Pics from NASA on The Commons

Not feeling like writing a bunch of words, so I thought I’d poke around some photos on The Commons at Flickr. These are some neat ones from NASA:

Engineers Check Body Revolution Model

Engineers Check Body Revolution Model July 31, 1957

Gemini Launch Pad watercolor

Gemini Launch Pad Artist: James Wyeth, 1964 Media: Watercolor on paper

Apollo 11, 1969

Apollo 11, 1969

Skylab, 1973-1979

Skylab, 1973-1979

First Image of Saturn and Titan

First Image of Saturn and Titan
August 31, 1979

Sunrise Suit Up mixed media

Sunrise Suit Up
Artist: Martin Hoffman, 1988
Mixed media

Astronaut Mae Jemison Working in Spacelab-J

Astronaut Mae Jemison Working in Spacelab-J
October 22, 1992

Phoenix Mars Lander, 2007-2008

Phoenix Mars Lander, 2007-2008

TV watching + 3 words

Eking a short one out tonight, despite being super tired and uninspired. Curse you NaBloPoMo …

Matt and I cut the cord a while back, but we still watch television shows on the interwebs. (I’ll write another post later on how we went about cutting the cord and how it’s working out.)

Here’s what we’re watching at the moment, plus three descriptive words:

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Joss Whedon devotees.

Parks and Rec – My happy place.

Key and Peele – See yesterday’s post.

Castle – ‘Moonlighting’ for 2010s.

Warehouse 13 – Nerdier X-Files (Lite).

Hanging with the K & P

A friend posted recently about how much she loves Key and Peele. They are definitely among my favorite comics at the moment. So thrilled that they’re able to do their ridiculously smart comedy that plays in and around race politics with hilarious and astute style. I think the other reason I relate so well to their writing – especially Keegan-Michael Key who is almost exactly the same age as me (he’s 7 days older) and from the neighboring home state of Michigan – is because they nerd out about the same stuff I do. (Others I appreciate in this vein are Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Simon Pegg and Joss Whedon, but not many are tackling race as well as K & P.) Plus, I can see how their work is rooted in great improvisation. It’s what makes their comedy go beyond jokes into great stories and interesting characters.

Here are a few of my favorite clips:

A new vampire challenges the sexy vampire status quo

Dude can’t get a word in, even in song

Colorful code names causes offense amongst superheroes

Lots more from their show on the Comedy Central website, including full episodes.

The rosiest open adoption ever

November is actually National Adoption Month.

To kick of the month, the Today Show shared this open adoption story. It’s a very heartwarming story depicting a family who seem to be in the dream open adoption: adoptive family wants complete transparency, birth families are very involved, loving, child feels close to birth mom, everyone adores and respects each other, etc., etc.

I certainly don’t begrudge the family. But it does paint a rosy, idealistic and almost simplistic picture of open adoption which I would expect very few families to be able to fully achieve.

As I wrote about a few days ago, we have a very good relationship with our birth mom. Yet it’s terribly complicated and always evolving. I certainly hope we could evolve to something as seemingly effortless as shown in this Today Show segment. But, at four and a half minutes long, the tv segment can hardly go deeply enough to show any kind of complexity.

Despite my concern that the segment is simplistic, I appreciate that it went out there and that it was shared on such a mainstream program as the Today Show. There are two takeaways I think are most powerful and encouraging:

  1. The adoptive mom in the story says they were, “very hesitant with the idea of having secrets in a family.” I myself would flip that and say that what we do want in our family and in our open adoption is transparency and honesty. That is a very big reason we chose to do an open adoption.
  2. The family in the clip is portrayed as just that, a family, including the birth family. This is how we’re trying to approach our still evolving relationships with the birth mom and her family. Not that we’re Lilli’s adoptive family and they are Lilli’s birth family, but that we are all part of one family connected by this beautiful child.

Would love to hear other thoughts about the Today Show segment. Does this help or hurt the movement toward openness in adoption?

 

A ‘mix-tape’ from my toddler to the new baby on our block

Mixtape

Remixed Gontaruk’s image through Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Okay, what I made is not technically a mix-tape, but in that tradition, it is a music compilation on CD. And technically I made the mix, but it’s inspired by Lilli’s current favorites. And technically the new baby on the block isn’t here yet, but he’s due very, very soon. Which is why we attended the baby shower today and why we were inspired to share some tunes.

