We just apostilled our second post-placement report back to Bulgaria for Stefan. I'm afraid the pictures were on Virginia's phone, which got smashed last week, or I would share some. I'll see if I can get them once she gets her new one (but 5 years on an iPhone 5 subject to 5 kids was a really good run, and I applaud her).
But if anyone still checks on our very-quiet blog, please know that you are appreciated, and the volume of the blog is inversely correlated to the volume of our life. And it's been very full. I will give you a brief rundown:
We moved! Not far, but to a property that's just over an acre, with a great big grassy fenced yard and an even bigger back lot for the more able and responsible kids. There are citrus, mulberry, and China berry trees, and on the vacant lot just south of us, a peach and two plums, which we have permission to pick. The peaches are at their peak right now, and the lower branches are bare...up to about kid+stool height. Go figure. The move means that Ana will switch districts for next year, so we're navigating that. God has blessed us with very kind and understanding school contacts, and we just need to press on.
Stefan (and everybody but Ana, really) has grown a ton. Pants that were rather...gangsta...on him are now quite respectable. He is adding words, which is great, but it totally overloads his brain and wrecks him in the evening. If he's learned a new word, expect the rest of the day to be rather testy. His brain gets tired and he gets crabby (I understand, mine does too, just with different things - sometimes much less significant). The boyos are big and busy and love the space. Choupinette loves the bunnies and chickens - until they get too close, or try to eat her picnic food, or try to climb into the car to go to church with us. The chickens are funny.
We remain so thankful for our friends the C family who have come alongside us and walk with us, sharing the considerable burden of our busy family. And my work is very busy, yet I remain thankful for the great degree of flexibility that the university affords me. There's much to be thankful for.
We look forward to visits with friends & a wedding this weekend, and our housewarming/house-blessing party on Memorial Day- if you're in the Chandler area, let us know if you'd like to come!
I leave you with the prayer of the last elders of the Optina monastery - it is a morning prayer, and I am thankful it is in the regular morning prayers of my prayer book (though I confess a failure to memorize it yet, and thus ensure that I can actually say it anywhere I happen to be on a busy morning...)
O Lord, grant that I may meet all that this coming day brings to me
with spiritual tranquility. Grant that I may fully surrender myself to
Thy holy Will.
At every hour of this day, direct and support me in all things.
Whatsoever news may reach me in the course of the day, teach me to
accept it with a calm soul and the firm conviction that all is subject
to Thy holy Will.
Direct my thoughts and feelings in all my words and actions. In all
unexpected occurrences, do not let me forget that all is sent down from
Grant that I may deal straightforwardly and wisely with every member of my family, neither embarrassing nor saddening anyone.
O Lord, grant me the strength to endure the fatigue of the coming day
and all the events that take place during it. Direct my will and teach
me to pray, to believe, to hope, to be patient, to forgive, and to love.
For perspective on the men who composed and employed this prayer, the Wikipedia article on the monastery is helpful: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optina_Monastery
Yes, last Friday. Stefko has been home for about four months, and the first report is due back at 6mos. Writing and sending and translating is allowed 2mos, which seems long to the novice and about-right to a bit short to those who know.
Stefan is doing well, and has gained weight, broadened his attention span, and is firming up his relationships with us all. Mostly that's good, but he and Small Porgies have developed a bit of an I-punch-you-punch-me dynamic, entirely at the instigation of S.P. This is disappointing, but I also have to remember that they are brothers, and its bound to happen at some level, and it's never escalted into a fight. They are also generally well-matched - Stefko is tough, strong, and big, S.P. is fast and accurate. It's not my favorite thing when they pick at each other, but I think it will pass as they get older, and I don't see any malice. Stefko and his littlest sister are buds, and get into mischief together, sit in the same cozy places in the same way (though he never sits for long), and bolt for the same opened doors when people are coming and going. Life is not slow, but there is so much to be thankful for.
