Saturday, August 30, 2008

For Real?

You know, it sounded like a good idea at the time.
Oh, how wrong that can be.....

Fair Warning: heat exhaustion induced rant ahead:

First let me back up:
Due to the enormous popularity of our recent practice of consistently going on Kid Dates....it soon came to be Little Man's turn. Typically, a Kid Date is a movie, preferably on cheap movie night - that way it's win-win, all the way around! Kid date works like this: one kid, one parent, on a rotating basis. In a big ol' family, it's a key thing and it's a wild success.

Let me reiterate this most successful formula: one kid + one parent + one cheap movie + snacks = mano a mano bonding and happy campers all around.

Well, as said, it was Little Man's turn, up next in the hopper. My dear friend, we'll call her "Jill" (you know who you are!) sent me a link to a "Kid Event." This particular Kid Event was one I'd seen advertised before, and resisted. It was a special "Meet (we'll call him Timmy) Timmy the Train," complete with special ride and fun filled activities! Sounds like a no-brainer right? What four year old in America wouldn't just be giddy at the thought of such a stupendous opportunity!?

Again, let me back up a bit:
I have a bad history with "Kid Events." Meaning, I have put in my time at the Barney sightings (yes, I realize I'm dating myself, can't be helped), the Princess on Ice, Pokemon movies, you name it. And I learned something about myself that I am not particularly proud of and is not pretty: I am a major party pooper for Kid Events. It is a slow painful form of torture for me, a psychic excruciating bamboo under the fingernails sort of deal. I always end up with a migraine.

Thus, I have cultivated the art of just saying "No" to Kid Events. This policy has surely saved us almost a college tuition, I am sure. Well, the textbooks, at least. And the kids don't seem to miss them (they are, mostly, blissfully unaware). That works for us! I'll spare you my rant on the pervasive take-over of our children's entertainment with licensed characters.... And hey, I'm not a total ogre, I have a daughter that gets shivers of joy at the thought of a new Little Mermaid movie....so we are clearly not totally off the grid here.

Anyhow, this is all to give the background: that nowadays it is a pretty rare thing for me to agree to attend a Kid Event. But, I must have lost my head, because I did. Actually, however, I feel a bit snookered, and shame on me, I should'a known better. I mean, really, what was I thinking?

See, I watched an episode of "J & K, plus 8", that oddly compelling show about the family with 8 little ones that you don't intend to watch and then find yourself kind of mesmerized. {This show I initially thought of as a sort of train wreck, don't watch it because you're really just watching the chaos....but now, I think they have some good points and really, despite the inevitable chaos and insanity of having so many kidletts at once, they seem to love each other. So maybe it's not so bad as I first thought.} Anyhow, we just saw an episode where this family got to go to this very same Kid Event! What are the odds? (I know...doh) But hey, it looked really good! I mean, they got to sit up in this beautiful train compartment, with lovely Craftsman-like woodwork and it was spacious and empty (because we couldn't see the crew that was filling the rest, I know...) and bright and clean. Really lovely, even if the littles ones weren't appreciating it as they might have, hey they are three years old, they don't know their Craftsman from their Art Deco yet, give 'em a break. The day on this episode was clearly warm but everyone stayed fairly fresh and got to wander around the quaint railroad station and even shake the hands w/ the "Timmy" station master. A fun day all around.

So. I must have lost my head for a moment because before I knew it, I had clicked us two tickets to pick up at will call and we were going on a Kid Date to see and ride "Timmy the Train." Woot Woot!

As the morning approached, I admit to a small frisson of dread. But I shook it off. This was time with Little Man, just him and me. Good stuff. I couldn't even tell him in advance as he would pester us all to death. So I had the fun anticipation of waiting to tell him until it was just time to go. I knelt down:
"Little Man," I said, " are you ready?"
He nodded.
"Do you want to go see...Timmy the Tank Engine?"
His eyes grew huge and a grin spread across his face.
"And ride on the train?""
He sucked in a big gulp of air, "For real?"
"For real, buddy."
He grinned and nodded and hugged me, all at once.

It was hands down the best part of the morning.

So we drove downtown to the train yard. As we pulled up and we directed to any available parking, my dread mounted. We parked a good 3/4 miles away, weaving in and out among the tired toddlers in strollers. We got out and hoofed it to the entrance. Right away I could see how badly I had been misled, in my own stupidity. The difference between our local Kid Event and the one I was mesmerized by on TV was like the difference between going to Disney World and the local fair...and I mean the kind of fly by night fair that pulls up in your local supermarket parking lot with a few pickup trucks, a ride or two that can be pulled behind said pickup and tightened with a good wrench, and bails of hay. This is the difference between minor celebs in America and the rest of us: the Joe and Jane Schmoes, the regular people.

