Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Q turns ten

8:37 p.m. and not before.  I won't give up a single minute of nine years old, so you'll have to wait till 8:37 p.m. tomorrow night for my birthday card.  Don't rush me on this.  I've always said I want two days with you for every one that I get.  You have made my life extraordinary.  I wish I could make the world into all I want it to be for you.  Wish the coming  years were not going to be such a challenge.  Tonight we went to your parent teacher conference.  First time with this teacher.  First time in a new school.  "I have great news!"  Teachers love to talk about you.  "But first the bad."  Your teacher said.  She talked about the bullying incident and the words that were used against you.  Hateful words.  Words you hadn't told me.  After we were home I said to you, "You didn't tell me the words that the boy had used."  "Oh," you said, "There was so much to say.  I'm sorry.  I didn't realize I didn't tell you everything.  I'm sorry."  I told you that it wasn't a big deal but I wondered if he was scared to tell me.  "No, nothing like that.  It was just a big story and I didn't get it all out.  Mom, I don't ever want you to feel that I wouldn't tell you something.  I hope your feelings aren't hurt."  No, sweetheart, they are not. You are amazing.  You have become a big brother with more grace than I thought possible.  B adores you.  You are everything to him.  I hope this new year, is your best yet.  I think it will be.  Thank you for being such a beautiful positive soul.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

us...two years ago

Two years ago today, the day started out with us, a family of three.  Two parents, one son.  By the end of the day we were four. Of course, it took months for papers to be signed and notarized, court systems to do their work and airlines to fly us to and finally fro.  However, this is the day we heard your name for the first time.  Saw your face for the first time.  This is the day you entered our hearts for the first time.  This (as you keep saying) is our day...

(I woke up at 6 a.m. to write this brief note and had five minutes to write before I was interrupted several times by waking children.  I am now writing with both children sitting next to me.  I'm thinking this won't be the most eloquent post...)

Since that day we have traveled twice to Ethiopia.  We have lived in five different homes (including my parent's house for two months) I've had three different full time jobs (not counting the business I attempted to start in-between jobs) and navigated two children through the day to day rigors of five different schools.

Would it have been better to have become a family of four staying in one town, in one home, with me staying home or at least keeping one job?  I have no answer.  It would have been different, for sure.  More comfortable, less stressful, less heartache, but better?  Not necessarily.  Life throws it's curve balls and as a family we've managed to keep in the game.  Through it all we've become more us.  Each time we moved you came with us.  That taught you more than any words could say.  Wherever we go, you go, because you are us.

So, yes, sometimes, we eat a meal in the car (especially if we are running to your first ball game at Wrigley field.) We don't always move gracefully through this life.  We argue and bicker and forget things but through it all we're together.  I love you sweet B more than I can ever say.  You are a sweet, loving, kind, empathetic, charming, funny and wise beyond your years spirit.  You have made my life better, more meaningful and happier since the very first moment that I heard your name, saw your face. I am blessed beyond measure.  Here's to our day sweet boy!  I'm so happy it's a Sunday and we are together!

Monday, October 8, 2012

happy and scared

This coming Sunday, October 14th, it will be the two year anniversary of seeing B's face for the first time, hearing his name, knowing that we had another son.  In honor of our very long wait for B I'm dragging over some of my old posts.  This post was written 3 months and 12 days before we received B's referral.  

reposted from the old 'new spontaneous delight' written July 2, 2009.  

