I haven’t written much about Gabey of late. He’s just been busy growing and blooming and being a busy snuggly wild five year old. But he’s been doing something more and more that is unique among our kids and my parenting years.

It’s his language. By which I mean, his own unique sound-language. It’s a babble, really. A gibberish of sorts. We have taken to calling it “Gabelish.”

This language of his getting pretty sophisticated in it’s usage, with clear sentence breaks and intonation. However he doesn’t have a consistent vocabulary, so it’s not that evolved or in reality a language constructed for real life use. I think.  It seems to be just play. I think he’s playing. He’s pretty darn intent on it though, and only corrects back to actual English when we make him do so because we can’t understand. It sounds vaguely like a kooky blend of Russian, Turkish, French, and a smidgen of Amharic, maybe.  All the sounds.  He will answer my questions in Gabelish. He will make requests for stuff, in Gabelish. When I cannot understand he repeats in Gabelish. Sometimes, the same, identical words/sounds. Sometimes it changes. Which is how I know he’s playing. And, let me be clear, this boy has been speaking complex sentences, no, paragraphs, for years now in English.  He is a very well spoken five year old.

He’s such a goofball. Oh, and who is that in the background? My dear friend Jen! From

He just often will goof around; babbling out such sound and texture. I think he dreams it up, on the fly, and it springs forth for the pleasure of the mouthing and sound of it. But, really, for me, the remarkable bit is that he uses this with such aplomb;  wIth such confidence and presence. As if, he’s just speaking another language, duh, just not ours.  His. And it clearly tickles him that he knows more languages than we do.

So, it’s kind of cute. But also kind of wacky. I did the research of course (I can’t help myself, don’t judge me). And the net pulls up info on this sort of activity across the board: from gifted to being on the spectrum. So, for now, I’m gonna split the difference. I’m going with age and stage.  I’m gonna presume it’s just his wacky silly nature and a silly game for him. But I want to mark it down. Because I suspect that this is a mere goofy blip as he grows. Perhaps he’ll turn into a great linguist when he grows up, and we will smile at each other knowingly, for we saw it first.

For now, it’s just Gabelish: A little babbling river of sound that is fun and full of make believe and makes him smile with a quiet glee, every time. He is “Master of his world” when he speaks this, and clearly revels in that. For our part in this game? We smile at each other and listen to the rollicking river of Gabelish.

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.

Fledging Friars, or, The Vows

The Novices have stepped out of the nest.

Now, they fly.  They are a flock of fledging friars!  Sorry, guys, no disrespect. Just a little mom fun.

Seriously though, as you all know by now, last Wednesday, on the Feast of the Assumption, my son and his nine novice brothers took their First Vows.

These are also known as Simple Profession.  They are the vows to the Dominican Order and religious life as a Student Brother for the next 3.5 years.  They are the last step of serious discernment before Final Vows, aka Solemn Profession – where they will (God willing) take a vow to God himself to live the religious life with the Dominican Order, until death.  Yeah.  Read that one again! Wow.

Even these First Vows, seemingly much smaller (3 years versus the rest of their lives), are so big.  Because if they weren’t awfully sure that they were called to this life, and loved it, until death, they wouldn’t have taken First Vows. They are that big.  In fact, Peter Joseph (my Chris) told me after the Vows that the Final Vows are rather considered a confirmation of their first vows; that First Vows are the ones that are marked with the anniversary.  !! Yeah, good thing, I suppose, that he told me that after the Vows, because I was leaky enough….if I had known, I would’a been UNDONE.

So, I have much to say and describe (of COURSE I do).  But, I think the best way to start this off is to link to the most excellent homily given by Father Brian Martin Mulcahy OP, Prior Provincial of the Province of St. Joseph. Permit me this excerpt, because I cried through this part, so I’d like it more focused (literally) in print, here (go read the whole thing for the full context):

You and I should see the Religious Profession of our ten brothers this day not as some isolated incident in their lives, which we may or may not understand, but rather as a further unfolding of the Paschal Mystery in the life of each of these ten men in all his individuality. What do I mean by that? Their act of vowing themselves to the Lord in poverty, chastity and obedience, which they will do in a few short minutes, one after another, is a further manifestation of the Mystery of Christ’s Life, Death and Resurrection being revealed in the life of each of these ten men, this Mystery into which they were incorporated through their Baptism, through their Confirmation, and through their faithful receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.


To the parents and godparents and families of our ten brothers, present with us today: as you watch your son kneel down and make his vows as a Dominican friar, see in this act, freely chosen by your son, a flowering, a blossoming of the gift of New Life in Christ, which you asked to be bestowed upon him when you brought him to the waters of baptism. It is the Lord Jesus, in His fidelity to the promises He made to your sons on the day of their baptisms, who today draws them more closely to His own Heart through their profession of the evangelical counsels and who exhorts them to “run in the ways of perfection.”


It is easy for us to be overwhelmed by the enormousness of what these ten men do here today in vowing themselves to a life of poverty, chastity and obedience, especially because we cannot know exactly what road lies ahead for each of them. However, we must not lose sight, either, of the immensity of Christ’s love that has brought them to this moment in their lives, Christ whose voice it is they are responding to, and whose unwavering fidelity toward them is the only thing that makes their desire to be faithful to Him even possible.


But we can have every confidence that Christ, the Firstborn from the dead, will, in His Goodness, continue to manifest His life, death and resurrection through the lives of our ten brothers, will continue to call forth from them abundant fruit, fruit that will last for the building up of the Kingdom here on earth, until He returns, when they too, each in his proper order, will share fully in Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

Peter Joseph making his First Profession with Father Brian Mulcahy, Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph

I’ll post more about the hoopla of the vows.  But this, for today, is the essence of why it’s so big.

The Novices have moved into the next step.  My favorite friars are on their way!

Happy Happy Joy Joy Birthday Boy – 51!

Happy Joy Birthday Boy…to my Tom! 51 Today!

It’s been a bit of a weekend long celebration.  The family party was Saturday night as we had the rare and wonderful occurrence of ALL the kids home at the SAME time!  I never really imagined we’d get there, but that is no longer the norm and it’s extra special.  I’m a bit overcome, every time.  It’s just that big a deal.  So, it was fitting that we decided to celebrate Coffedoc’s bday a day or so early…in order to relish the goodness of it all, with all!

At First Profession/Vows. Best gift: all boys home!

Thus without further ado, I’m marking this birthday of this happy boy, my sweet Tom, with just a few pics of his best gift: A full family weekend.

Tonight I’ll take him out on a solo birthday dinner date, where we can catch up and marvel at the goodness in our lives and in gratitude for his birthday.

Happy Happy Happy Birthday Tom!

I hope all your birthday wishes come true, I love you so!

51! His expression is goofy. He’s not sad, I’m just choking him by accident…..

St Max, he rocks!


Today is the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe!
He is my son Jon’s patron and one very awesome saint. He is a ‘modern’ saint, of the twentieth century, completely devoted to Mary and a Franciscan. He was media savvy and current before anyone even knew what that meant (which also is fitting for him to be one of Jon’s patrons).  But what St. Maximilan is known for is his sacrifice, his martrydom of charity. St. Maximilian was sent to Auschwitz Concentration camp, for being a Catholic and a priest. After ministering to his fellow prisoners during his time there, sick and hungry as the rest, Maximilian made the ultimate sacrifice: he stepped forward and volunteered to go to his death in order to spare a father of a family from this fate. St. Maximilian went to his death in a father’s place; dying after two weeks of forced starvation and ultimately, an injection of carbolic acid (and forgiving the one who gave him that shot as he was injected). As such, not only is he a hero, among many other things, he is the patron of families.

We are big on family here around the coffeeblog. And we have been praying a novena to St. Maximilian on behalf of one special young college guy I know….  And the prayers of a righteous man, a saint and patron of families, who knows from sacrificial living, are worth much. So, thank you St. Maximilian, for your patronage of my son.

Happy feast day Booboo!

