November 26, 2010


We train'd, we subway'd, we Brooklyn'd. We lunched. We Radio City'd. We Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon'd then we diced, chopped, and wrapped things in bacon then we cooked cooked cooked. And we ate ate ate. There was wine, there was bacon. There were people singing, playing, and dancing to We All Live In A Yellow Submarine - again and again and again. It was so very happy. Then we ate apple cake for breakfast, prepped a days worth of bacon snacks, and set off to cut down this year's Christmas tree. Twas truly a Thanksgiving to give thanks.

November 23, 2010

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

My new favorite bedtime story. I ordered it from Amazon months ago before it was released so it was a complete surprise when it showed up at my doorstep last week. I love finding new favorite bedtime stories. I also love that Ash now insists on being a part of Leni's bedtime stories and even reads them to her himself sometimes. And then he sings songs to her (granted Twinkle Twinkle Little Star often becomes Twinkle Twinkle Little Baby Puke, but hey, he's 3 1/2). I love that when we Skyped with Daddy he asked which airport Daddy was in and when Daddy responded Texas he asked "but where in Texas?" And of course, when Daddy told him he was heading to CA his only interest was if he was going to see Lightning McQueen this time. And I love how excited he is to have a sleepover with his BFF on Thanksgiving, and how he remembers cutting down our Christmas tree the day after last year. But most of all I love it when he randomly looks at me and says, "Mommy! We're a family!"

November 16, 2010

When I Was A Baby Did You Name Me Ashton?

I'm not sure where/when he started wondering this, but it's been a fairly common question for the last week or so. He's been quite concerned about confirming that we did in deed name him Ashton when he was a baby and seems quite relieved when I answer him "yes". He knows that his Ethiopia mommy gave him the name Wondemu, and he loves saying his whole name really loud 10 times in a row...ashtonwondemumcgregorashtonwondemumcgregor.... but for the time being the fact that we gave him a name when he was a baby seems to be on his "things to make sure of" list.

Other things on that list recently...

We're staying at an African/safari themed hotel in Disney World and many of the staff members are from Africa. Ash has been hugely annoyed when he asks where they're from and all they say is "Africa". He quickly follows that up with "But WHERE in Africa?". They quickly get over their surprised reaction and go in to detail about which country, what it's like, etc etc once they realize we are actually interested. Sort of sad that this comes as a surprise to them, that tourists in this area would actually be interested in an answer beyond just Africa.

Another thing he's been keen on making sure of has been his swimming abilities, namely the ability to jump in to the water as far and fast as he can for the sole purpose of soaking mommy. And I'm sure there are quite a few other items I could add to this list but unfortunately our hotel does not have wifi. Yes, you read that right. No wifi. In Disney World. We have to plug in using a 2 foot cord that remands me to the far corner of the room when accessing all things Internet. As I type this I still find it hard to believe, I mean way back in 2003 when we rode camels into the Sahara while visiting Morocco and slept in small tents in the sand with nomads even they could tell us which sand dune to climb in order to get the best signal to check the scores on that day's futbol game. But no, Disney World 2010 and still no wifi.

November 12, 2010

The Giraffe Outside My Window

Tonight we put the kids to bed, which was pretty simple seeing as they both just tipped over the moment we finally put them in their PJ's for the night, and then moved ourselves out on to the balcony. With a glass of wine, and 4 giraffes, and 3 zebras, and 2 of an animal yet to be identified. These were the same giraffes that just hours earlier caused Ash to (seriously) sprint into the glass sliding door with such excitement he hardly realized he had just slammed his entire body against the glass and then made for dang sure we knew there were giraffes outside his hotel room window. Then we scooped his slightly bedazzled self up and wrapped his sister in the 2 sizes too big diapers daddy packed and whisked them away to the Magic Kingdom's special evening event titled "A Very Merry Christmas Party" where we rode, we danced, we played, we sang, and then eventually, we tipped over. Which brings me right back to that stellar glass of wine on the balcony. And the giraffes and the zebra still outside. And the sleeping babes who promised me just prior to the aforementioned tipping over that they'd sleep soundly till at least 8AM tomorrow. Cheers to all of the above.

