To be seventeen….

Not again, the first time.  To be seventeen the first time is a wondrous thing.

It’s not that gooey overhyped age, SIXTEEN.  Nope, it’s a step forward and beyond to a whole new zone: SEVENTEEN.  Heck, in some ways its such an inbetweener age….but it can’t be ONLY a marginal one can it?  I grew up with Seventeen Magazine (Yes, once again, I’ve just dated myself.  Still).  Seventeen is such an age of…promise.

And my Hannah, it’s her age, today!

Hannah at Scripps, college visit

Yup, my Hannahbanana is 17!

Nope, I can’t believe it!

But, then again, as ever, I can.

Because she is a very different girl from the 16, much less the 15, year old we’ve watched the past few years.  Seventeen is a blooming, not of that fresh beauty – she’s had that!  But of promise.  Seventeen is the age when a lot of that INNER beauty starts to shine forth, the real stuff, the deep beauty.  Seventeen is an age that harbors hopes and dreams and instead of seeing them SO very far off in the distance, too far to touch or feel like they are possible….those dreams are right close.  Those dreams are possibilities.  Those ideas and hopes are just, almost, within reach.  They only need some focus to clear them and strength and determination to meet them.  They need hard work and faith in yourself and the willingness to go get ’em…or fall down trying.  Which is ok too.

Seventeen is when I see my sweet firstborn girl start “owning” the who of her.  She is standing strong now about who she is and what she’s about.  She has ideas of changing the world, maybe a little bit at a time. But I tell ya, she’s got some big plans and I’m cheering her on along the way.  I hope she can, the world will be a better place, our education system needs enthusiastic young folks like her to set it on fire.

She’s got plans for college and beyond.  She’s dreaming big and working hard to finish high school strong and be able to step forward to her next adventure.  She was always, always, stubborn and determined.  NOw, finally, we are starting to see her embrace the confidence to become the Her of herself.  Seventeen, it’s all about the promise that this newly confident and able young person can see…..and, it’s beautiful.

My baby girl is seventeen.  So tonight we’ve got plans for her birthday party with bestie buddies and her traditional birthday…..fondue!  She’s not a cake gal, she’s a fondue gal.  Of course!

We love  you, our Hannah.  

Seventy times seventeen….

We are so proud of you and so happy for your birthday!

Metaphysics in Adoption

By which I mean….in the processing of adoption and the trauma that comes with it.  Always, big or small, young or old, domestic or international.  There are metaphysical questions and pondering all the way through.

See, you all didn’t know you were immersed in such big thoughts now, did ya?

Nope, neither did I.

I’ve been an adoptive mama for almost fourteen years.  I’ve grown along the continuum of thoughts and ideas about adoption.  I’ve ranged from the not totally naive and ignorant (my mom was adopted; I had some exposure within my own family, but still, you dont’ know until you know…ya know?) to the much more experienced, sometimes jaded, but older and hopefully wiser zones.   I’ve adopted, as most of you know, newborn, infant, toddler, older, domestic, international, transracial, special needs, gifted, known trauma, virtual twins, singles,…the list is a long one.  But every now and then I still am just gobsmacked regarding the depths of what this is all about.  I’ve written so many words on adoption.  All of those words are still true for me, even as they sometimes conflict and even as I might be in a different place now, or then.

Today it occurred to me that really, adoption has a very metaphysical layer to it.  Seriously.  And when you’re homeschooling because you’re working on some of those adoption and attachment issues (while not wanting to blow off the whole educating your kid concept), the metaphysics might just rise up and smack you right in the face.

Once again, today was a rough day with the school stuff and my son.  He was just kind of amped and antsy and tough on the connection angle.  I was working the steps of connecting and redirecting and having moderate, sporadic success with his attention, focus and engagement.  I quickly braced for a ‘working day.’  And so we did.  We took breaks from our activities, we redirected, he got his energy out with big physical activity like basketball and whatnot.  It all helped.  But, there, just under the surface, it was bubbling.  Those BIG feelings.  The ones that are just too big and too hard to contain.  The ones that usually come out with just a few small extra wrong nudges, or one ill timed angry tone or sharp sentence.  These big feelings came out as anger, again:  uncontainable, billowing, loud, physical, pushy, mouthy anger.  They were spoiling for a fight.  Nothing was gonna stop ’em, they were like a freight train.  So, thats when, if you’re smart and on you’re game, you step out of the way.  And if you’re tired and not totally on point, you make worse by not disengaging quietly and waiting it out even as you stay present.  These are the ones that rumble and roll, loud and jangly.  It’s kind of like a slam dance.  And yeah, it’s not elegant and it’s loud and can hurt toes and feelings sometimes.  T

This time, his dad talked to him on speakerphone, helping redirect with that dad voice and words.  After he hung up, we started over…but quietly and with a measured distance.  Still too raw, those BIG feelings.  Needing space.  Not a few minutes later they billowed out again.  Rage.  Shouting at me, hard angry words about the reality of me as mom.  Meaning, the accusations of me questioning my reality as mom.  Then, heartbreakingly, the wide eyed words of the deepest hurt lost little boy.  And the wracking tears.   My own heart split in two, again,  I held him and rocked him, sitting there on the step in the afternoon sun.

