Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Heat Wave

I can hardly type this from the sweat running onto the keyboard. A newscaster earlier tonight referred to this heat wave as "the mother of them all." Nice. We're breaking records here. Today was 107 degrees.

We don't have air conditioning. We do have a finished basement that is at least 10 degrees cooler than the main floor (which hovers around 90, even at 11pm as I type this) and a window unit in one bedroom upstairs, so I know it could be worse. The problem is that Abe is two years old. The boy needs to move. A basement and small bedroom get old really quick, and going outside is just not an option. So what do we do?

Spend three hours at our favorite Swedish chain, of course, especially if there are cute little blonds there to pretend bake brownies with after a delicious lunch of $3 meatballs and mashed potatoes:

We went there because of the air conditioning and cheap lunch but came away with a toddler bed. It was time. As soon as it cools off, we're setting it up in Abe's bedroom.

Hooray for massive-sized hot dogs! I can't figure out if the "*not actual size" is supposed to be funny or if someone would actually think you could get a 50cent hot dog that is 30 feet long.

A neighbor also recommended an old favorite of ours as a good chilly spot, so we spent a long lunch yesterday having Vietnamese pho:

Abe liked it. A lot.

Our neighbors a few doors down who have delicious air conditioning have invited us over for the last few afternoons in the heat of the day, which has been really nice. Their dog enjoys the chill in the house so much she put on her bunny costume:

Abe put on a very punk-version of Twinkle, twinkle, little star with the aid of a pink microphone:

Word on the street is that the wave is breaking tonight, that it's only supposed to be around 100 tomorrow. That, I think I can take. Every degree counts right?

By the by, have you seen who's home?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer far

Rolling around on a friend's blanket during a concert.
(photo by Erin S.)

Outdoor concerts in the grass, preferably salsa.
(photo by Erin S.)

Dumb-looking visors.
Am I the only one on the west coast who wears these any more? Well, just me and the old Vietnamese ladies who I see in the grocery store.

(photo by Erin S.)

Sidewalk chalk, neighbor kid-style graffiti in front of our house

The west coast, specifically Cannon Beach

Munchkins in cherry trees.


Girls in bikinis and the boy who loves them.

Overalls with no shirt and no shoes.

Reading books in the backyard.

Portland Pathways, a favorite thing about this city.

Lemonade stands.

Cool Oregon rivers.

Visiting Uncle Mike and Cousin Adam at basketball camp.

Bike-rides here, in our favorite cemetery.



Pointing out and yelling at the moon while swimming with Elvis-hair.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Five Years Ago Today

We carried this dress up a hill in Heidelberg, Germany in the snow. I wore it four months later.

Ted had the standard four groomsmen. I had three bridemaids and two bridesmen.

Maybe it's hard to tell from the photo, but it was 103 degrees, in a facility with no air conditioning. This is pretty much all people who were there say about our wedding: "Damn, it was hot" followed by, "But the beer was good."

Happy Anniversary, my beer-swilling Hot Stuff.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Meeting a Hero

"Each night when the moon appeared in the sky, I would lie on the ground outside and quietly watch it. I wanted to find out why it was so appealing and likable. I became fascinated with the different shapes that I saw inside the moon. Some nights I saw the head of a man. He had a medium beard and wore a sailor's hat. Other times I saw a man with an ax chopping wood, and sometimes a woman cradling a baby at her breast. Whenever I get a chance to observe the moon now, I still see those same images I saw when I was six, and it pleases me to know that that part of my childhood is still embedded in me." -- Ishmael Beah, in A Long Way Gone: Memiors of a Boy Soldier

Ismael Beah has an unmistakable face. I had traveled from Portland to Denver and rushed like crazy to catch the 20 minute flight to Aspen. I was one of the last people to board the plane, and in spite of feeling rushed and out of breath, my heart rate only picked up more when I looked across the aisle and saw Ishmael Beah. I had a back-and-forth dialogue in my head about whether or not it was actually him. What would Ishmael Beah be doing on this tiny plane to Aspen? But I just knew it was him.

I settled in, clicked my seatbelt, and sent a couple of texts (to Ted and Julie), both saying the same thing, "I'm almost positive Ishmael Beah is sitting across the aisle from me on this flight." I turned off my phone and finally worked up enough courage to lightly tap his arm to ask if he was who I thought he was. He said yes, and I introduced myself, telling him that I had recently read his book.

He asked me the standard fellow-traveler questions of "Where do you live?" and "Why are you going to Aspen?" and then turned back. I knew I couldn't engage him in a conversation since he was sitting across the aisle, one row up from me. It would have been awkward and not at all private. So I wrote him a long note on one of the pages of the airline magazine, telling him how I keep his book on my living room mantle as a reminder of what is important in life and hopefully to get others to read it. And I told him that, as the mother of an African son, I hope one day that Abe will know his story and see him as a model of bravery. I thanked him for telling his story and asked him if he would sign his autograph for me once we landed. He slowly read the note, folded it neatly, put it in his back pocket. He then turned around, smiled, nodded and said, "Sure."

