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I blog for Ergobaby
Saturday
Jan172015

Martin's Big Words and Noah and Maya's Big Questions

Last weekend, I stopped by the library to pick up some books for the kids and I to read about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the books, Martin's Big Words The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to Noah and Maya in a way no other book we've read about MLK has before. I highly recommend picking up a copy from your local library if you want to teach your kids a little bit about Martin Luther King. The book comes with an audio cd that reads the story as you flip through the pages. This allowed the kids to ask me questions and me to answer them easily. Here are some of the conversations Martin's Big Words sparked between the kids and me.

This is the book Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Noah looking at a page full of brown people in the book: Mom, where are the black people? When are we going to see what the black people look like?

Me: When they say black people in this book, they mean brown people. For instance, people would call Daddy black. And they would call me white. When the book says white people they mean people that have a skin tone similar to mine. 

Noah: So when did your skin change from white? You used to be white like paper?!? I'm black and white? Will the bad guys hurt me?

After a longer discussion and many reassurances, we moved on to the rest of the story.

_____________________________

We turned the page to the story of Rosa Parks on the bus in Montgomery. As the narrator spoke, I saw both kids eyes narrowing. 

*Narrator: A white man told her to get up from her seat on the bus so he could sit. She said No, and she was arrested. 

Noah: The people in this story make really bad choices. I don't like it, Mom.

We talked about the choices people made and how Martin Luther King worked hard to change their minds and to teach them better. The story went on to tell them about the Montgomery bus boycott. 

________________________________

Narrator: Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.

Me: That comes from a real quote from Martin Luther King that says, 'Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.' Do you know what that means?

Noah: Like nighttime?

Me: Yes, if it is dark outside and we add more dark what do we get? 

Noah and Maya: Dark!

Me: What if we turn on a light?

Noah: We can see!

Me: Yes. That's right. So if someone hates someone else hate only makes that worse, but what could make it better?

Noah: Jiu Jitsu! We could use my jiu jitsu on the bad guys. I'll knock them down so they can't hurt anyone.

Me: Martin Luther King believed we should use our words and love to change their minds not hurt their bodies. 

The kids were not convinced that Martin Luther King meant what he said.

________________________________

***Spoiler Alert***** Not a real spoiler. Martin Luther King dies in the book and this upset my children.

Maya looking at the picture of Martin Luther King: Why does he look like that? 

Noah: This is going to be the part where he becomes a statue, Maya.

Narrator on MLK helping the garbage collectors on strike in Memphis: He walked with them and talked with them and sang with them and prayed with them. One his second day there, he was shot. He died.

Noah burst into tears: The bad guys made Martin Luther King a statue! Will they kill me? I'm going to find them and use my jiu jitsu on them. I won't let them do that to Martin Luther King. We have to get them! 

We discussed the feelings of anger and pain and hurt the kids felt about what happened to Martin Luther King and how he asked that we use nonviolence to fight the people that made and continue to make bad choices like the people in the book. 

And then, a moment I've always known would come, and I pray about daily came.

Maya with her face scrunched up: Mommy, are you a bad guy? Did you kill Martin Luther King?

 

 MLK quote in Martin's big words

 

 

*The narrator mentioned above is the narrator on the audio cd that accompanies Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, narrated by Michael Clarke Duncan.

 

Monday
Jan122015

Remembering My Dad

This morning, I woke up and thought about my dad as I am wont to do on the anniversary of his death. I always use today to assess how I choose to live my life as a person, mother, daughter, community member, and so on. 

I want to share a story I have shared before. In fifth grade, the year my father spent his final days earth side, I argued with my teacher. She grew up on a tobacco farm in Virginia and during her lesson on slavery, she took time to justify slavery with stories of the "good" treatment of some slaves and the assumed happiness of those people. I'm pretty sure I may have been one of the only kids listening that day, but I raised my hand and immediately asked how she could ever justify owning another person. She restated her opinion and thought that would be the end of my questions. It wasn't and before I knew it, my seat moved to the front of the classroom before she moved me to the hallway where she warned me she would call my father after school.

