Voices from the heart…of a birthday

So, sometimes this adoption stuff is a kick in the heart, not only a kick in the gut  There is such beauty and gift and joy.  But make no mistake, there is such heart-ache….and breath-take. Attachment is a lifelong gig, I think.  Attachment and the navigation of those depths and shallows of the heart is an ongoing diving expedition.  It has it’s own phases {weeks, months, days, hours} and tides that ebb and flow.

My Little Man has been working through some stuff lately.   One of the things that doesn’t get mentioned much in the blog-o-verse, or even too much in the literature and the reference books on adoption is that birthdays can be a mine-field.  Of course, right?  Well, yeah, duh.  But, too often, that’s easy to forget.  Too often, it’s easy to overlook that part of it, the loaded moment, the undercurrents.  Because the kid is excited, amped, hyper, for their birthday.  It’s all about the presents and the party, right?  And the parents and family, ideally, they are also so bonded in that it’s just another happy day, another kiddy birthday party.

But, it’s not just that; maybe not ever, I don’t know.  As my kids get older we have moved into different waters in the adoption issues.  I have posts rattling in my head and am not sure how to get them out or if I should.  Heck, even this post was supposed to be a short mention.  But it’s almost impossible to snip this stuff down to a sound bite or a visual blip.

But for this post, we are talking about the heart of a birthday.  Specifically, the backseat voice of my son’s heart on this birthday.

We were driving to basketball practice, again…the night before his birthday.  It was dark in the car, kind of quiet, he had the sniffles and it was drizzly out, we were a touch late.  A standard night.

Then he said, “Mom, I remember when I was a baby and I first met you.”

I said, “You do?”  {He was three months old}.

He said, “Yes.  Do you remember?”

I said, “Yes. I sure do.”

He continued, “I remember you cried and you said, ‘Oh, I love him so much!’ Didn’t you?”

“I did, honey.  That’s right.”  I paused, kind of holding my breath, waiting to hear if he had more to ask or say.

He did.  “I also remember the last time I saw my birth mom.”

“Do you?”  {He was weeks old}.

“Yes, she was crying.  Do you think she cried then?”

“I know she did honey.”

“Well, I remember.  I remember her kissing me and saying ‘I love you.  Blessing, blessing over him. I love him so much.'”

I was blinking now, trying to drive in the drizzly dark with my sweet tender son in the back seat.


I had to gulp, “Yup, buddy?”

“Do you think she said that? I remember?”

“You know, honey, I think she did.  I just bet she did.”

“Yeah,” he said “that’s what I remember.”

Just like that we were at the gym and he was clambering out of the car, running into practice.  Just like it was any night.

I guess, it was.  But I just had to take a minute behind him, to gather up the pieces of my heart that had just broke again a  little bit for my boy.

Adoption is an event.  But it is also a thread of attachment that continues to tug.  With echoing voices from the deep….from the deep jagged shoals in both of our hearts.  Just like that.

Roundup: Third Birthday at Fifteen

So, I just have to put up a little post bday roundup…..indulge me.  Big news: the big bday bash was a success.  The day, all day long, was a success.  By which I mean, it was happy, joyful  and full of laughter. By which I mean, it did NOT tip over into any sulks or tantrums or trigger rage or grief or nasty ungrateful gimmie’s.  It didn’t dwell in the land of attachment/adjustment issues, nor did it fall into the developmental zone of three year old pouts and melt downs, or just mundane teen age drama and angst (if that is ever mundane…).  It could’a.  But it didn’t.  It was her third birthday ever celebrated, officially.  And it was her fifteenth, in chrono time.

So, it was a double helix of timing, converging into one sugar coated tiara of a day.

This birthday was simpler in many ways than the previous two, and thus, it was a gift to us as well.  This birthday was kinda cool, actually…it was so much a “three year” birthday…but without the typically attendent birthday-itis of most three year olds.  And without the attitude of a teen as well.  All the gifts, big or small, were received with simple surprise and glee.

Every one.  From the zany princess crown from a friend at school – worn all day  with great pride – to the gummy bears and candy sour worms, to the coveted “cow boots” and “cow hat”….all were received with open mouthed delight and laughter and hugs and claps of joy.

Honestly, it was delightful to watch.

What was even more delightful, for me (because, as ever, it’s all about me me me), was the simple ease and joy of this birthday.  It could’a gone either way.  Holidays and big events are loaded, triggers often.  But this one went off without a hitch; and to see that ability to just be happy and enjoy, in a happy revelry…well, it made me grin with delight too.  I am gonna take it as a sign of healing and stepping forward, even if it’s a baby step.  And yeah, I know, that part of this is just dumb luck and that fact that cupcakes and cakes were liberally sprinkled throughout the day (Thanks Teach! Thanks Coach!)….but even so it was marked progress from the past two years of birthday celebrations.

We had no tension, only glee.  She got to do her favorite things in the world: be at school, say hello to all her friends and everyone she passed at school (wearing her crown), and then go to basketball practice to boot (again, with surprise cupcakes).  Then home to her favorite, chosen, meal and dessert, presents and more songs and attention.

Overkill? Maybe. You might think so.  But then again, maybe not.  She has a lot of birthdays missed to make up for.  Did she kind of wear us out leading up to it? Did we just start giggling at watching her be so over the moon over every tiny thing? Oh, yeah, surely yes to both.  But…….Why not milk it for every single bright blingy sweet moment she can?  Why not let her simply relish every last drop of it? It’s a goodness and an attention that any one of us, in our deepest heart of hearts, really maybe craves.  So, we are happy for her to have it.  Not every day, no.  But one day, or a third time in fifteen years?  Oh yeah, you betcha.

It was a very good day for that birthday girl.

This might be my favorite pic of the night, makes me grin to see it...that's a happy laughing girl!

Fabulous Fifteen!

Happy Happy Birthday to our Marta Therese!

She is now a fantastic Fifteen years old

And here are fifteen things about our girl:

  1. She is now a helper for the girls basketball team!
  2. She is a big sports fan.
  3. She is gifted at working with the elderly.
  4. She loves her some boots!
  5. She is fashion crazy.
  6. Shopping is a favorite event.
  7. As is going to the movies.
  8. She’s crazy for country music.
  9. And, always and ever: pasta
  10. Her newest friend is Father James
  11. She adores her older brothers
  12. and her bulldog puppy.
  13. Her braces are off!
  14. and so she is chewing a LOT of gum!
  15. And, she has “magic hair.”
We are so proud of you and hope all your birthday dreams come true!
We love you!
And yes, I’m making your Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake!
Because it’s your birthday, and you LOVE LOVE cake!
Happy 15th Birthday, our Marti!

Happy Birthday Brother Peter Joseph!


Oh yeah, it’s my son’s birthday today.  My Chris. My Brother Peter Joseph.

He’s 22.  Read that again – he’s 22!!! Just. Wow.

