>Happy Halloween! All Hallows Eve!

>Preparations are under way.
Pumpkins have been carved, and tested in the dark.
Oohs and ahs, gasped, hands clapped.
Costumes tweaked and twirled and swashbuckled about.
Pillowcases found and tested for candy collection.
Candy tested, twice even.
Or more.
Snickers are frozen (Um, to test…yeah, that’s it!).
Reeses and Baby Ruths picked from the bags (Best Halloween candy. Ever)
Trick or Treating timetable set.
Weather checked and fretted over.
Kids amped up.
Parents eyeing wine and margaritas.
Dusk soon, right?
Ok, waiting a bit.
For my sister:
Brisket is cooking for chili.
Pumpkin Pies are baking.
Corn bread and little mini hot dogs in process.
(FYI: They are rightly, traditionally, called “Little mini hot dogs” – whether or not they are mini dogs or little smokies and it is not redundant to use “little” and “mini” on such a festive occasion. It’s tradition for you newbies out there. Ask my sister. She’s a lawyer and the oldest. She says.).

It’s All Hallows Eve.
It’s Halloween!
Its tradition: exhausting, wild, ruinous for teeth and figures, and big fun.

Happy Halloween to all!

>Happy Bday Bananas!


Happy Happy Birthday to my girl, my Bananas.

I know I say this all the time, but I can’t believe you are this old.
Fourteen already!

Oh my goodness. And when you pointed out that next year you get a drivers permit, well, ok, I am just NOT ready for that.
But I will say, perhaps you will be, because you are growing into a lovely young woman.

Finishing up grade school and preparing for high school.
You want to go to your brother’s high school so much, but recognizing the difficulty of decisions and being willing to discuss and understand the different choices.
You have grown up so much in the past year or so, physically but also in maturity.
You were our baby that we “worked so hard” to get.
Shots for months, tests, procedures, heartbreak and dreams.
Finally you arrived, with the heavens clapping for you, and carved your place in the family, by your sweet smiles but first by your colic!
We knew, the boys knew, life would never be the same and you would make way for yourself!

Happily you have a big huge heart, filled with compassion.
And you love to laugh and are willing to laugh at yourself.
You are filled to overflowing with music, it bubbles through even when you’re supposed to be quiet.
But we are really enjoying your new and growing talent on the piano.
And I would love to hear you keep singing and sing more, you have a beautiful voice.
You are creative and kind.
You are moody and dramatic.
You are smarter than you realize.
You are energetic, as long as you have fully woken up.
You are another night owl in the family.
You are a social butterfly.
But have your head on straight and so know how to do that social thing with integrity and kindness.
You are full of faith, a rare thing in a child your age.
Did I mention, it was FOURTEEN?

You are goofy and fun and love to laugh.
You share a bday, almost, with your best friend, who is like part of the family.
You are beautiful.
Your smile can light up a room.
Your room is still a disaster.
You love to travel and have a bit of wanderlust.
You are torn between big city life and that country girl in you.
They say you look just like me and remind my family of me.
I’m sorry.
I think however that they are wrong.
You are beautiful and better than me, in so many ways.

You are sharing your most private space, bedroom and bath, with a brand new sis.
You are a hero for that in my eyes.
And your dads.
And your brothers.
We love you so much and am so proud of you.
I hope all your birthday wishes come true……..
except for that car thing.

Happy Happy Bday Bananas!


>No adoption blog really is complete without posting that ongoing, ever growing, list of firsts. The list ranges from the mundane to the sublime, but they all have impact and are a privilege for us to witness. Fun and nervewracking, scary sometimes, sometimes hard, but really…it’s always cool to expand a world, bit by bit. To find out much is out there.

So, without further ado, here it is. First post of firsts.

Obviously, first Halloween.
First supermarket.
First escalator.
First ice cream.
First airplane.
First elevator.
First dentist visit.
First extraction, ouch.
First family dinner.
First ride on a boat.
First ocean.
First beach.
First Grandma.
First Grandpa.
First trampoline.
First cousins.
First Uncles.
First Aunts.
Frst pumpkins, first jack o’lanterns.
First Disney.
First roller coaster.
First frappucino.
First football game.
First swim.
First walk on beach.
First seashells.
First dolphins.
First movie.
First computers.
First piano.
First vaccinations.
First family party.
First sentences in english.
First trouble with american mom and dad.
First forgiving.
First big family.
First brothers.
First sisters.
First autumn.
First lazy naps on the deck in the sun…..
The best thing about most of these firsts is they are just that: firsts. Most of them have many more, countless, times to experience them again. Which might not be so thrilling on the no fun ones…but some of them, ah, its just so good.


