That year I neglected to blog?

Ideally: I kept myself busy creating a behind-the-scenes, quirky/amusing/heartstring-pulling chronicle of our first year as a family of five, soon to be unveiled as a smashingly successful first book.

Realistically: That didn’t happen. I began figuring out how to flash-parent three kids/two kids and a young adult. And I remembered to wear clean undies, most of the time.

On the plus side, all of us are still in one piece, with negligible time spent in the hospital or in jail. I’m counting it a win. Life is all about finding the hidden bonuses.

September 11, 2013 marked our one-year anniversary of reuniting as a family, on Latvian soil. Adoptive families have different ways to mark their “gotcha days”. I decided ours would be the day we stepped out of our adoption coordinator’s car at our kids’ foster home, a small working farm where I have more than once wished I could live. My son was harvesting a crop of sugar beets. For real. Nastja and Alosa promptly kidnapped Lil to introduce her to Bruno the cow (now a tasty hunk of dinner living in the freezer), while Joe and I had the privilege of a translated conversation with the wonderful woman responsible for linking our kids to a more promising future.

I decided these were some excellent memories to reassign to a rather crappy date in history.

One of the issues I’ve been tackling is how to illuminate our life as an internationally-constructed, on-purpose, gritty-spicy family without oversharing (which I am wildly prone to do). Babies and dogs don’t give a crap if you exploit them. Teenagers? Hoo boy. They stash it in that steel-trap portion of their memory (where things like “clean the bathroom sink” and “bring your biology notebook home” decidedly do not live) and hold it against you pretty much forever, I suspect. Though after a year (or twelve) living with me, my kids’ brain traps are so crammed with parenting debacles they can’t possibly hold any more. License to continue motherly screw-ups, granted. Cha-ching.

At any rate, these are a few of the facts.

1. The 12-yr-old is a crackerjack babysitter.

She did not get this from me. I suspect her own after-school babysitter (whose six-year tenure with our family just ended) was a platinum-level mentor.

Somehow in the presence of small children, her mile-long patience and calm come out to play. It’s pure magic (and has more than once kept me from selling her off).

I swear, this moment was not staged.

I so much love the ponytails. And the thoughtful counting of cucumber seeds for science homework.

2. If you have any rodents in need of brain studies, we have the girl for you.

My oldest daughter (note the strategic use of “oldest”…a lot of effort went into our earning superlatives like that) spent part of her summer as a high school fellow in a (really, really cool) research lab. After less than a year here. I know.

The siblings were apparently discussing the finer points of neuroendocrinology here. That's what it looks like, and now it's on the Internet, so it must be true.

Finer points of neuroendocrinology being discussed between siblings here. That’s what it looks like, and now it’s on the Internet, so it must be true.

(Note the inverse correlation between astonishing scientific accomplishment and number of years parented under our roof.)

3. My son won this summer’s Best Tan Award (see above).

His sisters were peeved.

We *might* have forgotten to supply sunscreen or a hat during his week of baseball camp. Conclusive evidence is not available at this time, but feel free to judge.

4. Canine uselessness is at full staticity in our household.

As if this requires photographic evidence.

Painfully gratuitous photographic evidence.

“Chronically truant”, “illiterate”, “ne’er do well” are all applicable here, on a daily basis.

We did discover, quite by accident, that Jenna (the middle one) can fetch small stuffed animals. But only if she’s not too bored.

Extremely, extremely good for nothing.