Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Two Things You Can Do

Well, it's Christmastime and let me first say that I love Christmas just as much as the next girl, but let me also say that 1. My tree is still in the basement and 2. I do not like Christmas music. There. I said it. Are we still friends?

I'm feeling a bit troubled this go-round by lots of different feelings, tangled up like the notorious ball of twinkle lights at the bottom of the box. I just can't shake the feeling that we don't need all of this stuff. And at the same time, I'm wanting to enjoy and celebrate and inspire wonder and worship in the hearts of my wee peeps.

For now, I'm dealing by giving myself time to chill. My tree may not make it up until the end of this week and don't alert the Grinch Police, but it may even pop up in the late-night hours, without the help of Sister Friend, Mr. Lee and Pie Pot. Who's to say? Who's to say.

This year, our gifting is trimmed to an all-time low, and I like the feel of it. A couple of needs, a want or two, quite possibly scored second-hand on Ebay. We will bake up a storm and drink tea by the glow of the artificial tree, just like we've been known to do.

I'll tear up over the desperate anticipation in the lyrics of Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel. (I do like the Christmas hymns. I'm not a total weirdo.)

But aside from the sparkle and the fun, I want to be reminded over and over and over again that there are people all around who need us to step away from our havens and our stuff and meet them. Hunger and poverty and sickness and loneliness do not retreat for this Happiest Month of the year.

I recently attended a home jewelry party for Starfish Project, and walked away with a beautiful necklace, hand-crafted by a Chinese woman who had not long ago been trapped in the grip of exploitation and abuse. Now, she lives in a shelter where she makes art and earns an income while she heals. She is educated and Loved and cared for, and she when she walks back out to the world, she will be changed.

Buy a necklace for your sister. Buy earrings for a teacher. The jewelry truly is beautiful and it's impossible to shake the story woven through the beads. 100% of the proceeds go directly back to the Starfish Project shelter. Do something good and something fun at the very same time.

And when you're done shopping, have a big bowl of cereal! That's what I would do.

It's no secret that we are big Cereal People. 3 boxes a week, people. And you think I'm joking.

It thrilled me every which way to recently discover an opportunity to put all of our empty cereal boxes to good use, and all we have to do is flatten them and ship them. They will end up in Haiti, where they will be crafted into jewelry that will change the course of someone's future.

Read this post for all of the details. Then, read this post for details on how to get the boxes where they need to go.* (Then, sit back and read the rest of the blog, because it's inspiring to the nines.)

A trash can vs. A future? It's a no-brainer.

Merry Beginning of the Christmas Season! Let's make it legendary.


*We have a pile stacking up as we speak and if you live locally, let me know and I'll happily add your boxes to ours when we're ready to ship.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Six On Sunday - Randoms

Am I the only one who feels slightly skittish about a blog post that includes the word "Random"? I guess time will tell...

I'm fully aware that after this lame Six On Sunday post, you might have no choice but to break up with me altogether. But what if I tell you that I'm otherwise preoccupied and have a very good reason for feeling a bit...distracted? Would you forgive me, then? No, you'd probably be even more frustrated that I teased you with the "very good reason" bit. I guess I won't go that route.

All I can say then, is that sometimes, random things happen around here that are funny or beautiful or delicious and they simply fall through the cracks of other things that creep up, hot on their heels. It's a fast-paced race to the blog fodder finish line around here. But sometimes, the left-behinders get their due.

Today is that day.

1. Cory left me this note a couple of weeks ago before leaving for work pre-dawn, not to return until well after bedtime. I saw it on my desk and it made me smile. It inspired a photo, although it is obvious that I hadn't had my cup of tea yet when I took the pic. Just a few nights ago I looked closer and noticed his slip of the wrist. We had a day, alright. Did we ever have a day.

2. Calvin came home with a pedometer last week and immediately commenced in running laps around the island. His burst of athleticism lasted exactly two laps, or the pedometer equivalent of 41 steps.

(I swear, I am not intentionally highlighting my worst photos. You gotta believe me.)

3. This* is my newest obsession, courtesy of Sarah. Apparently, she's been holding out on me for quite some time. Well, the cat's outta the bag now, and it's not going back in. I have made this twice in the past two weeks and both times, I made a meal out of it. And then, just to prove my love, I had it for dessert. This isn't your ordinary bruschetta. There's something special about it. It's the lemon, ya'lls. It's always, always the lemon.
* Sarah omits the fresh parsley and mint, so I do the same, naturally.

4. True story. I searched long and hard for the perfect piece of art for the bathroom. I flirted with images of rusty, vintage bicycles as well as a whimsical ferris wheel, but in the end, per usual, I was drawn to words. I fell in love with this print (found here) and ordered it up. I already had the perfect frame, scored for $1 at a yard sale over the summer. The print arrived and I hauled it over to Hobby Lobby for a mat and some glass. 10 days later I went to pick it up and the guy informed me that the frame was cut in such a way that glass would not fit in the notch. At the time, I was happy to save the $8 for glass and it looked so pretty, regardless. It took Cute Maintenance Boy to remind me that unprotected art and bathroom steam is not a good combination. It turns out, a beautiful thing is never perfect and occasionally it isn't even useful. I'm still looking for a new home for her, but in the meantime, she looks imperfectly beautiful among dirty cereal bowls and a tired sprig of rosemary.

