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.



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

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

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

He’s such a goofball. Oh, and who is that in the background? My dear friend Jen! From http://morganleapoffaith.blogspot.com/

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

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

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

Teen Green….

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

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

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

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

Michael D. Edens, “Jealousy”

It’s wearing me out.

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

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

Moms?? Experience, tips…anything??

Canary in a Coal Mine

That’s me. The mom, I mean.

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

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

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

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

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

I want to, I choose to, sing.

…and to cook. Always. {Sunday brunch}

Building trust in older child adoption

“Trust me.”  Such a simple phrase.  We say it all the time.  The problem is, it IS said all the time, by all kinds of people.  Thus, it becomes meaningless, or worse, a sure marker to do just the opposite.

So, given that, how do you build trust in older child adoption? Well, that right there is the million dollar question.  And if I had the short answer and the sure fire key, I’d be a buying a house on the Big Island.  But, I don’t.  I don’t have any pat answers.

When you adopt an older child, trust is the huge issue.  It is the elephant in the room.  It is a barrier like the Berlin Wall, some days.  I wonder if it is a bigger problem or issue corresponding to the aging up of a child.  As we adopted a teen, we find it a big prickly deal; a frequent barrier.  Big.   So, part of me wonders if the younger a child is at placement, the easier it might be to build trust again? But, I’m sure that’s naive and it’s also a bit of “grass is greener’ thinking, so don’t flame me.  I know it must be also dependent upon their prior history and background and trauma and attachment and on and on.  But even so, TRUST.  It’s the holy grail in so many ways for us adoptive families, isn’t it?

Trust, or the lack of it, is such a barrier.  We each tiptoe to the wall of it and peek over the side now and then….sometimes we wave.  But it is still there, sharp and solid between us, all too often.  She doesn’t trust us.  Not yet.  At almost three years home, not yet.   Oh she trusts that I will have dinner each night and that we will drive her to events and I will get her new socks and wash the dirty ones.  But the big stuff, or even new small stuff? No.  On the flip side of that coin, I need to trust her, fully, too.  And, I don’t.  Not deeply to the core.  (Shame on me? Perhaps. Indeed.) OH, I can give her the benefit of the doubt…but even trust on my side has a ways to go to be fully rooted. (And, really, when you’re talking about teens in general…I think the motto needs to be “trust, but verify.” So we’re already in a caution/hazard zone to begin with.)  For you folks who have a relatively recent adoption of an older child, take note.  Things take longer than most presume.

It’s a funny thing about Trust.  It cannot be GIVEN.  If so, I would have heaped it upon my hypervigilent teen daughter, and had her soak in vats of it in order to have it seep into her pores and bones, and heart and mind.  I would wrap it around her to tamp down her anxieties.  Heck, I would weave a shawl from it and keep it wrapped around ME; for my own trust issues.  However, it cannot be given.  It must be EARNED.  And it has to be EARNED in each direction.  I have to earn her trust; she has to earn mine.  Mine for her is further along, I understand her very well now and can anticipate most of her behaviors, even as some frustrate and wear on me.  Her trust for me, for us?  Well…that’s a thing that might very well be a LONG time coming.  And of course, I hate that.  She cannot understand so much of this new world and culture and family.  Her disabilities make this so terribly much more difficult, she cannot understand always the steps we take or what we say/do when we are working for her good. Her trauma background, the hypervigilence and anxiety that result just  throw fuel on the fire of her fretting suspicions.

So  how to earn trust? I don’t know.  Truly, I don’t.  Other than just walking the walk and putting in the time and proving to her, again and again and again – in the small things and the big ones –  that we always work for her best good.  Showing her that we mean what we say and we say what we  mean.  “An elephant’s word is 100%” 

How do you moms ALL deal with these trust issues? I’d love to hear how they are handled.  Right now, I suspect the best answer is simple: “Time.”  But, as an impatient mom, I want to pull a Ronnie Reagan and say, “{Mr. Gorbachev}, tear down this wall!

Regarding the Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, they surround us.

The media blitz of this book/series/movie is inescapable. Most or all of you know of them, have read or seen or surely heard about these books and now, the movie. If not, go here (or just open your newspaper or peruse your news feed). I know of them too. I read them, the whole series, last summer when my eldest daughter grabbed onto them. I figured I’d better figure out what they were about. Happily I’m a faster reader than she is and so we could have quite a bit of discussion as she read through them. And, sure, they are a super fast read, a page turner, even as they make you feel kind of sick with the disturbing games… So, I have a lot of thoughts about them, but that would be a whole ‘nother book review post.

The primary topic, for me today, with these books, this movie is this: These books/movie are marketed, hard, to the teen and PREteen set. I understand that, as the main characters are kids themselves. But the storyline is so brutal that I have some serious reservations about that (My rant on the disturbing trends and actions in the advertising and marketing world would be a whole ‘nother post. I’ll spare you, today. You’re welcome.) I’ve read lots of different parental takes on these books/movie. I’ve dithered a bit too. On the one hand, I have support for this stance regarding the series. I respect this mom and her views and she has much parenting wisdom. I read her article and say, “Yup. Yup.” But on the other hand, I think that, as a mom, I can’t hide from it either (I am not saying she is, to be clear). I have to discuss it with my kids. I have to discuss either the actual content and story, and/or I have to discuss they why’s of why I’m blocking it.

When I do block a movie or book series, it is typically due to age appropriateness (ratings) or blatant lack of redeeming…anything. Horror movies, gore, terribly violent movies, overtly inappropriately sexual (these often have that R rating tho, helpfully). However, this series HAS some redeeming themes and actions. The movie is rated PG-13. I have heard the movie shows less on screen violence than the book; though you can still not dispute, the whole issue is kids killing kids. And that is irrefutably evil and disturbing to the core. However, it’s not as simplistic as a Freddy Krueger movie.

All this is to lead up to where I’m at now. After first blocking it, I finally decided to let my Emmy read the book. She knew the story, in detailed retelling from her classmates, anyhow. At that point, we were already having the necessary discussions. The natural evolution of having an informed discussion is to go to the source. So, I figured at this point it might be best to have her read the source. That way we can now have a fuller broader discussion of the good and the evil and disturbing; the “hows” and “whys” and “what about thats?” So. Maybe they will see the movie. Maybe not, I don’t know yet. Yes I will see it before that decision is made. But first, always, read the book….and have lots of conversation. Not lecture. Conversation. Because on a good day, that’s what books should engender: conversation.

And, my hope is that we can mine this media blitzkrieg and these stories for learning…..about the media hype machine, for starters. We can look at the uncomfortable parallels between those very Hunger Games in the dystopian future and wonder if that future is not here, almost, right now as we cheer and boo at the ridiculous and banal on much of reality tv, or on the multitude but yet attention-sucking compelling reality competition programs. And, yes, also about good and evil and sacrificial love and human spirit and even, as Fr. Barron points out, a LOT of historical connections. Fascinating, and cool!

Take a look:

white mom, black son: the raging heartbreak of Trayvon Martin

I try to choke down the news, the nightmare, of Trayvon Martin this past week.  This is such a big thing…..and I feel but a shadowy glance of what his mother must feel…but feel that mother heartbreak, I do.

How can I even begin with all this?  I have wrestled with this all week;  what happened,  what is happening, how to process it, for myself, my prayers, my family, my kids.  Wrestled with writing about it.  Or not.  As I have nothing profound to add, I keep thinking, “Don’t.”  But, as I process by typing….I need to.  So, onward type….

I am a white mom.  I am a white mom to five kids of color. I am a white mom to eight kids in all.  But, make no mistake, what is important today is that I am a mom to two black sons.   I am a mom to one young black son who will grow into a rather large black man.  This boy, my own sweet son, he is on my mind as I read the news, pray for his mom and family, and try to sort my furious whirlwind sorrow over this.

Trayvon Martin.

I knew.  I have known.  I have known and thought and considered how my own sweet young boy might be perceived as he grows into his height and build and ages up.  And I have been trying to begin his instruction for that time: “Strong men are gentle.” “Strong men are kind and good.” “Strong men control their actions.” I knew I would have to give him more particular instructions as he became an older teen.  Some of these instructions I gave to my two older sons, my white sons: “If you are pulled over, keep your hands on the steering wheel.” “Do not talk back, just say ‘Yes Sir, no sir. Be respectful and direct.”  But now, I realize that soon, too soon, perhaps even now, I have to begin to introduce some different rules to my son. I have to train him to see another possibility: that he might be presumed to be criminal simply due to his deep beautiful brown skin.  As many writers point out, he might be guilty of “walking while black.”  And that makes my heart break, and it makes me churn with anger….no different from other moms.  I might be a white mom. But I am a mom of black sons.  And that makes me worry and pray in a special way for my children.

The death of Trayvon Martin makes me so angry; hurt for his family, hurt for the injustice, hurt for this innocent kid….. It’s unspeakable.  And yet, of course, we must speak.  I’m not adding anything to the dialogue spreading like wildfire around the net.  The outrage over this story is building; it’s set in motion what we can only hope to be justice.  And yet, even with that justice, the investigation, and yes, hopefully, the arrest of the Zimmerman…..I feel conflicted.  I do not want to join any bloodlust chorus for revenge.  Revenge is hollow, empty, nothing.  Justice is needed.  And so, I will unite my prayers with those across the world, for the repose of this innocent’s soul.  I will unite my prayers with those across the world for the comfort and peace and courage for his family and friends and community.  I will unite my prayers with those around the world for justice.

Because here is what I think.  I think this was a racist act (the reported racist slurs make my blood boil).  I think this was unconscionable and unspeakable senseless violence.  I think an innocent kid was murdered.  And the only way I can reconcile all this is to say…..Zimmerman, he is a broken man.  How can he not be? That is not, even for a a moment, to dismiss what he did, or have that be an excuse.  There is no excuse.  But, he is a man seemingly filled with rage and paranoia and racist bile.  But, even so, surely, now, surely…he  must realize what he has done?  I haven’t  heard if he has.  But surely, in his core, he knows.  He knows.  He must.  Trayvon was a child.  That alone, should shatter him.  That, right there, is where I need to look in order to be able to choke back my own rage towards him and try, try to find a way to pray for him.  I need to find – to beg for – the Grace to pray for his remorse.  My husband points out that he needs our prayers too.  And so, I pray for that grace…to be able pray for Zimmerman too…..for his justice, yes, but also for the mercy of deep true remorse and understanding in his soul.

