Saturday, April 30, 2011

March for Babies 2011...and over the years

This morning our family walked in the 2011 March for Babies for the March of Dimes. I've lost track of how many years we've been walking, but I think it's about 12 now. We are grateful to the March of Dimes for their research into preventing prematurity, and we believe that their research into the use of artificial surfactant to help preemies' lungs helped Chris survive. (His lungs were completely shot when he was born, as he didn't have the aid of steroids before he was born--when women are in premature labor they usually get steroids, but he came out too quickly.)

Here are some images of our family's walks through the years (since the dawn of the digital camera--not going back into time further than that!).

With my parents in 2004 (Kieran was about a year old)



2008 (and another baby!)--with our friend Kendra and her son Terrin

We missed a few years in the photos. I believe in 2007 my parents took the kids because we were out of town, and in 2010 Mike went with the kids on his own because I was at the Northwest Women's Music Celebration.

Years ago, the parent nonprofit group we are involved with, Precious Beginnings, had a huge group of families walking together. This year, sadly, we were the only family represented. Most of our active volunteers have phased out as their children have gotten older and their NICU experiences have faded in memory. In addition, the HIPAA laws have made it more difficult to recruit new volunteers. After years of my serving on the board and writing a newsletter, Mike's been taking his turn on the board and volunteering in the hospitals for the past several years. But with the dwindling number of volunteers and transitions at the hospitals, we're concerned that the organization is not going to last forever.

This year, as in years previous, the walk was on the same weekend as the elementary school's overnight event, Book Baggers. So last night Kieran spent the night at the school (it used to be Chris), but he was bright eyed and bushy tailed this morning in spite of being up until 11 p.m. After doing the walk, followed by his Broadway dance class, and attending the theater with Mike this evening (a Shakespeare play at Jesuit High School), he's just gone to bed at 9:45 and he must be thoroughly exhausted!

Waiting for the walk to start

My sweet 1 lb, 6 oz baby and his kid brother

Chris--our inspiration!

Nick playing in the kids' tent

Kieran's artwork (with dot paints)

The 2011 family photo!

Many of the family teams were walking in memory of babies lost. Others were there with their preemies, either as babies or grown.

Thanks to all of you who have supported us this year and in years past. It's not too late, if you'd still like to make a donation. (Let me know if you want a link to our online donation site.) The babies and families thank you!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Heartbroken over the attention being given to the idiot Donald Trump

Even before Donald Trump began making noises about running for president, I decided to stop watching "The Apprentice." I have always found him extremely tiresome, egotistical, and pig-headed, not to mention STUPID. I finally decided that it was just not a good use of my time to expose myself to his ranting and bragging about how much money he is worth or how great he is.

And now he has made a complete ass of himself. Even though historically he has actually supported Democrats and the Democratic platform, now he has not only gone Republican but embraced the Tea Party and birther wackos. He has also claimed that Obama didn't deserve to go to an Ivy League university. This is truly a joke, since all you have to do is listen to Trump speak vs. Obama. A debate between them would be truly laughable. Check out just a few of the completely stupid things he has said in the past couple of weeks.

A few people posted this excellent commentary on Facebook today (video below). Baratunde is the Director of Digital at The Onion, and he offers his own thoughts and profound sadness about Donald Trump and the ridiculous furore over the birth certificate:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Baby discussing some very serious topics

I always tell my boys and Mike that I am NOT easily amused (especially by such things as the Simpsons or silly videos like "Chimpanzees Riding on a Segway"). However, I find two things highly amusing:
Laugh-out-loud funny! So today a friend posted this HILARIOUS video on Facebook. I LOVE IT. LOVE IT.



Monday, April 25, 2011

The more children you have, the more lax you get...or perhaps why it's more fun not to be the oldest child...