5. I found this and cracked UP. Several times over the summer, I forced my two oldest children out of the house. Usually during dinner prep. If you heard them tell it, it was among my meanest of moments. Forcing kids to go outside on a beautiful day? The nerve! On this particular day, they stood out on the step whining and crying until I shut the window so I couldn't hear them (just being honest) then they tried to nonchalantly just come back in. Oh, they have no idea how street-wise this mama is. I pushed them right back out, only after telling them to take some books with them. If you're gonna be miserable and tortured, you might as well be learning something.

6. I have claw hands.

Happy week after Thanksgiving! My tree hasn't even made it up to the main level yet.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Miles to Go

The best Thanksgivings are those that stretch out for a solid 72 hours.

We're in the homestretch, but some of the very best lies in wait. How many times can you eat turkey in one weekend? A better question might be, How many times are you lucky enough to eat turkey in one weekend? And I haven't even begun to think about the left-overs...

We woke up Thursday to a thick shroud of gossamer fog.

There's just something about unexpected atmospheric conditions that get me riled up. I've said it before - I'll take my surprises any way they come.

I spent the morning baking Luscious Four-Layer Pumpkin Cake.

(If you squint a little, it just might look like this.)

I dredged pear slices in cinnamon sugar for the Pear Almond Cream Cheese Torte.

I washed dishes so many times I very nearly passed out and fell in.

We spent the evening in a house packed tight with people happy to be together. The food was good, but you probably suspected that.

On Friday Cory and I snuck away to Mazatlan with some out-of-towners, and now I know for sure: The only thing better than a turkey dinner is one followed the next day by a Mexican lunch.

All day long, I thought it was Saturday, and what made it even more confusing is the fact that I had thought the very same thing all day Thursday.

Three Saturdays in a row? Score.

We spent Friday (Saturday II) night with friends who are dear to us. The kids got wild together, the big people talked nerdy things like fancy phones and good books over bowls of apple crisp a'la mode.

Today, Saturday III, has been just one more scoop of goodness. Just when you think you can't expect any more, just when you think the cone will topple over, you are proven wrong.

The kids are happy. The parents are lazy in a way that lends itself to peeling and mashing ten pounds of potatoes in one's pajamas.

Polly has been rescued once, rescued twice, rescued twenty-five times.

Pie Pot is charming as a merry-go-round tune (in between fits).

The babies are resting, and we are lounging. We're gathering our strength for another feast.

This is Thanksgiving at its best - the way I remember it most happily.

I miss my family, flung too-far, but I am thankful for the family that brought me into theirs.

Happy Thanksgiving Round Two, my dears.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Post We're All Writing Today


I'll only speak for myself here - I love a day (a season!) that inspires gratitude on all sides. I think back on the past month and I remember that first smooth stone, tossed into the pond. Gratitude. It slipped beneath the surface and the concentric circles formed and before we knew it, we were all thinking harder about the things we are most thankful for. So, to whomever let that first stone fly - thank you.

If we all decided to log our every thankful, wouldn't we each have a volume so thick as to require its own shelf on the book case? I think, in the end, that our time might be better spent living gratitude than writing every whip-stitch of it down. So, let's make a deal. Let's agree to pen our thankfuls on the inside surface of our hearts, every day. Let's promise to press down hard when we write.

For tonight, I'll not attempt the unabridged list. Instead, I'll share some here-and-now, bright-burning highlights.

I'm thankful that I'm spending my first Thanksgiving with my Computer Programmer. Last year my heart was a little fogged over. My family incomplete. This year, I have new wrinkles and a new tinge of weariness, but what it means is that he's with us, and I'll take it.

I'm thankful for Frick and Frack, who live their days as best friends. Tonight, that meant stuffing Stripey and Jumpy into empty baby bottles and pretending they were astronauts for one hour straight. It meant that Calvin carried Ruby's laundry to the hamper, without being asked.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to bake three desserts in less than 24 hours, starting with an apple crisp that indeed lives up to its name. Incidentally, I'm also thankful for Andrew Zimmern of "Bizarre Foods" fame. Upon discovering this show streaming through the internet, my oldest, pickiest child has grown quite fond of trying anything and everything I offer. It turns out, he does like apple crisp. And pickled beets.

I'm thankful for unexpected surprises left on my baking station, at the hands of Ruby River and half a roll of tape. (Sister's got mad scissor skillz! And she's a lefty...)

I'm thankful for the cachepot of friends I have collected - who have added me to their collection - since this time last year, many of which came to me through this very machine.

I'm thankful for the hope of a new story.

I'm thankful that I am much more than the sum total of all my failures.

I'm thankful that Tom & Jerry humor transcends generations.

I'm thankful for the guy at the other end of the couch.

I'm thankful for the rattle and whir of a furnace, for air scented heavy with orange, for ponytails and Haven Kimmel, for ugly blue blankets and cinnamon rolls in the fridge for tomorrow morning - the kind that you have to whack on the countertop to open.