The news on this keeps breaking through the cacophony of our busy days.  And it should. We all should be outraged.  We all should shout for justice.  We all should be shocked.  And we are.  But, while we all weep and pray and should and do and will continue to pray for Trayvon and his parents and family…as the call for justice rings out ……I pray we find a way to change our nation and heal the rage and ignorance that simmers just below the surface.  Because until it does heal and change….

my anthony

…all of our sons are at risk.  Perhaps not of such precise shocking immediate violence.  But certainly they are at risk – or indeed perhaps they are guaranteed – of a loss of their innocent hearts as they learn the hard lessons of being a black young man in America.  As a mom of a young black boy in America, Trayvon is ‘my son.’ He is all of our son’s.  God have mercy on us all.

Eyes Open: Marking the good, again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Let them grow

So, it’s Monday again.  A whole week zipped by!  Well, maybe ‘zip’ isn’t exactly the word I would use, if I was being precise.  Rather, the week lurched and slogged and bogged and wept and pulled and pushed and shoved itself along.  It was, by and large, a deep indigo kind of week, for me.  So, I went for silence.  But in the silence, this old brain is always on the spin cycle.  Not that I’m saying that that is a good thing.  But there it is.  Spinning; always turning.

Which means that for me to begin a whole NEW week, I need to clear it out. Hence, housecleaning! Hence, a post! Yay!  Booboo went back.  Jon returned to campus.  He was ready.  We never really are.  But I know it was time.  Hopefully he is safe and sound, as it was so late last night that he didn’t text me upon his arrival….I’ll feel better after I hear from him.  But his departure has me gelling some of the swirling random thoughts and actions of this new year, so, here we go:

We moms, or me/mom, have a tendency, I think, to hang on so tight.  You all know I do.  {Maybe this is just an American thing; my french sis-in-law doesn’t have this angst.  Maybe because we are, by and large, such a pampered nation, and we have the utter luxury of raising pampered kids.  So we hang on to them, not tighter in love than other moms around the world, but rather, tighter in attempted control in many ways.  But, I digress.}  Yet, I’m working hard on not so much now; on relaxing my grip a bit.  The loosening is working hard on me.  You wiser, older moms (ARE there any of you out there, older, I mean???? Wiser, surely! But, older? Hmmmmm) already know this.  But, we have to let them grow, up and out and beyond.  And it’s harder than it seems.

When these cute little kiddles are tiny  babies, we are SO in the moment, right where we should be.  We are so fixated, so sleep deprived, so intensively needed that we can’t really be anywhere else.  And, that’s a good thing.  But, soon enough, the baby does sleep through the night, or at least a FEW hours and then we are on to wondering when they will sit, crawl, stand…walk! And, that’s it.

We cheer and whoop it up and marvel at it all.  And we urge them on.  Until, oh about Kindergarden.  Then, they are stepping out, not only out of our lap in our living room, but out the door and into the big world of school.  And we cry.  We moms, we shed the tears and our heart breaks just a bit. Oh, we cheer them too, but with a pang.  And so it continues for the milestones: losing teeth, first grade, middle school, first teams, then high school, teen stuff, jobs, makeup, big humungous mens’ size shoes, driving (extra oh!), dating (extra oh!),  and the biggie: graduation and off to college and beyond.  Whew.

Now, it’s easy, and right and proper, to say, “Of course we cheer them on and guide them through the milestones! Heck, we work our fannies off to get them there and through; physically, emotionally, logistically and financially!”  And we do.  We all do.  But, and now I’ll speak for myself here, I’m just saying that there is maybe, sometimes, a tiny tendency to hold them back.  It can be subtle.  But, all I’m saying is that it’s all too easy to kind of think, “They’re not ready for_______ (fill in the blank)“.   And, really, I’m talking about the small mundane things.  You all KNOW when your kid is or isn’t ready for a sleepover or a camp or a phone or whatever.  But the small day to day things: the chores, the expectations, the bedtimes sometimes, the capabilities….it’s easy to hold them back.

I guess I’m saying that sometimes I might short shrift my kids.  I underestimate their growing up.  Or, I want to close my eyes to it.  But, eventually, the teens need to shave, a small boy reeks and MUST wear deodorant, every day, they really can take a bike ride through the neighborhood without me, or walk the dog alone.  The older son(s) really can take trips on their own steam and dime (yay for that one) and be safe and have the time of their lives.  They really have the judgement to make their own decisions about the big stuff.  The high schoolers do too, on more than it seems.  Or they will fast if I remove the the unwanted safety net of checking on grades and work and whatnot.  Frankly, no matter what I want in some of these realms, those decisions and actions are out of my control anyhow.  They are theirs.  Not mine.

I do them no favors by holding them back or trying.  I must, and want to, let them grow up. Now, I believe in sheltering them when small from  some of the hardness in this world. But my scope there is more limited than I wish and better they learn it from us, with guidance, before they learn it wrong, potentially, from someone else.  With some of my kids, in a multiracial family, some  of those lessons must come sooner than I wish as well.  I have to let them, help them, grow up with wisdom and courage and strength. But to over-manage them, especially after their capabilities are ready for the challenge, does them a disservice.  As a control freak, that is a trap that I can easily step into to, and scowl at the misery that ensues.

So, I guess this post is a reminder to me that my kids will be better and stronger if I let them grow up, into the people they were made to be, rather than clinging to the small youth that they were.  Because they are not, anymore. Even the baby, he is five now.  Sure, a little boy.  But, he too, is growing fast.  And while I am pretty sure that I will always, always, cry at any goodbye…..I hope to embrace and cheer the markers and milestones with less pangs.

To see the change as another layer to the remarkable person this child, that child, is growing into.  No loss.  All gain.  More and more.

Resolutions Redux: simple tuneup?

So, Christmas is now, really, finished.  I have just spent the morning taking down all the decorations and stowing them, vacuuming the needles, giving thanks for having my college boy home to help.  I’ve also completed a minor existential meltdown, and am now lurching out of the hangover from it.  The only way I know how to move out of a surprise trigger overwhelmed exhausted meltdown is not – as my dear husband suggested with concern – to take a nap and blow off the chores.  Rather, it’s to brainstorm and take a clear hard calculating look at just what isn’t working in this house and problem solve to fix it.  I’m guessing that once again renews my membership card in the “Type A” club.  So, yup, you guessed, that takes me right zippity back to those shaky resolutions!

As I ponder those loose resolutions of last week a bit further, I see a trend. I know, I’m a little slow on the uptake, you all were way ahead of me.  Bear with me.  But I see that what I am really yearning for is not just order and control, though of course I am (by my very nature) ALWAYS seeking order and control…but rather, what I’m yearning for is the peace, PEACE, that comes from an orderly manageable life.  I always have my worst snaps of temper when I feel overwhelmed by just having too too many things to do and not enough help to do them or time to try, plus too many moods and attitudes to surf on top of it all.  I’m not saying that to excuse my OWN temper or mood, but rather to sort it through my own dense thick brain stem.  So yes, mom fail today.  Ok, daily, on small to big things, but still……

To allay that sense of kicking through the chaos and detritus in my house, literally and metaphorically, I am kind of resolving, here (eek, publicly)  to resolve a bit better.  (I know, still hedging…..baby steps people, ok?).  But instead of simply resolving to tighten the budget or declutter the house and/or get my aging legs in gear, I am resolving to order the systems in our house a bit. To simplify.  Simply: I want to create a haven.  Our home needs to not only be the required stopping spot, the dumping ground of backpacks and groceries.  Rather our home needs to be a peaceful, happy, haven where kids can come and breathe deep and with a smile.  I want that “Ah” feel, that exhale.  It needs to be  “AH, HOME.”

Too often that exhale gets sucker punched by the latest kid snit or tantrum or pushback; the waves of moods (and their disordered mood/selves, for some, for reasons just beyond their control) can pound our little/big family.  This morning I daresay it got sucker punched by mine.  Sigh.  So.  The need is there.  My desire to do the job to make the systems work for us all to be able to have a calm ordered life, amidst the hustle and bustle, is palpable.  Thanks to my dear son for stepping in and helping with all hands on deck this morning, lifting me right back up.

So, to fine tune those resolutions: Yes, I am being frugal at the market and glad for it.  Yes, I am considering the media firehose that is aimed at my teens, in particular.  Yes, I am decluttering and ordering the house some, but more so, I am eyeballing the systems in place  and tweaking them (laundry/clothing/closet systems, storage, smart use of space to minimize clutter/effort).  And, I resolve not only to take better care of myself by exercises that bring me endorphins AND solace, but I resolve to get enough rest/sleep because I just don’t have the buffer any more to, um, buffer the stresses.

So, Christmas is now finished. We are back to Ordinary Time, liturgically speaking.  Which is ok.  Now is the time to find and order, our ordinary home.  I’m not  promising perfection. But I want to just try to make a little progress.  To simplify a few things.  That will be a good start.  Baby steps, one at a time.  First up, the little boys’ room.  Whoa…..Onwards.


It’s the Feast of Epiphany! I love this one!

The Star of Bethleham by Burne-Jones

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another path.” Matthew 2: 1-12

"Halt of the Three Wise Men" by LaFarge

Now, there is much to comment on about Epiphany….between the eastern and western traditions, the customs, folklore, liturgy, prayers, food (cake!) and so on.

But here is what I think about on Epiphany:  Men came from afar.  Far.  Like traveled and schlepped and persevered.  Following the glow of that star, with wonder and halting trust and maybe some arguing about the wisdom of such a journey (but hey, maybe I’m just projecting my own mode here…it could be…). But, for me, one of the nuggets is that they, quite literally, stepped out in faith.  Followed, but a dim light (sure it’s a big ol star and all, but heck, it was DARK and it was far)….and they kept on taking the next step.  They endured the journey.  Persevered.  They followed.  They followed not because they KNEW for sure what was up or where they were going.  They followed in faith.  And, they were rewarded with seeing Christ  himself.  And a baby! Which is always an automatic grin, right there, but Christ and the Holy Family?  Well, that had to just be a marvel and an awestruck wondrous smile.  They could see touch smell stand in his presence.  And I suspect, if we could but ask them, they would say that it was worth it.  Totally.

