Monday, August 31, 2009

Dusky rose diapered boy

Waffles says, "they're still PINK!" I guess dusky rose doesn't lessen the offense in his eyes. But that's just an aside. I fully realize I should just give in to the reality that now that I am back at work the end of the day will not involve shoes or pants - at least for Blueberry.

I had a pretty good day at work, but it was tough to get out of the house in clean clothes - both for the kiddo and for me. I spent my day doing the work of a high school teacher combined with paying attention to the other balls I am juggling - my 5K run for Women in Congo - my fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders - and the cooperative sponsorship coordination for AHOPE. Oh, and there was the matter of dinner - and I admit I did forget to pick up the tenderloin and had to make a call to Mr. Silly Pants to pick up my slack.

It's been a good day, and this smile made my night complete. Our boy was a running, spinning, jumping, bouncing, kicking, giggling little package of LOVE. How lucky are we? We know the bounty of our lives. Just don't expect to see pants on our bounty!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Racing for Children Who Are Running Out of Time

Well, it involves more than I can do in one day, but here's the scoop....Judy and Peg are doing an Ironman Triathalon in WI and I'm part of their support team as they work at winning one unique component of the race - the Janus Charity Challenge. Athletes can fund raise for their favorite charity and win additional funds for that charity thru the Ironman Janus Charity Challenge. This is a really great event, and WE'RE RAISING FUNDS FOR DOCTOR'S WITHOUT BORDERS!

Here's the cool part, you can read all you want to know about the amazing therapeutic food Doctor's Without Borders distributes in THIS local article. Yep, I'm quoted a whole heckuva lot.
I'm hoping the NYTimes picks this up :-) It's long, so grab a cup of coffee and learn about Plumpy'Nut. You'll get the message about why our team thinks feeding stations in famine stricken locations need as much Plumpy'Nut as they can get. I promise, you'll learn a lot.

If you're inspired, and I know you will be, donate at this site and help us win award dollars to feed hungry children!

Need some more convincing? EVERYONE who donates will receive a $25 gift certificate from our friend Jeff, at Jeff puts his money where his heart is, and he's doing this because he believes in 'pay it forward.' You don't have to do anything - he'll send you the gift certificate just because you donated. Yeah, so donate that Friday night pizza, your week of coffee at your favorite coffee shop, or the little bit of overtime you've gotten this week. $40 saves a child's life. It's up to you.

If you need another news source, a global news source, to move you to action, read THIS article in the August 3oth "Independent". The need is now, and the need is critical.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Daughter #2 Has Left The Nest

My dear friend mentioned, "roots and wings, roots and wings... mom always said our job is to give them roots and wings, and the wings are the hardest part." True.
Twinkletoes left our home today, soaring. Yeah, this amazing daughter has been acting like she's ready to leave since she was about 4 years old - and today she got to make good on her long time readiness to be on her own. Twinkletoes left for college. She packed herself up, picked up her bro (Waffles) and his friend (SoccerQueen), and they moved her into the Big 10. As she prepared to leave, the 'moment' hit me. I cried the ugly cry. Sweet Twinkletoes paused and hugged me one more time. I'm so humbled by her intellect, her drive, her discipline. She's the kid who traveled with me in Ireland, notebook in hand, recording every stop, every picture, every sunset. When I asked "who wants to...." she offered an immediate "yes!" She's the girl who sat with her grandma who in her last days couldn't speak, and gently and tenderly showed her images from a photo album, pausing only to let her sweet grandmother take it in with her only working part; her eyes. She's the one who sat on the couch her entire first year of preschool and then traveled to Ecuador alone in high school to visit a friend she was meeting for the first time. She's the girl who bucket bathed in Nicaragua for 8 weeks, with nary a complaint. She's the girl who wrote an 86 page story when she was 9. She's the girl who ballroom dances with beauty and grace. She's the girl who makes me so proud to hear the word "mommy" addressed to me....and she's now in residence at college. You can see in these pictures, I'm not the only one who is going to miss her. We love you Twinkletoes!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kids in College & Back to Work

It's time to ante up and pay tuition for the kids. It's tough to have 2 in college - I'm basically going back to work part time in order to work for college tuition. While we've saved nicely in Edvest accounts for all of the kids, it's only enough to cover the first 2 years of college for each. That feels like a luxury, actually - and fairly decent planning. (With divorce, it wasn't easy to preserve all that the kid's father and I had initially planned). Here's the run down:

Songbird is in her junior year of college at a small liberal arts college in WI. Her focus is on anthropology and biology. She's gotten crazy about osteology - which is so far out of my realm of expertise and interest that it is curious to me.
Twinkletoes starts her freshman year at a big 10 college located just down the street. She's a great scientist and treats math and physics like it's 'old hat.' I'm excited to see what she discovers as she explores her options (and yes, she's living on campus!).