But now, the rage was gone.  The cracked open space had room to talk. Directly, we talked about how that feels and how it’s a hard hurting thing. Those deep feelings, they are real and ok to have and ok to talk about.  We shuffled through some of those hard places, brushing against them.  The leaves brustled around our feet as the words sank in and the time, I swear, stilled for a few moments.

I felt beyond time and place, I felt our hearts beat together again in this hurt spot.  As my southern sister put it, “All that time brings the safety to make the unconscious, conscious.”  That’s what we have here.  It’s the opening up of space and time and hearts and hurts.  It’s a metaphysical equation.  It’s the beauty in homeschool, for this young boy.  It’s the hard work of adoptive parenting.  It’s the growing and healing of a broken heart in a beautiful boy.  My son.

Some might fault me for writing about this, that someday he might read this.  But, it’s not just about him.  This stuff, the hurt, the BIG feelings, the time and emotions billowing and stilling, ebbing and flowing…it’s all our kids.  It’s adoption.  It’s not considered much, not enough.  But it’s a key component of adoption: metaphysics. Metaphysics studies the essence, the deeps, the origins, the why’s, the hows.

We are called into the deep of it, to see and hear and feel these things, each of us. For our kid’s sake.  Consider the metaphysics of adoption. The essence…..indeed, the heart.

Calling Aunt Melva…Raising Teen Girls

I need to call my Aunt Melva. No, I need to go take an intensive course with her on how she raised her five girls.

I can remember hanging out at their house and marveling at the fact that all the kids there were GIRLS. She had five. My five Arizona cousins. I love them all. I had big times with them growing up. But my Aunt Melva….she’s the one that pops into my head when my girls start driving me crazy.

They look so happy, don’t they? Changes on a dime! {please disregard the dry cleaning…ahem}

This weekend has been one of crazy intensive girls. I mean, the hormones seem to be sky high round here. The moods shift and swing in crazy unexpected arcs. Seriously, it’s enough to make a mom want a drink. Ok, me.

This morning, in the swirling prep time before Mass, I thought I had it together. Gabey is home sick so I’m staying with him and will attend the late Mass. But I surfed a few moods, did some hair, offered tastes of the pumpkin roll to a few…and then the surface starting cracking. Moods. Issues. Thunder rumbling through the kitchen with sparking tears, instantly.

Sigh….  It’s the change of seasons of course: autumn. I love it. But I always forget that while we love the colors and smells and crisp days, it brings the time change or the “Why hasn’t the time changed? Why is it so dark?” issues. Explaining this to M is tough. I just keep telling her it will be better in a few weeks. She’s frustrated. And the clothes. One day it’s very warm, the next awfully nippy. Which is fine and kind of fun. Unless it’s early in the morning and you need to get to Mass. Then, somehow, none of the girls (The boys do fine, they wear the same year ’round practically. So easy…ah….) can find anything to wear. A couple of them have legitimately grown. A couple are done growing. So some need a few more Mass clothes for the cold weather, a few have them…not that they can find them. And when a girl who has big troubles in the morning is pushed to hurry, she is like a T Rex bashing through your kitchen and frankly, it’s tiresome and pushes my buttons more often than not.

So, mom fail.

Not so great when you have a fuss with  your daughter on her way out the door to Mass, and she slams it as she goes.  Sigh.  And all about clothes…which makes my belly hurt because it’s first world problems.  She knows better and is, I know better than to engage and fail.

I need a pro.  I need my Aunt Melva.  She got through these years, with not four but FIVE teen daughters at one time in the house.  It’s the multiples of them that make it ever more complicated of course.  A swirling whirlpool of hyper hormones and flashing eyes.  Aunt Melva, thought, she managed it all with humor and grace, as far as I can tell.

Maybe she’ll come to my house and take up residence for awhile.  Maybe I’ll go hang with her for an interim intensive!  Sigh…teen girls.  I don’t know about you, but I need an Aunt Melva, right next door.

**UPDATE**  So, Mass is such a balm.  Such grace and softening of our hearts, opening them again.  Made up with daughter.  Hugs and laughs.  It helps that this one is such a mini-me..we understand each other to the core, good and bad.  Though even that idea is worth many posts to sort through it all. Oy!  But, the Sunday is restored to it’s proper balance.  At least for the next 5-10 minutes, I hope.

