Sunday, August 21, 2011

Doing What We Like Best

On the last afternoon before school starts.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday in Pictures

One had football tryouts today in the stinking Texas heat at high noon. I can't even express what this feels like - to stand outside on a treeless field in the middle of the day and sweat as simply as you breathe. He was so thoroughly soaked by the end of it, the permanent Sharpie letters on his tee shirt (identifying him by last name and grade, of course) had run. This is what it all looked like; you won't know what it feels like unless you've done it yourself, once upon a time.

The coaches in their reviewing tents:

Jugs of life-giving elixir:

Some of us, however, stayed home today to watch TV, and so dressed accordingly:

Being 8 is so much easier than being 11, don't you think? And the wardrobe is so much more colorful ...

Despite the heat, One had as much fun today as his brother. He gets more excited about football with every practice, and can't wait for his team assignment. The only thing that would make him less than happy would be if he were put on the A&M team - but since I don't think Antonio Armstrong drafted him today, he's probably safe. For now I hope he keeps enjoying himself, and puts as much of himself into football as he always has into taekwondo. If he does that, he'll be fine.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In his Labor-o-to-ry

The wild scientist goes to work, enjoying the last week of summer vacation with nothing to do except exactly what we like.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Hard Life

"My life is so hard."

I used to have a college roommate who said that, frequently. She would throw herself down in a chair, place the back of her hand against her forehead, and utter those dreadful words at least once a day. And then she would pick herself up, pour herself a glass of Diet Coke, and get on with the story of why life was just so impossible.

I think about those moments a lot, especially when I'm running and running and running, from laundry to work to pick up kids to buy groceries to cook something halfway acceptable (eggs? again?) to washing dishes to trying to remember to work out to falling into bed and asleep before I can turn off the light by my bed.

Sounds exhausting, doesn't it? Well, it is, and then it isn't. It is harder than the awful, dreadful things my 19 year old roommate - she of the Volvo and the 2 vacation homes - were facing? Yup, it's harder. But is it easier than what 99% of the world knows of as life? Yes and yes and yes again.

And if there's even one of you who doesn't believe me, read this and know, just for a moment: we all have it easier than so many other people. There is so much of our lives that we find hard - the traffic, the work, the making ends meet - that is so much easier, just because we do it here, in the richest nation, in the freest place, in all our middle class (or even upper middle class) glory. You all know that already without me saying a single, solitary word - that is adundantly obvious, I'm sure. But click the link and read it anyway, just because you should, even though you know already, and I know that you know, and all that. Just read, and remember.

Remember in gratefulness and not in grief. With alms-giving, born not out of guilt but out of thankgiving. May it always be so. Amen.

The Boy Who Goes To Eleven

We went shopping today, and this is what we got:

I swear I gave birth to him six months ago. What happened? When did his shoe size become a 7 (yes, that's a men's 7). Where did this child go?

With all this evidence in front of me I can only come to one conclusion:

He's growing up.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Balance of Tears

Joyful, sad, all in one week. Isn't that what happens when you're an adult? Last time I thought about it: yup, that was it. I'm far too sad about a whole host of things - maybe it's the hot weather, pressing down on all of us and causing me to check my happiness. Sometimes I think life tries to balance itself out between tears of joy and tears of grief. Sometimes I think it's about as good at that as the Texas weather is about balancing sunshine and rain: not so much these days. We all have both; right now I simply have an over-abundance of sadness.

Today I read Kelly's heartbreaking and beautifully written post of two men my age taken from their families too young and it cut my heart in two. I watched Jennie Parillo's One Last Dance video that she posted of the last time her husband swirled their little girl around the living room and I cried tears of grief (for someone I don't even know) and of fear (for people I do - and love dearly).

I see my gloriously brave neighbor and her family, fighting cancer for the third time in eight years. She is my hero: a woman who faces down death itself and gets a second degree black belt at the same time. She roars and marches on where I would lie down in the middle of the road and give in. And still I'm scared for her - probably more scared than she can allow herself to be. "Oh Lord, visit and heal thy suffering servant..."

I hear that, after years of awesome parenting and self-sacrifice of the kind that would make me whine like a dog, a dear, dear friend is being challenged in court to keep custody of her beloved child. Her gracious, giving nature has caused her to be much more sinned against than sinning all these years, and what is the payment for that? Ugliness, a court battle, and a creeping fear that, despite her blamelessness, something will still go horribly wrong.

I have prayers for all of this, and more, and most days I say them and carry hope with me. But sometimes the fear suffocates me, as it does all of us. Today has been one of those days. A day of trying and failing to catch my breath and of feeling an ache in the pit of my stomach that has been absent for some time. Life is so good, and yet sometimes so short; so sweet and yet so painful. It's a struggle for all of us to live for the moment we have been given right now, and to celebrate this life as much as we can. To not give into fear, but to look to the light in all we have been given.