St. Maximilian Kolbe, thank you for your prayers!

“What’s your love language, Mrs G?”

That’s the question of the summer, I think.

My summer, in a way, was started with that question.  In May, a lovely young woman asked me that question at a “Theology on Tap” evening.  I kind of blinked.  I said, “I don’t know….” and then I rambled a bit, thinking out loud.  She, being young and smart and quick, said, “Oh! You’re ‘Acts of Service’!”  And I said, “Hmm…maybe….

Thus, I knew I’d better finally go and read the book.  Nothing like being stumped by a twenty-something to light a fire under me.  And so I did.

This book, it’s been around for a bit.  I knew of it, and it’s companions.  But I’d not taken the time to sit and read it through, even though it was not long.  Frankly, I kind of blew it off.  There are SO many theories and modes and ways to approach parenting stuff that it’s simply impossible to be on top of it all.  I’d been absorbed in the therapeutic parenting realm for a good while now and this seemed so simplistic that I could get a good gloss from the title; more excuses, not my mode, and so on.

But her question made me think I might need to give it another chance.  What I found was this: there is quite a bit there worth thinking about and, more, worth applying.  It’s not the be all and end all answer to everything.  But it’s another very good set of tools in the toolbox and I’m all about that! I’ll take every tool I/we can get!

So, to put it in the short gloss here: love languages are the modes that we each have, instinctively, naturally, in which we understand, give, and receive love.  It’s how we communicate love.  Sounds drippy? Maybe, but it’s got some real substance and value to consider.  We are all about communication in our  house.  We have one kid who is language impaired.  We have others who just don’t have great communication skills.  Plus, we have multiple teenagers….talk about communication snafu’s! Ok, kidding, kinda, maybe not so much…..  So, if I can find ways to their love languages, and speak to them more clearly???  What’s not to love?

The five love languages, as put forth by Chapman and Campbell, are, in no particular order: Touch, Time, Words (of affirmation), Gifts, and Acts of Service.

First, as it’s always all about me…I realized, that savvy young gal was right.  My love language IS Acts of Service.  Which explains so  much.  It’s why I DO for my family (Which works out well, as there is SO MUCH to do.  God’s no dummy).  It’s why I am tickled pink to cook favorites of returning college boys, and to give second helpings to guests.  It’s why I get so bent when I return home from the market and the kitchen has been trashed even though I asked to have it tidied.  It’s why I get my feelings hurt when no one, ever, sees the laundry bucket on the stairs and takes it up, and why the rogue shoes are no big deal until they make me come unglued.  {Why yes, I’m just all that petty, thanks for asking.}  But now I know, the temper is because I feel like no one is caring about me enough to do for me…when the reality is, they just don’t speak my love language.  All this time it’s like I was talking to them in Greek and they were just smiling and nodding because they couldn’t understand anyhow.  So I’d get bent and upset and they’d be dismayed  -wondering what was my problem and why I was so upset?  Because they didn’t/don’t understand my love language and I didn’t even realize it was mine.

That very insight made me realize I’d better figure out theirs, and quick.  Because no one likes being misunderstood and/or feeling unloved.

So, I’ve been evaluating and testing it out.  And I’ve got folks across the spectrum of love languages, no surprise.  I’m the only Acts of Service (bummer, but best to know).  I’ve got 4-6 Touch, 3-4 Time, 3 Words, 2 gifts.  If that math doesn’t seem to add up, it’s because you can have more than one love language.  And of course, there is overlap of for us all and everyone needs all of them…but the primary language is one that is WELL worth finding.  And using.

WIth this new perspective, I’ve (we, tom and I) have been trying to speak the languages of the kids, and each other.  The love languages.  Not that we didn’t before, but intentionally, more consistently.  It’s a work in progress….

But here is what we’ve noticed.  I’m not gonna go into each kid, privacy and all, but a few high points: Gabriel, who has moved into a phase of whiney and difficult over the past number of months… a total Touch speaker.  It explains why he has taken to careening into us and he must DIVE into a lap if it’s available and even swifter if it show signs of occupation by any other kid.  His way of getting that touch has been to bump and thump and push us around, literally, in his five year old rough and tumble way of learning a language of love.  Discovering this, we’ve ramped up the cuddles and hugs and he has been simply blossoming under it.  Not that we didn’t squeeze him and tell him we love him before, but we have stopped fussing about his careening around into us all and instead directing it toward more functional touch.  On his part, he has ramped up the affirmations and is visibly relishing the cuddles.  He crawls into my lap in the rocking chair and says “I want to rock with you forever.”  He says, “I love you you,” more and first.  His attachment needs are being met, better.  Age and stage? Maybe? Better communication in his love language? Oh yeah.

The others too, they are noticeably responding to the touches on the shoulders, the passing hugs.  They open up with the time and words, focused.  The gifts is a tricky tricky thing in a house of hypervigilant kids (with a sharp eye for equity)..but we are brainstorming on meeting that need and seeing their gifts to us when they happen.  Marking them.  The intention to speak each kid/person’s love language is a very helpful tack; it opens up paths that were narrow, makes them wider.

The defensive side of me wants to say that we’ve done all these things, the touch, the words, the time spent.  We did. We do.  But when you KNOW it’s the language that your kid receives and give love…it takes on a different depth.  And intention.  And that makes a difference.  Is our house filled with rainbows and unicorns now? Um, no.  But is there more growth in the garden of connections and is communication a bit easier to acheive? Yes, I think so. It’s all a continuum, of course.  Teens are still prickly, but might be a tad easier to soothe, to reach through the static.  Those kisses and  hugs and hand holdings are even more meaningful…what’s not to love?  The trash waiting to go out and the rogue shoes? They are still there, but now I can remind myself that it’s just that I speak greek, and not that they don’t care.  And I can switch to another language instead.

Becoming multi-lingual….it’s paramount in my big family.  Even now, I’m learning.

Novices knocking on our door…

…and so they did!

That visit I wrote about? Well, this past Saturday was the day!

We had ten Novice brothers and their Novice Master, Father James Sullivan, come to visit at our house.  They dropped in to see us, as promised, on their way back up the St. Gertrude’s.  We spent the morning prepping what we could (because some things just can’t be spiffed up in a jiffy, like the balls stuck way up in the high roof gutters…)  Little Gabey was beside himself with excitment, literally bouncing and careening around the house all morning.  They showed up later than expected; once again reinforcing the fact that Dominicans do things their own way (which is part of their unique charm, seriously).  Gabey started some serious whining and sulking and I have to admit to a bit of pacing myself.

Finally, they arrived! Literally, knocking on our door at the same time that Gabey ran out to jump them and we all felt time freeze for just a half second.  Then I ran, (yes, literally) out to see them and ran smack into Peter Joseph for a huge hug.  Maybe a tear or two but all simple grinning clapping happy. I hugged each and every Novice.  They hugged me back.  I hugged Fr. James and whispered my thanks into his ears.  Then they all were tugged and hugged and hustled into the house and more hello’s were said and hugs were passed around.

We sat, we visited, they munched on cheese and fruit and crackers and salami and devoured MamaDo’s brownies and lemonade and iced tea was poured.  Jokes were cracked, stories were told.  Small boys dragged big ones in habits out to play basketball.  Rooms were wandered.

Quiet, private long conversations were impossible but that wasn’t the point of this visit.  This visit was a particular sort of gift.  This visit was to soak in the presence of each other….

…to see the brothers interact, josh, joke, hang out with each other and us too.  To touch base and touch habit, literally.  To feast our, my, eyes on my boy and my other boys by extension…..for I feel something like a mom to them too.  I looked at them with “mom eyes” and hugged them with “mom arms” and got them brownies and milk and coffee just like I do happily for my own.  I’m putting up all our pics, just so you moms and families (if you’re out there) can scour them for your sweet sons….That’s what I’d do too!

Brother Edmund has his eyes on the cheese and crackers…..

