Monday, September 29, 2008

Two Weeks in L.A.

A few highlights of our most recent time in Southern California:

This is what it's like to sit behind me and Abe on an airplane. Yes, I asked the guy sitting behind us to take this picture. He basically made faces at Abe the whole flight to Sacramento.

Our first night in town, we got to have dinner with these people, whom I have described in the past as "the gods of parenthood." As Keri says, "My kids aren't angels--they're just civilized." I plan to email them often when questions arise.

We always want to see Staci when we're in L.A. She teaches Abe cool tricks like the one above.
On Ted's birthday, we went again to Porto's, where Obama is winning the cookie-war.

And in North Hollywood, he's winning on the picket fences.

Abe charmed some ladies on a slasher-zombie movie set. He was dressed in his Ethiopian outfit since we were on our way to the streetfair in Little Ethiopia to visit Steven and Julie.

I got to splurge on a brand-new outfit for Abe at H&M (we usually buy from consignment stores, but this was too cute to pass up).

Abe met a few more relatives, here his great-aunt and second cousin.

Chris and Heather had us over last Sunday where we got to see Angie, Anil and Noah again...

...along with Steven and Julie

Julie saves the day while Mom chooses to take a photo of her son falling over rather than help out.

Abe practices his camera mugging skills with Heather.

Why we don't have many "family portraits." We all end up looking sort of dorky (not that we're anything but).

In the Sacramento airport on the way home, this lovely women from Senegal "stole" our baby from us for a little while (her words).

By Ted's birthday, generous friends and family had helped us to surpass our goal of $2,000 to build half a well in Ethiopia with Charity: Water. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all who gave.

Now we're happy to be back in Oregon for a while and are taking Abe on his first camping trip this evening. That should be interesting.

...and stay tuned for a big Abe-announcement

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Playing Free in Oregon three hours we'll be on a flight to Portland, just in time as it's supposed to be 100 degrees today in L.A.:

(if only Jack White were actually there...)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I dropped Ted off at an afternoon meeting in Santa Monica, parked the car, and took Abe for a stroll to enjoy the cool ocean air. We stopped into an all-wooden toy shop and when we came out, I saw a scraggly older man sitting on a concrete wall next door. We had only a few minutes to wait until Ted got out of his meeting, so I meandered over to him.

His smile that he greeted us with was all the invitation Abe needed to start saying "Hi!" to him. The man's face lit up even more as Abe made his acquaintance. He told me that his name was Miguel, and I asked if I could sit down next to him on the wall while we waited for "papa." He spoke about as much English as I speak Spanish, but I managed to find out that he was born in Mexico, lived most of his life in San Diego and has four children, all of whom are spread out across the country.

As soon as I sat down, he pulled out of his heavy overcoat a toy for Abe: the wind-up song part of an old baby mobile. He wound it up and handed it to him. Abe loved it. We had little to say, what with the language barrier, but Miguel, with his long white beard, cap, and sun-toasted brown face, just sat and smiled as Abe played with the toy.

An elderly Egyptian lady walked up as we were sitting there with Miguel and started to talk to Abe. She is the owner of a jewelry store around the corner and has been in this country for 37 years. I watched these two older people, neither born on American soil and both living in completely different situations, interact joyfully with my son. It's funny how a cute baby can bring people together.

Shaking hands with people is one of Abe's favorite things to do, so he held out his hand to the Egyptian lady. She took it and shook his hand. One shake is never enough for Abe, so he then reached for Miguel. And this is what broke my heart: Miguel furrowed his brows sadly, and shook his head no, gesturing to his dirty hands. Abe didn't understand why he wasn't getting his hand. So I shook Abe's hand myself, and then motioned to Miguel that it was okay. With a lot of convincing from both me and my son's stubbornly outstretched hand, Miguel caved. He offered a shake to Abe, which pleased both of them.

Miguel then gave Abe a colorful purple pen, which I tried to turn down, telling Miguel that Abe can't write yet. He insisted that Abe take it. For the next few minutes, Abe used the pen as a drumstick to beat on his wind-up toy while I sang "Old McDonald" and Miguel clapped along. Not long after, Ted came out of his meeting, and I introduced him to our new friend. I tried to give Miguel the pen again, but he shook his head and said, "No, for remember me" as he nodded his head in Abe's direction.

