Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009 - it's not just about thanks

There are forces in life that work to create motion; moving us together, driving us apart or simply pushing on fixed objects, often without effect.  These forces are by and large unseen, but always felt, consciously, unconsciously, painlessly or with great noise. When they are powerful, these forces are the center of our universe. Some of these forces are people we love.

I suspect our family is much like many American families where the women are the glue holding us together; the gravity creating the in the dip of the plane of space, with constellations circling around and coming together like quarters dropping into the center hole of the donation bucket at the grocery store. They are a constant practice of grace to one another despite our efforts to do otherwise.  They make us whole and have meaning.  No doubt the men are forces of reckoning, but they are not weaving the ties that bind, they just are not.

For the last 16 years, Heather has pulled our family together in one form or another around Thanksgiving.  These objects that tend toward stasis, drawn in by the power of her gravity. Whether that has been with 50 grandparents, parents, cousins, relatives, friends and neighbors in our apartment, or generously combining me in her family's traditions, she has made a web of life that we have clung to, grown into and become stronger in the course of.

With one exception, when Owen was sick and throwing up a couple years ago and Heather's sister, niece and parents had to turn around and head back to NH, she has never missed a Thanksgiving with her family. To me, is very much the definition of a force of nature. And to me, is who she is.

This Thanksgiving, however, was different.  My sister recently moved from Philadelphia to Washington DC for work. We felt we needed to go there and see her. My mother and father made it a full house and my side of the family came together for Thanksgiving, at least in my eyes, for the first time in years.

Sometimes when powerful forces are in close proximity there are unexpected consequences.  Holidays are like that - catalysts, accelerators, colliders, or just tempests in teapots.  Thankfully, we ate some turkey and sides (courtesy of Whole Foods with some doctoring a ala Sabrina McCormick, PhD), enjoyed a little wine, football, had a nice walk down the Mall (Meera had a no-nap-day-meltdown on the way back), and all learned a little bit more about what we're Thankful for in 2009.

Thanksgiving 2009 - learning and loving



This year for Thanksgiving, we took in a lot more than Turkey, although we had some fun with that too. In our trip to DC, we got to have a few laughs, see some amazing stuff, learn a bunch and spend some time together.
  



It never ceases to amaze us how into travel Kyle and Owen really are.  And now Meera too.  But this, to us, is really nutty.  These two 5 year olds are totally into travel. Like - we have this book, and both boys now not only know the Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson memorials, but also where my sister lives, how fast the fastest jet goes (Air and Space - 4,500 miles per hour), how to interact with cab drivers, how to be polite at a family dinner, and how to drive 6  hours on the way home without fussing.  They really wanted to go into the Washington Monument (great disappointment when we didn't get tickets in time),

And a priceless moment, when these two little black boys, pass over the Lincoln memorial steps where MLK Jr. gave his speech, looked up at he enormous statue and right in front of the "please be quiet and respectful" sign, exclaimed in a loud voice "There he is!!!" in full K&O enthusiasm.  Priceless.



More importantly, we had some wonderful experiences while in DC:

From thanksgiving Day:


  • Kyle & Grandpa Robert watching some good-old-fashioned football on the TV.  Dad narrating and explaining every detail to Kyle who loved it.
  • Joking over the readiness of the turkey or over readiness as the case may or may not have been
  • Owen and G'mma doing puzzles and mazes
  • A beautiful walk down to the Capitol building and a look over the pool there out onto the Mall.  Granted, Meera had no nap and had her second total melt-down of her life, forcing us to grab a cab back to our hotel, but nice none-the-less


From the day after:


  • Anthony: the homeless man in the square by our hotel.  K&O gave him money for breakfast, introduced them selves, found out his name and wished him Happy Thanksgiving.  We looked for him (and saw him there) each time we passed by.


  • An early morning visit to see the White House.  Kyle and Owen asking the guard (who we called the Secrect Service - and who really knows anyway) if "BarakO" is in there right now?!?!? Yes he was, and we guessed having breakfast.  