The will call window was a table by the porta potties. We grabbed hands and grinned big grins and said, "let's go find Timmy!" We had 45 minutes to kill before our train ride. We looked at the lines for the two lemonade stand: 20 mins, easy. We looked at the line to meet the station master and get a picture (another fee): 30 mins, at least. Aha! A tent, two tents. Bonanza! Because this train yard was not quaint cobblestone with Victorian gingerbread stationhouse and cute shaded benches like J and K8 had; this train yard was asphalt baybee, and the sun was brilliant in the cloudless sky and mid 90's.

So we held hands and went to go check out the jam packed tents (or, roofs). One was the "Imagination Station." Oh boy, that sounded like fun. As we approached, Little Man got slower and slower, holding my hand and pulling behind me. He was not interested. And really, who could blame his as the "Imagination Station" consisted of coloring crayons and some mimeographed sheets for the most part. Hmmm. On to the second tent/roof. Again, the pulling, shy sweaty unsure. This tent/roof was the Viewing Station: bales of hay on the asphalt with a tv on the far end. Still no sale here. Still, saved by the announcement: time to line up for the ticketed train ride, woohoo! So we went to find the lines. Find them we did. No tents or roofs here. Ten chain linked lines, crowded already with sweating families and kidletts and baby types. Nope, not allowed to bring drinks on the train.

"Where's Timmy?" Little Man asked.
"He'll be here soon!" I said.

Finally, after what seemed like a week, after leaning on each other, withering in the heat, picking Little Man up to hold him as his little four year old legs wilted and then he could drip all over me too...the both of us a sweaty drippy gooshy mess, just like the rest of the grim families in line, "Timmy the Train" pulled into the station!
The excitement was.....underwhelming.
Timmy was the engine all right. He chugged by our little chain link lines and on past the chain link fence view. The rest of the train was, again, not the lovely charming painted wooden cars "J & K8" boarded; rather they were the dull steel cars of the local line. Oh. But we boarded them, we found our seat, we looked at the one feeble decoration for the day (I think, maybe they always try for such festivity): a single strand of pink mini lights, hung around the top of the ceiling.
The senior conductor, God bless him, gave it his best. He was sweet and solicitous of us all. Surely because we were all on the visible verge of heatstroke, red faced, rolling sweat, panting. He tried to keep the patter up and the smile on. Kudos to him. So the train started to roll, it rolled on way for about maybe 15 minutes, then it rolled back again. We passed the train warehouses. We passed the dense green foliage by the river. We passed under the freeway.
And here is where the trip/even just caved for me. Of course, as we passed under the freeway and by the river, we could glimpse into the homeless abodes. We caught a moment of their lives, the carefully crafting of a life and community under the bridge, fragile but real. And as ever, it is so hard to see and feels so helpless. So I prayed as I passed. And a few, only a couple, of the adults stood up to see better....but it was like a sideshow and it hurt. Because it is not a sideshow, ever. It's all too real. And I thought of the money dropped on this, by me, and I winced. I thought of how this event was raking in the bucks for their overpriced commodity, it was such a racket. And I was a little bit sick. And I was part of it...out of love for my son and wanting to have that special time. But suddenly, even more now, it was a lot less special. So another "Hail Mary" and prayer for those we passed.

And as we got off the train, I sighed and grabbed my boy's sweaty hand. I stopped fuming and feeling sorry for ourselves, because really, we have it so good. I did not stop being ticked at the Event, however. So, we walked back.
And my son asked to see Timmy. And we walked and walked to the front, to catch a glimpse of Timmy. Hot and sad, sick (me). But there was a line to see the face of Timmy (of course). And that line was at least 30 mins long in the unrelenting sun and hot. And there was a fee to see Timmy. So. Cheap cranky frustrated mom that I am and was, I steered my son around the line and as far around crowd as we could scoot. We saw Timmy from a little afar. And Little Man was mostly happy. We looked at the crazy overpriced hot dogs, but Little Man wasn't hungry, he was too hot. I wasn't hungry, I was sick at heart and head. As we were about to pass out, we bought a lemonade from a stand that was empty (5 bucks!).
And we decided to go home.For Real?

So. That was our date. We had a nice time together. He hugged me tight and we rubbed noses and smooched. We walked as quickly as we could to the car and said a prayer of thanksgiving for air-conditioning and for our many many blessings (ok, silently, me). And then we drove home, quietly, thinking about the very mixed up message of this very messed up event (ok, me).

So, for me, stupidity springs eternal it seems. I should'a known better. Really, on all the levels, I should'a known. For my son, I guess it was good. He's four. He saw "Timmy" and he spent the morning with me, which still holds high value for him at his young, innocent age.
And for me, I will be thankful for what I have: a little boy who would rather be with me than almost anyone, no matter the sweaty rolling heat, who gasps and says "for real?" at the good things. Even when when what's real can get so mixed up.

