Thursday, April 23, 2015

9 Wonderful Things...

About my son, who turns 9 today.

You were this little gentleman, and then I blinked.


1. You are generous. You go to school with handfuls of toys and come home with a smile, saying that you gave them all away to your friends.

2. You are gentle. Babies love you, because despite all your antics and prat falls, they feel safe in your arms.

3. You are funny. You crack me up, even when I'm in a fuming, irritated, Monday-morning mood. Telling jokes was one of the first things you learned to do in English.

4. You are linguistically gifted.  From the very beginning of our family, at 5 years old, you strove to learn how to communicate. You used every tool you had, gestures, Amharic and English words, little phrases, and you made sure you communicated. You constantly asked "what's this? what's that?" and you still do. I rarely have to tell you a new word twice.  Makes sense, as you share this birthday with Shakespeare, also a master of language.

5. You are a great big brother. Your sister is always under your protection, whether she likes it or not. She is the first person you look for and the first person you want to be with. She is your little shadow, and boy, is she lucky to have you!

6. You are strong. You were a tough little 5 year old boy, and now you are a larger than life, growing out-of-everything 9 year old. Very soon, you'll be taller than I am.

7. You love to eat! You are willing to try almost anything. You love salsa, spice and flavor. You love to make your own snacks and eat with gusto.

8.  You are resilient. You've had some tough days, and some challenges even adults haven't faced, but you still laugh, love life and love your family.

9. You are loved. By so many people. And you love others. You are a true friend, will be a stalwart partner to some lucky person (and there are a few girls in your 3rd grade class who've been scribbling your name in their notebooks...), and are a wonderful, amazing son.

Happy Birthday Daniel.

Monday, April 13, 2015

5 Awesome Things About My Daughter on the Day She Turns 5.

You were this tiny. And then, I blinked. 

Lily. You are awesome.

We are in awe of you.

You are turning 5 years old today, which makes my eyes fill with tears and my heart fill with Love. I'm going to be giving you lots of extra hugs and kisses today. One for me, and all the others for your Ethiopia family who cannot reach you right now. 

Five Things That Are Awesome About Lily.

1. Your love of life. You have this amazing, strong spirit that brings so much energy and joy to everyone around you. When you smile and laugh and sing and spin around in joy, everyone who can see you lights up. I hope you always bring this much joy into every room you enter.

2. You are so smart! Your little brain works so quickly! You are constantly noticing things and making connections. You love reading and learning and figuring things out... which often gets you into a bit of trouble, but this curiousity and love of learning will take you far.

3. You are fierce! You have a strong will and a stubborn determination which is amazing to behold. When you really want to do something, you don't believe anything (anyone) should stand in your way! You are ready to take the world by storm! 

4. You are a star! You love to entertain. You were born for the stage, and you know it! You love an audience, a spotlight, a place to show off your God-given talents. It is amazing to watch how you joyfully belt out the songs you know, and how you expect nothing but applause for your efforts.

5. You are strong. Life has given you many physical challenges so far: hunger, illness, deprivation, hearing loss... and you have battled them all and won. You are freakishly strong for a small child; you can pick up kids your own age! You run faster, climb higher, and ride anything on wheels better than most 5 year olds I know. You are fearless!

Happy Birthday, darling girl.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

I made an "Elsa" cake, and so can you!

Remember last year, when Lily turned 4 and I made this cake?

Apparently this is thing now in our family. 'Cause guess what Lily wanted for her 5th birthday cake? 

An Elsa cake, of course.

So, even though I had kind of sworn off the whole "doll in the cake thing". I did it. Cause I love her and she's turning 5 which is turning me into a sappy hot mess.

Thankfully, the cake didn't turn out a hot mess!

So... here we go! Your handy-dandy easy-peasy "doll in the cake dress" How To!

Step One: Make a double recipe of a cake. Any kind. Since this was an "Elsa" cake, we went with blue velvet, which is basically red velvet with blue food coloring. In the photos this cake looks chocolate, but really, it's blue. Ish. I used Martha Stewart's red velvet recipe, because of course I did.

I baked 1/4 of the batter in a round bowl, which didn't come out all that good. I think I have the wrong kind of bowl. Anyway, I ended up with 2 rounds and a small bowl-like shape (1/4 of the cake batter went to make cupcakes for another event.)

