Hubs's younger bro is doing missionary work in Argentina right now. He got a rare chance to talk with his family on Christmas, and he spoke of how much work they were doing unrelated to celebrating Christmas. He wished everyone would just relax so that Christmas wouldn't be stressful.

Hubs quipped so his little Bro couldn't hear: Welcome to adult reality. Christmas is stressful.

This year it came at a less than ideal time for me. It was one of those Christmas Eves where I was in tailspin mode and the only concrete thought I had before I came this close to unhinged-i-tude was that I would like to break into every house that got our Holiday All of Us Smiling Joyfully for the Camera Card and steal it back because I couldn't bear the hypocrisy. Despite my previously declared efforts at feeling peace amid chaos I am not there yet. Woefully far from it.

The older I get the more I realize holidays come at bad times for all of us. Loved ones die on or near the holidays. Children are sick, or cry and throw fits instead of appreciate their gifts. Daddies or Mommies are in other countries fighting wars. Couples bug each other or feel like strangers. Traditions clash. There might not be enough funds for gifts. Or there was, and the car that was on its last leg truly dies so the funds are gone. Babies are in the NICU. People lose their jobs. There is a lot of build up for these days and there is so much that can go wrong. And adulthood bites sometimes, because the magic of Christmas isn't handed to us wrapped up all purty like. We have to create it for ourselves and if we are lucky, the little ones, despite the crap we are knee-deep in. We have to smile and declare Merry Christmas! when we want to go to bed with a sedative. Or cry. Or cry and then take a sedative.

As it turns out, the creating the magic part has its advantages. This year, I needed four little people to pull me up by my bootstraps when no one else could and to what to my wondering eyes did appear: a miniature sliver of hope with some mythical reindeer. I got there. I am stating for the record and for posterity in case they forget in future years, Christmas 2010: The Mom did not ruin Christmas for her children despite her poor coping skills the night before. In fact, I held it together really well and even made homemade gingerbread cookies and a few decent meals, and thought of cool gifts for them. I took cute pictures, and snuggled and sang Christmas carols. They had an awesome Christmas. Not only that but surprisingly, I had an awesome Christmas.

I can prove it.

This year our tree was a mini version, in the middle of our kitchen island. Because Tsega would have pulled a big one down 300 times and there is no way I could deal with that or any hospitalizations due to tree-related injuries. We liked it so much we are going to do it every year in addition to a big one.

Waiting at the top of the stairs to go down and see what Santa brought. I wish I could show you the video of how Hubs carried all of them down by himself. Heroic.

This little man is officially walking. And in this shot is letting the light from my photography reflector illuminate his conducting
Handel's Messiah. His first Christmas in the US was a little emotional for me. Melkam Yelidet Beaal, dear one.

play dough baby.

This tiny man joyfully soaked it all in.

And for the moment, my four beautiful boys are napping, a sweet daughter is rinsing dishes and I am feeling less hypocritical and immensely grateful for my little brood and the warm house against the flying snow. All is calm. All is bright.



This blog is going to on a break for awhile. I am thinking about starting not so much a private blog where one must log in to view it, but an anonymous blog that doesn't contain names of my family.

I appreciate my readers who come and check in so much, especially my mother since she is the one for whom I started this blog, living so far away from her. I am sorry for the last 24 hours that I pulled this from the public. I wasn't singling anyone out, I cut everyone off. It needed to happen, and it needs to happen again soon.

If you like to read my crazy rants, and see superfluous pictures of my kiddos, feel free to leave a comment. If you don't have a blogger account with contact info on it, please let your email and I will direct you to the new location as soon as it is up. This is the one and only time I will ask my non-commenting readers to let me know you come by, because if you genuinely like to come here and read what I have to say, I certainly don't want to lose you. I will never use your email address again, cross my heart. I will delete your comment as soon as I get your email address so it won't be up here forever. I also cross my heart about that.

Don't forget to not use the @ sign. Protect yourself. Just say "at".

PS. I went to the work holiday party. The skirt barely fit, but it was wearable. I had on black t-strap patent heels, very bold lip stick and had pin-curled my hair into almost a bob.