Br Allen playing basketball w/ Little Man

Br. Timothy playing with ball with Gabe and Anthony

If any of  you other Novice Mom’s of these boys by chance read this blog…..thank you for sharing your son with us for a few  hours.  It was a pure gift.  And know that I tried to give them a hug with your love in it and a snack with the same care  you might.  I saw them and listened to what they said and what they didn’t say.  And this is what I saw and heard:  These  young men, they are so good.  They are happy.  They are well.  Extrapolating our from my son, and applying to yours:  They have grown into themselves.  They are more themselves,  in a fuller deeper way.  They seemed very bonded together as a community; they seem very ready for first vows.  They are totally ready and excited to see all of their family’s in a month too!  It is so good. It is all good.  I hugged them all again, stand in mom, as they got in the car.  They have phenomenal manners.  And Fr. James is one of the most gracious men I’ve met.

Marta especially loves Fr. James

But, they all left smiling, for what it’s worth.

My stupid grin was on my face all afternoon and softened into a tired happy one later that night.  But it filled my and our hearts.  It gave us all a chance to connect that was everything. Everything.

Two hours, of jokes and hugs and smiles and brownies and wild children scrambling around these great young men.  Bliss.  I am so.  Very. Grateful.

Jumping for Joy

So I got some fantastic exciting news today.  I was literally jumping for joy and yup, might have cried a wee bit.

Turns out that we might have a quick drop in visit from the Novices this weekend! I know! Haven’t seen  my boy since October…and have been gearing up to go see him in August for first vows.  Another whole post or two, that.  Anyhow, turns out they are helping one of their priests move down to the our town and so the whole crew is coming along to lend a hand, and visit some of their sister Dominicans.  Mercifully, Fr. James has decided that we are on the way home and that they might just be having a craving for some MamaDo’s (the brownies that I make from the recipe of one of Peter Joseph’s best friend’s mom).  So they have asked if it would be too much trouble to stop in for a quick visit, “Just family, no muss no fuss.”  Hmmm….”Um, yeah, yup, I think that would be all right…”  That’s what I said, I’m pretty sure.  All cool and collected like that, just like that.  (Tho, it might, just maybe, have also had a few leaking tears, stupid grin, and gibbering, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!” )

gonna do some visiting


So it’s a family only quick visit, but with all those brothers and ours too and I am simply giddy in anticipation.  I have been warned to not kill myself cleaning or make too big a fuss.  So I will try, try I tell you, to heed that directive and simply bask in the pure joy of it all.  But I will admit to a little happy dancing around my kitchen this morning when I told the big girls, and that I will be thrilled to be hugging the neck of my other big boy heading home when he arrives in the wee hours of Friday morning.

best brothers

And I’m gearing up: gonna be making multiple batches of MamaDo’s, some for here and some to go!

I can’t wait!

Home Again, Jiggity Jig

So, home again.

I didn’t fall off the end of the earth.  Though you wouldn’t be far off if you had presumed so.  We took the annual trek across to the end of our earth, by which I mean California.  Yup, we had our annual beach vacation/family visit and out there it is pretty much off the grid.  Cell service and wi-fi is pretty much out for the count, so we go mostly low to no tech.  Even if I could find a signal, I was still doing intensive parenting and ‘working’ the vacation. Don’t get me wrong, we had some afternoons of sheer sunny sandy relaxing bliss.  But, a small family place is small with many kids with many issues…or even one or two (or four!) teens.  Thankfully, the beach is big.

At any rate.  Blogging was on hiatus.  Everything was on hiatus except living in the moment.  A gift, even that, the good the bad the ugly….but especially the sandy sunny of it.

Now I face a couple of rigorous thrashing days of time change and reentry as we jump back into real life again.  So, my connected status is still spotty.

But I wanted to check in, for me mostly.  I haven’t fallen off the ends of the earth. Just dipped my toes in the tide waters.

My favorite place on earth

And now I’m back again.  Soon to be musing and sorting my thoughts through my keyboard again.

It’s good to go on vacation. It’s good to see family from afar!  But oh….It’s good to be home!

The Perfect Job?

So, my eldest daughter has gotten her first job.

I’m so proud!


However, in reviewing the job description of this first job, her dad and I have to laugh. Because our girl, she is clearly a genius.

Our girl, in finding her FIRST job has cleverly managed to land herself the PERFECT first job, for her.

How’s that you might ask? Well, let’s review. Most first jobs are of the service sort: working in fast food, child care, baggers at the supermarket, mowing lawns, walking dogs, taking tickets, bussing tables, hostessing and leading to tables, hanging up clothes from dressing rooms and straightening racks in stores. All good jobs. Heck ANY job is a good job! The usual starters are all honorable and necessary work, and indeed, the first jobs that her dad and I had were among these. These are any and all the sort of jobs that we had in mind when we ordered gently suggested to our daughter that this summer, a job was a must good idea.

Not to be outdone in the good luck department, she found a job as a lifeguard at our local YMCA.

Let’s read that again. She found a job as a lifeguard. At a pool.

  • So, no, she will NOT be bussing tables or asking if you’d like fries with that.
  • She will NOT be wearing a silly hat or a polyester retro off color uniform top.
  • She will NOT be politely handing out tickets or drinks, smiling til it hurts.

Nope, she’s landed herself a “Bossy job.”

  • She gets to wear a cute bathing suit (she says it’s not, but …. de facto: at 16, every bathing suit is cute).
  • She gets to wear a cute visor and cool shades.
  • She gets to cultivate a tan and has cute supervisors.
  • Not only does she NOT have to ask “would you like fries with that?” and smile til it hurts….she gets to glare at the small annoying children from her perch on high.
  • She gets to point her finger at them and say “Hey, you kids, knock it off!” (she might need to be slightly more tactful on the job, but that’s her home version).
  • She GETS A WHISTLE, for pity’s sake!

Read that again. My 16 year old daughter, for her first job ever, has gotten a job where she gets to wield a whistle and boss people around.

So I ask you: Is she a mad genius and has found the perfect job….


is it the end of the world as we know it?

Consider it wisely…..but, in the meantime, make sure you walk in the pool zone.

Teen Green….

Nope, not talking about cash. That’s what many, my girls included, would think of first. Nope. Talking about that green eyed monster: Jealousy.

In our big messy house, we’ve been running into a lot of jealousy. I have. I am telling you that this spring, but oh my goodness even more so, this summer, every time I turn around one or another of my girls is jealous of a sister. As they say here in the south, “You can’t swing a dead cat” without hitting a jealous sister. I know, yikes!

Jealousy. It’s the grown up, breathing, creature risen from the little kid version of sibling rivalry. This has morphed from little kid “gimme’s” and grabs to a stewing breath of resentment and envy. It’s jealousy. I think especially for girls, it’s a serious monster that waits in the closet, needing only a crack in the door to step out. Especially for teens. Especially when it comes to teen sisters. {And there are many who can/will point to the idea that we/I haven’t ‘formed’ them well enough….maybe. But I think this is part of our human nature, and it peaks in the toddler and teen years. And with the complexities in our family and it’s forming, well, I’m not sure how we could have sidestepped this entirely…But maybe I’m just being defensive; it could happen!}

Now, most of the jealousy ’round here centers around time with me. Which, on one level, is grand. They like me! Or, more to the point, they need time with me. And they WANT it! But on another level, it’s tough. It’s a pressure. Because I do make a point of trying my best to make sure each kid gets time with me, one on one, face time, checking in, sitting by them, ears and heart open…etc etc. Typically, the jealous version plays out around the idea of…wait for it….shopping. No surprise that, eh? If one of them needs something from the store: another pair of shorts, a new sports bra, heck, more conditioner…… then if I take them to the store to shop and/or get it…..then I can be quite certain that when I get home one or several will now be “jealous.” {Which explains why I try to do a great lot of the shopping alone, when they are in school….but it’s summer…..yeah, circling back to the problem now….} Heck I can lay money on it. They don’t seem to be nearly as jealous of time spent with me chopping vegetables for dinner….hmmmm…

Michael D. Edens, “Jealousy”

It’s wearing me out.

