Category Archives: Mothering


I am not Trayvon Martin’s Mom

This gallery contains 2 photos.

I distinctly remember one of the days I had to really own my racism. Yes, that’s right. I’m a white mother of 2 black boys and I’m a racist. Shocked? You shouldn’t be. As a white person with white privilege, … Continue reading


5; In Amharic it is amist. In English it is five.

There are 4 children presently gracing our lives; 4 children entrusted to our care. 3 are already young adults who are in charge of their own lives and own dreams, and yet still connected by the sweetness that is family and foundation. There is 1 who is young, who is just now registered for 4K, who grows each day into himself and into his becoming. He’s a dazzling and brilliant boy.

And then there is “R”. 1 to balance right there in the middle, small enough to hold, big enough to hold his own. Becoming anew, and yet already wise and tested beyond what one can imagine his small frame can hold. He is courageous. And beautiful. Big ears. No hair. Dimples that are shockingly deep and cheeks that puff with concentration.

2 brothers will become 3 brothers. 2 sisters will add a brother. One mother and father will love and cherish 5 children. Amist.

For all of us he is – – One more to love. One more to cherish. One more to nurture. One more to guide. One more to celebrate. One more to witness. One more to hold, kiss, cuddle, cajole, hold hands, squeeze knees, run our fingers through his hair.

One more boy. He’s 8. He’ll soon be 9.

Our papers are in Ethiopia. We await to hear about our court date and the entrustment of sweet “R” into our family.

We are humbled.  And hopeful.

We have deep, enduring thoughts and prayers for “R”  – – and for this process. We know full well the maze of adoption and the possibilities for a different outcome. We wait with calm hearts and quiet fortitude. We trust our community of family and friends will celebrate with us while helping us maintain our shield of care, safety, and privacy that goes with our children’s life stories.

Thank you, each and every one of you, for inspiration on this journey.

Love, Mr. SillyPants, Ms. Plum, Blueberry, Twinkletoes, Waffles, and Songbird

The Hat

When the hat comes out, I know something good is on the horizon. I remember when Mom bought this hat for herself –  50th birthday –  Pea Island, NC. 

Pea Island was the day we saw our first roseate spoonbills. Well, maybe we had seen these birds before, before we knew how cool they were. But, probably not. My childhood didn’t have much opportunity for travel from Ohio (I remember 2 long car trips – once to Florida to visit my grandparents and once to Cape Hatteras  – – when I was 6. Mom loved Cape Hatteras so much – it became her dream destination).

Mom worked hard, single parented, didn’t have money, opted for freebie local vacations – we call them staycations now. But a few things changed when we kids were all grown up. She got to a few places. And, on our own, we often got there with her. Cape Hatteras & Pea Island was her dream 50th. We had that dream (feeling that crush of loss and mourning in my chest and thinking, THANK YOU GOD for Pea Island time).

I lost my mom way too soon  – but so much of my life as her daughter comes rushing into my sight when I pull out her hat. And, so much of the path of my own life too.

And so, when I’m traveling I wear “the hat”. My head gets burned in the sun. The wind blows. My hair gets dirty, sandy, limp, a hot mess. I wear Mom’s hat. It protects. As she did. If you’ve seen pictures of me traveling, chances are you’ve seen me wearing this hat. (I’ll spare you the photo journal – and yes, in some of the photos I’m wearing both the hat and the binocular harness – SCORE!).

When I get out this hat, I know good things are about to happen. I love traveling more than anything else; more than driving a new car, more than having a closet full of clothes or shoes, more than gems or jewels (seriously, does anyone like gems and jewels?), more than a daily coffee purchase, more than shopping, more than buying a fancy juicer (but omigod I want a juicer!),  more than eating out, more than paying the biggies college tuitions…get the idea? Life with Mr. Sillypants and Blueberry (I married so young the first time; when y’all who are my age-mates were having your fun, I was breastfeeding non stop for way too many years to count!) is a good life. I am so grateful. And, I am grateful  for the hat, and all it taught me about “today.” (I miss you Mom). Today, the hat is in the luggage. Today, I am humbled by the good and hard work of Mr. Sillypants so that I can take out the hat.