Friday, August 29, 2008

TGIF

Our best babysitter, Sally O, and the boys ...

...having some fun on this Friday afternoon!
Because, lest we forget: Life is good. So good.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Feast Day: Saint Augustine

Image courtesy of Augnet.org

It's the feast of Saint Augustine!

Yup, his mom's feast day was yesterday. I think it's nice to have them together on the calendar, fitting. And yup, yesterday I made mention of a brief bit about him: Doctor of the Church, Bishop of Hippo, born in North Africa, biracial, lived in Italy and Africa. But go to the ever interesting Anchoress, here, or here to read more, in depth.

Here's the deal with Augustine. He is recognized by so many, not only Catholics, as an intellectual giant. He was brilliant. But the thing about Augustine that is so appealing I think, at least to me, is that he lived a real honest to goodness human life that so many of us can relate to. I mean, he was a total hedonist for a good while, he led a live that was centered in well, him, and what was fun and felt good if you didn't like it (mom) then, that was too bad but oh well. He thought fairly well of himself, knew he was smart and thus knew better than his old mom and those stodgy fogies.

He was, well, us, me.
Only, finally, realizing the emptiness of such a life, did he bitterly cry out from the depths of his soul to God . And of course God responded. He was just waiting on him.

As St. Augustine said, "Late have I loved thee." Ah, that's it. That's me. Again and again.

And the rest, is, well, history. And we are so lucky, no, not lucky, so graced to have this intelligence and tempered faith be turned in eternal service to the Church. We are all so fortunate to have his writings and prayers to learn from and soak into our hearts and souls.

"You have made us for Yourself, O God.
And our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Kebebe Tsehay Orphanage, Addis Ababa, on our minds and hearts.

Feast Day: Saint Monica

This one is for the moms, all of us!

This is St. Monica, and today is her feast day!
She is most well known as mother to St. Augustine, one of the doctors of the church.
And she is a patron of all mothers, everywhere, as well as to wives - for good reason. Read more about her here.

As a mom, who is impatient and worries about her kids, at times losing sleep over them and the whole process of raising them....it helps me to remember her and her steadfast course on behalf of her husband and children, Augustine in particular. Monica was from North Africa, a tribal African woman, married to a Roman soldier. She was married to a difficult man, a nonchristian (who only tolerated her faith) and she prayed for him without ceasing. He experienced a deathbed conversion, surely due to her faithful prayers.

Her eldest boy, Augustine, was a wild and wayward kid. The kind of young man that makes mothers lose sleep and fret and fume. He left home, he was a wild party-er. Disregarding his mother's typical advice, he met a girl (ok, many, he was quite the man about town), lived with her, got her pregant, fell in with a psuedo religious cult, an intellectual snob...all the top of the charts mom stressers. And so she prayed for her son, got tough on him when she had to, didn't just let him drop out of her life even when he wished for her to....and she never quit on him. She was faithful. It was not fun or rewarding. She just did it with the grace of hope and faith.

And he ended up not only coming back to a good life, but converting to the church and eventually becoming a Doctor of the Church (meaning one of the few people who's writings are recognized as foundational teachings - a big wig). So, wayward young man makes good, through no small faithful effort of his mom. Hence she is also the patron saint of patience!

In a way, I suppose in modern times she would be considered a helicopter parent, huh? However, then again, not. She was a mom, and she loved her husband even though he was hard to live with and her son despite his poor choices and she believed in them and her faith enough to persevere in prayer. And that, for me, is a role model - one of the best.

Because, really that is what we do, what we are called to do, what we get tired of doing, but what the whole mom gig is all about. So, she is a saint for moms, everywhere, and for me in particular. So, happy feast day!
St. Monica. Painting by John Nava.
Shamelessly stolen from The Deacon's Bench.
For a nice prayer and bit on St. Monica, go see.

St. Monica, pray for us!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Toddler Adoption: Adjustment, Part 3

Gabriel Tariku, home 3 months

And yeah, he IS "Mr. Happy."
He is also, Mr. Fussy.
Mr. Loud
Mr. Jealous
Mr. Demanding
Mr. Climber
Mr. Cracks us Up Funny
Mr. Poor Sleeper
Mr. Mischeivous
Mr. Loves to Wrestle
Mr. Speed Racer
And my personal favorite: Mr. Cuddle Bunny

In other words, he is a toddler! And even now, we still see Gabriel adjusting to life here in this country, with us, with a family and a mom and a dad. The adjustment is more nuanced now. The bonding, while it is the ongoing work of a lifetime, it seems to be well on it's way to firm cementing - in both directions. He seems crazy for us and we are surely crazy for him.