Step Two: Cut the layers of cake in half. I froze the cake after making it, which makes it much easier to slice. 

Step Three: Start layering the cake with icing. Cut a small round hole in each layer. Don't worry about the icing reaching the edge of the cake layer after the first one. It will be trimmed off later.

Step Four: Put your bowl-shape piece on top. Try not to fret too much about how crispy it is on the outside and gooey on the inside. Our doll is really tall, and wearing high heels (which I crazy glued to her feet because I am so sick of looking for doll shoes.) So I ended up adding a few stray pieces to the very top of the cake so the doll's bum would be covered up.

Step Five: Carefully trim around the cake sides so you have a "dress" shape. Then ice with your first layer of icing, helpfully called the "crumb layer".  I used simple butter cream (butter, vanilla, powdered sugar, a splash of milk.) Cream cheese icing works really well too. By the end I used three sticks of butter and about 1 1/2 lbs of powered sugar to make enough icing. 

Step Six: Stick the doll in! Position her like she's singing "Let It Go." This is very important, obviously.

Step Seven: Apply the final layer of icing, hopefully crumb free.

Step Eight: Decorate with sprinkles, cut out snowflakes, etc. A professional would have used marzipan snowflakes and had a tiny Olaf, but we're not professionals, are we?

Step Nine: Very carefully wrap your cake in plastic wrap and hide it in the fridge. Or lock the fridge, or whatever you need to do to keep your birthday girl from seeing the cake, or from anyone from ruining your hard work.

Step Ten: Log on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc to brag about how you made an Elsa cake. This step is the most important, obviously.

Happy Baking!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Palace of Time

Recently our minister preached about the wisdom of taking a Sabbath. Carving out a "Palace of Time" in our busy, hectic week.

I jotted that phrase down in my notebook two weeks ago, resolving to carve out some time each week to write and reflect.

Then two weeks passed, and everything else on my "To Do" list but that phrase was crossed out.  And I thought, yup, I must be doing this wrong.  Because I've got two more "To Do" lists started across three more pages in my notebook. And no palaces in sight.

Ah ha, I thought, this is why Sabbath keepers have those strict rules! Otherwise, they might also just keep going and going, crossing things off their lists and writing new lists, on and on and on forever in their palaces of stuff.

Not that anyone would call our house a Palace right now.

Because this is our lawn furniture:

and this is our backyard:

It's very, very scenic. But if I wait for my house to be a Palace, I will wait forever.  This is the lesson I'm learning right now- to live in the moment, even in the moment is imperfect.  And I don't like that lesson. one. bit.

I'm also learning that trying to rush contractors is impossible. Also impossible: contractors staying on schedule and work being done by the 1st (or 2nd or 3rd) date mentioned. Work is done when it is done. Sometimes I come home and viola! the siding is (halfway) up! Or, look! Floors! And sometimes I come home and the house is dark and in the same unfinished condition as the day before.

Our poor little house. Its been through a lot.  A good friend said that she thinks of houses as alive. They need love and attention and care, just like animals or people. She said, it sounds like your house needs a lot of love.

Yes, yes, indeed.

Yesterday our new upstairs windows were installed. And the contractor discovered that none of the old windows had been screwed or nailed into place.  They were just balanced there, held in place by the molding.

And I thought, of course. That's just how I've been feeling lately: unmoored. Held in place but not rooted. Ready for any brisk window or strong blow to knock me out.

Time to build some palaces.

Last Sunday we began our (now annual!) celebration of Advent. The link to the simple worship we do as a family together is here.  This year Lily was once again extremely overanxious to blow out the candle. This year the promise of ice cream once again proved a strong motivator for happy participation.

A year ago I wrote this about waiting months and months for the phone to ring and then being at the dentist when our referral finally came.  Then a day later I didn't write about the best day of our lives, but instead wrote this to the President about gun control.  (He did write back, I'm happy to say. And I'm sure that unlike the other thousand letters written by his staff, MINE was penned by Obama himself.) Sadly, a year later our country is not much further along in protecting children (or adults) from guns.