  • A great day at the Air & Space museum.  Seeing TONs of airplanes - does it get better than that for K&O?  Meera finally got her nap that morning.


  • Lunch at Cosi downtown DC.  I don't really get how they could have run out of Tuna salad for Kyle, and Tomato soup, but we all enjoyed it.
  • A freezing cold (sorry mom!) ride on the outdoor carousel on the Mall.  Yes, they were by far they loudest, and most definitely having the most fun of all the people riding that day.  Pretty awesome.


  • Walking down the Mall with my family and the boys and Meera enjoying it.



From Saturday and in general:
  • The Lincoln memorial. The walk up to it, the freezing wind, the steps up. The spot MLK gave I Have a Dream, the statue with those hands.  The speeches on the walls. The meaning, the power.  K, O & M there together and what that means, there, in that spot. It was my first time there, and it's still sitting with me.  L'Union Fait La Force. 



  • The Washington Monument.  Although we could not go up, the power is striking.


  • The Vietnam Memorial.  By itself an enormously powerful statement to the depth of pain that was Vietnam and the honor of those we lost.  It also raises many questions for our boys around war, what is war, who, how, when where what and why of dying in war.  Tough, but meaningful topics for our young men.


  • Afghan wraps for H&B, yum, yum, yum!
  • Hotel pool for the boys - now - if there is there a pool to be found - that is a highlight for sure!
  • Being in such a diverse environment.  There were tons of black and white people from all socio-economic backgrounds - and that by itself is a treat - as it should be for all Americans.
We left Saturday around noon. After enjoying our stay at the Embassy Suites (great place to stay for work and really for family), we said goodbye. It was a 4.5 hour drive down that took almost 7 back.  Oh well, alls well that ends well.


Our family reconnected this morning. All three children thrilled to be home.

We're all Thankful to go and come back.

View all photos here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

Our list of things for which we're thankful is long.
These three are at the top.
Happy Thanksgiving!  


 
 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Photos of the Day


 
 

Our Big O

Owen is very rambunctious and struggles daily to not get in trouble at school and at home. He wants to please, he wants to "do good," he wants everyone to love him. But it isn't easy for him. He is a very spirited little dude with a huge personality that fills up a room (and can quickly drive a parent/teacher/nanny crazy with his constant activity, boundless energy, and consistent-never-ceasing-testing-of-the-boundaries). For the most part we try to work with it, not against it. (Easier said than done.) And luckily for us we have found a school that -- at least so far -- has that same philosophy. Owen has lots of good days and also lots of bad days at school. He almost never does stuff that is really bad, it is more that he is just always pushing the limits and feeling out the bounds. Last night, while getting ready for bed, Owen told me that his day at school yesterday (Tuesday) was his "best day ever" and he was very proud of himself that he was "good behavior all day" and "not even a little bit of acting up" and that he was "so good all the way to outer space" etc etc etc.  He was beaming with pride as he went on and on and on. He actually asked me if I'd please call his teacher on the phone to ask how he did (this was a new request from him)... he wanted me to hear it directly from her... I told him that we didn't need to call Miss Joyce to know that he did a good job, that I entirely believed him, and that I was just very happy that he felt so good about his day and that he was so proud of himself, that he felt so good inside, etc. He was very, very pleased with himself. He went to bed feeling on top of the world. After he was asleep I did end up asking his teacher about his day (I was just so curious). And she confirmed that he had a brilliant day.

A few hours into the night Braydon and I woke up to Owen crying loudly and mournfully in his bed. He was having a terrible nightmare-- a bad dream in which Braydon "burned him and put him into a fire" and Owen was "dying" and "Papi wouldn't say goodbye to me even though he knew I was dying and going to Heaven forever." Braydon carried him into our room and Owen was still crying deeply as he crawled into our bed in the middle of the night. He wrapped himself around Braydon and slept in his arms until morning.

It was a reminder, yet again, of the tender spots in our rough-and-tumble boy. Not that we ever forget, not even for a minute, but there it was again.... the loss/abandonment/fear issues rising to the surface --not coincidentally, after a day of feeling very good about himself and going to bed feeling very secure in who he is and where he stands.


 
 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

M


 
 

Monday, November 23, 2009

10 Day Postcast


 I don't think "postcast" is actually a word, but it seems to fit here. You know, a brief post about the past 10 days. Not a forecast, but rather, a postcast. ? I don't know. What I do know is that a lot goes on in 10 days around here. Here's a tiny smidgen of a few highlights:
  • Yesterday marked the end of 4 weeks of me being sick. 4 weeks of being sick is a long, long time for this Mama. Especially at the worst possible time (end of the semester). It took a toll on the whole of us 5. I kept wondering, 'is it best that it is me that is sick, or is this the worst case scenario?' I never really determined the answer to that question. I went back and forth on it daily. It started as a 3 day flu (probably swine flu?) with fever, body aches, the whole 9 yards. But instead of taking it seriously I popped Advil every 4 hours while going to work, coming home for the second shift (a.k.a. running the household), etc. I should have taken it seriously. That is the lesson I learned. The fever broke and it turned into a bad cold thing, and then it turned into bronchitis, and then walking pneumonia verging-on-full-blown-pneumonia. Finally my doctor threatened that if I didn't get serious about getting better she was going to hospitalize me in 48 hours. I got serious and took 2 days off from work. That was 2 weeks ago. I'm really pretty much better now (probably at about 85% full capacity). But it was a long stretch of sick and it was tough on the J-Ms. The nice thing, though, is that up until 4 weeks ago I hadn't been sick enough to see a doctor since 2003!!! So, I'm thinking that now I have another 6 years of healthy before getting sick like that again. I'm not complaining.
  • Photo above taken at this year's Lantern Walk at the boys' school. A magical, wonderful Waldorf tradition that we've come to savor. 
  • Photo below taken in the front yard before Kavya's Birthday Party. It was a costume party and K & O were doctors. That was a very, very fun party and a very, very great day.
 
  •  Little Miss has taken to a love of lawn-mowing. Just like her brothers that one. Scary, scary stuff. Her primary efforts these days are dedicated to mimicking everything she sees them do. I will repeat: scary, scary stuff.
 
  • The boys had an awesome after-school dual-playdate. They each chose their best friend from their respective kindergarten classes. I find it noteworthy and fascinating that both of them --when push comes to shove-- choose girls. I also find it noteworthy and fascinating that, at least this time around, they chose the two girls that --if I could choose-- I'd choose for them (the thing that is so fascinating is that I didn't choose). Owen's best friend right now is a wonderful curly-red-head Patagonia-wearing beauty that I've adored since I first laid eyes on her. And Kyle's best friend right now is a tiny spunky whippersnapper of a girl who loves wearing princess dresses with her hot-pink cowboy boots and I've always thought that she is an absolute riot. These two sets of friends had an after-school playdate today that was just stupendous. I was so glad to have been able to take the afternoon off to be able to chaperon it. K & O are not always angels (not at all), but today they were. And I couldn't have been more proud watching them play so nicely with their friends. I'm seriously contemplating only ever allowing girl-only playdates from now on. Sooooooooo much nicer than boy playdates!!!!!!!!!!!
 
  • How on earth did this happen? We found ourselves watching football on t.v. on Sunday afternoon. These boys have had a profound impact on our life. Pre-K&O we would never have imagined that we'd have a football game on in our house. And yet... here we are. Very, very, very strange. Very strange. Kyle is obsessed with football right now. Obsessed.
 
  •  The threesome plays the piano every day. Every single day, at least once (often more), we find this. They are just sounding stuff out and playing around with the piano. I think it is kind of a bonding thing for the three of them. They do it a lot. Owen is amazing at sounding out music. Lately he's figuring out Beethoven's 5th Symphony.
 
