Monday, January 31, 2011

My First "Guest Blogger"

This has been my profile picture on fb for the last couple of days. It summarizes so well how I've felt the last few days (or weeks). Even some things at work lately have been exasperating and sad.

I've felt uninspired to write. Thankfully, others still do. My college friend Ashli wrote this today, along with this quote from Isaiah:

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.

What would I do if this woman ever stopped writing? She is my blogger-big sister, and I love her so. With her permission, here is her most recent post on "marking the good." It left me with tears and hope.

Happy Sad. Mark the good.
I've had a few posts on "marking the good."
This is another.
I think it's important, for me personally, but also in general to mark the good.
When you're talking about older child adoption and/or working with kids from hard places or with hard needs, I think it's absolutely critical to mark the good.
Because if you don't you might just drown.
Marking the good is a lifeline.
It is a critical point of reference that must be indelibly inked in your consciousness, lest it flees from the mire.

That said, I want to mark the good.
This is one of those small but huge ones. Most of these are really. Because with these kids you don't usually have the brass band events of good to let you know, "hey, this is a good one, this is progress, file it away." You get these tiny fleeting moments that might even pass you by in the actual moment…until you think back on it and get that 'aha!"
I love an "aha!"

Anyhow, this is all to preface another tiny but huge good we've come to here in the coffeehouse, and with our Miss Marti.
We've just passed through the minefield commonly referred to as "The Christmas Holidays."
We managed to tiptoe through it fairly well, with only a few tripped landmines and a minor loss of limbs and scorching. Overall, really, it was much more successful than we anticipated or hoped for. (I still feel the need to kind of whisper that, just in case somehow it jinxes it. I know, I'm Catholic, not supposed to fall for that kind of superstition…I told you this was tricky stuff…)

But then, along came Christmas night:
We had done the vigil Mass. We had done the giddy hysteria of opening presents.

We had done the excess of birthday on top of the excess of Christmas.

Finally, we were at that ebbing tide of the day: evening. Everyone was tired, but a happy, sated tired. The kids were roaming quietly, fooling with new toys or gadgets. New pj's had been donned, dishes done. My eldest, Chris did what he usually does and made for the piano. Tom joined him to sit and listen. Marta quickly found her way to snuggle up next to dad. I donned my goofy christmas pj's, in solidarity with the girls (and to show them that there is a certain wonderfulness in super soft flannel warm pj's despite the old fashioned print…. if not because of it). I had tucked the small boys in, at last. So I too, was beckoned down to listen to my son play and sing. By this time, he had gone through his own choices of warm ups and tunes and he had begun taking requests.

Now, let me be clear..this is always a dicey time for me. I love listening to my son play and sing more than I can say. Truly. At this point however, it is a tough thing for me to do, as it makes me cry…it pulls those tears from the depths of my inner heart. They are so sweet, and bittersweet and just a salty mess.
I am careful, very careful, about my tears…if at all possible.
Because Marta has radar, or sonar, or whatever you'd like to call it. But if she sees me crying she cries.
Every. Time.
And so, to even step into that room and sit, knowing that I couldn't stem the tears well..was an act of …I don't know. I'd like to say faith…but maybe it was sheer stupidity, or tired or resignation. I don't remember.
But I did. I gave her a big smile when I came in. She gave me one back and hugged her dad.
Dad made a few requests…..I could feel the tears pricking but busied myself looking at book spines. Blinking hard and fast, head turned. Marta was intent, watching Chris. All good.
Then, she called out, "Chris. Marta song, pleeeasseeeee!?"
Chris looked at me, looked at her, looked at dad.
He chuckled. Dad chuckled. I held my breath.
It had been a long day.
Tom nodded at me. It will be ok. I gave him, "the look." You know that look, the one that says, "do you know what you're doing? It's been a long day and I went to sleep at four and woke at six and I don't know if I have the reserve to deal with any meltdown, really…?"
He nodded again.
So Chris played it. It's this song:

This is actually "All will be well," By Gabe Dixon.
But it's the song we used for our "passing court" video on blog. Marta considers it her song, she is QUITE proprietary about it.
And so he played it. He gets better and better all the time.
I held my breath and closed my eyes. Then I opened them and glanced her way.
Sure enough, she was crying.
She was rubbing her eyes and nose, mouth kind of grimaced.
I felt the tension immediately, in my gut, my neck.
She came over to me, and climbed on my lap, spilling over it.
I hugged her and said, "You ok? It's ok."
And she said……wait for it…….."Ok mom. Happy Sad."
And she hugged me.

Happy sad.
These two emotions haven't been able to be pieced together by this young girl, since she came home. There was no such thing as happy tears. Tears have only been sad. Ever. Even when I've tried to tell her and show her and she's seen me cry them at, oh, every birthday and holiday. And tears and/or sad always have led to deep running grief.
But this Christmas, we got a gift.
And I'm marking it down.
Happy Sad.
She was crying, but happy. She knows what that song means and she can feel that pang of deep happy that makes you cry.
She LOVES to have Chris sing and play that song.
She makes me turn it up if we hear it on the radio.
And this Christmas, in the quieting of the evening….she hit another marker.
Tears, happy tears.
"Happy Sad."
Healing goodness. Happy Sad.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

No News

Nothing. No word about a court date. A friend posted on fb a photo of her little girl, the same age as Bee, dressed in a ballet leotard, posing in front of the mirror in a dance studio as a group of girls sit in the foreground with their heads together in a circle the way little girls do. I've been hearing this song in my head since I saw the picture.