  • This weekend I was joking with my sister about this...when we each had our first children, we did not allow them to play with anything resembling a weapon. One day Chris came home from a playdate with a plastic sword he'd borrowed from a friend, and I was horrified. Nadine & David were the same with their eldest son. Now both families allow plastic swords, bows and arrows, etc., and as she said, "guns if they are really tiny" (like for lego characters). We all draw the lines at realistic-looking guns...although my children recently acquired a cannon that makes machine-gun noises and shoots pellets, much to my chagrin!
  • Chris never saw a Disney movie until he was 3 or 4...and then the movies were carefully chosen. Kieran started seeing Disney at a younger age, and Nicholas even younger. They also saw PG movies at a younger age, as well as Harry Potter (for Kieran). And now Kieran is the first child in the family to see an R-rated film, "Billy Elliot." (Chris decided to see the play first and did not watch the film with us.) We are still protective about movies with a lot of violence (and sex, of course). The only thing R rated about Billy Elliot was the preponderance of f-bombs. Then there's the movie "Grease," which the younger ones have seen...and the adult themes (and smoking) in that movie, not to mention some of the provocative lyrics. 
  • Speaking of which, yesterday afternoon Chris was blaring his music and drumming along with it. Kieran suddenly ran through the house yelling "I just heard the f-word in one of Chris' songs!!!! I just heard the f-word!!!" Chris didn't even know the f-word at age 8. Kieran asked me what it was several months ago, and I told him (and made him swear to never say it). I suppose I should be thankful he's followed my directions. Chris, on the other hand, swears like a sailor on Facebook and with school friends. I could forbid him to do so, but would it really do me any good? I figure the least I can do is teach him to change his language based on his audience!
One area we continue to fairly strict on is violent videogames...but the older Chris gets, the more we allow him to watch. (Right now he is watching SouthPark on DVD.) At the rate we're going, we'll be allowing Kieran to watch Southpark at age 9! (Just kidding!)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter 2011

Last night we had my parents and sister and family over for a taco bar and egg dyeing party, in addition to Shakespeare's birthday!

Ryan in his baseball gear
Egg dyeing is a very serious affair!
So funny to see my nephews in Kieran's old clothes!

Easter egg boys
Chris was recruited for a photo
This morning before church the boys participated in the annual egg hunt.
Oscar--who has known me since I was a child--searching for leftover eggs

Getting a hand

Our little elf (hat courtesy of the Shakespeare set)

Both boys with their hauls

The annual Easter cousin photo

Daniel reading to Nick
Nick with his napping Uncle Stephen

Happy Easter!

Happy birthday, Shakespeare!

As my beloved husband is writing (well actually, rewriting and rewriting and rewriting!) a middle grade novel about Shakespeare, we celebrated Shakespeare's birthday last night. Did you know it was Shakespeare's birthday?

I had just happened to purchase a Shakespeare-themed gift for Mike at my favorite resale shop the day before, so this was the perfect occasion to give it to him. Kieran wrapped it up for me.

Mike with gift wrapper himself
It was a King Lear play set--complete with scripts and props, including a great actor's dagger (that contracts when you stab yourself). As you can imagine, the dagger has been a great hit around here!! We've had all sorts of suicidal soliloquys in the past couple of days.

Later this week Mike and the older boys will see The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) at Jesuit High School. Happy birthday to the bard!

Happy Earth Day, a little late!

On Friday I celebrated Earth Day with the adorable second graders. We sang all earth songs! 

Kieran made a wonderful "edible earth" project, which he brought home to eat: 

Edible earth snack

Description of the project


Friday, April 22, 2011

So that's why they didn't kiss!

