Monday, April 30, 2012

Bone Guy

Sis’s birthday box from Grandma contained goodies for everyone. Peanut received twenty pairs of princess panties because Grandma knows that the kid has a strong aversion to clothing, over which she is happy to go ten rounds every single day. Grandma made a twenty-pair investment in my sanity for which I am deeply grateful (and so far so good – she came home, put them on and promptly tried to marry her brother).

Mister unwrapped a plastic hand skeleton and very fine replica of the human pelvis. Papa is retired from his medical practice and did not need extra bones sitting around the house. Mister yelped, snatched the severed arm from its box and began waving it around the car like a flag. Sis alternated covering her eyes and ears, yelling, “Why did Grandma have to send that! It just freaks me out.” Peanut, dead-pan, weighed in. “It doesn’t freak me out.” I closed the slider on the van and pretended I couldn’t hear anything.

Sis used to think bones were cool. She even referred to her own skeleton affectionately as Bone Guy, as in “Good thing I have a Bone Guy, otherwise I would fall on the ground.” But somewhere between toddlerhood and elementary school she figured out that when we talk about bones we are usually talking about things that are dark, scary, unspeakable, shadowy, and permanent.

Tonight I walked by Mister’s room to find the bony hand reaching out of its box, across his pillow. I love that his curious mind loves bones. And I wonder if he remembers the conversation we had around the dinner table last October, when he told us he needed a brother with brown skin like him. That conversation prompted some real talk about how adoption works, birthmothers, and eventually birthfathers. We talked about how Mister’s birthfather had died after Mister was born.

Mister asked questions about his death, quietly processed the bits I could offer, and then asked if we could someday “go and find the spot.” I want our conversations about adoption to be open and honest and validating so I tried for a serious, empathetic response.

“Ya. That would be very special,” I said. “I don’t know if we could find it, but we could sure try.”

“Ya. We could find the spot, and bring shovels.”

I looked across the table to my husband for back-up before I remembered that he was working late.

“Shovels. Hmmmm. Why would we need shovels?”

“So we could dig him up.”

“I don’t know about that, Baby. We don’t usually dig people up after they die. Plus, after awhile, there isn’t anything to see except bones?”

“Yup. We could dig up the bones and bring them home with us.”

Whenever my son and I talk about adoption, I try to listen closely to the deep well of his heart, packaged as it is in little boy language. I listen for truth, as he has a history of telling it. And this conversation was no different. I had just told my son that his first father had died around the time of his birth and he had told me that he needs to be close to those bones. So we kept talking.

“What would we do with those bones, Baby?”

He had his answer ready.

“We could use them to decorate our house. We could put lights in them and make them glow up.” Sis giggled.

And I remembered that it was almost Halloween. Death, discussed in October, is flavored with celebration, glitter, and lights. Death, discussed in October, is mixed into a stew of masks, pumpkins and curling, golden maple leaves. Death, discussed with a four-year old in October, is strangely filled with mystery and promise. October lets my baby tell me that he needs to be near bones. October makes it okay to call from the earth all that has gone missing.

So, I guess is some ways, it is always Halloween at our house. I think about bones as symbols of loss and my baby boy sees bones as viable option for decoration.

We know that the things that hold us up and give us structure are breakable and we know that our breakable bones will likely be the last thing we give back to the earth. And we also know that the big Sis is scared of bones, which means the year ahead is one of rich promise for one very pleased and rascally little brother.

Exodus 13:19: Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.”

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Big Sis had her birthday party at the local gymnastics center. My husband and I stood by while ten sweaty kids looped around us – over barrels, through the foam pit, over the balance beam, down the slide, and back again. Peanut borrowed a leotard, four sizes too big, and did her best to keep up.

As I was packing the car in preparation for the party, Peanut wandered by to inform me that she would be wearing a gin-nas-tix suit for the party so that she wouldn’t get any ginnastix on her. But as it turns out, the place was stinky, smelling just like you might expect from a warehouse-turned-gymnasium (full of mats over which bare kid feet run amok). The two little ceiling fans did their best to spread the feet smell evenly throughout the building. We all ended up with a little ginnastix on us.

But it was worth it. Birthday girl had fun and all the tired babies were in bed by seven. Now that the 2012 round of kid birthdays is in the past, the children have moved on to planning for 2013. There are only 200 days left until KidBirthdays 2013, and the frenzy of planning may not subside. Peanut came down to our room at 5:45 am this morning to ask if it was her birthday yet. She plans to have her party at home. She doesn’t want to invite any people, only stuffed animals and presents. Mister wants to go bowling, with two lanes so that the boys don’t have to bowl with the girls.

All this ridiculous focus on birthdays is silly and wasteful and lovely. I am glad these little people know that we love to celebrate them in ways big and small, that the day they took their first breath was a day the heavens smiled.

Nice to Meet You

Sis had a birthday this weekend. She and I frosted cupcakes Friday afternoon and I told her again how happy I am that she was born. “I am happy I was born, too.’ She said. “And one of the best things about being born was getting to meet you.”
My heart smiled deep and wide. It was a sweet thing to say. It was also quintessentially her. This little miss came from the womb fancying herself an individual. And as such, she has been making plans (since birth, I think) about moving away: when she was two weeks old I couldn’t find her because she had wiggled herself out of sight under the coffee table. At two years old we had to promise to carry her to the sea when she turned into a mermaid. And the other day she asked me with a straight face if she could take a book she is fond of when she moves out. I said yes. So, I am so glad she is glad that she got the chance to meet me. And I am also so glad that I got the chance to meet her back. She is smart and silly, earnest and caring, a tornado of creativity and a really good friend. She may not think she needs me, but I know the big wide world needs her and I am thankful to be her mom.
Proverbs 31: “Her arms are strong for the task, she can laugh at all the days to come.”

Friday, April 27, 2012

Almost Summer

It is almost summer, the season where I hope to write more and teach the children how to cook and clean for themselves. But it is not quite summer yet, so I leave you only this photo which captured a tender family moment when one of my aunts said, "Someone get that homeless girl out of the picture." There is nothing funny about being homeless, so I should just keep the moment to myself. But I share it as a symbol of my summer dream of ill-dressed and seldom-bathed children running beneath a forest canopy looking for slugs. Here's to dirt, sunshine, and so much time with the babies I go cross-eyed.