Ballerina girl, you are so lovely.

I've officially entered that period when I avoid talking about this adoption and cringe when people ask if we have news.

Nothing. No news. That's it. Most boring blog post ever.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nuzzling and The Better Alive

For the last couple of weeks, our son has been simply beyond affectionate with me. He seems to constantly want to sit on my lap. He snuggles in, often with his thumb in his mouth and will sometimes put his face on my cheek or neck and then tell me something like, "Mom, you smell good" or "Mom, you're soft." I call this behavior 'nuzzling'.

Every day he tells me, all on his own, that he either loves me, likes me or thinks I look pretty. The other night as I was laying beside him in his little toddler bed, we were saying our prayers. He said, "Thank you, God, for my lovely mom." I have no idea where he learned the word 'lovely'. I have no idea where this phase of sweetness originated. I have no idea how I got so lucky. I know that soon enough the phase will be over, and he'll not want to nuzzle anymore, preferring to wrestle with his dad. If he wants to nuzzle for now, he can all he wants.

One day this week I was walking with him down the street to his friend's house to play. He asked, "Mom, will you stay with me?"

I answered, "Probably not. I'll just drop you off and then go home for a little while before we pick you back up."

"No, I mean, will you stay with me in life?"

I stopped walking and looked down at him. "What?"

He repeated his question. "Will you stay with me in life?"

I stooped down and kissed his face. Always. This unsuspecting child has no idea how committed I am to staying with him in life. I am so going to be that mother who cries for weeks when her children move out for college.

We keep walking. He then says, "Will you be at that place people go when they get dead?"

"Um, a funeral? A cemetery?" Dumb me couldn't figure out what he was asking. We drive past a cemetery pretty often, which he always has a lot of questions about, so I thought this is what he wanted to know. Finally I figured it out.

"Oh, you mean heaven?"

"Yeah, that's it. Heaven. Will you be in the same heaven as me when we both get dead?"

I told him that I really hope so and think that's probably how it'll work. He seemed genuinely concerned about the prospect of us ending up in two different heavens one day. He finally said, "Let's be in the same heaven. Let's keep our promise."

A friend of mine from college has a little boy adopted from Russia. The two of us drifted apart for a long time but have reconnected in the last year. She had a conversation about death and heaven with her son this week too. She wrote this about it:

"Then he asked what happens when we die again and I explained that we won’t. That we will be in heaven forever. He paused and thought. And he said, “So we’ll be alive again? And it will be a better alive?”

On this earth I hold on to Kyle, Sam and others that I love, even to the point of mixed up priorities, but my heart also has a space that longs to be complete with Father in heaven. The space that longs for the better alive."

The Better Alive. I'm remembering that one.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Little Girl

We have this photo of Little Bee in a light blue sweater with fake fur around the collar. The sun is shining on her, lighting up her already lit (from within) face. Her friends are behind her sitting down, as is she. She has her arms wrapped around her but is leaning forward with a big smile. I lean in to the computer screen. I look into her eyes. She looks into mine. An image on a computer screen, taken on New Year's Day 2011.

When will I see you, little girl? I rock your little brother every day. He sits on my lap and snuggles in with his thumb in his mouth, a remnant of babyhood I don't make him let go of yet. I wonder if I'll ever rock you on my lap, little girl with a big smile in a baby blue sweater?

Who are you, little one? I want to know you. For now, I look at your pretty face. I feel like you're looking at me but I know you're not really. It's just those eyes. Those open eyes. I want to reach out and touch the tip of your nose with my fingertip, just a little tap right there on the tip, letting you know that I'm here and looking at you.

Little girl in blue.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Good Mail Day

Brown paper packages tied up with string. All the way from friends in old stomping grounds, even better.

Inside the package, a lovingly customized calendar.

Our life now, with reminders of my life then.
Pondelok, Uterok, Streda, Štvrtok,
Piatok, Sobota, Nedeľa

My life then.
(my friend who made the calendar is holding the monkey)

A check from Grampa Rooney, with this note.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Friend's Dream

Our friend from Cambridge who was planning on spending the holidays with us but never made it due to the shut-down of airports across Europe in December had a dream about Abe. They've yet to meet in person. Here is the dream:

"funnily enough: i had a dream with you all in it last night: abe was non-stop chattering, very articulate,about his "street friends" - homeless people i think; and then he was giving kind of speeches on the corner, sort of very eloquent sermons or something like that...very funny dream, cos he was so small and doing all that stuff and talking away about these people he admired in the street.."