  • Filth. Never ending filth. My husband is the Laundry Master. I don't know how he does it but he gets the stains out. Seriously, we are like a living breathing Tide commercial. 
 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dear Readers,
Please chime in! (below) Pretty please,
with sugar on top?!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

3rd Blogiversary of the J-M Blog!


We've been keeping this blog for three years now! Crazy. But true.
So, as has become tradition...
please dear readers, dig way back into the archives of this past year and tell us...

What was your favorite post from this old blog this past year?
Anything from Oct 2008 - Nov 2009 is fair game.
We'll take what you say and then, about a week from now, we'll post the Top 10 List from our Third Year of Blogging. (I've even turned anonymous commenting back on so that everyone can "vote").

Our 1st Blogiversary, 2007 - click here and here.
Our 2nd Blogiversary, 2008 - click here and here.

Blogging: Three Years On


When we started this blog, in October of 2006, K & O were tiny two-year olds and Meera was not even on the radar; I did not have tenure and Braydon was still working at his big-time corporate job; we were beginning our blogging without having any idea what would come of it. We've posted a lot of blog posts since then. What a long strange trip this blog thing has been. In the beginning I could never have anticipated that hundreds of people would come to find our little on-going story interesting enough to read it everyday. More than anything, over the past three years I've been humbled at the concept that people want to read "us." Sometimes we get comments or emails that just stun me in their sweetness and graciousness. And I've been so gratified in knowing that our little blogging habit has turned out to be of value to some people out there in the blogosphere. But the blogosphere has also stunned us in its cruelty too. Cruelty of any kind never ceases to perplex me. Over the course of the past three years of blogging, people have said (well, written) some terrible, nasty, hateful, hurtful things to us in comments and emails. We've tried not to let it get us down. There are, after all, about 100 "nice" comments for every "not nice" one. But still, if truth be told, the words and sentiments and general-spirit-of-hurtfulness succeed in what they set out to do: they hurt us. And sometimes the blog has been used against us in ways we never could have anticipated, even by people 'close' to us in real life. And as time goes on we continue to question the issues of privacy and vulnerability and transparency that our blog raises for us and our kids. But, despite our questioning of it, and despite many deep conversations pondering the stopping of it, we keep on doing it. We keep on blogging it. Why? Well, mostly, to be honest, at this point, for ourselves and our kids. We have come to see this blog as -- among many other things -- a way to preserve these moments in our life. It is a record of where we've been along this journey. And we feel compelled to make that record. Having it out there for others to see is a blessing and a curse. A curse in the sense that we have to deal with all the nuanced ramifications of our blog's public face. A blessing because it keeps us honest, it keeps us going (if nobody was counting on reading it there would surely be many a night/week/month that we'd just not do it), and it keeps us reminded of some of the important things in which we believe in this world. I'm so glad that other adoptive families (or those considering adoption), who so often feel isolated, can find us here; I'm so glad that female PhD students, who are struggling to make their own way in the academic world, can find us here; I'm so glad that our friends and family can see pictures of our gorgeous growing kids here. Etcetera. For the time being, the positives still outweigh the negatives for us, so we keep at it. At least for now, we keep on blogging. With real gratitude, from us to you, thank you to all of you out there who read us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

5 Book-CD-Sets We Love


Skippyjon Jones Lost in Spice, by Judy Schachner, author & illustrator
Kyle and Owen have got to be two of the most wild-crazy-rambunctious-off-the-wall boys you'll ever meet. Seriously... they are a match for Skippyjon himself! We've had the original Skippyjon Jones book for awhile now, and K & O love it (so does Margie, because she loves the bi-lingual nature of the text and the fun plays-on-words). But just last week, from the "Candy Witch," K & O received Skippyjon Jones Lost in Spice. The CD that was included quickly became one of their most beloved possessions. Tonight, before bed, less than one week after this book hit our house, Kyle and Owen -- in unison -- "read" me (i.e., they aren't actually reading it, they have it memorized) the ENTIRE BOOK. All 30 pages, every word of every page! I was literally in utter shock to witness this! If you know this book, you know how unbelievable this is. This book is definitely their #1 fav right now.
*

