This Weekend
The weather topped out at 64 degrees on Friday and Saturday. Tomorrow it is supposed to be -20 by evening. Could we please pause for a moment of silence?

Yeesh. I'm hoping they close school tomorrow. We might get 3 to 6 inches of snow, which is nothing compared to what the rest of the midwest/east coast is supposed to receive, but a few inches plus the bitter cold might score us a day at home. There are so many people in Colorado that have moved here from California and Texas, they don't know what to do when it dips below 35 degrees. Whereas I hardly put my kids in long sleeves that first winter here after we moved from Minnesota.

I spent the weekend outside with the kids and painting part of our living room. And I love the results. Love them. The warm paint makes the room look bigger and helps the stone fireplace pop. (Don't worry, I won't go all Martha Stewart on you now. I just like to throw around big decorating terms.)

The epic fail was in the kitchen. I found a warm cream that I painted in the kitchen and along the wall that leads into our living room. It looked beautiful in the daytime. But once it got dark outside and we turned on the kitchen lights, it was the color of cat pee. Curse those energy saving fluorescent light bulbs. Curse the way saving money on our electric bill and helping the planet makes paint color look frighteningly rancid. So now I need to figure out how to pick a color with fluorescent lights. Any tips?


Let's Go To The Library
I know you are all perfectly capable of going to the library and picking out biographies all on your own. But a blog just isn't as fun without pictures, so I took my camera to the library today to show you how I do it.

(Admit it, you like pictures, too. I think that's why I love blogs so much because deep down I am a snoop and pictures on blogs let me get glimpses into other people's homes and lives. I have always loved to snoop, which is a bad, bad habit. I know. In my defense,  I haven't really snooped since my babysitting days. Um, a note here to the families I babysat for: please don't think less of me. I never betrayed any of your secrets. Unless I was with my friend Julie. I'm sorry. Let's just assume the statute of limitations has long since expired on this.)

Okay, so back to the library. Our library has a pretty great children's section. Here is the row of biographies. Both sides on the left and the right are full of information about people.

The books are divided into topics like sports, Civil War, presidents, Native Americans, civil rights, etc. I don't usually go to the library with a particular person in mind. I just browse different sections and look for the following three things: 1) Anything with African Americans. 2) Anything my kids would find interesting. 3) Anything I think they should know. So my criteria could be different from your criteria.

Today I found this book propped up on a display rack. I did not plant it. I promise. It was just sitting there. Barack Obama's Family Tree. So you know I grabbed it. It's probably not checked out very often in my city, which is why it was on display, I'm sure.

I dug through a few more sections and found a Shaun White book that I knew Carver would luuu-huuuuve. I flipped it open to check how long the chapters were, and saw that it was short and easy. This book we could read in one night. A keeper.

I soon found a fabulous graphic biography. A graphic story is written in comic book style. They are a big hit with both my boys, so it's fun to find one that meets all the criteria I listed above. This one is about Matthew Henson, the man who discovered the North Pole. (Did you know that? Isn't that awesome?)

I was happy with my current finds, but they would only last us through four days at the most. And then I hit the jackpot. This little beauty. I learned a long time ago to never judge a book by its cover. Don't always assume the flashiest or prettiest books are best. This book, African Americans Who Were First, is probably the best book I've come across so far.

The book is in chronological order, beginning in the 1600's when the first Africans were brought to the English colony as slaves. It ends with Beverly Harvard in 1994, the first African-American woman police chief of a big city. Each page of this book tells the story of an African-American that was the first at something. Did you know the first person to make a clock in the American colonies was black? The person that invented the gas mask and traffic lights was also black. How about the first to set up a blood bank, or win 4 Olympic gold medals, or the first to separate conjoined twins! If you guessed an African American, then you would be right.

I plan to read about a person each night, but you can bet my kids will beg me to read more than that. Still, even if we read two or three at a time, this book will take a few weeks to enjoy. I can hardly wait to see the pride on my kids' faces as they discover how their forefathers accomplished so much that is valuable and noteworthy.

What's more, I just read the introduction to African Americans Who Were First. You'd almost think I set it up to work out this way, but I promise you I didn't. I'm going to type it here. Ready for chills up and down your spine?

The history of African Americans is not separate from what we call American history. To have a complete picture of the history of our country, we must understand the role played by all the people who helped create it. When we were children, the books we read in our classrooms did not record the deeds and contributions of African Americans. It was as though they had played no part in our country's growth. In writing this book, we wanted you to discover men and women whom we did not learn about at your age. We wanted to introduce you to people you could take pride in and whom you could respect for the things they have done. We hope you will explore further the lives of these pioneers and the many others who were also great achievers. The best reward for our efforts would be for you to share what you learn with your family and friends, and to let the lives of these courageous people guide you in setting your own goals.