So, this is a post to ask for ideas from anyone who has multiple teen girls at home: How do you soothe and settle the green eyed teen? How do you address the cries of “H first! (no fair, me jealous),” “It’s just that I NEVER get to go with you.” “You NEVER get me stuff.” You only take/buy/do for ____fill in the blank____?” All of these statements have a fractional basis in reality – in that I cannot buy for every single child every single time another needs something. We’d go bankrupt. And I cannot take every child every time; nor can I take every child every day or week. I’d simply drop dead from insanity or sheer exertion.

I have four teen girls right now. I love them so. Each of them is an amazing individual; each with so many great qualities. But, collectively? The sisters, the hormones, the drama, the JEALOUSY?? It’s making for a LONG summer. And summer has only begun….

Moms?? Experience, tips…anything??

Like Sun Shook Foil

Yesterday my Little Man, my Anthony made his First Holy Communion.

Yes, I got a little teary…just a little.  But, it was, ever again, one of those frozen in time moments.  Something about First Communion: the sweetness, the wild loud kids dressed in their best ever, trying so hard to find some decorum, sometimes failing.  The juxtaposition of their still flashing bright nature with the hovering pause before the consecration and them each approaching the altar….it makes me blink hard and hold my breath.  I smile as I see those wiggly boys just not quite be able to contain those wiggles or those distractions.  I gasp a little to see those sweet girls look like angels – old fashioned, maybe – but oh their sweet shining faces, glowing with the excitement of the afternoon and the fuss and hubub of veils and standing just so.

It’s a beautiful sacrament, one of the core foundations of our faith and our, ok – MY, strength and essential need.  These kids are old enough to “get it” and young enough to not be too jaded to care.  They really do embody the heart and flame of the love in this sacrament, to use Hopkins’ better words {one of my fav poems}, “like shining from shook foil.”

No wonder all of us parents and older folks stand around gaping and snuffling and grinning.  I’m so happy for my Little Man.  This sacrament is pure gift.

It was a sweet, happy day.

Canary in a Coal Mine

That’s me. The mom, I mean.

I know this isn’t a groundbreaking idea. The old adage “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” is still circulating for good reason. But as I’ve been stuck in the quicksand of diva drama lately, the image of the canary has been occurring to me repeatedly. I am a canary. And yes, sometimes in the deep dark murk of a coal mine.

The swirling moods of teen girls, the reverberations and wafting spread of the gaseous poisonous presence of those same moods on any given day can be toxic to us all. As mom it’s my job to offset those moods; yes, to redirect and reframe and temper and sooth and ignore (often all within minutes). It’s up to me to keep my equanimity (a favorite turn of phrase of the dad in the house) and to carry on and muddle through.

But, there’s more. It’s my job to be the marker. I have a hyper-vigilant daughter who gauges many of her reactions based on mine. Yeah, talk about pressure, eh? Or, on a good day: opportunity. It can really swing either way, based on my sleep deprivation, sugar levels, weather, you get the idea. And of course, sometimes, no matter my reaction or cheer or calm, she can’t maintain. But, sure as shootin’ (as they say here in the south) she will look to me first, to gauge my reaction/mood/approach to whatever is happening that has any volatile twinge to it. Sister late to be ready for school? Marta’s eyes are upon me, watching if I am cool and can smile and give an eye roll of “no big deal, all’s well” or “big sis is so busted” so Marta can be angry too. Seriously. Since Marta IS hyper vigilant and hates having anything off routine or mark (leaving at 7:10 NOT 7:11, 12 or 15….) her anxiety is just looking for a reason to overflow. She watches to see if the canary is choking or singing. Me.

The others too, however, all of them, also check the canary gauge/cage. If I’m busy and flitting around, maybe chirping about this or that or even handing out directions then life is puttering along just like it’s supposed to. But if I get sick, then the crews stop and stare, wondering what to do. Worse, if I start choking in frustration and toxic fumes of mood (mine or others) and falling with ruffled feathers….well, everyone else will, swiftly, too.

So, instead of putting pressure on myself to only sit on my perch (in the kitchen, of course) and keep a beady eye on the toxicity in my house…….I am deciding that this gives me a power of influence that I shouldn’t waste.

I want to, I choose to, sing.

…and to cook. Always. {Sunday brunch}

Blog Blockade

Soooo, things have been a little slow around the blog, eh?

Yeah, I know.  And it’s not because life in the coffeehouse has been slow, though part of me desires to cultivate that intentional slowness.  No, no.  Rather, life has been way too fast.  It’s not even been way too fast due to a pile of graduations or events…no, no.  Rather, life has been way too fast and full of the shifting moods and emotions and…wait for it…yes, DRAMA, of having four teen girls in the house.

The Drama-rama has become a blog blockade.

This picture actually sums it up well: a herd of sheep, jostling for position, bleating and scowling, occasionally moving aside in a kind gesture, other times shoving through, leaving a mess behind them.  Teen girls.  The drama might put me under.  Add to the fact the complications of adoption and attachement issues, older child adoption transition issues (yes, still, ever?), special needs, intellectual disability and developmental delays, standard sibling rivalry, pressure cooker schools and just, oh, our modern culture and our desire to swim against the tide to a fair degree (as Catholics)…and well…you’ve got a blockade of drama that it most impressive.

Add to that my own circular thoughts on whether or not I should or shall continue blogging…some days I absolutely want to keep on because I process my swirling thoughts by typing; and some days I think, you know, the blog-o-sphere doesn’t need another whiny mom throwing  her opinions up on the net.  Go quiet.  You’re busy.  And then my practical side reminds me that I’m also losing my memory and I’ll never remember these moments or thoughts unless i document them on blog.  So, I’m dithering too.  Adding to the bleating noisy sheep up in that roadblock.

Lovely aren’t they? But, oh, a handful!

So, this is just a once again too long short post to say, I’m still here.  Just kind of slamming busy being mom to four teen girls (and four busy boys to boot)…and it keeps my days and nights in OVERDRIVE.  But for now, please bear with me and don’t disappear entirely (though I understand if you do).  Because the thing that keeps me tethered here, is, ultimately, the community that I have found on this blog and the many others that I read and cheer onward.  That’s the best of it all….but you already know all that….. So for now, I’m not quitting.  I’m just on diva delay……..

Something of a Rite of Passage…

What? A rite of passage? Which one? Graduation, marriage, birth, death, adoption finalization, first steps, first tooth….what?

The zoo, of course!  Going to the zoo is a mini rite of passage for a kid, specifically an American kid.  Some might argue this, but really, I think we can agree that it’s a kid marker, a kid commonality….more, it’s family bonding.

watercolor by m.mahan

The zoo.   You go with your family when you’re little, with the school on the bus when  you’re bigger, you’re dragged there on family vacations and outings when you’re a teen, and then you start the cycle all over again with your own new little family.  Right? Well, maybe for a few zoophobics its not.  But still.  For most of us, the zoo is treasured memories and stories.  It’s boxes and boxes of old kodak snapshots; all looking mostly identical – yellowing blurred shots of us near some big trees that have monkeys in them, somewhere, standing awkwardly waving with bad hair and ill fitting shorts (ok, maybe that’s just me).

So, for one reason or another fifty, we hadn’t yet made it to our local zoo for Gabey or Marta.  Let’s rephrase that to be more shockingly precise: Gabe has been home almost four years and Marta is at two and half, and they  had not been to the zoo.  Mom fail. Yes. We are the slacker parents of all time.  I know.  My pitiful excuse defense: the weather is wonky here, either freaky freezing cold or hellishly sticky muggy humid hot AND we spend our days dealing with many kid behaviors and issues, not to mention juggling schedules like a circus clown.

