Author Archives: Christie Hoos

About Christie Hoos

I'm a bookworm, nature lover, kick-boxer, candy fiend, sci fi geek, home body, progressive Christian and part-time student. I love my crazy life and the messy, fun, stubborn, silly, brilliant people who populate it.

My Favourite Thing

It’s a nuisance. A distraction. A menace on the roads. A depressing sign of the times.

It’s also my window to the rest of the world. A handful of technological wonder in an otherwise menial and isolated day. A life, and sanity, saver.

Yes. I’m that mom. Smartphone never out of reach. The ubiquitous 5th child in my already busy brood. One more to keep track of, keep safe, keep an eye on at all times.

I’m not blind to the downsides of this strange love affair. I’ve debated each point ad nauseam, with the critic in my head. I can get downright philosophical about it.

Since humanity first harnessed the power of fire, split the atom and pioneered the worldwide web, we’ve shown an incredible capacity to use our fancy new tools for both good and evil. It’s in our nature. It’s in my nature.

This is Mommy’s security blanket. The smooth contours nestled perfectly in the palm of my hand. A solid, sure weight in a tumultuous world. A little piece of control safe in my pocket, in the place of honour at the top of my purse… if all else fails, tucked under a bra strap next to my skin, inches from my heart.iphone pocket

In the course of a day it is my trusted advisor, personal assistant, teacher, counsellor, biographer, court jester, emergency response system, flashlight, calculator, alarm clock and immediate connection to friends, family, help, encouragement, entertainment, poetry, news and much-needed-perspective.

Sometimes, it’s a hero. When our son choked on a cookie this weekend, it was my iPhone that I turned to; typing “foreign object aspiration” into the search engine to find out what to do now. I had weather forecasts, road conditions and a friendly GPS voice on hand to help me around heavy snowfall and road closures on the way to the ER. It kept an anxious Daddy and sisters in the loop, worried friends apprised of the situation and a miserable, scared little boy distracted with games and movie clips. I can’t imagine living through that day without it.

But, it can be overwhelming, so much information and connection hovering in the background. Reluctantly I pry my fingers off my friend from time to time. Pull the curtain. Focus on the here and now. Find silence and solitude again.

Until life and family intervene. The punishing momentum of needs and routines and our very own brand of chaos. A world within a world.

So I reach for Mommy’s best helper. 4.9 ounces of synthetic comfort for the modern woman.

This is my favourite thing.

So here’s my entry for the
Word Press Weekly Writing Challenge: Object.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/writing-challenge-object/


Once Upon a Marriage

This feels deeply personal, and a little strange to post. But I’ve enjoyed reading and learning from the other letters in Amber Haines’ Marriage Letters link-up. So, I’m jumping in with a letter on this month’s topic: Once Upon a Time.

Dear Glen,

Remember once upon a time, when we lived to be together? Starry eyed teenagers… with a smug certainty of our own importance and bright future… with a mix-tape blasting cheesy love songs through the speakers of your Volkswagon Rabbit… with plans growing, morphing and changing in all aspects except one – we’d be together.

We weren’t wrong about that.

I got to know a lovely young woman in my last writing class. She’s 19, the same age I was when I chased our happily-ever-after down the church aisle in my white dress. She’s in love with Mr. Wonderful and they’re making plans. She assured me that their happy ending wouldn’t dare start until they had finished school, established careers, built a nest egg, and put a down payment on a reasonably-priced nest in a good neighbourhood.

The Sensible Mom in me was pleased. The Romantic Teenager in me sighed.

It wasn’t easy, getting married as young as we were. But we were too stupid naïve, too thrilled with our new-found freedom and togetherness to care. Remember the hideous second-hand couch we were so excited to receive? It was SO uncomfortable! But we threw a green sheet over it and decided we were really grown ups now. At our age uncomfortable seating didn’t seem like such a big deal. Besides, it was just temporary. Eventually life would get easier, better, more secure.