Today on this feast, that’s what I’m holding onto.  Following the light, hoping to stand in the presence and  joy of that same light when I finally get there.  In the meantime, following with hopeful perseverance.  That’s my epiphany, today.

Happy Feast Day!  Rejoice!

Finding Silence in the Chaos

So, it’s the night before Christmas; only a few hours of it left. Finally, a small silence is descending upon the house. Not a complete silence, no, never. But, for the next, oh, HOUR, it’s as quiet as it’s been in weeks. {Although, realistically, by the time I post, that hour will be GONE baby GONE.}

The small boys have finally fallen to sleep; though I have to wake them in an hour to get to midnight Mass. Even so, I’ll take it. Two of the girls have fallen into drowsy snooze, another is doing hair and the eldest is quietly playing piano. Coffeedoc is resting a bit, chilling before the last big push of Advent: again, that beautiful rigorous glorious midnight Mass. Granpa G is downstairs, snoozing no doubt. Booboo, well, he’s either still out sitting with his sweet girlfriend or he’s gone down to play some music himself. I have 20 minutes before I need to change, myself, and then launch the troops.

Amidst all this hustle and bustle…oh, who am I kidding, amidst the bedlam and wild careening boys and snapping moody girls and the hoisting and toting and then clanging and speeding of time and bodies and lists and on and on…I’ve found myself wishing for that silence of Advent. Wondering where it went and how to find it. I’ve been craving that, but simply yearning for ANY kind of silence, inner, outer, body, mind, soul. I have to admit, I’ve despaired a bit, here and there, of finding it this season.

But as we wrap up Advent, I am rethinking that despair of missing it somehow. I’ve changed my mind a bit. I think that I have inadvertantly found that deep, that silent part of Advent. Over the past few days, this past week especially, the conversations I’ve had with good friends, my kids, my dear Tom, have struck me. It took me some stewing over it to parse out the why of it. But, what I’ve found in the moods and tears and needs that I’ve listened to, see, felt, held, soothed, paced about, vented about, jangled through my own self, prayed about…is that it’s in there still; that deep after all.

This is a kind of tough transitional Christmas here in our house due to big changes; to Chris being absent. Thus, the whole traditional everything….isn’t. It’s hard to polish up a tradition when one big piece of it is missing. It’s easy to hang onto what it WAS and what it seems it should/must be. But, the very challenging trick is to accept that it’s morphing into something slightly new, slightly different, yet essentially the same. And this year, well, this year there is some twinge of sadness over that. Hard to do. And it seems that Advent isn’t supposed to be about the blues or grief or fussing or worry or hating change; at the same time it all seems too loud, too busy, too jangly, too much, and somehow so very much not enough.

But that’s it! Right there. That’s the whole of it, in a way, isn’t it?

Advent isn’t Christmas. Not yet.

Advent is that whole wait and prep for Christmas. It’s that wait for a messiah. To save us/me. And so it only makes sense to my old brain that if that is so, then yeah, Advent might be a boatload of work and trying to make mountains move and fail and fuss and kvetch and whinge on and on and worry and just be out of sorts. I mean, the Virgin Mary had to ride a donkey into Bethlehem as she was beginning labor! Talk about having a hard time maintaining the cheerful can-do attitude! Ya think she wasn’t sad and fretting and just wanted to get off the road and settle? Um, I betcha. Kinda like Advent. Maybe, just maybe, we are supposed to recognize that our lives (ok, me, mine) here are not, cannot be, just so glitzy blingy perfect in every way no matter how many bows we stick on them and no matter how many hours sitting in traffic we log. Maybe, just maybe, we are supposed to see it, live it, do the physical bodily weary work of it so that we can cry out with joy when God descends to JOIN us and come and live with us….to save us from our selves. Maybe one of the key parts of Advent is really the process of it. Even in the midst of the wrapping the cutting the taping the labels the cookies the dishes the finding jackets and gloves and retying shoes…we actually, by doing the job in front of us, are preparing our hearts to rejoice, finally, fully, for real, at the birth of a savior.

Well, I guess that maybe that under all those tasks and sighs and clanging and banging….there is a deep work that is happening. And it’s silent, so easy to overlook. But, I really think it’s there. I’m counting on it.

And now, I am going to go dress for Mass, wake my kids, nudge them as they grump through the dressing and driving, smile at Tom when they fall asleep in the pew and then bring them back home and tuck them in bed. Because, I think I’ve found the silence I was craving. It was there all the time. Deep and still under it all. Which means I’m almost ready to sing. Merry Christmas…almost……

Finding Buddy

Ok, I’m trying.  But it’s a toughie this year; more so than others.  But I’m trying…. It’s a deliberate decision; an intentional choice.  

Let me clarify: this season of Advent and Christmas is being a bit challenging on finding and holding my “christmas cheer.”  By which I mean, we are overrun with hard this year, in particular: we’ve got RAD behavior and  meltdowns flying all over, we’ve got final exams taking their very ugly snipy gripey pressured toll, we’ve got the keenly felt absence of the eldest, we’ve got a little of the same biz and financial pressures that so many – oh, all of America, the world over even – are feeling, we’ve got some kids not very well regulated with their issues and behaviors…the list goes on.  And that list, that “not nice list” that I just typed out…well, it’s been kind of crushing my spirit.  Which means, it’s been kinda crushing the warm glow of this Advent season as well ’round here.  

So,  yesterday I made the choice.  I decided to lock Scrooge away; to close the door on him, turn the key and walk away.  I don’t wanna be Scrooge.  I don’t like him.  I don’t like me, as him.  So, I decided that I didn’t need to face any more ghosts or shades of what it coulda/shoulda be or has been….and sulk about it.  

From Scrooge, Classic, Illustrated by Arthur Rackham

 I decided that blues or no, RAD or adhd, bored or happy kids, we still were gonna “do” Christmas.  I owe it to the kids still here, the little ones, the big ones, the grownups even.  We owe it to each other…to embrace this season.  Sure, there are hard things; some of those RAD explosions are breathtaking and not in a good way.  But, none of it is gonna be better with wallowing in the hard and so we are gonna move through it, dragging our brightly colored lights and tinsel right through the meltdowns and the anxiety and the moods.  I will do what I can to sit and calm the kid(s) who need it. I will do what I can to check in with each kiddle daily.  I will do what I can to offset anxiety about changing schedules (new daily schedules posted, endless rechecking and confirming as requested).  I will do what I can to BE PRESENT.  But I’m gonna stop waiting for it to settle or be perfect.  Because it’s not gonna be.  This Christmas and Advent is different.  It’s a challenge in it’s own unique way, this year.  

So, I’m gonna “fake it til we make it.”  Or go down trying.  Maybe it will distract the ones who need it.  Maybe it will jump start those festive elfin feelings…in me, heck, maybe even the kids and husband.  The dog is looking more chipper already, I swear!  So, to that end, yesterday I went and gathered decorative sorts of things and I put them up….started a few new traditions even, maybe….and made the house start to look like this is a special season, set apart.  {And, yeah I know, messy kitchen and not much to see, but I TOLD you I was starting small, ok? Those snowflakes are small but tacky silly fun dangling there, made the kids say “ooooh!” Hence, worth it; don’t judge me.}

silly snowflakes, just for fun and sparkly magic

I might have even brought in a sprinkle of magic dust to make the kids go “Oh!”  Ok, I did, and  it made me very happy to see their faces and hear it. It did.  It seemed to work; at least for the evening.  

Now, we still have another day of finals to get through.  But then my college  boy is traveling over the river and through the woods. He will be arriving home this weekend, hopefully with a big ol’ tree in tow (or on roof).  Just that, right there, is gonna add a fair lot of Christmas joy around here too.    

simple but a far site better than totally bare like before

By golly, by elf……Christmas approaches.  It’s a season of magic.  We may or may not be as giddy as some years…but we are gonna try.  Forget Scrooge.  We are channeling Buddy.  

I’m feeling a tiny glimmer more sparkly already.  

Turn Key in Adoption: Forgiveness

So, I’ve written about turn key’s in adoption, specifically in adoption adjustment and attachment.  If you’ve read my blog  you know that I talk now and then about various keys or concepts in the adjustment process; the turn keys are the ones that seem to really matter.  At least they do ’round here.  If I was really organized, I’d  have them all on a separate page about adjustment  in adoption.  But I’m not that good a housekeeper, even on blog.  In the meantime, if you want to check out the other posts in this series, go here, go here, go here, here, here, here, here, and here.  Whew.  I didn’t realize I’d written all those posts over the past few years.  Guess this is something we just keep dealing with and I keep processing.  Um, yup, yup it is.  If you are parenting an older adopted child and/or a child with hard history or issues,  you might well be in the trenches too.  If you are, read on.  I’ve been thinking and that means I gotta write.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about attachment lately, due to the awesome Empowered to Connect Conference and ongoing discussions with Coffeedoc.  But also, just the intensity of parenting these past few months has been kind of insane.  I’ve also had some great conversations with friends lately, one more recently got me thinking out loud and hence, this post.

Anyhow, attachment in adoption is a long, nuanced process.  Adjustment to a new family for a child is a long, nuanced process.  It takes much much longer than most folks realize.  Indeed, it’s a lifetime, isn’t it?  Well, yes, of course it is.  And, to stay thematic, there are turnkeys to that process. These are some critical components that can help the process along.  These keys can open doors, to the heart of a new child, to the blending of a family.  But one of the keys, one of the most important keys to attachment in the whole adoption process is a key that is for the mom.  Ok, it’s for the new child and for the sibs and the dad, the whole family.  But, the blingy diamond studded key to this is maybe, especially,  for the mom.  That key is FORGIVENESS.