Anyhow, if the weather is good (on those two to three days a year of weather perfection), I love going to our little zoo.  It’s just the right size, not too big to be overwhelming, not so small as to be a joke.  It’s a friendly little place, with a fantastic playground area to collapse and the let smalls get the last dregs of their energy out so that they will be happily exhausted for the rest of the day.  And so, on Tuesday, all the planets aligned and the day was perfect.  It was spring break, the weather was going to be in the high 70’s and sunny…it was the perfect day (In four years!) for the zoo.  And so we went.

It was just me and the youngest five. I packed a picnic lunch and we all set off for the longish drive to the zoo.  They were very excited. Marta wasn’t entirely clear on how it would be…but she was game to try (which is a huge deal for a hyper-vigilent kid).  As we piled out of the car, grabbed the old stroller to carry our gear (and occasionally Gabe, who knows a good deal when he sees it) we could hear the whoops and hoots of both the Gibbons and the parrots and I’m not sure what all else…but it was a minor racket.  I looked at the kids and grinned.  Marta’s eyes were big, “What is that? Loud!”, she said.  I laughed, the girls laughed.  The little boys speculated about dinosaurs.  I said, “You’ll see!”  Gabey was just pulling us along as quick as he was able, in a rush to go see the monkeys.

We saw the monkeys.  Marta was most impressed with their feet being like hands, we saw beautiful tigers and leopards, cool zebras, scary alligators, scary snakes, weird frogs, cool camels, pet a goat, pinched noses (my city boy) and laughed at the “wild” smells and marveled over the bizarro but beautifully pink flamingos.  

Best of all we saw the “Very big!” elephants and the “Very tall, so cute” giraffes.  We even saw a few babies: with the leopards and the giraffes.  We had an easy happy picnic lunch in the shade, we lifted our faces to the sun as we walked.

Then, for another classic thrill, we got tokens to ride the carousel. Oh the thrill of even picking out which animal to ride as they waited.  Then the fun of scampering on to claim the chosen beast (Sweet dear Emmy sacrificing her choice of dolphin to stay close to help Gabe, even without being asked.  What a girl!).  The whirling ride got face splitting grins out of all, even our toughest customers.  

So, totally worth those pricey tokens.

After the twirling  thrills of the carousel (Can  you say double win?: Vestibular therapy motion too, score! It’s occupational therapy!) we headed to the playground to close the visit.   I sat in the partial shade while I watched my kidletts run and rampage over and around, under and through the twists and turns of this huge crowded playground.  There were ramps to ascend and tunnels to slide and rope bridges to climb, nooks and crannies to explore.  Marta didn’t last long there, she ventured forth and then came back quickly to sit with me in the sun.  Gabe ended up choosing to swing for a bit, helped again by my mamacita Em.  We finally dragged Little Man out, sweating and happy.  The sun was high, we are all getting hot and tired.  Perfect.  Time to go  home.

But first, no premier trip to the zoo should be complete without that last final classic treat: the slurp of a soft serve swirly ice cream cone.  And so, we did.

It was a very good day.

Works for Me Wednesday: Kid Date

Ok, so this should be more precisely titled “Works for Us, Wednesday…”  But then I’d miss the whole linky bit, here, so I’m keeping it as is.  But, you get the point.  This little tip is something we’ve honed to a very worthy custom in our household: it’s the “Kid Date.”

The kid date is not, as you might wonder, when just the kids go out together and run wild, going out on the town and boozing it up or sneaking into movies.  No, no.  The kid date is when the kids get a turn for their own, SOLO, date, with their dad.  Sounds small, no big deal? Oh, no.  Not at all.  Especially when you have a family with many children, this is a really key thing to craft, if you can.  Heck, I’ll go out on a limb and say even if you have a standard size or even small size family, this is a good thing.  That time of undivided attention between the dad and kid?  Priceless.

The Kid Date is a standing Wednesday night gig in our house.  We protect it as much as possible.  Yes, it means a Dad Date, really.  The kids all get lots of time with me.  But their dad, he is a hard working guy and he is busy…all the time.  He’s around as much as he is able. But, his job stuff is, um, time consuming.  It just is.  So, a few years ago, we intentionally started carving out a protected night every week for Dad and one kid to go out, alone, to do whatever they thought sounded like a good idea.

This whole concept played off our standing date, Saturday night.  That’s right, Tom and I have a standing Saturday night date.  It’s all old fashioned, that standing mom/dad date, you betcha.  But, oh boy, it’s priceless and we protect it like gold.  Because it is.  But I digress.  We figured that our weekly date out was so important to our relationship and to staying connected that it would be great for each kid to get solo time w/ Dad too.  They get it with me; I have to make an intentional effort to find that time to check in (and some days/weeks I do that better than others), but with Dad, the time constraints are much tighter.  So, voila, the weekly kid date.

Now, the only way to do the kid date fairly is to make it a system.  We put it on the calendar and we rotate down the troops in age.  No randomness at all (because then there would be intertribal war, not good), though swapping due to homework deadlines is allowed (they work that out between themselves, mostly).  And, just this past month, little Gabey was finally considered old enough to be allowed to go on his first kid date! Oh happy day, er, night!  He was so excited!

It’s a little difficult some weeks to have the kid date, the weeks get eaten up with basketball practices or late meetings or tests…but we really try to make it happen.  And it does mean that Tom has sat through multiple excruciating memorable viewings of the latest kiddie flick (Fly me to the Moon, anyone? Anyone?)…but that’s just what a dad does for his kids.  It’s a tough duty but he’s the man for it.

And is it worth it? All those cheeseburgers, those cartoons, the crash of the bowling pins? Well, I’m not him, but I think he’d say, “You bet.”  Because in between the skittles and the  pasta, sometimes in the dark of the drive home…the kids talk.  They chatter or they open up for a heart to heart or they ask the hard questions.  Or sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes they’ve been known to fall asleep in the movie.  But almost every time, that kid comes home to about half the others already asleep.  They come up and check in with me and hug me.  And I ask them, “Did you have a good time?” And they give me an extra kiss or hug, and say, “Yeah.”  Then they go find their dad and hug him goodnight and say thanks for going out with me.  And then, he thanks them back for going out with him.  And that, that is where the gold is.  That connection.  Little bits, along the way.

Kid date.  Worth the time, the trouble, the juggling.  It’s a bag of skittles, all gold.

Eyes Open: Marking the good, again

Because I am cynical, cranky, and quite possibly almost old enough to be called a curmudgeon (Is that gender specific? Can girls be curmudgeons? I think so….)….I try to, once in a blue moon routinely make a point of noticing some of the goodness and/or progress in attachment and healing ’round this crazy home.  It’s been a few months, let’s have a look-see:

  • Marta has been home for 2 1/2 years now! And, honestly, it’s better.  It’s far far from perfect.  It’s nothing at all like any of us thought it would be.  But maybe (yup, I”ll say it out loud) just maybe that’s not only ok, but it’s a good thing.  It has it’s own sweetness amidst the baffling hard stuff

  • She is the manager for the varsity girls basketball team.  This not only is something she enjoys, it has given her purpose, joy, and a greater sense of belonging.  Her job is simple, she keeps them in water and towels and fusses over the players a bit.  But, she loves it and the team has seemingly, blessedly, embraced her.  Her coach simply rocks.  And the girls on the team? An amazing bunch of players, but even better, really kind lovely girls.  The whole ‘manager’ gig: it’s all gift.  Thank you Coach Serra.

  • She got a 75 on her 2d art test.  It was a written test, hard for her.  And while we had to discuss it (per her need, not ours, we don’t care what she gets in art), with a couple of tears over a couple of days, she accepted it without meltdown.  Sounds like a no big deal kind of thing? Au Contraire!  So, so big.  She is a perfectionist, a little crazed about it and wants to make an “A” in every class or assignment.  This, even last year, would have been enough to send her off kilter and into a meltdown, possibly for a rocky intense week or more.

  • She made the honor roll.  She had her name in the paper and on the school website.  She felt famous.  Sure her classes are  in the school’s (amazing fantastic) special ed program; different classes/levels.  But, I propose that she studies about as hard as many of the kids at that school and she works possibly harder than most.  She earned it.  She’s so proud.  And so are we.