Again with a lot of convincing, we managed to convince him to take a few dollars from us, but he seemed embarrassed that we were offering. I've been thinking about Miguel all day and how I heard once that all the homeless really want from us is an acknowledgment that they exist. Just a nod of the head, a smile, or a moment to talk.

It's so easy to turn my head and ignore the many homeless in Los Angeles. So many of them suffer from mental illness or drug addiction, so there's always this fear of them doing something unpredictable or scary. Miguel today just seemed to want a little company. He was a kind gentleman, more generous than a lot of us. I wonder what led him to the point he's in currently in his life, sitting alone on a concrete wall in Santa Monica, smiling kindly at and sharing his few possessions with my son.

All he wanted was to be remembered. I can't do anything but.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ted's Birthday

Today my husband turns 48. As each day together passes, I see more and more the softness and depth of his heart. I can't imagine a more giving husband or a more patient and devoted father. This has been his best role yet.

All morning, Abe has wanted his dad. It's as if he somehow knows to be extra affectionate today. Abe's not a huge cuddler, but several times today he's climbed up on Ted and laid down on his chest to suck his thumb: Abe's way of saying "Happy Birthday, Da-da."

This time last year playing with photobooth at the cottage in Ireland.

Ted's return flight from Ireland, having transformed into a nearly 7' tall leprechaun.

"I wanna be like Dad."--Abe

Daddy's boy.

Thank you to all who have given to Charity: Water for Ted's birthday (there's no cut-off time in case anyone else still wants to give). For several days last week, he'd stalled out at $1,960.48, the year he was born followed by his age in cents. He thought that was pretty cool. But now, on his birthday, he's surpassed his goal of raising funds for half a well at the current total of $2,104.48, with the possibility of even more to come.

Happy birthday, indeed.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cat People

We like cats. We are cat people. We are unashamed to say that we own three cats. Our nephew took their photos the other day, and you can see them here. Matt's a pretty good photographer. Somehow these photos he took managed to capture the distinct personality of each cat. And yes, we think cats have personalities. If you're not a cat person, you probably disagree, but oh, how you're missing out.

This video also really makes us laugh:

Now we're off to have dinner with Chris and Heather, who oddly enough, we have run into by accident twice in the last week, all in the massive city of Los Angeles. Weird, weird, weird.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mom's favorite age

Back in my college days when I worked at a preschool, my favorite age was the "Step-Up" class, the ones too big for the infant nursery but too small for the 2-year-old class, which is now the age that Abe is in. I love the wide-eyed wonder kids this age have at the simplest things like the first taste of a fizzy drink (no sodas in our house though--no worries) or the fun of saying a new word like "Buh-buh" (bubble).

Yesterday afternoon Abe and I were outside on the deck playing while I was on the phone with my mom. I had sat down on the stairs, and Abe apparently wanted my attention because he crawled up to me, pulled himself up to standing, rested his hand on my shoulder, leaned his face in to my face, and started yelling "MOM!" straight into my mouth, as if I hear from this hole in my face as well as speak from it. Of course, it cracked both me and my mom up.

Even though I forgot the photo transfer cable, we still have photobooth on our mac. I wanted a photo of Abe trying out a new hat:

And when I saw how still he was sitting for our photo session, this happened:

I am so happy that Abe likes to make funny faces. What a joy this age is.

This song is making its way through the internet, so you may have already heard it, but listen to it anyway if you dare. It's pretty catchy and is being sung quite a lot in the Rooney house. Abe is mesmerized by it.

The latest Charity: Water update is that we're only $184 away from our goal of half a well. Amazing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Charity: Water Update

Generous friends have now brought Ted's Charity: Water birthday gifts to a total (so far...his birthday is still a week away) of $1,163. We also found out that all money given for these September birthdays will be matched, so yeah, that means just Ted's total is at $2,326. The goal is to get to $2,000 ($4,000 once matched), which is half of a well. I can't wait to find out how this whole project finishes by the end of September.

