Sunday, December 28, 2008

We're Back!!!

We're back from Christmas in New Hampshire!
We'll post about the trip once we've unpacked and looked through all the pictures!

Meera Grace 7 Months Old

Meera turns 7 months old today! This past month she's started to sit up pretty well -- she can sit on her own but still plops over after a minute or so (and then laughs at herself when she does). She's started chewing on teething biscuits (which she loves). She experienced her first big party in her own house (the Haiti Christmas Party). And she took her fourth trip to New Hampshire... this time for her first Christmas (a beautiful white Christmas to remember). She survived the 10 hour car ride (10 hours each way) and did really well (especially for a 6 month old!) during this 7 night Christmas trip. Meera continues to be a happy, happy, happy baby who rarely fusses and rarely cries. She laughs easily and often (especially when tickled!). She's smiling more than she's not. And she still sleeps like a champ. Her favorite foods are "rice and beans" (! --rice cereal mixed with pureed green beans); sweet potatoes; and Yo Baby Simple Plain Yogurt. This month she spent lots of time in the baby backpack on Braydon's back. She's had her first taste of winter weather and tends to squeal and screech with delight when the cold winds blow on her face. Meera is a baby who loves loves loves toys. She's entertained for hours playing by herself with all her little baby things. But by far her favorite thing to do is to watch her brothers and -- even better -- receive their attention and affection. Meera Grace is a miraculously ridiculously unbelievably easy happy mellow happy-go-lucky baby who delights us everyday by simply just being. We can't believe we've passed the 6-month-mark with her. She's growing so fast; we are trying to savor each and every day with this precious baby bundle.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Christmas "Carols" from Braydon Johnson-McCormick on Vimeo.

If you have not seen last year's Christmas Carols, they all seem to eventually end up the same...

Happy Holidays!

'White' Christmases for Black Boys

A couple of weeks ago Braydon bought a new Christmas book for K & O. They quickly fell in love with it and have requested it to be read to them at least once a day since. It is a great book with wonderful illustrations and I want to especially highly recommend it to parents of precious little black boys out there in the blogosphere. The book is An Angel Just Like Me by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu. Check it out! This year, with Kyle and Owen at age 4.5, our Christmas season has included a newly emerging sense of awareness on the part of our boys. This is an awareness that was only slightly present in previous years but is now in much fuller force. Images of white Santas, white snowmen, white angels, white nativity scenes, white snowflakes, white snowscapes, 'white' Christmases are everywhere. K & O (as well as --and this is an important point-- all the rest of us) are being bombarded with it everyday. Braydon and I try very hard to counter-act it in our own little oasis of our home. We conscientiously and purposefully present counter-images --- on our walls, on our Christmas tree, in the books that we read to them, in our own little nativity scenes, on the covers of the Christmas music CDs we're listening to, in the decorations we put out, in the way we tell our own stories. But still, no amount of counter-action could possibly balance it out, and the effects of the 'white' Christmas are understandably profound. 'Where am I in all of this?,' they seem to be asking with their questions and statements and theories about all things Christmas. Things like An Angel Just Like Me are important for our boys during this season because these things give a strong, confident answer to their question by saying: 'You, too, my beautiful black boy, are right here in the middle of all of this.'

Thursday, December 18, 2008

L'Union fait la force

Every school in the history of education has had bullies. I remember for me there was one in the 7th grade - it was a kid named Cody.  At the time he was just big, a bit scary and did mean, stuff.  But now that I'm an adult, I recognize that bullies are most often children who are facing some kind of difficulty and are coping with it (wrongly) through dominating others.  Maybe it's a question of the powerless making others more powerless to make them selves better off.  Maybe it's an inability to express the problem in an effective way and the problem manifests as aggressive tenancies.   Whatever the (understandable) cause, bulling is never acceptable.

Even in a loving environment like the River Valley Waldorf school, there are bullies.  There is one in Kyle's class.  He's a normal sized child (smaller and lighter than K & O), but very aggressive, pushing, shoving, hitting, biting and attempting to incite other kids into doing the same. Heather often reports to me of his malfeasance on the front playground, but during morning drop off (which I do), I rarely see it.  Today I saw it.

