Monday, December 28, 2009

Mindful Monday

"I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit."

~Dawna Markova

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On the Horizon

We now have a new tentative travel date for January 27th. It's only a two week difference from February 11th, but it feels much more reasonable somehow.

The Great Eastern Sun is rising.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mindful Monday: A Proper Cup of Tea

sam sa ra Sanskrit word meaning going or wandering through, undergoing transformation. In Buddhism, the pain and suffering of life and the journey of living it.

"Hold the sadness and pain of samsara in your heart and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun. Then the warrior can make a proper cup of tea."

~Chogyam Trungpa

Saturday, December 19, 2009


On Friday we were given a tentative travel date of February 11th. At the earliest.

After Erik and I picked our hearts up off the dirty ground, dusted them off, and put them back inside, we realized this is 7 weeks before the year anniversary of when we were matched with Yonas. A year.

The holidays both here in the States and in Ethiopia are causing added delay. January 7th is Genna, Ethiopian Christmas. People like to celebrate this time of year. They like to take breaks from work. They like to be with friends and family.

This time of year people stop to remember a birth and re-birth. That life on earth will begin to return because soon there will be more light in our days. And hope for better things to come.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Move Over Emily Dickinson

A few weeks ago, Ava decided she would write a poem. 15 minutes later, she came back with this:


In all sorts of shapes,
with their beautiful capes,
and all the colors there are,
the sage and the rose
and all that grows
the flowers
the colors
the shapes

Nice, no?

On Sunday I was helping her type up a Tall Tale she'd written at school for part of her homework. I'd asked her to read it to me, while I typed. Around the second conflict, she paused. I looked at her.
"What's next?"
Her face turned red and tears started rolling down her cheeks.
"What's wrong honey?" We'd been having so much fun up until this point.
"Sometimes, when I have to show someone something I wrote it makes me feel worried that they won't like it." she managed to sob.

"Oh, honey!" I wiped her cheeks with my palms. Pulled her to me. "You're a writer!" I said.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mindful Monday: Expanded

I began a post Thursday morning to tell you that Erik was meeting with someone from our congressman's office at the urging of our specialist to try to help speed up the processing of our adoption case. I didn't finish that post. Later that afternoon we received a letter from USCIS, which is the governmental agency that processes international adoptions. It said our update was incomplete. The one we sent three weeks ago after the Social Work Scramble. Erik quickly made an appointment online and drove to the USCIS field office in San Antonio Friday morning. He met with with the officer that has been handling our case. It doesn't change the time we've lost, but we did put a human face to our names. A desperate father wanting help to bring his son home is hard to forget.

If you only recently began reading this blog, you might not even know we were adopting a son for as little as I've been able to write about Yonas lately. You might not know how my heart aches for him. How much I miss him. How I can't stare at his picture anymore. How I no longer look at the clock in the living room that reads Ethiopian time multiple times a day and wonder what he's doing. You wouldn't know I can't go into his room without my stomach hurting.

Sitting 9 months post referral with no travel date in sight, it begins to feel like a fantasy. Or maybe not a fantasy, but something so far away, so nebulous, that I begin to lose my sense of it. I begin to feel as though I've made the whole thing up.

Sometime over the summer, I made peace with this process. I was full of genuine grace and patience. I could see and believe and trust. Last Thursday night it all fell away. It broke me. I'm a "where's the lesson here?" kind of gal. Because if I'm struggling, then I'll be damned if I'm not going to try to see the bigger picture, find the lesson. So I've been searching. And I can't find anything. But I have an annoying, gnawing suspicion that it's the searching that's enough. I don't want it to be. I want to shut down, to fill up on tequila and dark chocolate and movies. And I have done that a little bit. But what I see through the lens of my busted heart right now is a hint of that idea that all of it; the waiting, the uncertainty, the love and sympathetic tears of friends and family, our pain, the occasional shutting down for self-preservation, the moments of grace; it's all just how it's supposed to be.

And it kills me. And it doesn't feel bearable. But it is, just because it has to be.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Mindful Monday

It is my intention to keep Mindful Monday posts short and leave space for people to get something out of them without mucking things up with too much of my own interpretation or laying my baggage down on whatever the gist of the post is. Today I'm going to depart from that plan a bit and talk about my weekend.

A while back Erik and I negotiated a weekend-off trade. A last hurrah before bring Yonas home. He went to Big Bend a few weeks ago for some backpacking/hiking on some primitive trails. This past weekend it was my turn, and I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with some of my favorite women at a condo by the lake. It was perfection, save the friends that couldn't be there. I didn't want it to end. On the drive home I felt a little panicky. I had fantasies of not stopping, just driving until I couldn't anymore and the finally checking in to a motel. Alone.

I felt awful really. I actually started to cry in the car when I hit our neighborhood. The tedium came rushing back. The constancy of need. The reality of searching and then finding yourself pushed into in the tiniest spaces of life, a flagging shadow of the woman you meant to be. Did I mention I felt awful? Guilty? A whole weekend alone and I couldn't come back filled with gratitude and a full well.

As we talked later, I told Erik maybe it's like this: imagine the disturbance of pouring water into a deep well. Water sploshes the sides; bubbles, ripples. The re-entry after a break is this way. The water takes time to settle and become still again. The pressure re-distributes along the sides of the well, things shift and finally settle. The well is solid and full again. The energy has shifted for me. I have slipped back in to reality, a full and quiet well. The trick, we all know, is to not let your well get so empty that it's such a shock to feel the water again.

I leave you this Monday with this quote:

"It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts."

~K.T. Jong

Wishing you all some silence and truth today.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

How To Tell You've Grown Up In Texas

I got the kid Christmas tree down from the attic today. It's about 3 feet tall, fake, and really bent up. It started out as a tree for Ava when she was a toddler. It was great for those years when the babies were grabby and pulling the ornaments off. All non-breakable ornaments, nothing too special, but really sweet, and the girls decorate all by themselves.

Safa picked up a sweet, wooden birdhouse ornamant.

"Look Mama, this one has pretend bird poop on it." She was amused. Pleased.

"That's snow, honey."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

World AIDS Day FIFTEEN Campaign

This is from AHOPE for Children:

"Today on World AIDS Day, please join campaign FIFTEEN: 15 days to find 15 sponsors for 15 orphans with HIV in Ethiopia.

Beginning on World AIDS Day, non-profit AHOPE for Children urges Americans to support some of the world's most vulnerable AIDS victims – the children that have lost their parents because of AIDS, and then were found HIV+ themselves. There are more than 1 million of these children in Ethiopia alone, and AHOPE for Children exists to serve them.

AHOPE Ethiopia is a children’s home to orphans infected with HIV, which has recently moved to a larger residence with room to care for 15 more orphans. The space is available for 15 more children, but the funds are needed to provide them with the basic necessities such as food, medications, education and holistic care. A child sponsorship is just $35/month ($420/year), and we have hope that there are 15 people out there that will feel inspired to help these children. Consequently, AHOPE for Children has initiated FIFTEEN, a campaign to find 15 sponsors to support 15 orphans infected with HIV in Ethiopia, within 15 days. Will you please join us on this journey to give hope a home?"

Erik and I support a 10 year-old boy. We receive bi-yearly updates on him and so enjoy seeing his progress. This is such a worthy cause. $35 dollars/month can do so much!

For more information please click the following link:

Or shop this season at the AHOPE store:

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mindful Monday

I feel like I said my piece to NaBloPoMo yesterday. Today I found out about NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. That's right. Write a NOVEL in 30 days. Maybe next year...And I might need to be prepared to spend Christmas on my own.