So this is the season we are in.  One in which I try to root down into sandy, uneven, construction-debris filled-soil. In which I entertain torture my children with Christmas music.  In which I remember the extremes of joy and sadness that have occurred in Decembers past.  In which I struggle to create little palaces in time in which to just BE and not "to do".

Our Little Romeo

We are home today, all four of us. Thank Goodness! The snow is falling thick and heavy outside our windows but we are snug inside, whining and bickering playing Barbies, eating snacks and indulging in some quality pajama time.

Tomorrow is Valentines Day, which my son has been looking forward to ever since our local grocery store started stocking candy hearts and large red boxes of chocolates (which was like, January 2).  Daniel, born on Shakespeare's birthday, is a Romantic.  In Kindergarten he couldn't stop talking about his friend A--- and her long yellow hair.  Last year he had lots of stories about M---- a dark brown beauty.  This year he's wavered between 4 different crushes. The girl from dance class, whose name he doesn't remember but whose freckles have made a big impression. Also S-----, whose blond ringlets will take her far in life. But S---- one day was out of favor. She was "mean, a bully" reported Daniel.  Now he was deciding between O--- and J----, both smart, tough girls with long pretty hair.

My son, the tough guy with the big heart. Who, when I ask as we walk home, "How was school?" will say with a shrug, "fine, dumb, whatever"... but might for a few minutes slip his hand into mine and confide his latest troubles of the heart.  I treasure those minutes, knowing too well how fleeting they are.

This year Daniel picked out a large box of chocolates in a pink heart shaped box to give to O----. After much consideration, he has decided she is most worthy of his attentions.  I have to say, I agree. O--- is a smart cookie and a hard working student. He could do a lot worse. :) What I wouldn't give to see that moment tomorrow- when he hands her the box of chocolates, eyes probably averted, with a mumbled, "Happy Valentines Day." Oh my little Romeo, wearing his heart on his sleeve so young.  Will she accept the surprise gift? Will she giggle and run away? Will he be teased by his friends all day?

A few weeks ago,  I asked Daniel which girl from dance class he was talking about, since he couldn't remember her name.

I said, "What does she look like?"

He said, "You know, the one with the hair and stuff."

Oh, young girls and their hair and stuff... Please be gentle with my son's heart. It's much bigger and much more fragile than you can imagine.

* If I had planned ahead, I would have gotten him to pick out non Slave labor, Fair Trade Chocolate. Next year, next year.


We try to eat pretty healthy around here. I am that mom, after all. I pack carrot sticks, like, every where we go. (And I don't even like carrots.) But I have my weaknesses. Chocolate chip cookies. Macaroni and Cheese.  Cheese.

and Fluff.

Yes, fluff... that totally not even really a food, sticky gooey sweet food-like substance. A few years ago Andrew and I drove up the West Coast from San Francisco to Seattle, picnicking all the way. I discovered Fluff on that trip. Specifically, fluffernutters.  Man, those are delicious. Especially with a few very ripe sweet strawberries sliced up and stuck in the middle. (Like banana pb&j, only juicier)  Every time I pass a jar of Fluff on my way to pick up peanut butter, I remember that wonderful trip.

So this summer, I decided to give my kids a treat. I bought some fluff. I spread it on some oatmeal bread with some peanut butter. Yum, um, um. Lily loved it. Daniel loved it. I loved it. Andrew just shook his head at me.

Summer vacations are sometimes a good time to break the rules. ;)

What are your favorite summertime treats? 

Kitchen, before and after

That musty old smell is back...

We moved into our new (old) house about a year ago. It was hot, the sun and the neighbors music were both blaring, and there was this musty old smell that I just could not get rid of. It was (is) kind of a mix of cat musk, cleaning fluid and dust. Since we got home from the beach I've been smelling it again, and I've also been having some unpleasant flashbacks to last summer's move and the homeowner trials that followed... Like this, and this, and this.

So I thought it would help me to look back and see how far we've come in this house. This, hopefully, will distract me from the broken tiles in the bathroom, the unfinished attic, and what Andrew has taken to calling our zombie apocolypse backyard.

It's hard to call this room the Before Kitchen, becuase it hardly qualified as a kitchen. It was kitchen-ish. There was a tiny sink, some broken cabinets, and a hideous, filthy old stove. I shudder to think I prepared food in this room for a month.