And would you believe it, one of the guys that works with my hubs leaned in, smiled and said You look very Betty Draper tonight. I almost kissed him. In a very platonic way.



I've been thinking a lot about peace. How much I'd like it. How I am holding out for it. Wondering how long survival mode and the limbo of learning to be a family lasts.

And then it hit me. This is it. It ain't getting any easier. Learning to be a family takes forever. Oh sure, some day every child in my family will wipe his or her own heinie, and brush their own teeth and at least seven out of ten choices will have non-injury-causing consequences. But then there will be other hard things.

The needs of my children will only grow more complicated. Right now I am mostly keeping them alive and doing a little Decent, Moral, Hardworking, Loving Human Growing. Eventually they will pretty much stay alive all by themselves and my responsibilities will shift to Decent, Moral, Loving, Hardworking Human Growing coupled with a side helping of Driving Them Places and Not Freaking Out When They Make Bad Decisions Because I Need Them to Come to Me which they will only do if they know I won't freak out.

Peace, or least peace of mind ,will always be just out of grasp because I can't control my life. I can't control my family. I can't control the things that happen to us. Isn't that an embarrassingly obvious revelation? I think I was entertaining a delusion of grandeur (thank you Han Solo) that somehow we will recover from the crazy year of 2010 and float away into the sunset. My mantra has been since the great Baby Fest in June in two more months this will be so much easier.

I am officially declaring I am no longer in limbo. I am no longer waiting "two more months" for my life to feel peaceful. Because, pointed out by Mr. Wise Guy Husband, I realized the only thing that I can control and make peaceful is me.

My life may never be completely peaceful and in fact, I don't think it's meant to be. I think life is meant to stretch us and teach us. If the challenges went away, I'd be scared God had given up on me.

I must learn to be peaceful amid the large and small storms around me. I must be less reactive. More patient. Less flustered. Slow to anger. Quick to forgive. I have to stop letting the little people and the every day battles with them ruffle my feathers. And I must stop letting outside circumstances affect my ability to deal patiently and lovingly with my children. This is perhaps my greatest weakness.

I think I understand John 14:27 a little better. Peace I leave with you, my  peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Things will always, always, always be imperfect. Sometimes horrible. But I am pretty sure the secret of life, and maybe even a worthwhile life's work is all wrapped up somehow in acheiving an inner peace and not letting circumstances shake it. And then trying to teach our children how to have it. And Jesus, right there says He can do it. Not like the world gives it, like when things are going your way and no one is loud, disobedient or sad or in pain. Mine is much better than that. My peace is the kind that will sustain you while immersed in the hard things of life. 
Here is to finding  --and re-finding every day if I have to-- that kind of PEACE.



Don't think I forgot that I am trying to exercise and fit into my Skirt of Dreams by this weekend and post about my progress.

I just don't want to talk about it.

Today was harder. In that my children staged a merciless mutiny and it was impossible to do some highly essential tasks let alone "nice" things like eating, drinking water, exercising, feeding, pumping and heaven forbid peeing. That's right. The one time (count it, uno) time I escaped to pee someone was able to get hurt enough to draw blood.

I completely failed at Lindsey the Personal Trainer's challenges in that I didn't eat dinner when I wanted and so I ate late and it is close to bed time and I did not drink even close to the perscribed amount of water or do more than twenty burpees. I also failed at being a nice mom. I want a do over.

But on to a much more fun topic! Don't know what to get for the family with a child who was adopted, is a different race from his or her parents, or specifically from Ethiopia or other African country? I am itching to share some of the little things that we love around here. Some we received as gifts ourselves and I want to pass on. Get ready to go to make the season bright!
Music we love:

Books we love, starting off with the Twelve Days of Christmas set in various African countries:

We read this one every night

You can also buy a lovely books directly from Ethiopia Reads, like one of our favorites Fire on the Mountain, and the proceeds help build libraries and get books to remote areas of Ethiopia.

For the grown ups on your list:

I consider this the best parenting book I've ever read, and it doesn't just apply to children who've experienced trauma and loss.

