>Toddler Adoption: Remnants


Even in the easiest adoption, I see remnants.  
Or, as my dear friend Jen calls them: hiccups. 
What I mean is that, there are often (Possibly even always…but who am I to extrapolate out so far? Hush now, I don’t always do that……ssshhhhh) little or big issues that crop up, develop, linger…even years down the pike.
As with any kid, the trick is to figure out what is going on and why, and sometimes you’ll figure it out, sometimes  you won’t.  But if you have a child that was adopted, it might be worth reminding yourself that “hey, this might derive from way back in the beginning.”  That said, however, another trick is NOT to attribute every single hiccup to being adopted too; that’s hardly fair or accurate.  But sometimes, especially in those adoptions that really do go so smoothly, the easy ones where adjustment is short and seemingly smooth..it’s easy to forget that even later there might be things that crop up that still harken  back to the beginning.
How’s that for  vague?  Sorry.  What I mean to say is that this has all been on my mind lately.  Our Gabey, adopted at 18 months old, and the easiest smoothest adoption we’ve done out of five, is now a wild and crazy and wonderful three and a half year old.  He is funny and energetic and happy and thriving.  But even so, this summer we have noticed a few “hiccups.”  
Remnants, I think.
Gabey has something of a hard story; as do most if not all of the children adopted from Ethiopia (By definition, it comes with international adoption, that hard history).  
It was never stated that he suffered from malnutrition, and you wouldn’t guess it to look at him, ever.  However I gotta wonder if my sweet baby boy was hungry.

Because even though when he first got home he wouldn’t really eat solid food much – I”m sure it was too strange, everything was literally strange.  He relied and craved a bottle of milk (We took him back to bottle to get him that cuddly imprinting time of bonding tucked into our arms and cradled close – he ate it up on all levels).  That was his main source of calories for a bit, until he relaxed enough to be able to try regular chewing food as his mainstay.  But we knew and expected that process.  It didn’t surprise us and we went with it for the few months it took to adjust.  No big deal.  
But, this summer, we have realized that this boy has no real “full” switch.  
He will eat, if he likes it, and keep eating until we stop him.  He is “hungry” all the time.  If he gets a tad bored (And what kid doesn’t?) he comes to me asking for food.  He asks for his next meal as soon as he is done with his first.  And I have decided that this is a remnant.  It is also, surely, a favored activity if he’s bored…but he will ditch his trucks to try to find food.  That’s significant; this boy loves his cars and trucks.  But it is not because he is hungry – I think it’s something else.  He can almost eat as much as his big brother Anthony – now that is really saying something.   I don’t think it’s because he is just a glutton – he’s three; he can’t be that yet.  
I think it’s because he was  hungry.  
Not IS.  
Really really hungry and even if he was getting fed, enough to sustain him… 
I think when he was tiny enough to not understand; 
he got hungry enough to feel that hunger that doesn’t quit.  
Thus, now, he has an impulse to eat.  
A remnant.  
You could say that I”m projecting, I have no way of knowing.  You’d be correct.  I am.  I don’t.  But my mom’s heart and mind says this rings true.  I think it’s a primal behavior.  I think that he won’t get it through any explaining; not only because he’s young yet, but because it is almost subconscious.  It is not a part of his higher reasoning that is firing – it’s deeper, down to a more primal/survival level.  And yeah, he’s been home more than two years…he should know we will never let  him go hungry.  But  you know, those deep down imprints from those tiny days….they impress deeply, long, lasting on a level you don’t get to with words or even a bunch of days.  You need time upon time it seems.  
Happily, we have all the time in the world. We have a lifetime of dinners and lunches and breakfast with this happy boy.  We will  help him learn, gently and consistently, that food is available here, always. But we can help  him learn to moderate that need, to redirect it, and to let it go with time and trust.  Those are the real issues, no??   
Always in adoption, even the early ones: time and trust.  
It all comes back to those, one way or another.  
It’s the Einstein formula: “t squared,” “time x trust.”  
T squared equals love, safety….family.  

 Up the subway escalator in Siena, fun ride!
And it’s the only equation to help sweep away the dusty remnants.