The brown door in the wall was to a strangely large cupboard we could never figure out the purpose of.

As soon as I tried to put something heavy on that little cabinet next to the stove, it broke into a million pieces.

The beautiful built in cabinet that made me want to buy the house, musty smell and all.


After two months of "cooking" in this "kitchen" our contractor got to work and it was quickly demolished. And then s-l-o-w-l-y, s---l---o--w--l--y a new kitchen was built.

new windows! new walls! no more crazy cupboard!

new cabinets! new appliances! new floor!

This was where I "cooked" our meals for 4 months. Including Christmas dinner. Sob.

OhMyGod I want to go cry just looking at this photo. Please notice the many bottles of wine and the big box of tissues.


Slow and steady wins the race, once again. After 4 months and we lost track $$$, we have a beautiful new kitchen. Phew. 

Now to figure out what to do with the zombie playground backyard.

scenes from a non-traditional, traditional Thanksgiving...

When I was a kid, we had a fairly unusual Thanksgiving tradition- born out of our working mom's busy schedule, and our shared dislike of turkey (and grumpy mommies).  Most years, we went to Chinatown and ate Peking Duck. (If you haven't had this... you have missed out. Yum, yum, yum!) In the 80's-90's of my childhood, we would usually be the only white family in the restaurant. I have lots of fond memories of long delicious meals in the red and yellow lit basements of a large Chinese restaurant, spinning the lazy susan around and around and daring each other to eat hot sauce...

Well, times have definitely changed... but some things remain the same. Working moms (like myself) do not really have the time and energy to cook an elaborate meal on a Thursday.  No-one (in my family at least) really likes turkey. And having to cook and clean up a huge meal after working all week makes (this) mommy grumpy.

So after a few years of grumpy mommy and dried out turkeys, we took it old school... We went to Chinatown!

And, it seems like lots of folks have figured out that Peking Duck tastes much better than Butterball... because the restaurant was full of all kinds of families- Chinese, white, mixed groups... All happily spinning the lazy susan and gobbling dumplings.

Another family tradition revived this year was going to see the parade... where my baby sister famously was lost for 5 minutes in 1980. Yes, the big Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York City. Lost. My mother has maybe just recovered. And we were planning to take my daughter, who is famous for running into traffic/out of stores/up mountains?... Yes, yes we were. But, miraculously, Lily stayed with us, and had a wonderful time sitting on daddy's shoulders as the marching bands played "Let it Go."

We experienced several Thanksgiving miracles this year... which was a great blessing after a very hard week.

First of all, we found not one but two perfect parking spaces. In Manhattan! Hosanna!

Secondly, Lily (who eats nothing but peanut butter sandwiches these days) tried not one but THREE new foods! Duck! Beef ribs! Dumplings! Hosanna!

Thirdly, by 3PM we were all in our pajamas eating pumpkin and apple pies with ice cream and watching a movie. Hosanna in the highest!

However you celebrated, I hope you experienced some beautiful little miracles today.

Christmas, Christmas, Time is Over!

We had a lovely Christmas this year... the best of the 4 we've celebrated with our children home.

And I'm SO GLAD it's over and we have 364 days til the next one! Phew!

Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas - but it is quite the marathon. And for a working mom with two adopted kids, December can be a minefield... a minefield negotiated while holding armloads of presents and hot trays of cookies. And then there of course there is the money. Sigh. My husband asked me late one night after a particularly stressful evening, Why Does Everyone In This House Hate Christmas!? He got a baleful eye in return.  I mean, he is not the one baking trays of cookies after work and wrapping up teacher gifts while keeping one worried eye on our bank account.

Jen Hatmaker wrote an eloquent and detailed description of what it can be like to celebrate this huge, over-grown holiday with children who have traumatic backgrounds. I've written about it too, every December: here, here and here. This year we managed to avoid the most obvious traps, but boy, it was a long, stressful month.  I will take 90% of the blame for it, as I am the one holding most of the stress and doling out most of the extra chores and Christmas "work".  I think Christmas, the way that it is celebrated here in America, is ghastly over-done and giving all us over-worked, over-worried parents (adoptive and biological) waaaaaayyy too much stress. Don't even get me started on the Elf thing....