Waffles will be in his junior year of high school, I'm happy I'll have one big kid left in the house!

Of course, Blueberry's Edvest account has been started in anticipation of doing this all over again in about 18 years. Goodness!
I was on the phone with the college 529 planning folks and the guy said to me, "Well, if your youngest son doesn't use his college account, you can transfer it easily to a grandchild." Ummmmmmmmmm WHAT??? And then it hit me, it is quite possible that any of the big kids could have a child when Blueberry is ready for college. That was a low blow, let me tell you. I'm just going to ignore that reality altogether!
The two big girls are out of the house by week's end. I'm going to miss them so much. And, my year long leave of absence ends this week - I'll be back at work 40% beginning ... tomorrow.

Importantly our precious Blueberry is going to have to adjust to absences and some changes. I expect some regression (most likely in his sleeping, which is the place such adjustments usually express themselves). We'll double-up the bonding and attachment work so that he feels the loss a little less. I think he's ready to spend 2-3 afternoons a week with our dear friend who is mom to two brown boys with whom he plays at a weekly play group. We've done some test drives this summer and he did very well. I'm crossing my fingers. It's a lot of change for all of us. Mr. Silly Pants and I are going to have to reach into our reserves and our bag of best cooperation to make this transition work well for our family.
Can you say "Lots of Healthy Carryout Dinners?"

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Running - body and spirit

One month ago I started running after a 5 year hiatus. I used to run 3 miles each day. It was a mental health practice. But then mom was diagnosed with renal cancer. The importance of caring for her interrupted many of my own self care rituals. I never ever regret my myopic focus on mom for the 6 months of her illness prior to her death. It wasn't that I gave up being active after she died. After all, I played tennis nearly every day last summer. But, the body work remained elusive and I have felt lots of energy, strength, flexibility, and stamina slipping away.

To be honest, 4 years later has turned into 40 lbs. and some really deep frustration. I think there are a lot of 40 something women out there who get this dilemma. I suspect I'm in good company.

I learned from Tami about a run in Chicago on October 3rd. I'm a daily reader of Tami, and I admire her. I consider her one of my allies in my effort to be a good mama to my brown boy. But this time, her effort to move her body inspired me to join her (I even got a shout out on her blog which made me blush!).

So, I started running during our time on the Olympic Pennisula. I started with itty bitty intervals. Friends, I'm talking run 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes for 5 intervals. I'm now running 23 minutes non-stop with a 5 minute warm up and a 5 minute warm down. I'm on my way to being ready for the 5K in Chicago. I'm proceeding carefully with extra attention given to my plantar fasciitis ridden feet. (Icing them as I type, actually).

I'll be running for a cause: Run for Congo Women. The Women for Women International program teach women the skills needed to start a business to help her end the cycle of poverty and suffering.I'll be using my physical body and my social justice spirit to create a change both within and without. You can read about why I chose this Tami-inspired event at the link. And if you're wondering, Blueberry will be "running" in his stroller with Mr. Silly Pants.
Here is my donation page - I hope to raise enough funds to sponsor one woman for one year (about $400). Please consider this as one of your "good deeds" this week, and thank you for your support - the moral support means everything to me. Whew this was a tough story to share. I'm embarrassed and I'm vain.
*first photo is one I took from a bus in Hosanna Ethiopia with and adorable running boy who had oodles of energy and the second is from one of my very first runs while in WA state*

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Discussions and Deliberations:The Politics of Hunger

I'm an active member of an adoptive families forum connected to the agency through whom we adopted (CHSFS). The forum is quite open in that the agency doesn't manage/edit/shut down discussions . A few weeks ago there was a good discussion about about the reality that for SOME families just a little bit of help is the difference between choosing to remain an intact family and making the choice to relinquish a child to the care of an orphanage.

