31 December 2011

in review.

in lieu of a functioning brain, i'm channeling 2008 and bringing back this end-of-year meme. you can thank me later.


1. what did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?
ate brussel sprouts. (i had my doubts, but shannan does not lie.)

2. did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
mostly not, i'm sad to report. and still i'm bound to make more.

3. did anyone close to you give birth?
no new nieces or nephews, but i have BIG plans for k&b. (y'all have some major catching up to do: aim for triplets.)

4. did anyone close to you die?
church family, but i'll catch them on the other side.

5. what countries did you visit?
ethiopia. twice. also, i visited the fine airports of the netherlands and germany plus a lovely landing strip in sudan.

6. what would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
insight into what makes my five year old hum.

7. what date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
july third. seventeen months after first spying our son's deliciously impish face, we got to bring him on home.

8. what was your biggest achievement of the year?
recognizing that i do not hold the Secret Keys to All Parenting Wisdom. which y'all were clear on, but it was groundbreaking for me.

9. what was your biggest failure?
all the times i had the chance to love someone up, but wasn't in the mood.

10. did you suffer illness or injury?
nothing notable, apart from the occasional suspicion that a certain small someone has KIDNAPPED MY SANITY.

11. what was the best thing you bought?
plane tickets to ethiopia. twice.

12. whose behavior merited celebration?
the little gal who sat next to us on flight number two (or maybe three) and pretended my son was not draping his elbow, his hand, his forehead, the entire-lower-half-of-his-body across her lap every twenty seconds.

(where is 13? i have lost 13. alas.)

14. where did most of your money go?
plane tickets to ethiopia. twice. (it's a recurring theme)

15. what did you get really, really, really excited about?
plane tickets to ethiopia. twice.

16. what song(s) will always remind you of 2011?
in your arms. mandi mapes. you knew i was going to say it.

17. compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? tired-er.
b) thinner or fatter? well, my jeans still zip, so there's that.
c) richer or poorer? richer in the ways that count for something.

18. what do you wish you'd done more of?
affirming my children. making the people around me feel valued. push ups. (copied straight from 2008. still rings true.)

19. what do you wish you'd done less of?
nattering at a child who turns off his hearing the second i say his name.

20. how will you be spending christmas?
i spent it with my church family, home family and michigander family.

21. where did you begin the year; and where will you end it?
at home watching the ball drop (while the kids said, that's it? we stayed up for that?); hearty-partying with our church small group in the innards of our living room.

22. did you fall in love in 2011?
i continued to choose love, so yes.

23. how many one-night stands?
see #22.

24. what was your favorite TV program?
sesame street. that's a beautiful hour, i tell you what.

25. do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

26. what was the best book you read?
best rereads: tozer's pursuit of God, marchetta's jellicoe road
best new reads: schwab's near witch and stockett's the help, which technically i only read half of because guess what i bought? tickets to ethiopia. twice. and then all normalcy fled to the hills.

27. what was your greatest musical discovery?
it turns out i don't actually have time for great musical discoveries.

28. what did you want and get?
everyone together now: tickets to ethiopia. twice.

29. what did you want and not get?
tickets to fiji. not even once. :(

30. what was your favorite film of this year?
the last of harry potter. fare thee well, hogwarts.

31. what did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
i am thirty five, which is my best age yet, i think. i saw some of my favorite gals at prayer group, ate lava cake made by the mister, got to see my group of teen girls at church, played voicemails from my little brother and a bff from high school.

32. what one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
a heightened ability to see beyond myself.

33. how would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
my personal fashion concept is that the general public should be happy i managed to get rinsed off and dressed, period.

34. what kept you sane?
God and friends who pray (and knit).

35. which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
pink. (she wins most years.) (i know, but don't judge me.)

36. what political issue stirred you the most?
i am pleading the fifth on this one.

37. who did you miss?
see directly below.

38. who was the best new person you met?
little m.

runners up: angelia and lynn and netsanet and landon and mindy and tesfanesh and mieca and jeff and carin and chris and zemecha and andy and lisa and davy and erika and mike (and tariku) and heather and justin and sarah and tizita and elizabeth and asabech and candi and derek and bethie and little m’s friend binyam and lindsey and kevin and holly and casey and steve and meskele and katie and mitike and a whole LOT of people i had to travel 8k miles to find.

39. tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011:
frankfurt airport has the best smelling soap. this may seem piddly, but when you spend fifteen hours there, even the small things take on the sheen of miracles.

40. quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
if you call us to the fire, you will not withdraw your hand. we'll gaze into the flames and look for you.

happy 2011, friends. see you all in the new year.

