Thursday, September 29, 2011

PETA's at it again

Here's the latest in the stupid, ridiculous, sexist antics of PETA. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is angrily protesting this provocative photo of a chicken in Wednesday's New York Times.

Frankly, I find the photo to be disturbing. PETA founder and president Ingrid Newkirk says, "It's downright offensive, not just to people who care about animals but almost to everyone. It's a plucked, beheaded, young chicken in a young pose."
PETA is hardly one to talk. It wasn't enough for the organization to exploit women and minorities for the shock factor. Now PETA is starting its own porn site to attract more converts to its radical stance...because it's okay if you exploit women, as long as you don't exploit (or eat) animals.

"We're hoping to reach a whole new audience of people, some of whom will be shocked by graphic images that maybe they didn't anticipate seeing when they went to the PETA triple-X site," Lindsay Rajt, PETA's associate director of campaigns, said.
PETA even claims that condemning its sexism and exploitation is bad for women: "Our demonstrators, the models, all chose to participate in our campaigns," said Rajt. "It's not a very feminist thing to do to turn to women and tell them whether or not they can use their voices, their bodies to express their voice."

As this writer pointed out, PETA should thank the Times. Who would want to eat a chicken after viewing that photo? It's much more successful (and relevant) than porn.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Goodbye trees

I park off of SW Lincoln and walk under these trees, across the street, to get to my office building.

 I decided to catch them on film while I could, because this week they are being chopped down.
 All of them. the name of "progress." They are being removed so the street can be widened and TriMet can construct a $1.49 billion light rail line from Portland to Milwaukie.

This morning the workers were feeding one of the trees into a chipper and I couldn't help but think of that horrific scene in "Fargo."

I'm torn...light rail is a good thing because it reduces vehicle miles traveled and promotes healthier commuting. Construction contractors can certainly use the work. On the other hand, I'd rather see the $1.49 billion applied to our failing public schools and social services rather than extending light rail. Further complicating my feelings is the fact that I work for an engineering firm and TriMet is one of our clients. I'm in favor of mass transit. But I'm also in favor of trees.

TriMet has promised to replace the 830 trees that will be removed along the construction route with 2,000 trees. That is a good thing. But I'm still sad. I'll miss these trees.

The City of Portland is about to start sewer work along the freeway off-ramp I take to get to work (Multnomah Boulevard) and will be removing more trees to do so. The Fred Meyer where we regularly shop has been under construction for several months, and we are all anxious to have the store reopen.

I'm tired of construction. Whine done.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Gorgeous day for the market!

With so much going on this summer, we haven't made it to the Portland Farmers Market as often as we like. Last week it was pouring down rain, so we skipped it. But today dawned beautiful, with a projected high of 80 degrees F! I'm sure it's one of our last truly nice days before fall sweeps in.

Chris really did NOT WANT to smile, but I forced him!
Guess it's a teenager thing...not so cool to smile any more. First he rolled his eyes at me.

Market bounty!

Chicken on a bicycle (one of the balloon man's hats, which he sold soon after I snapped this photo)
After shopping (and the kids having ice cream sandwiches and me having a coffee), we listened to a wonderful bluegrass band, the Water Tower Bucket Boys, with an amazing mandolin player. I went up to talk to him on their break, and he's another talented male musician who's only been playing the mando for 5 or 6 years!! Here's a video showing off his mandolin playing (only one of the instruments he plays):

Photo of me and Mike, after several tries by Kieran

Mike with the boys
One of my indulgences today was these peppers, which I sauteed at home and created a new addiction...pimientos de padron...peppers sauteed in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. We ate them all up for lunch! Tonight it's corn on the cob and the purple-on-the-vine beans my family grew when I was a kid. They bring back memories of watching them turn green during cooking.
Pimientos de padron

Friday, September 23, 2011

Grave reminder of how both my son and I benefited from medical technology

A few years ago when we were on the March for Babies, we saw an animal rights group handing out fliers. They were boycotting the March of Dimes because of its use of medical tests involving animals. I'm on the fence on this one. I don't believe that animals should be used for testing of cosmetics or other household products, and I do not like to think of animals suffering for the purpose of medical advancements.


Both Chris, who was born at 24 weeks gestation and very, very sick, and I, who was born with a cleft lip, cleft palate, and club foot, benefited tremendously from medical advancements. In Chris' case, he survived because of the recent development of artificial surfactant, among other medical advancements. If he had been born so early just a few years earlier, he would probably not have survived.