It reminded me of this incident from a couple of years ago when Abe was only a really little guy in a stroller.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Shirt

An Ethiopian friend who refers to our son as "Abe the Great" brought him this shirt from his recent trip to Addis. He loves it, especially the pockets and the way the shirt helps him fly.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fogged Glass

I have no idea who did this or when, but seeing this appear today on our side-door as I was making soup made me happy, very happy.

What also made me happy was hearing Abe comment on how "shiny" everything looks in Portland when the sun is out. This time of year, it's rare.

Happiness is also overhearing your son sing, "Just a spoonful of boogers helps the medicine go down, in a most delightful way."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Last Few Days

The other day on my way home, I drove past a heavily bearded guy with headphones on a bike, yawning like there was no tomorrow.

Another day this week, I wandered around a fully functioning, brand-new, yet completely empty prison. I was most impressed with the tiny little windows in the holding rooms.

Also this week, I sat in an emergency care clinic with a relative who has mono, bilateral ear infections, tonsil infection, and enlarged spleen.

A friend and I made our first attempt at Ethiopian food too. She brought the injera and made the doro wat and honey bread (which is so delicious toasted the next day for breakfast). I made the lentils, collard greens, and salad.

Another friend and I are eating leeks for the next two days, as a kind of post-holiday detox. I was promised I wouldn't be hungry, but I am.

These spices came all the way from Addis Ababa.

Blurry, but delicious. (The food, not the children.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mother Bee

My favorite update from Gladney ever. Ever.

My favorite moment from my visit with her today: she played energetically with her friends until it was time to sit and wait for lunch. When the wait dragged on and on, many of the others got antsy and began getting up and running around, but B sat on the mat and talked with one little guy who was new to her house (in fact, he had just moved up from another house’s toddler room that day). She talked to him, got no response from the shy two year old, and then gave him a smile and an affectionate pinch on his cheek, letting him know it was all going to be okay.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The First Monday in January

I am thankful for waking up early after a good night's sleep. This is rare in my world. Coffee by myself. Abe wakes up way too early, so I tell him that he doesn't have to go back to sleep but that he does have to stay in his bed until I come get him. I give him books to look at in his bed. As I leave, he says, "Thanks, Mom." He gets dressed and gets straight to work on that sweater for his sister.

A neighbor and her daughter come over for tea. She's brought a bag of wonderful hand-me-downs from her kindergarten-aged son. She is a thinker and an artist, a true nonconformist in the city of pseudo-nonconforming hipsters (a whole show is being made about this very thing). We talk for a couple of hours while the kids play like angels. She sees a photo of Princess Bee and says, "She looks like Natalie Portman!" I hadn't thought of it before, but I can see a resemblance once she points it out.

Abe and I meet a friend in the heart of hipsterville for a birthday lunch. The food was really good. I took home my own leftovers as well as my friend's, which will be my lunch tomorrow. I drive her back to her house, and we sit in my car in the middle of her street because we have just meandered onto the subject about how hot fire-fighters are, and you can't just leave a topic like that unfinished.

After playing with the grandson of another neighbor, Abe snuggled onto my lap as I read emails. Before I knew it, he had fallen asleep. This is extremely rare. Our boy was pooped. Because it was after 5pm, I only let him sleep about 15 minutes and then tried to wake him up. This was my attempt.

I stare at him as he eats his dinner of black-eyed peas and carrots, thinking I just might die from love of this boy.

(and yes, I snuggled him and let him wake up slowly in case that last part of the video seemed cruel. Abe is a full-force kind of guy, so seeing him so determined to sleep was simply cracking me up)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

All Will Be Well

I woke up New Year's Day in a funk I haven't been able to shake. It's even been sunny for the last two days, so the usual rain isn't the cause this time round.

Funk. New year's funk.

Abe has been wearing his Halloween pajamas since last night, today under his clothes since it's so cold right now. My friend loaned me her ear warmer thingee for my head, so I went out for a "run" this morning, despite the funk.


All holiday decorations were put away last night, everything except the many cards and photos that I can't bear to take down yet from the dining room built-ins where they are currently taped up.

I started reading an apocalyptic zombie novel set in Manhattan, left over from the book exchange party we hosted New Year's Day. This might not help my funk. Or maybe it will.

Tonight, Abe found some yarn that one of our neighbors had given him. For almost an hour, he sat in the kitchen with the yarn and a pair of scissors, concentrated, cutting. He said, "Mom? I'm making a scarf for my sister. Just for my sister. Is that nice?"

"Yes, Abe, that's really nice."

"Well, actually, it's a sweater, not a scarf."

Abe is ready for his sister to get here. We are too. It feels a long way off though. Sometimes life in general feels like a struggle and the weight of it is...well, heavy.

We have joy, but also funk.

I've been listening to this song over and over, hoping it'll convince me. Right now, it just makes me cry.
The winter's cold,
But the snow still lightly settles on the trees.
And a mess is still a moment I can seize until I know,
That all will be well.
Even though sometimes this is hard to tell,
And the fight is just as frustrating as hell
All will be well.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ten Minutes til Midnight

One of the last things I saw in 2010. My boys.