One of my favorite reads in the months before we traveled to Ethiopia

Also on on my wish list are the Amharic Flash Cards. Wish I had these last year when I only had two kids waiting for our referral and feeling at a loss with my dictionaries.

I have a big project in early stages that would be a fantastic gift for an Ethiopian adoptive family you love, but unfortunately, it's going to have to wait a few months to hit the shelves. I can't wait to move forward, and when I am ready to unveil it, you'll be the first to know. Believe me, you're gonna want this, especially YOU, adoptive-parents-who-are-working-on-paperwork-or-waiting for your referral/court/travel.

For now, happy shopping! And as always, Amazon links may offer a pittance of a commision to me if you purchase, the other links are pure love.



You all know my days are numbered. That is, the countdown to the holiday party is on. I decided to not leave the Christmas Miracle of the Skirt up to Santa and I took matters into my own hands. I reached out to my friend Lindsey, who is a personal trainer. She has had three kids and knows all about post-baby body recovery. She understands struggling to be fit. She is passionate and has certainly found her calling in life.
And the best part is, she does fitness coaching remotely! She creates meal and exercise plans and accountability even if she's not there next to you, and it actually works. Simply talking to her created a motivation and confidence that my goals are reasonable, both of which I was lacking. She created hope.

I wanted to share with you what I am doing to get back to my "normal," which obviously has a two pronged approach. The first goal is to get comfortably into the skirt by this weekend which involves "tricks" that are not sustainable or reasonable, long term.

I will say first that for me, not for other people, *I am not passing judgement*, I do not believe in diets. I will not live off of some nasty concoction for ten days with no real nutrition to lose weight. I will not inject myself with hormones. I will not count every calorie, or weigh my food, eat boxed pre-made meals, and in the long term, deny myself treats. Life is too short to live without treats entirely. I do believe in whole eating and living. I believe in reading ingredients. I believe if a seven year old can't pronounce it, I don't really want it in my body. I believe there is no excuse to put fast food in my body, and I haven't in about eight years. I believe that exercise is the only way I will feel good about myself because it's not really about weight loss for me. It's about feeling strong and beautiful. And that won't come from not eating food. That will only make me cranky and hungry, and I have a history of at times using hunger in unhealthy ways. I believe in balance.

I feel like I have a good handle on what it means to eat healthily, but I will admit I am in a rut of bad habits. I eat the food off my kids' plates that they don't finish. I eat more sugar than I should. I eat late at night. I eat that sugar late at night. It doesn't matter if the sugar isn't high fructose corn syrup, or poison as I like to call it, it's sugar nevertheless. Lindsey called me out right away on these silly things.

My assignments for the short term goal mostly involve drinking almost five times the amount of water I have been drinking, which really wasn't enough for a nursing mother and one who wants to lose a few inches.

For a few days, this is what I will doing as perscribed by Lindsey.

a) Drink 16-20 cups of water. Every day. It is not easy, today I am starting with twelve to fourteen, just to warm up. It's not easy, but I actually managed to drink four glasses of water first thing when I woke up and would you believe it, I feel good and I ate less breakfast than normal because I wasn't super hungry.

b) Keep your carbs low this whole week. She explained that I don't have to lower my overall calories just lower my carbs. She said "Try to not have any starchy carbs after breakfast. Have oats for breakfast and then get the rest of your carbs from fruits, veggies or dairy. If I were you I would plan your meals around your protein. Then add in your fats and veggies.

For example, you might have chicken and a salad and avocado for lunch. Maybe greek yogurt and berries and peanut butter for a snack. Dinner might be fish and salad with olive oil dressing. Try to base all your meals besides breakfast around protein and fats and the small amount of carbs that come along with it are fine."

This seems very doable. It just takes planning and discipline. And planning.

c) Here is the fun part, in the effort to help me out she is giving me additional exercise and eating tips to motivate me and help nip those bad habits in the bud. Every day on her blog will be a new tip. Go there and find out what today's is!