When we landed, he quietly gathered his carry-on and walked off the plane, waiting for me on the tarmac. He greeted me with a large smile as I caught up with him, just like the smile on the back cover of the book. The sun was shining brightly on his face. He just kept smiling, and I thought to myself that I'd rarely ever seen a face with such purity. I pulled my black moleskin notebook out of my bag and showed him also a photo our son, which he smiled at widely. He clarified how to spell Abe's name. Then he wrote something that I didn't read until a few hours later.

I pulled the notebook back out after Courtney and I had eaten dinner, eager to see his autograph and find out what he'd written, "Abe, be like the moon, always. Ishmael Beah."

One of Abe's first words was "moon," and he's been pretty obsessed with anything moon-related since he was a tiny boy. I could tell babysitters that one sure-fire way to calm him is to take him outside and have him find the moon. Even if it's a tiny sliver in a still-blue daytime sky, he can find it. One of his favorite songs as well is "Catch the Moon," by Elizabeth Mitchell and Lisa Loeb. He regularly calls out to the moon, "Hey moon! You come here!" as he waves his hands. Maybe Ishmael Beah writes this message to every person who asks for his autograph, but I think it's nonetheless a special message for our moon-loving son. Having this brave young man write a note for my African son as I was on my way to visit my friend who is also now the mother of an African all just felt too much. What benevolence. Once again, I am a lucky girl.

"She said that people complain when there is too much sun and it gets unbearably hot, and also when it rains too much or when it is cold. But, she said, no one grumbles when the moon shines. Everyone becomes happy and appreciates the moon in their own special way. Children watch their shadows and play in its light, people gather at the square to tell stories and dance through the night. A lot of happy things happen when the moon shines. These are some of the reasons why we should want to be like the moon." --Ishmael Beah

Thursday, July 16, 2009

To the Ends of the Earth

I can't stop staring at this photo. This mother and daughter have found each other, and if this story doesn't make one consider "older child adoption," then I don't think anything will.

Have a look yourself. Stare if you will.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Update from Colorado

This is where I am:

This is what we're eating:

This is what we're drinking:

This is what we're doing:

We packed one full bag today for the trip to meet little Solomon, more tomorrow. On the flight out here, I sat across the aisle from an author I have written about and whose book is currently on my living room mantle. More on that little story later. It was incredible, incredible, maybe one of the high points of my life.

For now, I'm going to try to let the chorus of "hey hey hey!"s accompanying the trumpet-heavy mariachi band across the street lull me to sleep.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Milestone for mom

What will I do without these two boys? I leave in a couple of hours for my first solo trip since being Abe's mom. It started out as a four-day trip but I took a day away when I started to really imagine four long days with no cuddle, no last peep at the sleeping boy before I fall asleep, no...oh boy, I'm getting sentimental.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Brit-brit-style ESL

I have a masters degree in Teaching Foreign Language, something I have done for over six years of my life, though not in the last couple of years. I have been missing it a lot, especially now that we're all settled into life with a child and not traveling as much anymore.

I picked up at the library this week a copy of Travelers' Guides Tales: Prague and have been reminiscing about my years in this part of the world. I spent those years teaching the most gifted, intelligent, and original students one could ever hope for, and I thank the creators of facebook every day for allowing me to stay in touch easily with them as they scatter their brilliance throughout the world. I have former students who are now doctors, European financial movers-and-shakers, computer whizzes, parents (oh, how that makes me feel old), professionals in the travel industry, and even a couple of graduates of Cambridge University.

I am dipping my toe back in the classroom these days by taking on a class of senior immigrant-refugees from various countries in Africa. It's like no other class I've ever taught. These students are all my parents or grandparents' age, some of whom are still learning to write the English alphabet. I think we're a long way off from explanations of when to use the past perfect as opposed to the past perfect continuous. Right now, we're doing a lot of, "Now try spelling your name for everyone to write down." It's a fascinating process. Truly fascinating. These people are so incredibly brave, and I look forward to learning from them.

I found this clip today advertising a language school in Russia, apparently one that teaches seniors as well. I'm wondering how quickly I can get my class to the point that they can sing along to pop songs...

This clip makes me incredibly happy. The "and I" lady is the best. I'd take her on as my assistant in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I wash Abe every night because as a two-year-old, he gets very dirty, and also, his feet stink like all get-out in this one pair of leather sandals that he wears most days. Tonight after he got out of the bath and wrapped up in his towel, he sat on my lap and snuggled. He snuggled, with his head nestled into the crook of my neck, thumb in mouth, for twenty minutes. He hummed the entire time.

I'd ask him if he wanted to do something else, and he'd always say 'no'.

"You want to snuggle?"

"I snuggle," said in that slurred way of the thumb still in mouth.

So we snuggled. He'd close his eyes to hide from me. I'd ask where Abe went every time he closed his eyes. He'd open them and giggle.

Finally, I said, "I love Abey."

"I like you too, Mom."

Friday, July 3, 2009

Thursday, July 2, 2009

You want to read this.

It's here. You won't be sorry I sent you here.

This is why I'm happy that my friends are here visiting: