>Dia de Fiesta: Santo Inigo!

>Today is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola!

He is a Spanish saint and one that intrigues me, but kinds unnerves me.
Because not only is the the founder of the Jesuits, but his “Spiritual Exercises” are something that I know I should undertake, but of course, haven’t and may not ever due to my utter wimpiness.
They are rigorous to say the least, a four week program of spiritual surgery, so to speak.   I know many who have done them and say they are as difficult as reported but oh so worthwhile.  Hence, my intrigue with them but my cold feet.  Truthfully, as well, trying to gather that focused time means I have to realign the cosmos too….

But anyhow, back to our saint, he’s a biggie and he  has brought many others into the church and a life of service, not the last of which would be St. Francis Xavier and Father Pio ( a local friend), some of my favs.  

St. Ignatius was a mystic and a man of deep prayer, and his influence is still felt to this day.  He is one of the saints who did what we are all called to do: he changed the world.  He calls us all to give everything back to God himself: AMDG – “to the greater glory of God.”

Ignatius recommended this prayer:
“Receive, Lord, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. You have given me all that I have, all that I am, and I surrender all to your divine will, that you dispose of me. Give me only your love and your grace. With this I am rich enough, and I have no more to ask.”

Yeah, you see why he is compelling yet daunting. 
Right; I’ve got a loooong loong way to go.  
St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.

>Feast of St Martha

>Today is the Feast of St. Martha!

Which means that it is also my Marta’s feast day as well.
What a big day for her! She is also going to her freshman retreat, along w/ Hannah, today and tomorrow…I’ll post about it tomorrow.
But today is her patron’s feast day: St. Martha.

We all know the stories of St. Martha: she’s the busy, maybe pushy one.  She’s the one who loved her brother so much, she kind of hollered at Jesus, scolding him for taking so long to come to her brother’s side when he was sick and dying.  Jesus knew this family well, stayed with them frequently, and he took Martha in stride, he knew her as only Christ can, he knew her  heart.  So he reassured her and then raised Lazarus from the dead.  Well, I can only imagine that quieted her down and had her scurry to help.  But I digress…

I love St Martha for many reasons: she is much like me, very busy, sometimes losing herself in the busyness, maybe a little bossy and controlling.  (See, I told you…just like me!) She’s task oriented, but underneath it all lies a heart of love and faith.  She knew if Jesus was there, it would be ok.  She loved.  She loved her brother, she loved Jesus…and she loved by doing.

I know too, she loves my Marta, Martha.  We asked her for prayers for our discernment about bringing Marta home; we still ask for her prayers for our girl.  She did, and she does.  Our Marta is much like her, she is a doer – happiest when she is involved in DOING something and good at the domestic side of life.  She is well named.  Marta is happiest being a caretaker of sorts, as was her patron.

So today, we ask St. Martha to help us learn to serve Christ better in our service to each other, and I ask her to pray for us, and as ever,  for my Marta.

A Prayer to St. Martha
Feastday July 29th 
                               O blessed St. Martha, your faith led Jesus to proclaim, “I am the resurrection and the life”; 
and faith let you see beyond his humanity when you cried out, 
“Lord I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” 
With firm hope you said, “I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him”,
and Jesus called your brother Lazarus back from the dead. 
With pure love for Jesus you welcomed him into your home. 

                                Friend and servant of our Saviour, I too am “troubled about many things”. 
(Pause for silent prayer.) 
Pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope and love, 
and that Jesus, who sat at your table, 
will hear me and grant me a place at the banquet of eternal life. 
Amen.    (Luke 10:38-42 / John 11:1-54)

>Gonna buy me a dog…


I know, once again I’ve totally dated myself.  But, hey, the Monkee’s are classic in their own way, right? Right.

Anyhow, we are stepping back to normal life, sort of, this week.
Little Man is still down for the count, but the count is tapering off.  He’s a week out from surgery and his doc assured me yesterday that in a mere couple of days he’ll be a new boy.  Or, at least, back to the old boy.  Let’s hope so, he’s lost at least seven pounds; relative to his six year old body size that’s a lot and he’s looking way too skinny to make mom happy!