>It’s never too late: Augustine


Its the feast day of St. Augustine!
Ok, now this saint, from north Africa, {born in Tagaste, in Africa, in 354} is one of the biggies: a doctor of the church of course and one of the great writers throughout Church history. I like him for so many reasons, not the least of which is his connection with his mom and her devoted prayers for her son. You know, I will always have a soft spot for a mom and son….

His teachings are noted throughout Christendom for their lasting influence and, simply put, their beauty. Perhaps it was his years of living a life that was wild, utterly hedonistic, and dipped into all sorts of heresy and convoluted ideas of god…..but when he returned to the Faith, he did so in a big way, using his brilliant mind to convey the beauty of Truth to generations to come.

Indeed, this is the antiphon from evening prayer tonight:
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, 
late have I loved you.  
You called, you shouted and you shattered my deafness.”

Late have I loved you… Indeed. And perhaps, that is part of his appeal to so many, so many of us (ok, me), have really felt that, lived that. Late, have I loved You. I missed so much, for so long. The “band width” of my life was so slim, and I didn’t even know it. But I was fooled by the hedonistic life I lived into thinking it was so wide. I was arrogant enough to think I knew it all. Only, later, later when I finally “let go” of my grip on that did I finally come to realize how small it all was.

And then St. Augustine, once more, came through for me with one of his most famous prayers:

You have made us for yourself, oh God. 
And our hearts are restless, until they rest in you.” 

Ah. I know, I’m paraphrasing that quote, but that’s how it sticks in my head and heart. And that about sums it all up: St. Augustine, life in general, me in particular.

So, it’s really never too late to wake up to love.  
Thank goodness!

Happy feast day!
St. Augustine, pray for us!
{Again, a melded post…last year, busy time now, but new prayers and comments.}

>Mom Feast


Feast of St. Monica

Painting of St. Monica, by John Nava

Today is the feast of St. Monica!
It’s a special feast day for us moms, because she is a special patron of mothers…especially the moms who have persevere in prayer and try to convert their worries and fretting and even fears for their kids into something more productive: prayer.
Here is one of the premier examples of patience, especially for us moms.
Really, I should unofficially consider her a patron, because here is a mom who showed such patience and perseverance in prayer…and these are some of the traits (especially that whole patience thing) that I severely lack.

Painting of St. Monica, by Janet McKenzie

St. Monica, a saint from north Africa, prayed for the conversion (successfully) of her husband and his mother. But, most famously, she prayed and prayed faithfully for the conversion of her wild, wayward son, Augustine.

Augustine was a son that would give any mom many sleepless nights and teary phone calls with girlfriends. And while Monica wasn’t of the phone call era, I suspect she had many a night awake fretting over her boy. He was wild and ignored her pleas, getting into all sorts of revelry; ok, even trouble…the kind of trouble we moms go gray over (can read more about him tomorrow on his feast day!).

But Monica persevered, because this was her son, she knew the truth and she had the faith that her prayers would be answered according to God’s will….sooner or later. Well, it was something like 17 years later, but it happened. Not only did Augustine turn his life around and step back onto more solid ground, but he converted to the faith and was ordained by St. Ambrose himself.

I like to think it is in no small part due to the faithful lasting sure prayers of his mom, as well as her prayerful example and steadfast love, no matter what. She didn’t shun him. She might well have corrected him, being his mom and all (whether or not he listened)….. {I know this is an old holy card image, but it makes me laugh.
It’s St. Monica praying for St. Augustine,
but that’s the same look my boys have when I’m giving them advice…
which is surely also a scene from the life of these two!}

….but she never stopped loving him. And that is what will turn even the hardest furthest of hearts back to the truth of Real Love. So I love St Monica, and she reminds me to never give up. Ever. We mom’s can’t give up…it’s one of the things that keeps the world spinning correctly on it’s axis.  I know it.

Antiphon from today’s morning prayer:
“You answered her prayer, O Lord, you did not disregard her tears 
which fell upon the earth wherever she prayed.”

Happy feast day, moms.
St. Monica, pray for us!
{Much of this reposted, not all, from last  year…it’s a busy time, but this feast day is not to be missed}.

>Retro Mama


Sylvia Sue….

