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This morning I got an email from my cousin Mary and she asked a simple question, “How’s your summer going?”  I love loaded questions like that because then I can use my computer to paint a scene with my words about the little things that are too good not to forget but unless I am prodded I won’t write them down.  Simple questions like Mary’s are my muse to a bigger picture.

I told her I never wish my summers away although I do like my quiet mornings where I can write and concentrate on other things besides Nerf bullets and boys being duct tape to trees. I attached the picture of Noah duct taped to a tree at that point of the email and I realized the story behind this picture is just too good not to share.

So here is my email to Mary explaining the story behind the picture because  for those who know me, by now you know, there always is one at Barclay’s International Finishing School for Men (free tuition):

Noah brushed by me last week and casually asked how much duct tape it would take to tape him to a tree for 6 hours.

I half listened and said, “I don’t know.”

Then it became suddenly very quiet in this house. I set off to investigate and from my living room window I saw this.  I went out and asked them what their purpose was with this. Noah said he wanted to be duct tape to a tree for 6 hours. Like on Duck Dynasty.

I said, “Ok, fine.”

Sam asked if he could go play a video game while Noah was taped to a tree.

I said, “Ok, fine.”

Then I turned to Noah and asked, “You’re okay with this?  This? This being duct tape to a tree?”

“Yeah Mom, I want to do this.”

“Okay then.  I’ll be inside.”

I came out periodically to check on him, in the spirit of June Cleaver, and each time he was content.

On one of my visits I pulled up a chair and had a serious discussion in regards to trees and people of color and how in some people’s eyes this may appear to be history repeating itself. I talked about Billie Holliday and her song Strange Fruit. I talked about the impact of that song in the 20th century.  I talked about what was going on in Ferguson, Missouri. I hate to think I had a captive audience with my history and civics lesson, but I did. And he listened. As he always does about history and unfairness.

I walked away again to change the ink in my printer and left him contemplating life until the super wedgie he didn’t bank on, around 45 minutes into it, and the colony of ants that lived at the base of the tree began investigating the warm object hovering above their nest.  He began second guessing his 6 hour goal.

I walked out to check on him right when a neighbor was walking up our driveway. I had a brief second of fear of a visit from CPS until I realized it was Kevin, our 20 something neighbor who spent a good part of the past 10 years being a Barclay in spirit.  Another Eddie Haskell to my June Cleaver.

Noah casually glanced over his left shoulder and said, “Hi Kevin.”

Kevin smiled and said, “Good afternoon Mrs. Barclay. Hey Noah, whatcha doing?”

I looked back and forth between their casual conversation and interrupted their friendly greetings by saying, “He’s duct taped to a flippin’ tree Kevin…that’s what he is doing!”

Kevin’s response in a reminiscent tone, “Man, this just reminds me how much I need to hang out at the Barclays.”

June Cleaver. Over and out. I tapped Kevin’s shoulder and said, “Tag your it,” and went inside.

The next time I came out Noah was a mass of cut duct tape and ants at the base of the oak tree and Kevin stood next to him holding a hacksaw. The super wedgie had won. The colony of ants had won.

Kevin had freed him.

And the rest is finishing school history.

Except for the sticky lines of duct tape residue across his arms and legs. Those aren’t going away anytime soon.

Camp K

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My heart is never fully with me during the month of July.  It hasn’t been, at least not since the summer of 1983.  That was the summer I walked through the gates of Camp Kiwanilong as a 19 year old counselor and under the shadow of the majestic fir trees of the northern Oregon coast and with the deep echoing serenade of bullfrogs across Long Lake I became Smurf.

First of all, for the permanent record, let me state this loud and clear, I did not choose the name Smurf.  I never liked the little blue creatures but when you have the last name Murphy that is shortened to Murph the inevitable nicknames, whether you like them or not, will happen. So on my first day of camp orientation, when the camp director asked me what my camp name was, I said something like, “Well some people call me Smurf, but….” but before I could go on to say I hated the name she energetically called out across Boyington Lodge in her robust tenor, “Smurf is in the house!”  and my fate was sealed.