>So many of the things that are involved with adjusting to an adoption keep crowding into my head. So, I’m processing stuff. Which means I have to post, you know it…its how I process. Bear with me. I wish someone had talked about this stuff when I was researching wondering dreaming about it all. I know, heaps o’ books out there, but for my meager mind, I need things categorized a mite differently. Maybe. All those books are so helpful and even now crowding my bookshelves and stacked on my night table. I am still using them and will be for a good long while, maybe ever.

But even so, this is how my mind parses things out:
You know how you hear about “Turn key” businesses? Where you can just step in and the biz runs properly, right out of the box?
Well adoption is the exact opposite of that.

But even so, I have decided that there ARE “turn-keys” in the adoption process, the adjustment process. And I think they really are critical to the fine tuning of an adoption, at least for us, me, our family. These are the keys that literally turn and open or close the process of adjustment (at least in my opinion, I’m just a mom, not an expert, so take this for what it is).

Sadly, there is NO ONE key to the whole process; though wouldn’t that be fantastic!? But I think these are a number of keys: time, touch, trouble, trust, truth, talk, terror even. I’ve written about the terror often enough. And time, downtime, that is. And recently about the trouble. But one of the most important keys, a true “turn key,” is one of the hardest (of course!).

Oh my.
I think this is one of the biggest.
In some ways, it’s everything.
Think about it: TRUST.
There has to be so much of that.
But how hard it is to find, to grab, to hold, to create, to hang onto?
If you have it, it seems solid..and you are more fortunate than you may realize.
If you do not, or cannot, then it can be so ephemeral, so heartbreakingly out of reach.

I think it is what we are all searching for, as much or more than happiness, or possibly, love.
Because you cannot trust without love.
Because you cannot be happy without trust.
They flow and feed each other.
So, yeah, its big.
When you have brought an older, hurt, child into your family is it gigantic.
It is everything.

Gee whiz, trust. Sounds like a basic. I have realized I really took it for granted, that foundational unquestioning trust. I trust my kids, beyond those moments of obvious lying or um, borrowing, and run of the mill kid stuff that most kids have to test out. They trust me. Even if they hate me for holding them to curfew or being strict, they still, if push came to shove, would admit that (even if I am “so wrong and clueless”) I have the best intentions on their behalf. I trust my husband, I trust how things work. I trust God. Right?

Well, this adoption has taught me that actually, I have MASSIVE trust issues! (It’s the curse of the control freak, always) God, husband, kids, new kid, the whole shebang. Not too fun finding that one out! But, really, helpful, because with the entrance of a new, older, child into a home….everyone’s level of trust is laid on the line. And you know what? You have to deal with it.

As mom, you have to deal with it yourself and for the others too. I’d love to say that foundational trust is unshakable. And it might just be for Coffeedoc and Buddybug. And thank goodness for that! But for the rest of us? Well, it was shaken some. You can see that shake in the jealousy, the attention seeking of new and old kids, the acting out, the frazzled tempers and moods (yeah, mine too, once or twice. Ahem.). Really, so much of that turmoil stemming from questions of trust, different levels, but still the same bottom line. And for our new sweet girl? Well, its still not there for her either. How can it be?

So, how do you build trust? How do you parent a child who just plumb does not, cannot truly deeply TRUST you? Its much harder than it seems and I think its one of the huge reasons that it can be harder to adjust to older child adoption. When you’ve raised a child from baby or toddler that trust has a million times over to be proven built tested and reinforced.

A new child, older, coming from a completely different world and ways? Do they have that tested track record with you? No. Do you trust them immediately in the same way as your children already at home? Honestly? You can’t. You don’t know them well enough yet to know their expressions moods triggers. You don’t know when the honeymoon will switch to a meltdown or if it will even. So that takes time to trust and anticipate their actions and reactions. And so, until you build that foundation of trust…. Well, you’re flying, um parenting, without a net.
And for the new child? Well, that trust is gonna be a long time coming, deep down. They might well trust that you will feed house and clothe them. But the deep trust, the kind that withstands the misunderstandings, the corrections, the grief the anger the complete discombobulation….that isn’t there, not really. And so when they feel like they are drowning in all the change how do they trust you will save them, pull them up and not let go? Well, maybe they don’t. Or maybe they are trying, but you have to do your part. Which is: be there, hang on, get over yourself (Now don’t get all worked up and think I’m judging, I am totally typing about ME here), and don’t let go.

Sounds easy. It’s not.

But as you do it, you both are reaching a bit toward each other. Even the silly kinds of trust make such a huge difference. That you can tease and just be a little silly, for fun not hurt. And that really ice cream seems weird but is wonderful, try it. And that if mom says she will come in and kiss you goodnight when she gets home, she will. Heck, even that, just like a small child needs to learn, I always come back.

