>Happy Bday Dad!

>It’s my Dad’s birthday!
He’s a still going strong 79!

I can’t tell you how much I wish I was there with  him, to hug him and peruse the paper over good strong hot coffee…
to discuss the merits of coffee and coffeemakers…

(Yeah, we Mahan’s really appreciate some good donuts!)
to drive down to VG’s donuts as we discuss the merits of really great donuts…

to bring all the loot (Read; donuts.  Yep. We throw those diabetic worries to the wind on these rare mornings…ahem….) back to the house and wait for Mom to wake and pad out to the kitchen and join us…
and continue our lazy morning pondering.

I wish I could discuss the latest books we’ve read, what we liked, why, what we didn’t and why….
solve life’s ongoing problems,
plan the futures of all the grandkids,
fine tune the lives of the siblings,
generally save the world – all from our comfy spot on the stools around the kitchen counter.

I would make him tamales and pour him some wine,
we’d discuss why Notre Dame’s team is gonna get better even though he is unconvinced.
But we’d watch today’s bowl game today anyhow, I’d shout and he’d tsk at the fumbles and shake his head.
I know my sister would show up and we would all get a bunch of laughs and Dad would get more bday hugs.
We would all agree that hanging out for a quiet birthday is simply and truly the very best way to spend New Year’s Eve; that there is no other place we’d rather be.
We’d both start nodding off in front of the television,
and I’d peck his cheek as he got up to head to bed, shaking his head at the goofy dogs he his “housing” for my brother {but that he secretly likes quite a bit}.
He would pat my head goodnight.

I’d wish him one more happy bday, and wish him goodnight.
Because I love him.
He’s my dad.

Happy Birthday Dad!
I hope all your birthday wishes come true!
Sending you birthday hugs and wishes and prayers from the south!

>Moms Rock!!

>I dare you….I dare you to step outside the comfort zone and do this.
Yup, that’s an open challenge.

Now, you can read the details, here. The short version is this, spend fifteen minutes a day rocking your child who has that special need.  Ok, I know, they all do.  But you also know as well as I do, that some of your kids have much more intense needs and hurts.  Those are the ones I’m talking about.  If you have a big ol’ covered porch with a rocking chair, all the better.  If not, a big sofa or big chair, a rocking chair, a swivel chair, whatever.  It’s the snuggle closeness of focused time, not even needing to talk or DO anything.  It’s just rocking, sitting, close together.   Everything else is gravy.

After reading the details, you may snort and snuff and say, perhaps, “Psshaww! That’s nuthin! Piece of cake!”  Well, I hope so.  That would be great for you!  But for those of us parenting kids from hard places or with special needs…this challenge can be a huge, um, challenge!  And the idea of taking it on is, frankly, to me, kinda daunting.  {Why yes, I really am that selfish, thanks.  Sorry but true}.  

Pablo Picasso, “The Rocking Chair.”

Because doing this is an act of will.
I must carve out the time to do it, and that means I have to steal it from some of the precious spare time in a day.  Though, I strongly suspect it’s much akin to Mother Teresa’s take on things, to paraphrase: “You should spend half an hour a day in adoration and prayer, talking with Jesus….If you are very busy, you should spend an hour.”
Yup. Counterintuitive, all the way.
It works with prayer and just the same it works with therapeutic parenting.  If you take the time and invest in your kid who needs that extra time and focus, you actually shorten time (on the good days) that  you spend putting out fires.  Meaning, you are investing in healing them.  Which pays off in their coping better.  Which pays off in their happiness.  Which pays of in yours…you see how this plays…..

So, to that end, I’m in.
I’m stepping up, or, er, sitting down for the challenge.
Because I rock.
That’s right.
I said it.
I rock.

And you can too.
I bet you’ll be glad you did.
Go here, to join up.
See ya on the porch!

>Mi Amo A My Emmy….


Happy Happy Bday to my Emmy!
It’s Emily’s 12th bday today!!

It’s a great day for a birthday, in the quieting week between Christmas and New Years, we have one very important day to mark: my sweet Emmy’s birthday!

It might be easy for Emmy to feel lost in the shuffle of holiday festing frenzy.  But never, oh never, do we want that to happen…because our Emily’s day is the sweet close to the year.  It reminds me, each year, of the goodness of God’s abundance and makes me grin at the gift of this sweet wonderful girl!

Our Emily, virtually twinned with her sister Sarah, and yet so very different.  They share a special bond; but are so unique in their own ways. I can’t imagine life without either one, but today, is my Em’s day so this list is for her.

My Emmy, now you are twelve.
And you are still possibly the most stubborn, strong willed child in my house…though many would like to steal that crown. 

But I’m not sure they can, nor would I want them to. 
Because your strength of will means you will have one of the tools that will help you go far and do whatever you set your mind to do.  
You can set the world on fire, I daresay you will.

You are an animal lover:
Geckos, cats, horses, dogs – most especially jumping dachshund puppies.

You are a lover of sports as well: basketball, swimming, boating, volleyball.
Which works well since you are an impressive athlete.

You love to learn to cook, which works well since  you love to eat.
You have sophisticated taste buds: shrimp, pasta carbonara, toffee, berries, coffee drinks, antipasta salami and olives and cheeses.
Which would work well as you travel the world in your adventures to come….
except that you are a homebody and might be most content to hang out around the house, preferably in flannel pj pants.

You are a terrific friend, loyal and kind with a keen sense of justice.
Which makes middle school a little prickly and painful at times,
and will probably do the same for high school…
but will be a golden toolbox for college and beyond.

You are so smart, but don’t always admit it.
YOu will make a most excellent marine biologist one day;
and I will come tour your aquarium and clap with amazement at your work, so proud I could pop.

In the meantime, I watch you growing, so fast, into a young lady.
And I am already so proud I could pop.
So is your pop.
You are good through and through, my Emmy….{despite your moody self sometimes}.

So on this  your birthday, we wish for all your birthday wishes to come true (except for the permanent pet gecko one).
And we want to  make sure you know, for now and for ever, how very much we love  you.

Happy Happy 12th Birthday Emily!
We love you so!

>Imitating Life….