At Yellowstone last winter

So, he won’t see this post…which means I can write anything…he he he.  I mean I could tell about that time with the lasso, the marshmallows, and the cat….kidding.  Nothing happened!

Really, it’s a little weird honestly, what do I say? He won’t see it, and my little birthday posts are really for the bday kid..a little extra way to shout to the world that I love them.  But, for me now, I’m still gonna shout to the world that I love him.  So, if you will, indulge me a minute.

Young Chris and Baby Anthony

I am so proud of this young man.  He went from being my firstborn son, the baby that wouldn’t really open his eyes for a few days, kept them squinched up tight despite my nudging (Yes, I tortured them from the beginning)…to this amazing young man who sees more clearly than most.

I remember being SO very scared the day he was born.  He was breech and big and didn’t wanna flip so he was c-section and I was scared.  They told me it was time for the epidural, I saw the humungous needle and said “I’m not ready yet!  Just give me some time, maybe come back in a few hours…” (Actually, I said this every time, except when I was already in labor with Jon, then I think I might’a cussed at the doc who told me to stay still during a contraction so he could insert that needle…but that’s a whole ‘nother story…).  But, he did end up being safely delivered and I remember as clear as day just marveling at the wonder of this boy, a boy! And just being blown away and a little (ok, a lot) overwhelmed by the  muchness of it all and  by his perfect little head and the whole gig, the smell feel touch all of it.  Gobsmacked.  Totally.

And now, once again, I am kind of blown away, and have been of late, by the muchness of it all.  As you all know if you’ve been following this past six months.

But isn’t that just what it is supposed to be? Isn’t that just what being a mom, ok a parent (I’m not leaving you out Coffeedoc!), is all about? I think so.  We should be blown away by the muchness of it all.  And sometimes we forget to do it.  And birthdays are the day and the time that we should step back and consider and observe the arc of it all so we can remember, yes, remember the muchness of it all.

This is our "Cleaver Family" look....very retro 50's eh?

ah....love this

So, today, I can’t put my arms around  my son….but I’m saving those hugs up, with interest.  And I hope to have  him call and hear us sing, badly, the Happy Birthday Song to him. And yes, we will even eat cake to celebrate.  And yes, I made four cakes to send to the Novitiate House, plus one for us too here, (and two for his brother and roomies, sshhhh, a surprise).  Yeah, are you counting, that’s seven cakes I made.  Now THAT”S life in a big family.  And now, my son has brought me more, more sons that I send cakes.

Best Buddies, connected always, even by cake....

This one was first.  He began our status as “family” instead of just “couple.”  Now Brother Peter Joseph, my firstborn son, is expanding our family to include the Dominican family and it’s awesome.  And we miss  him.  And we love him.  And today we send him a spiritual bouquet of prayers for his birthday.  And, ever, I marvel at the muchness of it all and of this young man.  My boy.   

Happy Birthday my Chris,  my Brother Peter Joseph.  We love you so.

>Happy Bday Marti-ay!


 Happy Happy Fourteenth Birthday to our Marta Therese!

Yes, it is finally here, after much anticipation and counting and campaigning for certain gifts.  Today is the day. You’ve changed your  mind about the dinner and the dessert countless times, but today is the day and final (?) call: Chinese food and “Brad’s Berry Chocolate Cake.”

Birthdays are still a new and exciting event, this will be your second officially celebrated bday…here in America and your second personal bday party ever.  We will hang streamers and have festive decorations and plates.  We will stack presents in the center of the table and tell your little brothers, “Not yet, we are waiting for Dad to get home.” We might have to tell you that too, because it’s  hard to wait for birthdays, whether you are four or fourteen!

But, in this place, my place, I do the list.

So, here is Marti-ay’s bday list for fourteen:

You, Marti, have the biggest smile I know.
I call it your “megawatt” smile. 
When you really smile, your whole face lights up, your eyes and eyebrows lift and sparkle.
When you scowl, they don’t.
So we try hard to help you find  your smile again…
You love to laugh and are learning jokes.
Your favorite joke is a knock knock joke and it makes you crack up. 
Which makes us crack up.
Funny is always good.
You are crazy ticklish, which can come in handy.
But mostly you just like to sit really close, especially if it’s next to Mom or Dad…or both!
You love music.
You are hoping for a guitar so you can learn to play.
We are hoping if you get a guitar you will practice and love to play!
You laugh when we sing and dance and, still, are hard to coax to join us.
Someday we will get you to dance with us.
Because we know you know how to do a great Ethiopian dance!
And can shake those shoulders with the best of them!
You have a sweet kind heart.
Your heart is learning to love many people, but it takes time to grow.
You try your hardest most every day.
But some days, you just need a nap.

You love love love school!
Except for maybe science, that is very hard!
Tests make you nervous, but you work hard and do great.
Learning english is still very hard too, but you are talking  more!
You are are impatient
and stubborn.
But we’ve got a few others like that in our family!
You love sun 
and summer
and swimming.
You do NOT love winter
and rain
and cold
and snow.
You love football!
You love going to football games!
Especially if it is a game for your school or a game for Notre Dame.
You love basketball and volleyball too,
but not so much learning to ride a bike.

You love coffee
and yogurt
and pasta
and ice cream
and cake
and tomatoes
and cheeseburgers
and chips
and pizza…
all the teen food groups.

You have been home 16 months now!
And some days it feels like a long time and some days it feels very short.
You still love pink...
and you love your room and your bed and  your house, most days.
You are learning how to love and live with brothers and sisters.
It can be complicated and it can be fun, sometimes all in the same day!
Sometimes it can be hard in a big family.
Happily, puppies help!

We are all learning to love each other better, every day.

And we are all learning that families are complicated, big or small.
New families, old families, new kids, new and old brothers sisters moms dads, they all have the same things: love, smiles, moods, mistakes, laughs, food, chores, frowns, hugs, silly.
They are the same that way.

And those new big families, they make for big busy happy birthday parties –
and they come with big cakes!

So we wish you the happiest of birthday’s our Marti-ay!
We love you so much and are proud of you.
We hope all your birthday wishes come true!
Happy Happy Birthday Marta Terese!

>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.

>Another Day Older, Again!


{Reposted w/ current tweaks from two years ago…
because I’m traveling and it’s my birthday and so I’m taking the easy way out}
Today is my birthday. I am 48.
I had always naively entertained the idea that I would age “gracefully”….
Whatever that meant…


Now of course, I have come to realize the truth: I have never done anything gracefully and won’t be able to do this so either.
Rather, I will do it like I do most things: clumsily, boring all around me with my vanity and driven controlling ways and opinions and ideas. And at the same time I will go kicking and griping over the cliffs of the inevitable decline and collapse of my body.

I will never be elegant and chic.

I will have very gray hair turning all too quickly to white.
I will have a thickening body being remapped with wrinkles and sags.
I will have spots from too many days in the sun.
I have my mother’s hands.