Now, it wasn't too dramatic, and in lots of places it's far far worse, but in principle, it's the same where ever you are.  Unprovoked, this boy raised his fist against Kyle. He held Kyle by the shirt in his left hand, and raised his right hand behind his ear to slam his fist into Kyle's face.

Whether or not he would have done it, I don't know. And honestly, I am not sure that the boy even knows what he was doing. My gut told me that he'd seen it as a threat, but didn't know what the next step was. I could be wrong, but I hope not.

But here is the thing:  Kyle didn't blink, budge or attempt to fight back. In effect he turned the other cheek. I suspect he knows he would hurt this kid if he went after him). Passive strength is how both boys handle this kid on a daily basis.  I am so proud of that.

Before the kid could hit Kyle, Owen came over and they stood shoulder to shoulder in front of this child, locked together without aggression, without threat, but with a clear signal that said "I wouldn't try it if I were you."

While I was telling the kid that "we don't hit other people", K&O went over to the window, sat on the sill, shoulder to shoulder, an immovable 100 pounds of strength.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Guitar Picks

After two years of strumming, the boys are now movin' on up--- their Papi has seen it fit to graduate them to using guitar picks when playing guitar! The picks are optional, and sometimes they use them and sometimes they don't. But it is clear just from observing their stance and their renewed-guitar-playing gusto that using the picks to play guitar is a BIG deal to them.

Snow Delay

Just a sprinkling of snow and ice (I grew up in rural New Hampshire... in my book, anything less than a serious N'oreaster does not legitimately qualify for a school delay), but here we are in Pennsylvania smack dab between NYC and Philly and a wee bit of the white stuff gives these folks cause for alarm. The phone rang at 6:00 am -- a two hour school delay. Great. This was just about the last thing I needed. With about a zillion things left on my current To Do list (otherwise known as the 'Create Christmas 2008 for the Johnson-McCormick Family' list), and Meera coming down with a cold (thanks to Kyle who has a bad cold and who can't seem to stop sneezing on her and smearing her with snotty nose kisses all of his waking hours), and with Braydon needing to leave the house at 7am for a work meeting, and a hundred errands to run and things to accomplish within the next 72 hours, a snow delay was just about enough to put me over the edge. If only I had time to go over the edge. I mean, really now, the boys are only in school for 4.5 hours each day to begin with??!! Two hours of that precious time taken away from me just like that? What about my wrapping-palooza-2008 plans (that have already been delayed for various reasons for the past three straight days)??? Anyway, once I got over my initial shock and disgust I hunkered down to grin and bear it. And once I saw the boys in their snow gear I just couldn't bear to be Grinchy about any of it a minute longer. The ice made a magical mystical land out of our yard and K & O couldn't have enjoyed it any more than they did. It turned out to be a crazy whirlwind of a day. Ending with the house in more disarray than it has been for a long time and with poor Little Miss sick as a dog and zero items crossed off my To Do list and take-out pizza for supper. But nevertheless, it sure is beginning to look -- and feel -- a lot like Christmas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Story

The boys are extremely interested in the Christmas Story. Kyle is particularly obsessed in his usual theological way; he wants to understand everything. The most difficult question I've fielded so far is:  "What happened before Jesus was born?"

But there is something just so sweet about both their excitement about the Christmas Story.  I don't mean Christmas the fun and exciting Santa holiday, I mean the Christmas story itself.  They seem to get it, they seem to revel in it, it feels like it has meaning for them.

And that is beautiful.

I found Heather narrating the birth of Jesus to our boys to the other day. The images tell it better than any words.

story of christmas 1

story of christmas 2

story of christmas 3

story of christmas 4

Da Da Da Da Da

About halfway through the day today I suddenly heard Meera saying "da da da da da." As clear as can be. I turned and looked right at her and said back, "da da da da da." And she looked me right in the eyes and said, "da da da da da." She's been babbling forever, and is chatty at times (usually only when at home, when the house is relatively quiet -- which usually means when her brothers aren't around), but this was the first real strong, clear "baby talk" from our girl. For the rest of the day she practiced her "da's." We heard it off and on this afternoon and this evening. And tonight we listened to the baby monitor as she "da da da da da"'d herself to sleep. She has a really cute and sweet little voice!

Dear Santa

(as dictated by Owen & Kyle ~~ click to enlarge)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

2nd Annual Pennsylvania-Area Haiti-Adoptive-Families Christmas Party!!!

