Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween! All Hallows Eve!

Preparations are under way.
Pumpkins have been carved, and tested in the dark.
Oohs and ahs, gasped, hands clapped.
Costumes tweaked and twirled and swashbuckled about.
Pillowcases found and tested for candy collection.
Candy tested, twice even.
Or more.
Snickers are frozen (Um, to test...yeah, that's it!).
Reeses and Baby Ruths picked from the bags (Best Halloween candy. Ever)
Trick or Treating timetable set.
Weather checked and fretted over.
Kids amped up.
Parents eyeing wine and margaritas.
Dusk soon, right?
Oh.
Ok, waiting a bit.
For my sister:
Brisket is cooking for chili.
Pumpkin Pies are baking.
Corn bread and little mini hot dogs in process.
(FYI: They are rightly, traditionally, called "Little mini hot dogs" - whether or not they are mini dogs or little smokies and it is not redundant to use "little" and "mini" on such a festive occasion. It's tradition for you newbies out there. Ask my sister. She's a lawyer and the oldest. She says.).

It's All Hallows Eve.
It's Halloween!
Its tradition: exhausting, wild, ruinous for teeth and figures, and big fun.

Happy Halloween to all!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

If you give a boy a straw.....

He will drink soup!

Which is a big improvement over wearing it!


Good thing our Sally O' is clever! Thanx honey!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy Bday Bananas!

Happy Happy Birthday to my girl, my Bananas.

I know I say this all the time, but I can't believe you are this old.
Fourteen already!

14!
Oh my goodness. And when you pointed out that next year you get a drivers permit, well, ok, I am just NOT ready for that.
But I will say, perhaps you will be, because you are growing into a lovely young woman.

Finishing up grade school and preparing for high school.
You want to go to your brother's high school so much, but recognizing the difficulty of decisions and being willing to discuss and understand the different choices.
You have grown up so much in the past year or so, physically but also in maturity.
You were our baby that we "worked so hard" to get.
Shots for months, tests, procedures, heartbreak and dreams.
Finally you arrived, with the heavens clapping for you, and carved your place in the family, by your sweet smiles but first by your colic!
We knew, the boys knew, life would never be the same and you would make way for yourself!

Happily you have a big huge heart, filled with compassion.
And you love to laugh and are willing to laugh at yourself.
You are filled to overflowing with music, it bubbles through even when you're supposed to be quiet.
But we are really enjoying your new and growing talent on the piano.
And I would love to hear you keep singing and sing more, you have a beautiful voice.
You are creative and kind.
You are moody and dramatic.
You are smarter than you realize.
You are energetic, as long as you have fully woken up.
You are another night owl in the family.
You are a social butterfly.
But have your head on straight and so know how to do that social thing with integrity and kindness.
You are full of faith, a rare thing in a child your age.
Did I mention, it was FOURTEEN?

You are goofy and fun and love to laugh.
You share a bday, almost, with your best friend, who is like part of the family.
You are beautiful.
Your smile can light up a room.
Your room is still a disaster.
You love to travel and have a bit of wanderlust.
You are torn between big city life and that country girl in you.
They say you look just like me and remind my family of me.
I'm sorry.
I think however that they are wrong.
You are beautiful and better than me, in so many ways.

You are sharing your most private space, bedroom and bath, with a brand new sis.
You are a hero for that in my eyes.
And your dads.
And your brothers.
We love you so much and am so proud of you.
I hope all your birthday wishes come true........
except for that car thing.

Happy Happy Bday Bananas!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Firsts

No adoption blog really is complete without posting that ongoing, ever growing, list of firsts. The list ranges from the mundane to the sublime, but they all have impact and are a privilege for us to witness. Fun and nervewracking, scary sometimes, sometimes hard, but really...it's always cool to expand a world, bit by bit. To find out much is out there.

So, without further ado, here it is. First post of firsts.