The only wedding I've attended in the UK was that of Mike's sister and her husband. (We've been invited to others but have never been able to attend.) Here's what I remember most from that wedding:
  • Arriving in England to discover that the wedding dress had not yet been hemmed (my sister-in-law had bought it here in Portland)
  • How fun it was to travel to England with my parents--I remember punting along the river in Cambridge and having tea with them at the Orchard in Grantchester...we also traveled up to Yorkshire with them and spent time in London
  • Spending time with Mike's aunt, cousin, and daughter, who traveled from Florida--and watching Mike's mum and aunt enjoy drinking their vodka together!
  • All the women at the wedding wearing hats (yes, they really do wear hats!)
  • Mike and I singing the Ave Maria, after which his mum's friend pronounced, "well it was nice Michael, but you're no Pavarotti!"
  • The fantastic reception at this wonderful old barn--great food, setting, and dancing to an English country band, with a dance caller (although my mom got her foot stomped on during the dancing and took years to recover!)
  • The fact that they did not kiss during the wedding--in fact, the first person to kiss my sister-in-law after she got married was the maitre'd at the reception site!
I remember thinking how sad this was--a wedding without a kiss!--and I chalked it up to the fact that it was a Roman Catholic ceremony. However, apparently it's not the British custom to kiss during a wedding. I never knew this (clearly, Mike has not been to a lot of British weddings!) until reading this article about why William will not be kissing Kate during the royal wedding. Apparently it's forbidden in the Church of England!

Well, at least there will be dancing:

The depressing state of public education in Oregon...

This year I seem to have gotten myself on a bunch of committees. One of the committees is the campaign committee for our local elementary school, which I love. Because our kids are spread so far apart, we will be at the beloved elementary school for 16--yes--16 years!

I am not crazy about raising money, to be honest, but my role was supposed to be mostly writing and publicity. I can handle that. I've enjoyed getting to know the younger moms, whose oldest or only children are the ones now at the school, instead of their middle or younger ones (like me and one other mom who's been around for awhile).

As I've written before, this year is the first year without any music at our elementary school, and that's why I go in to sing with the kids once a week. That's depressing enough...along with our beloved principal retiring and the current lack of leadership in the school (the interim principal is not anywhere near as engaged), it would be easy to understand teachers feeling really burnt out this year. I'm really hoping the new principal will be able to re-engage the parents and staff in a totally new way, to revitalize the community.

Now the Portland Schools are facing yet another huge funding crisis. If the voters do not support the levy and bond this spring, they will have to make even more massive cuts. Oregon's tax structure is so screwed (no reliable source of revenue from a sales tax), so the whole state continues to struggle. How to explain this to school children? The class sizes can NOT get any bigger.

In the meantime, Portland is proposing to build a streetcar line to the rich suburbs of Lake Oswego. Even though I realize this project is a sweet spot for my own company, I can't in good faith support the spending of tax dollars on streetcar building while the schools suffer.

At any rate, at this meeting the other night, two of the moms announced that they were pulling their children out of the school and sending them to private schools. Another one of the moms is seriously considering it. Part of the reason is they feel their kids are not getting challenged enough at school. They also want their children to have music.

I support their right to send their children to private school--and I'm sure I would do the same if I felt that my children's needs were not being meant by the public schools--but I felt so depressed that evening. Two (and possibly three) great, engaged families--who have spent a lot of time supporting the schools--dropping out of the system. The more parents like that who drop out of public school, the worse shape the schools will be in. (We have applied for a private high school for Chris, because we feel he is more likely to thrive there--so maybe I'm being a hypocrite.)  It makes me so mad at our society that we do not value public schools more and fund them (and teachers) at the level they should be funded. Our kids deserve better!!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Three cups of tea, gone rancid

Okay. So I confess I have been obsessed with the whole Three Cups of Tea/Greg Mortenson sham since it first broke. I watched "60 Minutes" and I've read the Central Asia Institute Board response, in addition to Greg Mortenson's response. After mulling over what I'd read and seen, I suspected that "60 Minutes" and Jon Krakauer were making mountains out of molehills and while some of the stories might have stretched the truth in Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, surely Mortenson's disorganized approach and right brain mentality led to these inaccuracies.

Mortenson reading to schoolchildren
I've been trying, desperately, to reserve my judgment on the issue and to give what appeared to be a huge-hearted humanitarian the benefit of the doubt. Nicholas Kristof writes a part defense of Mortenson in his column today, "Three Cups of Tea, Spilled." He talks about his decision with his wife not to start a foundation while writing Half the Sky, "partly because giving away money effectively is such difficult and uncertain work."

