>Happy Day! Tradition!


Oh, this is one of the very happy traditions for us!! Happy happy day!
Yup, guess what we did this morning?
We had our state/U.S. readoption of our sweet Gabriel!
Hip hip hooray!
Waiting to be meet our favorite attorney and be allowed in to courtroom.

This is becoming a tradition for us:
Same courtroom, same attorney, same judge, same joy!

We always go out to brunch to celebrate after court…
(excuse the messy table…ahem)

And the family traditions continue…..


That’s me. Ok, not really, not the eye there. That would be Bananas. But the insomnia. That’s me. I can’t sleep. This is how I get sometimes, when stuff is brewing and/or I am stewing. We have a big event today, a happy one, I’ll post about it a little later. But this morning, I am up and have been. Insomnia. Eyes wide open. And hopefully, heads and hearts too.

>Trust, Letters and Life


Well, it’s another Catholic post I guess. But it’s a family post, it’s an adoption post, it’s an “us” (ok, me) post too.

Read on if you dare. It’s long, you know that by now.

It’s been 40 years since the publication of Humanae Vitae“, “Human Life.” That’s the encyclical, the letter from Pope Paul VI on the dignity of human life; the letter that started a cultural firestorm due to it’s stance on contraception. Talk about an unpopular topic and stance – one of the biggies (not the only one, but one of them). This post is not a big gloss on this encyclical, for that go to Darwin Catholic and/or The Deacon’s Bench for a good run down on it. This is about how it impacted me.

St. Peter’s Square, where the action is.

Now, this letter was huge – the ramifications huge. Basically it said that ALL human life is precious and that the act of creating life is God’s alone and the means to that action is also God’s alone – not ours to blockade or strip through scientific/medical intervention. I know, I can hear you all squalling, it’s my body, my life, my/our decision, who is some old Pope to tell us what to do? I get it. I was there. For years, and years, and years. I TOTALLY get it. I felt the same way, exactly.

Then I came back to the Church, which begged the question, what do I do about this? I was so happy to find and deepen my faith again, it was so good. But. How was I supposed to reconcile my natural individualism and STRONG independent streak, a modern educated woman…with this teaching that felt intrusive and old fashioned, almost medieval, at the very least simply outdated and really, behind the curve?

Many modern catholics just kind of flick it off their radar or decide to disagree. But you know, I finally came to the difficult realization that just ignoring Catholic teaching if it wasn’t to my immediate agreement was kind of hypocritical. It was an authority issue for sure. No surprise there. But what did I do with this? Fish or cut bait, if you will. Was I gonna live a true Catholic life or muddle along, kind of …not? So, I had to come to terms with this.

Buddybug, that first baby boy.

I already had three kids, for pete’s sake. I was full up, right? I mean, busy! Heck, three kids meant I was already an over-acheiver by the current cultural norms on the kid front, right? And the third, well she had colic and was a drama queen! My husband was a doc who had to work insane hours, gone so much, we were still in deep debt from all that med school. We were supposed to be good stewards of our life, funds, plan. C’mon anyone would have been justified to continue to use the pill. By anyone’s standards I could check “done that” on my life list and move on (well, almost anyone’s). More, I had cysts, the pill was supposed to help. See, medical necessity! Hmmmm.

I prayed about it, irritated that I was being nudged along this path, totally resistant. I prayed some more, I consulted with our priest, who I loved and respected (and is now our Bishop). He is a tactful man, utterly kind. But he discussed things clearly as well, with all kindness. He gently pointed out that some things are a grave medical need. And some things are control issues. And trust issues.

Booboo, the largest baby, second boy.


Well, dang.

You know, I have found that God can be a terrible nag.

Bananas: first daughter, baby number three.

And this pegged it. Bishop (Fr. C) was right. Dang. This was a trust issue. This was a control issue and authority issue which brings it back to a trust issue.

Because I didn’t.
Didn’t trust.
Not really.

I could make the big pitch for it, say the words, follow the prayers. But my heart was really stony on this one, because you know, I was a control freak. I didn’t trust God to be in charge of my family, not really. I was in charge of my family. I knew how many kids I/we could handle. I knew where my breaking point was.

Now the question became what did I do with that? How do I learn to trust more? Remember, I was/am stubborn and a slow learner, slow to change.

So I prayed. Or tried to. Prayed for grace to give up on this, this grip of fear. Because a lack of trust is really, well, fear. It is. For me, at least. It is the fear of not being in control.

I was afraid of having more kids and not being able to handle it on so many levels. My last pregnancy was high risk (due to my huge second baby boy 9lbs 9oz) and they warned me of rupture and the grave dangers of having more kids. More worry.

Just as I was needing to let go, I found myself running across more reading (I am a reader) on the depth of God’s love for us; on His desire for our perfect good. I read and it finally soaked in that God doesn’t want anything for us that will break us, but instead what He sends us, even when it’s scary and nerve-wracking or very hard, is for our greater good and our truest happiness.

Like a Father.

Like I do for my kids when I say no to that next piece of cake that will make them sick and give them carrots (ok bad analogy, but you get the idea), when I teach them something hard that they are then grateful {eventually} to know. Oh.

Now I had to decide if I really believed that God knew best? Did I know more than God Himself? (did I hang the stars…?) Ok, no.

SBird, fourth baby home, tiniest.

So, I stepped onto a pitch-black stepping stone, one step forward in faith, and agreed to accept the teaching of Humanae Vitae. No, I didn’t have to sign anything, but I gave over. Inside. God could be in control of our family. Of me.


Oh, man it was kind of nervous making.
But then, kind of liberating.

And, with it, came (as drippy as it sounds) a lifting….I was happier. Somehow, that diving in deeper, the acceptance of this teaching helped bring me closer. And that brought a deeper joy. Go figure.

The Divine Miss M

And no I did not have any more biological children. I was/am open to it. My cysts went away, totally. But I was happier. Our marriage, surprisingly to me, moved into a better place. And, yes, you know the next thing.

God started nudging us to have more children. Another way: adoption. And, as we had decided to accept any children God brought to us, we talked and wondered and prayed and then, kind of nervously, stepped forward. But that story is one for other posts. You know how it ends up though…..

Little Man, third boy, happy boy!
And as it happens, while I thought I knew my breaking point and what we could handle or do…well, God knew better. I know, you all could figure that one out, but I was/am dense. And now, I know, really DO know, that we WILL take as many children as God sends us, any way they come. Beyond my comprehension, God never fails our trust. Ever.

Oh how beautiful is the lesson of Humanae Vitae, Human Life.

