Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dirty Walk

Walks and eats dirt. It's cute, and it's dirty. You thought I was going to say something else, didn't you?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Another "traveling package"

These items are going to be tucked into a well heeled traveler's backpack and trekked all the way to Lalibela Ethiopia where they'll be delivered to these 2 brothers - Getnet and Getu.
We met these brothers while traveling and I know my friend is going to enjoy their company. The boys were shining shoes when we met them - now they are focusing more energetically on their studies with the help of some monthly assistance from us.

When we first met them they were sleeping on a dirt floor on a tarp with no blanket, no running water, a tiny old kerosene one pot camp stove, and a baggie of grains. I am certain their living situation has improved since we met them - and I count on them being warm and fed well enough to concentrate on their studies. Getu wants to be a guide, and Getnet wants to be a scientist. Our family contribution is big enough to make a daily difference, and small enough to feel humbled by their needs. One kind woman (a fellow AP) who heard about these boys offered to provide funds for them to buy a bed; they report they are now sleeping on a bed with covering (I assume 2 gabi's). I love the ripple effect of kindness. It's good stuff.
This is the third traveling package I have sent with a traveler to Ethiopia. Richard received textbooks and a pair of shoes, AlemTsehaye (in the last photo of the link) was visited just two weeks ago with a package of rainbow socks, a camera, and lots of photos. I can't wait for G&G to have a special visit from my friend and her traveling companions.
Check out my travelin' friend's story here. I hope she'll blog about these guys while she is in Lalibela. She's awesome - a single mom of 2! I'm a little envious of her traveling opportunity in that she is traveling 3-4 weeks in country before receiving her son and daughter.
If you're going to Ethiopia, I might have something to send with you! (And thank you Marshall's for the awesome clearance prices - it makes doing this possible!)

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Every Monday morning we meet our "Ethiopian Family" for happiness and play time. 5 families (5 moms and 7 kids) meet weekly for jumping and wiggling, for talking and coffee and interupted conversation. Blueberry loves these mornings. Our playgroup friends are so special to us. Being part of this group helps "normalize" little Berrie's experience - being black, being adopted, being Ethiopian, having white parents, having a history that is transcultural and transracial. I feel like this collection of families is part of my nerve center - I need them. They are one of the places I go for "getting it."
In this picture, Blueberry is attempting to color with his sweetheart friend. This little girl is part of our playgroup, and is one of 2 sisters and their ultra cool and super fun parents. (These are the sorts of parents who see a spider and turn it into a science lesson, stock a freezer full of organic/grain fed meat, and have a huge backyard with a gloriously fruitful garden). Songbird took this picture and called it "Wonderfulness" - fitting.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In the Spirit

Math Man sent this great tshirt to Blueberry for his first birthday gift. Thanks dude!

First, showing off on the slide and then....

WALKING! He's up to about 10 steps any time he darn well pleases. We love it - and we love him.

Aside: heard today from Waffles while we were rearranging the play room: "I am going to use the restroom, but I want you to know I won't be resting."
That kid totally cracks me up.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

It's a dog's life

This morning the dog ate a rice liner full of Blueberry bottom (literally and figuratively) and Blueberry got his revenge by eating the dog food (thank goodness he didn't eat dog bottom, but I wouldn't put it past him!). They both know, the joke is on me. Blueberry is now "dog mouth" and Herbie is now "poop mouth." Nice. Anyone for a bath?

Why Colorblind...Isn't

You might want to read this article in Science Daily about efforts to avoid talking about race and how they backfire. Interesting stuff - colorblindness is bunk in my book. I struggle when people say to me, "There's only one race, the human race!" and proceed to tell me they "don't see color." Talk about awkard: "oh yes you do" "oh no I don't" "you do" "I don't". Tactful discussion eludes me.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Need a Good Cry?

Go HERE and watch this video clip titled "sam and esther".

Yeah, I watched this right after I had a nice lunch in my warm home with everything I need to maintain a lovely daily life all around me.