This is my mom…in one of the pics of her that I love.
Love this outfit in all it’s retro coolness!
And the reason that I’m looking at it today is that today is my mom’s birthday!!
Yup, that’s right, it’s a birthday again!
And it’s hers…which means I get to wish her a wonderful happy bday, and all her bday wishes come true.
She is beautiful, inside and out.
And while we both now agree and discuss how aging is a um…bear…..I say she is still beautiful. 
More so now than ever in many ways as her heart has grown in wise kindness and my understanding of her has too. 

She has and has always had a heart for the kids and puppies and the little ones.  That’s her above (w/ my little bro behind her) at the house I grew up at in Arizona with our two labs, Nip and Tuck.  (I know…Dad named them, what can I say…great dogs tho…)

This is mom with my sister Nancy….another cool skirt and a great shot of my sis.  Who knew my mom was such a fashion coolio with all the terrific skirts (we clearly share a love for a funky skirt…)

And this amazing pic is my mom, when SHE was a little one.  Wow.  I could stare at this pic for hours…her artistic side, her creative flair, her stubborn independent streak, her opinionated passion…it’s all here.  And so, too, her practical logic too – note the hat and coat.  This in a funny goofy way, is my retro mom….from so long ago, to the wonderful her now…it’s always been there and I know always will be. I like to think that some of my best traits, came from her…I wish I had that fashion flair above! 
I love her and miss her, and today, on this special day, I’m wishing her the happiest of days.

Cowboy fabulousness family photo (I’ve got my eyes shaded); 
mom is, as ever, the hub.  Good times!
Happy Happy Birthday Mom!
I love you – ok, we ALL love you so.



 Painting by El Greco

It’s the feast of St. Bartholomew!

Detail of Michaelangelo’s Last Judgement, 
w/ skin of St Bartholomew (but using Michaelangelo’s features)

Now, there is no getting around it…St. Bartholomew died a grisly death: skinned – literally flayed for his faith.  Now that’s a martyr! He was also one of the apostles (John 1: 43-51) and clearly, his faith was such that he called people to the truth and away from pagan worship.  This very thing made the rulers of the time very angry and obviously frightened at the power of this man, though we all know it was the power of the Truth, to cut through the chaff and smoke of falsehood and evil.  So, of course, they had to kill him.  We do the same thing today, and it’s a story in many of our movies today that rake in the big bucks.  But this time, way back when, the gore was real and horrifying.  But the faith was strong and true and overrides even the horror.  What treasure that truth must be for a mere man to be willing to be skinned alive to uphold it.

Collect (Prayer) of the Day: Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle

Almighty and everlasting God, who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach your Word: Grant that your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
painting by Rembrandt van Rijn
 Happy feast day!
St. Bartholomew, pray for us!

>Happy Bday Coffedoc!


It’s my Tom’s Birthday today!
Hoorah, we love birthdays!

We celebrated with the family last night, because we get the fun bday activity of driving through the hot flat Indiana cornfields today to drive our son Jon (And Julianne, welcome honey, please ignore the crankyness and snuffling as I drive…tell your mom I really am stable.) up to school and get Jon settled into his dorm for Frosh Orientation and the start of school. Whoohoo. 
Not the optimal birthday event, but a dad’s gotta do what a dad’s gotta do.
 And that is just one of the reasons we love him so. 


Here are some more.  

{I know you all have read these before, it’s not the first year of blog, but it’s a bday and thus these bear repeating, if only for our own little/big family unit to be reminded and for Tom to read that he is very loved…..}

We love our Tom/Dad
He is funny,
he is an adventurer,
he is a terrible cook,
because he is totally left brained
and thinks linearly
and only does one thing at a time,
which can be a great gift
if you’re doing surgery and putting in a new knee,
but not so great if  you are making a meal.

 He has a sweet tooth and loves cookies best of all,
especially if they are homemade.
He is a man’s man and loves to have a beer
and laugh at dumb jokes outside,
preferably on a boat or by the water,
but he is also a romantic,
who loves to go out to a quiet dinner with me,
and share a drink and smooch.
He is also a gentle dad,
who will comfort the tears of a frazzled daughter,
and hang with his boys listening to music
late into the night.

 He is an adventurer,
having jumped out of airplanes,
and snorkeled around the world,
traveling anywhere at the drop of a hat,
and getting twitchy when he has to stay at home too long.
Which is a direct odds with me, his wife,
and yet he works hard to tamp down that urge
so he can be around for me,
and his kids.