My own changes have been to be more proactive in finding ways to incorporate exercise into my routine with the kids. Strapping Tsega into the Ergo and doing lunges around the house, or let Cookie and Samantha chase me with sharp objects like the bbq skewers, (I am not kidding), standing on my tip toes, balancing on one foot while doing dishes, flexing abs and booty muscles at random while doing my normal child-care gig.

I feel great. You can too. You just need a skirt and/or a Lindsey. You can't have my skirt, but you can have Linds. Go check her out.



Tomorrow Tsega will have been home with our family six months. To celebrate I continue to remember our trip to Ethiopia and our first week with him there. Day five was to be our first day with Tsega in our custody. I wrote in the last post about taking him from the Toukoul orphanage late afternoon on Wednesday, and how we had spent glorious hours tickling, blowing raspberries, and giving bottles totally in awe of the little man who was now our son.

His first night with us he woke up twice. We laughingly endured a massive blow out diaper that turned into an epic poop session (I will NEVER forget the bizzare texture and color of those first diapers. I know that's the last thing you wanted to read, but those contaminated-water diapers are legit.)

He took his bottles beautifully and went back to sleep both times. He was so small and light we could hold him in one arm like a newborn. He wasn't very strong. He didn't have great head support, and felt very much like a newer baby despite his six months. He didn't resist being cradled. Now that I know him, I believe part of it was lethargy from not being fed quite enough, part of it was fear and part indiscriminate attaching.

We couldn't believe next to us in a crib was this baby, sleeping as if everything was normal. He was so happy to go to bed we didn't even try to have him sleep with us, because we were so desperate for sleep ourselves. Sometimes I wish we'd pushed more for him to sleep with us, I think because he's the third kiddo and, and the first months he's been home have been a high stress time for our family with Brady in the hospital, it would really help our cause for some more together touching bonding time. Now I am terrified of him rolling out of the bed. He's at a highly unsafe mobile stage. How do family bed and co-sleeping parents do it?

We started our fourth day in Ethiopia, Thursday, playing with Tsega and invited the other new families in our travel group to come play with us at the Sheraton. (We transfered from the lovely guest house, kinda like a bed and breakfast with very hard beds, as my pregnant self wimped out after a few days). I convinced them all to let me take some family photos. Oh the pictures.
My poor travel group. I have gorgeous shots of the first day they had custody of their children and have I sent them to them? No. The last six months have seen fit to destory my photo taking and sharing time. I have obtained permission however, to show you what I've got of the newly formed families. And someday, they will all have them. I swear.

Are you ready for insane sweetness? You're going to be jealous. All you contemplating adoption, get ready to seal the deal.









I want to jump back into these pictures and these moments as everyone was getting to know their babies. Time flies so quickly. What a happy day this was. While I snapped away, Tsega gurgled away lying on a blanket. His easy going nature was manifest even then. Here I dangled the toy from Emirates, our airline. We still have this rattle and he loves it.

We adjourned for morning naps and prepared to all meet for our Embassy appointment later that afternoon. The Embassy was a mad house. It was crowded, and the air was filled with crying and screaming. Those adopting toddlers and pre-school age kids had a rough time keeping the kids from over-stimulating each other. (Read: the tired parents let the kids go completely berserk because they were too whatever, overwhelmed, worn out, timid, to help their new children calm down and sit. It took all of my judgey, holier-than-thou willpower to not go over, get the handful of manic kids to sit down and teach them some songs in a circle.
I thought someone would think I was a jerk, so I didn't, but it needed to be done. A little quiet time could have been nice. But, I sat. And wished I had more guts. And the afternoon wore on in sheer chaos.

The room continued to fill up, and things got stuffier and hotter and louder. Once in a blue moon a family name was called over a loudspeaker. This voice was impossible to hear or understand and everyone in the room looked around at each other asking "Was that you? Is that us? What did they say?" Finally, once a couple would realize they were called , they would stand up with their child and the room would clap for them as they went on to some unknown destination within the building where someone would grant them permission to bring child home to the US.

When our turn came to step up to the Embassy window we had a brief conversation with an American who apparently had once dated a girl from our town, and he let us know the Embassy doctor guessed Tsega's age was two months less than indicated by the paperwork. After answering a few questions, we were free, with all the papers we needed, and a cute little Tsega Tafese passport and visa.

