Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Process: Markers, Dreams

Mom and Gabriel Tariku at Dreamland.

We got good news today!
We are both homestudy and Gladney approved!
Yahoo!

So now we are waiting only on the infamous CIS amendment,
and then our dossier can zing to Addis and the Ethiopian paperwork can begin.

And now our dreams are closer, and more vivid...
Dreamland Resort, outside of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

.
..of our daughter to be, and what dreams may come.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Works for me Wednesday

Having a great babysitter who is like part of the family! A rare bird, indeed!

Miss Sally O, is our gal Friday! She is part babysitter, part big sis, all around helper around here. She is the one who I can always call on to hang with the kids, and not worry about them at all. She is old enough to be responsible and capable and have a good sensible head on her shoulders; but young enough to be high energy (a must!) and fun to be with!

People say, "How do you manage all those kids, and homeschool and run the house?" and so on. Well, with a little help of course!! There is no way to effectively be mom, homeschool, take kids to doctor appointments, cook, and well, just keep all those balls in the air, FOR ME, than with a little help. {I know there are so many moms who do manage this and so well. I am in awe of them. And I know my shortcomings and my limits! And so my gratitude kicked in and my pride went out the window on this issue, ages ago!} This dear girl makes me a better mom. I can focus on who needs me and what needs me as it arises, and be a better juggler with her extra set of hands for a couple of hours.

Of course, I'm not stupid and I realize the toll it takes on a gal...so I always worry a bit about her leaving for greener, quieter pastures. She is good enough to answer, today, at her own blog. {And yes, I realize it's not gonna last forever, or long, she's gonna graduate college, get an exciting job, find a great guy, get married...the list goes on and makes me happy for her and sad for us, but we'll enjoy it while it lasts!}She's part of our family, she's my right hand gal, she's the biggest "sis," she's Sally O! And we are grateful for her here!

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Post Birthday Edition
Ready to get pierced ears...just a little nervous!
Whew! That wasn't so bad!
Balloons are the best, yeah Dad!
No, not a mohawk, just a goofy pic.
Birthday girl and her Dad. Best stuff of all!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Struggles and Cheers

homeschool live blogging - it's been a crazy day don't judge me

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

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

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

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Bananas!

Thirteen years ago, in the dark night, just before dawn lit up behind the clouds, I remember the sky opening up with thunder and lightening and rain, to accompany your early morning birth.
Even nature wanted to announce your arrival!
Then there you were, a perfectly beautiful little girl, in my arms, to my everlasting joy.
And your father, he learned, instantly, what it meant to have a daughter!
And yes, you were our only baby with crazy colic, but it passed.
And yes, your first word was "up."
But high intensity people make for very high highs and great passion.
And that is our girl: full of passion and with a huge compassionate heart. Loving, laughing, feeling everything and wanting to see and know the whole big world.
Musical, a great cook, a great helper and sweet, that is you.
Your family and friends mean the world to you,
at the same time as you have a heart to see and serve the world too.
My big girl, growing into big dreams.I love this best of all about you!
Thirteen already, but already growing into an amazing young woman that we are so proud of.
Some dread the teen years. Not me.
I think it's gonna be a great adventure with you!
We love you so much!
It's a big day here! I'd better go start the cake!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Funky, Fine, or Freaks? Pondering the Large Family

Fair warning: LONG post.

I have been stewing a bit lately. Maybe it was another migraine, pushing my thoughts outside their normal box. Maybe, but I don't think so. Maybe it has been the intensive discerning process we've been in. Or now, the idea that we have EIGHT children (we just need CIS to verify). Very likely, that.
(This is an older picture, w/ our Korean exchange student/daughter from afar,
but not counting Gabriel or our new daughter to come)

But, clearly, I've been thinking, a LOT, about the large family.

Now, we, to some, are a large family. To many of the families I know, we are a smallish large family. Or maybe a largish, medium size family. Or a big small family. By some standards we are a middling family, no big deal. But, by others, the vast majority, we are a Large family. By modern American standards we are a freaky big family!
And I think, isn't that odd?
And isn't that kind of sad?
But then again, I have to think about that a lot. Because my kids have to grow up in this family. And some people have written about how hard and bad it is for kids to have to grow up in a large family; what a disservice it does to the kids. Hmmm.

Obviously, I have a bias.

I like to think that a large family, or a largish medium size family, or even a crazy big family is on the whole: good for the kids. Kim at Starry Sky Ranch is thinking about this, living it, as well. Worth a read that.