So, what does a mom do when she has a boy flat on the sofa for a week, and a paranoia suspicion of mice still about??
She gets a dog!
Not just any dog mind you, but a little girl pup.
Yup, we are getting a pup.
And I just know,
things are looking up!
(Who knew, getting a goofy cute puppy makes the Seuss vibe take off…)

We have high hopes for this puppy, as a mouser to be, as a new family member, as a way to help Marta learn to trust and love us even as she  helps this puppy trust and love us.   Plus of course, a dog will love you no matter your mood and without any strings attached; there’s nothing but good in that, especially if  you’re a teen from hard places.
One more being to love and be loved.

This dog has a big job ahead!
I hope it’s short little legs and small self are up to the task! She’s a piebald dachshund, twelve weeks old.  Looks a bit like a beagle (for now) with very short legs.  My dear pal and my goddaughters assure me this puppy will be a big dog in a small mouser dog body; wriggling happy fun with with a tail.

Coffeedoc thinks I am out of my mind and only grudgingly has conceded.  He’s a good egg though and he’s making his girls very happy.  Sarah and Em are giddy with excitement. Marta did the classic regulation kid begging and promising for this puppy….now, we are not fools, we know those promises will be hard to keep.  But even so, we (Ok, I) think this will be a good idea…or I sure hope so. 
Pictures to follow once she’s home…but for now….this is the soundtrack for today.

>Little Man Down


 My Little Man, my Anthony, is having surgery today.

It’s not really that big a deal, it’s the classic kid surgery, sort of: tonsils, adenoids out, plus turbinates reduced (those things in  his sinuses that are keeping my boy from breathing well, at all, and adding to his remarkable ability to generate remarkable quantities of , um, snot)

We hope that by doing this we can get this boy breathing, sleeping, and behaving a lot better, ….just feeling better all the way around.  

That may sound like I’m expecting too much from this surgery.  I’m not.  But I do know that if he doesn’t sleep, it’s not pretty; it’s much harder for him to behave and control, well, everything.  Me too- if I don’t sleep, I’m just mean.  Everybody needs to sleep, and to breathe, not necessarily in that order.  We hope this surgery can actually help make those two things happen.  What a concept.

But first we have to do the surgery and the recovery. 
Happily, it’s outpatient, and we love our doc, Dr. Lee. 
Happily, my Little Man loooooves ice cream and he will have as much as he could possibly want.  But even so, I suspect he will be one unhappy camper for a while.  
Happily, I will lift the daytime tv ban, and suffer the consequences of kid zombies and acting out in order to give my little man down something to do while he is stuck on the sofa, mending.  

But, he is nervous about this.  
I’m not nervous about the surgery, it needs to be done, only a tiny bit anxious about easing him through the recovery, as easily for him as possible.  
So, it is not a fun day today for my Anthony.
Please throw a prayer his way for a successful surgery and swift easy recovery, if you think of it.

St. Anthony, pray for my Anthony today and the next week or so!

 Gabey & Anthony at home after surgery today…best bro’s.

>Suddenly: Last Summer

>We are here.
The last real summer.
And it’s a doozy.

I am talking about this last summer with my Booboo, my Jon (I can still call him that, mom privilege).
He is a graduate now, all 18 and big and prepping to head off to college.
And while you might think, “Oh, there she goes again, being all maudlin and melodramatic,” and you would be right to a degree………
This summer is different.
It is rare and precious.

And, kinda excruciating.
And, kinda exhilarating.

Yes, he will be home again, on breaks and next summer too.  But it will be forever different, changed in tone, tempo, tenor.  Some of those changes are great steps forward, and important, necessary and even welcomed by us all.  But even so, change is hard, and even when he comes home for extended weeks in the summer it will be different.  It’s irrevocable.  That’s part of the process.  I know it. He knows it.  We all know it, and can feel it pressing on the edges.
It’s there, rushing toward us – too too fast.
But also, on those hard angry fussy hurting days, in it’s own way it’s too slow.
Especially too slow for my son, who is simply twitching right out of his skin to break loose and head off into his own life.
But, maybe, just maybe some days, also a little tiny bit too fast for my son…who loves summer and needs a bit of time to prepare himself for this big change….then again, that might just be ME.  (Oh, right.)