One only has to read the news or look at charities helping children with cleft lips and palates in developing countries such as ReSurge International, SmileTrain, Operation realize that Chris and I were both fortunate to be born when and where we were. In China alone, more than 26,000 orphan boys and girls needing cleft lip and/or palate surgery have been abandoned to languish in an orphanage without hope of adoption.

Feeling very lucky indeed...and please don't blame me for not being a PETA advocate. Not only am I standing in the gray area, but also I don't like their tactics.

Family reunion time!

A few weeks ago we attended a family reunion for my dad's mom's side of the family. It's the only part of my family that has regular, organized family reunions. I didn't know most of the people, while others I know just vaguely. The best part was connecting with family members I don't get to see very often.

Kieran digging into a family delicacy, glishte, which is an acquired taste!
I didn't like it as a child, but I like it now.
Kieran's my daring eater.

He actually liked it!
Glishte is a cabbage roll stuffed with beef and rice and cooked with sauerkraut.
I'm trying to find something about it on the internet, but no luck--I'm probably spelling it wrong.

The large family tree wall, carefully detailed and annotated..
That's Marilyn, my dad's cousin and the chief geneaologist,
explaining how we are all related.

I was interested to learn that one of the names at the top of the tree was Maria!
Each branch of the family came up for a photo in front of the family tree. Our branch was by far the biggest, and we were missing a whole lot of people!! My dad has five living brothers, who have 11 kids (who have 14 kids). Most of them didn't come; if they had, it would have been even harder to fit everyone in for the photo.
Our family branch
These are photos of some of my ancestors:

I'm not closely related to her, but I thought it was a darling photo--
I think her name was Amelia

One of my favorite great-aunts, Evie (my grandma's sister) is the one in the aqua beads.
I loved her!!

This photo was taken at my grandma and grandpa's house in the 50s--
my dad and his brothers are in there somewhere!
The reunion/picnic took place on a pretty farm out in Canby, on one of those excrutiatingly hot days. Fortunately the farm had plenty of shade!
I thought it was a good place to have Kieran pose for some head shots for his audition

With my cousin Tim

With my dad's cousin Lynn, who traveled all the way
from Philadelphia with her husband for the reunion
I remember when I was 16 and my family took a cross-country trip, and we stayed with Lynn and her family for several days. Both Lynn and John are only children, so their two kids have no first most of their family lived far away. I'll never forget how excited they were to meet relatives. It made me realize how lucky I am to live so close to so many of my relatives (and to have so many of them)!

Visiting our new-found cousins in Philadelphia--
Look at all those tube socks (and my argyle kneesocks!)
I recently reconnected with Lynn's daughter, Beth, on Facebook...which has been a great way to keep connected with my cousins (and Mike's cousins) far and wide!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Out of the mouths of babes

We've been immersed in high school drama and hormones, and the younger boys of course have been overhearing discussions about Chris' burgeoning love life. Mike shared this conversation from this morning in the car:

Nick: If I have a daughter...

Kieran: Not 'if,' Nick. 'When.'

Nick: "Okay. When I have a daughter, I'm going to call her Shirley Marie."

... Kieran: "Of course, it all depends what happens in high school."

Dad: ??!!

Kieran: "Well, he could have a high school sweetheart. I'm just sayin'."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Never an empty nest

Many parents sent their children off to college this month, some for the first time. Our friends Nancie and Dave sent their only child off to college in fall 2010, and they shared that empty nest syndrome can be much worse when you have only one child. Right now, with our kids aged five to fifteen, it's hard to imagine the day when we will have an empty nest. But college for Chris is only four years away. I'm sure those four years will pass before we know it.

Then there are the families who think they have an empty nest but then their little birdies come back. My parents went through that at one stage as well. However, usually the birds leave again.

The other day Mike sent me a link to this story, about a couple whose two grown sons have Fragile X syndrome, a form of autism. It reminded us of a family we met in Hawaii, who had two severely autistic, nonverbal sons. They too will probably never have an empty nest. This story is a good reminder for all of us who occasionally take our children for granted or lament that they are not independent enough. One day, for most of us, our children will be living on their own and be able to take care of themselves. It might take them longer than we would wish...but it will happen. For this couple--and others like them with severely disabled children--they will never be on their own.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Big excitement at our house!