One benefit of NaBloPoMo is that it got me wondering just how close to everyday I could post, and how I might structure postings.

From now on Mondays will be "Mindful Mondays". I'm counting this last day of NaBloPoMo as the first Mindful Monday...

"When our eyes see our hands doing the work of our hearts, the circle of creation is completed inside us, the doors of our souls fly open, and love steps forth to heal everything in sight."

~Michael Bridge

I'm not entirely sure what the work of my heart is yet. I'm pretty sure it involves writing. And being in service. And children.

And paying enough attention to myself to figure out what the work of my heart is and how to walk the path with my eyes and heart open.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's Not You, It's Me

Dear NaBloPoMo,

The past 29 days have been really nice. Some of them have been great really. I felt inspired and motivated in ways I haven't in a long time. You have pushed and encouraged me. But the past few days I have felt a distance growing between us. Lately you have been needy. Too dependent. A little wearing. I sense the inevitable end of our relationship will be a necessary step in my evolution and growth. I appreciate all you have given and done for me. I really do. You deserve better than me. Someone that can give you all you deserve. I'm not ready for this level of commitment. Go out and find yourself another girl, NaBloPoMo. I'm all out of love. I wish you the best and should our paths cross again in another place, at another time, I hope we can both look back fondly on this time we've shared.

I wish you nothing but the best,

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Trees? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Trees.

Okay, so we do need trees. And we do happen to have several very large and beautiful trees that surround our house but are not technically ours. The trees we do have are too little to hold a swing. So we put some up in the house. Since the picture was taken we upped the safety factor by putting just one in the center.

Swinging is important. I was planning on giving you some solid information on the benefits of swinging, but when I googled it I came up with some, uh, very different "information". And frankly I'm still too sick to be able to sort through that kind of "information" to find what I'm looking for.

Swing on.
The kids I mean.

Although, what happens between two (or more, in this case) consenting adults is no business of mine.
So swing on, one and all.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankful, Continued

Immediately after I hit "publish" to post yesterday, I went to the couch and told Erik I didn't feel well. I'd hoped it was Thanksgiving overindulgence, feared it was the stomach bug that had hit Erik and Safa early in the week. Quickly I realized it was the later. I'm very weak right now, hunched over typing these words, but I'll be damned if I fail NaBloPoMo so close to finishing.

Last night Erik helped me to bed. Time over the past 18 hours has run together in the way it will when one is so ill they are confined to bed and labored walks to the bathroom. I lay in bed, nauseous, shaking, sweating. He stayed with me. He would leave and come back intermittently to check on me at first. As I got worse, he stayed. He read to me while I shook uncontrollably. He played the guitar for me, a sweet, gentle song, love in the chords. And when things got really bad he made a bed for me on the bathroom floor, where I stayed until 3:00 AM.

This afternoon he rented a girl-movie for me to watch in bed. Carried me back to bed. Offered anything he could, wanting to provide some small comfort. Worry and love all over his face.

I am exhausted now. Weak, ready for bed again after having now been awake for an hour. I hear the girls in the living room. Every once in a while I hear Erik's voice over theirs, low and loving, this voice I have found comfort in for 15 years.

And I am thankful beyond measure for the man it belongs to.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

An Award For Pretentious Rambling? I Graciously Accept.

The Rules:
1. Thank and link the person who awarded you. My cyber-acquaintance Rebekah awarded me. Thanks for that Rebekah! Rebekah is smart. Funny. Is raising two sons while she waits to be matched with a daughter. She's a Runner. (Capital "R"). AND I learned just this morning that Rebekah has a dirty mouth. What's not to like? I hope to get to know her better in time. I don't have a beach in my backyard Rebekah, but I do have a pool. When it gets too cold up there, you can visit us here in Austin anytime. I'm also happy to discuss setting up some arranged marriages if you are interested.

2. Reveal 7 things about yourself not previously mentioned on your blog.

3. Award 7 bloggers the "Kreativ Blogger Award", post links to their blogs, and leave a comment letting them know of their honor.

This is really pretty nice since it was only four days ago that I started to call myself a blogger. In my mind, I mean. I haven't said it out loud yet. The other day I really did start marveling at the inherent pretentiousness in blogging about my life. Who do I think I am to assume I have anything to say that people want to hear? But there is something so weirdly compulsive about it. And I never think that anybody else is pretentious for doing it, so I guess I'll just keep doing it.

Okay, 7 things not previously revealed on this blog:

1. I could drink you and your daddy under the table. But I'm the biggest caffeine lightweight you have ever seen. It's pitiful. Five swallows and my head feels like cotton-candy. I can feel the residual caffeine left in decaf.

2. I, like Rebekah, have a filthy mouth. I work hard to keep it clean here. I have deleted the "f-word" from my posts more times than I could count. I have been known to change the "Clean It Up" song to say, "And put it away, put it away, put your shit away". Now that I've typed it, I can see that it probably isn't the finest example of my parenting. I usually use the word "crap" in that song if that redeems me in any way.

3. I LOVE, and I mean, LOVE, those cheesy dance movies made for adolescents. Bring It On, Save the Last Dance, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. Cinematic HEAVEN.

4. I began a novel last fall. At the rate I'm going, I will be happy to have a first draft by the time I'm 75.

5. I'm not a germaphobe. I'm of the "You can eat it, I'm sure it's fine", 30-second rule, exposure-to-germs-makes-you-stronger ilk. Except for birds. Birds freak me out. They are gross. I will confess that I have managed to pass this phobia on to all three of my girls, who all know that the only way to pick up a bird feather if you don't have rubber glove handy is by pinching it with a leaf. And if you touch it accidentally you'll probably pay for it by contracting something that involves a trip to the hospital. That's not unhealthy, is it?

6. Since last November, which for those of you counting makes an entire year, I have been struggling with chronic gastritis brought on by the stress of the adoption process. Last spring I was encouraged by my doctor to get an endoscopy, or as I call it, "swallow the camera". I said, "No fucking way." (See #2) Not really. But I thought it. So I walk around like a 65 year-old man with a beer and beef problem, swallowing licorce and slippery elm tablets like they're candy, hoping that in 6 months it will be a distant memory.

7. My cyber-friends do not know that I drive a passenger van with flames, (see here). I still haven't fixed the right side where we were hit, so I now only have them on one side which is somehow MORE like me than having them on both.

And the Kreativ Blogger Award goes to:

1. Carrie. Carrie is a fellow Austinite and mama to three. She is hilarious and a poet when she writes about her children. I'm thrilled every time she posts. Her family is crazy gorgeous.

2. Cindy. OK, so Rebekah already nominated her, but this woman... I just like her. She is funny, sincere, self-deprecating, and mama to the most adorable triplet boys from Ethiopia. Everyone should have a chance to know of her blog, so I'm telling you now.

3. Kari Anne. I don't know Kari Anne personally. She is another Austin mama. Wicked funny. Smart. Strong. Author of Haiku Mama.

4. Erin Henderson. She took her blog private and I miss it. This means nothing to you since I can't link her, but her blog was hugely important to me. Adoptive mom extraordinaire and advocate for HIV+ adoption.

5. Kelly Rae Roberts. Kelly has a huge following and does not need my support. But I'm going to mention her here because she promotes, supports, and fosters creativity through her blog in a way that is accessible and freeing. And who couldn't use a little of that?

6. Karen Maezen Miller. Author of Momma Zen. Grounding, beautiful, compassionate wisdom offered up here. I would love to have a cup of something decaffeinated with her.

7. Janna. Janna's blog is private, but it shouldn't be. She is mama to four. Creative, funny. I want to be her when I grow up. I'm hoping this pushes her to go public.