He needs us still, and will.
But he doesn’t, and shouldn’t as much, also.
Besides, there is work to be done; work that IS being done.
It is important work, but oh, it is the hardest work there is.

(Yup, I look just like that, feather-version…..yup yup…ahem.  
Maybe some of those hard days tho, we both do.)


The unconscious prep to start into a new life, and the classic process of parting those ties a bit: it’s textbook.  But, often the process finds itself played out in the short fuses and loud or hard arguments over often stupid things or stupid misinterpretations.
My husband asks me, “Why do you let him push your buttons? Just shrug and hold the line.” But it’s not so easy for me.
One, because I stink at doing that.  I am like one of those phones for toddlers or elderly where the buttons are enormous, to aid in their ease of pushing.  That’s me, easy buttons to push all over.  Especially here, I guess.  Tom/Coffeedoc’s right, of course.
Two, because often it’s me pushing my son’s buttons to a degree, having expectations that might not be utterly fair.  (Ok, I’m just saying, it took a lot to admit that…..ouch).  
This work is being done mostly by Jon and me, the family and dad too a little,  but the hard work…it’s the two of us.
We have to ease out of this tightly knit together life we have into a new stitch of knitting.
A looser stitch, no less strong, but even so, it has to be unraveled a bit to retie it anew.
Not far.
Just a bit, and with a new pattern.
Stronger even.

But right now, those unforeseen, loud or angry and/or frustrated misunderstandings are very hard.

This summer, suddenly, is about time together that is so good that it takes my breath with wonder at this great young kid/man who is smart and funny and good, deeply good.
Then, we both turn around and we are simply aggravating each other and stepping on land mines that blow up in our faces.  Ouch.
The swings and shifts are hard.
And that is so typical, it seems…of a mom and her boy, who is heading off to college, out of the house, into the world.

Suddenly…it’s the last summer.

>Saintly Almost Wordless Wednesday


It’s the feast of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha today!

She is the patron of environmentalists and turtle lovers (that part is for you Julie! But, true.).
I always think of my Mom when I think of her, I’m not sure why.
But, anyhow, she’s a cool Blessed and the first Native American to be declared so. 
Go check her out.
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us!

for more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

>American Girl

>No, not THAT American Girl…we have had plenty enough of those thank you very much (and I’ve found less expensive alternatives, fyi…).

Rather, we have an American Girl for one year, today.
Today is the one  year anniversary of our arrival home, in the USA, with our Marti.
Today, one year ago, is the day she became, immediately a US Citizen.
{IR-3 Visa’s are cool that way. }

 (ok…a looong trip home and I was sick and we were fried….don’t judge)

 This day was long awaited and anticipated and much fought for.
Some of you know how we were delayed and how her visa was held up, due to now revised (again) visa requirements for adopted children overseas.
Suffice it to say, this homecoming was much longed for, for us all.
We needed to get her home, we needed to get home from Ethiopia…because I was so sick and we had littles at home too, plus she just needed to move into this new part of her life instead of being held up so long.

And so, here we are.
One whole year.
American Girl.

She’s been lots of new places now.
At first it was all so new and different, even the grocery store simply was mind boggling.
Now, she is used to much of it here…enough to even be able to complain about the hard parts (school vaccination rules + stupid, no fun, ouch).
And that is what we call blessed progress.
We will take it.

It will take a lifetime for Marta to learn about America, and even then she will still be Ethiopian. 
She is a girl of two countries that she will call home and that will shape her.

For tonight, we celebrate this anniversary.
It’s marked on the calendar and you know what she’s asking for…….that’s right:


>Eek…..well, you get the idea….


Yeah, a mouse!
EEEK! A mouse!
In MY house!!!!!!

And, where is my cat??
Obviously, she has slid into retirement.
Which means, apparently, we have a mouse…but you know that means plural (shudder) mice.
For the first time in the FIFTEEN years of living in this old crazy house, we have mice. Okay, for the first time that I’m aware of it.  But still.