Is it easy to have seven kids? Not always, no. It can be crazed and has taken me places I never dreamt, not all of them easy.
Is it easy to trust and let go, still? No.

However, it is glorious. It is beautiful.

I am so thankful for the grace to bend my will, set down my fear, and step one stop forward into the dark. Our seventh, Gabriel Tariku, a gift from Ethiopia.

>Happy Dance

>We are doing the happy dance here.
Ok, I am.
Because I am wracking my morning foggy brain.
But I think…. I think……

Shhhh, I don’t want to say it too loud.
But, I think….Gabriel slept through the night!
Woohooo! Shhhhhhh.

He’s been waking like 4+ times a night since he got home.
More, if he sleeps in his crib in Little Man’s room that they will share.
So he’s sleeping in our room, in a porta crib.
So this would be the FIRST time ever, in our home at least.
He’s not a sleeper.

It’s a whole new world people!
If he does it again.

They are so sweet when they are sleeping aren’t they?
(ok, and this one, when he’s awake too!)

>Crazy Eyes: Part 2

>I quit.

I think I mean it this time. Part of the reason my blogging has been light is I’ve been trying out and trying to adjust to contacts. Bifocal contacts.

No big deal, right? Well, this old dog can’t seem to learn this new trick.

I had four different options to test out. The first group was a set of three variations on the new cool bifocal theme: concentric rings. Sounds high tech and gee whiz wow: concentric rings of near and far distance and the eye adjusts the image in your brain to bring it all into one coherent sharp edged picture. Yeah, right.

In actuality however, it is much more like those old cartoons where a character gets hypnotized and their eyes start to spin in a psychedelic swirl, around and around. Like this.
Courtesy of squidoo.com/optical-illusion videos

So the sets I was given had one with far distance in the center, one with one eye with center far and one eye center near, and one set with the different centers but different magnification. And then, just to make sure I had enough choices, I had a monovision lens to test out. Kind of the same theory of different eyes, different magnifications, one sharp image in the brain.

So, you would think out of all these wonderful, extensive choices, I would find the perfect set of contacts. I might have, except for the bumping into things. Ok, not really. But close. The monovision made me tippy. Not tipsy (sheesh!) but tippy, kind of off kilter. So those had to go. The others seemed ok. The far was fantastic. And the near, reading…well, I tried. I squinted, I reached my arms as far as they would go, I popped ibuprofens as my head ached…..because it was just a matter of time, right?

Yeah, exactly. Until I grabbed my glasses when I had my contacts in and thought “ah, see there ya go, NOW I can see.” Hmmm, I don’t think it’s supposed to work that way.

The last straw was when I was trying once again to swap lens and test out another version, give it a second try. Last Saturday. I grabbed an old contact lens case (because I couldn’t see, my eyes were blurry from the strain and it was morning, ok?) and put in the lenses. Then after oh, 15 minutes, I took them out because they were killing me. I figured I must have scratched my eye as I popped the lenses in, in my typical clumsy fashion. I asked husband and son if they saw anything in my eye, I looked for a lash – nothing. So I put in some drops and went on about my day.

I waited for my eye to stop hurting. It didn’t. Finally, late that night, my eye was getting swollen and goopy. And finally, after closer inspection -with I had my glasses on I found a contact lens, ripped in half(!), under my lid! No wonder my eye hurt! No, I still don’t know how that happened (and yes, you could make a strong argument that if I am that inept I have no business trying contacts, I know). Happy to have that resolved, I went to bed. Ahhhh.

I woke up a cyborg.

My eye was closed shut with yuk and swollen almost shut even after it was, um, degunked. It was red and miserable. Blurry.

I was going blind, I knew it.

It took four days to stop hurting and get back to normal. It still has one small spot of red just for old times sake, but it is fine. My husband is adamant – I am not cut out for contacts, please please stop.

I think he might be right. So I quit. I will keep my glasses, get some prescription shades and resign myself to having same glasses flung off my face with the enthusiastic hugs and play of my sweet toddler. I will accept the encroaching middle age and appreciate the magic vision of spectacles.

I will give up this folly, this pursuit for contacts, once and for all.

I think.

>Feast Days!

>It’s a big weekend around here for feast days. Kind of snuck up on us, it’s been a hectic week.

First we had St. Christopher’s Feast Day, yesterday (Friday, July 25). Now officially, it was the feast day of St. James the Greater. And while I am quite sure he is an awesome guy, I mean, he’s a saint and all, we don’t have a James in our bunch and we are not all that familiar with him – despite him being the first apostle to be martyred (which again, lends itself to the awesome holy guy factor).

St. Christopher, Cologne Cathedral, Germany

But, used to be, yesterday was also St. Christopher’s feast day, until he got booted off the official saint feast calendar. And despite Sister Mary Martha really not being keen on St. Christopher (due to his dubious status), we are kind of fond of him around here. She makes a valid point that he is suspected to be legendary, lived well before tidy historical records, and thus was dropped off the formal calendar of the Church. [She explains it all well, go read.] And that is probably a good thing, as we all want the Church to be as careful as can be about the whole saint thing, making sure T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted and all; and the calendar was way too crowded and so the Church didn’t want any saints on it that couldn’t be historically traced and proven….because the whole communion of saints thing is too terrific to mess up.

But, that being said, we don’t much care if he is legendary or if he existed. I mean, c’mon, I got my graduate degree in Folklore and Folklife from U Penn, I love oral tradition and history and how it traces and carries cultures over eons (and maybe is another reason I talk and type so much…but I digress)! We love the story of this saint and he is the patron of my Buddybug, and his name means “Christ-bearer” and I think that right there is just beautiful….and very apt for my son. He is all too often the Christ-bearer in this house, bringing kindness and gentleness to our home. So, we think that while it might not be traceable that St. Christopher actually was a living man and saint, we think it is not improbable and so we will celebrate St Christopher and the concept of being a Christ-bearer. That is worth a bit of thought and attention on any given day and yesterday was the day to do it in our house.

Saints Joachim and Anne, at the Church Saint Pantaléon, France.

And tomorrow, Sunday, is the feast day of St’s Joachim and Anne. It’s another patron of one of my kidletts: Bannas. These two are considered to be the grandparents of Jesus during His life here on earth, Mary’s mother and father. Anne is also the patron of all christian mothers and Joachim, of christian fathers. And while we don’t know so much about these two, we can presume they were typical grandparents, crazy in love with their grandson and proud of their daughter and her husband (I mean, they are saints, not petty grouchy old folks like some, and no I”m not pointing any fingers). So, tomorrow we will ask them for a few extra prayers on behalf of our sweet girl and for our family – as well as for all the orphans who are waiting for new families across the world.