Thanks for the inspiration everyone!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

We Are

I'm feeling a little ungrounded lately. In the time before each child has joined us, I have felt a bittersweet poignancy for what we were losing, what we would gain. That giant shift in family dynamics, energy, focus; it stirs things up. We are moving from what we are, to what we will become.

The beauty and simplicity of three daughters is not lost on me. Together, they are "the girls". I only need to wait a few days before I can do a full load of pinks, reds, and oranges. We are crayons and paper. Books and stuffed animals. Hula hoops and dancing.

We did not adopt so that we would be guaranteed a boy. Erik had no need to "balance out the house" as so many people joke. We were open to gender and would have happily added a fourth daughter. Sometimes I worry about my ability after mothering only daughters to shift my thinking to include less impulse control, more physicality, peeing standing up, and swords.

I feel like time is simultaneously speeding up and at a stand still. My life has become a scene from The Matrix. I hold on to these last days with the girls, watching them float away, watching myself distracted with packing lists, busy with adoption paperwork, stressed out, missing them, missing Yonas, trying to get centered enough to be here with them now, to sit down beside the stress and poignancy, to embrace the sadness, the fear that I cannot mother a son as I have these daughters of mine.

And then something shifts, and I put on Christmas music too early and I hold Eden and dance, I climb into the top bunk with Ava so she can read to me, I hold Safa a little longer than I need to when she calls to me in the middle of the night.

And then I remember. We are also blocks and trains. We are hikes and swimming. We are waterplay and mud.

And we will all be fine.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I Could've Really Used That Mexican Martini

Oh, generous spirit of NaBloPoMo, be lenient with me today as I offer up this measly post. For today has been one spent caring for a sick child and an even sicker husband (who although feels like shit, still looks gorgeous. I mean seriously. When I'm sick, I at least have the decency to look sick. Sheesh.) It has involved endless loads of towels, cleaning up vomit (sometimes out of carpet), and Lysol (which I hate and don't believe in, except when a stomach bug is floating around and then I have to fight the urge to coat everyone in full-strength bleach).

Whenever an adult is sick in our family, it leads us to remember two family stories. The first happened when I was a teenager and my father was sick. He groaned and shuffled his way down the stairs to find my mom and I in the kitchen, where my mom was making dinner. He asked what we were having. My mom said, "Soft tacos." To this my Papa moaned a little and stated that he had never had soft tacos. We tried not to laugh in his face.

The second involves me. This happened long before children when Erik and I were in our mid-twenties. I was sick. It had come on hard and fast and Erik said to me gently, sweetly, helping me into bed, "Baby, I think you have the flu."

To which I replied, in all seriousness, "I don't have the flu, YOU have the flu."
I meant it too.

In some wicked twist of fate I had a mom's night out scheduled tonight with some women I adore from the girls' school. They will eat Tex-Mex, drink different versions of margaritas, and a couple of them will say something so dirty it might make someone else pee their pants.

I will put everyone to bed, eat my weight in chips and homemade guacamole, and drink a sorry excuse for a cocktail in their honor.

It won't be the same, but tonight, it might just be enough.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


We had Vietnamese take-out tonight for dinner. After we finished, we had fortune cookies. Eden's read, "Something wonderful is about to happy."
It's true.
Something wonderful IS about to happy.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Embiggen the Pie, I Need to Feast

I love being a mother. I think I'm good at it. I love all the things it brings to me now, all it will bring later. And I'll tell you now, my willingness to raise children would be limited only by silly resources like money and physical health. I would keep adding children to our family by adoption until I fell over. And yet.

And yet, there's this other thing. This idea of paths not taken. The roads we look down, but keep walking on by. I want it all. I want a big, giant life with as many kids as I can take care of well AND time to make art with my hands and to write a novel, and to read, to travel, time to be in service to a greater good, time alone with Erik, time alone with myself. I want it all.

Is it too much to ask?

Am I tired just thinking about it?
You bet your ass.

Will I stop trying?
No way.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bump Number 127, But Who's Counting?

This is going to be a boring explanation-type post with no creativity whatsoever. Excited?

Because our process has taken so long, our federal fingerprints expired, and we were re-fingerprinted back in June. For some reason that is beyond me, the other part, the part that involves things like the Department of Homeland Security, United States Citizens and Immigration Services, and forms called, I-600, I-600A, I-171H expires not in 15 months like our fingerprints, but in 18 months. Which turns out to be December 4th for us. So we sent a renewal letter. Did what the USCIS page told us to. Twenty-one days later we receive a letter stating that we needed to provide an updated homestudy by December 14th or our application would be denied.


So we scrambled. Called our lovely (local) social worker and left a panicky message. In some evil twist, our specialist (our agency social worker) called to see what are new expiration date was. She was calling to tell us we were going to travel on December 16th. Our lovely social worker moved lightening fast.

They will not put us in a travel group until our processing is complete. So December 16th travel is off the table for us. I will not get to meet Briana. But she has told me she will give Yonas a squeeze before we get there. That helps. So did the other acronyms she and her husband have developed for USCIS.

And we wait.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Haven't Even Polished the Children Yet

Taking a break from the Social Worker Scramble. You know, the frenzied, half-crazed push to make your house presentable for the person that helps decide if you are clean enough, sane enough, smart enough, to adopt a child. Nothing like a visit to shine a light on the dirtiest, ugliest, and most dangerous spots in my house...

Have my carpets always been THIS dirty?

Do we really keep THAT much booze on the counter?

Where are all the outlet covers?

Since when is there a STAPLER in Safa's room?

What the hell IS that under Ava's and Eden's bunk bed???

She will be here in 15 minutes. I'm sure there's a spot somewhere I should be scrubbing, a dog hair I missed. Maybe I should brush my teeth.

Tomorrow I will tell you why we have to do this today. I will tell you now it sucks and means we will not be traveling before Christmas.

Until then, here's my blog post about our first ever home study visit.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Remember that 21-day cleanse I was doing?

On day 18, I broke it.

With a big, fat whisky and coke.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What is Your Poem?

It is with some regularity that I find myself with other women I like and talk turns to self-care. Self-care comes in many guises. Each of us needs a cocktail of practices to support our soul and fill our psychic well. I posted very recently about my struggles to create space in my life for that necessary nurturing of my soul. Committing to NaBloPoMo has been good for me. Really good. So good that I'm wondering if I can keep it up, this blogging everyday. In large part it has been so good because I know I have to show up everyday, even if I don't think I have anything to say. It has been for 15 days now, a mandatory gift to give to myself.

"Nobody will stop you from creating. Do it tonight. Do it tomorrow. That is the way to make your soul grow - whether there is a market for it or not! The kick of creation is the act of creating, not anything that happens afterward. I would tell all of you watching this screen: Before you go to bed, write a four line poem. Make it as good as you can. Don't show it to anybody. Put it where nobody will find it. And you will discover that you have your reward. "
~Kurt Vonnegut

I know a poem won't cut it for everybody. But I encourage you to find something you can do for yourself, something that doesn't wait for anyone's evaluation or approval. Something that is yours alone. Keep it for yourself. Go get your reward.

And in a few months time, when you find me depleted and wanting, tell me to do the same.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Won't Somebody PLEASE Think of the Grandparents!

We went to Port Aransas in September. It was a much better trip than this one two years ago. But not nearly as funny to blog about. I can't wait for Uncle Yonas to be with us next time we go.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Quote of the Week

Safa was in the bath, Ava and Eden at school.

