Friday, July 27, 2012

On Adoption and Olympics

As we watched the Olympics opening ceremonies tonight, I told Eldest how the Olympics  always remind me of him as a newborn.

"Why?" He asked.
"Because you were born Olympics week. We watched them the first couple weeks of your life while we fell in love with you."
"Ouch. You must have been in pain."
"Pain? No. Why would you say that?"
"Having a baby hurts a lot."
"Darlin' having you didn't hurt me. I felt a lot of joy. No pain."
*long pause* "Oh," *laugh* "Yeah. I forgot."
......And catching on Princess: *giggle* "I did TOO!"

I Live With Candace Flynn and Other Nonsense

My Princess has suddenly made herself very concerned about her siblings' safety, behavior, and all around lifestyles. I'm beginning to think I live with Candace Flynn.

We've been in self-induced seclusion for nearly a week. And yet, today, I have a child with pinkeye. How do you get an infectious disease without being out? Seriously, we went to a parade and walked through the fair for 45 minutes. I should seriously play the lottery. I feel like boiling my entire family and our home in bleach.

I first heard the song Call Me Maybe for the first time on Monday. Today it is everywhere and I can sing along. Thank you Team USA women's swimming?

I'm back to hating my cat. If someone doesn't come get her, like yesterday, she is going to die. The end. PETA peeps can come get her, I don't want the comments. She moved into my house without my permission and she can go now. I think I've ethically treated her for as long as should be required of a person who is a self-professing non-animal-lover.

Something in my post yesterday struck a nerve. All those years of writing Very Important Things and my "Africa has made me a hermit" post is the one that gets a zillion hits. Interesting.

My children actually think it is possible to put me on a guilt trip for wanting to use my own computer. They are all hovering over me like it will speed me up. I've got news for you, YES, YOU MISS READING OVER MY SHOULDER, this is MY computer and I'm allowed to use it sometimes!

I am a 35. I am not a 34 and I am not a 36. I don't care if 36 rounds down to 35. It doesn't work. It is on my severe left nerve. After all these years, I'm surprised that someone hasn't fixed this problem. Apparently I am the only one. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you are a man.

My family of seven is $1400 short (anual income, not monthly, $1400 over a whole year) of qualifying for free lunches at school. If you've seen how we live, you'll agree with me that something is wrong with that system. Though, now that I think about it, $1400 is about what I'll spend for school lunches this coming year, so maybe their math is more accurate than I know.

Nope, I'm going to have to go with "Seriously?" And you know what? When I tell people, they don't believe me. Either I'm more wickedly frugal than even I can conceive, or that system is broken. I might have to write a letter to the editor. It enrages me.

Apparently the only way to keep my children in their beds is to give them very loud and angry permission to get out. Also, kids tend to pick up on mom's tension. I know! Mom's stressed! Let's follow her around and FIGHT! Awesome plan, dude! And while we're at it, let's leave our candy wrappers ALL OVER THE FLOOR! She'll love it! Oh, you are so smart! I wish I could come up with your ideas! You have all the good ones! Ooooooo! Ooooooo! And we'll turn up our music REALLY LOUD and then fight about THAT, too! YES!!!!! Hey, before we start, let's go pee ALL OVER THE BATHROOM! And not wipe it up! Sweet! That is a PLAN, man!  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

From Africa to Normal in Seven Easy Steps

1. Come home a zombie. Survivors guilt. Inability to talk about it. Get rid of half your stuff.

2. Start talking. Realize others don't want to listen. Lose PC filter. Lose friends.

3. Isolation/ despair. Rely heavily on internet community of fellow re-intry participants.

4. Rage. Realize you need real people in your life. Try. Find self highly judgmental. Self-loathing. Pretend you are normal and buy something you don't need just to see if it helps. (It doesn't) Hate yourself for it.

5. Despondency. Go back to internet community for sanity's sake. Realize they are just as screwed up as you. Discuss partnering with an NGO in your children's village. Hit many dead ends. Experience profound loneliness even when in the presence of people. Husband leans over at night and whispers sweet nothings such as, "You are being really weird."

5b: Become slightly paranoid. (From one of aforementioned screwed up internet peeps.)

6. Find self inexplicably sobbing over the goats at the fair. Decide it is because you live in a place where 10 year olds can raise goats for fun while half the world would consider a goat a financial windfall. Find self inexplicably crying at the county fair parade. Decide it is because your new 7yo must be so confused to be at a place where you line up on the side of the road and people throw a pound of candy at you just for fun. Or maybe the ease and simplicity of living in small town America. Thank God for sunglasses and the 108 temps that make it look like sweat. Realize very few people will even notice.

7. I don't know this step. I'm hoping someone else does and can share it. Or maybe, to quote my sister (or maybe her husband), "I'm beginning to think this is what normal is supposed to be."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Oh, How the Mightly Have Fallen

I have a tendency to say We Don't Get Sick.
My mom thinks we are sick all the time, but I don't agree.
However, this week? I'm prone to agree with her.
I stupidly exposed my children to a stomach bug, when I knew better.