So, maybe I don’t snarl at the kids…ok, at least not on a good day {and we just don’t talk about those bad days do we?}…but still.  Made me laugh out loud, needed today, so thank you Booboo! So goes the Christmas vacation…
**disclaimer: I have never watched this show and probably won’t. So this is not an endorsement of it. But this clip makes me laugh, it’s my house.  Mom mom mom mom gabe gabey gabe gabe me me me me……**

>Holy Family!


Michelangelo, “The Holy Family”

What perfect timing, of course!
I love this feast, its a reminder to me that even Christ got to, had to, live in a family.  
Think about that one…..
Now his family was all holy and everything, true…but even so, it’s a great example.  Heck, we have sports stars that we look up to and try to be as good as they are (for the most part, at least when we are talking about their skills of endurance and perseverance and practice, right?).  So, that’s one of the great things about the saints and feast days, they are like the posters kids put up in bedrooms…heroes to emulate, gaze at and wonder and dream.  
So today I have put up the gorgeous  painting by Michelangelo, I got to see it in person this summer at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.  Just wow!  This is the heroic icon of family.  The holy family, I could just look at it all day long.  
But the really cool part about all of this, is that WE are called to be like them.  Really.  We are called to be, in our own little (or big) families, the domestic church.  Which is just the coolest thing to me.  We are supposed to model that love that faithfulness that care and keeping of each other…because that’s what families do.  It can take different forms for the different needs and concerns of each family, of course.  But the basics remain.  We care for each other to our best ability, because we are family.  Just like the Holy Family did.  If we shoot for that, we are on the right track.  Which is helpful to remember as I correct my fast growing (in size and temper) son and he stomps up the stairs and shouts that I am “despicable.”  {Yes, he’s got a heck of a temper, but his vocabulary is impressive!}
So as we/I all recover from the excess and crazies of Christmas day {and hand out ‘write-offs’ to the kids who are having fall apart syndrome from too much muchness yesterday}, and review in our mind the sweetnesses of this holiday {sleeping toddlers breathing against your neck at midnight Mass} and the irritants {maybe even Jesus had an annoying distant uncle made Mary roll her eyes at the dinner table}….I need to keep this in mind:
It’s not just something we endure or that imposes chores….
it’s what our deepest hearts long for.  
Because it’s holy.
From Evening Prayer for this day:
Father, help us to live as the holy family,
united in respect and love.  
Bring us to the joy and peace of your eternal home.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, forever and ever. 

>Merry Christmas Birthday Girl!!


Merry Christmas to all, but most especially to my best present ever: 
My Sarahbird!!

It’s her birthday once again, she is twelve now!

And I think we are finally coming to terms with the jiving up of the Christmas fun and the birthday fun.
We’ve tried many many things over the years, variations and tweaks.  But what works best is what has become solid tradition: Christmas in the morning, Bday after noon.  And before you get all “aw, gee” about it all, lets look at this clearly:
My Sweet Sarah has the biggest birthday of the year.
It has a month of buildup leading up to it.
The entire world celebrates alongside her; because she has the best most awesome birthday companion possible: Christ himself!
Christmas babies are inherently special, they just are. 
She gets the best breakfast, homemade cinnamon rolls, every year.
She will never have school or work on her birthday.
And she gets the yum of the fancypoo Christmas dinner on the eve of her bday and then gets her pick of dinner and desert for Christmas day.  Even if she chooses hot dogs (and she has)!

 So, we think having a Christmas birthday is pretty special; just like her.
Because my sweet Sarah bird is twelve.
She was my tiniest baby, hands down, the tiniest baby I had ever held.
 I might have told you that before, I still can’t get over it!

She is still petite and always will be.
That frustrates her sometimes, but it suits her perfectly.
Except perhaps when she is guarding in basketball.
Which is probably why she does such a fierce trash talking job of it!

She is a girly girl and probably always will be.
She loves ruffles and sparkles and bling…
and dolls and ponies and kittens…
but not wild jumping dachshund puppies.

She loves to be social and is making many friends at her school.
But  her best friend for ever and ever will always be her sister Em.
They shared a basket, they shared bottles (I know, gross, but try it w/ virtual twins, try keeping them always separate, I double dog dare you), they shared clothes, toys, snacks, baths, beds, and still share a room.
They are just each others best buddy.
Except when they aren’t, because they are preteen girls and that explains it all!

Sarah is creative and loves to draw and craft and cut and design.
Which usually makes quite a mess.
Which makes her mom crazy.
Because Sarah is not and  may never be, a natural cleaner or tidier.
Though she can do a great job when motivated.

Storms and spiders scare her.
As do large dogs, and jumpy puppies.
She loves sugary foods beyond anything else to eat.
And has a knack for figuring out how to score them.

Sarah can be prickly, and moody.
But deep down, she is a sweet not so little (12 now!) girl who just wants to be liked, fit in, and have fun. 
Just like most twelve  year old girls.
Especially the have fun, preferably a party, part. 

So today we will hang the streamers and cut the cake.
We will open (more!) presents and we will sing the birthday song loudly.

And we will hug this special girl tight and tell her:
“Happy Happy Birthday Sweet SarahBird!”

“We love you so much!”
 “We hope all your bday wishes come true!”


>Merry Eve of Christmas for a Mom!

>Well, we still have much of this holiday to come…
but this Christmas eve, this mom/me just got what might be my best Christmas present, below:

That note?  It is a huge giant step forward for my daughter, my newest one from hard places.
Seems like a typical kid love note.
Tomorrow might be hard again.  I hope not.
But even so, I’m marking this.
Because this is big and tonight she was happy enough to write this and hand it to me with a huge grin, ducking her head as she came to hug and kiss me.
It might as well be gold.

It’s good.
It’s progress.
Which is, of course, the best present of all to us both.
Brought, of course, by a “little” child…..and I’ve been given the eyes to see and this is Christmas Joy.

Merry Christmas Eve!

>Behind the curtain….