And just that effort, that repeated reaching, I think {and continue to hope and pray}, brings you (ok, me) all a bit closer, laces your heart to the other….a tiny bit at a time. It may not feel like it at all. And trust is really something that doesn’t feel like much except a sort of sureness, an absence of fear. But it is the grounding for the feelings that feel like everything: happiness, love, joy.

So, really, I would love someone to hand me a shiny big ol’ turn key to all this, to precisely fit this one critical lock. And then to open the door to a deep firm trust, for all of us. Trust in each other, trust in love, trust in the time and effort, trust in the good, trust without hurt, trust without doubt or question or fret. But I guess this particular turn-key is crafted from the clay of our (OK, my measly) hearts, bodies, and just plain old presence, again and again and again – for the whole family, old and new. But this key, once its made, will be one to treasure tight.

>Almost Wordless Wednesday


The kids had a big time at the pumpkin farm Sunday.
The younger ones did some swinging
(the older ones thought they were too cool).
You can see them all below….

Look closely…..who’s hitched a hideaway ride?

Autumn. Love it.

>Bucket O Beach

>It was beyond great to be at the beach last week; to spend time with my family, have Marta meet my family, to breath deeply that salty ocean air. It is one of the few places in the world I really relax. But again… you’ve “done your time.” I’m not gonna blather on here.
This post is for the pics:

Uncle David, my big bro.

With Uncle John, my baby brother.

>Counter Intuitive Adjustment

>There is an odd part of the adoption adjustment process that I want to talk about, to kind of sort it out in my head. I’ve only really actually been able to see it clearly this time around. I suspect it plays out much more with the adjustment of an older child into the family. I’m talking about that boundary…the one that is so hard to cross the first few times.

I’m talking about trouble. I mean Trouble with a capital “T” (to borrow from “The Music Man”). And I guess I should throw out the caveat that I’m only talking about OUR house and family and experience here. So don’t flame me, I know well enough that every single adoption – young or old – is unique and different from every other. However, that said, I have noticed something lately, and it feels important, at least to me/us. Its a whole counter intuitive experience.

Trouble. You all know it. There are different kinds of course. But I’m talking about routine ‘trouble,’ the kind found in oh, every single family in the world. The usual stuff of squabbling and testing boundaries and annoying behaviors and flat out breaking the rules to see how it plays sort of thing. The sulks, the tantrums, the rudeness, the ignoring…..life with kids. Not all kids, not all the time…but really, most every kid, some of the time.

With the adoption of an older child, ok, this older child, there are phases. You can read about them in the books. The honeymoon phase is the most fun, supposedly, the giddiness of meeting and all the excitement of the new.

All new, all the time.
Frankly, its wonderful and exhausting.

Part of that exhaustion comes from that very newness. Every single thing is new, needs to be explained, or pointed out, or giggled over. Everything is heightened. And it takes a little while, but then you realize that everyone is kind of walking through the day on eggshells. Don’t make a false step or the eggs will crack and the mess might spill out. Everyone is on their best behavior because no one is quite sure how it will play when they are not.

But you know, that can’t last.

It doesn’t. And while it is a whole ‘nother kind of exhausting to leave that golden honeymoon phase, it is a relief in it’s own way. Because now, it becomes real. Things get rocky, possibly very very fast. It can be ugly. It hurts, there can be tears all around – anger, fury even, snits, snot, names, accusations, hopefully not hits pinches and shoves between the kids (but you know, it’s possible).

And, as mom, you know what you have to do. You do it before you’ve analyzed it and set out a plan. You deal. Ideally, calm cool and collected. But, sometimes you (ok, ok: me) react instead of plan. Because while some moms might be able to only discipline in calm cool collection, according to their calmly evaluated plotline…THIS mom tends to react and maybe even has been known to um, yell, once or twice. (I am not admitting this, I am just saying that there is a possibility that there has been a slip or two over the years.)

What I am saying is: the kid(s) are in Trouble. Capital T.

Now. We are in this new phase now. Our new daughter has been in Trouble. Capital T. And it happened before I knew it. It has now happened a number of times. And, really, I now think it is such a good thing. Let me be clear, the trouble itself is not good. No one digs it. But the ability to be in trouble….priceless.
Let me give you a for instance. On this trip, we went to a swishy restaurant with all the kids – because we are maniacs. (But that is a topic for another post.) I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that not long into the dinner, about halfway through, I got up and took Miss Marti outside.
In mom code, that’s big stuff. Capital T stuff.
And I took her off to the side of the restaurant and told her in no uncertain terms that she was behaving poorly and in Trouble and it was all not ok. She is a stubborn little gal and so this included some back and forth between us, heads shaking, arms crossed, tears…the works. Shortly, we came to terms. More tears. Now hugs. And a long one. Done.