November 9, 2010


Where does your laundry go after it's been laundered? Into a bin, up the stairs, folded in to piles and placed into dressers or on hangers in closets? I so wish that were the case for us. For us it's more like washer to dryer to bin to stairs to... being dumped on the guest bed in the guest bedroom where the clothing items stay until A) they're worn, or B) some sort of miracle happens and we actually make it around to folding them. Though option B never (really, never) happens more than a day before the next load of laundry makes it up the stairs. So really, we should just call our guest bed the laundry bed and the guest bedroom the where-laundry-goes-to-die room. There will be a day in the future (note: not near future) when all of the clothes are clean and folded and put away with more than 24 hours between this time and when the next mountain of laundry needs dealing with. It really will happen. Just not any time soon.

November 5, 2010

One Day

And if you have ANY connection to the worldwide education movement that is TFA (Teach for America) you know exactly how that slogan goes...

One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

I am a member of the 2001 TFA Corps. I taught for two years in my first placement school then went on to help an incredible team of educators (mostly TFA alums themselves) start a small public middle school in the South Bronx of NYC. I spent two years building and leading the math and photography programs at that school before moving on to where I am now, working as a project manager in the field of education technology.

And, if you're a fan of Jane Aronson and her Worldwide Orphans Foundation (WWO) you may be familiar with this phrase:

To transform the lives of orphaned children by taking them out of anonymity and helping them to become healthy, independent, productive members of their communities and around the world.

Because every child deserves a loving, healthy family. To state the obvious my husband and I value the mission of WWO and became acutely aware just a short time after meeting that our future lives together would include adoption. Not because we wanted to save a child, but because we knew that if there came a time at some point in the future when a mother would make the painstaking decision to entrust us to parent her brilliant, beautiful child, that we wanted nothing more than to fulfill that privilege.

So now, more than 9 years later, nearly10 years since our wedding day and 10 years since my first days in the classroom and 3 years since our life changing trip to Ethiopia and 1 year since "completing" our family with little Leni, I'm being called out. Called out by TFA and the global education reform movement in general. Called out by the adoption community and worldwide organizations tasked to challenge the orphan crisis and improve the quality of life for children everywhere. Called out, and big time.

What am I doing today?

Since my days with TFA and IA (international adoption), which for all intensive purposes have not nor will ever end, I seem to have allowed myself to become less and less angry. Less angry about the injustices in education where the playing field is still so not leveled you'd be lucky not to be catapulted off one end if you walk the plank too far, and injustices in the worlds children where the immediate needs of orphanages requesting simple supplies simply aren't being met. I've somehow allowed myself to slip in to a routine that is just, well, just less angry.

It's good to be angry sometimes. It's amazing what you can get done when you're angry. I remember hating hating certain moments of teaching because I knew that despite any amount of effort put forth from my students they would always be at a significant (and I mean SIGNIFICANT) disadvantage when it came to graduating and going on for any sort of college experience. I hated hated walking through orphanages ripe with ringworm and other afflictions easily treatable by over the counter medications you often find being given away for free in American doctors offices. Things made me angry and I moved because of it. And then life, things, became easy. Sure, not without your run of the mill daily challenges but easy nonetheless.

After my experiences teaching and having done a decent amount of travel to the worlds countries it's pretty damn difficult to call my life anything other than easy.

I need to be angry again. To veer from the easy and move to the, movement. Not one day, but today, so that One Day...

10 years ago this kind of feeling landed me starting the best 10 years of my life, teaching, traveling, becoming a parent, twice. It's time to launch the next 10 year plan.

Reading Comprehension 101

If you enjoyed (or not) Tim Wise's recent post I linked to yesterday then you may (or may not) wan to check out his response to the criticism it received. Again, below is a short except from the post but as always a full-read is recommended.