But too often, in our modern or postmodern culture, the large family is considered not only not so good, but detrimental. Huh? Because in the modern ethos, if you are filling all the bedrooms and then some in your house then surely you are shortchanging your kids, right? They must not have all the "things" they need materially. Because modern kids are not only entitled to their own room and an education but the newest backpacks and electronics and flat screen tv's....really? Ok, I'm not saying everybody holds to this, but oddly enough, I get asked about this sort of thing. And of course, you might guess, I disagree. Kids are not entitled to such, to our excess consumerism, nor is it best for them (and we are all too guilty, all too often, mea culpa). But this is another post topic, really...the idea of how much and of what? Kids need a certain financial stability to thrive and certainly the adoption process ensures that. But it is a much wider swath than some I meet presume.

But to take it further, people wonder, and (to my waning shock) ask outright, if we are being "good stewards" of our resources. We have been questioned, point blank, on whether we have all our kids' college funds funded (more than once). And you know, thankfully, so far, God has provided and no we don't have every child's entire education funded. We are figuring that we will figure it out and we will find a way to be sure that all our children get the education they want and need. It is a priority, but not a panicked stash. This is our personal decision (so don't flame me, I get it when you decide otherwise).

So really, it begs the question: good stewardship, how is it applied to kids and a big family? Well, I think it's simple. The best investment, ever and always, is in the life of a child. Period. That may be easy to say, but if we can make it work, we are gonna and so we figure we can raise one more, again. It might not be easy, it's an expensive process and prospect. But, we, in faith, figure we will figure it out as we go.

But as for stewardship and the good of the kids, there is a much bigger picture to go with.....again, the fingers get pointed at the bigger family. Because you can't possibly be a good steward of your other resources if you have so many kids can you? Can you really give those kids all the attention they need? Really? The love, the time? Can you really focus on their needs, their individual quirks and nurture them fully?
Yes, you can.
Is it hard and challenging at times?
Um, yeah.
Is it noisy and messy and chaotic?
Oh boy, yup, it is that!

But here's the secret that people forget. They must forget because surely they know, if they pause to consider. One of the best, the very best, reasons to have a large family is: siblings. Yeah, the rivalry thing is real and can be maddening and intense. But siblings are simply the greatest gift you can give a child, any child. Even kids who have special needs, and might need more of your attention and resources (financial or otherwise); their best gift from you is a sib. Because only a sibling will always be there for them. Siblings are the only people who will have a relationship that spans the lifetime - even if it gets broken. There is still something there. And more siblings aren't a drain, it's a literal expansion: of fun, silliness, madness, emotions, opportunities, support, touch, love. They may not always be happy about it, and some sibs will be closer than others. But no one else will make you fall off your chair laughing til you cry when you're grown. I remind my boys when they fuss that no one else will be able to make fun of me, after I am dead, like his brother. OK, or even now as I am quite alive. Love 'em or hate 'em, there is nobody like a sib. Ever.
And then we come to the one that makes me feel quite the curmudgeon:
"what about you?"
"How can you, as a mom, as an adult woman, feel fulfilled and challenged when you are tied to a house full of kids?"
What about "me time"?
People have asked me this in opposition to our latest adoption.
And you know, here's my answer:
I do not live under a rock, I am aware of this concept, I see the magazines. And yes I do get tired and burnt out too sometimes. However, I am the most selfish person I have ever met and I must say I have a remarkable knack for carving out ME time.
But my "me" time may not be yours.
And it is a huge mistake to judge how much or of what type is claimed.
And in our culture, there is such an emphasis on self that it has gotten skewed. The best sort of "me" time I can really give, is to my kid (one or all). Not that I always remember that point, or do it. But the times I DO remember and value and that restore, are the ones that are those good quiet parent moments: laying down with a cuddled up small one for a rare quiet moment or two, the discussion (happy, funny, sad, intense) where you make those connections, the sideways look of understanding each other in a crowd (even if that crowd is your own kitchen). Don't get me wrong, I love having a hot bath, I took the time to run far slow runs, I love a good book. But. When someone, friend, family, or stranger, tells me that we shouldn't have another child, love another, because it will cut into "my" time (and they have, more than once)...then I'm thinking, um, something is wacked.

And I guess that's where I'm at. I'm a bit dismayed over the flip. The cultural flip. It's wonky. We are the stranger now. Our family. We have gone off the grid. We are freaks. We don't fit, anymore. Because we have been deemed freaky. We are, weirdly, "other." We feel freaky, really.