29 December 2011


i know i say this in april and june and october, but this very well might be my favorite time of year. the four biggers are home for a pair of low-key weeks, and we sport jammy pants and salt popcorn and fritter the hours away.

also, there's something to be said about my approval rating climbing 80% when our daytime kid-population jumps to five.


i've been staying up late rereading my adoption-attachment books, which is good for me because even though most of the text doesn't apply to little m's experience, it still helps me frame our conflicts with compassion. like shannan sagely said over tb soft drinks, we're his people. in this world swimming with humanity, we're the ones. the ones who will root for him and pick him up and think he's the bees knees, tantruming or not.

and so today, again, i choose to be on his side. not because i'm selfless and patient like that, but because i am first loved with such hugeness it blows my heart over every time. and because God is crazy about little m, and i'm pretty much just passing the message along.

if you think of it, please pray for us. the struggle for peace bleeds all of us weak, and i can especially tell right now how it wears on our older four. pray that i will see them, that i will love them up and down and sideways.

thanks, friends. y'all are my people.

25 December 2011


we've had some days with eleven out of fourteen waking hours dedicated to the fine art of wailing. but we've also had times of silly and peace and together.

and sometimes it's gift enough just to know that our newest guy can be happy here with us.

today we're relishing our first christmas as seven, our hearts split wide to the wonder of a God who pursues us.

from our piggies to yours,

merry christmas.

15 December 2011


1. my genius pal lisa (on whom i may or may not have a sizeable girl-crush) knitted these scrumptious fellows, and can i just say? they are like wearing clouds on your hands, only warmer.

2. my smallest guy has decided that maybe life is a happy thing after all.

and suddenly we are getting to try actual homeschoolish stuff and painting and playdough and songs and after six solid months of complete disregard of the parental units, it’s a full-stringed symphony to my ears to hear him chirp okay mom!

2b. also, i think he may be learning how to play.

when we first met little m, his idea of a rollicking time was sitting in one spot on the floor and placing blocks in meticulous rows. he didn't want to careen cars or build, and when he came home he showed zero interest in the stuffed hippo elle had bought him. but now he's beginning to stack legos and silly-whisper to his bear and he's still so emotionally young, but it makes my heart hope big things for him.

3. saturday we attended our little podunk of a town's luminary festival, where there were two sheep and two donkeys and it was freezing. however. we made off with some cookies and a hefty bag of kettle corn, and had ourselves a right quilt-picnic back home.

4. i'm guest-posting at hannah's space today. please stop by and say hello. :)

5. and so maybe just one more peek:

6. have you joined the advent conspiracy? if not, take a gander at this:

[AC] Promo 2011 from Advent Conspiracy on Vimeo.

and then thoughtfully consider giving water or an education or medical care. because we really can shake this world with joy--and live loud the praise to our Savior-King--one little life at a time.

10 December 2011


he showed up squalling and pink-wrinkled beautiful and the best thing i'd ever seen. and when, two days later, the hospital sent us on home i kept thinking, are you sure? you're seriously trusting us with an actual human being?

and fourteen years later we still don't know what we're doing, and this boy, our firstborn, he's patient and easy as he walks us through the finer steps of growing toddlers and fifth graders and teenagers.

he's a bunch of exuberance under sometimes-shy, and pesters and nurtures his siblings in equal parts. he's cautious, quickly bruised, responsible. he blooms this smile, warm and quick, like july.

we're bent toward expecting too much of him at every age, and it's a miraculous, beautiful thing to watch him flourish in spite of all the holes in our so-called parenting. he's growing straight up in love with Jesus.

happy birthday, b. you're the best kind of wonderful.

28 November 2011

grace. and stuff.

it's been quite the week. we've had gusty bright days where all that sun in your hair feels like summer, and then days like right this very instant where the wind whistles a thirty degree tune in e minor.

thursday morning, just as we were packing up to truck over to the mister's folks, little m took a spill and smacked his head and sent us off to the hospital instead. and while i hope to never repeat that particular thanksgiving experience again, i am glad for the small gifts attached: for the time spent focused on our littlest person, and for a bit of insight into the unique workings of his body that could prove Mighty Valuable for the coming years.

and as a side note, connecting and attaching in adoption is a jungly two-way street, slow and tricky and riddled with sanity-eating plants. some of y'all are tossing around that seed of an idea that maybe you'd like to adopt, and you've emailed honest questions like but what if i never feel like he's my son? and i'm glad for your heart and glad for your questions and glad to tell you that in harrowing times when you can't spare a second to rationalize and talk yourself in or out of love and there is only space to feel, the iron jaws of panic clamp down every bit as steely whether you birthed this child or prayed him home. i'm his and he's mine.

so the mister's family came this way instead and we had turkeyish leftovers plus many pies. also last week we did Christmas photos and thankful leaves and several of us got the stomach flu and elle fashioned costumes for a thanksgiving play. i got to be the boy pilgrim, as it was the least coveted role amongst the under-ten crowd. (everyone wants to be Girl Pilgrim or Squanto. pish, i say.)