And, while I didn’t really realize this (Bringing to life the old adage: “You learn something new every day”) I HATE mice.
By which I mean, they kind of freak me out.
Or, as my daughter Hannah put it after seeing me yelp and sort of leap into the kitchen and up onto the counter after finding said mouse as I cleaned my pantry (due to mouse)…”Mom! You’re such a girl!
Well.  Yeah.  Seems so.
So I handed her the trash bag and scooted her backside in to finish cleaning the pantry.
No. I didn’t, but I should have!
I did threw the cat in there though as I went to Lowe’s to get supplies.
Yeah….now we’re talking.
I didn’t even think I’d need the supplies after throwing the cat in there.
She’s a hunter! She’s brought me all sorts of disgusting trophies over the years: birds snakes rabbits mice squirrels even.
So. I knew, that mouse was toast.
And sure enough, upon arriving home from the store, loaded for bear..erm, mouse…the girls told me with urgency how they heard a clatter and even maybe significant dying mouse noise.
As I opened the door ever so carefully, bracing myself for the awful sight….my old cat sauntered out and I peeked gingerly in. 
Let me repeat that: NOTHING!
Now, my pantry is not a big place. It’s a glorified closet.  It was empty because all of it’s prior contents were at this point either in trash bags or sitting on my kitchen counter and floors.
Let me repeat that: EMPTY!
No holes that a mouse can run out, nowhere to hide.
What gives?

Well, at this point, we could only figure that somehow this cartoon ninja mouse somehow scampered past my slacker cat and under the pantry door…..wait for it….into my HOUSE!

So. Now the mouse is in my house.
But I kind of put it aside, trying to not worry, finished cleaning and waited for the uber mouse traps that Tom had ordered (knowing my freaked out status)  to arrive. 

Until this morning.
I was up early, starting the laundry.
My laundry room is UPSTAIRS.
And as I pulled a rolling bin of laundry toward me, out runs THE MOUSE!!!
It’s not even seven a.m., people!!!
This is far far too early for mouse sighting!
This is my laundry room, one could argue, the cleanest place in the house.
Nowhere near food or any good mousy treats.

That’s it.
Game on.
I may have ninja cartoon mice. 
My sweet, grounded forever (he’s 20, I know, but still, he’s grounded, I can still do that, right?) son Chris sent me this link on facebook :

Because his sick twisted sense of humor {Yeah, I know, he seems like such a nice boy too…Now you know}is getting a kick out of his mom’s new war and her underlying horror at all this, um…mouse business.

So,  back to this morning: I immediately swept sweet toddling waking Gabey up in my arms and took him, pj’s and all back to Lowes, right then, before seven this morning. 
And we loaded up on mouse traps and every single mouse deterrent that won’t poison my kids (and/or let the nasty rodent crawl off and die to stink up my house forever) that Lowe’s had.  Yeah, I got a raised eyebrow from the checkout lady.  Yeah, I said, “I know.”  She just nodded. Because she gets it (no Chris not because I scared her, and  you’re still grounded).
NO mouse is welcome in my house.
They are not cute little cuddly fluffs.
They are disease ridden vermin and don’t flame me  you PETA folks but they are NOT welcome in my house with my kids who like to have sib sleepovers on their floors. 
So, yeah,  I’m on the warpath and I’m not gonna be happy until I win.

And Tom may not realize it yet, but we are this close to getting a new kitten (Em’s already making plans); we need new troops as our current cat has obviously gone into retirement and her own personal feline Boca Raton.

Tom’s order arrived today. It improved my mood a bit.
I know, I know…I look scary.  Good.  I’ll show my Hannah how to be a girl.  Here’s my new motto: “Don’t get scared, get tough.”
Bring it.
I hate mice.

>And Amat.

>And Amat. One Year.
Aamata Bal. Anniversary.

That’s what today is.
Today is one year since we met our Marta, and she met us, in person, for real.