"Mama? Sometimes I like it when Ava and Eden aren't in the house."
"Oh, is that right? Why is that?"
"Because sometimes they do crazy things in the living room."
"Well, that's true."
"Yeah. That's why I don't like them in the house."

Friday, November 13, 2009

I Think I Just Threw Up in My Mouth a Little

Something gross happened last Sunday night. Something really gross. I took pictures, but I'm not sure they are appropriate to share in this format. (But if I get enough requests, I might be swayed.) I noticed last week that the sink in the bathroom the girls use was draining slowly.

After brushing their teeth, Ava and Eden came running to me and said, "Mama! Come into the bathroom! We need to show you something!" followed by much giggling. My standard, "Can you bring it to me?" brought more giggling. "Nooooo, You have to come see it."

Now at this point, I should have been scared. But I wasn't because I was too exhausted from the camping trip described below to be lucid enough.

"Look what we found in the sink!" Eden said. I walk into the bathroom and there, in the sink, is a four-inch long sprout of some kind, with another three or so inches of root attached.

"This came from the sink?!"

Erik walked by right at this moment and I showed him. He began to dig around in the sink drain and pull out several more sprouts, one with a pumpkin seed still attached. Also a lot of good old fashioned dirt. Someone, perhaps of the childish persuasion, put a clump of dirt and a few pumpkin seeds down the drain. And they sprouted and grew. They grew in the nasty sink-drain muck. Gag me with a sprouted pumpkin seed.

Salad anyone?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

His Last Name Is Romberg

We found out earlier in the week that Yonas has now been moved from the Bethel Orphange in Nazret to our agency's care center. And although it was a necessary step, I hate that he has left the place that he has known for so long. All new nannies, new bed, new food, new toys, new smells. The good news is that the other children being adopted from Nazret all moved at the same time, so he will have some familiar faces. This is a bittersweet time now, as we make the final steps to get him home, he is bearing the pain and loss without adults he trusts. It is a necessary part of the journey he makes to become our son.

We also received his birth certificate today, which is a huge next hurdle. This was the next big step, so that feels really good. In the top left corner there is a small picture of him, a copy of his passport photo that was taken this week. He looks worn down, traumatized, and weary. It kills me. They also shaved off all his beautiful hair. This is standard procedure, it lessens the amount of work for the nannies and keeps lice to a minimum. I knew it was coming, but he is not the boy he was in his social report. He has lost more in his 18 months than I ever will. And it shows all over his face right now.

I want to be there now, to hold his chubby hand while he walks, to watch him sleep, to help him heal and trust we are his final, forever stop. No more sweet boy. No more. Hang on just a bit longer.

We are coming.

P.S. I will bring the funny tomorrow. I swear.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


So I lied yesterday. I need one more day. If you come back tomorrow, I have an awesome story about living with children that I promise you is unlike any other you've heard.

Kelsey, me, Brad, and Sam. This picture is from a trip to Six Flags. We'd stayed in some crap motel (pictured behind us) and were walking over to the crap diner across the parking lot for breakfast. This is hands down one of my all-time favorite pictures of my late teens. The giant denim shorts, the black and white shirts (which I can swear to you we didn't plan) makes it even funnier. We are all so gorgeous and young and happy I can hardly bear it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


(If I hadn't committed to NaBloPoMo I wouldn't be posting today. I don't want to bump the post about Brad, and I can't figure out how to embed the music in the post so I will have to delete the music tomorrow. )

My grief regarding Brad's death is multi-layered and I think it is in large measure because it is impossible not to experience this loss through the lens of motherhood. People grow up and things happen to them. Sometimes wonderful and beautiful things, other times tragic. As a mother I watch my children grow into the people they are meant to become, watch them rise to their best selves and watch them struggle, knowing I can not protect them from the pain that comes with simply being human. I can parent, pray, guide, yell, whisper, bend, take a stand, plead, laugh, worry, hug, and love all I want. But nothing I do will keep the tragedies of life, small and large, away.

And so tonight, as I reluctantly post on this blog of motherhood and life, I send peace to Brad's mother, from the young woman I was when I knew her son, and from one mother to another.

And tomorrow, I will post about motherhood and life. Because the tragedies and joys of life, the lovely and the chaotic, they keep moving on.

Monday, November 09, 2009


Last night I learned that a boy I once knew died. Four and half years ago. His birthday was the 7th.

There was an art class, laughter, The Cure, an Isuzu Impulse, a Six Flags trip, silliness, and the kind of beauty only found in youth.

I have spent the day remembering him, listening to 80's music, watching my girls dance to David Bowie and The Clash, playing heartbroken hide-and-seek with Safa, crying while I waited for her to find me.

Brad, this is for you...

EDIT-- I ran "Pictures of You" by The Cure, but couldn't figure out how to embed it, so I sadly had to delete it

Sunday, November 08, 2009

It's Been Real. It's Been Fun. But It Ain't Been Real Fun.

Yesterday we went on our first ever family of five camping trip. It was a school-wide trip so we were there with lots of families we love. The afternoon was fun and included paddle boating and rambling. It reminded me how far we've come from the village. Having multiple other eyes on your kids, taking a hike with kids that aren't yours, having five adults ask if you're OK when you fall down and your parents aren't around; this is good. Really good. It's how it's meant to be.
But I'd like to do my best now to describe my experience last night at Inks Lake State Park. Evening time was your standard group gathering with burgers, s'mores, campfire, etc. The party dispersed. Ava had been invited to sleep in a tent with two other girls.
Erik and I got Safa and Eden in their sleeping bags and Ava settled. All three of them had noses so stuffy they could barely breathe. It was about 9:00. Eden and Safa fidgeted and were generally over-tired and miserable. The park was over-crowded and noisy, we were right across the street from the bathrooms.
Erik and I got into our sleeping bags. The level of noise was insane. Erik said that it was like trying to sleep in the middle of the street in our neighborhood and in a bar all at the same time. We did the kind of complaining that was marked by a solid, self-satisfied notion that we were, on the deepest level, better than the people making all the noise.
Then we heard them. Some kind of humanoid (i'm quite sure humans aren't physically capable of this level of noise-making) whose sole purpose was to create a cacophony loud enough to keep even the most exhausted person awake. They were playing some kind of game. A game that consisted of intermittent whooping and laughter so loud and it made my throat hurt. I leaned over to Erik and said, "I have to practice "Hot Cross Buns" on my recorder, I'm not very good, but I AM loud." He said, "OK. I have to go and check the doors of my 63-door car." We laid there for a very long time. Eden fell asleep. Then Safa. I stared at the tent ceiling and seethed only the way a person can when they are being kept awake against their will.
Erik went to the bathroom. While he was gone, the couple (not part of our group) in the tent next to us (read: right on top of us) started making some noise. I thought: Maybe their having sex. Well, at least it will be entertaining. I really thought this. I heard whispering. Then: "I just don't understand why you have to be such an ASSHOLE!" The promise of distraction was over before it had begun.
Erik returned, I closed my eyes, tried to fake sleep hoping to induce the real thing. Then Ava appears at the tent door. She needs to go to the bathroom. We go. She wants to return back to the tent with us. After much rearranging we get her settled, but it takes her a very long time to fall asleep. An hour passes. Maybe two. Then "Dude" comes on the scene. Loud, obnoxious, drunk Dude. And he brought friends. They are so loud they actually drown out the humanoids. Hours pass. Crickets scream, but finally...quiet. I fall asleep.
Safa awakens soon after and needs to pee. I ask Erik to hand me the potty chair we have moved just outside the tent to accommodate Ava. He hands it to me and I spill pee all over my sleeping bag. I clean it up with someones shirt. Then more noise. Is that coyotes? Owls? Puppies being strangled? My family sleeps. They snore. Car doors slam. I finally fall asleep. A little later, noise at the bathroom. Awake.
What's black and white and stinks all over? A freakin' skunk. Seriously. The funk moves through our tent and hangs in the air while my family sleeps and I cover my face and start mentally writing this post.
Then somehow, miraculously, it's dawn. The man from the couple next to us stirs and they start fighting immediately. Tires screech. Kids yell. Birds cry.

