Hope and Healing in Older Child Adoption


How long does it take to heal the body? How long does it take to bring a child from hard places, especially places where they spent a long time in deprivation and/or sick, to a healthy level? How long does it take to say, for certain, “Ah, they are healthy now, really”?

The answer: Far far longer than you might imagine.

The other answer: Be patient, because it can happen.

Our Marta has been home for over three years. They have, at times, felt like forever. Those years have, at times, felt like a blink. She came home to us bearing scars from her past life that will never leave her, inside and out. She came home to us much less well than we expected; thought not actively ill. Perhaps, that sounds like I’m using double-speak. I’m not trying to, rather, I’m trying to be accurate because I think this discussion of our older adopted kid’s health is important. It’s not discussed at length, possibly because each child is unique, of course, and each one comes with their own constellation of issues and needs and whatnot, on every level.

Adopting older children is complicated beyond imagining. All too often that phrase is thrown out and folks nod their head and then move on. Unless you’re actually in the trenches of older child adoption. Then you might sigh with recognition, shudder with dread, break down weeping that someone else has said it out loud, or lift a wry toast of your martini in homage. But, it is – challenging.

One of the really complicated parts of older child adoption can be the nurturing them back to health. And I used the term “nurturing” not “nursing” them back to health. Because only sometimes does the child come home actively ill and needing to be ‘nursed.” And then, I presume, the transition to a base level of recovery from that illness is marked; but then you fall back into this category of health/wellness that marker is much more blurry.

We must NURTURE our older children back to health. For their heart, that nurture will be a lifetime job. For their body, it can take so very much longer than expected. Indeed, new physical issues and problems can take time to reveal themselves just because they have to get over more serious issues first. For instance, they might have a certain parasite issue that you couldn’t even know about because of their overall lack of nutrition and/or other illness or bacterial problems. It can be like peeling an onion. But even once you’ve gotten the bases covered, seen platoons of specialists and had reams of tests, you might not be there. You might think that kid is healthy now, SO much more healthy. And they are….they are objectively healthier than they were on arrival.

But health, it’s a continuum, isn’t it? And that continuum is so much longer and wider than I realized. As I said, Marta has been home almost 3.5 years. She came home just recovered from a very serious bout of TB. But she came home well. On paper. As the years have passed, we have watched her health improving in her skin, her hair, her body filling out, her immune system strengthening. In fact, I thought by last year, about this time that we had made it. We had nurtured her to a really good, lasting base level of health.

But ya know what? She had more leaps to make! Who knew? This girl had more health to gain and grab onto. I was sure she was as healthy as she could be. And she was, for that point (2+ years in). But, guess what she did? Not only has Marta finally gained about 10-15 pounds, last spring she GREW AN INCH!!!! NO kidding! I know! I was stunned myself! I had to remeasure twice, no three times. She grew. She grew!

Marta came to us as a tiny girl. Not a young little girl. Just a tiny person girl. Her age is roughly a mid teen. Her growth was stunted due to deprivation. Her growth was FINISHED by every standard medical marker. Her health got better, and we knew that she would always have compromised lungs from scarring and a big cough and asthma. We feared she’d always be first down to any bug. But, we had no expectations of her actually growing, in any way, certainly not taller. BUT SHE DID. She grew. An inch. That’s HUGE! Maybe not huge on the yardstick but huge in terms of wellness. But -and mark this- it took almost THREE years home to before she was able to grow one inch! She is healthier, she is NOT first down with any bug. Her immune system can be a touch fragile but she was one of the last to get the most recent cold in the house. Her cough is dreadful and lasting, but it’s just a cough. We got her another of her biannual chest x-rays this week. And it is noticeably improved!! Scarred, yes. But, her doc said she her films just keep improving.

How long is that? How much time and patience and work and nurture and food and care and safety and relaxing into a new home does the body need to deeply heal? Because that’s what this is: DEEP HEALING of the body. Her heart and head will be a lifetime of the same nurture, with skirmishes from hormones and trauma triggers. But her body, it’s healing. It’s healing not just on the surface with her now luminous skin and her bright eyes and her features filled out instead of gaunt. It’s healing on a deep inner level, a truer wellness.

So, how long should you expect that deep healing to take when you bring home a child from hard places? I think you should be thrilled by the first stages of healing, heck, by every stage. But, I think that I wish someone had told me to be patient and to hope for more than we first imagined. To expect it to take so very very much longer to heal deeply, physically, than I ever could guess. Don’t get me wrong, I also know that every new marker is so worth it, and such a welcome sign of healing and hope. And I’m so grateful. I’m amazed. I’m shocked that her health is still making such forward progress. It’s been so long. A second lifetime. But this one, it’s all about the healing.


Eyes Open, Marking the good: Teen Americana

Once again, I must do a post on Marking the Good.  I have posted in this series before, here, and here, and here.  The upshot of this series of posts is that all too often we (meaning, me) get too wrapped up in the hectic mill of the chaotic days and even more, trapped in the cycle of cynical.  Well, it’s a trap for me at any rate.  When you’re parenting a child with special needs and or a tough background, it’s a high risk trap: that cynical thing.  So, in order to attempt to stem that tide, now and then I look up and post some good news.

We have just had a very big event in the house, a very big event for our Marta.  Even though it’s early in the school year, our high school just had Homecoming (schedules can be wacky things, set the year prior).  About two weeks ago I got a phone call from Marta’s teacher and she wanted to let me know that our Marta had been voted as the sophomore class pick for Homecoming Court.  (Each class picks and votes in a girl to be part of the hoopla, to represent their class/grade).  Well, this year, they picked Marta.  Really!  And, because I am cynical, I had them check it out to make sure that in no way was the vote tinged with joking or malicious intent.  Now, don’t judge me.  It’s that protective thing – and you’d do the same thing in my shoes I betcha.   Anyhow, it was legit!  And so, a few weeks ago, Marta came home, lit up about “select me” to be on Homecoming.

So, we buckled up for the bumpy roller coaster ride!

