- first time in a car seat
- first Thanksgiving
- first birthday party of a friend, at which Patience whispered to me with alarm, "Mommy, why they put fire on the cake!?!"
- first Christmas with a tree and stocking and gifts and such
- first birthday celebrations as a family followed by first birthday parties with friends
- first tacos, pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, Sprite, and more
- first Easter
- first 4th of July
- first days of school for most of them
- first trip to the state fair
And now as Thanksgiving rolls around, we're experiencing our first second as a family of eight. Instead of choruses of "what's this?" and "why we do that?" they're asking, "Are we having turkey again this year?" and "Who is going to join us?"
(Side note, local friends: If you don't have anyone to celebrate with, there's a spot at our table for you on Thursday. Seriously.)
Instead of firsts, they know traditions. They know family. They know what it is to be Dingles.
When we took our family pictures, we tried to move the tombstone from the background but it wasn't budging. Our photographer offered to edit it out, but I said no. In so many ways, our family is marked with great losses mix in with great gains, and it just felt right to have a symbol of brokenness in the background of our present beauty. We were their first second, as in their first second family. In a perfect world, their first would have been their only, and as we rejoice in our firsts and in this transition into our seconds as a family now, we don't forget the pain interwoven with our joys.
Unlike this second Thanksgiving, though, which will be followed by a third and a fourth and so on, they won't have a third family. They're secure now. We're stable. One year, one month, and a couple weeks after they first met us, we're familiar to them now.
And we're thankful.