He is somewhat indulgent,
agreeing to a new puppy,
when he was perfectly content with our old dog,
and even assenting to a small little doxie,
when he has historically been staunchly opposed
to any small dog.
Which means he is essentially a pushover,
for his girls.
That’s something of an open secret.

 He is a dreamer,
always thinking big,
and usually complicated,
and often just a little bit beyond the pale,
pushing just a bit beyond the margins,
stretching himself and us all to do more than we think we can.
Which is why he has done many
and many wonderful things,
some might say radical things,
in his amazing life.

 And it’s why we are all so glad that we too
are along for the ride.
Because life wouldn’t be the same without him.

 He loves his faith,
he loves his work,
he loves his friends,
he loves his family,
he loves Italy,
he loves technology,
he loves to laugh,
he loves art, and food, and music, and prayer,
he loves his Church,
 he loves the beach,
he loves his boys,
he loves his girls,
he loves his wife…
he loves life.
And we all love him back.

Happy Happy 49th Birthday Thomas.
We love you so.

>B is for Bernard


It’s the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux! 
(It’s also my Tom’s bday, but that the next post this morning!)

Now, he is a biggie saint, St. Bernard was known for his humility, intellect, mediation skills, homilies…his influence helped build the Cistercian order and spread throughout Europe, with many conversions to faith.  But for me, the big deal is that he composed one of my favorite prayers and one that I only pray when I’m really kinda desperate: The Memorare.   

REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

I don’t mean to say that this prayer or any prayer works as any sort of formula or incantation, God forbid!  But what I mean is that it is a serious petition and I just don’t like to use it lightly, say for instance….”please help me get a parking place so I’m not late again.”  Or, “please pray that these kids do a decent bedtime because I am so tired and I need to be done for today” (did I type that out loud? oops..).  I use this prayer when the stakes are high and important because I know that Mary, as a mother, is faithful and wants our best good and so will take the important stuff to her son, Jesus.  And I don’t want to be a pest.  I want to approach in prayer, with this prayer, only when I’m really focused and the need is worth the pestering.  Does that make sense? I hope so.  Suffice it to say, St. Bernard also came from a big family (Seven kids, six boys, one girl…what is it with big families and saints…a training ground for holiness due to the forced coping with a certain level of chaos? Hmm, a mom’s gotta wonder…that’s my take on it anyhow and I’m sticking to it!) and he knows you don’t bug your mom without a good reason…..hence, this prayer.

Anyhow, I digress.  St. Bernard is worth a look, he’s a Doctor of the Church and a big saint.
So, my Tom, and all, happy feast day!
St. Bernard, pray for us!

>Going, going….

We are going.
We are going tomorrow to take my son to college.

 He is going.
He is, in many but not all ways, moving out.
Why yes, tear did just spring to my eyes, just typing that, thank you for noticing.

(this is eldest, one of those goodbye’s that we’ve done many times..)

And I kept and keep thinking that since this is boy number two, meaning second time, that we’ve done this…it should somehow be easier.
But it’s not.
Not at all.
But,  he’s ready.

 He’s excited to go and we are excited for him and the big adventures he has ahead.
His dad and I think he is gonna fly, soar and maybe set the world on fire.

We are not quite ready for the house to be so quiet, ok, not that it will actually quiet…but there is a difference, a tangible physical difference of presence or lack thereof in the house when the college kid(s) are in school.
We are not quite ready for most of our talks to be on the phone or the occasional skype.
I am not quite ready to not see him for a long time.
So, I’m  not gonna think about that.
And I’m  not gonna think about how coffeedoc kind of grieves after the boy(s) go.
But he does.
But life is awfully busy happening in our house too, so we will focus on that.

Today we prep for the long hot drive tomorrow.
We pack up my big old car.
We do a last load or two of laundry.
We change the oil and fill the tank.
Tonight we have a double party: going away and pre-bday party for tom.
And then I have to watch him hug  his sibs goodbye and try very very hard not to break down and cry in front of them.
Because tomorrow we are going.

 Tomorrow  he is going, going….going to take on the world.
And we will laugh cry and cheer him on, the whole way.