Why bumpy? Why a roller coaster?  Because while this was out of the blue and exciting and kind of amazing…it also meant that we faced two big things: anxiety and ‘feeding the monster.”  Anxiety, because Marta is FILLED with anxiety over new things and needs to feel she can control every tiny detail and so on.  “Feeding the monster” because she already feels she is something of the school “Princess” and that everyone “selects” her.  So…..I wasn’t sure how to offset all that, nor was her teacher.  So, we all agreed to just RIDE THE WAVE.  (To mix all my metaphors through this whole post. It’s early, I’m not fully caffeinated..leave me be.)

So, we did.  There was a lot of crazy.  There was a LOT of excitement.  There was a lot of anxiety.  For two weeks.  And last night was the big event.  It was Homecoming on the football field at halftime! All the girls primped: the specially made dress (seamstress, fittings, oh my), the friend doing her hair after school, the sparkly shoes, the makeup by her sister, the nerves, the pictures, the buddy to escort her (Sweet boy, super nice friend).   Turns out it was POURING about an hour before the game.  Nerves worry worry (for everyone!).  Then it cleared and just left the hottest steamiest summer night of the  year.  Which is great, except for the hairdo’s….oh well.  Slice of life!  Anyhow, Marta carried it off very well. She was a nervous wreck.  She was SO excited and so happy but also so shy about being on the field that we could barely get her to look up!  Good thing we got some cute pics before!

The great thing about this whole roller coaster surfing tsunami (there, now I’ve really done it..) is that Marta felt like a million bucks.  Her sweet wonderful friends at that school made T-shirts that spelled out “We love Marta!”  How great is that?

Love these girls! So great!

Really, how great is that?  Yes, it made me both grin and blink a few tears at the same time.  And as I hustled over to the stands as the whole Homecoming court walked out onto the field, I got a spot smack in the center and handed the camera to Tom so I could shout and clap and yell with the best view.  I had her Tshirt brigade to my left and my littles by my side and her big sister and Hannah’s friends to my right.  All of them, us, standing on the bleachers, shouting and hooting and yelling for Marta.  She laughed, lit up, and looked down, again and again.

And I watched her big sis, my eldest daughter, scream for her sister and I blinked.  Because they have a complicated, jealous both ways, relationship.  And I was so proud of her too.  And I watched and grinned with my little boys and my other girls as we all yelled and clapped.  And I watched the students genuinely shout and clap for our Marta.  And it kind of made me shake my head in wonder.

This complicated tiny girl…she has a way of drawing people to her.  And it makes me laugh and ponder.  And this one night, she got the amazing chance to be a princess.  I usually hate all this kind of high school drama and hoopla.  But last night, and this time, I was grateful.  Because only here, in this special school, in our little town, would this girl  – who came  here a few years ago from around the world – be able to soak in and experience this uber-American teen experience.  And it made her feel like a million bucks.

Was it a rollercoaster? Oh. Yeah.  But, overall, a great ride!  And every time we jokingly call her a new (temporary?) nickname…..she grins a megawatt smile.  Just like a Princess….

78 Hugs for my Mom

It’s my Mom’s Birthday today!

She is 78!

And this post is short and sweet because I am visiting her, on her birthday! How often does that happen? Not so  much.  But, we had tickets about to expire so, I grabbed them and here I am!

I get to hug her in person, my goal is one for each year…she’s feeling sqooshed right about now I think.  But, she is just one of the most special people in my life and I think she’s wonderful.

She’s my mom.

I love her.

Last May, most recent pic of my sweet mom (and dad)

So glad I get to be with you today! Happy Happy Birthday!



Because it’s always about the hair…

So, I’m switching things up for a moment, because this blog is as close as I’ll ever get to a scrapbook and so I’ve gotta document this for the record (and for me ever feeble mind).

So, redirect your attention away from our more recent lofty topics of religious life and the pondering of vows and prayer and an intentional life…and let’s have some girl talk.  Let’s talk about  hair! Because, if you’re a girl, and if you’re a girl of curls…well it’s ALWAYS about the hair.  Right? Right!

Now, having five kids with curls of all types, we’ve been talking about, learning about, practicing, doing, and stewing about hair for, oh….almost fourteen years.  That’s right.  So, some might say that I’m an old hand at this…meaning a ‘seasoned pro.’  Um, literally, I AM an old hand at this.  But, I am no hair gal/pro. I’m just a mom.  A white mom even, which can well be considered a handicap.  And I’ll take all the “cut me some slack” points I can get, ok?  One of my daughters, in particular, has had an intensive hair journey, complicated by her, um, complications…. but even so, we’ve done just about every hair style that I can think of, short of color or wigs (and that I will leave to her purview when she’s geriatric)….

She’s gone from baby puffs, to baby twists and braids and clips and bling…to bigger girl ponytails and plaits and bangs and press and freestyle and on and on….

Some of  you may remember when we loc’ed our Sarah’s hair.  That was a big decision; made for many private reasons, but mostly because her hair was breaking like mad and it was the strongest safest way to get her hair to grow, and not have to fuss with her about it.  It let her be her without fooling too much (read: beyond her ability to deal) with her head all the time  And it worked!  The locs grew and looked terrific.

But, eventually, she became a preteen and wanted to conform a bit more, fit in, not be different.  So, since she already had that “feeling different” thing pegged/built in (being an African American girl w/ a half white family), I felt it was only fair to let her enter her teens on her own terms.  Now, most of the time when you step away from locs, you CUT them off.  You go back to the TWA (teeny weeny afro).  The big chop.  Because, all that hair, it’s, um, LOCKED together.  But the big chop….that was not on her wish list. A tough gig for a middle school girl.  So, I took them down. It was a job.  You can read about it here.

Then she wanted to do the press and curl thing.  So we did.  Every few weeks at the ever wonderful Mary’s hair salon.  Then she turned 13.  And you know, that’s a Teen.  Capital “T.” Yeah, makes me shiver too.  But, that meant that she wanted to flip her hair, do it herself, pull it back easy for sports, and so on.  So. I caved. I let her get the perm.  And, of course, she looked beautiful (tho I missed the locs at this point).  But, she always looks beautiful, because she is.  But, sooner rather than later, her poor fragile hair started breaking.  My heart started to seize because all those years of growing with locs and then taking them down and not cutting, the babying the hair….gone in an instant.  You don’t spend over 40 hours taking down locs to be happy when that hair breaks off.  Sigh.  Her hair is just too fragile to perm.  And IF, IF, she could manage it and baby it and take extra tender loving care of it…then maybe, maybe, she could perm it.  But she can’t.  And, before you swing your fingers to point at me, asking why I don’t do the hair care for her….she WON”T LET ME.  It’s that teen fussy thing, ok?