As we left the Embassy, it began to rain harder. And then hail. People ran for cover, huddled under awnings and some had no place to go. Stopped in bumper to bumper traffic during this storm our friend and driver Henok turned on the radio. I heard the opening notes of Man in the Mirror and I said "Henok, turn it up, this is the Baby's first time hearing Michael Jackson!"

As I listened to the words of my favorite pop song, holding my new baby, I leaned against the car window and took in poverty.

I see the kids in the street
Without enough to eat
Who am I, to be blind
Pretending not to see their need?...

The hail beat down on men, women and children with no shoes, and by the looks of them, very little food. Tears poured down my cheeks onto Tsega's head. My body shook with sobs, and I was grateful for the loud music and the plinking on the roof of the car. I hated taking him from Ethiopia. I hated myself for it much of our trip. But there were moments that caught me by surprise where I was just happy he was with us.

Not for the first time not the last while in Ethiopia I vowed to be better, to give more, to make a difference. I like to remind myself of that commitment every once in awhile. Because if you want to make the world a better place, well, you know the rest.

We were wiped out from the Embassy. But Andrew perservered and went shopping with Henok our driver. I ordered room service, and napped with T. The next day in Ethiopia would be our last and we were still on the hunt for a piece of artwork to bring home and I was itching to get out of the city...to be continued...



Dear Grandma,

Thank for coming over today. My mom knows she's a lunatic and she is really grateful you swooped in to save the day. I loved getting a long bath and fresh clothes. I loved snuggling and your funny songs and belly kisses. My mom really appreciated the dishes you did and the counters you cleaned. I am so lucky have you living close by. So is my mom. Really, really, really, really lucky. You are one of my best friends. I remember when you came to hold me in the hospital. So does my mom.

Come over anytime.


PS. My mom would take more pictures of my big brother, but I am the only one who cooperate these days. This is one of my best qualities. My extreme cuteness coupled with complete immobility. But, since you love him too, here he is, in all his wiggly glory. I can't wait to be as fast as he is. My mom calls these Habesha in the Sunset and Daddy Will Shave These Curls Over My Cold Lifeless Body



Every year December descends and my heart perks up despite the cold and dreary skies. My husband's work holiday party looms and this means one thing: All year I've been drooled, barfed, and pooped on, and all my Target and Gap t-shirts have outlived their short, stretched out lives. It's time for a little shopping for something sacred. Something the children won't ruin. Because they will be in bed while I am wearing it.

This year I was feeling less enthusiastic than usual because I am not my "normal" size. I think most women, whether she's carried a child or five or not, have at all times at least three sizes of clothes in their closets. So at any given moment 2/3 of her wardrobe is utterly useless. But we keep it all around because we sadly admit things may fluctuate. This makes us cranky and that is why, gentlemen, we say "I have nothing to wear" despite what appears to your untrained eyes full drawers and crammed closet.

I humbly admit I didn't want to find an awesome Betty-Draper-trophy-wife-type-ensemble in a size I desperately hope I won't be wearing in a few more weeks or months. Hey! Look at me, setting back feminism every year around the holidays!

But December is decidedly upon us, and yesterday I had a babysitter - with a car, no less, heaven bless her. I put all three boys down for naps, gave her my cell phone number, a load of baby laundry to fold and a thumbs up, and sprinted into traffic to the mall. The time was 3:30pm

I had to make this fast. I had to be efficient. No lollygagging. I walked straight to the back sale room at Anthropologie, one of those stores that is ludicrous at regular price but occasionally tempts me with sale items. I was hoping for a sweet deal and hot little number, not an easy combo to achieve in thirty minutes or so.

And there, as if a beam of light shone down upon it, my eye caught the skirt. A chorus of patron shopping angels started ooooing and I all but ran to snatch it before one of the other girls got it.

It was perfect. It was just what I envisioned. It was wearable to less formal events like church, but could be dressed up easily.

It was the only one left in the store and cough cough, it was my normal, last year, 6ish-lbs-or-so-away size.

