I’ve got Bowie rattling around in my head this morning…oh heck, all the past week.  It’s an odd new year of change for me/us round here.

One of the big huge changes for me/us in the coffeehouse: I brought my baby Gabey (who is NO baby…ahem) home to learn yesterday.  By which I mean, to  homeschool.  It was a tough decision, we all LOVE his teacher!  But, I’ve been stewing over this one a lot, haven’t been able to let the idea of it go.  Up til now, January, he’s LOVED every bit of school.  He’s asked “Is it a school day?” with eagerness and anticipation in his voice.  When he got his little kindergarden worksheet packet on Monday’s, he’d insist on drilling through the entire thing in one setting (to my amazement and glee, for a change, a kid who likes homework!).  He wasn’t jealous of his big bro being home for school with me, it was all “See ya later, let’s go!”  I’m not sure what changed.  I think, developmentally, we are in one of the downswings of that attachment cycle: you know, stable/secure/confident then swinging down to insecure/shame/clingy-fussy-angry.  Well, no learning can take place while a kid is fearful or angry.  Combine that with the reports from his teacher, corroborating what I saw here and worried about, that he is shutting down in class. Skills that he zipped through before the break, are now being woven together and he’s hit his readiness limit.  Seeing that it’s not clicking, he shuts down; an unhappy boy, waiting for them to move on.  He comes home angry and begs, clinging, to stay with me.  When he does stay here, he’s his loud lively cheery self, but with added hugs and snuggles for me.

So, the decision which seemed so tough for a month or so…is not so tough after all.  And it’s done.  He’s home for now.  Where he can work through this uptick of those deep worries on security and his value and place in his family.  He can do this deep work on his own time, in his own way and through play.  He’s home where he can move at his own natural pace to be ready to really read and have the time and space to sing loudly all day (his current mode) and to think whatever thoughts he wants or need to think.  Big brother is pretty happy about this new shift, mostly, there will be some spikes of jealousy here and there, and also more chances for them to work out the skills of taking turns and negotiating and patience.

Little Man is back to himself in the most literal way.  He is off any and all adhd meds and that has brought his sweetness back.  Annnd, it has brought his hyper energy and impulses back like a Tasmanian Devil…whirling and leaping all through the house, most all the time.  He has the attention span of a squirrel, fascinated by any and all things that flit through his peripheral vision or notice.  But he is a happy wild, rather than an angry wild.  So, it’s a huge wonderful shift for us, even as I have to totally rethink  my approach to him and his learning.

As for me, it all is part of this tide of change.  I’m adjusting to my “new ears.” I’m liking them a lot! Heck, just to cut down the number of hours a day I hear that infernal ringing/tinnitis…these things are a godsend!  I am switching to contacts, and might have found some that work with the  new mulitfocal technology (science can be so cool!); because the space behind my ears for glasses AND aids is just too dang small.  Wearing both at the same time hurts.  Contacts are kind of wonderful, liberating.  And I feel like myself from years ago in a way, even though I keep trying to push my glasses up on my nose when they aren’t there.

This  year is beginning with a bang.  For me to know that I need, and in a way, want, to bring my little boys home to learn? Whoa, that’s a sea change.  And, truthfully, not without me dragging my heels.  My selfishness knows no bounds and I am sort of wincing at the extra work and doing and lack of privacy/my time and such.  It’s why Gabe didn’t get pulled out a few weeks ago. Why yes, I AM that selfish, indeed.  Took me a bit to kowtow to the need of it.  Shocked? Well, see, I had considered myself to be done, Done, DONE with homeschool.  But, never say never, even when you’re old, eh?  I’ve got some other big changes that I’m pondering for the blog too…but that’s another post, closer to Lent, I think….

So, for now, here we are.  My little boys are home.  I have to approach this a whole new way because they are totally different kinds of kids than the big kids, when I home-schooled them.  I’m hoping for a more relaxed approach, a trust in their ability and desire to learn. They certainly have that whole CURIOUS, investigative, always into something, part down.   So, I think we will be alright.  The trick is for me to roll with it: the changes, the new mode, the mess, the noise, the mess, the ACTIVE-ity.    But I’ve got new eyes to see and new ears to hear.  Literally.  Ha!  So, I”m all in.  Me and my boys…..

rainy sunday

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.

Marking the good: Play-dirt

Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Child fame, has a few common phrases she uses a lot.  These are fun and, even better, they stick in your/my head after you’ve listened to her for a few days at a conference.  One of those key terms is “pay-dirt.”   You all know this term, and use it too, I bet.  I say, “score,” some of you might say “all-right!” some of you might say “booyah!”  I don’t know, but you get the idea.

So, I have to mark the good, again…this time with Little Man.  As you know, we have brought him home to school here, with me.  We need to work on laying deeper tracks of connection; these should help his learning fly.  That’s the theory and I’m pretty sure it’s a good one.  That said, it’s a little bit of a steep learning curve on how to work well together.  We are working on finding the right rhythm to our days as well as the right stuff to work on.  We are making good progress I think, too.  But I’d be lying if I said it was without fits and starts (literally) and without some meltdown and temper.  Recovering from those breaks in connection can be challenging.  For both of us.

