Saturday, March 31, 2012


When I was about ten I remember my mother writing me a note -- I still have it somewhere -- in which she told me that she hoped that I would grow up to have courage.  At the time, she meant to have the courage of my convictions, the courage to stand up for my beliefs, and the courage to make my actions reflect those beliefs.

As I look around my family today, I see courage everywhere.

I see my both of my brothers on the other side of the world, both standing up for an ideal.  One of them is headed into a war zone while the other has spent two years learning a language that looks like spaghetti (Georgian, if you're curious) -- but both of them are living courageously.

I see my sister-in-law as she says a long farewell to her husband while surrounded by five children. I can't even imagine what that would be like.  And yet she has faced it all with grace and perseverance.

And I see the two newest members of our family -- two children home for less than a month who have joined us from the other side of the world.  They came to our family without knowing the language, without knowing our customs, without even knowing what it means to be part of a family.  But Max and his cousin Vi are handling this complete upheaval of their lives with more courage in their pinky fingers than most of us display in a lifetime.

There are no cowardly lions in this family, I assure you.  Not a one.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Things We Don't Say

Actual conversation this morning while I was lying in bed, even more lethargic than usual:

Jason: "Hey are you OK?"
Me: "No, not particularly."
Jason: "Worried about Dean?" [this is my brother, if you didn't know]
Me: "Yeah.  Really worried."
Jason: "Me too."

The subtext in my head before and after than conversation:

"Worried?  Worried?  Do you know what his job is?  Do you know where he's going?  He's in the ARMY.  He's headed to Afghanistan -- like in days.  Do you realize what happens to him when he goes there?!?!?!?  He goes there and people SHOOT at him.

"Like with guns.  And RPGs.  DO YOU KNOW WHAT AN RPG LOOKS LIKE?!?!?!  DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY DO?!?!?!?!?

"I played with Dean all my growing up years.  We put He-Man figures on the My Little Ponies and Stars Wars figures in the dollhouse.  We told each other what we were getting the other for Christmas one year.  We've fought like 3 times in our whole lives and one of those was when I was 4 and he was 18 months and he didn't understand that the prince was supposed to be kiss Sleeping Beauty to wake her up!

"And now he's going somewhere that people are going to shoot at him?

"No, I am not OK.  Not even close."

This is like the third time I've tried to write a post about this.  The others were sort-of philosophical.  This one...not so much.  But this is what I'm thinking.

I picked a fight with my rosebushes this afternoon because I was mad.  I didn't have any gloves and it hurt and I was just a bit glad of it.  Eventually it hurt enough that I decided gloves would be a better idea -- but I couldn't find them.  But the job was only half done, and that made me mad.

So I went back to finish it.  And it hurt.  And my fingers bled.  And I was still mad and still glad.

And then Max -- who was sleeping in the car -- woke up, and I went back to my regularly scheduled life.  And when you ask me about it, I'll tell you just what I told Jason (who in fact does know the subtext) and I won't want to say much more, but now you know the subtext.

Now pass me the box of Cheezits.  And go get the unopened one from downstairs, if you don't mind.  I'll need them both this afternoon.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Yeah, I realize that I've already posted tonight and that this is just overkill, but these two posts just can't be combined.  (Just scroll down for the cheerful one about Max.  I wanted to write that one first since this one is a major downer...)

Such is the schizophrenia of the past few weeks.

We brought Max home a month ago.  We learned that Bella was gone on the same day.

She would have been three today.

I think that for most people, a dog's birthday is something that you may or may not mark -- it's on a paper somewhere (or not), but without real memories attached to it, it has no real meaning.

That's not the case for us, though, because Bella was literally born in my lap.

This is Bella (then Squeaker) and Mia (then Red-tail and then Rosie) the next morning.  Bella is the one of the bottom -- though the only way to tell is from the red nailpolish on Mia's foot!  They were born around 2am and we put a foam mattress next to Cleo's whelping box so that we could make sure everything was OK with mom and puppies for the next few nights.  The funny thing is that the mattress has been in Max's room in the exact same place for the past few weeks for pretty much the exact same reason.

Puppies grow up fast.  Too fast.  The next 8 weeks or so were some of the happiest memories of my life.  Bella and her sister were just that adorable.  

It seems like it took forever for them to open their eyes, but when they did...well, that's when things really got interesting at our house.

(I guarantee that this was Bella.  Mia was always better behaved...)

(Proud mama!)

Eventually Mia went to live with some dear friends of ours (and we still get baby-sitting privileges, which is pretty awesome) and Bella went to live with Jason's sister.  She came home to us about a year later, and while we had never planned on having three dogs, there was always something about Bella that just made you love her.  She was the loudest and the naughtiest of our dogs, but she was also the snuggliest and the softest.  

