Monday, December 15, 2008

Some Christmas Miracles

Well, I'll probably get around to writing the posts that I have mused over this week someday (one on the fact that every person is absolutely exotic, and one that I can't remember right now -- which means that I probably never will [I just remembered it -- note to self "tall man"]), but for now, let me share my day. First of all, you should know that "It's a Christmas miracle" is one of my husband's favorite phrases to throw around during this season at bizarre (and often inappropriate) times [be advised, we are talking about the Hallmark movie of the week/nightly news feature story "Christmas miracle" that he's mocking -- not the actual birth of Christ. He's a very good man, my husband.] So, in keeping with his bizarrity (not a word, but should be), I'm going to share three of today's Christmas miracles.

1. Josh's passion for the song "November Rain" seems to be ebbing! Each evening, he plays and sings for the kids for an hour or so -- they love it (and he's actually kind of awesome now, after all of that practice). For the last month, however, about HALF of each music hour has been occupied by the Guns 'n Roses song "November Rain".......seriously. I cannot tell you how unproud (not ashamed.....just unproud -- this should also be a word) I feel when my four year old walks through the kitchen belting (Axl Rose growl notwithstanding) "I guess you need some time....on your own....oohhhhh, everybody needs some time....on their own......" etc. And as of today, I am almost positive that we have migrated back to a welcome cocktail of Bob Dylan, folk, classic rock, and whatever random tabs he has stuffed at the bottom of his case ---- along with some beautiful new chord progressions all his own! This fantastic turn of musical events is truly a Christmas miracle.

2. Two of the teethers teethed! Four of my children are in the process of cutting teeth right now. Olivia's smile is an endearing, captivating melange of baby and adult teeth, just making their way to the surface of her grin, and the babies, of course, still sport shiny gums in every radiant, wild peekaboo laugh. Today, however, Tarikwa and Girum BOTH cut bottom left incisors, quelling, I hope, some of the obvious discomfort that has disturbed their nights (and continues to plague Taye --- come on Taye teeth!). Another Christmas miracle.

3. The brilliant Aunt Katie and fabulous (generous, magnificent....imagine, here, a long string of effusive adjectives --- all appropriate and ultimately understated) Grandma L. managed to get all seven members of my family, dressed up, gathered, and awake for a Christmas picture! In spite of the insanity that ALWAYS attends our family photos, they took a handful of pictures that I will cherish, and managed to walk away with only minor evidence of post traumatic stress. Thank you thank you thank you for these wonderful pictures!

Find a way to make all seven of us smile all at once for a picture, and I will believe in Santa Claus!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Match Point

Josiah loves to match the people he loves. He loves to love the same things they do, wear the same color, or share the same opinion as Josh, or I, or Olivia, or a friend. Like my husband (and my father), Josiah does all of his worrying on the front side of change, and during his delliberation about his new baby brothers and sister, still unknown, not "matching" bothered him...a lot. I first learned of his struggle after a free swim session at our public pool.

Josiah had played with a little baby sitting in a stroller near where I was changing. In vintage Josiah style, he had the little one cracking up at his ninja-warrior dance moves. When I took his hand to leave, I told him how proud I was that he was so gentle and fun for babies. He said, "I love babies." [Big pause.] "And I really like light-skinned babies best."

I said, "It's okay that you feel that way, Josiah. And I'm so glad you told me. Can you tell me why you like light-skinned babies better?"

"Well....they just seem more.....powerful."

Powerful? It took me a minute to reign myself in from the vortex of white privelege/white shame and race theory that "powerful" dragged me toward, but Josiah's reference point for power, of course, includes none of that language. Power, for him, involves the force, and web-slinging, and super-human strength. I quickly realized that, at four, he might well me that white babies can fly, so I asked: "What does powerful mean?"

" me. We match."

Matching, for Josiah, is so....powerful.

We had just received the pictures of the triplets, and (despite the fact that we had spent hours looking at pictures of people from Ethiopia together) I think the fact that our babies would have skin that was different from his hit him kind of suddernly.

"Are you worried, Josiah, that you might not love the new babies because you won't match them?"


"I can totally understand that. You know, I used to worry about that, too."

"You did?"

"Yep. But I'll bet we'll find lots of ways that you match them once we're all together. One thing that will match right away is that you'll both be in our'll be brothers and sisters. And, after awhile, we'll probably find other ways that we match. Maybe they'll like Ninja Turtles."

"Do you think they'll like Ninja Turtles, Mom?"

"Maybe, or dinosaurs."

"I could share my dinosaurs with them!"

"Exactly, so it's okay that you feel the way that you feel about light-skinned babies. I think that you'll find lots of ways to match your new brothers and sister once we're together as a family. When I was a little girl, I wanted to bring a dark-skinned baby home from the hospital after my mom had our little sister. I just liked the way she looked. But you know how much I love Aunt Karen. She is my sister..."

"Do you still?"

"What's that Josiah?"

"Do you still like dark-skinned babies better?"

AHHHHHH, now we're at the heart of it.

"I love my children. I LOVE your light skin, Josiah, because it's on you, and I love you. And I LOVE our new babies' dark skin because it's on them, and they are my children. Your skin is absolutely perfect for you. You make your skin beautiful. And the new babies' dark skin is perfect for them, and they make their skin beautiful." ....on and on.....etc., etc..

So he was satisfied....for that day.

A few weeks after we were home, I overheard him run into the kitchen where Girum was playing in his exersaucer. (I was changing someone or feeding someone in the adjascent living room) whispering, "Girum, I prayed and prayed for God to make one of my new brothers look like me, and God gave me you" (people often comment on the fact that Girum and Josiah sort of resemble each other. I guess he sees it too)......I started to smile....matching solved, right? We've arrived. Josiah left the room and then scurried back in to add, "but I still like light-skinned babies better...." So, maybe a little more ground is left to cover....