One of the great things about the timing of this conference I attended a few weeks ago {and there are many}, is that the importance of that connection was reinforced, many times over.  Tools to find that connection were laid out, and tailored to some of the challenges that can push it back.  Attachment can be hard work, and happily for so many of you, you don’t need to fully “get” the concept or do that work.  But we do, in our house.  We do for so many, I dare say all, of our kids.  Because our family is non-traditional and most of my kids have come to me from a tough start.  And that, without fail, means attachment work is paramount, ever.  WIthout attachment, the train stops (another Purvis’-ism‘).  And my goal, for all my kids, but especially this Little Man…is for that train to be cruising at it’s full speed.  And I think that speed is, someday, going to be supersonic.

So, what I have found is that the best of homeschool for him is the DOING with ME.  Not that I’m all that; but for some reason….he seems to crave that connection with me, go figure.  And I’m feeling just the same way toward him. But, of course! However, as it does on any and/or every day…our train stops.  It breaks down.  His mood can change on a dime.  A flash.  And then, he’s gone.  Disconnected.  Angry.  Unreachable.  Pushing back and away.

While he was IN school, regular school, my mode had to be “the enforcer”…much of the time.  “This is the deal, get it done, gotta do this, due tomorrow, c’mon buddy, enough, ok?” Basically sitting on his head to make the list get done. His list, my list, the family list. He didn’t like me much, much of the time.  Heck, I didn’t like me much, much of the time!  Now, in homeschool, we still have stuff to get done.  But we are a team with it. That’s how we’ve structured it, so far.  He is doing some stuff independently, because he can.  A lot, we do together.  We read every day on the sofa together: history and good fiction.  And he snuggles in and we talk about the connections that leap from his freaky smart fast brain.  If I need to reel him back in even closer, we will pop some popcorn and munch as we read, chilling…together.  Pay-dirt.

But, there is still a need for me to set myself aside.  For this boy.  To find that pay-dirt.  And now, a few times, it has been a need that I have to step myself through, with hard focus and intention.  Stupidly.  But still.  Like this: last week he had a big ol meltdown one day.  Big.  Angry.  Loud.  I found myself getting loud back and very frustrated.  All that Purvis stuff was GONE.  Not in MY brain, or mouth, or head.  Finally, I thought to just sit near him.  Let him be angry but if I was quiet and stopped pushing, his mind could reset from lockdown and open up again. I hoped.  But I was tired, so I wasn’t sure.  After a bit, he pulled out his lego’s with questioning eyes, “Can I?”  I nodded, still going for quiet.  So he started piecing them together, constructing his fantastic imagination in front of us.  I watched.  Tired.  Discouraged.  A fair bit blue about how to offset these meltdowns.

After a few minutes he looked up at me and said, “Mom, will you play with me?” And I looked into his sweet face, now wide open and seeing me again.  I looked at him.  He looked at me.  Both of us, tired but open to each other, again.  Now, did I WANT to play? Um, sadly, no.  I wanted to go to my own space, read, potter around, decompress, mix a martini maybe (kidding!….mostly)  But, I also WANTED and NEEDED to reconnect more than even those more grown up options.  So, I said, “You bet.

So I snapped legos together and helped him look for one he needed.  No big deal, right? Ha! I say.  A big deal.  More: Pay dirt.  No, Play dirt.  His level.  Connected.

Play dirt.  The best kind.  And so we begin again.  And it’s good.

Eyes Open: Marking the Reading Good

So, I have done a few posts on “marking the good.” I call these posts “Eyes Open” because too often I run around with my hair on fire and I forget to open my eyes to see the goodness abounding or the small flickering glimmer.  So, now and then I luck out and it runs smack into me.  

The other day (I would’ve put this up sooner, but again, hair on fire, crazy busy w/ the freight train slow savor of summer) this bit of good literally barreled into me as I stood, per usual, folding clothes.  Marta rushed over to me from her room, carrying a book I had handed her just the day before.

This book was one where had she rolled her eyes at me.  I had been on a jag of pulling books and old homeschool materials out of the bookshelves, working up a lather on getting the kids to ‘get busy’ during summer.  The freaky slow simmering fire drill of many kids loafing around the house, bored or soon to be bored, or not nearly  bored enough because they were finding ways to maim themselves was already on my nerves.  So I had started a minor rampage through the house.  When she protested against that idea, stating firmly that there was no homework for her over the summer I just grinned a big grin and said “Oh yeah!”  And when she said her teacher only said “Read” during the summer months I said, “Okay!” and loaded her up with a few books to take.  Like, five small ones.  If I had dumped all of the books I might have in mind on her small self she would just shut down.  I got a glare and a sigh and a big eye roll.  Then she disappeared and the books with her.