So over this past spring I just delayed, on purpose, the touchup of her perm.  Then I started talking to her about growing it out.  Her sister had already long decided against any more perms (though she can manage her own hair, easily, with only occasional braids from me).  Finally she agreed that she wasn’t happy about the breakage and didn’t want any more perms and maybe it was best to ‘go natural.”  And so, that is now the next step along this lifetime hair journey for my sarah.

She chose to go natural.

She is transitioning.  NO.  She WAS transitioning.  All summer.  But transitioning hair is incredibly fragile too and at the line between permed and growth it just wants to break. It’s super hard to manage.  The different textures fight with each other, in styling, in care….and the hair loses.  We limped along through the summer with lots of protective braiding and conditioning and just being easy in the summer.

But, finally, sweet Sarah, who resisted the big chop for many weeks, said, “Mom, you can cut, it, if you think I have enough new growth.”  So.  We measured.  We checked with mirrors.  And, then, we both took a deep breath and I…snipped.  Slowly.  Bit by bit in front of the mirror.  Every cut, she okayed.  “Here?” I asked.  “Yeah.”  She said.  And that is how our Sarah got her second, but better and longer, big chop.  But her big chop this time had just about 3+ inches of growth.  And it wasn’t a teeny weeny afro at all! It was a small to middle size beautiful afro.

I swear her hair sprang soft and smiling in thanks.  She did too.  She found her earrings, she found her headbands, she put her hands through her hair…and she smiled.  A few days later, she even said to me, “I think my hair looks good.”  It does sweet Sarahbird.  It really does.

My daughter.  She is strong and brave and all about the fashion….I think she rocks her afro and looks simply gorgeous.  She has amazing beautiful hair, naturally.  And that is the way it will stay…..(fingers crossed against teen crazyness)……

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.

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.

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.

Well Then….

I had no idea.  But hey, I’ll take it!  See what I’m talking about, below, or here:

In a post last fall, Br. Ambrose wrote about how great it is to die as a Dominican.  Well, that extends to our parents as well. 

Each year, Mass is offered on Feb. 7 for the repose of the souls of our deceased mothers and fathers.  Each week, one of the Conventual Masses in each of our priories and houses around the world is offered for the deceased brothers, sisters, benefactors, familiars, and mothers and fathers of the friars for the same intention.  Moreover, each week five decades of the Rosary are also offered by every friar.  In other words, parents who give their children over to the Order then receive a gift back – a regular share in the Order’s prayers and supplications, each week and every year.

What a grace it is to die not only as a Dominican but also as a parent of a Dominican.

From the OP Vocations website, of course! Thanks Fr. Benedict!

See this?  Who knew?  I’ll take all the prayers I can get, now and beyond.

The idea that all those Dominicans are and will pray for me? For us old parents?  Boo-ya!  They must know, all too well, that we need it…..


It’s the Feast of the Presentation today! Also known as Candlemass.

Oh my.  This day, this feast has such resonance for me, this year.  I’m not sure I can even write it; not fully or well enough.  It’s almost, almost, a little kick in my chest at the same time as a soft smile.

Rembrandt: "Simeon with the Christ Child"

But……this feast is when we remember, liturgically in our Catholic church, but also in our prayers and hearts, how Mary took her son, her baby, to the temple.  She was dutifully fulfilling her obligation, as all good Jewish moms did, to present her baby boy to the temple elders. Little did she know what prophecy she was gonna run smack into.  Little did she know she’d run into Simeon, Anna, and their words.  And I’m guessing she was just gobsmacked by it all.  I would’a been.  I would have been really rattled.  But, then again, I’m just me.  I’m figuring she was held up by a waterfall of grace and maybe a few guardian angels to keep her on her feet and find her breath.

There is so much to this event, this feast.  Go, read.

But this is where it gets a little personal.  Because, this year, I’ve spent, well, the past  year, mulling over this entire concept: presenting.  Presenting my son to the Lord.  Because that’s what I did.  I know, I know, ya’ll will shout at me and say, um, “HE chose this, not you.”  “I KNOW Mary, and you Ma’am, are NO Mary.” “I know Jesus, and I know your son Chris, and he is not Jesus.”  I know.  Shhh.  Stop shouting and pointing.  I’m NOT saying that.

What I’m saying is that I, a regular old mom, literally took my son, my firstborn, and presented him back to the the Lord.  I hugged him tight.  I shook hands with the other priests and novices and hugged them as I choked back tears and yet they welled behind  my sunglasses.  I watched his father hoist his few chosen possessions out of our car and into waiting helping  hands.  I stood aside as I watched him, getting edgy, wait to hug his dad, me.  I watched him  hug his dad goodbye.

The tears overflowed, I bowed my head.  I hugged him tight, kissed him, crossed his forehead, again.  Pressed my cheek to his and then gave him a weak smile as his dad and I grabbed hands and turned to go; letting him go.  I felt that pierce of my heart.  Even as I felt that swell of love too, knowing that he was going to God and to answer his call.

I let him go.  That’s what presenting is, isn’t it? In many ways, I think so.  You present and let go. You don’t present something and wrap it up tight and keep it hidden away. You present it and let go.  Open your hands.  Let go.  We miss him so.  Some days more than others.  But it’s also a great joy to see him happy and taking on a whole new mantle, add a layer to who he is and who he is becoming.  But, my hands are open now; having presented him, I love him, but let go.

So.  It’s a gift this feast.  For me, I can unwrap this gift in a new and fuller and more meaningful poignant way than ever before.  Even more so than last year, when I knew, I knew, this presentation was approaching.  Now I have done it.  I am not Mary.  My son is just my boy, my dear son, now a man.  But.  Just as any family can model in a tiny fractionated shadowy way the truths in our faith and life, so to can my messy family in our teeny way.  So, today, I get a gift of remembering that other mothers, so many, have given their child back to God.  The Blessed Mother did it, not only because it was prophesied …. but perhaps so we could have the courage to do so as well.