Obviously, first Halloween.
First supermarket.
First escalator.
First ice cream.
First airplane.
First elevator.
First dentist visit.
First extraction, ouch.
First family dinner.
First ride on a boat.
First ocean.
First beach.
First Grandma.
First Grandpa.
First trampoline.
First cousins.
First Uncles.
First Aunts.
Frst pumpkins, first jack o'lanterns.
First Disney.
First roller coaster.
First frappucino.
First football game.
First swim.
First walk on beach.
First seashells.
First dolphins.
First movie.
First computers.
First piano.
First vaccinations.
First family party.
First sentences in english.
First trouble with american mom and dad.
First forgiving.
First big family.
First brothers.
First sisters.
First autumn.
First lazy naps on the deck in the sun.....
The best thing about most of these firsts is they are just that: firsts. Most of them have many more, countless, times to experience them again. Which might not be so thrilling on the no fun ones...but some of them, ah, its just so good.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Turn-keys

So many of the things that are involved with adjusting to an adoption keep crowding into my head. So, I'm processing stuff. Which means I have to post, you know it...its how I process. Bear with me. I wish someone had talked about this stuff when I was researching wondering dreaming about it all. I know, heaps o' books out there, but for my meager mind, I need things categorized a mite differently. Maybe. All those books are so helpful and even now crowding my bookshelves and stacked on my night table. I am still using them and will be for a good long while, maybe ever.

But even so, this is how my mind parses things out:
Turn-keys.
You know how you hear about "Turn key" businesses? Where you can just step in and the biz runs properly, right out of the box?
Well adoption is the exact opposite of that.

But even so, I have decided that there ARE "turn-keys" in the adoption process, the adjustment process. And I think they really are critical to the fine tuning of an adoption, at least for us, me, our family. These are the keys that literally turn and open or close the process of adjustment (at least in my opinion, I'm just a mom, not an expert, so take this for what it is).

Sadly, there is NO ONE key to the whole process; though wouldn't that be fantastic!? But I think these are a number of keys: time, touch, trouble, trust, truth, talk, terror even. I've written about the terror often enough. And time, downtime, that is. And recently about the trouble. But one of the most important keys, a true "turn key," is one of the hardest (of course!).

Trust.
Oh my.
I think this is one of the biggest.
In some ways, it's everything.
Think about it: TRUST.
There has to be so much of that.
But how hard it is to find, to grab, to hold, to create, to hang onto?
If you have it, it seems solid..and you are more fortunate than you may realize.
If you do not, or cannot, then it can be so ephemeral, so heartbreakingly out of reach.

I think it is what we are all searching for, as much or more than happiness, or possibly, love.
Because you cannot trust without love.
Because you cannot be happy without trust.
They flow and feed each other.
So, yeah, its big.
When you have brought an older, hurt, child into your family is it gigantic.
It is everything.

Gee whiz, trust. Sounds like a basic. I have realized I really took it for granted, that foundational unquestioning trust. I trust my kids, beyond those moments of obvious lying or um, borrowing, and run of the mill kid stuff that most kids have to test out. They trust me. Even if they hate me for holding them to curfew or being strict, they still, if push came to shove, would admit that (even if I am "so wrong and clueless") I have the best intentions on their behalf. I trust my husband, I trust how things work. I trust God. Right?

Well, this adoption has taught me that actually, I have MASSIVE trust issues! (It's the curse of the control freak, always) God, husband, kids, new kid, the whole shebang. Not too fun finding that one out! But, really, helpful, because with the entrance of a new, older, child into a home....everyone's level of trust is laid on the line. And you know what? You have to deal with it.

As mom, you have to deal with it yourself and for the others too. I'd love to say that foundational trust is unshakable. And it might just be for Coffeedoc and Buddybug. And thank goodness for that! But for the rest of us? Well, it was shaken some. You can see that shake in the jealousy, the attention seeking of new and old kids, the acting out, the frazzled tempers and moods (yeah, mine too, once or twice. Ahem.). Really, so much of that turmoil stemming from questions of trust, different levels, but still the same bottom line. And for our new sweet girl? Well, its still not there for her either. How can it be?

So, how do you build trust? How do you parent a child who just plumb does not, cannot truly deeply TRUST you? Its much harder than it seems and I think its one of the huge reasons that it can be harder to adjust to older child adoption. When you've raised a child from baby or toddler that trust has a million times over to be proven built tested and reinforced.

A new child, older, coming from a completely different world and ways? Do they have that tested track record with you? No. Do you trust them immediately in the same way as your children already at home? Honestly? You can't. You don't know them well enough yet to know their expressions moods triggers. You don't know when the honeymoon will switch to a meltdown or if it will even. So that takes time to trust and anticipate their actions and reactions. And so, until you build that foundation of trust.... Well, you're flying, um parenting, without a net.
And for the new child? Well, that trust is gonna be a long time coming, deep down. They might well trust that you will feed house and clothe them. But the deep trust, the kind that withstands the misunderstandings, the corrections, the grief the anger the complete discombobulation....that isn't there, not really. And so when they feel like they are drowning in all the change how do they trust you will save them, pull them up and not let go? Well, maybe they don't. Or maybe they are trying, but you have to do your part. Which is: be there, hang on, get over yourself (Now don't get all worked up and think I'm judging, I am totally typing about ME here), and don't let go.