Some might think it’s nuts or strange to think about saints and feast days, much less have a bit more prayer and/or celebration, but well the communion of saints is the coolest thing. I love having a big old extended family to hit up for prayers and support, whether they are here walking the earth or have moved beyond this world. I have had so many stop me and ask, “what do you mean, asking ‘a saint’ to pray for you….that’s wrong, you should just ‘pray to Jesus.” Well, yeah, I do. And will. But I also tend to ask my close friends and family for prayers, heck I’ve been known to call them up and beg! And it is no different asking a saint for prayers, except that they are closer to God, in the Beatific Vision itself, and no longer all smudged up by our natural tendencies toward selfishness and concupiscence. So, heck yeah, I’ll hit up a saint for prayers, I’ll take all the help I can get.

As for feast days, it’s always nice to remember family on their important days, whether or not they are still with us here. It adds a richness to our lives; it helps us move out of the immediate craziness and think about a bigger time frame, the eternal one. So, we like feast days around here, especially those of our patrons. So we’ll remember them and their lives, look to them for good example and ask for a prayer or two; if we are lucky we can celebrate with a traditional tasty dessert! Life is hard, why not have a bit more fun and enjoyment, another layer of richness woven in, when you can? It works for us!

So, for all those parents, grandparents, and families out there: St’s Joachim and Anne, pray for us!

>Friday Follies


Daughters are fun!

No time to post this morning, so I thought I’d put up a pic that makes me smile and to brighten our dark rainy day here (which means it’s a soup night! We love soup!). Many things swirling in my gerbil wheel of a mind…..but for now, running late. So, for now you get fun toes. Meanwhile off to the Friday favorite morning: coffee with a pal and adoration…ah bliss.

>Making me Wacky

>Baby Gates.

They are making me a bit nuts.
We have an older house.
Which means, wacky stairs in wacky places.
Which means, NOTHING is standard.
Which means, the gates don’t fit right.
Which means, wacky homemade modifications.
I don’t know why this surprises me.

And, he’s a climber.
And, he’s fast.
So, just a tiny bit wacky.

>The Grammar of Love

>In the past day or so, I’ve had this conversation and/or topic come up more than four times. So I’m guessing that it might be worth a post. Many of you, the 7 or so who follow this blog, have already heard or know all this….but like I said, it keeps coming up.
Bear with me. It’s long (I know, you’re shocked).
It’s not a glamour post for me…it’s the dark side, people.
The side I’m least proud of.
But it’s truth.
And, for you moms about to bring home your first or another, maybe it will set your minds to rest.
It’s a scary thing, having a kid.
Baby, toddler, older child…bringing one home, from the hospital biologically or from elsewhere through adoption….well, I think it can be terrifying. It can be ecstatic, but it can be terrifying too.

Maybe it should be.
Sigh, read on.

A long time ago, I thought I had it figured out. I had the “mom” thing worked out. I knew how to do it, mostly. I knew how it worked. I knew all about love.

I mean, I had gone through a number of years of marriage, some of them rocky. And we were still together, against all odds.
I had given birth to three children, so hey, I knew how all about that kind of consuming cosmos changing love.
And I had even adopted. Not once, but all at once, twice!

And that’s when I realized it.
I didn’t know spit about love.

Because all of a sudden, it wasn’t a Hallmark card anymore.
It looked a little bit like a Hallmark Movie, without the glamorous actors.
The screenplay would’ve read like one, since our first adoption set, of a surprising TWO girls [born 4 days apart, two separate adoptions, suddenly] was a unique and God sent gift. (and a long story, for another post)
But underneath, there was a rumble. An earthquake, way deep under the surface.

Because for me, this is where my preconceptions, my lofty concepts and tidy packaged notions of what love meant came utterly unraveled.

I had thought Love was kind of like, you know, LUUV.
It felt all fluttery or breathless and deep at the same time. It could take your breath away and lift you to the highest piers. It could wrap you in the soft comfort and you could burrow in with a sigh.
And it can. It did.
But that’s the adjective kind of love.
It’s great stuff, don’t get me wrong. I crave it, we all do and happily enough, it’s there. And was.
But with adoption, that was when I learned the most real kind of love.
The truth.
(And I know, you’re way ahead of me. I told you I was a slow learner, didn’t I? You would’a thought a baby girl with dreadful colic would’ve taught me, huh? Again, sloooww learner. Kinda dense. That’s me, but I digress).
But the real truth – the real love….is a verb.

Love is a verb.

Love is doing. Period.
And because I am so dense, God had to send me MORE children to teach me this.
So He did. And I learned. It was not easy.
I learned that when you are overwhelmed with the change of family, from three to five children and all of them young enough to be very needy…love becomes stretched. Or it seems like it does, or did. Not necessarily stretched in an immediate ‘bring them into the cushion of my embrace’…but stretched in the sense of “oh my goodness, how do I do this and I’m not FEELING any flutters or torrents of emotion, unless you count the flutters behind my burning sleepy eyes and the tears about to flood!”
And I cried. And I was shocked and despairing at my utter failing.
As a mom. As a person. I didn’t love enough, somehow, I thought.
I didn’t FEEEEEEL the feelings that they say you are supposed to feel, I thought.

I wasn’t being lifted. I was sinking, I thought.

I wasn’t really.
I was learning, and growing, and loving.

Thank God, literally, for the graces bestowed on the sacrament of marriage.
Instead of wondering what was wrong with me, or worst of all, scoffing it all off my husband smiled at me, unconcerned, although of course, concerned…..
I would follow him around the house, carrying one or two of the babies, saying, “Yeah, I know, I love them…but, it’s so much, so much to do…..will I feel it? Will I love them enough????”

Because I knew. I found out – how shallow and needy I am (still).
Because it was about me.

He would smile at me. Then he would take one and hold her.
And he said, “Just DO for them.”
“Huh? Are you not watching me, that’s what I’m doing!”
“That’s right. That’s just right” he would smile.
And when he would see my eyes about to pool over, and me look at him in dismay, he would remind me, “DO for them, the feelings, the depth of feeling, will come. That’s what makes the truest love. DO for them. Don’t worry. Do for them”
So I did.
I walked the floors with the one who (still) hates change and was fussy.
I held the prickly one who couldn’t be still but was electric and could light up the room.
I made endless bottles and changed endless diapers.
I rocked.
I rocked.
I lost count of the times I got out of bed at night, 3, 5, 8 times a night, the times we stood there together, both falling asleep as we soothed them back to sleep. (no it is not easy to get two babies on the same schedule, at least it’s not one of my skills).
I slept standing up sometimes, holding them until they would be sleepy and willing to be put back in their crib.
I swapped back and forth with my husband, nuzzling little necks and smooching chubby cheeks.
And one day, not long after (and those days are a blur, I lost time, the pics don’t reflect the time it took, don’t freak out) I realized it.
OH, how I loved them. With the whole deal….the schmaltzy songtrack, jump in front of a train for them loved them.
And then I realized. He’s right: Love is a verb.