This is why I HAVE TO DO MORE and I HAVE TO BE BETTER and this is when I really deeply and truly understand privilege. It's all connected. This makes me a better person. It's a gut punch today, and I needed it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Maybe you were born with it

Let's talk about unintended consequences....OR....You Aren’t Bad for Having Privilege

The truth is, I don’t have any control over the privilege I was given. I was born white, female, into a middle class family with college education, home ownership, and Catholic sensibilities as a part of my family heritage. I didn't get to choose this family of my birth. I'm not bad for being born with it, and at the same time I MUST realize what this means when I live with all of the benefits of my privilege but PRETEND that I'm not privileged. Confused? Yeah, this is work. Let me say it simply: I'm not bad for having privilege, but not being able to give up my privilege (as in, stop being white) is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card for any bad behaviour or for reliquishing responsibility for both personal awareness and action.

Finding a balance between accepting my privilege and fighting against it is not easy. I struggle with it on a daily basis. I've been working in these posts to talk a little more clearly about this really complex topic. I am working on my own understanding and of privilege and working to understand what insititutional privilege is and how it benefits and normalizes white experience.

Here's the challenge: privilege is perpetuated in part by the silence of people when one of their own group does something racist -whether subtle, covert, or overt. This can be an inappropriate joke, or someone admitting that they committed a crime against a non-privileged person. It can be an assumption about a person, a dismissal of a person's opinion or simply ignoring a person. Don't do it. Don't think it. Don't say it. And work your stuff - and don't give up. Fix it.

While it’s a good thing for me to be engaging in this, I remind myself that I cannot expect to be praised or rewarded for my efforts; oppression may be a new experience for me, but it’s something people of color live with every day of their lives.

A Finn and An Ethiopian

1. Learn how to wield the remotes (yes, there are more than one)
for maximum viewing pleasure

2.Become engrossed no matter how mundane the show. In fact,
the more ridiculous, the more juvenile, the more just plain 'ol
silly, the better to view.

3. Perfect the art of napping between scenes and during


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kiss Me, I'm Irish

He's #1

Blueberry wakes up Twinkletoes, "Get up sister,
it's time to make my birthday cake!"
Waffles has to tire out the dog so he behaves with
a houseful of birthday guests...
Enlist everyone to help prepare the birthday party:
Waffles - ice and decorate the carrot cake
Twinkletoes - bake the cheesecakes(s)
Ms. Plum - make the Ethiopian food
Mr. Silly Pants - general gopher and party purchaser
Songbird - play with Blueberry
Clementine - chop vegetables - lots of them
Math Man (songbird's boyfriend) - assemble decorations
Charm Blueberry with his first balloons, lovingly
and preciously chosen by his Daddy.
Enjoy the party and the gift of a kitchen set - especially
with the kids!
Watch the science guy make his injera look like a burrito.
And have LOADS of fun!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Music Is Being Made and So Is A Birthday Cake!

Tomorrow is going to be a full day. First,
Mr. Silly Pants will accompany Twinkletoes in the solo and ensemble competition tomorrow. It's one of his favorite things to do and I know Twinkletoes loves having a accompainist right in the household. They are playing Poulenc - Sonata for Clarinet and Piano. I love watching them prepare their piece; have a look at how engaged Blueberry is in the music - he stands behind his Daddy as he looks from one to the other, sometimes toddling to the keys to add a few notes of his own. Twinkletoes is an amazing musician, and so is Mr. Silly Pants. So, we'll be up and out of the house early early, cheering on our daughter/musician and Blueberry's Daddy.

Then, we'll be heading home for a birthday extravaganza because Blueberry turns 1 on Sunday. We're celebrating on Saturday since Songbird has to return to college on Sunday. We'll have Blueberry Cheesecake, of course. Twinkletoes makes amazing cheesecake, so that's her task. I'm making a carrot cake in the shape of a car - just for fun. Then, I'll send one of the kids downtown to pick up some injera,, and Mr. Silly Pants and I will be preparing an Ethiopian dinner for a houseful. We'll have cake early with some friends. Then, we'll have a family dinner. We have the 6 of us plus 2 boyfriends = 8 for dinner and I hope some of our birthday guests linger a little past cake time to enjoy some Ethiopian food with us.
The following pics are of our playgroup birthday celebration for all of the late winter and early spring birthdays - and yes, the playgroup is filled with awesome Ethiopian children. Playgroup is Blueberry's favorite weekly activity. Mine too! Note the helpers blowing out the #1 birthday cupcake, and Blueberry's FIRST taste of chocolate. A huge shout out to Clare for the delicious cupcakes and the amazing fun and frivolity in her lively home.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Make Me Laugh

1. Articulates his thoughts and feelings with sounds that don't require moving his lips.

2. Disassembles tampons every time we are in the bathroom. I should put those in a locked cabinet.

3. Picks rocks out of the ficas pot (used to keep the cat from mistaking the tree pot for a litter box) and tucks them all around the house. Oh, first he gnaws on the rocks - this is an awful noise.