I took it to the dressing room and tried it on. It was snug, I am not going to lie. But it zipped up, most of the way. It hugged my butt more than it should. I sat and stared and tapped my foot. And told myself I could do the unthinkable. I could get it, and spend the next two weeks abstaining from baked goods.

I can get up an hour early to do my yoga videos, and only eat fruits and vegetables, and drink lots of water, and...The rationalizations raced through my brain, and I knew it was wrong. You are never, never, never, never, ever supposed to buy something you want to fit. You buy something that fits. Realism at its truest. Words I've said a hundred times. But then, I feared I wasn't going to find anything else I liked more, and frankly $158 marked down to $48 made the temptation worse... What should I do??

Well, I am happy to say that I was able to accomplish my grocery shopping, find something to wear to the holiday party, make it home before rush hour, get home before the babies woke up, start dinner, all by 5:30. Two hours people.

It is staggering what one can accomplish when one is child-free for a few hours. My sister, also a mother of four, said on the way home when I called her to relate my experience of errands without the kids, World Peace can be achieved without children. And I replied Yes, for someone else's children.

Oh, and here is to wishing for a Christmas miracle...



The children had the blessing of meeting and spending time with some of their great grandparents a few weeks ago. They were rightly enamoured with their Grandma Joy. When asked why? the consensus centered on the awesomeness of her white hair. I hope in time they will learn the other more substantial reasons she is a wonderful human.

The real kicker was my eldest. She has personal space preferences. Not a real cuddler. To see her sidle up to a stranger, even one professing to be her great-grandmother, and touch and talk and breathe the same air was a thing of beauty. Kindred spirits these two.



I consider myself a faithful person. It's not that I haven't had moments of doubt, but throughout my adult life my doubts about God or why things are they way they have by and large turned out to be doubts about myself. God, as a person, has always been there when I got around to opening the door. I cannot deny it.

The entire Christian faith (no matter what denomination) is based upon the notions that we are not alone, that life isn't random nor accidental, that God wants us to be happy, that real and lasting joy can only come through mastering our natural inclinations to be selfish and put our own comfort above goodness. Which we cannot master alone because we are weak and will make grave errors, and have habits that take lifetimes to overcome.

We cannot overcome ourselves without Christ, God's son, who we Christians believe, suffered an Atonement which made it possible for men and women to repent, to start anew whenever we are willing and ready to rid ourselves of sins and mistakes that "easily beset" us. It goes further than that, though. We claim to believe this Atonement covers more than just the consequences of our sins.

In the Old Testament Isaiah prophesied about Jesus Christ:

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

This scripture says Christ bore my grief and sorrows and that somehow because of this, I can be healed.
I love this scripture, I have relied on it my whole life for strength and to bring my comfort. And yet, this concept of a person, a member of the Godhead, but still, a person having suffered everything I have, it doesn't make sense. I don't know how that is possible. And furthermore, lately in my struggles with raising my little flock, I have allowed myself to feel cynical.

How can a man claim to know what I have sacrificed and experienced as a mother?

There. I said it. I have felt my faith lacking that this Atonement because he is a man and I am a woman. I am not a heretic. I am just a tired mom. I am depleted.

Last night my hubs, who I have also of late placed on the "You can't possibly understand" shelf, relayed a talk he heard in church which referenced a story about Jesus that I feel like I was hearing for the first time.

Jesus was teaching people, walking around with his followers and he was told one of his dearest friends and cousin John was killed in a gruesome manner. He was incredibly sad and had to get out of there.

But when he got to the place where he had planned on having some time to grieve and be alone, there was a massive multitude of people there. They clamored for his attention. He felt compassion for them, so he blessed them and healed them.

It was getting late. The people were getting hungry. And do want to know how many of them had planned ahead and brought food? None of them, really. Jesus had just found out his cousin was beheaded, and he'd spent all day loving on these five thousand people, and now it was dinner time and there was no food. There wasn't enough, and he was sad and tired.

At this point in the story my husband was relating I started crying. Maybe, just maybe Jesus does know some of what I experience as a mother.