Saturday 2 AM: Eldest falls.
Saturday 5 PM: Iris falls
Saturday 6 PM: Charming falls.
Sunday all day: Family stays sequestered so as to not share our germs with the world. 
Monday 2 AM: Mom falls
Monday 9 AM: Frodo falls
Monday 11:30 PM: Eldest has a resurgence.
Tuesday 2 AM: Dad falls

Princess is BEGGING me to get her the heck out of here. No one wants her because she might be toxic.

Princess has also hypothesized that all those years of licking things she shouldn't have, like shopping carts, have finally paid off.

Pray for us.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Proactive Parenting

As we charge forward at high speed into adolescence, I've been on a quest to maintain my relationship with my daughter. I've read books (highly recommend Six Ways to Keep the Little in Your Girl). We've had girl dates. I have uncomfortable conversations at inconvenient times. I've listened and corrected. I've heard 1012 ways of How Dad Makes No Sense. And, I've heard 356,842 ways of how girlfriends make no sense. And I've heard 11,258,763 deep sighs regarding my unreasonable expectations (like "take your laundry to the laundry room if you want it clean," and "clear your crap off the table if you want to eat").

I've discovered though, my secret weapon: Hair.

I can do it. I find cool styles here there and everywhere (my current fav is Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care) and when we are home and unhurried, I ask if I can try something new on her. And when she is tolerating my "doing,"she talks. A lot. About whatevertheheck is on her mind. And I try reallyreally hard to not interrupt or give unsolicited advice.

You can get a lot of insight into the eleven year old psyche in ten uninterrupted minutes.

And it doesn't hurt that when she feels pretty, she thinks I'm a little bit cool. A teeny, miniscule, bit.

I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I think that when we moms hit on something that is a winner, we owe it to each other to share the good news. I intend to start sharing a lot more. (Please, God, give me insight.)

Here's a nugget I've discovered along these same lines: she is much more responsive to "Hey, I have some time, can I try something on your hair?" than she is to, "Wow, your hair looks like mice nested in it. Find a brush for goodness' sake."

I know that's a Well, Duh, but it is sometimes a daily decision for me to choose between those lines of speaking.

What's your secret weapon for keeping the lines of communication open with your tween?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why yes, this is how I dress to clean up puke.

I could have had champagne for lunch, but instead I toasted my sickie with Sprite and saltines.
Congrats Meghan and Ian. I am eager to see the pictures.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Last Hunger Season

A year ago, we began this crazy journey to Africa and back, twice. It has been a year that has changed me to my very core.  It has challenged how I feel about myself. It has challenged how I feel about my community. It has challenged how I feel about government. It has challenged how I feel about missions. It has challenged how I feel about my faith.

I'm a woman obsessed.

So when I was asked to review a book about smallholder farmers in Western Kenya, I found I couldn't say no.

The Last Hunger Season chronicles a year in a farming community under the influence of an apparently new group called One Acre. Having myself witnessed what 10 years under World Vision can do for a community and also having visited a Hope Chest school, I feel like I have enough hooks to hang my information of hand outs vs hand ups upon.

I find myself wanting to review One Acre rather than the book. Maybe that comes from the book being primarily about them. And my personal experiences. I'm FOR micro-loans. I'm FOR training. I'm FOR programs. But  had a hard time swallowing the opening few pages about how the big bad congress took away foreign aid, even if they did. I'm convinced the answer lies not with governement, but with the hearts of people. Politics at this juncture in my life just frustrate me. I'm tired of people blaming the government rather than just stepping up and solving problem on their own. (Sorry, tangent.) After the sluggish opening (for the politically non-inclined), however, The Last Hunger Season is  an interesting look within a program meant to help the small holder farmers in an untapped ag society. (I'm pro-farmer, too, by the way!) If you can shovel through the first bit of foundation laying, and that's only about ten pages, the stories of the farmers as they made hard decisions and suffer the consequences of some of the same decisions, are fascinating. I am hopeful that they figure out storage. (Which is where my desire to review One Acre comes in. I shall leave that to you.)

All in all, this is an interesting read. Particularly for those who live their lives with half their hearts broken for a people half a world away in distance and 100 years behind in farming technique.

But not if One Acre has anything to say about it.

This information came in the review info. I found it mirrored much of where I am (Except Ethiopia, circa 1985, rather than 2003, is permanently tattooed on my brain). It's probably what made me want to read the book, so I'm giving it to you:

Oddly enough, the plight of Africa’s hungry is a topic Thurow never considered until a few short years ago. For the bulk of his writing career, he was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, two thirds of that time spent as a foreign correspondent in Europe and Africa. “Up until about ten years ago,” he explains, “I hadn’t really done much reporting on hunger issues. Hunger was a kind of background noise or scenery until the Ethiopian famine in 2003. On my first day in Ethiopia, I was meeting with the World Food Program to get background information and was given a piece of advice – a warning of sorts – that changed my life. I was told that ‘looking into the eyes of someone dying of hunger becomes a disease of the soul.’”