>Assumptions on the Assumption


Mary’s house in Ephesus, where she is believed to have lived out her days.
It’s the feast of the Assumption of Mary!

I know, another uber Catholic post and event. Still, fascinating and cool for us and if you want to know more, go read here. I love this one!

It’s also a big Ethiopian Feast: Ethiopian Orthodox celebrate this feast in a big way and it is called “Filsata Mariam” – and Marta grinned with excitement when told what today is. So it’s a big deal even in the the other ancient Christian faith traditions.

That said, however, this is one of those Marian Catholic things that makes some folks a bit nuts. But really, it all makes sense. It is traced back to the apostles themselves:

At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, when bishops from throughout the Mediterranean world gathered in Constantinople, Emperor Marcian asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem to bring the relics of Mary to Constantinople to be enshrined in the capitol. The patriarch explained to the emperor that there were no relics of Mary in Jerusalem, that “Mary had died in the presence of the apostles; but her tomb, when opened later . . . was found empty and so the apostles concluded that the body was taken up into heaven.”
In the eighth century, St. John Damascene was known for giving sermons at the holy places in Jerusalem. At the Tomb of Mary, he expressed the belief of the Church on the meaning of the feast: “Although the body was duly buried, it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay. . . . You were transferred to your heavenly home, O Lady, Queen and Mother of God in truth.” from Catholic Culture.org

Again, it makes sense to me and to me, it’s beautiful.

“The Assumption completes God’s work in her since it was not fitting that the flesh that had given life to God himself should ever undergo corruption. The Assumption is God’s crowning of His work as Mary ends her earthly life and enters eternity. The feast turns our eyes in that direction, where we will follow when our earthly life is over.” From Catholic Culture.org

When I think of and meditate on this mystery, this feast, I always can’t help but think of Mary and her close relationship to her Son. A love from two pure souls, not smudged up by selfish hurts or striving, pure true love.

And, because it’s always about me, I think of me and my sons. I am about to take my second son up to school, to move him out of the house. My eldest has already moved back up, he left last Sunday.  And I am already starting to leak tears here and there. And it will make me cry when we have to begin our drive home again, without him. I will try not to sob (not in front of him on campus, ok? Not cool.). But I will grieve him going. I will be very happy for him to be there, but it makes me cry to let him go. The house will echo without them here.

And then, I remember, when they come back on break or I go to visit them, the electric JOY that makes the world light up and a grin break across my face and dance to my feet. And that, that feeling, that reunion is what I think about, finally, every time, on this day.

My Jon
My Chris

Because no matter how old the mom is or how old the son(s)…..that feeling surely cannot change, it hasn’t yet.

The sheer undiluted JOY that must be had at THIS reunion – when Mary is lifted to heaven, after being physically separated for so long from her only dearest Son, and His for her. Think of that glee, those grins…I don’t imagine a static statue of elegant repose and small appropriate smile on their faces. I hear and see whoops of laughter and hugs and glee and tears and grins and kisses. The best reunion of all. Glorious.

So, does the Assumption make sense? Oh yeah, to a mom, I think it makes Perfect sense. And it is a happy glorious feast!

painting by Botticini
{official busy disclaimer; much borrowed from years past, but not all…mom to eight, ’nuff said}

>St. Max, saint for modern days

>Today is the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe!

He is my son Jon’s patron and one very awesome saint.
He is a ‘modern’ saint, of the twentieth century, completely devoted to Mary and a Franciscan.

But what St. Maximilan is known for is his sacrifice, his martrydom of charity.

St. Maximilian was sent to Auschwitz Concentration camp, for being a Catholic and a priest. After ministering to his fellow prisoners during his time there, sick and hungry as the rest, Maximilian made the ultimate sacrifice: he stepped forward and volunteered to go to his death in order to spare a father of a family from this fate. St. Maximilian went to his death in a father’s place; dying after two weeks of forced starvation and ultimately, an injection of carbolic acid (and forgiving the one who gave him that shot as he was injected).

As such, not only is he a hero, among many other things, he is the patron of families, and he is the patron of addiction (the needle connection, I’m guessing, and really IMHO due to his inner core of strength and faith, something anyone prone to addiction of any sort needs to get well and be well).

We are big on family here around the coffeeblog.  We hit up St. Max for prayers for many of our friends and families who are going through different hard things but also this year for my Jon as he heads off to college and needs a strong faithful patron to also keep him in prayer.  And the prayers of a righteous man, a saint and patron of families, who knows from sacrificial living, are worth much. So, thank you St. Maximilian, for your patronage of my son, and for your prayers for so many!

Happy feast day Booboo!
St. Maximilian Kolbe, thank you for your prayers! 

Official disclaimer: Much but not all of this post is reposted from last year because things are slamming here at the coffeehouse. 

>Sibling Rivalry: Snips snails puppy dog tails….

>So, we are having an intense go-round with sibling rivalry in our house…again.

Every time we bring home a new child, we have a new mini wave of sibling rivalry. {Don’t get all in a tizzy…wait for it.}
I mean, textbook stuff, right? Happens EVERY time.

The first time when we brought home my Booboo/Jon, two year old Chris watched him for a few days and then emphatically declared that he “should sleep in the trashcan.”

When Hannah Banana came home on Halloween, it was a matter of days before the boys would run through the house, fingers in their ears as they rushed for cover for her decibals shouting, “Make her stop, Mom!”  (One word: colic.)

Then the two little girls came  home, within two weeks of each other, and we went from three to five almost overnight.  Hannah would try to push the two babes out of my lap and crawl in and the boys just took refuge in another room.

Anthony came home at three months old, and the sibling rivalry seemed less intense….he was an adorable three months old cutie with a naturally sunny disposition.

But then he became mobile.
The little girls have been squalling and fussing at him ever since and he has learned that it is the purest of sport to tease.

Gabey came home, this time Anthony had to sort out what he thought about this new little one.  On the one hand – he already was really good at wrestling and was an instant bosom buddy.  On the other hand, gosh, my lap (Tonio’s turf, in  his mind) had gotten quite too crowded.

Then came Marta, the girls were (and still are at times) jealous of the time she takes demands needs from mom and dad, the boys are all just jealous of the same: time and attention – and with this new sib there is no getting around the needs or the jealousy in all directions (her too), it just bubbles up for them all at different times.

And now, we have Abby.
Yup.  But this time, the sibling rivalry is a pup.
Yup.  Pup.

And the rival is Gabey.
I suppose it’s his turn.

I didn’t expect it though, not only because well, he’s my CHILD and the puppy is a erm, DOG…..
but rather, because Gabey is my dog whisperer, cat whisperer.   He’s my most intuitive animal kid, by a long shot.  He is the only kid who can pick up my cat.  Ok, he still picks  her up like a sack of potatoes, but even so, she LETS him.  I’m the only other one who can pick her up (Outside cat, not wild but not as cuddly as the posters.) He bonds with our old Golden, resting draped over her as she rests, whispering secrets to her.

So, stupidly (I know, what was I thinking?), I thought he would carry that intuitive radar to a new dog.
Hmmm. Maybe,  maybe he would have if it was a new DOG.
But this is a puppy.

Which means a new baby in the house.

And Gabey-baby…he is jealous. Capital J.  Green eyed jealous.
Enchanted with the pup? Yup.

But also, so jealous of the cooing and ooing and “Oh cute!” that comes with a cute doofy little puppy.
So, while he wants to play and pet and touch and coo at the puppy, he kinda also wants to smash it and wrassle and teach this pup “who’s got game. “
He is like a Gabey Godzilla to this tiny pup.

So I have to protect them both from each other.

Sibling rivalry.

I have to teach them both, once again (haven’t I done this a hundred times?), that there is enough love and time and attention in this big ol’ family for each member…no matter how furry, ill mannered, cute, housebroken, or not.  Here we go again…..

 {h/t to Jean who pegged it first}

>St. Jane Francis de Chantal

>Today is the memorial of St. Jane Francis de Chantal.

{Reposted from last  year because there are so many great saint days this month, but with school starting for seven of my kids….it’s busy!! See that “Seven” connection, just below}

Now, she is a fascinating saint to me because, for one thing, she was mother to seven children.
That’s right!
Mom to seven kids, and STILL she made it to sainthood.

I’m tellin’ ya, it gives me hope, it does.
If nothing else, here is a gal that I figure can understand me to a fair degree and I can hit up for prayers on my behalf.
We moms of big families stick together!

She was french, born into a noble family. She also married a nobleman. Which is cool in it’s own way because, once again, we see that saints can come from any circumstances; it’s the disposition of our hearts and the choices we make, not the situations we are born to that determine the outcome. I think that’s fairly encouraging! St. Jane was widowed due to a hunting accident – her husband was shot. She struggled for many years to forgive the man who killed her husband; eventually she succeeded after much prayer and counsel.

Her closest counselor, friend, confident was none other than St. Francis de Sales (another top notch fav saint, and the author of this amazing book). So, here we have St. Jane showing us the importance of true friendship and how a holy friendship can lead to amazing things. Another reason I am keen on her. Her long friendship with St. Francis led her to eventually found the order Visitation nuns. Eventually she founded eighty-five convents.A woman who can be a mom to a bunch of kids, manage her household in a holy manner, forgive the hardest things and be a long and true friend, and still then manage to found an organization that does eternal good in the world…..now there is an example!
I have much to learn from a woman like St. Jane.
She is not of this era, but I daresay that Oprah and the modern reality tv micro-celebs could take a lesson from her too!
St. Jane de Chantal, pray for us!

>Wordless Wednesday: saint edition


It’s the feast of St. Clare today!

As you all know, she’s the great friend of St. Francis of Assisi, and founder of the sister order to his Franciscans: the Poor Clares.   It’s wordless wednesday, so I’ll not write much more (shock, I know)…except this quote and then prayer that sums it up from St. Clare:

“Love God, serve God, everything is in that.”

“Let us pray to God together for each other,
for, by sharing each other’s burden of charity in this way,
we shall easily fulfill the law of Christ.”

St. Clare of Assisi

The Basilica of St. Clare, Assisi 
{that’s Jon and Marta way up in the photo, tiny}

>Loc Out!

>So, we finished the take down on Sunday.
It was a JOB!
{I’ve been quiet on blog….been working on hair!}

It took over forty hours of work, thankfully I had great helpers in Emmy and Marti.

But it was exhausting for us all.  On Friday I had to send her to her first day of 5th grade in the midst of the process – can you say “Bad planning?” I can! But I think we did ok on making it still work for the day.

These locs had been put in and maintained by several different people over the  years. Thus we had palm rolled, microbraided, and latched locs…sometimes all three in one loc.  Plus of course the standard “locking” of hair growing together and dead hair etc.

We went through bottles of conditioner and olive oil, with a little bit of detangler thrown in during the takedown.  And still it was SO dry and not what any girl or mom shoots for with the hair.

After it was all out, I DEEP conditioned it several times, as it was just so very dry.  It will need more deep conditioning this week too and some babying to get it back in shape.
Happily enough for her, Sarahbird has crazy thick hair, it’s fragile but she’s got a ton of it so even with the expected breakage and loss during the takedown and the natural shedding of hair over the years, we saved literally years of growth, so it was worth it.  
Instead of a teeny weeny afro, she now has this:

So, now I get to loosen up my rusty hair styling skills.  I mean, they are rusty in a big way, it’s been over four years since I had to style in a serious way and then I had little girl heads to do.  Now it’s a preteen, so we are kind of in that in between zone: not a baby or little girl but not a sophisticated teen yet either.  This is gonna take some creativity and research both.

But she is staying natural, her hair is a glory.
It’s thick, it’s hard to work with, but it’s glorious and it’s lovely to be able to see her bone structure and fine lines of features again.

(Ok, she was so tired here, just wanting to be done with it…so looking pensive; 
and being that kind of mom, I still wanted a pic…..)

Sarahbird is ecstatic with her free hair, her head is lifted higher.

(So many sisters, but a happy crew post hair 
– excuse the mess – we were all so happy to be done.)

And that, right there, is worth the effort.

>Take down

>The locs, I mean.

Yup, after years, like four, we are taking down Sarah’s locs.
It’s a bittersweet transition.
It’s been long pondered discussed contemplated researched stewed over.
By both of us.
But, Sarah has wanted her locs out for more than a year…..even though some days she wanted to maybe keep them too, as they were getting long enough to pull up and that was fun.
So the idea of going back to  her natural hair (not that locs are not natural, of course they totally are, but her non-locked hair) has been pulling at her but the idea of having to go back to a teeny weeny afro has not been so appealing.
Because going from locs to non-locs is a drastic change, and often requires just cutting them off.
That’s the easiest quickest way, to be sure.
Now, Sarah’s hair grows like wildfire, and she has a LOT of  hair.
But even so, no eleven year old girl really wants a teeny weeny afro.
So we researched and consulted, talked and thought about it all, for a really long time.

Now, locs are a commitment.
All the way around.
A commitment to put them in, grow them, care for them, and a commitment to take them down.
It is a big decision; not like we can just change our minds if we don’t like it after all.  Thus the hesitation.  Also, we originally went with locs because some med she was on made her fragile  hair extra triple fragile and locs were the strongest hairstyle we knew.  And they were.
I think she looks great in them!
But an eleven year old girl doesn’t want to look and feel so different.  And it’s easy to say, “just teach her to be strong, how unique and special she is!” Yeah.  I know.  We do, we are.  But even so, sometimes it’s nice to just be normal too.  Especially when  you’re eleven.  Sarah already goes to a school that is different than her sister, because of some learning needs.  If she wants to blend a bit more, finally, to sport a hairstyle that is less radical…I think it’s her call.  It’s her hair.  Ultimately, it’s just hair.  (Now, don’t flame me, I know the politics of hair, I really do, but really, it’s HER hair, and I’d like it be just “just”  hair for once for her if she wants that).  

Sarah gets to have her hair, her choice, now and as she grows.  She’s entitled.  Period.

Yesterday, after going to school to meet her new teacher and see her new classroom (We are both very excited, love the new teacher, it’s gonna be a good year, starts tomorrow!)…..Sarah said, “Could we try taking down a loc or two and see if that would work, not cutting?”  
I said, “Sure.

 So, we did.
And it worked.
Ok, it’s not easy, it’s laborious, and time consuming and you have to go slow and be gentle and extra patient.
It makes your fingers cramp after awhile.
It makes her backside sore after sitting awhile.
We take breaks.
Emmy is helping because she is a good egg and likes doing hair too, so we are taking turns.

After researching how others have done it, and some trial and error, this is how we do it:
We turn on the tv (critical…).
We get the tools, here (simple).

We soak a lock or two in this concoction (conditioner, water, olive oil).
And then, we pick out the lock, slowly, from the bottom up, with this comb/pick – combing the free hair as we go.  Now and then we have to snip the very bottom tip of the loc off to get the untangling going, but then, it’s just the job.
We are managing to keep a good bit of the length; though without the loc itself holding the length out, it pulls up when dry of course. 

We will give her whole head a good DEEP condition once we are all done.
It’s gonna take a few days, though we are kinda hoping for a marathon today (including the good start of yesterday) because it would be wonderful to be done in time for school tomorrow.
We will see.

A new school  year.
A new grade, a new start…new hairdo.  Fun!
Make no mistake: no matter what hair, she is still and always will be my beautiful girl.

>First day: high school sister edition


Hannah and Marta began high school today!
It was an exciting day, much anticipated and it went swell!
Marta’s awesome wonderful Hand in Hand teacher met us in the hallway and made the drop off easy and happy and exciting for her,

Hannah let me give her a hug and just was sort of…instantly absorbed into the school.

Perfect fit….
For both of them in their own way.
A happy exhausting day.
Sounds like high school to me!

>Frosh Retreat: high school sister edition


So last week, Thursday and Friday, Hannah and Marta had their frosh-o retreat. 

All the freshman and transfers to their high school went to the Boxwell Boy Scout Camp and had all sorts of fun and daring events, culminating in the pics above of the time honored tradition: box boat races.  Boxboats made by teams; one that goes farthest before sinking wins bragging rights for the year. 

It’s a fun hot kooky couple of days but the teachers and new students all get to know each other and it’s bonding.  Temps in the high 90’s and humidity the same, plus a quick downpour or two, mosquitos and lake water is the fodder for memories and the beginning of a class bond.  Even Marta was able to go and have fun, despite her nerves at the new unknown. 

So a big time was had by all.  Real school begins Wednesday….we can’t wait!
big thanks to Lori Jones for all the pics!