Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Smartest Kid On The Block

I started school again!  And that is not a happy apostrophe.  That is a kicking-and-screaming-all-the-way-apostrophe! 

I enjoy the MSW program, but summer was so awesome, I don't want it to end.  But I do have a light schedule the ENTIRE year--give a big WOOT to that! And that is a happy apostrophe!

My plans?

Go to school until I'm 64.

Work one year.


I must be the smartest kid on the block.

My mommy wanted a first day of school picture  1,267,831st day of school pic--so here you go mom!  I love you!  Thanks for the encouragement all these years!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dancing For Africa

I want to thank everyone who is reaching out to Africa.  Thank you, thank you!  And an especially BIG thank you from the children who have no voice!

Praying for Africa reminds me of some of my favorite fairy tales, retold by Rachel Isadora.  They have an African theme and are a must for every child's library.

Our favorite is Rapunzel.

I also like, The Princess and the Pea, but Vu doesn't like it because he says the prince is only interested in finding a real princess when he should be marrying for love.  Ah, my sweet boy.  So very wise is he. 

Another recent find was Giraffes Can't Dance, by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees.  African themed with a great moral, I especially love the last line, "We all can dance . . . when we find music that we love."

Keep praying for Africa.  Keep giving others the chance to dance.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Plea For Africa : Ask 5 For 5

Dear Friends,

I turn to you today with the plea of a guest blogger, Sarah Lanssen.  Together we can make a difference!

Guest Blogger: Sarah Lenssen from #Ask5for5
Family photos by Mike Fiechtner Photography

Thank you  Ann and nearly 150 other bloggers from around the world for allowing me to share a story with you today, during Social Media Week.

A hungry child in East Africa can't wait. Her hunger consumes her while we decide if we'll respond and save her life. In Somalia, children are stumbling along for days, even weeks, on dangerous roads and with empty stomachs in search of food and water. Their crops failed for the third year in a row. All their animals died. They lost everything. Thousands are dying along the road before they find help in refugee camps. 

At my house, when my three children are hungry, they wait minutes for food, maybe an hour if dinner is approaching. Children affected by the food crisis in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia aren't so lucky. Did you know that the worst drought in 60 years is ravaging whole countries right now, as you read this? Famine, a term not used lightly, has been declared in Somalia. This is the world's first famine in 20 years.12.4 million people are in need of emergency assistance and over 29,000 children have died in the last three months alone. A child is dying every 5 minutes. It it estimated that 750,000 people could die before this famine is over. Take a moment and let that settle in.

The media plays a major role in disasters. They have the power to draw the attention of society to respond--or not. Unfortunately, this horrific disaster has become merely a footnote in most national media outlets. News of the U.S. national debt squabble and the latest celebrity's baby bump dominate headlines. That is why I am thrilled that nearly 150 bloggers from all over the world are joining together today to use the power of social media to make their own headlines; to share the urgent need of the almost forgotten with their blog readers. Humans have the capacity to care deeply for those who are suffering, but in a situation like this when the numbers are too huge to grasp and the people so far away, we often feel like the little we can do will be a drop in the ocean, and don't do anything at all.

When news of the famine first hit the news in late July, I selfishly avoided it. I didn't want to read about it or hear about it because I knew I would feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable. I wanted to protect myself. I knew I would need to do something if I knew what was really happening. You see, this food crisis is personal. I have a 4-year-old son and a 1 yr-old daughter who were adopted from Ethiopia and born in regions now affected by the drought. If my children still lived in their home villages, they would be two of the 12.4 million. My children: extremely hungry and malnourished? Gulp. I think any one of us would do anything we could for our hungry child. But would you do something for another mother's hungry child?

My friend and World Vision staffer, Jon Warren, was recently in Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya--the largest refugee camp in the world with over 400,000 people. He told me the story of Isnino Siyat, 22, a mother who walked for 10 days and nights with her husband, 1 yr-old-baby, Suleiman, and 4 yr.-old son Adan Hussein, fleeing the drought in Somalia. When she arrived at Dadaab, she built the family a shelter with borrowed materials while carrying her baby on her back. Even her dress is borrowed. As she sat in the shelter on her second night in camp she told Jon, "I left because of hunger. It is a very horrible drought which finished both our livestock and our farm." The family lost their 5 cows and 10 goats one by one over 3 months, as grazing lands dried up. "We don't have enough food now...our food is finished. I am really worried about the future of my children and myself if the situation continues."

Will you help a child like Baby Suleiman? Ask5for5 is a dream built upon the belief that you will.

That something I knew I would need to do became a campaign called #Ask5for5 to raise awareness and funds for famine and drought victims. The concept is simple, give $5 and ask five of your friends to give $5, and then they each ask five of their friends to give $5 and so on--in nine generations of 5x5x5...we could raise $2.4 Million! In one month, over 750 people have donated over $25,000! I set up a fundraiser at See Your Impact and 100% of the funds will go to World Vision, an organization that has been fighting hunger in the Horn of Africa for decades and will continue long after this famine has ended. Donations can multiply up to 5 times in impact by government grants to
help provide emergency food, clean water, agricultural support,
healthcare, and other vital assistance to children and families suffering in the Horn.