Sometimes I am sad, I am tired, I give even when I have nothing to give, all day, and then when dinner time comes I realize I am in deep bandini.

The end of this story goes that Jesus prayed over a few loaves of bread and a few fish that the disciples scrounged up and started passing things around. All five thousand were filled. In fact, there was extra left over.

I am happy to say I wrote this post two months ago, and I am on my way to regaining my faith that God can make this happen in my life. That even when I have a smidgen to give, my children can be filled. Even when it feels like there are five thousand of them.

I also believe that whether or not she is Christian, whether or not she believes in God the way I do, every mother has the unique opportunity to feel sacred higher power helping her. Because she has to. Because we are never enough in this role, whether we have one child or fifteen. 

Motherhood brings us to our knees. We might as well pray while we are down there.



My tiny one is less tiny. He has gone from 3lbs to almost 11.

Born at 28 weeks, he lived in various hospitals for 120ish days.

I feel badly for not knowing the exact number of days because that tally is the "thing" to do for parents with preemies in hospitals. Every day is a battle won, one step closer to freedom. The number of days you endure and overcome is signifigant.

I lost count. There was a lot going on. Here we are, closing in on him being six months old. If course, in preemie "corrected age" land he is somewhere between two and three months old.

I've spent the babyhood of the three previous progeny fecklessly wishing they would stay babies longer. Pleading to the universe for time to slow down so I can savor the sweetness, the infantness, the fragility.

How the tables have turned. Now I have a baby who has been an infant far longer than he should. His little body was forced to breathe, eat, experience touch, pain, cold, heat, and trauma far sooner than it was supposed to. Having to do that and actually figure out how to grow slowed down his development. For him, every day outside my body he accomplished far less than he would have if he'd been inside, sheltered from the world.

So when he hit his due date, when he reached 40 weeks gestationally, he was no where near acting like a full term baby. It took him until about 47 weeks to get there. And he still doesn't have all the developmental skills he needs.

I find myself joining the throngs of mothers parenting kids with extra needs in sometimes tiring that he is not moving fast enough. He seems trapped inside a body that isn't doing what the other kids are doing. I want him to reach his potentional sooner. I want to know what his potential is. Though my concerns are larely unfounded as it is very likely he will catch up. By age three probably no one will know the difference between him and a term three year old. If we are lucky, age two, but certainly by three.

But we still use his g-tube.

I vacillate from peace to stress that we need it. Sometimes it just is what it is. Other times, mostly when someone is over and sees me use it to feed him, I remember how un-normal it is to put food directly into a baby's stomach. He is getting better at sucking, he definitely enjoys eating and doesn't aspirate or stop breathing when he tries to eat anymore like he used to. He even has more coordination and is s-l-o-w-l-y building his endurance. Some days, I only tube feed him two times and he does great.

Other days he is, in therapy speak, really disorganized and is working hard with no results and can't get what he needs. Those days are really hard, because we spend the entire day trying to get him full. I can't always rely on him to tell me how much he needs because he doesn't always know, and he will give up sometimes if I am just holding him. Sometimes he will wake up from a 3 hour nap and not cry. I have to remember to feed him even when he's not acting hungry, but when I know he should be hungry.

Sometimes this feels like a pretty big burden. It's much easier to respond to a baby than watching the clock.

And I don't even really want to talk about the slew of doctor's visits and therapy sessions. We have a primary pediatrician, we have a GI doc, we have a nutrition doc, we have a nurse that calls from our insurance to check in once a month, we have OT every week, we have a nurse from his feeding supplier that checks in every three weeks, we have Early Intervention. Sometimes -gasp- I cancel them because I can't handle one more this week.

I realize all these professionals are there to act as pillars of support in geting Brady where he needs to be, but sometimes they feel like one more flippin' person to whom I am accoutable about the way I parent my child. They want documentation that I am doing everything "right."

