Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chocolate Underpants

A couple of days ago, I was feeding my three homeschoolers and Hubby their lunch. Halfway through his plate of ravioli, our Baby Boy asked if he could have dessert when he finished. Before even considering my answer, my mouth said "No!" Well, I stood there for a moment considering this, and I thought about how I really ought to say yes more often, especially when it was such a harmless request. I also thought about the fact that we had three left over desserts languishing on the counter or in the fridge. I knew without a doubt that those desserts would begin to call out enticingly to me about ten o'clock that night, and if I did not dispense with some of them I might be tempted to eat chocolate birthday cake, topped by fudge peanut butter brownie, with a side of chocolate pudding. And then I would wonder why I couldn't sleep.

So I looked over at Baby Boy and said blandly, "You may have a slice of chocolate cake. But don't even think of calling it dessert."

He replied amiably, "Well, what should I call it?"

"Chocolate garnishment."

At this point Hippie Boy pipes up. "WHAT'S chocolate garnishment? It sound like an undergarment."

At which I begin sputtering. Through my laughter I manage to get out, "From now on it is no longer called dessert. It's chocolate underpants!"

So this is why our entire family dissolves into hilarity toward the end of every meal, as someone feels obligated to ask if there is any chocolate underpants. I am fearing the rare day we go out to eat in a public restaurant, and a waitress has the bravery to ask if anyone would care for dessert!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


A recent, kind commenter called our family courageous. In customary fashion I tried to mentally brush the word off. It seems a bit over the top for what I do...most of which involves copious amounts of dirty laundry and dishes. But I got to thinking about the word for a few minutes. In fact, I got to thinking about it for long enough that I decided to look up a definition. Here's what I got:
Courageous: able to face and deal with danger or fear without flinching
I like the definition, because when I just searched for courage, it spoke of an absence of fear...and I knew this just didn't seem entirely right. But note this definition. There is no absence of fear, but an ability to face fear. I think this is terribly important, because fear is a very huge part of what we are doing here. I remember going to our birthing classes years ago, and under all the hope and happiness was fear. Fear of what can go wrong, fear of failure, fear of the future. I remember going to our adoption preparation classes, and under all the hope and happiness was an enormous fear. Much greater than the fear at birthing class.

Those teaching the classes foster the fear. They talk of "worst case scenarios" in an attempt to not leave you unprepared. But fear is not preparation. We begin to ask ourselves questions, and they all begin with two words. What if...the children don't like us? What if they have needs we cannot provide for? What if they feel like outsiders...don't attach to our family? The questions get harder, and we often dodge them at this stage, telling ourselves, "This is only hypothetical... this wouldn't likely happen to us." What if the children are destructive? What if they hurt or kill our pets? What if they are sexually active? What if they hurt my bio child? What if my marriage begins to suffer? Then the children come home, and in the whirl of settling in you ask no only put your shoulder to the wheel because there is just so much work to be done. You are happy to work. This is what you signed on for.

But in time the dust settles. The work becomes a routine, and the quiet questions begin somewhere in the back of your mind. Now the questions are very specific. What if this one has FAS? Will they ever be able to care for themselves? What if one child is preying on another behind a closed door? Can I live with the destruction of our family's belongings? What if my husband loses his job because of one of these children? What to do about the spouse who gains thirty pounds in only a few months because of stress? How do I deal with my bio child sobbing, saying, "I just can't deal with this noise and craziness anymore."? Now the fear becomes very real.

I think the fear is what separates us from the rest of the world. If all I wanted to do was be charitable and help someone, I could have done a hundred things; all of them noble, and useful, and good. But very few of them would require courage. I could leave the sanctuary of my loving home every day of my life and work for the good of others. I could be well paid to do it, or give it away for free. But some families choose to offer up the very best they have. They open up that sanctuary called their home, their family, their marriage. Some go in with eyes wide open, and others not so much. The common denominator is fear. Absolutely everything that might go wrong, can and often will.

Here are the courage questions to ask yourself. Can I love a child who harms and destroys that which I love? Can I change my expectations and not be bitter? Can I live with a pervading sense of failure? Can I live in "fear without flinching"? And of course when I am honest with myself I know I cannot. I don't even want to. Courage sucks. Being courageous means there must be something to be afraid of to begin with, some risk to be taken. I think most of us living our comfortable, secure lives don't want danger to knock on our door. We only take challenge when it is thrust upon us...and yet we are so uplifted by stories of courage. We hear them and have a vague sense that there is something we are missing.

I have had it said to me along the way, that my new daughters are very courageous. I agree, but not for the reasons most are referring to. It does not require courage to be tossed into a lifeboat by force. What my daughters truly do know, is fear. They have crawled into every dark hole to escape from their fear. What demands courage, is to allow yourself to be coaxed out of the hole. It demands courage to decide to live above an animal level, existing only for your bread and a safe place to lay your head. It requires courage to even want more. I see my daughters' courage when they choose to rise above their apathy and work hard, and believe there will actually be a payoff in the future. I see their courage when they do wrong and choose to tell the truth, trusting that this strange parent-creature will deal fairly with them. Their courage feeds my courage, and mine feeds theirs.