Every year I try to think deeply about how we are celebrating Christmas, and why...

Here are some things we did well this year, and a few things I'm hoping to do differently next year... And I haven't given up completely on my fantasy of flying down to a warm deserted island for Christmas.

1. We didn't make any plans for Christmas Day. This was huge! We kept our day super simple. No visitors, no big plans. We had LOW expectations. Which was great, because both kids had several bad moments. With no one around to witness the meltdowns, and no schedule to keep to, we could manage their challenging behaviors with creativity, humor and (a bit more) patience.  Our son woke up at 5:30AM, opened his stocking, and then went downstairs to torture himself by staring at the un-opened presents under the tree for an hour. By 7AM he was a quivering, miserable mess. And of course, we didn't get him anything cool, he hates Christmas and wants a different family. So, yes, it's good no extended family was around to participate in that!

2. We got out of the house. Just to see a movie. (Thank you, Thank you, movie theaters for being open on holidays. And please, please pay your employees HUGELY for our privilege!) It was a welcome break and distraction from all the terribly boring toys.  And kept us parents from cleaning and cooking for 2 hours.

3. I (mostly) accepted that our house was going to be a mess for a few days and let it go. We did clear up the torn wrapping paper and tried to sweep up the breakfast-lunch-snacks-dinner crumbs from the floor.  But, yup, it looks like Christmas exploded in here and I'm going to just have to live with that for a few days. I decided one present I can give me kids that they actually want is not to have a mom who is constantly telling them to clean up.

4. We ate well. And a lot. This is a fairly common Christmas tradition for many families, I understand. In the past I tried to present the "traditional" Christmas foods to my family, only to have them cry over their turkey and mashed potatoes. This year I got smart: I let them pick one favorite food for Christmas dinner. Which is how Lily ended up with her very own personal platter of french fries and a giant bowl of ketchup for dinner.  And Daniel was given a bottle of salsa to pour on top of his mac 'n cheese and roast chicken.

5. We celebrated a simple Advent, and didn't do too much else in the weeks preceding Christmas. No visits to the mall Santa. No seeing lights. No Elf. Even so, our December calendar was very full... something I'm trying to minimize next year.

And next year I'm hoping to get smart about presents. Since we don't do Santa (gasp! It's okay, read this.) the kids know that Mom and Dad are getting them presents. And this year, Mom and Dad did only okay in that department. Lily was happy with her collection of Frozen merchandise, but Daniel was soon tired of his magic kit and was upset we didn't get him a motorcycle.

My 8 year old thinks he's 16.

Next year I'm going let them pick out their own presents. And then hopefully there will be no early morning anxious staring at gifts. No surprises = no anxiety. Maybe.

I hope all of your holidays were as magical as can be. And if you, like me, are happy to be putting the jingle bells away this morning,  Happy New Year!

January Fast

We are on a diet around here. I'm guessing you are too, and so were the throngs of people in my yoga class and pretty much everyone at work.

December was filled with excess and gifts and chocolate and hey why not it's Christmas! Am I right?

So we are eating a lot more kale this month... but actually the more important diet we are going on is a budgetary one.

'Cause in December we could say, "Hey it's Christmas!" but in January the cold hard truth of our bills and debt cannot be pushed aside.

So I declared January a "no spending month". We are not buying anything (except groceries- HEALTHY groceries)

And 13 days in it's been a real eye opener to me. Oh boy, do I love buy stuff! Wow.  NOT buying anything for a month is going to be HARD.

It's just so easy to shop these days. A thought passes through my head.... hmm... Lily's sneakers are looking a bit tight. Huh, I wonder if Payless is having a sale? Oh look, Frozen sneakers!Perfect! Click, click, click... three days later new shoes arrive! Magic!

This month I have (so far, in one week) resisted buying: new shoes, new bedding, a new pillow, organic deodorant, socks, a book, a new vacuum and a coat. And I never entered a store. I know, RIDICULOUS.

Obviously this fast is long overdue. I need to set some limits. Amazon prime is such an enabler. One Click buying? It's just too easy. All those beautiful catalogs that arrive in my mailbox, with their glossy promises of the perfect house and the perfect life... Straight into the recycling. Don't open them just to "get inspired." Ha! Beautiful towels don't really make your life any more interesting.