My mom asked me if I'd been blogging lately...she was concerned that her subscription had gone west because she hadn't seen any recent posts. In truth, I've had a few discouraging weeks at work, so I haven't felt any additional energy for blogging after hours. So I have some catching up to do regarding our last few weeks.

The biggest news in our lives at the moment is that Kieran got his first professional acting role! He auditioned on Tuesday for the "Holly Jolly Hullabaloo" for the JANE Theater Company, a relatively new company (founded by 2009), whose mission is to "present evocative productions that invite our community to examine life in a playful, accessible, and liberating spirit." We saw the "Holly Jolly Hullabaloo" twice last year--it's a British-style panto with lots of broad comedy, music, and silliness. This year, the Hullabaloo will be a takeoff on "Frankenstein."

He had to present a monologue (he did Arthur Slugworth from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and sing a song from musical theater (he chose "Little People" from "Les Miserables"), and he practiced for days. He didn't seem nervous at all. Acting seems to come so easily to him.

As the days have passed since the audition, each time I would come home he would jump on me and ask "Have you heard yet???"...we all were thinking that he hadn't gotten the part.

It didn't help that I was feeling discouraged about my job, and Mike has received some rejections from agents recently, so we were probably more pessimistic than usual. Underneath it all, though, I kept thinking "no news is good news." When we heard he got the part yesterday, we were all elated and surprised. The role is "Frankie Jr.," the little monster. It seems designed for him! It is going to be an extremely busy few months at our house, with a month of rehearsals followed by a month of shows....but I know he will love every second.

We decided to wait to tell him until dinner, which we had at Mom and Dad's. You can see his reaction for yourself:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Back to school 2011

Each of our sons starts school on a different week. Chris began high school last week (his school follows the Catholic schools because it's on the campus of Jesuit). He enjoyed his first week and so far, so good, although this week he's been feeling nostalgic about not going to Wilson (and missing his friends). He's happy to be playing in the Jesuit concert band.

Kieran began third grade on Tuesday and is excited about his teacher's pirate curriculum. Here are the traditional first-day photos:

Ninth grader and third grader

Nick getting in on the act
Kieran informed us on the way to school that this is the last year we are allowed to take him to school on the first day and he would be riding the bus. (I reminded him that next year Nick will be starting kindergarten and we would be going to school to drop him off anyway.) He wouldn't even high five us before we left! Guess it's just not cool know.
Getting started
We had Chris in tow (we dropped him off next), so when he saw Ms. Byrne (who has known Chris since he was in kindergarten, and she also knew my dad when he was a school social worker) I had him pose for a photo with her...

Nick starts his second year of preschool next week. When he starts kindergarten next year, it will be a luxury for us to have two of our kids in the same school for two years! Altogether, we'll be at our elementary school for 16 years without a break--it's a good thing we love the school!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

When is it okay to take photos of children you do not know?

I just read a story in our local news about a couple of people who have been taking photos of children out of the back of their SUV. Understandably, when parents heard about this, they were alarmed and called the authorities.

It made me think of one evening when we were on the beach a few weeks ago--with all of our six boys having fun playing together during a beautiful sunset. They were burying each other in the sand and playing with Ashley, my sister's family's beautiful Golden Retriever.

A woman came up to the kids and started shooting photographs of them. She looked completely harmless, and she had a nice 35-millimeter camera. She seemed to be enjoying their pure boyhood energy, and she was smiling as she took countless photos. The boys are all used to their mother shutterbugs, and they all like to pose for the camera.

It struck me as odd at the time, because I can't imagine ever taking photos of someone else's children without asking their parents. I figured she must not have been a professional photographer, or she would have known to get our permission. We were not far away, and it was clear that the boys belonged to us. My dad even went up and began talking to her.

I'm not generally the type of person to make a stink about stuff like I didn't say anything. But I do think the right thing would have been to ask our permission. What do you think?

Monday, September 5, 2011

My thoughts and prayers with the people of Wakayama, Japan

Twenty-five years ago today, I was beginning my adventure in adventure that would keep me in the country for three years and result in meeting the love of my life and traveling throughout Asia. Late in August I got on an airplane with my college roommate Debbie, and we flew across the ocean on a very long flight (with a stop in Seoul, Korea). It was the first time I'd ever been out of the country, and I spoke only a word or two of Japanese.