I realize that the battle we wage is not so very different... and a battle analogy is apt. Some of us have signed up to be soldiers, and others here got drafted. But we all have to go through our training, become fit for battle, and learn courage. It requires us to take risk, travel light, be flexible. We must face our fear without yes, I will take "courageous". I sure like it better than "saint" or "crazy"!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hippie Boy Whines

"How come I never make it into the blog? I don't even have a cool nick name. I'm just miscellaneous teenage boy. Whine, whine, whine..." And you wonder where his mother gets it!

One Year Anniversary

Twins, separated at birth...reunited September 21, 2006. One year gone by, since we first set eyes on the girls. We are one less right now, but we had a wonderful evening, with supper out to celebrate.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

You Must Be a Saint...You Must Be Crazy

OK. While I'm off and running on pet peeves, here's one for ya. When you announce to anyone that you are going to adopt older children...maybe several of them, there are two standard responses. Wanna take a guess at what they might be? Oh come on. I know you can get them. Maybe you've already said them to someone, in which case, go away and I'll never speak to you again. JUST KIDDING! But really, it's true. You announce this monumental thing, and these are the standard responses. For clarity and organization, I will address each one.

First, "You must be a saint." This is generally said by strangers, because if anyone knows me even a little bit, they know I am NOT a saint. And it's not like we went into this thing thinking it might improve our saint status. It's nice, kinda...but don't do it. It feels weird, because I am NOT a saint by the definition the commenter is using. It makes me feel like a fraud. It also makes my children feel weird if they happen to be standing nearby, and they are always standing parenting my children is a cross to be borne , and if only I can get through I will reap jewels in the hereafter.

Second, "You must be crazy." Now I admit that we occasionally take a swim in that pool, and doing this thing might make you crazier than you were. But deciding to do this does NOT make us crazy. In fact, I'm uncertain what part of it makes us crazy. Is is the sheer size our family has grown to? Some people get wiggy about that. Or is it the money? Lots of kids equals lots of expenses, and we sure don't have loads of cash. Or is it the fact that the children are older, carry lots of baggage, don't look like us? I'm not sure what actually puts us into the category of crazy. And I'm sure that lots of folks just say it with a chuckle, because they don't quite know what to say. I can accept that, because I often say stupid useless things in an effort to lighten things up. But again...don't do it. First of all, it gives us all a complex, because the life we are living right now feels crazy a lot of the time. But we know that we have to swim through the crazy to get to something else. We're just hoping and praying that the something else is good.

Now I've made my point, and I hope you realize the gentle intention I had. But it wouldn't be very good without a suggestion to those of you who find yourselves with these words hanging off the tips of your tongues in similar situations. You may say, "Well, what should I say?" Here are my suggestions:

1. Congratulations! How wonderful!
2. How can we pray for you?
3. You are very lucky/blessed to have such a beautiful family.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Whine, whine, whine...

OK. I'm going to complain about something that bugs me. A little bit. Because in the grand scheme of things I know it's just a tiny little thing, but it bugs me. I love this blogging thing. It's very cathartic for me. And it's also good for me to try and keep things upbeat and positive, as much as I can, and still be real. It's also a great way to keep friends and family in the loop, and maybe even encourage a stranger who happens along. So here's my gripe. NO COMMENTS. People drop by, and I don't know about it. Weeks go by and I don't hear from loved ones, but I hear them tell dear hubby, "But I'm reading her blog!" And really that's awesome, and I'm so glad we're staying plugged in this way. Except for the fact that many of y'all don't have a blog for me to read and comment at. So please humor me and drop a line...or even better, start up your own blog and get creative. It's really easy, and fun too. So that's my short little rant. Not much of a rant. More like a commercial for blogging.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Skinned Knees

The beauty of this life is how God can teach us the most amazing things through the most mundane details. Like skinned knees. I've had two casualties in two days...both bike accidents. It has gotten so messy that I just left my impromptu infirmary set up on the kitchen counter. It all began with Baby LaLa and her raggedy knee. It was hard to say what really happened, or why. I am relatively confident that the "accident" was intentional, knowing how passive aggressive this child can be. Was she angry at me for focusing on the messy shed instead of her? Or was she just a little sad and empty, and feeling like a little attention from Mom might fill up the hole? I know better than to ask her. She wouldn't know. All I know was that I heard her pull up outside the shed door with a quiet whimper. I poked my head out to see what was wrong, and she lurched off her bike with a cry of "Mommmeeeee..." It was the cry of a little child, the one that breaks your heart and scares you all at once. But I also knew that I had sent her to ride her bike for some fresh air and exercise, not three minutes before. Furthermore, I knew she did NOT want said fresh air or exercise. In fact, she had hopped on her bike unwillingly, and taken off at top speed, while wagging her handlebars back and forth as hard and as fast as she could. Her "accident" was a foregone conclusion.

