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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day in New England

 First we started with this...
 Next came this...

And we enjoyed it all with friends and family like this...

ever grateful for our freedom and prosperity protected by the sacrifices many made for this...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Anniversary to us

Craig and I celebrated 18 years of marriage yesterday...and I have to say that I'm one lucky woman. The past 18 years have been filled with adventure (becoming parents), international intrigue (adoption dossiers and courts), foreign travel (the aforementioned adoptions), and so much more. There have been many times in my life when I have just not been sure of my choices...getting married to this man wasn't one of them.

You are my rock, sweetheart. Together we have accomplished so much more than we ever would have apart. Thanks for being my partner and my friend, for carrying the load with me...for taking more than one leap of faith.

What ever will happen next? I can't wait to see...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Venus and Mars

My high schoolers attended their Spring Semi-formal last night, an event which caused great anticipation for my oldest daughter and anxiety for my oldest son. When it comes to a social event like this, girls really are from Venus and boys from Mars.

The Venus approach:

A new party dress is purchased weeks in advance, then shoes and accessories are painstakingly collected to match; hair and makeup options are practiced in the final days before the big event. Best friends are invited to the house hours in advance on the day of the dance to dress, giggle, paint nails, giggle, curl and/or straighten hair, giggle, help each other dress, text other friends, giggle, and pose for photos.

One hour before the dance, said Venusians are dropped at a pizza place adjacent to the dance location where they join their other fancily attired friends for a slice and a soda. The best part is the strut down the pedestrian mall to the dance venue where all can show off their finery and pose for more pictures...then it's dance fever, high heels soon abandoned for bare feet, a chocolate fountain, and lots of ooohing and aaahing over what everyone is wearing, who is dating whom, who got asked to dance, etc. A thoroughly awesome evening...except for the one friend whose boyfriend chose the night of the dance to dump her...she is comforted by the other girls of Venus, brought to our home for a sleepover, and fed copious amounts of ice cream and chocolate frosting. She is further soothed by watching chick flicks with her BFF's until the wee hours. They also rehash how beautiful they all looked and how unworthy boys are of them. They wonder how long it will be before the boys mature...

The Mars approach:

For weeks before the dance, the Martian vacillates about whether he wants to go to the dance or not. He wonders if he needs to ask a girl to dance a slow dance before the night of the actual event. He decides he definitely doesn't want to ask a girl to be his date.  He finally concludes that he will in fact go. He decides he wants to have new clothes; the weekend before the event, he picks out new jeans, a plain white shirt and new sneakers. He makes a Herculean effort to keep the sneakers clean until the night of the dance. This is as semi-formal as he can manage.
The afternoon of the dance, he says he doesn't want to go, then changes his mind again. The night of the dance, while the girls are primping, he asks if he can ride his bike to the park. He comes home an hour before the event to shower and dress. He skips the pizza and promenade and begs Mom to drive him a scant 10 minutes before the festivities begin. On the drive there, he feels sick...he asks how long he has to stay...he asks if Mom can drop him off somewhere else. He finally is dragged forcibly from the car by one of the previously mentioned Venusians who happens to also be his sister.
Their expressions say it all...

He stands for a picture reluctantly, looking for all the world like a condemned man. Fortunately, some of his soccer buddies show up and he actually has fun. At the end of the evening, he proclaims the event "awesome" and denies that he ever had any doubts. He's exhausted...and proud of himself for surviving his first semi-formal. He thinks next year, he'll go again...and that's about it. He ignores the Venusians in our living room with their drama, snacks and chick flicks and heads upstairs with a graphic novel. He doesn't lose a wink of sleep over how he or his friends were dressed. He didn't notice who was dating whom. He doesn't text his BFF about the latest gossip. He doesn't even ask when the girls will lighten up about the maturity thing...

Yep, definitely different planets.

Friday, May 27, 2011

How the monkey got her name...

A very tiny Tanya came to our family at age 6 and quickly earned her nickname because:
  • She liked to climb on our backs and cling to us like a baby monkey.
  • She loved bananas and ate them by the bunch; her record was 8 at one sitting. 
  • She has always made the best monkey face of anyone I know!
Oh, we've tried out other nicknames for this girl, especially now that she's a sassy teenager...

and she's so grown up that she's carrying our youngest around...

but she'll always be my monkey.

That's why I baked her this cake for her 14th birthday. I smiled to myself the whole time I worked on it, anticipating the smile it would bring to her face. I even added a banana phone and a 14 candle crown for our monkey princess!

Here's the smile...and it got even bigger when she found out the cake had banana cream filling inside.