What I Be, by Michael Franti, illustrations by Ben Hodson
All five of us love Michael Franti, and all five of us love this book-CD-set!
*

The Composer Is Dead, Written by Lemony Snicket,
Music by Nathaniel Stookey, Illustrations by Carson Ellis
Never forget: Kyle, Owen, and Meera's Papi has a doctorate in music composition. This book is a little over the bambinos' heads right now, but looking at the book and listening to the CD with Papi makes it totally lovable. Any classical music lover (and children thereof!) will deeply appreciate this book. If you read it you'll understand why.
*

What can I say? This is just awesome. I wish every household could have a copy.
*

Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, Illustrated by Peter Malone
A classic. This version has incredible illustrations. I remember Braydon and I talking, long before we ever had children of our own, about wanting to make sure our kids would know well this "musical fairy tale in which each character is played by a different instrument of the orchestra"... and now they do! K & O have been listening to this/reading this for years already. And now Meera is just as mesmerized by it as her brothers are.
*
Note, for the record: I have absolutely no affiliation whatsoever with any of the producers of any of these books. Nobody is giving me anything to write this.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Kyle & Meera Play the Piano


These two have a really sweet, quiet way about them together. It is precious and loving and the epitome of a sort of best-case-"big brother and little sister"-scenario. Kyle is extraordinarily protective of Meera and is always incredibly concerned about her well-being. He looks out for her to the 9th degree. And Meera, well, Meera just absolutely adores Kyle beyond beyond. She and he give quiet kisses to each other multiple times each day-- not for show or because they think we'll think it is "cute," but rather, it seems, just because. It is a blessing for us to watch them together in their sweet, quiet way.

Concentration: 17-Month-Old Version


When Kyle and Owen were Meera's age they loved this "game" that I invented for them: pushing wooden popsicle sticks through the slight slit of an old Clorox Wipes container. I can remember spending what seemed like hours upon hours sitting on the floor with K & O, watching them -- with full concentration -- working hard to carefully push popsicle stick after popsicle stick into that plastic container. A couple of weekends ago, while digging for "new toys" for Meera in the big bin of hand-me-downs in the basement, I found that old baby game. I had forgotten all about it, but I knew immediately that Meera would love it. She sat on my lap while Owen taught her how to do it. Since then I have spent hours upon hours sitting on the floor with Meera, watching her -- with full concentration -- working hard to carefully push popsicle stick after popsicle stick into that plastic container.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Meera Today


Today

Today we went with the Petsch family to an annual Apple Festival. Despite the crazy-huge crowds of people, we had a great time. Lori posted about it here. All five of us J-M's really, really love the Petsch's!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Lehigh vs. Holy Cross



Today was the most perfect football day. We have loved football games at Lehigh this fall and this was probably our last one of the season. Kyle is totally into it. He is right in the middle of the ruckus of kids who all "play football" (i.e., tackle each other while chasing a ball) on the grass where we sit on the side of the field. Whenever a field goal is kicked Kyle is right in the middle of the mega-tackle pile-up to try to catch it from the sideline. While we're at these games Kyle is a football player (he is not a bystander). He brings his football to the game and has no problem making instant friends with any kid who will "play football" with him. Owen and Meera, on the other hand, take after their parents. They are much more into the socializing (for the two of them this equates to flirting, big-time, with everyone who will flirt back) and partaking of football-stadium-food-and-drink (today Owen had, amongst other things, hot chocolate, which was an especially special treat!). While Owen chatted up a whole bunch of very cute college girls, and Kyle tackled a slew of ten-year-old boys, and Meera played cutesie peek-a-boo with a family sitting behind us, a football game was actually being played on the field. Lehigh lost, again, but it barely even mattered -- today was the most perfect football day.