Middle age is no picnic.

Yet, despite my clumsy ways and self, I have a richly woven tapestry of a life – surrounded by so many that I love so dearly. I have the strength in my arms to hold eight children. I have the arms to hug so many others for missing moms and try to let them know that a mom loves them and it feels like this. I have been able to find niches in my heart for many here and others I have even recently met in Africa, ones I won’t see again but who will stay with me.
All that is worth every gray hair, every wrinkle, sag, and spot.

I used to be bothered by looking at my hands and seeing my mother’s. It was, somehow, shocking. But oddly enough, not anymore. They are mine. They are hers.
They’ll do.

I never used to tell folks when it was my birthday, although I’ve always told my age. Somehow it didn’t seem like I should mention it. But, then, I decided that sets a bad example for my kids. As I tell my children, birthdays are for celebrating! And so not to be a hypocrite (at least this time)….I’ve said it. And tonight I will have some red wine and a piece of tiramisu or icy lemoncello and kiss all my children and husband. And while the kid’s bdays and my husband’s are ever so much more fun….I am very grateful for mine.

>Happy Bday to My Baby Bro!

>Today is my Baby Brother’s Bday!!
Yup.  Let’s see, he’s….um…we are all SO old that I can only remember how old we all are by tallying us up in relation to each other.  Does that make sense?  Maybe not, but it does to me!  So, let’s see, John is 44.  Whoa.  Yeah, and he’s my BABY brother.  Yipes.

Anyhow my wonderful dear funny kind fantastico brilliant brother, John is celebrating his bday today in his brand new locale: Micronesia.

Yup, read that again: Micronesia.

Yup.  Sounds like a state of mind, no?  And, one could argue, with John, that it could apply quite well, somehow, if it was an actual state of mind.  Does that make sense? No? Well, maybe not, but it does to me and I KNOW it does to him too!

John makes me laugh.  He is a gift because he is crazy kind, but he is more so because no one else can make me laugh so very hard.  Til I cry.  Of course, it’s all lies and twisted memories… but they can make my sister and I just howl with laughs.

And today I want to tip my hat to my little dear brother.
Because it’s  his birthday.
Because I love him so much.
Because I love his gorgeous family: his beautiful Parisian wife and his stunning brilliant daughters (my nieces!).
Because he has bravely grabbed a brass ring that flew by and just moved, radically, to Micronesia.
Because he is now a grand poohbah in Micronesia: a muckety-muck in the Attorney General’s office…either the Assistant Attorney General of Micronesia or the de facto Attorney General or the Gofer Attorney General or something of that sort.
But I know it’s a big deal because they sent a cargo container to move his family’s stuff over the ocean to live in Micronesia and work.
He’s an old pro at this, having lived and loved living in Vanuatu years ago.
Because he’s a surf rat and tennis pro at heart, under that pin striped suit.
So I think he will fit right in and be immediately at home.

And I am wishing him a happy happy paradise of a birthday, with foofy tropical drinks, sparkling sun, and great waves to surf today.
Because he’s my baby brother.
And I break into tears whenever I see him (because it’s never often enough).
And then we both laugh.
And I hug him tight.

Happy Happy Birthday John!
We love you!
Catch a wave, surf’s up!

>And Now We Are Six. Happy Bday Little Man!


Happy Happy Birthday my Little Man!
You are six years old today!

And, this year your birthday lands on Superbowl Sunday! How cool is that?
You get all the birthday fun and all the Superbowl fun and football and football food, all together.
Sounds almost like a birthday wish come true.

Oh my boy….
You’ve been waiting, impatiently, for your sixth birthday.
Jumping and hopping with excitement just thinking about it.
I think you know it’s going to be an especially good sort of year.

When you are six,
you get to do cartwheels in the hallways,
and talk after bedtime with  your brother
and have jumping contests off the stairs
until your mom hollers at you to stop.
You have car races in the foyer,
and wrestling matches in the study,
practice roaring like a dinosaur with your brother,
and pester your big sisters until you all get in trouble.

Outside is for snowballs
and sleds
and bikes
and worms
and cannonballs
and skateboards
and finding the perfect stick.

You love to run fast,
jump high,
shout loud,
laugh hard,
and flop down on the ground to catch  your breath,
before you jump up to chase your brother again.

You love to eat.
Most anything.
But especially, pizza and cheeseburgers,
pancakes and eggs,
french fries and grilled cheese,
pasta and chicken fingers,
and more cookies,
most anything, really…
as long as it doesn’t have peanut butter in it.
Because peanuts and peanut butter are just gross.

You don’t like chores, but you know how to do them when you set your mind to it.
You don’t like homework, but you love school.
You think Miss Thompson is the “greatest kindergarden teacher in the universe.”
I think she is too.
You like to try out new words like “spectacular” and “ridiculous.”
You wonder if I can make you an eye doctor appointment, so you can get yourself “some laser eyes.”
You don’t like thunder or bad dreams, but like being able to snuggle back to sleep.
You don’t like bedtime, but do like singing “Hail Holy Queen” with mom every night.
And you say, “We sound good.”
I think so too.

Oh my six year old son.
I love you so.
We all love you so much and can’t imagine this family without your big happy grin and loud bouncing running joking you.
You are happy and cuddly and smart and full of life and full of love.

Being six is kind of magic and especially wonderful.
There was a special writer named A.A. Milne.
He said it best, about being six:

Now We Are Six – 

When I was one, I had just begun, 
When I was two, I was nearly new, 
When I was three, I was hardly me, 
When I was four, I was not much more, 
When I was five, I was just alive, 
but now I am six, 
I’m as clever as clever, 
So I think I’ll be six now and forever. 

Author A.A. Milne

Happy Happy Birthday Little Man!
We are so glad you are six!

>Happy Bday to Our Gabriel!


Our Gabriel Louis Tariku is 3 today!
And a very happy 3 year old is he!

He has been home with us now, from Ethiopia, for just about eighteen months.

That time has flown, because we are having FUN!
He is a funny quirky smiling wild sweet boy.
He loves his mama, that’s me!
Ok, he loves the rest of the family too, but I relish that beaming love coming my way.
His best friend in the world is his big brother, Little Man.
They tumble like puppies throughout the house, all day long.
It makes us crazy sometimes.
Gabey will launch flying tackles at Little Man, who is twice his size.
Unfazed if he misses, laughing if he brings him down…up again for the chase.

Our Gabey Baby….not such a baby anymore:
Crazy for dinosaurs, but a little bit scared of the dark.
Crazy for chocolate and will sniff it out, find it, and gobble it up before you can blink or take it away.

Crazy fast for a little guy with such short legs.
Crazy for cars and trucks and balls.
Crazy in love with our old retriever; kind of torturing her with his overdose of affection.
Crazy about our cranky old cat: he is our “cat whisperer.”