Yeah you moms know what I’m talking about…
It’s really really great to act like and try to make the world, or at least your own little family unit, think that you are the “great and powerful Oz.”  Right? Right.
And much of the time we can fake it.  Or we can fool ourselves into thinking that we are making or faking it. And when we are really “on” we make it look effortless.  {Insert maniacal laugh here.} 
Sometimes we’ll even have other folks say to us, “Oh but  you are so pulled together!” Yeah.  That’s it.
But then, now and then, you run into those times when everyone gets to see behind the curtain. And the truth is revealed. Not only are you not the “great and all powerful Oz Mom” but you are pedaling and pushing the levers as fast as you can, sweating even!

Yup.  Mom fail.  It happens, to the best of us.
Some of us however have more opportunities to fail…yeah,  you moms, you still know what I’m talking about.  I believe that the number of kids you have is a direct correlation to the number of fail opportunities that will present.  Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  So, follow me here: if you think about it….with my eight kids (and I get extra chance points for having some with particular needs…) I have, um, let’s see…approximately 11,000 chances per week.

And, today I got another.  I got the Christmas version, oh boy oh boy.
You see, most of my kids got out of school last Friday on the 17th.  One of my daughters is at a different school and had a few days left in class this week.  Three.  Or so I thought.  So she said.  So I thought the website said.  And don’t get all snippy and ask why I didn’t get the schedule handouts.  Because I didn’t get the schedule handouts. I don’t even know if they had schedule handouts.  Because this daughter doesn’t let me get to her backpack and go through her papers often, it becomes a battle and therefore I choose not to.  But I digress.  Anyhow, so even this morning, she traipsed off to school and as she got on the bus she I said, “2:30 pickup?” and she said, “Yup.”

Off she went.  Back in the house I went.  Then I went off to the market and flipped the laundry and checked in with the other kids and so on.  As soon as I made it in to start wrapping her teacher gifts, my cell rang. It was her school. It was her principle.  Uh oh?  So, I picked it up and her very nice principle, we’ll call her Ms. Principle, said, “Is anyone coming to get Sarah today?”  “Wha??,” was my eloquent reply,  “Aren’t they done at 2:30?” Genius, right?  “No,” says kind and long suffering Ms. Principle, “they are out at 10:30 this  morning.” “Is today the last day of school,” I say in my flash of numbingly stupid insight, “I thought it was tomorrow! Oh no! I have her teacher gifts right here.  Ok, Ok, I’m on my way.”  “Are you far?” asks Ms. Principle because now it’s after 11 and she wants to go home.  “No, at home, on my way now!”
And I threw the yummy teacher treats in gift bags and taped their cards to the front so fast it was like a cartoon.  And I grabbed my purse and coat and box of gift bags and keys and went outside to find that my son had taken my car.  And I went back inside to dig through the drawers to find the truck key. And I found it and raced up to the street and threw the box and purse and self in and took off to school.  Clock ticking, I knew the principle and maybe one teacher was waiting patiently as my sweet daughter sat in the office, last kid at school, waiting for her slacker mom to come pick her up.
I screeched to a stop in front of the school in the almost empty parking lot, grabbed my keys and box of gift bags and raced inside the now empty school building.  Two of the teachers were still there, plus Sarah’s and the principle.  They were all ready to go.  Oh dear.  Bad mom.  I crashed into the office, and smiled crookedly at Sarah, and said, “I am SO sorry!  This is why God gives babies to YOUNG women (line stolen from best friend’s dear mom, thank you Jean!) !”  Now they were all sweet and kind and made nice polite small talk, so as not to embarrass me further.  
But, they knew.  
Mom fail.
Christmas edition.

See that mom behind the curtain??? She’s working those pedals and levers and buttons as fast as she can….but sometimes the whole contraption clanks to a heap.
Maybe I need me some ruby slippers….

>O Clavis David


O Clavis David
O Key of David

“O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.”

>O Radix Jesse


O Radix Jesse
O Root of Jesse

O Root of Jesse,  you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

>Happy Bday Bro!


 {That’s him behind my sis, she was always stealing the show…..but they are 11 months apart so all pics tend to have them both.  This pic makes me grin.}

It’s my big brother’s bday today!
Happy Birthday David!

My eldest brother and the one I don’t see nearly often enough.
So much so that finding current pics is like finding a needle in a haystack, so I’m going with the fun old ones.
He’s a mountain man at heart, a GIA certified jeweler (I know! Cool, huh?!),  an entrepreneur now importer/exporter, and a world traveler extraordinaire.
He’s the kid in our family that would alway surprise you, and at the same time, NEVER surprise you.  Because with Dave, anything could happen.

(the infamous 70’s prom pic, with my beautiful sis next to him)

He was the one to strike out, on his own, across the globe.  Totally and utterly self-sufficient – an Eagle Scout you know – he was kind of an early version of “Man vs Wild” but without the gross out food stuff and the video cam strapped to his pack.
He likes to pose as a gruff curmudgeon, but he has the best of hearts under that and his twinkly eyes give him away.

(Trumpkin reminds me of my big bro, every time, just a shorter warrior version.  
It makes me smile.)

He can make me laugh til I cry, he is innately funny, always has been.
I love him to pieces and am sending him bday hugs from the south.

I miss you Dave and hope you have the best happiest of birthdays!!
I love you!

We will have cake on your behalf.
Happy Happy Bday David!

>O Sapientia


Raphael, “Wisdom”
O Sapientia {O Wisdom}

O WISDOM, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly:

COME , and teach us the way of prudence. Amen. 

>O Antiphons

>The ” O! Antiphons ” are a strictly Advent tradition in the Church.
They are prayed during vespers in the liturgy of the hours.
They are prayed just before the Magnificat, one of the most beautiful prayers of thanksgiving that we have.
Anyhow, I love the O antiphons for their long rich tradition, because they pull me back into Advent each night, and for the art that is tied to them as well. As usual, I love the whole rich woven package. What can I say, it’s a Catholic thing, I love it.

Here is an explanation of them, better than I could do:

The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah.

So, I’m putting up these antiphons each evening, just as a reminder to myself that we are waiting on the Messiah, and why.
Blessed Advent everyone!

>Mystic John

>It’s the feast of one of the great poets and  mystics and teachers in the Church: St. John of the Cross. 