I need you to help me save lives. It's so so simple; here's what you need to do:

  1. Donate $5 or more on this page (http://seeyourimpact.org/members/ask5for5)
  2. Send an email to your friends and ask them to join us.
  3. Share #Ask5for5 on Facebook and Twitter!

I'm looking for another 100 bloggers to share this post on their blogs throughout Social Media Week. Email me at ask5for5@gmail.com if you're interested in participating this week.

A hungry child doesn't wait. She doesn't wait for us to finish the other things on our to-do list, or get to it next month when we might have a little more money to give. She doesn't wait for us to decide if she's important enough to deserve a response. She will only wait as long as her weakened little body will hold on...please respond now and help save her life. Ask 5 for 5.

Thank you on behalf of all of those who will be helped--you are saving lives and changing history.

p.s. Please don't move on to the next website before you donate and email your friends right now. It only takes 5 minutes and just $5, and if you're life is busy like mine, you probably won't get back to it later. Let's not be a generation that ignores hundreds of thousands of starving people, instead let's leave a legacy of compassion. You have the opportunity to save a life today!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Best Day In America

I haven't posted much about how Rose is transitioning because honestly, in so many ways, I forget how much she is still transitioning. 

Until I get a reminder.

Last weekend we went to the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival downtown.  It's a major celebration in both China and Vietnam--think mooncakes!  The festival here was tiny with just dancing, lantern hanging, and mooncake buying in a big parking lot. 

But Rose?  She was SO excited!  She was happy to engage in the question and answer session that was given in Chinese.  She was THRILLED to see the red lanterns, the booths teaching Chinese characters, and she loved speaking to complete strangers in her native tongue.  She befriended one older woman and began chattering away in Cantonese, eventually asking the woman if she was Chinese or American?  The woman replied (then translated for me) that she is American, with Chinese roots, just like Rose.

Rose looked a bit surprised--shocked really.  She had to think about it.  And then she asked the lady if she had been adopted too! 

After purchasing bubble tea and Chinese food, we headed home. 

On the car ride, Rose gave a deep sigh then said to me, "This me happiest day in America!"

For a moment in time, in a big parking lot, she saw familiar sights, heard her mother tongue, ate traditional foods--for an afternoon she felt like she was back in China. 

More reminders of all she has lost.  Tempered with all she has gained.  Bittersweet.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Never, Ever, Ever Give Up

Going through tough times?  Feel like quitting?  Parenting a child from the hard places?

Be the runner.

Or be the one who comes to the runner's side.

When you don't give up you cannot fail --Derek Redmond. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I woke up this morning with a song running through my head.  Actually, more of a tune, with a few words interspersed.  So, so clear.  But I didn't know the name.  Or the artist.  Still, it kept a presence so strong I felt an urging from God to find it.  I finally did some detective work and discovered Blessings, by Laura Story.  Especially appropriate on the eve of 9/11.

The Great Thong Incident

My comment about thongs in my last post reminds me of how often I forget to call them "flip-flops."

And recalling how often I forget to call them "flip flops" always reminds me of The Great Thong Incident.

Years back, when Will was in middle school, he had a bunch of friends over.  The boys were all in the family room and I was in the kitchen, which was separated from the family room by a long counter top. 

I was making some lunch when I tripped over something.  I cried out over my stubbed toe, then bent down with horror and screamed, "Oh no!  I just broke my thong!!!  Ohhhh, I can't believe it!  My favorites!!!!  And brand new!  Ohhhh!  I hope I can glue my thong back together!!!"

I popped up from behind the kitchen counter and looked into the family room where a multitude of 8th grade boys stood gaping at me from the other side of the room.  They all stared at me in stunned silence, with open-mouthed, horrified faces. 

It took me a moment to realize my blunder and then it was my turn to look at them  in stunned silence, wondering how to explain it!  I began to giggle out loud and then through shrieks of laughter told them I wasn't talking about THAT kind of thong!!!  I laughed until I cried, and all those boys got quite a hoot out of it too.

To this day, when I see some of those same boys, now all grown up, they will often remind me of The Great Thong Incident. 

Laugh.  It does the body good.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Mystery Of The Missing Shoes? Or Missing Brain?

Since the first week of school is almost over I thought I should post first day of school pics.

They were all up and running with new school supplies, new lunch boxes, new clothing and new shoes.

Except that one child did not have new shoes.  Patrick.  He looked and looked and could not find his new shoes.  Notice that he is the only one not smiling in the picture above. 

Now, herein lies the mystery.  In my mind I did not buy him new shoes because he had outgrown his old shoes when he wasn't supposed to--in May, just when the school year ended.  (My kids are only allowed to outgrow their shoes in August and February, so we can maintain the "new shoes" schedule.) 