I forgot all about it, went about my day or two putting out fires, folding laundry, cooking, swapping laundry, cooking, picking up towels, folding laundry and cooking.  But, as I was, um, folding laundry and thinking about what to cook for dinner, Marta came darting over to me, holding out a book with a grin and jabbering.  I had to slow her down, take the book and examine it and then grin at her.  I asked her to tell me about the book.  She did. I asked her if she read it.

She said, “Yes! Very good book! Black girl, very sad, last {page of} book very nice, so nice very happy.  Black people white people girls very friends.  Very good book!”  I dropped my laundry, I hugged her tight and told her how cool that was!!!

Now, I don’t want to make too much of this….ok, forget that, this is big.  Huge.  I know that she read more of the key words and skipped a few others. I  know that she looked at the pictures to help decode the story.  But, um, I believe that way back when I was a “Miss” that was still called ‘reading!’  That is the whole process: decoding, using cues, figuring out  meaning through context, bringing it all together to  make sense.  And, that, that is exactly what she did.  My Marta, read a book and followed a story arc.  I don’t think she was or has read this book before.  Not by me.  (Adrienne? {-her teacher} Let me know if you see this…).  So, you could quibble and say, she didn’t read every word and understand every single word.  But here’s the deal: Marta read the book, she understood the story.  She got excited about it.  She totally related to that scared little girl, which is a whole ‘nother post, I know.  Still.  Let me say that again: She got excited about it.  I mean, LIT up.  Which lit me up.  We knuckle bumped, we high fived, we hugged and grinned stupidly at each other.  And I was simply thrilled; as much as she was.  Seriously.

So, I am proud of her.  I want to go on record and mark that good. It’s SO good.  Reading is power.  No  matter who or what, thats the bottom line.  Reading opens up your world.  It empowers, excites, helps.  It’s huge.

So what’s next? I don’t know. {Yes, I do: more laundry and cooking and reading!}  But I do know I promptly got on Amazon and ordered all the copies (used, this is an old series) of the Scholastic First Biographies I could find.  I’m excited. I’m marking the good with a big shout out.  It’s an” Eyes Open to Read!”

>Kiss me, I’m Irish!


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

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

>Look Who’s Reading Now!


Little Man is reading!

As a mom, not to mention a homeschool mom, this is a pretty big deal!
These are a couple of the books he got for his bday, in the new amazing Leapfrog Tag system (how do they do that?). No, he’s not really reading those yet, it’s just a cute pic.

But he is actually reading – decoding letter sets into understood words and short sentences.
Yes, it’s just the “Bob” books, but we are all pretty thrilled.Anyhow, this is one of those things that kids come to on their own time frame, I’m convinced. Some do it sooner, some do it later…but only when they are ready. But no matter when it happens…even these tentative baby steps, it’s just exciting.
I told him “Reading is power, if you can read, you can do anything!”
We both think that’s just cool, and true.

Now, if only they made the “Bob” books in Amharic…..then maybe I’d be reading too!

>Struggles and Cheers


homeschool live blogging – it’s been a crazy day don’t judge me

This afternoon, struggling with the final draft of the infamous book report:
Miss M, “Mom, can listen to Beethoven while I work?”
“Um, sure.”

Any homeschool mom would be so happy!
Ok, truth in posting: dang, it ended.
It didn’t last more than two songs.

But I’m counting it as hope for the future!

>Writer’s Block


No, not getting much done, lots of procrastination…
We are having writer’s block here.
The kids at least, in all different ways.

It is the Week O’ Book Reports in our little homeschool. Some public school have teacher ‘in-service’ days. We have “teaching in-service’ days where we do intensive focus on some hard stuff. Almost always: the dreaded book report. There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth…..and the kids don’t like it much either. Ok, kidding, mostly. It’s a time of high drama and I remember how much I hated essays and reports until I learned that it is like a puzzle and let that whole perfectionist side go and realized that writing is editing (unless you’re blogging…kidding, mostly).

So we girls will hang in and keep plugging away at it; revamping those outlines and retyping those drafts, mom’s red pen at the ready. It might be a long week…
Turns out, we are not the only ones with writer’s block. Buddybug too, has writer’s block: songwriter’s block. Now, as the mama, I shouldn’t probably point out that he is in midterms and shouldn’t really be worrying about writer’s block…..ahem. But then again, as he and his roommate and pals have determined the source of his lack of lyrics:

Not too long ago, Steph and AJ figured out why I have this lyric problem.
It’s kind of a threefold reason: I’m not in love, I don’t hate anyone,
and I don’t spend my free time tripping on LSD.

I think I will be just grateful they are all so smart. It’s not much help for his sister’s this week, but gives me one more reason to be grateful for this great kid, erm, young man.
And I would post a link to his music, but it usually makes me tear up and also I can’t figure out how to do it and lastly, back to his writer’s block, I don’ t think I can post cover’s without copyright legal gobbledygook. So, it’s just pics. You can hum along tho’!