This is her “family day.”
We usually don’t do “gotcha days” and such, as most of our kids came home so young.
But for Marta, after this year, and since she is a teen, it’s a big deal.
It’s something that IS important to mark.
{As is the day she set foot in America, post on that one next week…}

For Marti, these days were physical real touchable everlasting change.
Change that rocked her world in more ways than any of us can count.
Change that rocked our family’s world too, in more ways than we can count.
Some great, some hard, some beautiful, some funny, some raw, some Divine, some hellishly selfishly not.

This is our Marta Therese, now.

This is our Marta Therese, then.

One year.
Here is what I know, now.

is Ethiopian
is American
loves to swim
loves to play bananagrams
loves movies and popcorn
loves to go to the store, any store
loves to shop for clothes
does not like shots
or doctor visits
loves pasta
and pizza
and shiro
and shopping
does NOT like flying
loves dogs,
some days big dogs, other days small
loves babies
loves shopping
loves sports
except maybe tennis
loves watching football games
Notre Dame is her favorite team (and mine)
loves to swim
and shop
gets easily bored
does not like mom or dad leaving
loves her big brothers
learning to love her small sibs
loves church
gets homesick for Ethiopia sometimes
thinks english is very hard to learn
and it is.

Struggles with holidays
and grief
and trauma triggers
but tries hard to hang on.
Works hard on understanding the differences here in America
but finds much of it confusing
and sometimes overwhelming
even though she loves so much of it.
We have found she has some special needs and delays.
But are working on this new learning curve together.
She struggles to get used a big family
after being an only child.
Still grieves her parents and losses.
And will for a very long time.
And that’s very hard,
but it’s ok.

Is very very excited about a new school
and hoping for new friends.
Loves to sing
loves music
is learning drums
which makes her grin
but she won’t practice.
Is all about the hair,
just like every girl

Is very very stubborn,
and tidy,
and sweet-natured
and pushy
and devout
and opinionated…
which fits in fine in our opinionated family.

Is torn between trying to be a big kid
and enjoying the safety of being a younger kid.
Loves watching tv
and huffs when told no.
Loves playing cards,
even with Anthony.
Which is a minor miracle.

Is getting healthier
though she will always have asthma and breathing issues
which frustrate her
and scare her sometimes.
But she is learning we will take care of her
but not give her medicine every time she asks,
which is very way too often,
which irritates her.
Is fussy about eating sometimes
which makes me foolishly fuss at her right back,
and makes us each stare and sigh.
Because she is stubborn.
But so am I.
Then she will usually eat.

Loves sun
and the water
and to go boating.
Doesn’t like rain,
it makes her sad.
Likes snow
at first
and then wants it warm again.
Gasped seeing the ocean for the first time
and loves it like we all do
and wants to go there as often as possible.

Has been to California,
and Lalibela.
Has seen many new things, all over the world,
and is beginning to understand
that the world is a big big place.
Which can be a hard bit of knowledge to digest,
in it’s own way.
But is also cool too,
especially the churches
and the shopping….

Seems to love having a big, extended family,
with many aunts uncles and cousins…
even when her own new big family can feel like a lot
and sometimes too much.
Seems to understand that it’s forever…
and that is why today is a big day for her
and she feels it.
She has been smiling and hugging this morning.
And so, even though we don’t usually mark this day..

Today we do, and it is a big day for us all.
Which also means, of course….cake.

>Bottom line: Older Child Adoption

>So, I’ve been writing about adoption, mine anyhow, for awhile. Reading about it for longer.
There is so much out there. When I was considering adopting that first time, over 12 years ago, I hunted for books on adoption. Then the second and third time, I was pretty set, had a few shelves of books already, knew what I was doing (for the most part…). The fourth adoption was a whole new deal: International, Ethiopian, and a toddler. So, a new research set. Fun! In a way. Then we came to this last adoption, my Marta, an older child, a teen from Ethiopia.
**I know, I drone on about this topic a lot. What can I say? I think about this stuff, constantly…I’m living it and it’s a big deal around here.**

And as I went into my standard compulsive research mode, I found…..almost nothing. Trying to wrestle with the decision to move forward in bringing this girl home, to intellectually get a handle on if we could or should; all those “what if’s” that crowd my brain when I feel that nudge nudge nudge toward another adoption…..I searched high and low for, um, anything, that addressed older child adoption. I found precious little. I found some really scary books (which I now use but aren’t nearly so scary…) on hurt children and therapeutic parenting. There were a few on international adoption with a chapter or two on “older children”…but those typically meant five year olds, not teens. I even went so far as to stalk blogs and then cold call (with a quick explanation that I wasn’t a stalker for real) other families who had adopted older teens, girls, from Ethiopia. (Thank you again to any of you who talked to me, if you read this!)