Ok, set down those flame throwers.  Hang on. Now, attachment is a two way street.  And it’s so SO SO easy to forget that.  We adoptive parents turn cartwheels trying to heal and help our new kids, to check off the copious list of attachment markers and tools.  Are we nurturing, feeding, tutoring, clothing, rocking, walking, singing, playing, holding (and on and on) this new child?  Can we sit out the storm and hold them through their grief, weather their rage, calm the fury, be present through it all?  Can we help them feel safe, can we help them feel heard, can we help them trust?  Yeah, it’s a big list, in more ways than one!  And each and every one of those items on that list is so big, so important.  And each one is critical in helping these kids attach to us, to their new family, their new lives – to bridge from their past to the future in the now.

But the one factor that doesn’t get talked about too much is the attachment flip side.  It’s the dark side of attachment when you’re adjusting to an older child or a child from hard places or with tough behaviors.  It’s so easy to have the best motives and intentions.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the honeymoon of a baby or toddler or new older kid and the romance of it all.  But you know, that honeymoon ends and the romance fades and real life  happens.  Sometimes after, oh, twenty minutes.  Some of you might get a little more lead time.  But sooner (20 mins) or later (20 months), real life hits ya.  And you realize, maybe this isn’t exactly what you expected.  Sure, sure, you read the books.  You took the classes.  You heard the experts and knew the possibilities.  But, a raging storming angry grieving child in a textbook is quite a very different thing than a raging storming LOUD angry crashing grieving child that is turning YOUR ACTUAL household upside down.  And who continues to suck the time and attention and sometimes very air out of a room with their need and the seeming impossibility  of meeting it.

That’s precisely when you need to go looking for your keys.  Take a deep breath, look at your key ring.  Remember, touch that kid, tears are ok, food and dinner is safety.  But, look closer.  There is a small but shiny, flashy diamond key on your key ring.  See it? Grab tight.  Look at it again.  It’s the key of FORGIVING.  Because, ya know….that’s YOUR key.  For you.

You have to forgive that kid.

It’s easy to forget that, though it sounds shocking to say it out loud.  (And don’t flame me, ok? Try to understand where I’m coming from, read the blog backwards if you must).  But that hurt scared little kid, or big teen, didn’t ASK to have this change, this adoption, this move, those hurts, those losses, those disabilities, that complicated brain chemistry, that rage, this new family…you.  I don’t think anyone stands in a cosmic line asking to be handed a big bag of trauma and loss, please, and then “Please, sir, can I have some more?” discombobulation, dislocation, and grief.  Even so, those things are no picnic to be instantly parenting either.  Thus, there is a chasm.  And the only way to cross it is to bridge it….with forgiving.  You, for YOU, have to forgive that kid for the uproar and commotion that is happening in your family.  You have to forgive her for her lack of ability to cope.  You have to forgive him for the tailspin that you are in, due to the dance you two are slamming.

You have to forgive him, not because he needs forgiveness, but because YOU need forgiveness.  You need to lift that burden of responsibility OFF your new child.  And off of you.  Neither one of  you would choose this tough path.  I betcha you’d both rather just instantly fall madly in love with each other and go have ice cream as you feed the ducks in the park.  Well, that’s for Spielberg and  the movies.  What’s true is that you cannot love what or who you cannot forgive.  And you can’t like the one you can’t forgive.  That’s how it’s set up.  That’s the deal.

But ah, forgiveness….?

It heals.


That’s how it’s set up.  That’s the deal.  So, if you can’t intellectually do it, pray for the grace to do it.  It’ll come.  You may have to do it over and over and over.  I hope and pray that my family forgives me over and over and over.  I need it that often.  And, because they are my family, I expect them to try.  And because this new little (or bigger) one is your new family, because you COMMITTED to them, then you need to try too.  That’s how it’s set up.  That’s the deal.

We forgive each other.  And if we turn that key, then the door to healing and love and even like…and maybe even attachment…it opens wide.

Tweet Parenting?

When correcting your child, anything over twelve words is too long.

Whew.  Eleven.


I went over. Again.  Fail.  Sigh.

See how hard this is?

That’s a direct and thought provoking quote from Dr. Karyn Purvis and the Empowered to Connect Conference from a week or so ago.  As she so eloquently puts it: Anything longer than 12 words goes into the ‘blah-blah-blah category (OK, so it’s a paraphrase…she actually acted out the Peanuts Teacher Talk Sound – see video above).  Well, I know this, I do.  But, this was/is always like a shot between my eyeballs as I, as you know so well, cannot speak in short simple phrases.

Our modern techno world and social networking should help with all this I think…..you know, it’s a kind of “Tweet Parenting” (I want royalties if you use that term now….) But, as you know if you follow me on twitter……I can’t do it.  Can’t type that way either.  Don’t really tweet – word limits and all.   Sigh.  So.  Something to work on.  No wonder my kids ignore me…..but I’m working on it, see?:

“Use  your words.”

“Please find your shoes.”

“Don’t hit your brother.”



“Teeth brushed, yay!”

“Pee! Good job!”

“Hop in bed!”

“Time for our song!”

“Do you want to hear the story?”

“OK! Sleep tight!”

“Back to bed.”

“Lights out!”

“Really, back to bed.”

“No cookies IN bed.”

“Lights out, that means off.”

“Sshh, your brother is sleeping.”

“Back to bed, means IN bed.”

“I’m going to bed now, you stay up then.”

“Lock up, eh?”

You see what I’m up against……like I said, a work in progress……

Because it’s mean. That’s why.

This video is worth the watch.  Even if you don’t have kids who have special needs…in this  culture that is so hard and so harsh, we need to remember this.  We need to take a stand for what is right and against what is wrong.  I have issues with this term.  I have kids who have special needs, say what you will about the term. I have kids who fall ALL the way up and down any spectrum you wanna hand out.  That’s the beauty of  having a big old family.

But, the hard truth is that our culture is changing for the worse on many fronts and it’s hidden in bling and lightening fast flash.  And our sordid facebook/kardashian cultural decline is impacting a wider swath of our children than we realize.   My own Cyber/Facebook screed coming at a later date…..meantime, watch this, watch the whole thing.  And brava to this young girl for taking a stand and for eloquently making a difference.

Take a look, you’ll be glad  you did:

h/t to Love that Max

Attachment tools and signals: the bandaid.

Kids love Band-aids.

Right? I mean, don’t you sometimes think, “Doh, why, oh WHY didn’t I buy stock in bandaids?” Because your kids go through them by the gross. Because you commonly walk into the kitchen or bedroom and find little discarded fluttery piles of bandaid wrapper remnants, left behind. Because, as you stand in the market and eyeball the different kinds and colors and characters and compare the ridiculous prices relative values of the choices…you think, “I went into the wrong line of business. Forget plastics. I should’a gone into bandaids. I’d have that Bahama beach house already!

No? Ok, maybe that’s just me. I admit it, I’ve been chintzy at times on the bandaids. The bandaid for the invisible booboo, it used to make me (way back when I was much younger of course, ahem) blanch at bit. Then I finally relented and thought, “Meh, whatever helps. Fine, get a bandaid.” Heck, I got all magnanimous and everything about the bandaids. I let. It. Go. Big of me, right? Sigh……

Now, after this Empowered to Connect Conference, my eyes have been opened anew to the beauty and wonder of bandaids!

No kidding!

First, the good stuff. And sure, maybe you hip and savvy moms already had this all figured out. And I’ve had my moments of understanding too, give me a little cred…but still…to have it visibly on big screen shown to me and 900+ other parental unit types….well, it brings the point home: bandaids are a fantastic tool for attachment and healing. What’s more, bandaids are a great signifier of same. What’s that? YEAH! That endless need for bandaids, if brought to you, can show a trust that YOU are the one to help heal a hurt, however small or vanishing. Right. Do to be clear, it’s not actually about the bandaid. I just use that for the catchy title. It’s about the need to be nurtured. It’s about trying to reach across that gap in trust..to grab onto your kid on the other side.

Let me back up a moment. In this conference last weekend , one of the first videos that Dr. Purvis showed was of a ‘nurture group’ (I know, the titles make me squirm sometimes, thinking how my kids might react to that term, but, still…) with teen girls in a residential treatment center. Now, I’ll tell you, I typically come to these resources thinking mostly of my newest daughter, adopted as an older child. It’s been a tougher road that one, and it’s easy to get a little stuck on the ruts there. But this video instantly had my hyper focused attention, because one of the girls reminded me so disconcertingly much of one of my other daughters. This other daughter does manifest attachment issues but due to brain injury/trauma/behavioral stuff and the sheer complexity of her little self. And it’s easy to forget that her issues are so there, there. But Friday, I sat up and had that klaxon clanging; because I could’a been looking at a possible future glimpse of my girl in manner and general attitude. Not a certain vision. A possibility. Key point, that.

Anyhow…This video was about the idea of asking for help, for nurturing, by asking for a bandaid for a hurt. And this girl, in the video, she couldn’t or wouldn’t do it. Not in that session anyhow. And Dr Purvis was her usual wonderful accepting nurturing self and didn’t make a big deal of it. Which means, that acceptance allowed/empowered that very girl (by report) to soften – she did ask for that bandaid help, the very next day. Presenting the idea of being accepting to opening up the avenue or idea of healing, allowed this child to be vulnerable enough to take one baby step forward to admit she might need a bit of it. Just one bandaid’s worth. Hugeness.

And what that also shows, is that all those zillions of times your kid(s) come to you for bandaids? Ask YOU to look, see, kiss, comment on, PUT the bandaid on their invisible or visible hurt?

Attachment, people!

I know, you already know all that probably. I did/do too, most of the time. But when you are in the trenches and/or parenting one or more kids from hard places or with needs or whatever…well sometimes that reminder can be a brick on the/my head. And the daughter that we fight so hard to find a way to, to attach to and her to us? Well golly don’t ya know she’s come to me, oh, let me think here, about 700 times I think to show me an owie or a bump or an ouch. To see it. To hear it. To kiss it. To bandaid it. Sometimes it’s not even real, really. Sometimes it’s somatic. I’ve rolled my eyes over it as she walked away. Shame on me. Because I should’a gotten on the table and danced. As Karyn Purvis pointed out this weekend, “That’s paydirt.” I can’t have long conversations with her about her attachment and her issues. She has delay issues that prevent it. But this doesn’t need conversation, it works at any level. And it showed me something that made my heart and head go “zing!” Our issues with her are less attachment than I thought all this time. Our issues with her are more cognition and anxiety (and those are many, but still…). And yes, some attachment, especially when the anxiety makes the survival skills raise their ugly head again. But, still, not as MUCH attachment as I presume too often.