Smurf was born.

My very first night as a camp counselor I stood in front of an entire camp and with my cabin group of ninth grade young ladies performed a medley of 50’s rock n roll songs that lyrics had been changed to fit the camp setting. Jabber Jaws. Melody. Frick. Frack. Harmony….my cabin group.  In my humble opinion, we brought the lodge down.  We were rock stars among the banana slugs. Diva’s among the crows. Idols among the lily pads.

I laughed and sang my way through that first summer.  I stuffed bandanas in my mouth and shoved bananas in my back pocket for a laugh at campfires. I swam in a murky cold lake without pause.  I sang the Crawdad Song through trails of padded pine needles as our camp of 100 marched in single file to Coffinbury Lake. I paddled a canoe across a moonlit lake while belting out Thelma Houston’s greatest hits.  I held a snake named Solomon, and liked it.  I made lifelong friends.  It was magical. It truly was.

But I also grew up that July. Fast.

The one thing I haven’t mentioned about Camp Kiwanilong is that from the first note of Reveille on the first day it opened in the early 80’s it funneled into its cabins many children on the northern Oregon coast who suffered from disruptive, desperate, and often time abusive homes.  It was my first exposure to life situations I had no concrete idea existed.   I learned about night terrors brought on by sexual abuse.  I learned about multiple personalities coming to life in an eight year old to cope with horrific abuse.  I learned about fear.  Neglect.  Injustice.   I learned how crappy human beings who call themselves mom and dad can be.  I witnessed vulnerable and it shook me to my core.

But I kept coming back.  Summer after summer.

Sparky, our camp director, was a gift. She educated me in ways those summers that no college course could ever teach. Rarely did she find fault in the  child.  She looked beyond the behavior and found the reason why in their homelife. And then she embraced that child all the more  and made sure when they were within the boundaries of our camp they were safe from whatever demons lurked on the other side of the gate.  She gave the most vulnerable children a schedule, a bed time, a wake up time, face time, three meals a day with lively conversation mixed in, home cooking, song, dance, laughter, fresh air, discipline, hygiene, patriotism, Gods grace, respect and love all under the guise of a summer camp.  She gave those children family.

Those who had.  Those who had not.  Every child thrived.

After our final campfire each week, on Friday night, we would launch Wish Boats into the lake.  The flat piece of wood about the size of a kitchen cutting board came to life during the day as each cabin decorated their own with ferns and lilies and whatever Mother Nature felt like providing during the month of July on the northern Oregon coast.   Counselors would sit down with their cabin group during the day and make a list of wishes.  These wishes would be read aloud by flashlight from the swim dock to the campers as they sat quietly along the elevated bank of Long Lake’s swim hole.  A  candle was lit on top of the boat and the boats were gently pushed from the swim dock into the calm obsidian water of Long Lake. It was a time for reflection.  A time for tears.   The wishes, for the most part, were innocent.  I wish for no more broccoli. I wish my dog had puppies.  I wish I could go to Disneyland.  But it was the other wishes, the anonymous wishes,  that broke my heart every Friday night because I knew the following morning we were releasing those children back into that world where it would be a battle to survive, let alone have their wishes come true.

The wishes of a vulnerable child don’t change over the decades.  This I know is true.

I didn’t get it as I was living it but I look back at my years at Camp Kiwanilong and realize how much I have based my parenting off of the ideals that were imprinted in me during my camp years.   I learned what it takes to make a child, my child, thrive.  It’s not trophies or awards or recognitions.  It’s not iPhones, headphones, or other technology. It’s not what other people hand out to my kids.  Its what I give to my kids.   It’s schedules, bed times, wake up times, face time, three meals a day with lively conversation, home cooking, song, dance, laughter, fresh air, discipline, hygiene, patriotism, God’s grace.

It’s respect.

But above all else it is love.