It is 5 AM and the rain is pouring down outside. The light is low, grey and flat. The light is deep. I could sleep for 5 more hours and not wake feeling totally rested. However, it is 5 AM and so Q is at the side of my bed asking me if he can go downstairs. No, your body needs rest. Lay here with me until the alarm goes off. For the next 59 1/2 minutes he lays in bed doing his best to remain horizontal but unable to stop all the muscles of his body from moving. His legs are aching to start running, jumping, hopping. His arms are ready to throw balls down a field. His hands ready to hammer, or draw or dazzle me with their elegance while he dances his latest creation. He moves constantly although never jarringly. Thank goodness because he must always be laying against me. His breath is either in my face or on the back of my neck. His arms are around my waist or his elbows are poking into my back. His feet climb my legs then go back down. None of the movement is intentional. He is laying still, for him. His is the stillness of a shallow creek in August. Slow and quiet but always shifting, left, right around and forward. The clock is a meaningless thing to a six year old boy on an early summer morning. One day before we leave for vacation, little could be more painful than staying in bed after you are awake.
"Mom, can I get dressed?" he whispers to the back of my neck.
"No, it is not six o'clock."
"Yes, it is" he replies.
"No it is not, the alarm has not gone off, the alarm is set for six o'clock"
Just as the words six o'clock leave my lips Jack Johnson starts singing "It's better when we're together" and Q lays finally and truly still as the music fills the room.
I roll over and look at my sleepy head boy laying on the pillow beside me. I could lay here all day on this rain drenched morning looking at my still-six-almost-seven-boy who listens deeper than any person I have ever known.
He rolls over on his side to look at me. I love this song, he says.
Me too, says I.
And then there is something about his little brother or sister from Ethiopia. He asks if he was my first born are we going to call them my non-born.
No, we will call them my second born. They were not born in New York, like you were, but they were born after you. You are the oldest, born in New York, they are our youngest born in Ethiopia. They were born with a different Mom and Dad who loved them very, very much. Their birth was very, very special just like yours was.
We are not looking at each other. We are laying in bed hugging. And then I feel it. The little shudder and I know his feelings are about to spill over. He is crying.
I stroke his hair, "oh my lovey? What? What is it?
"I don't want them to miss their Mom and Dad" he whispers softly as the tears fall sideways and make a little puddle on the pillow. Again, I am caught up fast by the depth of his understanding and his compassion. I have to hold back my own tears, my own emotion as my mind rushes to find the right words to help him over to a better side. We still have a year, perhaps, to go before we even travel.
I look into his eyes. Yes, they are going to miss their Mom and Dad. Of course they are. But imagine this. Imagine they are playing with their friends in a yard. Friends that they know have also left their mom and dads. Friends who have this in common. Friends who are just like them. But those friends already have moms and dads in America that are waiting for them, getting ready. And they think about this. And then one day, the teacher comes to them and hands them a photo book and shows them that there is family that wants them, too. The photos show their mom and dad and their big brother. They show their house and the school they are going to go to.
Which school? he asks.
Your school. Imagine what it would feel like to them to know that they have a mom and dad in America that is waiting for them. And that they have a big brother that can't wait for them to come to New York. Imagine how that would feel.
His face is wet with tears that are still coming.
What do you think? I ask him. What do you think they would feel when they find out they have a Mom and a Dad and a big brother who are ready to love them. Who want them so badly?
His tears are slowing but his sadness is still deep and he looks at me with those huge lovely soft brown eyes and tells me with the corners of his mouth still turned down, fighting back the emotion.
"I think they would feel happy and scared."

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

why we have children (Original post 2/2/2010 Walking to Joy)

{I'm going back to my old "Walking to Joy" blog.  Aren't titles everything?  How very much different is Walking to Joy from Spontaneous Delight?  In anycase here is one that I want to remember.  Febuary 2, 2010.  We lived in a small town in New York.  My back was injured, my job was horrible, my commute out of this world horrific, but Q was 7 years old and amazing!  A joy constant and surprising.}