Zombie letters

So, yeah, I’m reading zombie letters {in all my spare time, bwah ha ha}.

Surprise? Maybe.  But you know, that’s just how I roll.  At least, when it’s about a catholic/zombie apocalypse!  That’s right, I’m that hip.

I’ve found the weirdly entertaining epistolary novel, “Ora et Labor et Zombies.”  And while I wasn’t expecting much; because really, Catholic, apocalypse and zombies??? How many things can go wrong with that? Right, that’s what I thought too.  But Julie sparked my interest with her review and so I clicked over.  I love the concept, it’s fun and different in an “everything old is new again kind of way.”  Ryan Charles Trusell has gone all in for his big idea of this little book.  I like that.  I decided to order just the first letter, just because I loved the concept. And, I figured I’d see pretty quickly if it was worth investing any time or money into.

So, first: the letter arrived quickly and was immediately engaging.  It made me want to read more.  Yeah, that surprised me too. I knew I was smitten by the actual form of the letter/book, the tangible hands on craft of it. The artist side of me was pleased by the hand printed cover to the letter, the font, the paper, the idea of it.   But I’m a reader above all, so I reserved my judgement til I started reading…and happily, the writing drew me right in!  Now, it’s an odd position to find myself in: I am charmed by the zombie letters.  Yes, now you know I’m a freak with very eclectic reading tastes!  I guess.  But I am, I’m anxiously awaiting each letter of this book in the mail. It’s fun.

The concept of an old fashioned epistolary novel so appeals to me!  You know I have a new appreciation for the art of letters now, after writing to my son in the novitiate for a year.    I have loved a number of novels written in letter form, it can be a charming device (or a mess.).   And, weirdly, this novel works.  You wouldn’t think, but it does. And you all know, that, for me, it’s the Catholic hook that draws me in and snares me.  But it’s not overloaded Catholic, if that makes sense.  It’s a natural weave of it (as Catholic is, truly, by it’s essence).  At least so far, I”m not finished yet and I’ll let you know if it falls flat as it wraps up.  But, it starts with a bang, with the husband, Tom, writing to his missing wife Ava.  The action picks up from there as the mystery of what is going on unfolds.  I would tell you more, but I am not finished yet, myself.

Now, let me say, this is a real book.  It is written in letters and arrives in  your mailbox, on real paper, via the postman, one to three letters at a time (your pick).  That form, this old fashioned way of reading a novel (think Dickens), is actually working for me right now with my overdrive swamped time of late.  I’m not tempted to ignore the kids and duties and just keep plowing on through the book (which I might do if I had the whole lot in front of me, I get sucked in that way.) Not a cheap read, either, to say the least.  This is what Mr Trusell has to say:

“ON PRICING:   Anyone who is both familiar with the concept of Ora et Labora et Zombies AND good at math has no doubt thought to themselves: $3/Letter x 72 = A Lot Of Money For One Book. 

  Believe me, I’ve thought it myself a few times throughout all the planning and number crunching leading up to its publication. However, the price of each Letter does include postage, and the quality of paper plus the 4-6 page length of each Letter require me to use a 65¢ stamp, this in addition to stationery and printing costs. 

  I think of it as providing a unique reading experience to people for the weekly price of one gallon of gas (maybe) or one cup of coffee (maybe)..”

I agree, it’s pricey….if you’re considering the book as a whole.  True.  But, again, consider it another way: it’s less than the weekly guilty pleasure of that latte and/or the grocery magazine.  It lasts longer and is supporting the arts, in another quirky and yet appealing way. My teen daughter was hooked with the first letter too, so it’s not just this old fogey who is having fun.  This is a retro and clever find in our pervasively digital world.  I’m surrounded by books, both E version and real spilling out of my bookshelves.  But this, this has it’s own original charm and pleasure to it.  I can support the small artist AND writer in an almost personal way…and have a fun read to boot.  What’s not to love?

So, how many things can go wrong with the idea of a catholic zombie apocalypse?  Too many to count.  How many things have gone right? The important things: it’s original, charming, pleasing to the touch and eye and engaging. A simple pleasure.  Fun times.  Zombies.  Who knew?

Peeking at the Horizon

What’s that you say? Well, that means it’s time to venture forth, to go and gaze at the future.  That’s right.  It’s time for the college visit trips.  It’s time to gaze past the high school morass and consider the horizon, scan the vistas ahead. Whoa.

Today my Hannah and I leave for the first of the few college trips.  This one is the mega trip, with the most colleges crammed carefully factored into the itinerary.  This trip has one or a few contenders, but the main goal of this trip is to create the comparison base.  After we return Thursday night, exhausted, she will have seen a wide spectrum of school features: larger, smaller, tiny, urban, suburban, Catholic, secular, pipe dream (a reach to get in), and safety (a fair bet on getting in).  The goal of this trip is inspiration and motivation and just plain info to file and compare.