I went home terrified my dad would be angry with me. So before anyone could call home, I confessed I argued with my teacher and had been moved to the hall with threats of a visit to the Principal and a call home. 

My dad looked directly at me, his face filled with anger. He told me I did the right thing, and that the next day, I needed to make sure to return and let my teacher know she was wrong. He told me that the only way I'd be in trouble with him when that teacher called would be if I didn't stick up for what was right.

My dad died a few months later.

Every time I take my kids to march in Washington, to lobby politicians, to visit the Supreme Court, to talk with other people about what is right and fair, I think of you, Dad.

I'll never be silent about what matters. Rest in peace, Dad.

Friday
Mar142014

Loving a Musician and His Music

When you are with a musician, you know the inside story to many of the lines and themes of their songs. It's the ultimate look behind the scenes of making the music.  I always smile at the line that sounds like "Champagne sunrise by the lake with you" because I remember the sunrise in Champaign, IL that Ash took me to 14 years ago, and the dew on the grass as we drank orange juice and stood holding hands waiting for whatever would come. What came was an orange glowing sun, stripes of pink, orange and blue, and a house and two kids many years down the road. 

When I put a song on, sometimes, my mind combs the song for things to hold on to. Sometimes it is the line itself. The memories of visiting our dear friend, Annie, in NYC when we moved to the east coast. Our 13-hour road trip to Montreal to find a canadian diamond engagement ring in January during a huge snowstorm here that resulted in the Candians laughing at us for visiting them in January and telling us the best place to buy Canadian diamonds was in Virginia near where we lived in Maryland. Sometimes it's not the lines themselves or the meanings of the songs that I hold dear. There's the music Ash performed while I met him on tour in Amsterdam and Paris before science had confirmed my pregnancy with Noah, but I was convinced a life Ash and I made bloomed inside of me. Then the tour in Japan where we hung out with Miyuki and the shows were amazing, the after parties more fun than I could ever describe, and the side trip to Kyoto where we stood hand-in-hand feeling alone in the mountains and we talked about how that exact feeling is what world peace would feel like. Ash's music reminds me of when we looked at the pictures we took in that mountain and how we felt so alone and at peace, but in truth, there were people all over around us. And how, upon realizing that we understood that must be what world peace feels like. When he told me he was ready for kids at the end of a song before he had told me in person. The times each of our children kicked furiously to the beat alone with their father's voice. The pain of the miscarriage I had between Noah and Maya and how lost I felt, and how I listened to Ebony Sea on repeat. The little boy with Cancer that would listen to Ash's music while in Chemo, and the young man that zoned out to it while his father died. 

 Ash's music gives people a window into his soul in a way that many other people never let anyone in. That coupled with the experiences, the discussions we've had and just being around him for the last 14 years means I'm that much closer to the core of him. I've long called Ash my own personal superman. Before kids, I would laugh that he was a brilliant engineer by day, an amazing rapper by night. Now, he does all of that and manages to be an amazing father. It helps that I love hip hop, and Ash is truly one of my all time favorite musicians, but not all of the memories are happy. There are tours I didn't want him to go on, lines that break my heart and so on. Loving a musician and their music means loving it all.

Ever since Ash started recording while we were together, I've annoyed him with "Is the song about me?" as soon as he walks in the door. It's no secret that with busy lives and trying to be the best parents we can be there is not as much time for things like recording. Recently, Ash has fit some sessions in with a friend, and they are creating some music together that Ash is enjoying. Earlier this week, Ash went to one of those sessions. This morning, on my way to driving Noah to school, I moved Ash's car. As I turned the key, the familiar voice of the man I love filled the car with a new beat. I only moved it across the lot, but I heard a line. "Do you know how much food costs these days?" and then "Do you know what private school costs?" I'm probably misquoting those lines. I only heard them briefly, but I know them all too well. I'm always overspending on the food budget, and Ash is always worried about tuition costs. 14 years of loving, and I still make my way into songs.