Why We Have Children

so, it's hard
really bleedingly difficult.
i want to publish a magazine about the reality of it.
the posts that receive the most feedback, the most comments
Are the ones where I discuss how I’ve failed
fallen down
how my kitchen is dirty as I light a candle to do my morning meditation
how I consider it a success if a guest doesn’t stick to a chair
i think this magazine of mine would succeed
aren’t you tired of the pretty photos
what does that set us up for
this idea that we’re failures?
a friend just posted on fb about having the stomach flu
and lying on the bathroom floor while one of her three young boys
asked her to put on a show for him and move his baby brother out of the room
because he is too loud
this is a woman who gives birth at home,
has three very young boys,
starts her own home business and yet…
is smiling most every time I see her
and protests injustice with this kind of iron will soft-spoken quality that you
have to be born to (I wasn’t)
see, i surround myself with the best.
feel better nell.
and yet, we do it.
we have one
and then another
we search the world
and decide we are strong enough to bear a young child's grief
we make a home for them (sometimes referring to those blasted picture-perfect magazines)
bring the wee child (or even more amazingly, the pre-teen or the teenager)
to the lovely room, with the warm curtains and carpets
and soft sofa’s with pillows
we wait while they begin to learn a new language
sometimes their third
and then
it comes
the words
the questions
the grief
and we question
are we strong enough?
can we do it?
bear it?
the museum.
we introduce them to matisse
and let them slap the behind of a rodin.
peace to you julie.
you, now, the experienced mom
and me watching on in wonder
and taking notes.
we love
so deeply
and yet,
every waking moment we wonder if love is enough
if love that could drown the entire earth
like that flood
if that will be enough
to build up the self-esteem of our brown-skinned children
even while we know
that we know
less than they do
about this white world we live in
what if all our learning comes from them?
so we try to balance it
the love with…what?
we look around
seek out
get out of every comfortable situation
and throw ourselves with purpose into
new places
the way cliff divers
knowing the danger
the cliff can jut out in a way you didn't expect
but having faith
that with practice and skill
and attention
we will enter smoothly
the ocean below
and then...
there are times when we do everything just so
and we enter the surface of the water
as smoothly as a dolphin curves into the waves
as if we were born to this high cliff adventure
we are happy, satisfied, full of joy
as we make our way back up to the surface
and just as our head is about to breach the surface
just at the moment we think we are out of air
cannot hold our breath one minute more
a wave breaks just over us
and suddenly we are ten feet below the surface again.
we panic.
wonder if we have enough
if we can hold on until we get to the surface once more
we struggle
forgetting that what we are swimming in is the rawness of love.
just love.
courage katy. love may not be enough
but it sure is something
and awareness mixed with love can take you anywhere
and everywhere. At times joyously, at times heartbreakingly but truly
it's the only journey worth being on.
this past week i lost the last person i knew
who every single time i saw her
every time i called her on the phone
(minus this last year which i am not counting)
was literally ecstatic to hear from me.
for 40 years if i called
she stopped everything
'ok krissy!"
she would say
35 years after everyone else stopped calling me that.
aunts, uncles, grandparents
get to love you in such a different way than parents do
i feel so sorry for children who don't have much of an extended family
(whether that extended family of aunts, uncles and grandparents is inherited or chosen it matters not)
parents have to raise you
and the love, is in some ways conditional
yes, i love you when you make a mistake
but it's also my task to sit down
and discuss
and give you alternatives
and sometimes be stern about it
if the transgression is hurtful to others
and as a parent if you don’t live up to that part
the tasks of parenthood
the hard conversations of parenthood
then you’re not really parenting
you’re just hanging out
aunts, uncles, grandparents and god parents
knowing they are not the main drivers of this
learning bus
just get the heap on extra love part
accept you totally for who you are part
wrap you up good and tight
take you out to the movies
the show
heap up the ice cream in a bowl
three times the size of what mom and dad would
and every once in a while
when your mother is going crazy
looking for at least one clean shirt for you to where to...
well, where ever,
you both look over your ice cream spoons at each other
'oh, my gosh, how much ice cream did you give him?!"
and you smile at each other
because you know
that she, me, ‘ your' mother is just a little bit crazy
and your great-aunt, or you grandmother , or your uncle
will smile and wink, and stage whisper
'she's always been that way....but we love her anyway..."
and the two of you giggle.
aunts, uncles, grandparents, godparents
the double agents of the family
working both sides.
loving and imparting the family culture
while telling both sides they're doing just fine
i lost my last best co-conspirator
the one who understood.
the one who shared my love of travel
and the ballet
and art
the one who went to the small apartment closet and pulled out the metal screen
set it up in front of the tv
and pulled out the slide projector
and there in the dark
with the city lights behind us
clicked from slide to slide
a market stall in guatemala
a city square in switzerland
haiti in the 1950’s
hong kong harbor
portland Oregon
we sat the three of us
with a bowl of frango mint chocolates
and they seeded my dreams
there you will go one day
and there
and there
she gave me
a love of the city
and taught me by her example
to greet every bus driver as I pay my fare
with 'good morning"
or 'good evening' and a smile.'
on saturday morning my mother called.
afterwards i went into q's room
which was dark and the only room in our wee house
where i knew no one was going to come into for a few minutes
and i rocked in the rocking chair
that we've been meaning to take out of his room
and has no real seat
i rocked myself and cried.
a couple of minutes later Y came up the stairs
to get his clothes on and to look for me
not seeing me where he expected, in our bedroom
i heard him walk into the hallway
check the bathroom
and then quietly open Q's bedroom door
his face peered into the dark room
took a moment to adjust to the darkness and then realized i was sitting in the rocker
completely and totally beyond my ability to go one step further
but this was saturday
and there was a dance and a drumming class in harlem
and it wasn't the right time to tell Q
and so i
after a few minutes got myself up
it gives you super human strength
that lays there waiting
for when your child is in danger
and you need to lift the boulder off of them
or for when your heart is broken and you need to get up off that damn rocker
it’s not about you.
That’s what my magazine will be called.
It’s not about you.
that love.
that wave breaks over you and you start back up again love.
i get in the shower
get myself dressed
get all of Q's belongings into his backpack
as if it's the same sun that was shining yesterday
the book for the train
which he has chosen
is the history of mythology
we are on the train
window seat and
we pull the book out and he turns to a page of the cyclops
devouring some poor animal
blood running down his face
'ah!!!! yuck!!! Yikes!!! why are you showing me this?!"
"i know, right?" he exclaims. "when you came in my room and told me it was too early to get up i pulled out this book and this was the first thing i saw"
he makes a funny motion like it jumped out at him, hands like claws, eyes big, mouth open in a fake scream.
'you were reading this alone in the dark at 5:30 in the morning'
"no, i ran across the room and turned on the other light!'
"where'd you get this book?'
"dad and i got it from the library yesterday"
and then he looks at me with a grin that is his, only his
'i'd say mom, that THIS book....THIS is not a nighttime story time
(and then in fake falsetto mommy voice' oh...LET'S read SOMETHING that will give my SWEET boy some HAPPY dreams book.....this book, mom, is DAY TIME boook!!!"
we look at each other for a moment and then we both burst out laughing.
'so why did you bring it?'
he looks at me again and says
'BECAUSE, i HAVE to KNOW who that guy is and why there is BLOOD all over his face. i've seen it now. so i have to know.'
and on it goes. our day. Two trains, four buses, the freezing cold.
picnic on the train.
listening to him sing 'the fart song' (an original composition)
watching him dance his new dance moves.
this is why we have children.
there is no time for fretting about the deepness of the water
there is only swimming to the surface
climbing back up the cliff
and into the sun.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Officer B