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." And forgive me my fear, yet once again.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Joyful Tuesday

No, joyful is not a word usually associated with Tuesday, but sometimes it happens, right?

I'm a might bit embarrassed to say that it could possibly be the [cough] country music I've been listening to in the car on the way to work. ::shame::

Oh hell, go ahead and enjoy it with me. If you listen to any of them, the first one's the best.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Steps to Anarchy

1. Forget to arm the police

2. Disarm the law-abiding portion of your population

3. Prosecute anyone who defends himself from violent crime

4. Sit back and watch. Suggest people evacuate. What's next? Telling them to hit the Molotov cocktails back at the rioters with a cricket bat?

As Instapundit points out, where are the Korean shop owners with AR-15s when you need them?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Absolutely the Last Time

This is really, really the last time I post anything on the movie Juno. I have been very complimentary of it in the past, but I've also confessed that it brings on a big case of Ugly Tears at the end, no matter how many times I've seen it. After a long bit of thinking, I believe I know the reason for the tears. It's not the beauty, it's not the redemptive nature of the movie: nope, not. at. all.

It's the 30 second cry scene. Followed by the "happy teenage couple with no worries" ending.

Why? Because if that was all I was to my birth mother, then I don't want to know about it. And I want to cry, a lot. Really, can anyone tell me what Juno feels throughout the entire movie? When she really gets down to expressing herself, what does she have to say? Well, she's annoyed - tired of being a whale, tired of being stared at, tired of her boyfriend taking someone else to the prom. Then, at the very end, she cries. Does she cry because she misses her child, because she's so relieved it's all over, or because the epidural has worn off and her stitches hurt? We're not told. Your guess is as good as mine.

And then it's over. At the end of the movie she's skinny (lots of profile shots), she's back to riding her bike, the light is yellow and tender, and her voiceover talks about how she and her boyfriend are like peanut butter and jelly. It's Deep, Man. Really, really deep.

If that's all that happened when I was born, it crushes me. If my birth mother walked away from my birth and delighted in her post-pregnant life from Day 1 without a backwards glance, I doubt the existence of her soul. It's not that I wish suffering on a single human being - especially not the one who gave me life - but I'd like to know I was more than that. Just like Juno wants - in the end - to have her "chair" with Paulie Bleeker mean something real happened, I want to know that what happened in the early morning hours of June 15, 1970 wasn't just a "get up and walk away" kind of thing. Juno tells everyone it was. I beg by God to differ.

Saturday Treat

The boys fell in love with iced coffee in Colorado two weeks ago, so today I gave into their pleading faces and made them some as a treat.

Does anything look cooler on a hot August day?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hating the Caravan

We returned this past Sunday from a week in Colorado, about which I will write in more detail soon. A short aside to a lovely long trip is all I have time for at the moment.

While in Colorado, Two discovered that motorhomes and campers weren't illegal. Or as he likes to refer to them: "caravans".

See, after watching more than his lifetime allowance of Top Gear, and hearing the three boys on it rant and rave about caravans and the blight they are to all decent people's lives, he naturally assumed something must have been done by now. Those caravan drivers must have been put off the roads for good, their caravans smashed, and law and order restored (along with a decent speed limit, I'm guessing).

Imagine his horror, then, when while driving down the mountain to go white water rafting one morning, Two discovered the road blocked by a large, ugly, white caravan. "Arrrrrrgh!" he howled. "What is that doing there? It's in our way. It's stopping Dad from driving fast. It's slow. It's horrible. Take. It. Away."

I don't think he'll ever live that reaction down. Then again, I don't think he'll rest until he's made the pesky things illegal, either. Wally Byams, watch out: my 8 year old is coming for you.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Sense of Accomplishment

I wasn't blogging a whole lot at the beginning of the summer, so I missed writing about two very important events in the life of the Grass Widow household: One graduated from elementary school and both boys became black belts in taekwondo. All in one whirlwind week - it was quite a show. Watching both events filled me with pride and happiness. So much happiness that, in fact, toward the end of the graduation ceremony I realized my face hurt --- I'd been smiling non-stop the entire time. One was so handsome in his eagerly requested coat and tie, Two almost behaved himself, and the whole auditorium was filled with smiles and hugs and shouts of laughter. I thought it was amazing.

And then I watched my children work harder than I ever imagine they could, and achieve something that not many achieve. And my perspective on the two events changed a bit.

Because as happy as I was for One at that graduation, let's face it: everyone (in the first world, anyway) graduates from the 5th grade. Yes, he worked hard and had challenges, but it wasn't Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard, for Heaven's sake. It was a happy, fun elementary school graduation, capped off by ice cream. It was a moment to savor and be proud of, but it wasn't truly an accomplishment.