Let's all just hope that my *current* housekeeping skills didn't also make their way in to any songs.

Thursday
Jan022014

Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Mommy Style

One of the things I love most in the world is quietly gathering ingredients from my disorganized baking cupboard and laying them out in anticpation of a delicious dessert. This year, I decided that I need to start taking more time for the things I love to do that are just for me more often. I've resolved to laugh even when I'm the only one who thinks something is funny, to bake more, and to write more. I need to do those things to be the best me.

Tonight, I pulled out my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume I, and I giggled as I thought about which recipe should be my first. I thought back to our first wedding anniversary, and I pictured myself standing in a bakery in the St. Germain area of Paris preparing my masterpiece. It didn't take long before I came across Le Marquis [Chocolate Spongecake]. I read over the ingredients, knowing I had most of them tucked away in that disorganized cabinet. The rest lived in various parts of my somewhat more orderly refrigerator. First, I rummaged through the cabinet where I keep pots, pans, casserole dishes, and baking supplies I don't often use. I felt around for my spongecake pan that I'd know it by its ridges. I pulled it out while continuing to pull ingredients from their various homes in my kitchen.

I found some shortening and flour and began to prep the cake pan. That's when I realized I'd pulled out my Elmo cake pan that I used to make Noah's first birthday cake in place of a spongecake pan. I had a good laugh realizing this baking experience was already a little less romantic than I'd imagined ahead of time. I quickly pulled out my spongecake pan and then caught myself and used butter and flour to prepare the pan as the recipe dictated. Making the batter had to be hands down the most fun, peaceful, relaxing baking experinece I've ever had. I melted the coffee and chocolate together just as the recipe called, I created a ribbon out of egg yolks and sugar, my egg whites created stiff peaks right on queue, and then I mixed the batter together and poured it into the spongecake pan. That's when I double checked the recipe and realized that I was supposed to use a regular 8-inch pan. So I poured the batter into yet another pan after briefly prepping it with butter and flour.

Then, I waited for the magic to happen. Right on time, the top of the cake cracked as the guide suggested. I sat there laughing at the silly mistakes I had made, but glad they hadn't cost me the cake. I pulled the cake out and it passed the test for being perfectly done. A little bit of chocolate came up on the tooth pick. I waited 10 minutes for it to cool then I ran a knife around the inside of the pan like the recipe instructed. It had been a fun experience. French baking felt so much more honest and delicious than American baking. I couldn't wait to tell the world that French baking is easier, slower, more delicious and perfectly suited for me. Just when I began to dream about the chocolate glaze I'd make in a couple of hours after the cake had completely cooled, I turned the cake upside to put it on the cooling rack, and it didn't budge. I smacked the pan. Nothing. So I did what anyone would do when they had messed up a delicious dessert. I tasted the cake, and I heard French children singing about peace in the background as bit into the little chocolate delight in my hand. I scooped the rest of the cake out with a cake server and then I brought some to Ash. He liked it, but the piece I gave him looked more like a brownie. So I cut the rest of the cake up into random pieces and put away our batch of six small brownies that took me two hours to make.

Okay, maybe there would have been more, but once I messed the cake up, I decided I needed to eat half of it to make sure it was safe for consumption. I'd be a liar if I didn't admit that after the first bite, I knew the cake had turned out exactly how it was meant and that I possibly forgot the butter while prepping the final (third) pan I'd prepped for the cake. I cannot wait to make my way through more recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I wonder if all of the recipes will taste this delicious and make me feel like I'm sitting slowly sipping coffee outside at a cafe in Paris instead of standing in my disorganized kitchen in suburban Maryland. Maybe Julia Childs didn't want me to end up with a beautiful cake afterall. Maybe she knew I needed an hour or two to laugh at myself while eating half of a cake. And maybe, I should have used the shortening to prep my pan.