Ah, nature...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Water = Life

80% of all disease in Ethiopia is due to dirty water and poor sanitation.

At any given time, more than half of the country's population of 80 million people is suffering from water-related disease.

More than 250,000 children under the age of five die each year due to diarrhea.

In an era of unprecedented global wealth, four out of every five people on the planet do not have access to running water.

You can help. Please consider making a donation to A Glimmer of Hope. You can donate here to join the effort of a group of adoptive families that are trying to raise enough funds to build a well.
Even 10 dollars will help.

"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little."
~Edmund Burke

Friday, November 06, 2009

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


I have been wearing this necklace since shortly after we were matched with Yonas. That was seven months ago. I've taken it off once. I decided I would wear it until we brought him home. That I would wear it while I missed him, while I worried, while I prepared for him. That I would wear it in on the plane to Ethiopia and when we met him for the first time. I had no idea I was committing to wearing it for 9 or 10 months.

The flag is fading.

The truth is I'm tired of wearing it. When I change positions in the night, it moves against the chain and wakes me up. I like necklaces. I have many others I'd rather be pulling from my toddler son's chubby hand while carrying him on my hip.

Someday I will give it to him, this talisman of love. Someday when he's old enough to understand what it meant to me to wear his name above my heart and wait.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Worthless Wednesday

Arachibutyrophobia --- the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth
Yep. Any sufferers?
I mentioned to my mom that I would probably do a Wordless Wednessday post today. She heard "Worthless Wednesday". I ran with it.

Monday, November 02, 2009


Today begins week three of the 21 day cleanse I'm doing. I decided that in order to be ready to be mama to four children under the age of 8, it might be a good idea to throw a little self-care in along with figuring out laundry systems and menu planning. It is good and relatively easy for a cleanse of this nature. Raw, liquid meals for breakfast and dinner, with a solid (but very clean) lunchtime meal.

The combination of doing the cleanse and passing court has been an interesting one. For one thing, I'm sleeping. I am a chronic insomiac, have been my whole life. I generally spend between 1 and 3 hours every night awake. It rarely stresses me out and I rarely put it to good use. It is hard to separate to which events I owe this sleep, but I'm thankful to have it.

Another side effect of cleansing is that along with clearing the physical body, it clears the emotional stuff too. Everything gets stirred up, brought to the surface. You are invariably more thin skinned and raw yourself. Which means I have been weepy, joyful, and awed by how blessed my life is. And irritable and grumpy. But I haven't been filled with the anxiety that had been hanging over me, a low-lying fog of helplessness and restlessness.

I have been thinking for a long time on a world in which Erik and I have the honor of parenting, loving, growing with a child that was not born to us. Moving last week from the abstract to the legal weighs on me heavily. How much I owe Yonas' Ethiopian family. How much I owe Ethiopia. How much I love this child that I've yet to meet.

Becoming raw to the emotions of the adoption process (especially a transracial one) is painful. It toothpick-opens your eyes simultaneously to some of the most beautiful and ugly aspects of humanity.

May I forever remain thin-skinned.

Candy Is Good

Safa was the requisite fairy. Eden was a peacock. Ava was...well, we don't know exactly what Ava was, but we know she looked cool. Some kind of Eastern European folk dancer perhaps? We found her costume at Saver's (for you out-of-towners, it's a mega-thrift store). I told her when someone asked, she should say, "What do you think I am?". I told Erik we should give her a bottle of vodka to carry around. (We didn't.)

In a spin-off of the mid-90's Shoes For Guns program, we gave them the opportunity to trade most of their candy in for a trip to Terra Toys. I'm happy to say it was a success. No more endless candy negotiations at 6:30 in the morning. No more eating a KitKat from someone's stash then remembering it's not worth it because I am a chocolate snob.

Candy is good. But toys are better.

Friday, October 30, 2009

In Your Face Mensa

We have this weird game we play at our house. It began about a year ago and was born out of a conversation Ava and I had in which we were comparing what color each day of the week is. You know, Wednesday is green, etc. We thought of five of the seven days as the same color. This game has morphed into such ridiculousness as this:

"What is Monday plus book?" said Eden.
"Library." I said. (I mean, c'mon, give me a hard one.)
"Orange?" Erik asked.
"Wednesday?" I said.
"Banana tree?"
"Beaver." Eden said.

Damn it.
I should have gotten that one.

I'm In

This is NaBloPoMo. 30 posts in 30 days for the month of November. I heard about such craziness last year. I promise to not resort to recounting what I packed the girls for lunch...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Yonas Hailu Romberg

I sit here stunned, blessed, trying to find the words to convey the emotions and the meaning of this day. The sleepless nights, the anxiety, the ache I feel for him in the deep night...
all eased by the light that now shines at the end of this tunnel that has been so dark at times, so much harder than I imagined when we began this journey...

He is my son.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Building a Tribe

I have not stated here, but should, that our original October 9th court date has been pushed to October 26th. I guess the good thing about experiencing multiple delays lasting months is that a couple of weeks isn't the end of the world. The delays over the summer were made bearable in large part due to Sarah, whom I've mentioned before. She and her husband have three children in the same orphanage Yonas is in and are still waiting on a court date. (Soon Sarah, soon!!)

I have felt grateful for her presence in my life, this woman so many miles away, this woman I know only through the magic of the internet. So many times a moment has passed and I think of Sarah moving through her day, missing her children, wondering how they are, as I miss Yonas and wonder how he is. And this: our children are sharing a home. They know each other.

And so Sarah and I have been on a quest for months trying to find others with children in the Bethel Orphanage in Nazret. And until last week our efforts were futile. But there are more. And we have found each other. And it feels like the most beautiful, amazing, important thing. Our children know each other. They are playing and eating and sleeping together before any of us have even met them. They are living together. They are sharing what we cannot yet share with them right now as I type these words. And now we, their parents, have found each other. And we can lift each other up and make each other smile and plan for a time when we can all come together as a giant family for our children who once upon a time shared a life together before we ever knew them.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Romberg Family Creed

We gathered around the table to have a discussion about what we wanted our family to be, to stand for, who we wanted to be as a group and as individuals as we make our way on this crazy journey together. We talked. We listened. I wrote it all down:

"Be nice."
"Talk kindly."
"Say you are sorry."
"Don't grab."
"Be respectful."
"Ask instead of tell."
"Help each other."
"Don't yell."
"Have fun."

Then we compiled our list and I wrote it on the wall at the end of the hall.

Once I was walking down the hall and felt like continuing out the door. It didn't seem peace-making or respectful. So I stayed. After all, we shook on it.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


It's been two months since I've posted here. I've tried and failed posting a video a couple of times, but beyond that I've felt relatively uninspired. And herein lies the rub. I know better than to wait for inspiration. I know that motherhood, with all its sweetness and tedium, all its beauty and need, will suck me in and pull down into a place I find difficult to climb my way out of if I'm not careful. But here I am again. It's been months since I've written any fiction beyond a page or so. Even longer that my hands have created anything that wasn't edible. And so I'm sinking.