Here’s the mix:

You might notice that some of these songs are from the same album. Our toddler, like many I’m sure, is adamant about listening to her favorites over and over again. As I was putting this mix CD together I noticed that King Kong Kitchie, Lilli’s number one favorite song, has 91 plays. And I think that’s just on one device.

Lilli is actually quite the budding musician herself. We just gave her a ukelele which has really brought out her inner ham. Her favorite songs to cover right now are Everybody Sing by a local musician who calls himself Tallulah’s Daddy when he does children’s shows and This Pretty Planet by Tom Chapin, which is one she learned at her Montessori program.

We expose her to new songs as we can, but getting new music hasn’t been a priority for us until now. So, please do share your favorites, especially kiddie-friendly but not necessarily kiddie-specific songs.

The mystery and wonder of a lullaby

Ohhhhh, I’m halfway the-ere, ohhh-OH … It’s November 16. I’m halfway through my NaBloPoMo. Third time trying, and this is the farthest I’ve gotten. Feeling pretty hopeful I can close the deal.

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Today we started the process of de-bink-ifying. Lilli is two and until today she was still using her binky for naps and night time sleep at home. (She’s been binky-free for months at her Montessori toddler program, so we’ve been the laggards.) I’ll share more about how that’s all going tomorrow.

But I want to note one particularly special moment that happened today.

As I was helping Lilli settle down for her nap, she was, of course, upset she could not use her binky. She already had several bouts of crying. Finally she seemed to be calming down. The last part of our routine for sleep is always a song. I asked Lilli what song she wanted me to sing. She said quietly, “Humma.” At that moment I almost cried.

We haven’t sung Humma in ages and I was so touched that she wanted to hear it. The Humma song is the first lullaby I ever sang to her, even before our Entrustment Day. The Humma song was the lullaby I sang for her every night until about six months ago when she started making ‘requests,’ usually songs from recordings we listen to regularly. I think the Humma song was also one of the first songs she ever learned to sing. One time when I was singing her to sleep, she started singing along. It totally cracked us both up when she started singing, I think because we were both surprised.

Here’s how the ‘Humma’ song goes (excuse my mediocre singing voice):

I learned the Humma song when I was in a choir class years ago. I believe it’s a Native American lullaby, but I haven’t been able to learn any more about it. (Yes, there are times you can’t find the answer on the interwebs.) If you are familiar with this song and know any of the story behind it, where it came from, etc., please do share.

When Lilli asked me to sing the Humma song today she was still getting over her binky upset. It touched me deeply she felt that song would be soothing to her. So, I sang the Humma song to her, softy, rubbing her forehead and she finally succumbed to sleep.

Does it get easier?

Update 11/15/2013 6:37pm: With  low food rations in the house and very worn out full-time working parents, we decided to hit our local sushi place for a quick happy hour for dinner. It turned out to be a lovely mellow time (Lilli had her first raw sushi, smoked salmon nigiri!) and an opportunity to celebrate our Entrustment Day. As I talked to Lilli about Entrustment Day these words came out of my mouth: “This is the day that you became a part of our family, and the day your birth parents H & T became a part of our family.”

Matt just smiled across the table at me, knowing that I’d gotten it in his words, and Goldilocks’ “just right.” Just the right sentiment we want for our family’s Entrustment Day.

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Our daughter Lilli recently turned two years old. And today marks our ‘Entrustment Day,’ or at least that’s what we’re calling it for now. Two years ago today, Lilli’s birth parents entrusted Matt and me to be Lilli’s parents. We’d known Lilli and her birth parents H and T for just five days, but on that day we became family.

Two years flew by. It seems like a lifetime, yet we are still so new to being parents and to being in an open adoption relationship. Having peers helps.

There’s a vibrant community of folks at Open Adoption Bloggers. Lots of interesting bloggers from all sides of open adoption. An amazing resource and a great inspiration for my own blogging.

They have a nice series of writing prompts called Open Adoption Roundtable. Their latest prompt: Does it get easier?

Two years seems like hardly enough time to answer the question, yet as I wrote above, we’ve already lived a lifetime. Or several.

I remember that weekend two years ago well. We had the quickest imaginable courtship with Lilli and her birth parents.  Some open adoption families meet their birth parent(s) during the pregnancy. For us, Lilli was four, going on five weeks old. When we met them, all of us knew that we would need to work quickly to get to know each other and see if this relationship was the right fit.

Rewinding a little further in time, I’d like to share how we entered the process. Matt and I chose open adoption – out of all the types of possible adoptions we could have chosen – primarily for one reason. We believe in the idea of having the most open adoption possible. We believe that transparency is honesty. And we believe that honesty is the most ethical way to be in relationship with our child, with our family and friends and with our birth families.

That means we were transparent from the start. We told our counselor as much as we thought could be relevant to the birth parents for our home study. I wrote things in my autobiography that some of my closest friends might not even know. The photo collage we prepared reflected our fun and often goofy personalities. And, according to H and T, that’s why they chose us.

When we finally sat down to get to know H and T and Lilli, we minimized small talk and got right to the real stuff. Though it was awkward and overwhelming and intense and exciting, in some ways it was easy. We just laid our hearts out there on the table right next to theirs. It was all about moving to the next step – placing, or entrusting, Lilli with us – if H and T deemed that was what they wanted for themselves and for Lilli. Everything after placement was a distant future. Those first four days were about getting through day five.

Fast forward to today. Did it get easier in these last two years? So far I’d have to say no. Life is not easy. Relationships are not easy and they are never static. Two years ago, not only did we adopt a daughter, we adopted a whole new family into ours. We added another family to coordinate holidays and visits with. We became parents. We became juggling, full-time working parents. We became parents to an infant. And then a toddler. Lilli’s birth father moved away and hasn’t responded to texts or emails. Lilli’s birth mom is enjoying living on her own, but she’s estranged from her family. Lilli has an older brother who is living with Lilli’s birth grandparents. Lilli is talking now and we realize it’s time to start talking to her about her story.

Okay, I should take it back, a little. Did it get easier in these last two years? It got more complicated. But we are learning to take it easy. To be easier on ourselves. To ease into our days when Lilli is exhibiting cranky-two-year-old vibes. To make easy meals or go out if we just can’t deal. We do less (quantity), which actually means we do more (quality) as a family unit. We take the time and care and nurturing needed to let Lilli assist us with cracking open the eggs, or spread butter on the toast. If we planned to go to the park, but Lilli seems content playing with her babies, we don’t stress out about staying home. If one of us needs adult time, one of us gets adult time with a friend. We continue to be in an open and transparent relationship with birth mom H.

Does it get easier? No. And yes.

Postscript: Thanks to hubby’s feedback, I want to clarify one thing. In responding to the prompt ‘Does it get easier?’ I’m only addressing the time since placement. There’s another question, ‘Does it get easier after adopting?’ I’ll have to get to that in another post.

Artmaking family-style

A family that plays together stays together, right? Check out the fabulous talents of these fine family acts.

DMK
This awesome video is making the rounds on my Facebook feed again and it’s so worth sharing. DMK is a Depeche Mode cover band. DMK members are Dicken Schrader and his adorable kids Milah and Korben (also members of the ‘cool name’ club). Here’s their creative cover of Depeche’s ‘Everything Counts’ played on awesome DIY musical instruments:

Queenie Liao and son Wengenn
Though little Wengenn is asleep in the fabulous photos, his dreaming body serves as inspiration for imaginative mama Queenie Liao. Check out her whole series of photos called ‘Wengenn in Wonderland’ here. I think they look best in their still photo form, but she also did make a video complete with Ken Burns effect and lullaby music:

Adam McKay and daughter Pearl
This one is close to Matt and my comedy nerd hearts. (Can you do a ‘cover’ of comedy skits? Because Lilli would bring a special something in this role.) Written and directed by daddy Adam, Pearl co-stars with Will Ferrell in this cautionary (and laugh-out-loud-hilarous) tale, ‘The Landlord:’

Books on the table

I’m feeling rather tired and boring tonight, but nagged by NaBloPoMo commitment. So, like any good improvisor I’ll look for a little inspiration where I can find it. Tonight my coffee table will have to do.