  • She had a double ear infection last week.  And she coped.  Ear infections hurt. But she even went to school.  And she was a trooper.  This, coping with something  hurting, is a skill she did not have when she first came home.  Not for almost two years, actually.  This is the first time for real and a big step forward for her.

  • And one of my favorites: she is more playful.  Play is a funny thing.   Marta didn’t really play when she came home, not for a long time.  We don’t know if it’s because of the transition, fear, insecurity, or her disabilities.  I’m sure it’s a big old mixture of all of the above.  But, nowadays, she is more playful.  NOT every day, not by a longshot.  She’s still a teen, of course, with all the moods and hormones that entails!  But, she is relaxed enough now, on a good day, to make jokes, to poke fun, to be silly, and to sometimes hang out while we visit instead of disappearing or interrupting to redirect the activity to go do something for her.  (It doesn’t last long, but, apropos of this post, I want to mark that it does happen.).


  • Marta is a great pray-er.   I’ve mentioned before how she is a very devout girl. It’s lovely.  We pray together every day that we can, which is almost every single day  (unless there is a late basketball game).  And, for those in the know, once you make it onto her prayer list, well, you are there  (so far as I can tell) forever.  She is one of my two ‘secret weapons’ when it comes to serious prayer; they have a connection and focus I can only wish for.

  • Last but not least, she has been unseated, for days or weeks at a time, in the “monopolize all the time and attention in the house and my conversation” status.   That might sound kooky or a weird thing to mark, but a dear friend noticed it last week when we were talking and it dawned on me that she was right.  Marta wasn’t top of the roster of my rambling and ranting measured reports anymore.  It’s a tossup on any given day who’s going to be the neediest or highest maintenance child.  She’s among the top three, typically, but to have lost the crown…..that’s a major game changer, right there.  So, I’m marking it.

Great Eight

It’s my Little Man’s big birthday!

He is eight today! Whoa.

I asked him how he felt this morning, did he feel different, did he feel good? He said, “Yes, I feel excited!”  And well he should.  I told him eight is a GREAT year!

Eight is the year when you are past being a really little kid, you are kind of a middle kid.  You’re not learning all the rights and wrongs anymore; mostly, you know ’em.  You’re not caught up in the crazy hormones and boy/girl dramas.  You don’t have to get a job yet.  All ya gotta do is stay steady in school, do the  usual chores, and be a kid…a happy kid.  Play, preferably outside, a LOT.  It’s a great time.

That, just that, is what my birthday wish for my boy.  I wish for him to have a happy few years, starting today, of just “kid stuff.”  I’m not sure I can give him that wish or make it come true.  Life tends to be a bit more complicated than that it seems, and already for him it is, a bit.  But even so…his heart and laugh can carry him a long long way to having a few really simple happy kid years and we are gonna do our best to help him make them happen.

So, today on his birthday I’ve just gotta list a few pointers on my Little Man:

  • He is a happy, good boy,
  • with a heart that is bigger than most any others,
  • and a keen sense of justice.
  • He has energy to burn,
  • if our best scientists could figure out how to harness it, we’d solve the global energy crisis with the greenest energy going: his.
  • He is crazy creative,
  • a talented artist and budding musician, already.
  • He is athletic and strong (and did I mention, energetic), and loving his basketball team and his teammates.
  • He is not happy that the season is drawing to a close, he could play forever…
  • and is gonna try.
  • He is so fast.
  • When he goes to steal the ball in a game and then rips off the other way with it, I can’t help but shout out, “GO! GO, GO!”
  • He’s so fast and fun to watch play.
  • He is so doggone smart, sometimes his warp speed mind spinning makes him distracted, but it’s because his attention and synapses run at Maserati speed.
  • He is loving and sweet and, still – on the good days – writes me “love letters” or, even sweeter, talks them to me as we drive to/fro those practices.
  • He is a night owl, the king of night owl’s.
  • We need to find a career for him where this will be an asset, because this boy can’t seem to sleep much when the moon is high.
  • He really does NOT like spiders or snakes, period.
  • He is a great eater, especially if you are talking about cheeseburgers…not much better than a good cheeseburger in my son’s eyes.
  • I could brag on this sweet son of mine forever, but I won’t.
  • But I will kiss his head today and hug him tight, feed him basketball cake and clap when he blows out his eight candles,
  • and I will wish for him a few really simple joyful happy years of kidhood…
  • to revel in the crashing loud happy singing quiet muddy wondrous years of middle kid time.

My Anthony, he is eight today.  He’s getting bigger at an astonishing rate; like they do.  So I will spend this year trying to really see him, with clear eyes and heart.  I will make sure we do all we can to have our hearts beat together, even as we shout and cheer him on through his fun middle kid years.

Happy Happy Eighth Birthday My Anthony.

We are SO very proud of  you and we love you so!

Rickety Scaffolds: Resolutions

So, it’s the new  year! Happy goodness, right!? Well, yeah.  I had a great New Years Eve as I went out to see my dear Dad for his 80th bday and we had a whole big ol’ bash for the celebration, also joined to my sisters 55th bday; a double whammy.  So it was a big deal.  BIG fun.  Full of laughs and goodness.  Exhausting crazy pricelessness.

The birthday kids - I LOVE them!

Now of course though, I’m in re-entry.  This re-entry is doubled and magnified by the whole “new years resolution” tradition.  Now, I’m not a resolver; not usually a “New Years Resolution” kind of gal.  What kind of fool do you take me for? I know  myself well enough to know that I can go on a tear, and then sputter out.  My good intentions are like a firecracker: big show, big bang start, spit and sputter to a sad withered left behind ending.  No surprise there.  And, not so uncommon either, eh? But, I’m feeling the press.  It might not last. But, I’m feeling the press of needing to impose more order on the bedlam of life here in the coffeehouse.  So, for a few bright burning moments of this fresh new  year, I’m brainstorming a bit.  Yeah, got lots of qualifiers in this post. Hence the title, ricketly scaffolds….I know my attention will wane and wander.  But, oh, how great to build a new, cleaner, smoother stronger scaffold for our family life! So, here goes the first brainstorming:

  • I am looking at tighter budgets for groceries and sundries and such.  I’m not so great at serious coupons, but can be frugal overall and am a scratch cook on the good days. And saving/freeing up cash, what’s not to love?
  • I’m looking at time patterns and thinking of ways to cut dreck tv viewing  (none on school nights anyhow, but how to ramp up the worthwhile programs while still engaging teen girls….anyone? The little boys are a snap to nudge into better content…the teens…now there is the challenge!) and improve the quality of media in the house.
  • I’m thinking about my friend and her terrifying inspiring efforts at playful engagement…maybe another post there…still stewing.  But, maybe: game on!
  • I want to really dig in and order the house.  I mean, I was just hanging out for the weekend at my folk’s house and it was a big deep inhale of clear clutter free air.  So refreshing! Such envy!  I mean, sure, they don’t have 8 + kids and various friends and visitors crashing about and all, dropping all manner of items in their wake, but even so…it’s a worthy goal, that ordered home, isn’t it?  To open a closet without the threat of concussion? To peruse a shelf without having to bring a flashlight and crowbar to mine the depths? I think so.  Surely, somehow I must have inherited just one or two of those purposeful organization neat freak genes, right? To that end, I am dreaming thinking of going room by room and clearing, organizing, decluttering (don’t freak out Tom, I did this when you went to Haiti last time  with the schoolroom/dining room and it was fabulous…but such a big job that I sputtered out after that one room).  I want to find a way to purposefully, functionally order the things we need and use, the stuff we might want to access/use I want to neatly stow, and the stuff that we just tend to collect like weird hoarder magnets I want to give away and set free.  I think I leave the kid bedrooms to the last, because that’s their personal space.  It’s tempting to start with them, as they tend to be the worst hurricane sites, but even so, I think I need to start with either the public space or MY junk space, the art room (the catchall room that used to be a garage).  
  • And, last and maybe least, I’m thinking of moving my body more, more intentionally.  By this I mean lasting, sustainable, intentional movement.  Not back to my running days.  My body still has chronic gripes from the beating it took from those long years on and off.  But as I’m looking down the barrel at 50, this year, (I know, still shocks me too!) I am really thinking about longevity and pushing back the stiffness and soreness and tired.  So I’m thinking stretches and walking and such.  Not to sound like an old fogey…but those are where I get lazy. I’m really pretty strong from all the hefting and toting and whatnot that just IS in my daily life.  I walk fast, and zip around…but I think I might need to be better at keeping flexibility and endorphins cranking.