I'm accutely aware of Yonas' impending arrival, that I'd better get my ass in gear and figure this out before we bring him home. And so my gut is in pain, my breath short, my body in a perpetual state of panic. In short, I'm a mess.

The problem is that the balance I seek is one that must be perpetually sought if you are a woman. The balance of self-care over caring for others. We are by nature and by nuture, caregivers. I have long felt that a huge part of my path in this life is to learn to make peace with and find space for my maternal and creative selves. I believe they can not only co-exist, but inform and buoy each other. But I also know that for that to happen, one must fight the good fight of finding time for self, time for silence and solitude, and for me, time to create. And it's not happening. And there is no blaming children or laundry, or lack of time. There is only me looking back at myself wondering how long I'm going to let this continue before I do something about it. I've been a mother for alomost eight years. It's not like I haven't had this conversation before. But this is a conversation that needs repeating, that must be screamed, that never goes away.

I don't know what the answer is for me right now. I know it starts with loving myself enough to take the time to figure it out. I think it might end with a metaphorical swift kick to the ass.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

But I Miss Him

We found out on Tuesday afternoon that we will not make it through Ethiopian court before closure. This means that our court date will be sometime in mid-October (hopefully). This means that we will not hold our boy until December (hopefully). He will be 19 months old in December.

I do not presume to know the workings of the universe. I do not presume to question the intelligence of the way our lives unfold. I implicitly trust that these delays have a deeper meaning for any one or all of us that are on this path of getting Yonas home. But I miss him.

Maybe Yonas needs more time in Ethiopia. Needs more time to absorb in his cells the beautiful country of his birth. When we finally pass court, Yonas will move from the place he's called home for almost his whole life, to an agency run care center. Sometimes nannies will go with the children, but in Yonas' case this is unlikely. Maybe he needs more time at Bethel orphanage to be with the nannies that have loved him from babyhood into toddlerhood. I even thought maybe his nanny needs him for a bit longer.

Maybe Safa needs more time with me before adding a brother to the mix. Maybe Erik and I need a bit more time before we begin this next journey that will undoubtedly be challenging, this journey to help a toddler heal his heart and trust that we are his final stop.

And finally, and maybe most importantly, it will bring us to number five, or as Erik and I call him/her--Five. This delay will bring us to the next child that is meant for our family in the same way that everything unfolded to bring us to Yonas.

I believe and trust and surrender. But I miss him.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Price of a Tender Heart

On Sunday morning I got up with Safa and Eden while Erik and Ava slept. It was early, maybe 7:00 AM. Eden promptly found the biggest click bug I've ever seen on the kitchen floor. I'm sure you know these insects. I'm sure they have proper name. They are the unfortunate, seemingly ill-conceived creatures that simultaneously "click" with a quick bend of their bodies and then pop up into the air much to the delight of children. I've always found them odd and once remember hunting one particularly "clicky" one in the middle of the night because it was keeping me awake.

The click bug Eden found was not doing so well. And because she loves all things living, all things nature, she watched and held it for awhile. I made coffee, got Safa some milk, checked my email and then about 20 minutes later came to ask her if she wanted some milk. She turned her head away from me and nodded a small "yes" and I could see she was about to break.

"Did it die honey?"
A face was red, her eyes were full of tears, and she nodded.
"Oh, sweetheart, I know." And then she fell apart. I gathered her up in my lap. "Oh, Eden you have such a big heart. I love your big heart. I know how much it hurts because that's how I am too."
I was quiet for awhile and just let her cry. I cried with her for the pain of knowing that she will go through life with her tender heart exposed to the world. I know what it's like.

I said, "I believe that because that click bug was a living thing that it matters that you were with it when it died." I wasn't placating her. I do believe this.

"Eden, I know what it's like to go through the world with such a sensitive heart. And I will tell you it makes life harder, but it makes life so beautiful and I wouldn't want to change the way I am. " This is almost always true.

Once on a visit to see my parents we saw "Gladiator" in the theater. I don't remember very much about the movie, only that it knocked me to my knees. I was so broken by that movie I could barely walk. I wept afterwards as we walked as a family through Sam's amazed at all the ways people could find to hurt each other. It can be embarrassing to be the only sobbing mess at a movie like "Gladiator". It can be embarrassing to be known as the one who swerved the car to miss the butterfly. I have learned to see this as a gift most of the time, but it can prove very difficult when you are, say, waiting to go get your son in Ethiopia.

I brought Eden the dried petals from the orchid that my sister brought to me on the day we were matched with Yonas to hold with the click bug. I'm not sure why. They were pale purple and beautiful and I knew that holding something beautiful would help. So I held my big hearted girl while she held a dead bug and dried flower petals and we waited for the pain to pass enough to get up from the kitchen floor and face the world.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Hundred Acre Wood Personality Theory

I love personality theories. Love them. The Enneagram, Myers-Briggs---I'll take them all. A while back I wrote a post (here) about how exploring the ways that personality affects parenting can be incredibly helpful in seeing one's strengths as a parent and can relieve some of the relentless mama-guilt that plagues so many of us.

On our way back from berry-picking a few weeks ago, the girls were watching a Winnie-the-Pooh movie on the portable dvd player that we allow during car trips that last longer than an hour. And I heard Rabbit bitching about something and said to Erik, "Ava is Rabbit." We declared Eden Pooh, and I looked at Erik for a moment and said, "Who are you?...Oh my gosh! You are totally Owl!!" (He didn't think it was nearly as funny as I did.) And thus, the Hundred Acre Wood Personality Theory was born.

I have refined the Theory and have come to the conclusion that it gives a more complete picture of the person to combine two characters when determining personality type.

Our family is made up of the following types:

Ashley- Kanga/Rabbit
Erik- Owl/Kanga
Ava- Rabbit/Piglet
Eden- Pooh/Tigger
Safa- Roo/Tigger

It is simple. It is powerful.

Okay, so it's not powerful, but it is funny. What's your Hundred Acre Wood Type?

May 18th

On May 18th we celebrated Yonas' birthday without him. We had cake, we sang him "Happy Birthday" then at Ava's suggestion, "Melkam Lidet" to the tune of the only birthday song we know. I cried. We bought him presents. A wooden woodpecker walker, a bright orange Ugly doll, and of course, a soccer ball. When we first got our referral pictures of him, I cropped his sweet face, printed it out, cut closely around his head, taped it to a paint stir stick, and stuck it on a chair. So he's been at our table for awhile, and for a short few weeks his head made the rounds in different carseats in the car. He ended up crumpled and on the floorboard which just seemed wrong and uncool, so I took that one out.

We put a piece of cake it front of him, lit a candle, and sang. Or rather everyone sang while I swallowed hard and tried to mouth the words. We videoed the entire thing and then I took the recorder back to the room that will be his and blubbered a birthday message to him. I'm not sure exactly what I said. It will be a long time before I feel the need to watch it. There is a sweet, and maybe a little creepy, picture of his floating head with a piece birthday cake in front of him. Next May 18th will be better.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Introducing: The Sisters Romberg!!!!

We're strongly considering taking the act on the road this summer to make a little cash...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Uncle Yonas

It took me days to write what follows and it is random, and I apologize. I've been uninterested in life aside from learning about bulk cooking and reading David Sedaris. I can't seem to answer my phone or bring myself to be social. But I'm trying. Here goes:

It's been awhile since I've posted. It's been at least two months since I've written anything at all. I'm hermit-crabbing. And my shell its getting a little tight these days. I'm not sure what I need to say here, but today has been harder than the past week. So here I am.

