Firsts of January

Brady's first word: ba. All he cares about in this whole world are balls. He continues to breathe and eat and sleep and live for balls. I wish I could make you understand how many hours a day he spends throwing balls and chasing them, talking about them, finding them, crying for them and finding oblong objects to go hit balls. I have never seen a baby with such a massive obsession.

Incidentally, his second word is "baba"and third "poop."  As you can see, he is shaping up to be as ridiculously stereotypically male as the rest of my sons. Sports, food, and poop. Wonderful. I call this his "shrieking eel" face.

Tsega's first hair cut. He's been in the US since June 2010, and I finally took my Sampson to have his power stripped away. The kid loves braided styles and no longer requires much more than a lollipop and a movie to sit for a loooong time for hair dos. But, he had about seven or eight inches of hair. Brushing it out was hurting our friendship. And we need us to be friends. Our family hair guru is fast, furious and I would frankly not let another soul touch Tsega's perfect head of curls.

C'mon honey, let me take your picture of your betam konjo tsegoor (very pretty hair)!

He was all smiles though when he realized comb outs take 75% less time.

This is NOT the first time Cookie is dressed by Samantha in a dress and tights and ankle boots. But it's the first time I documented it. He is such a sucker for her schemes.

First time to the Museum of Fine Art of Martin Luther King Jr Day, when they open the doors to the public for free. The line to get in was daunting.

I decided my favorite piece that day was from the Egyptian collection. Those folks saw things as they really are: Pharaoh is only great because his woman both supports him and holds him back from making stupid decisions. Who has the real power in this image? Am I alone in seeing this?

First iteration of a new product soon to be offered on Village Thread. Kiddie art/chef's little helper aprons!

First gymnastics meet for Samantha!

She can't wait until she's rocking it like the big girls.

First playdate in a long time with some old friends. Thanks ladies for coming ovah. We missed you! On a side note, this bench is the best thing we bought in 2011. Every family needs a bench. We fit so many kids on this thing...

And finally, perhaps the most thrilling first of the first month of the year 2012, my little preemie boy has changed so much. At 19 months, he has done what I once imagined would take years:


ergo mama

*written Saturday afternoon

Tsega slumbers, limp and beautiful on my back right now. The way millions of babies have slept while their mother's cooked for thousands of years. They way they still do in Ethiopia.

Tsega can be the most outgoing, boisterous, joyful, mischievous daredevil you ever saw. He also is anxious, fragile, and insecure these days. He is all of things all at the same time and sometimes it feels a bit intense. And I am so proud of my little man for so often being able cut through his own maelstrom in moments of clarity and say Ergo mama, ergo ergo ergo.... He knows that once he is contained, once he is close to me he can let go.

Just be.

I think in the state of not having to hold up the weight of his own body, he is released from the heavy task of holding up his emotions. He becomes calm.

This afternoon Hubs and I are hosting a massive Timkat party (not at our house!) Over two hundred people have RSVPd, but it is snowing, so our numbers will be knocked down a bit. A Habesha party means food, and though there are hours until we need to be there, the cooking was commenced awhile ago. As I stir the traditional chicken stew, doro wot, and carry my sleepy not-so-baby Baby who doesn't flinch or wake at the rattle of pots and lids nor the roar of the food processor, I cannot help but think of his mother.

He probably never got to sleep near her. Or if so, not more than a handful of times. Not enough times.  Because of that horrible fact, I get to feel his warm little body peaceful against mine. I get to hear hold you, Mama. Hold you Ergo. I get to reach down to his up reaching arms, fling him on my back, and feel him melt into repose.

I wish she were here. I wish we were there. I wish he could have us both.


Mopping and Sensory Seeking; not in that order

I had a religious experience with a steam mop last night. I mean, shafts of white light from heaven, choir of heavenly hosts singing kind of thing. I've tried a few brands, and I am not gonna lie, I found The One. It was amazing. And the floors were happy to meet her. Yes, her. We are friends now.

I think we should all look into Steam Mop Therapy. All one's problems vaporize with the filth as the steam passes over it. Temporary bliss, without the calories of cookies and the fuss of prescription sedatives.

Why does one need a steam mop? Because stuff like this happens every day in this house. I don't document it every day, because usually I am too busy doing damage control but make no mistake: it is every.single.day.

Now at least, when they are tucked away at night, and my kitchen and couches are safe from their antagonists, I can giggle in anticipation because I am actually looking forward to cleaning the floors.


The Promised Land - MLK a day late

Computer down when this was supposed to post yesterday. I wanted to share a snippet of Dr King's last speech before he was assassinated.

Dr. King, here, our humble breakfast table, is at the mountain top. This is our promised land. And we couldn't be here without you.

When I explained who Dr King was, and what he did, and why he was killed, Samantha said
Mom, he was a lot like Jesus. He taught people to love, and he was killed too.

And there goes the smartest girl in the world. Thank you Martin Luther. We will continue to work on making your dream real, 'cause there is still more work to do.


If you're the praying kind...

Will you please pray for my friend Gloria? She is suffering from a terrible condition that is not allowing her to be herself, and even worse take care of her baby. The doctors and specialists have assured her there is no cure, and almost nothing to be done...so she prays. Will you pray her body will heal and find relief? She needs help.

Will you pray for my friend Kara? Her brother passed away last week. I grew up with Kevin and Kara, Kevin was the first person I ever knew with Downs Syndrome and he was joy and fun and taught me a lot as a kid. Will you pray she has peace?

Will you pray for my friend Tiffany? Her daughter Abby just passed away unexpectedly. Abby was my daughter Samantha's age.  Will you pray her family has peace?

Will you pray for my cousin W, who just found out he has stage four Hodgkin's lymphoma? He is 29 years old and has a young wife and I am pretty sure they are scared out of their minds.

Will you pray for my Grandma Pearl, who has been to the hospital four times in the last two weeks? Will you pray her doctors stay on top of that crap?

God doesn't grant wishes, but I know that even amid horrible trials we can feel peace and find internal guidance. I know because I've felt it. I believe doctors can receive divine inspiration to treat a certain way. I believe things that "aren't supposed to heal" can be healed. And I believe even in tragedy God can help us feel his unchanging love if we reach out to him.

If you aren't the praying kind, positive vibes count. And if you have any one special in your life you would like to add to this list, please let me know in the comments. I believe in the power of prayer. I have felt it in my life.I know some of you, strangers have prayed for me. I would love to return the kindness.

** Thank you everyone, especially Facebook visitors who don't always come here. Please add my friend Lara's friend Daylene. She is in renal failure after surgery and the docs don't know why. Her daughter is getting married this year. 


Being Calm in the Calm

Crisis makes for good blogging, and I am slowly realizing that I am knee-deep in Life Mode. Our crises of the past are becoming more and more, well, past. I once had a teacher say "if you feel like you are living in the Garden of Eden, be prepared to get kicked out."

You can ask the stench wafting from my unshowered body and ask the four children who were hot emotional basket cases today if I feel like I am riding a rainbow unicorn in Paradise and they will answer with a resounding NO and a please bathe before Hubs returns from his business trip. But, I gotta recognize how far we've come. The kids and the stench might even tell you I sucked as a mom because somehow, even in good spirits I could make no right move today. All the love I poured on beaded off like rain drops on a windshield. I perceived zero absorption of assurance, love, kindness, grace forgiveness and admiration: all things I attempted to give today in some form or another. But still, we are doing pretty darn OK. Especially compared to this time last year.

I do not remember last January or February or March. It was so hellishly intense, there is a memory-wiping Bermuda triangle in my brain surrounding those months of craziness. Thank goodness for this blog because I possess nary a clue what went on in early 2011.

But it's not like that right now. We are kinda Living right now. In times past, when I begin to feel like I am coasting I can't just enjoy the ride, process things, and sit with it. I take on more projects, throwing off any semblance of normalcy, or I start perusing Petfinder to see if I can find the perfect kitty to be a companion for our poor neglected cat - the former Hubs usually throws a thumbs up at me, the latter he promptly shuts down. (Heartless.)