Happy birthday, sweet girl (AKA Daddy's Brown Eyed Girl, Miss Sassypants, Lemur Pie). As I'm sure Will Shakespeare meant to write, "A monkey by any other name would still love bananas..."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Screenless Sunday

It was a rainy day.
Some of us were being cranky, pouty, sulky teenagers off and on.
Some of us were considering running away from home to join the circus.
All of us were wistfully longing for the soothing presence of mind-numbing screens.
Some of us (well, OK, one of us) refused to give in to the TV and videogame zombies that suck my kids' brains the other 6 days of the week!! 
(Ahem...sorry about that, I'm better now.)
We made soft pretzels....from a mix so it wasn't too challenging for my stressed state of mind. In fact, they were easy and fun...and for a short time, my surly teens surrounded my work island, rolling, twisting, and forming their own creations. They salted, sugared, dipped them in butter, or covered them in chocolate sauce. All was right with the world. No brains were devoured. All the pretzels were.

God bless you, Auntie Anne!

No, Auntie Anne's Pretzels didn't pay me to say this; in fact, they don't know I exist...but I figured I owed them one for saving our brains.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Not Judgment Day

    Rapture followers
    Followers of Harold Camping's Family Radio religious group spread the message of doom in Manhattan. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP      
    No earthquakes, no rapture, just a pretty normal Saturday where I took my kids to the doctor, then shopping at the mall. The spring semi-formal is next week and if the world in fact did not end, my kids needed party clothes. When we were coming home as our local deadline approached, my oldest son mused, "We'll be dead in 20 minutes!" Well, we made it home, no earthquakes, no ascending to the heavens either. Guess it's a good thing I got the shopping done since life seems to be proceeding as usual here.
    Harold Camping spent 100 million dollars on this, his heartfelt belief...and I do think he believed he was right. Even so, it breaks my heart to think of how many kids in orphanages could have been given a better life with that money. In my humble opinion, helping kids in need would be a far better legacy.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My DH is MIA

My husband has been on a business trip all week which makes appreciate him all the more. Here's just a little of what I'm missing:
  • My morning life-giving latte which he brings to my bedside each morning. (Yes, I'm spoiled.)
  • The extra hour of sleep I usually get because he gets up at 5:30 to feed the dogs, make the coffee, and get our youngest out of bed. (Definitely spoiled.)
  • The way he waits for the bus with our youngest each morning so I can be getting breakfast for the rest of the kids. (He's a good Dad.)
  • The vitamins he gives me each and every day. (I suspect he does this out of self-defense, hoping I won't sicken and die, leaving him alone with the children.)
  • His role as technical support guru for our family. (If anything electronic  breaks this week, it stays broken until the IT guy returns.)
  • Our nightly family dinner! (I'm feeding the kids earlier than normal and allowing them to eat in shifts to accommodate our schedule of parent-teacher conferences, softball games, etc. I like it better when we're all seated at our crazy and chaotic dinner table together.)
  • The laughter we share every day...and the fact that we share the struggles, too.
  • His touch, his kiss, his....oops, sorry, the teenagers are yelling, "Mom! Ewwww, gross! TMI!!!". I'll stop now.
Come home soon, sweetie. We miss you!

Monday, May 16, 2011

In Another Life...

A lifetime ago, I lived alone
In a very tidy townhouse
On a very wide, sunny beach
And I loved my solitude…mostly

I ate my favorite foods in my favorite restaurants
I never cooked unless I felt like it
I didn’t feel like it very often
And I loved my culinary freedom…mostly

I wore expensive suits and heels to work
And traveled a lot for business
I stayed in fancy hotels and had adventures
And I loved my fast-paced career woman life…mostly

My house was never messy and I was very well organized
I never ran out of toilet paper or milk or bread
No one else ever got to use the TV remote
And I loved my feeling of control over my universe…mostly

I stayed up late when I felt like it
And slept in whenever I wanted
I was only responsible for myself, no one else
And I loved my complete lack of responsibility…mostly

And now?
My life is always noisy, often chaotic, and extremely short on solitude
I feel like I’m a short order cook in a restaurant
I don’t have a single fancy suit in my closet and I traded in my heels for sneakers
My travel is now limited to the taxi service I provide via my aging minivan
I have given up on the illusion of control…and I never get a chance at the TV remote
My middle name has been changed to responsible party

My other names are:
Dispenser of justice/ Warden
Cheerleader/ Advocate
Social director
Go to person for all things lost
Tutor/Spiritual Guide

My first name is Mom
And I love my life…completely

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Just when you think it's stable...