I hope all of you have big fun brewing for tomorrow.

And remember - press hard.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Big Adoption Series - Chapter 18

Not long ago, I met a friend here, on this little slice of the blogosphere. Her name is Jami and she is funny and real and wonderful. She has experienced the blessing of biological children and adoption and is currently experiencing the unexpected blessing of foster parenting.

I hang on her words, which have inspired and humbled me, many times over.

And, I'll be honest, her six Little people put my three into perspective, but quick.

Jami blogs here and shares with us, from her heart, below.

***********************************************************************

I never thought my life would look the way it does. I never expected to be an adoptive mom and especially not a foster mom! The Lord has blessed me abundantly by giving my husband and I the opportunity to have two birth daughters, one son who we adopted, and three foster kiddos! Our kids are 7, 5, and 4 and we are fostering a sibling group of three, ages 3, 3, (no they are not twins, just 10 ½ months apart!) and 1! Whew!

Our journey to foster care was born out of a season of waiting and loss. In every sense, we had to experience the death of our dream in order to understand what His best for us really was. You see, after adopting our son from Guatemala, we knew we wanted to adopt again but Guatemala had closed it’s doors to adoption. Because of this, we found ourselves in the domestic adoption process.

Everything changed back in May of 2009 when I received a call from my sister. “Jami, a baby girl with Down Syndrome was abandoned at the hospital and she needs a forever family. Will you pray that her family will be found soon!”

I was happy to pray until I felt the Lord saying, “What if you are to be her family?” That thought terrified me and yet the Lord turned our hearts around in a matter of two days. He took my heart of fear and filled it with faith and desire. We wanted this sweet baby girl and we were ready to adopt her but then God said “not now.” I will never forget the day we found out that another family was going to adopt her. I fell on my bed and called my husband and begged him to come home. “I need you,” I told him through my sobs.

Days later, we were on our knees again praying about a baby who had been exposed to alcohol in the womb. God asked “Are you willing? Do you trust Me more than your fears?” Once again, the Lord changed our hearts and we hoped that this birthmother would choose us, but she didn’t.

Months went by and the Lord continued to stretch us with the question, “Do you trust Me more?” Many birthmothers looked at our profile and they all chose other families. I would get my hopes up each time and every “no“ stung.

In November of the same year, we were expectantly waiting to hear from another birth mom. I really believed that this was our time, and it was, just in a way I didn’t expect.

That day was like any other, I had just returned from the grocery store, tired and crabby! Grocery bags were strewn all over my kitchen floor but I decided to sit down and check my email before putting anything away. When I saw the email from our caseworker, I was absolutely devastated when I realized we hadn’t been chosen. Again.

I cried out to the Lord with questions on my heart. “I don’t understand, Lord. This hurts too badly and it just doesn’t make sense to me. Jesus, I need Your perspective.” And in a very gentle way, I heard Him tell me, “It’s not about you.”

His words gave me a glimmer of hope as my thoughts drifted to the radio broadcast I had just heard that morning about “waiting children.” (These are the kids in foster care whose parents have given up their rights to them. If these children are not adopted, they will age out of the system at age 18, and be one their own with no one to call family.)

Over the next few days, our perspective changed as we felt Him saying, “It’s not about bringing a child to your family, it’s about bringing your family to a child.”

Days later, we found three kids on a photo listing site online who needed a forever family. When I saw the kids, I called Clint and told him “I just found kids on the internet.” Thinking our kids were playing on the computer, he responded “Well, did you discipline them?” But after clarifying the situation (ahem), we both decided that the Lord was indeed leading us to pursue adopting them.

So we contacted their social worker and shared our hearts, and prayed and hoped that they would be ours, but that door seemed to be closing. Knowing that we needed to complete Illinois state mandated training before being able to adopt out of the system, we decided to enroll in those classes and during those eight weeks (27 hours total), the Lord opened our eyes to the great need for foster parents.

Two days after completely our training, we received a call about two little brothers (3 and 1) who needed a foster home and we knew that our time had finally come! A week later, I was pacing the floor waiting for the caseworker to pull into our driveway and as I looked at the boys for the first time, I was able to tell them, “We’ve been waiting for you!”

The first thing our 7 year old daughter asked 3 year old “D” was “Do you know Jesus?” He stared at her blankly then but now sings “Jesus Loves Me” with the best of em’! Five months later, D and B’s two year old sister, L, joined our clan making us a family of eight!

Foster care has changed us all. We have been stretched and challenged to the core. We have made many mistakes and cried out to the Lord for wisdom and grace as we try to parent and love on all six of the children He’s given us. It is an emotional ride to be sure. There are times when I desperately wish things would go back to “normal.“ Times when I wish I could wrap my children up in my arms and hide from the “big bad world.“ I feel exposed. I struggle with discernment as we try to love their parents as well, am I being selfish with my time or setting healthy boundaries?

As our bond deepens with these kids, I simply can’t imagine sending them back into an unhealthy situation. I am not their mommy and yet, it feels like I am. I am not their mommy, but I must love them like they are mine.

I don’t know all the answers but I do know that we are right where we are supposed to be. And when it’s hard, I must remember that “It’s not about me.” No matter if these kids become ours through adoption or go back to their parents, I will trust my Jesus, the One who called us to this foster care journey and the One who promises to faithfully lead us one step at a time.

______________________________________________________

Join me here next Wednesday for Big Adoption Series - Chapter 19

(To catch up on Chapters 1-17, click here and start from the bottom.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dreams For the Future and Today

I decided again today that I want to be this flower, when I finally, fully grow up.

I want to elbow my way out of the dirt, worming my way past every destructive thing around me - a bright spot emerging from darkness and grit.

I want to spend my days craning my neck toward the Light.

I want to be a different kind of Life - unexpected and unconventional. I want to surprise people - especially myself.

I want to grow and flourish, face upturned and reflecting, regardless of where I am planted.

I want to Bloom.



tuesdays unwrapped at cats

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Six On Sunday - Kitchen Staples

I've recently grown a bit self-conscious over my deep and abiding love for food. I think about food all of the time. My Facebook status updates are 90% food related. I'm starting to see that this isn't normal and that, perhaps, it's not even healthy.

My dad used to have a saying. (You know dads, always with their sayings.) He would say, "I don't live to eat, I eat to live!"

Well, it's high time I fessed up, Pops. Your girl lives to eat.

I'm not an over-eater. And I'm not really an emotional eater. I'm more of the "It's 10 PM, why isn't there cereal in my mouth?" eater.

I eat late, ya'lls. Don't tell Oprah.

I hold in my heart this truth: Cooking is cheaper than therapy.

And this one: To love someone is to cook for them.

And this one: To love me is to cook for me.

If I were a different kind of girl, I might stain my lips with beet juice and perfume my wrists alternately with garlic and ginger. I might carry a vial of salsa on a thin chain around my neck.

Alas, I'm not her.

Yet.

But, in lieu of the above, I will share with you the six ingredients that find their way into my shopping cart almost every single week.

1. Lemons

I am a lemon aficionado. It took me years to understand and accept this. During those dark years, I would find myself, time and time again, in need of a lemon. Now that my zestiness is fully self-actualized, I buy them by the bag. I squeeze lemon into pasta, chicken salad, salad dressing, brown rice. I slice them up and put them under chicken skin or over fish. I zest the rind and bake it into pie crust and muffins. I brew them with slices of fresh ginger and honey for tea. I love everything about lemons. I can't quit the junk. (I am also quite fond of limes, but you didn't come to hear about limes.)

2. Fresh garlic

Lemon and garlic should totally win the "Best Couple" award. As it stands, there are very few savory dishes that are not improved upon with a clove or two or five of garlic. I am here to confess: I am an over-garlicker. If the recipe says one, I say two. Two minimum. I may actually be at risk for carrying the perpetual scent of garlic, but I won't apologize, because it is totally worth it. For years I bought the big jar of ready-minced garlic, but this is an entirely different beast. It is cheaper and to compare the taste really wouldn't even be fair. Fresh garlic has a hint of sweetness that deepens as it is cooked. It is utterly fresh and alive. If you have never bought a bulb of your own, take an extra quarter to the supermarket and change your life.

To use your new bulb, peel off an individual clove and rest the broad side of your knife on top of it. Now, use the heel of your hand to press down on the knife, thereby smashing the clove. Once smashed, the skin will slip off easily and you are ready to chop it up. You may find, two days later, probably in the shower, that your fingertips still smell faintly of garlic. But who said that was a bad thing?

3. Green onions

My love affair with green onions sort of snuck up on me. I find that they add a perfectly delicate hint of onion to loads of dishes. I'm also a big fan of attractive food, and they provide a nice hit of color. I use these in salads, stir-frys, chicken and tuna salad, soups and pasta dishes, although the options are endless.

4. Sour Cream

I love sour cream. Do not ever attempt to feed me a taco or a baked potato without it. I wouldn't hear of it. My kids have followed in my footsteps and would happily eat it as a side-dish, if I allowed it, and perhaps I have, but that information is simply not up for public release at this time. Aside from the obvious Mexican-genre foods, I use sour cream in mashed potatoes, some cream-based soups and several baking recipes. But mostly? We just eat a whole heck of a lot of quesadillas and tacos.

5. This exact kind of yogurt

My kiddos could eat yogurt like sour cream. They dig it. At times, I still spring for the individual cups, but this option is cheaper and eliminates the risk of "No, I wanted the lime!" It is especially good with fresh berries of any kind or a sprinkling of homemade granola, preferably with coconut. My small peeps are under the impression that this qualifies as full-on dessert, so I would be ever so grateful if you could keep any opposing opinions to yourselves.

6. Cereal

You know how some people are sports people? Or theater people? Well, we're cereal people. My romance with cold cereal dates back to my early youth. I used to eat a bowl for breakfast and another bowl as an after-school-snack, while watching Woody Woodpecker or Today's Special on PBS. (What was up with Today's Special, anyway? Why am I only now realizing the creepy factor?) As the years passed, I graduated to Geraldo Rivera and Guiding Light (shhh!), but the after-school-snack remained unchanged. Now, it is my breakfast of choice and my late-night snack of choice. And I'm just going to come right out with it - We eat sugar cereal. I try to limit the sugar to 10 mg. or less. That's reasonable, right? It used to wig me out a little when the kids wanted Cinnamon Toast Crunch all the time, but then I discovered this little gem:
Cinnamon Toast Crunch = 10 g.
Basic Four (my ex-beloved) = 14 g.
Post Raisin Bran = 19 g.

Sure, there's fiber to consider and such, but who really wants to consider fiber at crack of dawn? There's a whole day left for fiber.

Honorable Mentions:

1. Reduced Fat Cream Cheese
(I usually buy the store brand)

I am a sucker for anything made with cream cheese. I am also a self-proclaimed sucker for seersucker, but I'll save that story for another day.

2. Spaghetti Sauce

As you can see, spaghetti sauce has a very short shelf-life up in this hood. Even when spaghetti isn't on the menu, it comforts me to know that it's waiting in the wings. We all love spaghetti. We all love sauce from a jar. When I'm feeling extra special, I might throw in some extra veggies or some browned ground beef and onion. Or all of the above. But more often than not, we take it straight-up. I am very partial to Prego - Tomato, Onion and Garlic, but this new variety from Aldi is also quite delicious, in that canned-sauce sort of way.

3. Duh

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How I Spent Last Night (and The Better Part of Today)

I imagine some of you had hot dates last night.

Perhaps Lady Fortune was on your side and you dined on Mexican cuisine.

Maybe you ordered pizza.

Watched a movie.

Read a good book.

Lounged in sweatpants.

I have a feeling many of you enjoyed some of the finer things in life. That's what Fridays are all about, after all.

As for me? I spent my weekend at a church advisory board retreat, along with two other ladies and EIGHT men*. I spared everyone the sight of my sweatpants and suffered silently in my denim britches.

We had snacks, which sounds good in theory, but the snacks included Twizzlers (blech) with nary a tortilla chip in sight.

I did have a can of Pepsi, so there's that.

I bunked in the room directly beneath two of the loudest rowdies in the bunch. If I had access to a broom handle, I would've been thumping the ceiling, a'la my Freshman dorm-era. Nevermind the fact that I actually found their rowdiness a tad bit endearing. What they don't know won't hurt them.

But the worst part?

The guys told Chuck Norris jokes all. night. long.

Then they repeated the "best" ones all afternoon today.

http://www.mendhak.com/images/website/humor/chucknorris3.jpg

I didn't have the heart to tell them that they weren't really very funny.

Oh wait, yes, I did, in fact, have the heart.

In all fairness, I think I laughed at three of them.

I nominated myself as the resident Barometer for Chuck Norris Humor. The BCNH.

No one else voted for me, but I write up the minutes, so I suppose I'll be having the last laugh.

http://www.themoviemind.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/chuck-norris-2.jpg

Just tell me this: Why are guys so weird?

And please, allow me to live vicariously through you. What did you do last night? Indulge me, por favor.


*My fellow advisory board members are some of the best people around these parts. We always have a good time. And it's quite interesting to ruminate about everyone's sock choices whilst having important, heart-felt discussions. But I do believe I could have done without the Chuck.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Bushel And A Peck And Two Bags

This is the magnificence of life: just as the last leaf drops and the skeletal trees begin to shiver and my brain shifts into its seasonal "Winter-is-a-long-time-with-three-little-kids-and-lake-effect-snow" mode, a surprise sweeps through like a Nor'easter.

A few weeks ago I won this contest. It was the funniest thing, because I am not prone to entering contests. I had read her post - I read them all, but I didn't comment, because I tend to feel that someone else might need a surprise more than I do. Days later, for reasons I cannot recall, I found myself reading that post again, only the second time around, I just felt so proud of my friend. I imagined what it might be like to create something with your own heart and hands and launch it into the world. I wanted to support her and encourage her, and at that moment, my comment did not feel like tossing my hat into the ring. It felt more like a high-five.

And then...I won.

Who would've thought that 208 was such a lucky number?

I first met my friend Jeanne back when I bought this skirt. Sister Friend has style to beat the band. She's generous and goofy. She inspires me out of my sweatpants. She is genuine and understands to her core the particular magic of a gift.

I spent the entire day of my win with a tab opened to her shop. I pretend shopped. I waffled. I lurched from practical to extravagant and landed somewhere right in the middle. Two bags strike me as perfectly, extravagantly practical, wouldn't you agree?

Truth be told, I felt a little odd, choosing pretty things for myself, for free. It was unfamiliar territory, but I pushed through.

A couple of days ago, I received a box fulla swoonery.

Glory hallelujah, did I ever put that bag on.

Oooh, and the necklace. I want to marry the necklace.

I grocery shopped in style, yes I did.
I found reasons to rummage around in the bag.

And there's a whole 'nother bag, up in my boudoir.
2 bags, I'm saying.
Two.

Incidentally, the boots were not from Jeanne, but it only seemed fitting to shine the spotlight on them, too.

Thank you, JB.

I'm sorry for telling you all of the time that I want to steal your clothes/you're lucky I don't live closer or I might stalk you/etc.