Sounds easy. It's not.

But as you do it, you both are reaching a bit toward each other. Even the silly kinds of trust make such a huge difference. That you can tease and just be a little silly, for fun not hurt. And that really ice cream seems weird but is wonderful, try it. And that if mom says she will come in and kiss you goodnight when she gets home, she will. Heck, even that, just like a small child needs to learn, I always come back.

And just that effort, that repeated reaching, I think {and continue to hope and pray}, brings you (ok, me) all a bit closer, laces your heart to the other....a tiny bit at a time. It may not feel like it at all. And trust is really something that doesn't feel like much except a sort of sureness, an absence of fear. But it is the grounding for the feelings that feel like everything: happiness, love, joy.

So, really, I would love someone to hand me a shiny big ol' turn key to all this, to precisely fit this one critical lock. And then to open the door to a deep firm trust, for all of us. Trust in each other, trust in love, trust in the time and effort, trust in the good, trust without hurt, trust without doubt or question or fret. But I guess this particular turn-key is crafted from the clay of our (OK, my measly) hearts, bodies, and just plain old presence, again and again and again - for the whole family, old and new. But this key, once its made, will be one to treasure tight.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Almost Wordless Wednesday

The kids had a big time at the pumpkin farm Sunday.
The younger ones did some swinging
(the older ones thought they were too cool).
You can see them all below....



Look closely.....who's hitched a hideaway ride?

Autumn. Love it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bucket O Beach

It was beyond great to be at the beach last week; to spend time with my family, have Marta meet my family, to breath deeply that salty ocean air. It is one of the few places in the world I really relax. But again... you've "done your time." I'm not gonna blather on here.
This post is for the pics:


Uncle David, my big bro.




With Uncle John, my baby brother.





Friday, October 16, 2009

Counter Intuitive Adjustment

There is an odd part of the adoption adjustment process that I want to talk about, to kind of sort it out in my head. I've only really actually been able to see it clearly this time around. I suspect it plays out much more with the adjustment of an older child into the family. I'm talking about that boundary...the one that is so hard to cross the first few times.

I'm talking about trouble. I mean Trouble with a capital "T" (to borrow from "The Music Man"). And I guess I should throw out the caveat that I'm only talking about OUR house and family and experience here. So don't flame me, I know well enough that every single adoption - young or old - is unique and different from every other. However, that said, I have noticed something lately, and it feels important, at least to me/us. Its a whole counter intuitive experience.

Trouble. You all know it. There are different kinds of course. But I'm talking about routine 'trouble,' the kind found in oh, every single family in the world. The usual stuff of squabbling and testing boundaries and annoying behaviors and flat out breaking the rules to see how it plays sort of thing. The sulks, the tantrums, the rudeness, the ignoring.....life with kids. Not all kids, not all the time...but really, most every kid, some of the time.

With the adoption of an older child, ok, this older child, there are phases. You can read about them in the books. The honeymoon phase is the most fun, supposedly, the giddiness of meeting and all the excitement of the new.

All new, all the time.
Frankly, its wonderful and exhausting.

Part of that exhaustion comes from that very newness. Every single thing is new, needs to be explained, or pointed out, or giggled over. Everything is heightened. And it takes a little while, but then you realize that everyone is kind of walking through the day on eggshells. Don't make a false step or the eggs will crack and the mess might spill out. Everyone is on their best behavior because no one is quite sure how it will play when they are not.

But you know, that can't last.

It doesn't. And while it is a whole 'nother kind of exhausting to leave that golden honeymoon phase, it is a relief in it's own way. Because now, it becomes real. Things get rocky, possibly very very fast. It can be ugly. It hurts, there can be tears all around - anger, fury even, snits, snot, names, accusations, hopefully not hits pinches and shoves between the kids (but you know, it's possible).

And, as mom, you know what you have to do. You do it before you've analyzed it and set out a plan. You deal. Ideally, calm cool and collected. But, sometimes you (ok, ok: me) react instead of plan. Because while some moms might be able to only discipline in calm cool collection, according to their calmly evaluated plotline...THIS mom tends to react and maybe even has been known to um, yell, once or twice. (I am not admitting this, I am just saying that there is a possibility that there has been a slip or two over the years.)