-----The authors, Joan Potter and Constance Claytor

Yeah. I'm still coming down off the ceiling from that awesome introduction.

So that wraps up my very scientific way of finding books for the kidlets. I hope your library is full of a variety of biographies as well. I'd love to hear from you about what biographies you want to read with your kids. I know my children are a few years older than most of yours. I think 5 or 6 is a pretty good age to undertake biographies. Not that younger children can't handle biographies, but once your kids are school age, you can find books that are better written about more diverse people.

In a few days I'll write about my thoughts on what you can do if you live in a mostly Caucasian neighborhood, town, or part of the country.


Things I Did Today

1. Got bangs. (Like, in my hair. It's a big deal)
2. Took care of Carver. Nasty cold. Home sick.
3. Decided to skip the grocery store and have waffles for dinner. Bonus.
4. Disappointed my husband by skipping the grocery store and having waffles for dinner. Bummer.

You accomplished more, right?


Oh Baby!
I can't begin this post without commenting that this morning The King's Speech was nominated for 12 Oscar awards--including Colin Firth for Best Actor. All righty? Since all is right with the world, let's move on.

Over the weekend David and I attended a conference at a local university about Educating Children of Color. The conference was unique because it asked teens, parents, and educators to attend. Very cool. David has gone twice in the past, but this was my first time. Overall, I learned some great things. Nothing earth-shattering, but I suppose that's because we live, eat, and breathe education and my children happen to be black. I was mostly pleased to see that members of our district school board were in attendance, teachers and counselors were there from many schools, including my kids' schools. They were being exposed and educated on this great topic and it warmed my heart.

There were a lot of breakout sessions that I could choose from, as well at two phenomenal keynote speakers. It's too much information to post here, but I'll tell you what struck me the most and what I took away from the conference. Children/students are inclined to believe that if information is in a textbook, it is true and valuable. If information is not in a textbook, it must not be important--or worse, not true. Textbooks in America overall are guilty of telling the African American story from a Caucasian perspective, which results in a lack of rich and diverse information. It is my job as a parent to fill those gaps where I see them. Until our country educates all children in a fair and unbiased way, parents need to step up to supplement cultural history and cultural pride.

Remember this past summer when we began reading biographies aloud at the dinner table? My kids have requested that we do it year round. And I agree. Especially after learning what I did at this conference. You can bet we will still read about all kinds of people, but now more than ever our focus will be on people that are often left out of their history lessons and who paved the road for a better life for my family and my kids.


How Are The Children?
By Rev. Dr. Patrick T. O'Neill
Among the most accomplished and fabled tribes of Africa, no tribe was considered to have warriors more fearsome or more intelligent than the mighty Masai. It is perhaps surprising then to learn the traditional greeting that passed between Masai warriors: "Kasserian ingera," one would always say to another. It means, "And how are the children?"

It is still the traditional greeting among the Masai, acknowledging the high value that the Masai always place on their children's well-being. Even warriors with no children of their own would always give the traditional answer. "All the children are well." Meaning, of course, that peace and safety prevail, that the priorities of protecting the young, the powerless, are in place, that Masai society has not forgotten its reason for being, its proper functions and responsibilities. "All the children are well" means that life is good. It means that the daily struggles of existence, even among a poor people, do not preclude proper caring for its young.

I wonder how it might affect our consciousness of our own children's welfare if in our culture we took to greeting each other with this same daily question: "And how are the children?" I wonder if we heard that question and passed it along to each other a dozen times a day, if it would begin to make a difference in the reality of how children are thought of or cared for in this country?

I wonder if every adult among us, parent and non-parent alike, felt an equal weight for the daily care and protection of all the children in our town, in our state, in our country . . . I wonder if we could truly say without any hesitation, "The children are well, yes, all the children are well."

What would it be like . . . if the President began every press conference, every public appearance, by answering the question, "And how are the children, Mr. President?" If every governor of every state had to answer the same question at every press conference: "And how are the children, Governor? Are they all well?" Wouldn't it be interesting to hear their answers?


Recently Overheard

Zinabu: "Mom, what's a gangsta?"



The Most Expensive IKEA Accessory, Ever!

Here in Colorado, we have no IKEA. Not a big hardship, of course, but there are times I wish I could zip over to the uber-practical Swedish store and pick up a few odds and ends. Most of the organizing/decorating blogs I love to read have IKEA in their lives. As in, "I just ran over to IKEA and saw these fabulous organizing baskets and redid my garage." I always have a pity party when I read that because I feel left out.

