Merry Happy Everything!

concert

hanukkah

santa

The presents are (mostly) wrapped. Just one more trip to the grocery store. Dinner with dear friends tonight. Ready for our annual Christmas day tradition: eating chocolate chip waffles and watching Elf. It’s been so festive around here. We’ve done ice skating, The Debbie Allen Hot Chocolate Nutcracker (adorable), latkes, cookies, concerts, candles, crafting, playing drums to Christmas with Weezer on repeat.

There have been moments of big fun. And moments of big feelings. It’s certainly better than it used to be, but Tariku still gets mega-stressed around holidays– worse than me even. He gets particularly fixated on gifts and has real anxiety around lack. He can’t bear anyone getting a present that he doesn’t have. He can’t bear to not get exactly what he wants. He can’t bear not knowing what’s in the boxes. The anticipation can make him so miserable that I sometimes wish we could just go to a deserted island, put our heads down, and wait out the holidays with no gifts at all.

This year, he’s obsessed with the inconsistencies in the Santa story. Every morning for the last month we’ve been subjected to a nonstop barrage of questions: How old is Santa? Where does he live exactly? How old is Rudolph? Does his nose still light up? Is the list alphabetical? Do we know anyone naughty?

It’s like being interrogated by a cross between Carl Sagan and Amy Poehler’s Kaitlin from Saturday Night Live:

I can be quick to attribute any and all household discord to my failings as a mother. Every year I try something different. I do more; I do less. We leave town; we stay home. We have people over; we spend it alone. If I could only get our boho, interfaith, mixed-up Holiday thing down, I’m sure everyone else would finally be able to relax and have a good time. Because, y’know, I control the universe. We can do such a number on ourselves as mothers.

This morning I read Jennifer Hatmaker’s post on Parenting Kiddos Who Sabotage Big Days. It offered honesty, information and helpful tips. Most importantly, it made me feel less alone and reminded me to release my expectations. The worst that happens is it’s a bad day. Big deal. So thanks for that Christmas gift, Jennifer Hatmaker!

I don’t think it’s going to be a bad day, btw. I think it’s going to be a great day. But it’s nice to know we’ll be okay no matter what.

Alright, I’m off to pick up our Buche de Noel and the biggest latte you’ve ever seen from our scrumptious local Lark Cake Shop.

Wishing you all a very warm and beautiful night, full of music and joy.

And kindness… to yourselves, moms, most of all.

Love Hope

ment

On the final afternoon of our adoption trip to Ethiopia, we participated in a goodbye ceremony, after which we would be bringing Tariku home for good. Never again would we have to leave him.

By that time, I was beyond exhausted. My spirit of adventure was wearing thin and I was so ready to just be holding my baby in his green bedroom, surrounded by all my groovy baby shower swag. I wanted Whole Foods and clean water and my own sheets and not to have to wait three hours for everything or pass by burning trash every time I walked out the door

During the ceremony, the adoptive families held hands around the living room of the orphanage, while the nannies held the children in the center of the circle and said a few words about each of them. Tariku, looking wide-eyed and confused, wore a little traditional pantsuit, with an embroidered Ethiopian cross on the shirt. He clung to his favorite nanny Fantu.

A translator interpreted, as Fantu said, “Tariku is such a happy boy. He loves to dance when we sing to him. Every day he makes me laugh. You are very lucky. I will miss him. God bless you all.”

She handed him to me, with tears streaming down her cheeks.

Each child put their little hand in a tray of blue paint and left a handprint in a book swollen with pages and pages of these goodbyes. The ceremony was wonderful and moving and sad. At the end, the older children stood in a group and sang some traditional songs, as well as a rousing version of “Old MacDonald.”

E-I-E-I-O, they sang, as my heart fell into my stomach. A fancy grocery store? Nice sheets? I was such an asshole. Those smiling, singing kids were going to, once again in their lives, watch the babies leave with their forever families and then turn around and walk back upstairs to their row of cots.

When the plane left the ground the next day and Tariku was asleep in my arms, I took in a big gulp of air- my first real breath since I had seen his picture three months before. But as soon as the relief had settled into my bones, I felt an acute ache to return.

Our adoption gave us more than the family we were longing for; it also allowed us to experience our interconnectedness with people halfway around the globe, the permeability of the membranes between our lives. Since then, Scott and I have been trying to finagle a return trip. We often wonder- what can we do to work toward a world in which children are not orphaned by poverty? The answers are not always easy. Like a lot of people, we are sometimes overwhelmed and confused by the choices. How can we do the most good in a conscious and respectful way? Is there something we can do beyond writing a check? Is there some greater understanding we can gain, some more immediate action we can take?

Imagine how completely thrilled I was when an opportunity to do exactly this came and knocked on my door, in the form of an invitation to go on the Love Hope Storyteller Ethiopia Trip, with Help One Now. As soon as I learned more about this remarkable organization, I jumped at the chance. We leave in two weeks and I can barely wait.

Our group of artists, storytellers and influencers will have the opportunity to visit the town of Gunchire (Gun-CHEER-ee) in southern Ethiopia. In Gunchire, Help One Now is dedicated to work very close to my heart— orphan prevention. Using a sponsorship model, Help One Now is bringing aid to families who would otherwise be in danger of dissolving due to extreme poverty. Without help, the children of these families will wind up being more sweet faces next to the ones I saw singing at the orphanage.

We have a wildly exciting travel group, including my friend and hero, Rage Against the Minivan’s Kristen Howerton; author, house fixer-upper, rabble rouser and mom extraordinaire Jen Hatmaker; and the very lovely “Commander of Ducks,” Korie Robertson. I promise, we will not bore you!

I’m so excited to go back to the land that gave Scott and me our life’s greatest miracle and so captured our hearts in the process. I’m going to go meet the people of Gunchire and learn about the essential community development work happening there. I’ll be reporting back from the trenches the whole time. I hope you’ll come with me in spirit and hear their stories.

Follow us on the Twitter, Instagram and good ol’ fb.

kids