Last night in central Texas there was bad weather. Like tornado bad. When the news tells me there's a tornado a few miles away and to get in a closet, I wake up my kids and get in a closet. Ava was terrified. She 7 years old. Sometimes age brings just enough understanding to scare the shit out of you. Eden didn't start crying until many minutes into the ordeal. Safa was like that drunk girl from high school---confused, and a little pissed that someone woke her up. The tears and snot flowed freely as we sat sweating in Safa's closet. I kept reaching for the panties in her drawer to wipe Eden's running nose. Erik and I kept telling them that we would be fine. I asked them to take deep breaths, I delivered Rescue Remedy under all our tongues as we huddled up and listened to the news waiting to be released from the closet.

As we waited I told the girls this: "When you're a grown-up, you're going to tell your kids about the time you had to get in the closet because there was a tornado so close to our house. Your going to say, "That night, and then, whatever your children call us, say Nana and Poppy, came and woke us up and we had get in the closet and we were so scared and we cried so hard and Aunt Safa slept almost the whole time. And Aunt Eden had to keep blowing her nose into Aunt Safa's panties."

And then Ava stopped me and said, "What do you want to be called?"

And something tender and deep in my heart broke open. I've never given real thought to what I might like to be called as a grandmother, but it was so huge, that moment for me. I said, "I'm not sure."
And then Ava said, "So Eden will be Aunt Eden, and Safa will be Aunt Safa?"
"Uh-huh. Isn't that funny to think about?"
"And Yonas will be Uncle Yonas?"
"That's right."

And we continued to talk about how they would tell the story of that night. And then the news freed us. So we moved the mattress that was covering us all, and we put the girls back to bed.

Here's the thing:

We need a court date. We need one soon if we have any chance of getting Yonas home before Christmas. Someone commented that it must be like being perpetually pregnant, yet no one knows. And it is a little like that. But today I thought, when you're pregnant, the baby isn't 8,500 miles away. I have a friend known to me only through the magic of the internet. She and her husband are waiting on their letter too. They have three children (THREE!) that are in the same orphanage as Yonas. I like to imagine them altogether. And I like to imagine the day I get to meet their family.

Here's something else I imagine everyday with closed eyes. I imagine a new building. I see workers sitting down to paperwork about a baby boy that has a family waiting in Texas. A baby boy that has been in care for a long time. A boy that will one day grow up to be Uncle Yonas. I see them writing a letter for him. Then I see them writing the same letter for three siblings that need to get home to their mama and papa that have been waiting and planning for them for years. I see them mailing those letters to whomever they need to be mailed to, to get us our court dates so we can hold our children. My friend and her husband decided they would join me and Erik in this visualization. She suggested maybe readers of her blog could join us. Maybe you could too...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Old Pyjamas, New Brother: A Toddler's Tale of Woe

Is it just me or is Safa a little.....needy lately? The girl is struggling right now. She is a regressing, clingy, angry, hitting, whiny mess. She's in disequilibrium---she's feeling left out of Ava and Eden's current love affair with each other, she's too little to keep up, understand the jokes, and do the things they do sometimes. She wants to be big. AND she has a sense that Yonas will usurp her position as baby, will read her old books, play with her old toys, and (GASP!), even wear her old pyjamas!! It's just too much. She wants to be big and little. Bigger and Littler. And it's making her miserable. And also some of us who are around her all day.

Experience has shown me time and time again that whenever kids are really going through something, they are about to make some kind of leap. Cognitively, emotionally, etc. It's like they back up to get a running start to leap over whatever is coming next.

We humans are tricky aren't we? It's precisely those times when we are the most unlovable, that we need the most love. I keep trying to remind myself of that. Those times in my life when people have forgiven me my ugliness, or looked past my unlovable behavior to the person they know I am.

So today I held Safa like a baby. I "found" her, wrapped her up in a blanket, called her "Tiny Baby", carried her in a sling for too long, rocked her, and let her be my baby.

And my heart broke even though I was gritting my teeth some of the time. Because I totally understand. I want her to be Bigger and Littler too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

And Then One Day, You Can't

"Mama? Did you know I can see the air?" Eden said.
"Uummmm.." I said.
Her eyebrows were high and her eyes wide. She nodded enthusiastically.
"Yeah, I can. I know I can. I really can."
"Really?" I said.
"I know I can. I can see it all the time. Even inside. Even at night. It's like little circles all across, everywhere."
My first thought was, is she on drugs? My second thought was, does she need another $500 eye exam?
Then I remembered something. Kids are weird. Quirky, beautiful weirdos. And this--I'm pretty sure I can remember seeing the air too. Maybe it's a superpower only given to girls who are ladybug magnets. Maybe you grow out of it. Who am I to say the girl can't see the air?
So I said, "That's cool, babe. Really cool."

Because we all know, someday, she'll realize she can't see it anymore.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I used to imagine that after we received our referral, I would immediately blog about it, write out every juicy detail, every emotion I was feeling. And even now as I sit down to post for the first time since The Call, I'm still unsure how to convey the depth of the experience in a meaningful way. I decided I would sit with the loveliness of it, the joy, the worry, the sadness, (after all, he comes to us as his second family and fourth set of caregivers)---sit with all of it for awhile until I found a way to say it all with the weight it deserves. But I don't think I can. And that's okay.

I could talk about the poignancy of receiving the referral a year to the date of our official wait. I could talk about all the bumps in the road, the delays, the years of planning, the tiniest of details, a checked box here, a bureaucratic mistake there, which brings Yonas to us. Us, of all the many families waiting. I could write about how excited his sisters are, how I cried in the aisles of the second-hand store when I was buying clothes for him. I could talk about how just staring at a picture can make you fall in love. But it wouldn't be enough. I don't know what would be.

But I know I have a son. I don't know what he looks like when he smiles. I don't know what his feet look like. I know he doesn't have much hair. I know he has beautiful hands. I know he has a birthmark on his belly, but I haven't seen it or his belly button. I know he has fat baby thighs and juicy baby lips that I want to kiss. I know someday he will laugh when I put my mouth to his neck and nibble there. I know his eyes are soulful and tired-but-still-trying. I know he has ears with fleshy earlobes and I will whisper things he won't understand on the day we meet.

I know I am ready.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Big Picture

I'd been having a hard time deciding what to write about. Tomorrow marks a year of official waiting for a referral. I decided I would write about that. About how I'm not impatient right now. About how mainly what a feel is excitement to see the next face that I will spend the rest of my life loving. I'm also feeling a deep sadness for what our childs' first family is experiencing right now.

I was going to write about those things. But I'm not going to. I'm going to tell this story instead:

This afternoon, I spent some time organizing Ava's chapter books. The girl likes to read. She likes a good series. So I gathered all the Magic Treehouse books and put them in order, 1-30. Yes. And all the Rainbow Magic books. I did the Flat Stanley's, the Cobble Street Cousins, and The Catwings series. You get the idea. The chick has a lot of books. I did them all.

So while I was making dinner, Ava asks me to play a game she and Eden have made up. I tell her I just need to finish making dinner then I will come play. At first she says the game doesn't have a name, but when she comes back, she tells me the game is called "Take a Book". That's right. But I'm not seeing the big picture. I don't think a thing about it. So, I finish dinner---brown rice with gouda cheese, pumpkin pudding (think pumpkin pie but without crust and good for you, tons of Vitamin A), baby carrots, and oranges---and put it on the table, and go back to Ava's and Eden's room to play a rousing game of "Take a Book". But I don't think to put the DAMN DOG into his crate. That's right. The one who, let's just be honest here, has an eating disorder. But, again, I'm missing the big picture.