The big, first pass adjusting things are settled. Gabe is no longer afraid of the dog, instead he races to her, pats her, leans on her, it is one of his almost-words: "Dah." He eats many things now instead of almost nothing and only milk in a bottle. He doesn't panic if I leave the room, though he often will follow me as fast as his little bowlegs will carry him. He knows the lay of the house and careens around with abandon, confidently manuevering the tables and corners instead of bumping his head. He goes to any and all of his siblings, letting them cart and carry him and only fussing mildly if one of the girls changes his diaper instead of me. He is very assertive at making his wants known, pointing and pulling us to get him something, insistent.

It's the nuanced things now we notice; the little things that remind us, he's still adjusting. It's so easy to take for granted that he's ours, he's just part of us now...it feels in a way like he's been here forever. But now and again, we are reminded.

When he falls asleep now, better in my arms than anyone else's, I remember that he used to fall asleep alone, and prefer it. Now when he wakes, he often wants, demands, to be brought into our bed to sleep between us with a contented sigh. A small thing, yes, but really: huge. Before he would only really sleep, even, alone, in his portacrib...secure and similar to his old orphanage crib (though softer and right next to me).

He is a smoocher now. While his reports from the updates reported him as "a little aggressive" he is actually a super affectionate, assertive, cuddler. He smooches and fish kisses and hugs and when he does he gives a humming sigh. Which makes my heart melt, every time. Not much better in the world than a humming melty hug from a smiling toddler.

Gabriel still has almost no words. He almost has a few words: "mama," but only in distress, "Daa" for Dad, sometimes, and "Dah, for dog. He almost, almost says "hi" and he waves with abandon. But that is it. He relies on grunts and screeches and pushes and pulls. However, it's coming, it's subtle but I think it's coming (and yes, I am no speech therapist so one of you might beg to differ) because I hear him sing. Now, yes, it's singing, baby singing babble and not quite a tune and yet, clearly a happy tune. He didn't sing before. He babbles and talks now, just not in our words but he's clearly telling us stuff. Before he just watched the world and only made noise for fairly big need.

Now, he comes to me, me the mom, for the magic kiss: the owie kiss. And that might seem like a no-brainer, all kids do that, right? Well, no. Not Gabriel, not until recently. Before he would bump his head, sit up, rub the noggin and blink, get up and go on. And his brother would say "wow, he's tough!" And I would agree with a "yeah" but inside I would wince "oh"...because that resilience came at a cost. He had to grow it when he couldn't get a mom kiss on the booboo. And it made me have an 'owie' on his behalf, in my heart. But now...now he gets the most minor bump and he looks to me or runs over to me and I scoop him up and kiss it. Make it better.

So, how are we doing at three months home? I'd say pretty well. If you don't look, you'll miss the adjusting, you might presume it's done. But if you pay attention, you'll see great, important progress.
And when I kiss that owie, again, my boys say, "Oh, he's not as tough, you're making him soft!" And I say, "No, I am making him ours."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Life with Boys, Saturday edition

Booboo has his best buddy over today, hanging out. We'll call him Hockey Star...but we should call the pair of them "Fric N Frac." Don't get me wrong. This boy too, he's like one of my own, they've been buds for years.

But those two.....They are "too cool for you" 16 year olds, but still can be boys enough to run into the house from the pool and shout with glee "Mom, we're gonna have a fight between a frog and a black widow!"

Yeah, I'm gonna want front row seats for that one...

Friday, August 22, 2008

What's wrong with this picture?

We just got home late last night from dropping Buddybug off at college,
again, for his second year.

He's gone.
We are sad.
It was a long trip.
And it was an exhausting trip, what with the crazy long hot drive and packing and loading and unloading and trying to loft beds and move furniture at the same time as you need to chase down the fast four year old who is running down the hall and the surprisingly fast toddler chasing after him.
Heft that box, tote that bail, chase that little boy.
I let the men do most of the heavy lifting and cable wiring....I was left with something like a three day toddler mosh pit.

So it was a bit nuts, but our own brand of nuts, capped by the sad weeping goodbye (ok, me) and the snuffling and tears as we drove out of town (ok, me again).

You know...I know that it is hard for all families to drop off their kids at college. It's always hard to say goodbye. And yes, we are truly happy for him that he has found a good fit and loves it there and is clearly thriving and where he should be...as far as this college concept goes. And happily, he is a young man who seems to be able to juggle the delicate balance of growing into the man he is to become and still stay connected to his family...and thus we are very blessed and thankful.

But that whole notion got me thinking and Coffeedoc and I talking this week, again......
{Yeah, we did have 9+ hours of driving in each direction. So, yeah, we had time to kill....}

And you know, in a way this is whole concept such a weird thing. A close family member, (ok - my dad,) said, "What? You're driving him up? Does he want you to? I mean, I never hung with my family at nineteen, I was gone." And at nineteen, I myself moved out and didn't go home for the summer and really, never went back (shame on me and no wonder my father, yes the same one who made the comment above, was mad at me for months) and so did Coffeedoc.

