The Universe is Made for Evens

The Vander Veen family is good about sitting down for dinner together. It may be late, it may be slightly cold, it may on many nights be pizza or soup and sandwiches. But we make it a point and, quite frankly, the nights it doesn’t happen make the entire evening seem off.

Prior to adopting Diego, cups had the correct tendency of staying anchored to the table. Did we have the occasional spill? Sure, but rarely. A more likely scenario would be Kelly trying to feed the dogs vegetables (which, while annoying, is at least clean).

As a family of 5, something happened. Milk is spilled on a semi-daily basis. Water flies off the table onto the floor. Wine spills have been avoided, but only because Renee and I guard our glasses with napkin holders and salt and pepper shakers.

And it’s not just Diego. It’s like suddenly the girls forgot how to hold cups or place them on a flat surface!

It’s not the table. I’ve checked. The legs are still even. Our setup is different, with having to place a child at the end of the table (no parent at the head of the table, we opted for “divide and separate” vs “authority at the head”).

Some days after learning that we were to adopt Diego I had lunch with my former superintendent. When he heard our good news he gave me a hearty congratulations and then a warning (he spoke from experience, having 3 daughters).

“Just be ready. The universe was built for evens, not odds.”

He then listed countless examples of situations that favored evens over odds. He did not mention spilled milk, but it seems a fairly plausible explanation as any.

In the meantime, we’re pragmatic and practical. Ren bought coffee cups with lids.

Adult sippy cups.


Happy Gotcha Day: Year 3

Right now, as I write, Kelly is curled up at on my feet playing with her teddy bear. Monica still sleeps – she’s tired because she spent yesterday at a gymnastic meet – but I know the slow rumbles of a house waking up (coffee maker, dogs playing, the furnace kicking on) will soon send her downstairs where she’ll first give me a hug and then ask if she can watch PBS Kids. I love weekend mornings because they’re slow and full of cuddle time, hugs, and hot chocolate.

Today marks 3 years of being a Papi.

Frankly, I’d love to reflect more on this. About how becoming a family of 4 seems so normal. About the constant, energetic vibe of two daughters bouncing around the house. About how blessed I feel every day, waking the girls up, making breakfast, and yelling at them to knock off the bickering over who combs the hair better (Kelly: “Monica’s making fun of my bed head!” Monica: “Kelly’s hitting me.”)

Adoption is such a cool thing.

But I don’t have a lot of time to reflect on this because we’re scrambling to finish the bits and pieces of Colombian Adoption 2.0: Diego. We may be leaving in a week (possibly two), and there’s just so much to do.

Still, today is about the girls. We’re going to Church. Then swimming at the YMCA. The dinner with family at our favorite place to eat, the Green Papaya (our Colombian by birth, Dutch American by adoption daughters love Thai food). Tonight we’ll give them gifts from Colombia (we bought enough to give them a gift every year until their 18th birthdays).

And tomorrow we start on the Gotcha for Diego.

Gotcha Day: Year 3
Gotcha Day: Year 3
Gotcha Day (Original Gotcha)
Gotcha Day (Original Gotcha)

Conversations about Fox News with Grandma Kissee

Last night I found Grandma sitting next to the fire, watching Fox News, in pure melodramatic style, freak out over the bargain to avoid the fiscal cliff. I don’t get to watch much Fox News, not having cable, and most of my familiarity with the network is with the clips that make their way into the Daily Show App. Fox News is funny.

Me: “Grandma, you gotta take most of what they’re saying with a grain of salt. Half the stuff on here are pure lies.”

Grandma: “I don’t think so. I like what they have to say. You and I are of different opinions on a lot of those things.” Which is true. Part of the beauty of family is that you can have different views on things, but keep on loving each other all the more (and have the occasional fun argument over a Sunday dinner).

At that moment Darrel Issa appeared on the TV along with Charles Krauthammer.

Me: “But look at these guys. You have two super conservative, right wing fellas spouting shady talking points without any counter points being mentioned. Aren’t you worried you’re only getting one perspective, one point of view?”

Grandma: “Not if I’m right.”

At which point I had to laugh. Touché, Grandma. Touché


Snow Ball Fight


Goodbye Grandma Martin

When Renee and I started dating, her Grandmother, Clara Martin, got sick and had to go to the hospital. She couldn’t talk, so when Ren visited her they opted to communicate via a notepad next to her bed. The scribbles – hard to read at times – were Grandma at her joking best.

Grandma: “Is there a boy?”

Renee: “Maybe.”

Grandma: “I can see him. He’s tall, skinny, blond hair, and wears glasses.”

And then in very crooked handwriting: “You need to kiss him. Stir up those hormones.”

Grandma was big into premonitions and we liked to joke that this was one of them. Her life was family and church, married to Don, a Nazarene minister. Her first question to me when I walked into their house was “Zach, do you believe in the rapture?”. For the later part of her life, I think that’s how every conversation started, and when I told her I was a Calvinist who leaned Postmillenial (if even) she’d whip out her newspaper stories and link them to events in Revelation. She so wanted the rapture to happen before, in her own words, she’d “shuffle off this mortal coil.”

Ren has fond memories of her as a grandma. Sam, my father-in-law, and his sisters have a more eclectic and shaded bag of stories. It seems to me that evangelical Christianity in the 50s and 60s weighed more on the side of legalism than grace. Age has a way of mellowing folk, and the grandma I knew was always interested in story telling, God’s faithfulness, and a good bit of ornery arguing over theology. In short, pretty human.

She was loved. 9 children. 33 grandkids. A gazillion great-grandkids. Clan Martin.

Two weeks ago we had Christmas at Jan and Walt’s. Grandma lived in a room to the side for the past year or so. She was dying, the mortal coil lingering a few more days. We all piled in the room, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Someone pulled out a guitar. And for a good while we all sang hymns and carols, our voices breaking into harmony as we surrounded Grandma with the songs of her life. It was a moment of blessings. And saying goodbye.

During the funeral, Kelly processed death. This was her third funeral – she’s had the good fortune of knowing 3 of her great-grandparents – and dust to dust finally came together in her mind.

“Grandma goes into the ground, right?” she asked.

“Yes.” I said.

“But…we’ll see her again?”

We will, I said. Some day.