Today I am grateful for this feast.  It means so much.  To us all, yes.  But, oh, so much, to me.

It’s all about my brother….


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

My biggest brother, I love him.  I only see him once in a blue moon.  I hate that but, BUT, I”m gonna see him in a few weeks and I’m so excited!
He’s some special guy.
He’s a mountain man at heart, a GIA certified jeweler (I know! Cool, huh?!),  a crazy freaky fast far distance runner back in the day/decades, and entrepreneur now importer/exporter, and a world traveler extraordinaire.

He’s the kid in our family that would alway surprise you, and at the same time, NEVER surprise you.

Because with Dave, anything could happen.

And…still might.  Ya just never know….

(the infamous 70′s prom pic, with my beautiful sis next to him)
He was the one to strike out, on his own, across the globe.  Totally and utterly self-sufficient – an Eagle Scout you know – he was kind of an early version of “Man vs Wild” but without the gross out food stuff and the video cam strapped to his pack.  David can pretty much  handle anything, anywhere…unless maybe it’s a gaggle of wild unruly loud crashing kiddles….or meat.

He likes to pose as a gruff curmudgeon, but he has the best of hearts under all that and his twinkly eyes give him away.

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

He can make me laugh til I cry, he is innately witty and with that dry sense of humor he is just laugh out loud funny, always has been.

He is loyal and true and just an all around best kind of guy.
I love him to pieces and am sending him bday hugs from the south.

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

Happy Happy Bday David!  I will see you soon, yippee!

Novitiate, how’s it going?

So, my son has been at the Novitiate for almost four months.  He’s been in spiritual boot camp for almost 1/3 of a year; or, he’s almost 1/3 of the way through his intensive friar boot camp.

He has a new name, Brother Peter Joseph.  He has new clothes, for most of the time, his white habit and black copa (cape).  He has 12 new brothers, and as I’ve now begun to get to know them….they are great guys.  Now, I guess that’s no surprise, they would be, right? Well, by and large, they are.  Which is a comfort to my mom’s heart too.  It’s getting cold up there but I sent up his coat (and cookies).

Brother Peter Joseph spends his days in prayer, study, and service, with time out for basketball and hikes and music as well.  He is choir master, for now.  Halfway through they switch jobs, and they might then make his new job master of the laundry…or maybe not…  They have movie night, dvds from their library, every week.  They have game night, I think.  They walk into town for errands.  He drives now and then; every week he has a day when  his team of brothers works at an assisted living facility, doing whatever is needed to help out.  They do a lot of manual labor, they have some big projects in process around the parish and priory.  They laugh a lot, they are a funny bunch – and that makes me so so very glad too.  The brothers have class most days, but not the test/paper kind of class…more the deeper learning/study kind of class.

It all sounds kind of calm and quiet and routine.  And, in so many ways, it is, I think.  But it is carefully crafted to be so, in order to detach from the noise and distraction of this loud busy world and go into the deep; to turn the heart and soul toward God and the ear to his voice.  To listen, fully, finally, and really.  But that, right there, is where the real rigor begins.  I don’t know about you, but oy, for me to really QUIET, and listen…?  That’s a workout.  I am like a gabbling goose (I know, I know – evidently, right?!) and to actually STILL my body and mind…well it’s a JOB.  It’s actually totally countercultural anymore, really, isn’t it? I think so.  And that, the very rigor in that process, is why this novitiate year is hard.  To come face to face with your attachments, distractions, little idols, irritations and indulgences and set them aside for something so much bigger that you can’t even wrap your head around it fully?  That’s something kind of unfathomable to me.

It’s radical.

So, when my son says he’s “…really good. But it’s hard.”  He means just that I think.  It is a deep, but good difficulty.  It’s time.  It’s his time.  And he is approaching one of the hard seasons of the novitiate year.  Not the most difficult; that would be Lent.  But the next two holidays are big.  Big changes, big adjustment…for us all.  He will miss, for the first time and for onward, Thanksgiving and Christmas (and lent/Easter, etc) at home with his family.  We will miss, for the first time and for onward, having him with us.  Oh, it makes me tear up to even type it, dork that I am.  And it’s not like I didn’t know…I KNEW, even last year, that it was the last.  But, there it is.  It is hard.  For us all.  But, even so, it is good.

He says, “Please keep praying for me.”  So, I ask  you, any or all, to please keep my boy in your prayers; heck, keep all those young men in prayer. Because it’s a tough season ahead.  Jolly, yes. Joyful, yes.  And rich? Beyond description, I suspect.

So, how is it going, that novitiate?  It’s going really well.  It’s going just like it’s supposed to.  It’s hard.  It’s rich, peaceful, bittersweet, lonely, irritating, surprising, funny…it’s good.  It’s radical in the desire and the depth and the choosing of it all.  And, I suspect, and hope and pray, that’s it’s radical in it’s accompanying (divine) light and goodness and joy.

Bank Deposits, kid version

So, this is in many ways an oldie but a goodie….this concept of banking with your kids.

No, I’m not talking about the allowance or financial planning; coins and greenbacks.  I’m talking, rather, about the most important kind of banking: the Bank of Our Children.  What I mean is this, an old parenting nugget is to make sure you make “deposits” in  your child’s bank account of affection, daily.  Sounds simple, no? Simplistic even.  That very aspect, so basic, doh, makes this an easy nugget to drop or brush off. It’s easy to nod in agreement and then blithely trip along on our daily treadmill.

But that would be a mistake.

It’s one I’ve made all too often and even too recently.  This has been an intensive summer, to say the least.  You all know that.  But numerous other events and things have been cranking up the pressure as well and with that vise, something has to give.  That would be me.  Or, more precisely, that would be my equanimity and even on some days, my kindness and affection.  One of my kids, in particular, has born the brunt of this, fueled by my frustration and disappointment in some of their choices, but aggravated by the general stresses of this summer and simply, mostly, by my sheer laziness and/or burnout in keeping that razor sharp tongue and lightning fast temper locked up.  Happily, Coffeedoc is most excellent at doing this, he doesn’t fall into that bear trap of temper and intensity.  He’s the most even keeled guy I know.  Thank goodness for such gifts.