[elle modeling her costumes. folks, Boy Pilgrim is nothing to sneeze at. just look at that hat.]

and last night? last night. for the very first time in the history of ever, when i said i love you to little m, he didn't answer back with his usual 'kay. it went like this instead:

i love you.
love you.

and so okay, maybe he was just parroting my words, but you know what? i'll absolutely take it.

thankful today, for

#180 crystal, who came when i called

#181 good nurses

#182 color and light inside (when all of the outside is grey)

#183 friends who whisk me away for girly-nights and the chance to get in touch with my inner-human

#184 children who teach me to give thanks

#185 providence and upholding in all our fragility

#186 mint pudding pie

#187 six o'clock light

15 November 2011


it's two noisy weeks of splitting bathrooms eleven ways and cooking for a crowd and rousing games around the kitchen table and just like that they're gone.

[noel, mum, dad: a quick backyard portrait before flying out]

i tend to be a ridiculous version of myself when my folks are here. i'm a mess of petty and impatient, my jokes drowning in sarcasm. you'd think i'd be more careful with this small time pressed thin between years of absence.

but there's laughter too, and the sort of knowing that comes from decades of their stories twined with mine. and even if we spend half the time all up in each other's hair, these are my people.

[left: noel's 'candid' shot, right: my veryfavorite little brother]

[photo courtesy of mom]

and i'm so glad i'm theirs.

thankfuls #173-179:

noel charading 'cocktail dress'
boxes of fabric scraps from my late grandma, hoping to become quilts
hearty thunderstorms
tangy bowls of vegetable soup
flannel lined sleeping bags
my dad's wheezy laugh
a fresh stack of books from the library

11 November 2011

first snow.

on wednesday the hardier folk among us (otherwise known as not me) braved the bluster and cold and combed our lawn into crunchy piles.

there may have been jumping and burrowing involved.

[zee camped out under the umbrella and retracted into his shell whenever i swung the camera his way.]

then yesterday evening my madre’s deepest yearning came true:

it began as a light salting, and the kiddos (plus the grandma and great-aunt from hawaii) shrieked SNOW! and clambered into mittens and coats. and then the bowl of sky split wide and snow swarmed thick around us and we shivery-danced in the first official dousing of november.

the small folk and i are bound to have a change of heart come january, but right now? we* are crazy in love.

*i have no photographic proof for you, but believe you me that little m was not one bit amused with this frigid weathery stuff. he might be in for a disappointing six months.

04 November 2011

soul food.

last friday when i'd reached the last feeble thread at the end of my rope, the mister took little m for the day. i got to scrub the shower and paint my desk and fold stacks of fabric and eat my first conflict-free lunch in four months. it's a beautiful thing to have enough quiet to taste my soup.

my folks arrived fresh from oahu this week with my little brother and aunt in tow. they hand-carried sushi rolls and manapua, stuffed the crannies of their suitcases with candies and shelled out a small fortune to check a box of home-grown coffee plus goodies for the kids. in em's words: christmas showed up early this year. indeed.

my brother noel is a walking comedy routine and raves over my cajun pasta and is teaching the kiddos rubber band tricks. dad's been playing chess with zee and bee, my aunt reads and plays memory with the littles, and mom cooks a mean beef stew (and pretends she doesn't know the first thing about card games while trouncing us all). they're good for the soul, these people.

also, thank you. i asked you to pray and you did, and it's seeing us through this winnowing season. and i'll likely splinter along a hundred fault lines over and again for a good while yet, but maybe the point isn't to arrive intact at all. maybe it's to still be clinging to Jesus for dear life at the end of the day.

[every single one of you who dropped me a line, i've been praying for you too. and there's something renewing in that, to be a lifeline for someone else in the middle of the hot mess that is currently me.]

ps if you bump into us (or any adoptive family) regular-like, please read this primer on how to handle our special flavor of neurosis. bless you, jen hatmaker.

28 October 2011

unchanging grace.

it's been a long day already. i'm harrowed and spent, and i'm sure little m feels the same.

there are moments in most every day when i wonder if we'll ever get the hang of this, if i'll ever be any use at mothering. and right now, and in every now, the only remedy is Him.

on the occasions i manage to look outside of me, God's fingerprints are everywhere. the burnished oak out back. bean fields scraped clean. the soft oval of my sons' face. it's mercy, all of it, flooding straight from a Father who never retreats.

i rest on His unchanging grace.

* * *

would you keep praying for us, please? and if you don't mind, tell me how i can pray for you today.

thank you, friends.