Somewhere along the way we stopped scrambling for every penny. We added meat and the good toilet paper to our grocery list each week. Acting like grown ups stopped feeling like a thrill. We faced losses and victories, created homes and packed them into boxes, had children and buried children, changed jobs and sizes and styles and beliefs. We bought ourselves a huge brown sectional, big enough for a family of 6 to stretch out and watch American Idol together.

It is SO comfortable!

And crowded.

couch

All along, we’ve expected things to get easier, better, and more secure. Someday.

I don’t think it ever has. The things we planned on - careers, moving away, having children… are harder than we ever expected. The things we hadn’t planned on – grief, changing goals and ideals, special needs… are more than we could have anticipated or prepared for. In many ways, those early years were the simplest ones.

The only thing we got right was that we’d be doing it all together. And even that isn’t as easy as we expected.

So I told my young classmate that. That I didn’t regret our years of eating ketchup sauce on noodles and going to the library as a “date.” That there’s no way to skip ahead, past the hard stuff. That as much as I’d like my own kids to take an easier road, I’m not sure it’s the best road. Or that it even exists.

She laughed at my jokes and nodded her head at my advice. But she didn’t really understand. Of course not. No one does. Not until they live it.

Growing up is hard. It’s been 22 years since you held my hand in the halls of our High School. We’re not the people we were then. In some ways we’ve grown together, in others we’ve grown apart.

Most days we feel old, and tired, and a little bit overwhelmed. This life stage is tough. I want to believe that it’s going to get easier, better, and more secure. I want to believe that we’ll be finished growing up and have life all figured out eventually. But I doubt it.

Maybe the only realistic goal is that we’ll face it together.

After all we’ve been through… that’s good enough for me.

Loving you more than ever,
Christie

MarriageLetters-598x600

So here’s us.


Putting Myself in His Shoes

The Boy

boyshoes

It’s all over me. Pulling me down. Wrapping all around me. A heavy fog of numb.

bored.

…so bored.

HAVE to escape. Now! Shake it off. Break free.

Bang!

I felt that. Train + Window Pane + Bang… vibrating in my fingers, up my arm, echoing in my ears.

More!

Trains in both hands now. A tingle of energy moving from deep inside out to the very edges of me.

Bang! Bang!! BANG!!!

Jumping. Laughing. Feeling.

Hands snatch the trains from mine. Even that feels good. Anything better than the dull nothing.

Words. Close to my ear.

“…blah, blah, gentle, blah…”

I pick up the basket at my feet.

Flip.

Feeling the toys rolling off my belly, my legs, my feet… then the glorious clatter onto the floor. I make things happen. Me! I am powerful.

More! More!

Mommy bends down, pressing toys into my hand, pointing to the basket. We drop them in. Small bang. Meh.

“…blah, blah, time to go… van.”

Van! I love the van! I love to GO! Coiling my body, ready to run to the door… until it catches my eye. Catches me, body and soul.

On the edge of the table. My favourite thing. The best thing. So many buttons. So many colours and noises and games. So much everything.

iPhone

And, she’s looking away. Quick! Feet skittering across the floor, arms and legs climbing frantically, heart pounding… Got it!

“Hey!”

She sees me! Now throwing myself off the table, prize clutched to my chest, down the hallway – the chase is on! Running. Laughing. Feeling.

More! More! More!

* * *

Today is exactly 1 year since our adoption was finalized, and the boy became ours for good, forever. It’s been exhausting and overwhelming at times, but never, ever, boring. At least not for long.

It’s been pointed out that “Gotcha Day” (which many adoptive families use to describe this day) sounds creepy and vaguely kidnap-y.

“Signed the Paperwork Day” doesn’t really capture the sentiment either. Nor does “You’re Stuck With Us Now Day.” We’ve finally settled on:

“For Keeps Day.”

Definitely worth celebrating! And yes, there will be cake.

* * *

So here’s us, where we’re learning to make room for: fun, impulsive, hyperactive, sensory seeking, rough & tumble, and being a boy.