Well, when we were in Arizona we were a few mere miles from an IKEA store. I was interested, but I didn't want to waste a day there. David absolutely humored me and we went. But we went late Saturday morning, right around the time the marathon was ending. Which meant light rail was clogged with sweaty runners. So we took a cab. And that was more than a few quarters. We breezed through IKEA and I found the metal rod with hooks that I've wanted for forever! I knew I could fit it in my suitcase with no problem so I happily snatched it up. We left IKEA and paid bus fare back to our hotel, which for both of us was, um, a few more dollars. Already we'd paid more to get to and from IKEA than the products I bought there. 

When it came time to pack up and fly home, it occurred to me that security might have an issue with my metal rod I was attempting to bring on the plane. Rather than risk being frisked and stripped, we put the rod in David's suitcase and paid the fee to check his bag on the plane. My cute little rack and pencil holders were now so ridiculously expensive it was a riot.

So every time I reach for a pencil or pen, I feel I really need to get the most use out of them because having them hang so prettily on my office wall was an investment.


My Babe

Despite all my attempts to stay in Phoenix, we're back home and back to reality. (Insert giant sigh.) I did so, so, so well on the plane this time, you would have been proud. It makes flying to England a little less scary. Did I miss my kids?


I didn't. We were barely gone 48 hours so I chose not to miss them because it would ruin the tiny amount of time I had with David. And we had the best time together. We saw two movies, rode on light rail around Phoenix and Tempe, ate a lot, slept in, admired the 30 thousand marathoners that were also in the city, basked in the 75 degree weather, and did a lot of hand-holding.

But we're back now. And I'm back to full-time Mommy. Which is also a blessing. So I guess you could say I've really had the best of both worlds this week.


"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word." Martin Luther King, Jr.

I owe him all the happiness I have with my children. Can you fathom how much I owe him?
Good morning all. I am writing this post from my phone, so it will be short and sweet. It is Sunday morning and due to the following reasons I am not running my half marathon:
1. I did not train well the last six weeks.
2. David worked late so many nights this week I hardly saw him and it seemed stupid to go away with him for the weekend and then be apart from him for 5 hours this morning. He's my most favorite person and hanging out with him is the best.
3. I like sleeping in and I never get to.
4. We are eating whatever we want without having to worry about a race. For example, we went to a movie last night and I ate a lot of pizza and Junior Mints.

Signing up for this half marathon was a good thing for me because it kept me running through the fall and winter, which is so hard for me. There will be others this year I can run. I'll just pick one closer to home so that I don't have to give up alone time with my main squeeze. We are having so much fun eating and sleeping and being together. I'm sure you'd do the same.


Remember this post?
Seems that I've been completely outdone by her. If I didn't love her so much....

(14 months until our trip to England and my dream of long hair at King's Cross Station)


Old Man Z

David and I often say that Zinabu is an 80 year old in a 7 year old's body. In so many ways. He has an old soul.

For instance, his biggest fear is death. What will it feel like and where will his body go and how will he know us anymore. I said, "Can't you just be afraid of thunder like all the other 7 year olds?"

The other day I put an iron-on patch on his jeans where he had put a hole in the knee. When he put them on this morning, he asked, "What is this thing?" I told him it was a patch. And he threw his hands up in the air and jumped up with joy and said, "What do you know! I had no idea there was such a thing." You'd have thought I'd just told him the 7 dwarfs lived under our house and the jewels they were finding were going to pay for his college education. He was positively delighted.

And at his school library, he checked out a book that happened to be new. The librarian told him that he was the first kid in the school to read that book. Zinabu put his finger to his chin in a "deep thought" pose and rocked back and forth on his heels and said ,"Hmmmm, isn't that fascinating. I am the very first, eh?"

I swear, for his next birthday I'm buying him polyester pants and orthodic shoes and getting him a membership card to a retirement community.


January, Here I Am!

