Three years ago today we were cleared by the Ethiopian government to return to Addis to go fetch Mimi and Fikir. A few days later I jumped on a flight to go get them. It was a horrible weird and intense experience. I remember being terrified of the twelve-year-old Mimi. (Needlessly as it turns out.) I love these girls, admire their souls, their goodness, and am honored to know them and blessed to be their second mother. It's hard to imagine life in our family without the richness and complexity of everyone speaking different languages in all possible senses of the word. Different view points, cultures, life experiences, capabilities, perspectives. No one in our house is on the same page and yet somehow, we have this dance of a hundred steps that cultivates joy, requires continual intentional work and forgiveness and re adjustment and laughter and growth. What these kids all do to join together as a team and to work with Hubs and me to create a family is astonishing. It is a beautiful thing.

And despite the love, the pride I have in seeing these lovely relationships, I simultaneously wrestle on what sometimes seems an hourly basis that I was part of some of the worst trauma a person should ever have to go through. It isn't a passing feeling, or a fleeting memory, it is every day. 

I remember carrying Fikir, the heaviest six-year-old I'd ever encountered, limp through the airport, not from tiredness, but from her brain and body giving up on taking in all-the-$%!t. She was done. She was so brave and so, so done.

We don't celebrate "gotcha day" round these parts. Because that day, on the plane coming to the US? It was a hard day.

Every time, twice a week maybe, a person stops to talk to me and says the dreaded words "Oh, I always wanted to adopt!" I take six to twelve minutes out of my life to breathe deep, turn to them with a steady gaze and say "Actually..." And then I deliver a sermon they weren't asking for. I feel like I am waging a battle against well meaning Christian churches who have "orphan ministries" that encourage their members to follow Jesus and "visit the orphan in their distress" by adopting. I preach that most of those kids are not orphans and do-you-know-who-is-in-distress? Their mothers, sometimes fathers, who need jobs to afford school fees, a trip to the doctor, enough food and rent money. That is who in distress.

I preach to speechless people shuffling feet in horror and awkwardness who love the idea that adopting is saving people. And when they walk away I hope "one less."

Remember that starfish metaphor story, about someone at the seashore tossing starfish into the ocean and another person walking by saying There are too many, you can't save them all. And the thrower thoughtfully answers yes, but I can save this one. 

I hope every time I plant the earworms of "traffickers" and "lies" and "parents alive and loving" and "adoption agencies being sued for fraud" and "life long trauma" it means one less adoption application. I hope it means one more look at charities that support at-risk families. One more person looking at adoption not as a ministry but as a problem that can be prevented if we adjust our thinking to include whole families and not just kids. This is how I get by.

That and ignoring all the nasty folks who come here to tell me all the ways they think I did wrong and what they think they know (but don't) about children in this family and their families in Ethiopia. That's part of what I have to do, too.

A photo from a few months after they'd come to the US, talking to mom.

No, there is no gotcha day. We have hard, good, wonderful, awful whisked in for the last three years. We have each other. And thanks be to God, their family is just a phone call away, and we have them, too.



I am having a hard time finding my words for this blog after so long an absence. The post that I want to write is of the "How to" kind, that when complete will explain and could very well help me expunge the reason the blog had to shut down. But I keep getting tripped up on life and the right words. The "How to" post is largely "How to not be a crappy human and put other families in danger" but ya know, with specifics. But it has felt like a chore to get it all out. So it remains mostly unwritten in the draft folder.

Summer is coming to a close, we are relishing it and squeezing out every last drop by swimming, playing, reveling in sunshine. Big changes in our family and lots of introspection and late nights.

Hubs and me, the duo that keeps on doing are taking on life like a fire hydrant was opened up on us. We wonder if it will ever slow to a trickle.

The post will be written. Soon, I think. But for now, I leave you with this. I met my dear friend in Whole Foods for replenishment this week after we dropped off a child each at school for their first day. Her, a mom to one, me, mom to six home schoolers but now five home schoolers and one schooler. We both sniffed back tears and sought comfort in pastries. And I spotted this card. And we cried some more.

Life is so dark for us sometimes. Maybe we are just growing into something beautiful in that lonely darkness. 


What if?

I am Mormon. Latter Day Saint. It's a Christian religion. I doubt I could be considered a mainstream Mormon. But nevertheless I am one. So I write this piece asking What if it were Mormons? But please insert your own status, your own faith, or the church or someone you love dearly.