So, rambling finished for now.  Any of you, especially you larger families, out there have any great tips for organizing genius ideas or simplifying households or market or whatever, please leave a comment! Especially regarding the teen media issue…it just keeps getting harder and  harder to raise kids without the sludge of the culture taking too big a hold.  I told  ya, I’m brainstorming!  As I said, these are just a rickety scaffold of ideas and things I’m turning around in my head.  I might just bail on it all as life starts cranking up again, oh, this afternoon.  But, now that I’ve made it semi official by throwing the brainstorm online…I can remind myself when my energy flags!

Happy New Year to All!

Happy Birthday My Teen Emmy!

Happy Happy Birthday to my next new teen: My Emily!

Ah, this one, she is some special girl. And, as with all of them, I can hardly believe she’s thirteen, already! But then again, I can. Because she’s ready for it. She’s got a very mature heart and soul, this one. God gave her a special gift of a heart to see and he filled it with compassion. Now, to temper all that soft goodness he also gave her a really whomping powerful “Death Stare”…which, when she learns to use such power for the good, will be some extraordinary skill. In the meantime, we have the countdown:

Oh my Emmy, I love you so…not for these things only. No, I love you because you are YOU. But, these things, well, they are part of you too:

1. You are an animal lover in the biggest way,
2. especially our dogs,
3. but we won’t forget your love and fascination with dolphins and marine life….
4. even mermaids!

5. You ARE athletic,
6. even though you don’t always think so and think folks are wrong about that.
7. It’s your wickedly competitive streak (you HATE to lose those team games) that makes you feel like you are not so athletic,
8. because you won’t believe it until you reach pro or Olympic level.

9. As we see with your athletics conundrum, you will push yourself to do your utmost, always.
10. But happily enough, you still love to have fun.
11. You are growing into a remarkable, beautiful young woman,
12, who has an amazing future of adventures ahead of you….
13. Which I hope and pray will always let you laugh; your laugh is the best laugh in the world.

Happy Happy Birthday to my Sweet dear birthday Girl.

Thirteen….here we go!

Your dinner will be the best Carbonara I can make, homemade bread, fresh green salad and your favorite ice cream cake!

We are so proud of you and love you so, my Emmy.

Happy Merry Christmas Birthday Beauty!

Merry Christmas to all and an extra special Happy Merry Christmas Birthday to my sweet Sarahbird!

Halloween this year, silly last minute costume grab

Today is her birthday…her 13th birthday!

Yeah, it’s a biggie!

Because, now, she is officially a teen. Ok Ok, she’s been kinda sliding into this teen stuff for, oh, at least a year or so now.  I mean, you know, the moods, the bling, the nails, the eye rolls, the music, the giggled comments with her friends and sister, the fussing over shoes.  She’s the whole little preteen teen package.  Whoa, no more PREteen.  Now, it’s all teen, all the time.

But, you know, with that teen-hood, comes wider eyes and her heart is growing too.  Yes, some more rocky times, and bigger worries, of course for the parental types (be kind to us sweet Sarah!).  But also, with teen years comes those times for more heart to heart talks and understanding.  Some of the best stuff comes in the teen years too, it’s just easy to overlook it.  I promise you, honey, that one of my bday gifts to you is I will try to NOT overlook the good.

Anyhow, enough musing, today, this Christmas day when we are brought the greatest of gifts – once again I am reminded of one of our greatest gifts: our Sarahbird.  I know you were born on THIS day for a reason  honey: so we would never ever forget that you came swaddled in soft gift wrap, a living jewel.

  1. Your smile, your REAL one, can light up a room.
  2. You are shy at times,
  3. but you are also an extroverted firecracker,
  4. and, best of all, quick to say hello and befriend the new kid.
  5. You love music,
  6. and anything flashy,
  7. and nail polish, and fashion,
  8. and boots, oh…the boots you crave….oy!
  9. But you still are just young enough to still have fun w/ sweet toys, I love that.
  10. You are doing great in school, and that fortitude is one of your great gifts.
  11. You ARE a little bossy at times, ahem, like a teen girl, I suppose.
  12. You are fierce on the basketball court, a great fearless defense player, fun to watch.
  13. And you are a key part of this family – we love you so.
  14. This rock wall was scary but you did it!

We are so proud of you and we hope all your bday wishes come true.  You are our beautiful sweet Sarahbird.  We love you so and hope today is special and shiny and full of bling that makes your face light up with happiness.

Happy 13th Birthday Sweet Sarah, we are so proud of you and we  love  you!

The advent of Advent

Advent begins tomorrow!

It feels early this year, but I suppose that can’t be.  Once again, it’s sorta snuck up on me and I’m feeling all behind before I even begin.  Yikes.  So, to that end, today I’m going to mindfully try to prep my interior self to accept my inevitable winding sloppy stumble through this season of Advent.  By which I mean, I already KNOW I’m not gonna be as prepped as I hoped to be.  I do NOT have the christmas list finished, heck, it’s not even begun…I”m still in a minor denial of it and a squinting gaze of “Hmmm, how best to tackle this, this year?”   This year is a bit untethered; there are changes this year inside and out.  We are in the midst of a noticeable, keenly observed, evolution (Which is to say that we all are in the midst of the unmarked evolution, all the time, right? But this  year, I’m seeing  feeling marking it).

So, here’s what I know:  The big: in our Church we go to new, more precise, liturgical phrasing and a revamp of the missal, the liturgy of the Mass in order to better direct our hearts souls and prayer vertically – toward the holy, the divine.  It will increase our awareness of the sacred, right here, right now, and beyond. How exciting is that?  I’m sure a whole ‘nother post to come on that one, it’s that big.

The other big: my eldest is having his first Christmas with his “new family:” his Dominican family.  And while I might leak a tear here and there, and try to push (with fluctuating success) the blues that threaten to buffet me from missing him….I want him to have a really happy holiday season and just relish his new traditions.  I want him to savor the richness and goodness in these beautiful new traditions, to laugh at the quirks of his new family/companions, and to really enjoy and appreciate these holidays.  I think he did for Thanksgiving, I heard it in his voice and it made me very happy and answered my simple but fervent prayer of the day.  I want only the same for him for Christmas and Advent…and that’s the same as I claimed for myself when I started out on my own and began my own, now much loved, holiday traditions.

The smaller, but also so important: I want to accept my inevitable inability to “do it all” and not let that tank my holiday happy before it even settles in.  I want to TRY to get most of it sort of figured out and/or taken care of this coming week (Bwah ha ha ha! – hey a gal can dream!) and then I want to slow down (My friend Zoe, she inspires me).  I want to read and be PRESENT and just soak in the richness of this season.  I fail every year.  But, hope springs eternal and I’m hoping, once again.

So the stuff:

  • I will link if I can to the UCSSB Advent Calendar, daily, because it’s a goodie and  has other cool links to follow too.
  •  You know that there will be a glut of Catholic stuff, great saint feasts this month and just because golly, it’s Advent and that’s what it’s all about, right?  That’s why this season is so great!
  • I have some adoption updates and managing through the season, the landmines, kind of thoughts rattling around in my head.
  • I have life in general posts, and lets not forget this month/season begins the bithday-palooza calendar in my house, so you’ll be seeing a bunch of bday posts.
  • I have to put up wreaths, but not too soon as we keep them up til Candlemass
  • Need to help Coffeedoc find a fir tree to cut that is LESS than three hours drive away, as the kids are in mutiny regarding the schlep drive….possibly impossible
  • Need to get our Advent candles ready – done (hooray, a first!)