But here's my take on it: it's not politically correct, but I think our culture is freaky. Our society, in postmodern America (ok it's even beyond, look at Europe) is the freaky thing. It's wacked. The family, no matter the size, is under attack and when you are obviously centering your life around the family instead of the golden calf of "self"...well, you are labeled as a freak or crank or a pompous poof....or well, the list could go on and on.

If you are "lucky" people will presume you are 'strong" or "good"...but even that is not so. Nice to hear, if embarrassing. Because, in actuality I am (we are) selfish, again. Because loving this family is everything to me. These kids, this life, this family, even as it grows.....is the biggest challenge, hardest, most exhilarating, most exhausting, most worthwhile thing I can begin to imagine.So, tell Gabriel that we are a freaky funky family, right after you pry him out of his big brother's arms. Try it. I think he would disagree....

Fine Art Friday

Madonna and Child,
by Saincilus Ismael, Haiti


Madonna. Mother to us all, no matter where we are from. I love paintings of the Madonna. The detail on this painting my husband got in Haiti is phenomenal. And, well, this is just what I need to see and gaze at today, it's been an unsettled sad day with hard news for friends and stress afloat.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Reminder: Month of Rosary

Photo thanks to Godzdogz
Just in the nick o' time.
A reminder that it is still the month of the rosary.
Go to the ever great Godzdogz and read. Each member of the team is posting a bit on the rosary, and what it means to them. All good!

Here's a snip:
I close my eyes and I reach for the beads. I squeeze the sharp edges of the Crucifix in the palm of my hands, as I try to remember once again what that means for me. The love that was poured out on that day was for me, and that love fills me. I kiss that symbol, I unite myself to that love, and I begin my journey with the Sign of the Cross.

This is a reminder to me as well. Too often, I let this practice fall away in the hustle and bustle (and my personal laziness) of life. But, it is a prayer that is a comfort each and every time, even the distracted ones. It is a prayer that transforms. These bits by the ever cool and thoughtful guys over at Godzdogz are worth reading, to remember and inspire.

Go read, pray.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Not Very Wordless Wednesday

So, this week, as you know, BuddyBug is home for fall break.
And we are all enjoying, relishing, the visit, of course.
I realized, again, yesterday that when he's back there is just a lot of extra laughter and music through the house.
{And we made a pact to only where our college logo clothes! ok, kidding}
And I love this.
And I think it's because we all get a glimpse of what's important again:
being a Whole, present, family.
All together now.
And so we each find, in our own way, the time and way to mark these few days:
banging out songs, embarrassing ourselves on the tennis court, cooking, praying, laughing, jumping......(yes, even sending forth to Publix).
Even the smallest among us finds his own way to enjoy this time....
just try to pry him loose!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Spinning and hoping: process update

I am making all the children walk around like this, at all times: all fingers crossed.
Ok, kidding. That would be superstitious. And we as Catholics are not, or not supposed to be at any rate!

Our heads (and by that, I mean, mine) are spinning around here.
I feel somewhat like Lucy, Lucille Ball that is, on one of her wacky factory episodes.....just not quite 'getting it.' I should explain: in some ways going back for a second round of adopting internationally is much easier. However, in some ways it is harder in the sense of confusion.

As ever, the most formidable part of the whole paperchase process (for me at any rate) is the labyrinth that is commonly known as Immigration, Homeland Security, USCIS, or for those in the know (and by that, I mean "mired"): CIS.

Going back a second time would seem simple, but maybe not so much. And it is complicated (or not??) by having an approval that is still "open" and needing only an amendment. Because amending is uncommon, and CIS is a black hole. Almost impenetrable.

Allusions abound, images spinning through my mind as I wait for either a glimmer of info on where we stand, or a "Go": Frodo's quest, Lucy's candy wrapping, or more, the Dreaded Fire Swamp or the Cliffs of Insanity. Maybe I need the Dread Pirate Roberts to be on our side!

It is not the kind of excruciating hard sadness that so many Gladney families have had to bear this past week. My heart still hurts for each of them. It is not the kind of unknowable ways of a foreign country, as Grace aptly puts it: TIE (this is Ethiopia - our ways are not yours, and we shouldn't expect them to be). It is our own nation's bureaucratic cogs a'spinning, or grinding and lurching.

So right now, I've been quieter on the blog as we have been spinning plates and keeping them all in the air...that delicate balance between hope and impatience. I'm trying (and commonly failing) to detach in faith and tend to real life as it continues to present itself in stubbed toes, book report drafts, grocery store runs, giggling small boys, staring contests, and listening to the house filled with music from a visiting son!