We’ll be off the grid for a week – leaving the home to our ragtag entourage of 20 somethings with a full ‘fridge and reminders to let the dog out.  (OK, not really off the grid. I exaggerate. There will be FB updates, because what would the biggies do if they couldn’t see their baby bro on FB?) .


(crap, as I just finished this I remembered how close I am to 50….wowzers)

Why it matters

There are so many motivations for why I do what I do. Some motivations are clearer than others. My life as mother has had 4 amazing and astounding sources of inspiration – my beloved children. And when I am asked why Ethiopia? My motivation is clear. It’s for him. It’s because I love him like crazycakes. It’s because when he looks at me and asks me those questions that biggies ask (and they do!), I will, with great humility, recall with him the course of our lives since we were entrusted to care for him.

He will know that he is ALL that. And more. Love is this.

On becoming…

If you know me, you know I’m engaged in a life long process of ‘becoming.’  I guess that’s not interesting news – you’re all on the path too. One big piece of my personal work has involved crafting a life that makes sense; deliberate and purposeful integration  of my life occupies a lot of my brain space (and I don’t have that much!).   I am sometimes woefully short of my goals – or find that my goals don’t make sense when bundled together – or discover that I’m simply grabbing something that really isn’t hitched to my heart and soul.

The offers for ‘becoming’ stalk the landscape of my days; different schooling, try yoga, be a vegetarian, sell my belongings and simplify, activate as an activist, grow vegetables, weed my garden, spend more time with my kids, learn how to run a non-profit, read more and read better, write a new high school human rights curriculum, run or bike daily, bird in solitude, travel more, strike inertia with a hot poker…or simply, take the dog for a walk! Gads. I search constantly for feeling content, feeling fulfilled, feeling complete. I’m grateful for my full cup of mothering – for a perfectly imperfect family – for the spaces of deliberation and the means to tackle opportunities OR create them. I have that piece pretty well managed, but it doesn’t complete ME. Family *is* the one thing that feels like my forever sweetness, but I still have this nagging nagging nagging empty space. What the heck is it?

<I feel self absorbed putting this into words, but here it is, ugly with whiney privilege>

I sit here with 2 days a week that are unencumbered and with personal and familial permission to attend to my ‘becoming’. I’m a bit paralyzed. I’m on family leave this year from teaching high school. I had hoped to teach part time, but when that didn’t work out with my school, I asked for family leave to tend to the continuing attachment work that is important for sweet Blue (and oh my gosh we’re having really great days!). Yet,  I’m not sure how to proceed on the 2 days that Blueberry is in morning preschool  followed by afternoon play-time with his little Ethiopian pals. Truly. 2 days. Holy cow I’m woefully unprepared for this. I don’t remember how to pay attention to myself (did I ever? I mean, in a positive way?) without oodles of background noise and demands.  AND I don’t know how to attend to my ‘becoming’ in such open space.  “Pick me, Pick me!” yell my competing interests (some of them not interesting at all, like the laundry!) I fear I will wallow in indecision and spend it doing the oh so uninteresting laundry and cleaning up of  chaos that is always  sometimes our home. Staying in the comfort of ‘mindless doing’ is my specialty – –

Yeah, so I had better get my head around what’s next….because this really could be exciting. And I need to do it – just do it – without apology or excuse. I just have to give myself over to “it”, to the ‘becoming’.  How to do that…how to do that….and how to figure out what the heck it is!

Epiphyte is the coolest word I learned

Quito, EcuadorNapo Wildlife Center – Rainforest, EcuadorIsinlivi, EcuadorMindo, Ecuador

Bellavista Lodge, outside of Mindo – off the Old Quito Highway

The “I’ll Try Club”

I have a long standing parenting philosophy that’s in need of ramping up on account of where we are with Blueberry. He’s 3, and he’s got some new experiences both in the bag and on his horizon. First, I’ll describe  the philosophy, then I’ll demonstrate how this club works – you might want to join too!