Those hundreds of hurts, of complaints even, of owies that I wondered about in dismay for the past two years….”Really, you fell in the bathroom again? Your knee? Oh, ok, I’ll kiss it. Be careful, ok?” Well, even though we weren’t GETTING each other totally…we were still stepping through the attachment dance.

And it counts.

Are we done? No! Not for a lifetime, I’m guessing. But have we made progress I didn’t even see?

Oh. Yeah.

And my other daughter, the one who I had hyper radar sighting in the video? The one who does/doesn’t have attachment stuff on any given day? One of my other complicated kids? Well, we’ve had some more connected progress after this conference. Not perfection. But strides, steps. Screwups too; me. But, she’s asked me to kiss her forehead and cross it each night at bedtime and getting out of the car at school this week. And Monday she stepped on a toothpick. It hurt. And guess what?

She wanted a bandaid. No, she ASKED ME for a bandaid.


Wanna know what I said?

You betcha honey. Which one would you like? “

Zing went the strings of my heart.

St Vincent de Paul: for the orphans…..

..and the widows and the poor. This saint had the big heart.  The heart that, maybe, darn near broke from compassion.  The heart that put compassion first foremost and above all.  So, for all you adoptive families and mission going gals out there – he’s your man.  Heck, for all you guilt ridden, distracted, interrupted moms out there (ok, me…), he’s a great saint to consider hitting up for prayer.  He gets it. And, it’s his feast day today!

I also gotta wonder if he wasn’t one with a sense of humor, another joyful saint.  I mean, look at that face. All the paintings and images I’ve ever seen of him show that smile and a little spark in his eyes.  Love that.  But, I digress.

Anyhow, he’s French, from the late 1500’s.  No easy time that.  But, enough, to distill what he was about, I can do no better than to excerpt one of his letters (from this morning’s Office of Readings):

“It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible.  If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind.  Offer the deed to God as your prayer.  Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of god’s works is merely interrupted so that another can be carried out.  So when you leave prayer to serve some poor person, remember that this very service is performed for God. Charity is certainly greater than any rule.”  {From St. Vincent de Paul’s epistle 2546: Correspondance, entretiens, documents, Paris 1922-25, 7} 

Now, c’mon moms, does that not describe your every waking moment days in a nutshell? I think so!  It does mine.  What? I’m not surrounded by the poor? Well, not in the common sense of the term, no.  However, the poor are the little among us too.  They are the ones who need help, the ones who have no voice or a very tiny small one, the ones who might get overlooked. The poor get dismissed, either because they are the classic newspaper image of poor, impoverished and not just outside our door; or because they are children, our children even, and we forget their needs are so mighty as well.  So,  yeah, they count too.  Overwhelming? Poor ALL around us?? Well, yeah.  But, happily, we get props for trying to connect and make a difference, one glass of juice at a time, one band-aid at a time, one ear to listen, to serve, at a time.  I believe it.  The trick for me is remembering to DO it.  Again.  And again.  And again…well, you get the idea.

St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us!

Post Conference Post

So, here it is, Monday.  I didn’t have to travel to and from this conference (hooray) like so many did.  I’m still reeling from re-entry a bit though.  Don’t get me wrong, the conference was great.  Just so much rich stuff to digest and consider and even the gifts to still relish….plus of course, the inevitable extra need of the kiddles who didn’t have me for two whole days (and of course that means that somehow EVERYTHING is a minor emergency, from english notes to missing shoes).  The house looked like a minor tornado had ripped through, and I even came home to eat and sleep {not to look around or actually DO anything productive tho, obviously} !  So, not to complain but it’s a bit of an exponential Monday here: Monday to the 2nd power.  The usual Monday-ness combined with missing three days of laundry (oh the horror) and referreeing nurturing these kiddles, with a layer of still really pondering and soaking in the words I heard and the ideas that were refreshed, and an icing on the cake of smiling about good visits with new/old friends.  Just so much to filter and relish.

So, in other words, this conference was pure gift.  To me.

My challenge, now, is to be able to pay forward that gift to my family, and maybe a friend or two who will graciously suffer through my yammering about it.  Yes,  you clever people, that probably means you.  You know I gotta post a bit.  And I will.  But first I have to go flip a few loads of laundry, and dig out, er….tidy a couple of small one’s  bedrooms, and make a real dinner…..you know the drill.  Plus I am on the deadline clock for packaging up a bday present for our Bro Peter Joseph.  I made four – that’s right, four – cakes yesterday so that he can  have his favorite birthday cake on his special day.  But the whole novitiate gets to have it too….it was a “Day O’ Baking.”  More on that in the  bday blog post to come: Wednesday.

These two were only a few of those waiting for me to get home....cute tho!

In the meantime, let me say this.  If you ever wonder if it’s worth it to go to one of these Empowered to Connect Conferences…I’d say, heck yeah!  I’ve already seen some of the payoff. Sure sure, I know, it’s a honeymoon. I’m all motivated and um, empowered (doh), and fired up.  I’m all “Can you try that again with respect?” and “Do you want a compromise?”   But, I tell ya, if I don’t slack off, this could be the start of something new….a tired mom can only hope!  Seriously though, really, I’ve already seen a difference and made some important child connections that might not be perceptible to the outside eye….but I was there and they really happened.  Minor miracles.  And so were they.  And I’m grateful..and happy for it all.

For Every Mom; Lady of Sorrows

drawing by Kate Kollwitz, 1903
Today is the day we remember Our Lady of Sorrows.
Oh, there is so much to this one…
As a mom, this resonates with me.
Ok, maybe as an older mom it resonates.
As a mom of sons who’ve gone to college, who has just sobbed goodbye to them…
as a mom who has given her son back to God, as he discerns the call to religious life…
as a mom of kids who come from hard places and  have endured hardship and trauma…
as a mom who has held other mom’s babies and children across the world in dark hot smelly orphanages, waving flies off their face as I feel their damp bottoms but also their arms clinging to my neck, or see them lying limp in my arms just gazing out – disconnected…
as a mom of kids who have struggled with different needs, some of them very hard and/or intense…
as a mom of kids who’ve gone through life-threatening events and as a mom who has sat vigil bedside in the PICU….
gosh as a mom who has lain awake countless nights worrying over  her kids…
over things big or small….
As a friend to moms who have lost children…
as a friend to moms who’s kids have been in the PICU, or hospital too….
as a friend to moms who have had kids go through the hardest scariest time in their lives and/or those of their parents…
goodness, as a mom who WATCHES THE NEWS, for pity’s sake…
….this memorial is for me.  A mom.  Any Mom.  This memorial is for us.
Because this Blessed Mother, she is us. 
She is every mom.
She is the mom giving  her portion of food for her hungry child.
She is the mom sitting bedside by her sick child.
She is the mom who weeps sending her child off, to work, to college, to a new life in a new country.
She is the mom who wishes she could hurt so her child doesn’t have to.
She is the mom who carries them, bodily, but also in mind and heart….all day, every day, all night, every night.
She is the mama.
She is us.
She gets it.
And she helps us carry it all….all those things that no one but a mom can fathom, truly…well, she does.
As I wept and wept a few weeks (the dropoff)  ago, worried over my son, him moving out and having to say goodbye to him in a new place that didn’t feel like home, at all, to him or to me…my other son said this: “Our Lady of Sorrows mom….the litany, it will help.“  I nodded.  It was all I could do.
So…with that, I give you this, it helped me then, and it is a reminder that she is not just the remote Mother of God.
She is everywoman.
Every mom.  Us.

Lord, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven,
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, .
God the Holy Ghost,
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of virgins, pray for us
Mother of the Crucified, pray for us
Sorrowful Mother, pray for us
Mournful Mother, pray for us
Sighing Mother, pray for us
Afflicted Mother, pray for us
Foresaken Mother, pray for us
Desolate Mother, pray for us
Mother most sad, pray for us
Mother set around with anguish, pray for us
Mother overwhelmed by grief, pray for us
Mother transfixed by a sword, pray for us
Mother crucified in thy heart, pray for us
Mother bereaved of thy Son, pray for us
Sighing Dove, pray for us
Mother of Dolors, pray for us
Fount of tears, pray for us
Sea of bitterness, pray for us
Field of tribulation, pray for us
Mass of suffering, pray for us
Mirror of patience, pray for us
Rock of constancy, pray for us
Remedy in perplexity, pray for us
Joy of the afflicted, pray for us
Ark of the desolate, pray for us
Refuge of the abandoned,pray for us
Shiled of the oppressed, pray for us
Conqueror of the incredulous, pray for us
Solace of the wretched, pray for us
Medicine of the sick, pray for us
Help of the faint, pray for us
Strength of the weak, pray for us
Protectress of those who fight, pray for us
Haven of the shipwrecked, pray for us
Calmer of tempests, pray for us
Companion of the sorrowful, pray for us
Retreat of those who groan, pray for us
Terror of the treacherous, pray for us
Standard-bearer of the Martyrs, pray for us
Treasure of the Faithful, pray for us
Light of Confessors, pray for us
Pearl of Virgins, pray for us
Comfort of Widows, pray for us
Joy of all Saints, pray for us
Queen of thy Servants,pray for us
Holy Mary, who alone art unexampled, pray for us

Pray for us, most Sorrowful Virgin, That we may be made worthy
of the promises of Christ.

**Full disclosure:  I wrote this last year.  But I feel just the same…so, I’m reposting. 

Slam Dancing in Adoption: co-dependency.

Welcome, please join me in the mosh pit…that lovely loud place we call home and family life.

What, you ask? Have I moved the family into a strange new world, am I trying to reclaim a not only lost but never went there youth (yes, once again, dating my old self)? Slam Dancing? I mean, really, what?