Amazing stuff this is.

And now for your inspirational quotes of the day:

1. During my long drive on the 405 freeway Sunday, I heard a hippie-dippy yoga instructor on NPR's Speaking of Faith say something pretty profound. I'm too tired to go into the context, but here it is anyway: "Unforgiveness is the poison you drink hoping someone else will die."

2. We had dinner Saturday night with some friends we really want parenting advice from, since all three of their kids some of the most pleasant, well-mannered, intelligent, and compassionate kids I've ever known. Keri said, "My kids aren't angelic, they're simply civilized."

Like usual, I forgot the cable to transfer photos to the computer. The delightful Julie loaned her phone to Abe yesterday so he could take care of some business at dinner (not too civilized, I know), and he took this one of himself:
How wonderful to meet Julie and Steven, such lovely and caring people.

Now it's dinner time at the Rooney house.

CJ: forgive me?

Friday, September 12, 2008


Whoever says Abe doesn't resemble his Opa on the Rooney side has never seen this picture:
It's no secret that I love this blogging community, but Ted's Charity: Water page has confirmed it even more. Within two days, more than $300 had been given for Ted's birthday to build wells in Ethiopia, all from good people who read this blog (and even more since we've sent out emails). Tears and more tears. Thank you.

We're headed down to Los Angeles tomorrow for a fun week or more in the hot California sun. Have a great weekend, all you beautiful blog-readers.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Heavenly Perspective

One of Ted's five brothers has an old friend who regularly plays basketball with the richest man in the world...okay, just the richest man in Oregon. They wanted to get together and play with full teams, so Ted was invited to join a team for a game this past Sunday. They finish these games off with a cook-out, so the families were invited as well, including me and Abe.

We drove the hour out to this estate and discovered that Mr. Richest Man in Oregon (hereby referred to as RMiO) has built an indoor basketball court in an old barn. But not just any old barn. This place is spectacular, complete with a full bath/shower and loft from which one can slide down on a fire station pole. The guys started the game, and all us women and children drove up the hill, past gorgeous orchards, to pass the afternoon at the house.

We arrived at what looked like an old Tuscan estate. We parked our cars at the five car garage and walked in to this spectacular place. I've been in some nice places in my life, but this house blows them all out of the water. I've never seen anything like it. We ended up sitting outside for a couple of hours at the pool, which is sandwiched between a complete guesthouse (with two baths, flat-screen tv, etc.) and a garden so perfect that not a blade of grass was out of place.

To her credit, the lady of the house was very easy to talk to, in spite of my having no frame of reference for knowing how to respond to someone whose daily life involves the management of gardeners, nannies, two global companies, and trips around the world, including her most recent trip to the Beijing Olympics. As I sat in this idyllic space with three other women and three children, my mind kept drifting to Italy...and then to thoughts of heaven.
This image makes me think about heaven.

I never really felt envious of RMiO and his wife...I just fought back the urge to ask if I could come stay in their guest house for a night...or month. Ted and I spent our honeymoon in Italy, staying at night in a convent (it was the only place in town with a room, which we only managed to get thanks to our friend Staci who was there in the same small town doing a language course and thus had the ability to speak with these Italian nuns...this is a whole other story in itself though) and spending our days doing very little except eating, drinking, and looking at all the beauty. We talked about how this is what heaven might look like for Ted. My heaven needs to have a bit of Scotland in it, though Ted's Italian one is nothing to shake a stick at.

My Scottish heaven

I found it interesting that within the span of 24 hours, we'd been exposed to pretty much the two most distant poles in the spectrum of the human experience on this earth. First, we saw the poorest of the poor struggling to find clean drinking water in Kenya and Ethiopia. The next day, we're sitting by a pool at the estate of the RMiO.

The whole thing got me thinking about where my treasure is. In that spectrum, I'm so much closer to RMiO than I am to the thirsty and poor, even though while I was sitting by their pool in my thrift store clothes, I felt pretty distant. I think I got a "healthy dose of perspective" that day, and I want to hold on to that feeling. Jesus spent the bulk of His time among the poor; they are where His heart is. I want to be the same, and it got me thinking all kinds of thoughts about giving everything away and letting go of things I see as "necessities," like my morning cup of fancy, organic coffee or the upstairs remodel we've been hoping to do.