Saying goodbye to my family at the airport gate--a little over 25 years ago!
 (check out that perm!)
My parents were the same ages as Mike and I are now--46 and 48!!!
Getting from Portland to Wakayama was an adventure in itself, one that warrants an entirely different blog post. Suffice it to say that once we finally reached our destination, we were incredibly relieved. I will never forget that first fall morning in Wakayama...and the wonder of it all. My first time out of the country, and I felt like I'd stepped into an enchanted to the senses.

My new adopted city in the fall--Wakayama City

First trip to Kyoto

On the train in Osaka (with our friend Abby, who we sadly lost touch with) and Robert (one of our employers)
(Robert and his colleague Hiroshi are another story to themselves--sadly, they turned out to be highly unethical, shifty employers who took advantage of foreigners--unlike most Japanese)

At Wakayama Castle during cherry blossom viewing
 As you can see, I have fond memories of my time in Wakayama. (I moved to Osaka the following year to be closer to Mike, who lived there.) I'm feeling nostalgic and sad for the people of Japan, with the recent devastating typoon in Wakayama prefecture, following so close after the horrible earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. Even though it's been over 22 years since I left Japan, a piece of my heart will always remain there.

At least 19 people have been confirmed dead, and more than 50 people have been confirmed missing. More than 460,000 people have been issued evacuation orders, and the rain keeps falling. Here are some photos showing the devastation in Wakayama Prefecture:


It's a horrible tragedy that such a beautiful country full of rich history and culture has been struck by so many disasters this year. I know that the Japanese will do their best to rebuild and carry on--that's what they do. But my heart is feeling heavy for the Japanese people. How much more will they have to endure?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Happy birthday, Nicholas the pirate!

I can't believe it's been five years already since our littlest guy burst into the world. In some ways (for example, his vocabulary), he seems older than five. In other ways (such as how he likes to pretend to be a baby), he seems younger. Because he missed the school cutoff by four days, he'll be spending another year in preschool before moving on to kindergarten next year. Somehow, five seems so OLD. He has been such a delightful addition to our family--it always boggles my mind when I realize that I have three kids (and that we only have him through sheer grace).

Today, for his birthday, we decided to take in the Portland Pirate Festival. I've always considered attending, but we've never gotten around to it. It's a bit pricey for a family of five, compared to other festivals and events around town. Of course, leave it to us to attend for the first time ever...the first time it has been outside of Portland! The festival moved to St. Helens this year, about 40 minutes from Portland. It turned out to be a nice setting for the festival, because it was set in the historic downtown waterfront area. But man, was it hot!!

As soon as we arrived, the kids got recruited to be in a pirate play.

Kieran striking a pirate pose

Nick on deck with the other deck hands

Then, unfortunately, I got pulled out of the office to participate! (This usually happens to Mike, not me!)
I ended up being the anchor. 

Deck hand Nick

The deck hands pulling up the anchor (me)

Kieran sailing the ship

Kieran in the stocks

Nick in the stocks

Pirate ice cream on a hot day!

Watching a pirate puppet show
Sleepy pirate during the puppet show

Kieran with one of his "pieces of eight"

After the puppet show, we listened to "Mr. Mac," the singing pirate...
I asked him to sing happy birthday to Nick while he was prepping for his show

Our little face-painted pirate
Kieran getting his face painted

Our two pirates

Kieran's intricate dragon

Team effort on a coloring contest

Chris listening to his tunes while the younger kids color
Pirate on stilts

With the mermaids

Nick especially enjoyed the inflatable slides

Nick twirling with mermaids
After we'd endured enough heat, we headed back into town to meet my parents at Burgerville.
Mom with Nick (showing off his new cowboy boots, a gift from us)

Cowboy pirate
(in his new costume from Grandma and Grandpa)

With Grandpa
When we got home, he dove into some of his new gifts, including a Toy Story stunt set from Grandma and Grandpa, and a race car painting set from friends Stephanie, Pasquale, and Natalie.

As I was putting the boys to bed, Nick asked me who Davey Jones was, and what the word "soul" means. Then he told me he wasn't afraid of Davey Jones, because Jack Sparrow would protect him.

And his final words before I said goodnight: "Mom? Am I five?"