Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Reunion, of Sorts

All five of our kids have been "open adoptions but their stories are different. Here is one.

For most of her life, our 14-year-old, "Pepper," has had no interest in meeting her birth family.  She is a calm sort of person.  It looked like she had decided she would know when the time was right.  On occasion when I brought it up, I had assured her that I would do what I could to help her if she ever changed her mind.

In truth, I felt this was the best decision for her because her birth mother never responded to my letters and photos.  Although it was an open adoption, that does not necessarily mean that the parties meet.  Many years ago, I spoke briefly with her birth grandmother who assured me that B-mom was always excited to get the letters and photos, but was not yet ready to see us.  In subsequent years, I regularly searched for the family on the internet and in this way learned when one of Pepper's half-brothers died in a car accident.

In December  of 2009, I sent her a Christmas card with a handful of photos.  In early January, the card came back and the postmaster had handwritten on the envelope, "Sorry.  Deceased."  She was a woman my age!  Shocked, I scoured the internet for an obituary.  Sure enough, I found it -- she had died in January of cancer.  Oh dear.

I was a terrible thing to have to tell our child.  She was in shock for a few weeks and then she grieved.  Oh, how she grieved.  I think the biggest loss was that of the opportunity to meet her birth-mother.  She had reserved this for when she was "ready" and I had supported this choice, neither of us remembering that we never know how many days we have to accomplish such things.

I wrote the funeral home and they promised to forward a note to Bmom's mother.  I sent off a sympathy card and 3 days later, the phone rang.  It was Pepper's birth-grandmother.  I could hear her voice shaking as she identified herself.  In a few sentences, she filled in the details of her daughter's illness and death.   I heard myself promise to bring Pepper to meet her -- with no idea how I would convince my daughter to do such a thing.

About the same time, I realized that Pepper's surviving half-siblings would all be adults.  I looked for the only female child online and found her in My Space.  I sent her a brief note that read, essentially, "I was sorry to learn of the death of your mother.  I am Pepper's mom.  Do you know who I am? If you do and are willing, I'd like to be in touch with you."

Only hours later, she responded.  I couldn't believe it.  Not only did she know who I was, she had been looking for us.  She and I became My Space and then Facebook friends.  A few weeks later, Pepper "friended" her too.  We finally set a date in April to make the 5 hour drive to Pepper's birth city to meet her Grandmother and birth sister.

The day for the meeting finally arrived.  Birth-grandma had just had knee replacement so she was in a rehab facility and the meeting would take place there.  Birth-sister and her 10 month old baby would meet us in her grandmother's room.

Even though this meeting took place 9 months ago, I have a few salient memories.  First and foremost, I remember B-Grandma's ear to ear smile when we walked in.  In pain and temporarily bed-ridden, she was still the consumate hostess.

"Come here, honey," she said to my daughter; "Sit down and let me talk to you."

She told my daughter the circumstances of her birth and the reasons her birth family -- not only her birth mother -- made an adoption plan for her.  We were both surprised to learn that Pepper's birth mother and her birth uncle had also been adopted.  B-Grandma reiterated over and over that love was the overriding reason for the plan.  It was balm for my daughter's aching heart.

The meeting with her birth sister was equally surprising. She and my daughter look quite alike and have the exact same mouth. It was uncanny.  As we visited in B-Grandma's room, sister was pretty quiet, but at lunch afterward, she talked a lot about her life growing up.  She had been 7 when my daughter was born, and she had not had an easy childhood and adolescence.   Those stories were hard for my daughter to learn.

We ended the day with a visit to the foster family that loved her for her first three weeks.  In many ways, this redeemed the visit.  Seeing the love with which they surrounded each of their foster kids, partaking of their love of cooking, being in their warm home (and warm embrace) made her day.  She needed to end the day on a high note and this did it.  I am not sure what the future holds, but I think it holds more meetings, more photos, and more depth of knowledge.  And as Pepper gets to know herself, we know ourselves better too, somehow.

Grief and loss is inherent in the adoption process.   The infertile couple has lost something, the birth family have lost something and, certainly, the adopted person has lost something.  As parents who long ago began to love this child unconditionally, we can temporarily forget.  But she can never forget and there is always a remnant of that loss with her.  It is holy ground to walk alongside someone on such a path.

Is our open adoption story like the fairy-tale we were presented at our first adoption seminar?  No, but we had done our adoption research and we were prepared for complications which we have in fact, encountered.  More importantly, perhaps, it is our open adoption story and it is still unfolding with each of our kids.

(Note -- I am sorry for the long delay in bringing this story "to press."  Our storage device crashed some months ago and it has taken a long time to retrieve the pictures; I finally decided to publish now and add pics later.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I've lived in Texas a long time so there is quite a bit of Spanish mixed into my vocabulary. Obviously,  I want the kids to know Spanish, so I am sharing my meager knowledge figuring we will have a plan for formal learning later.

Yesterday I was rushing around trying to get supper on the table and of course everyone under 4 feet tall seemed to be under my two feet the whole time.  The Captain was entertaining everyone with a paper airplane Grandma made him on Monday.  Finally I said, "Can you please fly your airplane outside the kitchen?"

"Okay, Mama."  Out he went with his two followers.

"Gracias," I said.

He smiled.

"Do you know what 'gracias' means?" I queried.

"It means 'Get out of my kitchen!'"

Okay.  We'll leave it at that for now!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


The Blitz has found a couple of new ways to wreak havoc in his little world. He is still small enough to walk under open drawers in the kitchen but recently discovered he can reach over his head.  So he opens the drawer and fishes around to see what he reach.  He has known for some time where the "hair stuff" drawer is but has recently taken an interest in discovering the contents of all the other drawers.