Suffice it to say, I’ve made more withdrawals than deposits in this bank account lately.

So, I’m once again, flipping back the pages to the basics for a refresher course in parenting basics 101.  And the most fundamental one is: make sure you make sure your kid knows you think they are great, good, even awesome.  Even if they are frustrating you, you (ok, me) can look ’em in the eye and kiss them on their forhead and smile at them with soft eyes a couple of times in the day.  You can tell them “I love you,” without it sounding snarky.  Really, you can.  And if you can’t, you can touch their shoulder as you pass by them in the kitchen and you can let them see you looking at them with a smile.  Really. You can.  Ok, that’s right, I can.  But some days, some of those hard brittle parenting teen days…or five year old days, or kids from hard places days…..you have to intentionally MAKE yourself do it.

That’s right, you have to MAKE yourself do it.  Because you might want to growl at them, you might want to tug their ear to get them to listen, you might want to hold up your palm toward their face and glare instead of hearing them.  But that would be a mistake.  Because then your ‘bank account’ {by which I mean: THEIR bank account of this resource too} of closeness and affection with that kid, your kid, is draining like a sieve.  And if you (ok, me) can just pull them into even a half shoulder hug….you’re changing that pattern and building that interest and that reserve back up again.

But, this particular bank account….it’s not only your best resource for happiness and heck, even retirement (fair warning children!) but it’s theirs.  For their future too.  It’s their most important IRA, it’s  an IKA  – Individual Kid Account.  And you are the steward of it.  Those deposits may seem fleeting and ephemeral, but they are worth more than platinum or gold.

The Why of It

Why do I love you?

Simple question, no?

We all ask it, don’t we?

Or more, we ask, in our hearts and heads, “Why do you love me?…Really?”

Though, I daresay, that last word might just be a whisper under our breath or in our heart.

I think, however, that it’s a question we need to ask our children.

Sound odd? For US to ask THEM? For US to ask THEM just why we love them?

Maybe it does…but here in our house, we do ask our children this.  Coffeedoc is the best at it, the smoothest. Maybe it’s his quiet voice or his comforting dad self to lean on, I don’t know.  It’s just him.  But we have so many kids from different places, with different issues, needs, concerns….that this question is one we must intentionally address from time to time.  It sounds silly, it almost feels silly…until you step through it and watch their faces as they listen closely.  Sometimes they start by just kind of enduring us beginning this.  But then, holding their hands and looking into their face, often clouded with sullen temper, or angry at an imagined injustice of sorts, or shaded with naive misunderstanding…you see them turn their listening up and they get very still.  Shadows slowly flee, muscles relax.  Because this matters, and especially at certain times it matters oh so very much. They need to hear it.  We all need to hear it.  Those stupid ignorant ideas that float about in our world, for instance: ideas like “color complex” that I want to smash to pieces but come already imprinted in teens from different cultures, (a whole ‘nother post or two, that)…those kinds of ideas make this conversation utterly necessary.  Over and over, spanning years.

The process of stepping our kids through this question is important; for all of them, each of them, individually. No matter if they were born to us biologically, or if they came to us through the process of adoption, if they are “easy” kids or “hard” ones….they all need to step through this question.  They might need to step through this question at different ages and stages, again and again; but I think, we think, that each kid needs to step through this question – explicitly, deliberately.

Heck, I need to step through this question with myself, about each one of my kids, deliberately.  And often.

But, back to the question, how we walk our kids through this:

Why do I love you?”

Is it because you are cute?

Is it because you are smart?

Is it because you have beautiful brown skin, peach skin, olive skin?

Is it because you are good, nice, sweet, funny, obedient?

Is it because you are tall, short, skinny, plump, stylish, artsy, musical?

Is it because you are faithful, diligent, determined, athletic, creative, a dreamer?

Yes…but, more: no.

Yes, I love those things about  you, maybe more maybe less….but let’s face it, there are other things, often many other things, that are really NOT so lovable. Right? Um, yup.

So, can it be I love you on these good things only? Uh-oh…those things might change! You might get cranky or fat or lazy or hurt or frumpy or grow ugly even.  It could happen.  You could lose your hair or a leg or have a brain injury or get really sick…that all kinda changes you, right? Oh no….!

No.  All those things are things I might like or not like about you.

But they do NOT define why I love you.

This and only this does:

I love you because you are Chris.

I love you because you are Jon.

I love you because you are Hannah.

I love you because you are Marta.

I love you because you are Sarah.

I love you because  you are Emmy.

I love you because you are Anthony.

I love you because you are Gabey.

I love you because you are Tom.

You are, you, are intrinsically worth loving.  Just because you exist, because you ARE.

Every one is.  I don’t have to love, personally, every single person ever.

But I have been given YOU.

And you are worth it all.

There is no measure to a life, no qualifying for value.

I love you, because God made you and placed you with me.

Because you are Chris or Jon or Hannah or Marti or Sarah or Emmy or Anthony or Gabe.

Because you are you.

That’s it.

Why do I love you?

Because you are mine.

Don’t forget.

Me either.

>Song for a Sunday

>Well, I have a shameless Mom brag today…

My Hannahboo made the Freshman Honors Choir for our region.  Auditions were Friday. Despite the choir teacher’s concerns about Hannah “distressing her voice” through her cheer practices and despite Hannah actually distressing her voice from just being too loud screaming at the pep rally on Friday (not even as a cheerleader..this was a football rally, she is a basketball cheerleader, to be precise…), and perhaps being a touch less prepared than she should have been (by which I mean, the auditions snuck up on her and she hadn’t practiced), she made the choir!

I’m so proud and happy for her!
Now, it’s not too big a deal, one performance in November. But it’s great experience at having to sing in front of real people, not just our empty living room at the piano.  She’s great at that and sounds great playing that piano and singing her pop songs…but for real, in public, and classical choral music? That’s a whole ‘nother ball game.