I feel sorta bad for all of that, considering.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kidbits

Today was a day for triple-batched pumpkin bread, the inaugural pomegranate of the holiday season, two rounds of the rhyming game and a last-minute (the best kind!) invitation to dinner. It may or may not be true that I never made it to the shower and, henceforth, spent my day in a circa-1996 ball cap. I should know by now that the last-minute invites never come when I'm gussied up.

Silas was a dream-boat. I think he caught wind that some of his secrets had gotten out. He was in full-on damage control mode, and that's alright with me.

Ruby walked downstairs from her nap this afternoon, fuzzy-haired and dreamy-eyed and said, "I just love you, Sister Friend."

So, it seems, Sister Friend clearly does pay attention when I talk.

She has also started telling Daddy that he's "adorable".

Any way you slice it, she's a keeper. That's all I'm saying.

Calvin continues to forge ahead with his crack-up self.

For one thing, he announced today, out of the blue, that when he grows up, he would like to fight in the Korean War. He is nothing if not loyal to the Motherland.

In other Calvin-related news, we had our first parent-teacher-conference this week. It seems Mr. Lee has a bit of a problem keeping his trap shut whilst schooling. I could not believe it. I nearly fell off my chair when I heard the news.

Or not.

And speaking of speaking about Calvin, I need to speak to you about our bedtime convo from last night.

Calvin: Why does Ruby have brown skin even though Shoshy has white skin?

Cory: Well, because Ruby's birth daddy is from Africa, so he has really dark brown skin.

Calvin: But...how did their two skins communicate to make Ruby's skin?

Me: Well, a lot of times, a baby looks a little bit like the birth mommy and a little bit like the birth daddy. Like, sometimes baby Macy looks like Uncle Kevin, and sometimes she looks like Aunt Lindsey.

Calvin: Do you have a picture of my birth daddy?

Me: No, but I wish we did! I'm sure he must be really handsome.
(Right about now, I'm getting nervous that this conversation is veering dangerously into emotional territory, which is never a good thing right before bedtime.)

Calvin: OK, I have one more question, but it's complicated.

Me: (Oh dear.)

Cory: Go ahead.

Calvin: After the Titanic sank...

Me and Cory: {hysterical laughter}

Me: Calvin, go to bed!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Big Adoption Series - Chapters 13 - 17

Chapter 13 - click here.

Chapter 14 - click here.

Chapter 15 - click here.

Chapter 16 - click here.



Chapter 17
Here's the whole truth and nothing but the truth: Our transition with Silas has been a difficult one. And then, every once in a while, it's a slice of pie. It's not that I purposely kept this information to myself. He just happens to time things so well that precisely when it gets bad enough that I need to talk about it, it's over. I'm also hyper-aware of what I put in print about my kids, because I know that once something is unleashed to the universe, it's unleashed for real and forever. I try to be aware of the fact that they may, one day, dig this stuff up and take a peek. I hope they do! But no one wants to think that they are remembered as the "difficult" child.

And yet. My mind has been digging to the other hemisphere over the past week or so, and I've found some truths that deserve to be told. Part of my hope in writing this series is that some of you - many of you? - will lay down your hesitations and your excuses and your misgivings and your "that's great for you, but it's not for me"s, and you'll wrap a child without a family into your own. So, I talk about what a gift it is. Listen to me. Look at my eyes. It is a gift. But it is not without challenges and sacrifices. And yes, most of you could tell me a thing or two about the sacrifices and challenges of birthing biological children, but this is different. It is probably not harder, and it's probably not easier, but it is, quite possibly, more complicated. At times, it is knock-the-wind-out-of-you unexpected. It is raw like a tender baby knee on asphalt. It is real like the ground you walk on.

I remember those first nights, even the first weeks, thinking to myself, "In six months most of this will be over. We will be past the really hard stuff." Of course, six months stretched out in front of me like an eternal Summer with no air conditioner in sight, but I survived an entire childhood of those Summers, so I knew that eventually, the sun retreats and you fall asleep in that delicious air that happens but for a moment - not too hot, not too cold. Air so perfect that you don't even notice it is there.

Siley has now been with us for eight months. We have had days dotted with sprinkles and days so dark that I couldn't tell you one good thing about them.

Last week was a long strand of dark days. Not pitch black, but almost. Dusk turned to grey, then dusted over with charcoal, and inched slowly, precarious toward tarry, painful black.

After eight months, I told myself that we would be able to toss black right out of the color box. Eight months is over half a year! But then I remember that we have 10 months to go until we are "even" with the length of his first life. Maybe then the playing field will be leveled, and I hope it is, but I'm realizing every day that once we're even-up, we still have work to do. Our job is to make our precious boy's heart feel held. Telling him every night that we will never leave him, that we will always love him, is one thing. Making him know it for sure is another.

Here's what I learned last week: I learned that there might be times when I look at the face of my child and hear the whisper of a heart-breaking lie that he may never love us. In that moment, I just might believe that lie. But in the very next moment that follows, I will trump those ugly enemy words with the comforting weight of a truth which I have never held before. It doesn't matter if he never loves us. Our love for him is not dependent upon his love for us.