He spent quite a while Saturday pushing a stool around the kitchen.  This enabled him to reach the stuff on the counters that we have carefully pushed just out of reach.  He was very amused by this game and ran around the kitchen climbing up on the stool and yelling "touch it!" I tried to get this silly activity on tape, but got the camera on just in time to witness him finding something actually interesting. So at least I have a little clip of that bit!  (I still have not figured out how to get my videos to load directly to my blog but at least I figured out how to embed the YouTube clip!)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Makeover Day

Sometimes a picture truly is worth a thousand words.

Here's a link to a silly video  I made during the photo shoot.

And for something completely different, a couple of seconds of Bennie saying Cock-a-doodle-do.

Friday, January 7, 2011

"I Did It!"

These days the most commonly heard phrase in the house is, "I did it!"  Yesterday The Captain became commander of his wardrobe.  He buttoned his shirt.  It was a two-button shirt but he did it in such a way that he only needed to button one of them.  Here's the photo evidence. 

He is also gaining pretty good command of language.  The other day he was put in a rare time-out for hitting Tink -- even though she had it coming!  When his time-out was over, I said, "Why were you in time out?"  He looked mournfully at the floor and said, "Well, Mom,  I made a poor choice."  I had a terrible time not just cracking up.

The Tink is busy as ever, but we have managed to direct at least some of her business to toys.  She is a big fan of our new horse, "Elbow."  Here she is giving her new baby (also from Santa) a ride. 

She is still Little Mama.  If I even whisper the word, "laundry,"  she drops everything to run in there and help me.  The Blitz is usually hot on her tail but he is significantly less helpful. Tink pulls the clothes out of the dryer and throws them up on the washer for folding and then pushes the wet clothes into the dryer.  All the kids love this game and try to get their heads beneath the falling clothes to get the laundry on their heads. Sillies.

The Blitz has been enjoying dumping out all the blocks and books lately.  I keep telling myself that it is a developmental stage but things around here have never been messier.  Yikes.  But look at him -- he's so cute!  He was a huge fan of the Christmas music and has a charming rendition of Jingles bells that involves a lot of head bobbing and yelling "Hey!!"   

He is talking SOOOOO well these days.  One Tuesday night when I was putting him to bed, he said "Hee hee," which means "help me" get into bed.  The next morning when I was dressing him, he looked at me and said, plain as day, "Help me."  He is working to refine his language and is so proud of himself.

Pepper and Sunshine have been so busy, I've hardly seen them.  We've had lots of spending the night, both here and away; is this the world of teens?  I miss them!  Sunshine is headed to Houston this weekend for a special Sweet Sixteen party for a friend -- I will get a picture of her in her new dress.  Likewise, Pepper is headed to the opera re-cast tomorrow with Aunt Dark -- I'll get a picture of her all dressed up too.

I'm glad Paul is back to work, Pepper and The Captain are back to school and I can start to tame the mess.  We all were ready for resumption of "normal" life!  That's it for now --thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Grandma Huntley

Today my Grandma, Ada Poland Huntley, would have been 105.   She was the wife to Guy Huntley and mother to 9 boys and 1 girl, 4 of them already passed on.  All of them are living or have lived interesting and productive lives.  She loved each and every one of her kids and was widely known as a good cook who could create something delicious from virtually nothing.

I lived over 1000 miles away from her for most of my life, so I did not get to know her well when I was young.  However, when I was 9 or 10 years old, she came to stay with us and left me with one memory so vivid I can still taste it.  She taught me how to bake bread.

I remember she got a little cross with me because I wanted to go play while it was rising.  She set me straight right away.  Instead at her behest, I sat with her at the kitchen table and she taught me how to play solitare.  There is something very wise in teaching a kid to entertain herself.

When that bread came out of the oven, it smelled heavenly.  And although I had been spoiled by my mom all my life with homemade bread, none ever tasted so good as those first loaves I baked by my own hand.  That was some 40 years ago and to this day, I never bake bread without thinking of her.  She did so much more than teach me the art of dough making, kneading and baking.  She invited me to cook, which has been my creative outlet of choice ever since.

Grandma was like so many of the mentors of my life:  She taught me something which was in this case a process, bread making.  But more importantly, she recognized that glimmer -- that spark of true passion -- and she blew on and tended and fanned that spark until it burst into flame.  That is what the best teachers, coaches and mentors do and if you are not blessed to have such a mentor or coach like that in your life right this minute, drop everything until you find one!

 I still, on occasion, bake bread.  Five children and calorie cutbacks have curtailed that a bit.  But every day -- every single day -- I love creating nourishing and delicious food for myself and my family.  It is my favorite part of every day.  Thank you, Grandma.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

9th Day of Christmas

It's the 9th day of Christmas and it still looks like it around here!  The kitchen seems to stay a perpetual mess and I have to admit, I am really glad the feasting is over!  Yesterday we had a modest feast of ham, mashed potatoes and black-eyed peas --- but since I did the potatoes in a big batch for freezing, it took 45 minutes to peel them and all hands to get the meal out. 

I don't have too many pictures of Christmas since I was too busy having fun to take pictures, but here are a couple of shots from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  I have few pictures of the big girls -- probably because they were as busy as I was!!

The tree before the Grandparent presents filled the room!
The Blitz ready for church

Christmas Doll Baby -- don't you love the Miss Muffet leggings?

First sighing of Santa's bounty

Sit and Spin!

The Captain in a rare moment OFF the horse!

Aunt Dar

I couldn't get this photo in the right spot!

Sunshine, Tink, Pepper, The Captain and The Blitz