Of course, now she says we have to go shopping for the outfit.
Hmmm, somehow it always comes back to the clothes doesn’t it?
Such a girl.

Anyhow, this is  a happy tidbit for a hopefully peaceful Sunday at home.
Music from audition, not HER, but the piece that they had to sing, below.
Perfect for a Sunday.
I love Sundays.

>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.

>Loc Out!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that, right there, is worth the effort.

>First day: high school sister edition


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

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

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

>Frosh Retreat: high school sister edition


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

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

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

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

>Gonna buy me a dog…


I know, once again I’ve totally dated myself.  But, hey, the Monkee’s are classic in their own way, right? Right.

Anyhow, we are stepping back to normal life, sort of, this week.
Little Man is still down for the count, but the count is tapering off.  He’s a week out from surgery and his doc assured me yesterday that in a mere couple of days he’ll be a new boy.  Or, at least, back to the old boy.  Let’s hope so, he’s lost at least seven pounds; relative to his six year old body size that’s a lot and he’s looking way too skinny to make mom happy!

So, what does a mom do when she has a boy flat on the sofa for a week, and a paranoia suspicion of mice still about??
She gets a dog!
Not just any dog mind you, but a little girl pup.
Yup, we are getting a pup.
And I just know,
things are looking up!
(Who knew, getting a goofy cute puppy makes the Seuss vibe take off…)

We have high hopes for this puppy, as a mouser to be, as a new family member, as a way to help Marta learn to trust and love us even as she  helps this puppy trust and love us.   Plus of course, a dog will love you no matter your mood and without any strings attached; there’s nothing but good in that, especially if  you’re a teen from hard places.
One more being to love and be loved.

This dog has a big job ahead!
I hope it’s short little legs and small self are up to the task! She’s a piebald dachshund, twelve weeks old.  Looks a bit like a beagle (for now) with very short legs.  My dear pal and my goddaughters assure me this puppy will be a big dog in a small mouser dog body; wriggling happy fun with with a tail.

Coffeedoc thinks I am out of my mind and only grudgingly has conceded.  He’s a good egg though and he’s making his girls very happy.  Sarah and Em are giddy with excitement. Marta did the classic regulation kid begging and promising for this puppy….now, we are not fools, we know those promises will be hard to keep.  But even so, we (Ok, I) think this will be a good idea…or I sure hope so. 
Pictures to follow once she’s home…but for now….this is the soundtrack for today.

>Little Man Down


 My Little Man, my Anthony, is having surgery today.

It’s not really that big a deal, it’s the classic kid surgery, sort of: tonsils, adenoids out, plus turbinates reduced (those things in  his sinuses that are keeping my boy from breathing well, at all, and adding to his remarkable ability to generate remarkable quantities of , um, snot)

We hope that by doing this we can get this boy breathing, sleeping, and behaving a lot better, ….just feeling better all the way around.  

That may sound like I’m expecting too much from this surgery.  I’m not.  But I do know that if he doesn’t sleep, it’s not pretty; it’s much harder for him to behave and control, well, everything.  Me too- if I don’t sleep, I’m just mean.  Everybody needs to sleep, and to breathe, not necessarily in that order.  We hope this surgery can actually help make those two things happen.  What a concept.

But first we have to do the surgery and the recovery. 
Happily, it’s outpatient, and we love our doc, Dr. Lee. 
Happily, my Little Man loooooves ice cream and he will have as much as he could possibly want.  But even so, I suspect he will be one unhappy camper for a while.  
Happily, I will lift the daytime tv ban, and suffer the consequences of kid zombies and acting out in order to give my little man down something to do while he is stuck on the sofa, mending.  

But, he is nervous about this.  
I’m not nervous about the surgery, it needs to be done, only a tiny bit anxious about easing him through the recovery, as easily for him as possible.  
So, it is not a fun day today for my Anthony.
Please throw a prayer his way for a successful surgery and swift easy recovery, if you think of it.

St. Anthony, pray for my Anthony today and the next week or so!

 Gabey & Anthony at home after surgery today…best bro’s.

>It’s the Dad thing

>Something about Dad’s.
Gotta love ’em.
They can make you crazy, but still, ya gotta love ’em.
Dad, Daddy, Father, Pop, Papa, Pops, Pappy even (?), Pa, Da, Abbat, Padre, Pere,….
It’s all Dad.

And there are two dads that mean the world to me, my Dad, of course, and my Tom, dad to my kiddles.
And they are the best.

First, my dad, aka Pops – on those cheery days.
I love my dad.

As dad’s are supposed to be, he was larger than life to me as a little girl.
And I suppose in many ways, he still is, because he’s still the dad…it’s a lifetime, ya know?
He’s part of many of my favorite things:
Riding horses, yakking about everything and nothing.
Sipping hot strong coffee, yakking about everything and nothing.
Reading the paper in the morning, commenting on the news and everything and nothing.
Comparing wines, and yakking about everything and nothing….
You get the idea….
I love him for his loyalty and his steadfast grit, no matter the tide,or his opinion on my choices and my opinions.

He’s my dad, forever and always and I love him.

ANd then we have the other big dad in my life, the “pardner dad,” {I can say “pardner”, because we both grew up out west. It’s in our blood.} my Tom.

He’s such a great dad; such a great partner in raising this tribe.
He pulls up the slack when I am a slacker.
He pulls me up out of the indigo when I fall into the blues.
He can make me and/or the kids pound the table in laughter, so funny.
He is steadfast and sure, a rock to my rollercoaster of passion and mood, good or bad.
He loves his kids to distraction.
He is easily distracted by fun new adventures and toys, to their delight and my sometime consternation.
He is a born teacher, to my delight and to their sometime consternation.
His love and gift for music has carried into his children, all of them, in one way or another…enriching all of our lives.
He works far too hard and carries too many burdens; and without complaint, though he sometimes does daydream about moving to islands….
He is an adventurer, but stays close to home and it’s needs regardless, tamping down that wanderlust and craving for new thrills.
He is strong inside and out, steady and sure, kinder than me and a softie on the inside.His girls totally pegged that, right away.
His boys don’t always believe it.
But he is.
He’s the dad.
He will go to the ends of the earth for his children, and has.
He’s the dad, and we all love him so, and are so grateful for him.
I love this man, the dad of this clan.