Why is it that a nineteen year old is supposed to WANT to cut all contact with his family, to strike out in a solo free fall in independence? Why do people say aw, but nudge with a wink when they hear of a kid who has just well, left, for good. Why is it considered "weird" not to, or as parents are you considered "helicopter parents" if you cry when you say goodbye?

Are we freaks?

Maybe, I guess. I like to say we are nurturing parents who love our kids and see them for the amazing people they have grown up to be and, shhhh, LIKE them! And that the kid(s) are nice young people who are generous and kind enough to endure their parent's desire to be with them and actually enjoy it a little bit as well.

So the question comes again: Why is it that to be and stay connected to family is considered somehow suspect or freaky?

Coffeedoc made a good point: it's not. Or shouldn't be. Or isn't and wasn't in other eras and cultures. This seems to be a strictly postmodern American phenomenon. Maybe not only American...but certainly postmodern. We are so set on making our MARK and being our own person that it doesn't matter what ties are cut in the process, it's all about 'getting what you can and being the most you can be.' And somehow that is solo; the uber John Wayne solo cowboy icon, applied and if you don't like it, well something might just be wrong with you, pilgrim.

In other eras, and other cultures, it was/is NOT the norm to send your child off alone once they are capable of being more of a contributor to the family. It WAS/IS not considered a good thing for the child to want to cut ties and move away and create a whole new and wholly separate life from his family, that is what would be considered suspect. It WAS/IS the norm to enjoy spending time with your young adult or adult child and be pleased at having them feel the same way. It WAS/IS a living life together, all life long...extended, but together.

The order, somewhere along the way, flipped. The center is not holding.

And I don't like it. I don't like the postmodern phenom where I have to feel guilty for being so sad at having my good kind son out of the house. I can be happy for his adventures and want him to fly as high as God calls him, but also to remain connected.

I think of the classic image (maybe a fake celluloid creation or even stereotype, but meant in a positive way) of the Italian large busy family, multi generations living near each other, intertwining their mixed up lives. We could do that. I could easily put on a print dress, I've already got the gray hair and sturdy hands and legs and cook for a crowd. I'm all over the matriarch concept! And we love each other, loudly and quietly, with gestures, gifts, and presence. And somehow, that seems like it's from a different era or place. But that, that image, that's where I want to live, that's the picture in my head. Surrounded by family, different ages and offshoots, busy but still connected and physically near close by and involved.
I think I'm moving to Italy.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

On the record

I want to go on the record here.
This is what I just did this afternoon.
Yeah, I did.
I tubed.

Ok, that pic above not me, but it was Bananas and I and I think today we looked just like that!
Ok, Coffeedoc said we were only going about 16 mph when I was on it, but I think he wasn't paying attention. We musta hit 75 easy....

So, I know, I haven't been on the tube all summer.
I don't know why. I forget how much fun it is to just be out there and watch the kids. I get caught up in the hassle of chores and such instead. Or, maybe it has been so smothering hot that I knew I would be crazy sick if I did go out there.
But I promised and so today was the day, my daughter declared.
It was really terrifying..um, exciting!

But it was baby Gabe's first time on the boat. And my first time on the tube w/ Banana girl.
And yeah, feeling a bit more cool...kinda, or not, I think they are still in awe..ok, laughing at me.

But anyhow, I think we both are feeling pretty good about it.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Assumption

Mary's house in Ephesus, where she is believed to have lived out her days.

It's the feast of the Assumption of Mary!

I know, another uber Catholic post and event. Still, fascinating and cool for us and if you want to know more, go read here. I love this one!

This is one of those Marian Catholic things that makes some folks a bit nuts. But really, it all makes sense. It is traced back to the apostles themselves:

At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, when bishops from throughout the Mediterranean world gathered in Constantinople, Emperor Marcian asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem to bring the relics of Mary to Constantinople to be enshrined in the capitol. The patriarch explained to the emperor that there were no relics of Mary in Jerusalem, that "Mary had died in the presence of the apostles; but her tomb, when opened later . . . was found empty and so the apostles concluded that the body was taken up into heaven."
In the eighth century, St. John Damascene was known for giving sermons at the holy places in Jerusalem. At the Tomb of Mary, he expressed the belief of the Church on the meaning of the feast: "Although the body was duly buried, it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay. . . . You were transferred to your heavenly home, O Lady, Queen and Mother of God in truth." from Catholic Culture.org


Again, it makes sense to me and to me, it's beautiful.

"The Assumption completes God's work in her since it was not fitting that the flesh that had given life to God himself should ever undergo corruption. The Assumption is God's crowning of His work as Mary ends her earthly life and enters eternity. The feast turns our eyes in that direction, where we will follow when our earthly life is over." From Catholic Culture.org

When I think of and meditate on this mystery, this feast, I always can't help but think of Mary and her close relationship to her Son. A love from two pure souls, not smudged up by selfish hurts or striving, pure true love.