Reading Comprehension 101: Text, Subtext, and the Politics of Misinterpretation

"That said, and while I know we live in a culture where reading comprehension (and writing itself) is devalued — what with our emphasis on short, sweet text messages, or tweet-talk, in which we are expected to make a point in 140 characters — I am yet amazed at how difficult some find it to decipher the words I have caused to appear on the page, and to really interpret what they mean, as opposed to that which they do not.

To wit, after my latest piece on the election results went viral, there have been more than a few folks who have written to say how appalled they were by my “attack on white people,” or my “attack on America,” or my “hateful diatribe” in which I “gleefully anticipate the death of the elderly” and the “initiation of violent payback of whites writ large by people of color” once whites become a less prominent portion of the national population, a few decades hence. In other words, putting aside the inherent absurdity of this interpretation — I am white after all, as are my kids, as is my wife, as is my momma, all my immediate family and my best friend too — some who read the piece believe against all logic and in the face of plain English (however aggressive the piece may be), that I have announced, excitedly, the coming of a glorious race war and the end of white people.


So perhaps we should start with the obvious, for those a bit too slow to begin the reading of the essay with, ya know, the title."

- Tim Wise

An Artistic Depiction

We think this may have been Bridger and Helena's way of artistically visualizing this week's election results. Bridger, the aging fat cat in full death-stare mode yet still maintaining his distance from the clearly shocked infant unwilling to roll over yet still maintaining a death-grip on the pacifier. Call it what you will.

November 4, 2010

A Note From Tim Wise

Interesting commentary from Tim Wise on the results of this week's elections found HERE. Warning, depending on your preferences regarding exposure to "potty words" you may prefer to read outside of the presence of children. Below is a short excerpt from the post, but I highly recommend clicking on the linked title to read the whole thing.

An Open Letter to the White Right, On the Occasion of Your Recent, Successful Temper Tantrum

"And in the pantheon of American history, old white people have pretty much always been the bad guys, the keepers of the hegemonic and reactionary flame, the folks unwilling to share the category of American with others on equal terms.

Fine, keep it up. It doesn’t matter.

Because you’re on the endangered list.

And unlike, say, the bald eagle or some exotic species of muskrat, you are not worth saving.

In forty years or so, maybe fewer, there won’t be any more white people around who actually remember that Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, Opie-Taylor-Down-at-the-Fishing Hole cornpone bullshit that you hold so near and dear to your heart.

There won’t be any more white folks around who think the 1950s were the good old days, because there won’t be any more white folks around who actually remember them, and so therefore, we’ll be able to teach about them accurately and honestly, without hurting your precious feelings, or those of the so-called “greatest generation” — a bunch whose white members were by and large a gaggle of miscreants who helped save the world from fascism only to return home and oppose the ending of it here, by doing nothing to lift a finger on behalf of the civil rights struggle.

So to hell with you and all who revere you.

By then, half the country will be black or brown. And there is nothing you can do about it.

Nothing, Senõr Tancredo.

Nothing, Senõra Angle, or Senõra Brewer, or Senõr Beck.

Loy tiene muy mal, hijo de Puta."

- Tim Wise

November 2, 2010

1 + 1 > 2

I don't know how parents of 3+ children do it. YOU'RE OUTNUMBERED! Please, do share your secrets because 2 has created quite the juggling act for us. I will give us some credit and admit that at least we seem to be keeping the balls in the air for now, but never without a few buckets of sweat threatening to barrel down our brows... You know the phrase "just by the hair of my chinny chin chin"? Well, we're exhausting those there hairs. We rarely notice how huge the presence of the juggling act is until we spend some time with our family in MN and are reminded how much simpler things can be with a few extra sets of hands to balance the balls. We just don't think about it much when it's just the 4 of us, because that's just how it is and we roll with it and everything eventually gets done. But man, when you get to enjoy the sweetness that is family for a few days the juggling act turns into 7 1-ton semis smashing in to your forehead upon return to the norm.

