Friday, August 19, 2011

Eye Exam

Diva Darling had a recent "well visit" at the pediatrician's office.  The net result was that the doctor recommended a thorough eye exam because Diva failed the exam.  Really?? 

I was shocked.  I watch these kids like an obsessed hawk and have never seen any signs of visual trouble. 

Brought her to my eye doctor, whom I love, this month.  After all sorts of testing with machines and upclose scrutiny of how her eyes moved and tracked, he had her sit in another darkened room, and I was perched in the corner on a stool studying my dear girl the patient.   

"Ok, please read the first large letter."

"E," she promptly replied.

"Good, now read me the last line that you can see," he said.

"Read it?  I can't," she said sorrowfully.

"You can't?  What do you mean?" he asked sounding shocked.

"No, I can't read it.  I just have no idea what this word is," she lamented.

Eventually we stopped laughing and left with no prescription necessary. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cereal Necklaces

Tween Princess Diva came home from summer school (we like to call it "camp" but it's's summer school) with a gift for me.  A necklace she made...made of Fruit Loops cereal.  My immediate reaction was one of gratitude for this sweet child and her charming gift.  I was also surprised since treasured gifts like these are more often than not given to her adored babysitter not to me, her "mean mother."  So, I accepted it with lots of fanfare and immediately put it on, nibbling robustly to make her laugh.  However, my mind couldn't help but jump to the situation at hand in the Horn of Africa. 

As I am sure you've read and seen in the media, Somalia and parts of Ethiopia in that eastern region of Africa are being devastated by famine today.  Millions of children will die if food and clean water aren't brought to them immediately.  And here we are in the good ol' US of A entertaining ourselves with making jewelry out of food.  It just sickens me, it really does.  My stomach hurt as I thought about the huge discrepancy in our lives.  Why is it acceptable for our children to thread cereal on yarn for fun, while other children's small bodies are shutting down due to a lack of basic food. 

I was reminded of a former boss at a major medical center who insisted that food never be used for anything but subsistence. For example, we would hold these black-tie fundraisers in NYC at the Waldorf Astoria and the florists seeking work with us would routinely make floral centerpieces using gourds and vegetables as part of the decoration; he was appalled and forbid us to work with florists who would use food as decoration.   He set the tone for ethics in the medical center, and he held a high bar for everyone.

So, here I am facing an Apple Jacks necklace or whatever cereal this is and pondering if I should approach the camp counselor in charge of art classes and share my view.   I don't want to be considered a judgmental nut-job or petty complainer, but I also don't want my kids to wear and waste food while millions are starving to death, some of whom are their former neighbors.  Accck.  Will it make a difference if I say something?  Will it make a difference if I don't?   And I think of my boss and his stance, and I know I should say something...perhaps, "While we were in Africa and China we witnessed unbearable hunger, so as a family we don't do art projects that involve food."   That's not quite right but you get my point, don't you? 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lenten Activities

To help our kids experience Lent, their dad suggested that each week they perform some act of service or help someone in need.  The first week it was obvious who we were going to help:  the Japanese.  The kids decided we'd buy bottles of water, give it away, and if we got any donations we'd give it to the Salvation Army for their work in Japan.

 I went to CVS and was thrilled to find 24 bottles of water on sale for $3.99.  I grabbed three cases.  While I was standing at the cashier's register I told her what the girls were up to.  "Oh, that's so nice.  Here's a $5 coupon towards the water," she said.  So, the water cost us about $7.

The girls and I made posters and then put the cases of water in a baby stroller.  We walked to our local hospital with our signs and bottles and hung out near the parking lot on the sidewalk.  In an hour we had collected $75!  Not bad for free water!  One moment I will never forget is when an Asian looking man pulled over and asked if any of us was from Japan.  "No, this child's from China, these two are from Africa, and our friends here are from Mexico and the Dominican Republic. I'm just a native New Yorker."  He looked at us surprised.  "My father is Japanese," he said.  "Thank you for doing this."

The next week the girls made two trays of lasagna and a gigantic salad, and we brought it to a homeless shelter that runs a parenting support group.  The ladies were thrilled.  I was more thrilled that the girls made this meal entirely by themselves!

The following week the girls' dad suggested that we sort out clothes that we don't need and give it to a veterans group.  The kids were not into this project and I ended up spending hours sorting through twenty years' worth of clothes.  Unfortunately, the driver of the veterans' truck also thought we were donating our baby stroller which I had parked outside.  I managed to hop on the truck before it pulled away and grabbed it out of the back.

This week we are going to go door-to-door to collect breakfast foods for a local food pantry.  A lady who volunteers there told me recently that they never have enough coffee, so we're going to do a "Have a Java Drive."  The girls have half a day of school of tomorrow so we can get started on it.