The truth is that even though every few months I go through our house and get rid of stuff (evidence here and here), we still just have way too much. Last week I "magically disappeared" ONE HALF of all the toys in the kids playroom and THEY HAVEN'T NOTICED YET.  I don't really know why I bother buying them toys, because lately all they play is Harry Potter/Voldemort using old drum sticks as wands.

The truth is that the "middle class" lifestyle in our city is crazy expensive. In fact, we live in the most expensive place in America. Lucky us! My grocery bill makes me cry sometimes. Add in memberships and ballet classes and kids constantly growing out of their shoes and busting the knees out of their pants and the boiler needs repairing... it ADDS UP.

So we'll see what the next few weeks will teach me about my spending habits and what we REALLY need to spend money on. I have a feeling I'll have a bit of shopping list ready for February 1st...

March Madness, of a different sort

The snow is melting! (Not fast enough.)

Since January the Northeast has been battered by snowstorm after snowstorm, and freezing day after even more freezing day. I was doing okay with it, I really was. It was Winter; this is what Winter weather is like. Then 2 weeks ago we had one warm and sunny Sunday afternoon. The next morning it was freezing again, and I was done. D.O.N.E. I'd had a taste of comfort and sunshine and Spring and Winter was not welcome here anymore.

Here we are, another sunny and warm Sunday afternoon, and for once the forecast is not for more snow and freezing temps but actual warmth, and sunshine and the possibility that the snow that has been sitting in frozen piles for 3 months might thaw.

And it's disgusting. City snow does not melt attractively. Only the top layer is white. The layers underneath are different shades of gray and black and yellow. As the snow recedes it reveals the frozen garbage, animal feces, stray newspapers and coffee cups and forgotten, forlorn mittens. It's truly horrible, and it can't happen fast enough.

I feel like the melting snow is a good metaphor for my parenting right now... as the frozen Winter slowly slides away it is revealing some yucky stuff- the bad habits we developed while stuck inside. The nasty attitudes and the gripes and the grudges we're holding. We've been stuck inside for several months and we've all had quite enough of each other. My kids miss the park; they miss the freedom to run and choose their own games and socialize out of adult earshot. I miss the quiet that I can find outside on the sidelines of their fun, sitting in a park bench in the sun reading.  My kids' messiness, high energy and joyful loudness seems natural in the playground. Inside my house this Winter those same qualities have been driving me mad.

So here we are on the brink of warmth and freedom. Wearing snow boots and light jackets.  Looking longingly at our still 1/2 frozen backyard. I'm wondering which of our bad habits will shed easily, the way we threw off our jackets and mittens this afternoon? And which will, like the filthy blackened ice patches in the forgotten corners of our yard, I'll have to go at with a shovel and broom. Will we continue to fight so much about Mine Craft once we can all play outdoors? Will we still shout at each other each morning once there aren't quite so many layers to put on?

I live in hope.

How My Garden is Like My Adoption

It's Spring! At Last! Thank God!

This past week or so I've been spending a lot of time working in my garden, and it's gotten me thinking about how my garden is like our adoptive family...

Now, before you roll your eyes and gird your loins for some ridiculous analogy about flowers... let me show you what my "garden" looks like right now:


But before you weep with me over this pitiful pile of rubble, let's revisit my "gardens" of the past...

When we bought the house:
the giant garage

When we renovated the house:
the giant pile of trash

When we finally tore down the garage:

the zombie apocalypse jungle

After we had all the trees and vines removed, and put up a fence:

the snow was so helpful in covering up the rubble and concrete

So, really, there's been significant improvement, even though it is certainly not the garden of my dreams yet, nor really a garden in any proper sense of the word yet.

Which brings me to my adoption analogy.

Growing your family through adoption, especially by adopting an older child, can often feel (and look), like my "garden".  You are not starting with a seed growing in a fertile warm and gentle environment. You are starting with the rubble patch of your child's traumatic past. The ground is rocky, the soil bare, and watch out! there is some broken glass in there. And you are going to have to dig through some pretty tough stuff before you see healthy growth.