And, because it's always about me, I think of me and my son(s). I am about to, again, take my eldest up to school, to move him back out of the house. And I am already starting to leak tears here and there. And it will make me cry when we have to begin our drive home again, without him. I will try not to bend over in pain and sob (not in front of him on campus, ok?). But I will grieve him going. I will be happy for him to be there, but it makes me cry to let him go.

And then, I remember, when he comes back on break or I go to visit him, the electric JOY that makes the world light up and a grin break across my face and dance to my feet. And that, that feeling, that reunion is what I think about, finally, every time, on this day.
Because no matter how old the mom is or how old the son.....that feeling surely cannot change, it hasn't yet.

The sheer undiluted JOY that must be had at THIS reunion - when Mary is lifted to heaven, after being physically separated for so long from her only dearest Son, and His for her. Think of that glee, those grins...I don't imagine a static statue of elegant repose and small appropriate smile on their faces. I hear and see whoops of laughter and hugs and glee and tears and grins and kisses. The best reunion of all. Glorious.

So, does the Assumption make sense? Oh yeah, to a mom, I think it makes Perfect sense. And it is a happy glorious feast!painting by Botticini

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Feast Day: Saint Maximilian Kolbe


Today is the feast day of another patron saint in our family, Booboo's patron: Saint Maximilian Kolbe. Go read about him here and here.

He was an amazing man, but what is the most cool thing about him is his devotion to his Blessed Mother and his willingness to step up to sacrifice.

He started a magazine to spread the word about the devotion to the Immaculata (Immaculate Mother) and his Knights of the Immaculata; using the most modern mass communications of the era. If he was alive today I would betcha he would have a blog and website devoted to Her too! Sadly, he was was killed in Auschwitz, offering himself to die in the place of a young father.
Sacrifice in the most literal manner imaginable.

He wasn't big, he wasn't burly, he wasn't famous or rich or powerful...but he poured himself out, utterly, for his faith, with courage. A small frail Fransiscan, who helped change the world just a little bit more. Another hero, and a great patron.Happy feast day Booboo!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Baptism!

Oh Happy Day!
Today we had our sweet Gabriel Tariku baptized, or re-baptized.

It's really a provisional baptism. We believe he was christened in the Ethiopian Orthodox church, which is of course a valid baptism. However, in order to be sure (as you really want to be sure your child is baptized of course) and in order to have a Baptismal Certificate so he can receive the other sacraments, we were able to have him have a provisional baptism, today. And it was no less sweet or awesome or joyful.

We were able to have him wear the traditional Ethiopian outfit, handmade for him by his favored caregiver. Just ironing it and putting it on him took my breath at the joy of this connection and continuation. He looks so handsome in it and it is a treasure; no better, no more appropriate, outfit could have been chosen.
We were blessed to be able to have our dear Bishop, our spiritual Father, perform the baptism and the Mass today before it. Although, when Bishop says Mass we get to hear all our favorite (and his) hymns, which had me working very hard not to cry even at the recessional hymn: "Oh God Beyond All Praising." Especially today, with the adoption of this boy, and with all the families traveling and on my mind, this song got to me. It is one that I posted about before and how it makes me feel connected. And I do.

And really, that, for me, is so much what baptism is about. Connection.We are connected. When we adopt, we connect kids and sibs and new families and races, culture and countries; threads woven together. And with baptism, we are connected, adopted, by God the Father, we are Christ-ened, made to be children of God. We are made anew.

And so this sacrament has so very much meaning for me now, in a way that I could only kind of begin to intellectualize before I began to adopt. I mean, I 'got it'. But not nearly so deeply as I 'get it' now.

And the beauty of it makes me laugh and weep all at the same time. Once again, our life here, when it is at it's VERY best, is a mere glimmer and reflection of the glory that is what's real and awaits.

But, oh, it takes my breath away.
And so I started crying and blinking back my tears at the hymn. Then started up again as we were surrounded by family and friends and saw my girlfriends crying as the Bishop took my hand and talked about my job as the mother to this child, this child of God.