What was compelling about the discussion was the suggestion that we were literally talking about $5. In some situations, could $5 be the difference between a child staying with their family and being relinquished? The discussion was potent; the idea that a very minimal amount of resources, by our standards, were all that were necessary to keep families intact certainly deserves our continued discussion and attention. And, having that discussion makes me reflect deeply and purposefully on the politics of international adoption, the politics of food, the dilemma of NGO's, among other things.

One piece of the discussion that bothered me was the proposal that EVEN if folks could put $5 in the global kitty, so to speak, what would be the venue? By the way, it wasn't the person who said it who bothered me, it was the "lens" of the comment. I don't like futility.

Here is my thought: the venue is before us, right here.

The work of MSF represents that difference, that resource. In this case, the burden of feeding a malnourished child is relieved by the feeding stations MSF has established in Ethiopia. The reality is that a mother/father who receives help most certainly will have a better chance of moving through the food crisis and keep her family together.

Here is my haunting thought: what if Blueberry's mom needed that $5 to make it possible for her to imagine NOT giving him up for adoption? What if access to food had helped HER keep her son, my son, our son? It is a thought that hurts every day - and haunts every day. I don't need to know the answer to this "what if" question. I just need to make another mother or father's dilemma less permanent, less life long, less haunting. I need to keep asking. I'll keep offering, what readers do with this offer is up to them.

I'm not trying to be dramatic. I'm working at making connections between those things we all hold important and something here and right now that we can do. For $40 a 6 week supply of Plumpy'Nut can be provided to a family for a child. That supply can be used at home - with the child in the care of the family - and a child can literally be rescued from the grip of serious malnutrition.

I need your help to make the Ironman Charity Challenge work for the children of Ethiopia. Thank you for your help and generosity.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

Food Crisis in Southern Ethiopia - call to action

Check out this short report and YouTube Video to learn more about the food crisis in Southern Ethiopia. Then, if you can, please consider supporting the fundraiser a group of dedicated local friends are organizing to support the feeding stations in Ethiopia run by Doctor's Without Borders. 

You can make your tax-deductible contribution at this site, knowing your contribution is made promptly to rescue those most vulnerable to malnutrition; children.

This is our second annual effort to support the award winning work of Doctor's Without Borders. This is our second annual effort to show that grass roots support WILL make a difference and that one by one, we know how to give to those in need. Remember, a $40 donation feeds one child for 6 weeks, bringing them back from the devastating effects of malnutrition. 

Thank you.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Plumpy'Nut : Second Annual Ironman Effort to Save Kid's Lives!

It’s time for the Second Annual Plumpy Nut Ironman Fundraiser to Save Kids!

If you knew $40 would save a child’s life, would you find it? Of course you would. Here’s your chance to save someone’s world! Here’s a chance to save your world!

Last year, for the first Plumpy Nut Ironman fundraiser we pooled our cash and scrounged under our couch cushions to raise $14,000 for Doctors Without Borders. Doctors Without Borders pledged to buy Plumpy Nut ---a nutrient dense energy food---to distribute to children in Ethiopia – children who were suffering from severe malnutrition. At $40 per child, we were able to create the resources to save the lives of 650 babies and toddlers! And because we raised this fund through the Ironman Janus Charity Challenge and placed in the top five fundraisers, WE WON ANOTHER $2,000---enough money to save another 50 kids. Working together, we were able to create a fund that turned around the lives of 700 children and their families and their futures. And it was important, Ethiopia was gripped by a severe food shortage last harvest season on account of very very late rains and a poor harvest.

And now we have a chance to do this amazing work again. Another Madison, Wisconsin woman, Judy Bergsgaard, has agreed to be this year’s Plumpy’Nut Ironman racer. Judy and her sister, Peg Lussenden, of Morris, MN, are both mothers and first-time Ironman participants, and they are gearing up to toe the line for Doctors Without Borders, for Plumpy Nut, for kids, and for us September 13, 2009, just a month from now. All the money we put together will go to Doctors Without Borders for their life-saving work with Plumpy’Nut. And if we can place in the top five again, Janus will give even more. Let’s make it happen!