4. Eats dogfood and drinks dog water.

5. Helps fold the laundry by unfolding everything.

6. Helps wipe his round little bottom during diaper changes with his hands.

7. Throws food during every single meal (we have to stop laughing when he does this).

8. Prefers fruit to all other foods and YELLS during meals for more fruit.

9. In public bathrooms when I am taking care of my own needs his hands promptly go right into the toilet.

10. Pulls off his bibs

11.Goes for his junk the minute he is naked.

12. Eats toilet paper and baby wipes.

13. Is indiscriminate about where he kisses the animals (this can and does include rear-ends)

14. to be continued.....

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bird Feeding Bonanza and My Man

I have been heard to say that Mr. Silly Pants belongs in the age of men in tights with buckle shoes. He's sometimes loquacious. Let's be honest, he's often loquacious. Below is something he wrote to our bird loving family about our feeding efforts gone awry. It's classic Silly Pants - I wonder if he wrote it with a feathered pen and ink well?

Clean feeders plus new suet and thistle (not to mention the addition of a novel cedar block filled with "bark butter") has yet to attract much attention from feathered friends, a fact which has been vexing me more than it probably should. All of this centers, I think, around the "mix" feeder, which I usually fill with "premium blend" from Wild Birds Unlimited; it has historically been the gross tonnage leader in bird traffic. To say it is popular among our winged residents is like saying that Wisconsinites have a small interest in dairy. I had expected that new thistle and suet plus the new bark butter feeder would become big hits once birds who came to the ever-popular "mix feeder" figured out there was tasty food for them at these alternative locations. However, the mix feeder has been unexpectedly quiet over the past two weeks, something which I have been puzzling over. This morning, I got up with Blueberry at 6:30am with great expectations (that slice of the morning usually a prime time for birds); there was no bird traffic over a 10 minute period, which caused me to shake my head repeatedly as Blueberry and I played with his noisy toys. I went to look at the mix level to see if it was lower than yesterday, hoping that birds were, perhaps, eating at unsupervised opportunities. It was then that I spied a funny looking "ball" on top of the seed. Puzzling. More puzzling yet was the fact that the ball was moving. Much to my amusement, I found a furry, fat and unbelievably contented field mouse enjoying a private dining experience inside the house-shaped feeder. I surmised it had apparently climbed up the cords I fashioned to stabilize the feeder in heavy wind. What's more, the feeder I thought was "half-full" was mainly adorned with empty sunflower shells, undoubtedly left over from a number of relaxed, happy meals for the pesky mammal. I watched him exit the feeder about 15 minutes later to make certain I knew how he was accessing the food stores; he did, in fact, use the stabilizing cords to make his getaway. I took the feeder down, cleaned out the well-masticated bird mix (plus a moderate amount of hidden mouse droppings, which would certainly affect the appetite of all but the most desperate of avian friends) then rehung the feeder with sparkling new mix and without the cords which served as a causeway to the rodent food court. The birds will just have to get used to the swaying, I guess. Once again, I'm filled with guarded anticipation.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Topics of conversations over the weekend and why I love having grown daughters

Ballroom Dancing
Kazillions of darling observations about Blueberry
Classism and Elitism
Cultural definitions of beauty
Leg shaving and armpit shaving
Boyfriends and how much do we have to have in common?
Hair Products and Perfumes
Organic foods
Job searching and resume writing
The Diva Cup - and how awesome it is
Books we are currently reading
Movies we want to watch
Skinny Jeans and Kapow Shoes
The value of travel and our family privilege
White Privilege
Grandma's Poker Chips
Myles and Maura and California fashion
Baby Toys and Birthdays - Blueberry is 1 next week!
Birthday Cakes: Past, Present, and Future
Post Prandial Slumps
UW Madison and Beloit College
Art and Osteology
...and in small font becuase it was so funny and risque; hair houses (yeah, you know what I'm talking about)
Vagina Monologues and the following related inquiries:
If you were a vagina, what would you wear?
Pubic hair - to shave or not to shave
Demistifying women's body parts
Dick Talk

*all of this in less than 48 hours of fabulous time with my girls

Friday, March 6, 2009

Dancing Queens, Young and Sweet

Songbird (left) is on spring break this week. We are so happy to have her home and all to ourselves for a whole week! She arrived home tonight with a smile and a giggle - which is just like her. Songbird and Twinkletoes (right) are kicking off the weekend tonight with ballroom dancing. They both just left the house looking beautiful and smiling with delight. I LOVE having daughters/sisters. These two young women are what "sisters" are all about. They just radiate, don't they? (See, I'm not ALL about deep thoughts!)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

More on Class and Race and What is the Middle Class?