They ask how many cc's per kilo do you think he eats on average? I throw out a number because quite frankly, I don't have time to chart it anymore.
How many wet diapers per day? I have no idea. Do they understand how many diapers I change?
Did you do stretches this week? How many times a day? At least two times a day. He only got tummy time once yesterday. I only bathed him once this week too, if you want to know. I too, only showered once this week. This is why my hair is still in this frizzy ponytail.

But I am out of my jammies and have mascara on because my main goal is to get out of here today without you calling CPS.

That's only sometimes though. Most of the time I grateful I have these pillars in place because Brady Boy is getting there. He is smiling more. He is tracking with his eyes more. He starting thinking about moving his legs this week and gets a very sweet So Proud look when he manages to kick or wiggle. He is still working on that thumb sucking, which is a thing of beauty.

He loves watching his siblings run around. He loves being swaddled, he is started sleeping eight hours straight at night, which is my guiding light gently leading me towards sanity.

He's doing well. He is sweet. And for the first time in my experience as a mother I will admit, I can't wait for him to grow.

*update 5/2012: it's been awhile, for more on how our preemie is doing 18 months later, go here.



I thought our toy fast would be full of reading, coloring, dancing and meditation.


but first, in response to lots o' helpful emails and comments about our Toy Fast Experiment I wanted to offer some disclaimers: our toys are very easily contained and organized. They all have easy-to-reach places that the kids understand and know. You can see how we do this here.

We don't even have that many toys per se. And most of them were approved by myself to enter the home. They promote creativity and imagination, blah blah. No random-plastic-crap-kind of toys.

I think one of the problems (aside from the sass and whining) is that as kids grow so do their schemes. Before, Pollys existed in Polly World and played in the doll house with their clothes and furniture. That was it. Now Pollys are friends with the animal figurines, and the Plan City cars and, hey, why don't some of the Pollys visit the Duplo castle... pretty soon they've moved all the toys into a quickly assembled fort made out of all the just-folded clothes and towels, and there are play kitchen pots full of water soaking the carpet.

You know what I am talking about.

This in the time it took me to rock a baby to sleep, pee, and answer the phone. In moments their imaginations run wild and create hours of work. And as adept as they are at ages 4 and 2 at making messes, for some reason cleaning it up is much harder. I have to stand there and make it happen, piece by tiny piece. And it's the making that gets ugly.

This isn't working. Those imaginations, as I supposed, can use just about anything to act out their schemes, but instead of using toys, they are now playing with things I don't want them to touch.

Grown up things.

Breakable things.

Messy things.

Things that it never occured to them to mess with before.

I realized how deep I was in for when I found the wooden letters that spell out my eldest's name on her wall, taken down from an extremely high place and dressed up in clothes.

That's right folks. The letters J, A, N and E had on party dresses. This is funny, and also proved to me with the judge's mallet kind of finality that they are going to make messes. Period. With sanctioned items and unsanctioned items. And how on earth did they get up that high to get down the letters?

I think we have to change tactics. Even though they don't need the toys back, I do. I think Plan B will be to drive home the point of One Thing At a Time So Help Me God, by not merely putting the toy of choice away in its basket: the basket will be going down to the basement before another thing is brought up. This might sound cumbersome and it is. But I will exercise some control over the carnage, as my friend Nancy says, if it kills me.

I will get back to you on the Semi-Toy-Fast of 2010.




Some lovely, wonderful, talented and generous friends and I have been working on a project benefitting some sweet girls 7000 miles away in Shanto, Ethiopia. We worked together to sew 24 dresses and are sending them with a team taking a few hundred dresses to these kiddos as well as presents for them for Gena, Ethiopian Christmas. We developed our own patterns based on this tutorial using old men's dress shirts.

Imagine not having enough food, or parents, or much of anything to call your own, and getting a backpack full of needs and wants, like pens, socks, hair supplies, notebooks, toys, and a new dress! The time, the talent and care these ladies shared makes my heart swell with gratitude. They are starfish throwers.

I will admit, I only was able to complete one, but considering it was my first sewing project, it is a little miracle in and of itself.

Samantha enjoyed giving them a test run. Here is some of our work!

Thank you Jacy, Daija (and D's Mom!) Lacey and Christina for helping. It was a perfect way to start out the holiday season.