Well, ok, what I’m really gonna talk about here is the idea that if you look closely, sometimes, you can find a not so great Co-dependency in adoption. You know: that term where you kind of lose yourself and you stop having your own feelings about things, instead all your feelings are what the other person is feeling. They’re having a bad day? Bummer, you too! They’re ticked? Oh no, I thought my day had started well! Dang! They are sad? Oh, now I have to be sad for them, and with them and…instead of them? Ah, I know what you’re thinking: Again, really, why have I started in on this? Isn’t Co-dependent stuff all about middle aged women who have dysfunctional relationships and/or low self esteem? Or, isn’t it about living with an alcoholic or workaholic and enabling them at the expense of yourself? Isn’t that the baggage for women who just get a little lost along the way? Isn’t it all just that big mess O’ psychobabble???

Well, yeah, it can be those things. Not sure about the psychobabble. But, sure, it’s a much more common issue than we like to realize, unless you overstate it by seeing way too much daytime tv talk shows…you know, the ones where ALL you see are the dysfunctional families and the morose middle aged gals.

But, at the risk of being flamed, here is what I’d like to just mention: This thing, we’ll whisper it: “co-dependency“, can happen, before you know it, when you adopt a kid from hard places, a kid who has more needs for whatever reason (organic or imposed), an older kid from hard places, especially.

Now, hang on. Think about it.

The bare breakdown of that term is not the problem. And I can and have written MUCH about how MUCH we are all dependent upon each other and made for each other and to help each other. I’ve gone on (and on) about the sheer awesome beauty found in that. And I will.

But. Here. In this post. What I’m saying is that the tendency towards this modern, less beautiful, sense of co-dependent feelings and behaviors is almost a set-up with the nature of older child adoption. The adoption process itself nurtures this tendency….it’s all about making things ok. What things? Well, EVERYthing(s)! We have to make sure every paper is signed on the proper lines, certified, sealed and delivered. We wait after getting our referral for the courts to do the same and worry sick over the child stuck waiting too: will they be ok, are the eating well, do they know about us, are they ok or scared, are they safe, will they love us? We become massive caretakers, not only that, but we become the majordomo of ….everything we possible can, when we are in the process of adopting. It’s what we are pushed to do and what we kind of self select to do and be and really, it’s encouraged. Heck, it’s lauded.

..and if I

And it can be a great thing to be a gal who can do much and arrange much and make stuff happen. It feels great! It looks great! It makes things work great! Right?

Well, the bear trap snaps shut and moves from great to not so much when that tendency, that behavior, that need, that desire….starts closing it’s center down on a person….or in this case, the child. And on you. Let me be clear, I am not saying don’t care for or about any child. But, if the urge to care for a child slips beyond the boundaries of what can actually be accomplished by any one human person…then that one human person has just slipped onto the slippery slide toward co-dependency.

Ok, instead of blathering and talking around it, let me give you a for instance from my turf. It’s taken me a long time, heck darn near two years, to realize that what my husband has been telling me all along is true. He didn’t use these words but he pegged it just the same: “You’re too connected to HER feelings, they are not yours and don’t have to be. That doesn’t actually help.” By which he does NOT mean for me to be an insensitive ogre; but rather, to be able to step OUT of the vortex of her feelings that whip up in an instant…the ones that aren’t rational, the ones that are simply trigger response. Seems simple, no? But, oh, so very not. Because when you have a kid from hard places, and or an older child who is new to your big old family, and or has special needs…you want, with every fiber of your being “TO MAKE IT ALL OK.” For them. For you. For the other kids. For the family. Just, because. You have a huge need to pull everything into alignement. To control and direct how it all connects and how it all is gonna play out and how everyone is gonna feel. That’s the majordomo part. Admit it ladies, it happens. If not, then it’s just my own freak, I’ll claim it. But there it is.

But, the trick is…it doesn’t work that way. So, you intellectualize it and realize you can’t actually make it work that way. You can’t majordomo emotions. But then you are staring into the maw of that need. Those emotions. Hers. You can’t actually effect or control or help them, not really, they are HERS. But, if she does A then you all are gonna feel B, and if she feels or does B then you all are gonna feel and or have to do C. The math gets all mucked up and it triggers it’s own little alarm bell in your gut, in direct reaction to your frustrated control instinct. A clanging, even.

Right at this point, is when the band starts playing. The punk new rave music tunes up. Here is the center of the mosh pit; here the co-dependent dance begins. And it’s not a lovely elegant waltz or a breezy two-step. It’s a jangling punk slam dance that bangs up every piece and part of each of you.

Really, once you allow her feelings to dictate yours, then not only are you not helping or being able to rationally address said feelings, you have just been pulled into the chest slam head bang twist of it all. You cannot empathize with her underlying fear or grief or insecurity if you are trying to stem your panic and fear at the recognized loss of control over how things are gonna move. The beat was changed and you didn’t orchestrate it, again. And again. But since her fears and insecurities that launched this dance are simply trigger responses and or reflect her inability to dance any other way, to this music…she’s not gonna be able to regulate that beat either. It’s all you.

What do you do? What now? You’re pulse is racing and your head is banging and you don’t wanna dance this dance. Look away from the fray. Co-dependent feelings suck. Especially for a high ranking majordomo brigadier, the top ranking one: the mom.

Well, the only way out is to let go. Not of them, not the kid. Of you. Of your misperceived ownership and responsibility for every nuance of their feelings. Let go of the grasping tension and flailing pulse. Let go of the control you thought you had because you didn’t have it in the first place. The only way to pick up a dancer/your kid, winded and bruised from the mosh pit is to stand on the sidelines, and be ready to catch them. Call to them to see if they can see their way out through to you. And then wait for them to get there. And then soothe them with a hug and hold them til their breathing steadies. Because let’s face it, if you’re in their getting banged up too, being co-dependent and letting their disregulated moods dicate YOURS, then you are actually no help at all. You actually become part of the problem. I’m not saying to dismiss or move away from that child. Sometimes you have to meet up with them and weather through that clanging hellish beat. But I’m saying you can move out of the emotional slam dance. You must, in order to actually help her. Or him.

So step out.

This isn’t the dance for you. It isn’t for her either, or your child. But it takes time to learn a new one. For both of you. Lessons can help. And they’re a lot of work too. But as with anything, practice makes better. Not perfect. But, better. And lately, working on this…I’ve been able to put my “steel toed doc martins” in the back of the closet sometimes…and I have, a little more often, pulled back out some of my softer dancing shoes.

Little Miracles, Can You See Em?

One of the cool, inspiring blogs I follow, Love that Max, had a post that has kept me thinking. It’s a post about seeing miracles, big and small and worth a look. Go see, then come back…

Ok, thanks for coming back! So. Heres what I’m thinking after reading that: It’s easy to only have eyes to see the “Capital Letter Miracles.” Heck, who doesn’t want that? It’s awesome and wonderful to see the “Capital Letter Miracles!” Let’s face it, we crave those kinds of miracles (So much so that tv charlatans have manufactured fake ones for decades, don’t be snookered)….

But what I’ve been thinking about is Max’s point…that we see miracles every single day. In our own families. And no, I don’t only mean that it’s a miracle we got to school on time! Ok, maybe sometimes I do mean precisely that….ahem. Not to be too drippy or saccharin..but we can and do see them, all the time. And I need to remember to mark them, heck I need to marvel at them, with a wide open grin. Because, I don’t know about you, but I can all too easily slip into the daily grinding drill and forget to see any of those moments for the clutter and clanging of the chaos. Yes, chaos. The puppy peeing, the small boy banging, the larger boy crashing down the stairs while the silent attitude of the teen is a siren stomping up the stairs. Those times, I’m pretty darn hard pressed to see any miracle. Much less a capital M one. Mostly I see a certain preteen left shoes in the hall and someone else left the towels on the stairs….

But they are there, those tiny flickering miracles. And I kinda like the small ones best, in many ways. Maybe it’s all I can take…who knows? But really, if I can slow down my vision, still my spinning gears or, at least, stop after the rush hour is over and gaze around the momentarily silent house, take a breath….I can see past the smudges and the socks. I see miracles.

We did get to school on time!

And that silent-bellow, the freezing attitude of the newer teen? It shouts of a newfound security, strong enough to withstand a huffed stomp up the stairs and the scowls of a sibling and/or second mom. We weren’t sure we’d get there many months ago. A miracle.

The quiet drawing, so carefully intricately etched by a loud crashing whirling dervish of a seven year old boy? A miracle: the artistic gift, and the few mintes of stillness to allow it forth onto the paper.

A small warm sweet four year old, sleepy curling under his covers, whispering to me…asking if I would hold his hand while he falls asleep. Pure miracle; he came, wary, from across the world and now nestles by choice next to me.

A preteen with a guarded but hopeful heart, joining the same school again with her siblings, no longer needing to be separated in order to get the accommodations she needs….everyone doing their part to make up the differences. That one might be a capital M, it’s so good, so important, so unexpected all those years.

The same new teen from hard places who can freeze you out…. being able to finally relax enough to actually play, be playful…with a new sweet puppy that sparks laughter and silliness in a child that has known so little.

The unbidden hug goodnight of the eldest teen daughter, just now as I type, on her way to bed…with a real sparkly true smile in her eyes, and the same in mine, right back at her. If you have a fifteen year old, you know that, in itself, some nights, IS a miracle! I’ll take it.

So, I’m counting my miracles. I’m trying to open my eyes to see them. Because you know, miracles are funny. If you don’t have the heart to see them, or if you close your eyes for a moment too long. They are gone. And that is just a waste. Because if we open our eyes to look, we can but marvel….

Falling Fire

It’s the Feast of Pentecost!

Makoto Fujimura, "January Hour - Pentecost"

I love this feast, not only for the terrific art through the centuries, the storytelling and imagery of it all….but for the entire concept of it.  It’s truly one of the mysteries in life and yet, it’s one we get to walk through often as well.