The other day, things took an unexpected turn for the worst...or at least the not so good. About the time of day when my youngest gets dropped off by the school bus at our door, I got a phone call from the transportation service. "Please meet the driver at the bus. There's been a problem..." No more details than that...was my boy hurt? Sick? In a fight? No way to know so I planted myself on our front porch and anxiously waited for the bus to arrive.  The bus pulled up a few minutes later and I could see my boy standing at the door...OK, he wasn't sick or hurt, that's good, right? As I ran to the bus, I saw that the driver wasn't opening the door and my boy was kicking it with all of his might. Hmm, definitely not a good sign. When the door opened and he tried to bolt, I wrapped my arms around him and asked what was wrong. He was crying and very, very angry. The bus driver was angry, too. She was quick to tell me that my boy was rude and swore at her, that he threatened to punch her and a student as well and that he said he would tell me lies to get her in trouble. She said he would be suspended from the bus...and the whole time she railed, I was trying to hold onto him so he wouldn't run into the street.

He was a mess...it took all my strength to get him safely from the bus onto our porch...trying to ignore the stares from neighbors as I forcibly escorted my 13 year old across the street. Then it took another 5 minutes to convince him to come into the house with me...he was raging about how I wouldn't believe him, that he would run away and never be found, that he couldn't trust anyone. I kept repeating that I loved him, that I wanted to help him but that he needed to tell me what the problem was. I finally got him into the house but that wasn't much better. He was still raging and trying to run; it was like the bad old days before he was hospitalized two years ago. I kept trying to talk him down, kept an eye on him while trying to give him space, kept reminding him that I was his mom and I loved him, that nothing would change that. He told me that he had sworn at the bus driver and he knew I'd be mad at him and take away his videogames...I said that might be true...but I'd never stop loving him. He told me that the bus driver swore at him first and when he said he was going to tell his mom, she said his mom would never believe him. Sigh...once again, trauma is triggered and abandonment is feared. Why should I love him, believe in him, choose his side over an adult's?

My reply? "Because you're my son and I believe you...because no adult will ever again be allowed to treat you with disrespect without your Mama lion snarling in her face...because you belong to me." Even if it means no playing video games for an afternoon for swearing ( and he didn't!), I'll still fight for my boy.

Like a squall that passes quickly, the storm broke and my boy was suddenly in my arms, sobbing and apologizing. Sweet boy, scared, but much more willing to trust...how far we've come from 2 years ago when the only answer was hospitalization. This time, we hugged and soothed our sorrows with homemade ice cream. We made a plan for the next day on the bus and we moved on. We had a good evening and a great day after, even the bus ride, complete with apology to and from the driver.  

And then there was that Mama lion phone call I made to the driver's boss about PTSD, special needs, and the school district's policy about swearing at kids...roar...don't mess with my kid!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Mother's Hands

My mom never liked her hands. She said they were too big to be attractive and she was embarrassed to admit her ring size. She would find it ironic that her hands and all their gifts are what I cherish most in my memories of her. For me, Mom's hands were the embodiment of her strength...and mine.

Those hands wiped tears, soothed fevered brows, applauded every childhood accomplishment, and guided my own smaller hands in learning. Those hands taught me to cook...how to stir and fold and knead and cream and baste, how to thicken gravy and judge the consistency of bread dough by feel.  Those hands and arms never failed to offer a heartfelt embrace. Having lost her own mother as a toddler, Mom knew there was no greater gift than a mother's touch and she was generous with hers. The gifts of my mother's hands shaped me first as a girl, then as a woman, and ultimately as a mother myself. Even now, I have only to close my eyes and remember the feel of those hands to draw on the wellspring of strength, knowledge, and skill that was my mother's legacy, nurturing me in my life and comforting me after her death. As a daughter, I think of her each day; as a mother, I try to follow her example. I tell my own children that if I've done my mothering job well, they will hear my voice in their heads long after I'm gone...it'll be up to them to decide if that's good or bad.

My mom's last years were not easy. She suffered first the loss of my Dad, then her vision, her health, and finally her independence. On the night she died, I sat by Mom's side and told her it was OK to let go, that her job was well done and she could rest. The last thing I did for her was to polish her nails. While Mom never liked her hands, she was quite proud of her lovely fingernails and always took great care with them. Silly as it seems, I couldn't bear the thought of her leaving this world without her signature manicure...a small tribute to all those hands had given me.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I miss you and your beautiful hands.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Trauma from a parent's perspective

I came across this video letter written by parents of the Attachment & Trauma Network and it made me cry...it's so much what we live with each day. Please watch it...our kids are not alone in this struggle.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I think maybe I'm a writer...

Is 50-something too old to figure out what you want to be when you grow up? Apparently not...because in a modest way, I'm now a published author and I like the feeling! Check out the guest blog post I was asked to write for Adoption.com; it's called FASD: The Failed Child. Just click on the link: