs off trees. Our dog and two youngest kids love to hang out on the balcony and watch everything.
There’s just one problem. Our two youngest children are still in various stages of potty training, and as a result, somehow between the toilet and the balcony they manage to misplace their pants and underwear. Multiple times per day. People are constantly passing by on the sidewalk just one story below our balcony, not to mention the people seated at the sidewalk cafe, enjoying their meals and puffing away on their waterpipes. If any of these passersby or diners happened to look up at just the right moment, they might see a cute little 2-year-old boy or 4-year-old boy with an impish grin, a T-shirt, AND NOTHING ELSE!
Granted, this situation is far less scandalous here in Ukraine than it would be in the U.S. or even other parts of Europe, but it still never ceases to mortify me. I feel like every time I turn around, I’m darting out onto the balcony to haul in one of these exhibitionist children of mine and find him some underwear, at the very least.
A few nights ago, most of the family was still seated at the dinner table when my husband noticed that the dog and our 4-year-old had gone out onto the balcony. My husband quickly called out to the 4-year-old, “Andrew, do you have underwear on?”
Completely unperturbed, Andrew called back, “Al-most?”
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Not long ago I witnessed this heart-warming scene:
My almost-2-year-old was standing in the kitchen holding his almost-4-year-old brother’s water bottle. Big brother went up to little brother and roughly snatched his water bottle away. Little brother responded by hitting big brother.
This post first appeared as a guest post on a blog for missionary women in 2011. (That blog no longer exists, or I would link to it here.)
I’ve started to drive again. Until recently, I could have counted on one hand the number of times I had gotten behind the wheel of a car in Ukraine since moving to this country eight and a half years ago.
This post first appeared on this blog in November 2014, but I had to delete the original because, during my five-and-a-half-year blogging hiatus, it became the target of literally tens of thousands of spam comments! I now have six kids, from 13 years down to 23 months, but everything I wrote here about my attitude and approach to parenting still holds true!
Parenting is a humbling process. I say “process,” not “job,” because while the end goal of this adventure is a constant, the day-to-day details change over time. My biggest dream for my children is that they would grow up to love and follow Jesus. Period. But how to encourage them in that direction looks very different as they age from 7 days, to 7 months, to 7 years. And the frequent changes and mistakes I make as I adapt to my maturing children remind me how much I still have to learn about this parenting gig.
I used to write a column here about my experiences as an American missionary raising children in Ukraine, but it’s been over a year since my last piece. During that time, we went on furlough, had another baby, returned to Ukraine, and moved to a different house. A string of unexpected circumstances made this an often overwhelming season, and I needed to take a break from writing this column.
The first surprise was my husband injuring his knee shortly before our trip to the States. It was still giving him so much trouble when we flew that he had to use crutches. We must have looked like a hopeless menagerie after we checked in and headed towards security: a man on a beat-up pair of borrowed crutches that were missing their rubber feet and had a tendency to slip on the smooth airport floors, a woman who was eight-months pregnant, and four children ranging in age from 3 to 9! Plus a carseat, backpacks, and several rolling carryons. It really seemed like the wrong timing for this injury, but it turned out that the timing was just right.