Salvadore Dali, “Christ of St. John of the Cross”
{Dali…when he’s weird, he’s very very weird, but when he’s good, he’s gripping.}

He wasn’t a wild eyed dark compelling figure, as you or I might imagine.  By accounts he was rather plain to look at.  I love it how  you just never know….can’t tell what’s going on by looking at the outside. So easy to forget, that.  Anyhow, inside he was on fire with love and was able to understand the beauty of the “dark night of the soul.”   It is for this that he is known…and by myself at least, often approached with a little fear and trembling to take in and on his words.  Which is silly in it’s own way.  But his ‘rep’ precedes him.  I mean, no one wants to be in the “dark night,” do they? Of course not! Not me, either.  

John knows of that tough spot, desolation, suffering, difficulty in prayer, and yet, he knows it’s bounty as well and the beauty that can be found even in that.  He writes beautifully of the call to die to one’s self.  No small feat that, but in that, in bearing life’s crosses, we become more truly us and therefore closer to God.  

He also wrote that “Silence is God’s first language.”  Which of course is probably why I yammer on and on at God in my prayers instead of listening as I need to.  Oy. See, so much for me to learn! That’s one of the reasons I like St. John too, he is a teacher. 
But his works and writings are so much more than that…ultimately they are of love, the truest deepest love and how we can find it.  
See, it gets more compelling by the minute.  
My favorite quote of his is this;

“Where there is no love, put love — and you will find love.” 

St. John of the Cross, pray for us!

Icon by Lynne Taggart

Collect of the Day: John of the Cross, 1591

O God, by whose grace your servant John of the Cross, kindled with the flame of your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church:

Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; 

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

>Annnnd, Action!

>Sounds like I’ve moved back to LA and am joining the throngs of movie director wannabe’s, right?
Not so much. 

 {I fear if I did it would end up like a bizarro Luis Bunuel movie….}

This is a short bit on learning and living with kids; those from hard places and working on learning to live comfortably with new families in new places, but even those kids who are just in the normal hard places of teenager-hood or middle school… heck, really this works for any kid.

But this post isn’t really about the kids at all.
It’s about the mom, the me.
It’s a long steep learning curve and a slippery one at that, for me.  I’ve been doing this parenting thing for over twenty-one years now…you might well presume I’ve got it down, pat.
Not so much.

Because I have some very bad habits and personality quirks, the kind that keep knocking  me back when I’m trying my darnedest to move forward.
This is one of the biggies.
I am a “reactor.”
I am what we call around here a “high responder.”
Yuh.  Me.
I bet you’re surprised.
Ok, not so much, I know. 

This tendency of mine can be a very good thing when it’s all about the high high’s, the high fives, and the parties and the cheering successes.  It can be a very good thing when it’s passion and caring and persevering with intensity, like when you are going to bat for your kid.
But it’s not so good when you are responding, or reacting, to the other high responders in the house.
Because that is when you need to play against type, and you need to pull back and chill down, slow down.  And then, in that pause that you’ve just given yourself before you react without thinking, in response to whatever blowing….you get, you need, to act.

Deliberate, intentional action, is a much better choice, always, than reaction when you are talking about kids who have high responder natures, or buttons.
To act, instead of react, is key.
And if you’re like me, you might, just maybe, tend to react in anticipation of the event.
Which of course makes it all doubly difficult.

I am trying, mindfully, {no, really honey, I am} to try to not anticipate, to only act after the fact, and then only to what is actually happening (rather than react to my expansive imagination on the multitude of possibles). 
Sounds really good, doesn’t it?
Not so easy though, all this deliberateness.
It’s the anticipation of the blow and the immediate visceral reaction that is the hardest to stem, actually.  When I know something is gonna trigger a blowout or a domino reaction snit and attitude, my stomach immediately knots up and my breathing changes.  It’s my own trigger.  But I am working on slowing, stopping, and setting the anticipation aside.  Because it’s unfair, it’s a disservice to whichever child is in mind.  And I am forcing myself to wait, trying trying.  (Another weak skill.) To just wait to see if the anticipated fallout um, falls out…and only then, ONLY then, start dealing with it.  And then, deal with it in an intentional way, not an expanded way, but an intentional action of empathy and logical consequences.

Again, sounds really great, lofty even, huh?
Not so much.
It’s a total work in progress.
But progess it is.
And progress I’m seeing, baby baby steps.
Because ya know what? Sometimes, my expectations are left wanting.  That fallout…it doesn’t happen, or it is smaller than I imagined.  Not always, but maybe it’s getting more of a chance to be so.  Because I’m not escalating it myself in advance.  Ouch. But, I’ll take that hit, the ouch, mea culpa….if it means that we can have less drama overall.  Even mine, maybe.

Not reaction. Not anticipatory reaction.  Just action.  Deliberate.  On time.
What a concept. Awfully challenging.  But, what a concept.

>Dia de Fiesta: Guadalupe!!!


It’s the 
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

Being from the southwest, growing up in Arizona specifically, I have a special fondness for Our Lady of Guadalupe. And you know, I just like most everything about this feast day and Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I love the Mexican culture, the food to celebrate, the miracles, the roses, the prayers, the colors, the music, the textiles.  What’s not to love?

The short version of Our Lady of Guadalupe is, of course, that she appeared to St. Juan Diego on his way to Mass.  She asked for a church to be built on the spot.  She asked him to ask the Bishop.  He agreed, the Bishop didn’t want to believe him.  So he kind of griped to Mary, saying that he couldn’t get the Bishop to listen and he wanted a sign..  She told Juan to gather flowers from Tepeyac Hill, (ones that weren’t indigenous and it was winter) and so he gathered the roses (that had miraculously bloomed in the winter snow) up in his cloak.  When he got to the Bishop, he spilled the roses out in the office and on his tilma (A type of cloak) was the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe!  Full wikipedia version here.

This is one of those times where once again, we see the universality of the Church.  Mary is not only our mother if you are of white european ancestry, but of course, she is mother to us all – the world over.  And in Mexico, today, you can see the festival celebrating her, complete with all the local cultural trimmings.