But then, for the second or third time since she’s been home Marti looked at me and laughed a small laugh as she said her (Ethiopian) Mom’s name. And then pretty much re-enacted our ‘discussion.” Then she pointed to me and said my name: “Mom.”

I smiled and said, “Yeah. She would have said the same thing. Because we are both moms. Your moms. And we love you. So listen!” And then I got a REAL hug and a REAL smile and we walked inside to continue dinner (Waving at the bar patrons whom I had unwittingly provided the evening entertainment. doh!).

And you know, when she went inside she was happy again. Not sulky.
And it felt like things clicked one more notch down toward settled (still a ways to go, but every notch is something).
Because all that – that discipline, anger, apologize, forgive, move on thing?
That’s NORMAL.
And the other kids feel more normal if they know I will take her out (of the restaurant…c’mon on!) and she can get in the same kind of trouble they can.

It’s a comfort, in a totally counter intuitive sort of way.
And it’s one notch closer to “Normal.”
For all of us.

>Feast of St. Teresa of Avila


Painting by Janet McKenzie

It’s the feast of St. Teresa of Avila!
I love her. I feel she is one of my patrons due to our shared tendency toward massive headaches and migraines. Only one who has them all the time can really understand how they scramble you…and she did. So, she’s my gal!

Painting by Francois Gerard, c. 17C

But more importantly, St. Teresa of Avila is just one heck of a great saint. She is one of the three women Doctors of the Church (noting that her spiritual writings are both sound and very important, influential). For a woman of medieval times, that is no small accomplishment, not to mention: staying power! Her books such as Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection are just amazing reads. Not fast page turners, but mind blowers. You have to stop every few pages and just sort of…digest it all. And then soak it in, let it sink in….it’s great great stuff and will change your prayer life. She founded the Discalced Carmelites (Meaning “shoeless,” again, what’s not to like?) and had an ongoing friendship and correspondence with the mystic and poetically powerful St. John of the Cross {And if you want a really phenomenal book, tough, dense, but OH so worth it: read the compilation/commentary on these two together: Fire Within, by Dubay}.

But on another level, not the “resume” angle…St. Teresa of Avila appeals to me because she was first of all a real living, breathing woman. I know, they all are, doh. But what I mean is that she was a woman of opinions and ideas and kind of stubborn and pushy, even when that wasn’t always overtly sanctioned in the culture of her time. She was extremely social and loved to sit and chat and flirt even…she was quiet beautiful and knew how to use it too. She had to struggle against the urge to chat and flirt and spend too much time doing it, because she could lose afternoons to it. Sound familiar to any of you, especially you gals? Um, yeah. That stuff IS fun. Sounds pretty modern to me.

St. Teresa’s monastic cell at the Convento de la Encarnación, Ávila

And yet, even so, St. Teresa could hear in her inmost self the whisper of God who loved her as she was, more than anyone else could. And she responded, bravely, to that irresistible call. And it brought her the ecstasy of union with God in prayer. And that amazes me and intrigues me as I know firsthand how hard it is to push all those opinions and flippy chitchatty conversations out of my head to pay attention to God himself. Distraction? I’m the poster girl for it. But St. Teresa gives me hope and I have hope that she prays for me…for my attention to what is important, for responding to that call, that whisper, for my headaches, for being brave enough to listen through the din of my modern mundane life.

Sculpture by Bernini, “St. Teresa in Ecstasy”

So, happy feast day!

St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us!

>Three months. Adjustment

>So, today is three months.
Three months since Miss Marta T landed in America. Stepped foot on US soil and became a citizen (IR3 visa, don’t get all worked up, Gabey came on IR4, it’s just different).

Three months of adjusting to a tsunami of change: only child to big family, no parents to two parents and even more: us, new food, new smells, new sights, new language, new ways, new everything single thing you can think of to name.

So, how are we doing? How is Marta doing?

I hope we are doing pretty well. That’s the funny thing, it’s kind of impossible to know in a way.

With older child adoption its a different kind of road. It doesn’t come with the same maps as infant or toddler adoptions. There are almost no standards or norms, it seems. Because every child comes with so much history that their trajectory and ways are their own. Unique. Meaning, their paths, their ways, the adjustments, their quirks, their traumas, their charms are all unique to their very own self. And you can compare if you like (and its OH so tempting to do it), but it’s not at all the same as comparing when your kid walked or talked or got their teeth. Those markers are not nearly so clear in this arena.

So, instead of judging this soon, I’m gonna throw out what’s up at three months; what we know and what we are learning. About our new daughter: Marta Therese.