I have realized something slightly profound for me: I am an adrenaline junkie. I like living on the edge. I like a hint of unpredictability. I like being needed. This whole "lots of kids, lots of things going on" thing I do might be a small part of deep-seated needs I have for excitement and affirmation. I don't know what this means, but I am seeing this for the first time.

So I have been trying to coexist with myself. I have been trying to keep my feet on the ground. I have been working on being a better wife. To any of you out there who have ever had kids with special needs, medical needs that required hospitalization for extended months, or gone through anything traumatic frankly, you will put a hand up there and whisper amen when I say: holy crap life sometimes does a number on one's ability to be a decent spouse. 

Go ahead. You can say amen now. 

I spent a lot of time the past two years being Mama. I want to also be Wife. Maybe for everyone's sake that role needs to somehow come first. There is work to be done there.

I am also spending a huge amount of mental energy helping one of the kids who is struggling right now. I don't know if it's one of those short phase things, like, in three or four more weeks it all will fade away and we laugh and say "what the heck was that all about?" Or perhaps this is a longer term segment of his life that we eventually need professional help to address. But there is a lot of patience required of me right now. Lots and lots of time feeling unproductive and just holding.

And keeping my voice steady and calm. Sometimes in moments of this child's panic and pain I feel like I have to will my heart and his heart to beat slower together. Breathe slower together. Calm down together.

This child doesn't really know how to be calm from moment to moment. He knows joy. He knows fun. He knows busy. He knows getting things done. But calm is somewhat elusive. And I am finding I have to be the one to teach him. Which means not getting pissed when he breaks something again, or dumps out a gallon of milk again, or cries for no apparent reason for 3,405th time in two hours.

Oh, did I mention that this calm, therapeutic parenting thing is not a strong point for me?

My little angel is the boy who cried wolf over and over and over, but the wolf is mostly in his head and heart and I can't see it and I don't want to hear it again. But I have to be calm, and he needs me to come running each time.  I have work to do there. It bears mentioning Hubs is really good at this and has a field of patience, but then again, I am here all day where he gets to dispense patience on weekends and the occasional evening. So I need more of it, stat.

So where does Just Trying to Live Life, being calm and staying grounded for a few months fit into this blog? Or rather, where does the blog fit into that?

I am not sure yet, but you will find out when I do.


It's Worse Than it Sounds

Twice yesterday we were asked by complete strangers How far apart are your children?

Now, when the kids are with me, that question is often asked only after it is ascertained that I am not a day care provider, and it is asked with a cocktail of horror and incredulity while their eyes attempt to count the  heads and compares sizes/capabilities to see if they can untangle the litter of kittens and figure out the mystery before I have a chance to tell them the answer.

But to me it seems an odd question when the children aren't around. Why would anyone ask that? Do these people have a sixth (sick) sense that when they are asking me that question that they are in for an out-of-the-norm answer? Frankly, who gives a crap how spread out someone's kids are? I don't take offense, but I wonder why they ask.

Yesterday I replied You don't really want to know. (pause.) They are 5, 3, 2, 1. The youngest boys are six months apart.

Oh my gawd, how are you standing? I have two kids 5 and 2 and I am not doing so well. I mean, it's hard...

I smiled to show I was mostly kidding: It's worse than it sounds. 

Because it made them laugh I didn't follow up with what I really think.

When there are four kids so close together they share everything, they do everything together, they get heat from bad behavior together, they clean up messes together, they get to trade from each others' plates when I am supposedly not looking, they can switch clothes and shoes. They color together and inspire each other. They have built in best friends every day.

Going to the park is never lonely even if we are the only people there. Every meal, every hurt, every giggle there are people to share it with. Tsega and Brady have an entire cheering section with every successful developmental endeavor. Samantha has an army of devoted followers to rope into her schemes. And Cookie Monster while suffering from a kind of middle child location in the family, also has the closest relationships with everyone. He plays equally with all his siblings and meets them all on their levels. It is amazing and thrilling and wonderful to watch.

It's so hard to manage everyone, keep everyone safe and happy and teach them. Oh heavens it is hard. And I would never recommend having four kids in four years.

But to the two strangers who left shaking their heads: it is better than it sounds.