Coffeedoc and I went to Mexico City on his fortieth birthday, to go see the tilma for ourselves.  And you know, there was a time when part of me just kind of took the ‘folklore’ appreciation route with Our Lady of Guadalupe.  My folklore background would kick in and I’d get caught up in all the sensual aspects: the colors, textures, foods, fiestas…the layers and layers that are part of any long historical memorial.

But, going to Mexico City, to the Basilica’s – the old and the new – well, it’s one of those things.  You go.  You see the pilgrims who have traveled there ON THEIR KNEES.  

You see the thousands and thousands of milagros pinned up (Small metal tokens of thanksgiving left behind for answered prayers).  And you see the tilma.  

You stand in front of the tilma, and scour it with your own eyes.  You pray. And it’s like C.S. Lewis says, to paraphrase: you either believe, or you think they are all lying (Or it’s a big scam), or that they are crazy.  

Well, I don’t think they are all lying and I don’t think that it’s a scam.  I think Our Lady of Guadalupe has made a huge difference in so many lives.  And I don’t think they are all crazy either.  Especially not after being there.  But I didn’t really ever ascribe to that one either.  I believe.  I believe Our Lady of Guadalupe is another manifestation of Our Blessed Mother.  And that like any mom, she will go to where her children are and where they need her.  And so she did.  

“A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars”
Revelation 12:1 (Entrance Antiphon for Our Lady of Guadalupe)


Ave María (Hail Mary)

Dios te salve, María. Llena eres de gracia: El Señor es contigo.

Bendita tú eres entre todas las mujeres. Y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre: Jesús.

Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores,
ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte. Amén.

*portions of this from  last year, it’s Advent, and finals….Our Lady of Guadalupe won’t mind, I hope you won’t either. And yes, I’m just that lazy efficient these days*

>Hey Booboo! It’s your Birthday!


 It’s my Jon’s Birthday today!!!!
He is 19!

See that cute little guy standing with me in the London underground, above?  That sweet little boy is now a big strapping college boy, standing well over me in height and strength and size.
Because he’s 19 now.
Wow. I could say “wow” nineteen times, and I’d still not be done saying it.
But that he is: 19.
My Booboo. 

Gone are the days of the goofy skateboard cakes and homemade rockets (well, mostly, anyhow…).

 Now we have the days of college classes and games and girlfriend; visits home and dreams of future.

It’s his first birthday away from home, which is making me miss him quite a lot.  But today, on his 19th bday, I want to point out some things about my Booboo.  Because, it’s his bday and I wish he was here and it’s what I do, to make him smile and squirm a little bit too, just like old times!

So, here’s what I know about my dear Jon:

He is a loyal steadfast son, brother, friend, first, foremost always.
I love that about him.

He has a huge generous kind heart; only rarely (now that he’s 19) enclosed or limited by modern teen pastimes.
Though he still will leap at any chance to jam with music buddies and play late into the night…
…or to try out a big adventure or thrill seeking opportunity.
He is athletic and, again, a daredevil, which used to make this mom a little nervous and by this time, now has me mostly resigned to it.
Despite his love for snowboarding, he kinda hates the cold.

He loves home but also loves to travel the world, unless it’s cold, and  has done a fair bit of it, more than me!

He always has, and probably always will, have plans to do big things, make his way, on his own.
To say he is independent is an understatement.

 That is one of this strengths, even when it makes us all crazy.
I am absolutely certain that he will reach his goals, no matter how big…

because he has the drive, determination, work ethic, faith and ability to do it.
No matter what.

Despite that determination, he can be melancholy and philosophical.
Which is also a strength,
and one which will have staying power over the long run.
Because his heart is big, and that very melancholy is a yearning that will call him to great things.
He just doesn’t know it yet….
But I see it.
I know it.

He is a dreamer.
He is an eater.
Especially of sandwiches.
Of those, he is a connoisseur!
They are, perhaps, his favorite thing to eat of all.
Unless possibly it is my homemade bread…but it’s a close close race.

He is enjoying the freedom of college to try out new things:
facial hair,
no uniform restrictions,
or haircut or laundry guidelines.
Even so, he still cleans up nicely when he puts his mind to it,
which is a great relief  always a lovely thing!

 He is a sleeper, extraordinaire!
My best sleeper of all the kids, as a matter of fact.
He won that crown when he slept through the night at four weeks old.
He is still sleeping every chance he gets.
This ability might be put to good use, depending on  his career path.
But let’s just say, he gets this from his father.

 He is funny.
Laugh out loud funny.
He can make me laugh so hard I cry; he does this on purpose.
I miss his quick dry humor when he’s at school.
He is a joker though too.

 He and his father together, dreaming up ideas, is maybe not the best of combo’s…
they get a little wild eyed and start grinning and then you know..
uh-oh…watch out…crazy ideas ahead.
But oh, they have fun.

He is a loyal friend, long lasting.
His friends are not made in an instant, but they are well chosen.

 They mean the world to him.
As does, I believe, his family…
even his sibs…

because he believes in the value of family…
even when it makes him nuts.
And we do.

He is talented:
creative, as a problem solver, a tinkerer, as well as with music.
He writes and produces music that can make me cry,
or make me wonder where does that come from?

 He is thinking of paths:
Somehow, all three?
It’s anyone’s guess….
He is able.
He is one that is able to get along, get there, make it work, work it out.
Those may sound like vague and odd things to mark…
but as a mom, they are key.
They provide me with comfort, knowing he can be ok.
Better, knowing he can thrive.

Even so, no matter how able..
he lives mostly at college now.

 And I miss him.
We miss him.
I am sending him his requested cake.
I will make him another for a post-finals bday party at home.
Where we will finally celebrate this boy’s bday properly, this young man’s bday..
he is 19 now.
A young man.
And one of the finest I know.

Happy Happy Bday Booboo.
No matter how old, I reserve the right to call you that.
No one else  has it. 
But I do.
We are so proud of you on this, your 19th bday.
We love you so.

>I am her

>So I have a jumble of thoughts crowding and pushing around my brain. A tangle of them, if you will.  Which means, once again, I have to type them to sort them out.  But they seem to have some measure of need to be brought to light and examined, here, in this forum; my blog. Maybe so that others can help me understand them more clearly, I’m not sure.  But, here goes and fair warning.