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Back in the day…when hair was permed and shorts were short.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My career in teaching was spent in the tiny school district of Sherwood.   It most definitely was not the Sherwood of today where urban sprawl barrels toward the coast range.  Twenty-some years ago Sherwood was a small farm town where everyone knew everyones business. My first year in Sherwood was spent at the Intermediate School teaching Home Economics.  I learned that year that rough kids take Home Economics.  I also learned that year that rough kids need Home Economics.  I connected with these kids who were abused, thrown out and teetering on the edge between innocence and a free fall.   So the next school year I was asked to move up with them to Sherwood High School.  Although I was teaching Language Arts, in truth I was serving as the touch stone to my kids.

I had a core group of about 10 kids I welcomed into my classroom at all hours of the school day.  I also taught the general ed kids Language Arts and yes, Drivers Education, but it was my at-risk kids that captured my heart and consciousness.  It was also my at-risk kids who thought at the ripe old age of 24, I was in need of a husband.

The hunt for Miss Murphy’s significant other was on.

Mostly I laughed off their dating game comments.  I was happily single, living in a studio apartment in Tualatin, a closet full of recently purchased professional clothes with extra shoulder padding, and a new VCR.  Really, I was set for a good long time.  This independent woman lifestyle didn’t go over in the eyes of my students, especially when my Valentines Day came and went with not so much as a box of chocolates to show for what they thought was a worthy candidate for matrimony.  So on February 15th, 1989 they swung into action.

One of my duties as mother hen to my group of kids was to find them jobs that held some responsibility and trust within the school.  One of my young ladies, beautiful brown eyed Lisa, was the perfect candidate for working in the main office.  She was personable, bright, a people person.  She was also the front runner in the concerns of many that I would follow in the footsteps of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s spinster school teacher, Miss Beadle.  Lisa was a hopeless romantic beacon living in a shattered world of dysfunction.

In fact, on one particular day she came with a little more sparkle in her eyes than normal, sauntered up to my desk and smiled, and I remember this conversation as if it was yesterday, but she said, “Miss Murphy.  There is the hottest guy sleeping on my couch that you just HAVE to meet!”

Politely smiling I said, “No thanks Lisa.”  Meanwhile, knowing what I knew about my kids dysfunctional families my inner thoughts screamed, “Yeah, fat chance in hell I’d ever meet any guy crashing on YOUR couch!”

The next day Lisa again told me about the hot guy crashing on her couch.  This time she added, “He saw your yearbook picture  and wants your phone number.”

Again, I smiled and said something politically correct like, “I don’t think I should go out with friends of students.”  Inwardly I was yelling, “Holy crap, he knows what I look like!?”

Every day that week Lisa would give me an update on the hot guy on her couch as she went out the door to work in the office.  Every day I happily waved my fingertips as I shooed her into the hallway and then turned and mumbled, “God help me,” as I faced the rest of my students.

Sometime that following weekend I came home to a message on my answering machine.  From the “hot guy” sleeping on Lisa’s couch.  Holy Shit! He had my number!   His message was simple. “Hey, this is Jeff.  I’m a friend of Lisa’s family and she said you gave me your number to call you.  Maybe we could go out.”

“WHAT?” I screamed into my tiny living space.  “WHAT!”  Images of a motorcycle dude, tattoos, a halo of cigarette smoke, a half empty bottle of Jack Daniels passed out on a flea infested couch swirled through my head.

I had never ever EVER given Lisa my number to give to him. EVER!  I immediately erased the message and spewed curses Lisa’s way.  And then I panicked.

“Oh my God! He knows my number! He knows what I look like AND he has my number!!”

The rest of the weekend I think I closed all my drapes, unplugged my phone, hid from reality, and hunkered down alternating between watching  NCAA March Madness and Romancing the Stone, Pretty in Pink, and Top Gun on my new VCR while listening for an unmuffled motorcycle to pull into the parking space next to mine.

The following Monday I sat at my desk waiting  for Lisa to walk in my classroom with her usual sunny disposition.  When she came through the door she did not fail to deliver as a smile filled her entire face.

I scowled and gave her the stink eye.

“Did you get a phone call this weekend, Miss Murphy?”

“Why do you ask?”

“You know why…”

“Alright Lisa, straight up.  How did you get my phone number?”

“I have my ways.”

“Lisa?”

“Oh, alright.  I snuck into the personal files in the front office and snagged your file.  I got all the information off of that.”

“YOU WHAT?!!”

“I put it all back.  I just needed your phone number to give to Jeff.  You two are perfect for each other.”

“You gave him MY phone number you swiped from MY personal file and told him I gave it to you to give to him?  You can’t do that! That’s a trusted position in the front office!”

“But he called, didn’t he?”

“Yeah but…”

“And he sounds nice, doesn’t he?”

“Yeah, but…I CANNOT go out with him!  Especially now when you broke into files to get my number!”

As she headed for the door she smiled back at me, “That’s something you’ll have to tell him.  Not me.”  She wasn’t going down without a fight, I’ll give her that.

That evening when I came home there was another message on my machine from the “hot guy” on the couch.

I erased it.

This game of call and erase went on for a couple more days until finally I was caught off guard, distracted by March Madness, and when the call came through I picked up the phone without checking Caller ID and to put it in simple terms….I was snagged.  We talked about the game mostly.  But we talked for at least an hour. He had transferred down from Seattle and was crashing at a co-workers couch while he waited for his apartment to be ready.  He could hardly wait to get off the couch because, “These people are crazy.”

He had me at crazy.

On our wedding day I had so many things to be grateful for.  Family from near and far gathered. My friends from life held me up. I was marrying my best friend.  But sadly there was one thing missing.  Lisa.  In the 15 months between stealing my phone number and giving it to Jeff and our wedding day her life spiraled downward.  There was nothing I could do to help her.  I’ve heard it took some time, but she eventually did get back on her feet again.  Determination does that.  Strong will does that. But above all else being a hopeless romantic does that.

 

 

 

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Two days ago while Noah and I were having yet another deep conversation at lunch  he asked out of the blue if he could get a parakeet.  Before he could even pronounce the final hard consonant sound of the three syllable word I blurted out a very firm, “Nooooooo!”

Of course the inevitable question followed, “Why?”

“Bad memories,” I joked.

“You seriously have bad memories about a bird?”

“Not just any bird,” I playfully shuddered. “But Ernie the Bird.”

Of course with that comment I opened the bird cage door to a flood of memories of a particular bird named Ernie who was my housemate (along with about 40 other sorority sisters) at Oregon State University.   And as I told the stories of Ernie the Bird, pooping on homework and mating with his own image in a mirror and engaging in low fly-bys that skimmed our scalps as he lived among a sisterhood of women in our charming white house on the corner of 23rd and Van Buren, the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop and Purple Rain looped through my brain.

I did a pretty good job of convincing Noah a bird was not the pet for our family so imagine my surprise when not but four hours later Zak came running in the house  with an orange Nike Zoom Field General size 9 shoebox calling out, “Look what we just found!”  I flashed back to an earlier conversation I had had with Noah.  One where while I was at my computer working  he had quietly tried to sneak by with a Rotel diced tomatoes and green chili can in his hand.

I asked, “Why are you carrying around a Rotel tomato can in your hand.”

He said, “I don’t know.”

I asked again, “Noah, why are you carrying a Rotel tomato can in your hand?”

He said, “Because.”

I said, “Noah…”

He said, “Okay, there’s a snake in it.”

I said, “There is NOT a snake in that can.”

He said, “Want to see?”

I said, “Yeah, I want to see.”

He lifted the lid of the can and, sure enough, inside the Rotel diced tomatoes and green chili can there was a baby snake.

I said, “Wow, there is a snake inside that can.”

He said, “I told you so.”

So as Zak stood there, an orange shoebox in his hands and a very excited smile on his face I rolled my eyes and said as I lifted the lid, “Let me guess.  A snake.” But guess what?  It wasn’t a snake.  Nope.  Staring back at me, inside that orange shoe box was Ernie the Bird reincarnate.  Once again, The Heat is On began looping in my subconscious as Prince rode across my mind’s eye on a bad ass motorcycle into a cloud of artificial fog.  I slammed the box lid shut and looked at Zak in shock.

“Where did THAT come from?”  I said in complete disbelief.

Oh sure, there may have been a “cute” parakeet inside that box but all I saw was a crow wanting to peck my eyes out.

Zak explained they had been walking toward the cul-de-sac and almost stepped on the bird in the grass.  By this time Sam and Noah had shown up and were asking, no begging those words most parents really don’t want to hear in their lifetime, unless the subject is D.B. Coopers hijacked money, “Can we keep it!? Can we keep it?”

“Damn,” I thought.  “It couldn’t have been a kitten. Or a bunny.  Or even a snake.  It had to be a parakeet.”  A PARAKEET!  I’m just glad Noah didn’t ask for a bear cub or alligator during our lunch time conversation. God only knows what would have appeared on our lawn.   I still think its a little freaky he even mentioned wanting a parakeet and then four hours later one lands on our property.  Really?

Why does this happen to me?

I don’t often use the term begrudgingly when I describe my parenting, but on this occasion I begrudgingly allowed the boys to make a makeshift bird sanctuary out of a cat carrier until we figured out what to do with the bird.

Good fortune shined upon me as one of Nick’s classmates offered to take the bird.  Bad fortune clouded over me as the same classmate called up and said his mom freaked out when he brought a bird home. Wise mom.

So.  Here I sit as the rest of the clan is at the fireworks stand buying this year’s July 4th explosives and I wait for Nick’s classmate to return the bird.  In our quest to find its owner I spoke with several neighbors and one graciously offered to pull a bird cage out of her attic for us if we needed it.

Today,  I needed it because I realized there’s got to be at least one time in my parenting life when my kids beg, “Can we keep it, can we keep it.” that I have to say yes.

But he’s not going to fly around our house and poop on homework.  And he’s never ever ever ever going to see his reflection in the mirror.  And the boys also agreed that I  have 100% naming rights.

So, his name you ask?  Hitchcock. Because his arrival into my world was very similar to the classic film The Birds.  Shocking, freaky and pretty much horrifying.  Well, not really, but when it comes to the subject of pet birds I tend to over exaggerate and become dramatic.

I like to call it…the Ernie Effect.

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“I’m Bored”

Epic airsoft battlesThis is a story.  A true story of a mom’s first few hours of summer vacation.  I resurrect these words every June to remind myself, well, it could be worse.  I mean, I’ve had one son brings home a gallon sized zipped lock bag full of guppies in his backpack on the last day of school and another has filed  past with about 2000 pounds of linebacker behind him.   But in all honesty, its those nerf gun battle-Hannah conquering it all-days in my memories that are priceless.  I would welcome them back in a heartbeat.  So to all of you, the moms who know what the last day of school means, I mean truly means, I raise a glass of Merlot to you today, tomorrow, and 80 nights of summer that follow.   Salute!

 

June 2006

9:30 am- The warning has been issued. Lift the lid or pay the consequences. All for one/ one for all. Piddle on the seat…all those with “kibbles and bits” clean the toilets.

9:50 am- Check mouse trap…caught another one. Scream for Zak. Smiles while he releases trap and examines corpse. Observation from Zak: mice do not have time to lick lips clean of peanut butter when caught in trap.

11:45 am- No one ‘fesses up’ to the newly discovered yellow liquid droplets on toilet seat…4 toilets, 3 boys, 3 toilet brushes … toilets spotless

1:25 pm- First episode of snickering in reference to male body parts…documented first eye rolling of summer by Hannah.

2:53 pm- Blood drawn…dog chain swung by Zak smacks Nick in head. Investigate. Conclusion: Accident First Aid applied… time out given.

3:13 pm- 2.5 lb bag of M&M’s spill across floor…race between kids to consume before Duncan. First loud whistle from fingers to maintain order this summer.

4:27 pm Hannah proclaims “I’m bored”

7:14 pm James Bond theme resonates throughout house…major Nerf gun battle erupts…foam bullets flying…Sam mumbles Buonas Noches Amigo… shoots Nick in back with 16 shot rapid fire Nerf gun…picking foam bullets out of boiling noodles on stovetop…Hannah joins battle… new Bond girl??

7:46 pm Battle ends… Hannah triumphs … nothing spells (or smells) V.I.C.T.O.R.Y. like spraying brother’s protective athletic cup for baseball with Wild Honeysuckle Body Splash… Sweet Smell of Honeysuckle Victory permeates house, boys, Nick’s cup….

8:20 pm Merlot…

11:09 pm Calendar located… first day of school : 70 more days … tick tock tick tock.

Small Town

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It took a Papa Murphy’s pizza to make me cry today.

I was doing so good with Nick’s graduation day until I walked into that pizza shop. It wasn’t so much the pizza as the moment though.  That moment where so many senses came together in a perfect emotional storm.

I had just been texting my friend who has a son graduating tonight too.  She was a mess.  I wasn’t. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why this wasn’t getting to me.  Maybe it was because I KNOW Nick is ready…he is so ready to check high school off his list of life experiences.

But then I walked into Papa Murphy’s and right as the door closed behind me the familiar guitar strums of John Cougar Mellencamp’s Small Town echoed around me.  And as I ordered and then stepped back to watch my Cowboy Pizza and half cheese-half Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza being assembled I listened to his words

Educated in a small town

Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town

Used to daydream in that small town

Another boring romantic that’s me

But then JCM’s lyrics  were interrupted by a voice, a classmate of Hannah’s who works there.  He made a comment that he had heard about Nick doing well in the senior awards assembly yesterday.  I smiled and said something like, “He’s worked hard the past four years.”  He asked where Nick was going next year.  I told him U of W.  He was impressed.  The U of W is a hard school to get into.  Then, as Small Town continued to provide background music to our conversation I proudly listed off ALL the kids from our small town who are going to the University of Washington.

No I cannot forget where it is that I come from

I cannot forget the people who love me

Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town

And people let me be just what I want to be

And slowly the tears began to fall.  Not for the fact my son is graduating today but for the gratitude I have for living in this community, this small town, that has helped raise my son to the man he is today.

Our kids have grown up in a small town and I am certain that as life takes them away from this place they will never forget where it is they come from nor will they forget the people who love them.  We have allowed them to be themselves in our small town, to let them be just what they want to be.

I laughed to myself, between my tears. Our small town.  It is the lyrics to many a country song.

It can be a curse or it can be a blessing, living in a small town.  Today, on the day my son graduates from high school?  It is simply a beautiful blessing.

 

 

 

DSC05227I knew my work at the finishing school wasn’t complete when I came across my People Magazine Special Collectors Issue of William and Kate’s wedding tucked into the magazine rack and on the cover and every subsequent image of the prince thereafter a penis had been sketched in…in Sharpie.  It took all my will power not to march upstairs with my own pink Sharpie and draw breasts over all their Pikachu Pokemon cards. But I didn’t.  Head Mistresses of finishing schools do not use Sharpies to draw female body parts on imported trading cards for comeuppance.  They may want to, but they don’t.  No.  Instead they hold their head high while clutching their collectors periodical and excuse themselves from the room and regain composure in private.

I should have figured my life would be destined to be surrounded by boys a little over 18 years ago.  We were a happy family of three, my husband Jeff, my daughter Hannah and I.  When we found out we were expecting another baby we were all over the moon with excitement.

Unfortunately six months into the pregnancy Hannah and I were involved in a serious car accident in the Willamette Valley.  I spent the night in an unfamiliar hospital as the doctors and staff tried to hold back the onset of early labor.  Somewhere in the night we were told the baby more than likely wouldn’t make it.  We wanted time to name the baby so we asked the gender.

A girl.

We decided on the name Nichole. The baby did make it and every week after the accident I had to have an ultrasound and every week we were told, “She’s doing great!”  I had little baby girl showers.  I had a little baby girl’s room ready. I had a closet full of little baby girl clothes.  And Hannah.  Hannah was sooooo ready to share her life with her baby sister Nichole,  that is, until November 6, 1995 when at the end of the  Cowboys vs Eagles Monday Night Football game, and as Rodney Peete and Troy Aikman shook hands at the fifty yard line, God gave us Nicholas Connor Barclay.  To this day I wonder…if  Designing Women was still airing on that fateful Monday night…

A boy.

Hannah was fine with a baby brother until she became road kill to his push behind Tonka truck and her hair became tangled in the axles of his windup push cars.  That was about the time she started to ask if having a sister named Nichole was still an option.  I told her that’s not how it works.  Her precious little two year old mind shrugged off my words as she dressed her baby brother in rainbow stripped one piece bathing suits, forced him to take on the role of Michael Flatley in her living room version of Lord of the Dance, and began her, to this day, iron fist rule over her baby brother.

Five years later we were preparing to add to our family through adoption.  We didn’t have an option of gender in Korea and like with a pregnancy, we were ready for whatever God gave us.  Hannah was working overtime to remind God that snips and snails and puppy dog tail Nick wasn’t cutting it as far as a little sister, so she would really appreciate it if he sent a real sister her way.   That didn’t happen and on June 17, 2002 our Nick tore through the baggage claim level of Portland International Airport when he spotted his new baby brother.  He carefully pulled Sam out of my arms and hugged him as tight as a five year old can and, in truth, has never let go.

About six months after Sam arrived in our home we were a happy family of five.  A perfect size.  I was handling this mom of three.  Hannah was handling this sister of two brothers even better.  In December of Sam’s first year we received a flyer from our agency and on the back was a picture of a scared sickly looking six year old boy with a heart condition.  I remember to this day looking at the picture and feeling something but then shaking my head and saying, “I can’t be the mom to four kids.” I tossed the flyer in the recycle bin.  The next morning I came into the kitchen and my husband was eating his breakfast.  On the counter was the flyer with the little boy’s forlorn eyes looking back at me. Jeff stood up, walked over to the flyer, with his finger tapped on the picture, and said, “This is our son.”  Nine months later I was in Beijing, China bringing home our Zak.

Okay, so now I had gone from being the mom of one beautiful little princess to the mom of a still beautiful princess but also the mom to three equally charming princes.  But there is more to the story. There is Ethiopia and there is Noah. By this time I had boys in my heart. I loved my boys.   I also knew boys who are orphaned around the world are considered special needs…because they are boys…and although desired within a paternal bloodline within a family in many cultures they are cast off if there is no bloodline to claim. Forgotten.

The sad scary truth, five years ago, ten years ago and today, is that there is a crisis, an overwhelming crisis of orphaned boys needing families around the world and in our own US foster system.

We chose to have a boy as our fifth child.  At the time we may have told Hannah otherwise, but we knew what the alternative would be for this little boy from the highlands of Ethiopia and it was far worse than Hannah being the sister to four brothers.

I have learned a thing or two about raising my boys from around the world.  They’ll dig a hole to China  just because.  They’ll climb a tree to touch the sun.  They’ll take a stick and make it a gun.    They’ll rise to the challenge of being a gentleman.  They’ll escape to their cave for solitude.  They’ll snag snakes, corral frogs, and capture caterpillars. They’ll swing from rafters. They’ll build tree forts. They’ll lose hammers, screw drivers, and pliers.   They’ll take a Sharpie and draw penises on the royal family collectors issues. They’ll love their mom.

It’s what boys do.

And because I live this everyday, I know without a shadow of doubt what little boys are made of.

 

 

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