We are basing, the first main part of the trip, out of my sister’s house in LA.  So, that part of the visit is just pure happy for all of us.  A great place to land when we are tired and eat and yak and decompress.  We will face many hours of driving through traffic in and out of LA every day.  But, it’s all good bonding time.  No kidding. And I’m grateful for it.

I’ve done these trips before, with my big boys.  They were exhausting but wonderful.  Now, to be able to have that time with my Hannah? Oh, I’m so grateful.  The underlying tension between the excitement of the big adventure on the horizon, college, and the frisson of disbelief that it’s so close, already, takes an emotional toll on both of us.  Plus, I’m all about the best education, per each kid’s unique style personality etc, the right fit…but at the same time I’ve been dipping heavily of late into a lot of articles on open-source learning, Gatto, Holt, and the failure of the educational system as it is.  So….is this trip gonna be a little schizophrenic for me? With my mind skipping here and there and back again….um….maybe!   So, I guess the plan is to just live in the moment. Soak it in.  Let her soak it in, all of it.  The decisions come much later.  This trip, it’s for this moment…..and a sneak peek at the horizon.  I’m excited.

Foundation Work

So, as you all know, I brought Little Man home to do school here, with me.  To help him learn to learn and at the same time really work on the attachment stuff that has been pinging on my radar.  Well, this is week three.  By last week even, it became clear that this move was so important.  For now.  Critical even.

It seems that the attachment work best begins at the foundation.

I don’t know why this surprises me.  But, it did.  Does.  A little. And then, not at all.  Because if you’re gonna work on something, you’d best start where it begins, right? Right. And it seems that by  bringing him home we have unsuspectingly opened the doors and provided the time and space and focus to let some of those issues surface.

I know, I’m being obtuse. Not on purpose. Or I  might seem to be rambling.   But, it’s this kind of unexpected strangeness.  A change.  Rather than just helping him get on a better academic route, for his learning style, I feel, very much, like we are working on repairing cracks in the foundation here.  Anytime there is a tough start, {an adoption in this case} then there are cracks that need to be healed/repaired.  There is old hurt and it can and will surface.  Trust issues and issues of self worth can surface.  And it’s oh so easy to sweep them aside in the crazy chaos of our busy lives.  It’s all TOO easy to do it.  But just covering them with the routine, ordered or hectic, won’t actually heal those tears.  It will only cover them.  I want to mend them.  And, now, I have the gift of time and space and place to do so.

Don’t get me wrong, we are learning.  He is learning.  School is happening.  He is so smart that his mind makes connections that make me grin with pleasure.  He grasps concepts and ideas so quickly.  He reads well,  though he much prefers to be read to than to read by himself.  And so, I read to him quite a bit.  Because that is part of the bigger picture, here, now.  Yes, I want to work on his behaviors and quirks and help him learn better and more and well.  But I also, oh so much more, need to work on the repair of that bubbling need to connect, to heal those cracks in that first foundation.

Some of you might say, “But he came home as a baby! I saw  you with him, you two TOTALLY bonded.”  Um. Yes.  Yup.  Did.  And also, “But you have other kids who were adopted, hard starts, what about them?”  Yes.  I do.  I’ve home-schooled a number of them.  This work, school and attachment, foundation work, it all is done on an individual basis – even as it’s done within the larger critical family framework.  And the needs of each shift and change, different needs, ages, stages.  This boy, this year, he’s the one who needs this, in this mode, now.  As he matures, and especially as he grows into a strong boy with BIG feelings and impulses….those tracks are best revisited and reinforced.  Eight years old is a critical era/stage.  Those feelings of value tend to really hammer home right about now, I think.  They are absolutely and critically influenced by their school experiences.  Those feelings of worth and tangled hurt and value, they’d best be sorted through and that value (not a pandering or coddling, a deep core assessment) had best be cemented.  I think, I know, that THIS is the work we are meant to be doing.  Right now.  This is why my radar was pinging and he needed to come home, now.

It’s the most important school. The first school. The deepest most true education of a person.  That they have value and matter, no matter what.  No matter the start.  No matter if they can keep papers organized or get bored quickly.  This boy, he matters.  He is good.

It’s hard work. I didn’t realize so much of it was going to be on the job list, frankly.   It’s exhausting; more so than just learning math concepts or parts of speech. Because when  you patch a heart foundation…it takes work.  The eyes to see and the ears to hear and the timing…well, you don’t get to pick.  But it’s worth the work.  Because, even so, that foundation repair: you might still see the lines of the original splits or dings and tears…but you can make it strong again.  Strong enough to support whatever needs to be built upon it.  Even better, strong enough to support a big adventure, healthy growing life, filled with learning and the ability to love.