Wednesday, September 28, 2011

50-ish States That Rhyme

Did you guys have to learn the "50 States That Rhyme" song in elementary school? I did, and it stuck with me. And somehow I found myself singing it in front of the kids a couple months ago. And they loved it. Then I made the mistake of singing it double-time, as the song instructs, and since then I've been taking requests for it at least daily.

Yesterday Sidamo started singing it in the back seat of the car—not unusual, as he'll often start and get a few states in before giving up. But this time, he started and made it all the way to Wyoming. Wow. A-freaking-mazing, right?

I got a recording today.
Sorry Iowa. Oh, and also Misery.

And then, as I was commenting on the fact that he's probably the youngest kid anywhere to know the "50 States That Rhyme," his 3-year-old sister busted out with this:
Sorry, Indiana.

Crazy, right? (I've since learned, thanks YouTube, that my kids are not in fact the most precocious geography singers out there—and hell, they don't even play an instrument as accompaniment—but still, I was pretty darned impressed.)

Now here's the flip side: It's been about 36 hours since the kids have discovered they can sing this song on their own, and I have heard it no fewer than 7,658 times since then. The lid is off, and there doesn't seem to be any getting it back on. The price I pay for excessive maternal pride, I suppose.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

8 years

Hard to believe it's been 8 years since this:

I love this picture of us. We have it framed in the house, and we always get comments on it. It makes us look sooooo-phisticated, as a friend's grandma used to say.

The truth is, though, that almost all the pictures of our wedding look a little something like this:

Gaping-mouthed and doubled-over with laughter. Which, I guess, is a little more representative of the day—and the marriage.

Take this morning's exchange with my hopeless romantic as an example:

Greg: Happy anniversary!
Me (caught off guard): Oh yeah, happy anniversary! I guess I forgot.
Greg: Yeah, what's another year in a life sentence.

See? He continues to sweep me off my feet. Happy anniversary to my sweet, loving, dedicated, hard-working, and hilarious husband of 8 loooooooooong years. Love you big time.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

State of the dog

I've been hesitating to post on this topic because it's been such an emotional experience, but it's been a big change in our lives, so I think it's important to get it out there.

After the last post about Eden, we continued trying to make it work. We took her to two more behaviorists. The first told us, "You absolutely cannot keep this dog. There's no way she can succeed in a busy home." Number four outlined a last-ditch one-month training plan, which we implemented religiously but without much success. One day when we were locking Eden in the bedroom for the 10th time of the day, Greg and I looked at each other and agreed that it was no way for a dog to live. It became clear that the constant state of anxiety caused by our frequent visitors was just more than she could handle; she needed to be someplace without so much stimulation.

We contacted the rescue and asked them to start looking for a more suitable home for her. It wasn't easy—most people who want a Golden Retriever are not interested in an aggressive dog. But a few weeks ago, we got a call that there was a couple interested in her. I took her to meet them, and they were totally amazing. They have decades of experience dealing with dogs with all sorts of behavioral issues. Their kids are grown. They have visitors once a week, tops. They live in a quiet area and go for long walks and/or hikes daily. Plus they're sweet as pie. I wanted to live with them. Eden took to them immediately, and vice versa. They kept her for a couple weeks as a trial, with the understanding that we'd take her back if it wasn't a fit. Then last weekend, they let us know they'd fallen completely and had decided to keep her.

The whole experience was so difficult emotionally; there was guilt, anxiety, sadness, loss—compounded, of course, by having to help the kids through it. In short, it sucked.  But at the end, Eden ended up in the absolutely perfect home for her, and we have had a huge weight lifted.

We thought about getting another dog, but given the timing—baby #3 will be here in a couple of months, we're renovating the basement, and we have some travel ahead—we decided against it. Unless we could find a Saffron clone, we decided it would just be too much stress to try to add another dog right now.

And then … we found a Saffron clone.

Seriously, isn't it uncanny?

Introducing Puddle (Pudsy for short). She is a 4-year-old Great Dane and is perfect in every single way. She loves people (especially children), is calm and affectionate, walks perfectly on a leash, and is submissive to every animal she meets—including chickens. We are completely, totally, head-over-heels in love, and I think the feeling just might be mutual.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What we can do

Guest Blogger: Sarah Lenssen from #Ask5for5

Family photos by Mike Fiechtner Photography

Thank you Deirdre 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 year-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, more than 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 (
  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 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!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pooped out

Sidamo just discovered, to his great delight, the phrase "pooped out." He heard it in a Toot & Puddle book and couldn't stop laughing. Now he keeps trying to recreate it but can't remember exactly how it goes. Instead he has been saying, "Are you knocked out of the butt?" So very close. Feel free to use it if you're so inclined; I'd love to see his rendition enter the vernacular.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pretty faces

Yesterday there was a face painter at our neighbor-friend's super-fun 6th birthday party.

How is it that already adorable kids can be made even cuter with a little artificial color?

Sidamo managed to keep his superhero face on all day. Nora made it a few hours before her first crying fit caused the pink and black to run and meld into what looked like a face-sized bruise. So much for adorable.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Time capsule

Our friends are having a welcome party this afternoon for their baby girl, and instead of gifts they've asked everyone to bring something for the baby's time capsule. Not liking to procrastinate, I'm tackling the challenge good and early—right now.

I thought it would be fun to ask Sidamo and Nora to make predictions about the future so when Ruby opens her time capsule in high school, she can laugh at how dumb they were. So I asked Sidamo, "Do you think the world will be the same or different way, way, way off in the future—like 15 years from now."

"Oh, different!"

"Really?" I asked. "How will it be different?"

I don't know, he said, and went back to reading. I realized I'd have to get specific. "Cars, for instance: Will they be the same or different?"

"They'll be different. Definitely."

"How will they be different?" I asked.

"Well," he said, "For one thing, they'll be older."

Sooooooo … we're back to the drawing board. If you have any brilliant ideas for a time capsule, send 'em along.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


A certain someone who feels wrongfully maligned by a certain previous post would like me to point out that dentists sometimes give out denture care packs for things other than dentures. Like for nighttime mouth guards, for instance, for people with tooth-grinding tendencies.

Speaking of which, I've read that tooth-grinding is a sign of repressed anger. I wonder what a certain someone would have to be angry about?