And because I didn't want to listen to my son complain about how much his feet were hurting  because I am such a loving mother, I bought Patrick a new pair of shoes in May, and he hardly wore them all summer because we were on thongs flip-flops schedule.  (Yes, I just aged myself.  Back in the olden days flip-flops were called thongs.  Thongs--hee-hee.  Thongs.  Yes, I'm immature.)

Anyhoo, in my mind Patrick did not, and does not, have new shoes.  (He does have shoes that are like-new and very functional.  Don't judge me.) 

But Patrick insists that I did buy him new shoes and he can even describe them as black and white.

And because I know that my brain often goes missing, I have spent the week looking for these new, black and white, hypothetical shoes.  That I apparently did buy.  But cannot find.

Looked and looked.  Cannot find.

But perhaps I cannot find them because they do not even exist?

And so herein lies the conclusion that I just might have to come to.  Even tho I don't want to.  No, I REALLY do not want to come to this conclusion.  And yet I must. 

Is it possible that I have passed on the missing brain gene to my child? 

Please, tell me this gene skips a generation?  My mind will be so gone by the time I have grandkids that at least I won't have to feel guilty about passing them the missing brain gene. 

In the meantime, I will keep looking for a pair of possibly fictional, black and white shoes.

And if you really love me, please sneak into my house in the middle of the night and hide a pair of black and white shoes where I can find them, so I will think that it is really only me who is losing my mind, and not my highly-intelligent child. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dear Summer,

Dear Summer,

I cannot believe our time together has come and gone.  It seems like just yesterday that you arrived! 

Is it really possible that our days together have come and gone?

I just want you to know how much I enjoyed your visit.

I will so miss our days of lounging around,

sleeping in,

enjoying each other's company,

and spending our days enriched with sweet laughter,

amidst growing affection.

Yes, I know you were late arriving,

and it originally caused some consternation,

but all was forgotten when you finally showed your sunny, smiling face.

Our encounter was simply too brief.

Summer, you are an absolute delight!  I am more in love with you than ever.  I look forward to your visit next year. 

Please arrive much earlier and stay for much, much longer.

All my best,

Fall Winter Spring

Saturday, September 3, 2011

School Year Success

Summer is nearly over.  Sigh.  Where is the "dislike" button? 

Even tho I don't want summer to end, it's time to start thinking about school year organization, which means it's time, once again, to repost my keys to a successful school year

For your viewing pleasure, I have included the original post here:


1.) Get up early. This is difficult. But so important.

2.) Have a master calendar and daily planner. Check every night before bed and every morning upon waking. And if you have dementia like me, several times in between. I also have a large bulletin board in the laundry room with master school and sports schedules.

3.) Keep a master box of extra school supplies. I buy extra supplies in the summer when things are on sale. Poster board is a very important supply. I've learned this the hard way trying to find a store open at 11 pm for a procrastinating high-schooler. If my kids need a supply not in the box they are to write me a note and put it on the fridge.

4.) Keep a small school box full of supplies for homework and readily accessible where homework is done. If there is more than one area, have more than one box.

5.) Have a daily homework time for elementary school kids. My older kids fit it in on their own.

6.) Have a desk folder for school info--all those things you get at back-to-school night with teacher e-mails and class schedules. Keep a separate folder for each child.

7.) Make a breakfast menu or at least plan what will be for breakfast the night before. We were a cold cereal family during our years of having a new baby in the house so no guilt from me. It can help just to get out the boxes and bowls.

8.) Make lunches the night before. I usually pack the things that won't get soggy and make the sandwiches the morning of.

9.) Sign and return papers right away. If my child comes home from school and hands me a permission slip for a field trip, I immediately sign it, get money for the event out of my purse and return it to their backpack. Otherwise, it is too easy to forget or bury it on my desk.

10.) Lastly, my MOST SUCCESSFUL SCHOOL ORGANIZATION TIP! Have a check-off list to use in the evening. Direct the children to the list so you are not forever asking the same questions over and over i.e. "Did you brush your teeth, did you . . ." All you need to say is, "Have you finished your check-off list?"

Ours is posted on the side of the fridge. It is for mental check-off only because I have never had much luck at real check-off lists. It is only intended for my elementary age kids.


1. 6:45 Start bath/showers
For the record, my kids do not bathe every night. Nobody has died from lack thereof.

2. Lay out clothes
They lay out what they will wear the next day including clothes, socks, shoes, hair accessories

3. Put backpack by front door (make sure homework is signed)

4. Do a housesweep
No actual sweeping involved--they look all around the house and pick up their things. They also spend a few minutes picking up their bedroom.

5. Have a snack if you have time
(They need to be done with all the above by 7:45 to have a snack--it's a very good incentive!)

6. Brush teeth

7. Read

Now we can go back to our regularly scheduled program of enjoying the last days of summer.