What I am saying is: the kid(s) are in Trouble. Capital T.

Now. We are in this new phase now. Our new daughter has been in Trouble. Capital T. And it happened before I knew it. It has now happened a number of times. And, really, I now think it is such a good thing. Let me be clear, the trouble itself is not good. No one digs it. But the ability to be in trouble....priceless.
Let me give you a for instance. On this trip, we went to a swishy restaurant with all the kids - because we are maniacs. (But that is a topic for another post.) I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that not long into the dinner, about halfway through, I got up and took Miss Marti outside.
Yes.
Outside
.
In mom code, that's big stuff. Capital T stuff.
And I took her off to the side of the restaurant and told her in no uncertain terms that she was behaving poorly and in Trouble and it was all not ok. She is a stubborn little gal and so this included some back and forth between us, heads shaking, arms crossed, tears...the works. Shortly, we came to terms. More tears. Now hugs. And a long one. Done.

But then, for the second or third time since she's been home Marti looked at me and laughed a small laugh as she said her (Ethiopian) Mom's name. And then pretty much re-enacted our 'discussion." Then she pointed to me and said my name: "Mom."

I smiled and said, "Yeah. She would have said the same thing. Because we are both moms. Your moms. And we love you. So listen!" And then I got a REAL hug and a REAL smile and we walked inside to continue dinner (Waving at the bar patrons whom I had unwittingly provided the evening entertainment. doh!).

And you know, when she went inside she was happy again. Not sulky.
And it felt like things clicked one more notch down toward settled (still a ways to go, but every notch is something).
Because all that - that discipline, anger, apologize, forgive, move on thing?
That's NORMAL.
Normal.
And the other kids feel more normal if they know I will take her out (of the restaurant...c'mon on!) and she can get in the same kind of trouble they can.

It's a comfort, in a totally counter intuitive sort of way.
And it's one notch closer to "Normal."
For all of us.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Feast of St. Teresa of Avila

Painting by Janet McKenzie

It's the feast of St. Teresa of Avila!
I love her. I feel she is one of my patrons due to our shared tendency toward massive headaches and migraines. Only one who has them all the time can really understand how they scramble you...and she did. So, she's my gal!
Painting by Francois Gerard, c. 17C

But more importantly, St. Teresa of Avila is just one heck of a great saint. She is one of the three women Doctors of the Church (noting that her spiritual writings are both sound and very important, influential). For a woman of medieval times, that is no small accomplishment, not to mention: staying power! Her books such as Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection are just amazing reads. Not fast page turners, but mind blowers. You have to stop every few pages and just sort of...digest it all. And then soak it in, let it sink in....it's great great stuff and will change your prayer life. She founded the Discalced Carmelites (Meaning "shoeless," again, what's not to like?) and had an ongoing friendship and correspondence with the mystic and poetically powerful St. John of the Cross {And if you want a really phenomenal book, tough, dense, but OH so worth it: read the compilation/commentary on these two together: Fire Within, by Dubay}.

But on another level, not the "resume" angle...St. Teresa of Avila appeals to me because she was first of all a real living, breathing woman. I know, they all are, doh. But what I mean is that she was a woman of opinions and ideas and kind of stubborn and pushy, even when that wasn't always overtly sanctioned in the culture of her time. She was extremely social and loved to sit and chat and flirt even...she was quiet beautiful and knew how to use it too. She had to struggle against the urge to chat and flirt and spend too much time doing it, because she could lose afternoons to it. Sound familiar to any of you, especially you gals? Um, yeah. That stuff IS fun. Sounds pretty modern to me.

St. Teresa's monastic cell at the Convento de la Encarnación, Ávila

And yet, even so, St. Teresa could hear in her inmost self the whisper of God who loved her as she was, more than anyone else could. And she responded, bravely, to that irresistible call. And it brought her the ecstasy of union with God in prayer. And that amazes me and intrigues me as I know firsthand how hard it is to push all those opinions and flippy chitchatty conversations out of my head to pay attention to God himself. Distraction? I'm the poster girl for it. But St. Teresa gives me hope and I have hope that she prays for me...for my attention to what is important, for responding to that call, that whisper, for my headaches, for being brave enough to listen through the din of my modern mundane life.

Sculpture by Bernini, "St. Teresa in Ecstasy"

So, happy feast day!

St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us!