That truth sustained me through nights where my baby physically turned his body so that he did not have to look at me. It sustained me when he called to me from his crib, then thrashed violently to be freed from my arms, preferring to stand alone in the dark. In those moments, I felt the spotlight of grace shining down on me. It allowed me to keep my wits and feel not-alone and as we sat/stood in that baby room, the pin-dot of light grew wider. I realized there was room enough for both of us there, in that grace. So, I shared.

Bathed in grace, I remembered that Silas no longer hits us with the intent to hurt us. He doesn't scratch at our faces. He has learned that shrieking his way through the day works for no one.

Every day, I crawl out to that grace-baked rock and I lie down until the warmth and the truth permeate me, until the light radiates right back off of me. Only then do I remember that while it seems like an impossible task to balance cuddles and trust with discipline and boundaries, it's the flour and the sugar of the cake. We stir that bowl every day, throwing in some of both, and the end result is the learning of love.

He is learning that we love him. He is learning to love us back.

This baby that fills up my heart and every now and then chips a tiny piece off, sacrificed everything he trusted to be ours. It takes time to learn love.

So my burner has been dialed back to low. There's no rushing this. We will take the good with the bad and be reminded just how far we have come in eight short months. We will simmer here, for as long as it takes - forever - until all that separates, all that is no good on its own, is distilled down to the thick, amber syrup of love that is fully known.

____________________________________________________

Join me here next Wednesday for Big Adoption Series - Chapter 18

(To catch up on Chapters 1-12, click here and start from the bottom.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

You Know You Want Some Random

A few odds and ends:

1. Thanks for the blog love, Homies! I am thrilled with it. My faithful, uber-talented designer may or may not have immediately institutionalized herself following its installation. She deserves a medal. She deserves a coronation.

2. Several of you asked about my Shamago boots. It cracked. me. UP. Said boots were procured roughly six years ago at Payless. Glory, glory, hallelujah.

3. For whom it may concern, my denim skirt was procured two Summers ago at GAP. I think I may have paid full price for it, which is an event in itself. But it is screamingly difficult to find a denim skirt that is both appropriately-lengthed and un-dowdy. I snatched it up.

The rest of the outfit, in its entirety, came from my soul sista, TJ Maxx. The boots, purchased five years ago, appear to be made of some form of synthetic, pleather-like material. The sweater is American Eagle, scratched out in black permanent marker, the grey shirt came to me just this past Summer, and I still have a crush on it. The socks? Well, everyone knows that the best socks come from TJ.

4. I forgot a funny Shamago story. It involves Calvin and his irrational fear of escalators, a phobia we were not aware of until the moment that it mattered most. Leaving the Lego store on Saturday night, Ruby and I hopped right on, while Calvin tried, and then stopped. Tried, and then stopped. Tried. Stopped. He could not get the rhythm. He was a fish on land. He was flailing. At last, he mustered up his courage, began his safe decent, and instinctively shouted out, "The city is not for meeeeeeeeeeee!"

You can take a boy out of the country...

And finally, because this post isn't quite long enough nor inane enough, I will channel my inner 10th grader and fill out one of those very self-involved surveys, because if you're anything like me, when faced with one, you are incapable of looking away.
1. What time did you get up this morning?
We have the controversial rule in this house that small persons are not allowed to come downstairs until 7 a.m. The glitch with this rule is, the digital clock has come up missing. Fishy, right? Consequently, Calvin and Ruby have taken to waking before dawn, meeting up in the hallway, crafting a make-shift bed and giggling wildly. Sometimes they venture into the upstairs bathroom. Sometimes the toilet ends up clogged. Sometimes they do gymnastics. Sometimes they sing. Sometimes I secretly think it's all really cute. Sometimes...not. Regardless, they have received strict instructions that until it is "day" outside, they must remain in their own beds.
What was the questions?
Ah, right. Today I was up around 6:15. Boo. I know many of you over-achievers had already run miles, read chapters, flipped pancakes or nursed a cup of joe by then, but in my world? If the sun isn't up, then I shant be up.

2. How do you like your steak?
Medium, baby. Maybe medium-rare, because you know those steak joints always overcook. Now also seems as good a time as any to tell you that I consider A-1 sauce blasphemous. Unless the steak is painfully overcooked, but I really don't want to even think about that.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
The Social Network. Fantastic flick, although I spent the first 30 minutes somewhat preoccupied by the creepish/loner guy sitting in the corner to my right. I had a bad, bad feeling about him, although nothing nearly as bad as the feeling I had about the guys across the aisle from me on a flight to Chicago. But I'd really rather not think about that right now.

4. What is your favorite TV show?
Friday Night Lights! And Dateline Mystery. And 30 Rock.

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
In a cozy home, bunked up with my 4 peeps. Ideally, this cozy home would receive more than its fair share of natural light and have a fireplace, but who am I to nitpick?

6. What did you have for breakfast?
A double-fiber English muffin with peach jam. The muffin tasted oddly like rye, of which I am not a fan. I also had two large spoonfuls of vanilly yogurt, because I'm a tad bit like the family dog when it comes to "cleaning up" after my littles. (Am I the only one mysteriously hard-wired to type "vanilla" as "vanilly"? I do it all the time and I do believe I just officially decided to roll with it. I blame Vanilla Ice. And Minilli.)