Funny faces and a big huge laugh
And frankly, the loudest kid we’ve ever had, and that’s really saying something to beat Bananas.

A nudist for now, unwilling to keep clothes on of any sort, despite the dipping temps.
A destroyer of worlds, everything in his path left in post tornado levels.
A climber, a jumper, a daredevil…I’m a little worried about this one.

Gabey is my cuddly little guy, wanting and needing me to cuddle him to sleep and I can’t resist (this is how you spoil your last one).
He is cute and knows it, and works it.
He has never met a stranger, makes friends with everyone.

He is talking a mile a minute now, quoting Shakespeare and lengthy passages from novels.
Ok, maybe not quite, but sounds like.
He is stubborn, strong willed, relentless in his badgering for an answer.
We feel these skills will come in handy someday….just need much channeling now!

Our Gabriel.  
It’s your birthday!

That means Mickey Mouse cake and hoopla, because you LOVE Mickey Mouse.
And your favorite food other than chocolate: pizza (because I’m nixing the fries).


We wish you a happy happy third birthday, our Gabriel.
We love you so very much!!!!

>Happy Bday Nancy and Happy New Year!


Happy Happy Birthday to my best and only sister, Nancy!
(It’s ridiculously hard to get a picture of us, as we are both too vain, so this is it.)

I cannot keep track of precisely how old you are (you’re welcome)
But of course, the critical point is that you are, still, ever, older than me!
And since you always have and will relish that bossy pants older sister role, I get to relish being younger.
Fair’s fair in sisterhood, after all!

But, you are truly my bestest friend.
You are my role model for successful modern gal.
You, the high falutin’ attorney…partner in your own firm, in the media often, LA Unified’s secret weapon.
You juggle it all, and don’t quit.
You are Miss Fashion, always and forever.
And I will always be a little covetous of your closet.
You have me hooked now on great bags (And, happily, provide them for me).
You have a  huge heart and are generous beyond measure.
You are hard driving, opinionated, funny, but kind.

You are always, without fail, there for me when I need it.
You pick me up when I fall.
And you roll your eyes and put up with my crazy ideas and efforts.
And while over the years you have scolded me, countless times, for my lack of fashion know-how or interest, and for my lack of hairstyle or color…you have come to terms with my frump and now we are looking to our future as little old ladies together.
This will equalize that style field!
We are both kind of losing our minds at the same time.
It’s a comfort.
We can and do talk about anything and everything.

And I simply don’t know what I’d do without you.
Happiest birthday wishes to my dearest sister.
I love you so much and am unspeakably grateful for you.
I hope all your bday dreams come true.

>Happy Bday Dad!


Happy Birthday to my Dad!

He is 78 years old today!

I think it’s kind of special to have a birthday on New Year’s Eve.
And it has made the day special to me, forever…because it’s just my dad’s day.
I love my dad.

He is generous and loves fiercely but quietly.
He is my riding buddy, we rode all over the desert and discussed both the family and the world’s issues.
I think we solved them all…most of them at any rate.
He taught me about endurance…in running (he has completed many marathons and even multiple ultra-marathons) and life in general.
My dad is all about perseverance.
I got that from him.
Thank goodness!

He has my, or I have his, sugar tooth.
And the same diabetes, bummer.
We both love coffee, good strong coffee.
We both love mexican food and horses.
He is opinionated.
He is loyal, utterly.
His family is first, in everything.
He loves to read and to fall asleep early.
He is an early bird.
I would say I am much like him in all these traits…
But Dad is also meticulous, methodical, and all about order.
So, that is clearly where we diverge!

But I miss him today, well most days,
but I wish I could hug him in person, today,
and share a cup of coffee over the paper.
And yeah, I’m making tamales – his favorite – and the tradition for today.
I love you Dad!
Happy Happy Birthday!

>Happy Birthday Miss M!


Happy bday Miss M!
Today you are eleven!

I am so happy for you, I think you are ready for eleven.
Ten was good, but I suspect that eleven will be even better.
And yeah, I can’t believe you are eleven already!

As you have told me, more than once, you are not just the usual eleven year old girl!

You are so right: you are remarkable.
You have the biggest heart I’ve ever seen, and an old soul.
You have more compassion, built in, than most folks I’ve ever met.

You worry and fret like an old lady, but in a good way.
You carry the burdens of others, sometimes too much.

You might tend toward a little bit of moodiness, but it’s tempered by your love of a good joke.
I love it that I can almost always coax a smile out of your frown.
You are stronger than most, physically, but also in your character.
God has made you strong for big things ahead, I suspect.

You are a little mamacita, and you help me so much!
You love dolls though, still…and I love that you and your sister can play dolls for hours.
You still are crazy for mermaids!
You are a sophisticated eater, I love that.
You love coffee, almost as much as I do!
And that Latte Blast cake for your bday tonight?….YUM.
You are such a homeboday, and a great companion….
even as  you have already started traveling the world.

Eleven will be a good year, I know it.
You are becoming a great beauty, inside and out.
We are SO proud of you!
I hope all your  birthday wishes come true.
We love  you so very much.
Happy Happy Bday to my girl!

>Merry Christmas Birthday Baby Girl!


Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas to my Sbird!!
Eleven years old already!
My best Christmas present, ever!

It is such a special thing to have a Christmas birthday…but I know it doesn’t always feel like it is. 
It feels like it can be forgotten in all the wrapping and busy and fun.
But it will never be forgotten.
It wouldn’t even feel like Christmas now, without your birthday streamers and princess cake!
You, my sweet bird, are so special to me. To us.  To our family.

You, and your Christmas birthday, makes our Christmas extra special.
You are a remarkable young girl.
You are so strong, and work so hard.
You have a sweet good heart.
You try your hardest, every day.
And even when you get so mad sometimes, you always come back and make up with me.

You have a loving caring spirit.
You love to take care of smaller kids and are so good with babies.
You hate to see anyone or anything get hurt.
You love to sew and to make things.
You have an imagination and creativity as big as the Milky Way.

You are now eleven.
You, my tiniest baby, are growing so big…real double digits.
You have some big adventures, right ahead!
But even so you give me the best “morning squeeze” when we are up early in the kitchen.
And you still love playing dolls with  your sister, for hours at a time. 
I love that about you girls.

We love you so very much, our Sbird.
I think you are wonder-full.
We wish you the happiest of birthdays.
We wish for your birthday wishes to come true.
Even if it means that pineapple farm in Hawaii!

Happy Happy Bday Sbird!
We love you and are so proud of you!

>Happy Bday BooBoo!


Today is my son’s birthday!
My Booboo is 18!
Oh. My. Goodness.

I know, I know…this is when I (and many other moms) will blather on about how fast time flies and how we can’t believe it.  But, you know what? Wow, time flies and I can’t believe it!!!