Yesterday was a huge day. We went to Winter Fair at the boys' school -- which was just as magical and amazing as last year (I wrote about it last year in this post). We left early to hurry home to host, what is, for Kyle and Owen, truly, The Event of the Season. Our 2nd annual Pennsylvania-Area Haiti-Adoptive-Families Christmas Party. As I've been uploading the photos, I've been sitting here at my computer trying hard to think of how to write about it in a way that would do it justice. I was at a loss. Then I just went back and read my post from last year's "Haiti Christmas Party" (as K & O call it), and I can't think of any way to say it better than I did there. So, all I've gotta say is: DITTO to that post. This year we had 57 people, 37 of which were kids. There was a moment when we had a big group of them in the playroom all singing Jingle Bells. It was crazy, but it was also beautiful on so many levels. What an incredibly, incredibly good time was had. I feel like it is really Christmas now.

(O & K, unwinding from the party, watching Curious George after everyone left)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Someday we'll all gather together, drinking eggnog and nibbling on gingerbread cookies, with Christmas music playing, bonding together as we happily perform the yearly ritual of putting up our beloved Christmas tree. We'll oooh and ahhh together over all of our sentimental ornaments. We'll reminisce about Christmases past and dream together about Christmases future. When the tree is up and the empty ornament boxes are back in the basement we'll sit quietly together in the glow of the lights, admiring our handiwork, and enjoying the moment. Until then...
Back to reality...
With two crazy four year olds and a six month old...
We consider it a major achievement that the tree is up.
We'll leave it at that.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Baby Clothes

I want to try to write this post without getting overly emotional or melodramatic about it. So, I'm going to try to keep it brief and simple. But the topic is far from brief. And far from simple. And this isn't easy. Meera is now wearing a lot of Kyle and Owen's old baby clothes. All their old baby clothes that I've stored away for the past four years. At six months old, Meera weighs at least five pounds more than either Kyle or Owen did at eight months. The clothes fit her differently than they fit them. They look entirely different on her than they did on them. When worn by Meera instead of the boys, the images that these clothes project and the body these clothes protect are completely, completely converse. But they are the same clothes. And seeing her in them brings so many emotions to the surface. So many memories come flooding back. Many of these items of clothing bring back specific moments in time and specific experiences that we had in our first weeks home with K & O. Some of those moments and experiences were joyous, some were heart-wrenching, some still sit in my core as life-altering for all involved. My memories are like snapshots of time, like little tid-bits of something precious that is in a million pieces in my mind. Bringing the boys home, trying to heal them as best we could, and creating our (then new) family life happened with those clothes on our boys. I snuggled and held them and tried to understand them for hours on end as they wore those clothes. So some of them I couldn't bear to have anyone else but my boys wear (the first outfits we dressed them in when we arrived to the hotel in Haiti; the outfits they wore on the flights home). Some I have given away to friends or the thrift store. But a whole dresser-full are now being worn by Meera. To see her in them is such stark contrast. The most striking is simply that she is so healthy (on every level), and they were so deeply not. My precious boys needed so much. Meera needs so little. I worried so about my bambinos. Meera Grace requires so little worry. Meera was born into an already-strong attachment relationship, she's got not a care in the world on her little mind, she's 100% on track for a healthy happy life, etc., etc., etc. See.... it is almost impossible for me to articulate. This is why I have been avoiding writing about subjects related to this kind of stuff--- because it is so hard to do. At the same time, I want to get it down, because I don't want to forget that I went through this. This time right now -- as Meera enters into the approximate age at which we adopted Kyle and Owen -- is just a fleeting moment in time. It will go as quickly as it has come. And I know these raw emotions will drift and dissolve. So, I want to remember this. I want to remember that I felt like crying a lot as I see, feel, smell Meera in these little outfits that are, still, to me, "the boys clothes." I want to remember that my heart was full and aching and heavy and light all at the same time. I want to remember all the innocence -- the innocence of chubby happy Meera who has everything on par with the innocence of two tiny Haitian orphans who had nothing. I want to remember the pain and sorrow and grieving and the purest joy I've ever known. Some people might say, 'oh, get over yourself! they're just clothes!' But to me, they are so much more. And right now, it all means something.