I know, dullsville. But some have asked about the chase, the paperchase, and well, this is how it goes. Probably every time, I am sure. I'm impatient. Forever. Most plates in the air, a few crashed to the ground and another then tossed back up. All fingers crossed, anyhow and hope springing eternal! Because that's how the paperchase really plays out!
flikr photo by tpaddock

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Best Kind of Surprise!

He's back! Already!
Pic of {sleepy, crying, woken up} overjoyed mom with my college boy!
{hey, it was almost midnight people, cut me some slack!}


Buddybug was supposed to come home tonight (Saturday) from college for fall break. He was catching a ride from some friends, (thank you W kids! and we'll settle up the gas money I promise). Being college kids after midterms, they were going to have fun and socialize last night and sleep in and drive today. So, no expectations here of seeing my boy until later tonight. But that's ok, because I was already working on the pies which needed to be made in advance to set up (graham cracker cream, his favorite) and making plans for cooking up a storm; getting ready.

Well, last night was homecoming for the high school, a late game this week because as Booboo put it: they wanted a win for homecoming so had to "import the team from Iceland." As usual, I had fallen asleep waiting for the guys to come home from the game. As usual, I was awakened with a large boy diving down for a goodnight hug. But it was Buddybug! "Hi Mom!" I woke with a jolt, and a cry and many hugs! Best, best surprise! He beat his Dad and brother home too, just.
He surprised us all!

So I did what any mom would do:
I fed him pie.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Fun: Toddler Style

We are finally getting a hint of words to come from young
Mister Gabriel Tariku!

We hear "Mama" "Hi" "Up" "uh-oh" "ba bye,"
possibly "shoe" "dog" and "J" for his brother.

Oh but he is coy!
Today he started saying "Uh-oh" and "Peeboo" (peekaboo, of course).
But never, never on demand.
This (above) is the face he makes when he knows you just heard him almost say a word,
but hey, you missed your chance and that's breaks! Gotcha!

Great tease, this boy!
He is, of course, forgiven immediately for this game.
Look at him, how could you not?

But this afternoon's fun has been taken up with the newest, best game of all:
On your mark.
Get set.
GO!

Every time, this means a collapse into giggles on the floor or my lap,
simply overcome with the thrilling glee of such a wild game...
then a swift recovery and back to the start line!

Yeah, life just doesn't get a whole lot better 'n that, for a toddler, don't ya know!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tagged??


Well, it happened. I've been tagged, by Rebecca at Adoption Cubed, one of the blogs I stalk, erm, follow. And I wasn't sure if I was gonna play, because I feel like a dork doing it and can't believe that I won't alienate what few readers I might have left. I mean, boring, eh? But then I felt like a child who picked up her marbles and stomped home. So, I may have lost my marbles, but here goes:

Odd facts about me:
1. I used to be a vaulter. Not a pole vaulter like the Olympics (c'mon...), but rather Horse Vaulting. Though horse vaulting was in the Olympics, ever so long ago! But when I was a kid I spent every Saturday morning and many afternoons, hanging around barns and rings, and lunging horses and then running beside them and then leaping onto their back. Once up, well, it was kind of like circus riding, but not so flashy. We did mild gymnastics up there. And it was scary and thrilling and hard and great fun. A little weird, not your standard kid sport, but I loved it. Man, that was a long time ago!

2. I have held many many jobs over the years, from the standard waitress (forever), to retail, to secretary, etc. But my most despised job was as a department store display gal. You'd think I would've loved it; it was supposedly artsy and creative and all. But no. It was numbing and just oddly dreadful. I didn't last long there. Maybe because I hate shopping or maybe I knew, I would've lost too many brain cells. But I pay attention, still, to the displays and mannequins, let me tell ya!

3. I am a morning person. Totally and utterly, while my husband is totally and utterly a night owl. I cannot stay awake at night. I am like a shark, once I stop moving after evening falls (like at 3 pm), I die...ok, fall asleep. Always. (And I used to make fun of my dad for doing the same thing...shame on me!)

4. You know I am gray, almost totally anymore. But I started my first shock of gray when I was very young, maybe around 20. It shocked me. So, I did what any college art student would do: I dyed it, myself, for years. And years. Finally, I couldn't keep up and didn't want to anymore. So, around ten years ago, I stopped. Now you see what happened.

5. I am a compulsive book person. I love them. Everything about them; the physicalness of them, the look, smell, feel of them. I love having them, I love reading them. I am usually reading multiple books at one time. I have them stacked all over the house so I can grab one wherever I land for a time. I love best of all the potential of them - for me to learn something or love something, to get lost in one all over again.