The “I’ll Try” club is a super special club for first timers – you know, for anything (except things illegal,  immoral, or  mean-spirited). The club has 1 rule; you only have to try. I have found it is a super good way to keep expectations right sized and to communicate expectations to my children in ways that meets them right where they are but pushes them to extend boundaries for new experiences. Um, like swimming class (see below).

The thing is, Blueberry needs right sized expectations. He’s a careful observer. And, any setting that is chaotic, loud, noisy, and the least bit unpredictable creates the most intensive ‘velcro’ experience – – – although his predecessor sister, Twinkletoes, might always take the cake on toddler velcro when in public and mighty independence when in private. (Now that I think of it, this must be a club for the brilliant and amazing). Not only does Blueberry meld into my lap/arms/body without a chance of separation, but he typically sinks right into ‘no’, ‘never again’, ‘I don’t like this’ ad nauseum IF I push him to engage beyond a tiny step, positive strategy. Otherwise, not fun. Not fun for him. Not fun for me. Not fun for anyone large and in charge. So, we use the “I’ll Try Club”. It works.

Here is how —

We have some swim lessons this summer. Then we have the start of 2 morning a week preschool this fall. While I can’t budge on the preschool plan (I’ll take him, he’ll go, I’ll leave him. He’ll survive sort of thing), I can warm him up with a very positive swim school experience. He knows we are going to swim class at special swim school time – a time when Moms and Dads don’t get to be in the pool and have fun and when all sorts of special pool toys come out (noodles and boats and barbells and floating mats!). The “I’ll Try Club” awards 3 skittles for kind, cooperative, and helpful preparation for swim school – awarded in the car, of course. I’m not typically a food enticer/rewarder, but for this sort of stuff, YOU BETCHA! Then, we go to swim class with an “I’ll try” attitude. Blueberry knows that at the end of class, when we are all done and wrapped up, he will get another sugar dose three Skittles for being a good member of the “I’ll Try Club.” In Blue’s case, HE has identified “I’ll try” right now to involve getting there, sitting on the edge with me and watching the class while practicing careful listening. His ‘try’ certainly does not include being in the swim class – and frankly, he might not get there by the end of these 2 weeks.I don’t engage with him much during class (he is sitting on my lap – that’s his comfort zone for right now), and he isn’t allowed to wander off and play or leave the area during lessons. I make simple observations like, “Oh, look, your classmates are putting their listening ears in the water – I wonder if they hear fish?” and “Look at Brett <teacher>, he’s pretending to drive a car in the water!” Blueberry has responded pleasantly. He doesn’t cry, doesn’t pull back, doesn’t smack talk  complain. He might say things like, “I’m NOT swimming!” But, generally I don’t argue, and I don’t make a big deal about MY notion of what his participation should look like – nor do I set a timeline for that. I might say, “you’re doing a good job with I’ll try. I wonder when you’ll try something new?” Indeed, it works for us. Today, day 3 of swim lessons, he waded into the pool to do some toy clean up when he saw some school toys floating.He was excited to pick up a noodle, get his feet wet, and grab some boats that were floating away. He even got close enough to his class for his teacher to check in with him. As soon as Brett said his name, my boy turned on his heel and made a bee line for me, but he wasn’t out of sorts. He was ok.

<———–We avoid this. It’s not that I think it’s not ok for him to cry. Rather, I try to encourage measured growth that comes out of my son’s own sense of …… rhythm. Sometimes that rhythm can induce crying. It doesn’t always have to feel so hugely distressing to grow and stretch.

The “I’ll Try Club” has workded great for us – my biggies are lifetime members. Little one is a member now too! Let’s all have a round of Skittles!

(Did I mention it helps me right size MY expectations too – which keeps the lid on my own feelings of frustration and disappointment. Yeah, so I don’t kick back and yak on my cell phone during my kid’s swim lessons…rough life).