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

Putting Myself in Her Shoes

The girlshoes

scratch.
scratch.
scratch.
Covering every little spot with pink. There’s noise buzzing beside my head… loud, annoying. I hold my marker tighter. Lean closer, closer, closer. My nose is filled with the sting of ink.
scratch.
scratch.
scratch.
Out of nowhere, a hot weight on my back. The buzzing is Louder than ever…
“itstimetogoweregonnabelateitoldyoutogositonthepottyareyouevenlisteningtomeCOMEON…”

I look up into my Mom’s eyes, wanting to show her my picture. It’s almost done. Looking back I see a stripe of white along the edge. Not right. Not right at all. Needs more pink.
scratch.
scr…

HEY! Where’s my marker?

Her face is right next to mine. Her mad face. Buzzing again. With a pink marker in her hand. MY pink marker. MINE.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Mad. This is my mad face.

The world moves under me… my chair pulled away from the table. Away from my paper. Away from the white spots I haven’t finished. Not right. Not right at all.

I reach for it.

There she is again. “It’s. TIME. to. go.”

I’m catapulted onto my feet, a big, warm hand wrapped around mine.

We’re going somewhere?
Now?
Right now?
Why didn’t anyone tell me?

So here’s us, where life moves too fast and the girl just won’t be rushed.

For those who are new to the blog, our 9-year-old is navigating Down Syndrome, a hint of OCD and, being-her-mother’s-daughter. She’s joy and charm and mischievous giggles. She’s also the reason we’re almost always late.

This is my entry for the
Wordpress Weekly Writing Challenge: Leave Your Shoes at the Door
“consider things from a different point of view…
walk a mile in someone [else]’s shoes.”

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/writing-challenge-shoes/


The Grass on the Other Side

It’s one of those subject lines that grabs you by the throat. Time slowed as my mouse hovered over “Baby Died.”

I didn’t breathe at all until I realized it wasn’t my friend’s baby. Except, it sort of was. One of the babies she works with in a Ugandan orphanage. Not family, as are the 7 dependants she claims on tax forms, but close to it, when you know her heart and her view of the world.

As I read about her many kids, her son’s broken arm, the challenges of life in Africa and her husband’s upcoming trip, I couldn’t help but feel small. Small in my scope and my reach and the type of things that seem SO overwhelming to me right now.
grass

I pulled up my calendar in Outlook, adding “letter to Cher” to my task list when the words “Nicaragua trip” caught my eye. I realized that it’s almost time for 32 local high school students to put the rubber of global education to the road of real life experience, working with families living, literally, in a garbage dump in Central America.

Since trips to the grocery store down the street take monumental effort for our family, it seems inconceivable that my friend Ginny and her husband manage to not only plan and lead this annual trip, but build an international aid organization and spend summers exploring Europe with their children. Before reaching double digits, their girls have seen and experienced more of the world than most adults. Extraordinary. Adventurous. So beyond our reach.

It should be a good thing, to be trusted with someone else’s story, a much needed gift of perspective. Instead, too often, I let the comparisons steal from me. Spiriting away my confidence and contentment, making my stories seem less important to my own eyes.

Sighing, I scrolled through the rest of my emails, perking up to see an email from a new friend – one of my English professors. I had been thrilled to connect beyond the classroom and honoured to act as a sounding board for her upcoming blog. Not only does she have a depth of experience as a mentor and academic, she’s already a published author. That she also happens to be stylish, beautiful and eloquent only reinforced my belief that her life must be glamorous.

I braced myself for another dose of envy and insecurity. Somewhere along the way, I cast myself as the frumpy housewife inching towards an undergrad degree at an absurdly glacial pace. But that’s not who she sees.

Our paths have been very different. As she put it, we are “opposite ends of the contemporary women’s spectrum,” yet somehow, kindred spirits.

She sent me a draft she’d written for the new blog about our unexpected, providential friendship. I am the other side of that mirror for her, just as she is for me… a glimpse down the road not taken. Reading it, I was reminded that her life, so glamorous to my eyes, has actually been a hard-fought, often scary journey. But she wouldn’t trade it for anything.

That much we have in common.