7. What is your favorite cuisine?
Mexican food 4 days a week, Asian food 2, Italian 1.

8. What foods do you dislike?
Well, I am currently training myself to tolerate green olives, so that leaves only radishes and rye.

I also positively, emphatically detest all types of soggy, bread-like substances. NO crackers in your soup, please. It pains me just to look at it. And if you value your life, you will never, ever taunt me with stories of bread soaked in milk (just gagged a bit there) or doughnuts dunked in coffee.

9. Favorite place to eat?
M to the A to the Z to the A to the T to the L to the A to the N.
(In hindsight, that cheer may have worked better with a shorter name...)
Also - Sarah's house.

10. Favorite dressing?
Balsamic vinaigrette with garlic and dijon. Never, ever creamy anything.

11.What kind of vehicle do you drive?
I drive the Pink Wonder - a 1995 Ford Explorer.

We are just beginning to look around at mini vans and recently saw one that was a 2000. I remarked to Cory, "It's practically NEW!" then we both realized that it's actually over a decade old, and we dissolved in a heap of laughs.

12. What are your favorite clothes?
This shirt. Duh. I also rather fancy my cowboy boots, the one pair of jeans that actually fits me, anything pinstripey and, let's be honest, a tinge manly.

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance?
Greece and Italy.

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full?
I'll take my life brimming over the rim, thankyouverymuch.

15. Where would you want to retire?
Somewhere warm, with my Honey and my Babies and my Bees.

16. Favorite time of day?
I am most fully acclimated after 9 pm. It is something I wish I could change, but it appears that I cannot. I blame my upbringing for this, specifically, my mom.

18. What is your favorite sport to watch?
Is reality TV considered a sport yet?

19. Bird watcher?
Not at the moment.

20. Are you a morning person or a night person?
See #16.

21. Do you have any pets?
I do not have pets. Calvin has three cats: Ralphie, Ed, and Helen Girl. It seems the pet-loving gene skips a generation. I will admit, I am somewhat fond of the cats, in theory. I am relatively concerned for their well-being. I would never want harm to come their way. I display my fondness for them through the use of nonsensical nicknames and personalized (does that word apply to cats?) songs.

22. What do you want to be (someday)?
An author.

23. What is your best childhood memory?
"Singing. Our house was full of music growing up, and given our Mother's encyclopedic knowledge of music, we eventually developed the ability to "turn anything into a song." We still sing while doing just about anything, a trait that has befuddled and bemused many a houseguest."
This is the verbatim answer of my friend, Claire, who originally sent this enthralling time-waster my way. I could not have said it betta. It sort of freaked me out a bit, if I'm being honest.
24. Are you a cat or dog person?
See #21. Please love me, still.

25. Are you married?
Am I ever.

26. Always wear your seat belt?
Yes. There have been two times in past years when I did not click-it, since my destination was less than one mile away (totally lame, I know). Not once, but both times, I received a ticket.

28. Any pet peeves?
"Ekspecially", and the grossly cliched Dirty Socks on the Floor.

29. Favorite Pizza Toppings?
Pepperoni, Mushroom, Banana Peppers, Onions.

30. Favorite Flower?
Peonies! No, Dahlias! Wait...Delphinium! Or was it...Lilacs! Perhaps...hydrangea! Scratch it all - English daisies. The wee ones.

31. Favorite ice cream?
DQ Chocolate/Vanilla twist in a chocolate dipped waffle bowl with hot fudge sauce. Hey - you asked.

32. Favorite fast food restaurant?
Taco Bay-ell.

33. How many times did you fail your driver's test?
Nada. Although I didn't take the test until I was 17 because I was entirely happy having my friends drive me around.

34. From whom did you get your last e-mail?
Checking now.... Jaymsie "Marty" the Coop Keepa Fizzle Schnizzle. Ain't that fittin?

35. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
J Crew, and it wouldn't take long.
Incidentally, we are not a big credit card household. As in - we really don't have one. Just last week Ruby yelled at her big brother, "You're a Credit Card!"
It doesn't get much worse around here. Although just when we thought she couldn't top it, she did. But I really can't talk about that right now.

36. Broccoli?
Heck yes.
37. What was your favorite vacation?
(Honest to goodness, Claire, how long is this stinking thing???)
Dominican Republic, two years ago, on a dime, with Cory's brother and his wife, and a big stack of books. It was utterly fantastic, until the flight home, on which I was very certain I had lived my last day. (See # 3)

38. Last person you went out to dinner with?
Cory's sister, Jamie, her husband Matt, and my crack-up nephews, Evan, Jacob and Colin. And, of course, Cory and the 3 shorties. God bless our waitress.

39. How many tattoos do you have?
Two. I have the traditional butterfly on my inner ankle, and a small constellation of stars on my right shoulder blade, representing the astronomical appropriations of both South Korea and Malawi.
All of that was a lie. I am un-inked.

40. Coffee drinker?
Not one single bit. And, might I add, this was a very weak closer?