Please think about making a donation and about spreading the word. Think about donating in honor of a child you love, a person who saved the life of someone you care about, a person who has inspired you to do the impossible, an endurance athlete, a mother, a sister, a friend, a nation.
If you need to know about the need for food relief please read this article about the tragic food shortages in Southern Ethiopia. Our little Blueberry is from Southern Ethiopia - it makes this personal. Being good global neighbors IS PERSONAL!

At $40 for each life saved, we have a collective opportunity to do something remarkable. When we pool our money as we did last year---from garage sales and bat mitzvahs and reducing our chocolate budgets for a month—we have the chance to see the energy of our money and our love expand.

Here’s the place to donate:
As always, your donation is tax deductible - save your confirmation e-mail - and donate NOW!
Let’s win it!

*search my older posts by "Plumpy Nut" to read about our 2008 effort and then join us in '09!*

Monday, August 10, 2009

Family Photo - Freestyle

Daddy just home from work...

Twinkletoes and Songbird hurrying up because they have dance class and are already running late...

Mommy still in her running gear from the morning and having worn a ball cap all day...

Waffles worn out after his first day of HS soccer tryouts...

Quick, wipe the taco sauce off of our mouths, check Blueberry's face, hair, and shirt, run outside, try to keep baby in one place, and pose for a family photo for our 1 yr. post placement report....uh-oh, Blueberry grabbed a cell phone for entertainment!

No room for vanity. Tommorow Twinkletoes is getting her wisdom teeth out and then parents and babe are making a quick trip to Los Angeles for a few or never. We'll settle for now. Freestyle.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

AlemTsehaye and Her First Digital Pictures from Ethiopia

Meet AlemTsehaye. I've blogged about her before here. We met this lovely young woman in Lalibela. She invited our children for coffee, after they exchanged waves from balcony to her backyard. AlemTsehaye is 17. She's beautiful, smart, reserved, determined, and hopeful. AlemTsehaye's father was ill when we first met her family and were welcomed into her home. He died several weeks after we left Ethiopia. Although AlemTsehaye never asked our family for help, we knew that with 3 daughters (later we learned there is a college aged son) her mother, with no work and no fields to farm, would suffer trying to keep her daughters fed - and school would be impossible.
I am fortunate to have wonderful friends, one of whom heard AlemTsehaye's story and offered to help sponsor the daughters so they can finish school. Along the way, the big brother became a pen pal of Songbird - he's studying journalism at a university away from home (Dessie, I think) and has been enjoying writing to our biggest girl and exchanging college stories.
Today I received a lovely e-mail from AlemTsehaye along with a collection of digital photos she took. Let me track back a bit - AlemTsehaye's one request of our family was for a working digital camera. We were lucky to find travelers (hi V and R!) to deliver a camera to her - a camera with a great lens, but an older model. It turns out the camera's battery has a slow charge and a brief charge. I think the realities of limited local resources for power and batteries, and the limits of batteries, and the limits of my "perspective" (always a challenge in resource limited countries), have made learning to use the camera a slow process.
But, today there were photos! I e-mail with her regularly, but these photos were a first. First, I read her e-mail with delight and absolute glee when I scrolled down to her pictures. I then shared the pictures and e-mail content with the rest of the family and that is when the tears started. Oh, and they are starting again. I cried from that deep deep place of longing, of joy, of frustration.
Why cry? The special friendship my family has been able to share with a handful of people in Ethiopia is totally beyond any expectations I had when we all were in Ethiopia a year ago;one year ago exactly. And, it is no surprise that the conduits for these connections were our amazing teen aged children. They brought us into the fold, so to speak. They reached out and made friendships that continue to flourish and challenge us as a family. We are challenged to see our own global and local privilege, to see our own place as global and local neighbors, and to make choices about how we use our resources in order to share our family's bounty with others.
So, when AlemTsehaye's photos arrived, especially this one of a room full of school mates smiling for the "camera of AlemTsehaye"...I wept with gratitude for her self portraits and the lens she has revealed in Lalibela. I wept for beautiful Ethiopia. I wept for all of the needs still unmet. I wept for the goodness of my children. I wept for the unanticipated treasure that our Blueberry brought with him, even as he left his home country to become our son.
There is more to say, but the tears are clouding my vision.
I need to find a less "fussy" camera for dear AlemTsehaye. I'd like to make the battery operation simpler for her - so that I can enjoy her point of view.