I have to say that the kids have been willing participants in all this but this past week their giving spirit reached new heights.  We went to see Watoto perform.  This is a group of two dozen orphans from Uganda who spend a year singing for free at concerts and requesting support for their orphanage/village.   Watato seems to be an extraordinary charitable enterprise and the girls were mesmerized by the children (ages 7 to 14).   We went to see them a second time.  We plan to see them at least one more time during their east coast tour.  The beautiful thing that happened was after seeing them one of our princesses announced that she wants to give her entire savings account (more than $800 of hard-earned cash from two years of work as well as every penny she ever found, and from cash gifts from doting grandparents) to the children of Watoto so they can go to school, buy clothes and have food to eat! 

I am humbled by this child's kindness. It's so clear that her generosity and love makes the Lord really happy, too.  And that was the point of our Lenten activities.

Peace to all...

Mama B

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Scaring our Kids

I just opened an email from my kids' elementary school. There was a nine page email forwarded by the school district from Senior Investigator Gary B. Kelly of the NYS Police Department Special Victims Unit.  I read that he is inviting all fifth graders in NYS to participate in a national contest promoting "Bring Home Missing Children."

His email includes the statistic, "1.3 million children are reported missing each year."  Really?  Really??

Assuming that the kids are not going missing in large groups, but individually, one would immediately think that there must be 1.3 million kidnappers out there, lurking to grab our children.

Then I remember that teenagers who run away are also included in this "missing" statistic.  And of course, anyone who has a sixth grade education knows that most missing kids are with one of their parents or a family member.  Not that this makes them necessarily safe, but it does alleviate those fears that there are millions of childnappers out there. 

So, I checked the stats from the Department of Justice.  How many children were kidnapped by a stranger?  Um, 115.  Yes, yes, my heart breaks for them and their families, loved ones and friends. 

But 115 is a far different number than ONE MILLION THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND. 

So, there is a national contest where the posters will be collected, judged, and chosen across the nation with a free trip to Washington DC for the winners, their teachers and parents.   I don't have a degree in criminology or law, or even marketing, but don't you think Facebook should just have all these missing children's photos, names, birthdates, and information readily available?  Isn't that the number one networking site?  Aren't more people looking at FB than any other site?  Doesn't it account for one out of every ten hits?? 

Why are our fifth graders being scared out their little minds about all these missing children and made to feel responsible for finding them? 

Isn't the real, unspoken culprit here the divorce rate in the US?  Most of the children who go missing are abducted by their divorced/divorcing/separated parents. 

So, here's my poster: 

                    TO THE ADULTS:


Friday, January 21, 2011

Princess Diva Darling and Miss Ruby

January is Black History Month.  I think every month should be.  My husband didn't want our daughters learning about slavery and segregation at school before he had a chance to tell them about it, so last month he bought some children's books about Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and Harriet Tubman to begin the discussions. 

The night before last I talked to my Princesses about Ruby Bridges and told them her story.  We then watched the made-for-tv-movie about her that we downloaded from the internet. 

Our girls were revited.  The conversation afterwards was by turns amazing, troubling, hopeful, inspiring, and dismaying.  Here are some of their comments:

"Mama, why were all the white people so mean?"
"I'm gonna pray for people who are nasty for God to forgive them, just like Ruby did."
"Ruby's teacher was white and she was so nice.  I wish she was my teacher."
"I love Ruby. I want to be smart like her.  How can I get so smart like her?"
"I hate white people."
"If President Obama gets killed, will the white people be mean to us?"
"I want to write a letter to Ruby and invite her over to stay with us."

So, after some clarifying conversation (somewhat clarifying, how, afterall, does one explain the evils of racism, slavery and segregation??), Princess Diva sat down with an unused Christmas card.  Occassionally she asked me how to spell specific words.  She didn't want me to read what she wrote, but I did anyway (because I think the need to know what is in her head is more important than her wish for confidentiality, I know not everyone would agree with me, but hey, raise your own kids the way you want and I won't judge you, ok?)  Here is what she wrote:

Dear Ruby,
I just saw your movie and I know that a lot of kids was mean to you. I was so sad because all the people was so mean and all the whites people was so mean to you and I want to be smart like you.  Do you have any advice for me and can you teach me.  I want to be smart like you.  I live in *******.  Can you visit me someday and you can stay in my house when ever you want you could call me my home number is ***-***-****.  and I am 10 years old and I want to do good on my test because you did good on your test when I saw your movie.  I go to *** School so someday come and teach me so I can can everything right and come teach me.


We found Ruby's address on line:  Ruby Bridges, PO Box 870248, New Orleans, LA  70187 and I will mail the letter today.  

I think I will include a note to let Ms. Bridges know that I believe her parents' decision and her actions have helped to make it possible for people like us to adopt interracially.   When a child is adopted, a new family is created. 

Today I want to thank and honor the little girl, and the fine woman she has become, Ruby Bridges.  God bless you.  And praise God for taking something horrific, and completely tranforming only the way He can.