life with four: how it is

Today I got an email from a social worker and a grant agency both asking the same question. In fact, it is the question I get most (besides, “are they yours?” and “are they twins?”). The question most people seem to want answered is, “how is life with 4 (kids)?”

When people ask how I’m doing and my response is that I am tired, they usually say something that has to do with the fact that we now have four kids. I mean, sure, four kids keeps a mom busy, but that is not the tired I am referring to. The tired I am referring to is an internal tired that is the result of a long two year process of living with a heart and attention divided, of many, many late nights of planning and paperwork, of traveling and living in a third-world country with four kids under 6 years old for two months (there are a lot of logistics stateside, familyside, and ugandaside to coordinate for that!). It is a tired that results from exposure to sadness, brokenness, and injustice on a level that I’ve yet to see and experience this close to home (and in my own home). It’s a tired from having to be ceaselessly vigilant and on top of every detail all the time. Finally, it’s a tired from bottling up the questions, thoughts, emotions and the processing of said journey (because who has time to deal with that messy stuff when there are so many imminent demands in front of you?). But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about life with four, and I guess, for me, life with four kids is easy and normal and totally doable- compared to what we have been through in the last few months (I’ll call that, “life with 4, plus”). This day-to-day reality where we have to (*get to) navigate temper tantrums, hungry mouths, laundry, play dates, homework, baths, etc (x4), feels restful. It’s restful because we are all here under one roof and we get to focus on just living and being a family. And that, is fun! We sleep well, laugh a lot, and have already figured out how to sneak in some fun adventures (again, it’s all about the perspective… after “adventuring” around Uganda with the four kids, pretty much anything we could scheme up here feels easy).  We have also figured out how to get everyone out of the house on time in the morning (a victory to celebrate for sure)! Macy and Owen continue to be fantastic big sister and brother and there is peace in our home. At some hours of the day it’s a loud, chaotic peace, but it’s peace nonetheless and I am thankful for it.

(And if I take a long time to call or text you back, I hope you’ll forgive me, ha. I didn’t say I have an abundance of time of my hands, I just said I’m having fun!)

today’s milestone: first visit to the pediatrician

Today was a day I had dreamt about for a long time: Cora and Elias’ first doctor appointment. It was nuts. I don’t think I’ve mentioned on here that the kids do not like the doctors. At all. They have some traumatic memories associated with medical care, and every time we set foot near someone with a stethoscope around their neck (even minus the infamous white coat), the tears start flowing. This is why I have put it off a few weeks since our arrival home. I really wanted to give the kids some time to adjust without putting them in a situation where they had to be afraid. Time’s up!

We get to the doctors office and I’m greeted with 2 stacks of paperwork to fill out. The kids play happily with the toys and I start filling out the papers. All is well, I think. But the doctor is fantastically timely today and less than 5 minutes into my paperwork, the nurse comes out and calls us back. Then it begins- measurements, examinations, poking, prodding, and the grad finale, some vaccinations. I’m still trying to fill out the papers, but the kids are really upset and this is my chance to comfort them and establish more connection by meeting their needs. Paperwork loses and I’m on the floor, two crying babies on my lap. Doctor, perched on chair, talking through vaccination catch-up, circumcision quandary, and developmental milestones. It was unlike any previous appointment I’d had. We leave (babies comforted and quieted by now), and it’s my turn to cry. Thinking about these two, their crazy medical history, and the care they have needed but have been unable to get, is overwhelming and has been a point of sadness throughout our process. To be able to provide that care, is something quite wonderful (even though they hate it).

Today I’m thankful for that mess of an appointment- for the screaming babies, the vaccinations that made them cry, and for the oh-so-patient doctor and nurses who somehow managed to get high-fives from the kids on their way out…  it’s another thing that has been re-framed for me in this season and something that one of you dear people will need to remind me of years down the road when preventative care (for myself or for my kids) is something that feels inconvenient.