My little goofy boy with the solemn face and big brown eyes is officially all grown up.  I could get all misty just typing this.  And yet…and yet….I so very much like the young man he has grown into.  Even without the motherly bias…he is a great young man.  I totally enjoy his company and he is good.  He is kind.  He has a good heart to go with his big brain and big sense of adventure and  humor.  He has very big adventure’s ahead, I know it.

My Booboo, you are heading off to many adventures: college, jobs, traveling the world, falling in love.
But you are and will always be, to me, first, my boy.
The one with the big brown eyes.
And duckling hair that wouldn’t stay down.
And solemn face, hiding the big grin and twinkling eyes.
You are funny, witty and clever and can make me laugh so hard that I cry.
You can also make me fume and have steam coming out of my ears.
And while you currently ‘know everything,’ that is all too soon to change.
I will miss that, a little bit.

Your quirks make me smile; you are an old soul.
You were an ‘old man’ the day  you were born.
You love cardigans, ‘old man’.
You love a hot tea and soft slippers, old man.
You love a long nap on the sofa, old man.
You carry problems,  yours and others, heavily, ‘old man.”
 You have helped to carry mine.
And you are one of my heroes.

Your world view is bigger than most.
Your judgement is usually good (except the occasional right hand turn, ahem) and your integrity is impeccable.
You even managed to find your girlfriend in one of your best friends, and are handling the relationship with respect and trust.
And even with this, you show us your sound judgement and good taste, both, as she is both beautiful and kind.

You are also still full of small boy mischief and crave adventure.
You want to jump out of airplane and dive into the sea.
You want to start record companies and jam late into the night.
You want to polar bear dive into the cold winter waters.
And snowboard down the fastest slopes.
{And live with the injuries that those sports and adventures bring.}

You love magic and practical jokes,
You love to laugh and make others laugh.
And you’re good at it.
You’re cool enough to happily be silly.

You love a bargain and are my frugal child, and yet still the mogul in the family.
You love babies, but not so much children.
You love music and are getting to be so talented.
I love your acoustic guitar playing, but not so much the loud techno.
You love turtles.
Maybe because you hide your big soft heart behind a turtle shell of stoic and tough.
But I know better.

Because Booboo, you are my boy, now a  young man.
And we have always been so close.
And I hope, we always will be.

We are so proud of you, every day.
We love you so much.
Happy Happy Birthday Booboo!

>Post Bday Post

>Yeah, it’s the post birthday picture report.
Because this birthday yesterday was kind of extra special…I’m can’t help it. I gotta post some pics. You know I have to! If only for the far flung family types……

And I have to say that this day was kind of loaded, on different levels. We weren’t sure if it was going to be a boffo day or a bust. And so we made sure to have it follow, as precisely as possible, the standard traditions of our family bdays. Marta has seen several now and so it was important to have it play out the same way, but with it being her turn. And so it did.

There was a lot of “Oh my goodness!” and many bounces up from the chair to hug and kiss, or a “come here” demand for a hug and kiss. Every single card and present got oohed and aahed over. Every card needed a kiss/hug. We had to say “Open it!” because Marta would just stare at the shiny wrapping with a grin…relishing even that. Every gift had a minimum of three springs out of her chair to hug/kiss.

There was much giggling, the usual small boy grabbing and tugging, the usual chaos and noise and mess. There was her favorite penne with a simple but super tomato/pancetta sauce, salad and strawberry pink ice cream cake, candles, singing and clapping.

A big, very good, momentarily overwhelming here and there, terrific sparkly day. And I’m just so glad.

Even the big kids were grinning real grins, it was just a happy thing to see.

And that makes me ridiculously happy, for her, for us, for the family.
A little tired maybe, but very happy.
And she is still floating and giggling.
And listening to Michael Jackson cd’s.
A first and thirteenth birthday can be a very good thing indeed.

>Happy Birthday Marta!


Today is our Marta’s birthday!!!
She is thirteen today!

This is, in a way, her first birthday as well. Let me explain: As many of you know, they do not track or record birth days in Ethiopia. Meaning, a specific day or date of birth is typically an educated guess, at best. As a child gets older, and if that child has lost their parents and known relatives, this day fades – if it was ever marked at all. This sounds sad, but over there it is not. Its not a part of their culture, this tradition. But as we all know, its a very big part of ours.

And so, after much speculation, discussion, a little investigation, a bunch of translation….we have come to a day, agreed upon by all: Marta’s birthday. Today. November 11. She is 13 today.

This is a big day for all of us. Our girl’s first birthday. And yes, there will be streamers and candles and songs and cake and ice cream (Ok, ice cream cake). There will be her favorite foods: pasta and salad…and ice cream. There will be great swaths of pink, on the table, the cake, the streamers, the wrapping…..as many surfaces and items we can find, we will all don pink hats and shirts, even the dog….ok, maybe not. But you get the idea. It will be festive.

We will sing and we will take pictures. And give many many birthday hugs. But we will also keep it low key in a way too. Because just like a literal first year birthday, sometimes it can be overwhelming. So we will sit at the table for dinner in our usual spots. Eat her favorite meal, made the same way by mom. And we will still have ESL tutoring and get the laundry done. Because even though the mundane bits of life go on, that underlying crackle of pink specialness can still glow through the day. Because that is the beauty of a birthday….that quiet special sense that you are special and you have those who think so too. It is a day to mark with that sure knowledge. And so we will try.

Our Marta Therese on her first and thirteenth birthday:

You are a joyful spirit.
A simple happy complicated girl.
You love to sing and laugh at mom sing.
You love to laugh at everyone else dancing.
One day we will get you to dance too.
You are a beauty.
Someday you too will know you are a beauty too.
A good chunk of your beauty shines from inside.
This is the truest kind of beauty.
You truly deeply love the your faith, God, and the Mass.
And that inspires.
You love to laugh.
You love to play.
You can be silly as a small child.
You can be as demanding as a small child.
And as moody as any teen, ever.
You are impatient and stubborn.
You are helpful and compassionate.
You hate math.
You love pink.
You are working so hard on learning english.
But you really hate math.
Almost as much as you hate learning to tell American time.
You love to write cards to your Grandma.
And to sew quilts of your own design.
And you do not want any help, unless the machine busts.
You love pink, in anything and everything.
You love pink ice cream, yogurt, pjs, sweaters, socks, pens.
And a dash of cheetah print might be nice too.
You love football.
It could only be better if they players wore pink, maybe.
You are my only kid who is excited for braces.
And yes, they are pink!

You have been home almost four months.
It feels like you just got here.
It feels like so much longer.
We are all slowly growing toward and in each other.
It’s a long process.
But it can’t be rushed.
It’s kind of like this birthday:
It’s marked by a 13, but its new and old at the same time.
Everything about us, each other, is new to each other.
But so many things too, are old in their way.
Mom dad daughter sister family.
It’s age old.
And brand new.
Just like a birthday really should be.

Happy Happy Birthday Marta.
We love you and are so proud of you.
We hope all your wishes come true!