What if it were us?

What if it were Mormon churches being burnt down? What if towns with high numbers of Mormons were targeted for  how they dress, what if they were arrested and killed by police at astronomically higher rates than other people? What if Mormons had a hard time getting job interviews because of their wacky ridiculous names and spellings? Stanner, Nephi, Layelah, Guhnner, Dashtyn. Peighton. What if for generations upon generations banks denied loans or gave much high interest rates to Mormons, so they couldn't afford to live in towns with better schools and job opportunities and it became a cycle of poverty? What if Mormons were considered less intelligent, uncooperative, higher risk employees just because they are Mormon? What if teachers found Mormon kids had trouble in school because their home life was disrupted by the low paying jobs, the confrontations with police and fractured families; and to deal with traumatized kids the schools started calling the police on them at younger and younger ages so that way by the time they graduated from high school, if they do graduate, many have a police record.

What if a flag representing the desire people had to own and enslave Mormons (that was put on state buildings a solid 100 years *after* the legal right to own Mormon slaves had been abolished) what if that flag was flown high on government property as a way to say "I know you want more equality, but remember what we did to you great grandparents. Remember who is in charge here." - What if that flag was still flying, and people wanted it up still. A flag that represents torture of the worst kind, torture that hurt your family and tore them from your history with unholy finality so you don't even know exactly where your ancestors are from or what happened to them.

What if people loved that flag that symbolized the violence against Mormons and the supremacy of virtually everyone else?

What if some news stations did their best to excuse and justify the leaders who support actions against Mormons, the police and the killers of Mormons, the people who love that cursed flag, or cops that use pictures of Mormon kids for target practice with real guns; what if those news people and the news executives successfully make the Mormons look like they are asking for all of it. By insinuating sometimes other times flat out saying Mormons should just "act better" and "stop talking back to police" and "dress in a way that doesn't look suspicious." If we Mormons wanted our kids to be better educated we'd move out of those neighborhoods. (Never mind Mormons were forced into those neighborhoods.)

What if it were Mormon churches that were being burnt down this week? What if it were Mormon bishops and Sunday School teachers being shot and in our grief and fear more of our buildings were destroyed?

And what if the attacks were not isolated incidents but rather just more  waves on the tide of continued, unrelenting violence, oppression, discrimination that has been crashing into Mormon shores for hundreds of years?

What if it were my church? My sanctuary? My place where it is supposed to safe to be Mormon since school isn't safe. Walking home with skittles isn't safe. Playing in a park isn't safe. Driving to the hospital isn't safe. Shopping isn't safe. Swimming isn't safe. What if my church where it is safe to be a God-loving-doing-my-best-Mormon was attacked by a gunman, and then in the wake of that tragedy while wounds never able to close are ripped open again and again with fire and destruction.

What if it were my family my neighborhood my life? Can we try to imagine?

How can we hold our black brothers and sisters who are hurting and in fear that their church might be next? How can we show love and put ourselves in shoes that we don't understand?

If we are not feeling fear, outrage, terror at the events of violence against black people and black churches that doesn't mean anything about the wonderful people we are except this: that we have the privilege of it not affecting us at all.

Let it affect us. Let us not sit an apathy and numbness to it all. Let it chill us to the bone. Let it cause us some sleeplessness, some bitten nails, some wringing of hands. Let us remember that we can do more. We can listen more to voices who experience oppression and hate. Let us for starters, look at Bree, not as a criminal, but a hero, like another woman who was once a criminal but now a hero.

Let us hold up in love, prayer and kindness our brothers and sisters who are afraid, for good reason. What a stupid thing that shade of skin has been used by so many to spread hate and violence and apathy to flourish in this world. But it has, and it does.

If it is even possible for us to try, let us ask ourselves what if it were my church, my history, the treatment of my family, how would I feel? What would I want those around me to do or say? Let us keep listening, learning, doing better.

We have to.


Fear Not

Yesterday it happened in a flash, one minute we were getting ready to leave the house, and a cursory glance at the clock telling me we were not moving fast enough did me in. I tried, I really tried to keep things together, keep perspective, but one after another little children were little children and I was me and we as a body of humans trying to leave the house got slower and slower and the seconds persisted in marching at the same rate.