The beach is beautiful.
California is nice.
Swimming is so much fun.
It is very hard to learn to swim but its a ball anyhow.
Mom and Dad think this means there are big hazards around water.
Especially the ocean because its so easy to tip over and fall, even just standing there.
Because if you look down, it’s disorienting.

Music is just the best.
Singing is good too.
Mom is very funny when she tries to sing and dance.
Shopping is one of the best of things.
Especially with an older sister.
Pink is maybe the best color ever.
And maybe yellow too.

Quilting and sewing is just fascinating.
Its new, but feels pretty good to be able to learn it.
Its great to be able to do it on your own, all by yourself.
Those seams will get straighter with practice.
That sewing machine makes ya feel powerful!
Those quilts are crazy colorful charm.

American food is great.
Pasta and pizza are always great.
Salad and ice cream are best of all.
Sweet potatoes are disgusting.
Carrots aren’t much better.
But so many choices are just a thrill.
The rules of restaurants are a little hard to figure out though.
Ordering, why can’t you change your mind?

Dentists are very nice, but not much fun to visit.
Braces are very exciting to think about though.
Pink is the color already picked out for the bands.

America is fun.
Movies are amazing!
Roller coasters can be very fun.
But they can also be very scary.
Boats are very fun.
School is fun, still.
Except for math and learning to tell time.
The english teacher is just so nice!
English is a very hard language to learn.

A big family is a good thing.
Except when the smaller ones make you crazy being pests.
But big brothers and sisters are wonderful.
Except when the big sister keeps you up at night studying with both music and lights on.
And except for when you have to figure out shower schedules.
And where to sit in the car or at the table.
And family rules are not always fun either.
You’ll get in trouble if you cut your own hair.
Or ignore mom or dad or are rude.
Mom holds to those rules and will yell and scold.
But then its ok again after it all.
Buddybug is very much missed.
But its exciting to think he’ll be home in less than a week for a bit.

Maybe the best part of a big family is that means BIG family.
And aunts and uncles and cousins.
Maybe the very best thing of all is to have grandparents.
And a Grandma who understands somehow.
Best of all are hugs from her, and mom and dad.

Three months is just the beginning.
The whole family is still adjusting.
Adjustments are both big and small ways.
Things can be hard.
Things can be so frustrating.
Feeling sad can make your whole body hurt.
Or parts of it.
It can feel lonely sometimes.
It can be so confusing too.
Its easy to get out of sorts and not really know why.
Things are very strange here.
But are starting to feel more normal, a little.
We all hope it gets easier.
Some days it is.
Some days it’s not.

Some days you get a glimmer of feeling that depth, just under there, and its a shiver of good.
And you know, it’s worth it to keep on trying.

>Cultural Confusion

>We got it. Cultural confusion, I mean.
And yeah, of course, we’ve got it going on on many levels, big and small.
But really, the one on my mind this trip, is the bizarro factor of trying to explain both the whole Disney deal to Marta AND how to explain Halloween.

I knew I was going to have to figure out the whole Halloween explanation to her, by the end of the month at the latest right? But, oh dopey me, I hadn’t remembered that Disney does a whole Halloween extravaganza for the holiday…milking every last shiver and shriek they can out of it. And I know they have a holiday of sorts in Ethiopia where kids go door to door asking for candy, but really, that’s where the similarity to our holiday ends. No costumes or horror or pumpkins even, that’s American.

So I had a double whammy of explaining to do. I think I failed miserably. I tried, really I did. But I saw it all with new eyes: foreign no language eyes, to be exact. And frankly, really, its awfully weird. Both the Disney and the Halloween…but combined: bizarro world. I’m just saying, what else can it look like but bizarro world?

Think about it: you go on rides where you are scared out of your wits thinking you’re going to fall out or be crashed into walls or fly right out of your seat…and then everyone gets off jabbering and laughing and hooting with silly grins on their faces. I know, some of that adrenaline rush doesn’t need language. But some does: the “Are we having fun yet?” factor. Add to that the visual of every bit of the park is decorated, as only Disney can do, for the ghoul factor of Halloween (thankfully however, minus the more modern fascination w/ gore). But you’ve got skulls and cobwebs and big spiders hanging from every nook and cranny; skeletons and ghosts and spooky music and witches. Scary stuff, if you don’t know the holiday behind it. And if not scary, well, really really weird.

Then you have the lack of cultural immersion is Disney-ana. I am not sure at all about how much Marta realized was real and not real. We stupidly forgot our dictionary, so it was hard to say, “those hippos and crocodiles on the Jungle Cruise are fake, dont’ worry. Those pirates aren’t shooting at you, it’s not real, don’t worry.” No wonder Pirates of the Caribbean ride was NOT a hit. Aw.