So, I want to wish them both, and every single other dad out there, a very Happy Father’s Day!
You all deserve some kudos for a very tough, long, hard wonderful job.  
And a big thank you.
Happy Father’s Day!

>CSI: Adoption edition

>Maybe I should title it “ASI” : Adoption scene investigation.
Because ok, “crime scene”….no. But, “investigation”…yes.

Got your attention tho, huh? Good.
Because I need to call out for input; trying to figure something out.

Name changes.
Marta just told me that she had “baby name!”
NOT a nickname, a wholly different name.  
Now, I think it was so cute (and so did her mom)! Not sharing it online tho, not yet, maybe not at all (just because I haven’t asked permission, cut also because she says she didn’t like it and “13.  Marta, no baby, Marta”).

However, I want to find out what this is/was about:
1. a custom?
2. a religous event, similar to our confirmation in the Catholic church?  She is/was Orthodox, but they confirm at the same time as baptism, in infancy.
3. a legal thing, since they don’t track birth certificates?
4. something having to do with school?

Ideas? Knowledge?
Any of  you Ethiopians out there who have stopped by the blog (yes, I know, a reach, just trying to brainstorm…) have info on this?
Any of you parents of older Ethiopian kids have any info, or can ask?

Marta’s name change involved her and her father consulting with the “Abbat”, or priest, and writing it down in a book in their church for the record.  Thus, my conclusion that it might be sacramental.  However, seems upon my quick research…. maybe not.
It might just be an individual way of changing a  name as she said her dad wanted to do so. 
I don’t know.  But, our info is so limited that I am hoping to find out more.  Please comment or email me if  you have further knowledge or possible links.  Thanks all!

>Sunday, seeing beauty


Too often I fall into the trap of only seeing the kids, especially the girls, in the light of the current swell of activity on any given day.  
By which I mean, too often I’m just evaluating the state of their rooms, or the chores, or if they are dressed appropriately (not to sound like a Nazi, but you know, “No flip flops, it’s snowing.  “You cannot wear that to Mass, put on something nicer.” “Your uniform is stained, find a new shirt, please.” etc).  It’s a easy trap to step in; don’t we all sulk a teeny bit when our husbands step into this very trap and stop really “looking” at us (well on our good days….)?

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the surge and swell of the tidal pull of any given day.  It’s all too easy to stop paying attention to the fleeting nuances of expression and capturing them, both in photos and our memory.  
When they were small, we did it, showing the pics off with abandon, because they were just SO cute, so beautiful.  Now they are older, and it’s not as seemly somehow.  We are not supposed to ‘go on’ about our children.  We want to protect them from the outside world a bit more yes, but that can then become a box of “less.”  It’s more complicated now. 
Are they not beautiful enough to comment anymore?  Is this the message they internalize as we protect them from dangers outside and in?…Because so too, I tend to not want to go on about their beauty too much out loud so they don’t get the “big head.” Then again, it is important that they know, really know, that I see their beauty, inside and out. 
But Sundays are a day to relax.  A day to see again, with clear eyes.  To notice the beauty given to us in this world, it surrounds us…. all too often, without our notice anymore.


I don’t always manage it in my task oriented nature, but some days, for a moment or more, I do.  
 So, permit me to put it on the record, and go on for a moment (whether it’s pc or not) about my girls.
 Because I want it on the record (especially for their sake) that I see them; they are so beautiful. 
My girls.  
I might be biased, but, they are – simply – beautiful.

Each and every one.
(Pics courtesy of my photography nut daughter, Hannah Banana)

>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!


>This is a post about detours.


And apropos of this theme, I have a detour before I start blathering on about detours:

As I’ve been stewing about this post, this subject…a great lot of um, stuff (this is a G rated blog, right? right) has hit the fan in the Ethiopian adoption world. And I have a fair bit of thoughts about it rumbling through my brain…but those are for another post(s). {New requirements, across the board, for all families to travel twice – complicated and difficult and possibly good in the long run but a huge hurdle in the short for so many} For the moment, I offer my condolences and my ears to hear and heart to hurt for all of the children and families affected – for the cold slap in the face of worry that this news brings. But again, it’s too easy to slide into the tempest of this news and start fretting aloud and repeating everyone else’s words, and those who are in it, right now. And I’m not. I don’t own those words. So I won’t go there, not today. Maybe another day, ya never know! But I will probably also go off on a tangent or two…as I said, this just opens up so much fodder for pondering and processing, for me anyhow, which means, of course, for you!

Back to current post:

Anyhooo. As I said, I’ve been stewing about detours. It’s hard to write all this because it’s close. It carves right under that spot in your chest, right in tight to your heart and lungs. So if you cut too close you kind of gasp and can’t breath, and you hold your breath as you talk closer to it, so that you can be really careful. Because you need to protect your own heart and also the hearts and breathing of the ones you love. I don’t know, it’s hard to make this make sense. I know I’m not making sense, and yet, this disclaimer must be put out first. Because its a raw spot. But it’s also a spot that needs to toughen up, heal, move forward and that only happens by bringing it out to the light and looking at it, and thus, this post.

Right. Now that most have clicked away out of confusion and impatience, it’s just us friends. Hey there.

So. A few times in my life, parenting life mostly, I have had some detours.
Scratch that: Ok, any life, my life, yours, we all have detours because no life goes as we initially plan it. Then it would be dull and boring and unsatisfying.

But I’m talking about the hard turn detours. The ones that have you ending up somewhere you never dreamed, parenting wise. Others have written beautifully about all this. I don’t seem to be able to (again, hence this post). Probably the best known piece on this is here, known as “Welcome to Holland.”

So, I’ve been to Holland, figuratively speaking. And you know, while the place has it has it’s beauties, it’s still a tough landing. And we have found ourselves detoured there once again, recently. And you know, this “Holland” is a complicated place. And like all control freaks (me), that detour thing?…..it makes you (ok, me) want to kick and fuss and whine.