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Elias on the scale. Both kids have gained 5 lbs already! Elias is in the 10th percentile and Cora is in the 2nd. At the rate they are growing it won’t be long before they are right on track.

post shots

I call this the “I survived my first round of vaccinations” photo. Pictured is the good-natured nurse (in her cowboy costume for halloween) who gave them their shots. #snacksmakeeverythingfeelbetter #sodohugsfrommom #butmostlysnacks

things i can’t stand: excess and clutter

I have always been a little “type-A,” but since being home I’ve noticed that two things stress me out in a way that they hadn’t before: excess and clutter.

I thought we lived simply- that there wasn’t that large of a margin of excess in what we use and what we have. I also thought that I kept things clutter free for the most part (except for maybe a few drawers of controlled chaos), but since our return from Uganda I’ve been feeling differently.

A few, case-and-point illustrations: First, I began to notice that loading the dishwasher was stressful for me. I’ve always loved loading the dishwasher because it is a chance for me to order and organize chaos (something I love to do on many levels). It also feels like a game to me (where I get to figure out how to fit in the most items in the most efficient way), so needless to say the feeling of stress caught me off guard. After a little assessment, I realized it was the process I go through to load it that bothered me- particularly, the sound of the running water in the sink that ran pointlessly while I loaded. I’d rinse a dish, let the water run, load, go back for the next dish, repeat. It never occurred to me before how much water I wasted just in that process alone, but since water has become something that is precious to me and that was scarce in Uganda, the sound of it being wasted bothered me on an internal level before I could even notice it and do something about it. I’ve now changed my routine so that the water doesn’t run pointlessly and I only use what I need to rinse off the dirty dish (also important because we find ourselves presently in a drought).

Also on my list of new unexpected stressors was getting dressed. When we were in Uganda I had 6 shirts, 6 bottoms (shorts, skirts and jeans combined), 6 pairs of underwear to choose from on any given day (if they were clean, that is)… and here, well, let’s just say I have more. My closet is very small to be sure, but it’s packed with things I wear only on occasion and even a few things I “might” want to wear some time in the future. Having some choice and having enough is freeing, but having excess is stressful.  My small closet felt cluttered just because there were too many options. I missed the ease of getting dressed in Uganda. So, I have started to purge the things I do not need. I haven’t had time to go through the whole closet, or all the drawers in the house, but I am working my way through. Sometimes when I’m getting dressed and I see things I shouldn’t hold on to, I take them out right then and there- eliminating clutter as I see it and not waiting until I have a chunk of time to do it. That’s my strategy right now.

I’m really trying to pay attention to the new convictions I have as we re-acclimate into our life of comfort and ease. I don’t want to thoughtlessly resume old patterns that don’t work with the way I want to operate in the world. I’m realizing that the things I loved about the way we lived in Uganda can be reality here, too.

fair warning

I know it’s been a quiet two weeks on the blog, but be fore-warned… a day is coming soon when there will be a fury of updates. Some of these updates will be ones from our days in Uganda- stories, musings and photos that I just did not have time (or energy) to finish and share at the time. Others will be updates from since we have been back- how the kids and family are doing, plus some other random and thought-provoking things I’ve been wrestling with.

Until then, thanks to all of you who have encouraged me about this blog and who have asked for more posts. Know that right now I’m focused on the most important work of transitioning the family well, and that as soon as there is some bandwidth in the evening hours (meaning that I don’t fall asleep sitting upright while trying to turn on the computer), you’ll hear from me.

home.

Feeling thankful, humbled, taken care of, energized and something slightly past exhausted. Thank you to our community of family and friends who made our homecoming so special. I literally am at a lack for the right words to describe just how much your love, care and support (expressed in so many different ways) means to us during this time. Thank you. I’m excited to share more of our homecoming story with you later, but tonight’s priorities are in getting settled and prepped for the rest of the week. It’s a big day tomorrow- Macy and Owen’s first day of school! These two have been such troopers for these last 7 weeks, making so many sacrifices without complaining, that I’m making their first day back a little extra special this year. The table is decorated and the red plates are out. I can’t wait to have some fun celebrating their first day. #reallifefeelssogood #returntonormal

things i will miss.