Thursday
Oct102013

The Tale of Two Moms at the Airport

Two moms navigate an airport with their small children.

The first mom stands in line at Pot Belly, her shirt moves slightly as she raises her arm revealing a small sweat stain. She's sweating. The boy, around four, begins to walk away from her as she orders food. She calls after, "Son, remember the 10 foot rule." The boy doesn't slow, doesn't turn around, but instead picks up his pace, and only turns his head slightly with his eyebrows raised as he turns a corner to head out of her sight. She's holding a younger child in one of those contraptions you have attached to your body. The toddler looks happy, until the boy heads out of sight, then she begins to let out loud shrieks, "Brodder! Brodder!" She's smacking the mom's face and begins to pull her hair.

The frazzled mom, pauses, then hurries after the boy. "I said, STOP! Turn around now, our food is waiting and we need to pay." She mutters under her breath, "I'm hungry." The boy begins to run away. The airport is mostly desserted, so there are not people at any of the gates he is running towards. The woman seems to survey for open doors and stays where she is before moving briskly towards him. "Stop now! Or you will your favorite airplane." The boy comes back, hands her the plane and runs away again. "Stop now. We need to stick together or we are not getting on this plane. I'll cancel our trip. I'm serious. This is my serious voice." The little boy smiles. The toddler attached to the mom bellows, "Out, please! Now!!!!"

The mom tries to convince the boy to come with her. He's running, the toddler is getting louder and louder. The mom can't seem to calm or control anyone. Her voice is louder, but it's not effective. People around her wonder if she ever has control of the situation. An older woman quips, "They let anyone be parents these days." Construction workers in the area roll their eyes. And two young business women survey her "mom jeans" and mismatched socks as she reaches for her phone. "That's it, I'm calling American Airlines and canceling the trip. If we cannot be a team at the airport there is no one I am going to be trapped on a plane..." The little boy comes back, smiling, looking like Ashton Kutcher as he used to run out on Punk'd to tell people everything was just a joke. "Okay, okay, Mom. I'm here." He stands by her side and she breathes out. She had no idea what she was going to do if she made it all the way to calling the airline. She tries not to make eye contact with the other airport patrons who are watching her children and her like there are some sort of exhibit at the National Zoo.

The other mom breezes through security with her two young children. She's wearing the young girl attached to her and kisses the toddler's head as they wait patiently for TSA to swab the mom's hands. She smiles, holds out her hands and the agent asks, "How did you know we'd test your hands?" She quickly responds, "You always test moms wearing babies." The agents laugh. The young boy walks a few feet away. "Excuse me, sir, remember our team sticks together. What's the rule?" The little boy smiles and runs back to his mom. "At the zoo, it's never get out of mommy's sight. Is the airport the same?" The agents comment on how great the kids are and how together the mom is and send her on her way.

The kids are singing an alphabet song and laughing. As they walk together, the mom and kids are making the sounds of each letter. The mom suggests a game. "Let's play number scavenger hunt at the airport!" The little girl in the Ergo yells, "Yeah!" as her brother beams, "What numbers?"

The mom cheerily calls out, "C14!" The little girl asks to get down. "Out, please!" The mom lets her down and the two children hold hands and run together to C14. The mom happily follows. "Great, now, how about C6?" The little girl asks to get in the stroller and her brother pushes her. The game lasts a while then the small family heads to the bathroom. There the mom begins asking what each child's favorite letter is as she changes the toddler's diaper with ease, and the three of them sing out words beginning with each child's favorite letter. "D is for daddy and dandelion and daisy and doggie!" Each of them smiles, two older women come out of the bathroom, watch, remembering raising their own young children and compliment the mom on her parenting and the children on their exceptional behavior for small children. They went as far as to suggest she get the nobel peace prize for parenting.

Each of these moms is me. All of those children are mine. At any given moment, you may meet any combination of us. Being a mom is amazing and messy. Often, simultaneously.