>Happy Bday Bananas!


Happy Happy Birthday to my girl, my Bananas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Happy Bday Bananas!

>Happy Bday BuddyBug! TWO decades!!?!


This is pic from his 13th bday.
The last time I could hug him, head to head.
He now towers over me.

Happy Happy Birthday to my first baby, now TWENTY years old.
I cannot believe it.

You all know BuddyBug, sort of, virtually at any rate, if not in person.
What can I say? I’m his mom, he was my first child, I gave birth to him two weeks early in a scheduled c-section because he was upside down and wouldn’t turn around. I had no idea, a hint maybe, but really, NO clue he would forever turn my universe upside down. I had NO idea then how deeply you could really love a person; how being a mom completely transforms who you are at the very core.
But, enough about me.
Today is about him.
He is almost officially an adult.
But he has changed so much in the past few years that I see much more the adult in him than the little boy that once was.
But now and then I still get a glimpse of that shy observant happy kid.

His music bridges his whole life, from his toy piano in our front alcove way back in the Palisades…to the living room (called the “piano room”) that is filled with music of all stripes: piano, multiple guitars, stands, old second hand violin, cords, picks, sheet music. A strewed reminder of my boy.
He is steady. His demeanor and personality even as a small boy was to be calm and observant, thought-full. Maybe too much so, overthinking simple things, commonly struggling with decisions (ahem…Buddybug!).

A rabid sports fan, favorite channel ESPN, period. Ever.
Sports, music, liturgy, graham cracker cream pie…these are his top loves, in no particular order.
Faithful. In all ways. Loyal to his friends “to a fault” as they say.
Tardy, terrible time manager.
Distractable and optimistically procrastinating, always, perhaps forever.

Ah. This is my son.
My twenty year old son.

All the cliches ring true:
“How did this happen so fast?”
“Time flies!”
“He was just my baby a few days ago, wasn’t he?”
“He’s still my baby boy.”
“He’s a fine young man.”
“I’m not quite ready for this.”
“I SO like who he has grown into.”
“We are so very very proud.”

Happy Happy Birthday BuddyBug!
I so wish I could give you a birthday hug in person.
But you have all my thoughts prayers and wishes today.
We all love you, so much, all twenty years of you!

>Happy Birthday Mom!


It’s my mom’s 75th birthday today!
Now, she may not be thrilled with that number, but I am!
I think it’s a fantastic thing, 3/4 of a century, and she is still going strong…
healthy and busy and happy.
I wish so much I could be with her today and give her birthday hugs and wishes in person.

And while not everything has always been simple with mom, we clash on opinions and ideas sometimes, when it comes right down to it, it’s the simplest thing in the world.
She’s my mom.
I love her.

As you can see, I have her hair!
I have her hands.
I wish I had her skill with sewing and the patience that goes with it.
She is artistic and creative, always has been.
A terrific, dedicated tennis player (I wish I had that skill too!).
She taught me how to cook.
She taught me how to juggle lots of kids.
She probably passed on her love of reading to me too, as well as her love of crosswords and puzzles.
She loves to do water aerobics nowadays and always been a fiercely good loyal friend.
Even as a kid, brought home stray puppies and still loves nature, from bugs to ocean waves.
A grade school teacher before she was a mom, still a great teacher and nature lover.
She is so smart, but never really gave herself credit for it.

Over the years I have fussed at her and about her, for different things, big and small.
I was young and foolish, mostly, but didn’t even know it.
As I too, age up a bit, I notice more and more that things I didn’t understand before, now make more sense and I have more insight into the why’s of them.
And they don’t make me fuss anymore, they make me understand and accept.
I can only hope that my children will follow that same path, eventually.

And I hope that as I grow older I make it to my 75th, as healthy as she has.
And that while I have her hands, her hair and her feet, I hope I also have her capacity to love.
Because no matter what, when it comes down to it, if I or any of her kids really need her, she is there: caring, helping, biting her tongue if she needs to maybe {or not, ha! we gals in this family are nothing if not opinionated}, but loving all the same.

Happy 75th Birthday Mom!
I love you.

>Happy Birthday Coffeedoc!


Happy Birthday to my sweet husband!
Yup, 48 years old today!
{Once again, older than me, dear.}

I wish you the best of birthdays and for all your birthday wishes to come true!
Your requested dinner of homemade tamales and german chocolate cake is in the works…and should be yummy for all.
Your present is a big secret for now, but we are pretty excited about it….especially one of your sons.

We are all so grateful for your birthday and all that it brings us: you.
Lover of music.
Extra great dad.
Terrific husband, rock for your wife.
Faithful; sincerely loving your faith and church.
Good eater, loves my cooking.
Patient, with a long fuse and a steady stance to withstand the many moods in this family.Kind of Crazy driver.
Fix-it guy – there is nothing that a cool tool or spreadsheet can’t make better – somehow.
Always a little late, but trying, perpetually and earnestly, to change.
The smartest man I know.
Pack rat, never know when you might need that.
Tireless warrior, going up against all odds to advocate for our kids, no matter what.Night owl, striving to be an early bird against all odds.
Make me cry with your guitar and singing of Fire and Rain, Sweet Baby Jane.
Growing old gracefully, unlike your wife.
Plotter, always cooking up something new.
Intense, but calm.
A contradiction in many ways.
The blueprint for so much of the character and traits in my kids.Steady best friend, no matter what.
Picks me up when I am at rock bottom, gently.
Committed, come what may, to this family and each person in it.
Outstanding surgeon and doc.
Apologetics, church history walking encyclopedia.
Boat lover.
Cat tolerator for the kid’s sake.
Dreamer, schemer.
Inveterate traveler, no such thing as ever too much travel, there’s a whole world out there!Adventurer, in your heart even when you cannot be one in real life due to the world of responsibilities on your shoulders…that you carry without complaint.

You are greatly loved by many.
And we celebrate your birthday today with grins and cheers.

Happy Happy Bday honey, we love you!

>Another Day Older, Again!

>Well, today is my birthday, again!
I am 47 years old today. Whew.
Since this seems to come around every year, I can’t really justify any big ol’ post about it.
It’s another day. Another day older and another year to claim.

Last year’s bday.

And as I mentioned last year, here, I have always had this weird “go underground” sense about my birthday. “Don’t make a big deal of it, don’t tell anyone, you don’t deserve the notice or the fuss” But I did finally realize that my children deserve the example of rejoicing in a birthday (not that they have much problem with that…but you know that particular oddness sneaks up on you…maybe at, say, age 32, fair warning!).

And I want them to be grateful for every year and day they are given: good, bad, frustrating, harried, stressful, electric, dull, full and overflowing. Every one, it’s a gift. And every bit of my old body; it’s a gift, even when I notice all the many ways that age is taking it’s inexorable claim on me. I could go on, you know I do {But it’s my bday so I’ll give YOU a gift a spare you. You’re welcome…}.