So you see, I have a lot of stuff rattling around in my head.  And instead of waiting to come up with profound or pithy posts, I think the  only way for me to simply and mindfully wend my way through this season is, oddly enough, to sort it out through typing and posting.  Only then, perhaps will I be able to declutter my brain and find the silence and slow there too.  So, thanks in advance for enduring if you will.

last year's school Christmas play

It’s the advent of Advent.  I love this season, not for the surface, but for the deep.   Exciting times ahead!

Last year.

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!

It’s all thematic: halloween, souls, treats, brothers…..

So, here on All Hallows Eve….happy Halloween!

But on THIS particular All Hallows Eve, I’ve got soul formation on my mind and heart.  I like to think thats a bit more thematic than simply my usual grasping for what candy I can snag and coax from my little cute trick or treating kiddos.  So, indulge me a moment….

This past weekend we had our one and only OFFICIAL visit up at the Novitiate with my eldest son.  My Chris.  My Brother Peter Joseph.

We all piled into two cars, texted directions to my Jon so he could drive down from campus and meet us too, and six hours later the whole family was together again for the first real official visit since July and the last time til next August.  It was wonderful.  And the added benefit was that we got to get to know a little bit of our new larger family: the Dominican brothers of my son…thus, in a small way, my new sons too.  (They like to eat the cookies I send, and that’s good enough for me!).

I have much to say about the visit {I know what a surprise}…but I’m tired and processing all the big emotions plus am buried in laundry and chores of re-entry (and, um, Halloween traditions).

So, until I can coherently sort out my thoughts, I want to leave you this.  It’s a little phone video, lifted from the Novice blog of Father Benedict…and because he’s such a great nice guy I don’t think he’ll mind.  The link is worth checking out too, because he’s got all kinds of interesting stuff up there and also, often, pictures of my son and his new brothers.  Now, I don’t want you to think they only sit around in cafeterias and bang around on the banjo – this was a special night and they were trying to keep us parental types entertained and happy.  They succeeded!

But, they are doing serious work up there.  They do have fun and laugh a lot too.  But, in fact, they are doing the most important work, and it’s utterly apropos to this day: they are forming their souls.  Today is the eve of all saints.  And these  young men are discerning God’s call to them in an intentional, prayerful, mindful manner.  And it’s hard work.  It’s because they aspire to become saints.  Now, I do too.  I just am much more distracted about it and keep stumbling along that long road…but we are all called to it…so to see these thirteen  young men live it, really, is inspiring and makes me cry.  Happily for us all, I was sitting to the rear left of Father Benedict so you can’t really hear me wrassle Gabey or snuff up my tears when my Peter Joseph sings and plays his guitar.  But, I did.

Roll away your Stone, by Mumford and Sons.
Cover, performed by Brother Peter Joseph and Brother Timothy
for Parents Weekend ‘talent night’ in St. Gertrude’s Cafeteria.
Thanks Father Benedict for the video (and allowing my shameless lift)
“Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine
Together we can see what we can find
Don’t leave me alone at this time,
For I am afraid of what I will discover inside
You told me that I would find a home,
Within the fragile substance of my soul
And I have filled this void with things unreal,
And all the while my character it steals
The darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek
It seems as if all my bridges have been burned,
You say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive at the restart
The darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek
The darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek
The darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek
Stars hide your fires,
And these here are my desires
And I will give them up to you this time around
And so, I’ll be found with my stake stuck in this ground
Marking its territory of this newly impassioned soul
And these here are my desires
And I will give them up to you this time around
And so, I’ll be found with my stake stuck in this ground
Marking its territory of this newly impassioned soul
But you, you’ve come too far this time
You have neither reason nor rhyme
With which to take this soul that is so rightfully mine.”

Sweet Sixteen

Oh what a day it is!

Our sweet Hannah Banana turns sixteen today!!

Yup, you read that right…she’s gonna be a driver!

I know, I can’t believe it myself.  See her up there? Those are her new wheels…..cute huh?

Ok, so she doesn’t get new wheels after all.

But she will get her license (today or in a few, depending on homework particulars, of course) and she actually is a pretty good driver…and she’d better be.

So, instead of the  usual long winded birthday post, I’ll just let you all marvel at the fact that my sweet beautiful first daughter is now, already, a sweet sixteen  year old.  I’m all kind of astounded by it myself.  A little nervous.

 But, even more, so very proud of her and who she is becoming: a beautiful capable talented amazing young woman who is prepping to go grab some shooting stars.  And she’s got just what it takes to do it.

Happy Happy Sweet Sixteenth Birthday Hannahboo!  

We love you so much and are so very proud of you!

I hope all your birthday dreams come true! 


We are seeing change.



Change right before our very eyes.

And, really, it’s kind of nice because for once we get to SEE progress instead of only try to analyze and infer progress. For my tired old mind, that’s just a nice change-up. I realize that this is a routine passage for most kids in our modern culture. But let me remind you that it is NOTHING like routine for some of our kids. In fact, for my daughter from Ethiopia, this was unthinkable. Literally, unthinkable. Not even a dream.

You see, this little girl had never been to a dentist and this little girl was so SO shy and so SO self-conscious that she hid her smile behind her hands. Sometimes, if you could delight her or make her laugh at some silly slapstick physical comedy, then her smile would light up a room. But she would quickly catch herself and hide it. Not long after we brought her home, a few months, she asked about the braces on her older sister’s teeth. She pointed at them and then pointed at herself and asked, “Me?”

Oooh. We discussed it, alone, as parents of a newly home teen. We evaluated the lack of words to convey the process, the difficulty, the length of time, the pain. We talked about it with her as best as we could, we showed pictures of the process, we looked at calendars. She was insistent, “Me? Yes, ok, please. Me?” We thought of putting it off for a long time, until she had more english, more security, more time at home. But, she can be a stubborn, pushy little gal…..and so, finally, we caved said, “We can go talk to the doctor.”

And so we did. And we spoke with him at length about the particular challenges of this set of teeth and patient. He was game to try. He understood the need to be EXTRA gentle, and slow, and careful, and KIND. He understood her need to have me by her side, literally sitting on the edge of the chair, at each and every checkup and procedure. His office and staff didn’t blink. They just did it. Kindly. Patiently. Always, always, with a smile. For TWO years.

Now, yesterday, they once again, had an appointment with my Marti. But this one was MUCH anticipated and dreamt about. This one was to remove those braces.

This one, once again, was done with kindness and gentle hands but also much pomp and circumstance to celebrate the big day: balloons, gifts of forbidden snacks (popcorn, starburst), photos, hugs, high fives. She also got her new retainer for nighttime, and practiced taking it in and out a few times to make sure she could do it well. It was fine tuned to keep her new smile all beautiful and in place.

So we have our shy girl, the one who came to a new country and new family. She said to me in her first months home that she was “No pretty,” she cried and hid her mouth. Nowadays she’s feeling pretty good about herself, I think. She talks daily of her “Magic Hair” (‘nother post that!). And, now, she laughs with joy at her new megawatt smile and when I told her she was beautiful, she laughed and hugged me tight. Her smile lights up her face and she is all grins now about that smile; she says it is “SO pretty! Me happy!” Which makes me grin.

And, just because it’s kinda perfect, there is this: when she picked out her colors for her retainer, she picked a hot pink {of course}. Then she was asked if she wanted to pick any decals. She picked a butterfly. I didn’t think anything of it, til I saw her yesterday, giggling and smiling ear to ear without those braces. And there it was, right next to her, emblematic. She has grown out of her cocoon. She has changed in her own metamorphosis.

Our Marta has become that very butterfly.

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? 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.