It's similar to when one of us is traveling for work and the other is left to tend to the kiddies solo. After a day or so I get into a grind and things run pretty smoothly, but then we're both around for the morning/evening routine for a while and get used to having 2 sets of hands and then WHAM one of us leaves and the other scurries to the back corner of the upstairs closet as fast as humanly possible. I suppose it's no revelation that when things are made easier for a while it makes the return to slightly more difficult a WHOLE LOT MORE DIFFICULT. Almost makes me want to just stay put in slightly-more-difficult land so as never to get comfortable on easy street.

Wait, nope. Easy street is welcome in our parts any time. In fact I'm going to put out a welcome sign with gigantic blinking arrows pointing towards our house right now just to make sure it doesn't get lost on it's next run through town.

On a completely unrelated note Leni had her 4 month check up and is now 13 pounds (25%) and 24.5 inches (50%). Her 6 month check up in December will be a combo check up/travel vaccines for her and travel vaccines for Ash.

Mom + 6 month old + 3 1/2 year old + lots of needles = Daddy had better have one outstanding bottle of wine waiting with dinner that night.

November 1, 2010

The Growing Family

My little sister just got married and Ash couldn't be more excited to have a new uncle to climb on and run circles around. Of course their current plan is to remain in MN so our plans to move family members to our neck of the woods in NY seem to have failed once again... Thankfully the whole "it requires a wedding or a funeral to bring a family together" idea doesn't seem to apply to our family. We manage to make it to MN several times a year and welcome the MN fan club to NY frequently as well. It's no secret that Ash is no stranger to airports, whether it be to pick family up or check-in ourselves. And no, I don't plan trips to MN for the sole purpose of being able to enjoy a hot cup of coffee that hasn't been reheated in the microwave 5 times. Though it is a pretty nice perk.

This time, though, one of the events waiting for us when we landed was my sisters wedding. And by "we" I mean me and the kids. Daddy was of playing in Barbados (ok ok, he was "working" there) so met us in MN instead of flying with us. Just me, the 4 month old, and the 3 1/2 year old. And if I do say so myself, we were a pretty darn cute bundle of commuters for 2 days. Yes, you read that right. It took us 2 days to complete the 3 hour flight from NY to MN. Let me explain...

Day of flight: Received an email 7 hours before takeoff informing me that our direct flight had been canceled. Spent 30 minutes on the phone figuring out new flights (direct flight no longer an option) only to discover that I had to leave the house (and fetch Leni from the babysitter and pickup Ash from school) in less than 5 minutes to catch a connecting flight through Chicago. Arrived at the airport, strapped both kids to the security buckets that get sent through the scanner at airport security and sent them through. OK, OK, no I didn't. But I wanted to. Boarded the plane. 2nd in line for takeoff, but wait, it's windy in Chicago so we're going to hang out on the tarmac for 2 hours. Got on the phone with the airline to sort out a new connecting flight since I'd now certainly miss the first one I was re-booked on only to find out that it had been canceled anyway. Guess we're spending the night in Chicago. But wait, a passenger got sick so we had to return to the terminal giving us the opportunity to get off the plane, spend the night in Brooklyn, and board a new (DIRECT!!! DIRECT!!!) flight to MN the next morning.

24 hours later we arrived only to find out that daddy's flight from Barbados to MN had been canceled. One day and 3 martinis later (I kid, I kid) the 4 of us were together in MN clinging to whatever strands of sanity managed to withstand the events of this most epic trip to family. And it goes without saying that it was so entirely and most definitely worth it. We'd do it again in a heartbeat, just might pack a grandma or two for the commute next time.

Which brings my most long winded of a story full circle to the real point of this post. Life may have landed us a few thousand miles from most of our family (SHOUT OUT TO OUR FAM IN PA WHO ARE ONLY 90 MINUTES AWAY - YOU ROCK!!) but that hasn't stopped us from being a part of it all. It just takes a few extra hours, a re-prioritization of finances in favor of the airline industry, and about 10,000 tons of patience in reserve for when life decides to make things interesting.

Welcome to the family Brad. And just for the record, it's your turn to come to NY.