I write ALL (ALLLL) of that as background information for a conversation that happened last week. Josiah bolted up the stairs (he bolts everywhere....I think that's part of being "powerful" :), ran over to where I was holding Girum, laid his cheek against Girum's so that both of their faces shown up at me, and said, "Look, Mama. Girum and I match perfectly. We both love you!" And then he scurried off.

I can't get that moment out of my mind.

Both Girum and Josiah are particularly attached to me, in their own ways. Both boys calm in my arms and look at me with a disarming adoration that NO ONE deserves. And now, Josiah thinks they match.....with a force stronger than superpowers.


And, now, I keep thinking of the ways that all of us match because of Whom we adore-- in various shades and flavors of adoration....we powerfully match.

Monday, December 1, 2008

What's in a name?

I'm too tired to plunge as deep as the Shakespeare passage that I pulled my title from tonight, but I keep talking to people (wonderful family people, mostly) who are interested in the origins and meanings of my kids' names. SO, I thought I'd share. Here they are, in the order of their birth:

Olivia Anne

Olivia -- We didn't name Olivia until two days after she was born, just before we left the hospital. After jostling around Zion, Elizabeth, and Olivia, we chose the name that seemed to suit our beautiful daughter. A name that, with its nod to the Olive tree and (by extension) branch, symbolizes peace, hope, and victory. Also, I was drawn to the name's "Ya" sounding suffix -- the same "from God" sound affixed to the names of the prophets. If my daughter's life was to embody prophesy, I wanted it laden with hope, peace, and victory -- messages, also, that still spill from Jesus's time on the Mount of Olives. So many layers to that one, no?

Anne -- Another biblical reference (Anne is a modification of Hannah -- Two great Hannah's came immediately to mind -- Samuel's mother, whose mother-prayer got answered, and Hannah the prophetess, who immediately recognized Jesus as the Messiah in the New Testament). More specific to Olivia, though, Anne draws upon the middle names of her grandmother (my awesome mom) and her magnificent Aunt Katie -- and later, though we didn't know it at the time, she would bear the middle name of her inimitable Aunt Valerie. THIS is profoundly good company to be among! We chose to spell it with an "E" because -- well -- because of Anne of Green Gables.

Josiah John

Josiah -- Josh actually picked this name. He liked its singularity and its consonance with his own first name. Josiah was also one of the few good kings recorded in Israel's Old Testament history -- taking the throne at the age of 8 and revolutionizing his failing people by turning everyone's eyes back toward the law. Not a bad heritage, eh? (Note, please, the "ya" suffix on this one, too -- an emergent pattern? perhaps.)

John -- John is my Dad's name. If you could only meet my father, then you would need no further explanation. If you know him, then you are wondering why I even needed to explain this much.

Girum Samuel

Girum -- Girum means "Amazing" and "Surprising" in Amharic (the national language of Ethiopia). Birhanu (the triplets' birth father) chose this name because he identified the birth of triplets (a first in his region) as both amazing and surprising!

Samuel -- Samuel is my paternal Grandfather's middle name. He bore a quiet integritiy and patient wisdom that I hope will translate into similar gifts for my own children. He is well worth being named after!

Tarikwa Rebekah/Rebecca/Rebekah/Rebecca --

Tarikwa -- Tarikwa means "This is her story" in Amharic. Like Girum, Tarikwa's name reflects her father's astonishment at the miracle of the triplets' birth, an event that impressed him as integral to the life story of this little girl. So much love is inscribed in her still short story already!

Rebecca/Rebekah -- Can you tell that we still haven't settled on the spelling for this one yet? Tarikwa gets her middle name, first, because of my little sister, Karen Rebecca, whose impact upon my life could never be measured or recounted in words. Also a person well worth being named for! I also have two wonderful aunts named Rebecca, whose love for this little girl will always be a part of our family's fabric. But how to spell it? I really like the biblical transliteration of the Hebrew Rebekah -- I like the way it looks with the name Tarikwa. "Tarikwa," however, is spelled a number of different ways on our paperwork, and I conjoined this Rebekah spelling to a different Tarikua spelling --- with the "kwa" ending, I'm not sure which spelling flows best. ......hmmmmmm....

Taye Stephen/Steven/Stephen/Steven

Taye -- Taye means "He has been witnessed," or, as one Ethiopian friend explained, "His life is an event so important that it cannot help but be witnessed." Again, Birhanu gave Taye this name because of the overwhelming miracle of his childrens' birth. His beauty and joyful spirit certainly bear out all the significance ascribed to his lovely name!

Stephen/Steven -- We struggle with spellings, don't we? Steven reflects the names of Josh's wonderful father and the middle name of his amazing big brother. The love and the spirit of these important people have helped my husband to become the fantastic father and man that he is, and the same love that nourished my husband continues to encourage all of us -- every day. A wonderful name with a wonderful if we could only settle on a spelling:)

(I think we have to solidify the spellings this week -- the kids' green cards are in, and we are preparing to file all of the stateside paperwork to confirm their citizenship and change their names).

Here's a fact about the babies' names that we didn't know until we met Birhanu -- Their names, in the order of their birth, form a grammatically correct sentence in Amharic. "Girum Tarik(ua) Taye" means "I have witnessed the most amazing story" or "An amazing story has been witnessed here (by me)."

Interestingly, on the day we received their referral, while we were still months from knowing about the sentence their names actually formed, Olivia and I worked all of the kids' names into a family sentence that we walked around saying for the entire "referral week": "I have witnessed the most amazing story of hope, peace, victory, and a boy king!"

What a great first sentence in the story of our lives together!