It’s great when it’s the adjective love…but that is really all about ME.

REAL love, caritas, charity, the gift of love, is a verb.
It’s the doing, whether or not you’ve got the feeling…perhaps MORE so if you don’t.

And honestly, as a mom, that is the most important thing to remember.
And honestly, as a mom, I totally forget. (slow learner, remember?)
I am quite sure that is why God keeps sending me more children, seven now. For me to learn, somehow and eventually, and maybe permanently. Because He knows how MUCH I will love these children, in all the ways that can be love. He knows better than I.
And with my now rather largish family, I have so many chances to practice.
And when I have bad days or the kids are in an irritating phase or patch, when I am in an irritable phase or patch, it’s easy to forget that despite the fact that the LOVE of them all, already (hold this child in Addis…done for) even this newest one, is long established, the Love of them is a willed action. I have to love them, do for them, no matter their (or my) sulks or moods or missing chores. And then when I do….the LOVE of them, the gushy feeling, comes back if it’s flitted to the shadows….sooner usually.
Our faith tells us the same thing of course.
God is love.
The full grammar of Love, every part of it.
The Fruit of the Spirit is love.
The greatest of these is love.
But real Love is not the Hallmark love that our culture and media will tout, they spout the adjectival love.
But REAL love: it’s Caritas.
It’s a gift.
It’s a gift of yourself.
It reflects the greatest sacramental love.
Sacraments: outward signs of invisible Grace.
Thank goodness it doesn’t depend on US and our feeeeelings.

It’s real.

It’s doing.

Love is a Verb.

Despite all…it’s not SO bad being a slow learner…..and really, I hope and pray to keep learning and I have a very very long way to go.
My mind reels with how much more God has to teach me, and how or what (or how many) He might send to do so. (that is the exciting part in a way)
Grammar was never my strong suit. But look at my school!

See, how beautiful are my teachers?!

>How to know you’re raising an Ethiopian


Maybe he misses the spicy Ethiopian food?
So the salsa at the Mexican restaurant was as close as he’s got right now. He pushed for the chips and dipped it in the hot salsa. We held our breath, waiting for the scowl and spit out. Instead he pushed me out of the way; he wanted more.
Even cheerios are better dipped in salsa!!
Hat tip to Buddybug



This is us, years ago at St. Peters square: connected with the world, literally people from every country around the world, physically and through prayer and history. Too cool.

This one is for Jana. She, of the cool art and a fav blog, is waiting. She is waiting for that referral of her baby. It is hard. Especially this week, with the great rejoicing of the tide of referrals and court passes. But I’ve been thinking about Jana.

She put up the coolest thing: the song played at her wedding. Little did she know, it is one of my favorite hymns. Yes, an old favorite Catholic hymn: “Oh God Beyond All Praising.” If I can find a link to the music, with singing, I will link or post it (it’s that great). But read the words, they are so good, perfect. And that hymn, her post, got me thinking.

You see, it’s all connected.

All of it. It’s supposed to be, of course.

But we forget.

Or at least, I do. Too often.

And then I am reminded and the beauty of it catches in my throat and pricks tears behind my old crazy eyes.

My husband and I were sitting outside after dinner, watching the kids rip and tear and talking about this hymn, Jana’s post and the connections. (yes, we are that nerdy, we sit around talking about religion….we can’t help it).

You see, this particular hymn is a song of rejoicing. But in that rejoicing and praise is also so much, so much that is not so rejoice-y. In fact, it alludes to how hard things can be or get – waiting, suffering.

we’ll triumph through our sorrows
and rise to bless you still:

It includes how we can not just limp along and wither through suffering, but even triumph through hard things, things we can’t figure out and don’t like, and still know that all things work to His good. It’s so easy to forget that. I do, all the time. Or I mouth the words but don’t really ingest them, believe them. That’s the hard part.

This hymn is an Easter hymn. Easter is preceded by Lent, a time of fasting, going without, doing penance or suffering (in varied ways). It is the ultimate WAIT. Waiting on Christ himself and the manifestation of God’s will and glory. And during lent, historically, the church brings new members in at the Easter vigil, walking through lent with them, suffering and waiting for that light of Easter, in union, support and solidarity with them.

And at the Easter Vigil (which starts in utter darkness and then bursts into literal, flaming light) this song is often played at the end, the recession, with trumpets blaring and bells ringing and voices raised in glorious cacophony of grinning joy.

And Jana’s got it right -this song in her head and heart. And mine too. Because really, the coolest thing is the support that I’ve found and can give through these blogs. The connections. The adoption process, with all the stops and starts and sinking despair and desperate waiting and soaring joy, is an intense small reduction of the most real life. And, at the best, we can walk through it together, suffer, wait, help bear the burden and shout with glee, as we each wind our way through this long road….looking for the light at the end, waiting on His word. His Word.

The adoption process is a personal Lent. And Easter comes with the arrival of our child.

But the best part about this song, and one that I’m thinking about, is that this song DOES have it all. It doesn’t minimize the wait, the sorrow. But it does reveal the promise, that it will end with us marveling at the beauty of a new child and wondering at the ways it all came together. God’s way, the perfect mystery of it.

It makes me prickle with anticipation and joy, because I know how good it is. And it is going to happen. For all the waiting families, the ones who are about to fly (literally and figuratively), it’s just a matter of time.

But it’s real. It’s there. This hymn is centuries old. And it still makes me smile and cry at the same time. Because it’s about Easter, the real one, our little one in our personal reflecting pool. But it’s the realest stuff there is.

I don’t think it’s just a coincidence when the best, realest, parts of life parallel the most important stuff in the universe. I thinks its bricks, falling on our heads, helping us to see in our blind world.

It’s this, ultimately, it comes to this: it’s the connections. Make them and you’ll see life for real.

…to marvel at your beauty and glory in your ways.
And make a joyful duty, our sacrifice of praise.

So, Jana, this one’s for you. And all the rest of you families as well.
We will wait in wonder, with you.
And connect the dots.

>Tardy, almost Wordless Wednesday (Thursday Edition)


So, I’m late. That pretty much sums up my week.

I’ve been behind since about 5 a.m. Monday morning. And you can see that this isn’t a wordless Wednesday at all, but hey, it’s Thursday now so I can yak for a moment, eh? It’s been a crazy hormonal week.