I’ve got a stack of New Yorkers and these three books sitting on my coffee table:

Oregon Curiosities: Quirky characters, roadside oddities & other offbeat stuff by Harriet Baskas

Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco

Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann

coffee table books

Longing, a list inspired by my coffee table books

I long to have space for travel and to travel in space.I long to learn more about the place I live.
I long to show my daughter the joy in exploration, discovery, getting lost.
I long to be creative create.
I long to stop feeling like an imposter.
I long to be daring.
I long to know more about my family history, my cultural history, my country’s (real) history, my local history.
I long to read more.
I long to write more.
I long for an ‘instant tidy’ button.
I long see my parents.
I long to have time to luxuriate in making a meal.
I long to listen.
I long for stories, words to tell the story.
I long for the complexity of simplicity.
I long to long for less.

How to help

Tacloban in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan hit. Credit: Nove foto da Firenze via Flickr.

Note: I will try and update this post as I get new information about fundraisers, relief orgs, etc.

Update: 9:00pm Nov. 13

I learned of two Portland-area support events I thought I’d pass on:

Typhoon Haiyan Candlelight Vigil & Community Briefing
Thursday, November 14
5:30 pm Candlelight Vigil, Skidmore Fountain Plaza
6:00 pm Community Briefing, Mercy Corps Action Center

Fil-Am association of Portland Spaghetti feed Fundraiser
Friday, November 15
6:00 pm Fil-Am Association of Portland, 8917 SE Stark St, Portland

Also, another helpful list on what to donate, this one from the Philippines Red Cross.

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I’ve been touched by the number of friends reaching out to me to find out if I have family affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Yes, I do. The areas hardest hit include the place where my mom grew up. But luckily their hometown was protected from the worst effects. I have several close family members still unaccounted for as well as other distant extended family members who are affected. We’re hopeful, but really won’t know until we can hear from them directly. And my family is just one of millions who are experiencing this. My heart has been breaking watching the news coverage.

Here are two recent reports from different mainstream news outlets:

Distress Grows for Philippine Typhoon Victims Who Can’t Get Aid, or Out (New York Times) – also, they have some multimedia extras including photos (which can be difficult to look at) and maps

Typhoon Haiyan Devastates The Philippines – a landing page for NPR’s series of reports

Many are trying to figure out how they can help. While I don’t feel it’s my place to answer that (I think it’s a personal decision of where you want to put your effort), I will offer some of the resources I know about.

My parents and their friends in my hometown Cleveland Filipino-American community have been organizing and conducting medical missions in the Philippines for over 30 years through their APPO (Association of Philippine Physicians in Ohio) Foundation. I’ve even been on two of these missions myself. APPO is teaming up with their sister organization Philippine American Society of Ohio, a group I was a member of as I grew up in Cleveland. The folks running these orgs are my titas (aunties) and titos (uncles) and my childhood friends. I chose to donate through them because I know personally that they have on-the-ground contacts and are working hard to figure out the most meaningful way to help.

Here in Portland, progressive groups PCHRP and PSU Kaibigan Alumni Advisory Board have teamed up to raise funds through National Alliance For Filipino Concern (NAFCON).

Just found out that Portland’s Fil-Am Center is hosting a spaghetti fundraising dinner on November 15. Though Filipinos tend to have more than enough food at events, still a good idea to RSVP on their Facebook event page.

I also found this article by Jessica Alexander on Slate helpful, about how sending your old shoes is so NOT helpful. She was an aid worker was in Asia after the tsunami:

After the tsunami, similarly well-intentioned people cleaned out their closets, sending boxes of “any old shoes” and other clothing to the countries. I was there after the tsunami and saw what happened to these clothes: Heaps of them were left lying on the side of the road. Cattle began picking at them and getting sick. Civil servants had to divert their limited time to eliminating the unwanted clothes. Sri Lankans and Indonesians found it degrading to be shipped people’s hand-me-downs. I remember a local colleague sighed as we passed the heaps of clothing on the sides of the road and said “I know people mean well, but we’re not beggars.” Boxes filled with Santa costumes, 4-inch high heels, and cocktail dresses landed in tsunami-affected areas. In some places, open tubes of Neosporin, Preparation H, and Viagra showed up. The aid community has coined a term for these items that get shipped from people’s closets and medicine cabinets as SWEDOW—Stuff We Don’t Want.

So, please leave the victims some dignity and do not send SWEDOW. (My only directive.)

If you’re more of a visual person, the HowStuffWorks folks put together a slideshow on the 10 Worst Things to Donate After a Disaster.

More of a list person?  NBC has a roundup of web links to relief organizations.