When Ava opens the door, I see EVERY SINGLE gallderg chapter book on the floor. They are arranged beautifully with five stacks in the middle and five branches coming off the center to make a sort of large chapter book mandala that takes up the entire room. And I will confess to you now, that I did not express delight in my child's creativity, nor did I even try to hide my dismay. Instead I dragged my hands across my face slowly and said matter-of-factly, "OOOH....I spent a long time earlier today arranging those...But you didn't know. I forgot to tell you. I'm just frustrated...." and I kept talking, more to myself than to Ava, who by this point had begun to weep. So I just reiterated that she didn't know, but I was still kind of a bitch about the whole thing in a quiet, calm, it's-no-big-deal sort of way. Then I said, "Let me go put Miles in his crate before he eats dinner, then I'll be back to play."

When I get to the end of the hall I hear him. He comes bolting out of the dining room because he hears me and I discover he has eaten half of Eden's and Safa's dinners. He has licked the pumpkin pudding from Eden's bowl and spilled it all over the white rug that is under the table. (I'm not responsible for putting a white rug under a dining room table. This was the choice made by the former owners of our house who did not have three young children, nor a dog with an eating disorder.) It spilled in great plops, that even after scrubbing look like someone just held out a diaperless newborn baby and walked around for awhile. If you look closely at the picture above, you will see pumpkin pudding just below his nose. I shamed him by putting him in his crate, then taking his picture a few times. I think it worked.

Here's what struck me most of all: Over the years I've been writing here, I've had some shitty days. Days when I thought if all I did was keep everyone alive until the end of the day, I'd be happy. Days when I thought I wouldn't be able to stop the crying, either my own or someone else's. Days when I felt so sick and tired I didn't see how I would be alive when Erik walked through the door at the end of day. But over time, I've come to recognize all of this as fodder for writing. It softens the blows, that tiny voice that says, "Put it on the blog". Then I grab the camera, or start thinking what a great story it will make tomorrow. It just takes the edge off a little, shifts my thinking, pulls me out of my self-absorption long enough to see it's all fleeting, the anger and sadness. Even the joy. I needn't worry about not having something to write about here. If I wait long enough, life is bound to provide.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Toilets and the Dalai Lama

I have always had a cinematic dreamlife. It is simultaneously one of my most and least favorite things about being me. Flying, interplanetary travel, meeting a friendly, dreadlocked Jesus that was rockin' out to "Rock 'n' Roll Hochie Coo" ----some of my favorites. I also dream about tornadoes, intruders, and bad, bad things happening to my children. My dreams have changed since I've become a mother. They've become, well...domestic. When my children were infants, and I a sleep deprived wreck, I would fall into bed to escape the mountains of laundry, the endless diapers, and crying, only to dream about folding laundry or trying to calm a colicky baby.

My dreams of Erik go something like this----he holds my face, kisses me, a candle flickers somewhere, then a child enters asking for juice. Or we laugh, embrace, kiss, then a child calls loudly needing her butt wiped.

But last night, I reached a new low. Last night, I dreamt of scrubing toilets. Filthy, stinking toilets. And not just one short little dream either. I think I cleaned toilets for hours. It may stem from the fact that the girls' bathroom might as well be a truck stop bathroom somewhere just outside of Texarkana even though I clean it EVERY DAY. I'm considering installing a toilet seat cover dispenser and one of those automatic air freshners that delivers a cloying strawberry scent every 15 minutes. Remember back in the day when you had to deposit money on the door of some public bathrooms to get it to open? Maybe I should look into that....My fear is that this dumbing-down of my dreamlife is indicative of something much deeper, more important. That my brain is shrinking, that motherhood is sucking the creativity, the desire for growth, right out of me.

The flipside of toilet dreaming is this: On Saturday night I dreamt that my mom I and were sitting backwards in a shopping cart with our legs hanging over the backend in some public, mall-like place, and I suddenly thought of the Dalai Lama and a moment later he began walking toward us. He put his hands on the tops of my mom's bare feet for a moment, then walked over to me, with his supremely kind face and goofy, lady glasses, and rested his big hand on the top of my head. He smiled, looked deeply into my eyes for awhile, then walked on.

Dreams like this give me hope that my brain isn't just turning in on itself, doomed to forever dream of wiping butts and cleaning toilets. That someday I will stop accidentally telling Erik I'm going potty and I'll be right back. That maybe someday I will finish a crossword puzzle. Or want to. Maybe tonight I will dream of traveling in India, or I will become a bee. Maybe I'll even finish that kiss with Erik. I just hope the Dalai Lama doesn't walk in with my children and they all need their butts wiped.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What One Person Can Do

On Tuesday morning I checked my agency's forum and learned that Haregewoin Teferra died. This name will mean nothing to most of you that will read this post. Mrs. Teferra was the embodiment of the idea that one person can indeed change the world. She dedicated the last decade of her life to the children of Ethiopia. When I read the news, I was so overwhelmed I didn't react. I quickly moved away from the computer and began cleaning. It was Spring Break, my children were sick. It felt like too much to process the loss of a hero. But now I am.

I think this happens often, that we shake our heads, then put something aside because it feels too big to manage. The hunger crisis can feel that way. The AIDS pandemic. It's easy to feel like some problems are so big you can't begin to fathom a solution. Sometimes, many small steps can add up to something large and meaningful.

The following is a letter written by Melissa Fay Green, author of There is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Africa's Children, a book about Mrs. Teferra and her children.

"Dear Friends,
By now you may have learned the shocking news that Mrs. Haregewoin Teferra has died suddenly after a short illness. We don't know what caused her death; she felt sick for a couple of days, went to the doctor, came home without a diagnosis, felt sick again, laid down, and that was the end.
Soon I will post a blog containing beautiful, loving, compassionate messages pouring in in tribute.
Many of you kindly are asking what you could do in her memory.
Let me tell you what I will do, and each of you can follow your hearts.
A few weeks ago, Worldwide Orphans--the New York-based organization that has provided pediatric care to Haregewoin's children for many years--assumed responsibility and custody of her 42 HIV-positive kids. To cover food, healthcare and medicine, education, clothing, and caregivers will cost an estimated $4600/year per child. I plan to do what I can to support these children; they are precious, bright, full of fun and hope. With continued state-of-the-art medical care and excellent nutrition and nurturing, they can have bright futures. They can grow up healthy, go to college, have careers. If you'd like to join me in that campagin,
online contributions can be made at
Checks may be sent to:
511 Valley Street
Maplewood, New Jersey 07040
Other HIV-negative children, many of them babies and toddlers, remain at Atetegeb, Haregewoin's foster home; their caregivers have stayed on; and the Atetegeb board is looking to their well-being. As soon as I know how help can be offered to these little ones, I will post that here.
Haregewoin lived with these children seven days a week, 24 hours a day, for ten years. She is irreplaceable. The youngest children, of course, have no idea what has just happened. Please let us work together to act as foster parents in absentia for them and to provide financial sustenance to the adults on the ground in Addis during this transitional time.
Thank you in advance for any amount you can give.
Melissa "

Quotes of the Week

"I drank all my darn smoothie." ---Safa

"A belly button is a good place to keep a tiny bit of water." ---Eden

Eden, Safa, and I were at the park while Ava was in dance class. We sat on a bench to have some water in front of a field where loud boys played soccer.
"Mama?" said Eden. "You know what sound I like to hear?"
"What's that, babe?" I said.
"Quiet." she said.
"Me too." I said.

And the Quote of the Week goes to Alice, my mother-in-law, who came to me in the kitchen after a morning with the girls:
"Knock, knock?"
"Who's there?"
"Amsterdam who?"
"Amsterdam tired of these knock-knock jokes."