Anyhow, so that’s some of the cultural confusion we’ve been surfing through (in honor of our beach locale) this week.
Almost unexplainable weirdness.
Hopefully, someday soon she’ll understand that we don’t make a habit of decorating with skulls and cobwebs and skeletons here in America…..but that we just like a bit of goofy silly fun.

>Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, it’s off to Disney we go..

>Ok, so yeah, we lost our minds (Ok, Coffeedoc did) and decided we should “do Disney.” After falling out of my chair with sticker shock upon researching the cost (even w/ current specials) for Disney World…I realized we could go see my family, the beach,and college if we went to DisneyLand versus the Florida world – for about a third of the cost. Plus, and here is a “Big Family Tip,” since we are SO big now, we finally could get a group rate: buy 10 tickets as a group, get one free and group rate is about a 40% discount. Score! Decision: made.

Let me preface this post by saying I am a bit conflicted on the whole Disney thing. It’s a love/hate thing for sure for me. Part of me totally loves the whole deal, I like the scary but not terrifying rides, the whole vibe, the make-believe kiddie fun. But part of me resents it in the sense of the sticker shock and, well, the after effects. You moms know what I’m talking about: its the “donkey effect.” Yup. You know, I took Little Man, Marta, Sbird, and Miss M on Pinocchio’s Wild Ride (or something like that) and it’s all about Pinocchio’s visit to Pleasure Island – where he and the other spoiled boys run amok and turn into donkeys. It occurred to me that this ride should really be placed at the very entrance to the park and be a mandatory ride for all families with children under fourteen. Because, the kids, they all start to bray by the end of the day.

But I digress.

Anyhow, so we went to Disney, myself, Coffeedad, and eight kidletts (one of them being a buddy of Booboo) on Day one and nine (nephew joined us) on Day two. Whew. And let me remind you that one of them doesn’t speak any english and also doesn’t have that built in cultural soak in Disney. And let me remind you that one of them is two. Double whew. Makes you tired just reading that, doesn’t it? Go ahead, read it again, imagine it……yeah, has that effect on me too and they are my kids!

And yes, count those kids. Thats missing a few too.
And yes, I look like a dork but it got hot so I put on a skirt and I have bad feet.
Sue me. I don’t care.

But I digress.

So. We went to Disney. Overall, really, it went better than expected…for a while anyhow. A visit to Disney goes through the same rough stages: giddy anticipation, arrival and shock at the crowds the lines but the giddy anticipation carries you through, giddy fun while seeing the cool pretty park and the wandering characters, giddy anticipation of the first rides…. The whole “giddy fun” factor holds over for awhile, until it’s past lunchtime and then the slow crash begins.

Maybe you go on a ride that was a bad choice. Looked like fun but caused the newest teen to freak out. Was it the height? Was it the swinging? We’ll never know, not for a long time anyhow. But you console, and move on. Get some food into you, move into the next phase of “who rides what and when?” Strategizing. The giddy anticipation stage is over and it’s all strategy from here. It’s logistics times 8. You strategize potties, lines, rides, fast passes, snacks, and shows.

Finally, the teen boys return, the family comes together again. One last ride before you try to find a spot for the fireworks. Lunch was so late you only need more snacks and as you park and sit on the ground, all the kids are starting to crash whine. You jolly along, wondering if it’s worth it to wait. Finally the fireworks start, and they are amazing. Lots of oohing and aahing. All the teens agree that it was great, the smalls are too sleepy to say much and the two year old is asleep in his stroller. You walk back to the hotel, with the masses exiting the park, amidst the wails and whining of all the other small overstimulated children. Ah, the sounds of Disney at night.

And that is the plot line of the first day. Our first day. But really, I think the stages are roughly on target: giddy anticipation of the park, shock at the lines and crowds, giddy anticipation of the rides, giddy glee over the rides and fun, a few frowns and tears at a bad ride, hunger crashes and rallies, complicated logistical strategizing, and then the final surge of wow and the tired exit. Typical I’d say.

It really was fun, for the most part.
Watching Gabey see Mickey Mouse with his eyes huge and a little gasp: priceless.
Watching Little Man race to the rides and come off grinning: priceless.
Sitting next to him and Marta and Sbird with them all shrieking and burying their head against me, then grinning: hysterical.
Watching my Prima Diva go on her first real rollercoasters and come off with her face flushed, giddy and jabbering: priceless.

So, yeah, we had fun.
But OH so many more things to talk about.
But that will need to be another post. I’ve gotta take the kids out to the beach!