Ah, January. How I love thee. Seriously. When else do you get to take down a boatload of decorations, get things clean and tidy, and resolve to get more organized? For a neat freak like me, it boils down to a whole month full o' fun. I've been tackling projects around the house bit by bit, and I've got a LIST of things I want to do this year. I think I'll have to tackle a room a month. For instance, we moved into this house a year and a half ago, and most of the walls are white. It's a huge, airy house, and the white walls work, but I think I'm ready to add some color. So besides painting and throwing some color around, I also want to tackle the laundry room, closets, storage areas, and (gulp) p...p...pa....paperwork. Actually, our paperwork is fairly organized. It's more the "if-I-died-tomorrow-would-anyone-know-where-the-important-stuff-is" concern. I am the CFO of our family. Besides being very well-versed in all things adoption related, I am the bill payer, budgeter, receipt keeper, investment organizer, etc. I have all the account numbers, passwords, and bill pay power. So if something happened to me, then my beneficiaries would be up the proverbial creek. I aim to get that taken care of. So for this month (besides quietly taking part in 30 days of nothing) I want to get our affairs in order.

1. Create a master list of what to do should I die. (So uplifting, I know, but absolutely necessary.) Leave David with instructions of how to access all accounts, corresponding passwords, bill pay instructions, monthly to-do instructions, investment/college fund instructions, and on and on. Even lame things like my library pin number. If David is planning a funeral, the last thing he needs to worry about is if my library books are overdue. (Which I guess they would be if I were dead.)

2. Get a system together for my kids' school papers. Please excuse me for a moment while I stuff a sock in my mouth and scream. Okay, I'm back. This project stinks. Big time. I don't save gobs and gobs of art projects and spelling tests, but I save enough from each year to remember that year. Throw in school pictures and report cards, plus some track and field day ribbons, and you've got yourself a problem. So this month I want to change all that.

3. Organize our music. Three kids, five instruments, and a lot of sheet music = a big headache for mama. I need to figure out a way to corral all that and make it easy for the kids to keep tabs on it, and more importantly, put it all away when they're done.

So there you have it. And seeing that we're 10 days into January, I need to get crackin'.


Still alive.
Super busy.
Hoping for a lot of snow tonight and a snow day tomorrow.
Will write very soon. (I promise)


All right, darling bloggers. Time to get to work. It's 2011, and before we know it summer will be on our doorstep and I've really got to plan for this "camping/not camping/blogger get together" situation. Look for more details this month, but I'm getting my game on and you can be sure something will fall through the cracks somewhere. In other words, be flexible.


Things My Children Wish

My children. My sweet, sweet children. Life was not fair to them the moment they were born. It just goes that way sometimes, doesn't it? But I think we can agree that we'd like to be a little older and wiser before we have to deal with the junk of life. My children came into this world with so much potential and the odds stacked completely against them.

When we adopted each child, we were passionate about educating ourselves about their race, their heritage, and their identity. We also did our fair share (and required) homework of adoption issues of attachment, bonding, and parenting. I think, deep down in the hidden places of my heart, that I've always been more concerned about my children's race issues than I have about their adoption issues. Not issues of could I love my children even if they are so different from me. Hardly. Not at all. More the issues of would my children love me because I am different from them. When they look at me and see my white skin and my white life, would they still accept me as the person they want raising them?

For now, my color doesn't bother my kids at all. Color blindness goes both ways. From me to them and them to me. What bothers them is that they didn't grow in my stomach. Each and every one of them has expressed that to me more than once. My straight hair and freckles and hazel eyes are insignificant. They miss that "very beginning" with me that all the other children they know seem to possess. We have wonderful talks about it--how precious their birth mothers are/were. How blessed they are to have two families. (They really are.) How being "different" does not make their lives any less significant. How being placed with David and me was tough and hard and fabulous and wonderful and miraculous and unfair all at once.

I have many years of parenting left to go. I am still prepared for a time when my color will disappoint them. When they no longer care about not growing in my tummy but are frustrated that they had to grow up with Caucasian parents. I am hoping it will be a short season of disappointment, though. And that our family--our precious, different, stand-out-in-a-crowd, tough, blessed, committed family--will trump our racial differences.


My 2011 Predictions

1. My beloved Colin Firth will win an Oscar. Finally. And if he doesn't, well... it won't be pretty.
2. I will not lose 5 pounds. I just like bagels way too much.
3. My children will say something hilarious. (They haven't let me down yet)
4. I will not cut off my hair. It's tempting, but eyes on the prize.
5. I will run in some kind of race, but I'm not sure how many or what length. A marathon sure makes me sound like I know what I'm doing, but as a classic underachiever I may stick to the half or an easy 5k.
6. I will remain angry at Hollywood for their PG movies aimed at young children. They slip in way too much junk. Don't get me started.
7. I will remain a vegetarian.
8. I will lose my marbles over something insignificant--happens at least once a month.
9. I think meeting blog friends from all over the country will be the highlight of the entire year.
10. Although it seems like I can't possibly love him more than I do right now, I will fall even deeper in love with David.