Because I don’t like detours….because they weren’t in “THE PLAN.” And that PLAN, well, we are, were, supposed to follow it. I mean, I had it all mapped out, you know? Knew where the bumps were, the turns, the scenic spots. Knew the time to get to our destination, and the best roads to follow. Heck, had even traveled it once or twice before. And when you are sent on a detour, even to somewhere with it’s own intrinsic beauty, well, we control freaks kind of um, freak out a bit. Maybe we get frantic, or very quiet, or very deeply indigo blue. Maybe we stop trusting. Maybe we question if we ever did. Or do. Maybe we stop looking out, because the view has changed. And we get stuck with the rut of “but.” As in, “But it was supposed to be Italy, not Holland.” Or, “But, it was supposed to be in the PLAN, page 42.”
And maybe it takes some time to realize that those detours are for us.
Those detours are for us.
Those detours are given to us by God himself.
Not as a punishment (because they are challenging, sometimes very hard, so it is easy to mistake them as such).
But as a gift.
A gift.
To call us back to Him.
To love Him better, right now.
To call us out of ourselves.

To save us from ourselves.
Those detours are not to deprive us/me of Italy.
That detour, this Holland, is to break our/my grasp on my own deadly vision: Us. Ok, me.
Finally, I realize that my struggle with this detour is me.
Of course.
It has been ever so painfully shown to me (thank you Fr. Luke, ouch) that struggle is in my unwillingness to look….beyond my own miserable me. My plan. My day. My feelings and desires and needs. Those very things are what drag me into the indigo abyss. And that is not where I wanted to be or choose to stay.
And I forgot my prayer.
I – not so long ago – literally prayed this: “Save me from myself, Oh God, send me a child, the one you choose.”
I forgot.
And He did what I asked.
Eight times.
Oh, dear, how could I forget that prayer?

This detour is for us. For me.
It all just IS for the child — They haven’t detoured. I have.
And they are waiting, pretty patiently for the most part, for us/me to step off the plane and start walking with them.
Really. Not grudgingly. Not counting the steps.
They are waiting to show me Holland. Again. Or – their Italia.

This blog, this post, helped me realize that it’s ok to get frustrated with the detours.
But it’s also ok to say the heck with it all, and we can make our own “Italy” right here.
I knew that, right?
Yeah, on the good days.
But I keep forgetting.

But, you know what?
I want to go to Italy.
I love Italy!
And who says we have to be stuck anywhere…..because detours are all about seeing new places with new eyes.
And I want to create some Viva Italia, starting now.

>Song on a Sunday

>Because I miss him.

That’s my boy: Buddybug.  Ok, Chris, in the middle on the keyboard.   Playing the last time of the semester with his friends Katie Buetow (cello performance major), and Daniel Tostado (former vocal performance major) at Legends, up at college.  And gosh, a sad song: a cover of Ben Fold’s “Fred Jones.”I know I’m just the mom, but I think they sound good…and it’s nice to hear him sing and play.  
Note: I’m not techno-literate enough to get it the video sized right and keep Katie from being cut off.  So if  you’d like to see her play (and she is terrific, I love watching her play…ah a cello…) then go here to see it full size and full resolution.  And yes, Chris does need a shave!

>Tom’s Home….and Chris is headed off to adventure.


Tom and Cindy, the invaluable nurse on the team, flying home; 
thanks to the generous Haitian pilot Jorge Paulhiac who let them  hitch a ride.

Tom, Coffeedoc, is home! It was a long haul home, but he made it safe and sound. Chris, Buddybug, is gone….off to Rome to study for the semester.

In less than 24 hours we’ve had incoming and outgoing bags and packs and airport runs in both directions.  A revolving door to this house this week.
The good part is that Tom is back and we are all so very glad!  And we were all glad to have had one last family dinner together last night, and for Tom to be able to see Chris a bit more before he left.
Was it hectic?
You betcha!
Was it worth it?
But of course!

So, to follow this new adventure in Buddybug’s life, go here.
He’s gonna post from Rome, often enough to keep us all happy.  Or so we can live vicariously, or virtually, and follow the fun, frustrations, faith, liturgy, beauty, silliness, art, food and adventures of a semester in Rome.
That’s the plan at any rate. 

As for Tom….I think he has some decompressing to do.  I think it was a great trip, seems like it was a good team to work with and much good work was done.  And I know for him it’s very satisfying and rewarding to be able to go and do all this. He loves doing it…on so many levels.

There were many folks to help unfortunately, due to the quake. But happily enough, many docs and teams working hard throughout the country.  Tom enjoyed working with other docs from all over, and was glad to be able to!  Docs and teams might pop in, lend a hand and move on.  Other areas would send patients over to Cayes Jacmel, knowing Tom and their team would fix them up.  It was a nonpolitical effort of focusing on what needed to be done by all; the Canadian military did an outstanding job securing the area, getting runway lights (by the time Tom left) and opening the road back up to Port au Prince.  So it was a good trip.

But, it’s never easy either.
I forgot…when he comes back from Haiti, there is always some re-entry decompressing and sorting out to do for him.  For anyone I expect.  It is exhausting as well as exhilarating, on all levels.

Evening at the Hands and Feet Children’s Village project.

That’s the nature of this sort of thing.  It happens whenever you (ok, I) travel outside of your sheltered, carefully crafted and whittled world – you/I have to recalibrate, take in all the sights sensations sounds smells, the spears that pierce your heart.  And then you/I have to sort of heal it up. For yourself/myself.  That is not to say that you make it all disappear.  It can’t.

But… this trip is his story to tell.  I’m just observing from the sidelines.  But I see it, that jaggety little edge. And I want him to feel welcomed home, and have time to settle back in and refresh, recoup, re-enter life here too.  

It’s the juxtaposition: the beauty and the hard.

 On all levels.

Just like when we’ve gone to Ethiopia and elsewhere….you get a little bit torn, a bit of you is sheared off.  And you have to learn to live around that scar once you are back home.

It takes a bit of time.
And even with all this, it’s so worth it.
I am proud of him, and also so glad he’s back.
And for Tom?  Well, he’s a little tired, but happy too, quiet.
He said it’s wonderful to be  home.

We think so too.

>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!