But here is what I choose today to think about: instead of the ‘whats,” (as in what’s wrong, what’s old) I prefer, if only today, to think of the “who’s”….by which I mean the people who mean something or so much to me.

The connections.
That is where you find the riches of getting older, another day, another year.
With that in mind, there are connections that spring to mind today…
And while I would go on about my husband, children, family, friends….this is not an award show or a roast and I’m not Sally Field.

Today the connections that spring to my mind are of a ridiculously cute small boy, who is precociously potty trained (not that I’m envious, not me, no sir…) and has a smile that lights up a room (I think it’s actually a combo of his smile and his beautiful mama). It’s his bday today too, go give him a big bday shout!

Another connection, dear to my heart: Today is the feast of St. Anthony of Padua.

Painting by El Greco

St. Anthony is a saint that I have long loved. Not only because we share a special day, but because I have found him to be a comfort and a trusted saint to turn to for prayers. He was known for his kindness, his courtesy, and his deep humanity. His appeal endures even now in this modern age; and it’s no wonder, really. Because in this modern age, what we lack the most in our postmodern harsh world is just that: kindness, courtesy, humanity.

Which brings me back to the whole point of this post. To mark another day, another year older. And with that, to remember the best part: I am happier now than ever and I seem to be happier each year I get older.
How cool is that?
This inexorable claim of time gives me my mother’s hands, and now feet and hair. This added day, added year, also gives me more connections, more relationships, deeper ones. Love is the wealth in life.
And so, on my birthday, I have the best gift.
I know.
I love so many.
I am rich.

>Happy Birthday to my favorite "Leprechaun"


It’s my baby brother’s birthday!

Yup, he was born on St. Patricks day!

Yup, his name is…John.
But it was gonna be Patrick……however, my folks decided that was too obvious…
But it doesn’t matter because today is his day anyhow.

He is the brother who is so smart and so funny that he can make me laugh til I cry.
And despite the fact that he also can make me angrier (or used to) than anyone else….he is just a favorite (but I have three brothers, so I can’t officially go down this path…ahem).
He has the happiest smile and the kindest heart of anyone in our family and I miss him and love him.
He married a stunning brilliant Parisian girl (ok, now, lovely woman, we are getting older) who is a lawyer, a yoga teacher, and a chef (and still, we love her! go figure!)
He has two beautiful smart charming daughters that I don’t see nearly enough.

We two, he and I, were the last of five sibs, thus making us officially known as “the little kids” versus “the big kids.”
But we showed them, because we knew we were the smartest kids….of course!
And the two of us played together (because the big kids wouldn’t give us the time of day) for years and years as best playmates, friends and fierce competitors.
The sibling rivalry was intense – I knew he was a spoiled bratty baby, but he was great fun to play with and boss around.
He put up with me.

That shows you how nice he was and still is.
He is now a successful lawyer and family man, who still gets out to surf whenever he can and argues, well, everything, with me and disagrees with me on many many issues.
But ultimately all that doesn’t matter, because he’s my little brother.
He is good.
He is funny.
He is my brother and just thinking about him makes me smile my happiest smile.
And I’m going on record here, that, despite being my baby brother, he is grayer than I am!
He is why I love St. Patrick’s day!

{the five of us, ages ago, John is leaning his happy face on my sis -I’m on the end}
Happy Bday John!
I’ll lift a toast to you tonight!

>Kiss me, I’m Irish!


Yup, it’s the feast of St. Patrick: St. Paddy’s Day.
Which means many things, and here in the U.S. typically means loads of green beer (ok, gross), green shakes, corned beef, soda bread, and general indulgence despite the lenten season. A plethora of shamrocks and leprechauns can be seen and smooching abounds (not that that is so bad!). And suddenly, everyone is just a little bit Irish! Me too! Actually, I can claim it remotely (really remotely) though for many years I thought my maiden name had Scottish origins…but nope, Irish. And I root for my son’s school always: GO IRiSH! So, it’s fun day all around!

As a homeschool mom, if I’m feeling energetic and creative there are loads of history and fun things for St. Patrick’s Day: coloring pages, books, activities, games, and of course, food. There is an abundance of these, plus great books and movies and celtic music to listen to if you’re feeling thematic for the day. Illlustration by Mary Kurnick Maass
But I like the saint’s lives, you know that. And St. Patrick had an amazing life and was a strong and courageous man, who grew in holiness enough to return to the land that originally enslaved him…because he loved the people there. So St. Patrick is not only about eating and drinking oddly colored beverages and snacks, not about wishing for lucky leprechauns. St. Patrick shows us we can beat the odds. St. Patrick is a great example of perseverance and courage and faith, for going where God leads you despite the hardships. To bloom where you are planted even, to carry this out…..maybe you’ll find some shamrocks, after all! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
St. Patrick, pray for us!

>Happy Birthday Little Man!


Today is Little Man’s 5th Birthday!
He’s been waiting for this day for weeks and weeks, counting down.
Turning five is a big deal!

For us of course, we can’t believe he’s five already.
This is the picture of the day we met.
He was three months old. Yes, he was big even then, but oh so sweet!
He was the easiest baby we had ever had.
Maybe because we were older and could appreciate the blink of time that is that baby year.
But really, he was just a happy smiley baby boy.
Now he is a happy smiley big boy!
That sweet baby personality showed his true colors.
To this day he is funny and happy and loves to laugh and play and giggle.
He has a big temper, but he will be a big man and so he is learning that he must be gentle.
He has always moved fast.
A natural athlete from the get-go, he quickly moved from crawling to walking running jumping throwing climbing shooting hoops.
Nothing slows down this high energy boy!
He has friends and family (Uncle Rob!) that scold us for not already tracking him for his future pro-ball career, salivating over his athleticism. But we don’t care. We think it’s ok for him to be a little boy for a while and just play. That will all come soon enough.He is rough and tumble, all boy, and loves all his brothers, big and small.
He loves to wrestle with his brothers.
His brothers love to wrestle and tackle with him.
Flying tackles and wrestling through the kitchen is standard order in our house, no matter the age of the boys.
He is so smart, he soaks in his surroundings like a sponge, is learning his letters and numbers and asks the best questions. Sometimes his thoughtful pondering stumps me, and it makes me smile.Perhaps one of my favorite things, as his mom, is that Little Man talks me love songs.
He asks me, most days, what I want for my birthday, and what kind of cake?
Then he says he will give me many hugs and kisses for my birthday (my hearts desire) and also a coconut cake. With raspberries. He goes on to tell me the varying items he will bring or buy me. I just laugh and tell him all I want are hugs and kisses, but that I do like coconut cake. And we both grin at the deliciousness of it all.