I don’t regret my journey. I don’t regret my destination. Even though I caught vomit in my bare hands twice yesterday. Even though I haven’t had 4 consecutive hours of sleep since Thursday. Even though I throw embarrassing, self indulgent pity parties for the whole internet to see. Even though I’m not a saint, or a world traveller, or a ‘real’ writer.

(Yet)

I won’t let comparison steal anymore from me today. I am surrounded by exceptional women with challenging, complex, beautiful stories. Not molds I must pour myself into. Not scales to weigh myself against. Not competition.

Friends.

The grass on our side of the fence is a unique strain. It might not spread as far and wide as some… it might not grow as tall or as quickly or as easily… but it’s home. When I stop filtering my life through everyone else’s story, this messy, noisy, beautiful life comes back into focus. And it’s good – hard, but good. And I can appreciate the view into other lives all the more.

So here’s me, in the ongoing battle to just be. Thank God for my story. And yours.

Breathe.


On Any Given Lunch-hour

Three little toes curl over the edge of the table. Flexing his entire body he catapults himself, his booster and his chair across the floor. “NOOOOOOOO!!!”

Today is a blueberry day. NOT a leftover mac ‘n cheese day.

Big sister disagrees. Pushing her bowl of blueberries disdainfully to the side. The boy eyes them from across the table.

“Look! Ketchup on noodles!” I say, in my best infomercial voice.

She nods enthusiastically.

I grin widely, flourishing his toddler-sized fork… demonstration bite. A lesser woman would have spit the lukewarm, congealed horror onto the floor immediately. I maintain the smile, tactfully depositing it into my napkin.

Blueberries it is.

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For Word Press Weekly Writing Challenge: Lunch Posts – simple, short, descriptive.

So here’s us, at lunchtime.


Gift Wrapped Courage

I love getting compliments.

I hate getting compliments.

I have a complicated love-hate relationship with compliments.

encouragement

Ditto for accepting help. Even help I really need from people who really love me. Especially help I really need.

I’m not sure if it’s tied to insecurity, pride, or the constant suspicion that I’m just pretending to be a well-adjusted adult. So when you say something nice to me, or when you do something nice for me, I feel guilty for being such a fraud.

Because sometimes I yell at my kids. And buy myself a bag of candy I don’t need, which I then hide and don’t share with anyone. Because sometimes I roll my eyes when I should nod my head. And I really can’t stand Christian radio, at all, but I like listening to Eminem. Because sometimes I ignore my husband and the housework and homework and exercise when I know it’ll just make everything worse. And the other day I threw something across the room when the vacuum broke, right after giving my daughter a lecture about watching her temper, and I didn’t even feel bad about it.

But sometimes, I don’t do the lazy, selfish, short-sighted thing. And I actually get it right.

While all those nice things that you’ve done and said (and I’ve had a lot lately) might be hard to swallow at first, after I’ve had time to digest awhile, they nourish my best self. They make me stronger. Strong enough to do better. Strong enough to believe that I really am the better person you see. That maybe the real me, the me God designed me to be and is helping me become, is patient and loving and wise, and okay… imperfect, but totally cool enough to pull it off anyway.

So here’s my thanks to all the encouragers in my life; sometimes I’m uncomfortable in the face of your generosity and kindness, both the words and deeds, but you make me strong and I couldn’t do without you.

This is my contribution to the writing flash mob at lisajobaker.com on: Encouragement

5minutefriday1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

2. Link back here and invite others to join in.

3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments.

- See more at: http://lisajobaker.com/#sthash.RuQmJjtj.dpuf


Do You See What I See?

When you were born you could barely see. Your world was indistinct shapes and startling sounds. And it was yours. The entire world, yours for the demanding and needing and the taking. Babies are like that.

As you grew, your sight expanded also. It was still your world and you could see better than your old mom with her increasing prescription. As accurate as your vision was, you couldn’t see the world clearly yet. Children never can.

You see, that’s my job, teaching you to see the world. As it really is, not the airbrushed, politically palatable con that Madison Avenue pushes. As it should be and can be, not the complacent, self-absorbed placebo of sitcom reality.eye

SEE – the beauty, the profound, hiding under layers of normal everyday.