With several of my kids, but especially with my newest to the tribe, it can be hard to connect.  For me.  That doesn’t make me proud, in fact in humbles me, embarrases me and shames me; it brings me quite literally to my knees.
I desire to connect.
I desire to feel that squooshy goodness of warm loving feelings, and fierce mama love towards them.
But all too often, many days, it’s kind of, um, missing.  And it’s all too easy to blame the kid.
This kid. That kid.  Her.
And it’s all to easy to say, “She’s difficult.  She’s so needy.  She’s attention seeking, again. She’s/he’s whining.  She’s angry, again, over nothing.”  I know, awful, isn’t it?? And it’s all too easy to harrumph and sigh and throw a quick roll of eyes as I march over to meet the need, once again, resenting this imposition on my activity, my attention, my time.  Me me me.  Yeah, it’s not only you who noticed…me.  It’s all about me.  Sigh.
But, in a whole ‘nother way, that – densely – I am only just being willing to admit: it really is all about me once again.  And not in a good way, if there can EVER be a good way to that (No, there can’t.  So in an even worse way).

Ack, see a jumble.  Sorry.  Stay with me.
You see, I realize that all the things that make me most crazed about this girl in particular, ok, any and or all of my kids….are the things that are JUST. LIKE. ME.
I know, there’s that old adage: “The things you hate most in another person, are your own worst habits.” Or something like that, but that’s the gist.
Gah.  I hate that!
Truth hurts, eh?

Yeh, this truth hurts….especially when you are trying to bond and grow into love with a young kid from hard places and trauma responses and survival skills.  Those ingrained behaviors that  you think are so foreign to you and your neat tidy family….maybe aren’t so much, maybe aren’t so foreign after all.  Those annoying behaviors might be just more intensified and or frequented mimics of the very things that you do too, or ok, I do too.
But, think about it.  That might be.
I’m thinking about it.
It is.

I am  her.
I am the same girl who wants to crawl up into my husband’s lap after a tough day, and doesn’t always like to share that attention.
I am the same girl who wants to make sure someone, maybe lots of someones, know if I’m in a bad mood.  Or very tired.  Or angry.
I am the same girl who wants to make sure the dad sees her hurt leg, and looks at it, and preferably kisses it and hugs her.
I am the same girl who wants to lean against someone if her head hurts.
I am the same girl who gets frustrated and sometimes snitty if she is misunderstood.
I am the same girl who wants to have what she likes for dinner, and will kind of eat less if she doesn’t.
I am the same girl who needs a lot of sleep and if I don’t get it, might just get frazzled the next day and sigh and fuss and roll her eyes at reasonable requests.
I am the same girl who can cry when just so frazzled, when it’s too much and she’s past the point of coping.
I am the same girl who can be hypervigilant, because she wants to control….everything.
I am the same girl who wants desperately to be understood, and to understand, especially when she isn’t.

I might not use my skills for manipulation (which, if I say so myself, are rather impressive), so much anymore; but I’m older and I don’t really need those skills because I’m in charge and call most of the shots.
I might be able to withstand most discomfort now, but I’m older and have learned that most things pass.
I might be able to tolerate annoying sounds or people, for a little longer anyhow, because I have loved them from babyhood.
I might be able to trust because I know these people intimately; through and through over so many years (Heck, I can know what they will do many times before they do).

So, this is all to say….it humbles me that the very one that I fuss about because I am slow to connect….she is me.  I am her.
I don’t know whether this means I need to forgive myself for these traits, or her.  Or both of us.
Because I certainly want to be loved and believe I am lovable.
Isn’t it only fair that she does and is too?

I can only guess that, once again, God gave me this child, this one, so that I can learn to love better.
And I pray, every day, to be able to love better, more truly, less selfishly.

God gives me extra lessons, because I am such a hard case, a slow learner, and my selfish heart needs to see the hard truth:  

I am not so loveable, so much of the time.
I am sure I make so many crazy, sorry Tom, kids.
But, if I claim that love….so can she.

Because I am her.
She is me.
She has the same stake, the same claim.
We gave it to her.
God gave it to her.
She deserves it as much as anyone, certainly as much as me.
I daresay more so.



Saint Anne conceiving the Virgin Mary
Douai, Musée de la Chartreuse

Oh, it’s a big feast today!  It’s one of those feasts: an uber Catholic one.
It’s the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation.

It’s actually a Solemnity, which means it has even more import…so it’s a biggie!

This is one of the big Marian feasts, and one that often gives many folks some consternation (from a scratch on the head to fits).  For a good explanation of it all, go here (and scroll down for all those, “What’s up with that” “How can that be?” kind of responses).  I can’t give you a great theological treatise on it.  It took brilliant theologians from the east and west to determine this one over the centuries, but they did because we are human. And our inquiring minds want to know, and puzzle and ponder.  So those who have gone before us prayed and debated and concluded.  I can say that it only makes sense to my puny brain.

Pierro de Cosimo, “The Immaculate Conception and Six Saints”

For a long time, I thought that the “immaculate conception” referred to Mary’s conception of Jesus, you know, with the descent of the Holy Spirit and Gabriel and all…clean, tidy, right?  

But no, it’s actually about Mary and her being preserved from the stain of original sin
Confusing, a little, huh?  
Well, this is how it parses out in my old mom brain: God himself is all love and of course, without sin.  God came to us in his son, Christ, who was also without sin (being God and all).  Since all purity and all love cannot coexist with the stain of sin, how could Christ come to us as a man, without first having a pure ‘vessel’, if you will?  Well, he couldn’t, that would not correspond with the natural/divine order.  Growing in utero is, utterly, coexisting.  So, if God cannot coexist with sin, then a human mom to be would have to be found, sinless.  And thus, since God is beyond time, he prepared Mary, {from her conception of course}, to be without sin.  Because God knew, outside of time, that Mary would be the perfect (literally and figuratively) mom for Jesus.

Now, I think that’s cool!  It makes perfect sense to me and really is one of those ‘clap your hands, I get it” kind of moments.  Yeah, it’s uber Catholic.  But hey, I love being Catholic because (well, so many reasons) its cool and rich and takes my breath away.  And of course,  I love feasts….so it’s a good day!

