During that time, we juggled car seats and swapped cars, Matt and I sharing duties to get the kids to day care and to be tended at home. Ari the Entourage (my minivan) lived up to his name and his purpose, hauling around an entourage of little girls on a big circle around southeast Nashville, taking Kate and Claire to school, then dropping Allison off at her daycare, which was mercifully not too out of the way from our usual route, and taking Chandler to a drop-in child care place for a couple hours so I could get work done. (We're close to getting her in day care, but shot records and other logistical bits are hard to come by in these sorts of situations!)
Aside from the day care rounds, we enjoyed family dinners utilizing all the high chairs, eat seats, and boosters in our attic arsenal, brought out the baby toys and gear, learned to mix formula for the first time, and even took our entourage to a birthday party and to church (twice!) Matt and I feel awkward when people applaud us for fostering—it's our thing and no one should feel pressured to live their faith in this particular way—but I admit I do feel proud, not of the willingness to house and love random children, but of managing life with four kiddos at all! It's nothing compared to the Duggars or whatnot, but I get a crazy thrill from the physical and logistical challenge of simply getting four kids into and out of their car seats, getting them fed, getting them bathed and dressed and off to bed. As my dad commented on a Facebook photo I shared of all four kids in the back of the van, "I never realized until this moment how much you hated being an only child."
I didn't hate it, but I did always dream of having a dozen kids (then eight, then six, then four, as I understood more how babies got here and the means that big a brood would require). Matt and I love caring for kids, but don't want to put more than three through college! So yes, I love having a full house, though a cacophony of toddler tears can certainly drive a person crazy, and the stress of dressing and loading up four kids can make a chronically late person so anxious as to actually allow extra time to get somewhere!
We survived and enjoyed those four days, and now are settling into normal life with three, as Chandler could be with us a while. Kate and Claire have been amazing, welcoming and doting on our guest babies with such enthusiasm. Claire seems to have matured a good bit overnight, relishing her new role as a big sister. Since I was in the attic getting out the infant stuff anyway, I brought down the booster seat, and Claire was so proud to sit right up to the table instead of in her high chair. Rather than jealously fighting to keep Mommy to herself, she screams first thing in the morning to get "Baby!!" up and I have to physically prevent her from banging in the door to our guest room. (Our guests are always such better sleepers than our own, who fight bedtime, refuse naps, and get up well before 7 am each day.) My girls actually fought and cried this morning over who got to give Chandler her bottle. They are such good helpers, and I am so touched to see how naturally they internalize the values of compassion and hospitality we teach in our house.
As for pictures, I'm growing my skill in "Wilson"-style photography, referencing the neighbor on "Home Improvement" whose face was always concealed, as foster kids' must be. So here are a few carefully-shot images of our time as a family of six.
|Pizza dinner the first night (love Kate's sassy face)|
|Playtime with three girls under age two|
|The aforementioned minivan pic|
|Chandler is a very small ten months, and enjoys the play mat|
|Big girl Claire trying out the big girl swing while Allison uses the baby swing|
|Claire wants to feed the baby herself--what a sweet big girl!|