I miss her terribly still.  It's a quiet grief now, I am guessing that only Jason still realizes how much it remains present in our life -- simply because it is the same for me.  But every day there is a moment -- when I go to fill a dog bowl that isn't there or when I automatically check the front window as I drive up to the house to see if someone has jumped over the gate again -- when it hurts enough to choke.  

Somewhere she is three years old today.  Happy birthday Bellsabee.  I miss you.

Watching the Grass Grow

He's been home a month already!  It's almost impossible to believe, let me tell you.  As I was putting him to bed this evening I suddenly realized how much had changed in this month, not just in terms of our lives, but also in terms of our relationships.

It's hard to be the mother of a two-year-old that you don't know.  You don't know what things he loves, you don't know what will set him off.  I think that by the time most moms get to the toddler stage they already know things like, "He hates having to take off clothes and shoes except before a bath."  When we took him to his first pediatrician's check-up (two days after we got back) I didn't know this and we all...well...kinda freaked.  Today when we went in for a follow-up I knew this going in.

It's the little things that make a difference.

I feel like I am watching the grass grow.  I can't lie on the lawn and watch the green blades lengthen, and I can't look out at the end of each day and see a difference.  And yet at the end of each week, it's time to get out the lawnmower.

Small steps.

So what have we been up to?

We've done a few chores.

We've hung out where all the other Crawford (fur)babies seem to hang out.

We've toured around the neighborhood.

We've hung out at the nursery school with Babushka.

We've made friends with the dogs.

We've been to the zoo.

We've inspired bad poetry:

Only you
Could lose your shoe
At the zoo.

We've gone for walks in the woods with Dyedushka.

We've thrown countless pebbles into the lake.

We've tried out the slide headfirst...

...and we've decided we like it better that way!

Green grass growing.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dinnertime Photo Shoot

I need to post more, I realize this.

The things that have happened just this past week are things that I won't want to forget when we are old. (Like the fact that when we took Max to the zoo for the first time last week he managed to lose his shoe in the duck pond and someone had to fish it out with a net.  Classic.)

So in that light I just wanted to post a few photos from last night.  I was cooking dinner.  Max had seated himself in the highchair since he was starving.  Jason was trying to feed him not *quite* enough goldfish to ruin his dinner and doing a photo shoot to keep him occupied.

It worked.

Look back at the photos that we have of him from Russia -- no really, go back and look.

I'm so happy to finally introduce you all to the real Max.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The New Normal

I've started and stopped this post like five times since coming home with Max.  Not because it is a hard post to write (though it is hard to do that much condensing) but because I would get partway through and then be completely and totally unable to keep my eyes open for more than 5 minutes at a time.

Yeah, I'm that tired.  My night-owl, can't-fall asleep-before-1am-even-when-teaching-seminary-at-6am self is struggling to stay awake past 9:30.

This parenting stuff is not for wussies.  I knew that going in, of course, but now I am beginning to understand why.

But now it's 8:45, the little guy is in bed for the night, and I am feeling pretty good (ok, really tired and my stomach muscles are sore from bouncing a 30-pound toddler through most of Dumbo, but good anyway).  So here goes.

Max is great.  Fabulous, even.

Don't get me wrong -- he's still two, which means that today while at the eye doctor longer than he wanted to be he bit me hard enough to bruise! -- but he's still fabulous.  I can't even fathom what he is going through -- a complete upending of his entire life, language and culture -- and he is handling it better than I could hope for.  He is cheerful and affectionate.  He plays games with us.  (At this point I want to state a very personal and real thank-you to his earlier caregivers -- he came to us knowing how to play, and I cannot state how thankful I am for this). He thinks the dogs are food vaccuums.  If you can name an animal, he can tell you what sound it makes (including elephants, who say something like "a-roooo-eeee").  He sleeps through the night and eats everything on his plate (and ours).  He's so smart -- anyone have an idea for how to deal with a little guy who has figured out how to unlock and turn on the dishwasher, despite my best efforts to keep it out of sight?  He thinks having a Papa is just about the best. thing. ever.

So yeah, we're doing well.  Does he have issues?  Well, duh.  But I was prepared for a little guy far more out of sorts (read out of control) than Max, and I could not be happier with the way he is adjusting.

Best yet, it's 9pm and he is ASLEEP.  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ten Things Max Loves

10. The movie "Lady and the Tramp"
9.   Bananas
8.   Cell phones (especially if you talk to him in broken Russian)
7.   Getting tickled
6.   Bath time
5.   Playing in the dog crate (not sure how the dogs like this one)
4.   Babushka (my mom)
3.   His shoes (which he can put on all by himself)
2.   Cars (real, illustrated, even just the sound "beep-beep")
1.   His Papa