When I asked him yesterday, what kind of cake he would like for me to make…he said, “Coconut.” And he grinned at me. And I hugged him and said, “No buddy, it’s your cake, pick your favorite.” So the decision was harder, because he likes all cakes (so far!). But we finally settled on vanilla, with cars on top. And so he will have it.So for the record:
His current five year old favorite things:
Superheroes, especially (see above) Spiderman!
Wrestling, tackling, running, racing.
Cars to zoom across the floor.
Eating, especially cookies.
Riding bikes.
Shooting hoops.
Lacrosse; sticks, balls, games.
Building things, legos, transformers.
Books, drawing, computer games.
His brothers.
Mom’s bedroom as a refuge from nightmares.
Staying up late and sleeping in (already!).
Happy fifth birthday Little Man.
We love you so much!
We hope all your birthday wishes come true!

>Happy Birthday Julia!


Today is the birthday of our Julia, Myeung-Ju Kim.

She was our exchange student, who lived with us for two years and became a part of our extended family. She feels like one of our kids, although she has her own very loving family in Korea too. We are her “American family.”
She was in the same graduating class as Buddybug, though she liked to remind him she was a bit older than he. I think we count her as 20 today, although in Korea the count seems to be ahead, 22? (Help me Julia, I always mess this up, it’s so confusing.)
She made many friends here in America and still keeps in touch with them as well, even now as she is in her second year of college in Korea and doing very well.Julia was crazy for fashion and food and friends. She loved to travel and to eat and to sing and dance. She loved to jump on the trampoline and play with the littler kids. She loves pictures and movies. No surprise, she knows three languages and is working on her fourth, Japanese.
We hope she has a wonderful happy day with her grandma and family. We hope all her birthday wishes come true. And Julia honey, if you are reading this, if I could I would make you spaghetti and carrot cake and we would light the candles and sing.

Happy Birthday Julia, we love you!
Our bday wishes and prayers for you are zinging across the world.
Happy Birthday Myeung-Ju!

>Not so Wordless Wednesday: Post Birthday Edition


Last week: Gabriel Tariku turned two!
This was his first bday celebration.
So – ripping wrapping paper: check!Great presents: check!
(The boy loves shoes, what can I say?)
But really, it always comes down to the most important birthday features:
cake and candles and song.
And Chocolate!
And…lest we forget, he’s two…
The classic two year old boy bday present: Kidsize Basketball!
After that, well, there was not much more to say.
Except, of course,

>Happy Birthday Gabey Baby!


Happy Birthday Gabriel! You’re 2!!And I can’t think about your birthday without thinking about the first time we saw your face:

Yup, this was the referral picture, the very first one we saw of you and the one that stole our hearts forever. And the first thing your Dad said when he saw you (I was crying) was, “That’s my boy.”
We had to wait a bit to go and get you and bring you home. And even though it wasn’t that long compared to some, it felt like forever.

And then we met.

And over the past seven months we have learned so much about you and fallen deeper in love and laughter. We have seen you change from a stressed scared little toddler baby into big toddler who is no longer scared of much, who is busting out with words and just amazes us daily.
Here are some things you love, at two, though it’s only a partial list:
balls, to laugh, to eat, to cuddle, jumping on beds, balls, exploring everything, cake, shoes, taking things apart, kicking balls, drawing on everything with pens, basketball, baths, rice milk sippys, water bottles, cuddling for bedtime, music, dancing, jumping, tackle football with Little Man, wrestling, the dog, cuddling with mom, spicy food, football, singing, holding hands, trying to talk, making faces, cars, throwing balls, up, chocolate, climbing anything, outside, walks in the stroller, bouncing balls.
Here are a few things you don’t like, at two:
getting dressed, hats, dirty hands, meat, being told ‘no’, naptime, sitting quietly, changing diapers, being taken down from climbing, being put down, bundling up, going slow.
You shout for me, the moment you wake up: “Mom!” and I smile at the strong loud voice and the sureness of your call. I am so very grateful, to be your mom and to kiss you on your second birthday! I love it that your birthday is on Ethiopian Christmas, my second Christmas baby, but in your own unique way. God’s gift, again. Melkam Genna Ledata Tariku!

We all love you so very very much Gabriel, you bring such laughter and joy into this house.

God bless you on your second birthday.
Happy Happy Birthday Gabriel Tariku!

>Happy Birthday Miss M!


Happy Happy Birthday Miss M!
You are ten years old today!
Double digits, already!
You are such a special girl.
Born in Nashville, you were my surprise baby!
The best surprise I’ve ever had!

You came home to us at two weeks old. You weren’t sure about the changes. It took you a bit to get used to us, but we fell fast for you and your big brown eyes. Even today, you don’t like change much, but now we can all laugh about it.
You and your sister were teeny babies together, like twins but not. You were almost exactly the same size for years, shared clothes and baskets and beds. But now you are getting bigger, in different ways, but certainly with the clothes. And that is ok, because you love your jeans and today you get your own closet, in the multi-room swap!You, Miss M, are a beauty.
We don’t tell you too often because we don’t want you to get the big head….but you are beautiful and strong.
Even your hair and your oh so tender head, is a gift that someday (when you alone are doing the brushing) you will appreciate fully.
But best of all, you are beautiful inside as well as out.
You have one of the very biggest hearts I know.
You can well over in tears from just hearing about something sad, be it a kitten or a friend or a movie with your mom.
You worry about others more than others do.
You are considerate and think about things they might need and how to help them.
And then you do it.
That’s remarkable.
You are just like me: we call it control freak (but with a smile).
And we saw it early: in your ability, even as a toddler, to bring your temper under control as we watched – a seemingly superhuman effort in such a small girl.
You love having control of your body, your time, your plans, your things.
This will make you nuts some, and does, but it also makes you and I understand each other sw well and work so well together!
And it is one of your strengths.
You are probably one of my strongest kids, on different levels.
Physically, you are an amazing natural athlete.
I half expect to scream my lungs out for you at the Olympics someday; it wouldn’t surprise me a bit.
To watch you gallop across a field or shoot those hoops is so fun, it takes my breath.
God made you so well, with a strong coordinated body that can do almost anything you set your mind to.
I marvel at that.
You have a laugh that sounds like water in a brook; and makes the whole family smile and start laughing when we hear it.
You love to laugh, at your brother or giggling with your sisters, or at a joke or at mom.
You are my best eater and the most fun kid to feed, and I wish I had your metabolism!
You love love love the color purple.
And you love love the Little Mermaid!
You are growing into a bigger kid but you are not too big to play with dolls with your sister either.
You are a sleeper: you need it and want it and are happy to do it!
You are a helper, with or without being asked.
You have a strong strong will, that will take you far in life, on big amazing adventures.
You are smart and resilient.

Miss M, you are a giver.

And that, I think, is why your smile is so beautiful and one of the things we love the very most about you: your big giving heart.
You were given to us as a great Christmas season gift, but you give yourself to your family and especially your sister Bird ever so much more.

So Happy Happy Tenth Bday Miss M!
We love you so very much and are so very proud of you.
We hope all your birthday wishes come true!