What? Sound a bit crazy?  Maybe…but I know and I bet you do too that you have had times when you were able to say something to a friend or family or someone that was totally the perfect thing to say, and you had NO idea you were going to say it.  And right after those words slipped out, you kind of marveled at them.  Did you really say that? Well…yeah.  Wow.  Good job and um, it wasn’t you.  Right? I know that very thing has happened to me.  Many more times than once.  And used to be, I’d kind of sit there and think, “Wow, how clever am I and who’da thunk it“…..until it dawned on me (like a beam whacked across my forehead) that um, it wasn’t me after all.  No way.  Now, I know better.  It’s NOT me.  It’s the Holy Spirit and when it happens, I’ve basically just finally shut up long enough to give Him an edge, an opening.  Really, I should do it more often.  I know, I know.

I get to feel it in my parenting too.  Not often enough of course cause I’m typically way too busy getting in the way with  my controlling ideas.  But, when I’ve been able to slow down and step aside, either through sheer exhaustion or sheer empty brain cells, then I’ve gotten the gift of seeing someone, something else at work.  And I marvel.  Because then sometimes if I quietly let that fire fall on me and through my arms I can bring my kids into the warm embrace of it – and we love and heal and grow.  At least for a moment or two before I start slapping it out with my own schedule and commands and ideas; back to the buzz.  But those moments, ah, they are gold.  They really do kinda glow.

And that’s why I love this Feast. It reminds us that we can walk through falling fire. It doesn’t burn.  It’s a little bit of magic in our world, but better.  Because it’s grace.

Below is the song that I wake with, every feast of Pentecost.  It’s my tune for the day.

08 Let The Fire Fall

Happy Feast of Pentecost!

>Look Closer Again. And again

Look Closer, Again
I wrote this last year.
I think this has to be an annual post maybe.
Because we cannot should not forget.
And I don’t know how to say this differently.
So, I’m saying it again and again:
The faces are the same.
They are joined by new ones.
But, mostly, they are the same.

So, I’ll say this as many times as it needs to be said:

Today is World AIDS Orphans Day.

These are the faces of the littlest ones.

Not necessarily the youngest, I mean, the littlest.

These are the ones it’s so easy to pass over and look beyond.

But these are our children too.

We are so bombarded with causes and pictures that it’s easy to get overwhelmed, desensitized, numb.

But look at these faces.

Really, look at them.

These are kids.
They are orphans.

They lost their moms and or dads to AIDS.

See them with your heart and soul.

Do something.
Give them the dignity and humanity to really SEE them….
Then say a prayer for them, donate, reach out…
…touch them, hold them, hug them if you can, even.

They are just kids…our kids….who have a future, or should.

>Wit’s End


So, I was lying in bed last night awake…and my mind wandered as minds are wont to do in the wee hours of the night.
I decided that it might be prudent to do a small wit check on my blog now and then.
What’s that?
Am I going to tell a joke periodically to see if I’m still, or ever, funny?
Um, no.
I crack myself up, don’t get me wrong, but I”m not sure that translates into blogdom.

Nope, I’m talking about that whole concept of “keeping my wit’s about me.”
Yeah, you other middle aged gals, you know what I’m talking about.
Yup, I’m talking about losing my wits, my ability to be sharp.
Yuh, I see you Jon and Chris, I see you nodding…..see, this is what I’m talking about.

I’m 48, I know, how’d that happen?
And, I have a fear, based on nothing of substance, that I’m gonna lose my mind, or at least my sharpness. My folks are in their very late 70’s and still sharp as ever.
You would think this would reassure me, and it does to a small degree.
But I’ve never done anything the easy way and so I know, in those wee hours of the morning, that it would hold to form that I would be the one of my five sibs to end up with early onset gaps.
Yeah, it’s a pride thing to be sure; I have always been the queen of multitasking and juggling many things.  I still do all that but ever so much more poorly.
So. It could happen.
It might already be happening (hush boys).
Now I like to think that those little mishaps of oh, not recalling the kids names properly, or remembering where I set down my keys phone sunglasses pens paper book ipad glasses keys phone are normal…
But when I find them in the fridge (hush boys) or on my head then it’s a whispered worry.
It would be a clanging worry but it seems I’m losing my hearing a bit too.

Tom says I’m just distracted and not focusing.
God bless that man I love him.
But I read this book and it put the irrational fear of losing my mind right in the forefront…until I forgot about it.

So, now and then I think I might be posting about this, and other sundry sagging things about aging.
Because it pops randomly into my mind, until I forget.
Which means I want to catch it when it passes through.
You youngsters will probably want to skip these posts as they pop up; because first they will bore you but second they might scare  you.  It’s not pretty, aging.  It’s a heel dragging slide downhill, physically speaking.  Sure, the tradeoff in contentment and wisdom is worth it, etc etc….but even so……those wee hours of the morning can be a worry.
So, I’m doing a check now and then, a little note to compare notes; to see if I’m at wit’s end….and not the “end of my rope” version either.  We all know I hang on to that rope with a white knuckle grip anyhow, that’s not any news.
But a systems check? Always worth it….
Think I’ll go do a crossword now.
Words with Friends, anyone??


>Ordinary time, liturgically speaking, began a week ago.
Ordinary time, mom speak, did and then again did not begin a week ago as my kids are still home and not in regular ordinary school time: holidays, in-service days, snow and ice days have still botched up our routine days.  Much griping on my part in my heart (and more than I should out loud) ensues.

Confused? I know, me too!
Sigh…let me begin with the beauty of it, that’s always best.

Ordinary time in our liturgical year is the “regular” or “Ordinary” days of the year; the days not of a special season such as Advent or Lent or Christmas or Easter.  See? They are not marked or bracketed, they are ordinary, normal, routine, whatever you like to call them.  They are the stuff that make up the warp and weft of any given life.
I love them so.

It took me a long time to learn to love them so.
My younger days had me always yearning for the next thing, the next exciting event or season.  I think that is so common, especially when young (By which I mean, shockingly enough even to myself: under forty anymore…yeah, mark that youngsters, I mean  you!).  It feels and/or seems just more fun, more interesting to be immersed in or on the brink of “The Next Big Thing;” even if that thing is simply the next holiday.  It’s exciting.  It livens up our dull mundane lives that are filled with the same ol’ same ol…the chores and the must do’s.  Right?

Well, yeah, to a point.
But just as you will burn out any fine tuned machine by always keeping it revved to the max, so to I believe we burn out our very selves (Fine tuned machines that we are or should be) if we live on high alert at all times.

 Now, don’t get me wrong.  I do this.  Some might say (Hsssh, mom, John, I hear you) that I do this (still) all or most of the time.  I have more than many times been accused of being “kinda intense.”  Sigh.  I guess I am.  Even when I don’t try to be.  I like to be busy, I am high energy, I like to “have things going on.” Or, I used to, I know it.  I still do, I admit it, but now I am learning to see and mark and soak into the beauty of the “ordinary.”  It’s the simple things, stupid….oh dopey Me.
The wisdom of the Church is that we are given this Ordinary time to settle and soak in that.
To remember and touch again that simple self that we are, that really is under all that stuff, all the noise, all the hurry. 

 It’s under the chaff, if we but blow with a settling breath….ah there it is again: me.
And when I settle again, I can listen and I can hear God himself whispering to me again.
I can do better. 
…pray better.
…see better.
…listen better.
…give better.
…love better.
I can be a better mom, wife, friend, daughter, sister, lover, thinker, helper, pray-er, me.
Not that I do so…which is why I so need and have learned to love and exhale with ordinary time.

So, there, that is the beauty of it all.  Right there, in the ordinary day before me.  If only I can stop and slow and soak in it.  And therein lies the test, eh?
As goes the liturgical year, we are living in Ordinary Time.
As goes my household and the lurching four different school systems of my kids, we are not.  Not yet.  So, my challenge, which I fail, oh, daily, is to stop and see that even this lurching “school on, school called off” calendar still is part and parcel of ordinary life.
I tend to think it’s not.  But when I do that, I am lifting ordinary life right out of it’s pocket and trying to make it something it’s not: something like a perfect glistening glowing photo spread.  That’s a mistake.

  Ordinary life is by definition, kind of a mess.  It needs so much: constant endless tending.  It is this very tending, this ordinary work on a perpetual basis, that forms it’s core…again, the warp and weft of the weaving that IS ordinary time.
Even the snow days.

>New Monday: Pre-K


My Gabey went to Pre-K today.
I can hardly believe it.
No, really….
I hadn’t planned, last summer, to send him yet.
And I’ve never been a huge “gotta go” kinda gal with pre-k programs.
And last August, when school began, he wasn’t ready for anything other than time home, with me.
So that is what we did.
It was great.

But lately, that time has morphed into a strange “at loose ends” time with him.
Not for me. I rarely have time with loose ends….or, more precisely, I’m busy sweeping up and tying up those loose ends all day every day.
No, what I’m talking about is my Gabey.  He ended up….at loose ends.
He went from being content with me, following me around, helping me, hanging out with me, learning colors with me…to spending the bulk of his day wishing for something he couldn’t get.  Asking for it.
As soon as we dropped off the kids at school, he began: “Can I watch tv?” No. “Is it lunch?” No. “Can I have a cookie?” No. and, the most frequent question of all…asked countless times a day, “Is it time to go pick up the kids?”  Um, no, sorry honey.

Now before I get flamed, I did all the enrichment stuff. We worked on colors and shapes and went for walks and talked about birds and looked at acorns and read books.
I can do the mom thing, I can.  I did.
But my other “mom thing” also means dragging him along on many many doc appointments for the other six kiddos who are still at home {dentist, orthodontist, therapists, dermos….and so on, just do the count, it adds up and keeps me driving…}.  Not exactly enriching stuff.  So – he’s been restless.  My gut told me, it’s time.  That and his electric radar for any other kids around when we are out and about on errands; his racing them in the vet’s waiting room, waving at every kid in the market, striking up kiddie convo’s at the orthodontist.  It started to be clear that he was ready for a wider social life than me.

So, last week we visited our school’s pre-k program.  It’s excellent; the best in our county, with an wonderful teacher I’ve long admired.  (No, she doesn’t read the blog, I can’t score points here, shame on you…however, she IS the best pre-k teacher in our area, hands down, fantastic! No way is that a shameless plug….really…).
He was a little nervous to start his visit day.  It helped that his big brother and best friend on the planet was across the hall (like…close: you could shoot a rubber band over if you were inclined…not that my boys would think of that, ahem, because that would get a yellow card…).