But it's not all bad. Nope, there is some treasure there... if you have eyes to see that the shard of old pottery as treasure. Because after raking up all those rocks, and digging through all that clay, and nourishing and turning and watering and feeding your garden, every bud and every leaf will be a a hard won treasure.

Before we started our family, I certainly had some rosy pictures in my silly head about how our life with kids would be. I knew there would be challenges sure, but really I had no idea. (Does anyone really know what it is like to be a parent, before becoming one? I doubt it.)

Growing an adoptive family, like growing a garden from bare rocky soil, takes hard work, imagination, patience and a long view. You have to squint a bit into the future to see how all this trouble might turn out okay. And you've got to not despair when after so much work you are still finding rocks and patches of clay in your life. Trauma, like layers of clay sediment, can lead to some nasty surprises and problems years later... You think you've got it all figured out, everyone is growing well and then BLAM! an anniversary or a change in routine or a transition triggers the heck out of your child.

Broken glass can live for a long time embedded in what looks like perfectly healthy soil.

So even though my arms and back are sore from raking up rubble and digging out old plumbing, dead roots and shards of glass from our backyard, I'm grateful. I'm grateful for this reminder that hard work can yield beautiful rewards. I'm grateful for the reminder of how far our family has come due to our patient tending. Every time my son says, "I love you, Mom", it is a hard won treasure.

Let's talk about renovating your house...

I realized recently (okay, today), that I never really wrote about how our home renovations turned out... and I'm sure that you have all been waiting with bated breath for me to tie up those loose ends! My apologies. I think in the excitement over finally NOT living in a construction site I quickly no longer wanted to think, talk or write about our construction.

Well. One year later the house is in much, much (much, much, much) better shape than when we bought it. (I'll never forget the sad, mournful, regretful look on the inspector's face.)


But, it's not done. And it never will be! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

Actually, I'm sure this house will one day be in perfect condition. And that day will be the day that we sell it to someone else and move into a retirement home. Because that's how these things work.

Here are 10 things I've learned in the past 18 months of living in this old house:

1. Home ownership is vastly overrated. Except that yes, it does afford a good deal of long term financial stability, especially in a city where the rent is too damn high. That being said, we have sunk so many gobs of money into this house we may as well have been renting on Central Park West*.

2. You will always have something broken to fix. Or 10 things. Just get used to it, and get a credit card from at least one home improvement store. The time to become handy is now.

3. You will treasure your good plumber, (or electrician, handy-person), and thus be willing to pay them gobs of money because you need to have heat, and it's freezing, and they are willing to stay in your house until the middle of the night until your house feels warm. (This happened to us in November.)

4. You will spend WAY MORE TIME picking out tile than you thought possible. Also, do not go to pick out tile by yourself. Also, take all the measurements for everything with you whenever you go shopping for tile. I went shopping for tile 3 separate times, twice alone, one more time over the phone, and still ending up with tiles I'm not quite sure I like. Next time, we are going with white squares and that's it!

5. Everything takes twice a long and costs twice as much as you can imagine. Except for our fence, which was magically put up in 4 hours by three hard working men on the hottest day of the summer last year. Go figure.

6. It was totally worth it to buy a house with a driveway.

7. You will learn to live with hideous floors or hideous ceilings or hideous wall treatments (or all three!) for way longer than you thought possible.

8. Having a house is a good excuse to have people over. Which means we don't have to go out so often. And also, having people over is a great motivator to finally hang pictures/empty that last box/tidy the basement/put away the holiday-that-was-over-a-month-ago decorations. Etc.

9. If you thought your marriage was tested by having children, try living in at a renovation site together for 4 months without a kitchen. I'm pretty sure my husband said "Pull yourself together!" at least once during that time, and gave me a good dozen exasperated looks which meant: "I can't believe you are having another hissy fit about not having a kitchen." While we ate cereal for dinner out of paper cups.

10. Children are endlessly fascinated by construction and will be pulled towards dangerous work sites like moths to a flame. That both children are still alive after 1/2 our house was basically demolished is a miracle.

* Not really, but it feels like it.

PS- We found out this morning that dirt is really, really expensive. Like, ouch! The things you learn while renovating...

A taste of Spring

The sun is shining! And we are drinking it in like thirsty desert travelers...

I hope the sun is shining in your home today too...