In light of eternity, these things don't matter. This stuff is my earthly treasure, things that aren't going to last. If I really truly honest-to-God believe in heaven and Jesus making all things right, then what the heck am I doing bemoaning the fact that my 4-year-old pair of tevas are wearing out? Why am I not giving away more of my time, money, energy, talents, and heart to the poor, the ones closest to God's heart? What am I doing for "the least of these?" I've really gotta get with it.

I'm not saying anything new here. I guess this is sort of like the Christian's mid-life-crisis. Instead of having an affair, going on a fancy vacation, or buying an expensive pair of Minolos (okay, way too many Sex and the City reruns in my life, my favorite love-to-hate show), I'm entertaining thoughts of selling it all and signing up to build wells in east Africa until I die. I can get my new tevas in heaven. I know there's gonna be mansions there, but won't there be tevas too?

#9 and #10, an Italian heaven, complete with tevas.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Ted let the water in the pool out yesterday. Someone else discovered the joy to be had with the resulting mud. Not only is it fun to squish around in, but it's also tasty
(this is after I'd wiped off most of what was in and around his mouth).

And in case you haven't already seen what we're really excited about these days: go here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ted's Charity: Water page

Abe is waking up every day lately asking "Dad? Daaaaad?!" Mom has become the feeder/booger wiper. Dad is Mr. Everything Else.

Ted's birthday is September 22. He just created this page at Charity: Water. The videos are beautiful. I can't stop thinking about this project. Yesterday afternoon, I kept it running for hours with that music playing.

Check out the videos from the Live Drill, especially the celebratory one with the water first appearing. Tears streaming down my face.

Update: We just found where you can order merchandise with the Charity: Water logo. Click here to buy. We've ordered shirts that we plan to wear everyday for a month, hopefully so people will ask what it's about and get involved (Ted is "Charity," I am "Water"). The ones we ordered have the website on the back.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Since Wednesday

We've danced with Rhett at the Kennedy School:

Been pushed to our favorite coffee spot by Opa:
Gone swimming in the freezing cold Sandy River:
And also at this fancy place, Stoller Vinyards:
Oregon is pretty over-the-top beautiful, no?

I know...the nose was runny. We're hoping that faucet-action means more teeth are coming.

The Stoller family dogs: Pinot Noir with the tongue, Chardonnay with the tooth.

Last night, I was so touched by this lovely post. This blogging community is full of such soulful people. I got to meet Julie at the Blog Union and look forward to seeing her again when we're in her area (and fyi: she grows her own teff. What kind of Superwoman is this?).

Now I'm finishing up my first Bill Bryson book, I'm a Stranger Here Myself, and waiting for Twilight to arrive in the mail hopefully later this week so I can join the teen vampire club.

Oh, and we cleaned the house today and I almost finished the Saturday crossword too. Exciting.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Born in September

I just watched this video over at Craig and Cindy's blog. This is an amazing story of what one person can do to improve the lives of many others. Please watch, please consider.

The September Campaign Trailer - from charity: water on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Request to Politicians Everywhere

I don't enjoy discussing politics, and I won't start now. But one thing I think we can agree on is that many politicians like doing this:

The pointing at of some phantom individual in a crowd who seems to share some inside-joke that is so hilarious that the politician erupts in laughter (in Hilary's case) or a knowing smile of a shared secret that the rest of us are out of the loop on.

Please stop this.

If you are one of the lucky ones at the receiving end of a politician's jovial point, please share with the rest of us what that feels like because I imagine it would make my insides feel like cotton candy and pudding.

In our world, look who's almost walking:
And for the catchiest, happiest songs you've heard in a long time, click here (Abe especially likes this one) and here. Turn the volume up. I'd been listening to a lot of Sufjan Stephens the past week or so, but with the onset of gray chilly fall in Portland, songs like this can bring me down, no matter how much I like it. It's for my own good to find something upbeat to listen to.

Still really enjoying the new camera.

Any other high schoolers in the '90s watched the new 90210? Show of hands?