Gabriel slept through part of it, through the christening with oil and the sign of the cross, indelibly, sacramentally, on his chest and forehead....until they poured the Holy Water on his sweet curls. Even then, he settled down fast, in my arms - my newly baptized son, as we all repeated our baptismal vows, our statement of faith.
And the veil between this world and the much more real world around us got a little thinner...and it glimmered.
And we all grinned and blinked tears of joy.
Oh happy day!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Another Hero, another feast day

Meet Edith Stein,
aka St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

She's one of my heroes. She is an amazing woman. It's her feast day today. Go read about her here.
She was born and raised Jewish and German, after she went to university she became an athiest. She was an amazing intellectual and scholar studying philosophy and the then current academic vogue of phenomenology. However, after reading another one of my favorites, and one of my patron saints, St. Teresa of Avila, she recognized Truth. And she converted to the Catholic church. That was a huge thing to do, in wartime Germany for a Jewish raised athiest scholar...to convert to Catholicism. Also not so popular at the time. Her mother sat shiva for her. Not only did she convert, she became a Carmelite nun, first in Cologne (where my guys, husband and big boys were able to visit her convent, so cool!) eventually ending up in Holland. However, even that wasn't far enough from the Third Reich and eventually she was taken from her convent and transported to Auschwitz, where she died, a martyr for her faith, in the gas chambers for being both a Jew and a Catholic, a double whammy for the Nazi's.

She's a hero though, she spent her life searching for Truth, no matter if it was popular or vogue or presented challenges or changes. In a way it was her intellectual craving to search for Truth no matter where it took her, but of course, it was also Grace calling her to Himself.

Anyhow, I think she is a modern example of courage and strength, and of course she appeals to that part of me that connects with my Jewish grandmother and my old academic self. But mostly, she is just another strong, courageous woman for me to look to, as an example of one who stood for Truth, regardless of whether it was popular or easy. I need that example, maybe especially today.
"God is there in these moments of rest and can give us in a single instant exactly what we need. Then the rest of the day can take its course, under the same effort and strain, perhaps, but in peace. And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it with Him. Then you will be able to rest in Him -- really rest -- and start the next day as a new life."
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Blankie

Linus: copyright: PEANUTS. United Features Syndicate.
I just put Gabriel to bed. It takes a bit of time nowadays, but that's ok. But as I sat in the rocking chair with him, for the second time (after the first unsuccessful laying him down)...I realized something that made me smile.

I have a new definition.
Not really new, but one I hadn't really scanned into this version of the Webster's....

You see, Gabe really is into his blankie lately. He is a very tactile kid. He likes to feel it next to his face and rub the nubby and soft texture. So, as you might guess, we have a number of blankies for him. He has definite favorites.

Tonight, he reached for me, not quite ready for sleep. We settled back into the rocker just so...me so I wouldn't spaz my back, Gabe so his one arm was behind me and the other in front and him nestled in, like a big squeeze hug, just so. And I realized, again, as he nuzzled in and sighed...that I am his living security blanket.

I know, this is not a news flash. And yet, it made me smile. Maybe I'm just tired tonight. Sbird and Little Man gave me a run for the money today, they can take fussing and defiance to a new art form some days.
Now, I've been called a 'wet blanket', certainly. And I really do kind of fit the criteria for a good blankie: kind of old and nubbly, faded, worn around the edges, certainly plenty soft and mushy, I smell pretty good (I hope, although even that, like other blankies, isn't always happening), and I am always ready to wrap myself around this baby and let him nestle in, pushing and tugging to make it/me fit just right.

So, I'm a security blanket now, or, well, again.
An old soft mushy blankie. Who knew?
He's got plenty of others too, both the woven and living variety....
But it seems I'm one of the favs...and that makes me very very happy.

Feast of the Transfiguration

Ah, today is the Feast of the Transfiguration!

I love this feast and I love this part of the gospel (Matthew 17:1-9.)
It's one of my favorite decades of the rosary (luminous mysteries, fourth).
I love living the liturgical year...in our own home and our own goofy way, but being able to live out as the calendar pages by. {can you guess, this is a Catholic post?}

To read a good bit on this Feast go to the always excellent Godzdogz, here.
For a more scholarly piece go to Clerical Whispers, here.

But for me, I just love this feast. It's a very visual event, and I am a totally visual gal. I can vividly imagine the whole scene and the shivering thrill (ok, and maybe a touch of terror) that went through the apostles as they witnessed the transfiguration and the otherworldly, well, GLORY of it all! I mean, wow!

And for me, especially as I meditate on this mystery in my rosary, I alway smile. Because I love St. Peter and his impulsive passionate nature. He reminds me, every time I think of this feast, this mystery, of my son - my Booboo. He is just like that, if he had been there, my boy would have been the one to think and say "this is SO cool! Hey, we should set up a tent!" I love that, it is so much a reaction that would happen and I love how it brings the gospel from so long ago right smack into today's, my, world.

And for all the frenzy for special effects nowadays in movies...even in our jaded weary eyes, I'm thinking this one would've blown us away...will blow us away. And even Lucas and the wizards at Industrial Light and Magic can't hold a candle to it. Which is just fun to think about.

So, I do love this feast, this mystery, this special amazing event in the life of Christ and those lucky apostles. And I cling to what this one promises....transfiguration. The changing of our very natures into something unimaginable by our puny little caged human minds.