SEE – the potential, the promise, masquerading as family members, friends and strangers.

SEE – the brilliance, the inspiration, calling you to reach beyond safe and easy and boring.

Every time I look at you, that’s what I see.

So here’s my Five Minute Friday contribution. As you might guess, the prompt is: See.

Here’s how this writing flash mob at lisajobaker.com works:

5minutefriday1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

2. Link back here and invite others to join in.

3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments.

- See more at: http://lisajobaker.com/#sthash.RuQmJjtj.dpuf


The No-Fail Resolution

I am a woman of many words. Just ask my husband.

Usually this is a good thing, my ability to smooth out the awkward in conversations, to fill the page as a student, and to speak publicly with ease. But it can become a burden. I’m not just a talker you see, I’m a planner and a perfectionist.

New Year is like Mardi Gras for my type. We’re good at it.

We enumerate countless flaws and faults which NEED to be addressed immediately. We craft a lengthy list of high-minded goals and measurable outcomes. We paint a grand and glorious vision of our future (and yours).

In the beginning, this seems so productive, so motivational. In the beginning, it fills me with energy and hope. In the beginning, those words are perfect. And for a few brief moments, so am I.

Until I’m not.

The weight of all the words begins to drag me down. By mid-January my new expectations and obligations stop pointing the way and start pointing their fingers. Enter frustration, self loathing and complete surrender. In the long run, resolutions have done more harm than good for me.

New Year’s resolutions are like heroine for my type: thrilling, addictive and horribly self destructive.

A few years ago I discovered One Word 365. Participants choose a single word to represent the year to come. It is more of a mantra than a goal. A touchstone to focus, guide, and comfort on the journey.

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I still want to do all the things, to learn all the lessons, to make all the changes, to reach all the goals… but I don’t perform better under pressure, I perform worse.

In 2012 I traded my laundry list of resolutions in for the word “Dream” – a word I disliked at the time, but felt compelled to choose. That year I learned to take risks, to embrace creativity and to see hope and blessing when life was overwhelming. So many dreams came true that year, ones I had all but given up on.

2013 was the year of “Today.” I’m not sure I would have survived without this focus. It was the most overwhelming and challenging year of our lives for a number of reasons, which were exacerbated by ongoing lack of sleep. Jesus said that “each day has enough trouble of its own;” in 2013 it also had just enough joy, help and energy to get us through. Barely.

I’ve been praying, talking to friends, and weighing my options this year. “Sleep” seems unreasonably optimistic. “Write” appeals to me, but would undoubtedly become another guilty burden when we downshift into survival mode. Glen thought I meant “Right,” exclaimed he wasn’t surprised and had a good laugh at my expense.

Instead, my One Word 2014 is:

breathe

When I’m overwhelmed, reacting with emotion and outrage and the fearful certainty that this small frustration is the first domino in the complete breakdown of civilization as we know it… Breathe.

When life is happening all around me, precious memories coalescing before my eyes and the treasures of this unique moment hang heavy in the air… Breathe.

When I lock my keys in the car, run out of gas, lose the entire paper I JUST finished writing, publically embarrass myself (because, let’s face it, this stuff ALWAYS happens to me)… Breathe.

When I pray, when I dream, when I speak thoughts into words, when I need to expunge the poison and inhale the good… Breathe.

When I don’t have time for conscious prayer or true meditation, when I am drowning in my many words, when I need a physical reminder of my spiritual goal… Breathe.

So here’s my resolution. Barring death, I can’t possibly fail this year. What’s yours? If you had to pick one word for the entire year, what would it be?


A Year in the Life: 2013

A few of the moments that made up our year…

silly moments – eating candy I found at the bottom of the toy box, being attacked by my own umbrella, responding to international outrage about the hand-holding ban at my children’s school…

sad moments – the 10th anniversary of my son’s death, the ugly side of marriage with young children, the heartaches and hassles of Down Syndrome…

sublime moments – finalizing our adoption, a new tattoo, winning a Freshly Pressed poetry contest,  speaking on national radio…

and the many, many sparks of beauty and brilliance our normal, everyday life provides.