6. One of the jobs I did like was as a computer graphic designer. I did graphics for computer games back in the dark ages when home computer games were just being developed. So: caveman graphics. And oddly enough, I was the designer on games that were flying simulation war games. ACK! What was I thinking? Well, it was a job. And all of you know, or should, that getting a job as an artist is a tough go. So, it paid the rent. But I liked it too, oddly enough and did well enough to have my little work win an award or two, way back when. We still have a copy or two stashed away somewhere, but of course no system can use them now. Nowadays the graphics on games are phenomenal, the graphics from back then are laughable in comparison. Not too dissimilar, really, from that old toy Light Bright, with the lighted pegs. But, it was state of the art at the time. The Amiga system, remember that?? And yeah, I realize I just dated myself (twice!). I ended up leaving though because I couldn't live the corporate lifestyle for too too long, it wasn't me. I ended up going back to grad school. But that's a whole 'nother story.

7. I admit it: I love Coca Cola. I mean the real Coke. Classic Coke. I could drink it around the clock. My baby brother and I joke that it can be a monkey on our back. We have to quit it cold turkey. And so I switch to Coke Zero. But it's just not the same. I could (and ok, have) take my morning vitamins with Coke, which just shows you what a bad example I am as a mother.....but well, I told you, it's an issue.

Ok, so, now all that useless info that you really didn't need to know. I get to tag people, randomly, so here goes:

I tag:
Buddybug at It's Jordan Time

Buttercup at Our Walk by Faith

Grace at All these Reasons

Shasta at Destination: Ethiopia

Shelly at Our Journey Together

Jess at The Soucys go to Ethiopia

Andrea at Schumacher Family Adoption

Whew, I'm glad that's done and well, now you know, eh?

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Today the pic is of Bananas.
I love this pic of her, a few years ago, with Little Man -
back when he was Little Baby.

But today I am posting for Bananas because yesterday she got braces put on.
And it hurts. A fair lot. So I'm not sure I'm gonna get many pics of her great grin for a little while. But I know it's still in there. Just not today. So, today, I'm posting one to remember.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Writer's Block

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

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

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

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


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

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My Girls on a Saturday Morning

Here is a picture from a few years ago, not that long, of my three girls:
Sbird is on top of this pyramid, with Divine Miss M,
and Bananas (appropriately enough, in yellow) below.

This picture makes me smile because this picture pretty much sums up this pack of girls.

They are kind of a force of nature, the three of them combined. Not always in the best sense, often enough in the sense of a swirling hurricane, with winds blowing here and there of moods and wildness; even leaving destruction in their wake. But when the three of them join forces for good on a project they are like a sudden rainstorm, pounding it out with noise and commotion but afterward a happy new success, clean and shiny. They can make their brother crazy; he walks through the house shaking his head in dismay. He doesn't understand them. They are messy and loud and moody. They can make me crazy too. That whole girl-mom mood thing is a whole 'nother deal as well - yeah we can push each others buttons.

But changes are afoot.
These girls are stretching their wings, learning new skills, having new interests.
I am getting glimpses into the future, here and there.
And it's lovely.

So, it's early Saturday morning. I am still waking up, a bit stiff and still quiet, moving slow. It's just me and the girls and little boys this weekend, Coffeedoc and Booboo are out of town.
And as I walk downstairs I smell coffee. Mmmmm. Coffee? The only one up, before me or at the same time, ever, is Sbird. But sure enough. Bananas made me coffee, set to perk right now, before she came upstairs last night. What a treat!!!

Then after I putter through a couple morning chores I wander to my computer to check email. Miss M wakes up and comes downstairs (she's so quiet coming down, she always surprises me when all of a sudden, there she is!). She asks to make a smoothie. I say ok and she and Sbird skitter into the kitchen happy and noisy about this task. As I listen to them clanging around I hear Sbird say, "Mom needs some too." And sure enough, in a moment, I have a glass of a yummy fruit smoothie (and they make it with no milk, since I can't have any, they think of that!) brought to me with a smile. And I smile back and say "thank you!" and drink.
It is so good.
So, this Saturday morning. I want to go on record. I want to say and remember, before another girl hurricane hits this afternoon (and they do, and will) that having these girls is so great. How lucky am I? I have three girls, soon to add another, right in there - agewise - with this bunch. I have four daughters. And I am grateful.

And so this Saturday morning. I want to remember it and savor. It is so good.