I say that not to be mean, but to point out the difference between how we feel when we have to do something and how we feel when we choose to do something. You have to go to 5th grade, or the homeschool equivalent thereof. You don't have to play on an all-star baseball team, or dance on stage in a ballet in front of 100's of people, or earn a black belt in martial arts in less than 3 years. So when you do, it is sweet. It is a victory. And from a parent's perspective, it feels so much different from any other parenting experience I can hardly explain it. It's not just a sense of pride, of "hey, that's MY KID". It's more like you're impressed with them, because they are people in their own right who make sacrifices and work hard even when they don't want to and don't give up. They are people who make it. I was proud of the boys, but even more than that, they impressed me. Not in a shallow way, but in the sense that I was honored to have been a part of helping them get there - I was proud not because they were mine, but because I was theirs. They did the work, I didn't, but they let me share in the glory of it.

It's exhilarating stuff, this parent thing. Watch out, world: these boys are coming!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Adoption Links

I've been trolling around the internet lately looking for different perspectives on adoption. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of different ones out there. Adoption is a complicated and emotion-filled issue, whether we want to admit it or not. Sometimes an act of mercy that allows a child to be given a second chance to have a family, and yet sometimes an act of coercion that causes untold grief. Not easy to pigeonhole, especially since you also have three often conflicting ways of looking at the issue: one from each side of the adoption "triad". What can seem like an unmitigated good to one member of that triangle can be perceived as horribly wrong to another, and vice versa all the way around and around.

What have I been reading on the subject lately? Some interesting stuff. Here are a few links:

The recently-reactivated Fleas Biting blog has an excellent post on the need for accountability in international adoptions, and why turning a blind eye to corruption only hurts everyone involved. Law professor and blogger David Smolin writes "Adoption systems in which large numbers of children moved became infected with large-scale and systematic abusive practices impacting substantial numbers of adoptions. Within those systems, even the children who were properly adopted are damaged, because they and their adoptive families must live with the uncertainty about whether or not they were stolen---an uncertainty that is very difficult to resolve. Thus, most adoptive parents and adoptees who were adopted from affected countries have no way of knowing whether their adoptions were tainted by child laundering or other abusive practices." Read it all, and the post prior on this blog, if the subject interests you. Very thought-provoking stuff.

Adoptive mom Tonggu Mommy writes a beautiful post on the chance she had recently to speak to a group of moms at her church about the realities of adoption. Again, read the whole thing - the part where she talks about her daughter loving her and her husband but hating having been adopted made me cry. And she reminds all of us who look to God for meaning in adoption that, "[a]s Christians, it's our job not only to speak about God's hand in adoption, it is also our job to encourage compassion in others, and to point out how God prefers family preservation over adoption, whenever possible." Amen.

I read a not-as-pretty but definitely compelling post at First Mother Forum, called "Why Was I Given Away?" More tears for me - definitely something I needed to read. In it, birth mom Jane Edwards writes about the compulsion many birth mothers feel to give their children up, and how many of them were convinced that "an irresponsible person like you doesn't deserve to raise this baby", and so chose adoption not for any positive, but instead all negative reasons. More importantly, she makes the point that birth mothers do not give up their children because they love them so much; they give them up because they have no way to do otherwise. After 41 years of listening to the former claptrap ... bing! epiphany time for me! Of course you don't give someone you love up because you love them - none of us who are currently parents would do so, so why in hell would anyone assume that a birth mother felt any differently?

And even uglier - did you know that you can find babies online, listed by race and due date? Well, you can get anything online, can't you - why not a newborn? Apparently Mormon sites like this one make a habit of it. I've even found one that lists prices. Please note that they aren't called "babies" - they're "situations". And you thought he lived in New Jersey!

Finally, after ugliness, we get to math (some of you think this post just got uglier, others, not so much). Abba Fund's blog has a post (a little dated, I know) about how many orphans there are in the world, and what the term "orphan" means in UNICEF and other circles. Complete news to me, I have to admit. As the post writer Jason points out, "Therefore, of the 132 million children they [UNICEF] classify as orphans, only 13 million have lost both parents. The majority of orphans are living with a surviving parent, grandparent, or other family member. 95% of all orphans are over the age of 5." Additionally, UNICEF has more recently identified that, out of that 132 million, 2 million are not in family care at all and are institutionalized (scroll down at the link to "Children without Parental Care" for the scoop). Having been convinced at one point that there were orphanages overflowing with parentless infants all over the developing world, these stats surprised me.

These posts are just a handful of the millions out there on adoption - so many of them are so good to read. Everyone has an opinion, don't they? And that's not a bad thing, especially if you have an open mind.

Monday, August 1, 2011

This is Bravery

The boys love The Magnificent Seven, especially because it features their all-time favorite, Steve McQueen. I hope while they're watching the gun fights, they listen to these words, too.