>Forays and Firsts

>So, we have taken fall break to make some foray’s back toward normal. We decided to make a sort of slamming busy trip to California to have Marta meet the California side of the family (my side) and to “do the Disney” thing – by which I mean Disneyland, babeee, Disneyland! (Which I know is not normal, but in an odd way, is so normal for my family in that it is a kind of crazy intense undertaking, so yeah, kind of standard in its own wacky way). Plus, since we were already all the way out here, we figured we’d let Booboo go and check out a college he’s dreaming about. So, this trip is sort of a foray into the future, the new here and now future, for our family. Maybe that doesn’t all make sense to you, but somehow, to us, it does.

There will be more posts on this trip, as SO many things are cropping up. But I want to start with the best. These two moments, no matter what happens the rest of this trip, made this trip worth it. Period.

Marta met her grandparents, my folks. That picture above? In the airport, meeting my mom, her new grandma, for the very first time. I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out, but I ran and hugged my mom and Marta was right behind me. And my mom? She just enveloped Marta in this huge welcome hug. I almost cried. Marta just closed her eyes and hung on tight. And Mom/Grandma just keep hugging and holding her, telling Marta it was so good that she was finally here. It was just so great, really great, to see my mom, who knows the hard parts of this adjustment, just wrap this girl up because she needs to be loved…like a Grandma can love and hug. And for Marta, this was huge, HUGE. And my dad, who is a very reserved kind of guy, physically and otherwise, he just hugged her big and Marta just hugged him big with her eyes squinched so tight that her forehead wrinkled. And I could’a cried right there on the curb. Marta did tear up on the drive to their house, and once there just stayed in the circle of grandma’s arm, right next to her. I just love my mom.

And I was grateful for it all.

A little while later, we drove over to the beach. As we got to my folk’s old condo, my favorite place in the world, I was getting settled in and Marta and Bananas ran out to the beach. I went onto the balcony to watch – this was Marta’s first time on the beach, seeing the ocean, hearing smelling touching it all. And I was given a small gift, to watch this.

Marta ran down to the surf line, tiptoed to the water and touched a toe in. Then she stepped back, lifted her head back and sort of swirled in a circle lifting her arms, taking it all in.

All I can say is that it was very much a Sound of Music moment. She was Julie Andrews on the mountaintop, swirling in joy. I’m not kidding, it was kind of beautiful. Then she looked back up at me, and grinned.
And I was grateful for it all.

>Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

>It’s the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary!

Now, you all know I love the rosary. I go in seasons of saying it faithfully and then slacking off and letting my hectic life get in the way. I think that is a common thing. However, let me say this: The day is better if I say a rosary. Even if I am distracted and rushed, it’s better if I say a rosary. I think it is the meditative aspect of it, it is a calming, deeply soothing thing. The rosary is a meditative prayer. Too often folks who don’t pray it or know how to pray it say it’s only a repetitive prayer. Well, um, yes it is repetitive. But that very repetition allows the meditation on the life of Christ and deepens it. It is a powerful prayer.

Lorenzo Lotto, “Our Lady of the Rosary”

In this prayer of the rosary we meditate deeply on the life of Christ, and ask his mother for prayers for us and our intentions, in addition to praying Christ’s prayer as well, the “Our Father.” It is a gift, this prayer. It is prayed worldwide and it is a comfort, and it teaches us to pray and meditate in order to deepen our joy. So today we celebrate the woman of this prayer, our Blessed Mother.

From the Liturgy of the Hours for today:

“Holy Mary…may all who celebrate your feastday know the help of your prayers.”

>Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi


It’s the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi!

Now St. Francis is, arguably, one of the most popular saints (no matter your denomination or even if you have any belief system at all) of all time. Period. He is, if you will, a rock star of saints. Which, yes I know, is oppositional to all that sainthood is about, but there you have it. He is. He is known and loved around the world.

But you know, my issue, and one that kind of has kept me from getting too close to St. Francis, is that he is too often sentimentalized into a sort of “saint-lite.” It seems like only the fluttery bird loving Francis is ever depicted. Churchs all over love to do the blessing of the animals in honor of St. Francis. Well, ok. I like animals too and we all know he loved them and talked to them and that’s very cool.

But really, St. Francis was a radical! He came from a very wealthy family and after living the wild life for years, to the despair of his folks, he had a radical conversion and threw it all away, literally (stripping to the skin in the public square and renouncing his inheritance…not the way I’d encourage youth to model today, but still….). He then went to devote himself to poverty and prayer and building up the Church, literally and figuratively, in joy. Even by the standards of the day, way back when, he was a holy radical. That’s the St. Francis that I like to think about, the one that draws me in and wonder, but is too often unrecognized.

Painting by Murillo, “St. Francis at Prayer”

My favorite thing about St. Francis, really, are these guys!! Also radicals for Joy, totally countercultural…… They are awesome and just light up a room when they are around. I tend to want to follow them around like a puppy. They are magnetic in their joy and just pull you to them!