By the time we got in the car I was angry. I didn't lose utter control, but my face, my voice was pure anger. Even as I drove and willed my breathing to slow and my heart rate to calm I tried to figure out, why was I so mad?


If the above phrase from my new favorite television series is true, and I think in many many cases it is, what made me afraid? What fears of mine, what insecurities and vulnerabilities got all dressed up up fancy as Angry?

When I am late I am afraid of speeding and being pulled over and I am terrified of all law enforcement so I have to watch myself being even later and stay very slow despite wanting to hurry. 
When I am late I am afraid other people will not respect me or think I am a bad mother.
When I am late I think of the dollars lost when a child is missing an activity that I paid a lot of money for.
When I am late I am afraid those lost dollars makes me a bad steward of the income Hubs and I have earned and that he will think badly of me for wasting it.
When I am late I am afraid I will always be late to everything and that it will always be this way, this totally out of control feeling of managing autonomous people.
When I am late I am afraid the children are being disrespectful and not valuing my, our, collective time, or the money and effort I expend to have them Do Stuff.
When I am late I fear that I am just not organized enough and that I am bad at Parenting.

All that because we were ten minutes later leaving the house than I had planned. Nothing awful happened because of those ten minutes. But my anger and frustration were real. So what to do with the knowledge that I wasn't just Righteously Angry at my unappreciative turtle children, but that being late exposed a lot of my worries and fears about my own human experience?

How can that help me prevent or decompress anger faster next time? I don't know. But I am willing to work on it. Because if I've learned anything, chewing children out in the car has never ever prevented us from being late the next time. If I want to teach my children to not let worries, fears, trauma, and anxiety control them, the least I can do is tell my own amygdala to pipe down and let my rational brain drive. Partly because I taught them the word Hypocrisy and they haven't been afraid to wield it against me, and partly because the God tells a whole lot of people in the scriptures to Fear Not. Stop worrying. Be Still. 

Next time we are angry, may we have a moment to dissect that crap, figure out what we are afraid of and start the heavy work of being better humans to the people around us. Also, is it Friday yet? No?



Grey Sky

I am weary. Bone and soul weary. I have one of the most privileged lives imaginable. I have never experienced hunger, poverty, discrimination. I have had an excellent academic education since my early years, I have experience chronic consistent excellent health all my life barring my pregnancies which were medical nightmares, BUT, I had access to excellent health care and at the time of my third pregnancy that resulted in a preemie birth, I had excellent insurance that covered more than $150,000 of medical expenses. I probably paid $1000 tops. I have working cars, healthy kids, a big house, easy access to anything I want to do, I have family and friend support, I have online support groups to help with the more eclectic aspects of my life journey like "special needs home schooling for large families" and "feminist Mormon" and "Massachusetts Homesteaders." At a few key strokes I can ask for advice and support in solving all manner of problems in my life.

I have never had an immediate family member be seriously ill or die.

I have been enriched by immersion in the arts from a young age, dance, violin and voice lessons, theater. I grew up in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion listening to the LA Phil, sucking on on the free Halls cough drops to keep folks quiet during concerts. My violin teachers were rock stars, I am a descendant of Ivan Galamian, the penultimate violin player and teacher. I had ballet teachers whom I told I was out of my depth and they encouraged me to stay and keep working. I have been pushed and gently had my hand held though all my days to achieve and dream and have good things in my life.

I have a wonderful family, all sides, with good people, all doing their best in their own spheres. I didn't grow up with alcoholism, divorce, government assistance, trauma.

I grew up attending a church where I was told every week I am a daughter of a loving God who wants me to be happy. I was taught from my earliest memory I have limitless potential and worth.

The hand of cards I've been dealt is so staggeringly unfair it turns my stomach. I have every possible and available tool at my disposable to navigate life successfully, admirably. From the moment I was conceived I was given every tool and circumstance to allow me to parent and be in relationships as gracefully and intentionally as one can.

I have it all. Quite literally. There is no more one can have.

And yet.

With all these blessings and privileges none of which I deserved or earned somehow I still find the act of living, the acts of parenting, the acts of partnering another human in our earthly journey exhausting. Today I am so tired. I am so weary. I am a white lady parenting black kids from a country where they were completely and utterly safe to have brown skin, and I brought them here, to the US where they are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than white people. Where people cross the street to be away from them, or follow them in stores to make sure they aren't stealing. Where if they pull the hood of a sweatshirt up they are seen as threatening and can be shot and no one will be found guilty because black kids are scary to white grown ups. I brought them to this.