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!

**Disclaimer: yes, you saw most of this last  year.  But it’s advent and I need to be frugal w/ my net time.  So instead of wracking my puny brain to find another way to say this. I’m gonna go with what I said.  Because I meant it then and still do. Thanks for understanding…**

>Pondering the season: Music

>I have much pondering in my  heart this season.
But now and again, I hear this song on the radio and it pulls me from the core.
This song is Christmas and Advent for me; especially when it is played on our piano in the living room by my eldest, Chris.

Music is so evocative, especially in this rich season.
This one brings back memories of the Snoopy Christmas Special as a kid {yes, I did just date myself again, and yes we did wait ALL YEAR to see those specials}.
But it also conjures up many memories of my family here in our home over these years.
Now I know what Christmas songs my kids, especially Little Man, like (because he sings it loud and often…and lets just say, I’ll let you guess which one is top o’ the charts: involving jingles and a fat man smelling).
What Christmas songs are “IT” for you?

>Feast of St. Nick.


Yeah, it is: the real one.

I love learning about him, and thinking about him.  And when my littles ask me, “Mom, do you believe in Santa?” I can say, with truth, “Yes, I do, Saint Nick!”  Now, if you want to get all snippy and say it’s misleading, go ahead.  But I’m not gonna listen too closely, because I think it’s a fun tradition and teaches our kids to be selfless – at least a tad bit more maybe – and frankly, because Saint Nicholas IS real.  And yes, I do then launch into a conversation, a quick one, about the real St. Nicholas.

There are fun traditions with this feast, most common is leaving a shoe by your bedroom door and filling it with candy.  Not that I’ve done, ever, that tradition…because I am not organized enough to remember it in time to do it.  But I love the idea of it, and  maybe someday, I might just get it together enough to make it happen.  Hey, it could happen….really!

Collect for the Feast of Saint Nicholas

O God, Who didst adorn blessed Nicholas,

the bishop, with miracles unnumbered,

grant, we beseech Thee, that by his merits

and prayer we may be delivered from the

fire of hell. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Happy Feast of St. Nicholas! 
Have a piece of candy…ok I will on your behalf!

>Tis the season….enjoy the beat!

>It’s the middle of Hanukkah, of course.

And it’s a beautiful season in and of itself – the traditional festival of the miracle of candle oil by our big brothers in matters of religion, the Jewish Faith. {By this I mean that of course our Catholic faith is derived out of the Jewish faith, they are truly our big brothers and so many of our rituals and customs have origins in theirs. This is why so many of those traditions call to us, to me, and pull at us deeply.  They call to our selves.}

Anyhow, this is a fun video, you might have seen it already but it’s perfect for Hanukkah.  It’s about the Maccabee’s of course, one of the great stories in the bible and this is a fun reminder of the richness of the season.

Enjoy! Happy Hanukkah!

{h/t to Julie of Happy Catholic!}

>Mark the good, belated redux

>I’ve written before about “marking the good.”
I think it’s an important thing to do, and it’s one I too often fail to do, either here in this forum or, truly, in my own chatter and mind.
It’s oh so much too easy to only see or remember the bad, the hard, the challenge.
And, it’s probably my inborn gripey moody nature to do so.

But I think it’s worth trying to step over and beyond our complacent habits of being and doing…especially when it comes to being able to see the good that surrounds us.
Because, really, if we blink we might miss it.
Especially when you are talking about the good in older child adoption adjustment and/or kids with difficult needs or special needs and/or attachment and/or grief/trauma issues.
Just in that sentence alone, as you can see, the bad can easily sink the good.

So, I want to go on the record that over this last weekend of Thanksgiving holiday, we had some good. Some good to mark.
Some good to give hope – certainly to me, but also, maybe, to any other mom who is doing the day in day out work of adjusting and theraputic parenting and such.  This mom encourages me all the time in her blog, go see, she is of the same mind this week: mark the good, note the progress. I wish I lived closer to her and could hang out over coffee and shortbread cookies….

Anyhow, back to the good, noticing and marking…
These things weren’t glaring or obvious trumpeted things.
As usual, they were subtle moments, or, more even, they were an absence of tough and a presence of um, kinda normal.
 Read that again, there was more time without drama.
There was a sort of calm coping. Or “undrama,” if  you will.
Yes, I just made that word up, because somehow, it relates to the trauma drama that can be a pervasive silent ghostly but tangible enough cloudiness in a  house.  “Undrama” is the hoped for flip or even a passing by on a tricky weekend.

Anyhow, as I was saying, or want to say….this past weekend had much craziness built in to the festivities: guests, extra guests, boys home from college, no school, big cooking and house prep, schedules whacked out.

 (homey buffet, but it was the requested fav’s of the college boys, so we ran with it…
because being HOME was the point of the weekend in many ways)

 I wrote about it here, and hoped that it some advance prep would help.
Well, it did!!
Not to say that everything was perfect or that this was the only reason, but overall, we had an ok, kinda normal level of behavior weekend.  Which, considering the potential, is amazing.
Now, we also worked hard on keeping coping methods in the forefront and this one child in particular on radar (though not solo on that radar, if you get my drift, there is managing multiple kids out the wazoo during weekends like this).

But here is what worked:
– staying tuned in to the ‘weather’ of mood and coping,
– redirecting her to a special given task of help if there was drifting into the dark mood,
– going for a walk – just her and dad and puppy to get some breathing time again (one of the trump cards that is usually a win and can almost always rescue a mood swing),
– checking in with a whisper and a hug and a “good job” with a wink,
– discussing in advance the nervous making parts,
– and allowing flight to a calmer safer quiet place (bedroom) if she was feeling overwhelmed.
Now, we don’t use those words (flight, overwhelmed, etc) as we discuss and prep in advance, but we try to convey the feelings and actions to help in words she can understand.

 {As you can see, the presence of my Chris, her adored big bro, didn’t hurt either.  Huge help.}

I put all these up there not to say, “Oh wow, we did great” but rather to say, “O wow, SHE did great!” These things made a difference.
The seventeen months’ she’s been home and safe have made a difference.
The seventeen months of working on these things have made a difference.
But these things, this weekend, they also made a difference.  It wasn’t a heavenly light show with a choir kind of difference, but it was a weekend without a major screeching halt to deal with a trigger reaction.
And that, right there, is a bit of a a heavenly choir in my mind. 