Fransiscan Friars of the Renewal on tour of Ireland.

So, happy feast day!
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!

>Saturday Something for Booboo

>So last week was full of fete!

It was homecoming week and Booboo’s girlfriend was on the homecoming court and queen nominee….so that meant Booboo got to go along for the ride as her escort.

And just because it was a fun weekend for them all, and we don’t always see such happy pics of the teens at this age….I figured I’d throw them up for posterity!

The homecoming game was a win (of course, they are planned that way) and a good time was had by all, Marta was thrilled with seeing her brother and her favorite teen gal on the field.

Then the next night was homecoming dance and well, looks like a big time was had by all!

Look closely, just below, see that huge grin on my boy, smack in the center? (w/ his arm around a buddie’s neck?) …I”m just saying, we don’t see that grin around the house so much….hmmmmm. This is one of those pics that makes me laugh because in twenty years it will make them all laugh and groan at how young and goofy and wonderful they all are. Slice of high school life, classic.

Booboo doesn’t make the blog as much, trying to respect his request for privacy and all…but, Booboo, this one is for you!

>Feast of Guardian Angels


Painting by Denice Taylor Rinks, “Guardian Angel”

Today is the Feast of the Guardian Angels.

Now some nowadays might well dismiss this as just a sentimental notion, wishful thinking, or peter pan-never grow up syndrome. Me, I just find it a comfort. I love the teaching that we each have a Guardian Angel to watch over us, I need all the help I can get and to know that my children have them as well is even more of a comfort. And yes, I believe it. I like being able to ask them for prayers and protection, I like being able to tell my kids to do so as well if they waken from a bad dream or are worried. It’s a divine comfort. Really, a Divine comfort. And such a gift.

Now angels are pure spirit so we cannot begin to know what they look like. Which I think is cool as we can imagine them in different ways. As a child we might imagine them in the more traditional or storybook images. As we age we might have very different ideas, or not. But no matter, I think the imagery and the concept and the actuality of Guardian Angels is very powerful and strikes a chord deep within us. At least, I know it does for me. We are taught as a small child in our church this simple prayer:

“Angel of God, my guardian dear
To whom God’s love commits me here
Ever this day, be at my side,
To light, to guard
to rule and guide.”

Now, I’m 47. But that can still provide some comfort on those frightening dark midnights or those worried days – to know that I am not all alone, utterly. I have a helper who is far smarter than myself. I’ll take it.

So I give you this, from the Office of Readings:

“The Lord will send his angel to accompany you and to guide you safely on your way.”

Happy Feast Day!
Guardian Angels, pray for us!

>Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux

>It’s the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux!

You all know I just love her! You all know she has heard more than one novena from me this past year (and so have you!). But you might not know that she is also a patron, we feel, of our Marta. They both have suffered from TB and from being “little and unseen.” And so we are grateful for St. Therese for her example of joy and hope in even those difficulties. We have given Marta, with her permission and understanding, the middle name of “Therese,” after this dear saint.

And just to clarify…for years I had a hard time approaching St. Therese. Her autobiography was written in the Victorian era and just TOO florid for my taste and I simply couldn’t get through it. It made me nuts and impatient and I put it down. I started wondering “Whats the fuss? Why, exactly, is she a Doctor of the Church?” Finally I read a biography of her instead, by Guy Gaucher, and that was so much better. Then I read commentaries on her life and writings and I braced myself to get break through the stylistic barrier and really read her life and words. And now I know. I know why her “little way” is so powerful; so full of hope and encouragement for each of us, for me.

And I just say this to encourage any of you who find yourself in that spot, to give her writings or the writings about her a try. The tone deafness, if you will, of our modern ear and eye, its narrow scope when judging what is and is not worthwhile….is a false constriction that forces a loss of much richness and beauty, without even realizing it. So, if she pulls at you at all…give it a try.

It’s hard to feel like you’re doing much, or even enough nowadays. Even if you are doing all you can and then some. But by refocusing, with St. Therese’s comforting encouragement and true conception of “the little way,” we (ok, me) can find value even in what seems like the most mundane of days. And man, that just gives me hope and helps me keep stepping forward.

Mother Theresa even chose St. Therese as her patron. Right there, that tells you something, eh? No surprise, a dominican puts it well:

“Her mission was in fact, just that: her testimony to hope, to the joy of faith, amidst the darkness and unbelief of the 20th century. Her little way was the tightrope of faith she walked on, through illness and obscurity, over the abyss of meaninglessness, and into the heart of God, and she did that with joy.Father Bill Garrott, OP

Happy Feast Day Marta Therese!
St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us!