So I escorted her to a chair on the porch, and carefully and gently patched up the mess. She barely cried, though it clearly hurt a great deal, and she was working hard to hold it in. She was also scared, as she was convinced she could see her bone. She could not. I wondered if she was happy with her choice to act recklessly, as I worked on cleaning the wound. I wondered because I have been on the other side of the skinned knee a few times myself. How many times have I done something stupid and self destructive, just because I was angry, or bored, or feeling a little empty and sad? How many times have I sat on the porch, gritting my teeth in pain, knowing it was my own stupidity and rebelliousness that landed me in such pain. How many times have I been afraid to ask for comfort and forgiveness?

My next casualty was Baby Boy...twin two. He was playing follow-the-leader with Little Potatie. The problem with follow-the-leader on bikes, is that only the person in front knows what they are doing. The children following are pretty much driving blind, twisting and turning, eyes on the rider in front of them, and not on the road in front of their own bike. This pretty much equals the occasional wipe out. Twin two hit the dirt pretty hard yesterday. He came into the house shouting for Mom. "I need your help, " he said loudly from the back hallway. I sat him down in a kitchen chair to examine things, and at first it didn't look too bad...mostly a few scrapes and a lot of dirt. I got him a wash rag and sent him into the bathroom with strict instructions to flush ALL the dirt out with warm water. A few minutes later he stumbled back to the kitchen chair, whimpering a bit. The arm, the leg, and the rag were all bloody, and there was still a fair amount of dirt and gravel involved. As I finished the cleanup and began sanitizing the wounds with peroxide, it became clear that his injuries were quite a bit worse than they had appeared when covered in dirt. Stubborn mud and gravel was lodged in the scrapes, which bled enough to keep me from seeing what I was doing. By the time everything was clean, medicated, and wrapped in gauze, Baby boy had been sobbing great sobs, with tears freely flowing. But he never tried to make me stop doing what we both knew needed doing.

Once patched up, he hobbled outside to claim wounded hero status, getting his sisters to pamper him and run for him. Amazing. He had fallen and hurt himself, come searching for help, suffered through treatment, and was now reaping the benefits of a little comfort and coddling. There was no averted eyes, knowing the injury was a result of naughtiness. No holding back tears and sobs, afraid of reprimand. And I don't know much about that side of the skinned knee. I don't usually like to take risks or do something just for the joy of it. And I find it hard to soak up help, and comfort, and coddling, because...well, why? I'm not even sure. It just feels wrong somehow.

But then there is this. Something this weary, worn Mama can take to the bank. When hurting and scared, my children come running, shouting with a loud voice for Mommy. And they sit through the painful operations, trusting me to take care of it..."even if my bone is showing!" In this moment it does not matter who is right, who is wrong...who is emotionally healthy, or not. As beloved children of our Heavenly Father, we should be able to approach confidently. But do I? How many times do I come running, damaged at my own hand, eyes averted in shame. I sit holding my tears in, and try and duck out as soon as I am patched up. But at least I know where to come for patching. That's something. And maybe as I grow up, I'll spend more time in the kitchen chair, sobbing hard while the gravel gets picked out, because I took a risk and did something for the joy of it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

All the news That's fit to Print

  • Hubby is into his slower season, cooking for midweek school groups on retreat. Mostly college groups and private schools. So we are enjoying some yummy meals.
  • This also means we can get to church on the weekends, and we finally became members of our parish this past Sunday.
  • Homeschool has begun with a big ugly BANG. Monday Dad actually had to come home from work and read the "twins" the riot act for their lousy attitudes. Thankfully they have rallied and are working beautifully together. Big bro was never in trouble. He gets his work done with a minimum of whining.
  • My two younger scholars are enjoying the private school. They are still honeymooning a bit, but they are happy and staying out of trouble so I will be glad and take what I can get.
  • I am pulling up out of my emotional slump of the last few weeks. Seeing Soapy go was terribly hard, and having her gone is amazingly easy. As long as I don't dig too deep. The house is blissfully quiet and calm in comparison to when she was with us.
  • I am getting a tremendous amount of cleaning/ organizing/throwing away done. The trash cans have been consistently full, I am making regular runs to Salvation Army, and heavens... I think I am becoming my mother. I am unloading tons of crap on my poor daughter. It's OK. It's good crap.
  • I am enjoying my goats once again. OK, I know that sounds weird, but they had kind of become holes I was pitching food into. But Darcy ran about as I was cleaning the shed today "helping". After I raked up all the hay that was all over the floor into a big pile, she hunkered down in it and just ate and lounged. It was so amusing to me as I worked, it made me smile. Every now and again I would feel something tickle my arm, and there she would be looking up at me.
  • Baby LaLa in characteristic form, feeling I was paying WAY too much attention to sheds and goats, proceeded to careen down the road at full speed wagging her bike handle bars back and forth as hard as she could. She wiped out, (big surprise) and gouged a flap of skin from her knee as big as my thumbnail. Really nasty. So I patched her up and she's quite happy with her bandage and dose of drama.
  • I'm kind of tired, but I have laundry to do, and the fam wants to watch and episode of "Monk".
  • That's pretty much it.