I am in awe some days when I think that my 4 most amazing kids are all in school (well sorta) but you know what I mean. I think back to the day Lana was born, almost 16 years ago and it feels like it was yesterday. I remember what I was doing, wearing, reading and feeling that week she was born and that day and the next several months following her birth were the most excrutiatingly scary. And now she is preparing for her 16th birthday and has received the most amazing gift she could ever receive, her new heart. It seems so surreal to me that she has now recovered and started the 10th grade along with the rest of her class mates as if she never skipped a beat. She has never complained about any of it and has handled this much like she has everything in her life, with incomparable grace.
Then there is Shelby, getting ready for her 15th birthday, starting high school with all AP classes and recouping from a foot injury and working towards starting her 12th year of gymnastics. There are so many amazing things I could say about Shelby but those of you who know her would point out her ability to fit into any situation, easy to make friends, is the first person to start a conversation with someone who looks like they are left out and just generally the bright spot that fills up the room. That is in fact, how she entered this world...the bright spot after two open heart surgeries with Lana and 9 months of stressing and worrying about her health and if she would be ok and the doctors telling me I would never be able to get pregnant or carry another baby to full term after Lana.......at 5:30 am on September 24th after having scheduled her c-section and my hair appointment the day previous she announced that she was ready to get here regardless of the timeline the doctors or I had for her. I can remember thinking, boy if this is a clue as to what she will be like, I'm in trouble! I was too, she demanded her presence be known immediately following her glorious birth and it just keeps getting better and better.
I remember when they started preschool and then Kindergarden. It's all flying by so fast.
Then, there are the other two precious angels who arrived in a little different style yet all of the milestones they've achieved already still amazes me. I thought I had more time before it flew by but I should have known better....
Noah turned 4 in August, beginning what we like to call our "birthday season" and his arrival was a little more thought out yet equally as amazing. We had been waiting for a little boy for so long, made our decision to go the adoption route after a Memorial Day party with friends and what ended up being one of his saviors, our attorney and friend. She told us what it entailed and we began the process right after. We took classes, had back ground checks, went to water safety classes and CPR classes, had a homestudy and painted/decorated and equipped a nursery. What is funny is the whole process until we got the phone call from placement that they had a little 7 month old healthy boy ready for adoption, took about 9 months or less. That in itself makes me want to laugh out loud when I think about it. The caseworker pulled into our driveway and the anticipation was killing us all...we were hovering by the window waiting for her to get him out of the car so we could start our lives together. Finally we saw her getting out of the car and we met her in the driveway, where he was fast asleep in his infant carrier. We set him on the couch and all stared at him while we received our packets and information and all the while not taking our eyes off of him.....the minute he opened his eyes you couldn't help but laugh hysterically out loud. He was looking around like (please excuse the saying before I say it but there is no other way to describe it) "Where the hell am I and why are all these white people staring at me?" I still to this day giggle like crazy when I think of that expression on his face. Then all too soon it was time to plan his first birthday and as I was decorating his cake he started walking on his own, right in front of me....Miracles happen in small doses around here as well as big ones. I love each and every kind. His personality has transformed so much and it's just so hard to believe that he is 4 and getting ready to start playing sports and go to Kindergarden! It is bittersweet, he is a total boy, a Daddy's boy at that- not a cuddle bug at all but every now and then he will look at me and say,"Mommy I love you" and it makes everything worth while.
And finally Miss Isabelle, the one I really am not ready to see grow up since she's the baby! I think it's comical how she has so much of Lana and Shelby in her personality. I can remember calling her by the girls names for the first month we had her (and sometimes still do:)) but she just reminded me so much of them when they were little. September 11th 2008 I was getting ready to load Noah up in the car and head to do afternoon pick up when the phone rang and as I recognized the number immediately my heart jumped to my throat. We had been talking about putting our name in the hat one more time but had thought we would not even consider adopting another until January or February of 2009. We were just enjoying having Noah and getting used to having a little one in the house again. I answered the phone and it WAS placement. What I have learned through this amazing phase in my life is just because I have a plan or someone tells me it can't be done and God has another plan for me.....He always wins:). The lady on the other end of the phone said "Hi Mrs. Stringfellow, this is placement calling. We have a 3 day old baby at the hospital in need of a home and 10 other families have turned her down, are you interested?" I remember much like with Lana and Shelby's births and Noah's homecoming exactly where I was standing in the house, what I was wearing, my thoughts, feelings and excitement. I hung up the phone and knew in my heart, we were going to have another baby joing our already amazing family. Everything else was just......details. Just like that, the next morning I got into the car with my husband and my sister, with my mom at my house keeping Noah, and we drove to the hospital, walked into NICU (she was there for security and observation) and we dressed her and I held her in my arms and thought....this is one of those moments....one that when you look in that amazing angels eyes you know that God has given you a present, a glimpse into how much He truly loves us. I am the luckiest mom - I got 4 presents, each one different and each one just as amazingly special.
Isabelle, through all of her struggles with food allergies, a staph infection at 4 weeks, asthma and overcoming having cocaine in her system at birth has a larger than life personality that is so sweet and loving and caring. She has more empathy in her little pinky than most people do in their whole bodies and she is a fighter, strong and true- was born to be a leader, a kind leader with compassion and grace.
So as I sit here with a quiet house reflecting about each one of them and how much I love them- it makes me heartsick that they are growing up so quickly yet I am so excited to see the amazing women and man they all will become. But MAN time is going by in the blink of an eye! I am so thankful and blessed for this birthday season.