I’m super excited to go home. It’s becoming more real that very soon I will get to see the people I love face to face and be able to enjoy the comfort of my home and community. I can’t wait! But, as I mentioned in a previous post, it is a bittersweet thing to leave and there is a weight that comes with these last few days here and all there is to process about our trip so far. Though my excitement outweighs the sadness, tonight I’m reflecting on a few things I will miss most about our life in Uganda. They are (in no particular order):

-Our laundry line. What started out as a major stressor (no laundry for the first 2 weeks of our trip) has turned into some of my sweetest moments here. Hanging laundry out on the line in the early morning sun, hearing the chatter of people walking by on the street below and the roosters crowing nearby. The sight of cows grazing, children playing, and birds and trees dancing in the breeze. Huge white clouds moving slowly by, the orangey-brown of the road and my back patio juxtaposed against the brilliant blue of the sky and the lush green that covers everything else… Laundry has not just been a chore here, it’s been a discipline that has taught me to move slowly and pay attention to the beauty that is often hidden by the ordinary.

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-Walking. To pick up fresh fruits and veggies for dinner. To the local bakery for a treat with the kids. To favorite restaurants, birthday celebrations, wifi hotspots, the pool, or our neighbors home. Traveling by foot has felt good, has slowed us down, and has opened up opportunity for more conversation and a deeper knowledge of one-another. It’s also given us some great stories and memories (ask us about the time we walked home in the dark from Let’s Do Coffee with Batman himself).

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-The international community. My life, and the lives of my children are enriched and enlivened by the stories of those we have met on this journey. People from all over the world, here for all different reasons, bringing their culture, language, food, style, and spirituality with them. They are people of passion and determination. Many of them have chosen to make sacrifices to live in Uganda and to serve the people and the country. I never imagined Kampala to be a place of such international community. The diversity of people was a huge and welcomed surprise.

-Being ever-present with my kids. As a working mom, I don’t often get the opportunity to pass weeks at a time with my children. These weeks, though they have been insanely full and unordinary, have given me the opportunity to connect with my 4 kids in ways I don’t get to at home. Some of the key moments I’ll treasure and miss- “school” time on weekday afternoons with Macy and Owen at the dining room table. Laying in bed with Macy and Owen, talking about their highlights of the day and then telling them stories of the adventures of the Wiglud family (who needs to worry about efficiency at bedtime when there’s no school or work the next day?). Pouring buckets of soapy water all over the back patio and playing, I mean, “mopping” it all up. Holding little hands while walking (slowly) to whatever destination we are headed towards and talking about whatever musings currently occupy those young (and very active) minds. Always being present as the first responder- for every need, big and small (“I can’t find my xxx,” “I need help wiping,” “(Sibling name) won’t share the (item of desire),” “I’m hungry,” “(Loud, high pitched screaming sound)”  “Can I have a treat?” “Will you play with me?” “Can you read me this story?” “(Crying, crying, and more crying)”). Being challenged to pick up soccer games with Macy and Owen (inside AND outside the house), and legitimately having to try not to lose. Slow breakfasts with the whole family around the table. Walks to pick flowers for the dining table.

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These moments and memories are seared deep in my core and are carried with me as I head home. I am hopeful that they will be assimilated into the way I live and how I parent moving forward.

Quote

“And this is the great paradox of Africa: the beauty and the messiness all co-existing together.” -Shelley Homeyer

Maybe that’s why I found it refreshing. It coexists. There’s no concealing of one or the other and one is not diminished by the other’s presence. Both exist in abundance. Where I live we avoid the messy (certainly the appearance of it) and we struggle to embrace both because we are afraid that the messy and painful will take away from the beauty and goodness. I’m learning that the ability to look both square in the eye and live fully-present among them is possible and actually very freeing.

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