So I think this photo sums it up: what I should be doing. Not meditating, better: praying. More. Better. I’ve been distracted and harried and so my prayers are lacking. Thus, I’ve been caving to hormones and stress. ugh. So. More prayer. Maybe some time painting if I can carve out a few minutes or more. That always helps. My kids are much better at having fun, of course!

On another note, we are giddy and rejoicing for all the referrals and court passes for the Gladney families!! It’s been a flurry of fabulous news this week. So, despite my crazy week, once again we see, God is so good, all the time.

>Travel Treat: BUNA!!

>I find myself in a bit of an Ethiopian funk, and have to sort it out some before I post about it, or not.

However, in the excitement over referrals received by Gladney families, I thought I would add to it by posting about one of the great treats in going to Ethiopia: BUNA!!!

That’s coffee. The best coffee on earth. No kidding.

The legend on how coffee got it’s start (and the name for the Addis version of Starbucks) can be found here, among other places. I won’t tell the whole story, go read. But suffice to say it’s got all the good stuff: sheperd named Kaldi, goats, monks, roasting beans, prayers. What’s not to like?

The coffee ceremony starts with aesthetics. The flower petals were laid out around the cups and roaster, the cups were set out and the coals lit. How pretty is that? Seeing those petals laid out and stools waiting for us to sit and visit was a welcome treat after a long hard day! A straw fan was waved over them until they are hot, sometimes an incense of sorts is added to them.
The coffee ceremony is about more than coffee however. It is about connecting. Like any real coffee break, it is about relaxing and enjoying a visit with a friend, old or new, learning more about another person. It is a gift of time and attention, a gift of self on multiple levels. This one was Wagayu’s gift to us. And we were grateful.
Just for fun, they had us girls try our hand at roasting the coffee. Not the men. Apparently, it is tradition that women do the roasting. So, Bananas gave it a go.
Then it was my turn. I’m no pro, that’s for sure. But it was oddly relaxing to kind of sit and stir, listening to the conversation.
After getting a good laugh, politely and kindly, on our inept roasting skills, Tsemest ground the roasted beans with a steel cut rod and wooden pestle. Next she boiled, pouring it in and out of the traditional pot.
Finally, to our great anticipation, Tsemest poured the dark coffee into the small white porcelain cups. She offered it with raw sugar (and I tasted it with and without – to Wagayu’s dismay. Good either way).They traditionally serve popcorn with the coffee, often spicy, and while it sounds different…oddly enough, works. It’s good.
Maybe it’s the smell of the coffee and incense, maybe it’s the smell of the popcorn. But I’m guessing that neighbor children know it’s a great time to wander over for a visit. They’re right. That’s Jess.
Suffice it to say, coffee is a big deal in Ethiopia! A country after my own heart (it got it!). While the coffee ceremony is too much production for most folks on any given morning, even coffee on the run is fantastic in Addis Ababa. It is different than American coffee, to be sure. It is maybe most like coffee in Italy. It is close to espresso but not exactly the same; it is smoother, less bitter, with a full flavor. It is certainly worth a try, even by those who aren’t coffee afficionados….add a little of the sugar and give it a shot. You might be surprised and really, it’s worth a try because it is a part of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian culture. That alone makes it special.

We are so grateful that Wagayu asked us to have coffee with him! It was one of the special treats of our trip. It saved an afternoon that, for me, had careened off course. We had had our embassy appointment canceled with no news of our paperwork arriving and a migraine had started it’s tsunami in my head. Braking, breaking, for coffee……it helped get the day back on course, pull it out of the slide.

So, if anyone asks you if you’d have coffee with them, say, “Yes!” And if anyone travels and has room to bring back some roasted beans, um, drop me an email – I’ll reimburse! (kidding….maybe).

>Windows into heaven


“The Angel Gabriel comes to Mary and says, You shall bear a Son.”

You all know it: I like icons. You see them often enough on this blog. I do. You might think we are Eastern or Greek Orthodox. Or heck, Ethiopian Orthodox maybe? But no. We are Roman Catholic. But still, we really like icons in our house. Because icons are ‘windows into heaven.” They help us see the unseen. The help us visualize and pray but aren’t realistic and lifelike to have us really attach to the image like a photo. And I think that is cool. They help us leap the divide of earth and heaven, material and spiritual.

I’ve been thinking about this icon today. For one thing it has the Archangel Gabriel in it, one of my favorites and the namesake of our dear boy. He is the messenger. God’s messenger. And in this icon he brings tidings of the greatest joy. A son. The Son. And Mary learns she will be a mom. And she says, “Fiat.” “Yes, I will.” And the heavens rejoice.

And today Gladney families got news of the iceberg breaking up and movement to come. And maybe even some families experienced tidings of great joy. And the moms will say, “yes, I will.”

I know for me, just knowing about the beginning, the not so distant anymore, coming of good tindings brought me great joy today for all of these families, waiting and waiting. And I think of the rejoicing to come. And the message sent: God is faithful. He sends his son, and a mom will say yes. And there, in that message, is typified the joy, real joy. A living breathing icon in our homes, a window into heaven played out by our own selves.

How cool is that? I love icons.

>Presence. Here. Now.

>You know, it’s been a tough week with Little Man. Yeah, he’s awfully cute but he’s been feeling the fallout this week, and so have I. Each time we go on a trip, I have figured that you get approximately 3 days of fallout for every week gone, give or take a tantrum or nuclear meltdown or two.

Combine that with our own version of chaos theory – domestic version:

7c X 17d X 9s X 92L x XY7M = S3 = !*^%$#

{number of children X number of days gone X number of suitcases divided by loads of laundry, then X to an integer factor of oh, seven, on trips to the market, then the whole sum at that point again cubed if hormones or infection strike = cranky mom, thrown toys, bedroom timeouts, huffing, puffing and blow your house down temper tantrums.}
Big bad wolf in a four year old roaring version….or a 46 year old gray she-wolf version, depending on the episode.

Today however, despite the new norm (this week’s norm) of a midday meltdown by Little Man, a baby who has found the power and range of his voice but no words, and a hormonal preteen girl, I felt a fresh breath of grace, much needed. And sure enough, I read this (and of course she writes so much more, and so much better, really, go read) just after I inexplicably found the deep down nugget of enough calm to hug the weepy daughter instead of groan, and to walk away quietly after a quick short hug and direction on terms (you know: “if – then”), instead of scowl and yell at the screaming angry 4 yr old. In short, they didn’t push my buttons like they do too often.