Lately, I have gotten a number of emails asking me about adoption and specifically older child adoption. I am happy to answer any email I get, and do and will.
But it’s kinda hard….in that they ask, “What can you tell me about adopting _____________ (fill in the blank: older boy, older girl, toddler, etc etc). “
That question always stumps me a bit.
Because I hardly know where to begin.

But I do know where to end it.
Adopting an older child is not all rainbows and pink pony’s, it’s not a fairy tale or fantasy.
I know you know that…mostly, but it is so easy to kind of slip over to that view, because, well…it’s a really great view from there.
But this is where you need to stand and gaze and consider things.
No one ever told me and I didn’t read it anywhere except maybe in the harder books, but buried in the therapeutic reports. So, for any of you in the process of adoption, especially that of an older child, or considering it….I’m distilling the countless calm conversations and gulping dismayed discussions between Tom and I (Coffeedad and messy me), here.
It comes down to a very important, easy to dismiss, oh so easy to forget, basic:

Adopt an older child because you are ready and willing to PARENT them.

That’s it.
You can hope to add a child to your family.
You can hope to love them with that fierce mama love.
You can hope to have them love you back.
You can hope for instant bonding.
You can hope for eventual bonding.
You can hope to grow into family.
But it’s not about the luv….
(I know! I struggle -still – with this too, you all know this…)

They might not be able to love, anyone, much less you.
They might well want to fit in but can’t figure out how.
They might want to love but not really know how to get there.
They might want to trust but simply utterly NOT be able to.
They might be so hurt or angry that they don’t even know how to process it all.
They might simply just not have learned the tools yet.
They may have tools, finely honed, that don’t work here, now.
They might simply need to learn what it feels like to be safe, for real, again or ever.

But they do need, are desperate for, a parent.
A parent.
Preferably two.
Every child, even the hardest, needs a parent, preferably two.

(**Disclaimer here, I am not not not addressing the adoptions that disrupt due to RAD or other such hard hard things. I am not in their shoes, and I will never ever ever judge that as I can’t imagine the difficulty, I am too busy surfing through our own and failing too often even there. And even parents who end up disrupting and finding a more therapeutic home, they are parenting to the best of their abilities…sometimes a kid needs more skills or resources than a family has. Sometimes it does take a village of sorts.)

But the point I want to make is that the ‘LOVE” is gravy.
The love is what we ALL crave and fantasize about.
Oh boy, do I!!!!!
The trust is years, maybe decades, in the making. Only with real trust can come real love.
But the DOING of love is the parenting.
And that is the love these kids need.
Especially kids from hard places (to co-opt Dr. Purvis’ term);  they need to be parented.

So. That is the foundation, the bottom line.
Older child adoption (from anywhere), means taking on the job of parent.
That is not a job for sissies.
Let me repeat that and please, really really think about it: they need parents.
It is NOT a job for sissies.
It is the hardest work you will ever do.
If you get anything else: love, cuddles, soaring mama bear feelings, all those wonderful hallmark feelings: it’s gravy.
And you can do the happy dance.
Heck, I’ll do one for you.
But in the meantime, you’re on the job.
You’re the parent. You’re the mama.
And that kid? The one who is glaring at you when you weren’t expecting it, when they should be happy sitting on the beach or out to dinner? Pulling away from everyone when they are just overwhelmed? Sometimes they just need some time. But, ever……well, they need you (even if you’re just giving them space).

This is the bottom line though, that you should know about older child adoption.
It’s the parents.
They need them.
More than you know.
More than they know.

So if you are investigating older child adoption…please keep this in mind.
If you’re already doing it: good job, well done, keep running this race.
And know this: you’re not alone, I’m running right next to you.