I cling to the promise of this transfiguration - that even when I cannot see beyond the cloud and the dark, Christ himself is with me and leading the way so I too, can be transformed as I so desperately need to be. It is the promise of this transformation through prayer, and uniting my prayer and will with His, that keeps me putting one foot, one prayer, one action in front of the other.

Because it is a promise of MORE.
More than me.
More than us.
More than our minds or hearts can begin to fathom or guess or dream.

It's a fireworks burst of transfigured self that will make us surely gasp in trembling and mind blowing glee....and we can hang on to that and cling to that in the dark of now, the mundane of today, because of this feast. It's a gift. Pure and simple. A lesson. A gift. A promise.

They saw it. It's real. It happened and there are three, strikingly similar unchanging accounts to document it. We are human and need that proof. Christ asks for faith without seeing (John 20:18) and yet grants us these moments of sight - literal, corneal seeing. How great is that, how merciful, how cool?

But hey, I'll take it, with greedy hands and heart.
And I'll think of Peter and hope to join my shout with his: "Lord it is good for us to be here!" Let's set up a tent!

Painting by Raphael, of course.

Almost Wordless Wednesday

The good stuff.
This is what you do with teens, what we've been doing...talking and hanging.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

glitchy

No, I don't know why blogger is glitchy...it is the outage? But my post is having "black holes" and weird windows to other sites. Sorry all, I am once again, out of techie range here and hoping for time to stop the glitch! However if you click the title of the Alert Hospital post, below, then it will take you to a page with just that post and NO black hole. Sigh. Sorry and I hope it fixes back soon!

Alert Hospital

I've been meaning to post about the Alert Hospital, the leprosy rehabilitation center. It's one of the places recommended to us to visit while in Addis. With an upsurge in traveling families once again, I figured I should mention this.

Go.

It's worth it.

Go. See. Buy.
Even the archicture of the old stone complex is interesting, a nice change from the downtown.

It's outside of Addis downtown, you drive up and out of the city. It doesn't take too long, although there is a fair bit of traffic, but it's maybe 45 minutes out. And it's so pretty up there. Just to drive up and out of the city where the air is fresher and you can feel the breeze, that's a treat, right there.
The women you meet are wonderful. They invite you (ok, me) to sit and visit for a bit. They laugh and you smile back and get your driver to help translate. Mostly, like women, you talk about children, and the baby. You ask about the work, they show you and laugh when you try and muff it up. Nice. Awkward a bit, of course, but you know, it's better to sit and talk and touch and look each other in the eyes.
After visiting with some of the women, we were able to walk around and watch the weaving and spinning and carding of the cotton. SO cool. I love looms and think they are almost mesmerizing, the clack and rhythm and click clack back and forth.
After tearing ourselves away from the looms, we wandered to the gift shop, onsite. It was peaceful and empty, quiet. We were the only folks there, and that was ok. All the items were made here: textiles, scarves, purses, clothes, tablecloths, robes, table runners, hangings. All beautiful, all different.
All the proceeds go to support the hospital - so what's not to like? If you're going to spend money, buy souvenirs, christmas presents, treasured mementos to become heirlooms...you feel pretty good about spending your money here.
At first, when we were told to go to leprosy hospital...I think we all thought, uh, really? My teens were not sure about this venue...I mean, you know, they've seen the movies and the old biblical epics with Charlton Heston and technicolor imaginings of "untouchables""lepers." Such a stigma, right? Then my husband pointed out that it is a treatable condition in todays world, though not always caught and treated in time.

And so they came with us, with no nudges or comments. They came with us respectfully. And they saw. And they sat. And they chatted. We all did and what we saw were real people.

NOT untouchables.
Real people with beautiful skills and even more beautiful eyes and smiles.

I have talked about how the faces of Ethiopia pull at me. They do. And it's not just the faces of the children, although surely it is those faces too.

It is this face.
This is one of those faces that you want to grab on either side and sort of smush just a bit as you hold it in your hands and say "such a beautiful face!" (But I didn't, of course, that would be rude...)
These faces...

I might just have to carve out some time to paint some more, again. Although I (the perfectionist) hamstring and stop myself before I start, knowing I can never capture them right or do them justice - but that is fodder for another post....
But this face. These faces. With smiling sparkling eyes and a beautiful smile. These are the faces in God's own heart and mind. And now, indelibly, in mine.

Go. See. Visit. Buy. It's worth it, every awkward guilty joy gilded minute, it's worth it.

School Bells

Well, school started this week. We've all been getting ready.
Booboo is a junior now, and while he's happy to see his friends again...
It's still school. And it starts early!
The girls started homeschool again too. I figure if one kid is whining, um, discussing the merits of school...then we might as listen to them all at the same time, eh?!
One of the perks of starting school early, however, is the after school fun time.
The water feels fine after a day of hitting the books.
No matter what age you are!