Then Buddybug asked me to pray a rosary with him. Of course I said yes. And then I realized, ahh, the Holy Spirit was at work. I was in need of some extra help. Obviously this wasn’t my own ability to stay calm and centered. It was Grace. Needed grace (still right on the edge and I need it so) and I needed to pray a rosary…and think about the inklings that had been trickling into my cranky brain these past few days and were now gelling a tiny bit. And since I think and process best by typing, of course that meant a post, poor you.

Back to that old idea of presence. Present moment. Living in the present moment. It is one of the things I am just really bad at doing. I tend to live my life in a whirling continuous spinning gizmo of cogs, endlessly spinning on the multi-tasking of my life. My agenda, cloaked in caring for others, but really, my agendas. Surely my mind must look something like this.
I always have multiple things going on at once. I am always spinning the next thing(s) in my head, even as I want to be here, now.

And therein lies the problem. If I am not in the moment, the present, then my presence is missing. My full presence. My essence. And then not only am I missing out, my kids and those I am with are too. It makes the complete difference between the stop, look, hug and the point, yell, scowl when the meltdowns start. It is a mindfulness that is so hard to achieve because I let my mind get so full. I don’t think this is uncommon, I think it is a malady of the modern woman’s life (but that would be another post). I do think, however, it is a selfishness {and I am hands down the most selfish person I’ve ever met…see, even there, all about me!} And that relates directly to the article on the sacrifice of love. It is worth a read. As Sister Mary Martha would say, “go ahead. I’ll wait.”

The idea of sacrifice as love is one that is easily dismissed as old fashioned, doormat, victim, self righteous, or most scathing: martyr. In our modern world you have to make sure you make time for you. “Me time.” But really, love is a pouring out of your self. It is giving up your very self and being to another, ostensibly, often, ones who mean more to you than life itself. It is being willing to stand in the tide of the meltdown tantrum and BE there instead of thinking you need to be somewhere else and will they please finish this quickly? And yet, obviously, none of us really like to do that. So, still such a struggle. Because it IS a sacrifice.

It is so hard to be present, really present. But it makes such a difference to set your (my) self aside and be there for the other – the child, the husband/wife, friend, parent. It is the difference between actual love and the mirror image. Between the gossip, the blog, the retelling. Without that presence it is the movie version of love that we play out in our heads as they spin their gizmo cogs as we think of whatever idea is clogging our brains even as we talk, hug, look at our children. It is truly, ‘seeing through a glass, darkly’ (1Cor 13).
LinkIf only I can remember to be open to the grace to be present. In the moment. Here. Now. Instead of my ideas, agendas, sacrificing the “my wants” to the moment in front of me, then and only then will I really live – and more, really love. De Caussaude has it right. But oh, I need so much grace to even get a glimmer of it. It is so hard to do. Sacrifice hurts. Love is one of the hardest things to do in the world, even as it’s the simplest too. Fallout happens. It’s gonna take me a lifetime of practice. I’m a slow learner. And then, maybe someday, I hope, I will be able to see Love, face to face.

>Ayat House, Addis

>It feels like there might be some traveling going on….sooner rather than later. So, in the spirit of optimism, I figured I’d once again post my opinion….this time on accommodations.

There are many choices when you travel to Addis: hotels, bed and breakfast’s, guest houses. I hear Belay has opened a guest house and I bet it is great, a good bet. However, IMHO, and since it’s my blog you guys will get ONLY that…..Ayat House is the happening place, the only place to stay. It looks just like the pic above, that’s a shot of the neighborhood, one of the nicer ones in Addis.

It IS a nice neighborhood (by Ethiopian standards, we are not talking Beverly Hills so, careful on your expectations), it is gated (they all are) and guarded (they all are) and I felt totally utterly safe there. It is a stone’s throw from the baby houses, the foster care homes of our agency: Gladney. The in country families – the reps and even Belay – live in this area and so you can know it’s a good spot to be, all the hip people hang out there. Kidding, but really, it is a very good choice if you are traveling.

This (below) is Wagayu. He is the owner of Ayat House and the most gracious host you could ask for. He is sitting with Jess, the cute sweet next door neighbor who likes to wander over for a visit now and then.
Wagayu keeps his property spotless, and has a beautiful garden with all kinds of different flowering plants and has made a little fresh air oasis in a dusty city.
When we were lucky enough to reserve the Ayat House we were not sure what it would be like. And while we specifically wanted a more “local” experience, I am a wuss about places to stay and I truly relish a posh hotel and so we were very curious to see how this would turn out. Turns out, we got so lucky! Better than a posh hotel, for us, for this trip. Once we arrived we went through the whole house, ever so amazed and grateful. It had been 30 hours of travel and we were all grubby, tired, and starving and we could instantly spread out and relax in this comfortable, welcoming home, just for us. What a great blessing. It was NOT as swishy as the Hilton or the Sheraton, it was not a McMansion, but it was perfect for this trip.

Some details to follow. But first, we have talked about and everyone has heard about lack of power and the blackouts. Well, it’s true. It was a lot of the time; no power. But. It was no big deal. Really. Wagayu had candles and matches handy, we brought (and left) a couple of tiny LED lanterns that gave off enough light. If you planned your showers (and you need to as the water heaters need a while to heat up) then you just worked around the power outs. The lack of power didn’t adversely impact our trip as far as our lodging, at all.
This is the master bedroom, where we stayed with Tariku. Very comfortable, simple, bath attached to room. Huge amount of closet space.
This was the second bedroom, slightly smaller than the master, Bananas stayed in here and was very comfy.
This, as you can see, was the bedroom for the teen boys (bet ya can’t tell that one!), they were comfy and happy too.
The living room was bright and spacious and very comfortable, but also private, with room for us all. We played with the baby, napped, and just generally crashed here.
This dining table was lovely and very useful. We ate our crazy dinner late that Sunday night, typed on the computer to upload later, and even during the blackouts, all my big kids sat around this table late into the night playing cards by tiny portable lamplight.
The kitchen, very basic, but you’re not gonna be whipping up gourmet meals in Addis anyhow. It was handy to have and well used for bottle prep and storing munchies and such.
We even cooked a bit, that first night on this stove(it has a lid that closes) and Wagayu scolded us for doing the dishes!? Turns out, he has a wonderful girl who helps him: Tsemest, and she is awesome. She did the dishes if we didn’t get to them first, she did laundry which was tremendously appreciated (and a far far better job at it than I EVER do), and in addition to working full time for Wagayu, she goes to night school. She is like a daughter to him and is sweet and awesome. I will post her pic in my coffee post – to come.
To sit and visit with Wagayu (and the shy Tsemest) was a wonderful relaxing treat, on a particularly tough afternoon. He told us of his children, showed us pictures (a handsome bunch!) and we talked easily about all sorts of things. He is just a really nice man.