It's Sunday afternoon and we are in yet another big box store.  Ethically, I am opposed to everything shopping in such stores such represent and yet, here I am again.  I have both boys with me and have told them that we are running in for only the couple things on my list and they are not getting anything.  Except for a minor breakdown at the front door over the fact there are no car-fronted shopping carts available we are managing rather well until we wander a little too close to the 'seasonal' section of the store, currently stocked with Halloween.  Alright, alright, we will look, but absolutely no buying!  Understand?  They are so absorbed in going from item to item and making skeletons scream and spiders wiggle they barely hear me.  As I'm walking down the costume aisle I see it.  The costume I know B is going to absolutely love.  You know how you think your kid is going to love something, you're sure the dinner you made is going to be gobbled up, or the sweater you've knitted is their favorite color, or the toy you bought for their birthday will be played with for hour upon happy hour?  You know how you often get that wrong?  Totally, disastrously (who is this kid anyway?) wrong.  Well, this time I knew I had it right. There was only one costume left in his size.  Two boys.  One costume that had to be had.  Life is like that sometimes.  Q handled it well.  A little visibly hurt however, at almost ten years old he's beginning to get the idea of 'fairness' intellectually.  B on the other hand looked at me with a face that told me I was OK in his book.  The fact he didn't have to ask or rather beg for something he really wanted, the fact that I found it and called him over and said B, "look at this...would you want to be a policeman for Halloween?" B looked up with those huge brown eyes, unsure for a moment if I was talking about NOW or some day a few weeks awway and then he knew it was today and that gorgeous smile spread across his face.  "Let's go to the changer room mommy!"  Another subdued tantrum as I tried to explain you couldn't try on costumes but the promise that he could put it on when we got home and then wear it to the park was enough. 

I would like to say that the rest of the time in the store went well.  It didn't.  My kids are real kids.  A costume you haven't yet tried on is worth about 2 3/4 minutes of good behavior.  Once we arrived on our street we were lucky and found a parking spot right in front our building (doesn't happen often)  and were able to carry all of our purchases up the stairs in one go (not a small thing when you live on the fourth floor!) The moment we put the packages down B went diving through the bags until he found his costume and asked for me to open it.  I helped him into it and this is how he looked.  This photo was taken about five hours after he put it on, but his face didn't change much in that time.  Can we go to the park, NOW mommy??  He practically screamed.  Dinner had to be made, laundry washed and a work project attended to and it was 4:00 p.m. on Sunday night, but how could I say no?  Yes, I say and both he and Q are out the door with me fake quietly saying 'be careful on the stairs, walk don't run, don't be so loud it's not polite!"  B looks for me to hold my hand crossing the street and once across he runs into our little neighborhood park (which is blessedly directly across the street from our apartment.)  He is all intent and purpose and immediately finds someone to rope into the scenes that are already playing in his head.  It's a little girl who we have never seen before.  She must be 2 1/2 or 3 years old, she's on a tricycle and her father is dutifully walking behind her as she peddles around the the park.  B runs up to her and stops a few feet in front and sticks out his hand and yells "That's it!  Your going to jail for speeding!"  The father laughs and with a huge smile and a thick French accent says "Please officer, she's a tourist, she doesn't yet know the rules!"  "Doesn't matter!  She's going to jail because I say that's a rule!"  The father asks B if he is going to be a police officer for Halloween and B replies "I'm a police officer now!" Like everything that happens in the park this little scene is immediately folded into other stories that are being played out by a half dozen children.  Eventually Y comes back from the grocery store, B running up the side walk "DAD!!!! DAD!!! I'm an officer!!!!!"  Y gets out of the car laughing.  It was a good day to a long and not so easy weekend.  We may have found the costume that B will have his portrait painted in.  Only time will tell.  In any case, portrait or not, we will all remember for a long, long time the picture of B putting on his uniform and instantly becoming on the outside the B he is on the inside.