So I want to mark the good. We had a good, great, exhausting, kinda normal Thanksgiving weekend.  And that is a world of good different from last year and it gives me hope for maybe, maybe, a better Christmas this year too.  It’s progress.  I’ll take it. 

{Two of M’s other favorite people: dear sweet Leslie and her other adored big bro!}

I saw the good; I’m marking it.

>World Traveler: Frankie X


Well, that’s what he might be called in this day and age, by the hip wannabe’s anyhow. 

But you know who I”m talking about: St. Francis Xavier!
It’s the feast of St. Francis Xavier.
Here was a man ahead of his time….he studied at University in Paris, with Saint Ignatius, no less.  Then he was sent around the world, into the far east, as a missionary – in an era where travel was no small feat.  Not with the jumbo jets and security scans of today, but instead boats and bleary days at sea in far and uncharted waters.  Now, this was a man of faith, perseverance and courage! He was willing to go wherever that faith sent him, which is something I struggle with every day.  I mean, I can be unwilling to go and clean one more bedroom….here in  my own  house! St. Francis – he went around the world!  Sigh.

 From Universalis:

He was born in the Basque country of Spain in 1506. He met Ignatius Loyola when he was a student in Paris, and he was ordained priest in 1537. In 1541 the Pope sent him as part of a mission to India, and he spent the rest of his life in the East, preaching the Gospel in Goa and Malacca. He made many converts and fought against the exploitation of the native population by the Europeans. He spent two years on a successful mission to Japan, laying the foundations of many Christian communities; and in 1552, after entering China secretly to preach the Gospel there, he died of fever and exhaustion on the Chinese island of Shangchwan.

Oh God, I love thee, I love thee..

…Not for heaven’s sake;
not to be out of hell by loving thee;
Not for any gains I see;
But just the way that thou didst me
I do love and I will love thee:
What must I love thee, Lord, for then?
For being my king and God. Amen.”

 A Prayer of St. Francis Xavier….

St. Francis, as we prepare this Advent, pray for us!

>Advent: doing and undoing

>So, it’s Advent.
Lots of folks will say, “It’s Christmas time!”  Well, kinda…sorta.  But not really. Not yet.
The newspapers and commercials wanna shout it at ya.  They want you to get all up in a frenzy of “get it, buy it, wrap it, give it.”  But first, the most important prep is interior.  Really.
As I try to prepare my home and kids for Christmas, for Christ-Mass, I need to first prepare my hard broken heart.  And if I can walk through this season mindfully, I can have my actions in prepping our home and kids be a real and active prayer.

Of course that means only if I can do it without stepping into that whirling dervish mode of christmas frenzy…complete with glassy stares in stores, aching feet, and griping  mouth.

That is my goal.
I usually fail.
Ok, ok, I have always failed.  Every year.
But, hope is eternal, right? I love that about hope, don’t you??

 My sweet Hannah, long ago, but still adorable.  No I’m not at all biased either!

I have everything working against succeeding once again: crazy busy school schedules and activities for three different schools (four if you count the college boys), eight birthdays in this next month (four of them my own children, the other my dad, sis, etc), and oh yeah, the usual everyday crazies of doc appointments and laundry and, oh, cooking dinner and such. 

But even so, I want to slow it down.  Simplify.
I need to prepare myself to really be ready this Christmas. 
I need to prepare my stony selfish heart to be ready to set myself aside and welcome Christ, in the distressing disguise of the littlest among us (even in my children, whoa)

Little Sarahbird, tiny adorable girl practicing a Christmas pirouette long ago

I need to do this preparation so I will truly be able to rejoice.  No, not to rejoice that the last present is wrapped and the cookies cut out and the sinks of dishes done (well, maybe a little bit)…but instead to rejoice at the Incarnation, the mind blowing condescension of God himself to come to me.   Who’da thunk it?

So, this season is actually something of a penitential season, officially. (Easy jokes there, I know, of course it is: office parties, secret santas, shopping malls….let’s talk penitential!).
But it’s a season to let go of ourselves {Ok, myself} so we can welcome Himself.

So I have a New Year Resolution, Catholic Version: I will be trying to pray the morning and evening or night prayers, part of the Liturgy of the Hours, daily.  {And yes, I’m putting this up so I’ll feel more accountable….I’m lazy like that.}
It helps ground me. It helps me breathe.  Too often I set it aside.  It gets dropped in the ordinary hectic squoosh of a given day, in my tired selfish desire to just drop into bed or surf the net if I find a moment.  So, this will have to be an intentional action.  Better than exercise even! It also connects me to my Chris, who is much better than I am about being regular and steady with this.  One more incentive for me, as if the Incarnation and prepping for it isn’t enough.  Gads. 

Anyhow, that’s my main Advent effort, or resolution, if you will.  Otherwise I will be calmly (um, yeah, really…..) trying to wrap up a simpler Christmas during this week or so and then being able to be present, really try to be present to the season, the kids, and the anticipation of Christmas.

We will light our Advent Candle/wreath every night for dinner.  I love this too. It’s a pause, only a moment, really, but it’s a pause, a short held breath at the end of a busy day.  This is a nightly reminder to come together, to slow and be present…to each other but also to the goodness of this season.  To stop and look and see each other, instead of only the whirling tasks and to do’s.
We will slowly add a few Christmas items as we get closer and closer to the real Christmas season, December 24th; a nativity set here and there, wreaths, later, a tree.   It will bring that Incarnation closer in to our hearts and home and family as we wait together in Advent.
We will hopefully find those mindful moments together as we step toward Christmas and the evenings lengthen and chill, in the warmth of us around the table and in the flickering light of the candles at dinner.

It’s Advent.
It’s a time that we are pushed to whirl and twirl and spin ourselves dizzy with anticipation and preparation.
But, it’s Advent.
And it’s a time to try to still and slow and prepare and savor the quiet quickening of our hearts in anticipation and the most amazing moment, ever, almost upon us.
I love Advent.