And when my husband and big kids left for their brief sojourn in Egypt, he took care of me like a father. He brought me coffee in the morning and despite my protests (true) that I don’t eat much breakfast, he fussed at me and decided I’d better have some eggs. Beaten, I relented with a grin, and Tsemest made me the ever fantastic coffee and fresh scrambled eggs with fresh made bread. Bliss.
So, for us, the greatest reason to stay at a guest house and at Ayat House in particular is to experience a bit more, a bit more intimately, the Ethiopian culture. It is beautiful there. From the baskets and mesobs (above, in the dining room at Ayat), to the neighbors to the people we got to know for a moment, it was a priceless time. We aren’t fooling ourselves to think we lived like most Ethiopians. No, we lived like royalty – relative to Ethiopian standards (meaning we were escorted and driven and assisted the whole way, very cared for). But we got to skim the surface of Addis Ababa, with a slightly deeper groove than if we had isolated ourselves in our American comfort zone, with our needs for comfort and our naive worries.

Staying at this guest house made our lives and this trip so much richer. To lie in bed in the early morning and wake to the call to prayer, and a few guard dogs at night, is an experience you won’t get in the Spielberg subdivisions that reach throughout our nation. To have your laundry flapping in the wind, for all to see, at first is disconcerting and then just makes you smile and laugh…because it just doesn’t get much more real than seeing your bloomers blowing in the breeze now does it? But so are everyone else’s. And that’s ok. It’s great. To be greeted each time you leave or return with a big smile by this man and Tsemest, to practice your pitiful Amharic with him and have him help your pronunciation and understanding and laugh with you when you screw it up….it’s fun, it’s kind. It makes you feel just a little more connected, a little more like a piece of you found a home for a moment.

All that being said, THIS is the reason you stay at Ayat House. Wagayu.
That’s the bottom line, you’ll miss out if you miss him.

>Half Birthday!


Gabriel had his half birthday yesterday, he is now 18 months, already!!

Since we were not able to celebrate his first birthday, we figured that was a good enough excuse to celebrate his half bday!

We didn’t go nuts but he did get his two favorite things, a car and a ball.
And his life was changed forever: he had his first taste of chocolate cake!

>Old Friends


You know, old friends are some of the best friends.
And no, I’m not only talking about actual chronological age….ahem.

This is a pic of one of my oldest friends, Leslie, who is like a sister in many ways. Her mom was like a second mom to me and her sisters were family as well. We’ve been sort of extended family for oh, somewhere around 35 years now.

Every year or so when we head back to California, Leslie drives down with her kids to spend the day with us, and we finish it off with a celebration traditional dinner at a local mexican food place. Great fun, a day to relax and talk and catch up in person! God is so good to give us such long term pals, through thick and thin. And each year we take this goofy pic, where we look progressively older and doofy, but we don’t care because we are so darn happy!

“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth.” Sirach 6:14-15

>Home again, home again, jiggity jig.

>Things I like about coming home:

Not having to fly anymore.
Sleeping in our own beds.
Cooking in my own kitchen.
Being able to make homemade bread and yogurt.
Using cloth diapers again!
Pounding hot shower.
Happy dog.
Being able to talk to girlfriends.
Listening to my son play piano and guitar and sing.
Visiting the Dominican Sisters.
Mass with our Bishop, special treat!
A car with space for all my kids.
Fresh vine grown tomatoes and flourishing basil plant, made into cecca.
No more airport lines.
Gas almost, almost, a dollar cheaper!
Cloth diapers.
Laundry, despite the mountains of it.
Children happy to sleep in their own beds.
Watching the small boys race cars in the kitchen.
Watching the big boys wrestle.
All of us, watching the most amazing men’s finals in Wimbledon, ever – cool inside.
The soft summer air here.
The slower pace.
The open space (relatively typing).
The quiet.
New homeschool curriculum waiting to be perused.
Cooking more Real food, eating less junk food.
Family rosaries around our bed.
Our big long old wood table, able to seat us all, together, for dinner again.

Yes, it’s all about the food, I see that.
And yes, it’s so nice to go on vacation!
But it’s OH so nice to come home again!



Gabriel Tariku and I, taking a short snooze, or trying.
Yes, he’s laying on myhead. Yes, it’s odd, but hey, that’s how we roll/here, we do it OUR way!
Well, our vacation is almost over. Tomorrow we return home. It’s been a fabulous trip, full of family and friends and downtime. It’s been such a treat to introduce Gabriel to our family and old friends back here, somehow it just makes it all more final if they all know him too. My dear friend Leslie asked me yesterday, don’t you just feel like you’ve had him forever? Well, yes. And, no.

He is so much a part of us that it does feel like he’s been with us for, well, ever. And really, we consider that in a way, he has been a part of us forever in that God himself knew that Gabe would be here with us, as part of our family, our child…now. But then again, I find myself having blank chapters when I think about him and his baby-ness or his growing out of that babyness into the toddler that he is.

And so much, he doesn’t feel like he’s been with us forever in that in a way our trip to Ethiopia seems so fresh. It’s still a bit of obsession. Will it ever not be? Will the mundane daily stuff get in the way and sweep that reference point off our radar? I sure hope not. I don’t want to have the laundry, market, school, stacks of paper bury that awareness. It can’t stay so raw and fresh forever, I know. But I was telling my husband that even now, it is still so big, so…much…that whole “been to Ethiopia” thing He knew exactly what I was talking about. It gets under your skin. It changes you. And now, especially because of and for this small boy, I don’t ever want to change back.

We have been asked so many times on this visit: “Would you ever go back?” But with the tone of “surely not” – it’s too far, too hard, too much, you’ve done your bit, you’re done, right? Well. I don’t know if we are done or not or how. Maybe we are. We have a pretty big family, a smallish large family. We are not spring chickens and I know my husband would like to retire someday…..But I even said to him the other night, we need to relish every minute of this, he’s our last baby/new kid. And doc said, “you think?” And I laughed and said, ‘retirement, ever?” So, who knows. God knows and He’ll let us know either way on that one. But will we ever go back? Oh. Yeah. Absolutely.

But for now, today we do a whole lot of cleaning, spend some time in the sand and surf, eat too much with my brother and sister-in-law, and then pack like mad for our predawn start tomorrow. Oh, one more trouncing by Buddybug on the tennis court (20 years since I played. I am SO sore but it’s SO much fun!). Oh, with that last bit of sitting on the deck, with the traditional rootbeer floats, oohing and aahing over the fireworks. Happy Independence Day to all.