It doesn't take much mental work to recognize we are all impacted by both class and race. I enjoy digging into this topic - because we struggle in our lives to make sense of class and race. In fact, class is often as difficult to discuss as race. How many times have you heard someone claim a middle class identity with earnings that far exceed the middle class? The middle class is somewhat ambiguous - and there isn't a clear agreement on income levels. I've got some Census numbers from 2006 that give an idea of middle class in real numbers: Median income among all U.S. households in 2006 was $48,201. The middle 20 percent ranged from about $38,000 to $60,000; and the middle 60 percent—the "Baucus middle class" named after a Senator which measures the middle and eliminates the bottom 20% and the top 20%—stretched from about $20,000 to $97,000.

In a very good piece in the Huffington Post, Abby Ferber discusses class and race and their intersection. She criticizes calling Michelle Obama a middle class woman (even if she does wear JCrew - check out the outfit prices in her article). On the topic of race and class Ferber states, "Even in the face of legal and political gains, there is no evidence to suggest that the racial economic divide is decreasing. And the reality is that during economic downturns, minority communities suffer first and worst. Economic gains made by people of color are generally only very recent gains, and thus most tenuous and vulnerable. They are much less likely to have inherited wealth from previous generations to soften the blow during a crisis." She points to the following statistics to undersocer her arguement:
·The racial gap in median family incomes gap narrowed only slightly over the past 50 years ·Black households are twice as likely as whites to have a negative net worth or none at all
·Less than 10% of whites but almost ¼ of all Black and Latino households live in poverty
·The unemployment rate for blacks remains twice that of whites, unchanged since the early 1970s
·From 1970 to 2007 the gap between home ownership rates for whites and blacks actually grew, and is now being compounded by the current foreclosure crisis.
You want more? Take a look at these charts to hammer down our troubling economic disparities.
Don't get me started on the Wage Gap. I'm tempted, but I'll hold off today in favor of ....reading my book.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Class and Race

I had some wonderful family time with my dad in Ohio. We were in Cleveland, and I enjoyed the urban influence of the city of my birth. We broke up one day with some time at a book store, and another we spent at the zoo's rainforest building. My radar was working overtime - aware that in this Ohio community there were many people of color making up the fabric of daily life. Let me be honest, where I live there is diversity, but it is a mostly white and affluent community. The story of many black americans in our city is that they have relocated from difficult circumstances in nearby Chicago. This looks like the following: the book store in Cleveland had both staff and patrons of color. In my WI neighborhood Barnes and Noble I do not often see either staff or patrons of color. So, my radar is working and I'm working out what this means for my "place" and the place of my family, my family of color.
But, I really started this post to respond to Clare's concerns about class. She raises a good point - and points to class as a concerning "ism" in the discussion. Class and race do intersect. In fact, I am certain that there are mutual influences of class, race, and gender on individual lives. There is a preponderance of evidence that suggests, however, that class does not trump race. There is a very active dialogue "out there" about this very topic. One resource that is worth considering is this piece on "Racialiscious." The author states: "Class and race and two different things which encompass a wide range of experiences and scenarios. They build upon each other. Just like there is no one universal race experience, there is no one universal class experience on any side of the divide. Being upper-class and black is still different from being upper class and white. Being lower-class and white is a different experience from being black and working poor." It's a great piece. Really great. And it's not long - you might want to check it out. The comments are similarly interesting.

Finally, after you do your own investigation, check out this youtube lecture by Tim Wise. He is one of the country's leading anti racist lecturers, and he's a white man. (If he was a black man his comments would be considered to be "whining and complaining" and THAT'S a whole 'nother topic!!) Anyway, I think Tim Wise is worth an hour of your time while you're doing something that allows you to listen. He talks about class and race in a way that really makes sense. Plus, hes' straight forward and intense. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UJlNRODZHA

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ohio Peeps

Blueberry and his peeps - what a great trip!