Also, Stefko has very much figured out that there is food after church, and though he get's pretty antsy towards the end, he does a good job generally, though he's cautious about the Eucharist (man with spoon - possible medicine - evasive maneuvers! - he's only partaken once, but glory to Jesus Christ for that). But there is in Orthodoxy a bowl of bread for anyone to take after the chalice (to wash down the Eucharist), and Stefko is all over that. And many friends slip him extra bits.
Mama is tired, but got to go hang out with the church ladies last night, which I think was a success, judging by a late return and buoyant mood. In the meantime, my friend and I juggled seven kids and assembled a large (4' x 8' x 6') double-deck play-work structure for the kids to use. It has been a hit, and this morning before work I got to sit up top with S.P. and Took and read a chapter from The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader". Lewis is an old friend to me and a new one to the boys, and it's with much joy that I get to share a treasure of my youth.
Ana is plugging along, her school continues to be positive, and her school nurse was overjoyed to meet fellow Christians - there are a lot of LDS in our area, may God bless them to meet Christ the only-begotten co-eternal Son of God.
Thank you for your prayers, we are just living life as God gives it, and if you don't hear from us often, it's because there's not much to say, plugging along here in the finally-cooling desert. But please be in touch if you'd like, we're always happy to hear from friends!
Things cook along here. Stefan was baptized about two weeks back, and did remarkably well (and Orthodox baptism is not short, there are a lot of prayers in with the action...) We are well, generally, and life is full. Stefko goes to sleep easier (he even nodded off one evening on the foot of our bed while we read Bible - I think he is beginning to trust). He wakes up later, too, which is a relief - especially since Ana has been sick recently, and sleep is scanty on her account.
Stefan is also developing preferences, and eating somewhat slower. Except when it's a favorite, like tuna salad, then he still shovels somewhat maniacally. But oatmeal? He goes about as slowly as the other boys now, and doesn't always finish. He seems to be emerging (a little) from the never-had-enough-food frenzy. No doubt it will be a long time before that's gone, but we're thankful for progress.
Chickens in the yard
Stefko helping with an oil change
Machinii need tools
Stefko likes tools.
Yesterday marked the 4th anniversary of my dad's death. In thinking of him, his kindness, and my own failures to love, I wrote the following:
I was maybe ten,
and maybe so was he,
though his waist was far ahead
of his mind, which seemed stuck,
as I said, around ten.
With all the gall of youth
I found him ugly
and repugnant to the nose;
his clothes were often greasy,
for he loved McDonalds
with the sincerity of his blessed simple soul.
And TV. He loved that, too,
though I did not observe,
for I never ventured in to get him
or to drop him off.
That was my father's work,
to help him out with errands,
go to church,
a bite to eat,
and something for his mom.
He had a mother - did you know?
Of course he did.
And he had been a kid,
who just, it seems,
got stuck at maybe ten.
We are thankful for the progress that Stefan is making. He has much longer periods of calm, and is right now sitting on the couch with mama and the brothers, listening to The Borrowers. He has been going to sleep much better, often during bedtime Bible reading with the brothers. He's often up first in the mornings (very early), and toodles around the kitchen or the fenced yard until I get up to start the day. Ana's back in school, so that's good, and we have been thankful to our friends who have entered our life to help give more hands with Stefko.
We are thankful that Stefko did a great job at vespers and liturgy Saturday and Sunday! He's definitely making progress (and church is a good periodic check), though the day-to-day is still a challenge.
He has more smiles, and occasional outright grins (below). He doesn't much like toothbrushes, and is pretty sure that topical essential oils (for a fungal spot) are the worst. His doctor's visit last week was good, but we are still waiting on his citizenship packet (to apply for an SSN) before insurance gets entirely straightened around. So, he might have a swallow study this week, but they charge something like $5/photon for those x-rays, so they're jumpy about people with not-quite-solidified insurance status. Sigh.
Thank you for your sustained prayers, and God bless.