The next day, as Thurow entered into the hunger zone for the first time and began looking into the eyes of those who were dying, the real meaning of that warning hit home. “I began to ask questions, wanting to know why this was happening ––how this was happening — in the twenty-first century,” he recalls, “and suddenly all other stories began paling in comparison. It wasn’t just what I was seeing all around me, but the things and the beliefs I had grown up with, the memories from my childhood when I was taught that Jesus expected us to feed the hungry and care for the afflicted.

“It seemed we were doing far too little of either,” he remembers.  “Suddenly, hunger became the story I wanted to focus on; to concentrate on. But more importantly, it became what I wanted to stop. I don’t know if it makes sense to anyone or not, but in that moment, I think that is when I knew that ending world hunger was my calling.”

Deciding that his newly diseased soul would not rest until he put everything together in book form, Thurow first collaborated with colleague Scott Kilman to write Enough, Why The World’s Poorest Starve In An Age of Plenty, released in 2009. “The funny thing is,” Thurow explained, “once that book came out, I realized my soul was more diseased than ever. I needed to spend all of my time and energy as a journalist focusing on world hunger, raising awareness of this problem. So after thirty years, I left the Wall Street Journal, joined the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and basically devoted myself to this one single issue. I believe it is the overriding issue of our time.”

In The Last Hunger Season, Thurow exposes us to the daily drama of these farmers’ lives, allowing us to witness the development of the solution to a looming global challenge. If these four farmers, and the others like them, succeed, it is quite possible that so will we all.

To learn more about The Last Hunger Season and the documentary film it inspired, please visit, Thurow’s blog or

The Last Hunger Season
A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change
But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him,how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.                                                                           

 - 1 John 3:17-18 (NASB)

Public Affairs
May 29, 2012
ISBN 978-1-61039-067-5
304 pages/$26.99

For African farmers, the “hunger season” marks the time of year after they’ve run out of food from their previous harvest and before the next harvest begins.  It can stretch from one month to as many as eight.  And while the term “hungry farmer” should be an oxymoron, the cruel reality is that the poor smallholder farmers who produce the majority of food in Africa often don’t grow enough to feed their families year round.

Africa’s smallholder farmers, most of whom are women, toil in a time warp, liv­ing and working essentially as they did a century ago. Without access to improved seeds, fertilizer, or mechanized equipment; reliant on primitive storage facilities, roads, and markets; lacking capital, cred­it, or insurance; they harvest one-quarter the yields as do farmers in the West, and often up to half of that spoils before getting to market. Their odds for success are very slim; hunger and malnutrition are their greatest miseries.

But in January 2011 one group of farmers in western Kenya decides to take a leap of faith and adopt new farming methods that promise to banish the hunger season. They join the One Acre Fund, an organization that gives them timely access to seeds, soil nutrients, planting advice and financing for the first time.  While drought spreads across Kenya and all of East Africa, these farmers aim to double, triple or quadruple their maize yields.  If they succeed, it will be a life-changing development, giving them the ability to feed their families for the entire year and to perhaps even sell some surplus food to pay school fees for their children.

In THE LAST HUNGER SEASON, award-winning journalist and hunger activist Roger Thurow, co-author of the critically acclaimed book ENOUGH, chronicles a year in the life of these farmers in an intimate narrative—as they go through their initial training meetings, as they pray and wait for rain, as they plant and then suffer through the hunger season, and anticipate the forthcoming harvest. Will they succeed?  Will this be their last hunger season?

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Fox News

We've been joking around these parts that we must live in the Fox News Network.



Last night, Charming asked for chocolate milk. Iris wanted some, too (she doesn't drink milk). Charming saw my mini boxes of raisins and asked for one. Iris wanted one, too. (Charming decided he didn't like them.) I hand Charming an ibuprofen tablet to knock his fever down and I hear, "Mom, I have one, too?"
There are just some areas I have to draw the line. Medication is one.

She has been compulsively checking her temperature for 24 hours, like she hopes she can get sick, too. Wouldn't want to be left out.

I kid you not, these children will not let ANYTHING pass. I'm raising twins all over again.

I find myself, twelve times a day, saying, "Seriously?"

At this point, I should put in the disclaimer that it goes both ways.

It goes both ways.

However, one of my children is used to being the baby and being above the rules. One of my children is all about justice. (Actually two are, but for the sake of the conversation...) And the statement, "he's five" is lost in translation. And doesn't sound half as good as "he's two" for an excuse.

The little prince isn't enjoying that his sister is putting the kibosh on his status of baby.

So these days, I have two children that will gag down a drink because one wanted one. Two children that will overindulge in pork chops because one likes them. Two children that walk because one wants to. Two children that will sleep in a sweater in 110 degree heat because one decided to do so.

Don't even get me started on what it's like when the cousins are in on the action.

Brent and I just look at each other, shake our heads and say, "Fox News."

Someone pass me the Ben & Jerry's. And a side of blood pressure medication.