Kristof says this about Mortenson:
"The furor over Greg’s work breaks my heart. And the greatest loss will be felt not by those of us whose hero is discredited, nor even by Greg himself, but by countless children in Afghanistan who now won’t get an education after all. But let’s not forget that even if all the allegations turn out to be true, Greg has still built more schools and transformed more children’s lives than you or I ever will."
This is true, and this is why I so desperately wanted to believe in him despite what I was reading. (He has done wonderful things for girls' education, even if he is a self-serving fraud.)

I also read Mortenson's answers to the charges in an interview with Outside magazine. He essentially throws his "coauthor," David Oliver Relin, under the bus. He places the blame for the inaccuracies in Relin's lap, even though Mortenson has top billing as author (Relin actually wrote the book). Relin submitted a draft to the publisher and got the galleys back with Mortenson's name on it as a coauthor (this must been quite the insult to Relin, who suddenly became the afterfact).

Then I read Jon Krakauer's extensive investigation of Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute. You can download it here. It's 89 pages long, and is vastly more damning than the short "60 Minutes" segment or any other news article I have read. If you are interested in this topic, I urge you to read it.

It's filled with page after page of testimony from people who knew Mortenson extremely well and worked side by side with him--personal interviews, e-mails, and documentation. Not only does Mortenson come across as a narcissist, but he also appears to be a pig-headed bully. Board members, associates, and employees over the years have urged him to submit receipts, document what he's doing, and follow audit guidelines. Many have tried to confront him on what they have felt were dishonest, unethical business practices. In instance after instance, they have left the organization either voluntarily or involuntarily. Even the wife of his first benefactor left the board in disgust.

The research Krakauer did was exhaustive and convinced me that Mortenson has allowed the fame and attention to go to his head. He has let so many people down, including thousands of schoolchildren both in the U.S. and in the Middle East. For example, as Krakauer writes: 
"In 2009, schoolchildren donated $1.7 million to Pennies for Peace (P4P). But Central Asia Institute's (CAI) total 2009 outlay for the things P4P is supposed to pay for—teachers’ salaries, student scholarships, school supplies, basic operating expenses—amounted to a paltry $612,000. By comparison, in 2009 CAI spent more than $1 million to promote sales of Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, and another $1.4 million to fly Mortenson around in chartered jets. Donors unknowingly picked up the tab for all of it."
President Obama even gave CAI $100,000 of his Nobel Peace Prize money.
Most convincing to me was the detailed account of the major exodus from CAI's board in 2002 because of their mutual disgust with Mortenson. This all happened just as Mortenson was becoming famous.
Krakauer comments:
"It might not be too late, though, to salvage the wreckage of CAI...but if CAI is to be pulled back from the brink and rehabilitated, the organization must sever its ties with Mortenson."

Krakauer invested $75,000 of his own money in CAI before he started to smell something fishy. As he started uncovering these details, he felt ashamed at being so easily conned.

Tom Hornbein, former ally of Mortenson's and the board director who resigned in disgust, told Krakauer: "With one hand Greg has created something potentially beautiful and caring (regardless of his motives). With the other he has murdered his creation by his duplicity.”
No one, least of all Krakauer, denies Mortenson's good intentions when he launched CAI and decided that girls' education was the path to peace. But he lost his ethics, humility, and integrity along the way.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It's not looking good for old Greg Mortenson...

A friend sent me this article from the Seattle Times. I've read Mortenson's and the Central Asia Institute's responses to the accusations, and I've been trying to reserve judgment about the situation. But it's not looking good.

The charity ratings Web site, Charity Navigator, has a donor advisory message on the Central Asia Institute. According to this site, 88 percent of its revenue goes toward program expenses...which contrasts with the claim that it spent more money in 2009 on travel than on schools.

And if you haven't read enough, here is Mortenson's lengthy interview with Outside magazine--here he defends himself. I haven't had a chance yet to read it, and it's late now, but will plan to take a look soon.

What are your thoughts? I find this whole situation to be mighty depressing. As Krakauer said, he's no Bernie Madoff...but something clearly does not smell right.

Dancing to the Beastie Boys

Here are my silly boys dancing to The Beastie Boys (which Chris has on his iPod, not me!):

Nicholas is saying "So that's why they call it the Nutcracker!" which is a wonderful line from "Billy Elliot," uttered as Billy's friend Michael does the splits. No, he hasn't seen "Billy Elliot," but Kieran told him about it...and he parrots his older bro.

One more indicator I should try vegetarianism...

I have not yet cut out poultry or fish, but I'm attempting to eat less and less of it. According to a new study, almost half of the beef, chicken, pork, and turkey bought in five U.S. cities has drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus. Yuck!

True confession: I did have teriyaki chicken, brown rice, and salad for lunch. I'm addicted to the stuff sold at a Korean food cart across the street from my office (at Food Cart Central)!

Guess I'm not quite ready to give it up entirely. And then there's my kids' love of red meat. That's another story.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Conviction: Inspiring story of sisterly love

ConvictionLast night we watched the film, "Conviction," which was the real-life story of Betty Anne Waters, a high school dropout who had a very troubled childhood, and her brother, Kenny, who had a serious reckless streak along with some anger management issues. When Kenny was convicted for the murder of a neighbor, Betty Anne went back to school to earn her (1) high school GED, (2) bachelor's degree, (3) master's degree in education, and (4) a law degree...for the sole purpose of working to free her brother, who she knew in her bones was innocent.

Along the way, Waters' marriage falls apart (her husband didn't want her to go back to school and wanted her to put it all behind her), her two beloved sons decide to go live with their father, and she was put on academic probation at law school for a period.

This film brought me to tears several times. Betty Anne and Kenny had truly rotten childhoods. It always breaks my heart when I see this kind of childhood in a film or book--I know this is all some children know. They had a beautiful, unconditional love for each other. She believed in his innocence when even Kenny seemed to be giving up. 

I found it refreshing that most of the major characters were women. Betty Anne had an amazing friend--a fellow law student--Abra Rice, who helped her in her quest to free Kenny. Betty Anne is an Erin Brockovitch type of hero for women--working class or otherwise--everywhere. Here's a photo of the real-life Betty Anne and Abra, along with Hilary Swank and Minnie Driver, the outstanding actors who played them. And here's a video of Abra Rice and Minnie Driver.

I won't give away the ending, because you need to see this film. And after you see it, read this New York Times article or this one in the Guardian about the real story. 

Not going to read Dilbert any more...

I have to confess...I haven't read the comics since my oldest son was born prematurely and was in the NICU for four months (nearly 15 years ago). But if I do glance at them, I read Dilbert because it's at the top of the comics page. Plus I work in an engineering firm. And he features a technical editor.

But Scott Adams has proved himself to be an asshole.

Apparently he's a horrible boss. We now know he's a misogynist as well as a hater of men's rights activism. Here's an example:
"The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It's just easier this way for everyone. You don't argue with a four-year old about why he shouldn't eat candy for dinner. You don't punch a mentally handicapped guy even if he punches you first. And you don't argue when a women tells you she's only making 80 cents to your dollar. It's the path of least resistance. You save your energy for more important battles."
Now in addition to being an idiot, it turns out that he also is an egotist pig. He's fessed up to creating an identity on message boards to tout his pure genius and praise himself.

Just one more case of someone's ego taking over his brain.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Billy Elliot!

Kieran's birthday present this year was tickets for the four of us (sans Nicholas) to see "Billy Elliot: The Musical" this afternoon. He'd seen the following trailer on a DVD, and when he saw it was coming to Portland he started begging to go see it. I responded that we had already spent a lot of money on theater this year, so sorry. What he didn't know was that I had bought tickets a few months ago, just on the hunch that it would be something he would love.

In preparation, we got the Billy Elliot DVD out of the library so he could watch it first. I figured it was PG-13, so imagine my shock when I saw that it was rated R. Allow an 8-year-old to watch an R-rated movie? Never before in my parenting lifetime. But what could I do then? We watched it this week, and the only reason for the R rating is the foul language, similar to "The King's Speech." I warned him never to repeat the words he was about to hear! Both of us had tears rolling down our cheeks during the scene where they read the letter from Billy's dead mam.

I enjoyed the musical even more than the movie, although as musicals usually go, it was even more unrealistic. (The police officers and miners dancing together, interspersed with the ballet dancers? And the final encore when all the men come out in tutus?) Theater critics appear to have been less enamored of the show than the audience.

But we all loved it. We had great seats thanks to my cousin's wife Ginger, who used to work at the Portland Opera and has connections. I cried even more watching the play than I had during the movie--all of us did.
The cast has four different Billys, who take turns playing the highly demanding role. This afternoon, Daniel Russell played the role of Billy. It's easy to see why they have four different actors: Billy is on the stage during nearly every scene.

A few characters play bigger roles in the musical than the movie--namely Billy's cross-dressing friend Michael; his ballet teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson (who is quite the diva); and also Billy's nana, who is less senile in the play. Each of these have their own solos and opportunities to shine.

They did Americanize the play in a number of ways. No self-respecting Northern English town would say "Santa Claus" (it would be "Father Christmas"). Instead of saying "he's always pissed," it was "he's become an alcoholic." And Debbie offers to show Billy her "hoo-hoo" instead of her "fanny." (Fanny actually is a slang word for female genitalia in the UK, rather than a bottom.) The Santa Claus scene was the most glaring. Kieran also caught that they said "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Christmas."

I couldn't help but think of some parallels to Margaret Thatcher Britain and what's happening in Wisconsin and across the U.S. today. However, it seems that the Brits have way more passion about it (read: violent protest) than Americans do. (Ten people died during the year-long U.K. miners) strike. Now that way of life is no more, and I wonder what happeened to all those thousands of men and their families who lost their livelihoods. Now Britain imports 98 percent of its coal.

The company was raising money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS after the show, and for a $20 donation we got a poster signed by the whole cast. Another theatergoer gave her own poster to Kieran, so both Chris and Kieran got one.

Kieran pronounced it as the best show he'd ever seen, better than "The Lion King." I love successful birthday "experience" presents like this one!

Here's one of the original Billys performing "Electricity" for a BBC fundraiser:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Very troubling reports about "Three Cups of Tea"

Sunday night, "60 Minutes" will air a report about Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea book and the Central Asia Institute, alleging that many of the things in the book are untrue. I read Three Cups of Tea back in 2006, before it was very well known. The (Jewish) coauthor, David Relin, came to our church to speak to an assembled audience of Christians and Muslims.

Mike gave me Stones into Schools not too long ago, but I haven't read it yet. Now I don't think I can bring myself to read it. Children all over the world have cracked their piggy banks to donate to Mortenson's charity, Pennies for Peace.

According to the report, the Central Asia Institute spent $1.7 million on "book-related expenses" in 2009, more than it spent on building schools. Apparently the organization has issued only one audited financial statement in the 14 years it's been in existence. A former board member was described as saying that Mortenson uses the Central Asia Institute as his own private ATM.

Writer Jon Krakauer, a former donor to the Central Asia Institute, began digging into Mortenson's stories and discovered the inaccuracies. Ironic, because Krakauer, too, has been accused of inaccuracies. Mortenson defends his work but does not give any details. He is scheduled to receive a $100K award from the University of Louisville in September.

The reports do not dispute that Mortenson has built schools for girls in the Middle East, but it calls into question the truth of many of Mortenson's stories, such as being kidnapped by the Taliban and wandering into a village after his failed ascent of K2.

I am so disappointed. And for the sake of truth and justice throughout the world, I pray that the report is wrong. Doesn't sound very hopeful though.

Glad to have a friend like you

I've written before about the impact "Free to Be You and Me" had on my life. I memorized the entire record. When I had my own children, I bought the video and CD so we could participate together. Years ago a local children's theater company produced a show of "Free to Be," and you can bet we were there! (That was when we had only Chris.) Marlo Thomas never knew what a huge hit it would be. Bring up "Free to Be" with most 30- and 40-something adults, and you'll see wistful looks in their faces.

A few weeks ago I taught Kieran's second grade class "Glad to Have a Friend Like You," my favorite song on the record. It's a wonderful, fun anthem about no-holds-barred children's friendship. I never realized how many fast lyrics there were in that song until I was trying to teach it to a bunch of second graders, some of whom read better than others.

Today when I went into the classroom, the kids were excited to show me that one of the boys had brought in the CD from home and we sang along with the CD. It is so sweet to see these second graders singing "Glad to Have a Friend Like You"! Almost made me cry!

This was the only video I could find of the song:

Next we tackle "Parents Are People"!

Happy birthday, eight-year-old!

As regularly blog readers know, our family loves birthdays and makes the most of them. Last Saturday was Kieran's eighth birthday. The festivities began on Friday. After I had done my singing with Kieran's second grade class, we celebrated his birthday by having Kieran present two books he had selected to give to the classroom (Hoot by Carl Hiaasen and a book about reptiles).

With his books

Showing Hoot
His teacher told me this morning that she's been reading Hoot to the children and editing as she goes! Then they had the sweetest tradition...the kids gave Kieran eight compliments in honor of being eight. So sweet:

On Saturday we celebrated with a bunch of mostly second graders at a "Percy Jackson" swimming party. Thirteen boys (including Chris) and three brave girls:

The rope swing into the deep end

Chris on the swing

Wet Matt and his dad (now that's fatherly love!)

Mighty Daniel showing off his muscles

We asked Chris to entertain Nick while Mike went into the hot tub...

One of the brave girls!

Two of the other brave girls with Kieran
Because Kieran is a highly creative and ambitious kid, this wasn't just swimming, pizza, cake. We handed out scrolls of gods and goddesses and made necklaces (ala Percy Jackson), and each child received a Camp Halfblood t-shirt (made by yours truly). Next year I'm taking the easier route. I loathe goody bags full of Dollar Store junk...but they are certainly EASIER!

Bead stringing

Bead stringing

They actually seemed to enjoy it!



I think the parents there were probably cursing me though...

Daniel and Nicholas

Chris with his Aunty Nadine

I always joke about wanting to have girls who would sit there stringing beads...
there they are, along with the boys!

Patient Uncle David helping Garrett with his beads

Then shy Kieran made a few speeches...this time reading out of his new The Ultimate Percy Jackson book

The cake (designed by Kieran) was the simplest part of the party!

Kieran in his new t-shirt and necklace
That evening, right after the swimming party, we had a dinner at my parents' house to celebrate Kieran's and Dad's birthday, along with Mike's (several weeks late).
Ice cream sundaes!

Ice cream nose (valilla!)

Ryan with his big cousin

Birthday boys

My parents went to Turkey in March and brought back some wonderful Turkish hats! They were quite the hit! (They also brought Turkish delight for my Turkish Delight lover and some little clay whistles that sound like birds if you fill them with water.)

Birthday boys in Turkish hats

Opening presents

Uncle Stephen with Kieran--so nice to have him with us!

Another Turkish boy

Garrett likes his hat!

I must say that the hat looked best on my brother--
the beard makes him look more authentic!

The end of Kieran's birthday celebrations is tomorrow, when we go to see Billy Elliott on stage. That was our present to him. I just hope he doesn't go around dropping f-bombs everywhere he goes! Do you think I have an aspiring ballet dancer in the making? The way Kieran goes through phases, who knows what will be next?