>"Give to everyone who asks of you". More from Doc:

> My access to pics is limited while we are visiting family (only have what was loaded on son’s sd card) but these boys are just a few the beautiful faces you see on the street. Also, having a really hard time formatting with blogger lately, the spaces and such just aren’t coming through, so if it looks bunchy and such, bear with me.

Another guest post from Doc. (this first bit is me, you’ll be able to tell the diff, although doc talks/types almost as much as I do! It’s one reason we get along so well!)
This time, this post, on how do you handle the people who approach you in the city, when your car is stopped at a light, as you walk through the sights….what do you do for the begging?
In America, it is a different problem in many ways and we are trained to do different things. But what about in Addis? The guidebooks say, “do not give money or food to the beggars, it only exacerbates the problem. If you must, give scrip for a free meal that you can buy at XX shelter.”
Well, yes, hmmm, we understand that concept. Sounds good. But frankly, we didn’t find XX shelter (it’s a very large city) and really….well, when true poverty holds out it’s hand, the poorest of the poor – the crippled, lame, children, moms, blind – how can your hearts be of stone and not hurt for them? And how can you not want to do something, anything, to help, even if only for a moment? And if you do feel that ache, then what, exactly do you do??
We cannot fix the overwhelming problems of the poverty in Ethiopia, it’s huge. We certainly don’t want to add to it, and hope and pray that we did not. But when it’s one on one, or three at a window, how can you not do something, however small?
So, we did. It was our choice, and this is not a travel tip. This is opinion and our response to an overwhelming issue, a complicated and difficult one. So take it for what it is, I’m sure others will have other and better ways and ideas and responses and I’m sure others will have conflicting opinions. That’s ok, go see what they say too. But this is ours, courtesy of my strongly opinionated husband: Here goes:
Give to everyone who asks of you…

It’s a bit of a long quotation, but worth it:
“Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit (is) that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful. “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Lk 6:30-38)
A traveller to Addis can encounter the impoverished people there in one of several ways: Some people will consciously or unconsciously try to ignore it and go all the way there without anything to give.
Some will find themselves embarrassed, shunning or distancing themselves or ignoring those who beg from them.
Some will find themselves wanting to give to those in need but will not be prepared with anything to offer.
Not one person who asked us for something was one thousandth as well off as we are or had eaten as much in the previous week as we had in the previous day or two.
The best way treat beggars is to be ready with an abundance to give them, even to those who may not appear as if they really need it, (if you hadn’t eaten in two days would you look a lot different than you do now?) especially to those who don’t ask but clearly need it.
This is what we did: we brought cases of those peanut butter crackers and cheese crackers. Those peanut butter crackers are high in protein, taste good and were less than 10 cents each by the case. We carried on more than enough and when we ran out we bought bananas and oranges for less than the cost of one of our restaurant meals at the local stand to give away. Everyone was grateful and we almost always had something to give to someone who asked, mostly children — two or three for those who clearly needed it.
Our Father is much more generous to us. We can only show God our love of Him by showering that love upon His children, whom He loves and sent you to love.
“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ “

>A few more medical travel tips from Doc


Almost the same photo, yes, but my dear Doc is next to me, in the white, w/ beard!

(From the comments, but moved here too: additional info from my dear husband, Doc G, a guest writer here this evening, and a personal favorite of mine!):
A couple of additional points to increase the odds of getting to the end of the trip successfully:
It’s probably not the obvious thing that gets most people, it’s the thing that sneaks under your radar.
Needless to say, only drink bottled water but be sure to check the seal on the bottle.
No seal, don’t drink it. Squeeze the bottle before you break the seal; if it hisses or leaks a little, the seal is broken, don’t drink it.
Avoid drinks with ice; that bit about bottled water cubes — right.
No smoothies or slushies.”I’ll have the fresh squeezed orange juice” gong! pineapple juice, gong!, tomato juice, gong!, lemonade gong!, iced tea gong!!.
Unless you know it comes directly out of a commercial container from which it’s poured in front of you (and then it’s OK), don’t risk the possibility that it’s from concentrate or homemade with water you won’t like later.
Don’t confuse American “healthy eating” with third world foreign country “healthy eating”. Not the same — and it’s only a week or two.
Canned or commercially bottled anything will be fine. Only eat food that is thoroughly cooked. Thoroughly washed is not good enough and in fact may be the source of problems — the contamination may come from the prep area or water itself.
You’re hungry and the waiter brings some tasty little appetizers. You nibble while you scrutinize the menu. Doesn’t matter, you’ve already lost.The main course may be very carefully chosen by you, safe and cooked and then you eat the side or garnish of “that looks interesting” and you’ve possibly just sealed your fate.
“But I like salad, and besides it’s good for you.” Gong!!!”I’m just going to eat healthy” Gong!
Uncooked thin skinned fruits and fresh vegetables (grapes, tomatoes, apples, pears, zucchini, carrots, lettuce etc., etc,) can harbor bacteria under their skin. Even the “good” restaurants are not going to wash them with bottled water. Spam, Oreos, Twinkies and beer will treat you better.
If something comes that you are suspicious of, don’t make a stink or even call attention to it, just leave it alone and congratulate yourself for your vigilance and the fact that you’ve avoided getting sick for only the cost of that item — oh how you’ll long for that deal if you miss it on the first pass!
Take your pepto capsules before everything you eat or as soon after if you forget no matter where you eat.
Ask your PCP for a Ciprofloxacin or Bactrim DS prescription and get it filled to take with you.
One or two doses at the very first sign or even preventively if you suddenly realize what you ate is much easier and more effective than trying to get rid of the problem once established. (Do not get Bactrim if any of you have sulfa allergy — get the cipro)and take 8 pepto capsules per person per day with you plus extras to give to the poor fellow travelers who forgot or didn’t know to bring them. Two capsules before every meal or non commercial snack without exception. (Five of us for 11 days; 55 times 8 equals 440 capsules. They come in 48 capsule bottles, consolidate and put them in everybody’s backpack so you always have them. This is one of the secrets we docs use on medical mission trips.
Do it and you can just be vigilant not paranoid.
It will be an awesome trip, but you will enjoy and experience very little after the moment you get sick — so, an ounce of prevention.
P.S. Immodium is helpful to decrease the frequency of visits to the bathroom, or if one simply has a sensitive system. However, if you have an intestinal infection you defeat your body’s natural attempt to rid you of it partly by decreasing the volume of bacteria in there, and can make yourself less trips but actually sicker longer.
God Bless! TLG, M.D