Big Boy Brother n' Breakfast

Saturday, August 8, 2009

1 year here

It's just fitting that the picture I'm going to use to illustrate
the year of "Blueberry" is one in which he is moving with just a hint of a smile. That's our boy; our #1 caboose. He started in our care not able to roll, grasp toys, sit up, and barely could lift his head while on his tummy. Look at him go go go! 1 year here. We love you, Blueberry!
Mommy, Daddy, Songbird, Twinkletoes, and Waffles
(and your dog Herbie and cat Munsee)

Entrusted to our care - Enduring love

It was one year ago this week that we all were in Ethiopia and meeting our sweet Blueberry for the first time. Our family shares many many memories of this first meeting; both of Blueberry and by extension, Ethiopia. We love Blueberry, and we love his home country. When our son was entrusted to our care we made a covenant with his Ethiopian beloveds, and a covenant between ourselves as a family to do better, to be better, to love with fewer boundaries. We love our Blueberry familiar - it is exquisite love and enduring love. In pictures - a few moments that were heartmaking....

Monday, August 3, 2009

I cried - and I'm not talkin' a happy cry

Our visit to the Olympic Peninsula was perfect, except for the day I cried. And then I cried again, when telling Songbird about the event that made me cry. And I'm not talking about a happy cry - I'm talking a downright disappointed, terrified, horrified, heartbreaking cry.

Our happy little family of 3 turned to leave the beach at Fort Flagler and found a large, ugly, Chevy SUV had parked next to our little Ford Focus rental car. The truck was "parked" and occupied by 2 white 20-something men; men just sitting there looking out at the ocean, and perhaps at our family. As I was lacing up my shoes, I watched as Mr. Silly Pants walked a wide circle around the truck, Blueberry held tightly in him arms. Something was not right with the way my man was looking at the truck and gripping his son. As I walked around the big truck to get to our car, where Blueberry had been lovingly tucked into his car seat, I saw what was wrong about the scene: the truck was covered in racist decals. Every inch of display space was filled. Here are three examples: there was a huge confederate flag with the words "Fear This." There was a neo-nazi symbol of a skull gripping a rose in its mouth. There was a saying something like, "If you can't pony up, keep your p**** a** in the truck." This was HATE ON DISPLAY.

I carefully walked over to my son in his car seat, kissed his sweet and perfect little head, climbed in the car, looked at Mr. Silly Pants, nodded for him to move (and move fast), and then started to cry. To witness hatred so vitriolic and so public was more than I could manage. This was my first close encounter with white supremacists since Blueberry was entrusted to our care and I was broken by the reality of hate.

But there was shame for me too. The shame came from a deep place. Shame for my white privilege. Shame for my economic status. Shame for allowing racist utterances in my presence from friends and family. Shame for the racist acts and thoughts of my past - and for the future of every insidious act or thought of racism that I don't intercept quickly enough. But mostly, I felt the shame of this realization.......During my lifetime such hate on display would have horrified me. I would have seen the truck and been disgusted by the plethora of visible signs of hatred. I would have thought the men to be jerks, pricks, idiots, stupid, and dangerous. The day on Flagler Beach was different. I was terrified. I was terrified for my son; for his life, for his well being, for his safety, for his future. Suddenly, "grow-him-up-good and send-him-off ready" was obviously NOT going to be enough for my little brown boy. And I cried as these emotions all melted together in a heavy veil of terror and a deep deep sadness. What had been a reality I saw from a certain comfortable distance, now had become personal. And, thus, the shame. (It took THIS to get me here? Why the hell didn't I get this before? What kind of anti-racist am I?).

I love my son. I love every little sweet lovable darling adorable part of his whole person. Black is beautiful. He's all of that and more.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Vacations and Explorations

The Olympic Penninsula; The place Mr. Silly Pants calls home and where his mother lives on a small and beautiful island.

Tidepools were a big HIT!

The view from Grandma's front yard

Yummy sand

Icky oyster - but I ate it anyway - taken right from water at the house

Hugs for Daddy at the ocean

Like Theodore Roosevelt, Blueberry walks softly and carries a big stick.

Mom hugs

Boats, glorious boats

I started running again - the island was the perfect place to start again with gravel roads and the scent of salt water all around. At the end of every run I arrived home with a handful of the most gorgeous blackberries this little Blueberry had EVER seen! Yummy!