 He was paired with a nice little boy buddy to show him the pre-k ropes for that visit day.  I was nervous. I hung out in the library, being mostly useless during the quiet morning of book fair.  After his day was done, he pitched a huge out-of-character fit in the office.  I was sure he was tired, overwhelmed.  But as we got in the car to head home, I learned otherwise: he was bent, just ticked off.  He wanted to stay.  He wanted to stay in school and not go home yet.  Oh!  He calmed and told me again and again about the class, the kids, the rug, the reading, the parade (lining up), the tools (toy tools), the girl (curly hair, quite the talker).  He asked to go tomorrow.  That has been his new question, usurping the others: “Am I going to school now?” Meaning, whenever we get in the car, regardless of time of day.  He asked me, relentlessly, “Can I go to school” after his visit.

So, yes, my Gabey, you can go to school.

And so today he did.
And, yes, I had to blink back the tears when I kissed him goodbye and told him I’d be back later.

It’s my first time in the house, alone on a school day, for over eight years.  Read that again: eight years…gosh maybe longer, I’d have to really sit down and chart it out to know precisely.  I hardly know what to do with myself.  So, I’m procrastinating a bit.  I’m gonna start by cleaning…..And, on a make me smile and breath easy note, the school JUST called and said “He is having an awesome day and smiling and happy.” I love this school.  For just this reason, they call the kinda nervous moms to let them know their littles are doing great.  Nice.

Eight years, and it’s a new Monday.
It’s good. It’s weird.  But it’s good.


>To “Savor.”
To “Savour” (for the fancy times).
To discern and taste and notice and appreciate the different tones and tastes and textures. 

It’s often applied to food, sweet and savory; baking sweet temptations and desserts versus savory dishes for meals or, as my sister-n-law would call them “amuse-bouche,” (because she is chic and Parisienne and actually does cook like this).  As savory it’s an actual herb of course, and thus it’s about cooking, not so much baking dessert.

{This is how my dinner table looks, most nights.  
Because we only dine in style….ahem.}

I had a brief exchange with a friend on this yesterday.  On the savor, how, why. And it got me thinking. How she does it, instinctively, and I look to her to remind me.

I am a cook.  I am an occasional baker, but really I’m a better cook. I’m better at the “wing-it” mode of cooking rather than the precise measuring and weighing and timing of baking.  I like to throw ingredients into a dish to see if they work, or kind of eyeball the amount and hope for the best.  Sounds kind of haphazard…and it can be. But often it turns out pretty well, because I’ve done it for a long time and know what spices and tastes work together, meld, accentuate, and so on. 

But I think it’s not purely coincidence that I am a better, more interested, cook than baker.  I think there is a connection to my preferred mode of cooking and  my skill there, and my big ol’ family.  As with so  many other things in our lives, they are connected.  Maybe it’s only taken me well over twenty years of raising a family to figure it out…or at least to make this connection.

But, I’m digressing.  I was talking about how to savor.  Yes, in cooking. But more, much much more so, in life…we need to savor.  As a mom, I need to savor.  And “savor” is the right word because being a mom is not only about the sweet. Sure, ya get the desserts: the nose rubs and sunny naps and angelic late night tuck ins.  Those mash notes that make you blink and swallow from the sweetness.  They are, perhaps literally, the icing on the cake, the sweet plump chocolate covered berries in our days. 

But the savor is where you find the richness.  Those melded flavors and notes, the textures in a day…they are what make the “dish,” your family and the days take shape.  If we savor our days then I think we appreciate them more.  Of course we do.  It’s in the very common usage of the term.  To savor it to notice, to look, mark, feel, recognize, appreciate the layers. 

I don’t savor enough.

On the good days, I do.  Oh, how I do.  I can some days savor so that it makes me buzz with the neon backlit sharpness of this rich crazy hectic life.  I can try -and fail – to blink back the tears and swallow the catch in my throat as I open the holy card and note sent me from my college son.  I can catch a glimpse of my daughter and see her momentary portrait in the autumn sun, and know that I have to etch it, quick before the dappling shadows shift. 

On the tough days though, I don’t.  I forget.  Or I get overrun a bit.  Or I let me loud bossy sweet tooth start calling the shots again – craving only the icing and the sweet melting sugar of dessert on my tongue.  I don’t want to see the savory in the tough bedtimes, or the complicated homework sessions or the explanation of just why she is grounded.   I forget to hear the notes of rich in the loud clamor as I call many kids from all corners to dinner.  I forget to see the golden texture in the clothes flung on the floor and the rumpled beds with quilts pulled half off. 

(Impressive, no? This was actually part of a “prank war” 
between my two oldest boys…but still,you get the idea…)

It all goes with living in the moment.  My least able skill.  I stink at this.  I dwell on the past, I fret over the future; from far in the future to tomorrow. I do so the the detriment of living in the now, the today, the moment.  We are called to do this in our Faith.  The saints are those who did it well.  But if we do it, or keep trying, perhaps we will see past the harsh notes that stem from our misguided selfish wants.  Perhaps if we, ok I,  really try to live in the moment for what and where and how it is, then we, ok I, can really stop and savor it.  And see, AGAIN,  that I have been presented with a rich buffet of taste and texture in this big ol’ busy family.  Sweetness, oh my yes.  And Savory, oh my yes.  And they compliment each other so well of course. 

The cook in me knows this.  And also knows that the best cooks are always taste testing and tending.  Just like a mom….or a dad.  Just like a parent. Funny, that.

“Savour.”  “Savor.” Either way you spell it, fancy or simple, I really like that word.

>My Precious


So, you might have been expecting a post about my truest ‘mostest’ precious: my kiddles.
Well, ya, should be maybe, but not today.
Because this post is about another underlying obsession, one that turns me into my own Gollum.
Yeah, that Tolkien, he knew what he was talking about…
See that picture up there? That’s me, perhaps in a truer image, nice to meet you. 

Because “my precious” is my “Control.”  Or, to be more accurate, my desire for control.  In fact my pursuit of my precious and my need to hang onto it makes me bug eyed and screeching all too often.  It makes me angry and resentful, often times of things that haven’t even happened yet.  It makes me snarl in even mere anticipation of somebody or something snatching that control, my precious, away from me.

Even if that thief is a small kiddo with big brown eyes and sticky hands.
Even if that thief is a cute guy with a beard who is a good kisser.
Even if that thief is a hurt kid with a megawatt smile but from hard places.
Perhaps more so, then, because with that one, my precious was wrenched from me long ago….I just didn’t really know or admit it yet.

Sometimes, I think it’s true what Gollum said, “Once it takes hold of us, it never lets go.”
And then I am left to weep and wonder how to proceed, to move on and I know that there is no other way than through that stomach hurting dark and the fear that comes with losing that precious, that control.
I have to let go.

But my Gollum just can’t seem to.
And I snarl and I snap at anyone, sorry Tom, who suggests the same.
No, it’s not pretty.

But the crazy thing is, as all you other moms know, especially those who are parenting hurt kids, you lost that “precious” when you first stepped out to try to parent.
I lost that tarnished ring so long ago I must be crafting my own lame paper mache ring of precious, every day.  So, why do I hold on?
It always comes back to fear:
…fear of being taken places we don’t want to go.
tired fear of being taken places we don’t want to go.

Therein lies the trap of course.
Because when we snarl and grasp and gasp so tightly, trying to hold onto our paper mache ‘precious”… ok, when I gasp and grasp so tightly, trying to avoid being taken back or through another hard place….well, I’m already there.  Too late.

So, this one’s for you honey….I’m gonna try and pitch my my paper mache dented soggy smudgy ripped useless “precious.”
And let go.
But with hope for being able to keep my hands open so that instead of holding onto the poison ring, I can hold, instead, onto the small hand that slips quietly into mine.  

>When your boy comes home.

>It’s a happy week.….and I’m a happy mom.
because my boy is home from college, for the week only, but I’ll take it.

 Here is what you remember when one of your son’s come home again, these things that so easily you forget in the hustle and crazy of everyday life:

That it feels so good to hug him, to feel him solid and sure and there; instead of crackling over a dropping cell phone connection or a glitchy skype feed.

That you never do expect to feel that blink of tears,
or that gasp of recognition, “There he is!”
just because he’s walked into your kitchen with a big eager grin.
That that big grin and quick step to hug you means everything.

That he looks good – that he’s growing up even as you can see the small changes now, in your kitchen, but that it is settling on him well.

That  you really think its a great dance to see the hubub of siblings all talking at the same time and twisting around each other to get plates and milk and it doesn’t matter that it’s late and the kitchen is getting messy again and the windows are dark and it’s way past bedtime.
That standing around the kitchen counters and between the bags and stalling bedtime is just the best thing to do on a late Sunday night, when a boy comes home again.
That you really really enjoy watching him eat cake and soak in the hubub of his house, again.

That you love to cook for your kids who love to eat.
That is a treat to cook a Halloween supper a week in advance; upon personal request.
That brisket cooking on the stove is a smell of love and happy.
And that homemade chili and cornbread, pumpkin pie and goofy little mini wrapped hotdogs wrapped mean home.

That even bandaging him up, now all big and growing up as a man, is still a privilege and a way to be a hands on mom {and he is kind enough to ask me to do it}.
That bandaging up his elbow will make me think of all the reckless hurts he’s had, that I’ve bandaged, on this daredevil boy and maybe make me blink hard for a minute.
That making the house a home for this week is important and it’s not only for this boy, on his return…..
But it’s important for the family.
It’s important for his brothers and sisters to see that welcome and that soaking right back into the family.
It’s for me.
It’s where the joy is…in the small things…the things that matter in that quiet sink in sort of way.

So today I remember the beauty in the red pot simmering on the stove,
in the bowl of apples,
in the bandages,
and in the folding of clean shirts.
And I see it fresh, for a moment, in the heart of this home, his home, that he returns to with a grin and a sigh and a “It’s really really good to be home.”

Yeah.  It is.