2013

January

candycorn

Starting Over

The only thing worse than stale, month-old Christmas candy corn is the guilt from eating stale, month-old Christmas candy corn. So much for eating healthy this year…  Read More.

February

adoption-Paperwork

For Keeps

My son is 25% boy and 75% snot. Although we were finally getting the hang of sleep at night, all night long, today we are bleary-eyed and grumpy. And slimy (see above re: snot). It’s not what I pictured when I imagined this day…  Read More.

Marchtattoo

The Writing on My Arm

At the peak of busyness, my skin was a criss-cross of inky blue impressions. The tribal markings of a suburban soccer mom. Appointments. Phone numbers. Grocery lists… I decided to revive my old tradition – with a twist. This important reminder is permanently inked on my left wrist… where I will see it frequently… so I will never forget.  Read More.

April

20130409-010752.jpg

little mirror, little me

When I look at you
I see myself
unveiled…
impulses unedited
words unscripted
feelings unrestrained
the stark honesty of an
undiluted soul.  Read More.

May

blackeye

How I Got My Black Eye

In the heat of battle trying to unlock my car, the cord of my headphones wrapped around my neck, choking the breath out of me making me very uncomfortable. Juggling an overstuffed bag, iPhone, red umbrella and keys while being strangled by one’s own technology is upsetting, to say the least.

So I dropped my keys…  Read More.

June

20130619-191707.jpg

Our Version of Normal

People are staring at us with big grins and smile-y eyes. The kind of looks reserved for fluffy bunnies and newborn kittens. Awwwww… One lady nudges the guy next to her and nods in our direction…

For a minute, I’m thrown. I look around and wonder what’s going on.

Sometimes, I forget…  Read More.

July

20130729-162149.jpg

18 Years of Best and Worst

This is a particularly busy season of life. For people who once enjoyed sleeping in, lazy days and reading for hours, the past decade has been an adjustment. We’re often snappy and overwhelmed. We’re usually sticky and smelly. And we’re almost always exhausted.

We’re not our best us…  Read More.

August

Hoos ll Family Portraits-21

Does Down Syndrome Need Fixing?

You are not broken, sweetheart.

At least, not in any way that really matters. Not like people who are spiteful or small-minded or utterly self-absorbed. I hope the day never comes that you suspect “special” is a code word for defective. Or that having “needs” is a shameful weakness.

There are people that think this way. Ignorant people who simply don’t understand. Cruel, stupid people who simply don’t care…  Read More.

September

The hospital staff made a plaster cast of Simon's hand and foot. It's one of my most precious possessions.

The hospital staff made a plaster cast of Simon’s hand and foot. It’s one of my most precious possessions.

Simon

The next part is familiar. Cold jelly, the smooth glide of the wand, mildly uncomfortable pushing against my bladder… but it’s quiet in here. So quiet. She’s not smiling anymore. I crane my neck to look at the screen, but it’s turned away. And she’s so quiet.

She pops out of the room, telling us she just needs to talk to the radiologist about something. Glen looks stricken. I feel something growing deep inside me. A dark, chilling dread. I know this feeling…  Read More.

October

cart

Damsel in Distress Part 759

I wonder what he saw as I stood there in my second-hand boots, bags under my eyes and hair falling out of its clip. My son whining and grabbing me while sporting a wicked black eye and a runny nose. I was cringing inside. Feeling judged. Feeling humiliated…  Read More.

November

play

Hand Hold Ban, No Touch Play and the Real Story

Dramatic headlines. Followed by a juicy sound-bite about small children forbidden to hug or even push their friends on the swings. Set up a camera across the street to film kids playing.

Et voila – a sensational story that goes viral in hours!

Of course, the real story. And the facts. And the true intentions of a diligent staff. Not so entertaining…  Read More.

December

show

Music to my Ears

It projects across the room, flat and forced, more like yelling than singing.

It’s a step, or two, behind the rest. A discordant echo chasing lyrics that roll off nimbler tongues with ease.

It’s one of the most beautiful sounds in my world…  Read More.

So here’s us, in 2013.


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