Today the ugliness in the world and the challenges of meeting the needs of my children, being the kind of mother children deserve and the kind of wife that a good man deserves seems so far out of the scope of feasibility I just want to crumble under the weight of it.

I have no excuses. I have no disadvantages. I just have me, and this life I built and a massive pile of tools at my disposal, and it's hard.

I find myself asking how can I simplify, how can I scale back, how can I shrug off some of the weight, is that even possible? Should I sell the house, the farm, put them all in school, wash my hands of my disdain for standardized testing and kids sitting for hours on end being forced to memorize stuff that won't stick past the test date? Should I move to a warmer place? Should I say Sorry kids, I had too many kids all the same age and now that you're all doing activities and sports I had no idea how mind-numbingly awful and stressfully expensive it would be to have you do stuff outside our house, so we are going to stop all that. Sorry.

It's not their fault I am overwhelmed. Not one of them asked to be the same age as their sibling. None of them asked to have a mother who is writing a blog post in June with the space heater on at her feet who clearly isn't cut out for New England.

Can stress and worry be reduced when one has six children? I feel like Hamlet asking myself, should I stick to what ills I know, rather than fly to others I know not of. Any sweeping changes I make will have consequences.

How can one measure success at all? Does anyone ever feel like they are enough?

Parents a few hundred years ago were considered successful if their children a) lived b) were able to marry and work as adults. If they squeezed in a few years of schooling in there, a bonus. Ma and Pa Ingalls did not take their children places. They planted and then cut the hay, the cooked and cleaned. And sewed the clothes when they got holes in them. The sheer complexity of living Now with all the things to Do and Be and Manage are wearing me down, all the while acknowledging that the only reason these things are stressful is because I have the Upper Middle Class White Person privilege of not having other things be at the forefront of my stress.

The fact that my emotional and mental security and health have been compromised a few years by racism (this happened very quickly after we adopted our first black child) and the continued, deeper impact racism has on the well being of my family over time is enlightening and staggering. I haven't even been awake to this my whole life. I haven't carried the weight of racism in my hands for very long and it feels unbearable. Where is safe? Seriously. Where is it safe to be a brown person?

This awareness and weight creates wedges. Because now there are the friends and family who are allies, on board, listening and learning how to rethink their world; and then there are those who continue to need to believe that their life is a result of their great choices. That they somehow earned the goodness with their own hard work and with their own pulling up of bootstraps, as opposed to having every thing go completely and utterly right for them starting way back when their great great grandparents got affordable bank loans for a house because they were white and no other reason, and ten minutes later the young black man and his bride visited the bank and were told no, you can't get a loan today. 

There are people who read about the Charleston shooting and tsk and think sad, and then there are people who understand that it is terrifying and horrifying that black people are still targets for hate crimes and violence. They understand that each and every time another brown person is harmed because they have more melanin than me, and just that same amount as some of my children, it causes me, my children, black people all over American stress, pain, fear.

Even every day deciding how much to tell my children about what is going on in the world is a stressful act. How much information arms them with truth, and how much is too much for young shoulders to bear? Since Trayvon Martin was shot, the sheer sickening number of black people killed and their killers -often police but not always- receiving no punishment is staggering. Staggering. And every day I have to choose Do I tell them about this one. I just explained last week about this other racially-based killing. Will it feel too heavy to add this one on top of that one? 

Today with the grey sky oppressive and so close to the ground, operating under two weeks of sleepless nights, nursing nails bitten down to red, painful nubs, I wrestle with my inadequacy for any of it. All of it. I have been given everything I am still woefully incapable.

How does anyone make it, I wonder.


It's That Time

Lots of soccer practice

End of Year Recitals


Baseball games

Cheering from the sidelines (and plenty of goofing around)

Strawberry picking



Car naps after days spent in the sun


Breaks from trampoline back inside

The sheep welcoming committee saying "Hi Mom, Someone forgot to put us back in the pen, so we are just gonna sit on the front porch until you -I mean- 'Someone' gets her crap together."

And of course, swimming. Lots and lots of it. But I have decided to live in the moment thus far and attempt to read and do not bring the camera with me to the pool. Soon Brady will have his cast removed and we can do the beach. The biggies can't wait. Thank God for summer. We earned it, New England, we really did.